“Do you know the story of the World’s Happiest Girl?”
(Ending X-02 Open 07/09 21:00)
When You Place the Rope Around that Alluring Neck
A lot happened and it was time-consuming, so the next thing Shiroyama Kyousuke knew, night had fallen.
He had been left with the Diamond Master Key and the Golden Treasure Chest, so he left Biondetta in his cruiser while he visited Aika’s apartment in Toy Dream 35.
He had already opened the chest and checked inside, but this would be his first time to compare that with the ancient map on Sekurtiti’s back. He had chosen the apartment as their gathering place.
“Onii-chan, you reek of a widow. That old hag was trying to seduce you, wasn’t she!? That kind of niche fetish is too dangerous. I’ll fix you! Look, there’s a little sister in a sexily cute swimsuit right here.”
“I don’t really care.”
“You’re not even going to give me a yes-or-no answer any more!?”
Aika froze in place while lying on her white liger sofa and toying with the string to her swimsuit bottom, but Kyousuke was focused on something else.
“I have no responsibility to tell you anything, but he is a summoner. Every last one of us is insane.”
A girl spoke to them from a tablet’s flat screen, using the shut-in girl’s lifeline: the internet. It was of course Azalea Magentarain. Claude and Elvast might have shown up, but she had been one of the masterminds(?) behind the entire incident.
“You’ve already arrived?” asked Kyousuke.
“Repliglass is good for more than just military purposes. The quality might be reduced for civilian use, but a lot of effort is being put into developing supersonic passenger planes. With 10 hours, reaching South America’s Devil’s Island was a piece of cake. We could have arrived and returned to Japan by now.”
She made it sound like a vacation, but as its name suggested, Devil’s Island was historically a penal colony. That penal system had been abolished and it was being transformed into a sightseeing spot, but Government loved its tradition and thus maintained deep roots there.
She could not be set free after everything she did, but it would all be for naught if she was collected by someone like the Colorful Museum or Bridesmaid.
“How’s Claude doing?”
“He is trying to hide his embarrassment by running away while we chase him around in swimsuits. …Hold up, 3A! Don’t you dare take advantage of this situation. Didn’t we agree to surround Claude Onii-sama on both sides to capture him!?”
She had someone to keep an eye on her this time. Now no one had to worry about a scummy group reusing her so easily. Claude was stuck being tossed about by girls, girls, swimsuits, girls, and sometimes an old man, but he had played a role in all this too. He did not get an easy road out.
“…Looks like that’s all worked out.”
“Then we need to get started here,” began Sekurtiti with power in her light blue eyes.
He had ended his contract with her in C Block’s Chinatown, but she still seemed to remember Kyousuke and Aika. She was a tomb keeper and a Tomb Priestess. She contained a mysticism that predated the Third Summoning Ceremony discovered in 1999, so that may have maintained her memories and awareness.
“Are you ready?”
“Are you?” The brown girl smiled gently and placed a too-skinny index finger on her lips. “I spoke with Aika before you arrived. She told me what she knows about the path you walked to reach this point.”
Kyousuke looked grim.
“…That must not have been fun to hear.”
“Don’t be so sure,” replied Sekurtiti in her gold tiara. “Shiroyama Kyousuke. It seems you have happened across a variety of vessels in a variety of incidents and repeatedly said goodbye. That may have been a way to distance them from the conflict surrounding you and it may have been to avoid restricting them by giving them too much.”
“But I do not lose my memories or awareness after the contract has ended. It seems like a small thing, but do not forget it. …We are already in this together.”
“…I will bear that in mind.”
That answer must have satisfied Sekurtiti because she smiled and reached for her Y-shaped lace decoration. She turned her back and then reached for the knot at her hip for the bandages covering her body.
The apple-sized chest had contained something like a glass panel. But the iridescent glow of the surface when looked at from an angle showed that it had slight bumps carved into the surface. By viewing the ancient map on the girl’s back through that special lens, the complex lines were bent according to a certain set of rules and the true image was revealed.
“Nn… Can you…see it?”
Even if it was her back, she may have still felt some embarrassment at having someone staring at her skin. Or perhaps she was worried about the value of the information they had worked so hard to acquire…no, that she had held for so long.
She had held the ancient map, but she did not know what bringing all 3 treasures together would reveal. It was a lot like spending a long time protecting an un-appraised work of art. Of course she was a little worried.
Kyousuke smiled a little at what he saw.
“…Oh, I see.”
“Hm? Is something the matter?”
“No, basing it on an ancient map completely fooled me. Sekurtiti, about how old is this map?”
“Even a low estimate puts it at about 2000 BCE. It took many forms back then, such as wall paintings and papyrus, but when the Romans arrived, it started being passed down on the Tomb Priestesses’ backs to maintain its secrecy.”
“Thanks. That’s why I assumed some ancient ruins had been remade into the Founder’s Gallery. But the ancient map itself was honestly irrelevant.”
“I’m not saying the map on your back is a fake. I’m sure it has its own meaning. It probably leads to a hidden village that still grows the fruit loved in an ancient dynasty or the location of the treasures stockpiled for the return of the dynasty. In fact, it was probably more convenient for President Toydream if it was real. Even if someone did see the ancient map, they would discover that truth and overlook his gallery.”
By placing a new image over the old map, the ultimate destination came into view.
That meant the gallery could be located in a cutting-edge shelter or a high-rise building. By recording the ancient map’s design in a computer and comparing it to the image one wanted in the end, the overlapping areas could be removed to create the lens. That would mean combining the lens and the ancient map would reveal the new map.
Thus, the original image data could be anything.
It could be a map to some ancient secret and it could be the supermarket sales flyer from the morning paper.
President Toydream had chosen Sekurtiti because he had known an ancient map like that would be protected more carefully. Or perhaps he had been kindly placing them in the limelight to increase their mystical status.
Either way, there had been no ill will involved.
And when the new image came into view, Kyousuke nodded once more.
“That’s enough. Thank you, Sekurtiti.”
Sekurtiti kept her back turned as she gently crouched down and picked up the fallen bandages.
“But, um, where did the Founder’s Gallery end up being?” she asked. “You made it sound like it has nothing to do with us and Egypt.”
“That’s right,” readily confirmed Kyousuke. “Aika.”
“…What is it, Onii-chan?”
Sekurtiti looked confused by the sudden change of subject.
But it was not a change at all.
“When did you realize the truth and what weren’t you telling us? The Founder’s Gallery is in this apartment building, isn’t it?”
The brown girl was dumbfounded.
With the golden tiara on her head and the bandages only half wrapped around her body, she froze in place and stared in confusion. But as the leader of the tomb keepers, perhaps the possibility should have occurred to her first of all. After all, her apartment building had only contained fellow tomb keepers and had been mostly turned into a fortress.
And Aika’s attitude did not change.
She continued lying on the 5 meter beast she used as a sofa.
“Onii-chan, do you know the story of the World’s Happiest Girl?”
“The Toy Dream Company builds amusement parks around the world, but it is said the old man who founded it created the ultimate girl in the greatest fairy tale that surpasses Cinderella and Snow White. But due to certain circumstances, that picture book was never seen by the public.”
“Yes. I’ve also heard rumors that that phantom picture book is hidden somewhere in one of the Toy Dream cities. But I thought there was no basis to any of it.”
There was also all sorts of speculation about Person X who the World’s Happiest Girl from the phantom picture book was supposed to be. Some said she was based on his wife when she was a girl. Some said she was meant to be every girl who visited a Toy Dream amusement park. Some said she was a ritual meant to breathe life into an entirely fictional story.
But Aika had another theory.