The Unexplored Summon Blood Sign:Volume1 Chapter3

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Stage 03: Travel Back in Time to Approach the Truth[edit]

Travel Back in Time to Approach the Truth

(Stage 03 Open 04/15 15:00

ATTENTION! “Reverse count”)

“…lp…us.”

“If you’re going to say all that, then help us.”

Part 9[edit]

Meinokawa Higan opened her eyes. Only then did she realize she was lying on something. She was inside a comfortably heated space, lying on her side atop a bed that felt like a cloud, and surrounded by a side table and one-person sofa that reminded her of a luxury hotel room.

“And now it’s time for Space Captain Whitebeard’s weather forecast! As always, I’m here live on the civilian space station Toy Dream OP-05!! First up, this evening’s atmospheric pressure…”

“Where am I…?”

Higan sat up on the bed and muttered her question while staring at the TV.

As she looked around, she found some familiar faces.

“Oh.”

“Looks like she’s up.”

It was the Illegal equipment seller and the Government middleman. They were both Shiroyama Kyousuke’s acquaintances. What were their names? She dug through her memories and came up with Aika and Lu.

In that case, this was probably Aika’s apartment where she had initially escaped to.

This space did not look at all lived in, so she guessed it was one of several guest rooms. For a while now, Higan had not known where she would spend the night or what she would eat, so this was on an unimaginable scale for her.

Swimsuit Girl Aika was lazily leaning against the wall.

“It’s already three o’clock… I’m hungry… Onii-chan, Onii-chan. Your little sister wants a snack.”

“Eh? Um, three o’clock?”

“That’s how long you’ve been asleep. We have sesame dumplings to snack on. Mwa ha ha ha. Bow down to me and I might just share some with you!”

Higan waking up must have meant something to Aika and Lu Niang Lan because they left through the door.

However, Higan still had no idea what was going on.

(It was around eight in the morning when we went to search for my sister, wasn’t it?)

Seven hours had passed since then. What had happened?

Normally, a vessel did not lose their memories even when letting a Material reside in their body and fighting with an abnormal mind and psyche, but something had been different this time. However, she could not remember what exactly that difference was.

She looked to the digital clock on the bedside table and tilted her head, but then she remembered something important.

What had happened to her sister Renge?

Had they found her? Had they met up with her? Had she come back safely?

Or…?

“W-wait… Tell me what happened. Um, where’s my sister!?”

She quickly stood from the bed and tried to chase after Aika and Lu Niang Lan who had left the room. On the way, she was shocked to find she was still wearing that sketchy maid outfit, but she had more important things to worry about.

She needed to gather what information she could, so she flung open the guest room door.

“And another thing! Now that I think about it, how could you make my adorable sister walk around town in that unnatural maid outfit!? And she wasn’t wearing anything below the skirt!? What the hell were you thinking!?”

She found a pure and traditional Japanese shrine maiden sitting on top of a boy and swinging her clenched fist down at him. She was beating him up while using some slightly filthy language.

“Nfh, nfh!? I-I already explained that! The only other options were her soaking wet and thus see-through shrine maiden outfit or walking around town at night in the nude!!”

“I will accept she needed different clothes, but explain how that could possibly lead to putting her in a maid outfit!!”

“Can we maybe discuss this more calmly? Besides, that was something Lu-san forced onto me when she was drunk once, so it wasn’t my idea. It should have been obvious that outfit was out of the ordinary from the fact that it didn’t come with any underwear!! Kah!!”

“You make it sound like it was right to not let her wear any panties, so maybe I need to hit this broken TV a little harder. Well? Don’t you think? Well?”

Higan finally breathed a sigh of relief when she saw her sister creating a series of dull impacts.

Her sister was right in front of her.

That was perfectly normal, but the path to retrieve that perfectly normal thing had been a long one.

But even as the relief washed over her, the sounds of destruction prevented her tears from flowing.

Should she maybe stop this?

She decided she probably should.

“R-Renge… Wait, um, it may be true he claimed he didn’t have anything else for me to wear and forced this ridiculous outfit onto me, but, um, he did save us.”

“Wait, you idiot! Don’t walk that close when you’re dressed like that, Higan!!”

“?”

“You’re not wearing any panties!! So what’s going to happen when you walk up next to a boy lying on his back!?”

“…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………”

It took her several seconds to properly grasp the situation.

It took a few more seconds for Higan to drop her heel on Shiroyama Kyousuke’s face with every inch of her own face beet red and for Renge to continue raining blows down on him.

Part 8[edit]

“I’ve learned something about Guard of Honor,” said Aika after contacting someone. “The battle at the harbor was a complete loss, but a few of the summoners had small cameras on them and we’ve finished analyzing that footage. It’s only of those outside the Artificial Sacred Ground, though.”

When an Incense Grenade was in effect, the summoners and vessels would vanish from all cameras and sensors, but they still showed up just fine between battles.

The modified China dress beauty sounded exasperated.

“That sure took long for some simple facial recognition.”

The time was 2:30 PM. Lu Niang Lan must have been bored without any information and without anything to do because she had fried some sesame dumplings for a snack (using someone else’s kitchen without asking). They were currently on standby. Watching Meinokawa Higan sleep for so very long had not produced any noticeable results.

But now some good news had come in.

They were all starving for information.

“That’s just how long it took, so there’s no helping it. Although technically, all we know is that comparing them against every known summoner and vessel didn’t turn up a single match”

“What do you mean?”

Shiroyama Kyousuke frowned and Aika put her hands on her hips.

“That means they don’t belong to any of the three major groups.”

“Wait a minute. After all that, we have nothing!?” cut in Meinokawa Renge. “They were all skilled enough to easily summon Divine and Unexplored-classes. They weren’t exactly being covert, so they would have to have been caught by someone’s antenna somewhere.”

“When we checked those registered as normal people with no connection to the world of summoning, we found a ton of matches. This is only a guess, but I think I know where Guard of Honor came from.”

Kyousuke quietly continued for Aika.

“They didn’t start as summoners or vessels. They got involved in the summoning ceremony some other way.”

“What do you mean by that?”

Normal people. The many ‘others’ who saw our battles and had their memories and cognizance automatically rewritten without even knowing it. Not even the experts like us know exactly how things are overwritten in their minds. No, maybe we don’t know because we’re the experts. We can’t deny the possibility that some of them are implanted with something that attracts them to the Material. Y’know, something like Stockholm syndrome.”

They all fell silent.

Just how frightening a theory that was slowly sank in.

Finally, Kyousuke said more.

“At first, they weren’t necessarily directly caught in the middle of one of the White Queen’s battles. In fact, the odds of that are way too low. But it’s the same in the end. Even if they started pursuing some minor Material, their self-study would ultimately lead them to the White Queen at the very top. So no matter where they started, they would all be ensnared by her after crossing a certain line. It might be like an ant lion pit or a black hole. And it would work the same for an expert and an amateur. …I should have caught on sooner. Sooner or later and for better or for worse, anyone who comes into contact with the summoning ceremony is sucked in toward the White Queen to a certain extent. That’s just how large a presence she is.”

“Wait…”

That scratchy voice of protest of course came from Renge.

She seemed to be trying to reject something.

“That doesn’t make sense. We really were attacked by the Divine-class Yamata-no-Orochi and the Unexplored-class Lady of Purple Lightning! A normal person could never summon those! Even in the world of experts, someone has to spend a life of work to maybe reach that realm!”

“Originally, it was probably a small grassroots sort of community that showed up sporadically. It may not have held their attention, so they might have even returned to their senses pretty quickly,” spat out Kyousuke. “But I’m guessing someone gave them some help. Someone constructed an organization, managed it, taught them how to run it, taught them how to earn funding and build up connections, and most importantly, gave them high level instructions on summon ceremony combat.”

“Azalea Magentarain. An important member of the world-class defense contractor Quad Motors and Government Award 930. She had everything needed to trigger that ‘mutation’.”

“It may not just have been her,” added blue-eyed Lu Niang Lan. “Guard of Honor was initially mistaken for a new Illegal organization, remember? Maybe they happened to find some participants from Illegal. If so, they might have had an instructor or two each from Government, Illegal, and even Freedom.”

“As unique as the summoning ceremony is, it’s still a type of skill. Maybe they used drugs or suggestion for some abnormal teaching method. Or maybe having their memories and cognizance automatically rewritten upon witnessing a Material was enough to plant the inspiration leading to superb genius as if frying their brain. Either way, they might have some way of artificially creating ace-level summoners.”

“B-but…”

Renge must not have been able to believe it because she continued arguing.

Her pride as a professional summoner may have had something to do with it.

“The summoning ceremony is a deadly battle. Even if they were given the necessary knowledge in the classroom, they still couldn’t reach the Divine-class or Unexplored-class. They wouldn’t be able to defeat those of us who’ve been in real battles! Wouldn’t they need a fair bit of actual experience before they could create the hell we saw in that harbor!?”

“Yes, and they probably built up that experience.”

“How!? If they had done anything, one of the three groups would have noticed them!” Renge continued shouting as if to cast aside her own doubts. “They couldn’t just practice together like friends. Not even a vessel can fully control the violence of the Material. They can only guide it, so holding back is simply impossible. Even in a mock battle, you have a good possibility of crushing your opponent!!”

“Yes,” smoothly replied Kyousuke with his expression as calm as a Noh mask. “So maybe they’ve been standing by our side for quite a while now. They’ve stuck to the category of the harmless masses as they steal the techniques we use.”

Meinokawa Renge was overcome by a strange sense of disgust, like she had been blindfolded and then had a thick tongue licking across her back.

Meanwhile, Kyousuke continued speaking.

“They would learn everything they could just by watching. And on occasion they would wait for a battle to grow too chaotic to tell who was attacking or guide the battle in that direction. Then they would summon their own Material and butt in to earn the experience points in actual battle they needed. And of course, they would be killing all of the people they used as a stepping stone.”

“But Onii-chan. We checked for battle records where multiple groups fought and everyone ended up dead, but we couldn’t find any sign of Guard of Honor. In fact, if we had, this would have become an issue much sooner.”

“Finding zero errors is no reason to relax. That just shows how thoroughly and cleverly they’ve been hiding the evidence. …Besides, even if it led you to the wrong conclusion, Government wouldn’t have hired an external summoner to attack that harbor if you didn’t have some information on them.”

If they succeeded, they could slip into the crowd and feign ignorance.

If they failed, they would be categorized as a normal person who had the misfortune to be caught in the crossfire.

How much would they have to repeat that process for an uninvolved person to become a summoning ace?

They had continued secretly devouring that knowledge in the shadows of history for long enough to do that.

That much was certain.

And they had not built up just a single ace. They had enough for an entire organization.

The secrecy behind Guard of Honor felt like a monstrous maw in and of itself. It felt even more frightening than their pure combat ability.

“…”

Renge could not rid herself of the chill.

It came both from Guard of Honor for growing in that way and from Shiroyama Kyousuke for so calmly seeing through it all.

How much were people distorted when they grew too closely involved with the White Queen?

It was said the development of art was always closely connected to religious motifs. It was also said the evolution of life required a harsh environment. The presence of the White Queen may have fulfilled both roles in human society.

Just like the animals that learned to wield fire became humans.

Just like the armies that equipped themselves with iron built great kingdoms.

“Looking back at the battle in the harbor, Guard of Honor might have several skilled summoners on the Award 800 and 900 level.” Aika expressed her thoughts as a part of a large organization. “The exact number of members is unknown. Is it dozens, hundreds, or thousands? We don’t even know that. That means Government can’t do anything until we’ve gathered some accurate data.”

“Of course not,” said Lu Niang Lan, the modified China dress beauty. “You might only be planning to mop them up quickly, but you could carelessly trigger a much longer fight. And while you’re struggling there, it would be a real tragedy if one of the other groups stabbed you from the side. The world’s power balance could truly be rewritten, so none of the organizations are going to act. In fact, they might focus on keeping an eye on each other, hoping one of the others will overplay their hand.”

Their opponent would be planning to use that chaos to its fullest. The battle in the harbor and the escape of the Meinokawa sisters had both been unexpected events for Guard of Honor, so they would probably try to end this quickly, before any leaked information could harm them.

“The White Queen, huh?” spat out Kyousuke.

Everyone there fell silent. From the lowest rookie to the topmost expert, almost any summoner knew that name and even respected it in some way. However, its meaning changed entirely coming from that boy’s mouth.

“In Government, Illegal, and Freedom, her popularity exceeds even the Three and reaches the level of worship. …There’s even a wooden statue of her at our shrine as the unofficial second god.”

The White Queen was almost certainly the focus of Guard of Honor.

With enough skill, the Queen became more than something to look up to. She became something one could actually summon. She became an achievable legend. And then they could teach a lesson to every other summoner and vessel.

She was a symbol of strength.

She was a symbol of beauty.

And most of all, she was a symbol of righteousness. She was an overwhelming symbol that those concepts and statuses could be acquired by brute force.

“As the Guard of Honor that protects the Queen, decorates her, and performs her ceremony, they intend to permanently keep her here for themselves, using a form of the Control method. They want to use a special summoning method different from the standard time-limited Blood-Sign method,” spat out Kyousuke. “That Sewn Realm Summoning is the method I once used successfully.

The modern summoning ceremony using the Incense Grenade and Blood-Sign was the most certain and simplified summoning technique that required the least preparation. It did not require a sacrifice or a temple built over centuries and it allowed one to freely control any monster, god, or even those who existed beyond that. It could be seen as the ultimate technique.

But it was a little too convenient.

Everyone could equally summon any Material, so there was no clear concept of enemy or ally.

That was why some would look at it in reverse.

“What a ridiculous desire,” muttered the boy while his eyes seemed to focus on the past. “The Materials leave your hand after every battle, so it’s a lot like wanting to seal them inside a card and collect them. …It’s a truly one-on-one summoning ceremony that doesn’t allow any interference from anyone else. If you could put a collar on the monster, summon it whenever you wanted, and send it away whenever you wanted, that would be the same as an eternal summoning that ignored the ten minute time limit. And the ability to summon it at will would eliminate the risk of the Material killing you in your sleep.”

“Hm? But Onii-chan, isn’t there something wrong with that?”

“Yes. There’s a hole in that concept of monopolizing a Material. In this case, the summoner could call the White Queen between the two worlds at will, as if pulling a lever, but even if she had a collar, another summoner could still summon her with the Blood-Sign method while she’s waiting in the other world.”

“Then what does Guard of Honor want to do? There’s still a risk of being attacked by the White Queen, right? If that doesn’t change, wouldn’t the current method work just as well?”

“But isn’t that exactly what the traditional priests did?” Kyousuke sounded fed up with it all. “They respectfully bowed to their god while looking down on and ordering around the common folk. They called themselves the gatekeepers of miracles and built temples or cathedrals to make themselves even more special. But the gods themselves were protecting the civilization and the world as a whole. There are legends of gods exceeding the bounds of the church or temple and saving the common folk. Even so, the priests would insist they are the standard, no matter what anyone might say.”

“Kyousuke-chan. Are you saying Guard of Honor would simply overlook it if the White Queen’s power was leaking out to others? They would claim to have the strongest bond and insist those others are getting carried away, even if those excuses are no practical help whatsoever?”

Lu Niang Lan’s voice contained strong hints of doubt and confusion, but that may have been because the way priests felt joy in serving a supreme being did not fit with how summoners wielded those gods as tools and weapons. Even if she was an exception among exceptions who defeated her enemies without summoning a single Material herself.

“I don’t know since I’m not one of them. But based on what Azalea and the White Queen were saying, they intend to provide her with true freedom and serve her as soon as they complete their Control method.”

“What!? They’re causing all this trouble to put a collar on the White Queen, but their final objective is to release her and have her step on them!?”

“Well, the harder it is for normal people to understand a desire, the stronger some will crave it.”

“That sounds pretty dangerous coming from someone with those lumps of fat on her chest.”

“It sounds nice and clean coming from you, Aika. Then again, it might be even less of a laughing matter with that slender frame of yours.”

Kyousuke cut in to drive the point home.

“Unless we actually peer into their hearts, we can’t know whether this is actually what they want or if it’s just an excuse allowing them to ignore their more depraved desires.”

Renge still had trouble accepting this and that may have led her to nitpick Shiroyama Kyousuke’s opinion.

“Truly one-on-one… Summoning and sending them away at will…” She seemed to groan the terms below her breath. “Th-this framework of a Sewn Realm Summoning and the Control method may be new, but it feels more like taking a step backwards. Isn’t that the same as the magic circle summonings in picture books?”

“Yes. Ideologically, it’s like the First Summoning Ceremony. Technique-wise, it’s like the Second Summoning Ceremony,” agreed Kyousuke. “But no one has actually taken that to a usable level.”

“Eh?”

“The gods of legend appear to protect some group, be it a tribe, a village, a nation, a continent, or all mankind. Contracts with an individual are almost unheard of. There are some extreme exceptions like the Annunciation, but in that case, the god was selecting the appropriate human. Cases where the human chooses the god and makes an exclusive contract are a different matter altogether.”

“Now that…you mention it…”

“Then what about demons summoned with a piece of parchment? Humans can summon them, but anyone can summon them. After the contract fails or is completed, the demon searches for the next human. That lacks uniqueness. I’m talking about a purely exclusive contract that’s something like a marriage. It’s bound between two individuals and then no one else can summon it, even the summoner’s children or grandchildren. …That dream is pure enough to be drawn in picture books, but that pure beauty is something that cannot be achieved by human hands.”

“Um, Kyousuke-chan. I don’t think that would function as a proper system of techniques. If no one can inherit it, it has no way to spread.”

“That’s right. If that succeeded, mankind would never be able to summon that Material again once the summoner’s lifespan came to an end. That’s one thing that Solomon’s 72 did well. Those secret techniques were built up into a workable system, but that’s also why they ultimately spread as standard fortune telling and good luck charms.”

Even Kyousuke’s original Sewn Realm Summoning had not fully bound the White Queen, so the risk of other summoners summoning her beyond that framework had remained. Not even he had been able to cross that boundary into the “unexplored”.

“But even as a group, Guard of Honor can’t reach what you once completed, right?”

Lu Niang Lan worked to keep her voice cheerful and Kyousuke stopped to think for a moment.

“Yes, they will fail. And even if they fail, this will cause great damage, but…”

He trailed off there.

Something there filled even Alice (with) Rabbit with a feeling of hesitation. He was likely overpowered by a specific example of that “great damage”.

As if taking a detour around a blocked road, Aika changed the subject.

“According to Government’s official report, a luxury cruise ship called the Princess Azalea is docked here at Toy Dream 35.”

“Oh, dear. I’m surprised Quad Motors actually provided you with that information.”

“They refused at first, but they decided this was too much to cover up. …It has 1500 beds, the ship itself is made of Repliglass, and it can travel around the world while barely needing to resupply because it extracts the silicon materials dissolved in the seawater.”

“Do you think that’s their base?”

It would probably be faster to ask Kyousuke-chan,” said Lu Niang Lan.

Everyone’s focus turned to Shiroyama Kyousuke as he slowly opened his mouth.

“If they took the same path as me, they drew on the image of the fairy’s spring. That would be the type in picture books with the gold and silver axes. That lets you freely summon a supernatural being from another world and have them grant your wish. It’s an extremely restricted contact point for humans. And conveniently, Toy Dream 35 is a type of ocean city, so it has plenty of water. If they brought in their giant ship, they could make whatever secret preparations they wanted inside.”

But then he made a reversal and began rejecting the idea.

“But I don’t think it’s the ship. If the mobile cruise ship was their base, they wouldn’t need to do anything inside Toy Dream 35 itself. The Princess Azalea probably isn’t what we’re looking for.”

“You don’t have any…evidence of that, do you?”

“I have no proof,” he bluntly admitted. “But the White Queen stands at the top of Guard of Honor. Even if she talks about it in roundabout and majestic codes that only those in the know would understand, she really only thinks about me. She might be making grand commands and manipulating Guard of Honor’s summoners, but there’s really no logic behind it. …She only wants me to pay attention to her, so she’s only thinking about where she can lure me.”

“It surprised me back then, but why is she so obsessed with you? In fact, if she’s head over heels for you, can’t you just ask her to end all this?”

“Give up on that idea. And that isn’t the best way of describing it. The only thing the White Queen is in love with is love. It may look like she’s chosen me, but that’s because I’m tougher and harder to break than other people. I’m not stupid enough to try to control her when she could ‘wake up’ at any moment.”

Kyousuke and the White Queen knew each other, so they likely understand how the other thought better than anyone else.

No matter what emotions those thoughts were based on.

“So in the opinion of the great Shiroyama Kyousuke, what location seems most suspect to you?”

“The staff only areas,” he immediately responded. “Toy Dream 35 is a city-sized amusement park, but they need to construct a great number of systems to protect its image of hopes and dreams: trash collection, staff transportation, and covertly moving celebrities to avoid a commotion. …There’s probably a spider web of hidden passageways not opened to the public for a variety of reasons.”

Quad Motors’ Repliglass was a blessing in many areas of life, but the largest one was construction and underground excavation technology. The development of equipment modeled after bugs that lived underground like earthworms and earwigs had brought an end to the days when tunnels or dams took decades to build. If the earth’s environment were to be ruined by global warming or pollution, some specialists were suggesting it would be faster to dig underground than to escape to the moon or Mars. Swimsuit Girl Aika spoke in a monotone voice.

“Technically, that spider web of staff only passageways runs from one end of this ultra high-rise city to the other on multiple levels and while complexly intersecting, so it covers a distance of more than three million kilometers in all. There are about two hundred thousand residents and an estimated fifteen million tourists. About nine thousand tons of trash are produced and five thousand forty-foot containers of goods and materials are shipped in every day. That’s the problem with relying on external agricultural and industry in order to help out the local area. And including part-time and full-time workers, the staff is made up of approximately twenty thousand people. All of this personnel and equipment has to be smoothly moved in and out without the guests seeing and the staff needs the infrastructure to eat, take breaks, and take showers.”

“In other words, something that vast is boldly hidden from view. Looking at pure surface area, you could probably say there’s another entire city coexisting with Toy Dream 35.”

Modern summoners like Kyousuke used the Incense Grenade to create an Artificial Sacred Ground, but a natural sacred ground was a location where the beings of legend could naturally appear.

But due to the spread of the internet and civilian satellites, it turned out those mysterious spaces that normal people naturally avoided were far less common than anyone had imagined.

“So the underside of a massive amusement park has become a modern sacred ground. It’s a place you can’t see inside by punching the name into a search engine or booting up a map or satellite app. And it’s a rare space where everyone accepts that and in fact prefers not seeing it.”

“Now that you mention it, you’re right. …Looking at it like that, this place is far more twisted than some strangely discounted real estate or a ghost tunnel.”

“Everyone knows it’s there, but everyone turns a blind eye because they don’t want to ruin the dream. They’ll irresponsibly spread rumors about it containing a giant underground casino that uses illegal rates or hidden passageways for human traffickers that kidnap babies, but maybe that’s because normal people naturally want to keep their distance.”

“I get it now. That might be why Guard of Honor was pursuing me so intently,” groaned Shrine Maiden Renge. “If those staff only passageways and facilities are their base, then I was looking right at it. That’s exactly what I was using to hide after escaping from the harbor.”

“Twenty thousand staff members use those passageways every day, but they might not be able to recognize the symbols of the summoning ceremony. …That would change if a professional summoner peeked inside, though.”

Guard of Honor may have feared Renge had seen their grand plan, so they had made sure to hunt her down.

That was why even former Government Award 930, Golden Luxury, had been sent after her.

“Guard of Honor’s goal must be to remake that vast staff only space into a sacred ground for the White Queen. That would indeed let them escape the yoke of the Incense Grenade and its Artificial Sacred Ground.”

“But that might not be all,” said Kyousuke.

“The modern summoning ceremony is a method to safely, surely, and swiftly summon those ‘not of this world’,” said Swimsuit Girl Aika. “So just like a tanka or haiku, all the waste has been shaved away, leaving no room for anything else. Forcing in anything else will distort the whole.”

Modified China Dress Lu Niang Lan sighed.

“We have no idea if that sacred ground would last for a minute or a century, but Kyousuke-chan said before that the Sewn Realm Summoning is not bound by the rules of the Blood-Sign method. And this will be the abnormal monster known as the White Queen going on a rampage. Kyousuke-chan, give it to us straight. How bad is this compared to normal?”

“Yes, I stopped before, but I guess I should tell you.” Kyousuke spoke carefully. “I don’t know how accurate their Sewn Realm Summoning is, but whatever the case, they’re trying to construct a ‘spring’ using the entire ocean bordering Toy Dream 35. In that case, the White Queen’s influence will cover the entire ocean. Just like the spring the fairy comes from is known as the fairy’s spring.”

“The entire ocean? Are you saying the whole city will turn into a deadly region of sea?”

“By entire, I meant the entire thing. In the worst case, it would cover every ocean on earth.”

Kyousuke’s words caused not just Renge but even Aika and Lu Niang Lan to freeze up a little.

“The White Queen is something like a black hole that distorts time and space. Keeping that in this world by illegitimate means will drag countless other Materials, both large and small, in with her. With me, it was localized, so we somehow managed to bring it to an end. But if her influence spread to the seven seas, there would be nothing mankind could do. Even if only the smallest theoretical number appeared, the history of primates would probably meet an untimely end.”

“It’d be that bad?” Renge was dumbfounded. “But…it’s the White Queen, isn’t it? Everyone relies on her and she’s being summoned in important wars all over the world, right? How could summoning her just once bring about the end of the world?”

“Oh, none of this would happen if she’s summoned normally,” replied Kyousuke. “The Blood-Sign method uses the Incense Grenade, vessel, Petals, and White Thorns like it’s a sport. Anyone can start it, but truly achieving victory is complicated and roundabout. To someone without any real skill, it would probably look like what Material is summoned comes down to pure chance. But all of those steps and decorations are safety measures. If you mess with that black box without knowing why it’s there, you’ll only have the critical vulnerabilities leftover. …And that could be enough to destroy the world.”

“Does Guard of Honor know about that?”

“At the very least, Azalea didn’t seem to. She questioned why the Rose used twenty-six letters instead of twenty-two, but it didn’t look like she had dug into it any further.”

What if Materials not controlled by a summoner and vessel endlessly overflowed into this world?

They might directly prey on mankind until humans went extinct, they might ignore the humans altogether, or they might create friendships using a method other than the modern summoning ceremony.

The only certainty was that the existing peace held together by the existing countries would be destroyed in the blink of an eye by the creatures that crawled up from the ocean. In that period of chaos, national borders and currencies would collapse and some percentage of the human race would be lost due to the intense chaos and famine.

“What does Guard of Honor want to do?” muttered Renge, looking like her senses had numbed over. “The Control method? They don’t care who summons her, but they want to be the chosen servants who serve her before anyone else? But what do they hope to gain by getting so close to the White Queen?”

“I doubt they’re even thinking about what happens after they meet her,” spat out Kyousuke. “The accomplishment is their goal, so they aren’t thinking about what happens after they arrive in heaven. According to the Queen, their Control system is meant to create an environment where they can hold audiences with her as the chosen servants while ignoring the slight holes in that system. But as I said before, we don’t know if that’s what they actually want or if they’re turning a blind eye to some other desire. It’s also possible they themselves aren’t aware of that other desire. If that’s the case, they’ll be unable to control it and will be swallowed up without ever knowing what it was.”

“…”

Renge fell silent.

Not because she found that creepy. It was because she sympathized with them just a tiny bit.

That may have been because she was a shrine maiden instead of a pure summoner.

The intense popularity of the White Queen and a longing for her strength were common to all summoners. Renge herself could not remember where that had come from. She had stepped onto that path without realizing it and that path was precisely what led to the driving force that had driven Guard of Honor mad.

There was no special staring point.

Everyone stood on that path, the question was whether they walked down it or not. That was the only difference.

“I also think they believe the White Queen will solve every problem in the world. Probably some convenient belief that she’ll exterminate all of the monsters covering this planet.”

But Kyousuke thought the White Queen might truly be capable of that.

That was because he knew the true threat she posed, not just the legends.

However…

(She would never care what happens to the world or to mankind.)

The insane retainers had an insane queen.

He grimaced because he felt like he had caught a glimpse of who his enemy truly was.

“They’re twisted in two ways.”

To know something was not always a positive thing.

“First, Guard of Honor has been driven mad by the White Queen and will do anything to please her. And second, the White Queen doesn’t care in the slightest about those people she’s driven mad. …It’s frightening because the gears don’t fit together. No negotiations, persuasion, or threats will work here. They’ll continue on forever in their madness.”

Whatever the case, they had no time.

And currently, the only ones who could stop the White Queen and Guard of Honor was this group centered on Shiroyama Kyousuke.

After all, every last one of the codes, symbols, signs, commands, documents, and other suggestive statements was nothing more than the White Queen playing around.

Everything was set up so the first thing Shiroyama Kyousuke would think of would be of utmost importance.

Part 7[edit]

Azalea Magentarain and Fractal Leskins, the pair known as Golden Luxury, had returned to a certain place.

After the battle at eight in the morning, they were only returning now at 1:40 PM. That was just how long it had taken for their condition to stabilize after the serious wounds they received from the White Queen.

This was one of the vast forbidden areas of Toy Dream 35 blocked off by staff only doors. The emergency water purification plant was located even deeper than the ocean. It was a transparent spherical container with a radius of ten meters. It dangled down near the ceiling and it was filled with bacteria made of Repliglass.

It “ate” and purified any impurity, but Azalea had helped design it and knew it was no actual use whatsoever. First, seawater could be made into drinking water even with something like an oil refinery’s distillation tower. Second, the bacteria pool could not meet the demand of Toy Dream 35 which consumed 450 tons of water every day for home and business use. Third, the Japanese had a bad habit of making a brand name out of safety and purchasing it. In other words, it was nothing more than a way to show off the city’s cutting edge technology.

Thus, the vast underground space would never actually be used.

It was much more efficient than digging down below a strange Western mansion and building a ceremonial ground there.

In the end, they had not reached Shiroyama Kyousuke’s level.

They could create a convenient “spring”, but they could not drag out the higher-level lifeform known as a Material.

Thus they were attempting to achieve their goal in an incomplete form.

Instead of dragging their queen to the surface, they would dive down below even the vast spring of the ocean and they would hold an audience with their absolute ruler lurking in the depths of another world.

If the spring’s fairy would not come out, they only had to jump in themselves.

Even if they could only hold their breath for a short time, they only needed to catch a glimpse and bow their heads.

Even if they drowned, that was enough.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” asked a young man.

He was one of those known as Uniquely Selfless. He had cast aside all else and vowed to become the “chosen servant” of his beloved White Queen. He was now one of the guards of honor that lacked individuality.

The meaning of his question was obvious: Azalea and Fractal had bandages and gauze covering their bodies. And rather than pure white, they were soaked with painful-looking red in places. The shock of the sight was all the greater when combined with Azalea’s slight frame.

But that girl smiled thinly.

“Of course I am. Not only did we have the honor of a direct audience with Her Majesty, she directly caressed and toyed with us. What greater joy is there in this pitiful world?”

“Perhaps. I am truly jealous.”

The young man was not being sarcastic. He really did think that from the bottom of his heart.

Ultimately, they would be filled with joy even if they were killed, so long as it was at the hands of the White Queen.

While aiming to Control her, they wished to give her freedom so she might crush them underfoot. They wished to be trampled first to show the world’s summoners just how close they were to that queen.

That was who they were.

“Still, you certainly took your time.”

“Yes,” agreed Azalea.

Her audience with the White Queen had held one other important meaning.

“For some reason, conditions are naturally aligning to more easily summon Her Majesty. Even second- or third-rate summoners from Award 150 to 200 can summon her now. This is a sign that her influence is gathering in reality. Don’t you think the time is just about right?”

The Queen currently resided inside a pure white cocoon.

This was not the cheap dregs that anyone could summon to a limited degree with a Blood-Sign. This was the truly noble White Queen, pinned to this world with a different method so that they might hold an audience with her.

However, they could not break open the cocoon to check on its contents and they lacked the technology to perform a nondestructive scan.

Judging when it was okay to let her out was the biggest bottleneck for Guard of Honor.

“Are you ready?”

“Yes. We’re all Uniquely Selfless, but every one of us has been putting in an effort worth a gold medal. Earlier, we calmly defeated Illegal Award 880 and Freedom Award 854 that were sniffing around. I may be one of us, but we really are an unbelievable collection of mutations. Do you want to go greet them all?”

“That will not be necessary,” bluntly rejected Azalea. “We are all equally Uniquely Selfless after all.”

Including Azalea from Government, they had three at the 900 level to act as instructors. However, they had no concept of a favorite apprentice. There was no hierarchy whatsoever. They had no center. It did not matter who had founded the group or who had caused the mutation. No one cared who crawled at their feet or surpassed everyone else. These guards of honor were all equally Uniquely Selfless.

The young man did not push any further.

“We have to settle this quickly. We safely gathered an even greater force than expected, but we barely have any food or other supplies needed to live here. Don’t think you’re going to get anything better than a burger to eat.”

“Oh? That’s one more thing to look forward to. Just what kind of thrill awaits me here?”

Azalea the junk food junky licked her small lips and the old butler sighed.

“The ceremony won’t be an issue,” continued Uniquely Selfless. “We were running Projects 01 through 55 in this city alone, but we’ve gathered all the data from the various failures. Now we can fill the holes left in the equation.”

There were stories of a white woman in the harbor.

Quad Motors had a secret project to create an entirely artificial vessel out of Repliglass.

It had been known from the beginning that those past projects would fail. It had all been to complete a single equation.

It had all been for this one true goal: the creation of the incomplete cocoon and the emergence of what resided inside.

“What about the decorations? We will be summoning Her Majesty, so a dusty old hideout is out of the question.

“It has all been brought here from the Princess Azalea. And this really is unbelievable. I’m pretty sure a golden palace in Russia would have more restraint than this.”

“This is the bare minimum. I wanted enough to fill one hundred cruise ships, but I restrained myself and chose very carefully.”

Guard of Honor had enough sense to restrict themselves to the bare minimum in order to hide their plot. In truth, the most difficult part had been naturally bringing in the mountains of furniture and artwork needed to create a suitable palace for the White Queen. They could not use a normal moving service. And moving so much at once would catch the eye of the hyenas looking for a deal on the precious metals market or at antiques auctions. But if they hid it in some complex way, they would be suspected of tax evasion. The ultimate answer had been cruise ships. Instead of hiding their intentions, they showed off that a rich individual was carrying their luxurious residence with them in a way that did not rouse suspicion. And several cruise ships would blend into the normal scenery at the giant seaside amusement park of Toy Dream 35.

So the Princess Azalea and four other cruise ships had gathered and the treasures inside had been secretly carried out.

It was all to construct a gorgeous palace suitable for the White Queen.

The focus on the decorations over the plan itself showed who they really were. They did not act based on self-interest or logic. It was all about emotion. They only wished to be the White Queen’s absolute servants and to receive her love. They were priests or a guard of honor.

They all wished to equally earn the Award that only one boy had ever earned before: Loved by the White.

“This is where it all begins. I’m sure we will be very busy.”

“Yes.”

That was all they needed.

They were willing to engulf the planet in an ocean of fresh blood for that.

Part 6[edit]

It was just before 1:00 PM and Shiroyama Kyousuke headed out while trying to slip into the lunchtime crowds as much as he could.

This was incredibly dangerous when he did not have his vessel partner with him and he did not know where the Guard of Honor members were, but he wanted to visit his cruiser no matter what.

The next battle would be the last.

He wanted to gather as much Blood-Sign maintenance tools and Incense Grenades as he could.

However…

“Brother. I know this violates the schedule, but I just couldn’t wait any longer☆”

He was thrown into an Artificial Sacred Ground without warning.

Immediately, a spine-chillingly sweet voice reached his ears. He looked back in shock and found the White Queen approaching. The way she waved and jogged over looked just like a girl who had spotted the person she had arranged to meet.

(I didn’t notice an Incense Grenade detonation. So was I dragged into the Artificial Sacred Ground using a Chain!?)

Not to mention that the White Queen could not be summoned right away. And the summoning ceremony format was centered on a battle, so it could not be activated when the summoner was alone. He could not summon a Material without fighting alongside someone else.

There were examples of allies fighting each other to summon a specific powerful Material.

That was commonly referred to as cannibalism.

Even if a Material could be somewhat controlled by the vessel’s will, it was not 100% accurate. In other words, they would sometimes not hesitate to crush their opponent even in a battle between allies. While rising up through the ranks of the Regulation, Divine, and Unexplored-classes, just how many summoners had been “cannibalized”?

“Even if it’s because my influence has spread across this entire city as I lurk in the watery depths, it gets on my nerves to be Summoned so simply. But I’ll allow it if it means meeting you!! But…oh? I can appear here more easily because of the me that’s down there…but I’m also here… Hmm???”

Had she forced them through all that for a tryst that would last just a few minutes?

But that question seemed meaningless when faced with the White Queen’s smile that glowed with absolute purity.

“This is about my beloved brother. Destroying a nation or two would be well worth it, don’t you think?”

“Beloved, huh?”

“Does something about that bother you?”

“I don’t think there’s anything about it that doesn’t.”

If the White Queen’s love for him were real, he could use it.

However, she was essentially in love with being in love.

It was unclear whether she knew that herself, but Kyousuke did not trust her love. Even if he did try to manipulate her through her feelings of love, the odds were good she would suddenly “wake up” at some point. When his life and the world’s future hung in the balance, that was far too dangerous.

“Why are you here?”

“Oh, come on☆ The details of that are far too vulgar to come from a lovely maiden’s mouth, so I’ll have to be more vague. You could say I’m here to have some fun with you. Is that a problem?”

Kyousuke honestly thought the structure of the world was entirely worthless.

No matter how much one built up and no matter how valiantly one risked their life to face the unreasonable side of the world, a far-too-powerful being like this would end up rendering all that change meaningless with a single willful command. But when he thought about it, that should have been obvious. She stood at the peak of the Unexplored-class that was hidden beyond even the most hidden of the Divine-class.

She did not obey the world. The world obeyed her.

“Oh, dear. Brother, you don’t seem very excited.”

“I’m sick of you calling me that. It isn’t even possible for a human and a Material to have a blood relation.”

“But when I search for ‘a reliable gentleman’ that is the word that pops up.”

He had no idea what she really meant by “search”.

She may have spent many long nights curled up in an internet café or she might have checked some collection of information, like the Akashic Records, in the depths of the other world where the Unexplored-class lurked. To her, they both were about as meaningful.

No.

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say he knew nothing about the Queen.

The world’s scholars were greatly divided even about her origin. Shiroyama Kyousuke had once walked by her side, yet not even he knew her true age. He had no intention of being manipulated by the strange theories that said she had existed alongside human civilization from the birth of mankind or that said she had been born just this instant and history was being overwritten in real time to add her in. But if someone asked him if he knew the answer, he would have to shake his head. He did not know the source of her power, he did not know why she had a feminine form and heart, and he did not know why she chose to almost mockingly refer to him as her brother.

“Setting aside siblings, do you even have a concept of parents and children? I find it hard to believe you have a normal ability to reproduce. Or rather, I could almost believe you do it by splitting in two.”

“Eh heh. Then how about we try it out?”

Yes.

What was the White Queen on a fundamental level?

“Now, now. Let’s have some fun, brother☆ …And if you refuse, I’ll exterminate every last human in the area.”

Her tone was light, but that only made it more frightening.

Given her power, it would actually be harder for her to not destroy the world.

That was why Kyousuke did not hesitate to abandon his principles and his pride.

“That would be a shame.”

“?”

“If you went on a rampage like that, the Ferris wheel would stop running and we wouldn’t be able to ride it together.”

The White Queen’s smile froze on her face.

“Y-you mean…you would let me…ride on the Ferris wheel…with you!?”

“Yes, assuming an Unexplored-class doesn’t go on an apocalyptic rampage that breaks the Ferris wheel from its supporting pillar.”

“Wait. Please wait. Um, uh, to ride a Ferris wheel together is for a young boy and girl to spend time together in a small, private room, right?”

“No one has managed to figure out how old you really are. The theory that you drifted in from the other side at the birth of history is pretty popular, but there are other theories that you were born the instant the Third Summoning Ceremony was created, that you were born this very instant and the past is being overwritten to match, or that you’ve secretly existed since before the world was created. And you’re such a singularity that you could probably fit any one of those.”

“Brother, you are getting off topic!! Are you trying to tease me!?”

“Let’s just say you don’t see many people riding the Ferris wheel to look at the scenery.”

“Kyaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh☆☆☆”

The White Queen pressed her small palms against her cheeks and trembled as her entire face grew red.

“If it’s that distressing, we don’t have to do it.”

“What are you talking about!? You know exactly what I meant, don’t you!? You sweet brother!! So let’s go get in line! No, let’s destroy the line to get on right away!”

“Again, go on a rampage and it will stop running.”

“Th-the vessel at my core right now is a middle-aged man, but will you still flirt with me!?”

“C’mon, you’re getting in everyone’s way.”

With that, the White Queen took up her position at the end of the line.

It was a horribly surreal sight.

“Is this really something to get so excited about?”

“My, my. You just don’t understand girls, brother. Besides, I’d be happy even in a sea of blood as long as I’m with you.”

“I’m not that great.”

“Any human would have their gears shifted out of place to a certain extent if they reached me. You are no exception there. If you had never met me, you would not have ended up ‘like that’.”

She giggled with a smile indescribable by human words. It was not quite fascinating and not quite bewitching.

“But your gears aren’t bad. While other people’s will spin fruitlessly, yours alone stimulate my heart and draw out parts of me I never knew were there. …What else could I call this but love?”

“You’re imagining it,” spat out Kyousuke. “The Shiroyama Kyousuke standing in front of you and the Shiroyama Kyousuke in your mind are just too different. The person you picture in your head only exists in your heart. I can’t have you expecting that from me.”

She only giggled some more at those words.

It was said that love is blind, but the foundation of that was empty and unbelievable.

“You really haven’t changed, brother. If you’re willing to run all over the place to save a complete stranger, you should keep your eyes on me alone.”

“I’m not sure how you reach that conclusion.”

“If you became mine, it would eliminate about half of the world’s chaos.”

“…”

“Eh heh heh. It is truly wonderful that you don’t just agree to that. That’s the brother I know. I yearn for you because I cannot make you mine so easily. Supposedly, romance in this world brings the most happiness in the time leading up to the confession.”

“And what in the world are you doing? Just as this mysterious Guard of Honor shows up, I find you cheerfully supporting them. It’s not like you have any real attachment to that method.”

“Hmm. I just want to be with you, brother. Whether that’s for a single moment or for all eternity. It’s essentially the same either way.”

“Don’t you take issue with accepting help from a group that’s willing to blow away the entire world for something like that?”

“Ah ha ha. Your original was the fairy’s spring. That was a wonderful thing. There was no waste in the structure or functioning and it was just so lovely. …That splendid item demonstrated just how you viewed us Materials.”

“What part of a dangerous item that endlessly summoned Materials into this world is ‘splendid’? I was right to destroy it myself.”

“Oh, dear. You’re hopeless, brother.” The White Queen smiled happily. “You’re always like this. When faced with a situation where you can only save one hundred people, you forcibly save two hundred, which produces a new conflict. You give no thought to the remaining oxygen, the remaining food, or the number of lifeboats. You simply save everyone before your eyes. …Have you found the perfect world? Have you become the ruler of the world? You’ve done enough to earn that title, and yet I feel like you’re still nothing more than a rabbit traversing a world of chaos.”

She continued with joy in her voice.

“You caused that secret war where Materials briefly overflowed into this world and mankind nearly went extinct, but that was no different. You saw us being summoned and used as mere ‘Material’, so you wanted to treat us like people just like you, right?”

“I was wrong,” spat out the boy who likely held a legend great enough to truly stand alongside the White Queen. “I was wrong for so very, very long. I’m probably still wrong now. I know that. But even so, I couldn’t ignore the voices of those sinking into the bog. I don’t do this because of any strength. I’m being driven by the weakness that keeps me from accepting defeat, tragedy, pain, despair, or loss.”

“Perhaps so.” The White Queen sounded cheerful. “I can let the world live or die with a single fingertip, but I don’t have any intention at all of carrying that burden. I might hear a scream or the cries of death, but so what? An individual just has to take responsibility for their own life. This world’s custom is to let individuals deal with the misfortune and tragedies brought about by their own decisions, right? I see no reason to feel the slightest twinge of responsibility.”

Shiroyama Kyousuke could not help but laugh at that.

Yes. This was what it meant to be the strongest. Setting aside whether she was right or not, the White Queen was definitely stronger than anyone else in this world.

“We’ll have to agree to disagree here,” he said.

“Are you sure?”

“But there is no compromise with actions born of weakness. You need to remember that. They say a cornered rat will bite a cat. …Well, just so you know, I’m feeling pretty cornered right now. Enough that I can’t smile and insist we play fair and square.”

“That’s fine with me. Everyone is free to use the power they hold.”

“I will save Meinokawa Higan. I promised I would, so I swear to you I’ll protect her.”

“Is mentioning another girl’s name a small form of resistance?”

“No, if I was going to harass you, I would put a little more effort into it.” He snapped his fingers. “By the way, the sign says the Ferris wheel has about a thirty minute wait, but how long do you have until your time limit?”

“Eh? You!? T-toying with a maiden’s pure heart will earn you some legitimate divine punish-...kssssshhhhhh!!!???”

The Artificial Sacred Ground and the White Queen vanished.

The middle-aged vessel collapsed to the ground and Kyousuke vanished into the crowd once more.

He had driven her off without fighting.

And it was now time to resume his efforts to save Meinokawa Higan.

Part 5[edit]

A heavy silence filled the guest room of Aika’s apartment.

Meinokawa Renge, Aika, and Lu Niang Lan were the only ones there. No, technically maid-outfit Higan was sleeping in the luxurious bed, but she was completely unconscious and thus so inhuman she nearly did not count. She had no presence and seemed more like a decoration.

She had not woken up since then and that succinctly indicated how dangerous her situation was.

“I lost my composure before.” Renge slowly inhaled as if switching mindsets. “But please let me check on Higan’s state again. I want an accurate knowledge of her state to think about what comes next.”

“Well, anything’s fine as long as it doesn’t end up like before.”

Swimsuit Girl Aika’s quiet response held a tone of warning.

Renge groaned.

“S-sorry.”

“Now, now. Squeezing any harder isn’t going to get anything more out of her. Suicide and revenge generally are based in escapism. If that girl is saying she won’t try for a heroic death anymore, then why not go with that?”

Lu Niang Lan casually sided with Renge and Aika grabbed a hand light from the bedside table. Instead of a light bulb or LEDs, it had a fifteen centimeter fluorescent light in the side. Plus, the fluorescent light was not a normal one.

“You said that’s different from a black light, right?”

“It doesn’t cause cancer, so don’t worry. It isn’t a scientific issue. …Basically, it’s important to view this from a ‘different viewpoint’. And light from a different wavelength is a convenient way of doing that,” explained the Modified China Dress Beauty. “We probably need to remove your sister’s clothes to see this. Should we do that for you?”

“…! I’ll do it!! …How does this thing work? The top doesn’t seem to have any buttons… H-how are maid outfits made anyway!?”

“There’s a zipper on the back. It’s an apron dress, so it’s just a type of dress.”

“Why do you know so much about this?”

“Block C is all about movies and kung fu. You have no idea how many costumes I’ve worn for different campaigns.”

With some difficulties, Renge removed her sister’s maid outfit. Moving the unconscious form required more strength than she had expected, so it really was a kind of physical labor.

After she removed the clothing, she must have been filled with embarrassment and guilt because she pushed the removed clothing around the unconscious girl’s waist and chest.

“Could you not stare at Higan so much?”

“I have no interest in seeing anyone but Onii-chan naked.”

Aika clapped her hands twice and the room’s lights slowly went out. A thick light-blocking curtain covered the window, so the room was as dark as a home theater.

Then an unhealthy bluish light came from the hand light Aika held.

There should have been a slender girl lying there. The light should have reflected off her fine white skin like ceramic and she should have glowed like the moon in the night sky.

However, the dark blue marks covering Meinokawa Higan’s entire body were so vivid the three watching could almost hear them oozing.

Her body had the coloration of rotting fruit.

It covered about half of her body and the extreme white of her skin only caused that “decomposition” to stand out all the more to Renge’s eyes.

Simply changing their viewpoint was enough to see this. The “truth” hidden behind the normal light of day was anything but beautiful.

Renge had known it would be like this.

She really had, but the sight was still enough to shake her mind.

She gulped.

There’s even more than before.

“Time has passed without finding a fundamental solution, so of course it has.”

“And it’s 12:30 now, so it spread this much in just four hours.”

Even now, Higan’s life was being worn away.

The spread of that dark blue color visualized that life.

Part 4[edit]

“This is it.”

At noon, Modified China Dress Beauty Lu Niang Lan spoke bluntly with a spoonful of her homemade fried rice soup in her mouth.

Her empty hand held a pair of tweezers with something sharp in their metal grasp. Her blue eyes viewed a strange object that looked like a pure white needle only a few millimeters long. Investigating its composition with a centrifugal separator would likely only receive an error.

“I’ve finally got a sample. …Honestly, these things are all intertwined like some kind of puzzle ring.”

It was not a substance that existed on the planet earth.

It may have been most accurate to call it a piece torn from the White Queen’s body.

“Having more than three thousand of these embedded throughout a human body is like a nightmare. And none of them burst a major blood vessel or organ. …It’s like an iron maiden.”

It was obvious where the object had come from: Meinokawa Higan, the girl sleeping in the guest room bed.

Lu Niang Lan had never heard of someone ending up with these symptoms after letting the White Queen use their body. However, this was the Queen they were talking about. It would hardly be surprising if she could easily cheat by twisting the rules that summoners relied on to add in new rules she made up on the spot.

The White Queen had the absolute power necessary for that.

Lu Niang Lan focused on the small digital voice recorder sitting next to her bowl of fried rice soup.

“The countless objects are applying pressure to Meinokawa Higan’s blood vessels and organs like tiny clips. Removing them all surgically by the time limit would be impossible. …I’m sure the White Queen calculated it out that way. And rushing their removal could easily lead to her death.”

She took a sip of jasmine tea.

After wetting her lips, she tossed the object held by the pincers into a small bottle.

“This is exactly what we suspected, but it looks like defeating the White Queen within the time limit is the only way of saving Meinokawa Higan. Defeating the Queen herself will also erase the more than three thousand objects from the world. It’s exactly the worst case scenario we expected. How boring.”

Higan’s life would be eaten away, but there would be no noticeable symptoms until just before her death. In other words, she would feel no pain. The White Queen had left Shiroyama Kyousuke’s vessel with him, which implicitly told him to come to her.

She had given him a chance so she could enjoy this.

“The question is whether a normal summoning ceremony will be any use against the White Queen when she can move around freely without the support of a summoner or vessel. After all, she stands at the peak of all Materials. She’s the strongest even among the Unexplored-class. No matter which sound range you choose or how powerful you build your Material, the White Queen might be able to end it all with a single gesture.”

The situation was hopeless.

The White Queen’s insane love (or illusion thereof) sent her after Shiroyama Kyousuke, but that very insanity meant his safety was not guaranteed. Just like a friendly bear might kill a human while simply playing around, the White Queen could not control herself in front of Kyousuke.

“I can see what drove her sister Renge that far.”

The Modified China Dress Beauty scooped up a spoonful of fried rice soup and spoke her personal opinion into the digital voice recorder.

“But I still think she has to be insane to try to get an unlicensed doctor to remove all of her own organs and give them to her sister to replace these infected ones.”

Part 3[edit]

As soon as he heard the term “unlicensed doctor”, Shiroyama Kyousuke ran out from Aika’s apartment. The digital clock on the Ferris wheel’s main support said it was 10:30 AM.

“Well, there’s nothing we can do for her sister, so I understand wanting to try anything. But if she shows up uninvited with an Ultra-C difficulty request she’ll probably just be kicked out.”

Lu Niang Lan was (abnormally) knowledgeable on the subject and she had that to say, but Kyousuke had different expectations.

Renge and Higan were twin sisters.

As their genetic information was so very similar, the compatibility of their organs would be overwhelmingly high.

And Higan was suffering due to the pressure that the fragments of the White Queen were placing on her blood vessels and organs.

Simply put, if they had a full set of replacement organs, Higan could be saved without a clash with the White Queen.

However, that would mean…

“Dammit!!”

He ran. He sometimes even jumped down from one giant bridge to another as a shortcut to get him to his destination as quickly as possible.

Fortunately, he did not need to search at random.

Lu Niang Lan had told him the name of the “merchant” she had told Renge about.

Block C had been built to recreate a film set modeled after an outsider’s view of a Chinatown. If an unlicensed doctor was lurking there, they had likely been drawn in by the unrealistic image of the place.

He caught a glimpse of the unique shrine maiden outfit mixed into the usual crowd of colorful costumes.

He approached from behind and grabbed her slender shoulders. Before she had time for surprise, he dragged her into a nearby alley and slammed her back against the building wall.

“Do you really understand what you’re trying to do here!?” he yelled at close range.

The girl’s shoulders shook and she seemed to shrink down like a small animal.

But even as the boy held her against the wall, Renge glared back at him.

“This is the only way.”

She was forcing out the words.

What did that mean? It likely meant she had been properly weighing her own life on the scales.

She had worried over this so much that she had lost sight of the correct answer.

“We’re up against skilled summoners led by the ultimate White Queen and no Material can defeat that monster!! There’s no way we can defeat the White Queen in just a few hours to remove those three thousand objects from Higan’s body. So what else can we do but give up on that direct method!?”

“Even if you’re twins, you can’t skip past the tests as a shortcut to the surgery. You have to test for compatibility, infectious disease, immunosuppressants, and more. Organ transplants aren’t the same as replacing a clock’s gears. And I can tell just from looking at your hair and eyes that you’re fraternal twins. Unlike identical twins, you have different genetic sequences, so you’d have to start at the very, very beginning with a blood test. There’s simply no way you could complete all of the surgeries before the time limit.”

Renge smiled thinly after listening to all that.

“I wouldn’t be so sure.”

“What?”

“Higan and I aren’t just twins.”

He did not know what she meant.

He was caught off guard, so she brushed off his hands. But not to run away. She opened the neck of her shrine maiden outfit to show him something.

He assumed dazzlingly white skin would reach his eyes.

He was not wrong about that.

But a moment later, Meinokawa Higan opened her chest at the center of her ribs.

“…Eh?”

Shiroyama Kyousuke had seen plenty of psychedelic worlds, but his thoughts briefly ground to a halt.

The ribs that opened like a strange umbrella or flower were made of wood polished to an amber color. The contents were far removed from soft masses of dark red. There were shells shaped like the different organs, but they did not look alive. They looked more like handmade leather bags.

They pulsated, but there was no heartbeat or mechanical noises.

The gears moved so smoothly they produced no noise. That indicated the skill put into their construction more than any craftsman’s signature could.

He recalled some useless trivia about western automata being created by clockmakers.

“What is…this…?”

BloodSign v01 299.jpg

“It’s known as the Joruri Method. Although after creating something that looks and talks just like a human, I’m guessing they were hesitant to directly call it a toy or a machine.”

There was a somewhat self-deprecating tone to her answer.

And she kept her bizarre internal structure exposed all the while.

“Didn’t you find it odd?” asked Renge with her chest truly “opened”. “Could a lone summoner separated from her vessel really escape an organization like Guard of Honor so easily? Could I really do that if I had become nothing but a normal human?”

He could not definitely say she could not.

Take Lu Niang Lan of Illegal for example. That Perfect Dragon hated the summoning ceremony and exterminated skilled summoners entirely on her own, so she might be able to do it.

But it would have been impossible for Shiroyama Kyousuke himself.

He might have been able to lose them for a short time, but he would have ultimately needed to rely on a vessel and Material.

Even Alice (with) Rabbit would need that.

“But…”

His tone made it clear he still could not believe what he was seeing.

“What even are you? I’ve never heard of a wholly artificial summoner. For one thing, the summoner and the Material vanish from all cameras and sensors while the Incense Grenade is in effect. No unmanned weapon or missile should be able to see them.”

That was why manned weapons like the Repliglass soldiers were still used even if they could not directly combat the Material. With the exception of primitive optical devices like glasses and binoculars, anything beyond the naked eye was useless as one’s eyes or ears.

And yet…

“My family has long worked in this field.” Renge, who existed outside that assumption, readily answered. “Repliglass is modeled after insects and other animals, but you’ve heard that it was originally developed as a container for the White Queen, haven’t you? This is the same. Before Repliglass became widespread, we secretly built Joruri Method vessels. We originally specialized in doll funerals, but after we gained an interest in machines that moved on their own…well, I guess you could say the hunter became the hunted. …The ideal form was to have a human summoner and a Joruri Method vessel to control the Material with no interference whatsoever.”

That was the ideal form, but in reality, Renge was the summoner and Joruri Method while Higan was the vessel and a human.

Or was Meinokawa Higan also not human?

“That girl is human. That is why she has suffered through so many unreasonable things.”

“?”

“Even if it was through an irregular method, the Meinokawa family found its social significance by producing stable and skilled summoners. I was the machine produced later and Higan was originally the only heir. Now do you see the problem she faced?”

“I do. No inborn talent is needed to become a summoner, but it is to become a vessel. But then those with that talent can’t become a summoner.”

The Artificial Sacred Ground created by an Incense Grenade was basically an area where it was a little easier for ghosts to make an appearance. The vessel acted as a contact point, so if they tried to be a summoner themselves, the Material would hijack their body. The very fact that a pair was needed for the summoning ceremony proved that the vessel needed the support of a third party to maintain control.

An excellent vessel was a type of genius.

But she had not been given the opportunity to use that genius in the small Meinokawa world.

“Blonde hair and blue eyes. I’d thought you seemed pretty different for twins…”

“Did you think we were a half or quarter non-Japanese? She is entirely Japanese-made. She just ended up ‘like that’ as they messed with her body, trying to medically remove the trait that allows the Material to possess her.”

That attempt had presumably failed.

The trait had only been partially removed and yet she was still such an excellent vessel.

So how great a vessel had she been originally? Kyousuke recalled how famous ukiyoe pictures had been balled up as cushioning for decorative plates during the Meiji period. That was exactly what had happened to Meinokawa Higan’s life.

“That is why I was made.” The Joruri Method in a shrine maiden outfit spoke quietly. “The skeletal structure, arrangement of organs, and other basic features of Higan’s body were combined into the ‘ideal Meinokawa Higan’ that the entire family felt should have been born. That is Meinokawa Renge. That is me. And that is why I’m treated like the elder twin despite being made later.”

That explained some things.

Kyousuke had never heard of a third party hijacking the contract between a summoner and vessel, but this meant that the connection between Renge and Higan was not normal. Had that irregularity been caused by the powerful bond created by a being that did not exist in the natural world?

“I…still have a hard time believing this. Higan showed no sign of hiding something like this. She even ran from safety and toward almost certain doom to save you. If she had been forced down by you and covered in hatred, she never would have done that.”

“She…” Renge hesitated to speak, but she did so anyway. “She does not know the truth. Or rather, she can’t see it. After all, I’m the ideal form of Meinokawa Higan. Her hair and eyes may have changed, but I might as well be her mental image of what ‘Meinokawa Higan’ looks like. She must see a truer version of the Meinokawa Sisters when she looks in my face than when she looks in a mirror. …That is why we are twin sisters even if we look so different.”

Summoner and vessel.

Ideal and reality.

Older sister and younger sister.

It had all been flipped upside down, so what had Meinokawa Renge thought while living alongside Higan? She was an artificial creation, she was being used by humans, and she had gained trust based on a false understanding. The more Higan smiled her way, the less she would have been able to accept it.

Even so, she had refused to run away and she had continued to protect Higan. That was why she was here now.

And that was why she had made the decision to throw away her own life.

“Thanks to this, the normal theories of organ transplants don’t apply.” Renge kept the inside of her opened chest on display. “We don’t have to think about rejection or immunosuppressants. I was created as the ideal Meinokawa Higan, so her body will accept my artificial organs better than any others. …We can make it in time this way. Defeating the White Queen might be unrealistic, but we still have a way to save her.”

She would protect her sister.

She had lived with only that in her heart and it had led to this decision.

That desire may have saved her as well. Kyousuke did not know how many years it had been since Meinokawa Renge had been created, but she had been burdened with a definite purpose from the moment of her birth and that purpose came from the destruction of the dreams held by the very person who idolized her. How could she have remained calm when faced with that?

So saving her sister may have also saved herself.

But…

“That won’t work.”

Her feelings, her resolve, her determination, her devotion, and her love had all led to this dark red conclusion, so could he really say they were right?

“Why not? I’m a Joruri Method machine while she’s human. Protecting her is my only reason to continue functioning. The optimal answer is right before my eyes. We don’t need to bet on the ridiculous possibility of defeating the White Queen. I can save her like this! So…!!”

“That may be logical. When weighing the value of your lives, maybe we should choose the human life. But Higan told me something in her own words. When you were separated by that battle at the harbor, she could have abandoned her sister and hidden in safety on her own, but she said something else!”

“What are you talking about!?”

“She said that isn’t what she meant when she asked for ‘help’!! And then she returned all on her own! She returned to the battlefield to bring you back!!”

Renge stopped breathing.

Her despairing thoughts came to a stop.

And Kyousuke’s shouted words slipped in through that gap.

“Higan was separated from you back then. Death was approaching her too and most anyone would honestly speak the ugly thoughts deep inside them. But then! At the very, very end!! When she spoke the thoughts deep inside her, it was a desire to save you!! So can you still say that throwing away your own life would save Higan!?”

“That’s…that’s only because she doesn’t know the truth. That’s only because she can’t see reality! She’s being deceived!! I mean…I’m just a Joruri Method…I’m just a machine…and I stole everything from her…!!”

“So what? Even if she doesn’t know the truth of this world, I’ll still follow the dream in her eyes. It might be silly, but that resolve came from her heart. She spoke the ‘cursed words’ to me, so I’ll help her. I may be reluctant and I might not gain anything from this, but I’m not going to accept a half-assed conclusion now that I’ve agreed to this!! What about you? After coming this far and protecting her for so long, are you going to accept an imperfect conclusion in the very, very end!?”

“…”

She fell silent.

Renge fell silent.

She too had to know what the most ideal answer was. She had decided to be Meinokawa Higan’s sister, so she was not a machine that could only obey her source code and she was not a shell of a human that could only repeat the same action again and again after losing during the summoning ceremony. But she had realized how difficult it would be to achieve that, so she had fled to another answer.

She could not do it. The Meinokawa Sisters could not do it even if they worked together.

But…

“Say it,” said Shiroyama Kyousuke. “I will defeat the White Queen myself. That will remove everything eating into Meinokawa Higan. I will use everything available to me, I will cheat in every way I can, and I will sweep aside everyone who stands in my way. Freedom Award 902, Alice (with) Rabbit, swears it. …So say the cursed words. That will complete this.”

Meinokawa Renge remained silent with her head lowered.

Finally, she bit her lip a little. She closed up the unnatural and grotesquely lacking contents of her body. Now that she was just a girl once more, she slowly gathered all of her courage and spoke the decisive, triggering words.

“…lp…us.”

At first, it sounded more like an escaping breath than a voice.

It slowly but surely grew into the words that could shake the human heart.

“If you’re going to say all that, then help us.”

A certain tone filled her scratchy words.

It was a heated emotion. It was a raw torrent of mixed emotions that could not be easily identified as any single one.

“Higan doesn’t have much longer. I don’t have time to be picky about my methods! The White Queen is hopelessly cruel and powerful! She’s so frightening that not even gathering up all the summoners around here would be enough! In fact, I can’t even break through the protection of Guard of Honor that serves her! I might rely on luck or pray for a divine miracle, but the White Queen reigns beyond even the Divine-class! So! When I find myself utterly helpless and sink into the bog of despair, no final prayer is going to conveniently solve everything! It won’t do a damn thing!”

Renge’s carefully-prepared words were falling apart.

Her tone was shaking and sobs mixed into her voice.

“But…”

At some point, her tear ducts had opened.

“If you’re going to brag that you can make the impossible possible…”

She cried.

Her face grew red, she did not wipe away the clear liquid dripping down her cheeks, and she threw her words at him from close range.

“If you think you can help us, then prove it!!!!!”

Shiroyama Kyousuke narrowed his eyes little.

The individual before his eyes was only a girl. It did not matter if she was a Joruri Method or an artificially-created summoner. She was nothing more than a girl driven to absolute desperation in her desire to save her sister.

He did not need to give it much thought. He did not need to say anything grand. All of that would be entirely superfluous.

There was only one thing he had to say.

He only had to make the one announcement to the crying girl before his eyes.

“As you wish.”

The contract had been updated.

The giant gears that moved Alice (with) Rabbit heavily yet quietly began to turn once more.

Part 2[edit]

Shiroyama Kyousuke was curled up in the hallway of Aika’s apartment with his back pressed against the wall. The female announcer on the living room TV said it was nine in the morning.

Aika and Lu Niang Lan were checking on Meinokawa Higan’s condition in the guest room.

He had screwed up.

He had put his partner and vessel in danger.

——It was Meinokawa Renge that summoned the White Queen, not you.

(…That isn’t an excuse.)

——You did not know that twins could ignore the contract between summoner and vessel to seize control.

(That isn’t an excuse.)

——If you had been able to settle things with Golden Luxury there, this would not have happened.

(That isn’t an excuse!!!!!)

For one thing, combat never went as planned. If there were rules he did not know about, that was his fault for not learning about them. This was not a sport held in a ring, so it was not necessarily going to remain one-on-one from beginning to end.

That was the most basic lesson.

The smallest things had built up and the discrepancy they created had bared their fangs against his vessel instead of him.

“What is this Alice (with) Rabbit crap…?”

He heard a low growl.

He glanced over and saw the five meter white liger that Aika used as a sofa sluggishly approaching him.

He did not move in the slightest.

“Stop this. I don’t have it in me to deal with you right now.”

The beast did not understand human language.

It moved its giant face in close enough for him to feel its warm breath on his own face.

Then he spoke more succinctly.

Stop.

The word pierced the silence.

Only once he spoke it did he realize what had happened.

That cross between a lion and a white tiger, that king of beasts that did not exist in the natural world, had pressed its stomach against the wooden flooring as it cowered down like a child after being yelled at.

When he saw the giant beast trembling, Shiroyama Kyousuke sighed a little.

“Sorry. I should have known that shouting at you wasn’t going to help.”

He held out his hand and the white liger licked his fingertips with its large, rough tongue. He then reached an arm around the neck of the beast as it hesitantly approached once more.

“It’s okay. It really is. Thanks for worrying about me.”

A nearby door opened. It led to the guest room. Swimsuit Girl Aika stepped out with a dumb look on her face.

“Onii-chan, if you were craving your little sister’s scent, you just had to hug the real deal. Or are you a true genius who’s only satisfied with the scent she leaves on things?”

“How’s Higan?”

His short, monotone question elicited a shrug from Aika.

“That China Dress is using acupuncture to slow down the progress, but it’s really only buying us a little more time. She says we’ll be lucky to get even a few extra hours out of it.”

“I see,” was all Kyousuke said.

But someone was dissatisfied with that exchange.

“What is with all of you?”

It was Meinokawa Renge, Higan’s twin sister.

“By the White Queen, you mean the White Queen, right!? She’s the top of the Unexplored-class who gathers cult-like popularity from Government, Illegal, and Freedom. Everyone knows and yearns for that Material, from the lowest rookie to the most skilled expert!! She’s the collection of benevolence, symbol of holiness, and anthropomorphism of radiance that Higan prayed to every single day!! So how…how does that lead to her body being eaten into like this? I’ve never heard of anything like this before!!”

Meinokawa Higan was unconscious and nearly half her body was covered in a dark blue mark.

Once it covered her entire body, she would die.

This was happening due to the simple fact that the White Queen had resided inside her body.

But at the same time…

“In a way, the White Queen is the most famous Material in the world, isn’t she? It’s true you don’t often get a chance to summon her in a real battle, but some of the top ranked summoners have to have summoned her in the past, right? And if that led to their vessel being eaten away from within and dying, there would be rumors of that, wouldn’t there!? And yet…!!”

“There’s no meaning to it,” spat out Kyousuke. “If you summoned the White Queen like normal, it wouldn’t lead to this. And while that was an abnormal situation since you forcibly stole the contract from me, I doubt that was the reason for this.”

“Then…!!”

“She’s in love with being in love. There’s no more to it than that,” he decisively stated. “She’ll keep running forever even though she doesn’t know where the goal is. She’ll destroy an entire country or the entire world without a second thought if it’s to fulfill a desire she thought up on the spot. …Creating this time limit inside Meinokawa Higan was to prevent me from escaping her. That’s all. There’s no grand reason, singularity, or law behind this. That really is all that there is to it.”

“You’re kidding…right?”

Renge started mumbling, but she did not stop there.

She continued in a low groan.

“I can’t believe this. I saw it with my own eyes and I still can’t believe it. I mean, isn’t the White Queen the symbol of justice held up by summoners the world over? She’s basically an indulgence we hold up to prove that we’re just in using her. And yet…she talks on and on like that and she grows violent when she doesn’t like something? That’s…that’s…”

The White Queen was the legendary Material longed for by every summoner. She held the greatest power within the Unexplored-class that lay beyond the Divine-class.

After seeing her for herself, Renge could not reconcile that with what she had seen.

“Do you know the White Queen’s official name?”

“The ‘White’ Queen who Wields the Sword of Unsullied Truth (iu – nu – fb – a – wuh – ei –kx – eu – pl – vjz). For summoners, it’s like a children’s counting song. I think you’d be harder pressed to find one who didn’t know it.”

“Now what about the opposite? What’s the name of the Material every summoner hates?”

“?”

“Taboos one and three. The Black Maw that directly kills any summoner that makes a fatal mistake.”

“Oh, you mean the Black Maw that Swallows All (nu – lp – eu – bf – zuh – ei – jkv – iu – a – xw). You never need to summon it yourself, so there’s no real point in memorizing the letters, though.”

Kyousuke stared intently over at Renge as he continued.

“Rearrange the letters for those names and compare them again.”

“Huh? Wait a second…”

As she did the work in her head, her face froze over.

Kyousuke gave the answer

“They both have twenty-one letters and those letters are identical. They’re made from the exact same number of low, middle, and high sounds. …In other words, the famous White Queen and the infamous Black Maw are one and the same.”

With that in mind, one could guess what was hidden behind that pure white smile.

She was not something that would obey mankind.

She was capable of selfishly tricking people into worshipping her even as she feigned obedience while consuming countless summoners.

She was capable of fully sealing such great evil behind her smile.

A god did not serve man.

Man served the gods.

That should have been the proper way of things, but it looked so twisted due to the great evil at its core.

“What is she?” asked Meinokawa Renge as if digging down to the heart of the matter. “What is the White Queen?”

Kyousuke had a simple answer.

“If I knew that, this would be so much easier.”

Part 1[edit]

“Oh. My. Dear. Brother?”

At just past eight in the morning, the White Queen smiled thinly in the Artificial Sacred Ground created by an Incense Grenade in the station-front plaza covered in the wreckage of the fallen bridge.

“I hate to do this when we finally have a chance to see each other again, but I will be leaving for the time being. Still, I know that you are at these coordinates. That alone was well worth the trip.”

“What…are you thinking?”

“I’m always thinking about nothing but you, year-round.”

“You are not thinking about me. You’re only in love with being in love.”

“What’s the difference?”

“What you have is only an illusion.”

“Hmm, this sounds like the beginning of a love story I’d want to listen to all night long, but the Artificial Sacred Ground is about at its limit. Complaining any more would only ruin the mood.”

“…”

“Glare at me all you want, but is there anything you can do against a Material without a vessel? Hee hee. Not that you would have much of a chance against the peak of the Unexplored-class even at your best.”

That was the truth.

His vessel, Meinokawa Higan, was currently giving form to the White Queen. Plus the contract had been torn from his grasp just before she had been summoned. He had no power at the moment. Not even the standard protective circle. If she so much as flicked him on a whim, it would probably tear off his head.

“How long are you going to keep this up?”

“As long as it takes to make you mine. Yes, I adore you so much I wish I could snatch you away right this instant. But this vessel is just so frail. If I ignore the Artificial Sacred Ground and extend the time limit too much, there might be no saving her.”

“What…?”

“You’ll know just what I mean if you look into things afterwards. I would prefer you didn’t look at another girl’s skin too much, but motivating you is more important. …But if it arouses even an ounce of lust inside you, I will physically wring this vessel out like an old rag.”

The sound of static filled their surroundings.

The ten minute time limit was up.

“Oh, right. If you wish to kill me and save a certain someone, I recommend starting by smashing Guard of Honor’s rather amusing ambitions. To be honest, I am currently somewhat separated from the Blood-Sign style summoning ceremony. Although their Sewn Realm Summoning isn’t very good, so I can exist in two places at once like this. But it is still based on the Sewn Realm Summoning, so you need to destroy both the system supporting it and that version of me if you want to eliminate the ‘change’.”

The details of the White Queen’s outline blurred, but she continued speaking with a smile.

“My time is up. Until we meet again, brother. I will be waiting until the end of the world.”

“Do you really think I’ll do what you want?”

“You will. I guarantee it. 100%.”

She was smiling.

That alone would have been lovely, but she spoke with an endlessly toxic elegance in her voice.

“After all, you are Alice (with) Rabbit. You are the great hero who will save two hundred when you should only be able to save one hundred. With human techniques, I expect you can’t extend the limit past seven this evening. Once you notice what has been done and find a life will be lost, you will run to the dark side of the moon if necessary.”

That was all.

The ten minutes were up, the mysterious Artificial Sacred Ground dispersed, and the White Queen vanished.

All that remained were the scars of destruction and the summoners and vessel she had selfishly beaten up.

Plus Meinokawa Higan who collapsed limply despite not having used an extended Chain.

She would die at seven o’clock.

The White Queen had said so, so it would not be a lie.

Secret Stage 02[edit]

“So this is the ‘item’ in question.”

It was a gorgeous reception room decorated with gold and jewels far too gaudy for a supposed monastery.

An extremely large man had been the one to speak. If he had told people he had noble blood, no one would have believed it. Even in the modern day, he would have sounded more credible introducing himself with a cutlass in hand and a pirate ship behind him. The butler waiting behind him further drew out the crude impression he gave people.

He was facing a small man.

This man almost looked like a little grey in a human costume. He had a smile on his face, but it showed as little emotion as a plastic doll being melted with a flame.

The alien spoke.

“The Bloodline Preservation Committee intends to regain all members of the proper Magentarain bloodline that has been so neglected for a variety of reasons and we intend to receive those members of the bloodline with the treatment they deserve.”

“Hmph.”

A young girl with reddish-blonde hair and white skin stood next to the alien. She looked like a doll, but that was not meant to disparage her. Her gorgeous dress and the sweet scent of her hair were proof that everything had been stripped away from her for the life that awaited her. All of the warm things that had made her who she was had been erased and then overwritten with the Magentarain name.

It was such a “warm welcome”, that it was surprising there had been no handcuffs or collars involved.

“The treatment they deserve? She’ll be kicked out of the main family’s line of succession either way. This is some illegitimate child that showed up out of the blue. Those purity-obsessed freaks won’t even treat her like a human being.”

“Perhaps, but she is still a Magentarain. No one can find any faults in her basic specs and she will do well in any field. …And that of course includes your world of the summoning ceremony, young master.”

“I’m not about to form a team.”

“Yes, but I believe there are still ways to use her for your purposes.” The alien grinned. “She can act as bait to draw out the enemy, she can use her position as a child to gather information, and she can simply act as a human shield. You could even use her as a sandbag to relieve stress. No one would care.”

“So you ‘saved her’ to make her expendable, did you?”

This was the truth behind the vast sums of money the Magentarain family spent sending agents around the world to search out ‘hidden blood’. They were not interested in saving those who shared their blood. Jealous wives wanted to see her cheating husband’s illegitimate family line destroyed. This was a “game” that nobles had played for centuries.

The large man cracked his neck once and stared at the “product”.

“What’s your name?”

“Whatever you decide to call her, be it Toy, Doll, or Device.”

“I wasn’t asking you,” he said lightly.

Immediately afterwards, a tremendous sound of destruction was followed by the alien flying easily five meters through the air.

He rolled along, taking out luxurious chairs and tables as he went, but the large man did not even glance that way. The butler behind him brought a hand to his forehead, but the large man once more asked the girl a low question.

“What’s your name?”

“A-Azalea…”

“I see. Hey, old man. Cancel your contract with me and make one with her. The kid apparently has promise as a summoner, so it wouldn’t hurt to give her a vessel.”

“What an odd thing to say. You would ask a faithful servant to leave his master? And surely you know how much pain those words will bring.”

“Of course this is going to be painful. This is our sin. Not just mine. Ours.”

“Honestly. You leave me no choice.”

The butler gave an exasperated shake of the head.

The young girl could not follow the conversation. She knew this supposedly had to do with her, but she felt like she had been left behind.

“Sorry about this,” said the large man. “Your life belongs to you. You can follow whatever path you want and join any world you want. I’ll give you this old man to take care of anything you might need, but you don’t have to rely on him. Just make sure you live a life you can be proud of. This isn’t about the Magentarain family. Go find the kind of happiness that won’t bring shame to the name of Azalea.”

That was all.

That noble girl never again met that large man.

And she had yet to come across a life she could be proud of.

Facts[edit]

  • Even after Guard of Honor’s appearance, the three major powers are only monitoring the situation and cannot be expected to clean things up.
  • Guard of Honor’s goal is a Sewn Realm Summoning of the White Queen. By binding a one-on-one contract with the White Queen, they will become her first chosen servants and joyfully serve her as her priests or guard of honor. However, they have little chance of success and carelessly carrying out their plan could endlessly summon Materials into the world’s seas around the White Queen, destroying modern society.
  • The White Queen has no interest in Guard of Honor’s actions.
  • The Award “Loved by the White” is only given to those loved by the White Queen. It is a rare Award held only by Shiroyama Kyousuke.
  • But in truth, the White Queen is only in love with being in love, so it is not really necessary for it to be Kyousuke in that position. (According to Shiroyama Kyousuke)
  • Meinokawa Renge is the world’s first fully artificial summoner known as a Joruri Method and she was created as the ideal version of Higan, using her skeletal structure and organ arrangement. That seems to be why she was able to hijack the contract between summoner and vessel.
  • Meinokawa Higan will die if the White Queen is not defeated by 7:00 PM.
  • Meinokawa Higan does not know this fact.


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