Bantorra Library, Fifth Level of the Underground Labyrinth. In one of its corners were Noloty and Minth.
They were conducting special training as close as possible to actual combat. The two have continued fighting for several hours. They were going to keep fighting until both of them decide to resign due to their wounds. Noloty was the one who received the most damage, though.
She kicked the wall and jumped. She headed for the head by dropping her heel from a high place. Minth’s shooting attack easily intercepted her. His bullets were only light wooden blanks, but they still hurt.
“You’re lacking variations in engaging the enemy by close combat. Try to come up with more ways.”
He grabbed Noloty’s scruff after she collapsed and raised her. But when he removed his hand she fell down with a flop. Let’s leave it at that, thought Minth.
He carried Noloty and headed for the Labyrinth’s exit. Suddenly, he felt someone approaching from behind.
“…Aah, it’s you, Minth.”
Minth said. Ireia, whose time had been stopped, was revived.
“Seems like it’s been a long time.”
“Yeah. You’ve made us worry.”
Minth and Ireia began walking side-by-side. He made a general explanation of how the incident ended. Ireia was shocked at hearing about the loss of Feekiee and Mokkania.
“Did anything happen afterwards?”
“No, it’s been peaceful ever since that. More or less the only thing that’s changed is Mirepoc having gone to look for the guy called Lascall Othello.”
Ireia stopped in place.
“Old lady, do you know anything?”
The color of confusion filled Ireia’s face.
When Mirepoc went to the Central Security offices, Kalon talked to her while he was on duty.
A message came from Bantorra Library. It was addressed for Mirepoc and came from Ireia. It only said to “please contact me in your thoughts“. She immediately connected to her with Thought Sharing.
‘So you’re back. I’ve been worried.’
Ireia immediately cut to the chase. Something about her seemed desperate.
‘I’ve heard about it. You’re looking for Lascall Othello.’
‘I will also come to assist you. I’ll be heading there right away.’
Mirepoc was surprised at the sudden offer.
‘That isn’t needed. Didn’t you hear the Director’s decision? She left it for the two of us.’
‘Is that really fine?’
‘We have only one enemy at the moment. Because I’m about evenly matched with her, there is no need for reinforcement.’
Mirepoc didn’t say she was worried about Lascall’s identity. Ireia seemed troubled.
‘…If that’s what the Director decided, we have no choice but to follow her orders.’
How strange, thought Mirepoc.
‘Did you find out anything about Lascall?’
‘No, almost nothing.’
‘Do you know anything about Lascall?’
‘There’s something that bothers me.’
‘What is it?’
‘Don’t you find it strange? Hamyuts-san had been very involved with Lascall Othello.’
Thinking about it, it might have been so. Hamyuts was the one who shelved both the investigation of Lascall and Mirepoc’s proposal.
‘Perhaps Hamyuts-san knows something about Lascall. If she does, I wonder if she isn’t trying to intentionally not become involved with it.’
‘There’s no way. You’re overthinking this.’
‘Perhaps Lascall Othello is a matter that mustn’t be touched upon.’
‘…There’s no way.’
‘A thing that mustn’t be touched upon even with battle strength on par with Hamyuts’s… what can that be?’
‘…You’re overthinking this, Ireia-san.’
‘I might be.’
Mirepoc cut off her Thought Sharing. The bad feeling she had since yesterday became even worse.
Mirepoc started talking to Kalon while he was taking care of paperwork in the Central Security station. Seeing it, the other carefree sheriffs whistled at him.
“What is it?”
“This isn’t terribly important, but… when you were investigating Lascall Othello, have you ever felt some sense of danger?”
Kalon stared at her in puzzlement.
“What kind of danger?”
“…No, it isn’t really important…”
“Thinking about it, plenty of people came to ask about Lascall lately. I wonder if that’s some new fad.”
“…It might be.”
“You, Mattalast-san, that ginger and a weird boy. Four people in such a short amount of time.”
Kalon said something that caught her attention. The ginger must’ve been the rusty woman. But who was the strange boy?
“A boy came to you?”
“Yeah. I told him the same I told you and sent him home.”
Why was he silent about such as important manner? Mirepoc sent her thoughts to Mattalast.
‘…How strange. Is there someone who looks for Lascall other than us and the Cult?’
‘Should we look for him?’
‘As soon as possible.’
After inquiring the boy’s appearance from Kalon, Mirepoc left the Central Security station.
She walked throughout the city looking for the boy. The children in schools around said they didn’t know him. So is he a tourist? Mirepoc scoured the lodging houses around.
Just who is that boy? Is he from the Cult? No, the rusty woman already met Kalon. He should be unrelated to them.
Just as Mirepoc was about to board the tram, a voice came from behind.
She turned around and was astonished. The rusty woman stood there. Mirepoc instinctively brought her hand to the sword at her side.
“Stop, we can’t battle here. Besides, I’m not in that kind of mood.”
It was just as the rusty woman said. Mirepoc let go of her sword. Also, in contrast to their last meeting, Mirepoc could feel that the woman was disheartened.
The tram she was supposed to ride left without her.
“Hey, you, what have you been doing all this time? You didn’t seem to be doing anything since coming here.”
“…You know already. I’ve been pursuing Lascall.”
“Huh, I think it’s a waste though.”
The rusty woman said in an indifferent voice. Mirepoc recalled that she had something she wanted to try and ask.
“I have a weird question.”
“What is it?”
“Lascall Othello might be a being that mustn’t be touched upon.”
At that moment Mirepoc saw – the rusty woman looked upset.
“What’re you saying?”
The rusty woman shook her head. But even Mirepoc was able to see she was just trying to bluff.
Just as I thought. Lascall is forbidden even for the Indulging God Cult.
“Is the conversation over? See ya.”
The rusty woman went away. While she gazed at her back, Mirepoc was thinking.
Just what am I searching for?
For the first time, Mirepoc thought… that Lascall Othello was scary.
It became night.
Mirepoc visited Kalon’s apartment one more time. She tried looking for clues about the boy, but even when looking for threads about Lascall, there was no one to go to other than Kalon right now.
He warmly welcomed her.
Just as she set foot into his apartment, Mirepoc was startled.
There were no piles of materials in the room. There were no piles of ancient documents and books on the floor. Even the bookshelves were empty. The room had nothing in it.
“Kalon-san, what happened to all your material about Lascall Othello?”
“What are you talking about?”
He turned his face to Mirepoc in puzzlement.
“You were investigating Lascall Othello.”
Kalon’s expression and the state of his room couldn’t have been a joke. It was probably the Fiction Obliterating Cup Argax. Mirepoc recalled its existence.
“Well, but I’m happy to see an Armed Librarian up close though. It’s just like I’m inside a movie.”
Kalon spoke in an easygoing manner. Was he thinking Mirepoc came to visit him? He excitedly started looking for some tea-cakes.
“Anyway, when did I meet you? My recent memories are fuzzy.”
Mirepoc walked out of the place without a single word.
The enemy was on the move. They were erasing all those who had a connection to Lascall. First was Kalon, so who was next? Moodly? Or her? She couldn’t grasp their actions nor their identity.
Just what are we looking for?
Mirepoc stood still at a street corner and kept thinking. She had to keep looking for the boy, but her feet wouldn’t move.
She ran the information she heard about Lascall in this city inside her head.
A being that the Indulging God Cult have hidden. Even their believers weren’t allowed to know its identity.
A being that took control of the Cult’s Books and prevented them from falling into the hands of the Armed Librarians.
A being that existed for hundreds of years, carrying around the Books of people.
A being that erased all those who pursued its identity.
And a being that even Hamyuts didn’t want to get involved with.
If all the above information was true, it couldn’t have been human. Mirepoc didn’t have the power to battle a non-human opponent.
Was she going to challenge an opponent she had no chances to win against?
‘Mirepoc, what are you thinking about?’
At that moment, she received Mattalast’s thoughts.
‘Mattalast-san. Should we really continue this fight?’
‘What’re you saying?’
‘…Right. Even you tried sending me away, Mattalast-san.’
‘What are you thinking about?’
‘We shouldn’t know about Lascall Othello, right? I’ve seen it written that all those who pursue Lascall Othello die.’
‘That’s right. If someone who can control Books actually exists, be would be in the domain of a God. There’s no way the power of an Armed Librarian would be able to reach that.
Lascall Othello is a being far beyond the reach of us Armed Librarians.’
Mattalast was thinking about something for a while. He then sent further thoughts.
‘Mirepoc. Wait there for a bit. I’ll be right there.’
After transmitting this, Mattalast cut the connection.
Mattalast came after a short while. He suddenly hit Mirepoc’s head. He only used his palm, but it was quite a powerful blow. She held her dizzy head.
“Hey now, Mirepoc.”
Mirepoc remembered. When she was a trainee he used to smack her head like this while scolding her.
“You are free to imagine the enemy and fear them. It’s fine to investigate the enemy, but stop having stupid thoughts.”
When she was told so, she became a little calmer. The anxiety in her heart didn’t disappear, but her head cooled down.
“Mirepoc. Think well. What is that whole nonsense about everyone who pursues Lascall dying?
Who died? Neither I, you nor Kalon-kun were killed.”
“I’ll say this clearly, you fell right into the enemy’s trap.”
“The enemy’s trap?”
Mirepoc asked back. However, Mattalast didn’t explain to her what he meant by that,
“It’s useless with your current state. Rest for a while. You can also keep looking for that boy later.”
“What do you mean by rest?”
“Just what it sounds like. You can just take it easy at some café or anywhere, just do something to cool off your head.”
Mirepoc hung her head. This was the first time she received such an order.
“Mattalast-san… what did you mean by me falling into the enemy’s trap?”
“You will understand once you cool off your head.”
After saying so, Mattalast went up and left.
Starting the next day, just as she was told, Mirepoc lay off her work.
How pathetic, she thought.
Perhaps the enemy was strong – this much had caused her to lose her temper. She couldn’t face Mattalast or her allies after that.
Nothing happened in the first place. The city was peaceful. It’s not like anyone was killed. She just overestimated Lascall by her own accord and was afraid of his non-existing shadow.
Mirepoc walked around the city while at her wits’ end. She drank coffee, went around shops without buying anything, and cooled off her head.
In fact, she was practically discharged. It came as a shock to her.
Suddenly her feet stopped. There was a violin-playing girl at the street’s corner.
Not again, Mirepoc thought.
The one playing the violin was the rusty woman.
She seemed to have noticed Mirepoc since a while ago. She silently lowered her violin and looked at Mirepoc.
“So we meet again.”
The rusty woman said.
She thought so yesterday as well, but the woman sounded listless. Did something happen?
While fiddling with the violin’s strings, the rusty woman said,
“So you’re also not going to fight me now? I don’t really mind fighting here.”
“I’m on a day-off.”
“Yeah, you said so yesterday. I laughed. You’re quite something, lady.”
The rusty woman grinned.
“Do you not fight me because you’re off duty?”
“Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be? Fighting I mean. I only fight because that’s my job.”
Fuun, the rusty woman snorted.
“Eh, well. I also said that yesterday, but I’m not in a mood to fight.”
“So you won’t fight me because you don’t feel like it?”
“Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be? Fighting I mean. I only fight because I want to.”
She showed Mirepoc a broad grin.
That woman was difficult to deal with.
Ever since she first met her, she felt like she lost the mental battle against her. Why was that? It wasn’t an issue of the power gap between them. It was something on a more spiritual level beyond that.
“Are you going to listen?”
The rusty woman said as she lifted the violin’s string.
“…Perhaps I will.”
“Watch now and pay later.”
The rusty woman closed her eyes and quietly began playing. Mirepoc was thinking as she listened to the violin.
That’s quite foolish of me to do.
However, I feel suitably foolish right now.
What am I doing? Although I came this far trying to pursue Lascall, I only ended up relying on Mattalast.
I’ve never felt my own powerlessness until now.
Alme was also thinking.
Was she pathetic? She could at least kill the woman in front of her. However, that was all she could do.
She was absolutely beaten by Mattalast, and then saved by the one supposed to be her enemy – the Overseer of Paradise. She wasn’t even able to grasp any clues about Lascall whom she was chasing after.
She was weak. That fact became increasingly heavy on her mind.
Both Alme and Mirepoc thought of the same things at the same time.
Just what were they doing? In order to not admit they were powerless, weren’t they just involving themselves in a useless struggle?
After she finished listening to the violin, Mirepoc took small change from her wallet and threw it. She wasn’t sure of the melody’s quality, but she felt the musical performance was sad.
“Let me tell you one thing.”
The rusty woman said as she received the small change thrown at her.
“I can somehow tell why you’re weak.”
“What do you mean?”
“You fight while looking for a right answer. Should you kill? Shouldn’t you kill? You fight while thinking about that sort of thing. And that’s why you’re weak. I noticed this when I fought you for the first time.”
Now that she mentioned it, it might have been so. However, it shouldn’t be something wrong.
“That’s what being an Armed Librarian is. We’re fighting for order, after all.”
“Then that’s no good at all, young lady.”
Alme used her same lines from when they fought for the first time.
“I’m not like you. Whether it is right or wrong, I simply kill. You can’t do that.”
For a split second Mirepoc was convinced, but then she pulled herself together.
“Do you think I am the kind of fool to take advice from my enemy?”
“…Right, no fool would take advice from their enemy.”
Their conversation was probably over. Thinking about the fact that she had foolishly wasted her time, Mirepoc started walking away.
She didn’t question the intention behind those words. Because she could hear these words came from the bottom of her heart.
“What’re you going to do from now on?”
“I will do whatever I must do. That is all.”
After answering so, the rusty woman laughed.
“You’re right. There’s nothing to do but that.”
After parting from the rusty woman, Mirepoc started thinking.
It seems like she was encouraged. And it also seemed like she herself had encouraged the rusty woman.
She will probably fight to the death with her once again. When that time comes, will their conversation right now have any meaning?
I should be grateful to Mirepoc. Thinking this, Alme walked around the city.
She found a single clue. There was a piece of paper inside Mirepoc’s clothes. She probed it with her Sensory Threads while playing the violin.
Alme knew a single name that was written in Parney’s last note.
Olt. This was the name of a man who was an executive of the Indulging God Cult. He was supposed to have left the Cult due to his advanced age.
Could he possibly be in this city? Alme spread her Sensory Threads to search around.
The False Man Olt Gowla was responsible for managing information. He either eliminated or manipulated information that seemed like it might connect to the Indulging God Cult. For that purpose he supposedly managed newspaper companies and in addition to that even film studios, theatres and other entertainment companies were under his control.
Does that mean this man once worked for Parney? It’s certainly possible.
After half a day, Alme found an old man who lived in one of the city’s corners. Just as expected, Olt was in Fullbeck City. He lived in a desolate place that Alme had neglected to search.
Alme set her foot inside his modest… no, poor-looking house.
Alme said. Only one lock protected the house’s door.
A man sat in a rocking chair. After a long time of not seeing him, he became an old man that was so withered to the extent that it seemed strange he was still living.
“Were you not even able to arrange a single person to protect you?”
“What will a few troops help against an opponent that can find me?”
Olt answered with a hoarse voice.
“So, are you from the Indulging God Cult? Or perhaps the Armed Librarians?”
Olt turned his face to Alme. It seemed his eyesight was also lost to old age.
“…The Cult. Or more precisely, a traitor to the Cult.”
Saying this, Olt slowly rose up.
“The one holding Parney Parlmanta’s Book is you.”
“It is admirable how you’ve hidden it till now.”
“I cut off connections from both the light and the darkness. Since no one knew me, no one knew to reach me.”
“Why do you have Parney’s Book?”
“Lascall Othello gave it to me. She could not ascend to Heaven. Because of this, at the very least she wished to stay by the side of someone who knew her.”
Alme murmured without thinking. Olt questioned her.
“Are you perhaps Alme?”
“I remember you well.”
“There are but few False Men that yearn for True Men like me and you. So I felt sympathy for you in that sense.”
“…Were you also like that?”
“Yes. Parney was a pitiful person. She destroyed the happiness she wished for with her own hands.”
“I have no interest in Parney. What I wish to know is only about Lascall.”
“I came here to find his identity.”
Olt smiled faintly. And he pointed to a Book left in one corner of the room.
“You will probably understand when you read it. You see, Lascall exists in a different plane than us.”
Alme stared at the Book. This is her goal, for which she came here. For this she betrayed the Cult, manipulated Winkeny and killed the False Men.
So why did she hesitate now?
“Are you not going to read it? That should be your goal.”
She recalled the Overseer of Paradise’s words. She shouldn’t be able to reach the truth about Lascall.
That being the case, perhaps this Book will not yield any results. Is that why she hesitated?
Or was it a trap?
“Will you not read it?”
Or was he just confident that Alme could not reach Lascall’s identity?
“…You can also stop if that is what you wish.”
What did she hesitate about? She would understand if she saw it.
Alme extended her hand. Her fingers touched the Book and the memories came flowing in. They were the memories of a pitiful woman who had once belonged to the Cult.