The Unexplored Summon Blood Sign:Volume7 Chapter3

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Stage 03: Doctor S Awaits the Hunter in the Shadows of a Legend[edit]

“Why am I still alive?”

“Oh? You make it sound like you overcame death all on your own.”

(Stage 03 Open 07/20 19:30 Open)

Doctor S Awaits the Hunter in the Shadows of a Legend

Part 1[edit]

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hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!”

Kyousuke no longer remembered how far he had run through the white crystal cave or what route he had taken.

In fact, no amount of struggling could have let him escape the White Queen before his eyes. She was already the strongest at just one, but there were now enough of her to fill the city like an army of the dead. There was no hope. In that case, it was obvious what had happened.

“Thirty-oooone, thirty-twoooo, thirty-threeeee…”

That counting continued from somewhere.

That lovely voice echoed endlessly like she was starting a game of hide-and-seek. And that was not the only voice. After all, there was more than one Queen this time. The voices arrived from all directions as if to surround poor Kyousuke. She seemed to be toying with him using the madness of a group, something she had never had before due to being unique.

She was letting him escape.

She was clearly just having fun.

“Nowww, then. Brooootherrrr, what will you do?”

“Will you continue with your plan to destroy me, the White Queen you hate so much? Ee hee hee!”

“But, but. I can infect people this time. Nowww, who am I using as a host for this one? A member of Bridesmaid? Or a villager from Houbi Village? Oh? But can you just kill them? Well, can you, bunny???”

“Ugwah!! Aghaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!?”

They were not here.

The Queen’s voice echoed in from a distant location, using the complexly curving cave like a speaking tube.

The mass of sound seemed to envelop him.

“Ready or nooooot, here I cooooome!”

“Ready or nooooot, here I cooooome!”

“Ready or nooooot, here I cooooome!”

“…!!!???”

“Broootherrr, let’s flirt and smooch. …Ah ha ha ha ha ha!!”

“Broootherrr, let’s flirt and smooch. …Ah ha ha ha ha ha!!”

“Broootherrr, let’s flirt and smooch. …Ah ha ha ha ha ha!!”

A strong but dull sound burst out.

It was not Kyousuke slipping and falling. The silver-haired shrine maiden named Meinokawa Aoi had grabbed him by the collar and slammed him into the crystal wall.

“Calm down, you fool!!”

“Eek!?”

“I’m honestly amazed you managed to pick up Olivia’s unconscious body and flee in that situation, but if you just keep running aimlessly, you’ll only end up right in front of one of the Queens. And if she’s using her numbers to surround us, escape by normal means will be impossible.”

With that said, Aoi pulled Kyousuke forward instead. She wrapped her arms around his head as if holding him to her large chest.

“Do not worry.”

“…”

“Listen to my pulse. I might be artificial, but the structure is no different. You can tell how calm I am, can’t you? That means I haven’t let it affect me and I can buy enough time for you to calm down, too. …As a shrine god, that is my purpose. That role was admittedly forced onto me, but I will not abandon a human child seeking my protection.”

Kyousuke’s heart rampaged in his chest and he was clearly hyperventilating, but this allowed him to finally regain control of his mind that was madly running full speed ahead.

“Pant, pant…phew…”

“Good, good. Do not worry. If you try to take care of it all at once, you will simply be overwhelmed. Let’s take our time and solve it bit by bit. Understand?”

Biondetta had pursued Kyousuke along with Aoi and she shook her head over and over with a hand on the side of her head as if to shake away a nightmare.

“Urp. An atmosphere of death filled with multiple Queens and heavy bedrock overhead. Really reminds you of the Queen’s Miniature Garden, doesn’t it, sir?”

“Oh, right… I just had to remember that… This isn’t the first time the Queen has multiplied… This was a known phenomenon…not something entirely incomprehensible… I’m fine…I’m still fine…”

“However.” Biondetta added more while lightly kissing the white snake that slithered out of her cleavage. “Multiple Queens working together is definitely unprecedented. We should assume this is even more dangerous than the Queen’s Miniature Garden.”

That meant this was the worst situation in history. That was enough to make him feel faint and he had to focus his mind to avoid blacking out in Meinokawa Aoi’s chest.

This absurd situation was not some grand final objective; it was something done just for fun.

She was truly the greatest cheater.

But that was no reason to abandon all thought. They had a veritable mountain of problems to deal with, but that was exactly why their only option was solving them each one at a time.

Kyousuke finally stopped leaning on Aoi and managed to support his own weight.

“Whatever we do, we have no time,” he groaned. “The White Queen will start searching for us – just for fun – before long.”

“First of all, I want to make sure you know that – unlike me – she is not simply borrowing those forms,” said Aoi. “If true White Queens are being mass-produced, then fighting her head-on would be reckless indeed. In fact, we could not defeat even one of them.”

“Since they’re working together, I suppose we can’t lure them into destroying each other this time.”

An unnatural gagging motion entered Kyousuke’s throat once more.

He knew this was different, but he could not help but think of Mary Ann destroying the other Queens. He also thought of the White Queen versus the Black Maw. But they could not use that method here.

“If we can’t fight her head-on or use any tricks, only one option remains.”

Aoi sighed somewhat sadly, perhaps because she no longer had anything to hold to her chest.

“I assume you mean the Material you are hoping can defeat the Queen. That does seem to be our only hope.”

“But we’re up against multiple Queens!” protested Biondetta. “You could easily call it an army!!”

“Yes, but each of the Queens has the same specs. So the rest depends on the situation. It would be difficult to singlehandedly defeat 100 people in a simultaneous game of rock-paper-scissors, but things change if you play them all sequentially in 100 different games. Both options are far from easy, but the first step is preparing the proper conditions and environment.”

Kyousuke breathed in and out.

The despair was too great for that to stop his cold sweat, but he forced his mind into motion.

“In that case, I’m curious about the fact that she’s infecting people instead of simply multiplying or copying herself. That Queen doesn’t care about anyone but me, so it seems odd that she would make herself need the bodies of other people.”

“…To act as hostages?”

“That means it’s possible she’s afraid that we could have a chance if she didn’t have that means of stopping us.”

Kyousuke spoke coldly.

He did not hesitate to use the word “afraid” when it came to that Queen.

“Also, we still don’t know how she’s infecting people. Depending on the answer, it might be possible to heal them.”

Biondetta was not the only one shocked by that suggestion.

Even Meinokawa Aoi’s eyes widened.

“W-wait. Are you saying you still haven’t given up?”

“That’s right.”

“You can look at this situation and still set your objective to saving them!?”

“Is that anything for a shrine god to say? Can’t you see them wandering in search of help? If I did anything else, the name Alice (with) Rabbit would lose all meaning. That’s the only reason the Queen would bother making more of herself when she’s already the strongest on her own.”

Yes, the White queen already reigned at the highest peak, so it was hard to think she would be trying to strengthen herself. Whether as an individual or a group, the strongest was the strongest. It was an inexact way of thinking, but when she was an infinite being from the beginning, there was no reason to gather a group of her. Then why the infection? The Queen always placed Kyousuke at the center of her world, so the answer was self-evident.

The Queen wanted to make Kyousuke hers by breaking his spirit and removing his attachment to all other things.

She longed for the moment when he took the easy route and relied on the strongest.

She was trying to create a dependency in which he could not survive without that strongest and he could find nothing else to hold pride in. Just as a soccer player would most hate having soccer taken from them and just like a student admitted to a prestigious university would fight desperately to not have their academic records taken from them.

In other words…

“She’s trying to get me to kill them myself. That is the Queen’s goal.”

Needless to say, accepting a game suggested by the White Queen was the height of folly, but he was free to save them in a way that surpassed the Queen’s expectations. He had to outdo her and present the answer without ever giving up. That was the proper course of action for Shiroyama Kyousuke.

He had to end his confusion. He had to regain his will of steel.

And after that, he had one important task to perform.

“Let’s observe the White Queen.”

“Are you serious, dammit!? I was hoping to suggest we hurry to the center, reach the cruise ship at the summit as soon as possible, create the vessel which can contain your trump card Unexplored-class, construct the Material itself, and immediately begin the battle to destroy the White Queen!!”

“There are too many questions concerning this infection. Accepting it as just something the Queen can do is the same as refusing to think. …If we can figure out how it works, we can make a further judgment about whether or not they can be returned to normal…no, about whether or not they can be saved.”

“…”

“Now, a question: do you want this to leave a bad taste in your mouth or not?”

“Okay!! Fine!!”

Part 2[edit]

Let us discuss Toy Dream 35.

That city had nothing as shady as a combination of a used tools shop and garbage collectors.

Even if you possessed something worth absolutely nothing, anyone with any at all love for antiques would never think of making a little bit of money by giving it to someone who would melt it down and reuse it. If you did see a combination like that, it was best to consider another possibility:

…Could this shop be buying up anything, stolen or not, and melting down the valuable metals in anything that seemed sketchy to make it untraceable before selling it again?

“Boss, here’s the report on today’s job.”

“Oh? Did we have a job too questionable to discuss over the internet?”

The sun had set, but the heat island made sure the night was still blazing hot. That awful night contained so much heat and humidity that it made one wonder if a corpse sitting outside would begin decomposing faster now than at midday.

A middle-aged man had shown up at a needlessly gaudy shop in C Block’s Chinatown and the modified China dress beauty named Lu Niang Lan tilted her head at him from behind the counter. She accepted a wide variety of jobs, so she did not remember the details of all of them. (That also proved just how stable her foundation was.)

BloodSign v07 231.jpg

Before answering, the stubbly man in cheap work clothes enjoyed a sip of the chilled oolong tea the beauty served him.

“I mean that container. That had top priority, right?”

“Oh, Kyousuke-chan’s job.”

“We dealt with the organic portion by mixing in oil filled with aerobic bacteria to create humus for growing forced vegetables. It will soon be used in the home garden of some wealthy young housewife with too much time on her hands. The container itself was broken down into pellets and thrown into a blast furnace so it can be used for the metal beams in a luxury apartment.”

“Hmm. Everyone’s always talking about a recession, but money and free time still gather in the places doing well.”

“Tell me about it. Well, our job is a lot easier when there are plenty of people with no sense of danger whatsoever.”

“Why is it that gathering money doesn’t seem to lead to happiness?”

“Boss, it takes someone who moves around as much cash as you to say something like that. Yes, someone who moves it around instead of just gathering it. Happiness isn’t something you work your ass off in search of; you need to set up camp in front of the prime spots where it’ll roll right into your lap. Even this shop was blown to smithereens, but how many days did it take to rebuild it again?”

“Oh, come now. I have a sweaty man telling me how jealous he is of me, so I still have a ways to go. Didn’t you know? The truly happy don’t have to do anything to be loved by everyone. And with those people, they don’t even notice that anything they don’t like is automatically eliminated from their everyday surroundings.”

“So like the really cute girl in your class? People tend to say everyone’s born with a set amount of luck, but they don’t often talk about whether or not you can shove your luck deficit onto someone else. …Oh, right. I did take a sample of the regenerated product and I’ll run an analysis on it, but I doubt we’ll find out what it was originally. So the same as always, I guess.”

“So you’ll take care of it?’

“Exactly. The work tools for our housework service are always discarded after use, so those will be disposed of too. It’s kind of incredible. I miss the days when a disposer would create meat dumplings and send them to a mountain pig farm or ocean fish farm as ‘animal food’.”

“You see that a lot in movies, but it isn’t actually all that reliable since undigested human hair will end up in their droppings.”

“Well, if you do as sloppy a job as they show in the movies. They won’t shut up about making the recent Toy Dream movies as realistic as possible, but they can’t exactly give people lessons on how to actually get away with murder. So what was that container anyway? A corpse?”

“This is Alice (with) Rabbit we’re talking about, so I seriously doubt that.”

“Oh, well that’s no fun. I thought we were quietly disposing of a little ‘accident’ so he could maintain his legend.”

“My. Are you the type who feels more excited than disappointed when an idol’s infidelity comes to light?”

“Don’t act like you’re any different, boss. I know you find other people’s misfortune to have the sweetest flavor of all. You wouldn’t fit in with Illegal otherwise.”

The two of them laughed together without taking any of it too seriously.

Finding out they had unwittingly disposed of a corpse or two was not about to surprise them and the same went for something even more dangerous and delicate than a corpse. No matter what was placed on the line ahead of them, they would break right through the law of conservation of mass because the more they erased from the world, the greater the reward in their pockets. They did not need to beat around the bush on this issue, which just went to show they were both entirely immersed in Illegal.

“Okay, boss, I’ll be going. Our business doesn’t really get going until midnight, so I’ve still got 3 jobs to deal with before dawn. The tea was good. You should probably just remake this place into a teahouse. Maybe a book cafe with shelves full of used books.”

“You forgot the ‘for an amateur’ disclaimer. I can’t hope to match a pro. …And it seems you’re doing good business. Are you avoiding the sun even in prime summer break season?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. That’s the reason why. I know you know more incidents happen this time of year than any other. Everyone decides to cut loose for summer break, but they get irritated in the hot sun and get completely carried away. Summer is the season of love and corpses. Bye☆”

Part 3[edit]

Discovery meant instant death.

And it was not just her physical strength that made the White Queen the strongest. She was a cut above in every single field. And that of course included her sensory organs and thought ability. Setting up a situation in which they could see her but she failed to notice them was nigh impossible. In fact, it was much, much more likely that the opposite would happen.

In that case, Kyousuke’s group’s options were extremely limited.

The only effective method they could think of was using the White Queen’s traits against her:

  • 1. The White Queen is only interested in Shiroyama Kyousuke.
  • 2. The White Queen can only infect humans.

In that case…

“Hiss…”

A sound like a broken flute echoed quietly across the surface of the underground lake.

It came from the white snake vessel contracted with Biondetta.

He(?) was not human and he was not Shiroyama Kyousuke. Thus, the Queens would not lock onto him any more than one of the cave’s bats or rats when he was acting alone. He was no different from a weed on the side of the road.

Aoi put her hands on her hips and took a deep breath that caused her shoulders and breasts to rise and fall.

“Hmm. In that case, would I have worked too since I’m artificial?”

“There’s no guarantee with you since your structure is too close to human.”

Kyousuke’s group discussed it while traveling through the underground area and approaching the cruise ship near the summit. They had used the aforementioned ladder in the giant crack as a shortcut to escape the enemy surrounding them. The level of danger was little different no matter where they were, but they wanted to stay as close to their trump card as possible.

It was currently around 10:30 PM.

After more than three hours, the white snake returned after gathering as much information as he(?) could. Only Biondetta could communicate with him due to her contract, so she was in charge of that.

Biondetta and Olivia had spent 24 hours in the loser state, so ingesting nutrients was an important job for them. They had borrowed some biscuits from the emergency food in the shrine(?) by the underground lake, so they split them and ate a quick meal.

“Still…”

Kyousuke looked around once more.

They were inside an unlit ship.

The cruise ship had only been made to slowly cruise along the crater lake which had had no exit, so it was not made to sail at sea. It was modeled after a sailing ship, but it probably only used an electric motor to turn a propeller. It did not have any cabins for spending the night. Only the deck giving a view of the scenery and the dining hall for a light meal had been open to the public. It would have been full with only 30 passengers.

They were inside what had been the kitchen next to the dining hall.

Glass test tubes and flasks were packed in tight along with the cooking tools. A lot of mysterious emblems were carved on the walls and floor. As was readily apparent with a vacuum coffee maker or a pressure cooker, kitchen equipment and lab equipment fit together quite well.

“This should be enough to at least reach the Jewel Blood,” concluded Aoi.

It could be done dry or wet and hot or cold, but the narrow glass tubes resembled a roller coaster.

“To be blunt, preparing a full Joruri Method in such a short time would not be possible. The White Queen has almost certainly begun her search already,” said humanity’s oldest artificial vessel. She began negatively, but then she puffed out her large chest. “So use my body. We can’t prepare it all from scratch, but we can modify what we already have. Just add what you need to my body to remake me into a vessel that can contain the irregular Material you’re thinking of.”

Adding to that artificial being may have been a lot like intentionally implanting a pacemaker in someone to control their heartrate even though they were not seriously ill.

“…You’re willing to do that?”

“I do not mind. I am a shrine god, so protecting people is my job. Why wouldn’t I use every method available to me at the time?”

“I’m asking you as Meinokawa Aoi not as the Queen’s lookalike.”

“…”

The silver-haired girl fell silent for a moment.

A smile appeared on her lips.

“…Don’t underestimate me. I had always wanted to escape my role as the White Queen’s lookalike. I’m not about to complain about gaining some originality, especially when it gives me the power to finish off the Queen.”

Meinokawa Aoi slowly placed a hand on the center of her chest.

And she gave a faint smile.

“Humans are always afraid that the changes to their bodies will mean they are ‘aging’ rather than ‘growing’. But never changing at all is also frightening.”

“…”

Kyousuke was not a Joruri Method, so he probably could not understand that mindset. But if that girl with eternal life wanted to change, he had no reason to press the matter further.

“Mhh.”

And then another voice shattered that solemn mood.

It was Olivia Highland who had come to earlier.

The small girl used both hands to rub the back of her head. That caused her slender bodylines to show through her school swimsuit, which had grown a darker shade of blue after absorbing so much moisture, and even revealed the curves of her ribs which looked as delicate as glass, but she showed no sign at all of caring.

She pushed out her tiny chest and the light pink rose decoration adorning it, she shook the thick chain worn diagonally across her body and the bag-sized lock hanging from it, and she asked a sulking question.

“My head is still throbbing. This is more than just sleeping on it wrong. Onii-chan, you hit me, didn’t you?”

“I guess there’s no hiding it then. …Oh, right. Your memories come back while you’re looking at me even though your contract was ended.”

“I can’t believe you!! If you want to indulge in me, then just say so! I won’t stop you! If you feel the need to knock people out just because you can’t work up the nerve unless they’re asleep, then I’m really worried about your future, Onii-chan!!”

“And I can’t believe you. That leap of logic was downright acrobatic…”

“I-I’ll help you recover, Onii-chan. Work me with me to become normal, okay?”

“I wasn’t asking you to stare up at me and expand on the topic.”

Meanwhile, Biondetta seemed to have finished communicating with the white snake.

“Outta the way! This sounds like a job for his big sis. They’ve always said big boobs are the best way of curing abnormal proclivities.”

“Oh, no. Now she’s added a bizarre conclusion on top of the bizarre premise!!”

“Hold it,” said Aoi. “Are you saying my size is not enough, you symbol of gluttony?”

“And now it’s spread to all of them? Where do I even start with this!?”

“False accusations are like a long chain in a falling block puzzle game. But anyway, I have something to report.”

Biondetta translated what the white snake had seen into human language.

And her conclusion was as follows:

“Vessels?” Kyousuke repeated the most important word. “The infection has only spread to human vessels?”

“So it seems. The action that triggers it seems to be a bite, but at its core, it’s still a summoning. The Queen descends into the vessel’s body. It only looks like a massive, spreading infection because she’s summoned into so many of them at once. That seems to be the truth of what’s happening here.”

“So there were simply that many vessels in Houbi Village? It makes sense for Bridesmaid, but I thought the Meinokawas had developed the Joruri Method to make up for their lack of vessels.”

“Not necessarily.” Aoi shrugged, causing the chest of her shrine maiden outfit to jiggle rather dangerously. “Why do you think the Meinokawa family understood the bodily structure of a vessel better than anyone else? Why were they blessed with the opportunity to investigate them until they could artificially reproduce one? Because they had enough samples who were willing to help with their research.”

“You mean…?”

“The Meinokawa family was originally a bloodline which tended to produce vessels. But if they had turned themselves into a vessel family, they would have been at the mercy of outsider summoners. That became what you call a kom-pleks for them. That is the reason why they wanted to be summoners instead of vessels.”

…Kyousuke recalled that Meinokawa Higan was an excellent vessel even after having her ability artificially worn down. It was rare for someone of that talent to be born to a normal family, so it was safe to accept that the Meinokawa family held that kind of secret.

Just because someone relied on a computer did not necessarily mean they were bad at mental arithmetic.

Just because someone relied on a microwave did not necessarily mean they could not cook.

“So between the Meinokawas and Bridesmaid, Houbi Village contains far more vessels than would normally be possible.”

“But normally just one Queen can appear in just one vessel, so they must have a way of breaking that limitation and summoning her into multiple vessels at once,” said Biondetta. “That would be the key to this.”

“So simply put, there is a core Queen who is being used to bend the normal rules?”

“I suppose she would be something like the queen bee. No, maybe more like the one real kid’s meal toy placed in a house of mirrors.”

Meinokawa Aoi’s eyes widened at that.

“So if we got rid of that one doll…?”

“…All of the Queen’s would disappear and the vessels would return to normal?”

They all exchanged a glance.

The only one looking displeased was Olivia Highland who wanted Kyousuke and the Queen to get along.

She puffed out her cheeks while her slender fingers toyed with the brim of her large straw hat.

“Why do you just assume you have to fight her? Mhhh…”

“Because it’s necessary.”

“You just have to hurry up and apologize, Onii-chan. If you try to act like you’re in charge and challenge her, it’s obvious she’ll just beat you up and make you behave.”

“Via.”

Not even using her nickname was enough to control her now. She only stuck out her tongue. With her undeveloped bodylines showing through her school swimsuit, which had grown an oddly dark shade from all the moisture, that double blonde braid girl truly seemed to believe Kyousuke could make up with the Queen if he made the first move. And that may have been why she did not sense the danger they were in.

She did not view the White Queen as someone who brought death, even though that was the most basic thing about her. She Simply believed in that just like those who believed that an army was there to protect their nation or that police officers carried guns to protect the peace.

That could always be written off as “childish”, but that purity was far too dangerous here.

“We have to figure out which Queen is the core. And whether or not we can just kill that one.”

“Yes, even if the other infected Queens are like reflections in a house of mirrors, there has to be some trick in place for the original one’s permanent summoning. Simply put, that one uses a different system. We might be able to find a way to tell them apart if we look into that.”

“Hey, if we’ve identified the enemy we need to defeat, isn’t it about time you got to modifying my body?”

All at once, the situation had started to move.

They were still at a serious disadvantage, but it meant a lot to have an actual goal in mind.

The enemy was quickly leaving the category of “incomprehensible”.

“…White Queen, it’s true you’re still the strongest for now.”

Kyousuke spoke quietly inside the cold kitchen lined with strange lab equipment.

The blue flame in his eyes was cold, but there was great heat hidden in his voice.

“But that’s only at the peak of the known route up the mountain. It’s time I showed you what humans are capable of.”

Part 4[edit]

Meanwhile, Doctor S was facing his own crisis.

He had ended the search in the caves and moved outside for the time being.

Houbi Village had been reduced to ruins by the extraordinary rocket fire, so even the most intact buildings only had their foundations or walls remaining and created twisted silhouettes visible in the dark night. The objects jutting up and tangled together in places were likely the remnants of the wooden festival towers and electric lanterns. No artificial lights illuminated the night and only some red and green particles flowed irregularly around. Those were embers from the attack and fireflies. Doctor S and the rest of the Bridesmaid summoners and Repliglass soldiers had constructed a base on land to join the missile ships and landing ships out at sea. Tents made of synthetic cloth were spread out across the remains of the original village.

“…”

Doctor S sat atop a broken drum and looked around.

Tents came in a wide variety of types, but modifying those used for circuses allowed one to set up a facility the size of a harbor warehouse in a short period of time. When viewed by satellite, the village would have been transformed like painting a new image on a canvas.

But not everything was about logic and efficiency.

In fact, their timetable was in complete shambles.

“Ohh, ohh. Her Majesty…Her Majesty is here…!!”

“Please forgive me for so insolently sharing the same space as Your Holiness!!”

“She really exists! Yes, it wasn’t just a legend! Her Majesty really does exist!!”

Some kneeled on the spot, some were carried to a far-distant land on a wave of ecstasy, and some fainted and convulsed on the ground. Bridesmaid celebrated their greatest moment as a Queen-worshiping cult.

There was a simple reason for that.

Pure white appeared in the dark shadows like a field of lilies in the moonlight.

And there were uncountably many of them.

In all 360 degrees, no matter where you turned, you would only see more and more White Queens. As her very first researcher, Doctor S understood her nature. The White Queen would show no interest in anything other than Shiroyama Kyousuke. In a way, he had set it up that way, so of course he did.

Because Kyousuke had failed, this roller coaster no longer had a safe guiderail.

Facing just one wild Queen was a disaster in and of itself, so being surrounded by her in every direction was best viewed as being trapped by a crueler fate than being in the path of a giant meteor being pulled down by the tendrils of gravity.

In that case…

“…Umm, I would like to ask a question.”

“Yes, what is it?”

One of the Queens answered him while politely bringing her hands together in front of her and cutely tilting her head. But she was not about to give him such a sweet look just because he was Shiroyama Kyousuke’s father. And being part of Bridesmaid, which served her, was not a guarantee of anything. The Queen’s interest was only in him himself; no other factor would get her to focus on him.

So Doctor S stated his question bluntly from the broken drum he sat on.

“Why am I still alive? I honestly assumed I would be killed instantly once the infection and spread began.”

“Oh? You make it sound like you overcame death all on your own.”

“This isn’t anything that cool.”

While answering, the man used his medical inhaler to adjust the oxygen level while using the air pressure tubes in his riding suit to squeeze his body. Together, these simulated a hyperbaric oxygen environment to externally control his brain activity. It was a lot like fiddling with a dial to dig through his memories.

“It’s just that I saw something more frightening than death during July of 1999. The rest is an issue of priorities. I’ve already selected the problem I wish to conquer first, so I might seem unconcerned about lower priority issues such as my own death.”

“Well, in that case, your driving force is rooted in phobia rather than philia. …Although you have some serious issues since you get as close as possible to the thing you fear instead of distancing yourself from it.”

“That’s just how humans work. Did you not know why those Toy Dream cities are doing such good business all over the world? We humans are a contradictory lot. We want to get as close as possible to danger while maintaining a front-row seat of absolute safety. No luxury could be greater.”

“Don’t try to pretend you’re not a coward.”

“Oh, my cowardice is the entire point. I will admit it’s pathetic, though. Even now, it could easily explode within me at any time if I didn’t tune my thoughts externally like this.”

“Is that an application of hyperbaric oxygen therapy? That said, I believe I was taught that excess oxygen intake not only leads to hyperventilation but that the reactive oxygen that changes form within your metabolism is one cause of aging.”

“I stopped caring about aging after the fear turned my hair white. You would never know it, but I’m actually a fair bit younger than I look. My hair has been like this ever since I saw you that first time. Although I’m not about to claim I’m exactly young anymore.”

Whatever Doctor S may have thought, the White Queen did not seem to have any real feelings about that.

So the twintail girl readily changed the subject.

To the man, this was like hesitantly walking through a minefield where one misstep would blow him away, but she readily announced a change of destination on a whim.

“What is with that S name?”

“Oh, this? It was originally a pseudonym I used for the long-term project with Kyousuke, but it was convenient enough and I ended up borrowing it ever since. Well, with the later Miniature Garden, it was entirely about inertia or maybe a good luck charm. That was an utter failure that didn’t match the requested specs, but it was definitely a step in the right direction. So from there, I was probably hoping for someone who showed some promise. How that turned out goes without saying.”

“Your project, hm?”

“He is my child. I will not lie about that. I simply used every research tool available to me.”

“But that is not enough to fully explain this.”

“You mean why it had to be a Shiroyama? Not even I know. I can only assume it was a divine revelation.” Doctor S smiled bitterly at his own trauma. “Oh, and it might look like Kyousuke is driven by phobia, but it’s actually philia. You can rest easy about that.”

It sounded like he too was changing the subject on a whim, but he was not actually.

“My, my.”

The White Queen smiled while happily clasping her hands in front of her chest. She looked like a girl who had received information on the boy she liked from a classmate.

This was the only way for Doctor S to access the White Queen. He could not get a single word out of her otherwise. When he was lost, when he could not see the ground below his feet, and when his soul was trapped by the fear of landmines, the only way to course correct was to speak Kyousuke’s name. That would allow him to set down his raised foot.

“I’m scared.”

Was his voice actually reaching the twintailed Queen?

And even if it was, this might not change the fate of this man in a lab coat and riding suit.

“I’m so very, very, very scared. But that is why this shiver down my spine is the one thing I can’t erase by manipulating the oxygen. How much safety can we maintain and how close can we approach danger? Some say it is the ability to control fire that makes humanity special, but I see things otherwise. Our one and only treasure is the ability to not just control fire but approach that danger and enjoy the thrill of it. There are insects that commit suicide and beasts that torment others, but no other living creature holds entirely meaningless values.”

As Doctor S spoke from the broken drum, his words were not directed at anyone in particular.

He was letting himself hear his own thoughts to apply some self-suggestion and encourage himself.

“We conquered ghosts and UFOs. We removed the fear of poetic prophets and the Aztec calendar. We can use our own words to explain the Tunguska Event and the supposed nuclear destruction of an ancient city by an Astra. We have fully researched most every mystery of the universe and the human body. We have turned it all into safe and boring attractions, leaving nothing to fear. …With the one major exception of you.”

“Iiiii seeee. So for you, what happens after death is something you either already understand or a trivial matter you can calculate out if need be. You know the equations, so you just have to leave the massive amount of calculations to a supercomputer which can work out the answer at more than a billion calculations a second.”

“Ha ha. That’s right, that’s right. The White Queen is the one thing where I can’t even find an equation to use as a starting point. No matter how I look at or frame the problem, all I get are unknowns upon unknowns. It could be zero, infinity, an imaginary number, or anything else; if I could see just one value, I could confirm the safety, mark out the danger with a dividing line, and find a way to get as close as possible to that line.”

“Humans feel both hope and fear about the things they do not understand. Once you had made your way all around the earth, the occupation of adventurer died out and the seeds of hope for the entire species were lost. Even with outer space, you could predict the majority of the star map using radio telescopes.”

“So what is your answer?”

“Do you desire your own death that badly?”

“Dying here would be simple. That is no more than an easily predicable result. Queen, surely you can bring people a much crueler fate.”

“Hmm. That is true.” The silver twintailed Queen placed her index finger on her slender chin. “The things you have brought into this world should indeed be called hideous, but without them, brother and I never would have met. Isn’t that enough of a reason to give you a stay of execution?”

“Akura Taisaku from the Queen’s Miniature Garden similarly pulled the selfish trigger when he could no longer bear that freefall with no guarantee of safety, but you didn’t hesitate to smash him into paste. …And I am well aware you allowed his cells to remain active so he lived on for more than 300 hours while splattered across the walls and ceiling. And he was aware the entire time that there was no hope at all of saving him.”

“Oh, you do know your trivia, don’t you? Did the two of you get along because you both have severe phobias? If I recall correctly, you developed the Miniature Garden and he ran it. But I can’t have you acting like that Queen and the Queen before you now are the same.” The White Queen giggled. “There is a simple reason for treating you differently from Akura. The presence of an ordinary sort of man will not change much of anything. So even if the middle point was altered somewhat, that war would have ultimately happened and brother and I would have parted ways. But you were different. That is all this is.”

“Hmm.” The inhaler man slightly adjusted the oxygen level like a tuner. “If you killed me here, disguised it as some kind of error, and ‘returned’ right away, you might just gain Kyousuke’s favor.”

“…”

The White Queen’s shoulders jumped.

But not because some gears had jammed. It was the opposite. The phrase Doctor S had spoken were the magic words to rob the silver twintailed Queen of all of her plans. Without even looking at her face, it was obvious that linking her to Kyousuke had sent pleasure signals coursing through her body.

But the strongest of the strongest suppressed it.

Doctor S calmly viewed that result.

“I see. That is a magician’s trick.” He nodded once. “You are arrogant in all things and everything you do can be judged humble when compared to what you are actually capable of. But you are afraid. You are shockingly cowardly when it comes to Kyousuke. Basically, with the obvious target of Doctor S around, Kyousuke will look elsewhere. So even if you are manipulating things from behind the scenes, you are harder to spot. That’s what this is about, isn’t it?”

Some might call it clever and some might call it cowardly, but they could not forget that this was the White Queen. It was highly irregular for her to even take failure and loss into account when she put together a plan.

“But even before that, the core factor in you and Kyousuke parting ways at the Queen’s Miniature Garden was murder. A mere murder caused that. But I am his father. Whatever he might say, you cannot imagine how much more your relationship will be twisted if you take it a step further and kill his parent. I can see why you would be afra-…”

The White Queen silently tilted her head.

The pull of gravity caused her silver hair to flow creepily over.

And a moment later, the Queen’s slender arm stabbed into the center of Doctor S’s chest before he could finish his sentence.

It truly only took an instant.

It was as smooth as sticking one’s hand into a mass of custard and yet not a drop of blood was spilt.

The White Queen’s right hand had pierced the researcher’s chest far too deftly. No, that was not simple destruction. It was a type of spiritual healing. While completely ignoring the pectoralis major, diaphragm, ribs, sternum, and various arteries and veins in the way, the White Queen easily pulled something out.

He did not even have time to stand up from the broken drum in surprise.

He was forbidden to take any unpermitted action while in the presence of Her Majesty.

That was simply how the world worked.

Father.

The mass of muscles in her hand was pulsing. It was someone’s heart.

The Queen’s strongest was not limited to pure physical strength.

She could bring out the greatest skill in every single field.

I respect you for bringing brother into this world, but I have no intention of getting to know my in-laws well enough to live in a two-generation household.

“…”

The frightening part was not how she removed his heart with no pain or resistance.

It was the fact that she could bring hand-to-hand combat to this level. If she wanted, she could remove all of Doctor S’s organs and rearrange them as she saw fit. It was just like moving a human brain into a pig or sheep developed for organ transplants. No, it need not be organic. If she felt like having some fun, she could create a human-faced dog or even a human-faced train. She could easily create a chimera that would cause anyone who saw it to lose their mind.

Please do your very, very, very best not to get between my brother and me. I may not look it, but I can become a tad indiscriminate when it comes to him. Even if you are his father, I might do something inappropriate without thinking.

“…Oh, how scary. It would seem this thrill ride still has room for improvement. If not for the experimental guiderail named Kyousuke, I would have been tossed from the roller coaster.”

“Yes, I suppose so. Your unsightly racing heartrate is probably caused by noradrenaline, so it would come from the fear and shock based on your phobia.”

“It really is scary.”

But that was the entire point.

Doctor S’s confidence was renewed after seeing this madness that would have made anyone look away. Not even the god in heaven could restrain this ultimate strongest. And there was but one person in the world who contained the possibility of holding her reins.

Only Shiroyama Kyousuke. Completing that failure was the only option.

“I am a priest, not a shrine maiden. Directly touching you is meaningless; my goal is to approach as close as possible. I wish to safely enjoy the world’s greatest and most dangerous freefall, but I do not actually wish to jump to my death.”

“That is fine then.”

The White Queen grinned and returned the heart in her right hand to Doctor S’s chest. It was a casual action, like someone placing their father’s pocket watch back on the shelf.

There was no red stain on her white glove and that eternally unsullied white spoke.

“Now, then. I think it’s time I got serious about teasing brother. Hee hee hee! Any chance to directly touch him is valuable. …I can’t have him growing accustomed to my appearances. Each and every one of our trysts needs to feel fresh and new! If I am going to show him just how impatiently I have been waiting to make contact with him, I have to make sure I leave an impression: kaboom!!”

“I’m hardly one to talk, but…”

“Yes?”

“You really are cruel.”

The White Queen was entirely unfazed by his great insult.

She placed her hands on her cheeks as her eyes grew damp, her breaths grew heated, and a tremor ran down her spine.

“That is because I love him…!!”

Part 5[edit]

“Hey!!”

“Nyahh!?”

Kyousuke heard a bizarre cry and then saw Biondetta grabbing onto Olivia’s skinny hips. The little girl was facing forward with her butt sticking out and Biondetta was preparing to spank her. Even if she was wearing a swimsuit below, Olivia seemed worried about her miniskirt and pareo in this pose, so she kicked her skinny legs around, blushed, and tried to bite at the older girl.

“Wait, what do you think you’re doing to me!?”

“What am I doing!? You’re the one that tried to sneak over and remove the fuse to my Incense Grenades so they wouldn’t activate! That really is a life or death issue!!”

“…Tch.”

“That click of the tongue settles it: I’m definitely spanking this ass!!”

“Nyahh!?”

“Those are the laws in my country!!”

“What country is that!?”

The two of them argued back and forth, but Olivia skillfully escaped Biondetta and fled toward Kyousuke. She circled behind him and used him as a shield. Her swimsuit must have gotten oddly twisted while in the waitress demon’s grasp because she messed with the shoulder straps inside her decorative collar and the butt within her pareo.

“Look at that incarnation of violence, Onii-chan! You need to keep away from someone like that!!”

Olivia was not contracted with anyone, so she could not maintain her memories without a summoner or vessel in her field of vision. That meant she could not sneak around when no one else was around and would have to use bold pickpocketing techniques and prestidigitation if she was going to do anything.

Vigor seemed to escape Biondetta’s mouth like steam.

“Sir, please move out of the way. It is my duty to deliver a finishing blow to that insolent ass.”

“Nn! The White Queen is definitely the only person for you, Onii-chan. The Queen is kind, so she wouldn’t get mad about something as trivial as this.”

Kyousuke did not have it in him to correct her ridiculous assessment, but that was not his focus at the moment anyway.

“Aika, have you managed to check with the satellite yet?”

A military satellite might sound like something quite special, but the satellite network was not actually all that sturdy.

The bikini girl responded via his smartphone.

“Well, no matter how advanced things get, they can’t escape the nature of wireless connections. They can strengthen the directionality all they want; the signal still scatters in other directions and the opposite is just as true. I can read from and write to the signal all I want. Although no matter how useful this is, I’m still stuck in the position of logistical support…”

“Meaning?”

“You need to give more credit to your proud shut-in here. And with my eternal rival Olivia Highland showing up while I was out of the loop, I am seriously worried about your future, Onii-chan!!”

That put a smug look on Olivia’s face as she clung to his arm.

“Ee hee hee. Even if we’re on other sides of the world, there is no separating two souls who were truly meant to be together. Grin, grin.”

“You thief!! Do you want me to fire the seven space station tools on top of your head!?”

“Tee hee. And a school swimsuit is the standard…no, it’s justice. I mean, a bikini little sister is just mixing up the symbols to the point of incomprehensibility.”

“Via.”

“Agrbrbrbh!! O-Onii-chan, you’re not blameless here either! When did you two get so close again!? I-Is there really magic in a school swimsuit!?”

“Please, Aika, don’t you go crazy, too.”

“Pant, pant, gasp, gasp… Okay, okay. Here’s the satellite feed. Remember that I’m the truly useful little sister of your soul. Bridesmaid has hacked into and altered the records in the government and private satellites, but they shouldn’t underestimate the true administrative privileges of Government…”

When they saw the image sent from Aika, Kyousuke’s group had very nearly accomplished their goal.

Houbi Village had been overwritten.

Bridesmaid had used their landing Repliglass, which resembled sports kites, to carry supplies from the beach and they had set up their own camp using synthetic tents. Each tent was the size of a harbor warehouse and they had also built some diesel power generation bases and a labyrinth of trenches and seawater-filled ditches.

The silver-haired shrine maiden, Meinokawa Aoi, sounded exasperated.

She pressed her soft cheek against the boy as she peered at the small screen from the side.

“This is incredible. There is no sign of the original village.”

“But it’s a simple matter.” Kyousuke sighed. “This is a temple. And on an urban planning level.”

“You mean like Edo or Kyoto?” asked Waitress Biondetta as she tilted her head and gave a food pellet to her white snake.

“That’s right,” confirmed Kyousuke. “It can be feng shui or whatever else, but they’re using the terrain itself to guide the flow of a great power and gain a special advantage from it. A temple uses four walls to cut itself off from the world and opens an entrance in a specific direction to allow the wind through in order to invite in a higher being with a divine name belonging to a specific element, and there are countless examples of pulling it off at the level of a city like this. By creating their fortress according to plan, Bridesmaid seems to have successfully invited in the White Queen.”

Their landing operation had involved 18,000 rockets and plenty of landing craft.

But Bridesmaid had not wasted anything.

“Hm? But, sir, but they only built up their temple of tents after firing all those rockets on the city. Then what about the rockets that should have fallen on Olivia’s head?”

“They came from the ocean.” Kyousuke’s expression remained unchanged. He did not even bother questioning Olivia about it. “We just have to assume they prepared in advance. I’m guessing they built a temple on the ocean floor so it couldn’t be seen by satellite. Then they extended that to include Houbi Village on land. I mean, that labyrinth of trenches is filled with seawater, right?”

Of course, if the ocean-bottom temple was enough to fulfill their needs, they would not have needed to remake Houbi Village. It may have been like a bridgehead giving them a foothold from the sea to land versus the actual fortified line taking them deeper inland.

“That would be how we were controlling fate and manipulating probability. They were building a royal capital that invites good fortune.”

(But good fortune for whom…?)

It all seemed to be on such a grand and exaggerated scale at first, but it only made sense if it connected to the White Queen who they worshiped.

And only about a day had passed between leveling the village and constructing their fortress. Bridesmaid had done an incredibly speedy job of laying out the groundwork and remaking all of Houbi Village into a temple for the Queen. It normally took centuries to build a grand temple, so this alone was an extraordinary accomplishment.

“The permanently summoned Queen in the center is different from the infected Queens who are spreading out like a house of mirrors,” said Kyousuke. “And if we tear down the temple structure, the permanent summon system will malfunction. So unlike the infected Queens, the permanently summoned one will blur with static. There should be a slight lag before it reaches the infected ones. …Let’s use that to locate their core. The infected Queens are a false reflection, so we don’t have to fight them. Destroying the one at the core should cause them all to disappear.”

“So it’s sabotage, is it? Oh, this is sounding right up my alley.”

“Biondetta.” Kyousuke made sure to calm down the vengeance demon who could not stop grinning. “We need to use multiple observation methods. I’d like to use Aika’s satellite image and also send out a few drones. As long as you know how they’re made, you just need to take apart a smartphone and an electric shaver to make one. Even if Bridesmaid interferes, I want to at least get a blow in.”

“…What if they use Incense Grenades? No cam-er-uhs or sen-sers work inside an Artificial Sacred Ground, right?”

“Wherever they concentrate the Incense Grenades will be where they’re protecting the core Queen.”

But that left another problem.

“Boo.”

Olivia puffed out her cheeks, fidgeted with her double braids, and spoke up while showing no concern for the undeveloped bodylines showing through her school swimsuit.

She wanted the two people she loved to make up(?).

“Even if you know which one, the Queen is still the Queen. Can you beat her, Onii-chan?”

“…”

Yes, that was the biggest problem.

Just because she had multiplied did not mean each individual White Queen’s value had dropped. The Queen was still the Queen. Challenging her head-on without a plan was a fool’s errand.

Identifying the core Queen was the same as finding a deadly precipice. Approaching that Queen was no different from reducing his own lifespan. This place was more frightening than a jungle roamed by a man-eating tiger. Misjudging his distance from death would get him eaten in the very first attack.

He could not think of himself as special.

No matter what, he had not left the category of human.

“We’ll just have to cheat,” said Kyousuke.

He turned back toward the silver-haired shrine maiden named Meinokawa Aoi.

He recalled each piece of lab equipment and the explanations Aoi had given in that cruise ship.

“How long will it take to complete?”

“Hm. I adjusted it for the expanded components seen in your plans, but you can see how much is in glass container there.”

With a cry of “oryah”, Aoi leaned against Kyousuke to turn him around using her soft warmth.

“Blood worship can be found all across the globe. Some see shed blood as unclean, but others see the blood of important and holy people to be holy. There are simply too many examples to list off.”

“So by adjusting the balance between good and evil from the outside, you can create an affinity for a specific Material, right?”

“Blood is a biometric and an individual identifier, but it can also be readily altered by your eating habits or by drinking perfume. Just how many products are advertised as giving you clean blood? You can even go further and directly alter the quality of your blood by transplanting a heart or marrow. We just have to take that even further.”

Her eyes were directed toward a thick, wet sound.

That kitchen contained a variety of lab equipment and a roller coaster of glass tubes. A red liquid floated in a clear cylindrical container that held nearly 20 liters.

“We have no time,” said Meinokawa Aoi. “I would normally like to create an artificial organ or marrow to produce the blood and then directly implant that in my body, but that would take too long. Our only option is to directly create the necessary artificial blood, inject it into my veins, and temporarily change the quality of my blood to tune me to the Material. …It should be finished soon. The contents need to be compressed until they glow like a red jewel.”

“Jewel Blood, hm?”

“That Western name doesn’t fit the traditional atmosphere, but there’s no helping that. We were always greedy.”

It looked like it would take about an hour longer.

The Blood-Sign method was a contract between a human and a Material, so the better the human would fit in the pages of a biology textbook, the easier the Material could recognize them and synchronize with them. Olivia with her royal blood, royal flesh, and royal soul was the extreme form of that. Aoi was using that to consider the traits of an individual Material and create a vessel that would best be recognized by it. It was not the best comparison, but a carnivore’s sense of smell was quite different from an herbivore’s. The silver-haired shrine maiden was apparently greatly altering the amplitude of that.

The smaller the discrepancy between them, the less the resistance and friction. This was necessary to summon a non-existent Material into her body.

“This will complete the artificial vessel you need, but what about the all-important Material? You plan to create a new Unexplored-class and embed it in the other world for the sole purpose of defeating the White Queen, don’t you? And its divine name will be constructed only from the vowels which are not dyed by the Sound Ranges of the Three. You showed me the theoretical anatomical drawing, but that isn’t enough to create it. Are you going to use a secret life-creating technique such as the alchemical homunculi or Kabbalic golems used for the Regulation-class?”

“I have an idea in mind.”

“…Hm. Whatever it is, the trick will be how to shave off time and prioritize efficiency.”

Aoi glanced over at the collection of equipment filling the kitchen.

She was saying those tools could create most anything, but you could not use them for more than one thing at a time. While creating the Jewel Blood needed to alter her own body, they could not construct the anti-Queen Unexplored-class. That said, they could not win without both, so they could not just ignore one or the other.

“This is going to be tricky.”

“I agree with you there, but physical work is not all a summoner needs to do. While I’m resting my body, I can start on some mental work.”

The most important piece of mental work was running strategy simulations against the opposing summoner.

“Biondetta.”

“Yes?”

“Do you think Doctor S is still alive? Or did he die when all those White Queens showed up?”

“Hmm. That’s not an easy question to answer, but I’d like to suggest 7-to-3 that he’s still alive.”

“Why?”

“Based on the satellite images, the fortress temple created on top of Houbi Village has maintained order. If a group of White Queens was on a rampage, it should be filled with the corpses and blood of Bridesmaid now that she doesn’t need them.”

“Well, I suppose that is what would happen.”

“Of course, I can’t deny the possibility that Doctor S personally incurred the Queen’s wrath and got himself killed, so that’s why it’s 7-to-3. It is extremely difficult to predict the White Queen’s actions using logic and efficiency, but she does seem to provide unrestricted use of her power to anyone who will allow her to have fun with you, sir.”

“…”

Overall, her thoughts were the same as Kyousuke’s.

That meant he probably was not letting his hatred cloud his judgment, so he would go with that.

“Who is he?”

Biondetta had shared a portion of his past, but she had to ask about this part.

She had only shared the Queen’s Miniature Garden portion of his past, so she knew nothing of what came before that.

“…My father. But not as part of the Fifteen Siblings Project. I mean my real father.”

Shiroyama Kyousuke slowly sighed as he answered.

His thoughts turned to the surname of Shiroyama.

“We lived in an unremarkable house in an ordinary Japanese city. It was me, my dad, my mom, and then my little sister. It was exactly the kind of normal life anyone could imagine.”

“?”

Biondetta and Meinokawa Aoi were both already frowning.

What he described was perfectly normal, but it was strange to think of the Shiroyama Kyousuke placed on rails like that.

The silver-haired shrine maiden summed it up in a question.

She pressed the back of her head against his temple as she did so.

“But that wouldn’t teach you your excellent combat technique, would it? And where did you and Doctor S come in contact with the Summoning Ceremony?”

“That’s right.” Kyousuke cringed but readily admitted it. “That life was clearly strange. Everything I had thought was normal had been linked to my elite training. Everything from the food I ate to the positions of the mechanical pencil and eraser on my study desk.”

“…”

“And that was frightening enough. I mean, special facilities like the Miniature Garden try to hide, but they can’t really. Anyone who can see the underside of the world will notice them. What Doctor S did was like building a missile using parts from a hardware store.”

He called himself a missile.

A precision-guided missile that had once cornered so very many people.

Kyousuke recalled the inner voice that had guided the Miniature Garden to destruction.

“So…what was Doctor S?” asked Aoi.

“Who knows. The name Shiroyama may not have had any real meaning to it. His behavior has a Government scent to it, so he may have been using household goods to stably produce an unofficial unit for use alongside the government ones. I mean, if he had succeeded, it would have created an age where any house or apartment could be used to mass-produce people on my level.”

Anyone who knew Shiroyama Kyousuke would feel their minds going blank at that suggestion.

That could seriously have thrown the world into disorder.

“I don’t know if Doctor S succeeded or failed and whether he gave up or was stopped by someone else, but he abandoned the project after bringing me fairly close to completion. In the confusion of the divorce, the entire family fell apart. Since I had no relatives left, I was collected by the appropriate organization. After proving my worth by completing a few jobs with the knowledge and skills already placed inside my mind, I was sent to the Miniature Garden. …And it all went so smoothly that it may have all been predetermined.”

“What…do you think?”

“It’s on such a large scale that it’s impossible to grasp the whole of it. I know my memories of that single house are not going to guide me to the answer.” Kyousuke breathed a heavy sigh. “And I don’t know if this was planned as well, but a few of the faces are blotted out and I can’t draw out that information. Like my mom and little sister. Who were they? I hope they were simply part of the cast and they were able to safely withdraw.”

That meant he did not know much about Doctor S.

But if that researcher had “created” Shiroyama Kyousuke’s foundation, some things could be deduced from that foundation.

“You can’t implant in someone else what doesn’t exist in yourself,” said Kyousuke. “No matter how insane he is, he is still my parent. And as his child, he created my skill as a summoner.”

“So he’ll use similar tactics?”

“We can’t say much since I’m sure we have our individual idiosyncrasies and preferences, but we can think of our skills as about the same. And he should be able to predict all of the choices I will make. Because he created me this way.”

The previous battle had been settled by Meinokawa Aoi, not Kyousuke. She had used her position as a fully artificial Joruri Method to remove her head, which Doctor S had failed to predict.

Even if Kyousuke planned everything out in advance, it was impossible to know what would happen.

“It’s also easy for me to predict what Doctor S will do,” said Freedom Award 903. “I just have to imagine what I would do using my skills if I used such a long sword. Since the skills at the foundation are the same, the differences will come from the surrounding environment.”

Part 6[edit]

Houbi Village had been conquered by Bridesmaid and the many infected White Queens.

Nevertheless, there was still no word of Kyousuke’s group being captured.

The declining village had limited transportation access, so holding all of the exits was not difficult. Not to mention that it was not just reckless but insolent to think you could break out when surrounded by the White Queen whose sensory organs had expanded infinitely beyond enlightenment or divine visions.

In that case…

“They haven’t escaped outside,” said Doctor S as he stood up from the broken drum. “Are they actually rushing to the center?”

A White Queen joined him, but it was no longer possible to tell which Queen this was. And for him, it did not matter which one it was. She was the one and only thing in the world he did not understand in the slightest, so this merely completed that definition.

One of the Queens spoke softly.

“My. Then is this the beginning of the expected game of hide-and-seek?”

“We went out of our way to make this remote village our stage, so we need to do this right. If we’re going to be hunting them through the mountains late at night, I’d like for us bring a bunch of torches with us. Not so much for the light as providing the obvious visual of a great mob to force as much despair onto Kyousuke’s group as possible. This just isn’t the environment for IR goggles.”

“Hmm. The fact that we aren’t the actual residents of some frightening village of freaks works against us there.”

“Just think of us as witch-hunting rioters visiting from elsewhere. Either way, once you turn the entire place into a crazed human hunt, the fear kind of happens on its own.”

“My, my☆”

“Whether inborn or learned, people are susceptible to predefined categories…in other words, genres. That includes primal fears such as heights and enclosed spaces and it also includes cultural fears like the guillotine or a chainsaw. No, this isn’t even limited to that one emotion. For example, the best way to get an enemy spy to betray their side is not money or the barrel of a gun; it’s the single bowl of soup given by a normal local when the spy is starving and freezing. The trick is to disguise it all as a coincidence. That too is an obvious emotional reaction. Humans feel unreasonably compelled to cry when things follow a predefined course of events.”

“Like an abandoned puppy in the rain?”

“Or a movie where a sick kid dies.” He spread out a map on a table below the large tent. “We could always use our numbers to perform a thorough search of Houbi Village, but if we’re going to supply some fresh fear, it has to look like we can see everything. Let’s try to make some predictions. If we concentrate on a single location, Kyousuke’s group should try to take advantage of it. And giving them a hint of hope will only increase the pain. The sense of pain recedes from a frozen hand, so we need to warm it up a little.”

“Hee hee hee.” The Queen seemed unable to hold in the laughter. “You sadist.”

“That makes two of us.”

With that, Doctor S casually dropped the tip of his knife onto the map.

And it stabbed into…

“The remains of the crater lake at the mountain peak. Let’s corner them there. With all the caves riddling the mountain like a spider web, Kyousuke’s group will think they have a chance to slip past us. Not that we’ll actually give them the opportunity.”

“What makes you so confident?”

“You must already know the answer, but fine. First of all, Kyousuke’s group has no intention of falling back. Now that he’s seen you, he’s sure to challenge you no matter how outmatched he is. That tells us how to look at this: Kyousuke is hopelessly surrounded by countless White Queens, so what hope will he try to cling to?”

“I see.”

“Since he still has Meinokawa Aoi as a vessel, he will not give up on creating that new Unexplored-class. Based on the modern translations of the Joruri Method diagrams in Azalea’s research documents, it would be difficult to create an entirely new one in a short period of time, but he should be able to expand Aoi’s body to meet his needs. That means he will try to visit a modification facility.”

And this was Houbi Village, headquarters of the Joruri Method.

Most of the village had been wiped out by the rockets and Repliglass unit, but it was highly unlikely that all of the facilities had been destroyed.

“We destroyed all of the surface structures, but if they had lab equipment hidden around as backups, those spares were likely kept in underground tunnels, ships, and RVs,” said Doctor S. “And since they haven’t been caught yet, Kyousuke’s group must have headed inward instead of outward. That further limits the possibilities.”

“Isn’t there a giant network of underground tunnels below this village?”

“Sorry, but I doubt he would use one of those.”

“?”

“Why? Because he’s Alice (with) Rabbit.”

The inhaler man breathed a muffled sigh behind the transparent mask.

And then he chuckled.

“I had completely forgotten, but this village has a fair number of residents. Whether they are aware of the Summoning Ceremony or not, that network of tunnels will be the lifeline for all of the survivors. The limit is already set at two or three days, but if we begin a more thorough search for Shiroyama Kyousuke, it will expose all those hidden people to danger. So Kyousuke will not share their living space. No matter how illogical any other option might be.”

That left only one possibility.

And the answer had already been given by the knife on the map.

“If he’s eliminated the tunnels as options, this is the most likely place: the cruise ship left behind in the dried-up crater lake. It should be big enough to hold all the necessary lab equipment. And if not, they can use the cooking equipment left in the industrial kitchen to improvise. After all, kitchen equipment and lab equipment are a lot alike.”

As twisted as their relationship was, they were still father and son.

At times like this, Doctor S and Shiroyama Kyousuke could predict each other’s actions even from a distance.

“Let the hunt begin.”

The father stared at the son’s game board and moved a piece.

Once they had a goal, the greater than 10,000 White Queens would begin to move as one. And any member of that group was powerful enough to destroy the entire galaxy.

Doctor S continued speaking as if to see what she would do.

“It’s time to overwhelm him with fear and despair. With this, your experiment can advance to the next stage, Queen.”

“Oh? You’re still making battle preparations? Isn’t having me with you enough?”

The White Queen said that because Doctor S reached for the long sheath placed on the table. No, that was not all. He also touched his vessel.

But that no longer referred to Olivia Highland.

He had readily ended that contract. She had served her purpose once she had brought him to Shiroyama Kyousuke.

He was now using his usual animal vessel. More accurately, it was an extraordinarily large Joro spider with a distinct black and yellow striped pattern. Except a great many of them were lined up, each in their own bug cage.

In this case, the phrase “palm-sized” did not bring to mind a small size or sense of comfort. This was far too bizarre for that.

But at the same time, spiders were a beneficial bug and some folklore had them as the targets of jinxes.

And if the inborn talent of a vessel was hard to come by, then you only had to increase the denominator. If you wanted a surefire method to obtain a one-in-a-billion talent, you only had to search through a billion people. A spider’s egg sac would contain tens of thousands of lives. From there, you could use Mendelian cross-breeding by taking the specimens with slightly greater traits as a vessel, placing them in the same bug cage, and adjusting the temperature and humidity to fake the seasonal cycle. That let you repeat the generational cycle in a short period of time.

Doing this with humans would be frowned upon, but the hurdle was much lower for other life forms.

Just like researchers could do live experiments with rats even if human experimentation would not be immediately possible.

That wise and sensible man had learned his lesson.

Not all experiments needed to use humans. Using Shiroyama Kyousuke too much had worn the boy out and caused all sorts of problems. The self-proclaimed “professional” summoners who claimed to be entirely immersed in the underside of the world would apparently let their human side show fairly easily. As long as it did not interfere with their own interests anyway.

“Oh, dear. I see there is no lovely trust between us whatsoever.”

“This is the digitally-calculated answer. I do not want a single vessel with exceptional talent or specs backed by willpower. It’s simply inefficient to use the human species. The short lifespan is a bottleneck when it comes to bugs, but if I maintain an environment in which I can always scoop up the next specimen from the large denominator, I can always have a stable supply.”

No matter what, they were always a target of observation and an experiment animal.

In a way, the relationship between researcher and specimen was an absolute one.

As Doctor S casually spoke with the White Queen, he opened the lid to one of the many bug cages. The large spider deftly used its long legs to crawl out, onto the back of his hand, and up his arm to his shoulder.

Perhaps for ease of observation, each of the bug cages was given two numbers. One number for the row and one for the column. And the form those numbers took could not have been simpler:

“Block 7 House 12.”

The clear inhaler man recited it in a singsong voice.

He also increased the oxygen level and tightened the air pressure tubes in his riding suit to increase his brain activity.

“Block 7 House 12, hm? It would probably be best to use the ones around here for the next round of cross-breeding.”

Yes.

They sounded just like the addresses of perfectly normal homes.

Part 7[edit]

Even if the world did not revolve around them, the others still had to fight for their lives.

“Crap, crap, crap, crap…”

In this case, it was the black-haired shrine maiden named Meinokawa Renge.

She had already experienced Bridesmaid’s insanity back in Toy Dream 35. Rockets had poured down like rain, but she had avoided a lethal injury by escaping into her home’s ice room and into the vast network of underground tunnels. However, things had not ended there. The soldiers in control of the village would notice the absence of corpses and they had to be finding the entrances to the tunnels.

Houbi Village’s tunnels had become a deadly dungeon.

Turning the corner and finding a summoner or Repliglass soldier could bring a quick end to your life. Renge was a professional summoner in Freedom, but this had progressed too far for that to matter.

It was the Queen.

The White Queen was wandering around.

And not just one or two of her. A great swarm of them inundated the village like zombies. To make matters even more frightening, they were all residents of Houbi Village. These same people had greeted her and shared leftover food with her until now. But as soon as they were grabbed, dragged down, surrounded, and bitten by the Queens’ canine teeth, they became the same. Renge had yet to fully process this.

The one blessing was how little interest they showed in her. No matter what might happen, that monster was only interested in Shiroyama Kyousuke.

She did not care if anyone mocked her as a coward.

But in these extreme circumstances, simply taking her twin sister with her and keeping her lungs and heart moving was a major accomplishment.

“R-Renge, will we be safe here?”

“Shh.”

“And I’m hungry…”

Doing a bit of research in books or on the internet would tell you that humans could live for several days on nothing but water and that stranded people would not starve on the very first day, but that all assumed they were in an ordinary condition. A situation on the verge of death would greatly shake your autonomic nerves and biological functions. When in a state of extreme exhaustion, it was not uncommon for people to quickly lose the ability to keep walking and for no amount of water to soothe their dry throat.

Black-haired Renge and blonde Higan wore zori sandals[1]. and white tabi socks[2] which were not at all suited for outdoor use and they soon arrived at the large underground lake that altered the currents and dampness that kept people away from the sacred ground. The complex tunnels with plenty of blind spots were certainly frightening, but wide open areas were also a problem. They of course had to check behind large rocks and in the deep shadows, but they also had to look up at the limestone cave’s ceiling to thoroughly ensure their safety. After all, they were up against the White Queen and she could be hiding anywhere.

(It’s safe…isn’t it?)

Renge gulped.

“Higan, there’s a shelter hut on the edge of this lake. Let’s use this opportunity to get some blankets and food, okay?”

“Uuuh… Finally, some food…”

Finally? You just ate at lunchtime, you old granny. Renge wanted to make that complaint, but Higan’s condition did not seem normal. That concerned Renge whose artificial body moved as accurately as a clock’s hands. They looked just like twins, but she began to wonder if she could never be human in any meaningful sense.

But regardless.

They had no idea if it would be any help in their bright red and white shrine maiden outfits, but they crouched low and moved quickly along the edge of the lake. They soon arrived at a small wooden shelter hut that resembled a small shrine. It was meant to help in case the cave collapsed or someone was buried alive on the sightseeing course. Renge opened the double doors and looked inside.

“Some of it’s gone, but this should be enough. Did someone visit here ahead of us? What do you think, Higan? Higan???”

There was no response.

Renge quickly turned around and found the familiar blonde girl was not there, so she ran out of the hut.

“Uuuh…”

Higan was curled up by the edge of the lake and she scooped up some of the water in her hands like she could not wait any longer.

“Wait, stop! There are water bottles you can drink!!”

Renge frantically grabbed Higan’s hands and made her dump out the water.

The water might look clean, but the amount of germs in it could not be judged by eye. Even famous regional water was processed before it was sold. Taking a bath might be fine, but you had to be careful when drinking it. Higan was already under a lot of psychological stress with those monstrous Queens wandering around and if she was taken out by food poisoning, their odds of survival dropped even further. Plus, Higan’s situation was bad enough already if she was so hungry she felt the need to fill her stomach with water.

“Here, Higan. I’d rather not light a fire here, but they have bread and biscuits that don’t need to be cooked.”

“This is enough for me…”

“Don’t say that. Higan, you really liked the canned food when the typhoon came through, remember? You said that was your only chance to eat things like that. Now let’s go check inside the shelter hut.”

Renge tried to forcibly cheer her sister up and then pulled her to her feet.

At that very moment, she noticed something on the path to the shelter hut. She had not noticed it before, but there was no way she would have overlooked something like this when she was so on edge that the stains on the walls looked like faces to her.

Which meant…

(Huh? Did it wash up???)

The lake did not have waves as large as the ocean, but it was different from the water in a wash basin. Since water flowed in and flowed out, there were some waves which washed in and out at the edge. So had this been floating on the surface or sunk at the bottom of the lake until it was finally washed up here?

It looked like a thick and bent piece of driftwood.

But it was oddly white for a tree branch.

And it drew an alluring curve.

“R-Renge…”

“Higan?”

“Is that…?”

The blonde sister trembled and rubbed her hands against her shrine maiden outfit. Almost like she was trying to rub off some kind of strange impurity. Almost like she had touched something she should not have.

But Higan had only touched the clear lake water.

They had no idea how many germs it contained, but it at least looked clean.

“Is that…? Renge, is that…!?”

“…”

Guided by her sister’s pale face, Renge turned her head again. And she once more viewed the driftwood washed up a short distance away.

No.

That object with five points sticking out from the end was…

“Urp!?”

Part 8[edit]

Things were set in motion at around 11 PM.

“I can see multiple light sources on the satellite feed. They’re probably torches,” said Aika via Kyousuke’s smartphone. “The hunt has begun, Onii-chan. Are they avoiding IR goggles because machines are weak against Incense Grenades?”

“It’s also possible they have a group in goggles mixed into the darkness between those obvious lights.”

“…”

Biondetta made that observation, but Kyousuke did not reply.

He considered a different possibility.

“Meinokawa Aoi.”

“I injected the Jewel Blood into my body, but what about the Anti-Queen Material!? I doubt they’ll just wait around for you to finish if you start your cooking class now!!”

The silver-haired shrine maiden fixed the collar on the swollen chest of her clothing while she observed the lab equipment in the kitchen. They had completed the Jewel Blood, so none of it was in use. Did she think they could use those mysteries of life for another project now?

“Let’s review what we need to do.” Kyousuke sighed. “First and foremost, we can’t let the group of infected White Queens catch us. They’ll just force their way through any kind of fortifications, so holing up in this ship wouldn’t be a good idea.”

“To know which Queen to defeat, we need to identify the permanently-summoned one acting as the core,” said Biondetta. “To do that, we need to cause a certain amount of damage to the fortress temple Bridesmaid has constructed across Houbi Village. Then we find the Queen that ‘blurs’.”

Bridesmaid had likely also constructed a temple at the bottom of the ocean in preparation for their attack, but they could ignore that for now. If that had been enough for the full-power, permanently-summoned Queen and the infected ones, they would not have had to mess with Houbi Village in the first place.

It was possible that everything on the surface was an elaborate decoy, but that was going too far out of their way. For one thing, the term “temple” never would have come to mind without seeing it through the Government satellite. A decoy was useless if the mistaken answer was not easy to find. That would be like placing a frigate directly above a submarine you wanted to hide in the ocean.

“And I guess it goes without saying, but we need to construct your trump card!” added Aoi. “No matter which one we’re talking about, the Queen is the Queen. Facing her head-on without a proper plan will only get us killed!!”

They did not have time to go through it all one step at a time. They would be surrounded by White Queens before they finished.

So they needed to create a powerful current.

They had to construct a bold shortcut that allowed them to clear several hurdles with a single action.

And there was one way of doing that.

“Biondetta.”

“Yes.”

“Select some ingredients from the kitchen supplies. Because of the environment we’re in here, you are guaranteed to choose the right answer assuming there is a right answer there. So you just have to reach into the lottery box and we can complete our toy without delay. Let’s make this interesting.”

“Yes, sir!!”

Part 9[edit]

The hunt continued as a great many infected Queens with identical specs clogged up all of the mountain paths. What was the first step needed to escape from here and begin their counterattack?

This was their answer:

Biondetta used her specialty to blow up the ground below the cruise ship.

She had only needed to destroy a small piece sticking out.

The ship had been caught on the mountain slope, so it quickly picked up speed in a deadly slide.

Part 10[edit]

Once Kyousuke’s group felt the power of inertia in a different way than a pure fall, they began the descent on the world’s largest surfboard.

The hunt had them completely surrounded, but the hunters had generally been following the routes up the mountain to prevent anyone from descending. By ignoring those existing routes and heading straight down a steep slope, they could slip right past those hunters.

And the cruise ship descending the slope was far heavier and faster than a crane’s wrecking ball. Even if they were built to military standards, the structures larger than harbor warehouses were only synthetic tents. They would be easily destroyed when something like this slammed into them.

After that, they only had to let Aika from Government watch the satellite feed to see which White Queen first blurred from the noise of the destruction. That would be the permanently-summoned one that acted as a core for all the others.

“Ahhh hah hahhhh!! Bravoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!”

Biondetta was out on the deck with her white snake and she released a cry from the bottom of her gut while the wind whipped at her long hair and miniskirt.

Kyousuke and Meinokawa Aoi soon stepped out into the open air as well.

They felt the ship’s movement shift a bit.

At the moment, they would end up choosing the successful possibility if there was one, but that was only true when the choices of others were not involved. That shift meant the enemy was approaching.

The cruise ship had escaped the enemy which surrounded them in multiple layers like tree rings, but it was not over yet. The lines of burning torches quickly changed to a battle formation and sharply pursued the ship. If this had been daytime and the mountain paths had been visible, everyone who saw it would have been left speechless. That trajectory entirely ignored the mountain’s terrain, so it was only possible for the White Queen who could run along a vertical wall.

“Broootherrr…”

“Ee hee hee, ah ha ha.”

“Shall I join you, broootherrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!?”

The ship descended the steep slope with even more speed than the average car, but the gathering of flames was already running alongside the giant surfboard. At this rate, they would be on the deck at any moment.

Of course, the White Queen already reigned at the peak of the peak, so there was no chance of defeating her by building up a Material with the Summoning Ceremony.

However.

“Oh, here we are. Brace for impact!!”

Just as Biondetta shouted that with her tail decoration swishing back and forth, the ship arrived at the foot of the mountain.

It continued on, crashed through more and more of the harbor warehouse tents, and tore them apart. That fortress had seemed to repaint the terrain and that was the foundation of Bridesmaid’s method for summoning the White Queen, but that temple structure was smashed to pieces.

“Aika!! Scan all of Houbi Village!!”

“You know how to locate the Queen and I will act as the artificial vessel,” said Meinokawa Aoi. “But what about the crucial Anti-Queen Material!? You cannot fire a gun without a bullet!!”

“I have a plan.”

“I’m asking about the specifics of that-…!!”

Aoi trailed off as Kyousuke calmly moved his lips.

“The preparations have already been made.”

The boy pulled a metal can the size of a hairspray can from his pants pocket. An Incense Grenade. It was hard to imagine that Shiroyama Kyousuke of all people would make a meaningless action at this point. He could not hope to match the White Queen by building a normal Material up from scratch. There was only one way he could expect to win while alongside modified Meinokawa Aoi.

He pulled the pin and threw it.

The eternal five-second wait began.

“You…mean…”

The silver-haired shrine maiden was dumbfounded.

“You mean…you had completed the Unexplored-class trump card before even arriving in Houbi Village!?”

He did not need to answer.

Instead, he raised his voice.

“Clench your teeth, Meinokawa Aoi!!”

If that already existed, he only had to use his Blood-Sign to knock the Petals into the Spots in order. No matter how powerful the White Queen was, she was still a Material. Her attacks could tear white holes in the world itself and that could eliminate the Spots, but as long as he kept that in mind, he could manipulate the Petals as he saw fit.

This was his field now.

Even if the infected Queens gathered on the ship, he had developed this Unexplored-class for precisely this purpose. Once he successfully summoned that, he would have the foundation for a Chain. He could begin a wondrous scenario in which he defeated Queen after Queen until he reached the permanently-summoned Queen in the center.

And.

And.

And.

The Incense Grenade detonated. The incense mixed specifically for him swiftly scattered out and established the 20m cube of the Artificial Sacred Ground.

This was the end.

He had embedded his Unexplored-class in the other world. He had the artificial vessel needed for it.

Even if all of the Three had raised the white flag…

Even if every other human adored her, feared her, and had ultimately given up…

He would not stop here.

This was not enough to hinder Shiroyama Kyousuke.

The only remaining task was searching out the permanently-summoned Queen. This was not a pessimistic search in which he located the source of the threat to keep his distance. It was an offensive search in which he marched across the wide world to reach that location and accurately crush it.

Aim.

Lock on.

She was no longer the absolute peak of the peak. Nothing remained the strongest forever. She was only his prey and she could be pursued and hunted down if he went through the necessary steps.

This time. This time humanity would complete its counterattack. The colorless Unexplored-class constructed only from the vowels and built up specifically for use against the White Queen would sweep aside the infected ones and smash the central White Queen.

Or so it should have been.

But in that very moment, Shiroyama Kyousuke felt a hopeless chill run down his spine.

It took an instant.

Truly only an instant.

A pure white attack forcibly ripped off Shiroyama Kyousuke’s right arm.

And it had come from the vessel standing behind him.

A dark red liquid gushed out of his hoodie’s torn sleeve and he looked back before the pain signals could reach his brain.

Time seemed to freeze and a splitting smile filled his vision.

The right arm spun through the air while still holding his Repliglass Blood-Sign.

And she spoke as if whispering to him by his pillow.

“Did you think I couldn’t possibly be a living thing if my head came off?”

That lookalike was identical to the White Queen.

When he had first encountered her, the resemblance had been so perfect it had made his skin crawl.

“Did you think that surely – surely! – I wouldn’t open up my own chest and replace my organs with artificial ones just to play with you for a bit?”

Time was not infinite.

With far too light a sound, the severed arm landed fist-first on the ship’s deck.

There was only one possible answer.

Meinokawa Aoi, the vessel contracted with Kyousuke, put on a horrifyingly twisted smile and announced it for him.

Fwa ha ha!! But you had to have known dismantling my body isn’t enough to kill me! Right, brother?

Part 11[edit]

It was a simple matter.

An extremely simple matter.

The double blonde braid girl’s face lit up and she leaned forward. She showed no concern for the slender bodylines visible through her school swimsuit or the small butt visible below her miniskirt and pareo.

“Oh, Queen! You finally decided to reveal it?”

“That’s right! I was actually the White Queen☆ Tah dah! Sigh, so I can finally talk like normal again. That was partially to get in character as that piece of junk, but I was also concerned some small idiosyncrasy would clue you in.”

The demon dressed as a shrine maiden giggled at the girl’s idolizing voice, smiled at her like she was her beloved daughter, and raised her index finger.

What was it Olivia had said with that light pink rose decoration on her chest?

“Boo. If you were always like this, you wouldn’t have to fight with the White Queen.”

What had she been looking at when she said that?

What had she felt while watching those two approaching and relying on each other?

“It is true Bridesmaid’s fortress was laid out exactly like a temple to summon me. …But that doesn’t mean it was used to summon me.

The shrine maiden devil’s tone was light as she worked at her long hair.

She gathered it on either side and formed those lovely twintails.

It made sense that the reproduction had been so spot-on.

It had actually been her.

“I was summoned earlier than that. And I traded places with that ornament named Meinokawa Aoi.”

“…!!”

“Oh, dear. Your face is so very pale. But please don’t faint. One of my objectives here was to set up an environment in which you must rely on me, brother. That was the entire purpose of Bridesmaid’s attack and the infected Queens. The only way out of this is to rely on the new Unexplored-class you constructed and I have placed myself by your side as the one-and-only special vessel capable of summoning it. Heh heh. You need my help to kill me; isn’t that such a wonderfully twisted setup?”

Sweat poured down Kyousuke’s body and he staggered to the side.

But more than fear or pain, it was doubt in his gaze.

The shrine maiden Queen picked up on that and answered with a know-it-all look on her face.

“You want to know if a Material like me can really function as a vessel? Hee hee hee. Have you forgotten, brother!? The Yellow Gills is merely one of the Three and thus ranked below me, but she once reigned as the strongest Freedom summoner under the name Perfect Equilibrium. Besides, a human changes sides after reaching Award 1000, so the distinction between us has always been rather vague. …And more importantly, I can throw out all of those rules if I want. There is nothing I can’t do. Right, brother?”

Every time they grew further cornered and the density of despair grew, Kyousuke was forced to rely on a grand technique for an immediate reversal. And unbeknownst to him, the White Queen had set it up that way so he would have to rely on her more and more.

Even the presence of Doctor S, Kyousuke’s biological father who awaited him in the underside of the world, had been no more than part of the illusionist’s technique.

There was no force greater than the White Queen. So normally thinking, she would not need a summoner, no matter how skilled they might be. She had nevertheless worked with Bridesmaid because she had wanted to place an obvious enemy in the cast to keep him from focusing too much on Meinokawa Aoi.

“Nowww, I have taken away your special vessel and the dominant arm you need to use the Blood-Sign Summoning Ceremony in the first place.”

She giggled as a lovely smile wickedly spread across her face like it was tearing her cheeks apart.

No checkmate could be more complete.

She softly placed her hands on either side of her flushed and thoroughly melted face as a tremor ran down her spine.

“What options are left for you? Surely, surely this isn’t enough for you to raise the white flag. Yes, if you say you have no option but to surrender, it will be time for the world’s most enjoyable beatdown as I make a delicious meal out of you!!”

There was nothing he could do.

All of his trump cards had been taken from him and the cruise ship was surrounded by a swarm of infected Queens.

Any one of those strongest of the strongest possessed hopeless power and he was entirely surrounded.

There was simply no way he could win.

However, he said something else:

BloodSign v07 303.jpg

I had a feeling that’s what this was.

The ship continued to slide across the ground, but time definitely stopped.

Something odd had happened.

“Everything about this had to be connected. Ever since the initial attack on the train, I was stuck with the same odd feeling that I was following some kind of preset rails. And when I ran across Olivia Highland and the rocket attack, it became clear that human willpower could ignore coincidental phenomena…that is, as long as you had the willpower, you were guaranteed to win a lottery. So why did Bridesmaid set that up and what were they hoping to have me complete using my willpower? The answer was obvious: they were supporting the construction of Meinokawa Aoi. And at the same time, Bridesmaid only ever thinks about one thing: the White Queen. That meant they had constructed this coincidence-altering world in accordance with the Queen’s will. So turning Meinokawa Aoi into a special vessel and manipulating coincidence to gather the necessary pieces were the Queen’s objectives that those worshipers were carrying out for her. What other conclusion could I reach?”

His supposedly severed right arm grew out of his sleeve.

No…

“Brother, you mean…?”

“I knew this would happen, so I had a different arm in my sleeve. You already know what it was you tore off, don’t you? I have to admit, the Joruri Method really is well made. I mean, it fooled you.”

Kyousuke’s expression remained unchanged.

It did not change even in front of the White Queen.

Also, an Incense Grenade was only useful if it detonated while viewing the target with the naked eye. Then what target had Kyousuke been viewing?

“I’ll admit I kept the information on my trump cards relatively hidden. And that left you feeling nervous and uneasy, didn’t it?”

“Brother, I know this won’t accomplish anything, but I suppose I will still ask: when did you figure it out…?”

“This is nothing worth praising me over. I was of two minds on this the entire time. I kept thinking ‘surely not’ and ‘it couldn’t be’. First of all, you maintained your memories of me even before the contract. Like when you moved out of sight to change. But I still had my doubts: could that be because she’s a Joruri Method? So just to be sure, I kept the crucial information hidden while hoping beyond hope that it wasn’t true. My heart is still weak. …But the first time I clearly questioned it was probably when you were playing with those kids in the river.”

“Playing…in the river?”

“You made a water gun with your hands, remember? There are a lot of regional variations, so you can tell where someone learned their technique. Hey, Queen, wasn’t that the method I taught you back in the Miniature Garden? At the Pool of Tears.”

“Tch!!”

“And even if you have taken the position of Meinokawa Aoi, it isn’t over yet. That doesn’t actually eliminate the Unexplored-class designed for use against you. This isn’t a problem as long as I can acquire a replacement vessel. Meaning…”

He held something in his regrown right hand…no, in the real one hidden inside his clothing.

It was a glass container about the size of a relay baton. It was filled with a beautiful red liquid that could be mistaken for a melted ruby.

That was the Jewel Blood.

“This all changes if I can make another one. What we needed here was to locate the permanently-summoned Queen that acts as a core for the infected Queens. We needed to find that one out of a group of ten or twenty thousand. While, of course, maintaining an environment in which we could supply a finishing blow using our new Material.”

There was an odd sound much like the breaking of a thin metal blade.

There was no visible phenomenon.

But that sound indicated that Kyousuke had broken his contract with Meinokawa Aoi…no, with the White Queen.

And even after casting her aside, he still had a vessel girl by his side:

Olivia Highland.

All destiny in this world was under the White Queen’s control. But Shiroyama Kyousuke’s willpower had still managed to gather that crystallization of an old, old bond.

His odds of victory were not zero.

So he spoke.

“Thanks, Queen. It really helped that you were even dumber than I had imagined.”

Secret Document Concerning Kingdom F 03[edit]

Where does the F in Kingdom F come from?

Where is Kingdom F located in Eastern Europe?

In what year was Kingdom F founded?


Surprisingly, the residents of Kingdom F are mostly unaware that the answers to those questions are not common knowledge.

Now, can you answer them?

Entire kingdoms are often viewed that way when there is an ocean between you and them. If it is not a superpower like America or Russia, then even if it is helping move the complexly intertwined gears of the world, not many people can keep track of exactly what gears are connected to their everyday lives. In fact, if you can do that, you should start calling yourself an economic analyst and try your hand at stock and futures trading.

There is nothing to feel ashamed about.

It is only natural you know nothing about Kingdom F.

That is the normal reaction.

But of course, there is a reason why information on Kingdom F does not get out. Unlike the past, the world has grown smaller. At this point, there is little you cannot investigate if you feel like it. So if there was no reason for it, it would be strange for no focus to fall on Kingdom F. A major search engine has launched countless communication satellites and a major online shopping site is attempting to reach every corner of the planet with drones. If there is an unnaturally empty field in the records of this highly digitized society, there must be a reason for it.

Then what is that reason?

Surprisingly, the answer is something else the residents of Kingdom F do not know.

Facts[edit]

  • Doctor S is Kyousuke’s biological father, but there are questions concerning his past. It is possible he was researching a way of stably producing Kyousuke-level summoners in a normal household environment. It also seems Kyousuke had a mother and little sister, but he cannot recall any information on them as if their faces are blotted out.
  • Doctors S is motivated not by curiosity but by his desire to conquer his fear by thoroughly investigating the structure and mysteries of the White Queen. It is much like the desire to safely enjoy the greatest thrill ride.
  • To maintain a stable supply of rare vessels, Doctor S has increased the denominator. He is currently experimenting in raising a large number of Joro spiders and cross-breeding the most talented ones. If he can consistently eliminate the below average or average ones, he will consider it a success.
  • Kyousuke and Biondetta had completed the anti-White Queen Unexplored-class before arriving in Houbi Village. Kyousuke’s request to Lu Niang Lan was to dispose of the biolab he had used for that.
  • Meinokawa Aoi was the actual White Queen, not just a lookalike. The Queen was trying to place herself as the one-and-only countermeasure so that she could eliminate that method.
  • High-level Materials can mimic both summoners and vessels.
  • Kyousuke was aware of this risk and secretly created a false hand and some artificial blood to fool her.
  • It is not over yet. Olivia holds the key to the conflict between Kyousuke and the Queen.


Notes and References[edit]

  1. A type of traditional Japanese sandal with sole made of straw.
  2. A type of traditional Japanese socks, worn with zori.
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