At that moment, Naigrat was faced with a decision of extreme gravity, the likes of which she had only come across less than ten times in her entire life: a sandwich with thickly sliced bacon, or a milk stew with chamo cow liver. Which one should she choose for her breakfast?
She already knew that the bacon sandwich here was top notch, but the problem lied in the fact that she had never heard of a chamo cow. Liver tended to differ greatly from restaurant to restaurant, so, in essence, ordering the stew would be a bit of an adventure.
Eating is living. Choosing what to eat is equivalent to choosing how to live.
With a dead serious face, Naigrat glared at the breakfast menu.
At that moment, Lantolq was deep in thought. Spacing out with her eyes on her Dug Weapon, she thought and thought in attempt to resolve her adolescent troubles. What were they? Where did they come from, and where did they go? And once gone, that cycle repeated over and over again naturally. What should they do?
Suddenly being told that they were fragments of a god, she of course found it hard to believe yet, at the same time, for some reason, also extremely persuasive. Rather than gaining new knowledge, she felt as if something which had been lurking at the bottom of her stomach for many years had been translated into words. She couldn’t deny it, but, what in the world should she do?
I wanted to be like Kutori, Lantolq thought for the first time. Kutori threw away things like the reason she was born as a Leprechaun or the reason she had lived so far and held her own reason to live on. She found that reason and lived a proper life. Lantolq knew it wasn’t something to casually aspire after, but, still, she couldn’t help but be envious of that strength.
At that moment, Aiseia was reading a book. To be specific, she was reading a cheap fiction novel, not related in any way to the important books stored in the Grand Library. She bought it at a bookstore in town just the other day. The new brand new seventh volume of “The Torn Triangle”, it, like its prequels, told of people devoting their hearts to cheating and adultery in the name of true love.
But it was exactly in times like these, reading such exaggeratingly comical stories, that she could really look at herself and the other fairies objectively — that’s what was running through Aiseia’s head. Almost all of the romantic relationships appearing in the book ended in disaster. A love in which finding happiness is forbidden ends in a way where no one finds happiness. She felt a strange sense of closeness with that theme.
The main female character found her sixth adultery partner, counting from the first volume. He happened to be a junior to her third partner and, perhaps trying to make a personality for himself, always stuck a strange ending onto everything he said.
“Sixth guy, huh…” she murmured with a laugh. “If there was little more time, maybe I could’ve slipped in too…”
At that moment, Grick was on the west coast of the 13th Floating Island, in the harbor district of the Elpis Mercantile Federation. On the surface, he was there as a pilot hired by an influential merchant from Collinadiluche, and, in secret, he was there to gather intelligence on the various merchant groups and large movements of money within the country. Someone high up in the Winged Guard, apparently even higher than Baroni Makish, had requested him to do the job. Since the gray haired young lady, Nephren, said that she was fine alone, he didn’t need to forcefully stay by her side, so he accepted.
“I don’t think I’m very suited for this though…”
After all, why should a salvager who dedicated his heart to the treasures of the land have to be stuck observing some stranger’s back up in the sky? He had complaints, but, of course, no man abandons work he already accepted.
Sighing internally and taking a look around, he spotted a few curious faces. A few wealthy merchants hailing from Elpis but residing in Collinadiluche were coming into the 13th Island, all separately.
Could there be some kind of big conference? No, if that were the case, merchants from other islands would be here too. Why are a bunch of merchants all from the same city coming here as if they planned to meet beforehand… or maybe they did plan beforehand.
The merchants almost seemed like birds escaping from a sinking ship.
“… no, it can’t be…”
Grick got a bad feeling.
At that moment, Nephren was aboard an airship bound for the 2nd Floating Island.
“I met your friend,” an old man said without the least bit of a smile.
At the meeting with Naigrat earlier, the man called himself an advisor to the Winged Guard. In truth, though, he was none other than the Great Sage Suwon Candel, the creator of Regul Aire and its eternal guardian. Upon some consideration, Nephren realized how amazing it was to meet face to face with a legendary figure. However, feelings of admiration did not stir inside her as much as she expected. That was probably, or actually most definitely, because of Willem. After being around him for so long, she had gotten used to the non-amazingness of amazing people and the amazingness of non-amazing people.
“Friend?” she asked.
“I didn’t get her name. She had long blue hair, and seemed strong on the inside.”
“Ah.” Nephren quickly understood that it had to be Ran.
“She was a good girl. She was trying to live with all her might.”
Nephren didn’t understand what the old man was saying. Obviously, a living being lives with all its might. The Leprechauns were no different, despite not technically being alive.
She heard that many more of her friends besides Naigrat were currently in Collinadiluche. However, she ended up here on this airship without seeing any of them.
“I suppose you wanted to meet her?” the old man asked.
“Of course. But I understand why you don’t want to let me.”
Now that the fairy warehouse had gathered so much attention, if Nephren went anywhere near it, her irregular existence would be discovered by multiple parties. That spill of information presented a great risk which would no doubt negatively affect future developments. If she really insisted on meeting them, she probably could have gone in secret. However, setting aside Lan and Aiseia, Tiat and Lakish really didn’t seem like they would be able to keep quiet about Nephren forever. And, even if they did, she didn’t want to force them to carry such a heavy secret.
“If they’re doing fine, then that’s good enough,” Nephren said.
“Ahh, how strong… I think I might cry.”
Nephren swatted away the floating fish who suddenly decided to appear.
Outside the window, far in the distance, Nephren spotted a giant flower pot made of black quartz floating through the air.
“… could that interesting object be the 2nd Floating Island?”
“The person you want me to meet is there?”
“That’s right. He’s not a person though.”
Nephren once read in a book about one of the few secluded regions left in Regul Aire. Called the Heart of the World Tree, it supposedly hid great secrets within.
“Oh my, what a nostalgic presence. I see he’s holed himself up in another rather grand place.”
Nephren swatted away the floating fish once again.
At that moment, Willem and Elq were out grocery shopping.
The hustle and bustle of morning started very early in the city of Collinadiluche. The morning grocery market served as one of the main causes of this. Numerous stalls packed tightly into a few plazas, all displaying fresh goods in front: beans, vegetables, salad, meat, potatoes, eggs, bread, ice, chicken, spices. And lastly, of course, there were the hordes of customers, overflowing with energy.
Willem looked down at his shopping list. Today, he needed to buy a bit more ingredients than usual, so taking a moment to think first seemed like it would be much more efficient than simply wandering around the stalls without a plan.
“Hey, hey Willem! What’s that? Is it food?” Elq tugged at his sleeve, pointing to a stall with stones of various colors out for display.
“Not a food, more like a utensil. Some Reptrace put that in their stomachs to grind down their food instead of chewing with their teeths.
“Ohh…” Elq stared with sparkling eyes, as if the stones had precious gems.
“Don’t get any funny ideas. When it comes to bodily functions, the race wall is mercilessly thick.”
Elq looked disappointed, but, no matter how much she begged, this was one thing that Willem could never let her try. At the very least, it would lead to a rather upset stomach. At worst, it could lead to death.
“Then… oh, what’s that? What is it? Can I try too?”
“That’s exactly what it looks like: wood. Doesn’t go too well with your stomach or mine.”
Her voice sounded disappointed again, but her eyes soon began darting around the market, searching for the next interesting object. Willem figured it would be best to finish up their business before she found anything too weird.
However, right after that thought passed through Willem’s head, Elq’s eyes stopped. Their gaze focused on not a stall in the market but a regular shop beyond, an old hat shop. Following her gaze closer, Willem saw that the thing which captured her attention was a large brimmed hat displayed through the window.
“Hm? You want that?” he asked.
The clothes Elq now wore were apparently those worn by Astaltus’ daughter at a young age. At the moment, she had also borrowed a hat whose color matched her outfit. Willem thought her clothes looked perfectly fine on her, but, if Elq wanted to be more fashionable, then he didn’t want to stop her.
“No need to hold back. It’s not that expensive, I’ll get it for you. Since I don’t spend too much usually, I have quite a bit saved up.”
“No, I don’t want it. Really, it’s something else!” Elq shook her head rapidly.
“I see.” It was a bit unfortunate, but he had no choice but to give up after hearing her deny so much. “In that case, I guess we’ll finish up our shopping without any detours.”
Once again, he set out amongst the sea of people. Elq followed close behind, but once every few seconds she turned around. She obviously still had interest in that hat. Maybe I should buy it in secret and give it as a present, Willem thought. It might be hard to find time to go buy it without Elq noticing, but he figured it was worth a shot.
Then, one moment, for no real reason, Willem looked up at the sky. He spotted a single middle sized airship leisurely hovering above. By itself, that didn’t present a very unusual scene. After all, Collinadiluche originally developed as a trading town, so many airships constantly flew in and out of the harbor district. At any given time, day or night, not finding anything at all flying through the sky would probably be more rare.
Despite that, Willem got a strange feeling about that airship hovering above. Something just felt… off. He couldn’t explain it very well. To raise an example, its altitude was oddly low, not low enough that it risked crashing into any buildings, but still low enough that Willem could make out the organization name written on the ship’s hull. In addition, that name gave off a rather strange impression: The Order of Annihilation Service History.
The name sounded so much like a joke that Willem couldn’t help but read it over and over again. Also, for some reason, he felt like he had heard it before. He began to feel his head hurting a tiny bit as well. Could it have some connection to his past? He wanted to believe that he never belonged to an organization with such an embarrassing name.
“Willem? What’s wrong?”
A tug on the sleeve pulled Willem out of his thoughts and back into reality. “Ah, it’s nothing.” He returned his gaze from the sky back to earth. “Let’s get going. If we don’t hurry up, we’ll miss all the good meat, and Astaltus will probably be disappointed.”
“No doubt about that.”
The two of them laughed.
Instinctively, Willem returned his gaze to the sky. He spotted black smoke gushing out of the bottom of that airship, from the area near the burning spell reactor. After a moment’s delay, someone let out a scream, then, after another moment, a collective scream rose up from the crowd. Within seconds, a panic broke out. The airship lost its balance, its ability to keep afloat clearly damaged. From the eyes of anyone at the scene, it was obvious that the ship would soon fall completely.
In the midst of the chaos, the waves of people threatened to sweep Elq away.
Willem stretched out his hand. Their fingertips touched, connecting them as they tried to reel each other in.
Then, once more, he looked up at the sky. The column of black smoke only grew thicker, the airship tilted downward at an accelerating rate, and the ship body began to warp as it failed to support the weight, all while the screams coming from the ground grew ever louder.
Next, Willem saw it. Towards the back of the airship, where stabilizing ballast would usually be piled up, a large rupture had opened, and, out from there, something, obviously not gravel or burlap sacks, poured into the sky.
What is that?
Due to the sun, he couldn’t see it very well, but he could make out a faint silhouette. Overall, the objects took the shape of ribbons, or, to make a comparison, large snakes. However, instead of scales, countless hair like protrusions grew out from their bodies. They were strange animals. Or rather, they were strange things which he didn’t know if he could call animals or not. And, for some reason, their name popped into his head, as if it had welled up from the bottom of his stomach.
“No… they can’t be…”
Apparently, Elq had seen the same thing and arrived at the same possibility. Willem knew those things very well. They had given him memories he would never forget. Even with his memory sealed, his mind and entire body were trying to recall them, those things that once, in a faraway dream, stole everything and anything he held dear.
“Aurora…” he muttered, standing frozen in shock.