Volume 2, Stage 03: A World Void of Death, but Not a World of Happiness
“Let’s get started.”
“Get started? …From here!?”
(Stage 03 Open 05/01 00:10)
A World Void of Death, but Not a World of Happiness
An archived file stored on analog microfilm for fear of a cyberattack.
From a Government report on enemy forces.
There is an organization known as Killer Intent Antenna.
It is rumored to have between one and two hundred members, but the details are unknown.
They are all specialists taken from the front lines: former police officers, former soldiers, former white hat hackers, former doctors, former firefighters, former reporters, former politicians, former scientists, former pilots, former bankers, former spies, etc. By sharing and teaching their skills within the organization, they thoroughly analyze the actions of those who protect the public order. They are also said to use that to freely slip through the holes of the net, but it is unknown whether that is true or a legend.
Their objective is extremely simple: to search out and eliminate people who deserve to die.
In other words, they are an elite organization of intelligence agents who gather information and assassins who slaughter the people they identify.
Their basis for who “deserves to die” surpasses the interests of a specific religion, nation, corporation, or other such framework and it cannot be changed by external pressure. It may be similar to the concept of “changing history” seen in discussions of time travel. It is entirely unknown what sort of “ideal world” they are attempting to create by killing the people on their list. The construction and maintenance of the organization must require vast amounts of money, so it can at least be assumed they have a reason warranting that sort of investment.
So on the surface they are less of a criminal organization seeking dirty money and more of an ideological group whose actions are based on twisted dogma.
The reason they have not been eliminated - no, have been impossible to eliminate - is simple. They just have that much “power”.
A certain man stood at the top.
The founder’s name was Yasuzumi Reiji.
He was also a skilled summoner known as Illegal Award 910, Telomere’s End, but his life met an unexpectedly simple end.
He committed suicide.
He left an extremely short suicide note, but its authenticity is unknown. There are even many doubts as to whether or not his death was really a suicide.
Regardless, his two-sentence suicide note said the following:
I failed to kill someone who deserved to die. The least I can do is pay for that crime with my life.
The sort of van used by foreign delivery companies had the back windows covered with plates. Its mustard yellow coloring stood out like a sore thumb and it was currently stopped in an industrial district on the outskirts of Toy Dream 35 late at night.
All of the seats had been removed from the back and replaced by a stretcher and fluorescent lights.
It resembled an ambulance, but it was not one.
Student Council President Benikomichi Fuuki lay face-down on the stretcher. She only wore the paper underwear used at beauty salons, her long black hair was tied up, and her white back was fully exposed in the light.
Someone whistled lightly.
It was the young male technician who had been grinning inside the van even as she “changed clothes”.
“Now that’s impressive. Not the design I’d expect from a student council president.”
“I would like some maintenance done on it. Just fill in the pattern’s faded colors like this is a coloring book. You can easily make a bit of money that way, right?”
“Well, the age of doing tattoos by hand is over. The machine does all the work, so it’ll be over in no time. But the quicker you want it done, the more it’ll hurt.”
The young male technician readily answered her while moving a hydraulic metal arm and pressing what looked like a sewing machine to the girl’s back.
Yes, this was a mobile tattoo shop.
When Toy Dream’s international revived cities arrived, the local country’s culture and ethics were overwritten by the Western norms. Japanese-style tattoos were still strongly associated with organized crime, but Western tribal tattoos were a common sight.
Benikomichi Fuuki had an angular tribal pattern carved across her back, covering both shoulder blades. Overall, it looked something like drawing out wings with the printed circuits of an electronic circuit board.
However, this was not for fashion.
Just like a collar or handcuffs, it was her symbol of bondage as a vessel.
“Should I use anesthetic?”
“It would be meaningless if you did.”
“Wow, you’re hardcore.”
With the sounds of motors, gears, cranks, and other mechanical parts coming from the box, a burning rather than stabbing pain covered Benikomichi Fuuki’s back.
Even that expert vessel could not deny the pain itself.
But she clenched her teeth. She delighted in finding meaning in this.
“Kids these days (ha ha) always ask me to make it as painless as possible, like this is the dentist or something. I wouldn’t have thought a school’s star pupil would have a personal opinion on how to do tattoos.”
“It’s because I’m a star pupil and from a well-known family that this functions so well as a symbol of bondage.”
Yes. Tattoos themselves were not uncommon, but there was a time and a place for them.
This girl was from a well-known family, she was the student council president, and she was close to receiving an important position at the global Toy Dream Company. Her position in society suggested she lived and breathed tea, cakes, pianos, violins, horseback riding, tea ceremonies, and flower arrangements, so this tribal tattoo on her back was truly disastrous.
It was a secret utterly at odds with the impression she gave people.
She could never let anyone see her skin.
That feeling of rejection worked perfectly as a symbol of bondage.
“When your symbol of bondage is reliant on an object, there is a risk of having it stolen or destroyed. So carve it into your body. It can even be a small scar or burn.”
A summoner man had told her of this method long ago. That man was no longer with her, but she smiled at the fact that she continued to follow that rule so faithfully even now.
Summoners were those who accepted their own weakness and then reached for greater heights.
Vessels were those who entrusted their independence to another and then reached for honor.
At least, that was the way she saw it.
That was why she could not escape her dependence on that summoner who was now gone.
The cellphone sitting next to her vibrated.
Even with lasers and ultrasonic waves constantly scanning her skin, she could not move her arms while the work was being done to her back. Doing so would move her shoulder blades. She ignored the phone and it vibrated a second and third time after short breaks of silence.
It was most likely from Hayato. He was clearly waiting for further instructions. He was like a puppy who, after being brought to an unfamiliar land on a trip, looked fearfully over to his family while hiding his usual mischievous personality.
Benikomichi Fuuki gently narrowed her eyes as she looked to the cellphone.
“Your boyfriend?” asked the young technician.
“No. But he is my support.”
She had taken everything of that dead summoner and shoved it onto Hayato, her current partner.
Reaching this point had not been easy. When a vessel’s contract with their summoner was broken, they returned to being a normal person. They forgot everything about the world of the summoning ceremony. That was true even if the summoner died, so if she had not been coincidentally picked up by another summoner, she would never have remembered.
She had deceived that summoner and pretended to obey to keep those memories.
And then she had found the greatest potential.
After achieving some success in educating him for his talent, she had gotten rid of her “temporary home” and made a new contract with that “greatest potential”.
And so this student council president drifted within the warmth of a man who was already dead.
It did not matter if that warmth was artificially created.
It was like transferring over the original flame.
It did not matter if she had to manipulate everything around her.
“But, young lady, are you sure you should be doing this?”
“Letting some random guy on the street see this shocking secret of yours.”
“You have a mobile shop so you don’t end up with ‘regulars’, right?”
“Ha ha. But a beauty like you will stick in my memory whether I like it or not! How do you know I’m not a bad guy who will order you do to all sorts of nasty things?”
“Oh, there’s no chance of that.”
“Oh, dear. Do I look that harmless?”
“No. Whatever kind of person you are, you’ll forget all about me soon enough.”
After waiting for midnight, Kyousuke and Librarian-chan made their way to the factory district on the outskirts of Toy Dream 35.
This was obviously to arrive while Toshima Industries 3rd Toy Factory was testing its new production line. If something was happening, they could likely get the most information if they aimed for the time when it was happening. Of course, that also meant arriving when the factory would be most cautious.
They took the monorail outside of Toy Dream 35.
The rain continually switched between pouring and letting up outside the window and they happened to catch one of the rainless periods.
“Since the factory is running, is my sister wandering around somewhere today too?”
Librarian-chan gloomily asked her question while staring out the window.
The light quickly vanished once they left Toy Dream 35. They found pure darkness. While the amusement park city was filled with decorative lights 24/7, there were only occasional fluorescent lights here. They were enough to break through the night’s darkness, but the color black stickily clung to everything.
When they stepped out onto the platform, the temperature seemed to have dropped by a degree or two.
Even without a map, Toy Dream 35’s location could not have been more obvious. A vague region of light was visible despite the darkness.
They were on the outskirts.
To coexist with Toy Dream 35, countless factories were scattered around, sometimes even affecting the livability of the area.
The mascot characters on the sides of the trucks parked alongside the road were enough to see the level of economic dependence.
“It feels weird to see an actual dirt ground,” said Librarian-chan as she looked to the puddle at her feet. “No, I guess it’s us that’s weird. People are so good at adapting to their situation.”
The area around the monorail station had nothing more than dark soil and some woods. It only had an asphalt road and streetlights, so it was almost entirely undeveloped. When they looked down a gentle five hundred meter hill, they saw a fence that seemed to stretch on forever.
That was Toshima Industries 3rd Toy Factory.
The term factory could refer to a number of things, but the one beyond the three meter tall fence was a lot like an automobile factory. It looked like a square box with each side over a kilometer long. The square factory was over five stories tall and the only distortions to its shape were the smokestacks sticking up from its flat roof at even intervals.
Kyousuke held a small pair of binoculars in one hand to observe different parts of the factory grounds.
It took him less than a minute to finish.
Librarian-chan was shocked when he handed them to her.
“Eh? Ah? You’re done already?”
“Yes. Why wouldn’t I be?”
“Because that’s a huge fortress of a factory. There have to be a ton of guards even at night… See, I barely had to look and I’ve already found a bunch! It looks like there are security cameras all over, so sneaking in won’t be easy…”
“That’s where you’re wrong.”
Kyousuke reached over to the binoculars Librarian-chan was looking through.
But not to take them from her.
He pushed them from the side to guide her gaze.
“The first thing we need to think about is where to get in from. The factory has no windows to speak of. The entrances and exits are all locked and they’re either thick steel shutters for vehicles or reinforced stainless steel doors for people. There are panels near the doors, so you probably need a card key.”
“That means we’re already out of luck…”
“We just have to change our viewpoint. Look over there.”
Kyousuke moved the binoculars to the next point.
It was a point on the ground inside the fence but a short distance from the boxy factory. A few metal tanks that resembled truck-sized cans were lying on their side in a row. The pipes connected to them ran underground.
A few large containers were lined up next to those.
Confused, Librarian-chan read the writing on the side of the tanks.
“Based on the shape of the tanks, they’re filled with LNG for gas turbines. It isn’t much for a factory this big, so my guess is it’s fuel for emergency power.”
“What good is that? If we set it on fire, it will cause a huge commotion and we won’t be able to sneak in. And it’s too far away from the factory to blow a hole in the wall if it explodes.”
“We don’t need to go that far.”
Kyousuke gently took the binoculars from Librarian-chan.
He pointed at something nearby and continued his explanation.
“This is a gentle downwards slope.”
“There are a ton of large trucks with mascots painted on them.”
After he pointed here and there, he moved his finger from one truck, down the slope, and to the factory.
“Opening a door that’s locked from the inside is easy. …You just have to get the people inside to open it.”
After growing accustomed to military uniforms, the unnecessarily starchy guard uniforms felt too stiff. To make matters worse, they had to wear raincoats over them due to all the rain. The guns they carried felt unreliable. They understood it had to be small enough to hide in their pockets, but with a submachine gun with a barrel less than 20 cm long and only three magazines, they could only buy time rather than kill. That role of theirs was especially obvious from the fact that their military flashlights were their most expensive piece of equipment.
Their inviolable rule was the following:
Justice is power. Thus, the weak must support the strong. Even if it meant a tactical failure, they had to pave the way toward strategic victory.
Simply put, if a bomb was thrown at the summoner’s feet, they were to jump on top of the dangerous object to suppress the blast.
And if they did not want to die in vain, they had to increase their own power.
Anyone could be the most powerful. But that person had to be aware of the many comrades whose blood had paved their way and thus use that power to help the weak.
What they feared most here was the arrival of a summoner.
If that happened, they had to hold the intruder in place while their summoner could prepare for battle. That was their role. They were the bright light that blinded the enemy while also pointing out the target’s location in the night.
So the soldiers patrolling around the factory had not expected this sort of trouble.
Someone gave a confused comment.
A large truck was slowly rolling down the gentle slope. Its headlights were off and its movements showed no sign of a driver. It did not look like anyone was stepping on the gas. It looked more like the handbrake had failed to work.
But even if it was only moving at five or ten kph, it was still a mass of metal weighing over twenty tons.
Submachine guns that fired handgun rounds would be useless. And with no driver, warning shots would be meaningless.
The truck veered off the road and broke through some of the trees in the woods before finally smashing through the chain link fence and onto the factory grounds.
The soldiers watched the truck in a daze, but then they noticed where the mass of metal was headed: the emergency power fuel tank stored a short distance from the factory’s outer wall.
Someone shouted, but it was no use.
As soon as the giant metal tank was broken like an empty can bitten by a fierce dog, a dazzling explosion tore apart the dark night.
Kyousuke had walked alongside the large truck that had been moving even slower than a bicycle and now he glanced over at the broken fence inside the woods next to the road.
“Let’s get started,” he whispered to Librarian-chan.
“Get started? …From here!? But that explosion was like poking at a hornet’s nest!!”
“But it will have torn down their highly organized guard shifts. Their focus is no longer evenly distributed, so we can walk around safely by slipping through the gaps.”
“Are you…really my classmate Shiroyama-kun?”
For some reason, Librarian-chan felt the need to ask that.
There were two general ways to get into a strictly guarded facility: sneak in the back way or boldly walk in through the front.
They could not directly walk in through the broken fence as there were too many eyes focused on it. But instead, the factory’s main gate (which was protected by a bar like at a train crossing and retractable spikes on the ground) was wide open. There was no one inside the “large phone booth” that normally held a guard.
Librarian-chan asked a question while crouching down as she walking nervously through.
“Did the person here go to the fire too? I’m glad since it makes this easier, but why?”
She looked toward the fire where black smoke completely covered the area where the truck had ended up. The fire was only growing more intense, but the number of people there was also growing.
All those solid metal doors were opening from the inside.
“Whether it’s an armory for anti-government guerrillas or a storehouse for drug dealers, any group stockpiling things they can’t have found will always have their own firefighting group. If they called a normal firetruck, the firefighters would discover their secret.”
Kyousuke leaned into the guard station and messed with something as he answered.
“And emergency fuel will be stored someplace that won’t blow up the factory itself if it explodes. That’s why they’ll use that same spot for other things that would cause a problem if they exploded. …Those metal containers next to the tanks are probably their armory. They would be in trouble in a number of ways if the fire spreads to them, so this is more than ‘just a fire’ to them and it gathers a lot of attention.”
“I see. So that’s why they…”
Librarian-chan trailed off as she remembered something.
The guards’ eyes were all gathered on one spot and the locked doors had been opened from within.
However, those were not the only problems.
“But what about all the security cameras? I’m sure they can monitor all of the passageways inside the factory, so how are we supposed to walk around without getting caught?”
“That’s why I cut the security line.”
Dumbfounded, Librarian-chan saw Kyousuke wave around a few torn cables.
“After what happened, they’ll assume the explosion and the heat of the fire knocked out the buried cables. So let’s get inside the factory already.”
Kyousuke stepped inside the factory grounds using the black smokescreen to hide. Librarian-chan followed after him.
They could hear a storm of yelling voices and footsteps running all over the place. Librarian-chan’s shoulders jumped each time, but Kyousuke did not react.
“Based on the size of the factory and grounds, they would need between fifty and a hundred people. To put out the fire, they’re ignoring their usual section assignments and gathering here, so no one will question it if someone is walking around where they wouldn’t normally be.”
Kyousuke then added something else under his breath.
“Government would have military-level Repliglass posted around and Freedom would have a bunch of individual summoners. …Despite what Lu-san said, this reeks of Illegal.”
“But we aren’t dressed anything like them. We’ll stand out if they see us here.”
“We just have to make sure they don’t see us. It’s night and there’s smoke everywhere. In the world of the summoning ceremony, even a paper-thin barrier is enough to keep you safe as long as your opponent can’t see you with the naked eye. If they just hear footsteps or see a silhouette, they’ll assume it’s one of their own.”
Kyousuke used his smartphone to gather the electromagnetic signals in the area and to convert them to audio.
Simply put, he was intercepting the soldiers’ voices.
Someone inside the factory seemed to be speaking with the fire station.
“Yes, yes. So it isn’t a problem. As I’m sure you can see if you check our records, our factory is breaking in a new production line at night. That was probably what people mistook for an explosion.”
“But we received reports of an explosion from the nearby residents…”
“Not to worry. There was some protective coating caked onto the inside of the smokestacks. To get it all off, we intentionally upped the power. Think of it as something like an extreme version of the after-fire in a car’s muffler. So from a distance, it might very well have sounded like an explosion. If you drive out here with your sirens blaring, you’re just going to feel stupid.”
Since they explained it away so smoothly, they likely had a thick manual prepared for how to act in all sorts of situations. Or maybe they had hired an expert at making excuses like a company’s corporate lawyer.
But the fact that they were making those excuses meant the factory was still working to deal with it all. The situation had yet to calm down, so there would be holes in their security.
Kyousuke decided they could get inside without issue like this.
But then static ran through the voices coming from his smartphone.
Then he heard the sound of wet rubber scraping along the ground.
It was just like a child’s rain boots stepping on the wet asphalt.
Librarian-chan silently turned toward the sound.
It was a few meters behind them.
Visibility was poor thanks to the smokescreen Kyousuke had created, but they could still see a silhouette two sizes smaller than the adults running around.
The silhouette wore a raincoat and held a broken umbrella.
They could not tell if it was facing them or facing away from them and they could not even tell if it really had a head.
It was the Rainy Girl.
The ghost simply appeared and did not speak a word.
“Let’s go,” said Kyousuke. “Just chasing after her won’t get us any closer to the truth. That’s why you decided to come to this factory, right?”
A small door for the night hours was installed on the wall next to an automatic glass door that was covered with metal bars. They stepped inside through that. Surprisingly, they first found themselves in a reception area just like an office building. Even the factory must have cared about its appearance.
They used the building map on the wall to walk down a dark hallway lit only by emergency lighting and to the new production line that was currently running. Unlike a semiconductor plant, there was no clean room on the way. They just had to open a door to reach a production line larger than a school’s gym.
It contained extremely long conveyer belts with various sizes of robot arms on either side. Several of them were lined up side by side like a bowling alley. Almost all the work was automated, so it really did remind them of an automobile factory.
“It isn’t running. And I don’t see anyone around.”
“But the motors and cylinders are still warm and newly-made products are left on the conveyer belts. I bet they only temporarily stopped it when everyone left to deal with the fire.”
“There’s a pamphlet here. It’s apparently a mascot doll that links with your smartphone and moves around. Do they really need all this equipment for that…?”
“Toy Dream is involved in this, so they’re probably being paid quite a bit for it.”
He could not use the flash, but Kyousuke used his smartphone to snap a few pictures of the production line.
Librarian-chan did not know what to do and simply looked around.
“But what does this factory have to do with my sister?”
“That’s what we’re trying to figure out.”
“This production line doesn’t have any windows and isn’t connected to the outside, so I don’t see how it could be related to the rain.”
Were they making some kind of secret modification to the products?
“Related to the rain, huh?”
Kyousuke said that as he lightly touched a piece of machinery located at one end of a conveyer belt. It was larger than the car washes found at gas stations. The mass of metal completely surrounded the conveyer belt and it seemed to drip melted plastic down to create shapes like a pastry chef with whipped cream. This production line did not place it in a metal mold like normal.
“A steam pipe to melt the plastic. That’s probably directly connected to a large industrial boiler. …Come to think of it, the factory’s roof had several smokestacks.”
“Eh? Wait, Shiroyama-kun!?”
Librarian-chan frantically called out to him, but Kyousuke lay face-up on the stopped conveyer belt and shoved his upper body inside the giant machinery.
She knew it had been deactivated, but watching him still brought a crawling sensation to her fingertips.
However, Kyousuke was too focused on his work to think anything of it.
“This smell. Could it be…?”
“What is it?”
“Librarian-chan, can you open the pouch I handed you? There’s a glass tube the size of a pen inside. Hand that to me.”
She did so and he continued with whatever work he was doing inside the machine.
Finally, he pulled his body out, attached a thin cable to the glass tube, and connected that to the bottom of his smartphone.
Then he called someone.
“Lu-san, I’m about to send you the results of some spectral analysis. It’s most likely remnants of the materials used to make Incense Grenades. Those are made to order for each and every summoner, so a close examination of these parameters might turn up some useful information.”
“Okay,” replied Lu Niang Lan. “But don’t forget this means you owe Illegal one. This might lead us to the unknown’s identity.”
“What is all this about?” asked Librarian-chan.
“This machine is connected to the smokestacks via the steam pipe and boiler. And the Rainy Girl is closely linked to the rain. Now, what determines the composition of rain?”
“Do you mean the smoke coming from the smokestacks…?”
“I found something similar to the materials used in the summoning ceremony’s Incense Grenades. And it’s all but confirmed that the Rainy Girl appears when this production line is being tested. The wind carries the smoke over a wide area. That gives us another way of looking at the fact that the rumors have spread throughout Japan…no, throughout the world. I don’t know what role this plays in it, but this is the first step.”
The production line was larger than a school gym, so they could not thoroughly search the entire thing in a short time.
After generally checking over it, they left the production line.
“Where do we go next?”
“This scent… I’ve smelled it before. Yes, I think it was over there…”
Kyousuke turned back the way they had come.
Librarian-chan had not noticed any kind of scent, so she simply followed in confusion.
Kyousuke returned to the main entrance and looked around.
“(This is the place.)”
He started whispering, so Librarian-chan naturally held her breath.
He pressed his ear against one of several metal doors, placed his fingertips on the door’s surface, and waited. He looked a lot like someone from a drama opening a safe with a stethoscope.
“(I can hear two people breathing. They’re discussing something. Even if they’re summoners, I just have to settle this before they can throw an Incense Grenade.)”
“(W-will it actually work out that well?)”
“(The door seems to be locked, but we just have to get them to open it for us.)”
Librarian-chan just about shrieked out loud at that suggestion, but Kyousuke actually knocked violently on the door so the sound echoed all around them.
Then he raised his voice while pressing against the wall next to the door. He mixed in the bits of information they had gathered so far.
“On Hayato-san’s instructions, I’m here to check the security wiring! I need to check each and every room to figure out where the wiring has been cut, so please cooperate. I have the tester with me, so it won’t take long!”
As soon as the doorknob defenselessly turned, the wind whipped up.
Kyousuke pulled his Blood-Sign from his back, swiftly neutralized the two people inside, and bound their hands behind their backs with their belts.
“The security shifts will be back to normal soon, so let’s go over everything we can get our hands on in that time.”
Kyousuke beckoned Librarian-chan inside, shut the door, and locked it from within.
“What is this place?”
The braid and glasses girl looked around the room.
Unlike the production line, all of the machinery had apparently been removed. Instead, a few large tables were lined up and covered with lab equipment like gas burners and flasks. An entire wall had been converted into a whiteboard and it was covered in the straight lines, hexagons, letters, and numbers of chemical formulas.
Overall, it looked like a school’s chemistry room.
Librarian-chan had never been in a “normal” toy factory and thus had nothing to compare this to, but she could still tell this was not a “normal” toy factory.
“That’s a mixture list. Looks like it really is the incense that goes into an Incense Grenade.”
“What is this stuff that looks like weird grass, white powder, or crushed and transparent rock candy? These aren’t the same as some weird herbs, are they?”
“We can ask these two for details.”
Shiroyama Kyousuke used the tip of his Blood-Sign to tap the forehead of one of the men in lab coats.
The lab coat man groaned and came to.
“Nn, what…? Dammit, my arms… Who are you peop…gh!?”
Before his question could change to a shout, Kyousuke pressed the Blood-Sign against his throat to keep him from breathing properly.
Kyousuke looked down on the man and asked a question.
“What were you doing here?”
“Hgh, cough! D-do you really think I’ll talk? I don’t know where you’re from, but you can’t escape now. A turnaround victory will come to me if just wait here.”
“So how many of those wonderful soldiers of yours are there? Ten? Fifty?”
“If it’s more than a hundred…do you really think I’ll care if I lose one or two of you?”
The lab coat man fell silent.
An unpleasant sweat poured from his face and his eyeballs rolled around to look up at Kyousuke.
“I-I wouldn’t recommend that.”
“T-t-torture isn’t as easy as people think. Hitting someone doesn’t guarantee you’ll get accurate information. Ha…ha ha. If you kill me here, you won’t get the information you want.”
“Sh-Shiroyama-kun…!? You can’t do that!!”
Librarian-chan had been listening from his side, but she had gone pale and she cut in with a shout.
The lab coat man grinned.
He had predicted this, so Kyousuke’s expression remained entirely composed as she spoke.
“Wh-what? I…I won’t help you with any kind of violence. Maybe it’s a little late to say that, but torture or whatever is differe…”
With a quiet sound, the Blood-Sign’s flat tip cleanly buried itself in the girl’s solar plexus.
There was no scream.
Her body collapsed to the floor and stopped moving.
Then Kyousuke turned back.
“Now, then. The last bit of conscience holding me back is gone.”
The human mind could grow accustomed to even the strongest of stimuli if the same situation continued long enough, but it would raise the white flag in no time if there was more variation. Haunted houses did not have ghosts appearing nonstop from the entrance to the exit. They would also occasionally have needlessly long hallways and corners with no trap set up. This was the same.
“I-I won’t tell you anything. Either way, you aren’t skilled enough to get me to talk!”
“Oh, I won’t be the one doing it.”
Kyousuke lifted the man’s chin with the tip of the Blood-Sign.
“This is Phosphorus, a Repliglass Blood-Sign. It isn’t just a stick. It can move around like a snake, so if I shove it in your mouth, how do you think it’s going to move around inside your body before coming out again?”
“…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………That’s not possible.”
“This is second-hand information from Illegal, but apparently people can survive that. Then again, it is only second-hand information, so it might not be true. And maybe I just won’t be able to do it properly.”
“Bgrfgh!? Vah, wait, I’ll talk, I’ll talk, I’ll hyalk!?”
Kyousuke merely traced the tip of the Blood-Sign along the lab coat man’s far-from-clean lips and he started crying like a baby.
Kyousuke asked a question without any change of expression.
“Tell me what you know and keep it concise.”
“Th-this factory was bought. It was hijacked. The owner was supposed to be persuaded with a payment of 300 million yen, but he still wouldn’t agree. We started spreading money around his surroundings and more than a hundred of his friends and acquaintances gave us his personal information. It wasn’t hard to take him out after that.”
“It was a job! In Illegal, the rules of the team or family are more important than the country’s laws. If we mess up, those rules mean we’ll be executed or become nothing more than a number doing hard labor. The normal news calls it confinement or murder. Once a decision is made, we can’t disobey!”
“What was all this for?”
“The smokestacks. This factory is a frontline base for spreading a thin amount of incense over a wide area using the smokestacks. If it gets into the westerlies, it will cross national borders and cover most of the Northern Hemisphere.”
Was that connected to the Rainy Girl who appeared on rainy nights?
The incense diluted into the atmosphere would be concentrated in the raindrops that poured down onto the earth. That may have created an effect similar to the detonation of an Incense Grenade. And that may have invited in a number of bizarre phenomena across Japan or even the world.
Normally, an Artificial Sacred Ground would remove the “clog” that allowed the ghost to appear, so just setting one up would eliminate the ghost.
But these irregular raindrops may not have been pure or effective enough.
And an Artificial Sacred Ground always had the effect of allowing “otherworldly beings” to appear. It was just that a ghost would be eliminated before that effect could be seen. In a “partial” Artificial Sacred Ground that did not eliminate the ghost, the ghost would indeed be able to demonstrate its full power.
(But setting up an Artificial Sacred Ground requires seeing the target with the naked eye. Whose “eye” is at work here?)
Kyousuke thought for a moment and then pointed at the whiteboard with his thumb.
“Those chemical formulas have the telltale signs of an incense expert named Ellie Slide. I see the designer medicines she likes to use. Is she part of this?”
“The external staff handled that. They were only hired to complete the chemical formulas and we already paid them at the wharf. Paid them with metal drums and asphalt, that is.”
That was a very Illegal way of doing things.
Kyousuke suppressed the urge to forget the rules and smash the man’s head in.
“What are the incense’s traits? Who was it mixed for?”
“For no one.”
The lab coat man’s lips twisted into a smile as he sat on the floor.
“It’s a universal incense that matches anyone. But that detracts from the overall scent, so it can’t be used to summon a normal Material.”
“Then what is it for?”
“I want to hear about the Rainy Girl too. Even if this is accidentally creating an Artificial Sacred Ground, someone would still need to see the target with the naked eye. Who is it? Whose eye are you using?”
“Just so you know…this is in everyone’s best interest.”
The lab coat man suddenly said something strange.
“You might not understand now, but the time will come when you’ll thank us. That’s the sort of proposition we’re dealing with. There’s no room for personal feelings here.”
“Do you really think I can accept that answer?”
“If you don’t, I guess you’ll have to think of some other way. Oh, dammit.”
A moment later, a loud sound came from the lab coat man’s mouth.
He had stuck his tongue out and used his full jaw strength to bite off his own tongue.
And he would have succeeded had Kyousuke not noticed and stick the tip of his Blood-Sign inside the man’s mouth.
Before the lab coat man could do anything more, Kyousuke slammed his knee against the man’s forehead. With a dull sound, the man somersaulted backwards and passed out.
“I guess that’s all I’m getting…”
Kyousuke thought about this new information as he woke up Librarian-chan who was still collapsed on the floor and stuck his knee into her back until she got up.
This was a universal incense that could not summon a Material.
They were using the large factory’s smokestacks and the westerlies to spread it over the entire Northern Hemisphere.
But what for?
Two people were speaking.
A three story atrium space formed a large square directly above the production line. It was the production management room that monitored the entire line. The primary wall was made of glass, but there was little meaning in looking below with the naked eye. The countless consoles and LCD screens by the walls were more important.
However, these two were not monitoring the products.
They were monitoring the smokestacks.
One of them was Yasuzumi Hayato.
The other was Benikomichi Fuuki.
“We’ve used up 80% of our inventory now. It’s about time, mistress. We had set the dissemination amounts with room for having a bit of ‘fun’, so we should be ready to go now. The plan will succeed even if we start a little early.”
“Most likely. But this took longer than I thought. A lot of it caked onto the inside of the smokestacks.”
“It’s still enough. We only have an early weather map, but it should be accurate. The rainclouds are changing form in a way that blatantly ignores the normal rules. It will form the giant magic circle just fine.”
A short silence followed.
The student council girl who was also an assassin’s vessel sat directly on the edge of a console rather than in a chair.
“Now we’ve taken a different path than ‘him’.”
“My dad took the wrong path. That’s why he died.”
“I’m still not certain of that.”
“Then I’ll show you the truth, mistress. When this plan succeeds, we will have a world without death.”
“A world without death, hm?”
“The idea itself is simple, but the effect will be truly impressive. Every single human problem will be solved all at once. That will be our victory.”
“Just to be sure, the Artificial Sacred Ground really will cover the entire planet, right?”
“And permanently. We can start with the Northern Hemisphere. The rest will either go along with it or fight it. And if they fight it, we can just ignore them and let the flow of time drive them to extinction. And once the Southern Hemisphere has gone extinct, we can use factories there for a second dissemination to truly cover the entire planet.”
“And then all of humanity will be contained in their own protective circles.”
“That circle protects the summoner from all external threats and all internal threats such as illness and their own lifespan. It only lasts about ten minutes with a normal Incense Grenade, but our method is different. It will be permanent or at least semi-permanent because it’s a plain and universal incense that can affect anyone.”
“But the protective circle is made from a portion of the Material’s power. Even with an Unexplored-class, protecting all six or seven billion people on the planet won’t be easy.”
“Unless we use that.”
“Do you really think we can control that?”
“How many hypotheses do you think we have worked through to that end, mistress? Our method is perfect.”
Assassin Hayato smiled thinly as he leaned against the door.
And a mere five centimeters away, on the other side of the door, Shiroyama Kyousuke silently eavesdropped on their conversation.
It was far too unrealistic.
Their master plan was so megalomaniacal he wanted to laugh out loud.
A world without death.
Next to Kyousuke, Librarian-chan was unsure how to react as she whispered to him.
“(This is a joke, right? A world without death? What are they talking about? It was enough of a surprise to hear they were assassins, but this is just too much.)”
“(The problem is that it checks out on a theoretical level.)”
Kyousuke tilted his smartphone on its side and held it out toward the door as he answered.
“(Unlike a vessel, a summoner doesn’t need any inborn talent. That means anyone can become one. If they designate a large number of people as summoners for a single ceremony, set up an Artificial Sacred Ground over an extremely wide area, surround them all in protective circles…and set that up to continue indefinitely, then everyone on the planet will be made artificially immortal.)”
They did not have time for a detailed investigation here, so he was recording everything he could.
Based on the voices, at least one of the people speaking was near the door or leaning against it. If Kyousuke opened the door even a crack, they would notice, but if they moved from the door, Kyousuke wanted to record a video of them speaking.
Even now, he could hear the young boy and girl speaking on the other side of the door.
“That is of course powerful, but also fickle. She is a lot like a plasma fusion reactor with no guarantee of safety.”
“But placing everyone in a protective circle without giving them a vessel requires a bit of risk. And I have separated her mind from her body, mistress. I doubt she can wield her power of her own free will at the moment.”
“I just hope she really can be contained within the framework of human understanding.”
“Power can be controlled. That is true even of a sun and of a black hole. Mankind had its victory over the monsters from the moment we defined the Third Summoning Ceremony. This won’t be a problem.”
Their universal incense was not limited to a specific summoner and could not summon a normal Material.
They had a Material that could create protective circles for all seven billion people on the face of the earth.
The extremely high power needed for that was too much for even the average Unexplored-class.
(What? What are they talking about?)
An unpleasant sweat began to pour down Kyousuke’s face like his skin was being roasted.
It was possible he already knew the answer.
It was possible his entire being simply wanted to reject it.
A moment later, a lovely face appeared on the smartphone screen he held in front of him. It seemed to be peering in from the side.
<They are talking about me. My. Dear. Brother☆>
He just about lost sight of the current situation and screamed.
It took all his strength to hold his breath and silently back away.
The small screen displayed a girl with waist-length silver twintails and a pure white outfit that resembled a wedding dress.
She was an incarnation of benevolence.
She was a symbol of sanctity.
She was a personification of radiance.
She was an absolute white that did not allow for even a drop of impurity.
She was the strongest of the strong that far surpassed the Regulation-class, the Divine-class, the Unexplored-class, and even the Three.
The “White” Queen who Wields the Sword of Unsullied Truth (iu - nu - fb - a - wuh - ei -kx - eu - pl - vjz).
She had exceptional power even among the Unexplored-class that existed beyond the gods of legend. She alone held the name of “absolute”. And she was the Material that was always found at the center of conflict on a global scale.
She was a monster that would smile as she trampled over all the human good and evil that mankind had spent so much time and effort building up.
Her strength had also driven people to madness.
Kyousuke was not about to treat those assassins as victims because of this, but the Queen was the one behind it all.
Despite his extreme panic, Shiroyama Kyousuke still stood in front of Librarian-chan who simply stood there in confusion.
<Hee hee. There is no need to look so surprised. I cannot interfere physically right now. …That said, there is only so far I can continue to interpret jealousy as a way of spicing up our love.>
But something was not right.
Confused, Kyousuke looked back and forth between the smartphone screen and the actual scenery.
The smartphone definitely showed that greatest and worst of the Materials, but no one actually stood in front of the door.
It was like a strange sort of ghost video, or…
<Technically, I believe it is known as a perception network. It uses the city’s network and the AR is just one of its uses.>
The Queen gave a sparkling wink and blew him a kiss on the screen.
<When those two were referring to “that”, they meant me. And it seems this White Queen has been built in as a foundation for their world without death. As a safety measure, the mind you are speaking with now has been separated from the body that acts as the source of my power.>
“(Materials don’t show up on digital cameras and sensors. The network shouldn’t be able to recognize you.)”
<That is only when we are inside an Artificial Sacred Ground. Of course, the entire Northern Hemisphere is about to be covered in a thin Artificial Sacred Ground, but with that mixture of incense, setting up the protective circles will be the most they can manage since they don’t need it to interfere all that much. Plus, my main body was summoned with an entirely different method.>
<Well, boredom is the greatest sin. They probably think I will lend them my body without bothering to break free of their cage if they let me behave as I please.>
“(What method did they use?)”
<Urashima Tarou, Kaguya-hime, Penglai Island, the Fairy Kingdom, Orpheus, Izanagi, and I believe there was a similar story in Ancient Mexico too. Surely that was enough to clue you in, brother.>
“(The End of the World…hm?)”
In Toy Dream 35, Azalea Magentarain and the rest of Guard of Honor had caused trouble using the old concept of the fairy’s spring.
The End of the World was another well-known concept that had thoroughly permeated the minds of normal people who knew nothing of the summoning ceremony.
There were stories that miracles, objects, foods, or other things no human could reproduce could be found beyond the sea, beyond the mountains, beyond the sky, or anywhere else people could not reach. In most cases, it was said that arriving there or returning from there would conquer death.
“(If it can be called the End of the World, it can’t be somewhere touched by human hands.)”
<Correct. Just like the cat in the box, the conditions collapse once it is opened by human hands.>
“(Where exactly is it?)”
<Do you really think you can get everything you want out of me? Whether it is a physical object or information, since I was summoned outside of the Blood-Sign system, there was no compensation required as a safety device when summoning me.>
The White Queen seemed to be enjoying herself.
Kyousuke narrowed his eyes a little. He knew he was only looking at an image displayed on the screen, but he still moved silently to better protect Librarian-chan. He knew the Queen was liable to order him to kill his vessel just to make him suffer. And if he refused, she might very well use every underhanded method available to overturn all assumptions and kill the girl herself.
Depending on the situation, she was a much more pressing threat than even the assassins on the other side of the door.
<Hee hee hee. Then how about you take an artificial photograph with me? And then you can use it as your phone’s background. The fact that I’m accessing your phone like this means I already have your address. Oh, it feels so much like we’re lovers☆>
<Wait just a second, brother. If you throw this smartphone against the floor, everyone in the building will hear.>
The world was clearly ending when the White Queen was the sensible one.
<Brother. Did you miss the reference I made just a moment ago?>
The White Queen smiled on the small screen as she gave the answer.
Her slender finger pointed straight up.
Toy Dream OP-01 to Toy Dream OP-07 were all civilian space stations.
But there was one other station that had been used only in the early demonstration experiments and was currently abandoned.
It now silently orbited the blue planet as a giant coffin.
“(How could this happen?)” muttered Kyousuke.
The White Queen did not seem to mind.
<In true Illegal fashion, they used vulture funds to buy a civilian spaceship company. They used that technology to contact the abandoned station and modify it to their liking.>
<That means my body is enjoying a flight near the moon. Perhaps you could call this a digital out-of-body experience. Brother, you and your surroundings are out of my reach. Unlike the Sewn Realm Summoning that Guard of Honor organization used in this city before, this will not summon Materials without end. For one thing, this was running experimentally even as Guard of Honor summoned me into that cocoon to have me all to themselves. This is really just the dregs of my power, so don’t you think you can let your guard down?>
“(Like I can believe that. If you wanted to, you could use an explosion in orbit to crash the entire station into the earth.)”
<Hee hee. You really are a cowardly little rabbit, brother☆ But that’s what makes you so adorable.>
It did not matter where exactly the Queen was.
She could smash the entire world to pieces as long as she had appeared somewhere in the world, wherever that might be.
Kyousuke agonized over the fact that no one seemed to understand that.
Did Yasuzumi Hayato and Benikomichi Yuuki really think they could control her?
“(But the End of the World, huh?)”
That phrase may have contained a small hint of hope.
Even if they were his enemy, he hoped beyond hope they would actually control her.
Never mind the fact that he knew that was hopeless.
<It is a different method from the one you used in the past, brother, but there were something similar in your ideas file, wasn’t there?>
“(That was just an empty theory. It seems to make sense, but I doubt it would actually work.)”
<They take everything needed to summon me, close it up in a box, and send it somewhere no one can reach. No one knows if I was summoned or not. But that’s exactly why it’s effective. …That was the idea, right?>
“(Again, it wouldn’t work.)”
<That is a matter of perception, brother. Because you are so extremely skilled, you notice the true faults without even opening the box. That is why it fails for you. But most others don’t. If there is an egg, they innocently believe a chick will hatch from it. Only the hen knows just how hard it is to keep that egg stable and warm. …And that ignorance provides the power needed to force this method to work.>
The fact remained that the White Queen was here before his eyes.
Even if the method was wrong, she remained in this world by force.
Who was the truly frightening one here? Hayato and Benikomichi Fuuki for carrying out the plan or the White Queen for going along with it on a whim?
<See, see? And by that theory, I couldn’t hurt a fly while separated from my body like this. So stop giving me that unpleasant look and start flirting with this harmless and powerless version of me☆>
Kyousuke refused to believe it so easily.
For one thing…
“(Why are you helping humans? A space station? The End of the World? If you wanted to, you could easily break free of that manmade cage.)”
<It seems “this” is the safety method to keep that from happening. By binding my body but giving my mind freedom, they hope I won’t get bored. As long as I’m happy, I won’t go on a rampage.>
“(That doesn’t explain anything. You’re the strongest of the strong, so I can’t imagine why you would obey anyone else.)”
<Because I knew you would show up before long if I did this. In that way, they passed with flying colors.>
A sweetness even more concentrated than gum syrup could be seen in her carefree smile.
There was affection there, but also something unhealthy that felt like it would burn his chest if he so much as licked at it.
“(Why are they trying to create a world without death? Do they have a good enough reason to explain your cooperation?)”
<How many times do I have to tell you I’m not interested in the human world? As long as you were going to show up, brother, nothing else mattered. As for them, they’re looking at this in a Mahayana way more than a Sthaviravada way.>
“(The salvation…of all mankind?)”
<It really is nothing more than that. Isn’t it ironic for a group of assassins to create a paradise that rejects all forms of death?>
Librarian-chan had fallen silent for a while.
She did not want her sister’s ghost to appear all over the place and she herself had nearly been killed by that ghost.
But were the people in this factory really doing anything wrong?
A world without death.
An age in which everyone was immortal.
If that was possible…
“(It would lead to hell on earth. Do they actually understand that?)”
Kyousuke’s words stabbed into Librarian-chan’s chest.
He had likely been speaking to the White Queen, but it had been enough to tear away Librarian-chan’s na?ve thoughts as she listened in.
“(Civilization is built on the assumption that people die. For example, people don’t commit crimes because they’re afraid of being executed. Countries don’t start wars because they don’t want a ton of their people to die. That’s just how we think. When you get down to it, people go along with civil rights and environmental protection because the alternative could threaten their lives. But all of that will crumble in a world without death. …If that age arrives too suddenly, all the safeties we’ve put in place will fail. Kind metropolises will transform into post-apocalyptic ruins in no time.)”
<Brother. How much work do you think people have put into building up civilization this far?>
The White Queen sounded like she was questioning his sanity.
And she continued in a graceful, insane voice.
<People tend to only remember the four great ancient civilizations. There were many others and people lived happily there with smiles on their faces, but no one remembers their names. Civilizations are no more valuable than that. So why get so worked up over them?>
“(This is on another level entirely. This planet truly will be covered in desert.)”
<The age of the dinosaurs was covered in ice and came to an end. But does anyone now feel any pain for them while using their oil?>
“(But this time no one will be able to die as it happens!! This could lead to an age in which seven billion starving people crawl around a desert planet! And it will continue for centuries, millennia, and all eternity!!)”
Librarian-chan could not bring herself to speak.
She finally understood why Kyousuke had called it a living hell.
A world of no restraint and no benevolence. All cities would crumble, all nature would vanish, and only scorching deserts would remain. Nevertheless, they would be unable to die and forced to crawl around as dried-up mummies, searching for even the slightest puddle.
Death would become an unreachable hope.
It truly was the hell seen in picture books.
And instead of being sent to hell, hell would come to this world.
“(You knew it would turn out like that, didn’t you?)”
<Of course I did.>
“(You knew, but you didn’t correct their mistake! You just smiled and pretended to obey them as they dreamed of their paradise without giving it any real thought!!)”
<Why wouldn’t I? As long as I have you, brother, mankind and the planet are of no consequence.>
Her intoxicated voice was that of a dreaming maiden.
The loveliness of her face and voice made her unbelievably hideous to Kyousuke.
When people did evil deeds out of malice, one only had to remove that malice. But the White Queen could not be persuaded or threatened. She could not be controlled through external stimuli.
<More importantly, are you going to be okay, brother?>
“(What are you talking about?)”
<They are referring to this battle as “mankind’s final death”, so they will not feel even a twinge of guilt. That means they will not hold back as long as the situation warrants it.>
Kyousuke looked to the door.
He had thought Hayato and Benikomichi Fuuki would attack if they noticed him here.
But he had been wrong.
<Brother, you seem to think it was your skill that allowed you to sneak in this far, but it would be more accurate to say you were following the bread crumbs left for you. And while they are a summoner and vessel, they are assassins first and foremost. If they have a surefire way to kill, there is no reason for them to stick to the summoning ceremony.>
“(It can’t be…)”
<As long as they lured you deep into this giant factory - yes, about fifty steps away from the exit - their victory was assured. I thought that sounded quite boring, but what do you think?>
“It can’t be!!”
A moment later, more than three hundred plastic explosives attached to the factory’s primary columns and rebar detonated all at once.
Rather than being crushed, the building seemed to have been blown to pieces by firecrackers pointed straight up.
Hayato was more than five hundred meters away as he held the wireless detonator, but pieces of concrete still fell near him.
There was no disguising this as something else, so firetruck and ambulance sirens were sounding here and there.
He spoke with a composed look on his face.
“That’s right,” replied his vessel Benikomichi Fuuki.
They had blown up a factory filled with more than a hundred of their men, but they did not seem to care.
Then who were the two people inside the factory’s production management room?
The answer was simple: body doubles.
“It’s sad losing someone to speak with. After all, she could perfectly disguise herself as me. I’ve never met anyone who understood me so well.”
“But these were the final sacrifices. It all leads to the world without death.”
And it was thanks to those sacrifices that Shiroyama Kyousuke and his vessel had focused so much on infiltration that they let down their guard in a way.
The sacrifices had been necessary.
They had been mankind’s final sacrifices.
As far as they could see while monitoring from a distance, Kyousuke had not set up an Artificial Sacred Ground. That meant the Material and protective circle could not have saved them from harm. Summoners could cause damage exceeding the laws of physics, but they were normal humans if they did not follow the proper process. Normal explosives would kill them like normal.
The standard Incense Grenade was set to detonate three to five seconds after pulling the pin, so it was too late to start once the explosions had already begun.
They had either been torn to mincemeat or they were crushed beneath the rubble.
“Whatever the case, the necessary amount of incense is already in the air. We just need to buy another dissemination factory within five years.”
“What do you think, Hayato? We didn’t get enough work out of the factory, so it’s hard to say its products reached all mankind. …I doubt we made the connection there.”
“It doesn’t matter if we didn’t. Creating our immortal group comes first. After that, the passage of time will put us in control. Everyone else will only have two options: be exterminated or join the undying. Then our world without death will be complete.”
Hayato stopped speaking for a moment and then forced out some more.
“Okay, mistress. Let’s add the finishing touches.”
“Yes,” replied the vessel girl. “We’ve sprinkled the oil on the straw. Once we set it alight, no one can stop us.”
The entire area had become a pile of rubble.
It had originally been a giant factory, but that had thoroughly crumbled into a pile over ten meters high.
The scene looked hopeless at first, but there was a surprising escape route.
The inside had not been entirely crushed, so it was now something like a vast labyrinth
Kyousuke cursed as he crawled out into the rain that had resumed pouring outside.
He held Librarian-chan’s limp form in his arms.
A few dozen firetrucks and ambulances were gathered out front. Their red lights were flashing all around. The pressure that should have kept them away was no longer functioning.
With Librarian-chan still in his arms, Kyousuke turned back toward the pile of rubble.
“How many people were buried alive in there…?”
<Eh heh heh. Did I come in handy?>
Even now, the White Queen was laughing.
She had already left his smartphone’s screen.
A life-size version of the White Queen stood next to Kyousuke as an image projected on the raindrops.
“The Rainy Screen, hm?”
He received a response from the directional speakers that were used to make the voice data sound like it was coming from the projected image.
The White Queen clasped her hands behind her back and moved her chin in needlessly close.
<Well, you can say it’s an alliance, but it’s really a master/servant relationship. And this was just a dull way of proving that. So on the way back to Toy Dream 35, you can take a look at every high-resolution nook and cranny of my youthful body.>
When she passed right through Kyousuke, the Queen puffed out her cheeks.
The bombs had been set up to destroy the massive factory’s most important structural points. But that meant the blast spreading within the factory was not evenly distributed and it was thus weaker in places.
Kyousuke and Librarian-chan had quickly hid in one of those “air pockets” to escape the danger.
But not even Kyousuke could make those calculations on such short notice.
Searching out all the bombs in that instant would have been impossible. Without help from the White Queen who had seen where the bombs were in advance, he would not have even had the necessary data for the calculations.
“Were you hoping I would thank you? After you just let this happen?”
<Then I will serve you to my utmost until you do thank me. How about this?>
The White Queen projected on the night rain spoke with the expression of a girl opening a homemade lunch in front of the boy she had a crush on.
To her, this may not have been much different.
<Their deathless world requires more than just disseminating a special substance through the air. That is the only the setup. It needs to treat every human on the planet like a summoner, but the general public isn’t aware of the summoning ceremony. So for the very final step, those expert summoners must ignite everything with a special ignition switch.>
If they could stop that ignition, they could prevent the world without death from being constructed.
“Rain and factory smoke, linking the people who bought the character goods with the factory’s activity, the End of the World, and the final ignition…”
Kyousuke muttered to himself and the White Queen waved her index finger in front of his face.
<Eh heh heh. Yes, I knew you wouldn’t need me to give you the answer after that hint, brother. Now, now. I’m looking forward to your valiant effort.>
The Queen’s image grew badly distorted with static. That continued for about ten seconds before returning to normal.
Kyousuke heard a wet sound like a child’s rain boots scraping against the wet asphalt.
He slowly turned around.
Since Librarian-chan was unconscious, he could face this ghost without seeing it through her emotional filter.
He found a small silhouette quite nearby. A broken umbrella hid the face of a girl in a bloody raincoat who was between ten and twelve. She was the Rainy Girl. She was Librarian-chan’s sister and was supposedly plotting to kill that girl who rejoiced at being able to live on her own.
This was not the same as the fake Rainy Screen.
This was a mistake that appeared in the world itself.
He could only see her lips and they were moving silently.
Librarian-chan had been terrified from beginning to end, but when he calmly observed her, he could read her lips.
This is what she was trying to say: Save my sister’s world.
When had this ghost realized the truth?
And to how many people had she tried to tell the truth?
She had not been appearing to kill Librarian-chan.
Even after death, she had been wandering the earth in order to protect her family.
<Eh heh heh. Did you let her go because you realized this from the beginning, brother?>
“I’m not that perfect. I just thought the Rainy Girl’s actions weren’t focused enough for me to accept what Librarian-chan said at face value. If I hadn’t heard this here, I might have taken Librarian-chan’s side and helped eliminate the ghost.”
At the very least, the summoner and vessel advocating a world without death had seen the Rainy Girl as a danger. They had gone as far as bugging Librarian-chan’s house or modifying the communications equipment nearby.
They had not directly killed Librarian-chan because the Rainy Girl had been fixated on her sister. It was a lot like the relationship between Kyousuke and the White Queen. If they got rid of Librarian-chan, they would no longer be able to predict the Rainy Girl’s actions. That was why they had left her alive.
Ghastly wide eyes peered out from the gaps in the torn umbrella.
It was true that ghost did not look normal.
Given how she had died, some might have screamed as soon as they saw her face.
But that was not the girl’s fault.
That did not explain why that girl would be malicious.
In the end, the Rainy Girl had only been focused on the nearby people she cared about. But no one had noticed and she had become the star of a ghost story.
<What are you going to do, brother?>
The White Queen seemed to be enjoying herself.
She asked despite knowing the answer.
And that was why the boy responded as if to confirm what she already knew.
He had been asked to save someone and Alice (with) Rabbit could only give one answer when he had heard those cursed words.
“My answer is of course, ‘as you wish’.”
When people fall asleep on the last train or on a train that begins deadheading, they go missing and never return. But for some reason, the fact that people are vanishing never ends up in the news.
The rumor had branched off into a number of forms, so some had a less frightening conclusion: a reunion with a forgotten first love, the return of a runaway pet, or the discovery of a lost treasure, but that only made it less credible.
I started to drift off on the train and suddenly woke up to find I was the only one onboard. I was too scared to see if anyone was in the driver’s compartment up front. As I trembled in fear, I blinked and suddenly found myself back on the train full of other passengers. I thought I had just woken up from a dream, but what if I have been wandering through a dream ever since? Or…?
As the planner viewed the scene, he complained into his cellphone: ‘Your huge-ass sign is in the way, so no one can see our advertisement from the station.’ When the construction workers checked the plans back in their office, they all tilted their heads. There shouldn’t have been a giant sign there, so what was this guy seeing?
Meinokawa Higan woke up to someone violently shaking her shoulders. She shrieked when she realized it was a middle-aged worker and not her “sister”.
The man with stubble on his chin just looked annoyed.
“How long are you planning to sleep? I’m amazed those cleaning brushes whirring around outside weren’t enough to wake you. If I hadn’t done one last check through the cars, the shutters would’ve closed and you’d have been trapped on the monorail.”
“Eh, ah!? Um, where’s my sister…?”
“Your sister? Oh, please don’t tell me there’s someone else hiding in here.”
The annoyance in his voice suggested he really knew nothing about that.
Higan shook her heavy head and pulled out the cheap cellphone that matched the one her “sister” had. It was already past ten and both calling and emailing received no response.
“Hey, can you get off the train before messing with your phone? I really want to lock up and get home.”
“I can’t believe this. Now I have to check back over everything for that sister of yours.”
The worker complained as he left the monorail. Higan started to follow, but she nearly “fell”. Unlike at a station, the switchyard had no platform and thus there was a one meter drop. It was easily overcome if you knew it was there, but it could lead to a broken arm if it caught someone off guard.
The man supported her with surprisingly quick movements.
“Watch out! If there’s an accident here, I might be held responsible. Please give me a break!!”
He was being a little cruel, but from his perspective, Higan was a step away from being a trespasser. No one would want to be responsible for the actions of someone like that.
She moved away from the worker and looked around.
Monorail cars hung down from the parallel rails running along near the ceiling. There were also garage-like shutters and large maintenance equipment. It was a vast space, but it was all indoors and the rain could not get in.
There were a few other men and women in work uniforms, but it was a small number for such a large space. It felt more like they were the few remaining workers rather than the full workforce. They might have been “closing up shop” as it was called.
And there was no sign of a shrine maiden outfit’s noticeable red color scheme.
Higan walked around unsteadily, left the switchyard through a door, and entered a narrow passageway. She felt around as she continued. Finally, she opened a stainless steel door and stepped outside.
She was nearly blinded by the bright decorative lights.
Toy Dream 35 was always filled with colorful lights, but a special event known as the Rainy Screen was underway to keep guests around during the long rain. That was why a “surface” of light burned into her eyes like a movie screen.
“Where did Renge go?”
The girl had not been in the switchyard, but Higan did not know where she had gone. She had no idea what to do, but then an odd sound reached her ears.
It was strangely scratchy and she did not even realize it was a voice at first.
As soon as she said that, she heard another sound.
The disturbing sound reminded her of rubber scraping against the rainy road.
Meinokawa Higan silently turned around.
She did so ever so slowly.
And there she found…
*Summoner Hayato and Vessel Benikomichi Fuuki are pursuing a world without death that will be created by a worldwide Artificial Sacred Ground and seven billion protective circles. If all mankind is placed inside a protective circle within that semi-permanent Artificial Sacred Ground, it will theoretically create a deathless world that rejects all external and internal death.
*Hayato’s group used the factory’s smoke to place a special substance in the westerlies. And by placing the factory’s products in people’s hands the world over, they forcibly involved them in a portion of the summoning ceremony.
*The Material at the core of the plan is the White Queen. Her body is in space and her mind alone can walk freely on the earth. Thus, she is currently harmless. However, it is unknown if that balance can be broken.
*The current system of society is built on the assumption that people die and civilization will quickly collapse if people suddenly stop dying. Hayato’s group either has not realized this or is trying not to think about it.
*In a system not reliant on the Artificial Sacred Ground, Materials can be picked up by cameras and sensors.
*The Rainy Girl ghost had noticed some of what was going on and was trying to give a warning to protect her sister and the small world around her, but that warning did not reach anyone.
*To create the world without death, Hayato must activate some final ignition.
*The White Queen super loves her super super brother. But that super super super love is super super super super scary.
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