Prologue – Those Lined Up Before the Horizon
A clear morning sky. Beyond the azure floated two pale white moons, and below lay waves of dark green mountains overlapping into the distance.
In the alpine region, the endless sky loomed over the jagged mountain tops.
Divisions in the shape of pillars towered in the sky. Stretching upwards from the earth, these divided segments gave off the appearance of colonnades. Through the way in which the wind and clouds traversed, the sky dissipated upon reaching them, as if hitting an invisible wall, as well as the division of the vegetation on the ground, those wide yet numerous pillar-like structures flaunted their existence.
The number of segments was immeasurable, their spatial relationship erratic, and their widths too were varied.
The sky, divided in that manner, held three things.
The first was wind. The atmospheric flows of the mountainous region rose, entwined, gave birth to clouds and then faded away.
The second were the waves. Abound in the sky, glistening waves drifted. Lines, not of clouds but of these waves, were everywhere, stretching out through the sky outlining the character ‘八’.
Of the three things in the sky, the last was that which traveled between the clouds and created the waves.
Leaving behind the sound of their wake, eight white ships sailed, navigating between the pillars that divided the sky and traveling past the lumbering mountains.
The Aerial City Ships, carrying towns and natural parks on the surface segment, drew their shadows together as they descended towards the mountains. The shadow of the group of ships, two ships lined up in the center and three ships lined up to the left and the right, engulfed themselves in one of the gorges stretching multiple kilometers from head to tail.
Each of the ships created waves streaming from the bow into the sky, and carrying the echoes of the break of each wave, they continued on through the heavens.
Breaking the waves while advancing through the skies, each ship was connected to the adjacent ships by many thick ropes. Occasionally, when the group of ships changed their path slightly, the ropes which connected them would be drawn taut and pulled out.
The names were inscribed at the bows of the eight ships. First, on each of the ships, the name ‘Musashi’ was written with black characters. Next to this, the ship-names were, unsurprisingly, also written in black.
First Starboard: “Shinagawa”
Second Starboard: “Tama”
Third Starboard: “Takao”
Center Leading: “Musashino”
Center Trailing: “Okutama”
First Port: “Asakusa”
Second Port: “Murayama”
Third Port: “Oume”
The formation of these ships was such that the three ships on the left and right acted as outer hulls to the two in the middle. Reaching a total of eight, these ships sailed through the sky.
A sound rang out.
The sound was a voice of song.
From the graveyard on the surface-segment of Okutama’s bow, the echoes of that slow voice sang a trembling rhythm.
“–Walk yonder path–”
Walk yonder path, walk yonder path.
Set out now perchance to find
The narrow path to Gods does wind.
Curse my thoughts not, it perils my heart much that I may not pass
Rejoice, this child is ten of age.
Two offerings I dedicate to the gods
The journey may be bliss eternal, or naught but fear.
Could this passage downwards ‘gain be fear infernal~?
The song traversed the air, eventually disappearing.
In its place, a new, resounding note appeared. Entirely separate from the sound of waves from the ship’s passage, the consecutive clangor of a bell rang out.
Sounding once, twice, three times, it continued, a chain of unbroken music. However, the clear note of the bell that told the time was overridden by a broadcasted voice.
“To all citizens: I wish to inform you that in Quasi-Bahamut Class Aerial City Ship – Musashi, it is currently 8:30, according to the bell of Musashi Ariadust Academy. The ship is presently withdrawing from the Sagarmatha Corridor and sailing southwest. In the afternoon, we will be docking at the main port of Far East Representative State Mikawa. Once we have entered the hospitable atmosphere, Musashi shall be entering stealth flight and will experience a brief interruption in information services. As such, we wish for your cooperation. Over.”
The source of the sound and voice was a structure atop Okutama, which was the central-trailing ship.
Neighbouring each other, there stood two long, wooden, three-storey buildings. A metal nameplate was hung up by the entrance to the two structures whose bells were ringing. “Musashi Ariadust Academy” was written on the nameplate.
Between the gate and the school building was the schoolyard and a bridge, which crossed overhead. This bridge was part of a path that led to Musashi Ariadust Academy.
The diagonal length of the schoolyard was about 100 metres. The steps of the bridge crossing over the courtyard started from the gate, ascending until they reached a hatch in the second floor of the frontal school building.
As the bell that told the time faded away, the voice of a woman came from above the bridge, as if she had been waiting for that moment.
The voice, traveling quite far, flew out towards the school building.
“Third Year Plum Class. Is everyone here?”
Several figures stood before Musashi Ariadust Academy, atop the bridge, from which the voice had called out.
First, by the door, a woman stood proud. She was wearing a black, light armor-style jersey. Behind her hair, which was cut short, a single edge was strapped onto her back.
A longsword, painted-white, rested there. Its hilt was crafted of gleaming metal.
The scene the woman was facing consisted of the school building and a group of youths wearing black and white uniforms; some seemed to be human and some were not. The woman faced them with a smile.
“Then…let’s start the physical education lesson!”