The Old Capital and the Old People
Tiat said she had a dream. A dream in which she was somewhere she had never went before, gazing at sights she had never seen before, talking with someone she had never met before.
Just going by what she said, nothing seemed too unusual. Dreams are just that: dreams. Sometimes they include real events, places, and people from your memories, and other times they show you seemingly random visions completely unfamiliar to you.
But, according to the fairies, this was different. Apparently, sometimes, the moment they wake up, they can just tell that the dream they had been having was special. Without any particular logic or reasoning, they become strongly convinced that it was fundamentally different from a normal dream, where you could be comfortable or scared or happy or sad, but no trace remained in reality upon waking.
And so, Tiat’s dream turned out to be an omen.
—A little far away, she had said. Thinking about it, the right move would have been to confirm just how far of a distance, exactly, that ‘little’ referred to. They had spent almost an entire day transferring between different airships and being shaken about by the wind. Completely exhausted from riding on wobbly vehicles for so long, Willem finally arrived at his destination: the city of Collinadiluche, 11th Floating Island.
The smell of stone. That was the first thing he noticed after coming off the ramp of the airship. To be more precise, it was the scent that the stones and bricks had acquired over their long history, the scent of the pavement which had been ceaselessly trampled on, the scent of the animals living there, and the scent of the wind which whistled through the town.
Right beside the harbor district was a large, open area for trading, and it appeared to be the first day of some kind of market. He could see a series of worn canvas tents all lined up orderly. And beyond that, the city stood with its vibrant colors of reddish brown and whitish gray.
A diverse mix of races wandered about the streets, with no obvious majority. If he had to name one, the Lucantrobos seemed to be more numerous than the others, but that was just a gut feeling, not backed up by any sort of counting. Here and there, members of the ‘markless’ races, like Willem and the girls, could be seen mixed in with the crowd. From the looks of it, there was no need to cover up with a hood or hat.
“… ah.” A sigh of admiration unconsciously escaped his lips. “I’m surprised. It’s a lot more normal than I imagined.” He had heard about this place before. The first city ever founded in Regul Aire, carrying over four hundred years of history. A rare town which, throughout its long history, has never been burned by the fires of war or destroyed by the invaders from the ground below.
Well, after all, Regul Aire is in the sky. There are no elves attacking from the forests and no orcs pushing in the boundaries. No dragons that like to burn homes for fun or Visitors that declare a purge on the entire race of humans. Considering this, the ‘never been burned by the fires of war’ part kind of loses its rarity factor.
Also, being in the sky means much more limited resources. In particular, digging stones out of a floating island is equivalent to shaving down the space you’re living in. Because of this, stone is a fairly expensive building material. And of course, building an entire city out of stone would be extremely difficult. So Willem thought that even the largest and oldest city in Regul Aire would still be nothing compared to the cities that once thrived on land, but apparently he had greatly underestimated it.
Golems, which had the appearance of barrels that suddenly sprouted arms and legs, ran around restlessly, carrying wooden boxes to and fro. Willem stepped off the road in order to avoid bumping into one, and it said ‘thank you’ in its mechanical voice before running off again. Even programming manners into the golems’ artificial brains… this city really was something special.
First impressions of the bustling tourism and trade center running through his mind, Willem had started to walk off when he noticed that his companion was not at his side. Turning around, he saw Tiat frozen still on the top of the airship ramp, emitting an unusually large amount of sparkle. Her mouth was open wide and her face showed a mix of delight, surprise, and reverence at the sight before her eyes.
“Oi, hurry up and get over here,” he called, but she didn’t show any sign of hearing his words. Her mind had gotten up and flown off somewhere. “Come on.” He walked back up the ramp and poked her forehead with his finger.
“Let’s go. I’m tired from sitting on that ship for so long.”
“B-But it’s the 11th Floating Island, you know!? Collinadiluche, you know!? The real thing!!”
“The place where history gathers! The treasure box of the sky! The stew pot of romance and legends!” She started talking some nonsense rather passionately. Stew pot…? “Many a masterpiece has been set upon this stage!”
“You’re like this practically everywhere besides the 68th Island… every time we transferred ships you had that sparkle in your eyes.”
“But, this is my first time leaving the island… wait, no! This island and this town are special! A whole different level!” she complained desperately, then ran up to Willem’s side.
He could feel attention gathering on them: the looks of reservation directed at the ‘markless’. Or wait, this was different: they were the kind looks of admiration one gives to a charming family passing by. People probably thought they were brother and sister, coming out from their rural home to a big city for the first time .
Well, that wasn’t very far from the truth. Always living off in their own little world, the girls’ view of the larger Regul Aire outside was limited to what they had seen in books or crystal movies. It was only natural that she should be excited just by traveling to a new island. And moreover, it seemed like this particular city happened to be the setting of one of her favorite stories. He could understand her excitement.
“Whatever, let’s go. We didn’t come here to sightsee.” He could understand, but her excitement would never come to an end on its own.
“Aw, come on! Let me enjoy this for at least a little.”
As he tugged on her small hand and started walking off, he could hear giggles behind his back. Now, he was used to standing out in a bad way, but still the attention made him feel uncomfortable.
“Ah, hey, hey. Can I go see that up close!?”
“Falsta Square’s statue of the Great Sage!”
“That means nothing to me…”
Following the girl’s line of sight, he found a large open plaza with a fountain and, standing majestically in the center, a statue of an old man. Willem squinted his eyes and observed the statue in more detail. The old man wore a hood and had a bold, fearless looking face. There might have been many more artistic touches, but Willem could never understand those aspects. Considering that he could never appreciate the subtleties of Emnetwyte art, there was no way he could artistically judge the art of other species. Now, if it was a statue of a woman, he could at least offer some comments from a guy’s perspective, but he wasn’t about to do that with a statue of a grandpa.
“So what is that?”
“It’s a bronze statue of the person that built this city long long ago. It’s a common spot for a secret lover’s meeting! I know because so many stories are set here!”
“You know, like the final scene of ‘The Stars and Wind of Collinadiluche’ where ‘Rust Nose’ ate a fried potato!” Well apparently, Tiat also had no interest in the artistic qualities of the statue. “And there’s a legend that if two lovers swear their eternal affection for each other here, it’ll bring them happiness for five years…”
“That’s a pretty dumb legend….” Swear to love each other for eternity, but only get five years of happiness? What happens in the sixth year? Wait, this is not the time to be thinking about this. “No sightseeing. Remember, you came here because you have a duty to fulfill.”
After hearing Willem’s scolding, Tiat finally gave up. She lowered her left arm that had been flailing around in excitement and drooped her shoulders.
“You want to become an excellent fairy soldier like Kutori, right?”
“Ah, yeah. Yep. Haven’t forgotten.” Staring down at her feet, she shook her right hand free from Willem’s grip and started trudging along. “Let’s go.”
Willem stood still. After walking about ten steps ahead, Tiat noticed and turned around. “What’s wrong?”
“Ah… the airship home leaves tomorrow evening.”
“Yeah? What about it?”
“After we finish up our business… we should have some time to take a long walk.”
She didn’t seem to understand the meaning of those words immediately. But gradually, Tiat’s obviously disappointed face slowly changed into a broad smile. She scurried back the ten steps that she had walked and grabbed Willem’s hand.
“Come on! No time to be lounging around!”
Alright alright, Miss Princess, got it. Trying to bite back a laugh, he walked forward, his hand being pulled along by Tiat.
Suddenly, a slight feeling of discomfort brushed against the back of Willem’s neck. It was the same feeling he had grown used to during his days as a Quasi Brave back on the land: the feeling of malice. And he could sense not just one person, but a few people holding ill will against another group of a few people. That faint tension, always present right before a conflict breaks out, floated about the place. Even so, it didn’t seem to be a particularly large scale event, and the malice was not directed at Willem and Tiat.
“Hm? Ah, nothing.”
Even though at first glance this place looked to be a peaceful tourist spot, or maybe because of that fact, seeds of trouble seemed to be hidden in the shadows. Well… I guess it doesn’t matter to us. There was no need to go out of the way to swat away sparks that didn’t fall their way in the first place. Willem decided to leave things be and continue through the city, his hand still being pulled along.
Without the Kaliyon, there was no way to resist the ‘Beasts’ which destroyed the world. But only certain ‘chosen’ humans could wield the Kaliyon. And even before that problem of being chosen or not chosen, all the Emnetwyte went extinct long ago. Therefore, there was no way to oppose the ‘Beasts’; the world was coming to an end.
— The people of Regul Aire, however, were not obedient enough to accept such simple reasoning. If there were no more Emnetwyte, then all they needed was a substitute, and a suitable possibility just so happened to exist: natural phenomena which in ancient times stuck close to humans, used their tools, and helped with their work. Beings which sprung up as a result of the souls of deceased infants not being able to understand their own death and wandering lost into the world.
Those creatures which used to exist on that world were said to be midgets no taller than an adult human’s knees. But up in the current world, they took on a form closer to that of the former Emnetwyte: young girls. The reason for this change in appearance was unclear, but they were convenient to force weapons upon. And, no matter how their figure changed, the inner substance of their being had likely not changed from before. They spring into existence to stay beside people. To help people. To chase the backs of people. To imitate the actions of people. And for those same reasons, they disappear.
“… but even so, not every fairy can wield a Dug Weapon. It seems that they all have the innate ability to, but whether that ability will blossom in their early years is another question.”
His neck hurt a little. The man sitting in front of his eyes was, simply put, a giant. A brawny, muscular giant about twice Willem’s height. And moreover, this giant had a bald head and fangs protruding, wore a white gown and black glasses (probably custom made), under which his single eye seemed to sparkle with pure intelligence, and his title read ‘Doctor’.
“This is a general treatment facility managed by the Orlandri Company. We have the best equipment and medicine in all of Regul Aire. Any fairy who sees an ‘omen’ dream comes here, and we treat her body so that she may fight as a fully grown fairy soldier. Since Dug Weapons are so rare, and their enemies are so strong, nothing good will come of simply letting a fairy whose body hasn’t been properly treated hold a sword.”
He spoke politely with a gentle voice, and the things he was telling Willem were all perfectly logical. But the Monstrous-like body alone was enough to overshadow all that. He couldn’t seem to shake away the discomfort.
“So Tiat… where is she now?”
The room must have been built to fit this guy’s body, because the ceiling was ridiculously high. Willem thought that this must be what it feels like for a dog or cat to look up at the world of humans.
“Right now she’s having her body examined by female doctors in the room next door.”
“And why are you just hanging out around here, if you’re supposed to be in charge of her?”
“If I can entrust a job to other people, then I will. When it gets to the point where I can’t, then I’ll step in. As for now, I wanted to speak with you a little bit, Willem Kumesh.” At this, Willem gave the doctor a suspicious look: he had not yet given his name in front of this man. “Ah, no need to be so cautious,” the giant continued, waving his hands. “I didn’t investigate you through any shady means or anything, I simply heard about you from a letter Nai sent me.”
Nai…? Ah, he must mean Naigrat.
“That seems pretty shady to me…”
“Well, that’s true if you think about it, I guess.” He agrees, huh… Willem was the one who said it first, but now he felt a little sorry for Naigrat. “Anyway, you–”
Cutting off the giant’s words, a small explosion sounded in the distance. And then, almost all at once, the sound repeated itself three more times.
“Seems like it. Probably the Order of Annihilation Service History.”
“… excuse me? Maybe it’s because I’m still not used to the common language or something, but I have no idea what you just said. Annihilation… what?”
“The Order of Annihilation Service History.”
“What kind of knight order is that… the name sounds like it was made up by a bunch of teenagers that’ll regret their choice in five years or so…”
“It’s a group of youngsters going around causing violence in resistance of the current mayor’s policies. ‘Knight Order’ is just a self proclaimed title, but they’re backed by the old aristocracy, so they’re more legitimate than their name suggests.”
“Ah….” The malicious air he felt in the streets earlier must have been that. “At any rate, guns aren’t a very pleasant sight. A standoff between the radicals and the traditionalists… something like that?”
“That’s the idea. Long ago, this was a purely beast people town, and they tend to have a stronger sense of territory… thinking this city and its history have always been and still are theirs, refusing to get along with other races.”
History. History, huh? Willem tried to recall the people living in the capital back down on the old world. The city only had a little less than two hundred years of history, but a large number of its residents still held a strong sense of pride or attachment to it.
Pride is essentially the same as arrogance. By relating yourself to something with value, you guarantee your own value and make yourself feel better. You know what they say: any medicine can become poison depending on how you use it. Same with pride: it can turn into either a beautiful or an ugly thing. For better or for worse, you were born into a noble family, and you need to drill this lesson into your head.
Willem tried to shrug away the words of his master which had apparently decided to stop by for a trip through his head. All of his sayings were the same: they continued to cling on to some corner of his brain, refusing to go away. Those words from just now weren’t even directed at him originally; he had just happened to be listening off to the side as the master talked to a younger girl disciple.
“I don’t think there’s anything to be proud of in a town where you can hear gunshots in the middle of the day.”
“Well, it’s not uncommon for there to be disagreements within a large organization like that. Besides, the guys up top don’t seem to have a problem with it, as long as it keeps outsiders away.”
“I see.” Beginning to understand the situation after a little thought, Willem nodded.
“I guess four hundred years of history must not seem like a big deal to you, who’s lived over five hundred years?” Following a brief silence, the giant steered the conversation in an unexpected direction.
“… I’m not arrogant enough to call my five hundred years of doing nothing ‘history’.”
“Wildly oversleeping isn’t something to boast about. Besides…” He faltered.
“Besides… what?” the one eyed Kikuroppe gestured for him to continue with a frightening smile that would definitely make a child cry, or even leave some permanent trauma. Now, Willem wasn’t a kid so he didn’t get scared or anything, but…
“… nothing.” He waved his hands and tried to get off the topic.
“Hmm?” The giant narrowed his single eye, as if trying to peer straight into Willem’s heart. “Well, to you, Regul Aire must be like a dream world, where everything just seems made up and lacks reality. I guess four hundred years in that kind of world doesn’t have much of an impact.”
“That’s not what I was saying…”
“Oh, well my apologies.” The giant shrugged his shoulders.
Just then, a knock sounded at the door and a Reptrace dressed in a white robe entered the room. The Reptrace, who was a little on the small end of the size spectrum for his race, gave a quick bow to Willem, handed over a few documents to the giant, then once again left the room.
“… the results from Tiat’s examination have arrived.”
“Am I allowed to hear them?”
“Of course. I was just about to tell you. Let’s see…”
He adjusted his glasses and began to read aloud, adding his own commentary. Her body development was going as expected for her age, with no shortcomings with regards to health. However, there were two minor problems: a little damage to the digestive organs from too much milk intake, and a few teeth that were beginning to develop cavities.
“I’ll make her be more careful in the future,” Willem responded, pressing his fingertips against his forehead. The doctor’s words brought back embarrassing memories. Tiat would often gulp down concerning quantities of milk at once, saying ‘I’m going to grow!’, then end up almost choking to death. Her attachment to sweet things could also be considered more than abnormal.
“Anyway, the biggest concern, which was encroachment from her previous life, seems to have stopped at a mild level. She’s sure to become a fine fairy soldier.”
“Yes, that’s right. They are all reincarnated beings, or rather the souls of the dead. Before they took on their current figure, they were someone else. Sometimes, memories from that previous life come back and cause negative influences on their personalities or bodies.”
The doctor’s explanation came faster than Willem could process all the information. “That sounds more like spellcraft than medicine. Do doctors these days study necromancy or something?”
“Any information that helps our patients counts as medicine, right?” the giant responded with a smile. It seemed like that was his attempt at a joke. “Well, at any rate, you don’t need to worry about that stuff with Tiat. Right now she’s in perfect condition, able to properly exist as herself.”
“Then that’s good, I guess…”
Something felt off, like the slight feeling of discomfort from a small bone stuck in the throat. But Willem couldn’t figure out exactly what it was.
In order to have her body properly conditioned to be a fairy soldier, Tiat needed to be left in the treatment facility for an entire day. Uneasiness at the mention of all sorts of medicine and hypnotism must have shown on his face.
“You don’t have to worry. There won’t be any damage done to her body. Every fairy soldier goes through this process to acquire compatibility with Dug Weapons,” the doctor reassured Willem. After being told that, he figured that any further grumbling would be no use.
“I’ll grow spectacularly! Just wait and see!”
He softly patted the head of the pumped up Tiat and whispered in her ear, “I heard you don’t actually get any taller during the process.”
“T-That’s not what I meant! I wasn’t actually expecting that! Really!”
And lastly, he was able to send the protesting girl, with a deep red blush on her face, off with a smile.
I’ll grow spectacularly! Just wait and see!
But just what, exactly, would they be able to see after her ‘growth’?
That, however, was obvious. They would see her go off to the battlefield. Engage in combat as a weapon, be used up, and eventually run out of power. Finish the cycle of ‘life’ that the girls were born and raised for.
The world was slowly coming to an end. His own story, of course, had ended long ago. And now, he was playing a role in the end of the girls’ stories.
“This isn’t a very good feeling.”
Shaking his head slightly, Willem decided to look for a place to stay the night.