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1 ji 1
THE TEN COVENANTS
The absolute law of this 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
or wager is permitted.
5. The party challenged shall have the right to
determine the game.
6. Wagers sworn by the Covenants are absolutely
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.
dL Hp Vv
10. Let's all have fun together.
@ NORMAL START
Welcome to a frontier where infinite possibilities await—now with
over seven billion active users! Goforth and tell a story that no one
but you can tell!
...Reality. Our precious lives, when you step back and look at them,
are a kind of game. Try imagining the game described by the exciting
copy above. A literal once-in-a-lifetime adventure—the grand game of
You start playing. First, there’s a random character creation process
that proceeds automatically as a collaboration between your parents.
There’s the heartwarming opening with your mom and your dad and
a thousand blessings and all that, and then finally, you get to dive in.
You get a rough grasp on the controls, and then you’re tossed into
“school,” a microcosmic tutorial for the heavy seas of society—
The game’s setting—Earth. Awaiting us as we’re tossed into a
corner of that oversized map is a massive sandbox game. There we
have a vast array of choices, a spectacular degree of freedom, and
countless minigames. Inspired by the hype, we advance just as
advertised, but it’s not long before we realize something.
—We’ve been had.
Infinite possibilities—sure, that might be technically true. But the
thing is, no one ever said you could do whatever you want in this
game. Your level’s not high enough; your stats are too low; you have
insufficient funds; your start position cuts you off. Countless shackles
constrict the freedom the game boasted, making a mockery of it.
But— we say as we struggle. Believing the billing, we fall and fall
and get up again, convinced that infinite possibilities and sparkling
hope stretch out before us. And so we work hard to raise our levels,
improve our stats, make money. Passive skills like “Talent” and
“Capacity” were randomly assigned to us in character creation, and
we grumble that it’s not fair at all how some people have them and
others don’t. Never giving up, never giving in, grinding away for
more experience points, struggling with all we’ve got—it’s that kind of
The story sets your heart on fire. It’s truly moving, isn’t it?
—But it’s meaningless.
No matter how high your score gets, you can never beat this game.
Even once you’ve got the levels, the stats, the cash, everything—now
they criticize you. Why?
—Because you “tried too hard.” They tell you it isn’t fair at all. Even
though you won through your own effort. As soon as you have
something other people don’t, you’re told it’s cheating. And then you
get penalized. You get handicapped with all kinds of abstract and
concrete shackles imposed on you by the seven billion other players.
And then, at last, a certain suspicion likely flickers through your
—Do you really have freedom in this game at all?
No matter what choices you make, society, other players—someone
—steps in and edits them. You try to roll with it and go for the win
again, but the same thing always happens. And then, all of a sudden,
you look back at the road you’ve walked and can’t help but see the
truth: Your actions had nothing to do with your will. They were
decided by someone else, directed, carried out under a tacit
understanding. All there is behind you is a long path that they
demanded you walk. That they—made you walk. In a flash, your
suspicion turns to doubt with a shade of conviction. They were right:
This bullshit game called life is indeed a vast, grand sandbox. But—
you aren’t the player.
Then you look down at your hands.
—When you see the countless strings entangling them, your
skepticism turns to certainty. And then suddenly you look around.
—Seeing those same, innumerable strings ensnaring everyone else,
your conviction becomes understanding. In heads clattering as
they’re shaken, the gamers realize that they themselves are mere
puppets. That all they are in this game of life, where they’d taken the
cues and played their parts, are puppets in a puppet show—NPCs.
Now, with all this in mind, I’d like to ask a question. What is the
purpose of your life?
—Were you able to give an answer you’re sure was your own?
—This is the world that the empty puppet saw. In the ten years
since the puppet had started the game, he had never questioned this
fact. The soulless puppet had never mourned it, never bemoaned it.
He’d merely searched people’s faces for hope, praying. Praying that
somewhere out there someone might actually be playing. Hoping
that, at the very least, the puppet show might be worth something to
someone, he kept smiling.
Elven Gard—in the state of Tirnog, the city of Loamigel. In the largest
country in the world—its vast territory spanning three continents—
among its fifty-two states, this was the capital of one. The capital was
situated in the southeast, a metropolis that bordered Hardenfell, the
country of Dwarf.
—A city of Elves, bom of the forest and beloved by the forest.
Loamigel’s appearance was entirely different from that of the streets
of Immanity—of Elkia. Over the center of the city towered the Bal Bel
—an unspeakably vast tree that spread its foliage above the clouds
and whose roots crawled through the ground like blood vessels to lay
out the city’s network of roads. The spaces between these roads were
filled by houses and streetlamps, themselves formed from the intricate
interweaving of trees and vines that sprouted from the earth. It bore
only a superficial resemblance to “architecture”—the phenomenon of
clearing forests, flattening the earth, and laying wood and stones on
top of it. It was a living city, made possible by advanced magical
engineering. In this landscape that united the urban and the natural
stood a particularly large residence. It was the mansion of the state
governor—Lord Ron Barthel. Through its rose-woven gates now
passed a lone girl.
Blonde hair with soft curls. Long ears protmding, the sign of the
Elf. On her forehead, a red gem caught the sunlight and sparkled
gently. Greeting her was an aging man in fine garb with similarly
“Welcome, Miss Fiel. Or had I best address you as Lady Nirvalen?”
The girl named Fiel returned a fluffy, polite smile.
“Why, Lord Barthel, surely you may address me as you please.
After all, I have not officially inherited the headship.”
The man—Barthel—twisted his lips into a grin at her answer. He
took a step back and extended his hand to invite Fiel into the mansion
where all was woven of wood.
It is most disgraceful of me to have forced a lady to wend her way
from afar all the way to this provincial estate.”
“Hee-hee, how skillful you are at uttering words utterly absent from
“You wound me. Though I may be old, I mean to retain a heart
capable of appreciating lovely flowers...though such flowers be
unsightly weeds in my garden, you see?”
“Well, flowers of value choose for whom they would brightly
bloom. And when, I might add.”
Without dropping their smiles, but also without looking into each
other’s faces, the two walked. Barthel guided Fiel into the courtyard.
At the center of the garden emblazed with all kinds of flowering
plants stood a white-painted table and two chairs. As Fiel seated
herself in one, Barthel settled into its opposite.
“It is then a trifle of a task for the both of us, I see. Shall we get
They could come right to business.
“Regarding the coming election for the Upper House—Nirvalen,
may I ask that you stand down as a candidate?”
Barthel addressed her by her family name alone as if giving an
—It had been Fiel who had given him leave to address her as he
pleased—but there was an understanding among the nobles.
Addressing one by family name alone was tantamount to an insult,
but Fiel glowed back without batting an eye.
“Why, is that all?”
“Of course not. I would also require that you lend the name of
Nirvalen officially to support my candidacy.”
‘Ahh, how interesting.”
“Oh, and I would also appreciate it if you would take on the deposit
for my candidacy, as well as my campaign fund. Additionally, my
dear Lord Kastlet seems to have an interest in this ‘Harp of Golden
Dragon Bone’ you possess. He has indicated that he might support me
in the election if I could procure it.”
“Oh my... Why, that is a precious heirloom of my family. It is said
an entire city was granted in exchange—”
“So I hear. I am sure Lord Kastlet will be delighted.”
Barthel grinned twistedly. He leered down at the ample bosom of
the girl seated across from him.
“Ah, but I do not ask this immediately. For today, you are welcome
to retire in the second house before returning. It seems to me it would
be best for us to have a thorough conversation regarding future
developments, perhaps through the night. Hmm?”
“Why, however you strive to put forward a refined appearance,
your true self never changes.” Fiel spoke as if about to burst into
laughter. “Fundamentally, what you are saying is, ‘Give me the
status, give me the money, give me the lady,’ is it not? Why, these
days I suppose even the bandits of Immanity make demands with
“Worms do know their place, after all. Do you not suppose that this
bearing befits a man of my stature?”
“Why, not in the slightest, Sir, but you certainly are free to hold
that opinion if you wish.”
Fiel continued without breaking her gentle smile.
“And may I take it that you are making such requests of me as a
consequence of a hangover?”
“Ha-ha-ha, I prefer the intoxication of flowers to that of spirits.
Surely upon coming here, you must have anticipated that I might
make such requests? After all...”
Barthel snapped his fingers. The spirit presence sharpened, and on
the table appeared a steaming tea set. Subsequently, a slip of paper
danced out to slide in front of Fiel.
“...You must be aware of the circumstances, in which an acting
member of the Upper House is plotting to free the slaves— If you do
not feel that this information becoming public would pose a problem,
I certainly will not object if you refuse. Hm?”
Fiel maintained her composure despite Barthel’s baiting. She merely
ran her eyes over the slip of paper that had dropped on the table.
What was documented there was simple: It was a list of records and
evidence of the maneuverings orchestrated by Fiel. Considering that
Elven society could not function without the system of slavery, such
acts were essentially criminal. Should this list become public, it would
not be surprising if Fiel and any accomplices were charged with high
“Given the scope of your knowledge, Sir, I must wonder why it is
that you do not report this matter forthwith.”
“I am a libertarian as well as an opportunist. What profit would
there be for me in exposing your gambit ?”
“And so you intend to blackmail me, do you? Why, I can only
applaud the dexterity of your thought.”
“‘Blackmail’? Such a horrid word... I merely implore you, foolish
maiden. Will you not come and accept my strict discipline, crawling
on your hands and knees and wagging your rump? Hm?”
“If I may be so bold, Sir—may we proceed to the matter at hand?”
“Ah, you are beside yourself with excitement, hmm? Very well.”
With this, Barthel snapped his fingers once more. Forthwith, a
complex magical pattern glowed through the air, producing a deck of
“Let us play oracle card—surely the rules need no explanation?”
Oracle card. A common, simple game among Elves, in which
players competed using a hand of twenty-two cards and the extent of
—It was a dangerous game, primarily used in place of duels and
disadvantageous to Fiel, who was the lesser mage. According to the
Ten Covenants, Fiel, as the challenged party, had the right to
determine the game—
“Why certainly, and let us clarify what it is we shall wager.”
But Fiel batted not an eye, only responding carefully without
looking away. The two would confirm their demands of each other-
demands that would be absolutely binding under the Ten Covenants.
‘Then I shall demand your person—and lifelong, all-encompassing
“As for us, why, we demand that you forget about us, and that you
assist us unconditionally and unreservedly .”
—They were obvious stakes. If Barth el acquired Fiel’s person, the
entire house of Nirvalen along with her chastity would fall into his
hands. Meanwhile, if Fiel prevailed, she would eliminate the basis for
his blackmail while grasping the opportunity to wring him dry.
“Why, this all sounds quite fine, except—a petty villain such as
yourself, my lord, had best not expect to win everything... Why, don’t
you know that when dexterity of thought reaches a certain point, it is
called delusion ?”
“How amusing your transparent bravado is, hmm? Do you suggest
that the shame of Nirvalen stands a chance before me?”
Their gazes locked in challenge, and simultaneously, they declared:
As if in anticipation of these words, the rite on the table activated,
and the game began. Barthel and Fiel were each uniformly dealt a
hand of twenty-two cards. The cards pinned themselves in the air,
shuffling so that neither player could see the other’s order. Then the
two faced each other with hands of the same size and kind.
—This was oracle card. The simple game using the twenty-two
cards of the tarot’s Major Arcana deck commenced.
—Of the games played among Elves, this was one in which magical
cheating was all but impossible. For, given that players can see the
rite and the flow of magic, if magic were employed, it would be
discovered immediately, constituting a loss. For this reason, it was
popular among Elves to use self-operating magical items such as this
deck. Among such games, oracle card was particularly favored, for its
gameplay as well as its clear demarcation of victoiy—to be specific:
At Fiel’s brief whisper, two of the cards floating before her
disappeared, instantaneously and silently reappearing facedown on
the table. Barthel smiled, then announced:
This time, two cards disappeared from Barthel’s hand, and as
before, they appeared on the table. Both having produced two cards
from their respective hands, their contest was ready to begin. Barthel
“So, are you ready?”
“Why, yes. With that—”
They both declared:
At these words, all the cards they’d placed on the table flipped over
at once. Suddenly—as if space was bursting—a vast spirit presence
swelled. The cards Barthel had chosen were Strength and The
Chariot. The scroll was Knight of Honor. Fiel’s cards were The Fool
and The Lovers. The scroll: Falling Down. Light poured forth from
each of their melds, and before each of them arose a faint, translucent
specter. Barthel had summoned a knight in full armor. The knight
drew his sword, spurred on his horse, and charged. Before him, called
out by Fiel’s cards, tottered a half-nude maiden. The maiden, as if
dancing, hung to the knight’s neck, and she whispered something in
his ear. The knight, as if in torment, raised his head—and turned his
sword. Returning, holding the maiden, he rode toward his
summoner, Barthel—to strike.
—Rank Seven, Elf, with the highest magical aptitude among the
Ixseeds. The oracle cards they’d built were on the cutting edge of
magical engineering. The fragmentary rite deployed by the composite
seal of the cards attacked Barthel ruthlessly. Barthel, for his part—just
clucked. He raised his hand and assembled a magical defense in an
instant. Two magical circles floated up in the air and intercepted the
sword of the onrushing knight. Light burst with a boom. The massive
quantity of spirits scattered mowed over the garden as if licking it and
dispersed. Barthel, having taken a harsh blowback, yet said placidly:
“To think you would use an attack-reversing scroll on the first turn.
It gives the impression of an incompetent cowering before the threat
of injury. Hm?”
To this, Fiel answered without interrupting her smile:
“Why, it is a natural hedge against risk in the first move. And it
would hardly be amusing if the match were to end so suddenly.”
“Ha-hmm, this is just what makes you so distressing to watch... To
attempt such artifice in this game betrays a boundless lack of sense. I
suppose I must educate you in the sort of behavior that suits my
noble blood, hmm?”
So, to sum up, this was oracle card.
—A game for duels among Rank Seven, Elf. Both players held the
same twenty-two-card hand and selected cards two at a time to form
“scrolls.” Each scroll, besides raw strength, had certain affinities, and
the losing player would have to receive the attack that corresponded
to the scroll. Defending against the attack relied on the player’s magic.
Used cards were discarded on the table, and, after eleven turns—that
is, after all the cards had been used—the player had to choose whether
to resign or to continue. If the game continued, then each player
would start the contest with twenty-two cards once more—and so on
until one player could hold out no longer. There were 231 scrolls in
total—it was impossible to predict and prepare for all of them.
Therefore, victory depended on the ability to continue defending
—In short, it was a test of one’s ability as an Elven mage.
“Quadcasters” were considered the best of the best. Barthel was not
quite up to that level, but still a remarkable mage as a “tricaster.” Fiel,
“—You rely on link tattoos and boosters for beginners just to
achieve duocasting, and you sincerely believe you can defeat me, do
you—shame of Nirvalen, hm?”
—Indeed. The decisive factor for victory in this game was magic
skill. The number of rites that could be deployed concurrently—also
implied the power and frequency of magic that could be applied.
Against a tricaster such as Barthel, Fiel, barely a duocaster, didn’t
stand a chance. But Fiel laughed it off.
“Why, of course I do. You’re making quite the show over having
blocked only my first move, but why not wait to crow until you
actually land an attack ?”
Then, she glanced upward. From the garden where the flowers
danced and scattered in the still-throbbing spirits, she could see the
second floor. Through the window, she saw walking a black-haired,
black-clad girl—her partner—and her face softened. Yes, this game
properly had no place for an Immanity, bereft of magic, to get
involved. A single blow would be enough to decide the matter. It
could hardly even be called a game. But —two faces flashed through
Fiel’s mind. Self-assured, sarcastic, yet somehow melancholy, a man
and a girl whispered.
—Who said you had to take them head-on?
“Why, this game was over before it began!”
“...Tsk, damn that Barthel.”
On the second floor, Fritz, a butler of the house of Barthel, clucked
with bile at the match in the garden.
—His master’s intent was clear to see from the covenant he had set
out. He would seize upon her weakness, goad her into an unwinnable
game, and take possession of her person. Once he defeated the girl, he
would automatically own the Nirvalen family’s votes, interests,
property, and—more important than anything, more valuable than
gold—those tits. You could see he’d put on his smug bad-guy face, but
it could be assumed that his mind had already left the game behind
and moved on to later that night in bed and tits galore. Fritz knew
this because, as he blocked the card attacks on Barthel’s behalf from
where the girl couldn’t see—in other words, helping Barthel cheat—his
own mind was full of tits galore.
Shame of Nirvalen? Incompetent? What did it matter? Those tits
were enough to wipe all other defects clean from the slate. A woman,
after all, was about her knockers. If those knockers were
complemented by a nice face, fine buttocks, curvaceous hips, and
long legs, that was all well and good, but everything beyond the
knockers was optional and had about as much value as the paper
napkin that comes with your lunch.
Intelligence? Magic? Such trifles were of no interest whatsoever.
—To get straight to the point, Fiel pushed Fritz’s buttons hard.
“Oh, fancy seeing you here. You are Lord Barthel’s butler... Fritz,
“—?! You’re Nirvalen’s—”
As the manservant spun about in a panic, there stood a black¬
haired, black-clad Immanity...Nirvalen’s slave. Chlammy, was it?
Fritz clucked to himself.
“...Tsk, you flat-chested wench. Mind your manners before you
speak to me.”
To begin with, being addressed by such a pathetically endowed
Immanity was obnoxious. And now, of all times, was inopportune.
He was laden with the duty of supporting Barthel while appreciating
every last bit of Fiel’s tits. But, as if incapable of discerning what ran
through Fritz’s mind, the flat-chested wench continued amiably:
“Fate must have brought us together here. Why don’t you challenge
me to a game?”
“...Watch your tongue, you kept bitch. You’d best at least triple the
size of your breasts before opening your mouth, you inferior thing.”
The words resounded with contempt, derision, and countless ill
Yet the girl merely replied, “Watch my tongue...you say? For
Still smiling, she narrowed her eyes.
“If I were to use it to expose the misconduct of Lord Barthel and
yourself—what would you think of that?”
“...What’s this about?”
“You are thinking that an Immanity is incapable of detecting
As he fell silent, the flat-chested girl shook her head theatrically.
“You would be right. Hypothetically. Just hypothetically , mind you.
For a duocaster to win against a tricaster, it would be difficult, but not
impossible. However, if you were to conspire with Lord Barthel and
help him block her card attacks from here, your game would result in
almost certain victory. Meanwhile, I, being unable to detect magic,
would be unable to prove such shenanigans. My master—Fi—would
be in quite a bind, wouldn’t she?”
But— The flat-chested girl broke into a giggle as she continued.
“There’s no need for me to detect it, you know? After all, you will
“I’ll say this one more time: Why don’t you challenge me to a
game? If you refuse—” The girl flashed a dusky smile and produced a
small jewel from her breast pocket. “I shall let Public Safety know
about your using Lord Barthel’s funds to produce and sell these ‘seeds’
to the Dwarves—a neighboring country—so that you may savor your
own ruin. Is that a better way to use my tongue?”
Fritz loosed a groan. Of course, the small stone Chlammy played
with in her palm was none other than the “seed” in which he was
“By concentrating spirits in liquid form and ingesting them, it is
possible to boost the spirits within one’s own body. It serves as a
doping agent for magic. However, there are side effects—in fact, to
such an extent that it became prohibited due to rampant abuse.”
—In other words...
“A feeling of pleasure and omnipotence induced by overdose. That’s
what you call a drug.”
« | 99
“Do you understand now? Challenge me. There is no other way for
you to save yourself.”
At Chlammy’s chilly smile, Fritz pursed his lips. It was over. This
was the end of the line.
No—bear it. It’s wasn’t time; it was still too early to laugh...! It
would be unsightly to break into a belly laugh at this flat-chested bint
who thought she had him cornered with information such as this !
Turning his face from the flat-chest, Fritz shook his shoulders weakly.
Did it look like the fear of a cornered man? —How foolish. How
terribly foolish. It was Barthel who had put Nirvalen up to this. In
exchange for overlooking the information that Nirvalen was plotting
to free the slaves, he’d forced her to accept a game under
disadvantageous conditions. To make his victory certain, he’d tasked
Fritz with assisting him. But—Fritz recalled the words of that super¬
—And it would hardly be amusing if the match were to end so
—Those two... They were never going after Barthel in the first
place, but me. He stifled his laughter. Fiel’s easy acceptance of
Barthel’s game was ah planned. If Fritz had his hands full supporting
Barthel, even a lone Immanity girl could corner him. That kind oj
basic calculation was transparent. To begin with, he’d known this
would happen. He knew that his seed smuggling had been found out.
He’d been informed in advance by Barthel himself that there would
be an interruption during the game. The reason being that these two
had brought the discussion to Barthel first.
—Your butler is engaged in this criminal affair. We would like to
force him to confess in secret so as not to damage your reputation as
his master. We request your cooperation so that we can obtain
And so they’d worked to set him up. The game unfolding in the
courtyard had been fixed in advance with Barthel for that very
(...Or so they think— How ludicrous!)
The two hadn’t realized that it was Barthel himself who was
actually the ringleader—Barthel, the very one who’d asked them to
help. Barthel couldn’t take out Fritz. If Fritz confessed, not only the
smuggling routes but also a mountain of evidence indicating the true
ringleader would come out. Therefore, Barthel had pretended to
collaborate with them, only to bring Fiel into his grasp. He had
proposed the idea himself and chosen his own mansion as the stage.
Given the assumption that this was secret, she could have no allies
here but her flat-chested slave.
—What a farce. A pathetically endowed Immanity and a
pathetically stupid rack. They thought they were setting him up as
they leaped right into the spider’s web.
“...You are stupider than I thought. Let me explain this in a way
that even an idiot can understand.”
As Fritz stifled his laughter, the flat-chest spoke as if throwing cold
water on him.
“You do not have any choice. It’s play or be smashed. You get
Spluttering at the comical taunt, Fritz raised his head. He removed
his eyes from the courtyard and fixed them on the girl before him.
Maintaining his composure with all his might, Fritz seated himself at
an adjacent table.
“...Very well. But I am a busy man. Let us make it quick.”
“How convenient. I cannot afford leisure myself, given my
partner’s circumstances. We’ll make it simple.”
The flat-chest sat at the table after him and commenced.
“Here I have a perfectly ordinary deck of playing cards.”
She drew three cards from the deck and laid them on the table.
They were the ace, queen, and king of spades.
King beats queen, ace beats king, and queen beats ace.”
With that, she laid the three cards facedown and shuffled them.
“Each of us will draw one card facedown, and we will reveal them
to decide the winner. Understandable enough for an idiot?”
Heh! And your request?”
“Are you not the one who should be making requests? Or pleas to
spare your life, I might say,” the flat-chest sneered.
Slightly irked, Fritz responded, “...Then I request the destruction
and oblivion of all information you wenches have grasped regarding
“Yes, and I request your confession and testimony regarding all of
it. Everything, you understand.”
At these vague words, Fritz’s brow twitched slightly. Her objective
was—all the information about the smuggling and a confession about
the cheating in the game proceeding in the courtyard. How
interesting: These pathetic, stupid wenches, in their own stupid way,
meant to stand here in consideration of their own interests. Little do
they know, they came too late from the start...
“—Very well. Aschente.”
—They drew their cards. His card still facedown, Fritz wove a little
spell. Did you think that, if I was assisting Barthel, I would be unable
to use magic here? Still the adversary was the shame of Nirvalen. Fiel
Nirvalen—the first incompetent in the history of the house. She’d
flunked out of school—the Garden—and was barely capable of even
monocasting without the link tattoos and boosters on the back of her
hand and forehead and so on. This trash was facing Barthel, a
tricaster. Moreover, the foolish pair of tits was expecting the match to
be thrown. What could come of Fritz diverting his attention for a
—He looked through his facedown card. It was the ace. He’d
unfortunately been unable to figure that out from the start, but this
was a game proposed by his opponent. There was no question she was
cheating. There was no magic present—this he could say for sure.
Then how could an Immanity cheat—? She could have shuffled
deliberately and controlled the cards they drew. In any case, it was
certain that the flat-chest’s card was the one that could beat his—the
queen. Only three cards, presented from the beginning. Even if he
were to repaint his facedown card from ace to king, his iniquity would
be exposed as soon as the third card was overturned. But then all he
had to do was to use magic to switch the faces of his card and hers.
Even if she had drawn deliberately to acquire the card before her, that
itself was cheating. And without the ability to detect magic, there was
no way for an Immanity to prove that he had switched them.
—Is that what you expect? I would advise you not to
underestimate me, puny Immanity. Silently, he touched his finger to
the table. Instantly, the spirits that ran along the table told him the
flat-chest’s card: It was the king, which meant she’d assumed that
he’d switch the facedown cards—and drew the losing card
intentionally. Such a cheap trap. She thought using one of the oldest
tricks in the book made her a tactician.
“—What can be expected of the shame of Nirvalen and her slave...
By this point, Fritz wasn’t even trying to contain it. He laughed out
“A foolish pair of melons being preferable to a clever flat-chest, a
woman is most valuable if her nutrients go to her bosom rather than
her brain— But when it comes to a foolish flat-chest, what can one
“...It appears they were right when they said noble character is not
something one is born with.”
The flat-chest twisted her face peevishly. Fritz swallowed quietly.
There was nothing he had to do. She just had to fall into her own
“Well then, open deal, all right?”
“Yes, and therein lies your downfall.”
They revealed their cards simultaneously. Fritz’s card, just as he
had seen, was the ace. And the flat-chest’s—
—was the queen.
“...H-how—?! It can’t be!!”
Kicking away his chair as he stood, Fritz shrieked. Absurd,
impossible, it wasn’t— Fritz panted, but Chlammy smiled.
—Softly. Yes. With a full-faced glow, as of the sun:
“...Hee-hee, did it surprise you it was not what you saw when you
—Chlammy’s visage, along with her speech, swayed.
“When you use magic, why, you’d best look carefully at your
The visage of the black-haired girl evaporated like a summer haze,
leaving a girl of waving blonde tresses—that is—
Having mimicked the visage of Chlammy, she transformed back
“Why, yes, I am Fiel Nirvalen.”
Fiel’s lips curved in an arc, producing her fluffy smile.
“You were speaking of nutrients going to the bosom rather than the
brain, I recall...? Why, this poses a rather interesting question.
Wherever are your nutrients going—as it appears that even your dear
member lacks development?”
Uncovering in an instant the details of Fritz’s body by making
spirits crawl over him, Fiel narrowed her eyes.
“Why, I can only weep for the sad nutrients you’ve ingested, only to
be put to no use, whether above or below.”
But Fritz had no attention to spare for such jests— He’d lost? To
“Why, there’s no need for such alarm. It may be short and small,
but I’m sure there are some who prefer it that way... Though when
your brains and face are lacking as well, it’s hard to make promises!”
—Then— Then what, then what, then what?!
“...Impossible! Then what of the one dueling Lord Barthel—? Who
“Chlammy— why, I’m all done here.”
Fiel Nirvalen leaned over the terrace railing and waved into the
courtyard. That moment—the Fiel Nirvalen who was playing a game
before her— No. The girl who bore that appearance returned to her
original form as if casting off a veil. Chlammy Zell—the blackhaired,
black-clad girl revealed there—bowed gracefully.
“—Your cooperation is appreciated, Lord Barthel.”
“...W-well. Of course I must bear responsibility for failing to
identify indiscretions within my own ranks, hm.”
At the Immanity girl lowering her head deeply to him, Barthel hid
his discomfiture and furrowed his brow.
“B-but isn’t this different from what we agreed upon? Hm? I
understood you as promising to conduct this matter in secret... There
was no mention of another participant.”
At his words, the girl gave him a quizzical “I’m sorry?”
“Please excuse my impertinence, but, were there an uninvited guest
in your mansion, would you not be the first to observe this, my lord?”
Indeed. Barthel closed his mouth. The only ones in the mansion
were himself, Fritz, Fiel, Chlammy, and a few additional servants. It
was his own house. Were there an intruder, he should be able to
detect it immediately. He had cast a rite for that very purpose. Indeed,
he had selected the location for the game with that in mind—yet. In
that case, how had this Immanity girl been able to duel him? The
black-haired girl beamed.
“Just as promised, we are alone, my lord.”
“I-I see. Do excuse me... S-so now we can conclude this game as
null and void, hm?”
—It was odd. Something was odd. Spurred by an unease that
threatened to crush him, Barthel stood. For now, his highest priority
was to brush off this game and figure out what to do next—
“What’s this? It appears you are confused, Lord Barthel.”
—At the freezing touch of these words, Barthel turned back. There
sat Chlammy, a black-haired girl, wearing a grand sneer.
“Two-card set.” Two cards vanished her from her hand and
appeared on the table. “I’d remind you that our game is certainly not
Wha...?!” It was impossible to conclude the game without
mutual consent. “W-wench, what are you plotting?!”
“To continue the game, of course. Please be seated. Though, if you
fold, I will help myself to your chips.”
At Chlammy’s words, Barthel’s eyes bulged. He had hardly listened
to his opponent’s demand, assuming that his victory was a fait
—That you forget about us, and that you assist us unconditionally
Though the wording might have been different, the demand was
the same as the one Barthel had made to Fiel—no, even greater. He
would even forget that he had lost the game as he was reduced to
their slave. While Barthel’s demand had been this:
—Your person—and lifelong, all-encompassing submission.
In fact, the one who had accepted the game was not Fiel, but
Chlammy. Winning would only gain him one slave of Nirvalen, a
prize hardly worth taking. He’d meant to force through conditions
that favored him—but instead had swallowed conditions that favored
“Lord Barthel? Your time is almost up. Do you mean to resign?”
His rage was countered by Chlammy’s cool demeanor.
—A player who did not produce a card within the set time would
automatically forfeit the match. Having just remembered that rule,
Barthel shouted at his cards in a flurry.
“—! Two-card set!”
Obeying Barthel’s shriek, two cards disappeared from his hand and
appeared on the table. Chlammy turned up the corners of her mouth
in a grin and said:
With this declaration, the four cards on the table flipped over.
Barthel’s cards were The Moon and The High Priestess. The scroll was
Double Shadow. Chlammy’s cards were Justice and The Emperor.
The scroll was I Am the Rulebook. Barthel’s scroll: one that dodged
the opponent’s attacks and spun them against the prosecutor.
Chlammy’s scroll: one that pressed through by its own will regardless
of any status effects. The scrolls activated. The sword drawn by the
Emperor lay bare the truth of the High Priestess and pulled her down
off her perch. Having stripped his opponent of her might and
authority, the Emperor’s force rushed on toward the vacant Barthel.
He rushed to spin defense magic. Three spells activated just before
the Emperor’s sword would have struck. But the hastily erected guard
creaked, and a burning load was placed upon Barthel’s spirit corridor
junction nerves. There was a boom and a flash, and a voice came
from behind the breathless Barthel.
“Oh my. Why, it would appear that was sufficient to shave off half
He turned to see Fiel calmly advancing with his crestfallen butler in
“Fritz—you knave. How could you lose to Nirvalen?!”
Fritz winced at Barthel’s censure, casting his gaze down wordlessly.
Beside him, Fiel spoke with her fluffy smile.
“Why, what can you expect? Ultimately, he took me for an
Immanity and let his guard entirely down.”
“Shut your mouth, Nirvalen! You treacherous vixen, you deceived
“Whaaat? The word deceive is so offensive... Why, after all...”
Fiel looked at Chlammy, still seated at the table. Chlammy nodded
and smiled coldly.
“...Weren’t you the one who was always trying to put one over on
Barthel gasped, but Chlammy continued.
“You were the one telling your butler to manage the smuggling so
you could profit. Did you think we wouldn’t realize?”
“Why, you thought you’d pretend to help, trap us, wipe out the
evidence, and then take everything—”
“And if it didn’t work out, you’d just annul the game and moon us...
Rather deplorable, my dear lord.”
At Fiel and Chlammy’s invective, Barthel’s face warped violently.
They knew everything. They knew what he’d been plotting, and he
was the one who’d been led by the nose... No.
“Heh, heh-heh... You missed your chance, Nirvalen!”
“Excuuse me? Did you call?”
As Fiel stared at him blankly, Barthel shrieked in triumph.
“Now that I know the one who was playing with me was this little
hussy, it is transparent that you cheated! An Immanity could never
guard against a card attack! You were helping her, weren’t you?!”
—Indeed, since the start of the game, they had gone through three
full decks, and seven battles further. Which meant that, in the course
of forty rounds, Chlammy had received some attacks. Barthel had
seen with his own eyes that they had been blocked by magical
barriers. Chlammy couldn’t have done this, and therefore Fiel must
have helped her—hut. The condemned Fiel scratched her cheek
incredulously and grinned back.
“Why, considering that you were relying on your butler, this is a
most shocking accusation...”
And then Chlammy told him.
“In the first place, that’s not cheating— you ass.”
The direct insult left Barthel speechless.
“Listen carefully to the words of a covenant you make—when you
and I confirmed the conditions, I explicitly said we.”
—Now Barthel truly had no more words. He merely opened his
eyes. Given that she’d said we, it was considered a game between
Barthel and the team of Chlammy and Fiel. There wasn’t a rule
against leaving one’s seat during the game; Fiel could cast a barrier
from a remote location without cheating— No, wait ...she’d been
disguising both of them, hiding it from us, playing a game on the
second floor, and at the same time casting a barrier—?
With a sigh, Chlammy twisted her lips.
“Fi, it looks like this twit finally gets it.”
“Well, you must consider that he is handicapped by all the blood
flow going to his loins rather than his brain. Why not give him the
credit he deserves ?” Fiel spoke sunnily, but in a tone that conveyed
nothing but cold. “Yet he falls so easily for such simple word games.
It’s disappointing. After preparing so many complicated tricks and
backup plans—look, it’s all gone to waste.”
Before his eyes, a girl of an inferior race sighed as if disgusted with
“Anyway... Your play is so obvious. You always make a bruteforce
attack at the start. It gets blocked, and then you try a curse. You don’t
use counters because you don’t like them, and just now you allowed
your fear to take over, stalling for time with scrolls that annul attacks.
Any bloody dunce could— Excuse me. Given this, it is hardly
surprising that you do not understand.”
Barthel’s shoulders quivered. In rage and humiliation—and, most
unspeakably, in fear. Throughout these forty rounds, Chlammy had
suffered injury in only a scant few. And those had all been starting
rounds, the ones in which luck played the biggest factor. For the rest
—she’d read every play he’d made. Not an Elf, but a mere human, an
“—Don’t underestimate humans like that, you old creep.”
The mysterious black-haired girl—
“...Come—let the game continue!”
—smiled at him like the Grim Reaper.
The sharp spirit surge caught Barthel by the arm—and ripped at his
spirit corridor junction nerves. At the ineffable agony, the old man of
hundreds of years wailed like a child. After the shock that scattered
the flowers that bloomed in the garden subsided—to the old Elf, fallen
from his chair, grasping in torment, the Immanity girl whispered
“—This marks the end of the fourth cycle. What seems to be the
matter, Lord Barthel?”
“By the way, I wonder if you’ve noticed. Fi...that is, Fiel Nirvalen—
is a hexcaster.”
At these words poured into his ear, the old man’s face blanched
whiter than paper. He knew by now that this was no lie. It was the
only explanation for the series of feats Fiel had pulled off that day. As
if to console the pale, shivering old man, Chlammy knelt and
“Fear not, my lord. I see you have no strength left to weave further
barriers—but you still have ample chance of victory. All you have to
do is read my every move without taking a single attack and wear
down our hexcaster.”
—Describing chances that would require scientific notation to
express mathematically, Chlammy smiled.
“And it’s no problem if you fail. It will only hurt a little—though
you might die accidently.”
—Indeed, what she’d described— was exactly what she’d pulled off.
Surely you don’t mean to say that a mere human can do it and you
“I— I-I— I concede! It is my loss! So please—please spare me!!”
“—Very well. Then we win, I see. Thank you for the match, Lord
As Chlammy stood with a look askance at the pitiful old man, Fiel
bounded upon her with a cheer.
“Why, how wonderfull This must be the first time an Immanity
has ever defeated an Elf at oracle cardl”
“...It’s nothing worthy of boast against a senile buffoon such as this.
He’s the lowest of the low among all the trash we’ve been playing.”
Stroking Chlammy’s swollen head comfortingly, Fiel turned with a
Well then. She teased the splayed Barthel and Fritz, standing by his
side, with her eyes.
“Shall we, Lord Barthel? By the Covenants, please forget everything
And then—Chlammy continued with a smile.
“Carry on with your illegal trade as you were.”
“And also, Mr. Fritz? Why, half a month from now— you will
As both Barthel and Fritz seemed woefully incapable of keeping up
with what was transpiring, Chlammy stepped up to the table once
“With that, we shall presently be taking our leave—but first.” She
smirked while shuffling the tarot cards they had used for the game.
“As a final courtesy, I will tell your fortune.”
“Why, Chlammy, it is news to me that you had such a skill!”
“Indeed, this will be my first time. However—this fortune will not
Her words were at once jocular and eerie as she drew four cards—
“Oh my, what interesting cards. Let’s see, by my reckoning...”
On cue, she revealed each card in turn to her audience.
“It appears your business of selling seeds to the Dwarves will
proceed quite smoothly.”
—The Tower, upright.
“But then in half a month...goodness me, for some reason, one of
your Dwarven customers will confess and get caught.”
—Wheel of Fortune, reversed.
“And then, unfortunately, Lord Barthel, your butler will mention
your name, and the whole affair will be traced back to you...and
“You yourself, Lord Barthel, will be judged in a court of law—the
end. My condolences.”
Ignoring the blanching pair, Chlammy threw a theatrical question
“Heh-heh, that’s rather interesting, isn’t it, Fi? When Lord Barthel
gets caught, whoever shall take ownership of that trading company of
his, Will Andmorrow, the greatest in Elven Gard?”
“Oh my. Why, what a coincidence—it happens to be that boy of the
house of Enrich we amused ourselves with three days ago.”
—Everything. Everything had been in the palms of their hands. The
two girls darkly laughed at what they called destiny.
“Nirvalen. You bitch—no, you bitches, just what are you plotting?!”
To Barthel, howling as his teeth chattered, the two responded with
“What’s that? Well, we could tell you, I suppose.”
“But you’ll forget anyway. Much as you’ll forget you were involved
with us at all.”
Watching the two witches giggle innocently to each other, Barthel
shivered. Just what had he got himself into?
“Well then, by the Covenants—farewell, Lord Barthel.”
“Why, we pray for your continued success in your business.”
—And so. With a snap of the ladies’ fingers, the day ceased to have
Chlammy and Fiel drew their matching hoods down over their faces.
They weren’t here, and they never had been. That’s how it became.
Hiding from view, they leaped from the top floor of Lord Barthel’s
mansion. Faster than gravity, the rite Fiel wove took hold of their
bodies and carried them high in the sky.
—Through the wind, into the night. Only the red moon, the light of
the stars, and the lamps of the city lit the scenery below them,
brilliantly. A city in the forest. A city of green woven of astonishingly
refined magic. It was a sight with which Chlammy was quite familiar
—but, even if it had been the first time she was seeing it, it would
have been indication enough that Elven Gard’s civilization was on
another level entirely. The two flitted through the sky above, their
“Chlammy, why, you were amazing.” From tree—no, from building
to building, bounding roof to roof, Fiel gushed.
“You really took out that old scoundrel without my aid. Goodness, I
was so concerned.”
“...Never mind that, Fi. Are you all right?”
“Eh-heh-heh, it’s not a bad feeling to have you concerned about
me. You certainly are growing, Chlammy,” Fiel responded with a silly
smile while maintaining the rite allowing them to glide through the
air. But the gem in her forehead had lost its sparkle and appeared
cloudy due to her profligate use of magic. Chlammy could see this
clearly, even in the dim light.
Lord Ron Barth el and his butler, Fritz. A tricaster and a duocaster.
They might not have been the best of the best, but they were up there.
...But, Chlammy pondered, with a glance at the girl dancing
through the air beside her.
—Fiel Nirvalen. The head of one of the few truly great families of
Elven Gard, which Chlammy served as a slave. Fiel had attended the
towering white tree of the greatest magic school in the nation, the
Garden—and failed and withdrawn. Those who did not know her,
with her white link tattoos and beginner boosters, sneered. She was
the first incompetent since the birth of the house of Nirvalen—scrap,
they said. But Chlammy, who knew Fiel was only feigning
incompetence, sneered at the sneerers. Fiel was the greatest talent
since the inception of the house of Nirvalen—gold—this she knew. Fiel
had never particularly made a show of her true ability to Chlammy.
She’d cast a spell of disguise on herself and Chlammy, and she’d
cast a spell of blocked awareness both on Barthel and on Fritz to
prevent them from catching on. On top of that, she’d defended
Chlammy in oracle card from a distance, and what’s more, she’d
taken on Fritz in their game... She had been orchestrating six spells at
A hexcaster—without a doubt, she was better than the best.
No, wait. In that game with Sora and Shiro a while back—the
Othello match using Jibril’s core—Fiel had woven a rite capable of
controlling the astronomical power wielded by Rank Six, Fliigel.
Taking this into account, it was enough to imagine that she was a
mage for whom “better than the best” didn’t even cut it. A mage to be
welcomed as an honorary instructor, even by the same Garden that
had expelled her.
...It was very least they could do.
“Mmrr...? Why, what’s the matter, Chlammy?”
With her golden locks fluttering in the wind and her white skin
glowing in the darkness, Fiel’s smiling form was more dazzling than
the light of the sun. She was the flower of Nirvalen, bom to a
pedigreed house and concealing extraordinary intellectual and
magical talent. Wherever she walked, a future of nothing but sparkles
should have been her due—had she not herself thrown it all away.
Yes, she had refused that promised future. Concealing her nature,
playing the incompetent, she had chosen, of all things, to bite back at
her homeland, her country, her race. All for one person. Just one.
None other than—
“—...It is nothing.”
—For her friend. Softly dropping her eyes, Chlammy exhaled. To
free the slaves— Certainly, it had a nice ring to it. But it was
tantamount to freeing the national secrets of Elven Gard. To free the
Fairies, for instance, who’d been exploited for high-level magic, was
equivalent to selling their secret weaponry to another country. If that
happened, the Dwarves of Hardenfell could hardly pass up the
chance. Elf would most likely lose the continent they’d been
quarreling with Dwarf over for nearly a millennium. In the worst
case, they’d go on to see their country split, and what lay at the end of
that did not bear discussion.
—But if it was for Chlammy, Fiel’s homeland could go to ruin for
all she cared. So she boasted and so she truly thought, and in fact, she
had already taken any number of perilous steps to that end. Toward
Fiel, Chlammy felt deep gratitude as well as a certain feeling akin to
admiration, which transcended race and age.
—But then what about herself? Chlammy had to wonder. Though it
might not have shown on her face, Fiel’s deep fatigue was evident in
the color of her gem. As someone who couldn’t win a single game
without placing such a burden on one of Fiel’s class...was she really
worthy of being called a friend—?
—Grk. Her head throbbed. It was a flashback, Chlammy realized,
as she stopped, holding her head in her hands.
—A girl and a puppet that wanted to be a person, joining pinkies
and exchanging a promise. He—the puppet—Sora. Did he think that
he would tie her down? Tether her to the ground, one who should
have been free to ascend unaided to the heavens—
“Why...Chlammy, whatever is it?”
Chlammy replied, averting her eyes from the friend who’d doubled
back after noticing she’d stopped. “...Fi, I’m sorry. If I’d only moved
Elven Gard. It was an enormous country that wielded its
overwhelming magical supremacy over almost 30 percent of the
planet’s landmass. It was the greatest nation in the world, with over
twice the might of its closest competitor, Hardenfell. Its foundations
were like a fortress, defying attempts to find a crack—
...No. That was just another excuse. Still thinking of those two,
Chlammy tightened her fists.
“If they had been the ones playing—they could have done it without
Gradually, she and Fiel chipped away at those who held the reins of
distribution, trade, and rights. Undercutting power beneath a veil of
secrecy, at the end a tiny ant tunnel, a hole thinner than a needle
opened. But, at this rate, they could never—
“And never mind that, they could have won more grandly!”
The more little games they stacked, the more catastrophe loomed.
If the powers that be ever caught on to their machinations, they
would be squashed in a blink. Somewhere, there had to be a Sora-
style solution—to end it all with a single, unexpected strike.
“And yet...all I do is cause trouble for you, and we make no
As the skin of her palms began to split, pierced by her fingernails in
her clenched fists, a quiet but authoritative voice stopped her.
“Chlammy, why...you can’t be them.”
She looked down. She knew. It was futile, even if she tried to
imitate Sora. It was Sora and Shiro together that made “ ” (Blank)—
Immanity’s greatest gamer. She would have to find her own—
“Why, no. You understand nothing, I’m afraid.”
Her thoughts interrupted, Chlammy looked up.
“I don’t know what sort of memories you received from Mr. Sora.
But I do purport to know a bit—about who Mr. Sora is.” In that forest
city, amidst its fantastic illumination, Fiel’s expression turned serious.
“Why, Mr. Sora used you because he couldn’t do it himself.”
“...Fair enough, but look at—”
“And he used me because you couldn’t do it yourself.”
“They are not the only one who is two. To begin with, attempting to
win that game without relying on me would be as like unto Mr. Sora
or Miss Shiro playing alone.”
“Chlammy, why, you can rely on me. And you ought to.”
Just as “ ” was a team, Chlammy and Fiel were, too. If they were
able to produce the same results together, then to whom must they
“But all I do is weigh you down. I haven’t—”
“Why, it’s because of you that I have the will...and also...”
Holding her disheartened friend’s hand, Fiel glowed.
“I’m perfectly aware, you know, of how every day you summon up
those memories from Mr. Sora and try to uncover all of Mr. Sora and
Miss Shiro’s strategies to make them your own—”
Her eyes suddenly clouded with a somber tinge.
“And because of that, you haven’t slept in forever.”
“If you don’t sleep, I won’t sleep. If you will tiy, then I will try.
Why, if you think I am tired—don’t you see you are the same?”
With these words, Fiel peered into Chlammy’s face.
—Stroking the dark circles even the night couldn’t conceal, she
whispered like a mother chiding her child:
“Chlammy, if you would worry about my fatigue, tonight is the
night you must promise me you will sleep properly... Why, if we carry
on like this, we’ll both collapse...”
“...I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have—”
“Mmng, why, that’s not it.” Fiel pouted comically, her cheeks puffed
out. “Don’t you think there’s something else you should be saying?”
“...—You’re right. Thank you, Fi.”
Smiling and nodding, Fiel took Chlammy’s hand and wove a rite
“In any case, I doubt that the reason Mr. Sora entrusted us with the
downfall of Elven Gard was such a grand and noble one... Why, don’t
The two then recalled the man’s face—his sloppy, slovenly face—
and they quoted him together.
““Man...politics, rights...overthrowing a big country is such a pain
in the ass. I’ll leave it to you guys.””
Smirking, the pair leaped back into the sky.
An inn on the outskirts of the city. The companions had secured a
little room with two parallel beds. Fiel, having removed her hood and
changed into her bedclothes, repeated her admonishment.
“Now, Chlammy, tonight you must sleep.”
“...W-well then, may I...ask one thing?”
“Yes? Why, ask anything you liike.”
Chlammy, hugging a pillow, averted her gaze uncomfortably.
“E-err... C-c-could you...sleep with me?” As Fiel’s face lit up
knowingly, Chlammy blushed and shouted, “N-no! It’s just, Sora’s
memories are keeping me up! S-so I’m thinking of how Sora holds
Shiro’s— If you held my hand, it might... It’s all Sora’s fault, you
“Yes, yes, it’s all Mr. Sora’s fault. Why, then, you don’t need to be
ashamed. Just like before, if you have a bad dream, you can jump
right under my blanket.”
“I said... No, it’s not like that! Ngh, everything—it’s all Sora’s fault.
Why must I...?” And so on—carping on in a low mumble, she went
ahead and climbed into Fiel’s bed. To Chlammy, as she lay with her
back turned, Fiel smiled and spoke.
“Chlammy, is there anything else you want? Why, I could sing a
“I suppose I want you to stop teasing me and let me rest.”
“Really? Why, you don’t want stroking or fluffing?”
“.W-well, if you want to.”
“Okay! Why, I want to very much, so I’ll go ahead!”
At the sensation of Fiel’s hand combing her hair, Chlammy felt the
tension leave her body. The familiar feeling—from all those times
she’d cried—reminded her of the past.
All those days she’d been kept by the Nirvalens as a slave. Even
with Fiel on her side—she’d amassed any number of unpleasant
memories, and they made her want to cry. Made her want to die. But
she’d decided never to feel sorry for herself. She’d held back the tears
with all her might, releasing them all in that bed, back in those days,
long ago. By now, having touched Sora’s memories, the time had
long since passed when she should— “.Chlammy, are you asleep?”
Fiel’s voice was soft so as not to wake her friend if she was. It put
the stopper on Sora’s memories just as they were about to come
...Not yet. What?
“Mmm, if you can’t sleep, I was thinking of talking a bit until you
can. Do you mind?”
“...Well, no...but what?”
At the serious tone underscoring Fiel’s words, Chlammy nodded,
“Chlammy, why, it seems as if you trust Mr. Sora unconditionally.”
Fiel whispered with concern. “To be honest, that worries me...”
“Are the memories Mr. Sora gave you actually real?”
—Sora and Shiro had a Fliigel. With the Covenants, it was possible
to falsify memories. Perhaps they had forged memories and given
them to Chlammy to manipulate her. That was what Fiel was
“It’s possible I’m being tricked, you mean. That does indeed sound
like something Sora would do—”
“—would sound like it, rather.”
Chlammy tittered at Fiel’s dubious expression.
“You needn’t worry. The one who’s overestimating Sora— is not me,
but you, Fi.”
—The memory flashed through the back of Chlammy’s mind.
Sora’s memory was drenched in awful recollections, but now— "...
Hey, Fi, do you know why the word ‘genius’ exists?”
“It is to maintain that a puppet is not a person. One who defies
understanding is called a genius. With approval, a genius. Without, a
monster. As spoken by most people, it is actually a slight.”
Implying that since it’s a different beast from themselves, there’s
nothing more to say, the majority comforted themselves thus and
gave up. But that puppet was different.
“Yes, he really was just a puppet.”
—He was just a dumbass.
“But he refused to be just a puppet.”
—He admired the real thing he saw before him.
“And then—he endured, suffering in ways from which it would be
hard to believe one could recover.”
Chlammy, in her sleepy daze, swam through Sora’s memories. A
way to fly without being able to fly—how could you tell whether or
not it was possible? By trying to fly—and seeing if you fell: That was
the only way. After falling so many times, his body, his heart
shattered— “...Even so, he stood up. With that silly grin of his, as if
nothing had happened.”
His heart bleeding, his teeth grinding, looking at his sister, he stood
up. In that, the typical image of a genius’s effortlessness... was
nowhere to be found.
—It really is tough to have a smart little sister, isn’t it? “Big
“Sora— is terribly awkward. And that is why he could catch up—no,
even overtake. He stands at a place anyone can reach if they are a
person, while being a fool just as he says. As a fool, he has run to
catch up with the real thing he admired, enduring, over and over-
...As Chlammy spoke, Fiel’s hand kept stroking her. Guiding her
deeper and deeper beneath a state of consciousness.
“What you need is just a little—but to go all the way—you need
enough resolve to make one feel faint, and...”
In her submerged consciousness, Chlammy remembered the
tournament for the monarchy, Sora’s words: —When it comes to
conflict and slaughter, we’re seasoned experts compared to you—
Visceral memory overlapped the recollection.
—The memory of blood, on a hand,
at which he looked down with vacant eyes—
the memory of a puppet that wanted only to be a person— “...He
really is...just so awkward.. .can’t even...tell a single lie... you know...”
...Only the breath of sleep answered. Deep in thought, Fiel stroked
the girl, who had drifted off with words still falling from her lips. One
more thing, she’d murmured, but left the thought incomplete. Fiel
pondered, looking at the ceiling. She recalled the man Chlammy had
assessed as awkward, incapable of telling a single lie.
—The face of the man who seemed to walk in clothes woven of lies.
Bold, frivolous, eliciting caution from all who saw him— “-Oh...”
Finally, Fiel got there.
“I see... A ‘liar who can’t lie’... That’s what she meant...”
A man whose life even Chlammy deemed awe-inspiring—one who
had weathered such experiences.
Why ...would he elicit caution ?
Fiel felt a long-held unease dissipate. Having reached her answer,
imagining a future in which Chlammy believed, of which Sora and
his sister dreamed, a minute smile spilled across her face. And the
ghosts of sleep that had eluded her returned to close her eyes.
I can’t wait, she thought. For the first time in a long time—a really
and truly long time, too many years to count—she faded into a deep
—The Kingdom of Elkia: the capital, Elkia. The last bastion of
Immanity, the lowest ranking of the Ixseeds. Elkia was a country
that, until a few months ago, had been on the brink of destruction,
backed into the confines of its sole remaining city. Now it had
expanded its territory with unprecedented speed, swallowing up the
great maritime nation of the Eastern Union. In the castle of this
nation, where reformation from kingdom to commonwealth
proceeded at a feverish pitch, a shriek rang out.
—For an instant, the harried castle staff froze as if time itself had
stopped. But even that was fleeting as the machine quickly ratcheted
back into operation as if nothing had happened. Yes—it was business
as usual. Everyone was familiar with it by now. She must have been
screaming again—and most likely with exceedingly valid cause. As an
unspoken sense of sympathy swept the castle, everyone went back to
“Fahhhhhhh!! This is idiocy! Is this not idiocy? This is
idiocy, is it not?!”
The redhead once again put her masterful phraseology on display.
—Stephanie Dola, aka Steph. Head of the house of Dola, ranked a
duchess, and granddaughter of the previous king. A princess in the
truest sense of the word. This young lady, once so full of grace, now—
unequivocally—devoid of it. Perched in a chair, she tore at her hair,
looked toward the sky, and wailed.
“...Who’s dumb, please?”
Cross-legged on the floor beside Steph, reading a book, sat the
Werebeast—Izuna Hatsuse. Estimated age: one digit. A young girl
clothed in traditional Japanese style with large ears, like those of a
fennec fox, and a tail. The book in her hands was upside down, but
Steph had no time to point that out.
“Sora is, Shiro is—no, I am!! ‘Why, yes, Sir. You needn’t worry.’—
what was that?! It was imbecilic! I am imbecilic!!” Flinging her arms
wide, she ranted. “‘Go to your grandfather’s library and find the true
reason the Siren queen sleeps’!! Why, yes, Sir!! Who but an imbecile
would say this?! Just how many books did I think there were?! To
She surveyed the shelves filling the walls. Her diatribe skipped a
“Find a book that may or may not even exist ? Just what did I think
I was agreeing to?!”
The two young women were in the hidden room left by the
previous king—his secret study. The former ruler had always played
the fool to reveal the truth behind the games of other countries—other
races with magic and supernatural powers—and the strategies that
would allow a mere human to overcome them. The records on which
he had staked his life—the legacy of a great man—were arrayed along
those walls. His feats were chronicled in tomes easily exceeding a
thousand volumes, which filled the study. Though the books were
arranged in chronological order, without any clue as to when the old
king had interacted with the Sirens, the girls’ only choice was to
power through all the books by brute force. Belated recognition of this
fact had prompted Steph’s scream—mere moments earlier. But more
than that— Almost crying, she thrust a finger at Izuna, the little
Werebeast girl holding her book upended.
“Just how did Sora think you could help? You can’t even read
“Stuch...pipe down, please. The hell you think I’m working on right
“W-wait, can we back up? What did you just call me?”
“...? Goddamn Gramps said, ‘Steph is a duchess,’ please?”
“Why do you have to abbreviate it further?! It sounds horribly
“...How the hell’s that, please, Stuch?” Izuna cocked her head and
peered up at Steph.
“A-aaaaaaahh, could you please not insult me with such round
eyes?! How will you make it up to me if my sleep deprivation curses
me by opening up another secret door?!”
Steph writhed, banging her head on the corner of a desk, but Izuna
“Stuch, shut it and work, please. Gramps is waiting, please.”
“...Mg-ghh. Y-yes, I suppose so. Grieving will accomplish
Indeed. Siren had taken a hostage, Izuna’s grandfather I no
Hatsuse. Izuna must have been tired, too. There was no time for
Steph to waste wailing while Izuna struggled to learn an unfamiliar
writing system. Yes, take a deep breath. Regaining her composure,
Steph finally broke the news.
By the way, Miss Izuna...your book is upside down.
“.! I-I know that, please. Y-you think I’d do that by mistake,
Izuna scrambled to right her book as Steph set about lecturing her.
“And, perhaps you’ve got this already, but Immanity’s tongue,
unlike Werebeast’s, is written horizontally.”
? There are languages written horizontally, please?” Izuna’s “The
hell?” face consisted of a wide-eyed gape.
“...Miss Izuna, come to think of it, I have yet to hear: How old are
At this, Izuna started counting on her fingers before uneasily
“Do...do I count from zero, please?”
—Steph grasped it. Indeed, it was no wonder that Izuna was fond of
Sora and Shiro. They were of entirely the same breed. Genius gamers,
oblivious to all else. With a sigh, Steph pointed to another book.
“Miss Izuna, I suggest you begin there.”
“The hell’s this, please?”
“That is the textbook I used in school to learn the Werebeast
tongue. It is a bilingual game—”
“—Mmph. Understood, please.”
As soon as she heard the word game, Izuna seized the book and
started flipping through the pages. Steph had to credit her effort. It
was clear she was doing her best. But what could she read at that
speed—? Steph sighed at the ceiling.
“I...in any case, I suppose there is no option but to go through all
Just as Steph arrived at this tragic conclusion
—grmmmmmmglgrgl— a sound (and the words that followed) sent
her resolution up in smoke.
Stuch, I’m goddamn hungry, please. Feed me, please.”
As if a switch had been flipped, Izuna thumped her book closed. She
had plenty of drive and motivation—and of course she would make
the effort to save her grandfather. But, leaving that aside, Izuna’s
voluminous eyes demanded, without a hint of malice: Feed me. The
young girl scratched her large animal ears with her foot, her big tail
swaying to and fro. The adorable sight pressed Steph to make a
1. Forget it all and just faint already.
2. Prepare a meal for this unbearably lovable beast.
At the end of her reflection, her need for sleep bowed to the power
“A-all right... When you’re hungry, you’re hungry... I’ll whip
something up with what I’ve got on hand.”
“Mm, I want fish, but I’ll suck it up and let you off the hook,
And so Steph slumped off as if dragging her feet behind her.
...By the way, do you remember that they were still in Elkia Castle?
Steph was spectacularly forgetting that she had the option of just
fainting already and leaving it to the cooks to prepare a meal for
Izuna. But as Steph shambled on like a ghost with Izuna in tow,
wagging her big tail, no one was there to remind them.
Meanwhile— twenty thousand meters above sea level. Beset by winds
one encounters at an altitude triple that of the Himalayas, Sora
wondered how to describe the sight stretching out before him.
—First, try imagining a Rubik’s Cube. Take that intellectual puzzle
and hand it to someone of severely limited intellect. Soon—dismantled
with pliers, countless pieces of what once had been a Rubik’s Cube
would be scattered across the floor. Now, please suppress the urge to
comment, and repeat this process about a thousand times more. How
about it? Can you imagine it? The landscape that would emerge from
this exercise—was basically what Sora saw.
“Welcome to my homeland, constructed on the back of a
Phantasma. The city of the heavens—Avant Heim!”
There towered the mountain of dismembered Rubik’s Cubes. Sora
rolled his eyes and muttered as Jibril, smiling happily, pronounced
this a “city.”
“Hey, the cities we know, if I remember correctly, at least have
A vista woven of countless giant cubes stacked haphazardly one
atop another. Viewed by an avant-garde artist, perhaps some sublime
theme would emerge. Unfortunately, Sora—a virginal eighteen-year-
old layman—if asked to describe it could only come up with one word.
“Okay, Jibril—for now, we have just one thing to suggest to the
“...Structures should be...accessible...”
—Parting ways with Steph and Izuna, Sora and the rest had set off
to ascertain the true conditions to wake the Siren queen. To study
records of past games, they turned to the world’s greatest storehouse
of knowledge—the city of Fliigel, Avant Heim.
“Oh, Master. Please stay close to me. The air is a bit thin here.”
Sora and Shiro nodded at Jibril’s warning. Sora had no idea how
they could have moved anyway.
“...Well, I guess if it’s just Fliigel living here, they don’t need any
The city splayed below them had no roads, doors, or windows. It
made sense that a species that could move practically without limit
would have no need of such things, but an urban landscape
comprised of endless cubes defied perspective. Without a point of
reference, everything lacked scale.
“...Not like a city...more like a puzzle...”
Shiro, having made this blunt assessment, looked up and
“...The sky is...blue?”
At twenty thousand meters, they should have already been at
space’s doorstep. The sky shouldn’t have been blue...
“Avant Heim is a member of Ixseed Rank Two, Phantasma. Higher
than Rank Three, Elemental, the spirits that feed the corridors from
which this world is woven. It is a living being independent of ordinary
ecosystems. Put simply...you may think of Avant Heim as a discrete
Though it seems the atmospheric pressure is insufficient for you,
my masters, Jibril went on to explain.
Sora and Shiro nodded together, their expressions blank.
“It’s kinda refreshing, in a way, how resolute both Fliigel and
Phantasma are about defying comprehension.”
Sora tossed off a sarcastic jab. Shifting his line of sight to the
distance, at the foot of an unusually tall tree—it was...it was, wasn’t
it? Something that looked for all the world like a dragon skull,
enshrined in neat, ribboned decoration—
“...Jibril. I do not get the design concept of this city at all.”
“What?! How distressing, that the land destined to enthrone my
masters should fail to suit their tastes...”
Sora cradled his head and groaned at this response from Jibril, who
looked slightly dejected.
“By the way, you think it’s about time we save this twerp?” Sora
“Eeyauuuuugh, the sun, the suuun! I’m meltiiing! I’m
smoking and frying and meltiiinnggg!”
—Plum, who had her cape pulled up over her and was curled into a
small, wildly shrieking ball.
“Oh, how regrettable...I forgot about you entirely. Are you still
“I’ll be dead in a few secooonds! I feel my power drainiiing!”
Plum was a Dhampir, to whom sunlight was lethal. Apparently,
she’d somehow been able to manage using magic, but it seemed
magic was now being consumed at an unexpectedly high clip.
“So yeah, Jibril. We don’t wanna keep Izuna waiting forever, so
take us quick to wherever’s got the most info. And, considering Plum,
it would be ideal if it was indoors—”
“Your wish is my command. Please place your hands on me once
more. And also...”
With a somehow meek, complicated expression, she clasped Sora’s
and Shiro’s hands.
...Masters. I am well aware it is not my place to do so—but may I
ask of you just two things ?”
“...What’s all this? You don’t gotta be all humble like that...”
“—Please do not despair of me. And please have faith in me.” ...That
was pretty cryptic. But Jibril left it at that and continued, “You,
In response, Plum, now known as “You There,” peeped out from
under her cape with bloodshot eyes.
“I would not mind leaving you behind...but would you please hurry
and take hold of me?”
“Uhhh, yes, I’m coming. Don’t leave without—” Plum scrambled
up, and the instant she touched Jibril—the scenery changed.
It was probably the interior of one of the cubes they’d seen from afar.
A library—even greater and more majestic than the Elkia Grand
National Library, which Jibril had privatized. The ceiling was high,
and the structure suggested a well hole formed by excavating the
inside of a ten-story building. The interior was like the ruins of an
ancient city: stairs and columns of stone stacked without cracks,
intricate passageways and arched bridges with vines clinging to their
But—what appeared to be pillars of stone were, in fact, bookcases.
Various unidentifiable knickknacks also littered the landscape.
Stairs and suspension bridges traced unthinkable patterns, like illusory
Escher illustrations—all lit by giant skylights that were surely invisible
from the outside, as well as countless lanterns that floated without
It was fantastic and beautiful, even as it defied human
understanding—a library of blasphemy (or something). But for now,
there was something else on Sora’s mind, which he indicated with a
jab of his finger.
“...Jibril, I’m guessing this is your doing?”
It was probably because Jibril had warped them in along with the
air they needed. The library (or whatever) raged with gales that sent
reams of books spiraling through the cavernous structure.
Nevertheless, Jibril watched the havoc she’d wreaked with a prim
“Trouble yourself not, Master. The owner of this place is the one
who approved the Book Sharing Act.”
Sora recalled why Jibril had snatched up the Elkia Grand National
Library—no, fled Avant Heim—as he watched the books convulsing.
The books in Avant Heim had accumulated close to overflowing, and
to address this, the Book Sharing Act had been passed in the name of
“Her books are the Fliigel’s books. I am a Fliigel. Therefore her
books are my books.”
With a syllogism tight enough to justify the bullying in Dora*mon,
“One aware that I might make such a careless slip—perhaps even
intentionally?—while passing such a generous law must clearly be
endowed with a heart so magnanimous as to overlook this trifle. Even
if these pages include grimoires and prohibited books that cannot be
copied or duplicated—or originals without the like anywhere in the
world. Yes, I’m sure. V”
Oh. So if they were her books, she could wreck them.
—The real issue seemed to be that Jibril really couldn’t get past that
Book Sharing Act she’d rebelled against before. Then—
“Nyaaaahhhh! My books! Books I haven’t finished readiiing!!”
Eyes gathered in the direction of this wail. And there—
—they found a girl even Shiro softly exclaimed at, a girl of literally
inhuman beauty. The halo revolving above her head and the wings
protruding from her hips made it clear that she was a Fliigel, just like
Jibril. But her halo spun in a pattern quite a bit more complex than
Jibril’s. Most notably, from her jade hair protruded a single horn. Her
form, as she flitted through the air on the motion of wings seemingly
made of light, was incomparably divine. But her visage as she flew
about, scooping up her books while seemingly on the verge of tears,
lacked the inorganic quality they’d perceived in Jibril on their first
meeting—one might even have called this girl cute.
—Hff, hff. Panting with an air of affectation, she flitted over to
“Ngghh, Jibs, you’re such a meanie!”
She screwed up her face sullenly, but her expression quickly
rebounded with an angelic smile.
“Or, wait! Is it as they say—when you like someone, you tease
them? Ngmm, Jibs! Welcome baaaack, tee-hee!”
Leaping for an embrace, the girl found herself spectacularly
sidestepped as Jibril shifted out of the way. Standing behind Sora and
Shiro and watching her admirer smash into a mountain of books,
Jibril spoke neutrally.
“...Master, let me introduce you. This Fliigel is the chair of the
Avant Heim government, the very one who approved the most
loathsome law under the sky, the Book Sharing Act. She is the
Alipotentiaiy, the final decision-maker—”
And Jibril heaved a sigh.
“—my elder, Azril.”
Such was the introduction of the motionless girl with her torso
buried in a pile of books.
“.How do I put this...?”
“...You Fliigel...are interesting...”
This was Rank Six. A race that was once a weapon used to kill gods,
sowing death wheresoever they went—and this was their acting agent
plenipotentiary? Sora and Shiro mumbled rather forced reactions to
Perhaps likewise shifting, the girl, who had been partially entombed
in books, made a transition invisible to Sora & Co., and was now
hanging on their companion, rubbing her cheek against Jibril’s.
“Eee, Jibs, you’re so naughty ! Here I was so excited you finally
showed up again, and then you treat me like thiiiiis— Oh, but!
That’s your charm!!”
“And I see you have not changed, Elder Azril. You are as disgusting
While her cheek was being polished, Jibril delivered her comment
through unbent lips.
—Not one of her usual sardonic jibes, but a direct insult. However.
“Nyah, I’m not your elder, I’m your big sister. How many times do
I have to tell you, nya-haaa?!”
Azril flew through the air in a figure eight, quickly resuming her
glomping of Jibril.
“Jibril was one thing, but those Fliigel, are they really cool with
having this chick as their agent plenipotentiary?”
“...Are you...one to talk...?” Shiro quipped sarcastically, but no one
Meanwhile, the jowl-abused Jibril pointedly pushed on. “Elder Azril,
I have come today with a request, that you allow my masters to
“I refuse. I refuse until you call me big sister!”
As if aggravated from the heart, Jibril conceded.
“...If you explain why you continue to caress my cheek and permit
my masters to view your materials, I shall consider it.”
“’Cos you’re so cute, Jibs! Explanation done, permission given!!
Now say it: big sister! V”
As Azril’s arms came in for her embrace, Jibril shifted deftly away.
“Now, Masters, we have permission, so please make yourself at
home. This is the collection of the Alipotentiary. It includes countless
books appropriated through abuse of that loathsome law. I surmise
that there be no greater assemblage of knowledge.”
“H-how could you?! Jibs, you broke the promise you made with
your big sister?!”
As Azril’s jaw dropped in exaggerated despair, Jibril answered with
the finest of smiles, “I said I would consider it. I considered it and
decided against it!”
“Nggh, I didn’t think you were such a tricky little kid, Jibs. Who’s
been giving you ideas, I wonder?”
—Staaaaaare. Daggers launched through tears pierced Sora & Co.
Under the pressure of a gaze seemingly capable of crushing the life
from a body—
“Yo, I’m Sora. This is my sister, Shiro. Nice to meet ya.”
—the siblings responded disinterestedly, already used to this sort of
thing with Jibril.
Pointing to Azril as she let out a curious Hmm?, Sora moved on.
“But anyway. ‘Big sister’? You mean Jibril is the little sister of the
Fliigel’s agent plenipotentiary?”
“Quite the contrary! ”
Instantly—and bearing the expressions of real sisters—the
two responded both simultaneously and in diametric
opposition. With a sigh, Jibril expounded coolly:
“Fliigel do not procreate. We have neither sisters nor
parents. It is simply a matter of precedence of birth.”
“...Oh, so that’s what you mean by ‘elder.’”
In other words, she’d been created before Jibril.
“Elder Azril, by the way, is the Alipotentiary and not the
“...What’s the difference?”
“She is merely the chair of the Council of Eighteen Wings,
consisting of nine Fliigel, including her.”
Now that she mentioned it, Sora remembered. Jibril had
been a member of that Council before becoming his and
Shiro’s property, hadn’t she?
“She has, for what it’s worth, the right to make the final
decision in such extraordinary circumstances as call for it, as
well as certain other privileges, but—”
To sum lip— hff. Jibril shook her head and smirked.
“She is neither superior nor great, and thus, there is no
particular need to revere her.”
“...You’re even harsh to your own guys. You’ve really got
that shtick down...”
But as if dissatisfied with that assessment, Azril puffed out
her cheeks and rebutted. “Nooo!! We were all created by
Lord Artosh, so our father is Lord Artosh, and I’m your big
sister ’cos I was created first! You were created last, Jibs, so
you’re my little sister! Isn’t it obvious?!”
Going past smirk territory all the way into a sneer, Jibril
objected, “—Raising said argument in the Council, this
individual of unfortunate intellect found her proposal
“Buuut! There was no other way I could get you to call me
“And the Council rejected your proposal in appalled
recognition of this motive. Surely you must have heard?”
As Jibril continued in an even colder tone, Azril glommed
on to her once more and commenced her smiling sister¬
“You know, there was a bunch of kids who were made
toward the end of the War, but Jibs is the ultimate, the
Nya-ha-ha-ha, she chortled, while Jibril sighed as if feeling
“And those kids made at the end ...believe me, that was
when Lord Artosh was at the height of his power, so to even
compare them with those of us made earlier—that’s a laugh!!
But then, guess what? All those strong kids got tossed out on
the front lines—and they all died in the Final Battle...”
The crestfallen Azril accosted her sole surviving sister,
hugging her with a force that would probably burst an
Immanity like a balloon.
“So Jibs is the one and only late-period Fliigel who
survived the Final Battle, and on top of that, she’s the Closing
Number! The youngest of us all, the cutie-pie little sister!
This ought to be spelled out by law! Why don’t they
Azril once more took flight in a merry figure eight. Jibril
was also something of a sight, squinting in an
uncharacteristic display of displeasure, but—
“...That at-a-loss...expression...on Jibril... This is rare
Shiro recorded the angels’ antics with her phone.
Meanwhile, Sora was pursuing an alternate train of thought.
Intently observing Azril’s innocent, glowing smile: “...Aw,
damn. Guess we might have to change our plans...,” he
muttered with affected disappointment.
—Glare. Azril turned at these soft words with a smile—but
eyes laden with violent force.
“—So is it you who’s been screwing around with our lovely
“Heh, you ask a virgin about screwing around ? That’s a
tough question you’ve thrown out there.”
Sora thrust out his chest with tragic conviction. Azril took a
There was no way to react. Her step ignored distance. Sora
and Shiro, who took several moments to even realize they’d
been approached, groaned softly.
—Just then, a silent impact spread from Jibril to rock the
entire library. Suspecting the use of magic, Sora came to a
sudden realization, listening to the following exchange
between the two Fliigel.
“...My elder, if you plan to lay a finger on my masters—I
ask that you reconsider carefully.”
“Oh, come on, Jibs, you don’t have to warn me like that.
We’ve got the Ten Covenants, you know?”
It had been a subtle display of hostility. At this hint of just
how much Jibril was curbing her power under usual
circumstances—this mere hint of Jibril’s true potential—a
cold sweat ran down Sora’s and Shiro’s cheeks. Brushing off
this “subtle” display, Azril turned back to Sora. Jade eyes—
strangely, entirely different in nature from Jibril’s—pierced
“There’s just one thing I want to clarify.”
“—Mm, what is it?”
—There was no comparing this glare to the one she’d
leveled at him earlier. Its weight was sufficient to coagulate
the air of the library, to make space itself creak. Say the
wrong thing—and you were dead.
This world had the Ten Covenants. Jibril was attendant
beside him. Yet none of that helped. That was the illusion her
eyes evoked. Azril spoke.
“...Will Jibs call me ‘big sister ¥’ if you command it?”
An anticlimax—no, a letdown so massive it gave the sense
that your soul might fly off if you didn’t cling to it. Sora only
managed to keep his feet thanks to the sensation of Shiro’s
trembling hand grasping his. But Azril seemed oblivious as
she went on upping the voltage.
“A-and you even got her to lick the feet of an E-E-Elf! Could
you get her to lick m-my... O-or take a bath with me? N-no,
I’m not asking thaaat much! If you could just show me—”
—How did she know that much? Sora wondered, but for
now, he slipped out his phone and told her to see for herself.
“...Jibril’s bath scene? I do have a clip or—”
“I bet the Fliigel Piece! Give it to meee!”
—Twenty thousand meters in the air, an unlikely thunder
“Miss Azril, please cool your head. Madam, you have no
such authority. Should you wish to wager the Race Piece,
would not the first step be to bring it to a vote in the Council?
Though such a proposal would surely be unanimously
Jibril gave a scornful smile such as Sora and Shiro had
never seen before.
“Ngh, nghhhh...! —Nyah?”
At the notes of Jibril’s voice containing a silent “lol,” Azril
“Wait... My brains are revving up hard enough to roar!
They’re being activated to levels never before seen in the
twenty-six-thousand-year history of Azril! They’re spinning
at the speed of light!”
—Dropping her unbelievable age, Azril apparently dove
into thought. Finally with what came across as a flash of
insight, she raised her head frantically.
“—That’s it! You’re...Sora, right?!”
“I’ll be your property, too! Then I bet I can get in the bath
“Congratulations on spinning at speed unprecedented in
twenty-six thousand years without driving anywhere, Miss
Jibril sneered with a smirk colder than cold, even a hint of
disappointment. But—Shiro glanced quietly at her brother.
Azril had offered herself up just like that—but, as Jibril had
said, she wasn’t the agent plenipotentiary. Getting her
wouldn’t get them Fliigel. But to play Fliigel in a game would
be no simple matter. It wouldn’t be a bad move to grab Azril
while she was hinting she might lose on purpose. Especially
considering that part of Sora’s objective was to swallow up
Fliigel. With these thoughts, Shiro looked to her brother’s
face for confirmation—
But, at Sora’s expression, disinterested and aloof, she tilted
her head and considered Azril again. That smile, as
enchanting as ever—just too perfect—
“...Ahh...” Shiro subtly nodded in recognition of what
Sora’s bearing conveyed. And of course, Sora then shrugged
and turned away.
“...Sorry to bow out now, but let’s come back to this
“Whaaaaaat...? I wanted to see Jibs naked—”
Ignoring Azril as she champed at them, Sora took Shiro’s
hand and heaved a deep sigh.
“...Man, I was all up on Steph about how we were going to
get three races, but I guess I’m gonna have to tell her sorry.”
He cast a look at Azril with eyes disappointed to their depths.
“This bitch is useless. Jibril’s enough.”
Ignoring Azril’s gaze, which was narrowing in their
direction, Sora and Shiro headed for the mountainous
“So, Jibril. We can look at all these books, right?”
“...Yes. After all, we did just receive permission from Elder
Nodding, Sora looked around. Books, books, books... It was
like a giant town made of nothing but books. In his current
field of vision—multiple languages he couldn’t read graced
“Since we didn’t get what we wanted, looks like the going’s
gonna be tough... Well, we’ll do what we can, huh, Shiro?”
As the siblings disappeared into the stacks, the two Fliigel
watched them in silence.
Sitting cross-legged atop one of the mountains of books, chin
“Mmm, I thought I could get you back by using myself as
bait, Jibs. But I guess my hook was too big?”
With a chilly smile, Azril mumbled the reason Sora didn’t
get what he wanted. Indeed, contrary to the attitude she
presented, she didn’t trust or respect Sora and Shiro in the
slightest. She’d only been thinking of how to trap them in
order to get Jibril back.
—Without showing any interest in why Jibril deferred to
them as her masters.
“...You never change, do you, Azril?”
Azril flinched at being addressed merely by name, but her
reply was composed.
“It doesn’t make any sense that you, who were always so
cheeky to me and even Lord Artosh, would grovel before
mere Immanities. Just use the Covenants, and it should be
easy to negate their wills, or even turn them into puppets. I
mean, I know you must have lost to them by some fluke and
been forced to serve them. I can see—”
She peered deep into Jibril’s eyes—
“—you’ve changed, Jibs.”
At Azril’s words, Jibril smiled coldly.
“Indeed. I have been able to change.. .unlike you, who
“You fail to consider even the possibility that I was
challenged and then lost— I suppose I should not have
expected more.” Icily, and with a distant, betrayed smile,
Jibril went on. “...I turned my cheek to you and our departed
lord alike because I could not bear to watch. You are too
hardheaded. And that is why...”
A moment’s hesitation. Should she say it, or—? But Jibril
made up her mind and opened her mouth, knowing that
Azril was more painfully aware of this than anyone. But even
so, judging that it needed saying, she unleashed the words.
“That is why we failed, and that is why—you still cannot
This simple assertion was enough to strip away Azril’s
affected smile. With the face of a puppet devoid of truth, of
warmth, Azril—no, something that looked like Azril—
“—Jibril, mean’st thou to say thou hast found the Answer?”
Repulsed by that thing in front of her, Jibril spat her
“—Yes. To be precise, I found it a long time ago. I only
“Now, I need to assist my masters in their search—so if
you’ll excuse me.”
Leaving it to its silence, Jibril turned on her heel.
“What do you think?”
—That is a question.
“...Hmmm, what if she’s wrong?”
—That is no question.
—Azril, first of our number, I leave the decision to you. Not
only myself, but we all have.
“...I know, okay?”
She knew. She reminded herself of it once more. Azril
responded to the will of Avant Heim within her. She watched
the figures rummaging through the books—though she would
have to bide her time for them to attack again—and then, she
would and ask.
“...Damn it, we don’t have time for this.”
After a mere thirty minutes or so in the shadow of those
looming mountains of books, Sora realized this was a futile
“Shiro, how many of this world’s languages have you
“...Immanity, Elf, Werebeast...that’s all.”
Shiro mumbled apologetically, but Sora rubbed her head
tenderly. To Sora, for whom Immanity was as far as he
could go, “That’s all” was something he’d never say. Her
ability to absorb information was dizzying. But even so—
“ Jibril, what languages are these?”
“Those would be the Dwarven and Demonia tongues. I can
read them, but—”
...Yes, Jibril was the only one who could read all these
books. Shiro might have been able to pick up new languages
with improbable speed, but one couldn’t even imagine how
many millions of books confronted them. It was impossible
to dig up the information they needed with a workforce of
this scale, and they’d known that perfectly well from the
“There’s no time. If we keep mucking around here, I no’s
gonna be in danger. We may have bought ourselves some
insurance, but if those broads start thinking we really ran
away, that’s no good— Can you round up some labor?”
They couldn’t be sitting around here forever, gathering
information. Sooner or later, they’d have to take on the
queen again. So their original plan had been to use Azril to
gather stuff—but when they discovered that she had
absolutely no such intention, they knew they weren’t getting
what they wanted. Sora had seen Azril’s face. It didn’t
represent the Fliigel Sora had imagined based on what he
knew—utterly devoid of Jibril’s intellectual curiosity and
fighting spirit. It was—just—
“...I can, but I surmise it will turn out just as you guess.”
Yeah, exactly what Azril wanted—but.
“Screw it, we gotta. We don’t have time to hem and haw—
Biting his nails—an unusual habit for him, even when
nervous—Sora put aside his muttering and, with Shiro’s
attention, plowed forward.
“—Now that we’ve missed our mark, we’re gonna have to
improvise. I’m counting on you to pick it up.”
Sora had steeled his determination before speaking but
stammered for a moment nonetheless.
—She must have materialized some scenery from the
Eastern Union, stuff she’d read about. Like the Japanese
shut-ins Sora knew (in other words, Shiro and him), she sat
deep in a heated kotatsu table, wearing a blanket over her
head, watching a screen displaying only static—
“...What do you want...? You need a useless kid like me?”
What a waste of effort... Azril had cloaked her immediate
surroundings in darkness and was putting it all into an
emotional appeal. Finding the stench of her acting impressive
in its own way, Sora’s expression was strained.
“Uhh...um...you know how the Sirens have this queen
who’s, like, passed out?”
Azril answered, still bundled in her blanket. “Nya-ha...
That dumb kid who got inspired by some stupid fairy tale to
drive two entire races, including her own, to the brink of
extinction in a single generation. She’s so stupid, even the
shellfish clam up. Everyone knows her...”
...Unable to describe the impression of watching Azril’s
halo spinning above her blanket, Sora continued, “Y-yeah,
that chick. We’re looking for records of the covenant she set
forth for her game.”
“...Even Jibs knows that. ‘I’m gonna sleep until you make
me fall in love’ or something.”
“Yeah, but—that was actually bullshit.”
At Sora’s words, seemingly forgetting her tear-jerking
efforts, Azril’s eyes lit up.
“Huhh! That’s why everyone failed? So what was it really?”
—Despite everything, she was a Fliigel after all.
“That’s what we want to find out. So we want to gather
records of the queen’s game as it’s been played in the past,
the stuff the players were told, as much as possible. And then
we’ll compare it all.”
After gazing into space for a while, Azril answered curtly:
“Well, if you just need records, they’ve gotta be here
somewhere, so have at it. Let me know when you figure it
Fliigel maybe, but very unlike Jibril indeed.
“Yeah, but there are too many. We don’t have time to go
through them all. Don’t you know where—?”
“No idea! Ah-ha-ha-ha-ha!”
“It’s the Sharing Act, y’know! After all those rounds of
borrowing and lending, I can’t even guess where they are by
“Do you see now, Master? This is why I fled my homeland.”
Discarding her emotional appeal, Azril beamed while Jibril
“...You guys, if your life is collecting books, at least
“Mm? Nah, you’ve got it wrong. We collect knowledge.
Books, who cares? Once I’ve got one memorized, I could even
just toss it for all I care, but then the kids who haven’t read it
would get all pissed.”
Smiling as though on the verge of committing an assault,
Jibril spelled it out once more. “Do you see now, Master?
This is why I fled my homeland.”
—Hmm, Sora thought, getting the picture. All that really
mattered was knowledge—and that meant... It was a total
joke, but he glossed over it. “So what should we do?”
“Well, I guess you should go find the kids who know where
the books are? There are some serious ones like Jibs. If
you’re motivated, you can probably dig ’em all up, y’know.”
“Hmm, then get us—”
“I don’t feel like it.”
Slipping back into her calculated self-pity, Azril pulled the
blanket back over her head.
“If it’s just Jibs’s favorite toys mucking around, I can look
the other way, but who says I have to help you? I don’t gain
anything by making friends with you, and Jibs is calling me
stupid, even. I’m so depressed right now. I’m so hurt, I don’t
feel like doing anything.”
Sora slowly withdrew his phone. “Even if I tell you I’ll
show you footage of Jibril in the bath?”
“If you act now, I’ll throw in the right to be called ‘big
“-F-forget.. .it. ”
Azril broke into a sweat as if just emerging from some sort
of fierce battle. Heaving her shoulders as if being tried
unforgivingly, she squeezed out a voice.
“F-look, I’m reaaaaally hurt right now— A-and you think
something like that— Wait, I don’t mean to call the video of
Jibs ‘something like that.’ I just mean my wounds are even
deeper than—I mean, you know...you know what I mean,
Tsk— Sora silently clucked. He’d figured that, among all
the lies and performance, at least her obsession with Jibril
was real, but his trump card failed to do the trick. Now his
opponent was in total control. Play Fliigel? At an unknown
game, while they had the upper hand—? You jest.
“—Honestly, all it means to me if the lot of you small fries,
mangy mutts, and hairless monkeys go to ruin is that there
will be a few new books about it. In fact, that’s really better
as far as I’m concerned.”
She glared at Sora intently.
“For those of us who live forever...you chumps who die in
the blink of an eye aren’t good for much more than another
silly fairy tale. Help you? What makes you think I should go
to the trouble?”
—But he wouldn’t let Azril and Fliigel take the lead. If they
did, Sora and Shiro were finished. If Azril was in it for the
mind games—then great.
“Yeah, I guess that’s how it is. That’s why I said you’re
useless, but I guess you don’t get sarcasm, do you, you
At Sora’s brazen comeback—Azril’s expression moved.
“A tool with no one to use you. A puppet without a
master. What a fun eternity that must be.”
66 _ 99
“Whatever. Asshats like you just wait for us to take over the
world and then come whining, ‘Let us join you,’ right? All you
know how to do is jump on the bandwagon. We’ll handle it
with Jibril. Scout out your people one by one—”
Sora turned to leave.
“...You think you can pick a fight with me and then run?”
We got her, Sora snickered to himself.
“A fight? Ha, it’s not a fight if you’re not even on the same
“Huh...it’s nice to see you know.”
“—Dude, you’re obviously the one outclassed. Get your
head out of your ass, you birdbrain.”
“...Excellent. Let’s do this.”
Raising her hands, Azril bellowed down at Sora and Shiro.
“Wish, and it shall be thine—if thou but
kill its owner!”
—...Shiro’s and Sora’s eyes narrowed at this epic BS.
“...What’s that from...?”
“Oh, Master, this is a Fliigel proverb. It is quite
understandable that you would not know it.”
“Hey, that’s not even the issue here!”
“We’re not gonna fight—we’re gonna play. But—”
Ignoring Sora and Jibril’s exchange, Azril snapped her
“If you want the help of everyone Jibs knows, you’ll have to
take them all on.”
—That instant, everyone present was shifted by a coercive
power even Jibril could not defy. And above their new
...hung a banner that read: “ ” Autograph and Handshake
Session. Countless Fliigel were busily engaged there, working
hard on setup for the event—
From the hundred looks that turned his way all at once,
Sora instantly grasped everything.
—Her taking his bait was an act—i.e., she’d
outmanipulated him. But this shock paled in comparison to
all the eyes now upon them, which caused Sora and Shiro to
black out momentarily. But—a question plaguing Sora
allowed him to just barely retain his grip on consciousness.
He hadn’t seen this card coming at all. Sora couldn’t hear as
he took his unconscious posture. He’d already shut his ears,
but squeals were undoubtedly bursting around him. As
countless gazes descended, Sora asked in a trembling voice:
“Hey, Jibril. What is...this? What the hell is this?”
Guarding Shiro as her eyes rolled back in her head, Sora
screamed, but Jibril merely clapped her hands—
“Oh, I had forgotten entirely. In order to place pressure on
the Eastern Union, I have been preaching the good news that
I have observed and set down. As it is the most efficient
method of evangelism—”
“I have spread tickets for autographs, tickets for dates,
tickets to lie alongside you. All kinds and all manner of
“Knock off the dirty business!! That’s just gonna get the
crazies to buy ’em all and no one else!”
“...I see. I wondered why the turnout was so small, given
the number of tickets distributed. But that would explain it, I
suppose. Next time, then, I shall devise a more efficient
method of promotion—excuse me, evangelism.”
While a straight-faced Jibril scribbled notes or something
in a book, Sora railed:
“Look, Jibril! If you’re going to pull shit like this, at least let
—And that would explain how Azril weirdly knew so much
about them. But how were you supposed to out bet the
opponent on a blind spot your own guys couldn’t see?!
Anyway, it looked as if the nigh-one hundred Fliigel crowded
about were their fans. As Sora once more went faint at the
attention, Jibril continued with a smile—
“Fear not, Master. This hand is yours.”
—and with these words, turned her sharp gaze to Azril.
"<^ WiN It !E4!J!l'IK>l!!tll JT
" Millie! M!l
—The Fliigel tongue, perhaps? Jibril and Azril exchanged
words incomprehensible to Sora and Shiro. But for some
reason, the hall—so recently filled with squeals—transformed
into a square of tense silence.
“...Excuse me, Miss Jibril? I’ve got a bad feeling about this,
but what did you just say?”
“Oh, my apologies, Master. Now that the matter is settled, I
Jibril turned back and continued, “Let us accept Elder
Azril’s suggestion and have these maids assist us in our
search.” She smiled at the quivering Sora and Shiro. “All we
must do is to defeat them all in a game!”
“Jibril, do you realize how hard it was to beat just you?
You think we can take them all?”
“...Chatter chatter shiver shiver...”
Sora and Shiro were already petrified of crowds and being
objects of attention. If on top of that they had to play
Materialization Shiritori with practically a hundred Fliigel,
they were done for. Imagining this—Sora and Shiro went
“No, you see, you must merely defeat them all in one
swoop. It is a blessedly merciful demand.”
“That’s right. You’re gonna play them all.”
“As it has been settled, if you win, they will all collect the
books that contain the content you seek. Whereas, if you lose,
they will receive autographs, handshakes, and, well, all those
things they want.”
Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! As squeals rolled over the
venue, the blanched Sora and Shiro went limp.
“Jibril...are you asking us to die...?”
“...Jibril...I...believed, in you...”
“Please, be at ease. It is inconceivable, after all, that you
would lose, my masters. And by the way...” Jibril consoled
the siblings as they shivered like newborn gazelles.
And she turned back to Azril, who clapped her hands...
“This is too many kids to play shiritori— let’s play tag.”
“—Jibril, I’ll say it again—are you asking us to die?”
“...Shiver shiver shiver shiver... ”
—Play tag against Fliigel? As if there was anywhere they
could escape these psychos, who could fly and warp freely.
She must have been telling them indirectly, Go on ahead to
the next world. But Azril cut their thoughts short.
“But it wouldn’t be any fun just playing tag—if we’re gonna
“Like true Fliigel—we should incorporate wordplay.”
Thus declared, Jibril extended her hand. And over it—
swirling—appeared forty-six syllables bathed in light.
Familiar syllables—forty-six generated from their language.
Jibril tossed them to Azril.
“Hmmm? These are from your world? Are these plucked
from your native syllables?”
Azril studied them, moving her hand intricately.
—Sora and Shiro couldn’t sense it, but judging by the rattle
of the ground beneath them, they could tell a gigantic rite
had gone whooom.
“Mm, all done. Let’s get going, okay?”
With that, the syllables vanished from Azril’s hand.
—All at once, they scattered, individually settling at
random upon any of the nigh-one hundred Fliigel girls.
Having confirmed this, Azril said:
“The rules are simple. Each syllable has now been
transcribed somewhere on a different girl’s body.”
-Forty-six syllables. Nearly a hundred participants. No
way to tell who had which.
“The game is tag. I’ll be nice and say they can’t shift, as a
“If you two get caught by these kids, you lose. If you can
keep going without getting caught for an hour, you win.”
“If you touch one of the transcribed syllables—that is,
without being caught —it will go to you, Masters.”
Jibril beamed, picking up Azril’s explanation. With that,
she tossed two syllables to Azril.
“You can join syllables to form a Word.”
By way of example, Azril held up the two she’d received
—cher and kree. As they whirled around her wrist, she
“The meaning of your Word will materialize where you
touch—whether it’s a concept or an object or whatever.”
The moment they heard that, Sora and Shiro—saw the
future. The two syllables from Azril’s demonstration
connected above her palm—and then—
“Nyaaaaaaaah, what’s this?? It’s gross—nyaaaaaaah!!
—a creature appeared, a giant octopus, wrapping her in its
tentacles...materializing the future that Sora and Shiro had
foreseen. Azril flailed about, screaming.
“My, my. You do know how to elicit the laughs, my elder—
even going so far as to materialize words you are unable to
read, as if you knew exactly what you were doing.”
Jibril’s cold smile seemed the least of Azril’s concerns.
Instantly—with a thoom of throbbing air—the Fliigel blew
away the octopus.
“L-like that, see?” said Azril, completely ignoring Sora’s
and Shiro’s squints. “The meaning of the completed Word
materializes. Whether it’s an object or a phenomenon or a
concept, just as you imagine it.”
“Note that because my elder was unable to read the
syllables she joined, it was my image that was materialized,
since I gave them to her. In the actual game, only you,
Masters, will be able to use Words.”
Jibril casually, unapologetically confessed that she had
molested Azril. Yet Azril paid no mind as she cleared her
throat and continued. “However—each syllable will
disappear after one use. You’d better use them carefully,
“This concludes the explanation, but do you have any
“Hell yeah, we do —how are we supposed to run ? In case
you don’t know, humans can’t fly.”
“Chatter chatter shiver shiver... ”
“...I do apologize, Master. By all rights I should be at your
side—however, it is not permitted for me to participate in
this game. ,,
To the two skeptical masters, Azril responded with a
“It wouldn’t be a game if Jibs was on your side. No one
would be able to catch you. At least I felt sorry enough for
you to give you your Words. So let’s do this—”
“You, the Dhampir hiding there—give ’em your wings.”
—And that was enough to smash the stealth rite like glass,
revealing Plum, who’d been hiding the whole time.
“...Hnh? Wha...huhhhhhhhh?! H-how’d you knowww?!”
“...Truly, I must say your lack of presence is remarkable.”
—Jibril whispered admiringly at the companion whom
even Sora and Shiro had been on the verge of forgetting.
Nearby, Azril smiled and asked Plum, “Hey, you. You may
be a form of life lower than a mosquito, but surely you can
weave a spell to make wings if you try hard enough to kill
Azril dropped the question from a perch higher than a
god’s. Meanwhile, shivering in the fear of death, Plum
plucked up the courage to answer.
“Uh, uhhhh? Th-there’s no way I can make them fly at the
speed of a Fliigel... The shock wave alone would blow me to
pieces, to say nothing of them... And anyway I’m just about
But Azril interrupted without breaking her smile—“When
you get tired, you can just help yourself to their bodily
“On my honor! I shall work to weave wings with all of my
Betraying her principles at the speed of sound, Plum stood
straight as an arrow and saluted. But—
“Hey, hold on here! Who says we even have to accept—?”
Sora started to ask. But Jibril’s demeanor cut him short.
—Please do not despair of me. And please have faith in me
He considered the girl whose eyes conveyed an earnestness
mixed with hope and unease, and next at her counterpart,
whose smirk was like that of a corpse, empty and hollow.
“...Wish, and it shall be thine—if thou but kill its owner.
That’s how this game goes, ’kay?”
The nervous gaze of a soul, and the empty smile of a
puppet. Sora saw in this challenge something he’d seen
—Game. At this one word, Sora’s and Shiro’s eyes lit up,
their heads rapidly cooling. Rules, conditions for victory,
and even Azril’s intentions fiercely assembled in their brains.
Shiro, who had been doing the same thing, was nervous,
but Sora nodded— I know.
—This was clearly different from the games they’d played
before. A game was over before it began. This was “ ”’s creed,
but now this—this was a game they’d been coerced to accept.
A game they’d not anticipated. A game in which the other
side had the upper hand. It was a game in which information
lurked, hidden from them, exchanged in the tongue of Fliigel.
A game in which the rules had been unnaturally set so as to
favor the Fliigel. It was too dangerous. It was too suspicious.
The information was too uncertain. There was no way they
could be expected to accept this game.
“...Masters...I beg of you. Please have faith in me.”
But those eyes, wavering in anticipation of punishment yet
conveying her heartfelt conviction of Sora and Shiro’s
victory, belonged to Jibril, the one who had set up this
“—Let us ask about certain conditions.”
With a glance at his Fliigel coconspirator, Sora muttered,
his head cool as ice. Shiro had been looking up nervously, but
now, if Sora had decided—Shiro cleared all worry from her
expression and focused wholly on sharpening her thoughts.
The siblings, aware that Jibril had closed her eyes in
gratitude but not caring, crunched all manner of problems—
to lay bare a game they’d not anticipated, to predict factors
that couldn’t conceivably be foreseen—and they revved their
“—Shiro and I will be holding hands the whole time. That’s
one we can’t budge on.”
“...Those wings...Plum’s making for us.”
“Yeah. We require that we each have one wing and can
move them as we wish.”
“...Plum ...do it.”
At Shiro’s unreasonable abandonment of the courtesy of a
question, Plum responded half crying.
“Uh, uuumm...? Th-that would take some really complex
magic, so I’d like you to give me a break, if you—”
“We don’t care how they look. In the meantime, we permit
you to lick our sweat all you want.”
“Leave it to meee!! I’ll show you what a Dhampir is made
With an unnecessarily fierce cry, Plum, her wings instantly
stained bloodred, called up a complex pattern in her eyes.
Weaving together an intricate rite, Plum transformed herself
—into a scarf. She fluttered gently through the air,
wrapping herself around Sora’s and Shiro’s necks with a
fwip, connecting the pair in one long ascot.
“Hff, hff'...! disguised my presence in the physical...planel
N-now...th-the ends of the scarf...sh-should work as wings. I
Much like she’d disguised herself as luggage when she first
met Sora, Plum now assumed the form of a flying scarf. As
even the Fliigel looked on in wonder, Plum the Scarf gave the
impression of sticking out her thin chest.
—Short of breath, the scarf that connected Sora and Shiro
by the neck puffed out its ends. Seeing it trace an arterial
pattern and weave itself into wings, Sora nodded. And then
he raised the final issues.
“—And also...you have to transform the environment of
Avant Heim so that it’s totally feasible for Shiro, Plum, and
me to function here. Plus, you say we’re going to use her
wings, but we don’t know how. You need to give us a head
start of—five minutes from the start of the game... Sound
right to you, Shiro?”
“...Mm, that’s fine.”
—Everyone quietly gasped. Not because of the
transfiguration of the two who, up to now, had been
quivering heaps. No, it was their declaration that five
minutes was all the head start they needed—that was why.
“That is—all right, isn’t it?”
Jibril turned, putting the question to Azril and the nigh-
one hundred Fliigel assembled there. The Immanities would
evade a hundred Fliigel, employing a power they’d never
used, with only forty-six syllables as their weapon. If they
really could do that—everyone gulped.
“...Mm. All right. I do feel we’re being a little easy on them,
Azril, apparently alone in not getting it, groused but moved
her finger slightly—whereupon there came a roar and a
“—Av’n’s fulfilled your wish—so, shall we begin?”
Having nonchalantly reformed the environment of a
world, Azril again snapped her fingers. Soundlessly, the wall
deformed—opening a gigantic hole.
...Beyond the gaping hole in the wall, they could see the
entirety of Avant Heim. Outside, whether Azril had moved
everyone or it had simply been through the passage of time,
night had fallen. With no sunlight, it was the perfect
environment for Plum. Leaning out of the hole to check the
atmosphere—Sora and Shiro squeezed their joined hands.
They could guess that the scarf hanging from their necks—
Plum—was struggling to stay silent as she flapped. They
couldn’t see what lay below them. Only the feeling that the
onrushing wind would carry them away told them how high
Behind Sora and Shiro, Jibril announced reverently, “Now
—the game between my two masters and all the Fliigel here
shall commence presently.”
Behind her, a hundred gazes. But—once Sora and Shiro
were focused on a game, their thoughts were impenetrable.
“This is a map of Avant Heim.”
Taking the paper as it fluttered in the wind, Shiro gave it a
glance and nodded. Jibril took a step back and bowed her
“...Masters, thank you.”
“I gotta say I’m worried, but.../ believe in you. You better
not let me down.”
“...Family’s gotta be...protected...everyone knows that.”
Jibril, Sora, and Shiro exchanged words only they
understood, and then—
““ —Aschente —!!””
All but Jibril raised their hands and shouted this. Sora and
Shiro popped through the hole in the wall, into the open air.
Immediately, gravity took hold. A force beyond human
ability to fight. As the wind beat their faces, slowly—
gradually—they accelerated downward. They couldn’t see
what was rushing up at them. But whatever it was, it could
mean only one thing—death. Strangely bereft of all fear or
concern— Huh. Sora chuckled to himself.
As Sora turned to look at his sister, the end of the scarf
made a flapping noise—and opened into a wing. Confirming
from his sister’s expression that one like it was on his back—
• • • • •
Yeah—why would he be worried or afraid? Sora laughed.
Holding hands tightly, flapping their wings, two in one. The
mono-winged birds mightily defied gravity itself.
Meanwhile—Elkia Royal Castle, in the study of the previous king.
“.tuch. Stuch, I’m goddamn hungry, please.”
Shaken gently, Steph felt her consciousness drifting up to the
surface. Sprawled out on a desk, drooling, she rose with a start and
Wha...?! Uh, what, when did I fall asleep?!”
“After you ate, you banged your damn head on the desk, please. I
thought you’d kicked the bucket, please.”
Seems the moment her belly was filled, she’d passed out.
“Wh-what time is it...?” she inquired vacantly, folding up the coat
that had been draped over her back—an act of kindness by Izuna,
apparently. A cute grmbrbrbrrrrl sound answered her. Izuna laced
her hands over her stomach, entreating Steph sincerely.
“Exactly six hours since food, please.”
“...Y-you certainly keep a precise clock.”
They’d last eaten at about two am, if memory served—so it had to
be morning? The young sun was unable to shine its rays into the
windowless study, but by now, the town would be getting active.
Stuch. Stuch, food, please.”
As the Werebeast tugged insistently at her clothes, Steph
acquiesced. “Ahh... Yes, I suppose so... All right, I’ll make some
breakfast... Wait, what’s that?”
Suddenly, Steph noticed the mountain of books stacked where
Izuna had been sitting.
“Miss Izuna, what is that?”
“...? Books, please?”
“No, I mean—why are they there?”
“...Obviously ’cos I read ’em, please?”
“—What? Since when do you know how to read...?!”
“I told you I’d learn your damn script, please. So I learned it,
Impossible— Steph’s eyes popped. The matching game Steph had
given Izuna that used Werebeast and Immanity script—the book for
learning the Werebeast tongue. Just with that, in the time Steph had
been unconscious, Izuna had learned Immanity’s language and read
that many books—?
—Anything other than games was beyond Steph. But so long as it
was a game— Seeing how Izuna had proven her prowess in an
instant and already read more books than she had herself, Steph’s
hair stood on end.
“.No wonder you get along so well with Sora and Shiro.”
Steph was struck by a fact that Sora and Shiro usually
overshadowed. This small child, Izuna Hatsuse. This Werebeast girl,
even younger than Shiro—who’d brought a match with “ ”, of all
opponents, to within a hairbreadth—was, without a doubt, the real
“...Miss Izuna, when was the last time you slept?”
“...Huh? I-I’ve had five meals...so, uh...please.”
Trying to count on her fingers, Izuna’s face darkened. Shadowy
circles under her eyes evidenced that it had been long since she’d slept
If you thought about it, it made sense. However much one might
be the real thing, it wasn’t as if anything could be accomplished
without effort Izuna had given her all, foregoing sleep entirely—just
to learn Immanity and read all these books.
“...I’m sorry, Miss Izuna. I slept while you...”
“You’re such a wuss, please. Small fries should know to sleep when
they get tired, please.”
Steph grinned at Izuna’s bluster. Seeing a faint ray of hope in the
endless toil, she drummed herself up and slapped her cheeks. First,
she’d make some food, and then— But as she turned to leave the
study— “...? Miss Izuna, in what order are you reading these books?”
—she noticed that the tomes had been extracted in a deliberate
fashion from the various shelves.
“Starting with the ones that smell good, please.”
It was a cryptic answer, yet Izuna spoke as if it was obvious.
Noticing the title of the book atop the stack, Steph picked it up. Indeed
—it was related to the place Sora and Shiro found themselves.
Steph read the title, written in the hand of the previous king—her
grandfather—aloud: “—Flilgel: A Weapon without a Master... What
made you pick this one?”
Izuna sniffed the book. “Damn thing smelled like Sora and Shiro,
please. Guess they read it about a month ago, please?”
“They read it...?”
—At the beach, after they’d returned from Oceand, Sora had
casually declared that they’d bust into Avant Heim and get three
races. Steph, having been told nothing of how it was to be done—not
like that was anything new—opened the book. A month ago. That
would mean they’d read it before playing the Eastern Union... She
skimmed the contents, lined up in letters directly set down by her
grandfather, like all the books in this room.
Flilgel—a god-slaying race created by Artosh, god of war, in the
ancient Great War—
Fliigel—these heavenly women collect knowledge not for
This was what the previous king—her grandfather—had written
about the Fliigel based on his observations. In other words, it was his
insight into Jibril. Presumably... But.
They do it to live— Nay. To not die.
The inscrutable Jibril floated in the back of Steph’s mind.
They are living weapons having lost their master...lifeless puppets
only wandering, hollow.
She visualized that girl, with her unreadable smile and ridiculous
devotion to her curiosity and her masters.
Where is their reason to live—nay, the proof that they are even
—What was it? The Jibril described by her grandfather didn’t
remotely match the Jibril she knew. Disquieted by this disparity,
Steph unconsciously stopped turning the pages and thought.
...Sora and Shiro had read this before venturing to Avant Heim.
Just what were they—?
“Stuch, we don’t have time for you to be sitting here reading that
“Uh, oh, y-yes, you’re right.”
That was right. Their task wasn’t to research Fliigel, but Siren—
Steph reoriented herself, only to be interrupted by another
“It’s time for food, please,” Izuna declared with those decisive,
Steph grinned wryly and went to return the book to its shelf when—
it must have been from overwork—she went dizzy. “Oh...”
The books tumbled from the shelf she’d grabbed to steady herself.
As read and unread books intermingled—and she felt ready to break
down into pitiful wailing-a wind blew past at a speed too quick for
Steph to react to. It was all she could do just to recognize the blur.
Izuna had moved from the door to the corner in an instant—and now
held a book in her mouth.
“...? What’s this shit, please?”
“...Th-that’s what I want to know. What in the world is this about?”
Ignoring Steph and her obvious confusion, Izuna sniffed the book
“Smells like fish, please...? No, please... Oh.”
Then, flinging the album aside as if it was of no interest, she said:
“Smells like Siren, please. Can’t eat those bitches, please.”
-Instantly, amidst Steph’s hazy thoughts, a light shone. Just
now, when she’d asked Izuna in what order she was selecting books,
she’d said starting with the ones that smelled good. How had she been
able to tell that Sora and Shiro had read—? No, more critically: “Wh-
why does a book of my grandfather’s smell like Siren?!”
“Dunno, please. Either a Siren touched it or someone who touched
a Siren touched it, please,” replied Izuna, cocking her head.
“Like Sora or Shiro...or you or me?!”
“...? No, please. It’s just got the same geezer smell mixed in as all
these books, please.”
It wasn’t their scent. Not Sora’s or Shiro’s. For starters, as far as she
knew, they hadn’t come here since Oceand—so—?!
“C-can you tell when it was touched?”
While Steph fell over herself asking, Izuna counted her fingers,
frowning, and then answered: “...Don’t have enough fingers, please.”
That was all but confirmation that it was from over ten years ago.
“...W-wait just a moment. You can tell that?”
“You can’t, please? Damn smell doesn’t run away, please.”
How am I supposed to know the common sense of another race?,
Steph screamed inwardly, yet now—all the riddles were answered.
The point of having Izuna help her, the method by which she’d
identified books Sora and Shiro had read—and the fact that her
grandfather had been involved with the Sirens over ten years ago...
Everything had been laid bare! Now all that was left...!
“C-can you distinguish between books that were written before and
after this one?!”
Izuna sniffed and tilted her head.
“...Smell’s weak, please. But if I try damn hard...should be possible,
—The world filled with light. The scope of their search had
“Ohhhhh, if you had such a useful power, I wish you would have
employed it sooooner, but thank you so muuuuch. Finally, I’ve
glimpsed a way out of this—”
Overcome with emotion, Steph hugged Izuna and rubbed her all
over. But Izuna jumped back.
She threatened Steph as if about to bite her, her hair on end.
“Eh, u-umm...I-I apologize. Did I offend you?”
“...Stuch, you suck at petting, please!”
As Izuna maintained her defensive posture, Steph looked around in
a panic. What caught her eye— “Oh, y-yes. H-here, you can have
this. Will you forgive me?”
“—The hell’s that, please?”
“I-it’s a confection I prepared for myself. S-see?”
Eating a piece herself to demonstrate that it was safe—she shakily
proffered the goods. As she extended her peace offering, Izuna sniffed
it several times.
“.Not bad, please. But right now I want food, please. Fish,
—Snapping up the confection in her mouth, Izuna immediately
recovered her good humor. Waving her big tail to and fro, she nibbled
at the sweet snack like a hamster.
“Ah, w-well, I’ll go cook! Grilled fish, boiled fish, raw fish...which
‘All of them, please.”
“All of them, please.”
“Why not! Now that I have found an ally to be reckoned with, why
not display my true potential in the kitchen with every seafood dish in
my repertoire!! In the meantime, could you segregate the books that
my grandfather wrote before and after?!” Steph addressed a rapt
fountain of drool.
Izuna bolted up in time with her loud and clear response.
At last, the way out was in sight! Just as Steph started to fly out of
the room, behind her—
—something broke with a bang.
Only when the Werebeast—growling, heart pounding as if about to
leap out of her chest, panting, with close to ten books in her hands,
stained scarlet by her bloodbreak—prodded her for action, did Steph
realize the sound had been Izuna breaking the sound barrier.
“...—Hh, hff— I’m done, please—! Where’s my fish, please?!”
...If I try damn hard...should be possible. Well, well. Exactly as
Izuna had promised, she’d tried damn hard.
—She’d tried so hard, she’d picked a fight with the limits of physics
and bent them by force...
Izuna’s blood raged, her drool dripped, her gaze fixed as if on prey—
“...W-would you mind helping me buy some groceries?”
Steph decided to buy time...
—High in the sky of Avant Heim, enshrouded in the dark of night.
The landscape was littered with countless cubes and lit only by the
moon and the faint glow emitted by the cubes themselves. It was
through all this that Sora and Shiro awkwardly, shakily,
unconvincingly flew—or drifted.
“U-umm... Do you really have a chance of winning...?”
“Don’t talk to me now—you’re distracting me!”
“...Brother...more...more like this...”
They looked as if one false move would plummet them into a
tailspin, which was not very reassuring at all.
Plum, who connected them through formed wings, murmured, “Y-
you’re playing against Fliigel, you know. I mean, you may have my
help, but still, it’s not as if you’ve ever flown before... And there’s no
way we can win on speed against Fliigel...”
Struggling with the use of his wing, Sora answered merrily, if only
in terms of his tone:
“Don’t...worry. Being fast is an advantage in tag—but it doesn’t
necessarily mean you’ll win.”
“Well, that’s true...but still...”
At this stage, Plum the Scarf heaved a silent sigh.
—Fliigel. Even if they couldn’t shift, they were a race that
contravened physics by their very existence. The trio might never
have seen their opponents’ top speed, but knowing their general
nature was enough to imagine it. Probably, if they really tried—one
might not be talking supersonic, more like hypersonic. Even allowing
that tag wasn’t just about raw speed, there was no way you could
expect a tortoise to beat a horse in a race. Seriously, the way they
were going—it was—totally—?
Amidst these thoughts, Plum caught on to something funny. At
some point, Sora and Shiro’s flapping had stabilized. Gradually, their
pace increased, and the wind beating against the muffler—Plum—
...Uumm, why did you have to make it so each of you—control
just one wing?”
Thinking of this at such a late hour didn’t stop Plum from asking
the question. The siblings, who were making the wings their own in
the blink of an eye, looked at each other and smiled.
“That’s obvious—’cos if we didn’t, we couldn’t be sure we’d win.”
Suggesting, conversely, that if they did, they could be sure they’d
win, their joined hands told the story.
—As long as our hands are touching.
-We’re not gonna lose to anyone.
Empty weapons—objects...mere puppets—Fliigel. Tools to destroy
gods for their lord. This was enough for them. But it had been six
thousand-odd years since they had lost their lord. Why did Fliigel still
exist? In search of this Answer, they had long drifted along with
Avant Heim. But Jibril—who had flown off on her own and now
suddenly returned—had clearly changed. As if, yes—she’d found the
Azril, chin in hand, looked up into the empty space. As per Sora and
Shiro’s conditions, the entire assemblage of the hall—a hundred Fliigel
—waited out the siblings’ five-minute head start, all gazing in the
same direction. At the image projected in the empty space—Sora and
“...Jibs, I think if any kid can complete the final mission Lord
Artosh left us—to find the Answer—it can be only you, Jibs, the
—There was a reason for this. But that wasn’t the issue, Azril
decided as she continued.
“If your Answer is one planted in you by the Covenants—”
—Something Azril had confirmed, in the Fliigel tongue so as not to
be understood by Sora and Shiro... She went on deliberately, her
plastic smile unchanged.
“—I’ll use my ‘privilege.’ You know what that means, don’t you?”
“Yes. However—to ask a question without already knowing the
answer is the work of a weak will, my elder.”
At these words, all the Fliigel staring up at the display stiffened.
—Azril, the Alipotentiary—the chair of the Council of Eighteen
Wings. The one privilege held by Azril, who was not the agent
plenipotentiary, was based on an agreement struck six thousand-odd
“—The order for all Fliigel to end themselves... is this not what you
mean?” Jibril narrowed her eyes as she casually voiced what
everyone was thinking. “Originally, this was a privilege you secured
in order to prohibit our suicide until we might find the meaning of
our existence as Fliigel without a lord. Should you, however, judge
there to be no meaning to our existence— please feel free.”
What tensed in all of them was not fear—Fliigel had never held a
strong fear of death. For a race created as weapons, a race that lived
eternally, it was almost an honor. What took hold inside them despite
this was anticipation.
—Something starting or something ending. Just that difference. But
the promise of such an event created an atmosphere of anticipation.
“...As long as you...know.”
But it appeared that, alone among them, only Azril failed to grasp
this. Considering her elder, Jibril could not help but evince a slight
—And that, more than anything, gnawed at Azril.
“Elder Azril. Surely you can understand it as well. Our—Fliigel’s
—Sora and Shiro didn’t know, but Jibril, since meeting them— had
clearly changed. Before losing to them, Jibril too might have felt
some unease as she moved through her days. When it came down to
it, though, she’d been more or less the same as Azril. Turning the
unknown into the known—in that alone, she’d found meaning. The
unknown was to be overturned. It was unemotional, or—one might
even say—an enemy to be destroyed. Jibril had just been a little more
aggressive than the others in confronting that enemy.
—But the day she lost to Sora and Shiro, that changed.
“The knowledge we have accumulated over the course of thousands
—tens of thousands—of years is upended in its whole by my masters,
bom scarcely over ten years ago. The meaning, the value of that—my
elder, you do not understand.”
With an expression Azril had never seen, almost feverish—an
expression that, as far as memory served, her little sister had never
shown even to Artosh—Jibril elaborated.
“The heart burns when the unknown is transformed into the
known. Hotter by far, though— when the known is transformed into
the unknown. This revelation convinced me, of my own will, to
follow. It has nothing to do with the Covenants.”
Azril could only look on in silence during Jibril’s oration. Frankly
speaking, she had no idea what her little sister was talking about. The
known transformed into the unknown—? What could that mean but
—But as if inspired by Jibril’s words, heat welled in the eyes of the
hundred Fliigel raring at the starting line—and their wings quivered.
I don’t get this, Azril seemed to say as she put her chin back in her
hand. At the very least—it wasn’t the Answer. She turned her
attention to the two projected in the air—awkwardly struggling to fly.
“Elder Azril, I know that you, more than anyone else, have
anguished over the fate of the Fliigel. However.”
Otherwise unmoving, Azril flicked her eyes toward the remark,
where her gaze was met with—absolute conviction.
—Somehow, as if pleading, Jibril spoke.
“The answer you have been seeking is not where you imagine.”
“Eegh...eegh...I-I can’t take anymore... It’s too hard... I give up...”
“Dude, it hasn’t even been three minutes! Even Ul*raman has more
guts than you!”
Plum the Scarf was already whining and getting upbraided by Sora.
“I’m not some crazy Fliigel! You two don’t even know how hard it
is for me to defy gravityyy! And then you want me to give you wings.
To be honest, I wish you’d—”
“You want sweat? I got plenty, so lick it all you want!”
“I’ll never give uuup!! For your sweat—come, let us continue!”
“Damn, you make yourself look ridiculous!!”
The sensation of having his neck licked sent something unpleasant
screaming down Sora’s spine.
—This scarf was supposed to be Plum incognito. She had cloaked
her physical self in the form of a scarf to link Sora and Shiro, with her
“ends” functioning as wings that the siblings could manipulate at will.
That was how it worked. It was a disguise, which meant it was a spell
of illusion. So—Sora reminded himself that it was actually just Plum.
“Hey. To us, it looks like you’re a scarf that turns into wings. But
what’s the real situation?”
“Lickety-lickety... Ohh, this is heaven. V Oh, yes? Umm, well, at
the moment, I am holding you by your neck while licking it, you
seee...while I am latched on to Queen Shiro’s neck with my lower
“Ha-ha, let’s call this flying in ‘deformation’!”
“...Brother, that is lame, obnoxious, and, most of all...not funny...”
“Hey, I just gave it a shot. Why you gotta be like that?!”
A tear fell, sparkling through the night sky of Avant Heim. But
Plum chimed in bitterly.
“Just so you know, simultaneous deployment of multiple rites is
Elfs patented specialty. Considering I’m not only disguising myself as
a magical flying scarf, but also magically flying you through the air
however you want, I really— reaaaaaaaaaaaaaally !—wish you’d say
Plum complained at length.
“Also, this tires me out more than I expected... If my soul supply
cuts out, we’ll probably die in a few secooonds.”
“...You sure jumped in on a pretty risky proposal, didn’t you?”
“Uh, but then I get to lickety-lickety your neck all I want, Sir...
Gee-hee-heee, it’s so delectable!”
“Nggahh! Now I just want to whip off this damn scarf!”
Just as the impulse struck him to toss the scarf, regardless of the
Five minutes had passed. Sora’s eyes narrowed at Shiro’s reminder.
It was the time for the Fliigel held at the starting line to come hunt
“—All right, Plum, we’re trusting you with our lives, so don’t crap
out on us in the middle.”
“Not to worry! If I run out of energy, we’ll just go down
“That’s nice, but no thanks!! Here we go!”
The moment he said it, Sora and Shiro simultaneously flapped hard
—reducing their altitude precipitously.
The plunge was so steep that even Plum, still wrapped around their
necks, screamed. Amplified by the force of their wings, their
downward velocity was so intense that the wind beat against them.
Just before they hit the ground—Avant Heim’s back—they leveled off
into horizontal flight.
Are they ...using the acceleration from the fall to leave their
pursuers behind? Plum silently wondered, but— Something was
behind them. The Fliigel, who had just started, were already catching
up. It was true that Sora and Shiro had gotten the hang of their wings
quickly. But no matter how hard they pushed the wings Plum had
woven for them, they couldn’t surpass the limits of physics. Two
hundred kilometers per hour was the best they could hope for,
whereas Fliigel scoffed at physics. Th-they’re about to catch up to us!
What do we do?! While Plum wailed internally, Sora and Shiro
calmly assessed the situation behind them—
“Four. No formation.”
“...Syllables: one, three...”
“...Number One, wing base: oh...Three, left side: hoi.”
“One: Shiro. Three: me. Go.”
—An exchange indecipherable to Plum transpired in a blink, and
before Plum could so much as mumble, Huh?— Sora and Shiro
tweaked their course.
“Eh-heh-hehh! I’m first!”
“We have you now!”
Making short work of the five-minute handicap as might be
expected, two Fliigel closed in. They reached out toward Sora and
Shiro—but grasped empty air.
The two Fliigel, voicing their incomprehension at having failed to
snatch the siblings, who’d vanished in a blink—
Behind. Sora and Shiro were, respectively, on their assailants’ wing
base and left side —targeting the syllables transcribed there—and the
Fliigel moaned. The other two, who followed a moment later, looked
around, having lost sight of their prey. It was no wonder, for by then
Sora and Shiro were well on their spiraling path through the lines of
cubes. Weaving among countless stacks of die—through the
townscape of Avant Heim.
—Two syllables in hand.
“...Uh, excuse me...what was...?!”
A fleeting encounter that defied even Plum’s comprehension, and
she was wrapped around their necks. As Plum gaped behind the spell
of her illusion, Sora filled her in.
“A barrel roll— that’s how you dodge something flying in a straight
line faster than you, duh.”
—Indeed, feeling pursuers at their backs and drawing them in as
close as possible, Sora and Shiro had tweaked their course so that, of
the four on their tail—the two bearing syllables would wind up in
front of them. And the instant Sora and Shiro seized what they
needed, they stuck out their wings and just rolled off at an angle. That
meant they kept going in the same direction, but in a decelerating
spiral. While, from the relative perspective of the too-fast Fliigel, it
seemed they’d vanished in midair—really, the siblings had just
“outstripped” them. They weren’t used to using wings, and even if
they mastered them, they were incapable of Fliigel speed. In which
“If we can’t work our wings, we can just stop them. Those bitches
fly around all ‘Screw aerodynamics’—like they know the maneuvers
of fixed-wing aircraft.”
“...Even if they know...they’d never have...thought about it.”
Around the arms of the smugly smiling pair, just as Shiro had
explained—revolved the syllables oh and hoi. Plum, finally catching
up, was dumbfounded.
“...Don’t tell me...you remember everyone who has a syllable—and
“Come on, Plum, you still haven’t learned to respect my little
Feeling shamed by these simple words, Plum fell silent.
“Well, in any case...Shiro, the syllables we need right now—you
“’Kay, then we’ll catch those first. It’s not like we can keep using the
same maneuvers on these guys, after all.”
“...Mm, roger that...”
—Plum gaped at the pair casually declaring that they’d catch
Fliigel, as if such a thing were natural. It was as if they had decided
that in this game of tag, the siblings were actually “it.” Sora and Shiro
soared through the cityscape of Avant Heim, weaving as they went.
—Alone at the starting line with Azril, watching the scene projected
before them, Jibril felt a flutter in her chest—a fervent sense of
astonishment. At Shiro, who remembered all the syllables, their
bearers, and even where they’d been transcribed. At their divine feat
of evasion and the collection of the syllables—but, more than that, at
her two lords flying about the city as if they knew it like their own
backyard. She could not conceal her astonishment.
Avant Heim was constructed of intricately overlapping cubes.
Through the fine cracks between the cubes, in the darkness
illuminated only by the faint light and the moon, they flew as if
threading needles. They still had little by way of speed. But in this
scenario, a pursuer who flew too quickly would be lost. As they
soared, diving, piercing precisely through the narrow alleys and
cracks formed by the cubes, slipping through holes it seemed hard to
imagine that even one person could fit through, one careless
acceleration—would result in a calamitous crash.
...What magnificence... But still, that left something unexplained.
Jibril puzzled to herself. Fliigel was a race that tended to rely on brute
strength. This was a truism she herself could not deny. But even so,
they did know how to collaborate. They wouldn’t be much of a
weapon otherwise. If speed was insufficient, they should switch to
siege tactics—and yet—
“Huh-what?! Wha...? How-?!”
A Fliigel girl shrieked. She’d been poised at the only exit from the
crack into which Sora and Shiro had ducked—only to watch them
burst from someplace completely unexpected.
Yes, Sora and Shiro had foiled the Fliigel siege entirely. They’d
glanced at the map for only a moment. Had they learned everything
about Avant Heim in that short time?
—Impossible. It was conceivable that one of her masters—Shiro—
could have memorized a map in those few seconds. But it was
impossible to divine the cracks and alleys of the city, built by complex,
three-dimensional stacks of bodies high and low, from a mere map.
Then how...? And at last, careful observer that she was, Jibril
nevertheless doubted the conclusion that she, of all people, had
...Wha—? Th-this is a joke, righhht?
—Realization dawned that between Sora’s and Shiro’s firmly joined
hands—their fingers were finely moving. Plum, who until recently
had been desperately suppressing a cry, now believing that she had
discovered the methodology by which her pilots were navigating
implausibly narrow holes and cracks—a methodology one might
safely dub “bullshitology”—suddenly found herself speechless.
So, probably...presumably...not that it was plausible—this is how
they did it. Skimming the cityscape that Shiro had memorized, she
confirmed that the cubes’ sizes were uniform. Through mental
calculation, she then unraveled the patterns by which those cubes
were stacked, revealing fine cracks that arose based on differences in
level. Bypassing the necessity for words, she conveyed this
information to Sora through finger movement alone, and Sora, in
turn, shook their pursuers by deceiving them, leading them on, and
plotting out escape routes.
—How could one find themselves at anything but a loss for words?
As far as Plum was concerned (and pretty much anyone would
agree), it was totally beyond all comprehension. They were
communicating by finger movement. Yet simple information like
“This way” or “Over there” wasn’t even what it was. Reading each
other’s intentions from the sensation of their joined hands, the two
Immanities, without a moment’s confusion or hesitation, flapped
their wings and flew as if their connected palms were their very
nerves. Well, it was fair to say that they had not yet completely
acclimated themselves to flight. There was still some roughness in
their execution. But all the more for that—witnessing something
beyond belief—Plum was astonished.
Two in one set of wings—holding hands. If one twin worked harder
to break gravity’s pull, the other would sense that effort before they
were left behind, match it, and catch up. Without allowing a single
flap of the wings to fall out of sync, they shared with one another
what they learned and raised each other up.
—Limitlessly. At terrifying speed. The sight sent a shiver down
Plum’s spine. These two—were even more—
—Then the siblings, who up to that point had maintained radio
silence, opened their mouths.
“Left, right: four, four drawn.”
...Left: shal, yoo,pahs, sel. Right: reyt, er, not, roh. Missing one.
“Collect, draw above. Twelve?”
“...Syllables: five. Completes ...but risky.”
Following this cryptic exchange, a smiling Sora resumed speaking
in complete sentences.
“Risk acknowledged—! Let’s get ’em!!”
“...Roger! Left Shiro, brother right. Left shoulder, right wing, left
No sooner had they spoken—
They snapped their wings—that is, Plum—in a vicious break that
sent them hurtling into a narrow hole...
“—! We have them at last!”
“Pincer attack, on cue!”
Sora and Shiro carelessly—or so it seemed to Plum—exited into a
wide corridor. Waiting for them were four Fliigel on either side—as
they’d said themselves, a perfect pincer attack. But Sora’s and Shiro’s
words echoed through Plum’s head.
— Left , right: four, four drawn... they’d drawn the Fliigel—and now
they’d pet them ? Rushing forward with blinding speed, eight Fliigel in
total to their left and right, but in that case—
“Let’s do it, Shiro!!”
—Just who had who?— Sora and Shiro brought together their free
hands to form a Word. The syllables on their wrists moved and
combined—a flash of light. Targeting the eight Fliigel assaulting them
from either flank, the pair—held their hands out left and right and
—A heartbeat. The four Fliigel from each side descending on Sora
and Shiro with outstretched hands—
—only to pass harmlessly through their prey, reemerging on
Leaving eight moans in their wake, Sora and Shiro dove once more
into the space between cubes. Navigating a crevice barely wide
enough for one person, aligned vertically with Shiro, Sora laughed.
“Pahs, sel, yoo, shal —how ’bout it, Shiro? I got ’em all!”
“...Reyt, roh, not, er... That makes eight...”
Each displayed the four syllables of light they had collected on their
wrists, as if it was only natural.
—Gingerly, Plum inquired:
“...Uh, excuse me...what was...?”
“What do you think? A hole. ‘Words’ work on whatever you touch—
those are the rules of the game, right?”
“...So...we opened a hole...in space.”
Plum, speechless, thought back. They’d opened a hole—a hollow
space—around themselves, bridging the space at their flanks to evade
the Fliigel’s pincer attack. Once their assailants emerged, naturally,
their backs would be to Sora and Shiro—who collected the syllables—
“...Could it be you drew in only Fliigel with syllablesss?\”
“Yeah, but we didn’t get all the ones we need—”
Affirming this as if it was nothing, Sora looked up audaciously from
the syllables lined up on his arm like prayer beads.
—Plum involuntarily followed his gaze.
...Four, five, eight—twelve Fliigel were converging on them at
“Ah-wah-wah-wah-wah-wah-wah—what are we going to dooo?!”
“Collect. Draw twelve from above —just like we planned. Don’t
“...Brother, can we get out?”
Sora and Shiro were barreling at high velocity through a crack
barely big enough for one person. As soon as they shot into the open
again, they’d be assaulted by Fliigel—twelve of them. But Sora
“Sure, no prrrrrob—!”
Sora lost his balance as Plum suddenly licked his neck. They burst
into the open—with twelve Fliigel incoming. With Sora off-kilter, the
—almost bucked Shiro, but some furious wing flapping just
managed to keep them whole. Even so, the effort to avoid a tailspin
left Sora unprepared for the Fliigel rushing in.
“-Shiro, do iiit!”
—A split-second decision. No time to right themselves. Sora
extended his left hand to Shiro—and left the Word to her, wholly
convinced she’d know what he meant. Shiro grabbed Sora’s hand and
pushed the glowing syllables out into the void—
“—‘You shall not pass’...!”
With these words, the twelve onrushing shadows descended on Sora
and Shiro, and...
Whap, whap, whap— no, not even so half-assed and meekly.
Thunderously, like a shelter being bombarded, the Fliigel pounded
into an invisible wall. But the real issue was—! Shiro glanced at Sora.
They’d planned —to break upward at this point.
—“You shall not pass.” The wall they’d constructed using four
separate monosyllabic words —let no enemy pass. Their plan had been
to snare just the Fliigel with syllables slipping by, but...
—He was in time. Shiro’s expression relaxed. While he’d let Shiro
launch the Word, her brother had managed to regain his balance and
flip over. Breaking out in a nervous sweat, Sora flapped his wing as
Shiro simultaneously followed his lead—! Weaving past the twelve
Fliigel momentarily stunned by their impact with the invisible wall—
“Shit, Shiro—do it for me!”
There was no time to relay which of their assailants had syllables.
Shiro stretched out her hands—and then... Hands alone being
insufficient, she employed her feet—and even her wing, barely
managing to collect them all.
“Mgmgmgggg, we won’t let you get—”
“I won’t let you do that!!”
Shiro’s wing was on the verge of getting tagged, but this time Sora
used his wing to adjust their mutual balance. They scraped by past
the hands of the fiends, slipping back under the invisible wall...and,
just as they were about to crash into the ground, they flapped off-
ducking into a narrow crack... They’d made it somehow.
Shiro voiced her concern for Sora as he struggled to catch his
“U-umm... Are you all right?” queried Plum as well, herself the
culprit of this crisis.
Sora chewed on the scarf and howled indistinctly. “—Pluuuuuum!
You little shit, you really wanna die with us?!”
“I-I-I’m sorry! You see, when you made that sharp turn, my
mouth slipped off you, Sir— Did I not tell you that if my supply were
cut off we would die in a matter of secooonds?! I mean, if we die,
we’ll die together. You’ll be coming with meee!!”
—That twerp. She had some damn nerve. With that, Shiro
suppressed the pounding of her heart to catalog the syllables at her
wrist and mumbled:
“...Brother../we got... ak,por, bair, vey,feet, teyt, and dih— now...”
“Y eah, it’s finally complete .”
Por, dih, sel, er, vey, bair, roh, reyt, ak,feet, and teyt— the siblings
smiled at the Word they could now compile. As they locked eyes and
nodded—they flapped their wings hard. The two, who had thus far
kept to weaving among the cubes, now ascended to the sky.
“Mmk...they’re changing their strategy again?”
They were spotted immediately. Sora and Shiro exposed themselves,
but their pursuers were suspicious of this sudden appearance. Rather
than attacking in straight lines, they flew in arcs to close in and
surround their quarry.
—No one could have predicted it. Even Plum, despite everything,
hadn’t seen it coming. Before the advancing Fliigel, the two joined
hands and spelled out the Word.
—Before the four syllables faded, they touched themselves and
It wasn’t just their pursuers. Plum and even Jibril observing from
afar were dumbfounded. Who would have expected that, in the short
time since obtaining their wings at the start of the game—not even
fifteen minutes—those same wings borrowed from Plum would, with
a single flap from two Immanities...
...leave both sound and Fliigel far behind with nothing but a shock
wave in their wake, using straight-up linear distance.
Indeed, using a Word to accelerate themselves, they could
materialize an image. Then they could get rid of their wings’ physical
limitations. “Hasten,” “agility,” “accelerate ”—since the start of the
game, their goal had been to form such Words. Failing to do so, Sora
and Shiro would have been incapable of escaping adversaries who
changed strategies according to their opponents’ movements—who
adapted and learned—for a full hour. That’s why they’d stuck to low
speeds around the cubes, focused on drawing in Fliigel and collecting
syllables. Now Jibril saw this, and she squinted as if peering into
—Because this proved they had faith in Fliigel.
“Ha-ha! This is fun!”
As the two rolled as if dancing in midair, their laughs resounded
through Avant Heim.
—Two wings, one fate: The idiom crossed Jibril’s mind. But—even
that was not right, she felt as she shook her head. What she was
witnessing was not “two wings, one fate” in the figurative sense of
being very close. It was the two one-winged birds of the expression’s
original, literal meaning, she was sure. A male and a female, each
with one eye and one wing, who always flew together. These fantastic
—are flying before us at this very moment, are they not?
Jibril stared at them as if dazzled—but.
Azril, looking on, bored, still did not grasp what it meant.
—Seeing this, Jibril inquired quietly:
“Elder, do you know the reason I opposed the Sharing Act?”
“...Because you’re too serious and don’t like others touching your
“No. It is because I enjoy—reading the same books many times.
—That was news. Azril considered her questioningly.
“...What for? Who needs them once you’ve memorized them?”
“Yes, I knew this is what you would say, and that is why I had not
spoken of it...”
Jibril sighed and then, apparently steeling herself, said:
“Even after one has read a book, when one returns after learning
more outside it, there are new discoveries to be found.”
“What bothered me was being unable to read them whenever I
wanted. Do you not see?”
“—If you only memorize the contents, it ends there.”
Jibril lowered her eyes at this statement—yet.
—Azril still seemed confused. Not comprehending Jibril’s insight,
yes, but more critically—
“-So what does that have to do with this?”
...The look Jibril gave her was terribly pained. It was not a look of
scorn or derision. It was a look, rather, of disappointment, of falling
deeper and deeper every time a faint hope was once again cut down.
—Azril couldn’t answer her sister’s hopes. That, more than anything
else, stabbed her keenly.
“What are you saying...? What’s the problem...?!”
High in the night sky of Avant Heim rushed a silver trail. Sora and
Shiro had already left the sound barrier far behind—by now there was
no one who could catch up.
“Well, as long as we don’t let our guard down, we’re pretty much
safe from getting caught.”
Sora muttered this as he held hands with Shiro and burst through
the night sky, yet—
“...But what about...the syllables...?”
“Yeah, I know. If we’re gonna play this game, we ought to beat it
with a full collection of syllables. Plus”—nodding at Shiro’s words,
Sora pulled his expression together—“I already know the Word I want
to shoot into her.”
“‘Her’...? Of whom do you speaaak?”
Plum asked, but Sora didn’t answer. He just turned his back.
It was nice they’d lost them with their speed—but to collect the
syllables, they’d have to get close. Which meant a risk of getting
caught, and on top of that, they were facing Fliigel. Also—
Sora admonished himself internally.
—Don’t forget: This game was unexpected. “ ” didn’t have the
home-field advantage. No matter how mindful they were of risks,
there was no way they could guard against everything.
Sora chuckled, unheard. Excellent—this was what made it worth
playing! So they’d have to minimize the risks—by collecting as many
syllables as possible at once. If they buffed up their insurance, that is,
the power of Words, they’d be in a better position... But then Sora
looked back to see—
—a gleaming ray.
Shiro raised a questioning voice at the light.
Sora responded a fraction of a second faster to precisely what he’d
just been anticipating. He swung himself down—breaking out their
axis into a curving roll without changing their course—
“E-excuse me, what are you—ngyaaaah?!”
Cutting Plum short, a flash shot past —along their former axis.
—It had been a split-second decision. The incredible evasive action
encouraged Shiro to praise her brother, but before she could...
“Jibriiiiil!! The hell was that? We didn’t hear about this! They can
...Sora, previously so composed, was now shouting furiously. Above
his head— poonk. A little Jibril, her head about a quarter of her height,
appeared and announced:
“No, Master. That was not an attack. It was a homing capture
“Don’t you mean a missile?!”
“No, it is perfectly nonlethal. The spell merely serves to bind the
target and pull it in. Considering this and its purpose of capture rather
than destruction, its concept is quite different from that of a ‘missile’
Tearing his hair in response to Jibril’s cluelessness, Sora howled.
“Okay, I’ll rephrase that. We didn’t hear anything about projectiles!
Can’t we fire back, Plum?!”
“Please don’t talk crazyyy! I said duocasting is Elfs patented
specialtyyy. If I use any more magic than this, I’ll shrivel uuup!
Never mind that your neck has already turned into a wrinkly mess,
“So what if it’s wrinkly?! You want some cold sweat ? I’ve got a
shit-ton down my back by now, so lick it up!”
“Really?! Don’t mind if I dooo! Ahh! V”
With an irritated tongue-click at Plum, who seamlessly switched
tracks from weepy to happy voice, Sora looked back. It’s an away
game, so be ready for anything—that’s what he’d been thinking, and
now look! Sure, the Fliigel had said that there would be no shifting—
—No one ever said there wouldn’t be any magic—!
“—Damn it—how could I miss that?”
“...Should have thought, of it...!”
—Rules paving a way to victory just by employing the right Word
were all too favorable. Seeing what they’d missed, Sora and Shiro—
no, Shiro regretted it more and bit her nails. The catch in the rules...
the wording. They depended on her to remember every word so they
could catch it. Shiro tormented herself as Sora rubbed her head.
“We’re playing by ear here. What do you expect? Anyway, now’s
not the time—”
A game had been sprung on them without adequate information. It
was only natural unforeseen circumstances would arise. They’d win
anyway — How quickly they’d adapt and take control of the situation,
that was the quintessence of “ ”— There was no time to grieve!
—Jibril, how many of those can they fire?”
“Good question... It depends on the individual, but shall we say six
“—Well, that’ll be a pain, but I guess with just six, they’re not gonna
waste ’em. So—”
“Oh no, Master.”
Reflected in Sora’s backward-facing eyes, a multitude of shadows
that had gathered on the cubes—the Fliigel—could be seen raising
their hands...and the night sky was bathed the color of day.
“I meant that they can launch six or so at once. There is no limit.”
“I was a fool to hope for a second that you freaks had limits!”
“...Brother, let’s go—!”
This time Shiro was quicker on the trigger, flapping her wing hard.
Promptly, Sora left the mini-Jibril behind in silent pursuit. The
“missiles” veered toward them in complex curves—but if Jibril had
been right that they were homing—
Shiro gave her wing a big flap. Grasping her intent from her hand
in his, Sora followed suit. Even their Word of “acceleration” was
insufficient to best the speed of the countless incoming rays. But the
instant the beams were at their backs—a chandelle. Banking at a
forty-five-degree angle from their level flight and looping diagonally
upward, they revved up their speed and climbed— The “capture
beams,” perhaps proximity-triggered, came within a hairbreadth
when the siblings’ speed dipped fractionally at the start of their
incline. The rays flashed behind them—and detonated.
Outpacing Plum’s shriek, Shiro canceled the chandelle they’d
started. Instead of turning, she gave her wing one more flap, adding
more speed to their ascent and breaking away from the light that
exploded behind them.
—They’d survived. But allowing no time for self-congratulations,
more beams pelted them, one after the other. Sora and Shiro drew
them all in and flipped them off with exactly the same maneuver
they’d just executed, but this time with a sharp descent, a slicing turn
diagonally downward. Again, by the same method, they shook off the
barrage that detonated at their heels and used their speed—
Plum, who maintained their wings, squealed as those wings, still
operating at ultra-high speeds, abruptly stopped. The barrel roll
wrapped them around beams bursting at close range, one by one, as
they evaded. But as the light came in wave after wave, now the
siblings’ wings flapped to break. On a knife’s edge of control, they
dove into a thin crack between cubes—and immediately— Countless
explosions as beams burst around their entrance.
—Yes, homing projectiles could be guided. While the job of
calculating the rays’ trajectories so they could be shaken off fell to
—the series of maneuvers worthy of a Macr*ss missile massacre
gave her cold sweats and made her pant wildly. Her expression said
that this was her penance for missing that no one had mentioned
magic. Shiro felt weighted by that responsibility to the extent that,
even after pulling this off, she looked guilty.
“—That’s my Shiro. Your brother’s so proud of his sister,” Sora said,
stroking her while cruising in a vertical orientation through the
narrow passage. But—
“Aaagh, I hate thiiis! I’m done with this gaaame! If you
keep this up, I’m not going to laaast!!”
How much of a load had been placed on their wings—on Plum—to
support these maneuvers? It could be gleaned from Plum’s wail that
it was close enough to her breaking point. Also— Sora thought,
breaking into a cold sweat of his own—once they slipped out of this
crack, without a doubt, a horde of Fliigel would be waiting for them.
Considering the adaptability the Fliigel had demonstrated thus far,
they were unlikely to let this chance slip.
—Yes, and this time they’d definitely be anticipating evasive action.
The capture beams would surely come thick and staggered, homing
in on them one after the other. Even with Shiro, there was no way
they could dodge them all, and worse, Plum probably couldn’t take
much more. In that case— Sora and Shiro looked down at their wrists.
—All they had were their Words. But the only syllables they held
were roh,por, bair, vey, dih,feet, and teyt. Nothing for this situation
—! They cursed to themselves in their frenzy. In a matter of seconds,
they’d emerge from this tight corridor. In a few moments, they’d
either have to evade the imminent beams or find a Word—!
“...‘Defeat’ ...! No...Brother, I’m sor—”
The first Word that popped into Shiro’s head slipped out by accident,
and she disavowed it in a panic.
—But, in fact, that was the Word that seemed most plausible under
the circumstances. How were they supposed to defend with these
syllables? Words like “evade,” “armor,” “reflect”—they didn’t have all
the syllables for any of them.
How to turn it around from here—? How to turn it around—? As
Sora ground his teeth, his head spun as if it would burn up. Just seven
fragments of words. All lacking application. A Word that would turn
this around—turn it...around... No.
—It’s our job to turn... thoughts around, isn’t it—!”
Shiro reacted quizzically to Sora’s audible epiphany. That instant-
different variables interlocked like gears in Sora’s mind and started
—Jibril’s words: the capture spell triggered by proximity.
—That speed: It outstripped the Fliigel, and even Sora’s group
couldn’t shake it off.
And when he saw that light emitting—when the cogs meshed—Sora
“Why do we have to dodge —this is our chance!! Shiro, up!”
If they flew out into the open sky, they’d be targets for the capture
beams, but Plum was alone in lamenting Sora’s suggestion. Shiro had
a different reaction altogether:
They’d soar up—that was her brother’s conclusion. Shiro needed no
more convincing than that. Maintaining their ridiculous speed, they
flew up the corridor—and shot out. Sure enough—a rain of light that
lit up the night rained down on them.
Nonlethal though this Fliigel might have been, if they were caught,
the game would be over, and their means of collecting the
information they needed to determine the conditions to wake the
Siren queen— For fear of these two things, Plum shrieked. But
ignoring her, Sora saw what he’d expected and boldly cleared two
syllables from his wrist to form a Word.
When the Fliigel’s capture beams were launched, Sora had
glimpsed where the beams had originated: the ground. Indeed, the
Fliigel who had just fired the barrage that were hurtling toward them
when the siblings abandoned the corridor, without a single exception
— Every last one of them stood with their feet planted on the cubes.
—The Fliigel couldn’t fire without landing. Which meant— Sora and
Shiro didn’t have to dodge. Amidst the barrage of light, Sora grabbed
the cube immediately outside their exit. Slamming the Word he had
composed into the floor—he screamed:
A moment’s lag. And then, ignoring all physical laws, irresistibly,
...Avant Heim itself spun horizontally.
Not just Plum but all the Fliigel who’d launched the capture beams
erupted in shock. No, even those above, and Jibril watching remotely,
voiced their surprise. What would happen if the stage itself were spun
horizontally? Everything in the air—such as the capture beams and
the Fliigel flying through them—would stay as they were. With the
Fliigels’ high-volume screams reverberating in a Doppler effect,
everyone on the stage (with their feet on the ground)—namely, the
Fliigel snipers, Sora, and Shiro—
—would abruptly swap positions.
“And the beams would be impossible to dodge by the very folks
who fired them, descending all of a sudden before their eyes, wouldn’t
As Sora smiled, only Shiro could see his mouth was tense.
—To spin Avant Heim... Unless you got it to spin on precisely the
point you imagined, it would just mean the beams would nail you
from a different direction. His was the smile of victory bom of a risky
gamble...but if the capture beams operated as Jibril described—
Sora prodded without missing a beat, and Shiro promptly grasped
his intent and responded:
“...Syllables: twenty-three ...!”
Yes—the capture beams were just as Jibril described.
So, if a spell that bound its targets and pulled them back to its point
of origin activated from a reversed position—!
—It would drag a gaggle of helpless Fliigel right to Sora and Shiro.
“Do it, Shiro!!”
Indeed, perfectly—as Sora had wanted—they’d taken the
minimum...that is to say, only one risk. And from the thirty-eight
Fliigel hauled toward them ...they would harvest twenty-three
syllables: ahr, strkc, til, ah, this, uh, kuh, duhlt, luh, pit, ohn, ouhr,
dis, kree, nekt, hood, mahyz, ih, min, with, skyool, kamp, and ree—
“.. .B -but—Broth er! ”
Shiro raised an alarm.
—Trussed up in all manner of poses from their surprise, thirty-eight
Fliigel were delivered right to their doorstep. But Sora and Shiro
didn’t know how long the binding lasted, and the only one who knew
where the syllables were was Shiro. Collecting their prizes so rapidly
from twenty-three Fliigel would have been too much—but Sora
“First, for rating purposes! ‘Vapor!!’”
The Word “vapor” explosively covered the throng in steam. But still
not finished— Breaking into a giddy leer, Sora fired off a follow-up to
his Word, gesturing grandly to the audience before him (ignoring a
sarcastic glare from Shiro, who knew what her brother was up to)
while the siblings beat their wings hard to launch into high-speed
“—And now, the moment we’ve been waiting for
The raiment of the awkwardly posed Fliigel still immobilized by the
capture beams dispersed all at once, making it possible for Sora to
spot where the syllables were positioned, too. Sora, with a very
grateful smile, closed his eyes and gave thanks.
“Ohhh, I can see now, Shiro. I can see so many thingsV ’
“.Brother, take left. I’ll...take right.”
“Oh, entrust it to me, my darling sisterl Yaghh, roar with thunder,
o left hand of mine!”
The sister’s eyes were cold enough to leave elementary particles in
zero-point motion, while the brother’s eyes blazed hot enough to
vaporize a magnetic field.
—If temperature gradients between eyes were as effective as
matters of physics, the planet would most likely have been blanketed
by a typhoon.
—all that blanketed the area was a chorus of twenty-three moans.
Sora would have liked to stay and listen a bit longer, but he and Shiro
burst through it in an instant, leaving this symphony in their dust.
“—How do I put this? You work so fast... I just can’t believe you...”
“Heh-heh-heh, please feel free to praise me unreservedly, Plum! Ee-
“...Brother, you are parsec gross...”
“I just got the smack delivered in astronomical units?! Don’t you
know how hard your brother worked for that?!”
—Flawlessly, Sora’d plucked eleven syllables; Shiro twelve. Having
also indulged in a bit of extraneous physical contact, Sora boasted
loathsomely only to be bluntly chastised by his sister. Sora was
obviously stung by his sister’s assessment that he was approximately
3.26 light-years’ worth of disgusting, but Shiro didn’t stop there.
“...Brother...you wasted...three syllables...”
“Hey there, my sister, enough with your jokes. Wasted, you say?
With a smile so exaggerated it would make an American
uncomfortable, Sora went tut-tut-tut.
“In fact, there were three noble aims behind my actions. To collect
the syllables, to inhibit pursuit by provoking their reluctance to fly
nude, and most important of all—”
Then, a beat—and with an exceedingly serious expression—
“—the will of the cosmos.”
“...You mean, the will of...you...”
As Shiro corrected her brother, her voice as cold as ever, Plum
shouted a warning as she noticed something closing on them from
“Wahhhhhhh, they’re coming at us regardless of being totally
“...Brother, Fliigel...have no shame...just, like...Jibril.”
“Whaaaaat? I never expected thaaat!! ...Looks like they’re coming
from ahead, too, huh, Shiro?”
Shiro responded with a sulk. A few nude Fliigel advanced from
behind, having shrugged off the capture spell. Three approaching
from the front, too. Deliberately fixing his gaze on the Fliigel ahead of
them and promptly positioning his camera, Sora spelled a Word. As
three extended their hands toward them, he and Shiro dodged
gracefully—and he slammed the Word in.
“—‘Adulthood feat’— ’’...that is.
At the same time, he flapped his wing to swing around, covered
Shiro’s eyes with the wing, and turned his camera.
“Now they should hold ’em back for us.. .hff...”
The clothed Fliigel started squeezing the breasts of the nude Fliigel,
“Hff— at last I have succeeded in witnessing the Peach Blossom
Spring with my own two eyes... It is truly marvelous. How
unfortunate that it’s nighttime. I wonder if my camera is getting this
“...Sir, I’ve almost come all the way back around to respecting
—Endlessly lithe. Joyful. Almost as if laughing at risk, her two lords
danced through the sky. Yet someone was watching this display, still
showing no sign of comprehension.
Jibril sighed for the umpteenth time at Azril, who continued to do
nothing but frown.
...It looked as if her masters were going to win—but there was no
meaning in that by itself. If Azril still failed to grasp anything, would
it not betray the expectations of her masters—?!
“...Elder, why do you not understand...?”
“Will you yet command our race to end themselves? Shall all of us
die because of you alone?”
Jibril’s words, smudged darkly with tension, meant nothing to Azril.
—Why should a Fliigel fear death? Since when was this a feeling
Fliigel had? And to fear not even for her own sake—but for the
“Can you see the faces of my masters, see the faces of our people,
and yet see nothing? If your thickheadedness seals away their
possibilities and puts all of these six thousand years to waste—”
—Please, get it.
“They will go to waste—because of you?!”
On the verge of tears, Jibril forced out this accusation, and yet...
Azril still didn’t get it. Didn’t get it. What was so...what was so...what
“Nghhhh, can’t catch up to them!!”
“Cut them off! We’ll bring the capture spells to them by cross fire!
Once they exhaust their syllables, we’ll have our chance!”
“Whaaat? But they’re just gonna dodge it, I’m sure!”
“We’ll try it, and if it doesn’t work, we’ll think of something
different, right? Let’s go!”
As the Fliigel conferred while darting about, for some reason, all of
—...What was so entertaining?
Anticipating the cross fire, Sora and Shiro once more flipped their
wings, dropping and dodging expertly, just as predicted.
“Awww, look. I told you they’d dodge it!”
“Hee-hee! Then we’ll just shoot them from above and below at the
same time! Everyone disperse. Fire together on my command!”
—...What was so entertaining?! How could they chase an opponent
they couldn’t beat with smiles like those?
..Seeing Azril irritated at her own inability to understand,
Jibril dropped some wisdom.
“Elder. Do you remember my spoils ?”
“.I remember everything. All the achievements of my sweet little
She looked down, distantly—somewhere far in the past—and
“Nineteen joint kills of Gigants, one individual kill. Three joint kills
of Dragonias, one individual kill—”
—The Dragonia head enshrined under the giant tree at the outskirts
of Avant Heim had been Jibril’s prize. Slaying a Dragonia alone was a
feat that no one had achieved before or since. It had been Azril, in
celebration, who had placed the skull—dressed it up. And— “Three
joint kills of Phantasmas—one individual kill.”
Likewise, only one had ever slain a Phantasma single-handedly:
Jibril. Azril’s smile as she reminisced was unclouded—unaffected.
“The last created, racking up such spoils in only 245 battles, and
returning home alive... How could I forget?”
...Azril recalled that faraway, nostalgic, beautiful time—a time they
had a future —with a placid smile, prompting Jibril, not quite able to
raise her eyes, to ask: “...Then do you remember the number of times
I sustained injuries sufficient to require a rite of restoration?”
“One hundred sixty.”
No hesitation. Jibril had caused her worry, always returning home
on the brink of death.
“...Almost all of those were instances when you took on enemies
A Gigant, a Dragonia, and a Phantasma—one of each. Jibril,
having slain members of three higher races single-handedly, had
actually been beaten back the same number of times she had been
victorious—multiplied by twenty-nine. And what that meant ...this
fact being completely unfathomable to Azril...caused Jibril to grind
“All right—do you understand why I insisted on slaying them
—Jibril’s strong undertone indicated this was the final hint. Her
voice was resolute, mixed with hope and the fear that hope would
once more be betrayed. But...Azril could only shake her head.
“...Honestly, I never know what you’re going to do, Jibs. To begin
“Yes, to begin with, they were impossible opponents.”
—Indeed, no one was supposed to be able to defeat an opponent of a
higher rank without assistance. The Fliigel had not been created with
such abilities in mind.
—This was the end. If Azril didn’t understand that—
“That is why—I proved you wrong.”
“...I don’t get it. What are you on about? What did you see in them,
Jibril had no words to respond.
—That is to say, Jibril had lost all hope. The hope she’d held—that if
she understood it, everyone else should be capable, too—crumbled.
Her sister’s despair stabbed Azril with unbearable pain. But— “...Jibs.
“You don’t know this, Jibs, but Lord Artosh gave you something
special. That’s why you can comprehend things the rest of us can’t.”
As Jibril stood mutely, Azril spilled out an earnest appeal.
“I want to know the Answer, too. I don’t want it to end here!!
Because then, what will these six thousand years have meant?! But I
just don’t get it—I can’t go on lying any longer!!”
—Azril, the first Fliigel. Created first by Artosh with the goal of
perfection. Crying was not a feature she had been given. But perhaps
because they were alone, Azril’s voice, pleading, poured out for the
first time with wet sincerity.
—I’m begging you, anyone, tell me.
—What are we living for?
—Why are we still alive?
—What are we looking for?
—What do we have to find in order to have lived—? Tell me!
Jibril listened to this silently.
—But deliberately, as if pushing Azril away in a voice without heat
—-she conveyed what Azril needed to hear...yes, the words her
masters would have chosen.
“...And so you use your limits as an excuse—to use me.”
“Y ou and I, and all of us who have survived, lost, and we have lived
for six thousand years as losers.”
Jibril turned her eyes away from Azril, hands trembling—
“That, from this, you have learned nothing speaks not of one
possessed of an exceptional nature—but rather to your own
Jibril tightened her fists.
...Though she had nearly died any number of times, she had never
been as nervous as now, she realized. She recomposed her expression:
Don’t let your voice shake. Don’t let your eyes wander. She forced all
the spirits that comprised her body into submission and brought them
under her control.
—Could she? Doubt assailed her, but she cast it off. Do, or do not—
that’s what she’d learned. Chewing over her lessons from her masters,
she did as she had learned from them.
—It did not come naturally to Jibril. But she decided to take a
gamble— Masters, please forgive the incompetence of your lowly
servant, Jibril, on whom you have been forced to rely to the end.
So she whispered to herself, and she summoned the last of her hope
— Even so, please allow me to put my faith in the faith you have
And so with an expression that was, to the mightiest degree
imaginable, contemptuous, she spat: “So feebleminded are you that
I...can only despise you from the bottom of my heart—you heap of
For the first time in her 6,407-year life—she bluffed.
...—Ff. All color drained from Azril’s face, and a tired voice rang out
“...I’m so over this.”
And then—the world trembled.
. I blew it.
Why hadn’t she seen it coming—? Steph, accompanying Izuna out
of the castle and into the surrounding town to purchase the
ingredients to fulfill her promise of a scrumptious fish feast, ground
her teeth at her carelessness. Fear, hateful glances, whispered threats
—all of them poured down like rain on Izuna, who walked beside her.
The Werebeast’s senses had to notice.
“Commonwealth” or no, it cannot be so easy for people to accept
another race, can it?But...
Intellectually, Steph understood. Indeed, Izuna—Werebeast—was
an invader to Elkia, a subjugator. But that came from the Ten
Covenants. The reason that Immanity was so taxed and tried was
simply that they had lost in games. Were they to hold a grudge for a
result based on mutual agreement? Was that not unjustified—?
“...Stuch, why don’t you hate me, please?”
“...We took your continent, please. Obviously you should hate me,
please. Because of me, they called your grampy a fool, please. Why
don’t you hate me, please?”
As Izuna stared at her, Steph tightened her grip on the young girl’s
hand. What carelessness—Steph stewed over her own lack of insight.
Izuna was too clever. She’d played Sora and Shiro for the continental
domain—carrying the responsibility for the futures of Immanity and
—It wasn’t as if, in Steph’s grandfather’s study, Izuna hadn’t read
anything. She knew how her actions had affected Immanity. She’d
long since grasped how she was perceived, accepting it for what it
was. Only one failed to realize— Again , it is only me...
Thinking back, when Steph had woken up—that is, after Izuna had
learned Immanity—Izuna had draped a coat over Steph, a clear
change in attitude. Why hadn’t she realized the reason—? Steph
fretted but shook her head as the young girl’s eyes anxiously hovered
on her. She’d been asked—so she had to answer. As they walked
through town hand in hand, Izuna must have felt so much
animosity. Didn’t Steph herself hate Izuna...? This nagging concern
had to be wiped clean.
Yes...I suppose. From an ordinary perspective...
Perhaps it did make sense that, if she resented the nobles who
disparaged the grandfather she revered, she should also curse the
Eastern Union that had brought this fate—but Steph didn’t know. She
didn’t know why—but that was wrong. She was sure that was wrong.
Ff— Steph’s expression relaxed, softening.
“Why? I do not know!”
“...Stuch, are you a dumbass, please?”
“Heh-heh, perhaps I am. But—I believe that it is wrong.”
Steph peered into Izuna’s round eyes.
—The black-haired girl, younger than Shiro, distinguished by her
large ears and tail. With the weight of the world’s third-largest
country on her back, she’d traded blows with “ ” on even footing—a
ball of possibility. Clever, earnest, innocent, discerning, with resolve
and wisdom. Looking at this girl—Steph gave a carefree smile.
“After all, Miss Izuna, you are a good girl and adorable.”
Basically, that is how it is, she thought.
“I like you, Miss Izuna. So I will give you partial treatment.”
Izuna’s eyes bulged. A beat later, she shook out her coat and looked
away blankly. Hiding her face from Steph, she whispered weakly: "...
Stuch, you are such a dumbass, please.”
—Even as she said this, Izuna slightly increased the pressure of her
hand in Steph’s. Steph chuckled to herself at Izuna’s transparent
attitude and started forward again. But then— “Heyyy, it’s Izunaaa!”
The two turned toward the cry. Several figures charged toward
them, making their way through the crowd. They were young
While Steph stood dumbfounded, the children surrounded the two
young women, and the newly assembled mob started making an
“It’s Izuna! Whoaaa, it’s the real thing!”
“Heyyy, Izunaaa, let’s playyy. You’re super-good, right?”
“You guys are dumb. Super-dumb. Call her Madam, bighead.”
“...The hell is with you assholes, please?”
Overcome by the energy of the excited children, Izuna couldn’t help
but respond. Steph started thinking about how to come between
them. Looking closer at the boisterous juveniles, though...
...she noticed their animal ears and tails—Werebeast children. Steph
addressed them in a flurry.
“What are you children doing?”
“We’re playing! Togevver!”
One of the children—a girl with round ears like a raccoon dog’s—
answered with a babyish lisp.
“You’re all...friends? Even the Werebeast children?”
“Sure we aaare.”
The young round-eared girl seemed confused by Steph’s dazed
interrogation. Beside her, an Immanity boy raised his voice gleefully.
“—We all became friends play ing games!”
—At these concise, simple words, Steph felt a swell of emotion that
seemed to pound from deep in her heart. Meanwhile, the children
gathered around Izuna romped on.
“Come on, let’s playyy. I’m sooo gonna beat youuu!”
“I’m hungry as hell, please. Buying fish, please. So goddamn busy,
To the children grabbing at her clothes and pleading, Izuna cast a
“...I’ll kick your ass next time, please.”
—and then, subtly, the comers of her mouth turned upward into a
grin. At these words, a particularly cheeky-looking boy stuck out his
fist and cheered.
“All righhht! Remember you promised, Izuna! You can’t back out
“I told you, call her Madam, dumb-butts! —Madam, I am so
And so, just as they had appeared, the children departed in a
tempest, waving their hands.
—Though the commotion had passed, Steph’s heart pounded all the
harder. That emotion was still there, like embers.
“Hee-hee... Something like this must serve as your answer,
...At some point, the feeling that poured into them from all around
became one of bewilderment. Maybe it was still a little too soon. But it
wouldn’t be too long. By the time those children grew to be adults...
surely. It would have to become a funny story that once the races
were at odds— Holding this hope, Steph smiled.
“We got to play with one another— I’m sure it’s more fun that
“...Stuch, you’re not a dumbass after all, please. I think you’re
actually goddamn smart, please.”
Hearing Izuna’s offhand remark, Steph seemed struck as if in the
presence of a god.
“Ohhh, Miss Izunaaa! You alone will not say I am stupiiid!”
“...But you look like a dumbass, please.”
Izuna smirked a bit as Steph clung to her, weeping for joy.
—The world would change. It was changing. It kept changing. If
you felt it wasn’t changing, all that meant —was you weren’t looking
—The world was rewritten.
'Whoaaa, what the hellll?!”
Sora and Shiro, dancing through the night sky, were suddenly
assaulted by a roar and a gale, shouting as they found themselves in a
tailspin. But more than them—more than anyone else—Plum
screeched at the manifestation of a violent whirlwind.
“Wh-what is thiiis?! So many spirits—even Fliigel shouldn’t be able
to do thiiis?!”
A force so powerful that Plum’s terrified quivering could be felt even
through her scarf disguise. A force that, if viewed directly, would rob
most any magic-user of sanity—incomparable, heaven-shaking—
conquered the world by brute force, bent it to its will, rewrote its
scenery willy-nilly...no, painted over it.
“...Uhh, Plum, is this really that bad?”
Sora’s offhand question— It’s true we never prohibited stage
switching, isn’t it?— was answered with a shriek.
“Bad—?! Th-this could only be an Old Deus, or, if not—”
Plum trailed off in midsentence, suddenly remembering where they
—Ixseed Rank Two, Phantasma—Avant Heim...
“...Don’t get it. We cannot grasp it.”
—Azril was static in midair. Her face now devoid of that perfect—all
too perfect—angelic smile. This was not that illusion of death one
experienced when confronted by Fliigel...no. Sora let fall a drop of
cold sweat and smirked. With that sort of overwhelming power
—illusion was impossible. A force that defied perception and
imagination. Sora and Shiro got goose bumps that set their skin on
fire. Azril—or something that looked like her—continued slowly.
“Jibril—we cannot grasp with what sort of fancies they have
A hollow voice, absent the slightest feeling.
“—Therefore, ye shall present them to us directly.”
Sora and Shiro were awestruck at this thing that addressed them as
the scenery finally stabilized. A cracked sky stained the color of blood;
dust billowing up to the stratosphere. Earth scorched beyond the
horizon. The heavens were smashed, the earth was rubble, the sea
was dry—dead. Innumerable fragments of shattered rock drifted
around the siblings—the ruins of what had once been land. The Fliigel
still in the game hovered like ominous battleships in some deformed
aerial fleet— “What...what is this shit?”
Though Sora had recovered enough wherewithal to speak, neither
Shiro nor Plum could respond. Only the Fliigel flitting through the air
seemed to acknowledge his question, wincing at that acrid sight with
which they were traumatically familiar.
—Six thousand years ago—that is, toward the end of the Great War.
Artosh, lord and creator of the Fliigel, rolled up all their Heavenly
Smites and unleashed them as a single strike of his own. A force
brought down to obliterate the land, the sky, the very planet—in other
words, a Godly Smite. This was the aftermath of that single blow.
Framed by the twilight of the world behind her, Azril continued.
“—Erst, we fought, and we failed.”
In the distant background—an enormous, ominous shadow rose
up. Most likely the former visage of the land itself—the Great War
form of Avant Heim. A landmass like a whale drifting through the
firmament—an air fortress built not of cubes but countless artillery
batteries and blue, murderous eyes.
“—Our lord unleashed his greatest strike—yet it was returned,
whereupon we were annihilated, and our lord was slain.”
—What was it that changed Jibril?
“Wherefore did we fail? Wherefore did we lose our lord? Wherefore
did we still live? Wherefore—”
—What made us find a reason to live? Plum desperately clung to
the last shreds of her sanity as the pure manifestation of violence
before them demanded— “Wherefore shall a weapon without a
master live on? The answer—”
Suddenly, a flash lanced Azril’s chest. A brilliant instant of
illumination lit up the twilight, and a few moments later, the roar of
an explosion shook the atmosphere.
Oblivious to Plum’s foolish interjection—
“T—L—D—R! Finish the intro dialogue in twenty words or make it
“...Never underestimate...the impatience...of the shmup freak...”
Sora’s and Shiro’s faces contorted in disgust— At some point, they’d
lit upon a crag and formed a Word—and now an iron barrel
protruded from their hands. Plum didn’t know...hell, she’d never even
seen one. Flame gushed from the 155mm howitzer the siblings had
expended four syllables to materialize. Leaving sound behind, the
projectile pierced Azril, and the fifteen pounds of Composition B
explosive it carried detonated. An eight-thousand-meter-per-second
blast blew Azril away, leaving only smoke— “—Whaaat? What are
you doiiiiing?!” Plum screamed, apparently having finally got a grip
on the situation, and she gaped at Sora and Shiro.
“Skipping the cutscene.”
“D-d-d-do you know who that waaas?! That was—”
“Yeah, she’s Azril—and Avant Heim is the Phantasma, right?”
Sighing —good grief— Sora shook his head and said:
“Azril was the only Fliigel with a horn on her head. I figured it
must be something like that—but, yeah, so she’s the agent
plenipotentiary of Avant Heim the Phantasma or something. Well,
not that I know the details.”
“...Basically...Azril equals Phantasma...too...”
The two, who had digested the situation far faster than Plum,
elucidated with dull disinterest.
“...Jibril said Avant Heim the Phantasma is an independent world,
Sora recalled the explanation they’d been given upon their arrival.
“So the scenery changed, and that meant the world was rewritten.
But, since Avant Heim is independent, it seems unlikely that the
outside world could be rewritten to this degree. Which means—things
changed within Avant Heim. But, in that case, we’d have to be on
Avant Heim, and instead Avant Heim is in front of us—which means
it’s a fantasy.”
—Proof. If she’d been real, they wouldn’t have been able to harm
her because of the Ten Covenants.
“...Now...Plum...here’s, the question...”
Sora’s and Shiro’s giddy expressions, as if tickled to their cores,
utterly baffled Plum as they went on.
“A large-scale stage switch, a fortress before our eyes that’s like,
‘Hello, I am the ultimate weapon.’ And some long-ass story sequence
like you’d get right before the final boss—and how much time do we
have until the one-hour limit for the game is up?”
“...Nine minutes, forty-four seconds.”
“What does it all add up to? We’re waiting for your answer!”
—A tough question for Plum, who lacked knowledge of Sora and
Shiro’s old world. But: having seen everything they’d face, her brow
fraught with despair, Plum, by chance—got it right.
“...The end, I suppoose?”
“What? I totally didn’t think you’d get that.”
Facing the massive “capture spell hell” woven of violent magic and
launched from Avant Heim, Sora and Shiro once more squeezed their
joined hands tightly and smiled.
“In short, this is th e final stage— we’re almost to the ending.”
“...The climax... Awesome art direction...!”
They kicked off the ground and flapped their wings. Leaving behind
the boom of their “acceleration,” beaming, they flew into the hell
“How can you laugh at thiiiii-eeeeee!!”
Bolting. Weaving through infinite beams, a curtain of fire launched
by Avant Heim.
—The shots were incalculable, but they lacked finesse of the Fliigel
capture beams to home in on and retrieve a target. It was just a
blanket of fire hammering away infinite rounds and speed— Ha.
“Shiro, you got the pattern figured out?”
“...Pretty much... You?”
“Come on, you know? I don’t figure—I like to dodge on pure
Another flap. With hair-trigger speed, Shiro matched Sora’s toss of
her wing. They soared headlong into the maelstrom as if dancing.
Whistling, at their leisure— “This is a yawn compared to True Hibachi
Custom. Can we really count on Jibril?”
“...With a last boss like...this, we can’t... The goons were...way...
Already defying Plum’s comprehension with their actions, slipping
gracefully through the curtain, Sora and Shiro improbably took their
eyes off the barrage to check their wrists.
“-Forty-six syllables total.”
“...We’ve collected forty...”
“We’ve used up twenty-three, so—”
“...We’ve got, seventeen...”
The syllables of light circling Sora’s arm—
—dis, nekt, min, dih, ih, ah, this, mahyz, with— The syllables of
light circling Shiro’s arm—
—kuh, skyool, pit, nuh, kree, ouhr, kamp, strik, ohn— They had
more than enough ammo. But— Sora noted—
“Hmmm, cher, rey, ri, gohr, shuns, nuh... There are still six left.”
“...But our trumps... are in our hands.”
Whereupon Shiro mumbled, No problem, we’re good.
“—Didn’t I tell you? I know the Word I wanna pound into that
bitch. I’m short three syllables.”
...Look, at this... How do you expect to...grab them...?”
Flying around in this torrent of light was already sufficient to
utterly addle Plum. Taking on the Fliigel on top of that was too much,
even for Sora and Shiro.
“.Damn it, Shiro. Sorry, but I’m gonna use a trump.”
“.Brother, how many do you, need?”
Atypically, Shiro’s eyes grew wide, and she searched her brother’s
“Thirteen. That’s how many I need. And we’re short three.”
But Sora’s expression—was endless sincerity itself.
—Thirteen syllables for one Word? The trump Sora spoke of—was
surely a Word that could overcome any crisis. But then they could
only use it once—it should really be a last resort— “Mm, got it...”
If her brother said they needed it, that meant they needed it, no
matter the risk. Shiro nodded. If she couldn’t grasp the meaning
behind it, her brother was right—that’s all it came down to—!
—The siblings joined hands. From Sora’s left wrist and Shiro’s right
—across their interlocked arms—three syllables dropped. And—
reordering them—Sora formed a Word. He swung out his arm
grandly, and then— “—‘Disconnect’—!!”
He slashed his arm in a grand horizontal arc—and in that moment,
an invisible blade cleaved through the fusillade, through space, and
even through the center of Avant Heim.
—The rule was that it would materialize one’s mental image: a
Word. What one could imagine, depending on the placement of
syllables—this could be adapted to any situation: attack, defense, or a
combination thereof...a trump. Not to mention the importance and
versatility of prefixes or suffixes, common sense in word games. The
result of that all-powerful Word on which they had sacrificed this
—Everything before them, like a bad joke—was cleft in twain. The
space, the scenery, the sliced stage: Avant Heim itself was severed—
the artillery, too, was cut off.
—And then? Plum wondered dubiously, whereupon Sora and Shiro
Plum gasped in astonishment. Amidst the crumbling scenery, the
Fliigel advanced through the split curtain.
“...Eighteen—more than I thought. Syllables?”
—Right, the question was how they’d collect them. Now that they’d
used “ disconnect ,” they had fourteen syllables, and according to Sora,
there were thirteen final syllables he had reserved. He’d also said he
needed three of the six uncollected. Even if they succeeded in
collecting the syllables, the ones they could use would only increase
“—All right, time for our big, climactic gamble. Let’s do it, Shiro!”
They swung around to prepare for engagement. As the Fliigel bore
down, they beat—well, they’d meant to beat their wings...but...
Plum stammered. And honestly, Sora and Shiro felt quite the same.
The onrushing Fliigel facing Sora and Shiro—stopped. Reverently.
Yes, just like Jibril, one of the Fliigel bowed.
“These syllables. You need them, don’t you?”
...In time with her question, the Fliigel put her hand to the ri on her
chest. As if taking her lead, the other five syllable-bearers also laid
their own bare. Sora and Shiro, bewildered, failed to fathom the
meaning behind this, but the Fliigel just smiled gently.
“We’ve already seen all we wanted—”
“As for the handshakes and dates and cuddle-cuddle...well, I can’t
say I don’t care!”
“But we are quite happy just to have been able to play with you!”
“—So, if you would, please.”
And then, with the words of the last—
“Please take care of Sister Azril, our soon-to-be— lords and saviors.”
—Finally. Sora and Shiro got it —the trap Jibril had planted in the
game. Feeling as if they might burst out belly laughing, the siblings
reached for their tribute.
“...Ha-ha, Jibril’s got her thing on now, too, hasn’t she?!”
“...Jibril, for great...justice...!”
Clowning, Sora and Shiro touched the final six syllables.
“...Uh, umm, what’s this abouuut?”
To Plum, the only one who didn’t get it, a Fliigel responded with a
Have you forgotten, worm? We, after all—
“—Are Fliigel, under the command of Sister Azril, but before that—”
“—We are fans of King Sora and Queen Shiro, you know?”
And so, smiling—mostly at the casual dis that cut down poor Plum
behind them—Sora and Shiro chuckled to themselves and once more
beat their wings and picked up speed. Toward the severed Avant Heim
—and to Azril, who surely waited inside.
“...It seems some of them have understood... With this, do you still
insist that I alone am special ?” Jibril chided with a snigger.
Azril’s expression—was nonexistent. But under that mask, she
twisted in torment.
—What was this? What was the meaning of this? It made no sense.
Glaring at the image projected in space, Azril kept thinking. Two
Immanities navigating all obstacles in the midst of a crumbling
Avant Heim with divine precision. Their heading was straight—at her.
As if they knew her location—! No, they did\ By severing away the
facade, they’d uncovered the scenery of old, and they’d figured Jibril
and Azril would still be in the same place— no, they’d concluded it!
—In the face of this, Azril experienced a painful flashback. That’s
right, back then, this was how Artosh was killed. Everything was
broken, everything was exposed, everything was woven through—and
her lord was slain.
Wherefore we failed. Wherefore we survived! Wherefore we live?!
“W auuuhhhngyaaaaaaieeeeeeghyaaaahh!! ”
In the collapsing Avant Heim, they dashed past countless
obstructions at speeds exceeding sound. One little mistake, and they’d
be dead—and at the pair, who piloted this catastrophe with deranged
velocity, Plum shrieked: “Aaaaaah!! Are you two all right in the
“We are so sick of that line by now! Shiro!!”
Before their eyes, the scenery crumbling, countless cubes collapsed.
The path was blocked. They couldn’t turn—a head-on collision.
Ignoring the hysterical Plum, Shiro calmly wove a Word:
-Seventeen syllables left. With a touch of one of the cubes in
front of them, the Word activated. The cube shrank, leaving a gap,
but not of a size they could squeeze through...
Promptly, Sora pointed at the hole and shouted the Word he’d spun:
-Fifteen syllables left. Through the needlelike gap, it was as if
they had simply stolen past the obstacle, and they flew on. As Plum’s
jaw dropped at their unbelievable adaptability, Sora suddenly asked:
“Plum, can you bare your fangs for a sec?”
“I caaan’t! I don’t want to ’cos I’ve got a bad feeliiing!!”
“Oh, really? That’s too bad—I was thinking I’d give you some bloo
“Please excuse meee! King Sora, I’ll press my fangs to your
shoulder. I believe you should be able to feel theeem!!”
“-‘Gore’ for the win.”
-Fourteen syllables left. The blood that stained his finger without
a scratch soaked into Plum’s fang. Plum, having succeeded in sucking
blood without biting, was elated— “Mgahhh, what eez thiiis?! This
dense richness and creaaamy smoothness, this silky, soulful umami
that races through my body! I can only compare it to the tears of a
sea turtle laying eggs on the night of the full moon! V”
“You feel better?” Sora chuckled, as Plum regaled them with her
incomprehensible fine dining review.
“Yeeess! I feel sooo much betterrr! I feel as if now I could do
Plum—pardon, their scarf—conjured a mass of blooming flowers
that soared through the air. But, at this trumpet of joy, Sora and
Shiro grinned wickedly.
“...Wellll, it’s nice to hear that. In that case—”
“...Let’s...see you, do anything...”
“.Of course... I knew it would be like this. I swear...”
Six thousand years ago, Artosh had been slain. Faced with this reality
they could never believe but had no choice but to accept, the Fliigel
had stood for six thousand years. The sword created by Artosh to
exterminate gods—to eradicate other races. They had been the sword
bom for Artosh, to place him on the throne as the One True God. But,
before the slain remains of their Lord, now no more, the matchless
sword had lost its purpose. A question they had never had to consider
when they had been wielded freely by the weight of command now
—What to do now?
The race created by Artosh, the heralds had lost their way, and their
conclusion—was to stop thinking. Whoever started it, one by one,
they concentrated the totality of their power—and stabbed
themselves. They were tools created to seize the throne of the One
True God, and once he who would take the throne was gone, the tools
were no longer needed. Faced with her sisters one after another
impaling themselves, Azril—the first of them all—suddenly told a lie.
No, strictly speaking, it was not a lie. But, unable to bear the sight of
her sisters’ suicides, the light gone from their eyes, Azril told them: —
Our lord’s mission is not complete.
If, by some chance, improbable though it be, if thy lord should fail,
be destroyed as a god of war by some unknown force...on thy lord’s
behalf, thou shalt unearth the cause. That remains our final mission
from our lord, she told them.
—A mission assigned to Azril alone—a command. But she played it
off as an order given to all Fliigel and went further.
—When they had fulfilled their duty. When they had completed the
last mission granted them by their lord.
—She would make the judgment as to when they were done, if they
would deign to entrust it to her, she said.
...It was only stalling for time, just an expedient solution. But, even
so—the Fliigel began seeking out the truth behind the “unknown” that
had felled their lord. As the war ended, they collected all kinds of
information. As if to transform all that was unknown in the world to
that which was known. And time passed, until soon it had been six
thousand years—and yet the Answer had not been found. If anyone
could find it, it could only be Jibril, Azril believed. The words left by
their lord. The final one. The special one.
-I’m just...tired of this...
Sora and Shiro arrived at the hall where they expected to find Azril
...It was dark. Sora forged a Word and activated it.
—Thirteen syllables left. Perfect. Now, if they just slammed in that
Word they were going for, they’d have beaten the game with all the
syllables and achievements.
“But now we’ve got no more Words to use... Sorry ’bout that,
“...If you think, it’s necessary...I believe, in you.”
As this line reminded him of the blessings of being a big brother—a
“light” illuminated the floor.
“—For six thousand years have we sought. And yet we have not
found the Answer.”
On the glowing floor, an empty throne. Azril stood before it, and—
“Who the hell is we? I see quite a few guys other than you who
have a clue.”
—as he spoke, Sora saw Jibril next to her big sister, her eyes closed.
Her expression was a mixture of faith and conviction, as well as
—hope for what would happen next, a quality entirely absent from
“This vain world, this fruitless life searching for a nonexistent
Answer, has grown tiresome,” bemoaned Azril—and the Phantasma
inside her, Avant Heim. Their true feelings as living beings—no, as a
puppet and a fantasy.
“—If the Answer found by Jibril matches the lie we told...”
A beat. With despairing eyes deeper than hell, she focused on Sora
“...then we shall conclude that the reason for failure was but
absurdity—and we shall end all of Fliigel.”
“That would be a problem.”
“... Jibril’s.. .our... dood. ”
But, as the two breezily blew off this threat, Sora dove into thought:
“I see. So you dipshits have been cramming your heads with books
like tools to find some stupid ‘Answer.’ To be honest, I can’t
sympathize or identify whatsoever. But can I say one thing?”
And then, just as he had when first rejecting Azril’s proposal—
—as if sizing up some deeply disinteresting tool:
“...You, have you ever once thought up something and written it
Azril’s eyes went wide. Beside her, Jibril, whose gaze was downcast,
clutched a book she called holy writ, one that had even garnered fans
within Avant Heim. Written in her own hand—her observation
journal of Sora and Shiro—the tale of a future yet unfinished...
“But yeah, I get it. So we were saying, if Shiro and I won, we’d get
help gathering books, and if we lost, we’d be giving autographs. But
you two had some bet like that going behind the scenes. We’re gonna
have to give Jibril a good talking-to later about betting her life
without asking us, but—”
—Sora gripped Shiro’s hand hard again and unfolded his wing—
“Do you seriously not get why Jibril went along with that bet?”
“—She must have been certain that you fools would present us with
a convincing Ans—”
“See? Y ou’re stupid! Y ou are so goddamn stupid!! A stupid bitch like
you thinks she can act like a big sister?!”
His face descending into pure, unadulterated rage, Sora screamed:
“—She was betting on you! On her ‘big sister’l Betting her life on
her faith that you would understand !!”
Sora and Shiro tensed their feet—and wove their final Word.
“You don’t even get that, and you want her to call you ‘big sister’!!”
“...Don’t make us laugh... In your...dreams!”
Simultaneously—they kicked off and leaped.
—Fast. A dash employing the Word of acceleration. Sora and Shiro
approached at obscene speed. But to Azril, who held within her the
power of Avant Heim—they appeared motionless.
“...I see, Jibs bet her life because she believed in me...”
Even this was beyond her. She couldn’t even get the point—so.
“—All right. It’s time I end it all...”
Azril, too, kicked off and flew. In the hall barely a few hundred
meters wide, for the two bodies moving at supersonic speeds to
collide, it would take less than an instant.
—Nor was there any doubt as to the outcome. Azril would reach
out, grab them, and it would be done. She hadn’t found the Answer
after all, but some had. If that was so ...it was enough. It was time to
wrap it up— As far as she was concerned, these six thousand years—
had had no meaning at all— “Eeyauuuugh, I’m sorry, I’m sorry!
Don’t kill me, pleaaase!”
A wail emanated from Azril’s hands, which she’d closed with her
eyes slightly averted. She’d thought she’d snared Sora and Shiro...but
then what was this screaming in her grasp—? Uh, what, um...
...Hm? Did I ever hear this girl’s name?
—It was some anonymous Dhampir girl.
—Magic of illusion... A moment too late, she got it. The Dhampirs’
magic of illusion—exerted to its fullest—was capable of befuddling
even Elves and Fliigel. And if they’d just ingested powerful soul-
blood—perhaps they could even deceive Old Dei...? But in that case,
what about Sora and Shiro? Their wings—the accelerated Sora and
—As she was lost in high-speed contemplation—something whizzed
by Azril at a frightening velocity. It was as if time had stopped. To
Azril, everything seemed to be in slow motion. Without Plum—
without the scarf —without their wings, left only with their human
selves. At inhuman speed. Sora’s fist, cocked back, tagged Azril’s
“—‘Epitomize this creature
with our own restrictions’—”
-No syllables left. Azril’s eyes were opened. Not by the Word
pounded into her. The two in high-speed flight—they’d shed their
wings. Had the Dhampir cast a spell of illusion?!
“No rule that you can’t use magic—amirite?”
A momentary encounter. A voice she couldn’t possibly have heard—
Looking back, Sora had definitely said it. But no— At that speed, as
mere humans, without wings...they’d hit the ground and die in a— All
this doubt and confusion was put to rest with the words that rang
through Azril’s ears: “—Sixty minutes exactly... Game...over.”
-No clock or anything. Shiro just read off the timer she’d
counted down in her head. A transported Jibril softly...reverently,
received her two lords.
...To Azril, it all felt so far removed, the Word worked on her.
“Restrictions.” The entirety of the power of Avant Heim contained
within Azril was restricted. The massive power that had been
rewriting space was released, and the hall around them, the scenery
itself, caved in as if broken to pieces. In the center of it all, Azril went
limp and stared blankly, as if to say she still couldn’t believe it. There
was no need to think back. Indeed, this was the same feeling she’d
experienced when her lord Artosh was slain— Unmistakably, it was
...It was beyond comprehension. She didn’t understand it. She didn’t
understand it. There were too many things she didn’t understand. It
was scary. It was frightening. What was it that they understood that
allowed them to walk this delicate tightrope? No matter how much
knowledge you stuffed in, no matter how far ahead you planned your
strategy...even if you did everything you could, at the bitter end lay
the unknown—a darkness enshrouded by indeterminate variables.
Amidst all this uncertainty...how? How—could they stride out onto
that single, tenuous string so free of hesitation? Bearing witness to a
series of events beyond all reckoning, Azril, falling, felt her
consciousness drop away—
—In a dream, Azril relived her memories of her lord, Artosh.
The havoc of war, continuing endlessly, served only to fuel Artosh,
god of war. An Old Deus to whom hatred, malevolence, hostility, and
blood were daily bread—Artosh, lord of chaos. By this point, the
fragments of his eighteen wings—the Fliigel (Wings). And his
messenger, Avant Heim. One god, one phantasm, and one race. This
small army—was overpowering the world. The throne of the One
True God belonged to Artosh—by now, no one could doubt this. This
was their lord, and yet he had spoken of the possibility of defeat—just
“I may be defeated.”
—Y ou jest.
“I am strong.”
—Of course, Lord.
“By now, there is none with power superior to mine.”
—Of course, Lord.
“Therefore, there are things beyond my ken.”
—Things you do not understand, Lord?
“By that which is beyond my ken, by that which the weak alone
understand, by that which is unknown to me for my strength, I may
“Therefore—I shall create a being with the imperfection that, to one
so mighty as me, can never be kenned.”
“Can imperfection serve as perfection—can it serve transcending
paradox? I know not.”
“However, should I succeed or should I fail—this must be the
“Thou who art one of my eighteen wings, the first of all, Azril.”
“At such time as I have been vanquished and banished from this
world, thou, in the guise of the defeated, shalt take the measure of
this in my stead, that I may rest in peace.”
—Azril didn’t know what it was that her lord saw. But the
expression on her lord’s face as he suggested the possibility of defeat
was not fear but merely, like that of a god of war—a wish for an
unknown enemy to appear ...and the drive to vanquish even that
unknown —just a vicious, but terribly amused, smile.
“Now I shall create a unit outside the series... I name her—”
And then her lord, Artosh, created what soon would become that by
which he would be remembered—the Irregular Number, the Final
Number...the imperfect one. The one who might look to the horizon
that, in the end, even her lord could not grasp or see beyond. He
called her by name.
“...Elder. Are you awake at last?”
—Her entire body was leaden. That was Azril’s first impression as
she woke. Her wings wouldn’t move; her body wouldn’t rise— No. To
begin with, her body didn’t know what it meant to rise, she realized.
How did you move this body? Like licking space...wasn’t it? The
ground—since when was it so strong, fettering her body like this?
Lifting her head that felt like a weight, Azril peered up at the shadows
looming over her. Gazing down at her, Jibril—and the two
Immanities, Sora and Shiro. Ixseed Rank Bottom. The weakest race
looked down on her and spoke.
“So you’re all ‘I pwnz joo’ on the strength of your cheats, and then
you say the game is broken ’cos you game-over once. WTF?”
Shiro grinned as Sora laughed— But unable to grasp the meaning
of his words—
“Give it another tiy from the beginning as a pawn. If you do that
and still think it’s broken...”
“...We’ll play you...all...you want.”
—Azril nevertheless understood that the Word pounded into her had
constrained her power to the level of Immanity. She cast her eyes
down and chuckled at the siblings, who smiled as they explained it to
—So that’s how it was. She couldn’t fly. She couldn’t use magic. She
couldn’t even see spirits. Distance and weight, concepts of which she
had never before been conscious, tied her body down. She rolled onto
her back, worked her restricted hand, and reached up toward the sky.
—It was so high. So high, so broad. The force that held her body to
the ground felt as if it had created an insurmountable wall between
the earth and sky. To think she could fly out there was now beyond
her imagination. Even if she were told she could fly, she wouldn’t
even feel like it. She didn’t have the nerve. Meanwhile, those who had
supposedly played with her, smiling and dancing through that sky
though possessed of the same abilities—the two Immanities asked: “...
How’s the ground taste...not bad...right?”
“After all, you don’t really want to fly again until you crash once.”
Having soared through those heavens with alacrity, yet saying
crashing wasn’t bad...
“—Come on, when you fall, you gotta jump back up. Next round’s
coming , right?”
Extending his hand with a smile—yes. As if to say, Just as we’ve
—At last, everything came together within Azril, and a grin spilled
out. Late. Ridiculously late. Given that, she couldn’t complain if they
called her stupid, but Azril took his hand.
“...Elder, you are too hardheaded.”
Watching with cool, yet gentle eyes as Azril stood, Jibril greeted her.
The one by whom Artosh was remembered—the imperfect one. The
Irregular Number, and the Final Number. Imperfection. What it
meant—was the quest to be perfect. Because one was imperfect, one
reached for the unknown, for the future, for hope—reached to grasp
—The reason Jibril had insisted on hunting alone at last—
“Jibs, you’re too softheaded...”
Without even being ordered, wiping out an Elven metropolis and
coming back with a grin and an armload of books. Having been told
she lacked the specs, going off to slay a higher race single-handedly,
and returning on the brink of death. Abandoning the Council and
fleeing her homeland, then coming back with new masters— Truly,
she was unquestionably imperfect and—for that reason—had become
stronger than anyone.
“...I get it. Just reading books isn’t enough to teach you anything...”
Understanding was never a matter of just memorizing facts to
increase one’s knowledge. It was something that came from doing,
from bashing oneself, until it finally soaked into the bones. What
neither Artosh nor Azril had ever been able to grasp was the
“unknown.” What it was—was “possibility,” surely: the ability to
make the impossible possible. Something that, as the strong, as ones
who never failed, the ones who never lost—was beyond their ability to
conceptualize. And yet— “Living in the guise of the defeated already
made me imperfect...! was just...scared.”
It was only Jibril who had started to sense it before they tasted
—With their failure, the Fliigel, and Avant Heim as well, had
reached imperfection. So then...with their pissing and whining, it was
no wonder they’d be forsaken, because of Fliigel’s—including Azril’s—
inability to do anything but collect knowledge. Only Jibril went freely
where her curiosity led her to create knowledge and to leave behind
what she had gained. Despite her overwhelming strength, she still
aimed higher—embracing her adoration for the unknown.
—There was only one thing that could mean.
“Nya-ha, nya-ha-ha-ha...it’s so daft. Now that I see, it’s so awfully
Lowering her face, Azril could only laugh now—prompting Jibril to
“I take it that now you understand?”
“...Yes, I get it—that there was never anything to understand.”
—How could one help but laugh? To think that the answer for
which they’d searched for six thousand years was —There is no
“The unknown can never become the known, for the known
thereafter becomes the unknown. There is no end. Yesterday’s
wisdom is today’s folly.”
Having never lost before, ever since that first defeat, Azril had
feared it through and through—the unknown. The more she tried to
understand it, the further it receded.
“Therefore, we shall not memorize, but learn—we shall enjoy even
the risks that come with change.”
And so—she could only approach it. Stepping out boldly— “It was
our inability to do this that lost us the War. Elder Azril, when I lost to
my masters, knelt before them, and vowed to serve them, Artosh’s
final mission—had been fulfilled.”
Her eyes still downcast—Azril whispered:
“...Lord Artosh...have I, too, finally fulfilled your last request?”
—Can I finally stop lying? Wiping the tears that trailed down her
cheeks, Azril looked humbly to the faraway heavens. She possessed
such an ability, one she’d never known —but perhaps, with this, he
could rest in peace.
Sora broke the moment, studying her face like a peeper.
“...Hmm, I don’t really get it, but you are capable of looking cute
after all, huh?”
At last. For the first time, he smiled as he addressed Azril.
“...Can I ask you four questions, Immanities—? No, I mean Sora
—Indeed, there was no answer. She had come all the way back to
the start—in which case, there was something she needed to check.
“You guys...what do you live for?”
“What would you do if one of you died?”
“When we die, it’ll be together, so that’s irrelevant.”
“...What he said.”
“You guys...what were you born for?”
“We don’t have time to think about that shit. Unlike you ladies, our
life is short.”
“...We’re so, busy...!”
—All instantaneous answers. Sora with a smile, Shiro dead serious.
But—they weren’t her answers—they could only be used for reference.
So, finally—Azril asked: “Can I...be Jibs?”
“Nope. You can only be yourself.”
An instant answer. Of course. Azril had known, but clouded a bit,
which prompted Sora to ask— “Well, but so what?”
Like a cloudless— (...yes, true to his name...)
“Right now, you look cute. I like you the way you are now.”
—sky, he beamed.
“After searching for thousands of years, I get ‘Go back to the start.’
Living forever is tiring.”
Y es. Those they came up with them selves...their very own—
answers. She would search for herself and, like Jibril, find her own
—As long as I know...that I can...that’s enough...
Azril mumbled tiredly, but then she heard Jibril apologizing to Sora.
“...Master. To have wagered my life without consulting you and still
to have relied on your power to the very end...I truly cannot—”
“Ohh, about that, Jibril.”
Scratching his head as if it was hard to say, Sora told her:
“This chick hasn’t got the right to command all the Flilgel to kill
Leaving the flabbergasted Jibril in the dust, Azril smirked.
“Oops. Did you figure it out?”
Sticking out her tongue mischievously, she gave a Nya-nya.
“Forbidding you from killing yourself without permission— doesn’t
mean I can command you to kill yourself! Hmmmmm, it’s amazing
no one figured it out in these six thousand years, a lie like that, nya-
Shiro pounded in one more nail on top of this—
“...Even, if it were the case...Jibril...belongs to us...so...”
-Having involved her masters, even preparing for death—Jibril’s
shoulders began to quake. But, sighing, Sora told her: “—But Azril
could do it herself sure.”
At his sharp tone, Jibril gasped, and Azril stopped smiling.
“From the beginning, she was only putting herself on the table. She
was probably planning to kill herself no matter what. I mean, what
kind of sister would ask her own little sister to die? Jibril, isn’t she the
big sister you believed in?”
The response? Silence followed by a sigh, affirming Sora’s words
more eloquently than anything else could have. Given that there was
an Answer, and that the Fliigel were capable of reaching it, even if
Azril were to return the ability to commit suicide her sisters had
entrusted to her, by now they probably wouldn’t do it. Even if there
was no answer, if, like Jibril, they could all find a reason not to die,
there was no reason to expect that they’d kill themselves.
—At which point, Azril , who had lived so that they wouldn’t die,
would have seen her role end.
“...Sora, have a lot of people gotten mad at you for overstepping
“Ohh, yeah, they have. But the rule of this game is that no one may
—A resounding whop.
Sora clapped his hands and grinned.
“I mean, it sucks to dump your progress and hit ‘New Game,’
—So, yes, let’s play.
“Then it’s simple. All you gotta do is play a different game.”
—A game that’s sure to be fun, fun, fun.
“This world—we’re gonna make it way, way more fun for you.”
—A game we’ll never get tired of.
“You think we can do it— Come on, whatcha gonna bet on?
“Nya-ha... Nya-ha-ha-ha, nya-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-
From her heart, for the first time in six thousand years—no,
perhaps ever—she laughed spontaneously. Maybe as a consequence of
having her physical performance constrained by Immanities—she
laughed so hard, her stomach hurt. She laughed so hard, her eyes
were getting teary, and Azril lifted her face and-deliberately put
her arms around Sora and kissed him.
“Wha-? Ma-Master?! E-Elder Azril!!”
...After several full seconds of tongue kissing, Azril moved away.
“Nya-ha-haa, there’s no such thing as a game where you bet on
both sides winning. V”
Blowing off the gazes of the befuddled Sora and the two who glared
as if to bore a lethal hole through her, Azril said: “You big kids.. .I’m
really glad you invited me to have fun with you, right when I wanted
to kill myself. But still—I’m not like Jibs. I’m not worthy of being by
She waved, and turned...and walked, feeling the gravity that
restricted her body. She got her little sister worrying about her; she
got Immanities worrying about her; she got consoled; she even got
forbidden to kill herself. After all that—she couldn’t depend on them
anymore. She chuckled to herself.
“—But whatever. I’ll bet that you can. Until then—I’ll give Jibs’s
faith a try, the faith in my possibilities she gave me. So, I hope you’ll
give me a little time.”
“...Brother...you got her to kiss you.”
“Hey, hold on, she just friggin’ did it. You got eyes?”
“Master, with all due respect, the Ten Covenants make violation of
rights impossible. Therefore, the fact that Elder Azril was able to lock
lips with you can only mean that you permitted it, consciously or
“Wait, wait, wait—what kind of man would I be if I turned down a
babe like that, even unconsciously!”
“...Brother, you’ll take...anyone female...”
“You quite remind me of Mr. Ino.”
“Hey, wait... I mean, look, I’m obviously the victim here! Come on,
Cracking a smirk at the din behind her as she walked away, Azril
“...By the way, Jibsy—”
“...It’s finally Jibsy, is it? After you treated my masters so
abominably, after you lied to us for thousands of years—my mild
graces are beginning to reach their limit. But what is it, Elder Azril?”
Jibril shifted to big sister’s side at Azril’s call, remarking in ill
humor. Azril dropped a question she’d thought of herself aloud:
“Jibsy, how do you think Immanity was able to survive the Great
A long-standing question. A question that had tormented Jibril with
special intensity recently. The standing theory was that they had been
so weak that no one paid them heed, and they just happened to
survive. But since meeting Sora and Shiro, Jibril had begun to sense
something amiss. Could it just have happened that, as of the end of
the war, the entire continent of Lucia was the territory of Immanity?
Immanity—whence their power? Azril thought of it herself and
“To lose and lose till one will lose no more— shall we suppose that is
—Taking defeat and failure as a given and learning every time, not
fearing the unknown, but throwing themselves into it with glee. The
most imperfect race, which for that very reason thirsted more than
any to be perfect—if they supposed that... Azril chuckled. Why had
they survived—? No.
“...Why did we never watch out for such a race in the War?”
—Jibril gasped. Not just her two lords...but the old king who had
laid bare the game of the Eastern Union, and Chlammy, who had
collaborated with the Elves, had, together, shown her the possibilities
of the race, enough to inspire awe and dread, by now intimately
familiar to her. A race of people sometimes mad, giving themselves
over to death itself—and yet who invariably made it through to the
“A race that learns without end—l wonder why we never noticed
such a threat?”
It meant that, no matter how frail they might be, if they kept it up
forever, inevitably—at some point—they would become an
inescapable threat. Had they realized the nature of such a race during
the War, what would they have done? There was no need to think
about it—they’d be too dangerous. They’d be wiped out on the spot.
“...And yet records of Immanity—are nonexistent. Wonder why?”
Yes, records of Immanity during the Great War were completely
“Nya-ha-ha-ha, well, this is just something I thought of. Could it be
Azril looked at Sora and Shiro—
“—they tricked us into moving all the front lines away from
Y es, that sounded just like something they would do—
“And we never were able to figure out what those Ex Machinas
who slew Lord Artosh were doing toward the end of the War, so—”
Smiling with all but her eyes, Azril conjectured:
“—what if Immanity led them—?”
What if—the death of Artosh, which sparked the end of the Great
—had been planned—?
“Awwww! Maybe I’m just overthinking it? Nya-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!”
And then Azril walked off, leaving the stunned Jibril behind.
—Even though she’d thought she’d strode a good distance away, she
found that she hadn’t gotten anywhere. That Jibril had not witnessed
her grand exit but stood calmly beside her was so funny.
'Jibsy, I’m gonna take that kid’s suggestion and live with this body
for a while—and also...”
“...at the next assembly—I’m gonna propose that Avant Heim join
the Commonwealth of Elkia.”
“...I must say I still doubt it will pass.”
It would be a dream for her as well, Jibril thought to herself. But
Azril plied her with a huge, slimy smirk.
“We’ll observe and learn from Elkia. We’ll be a ‘member in name
only’...so that everyone can find the Answer we found—fulfill Lord
Artosh’s final mission—how’s that for a pretext? Nya-ha. V”
Her expression implied that it wasn’t for nothing she’d managed to
fool them for six thousand years.
“...I must say that does sound difficult to refuse...”
To begin with, Avant Heim was a force without allegiance. It had
no territory or resources. Even if they obtained formal membership, it
didn’t mean they’d have to help; they could simply involve themselves
in the things they wanted to. And if the Alipotentiary herself said it
was for Artosh—the Fliigel would have no reason to refuse.
...If Azril possessed that kind of mental dexterity, then why— Jibril
“Fliigel, including me, can’t recognize these kids as the new lords
until we all see for ourselves—that their potential is worthy of our
faith. You know this, right?”
“Y es. Everyone should be aware of that. I shall continue my
missionary efforts, so there is no cause for concern.”
Jibril displayed her holy journal and dismissed it as a simple matter
of building the fan base—ahem, faith. At this, Azril chuckled and
looked back at her.
“...For now, can you personally take care of them for me, Jibsy?”
These two were a ball of the unknown. By now, Azril understood
what made them so appealing. But at the same time—they were too
risky. Smirking to herself that she couldn’t have them dying before a
conclusion was reached: “May I ask this of you not as the
Alipotentiary—but as a friend?”
—Jibril fell back into her usual demeanor.
“It goes without saying that I intend to protect my masters with
my life—so I refuse.”
Implying that they weren’t friends—well, of course. After all she’d
done, how could she presume to—?
“But if you take too long, you will miss the highlights —elder sister.”
—Jibril grinned as she slipped in that “sister.”
“Don’t, worry...little sister, I’ll—be coming to get you, real soon.”
Nya-ha-ha-ha-ha. Smiling to hold back the tears, she trotted off.
After all, she’d managed to change herself in a single hour. It
shouldn’t take too long— Taking her leave, she stopped in her tracks,
turned—and sighed. Waved.
“Hey, everybody, will someone piggyback me? And I wanna
convene an assembly real quick! I need a road to my house, at least...
It would be nice if someone could lay out a road for me, nya-ha-ha-
She strolled home, her power still sealed. Being unable to do things
like fly was somehow refreshing. Filled with frivolous thoughts like
this, she chuckled to herself, finding every little thing amusing. With
her feet on the ground, her gaze level with theirs, her speed no greater
than an ant’s march, she drank in the world.
—After living for twenty-six thousand years—it wasn’t so bad to try
—Will you accept them as your new lords?
“I’m not the one to decide that. Av’n’, you should think about it
—...A perplexing proposal, but deemed worthy of trial.
“Well, to be honest, I do think maybe submitting to them for a bit
would be all right.”
—For their potential?
At this question, Azril flapped her flightless wings through the air
“Because it would be fun\ Nya-ha-ha-ha!”
—Excitement filled her heart just thinking about what kind of game
they could play next—
—Meanwhile. Elkia Royal Castle, the study of the previous king. Next
to Izuna, who busied herself laying waste to a seafood spread of royal
proportions, Steph skimmed a book.
Glancing at Izuna, who was devouring the food she’d prepared
with true gusto, she remarked, “...Miss Izuna, you really are quite the
It was so heartwarming—but then, when she remembered that
Izuna’s grandfather’s life was on the line, she started to wonder.
Izuna was desperate, too. She’d been trying, giving it her all— But,
strangely—Steph could detect in her bearing no panic, no agitation,
“Ah, this is difficult to say...but, Miss Izuna, are you not worried
about Mr. I no?”
Grinding to a sharp halt—a fish still in her mouth—Izuna answered
“Hell no, please. Why would I be worried, please?”
“...Why would you...? I mean...”
“Sora and Shiro said, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll save him,’ please.”
—Izuna laid it out without a speck of doubt and resumed her meal.
With a sigh, Steph returned her attention to the book in her hands
and grumbled. A little question had been bothering her for a while—
“How is it that you and the Shrine Maiden are able to trust those
liars so much?”
It was true that they always came through in the end somehow.
But the path was always too steeped in lies and fraud. How could they
trust—? Steph ruminated, but Izuna came back at her with a glare.
“...Sora and Shiro aren’t liars, please.”
“Miss Izuna, though you have learned to read the Immanity
tongue, it appears you are not yet fully proficient.”
If those two weren’t liars , then what were? Steph chuckled.
“They don’t smell like liars—like those damn liars who smell like
‘Got you, bitch.’ —I hate that smell, please.”
Steph was at a loss for words. Izuna remembered that day when
Sora said he’d save her grandfather. Sora’s scent that she’d picked up
at the beach—it had put her at ease. She gave Steph a little smile.
“Sora and Shiro smell good, please. Those assholes fool people, lead
them on, tease them, please. But —they never lie, please—that’s why I
like them, please.”
—Schooled by a girl of one-digit age, Steph took a breath. It was
absurd, and yet it explained things—a strange comprehension
flickered through her brain. Sora—that born fraud who breathed lies.
How was it that even so, at times—he reminded her of her
grandfather? When she thought about it, it was obvious. If he was so
good at lying, then why carry himself in such a way as to always be
suspected a liar?
—Why wouldn’t h e—pretend to be a good person—?
Steph noticed Izuna studying her coolly.
“...Stuch, you smell good, too, please. But sometimes you smell like
a liar, please.”
“H-huhh?! Wh-when did I ever lie to you?!”
“When you talk about Sora, you smell like a damn liar, please. I
don’t like you like that, please.”
“Th-that’s because Sora forced me to fall in love with him! Isn’t it
natural I would resist?!”
Hurt by the implication that Izuna disliked her, Steph argued with
a lump in her throat, but Izuna dismissed her with a complicated
“More of your shit, please... But you usually smell good, so I’ll give
you a pass, please.”
This said, she went back to stuffing her face with fish, leaving Steph
with her thoughts.
—All right, let’s suppose, for the sake of argument—not that there
could very well be an argument—that Sora isn’t a liar. But even so—
“That doesn’t justify him co-opting my feelings with the Covenants.
It’s complete nonsense!”
As Steph clutched her head in her outburst, a book caught her eye.
On a shelf some distance away—a book with an ancient binding.
“...The Treasure of the Prideful Princess... A children’s tale?”
A title written in Immanity—that sounded as if it belonged in a
nursery. When she opened the cover, this is what was written:
—This is a fairy tale passed down among the Dwarves—
“A translation? The translator—isn’t my grandfather, it would
appear. What is this book doing...?”
Steph, mumbling, turned the page and gasped. This is what was
—This is a fairy tale from far in the past. Farther than the sea—
And beneath, in a familiar hand—that is, the hand of her
grandfather—was a note.
—We surmise that the sleeping queen of the sea read this tale before
—Like the princess in the tale, the queen was loved by all and
—And thus...she desired what she knew not.
—Having everything, she craved the one thing that eluded her: a
love beyond her reach—
Izuna started as Steph sprang from her chair with a ciy.
Avant Heim—a relatively large cube in the central district. This was
Jibril’s former dwelling, now a storeroom. She must have moved all
her books and valuables to the library in Elkia, for it didn’t have the
feel of a living space. As might be expected of Fliigel, who required no
sleep, there was no bed, and there were no windows, either. The
sealed room, lined with her collection of nonbook treasures, felt
surprisingly comfortable to shadow-dwellers like Sora, Shiro, and
Plum. As long as they were mindful of certain warnings she gave
them—Oh Master, you had better not touch those. You will probably,
no, certainly die. Spoils from the Great War, masses of skulls, and so
“...This is weird...”
In the center of the room rested the books which the nigh-one
hundred Fliigel had collected for them as sworn by the Covenants.
Buried in the pile of books, dark with fatigue, Sora complained
bemusedly. Shiro, on his lap, was writing something, then crossed it
out angrily, groaning.
“...Masters, why do you not take a respite?”
Recognizing that the siblings were frustrated with their lack of
progress, Jibril chided them softly.
—Immediately following the game, the two had dived straight into
the books collected for their information. Recording her gospel, Jibril
suddenly realized it had been about five days since her masters had
slept—before Plum arrived. With this in mind, she urged them, but
Sora scratched his head, seemingly oblivious to her.
“How is it there are nineteen accounts—and they’re all the same on
the condition to wake her?\”
“Noooo...don’t tell me it was all a...waaaaste...?”
The encounter at the end of the game. The rite to deceive even
Azril, who had absorbed the power of a Phantasma. Plum, exhausted
from her efforts, lay sprawled on the floor, squeaking pitifully with
what remained of her breath. To think she’d done all that, and it was
meaningless—her expression lost all hope, but Sora pushed forward.
“The problem goes deeper than that... I’ll sum up, okay?”
With a sigh, he turned to Plum.
“Siren’s queen is their agent plenipotentiary. The queen bet all of
her rights and then went to sleep. But for Siren, if someone wakes her
up, that person would get their Race Piece, and that would be fatal—
so they covered up the condition to wake the queen.”
“Y-yes... That’s right...”
“The ultimate way to cover something up is if no one knows. So
they didn’t tell you how you wake her up, either.”
“When the current queen went to sleep, she wasn’t queen yet. Siren
must have tried everything they could to wake her—but that would
mean someone knew once, but the current accounts have been
You following me? Sora asked, and Plum nodded.
“Eight hundred years ago, there were guys who tried to beat the
queen’s game. We can see nineteen of them from just the records
we’ve dug up in Avant Heim, covering five different races, and we can
see the words that were supposedly used. If we compare them, we
should be able to trace them back to the condition to wake her—or so
Shiro moaned, Nghhhh, and collapsed into Sora’s lap—brain fried.
They’d checked the verbiage in the languages of five races, even
verified the manner of the words’ interpretation—but.
‘“Whosoever wakes the queen will win the queen’s love and
everything she has’— that’s all we can get.”
Whoever wakes the queen—i.e., she didn’t have to fall in love. Wins
everything—i.e., you got all the rights. Those two things had been
nailed down, but that was worthless by now. The real thing was—
“Why don’t they say how you wake her—? Is that really the part
they’d leave out?”
Before the previous queen had passed, someone getting all the
rights wouldn’t have impinged on the race’s survival. They should
have announced the victory condition to get someone to hurry up and
beat it already. But then, if no such thing was recorded...
At Shiro’s dire assessment, Plum sorrowfully sought clarification.
“...No one...ever, knew...how...”
“...Could be that even the queen herself didn’t spell out the victory
conditions clearly when she made the game—for example...”
After a deeeep sigh, Sora wrung it out:
“...‘Please me. Except I don’t know what will please me...’—or
something like that.”
—Plum’s eyes rolled back in her head, and she fell. Frankly, Sora
felt like doing the same. If this was true, it would explain why no one
had been able to wake her, why Plum hadn’t been able to figure out
how you wake her, why a spell that would make her fall in love
unconditionally worked but still didn’t wake her, and also— how Siren
had been able to cover it up completely— everything. If no one knew
from the beginning, then there was nothing to cover up. And then
they’d have to attack the problem from the standpoint of “What did
the queen want when she slept?”— They were back to square one.
“Ahh, shit, what’s wrong with this bitch?!”
Oozing distress, Sora ranted and flopped onto the floor. Shiro also
went GG, audibly snoring on Sora’s lap, and Plum—passed out. The
scene looked as if it would hang perfectly in an art museum under the
...Well, why don’t I tell you a story for a change of pace.”
Jibril lightly snapped her fingers, and the walls and ceiling of her
house went clear as glass. As he lay sprawled on the floor, Sora saw
the night unfold above him—no, that wasn’t it. They floated at the
edge of the stratosphere—the border between the planet and space. So
it was space. This realization was accompanied by a soothing
reverberation like the cry of a whale.
“It is he— Twas was the voice of the Avant Heim the Phantasma.”
Now that she mentioned it—Sora remembered seeing a landmass
like a giant whale during the game with Azril.
...The fact that he was riding on its back right now was so fantastic
that it was easy to forget.
“He was once a messenger of my former lord, the Old Deus
Jibril continued with a faraway look in her eyes.
“Artosh fell at the end of the Great War—but he has yet to accept
this. He drifts in search of Artosh, and, when he feels the presence of
an Old Deus, he approaches.”
Jibril cast her gaze up—to the vermilion moon floating in the sky.
“Out there are the Elementals, Lunamana, and the Old Deus who
—The giant red moon Sora had seen any number of times, either
larger or closer than the moon of his old world. It was still hard to
imagine that an Ixseed dwelled there.
“When the red moon is visible, Avant Heim raises his altitude at the
presence of the Old Deus. However—”
With a complicated, somewhat sad smile, Jibril confessed:
Avant Heim cannot reach it.”
“...Can’t reach it?”
“Avant Heim is not flying through the sky, but circling the planet-
swimming along the currents of spirits invisible to Immanity. He
cannot swim in space, which lacks these—and so.”
Sora unconsciously followed Jibril’s gaze—and was speechless.
—He’d never looked at the Milky Way with his own eyes. But a
river of stars that gave the images he’d seen on the Internet a run for
their money floated in the emptiness. The light flowed as if to
outshine the red moon.
“He looks up at the red moon...and weeps.”
The torrent of light flowed like an aurora, flickering faintly. Again,
the whalelike moan he’d heard before. This time, it sounded—terribly
“...So Phantasmas have feelings?”
—Ixseed Rank Two, Phantasma. Considering that they were listed
among the Ixseeds, and that Azril had said we, it made perfect sense,
Sora realized. But still, it was strange to think that this landmass
drifting through the sky had feelings. And then— fwoop, it hit him,
and he griped in disgust.
“...So even Avant Heim understands romantic love and I don’t...”
“Pardon? Why do you suppose he understands it?”
“He feels a sense of romance about Artosh and loves him as his
master—so he understands both romance and love, right?”
—Then Jibril seemed to latch onto something and asked:
“Master, is there anyone you would be lost without?”
“And is there anyone you love—?”
“Shiro—ohh, so just because you understand romance and love, it’s
not the same thing as romantic love.”
Love took different forms for each—man, this concept was a total
pain in the ass. If the queen’s wish when she went to sleep really did
have something to do with romantic love, he was shit out of luck—
Sora capitulated, but Jibril was thinking of something else.
“...I wonder if that is really how it is.”
When Artosh was slain, Jibril, like the rest of the Fliigel, felt loss.
After that, the Fliigel gathered knowledge. Searching for something
without knowing what: a meaning in life, a justification for existence,
a reason not to die—an answer that could never be—but Jibril found
it. The answer that there was no universal answer, yet she herself
could—want to exist.
“...? What’s up, Jibril?”
It was not knowledge, but the unknown before her that made her
cock her head with doubt. What if—?
“M-Master, please excuse my impertinence, but may I ask a favor
“Could you say, ‘You’re useless, Jibril. I’m done with you’?”
“—...Umm, let me just point out, I have no idea what you’re getting
“Please. Ask nothing—humor me, if you would.”
As Jibril pressed her forehead deeply to the floor, Sora reluctantly
did as she asked.
“—‘You’re useless, Jibril. I’m done with you.’ —That good?”
Y—y-y-y-y-y-y es?! ”
A shift brought her face close enough to touch his, and Sora
“Wh-why is it I feel much as I did the other day when you
commanded me to lick the feet of that long-ear, or when I stole Lord
Shiro from you in the FPS with the Eastern Union? A shuddering
thrill—as if my very heart is being squeezed! Wh-wh-what is this
“Hell if I know! But, dude, don’t you have enough freaky character
As Jibril panted, blushed, and practically drooled, Sora cringed
away. But having seemingly experienced some kind of deep epiphany
—Jibril nodded and announced:
“Master, for the first time in the 6,407 years since my birth—I have
grasped the nature of romantic love.”
“Yes. At last, I shall prove my worth to you, Master. —What, then,
With this rhetorical question, Jibril knelt before Sora, hung her
head, and launched into an explanation.
“Master, you have ordered little Dora to love you by the Covenants,
whereupon you have systematically subjected her to the humiliation
of neglect. And yet Dora herself, in whom you have planted the
emotion, testifies that this is romantic love! This unknown emotion
that occurs when my lord, to whom I have devoted myself, tells me
he is finished with me—this mixture of endearment, pain, assurance,
and all sorts of other thrilling feelings— This is love—!!”
“Jibril, calm down, you are getting way out of control in so many
As Sora muttered, now unmistakably cringing— Wham!! Suddenly,
Shiro bounded to her feet.
“Whoagh?! Wh-what is it, Shiro? My heart almost jumped out of
Not appearing to give a crap as to Sora’s feelings on the matter:
“...Unknown emotion...she doesn’t know it...she can’t reach it...she
aspires to it..Azril couldn’t find it...Jibril found it...Steph feels it...
unknown...yet to come...hope.”
—Perhaps eavesdropping on the conversation while feigning sleep,
Shiro ticked off a series of data points and furiously scrambled
through the books.
“...The queen, who enchants everyone—... The victory conditions,
haven’t been - falsified.”
Mumbling this, with a foomp she slammed closed the book she’d
furiously extracted—and she declared:
“...Brother...I figured out...the condition...to wake the queen.”
—At this simple statement, Sora, Jibril, and even Plum jumped up
and stared at Shiro, who looked somehow happy— No...
“...Brother, even you...can misread... things.”
Her smile clearly indicated utter ebullience contrasted with her
“...Brother, Brooother, hee-hee... Brother, you screwed uuup...\”
Her shoulders swayed, her feet flapped— She beamed as if gloating.
Her meaning was undecipherable. Sora groaned, aghast—
“Hey—wait. What—I misread things ? B-but reading people is my
“...Right. Your...specialty...but this time...I win!”
—As if giddy from the heart, Shiro boasted that, in this game, for
the first time, she’d out-read her brother, and Sora felt dizzy.
“N-no way... If I lose at reading people, logic, and strategy, what
purpose do I...?”
—“ ’’—the two-in-one gamer who was the strongest humanity had
to offer. If one of its brains could no longer read people— Ignoring
Sora as he devolved into near tears, Plum pressed insistently:
“Wh-what do you mean?! How can we wake the queeen?!”
Drinking in the hopes of all—and the perverse tears in Sora’s eyes—
“...So, that’s...the deal...”
“Th-that is consistent with my grandfather’s observations... Uh, is
that all right?”
“My hypothesis was indeed correct. Oh, how deep is love...”
“...Really...we almost went extinct for this? ...I want to cry...”
“Tee-hee-hee! ★ Heyyy, looks like your chance, Plum! ★ Amila’s
all excited now! V”
“...Sora, Soraaa, I don’t get this shit one damn bit, please.”
“Sorry, Izuna. I’m just a useless eighteen-year-old virgin trash loser
who drags Blank down, so I don’t get it, either. But you’re smart,
Izuna. You’ll get it one day. I’m off to take out the trash.”
“You’re throwing yourself out, please? Then can I pick you up,
“...No...Brother is mine. Anyway...Brother, get ready.”
“G-get ready? O-of what am I c-capable, other than to g-get in
“...There’s no way ...I...can beat this game... Only...you can...”
“Let’s go, Shiro!! If you can’t do it, who can do it but me?!!”
“—I’m so bored.”
Unconsciously, I let out a sigh.
Oceand is the home of all Sirens. At the bottom of the deep sea, at
the base of a triple-layered oceanic ridge that towers in an arc like the
crescent moon. Far from the excesses of land, the sea stands pure like
the walls of a castle, with no road to connect it to the outside world.
Other than the nameless fish and whales, rarely is anyone allowed to
visit. Clad in beautiful blue, wrapped in the protection of the water
spirits, a city heaped with glittering treasures. A paradise built by the
magic of the Dhampirs, brilliant with a myriad of hues.
But it is a prison.
“Ohh, isn’t there anything fun?!”
Fed up with everything, I pout. The songs and dances all bore me.
Of fine delicacies, I’ve had my fill.
Oceand. A perpetual den of pleasure. Beauty, riches, love—it’s all
here. Since the time I was bom, all of it belonged to me. And for that
reason—I can never be fulfilled. Because, out of everything, it is I
who am the most beautiful, the most valuable treasure. However
wonderful may be the things in this world, they can never compare to
me. But suppose—somewhere—there is something that I might
That would be—love! True love!
Beautiful and wonderful, an everlasting bond! The supreme
treasure, which even gods must covet!
My innocent soul, defiled by no one—waits in this city of dreams for
him. My eternal lover, who will grant me that which I do not have.
The prince who will quench the thirsting of my heart. Waiting for
him, I have slept.how long has it been?
“...—What difference does it make?”
Time means nothing insofar as he comes not to greet me. If my
heart is not filled, my life shall remain empty forever- Aschente—
Now a voice comes and revives my awareness. It seems I have
another visitor. These silly men who come to call on me. These
adorable fools who fall before me when I grant them the slightest of
smiles. I have no hopes for this man, either. True love does not come
easily. But, waiting as long as I have, frustration is inevitable.
“...Well, why not? I have nothing better to do anyway. I’ll go and
play with him a bit.”
However worthless the man may be, he should at least be good for
killing time. Yes—this time, I’ll be very nice to him. I’ll be all smiles.
I’ll butter him up. I’ll captivate him. And then, when the time comes,
I’ll jilt him mercilessly. Then maybe even that fool will come to
understand— “- love?”
A young man’s voice falls from the sky.
“—You want love - ?”
You want love, he asks? —Well, of course.
“...Yes, I do. Are you going to give it to me?”
“In that case—I’ll give it to you!!
An impact rocks the sea. Overhead—the sky is split. I don’t know
how else to describe it. Cracks big enough to see from under the sea
shatter the sky, and it rains down like giant pieces of glass, stabbing
into the ocean—the heavens and the sea stained red as blood. Amidst
the shards, the source of the voice, too, descends into the depths.
“—Here it comes- all for love-...this guy is falling- dowwwn-...
An Immanity man with dark eyes and black hair, wearing a shirt
with “I V PPL” written large over his chest. Beside him, in contrast,
an Immanity girl with white hair and red eyes. Both with fluttering,
jet-black capes that suggest the Devil. They announce with wicked
smiles: ““Pleased to make your acquaintance, Sleeping Beauty, and
excuse us for disturbing your rest. We are Sora and Shiro.””
...Hmm? Now, here’s an angle. Many men have come to woo me in
many scenarios, but this is the first time I’ve seen this approach. But
this still isn’t it— What I want is true love—not mere novelty.
“Good day, dream visitor. How nice of you to come.”
That should be it. There is no man who can resist my voice—my
“Oh, sorry. We’re not actually here.”
“...Useless, useless, useless...”
“You’re shouting into the current. No offense. Alsooo—”
The man smirks and then continues.
“You are shock-here I come- with my squad~ the sky is falling
Another shock. With it, the sea breaks, and at the red sky that peeps
—a strangled gasp. The sky elicits instinctive revulsion and fear, an
inevitable consequence of the giant baby monsters that suddenly fill
it. Through the pandemonium races one monstrous girl, a halo over
her head, wings of light spreading from her hips.
“Even fools are charming when they sleep, but a fool who annoys
even when sleeping—there is much to see in this world.”
—Behind her, hundreds of—incarnations of slaughter,
manifestations of ruin— Fliigel...?]
“...Brother, it’s not...quite...soul-crushing enough...”
“Hmm, you’re right. If we wanted to perfectly reenact that horrible
ending from Drakeng*rd, we should’ve brought real Fliigel—but
we’ve already sealed off Azril’s power, and it seems as if they’re
having a lot of fuss in the Council right now. We had to resort to
makeshift decorations, except for Jibril.”
“Please fret not, Master. I shall make up for it by doing the work of
several hundred Fliigel!”
Even as the man carries on his incomprehensible conversation, he
looks down at me and says: “Come, let the game begin— Make me
fall in love.”
.What? Having said this, the man points to the highest tower
in Oceand—to the chamber of the queen—and says: “We’re over
there. If you can get there and seduce me, that will end the game.”
—The heavens writhe. Countless gigantic babies fall from the
crimson-stained sky. The Fliigel spread their wings and fly around
like symbols of death itself.
...H-he’s telling me to navigate this?!
“By the way, Master—do you mind if I eradicate the city with a
The Fliigel fidgets as she poses this question. Meanwhile, I freeze.
“Sure, no problem. Blow away everything, including the queen. It’ll
all come back together in a few seconds. It’s just a dream, after all.
Jibril, you can use as much force as you want—there’s no limit, so
knock yourself out.”
“Eh-heh, eh-hehh-guh-heh-heh-hehh, I do say, I grow excited! V”
—And then the two Immanities turn to me once more.
“Also, when we set up the scenario...”
“...we added your...friends, acquaintances...and family...too.”
At these words, in a rush, I look around—since when were they
here? My mother, my nurse, my handmaids, even my sisters whose
names I do not remember— all wail simultaneously.
“So, you can pretty much guess how this is gonna go down...”
Smiling wryly and scratching his head:
“Y ou and those dear to you are gonna be devoured by those falling
babies, sliced up by Jibril, blown away, etc., while, you know, all
kinds of shit happens to you... Yeah, I’ll say it again, but, damn, that
game was hard-core.”
“...Brother...you got me to play it, saying it was the best game
ever...and super-touching... I’ll never forgive you.”
“I’m sorry. It was just too traumatic for me to bear alone—but
With that, the two who call themselves Sora and Shiro speak
““From here on, no one will save you as you writhe to your death.
Let’s see how long you suffer before you succumb.””
And then—with big smiles, they say:
Spreading her wings at this remark, the Fliigel opens her mouth.
“Now, if I may: Number One, Jibril.”
The halo above her head complexly transfigures itself, becoming
giant, multilayered, not unlike a magic circle. Her wings lose form as
if spewing energy—and a column of light like a lance sways in her
hands— “I give my master heartfelt thanks for granting me this
“—to use my full, unadulterated, unrestrained, unreserved power,
too percent—Heavenly Smite— Here it is! V”
With only these words remaining, the world is extinguished in
Meanwhile—Oceand: the chamber of the queen.
“Yaaay! Miss Jib is so cooool!”
Amila raised a cheer toward the underwater projector displaying
the queen’s dream. Around her, a crowd of Sirens likewise cheered
and danced like mad. Sprawled limp on the floor were Sora, Shiro,
and Jibril, who had dived into the dream, and Plum and the
Dhampirs, who had used up all their strength to transport them there
and build its world. Also present were Steph, eyes rolling, and the
aging Werebeast—Ino Hatsuse—to whom Izuna clung. Surveying in
turn the three lying unconscious on the floor and the projector, Ino
asked: “Uh, umm...I wonder—precisely what is going on here?'
“Grampy, we came to save your ass, please. Get down and give
thanks on your hands and knees, please.”
As Izuna rubbed her face in the belly of her grandfather—I no—
Steph answered on the young girl’s behalf: “A lot of things happened
while you were in Oceand... Yes, quite a lot of things.”
—But, this not being much of an explanation, I no just kindly held
the grandchild, who clung to him as he looked on in confusion.
“...I would appreciate it if you could offer an explanation a bit less
“Don’t worry about it... I hardly understand it myself... Let me just
give you a message from Sora for now.”
Ahem: Steph cleared her throat.
“—‘We figured out how to wake up the queen. When we told the
Sirens, they got all excited and gave you back and said, “Do what you
“I am afraid my comprehension is only further clouded...”
“He also said...‘Relax, we’re gonna wake up the queen, and we’re
not gonna let Siren or Dhampir go extinct. We’re playing a game
where we’ve sworn that by the Covenants. You’ll see what we mean
when you watch us beat the game’—and also...”
With a final titter, Steph continued.
“...‘Izuna missed you, so I’ll leave her here. You got a good
granddaughter, Gramps’... That’s it.”
“Is that... so?”
Dropping a smile at the pressure of his granddaughter’s nuzzling,
Ino thought to himself: —I understand that man Sora even less than
I did before.
A cheer went up. Jibril’s second Heavenly Smite had thundered.
The Sirens enjoyed their celebration of it while Plum haltingly chided.
“Y-Your Highness Amila... Y-you seeee. I toootally understand
where you’re coming from, but perhaps some discretion would be in
“Whaaaat? Ohhh, Plum! You can go ahead and say it, too, you
Amila continued with the smile of a stainless saint.
“The suffering of a stupid bitch makes everything delicious! Tee-
—Her smile might have been stainless, but it was wholly absent in
“Look, Amila even opposed cutting off her sense of pain, but, see,
we are being discreet, tee-hee-hee-hee! ★”
—Indeed, it was a dream. No one and nothing was actually being
harmed. On top of that, when Sora and crew had entered the queen’s
dream, they’d asked Plum to block the queen’s pain receptors. This
was a dream, after all. There was no discomfort. It must not be
forgotten—there was purpose behind all of this, but— “This...isn’t
something to take Miss Izuna to, is it?”
“Truly. Indeed, I must commend King Sora’s moral sensibilities in
deeming it inappropriate for children.”
“...? The hell is going on, please?”
Izuna, her face still buried in I no’s belly, unable to see the display,
asked in apparent curiosity. But the spectacle projected before them—
Plum could only describe as: “Hell...no, more like a nightmaaare...”
Indeed, it was a sight that, even without any sexual content, would
unquestionably fall afoul of moral regulations.
—Even Steph had heard about it: the full power of Fliigel—the
Heavenly Smite. A single toss of that lance of light had vaporized the
sea and turned the Oceand of the dream into a crater. But—it was a
dream; everything would be mended in a few seconds. Like a small
child smashing a clay sculpture, Jibril rained down further
destruction. At this cycle of destruction and restoration, Jibril smiled—
or perhaps more accurately, leered—and flung her arm
indiscriminately. Each time, the ridge was shattered, and a trench
opened up, swallowing the ocean floor.
—As if that wasn’t nightmarish enough, forgetting Jibril, the fake
Fliigel were also blithely wreaking havoc. The baby monsters,
inspiring instinctual revulsion and fear, devoured the dream’s bit
players. And the spectating Sirens were getting off on this hard. —It
was messed up.
“...W-well, I do sympathize in a way, given the circumstances...
“I-it does seem a bit excessive...speaking as one who does not know
Grasping the situation but not the strategy, Steph had to agree.
“...There’s never been a day I didn’t curse Lord Tet for setting down
the Ten Covenants, buuut...”
Plum simpered with a face pale enough to faint. For the spectacle
projected before them probably (no, definitely) would have qualified
as a mere skirmish before the Ten Covenants—in the age of the Great
“Your ancestors lived through this... My deepest respects.”
...I just want to know how Immanity managed to survive this.”
“Both Immanity and Werebeast had to face this... Upon our return,
I must take up my studies of history once more.”
Their eyes rolling back in their heads, the three onlookers were
independently inspired with the same thought: —Lord Tet, thank you
for setting down the Ten Covenants.
—The first blow vaporized the sea. Laila had no choice but to crawl
the parched earth. She couldn’t breathe. The sun beating down on the
exposed seafloor consumed her flesh. There was no pain, but her
energy was sorely drained. The repeated Fliigel attacks gave no respite
for the sea to return. In a loop of vaporization and regeneration, the
sea stripped the queen—stripped Laila—unconditionally of its
protection. And then the baby monsters raining from the blood-
colored sky rampaged down to devour her. There was no water. She
couldn’t swim. The race beloved of the sea—without the sea, even
“...Hff... Hff... I—I made it...have I?”
—How many days had passed? Or had it only been minutes?
Dragging her body, Laila finally arrived at the foot of the tower.
Behind her the smoldering flames of hell still roared. The heavens
were blanketed with laughter and the light of destruction, the earth
with countless dying wails. Fear driving her to muster her strength,
she opened the door and leaped through the threshold—when— She
felt at her back the shock and din of the city exploding again—but
Laila collapsed in relief. For inside the tower—was water. This was
where Sora and Shiro were supposed to be and therefore the one place
even the Fliigel’s attacks could not destroy, it seemed. If there was
water, then she could breathe, and even charm... At last— she
“...Hee, hee-hee-hee...hee-hee-hee-hee-hee... What nerve you have
—to do this to me!”
Catching her breath, Laila, at her core—now seethed with rage.
—“Make me fall in love”?
“...That’s just fine. I’ll see to it that you pay the tab for making a
fool of me.”
With a swish of her tail, Laila ascended the water-filled tower with
—The queen of the sea. She who has everything. Everyone bows
before me. I can’t believe you would try someone like that— I don’t
know what you’re thinking, but— “I hope you don’t think I’m just
gonna make you get down on your knees!!”
—If I can just get in one word, that will be the end.
—I’ll sing a song. Make him a crawling slave. Make him lick the
ground. Then cast him pathetically aside and throw him into the
trench of despair. Once he gets out of the dream—my charms will
convince him that reality is the true nightmare, and my rejection will
make him want to die.
With a wickedly warped smile, she surged through the water as if
flying—and soon, she reached the top floor...the door to the chamber
of the queen... The chamber where her body should lie.
—That was all. The current slammed open the door as if breaking it
Yes. In the sea, Laila was power. Before the volume of water spirits
she possessed, everything in the ocean would kneel to her. It was a
simple law. Nothing could defy it. It superseded even some forms of
magic. Even the spirits employed in Elf rites would take Laila’s side.
Things she could not tame—in this world—did not exist. With
unshakable confidence (no, fact!), Laila at last—arrived. Sora and
Shiro—dolled up like the Devil. Sora strode forward to greet her with a
theatrical, impudent grin.
“—Made it this far, have you...? Your foolishness is hilarious.
However, it delights me that you are progressing—”
“...Brother, enough...of that.”
“Whaaat? Shiro, how dare you skip my dialogue? I had it all
While the two played out their farce, Laila faced them with eyes
burning in anger. They had made a trifle of her, all right—but it was
time they paid. And so the queen—Laila—formed words in a voice
that would make the heavens swoon.
“NOW, ARE YOU DONE PLAYING? CRAWL BEFORE ME.”
—Yes, let’s start by having him crawl. Then we can take our time
and entice him until his brain melts— —However, the reply she
received made Laila doubt her own ears.
“Hey, hey, were you listening? I said make me fall in love—don’t
you have anything sexy to say?”
—She was dumbfounded. The man and girl before her...upon
hearing her voice that captivated all, regardless of sex—simply
grinned back at her confrontationally.
—Putting up a front, Laila clicked to herself. As long as they were in
the water, there could be no exceptions. Their gray matter must have
already been numb with yearning. So—time to test just how long
those iron masks would hold.
“...OH, YES, I’M SORRY... I GOT CARRIED AWAY AND SAID
Wetting her eyes sensually, Laila spoke pleadingly.
“I WANT YOU TO LISTEN TO MY TRUE FEELINGS AND FEEL
THEM—I WANT YOU. CAN YOU PLEASE GIVE ME WHAT I
With not just her voice, but her every move—a binding force more
violent than brainwashing was at work. Despite her imploring tone, it
was mere input—a command that could not be blocked. At her
irresistible, unconditional charm, Sora—trembling all over—answered
her call: “...Uughh, no thanks. I got goose bumps. Sorry, not
“Look, let me just come out and say it, but you ain’t my type.”
“And then, under the rule that you’re supposed to make me fall in
love, the first thing you say is ‘Crawl before me,’ followed by ‘I’m
sorry,’ and now you’re saying those weren’t your true feelings? I feel
like I’ve seen you in some meme about crazy bitches to avoid. I can’t
believe hos like you really exist.”
...Laila stood stunned. It wasn’t a front. He really didn’t feel her
charm. How was it possible—? Did they mess with the dream? No,
not even Elven magic should have been capable. It made no sense,
but one thing was for sure—this man had come with genuine
conviction that he would not fall in love with her.
—Then the man looked to the girl beside him for confirmation of
something. She nodded, and he said: “Yeahhh, I finally get to say it.
’Cos everyone always thought this was a romance game, no one’s told
you before, right? I’m gonna speak for everyone so far, including the
old guy, and give you the business, okay?”
Drawing a deep breath—Sora let it fly.
“Don’t you know how old you are, sleepwalking around, prattling
like a goddamn moron? I mean, who the hell do you think you are,
dumbass? What? You think, ‘It’s only natural for everyone to be nice
to me’? Even kindergartners these days are quicker on the uptake
than you, bitch! Seriously, do even know how many years you’ve
been asleep? Eight hundred years, bitch—eight hundred years! You
think, ‘Ohh, I’m, like, such a princess, waiting for my prince for years
and years’? You’re over eight hundred years old, Grandma! You
wanna know how old you are? You’re too friggin’ old! Sure, I love
those characters with ridiculous ages, but they’re cool because they’ve
got the brains, right?! And, anyway, you’re like, ‘There’s no man who
wouldn’t fall for me’—but look at yourself, man. It pisses me off! You
call yourself a woman, then show some grace! Sexiness only means
something if it’s bundled with humility! Are you one of those? You
know, the ones who think if a guy tells them to take their clothes off,
they can just drop ’em? Or one of the others?! Those typical, so-called
cosplay or glasses-porno actresses who take off their costumes or
glasses when they have sex, those dumbasses with a romance
quotient in, like, the tenth percentile at best! If you think the more
skin you show the better, then stop being half-assed about it and just
go live as a freakin’ nudist! Dude, why should I even have to try to
pick up some bitch I don’t even like? Think about it, man—it’s a waste
of my goddamn time and effort! I might as well just hit on some 2-D
girls! I’d get way more out of it, especially in terms of cost
performance, all while protecting my heart and wallet! Oh yeah, and
just let me add one more thing before I wrap up— You got these
water spirits or whatever, I dunno, but something granting you
charm from the shadows—but honestly, your face score is barely
above average, and it’s the worst among all the chicks I hang with, so
would you look in a damn mirror and figure that out, you sponge-
Fffff... Sora, spewing this all at once with no room for argument-
smiled in relief.
“Hff—l feel so much better... Great. I said my piece. Now I’m done
with this game. Ciao!”
“Nnnope. Did you enjoy wasting your time on this unwinnable
game? See ya, suckahhh!!”
With that, Sora and Shiro whisked out of existence, as if they really
had ended the game. Then: The dull percussions that had been
carrying on in the background stopped— And in Laila’s heart, an
entirely different sound quietly resounded.
“Heh-heh-heh! Now this is totally gonna make her snap— That
should do it, right, Shiro?”
“...Mm, Brother...for the win...extra props.”
To the brother nodding in self-satisfaction, the sister raised her
—The chamber of the queen erupted in the thunderous applause
from the Sirens, who had enjoyed the fine show. By contrast, there
was the blanched silence of those with common sense, like Steph.
Sora and Shiro had given the queen a magnificent nightmare and
returned without bothering to woo her, dumping the game. Only one
of them was completely baffled as to their reasoning—just one.
“Hff— that was most amusing... It will be a storm of envy when I
tell everyone. V”
—Having pushed the boundaries of devastation to her heart’s
content in the queen’s dream, Jibril’s consciousness now awoke to
reality. Her skin seemed to have taken on a certain luster, and
probably actually had. But—those who didn’t understand the purpose
behind any of it (again, like Steph) cast questioning looks.
—So what was the point of all that—? Confronted with this silent
entreaty, Sora assumed a grin that said: Don’t ask me!
Sora had just done what Shiro told him to—in other words:
...Brother, just, be...yourself.
That summed it up.
...Just say whatever comes to mind...to troll, the living hell out of,
her...till she has, a meltdown.
—That was all. It did hurt his feelings a bit, having his sister call
that “being himself.” But if Shiro said so, if his little sister was sure
that was the solution, Sora had no reason to doubt it. He needed only
carry out those instructions faithfully—yes, devotedly.
—Just then— Crik...! Suddenly a crack formed in the ice the queen
To the stupefaction of everyone assembled there—except Sora and
Shiro—the crack spread. The crystal-clear ice turned stark white as
the cracks spread like tendrils, and then it shattered, sending sparkling
particles scattering—like stardust. As the motes of ice danced,
reflecting the ambient light-the queen’s eyes flitted open ever so
Before this uncanny spectacle, everyone stood speechless.
“Hey, hey! Come on, come on! Too bad the Ten Covenants won’t let
me hit you!! LEL, baby!!”
Everyone except Sora, who, having been given leave by Shiro to
troll, wasn’t about to stop.
“...I-incredible... Is it really possible for a human to be so
Paying no heed to Steph as she crossed that line of respect, the
queen slowly rose from her throne.
“Oh, really? I was really getting into it—”
With a graceful sweep of her tail—dancing, carrying herself with
light ease—the queen approached Sora. A fantastic sight...yet the
queen’s face was red with burning—no, mild—anger as she swam to
face Sora...and then: “How I’ve waited for you...my prince! V”
Going so far as to make hearts of her eyes—she threw herself at
The entire throne room was dumbstruck, but Sora, as if on guard—
“H-hey, Shiro. The hell’s this? Some kind of fake-out?”
Jittery, he turned to his sister as he was suddenly overwhelmed by a
sense by deja vu...
—Of a time he had proned someone online with a trick that was
just too dirty, and they’d ended up having to hurriedly relocate as it
seemed his opponent had tracked down his address and was planning
to deliver a beatdown—a painful memory from his previous world.
Recalling this trauma, Sora feared he might have gone too far. But
Shiro casually reassured him.
“...No...this is fine...we win...”
...Ahh, I see now.”
As Shiro claimed victoiy, her expression contemptuous, Steph,
Plum, Jibril, and Amila finally understood. The queen—Laila—carried
on making a spectacle of herself.
“Ohh, master of my heart...Please, um, insult me more! V”
H-hey, is this chick funny in the head?”
As Sora gesticulated desperately at Laila writhing at his feet, Steph
remembered the meeting before the game had started and the tale
she’d found in the old king’s study—The Treasure of the Prideful
Princess. Taking its conclusion into consideration—she finally grasped
“...Yes, it would seem so.”
A tale of a beautiful princess. A princess who had everything:
beauty, riches, and love. The insatiable longing of the princess for
something more— more than everything. One man put an end to it.
The princess had received all that was, from every man. Yet her
desire went unquenched.
—Until the man with the dagger.
-A wondrous treasure beyond the princess’s belief.
- Death moved her, and thus it ends.
—Yes, it was the tale of a princess consumed by greed and how she
was slain. But the queen must have— “It seems my grandfather
identified the tale that inspired the queen to sleep, and from that...he
surmised that because she had everything, she sought the one thing
she lacked— an unobtainable love... but still.”
The previous king—her grandfather—had come up with a rather
poetic interpretation. Steph sighed and then looked at Shiro—the
architect of the game that had just played out.
“...Yes...the queen...all loved. Had everything, so, didn’t value it...
That’s why, she wanted this.”
Finally seeming to catch up, I no took over with a sense of deep
reverence: “I see... She wished for one with whom she could fall in
lo ye—who would never return her affection.”
Put bluntly—or leaving it to Shiro’s interpretation: Basically, she
was in love with love... She wanted a love that would go unrequited.
Well, that could probably be even blunter—like so: “...She wanted to
be humiliated...just like Steph.”
Steph gaped stupidly with this query. Jibril, having come to the
same conclusion, clapped her hands.
“I see. In the tale, the man who slew the princess did not seek her
love—meaning that, for the princess, that man was the one she could
“—What, is that the point?!”
It was Sora’s voice raised in astonishment. After all, that suggested
a woman who wanted what others had—that is, one who’d engage in
affair after affair... Fundamentally, that made her the very definition
of a dysfunctional broad, didn’t it?
“What? So, in other words, if the one she loves loves her back, it
kills it for her? What an annoying bitch.”
“Ohhhh! V Yes, I’m an annoying biiitch... I’m sorryyy! V”
Queen Laila, shamed and reviled, squirmed in ecstasy.
—“I shall give you all my rights”—someone should have taken
more note of the implication of this. Apparently the only one who got
it, Shiro verbalized the situation: “...Brother, you have...all her
rights...so be nice, and step on her.”
—Uh, well, okay...”
Uh-hunhhhhh! V D-do it haaarder, please! V
—Plum, with her Dhampirs, up to this point had been incapable of
anything but frowning.
“...And this is whyyy...we nearly perished as she slept for eight
Plum, having been briefed (albeit not in this much detail), sighed so
deeply as to spew out her soul. But as Plum and her kin rolled their
eyes, the mortified queen exclaimed: “...What? I really was asleep for
eight hundred years?”
“All you had to do to beat this game— was kick my ass instead of
falling in love with me. Are you guys stupid?”
“The Ten Covenants say we can’t do thatl You’re the stupid one,
you goddamn sponge-brain!”
“Ohhhh! V Yes! I am a stupid sponge-braiiin!”
—Even ignoring the Ten Covenants, Laila’s charm was so
overwhelming that not even Jibril or the Shrine Maiden could defy it.
Failing to fall in love with Laila—a feat likely unprecedented thanks to
her absolute power—was more or less impossible. Who would have
suspected that she’d set just what any Siren or Dhampir would have
gladly done but couldn’t—that is, bust her a good one— as the solution
“...Do you see now, Mr. Ino? Why the Sirens rejoice so?”
“...Yes, I suppose... How shall I describe this...?”
“Tee-hee-heee! ★ Sora, this show you’ve given us has been
wooonderful, but, while you’re at it, could you hit that @#$% a little
harder for Amila? Yeah! Hit her so hard her head caves in!”
“Oh, I beg you, too, my master—please hit me! V Hit meee! V”
As Amila looked up at him leering—brimming with bloodlust—and
as Laila, eyes sparkling, reiterated her request...Sora asked:
“...Hey, Jibril—what is love?”
Jibril replied, smiling at her master, who was diligently averting his
gaze to the ceiling:
“Is it not exactly as Miss Plum stated? It is what you make of it.”
Meanwhile, a short distance away, Ino was talking with Izuna,
“It is true; love indeed comes in many forms... Hmm. I myself am
yet green around the edges.”
“...Hey, Grampy. I still don’t get what the hell is going on, please.”
“That’s very well, Izuna. One day you will understand.”
But Sora sighed and wondered —Is that really how it is?
“...I have a feeling I’m never gonna understand.”
—And with no one but the queen—Laila—satisfied, this ridiculous
game, for now, came to an end...
The Kingdom of Elkia: the capital, Elkia—late at night. In the last
country of Immanity, in an office in the Royal Castle, Steph, as usual,
was hard up.
“...Yes, I knew this would happen. Now we have to annex Oceand,
—Now with even more work, Steph’s dark circles were permanently
imprinting themselves on her face. Word was that the kingdom was
also going to be incorporating Avant Heim, albeit in a ceremonial
capacity. The sheaves of paper swelled higher and higher by the day,
but, imagining it increasing even more, Steph turned away, not afraid
“...Though this has silenced the nobles...”
—It was hard to admit, but Steph sighed at this fact as she dropped
her eyes upon the paperwork. The powerful personages who had been
assailing her day after day, challenging for privileges—had
disappeared. Now all she was left with was this stack of procedures
related to the distribution of the vast marine territory and resources
Sora and Shiro had procured from Oceand—not that that wasn’t
enough to keep her from getting any proper sleep— But it did mark a
change between Elkia and the Eastern Union...until now so
imbalanced in terms of power that the concept of a commonwealth
The seabed resources from Siren’s land—waters, rather. Even from
Elkia’s perspective, having obtained seabed resources that even the
Eastern Union could not mine, the interests they would have lost in
the merger with the Eastern Union now surged anew. Dangling this
bait in every direction kept things proceeding remarkably smoothly. It
had been the most ridiculous game, and a conclusion at which one
could only throw up one’s hands—but suddenly Steph mumbled to
“...Could it be that this is what they intended from the beginning—?
No, that’s a leap... Isn’t it?”
It had all started haphazardly when Plum called on Sora and Shiro.
But the final game hadn’t involved the Shrine Maiden—that is, the
Eastern Union—which meant the resources from Oceand belonged to
Elkia alone, and consequently, the power imbalance that had been
the biggest obstacle to the Commonwealth had been, if far from
reversed, closed enough to seem realistic. At this, Steph had to
—Above all else, they’d brought two other races under their
umbrella at once. And now it appeared even Avant Heim would join
them. After Werebeast—Siren, Dhampir, and then Fliigel. Just as he’d
boasted, Sora really had absorbed three other races at once. Thus he’d
taken four races, without seizure of their pieces, without cost to them
—no, to their benefit— and brought them under his control without
bloodshed. This made Steph recall the thought she’d had when Sora
and Shiro had overcome the Eastern Union—the Shrine Maiden... An
idea so absurd she’d chased it from her mind, coming back to her now
with a tinge of reality.
“...The Tenth of the Ten Covenants: Let’s all have fun together...”
The tension in Steph’s face broke—could they really do it? Could
they take the Ixseeds, who had once battled to the point of reshaping
the very planet, and bring them together without any killing or death
—to challenge the One True God—
“...? Come to think of it...”
Steph remembered the day Sora and Shiro had bet the Immanity
Piece at the embassy of the Eastern Union. One of the Race Pieces
given to each of the Ixseeds, which, when collected, would constitute
the right to challenge the One True God. Steph swung her gaze past
the horizon. The giant chess pieces, all the more for the darkness of
night, towered as if to block out the light of the moon.
—If those were the starting pieces of the One True God, then might
it follow that each Race Piece had its own role ? She had never seen
the other Race Pieces, but the Immanity Piece that Sora and Shiro
had shown them...
“...was the king...wasn’t it...?”
The king. In chess—the weakest piece. Its importance was
paramount, but everyone knew that the king’s traits were even worse
than the pawn’s-
“For goodness’ sake, clearly I am overthinking this... Hff, time to
get back to work.”
At the same time— In the courtyard of the Elkia Royal Castle stood
Sora and Shiro’s palace, finally completed using the architectural
techniques of the Eastern Union—basically a small wooden shack. In
a room floored with tatami mats according to Sora and Shiro’s
specifications, a clutter of countless games and books was strewn
everywhere. As the siblings lay sleeping atop their futons laid out in
that close space, breathing quietly—
—without sound or presence, a shadow approached. But not
“—Yo, Plum. What do you want at this hour?”
“...You’re keeping us up...”
Stifling laughs, Sora and Shiro gave up the pretense of sleep and
stared into the void.
“...Ah, ah-ha-ha, ex-excuse meee... Well, you seeee...”
However had mere Immanities seen through Dhampir stealth
magic? Plum canceled her spell, showed herself with an apologetic
smile, and lowered her head—
“Didja come to reveal yourself?”
At Sora’s query—Plum, still smiling, froze. Ignoring her reaction,
Sora and Shiro sat up—grinning like children who’d just pulled off the
prank of a lifetime.
“I don’t flatter people. I respect you for real. You got a sweet
strategy. I can’t even believe—”
Sora’s praise was sincere, but—
“To the very end, you managed to lead us on without telling a
single lie, Plum— No...”
Ironically drawing up the corners of his mouth, Sora fixed his gaze
on the Dhampir girl...no—
“Shall I call you Mr. Plum—the last male Dhampir ?”
—boy, laying it all bare.
—...Hff. His true form discovered, the boy who looked like a pretty
girl sat cross-legged and sighed. His troubled face was the same as
ever—but his eyes, floating in the darkness, gave a hint of cunning
sharper than a knife.
...Nghh... Did I make a mistaaake? When did you figure it ouuut?”
—Huh. He really does talk like that? Sora chuckled to himself as he
answered the question.
“Right at the start—I wish I could say...”
Sora glanced over at his little sister.
“Though I hate to admit it, it was Shiro who figured it out. And that
was just before we headed for the beach.”
Shiro threw up two fingers signifying the V for victory, somehow
looking proud. But, grumbling with his hand on his cheek, Sora
seemed severely dissatisfied.
“Which means I almost sexually harassed a dude, and I let him
frickin’ lick my sister’s feet... God. I shoulda seen it sooner...mumble,
“Ah-ha-ha...Tm very grateful for that. I really was about to die...”
Sora clucked bitterly at the pretty boy’s innocent thanks.
“—All right, how about that quiz we were doing that night on the
beach— Shall we continue?”
“...June 20, 22:39 UTC... Plum.”
As soon as he said it, Shiro began regurgitating her memory once
more, as spot-on as a voice recorder.
—Please make our queen fall in love! I’ve brought a plan so that
you can achieve thiiis!
Yes, this had been Plum’s request on first visiting Sora and Shiro—
“There’s one thing’s that’s always bugged me, and it’s this: You
didn’t say ‘wake up.’ You only said—you brought a plan to make her
fall in love, huh...?”
“When we were at the Shrine Maiden’s, we laid two traps for you.”
“...June 21, 07:28 UTC... Brother.”
—Okay, I get your sure win or whatever. But why don’t you do it
Then Shiro continued as if to compare.
“...June 21, 07:30 UTC... Plum.”
—You see, the last male Dhampir is still youuung...
—It has to be at least a man with the ability to reproduuuce.
“First of all, we kept emphasizing sure win over and over again, but
you never once said it was a sure win.”
“So—you must have known from the start that making her fall in
love wouldn’t make us win, huh?”
As Plum just grinned sheepishly, Sora looked back harshly. Next...
“Then, two... I asked why you didn’t do it yourselves.”
Sora frowned as if to say, there’s the bit I don’t like, and
“I said ‘ yourselves .’ But you didn’t say anything about yourself.
You just said it had to be a guy, and brought up some guy without
specifying from whose point of view he was young—”
Plum couldn’t pull off a lie in front of a Werebeast. He could only
change the subject.
“—this guy who still didn’t have the ability to reproduce being you,
Yes, based on this, the one who’d finally figured it out was Shiro.
“You remember when I looked at Shiro’s phone and said, ‘Then it
doesn’t have to be Brother’?”
“...Yeeess... B-but what about thaaat?”
At the boy for whom this was apparently insufficient to tie things
together, Sora scoffed.
“What was actually written there was everything I just told you.”
“I intentionally read something different from what was written—
to alert the Shrine Maiden with a lie.”
Yes, Plum—the last male Dhampir—had scrupulously avoided
straight talk. When a dangerous question arose in the form of Is it A
or B? he’d always answer It’s not B. But that didn’t mean Therefore
it’s A, nor did it mean he was lying. For all a Werebeast was, as long
as Plum stuck to the truth, she couldn’t detect disingenuous sleight of
“But this leads us to some interesting implications, doesn’t it?”
Sora clapped his hands— Shall we sum up?— and strode about the
room, monologuing joyfully.
“It was true that you were seeking the emancipation of Dhampir. It
was true that you could make her fall in love with your love spell. But
you knew that wouldn’t wake her up. But it had to be true that you
were seeking your emancipation using us-Yeah, you sure give us
a lot of credit. We’re honored.”
Shiro responded to Sora’s pronouncement with a grin.
“June 20, 21:59 UTC... Plum.”
-P-p—please waiiit! Your Majesties, we have no one to turn to but
“Yeah, no kidding. It’s not like you could turn to anyone but us.”
So. Who would Plum need for his plan—? Folks who: Could identify
the conditions to awaken the queen, which even Plum didn’t know.
Could then awaken the queen and win all the rights of Siren just as
Plum had planned. And could, if they lost, be fed without concern to
—They could only be of the one race the Sirens could look down on
—the lowest in the ranking: Immanity. And specifically those who
had Jibril’s support—and by extension Avant Heim’s—in particular,
Sora and Shiro. But there was a problem close to Sora and Shiro:
namely, Izuna and, by extension, the Shrine Maiden—the Eastern
Union. Lies would be utterly ineffective against the senses of
“All you could do was to pull the wool over our eyes and lead us the
entire time without a single lie.”
Sora clapped in earnest appreciation.
“Yeah, I’m telling ya, man, it really is an honor that you saw so
much in us. To be honest, when we got to Avant Heim and couldn’t
use the strategy we’d planned, we were really on the spot.”
The boy, scratching his cheek, apparently troubled—grinned as a
“If I didn’t have faith in you, why would I work with you...in a
game like thaaat?”
With a fearless smirk that asked, Isn’t that obvious? the last male
Dhampir tossed out the offhanded remark—which made Sora smile.
Were it necessary to complete his gambit, he would throw himself
into the fire. Sora had to say from his heart that the kid was a true
gamer, beyond reproach.
“Still, even figuring out that much, we ended up playing right along
with your plan—I mean, we didn’t have any choice. I hate to say this,
but seriously, good game. It’s a draw, huh?”
Sora and Shiro sat crossed-legged and beaming.
“Ah-ha-ha, that’s where you’re wrooong—this game is all miiine!”
His face still clouded, Plum looked down at them sharply.
—Just— Yes, as if licking his lips before a feast, his smile twisted.
—Feeling threatened by this sudden transformation, Sora braced
himself. All right, they’d seen through him. But—that wasn’t enough,
Plum sneered, his expression contorting.
“What Queen Laila bet was everything she had, rememberrr? Do
you still not see iiit?”
At these words—Sora winced and stepped back. So you finally see
it? Plum’s fiendish smirk deepened.
“Yeeess... You inherit not only her rights, but also her dutieees.”
“—Ah—! W-wait...but that—!”
Grasping the implication, Sora moved to shield Shiro, his eyes wide
with shock. When he’d won “everything” belonging to Siren’s agent
plenipotentiary—it wasn’t just rights. He’d also taken on her duties—
in particular, the obligation to supply Dhampir with blood}.
Plum—the beautiful boy with sharp, scintillating eyes. His troubled
mien cloudless now—doing justice to the true image of the vampire.
—The king— the last male Dhampir suggested the status of an agent
plenipotentiary, and with a wicked leer, he bared his fangs.
“Which meaaans, wherever the chips fall, I’ll be the one cashing in
—do you seeee? Lesser thing.”
Squeaking for his life, Sora blanched with fear. Plum spread those
wings suggestive of blood and exposed his scintillating fangs in a
—Its only being proper, he whispered:
“Thank you for the meaaal—l”
With that, he pressed his fangs to Sora’s neck (the latter’s expression
a mask of horror)—
—tried to sink them in...and stopped.
“ .Huh? Uh, wha...huhhh? What, whyyy?!”
...All that mystique he’d summoned vanished instantly into thin air,
leaving the king of the night—as just Plum again.
“What? No, come on. This is just the part where you wanna ham it
up a little, right?”
—Their terrified countenances were unceremoniously discarded.
Before the befuddled Plum, the siblings sat smugly, shooting the shit.
“I’ll tell you as many times as you want, Plum. That was sweet.
And someone who can come up with a strategy that sweet—has gotta
consider how he’s going to free Dhampir if we do succeed in waking
“ _ ?!”
“Just like you saw a lot in us, we—saw a lot in you.”
A transition then to a friendly—but gamer-like—enigmatic grin.
“That’s why I said it. That this game—is a draw.”
At these words—for the first time, Plum’s eyes swelled in shock. But
Sora, his mood lifted by this exchange, just spread his arms, delighted,
and went on with a smile.
“Seriously awesome, dood, I mean it! A trap set to go off
automatically if we win—a time bomb... I’ve been gaming for a long
time, but this is the first time I’ve had one dropped on me so epically!”
—Once more (with the accuracy of a recorder) Shiro spoke.
“...June 22, 01:03 UTC... Brother.”
—The queen’s wager was— ‘everything I have’.. .amirite?
“You just looked down— you didn’t say yes or no. We got that, too.”
Sora’s lead-in was ominous enough, but what followed sent sweat
running down Plum’s cheeks in shock—no, in abject terror.
“—So, with that! Let’s give you the booby-trap prize.”
“...June 20, 22:20 UTC... Plum.”
—I have heard that Your Majesties intend to conquer all the races.
This quote, merrily recited by Shiro from Sora’s lap, was what Plum
had said to Sora at the very beginning—
“Sorry, man. You had this wrong all along. We’re not taking
“Dood, look, I talked to the queen— while you weren’t around.”
Sora squinted, as if relating a hilarious joke to a good friend.
—The punch line:
“I told her she could have everything back except the obligation to
cooperate with us— everything including their Race Piece.”
Well, she had said, Master of my heart, please at least hold on to
the right to torment me! —a request he’d refused, Sora added
wearily... Hearing all this, Plum, empty and limp, sank to the floor
“What is thaaat...? No matter the strategy, if one goes wrong in the
first steps, it’s overrr...”
The more advanced the strategy, the more critical the first steps.
This Plum knew well. But how could one perceive such a mistake
from the jump—? The question confounded Plum.
“You just made one mistake, and it was a careless one. If not for
that—it really would’ve been perfect.”
“Dhampir was weakened by the Ten Covenants. You guys knew it
and even worked to account for it right away... But even so, you’re
still short when it comes to recognizing your own weakness. ’Cos,
look, at the very end—”
“You called us lesser things, didn’t you? ...That’s why you lost.”
From this statement—inferring everything, Plum sighed.
“—Ah-ha-ha... After all this, I still had pride, didn’t I...? Thinking
that could never happen was my mistaaake... Of all things...”
Reassuming his usual troubled expression, Plum looked up at the
“...How could I ever think you were really planning to challenge
the One True God...”
Hearing this, Sora and Shiro smiled with satisfaction.
—He does know. This Plum. The last Dhampir boy. He realizes.
How to beat this world.
“There oughta be more doods like you in the world. You were this
“...Let’s play, again, sometime...Mr. Plum...”
Watch out next time, they seemed to advise, their voices free of
—Hffff... Plum exhaled long and sprawled onto the floor.
“Aaahh, I can’t stand iiit! I thought it was perfeect... I kept my
guard up against Fliigel and Werebeast, and I meant to expect as
much as I could from you. I did have a bad feeling in Avant Heim,
—That chill that had flickered through his mind. His foreboding
that these two were too dangerous, had been right.
“...Hff... How do you call this a draw? This leaves nothing but the
—Yes, what had changed thanks to Plum’s plan? They’d woken up
the queen and averted extinction, but Dhampir would continue living
under Siren’s tyranny. And if Siren was going to cooperate with Sora
and Shiro, Dhampir could offer no defiance, given the basic principle
of their symbiotic relationship.
—Amazingly, Plum’s plan had been used, and they had been sucked
in. In fact—indeed as had oft been repeated—it had been
accomplished in a manner that harmed no one.
“Nghh... You win utterly and call it a drawww! Is this ironyyy?”
Plum pouted intensely at the siblings, who had so brilliantly turned
his plan back on him.
“Just to point it ouuut, we’re going to be slaves to Siren forever, and
I am not happy with this, all righhht?”
So— let me just say this, he added:
“Don’t think you can lick Dhampir just like that, okayyy?”
The eyes of the king of night, capable of making all they beheld
tremble, turned on Sora and Shiro— Brushing off his gaze like a
gentle breeze, though, the two raised their thumbs together.
“Sure. How could we beat you if we thought you were easy
pickings? Let’s game again. We’ll be waiting.”
It was fun...Mr. Plum.”
—They responded with nothing but smiles lauding a kick-ass
gamer. Pushed aside like a curtain, Plum—surrendered all thought
and sprawled out on the floor once more.
“...By the wayyy, the match is over now, righhht? I have a favor to
Plum met Sora’s eyes with the soberest expression imaginable, and
“King Sora... Please allow me to lick your sis’s feet—”
“All right! You’re ready for war, huh? Let’s do it! Bring it,
The slave of sweat, the perverted boy, lowered his head and shouted
“Oh! Well then, I don’t mind if it’s yours, eitherrr!”
“You don’t care if it’s a guy or a girl? You’re a drag princess, you
have a sweat fetish, you’ll go for either sex— Bro, that’s too much!”
With a jolt and goose bumps, Sora unconsciously grabbed Shiro and
took a step back.
“Now that I know how you taste, I can never be satisfied with the
blood of Sireeens. This is how it iiis!”
“Y ou say ‘Don’t think you can lick Dhampir’ and then get on your
hands and knees without a second thought? Come on, man!”
“What? No, nooo, I’ll be the one doing the lickiiing...”
“That’s not what I-mm?”
—Then, as if something had just occurred to him, Sora sank into
deep thought before answering carefully:
“—If you’re willing to make a trade, I’m not gonna let you lick
Shiro, but you can lick me. After Avant Heim, why not, you know?”
As the perverted boy chomped down on this with a flash in his eyes,
Shiro still looked perplexed.
“Well, ya see, after all that, I still have no idea what love is. It
seems like Shiro and everyone else got it, and I even got upstaged at
Sora, descending into depression for some reason, vigorously shook
his head and made his proposal to Plum.
“Cast that love spell of yours on me. Then, Shiro, can you put your
hand on my chest?”
“That’s no trouble at alll! Come, my preparations are compleeete.
Let’s goool Yeahhh!”
Plum’s eyes formed a complex pattern so that he could deploy the
rite at a moment’s notice. But Shiro, seemingly conflicted, put her
hand on her chin—and then, as if reaching some conclusion...she
“Now, as I have obtained both of Your Majesties’ permissions, I
shall begiiin! So, sweat, please, hh, hh—”
“All right, all right. I got it, so calm down...”
As they had when Plum used the spell on the Shrine Maiden—his
black wings swayed and stained red. The crimson rite that crept onto
his arm flowed at Sora—and just as before—with an ear-splitting
sound, rouge light whirled around its target.
“Ghh—ghh— N-now the only thing leeeft is for Queen Shiro to
place her hand on King Sora’s chessst! Let’s go, a-a-and...I-I’m about
to dieee, s-so please, bodily fluiiids...”
—It seemed this really was a spell that wore him down. But as they
heaved, Plum’s shoulders seemed to say, but if it’s for King Sora’s
bodily fluids... As he urged Shiro forward, she placed her hand on
Sora’s chest and said softly—
“.Brother...I love you.”
Shiro asked gingerly, but Sora just looked confused.
“...So, I dunno...”
Sora looked at Shiro—yeah...it was Shiro. Just as always, a beauty
without compare, his pride and joy with pure white skin and eyes like
jewels, his beloved sister.
“Hey, Plum, it’s just like always. Nothing happened. What’s the
Sora asked a bit sourly, but Plum fended off his fatigue enough to
“Whaaat? Th-that shouldn’t—o-ohhh... So that’s how it iiiis...”
And then—as if he’d figured something out, the Dhampir smirked.
“I seeee... So that’s why you let me use the spellll ? Huhh, huhhh! /
“...I have no idea...what you’re talking about...”
Shiro curtly averted her gaze as she replied—leaving Sora alone, out
of the picture. Plum, though, seemed refreshed, the biggest riddle
having been solved.
“I seee. So that’s why the queen’s charm doesn’t work... Huhhh,
As long as they were in this world, the siblings should have been
susceptible to spirits, yet they weren’t affected by the queen’s charm.
Under Plum’s spell, Sora’s definition of romantic love should have
taken hold as what he felt, yet his experience didn’t change. And what
“Hey, Shiro, what’s the deal? f”
Sora was apparently a bit slow on the uptake, but Shiro looked
“N-now, I cast my spell juuust as I promiiised. S-sweat, pleaaase! S
“...M-mghh, well, I guess I can’t argue, huh?”
As Sora held out his hand, Plum pounced with a thank youuu.
—It seems the spell really had been cast. There was no reason for
Plum to lie. But nothing had changed.
“...What does this mean? Even magic can’t make me capable of
falling in love? Is this the will of the cosmos?”
Though Sora griped in utter disgust, Shiro did not reply.
“Uh-hunghh! V This is iiit! Ohh, it’s sooo deliciouuus. What is iiit?!
Looking down at the pervert making a scene while licking the back
of his hand, Sora rolled his eyes and asked:
“...Hey, Shiro... What is love?”
“...I dunno...! S”
Avoiding eye contact— Shiro’s cheeks reddened slightiy.
“...Hey, Steph. What do you think love is?”
“—Are you still going on about that? I thought you were done...”
“Apparently, I have a daughter now.”
...Okay, calm down, Steph told herself. Severely overworked as
usual, Steph had been toiling in her office when Sora, Shiro, and Jibril
popped by. They’d scarcely walked through the door when Sora
dropped this bomb on her.
...Hmm. Interesting. Calming down didn’t help at all.
“...Are you feeling all right?”
—Jibril chimed in from the side to elaborate: “Sirens are quite fertile
—and when it comes to the queen, even a few hairs from my master’s
head should be enough to conceive a child. You must see what a
tranquil race they can be so long as the queen is awake.”
Steph tried to fend off a headache: “—No, that is not the issue...
What? A daughter?”
“But, you know, even if she’s my daughter, she’s a Siren, so she
can’t leave the sea, right? That means I have to go there, but, see...
I’m sort of worrying about whether I should go... Could this be what
they call fatherly love?”
—Steph had witnessed a miracle.
—It seemed a virgin had awakened to fatherly love.
“...There’s no need...for you to go...”
“Hey, but this is my own daughter we’re talking about!”
“To be precise, she is more of a replica of Laila, synthesized by using
a minute sample of soul from your hair... But yes, that is how Sirens
Into this fog entered Izuna.
—A large fish was clamped in her mouth—no, a Siren girl.
“...Sora, Sora, some tiny little Siren bitch came, please.”
The Siren girl’s first word?
—It was electrifying.
“Aaaaahh, my daughter, yes, that’s right, I’m your dadgebwuhh!”
A blow from Shiro cut short Sora’s mad dashing to embrace his
“Dear me. I thought Sirens were unable to leave the sea.”
“That Plum bastard is here, too, please.”
“Ahh...Dhampir magic, I see... But if you do not hurry and put her
in water, she will die.”
“Steph! Quick, get a tank! Oh, hey—there was a pond in the
courtyard. Will that do?!”
“You can do whatever, but will you just do it outside?! Or will you
actually do some work?!”
Surveying the raucous office, Jibril quietly considered: Here were
Immanity, Fliigel, Werebeast—and even Siren and Dhampir. With no
sign of conflict. Even Azril—even Avant Heim—was starting to
change. The world—everything—slowly but surely. Changing as it
had not since the Ten Covenants—no, since even before then. Into
something. Her two masters at the center— “It seems that my gospel
of my masters truly will become myth...someday not too long from
Nodding silently, Jibril added to her scripture—her observation
journal of Sora and Shiro.
sMIJimil'MIKffl -Year, Month, Day-Master experienced
—The Elven Gard capital, the Nirvalen mansion.
“...I see I lose again.”
Chlammy, who had been playing a game with Fiel, let out a sigh
and withdrew her notepad.
“Chlammy, lately it seems you don’t mind when you lose, do
“...Of course I mind. Why do you think I’m doing this?”
Sullenly rebutting her friend’s assessment, Chlammy was recording
the reason for her loss. Her notes on the patterns she should have
accounted for but didn’t and what to do about them... In the
approximate half a month since the existence Othello game with
Sora, she’d already filled fifty books.
—There was no rational way for an Immanity to beat an Elf in a
game with magic. In which case—she just had to uncover an
irrational way to win. Seeing the pile of notepads that demonstrated
her determination—Fiel felt a swell of pride at Chlammy’s growth.
“—Oh, Chlammy, a little bird’s come. Let’s take a little time-ouuut.”
With this, Fiel touched the gem on her forehead.
...Referring to the interception of foreign messages from the
Element Linkernet as “a little bird” was quite a tasteful bit of irony.
That made Chlammy smirk a bit, but the information— Fiel’s eyes
“...Fi, what is it? An emergency?”
“Ah, nooo... It simply was too incredible...”
She related the news incredulously.
“Why, Mr. Sora and company have annexed Oceand—Siren and
Dhampir—into the Commonwealth of Elkiaaa...”
—Is that so surprising? Chlammy asked, but Fiel continued— “The
Council of Eighteen Wings of Avant Heim—has also voted to join the
—I see. That is surprising. Chlammy smiled. With that, on the heels
of Werebeast—Siren, Dhampir, and finally even Fliigel had come to
Immanity. Bewildered by Sora and Shiro’s frightful speed in
accomplishing something most inconceivable, Chlammy said to Fiel:
“...That’s a bit faster than expected. Let’s hurry and pack up.”
“...Why, Chlammy, you knew about thiiis?”
Are you withholding information from me? Fiel inquired sadly, but
It’s not like that, Fi. I said expected, didn’t I? Their strategy always
adapts to circumstances.”
—It was just that, if they were going to bring together all the races,
sooner or later, it had to happen.
“The issue is just—it’s too fast.”
“...Why, I agreeee.”
—Yes, too fast—if it were just about Oceand, it could be overlooked.
But now that, after the Eastern Union, they were annexing Avant
Heim, it became a different story. Annexing a great country and a
higher race in so short a time...
—Now principal players, such as Elven Gard and Hardenfell, would
be done watching coolly; they’d be on their guard. It would likely
prompt them to start taking an aggressive stance toward Elkia—but
this was not a problem.
“Just in time. It would seem that all the rush has paid off?”
“Why, rather than rush, I would call it a mad scrambllle...”
Even as she said this, Fiel gave a wry grin and packed—and with
“Come, Fi, let us go. I do not expect we shall be able to return for a
“Hee-hee, if they can really do it, it will be an event so massive as
to overturn the world. Why, we certainly can’t miss iiit.”
As they left the Nirvalen mansion behind and walked side by side
down a road they would not be able to return to for a while, Fiel
asked: “Chlammy, come to think of it... What was that—‘one more
thing’ you were saying before?”
Fiel had reached her own conclusions, but she asked anyway.
“—He doesn’t lie. To himself, ever. That’s why he can’t lie.”
Apparently, she’d already known. The question had been a mere
formality. Fiel smiled.
—He would never be able to say, “This is the limit; this is about as
far as it goes.”
—For the one who had breathed life into him transcended such
—To lie to himself would be to deny his sister’s humanity.
Chuckling at her remembrance of this pet theory, Chlammy spoke.
“Hey, Fi, do you know the method of achieving objectives—one
common to all things?”
“You guess, you predict, you get ready, you confront it—and then
“Y es. And then you verify the reason for your failure, you fix it, you
get ready, you confront it—and you fail again.”
“If you do this —an infinite number of times, there is nothing in this
world you cannot accomplish.”
“...Why, that is quite the wild arguuument...”
Chlammy smirked and nodded as she watched her companion
vault past being dumbfounded to being impressed.
“Yes, it is a wild argument—but I like this wild argument more
than one might think.”
There was nothing one could not do. What one could not do was
just what one had not done yet —what remained was the face-off with
time. But the ones who could pass down even that face-off across
generations—were the weak.
“Neither I—nor Sora—is superhuman, or a genius. But there’s no
need to be.”
It was just—
“The important thing is to try to be.”
“Our infinite failures will light the path of those who follow—a
lamp for walking through the darkness.”
His—Shiro. Hers—Fi. Even the endless defeats of the old king,
someday...must be...the lamp of Immanity, of all the races—
Suddenly, Fiel asked Chlammy about the one who had influenced her
“...Chlammy. In your eyes, what kind of person is Mr. Sora?”
What her question brought to mind—was the world he had seen.
And so— “He is a person who decided to be a player. Just a person
who quit being a puppet.”
And yes, one could even say—she continued—
“A person whom one day we shall surpass—perhaps?”
At Chlammy’s brazen declaration, Fiel smiled and took her hand.
The Eastern Union, the capital, Kannagari—the Shrine. Under the
light of the moon, a golden fox girl and a white, aging beast man—the
Shrine Maiden and I no Hatsuse faced each other. In the hands of the
Shrine Maiden as she sat on the railing of the bridge over the garden
pond—was the Werebeast Piece.
—While playing with the softly shining piece shaped like a pawn in
her hand, the Shrine Maiden spoke.
“Pureiyaa...e h, the word has two meanings in the Immanity
tongue, I’m told.”
Namely— player —and prayer. One who followed their own will,
marching forward—opening the unknown, confronting the future. Or
one who deferred to another’s will, closing their eyes—turning from
the unknown, entrusting the future.
“Ino Hatsuse. To tell you the truth, ’twas my opinion that we
should leave you.”
There was no apology in her words. She hadn’t the qualifications to
give one, she said resolutely.
“Had we done that, we’d have been able to grind Dhampir and
Siren into the palms of our hands with just one sacrifice and no risk.”
“...Yes, Your Holiness. I understand completely.”
—This was the very reason I no did not understand that man named
Sora. Why had he been saved? Ino Hatsuse had known more than
well the Shrine Maiden’s purpose, and he had been ready to end his
days there in Oceand. And that was why he did not understand—he
could not fathom that man Sora.
“—Tis true we won that game. But we didn’t need to play it.”
—A ridiculous game. With a ridiculous outcome. But a game that, if
fouled up, could have resulted in severe consequences for both the
Eastern Union and Elkia. In the worst case—Immanity could have
even sustained the kind of irreparable harm Plum had all along been
'We took an unnecessary risk. They took up the game despite this.”
They most likely had some reason beyond what he had been told,
Ino thought—but. The Shrine Maiden responded with laughter like
“...They said they made a promise to Izuna. That they’d save you.”
Ino was dumbstruck. They had wagered the survival of their race
“Well, I suppose they also had their pride as gamers, not wanting to
let the game default.”
“To sum up, ’twas a loony game, yet Immanity went ahead and
offered themselves up as Dhampir bait. Mr. Sora and his sister did
manage to turn it around on them... But to say they turned it around
suggests it was known to be risky, doesn’t it?”
“Ino Hatsuse, what do you make of that man Sora?”
“...To be honest, I do not know.”
The Shrine Maiden intoned to Ino, whose head was bent, I suppose
“—That man’s a fraud and a swindler—but he doesn’t lie. Nay, he
—It could be, the Shrine Maiden continued.
“If he could lie to himself—then perhaps he would have become a
blackguard who was easier to understand.”
The Shrine Maiden knew nothing of Sora before he came to this
world. Still, having had the opportunity to observe Sora and Shiro
closely, she supposed they must have had trouble living. She had no
evidence for this. Were she to furnish a rationale, all she could say
was that it was her intuition as a Werebeast, and from experience.
But—for some reason—she was sure. Why would a fellow as skilled in
mind games as Sora be incapable of real-life romance—? It was that
he couldn’t lie to himself. Given this—he couldn’t tell a woman he
didn’t love that he did love her. In which case—it was an interesting
question why he had no attachment to his old world. But it was
probably that he couldn’t accept a world—that wouldn’t accept the
only girl he loved.
—That was the one thing he could never do— even if it meant
turning the whole world against him.
“Considering all that...I think I might as well swallow my pride...
In the Shrine Maiden’s brazen, brilliant expression—Ino saw
something he had not seen for many years.
“A man who stayed true to himself, refusing to abandon you,
though I would have. Are you game to give him a chance?”
Ino, to whom the question was put, lowered his head and declared
reverently: “—If it would allow you to once more dream. If you
would show me your dreams once more.”
The Shrine Maiden smiled at these words and took the Werebeast
Piece—the pawn that seemed constructed of light. And flicked it into
“—Mr. Sora, let’s see it. The continuation of the dream I used to
That a mere piece—could fly off the board and become a player.
That, at the end of this dream she had once dreamed then let collapse
—the dream would be never-ending...
—A certain day at a certain anime studio conference room. With the
source material, read to a husk, in hand, the director asked the
author’s team at Media Factory:
“...Uhh, what’s the stoiy behind this part?”
The gazes of the original team turned as one—to focus on Kamiya,
entranced with the deliciousness of the food provided. Noticing their
gazes, Kamiya started to choke at the sudden question, but he held his
head high and answered:
“Heh, I have not decided !!”
Awash in the cold rain of looks from all present, even so, Kamiya
spread his arms and continued.
“If you have everything decided from the beginning, then you’re
stuck following that, aren’t you? Do you not believe that adapting as
circumstances require is the most effective and entertaining way to
give readers pleasure?!”
But, to this straight-faced assertion of Kamiya’s, the director
grinned rather audaciously and nodded.
“So I take it No Game No Life —is all about bluffing?”
“That is perfectly, unqualifiedly the correct answer!! Bluffing, balls,
and bullshit will get you anywhere in this world!!”
“Heh...what did you say your name was?”
“Yuu Kamiya. These munchies are delicious (munch, munch).”
“You’re my kind of guy, ‘Kamiya.’ I think you will make my next
drinking session a pleasure.”
As the two exchanged a firm handshake signaling some common
understanding, Kamiya’s editor could only look on in wonder...
—This really happened. Or maybe not.
“Please don’t use up a whole page on a wild fabrication.”
What? The overall gist is true, right? Aren’t you the one who told
me to pimp the anime without mentioning any names? Well, it’s true
that, since I covered up everyone’s personalities and manners of
speech, the lines are complete fiction.
“If the lines are complete fiction, doesn’t make that make the
overall gist complete fiction?”
(ignoring her) Heh, that director...she’s something. All the
reference materials she gets out are total balls-out bullshit, going way
beyond anything I imagined. Though if you tell me to draw that shit
in the comic, I’ll be running away at 64 FPS.
—So, Editor S (or shall I call you Ms. Fishboard after your entry
into Media Factory for your love of fish cake boards?)...you
mentioned that I should casually promote the anime. Is this about
what you’re looking for?
“(smiling) Except for the fact that it’s not casual in the slightest, I
suppose it’s fine.”
All right, then... Nice to see you again. It’s Yuu Kamiya. I am quite
relieved to see that by some miracle, Volume 5 is coming out without
“I should say so, after what you did to our deadlines, as usual.”
Oh, about that—there’s a startling fact I wanted to share with you.
Did you know that humans are incapable of doing novels,
illustrations, comics, and conferences at the same time?
“Well, yes. Doesn’t that go without saying?”
Hmm, then, with that in mind, please look over my schedule here.
—How about it? Do you notice anything strange?
“I see various tasks related to novels, illustrations, comics, and
anime all smashed up together. What about it?”
Dear readers, I imagine you will have understood for yourselves.
But the true wonder of this matter is that Volume 5 has made it to
“Goodness, there is much in this world beyond the realm of human
Yes, I am leading a fulfilling life, overturning all kinds of existing
knowledge day by day (rolls eyes).
—So, how did you like No Game No Life, Volume 5? Now there is
also an anime under way, and in addition, Volume 1 of No Game No
Life: The Comic, a joint project of Yuu Kamiya and Mashiro Hiiragi,
is going on shelves at the same time, so I earnestly hope you will take
a look at that, too, and discover both forms to your liking. Finally, I’d
like to take this opportunity to extend my deep thanks to everyone
involved, except Ms. Fishboard.
“Huh, why everyone except for me?!”
Look at this. This crazed e-mail insisting that I get in the
manuscript for Volume 6 by the end of the year.
“Whaat? Mr. Kamiya, I know you can do it; it’s not like you to give u
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