The Unexplored Summon Blood Sign:Volume4 Chapter1
Stage 01: The Cutest Escape Game in the World?
“Do you know why my color is white?”
“Because that way I can be dyed in your colors, brother! Kyah☆”
(“Now” Stage 01 Open 06/03 09:00)
(“Past” Stage 01 Open 05/31 09:30)
The Cutest Escape Game in the World?
After repeating the waking up and passing out process a few more times, Shiroyama Kyousuke finally seemed to realize something.
He could not win.
There was simply no way he could defeat the White Queen who was currently humming in the kitchen space while shaking her small butt back and forth.
“Hm, hmm, hm, hm, hm, hm, hmmm☆ Oh, to think the day would come when I could serve breakfast for my brother! This reminds me of our time in that miniature garden. Hee hee hee.”
(C-calm down. Calm down, me!! If I look at this in the right way, it’s the greatest opportunity I’ve ever had. I need to view this as the perfect chance to pull off some trial & error against the Queen who could kill me instantly anywhere and at any time!! Remember, you won’t receive a miracle like this again. Use this as a chance to thoroughly work out her characteristics, traits, weaknesses, and flaws!!!!!!)
There were times when people had to force their thoughts in a positive direction to stay sane.
With his back pressed against the wall, his butt on the floor, and a throbbing weight in his head, Kyousuke changed his train of thought.
D.R.O.K, the Summoning Ceremony international trade show, the Deltaston family, Pandemonium, 353 vessels, and an attempt to save them…
He could remember a few things, but pieces were missing.
Were his lost memories due to the White Queen tormenting him over and over, or was there some other cause? Kyousuke could not tell given how beat up he was this early in the morning.
He decided to ask the first question that came to mind.
“Where is my vessel, Himekawa Mika…?”
“Oh, come on now.”
He heard a dull sound.
As the White Queen looked back in grinning newlywed mode, she had crushed the handle of the frying pan she held.
“Is that any way to greet me first thing in the morning, brother? Why the hell would you ruin the mood by mentioning another girl’s name in front of me on this nice sunny day?”
She had no choice but to directly hold the edge of the frying pan as she shook it above the gas burner, but her smile did not falter in the slightest. A sizzling sound came from her hand, but she did not seem to be in any pain.
Sweat poured from Kyousuke’s body, but he still tried to think.
(What in the world happened after that? It does seem to be connected to Himekawa Mika…but does that mean she might be inside the White Queen as a vessel?)
The situation was far too irregular from the moment the White Queen had been indefinitely summoned without relying on a Blood-Sign or Incense Grenade. He did not have enough information to work with, but Himekawa Mika supporting the White Queen as a vessel would be the worst case.
That would mean the Queen had stolen his vessel.
Without a vessel, he could not summon Materials and he was not aware of a way to cancel a contract with a vessel who was currently possessed by a Material.
It was a lot like locking the keys in the car.
He needed a vessel to fight the White Queen, but he needed to do something about the White Queen to take his vessel back.
He could not fight at the moment.
In a way, this may have been an extraordinary chance to continue fighting against the powerful White Queen with no time limit, but he was not one to rejoice at that.
“Okay, brother! Breakfast is ready!! You were still living a life of cereal and milk in the mornings, weren’t you? But I used all my skill to make you a special wife’s meal that’s good for the body and soul!! Eat up☆”
As the White Queen lined up dish after dish on the table, there was no apparent malice in her.
Although that was what made her so very frightening.
Kyousuke cautiously observed her behavior, but the food itself had done nothing wrong. And if he upset her now, he could easily be turned into a red juice to go along with it. He sat at the table despite the heavy weight in his stomach.
And as he observed the meal, one thought came to mind.
“It’s all white.”
“That’s my identity.”
“But it’s too white! What is this lineup!? Potato salad, white stew, stir-fried cauliflower and white asparagus, and even hot milk to drink!? Any one of them would be fine, but it looks downright psychedelic all together like this!!”
“If you don’t know where to start, I recommend the chicken or the white-fleshed fish. Hee hee. And don’t overlook that I made sure to cut off the bread crust. We don’t need anything that isn’t white!!”
“That’s blasphemy! The crust is the best part when it’s all toasted and crunchy!”
“Why would I make it golden brown? Now, brother, eat it untoasted. I recommend putting either margarine or white chocolate paste on it.”
The White Queen gave him a beaming smile from across the table.
The look on her face said she would tear open his belly and shove it directly into his stomach if he refused.
After a heavy sigh, he grabbed the chopsticks.
He started with a cautious bite of the stir-fried vegetables.
“Oh, it’s good.”
“The food itself is actually pretty good. It’s well made.”
“Hee hee hee hee hee!! Of course it is. I have to be able to cook if I’m going to be a good wife for you, brother. Do you know why my color is white? Because that way I can be dyed in your colors, brother! Kyah☆”
He gave his honest opinion because being disagreeable would get him nowhere, but the White Queen placed her hands on her cheeks and started shaking back and forth.
And since Kyousuke could tell it was good while under so much stress he felt like he had a bowling ball in his stomach, it would likely be recognized as good by anyone.
After that, the White Queen joined him in eating the food on the table. It was a mystery whether that peak of the Unexplored-class needed to ingest nutrients or if she could even starve if she was deprived of food, but she seemed happy at least making a show of eating the food.
“What is it?”
“I won’t ask why you’re here. That would be too direct and would only make me feel empty inside. So tell me this: does your presence here have something to do with Pandemonium?”
“Oh, dear. Does that mean you reallllly don’t remember a thing?”
“Hee hee. Then I think I will keep my silence. After all, if you were to remember that dream-like time, this might all fall apart.”
Her teasing way of speaking made him nearly break the chopsticks he held, but that would have been meaningless. He could never hope to match the White Queen in violence, so any show of force would only make her smile like a mother praising her child.
But a human’s weapon was not their strength. He refocused his thoughts and worked to keep his cool.
“Let’s review the situation, Queen.”
“I am open to any topic that means I can converse with you, brother.”
“The Summoning Ceremony trade show named D.R.O.K. is officially a joint project run by Government, Illegal, and Freedom. It lies one step away from reconciliation and is a necessary step toward a historical turning point that will end this age of fruitless conflict.” Kyousuke spoke as if he were blankly keeping the gears in his mind turning. “But it’s actually run by the Deltaston family. They are a member of the Round Table just like the Magentarain family and they have formed a gigantic border-crossing faction by sending skilled summoners to each of the three major powers.”
“In other words, the joint project is the Deltaston family’s way of expanding their power. Particularly Pandemonium. That would normally devolve into the three major powers bickering over who gets to use it and it would never function properly. But with influential members of the same family making adjustments in each of those major powers, it can function just fine. It has effectively become a toy for the exclusive use of that family.”
“D.R.O.K. …The divine right of kings. The name sure fits. They’ve built up an absolute power that none of the three major powers can interfere with while also letting those major powers argue themselves into a standstill over who gets to use Pandemonium. While they’re all too busy keeping each other from doing anything, the Deltaston family can stop hiding their giant faction and establish their unrestricted position in the Summoning Ceremony world. Pandemonium functions as both the gas and the brakes.”
That giant trade show was officially funded jointly by the three major powers, but it was effectively only put together by the members of the Deltaston family who had infiltrated those major powers. In a way, this was their kingdom. The king at the top would be occupying an entire luxury resort hotel while defended by elites from all three major powers.
“This might be off topic a bit, but why would the Deltaston family purposefully build their base outside of Pandemonium?” asked the Queen.
“It’s obvious why they would use a resort hotel. They aren’t the type of people who find comfort in a bunch of crude weapons.”
“Is that something like how a supercomputer is convenient, but no one wants to be anywhere near the actual computer kept at a several dozen degrees below zero and surrounded by powerful electromagnetic waves?”
“They probably prefer to keep their distance while still being able to send in a request for the power of a Divine- or Unexplored-class. I mean, that thing’s a giant mobile fortress that uses Unexplored-classes at its leisure. I bet the inside is full of tricks to distort one’s spiritual cognizance. An experienced summoner or vessel might be fine, but the Deltaston family stays below Award 100 to fit into normal society, so their autonomic nerves would be fried if they stayed there for too long.”
He spoke like he had seen the place before.
And the White Queen giggled before saying more.
“If Pandemonium was developed from its current trial phase and used in earnest, it would bring us to a new age, wouldn’t it? I have no interest whatsoever in what benefits humans, but did no one try to destroy this before that happens?”
“Since it’s still up and running, I guess not. The words that lead mankind to ruin are always the same: surely they wouldn’t go that far.”
Based on the conversation, Kyousuke saw no discrepancy between his understanding and the White Queen’s. As a baseline, this told him the information he had was not erroneous.
That left only one problem: the gap in his memories.
The truth had to be concentrated there.
(Even if the giant Box that is Pandemonium is being used to indefinitely summon the Queen, that won’t stop the conflict between the three major powers. That would drive an eternal wedge into the gears. But did the Deltaston family not realize that no human can control her after summoning her!?)
“Brother, can I turn on the TV? I’ve always been interested in those blood type fortunetelling sections. I hear they always do them during the morning news!”
“What blood type are you anyway? Type X with an Rh of ∞?”
The White Queen was breathing excitedly, so Kyousuke let her have the remote, stacked up the empty dishes, and carried them over the kitchen space’s sink. He generally relied on home appliances, but since he lived in a cruiser, he was used to washing dishes by hand to preserve water.
He briefly glanced over at the knife sitting on the drain board, but that was too simplistic. He doubted anything would change even if he stabbed the White Queen in the back as she faced away from him while engrossed in the flat screen TV. She might even smile as she grabbed him, call him a good boy while patting him on the head, and make him curl up in her lap.
“Brother, brother! They said guys with Type A and girls with Type AB are a perfect match!”
“Didn’t I just say your blood type would probably come back as ‘error’?”
“Yes. It’s most unfortunate, but it would seem I need to go on a worldwide tour to exterminate every last woman with Type AB bloo-…hgyuh!”
“Queen, you have some white stew on your cheek.”
Leaving her alone would have led to disaster, so he found an arbitrary reason to toy with her soft cheek through a handkerchief. The twintail girl looked about ready to pass out.
As she let him toy with her like a small child, the White Queen asked a question.
“Wh-what are your plans for the day, brother?”
“Good question.” Kyousuke sighed. “Sitting around in my room isn’t going to change anything, so I think I’ll wander around outside.”
“My, my!! So after eating my home cooking, we’re going to have a walking date together? Today really is my lucky day! I feel like making it a global holiday!!”
As he watched the White Queen celebrate, Kyousuke added more in his heart.
(And I also need to recovery my lost memories and find a way to kill you.)
The goal had been right before his eyes from the very beginning.
The problem was finding a way to open the door known as the White Queen.
He had to rack his brains and use everything available to him.
A girl who had spoken the cursed words might be waiting behind that locked door.
Trade shows had two primary goals: business and advertisement. The former meant signing contracts for new products and the latter meant showing off your technology to the press. The business side was sometimes based in a desire for the product and was sometimes based on a desire to build up connections. The advertisement side was sometimes used to increase your brand name and increase your ability to sell and compete and was sometimes used to show off your superiority to the competition and drive them into despair.
The people there for the advertisements were focused on the announcements made at special booths at set times. So this early in the morning, most of the people filling the streets were summoners and vessels looking to buy Blood-Signs, Incense Grenades, restraints, Repliglass, or the components and chemicals used to make them.
“C’mon, brother. Why do you look so gloomy that someone would think you’re watching the end of the world? You need to look a little happier walking around with such a cute girl holding onto your arm. Happy☆”
Rather than watching the end of the world, Shiroyama Kyousuke felt like he was standing in the center of the world.
That was hardly surprising when the White Queen stood by his side, wrapped her arms around his right arm, leaned her full weight against him, and even rested her head on his shoulder.
The gazes of the passersby were too painful.
“Her Majesty? Ehhh!? Her Majesty!!!???”
“Don’t be stupid. That’s got to be cosplay. They have that musical based on the White Queen, remem-…ugyaahhh!! I-i-it’s actually her!?”
“Bubble, bubble, bubble, bubble…”
It went far beyond double takes and wondering whether or not to snap a photo. A large man collapsed on the spot and wept like a small child, a holy woman must have been so shocked she entered nirvana because her eyes rolled back in her head and she foamed at the mouth, a group of what looked like indigenous South Americans prostrated themselves before her with their foreheads pressed against the ground, and a gaudy female fortuneteller began gathering up the dirt the Queen had stepped on and stuffing it into a bag like a high school baseball player at Koshien. Kyousuke was not sure what to make of it. Humans were said to be the lords of creation, but the second they saw a paranormal being, they were willing to throw out all of their dignity.
Shiroyama Kyousuke’s lips grew pale as he spoke his honest thoughts.
“Why couldn’t you have considered staying back in my room? If you’re going to stand out this much, it would help if I was alone. At this rate, they’re going to make a statue of me as well.”
“Oh, come now. Only a real man gets to show off his lovely girlfriend like this, brother. Now, hold your head high. You need to let the world know you managed to make me yours.”
The White Queen was in full lovey-dovey mode, but Kyousuke could not laugh off this topic since he had earned the award Loved by the White in the past and since he had been targeted by the group of (perverted) summoners known as Guard of Honor.
But the White Queen did not seem at all bothered by the commotion surrounding them.
“Oh, dear. There are so many stands set up. Hmm. The love-filled wife’s meal was absolutely crucial, but it would be a shame to pass this up. So, brother! Let us use the logic of having a separate stomach for snacks so you can treat me to some ice cream!!”
“No, that sounds like a pain in the ass. If you want ice cream, ask one of your worshipers for some and they’ll make so much for you they’ll use up all the ice in the Antarctic.”
“You just don’t understand how the world works, brother. It only makes your heart flutter when your beloved buys it for you. Ice cream, ice cream! And it has to be vanilla of course!”
“…Why are you so obsessed with the color white? Ugh.”
“Because I’m the White Queen who loves all things white!! Hee hee. What were you imagining, brother?”
Since she asked, Kyousuke answered honestly.
And he did so with a blank look on his face.
“Well, I’d thought you were insane but that you still had a line you wouldn’t cross. I thought you had an ignorant and pure heart, so this is a bit of a surprise. Yeah, you might be my nemesis, but it’s still a shock.”
“Lu-san will say a lot of those things, but I’d bet anything she’s pure. And do I even have to say anything about a shut-in like Aika? Hmm, but I guess you’re the exception…”
“Wh-wh-wh-wh-wh-what are you saying!? Don’t tell me you’re having a sudden onset of maiden delusion now! But make no mistake! It may be true that my worshipers around the world will sometimes hold hard-to-watch rituals in front of my statues and idols in underground temples or aerial cities! But!! I myself am pure!! I simply happen to overhear a lot of inappropriate things! So make no mistake about my purity!!!!!”
She was so panicked that she did not even notice Kyousuke mentioning a few other girls.
Kyousuke used that opening to guide them away from the ice cream stand, but the White Queen noticed.
“Ah, what about my trophy of having a gentleman gallantly buy me a treat!?”
“Stop it. If I take you there now, they’ll dig the wrapper out of the trash and hang it up in a sanctuary somewhere. They’ll probably call it a holy relic or something.”
“I said no. Besides, if I give in just once, the demands will never stop. I only have so much money in my walle-…”
He was cut off by a metallic clinking sound.
The confused boy watched as a shower of coins was thrown toward them from all directions. In the blink of an eye, the ground at their feet looked like a pond at a tourist destination.
“Please use this! This old man is more than willing to offer some money if it is for Her Majesty!!”
“In fact this feels like too little for the honor of gazing upon her face like this! Kh, curse you, Alice (with) Rabbit. Are you going to demand I make up the difference with my body!?”
“Gozaru, gozaru!! Holder of Loved by the White, you must not make the Queen cry!!”
Kyousuke had triggered quite a commotion, so he quickly shouted back at the people.
“I am not accepting any indirect offerings! The entire world is far too kind to this insane twintails!!”
At that moment, he sensed a sharp gaze from the crowd.
He looked over and spotted two familiar faces.
They were twin shrine maidens.
“(R-Renge. What is that!? I can’t figure out how this could have happened!)”
“(Shh! We’re leaving, Higan! Don’t look that freak in the eye!)”
“(Wow. Um, Shiroyama-san really has changed a lot.)”
“(I can’t believe he’s smugly showing off that dangerous thing. Kh, he should have asked us for help before he was this badly broken!)”
Kyousuke felt the hair across his body bristle.
“Wait! Please waaaaaaaaaaaait!! How long have you been here!? Where did you come from!? And do you happen to know anything about my missing memories!?”
“C’mon, don’t be like that, brother. …I mean it. Speak some other girls’ names and we’ll have two new craters on the moon. Got that?”
The White Queen smiled cheerfully and made a point of clinging to Kyousuke’s arm, resting her head on his shoulder, and holding him in place like a ship’s anchor. Meanwhile, the twin sisters vanished into the crowd.
It was a sorrowful parting.
“Ah, ahhh, ahhhhhhh.”
“Okay, brother. What shall we do now?”
He was finally freed, but it was too late.
At this rate, the crowd was going to grow even more excited than a national idol discovered in the middle of a scramble crossing, so Kyousuke grabbed the White Queen’s hand and quickly left. He glanced around on the way, but he saw no sign of any shrine maiden outfits.
Meanwhile, he looked like he was stealing a bride away from the chapel (mostly due to her pure white dress), so…
“Oh, my☆ How bold, brother. I just won another trophy in life.”
“You shut your mouth!! If we had stayed there, they probably would have built a giant monument and the spot would have been marked on world maps as ‘the holy land where offerings were given to our queen in heaven’!! The place could easily end up covered in blood and guts!!”
Of course, if that peak of the Unexplored-class had not wanted to move, she would not have budged even if a passenger jet rammed into her, so the Queen had to be entirely on board with being pulled away by him.
“Ah, what does he think he’s doing!? Is he trying to keep our Queen to himself!? And when simply being able to borrow the power of her name is too great an honor!”
“Hm, it would seem I have no choice. I will help out as the Love and Hate Aggressor. Guide rabbit, only you can put such a lovely smile on Her Majesty’s face! Take her with you and get out of here!!”
As small commotions (or at least he prayed they were small) started up here and there, they ultimately found themselves at a viewing platform. But this northern land was a large plain, so it was quite flat. Instead of adding a railing and maintaining the top of a natural hill, it looked more like a large metal lookout tower with the floor space of a cooking classroom or home ec classroom.
It was deserted, but that may have been because everyone here was a summoner or vessel for advertisement or business purposes. There were very few people who had arrived purely as sightseers.
Kyousuke finally breathed a sigh of relief in the four story viewing platform.
“This is awful…! Normal people who didn’t know anything would actually be better because they might walk right past you without realizing your value!!”
“Oh? But in that case, their ignorance would lead to a spiritual awakening. And since they do not know who I am, they might start up some misguided cult.”
There was more to her than simple violence or combat ability.
Before any of that, one had to contend with her presence, her aura, and her charisma. In what looked like some kind of joke, even veteran summoners and vessels who used the gods of legend as a stepping stool would voluntarily bow down to this higher life form. Just by standing there, she could produce worship. Just by smiling, she could fully distort everything that civilization had built up. She was a singularity like a black hole that endlessly sucked in human hearts.
Could you fight that?
Could you even maintain the will to fight her?
A battle with the White Queen began there. And only a very few had honed the blade of their humanity to that point. And if they let their guard down for even a moment, that blade would be instantly worn down and dulled by an invisible power.
Just like his former enemies: Uniquely Selfless Azalea Magentarain, Telomere’s End Benikomichi Fuuki, Liar Cat Biondetta Shiroyama, etc.
But the White Queen with her silver twintails and pure white dress merely smiled sweetly and pressed her hands together in front of her chest.
“I do not care what form it takes as long as I can play with you. We could even do exactly as you wish and begin an endless death match where you try again and again to kill me with every method you can think of.”
“But remember that I said I do not care what form it takes. Yes, anything is fine as long as I am satisfied. So wouldn’t you be protecting the world by playing with me in a way that avoids needless conflict? For example, if there is no direct battle, there is no chance of the puny summoners and vessels here being killed, so wouldn’t you be saving them by choosing to go on a date and flirt with me?”
Kyousuke audibly gulped.
This was it. Those words were like a cool glass of water after walking endlessly through the scorching desert. By swapping out the essence of the matter, she could make compromising and giving in sound like the good option. This “first attack” tried to break people’s beliefs just by smiling and throwing sweet words their way. If the psychological could be seen, then Kyousuke would be on the verge of being swallowed by the great maw of a carnivorous dinosaur.
“Let’s go to a tropical island.”
The White Queen leaned up against him and buried her face in his chest while whispering to him.
“If you wish to expel me from the world, there is no need to fight me, brother. All you need to do is seal me away inside a secret garden. As long as I am happy there, I will never leave. I will not even be curious what would happen if I were to leave. I will do anything for you, brother. Do you like one piece swimsuits? Or are two-piece ones or bikinis more your style? Compared to swinging your Blood-Sign around in a fruitless and endless battle, this is bound to be the more constructive choice for the world.”
“I will be satisfied as long as I have you, brother.”
If that was all, then she would be telling the truth.
She looked up at him while snuggled up against him from the front.
Her damp eyes glittered and her enchanting lips formed her words.
She looked just like a girl begging for a kiss from her lover.
“I will ask nothing of the world, I will take nothing from the world, and I will threaten nothing in the world. So won’t you please place your arms around my waist?”
Shiroyama Kyousuke imagined that possibility for just a moment.
He could not help himself.
And then he shook his head.
“…That would cause a war.”
“It would not. I am talking about a complete and utter disappearance. It is the desire to monopolize me that triggers conflict, so this would actually remove the possibility of harm from the world.”
He mustered all of his strength to turn his back on that easy but fatally sweet poison.
“I am saying it would trigger the final war between the two of us. In that secret garden of yours.”
“Oh, you’re so mean, brother!!”
A complete change came over her.
She puffed her cheeks out like a child.
“…But that is exactly what makes you so worth winning over.”
As the White Queen embraced him from the front and rubbed her face against his chest, the boy leaned against the railing and shook his head to take his eyes off of her.
From that four story height, he could see the donut-shaped trade show and Pandemonium in the center. That colossal Repliglass structure had a giant squid silhouette due to the giant coffin shape with a large number of tentacle-like pipelines attached to the bottom. But he saw a few oddities in that scenery.
There was an empty field within the donut.
And in that field were several craters ranging between several hundred meters and several kilometers across. The patch of green had been cruelly torn up and a water vein must have been hit because they were filled with water like lakes.
And as he viewed that scene, he felt something like a jolt of electricity in the back of his mind.
Instead of rejecting the pain, he abandoned himself to it.
He slowly peeled the scab from his memories.
And the first vision that appeared in his mind was of two people he had seen just a moment ago…
“Do you know who Ellie Slide is?”
Somewhere and at some point, the black-haired shrine maiden named Meinokawa Renge had asked him that.
“She’s apparently a well-known incense expert, but we don’t know where to find her in this crowd.”
“Oh? You have some interesting connections.”
Kyousuke sounded impressed, but Renge sighed frankly.
“It’s not that. We want to hire her to manufacture an Incense Grenade. I had been making them on instinct so far, but someone pointed out there’s a lot of waste in the mixture. But I can’t pinpoint my own idiosyncrasies, so I want to have an expert make a basic one for me that I can use for reference.”
“Hmm. By the way, your sister seems to be napping on her feet. Was it an exhausting trip?”
“Higan! Don’t try to escape reality just because it’s a complicated subject!! C’mon, you’re drooling!!”
The black and blonde haired shrine maidens continued arguing as they disappeared into the crowd. They would have stood out in a normal city, but they blended in quite well in a trade show overrun with summoners and vessels.
Kyousuke shrugged as he watched them go, but then he realized the promised time had arrived.
He was here to meet someone.
She was a strange person.
This was May 31, just a few days ago. That was Shiroyama Kyousuke’s first impression of the woman named Himekawa Mika. Her waist-length bluish-black ponytail was contained in a fluffy scrunchie, she had sharp and intelligent facial features, her bodylines had plenty of curves, and she wore a deep navy blue suit with the tight skirt and a portion of the stockings intentionally torn. That last point was the only odd thing about her. Altogether, she was quite beautiful, but there was something else that led the boy to his absurd impression.
She looks almost exactly like that woman.
It was 10:30 AM in the crowds of D.R.O.K. And he seriously wondered what to do about her when she blew the silver whistle hanging from her neck the second their eyes met.
“You are Shiroyama Kyousuke-san, right? You’re late. Very late! I believe we agreed to meet at ten on the dot!!”
“Sorry, I’m running a little slow.”
“What kind of excuse is that!? Be more careful…and learn your lesson!!”
Kyousuke held out his hands to urge her to cool down, but Himekawa Mika’s face only grew redder as she blew her whistle. As she did, he heard a jangling from the mug and 12-sided die decorations connected by a thin chain.
In truth, Kyousuke had arrived half an hour before the arranged time and scouted out the surrounding area. He had then waited until half an hour after the arranged time to observe the actions and reactions of the woman. His conversation with the Meinokawa sisters had only been one part of that and he had moved to a position where Himekawa would spot him only after he decided it was safe to let her notice him in the crowd.
The ponytail beauty must have finally felt satisfied because she removed the whistle from her mouth.
“Um, Shiroyama Kyousuke…-kun? What do you know about my situation?”
“Only what was in the job email. You are Himekawa Mika, an Illegal vessel who is currently free. Lu-san introduced us and I was told to ask for any more details once I arrived.”
“That’s the expected format. Let’s find somewhere to sit down and discuss this.”
They were at a trade show for new Summoning Ceremony technology (i.e. weapons), but there were also plenty of lodging facilities and restaurants. Himekawa Mika chose a nearby tent-style restaurant. The long tables arranged in a line had long legs and no chairs. With junk food like frankfurters, fries, and yakisoba on the menu, Kyousuke was cautious, but the tight skirt beauty actually ordered a mug of beer this early.
“It’s ten in the morning.”
“It’s ten thirty. And psychological trances are a necessary part of being a vessel.”
“You’re from Illegal all right. You really know how to excuse your own self-indulgence…”
Then he remembered one of the decorations on the sin necklace she used to mentally bind herself: a mug.
But Kyousuke also saw something nostalgic in her appearance.
“Hm? Why are you staring at me?”
“It’s nothing really.” Kyousuke looked like he had trouble believing it himself. “It’s just that you look a lot like someone. Your general atmosphere, your taste in clothes, and even the whistle. You remind me a lot of one of the people who looked after me back in the Queen’s Miniature Garden. …You’re the spitting image of Madam Professor.”
“Please stop hitting on me before we get to work.”
“Even that reaction is just like her, unfortunately. And is that anything to say while drinking a beer? Although that too is just like her, so I’m not sure what to do about it.”
Kyousuke leaned his upper body against the tall table while giving in to the odd sense of déjà vu, but Himekawa Mika placed her shapely butt on the table to sit down with mug in hand. And this beautiful woman had intentionally torn the sides of her tight skirt and her stockings, so when the vessel crossed her long legs, her oddly alluring skin was placed right in front of his eyes.
This only annoyed Kyousuke, but…
“This is a local sign. It warns people away because I’ll only bring them trouble.”
“Illegal really does like that kind of thing, don’t they? And no one seems to know where they come from like a prison communication method using the sound of banging on the bars.”
D.R.O.K. had not been running for long, but these local rules had apparently been created, refined, and spread in that short time. It made little sense to someone looking in from the outside.
But Himekawa did not seem to mind.
“What about you? What’s with that combination?”
“What? It’s just caramel popcorn and milk.”
“…It’s ten in the morning.”
“It’s ten thirty. A summoner needs sugar to keep up his high level thoughts.”
“I see you’ve refined your excuses to a high level too.”
“I would have preferred to get some carbs with plain cereal, but this combination was the closest substitute I could find.”
They seemed to have differing tastes.
While showing off her bright and soft skin through her torn stockings, Himekawa gulped down her alcohol and continued the conversation with a drunken energy.
She talked about the rush of new Summoning Ceremonies, Pandemonium, the joint project between the three major powers, and the Deltaston family of the Round Table that was involved in it all.
“So to sum up,” said Kyousuke as he stuck his spoon into the soup bowl of sweet milk. “How Pandemonium works doesn’t matter. The same goes for the Deltaston family’s conspiracy. All that matters are the 353 vessels imprisoned in that impregnable mobile fortress and that Pandemonium uses them as its gears. So is my job to rescue them?”
Himekawa winced somewhat at the ominous atmosphere that seemed charged with static electricity.
“You’re willing to write that family off as not mattering?”
“Well, they don’t matter compared to human lives, do they?”
Once he said that, Kyousuke’s expression was back to normal.
And he thought about what was to come.
If it came to a battle, it would be against other summoners.
Just glancing around the junk food restaurant, he spotted a few summoners and vessels he recognized.
One was Government Award 892, Love and Hate Aggressor.
She was generally a summoner whose motto was loyalty, but she focused less on actual battles and more on working hard to strictly train up newcomers. She had given Government a much greater fighting force and she was also known to appear on the front line and briefly produce hell on earth only when one of her beloved pupils was killed. But she was also well known to cross the boundaries between major powers to repay anyone who saved one of those beloved pupils.
One was Illegal Award 500, Cursed Doll.
She was a rare example of a summoner who had once been a vessel. Most of those with the traits of a spiritual medium could not act as a summoner because they were too strongly influenced by the Material during battle, but she was known for building that loss of control into her strategy and pulling off feats above her Award level with almost suicidal techniques. Once she lost control, no one could predict who she would bare her fangs against, so it was effectively impossible to work with her on a mission.
One was Freedom Award Unknown, Gozaru Summoner.
This bizarre summoner always wore a Gozaru Samurai costume. He was known for being quite skilled but extremely capricious. It was rumored that multiple people took turns wearing the costume. His Award level was unknown because adding up all of his past exploits within all three major powers provided a sum that exceeded 1000.
The situation might allow them to split their opponents between two camps so they would fight each other.
As Kyousuke thought, Himekawa waved a hand to call the waitress over.
Her mug was already empty.
“It’s ten thirty.”
“Then I won’t get another mug. I’ll take a glass of this platinum bubble. And make it snappy☆”
Kyousuke could only hold his head in his hands.
Meanwhile, Himekawa spoke to him from the table.
“The vessels are of course the center of Pandemonium, so it will cease to function if they are removed. The Deltaston family will never allow that. They have people in all three major powers, so we’ll find more and more people involved in this.”
“That doesn’t matter,” readily stated Shiroyama Kyousuke.
He was not simply refusing to think about it. If necessary, he would calmly take on all three major powers.
Himekawa gave into her intoxication, swayed back and forth on the table, and used the hand not holding her beer glass to reach behind her waist. She unhooked the side of her skirt, moved to the back of the tight skirt, grabbed the upper edge with her slender finger, and lowered it slightly.
A bit above her tailbone, a large object was embedded in her lightly flushed skin.
It was a blatantly mechanical keyhole with a metallic shine. Something was written in the alphabet along the round outer edge. The six letters starting with “F” provided the name of a goddess from Norse Mythology who was a goddess of beauty and fertility and who controlled half of heaven’s army.
“We are the Holy Key Women. Simply insert and turn the authorization key and we can summon a specific Divine-class. …I rejoiced when I first heard that explanation, but I never thought we would be built into Pandemonium.” She gave a self-deprecating smile. “But not only is our opponent borrowing the power of Pandemonium, but technology like this is within their reach. In fact, the Deltaston family has spread their roots to all three major powers, so they will have plenty of strange methods beyond the Illegal ones. That is what it means to challenge Pandemonium and fight its owner. Are you truly prepared to take on a world one step outside the Blood-Sign method?”
“I already told you: That doesn’t matter.” Kyousuke did not smile. “You might be worried how we’ll fight whatever our enemy might use against us, but you can leave all of that to me. So Himekawa Mika, there’s only one thing I want from you. And I’m not talking about the reward or what cards you might have on hand. First of all, I want to confirm something. I want to hear it from your own mouth.”
“I didn’t hear it in the email. I was told to discuss the details once I arrived. So I’ll ask again: What is it you want? Does the desire in your heart contain the words needed to drive me to action?”
When she heard that, the beautiful woman laughed quietly.
She removed her finger from her lowered tight skirt and hid the strange gadget. She drank down the rest of her beer glass’s contents, inhaled, and exhaled. She seemed to be savoring that normal action.
And then she spoke.
“I came here by forging my license. I can move freely for the time being, but they will notice before long and Illegal…no, the Deltaston family will send someone after me.”
“Most of the Holy Key Women are being used as components for Pandemonium, but a few were let out for demonstrations at the booths and studios. I forged my selection for one of those. I might have been able to bring a few more with me. That might have been an option, but I abandoned the idea. Instead of only partially saving them, I temporarily abandoned them all so I could rescue every last one of them.”
That may have been why.
She had chosen to stick with Illegal’s way of doing things. She did not bother with niceties, she did not compromise and then glorify the tragic result, and she was prepared to stay true to her initial intent until the very, very end. Had she taken a turn toward the unkind in order to reach a result that surpassed good and evil?
“I can’t just escape on my own. I can’t let this end as a mere traitor. I used the internet to contact an intermediary I used to use and I used the thin thread of Lu Niang Lan to draw in you, Freedom Award 903, Alice (with) Rabbit. I threw out all morals in order to say this one thing.”
She looked Kyousuke straight in the eye.
And with the fragility of trying to support the weight of every last sinner with a single strand of spider web, Himekawa Mika spoke clearly.
Just like the Holy Key Women, she seemed to directly insert her words into a certain boy’s soul and then twist it around.
“So I beg you. Please save us all from the impregnable Pandemonium.”
On the viewing platform, Kyousuke slapped his cheek with one hand while the White Queen leaned up against him.
(Little by little, it’s coming back to me.)
Himekawa Mika was one of the Holy Key Women. She had contacted Kyousuke to rescue the 353 vessels remaining in the multi-tentacle mobile fortress Pandemonium, a colossal Repliglass structure. She was the current Alice. She was the unique vessel who could skip three stages in the Blood-Sign method to immediately summon a specific Divine-class into her body.
(In that case, was she a Holy Key Woman who can directly summon the White Queen? No, that doesn’t make sense. Her keyhole had the six-letter name of a Norse goddess starting with F. Since this isn’t fitting together, I must still be missing some memories…)
“Oh? Is something the matter, brother?”
He observed the White Queen as she embraced him and looked up at him, but he saw no resemblance to Himekawa Mika. He could not sense that woman’s presence.
Was Himekawa Mika imprisoned within the Queen, or was there some other possibility?
“Something’s bothering me.”
“What might that be?”
“What happened with Pandemonium? No, what happened with the Holy Key Women? And not just the ones imprisoned inside that fortress. What happened to them all, including Himekawa Mika!?”
He was missing some memories and someone who should have been by his side was missing.
He felt a pressure in his chest that was not just from confronting the White Queen.
This may have been what it felt like to get hopelessly drunk and wake up in a pile of trash in an unfamiliar alleyway while holding a bloody wallet in your hand.
Meanwhile, the peak of the Unexplored-class with her silver twintails and pure white dress brought her slender index finger to her own lips.
She did not explain anything.
Only a thin smile appeared on her lips.
Kyousuke could not wait any longer.
She would not budge if he shoved her away. He slipped out of her arms as she leaned against his chest and he immediately climbed over the viewing platform railing. The platform was four stories up. He jumped between the steel beams complexly crisscrossing as they supported the platform and slid down the diagonally positioned beams to control the speed of his descent.
As soon as he landed, the White Queen descended from heaven.
She weightlessly landed on the ground.
“Okay, brother. Where should we go next?”
“Shut up! I’m not relying on you anymore and I’ve found something I need to see for myself!! I don’t know what happened after that, but I need to see if I can still answer Himekawa Mika’s request. No, no matter what might have happened, I’ll find a way, even if it means altering the timeline or overcoming causality!!”
He needed information.
But was facing inwards and filling in his missing memories really the only way to get that?
In the few pieces he had recovered, he had seen references to the Deltaston family that had infiltrated all three major powers. And he could also directly attack Pandemonium to discover what had become of the vessels. One was a powerful enemy and the other an impregnable mobile fortress. So what? He was Freedom Award 903, Alice (with) Rabbit. He had no vessel and could not use the Summoning Ceremony. What did that matter? If he wanted to be known as the strongest, he had to accept some slight inconveniences. None of that was any reason to just sit idly by and watch.
After all, he had already heard it.
He had heard the cursed words that someone had risked everything to say.
He wanted to know what had happened to the vessels imprisoned within Pandemonium.
Not to mention Himekawa Mika. He definitely wanted to confirm the safety of that woman who looked so much like that Madam Professor who had looked after him back in the Queen’s Miniature Garden.
“Brother, your adorable emotions don’t matter here. Do you have an actual plan?”
“Kh. The Deltaston family has spread their power far enough that it would be difficult to acquire an accurate list of its members on short notice. That means Pandemonium is the obvious answer. I need to head there and check inside!”
“What a pain. That’s not much of a plan, you know? That is an impregnable multi-tentacle mobile fortress. Not only can you not break open the thick Repliglass entrance, but you will likely have trouble simply crossing the vast field to reach it. I hear they have microwave anti-personnel radars and infrared searchlights.”
“There’s a way! It was obvious enough from the viewing platform! I’m pretty sure I already tricked a Government bomber into firing on Pandemonium!!”
What he needed was rather specialized, but that would not be a problem at D.R.O.K. where weapons were treated as a business. After making the necessary “arrangements”, Kyousuke and the White Queen set off toward Pandemonium.
But not everything went quite so well.
It happened when they had arrived quite close.
He had stood out too much with the White Queen accompanying him. And it was possible the Deltaston family that controlled Pandemonium was already monitoring him due to something in his missing memories.
So he should have assumed someone might try to stop him once he took action.
He heard footsteps.
They were right in front of black Pandemonium’s main entrance in the empty field at the center of the donut-shaped trade show.
Two people blocked the way as if this had been planned.
One was a tall and muscular man of about 18. His black hair was set in an impressive pompadour and he wore a baggy T-shirt that reached below his hips, shorts, and oddly expensive basketball shoes. He loudly chewed bubblegum while resting a long stick made of ski material on his shoulder. That was his Blood-Sign. The bottom end was strangely swollen and metallic, but that seemed to be a stabilizer for the center of gravity. Needless to say, only a summoner would use that.
The other was a short glasses girl of about 12. She had shoulder-length wavy blonde hair and brown skin, but those colors were likely artificial rather than natural. Tan lines from a one piece swimsuit were clearly visible on her skin. She wore a sleeved cape that split into feather-like shapes at the bottom, an orange camisole, black leather hot pants to cover her small butt, an ultra-miniskirt with a jagged bottom, and boots. Her extra-large witch’s hat was a Halloween-like orange and black and had an eagle feather stuck in it. Something jangled at her neck, but it was not a necklace. A wooden ring about the size of a coffee cup saucer had several threads passing through the inside to create a pattern resembling a spider web or a rose. It was a dream catcher, an accessory made by Native Americans. She held a giant axe. Its apparent size was increased due to her short height, but it may have been another of their symbols. She was likely the vessel. The gaudy outfit on such a slender and undeveloped body may have been the “bondage” that controlled her mind. The specific vessel restraints seemed to be the piercings. Kyousuke could see the ones on her ears and navel, but it was possible she had more where he could not see.
“I suppose you wouldn’t know why we’re here, would you?”
Kyousuke felt something odd in the back of his mind.
The tingling feeling came from the scab over his memories.
He had no vessel and could not use the Summoning Ceremony. Nevertheless, he pulled his Repliglass Blood-Sign from his back and half-groaned his response.
“I know who you are…!!”
After acquiring an accurate diagram of Pandemonium, Shiroyama Kyousuke and Himekawa Mika waited until the night wore on before beginning their actual attack.
The field was thoroughly scanned by microwave anti-personnel radars and invisible infrared searchlights. A vast space with no cover had been transformed into a thick barrier.
After crossing it using “a certain method”, they saw something there.
Two people stood in front of Pandemonium’s massive and thick metal door.
The summoner had a pompadour and wore a baggy T-shirt and shorts.
The short vessel in glasses had bright swimsuit tan lines, an eagle father in her Halloween witch’s hat, a unique sleeved cape, an orange camisole, black hot pants, an ultra-miniskirt, a decoration around her neck, a giant decorative armor-breaking axe, and piercings across her body to bind her.
Kyousuke asked a question of that pair after pulling his Blood-Sign from his back.
“Are you pawns of Pandemonium…no, of the Deltaston family that has infiltrated all three major powers?”
The summoner grinned and raised his Blood-Sign which was made of ski material.
That signaled the beginning of the Summoning Ceremony, a battle between the gods using Materials.
“But first you can call us Government Award 501, Perfect Game!!”
- While a vessel has summoned a Material, the summoner cannot break the contract with that vessel.
- The Summoning Ceremony trade show named D.R.O.K. and the joint project of Pandemonium were made into an event controlled by the Deltaston family after the three major powers were manipulated into a standstill.
- Himekawa looks a lot like the woman who looked after Kyousuke when he was young.
- As a Holy Key Woman, Himekawa can immediately summon a specific Divine-class, but that does not match the conditions needed for the White Queen.
- Kyousuke had already heard the cursed words from Himekawa.
- The exact affiliation and intentions of the enemy summoner, Perfect Game, are not known. But Kyousuke seems to understand some of it from his missing memories.
- All that aside, the White Queen wants to go to a tropical island. She really, really wants to.
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