The Unexplored Summon Blood Sign:Volume8 Chapter3
Stage 03: Extraterrestrial Battle Against Intelligent Life
“W-wow… Is she obeying your commands…?”
(Stage 03 Open 08/04 12:05 “UTC+09 Tokyo time”)
Extraterrestrial Battle Against Intelligent Life
After being fired from the submarine’s vertical electromagnetic tube, the mass driver shell had finally left the scorching atmosphere.
It arrived in a pitch-black world with an unobstructed starry sky.
Down below was a blue scene one would never see in life on the surface. It was strange for the sky to be located below you, but both Kyousuke and Boy A did not seem to care.
Blood-Signs flashed and the sharply-launched White Thorns knocked away several red Petals.
Yes, inside that vacuum, they had planted their feet on the side of a cylinder measuring more than 10 meters tall and they were holding a deadly Summoning Ceremony battle.
The Illegal leader with eyes hidden by ruler-like sunglasses was laughing so hard he could barely breathe.
“Ee hee hah!! God, we’re scary! Humans are just scary as hell!! I made the surprise attack this time, but you can still keep up with me, Kyousuke-chan!?”
Kyousuke had dropped an Incense Grenade on the shell’s floor when the door had burst open. That meant the Artificial Sacred Ground had used the floor as its base surface, not the outer side.
So what had happened?
Needless to say, a new surface would not be established unless the old one had been destroyed. The repeated clashes were causing the shell itself to fall apart as it flew along its ballistic course.
Their Materials had already passed the Divine-class and reached the Unexplored-class.
For Olivia: Unexplored-class. Cost: 17. Sound Range: High.
The Liquefying Predator who Covers All With Rainbow Colors (hb – e – wuz – vc – a – weq – ei – lvz).
A translucent liquid that glittered like the surface of a CD formed a beautiful woman with the perfectly balanced proportions of a Greek sculpture. She swung her long ponytail side to side and she was actually a predator composed entirely out of digestive fluids.
For the red fallen angel: Unexplored-class. Cost: 18. Sound Range: Low.
The Bizarre Gray Mollusk Who Swims the Starry Ocean (en – a – hf – ei – ja – o – cd – to – jok).
She looked like an immodestly nude girl, but from the waist down, she was made up of giant octopus legs that had a dull leaden shine. Those tentacles would extend, constrict, crush, and pull the target into her body. Those countless sucker-covered legs robbed her prey of all freedom and carried them to the deadly chewing at her center.
…At first glance, it looked like War Criminal had the advantage in both Cost and Sound Range, but a closer look at the situation changed that view. Short-haired Boy A liked to use Materials closely connected to sin and betrayal, but Shiroyama Kyousuke had driven the top of Illegal to the point that he could no longer play around like that.
The two Unexplored-classes repeatedly clashed on the side of the thick cylinder.
The beautiful woman made of translucent slime extended her arms and sacrificed her own volume to fire an ultra-high-pressure beam. The mollusk girl wriggled her countless legs to move along a seemingly impossible path that dodged the beam and went in for a cross-counter, but the slime woman was no longer there. She had launched all of her volume as a beam and that beam coiled around to form the feminine silhouette on the other side. That allowed her to move around with something similar to a wire shot.
Kyousuke was aware of something while he viewed the battlefield and prepared a White Thorn at the tip of his Blood-Sign.
Their footing was poor.
This was taking too long.
When the octopus legs missed their mark, they would tear into the mass driver shell, sending countless cracks running through it. Fire-and-forget mass driver shells were sturdier than rockets for which fuel composed the majority of their mass, but that only went so far. The cylinder fell apart in no time and their base surface was lost.
It was hard to tell with the Artificial Sacred Ground in effect, but they were in the weightlessness of outer space.
With no ground or air, there was no friction. And thus there were no brakes. The countless fragments maintained their momentum and scattered out like a shotgun blast. Kyousuke hopped onto one fragment like it was a surfboard to establish a new Artificial Sacred Ground, but…
<Wh-wh-wh-wh-what are we going to do, Onii-chan!? If we fly off toward the ends of the universe, we can never get back! Plus, the protective circle only lasts 10 minutes!!>
“Not a problem.”
It was just as Kyousuke replied without batting an eye that he saw it.
He saw a special structure with several supporting pillars sticking perpendicularly out from a giant central pillar. And those supporting pillars had several thin panels sticking perpendicularly into them. Those were solar panels. The overall silhouette resembled the letter H, but the many branches and leaves connected together at right angles to form square frames of varying sizes made it also look like a fish pond.
Needless to say, this was their destination: Toy Dream OP-01 space station.
<We’re going to hit it, Onii-chan!?>
“That’s exactly what we want to do.”
At what Mach speed were Kyousuke and Boy A travelling in that moment?
Then the scatter shot slammed into the space station.
The many solar panels shattered as Kyousuke and the others broke into the station’s central pillar.
The protective circle was still providing its wonderful effects.
After breaking through the station’s outer wall, climbing inside, and resetting the base surface as the floor inside, Kyousuke did not have a scratch on him.
And that was the limit.
The 10 minute timer had expired.
Particles of light burst as the Artificial Sacred Ground and protective circle scattered. The summoner could stand on the walls or the ceiling while they fought, but that effect vanished and Kyousuke’s bangs floated up. He was surrounded by the strange sensation of weightlessness.
Olivia returned to being a small girl and spun around in the air.
“Awa, awa, awa, awa!! A-air! Oxygen!!”
“Olivia, the cup attached that tube is a zero-g toilet for the astronauts.”
“Eh? This is a toilet? Uuh…it’s coming back now that I can relax…”
After protecting the princess’s first kiss at the last second, Kyousuke looked to the large hole they had broken through. The space station contained pressurized artificial air, which included the necessary oxygen, so breaking through the outer wall should have caused everything to be sucked out as if by a giant vacuum cleaner like in the movies, but that did not happen. Something like thick plastic had covered the hole. The inner wall’s wallpaper was made to tear away, so if that “cinematic vacuum cleaner effect” did occur, it would automatically cover the hole like a bunch of fallen leaves clogging up a drain.
(I guess everyone does it the same way. I have heard that every country’s spaceships and space stations end up the same because there’s no room for unnecessary decorations in space development… In that case, I shouldn’t have trouble searching the place without knowing the layout.)
They had started with only 10 minutes to work with.
And they had made a hole-in-one on the Toy Dream OP-01 space station. He had done it by keeping the battle going and intentionally not letting the battle end before they arrived. That had been the only way Kyousuke could think of to keep not just him and Olivia alive, but War Criminal and his vessel as well.
Whether it was meant to increase her suggestiveness or her embarrassment, the enemy vessel wore a pure white bunny suit with a tailcoat-like vest. She also had just the one dark-red swan wing. Despite her apparel, she was a book girl with almost no sense of presence. Currently, she was sitting on the station floor, holding the summoner’s head to her surprisingly large chest, and glaring at Kyousuke and Olivia.
The Boy A in the ruler-like sunglasses had passed out in his vessel’s arms.
“Not too surprising. You two were exposed to all that water pressure and air friction before you gained the protective circle from the Summoning Ceremony. You seem to have diverted as much of the fluid as you could with that wing, but you couldn’t reduce it to zero. To be honest, it’s a mystery how you survived at all. He needs treatment ASAP.”
The obedient-looking girl with her wavy reddish-chestnut hair tied back in two bunches desperately shook her head while holding the summoner even tighter.
The bunny ears did not come off even when she was moving so violently in zero-g, so they must have been attached in some special fashion. ….Or were the ears part of the modifications to her body?
Did she speak so intermittently due to spending so long only speaking with a single person?
“I won’t let…anyone touch him. I know how to do it. I don’t need your help. I won’t let you…do anything!!”
After having her say, the vessel girl pulled a vial from the chest of her white outfit. It was smaller than one for eye drops.
Was it meant to wake him up in emergencies?
A clear liquid danced within.
“…Don’t worry. I’ll take away the pain…”
She removed the cap, struggled to get the drug out in zero-g since it balled up like a pearl inside, and finally got it into her mouth.
With a glance toward Kyousuke and Olivia, she seemed to shake something from her mind, touched Boy A’s cheeks to adjust the position of his jaw, shut her eyes, and placed her lips on his.
Kyousuke spoke her name, but then a question occurred to him.
Don’t worry. I’ll take away the pain.
If that drug was meant to wake him up, it would do quite the opposite. That would only bring the pain back.
Then what had those words meant?
Or rather, what was that drug in the vial?
A moment later, a strangely dark red drop of liquid escaped from between their lips.
“Dammit!!” shouted Kyousuke as he grabbed his Blood-Sign again and pressed his back against the wall.
Needless to say, this was to negate the recoil in the zero-g environment. He was trying throw the tip of Blood-Sign sharply toward the vessel girl like a spear, but…
A dull sound rang out.
While the book girl closed her eyes and sent every last drop of the drug down the summoner’s throat, the dark-red wing on her back knocked Kyousuke’s Blood-Sign from the air.
With her bodily modifications, she had the advantage in a normal battle that did not use the Summoning Ceremony. And the zero-g environment did not allow for standard martial arts that produced force from the movement of body weight. Here, the girl could produce deadly force with a single swing of that solid wing.
With her eyes closed, the girl extended her slender arms and held out the dark-red wing toward Kyousuke and Olivia as a warning. Was this really according to Boy A’s wishes? She restrained his wrists as they wriggled like independent serpents.
The pulse of life was gradually fading.
After savoring the final convulsion, the fallen angel finally removed her soft lips from someone as motionless as a cicada shell. She held her shoulders, a tremor ran down her spine, and she basked in some kind of guilty feeling. Illegal’s leader twirled through empty air and crashed back-first into the wall, but there was no weight to him.
That short-haired Boy A had said she was his childhood friend.
The girl looked like someone else entirely as she twisted her lips into a smile that glistened red with his blood.
“…You’re kidding…right? Why…?”
Olivia was pale and dumbfounded and the alluring girl carrying the scent of death replied in an oddly flat voice while her surprisingly large breasts rose and fell.
“Do I need a reason…? Is seeing what he did to me…not enough?”
“Your summoner called it the eye of the storm, didn’t he? He was right. I have been waiting for so long to be saved from that safest location. If I didn’t do it now, I might not have had another chance. I can finally leave the cabin and descend from the stormy mountain.”
She had once been his childhood friend.
But perhaps that was exactly why.
Kyousuke had seen love transformed into hatred before. That would create a hatred much deeper and heavier than from someone who had hated you from the beginning.
“What are you going to do now?”
“Follow the precedent.”
The vessel responded with a distant, emotionless voice while her large breasts floated in the weightlessness.
Had she already thought about what to do? Was that all she had been thinking about for a long, long time?
“Criminal organizations are a retaliatory society, but I will leave that society. Lu Niang Lan was warmly welcomed by Illegal because she killed the king of Government, so I just have to take his head to some other group. I’ve thought this through. I’ll be fine. Yes, I’ll be fine…”
It sounded like she had thought about it, but she had not.
Kyousuke breathed a heavy sigh as he pictured the outlines of her thoughts.
…She was just like the War Criminal Boy A who she had hated more than anyone. She may have thought she had outwitted him, but this left tragedy for both of them. It felt like looking into the past of the world’s worst serial killers and finding that they too had been abused when they were young.
Shiroyama Kyousuke thought about what had happened here.
Olivia must not have liked the weightlessness because she clung to his hoodie like it was a lifeline.
“O-Onii-chan. What do we do with her…?”
Even if she had that red-dyed swan wing, they could settle things with her in an instant by throwing an Incense Grenade. She was only a vessel, so she could not summon a Material.
But Kyousuke shook his head.
He had already used two on the way here. His supply was running low.
And more importantly…
“The damage has to have spread to several parts of the space station. The automated repairs are only treating the symptoms, so they only buy some time. Leaving her here would only doom her to float through space when the station falls apart. …We’ll take her with us.”
The girl in a pure white bunny suit slowly tilted her head.
She had been left behind by the proper flow of time, so she may not have cared one way or the other. She wanted to live and she wanted to survive, but she did not seem to have considered what it was she wanted to do with her life.
That poison girl showed no sign of resisting or attacking as she let her body go oddly limp and simply let her hair and breasts float in the zero-g environment. She, Kyousuke, and Olivia viewed the space station once more. She must have no longer cared about the simple tote bag or its contents. The Incense Grenades that looked like fat-ended clubs were simply floating free in the weightlessness.
Olivia pushed her head in between Kyousuke and the poison girl to push them apart and use her own body as some kind of shield.
“No one showed up even after all this noise, Onii-chan.”
“And I haven’t heard a single alarm even though the airtight wall was breached and the artificial air leaked out. The station is probably unmanned at the moment.”
“Ehh? But aren’t space stations expensive? Wouldn’t they have some kind of manager here?”
“They can have work robots handle the maintenance and inspections these days.”
Although since it was filled with artificial air and contained an astronaut toilet, they must have maintained a habitable environment at all times.
They had come here to destroy Toy Dream’s System Atlantis VFX production machine in order to prevent the Blue Film from pushing public opinion toward accepting the war. Each episode was 10 minutes for less than an hour in all. They had to stop the distribution of those videos or else that short runtime would change history.
They made their way down a corridor not so much by walking on the floor as by pushing on the wall to propel themselves backwards through the air. A space station might sound like a highly unusual setting, but it actually looked a lot like a long school hallway. There were doors at even intervals which connected to the support pillars that stabbed perpendicularly into the main pillar.
Olivia must have felt relieved to find herself in a properly sealed area because she was finally calm enough to look around in zero-g fascination. She gave a curious look to her double braids as they floated around like separate creatures.
“Huh? There’s something moving inside my swimsuit. …Nhee, w-wait, Onii-chan, you aren’t touching me, are you!?”
“Why would I do that?”
“Th-then what is this!? Did a bug get inside!? Is a mysterious alien creature trying to take over my body!?”
“I seriously doubt it. There’s artificial air here, so that might be the air bubbles moving between your skin and the swimsuit.”
Olivia twisted around while trying to endure the sensation, but then she saw something like a clear jewel pass right by Kyousuke’s exasperated face.
A liquid was floating through the zero-g space.
She tensed up after recalling how the summoner had coughed up blood and convulsed. At the same time, several similar jewels spread out.
Kyousuke used up some precious oxygen to sigh.
“It’s just seawater. Olivia, have you forgotten how wet you are?”
Kyousuke had pulled the book girl along by her hand, but she was simply floating upside-down like a helium balloon. She did not respond in any form to Olivia’s unwarranted suspicion or to the drops of water hitting her cheek.
It was Olivia whose eyes widened.
“Eh? That’s a problem too! Mutter, mutter… That means it’s what was between my body and the swimsuit, so…j-just don’t drink any, Onii-chan!!”
“It’s not like it’s toxic and it’s the same for me anyway.”
“Oh? Then some of this Onii-chan’s… Now that I want to dri-…no!! That’s going too far!! I wish I could, but I have to do my very best to not cross that line!!”
They peered into the different “rooms” even though the lighting was flashing unreliably, perhaps because of the destroyed solar panels. Those were the structures attached perpendicularly to the supporting pillars. You can think of them as cylindrical containers the size of minivans.
“This is so weird. So what’s going on with my blood?”
“Something contained in enclosed pipes can circulate like normal. That’s why they use liquids for the batteries, cooling, and rocket boosters. Your stomach acid is only contained in a sack though, so it’s more questionable.”
When someone was not used to living in zero-g, the stomach acid could enter their throat and cause reflux esophagitis or it could even get down the windpipe and cause pneumonitis or bronchitis, but Kyousuke decided there would be no ill effects if they were only there for a short time.
They saw a nap room lined with sleeping bags strapped to beds so they would not float away and they saw an experiment room lined with planters that may have contained some kind of genetically modified plants.
One room seemed to be a dining room. Olivia was fascinated by the hamburger steak, spinach and corn cooked in butter, and other space foods in clear packages.
“They’re all premade… They have beds and a bathroom, but they don’t have a kitchen, do they?”
“Fire would be risky inside an enclosed space like this and they couldn’t fill a pot with water anyway. They apparently use a special gel shampoo instead of taking a shower.”
There really was no sign of anyone here.
They looked out a double window and finally saw a scorpion-like work robot on the outside of an opposing shaft. It was smaller than a tatami mat. Its many legs clung to the wall and its long tail appeared to be a precise manipulator. There were probably a lot more machines inside and outside the station.
“So even space development is cutting personnel costs these days…”
“Hm? Are you talking about some harsh fact of life?”
It was not just that they sensed no one’s presence and heard no noises; they also did not find any empty space food packages in the trash cans. The sleeping bags looked untouched and there was a full stock of the special gel shampoo. There was no sign at all of anyone living here.
Kyousuke looked beyond the thick glass that was built to protect against powerful ultraviolet.
“…That shaft over there is the one place we haven’t checked.”
“There’s no east, west, north, or south and no up or down in space, so how do people tell each other where they are in this maze of a place?”
That was when they heard what sounded like a building creaking.
It was not that loud a noise, but it was more than enough to provide a shock that was very bad for their hearts. Olivia paled and clung to Kyousuke’s waist.
“D-d-did you just hear something? The station itself wasn’t bent when we hit it, was it? I don’t want it to fall apart!!”
“No, this is…”
And before Kyousuke could finish…
Something like static crackled deep in their minds.
Kyousuke and Olivia had already experienced this in the submarine, so that was all it took to fill their nerves with scorching tension.
Only the one-winged fallen angel in a white bunny suit and tailcoat-like vest had drifted from reality enough to only slowly tilt her head. It was a small motion, but it was enough for her surprisingly large breasts to jiggle in zero-g.
“Get ready, Olivia,” said Kyousuke with a bitter look.
“Y-you can’t be serious… This is outer space, Onii-chan. You’re saying she’s pursuing us beyond even the ends of the earth!?”
Jewel-like drops of water scattered from the twin blonde braids as Olivia widened her eyes and trembled. Kyousuke, on the other hand, used the approaching fear to focus his observation skills.
“She killed the White Queen, so a puny little planet is nothing to her.”
And what they had to do was the same no matter who was pursuing them. They had to destroy the System Atlantis VFX production machine and stop the broadcast of the war promotion video. The book girl probably would have continued floating there until the end of time if she could, so Kyousuke grabbed her hand, brought her and Olivia down Toy Dream OP-01’s straight corridor, and dove into the one supporting pillar they had yet to check. The vessel in a white bunny suit was as passive as a child’s balloon. And her bunny ears showed no sign of coming off despite floating upside down in zero-g.
They had yet to enter the “room”, but thick communication cables left the door and entered the corridor. They were kept out of the way by the wall and they connected to the neighboring room and the room after that. It was like connecting batteries together to increase the power supply.
Each “room” was about the size of a minivan.
That was nowhere enough space for System Atlantis, a giant computer capable of supporting a 30-billion-yen-a-film movie industry. It had been divided into multiple “rooms” and then connected together into a single parallel system.
Checking inside one of the “rooms” revealed chilly air like a supermarket’s vegetable section. It was filled with steel racks like in a cramped used bookstore. They seemed to be bolted directly to the floor and the racks were crammed full of boxy equipment which produced a veritable starry sky of pilot lights.
“…It’s all of these?” Olivia looked to all the doors lining the corridor. “There have to be at least 20 or 30 rooms. How do we destroy them? We can’t punch or kick very hard while floating around like this…”
“We don’t have to rely on anything like that,” casually replied Kyousuke. “Large equipment like this always has a cooling system. And it’s nothing special; just something like an air conditioner or fridge. Stop that and the hardware will destroy itself with its own heat.”
“How exactly do we do that?” asked Olivia.
Kyousuke grabbed a flathead screwdriver floating in the air and stabbed it into a wiring panel on the wall. The volts and amperes given on the label looked too small for such largescale equipment. That meant it was for the cooling system instead of System Atlantis itself. He must have caused a short in the wiring because a low rumbling sound soon stopped.
“Now System Atlantis will die on its own. But just to be sure, I want to check for a backup cooling-…”
<Nii-sama. Not yet.>
He was cut off.
An extremely unnatural voice seemed to directly intrude in the natural flow of time.
A moment later, the scene around them was transformed.
With a frightening boom, the Toy Dream OP-01 space station’s supporting pillar was torn away like a wild dog chomping on an empty can. The “rooms” containing System Atlantis were thrown out into empty space before they could overheat and endless stars appeared before Kyousuke’s eyes. Yes, he saw outer space itself. That view spelled death for any flesh-and-blood human and it was approaching fast.
It was just like in the submarine.
The Colorless Little Girl Dedicated to a Single Goal (aie – a – oio – ei – ueo – ioa – e – uai – ee).
She had returned.
She was exposed to the vacuum of space while wearing what amounted to a swimsuit or leotard.
Her long hair, the hair sticking up like ears, and the long, slender feline tail were all unharmed.
Even Kyousuke had to scream.
A large hole had been a symbol of death in the submarine, but it had an even greater impact out in space.
The artificial air inside the station began to move like it had finally remembered what to do. It gathered toward the large hole like it was being sucked into a giant vacuum cleaner. Needless to say, this was the end if it was sucked out. Without the blessing of a protective circle and Material, the summoner and vessel were merely human.
It sounded like countless bats flapping madly around a cave to avoid a flashlight beam. More and more pieces of the intentionally-loose wallpaper came off and flew toward the large hole, but unlike before, an extraordinary Unexplored-class was waiting there. The girl of around 10 did not move a finger. With a flash from the countless swords and spears surrounding her waist like a long skirt, the filler material was shredded and sucked right on out into space instead of covering the hole.
The girls would not last as long as Kyousuke, so he made up his mind, swung his Blood-Sign around, and struck a bolt as it flew rapidly down the corridor. The bolt flew like a fungo hit in baseball, hit the sparking wiring panel, and triggered an electrical explosion in the critically shorted machinery.
The power of the blast was greater than that of the air being sucked out.
Kyousuke, Olivia, and the dazed book girl were all pushed away from the hole. Kyousuke then twisted his body in zero-g to adjust his grip on the Blood-Sign and strike a point on the wall with the tip. He broke through a reinforced glass cover and pressed a red button. Immediately, a shutter dropped like a guillotine between them and the Colorless Little Girl.
It proved meaningless.
<Watch out, Nii-sama.>
A childish hand broke right through the center of the thick shutter.
With the sound of a flame consuming oxygen, the entire shutter glowed orange around that hand. The melted metal split into multiple pieces in zero-g and they all became jewel-like spheres. Then they were sucked outside of Toy Dream OP-01 along with the artificial air.
The powerful wind had resumed.
With the little time that bought him, Kyousuke had grabbed some thick communication cables and tied them to Olivia and the Illegal vessel’s waists as lifelines.
He himself was swept away.
He was drawn toward the Colorless Little Girl like she was the center of a black hole.
He tried to stab his Blood-Sign sharply into the ceiling to stop himself, but it was not enough. He continued toward the Colorless Little Girl at the hole. It was all over once he actually came in contact with her. If a single fingertip or hair touched him, he would literally be reduced to tiny chunks of flesh.
Should he throw an Incense Grenade despite knowing it was hopeless?
His fruitlessly racing thoughts began lining up meaningless possibilities like that.
But then the Colorless Little Girl moved right past him.
Questions filled his mind, but he continued moving almost automatically after being passed by. He pulled his Blood-Sign from the ceiling and this time pressed the tip against the wall. He peeled up the wallpaper on his way to the hole. With the sound of a great many flapping birds, the filler material tore from the wall. The Colorless Little Girl was no longer between him and the hole, so the spread-out wallpaper rushed toward the hole and finally stopped the hellish vacuum cleaner.
(But what just happened…?)
Kyousuke looked back and then shuddered.
The Colorless Little Girl was approaching the girls who were using thick communication cables as lifelines. He had no idea what was driving this broken Unexplored-class’s actions. She had seemed to assist him in the submarine, but no soldier could relax while a strategic stealth bomber with a broken targeting system was flying around overhead.
The Colorless Little Girl said nothing.
She only casually pulled back her right hand while facing the two girls.
Would it be an iron fist or an open-handed chop?
He recalled what had happened to the shutter that soft hand had broken through.
She was about to attack in error. And when faced with the ultimate unfairness of seeing the bombs fall on an ally’s head, Kyousuke instinctually said something truly ridiculous.
A moment later, something unbelievable happened.
That monster came to a complete stop with all five fingers gathered together for a jab at Olivia and the Illegal vessel.
He did not understand.
In fact, the Colorless Little Girl herself tilted her head without otherwise changing her pose.
“Wh-what does…this mean…?”
Olivia asked the obvious question, but no one could answer her.
With Blood-Sign in hand, he slowly floated through the suddenly-calm station to approach the Colorless Little Girl. He arrived beside her. He moved past her and viewed her childish face from the front along with Olivia and the Illegal vessel.
There was no emotion visible there.
He waved his hand in front of her face, but she kept her head tilted and did not react.
(Is she faithfully obeying my command to “wait”?)
That was not possible.
Or so he thought, but he decided to try another test.
She plopped right down.
The Colorless Little Girl, who had not hesitated to kill the White Queen, pressed her small butt against Toy Dream OP-01’s floor. And with her lower legs spread to either side in a childish fashion.
The Unexplored-class did not say anything while looking up at him, but the tail on the back of her hips rose and then curved gently to the side. The tail looked an awful lot like a question mark. And the look in the immature girl’s upturned eyes was even clearer.
She wanted to know the reason behind his command.
But Kyousuke ignored that and held out his right hand.
There was no doubting it now.
The same small hand that had torn apart the White Queen’s body was placed safely atop Kyousuke’s palm. The sinister strength of a construction arm was nowhere to be found. He only felt the warm and soft skin of a girl.
(Wait. Does that mean what I think it does…?)
Kyousuke was not the only one confused.
Olivia removed the lifeline from her waist and hesitantly clung to Kyousuke’s back.
“W-wow… Is she obeying your commands…?”
He heard what sounded like a thick bundle of fibers straining.
The disconcerting sound continued and the Colorless Little Girl’s small body shook irregularly while she sat with her hand out. It was a clear sign that she was trying to break free of her bonds. She really was the ultimate weapon gone berserk. He could not hope for stability from her.
Olivia must have remembered how close she came to death because she frantically attempted some ventriloquism while pressing her face into his back.
“W-wah!! I am Kyousuke! Wait! Stay there and I will pat you and call you a good girl, so calm down!!!!!!”
That was the finishing blow.
With the sound of a violent electric spark, the Colorless Little Girl’s small head swung to the side like she had been sniped in the side of the head.
Kyousuke immediately pulled his hand back.
Just by clenching her small fist, it looked like she had compressed space, bent light, and stretched out the scenery like melted cheese as it was instantaneously gathered into her fist.
(Is that like a miniature black hole!?)
His nervous sweat formed beads that floated through the empty air.
If he had been a moment slower, his body would have been utterly destroyed.
<Nii-sama, move away.>
The fact that she spoke at all only made it more confusing.
He could not figure out what kind of emotion was contained in even those few words. He could not help but feel like he would get burned whether he took them at face value or read deeper meaning into them.
He could not fight this monster by throwing an Incense Grenade and challenging her to a battle. Still, he held his Blood-Sign like a spear and thrust it sharply out.
But not at the Colorless Little Girl in front of him.
He sent it below his arm and behind him – toward the white bunny suit and red wing fallen angel who was floating there like a lifeless balloon.
That frantic voice came from Olivia.
A deep sound burst out. The Colorless Little Girl’s small hand moved right past Kyousuke and Olivia to instead reach the vessel who was showing no sign of resistance. If he had not used his Blood-Sign at the last second, the defenseless vessel would have been torn to pieces. He had accurately hit her at the center of her body – just below the navel – so he would not just make her spin. Thanks to her complete lack of resistance, her solid wing swung around and caused her to fly further than expected. That took the book girl just barely beyond the Colorless Little Girl’s fingertips.
The emotion of anger was not evident in the juvenile body of that Unexplored-class.
She remained calm.
She took a few steps toward the Illegal vessel to make her next attack.
“Wh-why…!? What is going on, Onii-chan!?”
“Tch. It initially looked like the Colorless Little Girl was trying to protect me but with her targeting malfunctioning. If that theory is correct, then she had to have had a reason to arrive here in space. Even if her insane covering fire spreads damage all around me, she wouldn’t begin to act unless she sensed a threat to me in the first place.”
What did that mean?
And why had her first target been the defenseless Illegal vessel who was no longer contracted with anyone?
“I thought it was sudden,” said Kyousuke in an apparent change of subject.
Some aspects of it had seemed off to him.
…Would you use mouth-to-mouth to give someone a poison deadly enough to kill almost immediately after swallowing it?
…Would she really just ignore her target’s coughed-up blood on her lips?
And more importantly, would Shiroyama Kyousuke of all people really give up so readily when watching someone – even an enemy – losing their life before his eyes?
What if he had sensed something he could not quite put to words and that had caused him to subconsciously tap the brakes?
What had he sensed?
“War Criminal was killed by poison. He wasn’t stabbed or shot; he was poisoned, which is much harder to examine. What if that was only a bluff using paint that changes color in the mouth? Then Boy A would be hiding and watching us for a chance to strike now that we stopped paying any attention to him. It would mean we’re still in danger!!”
They heard a dull thud.
A handled grenade that looked like a fat-ended club was thrown in from a different corridor perpendicularly connected to this one. Had the dazed vessel had a reason for letting go of her tote bag? Kyousuke actually hoped this was a simple explosive like back in the submarine. But it was not. This time, it was an Incense Grenade for the Summoning Ceremony. It directly opened an Artificial Sacred Ground.
The pursued poison girl was drawn toward the point of the blast.
And someone else was pulled in from elsewhere.
“War Criminal…! You idiot! You goddamned idiot!!”
The extraordinary Colorless Little Girl had killed the White Queen like ripping the legs off a bug, so challenging her to a battle using the Summoning Ceremony was the height of folly. Kyousuke and Olivia were also contained within the Artificial Sacred Ground that War Criminal had set up. Having their Materials fight here would be like asking the Colorless Little Girl to attack. It was like holding a sword duel while locked in a cage with a ferocious beast.
In a way, the vessel was more complex than Boy A.
In the end, what was inside that book girl who tearfully remained by the crazed summoner’s side?
Was it love or fear?
Was she willing to descend into the depths of hell with him, or was she relying on the safety at the eye of the storm?
Whether she was pursuing pure love or pathetically struggling to escape her fear, the end result may have been the same.
Just like the strange connection between robber and hostage.
It was not just a loop. It was twisted like a Mobius strip.
“…Don’t screw with me, Kyousuke-chan.”
For that summoner and vessel, it was like their hopelessly ugly marital vows.
He smiled savagely at the poison girl who was willing to modify her own body if her partner wished it.
And then Boy A spoke once more.
“I don’t care about the Colorless Little Girl or whatever. When two countries are fighting a war, are they gonna stop just cause there’s an earthquake or volcanic eruption? Of course not. Once war breaks out, there’s no such thing as a draw!! It doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing; we’ve gotta fight to the death here!!”
Kyousuke could only click his tongue.
The Colorless Little Girl was like a displeased cat right now. If he held back on his Material so as not to stimulate her, he could not avoid War Criminal’s intense attacks. But if he fought with all his strength, the extraordinary power that had instantly killed the White Queen would attack.
He was trapped.
This was a truly unpredictable death match.
He could not even rely on the protective circle to keep him safe in this battle. The Colorless Little Girl broke the rules of the Third just by existing there.
“Wh-what are you going to do, Onii-chan!?”
Shiroyama Kyousuke silently raised his Blood-Sign.
He grabbed one of the 3 initial White Thorns and placed it at the tip of his Blood-Sign.
“Yes. That’s what I want to see.”
He heard something slicing sharply through the air. War Criminal had pulled his three devil sticks out of the air.
The leader of the underworld even licked one of them as he made his statement.
“Let’s aim every last gun and cannon we have at each other and have a direct shootout, Kyousuke-chan. Flashes of light, explosive blasts, and vibrations that permeate your body!! Ha ha! It’s not a war unless you give into the trigger happiness until your mind goes blank!!”
The rules had changed.
First of all, he had to win this battle no matter what. He had to hit the White Thorns, knock the Petals into Spots, and arrange the acquired letters to summon Materials from the other world. He had to use the Cost and rock-paper-scissors Sound Range to overwhelm his opponent’s Material and knock them out of the fight.
That was an absolute must.
Because not even riding on a giant meteor plunging toward the earth would reduce the power of a handgun pressed against your head.
But at the same time, moving around too much would draw the Colorless Little Girl’s attention. She may have come here to save Kyousuke, but you could not rely on a bomber with a broken targeting system. It was obvious she would attack enemy and ally alike. Once the bomb was falling overhead, it was too late.
He could not defeat the Colorless Little Girl with the cards he had on hand.
He could not harm her even if he summoned one of the Three from the Unexplored-class.
Thus, he had to ignore her.
One option was to avoid her while getting a clean hit on the War Criminal’s Material.
The other option was to direct her toward War Criminal so he was being attacked on two fronts and could not escape.
Those were the rules of this battle.
War Criminal fought like normal by launching the initial hit on the cubic Rose, but Kyousuke launched a White Thorn toward a completely unrelated part of the floor. The Thorn ricocheted sharply, approached the Colorless Little Girl from behind, passed below her legs, and flew in front of her face.
Her child eyes moved…no, were guided.
It was like a cat reacting to a toy. Her slender hand reached out into the empty air to grab at something. And…
“Ha ha! That’s a dirty trick for a first move!!”
Space itself split apart.
Whether it was a Regulation-class or an Unexplored-class, a solid hit from the Colorless Little Girl would one-shot any Material. The fallen angel girl had transformed into a red slime Material, but she escaped the ultimate joker’s small hand by jumping backwards…or rather, by directing the Material’s aim towards an unrelated oxygen tank behind her.
Toy Dream OP-01’s straight corridor…no, the supporting pillar itself broke down the middle.
Kyousuke and Olivia were safe thanks to the protective circle and green slime respectively, but they would have been thrown out into the certain doom of space otherwise.
Yes, they really had been dumped into the vacuum of space this time.
<Wah, wahhh, wahhhhh!? Onii…Onii-chan!!>
“Stay calm, Olivia. We’re fine as long as the Artificial Sacred Ground remains!”
He did not want to worry her, so he omitted that they were done for once the battle was over. The winner was granted 90s of a Chain state, but the loser was immediately stripped of their protective circle and Material and they would be exposed to the vacuum.
The blue expanse of the earth lay below their feet.
A mere 10 minutes of immortality felt so unreliable. If the pull of gravity grabbed them by some kind of mistake, there would be no escaping it. They would be roasted in the deadly atmosphere until not even dust remained.
One small piece of good luck was that War Criminal had been the one to throw the Incense Grenade and open the Artificial Sacred Ground. That meant it used his footing as its base surface. When the station was torn in two, the 20m cube had appeared in reference to where Boy A stood. Kyousuke and Olivia had been thrown out into the vacuum, but they did not have to worry about an endless journey through space as long as that wall contained them. They could continue fighting.
Kyousuke only had to focus on the position of the Petals and Spots for now.
War Criminal had to remain inside the broken tunnel of a corridor inside Toy Dream OP-01, so Kyousuke had the wider field of vision and could aim for more Petals.
There was one problem.
(The Colorless Little Girl shattered the Artificial Sacred Ground with her first attack on the sub. She can do that at any time. If we lose that divine protection in the vacuum of space, there’s nothing we can do!)
He needed to settle this quickly, but rushing too much would draw her attention.
In order to avoid directly stimulating the Colorless Little Girl, he aimed his White Thorn along a detour near the distant wall of the Artificial Sacred Ground, but then he noticed something off about the scenery as a whole.
There was an odd light coming from the blue planet below them.
<What…is that? Is it coming from East Europe where my kingdom is???>
<Those fluffy things…aren’t clouds? Is it a whole lot of dust!? A-and is that orange glow from fire!?>
“Olivia, focus on the battle!!”
When satellites took photos of the Amazon rainforest, it was apparently possible to see the spreading flames from slash-and-burn agriculture and from forest fires. But the fire had to be at the level of hectares before that was possible.
Something was happening.
And it involved East Europe and Kingdom F, home of Olivia Highland.
(We destroyed System Atlantis and stopped the Blue Film that was meant to guide public opinion over the course of its four episodes. …But did they force it through regardless? Damn, did the US Congress give the go ahead for the Silver Resource War!?)
The Blue Film had lost its absolute importance.
Destroying System Atlantis was no longer the key to solving this.
In war, the troops were not necessarily deployed only once the government had made the final decision. If they were already waiting at the scene, they could begin the attack immediately after the sign was given.
(They changed their method…)
Kyousuke and Olivia did not have a second to spare.
They could no longer stop this in advance.
(Even if I summoned a demon!!)
Kyousuke kicked off wall pieces larger than tatami mats to cut across the cubic Artificial Sacred Ground.
But not to take up a better position to acquire plenty of Petals with his White Thorns.
He moved in between War Criminal and the Colorless Little Girl.
Of course, he was still engaged in a deadly battle with the enemy summoner. Even with the ideals of Alice (with) Rabbit, Kyousuke would not abandon the battle to protect the enemy.
This was quite the opposite.
Illegal’s leader had set up this game of chicken, but that was proof that he really did understand how frightening the Colorless Little Girl was. He was making small adjustments to the distance between them to make sure he was never close enough for her to decide to attack.
Shiroyama Kyousuke artlessly charged into the risky minefield in between them.
If he stepped on and detonated a mine, the blast would catch War Criminal in his supposed safe zone.
He did not have time to roar.
The bomber with a malfunctioning targeting system was finally moving.
<I will do it, Nii-sama. I will fight.>
She casually extended her small hands. They missed Kyousuke who altered his path by striking a floating piece of the station with his Blood-Sign, but those ten fingers filled with mysterious power gently touched War Criminal’s protective circle.
The resultant boom and shower of sparks was like someone touching a train’s high-voltage line.
None of the rules applied.
The Third Summoning Ceremony ruled by the White Queen had long since been abandoned.
War Criminal entered a tailspin after being baptized into the Fourth.
But it did not end there.
The summoner who freely controlled his three devil sticks managed to stay focused on the main issue despite the extreme pain, his muddled mind, and his rapid spinning.
No matter what happened, this was a Summoning Ceremony battle where Material fought Material.
And Shiroyama Kyousuke had focused on messing with the Colorless Little Girl. He had failed to focus on building up his Material.
“You…dumbass… Too bad, Kyousuke-chan. I’ve reached the Divine-class while you took your detour!!!!!!”
Divine-class. Cost: 15. Sound Range: Middle.
Despite the grand name, it was a thumb-sized dwarf that was summoned. Rather than a divine figure from a world religion or mythology, he had only left his name as a fairy in a fairy tale.
But a god was a god.
And the ridiculously-long name made him more useful than Odin, Zeus, or another head god when used in the Summoning Ceremony where the number of letters determined how much power could be drawn out.
Kyousuke was still in the Regulation-class, so he could not overcome the power difference no matter how he launched his White Thorns.
It was true War Criminal had no way of resisting the Colorless Little Girl, but Kyousuke and Olivia were done for if Boy A and the fallen angel got just one clean hit in.
One hit versus one hit.
Just like a duel in a Western, the exchange of a single attack would decide everything.
“I never thought I could enjoy such an old-fashioned war in the modern age of drones and cyber-attacks!!”
With his eyes hidden by his ruler-like sunglasses, Boy A prepared to give his vessel a command, but then he noticed something.
Where was the crucial target? Where was the Material being controlled by Olivia Highland?
And just before great meaning poured into that slight gap, a heavy blow ran through War Criminal from directly above.
The enemy could not hear her, but Olivia’s voice rang inside Kyousuke’s head.
A Regulation-class shaped like a giant spear broke through Toy Dream OP-01’s roof. Of course, there was no way of harming Boy A when he was surrounded by the protective circle, but War Criminal had thrown the Incense Grenade and destroying the floor beneath his feet took away the Artificial Sacred Ground’s base surface. Plus, simply shaking his vision would confuse him.
But would she really go that far?
It was the end for her if either the Divine-class or the Colorless Little Girl even grazed her with an attack, so would she really charge into the line of fire on the front line?
It was pure insanity, but that was why it had successfully caught War Criminal off guard.
And that created a brief opening.
“Colorless Little Girl Dedicated to a Single Goal (aie – a – oio – ei – ueo – ioa – e – uai – ee).”
<Nii-sama. What? Nii-sama.>
Did that mean anything, or was it only a reflexive action?
In the face of such great danger, Kyousuke held the top of his Blood-Sign out toward the juvenile girl’s nose. And he moved it like a cat toy.
Even the vacuum of space was compressed.
Just as Kyousuke swung his head with all his might to dodge, the girl’s hand caught War Criminal and his protective circle, sending him flying like a meteor. He crashed into and crushed Rumpelstiltskin and both summoner and vessel were buried deep inside the Toy Dream OP-01 space station.
It was essentially the same as when they had first arrived on the space station.
The defeated Boy A and his vessel would be safe as long as they were floating inside the station where they had artificial air to breath. The problem was Kyousuke and Olivia. The Chain state only lasted 90 seconds. But reestablishing the Artificial Sacred Ground against the Colorless Little Girl would be like stripping off your clothing and entering the lion cage.
Each passing second was a painful loss.
While the protective circle was in effect, Kyousuke and the giant spear that was Olivia hurried inside Toy Dream OP-01’s airlock.
Kyousuke finally took a deep breath once he was inside the badly-damaged space station. The entire station was unnaturally twisted and it was noticeably tilting in one direction. Whether it was thrown out into space or burned up in the atmosphere, it would not last long like this.
“Let’s tie up War Criminal while he’s defeated. Then we need to get to the control room. None of this is over. The Colorless Little Girl is still floating out there in the vacuum of space.”
“What are we even doing anymore…?” She sounded on the verge of tears. “The Silver Resource War has already started. With the supposed mastermind passed out in here!! Look over there!! You can already see the fires burning!! This is past the point of the videos or Illegal mattering. So what is our goal!?”
“Isn’t it obvious?”
But Kyousuke spat out a response.
For the time being, he could not hear the threatening calls of “Nii-sama”. She was still floating out there with nothing to protect her, but did this mean all direct threats to Kyousuke had been eliminated?
It was only her targeting ability that was broken.
She would not go off unless she had her finger on the trigger.
…Or was that as naïve an assessment as the White Queen worshippers had made?
“Then we just have to stop that war. Olivia, we can freely control beings that surpass the mythological gods.”
He said it so readily that it did not sound real to Olivia at first.
Her face crumpled up in a way that left him unsure if she was smiling or crying.
“…That’s easier said than done.”
It was like a groan.
Her unsteady voice sounded like a sob.
“I would love to do that… That’s why we dived to the ocean floor, launched ourselves into space, and worked so hard. But it wasn’t enough!! Wasn’t that weird video supposed to be what mattered!? I thought we could keep the war from starting if we put a stop to that!!”
The other side was writing the rules of the game, so Kyousuke and Olivia’s goal had been to stop that.
But this was not a sports tournament with a referee ensuring the rules were followed.
The other side had ignored them.
They had ignored their own rules and forced their pieces across the game board.
Reality could be surprisingly careless, it was made to benefit the strong, and it allowed for all sorts of unfair things. Prove a thug wrong with an airtight argument and they would only click their tongue and burn you with the end of their cigarette. This was another example of the hopelessness of reality. Kyousuke knew this all too well after being manipulated by the White Queen so often.
But he had not broken.
Why was that?
“…There is just one power that can resist this kind of unfairness.”
He was not looking down on her as he gave her advice.
Right now, Olivia was the same as Kyousuke. She had followed the rules and supposedly snagged a come-from-behind win, but that victory had been unfairly snatched from her. This was her heart nearly breaking under the weight of the overwhelming sense of futility.
He had overcome this same thing himself, so he understood.
This was only an illusion. It was a transient delusion. In the truest depths of her heart, there was a part of her soul that had not broken.
He was sure of it.
“Listen, Olivia. Remember your purest feelings. Why was it you came out here beyond the ends of the earth? Was it because I told you to? Was it to live up to your mother’s expectations? No. You had your own reason. And if you remember that, you can still fight. It doesn’t matter who you’re up against.”
“You can’t overcome this kind of thing with willpower!!”
“Look,” cut in Shiroyama Kyousuke.
He had tasted the dirt time and time again and that was why he did not hesitate.
“Look, Olivia. Remember what drives human beings. This isn’t about those that lurk beyond the gods. Remember what it is that drives those of us born with our feet planted on the earth! That is enough to change the world. This isn’t silly idealism. I have experience telling me it is a hard fact and it’s what allowed me to make it this far while up against that hopeless White!! Is that not enough proof for you!?”
Kyousuke pointed at one of the monitors that were everywhere in the space station. System Atlantis had been the top priority, but since it was a giant station and not just a satellite, it also had observation equipment and experiments set up.
So it also functioned as an observation satellite looking down on the earth from the heavens.
Olivia’s initially angry eyes pursued the image and then filled with thought after a flash of surprise.
Nothing she was seeing made any sense.
It was even more unreasonable than the US Army forcibly sending its game pieces into war.
The vantage point on the screen was unfamiliar, but the location was quite familiar to her. With an overhead view like on a paper map, she saw Kingdom F in East Europe. She saw a stone city surrounded by mountains. The veil of black clouds was actually dark smoke blowing in from somewhere. It was a tiny area from the perspective of those who ruled the world economy, but it was the most important scene to Olivia Highland.
And beyond that black stain, something had filled a small plaza and the large road.
“It…can’t be. Why…?”
A middle-aged man held a clearly outdated rifle. A housewife carried a handgun that was lacking in power even for self-defense. Children no older than Olivia were gathered around a forcibly-modified tank. These were not trained soldiers. More and more doors opened while a flower shop owner, a church’s nun, and other ordinary civilians flooded the streets.
Countless flags were waving.
They were the flag of Kingdom F – of the Flanguild Permanently Neutral Kingdom.
“No, no, no!! If you show intent to fight, they won’t be able to stop!! If you point at us royals and call us tyrants, they might at least spare your lives!!”
“Kingdom F uses a universal conscription system. If another country attacks, the ordinary people will take up arms along with the specially-trained knights. Rachel explained that, remember?”
“I know about that system!! But that’s not the point! Kingdom F is done for anyway, so they don’t have to follow its rules. They can forget all about the musty old royal family. If they just surrender and accept the new era, they might not have to risk their lives here!!!!!!”
Olivia had gone pale as she shouted her protests, but her voice could not reach the people on the monitor.
In addition to the people in the streets, there were also some figures racing along the roofs of the stone buildings. Those would be the knights who used the Summoning Ceremony in Kingdom F.
Everyone would know the end result of a fight with a superpower.
But they still did not raise their hands in surrender.
There was only one response here.
“Olivia. They’re doing this because they want you and your mother to have a home to return to.”
This time Olivia seemed unable to reflexively snap back at him.
For one thing, Queen Sinceria and Princess Olivia were out of the kingdom at the moment. Preserving the bloodline did not require defending the kingdom’s land with the people’s lives.
So it was not about the individuals.
Protecting the system of monarchy was not enough for them.
They could not stand to have nothing but rubble remain when Olivia Highland returned home. They wanted to protect the scenery of Kingdom F and all the memories it contained.
That was all.
All those people were putting their lives on the line for a formless feeling like that.
“I don’t understand.” Olivia’s voice was trembling. “The knights and chamberlains might be steeped in the Summoning Ceremony, but the normal people don’t even know what we look like. They might casually greet us if they see us in the city, but they forget all about us the second they look away. It isn’t an issue of how warm or cold hearted they are; that’s just how it works. So why would they go this far?”
“That’s right, Olivia.”
Kyousuke did not reject that with some nice-sounding words.
This was not some silly story where they miraculously remembered for no reason.
There was no need to trick her with empty words.
“That means they’re throwing away their lives for someone they’ve never even seen. They’re relying on the legends of the ‘musty old royal family’ you mentioned. They’re desperately clinging to the outlines of what they must protect and struggling despite knowing their efforts will never succeed.”
Olivia stared silently at the flat-screen monitor as Kyousuke continued.
“When a large country wants to complete an invasion all at once, they make a blitzkrieg strike meant to be quick but decisive.”
He was not predicting their destruction.
They needed an accurate picture of the situation if they were to overcome the actual threat.
“They will of course secure air superiority, but their first act will be destroying the communication network. Next, they will destroy the main defense facilities with cruise missiles and rockets. Last, the actual soldiers and tanks will sever the supply line to isolate the target’s cities and fortresses. For large countries, a war isn’t a head-on clash. They do not use the number of enemies killed to judge success. They use the number of allies that survived. So they will always arrange things such that the enemy simply can’t choose to use their full strength. For the politicians in Washington DC, the enemy isn’t the foreign generals and heroes; it’s the voters watching TV in their living rooms.”
“What…what does that matter?” muttered Olivia without even turning around.
She could not take her eyes off the scene playing out on the monitor.
“You’re basically saying they’re going to attack my home all they want, aren’t you? Even though we haven’t done anything wrong and we’ve never even heard of the East Europe Axis?”
“This is still the first phase. They’re targeting the mountains that surround Kingdom F as a natural fortress. Kingdom F is a landlocked country surrounded by mountains. They aren’t going to start a mass slaughter immediately after destroying the communication network. First, they should focus on destroying the radar sites along the mountain ridges and the pylons for the high-voltage lines running along the slopes.”
“…You don’t get it?”
Kyousuke reached over her shoulder and touched the screen to draw her attention to another part of the satellite image.
“Then let’s check the carbon dioxide distribution. There’s a lot of dark smoke, but I don’t see any urban areas on fire. This is all being blown in from the natural fortress of the mountains. So they’re only attacking unmanned facilities for the first phase. It’s caused a widespread wildfire and that looks pretty shocking, but the actual population density is zero. There still haven’t been any human victims. It’s only the empty mountains that are burning. If we stop it here, the targets of this baseless war can keep their lives!!”
He distinctly heard a gasp.
Olivia’s small shoulders jumped while she viewed the wildfire footage with her back to him.
“We can really save everyone in Kingdom F…?”
“Yes!! We can do it. The two of us can save them. You can do more than shout help me! This time, Olivia, you can race to the scene with me as Alice (with) Rabbit!!”
She was so close, but he did not place his hands on her shoulders.
Right now, she did not need comfort for a weak soul.
If he made that mistake, she would rot away. Just like the White Queen’s sweet words and charisma had provided an indiscriminate sense of security to so many people.
“Turn around, Olivia!! With your own strength!! If you’re going to live up to the lifestyle of Freedom Award 903 with me, then face reality and change it with your own hands!!”
Olivia rubbed her eyes with her small hands.
After jewel-like tears scattered through the zero-g space station, she turned around. She turned from the monitor displaying the coming destruction and looked instead to Shiroyama Kyousuke’s face.
They looked each other in the eye.
He saw the willpower there.
“…What should I do…?”
The kingdom’s princess faced the harsh reality once more.
The look on her face was not that of a fairy tale princess simply hoping to be rescued.
“What are we going to do? How can we save everyone? Hurry up and tell me! Hurry!!!!!!”
“That’s obvious. They’re the ones that changed the rules. So instead of remaining prisoners of that video, let’s change the phase itself.”
Revenge-obsessed Biondetta had once called herself a whispering demon.
Then what was Shiroyama Kyousuke as he answered the no-longer-tearful girl?
Whatever he was, he proposed an answer far more repulsive than a demon addicted to bathing in blood.
He did not even hesitate.
“Let’s take a shortcut along the most direct route. Let’s drop Toy Dream OP-01 from the sky and hitch a ride straight to the Silver Resource War.”
The summoner and vessel were in motion once more.
The LCD screen behind them displayed countless fluttering flags that represented the majesty and pride of the Flanguild Permanently Neutral Kingdom.
And those flags had some text written on the edges with spray paint or thick permanent markers.
“It is to answer the cries for help that I fight.”
The boy and girl spoke in unison.
“As do we: as you wish.”
“As do we: as you wish.”
She would no longer rely on the words “help me”.
Olivia Highland would fight to protect a kingdom and become a true trump card.
Between the Lines 3
A gray-haired old man breathed a heavy sigh aboard the Missing Princess cruise ship. He was inside his office which contained an odd combination of thick Western tomes and fairy tale picture books.
He wore a formal tailcoat since he had been on the party stage earlier, but he had removed the bowtie and the restrictive coat.
But that was not enough to improve his mood.
He wanted to stand up from his leather chair, but he could not lift himself from it, as if he were glued down. That prevented him from looking away from the flat-screen monitor directly in front of him.
“We are in front of the White House here in DC! The official go ahead for the Silver Resource War was just announced, but they did not allow any questions from the press and it seems the press secretary has already left. This is unusual behavior, but according to an insider…”
The old man asked himself how this could have happened.
The Blue Film war promotion videos had been scheduled for 4 episodes in all, but a number of problems had caused the distribution plan to fail after only the first episode. They had likely caught scent of the plan stalling out and forced the war through in advance, but the normal people would be unable to keep up with these world events. Even if the Silver Resource War ended in complete victory, they would only be met with a storm of boos. What would happen if an airport’s runways were only half built and you decided to send the airplanes out anyway because construction was behind schedule? The answer was obvious.
Something had gone wrong in this supposedly fixed game of old maid.
If the nonexistent East Europe Axis could not be made into the villain, then the dirty joker would end up with those who had started the war. Real war was complex, but the common people always viewed it as a battle between good and evil. And a country that was said to have never once suffered defeat would not accept a stain on that record. So who would end up holding the old maid in the end?
It no longer mattered who had come up with the idea and started gathering members.
They would make it so Toy Dream had been manipulating the US all along.
Thus they could say they did nothing wrong.
He felt like he was watching his own castle crumbling while in some removed location. It was like building a grand estate in Beverly Hills as the prize for many long years of effort and then watching it collapse due to a freak sinkhole.
He repeated the word “why” in his heart just once more.
But the nuance was different this time. The gray-haired old man suddenly wondered why he had wanted the Silver Resource War to succeed. He had been obsessed with getting that done, but now that he thought back, he had no idea why he had wanted it to succeed.
If racking his brains was not enough to find a reason, had it been planted in him by someone else?
While he thought, he heard a soft electronic beep.
It did not come from the LCD monitor.
It came from the personal smartphone he had for his family. It was a character mobile device that let you include illustrations and icons of Toy Dream characters. He had bought up a major ISP and social media company to make it.
He had received an Assort Message, which was like a combination of an email and chat service.
“Have you caught on yet?”
It was a short message.
But for some reason, the attached icon of a heroine he had never seen before brought a prickling pain to a corner of the old man’s mind. He could not seem to process what it was and that inspired an impatience he simply could not suppress.
He would never find the answer no matter how much he thought about it.
Not when he could not remember why he gave the Missing Princess its name.
“You used Kingdom F as a motif for the children’s books and movies you made, but a government official convinced you they were actually a den of villains and you felt like your works had been defiled. That is why you helped this blatant resource war.
“Psychologists use the term ‘dyadic group’ to describe how people take criminal actions more readily in groups than as individuals. A more familiar example may be how anonymous message boards are more prone to violent statements than social networks with visible screennames.
“You cannot properly perceive the White Queen.
“That means you are in no position to directly know of her death or to be hit by the resultant confusion.
“But the general unease and confusion that has widely permeated society after the White Queen’s death may have influenced this bold action of yours.
“You should already know the truth about the East Europe Axis.
“I have no sympathy for you. You are literate enough to make an informed decision, so you must take responsibility for your decisions. If you were aware of your influence and still intentionally spread malicious disinformation, then there is no room for lenience.”
Normally, he would have shrugged off unilateral accusations from some faceless and nameless person. He was a world-renowned fairy tale author. Any online store would be flooded with millions of reviews. He felt far more pressure on a daily basis than the average person.
He felt an unpleasant sweat coating his back. He could not shrug this off. He felt an explosion of overwhelming shame that he could only compare to having his own child or grandchild see him doing something truly foolish.
“You lost the right to author fairy tales from the moment you decided to harm others by manipulating the emotions of the readers. Especially when it involved a war that would take countless lives.”
The old man’s vision wavered at this criticism that came with no room for negotiation or compromise.
This went beyond the inexplicable icon.
Tears wet the corners of his eyes and he saw an illusion of a small girl pointing at him.
Even though no such girl should exist.
“It’s too bad. I had hoped there was a miniscule chance everything could return to normal and I would one day be completed by you and turned into a book that spreads smiles around the world.
“But this proves it.
“I will never be completed. This fairy tale will always remain incomplete.”
He had not opened a voice input app, but the old man spoke to the character mobile device without thinking. His trembling lips shouted at the smartphone to stop these mysterious Assort Messages that kept pouring in.
“Could you be…no, that never existed… Who are you? I never had anything to do with the Phantom Girl. That’s only a rumor that my passionate fans have spread around. Or…it couldn’t be, but are you saying it really did exist…!?”
The strange feeling in a corner of his mind grew bigger than ever.
He was on the verge of grasping something. He was sure of it.
But that terribly fleeting outline sent more merciless words his way.
“Break your pen today and retire immediately. A fairy tale author who has forgotten how to make people smile has no place in Toy Dream.”
Not even a silver bullet straight through the heart would have been as great a shock.
The old man was certain of it.
He could form no more words with his index finger or his trembling lips.
He was finally feeling the loneliness of having left his ideals behind in some distant land.
He needed a long time.
His fingers were trembling more than an alcoholic going cold turkey. He could not sketch a single image or even place his fingers on that 5-inch screen. He took his time to take deep breaths and barely managed to pick up the smartphone without dropping it.
This time, he did open a voice input program and managed to force out his voice despite having trouble breathing.
Even the high-quality program failed more than three times to interpret his voice properly.
“But the war has begun. I doubt my head alone would be able to stop it.”
“Yes, of course it has. Because I used my authority with Government to push it in that direction. I mostly left hints that an environmental group was preparing to buy the land and investigate the effects of mining there. I was telling them they had better claim that land and the mining rights in a hurry or this would be a heap of trouble for them.”
The old man did not understand what most of that meant.
He did not even know what Government was, but the messages continued.
“The US will not lose. Or rather, no matter how badly things are going for them and no matter what happens, they will find a way to claim they did not lose.
“Stopping the first and second attacks is meaningless if the US will only propose further operations to reclaim their reputation.
“So we need to drain all the pus the first time around.
“It is only by doing that and then stopping the world’s most powerful army that we can stop the giant gears of the Silver Resource War. There is no other effective resolution when looking at the big-picture strategy instead of the small-picture tactics.”
“That’s crazy. Are you saying you’ve started a war to stop a war?”
“Yes, but worry not.”
There was no hesitance in her response.
And that told the old man something.
This mysterious person was using the icon of a heroine he did not recall designing. This Phantom Girl had slipped from the palm of his hand. But this told him there was someone who stood much closer to her than he did.
Was it possible he would have been the one closest to her if he had not done this?
And the girl relying on that trump card had more to say.
“I have the ultimate ace up the sleeve, so it doesn’t matter who I’m up against. When he is supporting the life of someone seeking help, there is no chance whatsoever he will lose in combat.”
A thunk ran through a distant luxury apartment as a character mobile device was flipped over on the table so the screen could not be seen. It was a lot like flipping over a card.
The striped bikini girl buried her small face in the thick fur of the 5m wild animal she used as a sofa.
“What’s this sudden outburst of emotion?” asked the modified China dress beauty. “Did you come across some moving masterpiece?”
“…Id’s nuffing, you idyit…”
She did not want anyone at all to see the look on her face.
- The summoner’s location when the Artificial Sacred Ground opens is used as the base surface, so an artificial gravity is preserved even in zero-g.
- System Atlantis was successfully destroyed on the space station, so the original data of the Blue Film’s four episodes and the hardware used to produce it were lost.
- Wait. Sit. Shake. They all worked on the Colorless Little Girl.
- Kyousuke used the Colorless Little Girl to defeat War Criminal. Do not overlook that he was always behind in both Cost and Sound Range during the actual Summoning Ceremony battle.
- The US Congress forced a decision without waiting for public opinion to be manipulated.
- The Silver Resource War has begun.
- Shiroyama Kyousuke decided to drop the space station from the sky to enter the battlefield that Kingdom F has become.
- They can still be saved. Both the kingdom forced into a war and the people who live there.
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