In the Katjvarna territory, the four seasons basically don’t exist. It’s the tropics.
There is no spring nor autumn, and, of course, no winter. There is only the season when the general of summer seriously attacks, and the one when he slightly loosens his hand. One could call half of the Empire’s history the history of the fight with this brave general.
Therefore, between the slender and tall dipterocarpW trees-- the figure of somebody fast asleep with his body entrusted to a hanging hammock was possibly the form of humanity’s triumph against the general of summer.
A small, lovable humanoid "something" climbed aboard that someone’s chest, which rose and fell with the breathing of his slumber, and shook the body eagerly. A large face and short limbs, a round form, a "light cavity" in his body. That form was undeniably a light spirit, one pillar of the elemental spirits which served as the good partners of humanity.
Taking off the hat that shaded his face, the somebody took up the light spirit called Kusu with both hands. He was a black-haired, sleepy-eyed youth. The shirt and navy blue pants worn on his body were unrecognizably misshapen, but it was possible that they were a uniform that in some way matched with the hat.
While staring up and down at the spirit held in his arms, the sleepy-eyed youth-- Ikta tilted his head.
Hearing that, Ikta casually turned his gaze to the skies, and, indeed, the sun had risen considerably compared to when he looked before he slept.
Ikta, having sluggishly lowered his body from the hammock and stood on the ground, stretched widely. His back cracked, his sleepy conscious just then awoke, and all at once his hunger and thirst attacked.
Ikta brought the body of Kusu who so advised him to the special pouch he attached to his own hip and snugly stored him there. For the slow-footed spirit, that was the default position during travel.
After quickly retrieving the hammock from the tree trunks, Ikta, even while grimacing from his headache, started running through the inside the forest in high spirits.
After the graduation ceremony, the Academy president’s long speech, having calculatingly joined forces with the fierce heat, actually sent eight students out to the medical room. Finally, Yatorishino Igsem of those who moved to the Communal Lunch under the grand pavilion as per the schedule, not being able to dine properly, was savoring the annoyances of being an honor student.
--The top student understands it, even without you guys saying. So let me go already!
While she continued the unpleasant reception, in actuality, nothing but that was repeating in her mind.
If they came just to congratulate her on graduating, that would still be okay. There was no helping that she felt unhappy that, after words of congratulations, each and every one of the instructors added their own names. Furthermore, that type of people generally, in school life up to now, was a group with weak connections to Yatori.
Afraid of being forgotten, they tried to make even a small impression from the start. It was a ridiculous idea. But still, as the top of her class who combined her character with wisdom and courage, she had to take on a manner devoted to etiquette.
Yatori’s ears twitched at the detail exclaimed by another student in the near vicinity…. Ice cream!
As might be expected from the congratulation of the graduates of the Imperial Grand Academy, fancy cuisine to match the occasion was lined up on the tables of the assembly hall. Fish fry covered with plenty of spices, meat soup boiled with a mountain of spices, mixed rice boiled together with so many spices that you’d die. The flavor of spices, which were used for the purpose of sterilization, seasoning, and metabolism acceleration, was an essential characteristic of Katjvarna. Since Yatori was accustomed to the stuff itself, she didn’t mind it.
However, she just now came from the president’s long speech. She was all out of such things like sweat, and the temperature of her lips, dry and papery, surpassed the normal by two degrees. Eat foods with plenty of spices and accelerate metabolism → sweat and get a refreshing coolness- there was no need for her to undergo so irritating a practice as she had been until now. Yatori’s body desired a more direct "coolness."
One way or the other finishing the conversation with the instructors at an appropriate place, she turned to the direction of the voice from earlier and started walking with a quick pace. Ice cream-- that was undeniably the most appealing sound to anyone in this country.
In Katjvarna, far from the snow and never even having had frost fall, the only ones that could make the precious gem called ice were the water spirits. In addition to that, they couldn’t make a lot at once, and the majority of it circulated as an industrial coolant. The luxury of "eating ice" was a pleasure only for days with special, joyous things.
Given out to many hands, the remaining amount now was in a precarious state. Yatori, barely enduring the urge to starting running despite doing nothing but praying that enough for her remained, finally arrived in front of the plate.
She breathed a sigh of relief without thinking. The ice cream on top of the large plate was really only a small amount, which if scraped together and served on a small plate would finally be enough for one person. It was by a hair’s breadth…. While imagining the coolness of the ice slipping down her throat, she placed a hand on the serving spoon-
Her fingers, as they took the spoon handle, overlapped with the fingers of a youth trying to reach for it at the same time.
While giving the false compliment, the black-haired youth resistantly put strength into the tightly gripped spoon. Yatori also did the same. Grappling with the spoon from left and right, the two squared off in front of the plate.
To Yatori who ordered in a threatening tone, Ikta shrugged his shoulders and gave a villainous smile.
Drawn out by the reference to her family’s honor, strength gradually left Yatori’s hand. Ikta, having successfully stolen the serving spoon, gleefully served the remaining ice cream on a small plate.
The moment he brought the filled plate to his body, a tingling numbness ran through Ikta’s left arm. Without drawing attention, Yatori’s quickly dispatched fist hit the nerves in his elbow. Firmly catching the plate slipping out of his hand mid-fall and claiming it as her own, Yatori gave a triumphant smile.
Ikta retorted despite having lost the argument, rubbing his elbow with tearing eyes.
The coolness and sweetness spreading in her mouth, the scent of cinnamon leaving her nose, the sensation of ice cream thawed by her body heat sliding down her throat. Yatori was shivering at sensuality of those things while mindlessly holding the spoon in her mouth.
With a drink in a porcelain cup in one hand, Ikta was slouching on a bench set up in a corner of the party hall. He was glaring resentfully at Yatori’s blissful expression with a sidelong glance.
Despite saying that, Ikta, with a large jug of palm wine placed on his bench, was draining the contents of his cup and pouring himself several refills from there. When his thirst was finally quenched, he came with both arms filled to capacity with food from the tables and began eating incessantly.
While speaking, Yatori carried the last spoonful of ice cream to her mouth with a trace of regret. She absentmindedly gazed at the table, but there was currently no sign that more would come. She couldn’t help but be reminded of Ikta’s speech.
Thus complaining, Ikta, as if giving into despair, swigged palm wine.
Stored in the pouch on his waist, his partner, the light spirit Kusu, raised his eyes appearing anxious about the circumstances.
While watching that usual back and forth between the two, Yatori innocently brought her hand to her right hip and caressed the face of her partner being stored there. With "fire chambers" in both hands, he was the deep-red fire spirit Shia.
After speaking only that with a sigh, Shia became silent for a second time.
He seemed cold, but considering the two, he was closer to a spirit's standard mode. A spirit's personality was shaped by accepting his master's influence, but ones with communication abilities as high as Kusu’s were rare, and spirits attached to soldiers were especially liable to becoming uncommunicative.
Having found Yatori’s figure, six students from the crowd came to encourage her. Certainly not handling them coldly, she answered them with a smile, the same as when she addressed the instructors.
When a voice was returned from Yatori, the students who came to have a conversation, regardless of gender, became excited. Her red hair extending past her shoulders with its intermingling tips curling in and out, the pupils of her large eyes seeming to symbolize intelligence and sincerity, her stylishly-worn uniform unwrinkled by the heat. That was a figure as if dignity were painted in a picture.
With excellence in both the military and literary arts united with a personal history as a descendant of the Distinguished Igsem Family of the Classical Military Factions, Yatorishino Igsem received greater expectations and respect from students in the same class than anyone else…. But, to that extent, the companion together with in her an unbecoming situation, he was exceedingly conspicuous.
Sure enough, the one girl who noticed the existence of the dead drunk "unbecoming someone-san" whispered to Yatori in a lowered voice.
Yatori only responded to that harsh evaluation with a vague smile. The girl continued even closer to Yatori’s ear.
Yatori, being who she was, suppressed a snicker at that girl’s words, but, leaving that aside, the girl quickly changed the topic
Since she didn’t so much as take the Exam yet, there was a limit to how hasty one could be. But, of course, without revealing those kinds of true feelings, Yatori politely answered her innocent question.
When Yatori tilted her head and asked for an explanation, this time a boy from behind her answered.
Another boy added more. Without noticing that Yatori didn’t respond, they continued.
Ikta blandly inserted words into the middle of the conversation. At that sinister detail, the group creased their eyebrows.
That large group unanimously opposing Ikta were students decided on being involved with the military for their career after graduation. At their root was the blind faith to act in accordance with their own nation’s army, changing its name to the abandonment of thinking called "belief in certain victory," and even producing a foolish optimism about the war situation in the Eastern Province.
In the middle of everything, those words from Yatori elicited only restraint from everyone else. When they left with slightly dissatisfied expressions, the remaining Yatori sighed and began to ask the youth next to her a question.
Ikta’s example was simple and sharp. While pouring a refill of palm wine into his cup, he continued.
The Stronghold that was a standing organization, concerning the insufficient mobility of the military, had the power to protect but not the power to attack. "A boxer who could block a fist," which Ikta used as an example was like that. The troops without the ability to make an assertive attack for that reason were under the pressure of a defensive battle they couldn’t foresee.
Yatori nodded unpleasantly. --The Aerial Warfare Unit. That was the Kioka Army’s New Division, organized to resemble countless soldiers riding blimps. They crossed the national border from the skies and invaded Imperial territory, visiting and dropping large quantities of flaming oil on towns and army facilities that had been turned into supply relay points.
As a result of the flying altitude being too high, there were currently no measures on the Empire’s side to directly counter Aerial Warfare. From a distant height that neither arrows nor bullets could reach, they could continue causing damage to the Empire. This accumulation of damage would cause the troops of the Eastern Stronghold to suffer over time.
Saying that, Ikta slumped, lying down on the bench. As if, ridiculously, that was just about everything he to want to say.
Wary of eavesdroppers in the surroundings, Yatori warned against his speech. The Katjvarna Imperial Family was sacred, forbidden territory. To say nothing of the current wartime, casually speaking those criticisms wouldn’t be tolerated. Particularly, it would invariably involve the contributions of a descendant of a Distinguished Family of the Classical Military Factions, Yatori, with the responsibility... One couldn’t speak carelessly.
While holding Kusu face up in his arms, Ikta made a sour face as if he had swallowed a bug.
Drawing closer in direction Ikta’s head as he declined, Yatori whispered in a small voice inaudible to their surroundings.
Hearing that, Ikta stared blankly, possibly in a strange condition due to the heat, picked up Manila clamshells from the plates of food he finished eating, and one by one began placing them on his head. Yatori’s eyebrows drew in doubtfully.
Without making any kind of comment, Yatori knocked the Manila clams down from the youth’s head.
While responding shamelessly, Ikta skillfully poured a refill of palm wine into cup while lying down.
The High Grade Military Officer Exam—an obstacle which only those who have completed the Childhood Military Discipline Course at a designated educational institution as study material were allowed to challenge, so to speak the first trial that upper echelon cadets needed to surmount to become elite soldiers.
With the case in the army where one Private First Class = two Privates, one couldn’t climb the ranks unless with very large military gains in actual combat, and that promotion reached its limit with the seventh rank from the bottom, the non-commissioned officer "Sergeant Major." But the High Grade Military Officer Exam was something created with the goal of selecting candidates for commissioned officers, and those who passed it were able to acquire the status of "Warrant Officer," one rank above "Sergeant Major," from the beginning. However, the Exam could be taken once per year, up to three times.
Of course, the passing rate was absurdly high. Spanning the entire test, they seldom, if ever, cut by 400 times, and they didn’t reduce by 20 times even with just the Primary Written Examination. But since there was a tendency for the people of the Katjvarna Empire to regard soldiers as heroes, the ones who succeeded at this became objects of adoration. It was a chance to acquire both status and prestige….
The existence of Ikta drowsily moving a pencil in the middle of test-takers who were facing and squinting their eyes at exam papers was already shockingly out of place. And yet the answering itself was advancing unusually smoothly from the start that the surrounding test-takers alike only felt ashamed.
Concerning his posture, it was the same as that of a child forced to do summer homework. Cheek propped up, lips curving in an "へ" shape, eyes somewhat like those of a dead fish. So, falling flat the instant he finished the answers for each subject class, and lying that way without fixing his eyes, he didn’t so much as twitch until the collection of exam papers.
Depending on the personality of the instructor proctoring the Exam, that was a lack of seriousness quite capable of having him ordered from the room, but it appeared that he was blessed by enough luck to slip by.
And like that, the Exam’s second day arrived, the last subject of which was the "Use of the Military."
Mechanically filling out exam papers, the hand of Ikta, who was practically in the state of a living corpse, abruptly stopped. The theme of the essay question written on the last of the exam papers seized his eye and didn’t let go.
--Freely state your thoughts concerning the Imperial Army’s former General Bada Sankrei, who previously abandoned the Kioka War and was made into a war criminal.
For the first time since the Exam began, a question was posed that could leave him at a loss. Based on the style of answer, "freely state," it wasn’t characteristic of the questions asked the army. There didn’t seem to be an intention to fit a template.
--However, from the contents, he could sense just a slightly nostalgic scent.
Since Ikta, who without thinking instinctively didn’t want to answer, couldn’t really list criticisms of the Imperial Family on the High Grade Military Officer Exam, and since he had belief that he should already be working on matters in another subject, he recorded this short answer.
--Every hero dies of overwork.
At 7:20PM, the Primary Written Examination ended at every venue, and the over 6,000 test-takers were reduced to fewer than 300 as per every year.
About one month after the completion of that Primary Written Examination. Ikta and Yatori, carrying luggage for a journey on their backs, were gazing at the ocean from the harbor with their respective spirits. As a result of the Secondary Examination Continuation being conducted on the Hirgano Archipelago on the southern side of the Empire, they came to board the transport ship heading to the actual location.
Ikta answered mixed with a yawn. Unlike the High Grade Military Officer Exam which one can pass with just excellent grades, a librarian position at the National Library of the Capital was exclusive to retiring nobility. Ikta had no chance outside this deal.
The Katjvarna Empire’s capital Banhataal was the Empire’s core both geographically and politically. Hypothetically, even if the war situation with the Kioka Republic worsened after this, it would be the last of the last to be persecuted. The welfare program was also generous for employees of a national institution like the Library. To be blunt, it was a position in which one could slack off until the nation was on the brink of ruin.
Sighing with half disgust and half admiration, Yatori gazed at the great ocean spreading out before her eyes. On the ocean surface, the waves were low and the winds calm. It was hatefully clear weather. The beach air smelled like a mix of sand and salt.
Urged on by the light spirit Kusu stored in the pouch on Ikta’s hip, the two lined up and went walking in the ship’s direction.
From the medium-sized ship coming along the harbor, sailors recognizable as soldiers with one glance got off and scrutinizingly appraised Ikta and Yatori’s full lengths.
After confirming exam admissions tickets from both of them, the sailors silently prompted to the two to board. When they boarded, there were no frivolous ornaments, characteristically of army furnishings, but it was a generally attentively maintained, sanitary ship. The guest cabins to which they were guided, despite being narrow, still had beds stacked three levels high on the left and right--furthermore, an earlier guest was there.
The one who spoke with an expression that mixed nervousness and relief, was a tall girl with pale blue hair. Her partner, a water spirit, was sitting on her lap. It was a gentle impression in contrast with the firm Yatori.
Slightly surprised by the family name Igsem which Yatori mentioned, she immediately returned a self-introduction.
Sitting on the bed opposite Haroma, Yatori added words in a gentle tone.
Haroma gave a small laugh at Ikta’s behavior as he teased her with a pompous tone.
With both a smiling tone and expression, Yatori's innermost thoughts were half honest opinion and half calculations. With preparing the "perfect ally with no interest in passing the Exam" called Ikta as her first military gain, she was now in the phase of acquiring allies locally.
When the two began their socializing mixed with modesties, the cabin door opened and a new passenger showed his form. He was a chubby youth with a round face placed on a plump torso. He quickly surveyed the inside of the room, and, startled at one point, widened his eyes.
Embraced by Ikta who stood up from the bed, the youth called Matthew made an extremely reluctant face. While desperately pushing his companion away, his gaze this time was concentrated on Yatori.
Matthew cursed her loathingly. On behalf of Haroma whom he hadn’t met, Yatori inserted an introduction.
Since Haro unknowingly said something rude, Matthew stamped his feet and ground his teeth in frustration. With that timing, Ikta, as if comforting, or perhaps one should say, as if teasing, clapped a hand on his shoulder.
Followed by Ikta like a ghost in the background, Matthew hugged his knees in a corner of the cabin and sat down in protest. Shaking her head, Yatori restrained Haro, who was trying to say something as if unable to just watch.
Yatori finished talking with a light smile. When she did, the figure of Ikta talking incessantly to Matthew seemed even to Haro like a poisonous snake twined around its prey. Slightly scared, she averted her gaze.
As Yatori spoke mixed with a sarcastic laugh, Haro, bringing her mouth slightly closer to her ear, asked in an even smaller voice.
With laughter suddenly in her ear, Haro without thinking cried "Hyaa?!" and turned around. Ikta, who seemed to have come unnoticed from Matthew's side, had shamelessly encamped next to her and was laughing hysterically.
After having the back of her hand caressed, an erotic voice rose from Haro's mouth. While watching the spectacle, Yatori held her face with one hand as if to say, "so it's started again..."
The touching that began with the back of her hand, making that its origin, steadily advanced in the direction of her body. To be honest, Yatori thought that it was amusing, but since it'd reach a refinement unsuitable for pictures if it continued, before that happened, she decided to grab Ikta by the nape of his neck and stop him.
After he was tossed away by Yatori, Ikta returned to the direction of Matthew who was hugging his knees in a corner of the room. Noticing Haro, who was happily freed but breathing very feebly, Yatori called out.
While gently hugging Haro’s shoulders, Yatori, giving a sly smile, was exclaiming, "alright, I successfully won her over!" triumphantly in her mind. The Local-Acquisition-of-Allies Phase was commencing smoothly.
Suddenly, the cabin door slowly opened a second time.
The one who shyly showed his face was a handsome boy even taller than Haro. He had clear green eyes and hair tinged with a light green extending to his shoulders. In the pouch on his hip was the form of a wind spirit, the same as Matthew’s Tsuu.
For some reason, Ikta immediately rejected him, but Yatori, sealing his mouth with one hand, welcomed the newcomer.
Readily accepting the invitation with a refreshing smile, the youth started his self-introduction as he entered the room.
The moment the youth gave that name, the upper body of Matthew, who was crouching in a corner of the room, rose energetically. At the same time, both of Yatori’s eyes opened wide. From some sort of silent agitation, her lips hung loosely.
The third son of the Distinguished Remeon Family of the Classical Military Factions, on equal standing with the Igsems in the Empire. The strongest contender for success in the current term’s High Grade Military Officer Exam. Her biggest rival was in front of her eyes-- with that understanding, Yatori took several deep breaths and calmed her heart, then, with an authority as if exchanging declarations of war, gave her name.
Just hearing his companion’s name, Torway brightened his eyes as if seeing an adored heroine. Even the mouth that until now functioned smoothly suddenly became clumsy, meaninglessly mumbling, "umm, that, uhh," repeatedly. Looking at that condition of his, Yatori drew in her eyebrows doubtfully.
The moment Torway steeled himself and tried to say something, Matthew broke in between him and Yatori. Gallantly confronting the two, the plump eldest son of the Tetdrich Family roughened his voice.
Matthew gave his name with a menacing look that practically declared war, but hearing that, Torway, in contrast to his companion, gave a charming smile.
Given a nickname without any context, Matthew widened his eyes. Meanwhile, Yatori, who was interrupted in a conversation with her rival, sighed and pushed his body aside.
Meaningfully leaving a beat, while intently watching her companion, Yatori finished speaking with a scornful laugh.
Precisely prodded at a physical characteristic which he was habitually self-conscious about, Matthew groaned with a miserable face. Charging in without bearing in mind the difference in rank would result in his defeat, that was a pattern evident from his time as a student.
Ikta forced his way in as if reading in monotone from a script. Torway shook his head with an embarrassed face.
When Yatori interrupted as the straight man9, Torway sent her a look that asked, "an acquaintance?" She sighed and gave Ikta’s introduction.
Yatori explained grabbing the nape of the growling Ikta’s neck.
Yatori responded bluntly, but anyone’s eyes could see affection from her back and forth with Ikta. Torway returned his gaze to Ikta a second time, and, with an expression vaguely mixed with envy, slowly extended his right hand.
Stopping the threats, even Ikta intently watched his companion. Those pupils had the shrewdness to see into one’s interior. Whether or not Toway’s mild-mannered demeanor was a calculated thing-- he had temporarily inferred from the back and forth until now, and for those results, he reached the conclusion that this one was a good person of the natural airhead variety.
It was just a slip of his refreshingly honest opinion, but it was nevertheless a condescending attitude. But, luckily, since Torway was a youth who wasn’t particular about minute details, a practically miraculous handshake was able to connect between the two.
Although Torway was naturally eager to use a nickname despite it being their first meeting, continuing from Matthew, Ikta was Ikta, and he naturally gotten rid of that mercifulness.
Black eyes filled with meaning turned to Haro’s direction. He suddenly included a character that had been outside the mosquito net until now into the circle, and, in addition, even though she didn’t ask him, he gave her introduction.
Haro was flustered and trying to make amends, but, unfortunately, Ikta hadn’t said anything wrong content-wise until now. Unaware of the circumstances, Torway exhibited the merits of guessing in the wrong direction.
Ikta, having twisted facts into a convenient form and thoroughly delighting in those results, unexpectedly had his foundation shaken violently. With the ship starting its engine and leaving the harbor, Yatori settled the area for the time being
Then they each settled on their own beds, and weary from traveling until now, the five entered a light sleep. Incidentally, at the end of heated discussion, Ikta’s bed was assigned the farthest diagonally from Haro.
With the rocking of the ship growing violent due to a sudden deterioration of the weather three hours after they left port, Ikta and the others, all of them in the same cabin, began to open their eyes in turn. The long trip by boat, still in its opening stages. From anyone’s perspective, there was too much time remaining.
Sitting on a bed face to face, Matthew and Torway were waging war in military shogi. Both the one who brought the pieces and board and the one who proposed the contest was Matthew, but the war situation appeared to be unfavorable to him.
Matthew was growing desperate and gazing intently at the board, but when he looked, his own army was increasingly at a disadvantage with every glance. He understood that the the outcome was already decided with the first minute and then devoted three minutes to mental preparation, and finally, he squeezed out the few words, "...I died."
Even while saying that, the game record was already facing the reality of Matthew's third consecutive defeat, but, hating to lose, he couldn't readily acknowledge the difference in their ability. Torway, sensing that only an unproductive struggle would continue at this rate, felt worried about his companion and made a proposal.
Since Matthew also accepted based on reason that progress didn't exist without calm reflection on defeat, he, though reluctantly, consented to Torway's proposal. Seeing that they had pretty much come to a stand still, it seemed there was no room to lodge a complaint about the overly familiar way of address, "Maa-kun."
When Torway, taking care not to injure his companion's pride, tried to state his opinion, a third person's voice, even though it wasn't even called for, came down from overhead.
Clicking his tongue at Ikta’s seemingly taunting voice, Matthew aligned the pieces with a loathsome expression. Torway widened his eyes and looked at the topmost bunk.
His reply was blunt, but Torway honestly valued Ikta highly. That he remembered the course of the game was a considerable thing, but, it was the fact that he also grasped the offenses and defenses that deserved praise. The state of the game which Ikta considered to have separated victory from defeat was exactly the same part Torway was about to mention.
Luckily with that, Haro came back into the room together with Yatori carrying a large earthenware teapot and cups for the number of people. She first tried to pour it using the table that was installed, but due to the swaying of the foundation, the earthenware teapot seemed nearly about to fall, they switched over to the method of pouring while holding the cups one by one in their hands.
While taking a cup of tea from Haro, Yatori unsympathetically tied up her hair. Her gaze was casually turned to the military shogi board that Matthew and Torway held between them.
Torway found and developed the beginning of a new topic in Yatori’s words, who had tried to sooth him just in case.
Yatori’s answer was grounded in logic. Continuing, she looked at the figure of Ikta extending just his arm from the bed and accepting a cup of tea. While amazed at his laziness, she passed over the question from Torway.
For just having spent a lot of time together, Yatori was unusually smooth in dealing even with her friend’s ridiculous banter. While raising just his upper body and sipping tea on the bed, Ikta carefreely answered the original question.
The falling pillow landed a direct hit on Torway’s face. Suddenly sticking his head out from the bed, Ikta yelled.
While smoothly stating his point of view, Ikta was having his tea poured for him by Haro in a precarious position with his arm extended from the bed, as often was the case. Torway and Haro were listening admiringly on one side, and Matthew was largely ignoring him and scowling at the board, but with that, the ship swayed on a grand scale.
The tea that spilled from Ikta's cup landed a direct hit on Matthew's head with a devilish angle. While lightly apologizing with a "sorry, sorry," to his companion, who ended up turning a somersault from the heat, he suddenly shifted his gaze to the cabin door.
Yatori called out looking in the same direction as Ikta.
She was distracted by Matthew's scream, but at the moment the boat swayed, the sound of something colliding with the door resounded. Yatori, thinking it was suspicious, walked over and opened the front door of the room.
She caught a petite young girl wearing a large hat on the opposite side of the open door. She couldn't see the face hidden by the wide brim, but the blond hair that flowed out, not fitting inside the hat, was smooth and beautiful. Her garments were also plain, but it was obvious that the fabric was superior, and they were worn somewhat elegantly.
When Yatori smiled gently and asked her question, the young girl seemed at a loss for a reply and mumbled, "e-excuse me," as a way to dodge and quickly leave down the hallway. Watching her leave, Yatori tilted her head.
The sudden assault of a severe vibration in the hull interrupted Yatori's retort. Everyone simultaneously lost balance, and the contents of the cups they held in their hands spilled completely. Clearly differentiated from the swaying until now, that was the impact of a serious collision, not something caused by the waves.
While being the fastest of all of them in the same room to regain her balance, Yatori took an analysis of the situation. On the other hand, Torway was holding and propping up the shoulder of Haro, who fell face up, and Ikta, having fallen from the topmost bunk, crushed the elastically abundant body of Matthew and was shamelessly unharmed.
About when Matthew pushed Ikta aside and finally rose, the spirits that were sitting quietly on the beds also sensed a state of emergency and came alive, settling into their respective masters’ pouches. When everyone confirmed each other’s lack of injuries, a sailor’s yell resounded from the open door.
The voice instructing evacuation was shrill from the sense of impending crisis. Running aground, flooding, complete abandonment of ship-- from these words, everyone in that situation simultaneously imagined a single, fatefully derived end, together with an image of hopelessness.
However, there was one person who brushed aside the pessimistic premonition in an instant and started moving. That was Yatori Igsem.
The one who could take control of the area without wavering in this situation was a human called Yatori. She had the leadership to establish order immediately in a group that was reduced to a disorderly crowd facing a state of emergency.
And, everyone besides her as well were not resigned to the disorderly crowd in this setting.
A baptism of torrential rain and furious wind welcomed them, as they ran up the stairs with Yatori as their leader and emerged onto the deck. The mast, whose thickness exceeded that of an adult’s waist, made creaking sounds with the wind pressure, and on top of that the sailors were working, risking their lives, to bring down the sails that were filled with wind and flapping wildly. Already the hull had sunk 20 times lower than normal, and, in addition, the time was early evening. The ocean surface, having just descended into darkness, was pitch black the whole time they were working.
While striking a carefree banter with Ikta, Yatori, as the leader of the group, turned to the rear of the deck. There, four lifeboats had been readied, and the preparations were in order for one boat to launch from the sailors’ hand to the ocean surface. Instructions flew from the sailors to Yatori’s group who had come around.
Yatori, making a slightly surprised expression at undertone of 'the citizens,' quickly shook off the sentiment and resumed action. She had Haro board first, then Matthew, Torway, Ikta’s turn, then finally she herself entered the boat. When everyone’s bodies were settled into the boat, the sailors watching Ikta’s figure apologetically added something.
After seeing Ikta and Kusu nod in unison, the sailor let out the mooring ropes and lowered the boat containing them onto the ocean surface. The small boat abandoned to the great stormy ocean, rocking violently left and right, didn’t allow the people it held to have the sensation that they were living.
The next to reach composure after Yatori, Torway sent out instructions, and Matthew and Haro, lost in shock, obeyed them. On the other hand, Ikta, in the middle of a pounding downpour, was motionlessly concentrating his eyes on the fatally sinking mothership.
When Yatori, hearing that, followed Ikta’s line of sight, caught sight of the young girl they came across in front of their cabin a while ago. The girl was on the deck, trying to board a lifeboat. The trembling of her thin shoulders was perceptible even at a distance.
It didn’t seem the girl was at any age to travel alone, but she couldn’t see the figure of another companion.
That moment, a tragedy occurred. The hull tilted violently, receiving a wide blow from the waves on its flank, and, with the momentum, the young girl that was standing on the edge of the deck was thrown toward the ocean. Airborne for an instant-- without the time even to shriek, her small body was swallowed by the black ocean and disappeared.
One of the sailors who barely managed to stay on the deck, with a float tube in one hand, dispatched bloodshot eyes to the ocean surface.… But, too late. Even if he tried to send help, her form had been concealed in the valleys of the waves a long time ago.
Murmuring a reality exceedingly close to past tense, Ikta immediately stood up and began taking off his outer garments.
Accepting his master’s petition, Kusu reluctantly slipped out of the hip pouch as they discussed and, standing on the pouch’s edge, fired a strong light from his abdomen’s 'light cavity,’ beginning to illuminate one section of the ocean surface.
Continuing, Ikta grabbed a lifesaving float tube which was scattered around the bilge, and entrusted to Yatori the free end of the rope knotted to it.
Without affording Yatori time to think, Ikta dove headfirst into the ocean. Undaunted by the raging waves and treading the water with his limbs, he advanced directly to the location shown by the high beam. There was nothing for everyone left on the boat to do but hold their breaths and watch his back attentively as he nearly slipped into the middle of the pitch black ocean.
After ten-odd seconds, which felt like an eternity to the observers, Ikta rose to the surface, hugging the body of the young girl, which was as limp as a corpse. Yatori and the others breathed a great sigh of relief.
Answering the shriek that slipped out in that time, the four simultaneously began to pull the rope. While sustaining balance in the middle of rocking capable of toppling them even now, only drawing two people up to the boat was difficult.
Laying her head down on Haro’s lap, the young girl was silent. At the moment, it seemed that her slightly opened eyes would recover the light of reason soon, but simply escaping without confronting things as they were, that might have been a fortunate thing.
In order to check for presence of injuries, Yatori, dividing the work with Haro and examining the girl’s body, had her attention captured by a ring fitted onto the the girl’s middle finger. It was a superior piece that also functioned as a seal, but rather than a mere expensive feel, the design plated in gold onto the silver base was too familiar.
That yell caused Yatori’s thinking to freeze. With the wave received in the flank seeming to have been a finishing blow, the mothership’s sinking already reached the recovery-impossible range. In accordance with their duty, the remaining sailors on top of the descending boat, executed the severance of the towing rope, which would become the job to last them a lifetime. The boat containing Ikta and the others had its connection to the mothership severed, and began to genuinely drift away.
Now, while tightly biting her lip and gazing at the form of the mothership, which was only waiting to be completely submersed, even Yatori, being who she was, had a haggard expression. In the background, Matthew was flailing his limbs and raising a piercing cry.
Torway bound the panicking Matthew’s arms behind his back and held him down. On the other side, tightly hugging the body of the unconsciousness girl, Haro protested weakly with a whimper.
Yatori said it in a firm voice as if giving everyone instructions, herself included.
In agreement with that, Ikta, despite sniffling, took over her words.