Time slowly but surely flowed along. The green of the grasses on the roadside deepened, and the trees almost seemed to be competing with each other to bloom their flowers first. The wind whistling by felt a little gentler and warmer with each passing day.
As the seasons changed, the fairy warehouse gained two new residents. One came from a forest on the 26th Floating Island, and the other appeared next to a lake on the 40th Island. The search agency of the Winged Guard picked them up and brought them to the warehouse. At first, Almita and her friends, the youngest generation up until then, rejoiced and caused a great commotion upon hearing the news. Tiat, however, put an end to that, scolding them to act more grown up since they were going to become big sisters.
On the other hand, thankfully, no existing residents were lost during that time. Not a single Teimerre attack occurred since then, so no one needed to head off to battle and sacrifice her life. Kutori. Nephren. Willem. Ever since that day when the warehouse lost those three irreplaceable faces, peaceful times had continued, just like those three always wished for.
“As usual, there have been no predictions of battles,” a giant Reptrace said bluntly from the other side of the communication crystal. “Should there be a Teimerre attack in the future, it will certainly be caught by the silver eye. While it may be a brief respite, it looks like the soldiers can continue to rest their blades.”
“… I see.” Naigrat breathed a sigh of relief.
It was a regular event, but, still, Naigrat always got nervous during her conversations with First Officer Limeskin. However, the fault didn’t necessarily lie with him. The topic didn’t exactly make for a soothing chat. Her heart could never remain calm at the thought of sending the warehouse’s precious children off to the battlefield.
But because their talk was always so nerve wracking, times when Limeskin reported that nothing happened made Naigrat all the more happier. Only in times like those did she feel grateful for the supposedly perfectly accurate prediction abilities of the silver eyed Prima. Since they declared that there would be no battle, a surprise attack would be inconceivable. The leisurely days at the warehouse would continue for a little while more.
“I’m glad to hear that,” she said from the bottom of her heart. “This period of peace is turning out to be pretty long. Before, there would be two or three attacks each month… but there hasn’t been anything for the past few.”
“Mu.” The Reptrace gave an indecipherable grunt before falling silent.
Naigrat ignored that and continued on, fueled by the endless happiness flowing forth from her. “Eudea and the others are doing very well. You know, the new ones that came in last month. They seem to be scared of sleeping alone though, so I stay with them every night. Ahh, their faces when they sleep are so cute I just want to gobble them up, you know?”
“I… see…” The Reptrace’s voice as he mumbled a half hearted response seemed somewhat darker than usual.
Naigrat clearly realized that something had to be off. “What’s wrong?”
“Ah… it is no easy matter to discuss.” Limeskin seemed to be faltering, something very unusual for him.
“Oh, are you talking about that? After the Shiantor disappeared, an expedition was sent down in a rush, right? Did they find something?”
“No, that’s not it. The reports of the expedition are all being kept hidden by someone higher up than me.”
Limeskin was a first officer. Now, Naigrat didn’t know the structure of the Winged Guard in too much detail, but she understood that first officer was quite a high position. Certainly, information being withheld from him couldn’t have been a normal occurrence. In other words, that expedition found something down there, and that something had to be so significant that not even a First Officer could know about it. That intrigued Naigrat a bit, but apparently Limeskin had another topic in mind.
“It’s about the predictions of the battles,” he continued.
“Not just today or tomorrow. Absolutely no visits from Teimerre have been foreseen from here on out.”
What? Naigrat gave the communication crystal a confused look.
“For at least a few years. Or perhaps for eternity. That is how long this peace will last.”
“At least a few years… eternity…” What? Naigrat repeated those words in her head a few times. “Really!?” she asked, leaning right up against the crystal, pushed forward by her overflowing joy.
Eternity was probably a little too much to hope for, but if she didn’t have to make those girls fight for more than a few years, there could be no happier news. She didn’t want to experience such pain and sorrow any longer, and she didn’t want anyone else to experience them either.
“Waah. Waah. Waaah.” Odd sounds started to come out of Naigrat’s mouth. She desperately suppressed the impulse to hop around the room gleefully.
“… regarding this news, the opinions of the generals, the rank above us officers, is split.” Limeskin continued in the same voice. Not a single fragment of happiness showed in his words or on his expression. “Currently, I have no choice but to say that the wind is blowing in an unfavorable direction.”
“Eh? What do you mean?”
“Many are saying that we should eliminate the fairy warehouse.”
Naigrat’s mouth gaped open. “W-Why?”
“In order for a warrior to remain a warrior, a battlefield is necessary. A warrior who has lost his battlefield and his enemies can no longer gather the reverence and offerings of the people,” the oversized lizard explained in a voice that sounded entirely too casual to Naigrat. “When the wind ceases to blow, even the greatest of flags can no longer flutter.”
“Why…” The Reptrace’s words proved to be as cryptic as ever, but Naigrat had grown used to conversing with him over the years. So, unfortunately, she understood perfectly well the meaning which lay behind those words.
Neither the Winged Guard nor the Orlandri Trading Company were simple hiveminds. Many of their members did not look very favorably upon their use of Leprechauns and Dug Weapons. Naigrat could certainly understood why. After all, they were borrowing power left behind by the Emnetwyte. The survival of Regul Aire literally lay entirely in the hands of a group of markless, who used weapons whose structure and logic were not understood by anyone. Ghosts were in charge of the fates of the living. Much hate was directed towards those monsters which took the shape of children. Not to mention, the buying and gathering of Dug Weapons cost an astronomical amount…
Anyway, there were a multitude of reasons. Various people with various values all found their own rationale to oppose the Leprechauns’ existence. The girls continued to be used despite all the resistance simply because they were necessary. Regul Aire couldn’t stay afloat without their sacrifices. However, if that necessity were to disappear, things would change. Once the Teimerre attacks stopped, all those people would no longer stay silent. They would throw the arguments and complaints they carried the whole time against the girls.
That must be what Limeskin’s talking about. Starting with their instability, the Leprechauns have many problems associated with them. So now that the threat of the Teimerre is gone, people in the Winged Guard are saying to get rid of them. But then…
“If that happens, what will become of the girls? They won’t just be… let free, will they?”
Naigrat knew very well that would never happen. At their core, the girls were no more than walking bombs wearing clothes. And since none other than Naigrat herself was the one putting their clothes on, if the fairy warehouse disappeared they would just be walking bombs not even wearing any clothes… well, anyway, they would never be released into the wild without any supervision.
“A few municipal armies are saying that they want to sharpen their fangs against the Beasts.” Limeskin told the merciless truth. “They have previously voiced their concerns about leaving all the fighting with the Beasts solely to the hands of the Winged Guard and the Leprechauns. To them, this is a perfect chance to get their way.”
“So they want other armies to be allowed to keep Leprechauns? Instead of the Winged Guard gathering all of them like they’re doing now?”
“Ah. There are more than a few voices of agreement within the Winged Guard as well.”
I see. Just by losing their position as the decisive anti-Teimerre weapons, the Leprechauns have turned into nothing more than ‘powerful and unstable bombs’. It’s no surprise that there are some in the Winged Guard who don’t want to deal with their maintenance.
And it’s also no surprise that there are others wanting to get their hands on them. Power makes the people holding it feel safe and those around them feel uneasy. Regul Aire isn’t one big country. The Noble Wings Empire, Elpis Mercantile Federation, Elmwood Tea County, Boreal Woodland… there’s no shortage of islands and cities who desire political and military power to get the upper hand over their neighbors. But that would mean…
“There’s no way I’m handing over our precious children to some other organization.”
Of course, Naigrat couldn’t be certain that all those places were terrible. A pretty nice life might have been awaiting the girls somewhere. However, none of those places would have had anyone who could pour as much love into the girls as Naigrat did. No way. The enormous amount of time she spent in the warehouse and the many liters of tears she shed there let Naigrat declare that with confidence. She wouldn’t hand her girls over to anyone.
“It still has not been decided for certain yet. Do not rush to conclusions,” Limeskin warned.
“But it’s a very possible outcome, is it not?”
“Do not be hasty. There are many voices of dissent, including mine,” he responded sharply. However, he had more to say. “Nevertheless, it would be best to prepare yourself.”
Naigrat suddenly recalled a memory from her school days. If she remembered correctly, it occurred during a history lecture. Her Armado professor was talking in his usual hard to hear mumbling voice.
Conflict is the natural fate of all living beings. Peace is unnatural, and thus it is valuable. That which is unnatural cannot be obtained by simply sitting around. Only after expending the necessary effort and paying the necessary sacrifices to suppress instinct and pursue reason can it first be obtained. Precisely because of its difficulty to obtain, peace is seen as such a beautiful thing.
Ah, I see, Naigrat thought after hearing that. It’s precious because it doesn’t exist naturally. We have to build it through our own efforts.. Now that I think about it, the same can be said for almost anything. Peace isn’t some magical exception.
At the end of that day’s lecture, the professor tacked on one last line, as if he suddenly remembered it. Unnatural things always come with insurmountable difficulties. Of course, trying to maintain something with insurmountable difficulties necessarily results in great loss. It may seem strange, but the price of peace is far greater than that of war. It’s just harder to see where the costs are coming from. That is the reason why since ancient times people have always sought peace but never been able to maintain it for long.
“… why does it have to be like that…”
After cutting off the communication crystal, Naigrat flung herself face down on her desk. No one but her was in the room. Using that as an excuse, she buried her face in her sleeve and let the tears flow.
“If they don’t need to fight anymore, then why not let them rest? If they can live in peace now, why not let them? Why can’t it just be that simple…”
If it were a fairytale, once the bad guys were defeated and the world returned to goodness, that would be the end. The world would come to a close with everyone living happily ever after, and the future beyond that would remain unwritten. Unfortunately for Naigrat, however, the real world is a little more complicated than in fairytales. Even after one story ends, time keeps flowing onward. That hard earned happiness fades away and scatters. Nothing ends while still in its full beauty.
“… Willem, you idiot…” Her sobs turned into complaints directed towards a certain absent someone. “Weren’t you the one you said that it’s painful to carry this feeling alone… didn’t you promise to share it between the two of us…”
Naigrat realized how pitiful her complaints were, but she didn’t have the capacity to care. No one but her was in the room. Her complains wouldn’t bother anyone, nor would they reach the ears of the person they were directed to.