Mitou Shoukan://Blood-Sign - Volume 5 - Chapter 3
Stage 03: The Door to Hell, Who Will Unlock It?
’’It'll be okay.’’
’’It'll be okay.’’
(Stage 03 Open 11/12 17:00 ’’Outbreak of the War (Critical Point)’’)
The Door to Hell, Who Will Unlock It?
Another month passed.
The season had changed from fall to winter.
But that may not have mattered much at the tropical wandering land or in the perfectly air conditioned underground world.
At some point, that vast space's name had changed.
Now everyone called it the Queen's Miniature Garden.
It was an official change at this point. No one paid any attention to the initial Fifteen Siblings Project. Not Kyousuke and the other children and not the adults who managed the official facilities. Everyone had been blinded by the unbelievable discovery of the White Queen.
Even if they failed to slowly complete those 15, they could achieve their goal with the Queen.
Or perhaps saving the human race no longer mattered to them.
The adults had stopped even looking at the Relective Graph.
This was not just distracted driving;they were not even holding the steering wheel.
And it went without saying what had happened to the lines representing the depths of their bonds.
There were even strange rumors about the Cheshire Cat spending every night making strange surprise attacks or the Queen of Hearts reaching out to the injured workers to create worshipers.
’’Is something the matter, brother?’’
In the cafeteria, the Queen herself asked a puzzled question while holding a spoon in her fist and doing battle with a large bowl of cereal and milk. It was hard to tell if she really did not know how to use a knife and fork or if she simply wanted Kyousuke to look after her.
Kyousuke realized his own tastes had changed while eating with her.
Or rather, he was a precision guided missile that constantly made ’’corrections’’ as he approached his target. He had never been someone fixated on the act of ingesting nutrients.
He hid everything and smiled vaguely.
(...It'll be okay.)
He did not know what he was hoping for, but he still held those words in his heart.
He felt like a prisoner waiting for his execution. Nothing happening did not bring him peace. The heads of the three major powers were observing everything and they could decide to take this lifestyle from him at any time. And he knew that time was coming eventually.
Once the go sign was given for killing the Queen, the Miniature Garden and the wandering land on the surface would instantly become the world's harshest battlefield. One side was the leaders of the three major powers and elite summoners and vessels gathered from around the world. On the other side was the strongest of the strongest who towered over everyone at the top of the Unexplored-class. After a direct clash between those sides, it would be difficult to keep things as they were. All of this was an egg that would hatch into great justice. But once it broke, it was obvious what would happen to the puny lives clinging to the shell.
How could he say it would be okay when he was one of those pushing it in that direction?
He had done nothing to protect the 15 or the White Queen.
He still could not see where he really stood here, but he clenched his teeth and made a wish.
He truly wished with all his might.
(It'll be okay. No matter what happens below the surface, nothing can happen as long as I have exclusive access to the Queen. No matter how tense the atmosphere grows, it won't lead to tragedy as long as it doesn't explode.)
It was almost impressively comical.
It was like he was desperately working to deny the doomsday written of in a book of prophecy.
No matter how much he tried to twist the meaning into what he wanted, he could not change the words as they were written.
’’Promise me. I know you might be sick of this after so many times, but please.’’
’’Yes, of course. I will say it as many times as you want, brother.’’
The White Queen giggled and raised her right hand for the vow.
’’I will not hurt anyone. If that is the condition I most follow to stay with you, then I will throw out my position as the strongest or as the peak by fully disarming myself.’’
But he knew deep down that this would not last forever.
By avoiding an explosion, the internal pressure would only continue to grow.
And it would eventually reach the point that it would produce an unthinkable disaster.
Kyousuke was worried.
He was worried beyond belief and had trouble breathing.
’’It'll be okay.’’
Kyousuke could not bring himself to mention the details and only bit his lip, but Shigara Masami told him that in her examination room. When she wore the entirely unnecessary stethoscope, it was a sign that she was willing to let him consult with her.
But her words were meant differently from Kyousuke's good luck charm.
The Government developer known as Madam Professor had more to say.
’’It's true something hideous is underway in this Miniature Garden. And it is sure to eventually be discovered and develop into a great disaster.’’
She did not forcibly reject anything.
She was saying it would be okay despite it.
’’I didn't have the power to stop it on my own. In fact, if I had tried to stop it by force, it would have destroyed the barely-maintained balance and brought disaster to the forefront right away. So I may have no right to act like I know what I'm talking about here.’’
’’What does that mean...?’’
Did she have some connection to the plan to kill the Queen?
Was she really only a developer in the Miniature Garden?
’’But it'll be okay. Humans might have a weak side, but they also have a strong side. Things might be tending toward the evil side and we might be drowning ourselves in a vast ocean, but we will notice at the last second. We will notice and stop ourselves. Because humans have both the power to continue on and the power to stop.’’
She did not get into the details, but she was not running away from it either.
It felt like she understood things on an even deeper level than Kyousuke and yet decided it was best not to discuss it. But this did not come from a shallow pride in the advantage she held by knowing what he did not. Her words contained the human warmth that he had nearly forgotten and that he had thought had withered away within the Miniature Garden.
He had to ask.
’’...Was it you?’’
’’Were the tarot cards your decision? Did you see **** as someone who dove into this 'other world' from her original world and did you think we could control her in that framework if we all approached her properly? No, did you think we would be able to end this without killing her...?’’
Shigara Masami smiled gently.
But she did not nod or shake her head.
’’Don't forget, Kyousuke-kun. I might look like a saint to you. You might find yourself relying on me because of my obvious kindness. But this isn't anything special. It isn't something that can only exist inside a chosen person. This is an emotion that everyone should have.’’
’’For example, do you know the head of security, Elvesta Toydream?’’
He could not answer.
The guards all wore gas masks and hid their bodylines with explosion-resistant jackets, so their se*es and ages were unclear. And due to their heavy equipment, their gaits and mannerisms seemed inhuman and hard to read. It would be difficult to distinguish one from another.
Shigara Masami laughed before continuing.
’’He is the heir to the Toy Dream Company, a giant entertainment corporation, but the more he studies fairy tales, the more they frighten him. He is a summoner who will eventually oppose that kingdom of dreams and fantasy. ...But he enjoys making sweets and he is never satisfied with a cake until he decorates it with a chocolate plate or a sugar sculpture doll.’’
’’Ah,’’ said Kyousuke in his T-shirt and shorts.
They had sometimes found mystery desserts in the kitchen refrigerator. He remembered Biondetta and Kyoumi fighting over them back when things had been more normal. No matter how evenly it was divided, the battle over the sugar sculpture doll would never end. Even though the white chocolate plate saying ’’Eat Me’’ actually tasted better.
’’Do you see now? There are things you don't know because you can't see them, but that doesn't mean those people have no kindness. I believe anyone can convert their kindness into strength. Even if they seem to be making everything worse like Akura Taisaku. So it'll be okay, Kyousuke-kun. You can't assume that this is your only safe space. That rejection will cloud your vision and actively make things worse.’’
She had never said who had decided on the tarot cards and added in a trick to try to save the White Queen.
But even if he did not know their name or what they looked like, they did exist. Someone had hoped for that and acted on it. Someone like that existed inside the greedy group of both adults and children who were influenced by the Queen's power.
Shiroyama Kyousuke was not alone.
The environment could hardly be worse, the 15 and the White Queen were about to burst, and Kyousuke himself was part of the group that had set things in that direction, but there was someone praying for a future that matched his own hopes. A future where no one was hurt and everyone was smiling.
Kyousuke decided to figure this out a bit at a time.
He did not know what was driving this nearly hopeless situation.
He wanted to oppose the 15 who were tumbling down and he wanted to oppose the truly powerful who were working to kill the White Queen. It did not matter how ridiculous, hopeless, or unrealistic it was. He still wanted to try for a path where no one had to fall and where everyone, including the Queen, could be together.
He wanted everyone to understand each other.
He wanted to lend them his strength.
He would not be fighting the adults of the Miniature Garden. He would refuse to fight a war against the truly powerful. He just wanted to speak with everyone some more.
Did they really have to acquire the White Queen?
Did they really have to kill the White Queen?
Was there really no other way?
After throwing out all their preconceptions, couldn't they search again for a resolution that satisfied everyone?
’’...I want a boat.’’
Kyousuke's words sounded like a joke.
Shigara Masami tilted her head and he continued.
’’Even if the world ends today and every last continent sinks into the ocean, I want to be able to pull everyone back up. So I want a boat.’’
’’Ah ha ha! If you really want one, you can order any boat you want over the internet. Kyousuke-kun, how long has it been since you arrived here? You might not be aware of it, but your electronic bank account must have quite a fortune inside. ...Since we've been doing so many awful things to you.’’
’’So what will you do? If you really haven't touched your account at all... Wow! With a fishing boat, you could head out for some deep-sea fishing!! But that might not be the best idea. Oh, what about a cruiser? They're pretty fashionable.’’
She made a variety of suggestions while checking various websites.
She seemed to be enjoying the search more than she cared about the boat itself.
Speaking with her made him feel like he was walking into a hypothetical future. His imagination spread its wings and he felt like he slipped into a parallel world.
’’Oh, what a pretty white boat. So what are you going to call it?’’
After filling in all the data needed to register it, Shigara Masami asked him that.
Kyousuke thought for a bit in his T-shirt and shorts.
And he made a choice that proved he was prepared to throw out all of his preconceptions.
’’The White Queen. That would be perfect.’’
He would not be her enemy any longer.
Shiroyama Kyousuke would live alongside that name.
(After all, she's the one that stopped it.)
He quietly thought to himself.
He thought about the days when they had pretended to fight to the death in the round Mock Battlefield. The Jabberwock, Humpty Dumpy, and the Hatter had sent their Materials after each other, torn away each other's dignity, and looked down on each other. Those days had gone away when the White Queen had arrived.
(I mean, she hasn't done anything wrong!)
The Queen of Hearts and the Hatter were definitely feeling cornered.
But that was an issue with how they interacted with her. If they did not think of the White Queen as someone to outdo in some way or another, then their pride would not be hurt. Kyousuke could tell because he could approach her like normal. It was not about telling them to break their fangs or pull out their claws. If they stopped thinking that strength was everything, the Queen would not wear at their hearts. That was all there was to it.
(I mean, all of the damage around the world until now only happened because people failed to summon her in her perfect form!!)
The plan to kill the Queen was meant to stop the disasters occurring around the world, but those were the result of the supposedly intelligent people who tried to summon her with insufficient knowledge or techniques. So didn't the fault lie with those people for not adding in safety measures, rather than with the Queen? They could not even control her fingertip or one of her hairs, but they arrogantly thought they could control her in her entirety. If not for that, they might have been able to smoothly stand in the same field as Kyousuke.
In that case, what was there?
What reason was there for the White Queen to be killed!?
Kyousuke's shoulders jumped when his name was called.
Madam Professor's eyes seemed to see right through him.
But she only spoke with a thin smile.
’’I don't know what's on your mind, but I like that look on your face. If you were 10 years older, I might have fallen for you.’’
’’I can't see directly into people's hearts, but that isn't a look people get with something bad in their heart. If you need something, just tell me. I'll do everything I can to support you.’’
He wanted to tell her everything.
But he was a liar, he had deceived everyone, and he had failed to tell anyone that the entire Miniature Garden was a grand farce.
So he silently steeled his resolve.
And he thought to himself again.
What did it matter if he was trapped between a rock and a hard place?
He would not let anyone hurt the White Queen.
He would save everyone: the people in the Miniature Garden, the truly powerful who were watching from outside, the summoners and vessels gathered from around the world, and even the Queen who was closest and yet farthest away.
He would end this chain of fruitless conflict.
He swore it.
(There has to be at least one person.)
He knew it was foolish.
But if he did not create a foothold here, the world would never open up for him.
(There has to be one giant idiot who's arrogant enough to wish to be a king of not killing!!)
He recalled the very first tarot card.
Yes, the Fool led to the truth of the world.
(This isn't about her strongest power or her charisma. There has to be at least one person who just wants to be with the Queen and just wants to make her one of his friends!!)
In the darkness hidden a thin layer away, someone muttered two simple words.
They had happened to hear a wish that could never be.
They knew the boy could not shake this desire even though he knew it was ridiculous and that this hesitation would reduce his lifespan on the battlefield.
So they spoke with both irritation and sorrow in their voice.
Those words contained the pain of readily accepting something oneself while having it rejected by someone else.
Not even Kyousuke knew what was to blame.
With renewed resolve, he left Shigara Masami's lab and started back toward his living space in the Inner Circle, but he ran across doom along the way.
It began as a quiet voice.
It was only a small vibration through a door that a normal person might not have even noticed.
’’Passing between worlds is truly inconvenient.’’
The voice brought as much of a shock as a surprise blow to the heart.
(The White Queen? Why!?)
He looked to the door again. This was the Outer Circle where the adults lived and that was a room he had snuck into once before. It was the lab belonging to Akura Taisaku, the developer who had tried to create the strongest summoner by tuning the Hatter.
But the Queen supposedly could not communicate with anyone but Kyousuke.
He was utterly baffled as the voice reached his ears through the door again.
’’As I stand at the very peak, calling for me is not easy. That would place a great burden on you, brother.’’
’’I simply wish to remain by your side like this, brother.’’
What was this?
Both the voice itself and what it was saying made no sense.
With the completion of the Sewn Realm Summoning, the White Queen did not need to worry about the difficulty or time limit of summoning her. Everyone was aware of those conditions, but they were stripped away for a conversation even more meaningless than a lone spinning gear.
Yes, it was a conversation.
Another voice answered the queen's disconcerting one.
Surprisingly, it was identical to Shiroyama Kyousuke's own voice.
’’I don't think you should just have to obey the summoner's orders just because you're a Material.’’
’’I want to hear so much more of what you have to say. I want to hear your thoughts in their purest form.’’
’’After all, we're comrades who place our lives in each other's hands.’’
Why? What was going on?
Inside Kyousuke's confusion was a horrible - truly horrible - icy core that would not melt even in the warmest light. And those thoughts of absolute zero mocked that surface confusion.
Kyousuke, you really do understand, don't you?
Your biggest weakness is that you're not stupid enough to claim you don't understand.
He had trouble breathing.
He could not reach this answer. It was too sinful to even put together as a mental theory. And he certainly could not even think about the possibility that it had been acted on.
He would truly - truly, truly - start to hate them.
He was prepared to reach an understanding with everyone, work hand in hand, and escape this dead-end situation.
But that resolve was shattering!!
’’It's no longer restricted to ten minutes or to a battle. You can really summon me whenever and however you like.’’
’’Ah ha ha. Now I can go play with you whenever I want! I can give you anything I want!!’’
He wanted to deny it, but he could not.
So he could not hold back any longer.
He did not bother unlocking the door and cracking it open to peek inside. He kicked the door down. The thick door had a double digit number of locks installed along the side, but every last one of them broke and the door really did collapse into the room.
The Queen was inside.
And of course, there was not a second Shiroyama Kyousuke inside.
A gloomy man in a jumpsuit sat in front of the Queen.
Akura Taisaku glanced Kyousuke's way and spoke in a voice nothing like his own. It was the soprano of a boy whose voice had yet to change.
’’Queen, this is dangerous. Get behind me.’’
Secret rooms had been created all over the Miniature Garden.
The adults and even the 15 siblings had stopped communicating.
Then what were they so obsessed with that they would stay closed in their rooms?
’’Queen, come here. Today I'll teach you how to play billiards.’’
’’Oh. You'll really do that for me, brother!?’’
This was the answer.
Akura Taisaku did not have the White Queen to himself.
That would not explain this.
After all, the White Queen had been with Shiroyama Kyousuke the entire time.
’’Queen, you have something in your hair. Let me get it for you.’’
’’Thank you so much, brother!’’
So his initial assumption had been wrong.
He had been wrong to assume that the concept of an alibi applied to the White Queen.
She was simply too great a being, so even if she was a single being, nothing said that more than one temporary version could not appear on the stage.
There was a precedent:
Unexplored-class. Sound Range: None. Cost: 21.
The ’’Black’’ Maw that Swallows All (nu - lp - eu - bf - zuh - ei - jkv - iu - a - xw).
That Unexplored-class used the exact same letters in a different order. That frightening Material appeared as a penalty in the Summoning Ceremony and mercilessly devoured all rule breakers. It was the same being as the White Queen while also behaving as a distinct life form.
’’What should we eat today, Queen?’’
’’Eh heh heh. Anything's fine as long as I'm eating it with you, brother!’’
So if the conditions were right, the White Queen could be divided. She could be split apart.
And they would each begin to function as a unique White Queen.
Didn't Lewis Carroll's story have Alice temporarily take on a new role when the Guide Rabbit mistook her for his maidservant and gave her a new name?
’’Queen, will you promise me you'll never leave me alone?’’
’’Of course! Even if it means making an enemy of the entire world, I will always walk by your side, brother!!’’
And Lewis Carroll's world did not have just the one rabbit.
The Guide Rabbit was the most famous, but there was more than the one rabbit named in the story.
In other words...
’’Then we'll always be together, Queen.’’
’’Yes, yes! Let's walk together forever! No matter where it takes us!!’’
They were whispering.
In each of their rooms, they were whispering to their own White Queen.
The Hatter, the Jabberwock, the Queen of Hearts, Humpty Dumpy, the Duchess, the Dodo, the Cheshire Cat, etc.
All of them were.
Multiple rabbit voices spoke...all identical to Kyousuke's voice.
’’I'm so happy, Queen.’’
’’Yes, yes! You have no idea how happy it makes me to hear that...!!’’
If they could not take her for themselves, they would use her as she was.
It did not matter if she was only loyal to Shiroyama Kyousuke. They would trample on her good will and deceive her.
They would fool the White Queen's gentle feelings and control her through her good will.
That was the greatest evil.
That was the truth of Operation March Hare.
His vision...no, his mind went dark.
An intense urge to vomit filled his rattled brain.
Kyousuke could barely stand on his own two feet as he faced that hopeless malice.
He stepped into Akura Taisaku's lab.
He had known what he would find inside. He really had.
But the shock was so great that he found himself screaming.
Pain exploded in his throat like he was tearing it apart.
Tears poured from his eyes and the nightmare before him blurred, but it never disappeared.
This was horrible.
It was too much.
It was true the White Queen was not human. She was the peak of the peak and nothing more than the strongest who would destroy any balance. But how did that justify trampling on her gentle feelings? He had no right to say that when he had deceived her to get close and assassinate her. He was well aware of that. But he could not help but feel that this was absolutely wrong.
They were tricking her good will.
They were preventing her empty eyes from seeing the true image.
She smiled without knowing who it was next to her and she simply had her power extracted from her. How was that acceptable? Could he really accept that!?
They were deceiving her.
They were all deceiving her.
If he could see the Relective Graph of their bonds, his own line would surely be going nuts far removed from the others.
He was the biggest offender of them all, so he might have no right to criticize them. They might send his criticism right back at him. But that was not the point. With the White Queen, he had thought they could all come together. If they interacted with her properly, he had believed the 15 and the adults could avoid being influenced by her. And yet...what was this? They were not just being influenced by accident. Even Biondetta and Kyoumi were rejoicing as they used the White Queen through deceit. There was nothing as warm as trust here.
She was simply the strongest.
Nothing more than the strongest.
They had focused on her simple and hopelessly great strength instead of the warmer and softer things!!
The White Queen's head slowly turned and her hopeless eyes pierced Kyousuke.
No, what did this look like to her?
Akura Taisaku had control over her, so if he ordered it, she would likely bare her fangs against Kyousuke while entirely oblivious to what she was doing. She was the peak of the Unexplored-class and the strongest of the strongest. Without a protective circle, he would be turned to dust by even one of her hairs.
He could not win.
He simply could not win and he would die here.
No, you know the truth, don't you?
Otherwise, why would you have bothered kicking down that locked door?
He heard the whispers of the icy core deep in his head.
What was about to happen slowly dawned on him.
You couldn't forgive him. You must have wished to tear it all down and drive it all to failure.
So that is exactly what will happen. Everything will follow your desires...your calculations.
It happened only a moment later.
It was like a thin, thin circuit had fried.
While accurately locked onto him, the White Queen's eyes returned to normal. She tilted her head in the adult's lab, looked to her hands, and then looked around the room.
The man's smile was stiff, but he had yet to abandon hope. He spoke in an unnatural soprano voice.
’’Strange. This shouldn't be. Hey, Queen, you can hear me, can't you!? Look at me and tell me who I am!!’’
And the White Queen answered with those eyes.
Those horribly cold eyes were the same ones that had been locked onto Kyousuke in his T-shirt and shorts.
’’Who are you?’’
The world was dyed in red and black.
Something broke inside Kyousuke.
That could no longer be called a person. Even calling it someone's remains seemed suspect. It was only a dark red paste staining the walls, the floor, and the ceiling.
The Queen had done that.
She had crossed a line.
There was no going back now. It had only been a feeble hope, but he had been planning a different path that threw out the impossible task of killing the Queen and talked it out with everyone instead. But that possibility was snuffed out before his eyes.
He found himself screaming.
As if to reject anything and everything, he tore at his hair and ran aimlessly. Again and again, he tripped or ran into walls, but he did not have it in him to complain about the pain.
Another voice rang in his mind.
The icy core was laughing.
Isn't that great? It went just the way you wanted.
Aren't you glad she chose the real one over the fake?
Now the White Queen's power belongs only to you. You alone are special.
No, there are still plenty more fools borrowing your voice to steal away your honeymoon.
’’Stop, dammit, stop! That's not what I wanted!! It's not!! What calculations are you talking about!? I didn't want this! I never asked for this!! I wanted everyone to smile together!! I wanted to end it without anyone getting hurt!! So what is this!? What the hell is thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis!?’’
What is it? Why, this is Shiroyama Kyousuke as the ’’Greatest Common divisor’’ just like everyone wanted.
Or to use your favorite phrase, perhaps we should call it a precision guided missile.
He could not stop screaming.
He could not trust himself.
Shigara Masami had said everyone had the strength that came from kindness. But didn't that lead to another conclusion as well? Everyone also had something other than that. Humans had always had as much wickedness as they did kindness.
What was the identity of the kindness that had budded inside him?
The precision guided missile.
To approach the target inputted into his brain, he had repeatedly made minor course corrections. It had all been exactly as the truly powerful wanted. And all towards their goal of killing the Queen.
Is that why this had happened?
As time had passed without any results, had his core chosen the ’’optimal answer’’?
Had he simply been disguising it as justice when he whispered of saving everyone?
Had he never changed from beginning to end?
Had it only been a temporary show of good meant to take him along the shortest route?
Yell and yell. Then everyone will notice something is wrong and gather here.
I wonder what will happen when the multiple Queens meet.
Kyousuke frantically shut his mouth, but it was too late.
He heard pounding footsteps. Identical footsteps were approaching from multiple directions.
It's over, he thought.
He could not stop it. Once they met, it was obvious just how the White Queens would pay the others back for deceiving and manipulating them.
Could he really say it?
And even if he shouted for them to stay away, would any of them really stop?
Unable to do anything, Kyousuke simply waited for the final moment to arrive.
But he once again made a mistake. Or had he been too clever for his own good?
When the multiple White Queens met, he was mysteriously able to tell one apart from the others.
It was the one that had been with him all this time.
And without even thinking - truly without thinking - he shouted to her.
’’Stop, Mary!! Stay away!!!!!’’
Mary Ann was the new name that Alice was given when the Guide Rabbit mistook her for his maidservant. And as long as she used that name, everyone around her treated her like she really was that maidservant.
That name gave the eternal girl another role.
And it had been given to her by the rabbit.
’’What about Alice (with) Rabbit? Now we'll never be separated again!!’’
When she had innocently made that suggestion, Kyousuke had actually expressed some slight disapproval.
’’That would just be using the names the Miniature Garden gave us.’’
’’I've been calling you something ever since you arrived, haven't I? Mary. Mary Ann. That is both Alice and not Alice. It is another role given to her by the rabbit. Now you can be free of all bonds.’’
That was back when Kyousuke had still been trapped by the plan to kill the Queen and had been approaching her to deceive her. But that silly lie had supported him in the very, very end.
Or it should have.
But why did he overlook it?
The other Alices had not been given that name. They were the ’’others’’ who had not been made special. Why did he overlook just how much maddening damage those words would do to them?
It told them they were nothing but fakes and that only another could receive his love.
And that fact brought a chain reaction of pure white explosions into the world.
Even one White Queen wielded unbelievable power and now that fury boiled over and whipped up a storm of destruction.
A white explosion struck his body.
Had he been unconscious for only a few seconds or for more than an hour?
His vision wavered. He could not even perceive the space around him. In his T-shirt and shorts, Kyousuke suppressed the feeling of something caught in his throat and desperately worked to breath.
How many people had died in that explosion?
What had happened to Biondetta, to Kyoumi, to Shigara Masami...to everyone?
What had happened to the White Queen???
Only one person stood tall in that broken world.
They had all killed each other.
To take that one love for themselves, the Queens with identical specs had all killed each other.
And only one had survived as if to say that was what a queen was.
He could not tell which White Queen this was.
It was like a Kodoku jar. Who remained standing at the end of the fight to the death?
But Kyousuke knew one thing.
(That isn't Mary Ann.)
He was sure of it.
It could not possibly be her.
(She swore to me that she wouldn't hurt anyone. So she must have kept her violence sealed away to the very end.)
If not for that verbal promise, she could have wielded her claws and fangs and she might have managed to survive.
It was sad. It was painful. He wanted to run away in anger.
But he could not.
Suppressing the White Queen came first. She carried no sin of her own. She had simply been trapped by a curse. And it was Kyousuke himself who had cut her chains and forced the horrifying backlash onto her.
He could no longer hope for the best result.
But he could not give up. He had to stop her at the second best position.
He could not let her continue this sorrowful rampage.
Are you still fighting it?
This will begin the killing of the Queen. This proves the prediction that the Sewn Realm Summoning prevents the Queen from escaping to the other world even when she is killed. If the truly powerful sweep away the remaining fragments through pure numbers, even that White Queen will be truly killed this time.
Something burned deep in his mind.
The supposedly unmeltable icy core was burned entirely away.
He felt a sticky liquid dripping from his ears.
This was probably the final correction. He could no longer use the cruel thought processes of a precision guided missile.
But that was fine.
He did not care if it had broken.
He would shake off the destiny decided for him and he would grab at his own future.
So he wanted the power to save someone instead. He wanted the strength to not give up even after making a decisive mistake! He wanted the ultimate light that let him embrace that twisted person and tell her it would be okay!!
Now that he had become a mere boy, he began dragging his body that was too weak to actually get up.
But not toward the White Queen.
There was no point in fighting. Challenging the peak of the Unexplored-class as a human would be reckless and choosing to harm her was the wrong way to deal with this.
He had to find the source of the power driving the Queen insane.
He had to destroy it and remove the bonds of false love and affection from her heart.
(The grownups had 78 tarot cards based on Lewis Carroll's story.)
He thought of the spider web structure of the Miniature Garden. That was likely modeled after the psychedelic picture book world existing down the rabbit hole. He calculated out what symbols they would have used where to most efficiently apply the March Hare's influence.
(They viewed the White Queen as the eternal girl and trapped her in this story world to control her through the actions of the children who were given different roles by the cards.)
And that guided him to where he needed to go and what he needed to remove to return everything to normal.
(And on top of that, they mixed the Guide Rabbit and the March Hare together to steal my role from me...)
’’Brother, where are you doing?’’
’’Anywhere's fine as long as it isn't heaven...’’
He would even visit the depths of hell if he would find the method of saving her there.
He clenched his teeth and gradually but desperately made progress.
He grabbed it in the very, very end.
Everyone had drawn a card from that set in the very beginning. It was most likely an original tarot set based on Lewis Carroll's masterpiece. No one had chosen the March Hare card.
That was the second rabbit.
It was the source of the confusion.
’’It'll be okay,’’ announced Kyousuke despite barely breathing.
He spoke those words that had truly saved him when he heard them from Shigara Masami.
’’I'll save you now, Queen. If I tear apart this March Hare card, the confusion and deception will vanish and you'll be back to normal. That way, you won't be manipulated by this mistaken love any longer...!!’’
At that time, the White Queen did not know who she was.
She was the last Queen standing after repeatedly killing her own. She had nothing to prove her previous memories were not based on deception, so she may have been empty with nothing to rely on.
She still felt some attachment.
(...Back to normal...?)
She felt a slight prickling in her heart.
That faint pain became the trigger that would end the world.
She bit her lip a little.
Something unidentifiable seeped into her blank thoughts.
(In that case...)
It was true this might not be pure.
There might be a single drop of poison in the vast, vast lake.
But did that ruin it?
Did that require rejecting everything else?
In other words...
If I return to normal...
What happens to my brother's promise to always stay by my side?
There was a frightening flash of light.
The word doom referred to just such a moment.
As extraordinary as everything else had been, it had still only been the warmup.
Kyousuke screamed as his entire body was pummeled by the white.
He was blown away, his back slammed into the wall, and even the wall crumbled fragilely.
He struggled to breathe and trembled at a sticky feeling.
It was not his own blood.
Someone else had been hit by countless blocks of concrete and skewered by several pieces of rebar jutting out.
’’The Queen of Hearts...!?’’
It was Shiroyama Kyoumi. It was that cosplay lover with slightly drooping black eyebrows who was everyone's big sister. But she was undeniably void of life. It was so obviously a corpse that it kept him from even considering trying to revive her.
She was light.
Far too light.
There was no dramatic revelation or great meaning. When the heart stopped, the blood grew stagnant, and the brain matter was destroyed, people would die. That simple fact of life robbed her of all human dignity.
Could this injustice be allowed?
Even if the Queen was the peak of the peak, could the world really allow this?
Kyousuke was unable to get up and struggled in a pool of blood, but the White Queen was moving next to him.
A card had fallen to the floor next to him.
She picked up the March Hare card that had made a mockery of her and she held it lovingly to her chest.
He could not understand.
Shiroyama Kyousuke truly could not understand the White Queen's feelings.
’’Why are you rejecting my help and causing more damage!? Queen!?’’
Meanwhile, the White Queen smiled faintly, truly faintly.
And she made an announcement to the person who would not call her Mary.
’’You would not understand, brother.’’
’’It does not matter if some of it is mistaken or if you can't tell it apart from the rest. You do not understand what it is like to have someone that makes you feel that way.’’
’’To hell with... To hell with thaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat!!’’
That was the sign of their parting.
Kyousuke sought what was right too much to understand her love and the Queen had sought her love to the point of abandoning what was right.
A horrific war was beginning and it would throw everything into the abyss.
A Happy Memory from an Unknown Point on the Timeline 3
It had originally been meant as a thought experiment.
When looking at the Regulation-class, divine-class, and Unexplored-class, the Summoning Ceremony could summon as many Materials as there were stars in the sky. What would summon what, how did one lead to another, what route was used to reach what, what Material was the enemy summoning or preparing to summon, how could that be avoided or beaten, and what were their Costs and Sound Ranges? The possible paths were as complex as a spider web.
The location of the Petals and Spots, one's stock of White Thorns, the terrain, and the movement of the enemy summoner also had to be taken into consideration, but they set all that aside for the time being to focus on it as a thought experiment.
Could they memorize the Materials so efficiently it became second nature?
What was the optimal medium for that?
’’Okay. Starting from the Transforming Box (r u m - t e), I use a three hit combo to draw alphabet cards from the deck and complete the Leather Bag that Swallows and Digests (j k v - j k v - k m o l - m). That's Cost 11 and Middle Sound Range, so the greater Cost and superior Sound Range do major damage to the Cost 10 and Low Sound Range of your Pure Sphere with Hidden Fangs (t - e i - k o - f b - j i). And while Biondetta has to skip a turn, I continue powering it up to the divine-class!!’’
It was a handmade card game.
Biondetta screamed at the beating she took from the major damage Shiroyama Kyoumi announced and her voice echoed through the large party space.
The adults had taken a trial and error approach to finding a way to teach the 15 the patterns of the Materials through rote memorization and repetitive practice, but as Shigara Masami had watched, she had shouted ’’God, how boring. You're never going to get them motivated like that.’’ and developed this card game all on her own.
The combos and having to skip a turn were not the same as the actual Blood-Sign method, but it was a convenient way to teach them how strong the different Materials were and which Materials made good stepping stones to reach which other ones.
While watching Kyoumi and Biondetta's duel from a short distance away, Kyousuke asked a question of the person next to him.
It was the developer named Shigara Masami.
’’Aren't you going to play, Shigara?’’
’’Don't forget the '-san', newcomer. Besides, why should I play? This is a study tool for summoners.’’
She sounded exasperated as she drank a clear liquid from a glass.
That seemed to be a sign that she was not working at the moment
Shigara Masami seemed devil-may-care at first glance, but something caught Kyousuke's attention. This card game had been arranged for children, but it still included all of the Materials that could be summoned with the 3rd Summoning Ceremony, aka the Blood-Sign Method. That included the Regulation-class, the divine-class, the Unexplored-class...and even the White Queen, the peak of the peak.
The card illustrations were hand drawn and given cute deformed proportions, but how had Shigara Masami learned the traits of all of those Materials and what they looked like?
Inside the Artificial Sacred Ground created when an Incense Grenade detonated, no cameras or sensors could see the summoners or Materials. That meant she had not used photographs or videos as reference material. That was simply not an option.
Then had she seen them all with her own eyes?
The other developers estimated the names of the individual Materials that were theorized to exist based on the spelling of the ones proven to exist, but had she actually seen them?
Simply putting together all of the names and Sound Ranges would have taken a lot of effort.
Even the round Mock Battlefield in the center of the Miniature Garden had not seen every last Material yet.
’’Hmm? What is it, boy? Oh, are you feeling the seduction of this sinful young woman?’’
The developer who gave him an intoxicated look was still nothing more than devil-may-care.
And just as he opened his mouth, Biondetta called out to him after losing badly.
’’Kyousuke! You come over here too! Go beat up the Queen of Hearts and Hatter who keep using cruel combos!!’’
’’Why are you summoning a human instead of a Material? ...Well, whatever. Kyousuke! I'll defeat you next.’’
His older sister beckoned him over with a fingertip, so Kyousuke sighed and left Shigara Masami. The adult simply waved goodbye.
The battle began on the desk like a practice run on paper.
Biondetta played the role of the referee.
’’Ready, set, go!’’
Kyousuke and Kyoumi both played their first cards.
’’The Original Yellow (s).’’
’’Geh. I'm the Original Green (k). My Sound Range loses.’’
The Queen of Hearts lamented, but she was not that worried. This card game did not focus as much on the very first move as chess and Reversi.
By playing more cards, they could build up their Material to make it stronger and stronger.
And then Kyousuke made an announcement.
’’Sorry. I have the 'White' Queen who Wields the Sword of Unsullied Truth (iu - nu - fb - a - wuh - ei -kx - eu - pl - vjz). That's an instant kill.’’
’’Gyahhh!?’’ screamed Shiroyama Kyoumi as she threw her cards into the air.
The White Queen.
She was the strongest of the strongest who assured victory once she was summoned.
Just like the big bang, the theory behind her was understood, but it was thought they would never actually see her.
In poker terms, it was like smoothly gathering your cards and grinning with a full house only to have your opponent hit you with a royal flush.
’’Y-you just got lucky. That one didn't count. Kyousuke, I demand a rematch!!’’
’’Sigh... Complain like that in an actual battle and you'll end up crawling around like a baby...’’
’’Deadly shut up! What do you mean you want your noble big sister to submit to you in absolute defeat mode!?’’
The Queen of Hearts blushed and began the rematch.
But once more...
’’Oh, I have the White Queen.’’
’’Sorry. The White Queen again.’’
It looked like they were going to keep playing forever, so Biondetta stepped in as the referee while looking really bored.
’’Wait. Isn't the White Queen going to Kyousuke way too often? Are you cheating somehow?’’
’’I'm really not sure what to tell you.’’
They tried swapping out decks and Biondetta kept a watchful eye on Kyousuke's cards from behind him. And then the Queen of Hearts, the Mad Hatter, and space suit Humpty Dumpty all tried to battle him.
’’The White Queen.’’
’’Sigh.... Why do I keep getting her? It's the White Queen.’’
’’Psshhh. Th-this isn't due to your own skill!’’
He made short work of all his older siblings.
But even as those older siblings lay collapsed on the floor before him, it was Biondetta watching his hand as the referee who was trembling most of all.
She knew better than anyone that he had done nothing suspicious.
And yet the White Queen seemed to always find her way into his hand.
How was that anything but unfair?
It was a miracle...or a nightmare.
’’Hmm. He may just be more compatible...’’
Shigara Masami casually spoke up while chugging her clear liquid a short distance away.
’’Hic. He may have been born under a star of great love from the Queen.’’
- Kyousuke wanted to save everyone. And that everyone included the White Queen. In order to throw out the original plan of killing the Queen, he named his ship of salvation the White Queen.
- Operation March Hare split the White Queen into multiple individuals to destroy the concept of an alibi and then tricked her into thinking the others were Kyousuke so she would obey their commands.
- Kyousuke freed the Queen from that horrifying deceit, but that sent her on a rampage that caused gruesome damage. At the very least, that rampage killed Akura Taisaku and Shiroyama Kyoumi.
- The specific Queen who was with Kyousuke was named Mary Ann instead of Alice. If she kept her promise not to hurt anyone, there is no chance at all she survived. Paradoxically, whichever Queen it was that survived is a murderous Queen.
- To save the rampaging Queen, Kyousuke abandoned his value as a precision guided missile.
- The rampaging Queen rejected the salvation Kyousuke offered her. She was not willing to regain what is right if it means losing her love for Shiroyama Kyousuke.
- Because Shiroyama Kyousuke chose to protect what is right and because the White Queen chose to protect her love, a rift opened between them.
- And the hopeless battle known as the Secret War has begun.