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Mitou Shoukan://Blood-Sign - Volume 1 - Chapter 5

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Stage 03: Travel Back in Time to Approach the Truth[edit]

Travel Back in Time to Approach the Truth

(Stage 03 Open 04/15 15:00

ATTENTION! ’’Reverse count’’)

’’...lp...us.’’

’’If you're going to go that far, then help us.’’

Part 9[edit]

Meinokawa Higan opened her eyes. Only then did she realize she was lying on something. She was inside a comfortably heated space, lying on her side atop a bed that felt like a cloud, and surrounded by a side table and one-person sofa that reminded her of a luxury hotel room.

’’And now it's time for Space Captain Whitebeard's weather forecast! As always, I'm here live on the civilian space station Toy Dream OP-05!! First up, this evening's atmospheric pressure...’’

’’Where am I...?’’

Higan sat up on the bed and muttered her question while staring at the TV.

As she looked around, she found some familiar faces.

’’Oh.’’

’’Looks like she's up.’’

It was the Illegal equipment seller and the Government middleman. They were both Shiroyama Kyousuke's acquaintances. What were their names? She dug through her memories and came up with Aika and Lu.

In that case, this was probably Aika's apartment where she had initially escaped to.

This space did not look at all lived in, so she guessed it was one of several guest rooms. For a while now, Higan had not known where she would spend the night or what she would eat, so this was on an unimaginable scale for her.

Swimsuit Girl Aika was lazily leaning against the wall.

’’It's already three o'clock... I'm hungry... Onii-chan, Onii-chan. Your little sister wants a snack.’’

’’Eh? Um, three o'clock?’’

’’That's how long you've been asleep. We have sesame dumplings to snack on. Mwa ha ha ha. Bow down to me and I might just share some with you!’’

Higan waking up must have meant something to Aika and Lu Niang Lan because they left through the door.

However, Higan still had no idea what was going on.

(It was around eight in the morning when we went to search for my sister, wasn't it?)

Seven hours had passed since then. What had happened?

Normally, a vessel did not lose their memories even when letting a Material reside in their body and fighting with an abnormal mind and psyche, but something had been different this time. However, she could not remember what exactly that difference was.

She looked to the digital clock on the bedside table and tilted her head, but then she remembered something important.

What had happened to her sister Renge?

Had they found her? Had they met up with her? Had she come back safely?

Or...?

’’W-wait... Tell me what happened. Um, where's my sister!?’’

She quickly stood from the bed and tried to chase after Aika and Lu Niang Lan who had left the room. On the way, she was shocked to find she was still wearing that sketchy maid outfit, but she had more important things to worry about.

She needed to gather what information she could, so she flung open the guest room door.

’’And another thing! Now that I think about it, how could you make my adorable sister walk around town in that unnatural maid outfit!? And she wasn't wearing anything below the skirt!? What the hell were you thinking!?’’

She found a pure and traditional Japanese shrine maiden sitting on top of a boy and swinging her clenched fist down at him. She was beating him up while using some slightly filthy language.

’’Nfh, nfh!? I-I already explained that! The only other options were her soaking wet and thus see-through shrine maiden outfit or walking around town at night in the nude!!’’

’’I will accept she needed different clothes, but explain how that could possibly lead to putting her in a maid outfit!!’’

’’Can we maybe discuss this more calmly? Besides, that was something Lu-san forced onto me when she was drunk once, so it wasn't my idea. It should have been obvious that outfit was out of the ordinary from the fact that it didn't come with any underwear!! Kah!!’’

’’You make it sound like it was right to not let her wear any panties, so maybe I need to hit this broken TV a little harder. Well? Don't you think? Well?’’

Higan finally breathed a sigh of relief when she saw her sister creating a series of dull impacts.

Her sister was right in front of her.

That was perfectly normal, but the path to retrieve that perfectly normal thing had been a long one.

But even as the relief washed over her, the sounds of destruction prevented her tears from flowing.

Should she maybe stop this?

She decided she probably should.

’’R-Renge... Wait, um, it may be true he claimed he didn't have anything else for me to wear and forced this ridiculous outfit onto me, but, um, he did save us.’’

’’Wait, you idiot! Don't walk that close when you're dressed like that, Higan!!’’

’’?’’

’’You're not wearing any panties!! So what's going to happen when you walk up next to a boy lying on his back!?’’

’’.......................................................................................................................................................................................’’

It took her several seconds to properly grasp the situation.

It took a few more seconds for Higan to drop her heel on Shiroyama Kyousuke's face with every inch of her own face beet red and for Renge to continue raining blows down on him.

Part 8[edit]

’’I've learned something about Guard of Honor,’’ said Aika after contacting someone. ’’The battle at the harbor was a complete loss, but a few of the summoners had small cameras on them and we've finished analyzing that footage. It's only of those outside the Artificial Sacred Ground, though.’’

When an Incense Grenade was in effect, the summoners and vessels would vanish from all cameras and sensors, but they still showed up just fine between battles.

The modified China dress beauty sounded exasperated.

’’That sure took long for some simple facial recognition.’’

The time was 2:30 PM. Lu Niang Lan must have been bored without any information and without anything to do because she had fried some sesame dumplings for a snack (using someone else's kitchen without asking). They were currently on standby. Watching Meinokawa Higan sleep for so very long had not produced any noticeable results.

But now some good news had come in.

They were all starving for information.

’’That's just how long it took, so there's no helping it. Although technically, all we know is that comparing them against every known summoner and vessel didn't turn up a single match’’

’’What do you mean?’’

Shiroyama Kyousuke frowned and Aika put her hands on her hips.

’’That means they don't belong to any of the three major groups.’’

’’Wait a minute. After all that, we have nothing!?’’ cut in Meinokawa Renge. ’’They were all skilled enough to easily summon divine and Unexplored-classes. They weren't exactly being covert, so they would have to have been caught by someone's antenna somewhere.’’

’’When we checked those registered as normal people with no connection to the world of summoning, we found a ton of matches. This is only a guess, but I think I know where Guard of Honor came from.’’

Kyousuke quietly continued for Aika.

’’They didn't start as summoners or vessels. They got involved in the summoning ceremony some other way.’’

’’What do you mean by that?’’

’’Normal people. The many 'others' who saw our battles and had their memories and cognizance automatically rewritten without even knowing it. Not even the experts like us know exactly how things are overwritten in their minds. No, maybe we don't know because we're the experts. We can't deny the possibility that some of them are implanted with something that attracts them to the Material. Y'know, something like Stockholm syndrome.’’

They all fell silent.

Just how frightening a theory that was slowly sank in.

Finally, Kyousuke said more.

’’At first, they weren't necessarily directly caught in the middle of one of the White Queen's battles. In fact, the odds of that are way too low. But it's the same in the end. Even if they started pursuing some minor Material, their self-study would ultimately lead them to the White Queen at the very top. So no matter where they started, they would all be ensnared by her after crossing a certain line. It might be like an ant lion pit or a black hole. And it would work the same for an expert and an amateur. ...I should have caught on sooner. Sooner or later and for better or for worse, anyone who comes into contact with the summoning ceremony is sucked in toward the White Queen to a certain extent. That's just how large a presence she is.’’

’’Wait...’’

That scratchy voice of protest of course came from Renge.

She seemed to be trying to reject something.

’’That doesn't make sense. We really were attacked by the divine-class Yamata-no-Orochi and the Unexplored-class Lady of Purple Lightning! A normal person could never summon those! Even in the world of experts, someone has to spend a life of work to maybe reach that realm!’’

’’Originally, it was probably a small grassroots sort of community that showed up sporadically. It may not have held their attention, so they might have even returned to their senses pretty quickly,’’ spat out Kyousuke. ’’But I'm guessing someone gave them some help. Someone constructed an organization, managed it, taught them how to run it, taught them how to earn funding and build up connections, and most importantly, gave them high level instructions on summon ceremony combat.’’

’’Azalea Magentarain. An important member of the world-class defense contractor Quad Motors and Government Award 930. She had everything needed to trigger that 'mutation'.’’

’’It may not just have been her,’’ added blue-eyed Lu Niang Lan. ’’Guard of Honor was initially mistaken for a new Illegal organization, remember? Maybe they happened to find some participants from Illegal. If so, they might have had an instructor or two each from Government, Illegal, and even Freedom.’’

’’As unique as the summoning ceremony is, it's still a type of skill. Maybe they used drugs or suggestion for some abnormal teaching method. Or maybe having their memories and cognizance automatically rewritten upon witnessing a Material was enough to plant the inspiration leading to superb genius as if frying their brain. Either way, they might have some way of artificially creating ace-level summoners.’’

’’B-but...’’

Renge must not have been able to believe it because she continued arguing.

Her pride as a professional summoner may have had something to do with it.

’’The summoning ceremony is a deadly battle. Even if they were given the necessary knowledge in the classroom, they still couldn't reach the divine-class or Unexplored-class. They wouldn't be able to defeat those of us who've been in real battles! Wouldn't they need a fair bit of actual experience before they could create the hell we saw in that harbor!?’’

’’Yes, and they probably built up that experience.’’

’’How!? If they had done anything, one of the three groups would have noticed them!’’ Renge continued shouting as if to cast aside her own doubts. ’’They couldn't just practice together like friends. Not even a vessel can fully control the violence of the Material. They can only guide it, so holding back is simply impossible. Even in a mock battle, you have a good possibility of crushing your opponent!!’’

’’Yes,’’ smoothly replied Kyousuke with his expression as calm as a Noh mask. ’’So maybe they've been standing by our side for quite a while now. They've stuck to the category of the harmless masses as they steal the techniques we use.’’

Meinokawa Renge was overcome by a strange sense of disgust, like she had been blindfolded and then had a thick tongue licking across her back.

Meanwhile, Kyousuke continued speaking.

’’They would learn everything they could just by watching. And on occasion they would wait for a battle to grow too chaotic to tell who was attacking or guide the battle in that direction. Then they would summon their own Material and butt in to earn the experience points in actual battle they needed. And of course, they would be killing all of the people they used as a stepping stone.’’

’’But Onii-chan. We checked for battle records where multiple groups fought and everyone ended up dead, but we couldn't find any sign of Guard of Honor. In fact, if we had, this would have become an issue much sooner.’’

’’Finding zero errors is no reason to relax. That just shows how thoroughly and cleverly they've been hiding the evidence. ...Besides, even if it led you to the wrong conclusion, Government wouldn't have hired an external summoner to attack that harbor if you didn't have some information on them.’’

If they succeeded, they could slip into the crowd and feign ignorance.

If they failed, they would be categorized as a normal person who had the misfortune to be caught in the crossfire.

How much would they have to repeat that process for an uninvolved person to become a summoning ace?

They had continued secretly devouring that knowledge in the shadows of history for long enough to do that.

That much was certain.

And they had not built up just a single ace. They had enough for an entire organization.

The secrecy behind Guard of Honor felt like a monstrous maw in and of itself. It felt even more frightening than their pure combat ability.

’’...’’

Renge could not rid herself of the chill.

It came both from Guard of Honor for growing in that way and from Shiroyama Kyousuke for so calmly seeing through it all.

How much were people distorted when they grew too closely involved with the White Queen?

It was said the development of art was always closely connected to religious motifs. It was also said the evolution of life required a harsh environment. The presence of the White Queen may have fulfilled both roles in human society.

Just like the animals that learned to wield fire became humans.

Just like the armies that equipped themselves with iron built great kingdoms.

’’Looking back at the battle in the harbor, Guard of Honor might have several skilled summoners on the Award 800 and 900 level.’’ Aika expressed her thoughts as a part of a large organization. ’’The exact number of members is unknown. Is it dozens, hundreds, or thousands? We don't even know that. That means Government can't do anything until we've gathered some accurate data.’’

’’Of course not,’’ said Lu Niang Lan, the modified China dress beauty. ’’You might only be planning to mop them up quickly, but you could carelessly trigger a much longer fight. And while you're struggling there, it would be a real tragedy if one of the other groups stabbed you from the side. The world's power balance could truly be rewritten, so none of the organizations are going to act. In fact, they might focus on keeping an eye on each other, hoping one of the others will overplay their hand.’’

Their opponent would be planning to use that chaos to its fullest. The battle in the harbor and the escape of the Meinokawa sisters had both been unexpected events for Guard of Honor, so they would probably try to end this quickly, before any leaked information could harm them.

’’The White Queen, huh?’’ spat out Kyousuke.

Everyone there fell silent. From the lowest rookie to the topmost expert, almost any summoner knew that name and even respected it in some way. However, its meaning changed entirely coming from that boy's mouth.

’’In Government, Illegal, and Freedom, her popularity exceeds even the Three and reaches the level of worship. ...There's even a wooden statue of her at our shrine as the unofficial second god.’’

The White Queen was almost certainly the focus of Guard of Honor.

With enough skill, the Queen became more than something to look up to. She became something one could actually summon. She became an achievable legend. And then they could teach a lesson to every other summoner and vessel.

She was a symbol of strength.

She was a symbol of beauty.

And most of all, she was a symbol of righteousness. She was an overwhelming symbol that those concepts and statuses could be acquired by brute force.

’’As the Guard of Honor that protects the Queen, decorates her, and performs her ceremony, they intend to permanently keep her here for themselves, using a form of the Control method. They want to use a special summoning method different from the standard time-limited Blood-Sign method,’’ spat out Kyousuke. ’’That Sewn Realm Summoning is the method I once used successfully.’’

The modern summoning ceremony using the Incense Grenade and Blood-Sign was the most certain and simplified summoning technique that required the least preparation. It did not require a sacrifice or a temple built over centuries and it allowed one to freely control any monster, god, or even those who existed beyond that. It could be seen as the ultimate technique.

But it was a little too convenient.

Everyone could equally summon any Material, so there was no clear concept of enemy or ally.

That was why some would look at it in reverse.

’’What a ridiculous desire,’’ muttered the boy while his eyes seemed to focus on the past. ’’The Materials leave your hand after every battle, so it's a lot like wanting to seal them inside a card and collect them. ...It's a truly one-on-one summoning ceremony that doesn't allow any interference from anyone else. If you could put a collar on the monster, summon it whenever you wanted, and send it away whenever you wanted, that would be the same as an eternal summoning that ignored the ten minute time limit. And the ability to summon it at will would eliminate the risk of the Material killing you in your sleep.’’

’’Hm? But Onii-chan, isn't there something wrong with that?’’

’’Yes. There's a hole in that concept of monopolizing a Material. In this case, the summoner could call the White Queen between the two worlds at will, as if pulling a lever, but even if she had a collar, another summoner could still summon her with the Blood-Sign method while she's waiting in the other world.’’

’’Then what does Guard of Honor want to do? There's still a risk of being attacked by the White Queen, right? If that doesn't change, wouldn't the current method work just as well?’’

’’But isn't that exactly what the traditional priests did?’’ Kyousuke sounded fed up with it all. ’’They respectfully bowed to their god while looking down on and ordering around the common folk. They called themselves the gatekeepers of miracles and built temples or cathedrals to make themselves even more special. But the gods themselves were protecting the civilization and the world as a whole. There are legends of gods exceeding the bounds of the church or temple and saving the common folk. Even so, the priests would insist they are the standard, no matter what anyone might say.’’

’’Kyousuke-chan. Are you saying Guard of Honor would simply overlook it if the White Queen's power was leaking out to others? They would claim to have the strongest bond and insist those others are getting carried away, even if those excuses are no practical help whatsoever?’’

Lu Niang Lan's voice contained strong hints of doubt and confusion, but that may have been because the way priests felt joy in serving a supreme being did not fit with how summoners wielded those gods as tools and weapons. Even if she was an exception among exceptions who defeated her enemies without summoning a single Material herself.

’’I don't know since I'm not one of them. But based on what Azalea and the White Queen were saying, they intend to provide her with true freedom and serve her as soon as they complete their Control method.’’

’’What!? They're causing all this trouble to put a collar on the White Queen, but their final objective is to release her and have her step on them!?’’

’’Well, the harder it is for normal people to understand a desire, the stronger some will crave it.’’

’’That sounds pretty dangerous coming from someone with those lumps of fat on her chest.’’

’’It sounds nice and clean coming from you, Aika. Then again, it might be even less of a laughing matter with that slender frame of yours.’’

Kyousuke cut in to drive the point home.

’’Unless we actually peer into their hearts, we can't know whether this is actually what they want or if it's just an excuse allowing them to ignore their more depraved desires.’’

Renge still had trouble accepting this and that may have led her to nitpick Shiroyama Kyousuke's opinion.

’’Truly one-on-one... Summoning and sending them away at will...’’ She seemed to groan the terms below her breath. ’’Th-this framework of a Sewn Realm Summoning and the Control method may be new, but it feels more like taking a step backwards. Isn't that the same as the magic circle summonings in picture books?’’

’’Yes. Ideologically, it's like the First Summoning Ceremony. Technique-wise, it's like the Second Summoning Ceremony,’’ agreed Kyousuke. ’’But no one has actually taken that to a usable level.’’

’’Eh?’’

’’The gods of legend appear to protect some group, be it a tribe, a village, a nation, a continent, or all mankind. Contracts with an individual are almost unheard of. There are some extreme exceptions like the Annunciation, but in that case, the god was selecting the appropriate human. Cases where the human chooses the god and makes an exclusive contract are a different matter altogether.’’

’’Now that...you mention it...’’

’’Then what about demons summoned with a piece of parchment? Humans can summon them, but anyone can summon them. After the contract fails or is completed, the demon searches for the next human. That lacks uniqueness. I'm talking about a purely exclusive contract that's something like a marriage. It's bound between two individuals and then no one else can summon it, even the summoner's children or grandchildren. ...That dream is pure enough to be drawn in picture books, but that pure beauty is something that cannot be achieved by human hands.’’

’’Um, Kyousuke-chan. I don't think that would function as a proper system of techniques. If no one can inherit it, it has no way to spread.’’

’’That's right. If that succeeded, mankind would never be able to summon that Material again once the summoner's lifespan came to an end. That's one thing that Solomon's 72 did well. Those secret techniques were built up into a workable system, but that's also why they ultimately spread as standard fortune telling and good luck charms.’’

Even Kyousuke's original Sewn Realm Summoning had not fully bound the White Queen, so the risk of other summoners summoning her beyond that framework had remained. Not even he had been able to cross that boundary into the ’’unexplored’’.

’’But even as a group, Guard of Honor can't reach what you once completed, right?’’

Lu Niang Lan worked to keep her voice cheerful and Kyousuke stopped to think for a moment.

’’Yes, they will fail. And even if they fail, this will cause great damage, but...’’

He trailed off there.

Something there filled even Alice (with) Rabbit with a feeling of hesitation. He was likely overpowered by a specific example of that ’’great damage’’.

As if taking a detour around a blocked road, Aika changed the subject.

’’According to Government's official report, a luxury cruise ship called the Princess Azalea is docked here at Toy Dream 35.’’

’’Oh, dear. I'm surprised Quad Motors actually provided you with that information.’’

’’They refused at first, but they decided this was too much to cover up. ...It has 1500 beds, the ship itself is made of Repliglass, and it can travel around the world while barely needing to resupply because it extracts the silicon materials dissolved in the seawater.’’

’’Do you think that's their base?’’

’’It would probably be faster to ask Kyousuke-chan,’’ said Lu Niang Lan.

Everyone's focus turned to Shiroyama Kyousuke as he slowly opened his mouth.

’’If they took the same path as me, they drew on the image of the fairy's spring. That would be the type in picture books with the gold and silver axes. That lets you freely summon a supernatural being from another world and have them grant your wish. It's an extremely restricted contact point for humans. And conveniently, Toy Dream 35 is a type of ocean city, so it has plenty of water. If they brought in their giant ship, they could make whatever secret preparations they wanted inside.’’

But then he made a reversal and began rejecting the idea.

’’But I don't think it's the ship. If the mobile cruise ship was their base, they wouldn't need to do anything inside Toy Dream 35 itself. The Princess Azalea probably isn't what we're looking for.’’

’’You don't have any...evidence of that, do you?’’

’’I have no proof,’’ he bluntly admitted. ’’But the White Queen stands at the top of Guard of Honor. Even if she talks about it in roundabout and majestic codes that only those in the know would understand, she really only thinks about me. She might be making grand commands and manipulating Guard of Honor's summoners, but there's really no logic behind it. ...She only wants me to pay attention to her, so she's only thinking about where she can lure me.’’

’’It surprised me back then, but why is she so obsessed with you? In fact, if she's head over heels for you, can't you just ask her end all this?’’

’’Give up on that idea. And that isn't the best way of describing it. The only thing the White Queen is in love with is love. It may look like she's chosen me, but that's because I'm tougher and harder to break than other people. I'm not stupid enough to try to control her when she could 'wake up' at any moment.’’

Kyousuke and the White Queen knew each other, so they likely understand how the other thought better than anyone else.

No matter what emotions those thoughts were based on.

’’So in the opinion of the great Shiroyama Kyousuke, what location seems most suspect to you?’’

’’The staff only areas,’’ he immediately responded. ’’Toy Dream 35 is a city-sized amusement park, but they need to construct a great number of systems to protect its image of hopes and dreams: trash collection, staff transportation, and covertly moving celebrities to avoid a commotion. ...There's probably a spider web of hidden passageways not opened to the public for a variety of reasons.’’

Quad Motors' Repliglass was a blessing in many areas of life, but the largest one was construction and underground excavation technology. The development of equipment modeled after bugs that lived underground like earthworms and earwigs had brought an end to the days when tunnels or dams took decades to build. If the earth's environment were to be ruined by global warming or pollution, some specialists were suggesting it would be faster to dig underground than to escape to the moon or Mars. Swimsuit Girl Aika spoke in a monotone voice.

’’Technically, that spider web of staff only passageways runs from one end of this ultra high-rise city to the other on multiple levels and while complexly intersecting, so it covers a distance of more than three million kilometers in all. There are about two hundred thousand residents and an estimated fifteen million tourists. About nine thousand tons of trash are produced and five thousand forty-foot containers of goods and materials are shipped in every day. That's the problem with relying on external agricultural and industry in order to help out the local area. And including part-time and full-time workers, the staff is made up of approximately twenty thousand people. All of this personnel and equipment has to be smoothly moved in and out without the guests seeing and the staff needs the infrastructure to eat, take breaks, and take showers.’’

’’In other words, something that vast is boldly hidden from view. Looking at pure surface area, you could probably say there's another entire city coexisting with Toy Dream 35.’’

Modern summoners like Kyousuke used the Incense Grenade to create an Artificial Sacred Ground, but a natural sacred ground was a location where the beings of legend could naturally appear.

But due to the spread of the internet and civilian satellites, it turned out those mysterious spaces that normal people naturally avoided were far less common than anyone had imagined.

’’So the underside of a massive amusement park has become a modern sacred ground. It's a place you can't see inside by punching the name into a search engine or booting up a map or satellite app. And it's a rare space where everyone accepts that and in fact prefers not seeing it.’’

’’Now that you mention it, you're right. ...Looking at it like that, this place is far more twisted than some strangely discounted real estate or a ghost tunnel.’’

’’Everyone knows it's there, but everyone turns a blind eye because they don't want to ruin the dream. They'll irresponsibly spread rumors about it containing a giant underground casino that uses illegal rates or hidden passageways for human traffickers that kidnap babies, but maybe that's because normal people naturally want to keep their distance.’’

’’I get it now. That might be why Guard of Honor was pursuing me so intently,’’ groaned Shrine Maiden Renge. ’’If those staff only passageways and facilities are their base, then I was looking right at it. That's exactly what I was using to hide after escaping from the harbor.’’

’’Twenty thousand staff members use those passageways every day, but they might not be able to recognize the symbols of the summoning ceremony. ...That would change if a professional summoner peeked inside, though.’’

Guard of Honor may have feared Renge had seen their grand plan, so they had made sure to hunt her down.

That was why even former Government Award 930, Golden Luxury, had been sent after her.

’’Guard of Honor's goal must be to remake that vast staff only space into a sacred ground for the White Queen. That would indeed let them escape the yoke of the Incense Grenade and its Artificial Sacred Ground.’’

’’But that might not be all,’’ said Kyousuke.

’’The modern summoning ceremony is a method to safety, surely, and swiftly summon those 'not of this world',’’ said Swimsuit Girl Aika. ’’So just like a tanka or haiku, all the waste has been shaved away, leaving no room for anything else. Forcing in anything else will distort the whole.’’

Modified China Dress Lu Niang Lan sighed.

’’We have no idea if that sacred ground would last for a minute or a century, but Kyousuke-chan said before that the Sewn Realm Summoning is not bound by the rules of the Blood-Sign method. And this will be the abnormal monster known as the White Queen going on a rampage. Kyousuke-chan, give it to us straight. How bad is this compared to normal?’’

’’Yes, I stopped before, but I guess I should tell you.’’ Kyousuke spoke carefully. ’’I don't know how accurate their Sewn Realm Summoning is, but whatever the case, they're trying to construct a 'spring' using the entire ocean bordering Toy Dream 35. In that case, the White Queen's influence will cover the entire ocean. Just like the spring the fairy comes from is known as the fairy's spring.’’

’’The entire ocean? Are you saying the whole city will turn into a deadly region of sea?’’

’’By entire, I meant the entire thing. In the worst case, it would cover every ocean on earth.’’

Kyousuke's words caused not just Renge but even Aika and Lu Niang Lan to freeze up a little.

’’The White Queen is something like a black hole that distorts time and space. Keeping that in this world by illegitimate means will drag countless other Materials, both large and small, in with her. With me, it was localized, so we somehow managed to bring it to an end. But if her influence spread to the seven seas, there would be nothing mankind could do. Even if only the smallest theoretical number appeared, the history of primates would probably meet an untimely end.’’

’’It'd be that bad?’’ Renge was dumbfounded. ’’But...it's the White Queen, isn't it? Everyone relies on her and she's being summoned in important wars all over the world, right? How could summoning her just once bring about the end of the world?’’

’’Oh, none of this would happen if she's summoned normally,’’ replied Kyousuke. ’’The Blood-Sign method uses the Incense Grenade, vessel, Petals, and White Thorns like it's a sport. Anyone can start it, but truly achieving victory is complicated and roundabout. To someone without any real skill, it would probably look like what Material is summoned comes down to pure chance. But all of those steps and decorations are safety measures. If you mess with that black box without knowing why it's there, you'll only have the critical vulnerabilities leftover. ...And that could be enough to destroy the world.’’

’’Does Guard of Honor know about that?’’

’’At the very least, Azalea didn't seem to. She questioned why the Rose used twenty-six letters instead of twenty-two, but it didn't look like she had dug into it any further.’’

What if Materials not controlled by a summoner and vessel endlessly overflowed into this world?

They might directly prey on mankind until humans went extinct, they might ignore the humans altogether, or they might create friendships using a method other than the modern summoning ceremony.

The only certainty was that the existing peace held together by the existing countries would be destroyed in the blink of an eye by the creatures that crawled up from the ocean. In that period of chaos, national borders and currencies would collapse and some percentage of the human race would be lost due to the intense chaos and famine.

’’What does Guard of Honor want to do?’’ muttered Renge, looking like her senses had numbed over. ’’The Control method? They don't care who summons her, but they want to be the chosen servants who serve her before anyone else? But what do they hope to gain by getting so close to the White Queen?’’

’’I doubt they're even thinking about what happens after they meet her,’’ spat out Kyousuke. ’’The accomplishment is their goal, so they aren't thinking about what happens after they arrive in heaven. According to the Queen, their Control system is meant to create an environment where they can hold audiences with her as the chosen servants while ignoring the slight holes in that system. But as I said before, we don't know if that's what they actually want or if they're turning a blind eye to some other desire. It's also possible they themselves aren't aware of that other desire. If that's the case, they'll be unable to control it and will be swallowed up without ever knowing what it was.’’

’’...’’

Renge fell silent.

Not because she found that creepy. It was because she sympathized with them just a tiny bit.

That may have been because she was a shrine maiden instead of a pure summoner.

The intense popularity of the White Queen and a longing for her strength were common to all summoners. Renge herself could not remember where that had come from. She had stepped onto that path without realizing it and that path was precisely what led to the driving force that had driven Guard of Honor mad.

There was no special staring point.

Everyone stood on that path, the question was whether they walked down it or not. That was the only difference.

’’I also think they believe the White Queen will solve every problem in the world. Probably some convenient belief that she'll exterminate all of the monsters covering this planet.’’

But Kyousuke thought the White Queen might truly be capable of that.

That was because he knew the true threat she posed, not just the legends.

However...

(She would never care what happens to the world or to mankind.)

The insane retainers had an insane queen.

He grimaced because he felt like he had caught a glimpse of who his enemy truly was.

’’They're twisted in two ways.’’

To know something was not always a positive thing.

’’First, Guard of Honor has been driven mad by the White Queen and will do anything to please her. And second, the White Queen doesn't care in the slightest about those people she's driven mad. ...It's frightening because the gears don't fit together. No negotiations, persuasion, or threats will work here. They'll continue on forever in their madness.’’

Whatever the case, they had no time.

And currently, the only ones who could stop the White Queen and Guard of Honor was this group centered on Shiroyama Kyousuke.

After all, every last one of the codes, symbols, signs, commands, documents, and other suggestive statements was nothing more than the White Queen playing around.

Everything was set up so the first thing Shiroyama Kyousuke would think of would be of utmost importance.



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