The Unexplored Summon Blood Sign:Volume10 Stage3
Stage 03: The True Enemy Was With Us All Along
“You only have two options, but a wrong answer means a full-power slap.”
“And refusing to answer guarantees that happens☆”
(Stage 03 Open 08/24 13:30)
The True Enemy Was With Us All Along
Shiroyama Kyousuke’s vision gradually recovered
It took him a while to realize he was lying down somewhere. The cruiser he used as a home did not have a bed this large and soft, but he detected none of the disinfectant smell of a hospital. After staring up at the familiar ceiling for a long, long while, it finally clicked why it was familiar.
This was Aika’s high-rise apartment.
He was alive.
He was supposed to have died whether he won or lost, yet here he was alive. He seriously doubted this was something he had caused himself.
So there was only one answer.
(It had to be the White Queen.)
Now that it was over, he found his emotions were not boiling over anymore. That may have been due to his head being too heavy or due to the opposite. To keep a gas burner going, it had to be fed a constant supply of gas. If the supply was ever cut off, it needed another spark to reignite.
He had been given a chance to stop.
So where he would go next was up to him.
He would have died long ago if not for the White Queen.
Over and over, she had disgraced herself for that.
“The answer was staring me in the face the whole time, dammit.”
When the boy said that, what event was he thinking back on? That small prison of a house, that lab deep underground, or that bridge not long ago?
A still silence surrounded him.
Until he heard an ominous voice from the same bed as him.
“Hee hee hee. Now Onii-chan really is mine. He can’t move right now, so I need to win him over with an explosion of familial intimacy only possible with a cute little sister in a swimsuit and apron. Yes, and if I play my cards right, I can even get him to leave Freedom and join Government.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. Kyousuke-chan is joining us in Illegal. Yes, he’s sure to make a delicious meal for a beautiful young woman like me. I have always thought his crazy ideas were too much for Freedom. Joining Illegal is the only real choice for him at this point.”
“What are you two doing?” asked Kyousuke while lifting up the blanket with an annoyed look.
He found a striped bikini and a modified China dress below.
“Oh, Kyousuke-chan. You’re back to normal? I was hoping for a little more of Marionette Kyousuke-chan who obediently opens his mouth when you tell him to say ‘ah’.”
“If only he’d been a little less obedient so I could’ve gone with the ultimate special move of nursing: mouth-to-mouth medicine delivery.”
This was sounding worse by the second.
His memories were cloudy after the sniper shot that took out the Colorless Little Girl, but what had happened since then?
He somehow managed to sit up.
Simply lifting his upper body from the soft bed sent a chain reaction of dull pain through his body.
He checked the bedside digital clock to find it was August 24. About a full day had passed since his clash with the White Queen. His memories were correct. He had lost and was rendered mindless by the penalty.
Then he looked down at his own body.
His hoodie and shirt had been removed. His upper body was instead wrapped with what looked like bandages, but had to be something more. The broad white strips were even smoother than silk. They had been concentrated around his right side. Something felt odd when he tilted his head, so he reached up and found similar cloth wrapped around his neck. Those were the two obvious wounds, but he also had bruises all over and damage from overworking muscles he did not usually use. He clearly ached in more places than he had visual wounds.
And more importantly…
(So I survived.)
That was honestly the most unexpected part.
Win or lose, he should have died from blood loss once the battle ended and the protective circle vanished. It had been a true fight to the death and that must have had an effect on him. He could also thank his reliance on the Colorless Little Girl, but he had drawn out more of his potential as a summoner than ever before.
Receiving such a blessing and escaping without paying the price should not have been possible.
Or so he had thought.
He looked down at his hands and thought for a while.
He had definitely cut his carotid artery. Sliced all the way through it. He doubted any normal first aid could have saved his life after that.
“Onii-chan? That’s odd. He has a swimsuit-wearing little sister clinging to him and he isn’t responding. This requires removing the final seal. Time to untie the forbidden knot below the covers.”
“Only an immature little girl would find this to be a problem. An adult like me sees this as an opportunity. It’s time to touch him all over and find his weak points!!”
Those two were making it hard to think, so he kicked them out of the bed and found he could move more than expected.
A white cloth.
That color represented the salvation of a certain Unexplored-class.
A quiet knock came at the door.
The 5m white liger had been curled up on the large room’s floor, but now her ears perked up and she looked over. Kyousuke also focused on the door and took a deep breath.
He knew what had happened.
He knew what choice he had made while barely conscious.
And she was beyond that thin door.
Since Aika and Lu Niang Lan were so relaxed, this could not be as tense a situation as he felt like it was. It was already over. But that did not mean the gears were going to turn smoothly right away.
Still, Shiroyama Kyousuke decided to move forward.
How much strength had it taken to speak those two short words?
In the past, he had focused on simply being the strongest and he had kept away the pain by pushing away anything he did not like. But how much more effort had it taken to take this step forward now?
The knob turned.
The thin door slowly opened.
The face that hesitantly peeked in was indeed white.
“B-brother, have you woken up?”
“I am really not sure what to say to you right now.”
There were…two of her?
Two identical girls with silver twintails!?
“Wait, wait, wait!! I’ve changed! I decided to try talking it out with you! I made a decision as agonizing as disemboweling myself, so why are you perfectly fine!? And are you multiplying again like in Houbi Village!?”
It hit him after he said it.
Yes, hadn’t there been a divine image identical to the Queen hidden back behind the Meinokawa Shrine?
She was the oldest artificial vessel and the definitive Joruri Method.
“Aoi!! Are you screwing with me!?”
But despite Kyousuke’s accusation, the two silver-twintailed girls only exchanged a glance.
And with identical tilts of the head, they spoke in stereo.
“Sigh. I really am the White Queen, so I don’t know what to say when you get angry at me for not being me.”
“Brother, does this mean you can’t tell us apart? After saying ‘as you wish’ to me!?”
Kyousuke could not answer.
This was way too hard!!
The one on the right put her hands behind her head and the one on the left put her hands on her hips.
They both pouted their lips like a sulking child and continued speaking.
“If you really can’t tell, then why not take a good hard look to compare us?”
“Just ask if you want a hint. This battle costume might be confusing you, so I can always remove it one piece at a time if you ask.”
He made the wise decision.
“I’m not messing with-…”
“You only have two options, but a wrong answer means a full-power slap.”
“And refusing to answer guarantees that happens☆”
He wisely chose to make an attempt.
The two White Queens climbed into the bed on all fours. But when he glanced over everything from the bodylines running along their spines and even the individual eyelashes decorating their eyelids, he could not find any difference between them.
A general look was not enough.
He needed to pinpoint target the details.
“Now, brother. Are you going to count my moles?”
“You don’t have any moles.”
“Oh, dear. It seems you already know my body quite intimately.”
A wrong answer would mean losing his head to a slap more powerful than a gray bear wandering the Siberian wilderness. He needed to get back to the basics and not let their seemingly identical appearance fool him. What parts of the body were most unique between different people? After thinking of a certain identification system, he knew where he had to look.
And with that, the atmosphere changed somewhat.
Once he got started, there was no stopping Kyousuke.
“First, the eyes.”
He placed his hands on the right Queen’s soft cheeks and peered deep into her eyes. There were identification systems that specifically used the iris instead of general facial recognition.
“U-um, uh, brother, uh.”
He was up against a slap from the Queen. A single wrong answer could seriously spell the end for him, so he wanted as many sources of information as he could get. He absentmindedly rubbed the right Queen’s smooth cheeks while thinking. What other part of the body was used to identify people?
That was a standard form of identifying corpses.
So Kyousuke slid his index finger over to the right Queen’s soft lips. More than that, he pushed it inside, bent it in a J-shape, and pried open her white teeth.
“Mgh!? Hamyahwabahbah!! H-hroher?”
They were perfect.
This was hardly surprising, but he doubted her teeth were weak enough that she ever needed to visit a dentist.
He pulled his finger out and wiped it off on the edge of the blanket.
“Okay, now this one.”
“Wait, hold on, you just had that Queen sucking on that- nbhh, mmghghgh!?”
The left Queen shook her head in protest, but he shoved it in regardless.
There were tears in her eyes.
Meanwhile, Kyousuke wished he had thought to get a penlight first. He gave up on trying to use his vision, so he shut his eyes and slowly traced his index finger along the top and bottom row of teeth. …It was a lot like reading braille, but his first impression was that the two Queens were identical.
“Ahh…ahm, ahm. Hah hoo higured it out het, hroher?”
The left Queen must have felt restless when he started ignoring her again because she stayed on all fours while pursuing his fingertip with her warm tongue.
But it was too soon.
He was still not sure, so he could not give an answer yet.
He considered using fingerprints or palmprints. Those had been used to identify people in criminal investigations for more than a century. He removed the Queens’ long gloves before poking and prodding their hands. Gait and posture could be used to track people, so to be absolutely certain, he traced his fingers along their backs and down to their butts while they stood there on all fours. His eyes followed his fingers along their path.
(Hm. I went on and on about how much I hate her, but there’s a lot I didn’t know about her.)
“I-Is it just me or are we leaving that bittersweet atmosphere behind? Hyah☆ Brother, I only turned this into a problem to solve because I thought it would give you an excuse, so you don’t have to take it so seriously!!”
“Hyah! Maybe I should have had you take a photo so I could use that to – nh! – my advantage later on.”
They should have known better. For better or for worse, this thoroughbred summoner had inherited Doctor S’s genes and learned from Shigara Masami, so challenging him to a game had been a mistake.
That said, it was impressive that not even Kyousuke could tell the difference between them. Although the praise there should go to the Joruri Method instead of the White Queen.
So Shiroyama Kyousuke gave up on telling them apart visually.
Instead, he hugged the one on the right.
And he squeezed her.
He repeated the action a few times like a child trying to choose a giant stuffed animal or body pillow at the store and then he moved on to the left one.
“This one, on the left. You’re the White Queen, aren’t you?”
“Gwah, how could you tell, boy!?”
The abandoned one on the right suddenly stopped calling him “brother”.
And she rolled along the bed.
Except her head rolled further than her body. Her head had popped off.
Meanwhile, the left one – the real White Queen – placed her hands on her red cheeks while letting him continue to hug and squeeze her.
“W-wow, ha ha ha. I did not expect you to tell us apart by how we feel in your arms, brother. W-wowww.”
(Except it was really because you’re wearing the same thing that’s wrapped around me.)
…After finding nothing at all different about their appearances, he had decided to instead rely on the texture of the Sword of Truth battle costume that human civilization could not possibly duplicate. That had been a wise decision. Although if he said so, he would receive a double slap and probably be labelled an extreme underwear fetishist who was more interested in the fabric than the soft skin below.
After rolling around on the large bed some more, Meinokawa Aoi (Had she made that costume herself like Shiroyama Kyoumi had? Or was it supplied by the shrine?) grabbed her disembodied head, shoved it back onto her neck, and returned those distinctive twintails to her usual long hair.
“By the way, don’t you need to change his bih – ei…that is, his tourniquet? You did say it is a double-edged sword that helps the wound heal faster but also increases the risk if it festers or he gets tetanus.”
“Oh, that’s right. Brother, it’s fresh bandage time again. Okay, raise your arms for me.”
She seemed quite accustomed to this. The teenage boy known as the strongest summer was very reluctant to consider what had happened over the past 24 hours.
“Hold on. Let’s stop for a second!! You don’t have to explain everything that’s happened, but since I’m awake now, I can do this on my own.”
The White Queen made a hugging motion in the empty air.
All the bandages wrapped around Kyousuke’s upper body squeezed him like a vise.
“To be clear, you gave yourself these wounds on your neck and side, so for once, I have no reason whatsoever to feel guilty.”
She was smiling.
The White Queen grinned as she spoke.
“And the tourniquet (bih – ei – ni – de) keeping you alive is made from the battle costume I am wearing. These cute things are so spoiled and demanding, so I really doubt they will obey anyone else’s orders.”
“…!? ~ ~ ~!!”
“Hey, Queen. Isn’t he going to die like this?”
“Brother needs to be treated a little roughly. I am the Queen, so I will dominate even my partner. And I must say, brother, you get 0 points for trying to kill yourself like that! Try harder next time!!”
“This really isn’t the time to get all cutely upset with him. His side is one thing, but the neck bandages are strangling him. His face is turning blue.”
“Oh, no! Brother! Why do you always keep everything to yourself!? You should have told me before your face turned blue and then white!!”
He had been physically unable to voice an SOS with the bandages so tight around his throat, so the White Queen really needed to learn more about basic human anatomy.
At any rate, she loosened the neck bandages before he started foaming at the mouth.
But loosening them caused a change of its own. When all the blood rushed to his head, he grew lightheaded and the White Queen used that opening to remove all the tourniquets and prepare a wet towel.
“Okay, brother. Time to wipe you down in lieu of a bath.”
“Wait, you don’t have to do that!”
“Complain while you can. Read from that tablet, my bootleg.”
“Sure thing. Let’s see… ‘In that moment, Shiroyama Kyousuke decided to throw himself into the fated battle. His enemy was the White Queen and he would continue to stand up to her even if the rest of the world supported her and he was left all alone.’ ”
His heart stopped.
His tongue blocked his throat.
Kyousuke held the left side of his chest while trembling violently despite his stopped heart and the White Queen smiled and made a suggestion after gently bringing him back to this world.
“Do we need to read more?”
“Ah, ah, ahhh.”
“Broootherrr? I skimmed through that original religious text you wrote to ascend to godhood and it was quite well made☆ Oh, how about we give it some random title and pretend to be a novelist? Yes, that is a great idea. How about calling it Unexplored Summon://Blood-Sign? 3 trillion PVs or bust!☆”
Kyousuke’s heart had stopped two or three times now, but the White Queen would not let him take the easy route up to heaven.
A legend featuring him as the star was no laughing matter. It was the most embarrassing of embarrassing texts to have someone discover. A crawling feeling covered his entire body. He had expected to be dead before that text got out, but now he was here to see people’s reaction to it. And how could someone be cruel enough to read it aloud to him!? That was like going up to someone after their failed suicide attempt and reading their suicide note to them.
“There we go. Now that you are feeling a little more obedient, brother, it is time I wiped you down. Come on, cheer up, brother. You can even have some cereal or something once I am done.”
“Finally, some good news.”
“Brother. …Sometimes, I think you might be crazier than I am.”
Now that he was awake, he could not just lie around anymore.
When he got up out of the unnecessarily-large bed, the White Queen called out to him from where she had been seated next to him.
“Where are you going? I can bring you anything you need.”
“I have to do it myself. That’s how rehab works.”
He held out a hand to stop her, but she refused to listen. The silver twintailed girl grabbed his wrist, wrapped her arms around his, and supported his weight.
She held his arm to her chest and placed her head on his shoulder.
“Then I will go with you.”
“This is kind of embarrassing.”
“Brother, do you know how sunny it is outside? It is 2PM on August 24.”
She glared at him while saying that.
And regardless, if he tried to resist, it was obvious she would push him back into the bed. When it came to a simple contest of strength, a human like him had no way of winning.
He let out a long sigh and spoke.
She smiled so brightly he suspected she would have danced a little jig if she had not been supporting his weight. He always had to wonder why these little things could influence her emotions so much. That was a foreign world to Kyousuke who closely guarded his heart by logically processing everything that happened.
Or maybe he was jealous.
Because for him, fleeing to logic and laying down a defensive line of derisive detachment was the only way he could bring himself to spend time with anyone.
“Is something wrong, brother?”
He was unsure if he should call it “lucky”, but he did not run across Aika or Lu Niang Lan after leaving the room.
They must have gotten back to their usual routines once he had woken up. Although that also meant they had been neglecting their jobs until then. The ordinary kindnesses were found where you could not see them. That was a truth he could not afford to forget.
Dull pain enveloped his neck, side, and the rest of his body too. Crouching down to put on his shoes was a struggle. His body protested far more than he had imagined. When it took him too long, the White Queen reached out a helping hand from the side.
“Here, brother. Let’s start with your right foot.”
“If you help, it doesn’t count as rehab.”
“This helps me grow accustomed to this world.”
After tapping his feet on the floor to check the fit of the shoes, he used the elevator to leave the high-rise apartment.
The White Queen had been right.
He found a scorching world of direct sunlight so hot he thought it would melt the asphalt. Apparently, even this city of artificial things had cicadas on the roadside trees. The deluge of sound nearly deafened him and threw him off balance.
When he staggered, the twintailed girl supported him from the side.
She pouted his lips a little.
“What did I tell you, brother? Should we return to that air-conditioned room?”
“No.” He shook his head, but even that was enough to mess with the equilibrium in his blood-deprived head. “There was something I wanted to think about, but this works even better if you’re coming with me. I want to discuss something with you while we’re out here.”
The White Queen looked puzzled while they walked through Toy Dream 35 which shimmered in the midsummer heat.
“You should stay in that apartment a while longer.”
“I could return to my cruiser now.”
“The more people around the better if something unexpected happens.”
It was summer break, so there was an endless stream of people even in the hellish heat. Families, couples, groups of tanned boys, and more were walking across all the many bridges. People of all sorts were crowding this one place. The Gozaru Samurai handing out balloons on the roadside could not be having a fun time in this heat. When a small child offered him a chilled drink bottle with a tilt of the head, he froze up and panicked.
There was no conflict here.
If you wanted to fight, you would have to force one to happen.
The long, long battle was finally over.
This was the scene that Shiroyama Kyousuke and the White Queen had won.
It was perfectly ordinary and no one might realize how valuable it was, but the conflict was over.
They had set aside their Blood-Sign and lowered the Sword of Truth.
Those two knew just how much energy that took, so this scene meant so much more to them. A picturesque million-dollar view of the city’s night did not matter. This scene roasting below the bright sun was their treasure.
The White Queen tilted her head again while holding his arm.
She angled it just like that small child trying to give the costumed mascot a drink.
“Do you mind if I say something that will ruin the mood?” he asked.
“Not if you think it is necessary.”
The twintailed girl guided the injured boy into the shade of a roadside tree.
He sighed after leaning against the tree trunk so he was out of the way.
And he resumed speaking with his summoner’s face on.
“Have you noticed?”
“That something is not right?”
“The very fact that you’re here is out of the ordinary. Since you aren’t relying on the 10-minute Artificial Sacred Ground of the Blood-Sign system, I can only guess this is Shigara Masami’s doing.”
“Yes. I am using the same Box she is. But that means…”
“Shigara Masami has not returned to the other world.”
Boxes sounded very convenient since they did not rely on Blood-Signs or Incense Grenades, but there was a reason that method was not more common. The cost of production and operation was far too high.
Shigara Masami would not have been left in this world for no reason.
“She has some reason to keep you here.”
Shiroyama Kyousuke had prefaced this discussion by asking if she minded if he said something that would ruin the mood.
“And it wouldn’t be for anything as sentimental as letting us have this chat here. She must have some kind of pressing strategic reason to keep a card as powerful as you up her sleeve.”
The twintailed girl said nothing.
This boy would arrive at the answer without her giving it to him.
That was why she had always failed to stop him from getting himself hurt and tormented.
Summoner Shiroyama Kyousuke stared straight ahead as he stated his conclusion.
“There’s something more.”
Her bright pink-dyed hair blew in the salty midsummer breeze.
The waitress demon named Biondetta was on the roof of that same apartment building. And Aika, the owner of the building, was unaware of her presence.
She had moved past the railing.
She sat on the edge of the roof with her long legs dangling off.
“Have you reached your limit?”
She heard a staticky sound.
It was similar to spooked cicadas taking flight from the trees, but not quite the same.
This static was more systematic.
Someone else stood next to Biondetta. It was a ponytailed researcher wearing a tight skirt suit and a lab coat. Gray static surrounded Shigara Masami.
She looked down at the back of her hand and let out a self-deprecating sigh.
<Well, I did only make this abnormal appearance to save Kyousuke-kun. I never thought that Box could keep me in this world indefinitely.>
That was just how much the battle between the White Queen and the Colorless Little Girl had affected their surroundings. Even without a direct attack, the side effects had been enough to blow away the Three, so Shigara Masami could not ignore that damage even if she was simultaneously an excellent summoner and a Divine-class.
Biondetta brushed the hair from her shoulder.
“Shouldn’t you pop in to say goodbye?”
<That would not help anyone. There are other ways for me to deal with my regrets, so don’t you worry.>
Another voice rudely spoke up from the smartphone-connected wireless headphones in the ponytailed researcher’s ears.
The girl’s voice was loud enough to reach Biondetta’s ears while she sat nearby.
“Wait, I went to a lot of trouble making that Box and dumped tons into the energy costs to keep it running, so you can’t just give up like that.”
<Oh, sorry about this, Azalea-chan. That wasn’t my intention.>
“We are imprisoned, if you recall. And being given some labor is better than simply being locked up when it comes to staying in shape. I needed some way of getting exercise, so do not worry about that. More importantly, it sounds like this allowed us to indirectly support the Queen. Thanks to that, The Saint is high on brain chemicals and running around the beach in the nude. What am I even supposed to do about this? We are back to square one on her anti-Queen rehab program.”
The mood was ruined, so Biondetta frowned and spoke up.
“I was wondering where you were storing such a largescale Box. So you used that entire Government prison island on the other side of the world?”
<I will admit it has been a while, but I used to lead one of the three major powers. And did I forget to tell you the survivors of the Secret War more or less worship me? So instead of Azalea-chan, my connection here was her brother Claude. A survivor of the Miniature Garden with access to Quad Motors technology was very useful.>
“I shouldn’t have been worried.”
<Oh, how cute. So all those insults were an act and even Detta-chan was worried for me. You’re so adorable☆>
Everyone related to the Fifteen Siblings was surprisingly tough. They kept claiming they were dying without ever actually dying. Shigara Masami was lasting longer than a battery on its last legs.
There was something Shigara Masami wanted to check on before returning to the other world.
<Detta-chan, you were there when we all learned about that small house Kyousuke-kun used to live in, right?>
“You mean that place that was even worse than the Queen’s Miniature Garden?”
<That is why I can only ask this of you. Doesn’t something about all this seem off? At first glance, it looks like Kyousuke-kun and the Queen reconciled for a happy ending, but it feels like something else is still out there. Something large enough to tear down their temporary happiness if they thoughtlessly dig into it too deep.>
Biondetta and Shigara Masami fell silent there.
They were both afraid to give the answer.
Their mutual fear mixed together.
“But if whatever-this-is is hidden below the surface, we have no way of searching for it.”
The waitress demon pulled a phone from her exposed cleavage and checked through the current events around the world.
“At a glance, the biggest topic is Eastern Europe’s Kingdom F, but all the news is happy stories about the mysterious cocoon vanishing without a trace. Besides, if there is some villain advancing some plan below the surface, I’m not going to find any sign of it by swiping my finger along this 5-inch LCD screen.”
<Oh, that’s it.>
Biondetta had not expected this reaction.
She frowned while Shigara Masami clapped her hands together in front of her large chest.
This was apparently not a joke.
<A search. That’s it. I knew something was bothering me, but we never dealt with that issue!>
On that same far-eastern island nation, Kingdom F’s Queen Sinceria Highland did not overlook the oddity while on an unofficial visit to Toy Dream 35.
The Poolarium was the fusion of a leisure pool and an aquarium and its selling point was the ability to swim with the dolphins and otters. But at the moment, it had a new star. People viewed Sinceria like a mermaid as she swam through the artificial seawater in a swimsuit.
Her daughter Olivia was lying face up in a mat-shaped rubber boat floating on the water. The pool was several meters deep, so Sinceria wore a life jacket and held a kickboard to swim up to the boat.
“Via, aren’t you going to swim?”
“Heh hehn. A proper lady does not cause a scene and splash around the second she sees a pool.”
“But the Japanese summer is so hot.”
“That’s for sure.”
Sinceria smiled as she kicked her long legs as if practicing her flutter kicking.
The actions themselves were childish, but they caused her butt and thighs to continually dip above and below the water. Rachel (who was also wearing a swimsuit) was in charge of security and also had to think about the underwater tunnel running below them, so her head was already hurting.
She walked along the poolside rooftop while staying close enough to dive in at a moment’s notice.
“Did we really have to hold our meeting here?”
“Would you have preferred to use a rental conference room? An office building anyone can use is bound to be full of laser listening devices. Because using one of those places is like announcing that you are about to discuss something lucrative.”
They had a good enough reason to blend into the crowd like this.
The small kingdom she ruled had nearly been destroyed. The dome-shaped cocoon made from the White Queen’s battle costume had nearly crushed it while continually expanding.
Her worries had vanished once that cocoon had suddenly disappeared and returned to the White Queen, sparing her subjects.
But what had become of the White Queen herself?
What had happened afterwards?
“There have been sightings of the White Queen in Toy Dream 35.” Rachel Wormwood was the kind of straitlaced knight who kept on her glasses even when in a swimsuit, so she gave a formal report while walking alongside the pool at the same pace as Sinceria pushed the rubber boat. “The reports said nothing about her being naked, so the Sword of Truth must have returned to her. She is staying in the top floor of an apartment used as a base for a Government intermediary. That is the same major power as us, so we should be able to request that intermediary disclose what information she has.”
“She’s sure to already be overwhelmed by requests from all over the world. And just like a restaurant that gets a big head after receiving a single star review in a gourmet guide, I doubt she will return our call any sooner than three years from now.”
Truthfully, flutter-kicking Sinceria did not find it all that important to learn the details of that fight’s conclusion.
That apartment was also Shiroyama Kyousuke’s territory.
If the White Queen was staying there now, there had to have been a major change in their relationship. Knowing that was enough.
Not all of her worries were gone.
She was a queen, a woman, and a mother, but this worry was not related to her identity as a queen. And not even she was certain which of the other two identities it was most strongly affecting.
“Let me see that file.”
Rachel tossed her something from the poolside. It flew like a frisbee and she caught it in one hand. It was a notebook-sized waterproof tablet.
She stopped flutter kicking and placed the tablet on the rubber boat her daughter was riding.
“Honestly, you really can’t underestimate public video sites. Who would expect to find this at the edge of a random video?”
They had not intentionally searched out this data.
It had mostly been a coincidence. It helped a lot that they had searched that city hall database in their search for Shiroyama Kyousuke’s roots. More specifically, it helped that they had checked the ticket request facility in the same building.
Her daughter Olivia Highland tilted her head while lying on the mat-shaped rubber boat.
The girl wore the dark blue one-piece swimsuit born from the hot and humid summers of this country and she held down her straw hat with both hands so it would not fall off.
“Yes, Via, what is it?”
“What does this mean? Is that who I think it is?”
Sinceria had no answer for her.
But she was glad they had been able to notice this oddity.
They had only done so because they had seen this before.
“That which appears in summer to envelop everything.”
Those blonde royals could speak Japanese, but they were still not all that familiar with its culture, so they focused on the meaning before getting to the pronunciation.
“Summer clothing. Natsuginu.”
It was late at night.
Kyousuke had escaped the penalty for losing and his injuries were being healed by the White Queen’s tourniquets, but he was still making an effort to get plenty of rest. He could have returned to his cruiser, but he had been forced to stay in Aika’s apartment because the others claimed the rocking boat would be bad for his health. (Whether they had an ulterior motive for keeping him here was unknown.)
And while he tried to sleep…
“Long time no see.”
He heard a voice.
It came from the balcony. The lights were off, so the moonlight illuminated the visitor. But this was the top floor of a high-rise apartment and there had been no sign of someone arriving on the roof by helicopter or tiltrotor.
Then how had this girl arrived on the balcony?
She stood there so naturally it felt wrong to even ask that question.
Kyousuke sat up in bed and frowned a little.
“You can call me the Rainy Girl if you like. That name is more familiar to you, isn’t it?”
Shiroyama Kyousuke had gone as far as correcting history to forcibly save her. His librarian classmate’s older sister had been killed in a random attack and the incident had held such a lasting effect that it transformed into a ghost story…except all of that should have gone away once Umie Shouko’s death had been avoided.
He could only think of one explanation.
“You still have your memories? No, this isn’t just Timeline A or Timeline B. Did you diverge from the actual branch point in history?”
“It is not over yet.”
This was sudden.
No, if they continued this conversation in the ordinary way, they would never get away from discussing that divergent side of her existence. That may have been why she decided to jump straight to the topic at hand.
“Someone on the outside like me has begun to move. I am sensitive to such things because I exist in a similar fashion. How you respond is up to you, but I really think you should get ready.”
“This person has a connection to you, Shiroyama-san.”
She seemed to be jumping all over the place as she talked.
It may have been similar to someone doing a bad job of explaining the plot of the movie they had just finished watching.
Prophecies and oracles had their pros and cons. In addition to the accuracy of the original information, the speaker and the listener also had to be accurate. In that sense, Umie Shouko really was an ordinary person. She had talent, but she had not trained as a shrine maiden. She had gotten wrapped up in the Rainy Girl incident by random chance, so she had trouble passing on the message in this game of telephone.
“The world you live in is also the one my sister lives in, so please do not let anything happen that would make her sad. As long as you give me that, I do not care what happens to the world. And either way, you alone are in the position to change fate here.”
Finally, a chill caught up to him. It was like the icy fingers of death crawling along his spine.
“I’m not going to confront the White Queen again, so what else could there be?”
“You will know soon enough.”
She did not say much, but her words had to contain more information than an entire library.
He had suspected there was something else, but what exactly was it?
“Remember your past. There is still an unresolved source of tragedy, isn’t there?”
That was all.
Her voice vanished. As did her presence.,
Shiroyama Kyousuke got out of bed and walked across the floor to the balcony beyond the fluttering curtain.
But there was no one there.
This was the top floor of a high-rise apartment.
Just like when she had arrived, he could not even guess how Umie Shouko – the Rainy Girl – had left.
“What is all this racket?”
That question came from Sekurtiti, a brown-skinned girl with shoulder-length silver hair. She worked as a Tomb Priestess for a group with its origins in Egyptian mythology, so the only things covering her bright skin were white bandages, pure gold, and red gems.
She was being guided through the apartment by Aika, a girl in a green and white striped bikini. They were both showing a lot of skin, but not because it was summer. They were like this 365 days a year.
“Onii-chan probably did something again. Apparently, he’s preparing to abandon his shut-in bikini little sister so he can go to the pool. It really is a frightening thought. The battle for little sister superiority has been entirely overturned by that silver twintails girl.”
“By ‘Onii-chan’, do you mean Shiroyama Kyousuke?”
Sekurtiti only tilted her head further, but she was here for work.
Aika only lived in the top floor of this apartment building and the other seemingly-ordinary floors hid a crucial facility known as the Founder’s Gallery. That stored some of the fairy tale materials that the Toy Dream Company had used as a foundation for their massively successful global entertainment business. It specifically held the old documents and antiques gathered from around the world that held a value that normal people would never even notice.
Sekurtiti was here to check on something for her job.
“You said you were closing the gallery, didn’t you?”
“All it does here is bind me. And then grandpa helped make that Blue Film meant to harm Eastern Europe’s Kingdom F. I thought now was a good time for it.”
The World’s Happiest Girl.
A certain granddaughter should have been the main character of a fairy tale told until the end of time.
But after unknowingly earning some Awards as a summoner, the entire world had forgotten her and she had forever lost that position.
Another voice rudely interrupted those two’s solemn mood.
“Hold on. Are you saying you called us to this hot-as-hell far eastern country just to help you move?”
It was a girl even shorter than Aika and with skin brown from tanning unlike Sekurtiti’s natural brown. She had piercings in her ears, tongue, navel, and more unspeakable places as a sort of penance rather than fashion. She wore a witch hat and glasses and she dragged around a special weapon that looked like a giant hatchet or smoking pipe.
She was Incense Expert Ellie Slide.
She was accompanied by Max Layard, a large summoner with a pompadour.
“Your job is to transport this stuff to the deepest part of a museum in Washington DC. The researcher named Maria Heartocean should be able to put my grandpa’s treasures to the best use. And don’t complain when you’ve already taken half the payment up front, subcontractors. You will get the rest of your money after the job is complete.”
“You act like some kind of tragic heroine, but you still think like a gazillionaire deep down. I don’t like it.”
Ellie Slide continued grumbling while they unlocked one of the ordinary doors lining the hallway and stepped inside.
It was packed full of blessings and curses.
Ignorance was a frightening thing. No one with any proper knowledge of the occult would have been able to gather all this without having nightmares.
Ellie Slide looked annoyed.
“We have to transport all of this?”
“Please make sure none of it is stolen en route. Your job is not complete until it has been delivered.”
“I shouldn’t have let Max do the talking just because I hate doing it so much. He totally botched the negotiations this time. This is a secret job for the world-famous Toy Dream Company and the going rate for delivery jobs is 1% the value of the cargo. We should be getting paid 15 times what we’re getting…”
But it was too late to complain now.
The up-front payment was not just a kindness. The payer used it to restrict the payee’s freedom.
Sekurtiti placed a hand on a too-skinny hip and softly sighed through her shapely nose.
“I will supervise the work as a member of the tomb keepers. What your company did to Eastern Europe’s Kingdom F was inexcusable, but it did not entirely negate the debt we owe you for preserving the pharaoh’s tomb and ruins we have protected for generations.”
“So you’re gonna be looking over our shoulders without even helping!? Look at how much there is and how powerful it all is!? Packing it all up with curse seals and physical cushioning is going to use up an entire day!!”
Ellie Slide had tears behind her glasses as she shouted in despair, but the brown Tomb Priestess kept a composed expression. She had not taken any money, so she did not need to obey Aika’s instructions.
Meanwhile, the striped bikini girl was arrogant.
“By the way, I hired you to do the work, so I will not be helping. Work hard, you movers.”
“This is the worst… I can’t think of any response other than kicking Max.”
“We can eat lunch once you’re done packing up. I’m as ravenous as my liger today, so let’s have some buffalo steaks.”
And so they began reorganizing the Founder’s Gallery. Everything there was a valuable treasure, so even a single ring would fetch hundreds of millions at auction. They first constructed some large cardboard boxes and shoved smaller duralumin cargo boxes inside those. Just like with armored trucks carrying cash, an appearance of strict security was like painting a target on yourself. It was important to make things look cheap and unimportant.
While decorating the interior with ordinary packing material and a wide tape woven with a long talisman text, Ellie Slide spoke up.
“Listen, we will be taking this by the ordinary air route. After stuffing all the boxes in the cargo room of an ordinary airline used by movers, we will take some business class seats as ordinary customers. Even if the plane crashes, the boxes are waterproofed enough to float in the ocean for 18 hours. Now the emergency recovery beacon will-…”
“Wow, I remember this. This is grandpa’s notebook of ideas.”
“Are you the kind of person who ends up reading old manga when trying to clean your room? Do I need to fill the Government local network with one-star reviews about how awful the intermediary here is!?”
A paper sticker was attached to the notebook’s cover and it had something handwritten on it:
“Restrain your hatred for now (qe – i – md – ei – wbjrb). That is the standard (ii – i – jd). Fill this age with new ideas (hi – wz – ei – lm – ou – yh – ml).”
This brought back so many old memories.
That man had founded the Toy Dream Company which had brought dreams to children around the world. But he had not simply pulled out presents with a constant smile like Santa Claus. This contained the rawer side of him as a writer and as a human. There would have been nights when he struggled all alone while tearing at his hair, fearing he was out of ideas, and holding a pen in hand and finding nothing to write.
These were the claw marks he could not let anyone see.
He had not realized that series of letters could possibly summon a real god, but he had created more smiles than any summoner or vessel in the world.
Aika sat down and flipped through the notebook, but then she came to a stop.
She ran her slender finger along some hastily jotted down text that was written in the alphabet but was not English.
Sekurtiti also seemed interested as someone who had seen that old man from a perspective other than as a granddaughter. She peered over Aika’s shoulder.
“What is it?”
Aika did not understand everything that was written there:
“It is simply not possible in this world (weq – go – i – pms – kd).”
“Call her (kq – ei – rg).”
That was what a direct interpretation of the messy writing said, but was that really accurate? It was not uncommon for people to jot down a memo before an idea vanished from their mind and for no one but them to understand what that memo meant. It was also possible these were ideas for story titles or song lyrics.
The next thing she knew, the swimsuit granddaughter was silently reading.
The founder’s talent was real. A lot had happened along the way, but he had built the Toy Dream Company up to a multinational corporation in a single generation. There were things only he could understand. The fairy tales loved by people around the world were the result of him taking the undiluted original content and watering it down to the point that it was palatable for everyone.
But even this girl could read the emotions contained in this writing, like the needle following the record’s groove.
This had been jotted down so quickly it was barely legible.
There was a lot of agony and confusion there. Those emotions were so thick it reached a dangerous level.
The accompanying sketch appeared to be a girl. Her white or silver hair was tied into twintails at a point below her head. She did not appear to be wearing any actual clothing. She instead had strange objects like junk and cables wrapped around her body. But that white figure was all drawn in the style of a children’s picture book and it was only an incomplete rough, so it all looked more eerie than provocative. It made one want to run away, like seeing a French doll with all its clothing removed.
Aika had no idea what about this had caught her attention, but she read one particular word out loud.
Had her grandfather been unable to find the corresponding letters in the old texts he was referencing?
For whatever reason, this word alone was written in ordinary language.
The White Queen had been the one to suggest they go somewhere summery.
Had the constant focus on battle been suffocating her?
Or had she wanted to rid herself of as many regrets as she could before heading to death?
“But I’m full of holes. My blood will start spilling out the second I’m in the water!!”
“The tourniquets should have closed up your wounds by now and you need rehab, don’t you? This is a good test☆”
As their conversation suggested, the Queen had changed into a swimsuit.
They had chosen a pool as a compromise because salty seawater sounded like a very bad idea for his wounds, but now a different warning signal was going off in Kyousuke’s head.
“Well, if you insist, brother, I suppose I can meet your selfish demands. Oh, my, my. Look at this lovely pool here, brother. They are opening the school pool to the public. Hee hee. It might be nice to see what swimming classes are like.”
“You set me up!? I just know you spent all night researching this so you could trick me into it!”
“Whatever are you talking about? Now, brother, can you take my hand? It is time to go.”
The smiling White Queen claimed to be supporting his body, but she was mostly dragging him along as they left the high-rise apartment.
The fact that Kyousuke was making such a fuss may have been proof he was recovering and feeling less pain.
The school was a busy place even though this was summer break
And not just because of club activities.
The pool was open, so a lot of nearby residents were there.
“Brother, we are already here, so you might as well try to enjoy yourself.”
This was the amusement park city of Toy Dream 35. It was scary how everyone just accepted her battle costume as no more than “flashier than a yukata”. The girl’s tennis team was trying to show off by wearing their full tennis uniforms even on a practice day, so they ended up grinding their teeth. The Queen herself kept a composed expression as she gathered all the attention.
She made her way to the school building and looked to one of the few empty classrooms designated as a girl’s locker room.
“Okay, brother, I hate to be away from you for even a moment, but we have no choice here.”
“You are injured, so just let me know if you ever need any hands-on rehab assistance☆”
“Yes, I get it. You’ll kill me if I run away.”
He shooed her away like a dog and walked to the empty classroom for the boys.
He kicked the door open while holding the waterproof bag carrying his swimsuit and found someone already changing inside. Rendou Akiya had just put on a lovely swimsuit and was pulling his chestnut hair back with a hair tie in his mouth.
The orchestral band and the pop band must have been competing in some way because Kyousuke could hear their loud music playing in the distance.
“Oh, right. You don’t use the girl’s locker room, do you?”
“Hwa hwa hwah hwa hwa hwan.”
“Take that hair tie out of your mouth.”
Kyousuke could have read his lips, but revealing that skill would only confuse the boy.
His classmate tied back his hair with the tie before speaking.
“I only do this as a fashion statement, so why would I use the girl’s locker room? That sounds like a harrowing experience, if you ask me. I accidentally boarded the women-only car the other day and that was very bad for my heart.”
That said, Rendou Akiya was so “perfect” that having to change in the same room as him felt like being handcuffed. There were a lot of ordinary guests here, so this explained why no one else was using this particular locker room. However, making too much of an issue out of it would only put this belligerent classmate in a bad mood.
“By the way, how’d you hurt yourself so bad? What happened? Did you try to learn how to ride a motorcycle during summer break and have it fall over in the middle of a ride?”
“I got in a bit of a fight with my ‘little sister’.”
“Yikes. That sounds way more dangerous than a 250cc big scooter. My condolences. I swear nothing brings trouble like a little sister. Why anyone wants to have one of those when they can have an older girl is beyond me. These days, everyone wants to be surrounded by kindness. I mean, we’re all too overwhelmed by life to deal with supporting someone else.”
That seemed to be Rendou Akiya’s philosophy, which explained why he had heaped praise on Student Council President Benikomichi Fuuki in the other timeline.
The two boys walked barefoot down the hall.
“So, Shiroyama-chan, did you know Librarian has an older sister?”
“Oh, you mean Umie Shouko?”
“Eh? You already know her full name? Wait, why have you researched her so much? I went to middle school with Librarian and I only recently learned about this. Are you seriously aiming for that sexy upperclassman!?”
Rendou Akiya suddenly grew tearful and emotionally unstable, so he was definitely into older girls. Kyousuke was kind of impressed by how the boy did not hide anything from his friends. …And the boy had nothing to worry about. The Rainy Girl could manipulate the paranormal all on her own without spelling anything out with letters, so in a way, she outdid even Tomb Priestess Sekurtiti. Her power could be seen as a form of cheating different from the White Queen’s, so Kyousuke could only praise his friend’s courage for going after someone like that.
After following the passageway to the outdoor pool, a chlorine disinfectant smell stung their noses.
Librarian-chan, who wore glasses and kept her hair in a braid, must have only just arrived. Her school swimsuit somehow did not help her stand out from the crowd. She stood on the poolside with her legs spread apart and her hands on her hips while she wiggled her body around in some warmup exercises.
“Morning, you two. I hope you’re enjoying a lazy summer while I’m stuck here for work again.”
“Morning, Umie Whatever.”
“Hello, Shouko-san’s sister.”
“Um, I am super worried by how you seem to be defining me based on my sister, but please don’t tell me some summer event has greatly complicated the interpersonal relationships around me. My family isn’t going to be hit by some strange storm, is it!? Is it!?”
Librarian-chan approached them so forcefully she would likely make a good member of the public morals committee, but she had nothing to worry about. Kyousuke felt like successfully confessing to the Rainy Girl would be harder than seducing the Red Lady of the Three.
(Although I guess I tried something just as crazy.)
The heat of the tiles must have been too much for her bare feet because Librarian-chan began hopping back and forth as she asked another question.
“And Shiroyama-kun, what’s with those bandages? Did you visit the mountains and fight a bear???”
“I got in a bit of a scuffle with my ‘little sister’. I regret nothing.”
“I-I refuse to accept the common theory that little sisters are nothing but trouble!! In my family, it’s always my older sister that brings chaos with her!!”
Librarian-chan began freaking out again, but she seemed to be enjoying her summer.
That was when Kyousuke heard some quiet footsteps.
It was still morning and the water was still cold, but there were a lot of people here.
Nevertheless, this chilly noise was not drowned out by the crowd. It reminded him of water dripping from stalactites in a blue glowing cave.
“Sorry about the wait, brother.”
A silver-twintailed girl awkwardly stood there holding an extra-large sports towel. She was wearing the same style of school swimsuit as Librarian-chan, but her overall aura was different. White. It was white. Kyousuke was surprised to find that swimsuit actually existed.
Rendou Akiya stared in shock.
“A white school swimsuit? Are you serious!? That legendary item is too much even for me, yet she’s pulling it off perfectly! Who is she!?”
“If that is made to be see-through when wet, I am blowing this whistle. And why did you call him ‘brother’?”
…Kyousuke recalled that Librarian-chan did not remember anything of the Rainy Girl incident since it had been resolved by altering history. This was confusing. Although if she did remember all that, she might have done a spit take and collapsed backwards here.
He decided to give a simple explanation before this got to be too much trouble.
“This is my little sister who is my little sister but also not my little sister. I also have a little sister who is my real little sister.”
“Oh, god!! This is definitely trouble!!”
Rendou Akiya held his head in his hands.
An amateur opinion could sometimes be surprisingly accurate.
The twintailed White Queen had gone to the trouble of visiting the school pool, but she did not jump in the water or chase after the beach ball. She only sat on the edge of the chlorine-smelling pool and kicked her feet to splash the water.
She opened a rental book contained in a clear waterproof bag, but she seemed more entertained by watching Kyousuke play with his classmates.
According to her…
“Um, matching my actions to human standards is quite difficult. And the underwater calculations are especially difficult. You do not want me to start walking on the water or accidentally part the ocean, do you?”
Not sneaking up behind her and pushing her in was the right decision.
They also ended up eating lunch at the school.
The cafeteria had been opened up to sell some seaside restaurant snacks like yakisoba, chilled noodles, grilled chicken, ramen, curry rice, pancakes, fried rice, and shaved ice. This was of course just a repurposing of the cultural festival menu.
“Mind if I join you?”
The Student Council President sat across from Kyousuke at the long table and she too was wearing a school swimsuit. Her long black hair and dark blue swimsuit were both soaking wet and the floor below the table was quickly covered with chlorine-smelling drops.
Her name was Benikomichi Fuuki.
“Who is this person with you? A foreigner? I hate to brag, but it is unusual for someone to outshine me. Damn, I thought going with the school designated version during the summer would be interesting enough, but I never expected someone to get a white one.”
The White Queen tilted her head, but Kyousuke held out a hand to stop her.
Their memories of the incident involving this girl made these situations tricky. At the very least, the current Benikomichi Fuuki was not an Illegal vessel and she was not fighting Kyousuke over a deathless world. And since she was hanging around in a swimsuit like this, checking her back would probably not reveal tattoos that functioned as psychological bonds.
The beautiful Student Council President did not seem to notice Kyousuke and the White Queen’s exchanged glance.
“There are an awful lot of people here today. It seems the kids from some other school are here for a field trip to appreciate nature.”
“Nature? In this concrete city?”
“Some areas among all the bridges are considered nature parks. Yesterday, they apparently went to a 100% artificial forest to cook in the great outdoors and sleep in a tent with mosquitos biting them throughout. All while they could see the light of a convenience store not far away. Thanks to that, they are starving for some junk food. It was quite a scene when they viewed the fries and sodas with tears in their eyes.”
The other schools apparently had their own issues.
And that entire event reeked of having been planned entirely by the teachers.
For one thing, it was unlikely a student would schedule any kind of school event during summer break.
The Student Council President brushed the wet hair from her ear while giving off the chlorine scent of the school pool and ate a mysterious experimental dish made by combining cold udon, a salad, and some sweet vinegar dressing.
“Also, why is that girl eating only the whites of those fried eggs? If you were being picky, wouldn’t you normally focus your attack on the yolks!?”
“I am a body builder, so I only eat egg whites, white chicken tenders, and drinks made from white protein powder.”
“I’m fine with you being a picky eater, but don’t lie about it.”
When the White Queen said all that with a straight face, he pinched both her cheeks to punish her. It was a small thing, but he did not like how she started falling back into old habits once things settled down.
“Hut I heally hoo heat honly hite hings…”
With her base durability, the punishment had little effect. In fact, the white swimsuit girl looked a little happy about it.
“We must not waste food,” she said once released. “So we can solve all of this by having you eat what I leave behind, brother.”
“…Are you serious?”
“Here, you can have this garlic liver. Oh, and all the eel that didn’t come out white. And let’s not forget these bite-sized pork cutlets.”
She mercilessly began loading up his plate until it was piled high.
“By the way.” She was smiling. “Just one of these is something I cooked myself using a portable stove☆ Now, brother. You know everything about me, so surely you can figure out which it is.”
“A deadly quiz out of the blue, huh? I get the feeling you haven’t really changed at all!”
“Oh, and looking for something white is not going to work. I bit my lip and endured the pain this time.”
Nothing was more annoying than a lover who decided to test your love every once in a while.
Did she not understand that simple fact that was known the world over!?
Meanwhile, Benikomichi Fuuki rudely placed her head in her hand.
The beautiful Student Council President frowned while resting her wet swimsuit boobs on the table.
“Hmm, I seriously doubt the school budget is enough for natural eel. Either there’s some strange supply logic at play like with the gyudon shops fighting for supremacy in the dog days of summer, or some kind of deep sea fish is being used as a replacement.”
“Then it must be that!! Where did that eel come from!?”
“Tch. I shouldn’t have left room for another girl to help you out. But regardless, say ‘ah’, brother. I will feed you the eel as a reward for getting it right.”
The only difference between white eel and amber-colored eel was whether it had a sweet sauce on it or not. The White Queen must have cooked it and then given it the (from her perspective) unnecessary coloring sauce while cooking it some more.
Kyousuke looked on the verge of tears, but he was gradually figuring out what the White Queen was trying to do here. He was looking fairly weak due to his injuries, so she was trying to feed him highly nutritious foods that would help him produce more blood.
(I was wondering what she was reading so intently there on the poolside, but it must have been a cookbook.)
“Hee hee hee. Get better soon, brother.”
If she really wanted to do this, it would have been easier to prepare him some cereal with iron-fortified milk, but he had no intention of getting into an argument here.
Then he heard a clattering sound from a seat a short distance away.
And when he looked over…
“I am super-sized afraid to speculate what she is hoping to accomplish by feeding him nothing but stamina-building foods while wearing a wet and see-through white swimsuit. Shiver (deadpan).”
“No, Sayuri! We should leave them be. That white swimsuit alone is taking things too far, but when you also take all those stamina foods into consideration, it’s pretty obvious they have some rather adult plans for this summer night!!”
There were indeed some students from another school here for a field trip.
And thanks to that, Shiroyama Kyousuke had to hold his head in hands with a dark look on his face.
They may have only been the tip of the iceberg, but there had been signs and premonitions visible here and there.
And now someone had stumbled upon the correct answer by pure coincidence instead of by following all the hints and gathering all the relevant information.
…If this were a murder mystery novel, they likely would have ended up as the second or third victim who was killed in an irregular fashion after learning too much.
They wore bright white and red shrine maiden outfits.
And they themselves were identical twins.
Except that is, for the black hair and black eyes of the one and the blonde hair and blue eyes of the other.
They were Meinokawa Renge and Higan.
They too were qualified for this role because they knew the truth of the Shiroyama family. Although they had acquired the information through a unique route: speaking directly with Doctor S while he was imprisoned on South America’s Devil’s Island.
Of course, a simple conversation did not give them all the information they might have wanted.
They were on a large bridge crowded with people.
The twin shrine maidens were in Toy Dream 35 to get more accurate information out of Kyousuke himself even if it was hard on him.
…But the truth was, Doctor S had broken the strict rules of his prison. He needed an oxygen mask at all times for medical reasons, so he always had a small tank in a bag he wheeled around with him and he had hidden a few personal items in there.
For example, some documents and photographs that corroborated the truth about the past.
But instead of trying to preserve his memories of his wife and kids in that nightmarish small home, he may have been more interested in the large price tag he hoped to attach to the information on Shiroyama Kyousuke and the White Queen’s origins.
That was why blonde Higan had grown pale now.
She had seen something on the crowded bridge that should not have been there.
It was nowhere near as exciting as an oddly-dressed summoner or vessel and nowhere near as strange as an otherworldly Material. Nor was it a bloody warrior or skeleton. In fact, no one but those twins realized anything was amiss as they enjoyed their summer break despite the sweltering heat. The twins themselves may have stood out more due to their shrine maiden outfits.
But thanks to their experience on a different stage, Meinokawa Renge and Higan could tell quite clearly that a true oddity was mixed in with the crowd of people. And this could not be explained away using theatre costumes or special makeup.
They sensed a sickly sweet smell similar to a fruit just as it started to rot.
This was a dangerous presence that lured others toward death along with it.
“I-i-isn’t that-? But it can’t be!!”
“Wait, Higan. Let’s look at this rationally. It could just be someone who looks a lot like her.”
This was someone intimately connected to Shiroyama Kyousuke’s past.
Yet it was not the Colorless Little Girl who had been created using his younger sister’s soul.
The extreme oddity standing before them was someone else.
“That person…Natsuginu-san, was it? She seems to have talent as a vessel just like my sister.”
Higan cried out in surprise.
When a summoner or vessel had earned a certain number of Awards, normal people would forget all about them. Yet this girl had spoken to them without issue. That suggested she was an expert in the world of summoning, but something about her seemed different.
A summoner would be carrying a Blood-Sign and a vessel would be wearing some kind of psychological bond so evil spirits and monsters would not take control of their mind.
Yet this high school girl had nothing of the sort.
She was an ordinary person, yet she could properly perceive summoners and vessels.
The short-haired girl wore the wine-red miniskirt and short-sleeved blouse of some school’s summer uniform and she existed outside the Blood-Sign rules.
She glanced over at Higan.
“I wonder if being a younger sister is an important factor there. You are a vessel too, aren’t you?”
“U-u-um, who are you?”
“My real name is so boring I doubt you would remember it. Even my sister is still called Librarian-chan by her friends, after all. So I think I will name myself as the Rainy Girl.”
She seemed like a perfectly ordinary girl, but she had seemingly appeared out of nowhere and kept a casual tone as she spoke.
“More importantly,” she added. “You aren’t wrong about this. That person is probably the same as me.”
“The same how?”
The girl laughed at black-haired Renge’s question.
“She has died, but certain circumstances erased that death.”
“You don’t need to understand. But you know that person over there should be dead, don’t you?”
That was right.
Whoever this girl talking to them was and whoever that person in the crowd was, it could not overturn the information Renge and Higan had acquired. It made no sense for that person to be alive. And they doubted this was anything as boring as decoy information at this point. They had to assume that reality had been forcibly altered by some great force.
Who was this person that Renge and Higan had spotted by chance?
That was exactly it.
Doctor S had created that nightmare stage and it had been bloodied by the White Queen’s appearance. When that happened, Kyousuke’s mother and little sister had been killed.
Anyone directly killed by the White Queen could not be saved even by traveling back in time or to parallel worlds.
That was an inviolable rule.
…But you must not forget. The Queen had killed Kyousuke’s little sister, but what about his mother?
Hadn’t she been shot to death by her husband, Doctor S, before all that happened?
If the White Queen had not done it, then there was a way to save a supposedly dead person by altering history. The Rainy Girl’s very presence here was proof of that.
“Hurry to Shiroyama Kyousuke.” That was all she said at first. “However it was done, there must be someone more powerful behind the unnatural resurrection of a supposedly dead person. That means there is something here with a connection to Shiroyama-san’s roots that wants a special vessel. …And at this point, it can’t be the White Queen. Who is that wandering out there? And whoever is behind this, it is obvious who it is they want to control: the Colorless Little Girl.”
Like a midsummer mirage, the Rainy Girl was already gone by the time Renge and Higan tried to ask more.
The other ghost, Kyousuke’s mother, had also disappeared without a trace.
With that, they had all the information.
They were in Aika’s mansion.
Shiroyama Kyousuke was back to his normal self as he stepped out of one of the many guest rooms.
While borrowing the White Queen’s shoulder.
Several familiar girls were waiting for him in the living room: Aika, Lu Niang Lan, Meinokawa Renge and Higan, Joruri Method Aoi, Shigara Masami, Isabelle, Murasame Kuina, Biondetta, Himekawa Mika, Sekurtiti, Sinceria, Rachel, and Olivia. These were all bonds Kyousuke had risked his life to build. Vessels without a contract were the same as normal people, so the memory and recognition issues must have made it difficult to summon some of them here. The summoners must have put in a lot of work while he was recovering.
The boy looked around and immediately got to the crux of the matter while sitting down on the sofa.
That term alone did not mean much of anything.
But anyone who had seen his past would find special meaning there.
“The White Queen once asked a certain question while watching me and my sister in the fight to the death Doctor S demanded of us. She asked ‘what is that?’”
A predecessor, one who shows the way, one you can rely upon, the master of an apprentice.
In other words, a being known as an older brother.
“You could say that is where it all began.”
This was a criticism.
A criticism only possible for someone who had overcome that hell.
“It was that answer to the Queen’s question that led her to view me as something special. And I think that is why she tried to protect me even if it meant killing my sister. But who was that? The Queen had never been summoned to this world before then. That means there was someone else in that world that could speak like a human and provide opinions on a level equal to or greater than the Queen. All of this might have been set up by them. They might have intentionally sent the Queen on a rampage so she would kill my sister and destroy any chance of us ever getting along.”
…Thinking back, when the White Queen had first come to Toy Dream 35 in response to Azalea Magentarain and Guard of Honor’s summons, she had said she called him brother not because of a blood relation but because she had performed a search and that was the most fitting term.
That meant there was some other being who the White Queen relied on for knowledge.
For Kyousuke and anyone else who still lived in this world, they could only ever speculate about things in that other world, so asking someone who actually lived there was their best bet.
Everyone’s eyes focused on the White Queen.
The twintailed girl tilted her head while standing next to Kyousuke instead of sitting on the sofa.
“This Wisdom you are referring to is a special Unexplored-class.”
She readily supplied the information.
In fact, it was such an ordinary fact of life for her that she probably never even considered hiding it. She seemed surprised to learn that the others were only just now realizing this being existed.
“Her technical name is…um, it is actually impossible to represent it using the alphabet.”
“What do you mean it’s impossible?” asked Olivia who had pulled out a kiddie pool even though they were indoors.
The White Queen winked and raised her index finger.
“It is a non-looping pattern similar to pi, so it just continues on and on forever. A few of the cults I have visited speculated her existence and worked on analyzing her name, but none of them have ever made it past 1,287,993,006 letters. Then again, that entire endeavor is probably meaningless.”
“If letters can’t spell her name, is this a Material no one has ever summoned?”
Names were everything in the Blood-Sign system.
If their name could not be represented with the 5 vowels and 21 consonants, they could not be summoned to this world.
“Yes, but that has no bearing on her strength.”
“I get that. I’m not about to accept that there’s someone even more overpowered than you or the Colorless Little Girl out there.”
In fact, if some convenient being like that existed, Kyousuke would not have needed to rely on the Colorless Little Girl at all. The Queen stood at the top of the pyramid and the Colorless Little Girl was the specialized killer who did not exist in the natural world.
“She definitely exists, but she cannot be summoned with the Blood-Sign system since she has no name. That makes her an Unexplored-class with no place except for the other world. She has no power in combat, but she instead constantly absorbs all forms of knowledge in real-time. Yes, if you think of me as the omnipotent one, then she would be the omniscient one. She is the yin to my yang and the left to my right. When one of us exists, the other is defined into existence as well and we remain together whether we try to or not.”
“So after all this, it turns out she has an ex-girlfriend?”
“Oh, dear. Is this a new rival for Kyousuke-chan? And since all of the Unexplored-classes are girls, am I right in imagining a strong lily scent coming from this?”
“Everyone always talks about lilies, but do you really know what they smell like?”
“Of course I do. I went to a girl’s school.”
“I meant the literal flower. Where were you sticking your head and what were you smelling, flower chafer woman?”
The striped bikini girl and modified China dress beauty used the white liger as a sofa while discussing something on their own.
“Mhh (deadpan). I don’t get what they’re talking about one small-sized bit.”
“Sayuri, try to ignore them.”
Blonde Isabelle tilted her head, but Murasame Kuina’s face blushed bright red below her shoulder-length chestnut hair and she was clearly shaken. She must have known what that discussion was really about.
“They’re talking about love and romance between girls! There must be an unimaginable world out there!! Don’t look, Sayuri, I’m not ready yet!”
The White Queen sighed.
It was not uncommon for the one giving the warning to have the more active imagination.
“If you want to insist that using a search engine makes it your girlfriend, then be my guest.”
“Oh? Going with the dry response? How boring.”
“What am I supposed to say when you point at the AI speaker hooked up to the network and claim it must be my girlfriend because I let it live in my house? Do you draw eyes and a mouth on yours to help anthropomorphize it?”
“But we are talking about an Unexplored-class here, aren’t we?” cautiously asked Himekawa Mika who was sitting on the glass table instead of the sofa.
“Yes, although she is the weakest of us all when it comes to combat,” said the White Queen. “I viewed the world through her until I met brother. Because it was a lot easier than heading out and taking a look for myself.”
It could not hurt to ask as many questions as they could.
Aika tilted her head while leaning back against the white liger.
“Hm? But shouldn’t an Unexplored-class be associated with a color?”
“Usually, yes, but she is omniscience while I am omnipotence. All of those colorations came from breaking down my white coloration as if by a prism, so it has nothing to do with the omniscience that exists in another category altogether.”
“Um, you called it ‘searching’, but does it work like with an internet browser or an AI speaker?”
Renge hesitantly spoke up while directly sitting on the floor because she was a traditional Japanese-style person. Her examples were awfully digital for a shrine maiden, but that may have been because the insufficient infrastructure of rural villages led people to rely more on online shopping and flat-fee video streaming sites that were uniform across the country.
The other shrine maiden, Higan, was still hiding behind her twin’s back. Her fear of the Queen was not going to disappear overnight.
The White Queen put a hand on her hip and answered.
“It may be more like a translation or interpretation.”
Brown-skinned and bandaged Sekurtiti frowned while standing and leaning back against a cupboard with a glass door.
The twintailed girl nodded.
“Wisdom is a being who gathers all words. When speaking with another Unexplored-class, it is easier to have Wisdom provide a translation of what they mean than to try to read the emotions from their face.”
Kyousuke felt like he was figuring something out here.
Even if the White Queen had been in contact with one million Unexplored-classes, she would only have really been speaking with Wisdom.
Like a mother bird flying around in the dangerous outside world to bring food back to the baby bird in the safe nest.
And there was more information that bothered Kyousuke.
“When I lost, the Colorless Little Girl would have left Aoi and returned to the other world, right?” he said. “And now Sinceria, Olivia, Renge, and Higan have seen Shiroyama Natsuginu. In other words, my mom who should be dead. It is highly suspicious that she came back from the dead without warning like this. It’s a little worrying that we only have the Rainy Girl as a source, but it seems she has talent as a vessel.”
What if Kyousuke’s mother really did have excellent talent as a vessel?
Wouldn’t that change the meaning of what happened in the past?
Doctor S had maintained control of that small house by controlling the supply of insect vessels using silkworms, which had been worshiped as a beneficial bug. No matter how powerful Kyousuke and his sister were as summoners, they could not rebel against him when he controlled all the vessels.
But what if their mother had been a vessel capable of fighting?
If she had escaped Doctor S’s bonds and helped out those young children, that tragedy might never have occurred, they might have easily defeated their father, and the story might have ended with the good rewarded and the evil punished. And in fact, Kyousuke’s mother and sister had secretly protected him during all that abuse. They had retrieved the treasures Doctor S had thrown out as unnecessary and hid them above the ceiling.
When Doctor S started that incident by shooting his own wife, it was not because he thought nothing of her. He had feared her from the bottom of his heart. In that final stage, he was pitting Kyousuke and his sister against each other in a fight to the death, but he would have been destroyed had that woman chosen to act as a mother more than a wife and had protected her young children.
(He feared his wife and his children. He made sure he looked like a researcher who had it all, but he was such a pitiful man.)
Doctor S had only been reaping what he sowed, but Kyousuke could only feel pity.
He felt no anger when thinking back on that tragic past.
He had always thought a lack of desire for revenge was only found in dramas and movies written by people who disliked killing, but here he had found someone so utterly hopeless that he could not even work up those negative emotions about him.
There was no point in discussing a man as small as Doctor S any longer.
What mattered was Kyousuke’s mother, the vessel whose very presence had filled that man’s heart with fear.
“Like with the Rainy Girl, it is possible to use the logic of the Summoning Ceremony to resurrect the dead. It requires a singularity on the level of the White Queen, but it is possible.”
Resurrecting the dead.
That was one of the oldest topics of discussion and it was just like Shiroyama Kyousuke to not simply write it off as impossible. And this was not just a theory for him; he had actually pulled it off with the Rainy Girl.
“You said Wisdom is a word specialist, right?” he said. “That seems suspiciously similar to the entire Summoning Ceremony system.”
“At this point, there is no way to know which came first. Maybe what Doctor S developed in 1999 was no more than a small piece of Wisdom. And if it is not that simple, the similarity may have caused some kind of crossed wires somewhere.”
Glasses Knight Rachel, who stood at the ready, was correct.
“To reiterate, I saved a girl during my fight against an organization that started with Killer Intent Antenna. And it required rewriting history. Do you think Wisdom would be able to use that same method to overturn my mom’s death?”
“Wisdom herself cannot leave the other world, but that does not mean she has no influence in this world. You should know that well enough after everything I did to you, brother.”
This was strange.
The White Queen was speculating and discussing possibilities instead of just stating facts.
“That said, she is only omniscient. She only has all her intellectual knowledge and no direct power. Or perhaps some of my power has been stolen from me even as I discuss this here.”
“What do you mean?” asked Kyousuke.
The Queen herself looked like she was slowly getting her bearings while inside a bewildering forest.
“Wisdom limited what she told me to narrow my view of the world. Or she did until I met you and began moving between worlds myself.”
Wisdom had chewed up all the letters and words before taking them to the baby bird’s mouth and she had used her lullaby to guide even the baby bird’s dreams in the direction she wanted.
Like a kind older sister who was overprotective to the point of smothering her younger sister.
“I wonder if Wisdom was originally meant as a safety system to control me and prevent me from going berserk, much like the rest of the Unexplored-class was meant to do. And just like Doctor S successfully used the Summoning Ceremony to draw out some portion of a Material’s power, a word-based safety system like Wisdom might be able to extract my power. Of course, it would have to be a small enough amount that I did not notice.”
The White Queen was positing a theory.
It might be as close to the truth as possible, but she had no proof.
But just like the big bang theory, this might be a question that would never have a proven answer.
“If this Wisdom being is in a position to hold the omniscience that matches your omnipotence, it is possible. And it’s also possible she could forcibly resurrect a third party to use as a pawn. The Colorless Little Girl disappeared into the ether and now my vessel mom has unnaturally appeared. The logic is not all that complicated if we assume Wisdom is controlling both of them.”
The modified China dress beauty looked puzzled while leaning back into the white liger next to Aika.
Lu Niang Lan did not seem to understand.
“This Wisdom is a safety system, right? Then why is she trying to make Kyousuke-chan suffer?”
“She may not actually be focused on brother.” The White Queen slowly let out a sigh. “I had been partially summoned to this world before that incident, but that was the first time I came here of my own free will. Since Wisdom was limiting my view of the world through what she told me, wouldn’t it have looked like I was going over her head and accessing all that information without her permission? If Wisdom wants to control me, shutting everything down for the time being would make sense. And I mean shutting down this world, not me.”
“Also, summoning is only possible because there are two worlds,” added Kyousuke. “If only one of them remains, I guess there’s nothing we can do, huh?”
“Wisdom sees this world as the alternate world, so she would have no real reason to protect it.”
The Queen made it sound like she had nothing to do with it.
And since she had not intentionally done anything this time, that may have been accurate.
Wisdom was the overprotective big sister trying to set up strict filtering on the home computer. And when that did not work, she started thinking about removing the internet connection from the house.
Of the three girls in old-fashioned shrine maiden outfits, the one with long silver hair breathed a soft sigh.
“So wouldn’t this Wisdom entity be really interested in targeting the boy’s life? I mean, there is no one else the Queen can rely on without worrying about breaking them with her charisma.”
Black-haired Renge belatedly started panicking because she too was a Joruri Method, but blonde Higan only tilted her head curiously. Renge apparently did not want her twin sister to see that world’s oldest version, but it was unlikely the secret would be revealed here. To be honest, Higan could be a little too polite.
…Wisdom’s mentality may have been similar.
She wanted to externally control everything her beloved someone saw, everything they heard, and every word that entered their mind. Everyone in charge of protecting someone would feel that desire to filter things out, but it only remained adorable for Renge because she always failed when she tried. But if you took it far enough, it was like imprisoning that person behind invisible walls. The person kept inside that cage would not be thankful.
And during that discussion…
<You say Wisdom wants to target him, but didn’t we establish she can’t leave the other world?> asked Shigara Masami with ponytail swaying.
Waitress Demon Biondetta poured Shigara Masami some more of a cold carbonated beverage (because the woman would reach for something alcoholic if she did not) and continued the conversation.
“Wouldn’t that explain exactly why she wants an avatar to act in her stead?”
Hence the special vessel.
She had acquired what she needed to make the Colorless Little Girl her pawn.
Kingdom F’s Queen Sinceria placed a hand on her slender chin while her butt squished a balance ball that Aika had barely touched since buying it.
“I am glad that strange being did not target Via, but since my Via was snubbed, should we assume Kyousuke’s mother has even greater precision as a vessel than we do?”
“Do not be ridiculous. No vessel alive is more skilled than you!”
“Rachel, I appreciate the thought, but try to remember what we are talking about. Wisdom pulled this vessel back from beyond the veil of death, so there is no point in discussing the rankings of vessels who are alive. Kyousuke’s mother must be enough of a vessel to make that worth it.”
Not to mention that Doctor S had chosen her as a wife.
…Kyousuke should have considered it more rationally.
That research-obsessed man had thrown out all his morals and even experimented on his blood-related son, so would he really have invited a normal person into his family? After all, that was his one and only wife and it was obvious that Doctor S would not use looks, personality, educational history, or income to determine someone’s value.
Olivia and Sinceria could almost perfectly control a Material, even from the Unexplored-class. Since they could lock onto and precision target the Silhouette weak point, their strength could not be measured using the normal Cost and Sound Range values.
Yet they had been snubbed, as Kingdom F’s queen had put it.
Then how much control did Kyousuke’s mother have over Materials for her to be chosen?
Would she be able to fully control the Colorless Little Girl while entirely ignoring the Material’s mind and soul?
Striped bikini Aika spoke up while leaning back against the curled-up white liger.
“What are you going to do, Onii-chan?”
“It imagine it would be impossible to track down where my mom and sister are as they wander this world. Since my mom has returned from the dead like the Rainy Girl did, she should be able to do the same things that girl can.”
He made this clear.
He would admit when he was at a disadvantage.
That was always this boy’s stance when faced with a seemingly impossible task.
He would clearly define the invisible hurdles standing before him and make the preparations needed to clear them.
“But we do know what Wisdom is thinking, don’t we? She wants to destroy this world so she can limit what the Queen sees. And the biggest obstacle to that would be me, since I was the starting point for all this. If that’s all she’s thinking about, then it’s simple, isn’t it? The final battle will begin no matter what we do, so the real question is where we will start it.”
Kyousuke did not really have anything to gain here.
If he did lose, he would be killed while defenseless in that mindless state. But what would he gain if he won? The Colorless Little Girl would return to the other world and nothing they did to Shiroyama Natsuginu would harm Wisdom who was controlling that vessel remotely.
It was terribly unfair, but Wisdom only saw Kyousuke as a security hole in her filtering system. She wanted to fill in that hole however she could, so why would she set up the rules to give him an advantage?
Her job was to control the White Queen.
She had created a safety system by reshaping the words the White Queen was given into a convenient form that narrowed and limited the Queen’s view of the world. She would do anything to maintain that system. And preserving this world was not a requirement for managing the Queen.
The White Queen had always relied on Wisdom and asked for words and information like a baby bird opening its mouth to ask for food. Although it was unclear if Wisdom wanted to control her like a pet or protect her like a little sister.
If they wanted to fight her, they could not just follow the rules she had set up. They had to add in their own rules.
(Houbi Village and Quad Motors are the hints I need. Although this hinges on how quickly Azalea can respond to my request from Devil’s Island.)
“I won’t let this keep happening. We might be up against my mom and my sister here, but I will fight them both and bring this to an end. And if I’m gambling with my life here, I need to make sure Wisdom is risking something of equal value. I won’t let her go at this with unlimited continues and zero risk.”
He would end this.
He would settle everything that had begun so long ago.
And to do that…
“How does this sound as an idea?”
They had settled on a general plan.
But there was one thing Shiroyama Kyousuke had not told the others.
And he did not necessarily have a logical reason for that. He was a summoner, but he was also a teenage high school boy. Now that he had freed himself from the bonds of the White Queen, he would not always make the most logical and efficient decision even if it meant selling off his heart and soul.
He was embarrassed.
He was embarrassed to violate the principles he had proclaimed so confidently in the past.
“What is it, brother?”
In one of the many guest rooms of Aika’s apartment, the White Queen smiled and poured a glass of ice-cold mineral water from the pitcher on the bedside table.
He took the glass and got to the point.
“Despite what I said in front of everyone, I want to get out as much of the pus as I can when we do this. …What I am about to request will probably only get in the way of simply winning, so you can refuse if you don’t think it’s doable.”
The twintailed girl put her hands on her hips.
But she looked more troubled than angry.
“Do you want me to scold you or comfort you? Tell me and I will do it.”
“I’m not really sure myself.”
He smiled bitterly.
This was different from asking for advice to receive support for the choice he had already made.
This really would put everyone at risk for his own personal reasons.
He had the idea in his head, but he was not sure if it was the right thing to do.
But the White Queen shrugged.
“Brother, who are you fighting for here?”
“Is it for the human race or for the world? No, Wisdom is using your dead mother to acquire the Colorless Little Girl. That is not such a largescale issue. This is an extremely small-scale and personal fight, but that is why you cannot back down. So shouldn’t you make any decision based on what you claim your goal is here? This is all meaningless if you hold back for the human race or the world’s sake and end up winning an unsatisfying victory.”
He knew he was indulging in her kindness, but he decided to continue along that line of thought.
“It bothers me that Wisdom brought back my mom now of all times.”
“I don’t know what she can do as a vessel, but surely there are better ones if you search all of the living and the dead throughout history. If historical prestige means anything, Kingdom F’s very first ruler would be a good example. Yet Wisdom chose my mom. She chose someone who would remind us of our failure that placed those initial cracks between us.”
“And Wisdom intends to wield the Colorless Little Girl. Queen, that is the sister that you killed. …She’s doing this on purpose. She’s highlighting our mistake and criticizing your actions by drawing a clear line between the mother who can be brought back and the sister who can’t. She’s saying you did something irreversible, so trying to reconcile is meaningless. But if she can lock you down under her rules again, then no one else will die, so she is asking me to hand you over so you will never dirty your hands again.”
The Summoning Ceremony required intense use of the body and the mind. The concentration it required was far greater than a game of shogi or chess and the physical stamina it required was far greater than a game of soccer or basketball. Even if they knew this was psychological warfare similar to heckling, it could still affect the White Queen’s condition during the battle itself.
“I intend to accept what I have done wrong,” said the Queen. “I have done more than enough to warrant criticism, but that criticism should not come from Wisdom who has only observed everything from the other world.”
“That isn’t good enough. Responding at all is what she wants. She literally is Wisdom, right? She’ll use whatever tricks it takes to bring you down psychologically. And in ways that won’t be bearable even if you know what she’s trying to do.”
“Then what should we do? Surely you aren’t saying we should ignore your sister’s death and just move on.”
“That’s exactly what I’m saying.”
The White Queen gasped at Kyousuke’s response.
Alice (with) Rabbit never could have spoken those words.
“If my sister’s death only functions to shackle me, then I’ll remove it. I won’t let Wisdom manipulate us after she intentionally set it up so you would press the wrong button. And that means we have to do something about that factor.”
“Are you serious?”
She was trembling.
As if to say she was not happy about being defended like this.
“You’re going to overturn someone’s death!? You’re going to cancel out my crime!? Sealing away the truth won’t save anyone and it won’t help us!! We won’t even be able to fight Wisdom because you’ll be crushed under the weight of what you’ve done!!”
“Yeah, I know.”
The time had come to violate his past principles.
The time had come to choose one and abandon the other.
So Shiroyama Kyousuke spoke while prepared to carry the weight of his mistakes.
“I want to save the Colorless Little Girl…no, I want to save my dead sister. Just like the Rainy Girl and my mom.”
The White Queen looked even more flabbergasted as she listened to this.
“In the past, I stopped Benikomichi Fuuki of Killer Intent Antenna. I know it’s ridiculous for me to mock the idea of a deathless world then and rely on resurrecting the dead now, but I have to change my views on this!”
“Do you understand what you are saying? This is not like the Rainy Girl or your mother. That girl…your sister was the victim of my very first murder. And when I have directly killed someone, there is no saving them even if you travel back in time or to a parallel world. Isn’t that the absolute and inviolable rule!?”
“Is it, though?”
Those were the magic words.
Yes, after constantly facing the most powerful enemy out there, Shiroyama Kyousuke would not stop just because something was “impossible”. He had developed the strength to question any claims of impossibility.
Which was why he could speak these words without hesitation.
“What if there was a loophole in the rules we’ve believed in this whole time? Queen, are you prepared to face this? I’m not talking about a cruel reality or a nightmarish defeat. Are you prepared throw out your principles while laughing your head off and reach for the kind of happy ending that looks so unnatural, contrived, and convenient that it makes people want to vomit?”
What if that initial murder had never happened?
What if nothing had happened in that small house ruled by Doctor S?
What if it had ended happily?
What if the boy and the girl had met in an ordinary way with nothing tragic occurring?
The White Queen bit her lip.
It sounded like a dream come true.
However, it was such a silly idea that speaking it aloud could easily be taken as a sign of weakness.
That was a different possible world that would have happened if not for Wisdom’s intervention.
“I am not going to ask you to help me again, brother.”
She slowly looked up, forced back the tears, and let those words out from between her lovely lips.
But not as a rejection.
“So let us go help her together. Let us save the soul of that girl who did nothing wrong but was plunged into the depths of the underworld for our mistakes!!”
It was an utterly impossible dream.
But that did not matter to them. The boy and the girl exchanged a handshake as equals.
They had decided on the true win condition.
Between the Lines 3
Words were everything for Wisdom.
The thought of skin-to-skin contact disgusted her.
The words flowed out.
She could not stop hose words filled with dark emotions.
(wb – ao – xf – oo – kd – iu – jrb)
Wisdom had always specialized in words and the White Queen had always relied on her. Whenever the Queen spoke with or about anything, Wisdom was always there to break everything down and relay the words to the White Queen.
Just like the mother bird flying around the dangerous outside world and bringing food back to the baby bird in the safe nest. From the opposite perspective, it was like a little sister clinging to her older sister’s skirt and hiding behind her.
As an older sister, she wanted to sing a lullaby that would give her little sister sweet dreams. She did not care if it was considered overprotective. The White Queen was too powerful, so Wisdom simply wanted to give her a safe and comfortable environment to live in. One that would never, ever break down.
So Wisdom had covered all points of contact and the White Queen had not actually spoken with anyone else.
That was their relationship.
That should have been enough.
She had decided to give the White Queen anything she wanted. While being very careful that what she was given did not pose a choking hazard. But perhaps that had been a mistake. Wisdom regretted listening to the White Queen’s selfish demands.
She should not have shown her the outside world.
Words that did not first pass through her were poison.
And it was Wisdom’s own overprotectiveness that had left the White Queen too inexperienced to handle it all.
What is that?
Wisdom still remembered that question.
And she remembered going against her own nature as Wisdom by providing false words in response.
When the White Queen had viewed that world and all its conflicting interests and desires, she had not been looking to Wisdom. Only then had Wisdom seen her in profile.
And in the end, the White Queen had not been satisfied with words alone. She had not accepted simply spying on that world. She had needlessly responded to the summoning, started moving between the two worlds, and tossed Wisdom into a corner of their world like a discarded toy.
Omniscience and omnipotence.
It was blatantly obvious which one would win in a struggle of strength. There was nothing intellectual Wisdom could do while stuck in their world.
What had the Queen acquired from that?
She had been harmed, she had wept, she had been used, and she had been lifted up as a ruler she did not want to be.
If she had never contacted anyone else in the first place and had continued hiding behind Wisdom’s back, she never would have been exposed to that unnecessary suffering or used in various plans.
And the humans were a problem too. It made no difference whether they were throwing mudballs or gold coins at her. The White Queen was already perfect, so adding anything else could only harm her. Why did they not understand something so simple?
Their words harmed the White Queen.
What was that Summoning Ceremony nonsense? Anyone would cower down if people started angrily shouting their name for no reason. They would be emotionally shaken. It was laughable to think of that as successfully making contact.
If she only wanted to speak with them, why didn’t the Queen realize it was many times more efficient to do it through Wisdom?
If she let Wisdom take charge, the words of the world’s people would have the edges rounded off and smoothed down and the surfaces polished so none if it would hurt her.
Wisdom hated being omniscient.
She was aware that part of her wanted to gloat when she saw the White Queen crying or entering a fit of rage.
But that was exactly the point.
She wanted to remain someone who loved the White Queen. She wanted to stay in that position. She wanted to play the glad game. She wanted to see the White Queen’s obedient side again before she truly started to hate her. That way she could bring her feelings back to where they had been. That way the part of her that wanted to protect the White Queen would not become something else entirely.
The White Queen could be controlled.
Attempting it by brute force was meaningless. Then you would only be defeated and dragged around like the many other Unexplored-classes had been. Using strength to oppose the omnipotent Queen was meaningless. It may have been Wisdom’s realization of that which had earned her that title.
So she thought about it differently.
To construct a safety system for the White Queen, you had to know what desires would appear within her and then control them.
And Wisdom could do that.
All she had to do was use her words to narrow the Queen’s view.
She had to do it.
It was the only option.
Wisdom was like a big sister and she knew she should never bring harm to the Queen who was like a little sister to her.
And yet the omniscient might just kill the omnipotent.
She might get carried away and overturn the usual way of things.
No matter what kind of trickery it required.
- The grudge between Kyousuke and the Queen has been resolved.
- The Rainy Girl, aka Umie Shouko, diverged outside of history when her death was overturned. As a result, she can independently use paranormal powers without relying on Materials or the Blood-Sign system.
- The true villain was Wisdom, a being who had continually given the White Queen advice in the other world.
- Wisdom resurrected Kyousuke’s mother, Natsuginu, a vessel capable of even greater precision control than Olivia, in order to take control of the Colorless Little Girl. Her goal is to create a perfect safety system she can use to control the White Queen. For that reason, Kyousuke is a hindrance since he gives the Queen freedom.
- To the White Queen, Wisdom was no more than an inorganic search engine or interpreter app.
- Doctor S’s greatest fear was that his wife would choose her identity as a mother and side with their young children. That small house had not been an absolute dead end and it could have ended with the good rewarded and the evil punished had some decisions been made slightly differently.
- Now, go rescue the Colorless Little Girl who is actually the murdered little sister. Only then will that boy and girl really and truly have earned the right to walk side by side.
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