in for the
the eyes, is
it not, Your
“Yeah, if we
THE TEN COVENANTS
The absolute law of thi^world, created by the god
Tet upon winning the throne of the One True God.
Covenants that have forbidden all war among the
1. In this world, all bodily injury, war, and plunder is
2. All conflicts shall be settled by victory and defeat
3. Games shall be played for wagers that each agrees
are of equal value.
4. Insofar as it does not conflict with "3,” any game
wager is permitted.
5. The party challenged shall have the right to
deterrinine the game.
6. Wagers sworn by the Covenants are absolutely ■
binding. ^ y /M
7. For conflicts between groups, an agent
plenipotentiary shall be established.
8. If cheating is discovered in a game, it shall be
counted as a loss.
9. The above shall be absolute and immutable rules,
in the name of the God.
10. Let’s all have fun together.
< 8 >
2 ! 3"
This is a fairy tale from long in the past. More distant than the sea—
Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess. Her hair was so
golden as to make the Moon jealous. Her eyes were so bright as to
make the stars fade. Her voice was so sweet that it put songbirds to
shame. Tales of her beauty resounded across the seven continents.
Men came from all over the world to seek the princess’s hand in
The princess decreed:
“To the one who gives me the most wondrous gift—let me grant
him my love.”
Many men came and presented her with dazzling gifts. Gold, silver,
and gemstones were beneath mention. A hundred fiefdoms, a
thousand castles, ten thousand servants—all were given to the
But the princess was unmoved.
“Please, I would like something more lustrous. Something still more
More men came and presented her gifts without equal. Words of
love matchless in the world were beneath mention. Secret treasures
matchless on Earth and divine treasures matchless in Heaven were
given to the princess.
But the princess was not satisfied. No beauty was beautiful to the
princess. No love was surprising to the princess. No treasure was new
to the princess.
—There was nothing in the world that could impress the princess.
And still the princess insisted:
“Come—is there not something still more wondrous?”
—And then, one day, a certain prince came before the princess. This
prince was different from any the princess had seen before. He was
young and strapping, yet shabby in guise. It appeared that he had
nothing—no treasure of any sort. But then the prince showed her a
small, small treasure.
“Princess, let me present you with a treasure you have surely never
The treasure he held out was more wondrous and beautiful than
anything in the world. The princess let out a breath of astonishment.
She swore her love to the prince. And the treasure was—
“This is it! This is ‘true love’!” she cried, slamming shut the book in
her hands. And so, seeking true love, she fell into a long sleep, waiting
for the day when the man bringing that small treasure she’d heard of
in the fairy tale would appear before her.
—Ignorant of what was to come.
What she had been reading was a fairy tale. But what she sought
through sleep was no mere tale, no story. Long in the past, more
distant than the sea, fully eight hundred years ago—
—It was a historical fact, one at which no Ixseed could help but
stifle a laugh.
Werebeast country—in the Eastern Union, on the outskirts of the
capital, Kannagari, there was situated the mansion of Izuna Hatsuse,
former ambassador of the Eastern Union in Elkia. Built of wood in a
manner resembling the traditional Japanese residential style, in a
room fragrant of fresh tatami floor mats woven of simple rice straw,
amid stillness and darkness befitting the classical phrase, “The dead of
the night, when even the trees and grass slumber,” a lone shadow
“...Shiro, are you awake?”
The shadow bounced up from its futon and directed a quiet whisper
to its neighbor.
...There was no reply, only the peaceful sounds of sleep. Hurriedly,
but holding its breath so as to make no sound, the shadow rummaged
by its pillow. Then, having grasped the contraband it sought, it
withdrew stealthily to a corner of the room.
“Clear on the right, clear on the left—all clear, no one here but
Shiro,” he whispered, manipulating what was clutched in his hands as
his face emerged from the darkness.
A young man with black eyes, black hair, and dark circles under his
eyes that ruined his physiognomy. Sora, eighteen. One of the two
monarchs of Elkia, the last nation of Immanity. The monarch paid
careful attention to his surroundings as, with a tablet computer in his
left hand and a box of tissues in his right, he whispered loudly and
“I believe this is the opportunity—I shall finally be able to release
—He was a pervert. Were they to see their king as he was now, the
people would surely cry Alas! as they wet their cheeks in sorrow. But
withhold judgment, if you would. It had been over two months since
he and his younger sister had been summoned to Disboard, a world
where everything was decided by games. In the blink of an eye, he
had ascended to the throne of the cornered human race of Immanity
and had played countless killer games alongside his sister, Shiro—
games in which they had overcome other races that flagrantly
cheated using magic and supernatural powers. Then, they had
reclaimed Immanity’s territory, going so far as to swallow up the
third-largest nation in the world. He, Sora, had been in the thick of
those games. He’d interacted any number of times with countless girls
—not only humans, but an angel-girl, an elf-girl, and multiple
animal-girls. At times during the games, or in the bath, they’d bared
their flesh while he manfully tossed sand to obscure his vision and
averted his eyes—and though meager vestiges of this Peach Blossom
Spring were recorded on his tablet and smartphone, since his little
sister was always by his side, until today he had never been able to...
er, what’s the word? Partake! Would you dismiss such a man as a
—Yea, ladies, let it be said: You may despise him utterly. But,
gentlemen, surely you can understand?! Thinking of the steel soul of
this virgin lad of eighteen as he endured to the present day, can you
hold back tears? Is it not rather worthy of respect, to have come this
far? Yes, having come this far—is this not what one might call love?
His young sister was one thing. But to protect the swarms of girls
around him from his own impulses—this virtuous and honorable will
—if not love, then what shall it be called?
...Is there room for argument—surely not! Well, probably not...I
“Call me a pervert if you will. I can’t take it anymore—no, this is a
Clutching his heroic resolve to his chest, Sora put his hands to his
“Uh, ummm...ex-excuse meee...”
Sora fell to the tatami with a girlish shriek at the voice that
addressed him from behind. Three individuals responded to the shriek.
“...Brother...if you’re gonna do it, be quiet...”
Giving up on pretending to be asleep and rising, his sister with her
red, half-open eyes under her long, pure white hair—Shiro.
“Mmf... Hey, look, plenty of assholes here already, please. Let me
sleep with you bitches, please.”
A little Werebeast girl, her black-haired and animal-eared head
peeping down from the attic—Izuna Hatsuse.
“Master, is there violence afoot? Shall I slay? Are there heads to be
The Fliigel girl appearing from thin air, a geometric halo floating
above her head—Jibril.
Each of their three voices resounded with its own distinct meaning.
Rolling on the tatami and fixing his underpants, Sora could not help
but yell, “Doesn’t this world have the concept of privacy? Is mine
being invaded or what?!”
Then, just as he zipped his fly—
“Wait—who the hell are you? How dare you peep on the sacred
practices of a wise sage?!”
As Sora pointed and screamed, everyone finally seemed to notice,
and their gazes collected upon a silhouette that sat as if melting into
the darkness. A shadow in the dark room—so inconspicuous as to be
“I say,” said Jibril as she illuminated the room with magical light
from her fingertip and twisted her lips in displeasure. “One able to
approach my master without my notice—what could it be but a
Thereupon, Sora and the rest looked back at the “shadow.”
Jibril’s illumination rendered just visible a girl in attire so black it
seemed woven of night itself. She had blue hair, scintillating violet
eyes, white fangs, and wings on her back like a bat’s. While she looked
like a girl in her mid-teens in human terms, she was indeed the very
model of the kind of vampire Sora and Shiro knew from fiction.
—Nosferatu, No Life King, nightwalker... Their countless aliases
spoke to the dread they inspired—but in this girl’s case—
“I-I can’t go ooonn...Pleaaase...S-save...meee.”
—Her troubled face and thin-worn voice made short work of that
“Stealthy and phantomlike as ever—unfortunately, while they have
the ability to scurry about in the shadows, I happen to have a talent
for casting rays of light...” Jibril continued with a sarcastic smile. “I
thought you had finally put your talent to good use and quietly
disappeared. It is my deepest regret to see this is not the case.”
“C-casually harsh as ever, Jibril.”
Even Sora winced at the insult directed at the girl, who seemed
ready to stop breathing at any moment.
But Izuna, dropping silently from above, tilted her head and said,
“Yeah, I heard from Grampy that Dhampir had died miserably,
Jibril’s verbal abuse was simply a merciless expression of her true
feelings. But Izuna had no malice and was simply using the wrong
words. So that meant this was a race that should have been extinct—?
“...Ixseed...Rank Twelve...Dhampir...” Shiro explained, throwing a
raft to the drifting Sora. Crawling off her futon, she recited the
information she’d memorized. “...A race that survives...by sucking,
blood—souls, from other...Ixseeds.”
But as Shiro continued—“...the Ten, Covenants...”—Sora grimaced a
—The Ten Covenants: the absolutely binding laws that Tet, the One
True God, had set forth in the world of Disboard. The First: “In this
world, all bodily injury, war, and plunder is forbidden.” If you took
that rule and applied it to the “vampires” Sora knew—in other words,
a race that attacked and bit people—that injured them to suck their
“Uh, so, what? That means—they can’t suck blood without
The girl’s silence, but for the slightest breath, confirmed Sora’s
...To Sora, who seemed convinced by the girl’s troubled expression,
“If I may add, Master, if one is bitten by a Dhampir—”
“You become a vampire, huh? Well, that’s par for the course.”
Which meant hardly anyone would give permission unless they
wanted to be a vampire—
“...Come again? No. Well, that’s not the case.”
“Huh, what? Isn’t that how it goes?”
“Dhampirs suck one’s soul via one’s blood or other body fluids and
develop by mixing it with their own souls, thereby amplifying their
power. Meanwhile, the one bitten also experiences a mixing of souls—
and falls prey to a peculiar illness.”
Which meant, as Jibril stated with her sunny smile: “In general,
this is absolutely disadvantageous to the one bitten.”
“...What kind of pathetic vampires are you?”
May I grant thee immortality and the vast power of the night. A
race that didn’t even have these seductive words at their disposal was
just a pestilence. Having heard the tearful tale of Dhampir, Sora
turned back to the girl and swore under his breath. Anyway, that
explained why it was surprising they weren’t extinct. But conversely,
that also raised a question for Sora.
—Why aren’t they extinct?
“P-pleaaase...I-I feel I’ll surely...dieee... Be-bequeath me your
As Sora considered the issue, the girl started to breathe in rapid,
shallow gasps as if begging. True to her claim that she would die, her
voice was raspy and cracked—and yet.
“Look, Jibril just told me if I give you my soul I’ll get a disease, so
why would I do that? Die, dumbass.”
And yet—it was quite nasty to wake up to someone dying before
your eyes. It wasn’t as if he didn’t want to help. But, come on, to be a
virgin with a disease ? Sora scratched his head.
Oh, Master, I did not explain sufficiently. If one is not bitten, one
is not afflicted.”
“Biting and sucking blood through their fangs —‘mixing of souls’—is
a dhampir’s only way to develop. But as far as merely maintaining
their life, oral consumption of the subject’s bodily fluids will suffice.”
“...Your point being?”
“The bodily fluid that is the densest in soul after blood, as well as
being ingestible without biting, is—”
Sora’s movement after hearing Jibril’s next word...
“Are you all right, miss?! I’ll save you
right away! How could I let you die?!”
...defied the ability of anyone there—Shiro, of course, but even
Izuna the Werebeast and Jibril the Fliigel—to catch more than his
To call it instantaneous did the action a terrible disservice; this was
a change in stance of fearsome speed. Sora picked up the Dhampir
girl, carried her to a corner of the room, laid her there carefully, and—
“I see, they’re not vampires. Good lord, she’s a succubus!”
No wonder they weren’t extinct. Who would let them go? Sora, his
mind screaming, started undoing his belt, but—
“...What’s ‘see-men,’ please?”
"... Brother... R-18... is off-limits...”
There were the gazes of two children under the age of eighteen to
consider. Or in other words, the signal to force-quit the “tee-hee-hee”
event had popped up.
“...Again? Again, really?”
Sora, on the verge of tears, looked to the heavens. It always
happened this way. Sora—virgin, eighteen—will you allow your cock
to be blocked here? Will you avert your eyes from the countless Peach
Blossom Springs, cast sand yet again to obscure your vision—and will
you do so for all time to come?
...It’s not right. This can’t be right!!! Rrrgh! Sora ground his teeth.
The mind he’d used to resist and overcome all obstacles! Was it not
time to strain it to overcome this ? Now, of all times!
—And so Sora turned and looked into his sister’s cold eyes with
“...Shiro, imagine someone’s fallen into the river with their clothes
on and almost drowned.”
“To perform artificial respiration as needed, to remove the wet
clothes that rob the victim of heat, and to then provide warmth... Is
“Right, and why is that? Because it’s to help someone! Because it’s
to save someone’s life! Because it’s a virtuous act!!”
Sora nodded exaggeratedly, still with the cloudless gaze of a
gentleman, at the girl lying in the corner of the room—wasting away
in the truest sense, no longer able, evidently, to even produce words.
“Ah, it is true, to human eyes, we must appear insensible. But there
can be no doubt that this is a necessary rescue, a virtuous act! And so,
Shiro, your brother has no choice! I must cast aside shame, plunge
into the culture of another race, and save this damsel’s life!! So could
you look away for a minute, pleaaase?!”
—Perfect Rationalization equipped.
—Let the rebellion begin!
“...If she just needs, body fluid...then what about, saliva...?”
As Shiro’s brief mumble brought his Perfect Rationalization (lol) to
the end of its one-second-long life, Sora stiffened.
Jibril thought for a bit, and then, with a smile of one pitying a
troubled race, said, “It should do. The concentration of soul is hardly
on the same level, but it should suffice to save her life, I suppose.”
“...Mm, then, I’m gonna...”
Shiro walked toward the Dhampir girl lying at her brother’s feet.
And then, bringing her face close to the girl’s—
“W-wait, Shiro! That’s...wrong, somehow! Your brother won’t
“...Artificial respiration... A virtuous, act...”
Sora rushed to stop her, but Shiro looked back at him with cynical
reproach. As Sora activated his brain cells posthaste to rationalize
some kind of rebuff, suddenly—
—Hey, isn’t it pretty much fine for girls to kiss? It wasn’t R-18. It
was totally wholesome. And it was, in word and in truth, a
humanitarian act. It is also worth mentioning that Sora himself
didn’t have a problem with, you know, a bit of girl-on-girl...
...But/or Shiro to do it is wrong, somehow.
—Why? Sora shook his head at the question that momentarily
popped up. “No! It is harmful to the moral education of children to
have them French! I refuse!!”
He decided not to think about it too hard and looked around
hurriedly. Izuna looked bored. Shiro looked cynical. But Jibril—
“J-Jibril! Give your—”
Izuna was too young; Shiro was a no. At times like this, he wished
Steph was around, but—
“If it is your command, Master—I should be delighted to kiss a
wretched, defective life-form that makes a mosquito look fortunate by
virtue of being able to suck blood freely. But if your wish is to save her
life, I cannot recommend it.”
Sora winced slightly at her subtly chilling, poisonous tongue, but
Jibril went on.
“Were I to give her my bodily fluids, I suspect she would vaporize.
The receptacle of her soul, you see, is simply not up to the
—Ixseed Rank Six, Fliigel. Why did they always gotta be so, you
know...off the charts for everything?
“...’Kay, so...I ’ll just...”
Shiro lifted her bangs with her fingertips and brought her face
toward the girl’s—
.Th-thaaat’s righht! We’ll use sweaaat!!”
Sora’s brain, boiling instantly to reveal the alternative, made him
shout it without hesitation.
“S-sweat’s a body fluid, too! Howww abouuut it, Jibril?!”
“...That’s a good question. The amount of soul in sweat is quite
“Th-th-th-there’s no other way! We have no choice but to try it!”
Before Sora had time to move on to some kind of action, Shiro
slowly slipped off one of her knee-highs and extended her foot before
the Dhampir girl’s eyes.
“You will, crawl...and, lick it.”
Shiro, Queen of Immanity, wore a smile entirely sadistic enough to
live up to her title.
“My sister, your brother always knew you were a closet sadist, but
even he’s a little shocked to see you have zero hesitation...”
Wincing, Sora sat down lifelessly. Meanwhile the Dhampir girl,
who was nearly a corpse by this point, twitched. It seemed as though
she sniffed a few times, until, wham, she opened her eyes and
bounced up. As if flying straight from that position, she took Shiro’s
foot right into her mouth—
'Wh-what is this? It is delicious, so deliciouus!
...Everyone vacantly watching this scene had the same thought.
—Ixseed Rank Twelve, Dhampir. Far below Rank Six, Fliigel, or
Rank Seven, Elf, but still a higher race than Rank Fourteen,
Werebeast. The scene of one of these, on the floor, tasting the foot of a
girl of the lowest rank and extolling its flavor...
“Is this wholesome...?”
Granted, it wasn’t R-18. But somehow it did seem very, very
wrong. The Dhampir girl, like a character in one of those food manga
presented with the finest dish, as if flowers were about to spring into
bloom around her, repeating, delicious, delicious over and over as she
licked and licked his sister’s foot— “...Hey, are Dhampirs perverts?”
Sora asked Jibril, climbing atop a horse as high as Mount Everest.
“Well, that’s... But then the souls of my masters must surely be
“After all, clearly there are few like you, my masters—with souls so
resolute, so powerful, so idiosyncratic, so very uncommonly refined,
that were one to search to the ends of the earth, there could be few
worthy of comparison.”
At Jibril’s words, even Izuna, who just been watching, nodded.
“...Sora and Shiro’s souls...smell clean, please. Not bad, please.”
But Sora looked back into their eyes hopelessly.
“...Maybe I’m just imagining this. Is it just me, or are you just
saying in a roundabout way that we’re stubborn, self-absorbed,
twisted, lonely virgins?”
“Good heavens—does it not simply mean that your souls are
unknown? Could there be anything more noble than this...? Frankly,
it makes me want to take a taste of my own, geh-heh-hehh...”
“.Sora, Sora...Can I take a bite, please?”
Two separate gazes locked on Sora as if primed to drool.
“Hey, isn’t there anyone here with their head on straight?” asked
“...Are you...one to, talk?”
—Shiro’s quiet snark resounded through Izuna’s house, which was
notably devoid of any sensible people like Steph.
Having regained her strength and a certain amount of luster to her
skin, the Dhampir girl spoke: “Hff... It was quite deliciouus... I thank
you for the meaaal.”
“...Nghh...all sticky...gotta, wash it...nghh...baths suck...”
In contrast to the girl putting her hands together in ecstasy, Shiro
seemed to have regretted her actions—but putting that aside, seeing
that he could finally question her, Sora looked at the girl.
“—So, anyway, who the hell are you?”
“Oh, I forgot to mentioon. My name’s Plum... As you can see, I’m a
The girl, Plum, sitting properly on her knees with her back straight,
continued with a serious expression.
“Todayyy, uh...I came to ask a favooor.”
Uh -ing and um-ing, she took out some notes or something. Cleared
her throat. Slowly putting her fingers before her and bowing, she
announced shakily, as if reading from a script: “P-please pardon my
undignified initial appearaaance... Monarchs of Elkia, of Immanity,
who defeated a Fliigel and the Eastern Union. King Sora and Queen
Shiro—please save our race!”
...Sora, appearing to have grasped everything from these words:
“Ahh, so you can drink semen as a replacement for blood, and you
need my permission to live—and you want me to save you.”
Consider, if you will, the type of scenario—the type of game-
suggested by these conditions.
How about it? Were you able to imagine it? Sora hesitated not a bit
in smiling sweetly— “Go schlick somewhere else. ’Kay, thanks, have a
safe trip home.”
“Noooo! Ohhhhhhhh, wait, pleaaaaaaaaaase!”
—and dismissed the R-18 race with abandon.
The grand scheme proposed by Sora to beat this world was a common
front that transcended race—an attempt to realize such a thing
despite countless differences in background, philosophy, and culture.
A construct that flew in the face of the boundaries of race. To realize a
multiracial nation. In a world where everything was settled by
games, in theory, it should have been possible. This is just theoretical,
“...Can we really count on that lot?”
Thinking of the two who had said they’d transcend race, collect the
Race Pieces, and challenge Tet, the One True God, she raised the
corners of her mouth. A piece that spoke of a dream that defied all
received wisdom. Would it actually be able to fly off the board? Could
they fulfill the conditions necessary—? She—a girl with long hair and
ears suggesting those of a fox and with two tails likewise golden-
considered the matter. This was the agent plenipotentiary of the
Eastern Union—of Werebeast—the Shrine Maiden. In the Inner
Garden of her shrine, from the railing of the red bridge crossing the
pond, she gazed at the moon reflected in the water—and thought.
There were many obstacles. To climb the hedges between the races
would be extremely difficult even for just two races—Immanity and
Werebeast. It was a fantastic feat to bring together even one race
under a common objective. The Shrine Maiden had accompanied
Werebeast through its internal conflicts repeatedly over the span of
thousands of years among countless divided tribes and had somehow
brought them all— staking everything to the point of forgetting her
own real name—into a single nation.
...And because of that, she knew all too well the hardship involved
in the task. To then go so far as a multiracial Ixseed nation—that
would be impossible by any normal means. If it were possible, by that
point, it would mean...
“Well, we’ll just have to wait and see a little longer, won’t we—eh-
—Looking at herself, one who in the past had spoken of a dream of
uniting Werebeast and carried it through, and wondering wryly when
she’d become so conservative, the Shrine Maiden poured sake into her
“Let’s all, have fun, together...eh.”
Uttering the Tenth of the Ten Covenants, she swigged her sake
—She’d once sought this, and she’d forsaken it, too. The
continuation of that dream had ended—that was its trajectory. But
this new tale on which she had given up, they told full of confidence.
And yet— “Lose yourself in the distant flowers, and you may trip on
the stones at your feet.”
Anyone could dream. But proclaiming dreams—required
qualifications. She could wait until she’d scoped them out properly...to
show the rest of her hand.
As the Shrine Maiden extended her hand into the air, its palm
sparkled with a glow—and the Werebeast Piece appeared. One of the
pieces assigned by Tet, the One True God, when he’d set up this world
and the Ten Covenants. One of the pieces that sparkled as if woven of
light, embodying everything represented by the agent plenipotentiary
of each of the sixteen seeds.
—She thought of what it really meant, placing her empty cup on
the railing, playing with the Race Piece in her fingers. The Shrine
Maiden simply looked up to the heavens and laughed morosely at the
thing that had made her forsake her dream.
—Hoping to herself that the time would not be too long coming.
<§> CHAPTER 1
The Kingdom of Elkia. The last nation of Ixseed Rank Sixteen,
Immanity, situated in the west of the continent of Lucia. With the
victory half a month ago of the “monarch”—Sora and Shiro—over the
Eastern Union in a game, its territory had doubled.
...Its problems had also doubled. Of these, there were two principal
ones in particular.
One was the concept proposed by the “monarch”—Sora and Shiro—
of a “Commonwealth” in federation with the Eastern Union. This was
an unprecedented challenge—to build a country crossing the lines of
race. Even having regained some of its old territory, Elkia still didn’t
have the means to make use of the land, but the Eastern Union,
despite having lost its continental domain, remained one of the
greatest and most powerful countries in the world.
—Power, currency, and social structures aside, the countries didn’t
even share a common race or language, and now they were supposed
to be brought together on an equal basis. There was no need to
explain what a difficult task this was. It was perhaps one of the most
intractable challenges in the history of people. And then the second
“For goodness’ sake—”
The red-haired girl sighed as she stared at the hand of cards fanned
before her. Stephanie Dola, also known as Steph. Former royalty—her
countenance, overflowing with a refinement that befit the
granddaughter of the previous king, still beautiful despite being mired
in the deep fatigue brought on by sleep deprivation—yet now twisted
in rage, spreading a feeling of disorder. It was because of the second
“Just how long do those two royal shits intend to play
hooky at a time like thiiis?!!”
—Elkia Royal Castle: the Great Conference Chamber. Her roar
echoed, causing all present to shrink.
“...Your Grace, I do sympathize, but I must question the extent to
which the word shit befits a lady.”
The one opening his mouth reproachfully, beside and behind Steph,
was a white-haired, aging man. His face was puckered with a
bitterness that kept him in step with Steph. He had slightly drooping
ears, like a dog’s, along with a tail. It was Ino Hatsuse, a Werebeast
with a physique that was noticeable even through his traditional
Japanese robe and trousers. He was the grandfather of the former
ambassador of the Eastern Union in Elkia, Izuna Hatsuse, and now,
at the unreasonable behest of the absent monarch of Elkia, Sora and
Shiro...another victim like Steph.
‘“Your Grace’...? Wha—? Did you mean me?”
Ino nodded in reply to Steph’s confusion.
“Yes. Considering that this is an official setting, I judged that might
be the best form of address. But is there a problem?”
“I don’t even understand to whom you are referring. If you would,
address me as ‘Miss Flunky of the King and Queen of Hooky.’” Steph
let out a desperate laugh, but Ino only spread his hands.
I should like to comply, but then it would follow that I should
receive the same appellation... Rather than such matters, Your Grace,
would it not be best to focus on what lies before us?”
Following Ino’s gaze, Steph remembered the situation—and told
“Hff... Yes, I suppose so...”
Yes, right now—they were playing an important game.
The game itself was nothing special, just poker. Other than the fact
that they’d introduced wild cards, it was very much by the book. The
opponents encircling the table were nobles of Elkia proper.
—Building a “Commonwealth” with the Eastern Union, under
Elkia’s leadership. Elkia’s territory had doubled instantly, and to the
issue of just who would manage and utilize which resources and how,
the powerful lords came champing at the bit for a chance at these
massive rights. At the moment, the idea of an equal, multiracial
nation was pie in the sky. You could negotiate over the structures all
you wanted, but it wouldn’t hold much weight against the difference
in the countries’ power. Were free trade to be introduced, Elkia’s
economy would be crushed to the ground. So what should be done
with those continental resources for which the Eastern Union
thirsted? To say that this one point held the reins over the fate of all of
Elkia would be no exaggeration.
—It was a foregone conclusion that the various figures of authority
would come swarming to increase their spoils. As Steph had been left
with the authority to make law for now, these lords of Elkia appeared
one after the other to advance their own demands by challenging her
to games. In this way—for half a month already—Steph had been
occupied playing games without so much as time to sleep properly.
That itself is no matter...yes, Steph whispered in her mind. For —that
was the trap. Everything was as planned. All was on course—yes... If
only the challenges hadn’t been so frequent.
‘Verily, Sirs, I am all in —will you please just get naked and go
...What had become of the grace of the lady? With the deep, dark
circles of fatigue under her eyes, her face twisted in rage, it was all as
if— ...It reminded the lords of their feared king, and they looked at
one another. Ultimately, they chose to fold—meaning that they
accepted Steph’s proposal unconditionally. But—clucking loudly,
Steph kicked away her chair and stood.
“If you were just going to accept my plan, then could you please
not waste my time?!”
She dismissively revealed her hand:
—Five of a kind.
If they hadn’t folded, just as she’d pronounced—that hand would
have destroyed the lords outright, and it made them pale. But with no
concern for this, Steph turned as she threw back:
“All or nothing! Why don’t you get the guts to be destroyed before
you bother me?!”
And in Steph’s stead, I no Hatsuse declared with a complacent
“And now, as per the covenant—we shall take your memories. I
hope you understand.”
—So, basically, a struggle for power. To administer the land they’d
taken back appropriately and make it serve Elkia’s—the
Commonwealth’s—interests. There was no choice but to find someone
to take care of it, and if that was successful, there would naturally be
spoils to be had.
—That, really, was as it should be. That ought to have been fine.
The issue was how the nobles came talking big about whose land it
had been originally. In point of fact, the land had been the territory of
a number of lords before the previous king—Steph’s grandfather—had
lost it all. Having had their holdings unceremoniously laid out as
gambling chips, these men must have had some objections. They
must have had some complaints. But—then why, at the time, had
they not stood up to the previous king in a game ?
“They don’t want to take responsibility! They lose their rights and
go wailing about how it’s the king’s fault! And then when Sora and
Shiro take it back, they come begging for the treats. Just when did the
nobility cast away its shame?”
“Should this go on, I suspect that the very concept of the nobility
might come into question.”
Ino smiled wryly behind Steph as she stormed down the hall of
It wasn’t as if nobles were necessarily bad. Even if they were rotten,
they were the governors. They had great knowledge of the
management and administration of territories. If they showed the
motivation and ability, Steph didn’t mind granting them fiefdoms—
that was what she’d been counting on. The problem was—
“All these damn nobles who come slobbering—every one of them’s
got on his face, ‘I just want the milk and honey; please don’t make
me do any work!”’
—And these guys, out of all of them, were the big shots who
couldn’t be ignored. If you took a wrong step, it could spark a
scramble for power—a riotous uprising seizing on some excuse to
render the state ineffectual. And—
“I wonder if such lords may in fact be amenable to ...being easy to
The one devising, behind Steph, raising a dusky smile—was Ino
Hatsuse. Sora and Shiro were absent, and Steph, the granddaughter
of the fool king, held the reins in their stead. Ino had let the rumor
out. When the lords came thinking this was their chance to win the
spoils, Ino and Steph would make them accept Steph’s compromise
plan if they lost—and also make them swear to lose all their memories
of the game, thereby efficiently hunting them all down. This would
enable the policy and concession arrangements planned by Steph to
proceed without opposition. It was veiy efficient and Ino-like—a trap
that befit the multi-tribed Eastern Union. But, considering the
mechanism and frequency by which this trap worked so well—
“They give me no bloody credit at all! What a fine bit of bait I am!”
—It was crystal clear how little was thought of her and, by
extension, her grandfather.
“Now, now, Your Grace...let’s not overlook how successful it’s been
in keeping everything going smoothly. Let us rather welcome the
scorn of fools—all we must do is smile and exploit them.”
“...Mr. Ino, would you please stop calling me that? —You may call
me Steph.” Former royalty, head of the house of Dola, Steph did of
course rank as a duchess. However, she continued, tired and
disgusted, “You make a mere flunky such as myself sound like a
person of quality...”
“But is it not the case that, with Their Majesties Sora and Shiro
absent, you, Miss Stephanie, are in fact the agent of the monarch—
the chief minister and current holder of the highest status within
Ino continued theatrically.
“—The Duchess of Dola, chief minister of Elkia, the last remaining
nation of Immanity and granddaughter of the previous king.
Entrusted with the critical enterprise, unprecedented in history, of
building a multiracial nation upon the merger of the Kingdom of
Elkia with the Eastern Union. A lady of youth, beauty, and talent...!
What do you think? Is this a proper epithet?”
—Goodness, who was that?
Steph looked up at the ceiling blankly.
“So the epic heroine was actually just a flunky. That’s a good one.
She continued—Why don’t you write it down and publish it?—but
Ino smiled bashfully and changed the subject.
“Still, to go through this half-month without a single loss. You
yourself are quite the marvel, Miss Stephanie.”
“They’re just absurdly weak.” Tossing away I no’s sincere praise,
Steph furrowed her brow. “To fall for mean, silly ruses that Sora and
Shiro would ridicule with one or two hundred contemptuous words
and then exploit them—indeed, it’s a fine jest.”
“Well, that I can’t deny...”
But—. Ino thought to himself. Steph had, at first, received the
support of Ino’s Werebeast senses. But as she piled up the victories,
Ino had been reduced to the role of an attendant. This girl disparaged
herself to no end...yet already she was more than strong enough. It
was just that Blank was too cruel a comparison. It could now be said
that hardly any normal Immanity could beat her. But without the
means to know Ino’s true thoughts, Steph carried on.
“As if that weren’t enough, they don’t even notice they’re being
tricked. Could it be the lords’ aim is just to deprive me of sleep until I
die from exhaustion?!”
“...Miss Stephanie, you begin to resemble Their Majesties.”
—Pt. Steph stopped her feet kicking the ground.
“-Sir, what did you just say?”
Wrenching her head back so forcedly it seemed it would creak:
“That I resemble our prodigal king and queen, who dally away the
days in the Eastern Union—is that what you said?!”
“M-M-Madam, please calm down! I only meant that you resemble
them in your manner of play!”
Steph was winning in a variety of ways—from regular use of
straight-out card counting to palming, mucking, and blind shuffling.
She saw through opponents’ tricks, used them against their owners,
bluffed, even played mind games. All of these techniques were tricks
she’d learned by challenging Sora and Shiro and losing and losing and
losing. It was true that, at first, Steph herself, threatened by the
prospect of the Commonwealth’s promise fading through her own
failure, had thought, What would Sora and Shiro do? Yes, she’d
imitated their play consciously. But as sleep deprivation and
frustration at the pair who showed no signs of returning caused that
threat to recede from the forefront of Steph’s thoughts, at some point,
she’d started playing as though she were playing against Sora and
Shiro. But her opponents were too weak. She couldn’t believe she’d
even for a moment compared these goons to Sora and Shiro.
—That these little goons.
-Had been looking down.
-On her and her grandfather— it made her so-
Suddenly, Steph’s face changed as if her evil spirit had been
“Ahh, I see. The problem is that having nobles just gets in the way
of our Commonwealth.”
At this transformation, I no queried nervously. But, as if she didn’t
hear him...as if seeing something that couldn’t be seen, Steph, eyes
gleaming, whirled about on the spot, almost dancing—
Ohh, Mr. Inooo, would it not be fine it we simply stripped aaalll
the nobles, the merchants, the guilds—stripped them of everything,
threw them into a ditch and ground them to pieces and did
everything through the state? We’d fill the gaps in personnel with
magistrates selected from among the people, and if they were corrupt,
all we’d have to do is flay them to the booone! We’ll set up and chase
out all the rotten curs who drag us down, and then the treasury will
fill, policy will be ours to dictate, and everything will be settled. Right?
Am I not a genius?! I-I’m—not an idiot... I’m not an idiot,
—And she broke down.
“M-Miss Stephanie, get a hold of yourself! What you describe
amounts to a purge—a reign of terror'”
Laughing or wailing as she bashed her head against the wall and
screamed, Steph suddenly...sensed something—and turned her gaze...
Where has he been mucking about, dissipating to his heart’s
content while leaving me to do all the work? Countless feelings arose
in her, but before all that, her face flushed at the simple fact that Sora
was right there. Her heart’s inability to conceal its joy beset her with
complicated feelings, but—
“S-Sora! You have returned—ngeeh?!”
Smashing face-first into the column at which she’d leaped, Steph
made a funny noise as blood flowed from her nose. She sprawled on
her back on the floor, looking at the ceiling...then it dawned on her
that the “Sora” she’d seen was merely a reflection in the polished
marble column—of herself. She uttered one pensive phrase:
“.I’m just hopeless.”
“Miss Stephanie. Why don’t you get some sleep? Rather, would you
please get some sleep? I beg you.”
Picking up the limp Steph, Ino continued. “...There’s no cause for
alarm. King Sora and Queen Shiro, well, they are a difficult-to-
understand pair of people, but—” He struggled to find a positive spin
on the inscrutable siblings. “—It may be that they are staying in the
Eastern Union in order to arrange things with the Holy Shrine
A Commonwealth built under Elkia’s leadership—of course, it
wasn’t a matter that could be settled by Elkia alone.
“They must themselves be steadily advancing—a ‘summit
conference,”’ said Ino.
—Yes, that could be. Sora and Shiro’s actions always defied
common sense. Yet every time, those actions worked in Elkia’s favor.
This was a fact. It was best to trust them—but—
“...I wonder. Everything they say and do is predicated upon the
intermingling of public and private interest...”
It was also a fact that what had always happened was that they
found a way to satisfy their personal desires. Casting her eyes in the
direction of the faraway Eastern Union, Steph muttered:
“...I’m sure that at this very moment, they’re just fawning over girls
with animal ears, shutting themselves up indoors, and filling their
heads with games like the worthless vegetables they are.”
...Ino could find no words to refute hers.
—And so we take our scene to the Eastern Union: the capital,
Kannagari. Equivalent to Elkia’s Royal Castle, the residence of the
Werebeast’s agent plenipotentiary: the Shrine. In its Central Division:
the Inner Garden. A space somehow reminiscent of a Japanese
garden on Earth, full of fresh nature and red and black. Here, in this
place normally off-limits to visitors, a crowd had assembled beside the
“...Hey, Shrine Maiden, what is love?”
“...Tell us, Shrine Maiden...”
The agents of this serious inquiry were a black-haired, dark-eyed
young man in an “I V PPL” shirt and the white-haired, red-eyed girl
on his lap: the monarch of Elkia and the agent plenipotentiary of
Immanity, Sora and Shiro. The crowd consisted of several Werebeasts
-animal-girls making coquettish noises as the two stroked them. And
there was a line, each person in it apparently waiting enviously for
“...I don’t know, I have so many things I want to say to you...” The
voice that murmured like soft bells was that of the girl who sat across
the game table from them. The golden, two-tailed fox whose true
name no one knew. The agent plenipotentiary of Werebeast—the
“...Now this has two meanings, mind—what is going on in those
heads of yours?”
The three were playing zohjong, a traditional game unique to the
It shared some traits with mahjong but was fundamentally a
completely different game.
“What’s going on? Oh, whoop. We win again.”
...This game...is...pretty, fun...”
As they played, Shiro and Sora petted numbers of Werebeast girls
and asked nutty questions such as, “What is love?”
Having seen this game for the first time and had its rules explained
about half an hour ago, they’d already mastered it. In the blink of an
eye, they’d uncovered the most efficient strategies, countless
conventions, and even devised ways to cheat. But the real question
was—. The Shrine Maiden sighed with a weak smile.
“Could you let me in just a little bit on how you managed to cheat
right in front of me?”
Even the Shrine Maiden’s senses weren’t keen enough to catch a
glimpse. Sora grinned back.
“How could you say we’re cheating? Shiro simply memorized all
the facedown tiles and tracked their positions the whole time, and I
just casually felt for the tiles Shiro probably wanted— you can’t call
that cheating, now can you?”
Right, of the two reasons cheating couldn’t be called out, this was
one. Because they weren’t communicating at all, just inferring each
“Plus, come on, you’re doing it, too. We’re even, right?”
And the second was because they were competing with that as a
given. In just these few exchanges, for the Shrine Maiden, who had
been playing this game for over fifty years—to be plainly surpassed in
genuine skill and to have the point lead taken from her...there was
nothing left to say. This was a defeat so complete it somehow felt
refreshing. As the Shrine Maiden thus wanly smiled with her chin in
her hand, Sora began. “Okay...
“So, we’ve got three demands by the Covenants—you’re cool,
right?” The Shrine Maiden chuckled in resignation, and Sora
continued. “First, make an itemized tariff schedule objectively based
on both countries’ interests.”
It was clear that Eastern Union understood the importance of the
resources on the continent better than Elkia. Which meant that, to set
rates compatible with the mutual interests of the two countries,
accounting for their differences in ability, there was no one better
suited than the agent plenipotentiary of the Eastern Union—namely,
the Shrine Maiden. And as long as those words “both countries’
interests” were in there, she wouldn’t be able to favor the Eastern
Union one-sidedly. Perfect as usual, the Shrine Maiden commented to
“...In essence, then, you’re dumping everything on me again, aren’t
Sora and Shiro really had, in this last month, been working. Day by
day, they went to the Shrine Maiden and played games with the
fortunes of the two countries at stake.
...Yes, that was some real work. If you overlooked how they’d
beaten the Shrine Maiden in every game...and then dumped all of the
execution on her.
“They say you should leave things to the experts. Y ou’re the Shrine
Maiden who built a great country in half a century. We believe in
At Sora’s jolly answer, the Shrine Maiden cackled and scratched her
head. Restructuring allied states into a federation—Sora and Shiro
had apparently used the precedent of the “United States of America”
from their world as a reference to propose solutions and compromises
for the countless obstacles, while throwing onto the Shrine Maiden
the job of minimizing the frictions. Actually, that was the right
decision. Sora and Shiro were genius gamers, not politicians. But
there was a different reason the Shrine Maiden had laughed. It was
that up to this day she’d tried to get ahead of Sora and Shiro any
number of times. This time, she’d figured she could win with a game
they’d never seen, and yet she’d got it handed to her. Besides that,
she’d tried to set up a number of tricks to bring the Eastern Union out
on top...but in the end, she’d never once been able to get ahead of
them or beat them. But the policies that had been decided upon in this
manner, just as they had said, were assembled through and through
for both countries’ interests. Elkia and the Eastern Union would both
lose in the short term so that they would both gain in the long term.
She sighed at the documents that embodied these policies but had no
complaints. She was even starting to feel guilty for always having
tried to outwit them. The issue was that second demand they’d always
“’Kay then, Demand Number Two is the usual—let us pet you!”
—Yes, it was that every time, they would again pointlessly wager
the right to pet the Shrine Maiden.
“Considering you’re are actually putting thought into the policy, I
can’t object, but...”
With a deep sigh, the Shrine Maiden glanced at the ever-growing
mountain of documents. Go ahead, she indicated, gently waving her
two golden tails.
“Wooot! We got this, Shiro!”
“...This, is the day...we’re gonna make you, gasp...!”
Watching Sora and Shiro pounce with gleams in their eyes, the
Shrine Maiden smirked, and considered.
—Ixseed Rank Fourteen, Werebeast, was a race with physical
abilities approaching physical limits. But to achieve this in the shape
of a person, it should go without saying, would normally be
physically impossible. What made it possible was their use of the
spirits within their bodies.
...All living beings in this world had spirits in their bodies, even if
just a minute amount. The ranks were based on the amount each
race had and the aptitude of their spirit corridor-connected nerves—
i.e., how well they could manipulate exterior spirits— magic. The
Werebeasts’ aptitude was extremely low: they couldn’t use magic at
all. However, all living things, even Immanity, had the unconscious
ability to control the spirits in their own bodies. Werebeasts attained
their astonishing physical prowess by thoroughly exploiting this. The
“bloodbreaks” used by Izuna and the Shrine Maiden were prominent
examples. Werebeasts were born with the skill to stir up the spirits in
their bodies to raise their physical abilities to the level of self-
destruction. But the price was the peculiarity that the spirits flowing
through their bodies were always in disarray. The effect of this
peculiarity was greater the smaller and more slender the Werebeast
happened to be. As a result, Werebeasts—especially children and
females—bore chronic disorders of the spirits in their
bodies... discomfort. It was not a problem that could be easily solved
.So if you want to know what bearing this had on the situation...
“...Fluffy, fluffy...petty, petty...hee-hee...”
Feeling the urge to let out a moan at Shiro’s hands, the Shrine
Maiden shifted her thoughts to hold it back. Sora and Shiro...the two
were abnormally skilled—at manipulating her spirits. It certainly
wasn’t the case that Immanity could see spirits. Even taking into
account that they were from another world, manipulating body
spirits was the realm of high-level magic. Yet these two—
“—Heh, I think this is the spot!”
—Instantly picking up on her reaction to where they touched her,
they were effectively manipulating her spirits via petting. As a result,
they were resolving her Werebeast chronic disorder of body spirits—
without particularly intending to do so. What was the word for this—
should they be called “celebrity masseuses”?
—Now you see why there’s a line for getting petted, right?
“...So, you said today your demands are three... Mm.”
Almost moaning at the on-the-spot fluffing but holding back by
sheer force of will, the Shrine Maiden asked:
“—Mightn’t I get an explanation by now? Of course, it must have
something to do with this situation, eh?”
Sora and Shiro were being glommed on to by a bunch of strange
Werebeast girls and busily petting them all. That was enough to make
her want to say a thing or a thousand, but setting that aside... The
two had wrapped strips of cloth, apparently Izuna’s, so as to hide their
lower faces. In addition, Sora was wearing what looked like fake cat
ears, with Shiro wearing rabbit ears. Even Jibril, waiting behind
them, for some reason had droopy dog ears on her head, and beside
her, Izuna was staring at the girls being petted by Sora and Shiro as if
waiting for her own turn. And then the Shrine Maiden cast her
narrowed eyes upon the last of their party. Before her shivered a
Dhampir girl, crouching and trembling in the comer of the room.
“It seems this Dhampir—Plum—whose ‘favor’ we refused last night
responded by going all over Kannagari telling everyone about our
Apparently, that explained the line of animal-girls waiting to be
petted. They’d hidden their faces and warped to the front of the
Shrine, yet just the short walk from the gate had been enough to
produce this situation. Sora spread his hands and laughed.
“She says she’s gonna keep interfering with our work until we save
“Master, do you not feel it is about time? Let us have her wager her
head in a game. And then let us ensnare her in the game and take it.
Her head, I mean. V”
“I-I—I’m sorryyy...B-b—but, you see, the very life of my race is at
Shrinking at Jibril’s murderous eyes, Plum squealed piteously.
“—So, yeah, my third demand...”
“Please use the power you’ve got as agent plenipotentiary of
Werebeast and order them to leave us alone until we look for them.
Now there’s a line in front of Izuna’s house. We have a phobia of
being looked at, and we can’t even open the door. And we can’t get on
to the real issue, either.”
—Apparently, Sora had many things to say. Wanting to hear what
this so-called real issue was, the Shrine Maiden sharply opened her
“—Why don’t you go.”
This was enough to make the animal-girls’ hair stand on end with a
twitch, and they bowed repeatedly as they fled the garden as if rolling
away. Watching them leave, Shiro waved. “Bye-bye.”
“Mercy me—well, you speak of something weighty, I hope?” the
Shrine Maiden asked with an incredulous look, and Sora nodded back,
his face tense.
“Y eah—it’s an important issue that concerns Elkia and the Eastern
Starting thusly, Sora no longer wore his goofy look of a moment
ago. His face was a mask of seriousness, as if he’d hit upon an
intractable problem. Hmm —the Shrine Maiden straightened up and
faced Sora as he spoke.
“You know how there’s this country in the ocean south of the
“It’s our neighbor; of course I know it. Home of Siren, aye.”
—Siren. Ixseed Rank Fifteen: the race one rank above Immanity
and one below Werebeast. Building a metropolis at the depths of the
sea, they could only live in water and thus had few concerns over
territory. An insular race with a peculiar mode of life, they only
conducted minimal trade with other countries. Just what issue could
arise involving folks like that...? To the Shrine Maiden’s gaze that
asked this, Sora nodded dramatically and spoke:
“Right, it has to do with them, so Shrine Maiden—”
He paused for breath.
“—Shrine Maiden, what is love?”
“Let me give you just one more chance to explain yourself. If it’s a
fight you want, I’m surely game, though. V” With an unreserved
smile, but ready to unleash her bloodbreak, the Shrine Maiden
growled, her hair reddening.
—Going back a little to the previous night. Sora, having just dismissed
it all without qualification, saying: Play out your porno game
scenario somewhere else. Holding on to his legs, Plum wailed, looking
“P-p—please waiiit! Your Majesties, we have no one to turn to but
“Shut up! I can’t get involved with a race whose very premise is R-
18! You ever hear of zoning?”
The race fed by viscous white fluid in place of blood—Dhampir.
—One way or another, getting involved with them was an
inexcusable trip straight to the adult corner.
“No! ...Well, there are sooome girls who see it like that...”
“I knew it! You are straight from a porn game!”
“L-let me explaiiin! At this rate, we’ll be wiped ouuut!”
Responding to a phrase they couldn’t ignore, Sora and Shiro
stopped in their tracks. They looked at each other in confirmation.
—Of the fact they couldn’t let that happen.
“...Let’s hear your story, then. Just so you know, I’m gonna cut you
off the moment this starts turning into porn.”
Reluctantly, Sora plopped down cross-legged, sighed, and opened
his mouth. Shiro perched on his lap, and Jibril, following their lead,
sat on her heels. Izuna—sleepy after all, it seemed—curled up into a
ball beside Sora and nodded slowly.
“Th-thank youuu!” Tearfully, Plum bowed repeatedly. “Uh, uh...
give me a momeeent...”
Some kind of irregular pattern rose up in her violet eyes—and that
—Just when had they moved? In an instant, Jibril was right before
Plum, and Izuna had taken her rear. The breeze created by their
movement blew through the room, seeming a little late.
As Plum let out a silly sound, Jibril looked down at her keenly:
“I commend your achievement in approaching my master without
my notice, but lest you think I am so foolish as to permit it a second
time, allow me to give this advice—might it not be best that you mind
your position, worm?”
“Grampy said, if you sense Dhampir magic, you’d better get the hell
out of their eyes, please.” Izuna growled in an ice-cold voice, her
Sora nervously tried to talk down the tense pair. “H-hey... Don’t the
Ten Covenants prevent any damage from being done?”
“Damage or not, it is possible to disguise perceptions. For instance
—” Jibril directed her profound hostility to a place beside Plum. “To
make those voluminous suitcases invisible—and the like.”
With tears in her eyes, Plum waved her hands at Jibril as she stared
at the empty space. “It’s—it’s a misunderstandiing! I just meant to
disguise my own perceptiooonV’
—From nowhere, a number of bulky suitcases appeared...
Izuna, her suspicions allayed, sniffled and went back to Sora and
“So, basically—she concealed the existence of her luggage to get rid
of the weight?”
“No. All it will do is to prevent her from feeling the volume and
weight of the luggage, not to get rid of it.”
“So when she first appeared, she was exhausted...”
“...because of, this?”
“I-I’m sorryyy... I mean, it—it was heavyyy...”
At Plum’s bowing and scraping, still Jibril said:
“Dhampir’s aptitude for magical stealth and illusion—the
manipulation of perception—may surpass even that of Elf. Those
suitcases were there all along... and we simply did not observe them.”
Hmm. But you noticed them, right?”
“To my chagrin, they threatened to escape me had I not paid close
attention. However, this will not happen again.”
Jibril clenched her fists and drooped her head. Sora, shifting his
gaze to his side, asked:
“...Izuna, what made you relax?”
“Huh? Bitch doesn’t smell like she’s lying, please,” the curled-up
Izuna answered with a yawn, as if she’d become quite tired from her
—Hmm—Sora and Shiro narrowed their eyes. Before them, Plum
was digging through her suitcases, looking for something. Then she
cried, “Oh, here it iiis,” pulling out a document—
“Ahem, um...I have heard that Your Majesties intend to conquer all
That was how it was presented. The fact that they were working on
a Commonwealth with the Eastern Union—well, it was probably out
of the bag, but anyway, the movement of pieces still ought to have
been a secret between Team Sora and Team Shrine Maiden. Feeling
no particular need to explain, Sora agreed.
“Let me speak frankly—” As if satisfied by his answer, Plum went
on. “Right now, we—Dhampir and Siren—our two races are on the
brink of extinction. We have tried everything we could, but...there’s
no more we can do, so we would like to request your suppooort.”
“Jibril, you tell me, okay? What sort of relationship do Dhampir
and Siren have?”
At Sora’s question, Jibril quietly lowered her head and began:
“After the Ten Covenants, Dhampir was no longer able to ingest
blood without permission, meaning that their very survival came to
depend upon the permission of others—and Siren was in a similar
“...Siren...Rank Fifteen, a race that can only live in the...ocean.”
Shiro elaborated. Ixseed Rank Fifteen, Siren—to put it bluntly—was
a race of mermaids. They lived on the relatively shallow ocean floor,
possessing the upper bodies of people and the tails of fish from the
thighs down. They had an extremely peculiar mode of life, as first and
foremost exemplified by the fact they couldn’t remain out of the sea
for long. As such, they’d built the ocean-floor metropolis Oceand,
claiming a vast marine swath as their territory. Their second
peculiarity was existing as a solely female race. Which meant their
method of reproduction—
“...Requires, a man...of another race...”
At Shiro’s explanation, Sora squinted toward Jibril.
“Yo, these Dhampirs and Sirens, aren’t they kind of ridiculously bad
“Originally—that is, before the Ten Covenants—there was no
problem.” Jibril continued, “All Sirens had to do was claim and
devour a man of another race. And Dhampirs could very simply suck
blood willy-nilly. It is the Ten Covenants that have inconvenienced
them—well, races that they have not inconvenienced are in the
minority, I should say—but the two races that the Covenants have
most inconvenienced must be these.”
To Jibril and her smiling, savage tale of long ago, Sora said:
“...Wha, claim and devour? You mean, like, literally?”
For a moment, the scene of a woman, a fish the waist down,
displaying a loathsome visage as she messily devoured other races—a
scene that looked to be R-18 for a different reason—crossed Sora’s
mind, and he shivered.
But Jibril shook her head in reply. “No, I kept it vague since you
mentioned being wholesome. But I meant it sexually.”
“What?? I want in on this paradise! Jibril, let’s go, right now!!”
As Sora stood, yelping in delight, still Jibril looked back vacantly.
“You will be sucked dry and die. Is that quite all right?”
“What?? I want out of this infernooo... I’m not going there everrr.”
...Mermaids who couldn’t reproduce without sucking a man of
another race dry? Just how far did this world have to go betraying
one’s hopes and tropes? Sora, his energy level flung to max then
drained to empty in the blink of an eye, sighed and sat down.
Disregarding Sora, Jibril continued, “In any case...
“Dhampir and Siren are two races that cannot survive without
harming another, and so the Ten Covenants threatened their very
existence. Thus, Dhampir turned their attention to Siren.”
Hmm, Sora nodded.
“Yeah, guess they would. Since Siren’s Rank Fifteen, between
Immanity and Werebeast, that means they can’t use magic, right?
Dhampir’s got their stealth and illusion magic skills. They’d eat Siren
As another race on the brink of extinction, their wager couldn’t
have been too tough, either. It was savage as ever, but when your
survival depended on it—. But Jibril continued with a smile.
“Sadly, the stoiy escalates straight up... It has become a tale
famous throughout the world.”
—It didn’t even escalate gradually? Jibril continued her narration
“I mentioned that being bitten by a Dhampir...brings illness.”
“Put simply, it is an illness that causes one to die if exposed to direct
sunlight. Thus, it is an illness that poses no special threat to Siren,
who live at the bottom of the sea and rarely venture onto land.”
“-Mm? Hey, so...”
Plum answered with a fleeting smile. “...Yeeesss, we Dhampirs—
Jibril took over. “Their strategy was that Siren should grant them
blood, while Dhampir returned the favor with magic and would help
them catch other races on which to feast. Dhampir and Siren quickly
formed a common front.”
“That’s—how do I put it...?”
Sora and Shiro together let out an expression of awe from their
hearts. Even given that they were stuck in a situation in which they
couldn’t worry about appearances, these two races had proposed a
plan based perfectly in their mutual interests, accurately, and
“Yes, indeed. They are a race most worthy of astoundment —Siren
are , I mean.”
—What? But Jibril continued, smiling pityingly at Plum.
“For Dhampir, having brought the offer of symbiosis—against all
odds, was crushed !”
“In the end—Dhampir was beaten silly by Siren, and a mysterious
contract was concluded whereby the Dhampir males would assist
Siren in reproduction, while being forbidden to suck the blood of non-
..Excuse me? This information perhaps not even having been
known to Shiro, she gave Jibril a surprised look, seeming to doubt her
“...Ha-ha...it’s really a funny story, isn’t iiit.” Plum, meanwhile,
looked resigned to her fate.
“I imagine our ancestors hadn’t thought...the Sirens could fail to
understand the Ten Covenants and not even realize that they were
on the brink of ruin... ha-ha.”
—Her troubled face was augmented by her weariness as a dim
Shiro tilted her head in atypical confusion at Sora.
“—Ohh...so, could it be...? It couldn’t be...” He couldn’t believe it,
but—. Sora went on. “Dhampir brought them a game where they
didn’t use magic, and they were more or less setting it up for a draw
as a step toward a proposal for a symbiotic relationship—but Siren
didn’t understand what that meant and kicked Dhampir’s asses, and
there was much rejoicing—like that?”
Jibril’s smile and Plum’s weary version of the same told him: Bull’s-
“...Hey, are the Sirens stupid, or—?”
“They are stupid enough to resound through heaven and earth in
three thousand worlds. V”
“I have to say, they’ve really reached the very pinnacle of
“Grampy said they’re not even up to the level of hairless monkeys,
Jibril, Plum, and even Izuna, who was supposed to have been
sleeping, all jumped on Sora’s question.
“...Whoa, there’s a race that’s looked down on even more than
Immanity... It’s kinda moving, somehow.”
Jibril carried on with her tale, still in peak form.
“So, this has several interesting implications!”
Number one —she raised a finger.
“First of all, Dhampir is capable of surviving even on fluids other
Two —she raised another.
“However, their growth depends on blood—without mixing of souls,
they will stay children forever.”
Three —she raised another still.
“The prohibition on sucking other races’ blood only applies to males.
However, Dhampirs are not capable of reproducing among
themselves while they are still children. To receive blood, the males
are forced to obey Siren, and to bear children, almost all the females
are effectively forced to obey Siren as well.”
And/our—she produced a finger yet again.
“Even if one were to flee from the city of Siren, one would be a
carrier of disease—and you must know what that means?”
And with a smile, five —Jibril had her entire hand aloft.
“It means Dhampir unwittingly found themselves trapped by these
.At this stoiy, too stupid to even react to, Shiro had already lost
interest and moved on to picking at her nails. Sora, too, gazed at the
ceiling in a stupor—but then. Through the back of his mind, Plum’s
—No—well, there are sooome girls who see it like that—
...Let’s collect and review the information here. First of all, female
Dhampirs have no obligation to obey Siren and are capable of leaving.
However, if they don’t suck blood, they’ll stay children. Yet they can
survive as long as they have the bodily fluids of another race. On top
of that, the second-best body fluid for them after blood is that ? And
—there are some girls who see it like that...?
—Wait. Wait just a moment, if you would.
“B-but stilll? For a...while, we still manaaged...”
“Whuh, a-ha, uh, yeah?”
Sora had been completely distracted but was brought back in a
fluster by Plum’s objection.
“I just described the state immediately after the Ten Covenants.
Dhampir did, in fact, succeed in symbiosis, from that point.”
Jibril, nodding, continued.
“Siren reproduces by despoiling the males of other races of their
essence, their soul. However, there were individuals capable of leaving
enough to keep the male alive while still reproducing, albeit just one
such individual in a generation—and so.
“Dhampir would fulfill their binding obligation to assist in
reproduction only with that one—she was set up as the queen, the
agent plenipotentiary of Siren, from generation to generation, and the
only one who might reproduce.”
Sora clapped his hands in admiration, and Shiro likewise applauded.
“Dhampir just has to assist Siren in reproduction, so it doesn’t
violate the Covenant. They still can refuse the other Sirens who would
suck out their essence till they died, and at the same time, Dhampir
can suck blood—GG, perfect, right?”
Well, well—they might have screwed up spectacularly, but that was
some turnabout. They’d found a system that would reliably guarantee
the continued existence of both races. So in other words, they’d
succeeded at achieving harmony across races before Sora and Shiro.
“—Dhampir’s got it together after all. Ain’t Rank Twelve for
“Sadly, Master, this system, too, broke down under the current
—Just how many punch lines did this story have?
“Okay, so what did this current queen friggin’ do?”
At Sora’s query, Jibril answered her with eyes half-closed but still
bearing a smile, opening the fingers on both her hands. “—Nothing.
At. All. V” At this Plum, as if her face wasn’t full enough of troubles,
laughed to herself as if ready to cough up her soul as she muttered:
“She said, ‘I won’t get up until my prince comes to awaken meee’...
and went into crybernation.”
-Huh? Beaming so brightly one might have asked just what
the hell was so amusing, Jibril said, “In other words—”
“The current queen, who holds the power for Siren to reproduce
without Dhampir dying—it seems she was influenced by one of her
mother’s fairy tales while she was still the queen, and so she made
this pronouncement by the Covenants and nodded off.”
...Hey, wait a minute, you gotta be joking.
“Until the prince who will win her love appears—that is, until
someone beats the game she’s set by the Covenants—she will not
wake. And you see, crybernation is a special power of Siren—like the
bloodbreak of Werebeast. She is capable of sleeping for over a
thousand years—but, as luck would have it—”
With these words, Jibril sat on her knees and made as if to gesture
with a fan.
“And now, ladies and gent, we’re about to get to the climax of the
silliest bit of true history the world has ever knowwwn!”
...Was she trying to be some old-school Japanese comedian? Jibril
jovially continued her routine with her idiosyncratic manner of
“So now!! The queen has set this game—but!
“How in the world is she to fall in love while yet
—...There were no words. Plum only looked off into the distance
with her tenuous smile. Sora seemed to be holding back a headache,
and Shiro by now was stifling a yawn, with Izuna well off into
dreamland. The only one still in fine form, Jibril went on.
“The Dhampir men, who until then had only worked with the
queen, who could reproduce without killing her partners, and used
her as their excuse to refuse reproduction with the ordinary Siren
individuals—oh, now! When the queen’s asleep, what will happen?!”
And as if opening her fan and tumbling ...whoa-whoa-whoa-
whoa ...to the side.
“It’s been eight hundred years since the current queen entered
crybernation. The old queen’s already passed, and it will still be
hundreds of years before the current queen awakes naturally... As a
result—the male Dhampirs, one after the other, are being devoured—”
And then Jibril took a deep bow.
“I hope you’ve enjoyed this true historical farce, stupidest in the
world, enough to sweep over the seven continents—because it looks as
if it’s time for the next act.”
“...Weill, I don’t know about that, but...yeah, I get it.”
No wonder everyone figured Dhampir must have been wiped out
—But there was one thing.
“If they devour the last male Dhampir, then Siren’s gonna be next
to perish, right?”
“...If the Sirens were clever enough to understand that...we
wouldn’t have this probleeem...”
“...What, you mean—they still don’t get it...?”
At Plum, who was staring into space with lifeless eyes, Sora
involuntarily winced. So, what was it?
“—We are actually down to our last maaale...and he’s still a child...”
...So they were five seconds away from perishing for real. That
much he understood—but...
“But what do you expect us to do about it? From what you’ve told
me, you’re totally screwed.”
“Oh, there is more to the story the good Fliigel begaaan!”
Plum’s face lit up at finally being able to get to the main point.
“The queen is crybemating, but she’s consciouuusl And soo, we
wove a rite to meddle in her consciousness—her dreams—so that it’s
possible to make her fall in love in her dreams—a romance game!”
...Huhh—they’d brought out a romance simulation game. Sora
“Jibril, doesn’t it violate the Ten Covenants to mess with people’s
“Not as long as you do so with no ill intent and no damage , direct
or indirect. In fact, in this case, as the queen is waiting for the prince
to make her fall in love, has she not effectively given her permission?”
With a nod, Plum took it upon herself to lay out her request.
“—Please make our queen fall in love! I’ve brought a plan so that
you can achieve thiis!”
Sora and Shiro looked at each other—their answer was already
there. For Sora and Shiro, whose goal was to conquer all the Ixseeds
—there was no choice but to save them all. But even so, there was one
thing that had to be confirmed.
“And what do we get if we win this game?”
Plum took out her notes again. “Um...We’ll guarantee you ‘thirty
percent of Oceand’s marine resources and friendly relations for
perpetuityyy’!” Plum sighed. “...Even just this took us a whole week to
explain to the Sirens and get them to understand...hff...”
Huh, those were decent conditions. Not bad. But it still didn’t
Sora frowned, but Plum continued. “...A-and also...uhh...”
Embarrassedly twiddling her fingers, Plum glanced away. She
looked down at the pile of suitcases she’d brought and with a red face
“Y-you can do anything you want with meee... Th-that’s why I
brought all my—”
“Let us tarry not, ladies! There is not a second to lose! We
must go to save those on the brink of destruction!!”
—Sora finished his preparations and was set to fly out of the house
immediately. And to Plum, with eyes full of compassion, he
“Fear not, young lady. Romance simulation games are my specialty
So. Come on, let’s hear the details. And then we shall go to claim
the legal loli—! Plum’s face lit up as she intuited these words that
Sora’s eyes communicated so powerfully.
“Th-thank youu! Umm, since we’re working with dreaaams, we
have the freedom to set the scene as we see fiiit, but basically—the
goal is to make the queen fall in love and confess her devotion to
What flashed though Sora’s mind was Tok*meki Memorial. The
granddaddy of romance simulation games. This confirmed in his
estimation—it would be no sweat. Nodding in his head that there was
no character he could not conquer, he heard:
“It’s a romance game where the conditions for affection are
indeterminate and the conversations and actions all happen in real
.Once more, Sora and Shiro exchanged glances. They nodded
with smiles—taking the forgone conclusion. And overturning it.
“That’s a different story. We refuse. Have a safe trip home.”
“...Bye-bye...don’t go extinct ...good luck.”
All smiles, such was their decision.
“—Why’d you do that? Twas a fine proposal, if I may say so.”
The Shrine Maiden, who had been listening to the stoiy silently,
briefly offered her thoughts.
“Even I’d always thought the Sirens and all their marine resources
would be nice to have. What’s there to lose by helping them? And that
talk of friendly relations for perpetuity—isn’t that just what you lot
That was the Shrine Maiden for you—she grasped the heart of the
matter with a thin smile. This was what Plum had been talking about
when she said they had no one to turn to but Sora and Shiro.
Dhampir and Siren had nothing to put on the table. The mere offer of
friendly relations and modest resources wouldn’t be enough reason to
save them. If one wanted the territory and resources they had, one
could just leave them alone and wait for them to perish. And in any
case, there was nothing to gain from lording it over a race that
couldn’t live without harming others.
—But. As those whose ultimate objective was conquest of the
Ixseeds—and beyond—Sora and Shiro alone represented an exception.
Allowing even one race to perish was a problem for them. The
resources coveted by the Eastern Union could also serve to fill the gap
in power between Elkia and the Eastern Union. And—if things went
well—two more races would be added to the Commonwealth of Elkia.
It was a fine proposal, one beyond reproach.
—But Sora shook his head with a pained expression and glared at
“...It’s not going to work, Miss Shrine Maiden... Weren’t you
listening? The friggin’ ‘game’ Plum proposed.”
“Mm, a ‘romance game,’ aye? What’s this? You don’t like it?” asked
the Shrine Maiden warily, still not gleaning Sora’s objection.
Tearing his hair, Sora hurled a correction at the Shrine Maiden.
“—No. It’s a ‘romance game where the conditions for affection are
indeterminate and the conversations and actions are real-time.’”
“...Is that different?”
“Hell yes, it’s different! That’s not even a romance game! It’s a ‘real-
life romance game!”’ Waving his hands around dramatically, Sora
finally shouted, “I mean, a real-life romance game...is that even a
real game?! If so—then what, pray tell, is love?!”
It was a philosophical question.
—But given the assertion that it was a game and therefore having
pondered it very seriously, Sora continued.
“If we’re talking about a normal romance game, that’s simple.
Basically, you just raise flags and earn affection points. But look at
this. She just said outright, without batting an eye, that the conditions
for affection are indeterminate and the conversations and actions are
not multiple-choice, but real-time! I’ll ask again: Is this a game?!”
The philosophers and orators of ancient Greece must have looked
like this as they expounded their arguments. Sora, with a grandness
that recalled such times, raised his fists and his voice as he continued
“What does romantic love mean in the real world? Can a game
involving the exchange of concepts whose very foundations are
unclear truly be called a game? Is poker played without deciding the
card values or hands or what to exchange a game?!”
—What, after all, was romantic love? Romantic love—was
composed of romance and love.
...Two terms. First of all, they differed in spelling. If they differed in
spelling, it followed that they should be pronounced differently as
well. And if they were pronounced differently, then of course that
should necessitate some difference in their meaning. Romance and
love. Then what were they to begin with? Certainly when that ancient
holy guy said, “Love thy neighbor,” he couldn’t have meant, “Sleep
with the wife next door.”
Yet the Shrine Maiden responded dismissively with cool eyes to
Sora’s passionate expounding.
“—Can you not just blow your usual load of malarkey at her to
make her fall for you? Isn’t that precisely what you frauds are good
But to this, shaking their heads with grave looks, Sora and Shiro
“Yeah, looks like there’s one thing we gotta let you in on, Shrine
The two sharpened their gazes further and said:
“—We are Blank, who boasts a no-loss record in all kinds of games,
but there are games we have never beaten—no, never even seriously
tried to play—because we couldn’t understand their rules...just two.”
“—The game of real life and the game oj
We who, in our old world, have carved our blank name at the top
of over 280 games. We, two in one, whispered of as an urban legend
—we are Immanity’s greatest gamer.
—Yet, lest you forget. In the real world, we are but a pair of
virginal, friendless, socially incompetent shut-in losers—!!
Sora and Shiro’s eyes declared this—their stately stance, their position
verging on pride. They turned conviction to truth, to spirit. And that
truth in turn they transformed into an apparition...shaking the air—
“M-my masters, indeed—what force of spirit!”
“I don’t get it, but you both kinda kick ass, please.”
Jibril and Izuna audibly gulped.
Meanwhile, the Shrine Maiden and Plum offered more objective
“Is this what happens when you take your known weaknesses and
proudly hold them aloft...? Somehow it’s impressive.”
“...It-it’s a kind of confidence that’s quite inconvenient for me,
“Well, that’s how it went down, so we had her chill for a bit on the
condition we’d discuss it with you.”
“...Hff, is that so...?”
“And with that, Shrine Maiden, tell us what love is.”
“...Tell, us...Shrine Maiden...”
To the two inquiring with faces earnest with purity, the Shrine
Maiden let out a sigh. Sitting back deep in her chair and playing with
her tails as if grooming herself, she mused, “—My, my, now what is it,
Her voice was soft and without ceremony.
“As far back as I remember, all I thought of was Werebeast—the
Eastern Union... Now that I think of it, what is love, indeed? At some
point, I forgot to even give it any thought...”
The sight of the Shrine Maiden, whispering with distant eyes as if
reminiscing on the distant past.
—Strange. Sora and Shiro somehow felt a kinship they’d never felt
“...Well, I guess, that’s...that.”
So they sighed together and then turned back to Plum.
“Sorry, Plum, you’re out of luck for now. Don’t go extinct?”
Plum, casually forsaken for the third time, screamed with an
expression as if about to erupt in tears. “Were you even listening to
me? I said I brought a plan so that you can do iiit!”
Her voice trembling on the verge of a breakdown, Plum pointed to
“It-it’s not as if we Dhampirs have just been quietly letting
ourselves be devoured all this tiiime... We’ve analyzed the queen—the
‘game’—over a period of many years, and at looong last, we’ve come
up with a foolproof plaacin ! ”
But it seemed both Sora and Shiro had by now completely lost
interest. Taking the Shrine Maiden’s lead, they searched for split ends
in their hair as they responded absently, “...If you’ve, solved the,
game...you, go for it...”
Whining, Nghhhhh, Plum shrieked, “I-I’ll show it to you! King
Sora!” And she thrust a finger at him and screamed, “Name a person
you think would never fall in love with you!”
Plum froze at Sora’s immediate, straight-faced answer, given while
prodding at his nails. Sora, with distant eyes—with the serene face of
a monk who had seen the light—continued:
“The heavens will fall and the Earth be overturned before the day
anyone falls in love with me without being forced to do so by the
He continued as if elucidating a state of enlightenment—the truth
of this ephemeral world.
U-ummm...Th-that’s really saaad!”
Her momentum blunted by Sora’s bodhisattva-like smile, Plum just
barely managed to get her words out. Then, to somehow supply an
alternate proposal—“I-in that case, is it all right if I use it on you...?”
“A spell—to force the queen to fall in love with you!”
—Hrmm, Sora spontaneously said out loud. Indeed, if making her
fall in love was the condition to wake her, then if they had a spell like
that, it really would be a certain victory. If that were the case, it
would change the picture in many ways. But casting eyes of doubt
upon the claim was Jibril.
“—Forcible manipulation of emotions, you say? The Ten Covenants
ought to nullify—”
But Plum replied as if she’d been waiting for those words. “Yes,
normally that would be the caaase! However, the queen asked to fall
in love before she slept—which means we have permissiooon. That’s
the thing! We can take advantage of that!”
It was the same logic by which they could meddle in her dreams,
Plum explained, putting her hand on her hip. The Dhampir’s face
oozed with misfortune but was now touched with a bit of confidence
as she stuck out her chest.
Seeing her thus, Sora figured it seemed she actually did have
confidence in this plan. Glancing over at Jibril, he nodded. “Okay,
then. If it’s gonna work on me when I don’t really understand the
feeling of romantic love, then I guess it’s gotta be a sure thing.”
With these words, Sora stepped forward.
“All right, use it on me. Shiro will determine whether it—”
Grabbing the hem of Sora’s shirt as he stepped forward, Shiro
stopped him short.
“Mm? ’Sup, Shiro?”
“Mm, uh, why not?”
Shiro’s eyes for a moment—really just for a moment—wandered.
The reason was undetectable to Sora, and so she thrust her brain now
into full gear to come up with an explanation...an excuse, something.
And finally coming up with something, Shiro mumbled, “...We don’t,
know...what you’ll do...if you, fall in love...with, someone.”
“Sh-Shiro—do you yet doubt your brother’s iron will?!”
Sora tragically pleaded that by now his self-restraint should be
worthy of praise. But—the Shrine Maiden, with Werebeast’s unlikely
abilities to read the subtleties of the heart, apparently understood the
workings of feelings at least a bit better than Sora and laughed
“—Ah, if it be so, you may test it on me, aye.”
The Shrine Maiden continued as if watching something
“Tis true of me as well that I lack understanding of those feelings of
romance. What complaint have you?”
But Shiro, apparently still wary, asked Plum, “...Can, you...un—do
“Uh? Oh, y-yes! Of course I caaan!”
“Ah-ha-ha, set your heart at ease. He’s no type of mine,” reassured
the Shrine Maiden.
Shiro and the Shrine Maiden had somehow seemingly achieved a
common understanding, yet Sora remained unable to follow.
“...Hey, what’s this about?”
“I’m afraid, Master, that it escapes me as well.”
“...? Sorry, wasn’t listening, please.”
There was no way Jibril understood, giving her likewise quizzical
look—or Izuna, who had already been snoring. Ignoring these three,
the Shrine Maiden stood up—and took a step. Silently, she came to
stand before Plum.
“Come, then, will you try it on me?”
“Y-yes. All right, King Sora, and everyone else...”
Plum, faltering for a moment at the Shrine Maiden’s behavior,
recomposed herself and spread her wings.
“It’s not a spell I can use any number of times without blood
supply, so make sure you watch, okay?!”
At the same time a complex pattern emerged in Plum’s eyes, a
breeze blew through the room. On Plum’s wings, black as if woven of
night, there ran—utterly different from the geometric nature of
Jibril’s halo—countless scarlet lines, wavering, irregular, imbued with
crimson. These irregular lines, red as if woven of blood, came to
permeate Plum’s right arm as well. Her hand—coolly yet complexly—
began to move. At the presence of the spirits being woven—the rite,
forming the spell—the ears of Izuna and the Shrine Maiden reacted
finely. But Immanity being unable to detect magic whatsoever, Sora
and Shiro were not even cognizant of this. The only one who could be
expected to perceive magic accurately and even see the meaning of
the rite being compiled was Jibril.
“—Dear me...could it be, genuinely?”
This she mumbled as if genuinely surprised. After an interval of a
few seconds, Plum slowly gestured with her hand toward the Shrine
—In a flash, with the sound of something splitting, a maelstrom of
red light whirled around the Shrine Maiden.
“...What’s this? Is the spell cast now?” asked the Shrine Maiden,
apparently not having felt any obvious change.
Plum, a bit of fatigue seeping through her smile, replied. “Yes! And
nowww—King Sora, please approach the Holy Shrine Maiden—!
“And squeeze her booob!”
Sora and the Shrine Maiden raised their voices at the same time.
“Upon this ‘command’—the rite...will be compleeete!”
Plum showed no awareness of the reactions around her and only
brimmed with confidence at her announcement. Sora exchanged a
brief glance with Shiro, and once he’d confirmed her nod of approval
“Uhh, okay. Shrine Maiden, you cool with this?”
“...Well, I suppose I was the one who said I’d do it...though I can’t
say it sits well that she didn’t explain aforehand.” The Shrine Maiden
sighed and fanned her chest.
“...This is really tough somehow... ’Kay, here I gooo...”
With these words, sheepishly extending his hand to the Shrine
Maiden’s breast, Sora, his face a mask of resolve—squeezed tension
into his hand.
He almost let slip a cry at the elasticity that let him sink in yet
pushed back. Sora was deeply moved at this sensation—still different
from that of Steph. But his wonder at the sensation was ignored.
The Shrine Maiden, furrowing her brow in apparent displeasure,
felt something go off inside her, and her expression...changed. And
then, turning her gaze languidly toward Sora—in a daze—mumbled:
“Wha-what is this? This skin-crawling feeling...it transcends mere
disgust at your loathsome smile, incorporating irritation as well—I-I
see... Is this—is this what they call love?!”
“Hell noooooo! And hey, that hurts, damn it!”
—The Shrine Maiden whispered her feelings with a look in her eye
as if viewing something horrible, at which Sora promptly shouted his
dismay. But as if she had no ears for his cries, the Shrine Maiden
“Eh, this is love. What is it? I’d never have imagined it, yet now I
can say with certainty that I am in love with King Sora. Indeed...so
this stomach-churning feeling that makes me want to vomit is love...
The world is a surely a vast place.”
“—Hey, Plum. You failed, right?”
Any way you looked at it, it appeared the Dhampir had blown it.
Sora’s expression strained the comers of his mouth, but Plum just
stuck out her chest with pride and answered.
“Hee-hee-hee, oh, just listeeen... This is where the key lieees.”
—And now her troubled face sparkled, having pulled off a feat that
only a Dhampir could.
“The love spell is one whispered of since ages of old in distant
realms, yet never actually achieeeved—”
“...Is that so, Jibril?”
Love potions, love spells—such things were to be expected in
“—Indeed. Though I am loath to admit it, the principle escapes us
all entirely,” Jibril conceded, unable to conceal her wonder.
Grudgingly admitting Plum’s triumph, she nodded.
“As far as I know, a spell to intervene in such a vague, uncertain
element as romantic love, which even those in the arts are unable to
define, has never been accomplished even by Elf...”
However outstanding their aptitude may have been for illusion,
Dhampir’s rank was Twelve. While magical aptitude was practically
synonymous with Rank Seven, the very image of weavers of complex
magic, having accomplished what even Elf couldn’t, Plum merely
nodded as if to say, What else would you expect?
“Yeeesss, the tricky part was how the definition of romantic love is
indeterminate— it’s different from person to person, you seee.”
Beating her little wings merrily, Plum explained. Raising her chest
so high one thought one would hear the sound of the air filling her
lungs, she continued:
“No rite can have any meaning over an indeterminate element
defying definition. This is why all the stuff that was vulgarly called
‘love magic’ was nothing more than lust magic— however!”
“Hey, wait there, Miss Plum. I’m actually more interested in lust—”
Disregarding Sora’s interest, Plum raised her chest as if bending
“We Dhampirs have finally brought it to fruition!”
And then the magic that even Elf had been unable to reach, that
had astonished even a Fliigel, was explained once and for all:
“If it’s indeterminate, all we have to do is determine iiitl If romantic
love is a feeling that differs for every person, then all we have to do is
arbitrarily impose our own definitiooonV’
-What was it with this absurd logic? Love magic, so common in
games, had never felt as wrong as it did today. With a glance over to
the Shrine Maiden—who looked back at him as if regarding a pile of
“...Uh, but this obviously isn’t love.”
Sora mumbled with rolling eyes.
“No! If the Shrine Maiden perceives herself as being in love, that is
looove! For love— is an illusion to begin withl”
Whaaaaam. The race excelling most in stealth and illusion—in the
manipulation of mind and perception—laid it out without any
“...Shiro. I have never been as disillusioned with love as I am
Ignoring the siblings as they contemplated their philosophy, Plum
allowed herself to be carried by her momentum.
“Come, King Sora. The Shrine Maiden must now recognize all
things creepy as love! The time has come for you to let out a decisive,
overwhelming, just all-out creepy line to make sure! Do it!”
At hearing creepy chanted over and over, a desire to say something
welled up inside Sora—but he swallowed it for now.
“Uhh...‘Shrine Maiden, I wanna get all hot and bothered and lick
you all over...’”
At these first words that popped into Sora’s head, the Holy Shrine
Maiden reacted—with a step back. “Ohh... No, Sora, you mustn’t say
such things—it makes me more and more in love with you! V”
“Yo, Plum! You think these lines and that expression match?! You
notice she’s looking at me with utter contempt?! Dude, she’s clearly
telling me with her eyes to fuck off and die, you know?!”
Tears in his eyes, Sora grabbed Plum by the collar and shouted, but
the Dhampir puffed herself up with pride all the more as she shook
“That is the form of the Holy Shrine Maiden’s love. That’s how it is
now, you seee? Isn’t it magnificent?”
“Sure, it’s magnificent. Now hurry up and stop it! My sanity is
getting shaved away at Mach speed!”
—Nay, I say. This can be no love spell, no cheat code...
Myyy, that was an experience... Tis worth living long indeed.”
The rite dispelled, the Shrine Maiden’s laughter jingled gleefully.
Relegating that sight to the corner of his eye—so the Werebeast would
not catch on to his wounds—Sora addressed Plum.
“Okay, I get your sure thing or whatever. But why don’t you do it
If they had the means to make someone fall in love so
unconditionally, the Dhampir might as well have done it themselves.
But Plum dropped her shoulders as she answered.
“You see, the last male Dhampir is still youung... What the queen
desires is a ‘prince’—”
Spinning her hands around and making some magic circles or
something float in the air, Plum continued:
“It’s a spell to disguise perception... It may be quite the spell, but
even so, it can’t, say, make the Shrine Maiden fall in love with some
rock over theere... It has to be at least a man with the ability to
—Then, wordlessly tugging the hem of Sora’s clothes, Shiro showed
him her phone. Glancing at the words typed there, Sora replied:
“Hmm... ‘Then it doesn’t have to be Brother,’ huh. Most true.”
—At Sora’s words, the Shrine Maiden’s and Izuna’s ears twitched.
“Hey, Plum, can multiple people go into the queen’s game?”
“Huh? Uh, yes. I think so...though it’ll take some doing since the
rite to meddle in the queen’s dreams is already such a big deaaal...
May I ask why you can’t do it by yourself, Sirrr?”
“Sorry, but cheats are a last resort. If we’re gonna do this, I want to
check our ability to do it fair and square.”
'The trickster has a mouth...”
“Hey there, Shrine Maiden, don’t you go talking shit—a cheat is an
unbeatable con that breaks the rules; a trick is a method encompassed
by the rules that means you lose if you get caught. They’re
fundamentally different, right?”
—Though the Shrine Maiden and the rest didn’t know it, Sora and
Shiro—even in their old world, though they may have used mind
games and tricks—had a policy of never using cheats.
“A game should be played out for all it’s worth within the scope of
the set rules. If you ignore the fundamental rules, you can’t call it a
game. We’ll use bugs, we’ll use broken characters, we’ll use whatever
helps us win as long as it’s official—but we don’t break the specs.
That’s out of the question.”
He punctuated this with a single nod.
Then Sora realized something—and with a look toward the Shrine
Maiden and another nod, he asked:
“—Hey, Shrine Maiden—can you swim?”
The Shrine Maiden responded with a shake of her head. “—Even if I
cannot, ’tis more than enough for me to simply walk in the water.
What of it?”
“I was thinking if it’s okay with you, we’ll take her up on her offer—
and go to Oceand.”
“...Hmm, well, I suppose. The reward’s quite a nice one, and it looks
like you have a chance of winning.”
“—Shrine Maiden, is there anyone you know who’d be cut out for
At this question, the Shrine Maiden paused briefly to consider. Then
—her hand placed strategically over her mouth to obscure the smile
rising unbidden to her lips as she imagined the imminent change in
Sora’s expression—the Shrine Maiden announced:
“—Ino Hatsuse. I understand that man has taken thirty wives.”
Elkia Royal Castle: the royal bedchamber. Steph, having surrendered
herself to the bliss of sleep for the first time in a long time, now drifted
through the land of dreams—
“We heard the story, you old fart! Now your fate
She tumbled out of bed at the explosive noise that rocked the castle
and the roar of rage that eclipsed even that.
“Wh-what’s going ooon?!”
Steph, screaming and writhing from having struck her head,
nevertheless grasped whose voice—correction: howl—she’d heard and
immediately headed in that direction. That is, she made for the Great
Conference Chamber, even forgetting that she was still in her
bedclothes as she grabbed her sheets and flew out of the room.
Practically kicking down the door to the Great Conference
Chamber, Steph saw what was most likely—no, unquestionably—the
source of the boom: Jibril. And perhaps because of it—
“Wh-what is going on here...?”
Ino Hatsuse’s cards—he had been playing on Steph’s behalf—along
with those of his opponents (nobles, presumably) and reams of papers
all floated through the air in the wreckage of the Great Conference
Chamber. The smoke had yet to settle. And the origin of this calamity,
now noticing Steph, finally spoke:
“Oh, little Dora, good day. My masters instructed me to shift us to
Elkia at once, and as we have a fair number of people, I opened a
rather large hole in space. Is everything all right?”
—So had there been a chance of everything not being all right?
Steph ignored that concern and peered through the smoke.
Whereupon she saw Sora, bounding as if to smash the floor-
bellowing as he stomped toward Ino with enough force that it seemed
he might smash right through the floor.
“Defendant Ino Hatsuse! Charged with the grave crime of
having so much of a damn life you took a double-digits’
worth of wives! In the court of summary jurisdiction in my
head, all members of me, upon my arbitrary and biased
judgment, unanimously pronounce you guilty and sentence
you to the penalty of death! According to the laws of the
galaxy, you—here and now—should become space duuust!!”
“...Ahh...King Sora, Sir, the things I would like to say to you
number like unto the stars in the heavens.”
Faced with the return of the King of Hooky—and let us also add, the
Mad King—after half a month, Ino twitched as he held something
back—and yet. A single line from Izuna, who popped up behind Sora,
made Ino freeze.
“...Grampy...are you a ‘seeks monster,’ please?”
“Huh—?! Izuna, where did you learn that—?!”
Perhaps not knowing its meaning, Izuna tilted her head.
“...That’s what that asshole Sora called you, please.”
“Hey, you hairless monkey jackass!! After dumping this mountain
of work on me, what did you teach my granddaughter, you
Unable to maintain his exterior, I no smashed a table apart,
bellowing. But seeing this, Sora looked to the heavens dramatically
and waved his hands about, pointing.
“Ho! Behold, Izuna! This is the face of a criminal whose grave sin
has been thrust before him. Is it not a horrible sight?!”
Izuna, looking disillusioned, mumbled further:
“...Grampy, you’re a damn playboy.”
“Wha-n-no, Izuna! Your gramps gave each of them the love
“Aah, aah! Silence, silence, you slave of your groin! Cease your
excuses and take with honor—gkhh!!”
Riding on Sora’s back, Shiro’s whisper was as soft as the force she
applied with her arms round the vexed Sora’s throat to shut him up.
—By the time the smoke was finally beginning to clear:
“Eh-heh-heh, you folks are always so lively, every time...”
With a sound of small bells and the noise of clogs knocking against
the floor—the golden fox revealed herself.
“Wha—H-Holy Shrine Maiden?!”
To Ino, who prostrated himself the moment he caught sight of her,
the Shrine Maiden commanded:
“Ino Hatsuse—we henceforth wend to Oceand, in full force.”
She continued in her amused and pleasant tone:
“We’ll explain on the way, but it happens this is the time I would
like you to display the full force of your predilection for philandering.
Have you no objections?”
“H-Holy Shrine Maiden... O Holy Shrine Maiden, to think that even
you see me in such a—”
Despite the fact that Ino seemed moments away from wetting the
floor with tears, the Shrine Maiden lowered her voice slightly and put
the question to him again—
“—Have you no objections?”
—Ino raised his face and looked around. Looking at the faces
assembled there, who knows what conclusions he drew in the end—
but his reply was succinct:
“...As you wish. It shall be done.”
Confused, Steph lurked by the door, unable to follow the situation.
“Yo, Steph. You look great. It’s been two weeks, has it?” asked Sora
nonchalantly, as if only just noticing her. Seeing him, countless
emotions whirled in Steph’s heart. Rage, rebuke, volubility, curiosity
—. But before any of that, Sora’s face, one she hadn’t seen in so long,
made her vision blur. The many lines she’d prepared for when she
finally saw him again all flew away. Steph decided to let alone the
drops that formed as she clenched her eyelids. She decided not to
think about what emotion inspired them, and simply following her
feelings, she opened her—
“Aye, policy’s been progressing right quick in Elkia, too, I see-
under Ino Hatsuse’s direction, was it?”
Dude, it was Steph. We just put Ino there to keep her under control
and advise her.”
—So it was that following this exchange between the Shrine Maiden
and Sora, only a foolish noise dropped out of Steph’s gaping mouth.
Her eyes widened at this explanation, a not-so-subtle change ignored
by the Shrine Maiden, who smiled as if grasping the situation.
“—I see, I see. That’s why you put up the banner of building a
bloody Commonwealth and then, as the would-be presiding
monarch, the two of you dallied freely in the Eastern Union... You’re
as wretched a man as ever, I see.”
At the Shrine Maiden’s smug words, Sora replied with a similar
smile. “They say leave things to the experts—we can always count on
Steph when it comes to politics.”
“...And when you consider you weren’t present, all the more, eh?”
“Yeah. What we were more worried about was that some other
country might take the chance to mess with us.”
—I no and Steph gasped. But also looking at the papers, Shiro
calmly carried on her brother’s thought.
“...‘Brother and, I, aren’t home’...No matter, how you look at it...it’s
a trap...” She continued:
“...To jump, into...that trap...you gotta be, stupid.”
“Those morons don’t have a chance in a million against Steph, who
plays us all the time —and learns every time she loses. Which is why
we could relax and focus on the Eastern Union!”
Steph and I no could only gape, flabbergasted. But Sora hardened
his expression a bit and added, “But playing that often is overdoing it.
Steph, why’d you take all the matches ?”
—At this reproach, Steph’s thoughts froze. Come to think of it...he
was right—why had she accepted all the matches? It was she, the one
challenged, who held the right to decide the game or whether to play
at all. Why had she exerted herself so? Steph’s eyes widened once
more as she asked herself this, yet Sora continued:
“Steph—I’m counting on you, but don’t push it. Also—like, what...”
He scratched his head as if slightly embarrassed, then muttered, “...
—Those were the words she’d wanted to hear. That’s all she’d
wanted as she’d been pushing herself so hard. Her welling tears, the
understanding permeating her brain, feeling her body heat rising, her
cheeks flushing—all of this accosting her at once, she still managed to
“N-no... It is only because you two are so unfathomable that I
assumed I had to hurry—that is all!”
Sora approached the stammering Steph. Her heartbeat accelerated.
“So, Steph. Hate to spring it on you when you’re tired, but like the
Shrine Maiden said, we’re heading to the city of Siren.”
“Eh, uh, all right... S-so?”
Steph averted her gaze. Sora’s eyes flitted over to where an
unfamiliar, dark girl with a face assailed by troubles stood.
“See, apparently Siren and Dhampir are about to go extinct or
something, so we’re gonna go save ’em real quick—or really...”
And then, casually as you please—
“...we’re gonna go grab the resources and territory we need so badly
to build our Commonwealth with the Eastern Union.”
At Sora’s declaration, the corners of Steph’s eyes got a little hotter.
It was true after all. This man had done everything for the sake of
Elkia. And now it was Shiro who approached.
“...So, Steph... Can, you, sew...?”
“So, basically, we’re going to the beach. Can you make us all some
swimsuits? I’ll give you the designs.”
—It meant, in other words, that her workload would increase
again. Steph, smiling, decided to just quietly pass out...
—The beach. One of the top two destinations for rest and recreation,
competing only with the mountains. A place where, come summer,
throngs of people will gather instinctively, like insects to light.
—In reality, it’s a setting where the sand stuck to your feet
stubbornly refuses to leave your body, your sunburned skin torments
your flesh for days to come, and the salt breeze corrodes your hair
every second. When you think about it, it’s a landscape whose appeal
was absolutely mystifying; a place meant strictly for people with lives.
However—even a place as loathed as this can take on a new meaning
in a different set of circumstances.
“Hhh... Wiiin... T”
Under a Japanesque parasol, Sora reclined on a bed woven of grass
with a glass in his hand. At his sides were several animal-girls,
apparently servants of the Shrine Maiden, who fanned him with giant
leaves. Their short, little Japanese-style coats—apparently Eastern
Union swimsuits—opened wide at the front, offering glimpses of their
breasts and lower bodies as they slipped smoothly out from under
what little coverage the cloth offered, in contrast to their furry ears
and tails, more dazzling than the sun. Waving the glass in his hand,
Sora thought to himself—this was heaven.
“...King Sora, you seem quite content under this sun... Rather high
and mighty, aren’t you?”
“Yup! Thanks to Jibril’s mysterious sunscreen, formulated with
optical spirits or something! But never mind that—”
Sora answered I no’s cool voice in a suspicious tone, without looking
“Old man, I’m keeping you out of my vision, okay, but don’t tell me
you’re wearing nothing but a loincloth again?”
“Sir, what an odd thing to say... What shall a man wear to the sea
but a loincloth?”
The brawny elder, wearing only—just as Sora predicted—a
loincloth, gave him a quizzical “Hmm?” look. With a displeased sigh,
Sora pointed to himself and mumbled:
“Look, Gramps. Look at me. What do you see?”
“—Sir, you are of that persuasion?”
“You trolling, old fart?! Shorts and a shirt! This is perfectly good
Sensing a voice tinged with disgust as the old man retreated a few
steps, Sora sat up shouting. But I no just shook his head, Dear, dear.
“I see a man ashamed to show his meager body. This is quite
prudent, Sir. It is good courtesy to hide that which should not be
“I have no interest in being some macho douchebag like you! And
don’t say ‘meager’! After that FPS match with Izuna, I realized my
physical fitness is actually important and started working out a little,
believe it or not!”
His venom spent, Sora clucked his tongue once in irritation and lay
He kept silent about how he himself had been surprised that his
limit for crunches and push-ups was fifty.
“...Anyway, screw you. Where’s everyone else?”
“Women take time to get ready, Sir—pardon me, is this news to
“I’m trying to say I hate sitting here talking to a macho old fart!
Have you heard of sarcasm?! Have you?!”
Squinting and yelling, Sora turned his gaze behind him.
“Yooo, Shirooo, are you done yeeet?”
“...Mm, just...a little longer...”
Shiro’s voice emerged from the trees at Sora’s back. There was some
rustling or something going on back there, but in any case, it seemed
she was having trouble changing by herself.
“What would be the problem with simply changing in the changing
room with the other ladies?”
“You said it. In fact, that’s just what I said, until I got chased the
hell out...by you!”
Sora and Shiro could not separate. Changing was no exception.
Under this self-evident truth, at his usual pace, as nature would have
it, in the most natural way, Sora had attempted to follow Shiro into
the girls’ changing room—then got chased the hell out, and here we
“Let you peep on the bare flesh of the Holy Shrine Maiden? Even if
Tet forgives it, I never will.”
“Dude, the Shrine Maiden was all, ‘Tis no matter to meee’—!”
Suddenly a sense of humiliation overcame him for having bowed to
the intimidation of a muscled old fart in a loincloth.
—Was it too late to rush past I no? Sora painted the plot in his mind,
“...Here you bitches go, please.”
“Hmmm...Izuna, my dear, you’re so darling no matter what you
At the the young girl’s salutation and the sudden transformation of
Ino’s voice into that of a sweet old man, Sora turned. Izuna was the
first to show up fully changed, and I no softly sighed, laying a hand on
“When I heard the swimsuits were chosen by Sora—l was worried
at what sort of disgrace might be forced upon you.”
“You ignorant old fart! For starters, everyone knows a little girl is
supposed to wear a school swimsuit!”
Izuna toddled down the sand, waving her big tail. Her swimsuit
was from Sora and Shiro’s world...an old-school swimsuit. Naturally,
until now, such a thing had not existed in this world. It should also be
noted that synthetic fibers such as polyester were not available, even
in the Eastern Union. However, school swimsuits originally, before
the war, had been made of silk. Using the disturbingly detailed
information recorded in the tablet, Steph had recreated the garb most
admirably. Steph—the highest of props to you.
“...But you really did manage to keep it quite modest.”
“Once more I tell you: Old fart, you are ignorant. What sort of
romanticism is there to be had without taking culture into account?!”
—Yes, Izuna, on top of her school swimsuit, wore a jacket-like
garment with dangling sleeves and an open front like those of the
surrounding Werebeasts. Animal ears. Little girl. School swimsuit. All
fused with the culture of the Eastern Union—!
Standing before Sora, Izuna spun around as if looking behind her.
“Is this okay, please?”
“C’est magnijique... You were already so cute it’s not even fair, and
now you’re a frickin’ cultural heritage.”
Ino watched Sora flash a thumbs-up and a fine-young-man smile.
“...I can’t say I follow, but you have my honest praise for not
seeking lasciviousness in my granddaughter.”
“U-umm...I-I’m done changing.”
“Oh, Steph. Wowww, you did some fine work-”
Turning toward Steph’s shy voice to commend her—Sora froze. The
red-faced Steph had preserved the lacey, girly image of her normal
clothes as she wore a bikini-style swimsuit decked out in frills and a
pareo, squirming and shifting her eyes as if she didn’t know what to
do. As far as Sora knew, Elkia had no swimsuits like that. In Elkia, a
swimsuit meant—you know. Those full-body drawers that passed for
swimsuits in the dark ages of seventeenth-century Europe. That was
why he had asked Steph to make some proper swimwear. From the
look on her face, it could be surmised that Steph had conformed to
the swimsuit design Sora and Shiro had ordered for her as well. Sora
froze like a rock—but not for the bikini. Rather, it was the ample
volumes that threatened to spill from its top that stunned him,
sending figures bounding through his brain.
“—It—it can’t be. Eighty-nine, fifty-eight, eighty-nine...a power
level of fifty thousand—?!”
“H-how did you—? I mean, no! What are you talking about?!”
Sora shivered at the unexpected boob force indicated by the meter
in his brain. What could explain this? Had he all this time overlooked
it as a consequence of the undue diligence of Mr. Steam?!
“...Mm, mmgh... How can Steph be so high-level-?!”
“Er, uh, I—am I? I-I wouldn’t say that...”
Steph squirmed as if not entirely displeased. Sora opened his mouth
to utter another word or two—but was stopped short.
“Please excuse me, Master. It took some time to ‘weave’ the
appearance you requested.”
“Heh-heh-heh, you mustn’t worry, dearie. Keeping a lad biting his
nails while waiting is what a good woman does, don’t you know?”
At the two voices, everyone turned—and in that instant, the needle
on the meter in Sora’s brain was pinned at maximum. Sora and I no,
before they could think, followed their instincts. Which told them it
was their duty to throw themselves on the ground then and there.
Where they’d turned were—indeed—two goddesses.
Two goddesses—of whom one was Jibril. Her long hair, which
reflected light and changed color, fanned by the breeze in the seaside
sunlight, grew all the more brilliant. A sculpted beauty, worthy of
being called the ultimate, at which any sculptor’s heart would break
at first glance. Covering this masterpiece of a body was the swimsuit
Sora had specified. For Jibril, who showed plenty of skin regularly,
he’d intentionally picked a one-piece, woven with string across her
midsection. From a largish shawl wrapped like a pareo around her
hips extended her faintly glistening wings. The halo turning above her
head took all this divine splendor and made it still greater. Her beauty
was such that it stole away any room for doubt she’d come from the
sky, rendering the reality beyond question.
Two goddesses—of whom one was the Shrine Maiden. Her golden
hair and ears and tails, and her fair skin, lit by the sunlight, could
only be summarized as—an aureole.
Lines somewhat more reserved, but if Jibril was the ultimate—the
Shrine Maiden could only be the supreme. Her soft skin, usually
wrapped in a kimono, was now wreathed in the consistent theme of a
swimsuit resembling a short Japanese-style jacket. But through her
languid manner of dress suggestive of a club hostess, a “butterfly of
the night,” her shoulders peeped lithely, lustrous. Her golden hair and
two tails, scintillating as they slowly waved with each step on the
sand, and the bewitching smile that arose on her face, convinced one
of the existence of the fox spirits that were said to live forever and
ascend to the divine—no mere spirit, but a deity who stood above
them all. Tears streamed down the faces of the two earthbound men.
They did not know why, yet without understanding anything, they
“...I, Ino Hatsuse, have finally learned the reason I was borrrn—!”
“Ohhh, god! I don’t know who or where you are, but, friggin’
inspired god who created Jibril and the Shrine Maiden for us in this
world—ahh, make me your disciple...”
A new religion was rising up. Steph and Izuna, having witnessed
one of its key tenets, felt obliged to interject.
“—Excuse me. I recognize that it’s a hard comparison to stand up
to...but can you really treat us this differently?”
“...? Didja all get sand in your eyes, please?”
Izuna, looking back and forth between Steph and the two still
prostrate, looked puzzled.
“Oh, Master, you honor me more than I deserve, but please raise
“Hmp, don’t stand on ceremony, lads. You may as well savor the
blessing of my seaside attire!”
Jibril lowered her head to the ground at the sight of Sora’s state as
the Shrine Maiden crowed with laughter. At the women’s urging,
Sora and I no rose tentatively. Faced again with the divine radiance of
the two, Sora and I no turned their gazes toward the sky together.
“...Somehow, it feels like I’ve already experienced more than
“...I must concur. My heart fills with the feeling that I have done
“...Shall we go back now?”
“...For once, our opinions coincide, Sir.”
—Apparently it was philosophy time for the two men. Though ever
at odds, in this setting alone, there was no bad blood, no wall between
the races. The two simply, as fellow men, looked up to the sky
together and nodded with the same feeling in their hearts.
—Why must there be fighting? When the world is so very beautiful
“Hey, hold on there! What do you suppose you came here for?!”
Upon the two walking the path of enlightenment, Steph’s voice
rang down like a clarion.
“...Why was it again?”
I am afraid, Master, that by my recollection, it was to visit the city
...Oh, that’s right. Sora finally remembered.
—Indeed. As Jibril had said, they hadn’t come just to swim. They’d
come because Plum had indicated that a boat from Siren would arrive
to pick them up. After all, the city of Siren—Oceand—was at the
bottom of the sea. Jibril, neither having visited nor able to see it, was
unable to shift there. Thus, Plum was to be their guide, but—
“So where the hell is Plum?”
Sora jumped at the little voice coming from his feet. How long had
she been there? Almost imperceptibly, two eyes peeked out of a crate
by his feet.
“...Uh, is that you, Plum? The hell are you doing? This is the
“P-please don’t be unreasonablle... Th-this is the most I can dooo?”
Plum answered, producing one of the patterns that arose when she
used magic—and tears while she was at it.
“Master, direct sunlight is lethal to Dhampir. Even with that box
around her, she must bend light or she will—”
At Jibril’s words, Sora remembered the “illness.” So given that it
was transmitted by sucking blood, that meant that the Dhampir
herself couldn’t get out in the sun?
“The greeting vessel from Oceand is to come at night, you
knowww? Why are we here in the middle of the day...?”
—Indeed. The boat was supposed to pick them up after the sun set.
Plum, groaning, Why did we have to come here when the daylight is
like the flames of hell—?
“But dood, it’s the beach. You want me to skip past the swimsuit
scene when we’ve got this crew? Are you nuts?”
—Though even Sora would have excused himself if he didn’t have
Jibril’s mysterious sunscreen.
“Hey, come to think of it, Jibril. Won’t that sunscreen work on
“Unfortunately, Master, for Dhampirs, it is being exposed to the sun
itself that is lethal.”
At Jibril’s unqualified ruling-out of hope, Plum provided a
“Uh, no... If I weave a more powerful rite, I’ll be fiiine...but, you
know, it’ll use a lot of power...”
Considering how tired she’d looked when she had first come to
them, basically she was saying that walking straight through this
blazing sun would wear her out to that point.
“Y-you seee...Sirens’ blood just isn’t enough to, uh, d-do anything
Whooosh, Plum peeked out of the box with a nice smile.
“If I could! Just lick the feet of Queen Shiro one more time, I’ll
have no trouble with that riiite...eh-heh-hehh!”
“Denied. You just squat there.”
At the swift stroke that cleft her proposal in twain, Plum let out
only a moan as she plonked her crate closed again.
...Hey, for being Rank Twelve, isn’t Plum just too frickin’ weak?”
—This was something he’d always thought about the vampires
postulated in his own world, but still...
“Dhampirs amplify their power with the blood they intake—the
strength of its soul,” Jibril answered. “If they ingest blood befitting the
height of their natural aptitude for illusion and stealth—for instance,
the blood of Elf—they become the vilest of assassins. In the Great
War, they were, in fact, something of a threat.”
...Ah, Sora thought, remembering that first night. Allowing that she
was off her guard, even Jibril had fallen prey to Plum’s tricks for a
“—Now look at them, right...”
Sora mumbled, squinting down at the crate as his feet. Seeing that
she was still trembling even inside the crate was almost sufficient to
bring tears to one’s eyes.
“—I’ve been thinking this for a while, but aren’t Elf and Fliigel a
little too different in power for being just one rank apart? I mean,
you’re saying this twerp can drink Elfs blood, but she’s gonna
vaporize if she drinks yours, right?”
Sora indicated the crate at his feet as he posed the question.
“Yes, for that is just where the ‘separation line’ lies in the ranking,”
“Simply speaking, ranks up to Seven are ‘living things,’ whereas
higher ranks are ‘living beings.’”
“You might understand it best by thinking of ranks up to Seven as
those possessing physical bodies, who reproduce by ordinary means,
and are generally defined as ‘living things,’ whereas the higher ranks
are energies or concepts that have acquired will, or in other words
—Hmm, then it was simple. It was the line at which common sense
no longer applied. Sora understood.
“While we’re on the subject, what about one above you, Jibril—
Gigant, was it? What’s the power relationship look like with those
“...Well you might ask. I should say a single standard Gigant might
be a feat to slay alone. If we aim for certainty, I should desire five
companions. What, there are plans to slay one? V”
“No, there aren’t. Stop sparkling your eyes!”
The dejected Jibril could destroy Elf, highest of the “living things,”
alone, with a single blow. But it would take a party of six like her to
bring down one individual of Rank Five.
—The races Rank Seven and below, you could say, did a pretty good
job surviving the Great War. Especially Immanity, I mean, us—that
“Speaking of us... Heyyy, Shiro, aren’t you done changing yet?”
Suddenly remembering that she was taking quite the long time,
Sora called into the trees behind him.
In response to Sora’s voice, Shiro poked just her face out from the
shade of a tree. Sora realized she seemed hesitant to come out for
“What’s wrong, Shiro? You can’t stand the sun after all? You don’t
have to if it’s too tough, you know.”
Though he’d put on Jibril-brand sunscreen, Sora himself was not
fond of sunlight. On top of that, Sora knew Shiro hated sunlight even
more than he did—and thus sympathized. But then Shiro shook her
head from side to side and finally, hesitantly, stepped out from the
“...Hmm, well, that is something.”
“Dearie me, if you aren’t the cutest little one.”
“...Shiro, you’re damn pretty, please.”
As Ino, the Shrine Maiden, and Izuna each dropped their individual
comments—Sora was simply frozen. Standing there was, clearly, the
same sister he’d always seen.
—The same—and yet.
As she tremulously left the shade of the trees, the girl was like a
jewel. Her long hair, whiter than snow at normal times, had been
combed out neatly and tied at the back. Illuminated by the sunlight, it
was no longer like snow—but a petrifact, a diamond. From her white
bikini and red hoodie, which seemed to symbolize her hair and ruby
eyes, peeked her skin—
—which, just like her cheeks, carried a faint vermilion flush.
At the unnatural feeling of having been completely entranced by his
sister, a questioning groan escaped Sora’s lips. But at that groan,
Shiro’s face clouded with worry.
“...I, don’t...look good, after all...?”
As Shiro mumbled with her eyes lowered and receded back toward
the trees, Sora finally came back to his senses. In a panic—to the
extent that he himself wondered what he was getting so flustered
about—he shook his head.
“N-no, that’s not it!! I was just amazed at what an unbelievable
beauty you are, Shiro—I mean, y-you know your brother already
knew you’re a flawless beauty! I already...knew, right? What?”
Shiro disregarded Sora as he tilted his head wondering what had
surprised him so much. At his side, Jibril and Steph, likewise
entranced, beamed. Their expressions betrayed their hearts leaping in
—Shiro cast her gaze downward shyly and, almost invisibly, smiled
“Indeed my master is wise... It is a feast of which my eyes are
“It’s not like that! It’s not like that! It’s quite normal to react to cute
things, I sayyyy!”
Her skin glistening, Jibril smoothly sighed, Hff... While Steph again
clenched her head as if in some kind of turmoil.
“Y-yeah? Mm, hmm, you look great! That’s my darling sister!”
Reacting to Shiro who’d walked up to him, Sora struggling to
regain his composure. Shiro, her hair mussed by her brother, nodded
once as if finally satisfied.
“—Th-that’s right, Plum, when specifically is your welcoming party
or whatever coming?”
Sora, feeling awkward somehow and then remembering his
original purpose, questioned the Dhampir. At Sora’s words, everyone
turned their eyes to the crate—to Plum.
Her face emerging slightly from the crate, Plum responded.
“Umm, around when the date changes...they’ll arriiive.”
Hmph, that’s quite a long time.”
Disbelievingly, Plum grumbled. “That’s why I said you didn’t have
to come this earlyyy.-.mghhh.” She said only this—perhaps unable to
bear the sunlight—before retreating into her crate once more.
“Well, ’tis no real loss, is it?” Thus brushing off any inconvenience,
the Shrine Maiden answered elegantly, at some point having rolled
onto the grassy bed upon which Sora had been reclining, as she was
fanned with giant leaves by her servant girls. “Why not think it a
long-deserved holiday and rest your bones as you wait. What is life
without a bit of leisure?”
Grinning and scratching his head, Sora exchanged glances with
Shiro. Shiro nodded once.
“Now that I think about it, this is the first time Shiro and I have
ever been to the beach.”
Then, looking around at the eyes of Steph, Jibril, Izuna, and I no,
“Why don’t we give this fun thing a try?”
—A blinding white beach. A sea that reflected the sky like a mirror.
Through a sky so blue it looked like nothing so much as a primary-
color ink spill, the rays of sun spilled down, and the distant clouds
flowed. In a place where the only noise was that of the rippling waves
and the roar of the sea, sprays of mist soared through the air. It was
here, at a party, frolicking in the shallow water wetting her legs, that
Shiro served a fabric beach ball.
“I just have to bounce it on, yes? Here, pass, Miss Izuna!”
Steph deftly set the pass from Shiro high in the air toward Izuna.
However, Izuna simply caught the ball as it flew toward her: Fump.
“...? I don’t get the damn rules, please,” she muttered in
bewilderment, her head tilted. Unlike Steph, who’d gotten the idea, it
seemed Izuna didn’t grasp the point.
“Uhh, it’s not really a game, is the thing... Well, okay, let’s say this.
Y ou can’t grab the ball. Y ou have to pass the ball to the next person
only touching it once, and if you can’t, then you lose— right?”
Watching Izuna’s nod with a warm and fuzzy look, Steph rambled,
blissfully ignorant. “How nice... It’s wonderful to play a game like this
where we can just relax once in a while, isn’t it?”
Yes, blissfully ignorant of the fact that Sora’s and Shiro’s eyes, as
well as Izuna’s, had sharpened to the keenness of blades. As soon as
rules had been set out and explicated, what we had here—was a
game, pure and simple.
—I’ll, kick your ass—! The three other than the maudlin Steph thus
bared their fighting spirits entirely openly...
“...’Kay, then...I’ll, go, first...”
With these words, Shiro, having been given the ball, quietly
exchanged glances with Sora.
—Shiro took the ball and casually dipped it in the water.
And so the fabric beach ball, with only its bottom wet, was tossed to
Steph without spin. And to be clear— in the precise moment there was
“Yes, yes, passing it ooon!”
Silent diplomacy streaked through the air, but Steph set for the
return without recognizing this. The ball that Shiro had sent rigged—
if Steph set it without moving—to go slightly off course. As a result,
the ball passed by Steph to Izuna had spin.
—But weighed down by the water absorbed just at its bottom, the
ball’s course swayed irregularly.
Izuna, however, read this instantly. Launching off the ground in a
spray of water, she caught up with the ball and received it. Only
received it. By the measure of Izuna’s arms, it was a light return. But
through Izuna’s little body, the ball had acquired the overwhelming
force of Werebeast.
—That was enough to send it hurtling at Sora with terrifying speed.
But Sora, seemingly unfazed by this, thought to himself: Well, hope
you don’t think it’s gonna be that easy! In the trajectory of the ball
that had been only received by Izuna but was nonetheless flying at
him as if spiked by a pro volleyball player, Sora intentionally fell
dramatically into the water, raising an aqueous pillar. The projectile
penetrated the pillar, but by the time it reached the collapsed Sora, its
speed was negligible. From this unreasonable position, Sora somehow
set the ball with his feet and sent it over to Shiro.
—Now thoroughly soaked, the ball had gotten quite heavy.
“...Mm—Steph...go, for it...”
Shiro just barely managed to set up the wet and abruptly heavier
ball for Steph.
Yes— with incomparable precision to a point Steph could just barely
reach. To a position from which, even if she got it given the angles of
entry and escape, Steph—
“Uh, I’m sorry, Miss Izu—”
—managing to keep it in play, inevitably sent it careening a
considerable distance from Izuna.
—She couldn’t get it. With the ball flying off in some totally wrong
direction, there was no way she could reach, yet—
—At Sora and Shiro, subtly raising the comers of their mouths as if
to say and that’s the game, Izuna ground her teeth.
“...Don’t screw with me—please!!!”
She launched off the ground. She landed— impact. The water that
had been at her feet now explosively scattered to reveal the sand
beneath at the shock of her step—but flying as if to outstrip it, as if
gliding over the ocean, Izuna caught up to the ball and, still at that
speed, swung her arms. The shock wave of her swing was enough to
raise a wave—but—
Water sprayed as a fine mist from within the ball, which exploded
in Izuna’s hands. Sora raised his voice.
“GG, you lose!”
—?...! Th-that’s not fair, please! You bastards, please!”
“If you don’t pass it on to the next person, you lose... Izzy... Using,
all your strength, was your downfall.” Shiro answered, exchanging a
light high-five with Sora.
That’s right: if Izuna, a Werebeast, hit the ball, heavy with water,
with all her might, at that moment, the ball, unable to bear the
shock, would rupture, and she’d be unable to pass it on to the next
person. Once she realized that had been Sora and Shiro’s aim all
along, Izuna still argued.
—But what if the ball hadn’t ruptured then? “...You people... Don’t
you even have the concept of playing just for fun?” Steph muttered,
doused by the wave produced by Izuna’s step and subsequent swing...
“Huh? Not for games, nope.”
“Isn’t the damn point of games to kick ass, please?”
At the three immediate answers, each incredibly immature in its
own way, Steph gave herself over to the wave—
Meanwhile, the Shrine Maiden, who had been watching from a
distance, spoke up in wonder.
“Well!...You beat Izuna at sports. Tis a feat, aye... Your disregard
for the spirit of the rules is as remarkable as ever, but even so, I must
—Her words broke off. At the instant sensation of someone behind
her, the Shrine Maiden promptly moved her hands to her chest. But
however unhinged Werebeast’s reaction times may have been, the
blink of an eye wasn’t fast enough. Having suddenly had her
swimsuit pilfered, the Shrine Maiden did the best she could to hide her
breasts as she directed a sharp glare at the culprit.
“—Goodness, just what are you after, my dear pigeonl”
Jibril received the look while playing with the swimsuit she had
stripped from the Shrine Maiden.
“According to my masters’ literature, in a situation such as this, a
‘nip slip’ is the law offatel”
“Ohh, I see... In which case, we can of course expect you to fulfill
this fate, eh? V”
Still hiding her chest, the Shrine Maiden softly lowered her center of
gravity. As the Shrine Maiden unmistakably assumed a fighting
posture, Jibril only laughed at her merrily.
“Indeed, to this I object not. However, if you suppose that a little
dog with no power but to crawl the earth is capable of taking
anything from me—I must suggest that you reconsider your position.
“Heh-heh! / You talk, don’t you? But you’ve got it wrong. I’ve got
more powers than crawling the earth.”
Still smiling, but with sparks of hostility flying so fiercely it seemed
you could see them—
“Oh, Shiro, you don’t know how to swim?”
“...Huh, Steph...you, can?”
Steph balked at this new revelation about Shiro, who had seemed
capable of anything. But with Shiro gawking at someone who could
“...Holy shit, please.”
“No less should be expected of Miss Stephanie. From administration
to cuisine to needlecraft... And then to think you can swim. But, if I
may ask innocently—for what reason is it necessary for animals that
live on land to be able to swim in water?!”
“Gramps just made the point of the century! Land animals should
live on land!!”
—The whole crew, apparently bereft of anyone who could swim,
spoke as one. Steph, with a wry smile, took Shiro’s hands.
“You’re all hopeless. It’s more fun if you can swim. Here, I shall
“Come now, I have your hands; let’s try kicking to start.”
Drawing Shiro by her hands, Steph soothed the unenthusiastic girl
and tried to teach her the basics.
Suddenly, a massive wave arose and carried them all straight to
“.. .Uwp... ah.. .B-Brother...”
Shiro swept to shore by the wave, Sora ran in a panic and lifted her
up. Hugging her panting brother, Shiro muttered.
“...Brother...I’m, gonna, learn...to swiiim!”
But faced with Shiro, as if the seawater had gotten to her,
mumbling this determination with tears in her eyes, Sora confronted
those responsible for the massive wave, raising his voice.
“Hey there! Maybe you should consider moderating—I mean, at
least obeying the laws of physics...if you don’t mind?”
The voice he’d raised, though, trailed off at the sight before his eyes.
That sight being: crisscrossing the distant horizons of the sea, two...
“Hee-hee, though your words be grand, this is all we could ever
expect, isn’t it, isn’t it? V”
Jibril taunted this as she cut across the water. Just below her, the
body of the Shrine Maiden, leaping from the ocean floor, turned
scarlet as she stretched out her hand.
—The hand of the Shrine Maiden, who’d gone so far as to use her
bloodbreak, was nevertheless dodged by Jabril by the slimmest of
margins. But the Shrine Maiden went on—bounding and dashing
over the surface of the water— using her hands as a bra. The
Shrine Maiden, apparently having lost not only her swimsuit top, but
now even her hanten, had become so overwhelmed with something
akin to a murderous rage that she’d lost the will to hide and was
pursuing Jibril to get her swimsuit back.
“Heh-heh-heh! If I were you, I say, I’d prepare for the worrrst...I’ll
strip you to your bum in front of eeeveiyone!”
The Shrine Maiden. The agent plenipotentiary of Werebeast—the
strongest among Werebeast, was she? Running atop the water—on
the water!—and sometimes, albeit just for a moment, even on the air.
The Shrine Maiden, dunking herself again and again in the sea,
bathing in the water and wind, changing in appearance each time
from scarlet to gold—
“...Th-that’s...our Holy Shrine Maiden, holy shit, please.”
—but the one thing that was certain, as even Izuna watched in
disbelief, was that no one could intervene. Sora decided to write it off
as a natural calamity and looked away.
“Hmm... What a fine sight.”
At these words, Sora turned to see I no, and he followed the old
man’s gaze to find not only those who had been swept to shore—
Steph and Izuna—but also, sopping wet from the wave that had
clearly soaked the entire beach, the Shrine Maiden’s servant girls.
Huddled together as if their swimsuits were suddenly transparent,
they presented a vision that transcended words.
“Huh... All right, then. It’s still unforgivable to nearly drown Shiro,
but this is marvelous,” Sora commented, returning to the beach with
Shiro still in his arms.
“Yeees, a feast for the eyes, is it not, Your Majesty?”
“Yeah, if we just didn’t have you here, it woulda been perfect.”
This Sora muttered to the muscular old man who wore nothing but
a loincloth, doing his level best to keep the geezer out of his line of
Watching everyone frolicking, caressed by the waves, Steph smiled
“Hee-hee... We’ve been working so hard for so long...”
The brilliant rays of sunshine, the white sand. Returning to the tide,
she lightly kicked at the water, splish, splash. The waves lapping at
her feet, the wind blowing from the ocean, as if chasing away her
“...Everyone needs a break now and then, don’t they?”
Steph whispered with a deep sense of relief. At the pleasant scent of
the salty air, she wondered to herself when had been the last time that
she had taken it easy like this? It must have been before Sora and
Shiro came—no, before her grandfather passed away. Feeling that she
had not released her tension for many years—she took a deep breath.
“I’m so glad we came...!” Steph declared, seeking assent from no
one in particular.
“That’s a wrap! Good work, everyoooone!!”
As Sora thus called with half-open eyes ...shuffle, shuffle... they came
like zombies, trudging back from the sea.
“...Nghh... My hair, is all stiff...full of, sand...”
“Hff...I do apologize, Master, but I simply cannot bring myself to
find an affinity for the sea... The salt breeze gets in my wings, and I
know not what to say of the discomfort.”
“My tail sucks up the water and gets all heavy, please... It’s a pain
in the ass, please.”
“Hff, enough is quite enough if you ask me. Who came up with this
baffling ceremony of bathing in the sea?”
“O Holy Shrine Maiden, I apologize. I should not have allowed you
to become involved in this farce of King Sora’s.”
Despite the troupe’s sudden transformation, not unlike actors
having just finished a performance, there was one member—
—unable to follow. Steph, watching dazedly, stood alone in the sea.
“—Mm? What are you doing, Steph? We got the footage. It’s fine.
You can come out now.”
Sora said this while disabling his phone and tablet, which were
mounted on beachside trees.
“...Huh? What? What do you mean?”
“—Mm? Huh, you mean you were actually enjoying it for real?”
Having moved into the shade to towel themselves off, everyone
“...Uhh, sorry. Let’s see now, Steph... The truth is...”
Sora, apparently certain she had been aware the whole time, spoke
as if recluctant to say it.
“...No one here actually likes the beach...”
—...Mm-hmm... A large, deep collective nod from the group. The
Shrine Maiden, who seemed the most uncomfortable of all of them,
spoke as she groomed her golden fur.
“I gave this ‘trope’ Mr. Sora spoke of a whirl...but it’s still a mystery
to me... With all this sand in my tail... How do you reckon I shall get
“Lord Shiro—it is time!”
Jibril, her eyes flashing, handed something to Shiro.
—Props was the response indicated by Shiro’s thumb, her eyes
gleaming the same.
“...Shrine, Maiden...you should, try...this brush, and this, shampoo.”
“Oh, is that so? Well, let’s give it a try, then.”
Shiro, having deftly gained an excuse to fulfill her desires, smiled
darkly as she buried her face in the Shrine Maiden’s golden tail. And,
before you knew it, Sora was at it, too, with the same contents in his
“Yayyy-yooo, now I’m gonna do Izuna’s—”
But Ino towered in the young man’s path. Looks were exchanged in
an instant—two men face-to-face. “I shall tend to Izuna. Here, here,
Izuna, this way.”
“...Gramps, why don’t you take care of your own damn tail?”
“To be groomed by you, Sir, would defile Izuna. Why do you not do
something about that meager body of your own?”
But, paying no attention to these two, Izuna toddled straight in
front of Ino, and plopped down.
“Get this shit done, please.”
“...Old fart, that thing you’re doing with your face makes me want
to kill you without you saying anything. Is that some kind of special
In response to I no’s expression, which seemed moments away from
audibly echoing with a sound like owwnnnned, a vein bulged on
...Fshh, a wave splashed over Steph’s legs.
—It seemed the time when anyone had been aware of her had
come and gone...
—The sun was creeping below the horizon.
“...Hee-hee, it’s so beautiful...hee-hee-hee...”
Sitting with her arms around her knees on the beach, Steph, having
apparently fled into her own little world...was smiling.
—Then suddenly Sora spoke.
At this one phrase, the gazes of all collected on Sora.
“Hng, only bastards quit while they’re ahead, please.”
Izuna expressed her discontentment at Sora’s words; Sora, who had
been whiling away all this time until sunset with Izuna and his DSP,
shogi, tic-tac-toe, and other distractions that made one question why
they’d bothered to come to the beach in the first place.
“Uhh, no, I didn’t mean I’m bored of playing games with you.”
Rising, Sora addressed the nearby crate.
“Hey, Plum, where’s your welcome boat?”
-Voices rose at this reminder of their original purpose, which
almost everyone had forgotten, and Plum meekly poked her face out
of the crate. Plum—who must have been working her magic the
whole time judging from her face, which was so exhausted as to
harken back to their first meeting—answered:
“Nghh, I—I told youuu, it’s coming around when the date changes,
“But, I mean, my DSP and tablet are practically outta batteries. I’m
pretty much done here.”
“That’s why I told you we didn’t need to come so earlyyy...”
Nghh... Plum whined, her exhaustion clouded with dissatisfaction.
“Nooo, I’m bored. I wanna go now. Otherwise I’m going home,”
Sora said like a spoiled child.
How can you be so childiiish...?”
Sora ignored the petulant Plum and exchanged glances with the
Shrine Maiden and Shiro. The Shrine Maiden—who since getting out
of the water had been thoroughly fluffed up in the shade by Shiro—
and Shiro, who had been doing the fluffing.
—Both nodded subtly and muttered together.
“Right you are, lad...I must say this is getting tiresome.”
“Whaa... You, too? How can you be so...?”
Ignoring Plum, who seemed consumed by sorrow, Sora opened his
“I am here.” Jibril materialized from the void at the first mention of
“Have you pinned down the location?”
“Yes, Master. I believe that the location you and Lord Shiro
calculated is accurate.”
—Calculated? Sora took out his tablet for Plum, who didn’t seem to
understand what this was about. On the map of the plots of
neighboring areas of the Eastern Union was displayed a rough
estimate of the position of the city, which Shiro had traced back from
such factors as the slight amount of trade conducted by Oceand.
Looking over to the real-world position—beyond the horizon—Sora
“All right, I guess we’re ready —do it.”
“-Your wish is my command!”
At Sora’s words, loosening her expression into a joy she could not
conceal, Jibril knelt and executed his order.
“Huh, wh-what are you going to dooo...?”
Plum nervously voiced the same question Ino wanted to ask. Ino’s
Werebeast intuition was blaring an alarm. Identify it. As
circumstances require, stop it. These bastards are up to no good. So
Ino glanced at the Shrine Maiden. Seeing her slowly nod, No
problem, he sighed in relief. But then—at the Shrine Maiden’s snide
expression adding, But watch out, Ino went pale. Sora lifted Shiro and
“We’re bustin’ in. Everyone get back.”
As the two edged away from the beach, Jibril turned to Sora and
“—Master, are you certain it’s all right?” As if unable to wait, yet,
for form’s sake, squirming, she sought final confirmation.
“Sure. In any case, it’s gonna be constrained by the Ten Covenants,
The First of the Ten Covenants.
—In this world, all force of arms and bodily injury are forbidden.
“Any action that’s considered to be malicious or an exercise of force
of arms is canceled by the binding power of the Covenants—looked at
the other way, actions without malice are not canceled. Which means
that, if an action is executed, that means ‘Lord Tet’ himself has put
down his seal of approval saying it doesn’t violate anyone’s rights—
With these words, Sora raised his thumb with a bold smile.
Do what you can do for the win.”
At this reply, a solemn bow as if receiving the word of heaven. But,
contrastingly, making a sloppy smile, Jibril stood.
“Eh-heh, eh-heh-heh-hehh, how many years has it been? Geh-
heh-hehh, I cannot waiiit...”
As Jibril whispered with a drunken expression, her surroundings
suddenly distorted. Clearly light—no, space —seemed to wrench and
—The Ten Covenants. This was a world in which the exercise of
force of arms and bodily injury was forbidden by absolutely binding
Covenants. Ino supposedly understood it more than well enough, yet
the scene made his skin crawl.
“Come now, all fall back!” came the calm yet sharp voice of the
Shrine Maiden. At this brief command, without connection to their
consciousness, all the Werebeasts there reflexively jumped far away.
“...Huh? What is going on?” Steph was finally brought back to the
real world by the Shrine Maiden’s shout.
She realized that she was the only one still so close to the sea.
Thunk —space quivered with a sound outside the audible range.
Warped farther as even the sand on the beach was made to forget
about gravity and float into the air. Bending and twisting, space
converged in Jibril’s hand. The only one there who could see magic-
spirits—Plum. Yet she watched utterly at a loss as to what Jibril was
trying to do. If it was as Sora had been told before...it was only
natural. What Jibril was doing—was squeezing all the spirits out of
their surroundings. If there were no spirits to see, nothing could be
seen. It was much like a black hole. And—in Jibril’s palm, the wrung-
out spirits were compacted, compressed, condensed, contracted,
concentrated, and at last began emitting light. It shone clearly even to
the eyes of Sora and Shiro, Immanities incapable of seeing spirits. In
Jibril’s right hand, a column of light that seemed to whirl began to
form. Sora and Shiro were fundamentally unable to grasp or detect
the likes of magic or spirits—and yet. The halo above Jibril’s head was
spinning so fast it was already just a blur. There was only one thing
this could mean—
“...Hey, uh, y-you can’t be seriouuus! Wh-whaa, you meaaan—?!”
Finally grasping the situation, Plum scrambled to take cover, but,
unable to escape from her crate, she just screamed. Yes, there was
only one thing this spectacle could mean. It was something the likes
of which, at the very least, Sora and Shiro had never seen. Jibril was
about to exercise magic on a level that defied conventional
Jibril’s right hand gripped it firmly, though it was too amorphous to
be called a sword or spear. And—slowly raising it above her head—she
“Very well, Master.
“I shall proceed—with about five percent of my full power. V”
At a speed that left these words far behind, Jibril’s right arm swung
down. That was as much as Sora and Shiro were able to see. With a
lag like that between the sight of distant lightning and the sound of
the following thunder, a few moments later roared a boom that shook
the earth as waves reached almost to the heavens and—almost like
some kind of joke—the sea parted. Then—
In the wake of the tempestuous impact, Steph—as well as Plum,
still in her crate—rolled to Shiro’s and Sora’s feet.
—That was everything they were able to perceive next.
“Hff...¥ It is such a delight to be able to put forth force.” Jibril
bared a huge, refreshed smile. “I can only pray to one day be blessed
again with a chance to put forth my all—one hundred percent. V”
But at these words even Sora and Shiro broke into a cold sweat.
Even Moses would be incredulous at how cleanly she had parted the
sea...and then they remembered that Jibril had once unleashed her
full power on Elf, that is, too percent, with her “Heavenly Smite.”
And, albeit not entirely, they had managed to defend themselves
somewhat— “...Elf...Fiel’s guys are pretty sick.”
At Sora’s involuntary acknowledgment of their crew currently in
absentia, Shiro nodded.
Jibril, though, was unable to know what lay in their hearts. “With
this I have succeeded in seeing the city of Siren. We may shift there at
...The Werebeasts’ senses approached physical limits, but of course,
I no and Izuna and even the Shrine Maiden were incapable of seeing
anything but the horizon. At this point, no one could say a word to
Jibril, claiming she’d seen it as if she’d bent light itself with that blow
—Sora looked around at the wide berth that had been cleared
around the Fliigel.
“’Kay, guys, let’s go. Grab onto Jibril.”
The appalled Shrine Maiden returned gingerly to the beach with the
“I thought myself aware of it...but, seen in the flesh, that is one
“...Nghhh... If you can help it, you really shouldn’t get involved
with Fliigel at allll...” Crawling out of her broken crate, Plum
concurred. Fortunately for her, the sun had already set.
I no suddenly raised his voice in a panic. “Sir! Will you please not
subject our Holy Shrine Maiden to that sound!”
In apparent terror of the sound from the distortion of space in a
long-distance shift, I no was roaring.
“Oh, yeah. Jibril.”
“Yes, I understand the situation. With that—everyone please take
hold...oh, please, Dora, if you’ll just interrupt your nap for a moment
and come here.”
“...Uh, huh? What’s going—wh-what is this?! The sea has
Everyone gathered around Jibril, ignoring Steph and her lonely
“And now we shall shift to the metropolis of Siren—Oceand.”
Once more, Jibril’s wings started to glow, and again her halo
increased its RPM.
“The distance is 378.23 kilometers; however, the parted sea will
return any second now.”
As if responding to her words, the sea closed up with a roar.
“Therefore, it is surmised that Oceand lacks air.”
Oh, d-don’t worryyy; I’ve got a spell for breathing—”
But, whether she didn’t hear Plum’s voice or simply ignored it—
“Therefore—I will shift us along with all the air in a two-hundred-
The Shrine Maiden’s voice rang out once more. With it, the
Werebeasts who had come with her to the beach—excluding Ino and
Izuna—took a step away.
—That moment. They vanished, leaving behind the high-frequency
crack of splitting air.
And a low-pressure field imploded with the rebound of the air
punched out wholesale. It stirred up a little cyclone, forcing the
remaining Werebeast girls to cling to a tree as they rode out the wind
—but all who might have witnessed this sight...were gone.
<8> CHAPTER ^
—Oceand...the ocean-floor metropolis where Siren and Dhampir lived
in symbiosis. An insular nation built on local production for local
consumption, with almost no trade with other countries. Since it was
at the bottom of the sea, it was impossible to visit by any sensible
means. However, here was a group who had come by means that
were not sensible. Jibril’s shift after parting the sea had brought them
to a vista overlooking all of Oceand. At a depth of about two hundred
meters, when the seawater was displaced and then replaced—
“Well, that’s how it goes, eh...”
The Shrine Maiden, groaning behind Sora, turned beyond the air
membrane created by Jibril. There, the gravel and stones of the ocean
floor swirled as if in a blender, raging madly...but however violent
Jibril’s magic might have been, the Covenants disallowed her from
exercising force of arms. If she was able to execute it, it meant that it
did not imply harm to anyone else, supposedly...
“Are you certain this isn’t directly attacking the city or hitting
“Y-yeah, the Ten Covenants are absolute. It’s fine. I think.
Sora—thus reassured as the tide calmed and the gravel settled, the
seawater clearing—said, “—Huhh, this is pretty cool.”
At the majesty of the city spread below, Sora and Shiro each shared
their thoughts. In contrast to Sora’s fairy-tale, pastoral image, it was
actually a rather imposing metropolis. Countless structures stood in
rows, apparently built of stacks of seafloor stone. The stone walls,
glistening the color of pearl, were tiled with thin slices of coral and
shells, creating a brilliant display of color. Perhaps utilizing the
buoyancy of the water, there stood complex arches surely impossible
to build on land, as well as buildings conspicuously shaped like
inverted cones—and then Sora thought.
“...Hm? Why isn’t everything blue?”
Only the blue light of the sun was supposed to penetrate to the
ocean floor, but this question was answered by Shiro.
“...Brother, it must be...that.”
What Shiro pointed to, floating through the sea, were countless
fluorescent jellyfish and seaweed clumps—“streetlamps” utilizing
—Oh, so the city illuminated itself.
“What the hell? Everyone keeps saying they’re idiots, but this is a
pretty nice city.”
“...Ha-ha, thank youuu...,” said Plum with a bitter smile full of
resignation and self-deprecation. “We’re the ones who built and
manage it, you knowww...ah-ha-ha...”
...Unable to find words, Sora turned his gaze behind him. Jibril,
Izuna, and Steph all looked around curiously, and the Shrine Maiden
seemed wholly relaxed. And then there was—
“-King Sora, Sir... Just, what...is the meaning of this...?
Apparently having had his ears screwed up by the shift after all, I no
uttered his query through frequent fits of slight convulsing.
“Just like you asked, seems like Izuna and the Shrine Maiden are
fine. You better tell Jibril thanks, you know?”
“...Ahh, that’s right as rain, I suppose. But would you still allow me
Looking at Sora, Shiro, and Jibril one by one, the Shrine Maiden
gave a deep, deep sigh. “—Could you lot use at least a little common
“Hmm, offshoot of the dog family of the cat order, wherein lies
The trio who formed the perfect counterexample to common sense
peered at her together. One of the few sensible members of the party,
Steph, raised her voice in the Shrine Maiden’s defense.
“B-breaking through the sea to approach—no matter how you look
at it, it could scarcely appear more hostile!! Just how do you expect to
be led to the queen at this rate!”
“We’re the ones who were invited. They’re the ones taking forever.
We hurried to them in this urgent situation where their fate hangs by
a thread. In consideration of Jibril’s effort, they ought to greet us with
a dance of appreciation and welcome, right?”
The Shrine Maiden and Izuna, who possessed the senses to detect
Sora’s complete and utter bullshit, frowned with half-open eyelids.
The remaining Werebeast—Ino—was still writhing, covering his ears.
“...Ahh...I wouldn’t worry about thaaat...look.”
Even as Plum said this, everyone looking in the direction she was
pointing saw countless shadows flying out of Oceand and heading
their way in a big hurry.
—They had the tails of fish, covered in scales from the waist down,
and the appearance of human women from the waist up. Other than
having fins where their ears should have been, they didn’t look that
different from Immanities. The barest excuses for pieces of cloth
covered their breasts, while their necks and arms were unduly
ornamented. They appeared—indeed, just as in fairy tales—to be
“...All right. So that’s Siren. Great. Good thing it’s like I pictured.”
Sora, having been entirely ready to snap if the Deep Ones from the
Cthulhu mythos showed up, was relieved, but then—
“L-look, everyone making such a flurry... We’ll be reprimanded
Steph whispered nervously as the Sirens swam right up to their
membrane, and then—
Steph’s eyes popped wide. The Sirens gyrated, undulating their
bodies to and fro, showing off their brilliantly sparkling scales.
Ornaments of coral and pearl flashed radiantly against their smooth,
white skin. No consistent rhythm was detectable in the mermaids’
movements. They gracefully interwove themselves through schools of
multicolored fish, illuminated by the glowing jellyfish and the blue
sunlight. The sight was fantastic enough to captivate eveiyone’s
attention—so it probably was exactly as he’d suggested.
“.Brother, this is their dance, of appreciation...and welcome.”
“—Guess so... S-see, Steph, it’s all cool, right?”
“What boundlessly tolerant creatures...”
Eventually, one Siren emerged, decorated in a manner gaudy even
among such company. She beat her hands around and flapped her
mouth for some reason. Steph looked on, puzzled, but Sora produced
the answer immediately.
“We’re in Jibril’s air bubble; she’s in the water—her voice must not
be able to reach us.”
“Indeeed...I’ll go explain things and get some blood while I’m at iiit.
I’ll use that fuel to cast an underwater breathing spell on all of youuu,
so after that, please dispel this wall of aiiir...”
With that, Plum set off at a trot, broke through the air membrane,
and swam into the water. Watching her back:
“Even having said that we are the saviors come to rescue their race
“—Who would throw this sort of welcome after seeing such havoc
wreaked right afore their city?”
Jibril and the Shrine Maiden whispered with gazes sharp, at which
“...Siren, huh. Are they really that stupid, or—?”
“Hiii, guyyys, tee-hee-hee! ★I’m Amila, the stand-in for the queeen.
Mm, eeeveiything’s fiiine! ★”
They were stupid. Sora managed to swallow this frank opinion. The
Siren who had come right away after Jibril dispelled the wall of air,
this “Amila” chick, if you took her at her word—and, frighteningly
enough, it did seem to be the truth—was, in fact, the effective agent
plenipotentiary currently leading Siren. Beneath her rich, greenish
hair slid sensual, fair skin. She had big, bright blue eyes. Coral jewelry
adorned her entire body, but tastefully. This must have been the
mermaids’ formal dress. But what was inside—
“Thank you sooo muuuch for coming alll the way heeere! ★
Ohhhhh, goodness, there’s no way I can express this feeling except to
kiss you, righhht! Tee-hee-hee! Right?!”
“...Nah, let’s just say it’s the thought that counts...”
It wasn’t even a question of formality at this point. Strictly
speaking, she was speaking Immanity, but it was weird through and
through. As Sora & Co. rolled their eyes, still Amila went on
swimming pell-mell all around them
“Talk of you two has spread aaall the way down to the bottom of
the ocean! The miracle king who saved Immanity, they said you were
handsome, but now I see your face and you’re just my type and
you’re so hot and squeeeW Right?! ★”
“Ahaah. I see.”
It was the first time a girl had ever told him he was handsome,
come to think of it...but strangely, Sora wasn’t happy at all—.
“Aha! Your voice is sexy, too?! I’m sooooo wet! After all, we are in
the oceaaan, tee-hee-hee!”
As he silently looked over to Plum, the Dhampir quietly returned his
gaze, shaking her head sadly. With no sign of having noticed this,
Amila went on with a bubbly smile.
“Ohh, yeahhh! We’re preparing a party for you, tee-hee! ★You
want food? Or you want...me? V”
Foop —twisted the seductress Amila. Ready or not, behind Sora, I no
seemed to be heating up in more ways than one—
“Take me to your queen first. Save the hospitality for after we wake
At Sora’s curt dismissal, Ino somehow couldn’t believe his ears. But
Amila said, not seeming to take it personally:
“Oh, you’re so serious, juuust like they said! But you know what?
Amila kinda admires that, aha!”
“...I see... Well, okay then, let’s go.”
“Surrre! Let’s gooo! I’m gonna swim to the castle! Follow me,
follow meee, tee-hee-heee! V”
Guided by Amila, Sora’s party descended from the vista in the
direction of Oceand.
Ino whispered into Sora’s ear.
“...Sir, I am impressed at how promptly you managed to refuse.”
“Well, even we Werebeasts have our senses limited under the sea, so
I cannot ascertain your inner thoughts, Sir...but to show no hesitation
when faced with such an enticing lady, Sir. Y ou have self-control that
exceeds all imagination—”
His eyes half-lidded, Sora spat back at Ino.
“Gramps, are you out of your head? I may be a virgin, but what
am I supposed to feel for that...? Let’s go, Shiro.”
Leaving Ino behind to gape, Sora grabbed Shiro and headed
driftingly for the city—
Upon entering Oceand, they were greeted with ear-splitting cheers.
Every Siren was bursting with smiles, dancing, seducing, playing off-
tempo music. Their words—it perhaps not being necessary for them to
speak Immanity—were a complete mystery, but their welcoming
intent came through. Scattered here and there among these bustling
Sirens could be seen some girls who appeared to be Dhampirs. Their
expressions, though, in contrast to the Sirens’, tended to resemble
Plum’s. With miserable...smiles, their tired demeanors told Sora and
his crew, Thanks for coming all this way.
—The Sirens provided a stable supply of blood, and the Dhampirs
helped the queen reproduce. This symbiotic relationship had worked
perfectly well until the queen went to sleep and was now as a candle
in the wind—and yet—
“Hey, why are these guys so cheerful when they’re a step away
Indeed—the Dhampirs aside, the Sirens showed no sign of
“...What, didn’t I tell youuu...? They don’t understaand it.”
Jibril added to Plum’s answer with a weary smirk.
“The foolishness of Siren reaches the status of legend. Siren has
become a synonym for fool in the idioms of every race’s language,
and in fact, it is even used as a verb in some.”
Sora’s party walked the ocean floor as they followed Amila.
—Underwater ambulation. Confused as to whether it was
swimming or walking, Shiro proceeded on Sora’s arm. As for I no,
Izuna, and the Shrine Maiden—what would you expect of
Werebeasts? They had already figured out how to move in these
circumstances and were advancing with languorous, bouncing
strides. Meanwhile, Jibril, despite being underwater, was still “flying.”
“—Hey, so Immanity is supposed to be beneath this globally
recognized race of idiots?”
It was true that right now the ones most obviously struggling were
Sora and Shiro, but still.
“Before I met you, my masters, I would have answered, ‘Yes’—but
perhaps this would be a better way to put it: They are ranked one
above Immanity purely by virtue of having a special nature, but they
are the race that represents the extreme of stupidity.”
Plum followed the smirking Jibril with an ephemeral grin. “They
have no skills other than to eat, sleep, screw, and play, you seeee...
You know how fish contain things that make you smarter, but fish
themselves are stupid...? It’s a mysteryyy.”
This world really doesn’t have any races that get along, does it?
Sora thought with distant eyes.
“...Well, when you consider that the de facto agent plenipotentiary
“Oh, no... Her Highness Amila is actually far and away one of the
best, if only by virtue of being able to speak the Immanity tongue...”
She was one of the best—. Sora glanced at Plum compassionately.
Plum accepted his look with one of infinite, long-suffering
“Well, we’re in the same boat, as they sayyy... The plan and
methodology for you to help us—as well as the idea of intervening in
the queen’s dreams itself—were all concocted by uuus...They don’t
even have the concept of work. About the only thing they’re good at is
“.Must be rough, kid...”
Guided by Amila, they entered a building that was tall even by
Oceand standards. While being guided, suddenly Sora mentioned
something that had crossed his mind.
“Speaking of mating, Jibril... Sirens have kids with men of other
“Yes, that is so.”
“Are there any ‘half-breed’ Ixseeds crossing races?”
—It hadn’t been long since Sora and Shiro had come to this world,
but, in fantasy worlds, there were often “half-elves” and stuff—but he
didn’t remember hearing of any such “half-breeds” here. That was as
it should be, Jibril declared.
“There are not. The Ixseeds do have some similarities in
appearance, but their souls are completely dissimilar.”
—There was that “soul” again. This entity that had not been
demonstrated in Sora and Shiro’s old world apparently was common
sense in this one. It must be like chromosomes, Sora decided on his
own as he continued. “But Sirens mate with other races, right? So
doesn’t that make half-Sirens?”
“No, what is born is strictly a Siren.”
“Even though you’re using two souls?”
“Just as Dhampirs obtain soul from blood, Sirens obtain soul from
mating and transform it to create copies of themselves. It is because
this is less efficient than the reproduction of ordinary living things
that the partner is sucked dry.”
“...Still pretty sick.”
“I wonder? Strictly speaking with reference to literature—it is said
to be a pleasure that ascends to the heavens.”
“You mean the ‘ascend’ part literally, don’t you...and it’s a one-way
But, all right—in any case—
“This is why half-breeds—children inheriting the traits of different
races—cannot be born.”
Hmm...Sora pondered. I guess it’s because they’re indivisible that
Tet designated them as “sixteen seeds.”
“—Jibril, is there something on my face?”
Sora noticed Jibril staring at him.
“I believe I mentioned that Fliigel are not ‘living things.’”
“Yeah...you said they’re ‘living beings’ or something.”
“Therefore, our souls are amorphous. It would theoretically be
possible to intake a bit of soul through copulation and synthesize it
with my own to form a child into definite shape. It would only be
virtual, mind you, but in a sense, it would be possible to have the child
of an individual of another race.”
“—I’m not really seeing what you’re getting at.”
Lowering her head reverently, moving her halo to the back of her
head, folding her wings—a posture of loyalty shown only to her lord—
Jibril clasped her hands together as if in prayer and spoke.
“All you must say is ‘Bear my child,’ and your humble servant,
Jibril, will be ready at any time to become great with—”
Jibril found herself forcibly silenced by one sharp word from Shiro,
but their guide was oblivious.
Sora raised his head at the high-pitched voice that subsequently
“Here we arrre! This is the chamber of the queeeen!”
Amila put her hand on the door, slowly pushed it open—
—and light spilled out.
The chamber of the queen was quite expansive and draped with a
pink ceiling curtain and carpet. On the walls, seaweed emitting soft
light was woven into regular patterns to illuminate the room. Stained
glass canopied the high ceiling, which allowed what sunlight reached
as far as the ocean floor into the room. But even this faint light
seemed unnecessary due to the giant ciystal on the throne below that
emanated a presence that was almost blinding—. No, it only was
beautiful and clear enough to look like a crystal...it was actually a
mass of ice.
All who laid eyes on it were lost for words. Solemnly—or at least
doing her best to attempt solmenity—Amila announced:
“May I introduce—the queen of Siren...Her Majesty...Queen Laila
—Inside the ice, a beauty slept. Blue hair, rolling like the sea, draped
over her young, almost translucent face. Her white limbs, decorated
in dazzling gold, faded to seductive scales from the thighs. Reflecting
the light that illuminated the room, they seemed to sparkle with a
rainbow. The queen, wrapped in light and gold inside a coffin of ice,
had her eyes quietly closed on the open-shell throne. At the back of
the speechless party, Plum spoke with Amila.
“Oh, Your Highness Amila... It’s about waking Her Majesty,
buuut...King Sora and the others heeere...say they want to all try the
game togetherrr... Is that okaaay?”
At Plum’s words, Amila briefly made a face but repled:
'Whaaat? I don’t miiind! Is it okay with youuu?”
“Yeeess...S-sooo, I’d like about thirty assistants to help compile the
Amila nodding, mmm-hmmm. “Okay! Then I’ll go do the things to
wake up the queen, all righhht! Since you’re all going to do magic,
you’ll need blood, too, won’t youuu, tee-hee-hee! Amila’s going to go
get some more girls for you, so please do your best, Pluuum!”
“Righhht... O-okay, then, I’ll be off to get the rite ready to enter the
With a bow, Amila and Plum made their exits from the room.
Seemingly oblivious to this exchange, the rest of the party stood
staring at the ice in which the queen slept.
“Wh-what a comely lady...”
Steph went off heatedly as if she’d forgotten they were the same
gender. In fact, the queen’s alluring figure made not only I no, but
even Jibril, the Shrine Maiden, and Izuna all gawk, entranced—but—
“Hmmg...? You think she’s all that pretty, Shiro?”
As Sora and Shiro muttered quizzically together, everyone else
gaped at them.
“A-are you two out of your minds?! Wh-what would you call her if
“...Hey, you’re the one who needs to chill. I’m just saying she’s
nothing to get all worked up about.”
Sora groused and knitted his brow, annoyed by Steph’s outburst. He
looked at the queen again.
—Laila Lorelei, the mermaid princess sleeping in a coffin of ice. Her
appearance was, sure, pretty nice. But, Sora could clearly assert—she
wasn’t all that. It wasn’t like, for example, Jibril’s violent beauty
capable of silencing works of art. Nor did it resemble the divinely
bewitching attractiveness the Shrine Maiden had displayed under the
moonlight. It didn’t have Izuna’s innocent cuteness, not to speak of—
Addressing the searching expression of his sister beside him, Sora
declared, “Yeah. —Not even worth comparing. I mean, even Steph’s
better-looking than that.”
“...! Y-you can’t appease me with such transparent flattery?!”
“No, what would be the point of me trying to flatter you now...”
Behind the incredulous Sora, Ino quietly patted his shoulders.
“King Sora.Ah, never mind. It’s quite all right.”
And he continued in a gentle tone.
“There is no cause for concern—impotency can be cured. I
recommend softshell turtle stew—”
“That is not how it is! Don’t slander me!”
Shouting and jabbing a finger at the ice as if to say, I mean, Sora
“Stop and think about it!! I’m not saying she’s ugly, but is she
anything to get worked up over when we’ve got the Shrine Maiden,
Jibril, Izuna, and Shiro? Our beauties are all literally off the charts!”
Steph and Ino still glared as if looking at something sad—but at
Sora’s words, Jibril and the Shrine Maiden alone came around.
“I-indeed my master is wise... That is the special characteristic of
Siren I mentioned earlier.”
The Shrine Maiden and Jibril averted their eyes from the ice, and
“Sirens, though lacking the traits of physical excellence and magic,
are able to survive principally thanks to their one weapon, on display
here...namely—” She took a breath. “As long as they are in the sea—
they can attract anything.
“Siren is a race beloved of the sea—the reason that they live in the
sea and cannot leave the sea is that, in their bodies, they possess a
plethora of spirits...water spirits capable of attracting any other
“Oh, it’s like that.”
That makes sense, nodded Sora and Shiro, as it finally came
together. How Siren, who, before the Ten Covenants, reproduced by
devouring the men of other races, was able to survive without leaving
the ocean and without possessing outstanding powers or magic. In
other words—they just had to charm potential threats. That explained
how they were able to swim with the schools of fish and how they
were able to withstand the water pressure of the deep sea without
“And this charm we’re talking about isn’t a magical charm?”
“It is not. It is simply a matter of the flow of spirits—a sort of
magnetism that works on spirits. It is simply a feature of the race...
Under normal circumstances, this would be no matter for concern,
Glancing at the queen and looking away again.
“This fish-woman—seems to have a quantity of spirits that is truly
Jibril muttered, apparently unnerved by the fact that she could not
escape the queen’s effects. Likewise, even having known that—the
Shrine Maiden scratched her head with a look of weariness. But then
Hmm, murmured Jibril. “On the other hand...why does it not affect
you, my masters?”
“...Mmm...? Jibril, you said, we...don’t, have, spirits.”
“Yeah, you said all living things in this world have spirits in their
bodies, but Shiro and I don’t.”
When they first met, they’d let Jibril check Sora’s body for spirits as
proof that they were from another world. If it was a magnetism that
worked on spirits, it should have come as no surprise that it didn’t
work on Sora or Shiro—but.
“No, if you have a soul, you undoubtedly have spirits. They must
simply be unknown to me or somehow evade my detection. But then
why would you be unaffected? Let’s see...”
Jibril mumbled on, the object of her interest seemingly having
shifted back to Sora and Shiro, as she surveyed them with sparkling
—Meanwhile, Ino suggested offhandedly, “Could it not be more
simply explained in terms of King Sora’s virility?”
“You shut up, old fart. You’re just a dick-thinking horndog,
whereas I am a model of reason.”
“Thaaanks for waitiiiiiiiing!”
—Amila and Plum burst back into the chamber. They seemed to
have finished preparing the rite to enter the queen’s dreams or
whatever. This having been accomplished—the two approached the
ice in which the queen slept.
“’Kay, now we’re gonna use the spell Plum and everyone made to
take you into the queen’s dreaaams.” Her disarming smile
unchanged, Amila continued casually.
“Everyone who’s going to wake up the queeen, wager everything
by the Covenants and then touch the crystal, okayyy?”
“What? Um, what are you saying?”
The one who broke the silence was Steph, but Amila replied
vacantly. “Huh, is there a problem?”
“Of course there’s a problem. What are you saying?!”
...Wager everything? In other words, bet all your property, status,
rights, and life—literally everything?
“Why do we need to do that?! I thought you were the ones who
asked us to come save you?!”
“Whaaaa...? Plum, didn’t you explain it to them before you
Plum desperately apologized to Amila as she put a finger to her
dismayed face. But they were interrupted—
“Cool it, Steph. The one who’s confused is you.”
—Sora interceded calmly and plainly. At his improbable composure,
Steph turned back and looked around at everyone. Sora and Shiro—
the Shrine Maiden and Jibril—even Ino and Izuna—all looked as if
the situation was obvious.
'They called us here—to beat the queen’s game and wake her up.
“Third of the Ten Covenants: Play for wagers that each agrees are
of equal value. The queen set up the game when she went to sleep, by
the Covenants, saying ‘make me fall in love with you if you dare,’ so if
we wanna win the queen’s love, we have to put our money on the
“Yeah, yeah, that’s a hottie for you! Not only is your face
handsome, your brain’s handsome, too!”
Amila nodded with a girly laugh—but the Shrine Maiden and Shiro
smiled, subtly, thinly, and Sora was the only one who noticed. But
Steph, completely missing this subtle exchange, continued as if
“That-that’s absurd,” she insisted. Her voice swelling even more
shrilly, she went on. “They’re the ones who are in trouble! Why
should we bear such risk when we came to save them?!”
But Sora still took it in stride.
“Plum said meddling in someone’s feelings and dreams would
normally be disallowed by the Ten Covenants, but we can do it ’cos
the queen allows us—but her consent only goes as far as the game.”
“If we don’t start the queen’s game first, we can’t use our spells,
and, of course, we can’t wake her up. So the ante the queen’s
demanding for us to play her—”
Looking at Plum and Amila, Sora clowned.
“It’s like, ‘If you want my love, you’d better be ready to give up
Steph was stunned into silence, and the faces of the rest each
assumed their own shocked expressions. Amila alone tore into Sora
with a surfeit of praise.
“Thaaaat’s righhht! Ohh, can’t I have you instead of the queeen!”
Sora ignored the boisterous Amila. “Well, we’ve got a spell that will
make the queen fall in love for sure, so I guess it’s fine.”
“Y-yeeess! I guarantee iiit; leave it to meee!”
“B-but that’s—I mean, what if for some reason the spell doesn’t
work?!” Steph was still unable to shake off her unease.
“Then you can just leave it to Amilaaa,” Amila decisively declared.
“Even though the queen can play the game, she’ll still be asleep if
she wins, and Amila’s the one in charge of her stuff! Even if
something goes wrong, I’ll just give it all back to you, so there’s no
“Wait, we can’t count on—”
But Sora cut her off.
“Sure, no problem, then. So, shall we begin the game?”
—This is weird, Steph thought to herself. Something about this was
definitely off. In the first place, why would such a high-risk condition
only be brought up at this point? Why do they think nothing of it,
Steph wondered, looking at Sora. It wasn’t like him. To go along with
such a fishy game—. But Steph looked around again. Seeing that no
one else seemed to think anything at all of it, she closed her lips
tightly. Wh-what is this...? What is going on!
Now, then, began Plum as she started explaining the rules.
“Everyone, please swear by the Covenants that you wager
everything and touch the iiice. Then I’ll cooperate with everyone
downstairs to deploy the rite and magically lead you into the queen’s
dreaams...then I’ll be coming along to help you with the ‘cheat,
As Plum steadily wove together the rite, she elaborated:
“Since it’s a dream, the situation can be anything you waant... Your
representative—it’s King Sora, righhht? King Sora’s imagination will
form the foundation to build the situation in the queen’s dreaam...
Regardless of the situation—there is only one victory conditiooon.”
Continuing on Plum’s theme, Sora took over.
“If someone makes the queen fall in love and wake up, they win,
and if they get rejected, they lose—and the losers are out of the game
and have to pay up everything they bet. That’s what we’re swearing
by the Covenants, right?”
But I know, Sora interrupted.
“We’ve got Plum’s cheat, and even if we lose, we can get it all back
from Amila—right? Relax.”
Sora delivered this with a bold—yet to Steph, somehow off—grin.
“With this crew, under these conditions, there’s not a chance in a
million we’ll lose, so let’s get this on.”
“O-okayyy. Then, King Sora, please imagine a situatioon, and—”
At her words, Sora imagined the single game you had to think of
when it came to the romance genre.
“Please make your declaratiooon!”
Sora, Shiro, Steph, Jibril, the Shrine Maiden, I no, Izuna, and Plum.
Together, the instant they said it, found their consciousnesses going
—Soon the white was repainted in blue. As if waking from a dream,
their cloudy collective consciousness floated up. Blood flowed through
all the slack parts of their bodies, and feeling returned—and then.
...They were drowning. In the middle of the great blue sea, Sora
and Shiro, Izuna, I no, and even the Shrine Maiden were being
overwhelmed by the waves. The burning taste of brine. Pain stabbed
through and past their nostrils. Calm thinking went out the window—
yet, in their brains, a different vision played.
—As there are beginnings, so there will be endings...
Sparkling, gaudy visuals. With sound effects like spewing stardust,
the monotone of a narrator somewhere coolly continued.
As there are meetings, so shall there be part¬
es this the time to be chilling with the opening movie?!”
Desperately thrusting his face out of the surface of the sea, Sora
raised a cry.
“In what world has Tok*meki ever started with you drowning?
‘Heartbeat,’ my ass!”
Well, it was true that his pulse was significantly raised. But he
would have preferred not to describe the palpitations of imminent
death as “Heartbeat Memorial.”
“Oh, s-sorryyy... Your image and the queen’s got a little mixed up,
and it’s taking some time to build the environmeent... Hold on just a
If you thought about it, it wasn’t surprising. Even if they were able
to meddle in the queen’s dreams, it wasn’t as if the kind of school
stories that existed in Sora and Shiro’s world would exist in this world.
It was only natural that work would have to be done to make Sora’s
image compatible with the queen’s frame of reference—but—
“...Brother...it was, a good...life...”
“Pluuum! My sister’s already giving up on life! Get it dooone!”
Shiro closed her eyes with a beatific smile in his arms as Sora
Uh, uh, rite build complete, configuring setting, now applying
—That instant. The setting in which they had been drowning in the
sea was overwritten as if turning the page of a book. From the surface
of the sea to the ocean floor—the scene shifted. The unwanted
parameter of breathing was gone. As if turning over cards one by one,
the changes optimal in the dream world for the administration of the
game were gradually added, and things became more convenient.
“—Master, are you all right?!”
At Jibril’s strong voice, Sora came to. Before he knew it, ground had
been put under his feet.
“...Y-yeah... Damn, that was close...”
In the transparent blue sea, Sora let out a “deep breath” and wiped
the “sweat from his brow.” Holding close Shiro, who was quivering
from the fear of almost drowning, he muttered as if groaning.
“If you get off on weird scenarios like endings where you die right
after the game begins, I’d really rather you do it somewhere else.”
...I knew it, going to the beach...sucks...”
“This sea which has placed my masters in mortal peril—I suppose it
must be eliminated outright.”
“Why can’t you just learn to swim...?”
Steph, apparently the only one who had been fine so far, chimed in
with half-closed eyes. Beside her, though, the Shrine Maiden and the
other Werebeasts irritatedly agreed with Jibril.
“...Right you are. What’s this ocean for? Who created this big,
“For once, I must agree with Miss Jibril. We would all be better off
if the sea were dry and gone.”
“And the sea stinks, please... It should just go away and leave us the
Now fully immersed in the dream, each took their turn at
revilement as they gradually regained their composure.
—Sora, Shiro, Steph, Jibril, the Shrine Maiden, I no, and Izuna.
Each now having his or her feet squarely on the ground, they
watched as the setting was constructed before them. Despite being at
the bottom of the ocean, the blue sky shone overhead, and clouds
floated across the shimmering surface of the sea. The undulating
terrain was flattened, and, on the ocean floor previously littered only
with rock and coral, a school appeared. The tropical fish that
wandered around them were transformed into nameless NPCs. In
just about the time it took to blink, the fictional setting of an ocean-
floor school was created before their eyes.
A high school built in Oceand’s architectural style... As Sora
regarded this bizarre scene, a voice piped up beside him:
“I’m most surprised that Her Majesty knew what a school was at
alll... She must have read it in a book, I suppose,” conjectured Plum,
apparently having likewise finished diving into the dream. She
grasped the meaning of Sora’s gaze and announced with a tired smile
tinged with bitterness, “Ha-ha... There’s no such thing as a school in
Oceeeand... What would they studyyy?”
The scenery having finished changing, now Sora and crew found
themselves being gradually modified. First—in their vision, countless
icons lit up.
“...? What is this?”
As Steph tried to touch these oddities in her vision but found her
hand sweeping through empty space, Sora explained.
“It’s the user interface...the command menu.”
—It was just like the status bar in a romance simulation game.
Considering the scene that recalled Tok*Meki, just as he’d imagined,
“...If you’re capable of recreating this, I wish you wouldn’t drop us
in the sea.”
“Well, it’s only recreated for the playerrs... To build the setting, it
took a little more work to get your image and the queen’s memories
working togetherrr... And now that you mention it.” Plum asked,
suddenly suspicious, “Sir, where did you pick up that image? I’ve
never seen the likes of iiit...”
Not knowing that Sora and Shiro were from another world, Plum
was bothered by the source of their information—but was ignored.
“So, things that only affect the players are easier to change, huh?”
“Uh, yeeess, and I’m still building the riiite...so if you would please
However,” Plum added as she went on, “you cannot change your
appearance, age, or seeex...so please take nooote...”
—The queen slept, hoping for the appearance of a prince. If she was
to wake up and see the one she had fallen in love with, only to find
that his profile pic was totally fake—she’d probably go back to sleep.
That was fine. The real issue was—
“If we can change our names, make mine Kon*mi Man.”
“...Brother, starting...with all stats at 573, is cheating...”
At his sister’s chiding through half-closed eyes, Sora grinned boldly
and shook his finger, tsk, tsk.
“Easter eggs are part of the game. Plus, with that trick, as soon as
you try to do something, you get sick and end up taking the whole
first year off and missing all the events... See, there are disadvantages,
“...Okay, then, I’m...gonna be, Sem*ponume...”
“...Excuse me, what do those meaaan...?”
As they jabbered—now the players’ outfits changed to match Sora’s
image. Sora was just wearing a blazer over his usual “I V PPL” shirt.
“...Hmm, this clothing is a bit constricting.”
Likewise dressed in a boy’s school uniform—the ninety-eight-year-
old sinewed geezer complained next to him.
“...A uniform stretched out by bulging muscles...I think I’m gonna
With this grumble, Sora turned his gaze from hell to heaven—in
other words, to the ladies. Shiro, beside him, was dressed not in her
usual all black—but a brightly colored girls’ uniform.
—Mixing Sora’s image with the queen’s, it was a sailor suit a bit on
the revealing side. And, surrounding her, in the same sailor suits,
were Izuna, Jibril, and the Shrine Maiden—
“...The Shrine Maiden in a sailor suit. Gotta say that’s awesome,
“What, have you a complaint?”
Sweeping up her long, golden hair, the Shrine Maiden spoke, clad in
the same brilliant sailor suit as Shiro. Her two tails swaying, the legs
that peeked out from under her lifted skirt were nothing short of
“...Hey, Shrine Maiden, come to think of it, how old are you?”
“Did no one teach you it’s rude to ask a lady her age?”
“I guess... By the way, you’re the one who created the Eastern
Flinch. The Shrine Maiden reacted.
“You even said yourself it was from as far back as you can
remember. Izuna’s eight, and she remembers things. The Eastern
Union’s meteoric rise over half a century—even if we don’t take into
account the time it took to establish the Eastern Union, that makes
you at least fifty-eight—”
“Let me teach you something interesting, you hairless monkey.
Werebeasts—especially bloodbreak individuals—age slowly.”
Interrupting Sora’s on-the-mark reasoning, the Shrine Maiden
spoke with a dazzling smile.
—That suddenly turned dangerous, and in an entrancing voice, she
“If you try calling me ‘old lady’—you know what’ll happen. V”
“—Hf... Shrine Maiden, let me tell you something interesting, too.”
But Sora took it head-on and countered.
“Looks are everything! You give the feeling of being older from
your behavior and tone, but, looks-wise, you’re a hot twenty-year-old
at worst—in which case, your actual age is of no consequence. This is
one of the basic precepts of Immanity.”
“...It’s your precept.”
Blatantly ignoring Steph’s contribution to the conversation, Sora
pointed to the side.
“Anyway, we’ve got an over-sixty here, too, so it’s nothing to worry
“Oh, Master, to be precise, I am 6,407 years of age.”
Having examined her own clothes with curiosity, Jibril answered
with a smile. In Jibril’s case, the wings at her hips pulled up at her
top, flashing her belly button, which was also subsequent description
“...By the way, may I ask one question?”
“Mm—what is it, Steph?”
“Why am I the only one dressed like you and Mr. Ino—in the boys’
—Yes. Shiro, Jibril, the Shrine Maiden, and Izuna were all wearing
the girls’ sailor suit, but Steph alone wore the same blazer as Sora and
Ino. Nodding deeply, Sora revealed the mystery.
“Good question—there’s a saying, ‘To shoot the general, first shoot
All eyes were suddenly focused on Sora, who explained with a
“—First, why I didn’t dress everyone up like guys: two reasons.”
He raised a finger, ticking off his reasoning—
“One, if you’re going for the main heroine, you wanna get her
friends—so having girls helping you is important.”
“...You sure know how to talk like a cad with a fine placid
The Shrine Maiden spoke for everyone rolling their eyes as she
offered this feedback. Paying her no mind, though, and raising a
second finger, Sora continued.
“And two—you gotta consider the potential trap that the queen isn’t
interested in guys in the first place.”
“...Didn’t I say that the queen is looking for a man with the ability
“You presented no compelling evidence.”
To Plum, looking cynical as well, Sora declared this decisively and
“Now, as for the reason I put Steph in drag—Steph has high social
skills and will make a fine informant.”
Had it been a matter strictly of political ability, the Shrine Maiden
could also have been a candidate—but. Sora’s intuition told him that
Steph would be better in terms of personal relationships.
“I wanted a guy friend who was as in the know as Yoshio, with the
friending chops, too—but...”
Sora turned back to Steph and heaved a deep sigh.
“...If I gotta com pare...you’re more like Ijuuin...”
“—What? I don’t really follow...”
—Indeed, with red hair and balanced features, a dashing young
man appearing to be of a higher social class— (The cross-dressing
Steph was utterly puzzled.) Free of sarcasm, seemingly unaware of
his appearance but accomplished in both physical and literary feats,
while even appearing to have a domestic side. Skilled in conversation,
bold in practical action, and even—strong willed, his gaze clear. Still,
behind it all, showing a glimpse of deep kindness, even forbearance-
such a fine young man.
—Frankly speaking, Sora had the impulse to punch such an enemy
of the unreal world—a good-looking guy with a life—and again he
“...Ijuuin? Who is that?”
“...From the first game...don’t, worry about it...”
“...Come to think of it, wouldn’t it be faster just to seduce her with
Steph instead of Gramps?”
“Huh? Wait, I can’t seduce a lady—and, I mean...So-Sora—”
“...Ah, it seems the rite has been fully buiiilt!”
“Ahem, now let us play the opening once more—and then we will
bring in the queen’s consciousness as wellll.”
Simultaneous to Plum’s pronouncement, a giant screen was
projected before them. The crappy trailer that earlier had been
injected into their brains played along to a bouncy soundtrack. After
showing pinups of the school and classrooms along with narration,
the scene moved to the courtyard, where a giant crimson coral
formation extended countless branches radially, the camera capturing
it at a slightly upward angle. The narrator explained calmly:
Kagayaki Marine High School... It is said that those who confess
their love under its legendary coral find true love—
At the familiar phrasing, Sora groaned, his eyelids at half-mast.
“...Hey. A legendary tree is one thing, but ‘legendary coral,’ what
the hell is that...?”
Confessing under an old tree made sense. The sound of bells and a
hill swept with flittering cherry blossoms, okay. But under the
“legendary coral”? Are you freaking kidding?
“I don’t know what to savvy... There aren’t any trees in the ocean,
—And, actually, coral’s pretty gross when you look at it closely,
right? Sora thought, but, regardless of his opinion on the matter, the
—After a while, the boring narration ended, and now pop music
played. Against a pink background, under the “legendary coral,” there
could be seen a mermaid with long, billowing blue hair.
—The queen. The sailor-suited queen—Laila—swam under the giant
red coral formation as if quietly dancing. The brilliant uniform
enwreathing her supple limbs flapped in the brine, further eliciting the
queen’s seductive charms, as even the scaled tail that extended from
her short skirt gave off an impression of luster as it moved the water.
The queen, her gaze somehow melancholic, stretched her hands
toward the sky as if longing for something, and—
—All who heard her voice drew a collective breath.
“Hmm, this is something... A beauty is a beauty even in her voice.”
Steph and I no voiced their astonishment. The queen who could
entrance most anyone who merely saw her visage—. Her singing
voice possessed a beauty to make the souls of listeners tingle with
...All except for Sora and Shiro. The two watched the screen with
disinterested demeanors. “I’m starting to get the feeling we just have
Her voice aside, the pop song and the video did not remotely
complement the queen’s sensual poses and wistful expression. Well, in
the first place, she was entirely too sexy not to look ridiculous in a
sailor suit. It was like one of those “thirty-something” women (ha)
trying to cosplay as a high school girl—
“Well, to each his own, I guess...but you’re telling us to conquer
Just can’t get the motivation... Sora subtly sighed.
■ DAY l ■
—Suddenly, a field displaying “Day l” appeared in everyone’s vision. It
was a familiar sight to Sora and Shiro, but Plum explained for the
sake of the rest.
“Umm, I think you should see several ‘commands’ displayed. These
can be used to select from a certain range of actiooons... For instance,
you can give giiifts.”
At Plum’s words, Sora tilted his head. “I thought you said this was a
real-life romance game? And there are no hidden parameters like
“...Brother.” Shiro held something out to the mumbling Sora.
“...‘Gift’...command... Brother, did your, Affection, go up?” Shiro
asked with anticipatory eyes, but Sora responded with a wry smile.
“Sorry, Sister. My affection for you is already maxed out; it’s too
“Then, Master, if I may be so bold—”
Jibril jumped in. Averting her eyes from this exchange, Plum
continued her explanation.
“Um... Among the commands displayed, you should see two heart
They all checked and found them immediately. Lower left-hand
side of the command panel. There was an ordinary heart symbol, and
then there was another with a plus sign added.
“These hearts represent the ‘Confess’ commaaand... It is up to you
how to confess your love, but, if you select this and are rejected, it will
be considered a loooss... And the one with a plus sign—”
“Is your ‘love spell’—the cheat command, right? Okay, I get the
Sora, having quickly grasped the game system, turned to I no.
“Okay, Gramps, if you’ve wedded thirty brides, you’ve got to have
banged a few more, right? Go show us your accursed technique that
would put Taka Kat'Ti to shame and, whoosh, snap up that queen for
“The manner of your wording irks me to no end, Sir, but...”
“I’m looking forward to seeing these romancing techniques you
pride yourself on, I no Hatsuse,” said the Shrine Maiden to the sour-
faced I no.
“...Grampy, go for it, please.”
“Understood! If the Holy Shrine Maiden commands...!”
I no responded deferentially to the two voices of encouragement
offered, and he turned again to Sora.
“...Sir, I have till now been listening in silence, but your talk of
shooting the horse to shoot the general and of collaborators and
informants escapes my understanding entirely.”
I no raised his hands and continued despite Sora’s furrowed brow.
“...Sir, surely you are not considering ignoring the tastes and
preferences of a lady and imposing one’s own inclinations—not to
speak of feigning the personality the lady seeks—as love?”
...Frankly, yeah, he was. “Well, that’s what I consider a love sim, at
the very least.”
I no directed a serious grimace at the choked-for-words Sora. “Hff...
I see. In that case, it was indeed wise to entrust this to me. Just as
mastering fighting games does not make one a master fighter,
mastering romance games does not make one capable of real-life
—That was quite right, but somehow the fact that his confidence
was based on a mountain of actual sexual achievement was irritating.
“Sir, I wonder if you see why it is you are a virgin—an unpopular,
socially incompetent, hopelessly pathetic young man?”
“...Old fart, I’m gonna have Jibril warp you beyond the stars.”
Sora looked at him with a stormy gaze, but I no paid no mind.
“There are those who say that romance is a mind game—but then
why do you not succeed, Sir?”
—If it was a mind game, Sora ought to have been able to play it far
better than Ino. At Ino’s well-reasoned, all-out implicit defense of
Sora’s intrinsic ability, Sora swallowed his words.
“I see. Love takes on a different form for each individual.
However...ultimately, it comes down to conveying one’s feelings.”
Ino fixed keen eyes upon Sora.
—What lay in those eyes, though, was not the color of disdain. Nor
irony, nor hatred, nor pity, nor spite. With eyes that—Sora knew them
well, eyes that he had seen directed at him more than he’d cared to
admit in his old world—Ino spoke.
“The words of a charlatan such as yourself, who lives atop a stack
of lies, cannot possibly accomplish such a thing.”
Yes, they were—eyes of distrust.
“However, there is one thing to be said. It may be a mind game in
just one respect—specifically—”
With these words, Ino looked at his controls and continued.
“—The first one there wins.”
Unhesitatingly selecting the “Confess” heart—Ino ran off.
Leaving the stupefaction of Sora & Co. behind—with raging speed
that did justice to the physical prowess of Werebeast—Ino charged.
The gaze of the dashing Ino, with steps resounded like explosions,
fixed on just one thing: the queen on the verge of entering through
the school gate—Laila. Toward her back as she walked with an
entourage of several NPCs, I no bellowed:
“Oh, beautiful young miss! Please pause to hear my tale!”
At the great voice that evoked thoughts of a knight on a battlefield
announcing his name and particulars, the queen slowly turned. The
aquamarine of her eyes took in Ino—and she responded.
“Are you calling me...?”
—Even these few words were like notes of a melody from heaven.
“.! Of course!”
For a moment, Ino forgot the game. Each little word and
movement of the beauty before him rushed inward to melt his soul.
But, shaking his head, no, no, Ino put strength into his belly.
—He could fall for her. In fact, he’d have to fall for her. He gritted
his teeth and steeled up his eyes.
—But he couldn’t be sucked in. He must be the one to swallow
“Fair maiden, forgive me for interrupting you so suddenly. If you
have a heart—I would have you hear my words.”
“My—what’s the matter?”
The queen flashed a soft smile. It was enough to make Ino feel as if
his heart had been grasped and squeezed. He wanted to grab and
throw away everything—such was the temptation. The queen’s gaze,
the queen’s voice, the queen’s expression, her fair nape. The angle of
her fingers nonchalantly put to her chest, the shadow cast by her
silkily swaying hair—These things could not be perceived but as an
ineffable crown jewel...!
—Could it be? Ino wondered. That the challengers of the past had
been sucked in by the queen’s pulchritude to the point of being unable
to express their love? Such beauty. Such violent splendor. Indeed,
before such a woman, none of the youngbloods here or there could
conceivably say a word. But I no...returned a soft smile.
—Not a comfortable smile. Comfort was out of the question. Love
was not a mind game—no, it was a battle. The act of smiling was first
and foremost a kind of attack—rooted in instinct not unlike a beast
baring his fangs.
Slowly, heavily, I no went to his knees.
—Love. He thrust his palms to the heavens as if praying and then
smacked them forcefully upon the earth.
—Love was —He glared at the woman powerfully with both eyes—
not a threat. It was a silent declaration of war.
—A thing to be won. To be taken with one’s own hands. He pressed
his palms to the ground, neatly aligned with his knees, and bowed his
forehead, his skull with it, deep down...!
—It left no room for argument. A fine, formal—
“Please! I beg you! Would you please make hot,
passionate love with me for a single nighhht - !”
—Whose voices were these? Perhaps everyone’s. To say nothing of
Sora and crew, the queen gaped, dumbfounded, while I no heedlessly
“Since the moment I first laid eyes on you, my heart has boiled like
magma. Behold! My pride and joy has risen to the firmness of steel
The queen held her breath, lost her smile, and backed away. But
Ino raised his voice still louder and pressed on...!
“Please, please forgive me, queen of the sea! But it is your beauty
that is at fault! The very instant I spied you, I have been helpless
before this surging impulse to hold and penetrate you! Can you not
find it in your heart to grasp the feelings that burn within me!”
“He’s—he’s genuflecting so hard she doesn’t even have time to
Sora shivered. Could this, of all things, be the perfect strategy of the
man who had taken thirty wives?! As the entire assemblage withered
to absolute zero, Ino’s passionate genuflection proceeded unabated.
“I beg you! I beg you! Let us make love! Let us make hot,
“Uh, wait, no, I...um...”
The queen had heard any number of declarations of love from
those who had disturbed her dreams since she had consigned herself
to slumber. Despite having brushed off every common sort of man,
this must have been her first encounter with such a direct approach,
for she panicked and scrambled to flee into the school. And yet—!
Grshh— I no’s sinewed hand seized the queen’s arm and restrained
“No, hey, let me go—!”
“I shall not! I shall never let you go! I would that you apprehend
the pounding in my chest, the fire in my loins! Though I be but a
shriveled old bag of bones, I shall stake my life to ensure that you
know true satisfaction!!”
-No words. This was verging on criminal—no, actually, this was
some straight-up sick shit unfolding right before their eyes. If there
were a temperature below absolute zero, that would describe the
atmosphere among Sora and his fellow spectators.
Sora, keeping his distance as he watched, fearfully asked the Shrine
“You were saying the old man’s snagged thirty wives with that
“...No, I don’t know. What are you looking at me for?”
“No, I mean, are Werebeast chicks into that...?”
“(Are you daft?! I’m as repulsed as you!!)”
“No, hey, let me go! I said, let me gooo!”
Shrieking, the queen somehow managed to shake off Ino’s hand.
With that, she turned straight around and vanished with a single
stroke of her tail, through the crowd and into the building.
“Please wait, fair queen! Fair queeeeeeeen!!”
Een...een...—een...—...een—Ino’s heartrending wail resounded
through the sea—and faded. The old man, left in the wake of its echo,
drooped brokenly and made no move to leave his place.
—At this sight, all held to their hearts the word despair.
“...This is freakin’ hopeless.”
—No one refuted Sora’s assessment.
“...W-well, he still hasn’t been rejected per se, right?”
Despite Ino’s persistent approach by means of genuflection, the
queen still hadn’t officially rejected him. Therefore, technically, the
game—the dream—should not have been over... To Sora’s question,
Plum haltingly replied: “...To begin wiiith, I think the real question is
whether you could even consider that a confession of looove...”
Nodding at Plum’s words, Sora moved on.
“—’Kay, then why don’t we just go on and play normally for now?
Command menu...‘Leave School,’ hoop.”
Reacting to his wide-eyed companions, Sora responded quizzically:
“What? I mean, this is school we’re talking about. It’s not fun. We’ll
do our best tomorrow.”
“...You knaves, why’d you make a school the setting, then?”
No one had an answer to the Shrine Maiden’s offhanded gripe...
■ DAY 2 ■
When Sora awoke, the “Go to School” command was displayed before
him. When he selected the command, his surroundings changed.
Before he knew it, he found himself walking to school with Shiro.
Everything that led up to this—eating breakfast, changing into his
uniform, and leaving the house... All those things had been skipped,
yet the memory of doing them lingered vaguely in his head.
“...Brother, good morning...”
“Morning... Hey, I guess we’re together from the morning ’cos
we’re siblings even in the game.”
Incidentally, they were also in the same year of school in the game.
An eighteen-year-old and an eleven-year-old in the same class-
explained away by inferring she’d skipped a lot of grades. As Sora and
Shiro headed to school together among the NPCs, a voice announced
itself behind them.
“—Oh, Sora. G-good morning to you.”
Turning, there stood Steph (in drag). Sora raised a hand to her
greeting, and then knitted his brow.
“...Morning. Ya know, it’s kinda creepy when you talk like a girl
dressed up like that.”
“Aren’t you the one who went ahead and made it so...?”
Steph, eyes narrowed forbiddingly, produced a thick sheaf of papers
from her bag and thrust it before Sora.
“...What is this?”
“It’s the queen’s profile and contact information in this game. And,
also...I did a little digging for some data about the side characters who
seem to be her friends at school.”
Wide-eyed, Sora flipped through the documentation he’d received.
Steph had said “a little,” but what he looked through now was
documentation covering as many as dozens of characters’ info, from
phone numbers to hobbies.
—So much info by the second day... Half-appalled at this quick
work that would have put the Yoshio to shame, Sora queried: “Hey,
how’d you even dig up this shit?”
Steph stared back blankly before announcing casually: “It’s just like
making the rounds in society. All that is required is to draw close a
few followers, and everything from interests to grudges to gossip to
relationships between the sexes becomes transparent. And it seems
that, unlike in the real world, here one can even delve into somewhat
personal topics without severing bonds.”
“What?! Why are you tsking at me?!”
Those social skills were fearsome. Though it had been the role he’d
expected of her, Steph’s social skills were so good that Sora forgot to
be grateful and instead just got pissed.
“Never mind, sorry... A-anyway, I’ll check it out. Thanks.”
Then—Following Sora’s recovery and expression of appreciation...
U-um, by the way, did that, well...raise your ‘Affection’?” Steph
(supposed to be a guy in the game) asked, poking her fingers together
“Well, you see, I just tried touching the ‘Gift’—”
Sudden, saccharine voices accosted her from the rear, and Steph
pitched forward with a cry. Flustered, she looked back to see a
number of girls practically crawling over one another toward her,
hearts in their eyes.
“Oh, Steph! Please allow me to go with you to school!”
“Hey, how dare you act so buddy-buddy with him! Oh, come,
“Wha, hey, I’m still—s-someone save meeeeeee—?!”
Watching Steph dragged off by the throng of schoolgirls, Sora, eyes
half-open, said, “.You just go get chased to the end of the world.”
He tsked again and went ahead to school, abandoning her.
—When he arrived at school, Ino was still on his hands and knees.
■ DAY 3 ■
Izuna used the “Gift” command on Sora. What she proffered was a
can of mackerel. But Izuna was drooling and staring at the can. It
seemed she was in the midst of an intense struggle. Sora even started
considering going for the Izuna route but just managed to stop
—When he went to school, before the gate, he spotted the queen
and Steph. An event? But he hadn’t even met them yet, so he ignored
the pair and went on to his classroom.
When he got there—she was supposed to be his classmate,
apparently—Plum approached him, wearing the girls’ uniform.
“U-umm...Why are you all ignoring the queeeen...?”
“’Cos it’s easier to earn affection points if you pump up the stats
they want first.”
“...In the early...game, you skip all the...generic events...and buff
your stats for the win...”
At these straight-faced, unanimous assertions from Sora and Shiro,
Plum still uneasily inquired: “...Is that how it worrrks?”
I no was still at the gate, on his hands and knees.
■ DAY 4 ■
The Shrine Maiden used the “Ask Out” command—on Sora. As he
went to school, a voice suddenly called to him, and the Shrine Maiden
“I’m a bit interested in this ‘cherry coral park’ business that’s said to
be spring-only. Might you accompany me?”
She seemed to be getting this info from the user interface she was
examining, but it was news to Sora.
“Huh, what’s that? Where’d you find it?”
“What, did it escape your notice? There’s a sign like a little book in
the lower right.”
“Oh, no kidding. Oceand Journal— can’t believe you got ahead of
me in a romance game...”
“Heh-heh-hee... So, what say you? Cherry coral, eh, doesn’t it tickle
“Sure, why not. Shiro’s down, too, right?”
“Why don’t we invite the others while we’re at it. Izuna, Jibril,
Steph—hey, Plum, you in, too?”
“Master, I see ‘Make Lunch Box’ among my ‘Hobby’ commands. I
shall prepare and bring the fare.”
“...Excuse me, you aren’t all really forgetting the point of this game,
I no was still at the gate, on his hands and knees.
■ DAY 5 ■
It was the day to choose clubs. All unanimously selected the Going-
Home Club. Only Steph joined the student council, but for some
reason, this was frowned on by the others.
—Leaving school, Shiro tugged at Sora’s sleeve. When he looked up
— “...Brother, look.”
There was the queen, apparently leaving as well.
“...You can, walk with her...?”
“Probably. But that’s a pain in the ass, so let’s just go.”
“...‘If someone, sees us...and gossips...I’d be embarrassed,’ right...?”
“My sister, could you please not say that out loud?”
—His memories of the days of his youth were rekindled. That was
the line, when you said, “Hey, we’re childhood friends. Why not walk
“Now that I think about it, I kin da have a feeling that was the
genesis of my distrust of people.”
A restless Plum was saying something to him, but he brushed it off
with a lol, cool story, bro.
I no was still at the gate, on his hands and knees.
■ DAY 10 ■
There was an official discussion of the sports day that was supposed to
happen the following month. Consensus was that Jibril had it in the
bag, and everyone selected the “Leave School” command as soon as
they arrived. As he exited the gate, Sora finally gave the date
command a try.
—On the Shrine Maiden.
“Uhh, umm, you wanna ‘Go Shopping’ with everyone?”
“Why do you say it so flatly?”
“Well, it’s just one of those obligatory things.”
“In any case, is there something droll about going shopping when
there’s nothing you need?”
“...Looks like, they’re having...a gourmet, fair...”
“All right, let’s go. They must have sake, eh? Oh, Izuna, will you
“If they have fish or meat, you don’t gotta ask, please.”
“Oh, and of course I shall accompany you, Master.”
They were going to ask Steph, too, but they didn’t see her leaving.
Maybe she was busy with the student council.
—They used up all their Money, but they all got to experience some
I no was still—you know.
■ DAY 15 ■
“—Hey, why do we even have to go to school at all?”
Prompted by Sora’s insight, everyone finally experienced an
epiphany. On the heels of it, they quickly concocted a plan to conquer
all the date spots they could go to together. Sora and Shiro put in
some extra effort and arrived at the spot they’d designated to meet all
dressed up, but— “...Uh, whut...?”
On behalf of the crestfallen Shiro, Sora put it out there.
“...Shrine Maiden... Let me just ask, why are you dressed like that?”
The Shrine Maiden had arrived on the dot in the most unfortunate
attire of a tracksuit and sandals. In her getup, like some dopey dad
lounging around the house, the Shrine Maiden raised her hands in
“They didn’t have a hakama or waraji. These aren’t much to look
at, but they’re comfortable to move in. Look at yourselves; isn’t it a
little queer to go hiking in a suit and a dress?”
“I would also like to ask Jibril why she is wearing a swimsuit.”
“What? A selection of clothing arose, and I simply selected that
which most resembled my usual attire.”
...By the way, according to Steph, who was still going to school like
a good girl, I no was, after all this, you know.
■ DAY 20 ■
—They were all finally starting to get bored. For a change of pace,
everyone decided to actually go to school. When they arrived, for
some reason, there was some rumor going around that Sora had hurt
(male) Steph’s feelings. After tracking Steph down at lunch to ask
what the hell was going on— “.!”
As soon as she saw Sora’s face, Steph grimly changed color and
“What’s this all about?”
“...That’s just...how the, game works...”
Getting the bomb symbol for doing nothing was, yeah, the design.
But why was there one on—a guy (in in-game terms)?
“Hey, Plum, this game’s engine is broken.”
“...More importantlyyy, you really have forgotten the point of the
game, haven’t youuu?”
Sora objected, Debug your damn game, but Plum just sighed sadly
with distant eyes.
—Meanwhile—I no. Still at the gate. Hands and knees...—
■ DAY 25 ■
Nothing special happened. It was starting to look like an end of a
■ DAY 30 ■
■ DAY 35 ■
■ DAY 39 ■
—Why not try going to school tomorrow? After all, by now you did
have to wonder how I no was doing—
■ DAY 40 ■
—The morning glow painted the sky. In front of the illuminated gate,
there was a statue, gaunt and covered in barnacles, fused to the
ground. This monument that exuded the impression of being some
sort of solemn sacrament— “...N-no way... Is this, Gramps?”
—made the party, after returning to school following a long
absence, hold their collective breath.
—Even Sora and the rest, all of whom had cringed at I no’s display...
now found themselves at a loss for words. The figure that seemed on
the verge of being encircled by a halo was—unmistakably and above
...Since the day the game began, that stolid figure had continued his
vigil of genuflection before the queen, who every day passed silently
by before him. Like a statue, without so much as a twitch. And now it
had come to this. There were no words for it. No, more accurately,
this form itself said it all eloquently, loud and clear. That is—
At the noble figure before him, Sora, as a fellow man, had no choice
but to respectfully admit the truth. I see now... Romance is not a
—It is a demonstration of love. The old man embodied his own
words. In which case—Sora was more than convinced that he himself
had no conception of true love. Sora—staggering to the statue—no,
“How small—how very small I’ve been,” Sora whispered as he
compared himself with this paragon. For his own love—so petty, it
must be said—could he remain fixed to the earth for forty days? Sora
could only answer no. But this man, Ino, had done just that. Without
distorting who he was, without fear of shame, he pounded on a heart
exposed for all to see. Could there be a truer love than this—? There
“I see... This, this is love, true love...”
Shiro promptly smacked down the near tearful epiphany suggested
by Sora’s muttering. But—suddenly. Upon that sacred statue.
Obscuring the morning sun—a shadow was cast. Tracing the shadow
back to its owner, who slid elegantly through the water on her way to
school—there was—the queen herself. Her gaze cut right past Sora to
the sacred image—no, to Ino—stared.
—Could it be?
...You jest—could it possibly be...?” The Shrine Maiden, who had
been watching from a distance, couldn’t help but whisper. But the
queen edged forward, still closer to I no, and placed her hands softly
upon his cheeks. At that moment...the statue moved as if at long last
remembering it was alive. The barnacles, the earth, the caked stone
sloughed off. Guided by the queen’s softly applied hands, I no’s face
rose. And—with that voice that enraptured all who heard it, with a
smile more beautiful than all the treasures of the world—she spoke.
—Ah, of course... The hearts of all echoed harmoniously.
But Ino gritted his teeth as if to say, it’s not over yet. It was true—
his love had been rebuffed. He had eroded heroically, to dust. But—in
this of all times, he had only one choice—! To fulfill the duty with
which the Shrine Maiden had charged him—Ino selected a command
from the UI.
—The heart icon with a plus. In other words—Plum’s cheat
command. And— “—Forgive me, O Queen! Hrm, nghhhhhhrrrrrr!!”
Soundly and with the power of a grappling sumo wrestler...
...he squeezed the queen’s breast. Yes—he executed the command to
complete Plum’s rite.
Instantly, red light swirled around the queen, and her eyes opened
—In the same instant...
A complex pattern etched itself in Plum’s retinas, and she released a
strangled cry. Her power perhaps having been seized all at once, her
black wings for a moment turned the color of blood, and then she fell
to sit on the ground.
But the queen, her breast still in I no’s grasp, raised a thin voice. Her
face flushed vermilion—and even Sora and the others could see that
her heart was pounding.
“We—we did it—Now—!”
Even Plum announced confidently, “N-nowww, however much
Mr. I no may be a creep who thinks with his nether regions, regardless
of what emotion the queen experiences as a resulllt...she’ll interpret it
—as having fallen in looove!” Plum took advantage of the chaos to
speak her mind, but she still sounded tired.
Even Sora thought it was a really twisted spell. But by whatever
means, in the end, the queen was “in love.” Which meant the game
“—No, no-no-no. Fall in love with him? Yeah, right. Not
—Thus decisively rejecting I no, the queen—as if flying—headed for
school with a flap of her tail.
...Saaadneeess ...—A bit of background music in that vein played
through Sora’s mind. The man had burned out. Burned white—well,
he’d always been a ball of white fur, but—pure white. The interface
displayed the words: ino Hatsuse: Defeated. But before the gate, having
gone down—still, still—having burned out, but even still...
—His figure still holding the posture in which he had squeezed the
queen’s breast—Ino Hatsuse had turned to ash. Reeling...Sora
approached. He could not find the words.
—But, even so, he had to say it.
“Old far—I mean...Ino Hatsuse. I had you wrong.” Voice quivering,
Sora searched for the proper eulogy. “You’re the real thing...a big-
man. Too big for her...a woman with no eyes...”
However, Ino, as if on the verge of turning completely to ash and
disappearing, even so, he managed a reply.
“—No, King Sora... It was that my love was not enough. Love is no
With these words—rejected, his rights stripped from him as he was
ejected from the game—Ino gradually faded from the color of ash to
become transparent—and then— “Ino...? Ino, hey, hold on! No
Unaffected by Sora’s cry as Immanity’s king put his arm around
I no’s shoulder, the old man’s body vanished from the game.
—With that, the curtain fell on the high school career of Ino
Hatsuse—a life seemingly so full but, in reality, composed entirely of
genuflection. If he could do it once more...this time, he would leave
...It would be typical to leave some wussy lines like that at the end.
“Heh...I have no regrets... If I could do it again, I would do the
same—” With a self-satisfied smile, Ino instead decisively repudiated
such introspection and vanished from Sora’s arms.
—In the dead silence that lingered, Sora looked to the sky. Wetting
his manly cheeks with tears.
Ino Hatsuse—how could you be so—ngkh!”
Despite Sora’s one-man show, everyone else looked on coolly.
—It wasn’t even worth chills. Ino wasn’t dead; he hadn’t even really
vanished. He’d just been sent back outside the game. But Sora, as if
having lost an irreplaceable brother in arms, trembled.
Sora shrieked at Plum, her eyes as disengaged as the others, as if
about to cough blood.
“What is this?! Didn’t you say it was a sure win?! That man went as
far as to sacrifice his own sensibility!! He went as far as to use a
‘cheat’ for you guys, so why...?! Why—didn’t the queen let him put it
“—Uh, wellL.you see, even with magic, do you really expeeect...?”
Plum’s muttered reply was actually quite reasonable. The same
thought had floated through the back of the Shrine Maiden’s mind. It
seemed more realistic to fall in love with some rock than with that.
Still —...she thought. Regardless of the Shrine Maiden and her thin
smile, Sora, on his knees, pounded the ground and raged.
“Don’t screw with me! Could there be any more of a man than that
—?! I’m right, aren’t I? Shiro, Shrine Maiden, Jibril?!”
Responding to the voice that howled at them, the three whose
names had been called just- nodded.
Steph winced back a step.
Meanwhile, squirming under Sora’s unbearable glare and flustered,
Plum chided, “P-please calm dowwwn... Th-this was just an extreme
caaase... We can retrieve Mr. Ino from Her Highness Amila, and, if
you will just play normally once more, Sirrr...”
With these words, peering into Sora’s face, Plum— “—
—felt her heart snatched and squashed. Or rather, the illusion of it.
Before her—the Sora who had been there previously was no more.
The man who had just been raging, raising his voice, swinging his
arms, was no more. The man who had smiled frivolously as he
listened to Plum’s request, the rake, was no more. The man crouching
there—was someone Plum didn’t know. Wearing an insolently thin
smile... A man with the eyes of a hunter pitying the prey that had
fallen into his trap. This man, in a voice that chilled to the bone, said
only this: “Once more? —What for?”
It was Shiro who finished the thought of the man who slowly rose,
his eyes devoid of the slightest warmth. And Shiro, too...had become a
stranger to Plum. Her eyes were at absolute zero. Plum fell back a
step at this transformation. She didn’t know these two. But Steph,
Jibril, the Shrine Maiden, and Izuna...did. The only ones who
tragically didn’t know these siblings—Sora and Shiro—were Plum and
her cohort who of all people had made them an enemy. Standing
before her with that bearing they had when they’d sprung a trap with
no margin for escape-was the worst of enemies: “ ”.
“—That should be enough, right, Shrine Maiden, Jibril?” Sora asked,
veering to face them.
“Aye, I’ve had my fill of fun. You can do it now.”
“I have obtained confirmation. I am ready—at your command.”
At the affirmations of the pair, Sora commanded hollowly: “Knock
yourself out, Jibril.”
“—As you wish.”
Thus bowing once, Jibril opened her wings.
—And with that, the rite constructed through the cooperation of
dozens of Dhampirs—the game that meddled in the queen’s very
dreams—was scattered as easily as the seeds of a dandelion as the
group’s surroundings shattered.
<§> CHAPTER 4
—Space exploded. A shock reverberated such that Amila, watching
the game from outside, could only react thusly:
—Greeting the party as the dream world ruptured and they awoke
were Plum and Amila, their eyes wide. The rite Plum had woven with
dozens of assistants, even supplied as they had been with blood, had
been pulverized with one simple gesture of Jibril’s will—but that
wasn’t what left them stunned. That was a consequence of Sora’s
declaration as he rose.
“—Yo, check. Looks like we win.”
“...Uh, umm, Amila doesn’t really get what’s going ooon! Uhh?”
Sora and Shiro replied, casually and briefly, to Amila’s tense smile,
and for the edification of everyone else listening.
“...We ‘saved and exited’...you. ..didn’t say we couldn’t...”
“No one said we couldn’t leave the game before we were all
rejected. So we can exit the game no problem, yeah...? You gotta
remember to set out covenant language carefully, you know?”
Disinterestedly filling in the entourage as they rose, Sora continued.
“All right, Jibril, go ahead. Bring back the air.”
“—At your command.”
Immediately, Jibril nonchalantly traced a magical path with her
—And suddenly, a gale assailed the queen’s chamber. In a matter of
moments, the water was repelled, and the chamber of the queen-
filled with air.
Jibril smirked at the dazed Plum and Amila. “Pardon me... I simply
restored the air I brought along with me, compressed as a bubble.”
In the large hall, the water splashed about as it was pushed away
and the air took its place.
- ¥h-hhh...hh— ...hff...huh, huh-huh...”
—Having until now remained utterly silent except in the dream,
the Shrine Maiden, who’d thus far kept a mask of composure, warped
her expression. Heaving her shoulders at finally being able to breathe,
Her body instantly turned red, raising a steam of evaporated blood.
—She then casually divulged the secret.
“Bearing up against twenty atmospheres of water pressure for such
a long time by brute force... Even with my bloodbreak, it’s too much.”
The Shrine Maiden, seemingly about to collapse in the recoil of the
unreasonable strain that had just been lifted from her, but somehow
stubbornly managing to stop at sitting cross-legged instead, sneered
with her chin in her hand.
Plum, Amila—and Steph all looked baffled. But, with no sign of
engaging with them, Sora continued, all emotion falling from his
expression as if it had been just a mask.
“—But to think, with that much water pressure, your blood won’t
leave your body—that let you use your bloodbreak without leaving a
trace for these guys to catch on that you were reading their minds to
your heart’s content the whole time— nice job, Shrine Maiden. So
what’d you find out?”
Seeing his face—
“...You surely know how to throw your weight around, don’t you...?
All right, why not.”
—the Shrine Maiden smirked, as from her heart she was glad he
was on her side.
“That Siren there— has no mind to wake the queen at all.”
—At this accusation, Amila’s expression clearly wavered, and at the
words that followed, delivered with a tone of and not only that... she
now clearly froze.
“What they came up with to be your bait— the ‘ante’ the queen put
up—was malarkey as well— goodness gracious.”
Soothed by Amila’s and Plum’s reactions, the Shrine Maiden smiled
as if embarrassed and continued to Sora with kind eyes.
“And that business about you being her type or handsome or
somesuch, likewise all malarkey.”
“Well, yeah, I figured that much—. ...God damn it.”
The Shrine Maiden beamed merrily at Sora’s vexation. And—as if
mocking Amila and Plum—“...Did you think my senses would be
dulled under the sea?”
She acted almost embarrassed, yet with her face warped into the
most scornful of sneers.
“—Let me tell you, it’s no idle boast or drunken rave when it’s said
I’m the strongest among Werebeast.”
Struggling not to let on he’d been hurt, Sora averted his eyes.
“Yes, Master. I can also say this without doubt.” Picking up his
gaze, Jibril lowered herself reverently before her king and declared:
“The rite woven by Plum activated properly, precisely, to win the
queen’s love just as it should have.”
This time it was Plum’s turn to freeze.
“—Without a doubt, it operated flawlessly, and the queen has
received its effects properly .”
Sora silently considered the possibility that it had been faked, but
Jibril answered that with a smile. “Fear not. This is the very reason
we tested it on the Shrine Maiden first, is it not?”
Smiling back, Sora said finally— and turned to Shiro. But there was
nothing more that needed to be said.
“...Mm...I got it all...down...”
—With these few words, Shiro answered all of her brother’s
expectations. As if satisfied with every response, Sora nodded once. He
wore his usual frivolous grin, but over that smile was the shadow cast
by his bangs and the too-sharp light of his eyes. The combination was
a convincing replication of a fierce glare as he spoke.
“—Hey, you guys. Did you really think you could eat us for lunch?”
Plum’s and Amila’s eyes faintly quivered at this accusation. If they
thought that, of all people, Sora would be unable to read such a tell as
a bull’s-eye—that would be just—
Uh, uh, um, wh-what are you talking about?”
Steph and Izuna didn’t seem to get what was going on. They looked
back and forth, bemused. But, as if he had no intention of explaining
further, Sora clapped his hands together and turned away.
“Okay, let’s go, Jibril. Back to the beach.”
“As you wish.”
As Jibril spread her wings and spun her halo, they all hurried to
“Uh, excuse meee! P-pleaase waiiit!”
As Plum likewise hurried to their side—
“Good call, Dhampir. You’re done playing the pitiful victim?”
—Sora’s thin smirk as he waited for her sent a cold jolt down her
Arnila spoke up.
“Whaaat? What about Mr. Inooo; we still ‘have’ him, you
knowww? I wonder if you should really be going home alreadyyy.
Gazes collected at the spot by Amila’s feet where I no lay sprawled.
Izuna’s gaze nervously flickered between Ino and Team Sora.
“Yeah, sure we can,” Sora said smoothly. “’Cos, dude ...you know
what happens if you lay a finger on him—don’t you?”
Looking back at Amila’s widening eyes, Sora sneered mockingly.
“You think you can play dumb in front of me—? Never
underestimate that which you should fear, noob.”
And turning his back to her:
“—We’ll be back, Siren. Underestimating us is gonna cost you.”
Then, by means of Jibril’s teleportation, all except Amila and Ino
The party found itself once more on the shore. The sun had long since
set, and the red moon and countless stars—along with a bonfire—
were all that lit the beach. The waves and the sparks from the fire,
too, were the only sounds as Sora & Co. conspired merrily.
“Oh, Shiro, looks pretty much done, huh?”
“...Tropical fish...you can eat them...?”
“It is a fish of the sea known as ‘rerite.’ I understand that the flavor
is quite palatable.”
—All having been teleported by Jibril from Oceand to the beach—
and inadvertently carrying a large seawater haul in their wake, Sora
and crew now busied themselves cooking it on the beach.
“Hwaahh—. ...Just the thing with some sake after a job well done...
While we’re at it—” The Shrine Maiden knocked back her cup.
“While we’re at it—we might as well have sliced and fried some tofu
“—How did you know I like abura-age ? Did I tell you?”
Sora and Shiro laughed at the Shrine Maiden’s bemusement. One
step away from this pleasant and peaceful scene—
“What—what is this...? What is the meaning of this?” Steph
shrieked dubiously, not seeming to fathom the situation at all. Beside
her, Izuna looked down wordlessly. And, a little farther on yet,
lingered Plum, also silent.
Casting Steph a glance and biting into his roast fish, Sora said,
“Nothing in particular—it’s just Plum tried to play us. That’s all.”
As if to answer Steph’s wide-eyed glare at Plum, he added:
“When did we figure it out, you ask? Hey, Plum.”
Now addressing Plum as she lowered her face, Sora continued with
a snicker. Plum looked up fearfully, but Sora went on, grinning
“From the start—your story was fishy through and through.”
Taking his lead, Shiro, the Shrine Maiden, and Jibril smirked.
—All right, Dhampir and Siren were in a symbiotic relationship. It
broke down when the queen went to sleep, and now they were on the
brink of doom. Plum had had no argument with Jibril’s assessment—
but. Grinning as if having heard a cheesy joke, Sora chuckled.
“‘We made a spell that can wake her up for sure; help us’—ha-ha,
“...Huh? Wh-what do you mean?”
Steph seemed lost, so Sora proffered a stick of roast fish. “Wouldn’t
it be way more appetizing to lie that you had a sure win, sucker ’em
into an impossible game, and chow down?”
Hearing Sora’s smiling pronouncement of this sick notion, Steph’s
face contorted independently of her will.
“—Having said that, there were a few things that got to me.”
Stuffing his face with fish, Sora continued.
“It didn’t look to me like Plum was lying. We even had Izuna in the
same room, and she didn’t seem to catch on to anything—oh, hey,
that’s right. Izuna, don’t you want fish?”
Remembering the night they first met Plum, Izuna rebuffed the
stick Sora extended—
“.No thanks, please.”
Standing at a slight distance, Izuna shook her head minutely.
Across from her, the Shrine Maiden, downing her sake, also closed
her eyes and shook her head.
“Yeah, that’s why we took her to the Shrine Maiden’s place, too,
just to be safe—and she wasn’t lying after all.”
Given that Jibril was on guard, any magic spells or such to
camouflage a lie would have been seen through. In which case, it was
assumed that before the Shrine Maiden, strongest among Werebeast,
any lie would be sniffed out for certain. But—he went on, steadily
applying a fish to the flame—“And then what Plum showed us, if can
you believe it, really was a spell that could make someone fall in love
Lit by the bonfire, Sora followed his train of thought, somehow
seeming amused even as his smile swayed creepily.
“So if she really had a sure win—then why ask us for help?”
“Wh-what you’re saying, basically, is that she wasn’t lying, isn’t it?”
Wouldn’t that mean that she just genuinely wanted their help—?
Fiddling with the skewer in his hand, Sora tackled Steph’s query:
“Right, she wasn’t lying—and therein lies the problem.”
—Sora dropped his gaze to Shiro curled up at his knees, who picked
up the explanation for him:
“...June 20, 22:42 UTC... Brother...” Just like a recorder, word for
“...‘And what do we get if we win this game?’...”
Following the Coordinated Universal Time of their old world based
on her phone—remembering everything down to the timeline and
intonation—Shiro reproduced Sora’s words with the precision of
replay, and everyone stared.
“—And what was it again that Plum said after I asked that?”
“...June 20, 22:43 UTC... Plum...” Expressionlessly, calmly.
“...‘Um...We’ll guarantee you thirty percent of Oceand’s marine
resources, and friendly relations for perpetuityyy...! ...A-and also...
uhh... Y-you can do anything you want with meee’...”
Sora smiled bashfully at Shiro’s “rewind” of Plum’s offer.
“Right—this is it. She wasn’t lying—but she wasn’t telling the truth,
Sora took the stick he’d been playing with and thrust it in Steph’s
“Steph, when they said we had to bet everything on their game, you
were all in our faces, right?”
“Uh, yes... For they were the ones who requested help, weren’t
“Yeah, you were right.”
Announcing it placidly, Sora went on shamelessly as he bit into his
“I said you were wrong just to get them to spill what we needed to
know. Let me make it up to you by revealing what it is that was
nagging at you.”
That thing that had been nagging at her...a fear she couldn’t
express except a certainty that something was off.
“This game, you know— it’s like a horse race.”
“A—a horse race? You mean, like gambling?”
Sora, nodding in his mind, I’m glad to hear they gamble on horse
races in this world, too.
“A horse race is a game where people gamble on which horse will
win... But the core contest is still the race itself—the rivalry among
To put it simply:
“A horse race—is a game of chance based on a challenge among the
jockeys—it’s a double game.
“We were the riders racing for the queen’s love.”
“Meanwhile, the promises Ainila and Plum made of marine
resources and friendly relations were just the payout on our bet on the
queen waking up. The racing and the gambling are supposed to be
two separate games, yet they had us playing as both the horses and
the gamblers—of course that’s fishy.”
...Oh. Steph took a sharp, surprised breath. Following along with
Sora’s analogy, they were the racers themselves, and yet... They were
prompted to stake it all by wagering on themselves— made to
participate in both games.
But Sora, as if reading Steph’s thoughts, shook his head. “That’s not
even the problem.
“So, if we say this is a horse race, what about us as racers— Where’s
our prize money?”
With a wicked smile, he cast a look at Plum.
“Um, i-isn’t it the queen’s love...the queen waking up?”
“—If you make me fall in love with you, I’ll fall in love with you?
She’ll wake up for the sake of the prince she loves? —First, that’s total
bullshit, and, second, the queen comes out ahead either way , doesn’t
she? What happened to the ‘wager of equal value’ for the victor?”
Finally, Steph arrived at the source of her misgivings. The marine
resources, the friendly relations, domination over Plum—none of
these things seemed like things the queen would have specified. In
that case, the queen’s wager in the game she’d sworn by the
Covenants before sleeping... The reward she’d figured was of equal
value—to be paid to the rider who won—
—the prize money—
- hadn’t been mentioned at all?!
The Shrine Maiden grinned slyly and played with the stick that had
held the fish she’d just eaten.
“Tis a set of games with two sides. But when Mr. Sora brought up
what he stood to gain from winning the game, that Dhampir there
answered deliberately so as not to touch on that two-sidedness. She
told no lie.” But—smiled the Shrine Maiden. “What is not a lie— still
may not be the truth.”
Hearing that bull’s-eye noise coming from Plum’s heart as this
truth was laid down, the Shrine Maiden smirked. Sora, though, with
an exaggerated performance of deep thought—
“So, here’s the problem... Why didn’t she mention the two-
Playing with his stick, Sora turned to Plum.
“Until we were underwater—where you thought the Shrine
Maiden’s and Izuna’s senses would be cut off—you didn’t bring it up.
Why couldn’t you just have told us something as simple as, ‘Ainila
says it’s no-risk’?”
Positioned behind Sora, Jibril diligently occupied herself with
chopping up fish, sticking it on skewers, and seasoning it. Handing a
well-salted piece of fish on a stick to him, she offered, “—For speaking
these words would constitute a lie...I presume.”
With a thin smile, she answered his question. Sora nodded to Shiro
as if to say, which means...
“—...June 20, 04:28 UTC... Plum... ‘Please save our raaace!’...”
Nibbling at her fish like a rodent, Shiro deftly rendered Plum’s—
—first line in “playback.”
“If this isn’t a lie, that means she wanted us to save their race—that
“She wanted us to save Dhampir— only —so then what’s the
As Steph was incapable of responding to his rhetoric save to round
her eyes like glass ornaments, he ignored her. He took the stick with
which he’d been toying—and tossed it onto the sand next to where
Plum was seatecd.
“So, now we’ve got everything we need to figure it out, right?”
One—and another, throwing additional sticks in the same manner.
“The questions are three. The conclusion is one.”
Casting his eyes upon the beach where the three sticks protruded
from the sand, Sora gave her the setup.
—You ready for this, Plum?”
As if in response to Sora’s pronouncement, in the light only of the
fire, the red moon, and the stars, four pairs of eyes glinted, each with
its own variety of light.
The first to move was the Shrine Maiden.
“—Why is it that you shied from mentioning matters relating to the
two-sided nature of the game?”
The stick launched by the Shrine Maiden whooshed through the
wind and caught Sora’s first—splitting it in two.
“Because she couldn’t lie.”
Hearing Sora’s answer, the next to move was Jibril.
“Whyever would you request our help when you already have a
spell that will make her fall in love?”
Jibril’s wooden projectile made a sonic boom and caught Sora’s
second skewer, shattering it.
“Because Plum couldn’t lie.”
At Sora’s response, the last to move was Shiro.
“...In the first place...why— couldn’t ...she lie?”
Shiro’s skewer arced through the air and caught the core of Sora’s
third—and stuck there.
“Because if she lied— we’d know.”
“If it’s a horse race, then you gotta remember—everyone’s betting
on different horses.”
Amila was betting on—the queen. Plum was betting on—Team
Sora. Two games. Two wills. And, taking all of this into account, there
was indeed but one conclusion.
“Siren was using the sleeping queen game as bait to chow down on
Steph alone was still shocked. Siren, just as Sora had said at the
beginning, had made the game out to be cake to draw in Sora and
Shiro—the agent plenipotentiary of Immanity. To avert the
destruction of their race by gaining new “resources for
reproduction”—Immanity itself. But—
“Dhampir took it a step farther and plotted against Siren—to stab
them in the back and free Dhampir.”
Yes—Plum was actually trying to make the queen fall in love. But
“So she couldn’t lie around Werebeasts, but she couldn’t tell the
truth that there were two agendas, either.”
As usual, Steph alone was speechless, just flabbergasted. But—Sora
raised his hand to say, Hold on.
—To say, This is where it gets good.
“So, let’s think back, shall we? What’s the prize money for winning
the queen’s game?”
Tossing a merry smile at Plum, Sora turned his line of sight. And—
under the moon, glinting sharp, four pairs of eyes shone.
“Be there aught to make Amila—to make Siren—prefer to maintain
the status quo rather than awaken the queen?”
The Shrine Maiden, with her bewitching golden eyes, smirked.
“Whatever could make Plum—could make Dhampir—believe that
emancipation lay before their eyes to seize?”
And Jibril, with her inorganic amber eyes, sneered.
“...Something that threatens the existence of Siren...and would
allow Dhampir...to reclaim their rights...”
And Shiro, with her emotionless ruby eyes, simpered. And, taking
each of these sequential observations was Sora, with his obsidian eyes.
Coldly he brought them all together.
“The queen’s wager was —‘everything I have’... right?”
—Plum hung her head, and Steph took a breath. While the current
queen had slept. She wasn’t quite queen—wasn’t quite the agent
plenipotentiary. But now things were different. Now, if the victory
conditions for her wager were fulfilled—it would mean everything
—Literally everything, even the Race Piece, would go to the victor.
But, ignoring Steph as she shivered, Sora continued to grin his coy
grin—and dropped a few words that made Steph doubt her ears.
“This much we figured out before coming to the beach.”
“But, still...we couldn’t say we had proof. So that’s why we decided
to head for Oceand.”
As if to confirm it—but in a teasing tone, Sora laid it all out.
“It was the beach, after all. I got my fun in—in other words...”
Then, after giving Plum the sickest smile of all, in a single breath—
he revealed the answers to all of the remaining secrets—rapid-fire.
Shiro and I:
• Dragged you out to the beach in the blazing sun to
sap your power
• Had the Shrine Maiden pretend to mess around with
Jibril while actually verifying that she could cover
up her bloodbreak with water pressure
• Simultaneously had Jibril go way out into the ocean
to check where Oceand was
• Gave the Shrine Maiden time to recover from her
bloodbreak while Shiro helped her by petting her till
• Skipped out on your welcome boat, that was
probably a trap, and had Jibril warp us in
• Created a situation in which you had to get blood
from Siren to cast your underwater breathing spell
• Made you leave while Jibril compressed and stored
the air she’d brought
• Then had Jibril jam your underwater breathing spell
so it wouldn’t work on the Shrine Maiden
• And met Amila with the ability to utilize Werebeast’s
senses to their fullest even at the bottom of the sea
—So, yeah. Didja figure it out?”
—Both Plum and Steph were just totally dumbfounded, unable to
speak. But, seemingly unconcerned, Sora just checked to see if his fish
was done and said:
“You had no way to get all the way to the game without lying. ’Cos
you had to get us to wager ‘everything’ by the Covenants. To uncover
your lie, the Shrine Maiden had to be free of your fishy magic.”
A spell that enabled breathing and conversation underwater—cast,
of all people, by Plum, who they knew was their enemy—was likely to
fool their senses. Having laid it all out, Sora continued.
“Siren and Dhampir each bet on different horses—but did you
forget? It was you who got us to put down everything on our own
tickets and participate in both the race and the gambling— we’ve got
“-Tickets on us getting ahead of all of you and winning.
“Man, I gotta hand it to you, Plum. That was an awesome strategy
from a weak position. That’s how a race thinks when it’s got all its
power owned by the Ten Covenants. I mean, that way, Dhampir
would still get an extra life if Amila got her way and chomped up
Immanity, while, if we actually did manage to wake up the queen
From his heart, without irony, Sora clapped his hands in praise.
“She’d be in love because of your spell, not us, so you’d run away
with the lot.”
—Having casually called out the reason Plum had participated in
the game, Sora continued.
“Look, I’m not the kind of guy to flatter people, so I mean it when I
say this—that is a sweet strategy.”
To create a situation in which she would win wherever the chips
fell, while having to do almost nothing herself, instead getting other
people to do it for her and walking off with the rewards. Now that
was truly the ideal way to win. But—
“I think there’s something you’re overlooking.”
With this, Plum raised her downcast head.
“Don’t you get it? The point isn’t that we just totally blew your
cover. It’s not that you were hiding the prize money for winning the
queen’s game in a plot to emancipate your race, either. You couldn’t
wake up the queen even with a spell you had total confidence would
work—hut that’s not even it.”
—And, then, twisting his face. With the most ironic of tones, Sora
“It’s that Amila is assuming there’s not one chance in a million we’ll
wake the queen.”
Plum’s breath stopped. Yes, because that explained everything.
Why Ino hadn’t been able to beat the game—Plum’s spell had
activated properly. It had worked on the queen, without a doubt,
Jibril had said as much. Yet, even so, she hadn’t awakened.
“The condition to wake up the queen— isn’t to make her fall in
—...Grsh. Though Plum’s molars ground audibly, still Sora
“Amila knew that. If she hadn’t, no matter how much you enticed
her, she’d never have given you a chance to possibly wake up the
queen. It would be fatal for Siren—you see?”
Sora now dropped even his scornful smile.
“Amila, of whom you thought so little—took your betrayal into
Y et—Sora rained down another blow upon Plum as she sat on the
beach, outstripped even by Siren, of whom she’d thought nothing at
“That’s a hell of a strategy for the weak, a really slick play—but it
ain’t the real thing.”
Indeed. The wisdom of the weak could not be wielded to its full
potential by the strong. For what formed its foundation...
...was the cowardice borne of abject weakness.
Sora finally flipped off his smile and spoke with a serious mien.
“The natural enemy of the strong is the weak, but the natural
enemy of the weak isn’t the strong—it’s the weaker .”
The weak—the man who embodied this word advanced
intimidatingly on Plum. Squatting to eye level with the seated
Dhampir, he softly and directly announced:
“A fool who knows what he is, is far more fearsome than a fool
who thinks he’s smart.”
Without touching on who he was just talking about, Sora moved
Plum blanched. To begin with, the only ones who had accepted
these conditions were Sora & Co. But now that they’d laid everything
bare and left the game, she was out of options. That meant that all
Siren could do to survive was to devour the last male to whom
Dhampir so desperately clung. Now that Plum’s betrayal had been
confirmed, it was all the more likely Siren would do precisely that.
—So Dhampir was pretty much screwed. But, then, if Dhampir
died, Siren would be next. Siren—would have to find someone to give
them permission to procreate. But who would say yes to these broads
who demanded your death to reproduce?
—Whence it followed that Siren was also screwed. The only way
they could survive would be unconditional surrender—being turned
“—Plum, do you know the ultimate way to win a game?”
A chilling, devilish smile.
“—By default. We don’t even have to beat the queen’s game for this
to be our win.”
Dragging Plum down to the depths of hell—with a smile.
“You think you can beat the weakest with the tactics of the weak,
you got another thing cornin’—ya friggin’ noobs.”
—One move. In just one move, having seized the power of life and
death over two races. Darkly, he smiled and spoke.
“So, I hope you get the gist of the situation. By the way...”
Sora now fidgeted as if uneasy. And, if you looked carefully, Shiro,
enshrined on his lap, also seemed to be writhing—
“Oh, dear... Master, what is it?”
“—Wh-where’s the bathroom?” Sora inquired with a piteous visage
that reduced the rarefied atmosphere of a moment ago to rubble.
“Bathroom...oh, you mean the chambers Immanities use to urinate
'What else would I mean?!”
Then suddenly thrusting his finger individually everyone at around,
“I mean, what kind of bladders do all you guys have?! After a full
day at the beach and then going to the bottom of the sea and then
coming back to the beach at night and eating fish and shit, who the
hell can last that long?!”
“...B-Brother... 1 - 1 ...have to go, too...!”
The Shrine Maiden laughed superciliously at Shiro as he pleaded
with teaiy eyes. “No beauty does such things. I can’t say I know how
it feels, but why don’t you go do your business wherever serves?”
—Jibril’s one thing, but you’re a “living thing,” aren’t you ?—he
would’ve said. But apparently not even having the time for quips like
that, Sora rose.
“O-okay, we’re—I mean, I’m going to the bathroom. Shiro’s going
to pick flowers!”
Sora, snatching up Shiro and dashing off.
“Aagh, this is the beach! They’ve gotta have one of those beach
shacks! Where is it?!”
With Sora and Shiro’s noisy departure, all that remained was the
..The waves and the crackling of the fire were the only
“And so, all we’ve left to do is to wait for their unconditional
surrender, eh. I’m a bit weary. I’ll be taking my leave.”
With these words, the Shrine Maiden stood wearily and turned—
“H-hey, hold on, you! What about Mr. I no!”
—only to have Steph descend on her, having finally caught up with
—All right, she’d understood that Siren meant to gobble up
Immanity. She grasped that Plum had plotted to exploit this for the
emancipation of Dhampir. She saw that Sora and Shiro had seen
through it all and gone another step ahead. But still—Siren held the
Ino Hatsuse card. That was one question that was still unresolved,
ranted Steph. The Shrine Maiden paused, looking back. With a smile
even more bewitching for the light of the moon—eerie as a specter’s—
“There is naught for it. ’Tis enough to bring two races into our
hands—a fine bargain, wouldn’t you say?”
At the Shrine Maiden’s assertion that there was no trump card,
Steph finally understood it all. So—to sum up: Neither Sora, nor
Shiro, nor the Shrine Maiden ever had any intention of saving him—\
The three of them had colluded—to make this one move that would
trap two races. For this. Just for this. As if it were nothing.
—They’d sacrificed Ino—\
“...That...I cannot tolerate.”
While almost overwhelmed by those golden, literally inhuman eyes
of a raptor, still—somehow—Steph looked around and managed to
squeeze out her voice. Ino Hatsuse—the Werebeast who had been the
only one to support Steph in Elkia when Sora and Shiro were away—
albeit only for two weeks. He’d played alongside her, even fought to
rebuild Elkia alongside her. He’d done so much to lay the foundations
for the Commonwealth of Elkia; without him, she’d have had no
ground under her feet. For the Eastern Union and for Elkia—for
Steph!—he was an intrinsically valuable asset, and, on top of that, to
make a sacrifice a member of just one race while attempting to bring
together two... The risk of such an action was incalculable. It was so
self-evident, it defied comprehension that the Shrine Maiden wouldn’t
“Ino Hatsuse. There was a man of ability, who held me strong,
right from the early days of the Eastern Union. A man who would
accept an order to die for the Eastern Union with an As you wish’—
indeed a credit to his people—and now he’s demonstrated his mighty
prowess to the very end. What could one possibly say against such a
The Shrine Maiden spoke, gazing longingly up at the moon. If even
she would be so calculating as to toss him away as if he was nothing
—! (Does that not mean that I , too, could be cast aside at any time
—?! Who could trust one such as that?!)
While Steph raged, Izuna, who’d been sitting apart the whole time,
suddenly appeared in her field of vision.
—Of course. It was inconceivable that Izuna could accept this
situation. Her own grandfather had just been sacrificed. If she
thought anything of Izuna, even the Shrine Maiden would have to—
“M-Miss Izuna, do you—”
—accept this? Steph was going to ask, but Izuna’s manner as she
sat apart, holding her knees as if resisting something, made Steph
choke back her words. It was hard to see her in the darkness, but—the
“...Grampy knew what he was doing, the asshole, please...”
Away from the fire, lit only by the moon and stars, Izuna’s
expression was invisible.
“...Grampy’s heartbeat, his smell...to the end, he sounded good, he
smelled good...the asshole, please.”
Yet Izuna’s quivering voice, her wet words—even in the darkness of
the beach—revealed her expression all too vividly.
“I don’t want lose Grampy, please... But I’m the only asshole who
has to bear it, please. And—a-and! Th-then more assholes...will be
In the back of Steph’s mind floated that scene at the beach. After
the farce in the sea—Sora and I no had faced off over who would
groom her. And Izuna, who’d said she hated being petted by I no, had
nevertheless unhesitatingly —headed right to him.
—Grasping that this would be the last time...Izuna from the
beginning had accepted this outcome. Through Werebeast’s uncanny
senses, they’d already understood one another. The only one who
hadn’t understood was Steph—but still.
“—Even so, you’re sad, are you not?”
“I’m not...sad, please—I just don’t...get it, please.”
Grinding her teeth as she spat it out, Izuna, voice quavering,
managed her question.
“...’Cos Soraaa...said no assholes would die, no assholes would
suffer, please! ...So why, so why is it—I’m suffering, please? Is there
some shit wrong with me, please...?!”
—Dripping, dropping. Izuna’s voice made it clear even in the
darkness that heavy tears were falling from her eyes. Yet Steph,
conversely, felt the blood rush from her head. Izuna Hatsuse—she
was too much a child. Too obedient, too innocent, too intelligent—too
perfect a child. That this girl, at the tender age of eight, was forced to
play games she didn’t even want to play... To feel guilty having fun, to
shoulder the weight of the continental domain, Steph realized
—For the Eastern Union to go about things this way —was not a
—For them to cast off the few for the sake of the many —was how
things always were.
“So this is the Eastern Union, making their children cry—this won’t
do at all.”
—How Werebeast, said once to have been split into any number of
tribes that were in constant conflict, had been united in just half a
century and elevated to the status of a great nation—Steph seemed to
glimpse it as she accused the Shrine Maiden—contemptuously, even.
But the Shrine Maiden took her gaze head-on and answered.
“For the few to be sacrificed for the sake of the many —is not even a
necessary evil. It’s fate, lass. For all to have a jolly old time together,
those are fine words—but a state won’t run just by everyone bickering
for what they want...dearie.”
...Steph had no counterargument. In fact, that was just how it had
been when she was dealing with the lords of Elkia. However you
might try to keep anyone from losing out, perfect equality was
unfeasible. As Steph clenched her fists at this truism, this time it was
Jibril who rained down another blow. She looked as if she was asking
sincerely, seemingly unable to comprehend Steph’s argument.
“Dora, what is it that dissatisfies you? One life will be enough to
save two races on the brink of destruction, fatten up Elkia as a nation,
and even bring the federation with the Eastern Union closer to
fruition—for what more could you ask?”
—Steph, still, had no counterargument. Of all things—Jibril
“Did you think it was possible to take over the world—no, even take
back Elkia’s national borders—without sacrifice or discontent?”
66 | 5J
“Or is it simply—”
Jibril inquired with a still more provocative smile.
“—that you wish no suffering to come upon those close to you—that
you wallow in the depths of narcissism and egotism? ▼”
Steph ground her teeth—she knew. The sacrifice of just one would
win two races. It also meant that they would save two races that
would have perished left on their own. If she felt that I no’s lone
sacrifice was not worth it, then—
-Then, so what, may I ask...?!”
But Steph opened her mouth decisively, and with the quivering
Izuna in her field of vision, defiantly—she shouted, “Egotism,
narcissism, you can call it what you like, but this much I can tell you!
Uniting all the races by this method—is never going to happeeenUV’
—She had no logical evidence. The Shrine Maiden and Jibril were
right. Probably, indubitably. They were realistic. Yet, even so, for
some reason, the conviction they were wrong held Steph fast. Why—it
was, yes, probably, one might suppose—because they were plausible.
Their words were plausible. Appropriate. Right on the mark.
—But to begin with... The existing mark would never be enough—
to unite all the races—
As Sora and Shiro returned, wiping their hands, faces relieved, they
were greeted by a departing Shrine Maiden, a heavy atmosphere. And
—a piercing look from Steph.
“Uhh...what’s the deal here?”
“So, essentially, you mean to run.”
“I understand perfectly now. You’d get two races by sacrificing Mr.
Ino—mere bluster... I’ve lost what faith I had in you! And, with this,
you dare claim you will unite all the races!!”
In response to Steph’s vitriol, Sora scratched his head and asked his
“Uh, umm. Shiro, why’s she yelling at me?”
“...’Cos...we took too long...?”
“It didn’t take long. Come on, this is number one we’re talking
about! W-well, whatever, we got our business done, anyway.”
—Clearing his throat once, Ahem, Sora muttered, “Let’s get back on
“So, it’s that time again— we’re gonna go wake up that queen.”
..What? To the speechless gathering, while yet ignorant of the
discussion that had gone on in his absence, Sora calmly continued.
“If we can forget about Plum’s magic and actually wake up that
queen on our own, then Dhampir and Siren will both be saved, we’ll
get I no back using that as a condition, and everything will be cool. I
mean, we just ‘exited’ that game, you know. It would go against our
principles to ‘quit’ it. So, now we have to stage our comeback—”
Disregarding the dazed crowd, Sora put his hand to his chin,
“Question is, how can we actually wake the queen up—huh.”
Ffp— sharply setting his gaze on Plum.
“Yeah, let me guess— there’s no one who knows the conditions...
“Wha—no one knows...what do you mean?”
Steph glanced at Izuna. For her part, Izuna (who’d been crying
until very recently) now had her head raised as if intensely interested
in Sora’s words. She cautiously checked Plum’s reaction—and then
shook her head to indicate the Dhampir wasn’t lying. But Sora
nodded at an answer he’d seen coming.
“Siren can’t use magic, and Dhampir can—if anyone knew, the lid
would have been blown off long ago. Even Amila probably only
knows that it’s not a game to make her fall in love.”
“...What gives you such confidence?”
“When Her Majesty went to sleep, she was not yet the queeeen...
buuut, she was in a position to someday become the queeeen... If one
such as that were to say she’d grant all of her rights...what would you
Plum, who’d thought she’d uncovered that, spoke with a sigh. Sora
and Shiro simply nodded.
“That’s pretty chancy. If there was someone in a position like
Amila’s back then, she woulda covered it up —and what’s the ultimate
way to cover something up?”
“...If no one...knows...the truth ...no one will...know.”
—Right, in other words... To beat the queen’s game, you had to
uncover conditions that no one knew except for the sleeping queen
herself. It was—the victory condition game. Practically impossible.
You could pretty much say it was hard as was conceivable. But-
“As long as it’s not the real-life romance game—
Blank doesn’t lose!”
Hearing the siblings’ strong assertion—hard to judge whether
powerful or pathetic, but self-assured in either event—Steph asked
...Uh, um... Sora, I thought you were abandoning Ino.You’re
“Whaaa? What the hell are you talking about, you frig gin’ Steph?”
—To an extent, it didn’t even bother her that her name had been
employed as a direct insult. Sora’s reaction represented a clear denial.
“There’s no way I could do something that would make our living
cultural heritage, Izuna, sad, and obviously I couldn’t abandon Ino—
that man among men. ...Steph, I know all this must be tiring for you,
but can you wait until after you wake up for your half-lucid
...Apparently, Sora had indeed raised his opinion of Ino into the
stratosphere. It hadn’t been an act. He went on.
“I mean—we said, ‘We’ll be back,’ right? Amila’s not going to mess
with Ino. ’Cos he’s the only card she’s got to get us to resume the
game. If she touches Ino, then they’ll really be doomed to be
Steph protested. “S-still, the Shrine Maiden said ‘there’s naught to be
done’ about Ino...”
“Well, yeah. We had the Shrine Maiden send Ino for verification.
Now the rest is our job.”
At Sora’s casual rebuttal, Steph’s eyes widened. Indeed, as far as the
Shrine Maiden was concerned—there was indeed naught for it For
momentarily—Sora and Shiro would grab everything.
“The Shrine Maiden’s used the hell out of her bloodbreak, a power
that threatens her very life, and even given us one of her most
valuable officers. Now it’s time for us to go at it like we wanna die—
literally laying down our lives, you know.”
Sora said it blithely, and Shiro nodded just as much so. But—their
vaguely chilling resolve and next words took Steph’s breath.
“That’s what it means —to fight together, right?”
A little shadow slipped past the dazed Steph, approaching the
siblings. Eyes red and swollen, Izuna, her gaze still quivering
uneasily, looked up at Sora and Shiro.
“...You’re gonna go save Grampy, please?”
Sora and Shiro didn’t know why Izuna had been crying. Still—Sora
placed his hand on Izuna’s head, stroked it reassuringly, and smiled.
“Of course. We’re gonna get your gramps—I promise.”
Her uncomposed eyes then turned to Shiro, where they were
greeted with conviction.
Izuna couldn’t know. What only Shiro knew. What she had when
Brother—when Sora—said the word promise signified an absolutely
binding oath that made the Ten Covenants worthless in comparison.
“...Brother never...goes back, on his promises...”
At Shiro’s assertion, Izuna once again looked up at Sora. The
powerful hand stroking her head as she sniffed its scent...and then—
she wiped her wet eyes.
“’Kay, I trust you assholes, please.”
‘All right, she trusts us assholes, please.”
Steph watched the clowning Sora from a short distance away. Jibril
stood next to her.
“My apologies, Dora. Our teasing was a bit immoderate.”
“I was just so aching with curiosity as to how you would react, I
couldn’t help myself... But you are in fact right, little Dora.”
—So said the curiosity addict with a countenance that seemed to
want to say, “Tee-hee! =P.” But before Steph even had a chance to
look sarcastic, Jibril got herself together, asserting:
“There can be no doubt that my masters are to reform this world.”
But as for their methods—Jibril continued, “No existing methods,
indeed, could possibly serve the purpose.”
So, now, as to how we’re gonna uncover the conditions to wake up
the queen— As Sora reinitiated his scheming, Steph only half-listened.
...Before, what the Shrine Maiden and Jibril had said—it had felt
wrong to her. Steph, having searched for the reason—now seeing the
two before her eyes—finally realized what it was. Sora...Shiro...these
two never once used the appropriate method.
After all, conventional wisdom was something to be derided. After
all, common sense was to be cast off. These two...said they’d conquer
all the races bloodlessly, without a single death. With such a
dreamlike—such an unrealistic—argument, there could be no
But, in his form that had made her believe that they could really do
it, that day—the day of the coronation—Steph felt she’d seen it.
Perhaps it was the same thing Jibril standing beside her saw—
—What she’d foreseen was this world’s future, and it made her
heart race, she realized.
“Oh, by the way, Steph. A minute ago, you said something I can’t
“Huh?” Sora’s words brought the dazedly ponderous Steph back to
“About getting two races by sacrificing I no—first of all, the part
about sacrificing I no is wrong. And also—”
—and here she got jammed right back into a daze.
“It’s not two races—it’s three!”
(g> INTERRUPT END
The exchange audible from the beach, felt at her back in the dusk as
she walked, looking up at the moon... The Shrine Maiden muttered.
“...Did he know I was testing him—I wonder...?”
No...the Shrine Maiden gave her head a contemptuous shake at her
own whisper. Whether he’d known or not, his actions would have
been the same. Sora, from the start, had no mind at all to abandon
I no. His heartbeat, from start to finish, resounded pleasantly, without
a single note of discord.
—Yes, the Shrine Maiden had been testing Sora and Shiro. What
would she have done in their place, faced with the same decision?
Probably—no, certainly—she would have chosen to cast I no off.
Because it would have been an unnecessary risk. Because, by
sacrificing one, she would obtain much more. Because to ask for
more than that would be idealism. And because casting aside such
idealism-had been her limit.
“...Perhaps I can lay my hopes in them?”
Those two sneered at her limit and flew over it. Having sought
confirmation of this—by testing whether they would save or abandon
Ino—the Shrine Maiden closed her eyes. It was because—if Sora and
Shiro had abandoned him as she would have, for seeking more than
her own limits in Sora and Shiro and giving them such a reckless test
-she would have condemned herself till her last days. That was
why she’d picked Ino, but— “...Truly, I may be able to lay my hopes
Having come this far, the Shrine Maiden finally understood. The
noise at her back—Immanity, Werebeast, Fliigel, and Dhampir.
—Those two had no concept of the barrier of race.
“...With those two—I may be able to leave it to them.”
Thus, pressing her hand to her chest, the Shrine Maiden felt the
throbbing of her heart—emotion long since forgotten. She looked up
at the bloodred moon and whispered.
“I am here.”
Jibril shifted instantly behind Sora at his call.
“You...knew the story of why the queen is sleeping and even the
condition to wake her up, right?”
It had been Jibril who’d told him, back when they’d met Plum.
“I did—except that I was mistaken...”
Misinterpreting his query as a rebuke, Jibril humbled herself before
“That’s not my point. Where’d you get your info?”
“It was in my homeland—Avant Heim.”
Then, half in hope, half in disgust, Sora continued.
“...We’re talking about the Fliigel here. You guys must have all
kinds of books snatched up from all over the world, right?”
'Why, that goes without saying!”
Jibril nodded with irrepressible pride. Grinning a bit disgustedly at
that face of hers, Sora thought, Ah, whatever, and moved on.
—To beat the queen’s game. There couldn’t be very many ways to
root out an unknown, absent victory condition. But—there had to be
a way. What they needed—for now—was information. And— “Steph.
You go work with Izuna and pore over the old king’s library.”
“Elkia’s former continental territory was adjacent to the waters of
Siren,” explained Sora. “Considering that old king uncovered the
Eastern Union’s game, I can’t imagine he didn’t do any digging into
The man who had played the proud fool king—it was hard to
suppose that he had a definite answer. If he’d pinned it down, then he
should have woken up the queen himself—but— “...Even if he doesn’t
have the answer, there’s a high probability he left some thoughts on
Sora’s eyes conveyed confidence in the king, Steph’s grandfather.
“I’m counting on you, Steph.”
“—Why, yes, Sir. You needn’t worry.”
Together, Steph and Izuna each gave a big nod.
“...Uh, umm...S-soo, what are we supposed to dooo...?”
“Good point. Jibril. Take Shiro and me—and, Plum, we’re taking
“Uh, a-all righhht... Huh, where are we goiiing...?”
“Didn’t I tell you? —We’re getting not two races, but three.”
And Sora continued, beaming.
“Now, here’s the question. To blow the lid off this game of
unknown victory conditions, the most efficient approach is to dig up
all the records we can about the queen’s game as it’s been played in
the past and compare them against one another to deduce the
principles—so, then, among all the places we could go, where would
have the most records?”
—A moment’s pause. And then. Kshhrrrk, two wills—perfectly
contrary to each other—roared out.
“At last—at last! The new lord to reign over the Fliigel shall finally
grace his throne above us—oh, that this blessed day should visit so
“NOoooOOOOoo, no, pleaaase! Anywhere but that den of
The sounds of Jibril, kneeling so fast in prayer as to kick up sand,
and Plum, first wailing and trying to flee only to be caught by Jibril
while struggling. Yet both were ignored by Sora as he took Shiro’s
hand. Nodding subtly, he spoke: “Come, let us go—to Avant Heim.”
TO BE CONTINUED
Wheww. I’m tired. A _ A It’s all done!
Actually, how this got started was I got asked to do the stuff I joked
about in the preview in the last volume for real.
I didn’t really have the story for this. <—
So I figured there was no sense in trampling over everyone’s
goodwill and gave a shot at giving ’em what they wanted...lol.
Now a word to you all from my editor—
Editor S for Sadist the Second: Mr. Kamiya, please desist from your
thuggish disregard for professionalism. If you weren’t doing both the
text and illustrations, the original deadline would have already been a
one-month extension. Also, I suggest you limit your Internet
copypasta to about three lines at most.
—I’m sorry. I’ll be serious. This is Yuu Kamiya. No Game No Life is
back after five months—one month after it was originally supposed to
be released. First of all, let me apologize deeply for the delay.
“Please feel regret. Deeper than the Mariana Trench.”
Let me also mention that another reason the book was delayed was
that my editor drastically misunderstood how it was going.
“I feel regret. Deeper than the lower mantle.”
So, thus we have No Game No Life, Volume 4. Just as announced,
it was my intention to make this volume fluffy and lighhht. After all,
the threads going through Volumes 1 to 3 have all come together for
now. So I planned this volume as, on one hand, a run-up to future
developments, and, at the same time, a fluffyyy, lighhht kick-back
...That was the plan, anyway. How did it get this way?
“If you ask what I think personally, I would like to mention that
the first draft of this fluffyyy, lighhht volume was over four hundred
pages and request an explanation of this X-Files-esque mystery.”
...Well, yes, there’s a reason for that deeper than the Gutenberg
discontinuity. Would you like to hear about it?
“Deeper than the lower mantle? I’d be much obliged.”
To be frank. Do you remember that a certain editor had me make a
manga of this with my wife? And then I ended up spending over a
week every month working on it, so now, practically speaking—I’ve
gone back to being a manga-ka.
“.Um, well...you see...”
And then I ended up also writing on a different series the previous
Editor S for Sadist approached me about. That one, well, it’s co¬
written, so it’s not actually that much work. But, with all this going
on, the machine I use for work broke down. And I ran to buy a new
one, and I got hit by a car and suffered a bone fracture. Since I was
running short on money and it got me some damages, that’s fine, I
The problem was afterward, when my editor drastically
misunderstood how the book was going and caused me to try to split
it up into three volumes. But it took a lot of work to split it up, and
splitting it in two was the best I could do, you see? Thus it was four
hundred pages. But, if I just split that straight in two, it would cause
problems with the structure, and, most importantly, it would lose the
momentum—etc. So, given this situation, I went through many
iterations of working over the structure and revising the text. What do
you think? Is it as deep as the Guten-whatever-it-is-ity?
“It’s the Gutenberg discontinuity. What shall I say? That’s—quite
the story. V”
Yes, but I’d also like your comment on how a large proportion of
this calamity was human-generated. V
“There certainly are some diabolical editors out there... It’s a scary
Yes, some editors are so diabolical as to say lines like that with a
straight face... (Voice trembling ) It certainly is scary.
—Well, human-generated calamity aside, there were a lot of other
things that I haven’t even written about here. There was blood in my
urine, and I got yelled at by my doctor, and I decided to eat some
Korean barbecue for once and got food poisoning, for instance.
...I’m going to spell this out just in case, but this is nonfiction, okay?
“Mr. Kamiya, I suspect you should seriously visit a shrine for
The Meiji Shrine before I got cancer. Then the Fushimi Inari Shrine
after. This year I went to Kawasaki Daishi, but look how that turned
out. If I hadn’t gone, I suppose by now I’d be crossing the river into
the next life. Oh, but, at the end of last year, I was updating my bank
book and I saw that it said “o” in real life, so I guess I wouldn’t have
had the fare to cross the Sanzu... What is it that happens if you didn’t
have the fare? Do you still get to be reincarnated?
“Um, I don’t think there’s supposed to be that kind of system for
With that—let’s call it a day. While this volume’s contents were
lighhht and eaaasy (heh), it’s a run-up to the dash—while this series
did have its first peak in the last volume! This is to be exceeded! As I
work to push up the pace once more, with your kind—
“Oh, Mr. Kamiya, Mr. Kamiya.”
Uh, oh, yes, what is it? Just when I was wrapping things up.
“Your editor from Alive has inquired, Is the storyboard done
“Then there are those extras, and the copy for the pamphlet for that
project, and—wait. Mr. Kamiya? Are you there?”
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