What is a victory?
It is easy when talking about chess. If you checkmate the opponent’s king, you win.
Billiard is also simple. If you land the 9th ball into the pocket, you win.
In a battle, you win if the opponent dies.
Alternatively, if they surrender you also win.
If you survive, that can also turn into a victory.
There were few people who have secured more victories in life than Hamyuts Meseta. There were few people who knew more about victory than her.
However, there was one thing that even Hamyuts did not understand.
There were people that, even if she caused them to surrender, even if she killed them, she would still not win.
How could she win against that?
Just what is victory?
While piloting the airplane, Hamyuts was thinking. Where was the flying boat with Volken and Renas? Would she able to catch up to them in time?
She was already convinced – Renas’s true identity was Olivia Littolet. The Allow Bay Incident… Volken… Renas… The one common point to these three could be no one else but Olivia.
Hamyuts didn’t know he she looked. She only knew it was a woman from her name.
“No way, right…”
She subconsciously put strength into her hands holding the steering wheel. And she started complaining.
“I mean, it’s possible. But really, there’s no way it’s true.”
She thought that Olivia Littolet died when she sank the White Smoke. But she apparently happened to leave the ship before Hamyuts sank it. Then, Winkeny implanted a different personality in her and brought her to Bantorra Library. Furthermore, she survived Mokkania’s rebellion and even met with Volken.
Wasn’t it a coincidence? She could think of it as nothing else. But it was also too incredulous to be true.
“It really is impossible.”
Right. This battle was based on an impossible situation from the very beginning.
The origin of this incident dated even further back than the Allow Bay Incident. Even when the battle with the Indulging God Cult was not yet to begin, the story had already begun.
It was ten years ago. Third Grade Armed Librarian Hamyuts Meseta was young then.
In front of Acting Director Photona Bardgamon who was strict about order and discipline, even Hamyuts refrained from dressing slovenly. She buttoned her shirt all the way to the top and wore not sandals, but leather shoes.
Her braided hair hung on her back and was tied by a white ribbon.
They were in the Principality of Meliot, far from Bantorra Library, in the mountainous region extending to the west.
Hamyuts and Photona were walking by themselves in the bare rocky area of the mountain.
“Oh, the other person’s coming first.”
Hamyuts said. This was information transmitted to her from the Sensory Threads carried by the wind.
“Are we late?”
“No, I think we are on time.”
Photona nodded a little and kept walking.
“Ooh, it’s a rabbit! Yay!”
Hamyuts found a wild rabbit peeking from the distance. When she waved her hand, it soon drew back. She wanted to catch it and hold it in her arms, but knew Photona would be angry at her so she couldn’t.
“Hamyuts. We have to hurry. This mission is a secret from the other Armed Librarians. I’d like to finish it as soon as possible.”
Photona kicked at the ground and lightly landed atop a rock ten-odd meters away.
Hamyuts followed him. The pair reached their destination shortly.
This was a month after the day Photona had reprimanded Volken and taught him how life was precious.
“It’s been a while.”
Photona greeted. On a flat crag halfway through the mountain was a single man. He was sitting on a rattan chair; did he bring it up all the way there?
His figure and face could be seen. However, once you averted your eyes from him, no memory of it would remain. Hamyuts stroked the man’s body using her Sensory Threads. She could see him, but she understood that he did not exist at this place.
“Hamyuts. Let me introduce him. He is the current Overseer of Paradise.”
Hamyuts gave him her hand to shake, but the Overseer of Paradise did not take it. Because he was not there, obviously.
“Nice to meet you, young lady. Your name is?”
The Overseer of Paradise said. Photona answered instead of her.
“Hamyuts Meseta. She is a Third Grade Armed Librarian, but will sooner or later become the Acting Director.”
Oh my, thought Hamyuts. Is it fine disregarding the primary candidate Mattalast and saying that?
“Say, will I really be the next Director?”
“That’s my intention. It also depends on how many dissenters will be.”
“If it’s Mattalast no one will oppose. He’s quite popular after all.”
“That depends on a lot. Besides, we have still to let in Mattalast on our secret.”
“Well, that’s true.”
“Uh, excuse me.”
The Overseer of Paradise raised one hand.
“Could you leave the matter about that person for later?”
Photona said and returned to face the Overseer of Paradise.
“Photona, this young lady seems to be aware of the circumstances.”
“About our relationship and God’s identity as well?”
“Yes, I know it all well, Overseer of Paradise-san.”
“So you agree to it all.”
“Then all is good. Nice to meet you, young lady.”
The Overseer of Paradise bowed a little.
As the three finished their greetings, they moved further. Reaching the summit, they looked down to the bottom. They could see a stone fortress in the middle of the mountain.
This fortress didn’t have normal firearms at the ready. There were also no ditches against tanks or barbed wires against infantry to be found. Instead, a protective wall made by Magic covered the entirety of it. It was a fortress prepared to defend against warriors employing Magic.
“The rebels are barricading themselves in that fortress.”
“Does that mean all of them are inside?”
“Yeah. My forces have annihilated all those who aren’t inside.”
“Are you sure? So even those who surrendered got killed, huh.”
Photona emphasized. The Overseer of Paradise nodded as if it was clear. He kept explaining.
“Our enemy was a single girl. She was a True Man, yet wanted to destroy Heaven.
While we already killed her, the False Men who served her will not stop the fight.
In order to oppose me, they prepared a powerful weapon. Unfortunately, we cannot send any more men. I have no choice but to bear some shame and rely on you.”
“Overseer of Paradise. To be honest, I am disappointed in your work.”
Photona reprimanded the man.
“Your intelligence management is inadequate. You have insufficient amounts of False Men and pawns. The quality of your True Men is not good either. If you feel you are inadequate for this job tell me immediately. I will dismiss you and find another Overseer of Paradise.”
“Will you not wait for a while longer? We recently almost got the work back on track again.”
“…Oh well. Perhaps it’s fine to let you have somewhat insufficient capabilities. So you will not plot of rebelling against the Armed Librarians.”
“A rebellion? Of course not. We can coexist perfectly fine, can we not?”
If other Armed Librarians heard this now they would be so shocked, thought Hamyuts. She laughed in her heart. The chief of the Indulging God Cult, enemy of the whole world, was speaking on good terms with the Acting Director.
With a few exceptions, the relations between the Indulging God Cult and the Armed Librarians were not revealed to their subordinates. This was the same for both the Armed Librarians and the Indulging God Cult.
“For the time being, you should get a few more battle-able subordinates. Calling us for help every time something happens will hinder preserving the secret.”
“I am sorry for that. However, Photona…
The Indulging God Cult is an organization that exists to make people happy. Heaven exists for the happiness after death, and I exist for the happiness before death.
I believe that happiness is something unrelated to battle.”
The Overseer of Paradise used a perfectly sound reasoning.
“That depends on the time and the circumstances. If a peace exists because of the use of minimal force, that peace is happiness.”
Photona’s objection was perfectly sound as well.
Hamyuts again wanted to laugh. If anyone were to hear their conversation, they would think these two were absolute pacifists.
Photona was about to commit a massacre. With the same mouth that preached Volken about the value of life, he was about to command Hamyuts to begin a slaughter.
Moreover, it was no simple massacre. The order was to give them “true death”.
“Hey, I’d like to wait a little.”
Hamyuts, who until now was silent, opened her mouth. The two people directed their gazes at her.
“A one-sided massacre is quite savage. I think that the times are changing.”
The Overseer of Paradise rounded his eyes and looked at Photona.
Photona shook his head as if to let her keep speaking.
“Now is the world of democracy, of human rights, of discussion with one another. First of all we have to solve it by talking.”
“What is the young lady saying?”
“Let her be.”
Hamyuts jumped off the mountain towards the fortress. The Overseer of Paradise tilted his head while Photona saw her off in disappointment.
She approached the fortress. She did as she said before; she did not destroy it or kill any soldiers. Hamyuts casually walked to the door and spoke calmly.
“Hey, can you open for me?”
“Who are you?”
She was questioned from inside.
“I’m an Armed Librarian. I came to talk with you.”
She answered, and surprisingly, the door actually opened. The enemies seemed to have understood the disadvantages of the situation as well. They were desperate. Even more desperate now that Photona and the rest came to discuss with them.
As Hamyuts entered through the door, she found something strange. No, it should be called someone strange. There were dolls standing on both sides of the door that opened to the inside. They were life-size dolls shaped like men. They wore khaki-colored plain clothes. The upper half of their faces was concealed by wide-brimmed hats.
Their faces were made of metal. Judging by the color, they were made of lead.
Hamyuts tried touching one’s face. She felt slight warmth from the coldness of the metal. As she knocked on its face, its head moved. Eyes made of lead stared at Hamyuts from under the hats.
At that moment, a single man came to greet Hamyuts. He seemed tired from the long siege. He had sunken cheeks and deep dark circles under his eyes.
“…This is Vend Ruga. The lead soldier who protects us all.”
The man spoke in a muffled voice that sounded like the dark clouds right before a thunderstorm. I see, so that’s the weapon the Overseer of Paradise mentioned.
“So this is Vend Ruga. And who’s next to it?”
Hamyuts pointed at the other doll.
“It’s also Vend Ruga. These lead dolls are all Vend Ruga.”
“…Seems inconvenient. Well, not that it matters.”
She closely observed the two dolls. They were warriors made of lead, surpassing the human body. Normal bullets and swords would probably have no effect. Not a bad idea at all.
Hamyuts left the Vend Rugas and proceeded towards the man.
“They seem to be so-so.”
She commented. However, being “so-so” held no meaning against people like Hamyuts and Photona.
Hamyuts met with the False Man representative at the basement of the fortress. They probably had no alcohol, coffee or tea. They offered her only a cup of dusty-smelling water.
The grey-haired man sat with his arms folded. Rather than a rebel, the man seemed more like a herbivore running while being chased around.
“Well, I’m sure you understand, but our goal is to give the Violet Sinner a true death.”
Hamyuts said. At the mention of that name – the Violet Sinner – the False Man had a faint response.
The leader of the rebels was a single True Man. Uttering her name was no longer permitted. For convenience sake, she was called after the beautiful color of her hair – the Violet Sinner.
“A true death?”
Hamyuts gave a supplementary explanation.
“We will obliterate the very fact that the Violet Sinner had existed. Erasure of all memories, records and traces relating to her. This we call a true death. It is the heaviest punishment in this world bestowed by the God’s representative.”
The leader of the False Men listened to Hamyuts’s pronouncement expressionlessly. He was probably already accustomed to the feel of despair.
“Look, the Violet Sinner doesn’t exist in this world anymore. The lovely violet had been plucked off by the Overseer of Paradise.
Don’t you want to erase your memories of her with the water of Argax and serve another True Man?”
The leader laughed weakly. His way of laughing was as if saying ‘isn’t it too late now?’ People who were ready to die sometimes laughed like this.
“She was everything to us. Telling us to forget her is the same as telling us to not be ourselves. We refuse, of course.”
“Right, you were that kind of people after all.”
Hamyuts moved her eyes a little and thought.
She drank the water offered to her and stood up. She slowly walked around the room. She smiled while walking, and then spoke.
“Well, it’s about time to get down to business. I have a request for you.”
So we haven’t gotten into business until now? The False Men leader felt dubious.
“My request is a simple thing… well, since it’s beneficial for the both of us, I thought I’d try suggesting it.”
“…What is it?”
“Will you all kill yourselves for me?”
Hamyuts said seriously. The leader of the False Men hesitated for a while, and then pulled out his gun and pointed it at her.
His wrist was then torn off by the string of a sling.
The massacre began.
Hamyuts used a gravel bullet to knock down the ceiling and then jumped onto the fortress’s spire. This was the spot she decided to take her position in the moment she saw the fortress.
She swung her sling. She scattered the lead dolls swarming around her. Their limbs cracked and fell apart.
At the same time, Hamyuts saw Photona leap on one of the fortress’s walls. Four slashes flashed. Even Hamyuts’s eyes could barely follow his speed. A square hole opened up on the wall strengthened by Magic.
What Photona swung around was a completely normal piece of wood. It was one of the legs of the chair the Overseer of Paradise sat on until now.
Photona’s ability was named Dream Invasion. Like its name suggested, it was the ability to let ideas invade reality. It was the ultimate combat ability, exceedingly close to that of the erasure of cause and effect. There was no need for Photona to hit his target with a blade. As long as he was convinced that something had been cut, it would become so. Swinging the rattan pole around was nothing more than a ritual to gain that conviction. Both lead and steel held no meaning against him. At that moment the gates of hell were probably opened up beneath Hamyuts.
She came up to the spire in order to snipe all those who try to escape. Her goal was the death of all people there. She must not let there be any survivors.
“Mm, how disappointing.”
Hamyuts’s expectations were betrayed. No-one tried to escape. Her gravel bullets attacked only the lead soldiers gathering at the spire.
The lead soldiers died one after another, with none of them spilling even one tear.
They don’t even have that sort of function. No – that function had probably been deleted.
I don’t know who planned these, but they created quite the stupid weapon. Hamyuts couldn’t help but think so.
A soldier who fought with no regard to death would definitely be something scary to face. If their opponents were not Hamyuts or Photona they would have undoubtedly felt fear.
However, once you kill such an enemy it’s all over. A dead opponent can no longer fight.
The one truly scary would be an undying enemy. An enemy who surrenders when they know they’ll lose and runs away when they know they’ll get killed. An enemy who will keep fighting even after losing again and again. While wondering if such an enemy exists, Hamyuts secured her position and swung her sling around.
There was nothing more boring than having the enemy’s performance be below your expectations. She felt like switching sides and teaching her opponent about battle tactics.
The battle was over when the figures of lead soldiers have disappeared. All that remained was killing humans. She only had to kill those inside the fortress who had no fighting capabilities.
Although it wasn’t supposed to turn into a battle in the beginning, the job came out even more boring than expected. Hamyuts performed it with a long face.
She killed an old woman who attacked her with a spear. In the meanwhile, she thought about what she should do when she gets back.
“W-w-why aren’t bullets coming out?!”
She killed a girl who desperately pulled the trigger of a gun without removing the safety device. In the meanwhile, she thought about taking a vacation and going somewhere.
She used her bare hands to kill a man who probably couldn’t think of anything else and so rushed her down recklessly. In the meanwhile, she thought she could do something like head to Fulbeck’s new cinema.
“Aah, so boring.”
Hamyuts spoke out loud without noticing.
“Hamyuts… Hamyuts Meseta, you…!”
Looking down, she saw the False Man leader she spoke to before holding a gun. Thinking there was probably no longer any need to watch from where she was, Hamyuts withdrew her Sensory Threads and jumped down.
Blood was dripping from one of his arms and he used the other to hold a gun. His aim wasn’t steady. Hamyuts didn’t even need to evade and the bullets missed and disappeared. She lightly flung a stone hanging on her sling.
She no longer felt anything and just kept killing. Mattalast told her that Parney’s movies were not really interesting. He was well-acquainted with the cinema. She thought of asking him what she should see.
She felt like talking to the dying people. What’re you doing? Shouldn’t you learn to fight better instead of dying here like that? I’m fine with even one of you escaping, looking for comrades, finding weapons and then challenging me again as many times as you’d like.
Photona was killing in a disinterested manner. His expression contrasted with Hamyuts who stifled her yawns. He was as serious as usual. He had the same face even when doing paperwork.
Hamyuts lay her emotions bare; Photona showed none of his feelings.
Which one of them strayed more from the proper path?