In order to get more time so the people can escape, Tilia has received a life extension treatment that will cause her tremendous suffering. However, she needs to receive a tremendous amount of Symphonic Power from the First Tower to keep the Third Tower in existence. Aoto and Croix have gone to the First Tower and are now helping Lyner to challenge the security protecting the Symphonic Power systems.
Upon invading the Binary Field, a priestess-shaped robot embodying the Tower's security was sent to attack them. A mortal battle against a machine that possesses an overwhelming power surpassing even those of all the maintenance droids has started.
A new original story taking place after the popular PlayStation 3 RPG of the same name, which also features characters from the three games in the series. The conclusion to the GA-Bunko [Ar tonelico] light novel series!!
Attack in the City Hall ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 7
Rematch ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 57
Finnel Goes to Wackyhabara ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 108
Still in the Binary Field --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 125
A Gigantic Orgel ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 169
The Last Day of Archia -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 194
Life Extension Period ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 218
A New Plan ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 260
Feelings for the Rim ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 269
Will ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 284
Feelings for Tilia ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 333
Tilia Inside the Pod ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 344
Epilogue --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 363
This describes the characters' setting as they are when they appear in the book. The numbers between parentheses denotes which [Ar tonelico] games they appear in.
Hikari Gojo (3)
A Reyvateil-specialized doctor who used to work at the Eternus Shaft. Rikka's husband.
A researcher from Sol Cluster. He and his childhood friend Mute are in love with each other.
A special Reyvateil that can strengthen her own body using the power of Song Magic.
The Maiden of Homura of Metafalica. She is also a former Dive Therapist that used to enjoy a great popularity.
A former member of the Church of El Elemia.
The last one of the Pureblooded β-Type Reyvateil lineage called the [Star Singers] that had the duty of keeping Mir sealed.
Krusche (1, 3)
A genius engineer that came to Sol Cluster to assist with the airship construction efforts. She and Jack are good friends.
Jack (1, 3)
A Teru man who hails from the city of Em Pheyna in the First Tower. He currently works as a handyman.
The former leader of the Sacred Army, the organization that opposed the Grand Bell. He currently works for the Grand Bell.
She used to be the person who had the ability to control Infel Phira. She is Chester's lover.
Captain of the Grand Bell Knight Corps. He lost his wife and daughter to an IPD outbreak many years ago.
One of the last members of a group that descended from the Teru. She adores Leglius as a father, and she has become like a foster daughter to him.
A lifeform Mir created based off a Teru that came from the Third Tower.
A former weapon shop owner from Metafalica. She holds an unrequited love for Croix.
A waitress from Metafalica. She loves Luca to an abnormal level.
Spica (1, 2)
A mysterious woman who aims to become the Queen of the Underworld. She went with Jakuri to the Second Tower.
Wills of the Planet (3)
Aside of the Antibody Brain Ar Ru, these were Finnel's alternate personae Yurishica, Soma and Suzunomia; and Saki's alternate personae Salapator and Filament. While they were part of the Wills of the Planet, there are many others too. Sakia Rumei isn't a Will of the Planet, and she is actually the original owner of Saki's body.
Chapter 1: Attack on the City Hall
A week had gone after the day the V-Board Grand Prix took place, or in other words, after Archia had slanted.
Airships came and went incessantly after that day, carrying off the remaining Archia citizens to either the Great Fang or the surface.
But a great number of people still remained in Archia.
In order to come up with a plan to solve this situation, Rikka spent this whole time in the Archia City Hall racking her brain. She received many news and reports during that time, but not even one of these brought her good news.
And in fact, the news she was receiving only worsened with the passing of time.
There was no one but her in the mayor's office.
She was reading a report she had on her hands, but halfway through it,
“What should I do about this!?”
She violently crushed the report between her hands and threw it to the floor. It tumbled and rolled down until it stopped next to a sofa that was reserved for guests.
Rikka had been using this sofa as her bed during this whole week.
She hadn't been able to get back home due to this situation and she had ended up staying in this place so she could deal with the many problems that were coming in her direction regardless of the time.
This was part of her duties, so it couldn't be helped, and she knew this wasn't a situation where she had the luxury of complaining to anyone. However, no matter how she tried to cope with the situation, there were still more reports informing of even more damages and problems coming her way, and this was making her stress approach the limit.
She was already at the point she wanted to resign and just run away on her own.
She had been constantly thinking this during all the time she was awake during this hellish week. However, she hadn't run away because she had a very reassuring ally.
The office's door opened.
“Oh, are you resting right now?”
The one who had just come in was Cloche.
Rikka instantly stood up,
“No, I was just taking a little breather and... Ah!”
Cloche had noticed the report Rikka had thrown away and picked it up.
She unfolded the crumpled piece of paper, and after looking over the information written on it,
“...I see. I understand how this would make you want to go and sulk in the bed for a good while”
Rikka dropped her shoulders upon knowing that Cloche had seen through her.
After seeing how she was, Cloche sat down on the sofa on the opposite side to Rikka and placed the report on the table she had in front of herself.
“The people who still remain in Archia are estimated to be around a fifth of its total population. And in total we only have five operational airships, so in total we can only carry off 300 people per flight... This is really headache-inducing, isn't it?”
A week ago, Archia was brimming with great numbers of people including foreigners, to the point that it had a population twice its normal numbers. And they had reduced these numbers by three fourths in just a week's time. However, that didn't meant they would be able to make the entirety of the people evacuate even if they had three more weeks to do so.
It was because a fourth of these people weren't going to be able to escape through airships: there were actually a large number of people that had left Archia thinking they could escape from Clusternia or that they thought they could walk down to the surface by climbing down the Tower. Besides, whenever they thought about the people who had died from this disaster, they were dissatisfied at the prospect that only part of them all would be able to escape using the airships once this week came to an end.
“The airship numbers are decreasing every day too. I'm sure we had eight of them a week ago”
“It's because they have kept flying for days on end without stopping. It is indeed a miracle we still have five functional ones”
“Yes... Oh, but aren't two of these non-functional ships anchored at the airport? In that case, maybe it'd be a good idea that we had some airship engineers repair them”
“What are you saying? Don't we have almost all the staff on guard duty to keep riots from starting? Reducing our number of personnel is impossible at this time; it would be far too dangerous”
“We don't even have any employees in the city hall capable of repairing ships, so we should seek the help of people that have these abilities”
“Though these people won't necessarily lend us their hands under a situation such as this one”
“Then we should tell them we will reward them by giving them the highest priority to escape in an airship as soon as they have finished repairing them”
“However, we would need them to hand us actual proof that they indeed possess these skills. After all, many liars that have no ability would respond to your summons only to have a chance to escape”
Rikka felt great admiration toward Cloche after the latter asked “What do you think about it?”
They didn't know when they would be able to escape from this predicament.
And the people should have known this very well too.
It was true that if she gave them the privilege to escape on an airship immediately after its repairs were complete, they would get their teeth into it.
Cloche then produced a Telemo,
“...I know you are exhausted, but this is no time to be absentminded. You must decide now if you will or will not carry out this plan, Mayor Rikka”
“Ah, yes! We'll do it! I will give the orders for it now!”
Rikka took the Telemo from Cloche's hands, immediately got in contact with the person in charge of the airport's security and started giving orders to them.
And while Rikka was still giving orders over the Telemo, Cloche's eyes moved over to the next piece of work they had to take care of.
She imagined there would be people whose word alone wouldn't be enough to believe them, so she wrote a draft for a contract.
Rikka saw this, and after seeing it was contract to make sure the people weren't lying and that she had given the orders to the security head, she hung up the Telemo.
“It is handwritten due to the circumstances we have upon us now, but if I put my signature alongside yours as a witness, it should be fine...”
Once Cloche finished drafting up the contract, she started rereading it to make sure there were no loopholes in it.
Rikka gave her a respectful gaze when she saw this.
“...What would I be doing if she wasn't here?”
That Cloche remained in Archia working as her advisor was more than Rikka could have ever imagined. And more than that, Rikka had been working following Cloche's orders almost to the letter from the time she requested her to stay at Archia.
After they escaped from the V-Board Grand Prix stadium, Rikka wanted to tell the soldiers they had seen in the way to the city hall to head to the stadium and start helping the wounded there, but Cloche told her to hold off on that and order them instead to secure the airport, as the entirety of the people in Archia would be trying to surge toward it. Rikka opposed the idea saying they couldn't just abandon the wounded, but Cloche told her this:
“My job here is just to be your advisor. To actually take the decisions is up to you”
After Cloche told her that, Rikka understood at once that it would be idiotic to continue trying to push her ideas like that.
Now she thought the situation with a cool head, she noticed that even if she sent these soldiers to the stadium, who were mere humans, they wouldn't be able to do anything. Even if it was possible they could contain the panic caused by the spectators running away, she came to understand that same panic would have far greater effects on the airport that on the stadium. Besides, the airport was essential for escaping from Archia, so if it was damaged to the point of becoming unusable due to the panic, it would be the end for everyone. So after she realized all this, Rikka followed Cloche's ideas and sent the soldiers to the airport.
Afterwards, she also continued providing accurate advice even after they reached the town hall, as she proposed deploying the soldiers that were standing by in the hall to the city's most important areas.
“Shouldn't we send half of the soldiers and medics to the airport and the other half to the stadium? And once the people working on the stadium have finished there, we could have them survey the entire city's state and make them come back to report everything to you”
“If we do that, we can learn in more detail how much damage the city suffered, right?”
Rikka also agreed with Cloche's plan here, and so she made her subordinates follow these instructions. So while ultimately it couldn't be said there were no injured people from the panic, at least they could keep their numbers comparatively low.
This was everything that Cloche had done after Rikka asked her to be her advisor.
Honestly speaking, Rikka had even thought that it would be better for Cloche to be giving the orders directly instead of her, but since Cloche had been only consistently giving advice, ultimately all the decisions were up to her.
It apparently was like Cloche said, “You are the leader here, so in the end you are the one who has the responsibility of shouldering these decisions and their consequences.”
So while Rikka couldn't be shrouded in absolute security thanks to Cloche's being there for her, it was thanks to her that she could carry out her duties while still enduring the constant nervousness she was suffering from.
As for Cloche, she didn't intend to be giving Rikka advice while they were in the presence of anybody else.
After all, Rikka was a leader, and as such charisma was an indispensable trait for her, but in all honestly, her charisma had dropped to the bottom by this point in time. However, Cloche thought that it was during such a time that she would have a chance to regain it, and thus she wanted to give Rikka a shot to such a chance.
Cloche finished copying the contract and placed it over the table.
“Well now, please place your signature here. Write it down quickly”
Rikka took out a pen and signed the contract after she finished taking a look at its contents.
“...I have to start coming up with good ideas and putting them in practice by myself too”
Rikka thought that she had no time to pity herself due to relying so much in Cloche, and sighed.
But at that time, Archia shook again slightly.
“Lady Cloche, hold onto something!”
They both clung to the sofa they were sitting on.
Thinking another slanting could happen, they had affixed all large objects like the sofas and desks by nailing them to the floor after the previous disaster happened.
The slight shaking continued for several seconds, but it finally receded.
“...Looks like it is over”
“...Yes. I was going crazy because I thought we were going to have another slant”
They both sighed relieved and leaned against the sofa's back.
Small tremors like this one had started happening very frequently after that day.
Actually speaking, these tremors hadn't caused any problems yet, but they were still enough to instill terror on the Archians, as they feared another slanting could happen at any moment.
“...Lady Cloche, have you thought any good ways to speed up the evacuation for my citizens? At this rate, everyone is going to die”
“I have tried coming up with several methods, but whenever I tried also thinking about the safety implications they would have...”
“Please tell me, what kind of methods are those?”
“...Very, but I personally think they are very foolish ideas. Archia sticks out from the Tower and therefore there are no obstacles underneath, correct? In that case, I was thinking a possible method would be to jump off the Tower using parachutes”
“T-That would actually be a good idea, and we can put it to use too! I'll give everybody the orders to do so now and...!”
Upon seeing how Rikka was grabbing the Telemo, Cloche grabbed her hand.
“Please let me finish first. It's true that it's not an impossibility, but do you know how far below the surface is from Archia? Taking the altitude in account, how many people do you think would be able to open their parachutes at the precise height and land upon the surface safely after jumping from here?”
The parachutes hadn't really spread throughout Ar Ciel until about the time the surface was regenerated. While the airships had them in reserve, if any problems occurred during their flight, 90% of the ships would just fall into the Sea of Death.
Now the surface had been regenerated, it had become possible to use the parachutes and descend to the surface if an airship had any incidents, but only a handful of people had experience in using them.
So it was obvious that if the people learned about this method, they would rush through to get parachutes to save themselves even if they had no skill using them. And given they didn't know how to use them; their probabilities of landing down there safely were very low if they dived into the sky. They would merely commit suicide by jumping off the Tower.
“...So parachutes won't work in this case. And which other methods did you think of?”
“There is a city called Firefly Alley located in Sol Ciel. Given that city is so large, its residents put on special mantles around themselves and use them to glide from elevated places whenever they need to go to a destination located very far apart from their current position, or so it seems”
“So it's more or less like what the flying squirrels do, right? But that method is...”
“It seems to require even more skill and experience than the parachutes, and there are no such mantles in Archia, correct?”
“...In other words, you're saying we actually have no other options than to make everyone evacuate through the airships, right?”
“I think so too... Have you come up with any other ideas?”
When Cloche asked this, Rikka initially agreed with her, but she instantly desisted from doing so.
Unlike Cloche, who had been thinking all sorts of methods, Rikka had been doing nothing but considering how disappointing how she herself was.
At this rate, she would actually end her tenure as an absolutely incompetent mayor.
“...But I should also be able to come up with some sort of ideas every now and then!”
“Ah, I know! How about taking half of the people gathered at the airport and sending them to Clusternia? I think they should be able to escape in an airship from there too...”
While she hadn't seen the situation Clusternia was in at the moment, she could see even now how the Clusternian airships were incessantly flying through the sky. She didn't know how many there were, but she was sure they should have enough to let the people from Archia use them too.
However, Cloche objected to that idea.
“It's true that Clusternia does not seem to have sustained any great damages like Archia did, but even so, I don't think they will have any vacant airships they will be able to lend us. And not only that: I hardly think that someone as Akane would be willing to accept refugees so easily. In fact, I have the certainty she has completely blockaded all the entrances to the city to reliably save the people that are under her care”
“In that case, let me talk directly to Akane! I'm the mayor, so if asked her for her cooperation, I'm sure...”
“If she said she would cooperate in such a way with you, it would mean she is incapable of being a leader. It is true that considering the feelings of the people from other regions is important, but she would never think of issuing orders that prioritize others over her own people. Besides, if she actually agreed to cooperate with you, I cannot think the Clusternians would just stay put while they saw that happen.”
She didn't say anything else, but the outcome of such an event was easy to imagine.
Given this was a situation in which the Tower would start collapsing at any moment, it was sure that a riot would happen between the Archia refugees and the Clusternia residents.
No, it would actually be more accurate to say that normal people with absolutely no power nor combat experience would be slaughtered without being able to do anything if they had Reyvateils as their opponents.
Most likely, something like that had already happened to the people that fled to Clusternia.
Rikka's face paled.
“But I hardly think that will happen. I'm sure Akane has already implemented the proper policies to keep such a tragedy from taking place... She is quite the excellent leader, after all”
“Y-Yes, you are right... Yes, I'm sure Akane has...”
She was sure of it because Akane was an excellent leader, unlike herself.
While that made her feel relived, at the same time this caused Rikka to start feeling inferior to Akane due to how far she surpassed her in leadership ability.
In comparison to Cloche, who herself had already admitted how great Akane's abilities were, Rikka herself was like a baby Cloche was carrying on her back.
“...I really might not have the abilities that are needed to be a mayor...”
She had these self-torturing thoughts so many times she had already stopped counting them. But whenever she noticed she was having them, Rikka reminded herself of the words that Cloche told her when they escaped from the stadium.
That she would be able to take the right decisions. That she should believe in herself.
“...Even if I have no charisma or ability for politics, at the least I have to do the right thing!”
Cloche had made her sign this contract for that precisely, and in order to cheer herself up, Rikka started trying to think of other possible solutions to this problem.
“Well, if we can't climb up to Clusternia, I was thinking we could instead go the opposite way and climb down the Tower... Ah, but yes, the Tower doesn't get down to the surface...”
“That is correct. And even if that were the case, it would be very dangerous to do so now the Tower has begun collapsing. Several parts of it could fall from above, so even if we were careful evacuating that way, the survival rates would be extremely low”
So there was no way to save the people that had left Archia to climb down the Tower unless they decided to head back.
“Our last ray of hope is the construction effort Tenba is carrying out, correct? And now I think about it, have they said anything on how longer it will take them to finish building the airships?”
“I tried checking it myself last night, and they told me that they'd have them ready in at least ten more days”
“Did you say ten days...?”
“I talked directly to the engineer in charge, Krusche, so maybe that means they can't work any faster than that. I also thought about asking you to send us airships from Metafalica, but... The size and numbers of airships that can fly all the way here are limited”
The airships that Cloche and the others used were special models that surpassed by far the flight distance and max speed that conventional airships could reach. That was why going and coming between the Towers in a matter of few days was a simple task to them.
However, that wasn't the case for normal airships. Airships originally weren't used to move between Towers and instead were built for the people to move across the region within which they resided in, that also being the same reason why their flight distance and speed were limited. If they tried using them to fly to the other Towers, they would have needed to land on the surface multiple times to replenish fuel and it would take them several days to get to their destination.
They had used this method for the evacuation that took place two years ago, but these small ships that couldn't carry beyond ten people took from ten days to two weeks to get all the way to Metafalica. And in the case of the larger airships, there were cases in which it took them even beyond a month to get there.
Another small tremor shook Archia.
They both clung to the sofa just like a moment ago and waited for it to pass.
It was slightly stronger than the previous one, but it passed without Archia slanting even a little.
“...We have had at least three of those in the last ten days. This is really worrying me”
Said Rikka as she wiped off some cold sweat from her forehead.
As for Cloche, she kept to herself that she felt the same thing as Rikka: that Archia's time was running out.
“In any case, we have business to take care of. We have no time to spare at the moment...”
And while Cloche was saying that, she was interrupted by the mayor's office door opening violently.
The person who was standing behind was one of the guards that were in standby in the city hall.
Rikka was thinking of shouting at that man for his discourtesy of entering without even knocking, but the man spoke first.
“Please run away! The rioting citizens have invaded the city hall--!”
But behind the guard, a man carrying an iron pole appeared. The main raised the pole and without any hesitation, he swung it downward upon the guard's head.
The guard fell forward and lied motionless on the floor after he was struck.
“Huh!? W-What!? Who are you!?”
While she was still shaken from what she just witnessed, Rikka turned to the man and screamed at him.
Immediately, the man noticed them both.
“Hey, they're here! Come!”
Led by his scream, several footsteps ran in their direction.
And so, many other people penetrated into the mayor's office after the man, all of which were carrying what seemed to be lethal weapons.
Rikka eyed the number of people and the weapons they had on their hands.
“...They're fourteen people altogether. And they all seem... to be carrying blunt weapons...”
They were carrying wooden and iron poles, knives and hammers, and there even was one who was carrying a shovel, all of which were lethal weapons that could be easily found.
It was actually a miracle things hadn't gone so bad until this precise moment.
After making sure she had the folding fan she used as her weapon, Rikka addressed these people.
“...What business do you have with me?”
She said in a calm voice.
Upon seeing how Rikka was talking without showing any fear for the weapons they were threatening them with, the mob trembled for a moment, but then,
“W-We've got nothing to do with you! Our business is with that Cloche woman over there!”
Upon hearing her name being spoken, Cloche felt irritated on the inside.
She already had a general idea of what these people wanted with her given the current circumstances.
“...Against opponents like them, I can't use my Song Magic. Such a predicament I got myself in...”
“Hey, are you listening!?”
The man screamed at Cloche, who was still sitting with her back to them in the sofa even though he had already called her out.
“Looks like I have no choice” thought Cloche as she rose from the sofa and turned to face the mob.
“...And what business do you have with me, if I may know?”
Cloche spoke in a flat tone like Rikka did a moment ago, demonstrating no fear.
“Where's the airship you came here in!?”
The man replied back in just the same way she was expecting.
“And what would make you think I have anything of that sort? I think it should be obvious just from looking at the airport, but there are no extra airships in there, correct?”
“Don't play dumb! You're the Metafalica supreme leader, and an important woman like you gotta have an airship somewhere in case you've gotta flee right away! Isn't that it!?”
It was just as those men said, Cloche indeed had an airship anchored somewhere else so she could get away in case an emergency happened. However, that airship was just a small model used for traveling back and forth between Archia and Clusternia, so it couldn't transport more than ten people.
“Of course I have one. But what about it?”
“L-Lady Cloche, are you okay with this!?”
Rikka was astonished she had admitted she had that airship,
“These people would not listen if I told them I don't have one. And even if I didn't actually have an airship, they would obstinately insist and press on until I admitted I had one”
“Stop ramblin' on and shut up! If ye've got one, tell us where ya got it!”
Said a man that was carrying a knife around.
“W-Wait just a moment! Do you even understand what you are trying to do!? You are trying to steal an airship reserved for Lady Cloche, the leader of Metafalica!”
“She might be that in Metafalica, but this is Archia! She's no more than some outsider girl here!”
“Yeah! And a woman like that is no leader of anything to us! If you got that, tell us where you've got that airship!”
“Quiet down this instant!”
Rikka raised her fan and pointed with it to the mob.
“Lady Cloche was the one who accepted us in Metafalica when we escaped from Sol Cluster two years ago... Have you already forgotten about it already!? Lady Cloche is our benefactor, so I won't stand it for you to be spouting such reckless remarks in her presence! And as the Archia mayor, I now order you to leave this place at once!”
“Tch, you're no more than a figurehead mayor. You're incompetent and only good at talking”
“What did you say!?”
“What you heard. Archia's gonna start collapsin' any time now, and while yer the mayor, yer no more than a mere woman with things bein' like this. Ya think we're gonna obey someone like that!?”
“...Are you serious?”
She understood they had become desperate because they wanted to continue living, but despite knowing that, Rikka was more shocked than angry upon hearing them say these absurd remarks.
“Talk time's over, so tell us where you got that airship, or we'll make you spit it out by force!”
“..They are coming!”
Rikka stepped in front of Cloche to cover her at the same time the mob moved.
One of the men carrying poles rose his weapon overhead and tried swinging it down, but before he could finish doing so, Rikka delivered him a flying kick.
Rikka didn't miss out on the other rioters that were closing on them behind that man. She charged against them.
She then swiftly struck one of the men that carried knives on the arm. While she didn't strike him with enough strength to break his bones, the intense pain made the man drop the knife and collapse in the floor.
She saw how the other rioters started trembling when they noticed how easily she had taken down two of their men, but Rikka still didn't stop.
She ran toward other of the knife-wielding men and threw her fan at him
Upon seeing it flying in his direction, he accurately deflected it with his knife, but immediately after that, he received quite the blow from getting kicked upwards in the chin with such strength that he rose from the floor briefly.
At the same time, a man near him that carried a wooden pole had been downed too.
Only one rioter remained, yet he still seemed to not have grasped what kind of situation he was in.
“...Incredible. But well, I should expect this given she is a former soldier”
Cloche thought in admiration upon seeing Rikka's movements.
Rikka had dashed at the same time she threw her fan. She then deflected a pole strike from the hands of the other man, who was in a straight line between herself and the knife-wielding man, knocking him out from a hit in the jaw. And by the time the knife-wielding man had repelled her fan; she had already closed the gap between them and instantly downed him from a rising kick on the chin.
Upon seeing how she had downed four men in the blink of an eye, the remaining rioters stepped back.
“Before I became this city's mayor, I used to be the number two of the Archia Think Tank. And before that, I also used to be the Clusternian Army's General. Have you forgotten that?”
Maybe it was because she had been doing nothing but office work in the five years that went by after she assumed the mayor's seat, so she wasn't as agile as before. However, she still easily surpassed normal people when it came to combat abilities.
While she felt uncomfortable from the sweat making her clothes stick to her back, Rikka simply breathed in until she calmed down, and picked up her fan to then point it again in the rioters' direction.
“This is my last warning: go away now”
Rikka didn't want to fight any further if she could: even if they were now rioters, they were still residents of the Archia City she ruled over. While inevitable, she didn't want to hurt them any more than she had already done.
“I will just act like nothing of this happened, so just leave at...”
She was going to finish the phrase with “once”, but a sound similar to an explosion cut her off.
“What was that sound? What could have happened now?”
Rikka surveyed quickly each of the remaining rioters with her eyes, but she stopped on a young man that was standing near the door. When she checked him previously, he seemed to be wielding a shovel, but in the end that was anything but what he was carrying on his hands.
“A rifle... Agh...”
An intense pain ran through her stomach out of nowhere, which made Rikka drop her fan.
She could imagine this was going to happen. But still Rikka tried grabbing the place where she was hurt. And right as she felt it starting to get wet, another burst of intense pain assaulted her. The left side of her stomach was covered in blood right where she was shot.
“...No... If I fall here, Lady Cloche is...!”
Rikka tried bending forward to pick up her fan, but she collapsed into the ground.
Cloche ran to her side from behind.
While Rikka wanted to tell her to escape, the pain wasn't allowing her to even do that.
“Rikka, are you okay!?”
Cloche was now at her side, and she turned Rikka's body so she lied on the floor face-up.
“Kgh…This is terrible!”
Rikka was applying pressure to the wound with a hand, but she was still bleeding profusely, and the blood was dripping through her body and started spilling on the floor.
“Wait there, I will heal you now”
“What ya think yer doin'!?”
Cloche was intending to heal Rikka, but the rioters were having none of that.
The man whose knife he had dropped from the kick Rikka dealt him had picked it up and approached Cloche.
“We don't care about that woman! Tell us where the airship is, or you wanna end up like her!?”
But when the man had taken a few steps in her direction, Cloche moved.
She drew the rapier she had at her hip and thrust it at the man's neck.
He dropped the knife again.
“Are all of you even in your right minds!? Have you even taken a second to think you are not the only ones who want to leave Archia as soon as possible!?”
She gave all the rioters around the same glare she had given at the man she just thrust her rapier at.
“I understand how much you wish to be saved. But going to the extremes of threatening and hurting others, and in the end even trying to hijack an airship just so only such a small group like yourselves can escape... Do you know no shame!?”
“We don't care about shame or any stuff like that! Being disgraced it's better than dying!”
And using the fact Cloche had thrust her rapier at the knife-wielding man as an excuse, the man that was carrying a hammer approached Rikka.
He looked at Rikka wound and stepped on it, putting his body's whole weight into his foot.
Rikka's body sprang up in reaction to the great pain.
She pointed her rapier to the man who was stepping on Rikka's wound, but the man still didn't remove his foot from her.
“Y-You... How could you do that!? What kinda leader points a sword to ordinary people!?”
Since the rapier had been removed from his neck, the knife-wielding man put his weapon over the back of Cloche's neck.
“Yer job as a leader is to think about the people, so just spit out where ya got that airship!”
He then began pressing the knife's blade against Cloche's neck. If either of them moved even a little, she would get her neck cut off.
“...So are you doing it?”
Said Cloche while still being fully conscious that she had a knife against her neck.
“You can just kill me then... It is true that we work for the sake of the people. Therefore, I will never yield to the demands of petty criminals like yourself”
“D-damn you, bitch! You’re calling us criminals!? Don't joke around!”
“Hey, cut it off! Don't kill her!”
Said the man stepping on Rikka in an attempt to stop the knife-wielding one from slitting Cloche's neck.
“She's gotta tell where she's got that airship! And we can also hold 'em hostages if things get hairy!”
“B-But she's not gonna tell us anything about the airship, you know!? She even said she wanted to get killed!”
“So? Let's give some pain to this one instead!”
He then stepped even harder into Rikka's wound.
“Agh! Aaagh! Noooo!”
The pain was so intense she wanted to writhe on the floor. But under the pressure of the man's feet, Rikka could do nothing aside of suffering as if she was agonizing.
“Stop! You are going to kill her if you continue doing that!”
Cloche screamed even while still having the knife's blade right at her neck. Rikka's blood was gushing from the pressure the man was putting on her and had already started forming puddles in the floor. Any further blood loss would endanger her life.
“If you wanna help 'er, tell us where ye've got the airship! Ya really wanna kill 'er!?”
“...It seems this is as far as we go...”
Rikka's life was at risk now and there was no other way to save her aside of unveiling the whereabouts of her airship.
No, it was very likely they would kill them both to silence them once she told them the airship's location.
But even so, she couldn't just leave Rikka to die like this.
“We'll leave her alone if you tell us where you have the airship. Spit it out now!”
“...My airship is...”
She began. But at that moment, the collapsed Rikka grabbed one of Cloche's hands.
“N...No! If you told them... You mustn't tell them that!”
Rikka managed to squeeze out these words while enduring the pain.
“Don't speak outta line!”
The foot that was stepping on her began boring deeper into her wound. However, Rikka bit her lips as strongly as she could to endure the pain as she shook her head in Cloche's direction. She was telling her “Don't tell them anything!”
“Shit, how could a useless decorative mayor be so stubborn? Hey, you know you two are dead meat if you don't say anything, yeah!?”
Cloche pulled the rapier she had in her hands away from the man that was stepping on Rikka.
“...I have changed my mind. I shall not tell you anything”
Rikka nodded greatly nodded in approval upon hearing Cloche's words.
“I cannot allow people like yourselves to escape before anyone else, either as the ruler that governs a country or as a normal person!”
Given how decisively Cloche said this, the rioters were at a loss for words.
Even if they threatened to kill her, even if they hurt one of them, they obstinately refused to tell them the airship's location. At this point they didn't even know what they could do to get them to speak.
“What're we gonna do? It doesn't look like these two are gonna tell us anything”
“I know that! Damn it, looks like we're gonna have to search for it ourselves”
“But these two could run away in the airship while we're searching for it”
“What ya think 'bout makin' those worries go away?”
The man that wielded the hammer stood in front of Cloche and Rikka.
“If ya took us where you hid that airship, we weren't gonna kill ya... But we've lost lotsa time on this already”
And as if it were to not bother them, the hammer wielder stepped away from Rikka
Cloche immediately embraced the collapsed Rikka.
“....We are in quite the desperate situation. What should we do?”
Rikka showed her a smile lacking any sort of strength in response.
“We can't do anything... My stomach... H-Hurts so much...”
While Rikka had somehow managed to grab her fan when she collapsed and now she had it in her hand, she couldn't move anymore.
They both then saw the hammer man raise his weapon and they both closed their eyes as they gulped down.
However, the hammer's strike never got down to them.
Instead, they heard a gunshot echoing through the room as they kept their eyes closed.
It was heard once, but neither of them felt any pain from it.
So in other words,
Both called each other at the same time and opened their eyes.
The man that was supposed to be raising his hammer to strike them fell to the floor with a very heavy sound right before them, and his shoulder began getting wet and red.
“Hmph, you're a softie like always. How many years have passed from back then? I thought you'd have grown at least a little by now!”
A threatening man's voice echoed across the mayor's office.
When she heard it, Cloche couldn't believe her ears.
“That voice... It cannot be... What are you doing in this place!?”
As the rioters were like a wall in front of them, she couldn't see the voice's owner, but there was no way she would confuse him with anybody else, as she had heard that voice since she was a very young girl. That was the very man that completely drove into her that she should be a Maiden supported by her people and about all sorts of education.
Some rough and heavy footsteps approached in their direction.
The rioters moved everywhere, as if they were trying to escape from their sound.
In the end, only the man that was downed from the shot remained. Even he stood before Rikka and Cloche's eyes and tried to hide himself from the man that had just entered the room.
The footsteps stopped. On the other side of the wall made up from men, they saw a swaying long coat and a large caliber gun grabbed by a hand.
As it was to be expected, Cloche recognized both the coat's design and the gun the man was gripping.
The man moved the arm in which he had the gun
However, that wasn't for shooting at anyone. He instead used the grip he had on his gun to strike on the head the man that was in front of Rikka and Cloche so hard that he sent him flying.
The rioter that got struck flew for a few moments without even emitting single grunt until he fell on the floor and lied there motionlessly.
“Hey, Cloche. Are you going to say you've forgotten who I am or what?”
Cloche raised her head to meet the voice that had called out to her. When she did, she confirmed it was the face she was expecting to see.
Alfman Uranous. The same man who had been the most powerful person in the Grand Bell prior to Metafalica's creation and the same one who went missing after Metafalica was created.
However, it was unexpectedly Rikka who screamed his name.
“Huh!? Rikka, are you acquainted with Alfman!?”
“Sky hunter Alfman... Of the hunters that attack the pirates in the areas around Sol Cluster and steal their money, goods and weapons, you're the worst of them all. Why did someone like you...!?”
Rikka tried to stand up without even thinking about what she was doing, but even trying to put strength into her movements caused great pain to run through her wound.
“Wait a second, Rikka. I will give you treatment now”
Cloche put her hands over Rikka's wound and started singing a Song.
It was a healing Song Magic.
“...This is... Lady Cloche's Song...”
A Song sung by Cloche, who had crafted the Metafalica Continent.
She didn't think she would be getting to listen to one of her Songs in such a situation. And that wasn't all; she was even singing it to heal her wounds. As this was the first time Rikka heard Cloche singing, she got so entranced by her Song that she even forgot about her wounds.
“...How does it feel now? I think the wound should have faded away by now, but I would like to make sure about it”
Maybe it was because she was still feeling some residual pity about the Song having ended, but hearing these words brought Rikka back to her senses. The pain she had been feeling until a moment ago had completely disappeared now from her body.
“I-I have gotten healed already...”
“Hmph, that woman's the same one who created a continent already. Healing a person's wounds like that is like child's play compared to it”
Replied Alfman for some reason.
“It was all thanks to the wound being quite small... However, what is the meaning of you being a sky pirate? Have you been doing this ever since you disappeared?”
“Tch, a sky pirate? Don't make me laugh. I'm not after the money and weapons these bastard pirates carry, so I'm a hero. I'm actually what you'd call chivalrous thief!”
And upon saying this, Alfman took out a pirate hat from under his coat and put it on his head. It went perfectly with his evil guy face, so no one had any complaints about it. The most striking point in the hat was that its skull mark had a lollipop on its mouth.
“...While I should ask if you have been well or be enraged at how little importance you give to your well-being, I honestly was worried about you”
“U-Um, Lady Cloche? Do you know this man?”
Rikka asked upon seeing how familiarly they were talking to each other.
Cloche nodded. While it was hard to speak after she had seen Alfman as he was now, she still said,
“...He is the man that had the highest political position and authority in the Grand Bell before me. Incidentally, and while I don't want to accept it... He was my mentor as well, as he taught me every single matter related to politics”
Upon learning the truth that this man had been the former Grand Bell leader and was now a sky pirate, both Rikka and the rioters couldn't hide their surprise.
What could have made this man, who served as the supreme authority in the Grand Bell and Cloche's mentor, leave his path in such a drastic way?
“...To think that the man who had ignited the desire for revenge in all the sky pirates flying around Sol Cluster's airspace was the former Grand Bell leader”
Upon listening to Rikka mutter that, Cloche realized for the first time it was due to Alfman that Sol Cluster's situation was such a mess now.
“B-But why have you come to this place?”
“Isn't it obvious? I'm here to drag you back to Metafalica in one piece”
And saying this, Alfman took Cloche's hand and pulled her up.
“P-Please wait just a second! I just cannot do that right now”
Upon being back on her feet, Cloche started pulling her hand away from Alfman and resisting him.
“There are still a large number of people who cannot evacuate, so I cannot allow myself to run away and leave them behind!”
“Hmph, the thousands or ten thousands of people here have nothing to do with you”
“Of course they do! My help was requested to find a solution to this whole situation!”
“I see, so you've been wasting your time in idiotic stuff again! There's no worth in saving the Archia people or anyone around here!”
He began pulling her arm more strongly. Cloche resisted with all her strength and broke off his hold.
Seeing how Cloche was glaring at him, Alfman also faced her with a stern look.
“You really have not changed at all. You have always had the sort of personality that would abandon the people as if they were nothing, and that makes me feel sick”
“Stop spouting idiocies. I've always thought first of the people, and I'm still doing so. None of my actions have ever been mistaken”
“Allow me to put that into question. After all, you were the same man that said that if a hundred people were going to starve, you would choose to save ten of them and then increase their numbers to a hundred, and that would bring peace about”
“I have to commend you for that. You've got a pretty good memory. And if you know that much, then shut up and listen!”
Alfman once again grabbed Cloche's arm.
But in response to that, Cloche slapped him.
But despite being slapped, Alfman didn't get agitated nor did he release his grip on Cloche's arm.
“...Don't you know your own position anymore?”
Unlike the previous times, Alfman addressed Cloche with a low but very serious voice.
“You are the leader of Metafalica and the person with the highest authority in the Grand Bell: Cloche Latel Pastalie. Have you forgotten that ever since you came here?”
“Even you are telling me that...?”
Cloche then realized it.
This place wasn't Metafalica, but Sol Cluster. This wasn't the land she ruled over and thus the inhabitants of this region weren't the people she was supposed to protect.
Cloche was the ruler of Metafalica, and thus the only people she should be looking after were the residents of Metafalica. After all, she created Metafalica and continued working even now to create a peaceful world for them to live in. And given how much her people respected and expected from her, she had gained their trust as their leader.
“So you've opened your eyes? Imagine for a second you died here. Doing that wouldn't be an utter betrayal of the expectations that everyone living in Metafalica placed on you?”
“T-That... You might have a point there...”
“Besides, I wouldn't stand it if the woman that became my successor ended up killed by some imbecilic rioters in some faraway Tower”
The terror sky pirate Alfman inspired was quite infamous among the Archians, and that was the reason none of the rioters had even moved ever since he appeared in the office.
“You're the only person I've recognized as capable enough of continuing my labors in Metafalica. And I don't care if you don't want it, as I'm gonna get you back to Metafalica even if I've gotta drag you away screaming and kicking!”
He again pulled Cloche so strongly, but this time she couldn't resist him due to the pain he caused her.
“Ah, wait just a moment! Let Lady Cloche go!”
As Rikka's wounds had just been healed, she staggered as she stood up due to how much blood she had lost.
But she still put a feet behind to support herself better and managed to grasp Cloche's free hand.
“Everything you have said is correct. However, you are sky pirate Alfman. I can't allow a person like you to take Lady Cloche away”
Alfman just looked at Rikka and said,
“Hmph, someone like you who can't even get her own people under control has no right to criticize me! If you're gonna spout grand-sounding garbage, then go and do something about these guys first!”
Alfman pointed to the office's door with his chin.
There was one of the rioters: the man who had shot Rikka, pointing his rifle to Alfman.
“Heh, heheh... And you know nothing, huh? You're sky pirate Alfman, so of course you've gotta have an airship too!”
Upon hearing this Alfman, started laughing out very loudly.
“If you want my airship, that's anchored in the lower areas of this city hall, as they've got a place there reserved for VIP airships! And Cloche's airship is sure to be there too!”
“A-Are you in your right mind!? Why would you tell them that...!?”
Rikka raised her voice, shocked about how he had revealed the airship's location as if it was nothing. She and Cloche had been threatened so much, and she even had gotten shot and stepped upon her wounds all because they had refused so stoutly to tell that information to the rioters, so she was extremely angry at how Alfman had done that.
Upon learning the airship was located below the city hall; a satisfied expression appeared on the rioters' faces.
“So it's below here...”
“Hmph, satisfied now you know where it is? So stop being an annoyance and leave us alone now”
A smile appeared on the face of the man that had the rifle.
“Now we know where the airship is, we don't need you anymore. Die now!”
Of course it was going to end like this. They had raided the city hall, gravely injured Rikka, who worked as their mayor, and even pointed their weapons to Cloche. If they were left alive and they managed to escape safely from this place, someday they would get them arrested and tried for their crimes.
But right as the man was placing his finger over the rifle's trigger, two shots were heard throughout the city hall.
They didn't come from the rifle the man had, but from the gun that Alfman was carrying.
He shot at the rifle-wielding man's legs and arms, and made him fall down to the floor.
“Don't try to play smart with me!”
“Crap, everyone go and get that guy!”
The nine remaining rioters tried rushing Alfman at the same time. They thought he wouldn’t be able to match them all with just a single gun.
Alfman let go of Cloche's hand and at the same time, he also dropped the gun he was carrying in the other hand. He flipped over his coat with his now empty hands and took something from under it,
“A machine gun!?”
Cloche still vividly remembered how Alfman had scattered a large group of Divine Army robots using that same machine gun.
“...Impossible. Does he intend to kill them!?”
But when she was thinking “...I ought to stop him!” Alfman had already started firing.
All the bullets that were fired from the full-auto he was slightly leaning downwards hit the attacking rioters right on their feet.
All of the nine rioters collapsed into the floor instantly. None of them could continue wielding their weapons, and instead they were grabbing their legs and feet as they cried and screamed.
Alfman just looked at them with disdain and said,
“That's why I told you to stop being annoyances”
He said over the shoulder in a bored voice as he returned the machine gun to its place under his coat.
Cloche and Rikka looked at the events that had transpired that day with detached eyes, unable to believe them.
They had almost been killed by rioters, and Rikka had bled out and suffered quite a bit in her office's floor. And now Alfman had taken care of them all, he took out a lollipop from his coat's pockets and stuck it into his mouth, as if he were enjoying a smoke break after a long day of work.
Rikka thrust her fan in Alfman's direction.
“Is that how you thank the man who just saved your life?”
“That might be the case... But if you had a weapon like that, why didn't you get it out from the beginning? If you had, these men most likely wouldn't have tried to kill us”
The reason why they had become rioters and raided the hall was because their lives were too valuable. So if Alfman had gotten out not a simple gun, but the machine gun from the beginning, he would have made them run away, or they would have been unable to keep Cloche and the others from escaping.
“I'm far too self-conscious to show my hand to the enemy from the start”
“Don't make me laugh...”
“That's what I should be saying! I don't care if you get killed, but wasn't I who had to save your guest, the Metafalica VIP from the rioters!? And think a bit about what'd happen if Cloche died here. Even if it wasn't because of these guys, if she had died after she was called to Archia, the guys at Metafalica wouldn't just shut up and accept it. Don't you think so?”
What Alfman was saying was right.
It was the truth that Rikka forced Cloche to come all the way to Archia after she had arrived at Clusternia. So, what would happen if Cloche had died while she was in Archia? As she was the Maiden who crafted the Metafalica continent and the leader who garnered an absolute trust from the Metafalica residents, it was very likely that if Cloche died there, they would retaliate not only against Archia, but the entirety of Sol Cluster's inhabitants. And even if all the Metafalica residents didn't take action against them, it was a sure thing this would provoke a chaos even greater than the one caused by the Tower's disappearance, and it would be one they wouldn't be able to deal with.
Rikka thought this and realized that at the same time Alfman had saved Cloche's life, he had also protected the lives of the Sol Cluster residents.
The problem though, was that Rikka was completely unable to protect Cloche from the rioters.
“Well, that's only the official side of things, but I don't think she'd like getting killed by guys as stupid as these in any case”
Rikka couldn't reply back anything after she heard how Alfman said that to then laugh in a low voice.
The voices of the suffering and collapsed rioters had quieted down from a while ago. Maybe it was because they had already gotten used to the pain, or maybe it was because their lives were now in danger. Regardless, she had to do something or they would end up dead.
Rikka was a Reyvateil too, so she started using healing Song Magic.
“...But what if they attack us again once they have been healed?”
Given everything they had done, they would have to be tried not under Archia's laws, but also under Metafalica's. And no matter how much she tried to convince herself otherwise, their crimes were serious enough for them to be given the death penalty.
They surely must have been aware of this. Even if they managed to escape the Tower, only death awaited them, and once they started acting, they let despair overtake them, which was what provoked the raid. And given how dangerous they turned out to be, she wasn't able to simply heal them. After all, she thought that she had to prioritize Cloche's safety over their wounds.
However, before she had decided what she was going to do, Rikka's ears were filled once again with Cloche's Song.
While it was different from the one she had sung previously, Rikka still felt that Cloche's song was lifting a weight away from her body.
“It's healing magic...”
And unlike Cloche's previous Song, this one was healing everyone in the office.
The rioters that were still agonizing from the pain also realized this and turned to look at their feet and legs. The wounds they received from the machine gun's shots went cold, and at the same time the pain went away. This also happened on the ones that were unconscious, as while they didn't wake up; their wounds and pain had vanished.
Once Cloche finished singing, she let out a small sigh.
“...As expected, healing such a large number of people at the same time is quite the exhausting task...”
“A-Are you sure about this, Lady Cloche? These people tried to kill you... And it's likely they'll attack us again...”
“Alfman is with us now, so we should be fine even if they attacked us. Besides, regardless of how terrible their actions might have been, I just cannot let them die like that”
“Lady Cloche... thank you very much”
Rikka couldn't do anything but express her thanks to Cloche for having saved her own citizens.
“Are you satisfied now? Then let's get going”
While Alfman was urging her to leave, Cloche couldn't obey him.
“The argument you have stated is indeed flawless. It is true that Archia isn't the place I rule over, and that I am an indispensable person to Metafalica. But even so, you know perfectly well that I lack the disposition to just abandon those who asked for my help, correct?”
“But you know you gotta get back too, right? Like I said a while ago, the guys at Metafalica wouldn't just stay put if you died. And that's not all: if you died, all the powers and authority over the Grand Bell would be transferred to Luca. Do you think she's got the political skill needed for that? And it hasn't been even ten years since everyone moved to Metafalica. There’re still a lot of troubles, so you think she'd be able to handle them all on her own?”
“I have no need to be reminded of such matters by you!”
Luca enjoyed as much support from the populace as Cloche did, so even if it came to pass that Luca ended receiving all the powers Cloche wielded, there would be no one against it. However, Luca's ability as a stateswoman was near inexistent.
They had as their direct subordinate a man called Targana, who also happened to be the grandson of the last Pope, and while it could be possible that he would lend his help to Luca, this would give to Targana the de-facto rule over Metafalica and it would reduce Luca's position to being a mere figurehead Maiden. Such changes were something the residents of Metafalica would never accept.
She had no way to refute Alfman's claims. As far as Archia's current condition was concerned, Cloche would have no problems improving it from whenever she was, but choosing to stay there no matter what was something she was doing out of her own selfishness.
Putting on a troubled face, Rikka saw how Cloche wasn't nodding nor showing any sort of affirmative response to what Alfman said.
“...She isn't the sort of person that should die in a place like this”
And Cloche wasn't the only one like this.
Now the rioters had calmed down, there were some among them that had even fallen to despair and broke down in tears when they realized there were no other ways for them to save themselves.
They were just powerless normal folk. They had lived upstanding lives, and they had become rioters only because of how the situation was now in Archia. They had spent countless days by now dreading their imminent deaths, and they started acting because they had finally reached their breaking point. It was natural no one among them wanted to die.
“...If I were Lady Cloche, what would I think?”
It was useless for Rikka to ask this herself. There was no way for a third rate politician, as she was generally regarded, to understand Cloche's thought processes.
But given that, there was something she could still do,
“Please go, Lady Cloche. I'll protect the people of Archia”
“Even you are saying that now, Rikka!? It is true that Archia is not a city under my administration, but I just cannot run away and abandon everyone here”
“You are not running away. There are still some things I wish you to do for me, Lady Cloche”
She couldn't infer what Rikka was going to say, so Cloche waited for her to continue talking.
“I know it's pretty sudden for me to ask this of you, but please accept our refugees in Metafalica just as you did two years ago”
“I don't mind doing so; I planned on that all along...”
But Cloche was far more worried about how they would manage to evacuate the remainder of the people than about accepting the refugees.
At this rate, she could only see the majority of the people that still remained in Archia at the moment dying.
“And there is one more request. Please leave these people who attacked us in my hands. I'll consider their crimes and give them penalties appropriate to how severe they were”
Now the discussion was directed to them, the rioters' faces went pale.
There was no need to ask to know they were bound for capital punishment. No matter if they were judged there or after they were evacuated, the final result would still be the same.
Cloche didn't show any dissatisfaction with what Rikka was proposing either, but,
“That is quite an important topic to address, but are you sure you should be dealing with it at the moment?”
“No, it's just related to this conversation. And it's true that as things stand now, they won't be getting anything lower than the capital punishment. However, I may just exonerate that punishment under the condition that they work under me”
“Exoneration? A-Are you planning to just forgive them!?”
“I said exoneration, but I didn't mean with it that I'd be giving them full pardon for their crimes. However, I can still comprehend how the current situation made them lose their minds and act in this way”
So their crimes would be exonerated to a certain point? But Rikka just evaded the longing gazes they were giving her and turned around to face Cloche.
“Therefore, under the condition that they atone properly for the things they did, I can promise that regardless of what punishment they receive, they will be spared from the capital penalty”
And upon seeing how Rikka lowered her head to Cloche, the rioters imitated her.
“If you are going so far to tell me this, it means you have come with a plan in which you have quite a bit of confidence. Would you mind explaining it to me?”
“Okay. When we evacuated to Metafalica two years ago, I started learning a lot about its history. “How did Lady Cloche and her friends craft Metafalica?” I was very curious about it, and thus I started filling my head with everything that was written in the history books”
The Song Magic Metafalica had originally been created 400 years ago by the Maiden of Mio Infel and the Maiden of Homura Nenesha. The history books began with their story and continued on until they reached the point in which they told in detail everything that Cloche and her friends had done in recent years, but despite being called history books, the tone in which they were written would have been more fitting for an adventure novel. And during her stay at Metafalica, Rikka always went into a daze whenever she read these historical adventure novels and imagined the events they recounted.
“You purged the Rim to create the Tower to the Heavens back then, right, Lady Cloche?”
Before the Metafalica continent was created, most of its population resided in an artificial floating land called the Rim.
Rikka was talking about how they dropped part of that land to the surface, as they needed the Symphonic Power used in its maintenance.
Cloche herself also remembered that time pretty well.
“Impossible... Are you telling me you are planning to drop Archia with your own hands!?”
“Yes, that's right. The only parts of Archia that are needed at the moment are the airport and the districts around it, so we'll set up some bombs in the sectors that are located the farthest from the airport and forcefully detach them to let them fall down. If we drop around half of the city, I think that should lighten the load on the Tower and buy us enough time for Tenba to complete the airships' construction”
“That is actually a good idea” thought Cloche.
Archia had been slanting because the Tower of Origin couldn't support the city's weight, so if they reduced it to a more tolerable point, Archia should remain in a safe state.
However, there was only one uncertain element to this plan.
“But if you read that book carefully, you must have known I received quite a vocal opposition from the people when I announced the Rim would be purged, correct? Do you have any basis to say that will not happen here too?”
“I wouldn't worry about it... Everyone who's still in Archia is already frantically trying to abandon the city and run away. No one cares anymore about what will happen to this place. And even if we left it alone, I don't think it's going to last more than a few more days”
“Rikka... Are you okay with this?”
“...I'm the mayor of this city, so it feels pretty sad to know there is no one who loved Archia like their own lives, like the people who lived in the Rim's Mint Block. But if this will give us a possibility of saving everybody, I think we should give it priority over everything else... Or are my decisions mistaken, Lady Cloche...?”
Rikka was the mayor for Archia, so the very idea of letting the city drop pained her more than anyone else. And now she herself was saying they should drop it, Cloche had no objections to her plans.
“I think you have taken the correct decision. I wholeheartedly agree with you”
Rikka felt very relieved upon hearing how Cloche agreed with her. While this was a method she thought up on her own, she also was very conscious of how forceful and dangerous it would be. So it was expected she was scared of telling Cloche this, as Rikka thought she would get angry and glare at her with a very threatening face.
Rikka turned to look at the rioters.
“I think I'll have these men help out the Archia soldiers. We have deployed most of our army at the airport, so their task will be to go and make sure every single soldier and refugee has managed to get out from the city. And they'll continue working until the very last man, woman and child are in a safe place”
“Until the last one!? But that means we're gonna be the last ones to get outta Archia!”
“Don't you think these are special conditions for you? If you don't like that, I could confine you in the dungeons and let them fall alongside the rest of Archia when the time comes”
Maybe it was because of Rikka's threat, but they remembered that was pretty much what they deserved after everything they had done.
Anyway, no one else voiced any complaints aside of this one.
After all, they had raided the city hall because they didn't want to die and were even planning to kill Rikka and Cloche. And given these conditions would allow them to even escape capital punishment, they were unable to reject them.
“Gotcha. We'll accept these conditions”
“And since you accepted them, I hope you know that I'm expecting you all to work seriously. If you start slacking off, I'll instantly throw you into the dungeon, no questions asked, so make sure to put your heart into it”
They all guessed this was going to be the case. After all, they couldn't complain about the position they had now, regardless of the fact that Rikka could easily get rid of them if they didn't work as hard as they were expected to.
No one showed any dissatisfaction, and upon seeing how they had agreed to Rikka's conditions, Cloche said,
“It seems it would be better for me to go back to Metafalica now, just like you said”
So she finally had agreed to leave Archia. She decided that as long as Rikka could carry out the plans she had, she would be doing a better job going back to Metafalica and preparing to receive the refugees than stubbornly staying at Archia.
She had some uneasiness about if Rikka would be okay, but that uneasiness was completely dispelled a moment ago.
“I'm sorry, Lady Cloche. I was the one that asked you to stay here as my advisor, but now I'm sending you away...”
“Don't worry about it... And more importantly, could I help you in any way during the time I served as your advisor?”
“In any way? I was pretty much relying in you all this time, Lady Cloche! But from now on, I will protect my people on my own. I am their mayor, so I will show you I can protect them all to the very end. So please, leave the rest to me”
But she had just realized that the words she said sounded as if she was preparing herself to die.
“...That came out as very foreboding...”
She herself thought this, so there was plenty reasons to think the others had these same thoughts upon hearing these words. However, she had the feeling it would be very pathetic if she tried correcting herself now, so she had no other option but to gulp down the fuzzy sadness this was causing her.
Cloche noticed this, and told her,
“I will wait for you in Metafalica”
And upon saying this, she extended her right hand to Rikka.
“If you say so, Lady Cloche, I have to go there then!”
A slightly worried smile appeared on Rikka's face and she took Cloche's hand.
“...It stills feels as if I was following her”
So while at the very end she thought she ended looking very pathetic, at the least that allowed her to blow away these sad feelings. Now things had come to this, she would do everything in her hands to escape this place together with every single one of the Archia residents and get to Metafalica.
“Please, do your best.... Alfman, escort me back to Metafalica!”
Now he was called by name, Alfman purposely clicked his tongue as loudly as possible so everyone would hear him,
“Why are you being so cheeky now!? Who died and made you capable of spewing orders to me!?”
“Wouldn't that be you, in a way of speaking? I have gained authority over you since you stepped down from the Grand Bell's highest position. Besides, did you not come here to bring me back to Metafalica? If that is the case, it should be a question of logic that you escort me back home”
“...I see you've got pretty good at using your mouth too”
It seemed they both were happy to have reencountered each other after so long, and they left the room as they continued talking. Rikka saw them both off until the sounds of their footsteps had gone away.
“...Well then, the true work is just beginning”
“Everybody, before we start working, take your unconscious companions, shake them awake and explain them the current situation. Make sure they understand that they will be thrown into the dungeons right away if they refuse to cooperate. As for the soldiers, leave them alone, as I'll wake them up myself. Also, there is a favor I want to ask to someone reliable”
“T-Then, I'll do it!”
It was the man who had shot Rikka. She still felt a burning and repeating sensation in her stomach, but she endured it to not let the discomfort show in her face.
“...I'm not good enough for that, Ms. Mayor?”
“That isn't the case. Well everyone, run off and bring here as many soldiers as you can. We must explain them the plan for planting the bombs around Archia!”
And upon saying that, the man ran away from the room without even replying back. All the other rioters also started waking up their companions around Rikka and explaining them the current situation. It seemed that her conditions for sparing them the capital punishment had turned out to be quite effective.
She sat on the sofa to breathe in, and closed her eyes.
“...In any case, I'll rest for a short while, until the guards come. After that I'll explain them the bomb plan and I think we'll begin by planting them around the V-Board Race Stadium...”
And until the soldiers she called for had finally arrived, Rikka continued thinking about how they would deal with this situation from now on.
Chapter 2: Rematch
When Aoto woke up, what he saw first was Misha's worried face staring at him.
“I'm so glad... You've finally come to...”
“What? I came to...?”
Aoto then noticed he was lying on the ground.
“Huh? What I'm doing in a place like this...?”
“Please be quiet. Try to lower your voice's volume”
He raised his neck in the direction the voice he heard above him came from, and saw Lakra sitting there. She put a finger in front of her mouth, making Aoto understand they should be quiet and move carefully.
Aoto didn't understand why she was acting like this, but he silently got up and surveyed his surroundings. They seemed to be in a narrow alley located between two large buildings.
“...Are your wounds better now?”
“Don't you remember? You were attacked by that priestess-clothed girl and left unconscious for all this time. Your face also was left in an atrocious state, but it has already returned to its normal shape thanks to Misha's Song Magic...”
Aoto started remembering what happened before he lost consciousness as he listened to Lakra's explanation.
He had swung down his sword upon a sleeping girl that was sitting in front of the dome. However, she stopped his swing and struck him on the head... That was the point where his memories cut off.
He touched his face very flustered, but he didn't feel any pain: his bones and teeth were all unharmed. However, he got a bit of dried blood stuck to his finger when he touched his mouth.
He was fine now, but when he lost consciousness he was very hurt. And if Lakra's story was true, he was left in a very grave state.
“...Where're Lyner and Croix?”
“I'll go call them”
Misha swung her hand to Lyner and Croix, who were keeping watch at the alley's entrance.
After taking one last look at the alley's outside, they walked to the others as silently as they could.
“Are you okay, Aoto?”
Upon seeing how worried Lyner was when he asked this question, Aoto slapped himself.
“Looks like I've recovered somehow, just like you can see... I'm sorry for charging ahead like that”
“You don't have to apologize, so don't worry so much about it”
Lyner then turned to Croix.
“If you're okay, that's good enough. But now you get how strong she is, right?”
“Yeah... I got she's stupid strong, even though she looked like a normal girl”
“...You wouldn't be saying that if you saw her now”
“If I saw her now? What the hell happened while I was...?”
“Quiet! She's coming!”
Everyone held their breath when they heard Misha's warning.
While Aoto hadn't fully grasped the situation yet, he decided this wasn't the time to be asking questions when he saw Lyner and the others and looked in the same direction they were.
They heard footsteps approaching from beyond the alley's entrance.
The priestess girl from before had appeared in front of the alley. However, there were eight cylindrical boosters coming out from her back.
The girl didn't turn to look inside the alley and thus went by without finding them.
Her footsteps could be heard farther and farther away from them, and when they couldn't hear them anymore, someone took a very deep breath in.
As in cue, the four others did the same.
“...You see she doesn't look normal anymore, right?”
Aoto nodded in response to Croix's question.
“...Is she looking for us?”
“Yeah, she's been coming around this area quite a few times since you got knocked out. We were thinking it was about time to hide somewhere else, so it's great you woke up already”
“But what are we going to do now, Lyner? We won't get anything done if we just keep hiding all the time”
“I know that, Misha... So I've been trying to think up a battle strategy with Croix”
“What kinda strategy you've got in mind? Tell me!”
Aoto was very enthusiastic about paying back to the girl for having almost killed him, but Lyner put on a displeased face and hesitated to talk. Croix had been his partner in making up the strategy, so he shared his expression.
But when Aoto began thinking they weren't still sure about it, Croix slowly began opening his mouth.
“There's no way we'll ever beat her if we attack her head-on, so we'll take advantage of this city's complicated layout to weaken her”
“Weaken her? How so?”
“In short, we'll launch a single attack while we're hidden in an alley like we're doing now. Once we do, we'll retreat to a different place and attack from there. So we'll gradually weaken her by laying traps for her”
Croix sighed to then continue his explanation.
“So it's basically a simple war of attrition. That means we'll have to resort to cowardly fighting methods, but well...”
This was the sort of talk that would drop the morale of anyone who heard it since it was a strategy they wouldn't want to carry out.
However, no one had any complaints about it.
They already saw that their opponent was one where attacking head-on was the worst possible choice. Therefore, using a more cowardly approach would be the safest strategy they could use to fight against her.
“Well, our opponent is the Tower's security. And doing that won't change we're still fighting under bad conditions either, so I agree with the plan”
“Me too! It'd be too reckless to fight her head-on!”
Said Misha in agreement after Aoto.
“So what do you say, Lakra? Do you agree with the plan?”
“...Yes, I agree as well. That was the reason why I chose this city's data in the first place, as it would be effective for you to use in a battle. It would be pointless if it couldn't be used”
“Let's get going then. Well, this strategy isn't cowardly or anything, but--”
And out of nowhere, they heard a thunderous roar coming from a place near them.
“W-What was that!?”
It was the sound that something extremely large was crumbling away. When they raised their gazes, they saw a plume of dust rising into the narrow sky surrounded by buildings.
Aoto and the others panicked and rushed to the alley's entrance, and once there, they looked upwards.
Upon seeing the plume of dust softly descend upon their sights, they realized that something had happened.
Several buildings neighboring the alley they were hiding in had collapsed. And to top it off, the priestess girl was standing right before the place where one of the buildings was located. She had her hand extended to where the building used to be with the fist closed.
Aoto and the others hid back in the alley again.
“...So the strategy's a failure before we even try it out?”
Lyner and the others nodded in response to Aoto's words.
They heard a thunderous roar once again.
Once again the sound of a building collapsing and the resulting tremor assaulted them.
“Looks like she's planning to go around destroying every single place we could use as a hideout”
And in a quite showy way besides, but this didn't surprise Croix at all.
“...So what we're doing now? Don't tell me you're planning to attack her head-on after all!”
Aoto say this while wishing with all his heart that things wouldn't come to that, but Lyner was already grabbing his sword's hilt,
“You were prepared for this, right? Besides, you've felt yourself how strong she is. If we're careful while we fight her, she won't beat us so easily”
“Are you serious...?”
“And while we're attacking her, Misha will be covering us from behind with her Song Magic at the same time. That way, she won't be able to deal with our attacks so easily. So while she's distracted, Lakra'll be able to get to the dome and start her work there... What do you think about this, Croix?”
“Yeah... I agree we should let Lakra head first to the dome while we're attacking the girl. But wouldn't it be better that Misha focused only on singing healing Song Magic?”
There was a reason Croix thought this.
“You see, it's clear as day we're going to get hurt fighting that girl. If that happened, our movements would become dull and sluggish, and that’d greatly hurt our chances of defeating her. But if we're always getting healed by Misha singing her Song Magic, we should be able to recover and get up back again no matter how many attacks we endure!”
“B-But that's... Don't tell me you're...!”
Listening to Croix's explanation brought back some memories to Lyner.
In order to get an item called the FFT Divider, he once plunged himself into an energy shield that was powerful enough to instantly destroy his body and the only reason he didn't die back then was because an extraordinarily powerful Song Magic had been being sung while he did so.
Lyner had also told Croix about these events once.
“...It seems you’re still traumatized about that though”
“No way, are you going to do that again, Lyner?”
“Something similar... But I'm just telling that thing was nothing but torture...”
“Yeah, I know that... But we really don't have any other choices at this point, right?”
Everyone wished they could have thought of a better strategy.
But before Aoto could have put these wishes into words, they heard the rumbling of another building being destroyed.
They had no more time to continue discussing the matter.
So it seemed they had already made up their minds.
“Misha, please cover us, but still be careful and try to make sure that thing doesn't find you. I'll do the best I can to protect you, but I'm not really confident I'll be able to do it well... I'm sorry”
“No, it's fine, I don't mind it. After all, my greatest priority is that you're safe Lyner... But I'll never forgive you or any of you three either if you die out there!”
Lyner and the others nodded in response to Misha's words.
“Okay, let's put some spirit into it and go!”
Lyner rushed to the alley's exit with Croix following him right after.
“...Even if I was the one who suggested it, this is a kind of strategy I don't like at all”
And while thinking that, he grabbed his lance's handle as hard as he could and prepared to fight the same way he had always done.
Aoto still remained in the alley, but after taking a few deep breaths,
“O-Okay, let's do this!”
He gripped his sword in a somewhat desperate way and ran off.
“...Let's get going too. Lakra, please take care”
“Understood. Please stay safe, Misha”
Misha ran in the same direction Aoto and the others did, while Lakra ran through the alley in the opposite direction.
“Hey! Are you looking for us?”
Lyner shouted from behind the girl.
The girl withdrew an arm she seemed to be extending in preparation to destroy another building and slowly turned around.
She saw Lyner, Croix and Aoto all wielding their weapons.
The girl started examining the faces of each of the three boys and stopped in Aoto's. She intently looked at him before finally tilting her head.
“What? I've got something in my face?”
The girl was wondering how Aoto's face had returned to an unharmed state, but she didn't say anything.
As she was originally a security system, her role was to merely drive out any invaders that came into the Tower, no questions asked.
That was why talking was unnecessary to her.
The boosters on her back started humming.
Aoto reacted immediately once he heard Croix.
Once her boosters ignited, she charged Aoto with a terrifying speed and tried punching him.
Aoto had jumped sideways as she tried punching him.
“...So she really was after me...”
“You're so obvious!”
Aoto then rushed to the side and slashed the girl in the stomach.
He struck her upwards in a bracket-like shape and made her spin as she crashed into the ground. Her boosters stopped that same instant, and from the thrust she had gained from having them active, she tumbled and crashed down multiple times on the ground before finally stopping.
“Heh, that's payback for what you did a while ago... Huh?”
When he turned around, he saw how the girl was getting up as if she didn't get hurt at all. He saw how her clothes were torn in the place he had slashed her, but the white armor that could be seen below them didn't have even a dent on it.
“So she's a robot under these clothes... But whoa, she's really strong”
“Aoto, is your hand okay?”
Upon being asked by Croix, Aoto looked at the hands he was gripping his sword with.
When he slashed the girl, he felt a tremendous pain in them for a single instant right as his attack made contact, but by the time she had been blown away the pain had already disappeared.
“Yeah... Looks like Misha's Song Magic is doing its job”
Now the girl was standing up again, she was still looking at Aoto.
“Maybe I'm just imagining things, but I've got the feeling she has something against me...”
“It's because you were the first one to attack here after we arrived here. Wouldn't you hold a grudge against someone like that?”
While Croix was the one who said this, he was mistaken.
The reason the girl had attacked Aoto was to search for the reason that allowed an individual that was supposed to be beyond recovery to come back to life like that.
She had thoroughly analyzed him and was now studying a method to put him down for good.
Her boosters started humming again, but this time, Croix anticipated her moves and acted an instant before she did.
When it came to speed, Croix would never lose against the girl's boosters, as his weapon was equipped with a similar device to the ones that were in the girl's wings.
It was a Booster Lance, a weapon used commonly by the members of the Grand Bell Knights Corps. This was especially true of the model used by Croix, as since it was especially made for him by the weapon shop that wholesaled these lances; it was equipped with high-powered capabilities that were on an entirely different level from the ones possessed by the models that were normally sold.
Croix softly elevated into the air at the same time his lance's boosters spewed fire.
Croix then tackled her with a speed that surpassed even the one the girl herself had a moment ago, and while the girl also ignited up her own boosters, she had already the lance right before her eyes by the time she had done that.
The girl's hands grabbed the lance by its tip.
She stopped the lance's charge and actually started slowly pushing it back. It seemed the thrust of the girl's wings were winning against his lance.
Croix scowled upon noticing this.
“...Don't underestimate me”
Croix instantly changed the output of the boosters to max power, which caused the jets that came out from behind the lance to explode for a second, giving it an even greater propulsion.
The girl was sent flying as she kept grabbing the lance's tip. Even though the girl also placed her boosters into max power output mode, it was for naught.
Croix pointed his lance downwards to the ground. The girl also slanted in that same direction and crashed into the ground as soon as they reached it, finally letting go of the lance. However, Croix hadn't stopped yet. Now his lance was free, he struck the girl on the stomach.
“...It can't go through her!?”
Shocked before how tough the girl's body was, Croix left her pinned to the ground while he still kept charging her.
Upon seeing how they would crash into a building if they continued like this, he pointed his lance upwards.
“...So this is as far as I could get, huh?”
Upon understanding the girl's armor would prove unbreakable; Croix stopped the boosters and pushed the girl upwards with his lance.
The force was strong enough for him to start falling downwards.
“Amazing... You saw that, Lyner? What Croix did was so... Huh?”
Aoto had been watching all that happen from beginning to end, and he then turned to talk to Lyner who had been right by his side. But by the time he had turned, Lyner was gone.
When he turned around in all directions in a panic to see where he went, Aoto wondered if he hadn't been following the path that Croix left behind while he was rushing the girl.
“Huh? Ah, wait for me!”
Aoto began running after them very flustered.
Right before landing on the surface, Croix made sure that the girl's body was left falling through the air.
Then, the sound of footsteps running in his direction reached his ears.
The footsteps stopped after he heard a voice coming from below him, so Croix straightened himself up and leaned backwards.
It was Lyner. He was going to use Croix as a stepping stone to jump even higher.
“Aim at her stomach!”
Instead of replying back, Lyner kicked back and jumped up.
He aimed at the falling girl's stomach.
Releasing all his spirit into his scream, he slashed at the girl's stomach
However, they only heard the echo of the metal clashing with the sturdy armor, so he didn't harm her at all.
“In that case...!”
While he saw her falling down, Lyner straightened out his stance in mid-air.
He stopped gaining altitude and began falling to chase after the girl.
Croix landed on the surface with Aoto reaching where he was shortly later.
“Are you okay, Croix?”
“Yeah. But we should be getting away from this place. She's going to fall down soon”
They ran to get away from that spot and turned around to see the girl falling right where they had been seconds ago.
With a heavy and thick sound, the girl crashed into the ground.
“Did we get her!?”
Lyner had made use of her falling speed to drive his sword into the girl's stomach.
The metals from his sword and her armor clashed, and a sound high-pitched enough to be painful to the ears was heard.
“...It went through!”
At least that was what Lyner thought upon feeling his sword sink into the girl's stomach, but on second look he noticed it didn't get through at all.
It hadn't gone through: it had barely dented her armor.
Lyner tried to get away from the girl immediately, but lying down as she was on the ground, she still grabbed Lyner by one of his ankles so he wouldn't escape.
Now she had grabbed him by the foot, the girl began swinging him around with all her strength.
Lyner was swung around like a rag-doll through the air and was batted against the ground multiple times.
Maybe it was because she noticed that Croix was going to rush in to save Lyner, but the girl went and threw Lyner at him.
Croix was hit with more strength than he could ever imagine and thus he couldn't stop Lyner's flight, so they both were sent flying through the air.
Aoto was going to try and save them both, but upon hearing an explosion coming from where the girl was, he turned in her direction.
The girl ignited her boosters despite buried on a crater and the shock from this destroyed the ground around her, allowing her to rise up again.
She softly stroked the small dent that the three boys' focused attacks had caused on her armor and turned to face Aoto.
“Tch! In that case, let's see how you like this!”
Aoto pressed a switch in his sword's handle and drove it into the ground.
Upon doing so, the Symphonic Power that was accumulated within the sword was transmitted through the ground and caused an explosion at the girl's feet.
It was a modification that Aoto himself had given his sword: unlike normal swords, his’ was equipped with many gimmicks.
That was one of the gimmicks: a so-called special move.
“Heh, how was that!?”
Due to the dust plume that rose from to the explosion, he couldn't see the girl. However, she had received a blast from one of the special moves he was so proud of, so it was impossible it had no effect on her.
But the instant he removed his sword from the ground thinking that, he saw the girl rushing him from within the dust plume.
“I-It didn't do anything to... guhaagh!”
The girl punched him in the stomach.
His breathing stopped at once and his vision distorted from the tremendous pain. His body filled with frightening amount of weight and he fell to his knees due to his feet being drained from all strength.
The girl then dealt a strong kick to his face.
Once again Aoto was sent flying through the air and crashed into the ground.
After making sure he was sent flying, the girl lowered the foot she had used to kick him and started looking at each of the fallen boys in order.
None of them moved. Upon making sure of this, the girl walked to the one that was closest to her: Aoto, as she had to finish him off.
As her footsteps got slowly closer to Aoto, he completely lost consciousness and it seemed like he wasn't going to awaken again.
The girl stopped when she had Aoto at her feet.
Like before, she nudged Aoto with her feet to make sure he wasn't going to do anything. However, he didn't show any signs of even moving.
She raised her face and looked at where Lyner and Croix had been left lying on the ground. Similarly to Aoto, they didn't give any signs of moving.
She looked at Aoto for a little more time, but the girl then noticed something strange was happening.
She twitched and turned around with great force.
Behind her there wasn't anything beyond some buildings, but it was in the direction she was facing that the dome she was protecting was located and she had noticed someone was trying to trespass into it.
She turned around to look at Aoto one last time, and after nudging him with the foot again to make sure he didn't give any reaction, she ignited up the boosters on her back.
Together with a small explosion, she flew as quickly as she could toward the dome.
Lakra had gotten to the dome and was now checking something that was right in front of the door.
She found a control panel that was placed next to the dome's door and started using it to input the access code that Meimei had taught her. As one would expect from the Tower's security, the access code was a very long string of characters. However, Lakra could only hear it only once, so she couldn't remember it completely.
She focused and tried recalling back these memories to input the code accurately.
At times she heard the sound of buildings collapsing, so she could only worry about if Croix and the others were okay regardless of if she liked it or not.
She heard the sound of a building collapsing far away.
However, this time she also felt an unpleasant sensation from hearing that sound.
And that unpleasant sensation shortly later became a sense of impending crisis.
The building's collapse wasn't the only thing she heard after all: she also heard something getting close to her.
“W-What could have happened!?”
Feeling she was in danger, she turned around and tried to find a place she could hide in. But it was too late by then, as the building she now had in front of her crumbled away and she saw how the priestess girl was flying toward her at a great speed.
The girl turned her boosters off to reduce her speed and even placed her feet on the ground to use them as brakes. However, this wasn't enough, as the girl still ended up slipping through a distance of several ten Stons while gouging the ground wherever she went. The gouged pieces of the ground were sent flying to Lakra, who covered her head with her hands: shrapnel formed by asphalt shards and dirt relentlessly fell upon her head. Lakra lied down to withstand them and waited until the rubble rain stopped.
Silence soon followed after this.
Lakra finally lowered the arms she was using to cover her head and looked around: in top of the pile of rubble she had in front, there was a single girl standing...
“No!” she thought, not knowing what she should do now.
Lakra couldn't fight like Aoto and the others; of course, neither could she use Song Magic the way Misha did it.
The only thing she could do in this situation was run away, but it was obvious the girl would catch up to her in a single instant even if she ran with all her strength.
The girl turned to look at the dome.
The door was still sealed shut, but the control panel still showed on its screen the access code Lakra had partially input into it.
The girl then returned her gaze to Lakra and started slowly walking to her.
“...Looks like she found me out...”
Lakra was wavering, wondering if she wouldn't be better off going back to reality at once as the girl approached her.
But in that instant, a strong explosion was heard and someone flew out from the buildings' ruins
Lakra saw how Croix was rushing toward them at a great speed with his lance's boosters spitting fire.
Lakra started running as soon as Croix told her that. The girl was distracted by Croix and thus she didn't notice when Lakra started escaping.
The girl put both hands before herself to ready herself to catch Croix's lance again. Upon seeing this,
Croix shouted with force. Using it as a signal, two shadows jumped out from behind Croix.
They were Lyner and Aoto: they held onto Croix and flew with him all the way here.
Croix's lance was pointed to the girl's stomach again, while Lyner's sword was pointed to her neck and Aoto wielded a drill that was pointed to her face.
The drill was also one of the gimmick's Aoto's sword had: it was made so the blade would open to the sides and reveal the drill on its inside whenever he pressed a switch.
“Let's end her!”
The three of them attacked the girl at the same time.
“They did it!”
Shouted Lakra upon seeing how their combined attack had been successful after she had put a good deal of distance between herself and them.
The girl had dropped her guard because she thought Croix was alone, so their triple attack was much more effective when Lyner and Aoto came out from behind him like that. Even if she had stopped them, there wasn't much she could do with just two hands, so at least one of their attacks had to get through.
However, they noticed something strange right away.
While their attack should have hit her, there weren't any quivers or tremors on the places where they had impacted her.
The three boys were all dumbfounded at this.
Actually, Aoto and the others didn't think they'd be able to defeat the girl just with these attacks: her armor was dreadfully strong, so it was impossible they would be able to destroy it with a single surprise attack. That was why they had thought that Croix would attack her stomach, and while she was distracted by this, Lyner and Aoto would target at the same time the parts that weren't protected by her armor: in other words, everything from her neck up. As these parts were unprotected, they would be able to damage her if they attacked her there, or at least that was what they thought.
However, that wasn't what actually ended up happening.
She caught the lance Croix was wielding with her right hand, the sword Lyner gripped with her left hand and the drill Aoto was wielding with her teeth.
The three couldn't give credit to what they were seeing.
They hadn't imagined something like this would happen, and confused as they were, they couldn't think about what they should do now.
And while they were distracted, the girl moved first: she started off by moving around her head to fling Aoto and his drill away.
Luckily, this movement didn't have enough strength to send him flying, so Aoto could straighten himself in mid-air and land on the ground with no problems.
However, neither Lyner nor Croix were so lucky.
She pulled in the sword and the lance she had stopped with her hands, and while both Lyner and Croix were staggering from this, she threw the weapons at them, striking them on the chest.
They both were blown off and crashed on the ground.
But after he screamed, Lyner and Croix stood up again.
“She caught them all...”
“Yeah... I didn't even think she'd be able to stop our attacks like that”
And after saying this, they both grabbed their weapons again.
The girl tilted her head upon seeing how both Lyner and Croix were standing up again even after she had him them.
“Huhu, if she's like that, it means she still hasn't noticed what's happening”
The girl was still wondering about how they could still be standing like nothing happened when normally they would already be wounded beyond recovery.
And Misha saw this all while she was still hidden.
After all, the girl hadn't noticed that they would recover instantly even if they received enough damage to be beyond recovery as long as Misha was around.
Once Misha saw how the three of them were about to challenge the priestess girl again, she started singing right away.
On the other hand, Lyner was being hit, Croix was getting kicked and Aoto was getting plastered against the ground.
While they started bleeding through their mouths and noses when the attacks connected, their wounds instantly closed up and they went back to normal a few seconds later. So as long as they could bear with an instant of pain, they would be able to go back to the fight several times.
However, they couldn't keep fighting like this forever.
The reason was that the healing that Song Magic gave couldn't fully heal a person regardless of what state they were in. And the recovery also required a variable amount of time that depended on its receiver's lifeforce and mental power. They were still fine at the moment, but if they continued being struck down and getting recovered like this, this would exhaust them mentally regardless of how physically strong Lyner and the others were. If that happened, their recovery speed would slow down and they wouldn't be able to fight in an optimum state. And similarly, Misha's mental power had a limit: she needed the power of her feelings to invoke her Song Magic, so naturally the Song Magic's own power depended on the strength of its singer's feelings. And actually, Misha's mental power and strength of feelings was on a league of its own when compared to other Reyvateils. However, it wasn't endless, so she would be reaching her limit at some point. As she watched over the three fighters, she had planned to take a short break at some point to regain her mental power and conserve it, but she soon felt this wasn't a good moment to do so.
Even though Misha was putting all her efforts into her Song, before her Lyner and the others were being sent flying from the girl's attacks so many times that they had already lost count of it.
Misha fixed her gaze on them, noting her predictions turned out to be correct.
“...Are you guys okay?”
Asked Croix after they had collapsed from the girl's attacks and gotten up again.
They all prepared their weapons again. However, Aoto didn't have his hand on his sword and instead had placed it on his chest.
Aoto was absentminded toward Croix's words for several seconds.
“...Sorry, it took longer for the pain to go away, but I'm fine now”
But despite saying that, Aoto still had a hand over his chest.
Croix then looked at how Lyner was breathing in a very agitated way over and over. When Lyner noticed Croix was looking at him, he took a single deep breath.
“The same goes for me. Looks like the healing is slowing down a lot”
Lyner replied with a strained face due to the fact that the pain hadn't gone away completely.
Croix could only think “I knew it” upon hearing them.
Croix himself had also noticed that the pain had been taking a longer time to go away from the last few attacks he received.
“...How many times we've died already?”
Actually though, if they converted all the damage they had received from the girl into deaths, it would haven't been strange for them to have died ten or even twenty times already. It was natural, given the horrible sounds their bodies made whenever they got hit. And furthermore, the pain they felt before it was made to disappear was extremely intense and ran through their whole bodies.
And naturally, they were being brought back from this over and over, so having to feel pain intense enough to kill them to then have it fade away wasn't good for their minds. It shouldn't be normal for them to be calm and relaxed after having repeated this experience so many times in such a short time.
“Honestly, when I heard you explaining this method I was wondering if we actually couldn't have won against her by a very narrow margin”
Said Lyner while laughing, which Aoto also did before saying,
“Yeah, I say the same thing. I already knew she isn't someone we can beat even fighting together, but if we used this method, we'd become invincible like her. So I thought we'd be able to win for sure even if it'd be still pretty hard... How about you Croix...?”
“Had I known we didn't have any chances of winning, I wouldn't have thought up a plan like this... Look out!”
The girl ignited her boosters and instantly closed the gap between her and the three boys.
She had her eyes focused on Croix.
The girl was faster than Croix's reaction: she rushed in and kicked him, sending him flying away. And given she had used him as a brake to kill her momentum, the girl then turned to the side and kicked Lyner on the jaw to next send him spinning away with a roundhouse kick.
The girl had turned around and acted like she didn't see Aoto despite him being next to her, so he tried thrusting her with his sword in drill mode.
However, it seemed the girl noticed Aoto's presence that instant, as she delivered a roundhouse kick to her backside that knocked out his drill from his hands.
While his drill was flicked away, Aoto couldn't stop the charge he had started to attack the girl.
It was the worst situation possible for him, as the girl then turned around and Aoto didn't stop until he had his face buried on her chest. It had the shape of breasts, but it wasn't soft in the slightest.
Aoto then slowly raised his face.
He saw the priestess girl's face staring intently at him.
“...If she were Saki, this is the part where I'd get slapped”
And right as he thought that, the girl grabbed him from the back of his neck and brutally drove his face into the ground.
The pain came and disappeared right after.
He was slammed into the ground again.
The pain came and disappeared right after.
“That thing was nothing but torture”
Aoto remembered Lyner's words. It was really like he said.
He struggled trying to get himself free, but the girl was grabbing him so tightly that escape was impossible.
The girl stopped slamming and hitting him, and checked his face to notice he was still moving. There was some blood coming out from his nose, but aside of that the only notable thing on his face was the dirt he had gotten from being slammed against the ground.
Aoto knew the girl still hadn't realized why his wounds had healed.
“Heh, something like this isn't going to make feel pain or suffer”
The pain that was going away was actually strong enough to kill him: in fact, if crying and pleading for his life was an option, Aoto would have done so.
The girl turned her face to look in the direction of the voice: it was Croix.
Croix pointed his lance to the girl and fired at her. Aside of the boosters, Croix's lance was also equipped with two gun modes he could freely change at will: semi-auto and full-auto.
He used the semi-auto mode to fire the shots that hit the girl in the arm she was using to grab Aoto, but she didn't give any signs that her grip on him was weakening.
“Let Aoto go now!”
In response to his shout, the girl just turned to look at him while still keeping Aoto grabbed: she was using him as a human shield.
But Croix just showed a little smile when he saw this.
Lyner struck the girl with his sword from the side: he had aimed at her right arm, which was the one where she was holding Aoto to shield herself from Croix, and Lyner had struck her right on the elbow's inner part.
Her arm did a jerking motion that forced the girl to let go of Aoto's neck.
However, now Lyner had gotten his sword stuck in the girl's arm. No matter how hard he tried to pull on it, the sword didn't budge.
“This can't... be!”
The girl then punched Lyner on the gut with her left hand. She then noticed Aoto had fallen next to her feet and kicked him to send him flying in Croix's direction.
Aoto tumbled and rolled from the kick he was dealt in the stomach until he stopped at Croix's feet.
“I-I'm okay... Agh!”
While Aoto seemed to be okay as he lied on the ground, it was now that they confirmed that the recovery speed was slowing down like they had thought. While he was worried, Croix couldn't look at Aoto because now Lyner had been caught by the girl and made into a human shield.
While she covered herself using Lyner, Croix advanced in her direction. She knew that Croix's lance was equipped with a gun, so she ended aligning Lyner's body with the lance's tip in a way that she didn't miss even its slightest movement.
“...I can't hit her like this!”
But right as Croix lowered his lance, the girl rushed in and raised the hand she was using to keep Lyner prisoner to swing him upon Croix.
“...She's going to use him as a weapon!?”
And after he left him knocked out, the girl grabbed Croix by the neck. Unlike Lyner, who she had grabbed from the back of his neck, she grabbed Croix by the front.
“Lyner... Croix... Guhh!?”
Aoto was still lying face up, but the girl placed a feet over his neck and started pressing it in.
When Misha saw what the girl was doing, she reflexively stopped singing.
The girl had stopped her brutal attacks against the three boys and now had changed her tactics to choking them by squeezing their necks.
In the end, the recovery that Song Magic allowed was no more than healing wounds. While of course there were effects that could give air to those who couldn't breathe for whatever reason, unfortunately no effects would allow a person to be okay without air.
“...To think we'd be beaten like this...”
Ignoring the healing they had gotten from the Song Magic, their opponent had truly weakened them to the point of killing them.
And choking someone was the attack method that struck precisely the weakest point that Song Magic healing had.
Misha regretfully bit her lips and tried to think up of a way to save them before they died. However, she couldn't find a way to do so.
Even if she changed from a healing Song to an attack one, it was a sure thing that Lyner and the others would get hurt from this too, and that would render her efforts meaningless. While if she were sure that it would defeat the girl the story might have been different, right now Misha wasn't confident that a single Song Magic would be enough for that. She didn't even think about confronting the girl herself, that was completely out of the question.
“...Looks like this is the end of the line...”
Their lives would be in danger if they continued fighting, so Misha started trying to come up with a way to bring them all back to reality.
But at that moment, a sound similar to that of glass shattering was heard throughout the whole city.
“W-What happened now!?”
She looked around, but she didn't see any traces of the nearby buildings' windows getting broken.
While she thought that the girl had done something, she noticed the girl was also looking around in search for that sound's cause.
Misha then saw Lakra at the other side of where the girl was.
Lakra was looking upwards, staring intently at the sky.
Misha followed her gaze, and upon doing so, she saw a crack running across part of the sky.
And at the same a second sound was heard, the crack expanded.
It was heard a third time, and the crack then became like a spider's web.
Finally, when the sound rang a fourth time, the sky broke up.
On the other side of where the sky had broken, they saw a completely black space, and also saw that something seemed to be approaching them at a very high speed.
The girl noticed this too, so she threw Lyner and the others to the side and ignited her boosters.
She rushed at a fearsome speed at whatever was coming from the sky. However, the unknown entity's speed was far higher than her own.
When it impacted with the girl, she was sent relentlessly sent flying and crashed into the ground at a speed far higher than the one she had when she was elevating. The impact was enough to make a crater on the ground.
The place where she fell was far enough from where she was standing moments ago, so it didn't affect Lyner and the others.
The entity then approached the ground, slowing down as she got closer, and finally Misha could see who it was.
“That's... no way!”
She saw it was a girl dressed in white and red priestess clothes.
However, these weren't clothes: they were instead very resilient armor.
She had six steel wings extending from her back, and she softly descended before Lyner and the others. While Lyner was on the ground, everyone could see he had a very shocked expression when the girl came down.
This girl was Meimei's younger sister and the strongest maintenance droid in Sol Ciel, who served as the Plasma Bell's protector.
She was the Priestess of Light, Kanade.
“Kanade... You're Kanade, right!?”
In response to Lyner's voice, Kanade turned around and showed everyone a friendly smile.
“It's been a long time, Lyner. Can you stand?”
She extended a hand to Lyner and helped him get back on his feet.
They had been strangled for a while, but now they could enjoy breathing again as much as they liked.
Misha and Lakra also ran to their side.
“Are you three okay!?”
“Are you all fine?”
“Y-yeah... A little more and I'd have gotten ready to die and all though”
Said Lyner as he laughed.
“A little!? Don't bullshit me with that “a little” crap! I almost got turned into a revolving lantern!”
Protested Aoto with teary eyes.
While Croix was in agreement with Aoto, he decided to give priority to getting his breath under control again for the time being.
“By the way, this girl... Is she a maintenance droid too?”
Said Aoto as he looked at Kanade.
Kanade then noticed there were three people she hadn't seen before,
“I'll introduce myself. I'm Sis Meimei's younger sister Kanade, and I work as the Priestess of Light at the Plasma Bell. Pleased to meet you”
She introduced herself, but Aoto and the others didn't know what the Plasma Bell or the Priestess of Light were, so this gave them more questions than answers.
In any case, they understood pretty quickly she was on their side.
“But I didn't think you'd come all the way here, Kanade. Did you leave the Plasma Bell to come to the Observatory?”
Kanade replied “no” to Misha's question.
“I'm not the same one as the Kanade who protects the Plasma Bell. Sis Meimei pulled Kanade's data from the Tower's data banks and sent it to this place. To put it in simpler terms, it could be said that I'm a copy of Kanade”
“So you mean you're a different person from the Kanade we know?”
“Hmmm... Well, I think it'll be better if you think I'm a different person that's almost identical to the real Kanade. But even so, I still have memories of all the times I fought you and your friends”
But while they were having this conversation, the priestess girl kicked up sand and dirt from the crater she was in.
And when everyone else noticed it, she had already elevated from the crater's center, spraying dirt and sand up around with the boosters she had on her back.
“...I knew it. That didn't even scratch her”
Croix said while clicking his tongue, but,
“No, that is not the case. It's a sure thing it had an effect on her”
When the girl turned off her boosters and tried standing on the land, her body leaned to a side and she fell forward.
Everyone gasped at the same time.
While the girl stood up again after her brief fall, her right foot was extended in a very languid way.
“I thought our first priority should be crippling her mobility, so I destroyed her right foot. Her boosters are still in a working condition, but I think I should be able to take care of them now”
And saying this, Kanade started walking in the priestess girl's direction. Lyner and the others were about to follow her, but,
“Ah, please let me take care of her myself. Lyner, you and your friends please go and take care of the Symphonic Power rerouting”
“On your own!? But even if you're amazing, umm...”
It was true Kanade had destroyed the girl's right foot, but they thought the fact that she was missing a foot wouldn't really weaken her too much. And not even Kanade herself would be safe if they seriously fought.
“Please don't worry. I'm not the master version of Kanade, but a duplicate of her, so even if I fall here, it won't have any effect on the Kanade that protects the Plasma Bell”
“But even if you say that, letting you fight that thing by yourself...”
“I'll just buy you time. Once you have successfully rerouted the Symphonic Power and returned to reality, I'll withdraw from this place. So please hurry and do it!”
So even if Kanade was right, they still had second thoughts about leaving her alone like this.
However, Lakra ran to the dome's door and continued inputting the access code in the control panel.
“Everyone, let's do as Kanade says. We should focus on our main goal so we can also minimize the damage she will sustain”
As soon as she finished inputting the code, the door in front of Lakra opened.
“...Are you really going to be fine?”
Lyner asked Kanade to be sure. She replied,
“I'm not, but at the least I can buy you some time. Unlike humans like you all, I am a maintenance droid. I guarantee I can fight better than any of you when I get serious”
Her wings then started emitting light. Unlike the boosters of the girl they had seen thus far, Kanade's wings generated a circular energy field around themselves and at the same time she started elevating.
“Please, hurry and go!”
She flew off as the energy field on her back emitted an explosion.
Kanade used the shock to charge at the priestess girl at a tremendous speed in a suicidal attack. The girl couldn't regain her balance yet due to her missing foot, so Kanade kicked her down, leapt onto her and punched her.
The girl's chest armor and Kanade's fist emitted a sonorous roar when they clashed. However, her armor didn't have even one scratch.
Having felt confident she would be able to defeat her like this, Kanade pouted and continued unleashing punches with both hands upon the girl.
“...Looks like she's going to be fine just like she said”
Said Croix as he saw this.
“Yeah... And if we tried fighting with her and things went south, we'd only be burdens for her”
Aoto agreed with him. He didn't have any more courage to take part in the battle that had repeated itself over and over before him that day.
“Everyone, follow me. I'll close the door now”
Upon being called by Lakra, Aoto and the others followed her into the dome, the door closing behind them with a heavy sound after they were inside.
At the same time they entered the dome, they were invaded by a mysterious sensation.
They truly had entered a place resembling a semicircular dome, but the inside was built in a way that didn't resemble the outside at all.
Just beyond the door there was a space similar to a wide lobby that had an extremely tall ceiling, even though it didn't seem so tall from the outside.
On the center of the lobby there were a desk and a small console.
And on the other side of the entrance, they saw a completely white corridor that extended far away. It obviously went beyond the dome's own diameter, since they couldn't see even where it ended.
“Doesn't anyone think this building is kinda weird?”
Said Aoto as he looked at the white corridor.
“The reason it doesn't resemble the outside is because this space is located in an entirely different place from it”
Lakra had already reached the console and was operating it as she gave that explanation. As Lakra's fingers touched the retro-styled console, they heard a satisfying clicking sound.
During that time, Lyner stepped into the white corridor. When he looked around, he saw it went on endlessly.
And on its walls, there were several rows of black metal doors, which had no plates or any sort of identification marks.
“So, what are those doors for?”
Lyner then tried extending a hand to one of the doorknobs, but,
“N-No! Lyner, you mustn't open any of these doors!”
Upon hearing Lakra's voice, Lyner panicked and withdrew his hand from the doorknob as quickly as he could.
“Each of these doors points to an address for the routing of Symphonic Power. If you carelessly open one of them, you'll end up sending the energy to a completely different place”
“Yes. Therefore, we'll now start searching for the right one, so please step out from the corridor”
Once Lyner left the corridor, Lakra pressed something in the console.
When she did so, the doors they could see in the corridor started moving through the walls as if they were on a conveyor belt.
“The doors are moving!? What's happening now?”
“I'm searching for the proper address we'll use to send the energy to the relay satellite, so once we find it, the door that corresponds to it will come to us”
“Wow,” said Lyner in admiration.
Aoto also looked at this with a wonder-filled gaze. However, no one could ever say the doors were moving quickly.
“Hey, Lakra, wouldn't it be faster if we went and looked for the door ourselves instead of using the search?”
Aoto was feeling impatient from how slowly the doors moved.
“That is impossible. There are several hundred, possibly even several thousand doors, and if we went looking around for it in a clumsy way, that number could easily increase. Additionally, none of the doors have plates or markings of any kind, so there would be no way of knowing the coordinates they lead to. Besides, that corridor is pretty much an enormous maze, so I fear we could end up getting lost and be unable to come back here if we went inside”
“At least there's a way to speed the search up?”
“That is impossible too. Besides, while it might seem to your eyes that they are moving slowly, this search is employing a method to remove all results that are different in a 100% from the one we are looking for, so the speed is actually according to the time it will take to find the door”
“S-So, what should we do while we wait until we find it?”
“Aoto, calm down”
While Aoto was assaulting Lakra with questions, Croix hit him on the shoulder.
“I understood how you feel, as I'd like it to go faster too, but for now we should just sit down and take a break. We're all tired from all the pain we went through, right?”
While he didn't feel pain anymore, he really felt exhausted. And it wasn't really physical exhaustion, as it was mental in nature.
“Besides, we don't know what's gonna happen next”
“...Yeah. Let's get down and rest a bit”
The three sat down on the floor and leaned against a wall.
The first thing they all noticed upon sitting down was the state of their own bodies, as that was the extent of the pain they had gone through. But if they didn't feel pain that most likely would have made them feel uneasy. Once they finished checking they were physically well from their heads to their toes, a relieved expression finally appeared on their faces.
The battle between Kanade and the priestess girl continued.
As the participants were a girl that was the embodiment of the Tower's security and the guardian of the Plasma Bell, it had a ridiculously large scale.
All the buildings that used to be around the dome had already been reduced to rubble.
However, they didn't take notice of it and just continued fighting.
The girl tried punching Kanade on the face,
but Kanade avoided it.
“Absolute Strength Impact!”
She thrust her deathly palm against the now hollow stomach part of the girl's armor.
Kanade thought the girl's body had been sent flying away, but she ignited her boosters and endured the impact.
She was ridiculously resilient, but even her armor had limits to how much punishment it could withstand.
The girl grabbed the arm Kanade had thrust against her and twisted it around. The sound of something getting broken into pieces was heard from Kanade's right arm.
“Aaargh! You're horrible!”
Kanade used her still intact left hand to punch the girl, and she pulled back the hand the girl had grabbed her by.
The armor in her twisted right hand was broken and sparks similar to small fireworks came out from it. And to make matters worse, nothing below the elbow, not even the fingers could move anymore.
“That was my good arm...! I won't forgive you for this!”
Kanade pouted and circled around the girl.
She was aiming at one of the boosters on the girl's left side, so she thrust at the exhaust pipes with her broken right arm.
For the first time, an expression showed up on the girl's face: it was a shocked one.
Right after Kanade did that, the booster she had attacked exploded, and the ones that were in the sides next to it also got caught in the blast and exploded as well.
Now her boosters had exploded out of nowhere, the girl couldn't continue keeping her balance and crashed into the ground.
Kanade didn't let this chance slip and swooped in to attack again.
She kicked up the fallen girl. Kanade then rose up until she was at the same exact altitude as the girl and did a somersault as she kicked her up again. She girl rose again due to a kick that was strong enough to make it incomparable to the first one Kanade dealt to her.
“Third Stage Kick!”
Kanade rose into the sky too and struck her with a third kick.
The girl fell with great force to the ground and crashed into it.
“This is the payback for my right arm!”
But right as Kanade reached the ground, the girl was calmly getting up again.
It seemed she hadn't suffered any damages at first look, but now only two of her right-side boosters were working now. After all, Kanade had targeted the boosters in her third kick.
And not having noticed this, these boosters went over their limit when the girl tried igniting them again, so they exploded on her back.
The girl fell forward again, now no working boosters remained on her back. One of her feet was broken and now all the boosters on her back had been destroyed. She couldn't stand up anymore, so she couldn't fight anymore either.
Having decided this, Kanade walked to the girl to deal the final strike.
The girl didn't move anymore. And even if she had moved, there was no way she could have fought Kanade as she was now.
“You're a being that protects the Tower, just like me. However, I don't really care for the way you do it...”
Kanade stood in front of the girl, and after muttering “Sorry”, she raised her left fist.
But in that instant the girl moved.
Her body didn't move, but instead, her horrifyingly long black hairs did.
The girl's hairs pierced Kanade's armor and started electrifying her.
An electric discharge ran through Kanade's whole body. If it had been a normal quantity this wouldn't have posed a problem.
However, the amount of electricity the girl emitted was strong enough to completely destroy all the internal circuitry in Kanade's mechanical body.
The collapsed girl raised her face and continued shocking Kanade until she couldn't move anymore.
Misha opened her eyes and found herself asleep with her head resting on Lyner's shoulder.
“Huh, are you up? Looks like it's still going to take some time, so you should sleep a little more”
Upon hearing this, Misha just nodded and closed her eyes again. But she then noticed something was covering her body: it was a thin piece of cloth that emitted the smell of her beloved Lyner. She soon realized it was the cape Lyner was always wearing.
“...I'm still somewhat tired, so maybe I should just take advantage of this and take a little nap again”
Misha was very happy now she was spending time covered in Lyner's cape and sleeping as she rested her head on his shoulders.
She thought she could allow herself at least this much for today.
After all, she had been singing Song Magic non-stop to support him and the others.
“...Yeah! I've worked so hard that at least I should...!”
But then Misha suddenly opened her eyes and very flustered removed her head from Lyner's shoulder.
“Whoa!? Are you okay waking up like that...?”
“S-Sorry, but you should be more tired than me, Lyner! I'm fine now, so you should sleep a little!”
Misha then took the cape that was covering her and returned it to Lyner.
“I'm okay, as I'm used to doing this sort of stuff: battles and the like. Besides, you should get some more rest”
“I don't want to think about it, but if we get into another fight like that one, your Song Magic will be our last hope. So please, rest easy for now”
And saying this, Lyner took the cape from Misha's hands and put it once again over Misha's back.
Misha was a bit lost about what to do about it, but she finally decided to keep the cape around herself like Lyner told her to. A pleased smile appeared on Lyner's face as she rested her head on his shoulder again, so naturally she was fond of him like she always had been. But when she took in account both her feelings and how dense Lyner was, she felt Lyner had gotten a completely wrong message, like that she would feel well if she went back to sleep like this. After Misha had gotten herself in a comfortable position for sleeping again, Lyner said,
“Hey, Croix. Are you up?”
“...Yeah. Feeling better now?”
Asked Croix as he leaned his back against the wall with closed eyes. Lyner replied back almost instantly.
“How about you, Croix? Can you still move?”
“Yeah, and while it's hard to say this... I can fight again as long as Misha continues supporting us... How about you, Lyner?”
“After I took a little rest, I felt all tired out of nowhere. As for Aoto...”
Aoto was sitting next to Croix, but he was completely out of it.
Now they thought it, the one that suffered the worst at the priestess girl's hands was Aoto, so it was natural that he was so exhausted, and it was inevitable he was still knocked out cold.
“...I wish the search would finish soon and that we could get back to reality without any more trouble”
Lyner nodded in response to Croix's words, and while her eyes were closed, Misha nodded too inside her heart.
But their expectations were crushed when a warning sound started ringing from the console Lakra was operating.
“No, this can't be!”
She was looking at the white corridor: all the doors that had been moving until now had stopped.
“Lakra, what happened!?”
Croix ran to where Lakra was operating the console. The holographic screen had several red letters printed on it, and while Croix didn't know what they represented, he knew enough to realize it was something bad.
Then, an explosion was heard from inside the white corridor and the entire building shook irregularly.
“W-What!? An earthquake!?”
Shouted Aoto as he jumped to his feet,
“No! This is...!”
Lakra frantically started typing on the console. A different window from the one with the red warning letters opened, this one having a warning written in blue.
“Invasion to the system detected!? But this is absurd!”
“Explain us, what's happening here!?”
In response to Croix's voice, Lakra opened a different window and started pressing it as if it were to get something in it. While she did this, another explosion was heard coming from the corridor.
“Someone has invaded the system and sent in a program to destroy this search system!”
“D-Destroy!? But this place is the most guarded place in the whole Tower! Who in hell could have invaded and started destroying it!?”
It was like Lyner said; there was no one who could have done this. If they had enough time they might be able to do so, but so far no one had successfully invaded this area of the Tower. In the first place, Meimei or Ayatane would have warned them prior to the Dive if such a situation could have presented itself.
“...Not even the Tower Administrator can access these systems so easily. If there was anyone who could do this...”
Lakra turned around and acted as if she was going to look at the locked door they used to enter this dome without even thinking. But since they had to solve this situation no matter what, she couldn't separate either her hands from the console nor her eyes from the holographic screen.
However, she was sure that someone was on the door's other side.
They heard the sound of the door unlocking.
And everyone aside of Lakra looked at the door.
On the other side of the door that slowly opened, there was the priestess girl made a mess.
Due to her fight with Kanade, the clothes she wore had been reduced to something similar to dust cloth and didn't look like priestess clothes anymore. The armor that protected her body below them was now plainly visible, and there wasn't even a single crack on it.
However, no one was really looking at her: their eyes were focused on Kanade, who she was grabbing with her right hand.
Kanade was grabbed by the neck, being pulled around and didn't seem like she could move anymore.
“No... Impossible... How could Kanade lose...?”
Lyner and Misha had fought against Kanade many times, so they knew very well how strong she could be.
However, now that same Kanade had been rendered completely immobile. As for her body, her right arm was severely damaged and the white sections of her chest armor had gotten so badly burned that they had turned black.
The girl then raised the hand she was using to pull Kanade around and threw her body at Lyner and the others.
Both Lyner and Aoto caught her. Kanade's body was horribly hot, and they both grimaced upon feeling how their skins were getting burned when they were hit by her. However, they couldn't just let Kanade fall to the ground, and they softly placed her on the ground.
Misha instantly started singing her healing Song Magic for them both, while Croix stepped forward and pointed at the girl with his spear to cover the others. He had already the finger put over the trigger while he aimed at the girl's forehead. As soon as she tried moving, he intended to fire at her. However, the girl didn't seem like she was going to move.
“...What is it? She doesn't look like she's going to attack us”
And while Croix said this as he pointed the spear at the girl, Lakra muttered something unsettling as she continued working.
“It's because she had decided there is no need to continue attacking us, as we won't know which door leads to the correct coordinates once the search system has been destroyed. Also, the explosions we can hear coming from the corridor are actually part of the system being destroyed, as that is the security safety feature that she has activated”
“Why in hell the security safety feature is making everything explode?”
“The explosions are a manifestation of the system getting shut down... In other words, it's a process that will make it so the current configuration can't be modified. If the doors that serve as pointers to the Symphonic Power routes get shut down, we won't be able to change the current energy routing configuration”
“...So she's decided that since we can't do anything, she doesn't have to do anything about us anymore... Damn it!”
Croix lowered his lance. As he imagined, the girl didn't move and just kept on staring at them.
Another explosion was heard coming from the corridor and Lakra typed on the console even faster.
Right now she was frantically sending programs in real time to reduce the damage the security safety measures were causing. While she couldn't stop them in full, this at least would delay the speed at which the explosions would occur.
Now the search system was getting destroyed, they would have no way to finding out which door pointed to the address coordinates they needed.
“Lakra, isn't there anything we can do?”
Even though Lyner asked this, Lakra couldn't answer him.
After all, that was the same question she wanted to ask.
Chapter 3: Finnel Goes to Wackyhabara
When Finnel entered the Harvestasha Module, she found Harvestasha, Shun and Frelia talking to each other.
“Oh? Are you done with your work, Finnel?”
Said Shun upon seeing Finnel enter the room.
“No, I'm just resting for now. And how are the works everybody's doing coming along?”
“I think it's going well. Only the Telomere work has been completed so far, but the Symphonic Power rerouting and the repairs on the relay satellite seem to be proceeding smoothly”
Finnel sighed upon hearing Harvestasha's reply.
“That's great! So it means we'll be able to save everyone in Archia!”
“And that isn't all! I just got in contact with Sis Shurelia, but it seems they have found a way to save Tili!”
Frelia nodded in response to Finnel's surprised face.
“Yes. And Tili and Sis Shurelia went to Sol Ciel after the Telomere work was complete. They said there was a facility over there where we could have a chance of helping her”
“So that means Tilia is not going to suffer then?”
“On the contrary, they might end up making her live for several decades! But even if this saves Tili... It won't change the fact the Tower is going to disappear...”
While she was happy they were going to save Tilia, they couldn't find a way to stop the Tower's collapse, which would be like losing her hometown to Finnel. So upon thinking this, Frelia thought she had to apologize.
“I'm sorry. We found a way to save Tili, but we couldn't find one to preserve this Tower...”
“No, don't apologize! It's true that the Tower's going to disappear and I'll feel sad when Clusternia goes away with it, but... It's more important that Tilia will be okay, and that makes me very happy!”
Regardless of how much she hated the very idea of the life extension treatment, ultimately Tilia accepted it. As Finnel knew that she'd be left in a state where she would suffer until her death, she was glad from the bottom of her heart to hear this.
Frelia couldn't hide her joy upon seeing Finnel like this.
“Thank you, Finnel. Tili... is like my precious little sister”
“Of course! Tilia is a very important companion; she's even more than a friend to me!”
When she was a child, Finnel was always bullied by all the other Clusternians. It's because of these experiences that she valued greatly those she considers her friends. And while there weren't many people she considered that way, Tilia was one of them.
“But can they get that method to save her going right away?”
“Hmm... Honestly, I don't know that either. Looks like Sasha had a flash out of nowhere, but she left for Sol Ciel before I could ask her the details”
“I see... But it looks like it's going to actually do its work of slowing down the Tower's collapse and saving Tilia, so it makes me feel relieved. Ah yeah, I should go and tell Aki 'bout it now!”
Akane was bound to be happy once she heard they had a way to save Tilia. Upon thinking that, Finnel decided she had to see her as soon as possible.
“I'll go now and let Aki know about this! I'm sure she's worried about Tilia, so I want to make her feel better by telling her this as soon as I can! Yeah, I've got to tell Saki about this via Telemo too and--”
Harvestasha screamed out of nowhere.
Everyone else looked at her wondering what could have happened.
“What happened? Why did you scream like that?”
Harvestasha looked at Shun in response to his question.
“Please wait a moment. I have an emergency transmission coming in from the Sol Ciel maintenance droid”
“Emergency transmission? Did something happen to Tilia and the others as they were going to Sol Ciel!?”
“Finnel, calm down. Tili and the others just left on an airship, so it has to be something else”
“G-Got it... But what could it be...?”
Finnel then remembered that Aoto had gone to Sol Ciel for the task of changing the Symphonic Power routes.
“...No way... Did something happen to Aoto?”
Finnel wanted to ask right away, but since Harvestasha seemed to be in the midst of communicating with the other party, she remained silent. They waited for her to finish the communication and explain the situation.
“...Something terrible has happened”
The words that came out from Harvestasha's mouth told everyone something they didn't want to hear.
“A problem occurred while they were changing the Symphonic Power routes. It seems that since a part of the system was destroyed, a security safety measure was activated, so right now the system that allows the defining of the address to which the Symphonic Power will be sent has started its shut down sequence”
“What!? But if they can't define the address, they won't be able to send the Symphonic Power here!”
“And if they can't do that... We won't be able to slow down the Tower's collapse!”
That would be a death sentence to the people who still remained in Archia and also for the people who ran away from Archia but couldn't enter Clusternia. So while they thought they wouldn't be able to leave the Tower completely uninhabited before it fell down, they found hard to guarantee they'd be able to save everyone.
Frelia had been smiling until a moment ago, but now she looked like she wanted to start crying.
“We won't be able to save Tili like this either...”
Upon seeing Frelia like this, Finnel asked Harvestasha.
“There's nothing we can do, Harve!? Can't we get the Symphonic Power sent before the system gets destroyed?”
“It has become impossible to search for the address from Sol Ciel, so we must start searching for it from here”
There was still a problem about this method.
“I'm currently processing a log of the search results Lakra got until the time she was interrupted. That should reduce the amount of remaining results to a few, so please wait a moment. However, that is everything we can do from here”
“What you mean? If we can search for the address, can't we define it from here too?”
Harvestasha shook her head in response to Finnel's question.
“It's possible to do something like browsing for the addresses from the outside, but changing the system to give it these coordinates is impossible. Of course we can still do it somehow, but I'd have to create something like a virus that can access Sol Ciel from the outside. I'd need to make two kinds of viruses for this: one that can break through the security and another one that can rewrite the system, but we don't have the necessary time to do it. Therefore, someone will have to Dive into Sol Cluster's Binary Field, go through it until they reach Sol Ciel's Binary Field, and once there, guide Aoto and the others to the correct coordinates”
Once she finished her explanation, Shun grabbed Frelia with her ears and placed her on his back.
“Let's go to the Dive Shop. Please send us the coordinates as soon as you have them”
“Understood. Sol Ciel is transmitting the current state of the Binary Field as we are speaking, so please look over it once you start the Dive. Take care”
With Frelia riding on his back, Shun ran to the door. Finnel ran before them very flustered.
“T-Take me too! The more people the be--- Kyaaah!”
Shun grabbed her with his ears and placed her on his back like he had done to Frelia while Finnel was speaking. At the same time, Shun ran off from the Module Harvestasha as fast as he could.
Shun ran through the city of Clusternia, which was now completely silent, with the two girls on his back.
He already knew where the Clusternia Dive Shop was by looking at the map that was on the airport when they disembarked from the airship that brought them there. He thought it could be useful if anything happened and he had to run away with Frelia.
The Dive Shop's building had come into view, but its shutters were closed. Shun stopped in front of the shop, Finnel and Frelia getting off his back right away, and started knocking on the shutters.
“Sorry, but this is an emergency! Please let us use the Dive Machines!”
No one inside the store responded to Finnel's calling. Frelia tried knocking on the shutters once again while Shun checked if someone was inside the store with his ears. As expected, no one replied, nor could they feel anyone was inside.
“What are going to do...? Looks like the Dive Shopkeeper has already evacuated”
Frelia tried opening the shutters herself, but she couldn't do much due to how tightly they were locked.
Upon seeing this, Shun flattened the upper part of his body as much as he could.
“...Could you two please stand away a little?”
Upon seeing his stance, both girls imagined he was going to do something, so they stepped away from the shutters.
Right away, Shun used his hind limbs to kick off the ground as hard as he could. He elevated thanks to the extraordinary strength he had on his limbs, and then he head-butted the shutters, piercing them and getting into the shop.
The inside was pitch-black and there was no one around. It seemed like the proprietor had already evacuated just like Frelia had guessed. However, the gigantic Dive Machines were still there.
Frelia and Finnel also entered the shop using the large hole Shun had opened on the shutters.
“Finnel, can you operate the Dive Machine and use it to send us to the Binary Field?”
“No. If it was just operating it the normal way I could, but I don't know how I'd send anyone to the Binary Field”
So having heard Finnel's reply, Shun started operating the Dive Machine with his ears and started it up.
“In that case, go into the pods with Frelia. I'll take care of the Dive Machine's operation”
And as they heard the roar that signaled the Dive Machine was operational, the pods opened.
“I can only send you two to the Binary Field from here. Once there, everything's in your hands Frelia”
“Okay, leave it to me. Are you ready, Finnel?”
Finnel and Frelia each entered a pod and lied down.
“I'll close them now”
Shun pressed some keys on the console and the pods' lids softly closed over them.
When Finnel suddenly opened her eyes, she noticed Frelia was standing in front of her.
“...Is this the right place, Frelia? But it doesn't seem like there's anything else here”
They both were in a dark space whose ground seemed to emit a soft white and blue light.
“We're just standing on the Binary Field's entrance. I'll open the way there now, so wait a little”
Upon saying this, the ground's white and blue light started gathering at Frelia's side. It then took the shape of something under their feet and rose from the ground.
It was a door. A shining blue and white door had appeared before them.
“So the Binary Field Aoto and the others are in is beyond that door?”
Frelia shook her head in response.
“Not yet. It won't lead to where they are until Harvestasha has found the correct coordinates.... So while we wait, I'll explain you about what kind of place the Binary Field over there is”
At the same time Frelia had Dived into this place, she had read the information on the First Tower's Binary Field that Harvestasha had prepared, so she knew what had happened between the time Aoto and the others Dived and the present. Frelia explained it all to Finnel.
“Got it... So the system that defines the addresses has taken the shape of doors in the Binary Field? Ah, so that's why the way to Sol Ciel looks like a door too”
“Yes. Once the search is finished, we'll also know where the door we must find is. Once we do, we'll point this door's exit to that place and connect it to where we want to go”
“So once I get out in front of the right door, all I have to do is lead everyone to it and make them open it, right?”
“Yes, but I don't think finding them will be an easy task”
She would be let out into a maze of white corridors once she went out that door. Having to go through it while searching for Aoto and the others, and calling for them wouldn't be easy.
“And it has started disappearing too, so we have limited time... I can't afford to just wander around inside that maze for too long, right...?”
“Yes. And besides, I think the security will start moving once we get there. If that happens, we'll have to search for them while running away, so that's going to be pretty dangerous?”
“What you mean? We should be okay, as we're just going to be browsing and checking around, right?”
“It's true it might seem like that, but if Aoto and the others had used those privileges when they entered the Binary Field, it would be a different story. They are not simple visitors, but intruders, so they and any systems they have tampered with are now considered spyware”
Finnel's unease slowly built up the more she listened to Frelia.
“So are we going to be able to handle this?”
A troubled smile appeared on Frelia's face.
However, she immediately nodded with force.
“...Somehow we'll get through it. I want to save Tili no matter what”
Even if Tilia got her life extended successfully, she would just suffer endlessly until her death. Now they had found a way to save her, Frelia thought she would overcome any obstacles and impediments she found so they could carry that method out.
After all, Tilia was her only little sister.
Upon seeing how strongly Frelia answered her, Finnel braced herself.
“Yeah... I want to save Tilia too, absolutely!”
“Yeah! Ah, it's here! I've got Harvestasha's search results! I'll input the coordinates now”
Frelia touched the door and defined the address for its exit point. She was finished in a second and the sound of something unlocking came out from the doorknob.
“That was fast... It's connected already?”
“I only had to input the address, but we can now go to Sol Ciel's Binary Field... Are you ready, Finnel?”
While asking this, Frelia placed her had on the doorknob, but Finnel softly stopped her.
“...I'll go alone from here. You should stay here, Frelia”
“Once we enter the Binary Field over there, the security will start moving, right? If it's going to get so dangerous, I can't let you go there”
“I knew from the beginning it was going to be dangerous, but I still have things I must do over there... to save Tili and the people of Archia...”
“That's all the more the reason for you to stay here”
Upon seeing how inflexible Finnel was about this, Frelia drew her hand away from the doorknob.
“...Can you tell me why you think I'd be better off remaining here?”
“It's simple! You know it's very likely we'll need to do some technical work soon, right? If that happened, we'd need the technical knowledge you have, Frelia. But if I remained behind like we're doing now, the only thing I'd be able to do would be leading everyone to evacuate”
“But that's a very important job. And while it's true I might have more technical knowledge than you, I can't think of any situation where we'd need it with how pressed we're for time”
“In that case, I have even less reason to let you go... Weren't you planning to follow Tilia to Sol Ciel once we finished this too?”
“Y-Yeah. I'm worried for Tili”
“In that case, I can't let you go into the Binary Field at all. If anything happened to you, Tilia would be very sad... Besides, the method for saving her won't get done anytime soon, so I think the anomalies in Tilia's Triangular Nuclear Loop will start causing her pain at any moment. When that happens, I want you and Shurelia... her two big sisters to support her...”
And saying this, Finnel stood in front of the door and grabbed the doorknob.
“I'll do what I must do now: I'll go into the Binary Field without relying on you and lead Aoto to the right door. And there're other things you really should be doing now, Frelia!”
Finnel left her hand on the doorknob as she waited for Frelia's answer.
After all, there were no arguments that could beat what Finnel had just said. Any rebuts that Frelia thought of seemed like they could be shot down by Finnel.
But Finnel wasn't really thinking of doing that.
Finnel actually had a debt of gratitude so large to Tilia that she would never be able to pay her back. And maybe Tilia herself had realized this too.
However, Frelia didn't notice she had these feelings,
“...In that case, I'll support you from here. If things get too dangerous out there, call my name. Once you do that, I'll force you back here at once, no questions asked and no matter the situation”
She had decided to calmly do as Finnel said and stay behind.
“I just gotta say Frelia then? Ok, I'll call you once I'm ready to go back”
“Okay... Ah, right!”
Like the door before, Frelia once again gathered the light under them to create something, and once it had finished taking shape, it softly rose from the ground.
“Take this with you, Finnel”
Upon saying this, Frelia picked the item up from the ground and gave it to Finnel: it was a round magic pen.
“What should I use this for?”
“You know you'll have to move a lot from the correct door while you try to find Aoto and the others, right? All the doors around it look the same, so this pen is for you to mark it so you'll be able to distinguish it from the others”
“Ah!” said Finnel agreeing with the idea.
Given that the place really was filled with rows of identical-looking doors, it was easy for her to forget what the correct door was.
“Thanks, I'll make good use of it... Well then, time to get going!”
“Okay. Be careful”
And after taking a deep breath, Finnel slowly turned the doorknob and opened the door.
She saw the white corridor and a door.
“...That must be the right door”
She quickly took off the magic pen's cap and stepped into the corridor.
Frelia could still see Finnel from the door's other side, but Finnel couldn't see anything of the entrance she had used. But still, Frelia muttered behind Finnel,
And upon saying this, she immediately focused her feelings into doing her work to support Finnel.
The first part of this was opening a line to her Tower in Metafalica. Once there, she started connecting that same line to a maintenance droid that lived in a place there called the Hot Spot.
Once she stepped into the white corridor and took a couple steps ahead, Finnel pressed the magic pen against the door she had right in front of herself.
It made a high-pitched sound as she continued moving it around, using it to draw a circle on the door's surface.
“Okay, this should be fine. What do you think? Does it help it stand out?”
She turned around as she said this, but Frelia wasn't there anymore. Not only that: the door she had used to come here was nowhere to be found and instead she only saw one of the many closed doors that lined up the corridor.
“...So it was a one-way trip?”
She was completely alone in the white corridor, so she started feeling a bit lonely.
“No, this isn't time to be feeling like this. But where should I go?”
Finnel looked around. The white corridor extended endlessly straight ahead both behind and in front of her. She saw some corners at some points, but what she saw beyond them wasn't different in the slightest.
“...At the least it'd be great if I could find out a way to know where I should go”
And as she thought this, an explosion was heard on one of the corridor's directions out of nowhere.
While it sounded like the explosion happened very far away, the whole corridor trembled.
Finnel looked in the explosion's direction for a little while, but she didn't see any fire or smoke. It seemed something had exploded much further inside the corridor.
Feeling slightly relieved, Finnel pressed the magic pen's tip against a wall and started walking in the opposite direction from where she heard the explosion coming.
It was possible Aoto and the others could be in that direction, and since she didn't know if she was taking the right path, she had no other choice but to walk around blindly.
She continued walking through the white corridor while drawing lines on the walls.
However, she didn't notice a large group of girls clad in priestess clothes were behind her...
Chapter 4: Still in the Binary Field
Aoto and the others were standing on the hall between the dome's door and the white corridor, unable to take off their eyes from the girl that was standing completely still in front of the entrance.
While Lakra said she wasn't going to attack them anymore because she had determined they could do nothing now, they didn't really like the idea of turning their backs on her after the one-sided beatdown she had given them.
Suddenly, a strange window appeared on the computer monitor that Lakra was operating.
“...A message? From Frelia”
The message in question was a single-line short message.
“I have sent Finnel to the position where the target coordinates are located”
Lakra didn't know anyone by that name, but given Frelia mentioned her, someone in the current party might know her.
“Does anyone among you know of a person called Finnel?”
“Finnel? What's up with her?”
At the same time Aoto turned around, the priestess girl took a step in their direction.
“She's still moving!”
Aoto quickly returned his gaze to the girl upon hearing Lyner say that.
While her boosters and one of her feet had been destroyed, the girl walked one step at a time forward while dragging her damaged feet behind. Since she looked like a beautiful girl from the neck up, it was very painful to see her in such a battered up state.
However, no one among them felt any sort of sympathy nor they wanted to drop their guards despite this. After all, this was the same girl that had defeated Kanade despite having gotten so beaten up.
“What does this mean, Lakra!? Didn't you say she didn't need to get rid of us anymore!?”
Said Lyner without taking his eyes away from the girl.
What she had said before and how the girl was acting now were at complete odds.
Lakra just replied,
“It's because Finnel has come into this area from a different place. It seems she is right now at the door we were looking for”
“Finnel's coming here!?”
Said a shocked Aoto, to which Lakra merely nodded.
“Yes. That is the reason for this girl to be moving again. Finnel can't open the door because she has accessed this Binary Field from an external place, but she can lead us to the correct door and make sure we open it”
“B-But isn't that place a maze? How likely is that we're gonna find her...?”
“The probabilities are very high actually. It is due to that that this girl started moving once again: to stop us”
Aoto then looked at the white corridor.
Since Lakra was saying they had a very high probability of finding her inside that white maze, she might be closer than he expected.
“Okay, in that case, it's clear what we have to do”
Lyner unsheathed his sword and pointed it at the priestess girl.
“Aoto, go and find that Finnel girl. Leave this to us”
“What're you saying? I'll fight too!”
“Aoto, you're the only one here that knows Finnel. You get it? No one can do it besides you”
“B-But... What're Croix and you going to do against something like her? We couldn't beat her even by fighting together!”
And at the side of Aoto, who was still gripping his sword, Croix pointed his lance at the approaching girl and pressed the trigger. Unlike the previous time, he shot the bullets in full-auto mode, and once they hit the girl, she violently shook and fell on her back.
“We got her!?”
Asked Aoto with evident happiness in his voice, but,
“No, she just staggered and fell because she lost her balance”
Replied Croix right away. Like he said, the bullets didn't cause her even a single wound and she got back up right away.
“...Just like you saw. Aoto, if you've got time to worry about us, you'd be doing better searching for Finnel and making the Symphonic Power flow to the right coordinates as quickly as you can. And generally speaking, it's not just Lyner and me: you know we never had a guarantee we could beat her even if we had you fighting with us, right?”
He thought that it was true that being with Lyner and Croix in this situation would be reckless. However, the likelihood of the situation improving if he continued with them was extremely low.
“...Let's try this”
While pressing a switch on his sword, Aoto swung it in the girl's direction. When he did this, a green shockwave came out from the blade, sending the girl flying when it hit her.
This was a technique that converted the Symphonic Power stored in the sword into a shockwave that would be used to blow the enemies away.
While the girl received the brunt of the shockwave, its force couldn't even knock her down.
“...She's been made a mess but she's still as strong as always, huh?”
Aoto said in a resigned voice as he lowered his sword,
“Okay. I'll go look for Finnel, so make sure to hold that thing down while I do that!”
“Yeah, leave it to us... But anyway, make sure to find Finnel as quickly as you can”
“Yeah. From the battle we had with her, it's clear we won't be able to keep her busy for too long... So hurry up and go!”
“Okay! And make sure to not die here!”
Aoto then ran off into the white corridor, which still had explosions echoing from it every now and then.
Upon reaching the corridor, Aoto stopped when he reached a corner, and after quickly choosing the way he'd take, he ran off.
He turned around for a second to check on Lyner and Croix. They couldn't see Aoto anymore, and he had gotten so far from them at this point that they couldn't hear his footsteps either.
“...Not die here? That's pretty rash for him to say”
“It's just proof that he's worried for us... But yeah, we're not planning on dying here either”
The boosters on Croix's lance started roaring and he softly elevated in the air.
“...In any case, let's start by driving her away from the dome. I'll leave the follow up to you, Lyner”
“Yeah... Let's make her pay for everything she's done to us”
And after saying “yeah”, Croix ignited his boosters.
“Kyaaah! H-How further are they going to follow me!?”
Finnel was frantically running away from the group of priestess girls that were chasing her.
So far, they hadn't done anything but make Finnel feel uneasy from how they were following her with inexpressive faces. Moreover, the more she ran away, the more girls came out from all the places within these labyrinthine corridors.
But even as she ran away, Finnel didn't stop pressing the magic pen against the wall.
Even now the pen's tip was pressed against the wall drawing a single long line, so even if she kept running away, she would be able to get back to the door she had first seen when she arrived as long as the line was still there.
An explosion was then heard coming from further inside the corridor.
She had already lost count of how many she had heard since she arrived.
However, Finnel noticed the sound came from the direction she was running in.
“...No way... I'm running toward the explosion!?”
Finnel was sure she had been running in the direction opposite to where the explosion came from, but it seemed that at some point she ended up going backwards from where she was going during her running around the maze's corridors.
“...No, I won't be able to find Aoto if I continue blindly running around like this!”
Even if Aoto was coming this way, it would have no meaning if Finnel was running in the opposite direction to him. She thought about turning back, but she already had the priestess girl group that was chasing her. Finnel didn't know how strong they were, but she knew that pushing through them and going back was impossible. She wasn't even sure that she would be able to go back to her proper course if she kept running like this.
“...I have to lead Aoto!”
And thinking this, Finnel stopped running right away.
The priestess girls noticed it and stopped as well.
Finnel took several deep breaths and turned to face the girls.
She shrieked out of nowhere.
Such was the number of priestess that had gathered behind her. After all, Finnel had seen a lot of girls as she ran away and she expected there were many behind her. However, their sheer number was about a hundred times higher than what she had imagined.
However, it seemed impossible they all could attack her at the same time due to how narrow the corridor was. Her heart became a little lighter upon realizing that.
“...It's okay... Everyone is working hard, so I have to do the same!”
She took a deep breath and then started singing.
It was a healing Song Magic, and one that had an extremely large effect area at that.
She had made the effect area as wide as possible so whenever Aoto or anyone else came close by, they would notice she was singing this healing Song.
As she had always used Song Magic that had its healing power focused on her friends, this was the first time she was using a Song that had its effect so spread out around a large area. It was more exhausting than usual, but Finnel still pushed on.
As the effect area was so wide, it was natural it posed a tremendous burden on Finnel herself.
One of the girls stepped in front of her and kicked Finnel as she kept singing.
Fortunately, the girls that were in front of her weren't the same as the priestess girl Aoto and the others had been fighting against: they were defense programs whose role was forcefully removing any browsers that entered these systems, so their abilities were exceptionally lower than those of the girl the others had been fighting.
However, they still posed a credible threat to Finnel.
Finnel groaned and fell to the floor from the weight of the girl's kick. However, she stood back up and resumed singing.
Right now, she had to keep singing no matter what.
After all, that was the only way she had to make everyone else know where she was within this white maze, no matter how far they may be.
A second girl rushed in and tried punching Finnel. She managed to avoid it, but a third girl was expecting this and grabbed Finnel by the hair to then sending her crashing down against the floor.
She started losing consciousness from the intense pain.
As her sense of self started fading away, the face of a girl appeared inside her mind.
“I'll supply their Triangular Nuclear Loops with Telomere”
The words of the girl played back in her mind.
“Okay and everyone lived happily ever after! That's great, that's great!”
These were the words Tilia uttered the moment she had saved her from the terror of death that made her tremble so much.
In the midst of that pain, Finnel managed to avoid fainting and screamed, knowing she had to pull herself back up.
At the same time her consciousness returned in full, the pain that was pressing against her starting throwing her heart into chaos, but she didn't mind it at all.
She then continued singing in screams. Anyone who listened to her at this point would have doubted she was actually singing.
Finnel herself knew this too.
She wouldn't let any of her friends ever hear a Song like this: its music was a complete mess and she herself thought she was singing horribly.
But she still wouldn't stop, as if she stopped singing this Song, Aoto would never notice where she was, and if that happened they would be unable to send the Symphonic Power.
They wouldn't be able to save the people who still remained in Archia.
And she wouldn't be able to save her benefactor, the same girl who had saved her from the terror of death.
Ever since she was a child, Akane had been protecting her from the bullying she received from everyone in Clusternia.
To protect her from the enemies in battle, Aoto had desperately gone into Finnel's Cosmosphere to help her overcome her own weaknesses and traumas.
And Tilia had saved her from the terror of death she always had from the time she was born and that never left alone due to the fact she was supposed to have a very short life.
Finnel smiled bitterly while feeling the intense pain, thinking she was incompetent due to everyone always had to save her.
That was just how much everyone had always been protecting her.
And now one of those people, Tilia was heading to death herself.
“...I won't let her die! I'll save her no matter what happens!”
Finnel continued singing.
Even if one of the girls grabbed her by the hair.
Upon seeing how Finnel wasn't going to stop singing at all, the priestess girl raised her arms to strike at Finnel's face again.
However, her arms stayed raised and didn't move.
Finnel saw this as she kept on singing.
There also was a mechanical girl unlike the priestess girls around her.
The mechanical girl had grabbed by the arms the priestess girl that had flung Finnel through the air by her hair and kept her unable to move.
She separated the priestess girl from Finnel, and after knocking her down into the floor, she pierced the priestess girl's chest with her hand.
Once the priestess girl stopped moving, the mechanical girl left her on the floor.
“...Are you still alive?”
The mechanical girl asked Finnel.
Her face was that of a human girl, but the rest of her body was covered entirely in armor.
The mechanical girl then faced the place where the large crowd of priestess girls was gathered, and after looking at them for a moment, they launched an attack against her.
However, endless bullets and missiles rained out from behind the mechanical girl against the priestess girl group.
“What's happening now?”
When Finnel looked in the direction the bullets and missiles had come from, she saw there were many Guardians gathered there.
“...W-who? Who are you?”
While she didn't understand the situation, it didn't seem like they were her enemies. Finnel thought this as she asked her question, to which the mechanical girl replied in an uninterested manner.
“I am Rhaki. By the orders of our Goddess, I have come from Metafalica to protect you”
Having seen how Meimei materialized the Guardian data in the Binary Field, Frelia had done something similar and sent some data herself in.
She had ordered the maintenance droid called Rheki who lived in Metafalica's Hot Spot to send in directly the data for Rhaki and the guardians called the Divine Army that had appeared at the same time.
“Metafalica... So that means Fre...”
She was about to say Frelia's name without thinking, but she immediately closed her mouth up. The plan was that Frelia would pull her back if Finnel said her name, so it would be terrible if she said it now.
“There is presently no time for explanations. Please continue singing and carrying out your role as a guidepost”
They then saw how new priestess girls appeared beyond the pile of defeated ones the Guardians' attack had left behind.
Upon seeing this, Rhaki positioned many of the Guardians in front of Finnel.
Then, the part of her armor that looked like a red skirt opened and moved to her back, becoming a set of six steel wings.
“By the orders of our Goddess, you shall be eliminated now”
Outside the dome, Lyner and Croix were still locked in a fierce fight against the priestess girl.
She couldn't move anymore due to not being able to use one of her feet and all her boosters. However, that hadn't done much to close the overwhelming gap existing between their strength levels.
Still, Lyner and Croix weren't going to lose against her.
Their combination attacks were launched in such a relentless and seamless way that they left the girl no time to counterattack them.
Whenever it seemed that the girl was going to directly catch Lyner, Croix intercepted her by firing bullets from the side. Lyner stepped back then, and if the girl tried to attack Croix as they were doing this, Lyner would rush in and intercept the attack, meaning they would only receive an attack from her.
“...If we can keep on dealing more and more damage to her like this...”
At Lyner's signal, Croix rapid-fired several rounds at the girl from afar.
The girl alternated using both hands to block the shots.
But since her vision was obstructed due to this, this allowed Lyner to swoop in and directly stab her into the abdomen.
The girl seemed like she was going to collapse, unable to bear a direct attack like this, but then she launched at Lyner the same long hairs she had used to annihilate Kanade.
As the hairs approached, Lyner swiftly slashed at the girl's body multiple times. While this didn't cause any damage to her armor, all the hairs got cut up and fell inert to the ground.
And after the series of slashes, he slashed at the girl with all the strength he had.
A crack ran through the girl's abdomen.
“We did it!”
The amount of damage they had piled up on her had finally done its job. Lyner was overjoyed at the fact they could finally inflict an actual wound on the girl, but that ended being a grave mistake.
He dropped his guard for a single instant and the girl took advantage of it.
Even though her hairs had been cut short, there were still electric shocks running through her right shoulder, so under these conditions, she could easily deal a devastating shock at Lyner on the chest with her hand.
Lyner was sent flying from the punch and the electricity so strongly he couldn't even utter a scream as the girl hit him.
Croix ran to his side. Lyner had been knocked out cold.
Croix grabbed him by the collar and started slapping him.
“Lyner, get ahold of yourself! Wake up!”
“...Uu... ugh... Croix...”
Lyner managed to wake up somehow and he took a look at the point in the chest where the girl had hit him.
His clothes had burned and fallen off in that point while his skin had gotten carbonized.
“...Healing, too slow... This is bad...”
“Bad is the time we've been having since that thing appeared... Rest up until you've recovered enough to move again. But make sure to get up”
After leaving Lyner sitting down, Croix rushed against the girl.
Lyner absentmindedly saw how Croix rushed in the priestess girl's direction.
“...Looks like we're gonna lose here”
Even if at first glance things didn't seem different at all, Lyner had noticed that Croix's movements were becoming more sluggish and that his lance attacks didn't seem to have as much force in them as before.
Croix was nearing his limits just like himself, so if they continued fighting the girl, it would put their lives at risk.
They had to end this battle now.
Lyner touched the wound on his chest. So far, it had healed to the point a dull pain was running through it and the carbonized flesh had vanished to be replaced by reddish skin covered in boils.
He could move again.
Having decided this, Lyner eyed at Misha behind him.
Misha had been singing at the dome's entrance to support Lyner and Croix, and she noticed then Lyner's gaze.
He gazed at her not just to make her look his way: he was signaling her to change to attack Song Magic.
They could understand each other this much due to the long time they traveled together and the countless battles they took part in.
“...What are you thinking, Lyner?
But despite thinking that, Misha followed Lyner's indications and changed her Song.
“...The Song changed?”
Upon noticing this, Croix got away from the girl and ran back to Lyner, who was standing up again but was still unsteady on his feet.
“What's happening? The Song...”
“We're nearing our limit already... So let's blow her up with a final strike!”
Despite being so battered up, Lyner was showing a very powerful smile.
“...That doesn't sound bad!”
Croix checked the remaining energy indicator for the boosters that was on the inner side of his lance. While it still had enough energy for several more normal uses, it barely had enough for one use of the limiter removal mode.
“...And it's sounding better with every passing second”
After checking that Misha was accumulating energy for her attack Song behind them, Croix turned all the boosters on at once.
The girl seemed like she was going to put her hands in front of herself, but it had already been proven from the battle they had before that she wouldn't be able to stop Croix like that.
The spear went through the girl's hands and its tip started pushing into the crack the girl had in her stomach.
The girl's body was unable to stop Croix's charge and was sent flying into the air from the lance's push.
Soon after, they felt a crash.
The charge was stopped by a building's wall but the boosters still continued pushing the lance further and further in.
The armor in the girl's abdomen let out a weak sound: it was that another crack had appeared on it.
The crack slowly became larger and finally Croix's lance started going through the girl's body.
But at that time, the girl kicked Croix with her good foot before he could finish the job.
As she couldn't use her broken foot and she wouldn't be able to kick him with her good foot to keep standing, she used the lance that was going through her to support herself. It couldn't cause him more damage than her normal kicks, but it was enough to get Croix away from her.
The girl motioned as if she was going to take out the lance from herself, but the boosters' thrust was so powerful that she didn't have enough strength to force them back. So after a little while, the girl raised both hands and swung them downward over the lance's inner part.
The first strike caused a crack that extended through the whole lance and the second one broke into pieces, leaving only the part with the boosters flying around uncontrollably.
Now the girl had taken away the lance's tip, she could get away from the wall.
She should be able to move freely now, but the part of her abdomen that got pierced by the lance had another shock going into it.
It was Lyner. At some point, he had gotten close enough to stab the girl's stomach in the same place Croix had done it before, so once again the girl found herself with her back pinned to the building.
Upon being told to fire her Song Magic, Misha started faltering.
If she fired now, Lyner would be caught up in the blast, and while he could run away under normal conditions, it was clear he wouldn't be able to do so hurt as he was.
And maybe it was because he realized Misha had those feelings, but Lyner also told her,
“I'll be okay!”
Misha had no other way but to believe him.
Besides, Lyner would be in danger regardless because the girl could attack him while he was still pushing her back.
So Misha finishing forming up her Song Magic: a gigantic ball, and fired it at the two.
She had no other choice.
At the same time, something passed by Misha's side at a very high speed.
“...Looks like I'm going to die…”
Lyner thought as he saw the light of the Song Magic approaching.
While they had no other choice, he pretty much had made Misha kill him.
He felt very remorseful about it.
He also thought about Hama, who was Misha's Mind Guardian. She was a girl who considered Lyner to be her father and who considered Misha to be the most important person to her over everyone and everything else. What would she say when she knew that he had made Misha kill him and made her sad as a result?
“...She'd really hate me again”
He felt sad.
Not because Hama would hate him, but because he wouldn't be able to meet her again.
However, Lyner felt someone grabbing him from behind.
“It would trouble me”
It was Kanade.
She was all battered up, but she still managed to raise Lyner's body overhead.
“If I let you die, I wouldn't be able to ever show my face to Sis Meimei ever again”
She then threw Lyner to a part of the ground a little away from her so he wouldn't get caught up in the incoming Song Magic blast. However, Kanade didn't have enough strength now to get Lyner to a point where the Song Magic wouldn't also affect him. And the point where Lyner had fallen down now was going to be the Song's direct impact area, so it means it would receive the brunt of the attack.
However, Kanade didn't seem to mind it too much.
She grabbed the girl's body pinned as she was to the wall and focused all her energy into her good arm to then throw her at the Song Magic.
“Receive... All my feelings!”
The girl flew toward the Song Magic's light and Kanade extended her arm fully toward her to also attack her.
The instant the girl got struck by the both of them, a great explosion was released.
The shockwave from the explosion was so strong that Croix could only withstand it because he laid himself down on the ground.
However, he didn't just do this: he also followed Lyner with his eyes.
While he escaped the direct hit, he got caught up into the powerful shockwave due to being so close to the point-blank range, so Croix saw how he helplessly skipped and crashed into the ground multiple times, unable to do anything, before stopping.
Once the shockwave passed, Croix stood up and ran in Lyner's direction.
Lyner lied completely immobile on the ground.
Croix turned Lyner face up and started shaking him to make him wake up, but his eyes didn't open at all.
“Croix, how's Lyner!?”
Croix didn't answer Misha when she ran to them, but he instead checked Lyner for a pulse.
“...It's okay, he's still alive”
Right when she heard that, Misha's legs were drained from all strength and she fell to her knees.
“I'm so glad... Lyner's alive...”
She then hugged the unconscious Lyner.
“Stupid Lyner, liar! Lying and saying you were going to be okay...! I'll never forgive you...!”
Despite crying and insulting Lyner, Misha was very glad that he got out alive from this and continued hugging him.
Croix felt very relieved that Lyner was alive too, but he stood up right away.
“Misha, you and Lyner should go back to reality now. I'll go back to Lakra's side, as we don't know what could happen now”
“Don't push yourself. Aren't you in a pretty bad shape too, Croix? Besides, your lance got destroyed too”
“As long as I can move, I'll manage by fighting using martial arts or something”
While normally Croix fought using a lance as his main weapon, he also was very experienced in martial arts: after all, he was who taught Cocona all about them.
But in any case, he felt very insecure about being able to handle anything that happened by fighting with his body as his only weapon.
So as he said this, Misha extended a hand to the right shoulder pad in Lyner's armor. There was a scabbard in it holding a dagger that Lyner used as a spare weapon, so Misha took it out and handed it to Croix.
“It's better than nothing, right?”
While Croix hesitated a bit initially, he extended a hand and grabbed the dagger.
“Yeah. Thanks a lot; I’ll put it to good use”
“...But I haven't handled a sword or dagger in ages. I'm not confident I'll be able to fight with it well” he thought.
“...Make sure to come back in one piece”
“I know. Take good care of Lyner”
“Yeah, I'll do”
Misha then looked up at the sky.
“Meimei, take me back!”
In that instant, Misha and Lyner turned into particles of light and disappeared.
After having seen them off, Croix started walking back to the dome.
However, his walking was unsteady and his pace shaky.
On the hall, Lakra was still frantically moving her hands to delay the explosions as much as she could even now. She couldn't get hurt since she didn't take part in any battles like Lyner and the others did, but to keep inputting instructions on the console without being able to take even a single second of rest wasn't a simple task either. Besides, she had to keep thinking up of programs to slow down the explosions to then input them as quickly as she could.
Suddenly, Lakra raised her gaze.
She saw how a group of priestess girls were running in her direction form the white corridor's other side.
“...So they're still coming?”
Lakra jumped in shock when she heard that voice from behind her.
Lakra couldn't believe her eyes when she turned around.
There, covered in wounds and on unsteady feet, she saw Croix.
“...What's the situation?”
“I-It... seems that Aoto hasn't found Finnel yet”
“Got it... Looks like you'll need to keep working hard a little more Lakra. I'll stop them on the meantime”
And saying this, Croix walked to the white corridor.
“...How about Lyner and the others?”
“Lyner and Misha went back to reality… as for Kanade... She tied up with that monster”
“...You aren't planning to end up in a tie with them too, are you Croix?”
Before he could answer, one of the priestess girls leapt out from the corridor, but Croix threw himself over her.
He grabbed her by the arms, threw her into the ground using a shoulder throw and then stabbed her on the chest with the dagger.
Right away her body stiffened, she started spewing out smoke from everywhere and stopped moving completely.
“...Looks like they aren't like that thing”
Croix removed the dagger from her and turned to face the girls that were squirming around and coming out from the corridor.
“Are you going to do that, Croix? Please tell me”
In response to Lakra's question, Croix just replied,
And saying this, he faced the girls.
“Finnel! Where are you, Finnel!?”
Aoto ran through the white corridor while screaming Finnel's name.
He had been running the entire time he had been in the corridor, but since everywhere he went looked exactly the same, he had started doubting he had actually gone anywhere.
“...They told me we had good chances to find her, so she shouldn't be so far away”
As he had been running and screaming for such a long time, his breathing was very agitated.
He needed to get back his breathing to a normal level at once, so he stopped.
“Aaah... Ahhh... Damn it, where could she be...?”
His breathing was so rough that he started feeling pain on his throat.
But since his lungs were demanding oxygen, Aoto had to continue taking deep breaths over and over.
However, while he was in the middle of taking these breaths, he felt like the pain on his throat disappeared.
And that wasn't all: the pain on his chest and the heavy feeling on the limbs he continued flailing around were also fading away, leaving his body as if it were completely healthy.
Aoto saw a corner that was bit further in.
When he ran to it and peeked out, he didn't see anyone: he only saw more of the inorganic door rows that endlessly lined the walls of the place.
However, Aoto did feel it.
That the fatigue was being lifted away from his body, and it was the sort of mysterious phenomenon that could be caused by a Song Magic's effects.
Aoto started running again.
Finnel had before herself a pile of destroyed priestess girls and destroyed Divine Army robots.
The many Divine Army robots had been completely destroyed by now, so now only Rhaki remained.
On the other hand, the priestess girls continued coming one after another, forming a large group.
Finnel directed a worried gaze at Rhaki while she continued singing.
Rhaki was still standing in front of Finnel to protect her. However, her whole body was covered in scratches and cracks, and even the wings on her back had gotten chipped and broken from all the damage they sustained.
Rhaki noticed the gaze Finnel was giving her,
“...Sol Marta is so far away that the data transfer speed is getting slowed down due to the error correction process, and thus I cannot demonstrate the power and speed that would be required in this situation”
Indeed, as she was now, Rhaki couldn't demonstrate even a tenth of the abilities she would have if she were acting in her home area.
And because she was fighting as if she were in her usual condition, Rhaki ended up as damaged as she was now.
The girls swarmed around her.
Rhaki grabbed two of the girls that had come to attack her and swung one of them around as if she was a weapon, using the other as a shield to block any attacks aimed at her.
While Rhaki could hold the girls down somehow thanks to the merciless fighting style she had, she was still subject to a large numerical disadvantage.
Several priestess girls managed to pass by Rhaki's side and headed directly to Finnel.
“Please run away!”
The instant Rhaki screamed at Finnel, the priestess girls attacked her all at once. While it was the simplest possible attack, it became overwhelming due to their brutal numbers. Rhaki struggled to free herself and escape but she couldn't do anything against the weight the priestess girls that appeared one after other were putting on her.
While Finnel obeyed Rhaki, she couldn't do anything to save her.
This was because her tiredness was peaking due having to keep singing nonstop and she was reaching a point where she couldn't even continue standing.
But still Finnel kept on singing with the same large effect area she had been using so far, despite her exhaustion, as anyone would find her out whenever they noticed the Song's healing effects. However, she couldn't do anything else if she had any hopes, no matter how small, that Aoto and the others would find her.
“...Please, notice I'm here... Aoto...”
...Please, notice I'm here... Aoto...
Her feelings reached Aoto, who was running through the corridor.
These were the feelings of a girl that was very scared, yet stayed as firm as she could.
Even though he couldn't run at full speed, the more he ran in, the more Aoto's body and breathing felt lighter.
That was the proof of how long she had kept on singing, even though she was nearing her limits.
He then finally saw her: a girl surrounded by girls wearing priestess clothes at the corridor's other end.
So Aoto took a deep breath and,
As soon as he did, the weight on his body and the breathing difficulty returned with full force.
She had stopped her Song and her feelings had been cut off at that point.
For an instant, Aoto imagined the worst had been happening and thus he felt all the muscles on his spine freeze.
But the next instant, he heard a voice filled with passionate feelings that pierced through the weight, the rough breathing and the paralysis he was feeling.
It was Finnel's shrieking voice.
The priestess-clothed girls took away their eyes from Finnel, and right as they did, the next thing they saw was Aoto holding his sword aloft as he ran with all his might.
While they started getting away from Finnel to stop Aoto, they were too late to do anything: he cut down two of the priestess girls in a single swing.
They broke into pieces as their bodies fell to the ground.
However, Aoto didn't stop there.
Upon seeing how two other priestess girls were approaching him from both sides, he pressed a switch on his sword's handle which made the blade open to the sides and expose the drill in the center, but the girls caught it while the blade was opening up. So Aoto pressed the switch again, making the blade close up with force and tear to pieces the priestess girls that had caught it.
This was a powerful scissor that acted as a follow-up gimmick to the drill mode.
Seeing how the girls that were surrounding her had all been defeated, Finnel slowly raised her face.
Her face was filled with fear and soggy from the tears she had shed. It was the face of someone who kept on singing without giving up no matter how scared she was or how intense the pain she felt was.
Aoto looked at her straight in the eyes,
“I heard your Song”
And as he said this, he roughly caressed her head.
Now the tension inside her mind had finally been cut off upon finally encountering Aoto, Finnel jumped on him and started crying.
Aoto looked at Finnel as he embraced her.
While she had been healed thanks to her own Song Magic, she still had traces of blood and her clothes had gotten dirty, so Aoto could imagine what she had been through.
Finnel wasn't the kind of girl that could face enemies in hand-to-hand combat, so now she had gotten involved in this situation; she couldn't do anything else but sing her Song Magic.
But Aoto heard her Song, and thus he could feel Finnel's feelings.
That was what led him to this place.
Aoto softly separated Finnel from himself and faced the priestess girls that noisily were gathering before them.
“...Looks like you did what you wanted to her enough already, bastards”
He pressed a switch and at the same time, he shot off a Symphonic Power shockwave like he had done previously.
The many priestess girls that received the attack were blown off and stopped moving completely.
It was obvious that the girls he had before him were extremely weak compared to the one he had been fighting before.
Three girls then jumped to attack Aoto at the same time, but Aoto just struck, slashed and stabbed them with his sword.
“I'll make you regret having bullied my servant!”
“Hey! Y-You should be saying something cooler at a time like this!”
While Finnel complained about this, her face made it look like she wasn't as annoyed about it as she said.
In any case, the number of girls they had before them was quite abnormal. No matter how weak they were, if Aoto and Finnel kept on fighting them individually, their strength would deplete at some point
“...So what're we gonna do?”
And as he thought this, something caught Aoto's attention.
There was a pile of priestess girl remains.
While they didn't seem like they all had been broken down into pieces, how did they end up like that?
And as he was thinking this, something from inside the pile made a loud noise.
As Aoto pointed his sword in the pile's direction, it exploded.
The priestess girls that formed it were sent flying all over: to the walls, the ceiling, and the ground, and the ones that were broken in pieces even went flying to the farthest visible side of the corridor.
What had come out from the pile was no other than Rhaki.
Rhaki slowly turned in Finnel's direction after she heard her voice and she checked Aoto when he ran in.
“It appears that you have arrived in time”
And after saying that in an uninterested voice, Rhaki returned her gaze to the still-working priestess girls.
“Who's that, Finnel?”
“She's Rhaki. She came here to save me”
Battered up as she was, Rhaki tried raising her arms to the girls that were approaching them. However, she didn't seem like she could due to the overwhelming pressure she received from the girls’ attacks a little ago. She was downed from the girls' tackle and the others started swarming around her.
“Rhaki! Aoto, please!”
“You don't have to tell me!”
Aoto ran to the girls that were swarming around Rhaki and changed his sword's mode.
It was now in drill mode.
“Don't move, Rhaki!”
Aoto thrust his drill and rammed it into the girls pile.
The girl on the drill's center broke into pieces as soon as the tip touched her and the girls around were flicked away just from touching the drill itself.
Rhaki finally was released from the crushing weight of the girls around her.
“Are you okay, Rhaki?”
Aoto helped her stand up until she could maintain herself on her feet.
“Thank you very much. But please, do not mind what happens to me from now on. There are matters you must attend to now, correct?”
“Yeah, but we can't just leave you alone. I gotta thank you for having protected Finnel!”
“I was just obeying the orders from our Goddess, which are protecting you until you reached the place where the correct door is located. If you are unable to open that door, I will not be able to carry out the orders from the Goddess... Would it be not a demonstration of gratitude if you assisted me in carrying out those orders?”
“...Are you gonna be okay on your own?”
“Even in my current conditions, it is a fact that I can fight better than you... If you understand that, please make haste and go”
Aoto went back to where Finnel was sitting down and carried her on his back.
“Hold onto me tightly, Finnel”
Finnel coiled her arms and legs around Aoto's body and grabbed on as tightly as she could. Aoto gripped his drill mode sword as strongly as he could and used it to rush the wall the girls had made in the corridor.
The girls that were in a straight line from him were unable to stop the charge and were struck, broken into pieces and flicked away one after another.
There were some girls who tried attacking them from behind, but Rhaki clung to behind Aoto and Finnel’s backside, and destroyed with her kicks any girls that tried approaching them.
And while Finnel kept in grabbed to Aoto's back, she kept her eyes closed and she could only hear the sounds of the girls getting reduced to scrap by Aoto's drill. At times she felt the arms of the girls reaching out to her from the sides, and while her body shivered from the shock, Rhaki took care of them right after.
A short while later, the drill's crushing sounds stopped and Finnel opened her eyes.
“...We went through!”
They had gone through the girls' wall.
However, they still had an endless number of girls chasing them from behind.
Aoto threw away his sword at them to lighten his load and started running, following the line painted by the magic pen on the walls.
And behind them, Finnel saw how Rhaki had been locked in combat with the girls.
“Please go. I shall remove anyone who tries interfering with your work for as long as I can”
And saying this, Rhaki kicked the remains at her feet to the girls that were approaching them.
These iron lumps flew at extremely high speeds and crashed into the girls, releasing fireworks and sparks before they stopped moving completely
The place where Rhaki was standing was the pile formed by the remains of the destroyed girls and the remains of the guardians that had come with her to this place.
“They shall not pass nor shall they reach you”
And while clinging to Aoto's back, Finnel continued seeing how Rhaki destroyed all the girls that tried approaching them.
Meanwhile on the hall, Croix continued fighting alone.
Around him were a large number of girls he had destroyed with the dagger. As his weapon was so simplistic and short-ranged, he couldn't damage them to the point of reducing them to scrap, but he still had managed to terminate their functions in just one blow.
Lakra kept eyeing Croix as he fought wielding that dagger while she continued her work.
His breathing was rough and fast, his feet were trembling, supporting the weight of his upper body that seemed about to collapse at any time, cold sweat was dripping from his face and his eyes were empty.
“...It'll be truly dangerous if we continue with this for any longer”
Lakra had thought this many times while Croix fought against the girls that showed up in the corridor one after another.
However, it was true that Croix had managed to down them one by one. As the entrance to the hall from the corridor was so narrow, fortunately the girls hadn't been able to attack all at the same time.
However, this time he was really at his limit.
Lakra stopped inputting the jamming program she had been using all this time and immediately started inputting a different one.
It was a program to destroy this place.
The sounds of the explosions coming from inside the corridor started speeding up and increasing in frequency.
“Lakra, the explosions' speed is... Agh!”
One of the girls rushed in from the corridor and grabbed Croix from the neck to then raise him.
But immediately, Croix grabbed her by the neck and turned it around until it snapped.
He heard the sound of the girl's internal steel skeleton breaking, but she still didn't stop moving.
She then started squeezing Croix's neck with even more strength.
Croix changed the dagger from a hand to another and stabbed the girl in the neck with it.
This time the girl's hands lost strength and she released Croix.
As soon as she finished inputting the program, Lakra ran off from the desk and stopped once she reached Croix. Croix was standing on the ground, but it didn't seem like his feet could continue supporting his own weight. He collapsed forward straight into a different girl that was approaching him.
“Croix, watch out!”
The girl raised her hands as she saw Croix falling in her direction, but Croix was faster than her. As he fell down, he stabbed the girl in the chest with the dagger and pressed it in.
The dagger pierced into the girl's armor and they heard the sound of it breaking at the same time the girl stopped.
Croix also fell down to the ground and couldn't move anymore.
Lakra knelt in front of his unconscious body to cover him.
Another girl that flew in from the corridor rushed to them with both hands held aloft.
As soon as Lakra shouted this, both she and Croix disappeared.
The raised arms of the girl ended up just hitting the body of the girl that still had the broken dagger sticking out from her chest.
The girl tilted her head, not understanding why they both had disappeared like that.
The girls that noisily came out from the corridor and into the hall were looking around after seeing the place where they both had disappeared, thinking they could have hid somewhere else.
But as they did, the computer released a warning sound that announced the program was starting: the same program that Lakra had initiated when she was manipulating the console a moment ago.
And the instant the girls looked at the computer, the hall was consumed in a large explosion.
Aoto and Finnel continued following the magic pen's trace, but they then noticed the explosion behind them.
“That explosion just now... No way, did something happen to Lyner and everyone else!?”
Did that priestess girl do something?
Even though he was worried about them, Aoto couldn't just stop.
They heard the explosions' speed increasing the closer they got to them, to the point the whole corridor was now shaking greatly.
If they didn't hurry, the door they were looking for would be destroyed and they would be unable to send the Symphonic Power to the Third Tower.
“That's the one, Aoto!”
They saw some flames rising from the corridor's deeper areas. In other words, the explosion was finally reaching them.
Aoto followed the magic pen's lines with his eyes and he noticed it ended on a door that was right on the explosions’ very border.
“That one? That's the door, Finnel?”
“Yeah, that's the one!”
Now he finally had it in front of himself, Aoto rushed to the door.
However, he noticed that the explosion was also approaching them at a tremendous speed.
“...If we get caught up in it, we're gonna die”
While it seemed he was going to freeze from the fear,
“Hurry up; this is the final stretch!”
Finnel telling him this from behind erased the dread right away.
After all, Finnel had led him all this away, enduring the pain brought by the beating the priestess girls gave her and continuing singing despite everything.
He couldn't just let her tenacity and everything she had done go to waste.
“Finnel, can you get back to reality right away?”
“Yeah, I'll get back by just calling out a name. How about you, Aoto?”
“I'm the same. Well then, let's fly off!”
They were already within the distance in which the heat and shrapnel from the blasts could be clearly felt. Now they had gotten so close to the door, Aoto extended a hand.
The explosion had now reached the place two doors away from their goal. Aoto's hand grabbed the doorknob.
The explosion blew up the door right next to where they were, but Aoto opened the door and used it as a shield to protect them both from the blast.
And just as they disappeared, the place they were just a second ago exploded.
When Aoto woke up inside the pod, he was assaulted by a bizarre dull sensation in his body, a splitting headache and a great nausea.
He couldn't understand what was happening and softly opened up his eyes. Even though he intended to open them in full, he couldn't manage more than open them halfway through and this dreadfully short sight range made him panic. However, his body felt so dull that it impeded his movement, so even if he wanted to struggle, he couldn't do anything. He couldn't do much but struggle like a bagworm while he was inside the pod.
But then, someone opened up the pod's lid from the outside.
Under normal conditions he would have heard a loud noise, but Aoto felt his ears so clouded that he couldn't hear more than a weak sound, as if he had earplugs in them.
Two hands were extended to him from outside the pod and embraced him.
“Are you okay, Aoto?”
It was Meimei. Within the narrow sight range he had, Meimei's face looked distorted to him.
Meimei held him in her arms and softly took him out from the pod.
While Aoto tried to speak, he couldn't utter any actual words. He wasn't speaking inarticulately, but his tongue didn't want to move, so whenever he tried to speak, he only could get some moans and breathing out.
Due to this, Meimei set Aoto to lie on the floor and placed a finger on his mouth to quiet him down.
“I will explain everything, so please calm down. First, can you listen to my voice? If you can, please nod with your head”
Meimei was imagining in what condition Aoto was currently, so she spoke slowly and a little higher than usual. Thanks to this, Aoto could follow what she was saying and nodded in response.
“In that case, I will explain it now. The reason your body is like this is due to the recoil you got from doing appropriately excessive efforts in the Binary Field. While it might be as painful as dying, at the least your life alone is in no serious danger. You can feel relieved on that point”
So while Meimei was saying he should feel relieved about his current condition, Aoto didn't really like the idea, especially how she said it would be as painful as dying.
However, there was something else that worried Aoto.
“...My life alone isn't in serious danger?”
This gave him a very bad feeling.
He closed his eyes to sharpen his clouded hearing, and he soon noticed some weak voices nearby.
It was Misha crying and Lakra screaming out Croix's name.
Aoto opened his eyes again and looked at where the other pods were located.
They all were now open and had been vacated from their occupants.
And having checked this, he slowly turned to look at the floor on the side.
Croix and Lyner were lying unconscious over there. Misha was crying while sitting at Lyner's side, frantically holding him against her chest. Lakra was also like Misha, doing the same thing while calling out Croix’s name.
Aoto recklessly tried to move despite his body not responding well to him, just to try approaching Lyner and the others.
However, when he finally could move a little due to this, his gaze rolled over and he completely lost consciousness.
Aoto lost consciousness, but his life wasn't in danger. Meimei lifted him and softly set him to lie next to Croix and Lyner.
“How are they?”
Lakra was kneeling over Croix, but she then straightened herself up.
“It seems we have managed to somehow get Croix breathing again... But Lyner...”
Misha straightened herself up from kneeling over Lyner. It seemed she had successfully managed to get him breathing again too.
“Lyner, wake up! Lyner!”
Now Lyner was breathing again, Misha tried shaking him to wake him up, but Meimei stopped her with her hands.
“Even though he has resumed breathing, it does not change the fact he is still in critical condition. His breathing might stop again at any time, so please let him be for the moment. Ayatane will be bringing doctors from Platina in any moment, so please...”
But Meimei suddenly stopped talking.
“...Meimei? What happened?”
Even though Misha called her, Meimei didn't respond. She had frozen in the same posture she had when she stopped Misha, as if her functions had stopped and she couldn't move anymore.
Wondering what could have happened, Misha and Lakra looked at her in the eyes, and then,
“T-This is terrible! We are in an emergency situation!”
But before they could think anything about how she suddenly moved, she shrieked in a panicked voice.
“The instant we finished defining the Symphonic Power route, for some reason the system decided to start sending the energy right away!”
“But isn't that good? We have to get the energy there as soon as we can”
“It's too soon! The repair work in the satellite has yet to be completed, so if the Symphonic Power reaches it in this state, the satellite will be unable to withstand that great energy amount and it will explode!”
“E-Explode!? But Aurica and the Church guys are still there...!”
And Misha wasn't the only one shocked: Lakra was every bit as astonished as her.
When Aoto came to Metafalica to call her and Croix, Chester had also accepted to go with them to help with the repairs and thus departed for the satellite as well.
If the satellite really exploded, he would also get killed in the explosion.
“Meimei, how long is it before the Symphonic Power gets released!?”
Lakra took out a Telemo as soon as Meimei told her this.
On the meantime, Meimei started making calculations for the time amount they still had before the Symphonic Power was sent off,
“...Understood. We have only twenty minutes before the energy is sent!”
Chapter 5: A Gigantic Orgel
Aurica and the others continued working on the satellite's repairs, but they had hit a large wall.
They had finished repairing almost all the parts they needed in operational condition for the relay satellite to carry out its functions, but there was one they couldn't get working no matter how much they tried.
It was the reflective plate that had the function of redirecting the Symphonic Power. And they hadn't just tried it from the inside; as they had also gone out to the satellite's outer walls and replaced the parts that were already too old to work. But despite that, they couldn't get the reflective plate to move.
“It's useless... Harvestasha, it doesn't seem like the reflective plate is going to move at all... I don't think we'll get any results aside of getting the Symphonic Power getting cut off here...”
Said Chester to the Telemo he had lying on the floor.
“[I'm sorry, but I think the same. But it's strange, as according to my calculations it should be working properly now...]”
Harvestasha's voice also sounded confused from the Telemo.
“But wasn't this satellite built many centuries ago? Doesn't that mean the parts we use nowadays would have a poor compatibility with it?”
“[I cannot deny that possibility... Give me a little time to think]”
Her voice stopped coming out from the Telemo and Chester sighed.
He looked at the places he had repaired: the sight from how it was before the repairs had completely disappeared as if it had never existed and it was working without problems now it had been replaced by new wiring and new machinery had been installed into it.
“...Yet there's no reason for it to not be working now”
And while Chester grumbled, all the people that had been working on the satellite were gathering before him.
“Sir Chester, has Harvestasha said anything?”
Chester shook his head as he replied to Radolf.
“She is still looking into the cause, but most likely she has also given up on this... Even she said already the satellite's repairs have been completed already”
“...And don't you have any ideas for a possible solution?”
“There is actually a very simple way to make the reflective plate move, but it would impossible to carry it out in practical terms under our current situation”
“But if there's a way, you have to tell us. We just might end up doing it!”
Aurica's eyes sparkled with expectation, so Chester adjusted his glasses while he said in a pained voice,
“We would have to take out all the internal machinery in the satellite and replace them with parts from our era. That way we could get a 100% certainty that the reflection plate would move... However...”
“...We don’t have the necessary manpower or the time for that”
Given they had brought the necessary people to carry out the bare minimum repairs, it was impossible they could replace the entirety of the satellite's internal components, and even if they had ten times the workers they had now, they still lacked the materials and time needed to pull off such an operation.
However, the lives of the many people in Archia and the feelings of Tilia after she received the life extension depended on this satellite. And to Radolf, who was part of the El Elemia Church, the latter was especially important.
“...Shall we go and check again the places we have repaired?”
While the staff members sighed out in response to Radolf muttering this, no one complained. After all, they were all the best engineers in Tenba and the Church, so not being able to get this ancient satellite to move was also wounding their pride. So while they didn't like the idea, they knew that giving up was never an option.
But when everyone was preparing to go back to their positions, everyone started hearing the ringtone from Chester's Telemo: this time it wasn't the Telemo connected to Harvestasha, but his personal one. When he pressed the button to answer the call,
“[Chester, you have to get the satellite working now! The Symphonic Power is about to get sent there!]”
As the Telemo was in speaker mode, Lakra's screams came out from it. Everyone stopped dead on their tracks.
“[Can you hear me, Chester?]”
“Y-Yeah, I hear you. But hold on, we haven't finished repairing the satellite yet. Please stop the energy sending for now”
“[We can't! As soon as the address for the Symphonic Power was set, the system decided to start preparing to shoot off the energy on its own... The Symphonic Power will be getting there in twenty minutes!]”
Upon hearing how much time they had left, Chester started acting quickly.
“Harvestasha, did you find anything about why the reflective plate isn’t moving?”
He asked at the floor, where the Telemo that was connected to Harvestasha was placed,
“[No, unfortunately I haven't--]”
But before she finished saying that, Chester turned to face Radolf and the others,
“You all have to get away from here now! The satellite won't be able to withstand the Symphonic Power in its current state, and it's going to explode!”
He was ordering everyone to evacuate.
It was impossible to do anything in the remaining twenty minutes because they didn't know what they had to repair or what the cause behind the problem was.
However, Radolf said,
“P-Please wait, Sir Chester! If we run away now, what's going to happen to the satellite!? We won't be able to extend Lady Tilia's life like this!”
“That's true, but there's nothing we can do at this point. Let's escape now”
“B-But can't we move the satellite somewhere else?”
“That's impossible. This satellite wasn't made with the capability for moving anywhere, and even though we could drag it away with the airships, it would take too long. So we have to escape now!”
“...No, I can't! I refuse to do so!”
Radolf was refusing to escape.
“W-What are you saying!? You mean you plan to die alongside the satellite!?”
“I'm the Bishop of the El Elemia Church, which worships the Trio of Elemia. Given that we'll lose our Goddess Lady Tilia if the situation continues like this, I can't allow myself to run away even if it costs me my life! I'll stay here and continue repairing the satellite until the bitter end!”
“Stop spouting idiocies! Are you planning to become a martyr!? If you do that, you won't be doing anything but throwing your life away! What do you think you can accomplish in such a short time!? What place are you going to repair!? Do you really think you can get the reflective plate moving like this!?”
“...We won't know until we try it”
Radolf's resolution was so firm that Chester realized it would be impossible to persuade him.
Having decided that any further talk would be pointless, Radolf decided he had to go back to where he had been working and turned his back on Chester.
As he did, several of the people that were working with him also turned their backs on him: they all were Church engineers. Similarly to Radolf, rather than working here until the end and dying, they were going to become martyrs.
Chester thought he had to stop them somehow, but he had no more arguments to persuade him or the time to spend doing so.
“[Stop acting like idiots!]”
A voice that came out from the Telemos stopped Radolf and the others.
Similarly to how Harvestasha had connected with them, said voice came out from the Telemos they all were carrying at once.
However, that wasn't Harvestasha's voice
“That voice... Lady Tilia!?”
It was Tilia's voice. Radolf thought that Harvestasha had called her in an attempt to stop them from remaining there. However,
“[Tilia, are you making yourself be heard by them]!?”
Harvestasha's voice sounded very shocked, so it seemed she had nothing to do with this.
“[Yeah. This whole business started worrying me, so I decided to wedge myself into the lines and check what was happening... And Radolf, stop acting all stupid and get away from there now. You know as well as anyone that finishing the repairs is impossible now, right?]”
“But Lady Tilia, I am the Bishop of the El Elemia Church. Given this, to run away and abandon completely the plan for extending your life would be...”
“[In that case, I give you this order as your Goddess: I won't forgive you if anyone dies there, so go and escape right now]”
It was true that since Tilia was their Goddess, her orders were absolute to Radolf. However, he couldn't bring himself to obey these orders right away.
“...It's true I must obey any orders you issue, Lady Tilia. However, if these orders would cause me to just abandon you to your death, I don't think I could bring myself to obey--”
“[How smug. That you use my name as an excuse like this... it's very unpleasant. Getting the life extension treatment is painful enough already, but now you also have to make me feel worse...]”
From the other side, they heard Tilia grumbling as if she were cursing someone.
“[...I've taken a decision. If you let even a single person die there, I'll kill myself]”
“Wha.... What are you saying, Lady Tilia!? Are you on your right mind!?”
“[For now. In a little while, my life extension period will start and all the time I have left before that happens is extremely important to me, so don't make me feel any unpleasant feelings from now on]”
“...Is that an order too?”
“[It's a request... So please, don't make me kill myself]”
Radolf still had more he wanted to say, and while he intended to do so, these last words from Tilia made him gulp down everything.
Radolf stared at the Telemo as if Tilia and him were staring each other down, but after a little while,
“...Very well, we'll evacuate now”
He didn't want to obey her orders. But if they died in this place, it was very likely that Tilia would actually commit suicide. That was the extent of how much he wanted to keep her from doing that. Tilia was forced to accept the life extension treatment to save the Archia people, and even his resolution was reduced to nothing before the prospect of her committing suicide.
So when Radolf finally said they would evacuate, she sighed in relief at the Telemo's other side.
“[Looks like you understood. Okay, we'll meet again in Sol Ciel]”
“...Meet again in Sol Ciel? Did you go there, Lady Tilia...?”
“Bishop Radolf, we only have fifteen minutes left! We have to hurry!”
Radolf nodded when he saw how Chester was urging them to go.
“Ugh... Everyone, time to evacuate! For Lady Tilia's sake, we mustn't leave even a single person behind!”
And as soon as he shouted this, every single member of the team started running through the passageways to the airships at once.
Radolf ran after them right afterward.
Chester gave a last look at the area he had been repairing.
He had repaired it following the indications Harvestasha gave him, but he was completely confident that he hadn't committed any mistakes in anything he did. But despite that, they were unable to get the reflective plate operational.
While he felt regret at this, he knew there was nothing they could do about it now.
He gave up and prepared to leave that place, running through the passageway to follow Radolf and the others, but,
Someone appeared out from the passageway's shadows.
When the two airships that Radolf and the others had boarded scrambled away from the satellite, they had ten minutes remaining.
Once they got far enough, they changed their course and remained suspended while facing the satellite.
“...And now we won't be able to extend Lady Tilia's life nor we'll be able to save those who still remain in Archia...”
Muttered Radolf from inside the airship as he gazed at the satellite.
If he could, he would have wanted to remain repairing the satellite until the very last moment, as it wasn't impossible a miracle could have manifested if they had done that.
Of course that the chance of this happening was pretty much zero, but he still couldn't help thinking that.
“...I'm so powerless”
That was the only thing that Radolf muttered,
“You aren't the only one who thinks that way, Lord Radolf”
Radolf noticed that the elderly engineer who was piloting the airship was who said this.
He and everyone else were some of the best engineers that Tenba and the Church had to offer, so they all should be feeling regret about the fact they were unable to carry out their mission of repairing the satellite.
“...I'm sorry. Looks like I was only complaining without noticing”
Radolf just told the engineer to not worry when he said that.
But nothing they said now would change what was going to happen now. Radolf thought they would just keep watching the satellite silently until its end came.
He saw an airship entering his vision range: it was the airship belonging to the Tenba engineers that had come with them from Sol Cluster.
Radolf then looked for the other airship that came from Metafalica and which Chester had boarded. However, no matter how much he swept the area around the satellite with his eyes, he couldn't find any other airships aside of the Tenba one.
“...Where is Sir Chester's airship?”
The engineer that was piloting the airship also noticed this when Radolf asked.
He grabbed the joystick and changed the airship's course to look around the satellite. However they couldn't see Chester's airship anywhere.
The engineer then moved the airship to a position where they could see the satellite's docking area.
The airship they were looking for was anchored there.
“W-What foolishness is this!? They haven't evacuated yet!?”
Then, the door leading to the living space behind the pilot's chair opened up and a woman peeked in.
“U-Umm... Excuse me, but is Miss Aurica here?”
“She isn't with you!?”
“No... I was thinking that maybe she boarded the wrong airship and went with the Tenba people. Miss Aurica is scatterbrained enough for that, right?”
The woman said this while laughing and went away.
Radolf and the pilot didn't feel like laughing at this at all.
“...Lord Radolf, shall we make sure about this?”
In response, Radolf hurriedly took out a Telemo from his armor...
Within the again silent satellite, a Telemo's ringtone was heard.
Aurica took out the Telemo and saw that Radolf's name showed up on the screen,
“Accha, looks like they found us out...”
She said as she showed the name on the Telemo to Chester.
“Of course. But in any case, shouldn't you hurry and answer them? If they come back due to being worried about us, our plan is done for”
“Yeah,” replied Aurica as she pressed the answer call button in the Telemo.
“[Aurica! Where in Ar Ciel are you!? Don't tell me you remained in the satellite!]”
Radolf's panicked voice was heard from the Telemo. Aurica just replied,
“Yup, I stayed behind with Chester in the satellite. Ah, but it's okay! We've got a pretty nice idea for this...”
“[Don't be stupid! There's not enough time remaining to do anything! What are you planning to do!?]”
“You'll get it if you watch from there. Is everything ready, Chester?”
“Yes, I just need to connect this... It's ready!”
Chester handed a controller with a small stick to Aurica. Several copper wires came out from it and were connected to the wiring that ran throughout the walls.
“I'll now contact Harvestasha. Please start the control tests now, Aurica”
The Telemo's line had been cut off after the conversation with Tilia, so Chester reconnected it to Harvestasha. Meanwhile, Aurica slightly pushed the controller stick to the front.
“W-What!? What's happening now!?”
Radolf saw how the satellite started moving.
While the reflective plate didn't budge even one inch, the satellite itself slanted as it emitted some metallic sounds before stopping.
Meanwhile inside the satellite, Aurica and Chester were now fallen over the place that had been a wall until a few seconds ago.
“Owwwwiee... It responds better than I thought”
Aurica had fallen on her back over the wall, and while she stroked her back she slowly pushed the stick to the back.
When she did, the satellite slowly moved until it returned to its original position.
During the slanting, Chester ended up crashing face-first into the wall, and once he made sure he could stand safely on the ground again, he pressed his aching nose with his fingers,
“P-Please Aurica... I cooperated with you because I trusted you knew what you were doing”
“It's okay, it's okay. And did you contact Harvy?”
“[Yes, I can hear you. But more importantly, are you two still on the satellite?]”
They heard Harvestasha's voice coming from the Telemo.
“Harvy, please tell us which direction the reflective plate needs to face! We'll move it there now!”
“[What are you planning, Aurica!?]”
In response, Aurica told to the Telemo Radolf's voice was coming out from,
“The reflective plate can't move, but we can still control the satellite's position! So we'll manually rotate the satellite to change the direction the reflective plate faces!”
“[But I think that plan is quite absurd, Aurica. There is no way you can control it with such a dreadfully exact... no, better said, with such a machine-like precision]”
“It's okay, it's okay! Detailed work is my specialty! After all, that's why I work as an orgel artisan”
“...Though it's somewhat worrying how you are equating orgels to a satellite”
Said Chester as he sighed with a troubled and puzzled face.
However, Aurica paid no mind to Chester and raised a thumb over the shoulder at him, showing him she was going to do it regardless,
“[Aurica, stop doing idiotic things already! Have you forgotten Lady Tilia ordered us to evacuate!?]”
“Nope, she didn't. Lady Tilia told us she wasn't going to forgive us if even one person died. So if we're successful and we can get back alive, we won't have any problems!”
“...Ah, so that's how you took it?”
They could clearly hear Radolf moaning on the Telemo's other side.
“And more importantly, please guide us Harvy! We don't much time, right?”
“[But Aurica, aren't the probabilities of this being a success very close to zero?]”
“But which one has the highest success rate: finding the spot we gotta repair, or moving the satellite to the direction the Symphonic Power's coming from?”
“[W-Well, that is... It's true your method has a higher rate of success, yet still...”
“Then it's okay! It's fine! It's true it might be a very detailed work, but rotating stuff is my specialty as an orgel artisan! It's okay, it's okay!”
said Aurica as she showed a large smile. Of course, she was nervous about doing this. Everyone said that Aurica had an airheaded personality, but they also knew that when she decided she would do something, she would do even dreadfully absurd things to carry it out to the end. And while she was equating the satellite to the orgels in a very optimistic way, she didn't really think that way. She felt within herself that their success chances were extremely low when she tried moving the satellite a little ago.
However, Aurica had found a possibility. And if this method would allow them to extend the life of Goddess Tilia, who she had admired ever since she was a child, she wanted to bet everything on it.
“...While she's completely different from how I imagined her since I was a kid, she's always supported me” she thought.
“...Please hurry and tell me! If we continue wasting time talking around and everything ends up going boom, we're going to ignore Lady Tilia's orders!”
“[...Understood, but please don't forget that your success chance is very close to zero]”
Harvestasha transferred over the data for the position the reflective plate should be facing to the satellite.
Chester checked the data, took out one of the wires and connected it to a monitor he had on his hands.
The monitor projected a complete image of the satellite.
“[Do you see it, Aurica? The image shows the satellite's current position. So in order to get the reflective plate facing the direction it should from its current position...]”
An image of the same satellite but in different colors appeared and it turned around a little to the side to then rotate 40 degrees over its own axis before stopping.
“[If you can stop the satellite at this angle, you will be successful]”
“Wow, what a surprise. Looks like we can do it right away”
“[The problem is that its position is fixed. The position control systems aren't equipped with mechanisms that allow the satellite to rotate, so you will have to keep it in its current state. Therefore, even if you slanted it at the right angle, stopping it at the proper position is a next to impossible task]”
If such an enormous satellite rotated, it would also put in action very strong centrifugal forces that would make impossible to suddenly stop it due to inertia. Aurica was already imagining this was the case.
“[Are you really going to be okay, Aurica?]”
Asked Radolf in a worried voice, but Aurica just replied,
“Agh, I'm telling you I'll be okay... And I'll show it to you now! Look!”
“Aurica, we only have three more minutes before the Symphonic Power comes!”
They were approaching the time limit.
Aurica breathed deeply for a second and then softly pushed the stick across.
With a small shake, the satellite started moving. Likewise, the display that showed the satellite's current position in the monitor started turning to the side in sync with the real one.
She carefully pushed the stick and right before the satellite on the monitor overlapped the one in different colors, she released it.
The satellite stopped moving shortly after Aurica released the controller, and was now in perfect overlap with the one in different colors.
“You did it! You really did it, Aurica!”
Aurica smiled at Chester, who was overjoyed at their success.
“...But we haven't finished yet”
She only had moved the satellite a bit laterally, and this time, she had to slant it vertically.
“[...This is the decisive time now]”
“...Yeah, and we'll finish it this same way!”
Aurica said trying to apparent the same cheerfulness she always had.
While both Chester who was looking at her and Radolf who heard her from the Telemo's other side noticed that Aurica was merely acting cheerful, they also mysteriously felt they could fully trust her.
However, only Harvestasha felt different about her: she noticed Aurica's voice had a tinge of nervousness to it.
While Harvestasha continued giving indications to Aurica, she didn't believe they had even a microscopic chance of success.
As she was a computer, no matter how many times she calculated and recalculated, the results only gave desperate figures for Aurica's success chances.
And she also knew that Aurica was in an extreme state of tension now.
“...That would only increase her failure chances”
It was impossible.
That was Harvestasha's conclusion.
Ignorant to the fact that Harvestasha was thinking that, Aurica breathed in deeply and softly pushed the stick forward.
Like the previous time, the satellite emitted sounds as it started moving.
Since slanting it vertically would be dangerous unlike how it was when she just moved it horizontally, Aurica and Chester moved to the wall that was getting below them.
After all, they knew that gravity wouldn't be pulling their feet down but rather their backs due to the movement.
“...A little more... Just a little more...”
Aurica stopped breathing and looked at how the satellite's image in the monitor softly slanted.
Like before, Aurica released the stick a little before than expected. After she released it, the satellite in the monitor didn't stop moving and still continued slanting.
In a short time, the overlapping figures of both satellites separated once again.
“It's not stopping!? Aurica, turn it around quickly--!”
“No, wait a little!”
The satellite slanted little by little, and it finally stopped once it had turned about 90 degrees.
It was a failure.
“[...Only one minute remaining]”
“...Then I'll move it one more time”
Aurica placed her finger on the stick once again and moved it to the same degree the satellite had gone over.
“Are you okay, Aurica?”
“...I'm the kind of girl who can do anything she tries”
Aurica kept on looking at the monitor while she felt on her back the vibration of the satellite's movement.
“...This thing is a big orgel. It's not a satellite; it's just a big orgel”
Aurica remembered having played a lot with the orgels since a long time ago.
While she made orgels, she of course loved listening to them too.
But there was something about them that always displeased her since she was very little. That was that once the orgel's wind-up charge was exhausted, it would always interrupt the melody at some point regardless of what happened. This made her feel very bad, but she couldn't do anything about it.
She wanted it to stop right at the melody's end.
Aurica was so obstinate about this that she listened over and over to her favorite orgels to the point she acquired the special ability of winding up the springs in a way that the orgels' rotation stopped exactly at the melody's end.
This was one of the games she engrossed herself in when she was a child. Of course, she hadn't done it ever since she grew up.
“...If I can do it like I did back then, it's be fine. It's okay, this is just a game”
She felt on her back that the satellite's movements were going too fast, so she lightened a bit the pressure she had on the stick.
“[There's no time, hurry!]”
“If I hurry it up, it'll go too far again!”
While the satellite's movement had slowed down, it could have continued moving a little more once she released the stick. However, this time the slanting satellite was moving in a rising motion. It was so she wouldn't get over the point like the last time.
“...Here... No, a little more...”
Aurica softly lifted her finger from the stick.
While the satellite moved a little more afterwards, it stopped soon after.
When they saw the monitor, they saw that the two satellites projected on it were almost perfectly overlapping each other.
“...Is this okay?”
“[The Symphonic Power flow is coming!]”
That instant, the whole satellite shook as if it had been struck by an enormous hammer.
It was so strong that both Aurica and Chester got lifted up from the impact. Afterwards, it continued shaking as if an earthquake was taking place there.
If anything exploded now, it'd start a chain reaction that would ultimately blow up the entire satellite. They curled on the floor of the shaking satellite while feeling anxious about the possibility the whole place could explode.
The tremor continued for a few more seconds, but it suddenly stopped completely.
“...Looks like it ceased”
Aurica raised her face as Chester said this.
They were shrouded by such a thick silence that the violent shaking they had experienced a moment ago now seemed like a lie.
“...Were we successful?”
The Telemo they were using was sent flying a bit farther away from them due to the shaking, but they heard from it,
“[...I can't believe it, it was a success! I confirm we received the Symphonic Power here!]”
Harvestasha's voice came out from the Telemo announcing their success.
Next they heard from Aurica's personal Telemo the overjoyed voices that came from Radolf's airship.
Chester propped himself against a wall while listening to them and said,
“Amazing... I can't still believe it, but we really made this a success...”
He said as he wiped off the tears that were coming out from behind his glasses.
When the satellite started violently shaking, he thought he had seen Lakra's face for an instant. When he saw that, he believed he was going to die there and had given up on everything. However, that wasn't the final result fortunately.
“...Sonia, looks like I'll be able to go back to you in the end”
These were tears of happiness.
As for Aurica, who was so essential in this plan, she softly placed the controller she had in her hands on the floor,
“You saw it right? It was all okay! And it was all thanks to me!”
She said as she flashed a V-sign with her hand at Chester.
While that gesture and her innocent smile were like those of a child, she looked very proud to have accomplished something that was thought impossible.
At some point, the engineers that were in the rear quarters of the Radolf's airship had gathered at the bridge and were all overjoyed, celebrating that the Symphonic Power transmission was a complete success.
And they weren't the only ones: they could also hear the cries of joy that came from the Tenba airship via Telemo.
“Aurica, Sir Chester... You have done a splendid job!”
These were the words of gratitude that Radolf told to the two that were in the satellite.
“[No, I didn't do anything. The one who deserves the credit for having controlled the satellite is Aurica]”
Replied Chester with an exhausted voice. While the satellite they were in was completely silent in contrast to the airships, it seemed they were still tense.
“Well then, our job here is done. Please come back now you two. We must now go to Sol Ciel to report this to Lady Tilia and get some rest”
“[Yeah, agreed... I'm very tired from having stayed in this satellite for who-knows how many days! Chester, do you mind if we give you a ride to Sol Ciel?]”
“[I don't mind it. I have business in Sol Ciel as well]”
Now the Symphonic Power had been transmitted, Croix and Lakra should have finished helping with the Binary Field work too. Since they both had come here in Aoto's airship, they were thinking that going there himself would save Aoto the effort of taking them back to Metafalica.
“[The satellite's position seems to be fixed now too. We should be safe no--!?]”
They heard screams coming from the Telemo.
“W-What is it!? Did something happen!?”
“L-Lord Radolf, look!”
Radolf raised his face when the pilot said this. The engineers were all pointing to the satellite in front of them too.
The enormous satellite started shaking greatly before them.
“[T-This is... Positioning control system error!?]”
“[B-But then... Kyaaah!]”
Because they had forced the control systems by making the satellite slant, the positioning control system went into disarray, so the now slanted satellite started violently shaking in the direction it had been slanted, with the slant angle increasing more and more with every second.
“N-No! Aurica, the satellite has started slanting!”
“[N-No! The controller isn't respon--]”
That instant Aurica's voice was drowned by noise, and they heard how some of the internal components of the satellite were consumed by small explosions.
These explosions started also destroying the satellite's outer walls to the point that even the people in the airships could see them.
Chapter 6: The Last Day of Archia
Ten days went by after the Symphonic Power was sent to Sol Cluster from Sol Ciel.
As they sent enough energy, the Tower's collapse stopped and the Musical Corridor was returned to its normal functionality.
However, the underlying problem hadn't been solved yet.
The damages the Great Fang received from the blizzard during the time the Musical Corridor's range was narrowed still remained and they had to carry out snow removal operations. Due to this, the inhabitants of the Blue Canyon Hamlet were still unable to leave Eternus and return to their homes.
As for Archia, a lot of people still remained in the city.
Thanks to the recruitment for airship repairmen, they could temporarily increase the number of airships available. However, the airships started breaking down one after another, and since they wouldn't get everyone off the Tower in time even if they repaired them, in the end they only had two airships remaining with no hopes of getting any others working.
And to make matters worse, the people who repaired the airships were promised a swift evacuation, so there was no one else in Archia now who could repair them anymore. However, that was no more than a trivial change to the city of Archia. This was because the city had now suffered its greatest scale change from the time it was founded.
Archia had now been reduced to half its original size.
This was because the plan of letting a large part of city fall down to reduce its weight and thus take a large load off the Tower of Origin that Rikka had proposed had now been carried out.
Rikka explained the citizens that they needed to drop half the city in order to buy themselves more time before Archia collapsed when this plan was carried out, and there was no one who opposed it.
However, Rikka was very surprised that despite everyone consenting to carrying out the plan from the bottom of their hearts, there was no one who actually agreed with the idea.
When she told everyone this was a method to buy time, several booed her as they said,
“If you're gonna do it, just do it already!”
But when she explained them that the plan involved dropping the larger part of Archia, most of the citizens' faces darkened.
They had always tried to get themselves in first place to escape from Archia City and rushed to the airport whenever they had a chance. But that didn't mean that they didn't hold any feelings toward Archia itself. After all, Archia City was their irreplaceable hometown. When they heard that half of it would be destroyed with bombs, they couldn't keep themselves composed.
However, their lives were every bit as irreplaceable as Archia was.
They could only take one choice here: to save their lives while losing their hometown, or lose their hometown as well as their lives.
So Rikka had decided to save her citizens' lives. Not even a single person showed up stating disagreement with the choice she had made.
Thanks to that, the plan was carried in a surprisingly smooth manner and it was done in just a span of three days, so now Archia didn't shake or anything. But despite the reduction of the city's size, they still feared that it would start shaking again at some time, but when they heard that the transmission of Symphonic Power from Sol Ciel had started, these worries disappeared.
So now, the only thing they could do was awaiting their turn to board the airships.
But since the city gradually became smaller, the people that still remained on it were forced to live in tents that were set up on the streets, and even the city hall fell away with the sectors that were dropped into the surface.
Because of that, even Rikka herself ended up having to live and work inside a tent.
Rikka's current duties were going around with the soldiers and leading the people in the city so they could board the airships without problems. And aside of leading the people down to the surface instead of the Great Fang, they also needed people to bring to a halt any problems or fights that happened down there. Due to that, over half of the soldiers had been sent down to the surface in order to keep watch over the refugees, which meant the Archia personnel were severely understaffed. In any case, there was nothing Rikka could do in this situation despite the fact she kept reading the official reports that arrived at her tent one after another. So given the city hall didn't exist anymore, Rikka didn't feel any dissatisfaction about working with the guards.
Several hours had gone by since sundown.
Rikka let out a small sigh as she saw off the airship carrying more people away depart the airport safely.
It was already an everyday occurrence, but whenever an airship arrived a lot of people would rush to try and board it, trying to get to it no matter what happened. Naturally, airships could only carry a limited amount of people, so they had to go and stop all those people who rushed in. It wasn't a simple task. Of course they would even get to the point of hitting each other and starting quarrels, and people would get wounded because they would even trample those that had fallen to the floor. Rikka and the soldiers had all to cope with this sort of situation all the time.
It wasn't an easy job. While their burden would have been lightened if they had a little more soldiers available, it would still be extremely hard even after they had gathered all the personnel they still had around, which in turn only made the whole situation extremely difficult to handle. It was due to this that to reduce their load, Rikka was being frugal even about her sleeping hours and she spent whole nights working with the soldiers.
Once the airship departed, she would check the injured and that no further trouble was brewing, and only after that she would finally have some time to rest. Rikka was sitting on a bench next to the airport resting. Even though the bench was cold and hard, it was inside the noisy airport, so she wouldn't be really able to rest here.
And besides, almost all the people that were gathered there were those that wanted to escape immediately and had already lost their patience, even among those that were tired of waiting for their turn to escape. There was a tense atmosphere that signaled that something could happen at any moment and the people did nothing but continue jeering at Rikka whenever they saw her.
There were a lot of people venting their anger at the fact they recently had to destroy part of Archia. After all, Archia and such other places were nothing but trash to the Reyvateils born in Clusternia like her, and such were the unjustified jeers she frequently got from the people.
“...But well, I've already gotten used to it”
Maybe it was because she got a lot of things and was insulted in many others every single day, but nothing they said had any effect on Rikka anymore. They could complain at her, but if they did they would miss their turns to board the airships and they weren't in the mood to harm Rikka either. If that happened, the next person in the line would take over their spot and board the airship sooner, which would also delay their own time in getting away from Archia more and more. To her, their jeers were no more than noise whose only effect was being an obstruction to her resting time.
Rikka softly closed her eyes, but she then heard how someone's footsteps were getting closer to her. Maybe it was because they thought she was asleep, but their footsteps were very quiet and gave off a feeling of worry.
“Um... Ms. Mayor, are you awake?”
While she remembered having heard that man's voice, she couldn't place it right away.
Rikka opened her eyes to look at the voice's owner, and she was very surprised.
It was one of the rioters: the same man who had shot her in the stomach.
The man grew worried when he saw how Rikka had opened her eyes but didn't reply,
“...Are you okay?”
Rikka finally replied after the man asked her again,
“...Yes, I'm just resting a little”
And so he wouldn't suspect how panicked she was, she tried to adopt a calm voice as much as she could.
But naturally, her eyes shot off in the direction of the man's hands.
He opened them both as an apologetic expression appeared on his face,
“...I don't have anything like that now. I threw it away”
He was showing her he was unarmed.
While she didn't say it, Rikka had just realized that she had put her guard up around the man,
“I-I'm sorry. After all...”
“No, it's natural you think that way, don't worry about it... But yeah, it's not my place to tell you that after I was the one who harmed you...”
The man naturally looked at Rikka's abdomen.
He was very conscious about the fact he was the one who shot Rikka. Noticing this, Rikka reflexively placed her hand over the place the man had shot her in.
The man let out a weak “Ah...”
“Thanks to Lady Cloche's Song Magic, I'm just as you can see. I can't show you, but not even scars remained from these wounds. So you don't have to worry about it”
“I'm telling you, you don't have to worry about it so much”
But despite having said this, Rikka saw how the man lowered his head as a way of asking for forgiveness. Indeed, he might have been the sort of person who normally would never dare to do something like that.
“So, is anything the matter? Are there any problems?”
“It's not really a problem but... Miss Mayor, don't you think you should go back to your own tent and rest for a while?”
“Huh? What do you mean?”
“You've been resting here for several days already, right? And I can tell at a glance that you're horribly exhausted”
When the man said this, Rikka realized she hadn't gone back to the tent she and Hikari Gojo were staying at for several days. It's not like she didn't want to go back there, but she thought that staying in the airport would allow her to act immediately if anything happened. That was why she had been using that bench as her resting spot.
“...Do I look so tired?”
“More than tired, I'd say you look more as if you had gotten sick. Didn't you notice it whenever you looked into a mirror?”
Rikka then tried to remember when was the last time she looked into a mirror when the man asked this. She should have done so whenever she went to wash her hands, but she didn't remember having seen a mirror during several days already. The last time she did was the night of the day the city hall was raided: Hikari Gojo had examined her back then because he had gotten worried about how pale she was.
“Everyone else is worried. We'll take care of everything while you're resting, so please go and take a break for now”
“I really want to do it very much, but as the mayor... As the figurehead mayor, this is no time for me to be resting, is it?”
While she had gotten used to others calling her that, saying it herself in a sarcastic voice stung more in her chest than she expected.
A painful expression also showed up on the man's face as she said that.
“...Figurehead or no, you're still the mayor, so you shouldn't work yourself out until you collapse, right? As you can see, there're still many people in Archia and it’s clear from the airships we've still got that getting everyone to safety is going to take who know how many more days. Are you saying you're going to work like this during all that time?”
Rikka couldn't answer the man. He was right, there were still many people in Archia and the current number of people would take them beyond a month to evacuate with just two airships capable of flight.
“...Tenba's airships have taken much longer than we expected too”
They expected that Tenba would have completed the airships by now, but so far they didn't get any sort of contact from them. It could be that Rikka's true reason for staying at the airport was because she was fed up with waiting for Tenba's airships.
“...It's okay, I don't plan to collapse until we have all evacuated this place”
“What are you saying? Don't you still have to punish us after we've escaped here? And you'd also get scolded if we escaped while you're down, right?”
“Ugh... You hit a sore spot...”
They ended up helping Rikka in exchange for making their eventual sentences lighter. However, this wasn't a full acquittal, so once they escaped; she would have to administer some kind of punishment to them. Such was what she had promised and it was the reason why Cloche let them go too.
“We tried to kill you and Lady Cloche because we were desperate for our lives. You know there's no guarantee that we won't get away because we're afraid of getting into a trial, right?”
“...Is that a threat?”
“Your sentences won't get any harsher than this, you said... If you hadn't done that, most likely we'd all have been put in death row to pay for what we did, so there's no way I could threaten the one who saved our lives”
Rikka was surprised at his words.
“...To think they would come to think of me as their savior,” thought Rikka.
“And it's not just me, everyone is really grateful to you for saving our lives. So please go and take at least this night to rest a little. I beg you”
And saying this, the man lowered his head to her.
Now the man had done this, worried about her health, there was no way she could keep insisting in staying there. She had also noticed her body was nearing its limits.
“...I don't think there will be any problems in leading the people to the airships, but if any kind of problem you all can't solve presents itself, go and call me right away. Can you promise you will do that?”
“Of course! I'll tell everyone else to do that too!”
“Very well. In that case, I will do as you say and take this night as a chance to rest. Plus, I really wanted to see Doctor's face since I haven't seen him in so long!”
She forced herself to try and answer in an energetic way, but she was so exhausted by now that it had the opposite effect and she ended up looking like she was in great pain.
Rikka made her way through the rows of tents that had already completely covered the streets to the tent she and Hikari Gojo were staying at. As all the tents looked similar, there were some people that couldn't find where their tents had been placed. As this was the first time Rikka was coming back in days, she had become unable to distinguish her tent from the others, but after prowling a little over an area that had a particularly dense tent concentration, she could finally find hers.
“...Maybe the Doctor is mad at me?”
As she neither went back nor contacted him for days, she was sure he would be worried and angry at her.
“...I'd accept it if he was worried about me, but I don't want him to be angry”
The atmosphere became heavier and she let out a sigh. She instantly felt the exhaustion flood her over and she started staggering right where she was standing.
So Rikka steeled her resolution and entered the tent.
When Hikari Gojo saw Rikka entering the tent, he immediately went to check on her.
“You didn't come back in days, so I was very worried about you”
“I-I'm sorry, Doctor... Are you angry?”
While Rikka apologized in a weak voice, Hikari Gojo just gently placed a hand on her shoulder,
“I'm worried, but I'm not angry at all. You must be exhausted, right? Quick, come over here and sit down for a while”
And saying this, Hikari Gojo folded his sleeping bag and allowed Rikka to sit over it. It couldn't be called soft in any way, but given she had been sitting on a hard bench for so long, to Rikka it felt like she was sitting on a fluffy cushion.
“I was just about to start making dinner. Do you want to eat something? Would you like us having dinner together?”
“No... I don't have appetite now”
And after saying this, Rikka reluctantly moved away from Hikari Gojo's sleeping bag and unfolded her own bag to then lie down on it. While she could still feel the hard ground through it, just being able to lie down like that made her very happy.
“I see... In that case, I'll just make some food and have it stored. If your appetite is back once you wake up, you'll have something to eat”
Hikari Gojo then took his sleeping bag and placed it under Rikka's head so it served as a pillow for her.
He had known that Rikka had been at the airport for several days, but he never told her that she should come back and rest. This was because he fully knew this was a very important time for Rikka: doing everything she could for Archia was her final job as mayor. That was the reason why he could never bring himself to tell her “come back and rest right now!” upon seeing the frantic efforts she was making. It was obvious that given her personality, Rikka would have obeyed him if Hikari Gojo had told her that even if she didn't want to do it. That was why he just kept waiting on Rikka to come and rest on her own.
While Rikka was lying on her sleeping bag and had her face buried in it, she turned to the side and followed Hikari Gojo with her eyes as he was busy making dinner.
“...Have you been okay without sleeping? Are you going again to the airport tomorrow?”
Said Hikari Gojo without looking at Rikka. He thought that if he looked at her, some sort of conversation would start and that would rob her of the sleep time that was so precious to her right now, which is what he didn't want to happen.
Rikka didn't reply anything after Hikari Gojo said that. But when Hikari Gojo started thinking she had calmed down and had gone to sleep,
“I'm sick of everything...”
Hikari Gojo stopped making dinner right away and went to sit down at Rikka's side.
“What happened? It isn't like you to be acting so fainthearted”
Not even Rikka herself knew the answer to that.
She never had such weak-willed thoughts up to this point, but these words came out from her mouth on their own. Maybe it was that her tension had finally reached its breaking point because she finally had gotten a moment to calm herself down. But still, all sorts of unpleasant thoughts surfaced on her mind while she continued lying on her side inside the tent, away from the gazes of all the Archia people.
“I'd have been glad if I could have done something as a mayor... But no matter what I do, it's all useless... Everyone does nothing but insult me all the time...”
“Rikka, you're working very hard. You were the one that carried out the plan to drop Archia, and that wasn't everything you did either. When I saw you explaining to everyone that we should prioritize the evacuation of the sick and injured, you were really awe-inspiring. Furthermore, you've even lost many sleep nights over your work”
“But that's something that anyone could do. Even if I wasn't around, as long as there was someone who could act as this city's leader...”
“Of course not! Under this situation, most people would put themselves first to escape from this place. You even had Lady Cloche's personal airship hidden in the city hall's basement during the time she stayed here, right? But despite that, you didn't hijack it to escape and instead you remained here to save the people who still remained here. That's enough to say you're an admirable mayor! No matter what anyone says, that's what I think and what I'll say to anyone who disparages you!”
There were still many dissatisfactions and bitterness she wanted to say, but she couldn't do so after hearing Hikari Gojo say these words.
He was the most important person to Rikka.
And he admired her so much.
He recognized her as an admirable mayor.
His words couldn't erase the dissatisfaction she was feeling, but they made her happy from the bottom of her heart.
“You're so unfair, Doctor... But if you're going to say that, then maybe I shouldn't say anything else about all the other horrible things I'm feeling...”
“Don't hold back”
And saying this, Hikari Gojo moved his head close to one of Rikka's ears,
“While you can't say it loudly, if saying out all the dissatisfaction and complaints you have about the people will help you placate these feelings, you can always tell me anything. If it'll make you feel better, I'm always ready to listen to anything you want to say”
He whispered these words to her ear so no one in the neighboring tents could listen in.
And it was true: if the mayor herself was heard saying everything she disliked about her people and that got leaked to the whole citizenry, it would cause her major problems. He was considering the possibility that someone could overhear them.
Hikari Gojo separated from Rikka, but when he saw her to the face, he noticed her face had gotten slightly red.
“Your face has gotten red. Maybe you developed a fever from the exhaustion?”
While Hikari Gojo was worried about her, it was pretty obvious to anyone that he had been the cause of it.
“...Doctor, did you do that on purpose?”
“W-What are you talking ab-- Whoa!”
As Hikari Gojo was leaning his head toward her, Rikka surrounded him with her arms and pulled him in.
“H-Hey, stop Rikka! The people in the other tents will think something weird is happening!”
“It's fine. We're married, so no one will think anything if we got as close as this”
“No, even if they don't think anything, I'm feeling uneasy about this... Besides, right now you should be resting. It's painful to the point of being unbearable having to see you so exhausted”
“Agh... But I think too that since circumstances are so fickle, we barely get a chance to do something like this, right?
“I won't deny that's the truth, but anyway, just go to sleep now. There's still lots of time to get as close as we want once everything is done, right?
“So you're the sort of man who looks forward to the time after everything is over? ...But it's not like it can be helped, huh?”
Rikka reluctantly did as he said and let Hikari Gojo's neck free while putting on a displeased face.
But despite that, her face seemed to be regaining its cheerfulness. Maybe it was thanks to the happiness she got from being able to talk to Hikari Gojo again after such a long time.
“So go to sleep now. I'll wake you up if anything comes up”
“...I just want to continue talking to you while lying down like this”
“But if we do that, you won't be able to get any rest”
“That's fine to me... I would just wake up right away if I went to sleep anyway”
The reason Rikka had been working nonstop without any sleep or rest wasn't solely because this was the last job she could do for Archia. There was another reason why she couldn't sleep.
She had nightmares every single day after Cloche left in which she saw again what happened in the V-Board Grand Prix Stadium the day Archia first slanted.
She relived once again the horrible sight of the people being flung out from Archia, unable to do anything while they desperately cried for help.
There were even times in which she dreamed that she was one of the people that got flung out from the stadium.
And to make matters worse, there were even times in which she saw Hikari Gojo among the people that were falling down to the surface and she could do nothing but scream his name until he disappeared from her sight.
Since she got awakened every single time she had these nightmares, she became unable to sleep well and so she started thinking she would watch more of these horrible dreams if she went to sleep, which was the reason why she was unable to sleep through a whole night.
And the reason she started having these nightmares might have actually been greatly related to the regret she felt for not having listened to the warnings Tilia, Aoto and the others gave her.
Rikka had grabbed one of Hikari Gojo's hands, and as if she were desperate to make sure he really was there, she caressed his palm and fingers over and over.
Hikari Gojo extended his free hand and took out from his doctor's bag a sleeping pill.
“Take this. It'll help you to relax”
Even though he purposely didn't tell her it was a sleeping pill, Rikka shook her head.
“I'm fine just having you to talk to me, Doctor”
“If you take it, I'll stay at your side until you wake up... You still won't take it?”
“...That sounds as if you were asking if I'm going to refuse something even if you're the one asking it, Doctor”
“In that case, I think you know very well how much I love you too, Rikka. But seeing you so weakened is really painful to me, it feels like a needle pricking my chest. Won't you consider my feelings and take it so you will get better sooner?”
Once again, Rikka's face blushed.
“Arhm... You're really unfair”
“There's nothing I can say against that. But do you hate me for that?”
And saying this, he approached the hand he held the sleeping pill in to Rikka's mouth.
Rikka looked both at it and at Hikari Gojo's face, and she took the pill, gulping it down without drinking water or anything.
“...Now, you promised it. Can you please stay with me until I wake up?”
“Yeah, I know... Come, close your eyes now”
Rikka closed her eyes and a few minutes went by. Maybe it was because she was exhausted from the outset, but she was now quietly snoring: she had fallen completely asleep.
Hikari Gojo stroked the sleeping Rikka's cheeks. If they were in a normal situation, Rikka would twist her body while her cheeks were being stroked as if she felt tickled, but now she had no reactions to this.
“...You're really exhausted”
Hikari Gojo thought that Rikka wasn't the only one and that everyone in Archia was like this too.
The lives of the Archia people had completely changed ever since the city slanted for the first time. They were suddenly assaulted by the fear of death, cornered into a situation in which they couldn't escape right away no matter how much they wanted to do so and had to live for several days in tents.
Now that half the city had been purged and that they had a reliable Symphonic Power supply from Sol Ciel, the ideas of Archia trembling, slanting and falling had become now worries about something that wouldn't happen for some time. However, in the end that only had bought them some time and they didn't know when it would start shaking or slanting again. Given that everyone was nervous about that happening with the way Archia was now, it was natural for everyone to be mentally exhausted.
“...If we don't get to escape in time and we have to fall down with the rest of the city, at the least I want her to be asleep when that happens”
That was what Hikari Gojo thought as he saw Rikka sleeping.
It was then that he heard the sounds of an airship approaching.
It was the airship that transported the citizens to the surface returning from another trip and Hikari Gojo sighed relieved.
That was proof that at least that airship could still fly normally.
But there was something about the sound that felt off to Hikari Gojo.
“...It sounds different from usual!”
Unlike the middle-sized airships they had been using so far for the evacuation, this one had a heavier sound and approached more slowly.
And it wasn't just one.
From what he could hear, there were two, three... no, even more, to the point he couldn't even count them due to the overlapping sounds.
Since he still was grabbing Rikka's hand, he couldn't get out of the tent to check what was happening.
But on the other hand, he heard that the people on the tents around them were going out one after another.
And the next sound he heard were loud shouts of joys coming from the outside.
“E-Excuse me! What's happening out there!?”
He shouted from inside the tent, but it seemed like no one else could hear him, as no one replied back.
He then heard the ringtone from Rikka's Telemo ringing.
As that had never woken up Rikka before while she was sleeping, Hikari Gojo hesitated a little but ended up answering the Telemo on her behalf.
“Good evening, this is Mayor Rikka's Telemo”
“[Huh, Doctor? Long time no see!]”
“That voice... Is that you, Krusche!?”
When he heard Krusche's voice coming out from the Telemo, Hikari Gojo understood right away what was happening outside. The moment they had grown tired of waiting for had finally come.
“...You kept us waiting for so long, huh? You really took too much time to do this”
“[We couldn't do much 'bout it, since we had to build 'em on a place without the proper equipment or facilities. But what happened there? As far as I see from inside the airship, Archia's gotten a lot smaller. Did it break down or somethin'?]”
“The Tower of Origin couldn't keep supporting our weight, so we used bombs to drop half the city”
“[Whoa, talking about showy... I'd have wanted to see that]”
Her voice sounded like she had missed some kind of show, which made Hikari Gojo feel somewhat indignant.
“...You know that things wouldn't have gotten so bad if you had come here sooner, right?”
“[I think the ones ya gotta be blamin' are the Sol Cluster guys that went back after evacuatin’ the first time. Hadn't they done that, we wouldn't have need to do stuff like buildin' airships on an land that didn't even have the basic equipment for it.... Plus, that's all coming out from Tenba's finances. How much do ya think building these big ships cost us?]”
Krusche stung him in a very sensitive area, so Hikari Gojo couldn't do anything but apologize.
“[But yeah, it's not like I'm puttin' my own money to make 'em, so it's okay. And did anythin' happen to Rikka? Since she's pretty much the mayor, I wanted to report this to her]”
“I just made her take a sleeping pill. I'm sorry, but she's not going to be waking up for a few hours...”
“[Gotcha. Well, tell her when she's up and about again that the Tenba Rescue Corps has arrived and that the emergency citizen evacuation's started]”
And as Krusche's voice said that, he heard some thunderous roars slowly approaching them, loud to the point they drowned out the new wave of joyful shouts the people were letting out.
Due to this, Hikari Gojo let go of the sleeping Rikka's hand and used his own hands to cover both her ears as she turned in her sleep.
Now he was free again, Hikari Gojo told her,
“...I'll be right back”
And after telling Rikka this, he peered out from their tent.
He saw twelve gigantic airships, all of a size he had never seen before, flying through the sky.
“W-What are those enormous airships!?”
Hikari Gojo shouted reflexively upon seeing a sight beyond his imagination.
Maybe this had amused her, but regardless, he could hear Krusche's satisfied laughter from the Telemo's other side.
“[Well, you needed airships this size to get the Archia people to safety in a short time. Ah, but you gotta tell everyone this: since they're so big, their flight distance is ridiculously short, and so they can't do more than get everyone to the surface. So they better be ready to spend some days campin' once they board 'em]”
“Got it. I'll tell that to the guards right away...”
Hikari Gojo then realized something.
“A-Ah, right. Could you send some of these ships to Clusternia and the Tower's lower areas? There were some people that wanted to escape on their own and decided either to go to Clusternia or climb down the Tower”
“[Climb down the Tower...? Whoa, you've got people with some stupid ideas there. Okay, we'll get some ships checkin' those places on the double]”
“Please do... Okay then, I'll see you later”
He then hung up the call.
Hikari Gojo looked briefly at the airships, which were large and numerous enough to cover the sky, and he then looked at the people around that were gazing upwards while cheering loudly.
Before that sight filled with life and vigor, the ghost city-like Archia filled with darkness and silence seemed now like a lie. He could see no one whose faces showed gloom, depression or despair. Everyone was looking at the skies, waving their hands each other to the people they had nearby and celebrating the coming of their saviors.
Hikari Gojo returned to his tent and sat beside the sleeping Rikka.
“...You're not getting repaid for everything you did”
While she had worked so hard to save the Archia citizens, no one recognized her efforts and instead just kept on jeering at her. But she still kept on desperately working, doing her best to the point she exhausted herself, and now she was unable to bear witness to the sight of Archia being enshrouded by the boiling happiness its citizens got from their saviors' arrival.
Maybe it was due to the noise from the outside or because she was having another nightmare, but Rikka wrinkled her eyebrows in her sleep.
“...How much are you going to get surprised once you wake up and notice we're not in Archia anymore?”
And while he kept her hands on her ears, Hikari Gojo softly caressed Rikka's cheeks.
Instantly, the wrinkling on her eyebrows disappeared and her breathing became slow and peaceful again.
Chapter 7: Life Extension Period
Several months went by since the evacuation of all the Archia citizens was completed.
The airships that had been initially prepared for the Clusternia citizens flew to the other Towers, while the greater part of the ones that escaped from Archia came to live in settlements they themselves built on the surface.
Tilia's Tower still continued rising over Sol Cluster without collapsing or anything thanks to the Symphonic Power it was receiving from Sol Ciel. However, no one remained in either Clusternia or Archia. While the Tower didn't give off any signs it was about to collapse, there was no one who wanted to go back there unlike two years ago.
As they had experienced themselves the damages the Tower's collapse caused, there was no one anymore who had such idiotic ideas.
But they still wanted to keep watching their hometowns until the very last moment before they disappeared.
So the peopled continued gazing up at the Tower for the coming days from the settlements they lived in own while holding these feelings in their hearts.
The First Tower of Ar tonelico in Sol Ciel.
While far fewer refugees had come to this land in comparison to the number that went to Metafalica, the story about the troubles spread by Sol Cluster's Tower collapsing had spread among its inhabitants, but aside of that, few people were interested in these events.
And the same was true for a man who made his living selling Funbuns in Platina.
The man replied cheerfully to a girl's voice,
“Ah, welcome! ...Huh? I've seen you before, miss...”
He remembered the girl.
He was sure that she was one of the girls who used to be with the Platina commander's son a few years ago,
“Did the kiddo send you?”
“Are you talking about Lyner? But you are still treating him as if he was a child”
“Yeah, yeah, of course. It's because he's still a kiddo to me even though many years have gone by already. I've known him since he was this tall”
The man placed a hand at around his waist's level, as Lyner had been going to him and buying Funbuns ever since he was that size.
“Are these your friends?”
One was a girl that had translucent wings on her back. When he saw these wings, he thought these were some weird but beautiful accessories, so the idea that they actually were part of her body didn't even cross his mind.
The other one was a girl sitting on a wheelchair that was pushed by the winged girl. While it seemed she had some sort of disease, her face looked very healthy, making it very hard to believe she was actually sick.
And behind them, there was a large wolf that was looking at the girls as if he was a bodyguard of sorts.
The girl replied in an ashamed voice to the man,
“No, they are my younger sisters”
“Oh, so you had such cute sisters... But that's kinda rude for me to say, huh?”
“Please don't worry about it. So, will you be selling these Funbuns to me?”
“Yeah, thanks for coming! How many are you buying?”
“Hmm... We are going to visit Lyner and his friends in the hospital, so we will need more than usual...”
“V-Visiting the kiddo in the hospital!? Was that why he couldn't come buy Funbuns here for so many months...?”
“Yes. He had a light case of coma during the last few months and was hospitalized... Ah, but he is okay now. He regained consciousness a little ago, so he is as healthy as he has ever been now”
How could being hospitalized due to a coma for several months and regained consciousness just a little ago be called a “light case”?
But instead of asking that question, the man knew now that the reason Lyner was unable to come buy Funbuns for so long was actually due to something serious.
“So the kiddo was hospitalized... And he wants the Funbuns he hasn't eaten for months on end, right? In that case, I can't charge you for them! Come, take these!”
The man took ten Funbun boxes he had below his hands and gave them to the girl.
“What're you saying? That kiddo hasn't eaten Funbuns on months, so even these won't be enough... Yeah, make the wheelchair girl take some too!”
He then gave ten more boxes to the girl on the wheelchair.
“B-But is it okay for you to give us so many?”
“I don't mind it. That kiddo's been my best client for over twenty years! It was all thanks to him that I could even buy my own house! And tell him to get better and come by to buy more soon!”
“T-Thank you very much!”
And following the example of the girl lowering her head, the two other girls and the wolf also did the same and lowered their heads.
“What're you saying? That's the least I could do for him! And yeah, here's an extra for you all!”
And saying this, he took out three T-Shirts. These were Funbun T-Shirts made from white and pink fabric that had a Funbun picture stamped right on its middle.
“Whoa, what cute T-Shirt! Thanks, I'll take good care of it!”
When the winged girl looked at the T-Shirts he had taken out, she smiled and seemed to be really happy.
Honestly speaking, the Funbun T-Shirts were considered as joke items, so it was very common for people to put on troubled faces whenever someone gave them one and said they were presents. So the man was a bit troubled about her reaction since he didn't think she would be so happy about getting one.
“W-Well, hurry and go see the kiddo!”
He was trying to escape by bidding them farewell.
The three girls gave him their thanks and left that place while carrying the wavering stack of Funbun boxes he had given them as well as the T-Shirts they had gotten, which seemed to be pestering them to get them unfolded and put them on.
“So the kiddo is hospitalized... Well, if he's going to get such beautiful girls visiting him, I'm sure he's going to get better quickly. But yeah, maybe it was a good idea to send him Funbuns instead of flowers”
And while muttering that, he returned to his job.
The man hadn't realized at all that the girls that had come to his place to buy these Funbuns were actually the three Tower Administrators.
Shurelia and the others arrived at the hospital's highest floor and stepped into the room that was the furthest in that place.
This was where Lyner, Croix and Aoto had gotten hospitalized.
The mental damage they received from going too far fighting in the Binary Field required such a long time to heal that they needed to hospitalize them.
When the three girls approached the room, they heard a great noise coming from the door that made it hard to think they were entering a hospital room.
Though she thought that even knocking on the door once was useless, Shurelia did so three times. There was no response, so she just opened the door like she always did.
“Good afternoon. You have gotten quite noisy today”
There were three beds placed in the wide room, a large group of people surrounding each one.
Misha was standing in front of the closest bed and noticed how the door had opened.
“Lady Shurelia! And even Frelia and Tilia came here!”
Thanks to Misha, everyone else in the room finally noticed Shurelia and the others had arrived.
“Good afternoon. How are they three doing?”
Lyner was lying in the bed closest to the door, yet he weakly raised his hand in response to Shurelia's voice,
“...It doesn't look like the dullness in my body is going away”
“I thought so, and that was why I brought you some presents”
Shurelia and the others then went and placed the Funbuns they had brought with them near the bedside of each boy.
Lyner's bed was surrounded by Misha and by other two girls in a triangular formation: one was Aurica while the other was Claire, who owned a bar in the city of Nemo.
Croix was lying on the middle bed and had around him Luca, Cocona, Targana, the weapon store clerk who also owned a flower shop, Cynthia, and the waitress that worked in a restaurant in Metafalica, Skycat.
And in the bed the furthest inside the room and next to the window, Aoto was sitting up. He had Akane next to him.
“How are you and Croix? You seem to be doing better than the others though”
Asked Frelia to Aoto. He answered,
“Yeah, I got off better than Lyner and Croix. But even so, people're saying I've gotta stay hospitalized a little longer”
“Naturally. You have been unconscious until a few weeks ago, Sir Aoto. Therefore, please remain calm and rest until you have recovered completely”
And saying this, Akane went to Aoto and made him lie down on the bed,
“You came here too, Akane?”
Akane nodded in response to Tilia's question.
“Yes. When I said I was going to see how you were, Lady Tilia, I was asked by Lady Saki and Finnel to take advantage of the chance to go and visit Sir Aoto to see how he was doing”
Frelia was shocked when Finnel's name came out.
“Is Finnel okay now?”
Finnel also ended up being unable to move for a long time due to the effects of the damage she received in the Binary Field. When she returned to the real world from the Sol Ciel Binary Field, she was in a coma. However, no one remained in the Clusternia hospital by that time and everyone else was trying to leave the Tower as soon as they could, so she ended up having to recover in one of the rooms of the preschool Saki owned.
“Yes, she has completely recovered. In truth, she even said she wanted to come with me to visit Sir Aoto, but since she is still convalescent, persuading her to stay calm and remain there was quite difficult”
“I see... But I'm glad to hear that. And isn't that great Aoto? You've got someone to visit you too at last!”
“Yeah, Sol Cluster is pretty far off after all and everyone's been pretty busy, so I was thinking I wasn't gonna get any visitors, so that makes me pretty happy... But...”
Aoto looked accidentally to the others beds.
“...Why did Croix get so many visitors?”
Metafalica wasn't exactly close to Sol Ciel either. Unless they used special airships, there was no way to tell how long it would take them to get from there to Sol Ciel.
But despite that, Croix's bed was the one surrounded by the largest number of visitors.
While lying down, Croix said,
“...Aoto, you should look better at the situation before talking. How many people you actually think came to see me?”
He sighed. Luca then said,
“I really came to visit him! Lady Cloche couldn't come see Croix, and we've been worried about him all this time!”“
“And I came as Milady's bodyguard. You know how lotsa people in Sol Ciel wouldn't be able to withstand her cuteness and would try laying their hands on her?”
Skycat said as if it were the most obvious thing in the world, but Croix just turned in Targana's direction.
“What? But wasn't Targana the one ordered to serve as Luca's bodyguard!?”
“Hmph, I did, and I received these orders directly from Lady Cloche... But even if she hadn't, I was still planning on coming to visit you”
“I was ordered too! My Milady-loving heart was who told me so!”
She then puffed up her chest as if she was proud of something.
“...That sounds to me like she was only doing what her instincts told her”
Not paying any mind to Cocona's astonishment, Skycat coiled around Luca's arms, which was ignoring her. Luca fully knew that saying anything to Skycat when she was like this was useless, so she just ignored her as if she was telling her to do whatever she wanted.
“When Skycat and Gar were saying they were going to visit some guy who got hospitalized, I had the feeling they were going to visit Coo and so I had to go too!”
Croix looked at Cynthia as she said this,
“...I knew you'd come so well that it even was painful to me”
And as he said this, Cynthia turned to look at him as her expression suddenly brightened up.
“Oh, you've realized my love for you, Coo! As expected from my hubby!”
“I don't remember ever marrying you, and don't say I've realized your love. I just said... That I knew you'd come to the point it pained me”
Croix looked at the flowers Cynthia had brought for him, which had been placed on the bedside table.
Croix wasn't really well versed in flowers and thus didn't know their names, but he honestly felt they were both small and cute.
The problem was,
“You know that people usually don't bring potted plants whenever they go visit someone that got hospitalized, right? And what's more, why is the flowerpot so large? There's too much empty space around the flowers”
“The empty space is so you can plant seeds in it and grow more flowers. Since you're gonna have to stay in the hospital a little more, I thought it'd be a good way to kill time'
“Kill time by planting flower seeds...? This is the first time I've heard of a lonesome way of passing the days”
But Croix had just realized that this was the first “get well soon!” gift he had gotten. Maybe it was because of it that he didn't feel bothered by it and instead actually felt happy.
Tilia then approached Aurica, who was sitting on Lyner's bed, from her wheelchair.
“How are you wounds, Aurica?”
“Ah, umm... They've almost healed fully, but they still hurt a little...”
As Aurica and Chester had gotten caught up in the satellite's explosion, they also had to get hospitalized here until a little ago.
They were in critical condition when they were first brought here, but thanks to the Song Magic sang by several first-class Reyvateils and the treatments some excellent physicians gave them; they could finally leave the hospital.
“But it's fine. After all, Claire was with me all the time until my wounds healed”
Claire was getting the Funbuns off their bags and feeding them to Lyner, who still couldn't really move well,
“Since you weren't in good shape, there was no way I could leave you alone, Aurica. No matter how much I was told to go home, I was going to stay with you until you fully recovered”
A gentle smile appeared on her face as she said this.
“But that means you're still going to stay here a while longer, right?”
Asked Tilia as she saw how Aurica still had an arm wrapped on bandages and hanging from her neck.
“Yeah... But they told me that if I stay put a few more weeks, the pain will go away. And looks like that's not going to leave me even a single scar, so I was really lucky”
Aurica remembered what had happened in the satellite.
The position control system gave off an error message and the satellite started slanting. Then, some Symphonic Power that leaked from the reflective plate started running throughout the satellite provoking explosions.
Between the explosions' shockwaves, the heat provoked by the fires and being hit by the ceiling and walls that crumbled over them, Aurica and Chester were rendered unable to move and thus they could only wait for their deaths.
However, a strong shock shook the whole satellite at that point.
Ignoring what that was, they both thought a large explosion had happened in some part of the satellite.
However that was actually the sound of the airship Radolf and the others were riding ramming into the satellite to pull it back from its slanting.
Naturally, doing that wouldn't stop the explosions, as for that they would have need to move the reflective plate back to the position they had set it at, which was impossible to do accurately at the moment.
But still, the sudden shock reactivated the position control system.
Now the system was back online, it moved to go back to the angle that Chester had configured it at before the error happened before stopping.
So while it got partially destroyed, the satellite still somehow managed to retain the position where it needed to be to supply the Symphonic Power to Sol Cluster, while Radolf and the others could go back to the satellite and safely rescue Aurica and Chester.
“...So you didn't listen to the orders of escaping I gave, even though your Goddess was who issued them”
Said Tilia as she put on a slightly angry face, but Aurica was smiling as always.
“I heard what you said. That you wouldn't forgive us if even one person died there, but we all ended up coming back safely, right?”
“...You seem to have a very unique way of understanding things, Aurica. But still, I want you to promise me you won't ever be doing something as dangerous as that again”
“Yeah. I don't wanna do something as scary as that again...”
While she seemed cheerful, she still felt a great fear inside her heart whenever she remembered these events, to the point she even starting trembling.
She didn't want to ever feel so scared and pained ever again.
Aurica wished so from the bottom of her heart.
“By the way, how are Chester and Lakra?”
Frelia asked upon realizing they weren't around.
Luca answered her question.
“They already went back to Metafalica. Chester said that since he had recovered enough to move around, he couldn't calm down if he was being forced to sleep all the time. He's already resumed his duty at the Grand Bell”
“But is that okay? Wasn't he still not feeling well?”
“That guy is a complete workaholic in some aspects, so I think it'll speed up his recovery to be working instead of resting calmly. Besides, I also told Lakra that the only way you could stop him would be to force him to go back to bed”
Replied Targana upon seeing how worried Frelia was,
Targana had known Chester the longest from everyone present in that room and so he was who knew him the best. As he was saying that Chester would be okay, Frelia could only agree with him.
“So that means you all came back safely”
Tilia eyed one by one the boys that were lying on the three beds as she talked, of which Aoto seemed to be in the best state. However,
“But forget about us... How are you?”
Said he as he looked at Tilia sitting on the wheelchair.
And it wasn't just Aoto: everyone in the room had already noticed this.
The time in which Tilia's Triangular Nuclear Loop was working normally had already expired several months ago. As it was now operating abnormally, Tilia was feeling such an intense and excruciating pain that she couldn't even move on her own anymore.
Tilia didn't seem any different now from how she always looked, but now she was sitting on a wheelchair it was obvious that it actually had some effects over her.
Tilia muttered “Yeah...” to then say,
“Everything hurts so much I want to die. But well, as long as I keep receiving Symphonic Power, I won't die. In other words, I'm experiencing a true hell of a life”
“...I-It's like that?”
It sounded somewhat unbelievable due to the matter-of-factly voice she said that in, but between seeing her sitting on the wheelchair and the gloomy expression Frelia had as she pushed the wheelchair around, no one thought she was joking.
However, Tilia said,
“Well, it's fine, as it doesn't hurt as much as I imagined. I thought it'd be even more painful, to the point I'd spent all these days writhing about in agony”
“Y-Yeah... And it might sound kinda weird, but while you're still feeling terrible, I still feel a little relieved to hear that”
“Yeah, it sounds weird. To think I came to visit you all but you're the ones worried about me”
“Of course! Ever since we ended up here, we haven't seen or even heard about you! We were even thinking you were feeling so bad that you couldn't even go anywhere!”
“I could, but if I had done that, I'd have halted the work Sasha and the others were doing. I've been getting called over and over to analyze the structure of the Hymmnos I've got inside me”
Ever since she came to Sol Ciel, Tilia spent her days in a room inside the Tenba Laboratories.
In the laboratories, Sasha and Katena spent whole days and nights working solely on analyzing the structure of Tilia's Hymmnos. Due to that, Tilia had to be on standby without ever leaving the laboratories so they could study anything they needed right away.
However, that wasn't the only reason.
Now she was being gnawed at by the abnormal functioning of her Triangular Nuclear Loop, the pain and suffering she felt from it had become so intense that she became practically incapable of moving on her own.
And the pain that rendered her just unable to move was actually the kind that Tilia preferred the most, as depending on the day, she would also be assaulted by other kinds of pain whose intensity would even make her scream and writhe around. Of course she couldn't withstand them, and whenever she was writhing while screaming as if she had gone crazy inside her room, Shurelia and Frelia would go in and try to calm her down however they could. And of course, there were many times that Tilia hit them or insulted them over and over from how intense the pain was.
As they had been the ones who made Tilia end up like this, they couldn't even look at her in the face.
But upon seeing that Tilia wasn't saying anything about that, Shurelia and Frelia also kept themselves silent about these happenings.
And neither Aoto nor anyone else doubted what Tilia was saying.
“I see... But then wouldn't it be really bad that you came here? Sasha may call you anytime now”
“No, it's okay”
Replied Frelia seeing how Tilia didn't find the words to talk back.
“The analysis of the Hymmnos inside Tili which transformed her into the Tower has already been completed, so the only thing they should do now is making a Hymmnos with the opposite effect to it, and that's why Tili could come here... right?”
Tilia nodded, acknowledging the signal Frelia gave her with the eyes.
“Gotcha... It's tranquilizing to hear Sasha and the others are doing a good job! I'm sure Lady Cloche will be very happy too when she hears about this!”
Luca showed great relief after hearing that Sasha's work was going smoothly. Aside of coming to visit Croix, her coming to Sol Ciel also had the goal of checking how Sasha's work was coming along.
Tilia's and Luca's eyes met.
“Ah, now you mention it, we haven't been introduced yet, right?”
And Luca wasn't the only one.
There were a lot of people here that Tilia wasn't acquainted with.
From the Sol Ciel people, she didn't know Misha or Claire, and from the Metafalica people, she didn't know anyone aside of Cocona. And while Croix also was one of them, he couldn't sit up on his bed, let alone stand, so they had to introduce themselves with him lying down.
And aside of introducing each other, Shurelia and Frelia also helped by explaining to her in which way some of the people present here had helped her. Since Tilia had said before she didn't know how to make friends, their interesting anecdotes and their explanations about their weird quirks and skills gave them chances to capture Tilia's interest on everyone.
Their strategy seemed to have worked out very well, as Tilia immediately opened up her heart and engaged in very fun conversations with them.
They spent several fun hours in the room.
But at some point the sun went down and the night's darkness covered the skies.
“It has gotten dark already”
Akane's words were the signal that put an end to the fun they were having.
“Tilia, let's go back. I don't think it'd be very good for you to continue being out like this”
“...Yeah. It was very fun, but I'm beat”
Upon hearing that, Aoto let out a disappointed grunt.
“What, you're gonna go back already? Can't you stay a little more?”
“You have not fully healed yet, Sir Aoto, so we should not bother you anymore for today. Besides, if you overexerted yourself and your health worsened, Finnel and Lady Saki would surely scold me”
Aoto replied that was too bad, but he just reluctantly lied on his bed after Akane admonished him. Maybe it really was as Akane said, as Aoto felt as if a wave of exhaustion washed him over when he lied down. That afternoon had been very fun, but in the end it seemed like it had been just a good way for his body to avoid using up more strength due to still not being fully recovered.
As everyone prepared to go back to their homes or rooms, Tilia had her wheelchair moved to Lyner's bedside.
“Hmm? What is it, Lady Tilia?”
He asked in a very exhausted voice.
And that wasn't all: from looking at his face close up, it was obvious that Lyner was still in poor health between how badly he had been and the several months he spent hospitalized.
“...Lyner, really... Thanks a lot for everything you did for me”
“Huh? No, you don't have to thank me so much...”
The shock from Tilia's unexpected show of gratitude seemed like it was going to make him stand up from his bed, but as anyone would expect, that was impossible.
As Tilia didn't want Lyner to overexert himself like that, she placed a hand on him to keep him from squirming in his attempts to get up,
“I'm really grateful. It was all thanks to you and the efforts everyone else made that I could be alive until now... No, I'll also be able to live without suffering or feeling that pain when Sasha makes the new Hymmnos. I can never thank you all enough for everything you've done, but still, really, thanks”
“...If it makes you so happy, that means everything we did was well worth the effort. But maybe we'll have to be still hospitalized once you get better, so please, show us how healthy you are whenever you come visit us!”
“Yeah, and of course I'll also bring you some present Funbuns”
“Lady Tilia, we really speak the same language!”
And as they smiled at each other, Tilia grabbed Lyner's hand.
“...Get better soon, okay?”
Then she got her wheelchair moved to Croix's bed.
Like Lyner, Croix's face as he lied down showed a very sleepy expression and was very pale due to the long months he had been in there.
“Are you sleepy, Croix?
“Just a little... But it isn't something I can't handle”
“Heh, you're really Cocona's older brother”
Her eyes then met with Cocona's, who was sitting on the opposite side of the bed. A happy smile appeared on her face.
“I've got two older sisters too... I'm really thankful to you all for letting me spend time with both of them”
“Yeah... You're Frelia's younger sister, right?”
“Yeah, I'm the youngest between us three”
Frelia then hugged her from behind, while Tilia softly stroked her chests with a happy smile on her face.
Upon seeing this, Croix said,
“Once Sasha's Hymmnos is complete and you get better, I'm sure Frelia and Lady Shurelia are going to spoil you a lot”
“But isn't it going to be troublesome for them if they go too far with it?”
“Of course not. There's nothing bad in spoiling their cute younger sister”
Croix placed his hand on Cocona's head, which was resting at his bedside. They always had been together and he usually spoiled Cocona, not feeling bad about it, so he was sure that Frelia and Shurelia would also feel similar to him when it came to that.
Tilia gave Frelia a fleeting glance, as if it was to check if what Croix said was true. Right away, Frelia placed a hand on Tilia's head just like Croix had done with Cocona.
She remembered how she had rejected Frelia and Shurelia placing her hands on her head.
After saying she wasn't a child, she got off both their hands away from her head.
“...Maybe this isn't so bad after all”, thought Tilia.
“...It sounds really convincing if you're the one saying it, Croix. I'll really want to do that when I get better. But you also have to get better, as Cocona's worried sick about it”
“Yeah, I'll get better as soon as I can”
And after sharing a handshake, Tilia headed to Aoto's bed.
He seemed to be in the best shape from the three boys, but even so Aoto was lacking the energy he always had.
“...Does it hurt anywhere?”
Aoto shrugged his shoulders when he was asked this,
“Compared to what you're feeling, the pain I've got is nothing... And you'd find out if I was trying to bear with it, right?”
“...Yeah, a little. That's why I'm not too worried”
“Yeah... Thanks, Aoto”
“Why're you thanking my outta nowhere like this? Aren't we friends and companions that regenerated this planet together?”
“But I'm happy... I hated the idea of getting my life extended because it'd just make me suffer endlessly until I died, but now I can see a way out of it... I'm really glad I went through with this. So thanks for getting my life extended”
Tilia softly reached out for him with a hand, and while Aoto replied back by extending his,
“...I really don’t like this. It feels like we're saying good-bye to each other”
He then pulled his hand back in.
Tilia thought that was a good reason to refuse doing that, so that's why she hit him on the hand.
“Then, would you like a kiss better?”
“...I don't want it to be out from pity”
It took Aoto ten seconds to give that reply while he sat there with a worried face. Tilia just stared at him.
“As expected from you, Aoto. You always take mere jokes seriously”
“But you can't go easy on me even knowing I'd take that seriously too, huh?”
Smiled Aoto as he tried to hide the blush that had appeared on his face. Tilia smiled too and once again reached out to grab his hand.
When she thought “Crap!”, she already had her hand being grabbed by Aoto.
Her small hand was firmly surrounded by both of Aoto's hands.
Tilia didn't say anything.
She just stayed there as she and Aoto gazed at each other for a while before he slowly released her hand,
“...See ya later”
As Tilia separated from the bed, she wasn't able to honestly bid goodbye to Aoto.
He had told her “See ya later,” and she had several ways to reply back, like “See ya”, “Catch you up later” and such.
Aoto had those thoughts in his mind but naturally, Tilia didn't realize any of that as she went back to Shurelia's side.
As in signal that she had finished bidding goodbye to everyone, she nodded to Shurelia.
“Well then, we will get going now. You three and Aurica, please get better soon”
“We'll come see you again!”
“Next time we see each other, I'll be reborn as a humanoid, so... Ciao”
And with Tilia riding on her wheelchair at the front, they left the room.
When they left the hospital, they saw Shun sitting down and awaiting for them at the entrance.
While he was a digital lifeform, he had a wolf's appearance, and since it was obvious that would scare most people, he refrained from entering the hospital.
“Welcome back, you three. How were Croix and the others?”
“Aoto seems to be doing better, but Lyner and Croix can't really move yet. Still, it seems they're recovering well”
“I see... I was very worried when I heard they went too far in the Binary Field, so it's reassuring to hear that”
He let out a large sigh that went well with his large body.
“Well then, we should be heading back... Tilia, are there are any other places you would like to visit beforehand?”
However, Tilia didn't answer.
Wondering what happened to her; Shurelia looked into Tilia's face.
A little sweat had appeared on her forehead and her lips were tightly closed as she gnawed at them.
“Does it hurt, Tilia?”
She panicked as she realized what was happening, but Tilia just shook her head.
“...I'm okay, I'm okay”
She thought, but it was just because she couldn't put the pain into words.
She had bent forward and tried to curl up as much as she could to push the pain back. However, she already knew it was pointless after having spent months like this.
But behind them, they heard some amused voices approaching them from inside the hospital: it was everyone that had come to visit Lyner and the others leaving.
Gasping in surprise, Tilia grabbed Shurelia's arm.
“...Don't let them see me like this…”
As she was bent forward, she pressed her chest and squeezed that phrase out with all the strength she had.
But it was enough for them to understand her.
“Lady Shurelia, over here! Hurry!”
As soon as Shun said this, they moved Tilia's wheelchair to a place covered by the shadows.
A little later, they heard the voices of everyone that were in the room having a fun conversation while they left the hospital.
As she heard their voices, Tilia felt relieved that they didn't see her in pain in the end, but at the same time, she was sad that those voices felt so distant to her. She had also been part of these fun conversations until a few minutes ago and now she had to hide herself from the others to not ruin their own fun atmosphere.
“...It's okay now. They've all left”
Said Shun as he saw everyone else leaving. By that point, Tilia also got a little more used to the pain. She softly reclined against the wheelchair's back and let out a large sigh.
“Tili, let's go back already. You talked a lot with everyone, so you must be very tired”
“...No, there's still one more place I want to go, no matter what”
“But she seems to be feeling so badly... Wouldn't it be bad if we took her anywhere else?” thought both Shurelia and Frelia as they looked at each other,
“Please... I'm okay now...”
“...But we should wait until you get better, you know? Once you do, we'll take you wherever you want. So let's just go back for today”
But Tilia just shook her head over and over.
“Please, take me... If you do, I won't ask for any other selfish things...”
As they looked at Tilia, they realized refusing wasn't an option now. But even so, they didn't feel it was a good idea to take her anywhere.
Shurelia and Frelia looked at each other again, not knowing what they would do,
“...But what place would you like to go to, Tili?”
Ever since she had come to Sol Ciel, Tilia hadn't been allowed to go out from the Tenba Laboratories located in Firefly Alley. Due to that, she shouldn't know about any places she'd like to go to in Sol Ciel.
They were really at a loss for where she wanted to go and Frelia was really curious about it.
Tilia, after thinking the best way to tell them, she pointed at the place with her finger.
She was pointing to Ar tonelico: to upwards in Shurelia's Tower.
The Rinkernator was the highest area in the First Tower of Ar tonelico. As the Tower's height surpassed by far that of any other structures in the planet, the Rinkernator itself was located at a height that was beyond the stratosphere.
Tilia ended up riding on Shun's back instead of going on her wheelchair. While they could bring it partway through thanks to the elevators, beyond the Observatory where Meimei was there were the Prism Garden and several long sets of stairs, so it wouldn't be able to go any further. Deciding bringing the wheelchair was impossible, Shun allowed her to ride on his back, and it was thanks to that they finally could get to the Rinkernator.
“Amazing... Your Tower is really tall, Sis Shurelia!”
“Of course! I'm your older sister, so wouldn't it be a problem if my Tower was smaller than either of yours?”
Said Shurelia as she puffed her chest with pride.
“But wouldn't that make my Tower the smallest one?”
Frelia showed a troubled face over the fact her Tower was the lowest among the three. So going by what Shurelia just said, she should be Tilia's younger sister.
“It's okay if it's small, Sis Frelia. I think that makes it cute”
“Yay! Tili called my Tower cute!”
Tilia's words made Frelia smile.
“So, what do you think about how my Tower is the tallest one?”
Asked Shurelia. Tilia replied,
“I think it fits you the best, Sis. That lets you watch over everyone from a very high place...”
And saying this, Tilia softly tried dismounting Shun. But as expected, her feet didn't have the strength the support her body anymore.
“Tilia, be careful!”
Shun hurriedly used his long ears to prop Tilia up.
“I'm okay, I just feel a little giddy... And where would Sol Cluster be?”
“Sol Cluster? Umm... It's over there”
Shurelia pointed in the angle where Sol Cluster would be located. However, as the Rinkernator towered so highly over everything else, the scenery looked exactly the same no matter where they looked at. Naturally, they were unable to see Tilia's Tower located in Sol Cluster from here and just could see the land that Tilia and the others had regenerated extending all over.
Tilia slowly walked to the direction Shurelia had pointed at and stopped right when she reached the Rinkernator's border.
She could see the land that endlessly extended beyond the horizon below her. She even thought she was overlooking the world from its very end.
However, this wasn't the sight Tilia wanted to see.
She couldn't even see any traces of her Tower, which should still be standing over Sol Cluster.
However, it was a definite thing it was there. Her Tower was her body too, so it was sure to be still standing.
And the greatest proof of that was that she still existed in Sol Ciel. As long as she continued existing, her Tower would continue existing too.
However, she fully knew that she would never see her Tower again.
Until Sasha had completed the Hymmnos, she wouldn't be allowed to leave Sol Ciel.
And even after the Song was completed, she wouldn't be set free right away.
Rather, the Hymmnos was for returning her original body, which had turned into the Tower, back to its humanoid form. So to make sure the Hymmnos was working correctly, she would have to stay there under observation for a little longer.
And it was definite her Tower would disappear without trace during that time.
Tilia sat down on the floor while still looking intently in that direction.
Shurelia and the others approached her from behind.
“...You feel sad because your Tower is going to disappear, right?”
Tilia nodded immediately after Shurelia asked that.
Even if they used that Hymmnos and she could regain her humanoid form, it still didn't change the fact her Tower was going to disappear. And naturally, that felt to Tilia as if she was losing a part of herself.
The sadness gripped her chest, and then, very unlike herself, Tilia started crying out.
Both her older sisters sat down at each side and took her hands.
“...But you'll always have us two from now on... So it'll be okay”
She thought she was really glad to have them both now.
Tilia continued looking in Sol Cluster's direction while she still kept on grabbing their hands, but after a few seconds, she let them go and lied on the floor.
Frelia got even closer to her and allowed Tilia's head to rest on her lap.
While it was better for her to be lying on the floor, Tilia couldn't continue bearing with the great pain that was assaulting her and started breathing over and over in a hurried and pained way.
“...D-Do you want to drink anything?”
Asked Shurelia while she looked at Tilia straight in the eyes,
“...Something warm... No, lukewarm, so I can drink it right away...”
“Okay. I'll go and make some tea in the Observatory”
“Yeah... Ah, Sis Shurelia...”
She called Shurelia as she was standing up again.
“What is it?”
“...Don't take too long please”
“...She is telling me to get back here quickly”, thought Shurelia.
While she didn't have anything to be embarrassed about, Tilia said that in a roundabout way.
Shurelia caressed Tilia's face to reassure her in a way that caused her to twist around due to feeling ticklish from the caressing.
“It's okay. I'll come back right away”
And separating her hands from her as she said this, Shurelia left for the Observatory.
“Shuny, go with Sis Shurelia, please”
After being told this, Shun nodded and started trotting behind Shurelia.
They had been left alone.
Frelia looked over Tilia's face as she lied over her knees.
She kept looking only in Sol Cluster's direction, sometimes groaning and twisting her face from the pain.
After a few minutes, Tilia curled up and changed the direction of where she was looking at, taking her eyes away from Sol Cluster's direction as if she couldn't stand the pain anymore.
And the only thing that Frelia could do for Tilia while she was like this was caressing her back.
During these many months, Frelia had always been at Tilia's side, watching how much she suffered, and during that time the only thing she could do was this.
There was even a time in which Tilia couldn't withstand that tremendous pain anymore and she had to force her to drink a sleeping drug to put her to sleep. Even though it couldn't be helped, Frelia was prepared to get hated by Tilia if it came to that. However, when Tilia woke up, the pain had subsided and she told her she'd have preferred them to have kept her drugged all the time the life extension was going to last. She hadn't proposed this to escape the pain, but because she worried she could end up hurting Shurelia and Frelia whenever they had to pin her down when she went crazy from the pain.
After that, Frelia decided she would just keep on caressing Tilia's back no matter if she had to stand her punches, slaps and kicks whenever she went berserk.
She noticed that Tilia's pained moans and breathing calmed down a little.
“...Forgive me... This is the only thing I can do for you...”
“No, it's okay... This greatly calms me down...”
It was just a sentimental thing, but Frelia's caressing actually calmed Tilia down.
She turned around and looked again at where Sol Cluster was located.
“...Are you worried about how your Tower is now?”
“I know my Tower is still there... But I was thinking about what I'd do once it disappeared”
As a Tower Administrator, Tilia never had a choice when it came to living away from the Tower. What would she do once the Tower she administered stopped existing? She didn't even know where she would go once that happened.
“Once your Tower disappears...? It's really not impossible for you to continue living even after your Tower disappears. I hadn't thought of it”
“Yeah... What should I do? Maybe I should make myself a nice house on the surface or the Great Fang, find a job and start living like a normal human?”
“Hmm... But haven't you thought about coming to live here or in any other places aside of your own Tower, Tili?”
Tilia tried thinking about it, but there weren't any other places like it. Since she had never been interested in a topic like this, she honestly thought that anywhere would be okay if she could live a peaceful life as long as she was safe from the wind and rain.
“As long as it isn't inconvenient, anywhere would be fine... What would be a good place?”
“...I know a good one”
Frelia pointed to a certain direction as she talked, which was a little ways off from where Sol Cluster was located. Even though Tilia couldn't see what was there, she knew right away what Frelia was going to say.
“Yup. I was thinking I wanted to have you with me in Metafalica... I wouldn't be lonely anymore if you were there too, Tili”
“Are you lonely, Sis Frelia? Don't you have Shun and many other friends?”
“Yeah, but all my friends are always so busy they can't come and see me often... Ah, of course I can also have fun just with Shuny. But it's just I want to have more girls as friends that can come see me... So if I had my cute little sister playing around with me, I'd be really happy...”
Frelia showed an ashamed smile as she said this.
If Tilia went to Metafalica, she would be able to live with Frelia. And if she did that, they would surely spend every day having fun.
Tilia had to agree with this when she thought about it, but suddenly Shurelia's face popped into her mind.
“...Sis Shurelia wouldn't be with us?”
“...I'd be really happy if she could, but...”
Because Shurelia had her duties as the Administrator of the Sol Ciel Tower, there was no way she could go to live in Metafalica with them. They had become able to travel between the Towers thanks to the Inter-Tower Network, so it's not like she couldn't go there too. However, since Shurelia considered her duties as Tower Administrator a mission more important than everything else, she could easily see how she would decline when asked about coming with them.
“Ah, but if you like Sol Ciel more, I can't force you to come with me, Tili. After all, the most important thing is that you can live happy wherever you go. So if you want to live in Sol Ciel, I'm sure Sis Shurelia would agree when you told her”
“But if I did that, you would...”
“I'll be okay. I'll be a little lonely, but I'll always have Shuny with me. Besides, I can't say this loudly, but I'm not really anywhere as busy as Sis Shurelia is, so I could come visit you very frequently. So if you want to live here the most, that's what you should do”
But despite getting told this, Tilia couldn't answer right away.
She hadn't seen almost anything of Sol Ciel and she hadn't even stepped into Metafalica yet.
So after thinking about it a little,
“...I wanna go and sightsee around Metafalica”
“Not to live, but to sightsee?”
“Yeah,” said Tilia as she nodded.
“I don't really know anything about Sol Ciel or Metafalica, so... I want to look around before deciding where I'll go live”
“I see... Yeah, that's great! It's the best that you go and check with your own eyes before going to live there! And when you go there, I'll show you how Metafalica has nothing to envy Sol Ciel when it comes to interesting places; there are so many things I want to show you...! Ah...”
Frelia suddenly stopped caressing Tilia's back.
“What happened, Sis Frelia?”
“...Now I think about it, maybe I don't really know much about Metafalica either”
Frelia had just now realized that.
She didn't really descend very frequently from the Tower. While there were some times she did come down, she usually always went only to walk around the park in the best residential district in Inferiare or go drink some tea in one of the cafes.
As for the interesting places she wanted to show Tilia, she only knew the Grand Bell Palace.
“...Next time, I'll ask Cloche and the others. I'm sure they'll know some interesting places we can go visit”
Frelia was somewhat depressed and felt some self-loathing for herself due to knowing next to nothing about Metafalica despite so many years having gone by ever since the continent was crafted.
“...But it's not like I had kept myself locked up in the Tower all that time...” she thought.
Tilia noticed how sad Frelia seemed, and said,
“In that case, I can go sightseeing with you and Sis Shurelia. I want to go in a sightseeing trip with you two”
“Yeah. We can go and see all sorts of places in both Towers, both in Sol Ciel and Metafalica. If we do that, you can also look around Metafalica and I'll be able to take a good look at both lands to see where I can go live”
“I see... It feels like we're going to go on an adventure travel of sorts! That's a nice idea, Tili!”
Tilia showed a happy smile. The pain was being pushed back during all the time they were talking, and she seemed to be starting to feel better.
“Yeah. And no matter where I end up living, I could also make a house in the other land to have a holiday house too. That way I can always meet you two whenever I want, right?”
“Yeah, I agree with that! That way we can always get together for anything!”
“Yeah... A-And there are things I still want to do. I still wanna do so much stuff!”
“But don't fret so much about it and let me hear about it all. Calm down a little”
Frelia calmed down Tilia when she started talking too fast, so she could follow what she was saying. Tilia noticed it and nodded, but it still felt like she was talking too fast.
“While we're traveling, I wanna sleep with you two. I wanna to try sleeping in a way that we look like three straight lines lined up, with me in the middle. And I also want us to eat some tasty agepan pieces while we're around sightseeing. And, umm... I want to talk with you! I want to hear all about when Sis Shurelia saved Sol Ciel with Lyner and the others, and about what happened when Metafalica was created, and, and...”
Tilia's body started shaking, and she curled up once again.
“Does it hurt again, Tili!?”
Tilia shook her head with a regretful and sorrowful face.
“...I'm scared...What if the Hymmnos isn't ready in time... What if even if it was in time, it was too late already...?”
Tilia grabbed Frelia's hand, which had stopped caressing her back.
“Sis Frelia... You'll really take me to Metafalica, right?”
“Y-Yeah, as soon as you've gotten better!”
“Promise it! That you'll take me to Metafalica no matter what... Please...”
Tilia's eyes showed an expression of utter terror.
She started thinking that everything would become impossible if they failed because they had been talking about the fun they would have in the future?
Frelia took a decision and told her as gently as she could,
“I promise I'll take you to Metafalica no matter what happens, Tili. Ah yeah, want to do a pinky swear?”
Seeing how Tilia couldn't move well, Frelia got out the hand she had been using to caress her back in front of her face.
She closed her hand and just let out her pinky finger.
Tilia extended her own hand with the pinky finger out as if she were desperately clinging to Frelia's hand.
“You promised... You'll take me to Metafalica...”
And then, it happened.
The instant Frelia's finger touched Tilia's finger, Tilia's body instantly turned into transparent water.
Then, the water that used to form Tilia's body spilled all over with a light sound as if a large water balloon had burst over the place.
The water spilled over the Rinkernator, and since Frelia had Tilia resting on her lap, she was completely soaked.
All this happened in less a second.
What just happened?
Everything had ended before Frelia could stop thinking up that question.
She then heard the footsteps of Shun and Shurelia returning to the Rinkernator, the latter carrying enough teacups with tea bags inside for them all.
But then, Shurelia noticed that most of the Rinkernator's floor had gotten wet.
“Did rain fall over here or something?”
Shun said aloud the question he just had thought, but Shurelia shook her head.
“No, that's not possible. This place is located beyond the stratosphere, so not even the Musical Corridor can be configured to provoke a rainfall over here...”
Shurelia then noticed how Frelia was sitting completely alone.
She was completely soaked and sitting alone in the Rinkernator's floor.
And Shurelia didn't see Tilia anywhere despite expecting to see her resting on Frelia's lap.
Shurelia suddenly got a bad feeling and had shivers running throughout her whole body.
“...No, it can't be...”
Shurelia and Shun walked to Frelia.
“No way, impossible, unthinkable...!” thought Shurelia as she walked slowly, taking enough care to not step into the water that was all over the place until she reached Frelia.
When she and Shun were finally in front of Frelia, she just looked downward and didn't move at all.
Frelia shivered in response to Shurelia's voice, but she still didn't raise her face.
She cupped together the hands she had on her lap and used them to collect the water droplets that were falling through her hair.
“...Where did Tilia go…?”
Frelia didn't say anything and just shivered intermittently.
She then presented the water she had gathered with her hands to Shurelia.
Shurelia dropped the teacups that instant.
“Tili is... Tili... my... my little sister is... uhh, waaaah!!”
She then pressed both hands with the water against her chest, as if she was trying to hug her.
The water then spilled in the gaps between her fingers and fell down to the floor.
Now that Tilia had become that, she could never hug her again.
Frelia's cries echoed throughout the Rinkernator.
At the same time, the people that were looking at the Tower in Sol Cluster announced to the whole world that it started collapsing once again.
That meant that Tilia had truly died.
Chapter 8: A New Plan
A year went by after the fateful day Tilia turned into water.
The Sol Cluster Tower started collapsing due to her death and a month later not even traces remained of it.
The only thing that didn’t change at all from when the Tower still existed were the ruins of Archia City that were still hanging from the Tower of Origin.
The capital of the Metafalica Continent, Inferiare.
In the very center of several avenues that were filled with high-class restaurants and shops especially made for celebrities, there was the Nyanya Store, the general store Sasha owned.
The Nyanya Store was surrounded by an enormous park, but the store wasn't actually inside a lot of land belonging to the park: rather, all the land that formed the park itself actually belonged to Sasha.
Due to her great contributions to Metafalica and the regeneration of the Planet, as well as being the distinguished inventor of the [Inter-Tower Network] that allowed the βs and Origins from the three regions to come and go however they pleased, she was given this land.
She was given such a large lot of land so she would build an enormous workshop in which she could put her knowledge and skills to their maximum use, but as Sasha said,
“I don't think having such a large workshop it's a good idea, as I'd like to focus myself on managing a store and studying instead of making things”
And thus, she built a small shop in the very middle of this large expanse of terrain and allowed everyone else to use the remainder as a public park.
Sasha was looking over a small notebook she had in her hands while she sat down on one of the park's benches.
That notebook was a collection of all the information she had researched on her own about the Triangular Nuclear Loops.
The reason she started researching them in the first place was due to Tilia's death a year ago.
She had finally found a way to save Tilia, but since she had found it out and started working on it too late, she didn't manage to complete it in time. Sasha was the one who regretted the most that Tilia had turned into water due to taking so long.
Once she heard about Tilia's death, Sasha restlessly started traveling around the world, collecting all the data she could find about the creation of the Triangular Nuclear Loops and started researching it by herself.
She wasn't thinking about wanting to actually create one, but she still wanted to know how they were made.
She was doing this so if someone else ended up being in a similar situation to Tilia, she wouldn't repeat these same mistakes. If she knew what kind of object the Triangular Nuclear Loops were and in which way they were created, she might be able to find some measures that could be taken to prevent their owners' deaths.
These were the feelings that drove her to start this research.
And like Sasha, there was someone else sitting on that bench that still mourned over Tilia's death.
It was Frelia.
Even now she felt terrible about how she couldn't keep her promise to save the agonizing Tilia and bring her to Metafalica with her.
While they both mourned Tilia's death, they weren't responsible for her passing. They both knew that, but they still continued regretting that things ended this way.
Sasha continued regretting it because her life may have been saved in a comparatively simple way if she had noticed it before.
Frelia continued regretting that she couldn't keep her promise.
Both couldn't forgive themselves for the results that they felt their own incompetence had caused.
It was due to those feelings that Frelia went to see Sasha and proposed her an idea, asking if it would be possible to carry it out.
“What do you mean? Please repeat it, Frelia”
Sasha asked her to repeat it because she couldn't comprehend what Frelia had told her.
“If we could make a new body for Tili, would it be possible to revive her? Not as a Tower, but just as Tili”
If she had asked this a normal person, they would either laugh due to thinking she was joking or be shocked at how a mourner could truly think it would be possible for a person to come and go between life and death.
However, Sasha was completely serious and showed a troubled expression as she listened to Frelia's question.
“...Revive her in which sense? Just making a body identical to hers, or creating that body and making it have the same exact mind Tilia had?”
“The latter of course”
“I see... in that case...”
Upon saying this, Sasha started jotting down all the components they would need for that to be possible at the very end of her Triangular Nuclear Loop research notebook.
[A large pod to make the body]
[The memories preserved in the Server that Tilia had up to the instant of her death]
[A Triangular Nuclear Loop]
She thought that while she had only written three components, none of them were something like the ingredients that could be simply substituted in a typical Synthesis.
“We would have to pull Tilia's memories from the server, and that should be relatively simple. However, we still have the pod and the Triangular Nuclear Loop as problems...”
“Leave the pod to me! Once we've gotten everything else ready, I'll make it myself!”
Sasha wrote checkmarks beside the first two items in the list after Frelia said that.
But the Triangular Nuclear Loop still remained as their greatest problem.
This was because the Triangular Nuclear Loop model used exclusively for the Origins was something that couldn't be created with current technologies.
If they had something like the blueprints for it the story would have been different, but since not even those remained now, creating one was impossible.
“...What about if we tried using something that had similar functions to a Triangular Nuclear Loop as a replacement?” thought Sasha. And then a phrase suddenly came out from her lips,
“...A Heart of the Land”
“A Heart of the Land? You mean using one as a replacement for the Triangular Nuclear Loop?”
Sasha started thinking right away about using a Heart of the Land as an alternate plan in order to answer Frelia's question.
After remaining mute and deep in thought for several seconds, Sasha finally opened her mouth.
“A Heart of the Land should be able to support the high-frequency wave band that Tilia needs. However... honestly, I'm not confident that we can get it working as a replacement for a Triangular Nuclear Loop.”
“I see... And just asking, but you don't know how to make a Triangular Nuclear Loop from scratch?”
“...I've researched a lot about it, but I still don't know. It's true it was created as a fusion of the science and technology from the First Era and the Teru magic, but we don't have one of them anymore and the other is outside my expertise area... “
“Did you research it too?”
“Yes, I tried studying a little about Teru magic too. However, I don't understand how they managed to connect the First Era's science with it and there are many points about it that can't be explained with our current Wave Science, so that's a dead end for us”
Frelia wondered, “...You took one year studying because of the Teru magic?”
While she was very interested in how she managed to study it, Frelia had to swallow down her curiosity to not break the conversation's flow.
“But that's our best chance, right?”
“Yes. While it's possible I may find another method if I continue researching, I think the chances for that are very close to zero...”
“And even so, the chances the Heart of the Land method will be successful are very low too...”
They both continued thinking for a while so they didn't overlook any other possibilities like how it happened with when Sasha came up with the method for reversing Tilia's Tower transformation. However, no other ideas came to them during that time.
So then, should they get going with the Heart of the Land method, since it was the most reliable one they had at the moment?
However, that itself would be a large gamble.
This because Frelia had said she would create the incubation pod they needed for creating Tilia's body.
And in order to create it, she would have to consume a large amount of the Static H-Waves that served as her lifeforce. However, Frelia didn't have enough lifeforce remaining to craft something like that, so she would have to consume instead the essential Symphonic Power she had in reserve.
This meant she would have to drop the Rim, the structure in which most of the people had lived before the Metafalica Continent had been created. That way, the power that was needed to keep the Rim afloat would be reduced and that would give Frelia enough energy for the pod's creation.
However, they had already dropped part of the Rim in the past, which got them considerable backlash from the people who lived there at the time.
And while no one lived there anymore, the Rim was still a land filled with their memories.
If they dropped such a place and then the plan ended actually being an utter failure, they would have done all that for nothing.
“It's true our success chances are very low, but...”
“Even though the probabilities are horribly low, they aren't zero. In that case, shouldn't we try and bet on it?”
Normally, Sasha would have never said anything like that.
That if the probabilities were so close to zero, they would have to reconsider the plan greatly.
But despite knowing this, Sasha was telling her they should put bet everything on that method.
Her responsibility in having failed to save Tilia and the frustration she felt toward herself were making her act unlike how she would have under normal circumstances.
As for Frelia, while she honestly was thinking that they should try betting everything on that possibility like Sasha was, she purposely asked her,
“...And if we fail?”
“I wanted Tilia to be happy” These strong feelings were what made Sasha speak.
“...I'll revive Tilia no matter what, even if it takes my whole life to find out how”
The instant she said this, Sasha reminded Frelia of Infel. The Maiden Infel, who possessed a prodigious intellect yet, she was incapable of making Metafalica a reality. Sasha may be able to revive Tilia even if it took her whole life, but if they failed, not everything would be in vain, as if they could solve each of the problems that impeded her revival one by one, maybe the next generation would be able to make it a reality. Just like her successor eventually surpassed Metafalica's history of failures and made it a reality...
Within Sasha, some passionate feelings mixed up with the cold thoughts typical of a scientist and gave birth to a strong determination.
“Let's do it. Let's put all our efforts into it!”
“Thanks... I feel the same as you, Sasha”
They had small hope that they might be able to see Tilia again. A few small tears appeared on Frelia's eyes.
“...Let's call everyone”
And as if it were to answer to Frelia saying this, Sasha grabbed her hand tightly.
That was the signal that initiated the Tilia Revival Project.
Chapter 9: Feelings for the Rim
Aside of the city of Inferiare, there were a few more other cities in the Metafalica Continent.
The most representative ones were Enna, Rakshek and Mint Block. They all had been originally towns in the Rim, but when their inhabitants moved to the continent, they all were reborn as new cities.
The Rim was a place where living was very difficult, but their lives changed completely once they moved to the continent, as the people didn't have to worry about food and water anymore.
Maybe it was due to that, but the times saw how the people who used to live in the city that was the capital before the continent's creation, Pastalia, ended leaving the current capital of Inferiare and going to settle down in one of these three cities.
And even better, all the areas in the continent had the same life standards. Due to this, the citizens could choose to go live to a city that fit their lifestyle the best and would be allowed to move there with no problems.
And naturally, the more people settled down in a city the more it grew.
Even Mint Block, which was a small village that developed very slowly, had gathered a lot of people that had gotten exhausted from the life in places like the capital and thus had now become a very peaceful yet splendid city.
The representatives from Enna, Rakshek and Mint Block had gathered at the Great Bell Palace that was now located in Inferiare.
They were the Enna Mayor, the Enna Council Chairman, the Rakshek Representative and the Mint Block Mayor.
And they were in the reception room that was inside the Palace.
Inside that room, there were two sofas that faced each other separated by a small long table.
The four representatives were sitting in one of the sofas.
On the other hand, the two Maidens, Cloche and Luca, as well as Shurelia and Frelia were sitting across from them.
Normally, the four representatives would engage in friendly chat with each other even while they were in Luca and Cloche's presence.
However, they realized this wasn't a normal situation when they saw two of the Ar tonelico Administrators present, so they couldn't start their usual banter with each other.
“...Holy Maidens, might I ask what this means?”
Asked the Mint Block Mayor.
“What kind of business did you call us all for? No, better said, does this mean your summon concerns us all? After all, I was looking forward to being able to talk with you two after such a long time”
“I am glad to hear you say that”
Said Cloche as she smiled.
She then looked at each of the four representatives in the face one by one,
“The reason I have summoned you all here today is because I must make a request of you”
The representatives gulped down when they heard Cloche's words.
Given the Tower Administrators were sitting with the Maidens, they were sure it was something absurd. The four representatives couldn't hide their nervousness wondering what kind of bomb Cloche was going to drop on them.
“I shall be frank with you. I wish to request your permission to drop what currently remains of the Rim”
“W-What did you say!?”
Said the Enna Mayor as she stood up and slammed her hands on the table.
The other three were also shocked by Cloche's statement, even though not as much as the Enna Mayor was.
She was so shocked that she jumped to her feet without thinking, and she said,
“W-Why in Ar Ciel do you need to drop it now!? Can you tell us the reason for it!?”
Cloche silently nodded at her.
“Of course. While we have moved away from it at this point in time, that does not change the fact that the Rim is still your precious homeland. It is precisely due to its nature that we wish to explain to you all the reasons we have for wanting to drop it, and so you may grant us your permission if you agree. I apologize for having startled you, so would you please listen to us?”
After hearing Cloche calmly talking, the representatives regained their composure.
The Enna Mayor cleared her throat with a rather loud sound.
“That is true. Both of our Holy Maidens aren't the sort of people that would drop the Rim for no reason, and we know that quite well... so for now, let's listen to the reasons you have for it. Right, Mayor?”
“Y-Yeah... you're right. We won't be able to decide anything if we don't hear them out, huh?”
And saying this, the Enna Mayor sat down again. She had to move around a few times, but she finally calmed down.
After making sure all the representatives' eyes were locked on her, Cloche started talking.
“This is the reason for which we have decided to drop the Rim: it is necessary for us to carry out a plan to revive the Administrator Tilia, whose Tower used to stand tall above the region of Sol Cluster”
The representatives were shocked upon hearing her say the word “revive”.
Then, the Mint Block Mayor calmly raised his hand.
“...So if I have understood it correctly, you mean we must sacrifice our homeland for the sake of another Administrator that isn't Lady Frelia? Why do we have to do that?”
Cloche was at a loss for words after what the Mint Block Mayor said.
Obviously, the Rim as it was now was smaller in comparison to how it was when Metafalica had been created.
But even so, it could still last a few more decades with parts of it falling off every now and then if it was left alone.
While no one else lived on it anymore, the Rim was still a land filled with memories for those who had lived on it. Therefore, it was natural they would be reluctant to drop for the sake of someone who had nothing to do with their region.
“There's a reason for that!”
Said Luca in replacement of Cloche.
“Mr. Mayor, it's true that Tilia might have nothing to do with Metafalica, but still, Tilia gave up her life for us... no, for every single person living in Ar Ciel!”
And after saying this, Luca looked alternately at Shurelia and Frelia.
“Lady Shurelia, Frelia, please tell everyone about it”
Now Luca had brought them into the conversation, Shurelia and Frelia straightened themselves.
The Enna Council Chairman seemed like he was going to give in from the pressure of having to talk to the Tower Administrators, but even so,
“So what did Lady Luca mean just a moment ago? What did she mean by saying she gave up her life for everyone in Ar Ciel?”
Shurelia was expecting precisely that question to come out.
Therefore, she was the next one to talk,
“That was because Tilia was the person who contributed the most to the Planet's regeneration. When she did so, her Triangular Nuclear Loop... or in layman's terms, her heart suffered serious damage”
“The person who contributed the most to the Planet's regeneration!?”
Shouted the Enna Mayor. When she realized how much she had raised her voice, she immediately covered her mouth with her hands.
The Enna Council Chairman was shocked too upon getting told about this, but he still kept the normal tone and volume in his voice.
“So in other words, the elimination of the Sea of Death and the fact that is now possible to descend to the surface was all thanks to Lady Tilia?”
Upon seeing Shurelia nod in response, the Council Chairman looked in Cloche and Luca's direction.
“...What Lady Shurelia just stated is the truth”
“Yeah. She said that she was the person who contributed the most, but Tilia was actually the most essential person to the Planet's regeneration”
Upon hearing the two Maidens say this, the Council Chairman believed Shurelia's words.
“I see... I didn't know that, yet I still asked that question in a way that was so disrespectful to you all. I apologize”
“No, please don't mind it”
Said Shurelia as she saw the Mint Block Mayor lowering his head to her.
“So she was the one who regenerated the surface... But well, that has really nothing to do with our lives, since we're now living here in Metafalica”
As the Rakshek Representative said, the people who lived in the Metafalica Continent weren't troubled at all with their current lives. So even though the surface had been regenerated, there was no one who wanted to go down there, as their abundant and ideal Metafalica had a much greater attractive than a surface that had nothing on it.
However, the Rakshek Representative continued,
“But I was really thrilled when I saw the Sea of Death disappearing. I was all “Whoa, so we can now get down to the surface!” It was a real surprise”
“I am quite sure that Tilia would have been glad had she heard that”
“But Lady Shurelia, can you explain us how dropping the Rim is connected to reviving Lady Tilia?”
When the Enna Mayor asked that, Shurelia replied,
“In order to resurrect Tilia, a few components are required. One of them is a pod that will serve to incubate her new body, but... The only person who can create such a pod is Frelia”
She said in an apologetic voice.
“But in that case, can't you just ask Sasha to make it for you? She is the girl who created the Inter-Tower Network, so I'm sure something like that would be simple...”
“No, she can't”
Frelia interrupted the Enna Mayor.
“This pod is something that Sasha can't make. Besides, I said I should be the one to make it when we were discussing this project”
“Not even Sasha can make it!?”
“Yes, so that's why I must create the pod. And for that, I need to reduce the Symphonic Power consumption that the Rim represents... but...”
“...Even if I make it and we get all the components we need, there's no guarantee we'll be able to revive Tili”
The Enna Mayor was the one that had been talking with Frelia, but she went mute upon hearing these words.
They all felt astonished to hear that even if they dropped a place that as important to them as the Rim was, there was no guaranteeing their attempt would be successful.
“...By having no guarantee, don't you mean the probabilities for it are nearly zero?”
Frelia groaned a “yeah” in response to the Mint Block Mayor.
“I see... And you've decided to do it regardless...”
Frelia nodded with a worried face as she replied “yes” to the Mayor.
“Don't you even know if you have a higher chance of success or failure?”
Frelia nodded in response to the Rakshek Representative's question.
“So in other words, it's truly a gamble... Is there really no other way?”
She had no other choice but to nod.
“So what should we do?”
“I have realized that Lady Tilia was indeed a heroine, but even so...”
“There is no guarantee this will work... Such a difficult problem”
The representatives mumbled and whispered while they had their arms crossed in front of themselves, their hands placed on their chins as they continued thinking.
They weren't going to accept the plan.
Even Cloche, Luca and Frelia realized this when they saw the representatives' reaction.
“...Indeed, it is a gamble”
Muttered Shurelia out of nowhere.
Shurelia stood up as she looked at all the people that were gathered in that room,
“Besides, what is at stake in it is your precious homeland, which should have no part on this due to not being related to Tilia”
“Sis Shurelia... Ah!”
Frelia noticed that her older sister's body was shivering.
She seemed like she was going to cry, or so Frelia thought, but no tears came out from her eyes.
“I understand very well how precious the Rim is to all of you... No, I am sure it is more important than I can ever imagine. Therefore, I think it is reasonable for you all to be aggravated upon being told that we wish to use it despite not even knowing if the plan will turn out to be successful”
Shurelia took a few steps forward
“...But even so, we absolutely need the Rim...!”
Everyone thought she was going to crouch down.
But the next instant, they realized they had been wrong and couldn't believe their eyes.
“Please! Please, allow us to drop the Rim!”
Shurelia desperately pleaded to the representatives while her forehead scrapped the floor.
“Lady Shurelia, what are you doing!?”
“Please! Let us use the Rim... I want to... I want... I want to save my little sister, please!”
“...What am I doing?”
Shurelia's mind was in an astonishingly calm state.
She had thoughts like “What am I doing?” and “What is everyone going to think of me now?” going through it.
She fully knew that such an improper conduct wasn't something that could be tolerated of someone in a leadership position like herself.
However, she had no intention of stopping.
Because if she stopped, she would regret it the rest of her life.
She heard the sound of her pride as Tower Administrator crumbling away.
But still, she was willing to go through with this if there was a possibility of bringing Tilia back.
So she could have a possibility of having Tilia healthy and able to enjoy her life even if it was just for a short time.
Even if the pride she had built up after centuries of being a Tower Administrator was torn to shreds...
“...That would be a far too small price to pay for her”
No one could do anything when they saw Shurelia desperately supplicating them.
However, Frelia went to her side right away,
“I beg you too, please! Please, let us drop the Rim for Tili's sake!”
She was supplicating just like Shurelia.
“L-Lady Frelia too!? Ah, so unbecoming!”
“P-Please, raise your heads!”
“You don't have to go so far!”
Someone said something, but everything had gotten too noisy for them to get what that was...
However, Shurelia and Frelia continued keeping their heads down as if their lives depended on it.
“Please! I will even put my own life at stake in exchange for dropping the Rim! So please, allow us!”
“Please, give us a chance to save Tili!”
The four representatives looked at each other's faces.
“...Is this okay?”
The Rakshek Representative and the Enna Council Chief both nodded in response to the Mint Block Mayor.
They then looked at the Enna Mayor.
“...That's more than enough”
When the Mint Block Mayor heard her answer, he went to the two girls that were still supplicating them and extended his hands to them.
“...We understand, we really do... We understand your feelings very well”
He said as he placed a hand on each girl's shoulder and they both finally raised their faces.
He smiled at them, who were so desperate that they seemed they could start crying at any second.
“I didn't think you would go so far to ask for the Rim... for our destroyed homeland. But it's enough, it's indeed enough. You have conveyed to us your feelings very well, to the point it was even painful to feel them”
The Mint Block Mayor then turned to Cloche and Luca.
Guessing he wanted to say something, they both immediately ran to Shurelia and Frelia.
“Lady Shurelia, come. Please stand up”
“Are you okay, Frelia?”
Cloche helped Shurelia stand up while Luca did the same with Frelia.
Once he saw both girls standing again, the Mint Block Mayor said,
“...Please, use the Rim for Lady Tilia's sake”
When Shurelia and Frelia heard those words, their eyes widened in surprise.
“It seems no one has any objections against this”
“Yes, I don't have any... I was actually thinking we should just give them the Rim when I heard how Lady Tilia was the most important person for this Planet's regeneration”
The other three then nodded after the Enna Council Chairman said that,
“Yeah, you're right. I'm still a bit worried about how we're letting them use it even though they don't know if it'll be successful... But I can't say no when they're going so far to ask for dropping the Rim. Somehow, I felt pretty bad about that”
Shurelia and Frelia finally blushed after hearing the Enna Mayor saying that. They didn't think anything about it because they had been so desperate, but now they started thinking back on what they did, they felt very embarrassed.
The Rakshek Representative laughed from seeing their faces as he said,
“Well, we don't know if it'll be successful, but it'll be just like when Metafalica was crafted, right? Lady Cloche's feelings of “I'll make it a success no matter what” were amazing back then, but the feelings Lady Shurelia and Lady Frelia had just now were amazing too. I understood very well how much they want to save Lady Tilia”
He gave himself a strong slap on the chest as he talked.
“We'll make sure to inform our citizens, so don't worry about anything. Once we tell them about Lady Tilia, I'm sure no one will oppose this plan”
“It's just as the Mint Block Mayor says. But well, if there's still anyone against it, that time, well, you know... We can just tell them about how Lady Shurelia and Lady Frelia bowed before us!”
“Huh? B-But we...”
Frelia was shocked from the Enna Mayor's words.
What they had done was completely throw away every single bit of pride they had. Just saying they had bowed would actually be massive understatement of what they did.
However, the Enna Mayor interrupted Frelia as if she guessed that was what she was going to say,
“But we're not really going to do that... You two are Administrators after all”
She said as she put on a finger on her mouth and smiled.
The four representatives had agreed to let them drop the Rim even though it was their precious homeland. Shurelia and Frelia couldn't do anything but to bow in exchange for their kindness.
“...How could we ever repay you for this?”
Shurelia asked calmly, so the representatives then started thinking.
However, no one among them came up with any ideas, so they stopped thinking one by one until three of them had given up.
The only one who still continued thinking was the Enna Council Chairman, who nodded to himself while mumbling, and he continued thinking for a good while.
“...Just a little bit would be okay. Maybe we could leave a small part of it so we can make it into some sort of memorial or something?”
He continued whispering to himself as if he was reciting a monologue.
Chapter 10: Will
The plan to revive Tilia wasn't really difficult compared to the plan to extend her life.
Tilia's memories were left in a state where they could be pulled out from her Server right away whenever they needed and Frelia was already putting all her efforts in the creation of the pod for making Tilia's body.
She was a little different from other Reyvateils, as she had the power to create large structures through singing and dancing in Sol Marta.
It was due to this that she had continued dancing for whole days and nights to create the pod for Tilia.
At the same time, a few people gathered in the Second Tower's Hot Spot to obtain a Heart of the Land after Frelia contacted them.
“Is everybody ready for the Dive!?”
Said Rheki, the helper robot that was stationed at the Hot Spot.
The people there were Shurelia, Jakuri, Sasha, Luca, and Saki, who had come from Sol Cluster. Additionally, the Grand Bell Knight Captain Leglius and his foster daughter Amarie, who was Luca's close friend, had both come as her escorts.
However, not everyone among them would be Diving this time: only Luca, Leglius, Amarie and Saki would go.
Additionally, this time they wouldn't be Diving into a Cosmosphere or into the Binary Field: they were going to Dive into the Heart of the Land that served as the Metafalica Continent's core.
“Argh, you're not replying! Are you ready!?”
“Yeah, we're good to go!”
Answered Luca when Rheki asked them again.
“Is everyone ready to go?”
“Yeah, we're fine”
“Well, the preparations for the Dive are ready, but I'm not really prepared mentally”
Said Leglius and Amarie one after another.
“What about you, Saki? You seem kinda nervous”
Getting told this by Luca made Saki straighten herself.
“Y-Yes! It's just I never dreamed I'd be able to do something together with you, Lady Luca, since you're Lady Cloche's older sister and all...”
Luca was one of the Maidens who had created Metafalica and she was Cloche's older sister too. And Saki didn't know she would be acting alongside such an important person until the moment she had arrived to this land.
When Luca saw how rigid Saki had gotten from the nervousness,
“And you should only call Reika... no, Lady Cloche “Lady”. It's true I'm a Maiden too, but I'm not really good at all that formal and difficult stuff. So just call me by my name!”
“B-But that would be so rude...”
“Well, you can call me whatever you like, but calling me “Lady” is forbidden, okay?”
“Ah, uh... O-Okay...”
Unlike Cloche, Luca was a Maiden that was popular due to being easily approachable by the people, so she served as the bridge that connected the government with its citizens. And even though she had become a Maiden, the friends and acquaintances she had from before that time still treated her the same way as they always had.... they sometimes teased her by calling her “Lady Luca” too, but it was mostly done as a show of respect.
But since Saki lived in Sol Cluster, Luca was to her a person that held the greatest authority in a foreign land. So if Luca was telling her to stop calling her Lady, she had to obey her, even though she still kept feeling it would be disrespectful to her.
“But really, I'd never dreamed we'd be Diving to get a Heart of the Land. Couldn't we really get a Heart easily just by having Luca or Jakuri chat it up?”
Luca nodded in response to Amarie's question.
“It seemed like that, but for some reason we got rejected...”
Normally it wasn't so difficult to obtain a Heart of the Land. After all, it was something they could obtain in a surprisingly easy way: by talking to the Metafalica's Heart of the Land.
But it was due to Luca thinking this that she was confused, ignorant to the reason behind it when the Heart rejected their conversation attempt.
It was due to this that they were now going to Dive into the Heart of the Land and directly let their feelings clash with the Will of Metafalica.
Leglius and Amarie had come as their escorts, as they didn't know what could happen after the Dive started. They didn't know why the Heart of the Land didn't hand over a piece of itself, so it was just a mere precaution.
As for Saki, she wasn't coming as an escort to Luca: instead, Saki was one of the people who knew Tilia the best, so she was here to personally request the Continent's Will to give them a Heart of the Land.
“Don't you have any hunches about why she didn't get the Heart of the Land?”
Asked Leglius as he looked at Jakuri.
“Who knows? We got a Heart of the Land when I made Cocona go to Sol Cluster, but we got it pretty easily. That's why I didn't think it'd be possible to get rejected by it. You didn't say anything rude when you asked for it, did you, Luca?”
“Huh!? No way! I just asked her saying “Please, give us a Heart of the Land; we need it to revive Tilia”...”
Seeing how Luca panicked, Jakuri just sighed with a disgusted expression on her face.
“Just kidding. Anyway, the most essential element to get a Heart of the Land is the [sincerity of your feelings], so you should have been more than covered on that front, Luca. But since she still refused, there must have been some other reason”
Upon seeing Luca sigh in relief, Jakuri just shook her head while muttering “Oh my”
Shurelia then stepped toward the people that were going to participate in the Dive.
“Everyone, I beg you... Please, save Tilia... Save my little sister...”
Shurelia couldn't do anything beyond saying this and bowing before them.
Shurelia truly wanted to Dive into the Heart of the Land too, but Jakuri stopped her.
There had to be a reason for why the Continent's Will had refused to hand them over a Heart of the Land. They should be able to persuade her after they heard that reason, but if it ended up becoming impossible to get one, Jakuri feared that Shurelia would try to take the Heart of the Land by force.
If Shurelia was like she was normally, there was no chance that something like that would happen, and Jakuri knew that very well herself. However, things were very different since it involved Tilia's resurrection.
After Tilia died, Shurelia had locked herself up inside her Tower and didn't come out at all until the time in which the plan to revive her was made.
She didn't abandon her duties though, but she ended up absorbing herself completely into her Administrator duties, possibly in an attempt to forget the sadness that losing Tilia had caused her.
It was to this point that this had shocked her.
So given how Shurelia was now, if something happened that caused her to decide that it would be impossible for them to obtain a Heart of the Land, there was no guarantee she wouldn't let her emotions run wild.
“Please raise your head, Lady Shurelia”
Saki asked Shurelia after she had bowed before them.
“Tilia is a really, really precious friend to me too. So we'll absolutely get a Heart of the Land and save Tilia!”
“Everything will be okay! Once she knows what kind of person Tilia is, I'm sure we’ll Metafalica's Will to understand”
That Tilia ended up dying like this after having given hope to the people on this Planet was horribly sad and wrong. So Saki believed that they should be able to make this continent's will understand that.
“...So, shall we get going?”
Leglius, Amarie and Saki nodded in response to Luca's question.
“Understood! Ok you four, please step into the pods!”
And after being ordered in a cheerful and reckless way by Rheki, Luca and the others lied inside the Dive Pods.
“...Hey Luca, can I ask you something?”
Said Amarie after she entered another pod.
“Hmm? What's it?”
“We're gonna Dive into the Heart of the Land, right? So in the words we're gonna get into the Metafalica Continent's Soulspace?”
“Yeah, that's what we're doing!”
“But what kinda place you think that's gonna be? It's not a Cosmosphere or a Binary Field, right?”
Now Amarie said it, it was true they had never Dived into a Heart of the Land, so Luca didn't know what kind of world awaited for them.
“But Metafalica was created by all the IPDs that live on this continent and by the feelings of Lady Cloche, right? So I'm sure it's going to be a really wonderful world!”
Now she said it, everyone else agreed that could be the case.
“Cloche's feelings, huh...? Yeah, her feelings should've had lotsa influence there. What do you think, Leglius?”
Leglius nodded as he entered the pod next to Amarie.
“...I'll be okay as long as it's not a fairytale-like world”
His voice felt as if he was resigning himself to whatever they were going to find.
“That answer is five seconds late! Well, let's start the Dive!”
And as Rheki said this, the pods' lids closed and they started working.
When the four opened their eyes, they noticed the pods' interior had disappeared.
It seemed that they had successfully Dived into the Heart of the Land. They all grabbed each other to make sure they were okay and they then looked around.
Amarie gasped reflexively when she saw the scenery that unfolded before her eyes.
Within her sight there was a space filled with countless attractions like a roller coaster, a merry-go-round, and a Ferris wheel.
“I-Is this... One of the legendary [amusement parks]!?”
Saki remembered the descriptions of the amusement parks that were written in the history books she used to read when she was little. As these were places where everyone from children to elderly people could have fun, they were recreational facilities that were filled with many fun attractions.
Even though none of them remained in the current Ar Ciel, everyone who had read descriptions on them from the history textbooks when they were children couldn't help but grieve wondering why they stopped existing.
The same was true for Luca, since she had read about their descriptions when she was a child and grieved in that same way, so her eyes were sparkling when she saw the many attractions that were before her. However, she immediately remembered the reason they were there for and focused on it.
“...I mustn't think of anything else that isn't the Heart of the Land”
And thinking so, Luca separated her eyes from the attractions.
Something flew through her sight range and she was so surprised from it that she shouted.
As their eyes had been so focused on the multiple attractions and they had been looking up, they didn't notice until now that there were several guests in the park.
However, none of them were human: they were all Gergos and Pepens.
A large crowd of Gergos and Pepens walked around the enormous amusement park and were enjoying the attractions.
“...It seems they really influenced this place”
“More than we imagined, yeah... But even so, I wasn't thinking she'd also get Pepens in aside of the Gergos...”
While Leglius and Amarie were shocked from this, Saki was looking at the Gergos and Pepens with great interest.
“...Umm, Luca, do you think we'll be able to get the Heart of the Land if we ask them?”
Luca looked around the amusement park after Saki made that question.
“Hmm... I don't really think so. The embodiment of the Continent's Will should be somewhere around here, but...”
But Luca had never seen the embodiment of the Continent's Will. It could have taken the shape of Gergo, a Pepen or even a human, but she had no way of knowing it.
“...If at least there was someone we could ask here,” she thought.
Leglius felt that someone was tugging on his cape.
Thinking that either a Pepen or a Gergo were trying to play a prank on him, he sighed and turned around.
However, what he found there was a human girl that didn't seem to have even ten years in age.
Even though they were in an amusement park, the girl was wearing a festival yukata for same reason, had a mask over her face and was carrying an enormous cotton candy in her hand.
“A human girl?”
Luca and the others noticed the girl's presence from Leglius' surprised voice.
The girl looked at each of the four people that were gazing at her,
“Hi everyone! Welcome!”
A friendly smile appeared on her face as she said this.
“What a relief! There are human visitors in here too!”
Luca sighed relieved upon seeing that someone they could talk to had finally appeared before them.
But the girl just asked as she noticed Luca's attitude,
“Huh? Haven't you noticed?”
She gave a bite to her cotton candy. Luca just tiled her head upon hearing that.
She guessed she was acquainted with the girl somehow from what she said, but she didn't remember ever seeing her face or hearing her voice.
Seeing how Luca hadn't realized who she was, the girl giggled.
“Ah yeah, this is the first time we've met like this, right? It's to be expected you don't know”
But the girl didn't introduce herself. It seems she was looking forward to Luca and the others realizing who she truly was.
Luca didn't remember ever seeing her face or hearing her voice. However, she remembered the place they were in right now, and knowing what they had come to do here, she connected the dots and realized who the girl was.
“...Are you the Will of the Metafalica Continent?”
The girl replied by energetically nodding.
“Ding-dong! Like you said, I'm the Continent's Will! ...But I've already got the Metafalica name, so I'd like to be called that”
And saying this, Metafalica cheerfully showed them a V-sign.
“But still, I'd have thought that mommy Luca would have noticed who I was right away because she made me with mommy Cloche... I'm a little disappointed”
“W-What!? Why're you calling me mommy?”
“I'm the continent itself, remember? The continent was born in this world when you and mommy Cloche and the many mommy IPDs sang together, so you're my mommy too, right?”
The girl stated as if it was the most natural thing in the world, so Luca didn't know how she was going to respond to that.
“...It's true we made the continent, but to think I'd get called mommy out from nowhere for it”
Saki listened to what Metafalica said and nodded with great admiration.
“I see! It's true Luca and everyone else created the continent in this world, so that would make them its mommies. You've got so many mommies, so I'm a little jealous”
“Ehehe, right? But well, I don't have a daddy”
“...If someone who didn't know anything heard this, I'm sure they'd feel very awkward about all this”
The girl ignored Amarie's attempt at playing the straight man as she finished eating her cotton candy and so she starting walking away.
Luca called her in a panicked voice as she saw this,
“Ah, wait up! We came all the way here because we have to ask you something!”
“I know. I've got a general idea of what you wanna talk about”
“But let's go somewhere else. Since you're finally here, there're some things I'd like you to see!”
And having said this, Metafalica started walking away from them while Luca and the others hurried to follow her.
“Whoa... amazing! The amusement park goes as far as the eye can see!”
Said Saki as she looked at the outside from the Ferris wheel's window.
The four ended up riding the attraction because Metafalica invited them.
While the gondola they were riding had only gotten to one fourth of its total height, it was high enough for them to see everything in the area around.
Like Saki said, the amusement park extended 360 degrees around every single place in this world.
“Isn't it quite the problem that the Metafalica Continent's Soulspace is actually an enormous amusement park?”
Asked Leglius to Metafalica, who was sitting on Luca’s lap across him, as he looked at the scenery visible from the Ferris wheel.
“Of course not! This world was created as a result of fusing the feelings from the people that gave birth to me in the first place”
“As a result of fusing them? But weren't those feelings of wanting to create a peaceful continent!?”
Metafalica cackled when she heard that.
“So, so naive, it wasn't like that! The feelings everyone had when they made this continent were that they all wanted to create a land where they could live happily. But they thought it'd be even better if it was fun too. And even more, they felt it'd be best if they could spend their days being all excited and thrilled! And Pepens and Gergos were essential too! So basically, they may have thought they wanted to spend all their days playing around since life would be much easier from now on... So all those feelings ended mixing up like that, and as result this amusement park was born all like “Tadaa!” Like that”
“...So our continent is a clump of worldly desires?”
“It's pretty close to that, but it's not like it could be helped. After all, a peaceful continent isn't an idea that will make everyone imagine the same thing. So while they all have in common feeling they want to make a peaceful continent, how that continent will be peaceful and what kind of lifestyle will be possible on it are going to differ from a person to another”
“But isn't the Metafalica Continent a normal land in the real world? There's no amusement park where we live not we've got living Gergos runnin' around”
Compared to the Metafalica continent in the real world, this world was so fun that it was on a league of its own, which made Amarie say that in a disappointed voice while feeling jealous about what existed in this Soulspace. If the fusion of the feelings from the people who created Metafalica could make an amusement park, she wanted at least part of it to appear in the real world too.
But Metafalica replied,
“Well, of course. Even though that gave birth to the continent's subconscious, these feelings weren't strong enough to have an effect on the real world. For starters, the continent is born from the strong power that comes out from making into one the feelings from many IPDs, right? And the single wish they all had at the same time was “let's make a peaceful continent”. They all may have got different individual wishes like “I wanna live in an amusement park” or “I want Gergos and Pepens”, but since so few people happened to have similar wishes, they didn't manifest in the real world”
So in other words, if all the IPDs had thought at the same time
“[Let's make a hyper-gigantic Metafalica Theme Park!]”
from the bottom of their hearts when Metafalica was sung, this place might actually ended up existing in the real world.
“...So it could have ended up being a peaceful Deathlandia-like world, huh?”
Leglius felt much relived on the inside as he thought “Good thing that didn't happen...”
“...So? Can you tell me why you all came here?”
Metafalica said as she raised her face from above Luca's knees.
Luca finally remembered their main reason to be here and thus decided it was time to start the discussions with her to make Metafalica give them the Heart of the Land.
“Metafalica, you were who gave Jakuri the Heart of the Land when Cocona left for Sol Cluster years ago, right?”
“Yup, I did. And it looks like it ended being very useful, so I'm very happy about it too”
“Yeah. So I want to ask you to give us a Heart of the Land once more, please”
“...And if I gave you one, what are you planning to do with it?”
“There's a girl called Tilia... Well, she died a year ago, but we've found a way to bring her back to life”
Metafalica's eyebrows twitched.
“And to do that, we need a Heart of the Land... So please, give us one once more...”
“Nope. If you're going to use it for that, I won't give you another one”
Metafalica plainly told them she refused.
Saki seemed like she was going to stand up from the chair at the other side, so Amarie had to pin her down.
Even though Metafalica was looking straight at her and Saki seemed so angry, she didn't tremble even slightly and just continued as calm as she had been.
“Even if you ask me that, I don't think that bringing Tilia back is going to be good for anyone”
When Saki heard that, blood instantly started rushing up to her head.
“Why!? Why are you saying that we shouldn't bring Tilia back!? You don't even know anything about her!”
“Saki, calm down! We didn't come here to pick a fight with anyone!”
As Amarie held her down, Saki noticed how sentimental she was acting.
As Saki had been born as a Will of the Planet, she wasn't really used to having feelings such as rage until a few years ago. Since only a few years had gone since she stopped being a Will of the Planet to become a person, she wasn't still very good at controlling her emotions.
But even though Saki had gotten so emotional, Metafalica didn't change her attitude at all and just stayed calm.
“...You know that life isn't something to be toyed with, right?”
She said as she fixedly stared at Saki
“You know that Tilia didn't die because of a sickness, an accident or because she was killed by someone else, but just because she left this world due to her life span expiring, right?”
While feeling nervous from the serious expression Metafalica had, Saki still managed to somehow nod at her.
“Well, then there's nothing to be done about it. After all, every single living on this world has a life span befitting them. When a person dies from having spent the entirety of the time they've been given from their birth to their death, that's dying from their life span expiring. And if you want to bring her back just because you don't like that, you would be stepping into a territory no living being should ever tread upon”
No one among the four that listened to Metafalica's words could rebut her arguments.
As she said, bringing back any person who had died due to their lives coming to their end was an act that couldn't be allowed.
And naturally, since everyone wanted to revive Tilia, no one had pointed out something as basic as this. But they actually needed to check by themselves if that actually would be possible.
Silence suddenly returned to the gondola's interior, bringing a heavy atmosphere with it.
“...But even so...”
Saki's voice was shaking due to how bewildered she was.
“But even so... We all want to bring Tilia back”
Their feelings of wanting to save Tilia were sincere. But naturally, that wouldn't be a good enough reason to bring back someone who had died. But despite that, there was nothing that Saki could do beyond conveying her feelings.
Metafalica didn't reply back to what she said.
Her expression was undecipherable: was she astonished, or was she waiting for Saki to continue?
However, her gaze felt very painful to Saki, as if it were gripping her chest tightly.
“...Don't just clam up. Aren't you going to continue?”
Metafalica's calm voice made Saki spring up.
When Metafalica saw that,
“I think that we shouldn't ever allow the dead to come back. But I know that your feelings aren't mistaken either… She was a really important person to you, right?”
While she said so in an uninterested voice, Saki and the others felt like her words were enshrouding them in great warmth.
“You said... I didn't know anything about Tilia, right?
“Ah... I'm sorry...”
“If you really think so, then tell me about Tilia! She's so precious to you all, but I don't know anything about her”
A smile appeared on Saki's face.
What kind of person Tilia was? How precious did they all consider Tilia? If she told Metafalica all about her, she was sure she could get her to agree with their goal.
Saki was about to open her mouth to start talking, but she noticed Metafalica's expression had changed.
She was now smiling.
And before Saki could start talking, Metafalica preempted her,
“Well, tell me about her. You just have to convey me the feelings you hold about Tilia until I can agree with them, since I'm a crystallization of feelings myself”
“...What did she just tell me?”
Saki's body shivered once she noticed the situation she was in.
Metafalica was an entity created from the fusion of the strong feelings each of the many IPDs had.
And she had to convey to her strong feelings about Tilia until she could convince her. She had to convince her no matter what by conveying those feelings.
“But can I even do that?”
Anxiety clouded her expression, but then someone at her side grabbed her hand.
It was Amarie's hand, who was sitting right beside her
“You've gotta tell everything to her! Hit her good with all the feelings you've got for Tilia!”
And seeing how Amarie was looking for her approval, Saki stood there for a few seconds before nodding with force.
“...I'm not really confident in myself, but… My feelings aren't mistaken either!”
She faced Metafalica again and finally started talking.
“Metafalica, you know that Tilia was the most important person for this Planet's regeneration, right?”
“Yup, of course I know that”
“So, do you know what she did after that?”
“Nope, I don't really know anything about that. What she did?”
“She saved a large number of people. Even though the Tower was collapsing, to save a lot of people that couldn't escape from it until who knows when... She manipulated her own Telomere to receive a painful life extension treatment”
Metafalica's eyes slightly widened when she heard about the Telomere manipulation.
“I see... It must have caused her a lot of suffering”
“I don't know. I couldn't ever see Tilia again after she manipulated her Telomere... But I remember hearing that Luca did, right?”
Given that Saki had asked Luca to continue the conversation, Metafalica raised her face upwards from her lap.
“Yeah... She was very cheerful when she came to visit our friends in the hospital, but I think she was really suffering a lot”
Luca remembered the image of Tilia sitting on the wheelchair. She felt relieved when she saw how cheerful she was during the hospital visit, but she turned into water right after that. She still remembered how she couldn't believe her ears when she was told about her death.
Metafalica crossed her arms,
“Tilia saved a lot of people, and even suffered so much for that... I think too she was a really amazing person”
She said out her honest feelings. However,
“But Tilia was a Tower Administrator, right? An Administrator wouldn't doubt to go so far for her people”
These were her honest feelings too.
When Saki heard that, she slightly bent forward.
“It's not like that. At first, Tilia refused the life extension treatment. She said she didn't want to suffer so much for the sake of people that didn't have anything to do with her”
“Really? But that's a normal reaction. No one would like to suffer like that… So yeah... There's nothing weird with her feeling like that about that whole situation”
Metafalica tilted her head when she saw Saki's eyebrows bending upwards.
“And actually.... we all did a lot of horrible things to Tilia. We didn't consider her feelings and we just went on believing she'd just accept the life extension treatment. Even after she said she didn't want to go through with it, we tried persuading her because if she refused, lots of people would die. And besides...”
A scene reappeared in her mind; the sole sight of which made Saki swallow her words,
“...Tilia didn't want that, and even got slapped for it!”
Saki had to make great efforts to wring out those words, and of course, Metafalica and everyone else shouted at the same time,
“Were you the one who slapped her?”
Luca and the others also had on their minds what Metafalica had just asked. No one here had known Saki for a long time, but even so, no one thought she was the kind of person who would raise her hand at someone else.
So when Saki denied it by shaking her head, Luca and the others sighed in relief. The same went for Metafalica, but,
“Don't scare us like that! You even got us thinking you hit her!”
She said as she raised her eyebrows.
But Saki just added after she denied that,
“It's true I wasn't the one who slapped her, but I couldn't do anything to stop the person who did it either”
Saki still regretted that she couldn't protect Tilia when Shurelia slapped her. But at the same time, she didn't think the feelings Shurelia had when she told Tilia to undergo the life extension treatment were wrong.
“So that's what happened... But she accepted the treatment in the end? If you all had gone so far, I don't think she'd ever be fine accepting it”
“That was because of Harvestasha... A very close friend of her served as the reason that convinced her to do it. She passed away to save everyone in this planet, and Tilia didn't want Harvestasha's will to go to waste. That was why she accepted the life extension treatment”
Metafalica nodded as she muttered “Ah!” when she heard that.
“...So she was the kind of girl who wouldn't mind suffering a lot for the people close to her, huh?”
And after nodding once more, she looked at Saki. It seemed like she wanted to say more, so Metafalica just remained silent and awaited the rest.
“And after she received the life extension treatment, we gave her a vain hope. That there could be a way to turn back her body to its original form: not a Tower, but a humanoid form”
Metafalica showed a very slight reaction to these words. However, everyone was so focused in listening to Saki's story that they didn't notice it.
Saki herself didn't notice it either and so, she continued.
“So even though she was suffering a lot during the time the life extension treatment gave her, she spent all her time participating in the research for the Hymmnos' structure... But we didn't make it in time...”
Her voice started cracking halfway through.
Tilia had said that while she didn't want to suffer for people that had nothing to do with her, she said she would even undergo the treatment for her friends. And while Tilia held her friends as so important, they were unable to respond in kind.
They were unable to respect Tilia's feelings of refusing the life extension treatment until the end. If they had actually thought that Tilia was so precious to them, they should have been able support her even more strongly before she accepted the treatment and even after she did.
Saki had come to regret this many times, but she could only bring herself to think this way after all had ended.
“...But if she had refused the treatment until the very end, we wouldn't have been able to save everyone in Archia”
Saki felt how she started shedding tears and hurriedly tried to stop them with her hands, but she didn't make in time and they started running through her cheeks.
Amarie noticed this and handed Saki a handkerchief.
Metafalica just looked at Saki for a moment in silence, and then,
“...Why are you crying?”
She asked Saki.
Amarie glared at Metafalica for that.
“Wait a sec, you shouldn't be asking her that now...!”
“Amarie, stop now”
Leglius was sitting next to Amarie on the opposite side from where Saki was, and he put a hand in front of Amarie to stop her.
“B-But Leglius, she shouldn't be asking her...!”
“Metafalica isn't joking nor trying to make fun of Saki by asking that. She's a crystallization of feelings, so she would never try to step onto other people's feelings by asking questions like that... Isn't that right?”
Metafalica just showed them a cute smile that went quite well with her appearance in response to Leglius words.
“Ehehe, of course! I'm being very serious with that question... After all, I might just drive you all out from here, no questions asked, depending on her answer”
Metafalica returned her gaze to Saki,
“So answer me, Saki... Why are you crying?”
Saki put down the handkerchief she was pressing against her eyes and sniffled once,
“...Because I regret it... Tilia really thought of us in a very special way... And we couldn't do the same... If I just could have supported her more when she said she didn't want to undergo the life extension treatment...”
“But if you had done that, wasn't it possible you'd have doomed many people to die?”
“That's why I regret it so much! It wasn't just Tilia, I was thinking about all those people too... I don't think it was wrong to think about them both, but still...”
“I see... Okay, I understand!”
Metafalica showed her an understanding nod, and Saki placed the handkerchief against her face again.
Metafalica leaned her back against Luca and closed her eyes.
Luca worriedly thought that maybe she had fallen asleep, but she then noticed she was moaning very lowly. It seemed like she was thinking about something.
Shortly later, Saki stopped crying and Metafalica finally opened her eyes.
“...If Saki had answered she wanted to help Tilia even if that meant ignoring all the lives that were in danger, I'd have already driven you out from this world”
Metafalica looked at the gondola's window.
At some point, the gondola had started descending and they could see the ground approaching them little by little.
“...Just remember this. I understood that Tilia might have suffered a lot and that she might have contributed a lot to this world. However, I don't think that really has anything to do with this. There are lots of people like her too. So I'm sorry, but that doesn't work as an appropriate reason to bring a dead person back to life”
No one among Saki's group objected to what Metafalica said, as they thought it was just like she said.
Once Metafalica noticed no one had any disagreements, she said,
“But I think this could be a special case. The life span she should have lived if she had her original humanoid body was eaten up when she transformed into a Tower... Hmm, what should we do?”
Metafalica put on a difficult expression as she raised her face at Luca.
“What do you think, mommy Luca?”
Luca started thinking calmly about it, as she had just been handed a very difficult topic.
“At the least, we're sure that Tilia wants to come back. The proof of that were the things she promised she'd do once she got her humanoid body back”
“Yup. Once she got her humanoid body back and she got better, she wanted to come to Metafalica. And she also wanted to go walk with her older sisters and search for a new place where she could live. Since she said all those things, I'm sure she wouldn't hate getting brought back”
Frelia had heard all of Tilia's wishes in the First Tower's Rinkernator. Since Frelia wanted to make all of these a reality, she gathered Luca and the others, as she thought they would also want to help grant Tilia's wishes.
“It's true it might not be worth enough as a legitimate reason to bring a dead person back to life. But when you think about everything Tilia's done, it's just too sad! So I think we should let her come back in a humanoid body and let her have the life span she was supposed to have from the beginning, no matter how short it ends being!”
While they were a bit brief, Luca had said her honest feelings. She didn't know if she could get Metafalica to agree with her, but she managed to say everything she wanted.
Metafalica had lowered her face again at some point,
“In a humanoid body, huh? ...Bring her back as a humanoid instead of a Tower... No, wouldn't it be closer to make her reincarnate then?”
Metafalica continued mumbling to herself, sounding as if she was grunting while Luca and the others watched over her. Before they noticed, the Ferris wheel had completed its rotation.
The gondola's door opened and Metafalica jumped off Luca's lap,
“Looks like time's over. Come, let's go”
And saying this, they all disembarked the gondola.
After Metafalica, Luca and the others left the Ferris wheel, they headed for an enormous plaza that was located inside the amusement park.
In the very center of the plaza there was an enormous tree that had several shining decorations hanging from it, making it very similar to a Christmas tree.
Metafalica stared fixedly at the tree,
“...Let's continue where we left off,”
“I understood very well your feelings of wanting to save Tilia, and that's why I'll give you a Heart of the Land”
Saki shouted in surprise, but Metafalica raised a hand in front of her face,
“In exchange, promise me this: that you'll use the Heart only to give Tilia a humanoid body. That you won't under any circumstances give Tilia a body with any other shape and that you'll carefully use the new life that she'll be given”
And after she said this, Saki softly surrounded Metafalica's hand with both of her own.
“...I promise that we won't ever make Tilia into a Tower or anything like that!”
Metafalica was satisfied with her strong reply, so she pulled her hand away from Saki and walked away.
She headed straight to the Christmas tree. She stopped in front of it and took out one of the ornaments on it.
“...Maybe this size will be enough?”
Metafalica said as she returned to them, having in her hand a small crystal.
She then handed it to Luca.
“...Huh!? This is a Heart of the Land!”
Upon noticing that what Metafalica had given her was the Heart, she shouted in surprise.
They didn't think it could be true, but when they took a closer look at the tree, they realized it had Hearts of the Land hanging all over from it.
“It's just because it looks pretty like this. Ah, but don't worry. I'm the only one that can take them away from the tree, so there's no way anyone can steal them”
“I-I don't think that's really the problem though...”
“Mgrh! You shouldn't be complaining about a gift, you know? And don't you have other preparations you need to make? Making an Origin's body is very difficult, you know!”
“Hmm... but I think we'll be able to do it somehow. Next we have to do...”
Saki replied in Luca's stead while she was still thinking.
“Frelia is also making the pod for creating Tilia's body. And once we pull out Tilia's memories from the Server, we'll have everything ready!”
When Metafalica heard this, she clapped her hands as she said “Ah!” in an understanding voice.
“So you're thinking of using the Heart of the Land as a replacement for the Triangular Nuclear Loop, right? I didn't know where in the world you should be using it, but at last I know why you needed it!”
While Luca and the others had been saying they would use it to revive Tilia, Metafalica didn't know how they were planning to use the Heart until just now. But since they didn't touch the topic of the Triangular Nuclear Loop so far in the conversation, she realized it when she started thinking about how they would use the Heart of the Land as a replacement for it.
“Using the Heart to replace the Triangular Nuclear Loop is a pretty good idea... But honestly speaking, I don't think it has any chance of working like this”
Saki replied back shocked to those unexpected words Metafalica said. However, Metafalica just calmly replied,
“Isn't it natural? The Heart of the Land and the Triangular Nuclear Loop are entirely different things. So even if you use the Heart as its replacement, it has no functions that can link it with a body”
Even though Metafalica explained it this way, Luca and the others just looked at her unable to understand what she meant. It seemed she needed to explain it in a simpler way,
“Well, think about it this way. Even if you have a heart, it's meaningless if you don't have the blood vessels that connect it to the body, right?”
“S-So what does this mean? Even if we made Tilia's body, the Heart of the Land won't work if we just place it inside her body?”
After Amarie asked this, Metafalica put her hand on her chin,
“...Well, that's what'd happen. And not only that: since the Heart wouldn't be working, even creating the body would be impossible. But I don't know much more either, as this has never been done before”
“T-Then, please tell us a way to connect the Heart with the body!”
Saki pleaded to Metafalica, but she just shook her head, and she didn't just do that to be mean.
“That's beyond my expertise. If I could do that, I'd be on the same level as the people who made the first successful Triangular Nuclear Loops on this world”
“No... And right after we finally got the Heart of the Land...!”
Luca looked at the Heart of the Land she was gripping in her hand. They believed they could resurrect Tilia if they used it as a Triangular Nuclear Loop replacement, but now those hopes had been utterly crushed.
Regretful expressions appeared on Leglius and Amarie's faces because they had now crashed into an impassable wall after having come this far.
“...No, there's nothing we can do? Metafalica, the Heart of the Land can be used as a replacement for the Triangular Nuclear Loop, right!?”
Saki didn't want to give up and thus asked Metafalica if there were no other methods. However, Metafalica didn't reply back. She didn't want to accidentally give them false hopes, and since she would just repeat the same thing if she talked, she just shook her head.
When Metafalica reacted like this, Saki understood their hopes truly were as good as dead now.
Saki thought about Tilia's sisters.
Shurelia was so shocked by Tilia's death that she temporarily secluded herself into her Tower, but now they had found hope because there was a possibility they could save Tilia, she was now waiting expectantly for Luca and the others to come back with the Heart of the Land. And Frelia was now completely focused in continuing her dance to craft the body creation pod for letting Tilia be born in this world again.
How sad would they be when they learned about what Metafalica told them?
[“Tilia is a really, really precious friend to me too. So we'll absolutely get a Heart of the Land and save Tilia!”]
“...Why did I say something so irresponsible?”
An intense regret assaulted Saki.
While she believed that the Heart of the Land could somehow be effective and that it might be somehow necessary for Tilia's revival, she didn't understand why until she got everything explained to her. She didn't even imagine it. So why did she said something as self-important as “We'll save her!” despite that?
“...I can't do anything on my own...”
She felt she wanted to save her no matter what, but since she was powerless and couldn't do anything, she started crying.
She couldn't save Tilia, the same one who had saved both her and Finnel's lives.
So Saki started praying like she used to a long time ago.
“...I'll do anything. I'll do anything if that'll grant me this wish. Please, please save Tilia!”
When Saki was a Will of the Planet, she was able to cause miracles by strongly wishing something and that was she always prayed inside her heart whenever she got cornered by something. However, she couldn’t cause miracles anymore now that she had become a normal Reyvateil. So whenever she caught herself wishing for something lately, she ended up telling herself that she shouldn't be asking someone for something all the time.
But even though she had already noticed it, she kept on praying.
Nothing should happen, as she had already lost her power to cause miracles.
But even so, Saki kept praying.
“...Please, please, let Tilia live once more!”
And in that instant, the trees' branches started shining with a dazzling light.
A pillar of white light appeared before them, and since it was blindingly shining, Luca covered her eyes with her hand.
“M-Metafalica, what's that!?”
“I don't know either! Nothing like that's ever happened before!”
Not even Metafalica knew what that mysterious light was.
Leglius and Amarie narrowed their eyes before the dazzle and noticed that something was moving inside the light.
“Isn't something moving in there, Leglius?”
“Yeah, I saw four... no, six figures. What could they be?”
And then, they heard a voice coming out from the light.
“Looks like you still start praying whenever something troubles you, Saki”
Saki was surprised. Even though the person didn't say their name, she recognized their voice.
“N-No way... That voice is... Are you...?”
The light pillar slowly lost its shine and six girls appeared from inside it.
Luca, Leglius, Amarie and Metafalica didn’t know who they were, but Saki knew four of them very well.
There was a girl dressed in white with glasses right in the middle of the six girls. She took a step forward and opened her mouth as she adjusted her glasses.
“Long time no see, Saki... Have you been well?”
“Y-Yurishica! A-And the other personae are here too!”
Standing at Yurishica's right side, there were Finnel’s personae: Soma and Suzunomia, and Tilia's persona Ar Ru. And on the left side, there were two girls who Saki had never seen before. But Saki knew instantly who they were even without anyone telling her.
Saki walked in front of the two girls she was seeing for the first time.
One was a mature girl wearing a dress while the other had an eye covered by bandages.
“Long time no see, Saki. Do you know who we are?”
Asked the girl in the dress. Like she said, Saki had never entered in contact with them directly, but when she saw them, she understood who they were right away.
“...You're Salapator and Filament, right?”
The woman in the dress, the bandaged girl and Saki looked at each other.
A little smile appeared on the face of the bandaged girl, Filament.
“...I knew she would recognize us from the level of our feelings... That makes me feel relieved”
“Yes. But well, we all used to be personae originally, no?”
Saki was just going to answer with a “yes”, but those words brought her back memories.
Since she originally was one of the Wills of the Planet, she was a persona too.
Saki looked at the Wills of the Planet once again.
All of the six girls there truly were Wills of the Planet.
However, Saki noticed that one of the personae that used to be inside her wasn't around.
When they noticed that Saki seemed to be worried about something, Filament and Salapator knew what it was.
“...It's okay... She's here too”
And saying this, Filament moved her gaze slightly away.
Salapator just giggled and looked at how confused Saki was about the meaning of Filament's words.
Then, someone softly put a hand over Saki's shoulder from behind.
“Please don't bother so Saki much”
It was a woman's voice. Saki had never heard that voice before, but she felt it was familiar and gave her a lot of relief, as if she had always heard it.
The voice's owner walked next to Saki.
It was a girl covered by a silver armor, but she also seemed to be quite older than Saki herself, which coupled with her gallant features, made her look far more like an adult woman that Saki.
“...Long time no see, Sakia Rumei... I didn't think you would appear after we did... But you were always near us, correct?”
Filament asked in a whisper to the armored girl, Sakia Rumei,
“It just could not be helped. It was beyond my expectations that you all would appear like this... So I just watched from the shadows, doubting what my eyes showed me”
Said Sakia Rumei with a slightly angry voice, but she immediately turned to face Saki.
Saki's was at point-blank range from her, and she kept fixedly staring at Sakia Rumei's face.
“We haven't seen in so long... But even if I say that, I hardly think you would know me...”
While she felt a bit sad at this, Sakia Rumei was truly happy to have met Saki.
Sakia just kept on staring at Sakia Rumei's face.
They both continued being silent while their faces were apart by such a short distance. Sakia Rumei slowly started feeling uncomfortable about this.
“...Um, well, I might have appeared out of nowhere like this, but I am not some class of suspicious person or--”
Saki's voice interrupted what Sakia Rumei was saying.
She couldn't hide her surprise, but she still asked Saki,
“...Do you know who I am?”
Saki nodded at her in response.
“...Sis... You're Sis Sakia, right?”
Sakia Rumei was surprised once again when heard Saki calling her like that. “Sis Sakia” was the way Saki used to call her inside the Cosmosphere, and it was the way Sakia Rumei liked the most to be called.
Sakia Rumei blushed from how embarrassed she felt from this, but at the same time her eyes filled with tears from the happiness that had given her.
“Saki, what's happening here? You know those people?”
Luca asked Saki, as she didn't understand what was happening. Luca and the others had gotten to meet Saki only after the Planet had been regenerated, so of course they didn't know she used to have multiple personae.
“Yes! These people are my, Filly's and Tilia's personae, and also the Wills of Ar Ciel!”
“Of Ar Ciel...? Wait a sec, doesn't that mean they're the Wills of this Planet!?”
“Yes... Ah, but Sis Sakia...”
Saki's expression darkened from remembering that. Sakia Rumei wasn't a Will of the Planet, but she was actually the main persona and the true owner of the body Saki had.
Saki was merely an entity that had been transferred into her body and been made to take over the main persona role Sakia Rumei had.
Saki was at a loss of words due to how bad this made her feel. Noticing this, Sakia Rumei purposely cleared her throat,
“However, all of you were not supposed to have returned to the Planet?”
She asked to the Wills of the Planet in Saki's place.
After they left Saki, Finnel and Tilia's bodies they were supposed to return to the Planet, so both Saki and Sakia Rumei thought they would never be able to meet them again. So why did they come to this place?”
Ar Ru sighed as she answered the question,
“Regardless of how we did, we came because she was requesting our help. Did you not pray because you want to save Tilia?”
Now Ar Ru said it, Saki realized she had been strongly and wholeheartedly praying to save Tilia. Had they noticed that and reluctantly come to help her?”
“I-I'm sorry! It was unconsciously, so I didn't think I'd end up calling you all by doing that!”
She frantically bowed before them, but Soma stopped her with a hand,
“Nah, we're not really angry about it. But even so, we're still feeling pretty bad about how we just left Tilia to die”
“Hmm, Tilia was the one who saved both your life and that of Finnel; therefore she is our savior as well. It is our duty to rush to her aid whenever she finds herself in problems”
Suzunomia then nodded to her own words as she muttered “hmmhmm”
“I see... You've all been thinking about Tilia all this time too”
“Well, Tilia has a helped us all a lot. Besides, she was the one who regenerated Ar Ciel, so as Wills of the Planet we can't just let this slide by... And so Saki, please come here”
Yurishica gestured her to come with her hand and Saki followed suit.
Yurishica looked at how Saki had stepped in front of them to then adjust her glasses once more,
“Saki, we'll now give you a super special Hymmnos as a present”
Saki was puzzled from how much Yurishica had stressed the “special” part.
“You said a super special Hymmnos?”
“Indeed... You were just talking about how connecting a Heart of the Land to a body in a way similar to that of the Triangular Nuclear Loops is impossible, right? The Hymmnos we're about to give you will allow you to connect the Heart to Tilia's body”
“R-Really!? So if I sing it, this time we'll...”
“Yes, you should be able to make Tilia be reborn into a humanoid body, but only as long as everything that Sasha and the others thought is correct... Let's begin everyone!”
On Yurishica's signal, the Wills of the Planet reached out to her. Yurishica then faced Saki and held out her other hand to her.
Right away, a light started shining on the hand that Yurishica was holding in Saki's direction. While at first it only emitted some small particles of light, it gradually became greater and greater until it had covered her whole palm.
Saki couldn't take her eyes away from the pale light it was emitting.
“...Will that Hymmnos save Tilia”?
“EXEC_NEARZENVA/.... It's the greatest Hymmnos, filled to the brim with the feelings from us Wills of the Planet”
[Transcending the Souls]... That was the meaning of its name, and the way Yurishica had called it “super special” was still an understatement to the kind of Song it was.
As the Will of Civilization, Yurishica was also the explosive person who created the Hymmnos civilization. It was because she had taken the initiate that they had been able to craft this Song.
“Now accept it... And use it to save Tilia”
Saki answered to Yurishica's words with her actions.
She reached out to the Hymmnos that been born in Yurishica's palm, EXEC_NEARZENVA/.
“...Thank you very much and I'm sorry for having called you and even made you do this after you had gone back to the Planet...”
“Don't worry about it. We wanted to thank Tilia somehow, but we couldn't do anything after we went back to the Planet. It was thanks to you calling us that we could help you all like this. We're very happy about it actually”
Saki's hand touched the light. As soon as she did, the light spread from Saki's hand to her whole body and it slowly began to be absorbed into it.
“...This is the Hymmnos for saving Tilia”
Saki then felt how a new Song was being born inside her.
“...How does it feel, Saki?”
Asked Yurishica after she saw the light disappear into her.
While singing inside her mind the Song that was born within herself, Saki said,
“...It feels great. Besides, it conveys perfectly the feelings Arru and everyone else have for Tilia”
Yurishica puffed up and pouted when she heard Saki's words,
“So your good girl attitude is going as strong as ever. That makes me feel relieved”
“Naturally. Saki is our pride, so she's always going to be a good girl, right?”
And out of nowhere, Salapator surrounded Saki from behind with her arms and hugged her.
Saki nodded while being propped up by her arms.
“...Umm, so what are you all doing now? Wouldn't you like to sing this Song with all us? I think that'd make me, Filly and everyone else very happy, and...”
She had reencountered her personae despite thinking she'd never see them again, and while she knew that was an impossible wish, Saki still asked them.
They expected that would happen, but the girls that used to be Saki's personae just showed worried smiles on their faces.
Filament grabbed Saki's hand from the side and covered it with her own hands while she still awaited for their answer,
“...Our role here was giving this Hymmnos to you... And we have already accomplished it. So now Saki, it's your turn to carry out your role”
“You'll be fine even if we're not around... I really think so”
“And if that weren't the case, we wouldn't have given it specifically to you. Making it was a real pain in the ass”
“...Saki, I am thankful that you feel that way about us all, but you know that it is impossible, correct? Being selfish is no good for you”
Saki understood she was acting selfish now that Sakia Rumei's admonishment had put her attitude in plain sight, and she instantly looked downward.
Sakia Rumei just patted her head when she saw Saki like that,
“Even if we cannot be together, I will always be watching over you. So put everything you have into singing the Song... You are my little sister, so I know you can do it”
Her gentle voice cracked as she talked, and Saki did nothing but nod over and over to her for several seconds.
“You are really a good girl... It really seems it was not a mistake to have handed down my body to you”
“Kgh... Sis Sakia!”
If things had been as they were supposed to, Saki would have been forced into a continued sleep deep inside Sakia Rumei's mind, so she always felt terrible for Sakia Rumei due to her being in that position instead. However, these feelings were drowned by what Sakia Rumei just said.
Sakia Rumei strongly hugged Saki when she jumped into her chest.
“...I shall be looking forward to your Song, Saki”
“...I'll make sure it gets to you all. The feelings we have for Tilia, the Song we'll all sing together... So please, make sure to listen it!”
“Yeah, we promise we will listen to it”
The atmosphere had calmed down, but Ar Ru stirred it up again by clearing her through,
“I understand how you feel, but our conversation shall never each an end if you continue like this”
“Hmm... And a parting will only become more painful the longer it takes. Return to reality at once and allow us to listen to your Song”
Once Suzunomia finished talking, Saki separated from Sakia Rumei.
“...Okay. I'll also tell that to Filly and everyone else!”
Saki looked at the Wills' and Sakia Rumei's face one more time, and after thanking them, she returned to where Luca and the others were waiting for her.
“...Sorry to have kept you waiting, everyone”
“No, it's okay... But are we good now?”
A part of her wanted to tell Luca that she wanted to stay a little longer, but she fully knew they had to return to the real world as quickly as possible since there were things they had to do. And such was the wish Ar Ru and the others had too.
So Saki said,
“...Let's go, Luca”
“...Yeah, got it”
And at the same time she heard Saki's reply, another light pillar appeared before them. Unlike the one that appeared when Yurishica and the others showed up, this one emitted a golden light.
It was the kind of light pillar that only appeared when it was time to leave a Soulspace: a Paradigm Shift.
And when they turned back, they noticed that at some point a large crowd of Gergos and Pepens had assembled behind Metafalica to bid them farewell.
“..Thanks, Metafalica! We'll make sure to not waste the Heart of the Land you gave us!”
Said Luca as she looked at the Heart Metafalica had given them. Metafalica looked at her,
“Of course! But I wanna tell you something: it seems like you were thinking it was the sort of thing I'd give out whenever you asked, but it's actually an incredibly precious item. If you waste it, I'll never give you another one!”
“I know! ...Well, see you later!”
The four entered the light pillar.
Metafalica waved at them while she saw them off.
“Bye-bye, mommy Luca! Come again!”
“Okay! And next time I'll bring Reika along too!”
“Ah, but I think that'd bring us some trouble...”
But before Metafalica could finish the phrase, Luca and the others had already disappeared into the light.
“...If mommy Cloche ever came here...”
Metafalica looked at the large crowd of Gergos and Pepens behind her. Cloche's love for cute things had no parallel in Ar Ciel, and Gergos were the ones she loved the most among them. So what would happen when she saw Gergos that could move on their own?
“...I shouldn't have let that slip through to mommy Luca”
Metafalica sighed as she looked at the Gergos and Pepens, all of which were just puzzled about her attitude.
Chapter 11: Feelings for Tilia
A few days went by since Luca and the others got the Heart of the Land inside Metafalica's Soulspace and received EXEC_NEARZENVA/. from Ar Ru and the other Wills.
Several girls had gathered at the Hill of Metafalica, ready to put in their own strength to revive Tilia.
They all were looking at an enormous pod that was installed in front of them. Sealed inside, there were the [Base Fluid], the liquid that would be used to create and cultivate Tilia's body and the Heart of the Land.
“...The pod is ready”
On Sasha's signal, the girls stepped forward.
Four had come from Sol Ciel: they were Aurica, Misha, Shurelia and Jakuri.
There were also three from Metafalica: Luca, Cloche and Frelia.
And finally, five had come from Sol Cluster: Saki, Finnel, Akane, Mute and Rikka.
These twelve girls lined up in front of the pod, and from them, Shurelia and Frelia walked even further and stood at both sides of the pod.
“...It's time, Sis Shurelia”
Frelia said to Shurelia, who was looking at the pod's contents from the opposite side.
“Yes... It's about to start. I'm so glad that we will be able to meet her again...”
“You're too tender-hearted, Sis. You know that we've got a long way before we can see Tili again even if this is successful, right?”
Frelia laughed upon hearing how Shurelia's voice was becoming too nasal, but she just sniffled as she replied “Yes, you're right”
Tilia would be making her first cry inside that pod in a few moments. However, a year would have to pass before she could actually come out from the pod and be able to come in contact with Shurelia and everyone else.
“...This is no more than the beginning, is it?”
And after taking a short breath to calm herself down, Shurelia looked at Saki.
Saki nodded and she turned to face the other girls that were lining up,
“Everyone, please sing with me! While you'll be all sending your feelings for Tilia one by one to me, they all will get even stronger inside me. If we all sing together, I'm sure we can make this a success!”
Each of the girls replied to her in their own way.
There were some that raised their arms and screamed cheerfully “Yeah!” There were those that just nodded silently. There were others that told each other they would do their best.
Even though their reactions were different, they all held the same feelings.
Feeling this, Saki faced the pod.
“...Tilia... It's time to wake up!”
And after taking a deep breath, Saki started singing out.
Once Saki started singing, she felt how the inside of her body started getting warmer.
“...It's reacting... The Hymmnos that Yurishica and the others gave us is reacting...”
And to make sure of it, her consciousness turned to the pod. Whatever was happening inside her body was being transmitted to the Heart of the Land in the pod, and since this was the reaction of the Heart being connected to the body, she had to keep singing.
Saki continued singing and the other girls started singing too.
“...This Song... it's so beautiful...”
This was the first time Saki had heard the singing voices of the girls that had saved Sol Ciel and that had given birth to the Metafalica Continent. She realized she was going to get lost in their voices without noticing it, and thus she hurriedly focused herself.
Once she did, she started feeling how the feelings and voices of the girls were focusing inside herself…
The Hymmnos that Yurishica and the other Wills had given her was reacting even stronger and it was starting to feel as if it was flaring up.
“...I feel it... Everyone has really strong feelings for Tilia”
She couldn't allow herself to be less than them either.
Saki also crafted every single bit of feelings she had for Tilia inside herself and allowed them to ride into the Song.
The feelings the twelve Reyvateils were transmitting with their Song started flowing into the Heart of the Land.
“...How strange... Why isn't she being born?”
Thought Shurelia as she looked at the pod's inside.
The power of feelings the girls had in combination was more than enough to provoke a reaction on the Heart of the Land and it had continued flowing endlessly for as long as the Song went on.
There was no way it couldn't be reacting.
However, the young body for Tilia hadn't been born inside the pod yet.
Was it because they were lacking something, so the Heart of the Land wasn't going to react properly and Tilia wouldn't be born? Did that meant the Heart of the Land couldn't ever be used as a replacement for the Triangular Nuclear Loop?
Anxiety overwhelmed her.
Seeing Shurelia like this, Frelia grabbed her hands as they both continued looking at the pod.
It seemed she hurriedly had done so because she got worried when she realized how anxious Shurelia was, but that wasn't the case. Frelia was actually feeling every bit as anxious as Shurelia from seeing how the young body wasn't still being born inside the pod. She continued staring at the pod and she unconsciously grabbed Shurelia's hands out from the anxiety she was feeling.
“...We can't do it!?”
Even though she was Tilia's older sister, she completely had closed herself up since the day she died. As for Frelia, she desperately searched for a way to bring her back to life, and kept on singing and dancing to create the pod for the cultivation of Tilia's new body.
And despite all that, they were unable to actually do anything?
Shurelia silently let go of the hands Frelia was moving to her and instead grasped them back herself.
As she expected, Frelia looked at her with a surprised face, but Shurelia just nodded and smiled at her.
This softened the uneasy expression Frelia had.
“...I won't believe that. I can't believe that the plan Frelia and Sasha had formulated and that the power of feelings everyone held for Tilia were mistaken. And the same goes for Tilia herself”
She looked again at the still-empty pod.
“...What are you doing, Tilia? Weren't you going to come with us on a sightseeing trip around the world? Don't you know there is still a lot of people you haven't met and a lot of places you haven't gone to? Besides, weren't you going to trouble us asking for lots of selfish things and getting spoiled? If you really are our little sister, hurry up and come back to us already!”
Shurelia crashed her feelings over and over into the pod, since nothing was happening inside no matter how much time passed.
And Shurelia and Frelia weren't the only ones feeling uneasy.
Even Saki, who had continued singing the Hymmnos so far, started feeling anxious.
Shurelia and Frelia seemed to have realized the enormous power of feelings that was being sent from Saki, and Saki herself started wondering how many more feelings they could send in.
As anybody would expect, any changes would be good here, but they still couldn't see anything appearing inside the pod.
“...So it's really impossible to bring back someone who died!?”
Were they doing nothing but disrespecting Tilia's death?
They really thought of Tilia as a precious person, but weren't they acting crazy and doing something they shouldn't?
That was one of the questions that Saki started having out from her anxiety, and Saki's doubt that they were actually doing something wrong did nothing but increase more and more with the passing of time.
Her concentration started waning and she noticed she wouldn't be able to send properly the feelings everyone was transmitting her.
“...I have to do my best! But if we're doing something wrong...”
Her concentration was about to give in completely.
But that instant, a singing voice started singing with them out of nowhere.
She heard that voice coming from behind her, and it clearly didn't belong to any of the Reyvateils present.
That was because it was man's voice.
It was Cocona's surprised voice.
The one that started singing was Croix.
He had naturally learned how the Song went due to how many times Saki had repeated it over and over.
Croix looked at Cocona, and right after he did, Cocona nodded and started singing with him.
Afterwards it was just a question of time: everyone else that was around them started singing one after another, lured by both Croix and Cocona.
The ones that weren't used to singing Hymmnos language songs found it very difficult: they of course committed mistakes and some even sang completely out of tune.
But no one was embarrassed about it, and no one minded it either.
It was all because they just wanted to meet Tilia again. They wanted her to live on this world as a humanoid once again, and so they just continued singing while putting their feelings into the Song. They weren't Reyvateils, so their feelings wouldn't be able to get transmitted through Saki to reach the Heart of the Land, but despite knowing that, they still kept on singing.
The amount of feelings that were flowing toward Saki suddenly increased a lot.
The Song that Croix and the others were singing had been to stir up the hearts of all the Reyvateils.
And that was the case for Saki too.
“...We're not wrong. And we can't let this fail either!”
Saki's anxiety had been blown off. She added her own feelings to the ones that were flowing into her and sent them off to the Heart of the Land.
“...As long as we all have feelings, there is nothing we can't do!”
Shurelia and Frelia couldn't take their eyes away from them all as they continued pouring in their feelings for Tilia.
They could feel even the Song of the non-Reyvateil ones was filled to the brim with strong feelings: their strong feelings for Tilia.
While no one knew who did it first, both Shurelia and Frelia noticed something at the same time.
That something was that there was something right before them that wasn't any of the singers and seemed to be releasing feelings. The eyes of them both hurriedly focused on the pod.
“...Frelia, did you feel it too?”
Was she imagining it? But since Frelia had the same reaction too, she decided to ask her to make sure that what she felt wasn't just a trick of her imagination.
“You felt it too, Sis Shurelia? Let's check it out!!”
She didn't wait for her reply. Frelia immediately turned again to face everyone and raised her hands,
“Everyone, stop now! Wait a second!”
The crowd of singers couldn't hear her from among their singing, but they all stopped singing when they saw how she was acting.
Now silence had returned to the place, Shurelia and Frelia looked once again at the pod's inside.
It seemed like nothing was inside. There was nothing they could see with their eyes.
But they still could feel something.
That within the pod, Tilia's young body was being born.
Imagining this, Sasha rushed to the pod to start checking its internal conditions and verifying the reactions it was giving off using a monitor attached to it.
“W-What is it, Sasha?”
Sasha just kept staring at the monitor for a while, not answering Shurelia's question. But a few seconds later,
“...T-There's something! It's extremely small, but I've confirmed that there are reactions of a living organism inside!”
Everyone gasped in reaction to Sasha's words,
“...S-So... That means a lifeform was born inside that pod!?”
Asked Aoto to make sure that was what she meant, and Sasha nodded in response.
“Yes, exactly! It's extremely small, to the point we can't see it with our eyes, but there's no mistake about it!”
She made a short pause, and then,
“Tilia has been born!”
In that instant, everyone that had been singing until that moment exploded in cheers and joyful shouts.
When they heard Tilia had been revived, they cried, joined shoulders, shook hands and embraced each other to show their happiness.
That was how much they all had been wishing from the bottom of their hearts for Tilia's revival. Among them, only Frelia and Shurelia kept on staring at the pod's inside in silence.
It wasn't that they weren't happy, but there was another emotion that occupied their hearts to a greater degree than happiness itself: it was relief.
Looking back on it, Tilia's life extension treatment had been what started everything. After that, things changed to giving Tilia her humanoid body back, and after she finally died, everything end pointing to reviving her. And each time, they had to go through so many difficulties and troubles, and so many people got hurt.
But now they had reached this point, there was nothing to be worried about anymore.
After all, the only thing that remained now was waiting for Tilia's body to grow inside the pod.
But then, Shurelia noticed that Frelia was acting strangely.
“You are my little sister. You know that you have no reason to hold back, right?”
Shurelia opened her arms as she said this, and Frelia jumped into her chest.
Now she was so relieved, she couldn't stop shedding tears, even though she wasn't loudly crying.
“Hehe, looks like you cry far more easily than I do, doesn't it?”
Said Shurelia, who herself was shedding tears too.
But she just wiped them off, as Frelia couldn't notice them because she was crying on her chest while Shurelia gently hugged her.
“You have done a lot too, Frelia... It was really admirable. You're really the sister that Tilia can be the proudest of”
And now Shurelia had praised her, Frelia couldn't continue holding herself together and started crying loudly in Shurelia's chest.
Chapter 12: Tilia Inside the Pod
The Tilia that was growing inside the pod would need approximately a year before her body was complete.
Everyone that had been present and ecstatic when her young body was born had that happiness last for a few days, but they had to return to their own homes shortly later.
However, they still promised each other that they would gather again when the time to open the pod came a year later
So until that day came, they went on with their daily lives while still taking several occasional visits to Tilia's pod.
The young body grew, and it ended up getting to the same size a newborn baby would have.
Jakuri and Spica were in front of the pod by the time she grew to that size.
Spica stared at the baby Tilia that slept inside the pod,
“Oh, how cute. But according to what you told, she was so small that she wasn't even visible to the eye, correct?”
“She grew, of course. And actually, this pod has the capability of speeding up her growth”
“Oh, so it has such convenient functions too... I wish she would wake up quickly, that way maybe I could get her to come to my place. And that way I'd be able have all the three Origins as my acquaintances... Ah, my dreams will expand so much...”
“...Are you scheming something again?”
But Spica just showed her a smile without answering in any way to her question. She was just looking at Tilia with the same kind of expression a child that waited for Christmas morning to open their presents would have, so anyone who looked at her would think she was just innocently expressing happiness.
However, Jakuri had known Spica for so long that she wasn't going to get fooled by that expression.
“I don't know what the hell you're planning, but at the least I know that it's not going to be good at all”
“Of course not! ...Ah, but you know about those stories about letting children listen to music while they are in their mothers’ wombs? So I was just thinking I could do that some sort of thing now and teach her all sorts of things to make her get attached to me when she wakes up... Like Spica is your friend, Spica is your close friend; Spica is your partner...”
The Tilia inside the pod seemed like she could heard what Spica was saying, as she rolled her hands up as she placed them against the transparent lid and faced Spica as she continued muttering things.
“Stop already! Those things you're saying aren't going to help her mind's development in any way! Geez...”
“Oh, looks like I have no other option... Well, I'm not really interested on raising children, so I don't know anything about that. But how about educating them on good tastes? And I have a pretty good book I could read for her...”
And saying this, Spica went through the bag she brought with her until she finally found and took out a book.
It was novel that had a cute girl drawn on the cover.
“Here is Mir's latest work. The title is...”
“There is a large chance that will make Tilia a completely different person from how she was before she died, so knock it off already!!”
Spica just showed an amused smile as she saw Jakuri panicked and snatching away the book she took out.
Tilia's growth continued.
By that point, her body was already that of a one-year old baby.
Lyner, Aurica, Misha, Shurelia and Leard were all standing in front of the pod.
“Aaaah, how cute!”
Aurica and Misha saw the baby Tilia and stood glued to the pod.
“Good, good... Lady Shurelia, can't we open the pod for a little bit and hug her?”
Asked Aurica as her eyes sparkled.
“Unfortunately, it seems that this pod won't open until Tilia's growth is complete”
“Oh, okay... That's too bad...”
Misha giggled as she saw how Aurica dropped her shoulders.
“Well, it's not like I don't understand these feelings. Babies are really cute... And anyway, I'd really like to bear Lyner's baby, you know?”
And upon seeing the eye-catching Misha had done to Lyner and how she was fidgeting toward him, Aurica and Shurelia got angry.
“That's dirty, Misha! I want that too!”
“Indeed! Acting sneakily like that is the lowest form of cheating!”
The three girls had gotten quite excited, but it was something pretty common between them, since this kind of quarrel was like skinship to them.
Leard saw how Lyner had not intentions to take part in their conversation, and so he whispered in a way that only he could hear it.
“...I would like to see my grandchildren sometime soon, as well”
Lyner showed him a frankly displeased face when he heard that.
“Nah, it's too soon for me. Besides, I have more fun swinging my sword around as a Knight of Elemia. I'm not gonna have kids until I'm at least forty”
“...Lyner, how much longer I have to live before you are satisfied? You could at least try having them once you are in your thirties!”
Given that Leard didn't want to die not only before Lyner had followed his footsteps, but also before he could see his grandchildren, he couldn't just let the comment Lyner made about not having children until he was forty slide by.
If Lyner actually waited until that time before having his children, Leard would already be in his eighties.
But Lyner just replied,
“But you didn't have me when you were in your forties, old man?”
He had hit him in a sensitive spot.
While he could have had children earlier, Leard was so completely focused on his work that he refused to do that for a long time. He regretted that even now, and while he didn't think that he was wrong doing that, that instant Leard said,
“...This is the first time I have ever regretted living solely for my work”
And that wasn't all: he couldn't find any way to reply back to what Lyner said, and since it seemed Lyner felt he had no affection for him, he had to take multiple deep breaths.
Aurica saw this and said,
“Knock it off already, Lyner! Don't be teasing you dad anymore! He's already getting up there on age, so don't you know a big shock could kill him?”
“T-That's worrying... The old man has got to live for a hundred years and continue being the Platina Commander!”
“...Lyner, are you planning to continue being a Knight of Elemia until you are in your sixties?”
“Of course! I'll continue working as a Knight of Elemia for as long I can move!”
Lyner was smiling cheerfully, but Leard just sighed heavily when he saw him like this.
He then directed his gaze to Tilia inside the pod.
“...I didn't even dream that you would become a knight when you were this small”
“Hehe, now you mention it, you once came to show Lyner to me when he was this big, right? And that you were going to raise him to be an even better politician than yourself when he grew up, so that was why you wanted me to care for him for a little time”
“Y-You knew Lyner when he was a baby, Lady Shurelia!?”
“I didn't just know him: I also held him on my arms and carried him on my back. I also fed him milk bottles and changed his diapers... So indeed, you have grown a lot Lyner”
“I don't remember that you... did anything of that to me, Lady Shurelia”
“...Lyner, you know I'd have cried a lot if you had remembered that after how you forgot me?”
Given the way Misha was glaring at him, Lyner thought to himself it was good thing that he didn't remember Shurelia looking after him.
“...So Misha stills holds a grudge over me for that,” he thought.
“But Lady Shurelia, I'm jealous! I'd have liked to hold baby Lyner on my arms and to change his diapers too!”
Said Misha in a slightly envious voice. Aurica then clapped her hands because she had gotten some inspiration,
“Well, we can't really hold him on our arms or carry him on our backs anymore, but we can still feed him milk bottles and change his diapers!”
“...Aurica, you really want to see Lyner wearing diapers?”
Asked Misha with a dejected face, and when Aurica tried imagining that,
“...Sorry. I don't really wanna see that either”
She looked at Lyner as she said this.
“Please don't look at me like that and start imagining weird stuff on your own...!”
But while he thought and said this, Lyner ended giving up thinking that something like that was just Aurica being her.
“But well, I didn't ever think you wanted me to be a politician since I was that small. Now I know that, I think you're pretty disappointed on how I turned out to be”
“Hoh, so you have started considering my feelings a little more... But there is only one think you're wrong about”
Lyner looked at Leard with a puzzled face, but Leard just laughed nasally,
“I have never been disappointed on you, Lyner”
Leard didn't say anything beyond that and just kept on looking at Tilia inside her pod.
“Whoa...! Look look, she's gotten so big! Of course though, she's our kid!”
Said Cynthia as she cuddled with Croix and they both looked at Tilia, who had grown to the point she looked like a five-year old child.
“Cynthia, I don't remember ever having a child with you”
Interjected Croix in a very cold voice, but Cynthia was far too excited due to having a child before her.
She was acting even more unhinged than usual.
“Since she's our child, we gotta give her a Synchro Brand name! Synchro... Synchro? Or should it be Cyroix instead?”
“First, that sounds like a male name, and second, this girl is Tilia”
Cocona and Cloche just looked at their exchange in silence, while Luca just shook her head while muttering “Geez...”
As she did, she saw how Skycat walked to the pod and looked at Tilia.
“...Looks like she's growing healthy, so that makes me feel relieved”
She sighed and then smiled kindly.
“Don't you think so, Milady?”
She asked Luca as she continued looking at the pod,
“...Yeah, that's right. I haven't ever seen Tilia aside of the time she was on that wheelchair, so I really wanna see her healthy and all soon”
“Yeah... Milady, I wanna try raising a kid with you soon too!”
“Nope. Sorry, but I don't get what you're saying, Skycat. Besides, I don't really know what kind of expectations you're having since we're both women”
“Argh! Milady, you were supposed to play along and tell me “yeah!” So mean!”
Skycat put on a displeased face as she puffed her cheeks. She then tried to hug Luca, but she stopped her with her hands.
Cloche ignored the noisy quartet and left the stuffed doll she had brought along beside the pod. It was a stuffed doll of the character that was so popular in Metafalica and that existed in large numbers in the world they had Dived into when they were searching for the Heart of the Land: Gergo.
“Even if you are sleeping, I'm quite sure you feel lonely. As long as you have him, you will have pleasant dreams”
“Ah, you brought a Gergo too, Lady Cloche?
“Too? In other words, you brought a Gergo as well, Cocona?”
While Cloche was worried about Cocona having brought a duplicate, the Gergo she took out belonged to one subseries in its toy line: it was a stuffed doll called the Topknotgo.
In other words, it was character that looked like a Gergo with a topknot on its head.
“Topknotgo... I think it's cute, but was it not a strange choice?”
“Well, Tilia's got a very peculiar sense of beauty and tastes, so I was thinking she'd be the type to like topknots”
Tilia would most likely have told her “That's unexpected!” had she been there, but unfortunately she was now sleeping inside the pod.
They placed the Gergo and the Topknotgo at both sides of the pod, as if they were her guardian deities.
“...I pray that you may you become healthy and cheerful”
“Yeah... And besides, I'd be very happy if she got to like Gergo too”
“I agree with the sentiment. So, given we are going to come to this place very frequently, should we bring her Gergos as presents every time we visit her?”
“Ahaha, that's could be a nice idea”
Said Cocona as she laughed.
She thought Cloche was only joking.
By the time Tilia's body had grown to look like a ten-year old girl, Jack and Krusche were standing in front of the pod.
“...It kinda seems like somethin’ weird happened”
Jack took a step when he saw the many Gergo stuffed dolls that were aligned around the pod.
They had taken too long to come. They wanted to come far earlier to see Tilia, but since they had been so busy, they didn't find a chance to do it until that day.
Within the dark night, the sight of the many Gergos placed around the pod looked extremely eerie.
“Maybe they put them around the pod 'coz they thought a girl was gonna like stuffed dolls, but I'm uneasy 'bout how they're all the same type”
Jack and Krusche were acquainted with Cloche, but they weren't really close friends with her. Therefore, they had no way of knowing her love for Gergo was unparalleled in the world.
Had they known that, they would have noticed right away that these many Gergos being left around the place was Cloche's doing.
They walked avoiding the Gergos until they were in front of the pod,
“...She's getting’ closer to what she looked like when we met her”
“Yeah. It's kinda shockin' how a young body that was so small we couldn't even see grew to turn into this”
“But we failed. We couldn't get to come here since her young body was born. We shoulda come and saw her when she was a baby”
When Krusche heard that, she couldn't help but show surprise on her face,
“...What? I didn't think ya were the kind to like babies, Jack”
“Hmm? Well, yeah. Maybe the times I had to look after the kiddos in Em Pheyna affected me, and I also looked after Misha lots. Maybe I've got some maternal instincts, yeah?”
“Yeah, I saw that... But I think maternal instincts are the kinda thing that fits you the least”
“Ahaha, now you say it, that's true!”
Both laughed at each other, and looked at Tilia once they finished.
“...You're tellin' me you wanna have kids?”
Jack was thinking they would end up touching this topic from the previous conversation, but he decisively replied,
“Not at all”
“But isn't it contradictory ya tell me ya got maternal instincts but that ya don't wanna have kids?”
“Nah... and well, think 'bout it. I'm the kinda guy that hates being all the time in the same place, yeah? And I think I wanna travel all over the world while I'm still young, so how could I raise kids like that? And even if left 'em to someone's care while they're still babies, I dunno when I'd see 'em again”
And saying this, he softly tapped on the pod. He panicked a little afterwards, but since Tilia didn't show any signs of getting up anytime soon, he looked at her relieved.
Krusche was moved, as she had not only seen an unexpected side of Jack, but also learned that he thought things more seriously than she ever gave him credit for.
“Gotcha... But ya care for kids a lot, more than I ever thought. Now I know why Lyra loves ya so much”
“Ah, Lyra...? Yeah, I haven't seen her in so long...”
He started reminiscing about the little girl that loved him when he lived back in Em Pheyna. The last time he saw her she was about the same age Tilia was now, and several years had gone by already. She surely would have grown enough that she would be already an entirely different person by noe.
“Well, that's it, so don't think I wanna have kids from that. And what about ya? Don't you get more fun making airships and stuff than raising kids?”
“Well yeah... but what's up with that question? Let's cut it now, as it kinda seems like we're talking about us two getting kids”
“It's just a what-if talk. I just said that because I was imagining a guy that likes having no set goals, like me, and someone who likes working all the day in a company, who've got nuttin' to do with us”
And saying this, Jack jumped over the Gergos to get away from the pod.
“Well, we've been lookin' enough at her, so let's get goin' already. I've got the feelin' these eerie dolls are gonna start movin' anytime now”
And saying this, Jack started walking away.
Krusche just looked at him from behind as she muttered,
“...Well, if I can design airships, I can make a family too”
She intended to say it very lowly, but Jack noticed it and turned around,
“Wha? Ya said somethin'?
“...Nothing! Come, let's head back already. We gotta finish some work”
And slightly relieved that Jack didn't hear her, Krusche followed Jack's lead.
And so, a year went by.
Aoto, Saki and Finnel had arrived to Metafalica a week before the date the pod was going to be opened.
They knew it was still too early to be going to open the pod, but since they got so impatient, they departed earlier than anyone of the other people that were coming from Sol Cluster or Sol Ciel.
Said Saki as she looked at Tilia inside the pod.
Tilia looked now exactly as how they had always known her.
Aoto and Finnel were also unable to take their eyes away from her.
It seemed like she was going to open her eyes at any time. Maybe she would wake up if they called out to her? Maybe she would say any of her outrageous phrases to shock them as she always did?
“...Hey, Tilia, can you hear us?”
Finnel placed her hands on the pod's lid, but Tilia showed no reaction.
“Tilia, wake up! You've got your body back to normal now, so wake up! You're going to be sleeping one week in!”
And while she continued calling her out, the others noticed that she had broken down in tears at some point.
She hurriedly tried to wipe her eyes off, but the tears wouldn't stop flowing out.
Saki softly hugged Finnel.
“...Tilia, are you really going to wake up?”
Said Finnel as Saki hugged her.
“...The Tilia we knew is back, but she still won't wake up!”
Saki softly caressed her back while Finnel buried her face and cried on Saki's chest.
“It's okay. Tilia will wake up no matter what”
Said Saki in a whisper.
“But... But it's only one more week, right? She's not reacting at all, and she's got to wake up in that time... Will she really wake up?”
Neither Saki nor Aoto knew the answer to Finnel's question.
As far as they saw, Tilia had already the same appearance she used to have before her rebirth. And even though only a week remained before the day they would open the pod, she had already spent one year in it. She wasn't complete yet, but she was in a very close state to complete by now. If that was the case, why she didn't at least move her eyebrows or anything in reaction to them?
But realistically speaking, they couldn't see any sort of reaction now. Finnel was terrorized when she saw how Tilia didn't even slightly tremble or anything.
She didn't want to think this situation was the worst possible scenario.
That they had revived only an empty shell of a body.
Of course, they knew that was impossible. The Heart of the Land had already started doing its job after the young body was born, and after Shurelia and Frelia took care of linking her memories to it, they even performed a connection test and check on her.
There was no possible way they could have committed any mistakes.
But even though she knew that in her head, she couldn't stop feeling that terrible anxiety, which only expanded more and more as time went by.
Finnel continued crying and Saki was at a loss for what to say to comfort her, she was completely bewildered.
“...Isn't that fine?”
Said Aoto as he looked a Tilia inside the pod.
“Isn't that good enough? After all, look. We've got Tilia here”
Saki and the crying Finnel looked at Aoto.
“You two know Tilia pretty well too, right? She always been a very laid-back girl and her forte's always been shocking everyone she's got around even if they don't know her. And that's the same person we're telling to wake up a week before when she's gotta do it. She's just making us worry”
And having said this, Aoto waited to see if both girls agreed with him.
“...Yeah! It's just as Aoto says, Filly!”
Saki had agreed with him.
“And besides, while for us it might just be that this is the last week in the year before she awakens, to Tilia this could be the important last week before her awakening”
“...You think so?”
“Yeah, I'm sure of it. Besides, Tilia's body would be incomplete if we woke her up a week earlier and that'd be pretty bad, right? I don't wanna see her suffering again when she wakes up”
“...Yeah, I don't wanna see Tilia like that either”
“So let's let her sleep one more week. Once her body's complete and the pod opens, we should mercilessly wake her up!”
It seemed like Aoto told these things to Finnel and Saki, but he actually had said those words to himself too.
He was feeling too the same anxiety Finnel had.
However, that anxiety would go away in one more week. When he heard himself saying these words, he could keep his composure.
Finnel listened to what Aoto had said and turned to see Tilia once more.
“...Yeah, it's just like you said, Aoto! No matter how much noise we make, we can't do anything about it for now”
She started wiping off her tears, and this time she could clean her face off completely.
“It's just one more week. Besides, if she doesn't wake up at the planned time, we're gonna start making a ruckus and wake her up ding-dong!”
Finnel laughed as she said this,
“Yes! I'll continue calling Tilia until she wakes up too! I'll tell her, “Tilia, it's time to wake up! Open your eyes!” How about it?”
While Saki and the others continued talking in front of her, Tilia didn't show any reactions.
However, their anxiety had already vanished, as they had now decided they would wake Tilia up in a week, no matter what happened.
There were several people working hurriedly from the early morning at the Enna Palace, whose remodeling works had already been completed.
The rooms inside the palace had been cleaned up and remodeled, had several showcases installed into them and had several framed pictures hanging from their walls. The walls were completely buried behind the pictures but the showcases were almost completely empty, as the workers were still in the middle of getting them ready.
That day, the Enna Mayor had also come to the Palace to give orders to the workers.
“Are you here, Ms. Mayor?”
Said the Mint Block Mayor at the same time he entered. There were three rowdy men behind him that were carrying a large plate-like object wrapped in cloth.
“Welcome, Mr. Mayor. Did you get something else ready by any chance?”
The Mint Block Mayor replied by nodding to the Enna Mayor's excited voice.
“It was somewhat earlier than expected, but I wanted to come show it to you as soon as I could”
And as he said this, the rowdy men tore off the cloth from the plate-like object. Inside there was a large a large sign that had written on itself the new name for the Enna Palace, which was now the last remaining vestige of the Rim.
Upon seeing it, the Enna Mayor and the workers that were still arranging the material for the showcases gathered in front of the sign.
“It surprised them, so I'd say you have made a splendid sign”
“I couldn't ever make something that would be compared poorly to the palace itself... But even so...”
said the Mint Block Mayor as he looked around the palace.
“I'd say the palace itself has become every bit as splendid. I'm sure it'll become a magnificent museum now”
“Yeah, that's true. Since we pushed and forced them to leave us just one place, it had to be worthy of that honor”
The Mint Block Mayor nodded with an “Hmm” and then stared to each one of the pictures that were hanging from the wall.
Each and all of the pictures were filled with nostalgic memories, so the Mayor started feeling a great nostalgia just by skimming through them.
“...Hmm? Ms. Mayor, there is an empty frame here. Did you forget to put a picture inside?”
Only one empty frame remained in the wall that he had in front of him. It had the same design as all the other frames, but it was a size larger than all the others.
“No, it's not that. We just haven't taken yet the picture we're planning to put in it”
“You haven't yet?”
When the Enna Mayor saw his puzzled face, she just smiled while saying “You don't know, right?”
“The picture that we'll put in it will be that of a certain girl: the girl that contains the entirety of the feelings we hold for the Rim”
At the Hill of Metafalica, everyone that had sung to give birth to Tilia's young body and helped to revive Tilia, starting with Sasha, was awaiting for Tilia's awakening.
Tilia's pod was extremely secure and airtight thanks to the systems Frelia administrated on it. It constantly scanned the status of the prime field in the pod, and from the moment it determined Tilia could now sustain herself, twenty-four more hours would have to pass before the lid opened. The previous day the pod's systems had determined the prime field's status was perfect and it started a countdown that took place over the next twenty-four hours. And now, that countdown was about to reach its end.
“T minus ten seconds! It's about to open!”
And as Sasha said this, it started: they heard sounds similar to that of locks opening coming from the pod. The nervousness Shurelia and Frelia felt as they stood in front of the pod increased.
After that sound was heard, they saw how the cultivation liquid in which Tilia was submerged was being drained from the pod, and after it softly went away, Tilia's body was released from it and she lied on its floor. As soon as the liquid's drainage was complete, the pod's lid opened at about ten seconds after the countdown was complete.
The lid emitted a loud “whoosh” sound and it softly opened upwards.
The wind outside the pod caressed Tilia's body.
However, Tilia still didn't look like she was going to move at all.
“Tili, it's me, Frelia! Can you hear me?”
Both Shurelia and Frelia called at her from both sides of the now open-pod, but she didn't react at all.
“Hey, Tilia, wake up already!”
“Yeah, wake up Tilia!”
“Please, open your eyes, Tilia!”
Tilia didn't respond either to Aoto, Saki and Finnel's voices.
“Tilia... So didn't it work in the end...?”
Shurelia tried softly caressing Tilia's face with trembling hands.
Tilia slapped away Shurelia's hand with a displeased face and turned around.
Everyone looked at each other. There was no way they could have imagined that.
“T-Tilia! Wake up already! Tilia!”
“Wake up, Tili! Please, wake up!”
Shurelia and Frelia approached Tilia's face as they continued calling at her among shouts.
When they did that, Tilia showed again a displeased expression on her face, and while writhing about, she suddenly extended a hand out while she rubbed her eyes with the other.
“...Nngh... Don't scream on someone's ear while they're sleeping... Why are you... so noisy...?”
While at first she got up as she grumbled about, she was struck mute when she opened her eyes and noticed the large crowd that was surrounding her.
She opened her sleepy eyes in full at once and started looking around at everyone's faces.
“...Huh? W-What's this...? Huh? It doesn't hurt! And where am I now? I was supposed to be in the Rinkernator...”
Given how Shurelia's voice came from so close to her, Tilia felt shivers going down her spine.
“Are you up... Tili?”
Said Frelia's voice from the opposite side.
Tilia still couldn't understand what situation she was in, but she guessed she had been asleep from Frelia's words. So she faced everyone and said a single word,
Instantly, silence befell over the place.
Tilia started thinking that it was weird no one answered her greeting, but even so,
“Tilia... you've come back to life!”
And as if his shout had been a cue, everyone in the crowd around Tilia started shouting at the same time.
These sudden cheers gave a headache to Tilia, who hurried to cover her ears with her hands.
And while she was still unable to understand the situation, Shurelia and Frelia tightly hugged her from both sides.
“I'm so glad... I'm really so glad that you woke up...”
“Welcome back... Welcome back, Tili...”
Tilia could only think “What's happening here?” as she heard them.
But by this time, Tilia had noticed an uncomfortable feeling inside herself.
“...I don't feel the Tower...”
She was connected to the Tower, so under normal circumstances she should be able to constantly feel its existence, but she couldn't feel it anymore.
That could only mean that the Tower had disappeared.
And she also realized that the intense pain she had been suffering from had completely disappeared from her body. Likewise, she couldn't feel her crumbling Triangular Nuclear Loop anymore and instead she felt inside herself a somehow incredibly powerful pulse and a large clump of feelings.
“...I see... So at that time, I...”
Her last memory before waking up was being in the Rinkernator. Her memories then continued from this point and she didn't have any recollection of the time between them both.
She surely had died at that point.
But why was she alive like this now?
And then she understood right away that it was because of the cheering crowd that was around her, the pod she was sitting in and the existence of the large clump of feelings that was within herself.
Tilia then hugged back her older sisters every bit as strongly as they were,
“...I'm back, Sis Shurelia, Sis Frelia”
She gnawed her lips in happiness for having come back to her precious older sisters.
I was told before I started working in this story I should get it finished in 300 pages or less.
Ciao, I'm Tomimatsu, who gave himself up at the time he was told he would have to write a story in which Tilia died.
The first thing I want to do is give my gratitude to the staff people that checked this massive light novel in a very short time and gave me advice on how to improve it.
And that since I'm not the kind of person to say really serious stuff, I'll just say some comfortable stuff since I think people would need to get refreshed once they finish reading through the novel. So please, make sure to read these lines even if you're in the bathtub!
So well, what did you think about the Ar tonelico 3 novel that I ended having to divide this time in First and Second volumes?
I even made characters from across the entire series appear in it. So because I had to make as many of them as I could show up,
“More, I've gotta put more effort into it! I know it's a bad time to relax after the game's story ended, so I've gotta dedicate myself a little more!”
That was the only thing I could think of as I made appear the familiar faces from the first two games and the new ones that appeared in 3.
And of course, there were several characters that couldn't show up, like for example Wild Thunder-san?
And Reisha wasn't even mentioned this time around, even though she didn't even actually appear in 2's light novel.
...I'd actually like to read a light novel that only goes on and on about Reisha's work in her vegetable garden.
And I think that's how most people would feel if they realized their favorite character didn't appear in this novel. I believe so, and I can prove it too... But I have no basis for saying that.
However, if there was anyone who read this novel after having played through the whole series and thought
“I love that character, but they didn't appear here at all”
Just to start dancing madly when they noticed they did actually appear as they read through it, that is what would bring me the greatest happiness.
By the way, if you're interested about what became of the three Origin sisters after this light novel, please make sure to give the Drama CD Side Tilia a listen. I think it wouldn't be wrong to say that it's the true, real epilogue to this light novel.
However, that Drama CD is [the story of what happened after completing the game with Tilia's Ending]. On the other hand, this novel is left ambiguous since it tells a [story after completing the game with XX's Ending]. Due to that, it's possible there are places where it feels differently from the novel, so please keep that in mind.
If you had fun while seeing these familiar characters act together in unexpected ways, negotiate and solve problems together as you read through this novel, that'll make me very happy.
And if you have only played Ar tonelico 3 so far but this light novel instilled on you an interest on the characters from the past games, please make sure to give them a playthrough too. Well then, see you all later!
And just today I realized that I haven't had a chance to take some time off and go shopping in Akihabara lately...
The Ar tonelico series was planned to be a trilogy from the very beginning, but this light novel is precisely a culmination for all of it. When we started the light novel project, I thought that I didn't want it to be limited solely to Ar tonelico 3, but rather to make it instead a work that synthesized the whole series and so we had to try and fail multiple times in that direction until we settled down on the way we deemed as the appropriate one. And the greatest basis for those feelings was the invaluable opinions we received from you all as well as the feelings that were included in the questionnaires you answered.
The main axis for this story was Tilia and her world's [annihilation].
I think many who played through Ar tonelico 3 to the very end should already know this, but Tilia's status at the end of it was that she got a happy ending, but despite so there were some worries that were impossible to overlook. Given she had spent almost the entirety of her lifeforce to regenerate the Planet; naturally her life after these events wouldn't have any optimistic outlooks. There were many among our fans that were particularly worried about her and I personally saw many such opinions that were written in both in the questionnaires and in the fans' own blogs. Given this, I thought that we should give Tilia's story a proper conclusion in some form. Many staff members also had similar opinions, though some suggested we should do so either as a Drama CD or a Hymmnos Musical. However, we didn't think a Drama CD would have been sufficient to tell the story properly, and since we thought that CDs are something that someone would prefer listening to relax themselves and enjoy the dialogue, these options were discarded as time went by.
It was then we proposed the light novel project. It should go without saying, but the light novels' forte is being a media in which a story can be enjoyed. I thought right away this would be the most appropriate way to tell the story of Tilia and the Third Tower's world. So in order to complete the incomplete puzzle inside your heads, I had strong feelings that we shouldn't limit the story only to Tilia: we would also show the world-scale problem that [Tilia's lifespan] was, writing everything about it without omitting anything, without making compromises and telling ourselves we shouldn't cut anything from the descriptions, because I wanted to give you all a truly living world in this novel.
And it was in this way that the light novel project started while all the other staff members aside of myself had dark clouds hanging over their heads. During the briefing sessions I had with Mr. Tomimatsu, where I explained what I wanted to represent and how I planned some parts to turn out, I continued asking him to depict them as thoroughly as possible. And as everyone thought, in the end a single volume wasn't enough to cover the whole story. Even so, I proposed solutions like “A single volume isn't enough? Then shouldn't we make it be two volumes?” and we went on while doing absurd things on the same level as a certain queen. It was thanks to it that we could finally make a work that isn't limited solely to Ar tonelico 3 and that we can say serves as the culmination of the series. I always caused a lot of problems to everyone involved in this novel's creation, more than usual due to doing absurd things, so I apologize for that. Also, I want to thank you all having continued to associate with me until the very end. Allow me to express my heartfelt gratitude to everyone out there.
I don't know how much more I can wish that this story allows you all to make the Ar tonelico world you have within themselves even deeper and that you all can also feel it even more familiar to you.
Kawachi Atsunori (Ar tonelico Series Producer/Inti Creates Ltd.)
I was involved in this project as the producer of the three titles that Gust and Bandai-Namco games made in collaborative development: Ar tonelico The Girl That Keeps Singing at the End of the World, The Girls' Song of Creation (Metafalica) That Echoes Throughout the World and The Girl's Song that Pulls the Trigger of the World's Demise.
When we began this project, I made as my goal to push out the charm the characters had to make them the kind of people everyone would love for a long time, as I didn't want their stories to just end in the games.
Thanks to that and the collaboration of the companies, we got the chance to show different sides to the characters that appeared on the games after they had been released, and by presenting the individuality each character had, we ultimately managed to give birth to a world view that doesn't limit itself to the games, or so I think.
And I took part this time around thinking I wanted to offer too something to everyone that was touched and who gave love to the vast Ar tonelico world could enjoy to their fullest
So well, there are actually many heroes, heroines and secondary characters appearing in Ar tonelico.
There are also many kinds of strange character merchandise like the Funbuns and Gergo appearing in it.
I thought “Let's make appear as many of the characters we've created as we can” for this light novel, so we made handmade portraits of each character, we wrote memos over them such as “Okay, let's make him/her appear”, “Ah! So this character could appear like this?”, “He/She couldn't appear here”, “Due to the setting, this one can't show up, so at least let's get a mention of them in” and then handed them to Tomimatsu-san.
It was inevitable the page count would increase more and more due to this, but Tomimatsu-san dealt with it pretty well and continued with the challenge.
So what did you think of the light novel that we made in such an absurd way and with so many piles of work caused by it?
If you think you want to experience this world even further, please take a look at the other items related to it.
We made all sorts of things show up in the light novel, so I'm sure many parts of the novel will have you broadly grinning, and if you could enjoy the Ar tonelico world from multiple angles, I think you'll be able to discover several new things when you read through it again.
This light novel ended having double the length we had expected, so I must thank Tomimatsu-san for having fought so hard.
Also, great thanks to Ryou Nagi-san for the wonderful color illustrations and to Tsujita-san for the charming insert illustrations.
And great thanks as well to Tsuchiya-san for risking his life so much and having created this world.
Similarly, a lot of thanks to all the staff members from every single company that was involved in the production of the items related to the series.
And more than anyone, the greatest thanks go to all our users for having supported Ar tonelico for so long.
Really, thanks a lot for having been at our side all this time!