The Unexplored Summon Blood Sign:Volume6 Chapter1
Stage 01: A Bloody Hand Makes a Wish Upon the Tanabata Stars
“You two, quit flirting in front of the Tomb Priestess.”
“We’re not flirting! That divine power of yours is completely useless!”
(Stage 01 Open 07/05 06:30)
A Bloody Hand Makes a Wish Upon the Tanabata Stars
With the exception of the shower-only bath, life on a cruiser was more luxurious than a cheap one-room apartment, but it was hard to sleep very deeply. Needless to say, this was because the waves were constantly rocking the boat even when moored at land. Some might find the rhythmic vibration of a train relaxing, but this was a little more random and required a bit of a trick to entrust oneself to. Dozing off was one thing, but it was not so easy to get a good night’s sleep.
With the Milky Way thoroughly erased by the bright morning sun, the nighttime lux restrictions were removed.
“Hm, hmm. Hm, hm, hm, hm, hmm.”
Kyousuke heard humming. When he sleepily rubbed his eyes and sat up in the double bed, he found the sound and smell of sizzling olive oil coming from the kitchen space.
“Why not study up at the planetarium today to prepare for a romantic date below the stars on July 7? The celestial memorial museum in M Block is supporting all you lovebirds, so if you tell the receptionist you’re here for a rehearsal and pay a small extra free-…”
He listened to the announcer on the TV and trudged in that direction in his pajamas. There he found horned Biondetta with her back to him. For some reason, she had changed out of her trademark waitress outfit and into a modified yukata that was so short that it showed off everything right up to the very base of her legs which were covered by black knee socks. Even more mysteriously, she wore an apron over that. She was shaking her butt and tail decoration in time with her humming, so he could just about see some dangerous things.
Then she turned his way with a frying pan, a spatula, and an impeccable smile.
“Good morning, sir. I’m just finishing up breakfast, so please go watch TV to wait.”
“Is that so?”
“Y-yes…? Your former nemesis, Biondetta, is happily and energetically making you breakfast. So, um, shouldn’t you have more of a reaction than that?”
Kyousuke blinked and focused his bleary eyes on the Oiran-style demon.
“Yawn. Maybe, but the White Queen already did the ‘wake up to find her making breakfast’ thing to me.”
“You can yawn at this!? That is an insult to a girl’s home cooking!! …Th-then even if it is cliché, do I need to put my body on the line by being in your bed when you wake up?”
“The Queen and Isabelle both already did that one.”
“More than one!? So when you say ‘I’m half the reason the world ended up like this (heh)’, do you secretly have a smug grin on your face!?”
They were living together with no locked doors between them. If he wanted to, he could push that alluring and sexy young woman down onto that bed or this sofa, but he did not seem to care much. He sat at the table as she had instructed, worked the TV remote with his head still drooping, and lay down on the table to fall back asleep instead of listening to the announcer’s voice. Biondetta’s mind went blank when she saw it.
She was endlessly obedient to her contracted master, but Liar Cat also had her own policy.
She was not satisfied unless she was in control!!
“I guess I’ll have to go as far as running into him naked while pretending to get in a morning shampoo. Or…no, but if I went that far…hmm, he might be weirded out by that. Oh, I give u-…”
Kyousuke’s summoner senses warned him of an unknown threat, so he suddenly straightened up.
Biondetta’s breakfast was Eggs Benedict, a dish based on the English muffin. The bread dough had a soft-boiled egg, crispy thick-cut bacon, and a yellowish-white sauce made with butter and cream placed between it, and she sprinkled olive oil on the top as a finishing touch. She had probably already used some when frying the bacon, so that was double.
It was a lot like eating a fluffy English muffin thoroughly decorated with carbonara sauce, but as you can probably guess, only the XL-sized self-styled New Yorkers could handle something like this first thing in the morning. A normal Japanese person would feel their stomach recoiling in fear just from smelling it.
“Do you have something against me?”
“Eh? Do I really have to spell those things out for you?”
Biondetta grinned while also serving him a full bowl of Caesar salad that looked more like the chicken was the star than the vegetables. He was afraid she would also bring out a pizza or a turkey at this rate.
“Really? The Eggs Benedict and the Caesar salad both have soft-boiled eggs in them…”
“C’mon, Kyousuke-chan, don’t you have something to say to the person who fixed this meal for you?”
He had enough sense left to actually thank her.
This was a difficult day from the get-go for a boy who generally just ate cereal and milk, but if you ignored that this was breakfast, it tasted fine. The way she had used pepper, basil, and mustard was downright inspired. Eggs Benedict and Caesar salad both had a powerfully unique flavor from their sauce and dressing, but that kept them from having an evenly-distributed flavor and each bite brought a new surprise. The amount used was no different, but the oil flavor did not stick with him and he felt refreshed. The way she used the herbs and spices was a lot like how a summoner mixed their own Incense Grenades.
“Hm. This goes down surprisingly easily.”
“It’s not like we’re Tokyo stock brokers who spend all day at a desk. We’re summoners who use our brains and bodies quite a lot. If anything, it’s a mystery how you’ve lasted so long on nothing but cereal.”
“But…ew. Does this milk have honey in it!?”
“Not quite. The actual secret ingredient is condensed milk☆”
“I’d forgotten you had such a sweet tooth, Biondetta. Urp.”
Kyousuke set the glass down and pushed it away with a fingertip. His tongue simply could not accept that one. Perhaps because it had no pepper in it.
Biondetta removed her apron and toyed with the cat nametag on her obi before casually grabbing the rejected glass and setting a suspicious-looking brown bottle on the table. It was stuffed full of white antibiotic pills. A big sister who had run into him in the bath was powerful indeed. She did not even blush at the prospect of an indirect kiss and drained the glass with a smile.
“Once you’re used to condensed milk, it goes down quite easily too. Are you familiar with South Indian tea? They fill it with plenty of condensed milk and use air to make it dance around.”
“Stop bringing up other cultures and traditions to criticize me. And more importantly…”
With a quiet clunk, Kyousuke casually placed a silver key with a 30-carat diamond in it on the table. It was the Diamond Master Key. In a something-or-other suspense theatre on TV, people would die left and right for 10 million yen, so something like this could easily lead to an entire museum blowing up, but unfortunately, these two were dealing with a war, not crime.
“Let’s decide what to do next.”
On Kyousuke’s suggestion, Biondetta stopped moving her fork and shrank her shoulders down.
“My apologies, sir. Please punish me for that.”
“I wasn’t trying to criticize you.”
“I have all the tools you might need. It won’t be any trouble for you. If you like, I can lecture you on the use of some more minor tools like the flute, the violin, the Judas cradle, or the pear of anguish.”
“Aren’t those all medieval torture devices with perverted aspects to them? Are you really apologetic or are you teasing me!?”
“Oh, how knowledgeable. Then I have nothing to worry about☆”
“Ahem. I said that night was your final test, but I knew we would share the same fate as soon as I let you out of your cage. And criticizing you would be meaningless. It won’t bring the Golden Treasure Chest back.”
The Saint had escaped Biondetta. If the Summoning Ceremony battle came to an end, the loser would be left a zombie for more than 24 hours, but they had reached the 10 minute time limit and it had ended in a draw. They had had no idea how much backup that indulgent saint/witch had with her, so retreating had been the best option.
And so Kyousuke and Biondetta had the master key while Bridesmaid had the treasure chest.
“Biondetta, can they pry open the chest without the key?”
“If that was possible, wouldn’t you have focused on the chest from the beginning? If the legends surrounding it are true, forcing it open will cause it to self-destruct and the secrets inside will be lost. It’s like quantum cryptography. …Of course, there’s always a possibility those believers will do something stupid.”
All of the White Queen’s worshipers were insane, but insanity was not enough to execute such a largescale plan. This group was known for waiting with surprising clarity and taking action with surprising audacity. He doubted they would do anything rash during this preparatory phase.
“Let’s just assume you have to use both the key and the chest.”
“In that case, Bridesmaid is sure to attack us. A defensive battle goes against my stance as a hired avenger, so we need to take the initiative back somewhere.”
“Your stance doesn’t matter, but there is a wider range of options for us.” Kyousuke sighed. “The chest only contains the decoder for the location of the Founder’s Gallery. It isn’t the actual answer. That means there’s also an ancient map that information is used with. And the legends say that treasure map is drawn on human skin.”
“Three sacred treasures? Come to think of it, the president of Toy Dream created the Gozaru Samurai when he was inspired by Japanese culture, didn’t he?”
“The fly in the ointment is how he was just a bit mistaken about a lot of it. …But seeing a Rekshy Warrior sword-fighting in space using a glowing katana is really exciting. To foreigners.”
“We don’t know where they are and they don’t know where we are, so neither of us can make an attack right away even if we want to. So don’t we have the perfect bait to lay a trap? We just have to use the owner of the ancient map.”
And they needed that map either way.
If Bridesmaid was after both the master key and the ancient map, their actions would be harder to predict, but a counterattack would be much easier if both their targets were in one place.
Biondetta clapped her hands in front of her pink mini-yukata’s chest.
“Now, a question: where is this ancient map?”
“That’s well-known. It originally belonged to a family that protected an Egyptian pyramid. They grew close to the president of Toy Dream due to his passionate efforts to preserve the pictures and writing on the walls there. And when the Toy Dream Company bought up all the land around those ruins and then moved the pharaoh’s body and the grave goods into a museum, that family moved with them. They claim wherever the pharaoh sleeps is the homeland they must protect.”
“Toy Dream 35. They live in a normal apartment in this city. They’re apparently working with a Japanese software development company to do some VR mapping. That will later become a new attraction where you put on goggles and explore a pyramid full of traps.”
It was a stereotypical Toy Dream 35 high-rise building sticking directly up from the ocean.
Inside a luxury apartment’s living room, Kyousuke ignored the invitation to sit on the sofa and stood by the wall. Biondetta waited by his side like a well-behaved hound.
This was “their” current base.
They had only lived alongside the stone ruins because it was the most efficient way to protect the pharaoh’s body.
The tomb keeper family had protected the pyramid for millennia, but they were now sitting in an air-conditioned room, holding an online meeting, and throwing a tantrum: “No, you can’t just throw a texture on there. You have to register the peaks to properly map out the surface.” It might seem wrong, but that was the passage of time.
A brown-skinned woman was washing the dishes in the kitchen while a group of several men and woman were gathered around an OA desk computer in a corner of the living room while pointing at the screen and debating something. Kyousuke spoke under his breath while aware their eyes were on him.
“(Oh? So they can perceive us even when we aren’t in their field of vision?)
“(Sir, maybe they are intentionally keeping their Awards in the double digits so they can communicate between both sides of the world. Government often does that.)”
“(I wish, but this smells different. They seem more amateurish.)”
But that did not particularly matter.
There was another problem: They had used Aika as a Government middleman and arrived to offer their services as bodyguards, but they had been politely refused because the tomb keepers had already hired someone else.
Shiroyama Kyousuke faced a pair of shrine maiden twins who were crossing their arms and staring at him.
It was Meinokawa Renge and Meinokawa Higan.
Despite being twins, one of them had flowing black hair and the other had magnificent blonde hair.
His words were cruel.
“Those two are useless, so they won’t be any help at all.”
“Hey!!” shouted the strong-willed twin, but no one was listening.
A brown-skinned and muscular old man in a casual suit seemed to be the representative here, so Kyousuke’s tone grew serious when he spoke to that man.
“Have you ever heard the name Bridesmaid? They’re going to show up soon with plenty of summoners at the Award 900 level, so you could use all the help you can get.”
“Uuh…! H-he just gave them information that, um, not even we knew about…!”
The shy twin tearfully hid behind her sister’s back.
Mini-Yukata Biondetta clapped her hands in front of her chest and tilted her head.
“By the way, the two of us are both at Freedom’s Award 900 level. Look into the names Liar Cat and Alice (with) Rabbit and you should find everything you need to know.”
“Biondetta, I don’t think your legends are going to be much of a selling point.”
“Don’t be so sure. …They might realize that displeasing me here will lead me to bare these legendary fangs.”
Kyousuke wanted to hold his head in his hands. Biondetta did not seem to care whether they acted as the tomb keeper’s bodyguards or just stole the ancient map, as long as they got their hands on the map they needed as bait.
“Biondetta, over here a moment.”
Kyousuke and his faithful servant stepped out into the family apartment’s hallway for a private chat.
“Just to be clear, that method won’t necessarily work. If Bridesmaid doesn’t notice we stole the ancient map, they’ll still attack the tomb keepers. And no matter how much the tomb keepers insist they don’t have the map, they’ll probably be tortured to find out if they’re telling the truth. Plus, once it’s clear they aren’t any use, they’ll be silenced while weak from torture and unable to resist. In other words, just taking the map now wouldn’t protect them.”
“True enough. Such a flawless analysis, sir.” Horned Biondetta nodded and smiled like a tutor. “But what does that matter? Our goal is the Natural History’s missing entries and this tomb keeper family is only a detour. As long as you stay focused, some small detours are fine, but I see no real reason to stick with them if they stubbornly refuse to recognize the approaching danger.”
Her smile reminded Kyousuke of someone from somewhere else.
It was a white, lovely, and infinitely pure evil.
“…Curse the Queen’s hatred.”
“Yes. My role here is to suggest the things you cannot☆”
The demon smiled as she toyed with the cat nametag on her obi. Kyousuke figured this was still better than licking each other’s wounds and not even working to stop her, so he breathed a heavy sigh and made up his mind.
“We’re not abandoning anyone to die.”
“If we’re getting their help to reach our objective, then we need to share their fate. I want to protect them no matter what.”
“If that is your stance for enjoying the ultimate revenge, then so be it.”
That hired avenger was obedient as long as she could translate it into her own words. And as complicated as it was, he simply had to persuade anew her each and every time. He did not want to agree with Biondetta, but the tomb keeper family was indeed being too careless concerning the approaching danger. Just as they started back into the previous room, an unexpected voice reached them.
It came from a different door.
“Hello, you two visitors. There is no need to speak with my retainers any longer. Come directly here. I grant you an audience.”
It was a quiet feminine voice. It was polite and enticing, but it lacked the provocative tone that Biondetta used. These were words that flowed down from above. The tone carried a pressure that forced anyone listening to accept her superior position. Kyousuke saw it as the voice of a ruler. It was the voice of someone who had been born into a position of power and used that position like it was normal instead of drowning in it.
But he could not let this deceive him.
That voice was a technique, not a natural talent. It was a technique for a single individual to bring together a large group. It was a method used by dictators to gather the people together. …It may have been mankind’s oldest discipline, dating back to when humans first started living together in groups. For example, people would stand on a platform for a position physically above everyone or they would use a megaphone or microphone so their voice would carry into the distance. Even a school principal would use these methods, but did the people listening or the person using them even realize these were methods of influencing people’s impressions?
And the Queen took all of that to another, completely unrecognizable level. If they had not known her, Kyousuke and Biondetta might have had their souls bound as much as anyone else. And comfortably so. Without even realizing they had been intentionally restrained.
Imprisonment became protection. Confiscation became an offering. Violence became education. Poverty became prosperity. Misfortune became happiness.
This ruler’s invitation could change one’s understanding of all those things.
And Kyousuke smoothly responded. What was one to do when the lost civilization of Ancient Egypt called out to them from beyond a door? …He gave no thought to such questions and followed the modern methods by walking to the thin door.
It was Biondetta by his side and not Kyousuke himself who lightly knocked at the door.
“I already gave you permission. Please come in.”
The polite words had a note of forcefulness to them, so they were a command.
Biondetta grabbed and silently turned the knob so her master would not have to and she pushed the door open.
Another world opened before their eyes.
That room with thick curtains blocking out all light seemed entirely cut off from the rest of the family apartment. It was like a temple or stone hut. The flickering flames on wicks soaked in oil lit the gold and jewels filling the space. But this was not just a worldly desire for liquid assets. That was obvious enough from the accurate arrangement that ignored the cardinal directions and even the spacing of the room. This was the grave keepers’ macro universe, their view of life and death, and the micro structure of their bodies. This was only natural given the accurate structure and knowledge of astronomy seen in the pyramid they had protected.
A girl sat at the center of that knowledge that spiraled outward with countless meanings.
She had brown skin and short silver hair.
She looked around 17 or 18, but her appearance could not be trusted. She looked a little too thin to call slender and the space between her breaths and heartbeats were clearly much longer than the average person’s. Her cycle of ingestion and consumption, her body’s metabolism, and the division of her microscopic cells were all artificially altered, so it was entirely possible there was a discrepancy between her apparent age and the amount of time that had passed in the world around her. The word “yoga” was used in gyms in modern times, but this went far beyond that. If she claimed she could live in this room for 5 years by drinking dew and controlling her breathing, Kyousuke would not have doubted her.
She may have been using just her own mind to produce a state of cold sleep while at room temperature. Or maybe it was more like a tree extending its roots into the earth.
If a Buddhist priest that claimed to have rid himself of worldly thoughts and become one with nature saw her perfection, he might just be dragged down into the abyss by his own envy and anger.
She was more like a divine object than a queen.
That explained why that ruler’s voice had sounded almost divine. This brown girl had taken a step to the other side using a process other than a summoner aiming for Award 1000.
Her body was wrapped in many bandages and adorned in places with pure gold and red jewels. She also wore a vanishingly thin decorative cloth much like a lace veil or shawl. However, it was extremely long. It was draped over her neck and shoulders like a towel, wrapped once around her waist, and then allowed to hang down, so it formed a Y-shape overall.
She effectively had nothing to hide her bodylines.
But despite being half naked, her divinity overpowered the sexuality. Just like the Venus de Milo or Michelangelo’s David, her body was so perfectly formed that there was no room for any common animal lust. In fact, it seemed to purify that desire away.
The girl’s lips opened slightly.
Just watching that may have cleansed one’s heart.
“Please forgive my rudeness, but I must omit the formalities in this pressing situation. My name is Sekurtiti. I am this generation’s Tomb Priestess who guards the pharaoh’s body during his brief absence and returns his soul to that dried and preserved vessel of flesh.”
But the mood was ruined by a laugh.
Kyousuke glared at Biondetta next to him, but she could not stop the shaking of her shoulders. She had directly faced the White Queen just like him, so she could not be trapped by the bonds of these normal “techniques”.
Sekurtiti froze in place on the floor and doubt entered her light blue eyes.
“Is something the matter?”
“No, excuse me. I just thought it was surprisingly worldly for a human to pretend to be some higher being. Especially when you showed off your background and authority to take the initiative.”
“Now, now. Don’t get all tense. We can tell at a glance that you really have started to reach a higher stage. We’re at the 900 level ourselves. Just like you, we have one foot on the stairway up. Yes, just like you.”
She spoke slowly and gently, but also sharp and piercingly. It was like hearing a classmate proudly showing off some piece of trivia they knew and then commenting that you had also seen that on TV the day before.
Kyousuke brought his index finger to his temple and spoke.
The yukata demon stuck out her tongue. She may have been trying to make her contracted master look impressive, but it was extremely childish. She looked like a big sister butting in when her little brother started to lose an argument.
“Very well, I shall forgive you of your rudeness, visitors. Malicious though it might be, it comes from an adorable place deep down. You cannot help but love on your little brother, can you? Not your client, but your little brother.”
“…The hell’d you say?”
“Stop! That’s enough of pitting your divine powers against each other in some unknown dimension!! And the tomb keepers out front would weep if they knew you were using that for something so trivial!!”
Both girls cleared their throat at the same time.
She gets oddly fixated on retaliating against people and might really hate losing, mentally noted Kyousuke concerning the brown priestess.
“I heard your discussion from in here.”
“Eavesdropping? What a vulgar hobby. Hee hee. Did you order some night vision goggles to use in the park at night on the weekends?”
“I’m going to leave your face a bruised mess and take you on a walk like a dog, you extreme sweet tooth. I mean…excuse me.”
Sekurtiti once more displayed some information she should not have known. Or perhaps she had gathered some data on her guests once they had arrived like stage magicians would do.
“From what I have heard, you need the ancient map that we manage. Yes, and when I say ‘you’, I am not just referring to the two of you.”
“Can your divine power tell us the scale of the enemy we’re up against?”
“I sense a very deep darkness. So deep it is difficult to see through to the bottom.”
“That could apply to just about anything,” whispered Biondetta.
Kyousuke tried stomping on her foot, but she nimbly dodged, leaving him with no choice but to pinch her soft cheek.
“Thah hurhsh, shir!”
Still seated, Sekurtiti looked up at them with the golden decorations in her hair and she gave a warning.
“You two, quit flirting in front of the Tomb Priestess.”
“We’re not flirting! That divine power of yours is completely useless!”
“We’re not flirting! That divine power of yours is completely useless!”
With a calm look on her face, the brown priestess continued while gently shaking the decorative lace cloth draped over her shoulders in a Y-shape.
“I understand that we will be attacked by a dangerous lot whether we have the ancient map or not. We cannot ignore any tomb raiders who would bring unneeded chaos to the pharaoh’s place of slumber or who would lay a hand on his treasures. So as you said, we could use all the help we can get.”
No, that was not it. She was not shaking the cloth. After remaining seated like she had been carrying out a ritual all this time, the Tomb Priestess stood up as smoothly as a clay doll that showed no limitations in its joints or center of gravity.
“Oh, how cooperative of you. And I thought you would be more hardheaded.”
“I am merely saying we must protect wherever it is the pharaoh sleeps. President Toydream built up a relationship of trust in his efforts to preserve our culture and traditions and we are also indebted to him after the Seth incident.”
She did not stop there.
The cloth as thin as fairy wings fell away. She exposed a body too thin to call slender with only bandages roughly wrapped around her brown nudity. No, Sekurtiti still was not done. She removed the gold decorations and turned her back to Kyousuke and Biondetta. Then she reached both hands for the bandages on the sides of her hips.
Almost like she was untying a swimsuit’s strings.
It happened as easily as a present being unwrapped. The final cloths protecting the girl’s body fell to the floor.
Something was faintly visible on her bared back.
“Nn… My apologies. The Lifelong Emblem only appears clearly on my skin when my blood flow increases.”
“Keh heh heh. So that’s why you wanted a guy watching. Exposing yourself to starved eyes turns you on.”
“…U-um, sir. Isn’t it rude to not react at all? I’m actually feeling a little sorry for her.”
“Not to worry. I will forgive your rudeness, visitor. Those crude and vulgar words are necessary here. Your response is most logical. Nnn!!”
Like a piece of trick art, their view of the world changed at some point.
As the girl blushed and squeezed her eyes shut, something appeared on her naked back. It initially looked like a magic circle. It was known as an ancient map, but this was not enough to know what area it referenced. It was not necessarily anywhere near the Nile where so many pyramids remained.
“I see. So you can’t find the Founder’s Gallery without all three sacred treasures.”
Kyousuke smiled a little.
They already had two of them: the Diamond Master Key and the Girl’s Ancient Map.
That left just one.
Once they had the Golden Treasure Chest, they could reach the Founder’s Gallery and the scraps of parchment known as the Natural History’s missing entries. What was now only a vague image in his mind would take physical form in his hand.
This time, his broken heart could reboot.
“I would like for you to protect this with your Award 900 power.”
With that done, Sekurtiti kept her back to them, crouched down, and picked up the long bandages that had fallen to the floor.
“We are talking about a treasure that enthralled even the ruler of Toy Dream. It must be worth enough for any number of people to target it. I pray that you too will not succumb to its demonic power, Shiroyama Kyousuke.”
“Neh heh heh. I seem to recall Toy Dream’s 3D cartoons including a few magic circles appearing on people’s backs. …I hope it wasn’t just that the president was a pervert with a thing for the curves of young brown girls☆ Hopefully this isn’t like that author who is suspected to have made a world famous children’s book just to win the hearts of some little girls he knew.”
Kyousuke finally spoke the forbidden words.
“Sit. Stay. That’s enough.”
Meanwhile, the Meinokawa Sisters were trembling in fear after being left behind in the (supposedly) main living room.
“(R-Renge, um, what do we do!? Now that Shiroyama-san is here, there’s no way we can win! They’ll fire us and we won’t get paid!!)”
“(Shut up, Higan. Leave this to my negotiations skills. Uuh…but why is it more Freedom summoners? And with two 900 level ones butting in, I’m starting to wonder if they told us the wrong rate for this one…)”
For one thing, this was Toy Dream 35. With a swimsuit and white liger Government pair who had somehow reached the upper 800s without ever leaving her apartment and a mysterious China dress from Illegal who defeated summoners with her own body and hidden weapons instead of a Material, the city had some harsh competition.
And the eyes of the tomb keepers working in the living room were not giving them a clear answer. They did not actively support the twins and simply hoped the twins could be of some use. It was the usual stance toward outsiders brought in as mercenaries.
“(U-um, are we carrying some bad karma or something?)”
“(I don’t think this is on that level. If anything, I think we’re lacking something…)”
To be clear, the Meinokawa Sisters were not low-level summoners, but this was not a place where one could distinguish herself with average skill. This was Toy Dream 35 where the once-in-2000-years typhoon known as the White Queen and the eye of the storm known as Shiroyama Kyousuke were frequently seen.
“Woof woof!! Woof woof woof woof!! How long are you just going to tease me, sir! I can’t stand it any longer!! I just want to dig in right away!! Your orders have built up so much pressure inside me and it’s allll about to burst out!! Kyahhhn! Hah hah hah hah!!!!!”
“Why are you doubling down and trying to enjoy this!? Stop! People are going to think I’m a pervert too! Really, Sekurtiti, this isn’t what I wanted! Look carefully with your divine power. Eh? What? You see something even worse in me? What the hell do you think you saw, you occult pervert girl!?”
The twin shrine maidens and the brown-skinned tomb keepers felt their minds go blank and silence surrounded them for a while.
And once she got tired of surrendering herself to that, blonde Higan finally opened her eyes.
“That’s what we lack!!”
“We can’t, Higan! We can’t let ourselves turn into freaks like that!!”
Renge desperately clung to her sister’s waist to keep her from heading toward the sounds of a commotion still coming from the other room.
But those sounds finally came to a stop.
And Freedom Award 903 stepped out with a look of blazing duty in his eyes.
“Sorry about the wait, everyone. Tomb Priestess Sekurtiti and I have reached an agreement.”
“(Wh-what happened in there, um, Renge?)”
“(Shh! Ask that and I have a feeling your life is forfeit, Higan.)”
His hair and clothing were in disarray like he had been playing with a large and undisciplined dog that liked to jump up on people and his entire face was sticky with what looked like dog drool.
Horned Biondetta stood next to him feigning ignorance, but Sekurtiti (who should have stood in the center as the ruler of this place) was cowering over by the wall and trembling. It entirely ruined the majesty of the gold decorations and Y-shaped lace cloth as thin as fairy wings that barely covered her bandaged but otherwise nude body. Those two summoners must have held a sublime battle and that girl’s pale blue eyes had peered into a forbidden abyss.
The old man in a casual suit looked highly affronted that they had gone over his head for that audience, but he did not actually say anything as he supported the Tomb Priestess’s body. That may have been a sign of how well trained he was.
“L-l-listen carefully, everyone. Ahem. These two are no longer visitors. We shall open all chambers to them as brethren who will take up arms and fight alongside us against any who would disturb the ancient pharaoh’s slumber. Understood?”
But once her tongue got moving, she was a ruler once more. Just like the bullet would fly when the trigger was pulled, her established technique would not betray her. The tomb keepers were used to obeying her, but even outsiders like Renge and Higan (who were even disadvantaged by Kyousuke and Biondetta’s intrusion) felt their shoulder’s jump as their hearts switched over to respectful listening mode. No, from their view, they were being lured in by those glistening lips.
This was different from normal hypnotism. With the method widely known to the world at large and that was legally accepted as a medical treatment in Canada, the subject would generally reject any request that would harm them. That was the origin of the well-known ideas that skeptics could not take part in a séance and that a hypnotized person could not be ordered to die. …But to put it another way, a true ruler could do so. With a single statement, she could turn white into black or have the target take their own life.
Gold-adorned Sekurtiti had subconsciously learned these techniques from the situations she found herself in.
But that was not the true essence of her being.
The overly smooth movement, the words that drew people’s minds to her lips, and the beauty that drove away animal lust were all part of what attracted people to her, but that was not what she was. If what she said was true, then she too was a servant. She guided the boat that carried the ancient pharaoh’s soul between this world and the underworld. She was only ruling over people to optimize her ability to fulfill that role.
She would return the ancient king’s soul to his preserved flesh body.
That was a form of summoning.
“So, Shiroyama Kyousuke. When will the calamity you speak of arrive? And what can we do before then?”
“Well, I apologize in advance for how pessimistic this is going to sound.”
Kyousuke placed his index finger on his chin and looked up at the ceiling.
And he made an announcement.
“But I’m honestly surprised it hasn’t arrived yet.”
Immediately, an explosive noise shook the entire apartment.
Renge carelessly tried to look out the window, so Kyousuke grabbed the back of her shrine maiden outfit’s collar and pulled her back. Appearing at the window right now would be suicide. Who could say how many sniper bullets would have hit her?
And he could tell what had happened without looking out the window. Toy Dream 35 was a three-dimensional city built over the ocean using countless buildings with giant bridges between them. So if the bridges connecting to the exits were blown up, the way out as well as the electricity, communications, water, gas, and other infrastructure could be cut off.
The enemy was undoubtedly trying to isolate them.
And once that was done, they would attack.
“Even if I’m being optimistic, we can’t have more than 30 seconds. How many forces do you have in the building?”
Sekurtiti glanced over, so the old man in a casual suit answered.
“The entire apartment building is fortified with tomb keepers, so fear not. Our prized warrior priests will use their defenses of stone and faith of steel to become a wall before the Tomb Priestess. And even a single one possesses the strength to overcome a war elepha-…”
“Don’t let any of them fight. A summoner can’t start a battle without seeing you with the naked eye. Instead of forcing your way out, your odds of survival are much higher if you curl up in a corner of the room buried in cushions. A tiny closet or bathroom would be much worse. It’s easiest to be overlooked in the corner of a large room. …But the real trick is to remain patient. That isn’t something just anyone can do. Listen, you can’t move a millimeter once they begin the search. Pass this on to everyone.”
He may have wanted to shout “you brat”, but they had no time.
As soon as Kyousuke kicked the muscular old man out of the way and Biondetta grabbed her master’s waist and pushed him to the floor, an incredible storm of destruction assaulted the room.
It was like horizontal lines punched through all of the living room’s windows at even intervals. A spray of autocannon fire smashed everything at waist height, starting at one end of the room and moving to the other.
Still on the floor, Kyousuke reached for his back and pulled out Phosphorus, the Repliglass Blood-Sign coiled up and stored there. Using just his arm strength, he swung it around and tripped Renge and Higan to the floor since they were just standing there. He then set his sights on Sekurtiti, but something odd happened.
For some reason, the brown Tomb Priestess rejected Kyousuke’s helping hand. As the Blood-Sign skimmed across the floor, she stepped on it and pinned it down.
And once the horizontal sweep of gunfire was over, only she reigned in that room.
She alone was unharmed because she had been standing right in the gap between two bullets.
“No matter how heavily armed they are, no tomb keeper will be done in by uncivilized tomb raiders. What matters is punishing these outlaws who disturb the pharaoh’s slumber by making a mess of this city built by President Toydream.”
(That’s really something…)
Kyousuke was honestly impressed. If he was being honest, a lot of luck had come into play when it came to saving the old man in the casual suit, Renge, and Higan. They could proudly proclaim that luck had smiled on them this day. But Sekurtiti had taken it a step further. She could go as far as to say she was loved by a god.
But they could not afford to forget that this was a Summoning Ceremony battlefield.
When up against summoners who could freely wield beings that surpassed the gods of legend, being loved by a god was not enough to ensure her safety.
Kyousuke detected an unpleasant odor like a car’s cigarette lighter being pressed against wallpaper.
The bullets embedded in the walls were exhibiting a strange reaction.
There were special bullets designed to pierce armor and then ignite inside to fry the engine or electronics. Those were armor-piercing incendiary rounds, but that was not what these were. If these were meant to effectively increase the power of summoners and vessels…
“Are they Incense Grenades!? Biondetta!!”
With a sound much like a thunderbolt, the Tomb Priestess with the ancient map on her back and everyone else there were contained inside the 20 meter cube of an Artificial Sacred Ground. What was done was done. Kyousuke and Biondetta got up with Blood-Signs at the ready. They both ignored the peanut gallery lying on the floor in a daze and the divinely-inspired girl still standing tall.
An Artificial Sacred Ground would only open when the Incense Grenade was thrown and detonated while the target human was seen with the naked eye. And if the summoner and vessel were not there already, they would be automatically taken to the detonation point. Gravity did not matter.
The bridges had been cut off.
The summoners and vessels had likely flown horizontally over from the neighboring building with the force of a missile. It was a lot like special forces breaking through a window after climbing down a wall with a rope.
But they were not much of a challenge when their numbers and locations were known in advance.
There would be a pair of them for each Incense Grenade embedded in the wall like an armor-piercing incendiary round and they would be moving toward precisely the locations of those bullet holes.
Kyousuke and Biondetta stood back-to-back, swung their Blood-Signs horizontally like baseball bats, and knocked them all out with lariat-like blows to the neck. The summoners had come flying in at abnormal speed, so it was a hellish situation for them. Before they could even land on their feet, they spun around on their necks and collapsed onto the floor.
Once the summoners had all been knocked out without even summoning a single Material, Kyousuke and Biondetta were given control of their Artificial Sacred Ground as the “victors”, but they did not bother holding onto it. They canceled the Chain state without waiting the full 90 seconds, so the Artificial Sacred Ground and the glowing red cube of Roses vanished.
Of course, Bridesmaid would not only be entering through that one route. Either to clear the way for more summoners to enter through the windows or to hold Kyousuke and Biondetta in place before another team could arrive, the autocannon was sure to fire again.
“Shall we tie these guys up and decorate the windows with them?”
“I don’t think worshipers of that Queen are going to be bothered by human shields.”
“Then how about I enjoy some clay target shooting? Don’t worry, though. This is a 7.62mm bolt-action. I won’t miss from this range, sir.”
“Understood. But only neutralize them. Don’t kill. I’ll draw their attention to the window in here, so you move to another room and-…”
It happened just as they were discussing that.
It came with no warning or advance notice at all. The brown Tomb Priestess named Sekurtiti approached the window through which the autocannon had fired.
It happened just before Kyousuke and Biondetta used their Blood-Signs to knock her to the floor by catching at her legs and neck respectively.
“I must punish any who disturb the pharaoh’s slumber and threaten our new holy land.”
It happened just after she whispered that.
She gave a shout and thrust her open palms straight forward.
That was all.
She seemed to be pantomiming the glass that had filled that window before it shattered. It did not look like the motion of someone familiar with martial arts.
Nevertheless, Kyousuke and Biondetta’s weapons stopped at the last moment. No, their Blood-Signs were trembling slightly. Kyousuke could not move his weapon forward or pull it back and Oiran Mini-Yukata Biondetta could not move with her weapon partially thrust forward from the hip.
A distant sound of destruction followed. It came from the autocannon. However, it was not the sound of it firing properly. It had clearly malfunctioned in some way.
That girl was a ruler wearing a golden tiara, but that did not mean she could bend a spoon with psychokinesis.
(Did she lead the gunner astray and cause them to operate the weapon incorrectly?)
An autocannon was too heavy for one person to carry around and it was generally fired by a group of 2 to 4, with at least someone to aim and pull the trigger and someone to feed in the ammunition belt. Throwing off their synchronization would probably increase the odds of a mistake, but…
The tremor filling Kyousuke and Biondetta was no more than a glancing blow.
Was this the strength of a wall of the taboo set by a ruler? Simply by refusing an audience and hitting them with her established techniques, could she really bring people to a stop like this?
What had this wall looked like to the people on the other side? It was possible they literally had “seen” it silently approaching to crush them. During the first sweep, it may not have been that the bullets had physically bent around her; it was possible the enemy gunner’s soul had been enough influenced by this ruler to hesitate
But a ruler was a ruler.
She did not brag and instead seemed to use this power like it was normal.
“I cannot keep this up forever. Humans can adapt to any stimulus. Just as all great heroes are dragged down by the masses in due time and just as a thousand-year empire is cruelly devoured, even glory and reverence are no more than emotions to be consumed.”
The Tomb Priestess’s pale blue eyes desired another method.
Since the ancient map was on the brown girl’s back, Kyousuke and Biondetta had no real reason to stay in the apartment. And the tomb keepers were willing to follow their pharaoh from the desert and refer to his location as their homeland. As long as it would not directly defile the pharaoh or the grave goods sleeping in the museum, they would not hesitate to move elsewhere.
The only question was when to do it.
With all the bridges destroyed, it would be difficult to escape the isolated building. And Bridesmaid would of course have the area surrounded. They could not move on until they broke through. But that also meant they were home free as long as they did break through. That old man had said the entire building was fortified with tomb keepers. That meant Kyousuke did not have to worry about unrelated civilians getting caught in the middle. He had to create an opening through which they could escape, even if it meant sacrificing the entire apartment building.
“Let’s move almost everyone in the building down to the bottom. The building’s ground level is at the bottom of the ocean. Once Bridesmaid sees everyone moving there, they’re sure to think we have a submarine hidden there.”
“But no such submarine exists!” snapped back the elderly aide.
“That’s fine.” Kyousuke did not care. “We just have to make them think there’s one. Once they start fearing an underwater route, their circle will naturally tighten in. The autocannon’s power would be weakened by the thick wall of seawater and you can’t see as far through the water as you might think. And then…”
Kyousuke snapped his fingers and pointed up at the ceiling.
Biondetta looked like she understood.
“Oh, I get it. We blow up the top level of the building. The downpour of rubble will crush the Bridesmaid group that carelessly approached with submersible weaponry.”
“Yes, yes! So it’s the same as the classic trap where you roll a giant boulder down the corridor to crush all of the tomb raiders at once. I do not like destroying a portion of Toy Dream 35 which acts as the pharaoh’s tomb, but if it is for a trap to clear away the uncivilized tomb raiders, then we have no other choice!!”
“Why are you suddenly leaning forward with sparkling eyes, Sekurtiti!?”
“I should have expected this from the great technological nation of Japan. From the ancient ninja houses to the modern roach sheets and flypaper, countless traps have permeated your souls, so of course the protectors here would think differently. Oh, but I hate to throw out the functional beauty of a carnivorous plant such as the pitcher plant or the Venus flytrap. As the protectors of the pharaoh’s tomb, there is so much to learn from Asia. Ahh…”
“Y-you’re getting pretty close!! Where did this pressure come from!?”
The plan was simple enough, but it was impossible with normal explosives or a gas explosion. As any video of a building demolition would show, buildings generally collapsed downwards or fell over; they never scattered rubble from above like a volcanic eruption. And causing it to “collapse downwards” would crush the people on the ground level as bait, so they had to prevent the blast from propagating through the intervening floors.
If no realistic methods could pull it off, what could they rely on?
There was of course only one answer: They were experts at using the Summoning Ceremony.
“Hmm. But, sir, that would mean…”
“Yes, I’d like to split the summoners up, with a pair up top and one down below. Biondetta, you go down. Make sure you can protect the tomb keepers with the Summoning Ceremony if anything goes wrong. Can I count on you?”
And while Kyousuke was a skilled summoner, he had no vessel partner at the moment.
Black-haired Renge let out a snort and demonstrated her willingness to do this.
“Fine then! We just have to head up to the top and start a Material rampage when the timing is right, don’t we!?”
“I’m pretty sure I know the answer, but have you ever helped destroy a largescale building? Once these high-rise buildings start to collapse, it’s hard to stop the chain reaction and difficult to control the destruction. Plus, not even the most skilled vessel can perfectly control the Material. This is going to be a lot like having your hand trembling wildly from the electrodes attached to it and still trying to pull out the pieces of a block puzzle tower one at a time. Can you really do that? If you fail, then about 200 lives will be lost.”
“Good, I like your honesty. But I do have something for the two of you to do.”
That meant she could not cancel her contract with Higan and give her to Kyousuke.
If he was to act as a summoner, he would need a new vessel. There was no need to look around since there was only one person there with the perfect traits for that.
Kyousuke and Sekurtiti silently faced each other.
She likely understood her own talent. She understood it and yet chose a different path. That showed a strength of its own. It may have been a greater strength than even Kyousuke who could only submerge himself in the Summoning Ceremony.
“You mustn’t!!” The old man in a casual suit bowed deeply as he offered his own advice. “You have thoroughly followed your own rules and polished your soul without relying on anything else. If you open your body to the many gods, no one can predict how it will affect that polishing. In the worst case, you could even lose it all!!”
He was not just referring to her technique to rule over people.
He meant her true job that no one had ever seen and might not even exist.
She was to accurately call the ancient pharaoh’s soul back into his dried body. It was a different system of summoning.
If she did have that ability, it could conflict with the Blood-Sign method. That old man who had lived by her side for so long knew just how valuable that was and the girl herself had to know that even better than him.
People could not escape the grasp of a power once they had relied on it.
That was as true of a bullet as it was a god.
If she had someone who would prevent her from letting go, she might be able to entrust herself to this.
But the ruler spoke.
“Shiroyama Kyousuke. This is an emergency. Couldn’t you simply order me to do it?”
“Sorry, but forcing people to become my vessel just isn’t my style.”
“But what would you do if I refused?”
“Then this entire plan is shot and I’d have to think up something else.”
Even this was a turning point.
Whether she agreed or not, Shiroyama Kyousuke had said he would escape this situation. That meant she could no longer let the situation force her into the contract. If the brown girl did not take that final step of her own volition, she could not arrive there.
In fact, this left her with no real reason to stray from her original path.
Who in this world had enough a reason, enough courage, or strong enough a soul to step into an unknown world when no one was pressuring her into it and when it would mean abandoning everything she had spent many long years building up?
And the ruler smiled.
It was a thin smile and she had the look of someone who was overcoming some kind of trial.
“But I am not a presence in any of those other solutions.”
“I am no more than a temporary ruler during the pharaoh’s absence, but I still have pride in the many lives I have supported to this day. What would I gain by turning my back on my duty and trying to flatter the tomb raiders with a smile on my face? How could my soul shine then? I, at least, cannot answer that question.”
That was the ruler’s choice.
Because she had ruled over everything like it was normal, she could also let go of that power like it was normal. She had that strength inside her. Only someone who knew what was truly important could make that choice.
Sekurtiti did not hesitate.
Just as she took pride in her superior position like it was normal, she could let go of it like it was normal. That was the kind of person she was.
“So please. I need your help to save my family.”
All he needed was a small blade and his own fingertip.
By making a small cut on his index finger and allowing a single drop of blood to appear, he could easily open that “door”.
“I bind this covenant of blood in the name of The Spirit of Fluttering ‘Yellow’ Gills that Rules the Heavens (s – a – so – voz – tix – ei – yw – za), one of the Three which manage and guide the summoning ceremony. You are of human flesh with a proper heart and soul, yet from this moment onward, you shall be a limited vessel that can hold all things.”
The brown girl wrapped in bandages and a Y-shaped lace cloth kneeled on the spot.
This was a new contract.
By stripping off her old self, she would reveal a new self to the world. Her position and status a moment earlier meant nothing. Even if she had been a ruler who looked down upon a great multitude.
“You shall be a lord of emptiness that uses the power filling you to at times bend the laws of this world.”
It was like a noble fairy queen sipping dew from the tip of a leaf. It was like a filthy dog devouring leftover food splattered in a back alley.
In a way that caused everyone’s values to crumble away, she reached her tongue for his finger. She reached for the single drop there which was both the most venomous and most divine thing in the world.
“So I shall prepare this vessel. I am a summoner, unable to leave the world of man, yet a symbol of haughty intellect that uses power from beyond the world of man to guide the world of man to the next age!!”
And she made contact.
She licked it up, rolled it around in her mouth, and swallowed it. Something exploded inside that girl adorned with bandages and with gold. What had been there before and what had not been there before clashed and the ends of every last nerve in her body opened like connection ports.
The brown girl arched her back like she had been struck by lightning. With violent convulsions, her mouth opened as wide as possible and pointed toward the ceiling. The roar of a fearsome beast burst forth, but it now lacked the dignity and style of a ruler.
She had been rewritten.
She had been updated.
She was now the mystical itself as a vessel that could freely contain even those that lurked beyond the gods.
Everything was ready.
Kyousuke checked on his Blood-Sign, counted how many Incense Grenades he had on hand, and waited for his new vessel to stand by his side. He looked around the room and stuck the tip of his Blood-Sign toward the remains of a destroyed table scattered across the floor. He caught something on it and tossed it to Sekurtiti.
It looked like the rectangular case for mint tablets, but it was not. It was a pedometer with a digital counter.
“Attach this at your waist. It can work as a restraint. Beauty and health can easily provide mental bonds, especially for women. If you don’t want to have your body hijacked by unwanted evil and vengeful spirits, I recommend physically creating a mental switch.”
She nodded and obediently attached the pedometer’s clip to a knot she had tied when putting the bandages back on after showing them the ancient map earlier. The bandages may have come undone easily, so she wanted something to reinforce the knot.
Meanwhile, Blonde Shrine Maiden Higan was blushing a bright red and covering her face with her hands.
“O-oh, no… Was I, um, like that too when I did it…?”
“Hmm. It’s different for everyone, but…yeah, I think you’re on the lewder end of the spectrum, Higan.”
“Ha ha ha. I hate to interrupt you when you’re blushing, squeezing your eyes shut, and lightly hitting me, but this really isn’t the time. …Okay, you have your vessel and can move freely. So what are we supposed to do? You said you had something for us to do, right? Who do we have to fight!?”
Bridesmaid was not just going to wait around. And if they let the enemy keep the initiative, they would have less of a chance to enact their plan. Kyousuke was honestly glad that Renge and Higan had made the offer themselves.
And so he did not hesitate to ask for their assistance.
“Right. Renge and Higan, you two come here. You’ll be my sparring partner.”
The twin shrine maidens looked baffled, so Kyousuke pointed overhead.
“I said I would be using a Material to send rubble down into the ocean, right?”
“U-um, uh, Shiroyama-san, you mean, um…”
“Didn’t something seem odd about this plan? I can’t summon a Material without an opponent. But I can’t exactly use a being greater than the gods on a normal tomb keeper or an unconscious enemy soldier. They could literally be smashed to pieces. I needed a summoner who can actually summon a Material.”
“You don’t mean…”
Renge had a very bad feeling about this, but as Kyousuke continued speaking, he grabbed Higan’s arm. Sekurtiti realized what he meant and grabbed Renge’s arm.
For some reason, the Tomb Priestess’s eyes were sparkling like a child’s.
“This is the true romance of pyramids. To finish off the loathsome tomb raiders with a false ceiling or boulder trap, you must first lure them in with the glitter of gold and silver. You must use treasure as bait.”
“Wha-? Eh? Wait…not so close!”
Renge lost to the pressure of the smile in front of her and sought help from elsewhere. And Kyousuke did not discriminate. As long as the conditions were right, he would get anyone involved regardless of age or sex.
And so that bastard spoke with a smile.
“Don’t worry. Even if you’re defeated, it only means 24 hours in a mindless trance. It’s not like you’ll die.”
- The ancient map was on Sekurtiti’s back. When her body temperature rises and her blood flow increases, it appears as a Lifelong Emblem, but the map itself is not enough to know where it points. Presumably, the completed map can only be read when the map is combined with whatever is found in the Golden Treasure Chest once it is opened with the Diamond Master Key.
- The tomb keeper family is not made up of summoners, but they have inherited ancient techniques which prospered before the creation of the Third Summoning Ceremony. This allows them to perceive and remember summoners and vessels even without earning any Awards.
- Sekurtiti has the power of a ruler who inspires reverence in people. But this is only a technique to distance her from minor issues and her true essence is that of one who reaches into another world to call back a soul. Whether or not this is effective is unknown.
- To protect the tomb keepers under her command and to fight Bridesmaid who she has deemed tomb raiders, Sekurtiti bound a contract as Kyousuke’s vessel despite the risk of losing her power as a ruler.
- When Biondetta loses her cool, she is apparently willing to go full dog mode. She must be handled with utmost care.
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