Colio and Relia returned to the inn.
It seemed that no-one connected them with the explosion that happened on the outskirts of town yet.
There were no visitors or people observing them there.
Colio and Relia sat down on their beds quietly.
“It seems Hamyuts Meseta is at the Library. Colio, what are we going to do?”
Colio answered without hesitating.
“We were told to kill Hamyuts Meseta here. So we will kill her here.”
Saying this, Relia slipped into his bed.
“I’ll go to sleep.”
Colio didn’t reply.
He wondered if Relia was really sleeping or just lying on his bed. Either way, it didn’t matter to him.
Sitting on his bed, Colio suddenly noticed there was something in his pants pocket.
Turning around, he noticed a piece of a transparent stone was peeking from his back pocket. It was a Book. Where did he get such a thing? With a start, Colio realized.
That illegal Book seller probably put it in his pocket without permission.
He was probably planning on charging him money for that. Colio took the Book out, thinking about throwing it away.
Colio didn’t know that the stored memories will flow into whoever touches a Book. These stored memories would be replicated inside the recipient’s mind.
That was the state known as “reading a Book”.
If a Book is touched without any gloves on, it will be “read” on the spot.
The scenery in front of Colio’s eyes completely changed.
That surprising moment couldn’t be described with words.
He was seeing a landscape that should not have existed and the feel of his dingy bed was replaced by the caress of the wind.
Colio had lost his body inside the “Book”. Only his eyes, ears and skin still remained.
He could view the landscape from every angle, and hear every sound from up close.
Colio thought this was like having a dream.
It was dusk time inside the Book.
Beyond the gentle hills that continued on and on, Colio could see the sinking sun with his eyes that did not exist.
It was a man’s coarse voice.
“I don’t have a reason.”
It was a slender woman’s voice.
“Everything has to end.”
“You, who during fifty whole years offered yourself to fighting and continuously got stronger without a moment’s rest, will lose to me, one with arms as thin as this violet’s stem. But no matter how unreasonable this is, I don’t have any reason.”
“Shlamuffen. The Ever-Laughing Magic Blade.”
There was the sound of a sword thin as a wire being swung down. Then the sound of air leaking resounded from the man’s lungs.
At dusk, a lone man had fallen down, and a lone woman stared at him sadly. The man’s hand was firmly clenching an iron spear.
The figures of those two at dusk became redder and redder – looking as if they were going to become burning ashes.
The woman spoke while looking down at the man’s corpse.
“These are all poor people.”
As she said this, she swung the thin sword once. The blood that stuck to the blade scattered around. A little spurt hit her white gloves.
Her silk gloves that extended to her elbows and the long skirt of her regal dress were white as a cloud floating in a crystal-clear sky. And just like a cloud, she was dyed by the light of sunset.
Even the wide brimmed hat she put on her head was white. The hat was decorated with genuine white lily flowers that were encased in wax.
The woman’s face was hidden by the hat and only her nose and below it could be seen.
Colio remembered the Book seller said it was a Book from three hundred years ago.
During that time there were no machines or guns, and so it was an era when horses, swords, and magic held the leading roles of the world.
Rather than establishments like the people’s congress or republic governments, it was an era when kings, nobles and knights had ruled the world.
During that era, much more magic had been developed.
In modern times, the power of machinery was much more convenient, so magic was becoming obsolete. For people living normally, there was almost no chance to meet any Magician. Magicians could only be found among people such as special engineers or the Armed Librarians.
But, during that era there were numerous powerful Magicians.
Colio thought that perhaps this woman was a Magician.
“Here, have a look.”
The woman said. Colio realized her voice was surprisingly young. It was the voice of someone who could be called a girl, around his age or a little above it.
The girl held up the sword in her right hand in front of her.
It was a strange sword.
Its handle was shaped like a spider. It even had delicate eight legs resting on the girl’s hand. The jointed spider legs tore into the girl’s silk gloves and dyed her fingers with blood.
The blade protruded from the spider’s rear. It was modeled after a spider’s thread, and was similarly as thin.
The girl started talking.
“This sword is the Ever-Laughing Magic Blade – Shlamuffen. It is one of the seven remaining Memorial Weapons in this world. Among the remaining seven, it is said to be the most inconsiderate and bloodthirsty.
These Memorial Weapons were the weapons used by the Gods during the long past Paradise Era. This Shlamuffen was used as a weapon by the punishment enforcers among the Librarian Angels.”
There was no one to reply to the girl’s words. Still, she kept speaking.
“This Memorial Weapon is cursed to be eternal due to having the Gods’ powers. I cannot break it, and neither can anyone of this world.
Even if I were to throw the sword away, it would surely find a new owner to replace me. Please forgive my powerlessness.”
The blade of the sword – Ever-Laughing Magic Blade Shlamuffen – had smoothly withdrawn into its handle.
“By the way, would you like to hear my story?”
As the girl said this, she took off her hat and threw it away. Her hair was spread and casually fluttered down to her back like a butterfly.
It was a strange hair. Its color was hard to describe.
The entirety of it was chestnut-colored. However, some parts of it were white and some black, forming a striped pattern. It was like the color of a calico cat’s fur.
The girl’s hair danced in the gentle wind.
She turned her vivacious and gentle face towards the red light and closed her eyes.
Her expression was sad yet beautiful.
“It has been 18 years since I’ve obtained this power. Compared to the number of people I’ve saved, the number of people I’ve hurt is much larger.
Even though there was really no need for anyone to be hurt.”
Who was this girl talking to? Colio thought.
“While hurting, regretting, and blaming myself for taking people’s lives, I haven’t found any meaning.
I haven’t offered my hand to suffering people and suffered from my sins inside a dark room.
While hurting others, I was even more afraid of hurting myself.
Pursuing wealth, succumbing to greed.
Selfishness. Avarice. Cowardice. Sloth.
Those were all my sins.
I wonder if you pity me.
Or are you looking down at me?
I don’t mind either way.
I just want to be with you.
Even if we’re far apart, as long as my fragments are by your side, it’s enough for me. Yes, it’s enough.”
The girl began walking.
“When my words reach you…
Please go to the place where a precious person lost someone precious to them. What you were seeking for a long time will weigh on your back.
For a brief moment, the wind will stop.
Please run without hesitating then.
Yes, me too. I also… yes, thank you. I really do. It makes me happy.”
She said this with small intervals between sentences.
“I have been called by many names, both now and in the future. The Nation’s Saint. The Ever-Laughing Witch. Even something such as “Tortoiseshell”. But as expected, I want to be called by my real name.”
The girl appeared to be smiling for a moment. That slight smile was probably out of embarrassment.
Dusk was soon replaced by a curtain of indigo.
A crescent moon had already been floating in the sky since a while ago.
As if the world itself had been cut off, Colio was pulled back to reality.
He was inside a room, on top of a bed.
He wondered how much time had passed.
Colio was still in the position of having tried to take the Book fragment out of his back pocket. It was already dark outside, and the lady managing the inn was taking the laundry inside.
Colio stretched the sleeve of his shirt and held the Book like that. This time nothing happened.
Colio was staring intently at the Book. His heart was throbbing.
That girl’s sad smile left a deep impression on him.
Colio looked around. He was restless and couldn’t calm down.
He rose up pacing around the room, feeling as if something significant had happened and that he had to do something about it right away.
“Why is that…?”
Colio muttered, intently staring at the Book placed on his bed.
It was a strange Book. He couldn’t understand what he has seen – such as whom the girl was talking to. It was really too strange to be just a monologue.
Thinking about it, he had no idea what her name was. She said she wanted to be called by her real name, but he didn’t know it. However, he did mention some of her nicknames. The Nation’s Saint. The Ever-Laughing Witch. Tortoiseshell. Each of them gave a different feel. Tortoiseshell was especially awful.
What should I call her?
Tortoiseshell-colored-hair Princess. It was too long, and didn’t sound good.
Tortoiseshell-haired Princess. Still too long.
The Calico-haired Princess. Calico Princess. Yes, that was good.
He tried saying it out loud.
Just by naming her, he suddenly felt as if they grew closer.
Colio put the Book inside the very bottom of his bag.
Relia was sleeping. It seemed like he hadn’t noticed anything.
Some time had passed. Relia didn’t wake up yet.
Colio decided having dinner by himself. He went to the dining room on the first floor of the inn. Right now, only Colio’s group was at this cheap inn.
Inside a narrow room at the front of the inn, there was a wooden desk. This seemed to be the dining room. Colio sat there in silence.
The innkeeper was gossiping with some neighbors. When Colio came, the women immediately looked at him and started speaking.
“Boy, do you know anything?”
Colio asked back. Looking at their faces, it was apparent something had happened. Since he wasn’t sure if this was about Hyoue, he became anxious.
If they were found out here, it would be hard for them to kill Hamyuts Meseta.
But what the old lady talked about wasn’t related to Hyoue.
“It seemed there was some commotion this afternoon. An Armed Librarian was apparently killed.”
Hearing about an Armed Librarian, Colio immediately responded without thinking. Hamyuts Meseta was the only Armed Librarian he knew.
“Of course not. It was one of her subordinates, umm, what was he called… ah, Luimon. It was Luimon.”
Luimon. He heard that name for the first time. One of Hamyuts Meseta’s subordinates. Colio thought that it might have been the big man he saw earlier.
“How did it happen?”
“I don’t know, but they say it was a bomb.”
Colio’s heart jumped for a moment. Fortunately he didn’t show it on his face.
The women didn’t intend to gossip with him. They just wanted to share their speculations among themselves.
He was given a dish of grilled meat with bread and soup, and began eating alone.
Outside of the window, people were hurriedly moving through the town at dusk. In this dust-filled town, the dusk was just dusty.
The sun, sinking behind the mountains in the west, didn’t dye the grey dusk with even a single drop of red.
This town was dim.
The smoke coming from the mines covered the entire town.
Colio recalled the dusk he had seen inside the Book and felt as if he had realized how dim the town was only now.
As he scooped up soup with his spoon, Colio watched the sunset dumbfounded.
Colio daydreamed about the color of the sun in the other side of the grey-colored sky. He didn’t understand why he felt this way.
A little while before that…
It was a bit after the death of Hyoue Janfus and the bread selling young man.
The Armed Librarian called Luimon Mahaton was walking through the town during midday.
Luimon was a large man. His muscles were like armor. His thighs were as thick as logs. His bursting flesh was wrapped by a grey business suit and a well-ironed shirt.
With just the clothes, he looked like a salary man you could find anywhere. However, his body and the huge gun hanging from his waist clearly distinguished him from a normal person. And on that gun’s handle was carved a crest that every person in the world knew belonged to the Armed Librarians.
Luimon shook his gun as he walked from the path back from the mine. He just handed over the illegal Book seller to this town’s sheriff. He was probably being reprimanded right now.
Luimon believed that the trafficking of Books should be handled more aggressively. Books could not be replicated after all. If they weren’t placed under the Library’s care, they would just become lost.
That being said, the trafficking of Books was unrelated to his current job. I must concentrate on my present job, Luimon thought.
Luimon entered the tavern that also served as a restaurant, deciding to have his lunch.
He took out a silver watch from his breast pocket to check the time. It was exactly 12 o’clock. A good time for a meal.
Luimon sat at the counter and put a ten kirue bill on top of it.
“Give me a chicken steak and some corn salad.”
“What should I add to that?”
“Fried… no, mashed potatoes. A large amount.”
Luimon’s large body moved to a small table next to the counter.
“Is this enough?”
“No, even more than that.”
Looking at Luimon’s body, the host spoke in an amazed voice while cooking.
“You sure are large, mister, but I wonder just how much.”
Luimon immediately replied.
“Sixteen lyra and half a laary. Twenty one and a third tohora.”
“Uh, can you say that in metric?”
Luimon calculated inside his head. One laary was about two centimeters, and every lyra was six laarys, so multiplying that by twelve is 193. One machi is fifteen grams, times seven for one matan, and seven of that times seven to get a tohora…
“About 193 centimeters and 110 kilograms.”
“Ah, so much.”
Looking at him, the man was surprised.
Recently, the metric system that was devised by the scientific community became mainstream over the old traditional lyra units. But it wasn’t like Luimon had a problem understanding the decimal multiplication of the metric system over multiplying by six or seven with the lyra system.
The lyra system was simply more convenient for those who use magic, but that probably didn’t matter for normal people.
“Here you go.”
As he was thinking about this matter, his meal had arrived. Just as he saw it, his stomach rumbled.
“Thanks for the food.”
Luimon thrust his fork at the pile of mashed potatoes.
Suddenly, he felt some killer intent.
Luimon’s body became tense, and prepared for combat.
However, Luimon hadn’t moved. He didn’t want to give the enemies behind him a chance.
While loading his mouth with mashed potatoes, he was gloating inside his mind.
That was because the enemies had eliminated the need to search for them. His job was in a long stalemate, but it seemed that there would be some progress now.
The enemies he could feel behind him were amateurs. They were probably two or three people. They were about to attack.
Soon, Luimon thought while cutting the steak.
They came at him.
Luimon’s hand separated itself from the knife, and as if it was an independent living creature, grabbed the gun at his waist.
Luimon opened the rifle’s shortened barrel with his right hand.
The bayonet attached to the tip of the gun glistened with oil. By that time, he was able to grasp the situation.
With the experience ingrained in his body, Luimon was able to accurately move the way he needed to.
The bayonet emitted a high-pitched metallic sound and his right elbow made a thud. A knife fell from a man’s hand, and a woman’s body collapsed.
Switching the hand holding the gun by turning his wrist, he struck the solar plexus of the guy as he tried to pick up his knife with the gun’s handle.
All of this was done as a single action. He didn’t hesitate or stop for a second.
The woman lost her consciousness with a single blow, and the man collapsed with vomit flying from his mouth.
By the time the owner was screaming, the work was already over. Luimon fastened the gun to his waist. And just as he was thinking how to explain the situation…
Luimon’s life had ended.
Behind the woman, a child’s figure broke the vacuum tube in his chest and ended his life without Luimon even seeing him. Without any time to even feel pain, his brain had ceased all activity.
The blast coming from behind Luimon crushed his large body. His dead body was further blown to smithereens by the resulting explosions of the bombs in the other two.
The three bombs held enough destructive power to destroy the entire place as well as half of a nearby house. Both the witnesses and Luimon’s targets inside the tavern were completely obliterated.
As if lagging behind, a roar resounded outside.