300 kilometers to the east of Bantorra Library. As far as the eye could see there was nothing but sea with no sign of the Island around.
The weather was clear, there was no wind, and the waves were low. It was the perfect condition for a naval battle. According to Mirepoc’s report, the 3rd fleet of the Ismo Republic’s navy was about 50 kilometers ahead. There was less than an hour until contact.
Armed Librarian Bonbo Tartamal was flying in the sky by himself.
‘Bonbo-san, there is an estimated of 45 minutes until contact. Is everything in order?”
Mirepoc’s thoughts were sent to him. Bonbo exhaled deep, warm breath.
His left hand held a large paper bag. Inside were potatoes deep-fried in corn oil.
‘No. Something terrible has happened.’
While stuffing his cheeks with the sliced potatoes, Bonbo replied in his thoughts.
‘I’ve forgotten to take a drink. If I eat any more it will get stuck in my throat and I will die.’
Saying so, he pushed even more potatoes into his mouth.
Bonbo Tartamal. One word to describe his appearance could be “fat”. It’s not that he was fat when compared to Armed Librarians who always exercised; he was more than fat enough even for a normal person. His stomach looked like one of a woman who was ten months pregnant. His arms, fingers and legs were also plump and soft like first-class ham.
His white shirt was wrinkled all over. Although it was winter, he rolled up his sleeves up to his elbows. His black pants rubbed his shining knees.
He wore round glasses on his face. The thin eyes behind them were smiling as he gazed at the other side of the sea.
‘Is forgetting a drink a serious incident?’
He understood that Mirepoc was astonished.
‘Can’t you just drink some sea water?’
‘That’s like telling your comrade to die.’
‘How about just stop eating?’
‘Being hungry is much worse than dying.’
Mirepoc frowning at the other side of the Thought Sharing appeared in front of his eyes.
‘Anyway, I will review the enemy forces. Three gunboats, seven cruisers, fifteen destroyers, twenty torpedo boats, and they also have two aircraft carriers with 150 airplanes.’
‘Is that all?’
‘It is one of the Ismo Republic’s nine fleets. It seems like this is the extent of the forces headed your way currently…’
‘Understood. Then I’ll be enough by myself.’
‘Currently we cannot understand the reasons for their attack. Report any information you find with the highest priority. Investigating the cause takes precedence over defeating them.’
‘Yeah. After all, if those Ismo people fight with me they will all die.’
At that time, a formation of birds were flying alongside Bonbo. Were they birds of passage? Bonbo turned around and followed them with his eyes for a while.
‘I will now severe the Thought Sharing. Good luck.’
‘Wait. If you say it like that I won’t get any motivation.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Unless you say “Please do your best for me, Bonbo-san!” with a cute voice I won’t have any motivation.’
There was silence for a while.
‘A message from the Director. It seems to be “Do your best Bonbo. I love you”.’
‘Can I just come back?’
The Director probably burst into laughter in the Acting Director’s Office. Mirepoc was probably also laughing.
‘I will now severe the Thought Sharing. Good luck. Also take care of your health.’
This time it severed for real.
“Mirepoc sure is amusing. My health, ha…”
Saying so, Bonbo smiled.
What he rode was not an airplane. It was also not a flying boat or a blimp.
Flying while surfing the waves of the wind was a humpback whale.
Its total length was about thirty meters. Its black body rejected the sun’s rays.
Bonbo stood on top of its head. Fifteen other whales formed a square formation behind them.
Whale-User Bonbo. He was a unique Armed Librarian that could not operate in the Labyrinth. Because his ability was too large-scaled there were not many places where he could fight, so he was normally assigned to monitor the ceasefire between the Guinbex Imperial Army and the Principality of Rona.
A herd of whales traversed the blue skies. This grandeur and fantastic sight would fascinate everyone who could see it. It was said that contrary to his uncouth appearance, Bonbo was the most beautiful Armed Librarian.
“Can Armed Librarians even be healthy? You become an Armed Librarian because you don’t need your life.”
Bonbo smiled. It wasn’t a normal jesting smile, but the nihilistic smile of someone who had made some resignation.
“My stomach is full and the clouds are pretty. It wouldn’t be so bad to die today. Don’t you think so, everyone?”
All the whales in the formation spouted salt water from their back at the same time.
He could see more than forty armadas on top of the sea. Although he was facing them all alone, his face reflected neither despair nor carelessness.
It was natural. He was the man who once sank a third of the Guinbex Imperial Army’s navy. Even if he was facing the world’s strongest navy of Ismo, they were like small boats to him.
The battle began. Ismo’s navy took the first move. Fighter planes sortied one after another from the aircraft carrier. Their aim was obviously Bonbo himself.
Bonbo dodged. He concealed himself inside the mouth of his whale. Bonbo’s fighting strength by himself was not that high. He wasn’t confident he could avoid the rain of machine guns.
The guns now aimed at the whales. The fighters were obviously winning in the maneuverability department. For the whales it was a pain like getting pricked by a needle, but it still wasn’t good for them to keep tanking the shots.
Another problem was that the whales had no way of shooting down the fighters. Their only way of attack was with their bodies. Smashing the planes dancing around in the air was much like the foolish action of trying to eliminate bees using a knife.
Laying sprawled atop the whale’s tongue, Bonbo snorted.
The formation of the whales changed to a line. They spread out and lined up. Then they headed for the sea surface as if falling into it. When fighting against Bonbo in the ocean airplanes had no meaning. Because they couldn’t act there.
Descending to the sea was not an evasive act. It was a charge. The waves produced by the fifteen whales became an attack by themselves. Several small transport ships were capsized.
Just waves alone could obviously not defeat the main force of battleships. The whales dove deep and then resurfaced. They began ramming the battleships from below.
Two ships were sunk. Even those who barely avoided capsizing would probably take some time to recover their ability to fight. But the whales were not unhurt. The shock of clashing with all of their power made them bleed. Some of them even cracked their skulls.
Even Bonbo was not unhurt. His fat body bounced around inside the whale’s mouth. He nearly fell into the whale’s gullet.
“I really don’t want to die by getting eaten by my own whales.”
Bonbo muttered and recovered his posture.
The whales did not falter. They set on a second charge. However, before that they had to avoid the enemy’s counterattack. Torpedoes assaulted the submerged whales. Their power, speed and accuracy surpassed those of the Guinbex Imperial Army. All as expected of the most scientifically advanced country in the world. He won’t be able to beat them easily like before.
Bonbo’s fight continued.
Can we win? Hamyuts asked herself.
The Republic of Ismo was the world’s largest country. They had more than twice the troops of the Guinbex Imperial Army that they fought before. They were certainly not an opponent they could beat easily. Still, the word “defeat” did not come up to Hamyuts’s mind even once.
The number of their formal personnel was less than a hundred. Including the trainees they would not even be 300 Armed Librarians, but their fighting power exceeded that of a single country. No matter what scheme the Indulging God Cult was trying to use, it was impossible to surpass the Armed Librarians’ war potential. She had no reason to think of defeat.
Although she didn’t, she still had a bad feeling. She felt like everything only started – no, like nothing had started yet.
“Director. We’ve prepared the attacking forces.”
Without knocking at all, Mattalast entered the office. She entrusted him with all of the subordinates and kept thinking inside her office for a long time.
“There is probably someone controlling the Ismo Republic from somewhere. If that’s our enemy, we will have to crush the Republic of Ismo itself.”
Mattalast said this radical idea.
“In short it’s a blitzkrieg tactic. Our specialty.
We will dispatch eight people. They will be deployed in pairs, striking the government offices, the congress, the national defense headquarters and the navy headquarters simultaneously. After gaining complete control, we will assume temporary control of the state and issue the army an order to return.
If we do that there will not be any citizen casualties. It’s violent but probably the quickest way.”
Mattalast thought that he could probably get consent immediately. But he saw Hamyuts making a strange face as she was intently thinking.
“What’s wrong, Director?”
After thinking for a while, Hamyuts replied with a still slightly hesitant voice.
“Understood. For the meantime start with that action.”
Mirepoc sent her thoughts. They could hear the sounds of the Armed Librarians downstairs starting to move after receiving the orders.
“Director. Why did you hesitate?”
Mattalast inquired. Since she delegated command to him she shouldn’t have been bothered by that.
“I just feel like something’s off.”
“The Ismo Republic is a democratic state. I don’t think it’s the kind of country where the president can just issue orders for the army to deploy right away.
I feel like the enemy’s using some other means to move them. Something we can’t even imagine.”
“That’s unlike you. Don’t you believe in taking swift decisions?”
Hamyuts thought for a while.
“Mirepo. Could you get out for a while? I want to speak with Matt alone.”
Mirepoc was surprised. It didn’t reflect on his face, but Mattalast was probably surprised as well.
There was a secret between Hamyuts and Mattalast. However, they were usually extremely cautious to not let anyone smell the existence of such a secret.
Mirepoc went out. Hamyuts confirmed that she was not eavesdropping them with her Sensory Threads.
“What is it, Director?”
“This isn’t at the level where someone’s controlling the Ismo Republic. Doesn’t it seem as if the entirety of Ismo joined the Cult?”
“Do you think the secret was leaked?”
“Does that mean the Overseer of Paradise exposed Heaven?”
“You can’t tell what an idiot would do when cornered.”
Mattalast shook his head.
“Impossible. Even the Indulging God Cult needs to protect the secret.”
“The Armed Librarians are villains affiliated with the Indulging God Cult… what if that was the information he leaked?”
“Impossible. And even so it probably wouldn’t come to the decision to fight against us.”
Mattalast smacked Hamyuts’s shoulder.
“You worry too much, Director. There’s just some smart person in the Indulging God Cult that managed to do that. That’s it. It’s no different than usual.”
Saying so, Mattalast left the office. She heard him tell a joke to Mirepoc on the way out.
However, Hamyuts felt strange. It was probably her woman’s intuition.
She felt as if she was about to lose. No, more precisely, she felt as if she was about to die.
Nevertheless, she didn’t feel anything like exhilaration. Hamyuts experienced an unknown, bizarre feeling.
Half a day passed since then. Mattalast’s ideas were betrayed in a bad way.
Two Armed Librarians were flying an airplane headed to the presidential offices. They were part of the attacking forces dispatched by Mattalast. Their names were Luik and Gamo.
“Is this an illusion?”
They were above the west coast of the Ismo Republic. Luik muttered at the visible sight beneath their airplane.
“Does that mean Volken was alive? Did he create that illusion?”
But that was not possible. While they haven’t excavated Volken’s Book, they confirmed his corpse. However, the sight was shocking enough to make them think so.
“Shall we make sure?”
Armed Librarian Gamo, in charge of piloting, answered. He tried to make the airplane descend. Luik hurriedly stopped him.
“Don’t do that. We’re not like Bonbo or the Director.”
There was a line of vehicles that looked like a flock of ants from the sky. They were pushing on eastward towards the west coast. They were tanks, transport trucks, self-propelled artillery; all sorts of vehicles used by the military. They were all carrying fully armed soldiers.
Did the world really have so much tanks? They couldn’t even see the ground from the sky. There was no doubt that all tanks belonging to the Ismo Republic were assembled here.
“Are they going to the Library?”
A chill ran down Luik’s spine.
No matter what kind of a foolish war you take part in, you use only half of your forces for an attack. It’s absolutely impossible to throw your entire army in. If you lose, your very country itself will end. And even if you win, it will be self-destruction by allowing other countries to invade.
Full deployment. That means the Ismo Republic chose its own destruction.
“Gamo, hurry up. I was born in Ismo.”
“Hurry up. Our country’s about to be destroyed.”
Luik thought to himself. Gamo probably feels the same.
This isn’t at the level where there’s some mastermind somewhere. Something unbelievable is happening.
Receiving this news, Hamyuts rose up. Mirepoc, conveying the thoughts, also paled.
“Are they insane?”
“They can’t be sane. Ismo lost their minds.”
Hamyuts spat out. In addition to their nine fleets, they deployed all ground and air forces. That wasn’t a number that could be suppressed by Bonbo alone.
Hamyuts spoke to Mattalast at her side.
“Sortie out. Take ten people with you. I’ll let you choose them!”
Mattalast started running as he heard the orders.
“Mirepo. Notify everyone in Bantorra Library. Cease all normal duties and return immediately. Got it? Cease immediately, return immediately!”
“Don’t ask the obvious. Everyone is everyone. Understood?”
During the fights with the Indulging God Cult, some of the Armed Librarian forces were left in reserve. It was the same even when fighting with Cigal or searching for the Monster. The Library stopped functioning only during the Monster’s raid and Mokkania’ rebellion, and only for a short while. Even then, Armed Librarians outside the Library didn’t receive any orders to fight.
The Armed Librarians were in full deployment for the first time. This meant that the greatest fight with the Cult was about to begin.
Enlike Bishile muttered this around the same time. He was at the port of the town known as Bujui in the west coast of the Ismo Republic.
The harbor was full of confused passengers. Sailors were hurriedly loading their luggage onto ships or flying boats. Here and there he could see men in military uniforms. They were yelling words such as “national mobilization!” or “martial law!”
A woman bumped into Enlike’s shoulder and collapsed. He started walking without even sending a single glance at her.
“Hey you, do you have an entry permit?”
He pushed the staff member approaching him like someone who brushed off a fly.
Taking no heed of the confusion in the town, or the war of Ismo Republic against the Armed Librarians, he kept walking.
He had no luggage. He only had a single Book inside his pocket.
It was Noloty’s Book.