Shuumatsu Nani Shitemasuka? Mou Ichido Dake, Aemasuka? Volume 1 Chapter 2 Part1
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Nearly half a year had passed since the city of Lyell was condemned.
As he had expected, it was slowly becoming abandoned. Every day the pedestrians were fewer in number, and in the once-bustling market district the shutters were being lowered one after another.
Fortunately, his favorite bakery was still open. Although there were fewer items on sale, the main products were still going strong. And so, in accordance with his growling stomach, Feodor ordered a package of donuts.
Well then, where to go? Feodor thought as he left the store, its employee’s perfunctory “Thank you very much” following him. It wouldn’t be very appetizing to go back and eat these at the barracks. Since I snuck out here without permission, I may as well stay for a while. And as long as I’m still in plainclothes, I’d like to eat somewhere with a good view.
He popped a donut into his mouth and, chewing on it, set off with the city’s distinct scent of rusted metal filling his nostrils.
This place was once one of the largest mines of Regul Aire. The old mineworkers’ living districts had been wrapped against a steep mountain range, and from there the rest of the city grew almost spontaneously with little rhyme or reason as barracks were erected, roads were paved, and tramline tracks were set in place. Stone as a construction material immediately ran short; metal, much more plentiful, replaced it. Kobolds and gremlins, coming from all over Regul Aire, worked and installed excavation machinery one after another. Pipework and wiring built up over the years, spreading and clumping into unidentifiable masses along the roads and walls.
It was a sight that one wouldn’t see anywhere else in Regul Aire: a city born of metal.
“Oh – woah.”
He awkwardly stepped over something that’d almost tripped him. The main streets were still on the easy side when it came to travelling; depending on the area, there could be enough room for a carriage to pass through. However, the back alleys were an entirely different matter.
First of all, there were hardly any level paths, but rather steep hills and flights of stairs. Ascending and descending those cramped stairs, one’s path would circle around and around in a spiral.
On top of that, the whole area was dimly lit, and to the untrained eye the scenery appeared to continue ceaselessly. A traveler’s sense of direction would quickly become useless, and it went without saying that a compass wouldn’t be of help either.
The city Lyell is unkind to strangers – if you were to say something like that, most of its citizens would reply “Yeah, right!” and laugh you off. The city treats all equally – so the actual saying went. “This town ain’t kind to us either, not even a smidgen.”
However, that was all in the past.
Stepping onto a large pipe, Feodor squeezed himself through a small space, pushing into the forest of metal buildings atop a nonexistent path.
A long time had passed since this island’s mines closed. The pipes probably hadn’t received maintenance since then. On the way, rivets had popped out in a few places and he’d almost slid off the platforms.
“…It sure is lonely.”
Sitting down on a wide pipe to catch his breath, he took out another donut. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted a few small-model golems busily running along.
Golems were tools, capable of diligently following instructions installed when they were built, but no more. It was possible to give them somewhat complex orders, and within that range they could act with moderate discretion, but they were incapable of acting beyond those boundaries.
These ones were likely created to service some machine in Lyell. Presumably, the order to “rest” wasn’t included in those orders, and so they would continue to work until their parts ground to a halt.
“…It sure is lonely,” Feodor whispered to himself again, standing.
He walked up a little spiral stairway on the side of an abandoned theatre. At the top, he was greeted by a heavy-looking and rusted door.
In the center of this cramped and messy city, there were few places with a scenic view. One of those locations, the roof of a larger building, happened to be behind this door.
He’d eaten half of his donuts on the way here. But to put it another way, he still had half left.
Leaning his whole body, he pushed against the door. “And here…we…go!”
A low grating noise sounded as the door opened, and his eyes were suddenly met by light.
Beyond a sea of clouds, the sun had just begun to set. Below him was a faint and grimy cityscape, resembling a series of bronze plates laid out chaotically. Empty of people, a sort of quiet – like falling asleep – had gently spread across the city. In front of him–
Feodor nearly let the donut in his mouth slip out in his shock. He’d thought nobody would be here, he’d practically been sure of it!
And yet a girl was sitting on the corner of the roof, her feet dangling over the edge. She was gazing emptily at the sky, swinging her legs back and forth.
The girl seemed completely lifeless. While she most assuredly was alive, nothing seemed to support that fact. It incurred a peculiar feeling of uncanniness, the sort that one might feel when looking at a doll carved with impossible delicacy. Her expression was unreadable; it wasn’t empty, but rather the exact opposite. Multiple emotions mixed together, making her face almost appear as an indiscernible cloud of gray.
He took a half step back.
This is one of those times where I shouldn’t get involved, isn’t it?
Almost certain of that, he decided to turn back. He didn’t think silly things like “I wonder what kind of things she’s worrying about,” or “I wonder if she has issues.”
No shit she does. For someone to worm all the way up here, to have that kind of look, there’s no way it’s just something like “I’ve been scared lately to check how much I weigh.”
What’s more, upon closer examination, the girl didn’t have any horns or fangs. Her white skin wasn’t covered by fur or scales or anything like that, and she didn’t have any wings sprouting from her back.
The race which held that appearance were colloquially referred to as Markless, despised by many and widely considered a symbol of misfortune. One shouldn’t go near them or get involved with them. Doubtless nothing good will come from it.
Understanding that well, Feodor was stunned by what he did next.
“You know, it’s dangerous there.”
Flustered, he clapped his hand over his mouth. Of course, it was far too late for that; his words had reached the girl’s ears.
It was as if she’d been aware of him this entire time – although that couldn’t really be the case. The girl blinked, raised her head, and looked his way. His eyes met hers, still devoid of lif… Oh, she’s back to normal.
She appeared a bit younger than Feodor, probably around her mid-teens. Her soft green hair fluttered in the breeze. Sunlight, reflected in her verdant eyes, shimmered ever so slightly.
Right after he’d decided to not get involved, he’d gone and ended up doing exactly that. Crap.
“Huh?” She blinked again, now wearing a truly innocent and almost childlike expression. “Oh… I think I’m okay? I mean, I’m not so clumsy that I’m going to slip and fall. There’s a container of water down below, anyways, so either way it’s safe.” As she spoke, the girl glanced down from the edge she was sitting on.
Well, that’s probably right. There was a storage tank there, filled with a decent level of water. Even if one fell, they ought not to end up with any serious injuries.
“But you were concerned for me.” The girl smiled. “Thank you.”
It was a bright, carefree smile – at least, the appearance of one – that almost made him doubt if her earlier gloom had even existed.
It’d be fine to stop the conversation here. Even if he left without another word, it’d still be natural.
“No, that’s not what I meant,” Feodor said. “I’m guessing you just came from another town recently, right?”
“Mm-hmm, I did.”
“Okay, then I’d like you to sit and listen for a bit. A long time ago, this place was the place of a great mine. After a nearby island reformed their currency, a ton of miners came here. Their equipment got shipped in one after another. They couldn’t keep up at all building enough living space.”
The girl tilted her head as Feodor went on. “That mine’s completely dried up by now, but traces of it are still around. Like how this city is made of metal and rivets, or how there’s a lot of slopes which were originally part of the mountain, or how the machinery scattered around the housing district is still operating…”
“Uh, okay? I can tell it’s an odd-looking place just from seeing it.” The girl looked back at the city. “There’s no soil anywhere, but somehow the ground kinda feels warm. It’s completely different from the towns built with stone. It’s a little strange.”
“Well, that’s because…” Feodor trailed off.
The warmth she felt might have been the network of pipes and machinery that circulated warm water underground around the whole city. I wonder how’d she react if I told her that. Would she be shocked and amazed? Would she be exasperated and think it’s lame? Or perhaps she would smile and be happy about it?
“…I wanted to see it. The things that we’ll spend our lives for.” He heard her make an odd remark. “Going around a place you don’t know, looking at the scenery you’ve never seen before, talking with people you don’t know. If it’s a place you’ve been to, with scenery and people you’ve seen once before, then you could fight for it, right? I thought it’d be way easier to inspire myself that way.”
“Are you… fighting something?”
The girl gave a honest nod. “I’m glad you came and talked to me. Even when I was walking around there wasn’t anybody anywhere. I almost wondered, has everyone gone extinct already? It was a little scary.”
“Oh, I know what you’re talking about. When you’re the only thing moving, everything else is still, and it feels like it’s after the world’s ended.”
“Yes, yes! And you see how the golems just keep working like nothing’s happened? It’s super freaky!”
The two nodded back and forth in agreement with each other’s words, laughing once they realized how strange it looked.
Then Feodor remembered something. “Hey.” He pointed past where the girl was sitting, at a wall covered in layers of patches where a flickering and battered lamp, faded from age, hung. “You know the thing I was talking about before?”
“Yeah. This city has some features that you could never understand just by seeing them. That lamp’s one of those.”
She looked perplexed. “Alright?”
“The machinery left running that I mentioned before doesn’t quite function the same as it originally did. Nowadays they’ve been retrofitted to supply heat and handle the city’s water supply. Problem is, the machines themselves are still old, and their exhaust systems in particular have never been touched.
“So after the alarm light blinks, occasionally a bunch of steam comes rushing out.”
Right on cue, the phenomenon Feodor had just described occurred.
Its temperature was not particularly high, nor was there any concern to be had about its pressure or volume. Even if one were to be hit directly, there was no risk of getting burned by the steam. To a citizen of Lyell, it was the kind of mundane incident one saw everyday.
With a remarkably ferocious scream of panic, the girl who’d only just arrived in the city scrambled as far back as she could, and her butt happened to slip off the roof’s edge.
As one might recall, a storage tank was located underneath her perch and filled with a decent level of water. Even if one fell, they ought not to end up with any serious injuries.
The sound of a mighty impact exploded, followed by a column of water no less magnificent.
“That’s why I said it was dangerous,” Feodor grumbled, pulling the dripping girl out of the tank.
“And then you started talking forever….”
“Ah, sorry about that. I got carried away…”
Winter was over, and from time to time even furless species could appreciate the mild breeze. But still, it wasn’t so warm that she could stay completely drenched.
“You should go back and take a bath. Are you okay with the way back?”
“I-I’m alright…” The girl shivered. “I’m good… for now. But to make it clear, I wasn’t caught off guard back there. I felt like going for a swim, so I jumped in. Got that?”
Feodor snorted. “I think that one’s a bit too far-fetched.”
“U-ugh… you think so?” She abashedly hid her face. He wasn’t sure how the girl who’d been so honest earlier had managed to come up with such an absurd excuse.
And then she sneezed. “Hee-choo!”
“Hey, you should get going. In this city, the temperature drops like crazy once the sun sets. It’d be stupid to catch cold from something like this, wouldn’t it?”
“I’ll do that.” The girl shook herself vigorously like a small dog. “Oh, um… thanks for telling me it was dangerous. Even if it didn’t really help.”
“The last bit was uncalled for, but you’re welcome. Now go on,” he shooed her away with a hand. “Be off, be off.”
“Okay. Ew-choo!” After a rather cute-sounding sneeze, the girl turned away from Feodor. “Um, this might sound strange, seeing as we don’t even know each other’s names, but…”
“I was wondering… It’d be nice if you could forget about me?”
The girl ran off with those strange parting words, scattering water droplets in every direction.
Of course. You don’t need to tell me that.
After all, Feodor wasn’t wearing his fake glasses. Without them, he couldn’t hold a fake smile. His face was undoubtedly twisted into an unsightly scowl right now. Although the girl hadn’t said anything in particular, she might’ve been looking ruefully at him. As two strangers, it was fortunate that they were unlikely to ever meet again. He wanted nothing more than to erase the memory of her.
“…What the hell am I doing?” Feodor snarled. He bit into another donut, chewed and swallowed it, then glanced up at the faraway sky.
The weather was very clear today. Without anything blocking the way, he could see farther than usual.
Beyond the sea of clouds, a distant blackened mass loomed.
The 39th Floating Island.
A mere five years ago, it was once good neighbors to the 38th Island. Its fertile fields had made it a cornucopia of food that easily supplied all of the surrounding islands. It’d been led by the beastkind, and many people of various species had lived there.
But all of it was in the past now. On that day five years ago, the entire island had transformed.
What was left now was nothing but a colossal gravestone, floating through Regul Aire’s skies.
It was known as the Croyance, Restraining and Imprisoning Eleventh Beast.
The world has always been at the brink of extinction.
If there was a single subject to mention at the start of this kind of discussion, it would be the atrocity committed by the Emnetwyte and the last days of the surface.
It would be hard for someone living in the present to believe, but nearly all of the surface’s vast lands were once rich and bountiful. Forests and fauna covered the lands, a vast basin of water called the sea existed, and the surface overflowed with countless different species of life.
The Emnetwyte destroyed that world.
They created the immense, unyielding ravagers, the 17 Beasts, and unleashed them upon the world. The Beasts swiftly devoured the Emnetwyte along with the rest of the surface, turning both land and sea to barren gray desert.
The few survivors, under the tutelage of the heroic Great Sage, fled to the sky.
The 17 Beasts were incapable of flight. Thus, having found their footing on countless gigantic floating boulders, the survivors could briefly grasp a sanctuary. They built houses, charted the land, and raised cities, all so that they could live safely beyond the reach of their enemies.
The surface had been extensive; the world of these floating rocks was small.
What had been lost was unbearable; what remained was too little.
But they had no choice. They named the final frontier that would accept them Regul Aire, and made it their new homeland.
Five hundred and some years had passed since Regul Aire’s founding.
During that time, one could say that the peace had been preserved.
There were still attacks from the 17 Beasts, in which a number of islands had fallen and the lives of their inhabitants been lost.
But from a different perspective, the losses had been contained to those island. Facing the Beasts who had annihilated the surface in a matter of months, Regul Aire remained alive in the sky.
However, that peace would too come quickly to an end.
On that day five years ago, the Aurora, Piercing and Penetrating Second Beast, appeared on the 11th Island.
Two days after that, the Materno, Embracing and Smothering Fifth Beast, appeared on the 13th island.
Virtually the same day as that, the Croyance, Restraining and Imprisoning Eleventh Beast, appeared on the 39th island.
These Beasts were incapable of flight. For those which could not take off from the surface, it should have been totally impossible for them to attack Regul Aire. Yet, the truth remained: those three Beasts suddenly appeared in the sky in front of unprepared people and massacred them.
The tragedy’s cause eventually came to light. The Elpis Trading Federation city-state, who existed on the 13th Island at the time, had conducted research on Beasts and, for the purposes of political maneuvering, brought them up from the surface.
Who on earth would try to do that? everyone thought. Rather, before that, they hadn’t even imagined that a method of technology might make it possible to capture and contain Beasts. That lack of foresight led to this tragedy.
Among the three, the Beasts who attacked the 11th Island were miraculously held off.
For the other two islands, no such miracle happened.
On the 13th Island, every object and living being was dissolved into a transparent blue substance.
On the 39th Island, every last thing was transformed into beautiful shining black crystal pillars.
The real problem began afterwards.
The Beasts cannot fly. Consequently, the Beasts who had engulfed the 13th Island and devoured the 39th Island remained on each respective Island. At the moment, they didn’t possess the means to invade the other Islands. However, the immortal Beasts were able to remain on the floating islands indefinitely.
As of this moment, the 39th Island was slowly moving towards the 38th Island.
According to the calculations of the Winged Guard’s navigators, the two islands would collide before long. It wouldn’t be head-on; at most they would violently scrape each other. In a normal situation, although the tremors would be very noticeable, the entire island’s existence wouldn’t be threatened by the collision.
In this particular case, the warning was akin to a death knell. The Beasts would surely cross over to the 38th Island and absorb everything they touched, just as they had on the 39th.
Even knowing that destruction would arrive, it was impossible to avoid.
The first rumors began to circulate about half a year ago. Upon hearing it, a fraction of Lyell’s citizens immediately fled to other Islands. As the time left decreased, more than half of those who remained gradually followed their neighbors. The amount of people in Lyell now amounted to less than a fifth of what it was five years ago, barely maintaining the semblance of a city.
Although Lyell was not yet dead, the city’s life had already gone; it existed now merely as a hollow shell that hadn’t completely fallen. A miniature world nearing its end.
Shuumatsu Nani Shitemasuka? Mou Ichido Dake, Aemasuka? Volume 1 Chapter 2 Part1
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Shuumatsu Nani Shitemasuka? Mou Ichido Dake, Aemasuka? Volume 1 Chapter 2 Part1 summary
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