After the battle with Mir ended and the world was saved, Lyner and his friends were in the middle of a journey to gather the [feelings] they needed to craft a Song that would reach everyone in the world.
However, while the world should be peaceful again, various strange incidents have started happening.
Items produced through Grathmelding suddenly rose in price due to a shortage of materials, Tenba dismissed a large portion of their Reyvateil workforce, and this in turn caused these Reyvateils to begin falling into emotional instability one after another.
And finally, the Tenba troops have started a war with the Reyvateils at Skuwat Village, while a "mysterious entity" that seems able to control the common subconscious of the Reyvateils seeks a confrontation with Lyner.
The first novelization of the popular PlayStation 2 RPG of the same name!
Chapter I: The Ordinary Days of the Extraordinary Heroes
Chapter II: That Which Resounds from the Abyss
Chapter III: The Song that Connects Memories and the Future
Ar tonelico General Atlas
After the two disasters known as the "Grathnode Inferia" and "Mir's Rebellion", only a Tower and a floating continent remain on this world.
This is the middle section of the upper zones of the Tower, located far beyond the stratosphere. The Observatory is also where the Tower's maintenance droid, "Mei Mei", lives.
Due to the Grathnode Inferia disaster that took place centuries ago, in which the shattered Grathnode Discs leaked a great amount of plasma into the atmosphere, this has turned into a highly dangerous region of the sky.
The city in which Lyner was born and raised. As the inhabitants of the [Wings of Horus] located further below greatly admire the inhabitants of Platina and consider them holy people, they have dubbed them the [Apostles of Elemia].
Officially known as the Ardelberg Buffer Band, this is the point that separates the Tower into upper and lower sections, and strictly speaking, the Tower is "floating" from this zone upwards.
The facility created for the purpose of sealing the “Mir” virus. The "Star Singer" Misha had as her mission singing on this place continuously, which was a great burden for her.
The city of the magic-using race called the "Teru", who kept watch on the Tower in order to avoid a repetition of the two disasters that destroyed the world. It's also where Jack was born.
Airport City Nemo:
The largest city in the floating landmass known as the "Wings of Horus", and it is where the Church of El Elemia and Claire's Bar are located. The ruins of Skuwat Village are located on the outer border of the continent.
An artificial floating island created by Tenba. This is the place located the lowest above the Sea of Death, so whatever could exist in any zones of the Tower below this point is a complete unknown at the moment.
Chapter I: The Ordinary Days of the Extraordinary Heroes
Where am I?
Why am I all alone?
I'm so lonely... and this place is so cold.
Yes, there's no one else here.
Why isn't there anyone else here?
I know why no one else is here.
Because if there was someone else, they would hate me.
That's why they all can hear my voice.
Go and get rid of the humans...
Go and get rid of the humans...
Because if they were here, they would hate me.
Get rid of them, that was what you told me.
Because you didn't want to be hated.
You want to be loved.
That's why I'm alone.
Where am I?
A girl was lying on the floor, all curled up like a cat, and sleeping soundly.
Her breathing was normal and she looked pretty cute like this. From just looking at how her mouth was open, it would be easy to guess that she had simply fallen asleep while doing something.
While this posture would seem unpleasant to anyone, to the girl herself this was quite pleasant. While in this position, the girl looked as if she had been sculpted into a marble relief, polished to the point in which her curves had been emphasized into a beautiful work of art.
Yes, although the girl seemed to be still quite young, "beautiful" was the only description that seemed to fit her. If we could see her again once she was fully grown, we would surely be able to call her a beautiful woman in a way no one would be able to complain about.
There wouldn't be a way to know she wasn't a normal human, and this isn't just talking about her beauty.
In fact, the girl wasn't even a human to begin with.
This was because at least on this world, the people were divided into humans and "Reyvateils".
The Reyvateils were a race created at hands of the humans centuries ago: they were girls that could craft Song Magic thanks to the artificial genetic information they held in their bodies...
Oblivious to this, the girl continued sleeping and playing in the peaceful world of dreams.
Aurica suddenly woke from her nap, and looked with sleepy eyes at Lyner, who was staring at her with a serious look and arms crossed.
"Huh... is the musical instrument ready?"
She asked as she wiped off the tears that had pooled in her eyes after she yawned. Even without asking that, the results were easy enough to imagine.
She then sat up on the floor.
Somehow, she had simply slipped into sleep. While this situation would leave anyone impressed, Lyner had been doing Grathmeld experiments for so long at her side that he ended getting used to her habits. He actually watched over her, and she always fell asleep at some point while he kept working. Before he realized it, he ended up lovingly stroking Aurica's hair after she had fallen asleep... so it wasn't a particularly weird scene.
As Aurica was currently, the place in the world where she could sleep the most peacefully was near her young neighbor.
"It's no use, we don't have enough ingredients. And after all the work you had done in searching for this recipe, Aurica."
The young man replied as he clenched his hands over his arms. He had a rather well-kept visage and so thick we could even say it was tempered to the point of near-perfection. This was Lyner, Aurica's young neighbor and the man who had learned how to understand and forgive others through talking.
His gaze was fixed on the table where he had been working for the last few hours.
Grathmelding was a manufacturing process that demanded a lot more work than what most people would think, as it required following a series of processes in order, a precise timing, and a specific set of ingredients for each of its recipes, and the lack of even one of these would cause the results from making anything with said techniques to leave a lot to be desired.
Several of its pioneers bequeathed the written instructions for recreating their own inventions in a way that could be preserved by the society... all left written in the form of recipes, so it was thought that if anyone followed these instructions to the letter, the final result would be the item written in the recipe. However, it was far more difficult than anyone thought, and that was the reason for why there were so few skilled Melders in the world.
"I thought I could use replacements for some... but were that everything that was needed for it, I could have just went and made a completely original recipe."
"Yeah, but not even you can do that, Lyner."
If more musical instruments could be created, they should be able to produce devices that could play many more sounds... no, many more kinds of music. This was what Aurica wanted to be able to make. The dream that had taken ahold of her in the recent days… was being able to make such instruments whenever she wished. However, given their current situation, making these instruments was impossible, so the prospects for the realization of said dream were looking pretty grim at the moment.
"Sorry. Looks like even making up a recipe out of nowhere it's pretty much impossible."
"No, it's fine. If you can't do it, that means no else can do it either. But maybe it'd be different if we were talking about the old guy that taught you Grathmelding."
"It's true" Lyner said as he began pondering seriously about what Aurica said.
"Maybe we should go to Karulu Village for now and ask Prof. Pochoma if he could give us a hand with it. The Knights have been trading a lot with him lately, so I have the feeling that he has surpassed even the level of making recipes."
The girl was quite confused about if she hurt his feelings with her words.
"You aren't very skilled either. It's because I'm such an idiot that it's impossible..."
This was her typical attitude, in which she talked believing that, as she hadn't been blessed with any special talents, she was a useless being. However, she interrupted herself halfway through and looked at Lyner once again.
"Lyner, have you resigned from the Knights?"
"W-what!? I never did that. But since other people have already made Grathmeld recipes, this was something I didn't want to abandon halfway through."
Lyner replied to the uneasy gaze the girl was giving him.
"Anyway, if I can make it, why shouldn't I see it through to the end? I just have the need to follow all my duties to the end, and training in Grathmeld is also one of these duties to me... and besides..."
"Now that the Virus threat has vanished, it's possible we Knights of Elemia have become useless to the world..."
This world was always being invaded by monsters known as Viruses up until very shortly ago.
However, that threat had now become a thing of the past. People didn't need to live afraid of the Viruses anymore.
And the ones who accomplished the complete eradication of this menace from the world were Lyner and his friends, who always tried finding the best way to solve this situation. And that was when Aurica came in.
Aurica, who believed herself to be an utter failure as a Reyvateil, didn't consider being able to participate in such heroic deeds as good luck, but a bad joke from fate. But of course, when it was about Lyner, things were different.
In his attempts to save the world from the Virus threat, he descended from the "upper world" to the world where Aurica and the others lived, and they didn't just eradicate the threat: they also became the mediators that allowed the reestablishment of communications between both the upper world and the lower world.
Aurica was quite amazed, as she saw that the upper world everyone believed to exist only in legends was a real place, and when one of the knights that represented that place ended up traveling with her, her feelings went beyond mere surprise, up to the point in which she herself still found hard to believe it.
(But that's that. When it comes to Lyner, he'd never leave a girl defenseless, and he would always rush in to help her.)
He was the kind of man that would turn into a beast if someone of the opposite sex was defenseless and being treated badly, no matter who that was, which Aurica thought was quite convenient for herself. But on the other hand, that also ended causing the replacement of these thoughts with pessimistic feelings.
(I knew it. There's no way he could have any feelings for a good-for-nothing Reyvateil like myself.)
Anyhow, Lyner and his friends had now become living legends in this world.
While the details on the battle against the Reyvateil Mir, the creator of the Viruses, hadn't been revealed to the public yet, one of the Reyvateils that traveled alongside him was thought to be very special due to having quelled Mir's hatred through a Song, while the other was supposedly the oldest living Reyvateil in the world. She was also said to be great enough to be called the Goddess of Platina, the place where Lyner and the knights lived (although it was pretty unusual to see her even there), both of which were a large contrast to Aurica, who was part of the Church of El Elemia and was pretty much a drop-out from it.
(I'm really useless...)
Among their human companions, even her direct superior Bishop Radolf (formerly Cardinal, but he had been bestowed a rank raise due to his exceptional achievements) was considered a very respectable person. This made it hard for Aurica to overcome the inferiority complex that had taken hold of her.
However, while she was depressed from being treated as a useless being, Lyner had never treated her that way and instead he treated her in the same way he would do for a normal girl. And this was something that didn't change no matter how much time passed.
(Doesn't he understand me well enough yet?)
At the least, there was something in this sequence of events and the role Lyner played in its realization that he never seemed to have noticed.
Thinking about the deeds he accomplished, it wouldn't be weird for others to worship him as the hero that saved the world, but Lyner himself never awakened to the realization of this simple fact. That everyone else began singing heartfelt praises left him bewildered and instead he felt these shows of appreciation as something annoying.
He was being self-conscious to the point of even being unbelievable.
However, he also demonstrated that having a proactive attitude, to the point of denseness, was pretty much a necessity when it came to healing hatred intense enough to last for centuries.
The hero that had saved the world, now that the crisis had been averted and the days became peaceful, lived his days worrying about what he would do with his life from now on.
"I wonder... If I ever resigned from the knights, what would I do with my life...?"
He wondered if there was any other role in which he wanted to partake but that also had some importance to the world, which also meant his self-conscious attitude had no end.
He was pretty much having the same worries that any unemployed person would have.
It was then that Aurica nervously called him.
"Ah, umm... Lyner?"
Her thoughts were on a completely different wavelength from his.
"Well, umm... There's... there's something I thought up for you, if you end up quitting the knights..."
A rather cute scream ended cutting off that line halfway through. As soon as he heard it, Lyner nimbly got up.
"Lady Shurelia! What could have happened?"
And in a split second, he ran off before Aurica's eyes, who had extended her hand as if she was going to try stopping him.
Aurica just idly closed and opened the hand that failed at trying to stop the young man while she sighed sadly.
"I couldn't even tell him anything. There shouldn't even be a reason why I like Lyner..."
A young girl waited for Lyner, who flew from his room as fast as he could.
Her shining silver hair waved like crazy, and she seemed to be having a hard struggle with getting a door to open. She was lodged in other room of the same inn (as it was the case for Aurica and their other friends).
"What is it, Lady Shurelia?"
Once she had her name called, the girl turned to face Lyner. She was a girl of an incomparable beauty, but her face had an expression showing she was about to cry and that she was at her wits' end by now.
It then changed to the expression anyone would have when looking at a hero that had come to save them.
"What should I do? What should I do?"
She extended her hand to the doorknob and tried pulling it.
"I can't open the door!"
"...Did you lose your key?"
"I left it inside the room. I went outside, but I suddenly felt I had forgotten something and when I went back... the door was locked and then I noticed I had left the key inside... What should I do? I can't go back into my room like this... I left all my everyday clothes inside..."
She had given in to panic.
"Lady Shurelia... Didn't you know that these doors have automatic locks...?"
"Did you say... automatic...?"
Very troubled, Lyner began explaining Shurelia about the automatic lock mechanisms that were so ubiquitous in lodging facilities throughout the world.
This was the extent to which she didn't know about the world.
After listening to the explanation, Shurelia's eyes grew wide round.
"...Then, these doors don't need a key to be locked, but instead they lock themselves up as soon as they are closed? Why did they make such a thing...?"
"I think it was to drive burglars away, but..."
"Are there so many unsavory people in the lower world?"
"Who knows...? I think one can never be too careful, though..."
"But thanks to being so cautious, I got locked out of my own room!"
"B-but if you go to the front desk, you should be able to ask for another key, right?"
"D-do you intend me to go to the lobby looking like this?"
Shurelia was already covering herself up with her arms and hands.
Her slender and irregularly small body was covered by a white suit that perfectly fit her figure.
It's true; however, that if anyone looked just at her silhouette they would have thought that she was naked...
"But aren't these the same clothes you wore whenever you came over to talk with me during our journey?"
That was true. Whenever Shurelia went to Lyner's room to talk with him about all sorts of things and amuse themselves during their journey, she was wearing these same exact clothes.
From Lyner's viewpoint, being puzzled that Shurelia was being so fussy about her clothes at this point was quite normal.
However, it was different for Shurelia.
What she meant by her "everyday clothes" was the armor that covered her entire body, and until recently, not even Lyner knew what she looked like without it.
He couldn't believe his eyes when he first saw there was such a cute and young-looking girl behind that armor.
Of course, despite her young appearance, Shurelia is actually the person that has lived the longest in this whole world...
But putting aside Lyner's innermost thoughts, Shurelia had gotten into quite the bad mood.
"We're talking about two completely different situations here! That I went to your room looking like this is like that couple that was...!"
But she then stopped and put her hand in front of her mouth.
"When you say "that couple", who are you talking about?"
"Forget about that! Anyway, this is greatly troubling me. Go and do something about it, Lyner!"
Lyner merely replied with a sigh.
Noticing that it would be futile to try dismissing the request of the girl in such an unreasonable state, Lyner headed to the lobby. After all, she was admired as a being equal to a Goddess by the Knights of Elemia to which he belonged, so disobeying her would be doing the unthinkable.
"Why can't I tell him anything...?"
Someone grumbled behind the young man that was leaving the place while also giving Shurelia a very bitter look.
"I want to make it known to him that I'm a girl too... but why can't I even say that to him?"
A girl muttered under her breath in a way so no one else would hear her.
"Ah, Lyner? Going out for a walk?"
Misha called out to Lyner, who was still at the front desk asking for a new key. Similarly to both Aurica and Shurelia, she also had a beauty quite obvious to the eye. And like the others, she also was one of the friends that had lived through very bitter times alongside Lyner.
"No, that's not what I'm doing..."
As they walked down the corridor, Lyner told Misha about everything that had happened.
"That's so Lady Shurelia. She really doesn't know much about the world, huh?"
She giggled as she waved her head from side to side; making the large hair ornaments she had dangling from her head sway with her movement.
"You also think so, Misha?"
Lyner asked back while he got the key from the inn's employee.
"We both might be Reyvateils, but Lady Shurelia's completely different from me. And anyway, Lady Shurelia has been alive for as long as this world has existed!"
"But aren't you far closer to Lady Shurelia than Reyvateils from the generations that came after yours, like Aurica?"
"In which way?"
Misha said as she shrugged off the question.
"You might have heard this before, but unlike you, I won't change regardless of how old I get, right? That's why me and Lady Shurelia, who has lived for who knows many centuries, are on entirely different levels."
"So in comparison to her, you would look like a child no matter how long you live...?"
"That's a pretty deep question."
Misha nodded in agreement.
Then, while they were in the middle of expressing to each other their opinions about their experiences with Shurelia's lack of knowledge about the world, a voice called out to them.
"Hey, how 'bout going for a walk, Lyner?"
It was Jack, who was going down the stairs covered by a worn-down mantle. He also was one of the people that had faced several dangers alongside Lyner and Misha. His right arm was almost entirely mechanical and he had a machine gun of a large caliber mounted on it. Even though his body had been integrated with his weapon, the carefree expression he had pointed to how insecure he was as a man.
"By that, you mean Misha can come too?"
Upon hearing Lyner's reply, he moved around his heavy weapon as if it was nothing. That was something everyone was used to seeing.
"Yeah, as we're just gonna buy some stuff."
It was obvious he had just gotten up, as Jack still had an unshaven face and was yawning.
"Wait a sec! At least you should go and wash off your face! I won't let you come with us if you look so shabby!"
Misha said as she put her hands on her hips.
"I'm telling ya I've already washed off, Misha! Acting like this ya look more like an old wife than a little sister. Right, Lyner?"
"Misha's acting pretty scary to Jack today..."
Hearing Lyner agree honestly with Jack made Misha angry.
"Harm! You two...!"
Although they weren't siblings or even were related by blood, Misha always called Jack "Harm". Lyner heard this way of calling him came from the times Jack went by his true name, long ago.
"You're such a slacker, Harm... I at least hoped that Lyner would..."
As she was speaking, Misha suddenly cut herself mid-phrase.
"...Now I think so, you're both similar, as Lyner's pretty lazy himself."
She said as she sighed.
Upon hearing how Misha was talking about him, Lyner got all flustered.
"Whenever you get into something you're doing, you end up forgetting about bathing and even eating."
"Ugh... you might have a point there..."
Lyner was unable to come up with a reply against Misha, who was now rolling her eyes.
"Yeah, and from what Lady Shurelia and you are saying, we don't seem to be having much of a social life either. If at least you were as decent as Radolf is..."
"What're you talking about? That guy's the stuffy Holy Bishop of the Church, so it's pretty bad for us to get compared to him. Ahahaha!"
"Don't "Ahahaha!" me! I wish you'd learn at least a bit from him. And while we're all relaxing here right now, he's always busy with all the work at the Church."
"He's a workaholic after all, and that's the perfect seed for sickness. It'd be great if he remembered he needs to take some time off."
"And that's why he has such a responsible feel to him, unlike you, Harm! You're really a slacker. So now get back to your room, shave that stubble off and give your face a really good wash!"
"Huh!? N-now, we don't need to go so far..."
As he was talking, Jack saw Misha's piercing gaze and immediately turned around.
"Go wash your face now... Otherwise, I won't let you go shopping with me and Lyner."
They then heard his footsteps as he went up the stairs again.
"Okay, I'm not goin' then."
Seeing Jack leave after he said this, Misha just sighed in response.
"He really isn't suited to normal everyday life. I thought that "extraordinary people" was just an expression, but looks like such kinds of people really exist after all."
"Isn't that because he doesn't have anything to do in a normal everyday life? And while that might be true, Jack's very dependable when it really counts."
"You may be right. But now the world's peaceful, he doesn't seem to be able to settle down into a normal life and become a normal husband to someone... and by the way, Lyner... "
"Didn't you come here to borrow a new key for Lady Shurelia's room?"
When Misha pointed this out, Lyner was left dumbfounded for an instant, but he then rushed to the stairs.
"Damn! I left Lady Shurelia out in the corridor to the rooms!"
And following after Jack, he ran up the stairs as fast as he could, while Misha just saw him off sighing.
"I'm really surrounded by extraordinary people. Maybe I'd only cause him trouble if I became his bride..."
The Church of El Elemia. The solemn building that housed the Church still garnered the reverence and faith of several people in this world. However, after the Holy War caused by the previous Bishop, Falss, the belief on the Church had gotten deeply strained, and this also made it sustain severe human and material damage.
As an organization, the Church hadn't still fully recovered from that damage. No matter where one looked, they saw how reconstruction labors were still underway all over the place.
"Good grief, we still have to hold assemblies right now?"
Radolf said as he let out a deep sigh. He had received the position of Bishop, and as such became the public face of the Church right after Bishop Falss disappeared, invaded the upper world and caused all sorts of chaos there.
He wore the church clothes over his large build, which he owed to all the time he spent training as a member of the Church. However, he also featured a gentle smile that never seemed to go away from his face, so he didn't look aggressive in the slightest. On the other hand, he was also considered as a great person and was greatly beloved by everyone, which made him have a large number of supporters. This was especially true in the case of children, who tremendously loved him. His popularity was such that whenever he took a stroll around the city, a circle of children would form around him.
While his predecessor Falss was planning all sorts of evil schemes and didn't hesitate in leading the world to its own destruction, these plans were ruined in the end, though at least he managed to get the Church into a pointless war. Falss managed to carry out these evil designs by personally leading the Church into an invasion he orchestrated, which severely damaged its reputation.
The one who managed to stop Bishop Falss' violence was no other than Radolf himself. By acting alongside Lyner, they managed to promptly stop the invasion war Bishop Falss had instigated and saved the world from the crisis he was about to cause.
As another of Lyner's companions, Radolf was also one of the heroes that had saved this world, and with these achievements in his personal history, he was promoted from Cardinal to Bishop.
"This only means that a large number of people is needed for saving this world."
As he walked down the corridor leading to the assembly hall, Radolf sighed again. The townscape of the city of Nemo could be seen from the windows that lined the corridor. While the city itself didn't receive any major damages from the war, there was a great unseen damage on it. During the war, several Cardinals and Reyvateils got injured while others lost their lives, in some cases only one member of these pairings, while in others both members were killed. Not to mention that the one who got injured the most from this war was...
"...Shouldn't you make haste?"
As he stopped walking in the middle of the corridor, a girl carrying some documents came after him.
"Shouldn't you, Lord Radolf?"
"No, as there's nothing that could be done about it. No, Fayma?"
Radolf said as he turned around to face the girl. The smile that seemed to never leave his face surfaced again, but Fayma thought that lately he seemed gloomier than usual.
"The duty of the Church is complying with the requests of the people and extending a helping hand to them whenever they need us, which is why you are conducting these assemblies every day, correct?"
Fayma said as she hesitantly extended her unoccupied hand to touch Radolf's elbow. For some reason, she thought that the newly-appointed Bishop was so serious that he would hate this type of direct contact. However, the feelings she wanted to convey to him were of wanting to help him whenever he needed her...
So instead of doing so through her touch, she decided to try entrusting these feelings to her words.
"However, if the Church doesn't stretch these helping hands as a whole, they won't be able to truly help anyone. These are the same words you said, Lord Radolf. Once we've finished talking to each other, we should go at once to the places where there are people in need of our help"
His expression didn't seem to agree with Fayma's words, yet still Radolf nodded after she finished.
"You're very gentle, Fayma. I think you're even more of a gentle person that I am. I can't fathom how anyone could ever get angry at such a fiancee even if she said such words."
Radolf then went and softly placed his hand on Fayma's shoulder, who was blushing at that moment. "Don't worry, I'll be fine", that seemed to be what Radolf was trying to signal to her.
"Somehow, you seem different from how you used to be, Lord Radolf."
Fayma said as she followed behind the newly-appointed Bishop, who had resumed his walking.
"Really? But I don't feel any different from before..."
"No, you have changed. You seem to have gotten even softer than before."
"Hey, hey, that sounds more like I used to be quite the stubborn man."
"I didn't mean it in that way, though..."
Fayma thought that Radolf didn't seem like the type to talk so much about trivial matters back then. She wondered if the journey he made alongside these "Heroes that Saved the World" was what changed him.
Regardless of what the reason was, Fayma thought that he became much nicer and that it'd be okay to entrust the Church's future to him. And that included the future of the Reyvateils such as herself...
While she continued looking at him from behind, she understood he was under a great pressure, but at the same time, she thought of him as something similar to a dependable father.
"I would appreciate that you showed a little more consideration for me, Lyner!"
Shurelia scolded Lyner in an unreasonable manner.
"But I'm not always doing that? I'm a Knight of Elemia, so it's my duty to always be considerate to you."
"So, is that the case?"
Lyner nodded as he frantically tried to defend himself against Shurelia, who seemed to have calmed down for an instant. However, thinking that was the same kind of mistake as thinking that a storm had ended because one had entered into the hurricane's eye. The next instant, a woman’s spiraling rage attacked Lyner with even more intensity than before.
"So you do that just because of your position as a knight!? You just have consideration for me because that allows you to keep your position!? So don't you mind at all whatever happens to me as an individual!?"
"L-lady Shurelia... why are you so angry...?"
"Why!? If you can't understand even that, that means you don't understand me at all!"
He didn't even have time to do anything before Shurelia turned around.
Finally, she held her gaze downwards and talked with such an exaggerated tone that anyone listening to her would have thought she was being the victim of a disaster.
"I was exposed to the inquisitive gazes of everyone out there... I felt so lonely and embarrassed all by myself... I couldn't think of anything else beyond 'When Lyner will return?', 'When will Lyner come?' "
"Whoa... I'm sorry... It's all because I got distracted by a conversation with Misha and the others..."
"What did you say!? So that is what happened!? You think so lightly of me that you even ended up forgetting about me entirely!?"
When Shurelia said "lightly", she purposely elongated the sound of the first "i".
And before Lyner had the time to understand what she was saying, she swiped the room key off his hands, ran as fast as she could back to her room and locked herself up in it.
*click* The sound of the automatic lock mechanically echoed throughout the corridor.
Feeling completely drained all of a sudden, Lyner reflexively put his hand on the wall.
"Why did this happen now...? I'm starting to think that Lady Shurelia treats me far worse than any other people, even if they treat her the same way as I do..."
While this hunch was correct, Lyner was so dense that, with a tired expression, he shook it off by moving his head side-to-side.
"No, this can't be... Lady Shurelia? She who protects not only Platina, but the entirety of the world, acting this childish way? That can't be real. It must be that I didn't say things the correct way..."
And as soon as he raised his face with a renovated energy, Aurica was right in front of him.
"Whoa! You scared me!"
"Hey, I'm hungry. Can we go eat something?"
"A-ah, right. Now you mention it, we were so concentrated in Grathmelding that we didn't even eat breakfast today..."
"Okay, let's hurry then!"
But as Aurica walked away with her hands entwined, Lyner stopped her by telling her to wait a bit.
"I've gotta call Lady Shurelia first"
"But didn't she get angry at you, Lyner? Is everything okay?"
Lyner was at a loss for words for an instant, but then he turned his head with even more force than the previous time, as if he was trying to follow something.
"E-everything's okay. Most likely, I didn't say something the way I should. Lady Shurelia's like that, right? She’s always deeply thinking about everything on this world. So I don't think she'd get angry just because of me..."
Lyner's voice became quieter with every word he said, while Aurica listened to him with an unconcerned face.
"Hmm, well, why don't we try calling her out? Lady Shurelia... Lady Shurelia... Lyner wants to invite you to lunch with us!"
While for an instant Lyner motioned to stop Aurica from knocking on the door, he realized he didn't have a reason to do so and thus he stopped stretching his hand to her.
"Lady Shurelia! Lady Shurelia!"
As at times Aurica became quite the audacious person, she continued relentlessly knocking on the door.
"A-Aurica... I think you should stop already..."
And just when Lyner was about to stop Aurica from pounding on the door, it opened a little.
Shurelia was peeking out from an opening large enough to see just her face. From her expression, it was easy enough to guess she was still upset at Lyner.
"Are you going to eat lunch?"
"Y-yes. I thought you'd like to come with us, Lady Shurelia..."
"But if you don't want to come, it'll be just the two of us: me and Lyner."
Upon hearing Aurica's words, Shurelia's expression stiffened.
"U-umm... I don't think it'd be healthy for you to skip meals out, so..."
"Will you have cake too?"
"Did you say cake?"
Shurelia nodded several times in response.
"I won't go if there is no cake included in the meal, Lyner."
"As the responsible for this, please make sure to get some cake ready. If you do so, I'll forgive your previous transgression."
Then the door closed again.
Lyner was left dumbfounded for an instant, but as soon as he regained his self-awareness, he ran off frantically to the restaurant stairs down to make sure they had cake in there.
Aurica was left alone again in that place.
The time we met for the first time... yes, it was when I was still very young.
These were the times when I didn't know anything beyond the fact that someday, I'd have to go and sing in the Crescent Chronicle.
But still, you followed me when I began my journey.
That was when I left Platina and descended to the Wings of Horus to become the new Star Singer.
And then, he... Lyner came with me. I'm sure it was because he was very worried about me.
Actually, I was very anxious at the time because I didn't know what would happen after that, but when I came to the Wings of Horus for the first time... and I don't mean with this that I came to the city of Nemo... I was actually a bit excited...
Yeah, now I think about it, I was really a kid back then.
"I don't wanna be without Misha."
For some reason, he began crying after he said that. I tried to console him, but I ended up crying alongside him.
I even thought that I'd have wanted time to stop at that moment forever.
Now I look back on it, maybe that was my first love.
Because there was no way around getting us both separated, he ran around the Tail, gathered a lot of flowers there and made flower bouquets for me. And because of that, I got such a ridiculously large number of bouquets that I even felt I was getting squashed when I tried holding them.
...And while in the end we were separated and cried a lot over it, now all of that has turned into fond memories.
Though I've lost the many flower bouquets I received back then, they'll always be inside my heart.
"Wait a sec! You really embraced with Lyner to the point of you both cryin' out back then? And when I asked you 'fore about that, you never mentioned flower bouquets or anythin'!"
Misha promptly replied to Jack's question.
"Hey hey, the only incident you told me is about that disaster where he made you eat an ungodly number of Funbuns... or didn't that happen too?"
"Well, it's true that happened."
"Don't just say it and smile like that! What happened back then, Misha!?"
Misha smiled even more openly as she answered.
"And couldn't both have happened? After all, stories should be enjoyable, right?"
She then went back to her serious expression.
"And come now, we've got to go shopping! And besides, Krusche asked us for some things. She's gonna be so mad if we take too long doing it!"
"Hey hey, wait up, Misha...!"
After they said goodbye to Lyner at the inn, Jack and Misha went to the Nemo market.
This was because one of their former travel companions, Krusche, who now worked for the enormous corporate conglomerate Tenba, had asked them to buy some things for her.
"You're always so serious about the things Krusche says, Harm."
Jack quickly replied back to the precise remark Misha made. She then narrowed it down with a complacent smile.
"Yeah, but at times I wonder why you're always getting so serious about it."
"What ya mean?"
"Well, are you okay dealing with all these difficult-looking mechanical parts? But aside of these..."
Misha took out the shopping list they were given from her breast pocket and unfolded it.
"We have to buy toothpaste, a toothbrush, soap, towels and sweets... and even underwear. You're completely acting as her personal gofer, and no man should ever be treated like that."
Grumbling as if he had his chest pierced by a thorn, Jack suddenly stiffened himself.
"Normally, no woman would ever ask a man to buy her underwear in her place. If she does, it's either because she doesn't want to be thought of as anything special, or maybe it's because she's allowing you into a pretty deep place in her heart."
Misha then gave Jack a rather subdued gaze.
"Which one do you think would be the one closer to the truth, Harm?"
"Ugh... hmm.... We've been partners and traveled a lot since we met... w-wouldn't that be all there's to us? Because, Misha..."
"Because I, what...?"
"N-no. It's nuthin'..."
Jack turned around and Misha decided against trying to press the issue any further.
"You're so weird, Harm. Well, it's okay. Let's start shopping already!"
But as Misha continued walking in front of him, Jack murmured so low that no one could hear him.
"Because she seems to be treatin' you like a younger sister... but it looks like there's still lots of problems between us."
The assembly hall inside the Church. It was a hall large enough to hold hundreds of people, but at that moment, the number of people in it was barely enough to fill it up to half its capacity.
These were the main members of the current management of the Church of El Elemia. This was one of the very few occasions per year in which several men unusually gathered without a Reyvateil at their side. In fact, the only Reyvateil that was present in the room at that time was Radolf's own personal secretary: Fayma. This wasn't because Reyvateils were forbidden to come to these assemblies, but because Radolf was the first one to ask for his Reyvateil partner to accompany him to such an important event. While some proclaimed that these actions "were against the Church's traditions", the newly-appointed Bishop merely smiled without bothering to reply back to them.
All of the people present had solemn expressions quite suitable for the occasion. In fact, it could be said this was a solemn trade fair.
From the center, where the Bishop's throne on which Radolf sat was located, the chairs for all the attendants to the event were roughly divided in three parts.
First were the elders, next were the ones that insisted they were still young, and finally there were the visibly young ones.
Each of them formed solid groups and took their respective seats in the assembly.
This division of the seats was also coupled with the positions where they would be standing whenever it was required to do so.
The elders were the ones that had the most influence in Church matters even since before the times of Bishop Falss, and were also known as survivors. Despite them being called this way, they actually had suppressed all decisions that ran contrary to theirs in the Church's internal affairs, although they didn't go to the extremes of conducting a political purge. Though Falss had full control of the Church's internal affairs, he never tried to surpass the influence of those that came before him, most likely because he feared that they would oppose him if he tried doing so. He just managed to take away all the opportunities for making speeches from all those that disagreed with his opinions.
Thanks to that, they became mere shadows until the moment in which they were successfully reinstated. Their numbers were quite low, but they still claimed that their long lives were all thanks to the grace of the Goddesses. They were the ones who claimed the strongest for the situation of the Church to go back to how it was prior to Falss' times.
And the ones that went the most strongly against them was the group of middle-aged men. They claimed that not everything that happened during Falss' tenure was bad, and that they agreed with the way in which he ran the Church.
What they advocated was as follows:
That Falss' way of thinking wasn't wrong, but what was wrong were the methods he used to fulfill these goals. And the belief in which they all had agreed upon was that said way of thinking was still necessary for the world.
They said that recovering the dignity of the Church, which had now hit rock-bottom (according to them), would be impossible unless everyone had an absolute and unwavering belief on it.
They advocated that belief should be the primordial part of the Church's doctrines, which would allow them to properly guide the people. And while they didn't say so, they didn't mind turning their weapons against those who ignored their beliefs, which was quite obvious to anyone who listened to any of their speeches.
Finally, the group formed by the youngest ones claimed that they "were sympathizers of Bishop Radolf".
Their large numbers were because they gained the right to participate very recently, particularly after Bishop Falss disappeared, and because of that precise reason, all of them were enthusiastic about creating new traditions for the Church.
They claimed that the actions of the Church should be what dictate the traditions and beliefs it will hold. That the first thing the Church should do would be aiding those that were injured in the war. That they should form large Oracle squads at once and send them to the areas that received damage from the chaos during the war to provide relief efforts and humanitarian aid to their inhabitants.
All sorts of reasons could be heard from each of the groups to justify why the actions they campaigned for were the only correct ones.
One was that the most important matter should be preserving the traditions the Church held for such a long time, and that if they were rescinded, there could be some people that would lose faith on the Church as a consequence of it. Therefore, it should be of utmost importance for it to continue adhering to these traditions. Such were the arguments of the always conservative factions that were bound to exist in an organization like the Church.
Of course, there were also those who claimed that belief was the most important matter. They stated that if they were bound by the traditions, the main belief would become completely methodical and ceremonial and thus, unable to provide any relief to the hearts and lives of the people. Therefore, the Oracles of the Church of El Elemia shouldn't just limit themselves to praying incessantly: as they were the branch that could actually be used to put the power of belief in action, they should also strive to convert those that ignored these beliefs.
Furthermore, they said as they nodded that these should be the first actions the Church should take, as there was a great amount of people suffering among the public at that precise moment.
However, while Radolf agreed with all the righteous points each faction was making, at the same time, he also felt there was something unmistakably rotten behind their claims.
"The continuation of the traditions of yore that have been passed down uninterrupted to our days, the believers and the Church itself are all indeed important matters that should be protected. During our short lifetime, we must strive to find the truth among the many traditions we made due to a shallow judgment and strictly select those that should be discarded. These that remain will be the traditions we have strived to uphold from the day our Church was founded... "
The elder Oracles said this in a tone that reminded of a teacher scolding a bad student. This speech continued for quite a long time and didn't feel like it was ever going to end. Radolf had quite a hard time in trying to not let any boredom show up in his face.
And on top of the elders going on and on with the speech, the resentment he had gathered during the times in which Falss had full control of the Church continued growing, as much as he tried to clear it away. He looked like he intended to use this as the chance in which he would say everything he ever wanted to say.
"As for how important it should be for us to protect these ancient traditions, it should be according to what it is stated in our historical documents..."
Radolf then raised his hand as if he intended to say 'Enough already! What's the point of this assembly if we're giving more importance to talking about the past instead of expressing each of our viewpoints!?’ But someone then shouted with an enraged voice before he could say anything, cutting off the words of the elder Oracles:
"Stop this jest at once!"
The one who interrupted the speech was a young Oracle... although it would be wrong to call him like this, as he was older than Radolf by several years and was a member of the Belief Faction... maybe it'd be better to call him part of the Old Falss Faction?... Well, his name was Moralys.
Fayma stood up immediately at Radolf's side, right on the margin of his vision range, and she gave Moralys a passing glance. She didn't seem to be showing any particular emotions on her face, but she still gave him a stiff gaze. Radolf thought "I knew she wouldn't be able to just stay put after this..."
This was because Moralys was the main advocate of the Belief Faction, and not only that: he also was Fayma's fiance.
For some reason, the shy and reserved Fayma had begun talking a lot about him in recent days. According to her, he was quite gentle to everyone (especially to Fayma) but was quite harsh on himself, making Moralys a splendid Oracle.
'(The problem is what this "splendid Oracle" is about to say)'
"We are still in the middle of a speech, so mind your manners if you please..."
Upon seeing the displeased face of the elder Oracle, Moralys hit his desk as loud as he could.
"Manners!? It's true that they are important, but if to protect these traditions we become so negligent that we end up causing a belief crisis, we're getting our priorities backwards!"
He continued as he greatly swung about both hands.
"What kind of worth could the traditions that harm the Church's beliefs so greatly have!? How can we consider these as traditions!? What should be given importance is belief itself! That is the most important component of this Church!"
"This is absurd!"
The older Oracle retorted as his expression began contorting.
"We have heard you use the belief as the basis for your arguments, but we have never said that we are going to be making light of our believers. And you believe the contrary because younger recruits like yourself have yet to comprehend the deep relationship existing between traditions and belief..."
"Yet your leadership is unable to reach those that don't share our beliefs!"
As he interrupted the elder's long-winded speech yet again, Moralys threw him a cold gaze.
"However, every single thing we have heard from this speech was "traditions this", "manners this", "Church's history that", all of which is no more than a bunch of rubbish that serves no actual purpose in the crisis we are facing right now! You aren't thinking at all about preserving the belief in the Church!"
"Rubbish!? Such impudent remarks from a youngster who does not understand at all the importance of our traditions! Stop talking like a sage when you lack understanding about the matter you are spouting nonsense about! To give the control of our Church to an impudent jester that wants to ignore our traditions would be akin to give it to an impious fool like Falss was...!"
"But Bishop Falss became the representative of the Church back then just because you all elders decided so! Or are you going to deny your responsibility on this!?"
Radolf just sank in his chair in reaction to the continuous bickering between both.
This was because this was the type of argument in which both participants just wanted to corner the other.
He gave a passing glance to Fayma. Her expression seemed to have gotten even stiffer than before, but most likely, it was just his imagination playing tricks on him.
"A Star Cake? Well, I guess it isn't too bad."
While Shurelia said this with an affected voice, her eyes were fully focused on the cake that was above the table.
She looked exactly like a normal girl due to this.
The cake itself was made in the shape of a star and had star-powdered sugar sprinkled all over its surface, which made it shine brightly when illuminated by the room's lights. Lyner felt it was a bit too girly for Shurelia's tastes, but both girls (though Shurelia was quite sensitive about the topic of her age being brought up) liked it a lot.
"And I'm glad I told you to bring me some too."
Said Aurica as she sized with her eyes the Boulder Set Meal she had in front of her with the cake. Although the Boulder Set Meal was actually called the Well-Cooked Ball Croquette, Aurica insisted that "it looked like a boulder" and thus named it like that of her own accord.
"Weren't you the first to say you were hungry, Aurica? Don't say selfish things and just start eating it."
Lyner replied back almost at once. He then looked again at the wolf steak he had ordered and continued eating it in silence.
Aurica looked at Lyner with a peeved gaze, but Lyner wouldn't pay attention to anything else while he was eating, so he continued stuffing his face in with the food without paying any mind to her. It was like the food and drink made his voracity surge to the surface.
However, Aurica didn't seem to be in a good mood at that moment.
She murmured in an extremely weak, depressed tone, yet Lyner didn't notice how Aurica was feeling.
However, Shurelia did notice it from a while back, and she gave a look to both Lyner and Aurica.
"You haven't been paying attention to my feelings from a while ago... you only pay attention to Lady Shurelia..."
"A-aurica... was that because of all the unreasonable requests I made to Lyner...?"
A panicked Shurelia then opened her mouth once again to continue what she was saying, but far from calming down Aurica, it had the opposite effect.
"I'm sorry. That's how it's supposed to be, right? Because Lady Shurelia is far more important to Lyner than me... it's just natural for this to happen..."
At this point, even the extremely dense Lyner managed to notice how bad Aurica's mood had gotten.
"Are you okay, Aurica? Should I order a cake for you too?"
And this was the last straw for her.
"Forget it, stupid Lyner! I don't care anymore!"
And with a bump, she stood up from her chair and went away from the table.
"Wait, Aurica...! I'll apologize if I did anything that made you angry, but... Aurica!"
Upon hearing how panicked Lyner had gotten, Aurica stood still for a second, but she then turned around as she uttered.
"You don't understand me... or my feelings at all... because you're a human..."
And as soon as she said this, she turned around again and left the restaurant.
"Aurica! I'm sorry, Lady Shurelia, but I'll have to leave for a short while!"
Lyner abandoned his half-finished meal and chased after Aurica.
Shurelia just saw him off with a slightly stiff smile.
"So he considers me as more important... It doesn't really look like it though..."
The cake she hadn't even touched still continued shining brightly from its place above the table.
"This is out of our budget!"
Upon seeing the totals and numbers the shopkeeper was pointing to, Misha raised her face high up.
"But we bought these same items at around half the price a few days ago! Why are they so expensive now!?"
The shopkeeper began grinding his teeth after Misha said this.
"No matter what you say, I can't give you a lower price. And you may think I'm lying, but you can go to any other shop and see they have the same prices for these items. That's what it costs nowadays!"
"Hey hey, there's no need to get so aggressive."
Jack stepped in with a rather exaggerated gesture as he pushed Misha aside.
"Look, you're threatening normal people here."
"But they're ripping us off!"
"It's true ya could think that... but, hey... how did these prices get so high in the first place?"
The shopkeeper nodded.
"Lately, there's been a shortage of materials around here, so of course that'd brought in an increase in prices. If we sold these items at the prices we had before, we'd go broke and we wouldn't be able to feed ourselves."
And while he said this in a frank manner, he took as payment the money Misha had in her hand.
"Man, we live in a tough world."
"How did this happen? This world's a mess"
Fayma's fiance, Moralys, continued his speech. Several hours had passed from the moment in which this assembly commenced.
"It’s true that the actions Bishop Falss took may have been mistaken, and it’s also the truth that he did so in order to fulfill the individualistic ambitions he harbored in the depths of his heart. However, are the ones who believed in his words mistaken as well?"
The elder Oracle he had interrupted several hours ago made movements to show he wanted to reply, but Moralys merely ignored him as he continued.
"No, we aren't. To think that we all, members of the Church of El Elemia, are as mistaken as him would obviously be unnatural. So why did we follow him? It was merely because we felt that there was some truth to what Bishop Falss said!
What should we support then? That is belief, of course. There isn't anything incorrect about the beliefs of El Elemia.
However, because of the incorrect judgment exhibited by Bishop Falss, now that very faith is being questioned and doubted!"
"B-but if that doubt has now come to light, shouldn't we take actions against it?"
The one who nervously raised this question was the representative of the youngest group present in the assembly.
"The people that were injured on this war could be very well questioning if the beliefs of the Church are right because of the pain they sustained on it, so that could be why they are doubting us."
"Of course they are right! The beliefs of the Church always are!"
"T-then... to show this to the people, shouldn't we begin by sending a vanguard formed by us Oracles to the zones damaged by the war and use all our strength in aid and reconstruction efforts?"
Moralys nodded generously to the words of the young Oracle.
"There is an undeniable truth to your words."
"Then, we should begin discussing about who'll compose the relief vanguard and..."
"But wait. It might have no effect on their hearts because the ones that actually started the war were us. Under these conditions, I urge you to try sending a squad without preparing the people to accept them. Most likely they will get forced back and it will cause widespread chaos, or do you think otherwise?"
"Err, that could be true... but what do you mean by preparing the people?"
"I mean we should confirm their faith first."
He said this as he made an expression that seemed to say "isn't that obvious?"
"First, we must make a program to confirm how much faith the people have on us, the Church of El Elemia, and make all of our members, our Oracles, carry it out to the end. If our members can't guarantee a firm belief, they won't be able to save any of these people in distress!"
"B-but that would mean we're abandoning those that are suffering right now!"
"And it's the same thing if we allow our faith to waver! Relief effort without faith will only become the seed of further chaos! This is the time to strengthen their individual faiths once again by making them listen to our words. And that people like yourself are proposing such impatient actions isn't the proof that you are lacking in faith in the first place? First calm down and offer your prayers."
"There's no time to be doing that!"
"The Wings of Horus might be fine, but the war in the upper world left a large number of wounded and an extensive amount of material damage. We won't be able to serve of any help over there while we're here confirming faith! Aren't we here because we admired our Bishop, Lord Radolf, and because we want to carry out actions that will aid this world like him!?"
When the conversation was suddenly pointed to him, Radolf's eyes began darting all over the place.
The Belief Faction, beginning with Moralys, and the Traditional Faction were also looking at him with faces that showed a great interest.
The representative of the Belief Faction sighed to then retort at the young Oracle.
"However, our current Bishop Radolf didn't always abide by our chain of command. If he hadn't acted by himself and had reported all strange events that occurred as soon as possible, Bishop Falss might have been unable to do what he did!"
Radolf gritted his teeth in silence as Moralys pierced him with his eyes and pointed with his finger to him. He heard what Moralys was saying as that Radolf should have reported and disclosed to the Church everything he did while he was with Lyner and his friends... without knowing Falss' true identity or having any proof that the information he was supposed to reveal was true in any way. This doesn't mean he didn't feel any animosity towards Falss, but still, he was at a loss about how he would answer if he was questioned about why he kept watching all of this in silence until that fateful day came.
He was having quite a hard time coming up with a good reply after he was pointed at.
However, the young Oracle from the self-named Radolf Faction suddenly stood up as he replied back.
"Stating that your own mistakes were caused by Bishop Radolf's actions is no more than shifting the blame to him! Lord Radolf traveled alongside the admirable hero Sir Lyner and together they saved this world from destruction! If he had just followed the Church's chain of command, we wouldn't just be dealing with the current belief crisis, but with something far worse. The chain of command can go eat shit! What kind of Church are we if we don't act immediately to help the people!?"
Radolf decided to calm down the Oracle, who had rapidly energized himself.
"I really think we should take faster actions in order to aid the victims of a disaster. However, unless the Church as a whole acts to make this possible, it won't work. Or am I mistaken about this?"
"Y-yes... you might be right about it..."
Upon being talked to by the Radolf he respected and admired so much, he put his spear away. Radolf then continued talking.
"And besides, we need our actions to be based on the orders from the Church. Or would you rather see me use Bishop Falss' methods, where I unilaterally take any decisions I want and order all of the Oracles to march to something in silence?"
"W-well, if Lord Radolf orders us to, we should..."
"No, that’s not the case. What I wish is for our actions to be based on a common agreement between all members of this Church as much as possible. That is the reason why we are holding this assembly in the first place."
And as he talked, his eyes moved to show this wasn't directed just to the young man: these words were directed to everyone in the hall.
"During my travels with Lyner, I saw not only the faith of the people, but also how they could even manage to cooperate with each other regardless of the race they belonged to. If they could do so, what reason is there for us to not be able to do it?"
Radolf stood up before continuing.
"History, traditions and faith are all important matters to us, and we would lose ourselves if any of these elements disappeared. At the same time, however, if the people we must aid disappeared, we would lose the purpose for which we exist. Therefore, I wish for all of you to mutually recognize the importance of your respective claims, so we can begin taking action together as soon as possible."
Radolf then signaled to Fayma behind him, who brought him the documents she was carrying.
"As the Church we are, we must deal with labors such as disaster relief and reconstruction efforts, correct? I have decided plans to carry them out in my own way. So please, feel free to watch over and judge everything I do."
The shopkeeper said after hearing Misha's words. This was so frequent among the people his age that others felt them as they gave a worldly and controversial air off.
"This is because monsters haven't been appearing lately."
"...What did you say?"
The shopkeeper did as if he hadn't noticed the change in Misha's voice and continued.
"Of course having monsters around's bad, but because they were there, we could pick up lots of ingredients for Grathmelding. Well of course there were some victims of their attacks, but that's a necessary evil. And the root of monsters not coming out is because a certain “hero's” sinfulness. It's his fault, so of course he's a criminal due to it. What a terrible thing he did to us..."
"I dare you to say that again!!"
The shopkeeper got stiff after hearing Misha scream like that all of a sudden. They both became the target for the gazes of all the people that were around them, but Misha didn't mind it in the slightest.
"I dare you to say that again!! Do it and I'll burn you to ashes here and now! That there'll be victims no matter what we do!? That ridding the world from the Viruses was excessive!? You don't even know the feelings we... that Lyner and the others had while we were fighting... I'm going to make you a victim right now, just like those who got attacked by the monsters!"
"Whoa! H-hold it Misha!"
Misha was so enraged that Jack had to restrain her from behind.
"What!? Let me go, Harm! This guy is ridiculing everything Lyner did, and I'm not going to forgive that!"
"B-but you're gonna sing until you kill that guy! Do you wanna be a criminal!?"
"What's this? A lover's quarrel?"
The shopkeeper's face completely changed and he began rubbing his hands together when he saw who the customer that had just appeared was.
"Oh, sir, it's always such a pleasure to have you in our humble shop! Were you looking for something in particular today?"
When Misha and Jack turned around, they saw a massively fat man right before them, who wore an excessively gaudy outfit that didn't fit at all with the old age he had. He was covered by so many jewels, and they jingled so much with every movement he made that even Misha, angry as she was, was dumbfounded by the poisonous nature that wafted out from that man.
The jewels shone so much that the man himself seemed to be the source of their shine, so even Misha and Jack didn't notice for a moment that the man was flanked and being embraced by two girls that were far younger than him. It could be said that it looked more like the girls were partially covered by the loose body of the man.
"Hmm? I'm here because it's time to buy my girls the Life Extending Agent. I want you to give me the best quality agents you have on this shop."
"Yes, yes! Thank you for your patronage! Do you want just the dose for both of them?"
The treatment the shopkeeper was giving to the man was completely different from the one he was giving to Misha and Jack.
"Don't be so stingy. How many units do you have for that high-quality Life Extending Agent? I want to buy them all!"
"A-all of them!? Thank you very much!"
However, his face saddened a bit when he said this.
"I'll personally insert these high-quality Life Extending Agents into you. Are you happy? Will you be happy with this?"
The girls nodded as a smile appeared on their faces. However, these smiles were awkward, as they were obviously not happy with this.
After a short while, the man took all of the Life Extending Agents in the shop and left the place.
"...What was all that?"
"A guy who deals in items that are in short supply. This sorta people always make a large killing from hikes in prices."
"And he had to nerve to bring two Reyvateils with him! Aren't they Tenba employees or members of the Church in the first place!?"
The shopkeeper just shrugged off in response to Misha's angry glare.
"It's not like it could be helped. Tenba recently decided to fire all the Reyvateils that were working for them at the same time, so if they want to get Life Extending Agents, they'll have to become helpers to rich guys like that one."
"It can't be..."
Misha just looked dumbfounded at the shopkeeper.
"These two girls seemed to be turning their faces away from him. I'm sure that guy's gotta have a hell of a foul mouth."
Jack murmured with a face of resignation.
"Who would have thought that managing an organization was this tiring...?"
An exhausted Radolf said as he put his hands over the desk in his office.
"You have done a remarkable job."
Fayma said as she served and placed a steaming cup of tea above the desk.
"No, I'm sorry. You must be quite tired yourself... would you like one of the Funbuns that Lyner sent us a while ago?"
"I'll decline your kind offer."
"Okay. I don't like them too much either, but we both seem to be in the minority."
He gazed at a Funbun as he pulled it out from the pile, but Radolf's eyes seemed to be looking at a different thing.
Fayma spoke as if things had taken a turn for the worse.
"In the end, we had to delay the action plans we had prepared due to the number of complaints we received."
"Yes. I thought it would be easier to release some pressure if we could let everyone say whatever they wanted, but looks like it ended failing to meet its purpose. Apparently, it only served to deepen the trench between the factions..."
"Why can't everyone just get along?"
"Yes, I wonder the same thing"
As the Funbun was washed away from his mouth by the tea, Radolf replied.
"Surely it's because they're too smart."
Fayma made a face that showed her disagreement with Radolf's answer.
"Isn't that strange? If they were actually smart, they should be able to understand each other just with talking."
"Because they are smart, they know that they might lose out in a way or other. Additionally, because they think of themselves as smart, they don't want others to think about them as stupid. That's why they hate being talked down."
"Then it's possible to solve this through mere discussions..."
"That might be true... in part. The true problem is that they don't want to try listening to each other. In other words..."
Radolf suddenly fell silent when he took another Funbun on his hands and began looking at it, making Fayma look at him with curiosity.
"Did something happen, Lord Radolf?"
"...I just was thinking about what he would do if he were here."
However, Fayma realized who Radolf was talking about as she asked the question.
"Lyner. I wondered what he would if he was in this kind of situation... He would do something, and scrape by in the way that has made me to consider him as admirable. That much is impossible to mistake about him."
Radolf shrugged as he let out a sigh.
Aurica gave Lyner an upwards glance. It seemed like a lie that she had been so angry a moment ago.
While Aurica was a bit concerned about having Shurelia in the same room as them, she drew closer to the young man.
"Umm, that time's coming soon...”
"Huh? Ah, yeah..."
While Aurica's words initially left Lyner puzzled, he immediately understood what she wanted to say.
"Did you want to go stock up on that?"
"Hmm, I have one here."
"What do you mean by having to go stock up on that?"
Shurelia inserted herself into the conversation after being left out from it for a long time.
"Umm, that means..."
Lyner glanced at Aurica. He seemed to be confirming with her if it was okay to answer Shurelia's question. Shurelia didn't mind this topic much, but her curiosity got the best of her. Remaining in silence, Aurica opened her mouth slightly embarrassed.
"It means I'm going to need "that" soon... the Life Extending Agent..."
Shurelia forgot about this at times because she didn't need the Agent, but as Aurica was also one of the more recent Third Generations Reyvateils, which comprised almost the entirety of the Reyvateil population in the world, she needed the Life Extending Agent in order to keep herself alive.
Maybe it was because they were born with incredible powers such as Song Magic, maybe it was a consequence of the Reyvateils qualities intermingling with human blood... regardless, all of the newer Reyvateils were condemned to have a very short life.
Upon reaching a certain age in their young existences, most of them would suffer from extremely high fevers and gradually get weaker and weaker until they died, which could only be overcome once the people discovered the Life Extending Agents.
However, if they abandoned the periodical doses they needed of it, only an ultimately lethal fever awaited them, so it was impossible for Reyvateils to maintain their lives without the Agents.
In the current times, this was the greatest difference that separated humans and Reyvateils.
"I-I see. Then I'll leave the room for now..."
And in an elegant way, she left the room.
As she closed the door, she let out a long, deep sigh she had been storing in her chest since a while ago.
"Come to think of it... she is having Lyner insert it..."
Shurelia's expression was complex... it was complex enough that it could have been taken for inexpressive if anyone said it... she seemed to be at a loss about how to react to this situation.
While she didn't need the Life Extending Agent due to being the original Reyvateil, she felt a lot of sympathy for Aurica.
However, whenever she thought of how personal it was to receive a dose from the Life Extending Agent from a partner, it became impossible for her to quell down her feelings.
It was because Shurelia knew how much a Reyvateil was entrusting her life to her partner when she was getting the Agent administered to her, as well of how private an act it was supposed to be.
And in an apparent attempt to shake off these complicated feelings, the long-lived girl ran off back to her own room.
"Lady Shurelia acted a bit too tactful with us. Did we do something wrong?"
As Aurica got as closer as she could to Lyner, she turned back to him while Lyner took out a small case out from his bag. This was where the Life Extending Agent was carried.
"Wouldn't it have been better for you if Lady Shurelia was here too?"
"No... It'd be too embarrassing..."
"I don't see why. I'm just giving you the Life Extending Agent."
"I've already told you no! That's why I say you don't understand a girl's feelings! I said Lady Shurelia was being too tactful because she understood my feelings..."
Lyner still didn't seem to understand what Aurica, who was now sounding more like a spoiled child, was saying.
"It's like that?"
"Of course it's like that! You really can't understand my feelings and all because you're a human... huh?"
Very confused, Aurica covered her mouth with her hands.
"What happened, Aurica?"
"N-nothing. But I..."
Aurica hesitated to say any more. She seemed to be confused about how she should express what she had just felt.
"I... I didn't say myself the words I said just a second ago... It was very weird, Lyner... And while you don't know this, this isn't the first time it's happened."
"And you said some cruel things..."
"Then we should hurry. Insert it now, Lyner!"
With great care, Lyner picked up a transparent crystal. This was the Life Extending Agent, and it wouldn't be very large if it was considered as a mere handicraft, but it was extraordinarily large for an item that was supposed to be inserted into a person. For someone with a small build like Aurica, it was large enough that it would be unable to fit her mouth and thus it would be impossible for her to drink or eat it no matter how much she opened it... such was the size of the Agent.
"It might hurt a little..."
Lyner then embraced Aurica. They embraced so closely that both of their chests were touching each other, while Aurica replied to Lyner's remark by slightly moving her head from a side to other.
"It's fine. It'll be okay as long as you do it like this."
Lyner nodded and put his hand over the nape of the girl he was embracing. He pushed her hair to the sides, and around the point where the nape and back met, he softly inserted the Life Extending Agent.
"I'll insert it now."
Lyner began pushing it with his hand, and as the transparent crystal began emitting a soft light, it started being absorbed into Aurica's smooth skin. It was supposed to be a solid object, but it gradually vanished away into her skin.
"Ngh... ngh... agh... uuugh...."
Aurica's body began feeling heavy due to the energy. While it seemed to have been inserted smoothly, it seemed to place a considerable burden upon the person receiving it.
Now he had his hands empty, Lyner began softly caressing Aurica's back.
"I'm almost finished."
"I'm... okay... You are doing it very softly, so it's okay. That's why I can bear the pain."
Aurica's nape was still in Lyner's vision range, and he saw how the formerly white skin had now gained a soft red color and was covered in sweat.
"Ugh... agh... argh..."
"Almost, I'm almost done..."
"Lyner... Ly... ner..."
Aurica's hands, which were clinging to Lyner's back, were now clenched from the energy. It seemed that the end was the most painful part of the insertion of the Life Extending Agent, and Aurica called out Lyner's name several times. More than complaining to him for the pain, it seemed that calling him served to help her forget the pain a bit.
As for Lyner, the calling didn't make him happy at all: he felt Aurica was calling him as a way to complain to him about the pain he was inflicting on her. But he dismissed the thought, believing there was nothing that could be done about it and that he should alleviate the great suffering of the girl he had between his arms, no matter how slightly.
"Agh... agh... argh..."
Aurica's body continued trembling a little, until the Life Extending Agent at last disappeared completely inside her body.
The amount of pain made all sensations such as limb numbness disappear from her body, and what remained after this was only an uncomfortable feeling of being sweaty all over.
"It's terrible that you have to go through this every three months..."
After he finished inserting the Life Extending Agent, Lyner began revealing his emotions, while Aurica smiled back to her partner.
"It can't be helped. It's something we all have to deal with when we become Reyvateils. And besides, am I not better off than other girls because I've got you with me, Lyner?"
Lyner's reply demonstrated his extreme density once again, but Aurica decided to forgive him this time.
After all, he had embraced her the whole time he was inserting the Life Extending Agent, and this made her very happy.
I'm surrounded by a deep trench.
It encircles me,
and no matter if I turn to the right or to the left, there is nothing aside of that trench.
This trench exists so I can never come out from this place.
I know it.
But I'm all by myself here.
I'm so lonely.
Will no one... ever come to save me?
Nothing can cross this deep trench.
Will no one ever come to save me?
Come to save me.
Come to save me, quickly.
Why does that person never come to save me?
His name is...
What was his name...?
There was a city that could be seen floating beside the Tower, located far lower than the Wings of Horus landmass where the Church of El Elemia was located. Its name was Firefly Alley.
And it was there that the megacorporation Tenba had its general headquarters.
This corporation was single-handedly responsible of several matters, ranging from the production of Grathmelded items to the circulation of money and goods; therefore, it was natural for it to have a large influence on the matters of politics and economy. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that there was no item that didn't bear Tenba's mark from its cradle to its grave.
It could be said that if the Church of El Elemia was the spiritual core for the people of this world, then Tenba was their material core.
However, the people that worked in the economics and transportation division of Tenba were very gentle people. Anyhow, the industrial world controlled by Tenba didn't have any large advances in several decades: the people continued using the same products as in previous days and lived in the same way. However, almost no one among the people ever noticed this was the lifestyle Tenba, the corporation that controlled the economy, had given to them. As for the corporation itself, no one would recognize them as the "rulers" of economy if anyone noticed their activities had been reduced to merely producing the same products over and over. But such was the state of this world.
However, what showed the greatest signs of change for these days was the fact that Tenba had successfully developed a new model of airship.
Tenba had managed to obtain some technologies that were still unknown to them from Platina in the upper world, and they were now in the middle of studying and finding a practical use for them.
If this became a reality, it would bring a change greater than anything that happened during the last century to the company.
While a large part of the populace hadn't realized this yet, this would mean a technological revolution for the stagnated Tenba.
And the one that seemed to realize this the least was the very person at the vanguard of the company's development, who while still young enough to be called a girl, was already nearing the age where calling her a young woman would be more appropriate. However, this is because that girl herself refused to acknowledge this, all because she seemed to enter a dream-like state whenever she was in touch with unknown technologies. Naturally, she never had placed much value on the company's future.
The next plan in the agenda was mass-producing the new model airship and her... Krusche, was given the lead for the activities related to carrying it out.
As she jotted something down in her notepad, she walked around her workshop in the main Tenba building.
"Hmm, it won't work, no matter what we do. Maybe we got something wrong during the specs chat with the President..."
While she expressed herself in a masculine and roundabout way, the words slipped through her lips in a rather cute manner.
After she greeted the technicians from whom she received the test results on the first mass-produced model's fuselage, she checked how the production process went, but she didn't get any new ideas from it.
"Lessee... how did Mark III fare? A failure...? Hmm, why now? There's no point to testing the other models after getting something this. Yeah, I know there's none of that in the warehouse because I got it ready for this."
While she wrote down all the indications to the technicians in her notepad, she went to the next place she had on her schedule.
"And they're late. And I asked him to do that yesterday... That Jack can't even do something as simple as shopping for one item."
She had asked Jack to buy her several parts that they needed for the construction of the prototype models. She would rather have gone to buy them herself, but as the time at which Jack contacted her couldn't be any more convenient, she decided to ask him instead.
That way, she could continue working while others did the shopping for her, which is why she seemed so glad to make Jack do it for her. But actually, it was possible she didn't ask him to buy these parts for professional purposes, but because Jack was an amateur technician himself, so if he made any mistakes, she thought she could take it as him taking another loan from her, which would allow her to ask him for many more favors.
She valued the efficiency everyone else demonstrated in the work because of her own rebellious spirit, but she herself had not realized this yet.
When she imagined the older man, two heads taller than her, frantically screaming and trying to say incoherent things, Krusche couldn't help but laugh a little.
"Well, maybe I hafta go shopping with him at least once..."
And as she poked her forehead with the pen she was using to write, she looked around and noticed that things seemed different from usual.
"Huh? Where're Alissa and Myu?"
These were two Reyvateils she always saw working on this place, but they were nowhere to be found.
The technicians locked eyes with Krusche as she said this. They apparently said something, but what they said seemed to have become a bewildering wind.
"What? What happened? I won't know if ya keep your mouth shut, Cedar."
The technician she called out hesitated for a few moments before he started talking.
"These girls won't come here anymore..."
"What ya mean?"
Krusche's expression turned serious at once.
"During the two days you were away, Miss Krusche, these two girls... were discharged."
"Discharged...? Don't ya mean... fired!?"
Cedar could only nod in a gloomy way while Krusche's eyes became the size of platters.
"Ahaha, that's just a misunderstanding!"
Ayano gave a hearty laugh as her large breasts jiggled; making Krusche wonder what kind of diet she could have followed for them to have grown to such a size.
She was quite a charming and attractive woman that had her breasts and abdomen quite developed, yet she had a personality broad-minded enough to not care at all about men, and she also was the president of the Tenba megacorporation.
That such a person was so different on the outside and on the inside most likely would be taken as impossible by the people.
As her proportions were even greater than those of an actress, that might have been the reason why she had so many outfits that emphasized her cleavage. However, she also looked just like a bandit due to the eye-patch she wore over one of her eyes.
While she was responsible for all the industries of this world, she also was the person who kept all of the violent soldiers they had at Tenba under control...
She also was who hired Krusche for her abilities and chose her for the top position of the R&D division, yet Krusche herself still didn't know how deep Ayano's personality was.
"A misunderstanding...? But aren't both Alissa and Myu gone now?"
Krusche was pressing Ayano for an answer, but she began getting closer to her overwhelming breasts, so Krusche got all flustered and decided to step back a bit.
"President... these breasts are a lethal weapon, and I don't want to become a victim of them... but I didn't mean things that way. A misunderstanding wouldn't normally get anyone fired, right? And these two girls were great workers, so why did they get fired like that?"
"Calm down, Krusche. First listen to what I've got to say."
In contrast to Krusche, who had suddenly gotten up, Ayano calmed down. She made a face that seemed to say that nothing had changed.
"But President... there must've been some problem for you to have fired two employees that didn't do anything wrong. Maybe there was some bug or something in the employee administration system... and since the Mir incident just closed up, we should examine the program to make sure"
"I'll task you with examining the program whenever you want, but as far as this issue is concerned, it won't be necessary. Most likely this happened because I ordered it, Krusche."
"You should sit down first."
Ayano advised as she pointed to a sofa.
"Krusche, what do you think about the relationship shared between the Reyvateils and the humans?"
"...That question's all outta the blue. I think that..."
"And I won't accept that you haven't thought about it at all as an answer, given you were part of Lyner's group."
"Are you talking about the relationships between Lyner and Aurica or Misha? In that case, it's true that Lyner treated Reyvateils differently from how he treated other humans. I thought it was very different from our way of thinking... but that's pretty common over at Platina, right? But if you're talking about the relationships with Alissa and the others, which'd make it about this incident... you're not suggesting that you fired them because they're Reyvateils... right?"
"How rash. There's still more to it: when I met Lyner and exchanged words with him, it made me think a lot on how I was doing things."
"Think a lot about it..?"
"Yeah. Even now I'm wondering if the relationship we have with the Reyvateils is the correct one."
"Wondering about it...? You mean there's still something wrong with how we treat them?"
Ayano showed a bitter smile to a puzzled Krusche.
"You knew it too, right? And trying to change and making a better treatment for them a common practice looks pretty difficult, as everyone would doubt us."
"Right now, Reyvateils live while being extensively depended on by the humans."
"What do you mean... by depended on?"
"I mean it in both the economic and social sense. While they were originally beings created by human technology, that doesn't make them any different from us. They can marry human men and even have children with them, so at this point we could even say they're the same. However, they do have a large difference from us humans. You know what that is, Krusche?"
"Umm... the ability... to craft Song Magic?"
Ayano moved her head from side to side.
"It's true that the power of Songs is one of their most important abilities, but we humans also have the ability to do things no other person can."
"Then, what could be that difference...? ...Ah!"
"Looks like you've figured it out."
Ayano's expression grew serious.
"Their greatest difference with us humans is their life span. We don't know if it's related to their ability to craft Song Magic, but their lives are quite short. That's the difference I'm talking about."
"But that's solved with the Life Extending Agents, so it shouldn't be a problem, right?"
"The Life Extending Agents are the problem here."
Ayano pointed out.
"The production line for the Life Extending Agent is completely under Tenba's control, and Tenba itself is a human-owned company."
"And that's the reason why the Reyvateils have to live while being depended on by us humans, no matter if they want to or not. We can cut off our relationship with the Reyvateils whenever we want, but on the other hand, the Reyvateils can't do that."
Krusche fell silent for a while, as if she was taking the time to digest the problem. She then returned her gaze to Ayano.
"I had never thought about these things. But in that case, we humans shouldn't be protecting the Reyvateils? If the Life Extending Agents disappear, they'd die..."
"However, to me… this way of thinking is wrong as well."
Krusche then looked at the serious Ayano with a puzzled look.
"What would you think if I proposed this to you, Krusche? I'd take care of them in all aspects and they'd never have to worry about anything again. As long as they did everything I said as their job, I'd guarantee their livelihood and the maintenance of their lives... or in other words, their Life Extending Agents. In other words, I'd make sure they wouldn't ever have any unfulfilled needs again. So, what would you say if I did that?"
"T-that might be bad too... because no one would be able to get anywhere on life, or be able to think and decide by themselves, if they had such an easy life. President, that's..."
Krusche's voice got lower and lower in volume as she spoke.
"Yeah. I think so too..."
"As for making it a common practice, we could do it right now. However, we should be able to make it in a way that won't make anyone doubt us, right? I'm sure these Reyvateils must be feeling the same doubt I am now."
At that moment, the figure of a beautiful woman that owned a bar in Nemo appeared inside Krusche's mind.
Ayano continued talking while a small smile began returning to her face.
"We humans will always control the lives of the Reyvateils... the people themselves haven't realized this simple fact... and that state of things won't benefit anyone. However, that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to solve the main problem: their life spans and the Life Extending Agent, as soon as possible. My main plan right now is... to make them self-sufficient economically, after all."
"And sorry for being so roundabout on this, but this is the answer to your question, Krusche. In order to realize the goal I just told you, I gave orders to the HR department to reform the contracts for all the Reyvateils that are currently employed with us. These changes are to abolish the restrictive conditions in which they must work in exchange for the Life Extending Agent, and instead allow them to have monthly wages the same way as the humans do."
"So this means they got fired because..."
"All of their previous contracts have been rescinded, so while you might think they have been temporarily fired, I've also given orders to prepare their new contracts as quickly as possible. So once we've sorted this mess out, everything will be back to normal."
"Ah, okay! It's a relief to hear that!"
"I'm glad I could tell you these news. By the way, how are things with the airship test models? I'm thinking that if we could successfully copy these technologies, we could cut the production costs by half."
"The Platina airships make use of several technologies still unknown to us, so I get all excited whenever I'm touching them. Still, that means we're gonna need a bit more time in order to adapt and link them to our current technologies due to the difference in formats."
"I see. However, I have to ask for it to be completed as soon as possible. Lately, I've been getting reports from the Production department that the ingredient supply costs have greatly increased. If we don't come up with a method to cope with this, we won't have other way out aside of increasing the prices of our products."
"That's troubling. After all, Tenba puts in the market almost all the products in this world. If all prices begin shooting through the roof at once, the company'll be in trouble."
"That's right. Well then, I'll leave the rest in your hands, R&D Chief."
"Understood, President Ayano."
This was one of the many bars that existed in Airport City Nemo, the heart of the Wings of Horus. As it also had an inn and a weapon shop in the same building, it enjoyed a great popularity among adventurers due to its great convenience. However, this wasn't why Lyner and his friends frequently stopped here to rest: it was for an entirely different reason.
Claire leaned her head as she smiled. Her smile was of the sort that had captivated many people.
That she was the proprietor of this bar was why Lyner and the others frequently came to this place. She was a Reyvateil, although Reyvateils that didn't work for Tenba or the Church like her were extremely rare. However, no one else would notice it if she didn’t say it herself, as she was never seen singing Song Magic.
Lyner showed up at that bar in Nemo alongside Aurica and Shurelia.
Aurica was wearing her usual outfit, but Shurelia was wearing the large armor she had as her usual outside clothes, which immediately caught the attention of all the customers.
"My feelings, huh...? That's a request I don't understand very well."
"We're gathering feelings from everyone to make a new Song!"
Aurica said to make things clear to Claire.
"A Song? You mean Song Magic?"
"It's because you're so important to me, Claire, and Lyner told us we should gather the feelings of those people we consider the most important to each of us."
Lyner nodded too.
"That's right. We'll gather the feelings of the most important people we have in our hearts, and we'll put them all into a Song. That's the gist of it."
"The most important people to you, huh?"
Claire smiled again. However, this time her smile had a somewhat bitter feel to it this time.
"You haven’t changed. You’re so straightforward, that it makes me want to giggle. At least, this means you think I’m that important to you, right? Aurica?"
"And it's not just Aurica. You're very important to me too, Miss Claire"
"Is that the case?"
Both Shurelia and Aurica got flustered upon hearing Lyner's words. Lyner nodded, but it seemed he had done this because he was caught off-guard by Shurelia's and Aurica's reactions.
"Well, it's just natural, right? Miss Claire has helped us out so many times during our journeys that I can’t even count them all. You even consider her as your older sister, Aurica, so wouldn't that make her an important person to me too?"
"O-okay. So that's how you meant it."
"I see. So that was the meaning behind your words."
With faces of apparent relief, both girls turned their gazes away from Lyner. Claire began giggling at this.
"You won't get any further if you continue acting like that, my dear little sister."
When he looked at how Aurica blushed and how Claire smiled in a way that seemed like she was never going to adopt any other expression, Lyner made a curious face.
"U-ummm. By the way, there are a lot of things I wanted to ask you..."
"It's okay, feel free to. However, I'm working at the bar now, so..."
Claire then directed a glance to behind Lyner and the others. Just as she said, there were many customers sitting on the tables and chairs beyond the counter enjoying the food and beverages.
Aurica softly placed her hands on her own chest.
"You need to tend to the customers, right? Let me do it!"
"Are you okay, Aurica?"
Claire was a bit uneasy about how suddenly Aurica raised her hands.
"I mean, pretty much no one around here knows you..."
"Then let's get that fixed! And I know I can at least serve here as a waitress. Please, Claire?"
"Hmm, in that case..."
And while Claire was still pondering this over, Shurelia also spoke up.
"If it's okay with you, I would like to serve here as well."
"To serve... you mean as a waitress, Miss Shurelia?"
Claire's eyes instantly became the size of soup platters upon hearing Shurelia's proposal. However, the next instant she put on a mischievous face.
"Okay. While I'm here talking to Lyner, I'll let you two take care of the place."
"Are you two okay with this?"
While Aurica was overjoyed about the whole thing, Lyner looked at her with a face filled with uneasiness.
"Of course! Waitresses only have to listen to the customers' orders, make the food and bring them alongside beverages. However, I don't think I should make Aurica cook too, right?"
"It's true we shouldn't... but that isn't because Aurica's dishes taste badly, but... because of how creative she gets with them."
"Hey, the important part is making them tasty! That's the basis for every single dish I cook!"
"We'll leave that for another time, okay? Come now, get out to the bar and begin tending to the customers. Otherwise, I won't have any time to talk with Lyner."
And seeing how both girls were showing great enthusiasm, Claire led them back to where the customers were waiting.
"Please, leave this to me."
Upon seeing how obediently they went to tend to the customers, Lyner could only feel a great admiration for Claire.
"Hmmm, even Lady Shurelia is being this obedient... You're amazing, Miss Claire."
"What does that mean, Lyner? You're making it sound as if these girls were wild animals or something."
Claire laughed while Lyner replied to her with a serious face:
"If they were wild animals, it'd be okay, as I could just defeat them with my sword. But I don't really know how I should deal with girls their age... ah, but Lady Shurelia is far older than me... but she doesn't give off that feeling at all... Miss Claire, I'd really rather deal with wild animals than with them."
"Oh my, looks like you're really having a lot of trouble, Lyner."
Upon seeing how Lyner hanged his head down, Claire began patting his head in the same way she would to comfort a child.
"Well, about these two... you might also have to include Misha when the situation calls for it... you shouldn't ever give up and think there's no solution to it. First and foremost, you have to continue being strong if you ever want them to care for you, Lyner."
"For me? But why?"
"...You still don't get it, huh? That must be pretty hard on Aurica too."
Claire muttered under her breath as she looked in Aurica and Shurelia's direction.
"Huh? What did you say?"
"No, nothing important. And more importantly, didn't you come to gather my feelings?"
"Ah, right. Sorry about that. We don't really have a deadline for this, but that doesn't mean we should just be playing around."
While he said this, Lyner's gaze began wandering around, as if he still had something he wanted to say.
"Is everything okay? Is there anything else you wanted to discuss with me aside of how to treat these girls?"
"Please, no. This isn't like you, Lyner. One of the things I’ve always admired about you is how straightforward you are."
"*sigh* ...Okay, I'll tell you. It's so confusing I didn’t know even where I should begin."
Lyner then looked behind himself in a slow and clumsy manner. By just looking at his actions, anyone could have imagined that there was something worrying him.
"What could they be talking about?"
"You mean Lyner and Claire?"
Aurica blurted out as she nodded in response. As she pulled the round tray to her chest, she shot off intermittent glances at the counter where both Lyner and Claire were seated next to each other.
"I will not deny that it is bothering me, but we are still in the middle of work."
"You're right, but..."
Aurica gave a passing glance to Shurelia, but due to her hard armor, she couldn't spot any definite gestures she made. As even her face was covered by a shield visor, it was impossible to check her expression or anything related to it. Due to this, the customers were shocked enough to jump from their chairs and stool when both girls first came to take their orders. And they got even more startled when they heard the transparent voice of a girl coming out from behind that fearsome armor and helmet, which made them feel misled by the appearances.
Of course they didn't do this on purpose, but it wouldn't be a mistake to consider this as something that would never fit the place. However, Shurelia herself never took notice of this fact, and she kept carrying her job as a waitress with a nonchalant expression (that was impossible for anyone to see due to the visor). Shurelia then asked Aurica.
"Does it bother you so much?"
"Yeah, it does."
"Well, if you say so... maybe we should try listening in on them for a while."
"Y-you mean, to eavesdrop!?"
"What kind of person are you taking me for? Remember I'm the Tower Administrator, capable of controlling the entirety of the Tower's systems. If I use a little trick here..."
"P-please don't do that, Lady Shurelia... We don't have to go so far..."
"Very well. I don't really wish to mix my personal affairs with my official position... but it does bother you, correct?"
And as they talked, several men that just entered the bar had their gazes fixated on them. The men then looked at each other's faces.
"From their appearances, I'd say these're Reyvateils."
"It feels like the place suddenly got swarmed with Reyvateils."
"But it's refreshing for the eyes to have so many pretty things to look at."
"Stop spoutin' nonsense! Didja ever see that many Reyvateils together in a single place?"
"Well, now ya mention it..."
"Doesn't that give ya a bad feeling?"
"Huh? Well, if ya put it that way, I can't help feeling like that too..."
"So it is about Aurica after all?"
Lyner nodded in response to Claire's question.
"Did she start hating you? Did you do something like hugging her out of nowhere? As she's such a shy girl, doing that with no warning would get her embarrassed and angry."
"No, I didn't. I've known that for a long time."
"Huh? Really? Hehehe, I'm a bit surprised. So you two have gotten so close already... right? But that isn't odd at all, as you've traveled together for so long..."
"Surprised? But when I gave her the Life Extending Agent, she told me she wanted me to prop her up because it was so painful, and I ended embracing her all that time... What does have that of special? I don't really know about many things that happen here on the lower world... so maybe I did something awful..."
"N-no. Of course not... but, is that all? I'm somehow feeling a bit let down from hearing that..."
Claire sighed. She had been shown a sample of Lyner’s denseness, who hadn’t still been able to grasp the basics of love in the way she was thinking.
"But it's okay. Well, if you didn't hug her with no warning or anything like that, what could have gotten you two to fight like that?"
"We haven't really fought. It isn't that... but, I’m actually feeling Aurica has been a bit emotionally unstable lately."
Upon hearing this, Claire turned to the customers' area.
It was afternoon already, so the number of customers in the bar who Aurica was tending to with a forced smile on her face had greatly increased.
"She doesn't really look like it though... but in the first place, she has never been the type of girl to have emotional outbursts. You should be aware of that too."
"You're right, but she had calmed down quite a bit lately, and I think it's mostly because I managed to Dive into the deepest areas of her Cosmosphere... But as far as I’m aware, all the problems that were in Aurica's mind should have been solved now."
Claire pondered this while she crossed her arms in front of her ample bust.
"As you were the one Diving into her, I don’t think you’re wrong, Lyner... but the mind is a complicated thing for both humans and Reyvateils, isn't it? Even if you were able to Dive and see inside her mind, there should be some things that can't be checked through a Dive."
"But... I've got the feeling that something weird's happening."
"Sorry for saying that. That's something I just thought of... I'd like to talk with you again if anything comes up again. But maybe I’m just imagining things."
And as they had already exhausted all the ways they knew for discussing this topic, Lyner changed the topic.
"By the way, aren't these girls behind the bar new?"
Lyner said upon noticing that the food and beverages for the orders Aurica had taken were being prepared by some girls he had never seen before, to which Claire nodded in response. Around three girls that seemed to be of her same age were very busy working at the narrow area behind the bar.
"Yes, I hired them a little ago. And it's all thanks to them that I had time to talk to you. It seems they used to work at Tenba, but..."
"Are they Reyvateils, by any chance?"
"Yes. I said I'd get my own livelihood after I left Tenba long ago, but lately Tenba has gotten strange."
"Strange? Tenba? What do you mean?"
"Oh, so is it my turn to lead the discussion now? It's fine. It's a bit of a long story though. Are you okay with listening to it regardless?"
"Yeah. I don’t mind."
"Originally, the Tenba Corporation had the policy of considering us Reyvateils as disposable tools, but lately..."
However, Claire's words were interrupted by the piercing sound of broken plates, which was followed by a girl screaming.
Lyner turned around and ran to the crowd in the main area of the bar.
"No! ...Please, stop!"
Aurica struggled while a man had grabbed one of her arms.
"W-what!? That's what ya get for screaming outta nowhere!"
The man responsible for this had such a threatening look on his face that Aurica was daunted.
"No! No! Let me go!"
"S-shut up for a bit! What did I do!? Damn!"
The man looked like he didn't even intend to grab Aurica like this in the first place. However, he only noticed her screams after he had already grabbed her.
He didn't even hit her, but he was moving Aurica's arm around very violently. Maybe this was because he had gotten too agitated.
The man was around two heads taller than her, so between the force with which he moved her arm around and how delicate Aurica's body was; she was like a toy in the hands of a child.
A high-pitched scream escaped her mouth. And right after, several screams began being heard one after another... they were the voices of all the Reyvateils in the bar. The humans in the place couldn't do anything aside of looking confused at the terrorized faces the girls had that instant.
Lyner’s hand put a grip on his sword’s hilt, but Claire put a hand over his.
Claire shook her head silently as she looked at Lyner, and walked calmly to the main area of the bar.
"What a joke! Do ya think someone'll come save ya just because you screamed? Reyvateils are so impudent!"
While in some occasions Aurica displayed a determined spirit that took aback even Lyner, this time she could only scream like a terrorized cat, not knowing what she should do.
And at the same time the man raised his enormous hand, Claire spoke to him.
"Hmm? What are you doing to my waitress...?"
With a soft voice that at the same time warned her listener to stop doing whatever he was, Claire stepped in front of Aurica, as if to cover her from the man.
The man suddenly forgot his fury, shocked before Claire's sudden appearance, and he instantly stopped moving.
Taking advantage of this opportunity, Claire put her own hand over the hand the man was using to grab Aurica's wrist.
She then continued.
"Looks like something has made our customer uncomfortable, huh? I'm very sorry we have worsened your mood, sir~"
"Ah... ummm... no..."
Acting differently according to the occasion, such as behaving modestly initially to then give an offensive response, was a difficult thing to do for Aurica. The man muttered an apology " 'twas nothing" while he released Aurica. Claire then softly covered the hands of them both with her own.
"Given you have graced us with your long-awaited visit and patronage, we're really sorry for having caused discomfort to you. If you wish, we can give you an extra in order to make you regain a good mood."
"No... ya don't hafta go so far... I just grabbed the Reyvateil there because she screamed outta nowhere... I didn't wanna cause any trouble..."
The man apologized. Somehow, he didn't seem to be the kind that stirred up trouble without any reason.
"You're amazing, Miss Claire..."
Lyner reflexively muttered in admiration as he saw how the man pulled his hand back from Claire's and Aurica's as he blushed. At some point, Shurelia also showed up behind them.
"That was incredible, Claire. That behavior is something I could never hope to imitate."
Maybe it was because he felt unwelcome after that scene, but the man quickly returned to his companions and they left the bar. Then, Claire went back to where Lyner and the others were.
"I'm sorry, Claire..."
Aurica was extremely disheartened. A smile appeared on Claire's face, although it looked more like a bitter one.
"Tending to customers is harder than it looks, huh?"
"Yeah. But you're amazing. I really admire you!"
However, Claire didn't give back a smile to Lyner despite him blushing with admiration to her.
"I wonder... are you actually special?"
"You humans are all egotistical creatures, and you don't even think about us Reyvateils at all... "
"We know we can't oppose the humans because we need the Life Extending Agent, but that doesn't give you the right to grab us by the arm whenever you want!"
Upon hearing how much Claire's voice had raised, even Aurica was so shocked that she felt the blood on her veins going cold.
"We aren't any tools the humans can use however they want! If the humans didn't exist we would--! Huh...?"
"Claire, what are you saying? We Reyvateils and the humans are getting along now. You should be aware of this."
Upon hearing Shurelia's words, Claire's expression gradually returned to her usual calmness.
"You're right... there are good and evil people among the humans... and I'm aware enough of it, but... this is so strange..."
Claire put her hands on her face as she pondered.
"Why was I so angry a moment ago?"
"Isn't it because that man was being rude to a girl?"
"No, Aurica. That wasn't it. That's something that happens a lot in this kind of business, so it isn't something I'd get angry over... so why… did I even go to the point of doubting all the humans...?"
Claire softly murmured the last part, as if she was scrutinizing her own words. Lyner and the others looked at her with anxiety.
"Did I really think such a thing...?"
As Claire said this, she had an unusual expression on her face: one of sheer terror.
A few days went by, but ultimately the two Reyvateils didn't come back to work at Krusche's place.
"Didja check all the inns and hotels we assigned them to?"
Sitting down on a simplistic chair in a corner of her workshop, Krusche raised her head from the clipboard in which she was taking notes.
"Yeah. Where could these girls have gone to...? It'd be terrible if they haven't received the Life Extending Agent..."
The engineer that answered her question showed a worried expression as he put a hand on the cap he was wearing. Krusche then asked him to investigate where these Reyvateils had gone to.
"Are you going to HR?"
"I've already tried it, but they brushed me off saying they didn't know anything about the Reyvateils they gave up on and fired. And the make it worse, the one who sent me off was Norma. You know, the same one who had never given up on anyone."
"Norma!? She was the one who fired the Reyvateils!?"
Krusche yelled as she dropped her clipboard. This wasn't mere work chatter anymore.
"Looks like it."
The engineer said as he looked around. He seemed to be afraid of something, but as Krusche was deep in thought at that moment, her colleague’s attitude went unnoticed by her.
"But it shouldn't be like that... according to some info I got, they weren't fired. They were just going to change their work contracts..."
"Actually, all the Reyvateils have left the lodging facilities they were assigned and went to who knows where..."
Krusche found herself unable to reply back from how her colleague had phrased his reply.
"I've gotta check that myself."
And she decided to try going to the Human Resources department.
15 minutes later, she had calmly walked through the maze-like corridors of the Tenba HQ, which seemed to go on endlessly, and she finally reached the HR department.
The massive size of the building made it quite troublesome for Krusche to reach the HR department from her workshop despite knowing where it was located. When she reached the department’s lobby, she let her sweat-soaked body cool down for a bit while an unpleasant sensation of emptiness filled the pit of her stomach.
After flapping the collar of her jacket for a few seconds and making sure her breathing had recovered its normal rhythm, she talked to the receptionist behind the counter's window, who pretty much had a smile plastered to her face like a mask. She was beautiful, but Krusche felt uncomfortable from her obviously fake and artificial smile.
"I have no information about that here. As far as we have heard here, we should have completed around a 40% of the new employment contracts for the Reyvateils working for us between this month and the following one. As we shouldn't allow ourselves to lose employees, we are making sure that each of them has a fair salary... well then, I'm very busy right now, so if you don't mind..."
The receptionist pretty much implied she wanted Krusche to leave the place that precise moment. However, Krusche was not going to retreat without putting up a fight first.
"These’re the friends that used to work with me ‘til very recently. Are ya trying to tell me in corporate slang that they've been fired? After all, there's no need to rescind the contracts to change their conditions..."
"Did you say... friends?"
While the receptionist initially kept her robotic smile on, the first expression anyone would have thought was real showed up on her visage. It started merely as a normal expression that appeared on her typical well-kept receptionist features, but it gradually turned into a fearsome face as she processed what Krusche had just said.
"You call friends these things that get pampered just because they can use some weird magic? And as if that wasn't enough, we're also getting a lot of these weirdos coming down from the upper world! Reyvateils were made by the humans just to cause us problems!"
"Hold it! Reyvateils aren't different from us humans...!"
"They are! They are all female, they can use magic, and they die if they don't get their precious Life Extending Agents! How aren't they different from us!?"
Krusche couldn't come up with anything to cut off the receptionist's rants. She could have talked the receptionist down had she been in bad a mood enough for it, but Krusche knew doing that wouldn't make the woman change her viewpoints.
An older colleague of the receptionist said as he entered the room.
"That conversation you just had is directly related to the work carried out by our department, isn't it? To know what happened here, you'd need to be persistent enough to check all official documents. You really want to know about it, umm... Chief Krusche?
While this dampened the feelings of the receptionist, she just turned around, unable to continue arguing.
"I just want you tell me one thing... Where have all the Reyvateils that worked here gone to?"
"Who knows? I don't remember all the places they were each assigned. And you were quite angry too. Well, are you feeling refreshed now?"
The receptionist blurted out in a blunt way.
The older colleague just shrugged off at this behind her. Looks like he wanted to say that he had feelings different from those the receptionist had.
However, he didn't show any signs of directly supporting the Reyvateils. Feeling discouraged, Krusche left the department.
The Church of El Elemia. The office of the Bishop.
Fayma was giving a worried gaze at Radolf, who looked at the documents she had given him with a serious expression.
He had already finished looking over the documents, but she knew very well why he was so serious. She knew it well enough to the point it hurt her to see him like this.
After Radolf sat there in silence looking at the papers, he let a soft grumble slip through his mouth.
"So, were all these proposals rejected?"
"In the end, they put conditions to all the proposals I made, and that only got us back to square one. The nerve they have to go around writing these things..."
What he abandoned over the office's desk was the reply to the documents containing the proposal he made to each faction in the previous assembly.
Said proposal was a missionary program to put an end to the infighting in the Church and unify all of its factions once again, but it was rejected and sent back with the opinions of the representative of each faction.
"And to make matters worse, even the faction that was supposed to be supportive of you, Lord Radolf, rejected your proposal..."
Fayma's expression darkened. This gave even more of a reason to Radolf to try composing a smile to counteract that.
"It's because my way of leading the Church is far too lenient. It must be that the opposing factions wish for me to rule with a firmer hand."
"A firmer hand, huh...? And in practical terms, what would be the best way to do that?"
"Who knows? Maybe they want me to completely ignore their opinions and do whatever I feel like doing."
"If you did that..."
"Yes, if I did that, I'd be doing exactly what Falss did during his rule... no, I might turn out to be even worse than him."
Radolf put his elbow on the desk and rested his chin on top of it.
"Everyone... I'll have to seriously ponder over what I'll do from now on."
"From now... on?"
"Once we have put an end to the Church's infighting, how should we increase the influence of the Church back to how it used to be? That's what I have to ponder over. If I misjudge our course of action and take erroneous measures, most likely we won't have another chance."
Fayma spoke as if she intended to add something else, but the gloom in the Bishop's gaze instantly made all words she was going to say to just vanish away.
It was an extremely serious face she had never seen on his face before: one of a man that was dealing with a critical fight.
A deep trench.
No matter how much I look around, I can't see the bottom of this pitch-black darkness,
Because of this trench, I'm all alone.
Why won't you come to save me?
I'm all by myself, I'm lonely.
Will we leave this place soon?
Will we fly away from this trench?
No, I'm scared!
Save me! Save me!
Come save me, quick.
I can't remember your name...
Please hurry; come save me...
He initially intended to do this to calm himself down and think over the events that had taken place during that day.
Lyner was walking alone through the streets of Nemo.
This was quite rare to see, as he pretty much never went around walking by himself. Ever since he was ordered by Shurelia to go down to the Wings of Horus, which is the continent where Nemo is located, he always had someone accompanying him.
This was because he told Aurica and Shurelia to take other way to go back to the inn, and then he left Claire's bar. As he walked through the city, he felt something out of place and his gut pulled him to the source of that uneasiness. This was a fresh new emotion that Lyner had never felt before.
After he walked away from the bar for a while, the worry was pushed to the back of his thoughts and instead, he began taking a great interest on and began enjoying the tumult around him.
He leisurely strolled through the winding and crossing narrow lanes that were between the old stone buildings.
Normally, a sharp-sighted person would always point straight at him and call him the "the hero who saved the world", but that day, nothing like that happened. Most likely it was because he wasn't wearing the armor he always used to wear. While he didn’t necessarily like fighting, he thought that there was no need to always wear the armor due to how things were now. Maybe that was why he was feeling so free right now.
As he walked, Lyner suddenly thought up something, and so he went to a nearby store and bought a drink for himself.
"Huh? That's pretty expensive... When I bought it earlier it was so much cheaper..."
As he fumbled around in his pocket with his hand to find some pocket change, the female storekeeper composed an apologetic face.
"Everything’s gotten pricier lately... it's all because the Grathmelding ingredients have shot up in cost."
It was the same thing Misha and Jack heard in the market. Completely oblivious to the fact that this was the effect his accomplishments had brought to the place, Lyner just nodded.
He said as paid for the drink, and he then resumed his walk through the city.
But after a while walking, he noticed something strange.
Every now and then, several girls would pass by his side.
While it wasn’t that unusual to see groups made up just from girls, upon realizing that several girls had gathered in groups that looked exactly to same to each other, Lyner started feeling something wasn’t right in the place.
And his worries were only fueled when he noticed that all the girls had the same stiff expression and walked at the same quick pace in the same direction. It seemed they were trying to run away from something.
Some of the people around didn’t mind the girls at all and acted as normal, which made Lyner think for a moment that maybe this was some custom unique to Nemo he was ignorant about. However, he also noticed that there were many others who were looking at the girls with fear.
Lyner hadn't even taken a look at these fast-walking girls by the time this thought came to him. While their numbers didn't increase in a fixed way, they had already gone up from a few to several tens of people, all of which looked similar to each other.
By the time he had finished the drink on his hand, Lyner was looking at the group of girls standing still on the street... and it was by this time that the realization that these girls seemed to be Reyvateils hit him... and then, they left through one of the four streets they had around. They had chosen a direction.
"...Is there something over there?"
The road the girls had taken would only take them to a land where only a now-uninhabited group of ruins was located. Lyner realized he would never learn why the girls were going there if he just stood there looking at them. And while a sudden flash of insight was the only thing that gave him a possible reason for these girls to be acting this way, it was more than enough to make feel uneasy.
"Looks like Reyvateils aren't as rare as they say."
Lyner tried listening to the townspeople that entered his range of vision. Naturally, these people were no Reyvateils: just normal humans that were looking at the Reyvateils in fear. These reactions were enough for him to deduce that this situation wasn’t normal.
Lyner tried talking to the closest person he had, which happened to be a woman.
"Where have these girls gone? Is there anything in that direction?"
It was a middle-aged woman, who glanced back at him in silence. Her expression pretty much said "I don't know." Lyner tried asking another question.
"Umm... are you a human?"
"Isn't that obvious?"
She raised her eyebrows in response to Lyner's question.
"S-sorry... So, were these girls Reyvateils?"
She gave back Lyner a doubtful glance, as if she were asking him whether he was unable to distinguish Reyvateils from humans.
Lyner gave her a smile as polite as he could.
"Umm... you had that same face when you were looking at these Reyvateils just now, you know?"
The woman put her hand on her cheek as she put on a concerned face.
"I really put such a face...? But I guess it can't be helped... After all, this is the first time I've ever seen the city overflowing with so many Reyvateils."
"But aren't Reyvateils rare in Nemo...?"
"Here we have Reyvateils that are paired with Tenba workers as well as the partners for the Church Oracles."
The woman was astonished at how ignorant Lyner was.
"Ah, you must be one of those people from the upper world that are coming here a lot lately, right? Well, no wonder you don’t know that. After all, Reyvateils aren't human, so they can't live the same way as we do."
"It's because of the Life Extending Agent. It's a special drug created by the humans... or better said, by Tenba, and they'll die if they don't have it. I feel a little sorry for them..."
This was all information Lyner already knew, but as it seemed he would lose the opportunity to ask for more details if he interrupted the woman, he just nodded and said "yes" back in response, as if he didn't know anything.
"But that can't be helped either, and I think it's just a small mercy on us from the Goddesses of Elemia. After all, Reyvateils can use an incredibly frightening magic."
"A frightening magic, you say?"
"Yeah, I'm talking about Song Magic."
The woman suddenly lowered the tone of her voice, as if she was worried about others listening in to their conversation.
"By just singing, they can shoot fire and kill people, you know? It's frightening! The only thing that keeps them from going crazy on us is the Life Extending Agent... It's scary!"
"...So that’s what you meant…"
Lyner got some dark feelings from how the woman talked, and now he understood why the Reyvateils aside of Claire had begun doubting the humans. Because he himself was so devoted to the Reyvateils, they had saved his life more times than he could ever count. And the Reyvateils working for the Church and Tenba were well-aware that he had fought such a perilous battle to protect this world from the threat of the Viruses.
The very idea they would try to use the power of the Songs they harnessed to bring harm to the humans seemed utterly ridiculous to him at this point.
Wasn't this woman aware of this?
However, he just nodded endlessly and agreed with her words, as she was unable to know what he was thinking.
"Yes. Reyvateils are completely different from us humans. And lately, they have been gathering by themselves like this, without any humans among them, out of nowhere... Doesn't that give you a bad feeling?"
"W-well... I... do you think there's something strange happening?"
"I don't really know for sure though."
The woman said in a boastful manner.
"However, there's a rumor going among the younger people that a war similar to the one that happened long ago will begin soon, and all because the Reyvateils are going to rebel against the humans. Maybe that has to do with the fact that prices have increased so much lately."
"That won't happen!"
Lyner said this with such a loud voice that he made the woman look a bit daunted.
"I-I didn't say it would. That's why I said it's just a rumor."
"The Reyvateils are all good girls. That they were going to revolt against the humans... that's absurd!"
"T-that's why I said I don't know anything..."
The woman turned away from Lyner and walked away a bit. She seemed desperate to put some ground between herself and him.
"Sorry, I went too far."
And as she lowered her face, the woman left the place without even bothering to bid him farewell.
"So there are still people that think that way about the Reyvateils..."
And as if it were a reflex, Lyner turned in the direction the Reyvateils had left.
He was still unsure about if he should follow them and didn't have a clear goal on sight.
However, Aurica's uneasy face, Claire's enraged outburst and the opinion the woman had of the Reyvateils, viewing them as inhuman creatures, began mixing together inside his head, and started playing back over and over in his mind.
So he ultimately started running after them. He wanted to know what was happening that moment.
"...This sound... no... It’s a voice..."
Lyner began looking around, trying to find the source of the sound.
"Is that a Reyvateil's Song...?"
Some young men had surrounded the Reyvateils in one of the roads outside the city. This place was located a bit far from the business district that gathered all shops and similar establishments, and it could be called a residential area of sorts that was inhabited by people from various social statuses, although no affluent people made their living there. While this place was once a bustling area, the road would only take those traveling through it to a group of abandoned ruins. That was why this area always had such a lonesome appearance and atmosphere. It was a very gloomy road.
"You've only got Reyvateils with you, so where’re you goin'?"
"I don't think this has anything to do with you."
The voice of the man who spoke first had a certain joking air to it, but the same couldn't be said about the voice who replied back to him. Rather, it would be better to say that it was overflowing with hostility.
The other Reyvateils that were with her also raised their voices at the same time, saying "Right, it doesn't have anything to do with you." Their voices all sounded every bit as aggressive as hers.
The man who had spoken first was startled upon seeing the unexpected reply from the Reyvateils, and a slightly scared expression appeared on his face. However, upon remembering he had several companions backing him, he began displaying a cocky attitude.
"I just asked ya where you're goin'. Normally no one'd ever see a group of Reyvateils without a guardian or something, ya know? It's weird."
"It isn't weird. We're free now. We don't need to be protected by anyone."
A sarcastic smile appeared on the man's face, as he thought they were trying to mock him.
"That doesn't mean that Reyvateils can live without the humans. You're being weird."
The humans behind the man displayed the same smile he had, feeling every bit as ridiculed as him.
"We don't need..."
The Reyvateil rolled one of her hands into a fist in front of her chest. She then continued talking as her face turned pale.
"We don't need... the humans. You might be intending to control us, but do you really think you can keep doing that forever?"
The extremely antagonistic behavior the Reyvateil was displaying left the man bewildered, all because the attitude the girl before him was exhibiting was so far removed from the image he had of the Reyvateils. The Reyvateils all had the appearance of beautiful girls, and the impression anyone would have from their appearance and general disposition was that they were quite gentle... such was the image the people of this world had of them. It was even typical for men to crack jokes such as "If I'm ever gonna get married, I want a woman that's just like a Reyvateil!”, which showed how widespread this image of them was.
"We can't even craft Songs anymore, because of you humans... because you think we're being free when you're actually treating us as slaves and using us as you see fit... gh..."
The Reyvateil breathed in very deeply.
And then, a transparent voice began overflowing out from her lips.
The man backed off.
The singing felt unsteady at the beginning, but it gradually adjusted itself until it began creating a melody. Anyone looking on the scene would have noticed now that light was gathering around the girl.
"She's gonna kill us with a Song!"
"Do you think... I'll let you escape...?"
They heard her speaking at the same time she was singing. It was definitively the Song Magic of a Reyvateil.
"You humans... you should all just..."
The light gathering around the girl sent the men into a great panic. The terror they felt at the idea of not even being allowed to run away made them attempt desperate actions.
"I'll do you in before you kill us!"
One of the men roared as he rushed the girl in an attempt to attack her.
A scream was heard.
Her song interrupted, the Reyvateil was thrust away from the place where she was standing a second ago and landed face-down on the ground.
"How do you dare...!?"
The girls who saw this began singing one after another.
Their songs were of a great beauty, but they were all filled to the brim with hostility.
Several of these panicked men tried to attack the other girls, but as anyone would expect, they wouldn’t be able to stop them all from singing.
While the humans continued struggling against the Reyvateils, their melody was heading to its climax.
And it was around this time that Lyner finally reached the place.
"What the hell's happening here...?"
There was an abnormally noisy fight in the middle of the street, and while he was dumbfounded for a moment when he saw it, the next instant he began rushed head-first into it.
"What are you guys doing!?"
Lyner ran in and restrained the man by the neck, pulling him away from the girl. The man still kept trying to rush her with his fists raised.
"Enough already! Your opponents are girls!"
But then another man pushed Lyner away, and the one he was initially pulling away screamed at him irate.
"Stupid! Do you wanna die!? Can't you see they're singing over there!?"
"That's my line! ...Wait a second, they're singing!?"
And now he took a second look at the scene, Lyner noticed how they were indeed singing in the middle of the tumult.
"What are you all doing...!? What do you intend to accomplish by singing here...!?"
Lyner began running to one of the singing Reyvateils, but she shot him back a glare filled with animosity.
"It'd be better if you humans disappeared."
These words caused Lyner's body to involuntarily stiffen.
And at the same time, their melody came to an abrupt end.
The next instant, a stream of flames was shot in Lyner's direction.
Most likely, he didn't get his body covered entirely in flames thanks to the reflexes he gained from being a hero that had taken part in several battles and had been fighting for a long time. However, this time Lyner was only wearing his normal clothes, so he didn't have the protection his armor and standard equipment gave him.
While he managed to avoid the flames by a hair's breath, the flames left severe burns on his shoulder. The wounds caused by the flames spread pain and heat all over his body, and Lyner received a shock strong enough to knock him out.
He then collapsed sideways into the ground.
The men who saw this screamed in terror, which the Reyvateils also did at the same time.
The other Reyvateils that were still singing cut off their Songs that instant and began screaming when they saw Lyner's condition.
One of the men ran away from the place in such a clumsy way that he seemed he would trip and fall down at any time, the others following him soon after.
The Reyvateils also ran away while they screamed and cried at what they had done.
After a short while, the only one that still remained in that street outside of the city was a collapsed Lyner, who still moaned from the pain.
The one who discovered the unconscious Lyner was Aurica.
After they parted ways at the bar, she decided to go back by herself because she couldn’t get herself into the mood to continue talking with Shurelia. On the way back, she bumped into some men that were running away in extreme panic.
They ran off without even apologizing while she landed on her bottom. She was very curious about why they were running away from that direction and ended walking there by herself.
Aurica initially didn't think that the person collapsed on the ground before her was Lyner, and all because she had never seen him like this.
To her, Lyner was an invincible hero that could always defend himself. She had never seen him lying in the ground looking so powerless.
When she finally realized it was Lyner, she fell into a tremendous panic.
She screamed as she ran to his side.
"Lyner! Get ahold of yourself! Don't die! Please, Lyner... don't die here!"
In reaction to Aurica's screams, Lyner softly moaned.
He was still alive.
"Lyner! I'm so glad... I'm so glad you're... alive..."
"Aurica... why are you here...? Ughh..."
While Aurica lifted him on her arms in an attempt to help him, Lyner's face was distorted by pain. It was then that Aurica noticed he had a severe wound on his shoulder.
"H-how did you get a wound as awful as that...? No, it's okay. You'll be fine if I sing now! I'll heal you, Lyner!"
Aurica was getting herself ready to sing, but Lyner softly shook his head.
"No... It’s okay... I'll be fine..."
"Reyvateils and humans... shouldn't fight against each other... so please, stop... stop them..."
Due to his wounds, Lyner wasn't aware that the fight that left him in this sorry state had already ended. Therefore, Aurica was unable to understand what he meant with this.
"It doesn't matter, and anyway... why... why... don't you want me to heal your wounds... when you're in so much pain?"
Aurica tried to begin singing a second time, but Lyner screamed at her with irritation.
"Don't mind me! ...It's more important that you stop the Reyvateils... they were acting strangely... and I don't know what could be the cause..."
"Aurica... don't mind me...."
"Why are you... ignoring my feelings? That isn't nice..."
Pained as he was, Lyner noticed that Aurica's expression was changing little by little, and he gulped down his own words.
"I won't go anywhere else as long as you're injured! You don't understand anything, Lyner! You don't understand my feelings at all!"
She then dropped Lyner from the embrace in which she had him. The height at which she had him was enough to cause him unbearable pain as soon as his body touched the ground.
Aurica just got up as if she had nothing to do with him.
"You humans... always do whatever you want... you just think about yourselves..."
"We don't need the humans... it'd be better if the humans just disappeared...!"
She completely ignored all the times Lyner called her name, and after turning around, she began running away.
Lyner tried to endure the pain and stand up, but midway through, his strength ran out and he finally blacked out, collapsing in that same spot again.
Chapter II: That Which Resounds from the Abyss
An impassable trench.
No one ever comes to save me, so it must be because they can't cross it.
The trench is scary.
Whenever I try to stand on the greenness, my body trembles and my legs get cramps.
It's as if they were saying that the trench will never go away.
Yes... why can I never cross the trench?
Because no one ever comes to save me.
Because no one will ever come to save my lonesome self.
Why am I thinking of crossing the trench?
The Church of El Elemia.
Inside its magnificent walls, there was another assembly taking place: another one that extended for hours on end without coming to a satisfactory conclusion for anyone.
The Oracle Fayma was engaged to, Moralys, behaved energetically and once again took the center stage during it.
"We have received information on several incidents that have taken place in our city of Nemo during the last few days. Clearly, this points to nothing else but the fact that the belief that gave stability to the hearts of the people is gradually fading away. I think that we must take appropriate measures to strengthen their belief, so we may combat this lamentable situation."
The reports about the [quarrel] had already reached even the Bishop's chair in which Radolf sat. While the increase in the prices of the items was the problem in which they were involved the most at the moment, the reports of the fight between humans and Reyvateils also got mixed up into this. Particularly, the bit stating that the Reyvateils had used their Song Magic against the humans. Therefore, it was a matter that couldn't be ignored.
After all, it had been decided long ago that Reyvateils were forbidden to use Song Magic except in a few circumstances in which they were allowed to do so. This was particularly more harshly enforced in urban areas like Nemo itself, where they were pretty much forbidden altogether from using it, no matter the reason behind its usage.
That Song Magic had been used in such a way was what Moralys called lamentable in the speech he was giving that moment.
"Then, does that mean that there were no officers present when the Song Magic was crafted?"
"...Huh? Lord Radolf, what is it?"
Fayma was standing at Radolf's side, but it didn't seem like she heard the question he just asked. She was paying her full attention to the speech of her fiancé, so Radolf just repeated the question to her. She nodded with a pensive face.
"According to the reports, the only ones that were gathered in that place were the Reyvateils who sang at that time. We didn't receive any information of them being accompanied either by Church Oracles or Tenba employees"
"Why did they sing then...? They should have known that doing this would be breaking the law..."
Fayma nodded. All the inhabitants of this world were perfectly aware of the restrictions that were placed on the usage of Song Magic.
"Maybe they were in an emergency situation? Or their lives were in danger?"
"I wonder. And weren't we able to apprehend any of the Reyvateils that actually sang in that place?"
"As for apprehending them... we have no proof yet that these girls did anything wrong, correct...?"
"Ah, right. Sorry about that. But still, that means we should confirm what reason they had to sing in a populated area, and therefore, we must talk to one of them."
"Y-yes, you're right. P-please... forgive me for my insolence"
As Radolf continued listening to the speech, which seemed to continue extending itself endlessly, he also looked at Fayma's face from time to time. She looked so sagacious...
He had even gone and chosen her as his secretary... but the reply she had just given him didn't sound like her.
Maybe it was because she had gotten emotional due to her fellow Reyvateils being involved in this incident, but this possibility didn't cross his mind.
"Were there any casualties?"
Fayma raised her eyebrows at Radolf's sudden topic change, and softly shook her head.
"Unfortunately, there was one wounded person. It doesn't seem his life is in danger, but we have been informed he was taken to the nearest inn as soon as it was possible."
"To an inn you say? Was he a traveler? That's something we'll have to look into later on. Can I trust you with this, Fayma?"
Fayma nodded with a stern expression.
The speech then was taken over by one of the young Oracles of the self-titled Radolf Faction. He had the typical enthusiasm of the young men... but as painful as it was to say this, he also seemed to have the flaw of speaking without bothering to listen to what others had to say.
"We're being told that we have to regain our believers’ faith, but do you really think that people will pay us attention if we just tell them to read the holy scriptures and listen to our sermons when they are worrying about their current lives? The first thing we should do is go to these people and distribute provisions among them!"
"If you're saying that we should just go and distribute food, then you haven't thought things through as much as you should! What a naive way of thinking!"
Radolf accidentally stole a glance from Fayma. Apparently, her fiancé didn't have qualms with interrupting others' speeches. He had a very flammable personality.
Moralys stood up again and continued.
"If you try to offer free assistance to those that lack belief on us, they will never feel any gratitude for the Church and instead will be filled with laziness!"
"It's true that some people may be like that, but the actual situation we're dealing with right now is that the people of the city are starting to get troubled by the rising prices of items, to the point they don't know if they'll even have anything to eat tomorrow. It's absurd to say that those that have such worries despite working so hard will become lazy!"
"You say they are troubled for how they will go on with their lives, but so far we haven't received any reports about anyone dying from starvation."
"Then you're saying that we should stay still and do nothing until someone actually does!?"
More than a dispute, this had already devolved into a quarrel in which both participants were each only trying to find openings through which they could attack the other. This wasn't the kind of discussion Radolf wished for.
"You both, we all should have a short recess, don't you think? If you aren't more tactful when talking to each other, your throats will run dry."
Both quarreling men glared at Radolf, but they didn't have any objections to his proposal. Both had on their faces an expression that clearly said that they could have defeated the other's argument if they had put more effort into it.
(Even though the goal here wasn’t for people to beat each other’s arguments.)
Radolf got a headache.
After he announced the recess, he walked out with a gait from the assembly hall, feeling as if his legs were made out of lead. In comparison to these two, who were practically frothing at their mouths, he didn't seem to have talked much, but he still felt his throat completely parched.
"Fayma, can you make me some tea...?"
But he cut himself off when he noticed that Fayma wasn't at his side.
"Where could she have gone to?"
As he muttered this, he pondered for a while the idea of going to look for her.
However, in the end he came to the conclusion that it would more prudent to wait for her instead, so he decided to go back to his office. Just as he decided that, he heard a soft voice coming from the other side of the corridor. He headed to the source of the voice, as he thought it sounded very similar to Fayma's own voice. He walked over the elegant carpet that was spread from an extreme to the other of the corridor. While the long tufts of the ancient carpet that sunk under his shoes as he walked were quite ancient, Radolf himself thought that putting such elegance even a place like this was unnecessary and it was one of the things he wanted to reform. If they had told him they were going to put such carpets, he would have replied with a "It'd be a great problem to clean the corridor carpets if they're all this large."
After a short while walking, he could hear the voice clearly, and it was then he knew he was right: it was Fayma's voice.
(But when did she become the kind of girl that raises her voice so much?)
The voice coming from around the corner could be very well described as shrill. While it might be a bit excessive to say this, anyone would have thought that it was impossible for someone who was so quiet all the time like Fayma to sound like that.
"Why don't you understand!?"
"I do understand, but I have duties I've got to attend to as a member of the Church and..."
"Duties this, duties that! What's so important about them!? Why do you care about them more than me!?"
Apparently, she was having a quarrel with her fiancé, but the zeal and passion he had back at the assembly hall seemed to have gone away. In front of this girl burning with rage, this Oracle seemed like he had absolutely no power or influence over anyone.
"If I you’re asking me to compare you to my duties in the Church, then..."
"But I should be important enough to you to the point such a comparison shouldn't even cross your mind! You humans are all the same! You always think about whatever you want, but you never think about us!"
Apparently, Moralys was swallowed by his fiancée’s threatening attitude. Even Radolf, who was eavesdropping from a place where they couldn't see him, never thought that Fayma would ever say such words.
“It’d be better...."
Fayma's voice suddenly changed in tone.
Her voice suddenly became lower and softer, yet strong enough to be heard.
“It’d be better if the humans just disappeared."
Then, footsteps were heard on the carpet, which began fading away in the distance. Most likely, that was Fayma running away.
As anyone would expect, no one could see such a scene and walk away from it unfazed. Radolf left the place very distraught.
When he finally got to his office, some news about anomalies being spotted at Skuwat Village reached his ears.
"Skuwat Village? You mean the ruins? Sorry for repeating the question, but what happened in that place?"
The person Radolf was questioning was a young Oracle, who stood immobile as he gave the Bishop his report.
"Several Reyvateils have gathered there and are starting a rebellion!"
While he was greatly shocked to hear that Reyvateils were doing such a thing, Radolf couldn't just accept the report like that. He asked the Oracle for more details.
"A rebellion, you say? But what could they accomplish at these ruins? Couldn't it just be a normal gathering? The first thing we should be doing is trying to find out the reason why they have gone to that place..."
"That isn't the case, sir!"
The Oracle retorted.
"Tenba's armed forces already began conducting a siege as soon as they set foot on the site, and it looks like a skirmish has already started between them and the Reyvateils!"
Radolf said as he slammed a fist on his desk.
"If they try to attack each other, it's obvious that the Reyvateils would be stronger than any armed human! If they start singing, these troops will be nothing more than sitting ducks for them! Trying to send their armed forces for this... what in hell are they thinking!?"
Radolf left the office as he mumbled to himself. He was followed right away by the Oracle.
"Bishop Radolf, where are you going...?"
"You shouldn't need to ask that. I'll depart for Skuwat Village at once."
"Y-you shouldn't, sir! It's almost time for the assembly to reconvene!”
Reflexively, Radolf turned back and looked at the Oracle. Then, he let a long and deep sight out: one that took him around three full seconds to do.
"...Very well. I'll head back to the assembly hall right away."
As soon as he returned to the assembly hall, an unpleasant atmosphere had settled itself upon the room. Apparently, the news of the Skuwat Village incident had already spread among all the members of the Church.
Radolf began talking as soon as he stood above the stand.
"I think everyone present in this hall should know this already, but a piece of extremely grave news has just reached our Church. Apparently, an attack that we shouldn't overlook has just taken place at Skuwat Village, and therefore we, the Church of El Elemia, will consider this as an emergency to which we must respond posthaste. I want everyone here to begin making preparations, as we will be departing right away...”
"Please wait, Bishop Radolf."
One of the elder Oracles raised his hand. Radolf allowed him to interrupt his speech, and the Oracle began speaking in a calm tone.
"What do you mean by treating this incident as an emergency to which we must respond? What plans do you have in mind?"
"The current plan is forming a squad from our knights and sending them to the village in order to diffuse the situation..."
"But doing that wouldn't be like pouring oil over the flames?"
The elder Oracle then raised his hands, as if there wasn't any point in continuing this discussion.
"Tenba has already dispatched part of their forces, so doesn't this mean that they are going to suppress them? You should just leave this whole conflict in their hands."
"You say that as if I was planning only on sending our knights to fight..."
"Oh, isn't that the case? Then, what are you planning to do?"
But this time, who replied back wasn't Radolf: it was Moralys, who Fayma had just screamed so harshly at.
"What are you... telling us to do...?"
"If you still don't have a clear plan, we won't be able to do anything even after we get to that place. And according to the report, the participants in this conflict are Tenba and several of the Reyvateils that were employed by them and by the Church. And even if there are really Church Reyvateils there, we don't know if that's true or what the current situation is, so we don't have the information needed to take a proper decision about this. So I say we should stay here and watch over the situation."
"...You aren't being serious, are you?"
"W-what did you say!?"
As soon as he was refuted, he gave Radolf a faltering glance. Radolf then began talking with a strong tone he had never used before.
"I asked you if you were being serious. So far, I have kept silent whenever you started talking about spreading belief throughout the world, but I had enough of it already. This discussion ends here!"
"Bishop Radolf, that way of speaking is so..."
Moralys made an indignant face in response to Radolf's sudden rage, but he completely lacked the mood to talk back. Radolf then continued talking, this time with a voice louder than ever.
"Traditions and belief... both exist for the sake of the people. That was what I believed all this time. And if the Church's members are the only ones that will be led on this path, then that makes belief and such unnecessary! It’s high time we stopped these infertile arguments!"
"If the Church wants to follow the path I want it to follow, we'll somehow make everything work out. And now, as its most devoted believer, I'll head to the side of those that seek our help!"
All of the Oracles that were sitting down on the chairs lining the hall were dumbfounded from the sheer pressure his angry face gave.
And giving them a sidelong glance, Radolf determinedly left the assembly hall.
A young Oracle followed him, visibly upset.
"L-lord Radolf, where are you going?"
"Isn't it obvious? I'll go to Skuwat Village. If the Church doesn't want to fulfill its role in the world, then I'll go by myself!"
The cape of the Oracle got stuck on his feet, making him trip and fall face-first on top of the rug. However, Radolf didn't mind him at all and continued walking.
"I should have done this from the start. After all, I was never able to carry out the duties expected from a Bishop such as holding discussions. Isn't that right, Lyner?"
The Oracles that were left behind in the assembly hall just looked at each other's faces for a while, completely confused about what had just happened.
After a while, some awkward smiles began appearing on their faces.
"What does he think he'd be able to do by rushing there all alone?"
"If you ignore the power of the Church, that'd only make the incident more serious."
"How imprudent! Who does he think that's supporting him in the first place!?"
While most of the Oracles were only making harsh comments on Radolf and the way he left the hall, Moralys kept himself completely silent.
"Come on! I have to keep holding you down for a bit because you're not letting me treat you!"
"Ouch! I told you I'm fine, Misha."
Misha grabbed Lyner, who was trying to escape from her, with both hands to then start checking his wound.
"To think you were so badly hurt... No, you're not fine! And remember that Song Magic can't heal everything!"
She scolded Lyner with an unusually overbearing attitude.
"I know and I told you already. So, use all your power and... owwwww!"
Lyner looked at Misha completely overwhelmed. Anyone who looked at him as he was at the moment would never believe this was the hero who had saved the world.
While Shurelia looked at both of them with some envy in her eyes, she immediately turned to Jack and Claire, who were in the same room as them with serious expressions on their faces.
"So, have the Reyvateils in Nemo always been so belligerent?"
Claire instantly shook her head.
"Of course not. You should know that too, Miss Shurelia."
"Yes. As far as I have seen through the Tower, I don't think a Reyvateil would ever sing to harm another person in the middle of a city. That wasn't the case during the period of time that tragic war lasted, but I’m at a loss as for why something like this is happening right now. According to Lyner, it wasn't just a Reyvateil who sang: it was pretty much the entirety of the Reyvateils who were gathered in that place. So can't we say that at least all of those particular Reyvateils were belligerent?"
"No way. Are you sayin' that sumthin’ that ridiculous happened? I've never heard of a Reyvateil gang or anythin’ like that."
Jack shrugged off. Claire agreed with him.
"I don't think that Reyvateils would actively initiate and take part in a conflict, and that's because most of them aren't unhappy about the living conditions they have alongside the humans."
"But it’s different for eccentric Reyvateils like you, Claire. Isn’t that right?"
Claire nodded with a bitter smile at Jack's words.
"Well, even I consider myself an eccentric, so it’s true. But on the other hand, I can also say that there shouldn't be many Reyvateils like me, who think that they'd rather draw a line between them and the human-made society in some way."
"Draw a line?"
Lyner decided to participate in the conversation now Misha had finally completed the first phase of her healing.
"Yes. I didn't want to tie my life to someone else in exchange for the Life Extending Agent. That's what both Tenba and the Church do, right?"
Jack nodded "Yeah, yeah!" upon hearing that.
"So that's why you manage this bar all by yourself? Bein' a lone workin’ woman must be pretty hard. But if it ever gets too tough, you can always call..."
Jack was steadily getting closer and closer to Claire, but as soon as Misha called him out, he got stiff.
"By the way, there's something that just came to me... but it's no more than a hunch..."
"Could you tell us in more detail?"
Shurelia asked Lyner as he was deep in thought. He pondered for a few moments how he should say it, and then he began putting his thoughts into words.
"Somehow, they looked like Aurica when she got angry back then... they were irritated, unsatisfied... and more importantly... I think the reason why she got so angry could be very important... at least that's what I feel."
"Maybe it's mass hysteria, or... ugh..."
Upon seeing how the women were looking at him, Jack turned to look elsewhere.
"But we don't know anything about it..."
Claire sighed, visibly perplexed.
"It'd be great if no other quarrels happened. Not everyone in this world is as sturdy as Lyner."
"But I think I got pretty badly beat up... Isn't that what you mean, Misha?"
Lyner said staring at Misha while he softly poked his wound, which was now covered in bandages.
"It's because I was so worried about you! I don't ever want to worry about anyone like this... Is that clear, Lyner?"
Lyner then stood firm, visibly flustered. Misha began mocking him for this.
"You got yourself a good scoldin’, man."
"And the same goes for you, Harm!"
And as soon as Misha scolded him, it became Jack's turn to stand firm himself.
"You both are lost cases. Are all men like you?"
Lyner was taken aback upon hearing Misha's words of disgust.
"By the way... Aurica said something like that too."
"What happened to Aurica?"
Lyner began squeezing out his memories in order to answer Shurelia's question.
"Now I remember, the Reyvateils who sang in the city and Aurica said very similar things."
Lyner nodded in response to Shurelia, who was leaning towards him.
"Umm... it was something like... we'd be better... more or less... we'd be better if the humans disappeared, or something to that effect... I remember thinking it was pretty weird for Aurica to say that if she was just angry with me..."
"And the other Reyvateils were saying that same phrase?"
Shurelia asked to confirm whether this was the case. Lyner nodded in response.
"We'd be better... was that what they said?"
Claire's expression stiffened the more she listened to the conversation they both were holding.
"What is it, Miss Claire?"
"No, these words... are what..."
As she spoke, she began holding herself as if a sudden chill had struck her. This made her cleavage even more prominent.
"Didn't I say that same phrase back then?"
Lyner and Shurelia looked at each other in shock after Claire said this.
"What do you mean by back then...?"
"Ah, of course you don't know. I suddenly got very irritated a while ago while we were tending the bar..."
"But that was when that drunkard grabbed Aurica by the arm and..."
But as Lyner was talking, Claire shook her head and continued what she was saying.
"No, that wasn't it, Lyner. Like I told you this before, that wasn't the problem. For some strange reason, I got irritated all of a sudden...and I began blurting out "we'd be better... humans"..."
At that point, she cut off the rest of what she was about to say at the same time she surveyed her surroundings.
"Now I think about it, it's as if I had gotten possessed and someone was using my mouth to say whatever they wanted..."
"Miss Claire... please, tell me more details on that."
Upon hearing Shurelia's words, Claire was taken aback as she got stiff.
"What do you mean, Lady Shurelia!?"
It was quite unusual for Lyner to talk back to Shurelia. However, Shurelia didn't pay attention to what he said and instead looked at both sides, as if she was looking for something in the distance.
"The Songs are..."
Her delicate body was softly trembling inside her suit of armor.
"Several Songs... are being all sung at the same time... what does this mean...?"
"Songs? Do you mean Song Magic!?"
And at the same time Claire said this; several screams were heard outside of the room.
"This is terrible! Tenba's troops have been dispatched to Skuwat Village!"
Everyone looked at each other at the same time.
"Hey, what happened?"
Jack had gone outside of the room and grabbed the first man he saw to interrogate him. The man began screaming his lungs out in reaction to being suddenly grabbed by the neck by a metallic hand.
"Humans and Reyvateils have started a war in Skuwat Village... Tenba's army is going to attack them right now..."
"A war? Their army?"
"But Tenba doesn't really have an army!"
Misha angrily shouted as she came out from behind Jack. However, the man rebutted her as he made his eyes narrower.
"But I saw them! A large crowd of people equipped with large guns were heading for Skuwat!"
"Tenba's armed forces..."
Claire and Shurelia came out from the room.
"This can't be... is that tragedy destined to repeat itself...?"
It was impossible to find out her expression due to her armor, but her voice was quivering, so it was quite obvious she was very tense.
"Anyway, we should go and check it out ourselves!"
"But you're still wounded, Lyner! You can't go like that!"
Misha screamed as soon as she saw Lyner's face, who was the last one to leave the room. He was running very excitedly, but she stopped him with her hand.
"I'm okay. I won't commit the same blunder twice. Lady Shurelia, we won't be able to learn anything if we just stay here. Let's hurry to Skuwat Village!"
"Yes, that would be the best course of action. Perhaps the Songs I heard were coming from Skuwat Village's direction."
"So these Reyvateils are singing..."
"Ah yeah. Well, that's Lady Shurelia for ya. No matter where is, she knows everythin’ that's up with this world."
Jack said in great admiration of Shurelia's abilities.
"It isn't as convenient as it sounds, as I can only do this because it's directly related to the Tower's resources. That is the only reason I'm aware of it."
On the other hand, Lyner was putting on his armor much faster than usual.
"Even if I tried to stop you... you wouldn't listen."
Lyner smiled sweetly at Misha, who had been frowning at him.
"I'm sorry, but I've gotta go now."
"I know. You've been like this ever since I’ve known you."
And smiling in a slightly lonesome way, the girl began helping him put on his armor.
A long time ago, Misha was kidnapped due to Falss' schemes and imprisoned for a long time in Tenba's facilities. By removing her, who had the duty of singing to be the protector of this world, he planned to lead this Tower to its destruction.
Ultimately, his schemes were ruined by Lyner and his friends, and Misha regained her freedom. However, Falss' actions also brought a great damage to everyone involved, as he also was the cause of several tragedies that extended up to the present day. One of them was Skuwat Village.
While Falss wasn't directly involved in the events that took place in this village, it was because of his schemes that it became a war zone and was razed to the ground.
After they left the inn and arrived at Skuwat Village, Lyner and his friends were speechless.
There were flames, sounds of gunfire, and apparent flashes that made clear the Reyvateils were using Song Magic all over the place. And just in their range of vision, there were several men and women collapsed on the floor that didn't give any signs of ever moving again. Maybe they had already been killed.
Lyner began gritting his teeth.
"Are they planning to reduce Aurica's hometown to ashes again...?"
Skuwat Village was the place where Aurica was born.
After the battle that left the village in ruins, she was forced to leave this place, but she had the fortune of meeting Lyner and being able to travel at his side. However, Lyner knew pretty well that her heart still belonged to this place.
And that same village was being ravaged by the fires of war once again.
"Jack! Misha! Lady Shurelia!"
Lyner screamed as he unsheathed his sword and began swinging it around.
"I'll trust you to help me protecting them! However, don't forget we're here to stop this battle!"
"If you're charging in there, I'll be going too!"
Radolf rushed into the scene carrying his spear.
"Radolf! What are you doing here?"
“Isn’t it obvious I've come to put an end to this foolish battle too? Anyway, we'll talk later! Let's go now!"
Lyner replied with a "Yeah!" as he tightened his grip on his sword once again. However, Shurelia screamed that precise instant.
"Wait a second! There is something strange happening here! These Songs..."
Shurelia put both of her hands on her head and took a deep breath.
"What is this!? The Songs are being amplified in an abnormal way! Who is...!?"
A scream was heard that instant... or at least it was something Lyner thought was a scream.
However, when he turned to face the direction the voice came from, he understood immediately that it hadn't been a scream. The lights of the Song Magic that were being used throughout the village were extending up to the sky, as if they were pillars made from light.
"Lyner, this isn't normal Song Magic!"
"What does this mean, Lady Shurelia!?"
"These Songs... are being incarnated in the real world! Everyone, be careful!"
And while Shurelia screamed this, several eerie figures began emerging from the pillars of light.
Silhouettes that had crooked horns...
"Is that... Mir?"
The monsters that appeared from the pillars of light were very similar to the Reyvateil that tried to destroy the world: Mir. Or better said, the monsters looked very similar to the embodiment of her hatred, as Mir herself had the appearance of an innocent girl.
However, once they got a better look at them, they noticed they had several differences, and this was something they should have known because they were the ones that fought against Mir.
The shape of their horns and the appearance of their joints were conspicuously different from that of the Mir they saw.
(But for an instant, they looked very similar to her...)
Such were the thoughts crossing through Lyner's mind as he gripped his sword even harder than before.
The sudden appearance of the monsters took both the Tenba troops and the Reyvateils by surprise, and left them confused.
This was especially true in the case of the Reyvateils, who were extremely frightened upon seeing these monsters, and between this and the way in which they looked at these creatures as they floated in the sky, it became clear that these beings weren't being summoned because the Reyvateils willed to do so.
A gunshot was heard and one of the monsters’ horns fell down covered in flames. As if it had just been useing this time to check its possible preys, the monster swooped down: it was going to attack.
"Here it comes!"
Radolf rushed in followed by Lyner.
After it landed on the ground, the monster grabbed two Tenba soldiers with its arms and threw them into the air. Overwhelmed by the power of a monster three times their size, the Tenba soldiers didn't even have any time to scream before they crashed into the ruins.
As the other soldiers were paralyzed with fear when the monster went to attack them, Radolf jumped in between them and the monster.
In a second, he thrust multiple and repeated times his spear into the monster, which hit it several times both in the arms and horns. As it was protected by a hard skin similar to a shell, this didn't seem to cause much damage to it. However, this at least made the monster take notice of Radolf.
It then roared to the enemy that had just appeared before it.
"I'll be your opponent! Lyner, go and protect the Reyvateils!"
Lyner did as Radolf told him and changed the direction he was running in to rush another of the monsters.
The monster he rushed was going to attack a large group of Reyvateils, large enough that they looked like an enormous mass of people.
As they were fundamentally weak at physical combat and were extremely frail battle personnel, they would be completely defenseless in front of such a creature. Among all of the Reyvateils that were stupefied and thus, unable to move out from the fear, there were a few brave ones that were frantically trying to craft out their Songs, but when the danger drew so close to them, they were unable to sing them.
"I'm your opponent!"
Lyner slipped in between the Reyvateils and the monster at the last second, and with the tip of his sword, he struck the monster with enough force to slice off a rock, cutting into its arms.
With its attack interrupted, the monster let out an insecure groan.
Lyner addressed the girls he had behind himself.
"Hide behind the buildings! We'll cover you!"
And without turning back to check if the Reyvateils heed his orders, he slashed at the monster.
With a shrieking battle cry, he swung his sword towards the monster, cleanly cutting through its thick skin.
Despite their firearms, the Tenba troops were unable to make even a scratch on the monsters' skins, while Lyner's attack had a brute strength that these weapons could never hope to match.
Frenzied by the pain, the monster let out a fearsome scream and charged against Lyner, swinging its arms around to hit him. The attack would have been strong enough to destroy a house if it was received directly, but if Lyner blocked it with his sword, the attack's destructive strength would be greatly dampened.
However, Lyner didn't take even a single step back and waited for the monster's attack.
The arms of the monster, now looking like a fierce storm, drew closer. But on the last second, Lyner's figure vanished from the monster's sight.
Lyner had leapt high into the air at the last instant, leaving the monster unable to react. He was at an altitude high enough to make anyone wonder if he had wings, but as he came down again, he used the gravity's pull to land a devastating blow to the monster from above.
The tip of his sword deeply pierced into the monster's head.
A terrible scream came out from the monster's mouth, and it then collapsed in the ground. The land greatly shook from the impact of its large mass hitting the ground, causing the ruined walls to crumble away.
"Lyner, get away from there!"
He heard a voice call out to him: one that had a characteristically delicate vibrato when talking that also had the sound of a Song echoing over it. It was Misha.
Lyner withdrew his sword from the remains of the monster and backed away from it, as the corpse then began being consumed by lancet-shaped flames.
As anyone would expect from flames crafted by a powerful Song Magic, the monster's corpse was reduced to nothing in just an instant.
Once he made sure the threat had been completely neutralized, Lyner began looking around: he noticed Radolf was now helping the Tenba troop, meaning he already had defeated the monster he had been fighting against. There was still one monster remaining and Jack was firing wildly at it with the gun in his right arm as he covered the Reyvateils. Behind him, Shurelia was enshrouded in the shine emitted by Song Magic. Obviously, their battle was about to end.
Lyner nodded as he went to look for more enemies. By jumping high in the air again, he spotted three more monsters: these seemed to be the only ones remaining.
"Misha, please cover me!"
And without waiting for her reply, he rushed in direction of the three monsters.
"Ah, wait up!"
He didn't mind at all that Misha was so flustered as she tried to catch up with him: he already had his eyes completely fixed on the monsters... or more strictly speaking, it should be said that he had his eyes set on the people the monsters were trying to attack.
Misha knew very well the kind of personality Lyner had.
He always had to go help those that were in trouble and he didn't care at all about getting himself in danger whenever he did it.
"He forgot completely about the wound on his arm. I'm sure of it."
This was the kind of thing that always made Misha want to sigh in exasperation. He wasn't keeping in mind that the people he was going to help this time were the Reyvateils that had been fighting against the humans. He wasn't even imagining that they could try to backstab them.
Apparently, the monsters decided to act together when they saw their new enemies appear. The three creatures then charged at the same time in Lyner's direction.
"This isn't good!"
Misha stopped running and began singing right away. It seemed unlikely she had enough time to craft a powerful Song Magic, but if she couldn't delay their attack, Lyner would be alone facing against the three monsters, and despite being so strong, he would still be in great danger.
A clear singing voice began overflowing out of Misha's lips and its melody began drawing out energy from the space around her. The world was resonating with her Song.
The energy instantly gathered to the point in which it became possible to see it with the naked eye, becoming particles of light that began fusing into each other at the tune of Misha's Song, until it changed into a large ball of light.
"This is... my limit...!"
Misha could have gathered energy to enlarge the ball as much as she wanted had she been able to use her full power, but she didn't have much time at her disposal right now.
While the circumference of the ball of light wasn't really large at the moment, Misha still decided to activate it as it was.
After it was given a vector through the Song, the energy was thrown straight ahead in the middle of the monsters' path.
The ball of light exploded into a bright flash as it made contact with the ground, but this didn't do much beyond delaying the monsters' movements for a few seconds. It was to be expected, considering they were strong enough for firearms to have no effect on them.
However, this momentary delay was essential to Lyner, who had already calculated the timing for hisattack.
Without saying anything, he ran between the monsters and cut off the neck of one of them. He then used its corpse as a screen of sorts to get into the blind spot of another of the monsters.
And as she cheered him, Misha began crafting her next Song: she had to continue supporting him with her singing.
However, Misha suddenly realized something as she sang.
These monsters were the same as her Song Magic... and if they were crafted out of the Songs the Reyvateils sang, why would they go and attack even the same people that had given life to them?
However, there was no point in dwelling further on this, as Lyner's movements seemed to be more awkward and clumsy than ever. Most likely, it was because of the wound on his arm.
Misha fully concentrated fully singing.
"Hey, Lyner! You seem to be havin' some trouble!"
Jack commented as he saw Lyner's battle after he made sure that the monsters were splitting up.
"Let us help him. He has been wounded."
"Aye! And I mean that in a way that won't make anyone worry 'bout me! Let's go, Lady Shurelia!"
"H-huh? But I'm always worrying about everyone..."
The armored girl said a bit confused to Jack. He just shrugged it off.
"Okay okay, let's go then! And where has Radolf gone to? There's still one more guy here we hafta take down!"
They kept searching for the Bishop, who had suddenly disappeared, as they continued running, but Jack didn’t catch even a single glimpse of him.
Meanwhile, Radolf had sustained injuries from an extremely strong attack.
"Fayma, why are you here...?"
And standing dazed, there was the Reyvateil he was sure to have left at the Church just a few hours ago.
And similarly to Radolf's surprise at seeing this, Fayma seemed to be quite surprised herself.
"Why did you come here, Lord Radolf...?"
Fayma's voice, more than expressing surprise about Radolf being in this place, rung as if she was finding a fault with the fact that he had even come to this place in the first place.
"That was because..."
But as he talked, Radolf began faltering. Now he began thinking the facts over, while he felt he was doing the right thing by rushing out from the Church, he didn't really have a legitimate reason for doing something like that.
It was just because once he heard the news about the conflict between the humans and the Reyvateils, he couldn't hold himself back and rushed off as fast as he could. He didn't even prepare a suitable reason to keep his dignity as Bishop.
But during the short time he was at a loss for a reply to give her, a Tenba soldier had stealthily gotten close to them from behind.
"Die, you Reyvateil!"
He then fired his gun.
However, Radolf put himself between the bullet and Fayma, blocking it with his body.
"What are you doing!?"
Radolf didn't receive any injuries because the bullet bounced off the full-plate armor he was wearing, but he realized this meant this place was not safe for the Reyvateils. The soldier screamed at Radolf once again, whose intervention had made him irate enough already.
"Why are you protecting a Reyvateil!? They're attacking the humans!"
"Idiot! It's unthinkable that a Reyvateil would...!"
But then, a singing voice was heard behind him.
And when Radolf turned around, he saw Fayma singing right behind him. Some hard-to-make-out words were coming out from her mouth.
"Humans... I'll destroy you all!"
When he drew closer to stop her, the sound of the Song changed abruptly. Fayma's expression stiffened as her face paled from horror.
"W-what? No! I don't want to sing something like this...!"
Fayma attempted to cover her mouth with her hands, but her movements were awkward and slow, as if she didn’t have proper control over her own body. During that time, the Song began gathering energy at high speeds.
"This speed... is only comparable to that of Lady Shurelia's Songs...!"
But before Radolf had any time to express his surprise at this, the Song Magic abruptly materialized itself.
Before his eyes, a form colored in black emerged from the light and emitted a brutal roar.
It was one of the monsters.
"No, stop...! I don't want to keep singing something like this...!"
Fayma screamed, but the monster didn't seem to hear the words of the person who had crafted it.
And with another roar, it attacked Radolf. He screamed as he blocked the blow from one of its log-thick arms:
"Fayma, run away! This monster is not normal!"
And as she stiffened her pale face, she clumsily walked to get away from the place.
Radolf used the tip of his spear to keep the monster from moving while he waited for the right time to attack.
"This thing is made from Song Magic, but the singer herself is unable to control it..."
The monster rushed in to attack.
Radolf nimbly jumped out of harm's way, so he was barely able to avoid a brutal blow.
"Anyway, it'll be quite problematic for us if we can't know when it'll stop being sung into existence."
"How many more of these guys are going to show up!?"
Lyner's forehead was covered in sweat.
After they finished defeating the three monsters, several others appeared and went to attack the group as soon as they spotted them.
He had managed to defeat one of these things with his sword, but he was also beginning to show signs of fatigue. The wound had started taking its toll on him.
"Lyner, there's no end to them!"
Misha's face showed a lot of exhaustion when she came running to him.
"But we can't just run away!"
"I know that, but... at this rate..."
Misha's gaze was fixed on Lyner's left shoulder.
"If we change our battle tactics..."
And while he said this, they heard the roars of the monsters mixing up with a scream.
A worried Misha followed Lyner as he ran off.
While this was only a bunch of ruins now, it used to be a street lined with several houses. Given how much the debris was obstructing their vision, Lyner and Misha crossed over them, taking a detour from the derelict houses and fixed on finding where the scream had come from.
When they finally found the place, they discovered what had caused these screams and Misha had to keep herself from screaming as well.
There were two exhausted Reyvateils at the feet of a monster and there was another one dangling from the monster's mouth, suspended by the sharp fangs the creature had. She was screaming as loud as she could, but due to her lack of physical strength, it was impossible for her to break free from these jaws.
Lyner rushed in.
He tried slashing at the monster with his sword, but it had been grabbing the Reyvateil in a way in which it could use her as a human shield. Apparently, it was planning to challenge Lyner while using the Reyvateil as a cover.
And as if it intended to mock Lyner, it jumped away at a low altitude.
"Shit! What should I do...!?"
If he could put some distance between the monster and the Reyvateil, he could have a chance of defeating it. However, there was no guarantee that the Reyvateil would be safe by the time Misha had finished singing a Song Magic of her own.
It seemed that the only thing he could do was slashing at it with all his strength. However, as he bent forward, resigned to having to attack both the monster and its victim, the shadows of multiple people carrying spears attacked the monster from its sides. These attacks were quite powerful, but the monster easily avoided them. The attackers then clumsily tripped and fell to the ground.
However, this gave Lyner a chance.
During the time the monster was distracted by the attack, Lyner rushed in like a gale and brought down his sword on the monster's head.
Now he had cut the fangs from the monster's mouth, the Reyvateil fell to the ground.
With the corner of the eye, he made sure that Misha ran over to her to check how she was and he then launched a second similar attack at the monster's eyes.
While it flinched from having its fangs cut off, the monster began recklessly spinning its arms around, as if it was to keep Lyner away from itself. However, this left its backside unprotected, so the people from before went and attacked it again.
The sharp spears pierced the monster.
For the first time, Lyner noticed that the ones that were helping him on this battle were men that wore armors similar to Radolf's.
"Oracles... from the Church of El Elemia?"
While they wore similar armors, it seemed that these Oracles weren't anywhere as strong as Radolf was, as several of them got hit when the monster retaliated from their attack, but at least they didn't flinch from this. One of them addressed Lyner cheerfully:
"So you're Sir Lyner, the hero who saved this world! We came here as fast as we could!"
"Y-you guys are...?"
"We're the Oracles that have decided to go and save the people from any crisis, right as Lord Radolf ordered us to!"
Lyner didn't really understand what was happening, but he couldn't deny that they were a valuable asset in this battle.
"Well, in that case... hyah!"
He struck the coup d'grace on the monster they had attacked from all around and had as their target.
It let out a final roar as it collapsed to the ground. It then began disintegrating.
After making sure his sword was still in good conditions, Lyner talked to the Oracles.
"If you're really Radolf's companions, I'll make this brief: you gotta help us to defeat these monsters and stop the conflict!"
"Very well! Aside of us, there are around other twenty Oracles coming here right now! As long as Sir Lyner and Bishop Radolf allow us to, we will assist you!"
Having succumbed to terror, Fayma ran among the ruins.
The screams came out of her like spasms and didn't stop. She knew screaming like this would put her in danger, but she was unable to hold them in.
The streets of the ruined village had become quite complex due to the buildings that had crumbled away, so the place was like a labyrinth.
She staggered as she wandered around this ruined maze.
All while she wondered: "Why did this happen?"
The only thing she wished for was that Moralys, who always showed such a frank opposition to Bishop Radolf, who she loved and respected so much, would talk to him in a way that would allow them both to get along better.
And while she was thinking about how obstinate he was and how their conversations would always become quarrels at some point, she said something she didn't have in her mind at all.
"It'd be better if the humans just disappeared."
Her rage began swelling up uncontrollably and she remembered the disparaging words she screamed at her fiancé.
Now she looked back on it, she didn't think it was necessary to go to such extremes.
Because no matter what happened, Moralys had always been gentle to her.
She left the road covered with rubble and began walking into one of the buildings to find a place to hide.
The thick dust layer that covered the floor of the place, combined with the fact she was covered in sweat, made her extremely uncomfortable. She sat down on the dusty floor, wiped off the sweat from her forehead and tried to calm herself down, but the terror that these ominous monsters instilled on her made her legs tremble uncontrollably.
Due to the tasks the Church assigned them, she had lived several experiences in the battlefield, but right now she had fallen prey to panic. Covered in dust and sweat, she began running from a place to another in the ruins like a mouse.
She instinctively whispered the name of her fiancé.
She tried to support herself by placing her quivering hands over a wall, but it collapsed as soon as she did, causing her to fall down to the floor due to losing her balance.
The collapsed wall became a pile of rubble and whipped up a large cloud of dust. She turned her face away to avoid breathing it, but then, she saw right before her a man that seemed to have gotten away from the street.
As he was carrying a firearm over his shoulder, it became obvious that he was a Tenba marksman.
The man was dumbstruck for a second, but the next instant he was pointing his gun to Fayma.
However, before he could have the chance to pull the trigger, something black and large sent him flying away from her sight.
Then, the unpleasant sound of something soft being struck by something hard was heard at the distance.
But as soon as she heard a monster making a roar that sounded like a sneering laughter, Fayma understood right away that the black thing that had struck and sent the man flying away was an arm the creature had been swinging around.
After it landed from its jump, the monster stood again on the ground and slowly began approaching Fayma.
A cruel light was shining in its eyes.
It perfectly knew that unlike the man from before, she didn't have a weapon to defend herself. This particular monster, despite being quite wicked, did possess some intelligence.
"I-I... don't know... what I should do now..."
Unable to stand up again, she just looked gazed up at the monster as it roared again.
It was going to kill her...
She instinctively closed off her eyes. Images of the horrible death that awaited her began surfacing on her mind.
However, the pain that she should have felt right away didn't come.
She timidly opened her eyes.
And there, it was a man with her back against her, wearing an impressive armor.
It was a kind of armor Fayma had never seen before. And she could see the thin blades of the two swords he was gripping jutting out at around the height of his chest.
On the tip of the swords, she saw how the monster had been cleanly cleaved off in half and both of its halves fell in opposite directions as they began disintegrating.
"That was quite a close call, wouldn't you say?"
The swordsman said as he turned around.
He was quite handsome.
His voice sounded pretty masculine, but his looks were so neatly arranged that even Reyvateils didn't reach his level of beauty.
Fayma instantly forgot the terror she had been feeling and began looking at the swordsman's face.
He didn't mind Fayma's reaction at all and continued talking as he sheathed his swords.
"You would do well to avoid singing for the time being. An abnormality has been rising in the Song Magic... no, it would be better to say that it's among the Reyvateils."
Fayma was partly stupefied, so while she did hear the swordsman's words, he disappeared before she realized he was gone. It was like he had never been there in the first place.
She stood still for a short while, but she then ran off to give treatment to the man that had been sent flying by the monster's blow.
After Lyner nodded at the Oracles, everything began going dark around them.
When he looked up, he saw a gigantic silhouette that resembled a fish flying through the sky.
A machine equipped with Symphonic Power discs on its backside that emitted a noise similar to that of an earth tremor as they spun was floating right above Skuwat Village.
"That's an airship! Why did it come here out of nowhere... who's coming in it!?"
And as if it were in response to his question, an announcement was heard from the airship.
"Here are orders from Ayano to the Tenba employees present here: Cease your attacks on the Reyvateils at once and concentrate on eliminating these monsters. There are my orders. I repeat; your only enemies here are the monsters."
The president of Tenba had taken an airship expressly for coming to this place.
A large crowd then took their decision.
There were a few monsters remaining in the area, but even the Reyvateils themselves had noticed that their Song Magic was producing more of them, so they tried to stop themselves from singing further. But then, the Oracles that came running from the Church and the Tenba soldiers, who had regained their organization in acting as soon as Ayano gave the order, formed a single group and began attacking the monsters together. It was clear that the monsters had no chance of winning anymore.
A short while later, the monster eradication was complete and the airship had landed on the village. The Tenba soldiers that had finished fighting gathered around it. On the other hand, the Oracles from the Church gathered at Radolf's side.
As for the Reyvateils, they were unable to stop singing, so they just surrounded the airship from a fair distance.
Ayano appeared shortly later above the airship's upper deck. Her voice was amplified by the small microphone she held in her hand and it resounded throughout the entire village.
"This ends this pointless fight. To the Reyvateils here, please calm down. From this point on, neither the employees from my company or anyone else in this place will harm you. I give you my word as President of Tenba."
"This is all because you fired us!"
A scream was heard from among the Reyvateils. Ayano replied to this with a stern voice.
"That was a misunderstanding. My company has never intended to fire you Reyvateils in the first place. However, I understand it might be difficult for you to believe my words given the conditions and treatment you have suffered at our hands, so I request you give us some time in order to explain ourselves, if you please. But during that time, I'd like for you to help us with treating the wounded."
"I didn't think you would come all the way here"
Radolf said to another Oracle. The man nodded in response, but it seemed as if his mind was in an entirely different place from his body.
"Did you change your mind?"
And as he nodded in response to Radolf's question, the man's gaze began looking around himself, searching for something. Radolf had the hunch that this was the true reason he had come to this place.
"If it's about Fayma, she should be all right. I told her to run away when the fighting began."
This was the first time the Oracle... Moralys looked straight at Radolf.
"Is that true? Then where's Fayma?"
The respectful tone he used to employ had disappeared entirely. This showed how flustered he was.
"Well, she should be around that area, but..."
"What do you mean with should!? Fayma, Fayma!"
Moralys began walking around in search of the Reyvateil as he screamed her name.
"No matter what he says, he's really worried about his fiancée, huh...?"
A smile instinctively appeared on Radolf's face, covered in sweat and dust.
It looked like the Oracle had managed to found the person he was looking for near the limit of his vision range.
He began running with so much energy towards a girl that was standing still, completely exhausted, that he seemed he was going to crash into her. But he just go up to her and embraced her.
"Oh, Fayma! I'm so glad you're safe...!"
"Why... are you here...?"
Fayma asked with a voice that sounded faint enough to make anyone wonder if she was tired in extreme. Moralys replied with a somewhat confused tone.
"When I learned you had disappeared from the Church, I thought you maybe had come to this place... and I... I..."
As he said this, he embraced her delicate body with even more strength.
"When I thought of the things that could have happened to you..."
As anyone would expect, he was unable to say anything beyond that point and he caressed Fayma's back several times, as if he were determined to make sure that the girl was actually right there at his side.
"Agh... it... hurts..."
Despite her complaining about this, she surrounded the bulky body of the Oracle with her arms and embraced him back.
On the other hand, the Reyvateils finally decided to listen to Ayano's explanation and began gathering around the airship.
"Ah, so here's where ya had gone off, Jack."
Krusche greeted Jack, being the one that had developed the gun he still had mounted on his arm.
"As ya can see. And ya came with President Ayano?"
"She asked me to come with her. If she needed to bust some heads, I could help with that."
She lightly tapped on the large chainsaw she had over her shoulder. While she was an engineer, Krusche’s specialty in battle was fighting at close quarters and the chainsaw was the weapon she wielded in these situations.
"Though I wouldn't have gotten into a fight like this, no matter how much anyone asked."
Jack said as he looked around. Krusche agreed with his viewpoint.
"But why this happened in the first place?"
"Wasn't that because yer company fired the Reyvateils and made them angry?"
"No, that wasn't it!"
She told Jack the same explanation Ayano had given her. However, Jack didn't seem to have bought it.
"Ya know, there's something fishy here. I heard about the new contracts bit, but they really needed to come here and attack them?"
"You're right. It's true that this awful conflict happened because these guys from our troops ran off and started acting on their own without informing the rest of the company, but if we can get the Reyvateils to listen to our explanation until the end..."
The indifference of the humans she saw in the HR department most likely had deeply wounded the hearts of the Reyvateils, but that was also the reason why she didn't think they would lack the fortitude to listen to the explanation to the end.
"For starters, this whole incident caused the firing of several girls that were smart enough to be trusted with several tasks in my project. So, what's that fishy thing you were saying?"
"Ah, right. Reyvateils’re acting as if there was something they can't stomach. According to Lyner, even Claire supposedly began acting strangely."
"The same Claire we both know? That's really weird... and by the way, where‘s Lyner gone off now?"
"He was fightin' over there. Anyway, he should be able to see the airship, so I'm sure he'll come ‘round soon."
Jack began looking around, but he didn't see Lyner anywhere.
After the battle ended, Lyner left the wounded in the care of the Oracles and Misha, and began walking among the ruins all on his own.
"Maybe Aurica's here too..."
That was what he thought.
This village was Aurica's hometown after all, so if several Reyvateils had gathered in this place, it wouldn't be strange for her to be present in this place too.
And if there was anywhere in Skuwat Village where Aurica could be...
After a while, Lyner stood in front of a house whose roof had caved in and whose walls were halfway through crumbling away: it had become a place where no one could live anymore. The second floor had barely avoided getting destroyed in the collapses, but in addition to that, it didn't seem to serve any purpose than to increase the tragic impression that the building gave off.
This was the place Aurica had shown him around once: the house where her family once lived.
As he took care to not misstep on the wooden floor that loudly creaked under his feet, Lyner advanced further into the building.
He continued walking inside as he called out her name. Not even 15 years had passed since this place became deserted. However, its inside seemed to have suffered as much as if a full hundred years had slipped through it. Its appearance was enough to make anyone realize that no human hands had given it maintenance since a long time ago.
But at the same time, Lyner couldn't keep himself from feeling some anxiety from this abandoned building. He hadn't fully realized this yet, but he had the hunch that maybe, Aurica's heart was still as desolate on the inside as this building was.
"Aurica, are you there...?"
He went up the stairs and entered Aurica's room. As soon as he took a step into the door-less entranceway, he saw some slow movements in one of the corners.
He sighed out of relief.
Aurica was curled up in one of the room's corners and she looked at Lyner with eyes filled with fear.
"So here's where you had gone off to. I've been looking for you."
But when Lyner tried to approach her, she curled up even more tightly, as if she was trying to shrink herself.
"Don't come any closer..."
Lyner stopped walking.
Aurica weakly shook her head.
"Because... I... Lyner..."
As she talked, her eyes began filling with tears.
"I might do something terrible to you..."
She then held her head with both hands.
"Whenever I think of you and of how you don’t understand my feelings... just by thinking that, my head begins filling with horrible feelings before I even realize it..."
"What kind of feelings are you talking about...?"
A puzzled face appeared on Lyner's face as he asked, unable to understand what Aurica meant. The girl, curled up as she was, looked at him with a face warped by horror and continued whispering.
"We don't need the humans. They should just disappear. Kill them all with your Song Magic..."
Aurica then looked at Lyner with a face filled with reproach.
"But that's wrong! I shouldn't be thinking these things! I love you, Lyner! Even if you're horribly dense sometimes, I still love you...!"
Yet she still continued squeezing words out of herself, as if the impetus of her declaration of love was pressing her on.
"That's why... If I end up doing something like killing you, Lyner... I... I..."
Lyner knelt to the ground and placed one of his hands on Aurica's shoulder.
"It'll be fine. I won't die so easily."
"Lyner, but I..."
"Everything'll be okay. Don't worry."
He then hugged Aurica.
And then, he got his lips close to her hair and softly whispered in her ear.
"Everything's going to be okay. I'll always protect you, Aurica."
The stiff mental strain Aurica had been feeling immediately melted away. It left her at the same time she took a deep breath in.
"Come now. Let's go back to the others."
And when Lyner said this, she was already softly breathing in and out. She had fallen asleep.
Why am I thinking of crossing this trench?
I'm lonely, but as long as I'm here, I won't have anything to fear.
If I stay here forever, nothing fearsome will appear, no matter how lonely I feel.
Why do I want to go to the other side?
It's because that person is on the other side.
I don't want to be all alone anymore.
I don't want to be in a world where I'm all alone.
I want to go to the place where Lyner is.
That's why I have to cross this trench.
Lyner and the others boarded the Tenba airship, which took them from Skuwat Village to the Tenba Headquarters. The Reyvateils and Tenba troops that were wounded during the battle boarded the ship as well.
Ayano initially thought of allowing all the Reyvateils in the village to board the airship, but that would have exceeded the ship's maximum passenger capacity and it would also have caused the Reyvateils to be packed into it with the Tenba soldiers.
So to not make this an impossible situation, it was decided that only those soldiers that carried dangerous weapons and the Reyvateils that were needed to heal the injured would board the airship.
In exchange, some of the Tenba staff would remain in the village to give care and aid to those who were left behind. This was because they still had to explain to the Reyvateils why Tenba took the actions they did.
And right now, "one of these wounded that needed treatment" was moaning in one of the rooms in the airship.
"Agh, M-misha! Please be gentler! It hurts!"
"Stop screaming like a little girl! This wound got like this because you were so reckless!"
She retorted to Lyner as she sang.
"I couldn't do anything about it, these monsters were too strong... i-it's weird... a healing Song Magic should have a gentler feel to it, but... i-it hurts! A lot! Misha, are you sure this really is a healing Song?"
"Do you doubt me?"
She gave him back a glare that had a hint of danger in it.
"N-no, I don’t doubt you but... but this Song stings a lot..."
"Because you made me angry!"
Misha quickly replied to a flustered Lyner.
"And your Song Magic is expressing it? ...Anyway, why are you so mad at me?"
"Why am I angry?"
Her singing voice became a little more high-pitched.
"Because you run off in your own without paying any attention to the feelings of the people around you!"
"Damn, it hurts a lot! Misha, I don't know what I did, but it hurts! Huh, the wounds are healing..."
"If you were a normal person, these wounds would have killed you at least thrice over! Try to control yourself a little!"
"B-but this was... huh...? It feels a little..."
And when Lyner was about to ask Misha to weaken the effects of the Song Magic a little, he was enshrouded by her gentle embrace. She emitted a soft aroma that smelled like flowers.
"I just wanted you to understand that..."
She softly whispered in his ear.
"About how much I worry whenever you get injured..."
Lyner didn't know how he should respond to the fact that Misha had suddenly and gently embraced him.
"Umm... umm... Misha... I..."
"Just be quiet for a second and listen."
She said as she continued with her Song.
She embraced Lyner a little more tightly.
"Be quiet, and stay with me like this a while longer."
After Misha said this with voice that was quite unusual in her, Lyner just stayed silent and nodded.
As he stayed silent in the arms of the girl, he began feeling a different sensation where her hands touched him.
Whenever she caressed him, whenever she moved her hands around his back, he felt an extremely soft sensation in his chest.
He felt great warmth whenever she called his name, as if the sound of her voice calling out to him was delivering that warmth to the inside of his body.
And as she whispered his name one time after another, she rubbed her body against his several times.
"I'm sorry, Misha... for having made you worry so much."
"It's okay. I don't mind it anymore."
She replied as she clung tightly to Lyner's body.
"It's fine. I know very well I can't stop you whenever you get something in your head. If anyone should apologize here, that should be me for being so selfish..."
Lyner was left at a loss for words again and just looked at Misha as she embraced him. He noticed that the aroma of flowers had gotten even thicker.
"Can we stay like this for a while longer... until I'm done singing?"
"Huh...? Ah, okay..."
"I don’t get a chance to do something like this often..."
While he was worried about how loud the throbbing of his heart was getting, Lyner felt very comfortable from receiving the warmth Misha was transmitting him.
He couldn't feel the stinging that was bothering so much anymore.
And a gentle Song surrounded him...
"Lyner! How are your wounds?"
By the time Aurica had woken up and ran into the room, Misha had already finished helping Lyner changing his clothes.
"They're fine now. I healed him up while you were resting, Aurica."
Misha replied with a nonchalant face.
"But I wanted to cure him!"
Aurica began pouting, while Misha just responded with a sweet smile.
"So, did the girls at Skuwat Village agree with this?"
Claire asked as she made a small wave with her hands on the surface of the bathtub's water.
"More than agreeing with it, I'd say..."
Ayano replied, still deep in thought. The warm steam was covering her body all around.
"Hmm? Did you say something, Aurica?"
"I see. Well, as I was saying, more than agreeing with it, they seemed to be unable to believe what they themselves were doing."
"I guessed as much."
"And they surfaced over here, too..."
"What is it, Aurica?"
"It's nothing, Claire."
"You guessed as much? Did you have a hunch or something about it, Claire?"
Claire nodded as she wiped off with her fingers the beads of sweat that had started appearing on her forehead.
As soon as the airship arrived at the Tenba headquarters, Ayano told everyone to go to the bathroom.
"At times like this, we should first take a bath."
That was the reason she gave.
The responses everyone had to this fell in two categories: one was that they thought they had gotten themselves quite dirty in the turmoil at Skuwat, and as they were already familiar with the experience of a long journey, they decided to accept the offer because they knew how important it was to take a good bath. However, there were others that didn't care about bathing and for who it wouldn't be odd to spend more than a day with their entire bodies black from the cover of sweat and dirt they had around themselves, neglecting even the possibility of entering what they considered a stupid pool of water. This was what they all instinctively thought of when Ayano mentioned "bath".
However, what Ayano called a bath had an entirely different meaning to her.
It was an enormous bathtub that extended all over the place, enough to think it was a Tenba office building all by itself. The ceiling was quite high too and it covered the entirety of the bath. However, it wouldn't be odd for anyone to think the place lacked a ceiling.
While she submerged herself up to the nose into the bathtub, Aurica looked around the enormous bathtub.
Even if she didn't want to look around, she had two prominent features rising out of the bathtub at both sides of her head.
One was the owner of the bath, Ayano, and the other was Claire. And Aurica was submerged between them both.
Aurica then straightened herself up until the water reached up to her shoulders.
"They don't surface..."
Aurica scowled at how unfair reality was.
A little farther from them, Misha, Krusche and Shurelia were also submerged into the water.
The water felt more pleasant if the more the body was submerged where they were.
"As Lady Shurelia's already there, I wouldn't stand out if I went to that part of the bath..."
And while Aurica continued making a variety of comical faces, at her side Claire was softly replying to Ayano’s question.
"I felt something similar. It was as if someone else had been putting inside my mind words I've never thought myself, and they gradually swelled up..."
"But wouldn't that be the opposite?"
"No, it's a little different. That's a voice we can't decide if we'll obey or not, as it even makes you think as if you had thought these words yourself."
Ayano crossed her arms.
"I-is it an intruder or something...?"
"What are you saying, Aurica?"
"No, it's nothing."
"So on hindsight, I could notice that I didn't actually think these things myself, but at the moment it happens... it's like a voice that echoes from the depths of your mind, so it ends making you think that you were the one who actually thought them up."
"And you imply it was because of this that all the Reyvateils went off at the same time?"
"Now this incident has calmed down, we can analyze it with a cooler head, but back then; these feelings only grew and grew. Whenever the humans did something terrible to us, we couldn't think of anything else but these horrible words."
"And that happened to you too, Aurica?"
"Huh? W-what is it, Ms. Ayano?"
"Hey, hey, haven't you been listening to a word we've said?"
"Are you not feeling well yet, Aurica?"
"No, it's not that, Claire. I'm feeling as good as always. It's just..."
"What is it?"
Aurica made a face similar to that of a puppy being chased around when both began questioning her. That gaze caused them both a strange feeling in their stomachs.
"I’m feeling somewhat overwhelmed... Hey, it's true that men like women with bigger breasts the best, right?"
Aurica then sank down to the mouth into the water.
"Huh? What are you thinking?"
A shocked Ayano asked.
"Well, it's because I'm seeing you both like this and..."
A troubled smile appeared in Claire's lips in response to Aurica's gaze. However, she didn't make efforts to cover what Aurica was looking at. Maybe she felt quite confident about them...
"Oh my. That's not always the case, Aurica. It's true that men usually look for a motherly nature in a woman, but these men..."
"That bothers me too!"
Shurelia interrupted Claire as she was talking.
"Umm, do relationships with men bother you too, Lady Shurelia?"
"No, that isn’t the issue here!"
Shurelia then surrounded her chest with her hands, as if she intended to hide it from view.
"The figures of the women from the Lower World place too much emphasis on their chests for some reason... Having it stand out so prominently is okay with both of you, Ms. Claire and Ms. Ayano? Or maybe is it because men... are attracted by the size of your breasts...?"
Claire and Ayano smiled at each other.
"But when compared to the large armor you always wear, Lady Shurelia, our figures make it look as if we were naked..."
"That is different from how I normally am, Ms. Ayano."
"It's normal, it's normal."
"That isn't normal at all..."
Aurica sank further in between Ayano and Claire as they nodded in unison.
"Lady Shurelia, I think it'd be more important for us to find the cause for that incident rather than continue talking about breasts..."
Misha told Shurelia as if she was trying to make her come to her senses, but Shurelia didn't seem willing to give up yet.
"But that absolutely bothers me. I know Lyner intermittently looks at their breasts every once in a while... and you don't mind because you don't have such a problem. The type of figure you currently have also displays them because they have a good size and... Krusche, please come and say something about this too!"
"Nah, I don't really care about it... about all that bigger is better stuff... so, Lady Shurelia, let's go back to the main topic!"
Although Shurelia wanted to get more intense and insist in discussing the topic even more vehemently, she grasped this wasn't the situation for this type of conversation and reluctantly returned to the main topic at hand.
"I think that Mir is the most likely cause for this situation."
"Mir!? But we already..."
Shurelia nodded in response to Misha's reaction.
"Yes, she isn't a threat to the humans anymore. And she also has quite a good son with her..."
"It's her echo."
She asked at the same time Shurelia finished replying. Right now, Aurica was the only one that had an ambiguous expression in her face.
Submerged in the water, Shurelia leaned her body forward, which made her look as the youngest among all the women present there, and continued her explanation.
"We must confirm it first, but Mir's Song has been resonating inside the Tower's systems since long, long ago. Therefore, I think that Song may still be resonating in several points of its systems."
"Is that the echo? But then, when I sang..."
Misha showed a downcast expression, but Shurelia smiled to cheer her up.
"When you sang, it was impossible for your Song to suppress it in every corner of the Tower's systems. This incident is something I could have never anticipated in the first place."
"That might be the case... But if it's my fault that this is happening to everyone..."
"I-I don't think so."
Aurica raised her face from the water.
"No one should ever be sacrificed to bring happiness to anyone else... that's what Lyner said..."
"Yeah, that's what Lyner said all the time."
Shurelia continued talking.
"The most likely scenario is that the echo of Mir's Song is the cause for this incident, but I don't think it is the only factor at work here."
"What do you mean, Lady Shurelia?"
Ayano asked as she leaned forward.
"If the echo had enough power by itself to cause such an incident, don't you think it's strange that it only affected the Reyvateils?"
"Yeah, that's true, but neither you nor Misha were affected by it, correct? Wouldn't that be due to the difference in abilities that exists between each individual Reyvateil? That would make it so the Reyvateils that are more susceptible to the echo would get affected by it first, so maybe it's that viruses appeared again, like the ones from a while ago..."
"But there aren't any signs of that, President."
"So... what would happen, Lady Shurelia?"
"I'm thinking that if it could cause so much of an effect, but only on the Reyvateils, there might be another cause."
"To begin with, both Misha and myself were born in a slightly different way from that of the Reyvateils from the current era, so that would make us exceptions. Still, you all are familiar with how it is possible to use technology to Dive into the mind of a Reyvateil, correct?"
Everyone nodded at the same time.
Diving was the technique that allowed another mind to look into a Reyvateil's mind influence it from the inside to a certain extent. While saying that entering the dream world of another person would be quite similar to it, it's fundamentally impossible to conduct a Dive into anyone aside of a Reyvateil, and the Reyvateil herself will have no recollection of the events that transpired during the Dive.
Of course, the Reyvateils aren't robots. They are born from human (and some Reyvateil) women... so considering them as humans with special abilities would be a better way of referring to them... therefore, it's considered a social faux-pas to Dive into a Reyvateil without her consent.
All of the facilities equipped with Dive Machines located in all cities, the [Dive Shops], are recognized as public institutions and they all require the consent of the Reyvateil before agreeing to proceed with the Dive.
...Therefore, this act was always used as the proof of a couple having reached a perfect level of mutual understanding and that was how it was considered by all the inhabitants of this world. However, there had been rumors that during a certain period of time, Tenba forced their employees to Dive.
The mind of a Reyvateil... the [Cosmosphere] is typically structured by strata, and the deeper the strata, the closer the Diver will get to the deep psyche and instincts of the Reyvateil.
Lyner had experienced reaching even what was said to be the lowest possible strata for both Aurica and Misha as he traveled with them (of course, thanks to Lyner), but Reyvateils that managed to pull off such a feat were considered exceptional. Typically, a Reyvateil would not allow her partner to see her mind beyond a certain point, so they would never manage to reach the deeper levels.
This was the kind of Diving that Shurelia was talking about.
"The Soulspaces of the Reyvateils, which we know as Cosmospheres, are structured by strata. Normally, these strata end at the level we call the deep psyche, but there is actually even more to the Cosmosphere beyond that point."
"Beyond that point? This is the first time I've ever heard about something like this."
Ayano's eyes became the size of platters. And she wasn't the only one: more than half of the people in the bathtub seemed to have never heard about this and their faces were brimming with interest in Shurelia's words.
"As it is treated as if it actually didn’t exist, it's no surprise you don't know about it."
"As if it actually didn't exist? This is beginning to sound difficult. What do you mean, Lady Shurelia?"
Claire asked, being the most pragmatic of the current members of the bathtub. Shurelia nodded as she continued.
"The deepest area of the Cosmosphere is the part we know as the deep psyche, and that is the point where the individual mind of the Reyvateil ends. Putting myself as an example, that stratum would be my mind as Shurelia: my individual ego and self, ends. However, the Cosmosphere actually runs deeper than that."
Shurelia cut off herself for a bit to breathe in, and she continued.
"Have you ever thought about why we Reyvateils can use Song Magic while the humans are unable to do it? About where the power for our Song Magic comes from?"
"Umm, so you mean the source of power for the Song Magic you all use is located a stratum further in?"
Krusche, being the only one that wasn't submerged in the water, squatted as she asked Shurelia.
While she had a very boyish appearance, the way her breasts unexpectedly swelled betrayed any prior impressions anyone could have of her. As she fixedly glared at Krusche's breasts, Shurelia nodded.
"Yes. Leaving aside the more technical and complicated details, that is how it is. When the power of the Tower was suspended a while ago, all Reyvateils became unable to use Song Magic, but if you follow our minds back to their root, you will see we are all connected to the Tower."
"To the Tower? I don't really feel it, but..."
Aurica looked up at the sky. While they weren't able to see the Tower from the bath, the image of the enormous Tower, which was even impossible to see on its entirety, was shared between all of them.
"It's natural you don't. The part that connects us to the Tower is located at an even deeper stratum than the part where our minds are located, so it is an area no one feels or knows about."
"No one feels or knows about... it can't be…"
"But isn't that the case? The deepest region of the Tower... in other words, the power source for Song Magic and the systems of the Tower... but if I went to that place, I wouldn't be able to maintain my ego in existence. Maybe we don't even have a way to refer to a region where we can't even fathom our own consciousness and that is an unknown to us all."
"I'm thinking that maybe, the echo of Mir's Song remained in that region, therefore, that is the reason why it could influence all the Reyvateils at once..."
Shurelia ended her explanation at this point. She had come up with a few ideas, but she wasn't intending to tell anyone about them yet.
"I think that we should first go and check if that is the case."
"You mean we're going to Dive into such a deep region?"
Shurelia just stayed silent in response to Misha's question.
"Man, women take so frickin' long in the bath!"
Jack complained shortly later out of boredom.
The great bath was made by Ayano according to her own tastes, so it was naturally women-exclusive, while the men had to content themselves with a regular bathroom.
They just talked about what they would have for food, so after a while, they found themselves with too much time available and nothing to do during it.
"They must be talking about womanly matters."
Radolf replied in a very adult manner. Maybe he thought this was nothing in comparison to the irritatingly tedious assembly he ran away from.
"And I've gotten hungry..."
On the other hand, Lyner was completely exhausted. Due to the large wound he had sustained, even just taking part in that battle used up all the strength he had. And similarly to an army being useless without any provisions, he was completely devoid of energy.
"That's what you get for runnin’ around like that. Argh, I'm so bored! I'll go and peek on ‘em for a while!"
"That grin you have is quite weird, Jack."
Radolf pointed out in a rather cold manner.
"Uh? But what's so bad about it! It's frickin' Claire taking a bath, man! Don't you wanna see it?"
"I'll pass. As the Bishop of the Church of El Elemia, if I was caught peeking on a woman as she bathes, I wouldn't be able to repent for it even if I was burned at a stake."
Radolf shrugged off. Jack cooed at him.
"Heh, what a lame guy. Hey, Lyner! ...Hey, you shouldn't be there like that! What's up? Does it hurt anywhere or somethin'?"
He looked at Lyner, who was crouching and seemed to be unable to move at all. Staying like that, Lyner muttered.
"...I wanna get out of here quickly. I feel like I'm gonna gulp down the first thing I see if I don't..."
"You're right; I'm getting quite hungry myself too. Jack, can you please go and call everyone?"
Radolf said with a carefree voice.
"Wha? Don't be stupid! I'm so weak that if I waltzed into that place, they'd blast me ‘til I'm no more than a handful of mincemeat!'
While he was the one who suggested going to peek on the girls, Jack was now waving both hands around as he refused Radolf's proposal.
"Agh, I'm so hungry..."
Lyner moaned with a pitiful voice.
Chapter III: The Song that Connects Memories and the Future
"So here is where you had been all this time, Miss Aurica."
"Ah, it's you! Don Leon!"
"It has been a long time since we last saw each other, Miss Aurica."
Don Leon, please save me. Get me out of this place.
"Miss Aurica, lo siento, but that's impossible. I can't cross this place."
Don Leon, you're the one who could always save me from anything.
"This trench was created by you yourself, Miss Aurica. The one who refuses to be saved is you, tú misma."
Why? I just want to see Lyner! Why would I make something like this...!?
"You don't remember, correcto? Mirad, can you hear that echo?"
Y-yes... what's this?
No... it's scary.
A cursed voice... filled with hatred... no, I don't want to hear it...!
"Eso es. You formed this trench yourself because you didn't want to hear that voice. Por lo tanto, I'm unable to take you out from this place."
No... what should I do?
"If you cross over to this side, you'll have to hear that voice, no matter how much you don't want to. Sin embargo, this is the world where Lyner is. If you really want to meet that sujeto, you'll have to come here."
"Only you can think and decide what you will do now, Miss Aurica. Buena suerte."
Wait, Don Leon! Don't go!
No, don't go!
"So, shouldn’t Lady Shurelia go and check the situation ASAP?"
Shurelia shook her head in an apologetic way in response to Jack's words.
"That wouldn't change the fact that I'm also a lifeform that receives her power from the Tower. If the echo of Mir's Song indeed remained as I'm expecting it did, it should be lodged inside the [Binary Field]."
"The Binary Field?"
"Umm, its formal definition is a bit complicated, so the simplest way to describe it would be that it is something like the Tower's Cosmosphere. As that is a world that doesn't exist upon the physical realm, it isn't common knowledge to everyone in the outer world."
"And that means that the minds of the Reyvateils are connected to such a place?"
After the women got out of the bath, they all met up with the men in a room Ayano had prepared and began exchanging information.
According to Shurelia's explanation, they learned that the cause of this rebellion apparently was because something was present in the [Binary Field], which was located in a place deeper than the Cosmospheres of the Reyvateils and served as the root to them, but she refrained from explaining any further.
"But the inside of a Cosmosphere isn't a place where we can go walking around and fighting."
"No matter how many funds or personnel we have available, even going into a mind it's..."
Radolf and Ayano said.
"You might be thinking that, but..."
Lyner said as he held a fork to his mouth. He seemed to have regained most of his strength once he finished eating. While it wouldn’t have been strange if the average person would have died right after they were inflicted the wounds Lyner suffered, he didn't look like he ever had gotten that badly wounded thanks to the effects of Misha’s healing magic. He hadn't just awakened as the hero who saved the world, though it seemed his awakening as an injured man was quite weak.
"Even if we say that it's the Tower's Cosmosphere, wouldn't that mean that anyone can Dive into it? Lady Shurelia's a Reyvateil and she would be defenseless if she went alone, but if a human comes along with her, won't that solve the problem? And I've also fought inside the Cosmospheres."
"It's really gonna be that simple?"
Krusche voiced her doubts to Lyner's proposal, which were also echoed in Shurelia's response.
"The result of a battle in the Cosmospheres depends entirely on the feelings the owner of that Cosmosphere has. Lyner, you have to keep on mind that in this case, you won't be able to get the owner of the Cosmosphere to cooperate with you regardless of the efforts you make."
"That might... be true."
Lyner remembered that whenever he got himself into a dangerous position in the Cosmospheres, his final fate depended entirely on the decisions of the Cosmosphere owner.
"Furthermore, the [Binary Field]... isn't the mind of anyone. So if you Dive there, no one will come to save you. To begin with, there is no guarantee that you will return unscathed if you Dive into such a deep place."
"What would happen if anything went wrong?"
"I couldn't find any records that set a precedent for this, so while I can't say it with a 100% certainty, it most likely would end in the complete annihilation of the Diver..."
"Complete extermination? That isn't peaceful at all..."
A shocked Radolf shook his head to Shurelia.
"Still, this is just conjecture. The body in the Dive Machine could remain intact, but it wouldn't be strange if the mind of the Diver was completely annihilated like I just said."
"However, we can do something about the echo of Mir's Song if we Dive, right?"
"That might be the case, but..."
Shurelia said as if she were regretting her own words.
"To begin with, it isn’t that the [Binary Field]... is restricted to just human access... in fact, the very act of entering the Binary Field in itself is impossible."
"Huh? But isn't that place similar to a Cosmosphere? And it's even connected to the Cosmospheres of the Reyvateils... so can't we just Dive into it using a Dive Machine?"
Shurelia shook her head.
"It's true they are connected, but the Reyvateils' Cosmospheres and the Tower's [Binary Field] are separated by a thick and hard wall. I think you must have seen it as a large door."
"Ah, you're right. Then the Binary Field is located on the other side of that door?"
"The reason why that wall exists is to keep the boundless amount of power present in the Binary Field from overflowing into the Reyvateils, which is why humans can't go through it."
"Then can't we do anythin’ about it?"
"But isn’t there something, anything we could do? If there's anything I can do, I'll gladly do it..."
Lyner didn't seem willing to give up, but as the problem at hand also included overcoming technological hurdles, he felt as if he was useless.
"If [Mir's Echo] does indeed exist, a similar incident will happen again in the future. So shouldn't we try doing something about it?"
"At least we hafta make an attempt to do somethin’."
Jack agreed with Lyner's opinion.
"That is why I'm saying it's too dangerous."
Radolf was being stubbornly cautious.
However, Ayano began talking with a strong voice.
"Anyway, I want to know what the cause is and if possible, get rid of it. We have plenty of research facilities we can put at your disposal, Lady Shurelia."
"Umm, what should we do...? Perhaps there is the possibility that we could do something about this situation, but..."
"As the company president, I'd be worried if our Reyvateils were overtaken by bouts of instability all the time. Krusche!"
"Lend your help to Lady Shurelia. You can even freeze the airship projects temporarily if you need, but make sure to verify if this supposed Mir's Echo exists or not, and find a way to eliminate the cause of this problem."
"I'll do my best."
Krusche nodded with a complex expression.
Then, the group split up.
"Why always has Lyner to be like that?"
Aurica was sitting down on a bed, surrounding her knees with her arms.
And sprawled over that same bed, Misha turned to look at her.
"Why has he always to run off and leave us alone?"
As she talked, Misha noticed that she never had the chance to be alone with Aurica and talk to her in the way they were doing right now.
That shouldn't be the case, but maybe it was because the times both spent like this didn't leave much of an impression on them. And it's also because the times Aurica was with her, Lyner was around too. When it came to Misha, if Lyner was in that place, she naturally would have her thoughts centered on him.
"Yeah, but that isn't always the case."
What Aurica whispered to herself was more like she was asking and answering herself than seeking a reply from Misha. That's how Aurica typically was. However, Misha still replied to her. As a girl who had Lyner in her thoughts, similarly to herself, maybe she wanted to know what Aurica was thinking. However, it was mostly because she also was in the mood for a bit of idle chatter.
"You see, it doesn't mean that he does this to leave us alone, but because Lyner neglects himself over everything else. All the time."
Aurica turned to face Misha. The face she had was as if she had been given the correct solution for a riddle.
"But really, why has he always to be like that? He makes us worry so much about him."
Aurica put her face between her knees and sighed loudly and long.
"Yeah, but it's not like we can change him."
Misha lied on the bed, completely exhausted.
"Especially today: despite being so wounded, he still was the first on line to go fight..."
"He still looked pretty cool as he fought though."
"Hey, that's not fair! If you saw him fighting, that means you even got to sing for him!"
Aurica raised her face from between her knees and began pouting at Misha. Misha just turned her face to look at the ceiling, and as she turned back to look at Aurica, she put on an unconcerned smile.
"Well, it's not like it could be helped. It was all because a certain someone decided to go walking around all by herself.'
"Ugh. T-that was... because of that... creation of Mir... or something..."
"You mean the echo? Thanks to that, you had Lyner go and find you, so aren't you glad about it?"
Misha stretched one of her hands to Aurica and began poking her in the abdomen.
"No! Stop, Misha! Don't touch me in weird places!"
"Too bad. I'm always getting pushed to be the one that treats the injured, and in the end, I was left alone. You're always the one who gets everything in the end, huh? Good grief."
"Ugh, I'm sorry... B-but wasn't that because Lyner went walking around all by himself?"
"Well... that's true. Still, maybe it's something that just couldn't be helped..."
"Yeah, because Lyner has never been the type to act in behalf of his own interests, right?"
"Lyner always runs off for the sake of someone else... to help someone... he doesn't care even a little bit for what happens to him. But I wonder... are we insignificant to him? Doesn't he care about our feelings because we're Reyvateils?"
"I know what you mean, but I can say that isn't the case. I'd really hate him if he was like that."
"And didn't he go to save you today? He had a wound large enough to keep him grumbling all this time, but he still went to find you, right?"
"Right... but... when I offered to heal that wound before all this happened, he told me to not mind him... Maybe my feelings aren't anything to him..."
"Are you saying nobody needs you? Because if that's the case, you'd be saying that he was trying to find a girl that sought a place to die!"
Misha had gotten a little irritated because Aurica continued going in circles with the things she was muttering.
"Well, it's true that Lyner might have gotten a bit indifferent about our feelings, but..."
In reaction to these words, Misha stood up from the bed. She then placed herself back to back with Aurica.
"Well, that means we've become to Lyner as natural as he is to himself, don't you think?"
"As natural... as he is to himself?"
Misha told Aurica as the other girl turned her head to face her.
"Yeah. Lyner ran off not caring about his wounds or the fact he could have even died out there. It's the same case here: to him, it has become so typical for us to be at his side that we've become natural to him, so he doesn't think even a little that you could be worrying so much about things like these."
"I don't... really understand it well, but you mean he doesn’t think any of these things are important?"
"Well... I never meant he doesn't consider his own body or life as important. It's just that Lyner considers any people he finds in trouble as more important than even his own life."
Aurica seemed to have gotten a bit confused with Misha's examples. She placed her chin over her knees once again as she sighed.
"It can't be helped, huh?"
"Yeah. Lyner is just like that."
"Right... that's the kind of guy I fell in love with."
"He's always so reckless, so rash."
Misha shrugged her shoulders.
"He never gets the feelings of a girl."
A smile returned to Aurica's face.
"It wasn't so bad when we were kids, but he won't look at me as I'm now! Even someone like Jack told me I grew up into a fine woman!"
"W-when he Installed the Life Extending Agent into me, I embraced him tightly, but he didn't show any change."
"So you did that, Aurica? How indecent."
"We didn't do anything indecent! I just wanted to be more proactive in front of the guy I liked, but as that's Lyner..."
Aurica looked again at the ground, depressed.
"I just can't believe how dense he can be."
Misha looked upwards. Both sighed at the same time.
"Being us is suffering, huh?"
"So, can you enter the Binary Field, Lady Shurelia?"
Shurelia tilted her head in response to Krusche's question.
"I would say I can, but the truth is slightly different from that."
There was an enormous pile of research materials and documents over the table they were sitting at.
They were all sent by the maintenance droid that served as the guardian for the Tower's systems, Mei Mei, on Shurelia's orders. It was a gathering of all the currently known information on the Binary Field, which was the very core of the Tower's Symphonic Power energy systems.
"By using some data I have prepared in the Binary Field, I can create a special place that resembles a Cosmosphere."
"And that would let everyone to enter that place through Diving?"
"Yes. However, given that in the end that is a sealed world, we won’t be able to directly access the true regions of the Binary Field if we Dive into that place."
"Which means we can't check directly the effects of Mir's echo, right?"
"Correct. It's because I'm only manifesting the information I was given through the usage of the Symphonic Power present in the Binary Field. In a way of speaking, we could even say it is like my Cosmosphere."
Krusche took a cup of tea that was resting on the table and tried to drink from it, but she then noticed it was already empty. She returned it to the table as she asked Shurelia.
"What do you mean by “like your Cosmosphere”? I've heard you're different from normal Reyvateils like Aurica or our employees, but is that related to it?"
"Yes. I don't have what we know as a Cosmosphere. That is why I only can make a place that is like a mock one."
"But humans can Dive into that place, right?"
"Yes, they can."
"And if that region gets created inside the Binary Field..."
Krusche crossed her arms.
"Did this give you any ideas?"
"No, I haven't gotten any yet... Anyway, looks like we're gonna need more info on the Binary Field..."
"Aren't all these documents enough? But the information Mei Mei sent us is the entirety of the Tower's technical specifications..."
"Ah, you're right. However, if it had diagrams similar to those of normal machinery alongside the data, like these and these..."
Krusche pointed to a particularly thick bundle of documents. Shurelia's expression stiffened.
"You have already read through all of these? You really are amazing, Krusche."
Krusche nodded in a careless way in response to Shurelia's amazement.
"Well, it helped that they were written in a way that made them easier to understand. They actually look a lot like some technical documents that have been in Tenba's R&D department since ages ago... that's why I didn't have much problem with them... But the technical specification files like this one called "Model", which talks about the internal structure of the Binary Field... I can't make any sense out of them."
She pointed to a volume that had the word "Model" written once at the very beginning.
"This is like having the blueprints for a stove but not understanding at all the form of the fire burning on its inside. The system structure that creates the Binary Field... it even goes in detail into the data inputs and output types it uses... but even if we understood how it all works, we wouldn't be able to find out how the Binary Field will behave internally, so in the end we won't be able to predict any possible scenarios just from reading these observation logs. That's the problem... and why I think we gotta prepare some kind of countermeasure."
"I see. Then, would you like me to teach you everything I know on the matter?"
"Please. Anyway, I'd like to get as much info as I can on it... Jack!"
Jack was lying down on a sofa nearby but he quickly jumped to his feet as soon as he was called.
While he had been in the same room as them for quite a while, he barely understood 1% of the things Krusche said, which is why five minutes after they started he gave up and threw himself into the sofa to take a nap.
"If you've got enough time to be dozing off, you could instead go fetch me and Lady Shurelia some tea."
Krusche said as she pointed to the empty cups.
"But why it's gotta be me? I'm hopeless at making tea!"
"Because you're doing nothing while we're pretty busy over here!"
Jack reluctantly stood up from the sofa and left the room to bring some tea to the girls.
"Man, she's a terrible boss."
As he complained under his breath, Jack walked down the maze-like halls of the Tenba HQ with two cans of tea in his arms. They were bought from the vending machines that could be found all over the building, as it seemed he couldn't picture himself making tea.
He went back to the room where Krusche and Shurelia were, and the door opened itself automatically as soon as he stood in front of it.
"Sorry for bein' late. The closest vending machine was broken and I had to go to another one to buy the tea. Man, Tenba really sucks at givin' maintenance to their own machines..."
As Jack walked into the room giving excuses, he noticed that Krusche and Shurelia were exchanging glances and began looking alternatively to both of them.
Shurelia muttered with a stunned face.
"That is... too reckless!"
"Yeah, but if we do that, we can send people into the Binary Field."
"Okay, listen up. According to our conclusions, it's possible to Dive into the Binary Field."
Several hours had gone by since Jack went to buy the tea. Krusche had gone and told everyone to gather in the room... Ayano, Radolf, Jack, Misha, Aurica, Shurelia... and Lyner, and announced this to them. Claire was at the bar, as Ayano needed her as a messenger of sorts and thus she went back to Nemo.
Lyner asked all pumped up. Misha and Aurica looked at each other's faces and Radolf gave Jack a glance in a similar way. Jack just shrugged his shoulders in response. It was as if he said "I haven't got the foggiest idea what she's gonna talk about."
"Really, it's possible."
Krusche formally declared. However, her expression didn't seem to be as clear as her words. She then added a "but".
"But there's no mistake that even if we actually do it, it's gonna be very dangerous."
She then unfolded a few of the documents she had been examining until a while ago and began reading them.
"While it seems to be like this so people don't break into it, we can actually make a bridge connection of sorts, but it's impossible to Dive directly from a Dive Machine into the core of the Tower's systems: the region we call the Binary Field, in the way it's done with the Cosmospheres of the Reyvateils."
"What do you mean? Didn't you just say that Diving into it was possible?"
Radolf asked. Krusche replied as she nodded.
"Hey, let me finish first. While it's impossible to Dive directly into the Binary Field, we can still use a certain dirty trick to do it, right...? Lyner?"
Lyner straightened himself up when his name was called.
"You already should have some experience with Diving into the Binary Field."
"Me? But it's impossible to Dive into it..."
"But you were the one who Dived into me, right?"
Shurelia was sweetly smiling at him.
"Yeah, that's... true."
As Lyner nodded, uninterested expressions appeared in both Aurica's and Misha's faces.
"I also told you this that time: when you Dive, you won't get to my Cosmosphere because I don't have one."
"Now you mention it... I remember having heard that."
And after Lyner replied with this, Krusche took over again.
"The place Lyner Dived into that time was actually a mock Cosmosphere Lady Shurelia created in the Binary Field"
"A mock Cosmosphere? What's that?"
"According to Lady Shurelia's explanation, it's a place she made to receive anyone who Dives into her that looks pretty similar to the real deal, but isn't actually like it."
"However, that doesn't mean it always exists: I actually make it whenever it's necessary."
Shurelia said to complement Krusche's explanation
"But if that place exists already in the Binary Field, doesn't that mean that getting to it counts already as a successful Dive into the Field proper?"
Radolf leaned his head as he asked, but Krusche just shrugged her shoulders.
"Even so, it isn't as simple as it looks. That place made by Lady Shurelia is a completely sealed world, so it isn't possible to go to any other part of the Binary Field from it."
"In other words, even if we Dive into it, we'll just be locked in and unable to do anything?"
Radolf fell silent and sat down again.
Ayano asked then:
"Leaving that aside, would it be possible for a human to keep existing in the Binary Field? If that isn't the case, then there would be no point in Diving into it even if we could. Depending on the answer, we will decide what we'll do."
But the answer she got to this question sounded quite unsure.
"I can't really say because we don't have a precedent for it, but according to the documents we fetched from the Observatory, if we can Dive into it, there's a large possibility that Lady Shurelia can use her powers to keep us existing to some degree, but..."
"If there's any possibility, then I'll do it."
Lyner said, as anyone would have expected.
"If I see anyone suffering, there's no way I'll just leave them be!"
"Wait a moment, Lyner. Even if you say all that, we still don't know of a method to Dive into the Binary Field proper."
Radolf rebuked Lyner, who was so eager to act.
"But didn't Krusche already say it was impossible to Dive into it?"
She said with an insecure face. If it actually became possible to Dive into the Binary Field, she knew pretty well that a certain someone would jump in head -first to do it. No, it would be better said that he already had fully shown he wanted to do it.
"Yeah, but well, as you've put so much emphasis into it, how about showing us that dirty trick you have?"
"Okay, okay. The people that Dive into the world made by Lady Shurelia... such as Lyner for example, can't really get out of there, right? But what'd happen if we destroyed that world itself?"
Radolf then took over Krusche's explanation.
"...If we did that, the people on it would be released into the Binary Field that should be right outside of it... that's what you mean?"
"That's exactly it. Still, destroying an entire world'd be like destroying oneself with one’s own hands. So if Lyner's inside when that happens..."
At some point, everyone seemed to havee decided that Lyner would be the one to go there, despite no one saying he should: it was because even if they attempted to choose another person for the Dive, there was no doubt that they would still have chosen him in the end.
It was because of this that Radolf's reply also made the assumption that Lyner would be in that place.
"If that kills Lyner too, then there is no point in doing this because we'll lose everything. That's the dirty trick you were talking about, Krusche?"
"You don't think I have also considered this, right? I'll give you that it's a very reckless way though... and besides, we'll need them both to help here."
Krusche glanced at both girls.
"You mean... us?"
Aurica and Misha looked at each other as their eyes became the size of saucers.
Krusche, Shurelia, Misha, Aurica, Radolf, Jack and Lyner all boarded the airship.
"I wanted to visit the Observatory at least once too."
Ayano regretfully said at the airport.
Due to the cleanup that the aftermath of the Skuwat Village incident required, she had a mountain of work awaiting her.
"Working as the president of a company doesn't give you as much freedom as people think."
The airship she saw off first stopped at Nemo because Radolf told the party he needed to go back to the Church.
"Then I should go with you, Bishop Radolf..."
But when Aurica said this, Radolf just patted her head gently.
"I don't think there's anything you can help me with this time around, Aurica. Similarly to President Ayano, there are a lot of things I have to do back at Nemo."
He said it was because he had been absent from the Church for so long.
Aurica seemed like she wanted to say more, but Shurelia smiled as they saw him off.
"Every person has duties they have to fulfill no matter what. Please make sure to accomplish your own duties in the best way possible."
A large number of Oracles and Reyvateils had gathered at the airport for his arrival, and he wove farewell to the others as the airship took off again.
"A lot of people love Radolf, huh?"
"Why's that no one loves me?"
As improbable as it seemed, Jack began fuming at Misha's admiration, seeing it as boring. But the Reyvateil just placed her hand on his shoulder.
"That's not true. It's just that everyone has a place they belong to."
Jack then looked at the girl he loved like a little sister from the side.
"If ya say that with that face, it means you've already found yours, right?"
"Huh? D-do you think so?"
"Of course. I'm not Harm to you?"
"Right, now you say it..."
While Misha hadn't said anything about where the place she belonged was, it wasn't necessary for Jack to know it.
"But being with that guy looks like a pain in the ass to me, you know?"
Misha shrugged with a bitter smile.
"He really is. He's a lot of trouble to handle."
The airship rose at great speed through the increasingly thin atmosphere.
It was headed for the Observatory: one of the places located near the top of the Tower.
It had never been a frequented place, as it was a world located even higher than Lyner's hometown of Platina. As they crossed the dangerous zone of plasma known as the Blast Line, the sky changed to a darker color.
"Huh? Everyone has already arrived?"
A girl that was sleeping in one of the corners of the room jumped to her feet as soon as Shurelia called her.
"So you fell asleep again, Mei Mei?"
"I'm sorry... I always fall asleep whenever I get into Safe Mode..."
The girl then stood up.
"As I told you in the last call I gave you, there are a lot of things I need you to do..."
"Wake up, Mei Mei."
"Huh? I fell asleep again?"
It seemed she had somehow managed to fall asleep once again standing up when Shurelia called her.
She had a sleepy expression as she rubbed her eyes with her hands.
While anyone would have thought that at a quick glance Mei Mei was just a normal, cute girl from her behavior, once they took a better look at her, they would notice that her body wasn't made of flesh. The hands coming out from the sleeves of her kimono were made to have the same exact shape as those of the humans, but they had mechanical parts such as cylinders and hydraulic joints. This was because she was a machine: the maintenance droid in charge of administrating the Tower's control systems.
"It's been a long time."
She smiled as she looked at all the people present in the room. The expression she had on her face wouldn't have made anyone think she was actually a robot.
"Sorry for bothering you again."
"It's okay. I have heard the story from Krusche. When I first heard you would be Diving into the Tower, I was very surprised."
It was one of the regions that were located at the highest heights among the ones that composed the Tower, the enormous world that extended vertically. Among the places existing in this world, it was the one that was kept in the best conditions ever since this world... or better said; this Tower... had been created. Even several of the technologies that had been lost in the current world were still preserved intact here.
"Living people have such mysterious ideas. I mean, the probability of a Diver returning alive from a Dive into the Binary Field is roughly of a 0.0002%. This is something we wouldn't ever think of doing."
Everyone instantly froze when Mei Mei said this. And the ones that made the faces that showed the greatest anxiety in the group were Aurica and Misha.
"Krusche... are we going to be okay?"
Krusche couldn't do anything but shrug her shoulders in response to Aurica's question.
"Won't it be? Because if you won't... Lyner'll..."
She gently grabbed her shoulders with her hands. When she turned back, she saw Lyner softly shaking his head to her. It was a signal saying: "Don't say more."
Aurica looked around, as if she was looking for help. However, as if silence was pressing them all at the same time, no one said one word. Aurica stiffened herself as if she had slammed into a wall, and ran out of the room.
Misha showed a little smile in response to Lyner's request and ran after Aurica.
After seeing her off, Lyner turned around.
"Okay, let's begin preparing. I'm always ready to go."
Misha's feet cramped as she followed Aurica.
The small platform where the Observatory was located didn't have any rails or safety edges, as it was built like a small island floating in the sky.
She once said that if they managed to climb to such a height, she wouldn't have to worry about her acrophobia. However, she couldn't help hesitating at the prospect of being in a place located to such great heights.
While she tried to avoid looking down, she began looking at her surroundings.
It wasn't a large place, so she found Aurica very quickly. It seemed she still hadn't gone down to a different area yet.
Timidly, she got close to Aurica, who stood near the border of the floating island.
"Aurica, aren't you afraid of standing in such a place?"
"Misha... ah, right... you're afraid of heights. Are you okay?"
"I'm a little scared... but I'm fine. I've gotten better about it lately. And more importantly, you shouldn't do this, Aurica. Lyner didn't feel anxious or anything about it."
"It doesn't matter if we're scared, as Lyner'll be the one actually Diving."
"Aren't you scared, Misha?"
A definite shivering could be felt in Aurica's voice. Misha waited a little before replying to her question.
"Of course I'm scared. However, there's nothing we can do to stop him. We already went over this a while ago, didn't we?"
"Lyner's too gentle. When you said you wouldn't like this at all, he let you go away from the strategy meeting we were having."
"But...! But for him to do that, then..."
"Yeah, I know. In order for him to leave Lady Shurelia's mock Cosmosphere and go to the Binary Field, he needs us to sing. So that doesn't mean he wants you to be left out of this."
"I know. I know that, but... If... if Lyner actually did that..."
Misha's voice dropped to a lower tone.
"If you're still going to hesitate about this plan, I'll use all my power to make sure you don't take part in it. No matter what, because you'll make sure to make this Dive a success and take Lyner back here alive... in my place."
Aurica looked at Misha as if she was looking at some kind of radiant light.
She then nodded.
"Okay. And sorry, Misha."
Misha took Aurica's hands.
"We'll both make sure that Lyner's mission is a success!"
They both then entwined their fingers.
And taken by the hands, they returned to the main room of the Observatory.
"Everyone! The Hymn Crystals are ready!"
Mei Mei said as she tended a couple of large crystals to the party.
Upon seeing how brightly they shone, Jack whistled.
"Hymn Crystals, huh...? No matter how much I see 'em, they're always so beautiful."
Krusche nodded in agreement.
"I get all thrilled just thinking about all the amazing functions that light hides!"
"Hey, ya didn't sound feminine at all with that!"
Jack sighed as he voiced the subtle disagreement in sensations he had with Krusche.
"Ya think? These do what I asked for, right?"
Jack just saw with a resigned face how Krusche ignored him to check the crystals Mei Mei was giving her. The maintenance droid affirmed it with a very serious face:
"Yes. I have implemented into them all of the functions you requested."
But no matter how seriously she talked, she gave off the feeling that she would slip off at some point. That surely was one of the most charming points this girl...-shaped maintenance droid had going for herself.
"Okay then. Once we've Downloaded the crystals into these two, we'll be all set with the preparations."
Krusche took both crystals from the hands of the maintenance droid and gave them to Lyner.
"Okay, I'll leave the rest to ya. I think we should wait outside while you do it."
Jack asked, but Krusche didn't even bother replying to him: as soon as he finished asking, she grabbed him by the hand and pulled him out of the room.
Mei Mei followed suit and left the room shortly later.
Only Lyner, Aurica and Misha remained in the place.
"Where's Lady Shurelia?"
"She's getting ready for the Dive in the room over there. Apparently, it's because she has never gotten three people to Dive into her at once."
Aurica made a difficult face and began pondering about the situation when she heard Misha's reply.
"The Binary Field is connected to our Cosmospheres, right? Wouldn't that mean that it's like we were Diving into our own minds?"
"Well, who knows? With the knowledge I currently have, I can't really say anything. And I kinda want to try it myself, as there are no precedents for it."
While both girls were talking to each other, Lyner was examining the Hymn Crystals he was given.
"With this... you both are going to learn new Songs, right?"
"Yeah. And with our Songs, we'll lead you to the Binary Field."
"Okay, who should be the first to receive the Download?"
"Go first, Aurica."
Misha said as she pushed Aurica in Lyner's direction.
"Is it okay?"
As Aurica leaned in Lyner's direction, Misha told her from behind:
"I'll be going after you, so I get a chance to relax for a bit."
"Huh? B-but I want to go second too, then..."
"Come Aurica. Let's do the Download."
As soon as Lyner told her, Aurica stood in front of him.
"I leave everything in your hands."
"Err, if you say it so formally, I'm gonna get nervous too."
"But... this isn't something we can do every day, right?"
Aurica was staring at him so fixedly that Lyner began getting nervous. However, he still held the crystal between Aurica and himself.
The time had come.
The Hymn Crystal, which had shone to a certain point until now, released an explosive radiance.
Misha, who had been looking at them all this time, reflexively covered her eyes from the light.
And within the light, Lyner's voice could be heard.
However, he wasn't talking in the language he normally did, and his words echoed like a song...
It was the special code to pull out the functions from the Hymn Crystal. However, when the echo of Lyner's voice reached Misha's ears, these dry and emotionless phrases crossed into being something that softly echoed in her heart.
And following that, she head Aurica's singing.
It was a Song that had much more depth and substance than the Song Magic they normally sang. In response to the rich resonance that only a Hymn Crystal could bestow, she felt how her eyes began filling with tears due to how much this moved her.
Maybe it was because of how much the Songs from the Hymn Crystals can move the hearts of the Reyvateils...
Within the dazzling light, Misha managed to distinguish Aurica's face.
While hers was a face Misha should be used to see and was the same Reyvateil she always talked with, she felt startled when she noticed how beautiful and charming she looked as she sang like this.
And upon thinking that she would end up making a face like this too... she began feeling embarrassed for some reason.
As she was still entranced by the feelings of the Song, Aurica's eyes were still filled with tears even though she had finished singing, which made Lyner worry.
"Are you okay?"
"She’s fine. It's just that she is very moved by the Song of the Hymn Crystal. We've already gone a few times through this, didn't we? Lyner?"
Misha assured him as she took Aurica's hand and took her to sit down in a corner of the room.
"Well, you're right, but..."
"Come now. It's my turn for the Download."
Misha stood up in front of Lyner, directly facing him.
Fixedly staring at him, she noticed how well-featured the young man's face was.
He didn't have any peculiar facial features like Jack had (though Misha thought to herself that "he'd be a good man if he was more like Harm") and he didn't have either the calm, handsome and mature appearance of Radolf.
Whenever he had a serious face on, the typical innocence from a youngster could be felt from his expression, which made his face quite charming. Then, he opened his mouth.
"Let's go, Misha!"
The light began overflowing out of the crystal.
Unlike the time in which she saw Aurica receiving the Download, she didn't feel that the light that was overflowing from the crystal to her was dazzling to the extent it was with her.
Rather, it felt as if the light was entering and coloring her body.
And from beyond the light, she heard Lyner reciting the code. She felt it resounding even more strongly into her than the time he did it with Aurica, making she feel assured that this was directed to herself.
Gradually, her body began feeling warmer, to the point in which she began sweating.
As Lyner continued reciting the code, she gradually became aware that she was crafting something grand inside of her own mind.
Several abundant feelings were beginning to surface from her own heart.
And before she noticed it, she had already crafted and was singing out a new Song.
"And with this... the preparations are complete."
Misha said after deeply breathing in and out several times. It was because she felt that if she didn't take the time to calm herself down a little, she would be so moved that she would start crying if she looked at anything. It seemed to be due to the influence of the Song.
"I wonder if it'll really work out."
Aurica said this in her usual pessimistic tone, but Lyner didn't seem to mind that at all.
"It'll work out. And that's because no matter what anyone says, you both and even Lady Shurelia are coming with me. So it's settled that everything will work out in the end!"
"Yeah, you're right! We'll make it work out, Lyner!"
"Of course! We're gonna make this work like a charm!"
Misha said as she looked in Aurica's direction. However, she didn't know there was also something looking back to her.
I'll cross this trench...
Lyner is at the other side of it.
If Lyner is at the other side of this trench, then...
I'll cross it.
I'll go see Lyner.
I have to hurry because I have to sing for him.
Why do I have to sing?
No, this isn't the time to be thinking about that. I have to hurry.
I have to hurry...
"Preparations are complete now."
Shurelia said as she stood before the Dive Machines after she completed the improvised modifications she had to conduct on them.
"It's finally the time..."
Misha muttered as she looked at the row of capsules used for Diving she had before herself.
The capsules could be configured into Diver's and Reyvateil's side, even in normal Dive Shops where they placed them according to the usage they were going to be given. However, including Shurelia's as the Reyvateil side capsule, they had gathered four capsules in the same place. There were cables and pipes coming out behind the capsules, but since their numbers weren't simply equaling or even doubling the number of capsules, it was as if the room was completely covered in them.
This is why it was extremely improvised: the most improvised Dive Machine ever made.
"While I can't assure that it's completely safe from a technological standpoint, I will be also helping with its operation and control, so please, don’t feel anxious about it."
Shurelia said as if she was trying to console the others.
"As this is the first time I have ever done something like this, there are a number of uncertain factors here. However it's necessary in order for you two to Dive into me with Lyner and sing in there."
"All right. I understand... so shall we get going?"
Misha asked. Shurelia then looked in the direction of the other two.
"Very well. Lyner, Aurica, are you both ready?"
"I'm ready, Lady Shurelia!"
"I'm ready too!"
Upon hearing their responses, Shurelia turned to face Krusche, who was standing over at the machine's control panel.
"Well then, let's begin."
Each of the four that were going to take part in the Dive entered their respective capsules.
The lid of the capsules softly closed in front of them. Given the speed at which the mechanisms closed the lids, Misha began getting a little irritated like always.
This slow speed was used to close off the capsules for safety reasons, but given it was so slow, it gave her the feeling that she was getting imprisoned instead. She also wondered if other Reyvateils also had these same thoughts about the capsules.
While she was a bit worried about Aurica and Lyner because they were in similar capsules to hers, she wouldn't be able to know anything that happened on the outside once the lid was fully closed.
Before long, all the capsules began softly vibrating and Misha became aware that the Dive Machine had finally started working.
I have to hurry to where Lyner is...!
I have to hurry... I have to hurry no matter what...
I have to hurry or I'm gonna be late for school.
Ah right. I have to go to school.
The classes are always a bit depressing, but I go because I can meet Lyner there.
Lyner? That sounds a little wrong... he isn't Lyner: he's Raina. How did I get his name wrong?
No, I can't. This isn't the time to be thinking about such things.
I have to hurry or I'll be late!
I'm not a child anymore, so if I'm late I'll be forced to stand in the corridor outside the classroom, and that will really suck!
But I've already been late once this week...
Oh feet, you have to move faster!
I gotta hurry to school!
Come, once we turn that corner, we'll be at the last street before the school.
...no, how did he appear out of nowhere like that!?
Just calmly walking like that in front of someone running with all their strength is dangerous!
I'm going to crash!
I'm going to crash into him!
As he was pushed from behind, Raina fell face-first into the ground.
He didn't even have time to cover himself with his hands, so he received the full brunt of the impact on his face, which left him seeing stars.
Such a collision would have left anyone unconscious and injured enough to be sent to the hospital, but Raina just patted his pained face and stood up again. He said he was "used to wounds", but having such resilience was said to be quite rare in this world.
Raina turned around to see what caused him to fall to the ground.
There was a girl fallen on her back in a rather immodest posture.
The skirt of her school uniform was raised up to a dangerous point, so while Raina felt quite embarrassed upon seeing her, it seemed like the girl herself had not noticed this yet.
she groaned from the sudden impact.
"Orika...? You should fix up your skirt..."
"Eh...? Raina...? Kyyyyaaaahhh!"
As soon as Raina talked to her, Orika became aware of herself again and began pulling down the hem of her skirt as she screamed.
"Y... you saw them...!?"
She raised her gaze to Raina with her face as red as a tomato. Her eyes were wet, as if she was about to begin crying.
Raina didn't know what he should say at a time like this, no appropriate responses came to his mind no matter how much he tried thinking one up.
It looked like he had no choice but to respond honestly.
"Yeah... I saw..."
Orika's face became stiffer when she heard this.
And the second Raina repeated what she said; unsure of if she had even said anything in the first place...
Orika stood up extremely quickly and punched Raina straight in the face.
Orika's voice echoed throughout the place and far in the distance. As Raina fell to the ground again, down for the count, he could only vacantly think "I'm gonna be late today...”
As he predicted, he arrived so late he was forced to stay for after-school lessons. He let his head rest on his desk as he made a tired face.
"This teacher's so awful. They shouldn't let him make others stand in the corridor all morning just for being late... Thanks to that I don't think I can even stand up anymore...”
He stayed like this for a while, but then Raina raised his head.
"...And now I think about it, I feel like I've forgotten something important..."
He began pressing his forehead with one of his fingers, but as much as he tried, he couldn't remember what that was.
"Urgh... and this is all because that Orika bumped into me out of nowhere, too. I'm sure it all fell out from my head that moment. There's no mistaking it."
And when he came to this ridiculous conclusion, the door of the classroom opened itself violently.
"Raina! I've been searching all over for you!"
"M-misya!? What happened? Why are you so upset?"
The person who entered the room was Misya. While she was a girl of the same generation as Orika, the uniform she wore was completely different from hers: it was as if it belonged to a completely different school. Additionally, she was in third year while Orika was still in second. Even in the neighborhood, she was frequently mistaken as being a student from another school. Talking about a complicated character setting.
"Character setting? What's that?"
Not realizing that Lyner was asking this to himself, she got closer to Raina as she talked with an irritated voice.
"This isn't time for this or that. Have you forgotten your mission, Raina?"
As she talked with a severe voice, Raina suddenly remembered what she meant.
"A new Virus has appeared?"
"That’s it. I had the mission of fighting the Viruses that always threatened this world" Raina remembered.
"And where's Reira? I've gotta fight with her."
"I haven't seen her today. Let's go look for her..."
However, Raina felt something didn't quite fit when Misya replied to him.
“What? Didn’t I just tell you we have to hurry?”
"I'm feeling there's something out of place here..."
"And what could that be? We have to hurry... wait, why do we have to hurry in the first place...?"
Upon hearing Raina's words, Misya put on a face that said she didn't understand what he meant. It looked like she was feeling the same sensation of something not fitting that Raina had.
"We have to hurry for some reason... that's what I feel... and that's why I came rushing to see you, Raina."
"We've gotta hurry... but it isn't related to us having to fight the Viruses, right?"
"...No. Now I think about it, I have the feeling that there's something off here. This isn't about the Viruses... but about an entirely different thing... that's why we must hurry and begin singing..."
Misya then fell silent as she began pondering over the situation.
It was then that Orika entered the classroom. Her short skirt, which was only slightly shorter than Misha's, softly fluttered behind her as she ran to them.
"Ah, so you were here Raina! I've been having this nagging feeling that I had to go where you were and begin singing... "
Raina then looked at both girls.
"What do you mean... by singing...?"
And as he tried to put together the mess of memories he had in his head, a voice called to him from the outside through the windows.
"I knew you would be here."
Reira was on the other side of the window and had a relieved expression on her face. Yes, it was her. The long-haired girl they were seeing was supposed to be called Reira...
Today, she was wearing a quite feminine white one-piece dress. The way her shoulders were exposed was more cute than sexy and the way this favored her general appearance was quite characteristic to her.
"Reira, why are you wearing that at school...? No... to begin with, we're on the second floor! How are you there...!?"
Reira just let out a small sigh of exasperation in response to how Raina's eyes grew to the size of platters.
"Looks like you have fully turned into the characters of the story, huh? As this was so different from a typical Dive, I knew there could be some issues, but to think it would turn out like this... Lyner, this isn't be the first time you've been in this world. Please, try to remember."
"Lyner? But I'm Raina... no, that's not right. Right, why did I forget my own name until just now...?"
And as he grabbed his own head, Misya and Orika were looking at Raina... Lyner, with worried faces.
"Raina, what happened?"
"No, Aurica. This is just a story. It isn't real."
While Orika and Misya... Aurica and Misha were still taken aback, Lyner turned around and announced:
"This is the world Lady Shurelia made. Instead of a Cosmosphere, it's a story the Diver and she can directly experience together."
And as soon as they heard him saying these words, the spark of enlightening softly appeared in their eyes.
"We're... Diving into Lady Shurelia's Cosmosphere..."
"No, Aurica. Didn't Lyner just explain that Lady Shurelia doesn't have a Cosmosphere? This isn't a Cosmosphere, but the world Lady Shurelia made."
"It seems you have finally remembered."
"Now, the only remaining step is that you both sing. Are you ready?"
"Huh, right now?"
Aurica asked Shurelia as the latter softly floated into the classroom.
"What is it? Is there a problem?"
"Well, I think there's one..."
Aurica's began blushing while she still hesitated to say what she wanted.
"Raina... no... Lyner hasn't taken responsibility yet for having seen my panties..."
"Huh? But that was inevitable... and weren't you who bumped into me in the first place?"
Both Shurelia and Misha glared at the flustered Lyner with a very threatening gaze.
"But you saw them…"
Aurica began puffing her cheeks.
Misha and Shurelia looked and nodded at each other to then proceed to grab Aurica by her back.
"Ah, Misha! Lady Shurelia!"
"Is it just about your panties? Then don't worry: it's just something that happened in the story."
"And this isn't the time to be worrying about that."
And pulling Aurica, they took her out of the classroom.
"...I-I barely dodged a bullet... but I don't think that it was just the story here..."
And while Lyner was stiffening his face, Shurelia called him from outside the classroom.
"Lyner, hurry! We are about to begin!"
They were in the school's roof.
It was possible to see the entirety of a wide city from here... but as it was a bit foggy in the distance, it wasn't possible to see it in full detail. Most likely it was because of it being the world made by Shurelia.
As Lyner had already Dived into this world more than once, he didn't pay any special attention to this, but both Misha and Aurica were marveled by the scenery they could see from the roof.
"This is first time I've ever seen a world like this."
"That's true. And the same goes for these clothes."
She wove the skirt of her uniform as she looked around herself. Having such a short skirt ended becoming quite risqué for her. However, Lyner changed his mind about the entire matter when he remembered Aurica's usual outfit, as it wouldn't be surprising that something like this happened even when she was wearing it.
Shurelia then explained to the girls as they were still admiring the scenery.
"This is something I pulled from the Tower's memory. Most likely it's a copy of the real place where it was created, but I don't really know any details on it. However, it could also be just an imaginary world that was created for a game."
And after saying this, she hurried the other two girls by saying "Come now."
"Looks like you have fully regained your memories. Now, it's the turn for both of you to act."
"Very well. With our Song..."
"We'll be able to destroy this world."
"That is correct."
Shurelia nodded. However, Aurica still seemed to be harboring something of a grudge.
"Normally, I wouldn't let anyone who saw my panties to even take me on dates or anything like that..."
"What are you saying now?"
"No, it's nothing, Lady Shurelia."
After looking at Lyner, who was standing between both Aurica and Misha, Shurelia floated up to the sky.
"The Binary Field unfolds outside of this world."
Lyner silently nodded.
"There hasn't been anyone who directly entered the Binary Field in the way we are about to do it. Please, prepare yourselves."
Lyner's reply was short and to the point. There was no need to worry anymore. However, as if she was making sure about his conviction, Shurelia said.
"Everything will be okay: for as long as you are in the Binary Field, I will be at your side."
"As I'll be."
"And me too. So calm down: whatever happens from now on, nothing will ever separate me from Lyner."
Lyner nodded back at them with a sweet smile.
Then, they began singing.
Two different echoes began being crafted separately by both Aurica and Misha.
The Songs from the newly crafted Hymn Crystals were completely different from each other.
But in the points where their meanings and power began joining, the world became blurred.
These two joined songs caused a certain type of resonance, which began having effects on the world.
It became a power capable of causing great undulations in the waveforms of the world that Shurelia had created.
By Diving into this world created by Shurelia, it was possible to move to the Binary Field without needing to cross the walls of the Cosmospheres called the [Boundary Gates].
However, as it was impossible to take even one step outside of this fabricated world, it was impossible to carry out their goal of examining the Binary Field proper.
That was why they came up with this method.
They planned Diving into the world Shurelia had created and then destroy it using the Songs from the Hymn Crystals to break into the Binary Field...
Most likely, this was the only method through which a living human like Lyner would be able to enter the Field.
"The sky... no, the entire world is..."
Lyner looked up.
Within his range of vision, the world began distorting, warping, and finally, cracking...
Shurelia just looked at the sky silently. Even if it was just a fabrication, it didn't mean she wasn't going to have no feelings about having to take actions on the level of destroying an entire world.
Lyner strongly gripped the handle of the sword he had in his hands. At some point, his clothes changed from the school uniform to the armor he always wore in the real world. As the world of the story was being torn to pieces, all of the data that was modified by it returned to its normal state.
At this point, the world around them had already changed to become a completely different thing.
Only the Songs Aurica and Misha were singing interrupted the feeling similar to sparse bubbles that had been swelling within the four of them.
"This is... the Binary Field!"
That was a world unlike anything he had seen before.
No, not even these words would be enough to describe it, as even though he was seeing such a place for the first time, he didn't quite feel the uneasiness that was associated to wondering if something like this could even exist in the first place.
Lyner breathed in deeply.
"Don't be afraid. The possibility of causing you anomalous perceptions is also part of the Binary Field's nature."
He heard Shurelia's voice.
"Let us all focus our consciousness. Aurica, Misha, and Lyner too, focus your thoughts on each other."
"Aurica, Misha. Are you there?"
While Lyner looked around himself, he didn't see them anywhere. He didn't even see Shurelia. Only her voice resounded as if it was speaking directly to his mind.
"They are. Now, focus your consciousness."
Lyner pictured the three girls inside his mind. As soon as he did, they appeared from the middle of the darkness.
"Lady Shurelia... Aurica, Misha!"
"Lyner, are you okay? You didn't get injured or anything?"
Aurica and Misha appeared at both sides of Lyner.
The instant the world Shurelia made collapsed, they seemed to have disappeared, but apparently they always were in the same place. Shurelia herself appeared a few seconds later and immediately began floating further in... As if she were saying it was all right to proceed.
"Lady Shurelia... we have to walk? Or..."
Lyner perceived from his senses that the four would have to venture into the deeper region that was right in front of them, but he still didn't know if they would have to run or walk with their feet, or fly the same way Shurelia was doing.
Even though he was aware that he was there, the existence of his extremities felt quite vague, so he wasn't quite sure if he still had them or not.
"It's because your data has become fuzzy. But don't worry much about it: as long as you can keep your consciousness focused, everything will be okay."
But even if she said this, being in this state of wondering if one had or not the extremities they were supposed to have would make anyone feel uneasy.
"So this is the Binary Field..."
Lyner said as he gulped down.
"We might be inside the Binary Field, but we are still in a relatively shallow area."
"Is that the case...?"
After he nodded to Shurelia's explanation, Lyner couldn't even imagine what would happen when they tried going into a deeper area.
"Is Mir in a place like this...?"
While he was aware that his sight wouldn't be useful here, he still looked around.
Could anyone be lurking in a place like this?
No, that might be impossible due to the kind of place in which they were. After all, what they were seeking wasn't something that had a definite shape: it was a formless existence called Mir's Echo.
Shurelia went in front of the others, leading them on the path they should take to advance further in.
Whenever Lyner focused his eyes into something, he had the feeling he could see something taking definite form from the darkness as Shurelia made them advance. And besides, he still had a fuzzy feeling that even if the places in front of them were definitely pitch-black, they were becoming unable to recognize for sure if they were dark or not.
He acknowledged it was a mysterious sensation.
The parts that Shurelia touched were as if they didn't exist before she touched them and he felt they were dark after she touched them, while the parts she hadn't touched yet didn't give off the feeling that they were dark at all.
It could be like how the darkness that appears prior to the sunset and the dawn become vague enough to make it extremely hard to see one's surroundings when the sun goes down or is beginning to rise. However, the scenery Lyner was looking at had an even more rarified existence than that.
Lyner began considering it as if the space itself was given the meaning of "darkness" when Shurelia touched it.
"The wavelengths have become even higher..."
Shurelia's said with a very tense voice.
Upon hearing that, he turned in Shurelia's direction again and saw how her figure began becoming blurry.
She scolded Lyner upon seeing how shocked he was.
"The power of the Binary Field is getting stronger. Aurica, Misha, make sure to maintain your consciousness. If anything happens, we must protect Lyner with all our strength."
Both girls replied in unison to Shurelia's admonishment.
No, it would better to say that it was heard as if their voices had fused into one.
It was impossible to tell who had actually replied. It was heard as if was them both and it wasn't at the same time.
Aurica and Misha were supposed to be flanking Lyner, but he saw both of her faces looking at him right from the front.
It was as if the world had completely abandoned the order that formed it.
Now, the girl that looked both like Aurica and Misha was whispering to Lyner.
"I'm... becoming a me I'm not..."
"The me that was Aurica is gradually spreading thin…"
"The me that was Misha is becoming unable to recognize anything…"
"I didn't know it…"
"About how wide this world is…"
"About how deeply our hearts are connected…"
The voice seemed to be from all places around Lyner at the same time.
"Is that Aurica's voice? Or is it Misha's? Who is it? Who is talking...!?"
And now, their shapes had disappeared from Lyner's eyes.
However, he still could feel their heavy presences from around himself.
It felt as if they both were embracing him.
Both of their voices then continued talking.
"Our power was born from this place…"
"We are all born out from the Tower…"
"The melody played by the Tower…"
"We are melodies…"
"We are Songs…"
"And therefore, we resound together…"
He looked up when his name was called. However, he didn't know anymore which direction was "up".
"A great sadness…"
"and a great hatred…"
"are resounding with us…"
Lyner gulped down as he rolled up his hands into fists.
"Is that Mir's Echo?"
"A Song of sadness…"
"and a Song of hatred…"
"are resounding within our hearts…"
"And it's trying to rewrite us…"
For an instant, the echoes of Aurica and Misha's voices returned to the voice that talked to Lyner.
"We can't go any further... so we'll be waiting for you... please, make sure to come back safe and..."
The voice was cut off halfway through, and at the same time, Lyner's body was invaded by an intense shock and pain.
When he regained consciousness, Lyner found himself in a room.
Most likely, the final shaking he felt before fainting had taken away all of the darkness that had been surrounding him.
But even though it had become much brighter, it didn't quite reach the same intensity as normal daylight. It was more like something inside the room was illuminating the rough boarding that made up the flooring of the place with that soft light.
It was an extremely small room. Was it a shed someone had built or something?
However, and contrary to the aspect of its construction, the place didn't give the impression of being a desolate ruin at all. Instead, a completely indescribable nostalgia and warmth could be felt from it.
"Where is this place?
I remember having Dived into the Binary Field and..."
It seemed there was a large gap between when he lost consciousness and when he awakened in this place, which made Lyner very uneasy. He instinctively grabbed the handle of his sword.
"Don't swing that around while you're here!"
Getting scolded out of nowhere made Lyner jump in fear, making him hit his head with the ceiling and leaving him seeing stars. Apparently, this place was built with a very low ceiling.
As he softly touched his head with his hand, he began looking around for the owner of the voice. Yet other scolding was sent his way.
"You'll get in trouble if you damage this place! Just stay put and behave yourself!"
He then faced the direction from which the voice came to apologize to the person that had scolded him.
"Lady Shurelia? No, but that appearance..."
Lyner was very confused, as the person he had before him was a girl... no, a child.
It was true that the Shurelia Lyner remembered was a little smaller than him in height, but the girl he had in front of him was even smaller than that.
However, that height seemed natural for her.
And while in appearance Shurelia always seemed to be in her middle teens, this girl didn't even seem to have reached double digits in age yet. She was a child no matter how he looked at her.
"Huh? Is there anything weird with how I look?"
And given how surprised Lyner was, Shurelia began noticing the appearance she had. She apparently had mistaken his gaze and words, and thought he was talking about her clothes.
"No, when I said appearance I meant... but, it's really you, Lady Shurelia?"
Shurelia began pouting when Lyner timidly asked this. Even her attitude was that of a little girl.
"Do you see any other Shurelias aside of me?"
"...You're really Lady Shurelia..."
Due to the maliciousness he felt she was leaking out, he began fixedly staring at the young girl... at the Shurelia he had in front of him. This caused her to blush.
"W-what is it? It's rude to keep staring at a lady like that!"
"Y-yeah, I'm sorry..."
Her words may have been those of her adult self, but due to the childish appearance she had, she had next to no persuasive power. Instead, the more seriously she talked, the more comical it sounded.
"Why do you look like a child, Lady Shurelia...? And where are we in the first place?"
"This place is called the [Chamber of the Orgel of Origins]."
Said the young Shurelia.
"Of Origins...? Is this your room, Lady Shurelia?"
"It's a little different from that, but now I think about it, we could say it's the same thing to me. This is my... place of memories."
"I see. This is the first time I've ever seen it."
"It's natural, as I've never let anyone so deep in. And even now I don't have any intention of letting anyone in either."
"R-really? But then, is it okay... for me to be here?"
In response to how flustered Lyner seemed, the young girl gave him a smile that looked quite mature for her appearance.
"Regardless of if it's for the better or the worse, you're already here, aren't you? And besides, it's not like you can actually leave this place."
Shurelia then pointed him to a small window in one of the corners of the room and told him "Try opening and looking through it."
Taking care with the low ceiling, Lyner did as he was told and opened the window.
Something surprising was awaiting him.
"W-whoa! What's this...!?"
There wouldn't be a really proper way to describe the scenery that could be seen from that window.
Everything seemed to be swirling, raging, and moving as violently as it could.
And even so, there wasn't anything that had a proper shape within Lyner's range of vision.
He knew very well that something existed in there, but it was impossible for anyone to tell what that something was supposed to be just from their eyes and ears.
"Don't tell me this is..."
"Yes. This is the deepest layer of the Binary Field."
Shurelia solemnly announced as she stood behind him.
"While you can't really distinguish it with your eyes, you still can perceive there is something out there, right? That something is an extremely violent storm of energy. Even now, it rages in its attempt to disintegrate and swallow this room."
Shurelia partially closed her eyes as she looked through the window too.
"Fundamentally speaking, no existence is allowed to have a proper meaning in this place. Everything will have its meaning disintegrated and reduced to its lowest elemental unit, to then be kept in that form until the outside world gives meaning to it again."
Lyner turned around to face Shurelia again.
"But Lady Shurelia, there's something I have to do here in the Binary Field."
"I know that. But you mustn't even think of leaving this room. After all, you're only safe because this room is protecting you."
Lyner looked once again at the inside of the room. No matter how much he looked at it, and regardless of the impression it gave off, the only appearance it had was that of an old crude room.
"Why did you have a room like this in your thoughts?"
She nodded as she explained this to Lyner.
"It's because this room is my oldest memory, and a very precious one at that."
"One of your... memories? ...In other words, this room... and that's how you used to look a long time ago, Lady Shurelia?"
"That's correct. In this place, the hearts of the people hold a great power. The stronger the feelings, and the more deeply ingrained the memories in their hearts that are connected to them... these are the greatest power anyone can have here. My oldest memories... the ones engraved so deeply and strongly in my heart to the point that they will never fade away... are all in this small room."
The expression Shurelia had when she said this was so moving that no one would have thought it would come from a child: it was a face filled with both nostalgia and sadness. It didn't fit at all with the appearance she currently had.
"Therefore, this room itself also becomes the strongest protective shell I can make for Diving into the Binary Field."
Shurelia continued with a serious expression.
"However, even this shell won't be able to withstand for long the energies of the Field..."
And once she said this, Shurelia was taken aback.
"Why didn’t I notice this before?"
"What is it, Lady Shurelia?"
Even if she was younger than the normal Shurelia (even if it was only in appearance), Lyner still seemed to be very mindful of how he said things to her. As for Shurelia, she seemed to be completely caught up in her thoughts and didn't notice the expressions she was making, which were pretty complex for someone so young-looking. She audibly muttered to herself,
"Now I think about it, there is no possibility that something like Mir's Song could have kept its meaning in this place... how in the world could it manage to preserve itself like that? How...?"
"We'll know if we go and check it ourselves."
Lyner optimistically assured her. Shurelia nodded too.
"That's true. If it could maintain its meaning on the other side, we should be able to check it with our eyes."
"Let's search for it, and let's do it quickly so we don't end up disappearing too. That voice I heard back at Skuwat Village was filled with an incredible hatred towards the humans..."
However, Lyner didn't say more because he was shocked from remembering something.
"Oh, right! What happened to Aurica and Misha?"
He remembered what took place the instant he lost consciousness. Up to that moment, he was sure that Aurica and Misha were right at his side.
"As anyone would expect, it seems that the consciousnesses of normal Reyvateils can't keep their sense of self existing at this level of depth."
Lyner's expression stiffened upon hearing Shurelia's words.
"Don't tell me they..."
"They should be okay... I think. Their wavelengths should be in this room right now, too."
Lyner began looking around. No matter how much he did so, he didn't see anything beyond the inside of the room...
"Aurica, Misha... are you there?"
There was no reply.
"It's no use. Right now, they don't have awareness of themselves as individuals. The only ones that can reconstruct their own data even within the Field are special existences like myself and you, in your case because you're being directly protected by this."
Shurelia said. Lyner didn't want to agree with this.
"Anyway, we should get searching as soon as possible. I'm sure that Mir's Echo should be somewhere inside of the Binary Field."
And with a tense face, Lyner looked outside through the window.
This was quite a strange way of searching for something.
Lyner didn't even know the appearance of whatever they were looking for from the inside of their protective shell.
However, from his viewpoint this was a goal so serious he had to get it done no matter what, even though he couldn't do anything but continue looking at the outside through the window in the Chamber of the Orgel of Origins.
Such a life-risking search wasn't something that fit this room in the slightest.
And while Lyner still looked through the window, trying to not overlook anything, he asked Shurelia, who was doing the same thing through another window:
"By the way, did you live in a room like this one when you were a child, Lady Shurelia? Was that such a long time ago?"
"Please don't ask such dumbfounding questions! Don't you think that phrasing them like that makes me feel like a very old woman?"
"But it's true that in comparison to you, I've lived for a far longer time."
"Honestly, I've always wanted to see how you were as a child."
"And aren't you doing so right now? This is how I used to be a long time ago. I still remember very well how I was back then and how the inside of this room was too."
Shurelia looked around the room with a satisfied expression. Lyner looked at her from the corner of the eye as he continued searching through the window.
"But the way you talk is the same as the normal you. Does that mean you also had the same personality back then?"
"...Such a rude way to ask it... but it's fine. Back then, because I used to be much more honest... no, much more emotional than how I am right now, I was quite difficult to handle as a child... However, I did talk the way adults do even then."
Lyner understood from this that she seemed to have gone through several complicated circumstances, and not wanting to interrupt her, he waited for Shurelia to continue talking.
"It's because I was the very first Reyvateil ever made: the new being created to be the controller for all of the systems in the Tower. Many humans worshipped me as a Goddess, but they also feared me at the same time. Even though I became aware of the feelings of the humans at some point, I also spent many happy days in this room..."
Shurelia narrowed her eyes a bit.
She seemed to have gone through several difficult experiences in her past in addition to the simple idea of having lived for so many years.
She caressed a small orgel she had nearby. This seemed to be an unconscious action, as her eyes were still focused on what was at the other side of the window. What kind of history she had with that object?
"These were very pleasant memories, right?"
Shurelia smiled back at him as she said "Yes, they were".
"Somehow, you don't look like the Lady Shurelia I know..."
"What? I am me, and no one else!"
"Yes, you're right... But when I see you like this, you look just like a normal girl, Lady Shurelia..."
Shurelia had now a slightly sad face.
"What do you think I am? You don't think I'm a normallish girl at all?"
"N-no, it's not that. I'm sorry."
As he didn't really know what a "normallish" girl was, Lyner meekly bowed his head in her direction.
"Lyner, please don't take your eyes away from the window!"
Upon being scolded by Shurelia, Lyner returned his gaze to the scenery outside of the window. He said "I'm sorry" once again as he looked at the outside.
"...I didn't mean to say that."
"I know, Lyner. You really respect and admire me a lot, right? However, I also know very well that you can't bring yourself to treat me in the same way you treat Aurica and Misha."
They both stayed silent for a while as they continued looking outside.
The raging storm of nothingness didn't seem any different no matter where they looked at. While they didn't know for sure if the Binary Field itself could have a definite shape, just from looking at it like this they felt it was an unimaginably large place.
"No matter what happens, I can never bring myself to hate the humans. Do you know the reason?"
"It's because of the memories I have in this room. Because I've lived for so long, I've been witness to many, many sad events. But people can learn to become nicer to each other, without making any distinctions between humans and Reyvateils, and learn to become happy together... that is what I learned from this room... therefore..."
"I-I... I want you to be always happy, Lady Shurelia."
The line Lyner said could be mistaken for a declaration of love if the person he was saying it to didn't know him for long. However, as Shurelia had known him for years, she knew very well what he meant.
A little giggle slipped out from her lips as she nodded.
"Thank you, Lyner. If we could, I'd like to talk to you a little more and about more things, now we're in a place where no one can disturb us..."
However, a certain tension suddenly began running through the air when Shurelia said this.
Lyner understood right away what this meant.
"The room is..."
Soft creaking sounds began coming out from the entirety of the room.
"No, it won't be able to keep its form for much longer...! We have to go back even if we can't find anything!"
"But Lady Shurelia, if we leave that thing alone, it'll continue influencing the Reyvateils!"
"That might be the case, but to me, your life is more...!"
Shurelia suddenly gasped.
"Lyner, what is...?"
Lyner ran to the window through which Shurelia was looking.
Several lightning bolts began flashing within the darkness.
And then, something gigantic began shining within the light they emitted.
"No way, for it to be so large..."
A torso as thick as several trees squirmed like a wave. At the end, there were several snake heads, each with several horns protruding from them, and they were opening their ominous maws, which had several sharp fangs.
Undulating, entwining, it emerged from the darkness like multiple gigantic snakes rolling together to form a ball. It was as if the lightning bolts themselves were what formed this snake ball.
There were several lifeforms that antagonized the humans, and among them, there were some such as overgrown versions of the snakes and lizards... such as the dragons...
However, the creature that was squirming outside the window seemed more ominous and didn't seem to have any of the characteristics of any actual living being from this world.
It was as if each one of the parts that formed it had been squeezed out of other black creatures and gathered together to form it... a monster worthy of being the embodiment of someone's nightmares.
A nightmare. After all, the Binary Field could also be called the dream world of the Tower, so in a way, this monster also was the nightmares of the Tower themselves.
"How could something as large as that keep itself hidden for so long? It was as if it was waiting for our time to run out..."
As she said this, Shurelia noticed she couldn't completely rule out that possibility.
"We might have been a bit mistaken about this entire incident..."
"Mistaken in which way?"
"It's the echo of the Song into which Mir put her hatred, so I was more or less imagining it was something that only had raw power. However, it actually has... intelligence? Enough intelligence to trick and deceive people...?"
"You mean it laid a trap for us!?"
"I don't know! I don't know, but..."
"It's attacking us!"
The monster quickly lashed the multiple whip-like heads it had in their direction.
The room greatly shook. The attack of the monster had hit them.
Lyner grabbed the hilt of his sword.
"I'll go and fight it! We can't leave this place yet!"
"No...! It's impossible! We're almost out of time!"
Shurelia said from the floor of the room. She had fallen on her bottom.
"We'll be okay!"
However, Lyner smiled back at her. It was a smile that could be described even as fearless.
"If you believe in me, Lady Shurelia, and as long as we have this room... and we have Aurica and Misha with us, I can do it! I'll go!"
As expected of her, Shurelia decided quickly. The young girl entwined her hands in front of her chest and began crafting her Song Magic.
"I'll support you with all my power. I'll leave the rest to you, Lyner!"
Outside of the window, the monster drew closer to them again.
As soon as it tried to grip the room with two of its snake heads and crush it between them, Lyner leapt out of it and into the Binary Field.
Lyner felt an enormous shock when the energy of the Binary Field hit him. It was as if countless lightning bolts were smiting him at the same time.
Just this was enough to leave him at the border of collapse.
"So this is the Binary Field!?"
Lyner dropped the large sword he was carrying. He couldn't see Shurelia around him, but he could still hear the Song she was singing. Its sound had changed from when he was the room, but it was still unmistakably Shurelia's Song.
As he looked around for the monster, he could still feel on himself how Shurelia's Song was protecting him.
For a second, he had lost sight of the monster, as it seemed to have retracted back the heads it had been using to attack. And now Lyner seemed to have found it again.
Its multiple heads let out a ferocious roar all at the same time.
It seemed to be loud enough to drown out the sounds of Shurelia's Song.
Sounds of hatred and sneering could be heard mixed up in that roar.
Did these feelings of hatred and sneer against the humans really reach such an absurdly deep area of the Tower?
"It's... as if it were the Tower itself. Can we even say that this is the Will of the Tower..?"
"No, it isn't!"
It was Shurelia's voice.
"It's true there is an unimaginable amount of hatred and sadness swirling inside the Tower, but it also should have experimented an equal amount of gentleness and love!"
"You're right, Lady Shurelia!"
Lyner grabbed his sword again.
The monster was getting its heads in attack position once again.
"You're gonna attack!? I'm waiting for it! Hit me with your best shot!"
Lyner rushed to the crooked necks he had in front of him as he raised his sword.
One of the heads didn't anticipate the attack and thus couldn't avoid Lyner’s slash, receiving the full brunt of his sword's blade.
The attack made a sound similar to that of a large explosion. However, this was short-lived, as the meaning of the attack was disintegrated and absorbed into the energies of the Binary Field.
Lyner put on all of his strength in his next attack and tried to bisect the head with it.
However, that didn't have any effect on it.
Another head then rushed in from the side and delivered him a painful blow.
Lyner was sent flying through the air while another head rushed in as well, as if it was trying to eat him.
Lyner began swinging his sword around, trying to repel the heads that came after him.
As expected, Lyner wasn't able to cut or destroy any of them, but at least this pushed the heads away so their attacks wouldn't manage to get through to him.
However, the monster incessantly continued attacking him and Lyner didn't have a way in which he could strike back at it.
On the other hand, the energy storm of the Binary Field continued mercilessly eroding his body.
Shurelia's voice cracked as she screamed at him.
"Resist a little more, Lyner! Time has almost..."
Lyner bellowed out a war cry, but even that was drowned out by the roar of the monster.
Several of the heads began closing on him one after another to attack.
Even if he was a legendary hero now, he was completely alone and helpless against the overwhelming amount of attacks he was receiving: it's exactly as if he was completely outnumbered.
"Shit... is this the end...?"
and as he groaned this, the blade of his sword shattered to pieces with a loud sound.
"No! You're losing your focus! If you do that, you'll disintegrate at once!"
Upon hearing Shurelia, Lyner tried to rekindle his fighting spirit, but calming down a shaken heart was no easy task.
The rest of his sword and the armor that covered his body, both began breaking down and disintegrating.
As Lyner screamed, one of the heads opened its enormous maw and charged at him.
And the exact instant Lyner's screams and Shurelia's cries echoed at the same time, it happened:
The head of the monster was cleanly sliced in half.
The sliced head broke into countless pieces and disintegrated itself in the same way Lyner's sword did as it fell into the darkness of the Binary Field until it disappeared.
"Calm down, Lyner! Being so emotional has always been your weak point!"
An impressive swordsman was standing between Lyner and the monster now.
He was a young man that wore heavy battle armor, but also had a face beautiful enough to make women envious.
The young man, who wielded two long and sharp swords, turned back to see Lyner and smiled at him. It was a strangely beautiful smile that most likely, no else in the world had the fortune to have.
However, only a few had the luck of being able to see it, one of these being Lyner himself.
A smile also appeared in Lyner's face. To him, the young man that had just appeared was a precious and irreplaceable friend.
"So it was you, Ayatane!"
"I'm very sorry for not having contacted you in such a long time, Lady Shurelia."
Ayatane slightly leaned his head downwards when he heard Shurelia's voice.
"Ayatane, why did you come here? And how?"
Lyner asked as he braced himself. The young man replied in a musical voice that greatly fit his face.
"It's because my way of birth was special. That allows me to enter and leave this place whenever I wish so."
And as he talked, Ayatane was repelling the attacks of the monster by slashing at it so fast it was impossible to follow his movements with the eyes.
And unlike Lyner's attacks, it caused the monster to bellow out screams of pain even thought his swords weren't hitting any of its critical spots. The monster then put some distance between itself and them.
"I was looking around the area because Mother told me she felt something strange about the Tower. It was like this that I found you doing something reckless and absurd once again."
"I knew it! You're a true friend, Ayatane!"
Ayatane looked at him with a smile that also showed a bit of embarrassment. It wasn't an expression he used to put on long ago, and even now it wasn't a face he liked showing aside of when he was in front of Lyner.
In his hometown of Platina, Lyner was a friend of Ayatane for a long time, but Ayatane actually was a spy sent by Mir. He wasn't even a human, but a Virus.
However, when Lyner learned of Ayatane's true nature, he did the same as he did to the Reyvateils and never allowed this to put a strain in their friendship. He always said "That guy is my friend!"
He even stood against Lyner once and it seemed that would put a decisive end to their friendship, but thanks to the honest and intense feelings Lyner had, their friendship bonds were reestablished successfully.
"If you really think of me as a friend, you should have called me from the beginning. It's because I'm not human...? Though I know very well you would never discriminate any lifeforms."
"No, it's because you disappeared with Mir and I had no way of knowing where you had gone to... and besides, having to call you out of nowhere just because it's convenient to me is so..."
"What are you saying? Even though no one would ever get anything done if they only thought about their own convenience? This also goes for this time in which you're acting for the sake of the Reyvateils: why do you think Aurica and Misha didn't ask you to stop when you went rushing in?"
Ayatane's assertions were quite precise. Lyner made a face similar to what anyone would when struck in a critical spot, but arrived at a different conclusion.
"It's because they both knew what was happening and that's why they decided to lend me a hand to come to this place."
"Heh, so that means they have finally managed to understand pretty well a human like yourself, Lyner?"
"W-what do you mean with that? What did they understand about me?"
"That you won't listen to them, no matter how much they try talking you out of it."
And as he said this, Ayatane slashed once again with his swords, cutting off one of the multiple necks of the monster.
The decapitated head tumbled down into the darkness until it disappeared.
"Come now, Lyner. I can stay here for as long as I wish, but you shouldn't have much time remaining at this point. Let's defeat that monster at once."
Lyner concentrated and restructured the pieces of blade that were scattered throughout the place into the original form of his sword.
"That's the Echo of Mir's Song, right?"
"It's the coagulation of Mother's grudges. A ghost from the past."
"But how did it grow so much?"
Shurelia asked as she continued singing.
"I know that Mir harbored an enormous amount of grudge, but this is the Binary Field. All data should end up disintegrating in it at some point..."
But when Ayatane raised his eyebrows at this, Lyner screamed as he pointed to the monster.
"It's... it's regenerating its heads!"
However, it was as Lyner said: the heads that Ayatane had cut off had begun reforming, and after a few seconds they were back to their original shape.
"To think that something like this could happen in the Binary Field..."
"Maybe it's getting energy from somewhere else?"
Lyner asked this to Ayatane, but no one could answer that question.
And in the meantime, the monster had fully recovered from the wounds it received and was back to how it was at the start of the battle.
"I'm kinda feeling it got even larger than before..."
"That's just your imagination. Anyway, we have a difficult opponent in our hands."
Ayatane narrowed his eyes and gripped his swords once again.
"We can only keep cutting and slashing at it. If we could cut all its heads at once, before it can regenerate any of them..."
The monster roared.
It sounded as if it was sneering at Ayatane's words.
"Lyner, we don't have more time!"
However, Lyner calmly sheathed his sword
"Please, wait. Lady Shurelia, Ayatane."
Lyner's face looked quite serious, but the thirst for battle that was on it had completely disappeared.
"Draw your sword, Lyner!"
Ayatane stepped in front of him, as if he was intending to shield Lyner from the monster. However, Lyner just grabbed him by the shoulder.
"Wait... can you hear it? Do you hear that voice, Ayatane?"
"Did you say... a voice?"
And as if it were to urge Ayatane to listen to it, he took a step towards the monster.
"I hear something. At least, that's... what I feel…"
Lyner closed his eyes and concentrated all of his nerves into his hearing.
"Come, try it. I can hear it. I can hear it!"
Ayatane looked around with a face filled with suspicion.
"I can't hear.... wait, this is..."
He heard a voice mixed with the roaring of the monster.
"We could hear it from the beginning. It's just that we didn't notice it until now..."
The voice seemed to be swirling around them.
"They should just disappear…"
"Don't torment us…"
"The humans should just disappear!"
The monster rushed towards them.
Ayatane just repelled it by slashing at it with his swords.
At the same time he did that, the voice that swirled around them became even louder.
"Disappear, dreadful ones…"
"Ones that torment me…"
"You should just disappear!"
Shurelia said with a trembling voice:
"This is the echo. This voice is what continues supplying that monster with power…"
"Is this the Echo of Mir's Song?"
The one who answered Lyner's question was Ayatane.
"No. This isn't Mother's voice…"
But as they were talking, the monster attacked them.
Ayatane managed to evade the attack by a hair's breadth, but the monster caught Lyner between the sharp fangs it had on its open maw.
It then roared victoriously. Now he was completely unable to move, the other heads began charging at him.
"You should just disappear!"
Shurelia's Song had been protecting Lyner, but he was now tightly trapped by the fangs of the monster and it was now violently squeezing him with them in order to shatter that protection.
Lyner's body began emitting sparks, which were swallowed by the darkness of the Binary Field as they fell, and the power that Shurelia was sending to him began draining rapidly.
Ayatane tried to run to his rescue, but due to the large number of heads, he wasn't able to get anywhere close to him.
"No... it's no use... I can't continue... singing...!"
But it was then it happened:
Lyner dropped the sword he had in his hands.
As soon as it fell into the void, it disappeared as if had been colored over by the darkness.
"Lyner, no! You'll die like that!"
However, Lyner moved the hand where his sword had been moments ago to touch the monster's fangs and then he began caressing them.
Ayatane couldn't understand the actions of his friend, but he still stopped moving.
"Everything will be fine. We won't make you feel afraid anymore."
Shurelia thought too that his actions were quite unexpected.
"What are you doing?"
Lyner smiled in response to the question. However, his smile also showed the tremendous pain he was feeling: he had been very badly injured by the monster, after all. As they continued looking, his body began to melt away into the Binary Field.
"Lady Shurelia, Mir's Song wasn't what caused this."
"What do you mean, Lyner?"
"The feelings of grudge Mir left inside of the Tower might have been the underlying cause, but what gave power to these grudges was this voice."
The swirling voice still continued ringing its echoes of resentment like a storm of negative feelings.
"You said this wasn't Mir's voice?"
"Then, who is the owner of that voice?"
And as he affectionately caressed the fangs of the monster, Lyner answered Ayatane's question.
"It's the voice of the Reyvateils."
"Of the Reyvateils?"
"That's what these screams were?"
Lyner nodded. The color was quickly fading away from his face, even though the loss of his vitality was because of the effects of the Binary Field.
"You were afraid for such a long time, right?"
"Afraid? Of what?"
"Of the humans, though it would be more right to say it was of the entire world. You should know it very well too, Lady Shurelia."
"Like Aurica said long ago, we the humans didn't really make the effort to understand them, and that's why they were so afraid... but... but please listen!"
He screamed to the point of straining his voice.
"It's the same for us humans. We also feared you!"
The resentful voice continued blowing fiercely, regardless of anything Lyner said. Ayatane stepped in a little closer in his friend's direction while still wielding his swords.
"Lyner, there is still something I can't understand from what you're saying. Even if this voice belongs to the Reyvateils, this is the Binary Field. Remember this place is located very far away from the Cosmospheres of all the Reyvateils!"
"The same way you're afraid of us, the humans are also afraid of you. But that isn't because we hate each other..."
"It's because you want us to get along! And the humans really want to get along with you, too! We want to be together forever! But since we don't know if we can actually do it, that's why we're afraid. Isn't that... isn't that what you're feeling?"
They then noticed that the movements of the monster had become more sluggish and awkward.
Knowing it was his chance; Ayatane began running to the imprisoned Lyner as fast as he could. However, Lyner stopped him with his hand.
The outline of the hand he had extended began turning fuzzy, showing he could disappear at any moment.
"That's why you shouldn't really hate the humans. If that was the case, why would you bother forming partnerships with them? Even the Life Extending Agent is no more than part of the reason... as the reason why you're with the humans... it's because you love them... isn't that right?"
The monster stopped roaring at that instant.
The resentful voice could still be heard throughout the place, but now it had been weakened to the point of not being anything beyond a whisper.
Ayatane looked around a bit anxious.
"Did Lyner's voice... reach them?"
"That's how we humans feel. We love you... and that's how... how I feel about you…"
The shape of the monster vanished.
The shape of the head that had caught Lyner at some point transformed into that of a girl.
A naked girl whose body shone with a soft light, and she put one of her hands on Lyner's chest as her hair undulated due to the storm of the Binary Field.
Her eyes were filled with tears and a questioning light emerged from them.
Lyner smiled sweetly at her. Even his smile had gotten so blurry that it seemed to be just an afterimage.
"That's how... how I feel about you…"
The face of the girl looked just like that of Aurica, that of Misha, and even that of Shurelia, all at the same time.
And she was them all at the same time, and at the same time she wasn't.
Lyner extended a vanishing hand to the girl.
"I really... love you... please, believe me... I... the humans... love you..."
He put his arms around the delicate shoulders of the girl and gently embraced her.
The little remaining strength he had left his battered body, and as soon as the girl's cheek touched the chest of the young man, Lyner's body finally crumbled away into the darkness.
But at the same time, a voice echoed throughout the darkness.
"I love you…"
"And because I love you so much..."
"I won't let you die, Lyner!"
"Honestly, at one point even I doubted you were going to come back safe and sound."
Claire's words contained a mix of feelings that were part joy, part shock that she felt from the depths of her heart.
As he put a glass to his mouth, Lyner showed her a bitter smile.
Both were sitting at opposite sides of the counter in her Nemo bar and talking. The inside of the establishment seemed to be as bustling as always.
"Nah, even I thought things were going to end terribly this time!"
Lyner cheerfully laughed "hahaha!" above the stool he was sitting on. He was as optimistic as always.
Claire put the weight of her light body above the counter as she sighed. That she looked worthy enough of being recorded in a portrait was something particular to people as beautiful as her.
"I heard about it a little later, but you had these girls crying over you all the time until you regained consciousness, right? You should take a little better care of yourself."
"About that, I actually got scolded by them all the way here... please let me off the hook today..."
"That's just natural, huh? If you ever harmed my cute little Aurica, I would should you no mercy."
"I'll have to be careful..."
Claire began giggling upon seeing Lyner's dejected face.
"But it's fine. If Aurica forgave you, I have no reason to be angry at you."
Claire got a glass from the girl behind the counter... which surely was a Reyvateil too... and exchanged it with the one Lyner had already emptied.
"As for the Tenba Reyvateils, it seems President Ayano herself has currently assumed full command to solve the situation. Right now, almost all of the Reyvateils have returned to their workplaces in the company."
"It wasn't all of them?"
"If all of them went back, my workload would increase again and I'd lose the little free time I finally got for myself."
"Huh? Did you say workload?"
After Lyner asked back, Claire mischievously pointed to the girl inside the counter. She nodded to Lyner as she blushed and he realized then she used to be a Tenba employee.
"I see. Until now, it seemed the world was completely framed by Tenba and the Church... but it seems that things have begun changing around here. The humans such as Ayano and the others are changing, but the Reyvateils are also changing bit by bit. Looks like we're finally going to be on equal terms."
"Well, isn't that how it should be?"
"Both humans and Reyvateils are born from the same Mother, so in the end we're not so far apart as we used to think. I mean, I even have a robot... and a Virus for friends!"
"Right, it's just as you say. I wish that everyone would come to think that same way from the bottom of their hearts soon."
Claire had her eyes fixed in the distance, as if she was looking at something that was very far away from both of them, but she then muttered “That reminds me...” changing the entire topic of the conversation.
"It was feelings, right? Wasn’t that what you wanted to ask me about the other day?"
"Yeah. We need them to make a new Song."
As Lyner nodded, Claire softly opened her lips.
"I see. Well then, my feelings are..."
And from the main area of the bar, the sound of something breaking coupled with a piercing scream was heard. It seemed that Aurica and the others were lending Claire a hand that day too.
"Lyner, I had a dream."
As Aurica seemed to be trying to cuddle with Lyner, Misha pulled him further to her side.
"You're being far too clingy, Aurica!"
"What's wrong with that? I have things to talk about with Lyner."
In response to Misha's question, Aurica said with a triumphant face:
"When we Dived into the Binary Field, I had a dream... and in it, Lyner was embracing me sooo very tightly!"
"Oh, I had a dream like that too!"
Upon seeing how quickly Misha counterattacked, Aurica was so disheartened that she seemed to have gotten to the point of blowing her nose with her fingers.
"H-huh? You had that dream too, Misha? But we can't normally have dreams during a Dive, right?"
"Yeah, but that's why I think that... this dream was something that actually happened. So it means Lyner actually embraced me during the Dive... heh."
"But what about me?"
"It was only a dream for you."
"No way! Lyner, tell us which one was... real?"
Before they realized it, Lyner had disappeared from where he was a second ago.
"Where are you, Lyner!? Tell us which dream was real!"
"So, which one was real?"
With a grin from ear to ear, Jack turned to face Lyner after having peeped on what the girls were doing.
"Even if you ask me that, I can't really remember. It's useless... if I try concentrating myself, I can remember I did help a girl within that place, but I can't remember at all who she was..."
"Hey, are you serious?"
"I'm serious, believe me. If I think it was Aurica, I feel like it actually was her, but the same thing happens if I think it was Misha..."
"What an absurd tale, man."
Jack wasn't in the mood to continue pressing him, so he changed the topic while Lyner tried to keep himself hidden from the girls' gazes.
"Radolf'll arrive a little late because he got a wedding ceremony he has to attend to."
"A wedding? Is he getting married?"
"Nuthin' of that sort. The wedding is for that Reyvateil he has as secretary and the Oracle she had as her fiancé. He's there just because duty calls him."
"Huh...? I see. But I'm kinda glad about that."
"It'd be great if everyone could get married like that. That'd mean that there'd be no more incidents like this one."
"Yeah. That's why we made this Song."
The Song they had been making from the feelings they gathered from the people was almost complete.
With Shurelia as the main singer, Aurica and Misha would also lend their voices for singing it, so it reached the entirety of this world.
If echoes of regret could remain in existence, it wasn't too far-fetched to think that an echo of feelings opposite to that could remain as well.
It was the time to make the feelings contained in the Song to resound to the Tower, and to this world itself...
"Yes, Lady Shurelia!"
Lyner's thoughts were interrupted as soon as a voice called him from behind. Shurelia whispered to him with a very soft voice:
"I thought we should test the Song first, so would you want to hear a little of it?"
"Yes, just the both of us... in a place where no one will disturb us..."
Shurelia got her face, now of a bright red color, closer to him.
But right then,
"Ah! Lyner, so here you were!"
"Lyner, come here and explain us exactly what happened in the Binary Field!"
As soon as they found Lyner, Aurica and Misha came running to him.
"Whoa! L-Lady Shurelia, I'm afraid we'll have to leave that conversation for later! See you...!"
And all flustered, he ran away from the place. He finally was beginning to learn what kind of experiences he would have to go through if both girls managed to catch him.
"Please wait, Lyner!"
The three girls began running after the young man.
Jack just saw them off with a shocked face.
"No matter what anybody says, this can't be compared to the rest of the world. Isn't this peaceful?"
First, I want to give my apologies to everyone involved in the creation of this novel for it having turned so abstruse. You always dared to get close to me even at the very end. Maybe it's that the more abstruse we are, the better our works turn out to be?
And with the apologies out of the way, on to the postscript... As I received a lot of difficult notes from Mr. Tsuchiya, I paid as much attention as I could to them in order to make this novel a suitable product for the game's world.
The point about which I felt the strongest in the original game, [Ar tonelico]... though that's something common to this kind of computer RPGs (please, don't forget that there are also analog RPGs, okay?) to me... was "how would the infrastructure of its society be?" And it isn't limited to its infrastructure either: While within the game we can only see the world through the eyes of its main character, there should be many other people aside of him that also support the existence of that world itself. For some reason, that's the point I kept in mind the most.
That's why I tried to put the spotlight onto the society that supports the existence of the [Ar tonelico] world for this light novel.
There should be manufacturers that supply the shops with the items they sell, as well as there should be conflicts over the opinions in the factions that compose the main organizations that gather the people of the world. That's what I wanted to try grasping. Thinking about the finer details that could also exist there is also something I consider as extremely important.
Whenever we go to a convenience store, we pick and buy a lot of things as if we were living in a RPG-ish world, but what supports it is an infrastructure so subtle and enormous we can't even believe it ourselves. If something like that also existed in the game world and we could seriously grasp it, we would be able to even fabricate our own view for the fundamental reality of the characters that appear on it. That was the kind of feelings that allowed me to keep on writing this novel.
Now you've finished reading it, if this allowed you to feel Aurica and Misha (and other characters such as Radolf) as much closer existences to your own, it means this novel has fulfilled its purpose.
Now, my role in the [Ar tonelico] world has come to an end for the time being, but this doesn't mean at all that the world itself has ended. The original creator of this world, Mr. Tsuchiya, still has a lot of things he wants to talk about it, so it also means that Aurica's and Misha's journey is not going to just end like this.
I also received a tremendous amount of cooperation for the plot of this novel from Mr. Kaori Igusa, who became a sworn friend of mine after "The Second Police Squad". Therefore, beginning with him and going through everyone who supported me in all sorts of ways, I'd like to express my gratitude to them all.
Akira Tsuchiya (GUST)
When I created the work we know as Ar tonelico, there were a few things I decided. Among them, I think the most important one would be preserving the level of its world building. That's why all of the Ar tonelico-related products that have been released so far have been made under my full supervision.
In fact, I personally reviewed the writing of this novel a total of three times, which also caused us several problems due to the publishing deadlines. However, given that people buying it would have dedicated that same amount of time to reading it in full, making a compromise on this matter was something we couldn't bring ourselves to do.
That's why I believe that these kinds of feelings are directly related to the further deepening of Ar tonelico's world setting.
As I love so much expanding this world further, I want to release as many products for it as possible, even if it reaches the point of ridiculousness (*laughs*). To give some examples, that's why I've made new experiments with the language of the Ar tonelico world: the [Hymmnos Language], outside of the game, going as far as using it in the Drama CDs and the Hymmnos Musicals. After all, if we're going to release new products, I want them all to exist as pieces of this world, so I can continue giving new surprises to the fans that always buy them... That's the kind of feelings that all of the Ar tonelico-related products contain within themselves.
And for this light novel, the "new experiment" we decided to attempt was discussing more in-depth the nature of the Binary Field and the Soulspaces of the Reyvateils, as well as trying to depict in a more detailed way the feelings, ways of thinking and relationships of the party members.
For the former, we explained further some things about the Binary Field and the Soulspaces we couldn't in the game proper, and we used the destruction of the Singing Angel world as the pivotal point for making it easier to understand. And based from that, we arrived at the conclusion that the feelings of all the Reyvateils are connected in a very deep level, so if a lot of people wish for happiness, that world will overflow with happiness too... that's what I wanted to convey. This was one of the themes we conveyed in the Ar tonelico game too, but for this light novel, I think we went even deeper into it than we managed to in the game. Additionally, those that read the game's setting encyclopedia book should be familiar with the "Reyvateil Rebellion that Caused the End of the Second Era". You might know already which were the causes, but we decided to try exploring the reality of what happened back then with the events of this light novel too.
As for the relationships between the characters, that was another point that we couldn't depict in the game as much as we would have liked. This was especially true for the relationship between Aurica and Misha, between Jack and Krusche, and between Radolf and Fayma, the latter only appearing in the OVA, so we decided to pick up and depict more in-depth the relationships you all were the most interested in.
For both points, I think that by using the light novel media and having an expert on them use their talents for writing it; we managed to give an extra layer of depth to the Ar tonelico world.
As I could call the Ar tonelico world the work of my life, I still hold the ambition to continue expanding it on even more different types of media.
If you could continue looking at the new things in the Ar tonelico world as they are released and continue lending me your hands in support, nothing would ever make me any happier. I also intend to continue putting in more surprises that will pull your heartstrings in all of these products we put out for sale, so I wish for us to continue being related through this world and continue having adventures in it, because if we can continue making the world of Ar tonelico even deeper and greater together, nothing would make me any happier.
Atsunori Kawachi (Banpresto)
This was a game that began as a conversation between the staff members of GUST and Banpresto.
Banpresto Co., Ltd. is the company that makes the jewel of the crown in character crossover games: the "Super Robot Wars series".
GUST Co. Ltd.'s main product should be known to everyone even if no one says it: it's the "Atelier series".
These two companies, so different from each other, collaborated for the release of a game, and once this deed was done, they began thinking about what other kinds of projects they could work in together. This was how the story of "Ar tonelico", which has become such a large-scale project now, began.
GUST... or better said, GUST's Mr. Tsuchiya had during a long time this story about a "wondrous Tower" swirling and coiling inside his head until he was allowed to let it out in what seemed an explosive blast in front of all of us.
Upon seeing his passionate proposal, I decided I wanted to work alongside him to make this game a reality. That's how I think that I ended becoming part of this project.
During my career as a developer, I proposed up to that point that we’d only borrow previously existing characters from all sorts of publishers and add our own kind of flavor to them, so we could bring out their own "charm as characters" in a way that would only work out in the specific game in which they appeared. However, I was quite troubled about what kind of flavor I would add to the characters this time around.
In the end, I had to admit with a humble expression that they were "too charming" and I decided to press on too with the theme of making this fantastical world into an even larger and deeper place that felt like somewhere in which all of these characters could actually live.
I think this theme is also that caused a great deal of worry to both Mr. Tsuchiya and to our character designer, Mr. Nagi Ryou. It's possible that our lack of preparation was embodied in the "Is this an eroge?" comments, but as these delicate themes went through the hands of several of the people that collaborated with us, it's possible that the balance we had established changed into a completely different thing somewhere along the way.
The characters that were born at that moment, as well as the unique world setting we've created, both undoubtedly have a body, blood and heart of their own, and they also have become existences that display beautiful singing voices capable of even purifying the hearts of anyone.
Because of the several desires we had, we caused a lot of trouble to all the people that helped us with structuring several points of the Ar tonelico world.
This also is especially true for Mr. Tanaka, the creator of this light novel, who did his best at writing this new entry in the Ar tonelico world while trying to keep himself loyal to the feelings Mr. Tsuchiya wanted to express on it, understanding the complex world setting, and making sure to pull out the charm each of the characters had without having to make them break.
I think that all of the developers that have participated in the creation of the products related to Ar tonelico, including this light novel, have allowed us to structure an incredibly wide world that won't end with just one game.
With every piece of work we release, all of the characters, beginning with Lyner and then Aurica and Misha, begin feeling more and more real.
Looks like this world of Ar tonelico is going to be expanding even more and more.
And as long as it continues expanding, I wish we can continue always counting on each other forever, both users and developers.