Nejimaki Seirei Senki – Tenkyou no Alderamin

Chapter 1
The Empire at Twilight

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.

"Ikta, please wake up, Ikta."

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.

"...Nnn…what is it, Kusu? Didn’t I say I’d sleep through the graduation ceremony?..."

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.

"So, it ended."

While staring up and down at the spirit held in his arms, the sleepy-eyed youth-- Ikta tilted his head.

"If progress was as planned, the Imperial Segal Grand Academy’s 131st Term Graduation Ceremony ended just about now, and they should be shifting to the Communal Meal between graduates and guardians. Would it be unwise to have a meal here?"

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.

"Certainly, this is terrible. Let’s miss this meal, even though it’s free."

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.

"Ugh, I have a headache… light dehydration, I wonder?"
"It’s because you slept a long time in this heat. First, let’s stop by a well and replenish our water supply."

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.

"Well, shall I endure it just a little? Just for today, since it’s a waste to quench our thirst with tepid water."

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.

"I’m Yahg the physical education instructor, congratulations on your graduation, Miss Igsem. Ah, the High Grade Military Officer Exam is drawing closer before you. I think that you of all people will definitely pass, but don’t relax even a little alright?"
"I receive your advice gratefully, Instructor Yahg. I’m thinking of putting the things I learned here to best use in practice."

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.

"Oh, Yatorishino-kun, congratulations on your graduation. I’m Kobakk from educational guidance. As expected of the top of her class. Are you also expecting the same results from the High Grade Military Officer Exam?"
"Thank you very much, Instructor Kobakk. I wish devote my whole energy to meet expectations."

--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.

"Ah, alright! The second serving of ice cream is here!"

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.

"Ah, Yatori. Congratulations on graduating. As expected of the top of her class. I’m proud to be in the same year."

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.

"...You, didn’t show up at the graduation ceremony right?"
"Well, that was rude of me. My heart was always together with everyone."
"I have no interest in the your peculiar, conveniently detachable heart. So, where was the main body?"
"Overpowered by sleep in the forest behind the school. I couldn't help worrying about how many people collapsed this year."
"Eight people were incapacitated by listening.... So, you, who for some reason skipped the graduation ceremony, only show up for the Communal Lunch like nothing happened?"
"Because of this, there was no lunch today in the dormitories. Even if you let me sleep through the graduation ceremony, dining is compulsory."
"Like I’d accept your excuse. Anyway, remove your hand."

To Yatori who ordered in a threatening tone, Ikta shrugged his shoulders and gave a villainous smile.

"To think that the world-famous top graduate can’t concede one plate of ice cream to another person…"
"I’m disappointed… The teachers would probably be disgusted. To think that the someone such as the eldest daughter of the Igsem Family would be so shameful…"

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.

"As expected of Yatorishino Igsem. Her pride higher than a mountain, her heart larger than than the ocean. It seems I truly have a good friend-- Ah, ow!?"

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.

"Thank you for going out of your way to serve it for me, Ikta-kun. A gentleman does things ladies first."
"The result is the honor of receiving of your praise."

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.

"I'm being restored to life. Ice cream is the best."
"That’s so true isn’t it? On the other hand, I’m hot and about to die. No, I’ve been dead for a long time."

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.

"How exaggerated. The palm wine is chilled in itself, isn’t it?"
"The alcohol1 is weak and it wasn’t fermented enough. Therefore, I won’t acknowledge this stuff as alcohol."

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.

"Nng...mmm…. Considering that this is a party for the Imperial Grand Academy, the quality of the food being served is equal to the Empire’s dignity. The reality that it’s declining is an alarming thing, you know, Yatori-kun."
"Be quiet. Because normal students- unlike you, who slips in every year- only attend once, the quality of the food isn’t something they care about, you know."

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.

"Damn, I guess that was the end of this year’s ice cream. In any case, it’s because the price of the milk and honey sprinkled on top of the ice, which is produced directly in the kitchen, seems to have risen quite a lot since the year began."

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.

"Ikta, drink alcohol moderately. It’s harmful to the body."
"I guess so, Kusu. Opportunities in which I can drink enough to harm my body are rare, you know."

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.

"It seems you’re having difficulties as always, Kusu. Shia is worried as well."
"Thank you very much, Yatori. Shia has blessed with a responsible master."

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.

"Ah, Yatori-sama! Congratulations on graduating at the top of your class!"

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.

"Thank you. Also, congratulations to you, too."

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.

"...Umm. Possibly, are you involved with Ikta Solork?"

Sure enough, the one girl who noticed the existence of the dead drunk "unbecoming someone-san" whispered to Yatori in a lowered voice.

"Eh? No, we’re just talking a bit."
"You shouldn’t keep company with that kind of good-for-nothing. Stupidity is contagious."

Yatori only responded to that harsh evaluation with a vague smile. The girl continued even closer to Yatori’s ear.

"...Either I’m mistaken about something, or there is a rumor that this guy is also taking the High Grade Military Officer Exam. I think that he’ll fail it quickly in any case, but please be careful that you aren’t distracted by him."

Yatori, being who she was, suppressed a snicker at that girl’s words, but, leaving that aside, the girl quickly changed the topic

"Anyway, Yatori-sama. When will you go to actual combat as a commander?"

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.

"I can’t say anything yet, but normally it seems that after training for four~five years, you receive a rank and from there you can handle being an official military officer."
"Four years… I hope it’s much faster because you’re Yatori, but I wonder if you can’t make it in time."
"Make it in time…. What are you talking about?"

When Yatori tilted her head and asked for an explanation, this time a boy from behind her answered.

"Her relatives live in Katjvarna’s Eastern Province. Hey… right now our2 Eastern Stronghold is repulsing the invasion from the Kioka Republic National Army, right?"
"Yeah, Yatorishino-san was just saying how it would be fun if she went as a reinforcement."

Another boy added more. Without noticing that Yatori didn’t respond, they continued.

"But still, to go that far, even the guys from the Republic would abandon the invasion. In any case, it’s because the Commander-in-Chief of the Eastern Stronghold is that great Hazaaf Rikan-dono. He is a little distressed now by the New Division, whose status is unknown, but he’ll bring it under control soon..."
"Have your relatives escapes quickly. The Eastern Province will fall at the hands of the Kioka Army in less than a month."

Ikta blandly inserted words into the middle of the conversation. At that sinister detail, the group creased their eyebrows.

"...Wait. What do you mean by that?"
"What I said. The Eastern Stronghold will collapse and that whole area will be seized by the Kioka Republic. I pity Lieutenant General Rikan. If he didn’t have a tight choker, this kind of result wouldn’t be necessary."
"I can’t let that go unchallenged, Ikta Solork. The Eastern Stronghold led by Lieutenant General Rikan is currently devoting its full energy to repelling the barbaric invasion. Since that’s the case, why are you assuming defeat?"
"And belief in certain victory invites consequences. But defeatists like you probably won’t understand."

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.

"I heard a rumor that you’re taking the High Grade Military Officer Exam, but- ha- are you sober? Before passing or not passing, consider whether the Imperial Army wants a coward like you, 'Ikta the Lazy.'"
"Nothing but skipping lectures and practical skills lessons. If we talk about what you do in that time, afternoon naps, idleness, and picking up women come to mind. A refined specimen of a good-for-nothing, master of deadbeat life-- that’s you, don’t you agree, Ikta Solork?"
"Look, he has no words to say back."
"Come on guys, don’t be that way. This is a day for celebration, so let’s enjoy it without fighting."

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.

"...So it’s true, it’s really collapsing? The Eastern Stronghold."
"Do you think that a boxer who could block a fist would have a chance at winning?"

Ikta’s example was simple and sharp. While pouring a refill of palm wine into his cup, he continued.

"If you think calmly, it’s something you understand quickly, isn’t it? The main point, why is the Eastern Stronghold trembling even now in the action zone? The 'Stronghold' is a standing local military organization during peacetime. Since over three months have passed since the Kioka Army’s invasion began, if we’re seriously planning to win the war, it’s strange that they weren’t able to send military forces from Central a long time ago and replace ‘’the Eastern Province District Army’’."

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.

"That one has no hope of winning with a non-aggressive defense is basics of the basics of military science. Because you’ll just be caught off guard and overehelmed. The current Eastern Stronghold is on the verge of that… no, is it worse? Because the New Division recently released by the Kioka Army into the war has slipped our guard and is causing damage."
"... You mean the Aerial Warfare Unit, right? Certainly, that’s a threat the Empire didn’t predict."

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.

"From the start of the 'air bombings' from Aerial Warfare until now, already how many towns have been burned...? No, if only houses are being burned, then that’s still fine. They burn field crops, burn granaries, and the towns can’t maintain a food supply. The Stronghold’s troops are the same. Concerning food these days, they should already be in a state of distress."
"But the supplies from Central should have arrived."
"The amount to distribute to all of the people burned out of their homes by the air raids? There’s no way Central has that kind of surplus. Hypothetically, even if they do send it, can they continue that endlessly from now? Even though they have no expectations of winning the main war?"

Saying that, Ikta slumped, lying down on the bench. As if, ridiculously, that was just about everything he to want to say.

"More than anything, I pity the Commander-in-Chief of the Stronghold, Hazaaf Rikan. The commanding of a lost battle would certainly be bitter, wouldn’t it? This and that, everything was the negligence of the Emperor and Ministry who have no intention waging war seriously."
"Put an end to it there, Ikta. As I expected, this isn’t the place for this."

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.

"First, rather than talking about a war we can’t influence, there is currently a more constructive topic for us, right?"
"Hnn…? Ahh, this evening’s Graduation Festival? I want to go all out the whole night. Where should I go to drink?"
"You just drunk to your heart’s content! I meant the High Grade Military Officer Exam."

While holding Kusu face up in his arms, Ikta made a sour face as if he had swallowed a bug.

"Ah-- that depressing event was also left…"
"Even if you’re indisposed, I’ll have you participate... Really, you do understand it’s significance right?"

Drawing closer in direction Ikta’s head as he declined, Yatori whispered in a small voice inaudible to their surroundings.

"...Using the Igsem Family connections, I prepared a librarian position at the National Library of the Capital for you. In exchange, I’ll have you take the High Grade Military Officer Exam together with me and fight in my favor during the Secondary Exam Continuation. You also agreed to the deal, right?"
"That’s a given, since the Library of the Capital is the retirement destination for nobility. Lending out various amusements to empty-headed people with riches and leisure time to spare, occasionally maintaining dust-covered, pitiable academic books… just for that, I’d have a sum as my salary so that I wouldn't need to worry about my next meal. For me, that’s a distant dream. Although I did think that it was a cheap-shot scheme, uncharacteristic of you, Yatori. If it’s you, success is ensured even without something like my help, no?"
"Say what you want. If all I had to do was succeed, then I’d fight with just one arm…. However, the results required of eldest daughter of the Igsem family aren’t just that. The distinction of 'top success' is necessary."
"Haven’t you done nothing but monopolize that distinction with everything from the time at the Academy? It’s about time you surrendered it to someone, you know. You aren’t the only person who wants to sit in the top seat."
"Look who’s saying that. Just because you didn’t sit in it doesn’t mean I’m the only one who did."

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.

"...Wait, that, what are you doing?"
"Overestimating myself too much."3

Without making any kind of comment, Yatori knocked the Manila clams down from the youth’s head.

"...As I was saying! You aren’t the type to not use the ability that you’re hiding without any meaning. Particularly for this test, it seems that the youngest of the Remeon family is going to appear as a strong candidate. There’s no being too careful. Treading on you, Yatorishino Igsem will record her first step in military rule."
"Well, I think that’s fine. By what I heard, the league of your fellow Secondary Exam Continuation test-takers doesn’t seem unusual. Being the first to enter battle and preparing military forces are the basics of the basics of military affairs. 'The many outweigh the few.'"
"If you understand, then that’s fine. Sincerely try not to make a mistake large enough to fail the Primary Written Examination."
"Yep, I got it, I’ll try my best. Because, unlike you, being involved with the army is the last thing I want to do."

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….

"Nnn--, national tactics discourse. How bothersome--"

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.

"Ahh-- the Study of Military Affairs Administration. How tepid--"

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.

"Geh-- Alderah Theology. How annoying--"

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."

"This is the last one, this is the last one…. Hnn?"

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.

"Things are going just as planned so far, aren’t they? I’m relieved that you passed."
"It’s because I’d been skipping lectures and doing nothing but exam study ever since the deal was proposed two years ago."

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.

"Not that I’m discriminating against library employees, but you’re really working hard for that. It’s not even that you’re particularly a bookworm, right?
"I like books, but if I had to say, any work would be fine. The point is that it’s a librarian at the ‘National’ Library ‘of the Capital.’ If just those parts were the same, then I wouldn’t care even if I were a gardener or a cleaning lady."

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.

"Once this deal goes smoothly, if I can idle away like that until I die. Two years worth of exam study is cheap, you know? Since I hate wasting effort, I’m not stingy with that amount: the effort needed for myself to slack off."
"Haa…. I see. So you’re that kind of person."

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.

"The ship is here, Ikta. Come now, Yatori and Shia should go, too."

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.

"Your exam admission tickets."

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.

"...Ahh, good afternoon. Perhaps, are you also test-takers?"

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.

"It seems so. I’m Yatorishino Igsem. A 131st Term graduate of the Imperial Segal Grand Academy. My partner is the fire spirit Shia. This is Ikta Solork from the same year and the light spirit Kusu…. You are?"

Slightly surprised by the family name Igsem which Yatori mentioned, she immediately returned a self-introduction.

"I-I’m extremely grateful. Umm, I’m an 11th Term graduate of the Imperial Min Mihaela Nursing Academy, Haroma Bekkel. This little one is my partner, the water spirit Miru. Igsem-san, Solork-san, please be kind to me."

Sitting on the bed opposite Haroma, Yatori added words in a gentle tone.

"We didn’t settle on using our family names. Yatori is fine, you know."
"Please, if you would, call me Ik-kun with affection."

Haroma gave a small laugh at Ikta’s behavior as he teased her with a pompous tone.

"You can ignore this person’s joke, Haroma-san. If you go along, you’ll be sucked in by his manner."
"Hehe… you two get along well, don’t you? Then, if you’d like, please call me Haro. Since my acquaintances all call me that."
"I’ll impose on your words, Haro…. Your partner is a water spirit, and you yourself come from a Nursing Academy, so I wonder if your targeted Division is the Medics?"
"It's as you say. While I’m embarrassed about this, it’s my third time as a test-taker, and this is the first time I passed the Written Examination. Since it’s my last chance, it would be nice if they would let me survive, but…"
"The Medics Division, compared to others, does have a low success rate, but I think you have plenty of hope. If we end up competing, I can’t go easy, but if there is a way to cooperate, I’d want to join hands."

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.

"If we can, that’s reassuring. The eldest daughter of the Igsem Family-- I’ve heard rumors of Yatori-san’s fame."
"Oh, I’m flattered. It would be nice if the actual strength accompanying me was even half of that in the rumors, though…"

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.

"Ikta Solork…? W-Why are you here?!"
"Ohh, my buddy Matthew! You passed too? Why how great, how serendipitous!"

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.

"Tch, Yatorishino… so you’re here too, huh?"
"It’s been a month, hasn’t it, Matthew-kun? I’m glad we were able to meet. It doesn’t seem the same way for you, though."
"Of course, not. If you had messed up on the Primary Examination, you don’t know how thrilled I’d be."

Matthew cursed her loathingly. On behalf of Haroma whom he hadn’t met, Yatori inserted an introduction.

"This is Matthew Tetdrich and his partner, the wind spirit Tsuu. He’s in the same year as Ikta and I am. If Haro has a memory of hearing the family name Tetdrich, then please say so. I think he’d be very pleased."
"What kind of introduction is that?! Whether someone remembers us or not, within the Empire, the Tetdrich Family is still a preeminent Distinguished Family of the Classical Military Factions! It isn’t superior or inferior to ones like Igsem or Remeon!"
"Te-Tetdrich… was it? Umm… If I’ve heard it before or haven’t… It’s not that I don’t feel it’s on the tip of my tongue, but…"

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.

"It’s fine, Matthew. It’s that major-on-a-minor-scale type of popularity that’s your position. It’s not particularly necessary for all entertainers to have a national fan-base. You’re honestly trying your best on the local route."
"Just who is an entertainer?! Ahh, come on, whatever is fine, so for the time being, you can let go!"

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.

"Stand up quietly. In those current circumstances, whatever you say, he’ll take offense to it."
"H-hahh.... ...Somehow, are you used to the treatment?"
"He’s someone I’ve continued entangled with for four years. Ah, but if Ikta is there, coping with it is easy. It’s like using poison to overcome poison."4

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.

"...Umm, Yatori-san, you're in the same year as Ikta-san, right?"
"Yeah. He's a friend from since we enrolled in the Grand Academy. Well, it's a strange coincidence, but you might say I got stuck with him."

As Yatori spoke mixed with a sarcastic laugh, Haro, bringing her mouth slightly closer to her ear, asked in an even smaller voice.

"Umm, Matthew-san also seems the same way, so, then as I expected, Ikta-san is also a descendant of a Distinguished--"
"Hahaha, no~o way. Solork is the name of an orphanage, young lady."

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.

"A descendant of a Distinguished Family, you said? I have no father and no mother. At the time, I found Kusu when he was working at the Solork Orphanage, collapsed and dying in a decaying vacant basement. I've been with that little guy ever since. Also, luckily since I wasn't that stupid, I was allowed to attend the Grand Academy on a scholarship."
"Ah, so that's what happened. Excuse me, I asked something rude based on my interest... Kyaa?!"
"It's fine, I don't mind~ Since I'll also do considerably rude things to you from now on."

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..."

"Tall, aren't you… slender. You're even five fingers taller than a boy like me..."
"Hya, I'm 176cm....5 Excuse me, in spite of being a girl, I'm meaninglessly tall..."
"Doesn't it just mean you have good physical development...? ... Ah, your fingers are a little rough. Do you normally do housework by yourself?"
"I-I have five younger brothers, and I'm their older sister... Hyaa! Don't stroke my upper arm...!"
"The eldest daughter of six siblings? My goodness, that's incredible, no, stressful.... What do your parents do?"
"T-They're renting fields from the lord in the area.... But the earnings from just that aren't enough, if I don't get promoted and send money-- Yaa, don't pinch my earlobe, or comb through my hair...!"

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.

"We're stopping there, Ikta. Save picking up women for another time."
"Ohh, too bad."

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.

"Are you okay…? Sorry, I stopped him, but it was a little late."
"Hahh, hah… J-just what did he do to me...?"
"It’s a bad habit of his. Even though he’s not that handsome, for the time being he likes to seduce girls. Left alone with the same pace as now, your breasts would then be massaged, and you taken to bed. Then when you finally notice something, it’d be chirping in the morning."
"B-br…!? A-Awaah!?"
"Calm down, Haro. If you’re near me, you’re fine."

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.

"Umm, is it okay if I come in? Or not, if you’re in the middle of something."
"Of course you can’t. Get back to your own territory, Ikemen6."

For some reason, Ikta immediately rejected him, but Yatori, sealing his mouth with one hand, welcomed the newcomer.

"Go ahead, come in. Well, everyone did self-introductions, so will you also join in?"

Readily accepting the invitation with a refreshing smile, the youth started his self-introduction as he entered the room.

"I’m Torway Remeon. I’m an 82nd Term graduate of the Imperial Ermi High Grade Academy. This little one is my partner, the wind spirit Safi. Somehow, please be kind to me, everyone. It’s a difficult Exam, but let’s try our best together until we succeed."

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.

"...I see. So you’re the Remeon’s…"

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.

"I’m Yatorishino Igsem. This little one is my partner Shia…. I don’t need to talk about something like my personal history, right?"
"...Yatorishino!? Right, that fiery hair, the Igsem Family’s…! Ahh, my goodness!"

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.

"...Wait, what? If there’s something you want to say, then say it clearly."
"I-I can’t mentally prepare myself…. M-Miss Igsem, I--"
"You guys, are full of yourselves."

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.

"The Igsems’ Close-Quarters Combat Tactic, naturally, and even the Remeons’ Line-of-Battle Firearm Combat Tactic aren’t cutting edge anymore. If you guys aren’t the forerunners of the battlegrounds anymore, then you aren’t the stars. I won’t unconditionally let you guys have big egos7 just because you’re dependents of the Distinguished Families."
"Umm, you are…?"
"I’m Matthew Tetdrich. Don’t forget this name, youngest of the Remeon Family."

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.

"Remembering people’s names is my strong point. Let’s try our best together and succeed, Matthew-kun."
"Hmph, Using false friendship to throw me off guard is useless, you know."
"Matthew-kun… Matthew-kun, huh…. …Hm~m, can I call you Maa-kun?"

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.

"...It’s natural that the Combat Tactics invented by our ancestors become old things as time passes. From the start, I had no intention in the least of hiding behind the glory of the past. In addition, if you let me say so, Matthew-"

Meaningfully leaving a beat, while intently watching her companion, Yatori finished speaking with a scornful laugh.

"Looking at things objectively, undeniably, in terms of size, your ego is the largest among us all7."

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.

"Kuraa~, don’t bully Matthew."

Ikta forced his way in as if reading in monotone from a script. Torway shook his head with an embarrassed face.

"I didn’t mean to bully him- if I ruined the mood, then I’m sorry. By the way, you..."
"Hmm, let there be silence. Two hunters8 aren’t needed on one hunting ground."
"Listen and be astonished, you have been handed down a guilty verdict in the face of judgement. The nature of the offense is precisely an attractive face and figure. According to the Scriptures of Alderah, death unto all ikemen!"6
"Your speech just now, that’s the stuff of an Inquisition! And at the minimum, have a back and forth in your conversations!"

When Yatori interrupted as the straight man9, Torway sent her a look that asked, "an acquaintance?" She sighed and gave Ikta’s introduction.

"This guy is Ikta Solork. Like Matthew, he is in the same year as I am. Although he has a habit of threatening good-looking males for the time being, don’t mind it too much. He just has a strong sense of territory."
"Ikemen should go explode! Grrr!"

Yatori explained grabbing the nape of the growling Ikta’s neck.

"...Is there a good relationship? Between you two. "
"We just spend a lot of time together."

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.

"I’m Torway, please take care of me, Ikta-kun…. That is, I wonder if you’ll be good friends with me?"

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.

"...I’m Ikta Solork. Repeating in my imagination the state of your face smashed apart so that it lost its structure about ten times, I was able to reach a tolerant mood. I’ll be friendly with you."

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.

"Mhmm, take care of me, Ikta-kun…. Ahh, that’s right, can I call you Ik-kun?
"No, I refuse. What the hell are you talking about?"

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.

"Really, Ik-kun, was it? Don’t be ridiculous, she is the only one who can call me that."

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.

"She is Haroma Bekkel. She is aiming to be a commander in the Medics, and she has five younger brothers at home. She’s a very good kid, you know. I guarantee it."
"I-Ikta-san!? The flow of that introduction, it might lead to a big misunderstanding…!"

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.

"I see, so that’s how it is. Mhmm, you two, you really suit each other."
"'That’s' how what is!? Noo, don’t look at me with such warm eyes…!"

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

"Since self-introductions are roughly finished, everyone, let’s settle down for now. Even if we are blessed by the wind, it’s a long trip close to two days until the Hirgano Archipelago. Concerning what happens after we’re dropped off on the other side, we should preserve our energy."
"Ahh, that’s right. Then, shall we decide on each of our beds and collect our luggage?"
"Hey Haro, which position is good for you? Top? Bottom? Behind? Ahh, sitting face to face is good too, hehehe."
"Why are you only asking me!? Also, are we really talking about bed positions!?"
"...Ego… my ego… is it that big…?7 ...mutter mutter…"

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.

"U-ummm… 7--6 Bombing Troops… no, 3--3 Wind Gunning Troops."
"Are you finished with that? Well then, for me let’s have 4--6 Air Gunning Troops with the merging of war forces and pieces from both sides."

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.

"3, 4, 5--7 Wind Gunning Troops Battalion. ...Umm, with that, maybe four pawns are checkmated, right?"
"W-wait a minute! I still haven’t…"

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."

"Damn it, one more game! This one was just one foolish mistake after another!"

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.

"Hey Maa-kun, is it okay if we give our impressions of the match? The game just now, there's a part I want to reflect on."

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."

"Uhh, even though I simulated until the mid-game.... Which was the deciding turn? Was it when I sent out too many Bombing Troops at the sixth turn, or when I lost the Medics at the 12th turn...?"

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.

"--It was the 21st turn, my buddy Matthew. It was when you let your Air Gunning Troops, whose merging of war forces was obstructed, uselessly be taken by the enemy line. There, you should have graciously retreated, and shifted to protect."

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.

"Ik-kun, you remembered the course of the game? I wondered if you couldn’t see the board well from there."
"I said not to call me Ik-kun, Ikemen. Next time, I’m hitting you with a pillow."

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.

"Everyone, I made tea~"

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.

"It’s swaying considerably, isn’t it...? When we borrowed the galley, we were able to see the condition of the ocean surface a little, but the waves are definitely amazing."
"Facing the strong effect of the west wind, it seems the course is deviating quite a lot to the east. Since we might be delayed with correcting the course, the boat trip seems like it will drag on longer than we thought. Really, a boat is a vehicle we have no control over."

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.

"What’s this, were you playing shogi? The result, how many consecutive defeats for Matthew?"
"W-why does the question take my consecutive defeats for granted...?"
"The lack of vigor in your objection means that that’s exactly what happened, doesn’t it? ...Well, I don’t think it’s possible to care that much, though. It’s not like a shogi king equals a great commander anyway."

Torway found and developed the beginning of a new topic in Yatori’s words, who had tried to sooth him just in case.

"Now that you mention it, regarding the interview in the final stage of this Exam, it seems you play a game of shogi with actively serving High Grade Military Officers. If one didn’t apply their ability in shogi against the ability of a commander like that, then what kind of meaning does this arrangement have- don’t you agree?"
"Since it’s an interview while playing a game, I think it’s something that can measure your ability to multitask10. Even if you become a High Grade Military Officer, if you can’t manage two or three tasks at the same time, you’ll become useless due to going over-capacity."

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.

"Ikta, what do you think?"
"..Nnn, it’s rather delicious. However, rather than tea leaves steeped with milk, I prefer separately warmed milk added to a somewhat strong tea brewed with boiling water- I wonder if that way of brewing is preferable."
"Who asked for your opinion about the flavor of tea? Incidentally, the one who recommended boiling the milk was me, you know. If by any chance it’s spoiled, it’s not that I can’t say it’s my fault."

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.

"I think that Yatori’s reasoning was roughly accurate. Even excluding that point, it’s because this, in its own way, is full of the basics of art of war. It’s not bad as mental exercise. However, if I’m allowed to state my opinion-- if soldiers play anyway, blindfolded shogi that doesn’t use a board is better."
"--Huhh? Ik-kun, why-- Wapu!"

The falling pillow landed a direct hit on Torway’s face. Suddenly sticking his head out from the bed, Ikta yelled.

"Ik-kun forbidden! ...If you apply shogi to war, namely, the board equals the battleground. I ask a question with that, though, when you’re waging a war in reality, the commander look down on the entire battlefield from above the sky with the God’s point of view?"
"...That’s impossible. Regarding the locations of enemy forces, that’s restricted information, so that’s just about a situation where you can only make guesses. Concerning the allies under command, they aren’t restricted to moving as planned."
"That’s it. In real war, fighting starts when you grasp the positions of your allies and enemies. Necessary for that is the imaging ability to derive a whole image from fragmentary information. I won’t say that blindfolded shogi can train that, but it can create a foundation for the power of imagination. First you hold the 'board' in your mind. Starting with that, imagine the soldiers moving on the board... Ah, is there more tea?"

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.

"Ah." "Ahhh--!?"

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.

"There, who is that?"

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.

"A test-taker... it doesn't seem that that's the case. Where are you from, young lady? Do you need something from us?"

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.

"I wonder was that was? Well, at the very least, considering that an ordinary passenger just happened to be on a ship that's boarding High Grade Military Officer cadets... Ikta, what do you think?"
"Nnn... Five~six years remain until she is suitable for consumption. Until she is perfectly ripened, perhaps it's 15 years..."
"No one asked for the lower limit of your strike zone--"

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.

"--What's that!?"

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.

"O, Matthew, don’t tell me you saved me by bravely volunteering your body… Let us toast to our friendship."
"Ughh… someone like you should’ve fallen headfirst…"

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.

"P-passengers, keep calm and listen! The bilge of this ship struck a reef and has started flooding. Just now, an order for a complete abandonment of ship has been handed down from the ship’s captain! Those who can move, immediately go to the deck, and following the sailor’s instructions, and board the lifeboats!"

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.

"Everyone, you heard that! We’re going to the deck!"

However, there was one person who brushed aside the pessimistic premonition in an instant and started moving. That was Yatori Igsem.

"There’s no need to rush, form one line behind me and follow! Luggage to a minimum!"

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.

"Stormy weather, is it…? A curse of bad weather in this situation, we’re people hated by God."
"I wonder whose behavior was to blame. People with an idea try raising your hand."
"Without even thinking you’re the only possibility, right? From now on let’s abstain from jokes with the Scriptures11 as material."

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.

"Help board from the people who came! You, the citizens, are maximum priority!"

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.

"Your partner is a light spirit, isn’t he? Listen up, because we ran aground, some injuries came up among the sailors, and right now we still can’t let sailors board this boat. Since the lifeboats are all moored to the mothership, they won’t drift away, but when it comes to it, the ropes need to be cut to send off your companions. At that time, please transmit your location to nearby boats with a light signal. Even when you’re more or less drifted off, gather together with no exceptions!"

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.

"Th-this isn’t a joke you know! With an ocean this rough, to find shelter in any boat...!"
"Maa-kun, lean to the right a little more! Bekkel-san to the left! We’re making the balance of body weight uniform in the whole of the boat! With these waves, if we capsize once then we won't be able to recover anymore!"

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.

"What’s the matter, Ikta? Strike your usual needless comments. When you’re quiet, there’s a bad energy."
"I didn’t know you took my behavior as an omen. ...More importantly, Yatori, it’s that girl."

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.

"Mm, bad luck. That one’s going to die."

Murmuring a reality exceedingly close to past tense, Ikta immediately stood up and began taking off his outer garments.

"Kusu. If you see that girl again, shine on her with a high beam12 for me."
"Ikta, that’s dangerous. You should stop…"
"I’m trusting you."

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.

"If you let go easily, I’ll come back for you as a ghost."
"Wai- you--!?"

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.

"It’s impossible, I’m dying! Save mee!"

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.

"Hahh, hahh… Ahh that was close… Seawater’s freakin’ salty…"
"Stop complaining, if you’re going to do something cool, then show off until the end…. Haro, how’s this girl’s condition?"
"She hasn’t drunk any seawater, and her breathing and pulse are normal. It seems she’s still in a state of shock, but…"

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.

"It appears that there she doesn’t have bruises or lacerations. ...Hmm? This…"

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.

"It’s no use, this one won’t hold anymore! I’m cutting the rope!"

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.

"...Don’t tell me…. We were the only ones who were able to escape?"

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.

"Wh-what’re we gonna do? Thrown right in the middle of a stormy sea in a small boat, we’re going to die like this! "

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.

"W-we’re going to die, aren’t we? I-is there still anything--"
"...We’ll do what we can13. For now, we survive the storm."

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.

"Ah-choo! ...As Yatori said, from this point forward is the domain of chance. There’s nothing we can do until the storm is over. Slack off as much as possible, and after, let’s put God to work."
  1. written as: 酒精 (wine spirits/ethyl alcohol); read as: アルコール (alcohol)
  2. written as: 帝國 (Empire); read as: ウチ (we, us)
  3. text: 買いかぶりすぎ (overestimating -someone- too much); homonym: 貝かぶりすぎ (wearing too many clams -on one's head-)
  4. proverb: 毒を以て毒を制する (fighting fire with fire)
  5. 176cm is approximately 5'9
  6. イケメン (ikemen) can refer to a man that is either good-looking or exceptionally ugly
  7. idiom: でかい顔する (to act arrogant); text 7.0: でかい顔はさせない (not allow to act arrogant); text 7.1: 顔が体積的に一番大きい (uses different vocabulary from the idiom; literally: in terms of volume, your face is largest); text 7.2: ...顔...おれの顔...そんなにでかいか... (uses same vocabulary as idiom; literally: it that big?)
  8. written as: 猛禽 (birds of prey); read as: ハンター (hunter)
  9. generally, the two members of a comedy duo are known as the straight man (突っ込み/ツッコミ) and the funny man (惚け/呆け/ボケ)
  10. written as: 同時処理 (simultaneous processing); read as: マルチタスク (multitask)
  11. text: 聖典 (Scriptures); homonym: 晴天 (good weather)
  12. written as: 凝集光 (concentrated gathered light); read as: ハイビーム (high beam)
  13. text: 人事は尽くしている; proverb: 人事を尽くして天命をまつ (Man proposes, God disposes; Do your best and let the heavens do the rest; literally: devote yourself and wait for destiny)

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Volume 1