Part 4: Behold! The most powerful force in the universe!-Primal Grounds-
Still, I sure didn't expect to run into little Tita's mother here. I'd heard you and your husband were both living abroad. What brought you back?
What do you think? After all that went down here, there was no way I was staying out of the country any longer than I had to.
Though with how remote the region we were in is, it was all over by the time word reached us.
Had we found out sooner, I sure wouldn't have let that maniac pull half the crap he did.
Doesn't sound like you're too happy with the professor nowadays, huh?
Talk about an understatement!
That whack job actually took my little girl to the floating city with him! I get that he's soft towards her, but that's no excuse for exposing her to danger!
And as if that isn't bad enough, he let that redheaded scumbag get near her, too! That utter cretin isn't fit to be within fifty arge of my darling Tita, never mind actually getting friendly with her!
So, uh...you don't like Agate, huh?
Don't you speak that filthy name in front of me ever again!
Oooh, when I'm finished with him, he'll wish he'd never been BORN... He might've survived that last onslaught, but we'll see how he fares against an even more powerful unit, won't we? Heheh...
(I-I get the feeling this is a matter we're better off not prying into...)
(I thought the same, so I don't know any more about it than you do. Incidentally, the Professor Russell you're more familiar with is currently vacationing abroad. As such, she has been assisting us with this case in his place.)
(Oh, I see...)
Hmph. Well, whatever.
Erika is just a simple mother who wants what's best for her child. Now let her speak to your manager.
I really wanted to have a perfectly-looping .gif of these stairs but I couldn't get a reasonable file size.
How much farther do we have to go?
Not much, as far as I know.
Yup. There we go.
I hope you've got a good explanation for this.
This isn't a dead end, but to go any farther, I'm going to need you to undertake a ritual of sorts for me.
Well, this certainly took a turn for the strange. Is this an example of the church's famous Thaumaturgy?
Something like that, yes.
Specifically, I would like you to undertake a form of suggestion.
I'm...not sure I follow.
You want us to promise not to tell anyone what we see here, right?
That's a little extreme, so no. The colonel is obviously going to need to report what happened here to his superiors, for one thing.
All I want you to promise is that you won't tell anyone who you aren't certain you can trust.
I don't need you to say it. I just need you to think and believe it.
Weird, but all right.
If that's all you want us to do, so be it.
I feel the same way. Should we deliberately repeat it in our minds, then?
You don't even need to do that. It should just come completely naturally to you.
All right, here goes...
In the name of She Who Dwells Above do I hold this consecrated septium.
Space's golden glow... Consciousness' silver glow... By your opposing natures, reveal to them the path that leads to your sacrament!
How did that door appear?!
I can see that you were true to your word.
...Ahh, I see.
So if we just said it but didn't really mean it, we wouldn't be able to see anything, right?
And yet I can hardly believe what happened...
I imagine it would be uncouth of me to ask how all of this works?
Yeeeah, I'd really rather you didn't.
Kevin has no clue. He just does the flashy thing and things happen.
All these years, I had no idea that such a place lay hidden beneath Grancel Cathedral.
Well, it's not exactly something we publicize. It was built in accordance with the agreements between the church and royal family.
It has but one purpose:
To suppress the power of ancient artifacts and keep their influence in check.
Its importance to you Gralsritter is quite clear, then. I'd assume there are similar ones in places other than Liberl, too.
Well, I won't deny it.
Anyway, we call this place a 'primal ground.'
Now, there's a deep name if I ever heard one.
Is the original ground the others are based on in Arteria?
I'll take that as a 'yes.'
Oh, I'm not confirming anything. I was just thinking about how much you take after the other Professor Russell, 's all.
Ugh. I'll thank you not to associate me with him.
He might trump me a little in the theoretical side of things, but when it comes to the practical side of orbal science, I could beat him in my sleep. And I WAS the one who designed the fundamental systems of the Capel AND the Arseille, you know.
...Buuut I think we're getting off topic here.
This is the object in question, right?
It was pulled up three days ago from the area where the Liber Ark sank, and we believe it to be an artifact.
-The Hermit's Garden-
If this spot turns out to be a bust, we're probably gonna have to call it quits for today.
We can only hope... Professor Russell is certain that this is the area where we should be looking?
Yep. And if she says it's here, it's here.
Unfortunately, as you know, Valleria Lake's about as deep as a lake can get. Depending on how small the thing we're lookin' for is, actually finding it could still be a real task and a half.
Is it likely to be small, though? The orbal readings suggest we're dealing with quite a large object, I believe...
Woman's Voice: Oh, I wouldn't judge its size based off of those.
Hey there, kiddo. Finished getting us a new estimated location?
It'd be real swell if you knocked it off with the 'kiddo,' though. I'm not sure it's the most appropriate way to address a married woman, much less one who's already popped out a child.
That just means Tita's a grandkiddo. No big deal.
Hah! Sorry, but old habits die hard, y'know? Hard to make the switch when I've been callin' you that since you were about knee-high.
*sigh* Well, I'll let you off this time.
Back to work. Can you ask your subordinates to stand down for the time being, Colonel?
Is this the spot, then? Were you able to calculate exactly where the object is?
Give or take an arge, yes.
Judging by the readings, what we're trying to pull up isn't all that big, either. Probably about 50 rege. Maybe even less.
You serious? Thought we'd be dealing with a real monster, not somethin' the size of Antoine.
Still, if it does turn out to be an artifact, this could get problematic.
Unfortunately. The church isn't going to want to let us keep it, that's for sure.
Ugh! I really cannot stand them. No matter how hard you work to get your hands on something, the SECOND it turns out to be an artifact... they swoop in like it's their Goddess-given right to have it. It ticks me off.
The church would be pretty hot on the subject of Goddess-given rights. It'd be kind of strange if they weren't.
Easy, there. We don't know for sure that this is even an artifact yet!
Regardless, I'll pass on the message to my subordinates right away. I'll leave the rest here to you, Gustav.
You got it. Let's see what we're dealing with, yeah?
Go on ahead!
Yes, ma'am! Beginning the salvage operation!
Does the salvage crane sound like it's in poor condition to you?
Oh, that's not really what I meant.
I just can't bring myself to like artifacts, you see. We can't explain HOW they have the power they do, but they have it, and it's not something we can ignore, either. As a researcher, I can barely imagine anything more frustrating.
Even when we can't help but be captivated by them, we're well aware that any attempt to solve their mysteries is pointless.
I see... When you put it that way, I can understand to a degree how you must feel.
Half a year has passed since all the chaos came to an end, and on the surface, we're back to normal... but even now, we still don't know what truly happened here or what it signified.
Not that I was here to see it all happen, of course.
The crane arm's reached the bottom of the lake. I'm gonna attempt to grip the object.
Swing and a miss. Moving 30 rege to the right.
Haha. There we go.
Yep! We've got it. Want me to pull it up?
The moment of truth, huh?
Here we go!
-The Hermit's Garden-
Still, looking at it...
Correct. There were orbal readings coming from the artifact when we found it, but not anymore.
And I'm sure I don't need to spell out the significance of that, do I?
No, it's plain as day why you decided to stay and wait for me now.
If an artifact has lost its power, it's exempt from the traditional agreements governing them and doesn't need to be given to the church. That it?
Heehee. You already understand me so well. We can cut right to the chase, then.
The orbal readings disappeared just before we handed the artifact over to the cathedral, as it so happens. It's currently being looked after here, but the formal procedures to transfer ownership have yet to be completed, making its legal owner unclear.
So, in your expert opinion, what should be done here?
Hmm... This is a tricky one...
I'm assuming Liberl wants to assert ownership of it in this scenario, right?
If anything, it's the professor here who wants to do that. I'm merely here accompanying her as a representative of the Royal Army.
The only reason it's not lying at the bottom of Valleria Lake right now is because of ZCF's salvage efforts. I'd say we have every right to keep it, personally.
From what I've heard, it's completely impossible to analyze an artifact that's no longer active. I don't see how it'd be of any use to your research as things stand now...
...but you're sure you want it that badly?
We're talking about an object found at the site of where a massive flying city used to be. I might not have seen it happen, but it sounds like everything we thought we knew abut the world was more or less proven wrong.
You know, by the truth that you people in the church have kept hidden for the past...oh, I don't know...thousand years.
As for that Ouroboros group, they don't make much more sense than you guys. The more I hear about their advances in technology, the less I can work out how it's even possible.
I don't know what the truth is or what's really happening here in this land... but I can't stand by and feign disinterest in knowing the answers anymore--and I'm far from alone.
So long as there's the slightest chance that artifact could shed light on what I want to know, I want it.
I think you've made your point, Professor. It's not as though interrogating him will achieve anything.
Well, you've heard what I've got to say. It's now up to you to tell us what you're going to do. Will you hand over that lump of metal? Or won't you?
Girl's Voice: 'That brief hesitation was all it took to spawn a great evil.'
Who is she?
An excerpt from the Book of Ezer, Verse 2, 'Disaster Unleashed.'
My name is Ries Argent, and I am a squire of the Gralsritter. I look forward to working under you.
I didn't think we'd end up having more company.
Wait a second...
...Is something the matter?
So that's how they think they can get me, is it?! But they can't just bribe me so easily! I'm better than that!
M-Maybe I underestimated the Gralsritter... They think they can break my will to fight by sending a girl like you my way, do they?
But I'm not going to go down so easily, because I've got a secret weapon of my own!
That's Tita isn't it...?
Isn't she?! ISN'T SHE?!
I bet you just want to jump into this photo and squeeze her like a stuffed toy right now, don't you?! I should've known a cutie-patootie like you would be able to appreciate the same qualities in others!
That's why no matter how frickin' adorable you may happen to be, you can't take ME down, because I've got a natural immunity!
Umm... I beg your pardon, but I'm afraid I'm not really following. You keep saying that someone is cute, but...are you referring to me?
Who else would I be talking about?!
You've got such an aura of maturity about you, and yet your features still have that irresistable trace of innocence to them. And then they throw you into a sister's habit to complement it all like a little cherry on top! That's the most flattering habit I've ever SEEN! Ugh... If I didn't have my protective field, I'd be in real danger here.
Wh-Why are you looking at me like that?! I-I'm just saying!
...Might I inquire as to the identities of the people with you, Father Graham?
The lady's Professor Erika Russell of ZCF, while the gentleman is Lieutenant Colonel Cid of the Royal Army.
Seriously, though. 'Father Graham'? Really?
He has changed his name, please respect his life decisions. Also please try to remember his preferred pronouns of 'on,' 'onion,' and 'onionself.'
Ah, so you're the people who initially discovered the artifact, then?
Thank you for your cooperation in our work. We will take over looking after it from here on out. That will be all.
H-Hold on a minute! We hadn't finished deciding what to do with it yet!
Perhaps not, but my intention was to save you the time and effort required to do so by making the correct judgment myself.
Whether it has lost its power or not, that is no ordinary artifact. It is potentially related to one of the Sept-Terrions. I'm surprised that you even humored the option of letting an outsider take custody of it.
Well, well. You sure know how to pick a fight.
Go on, then. What legal basis do you have for taking it from us? The agreements with the church quite clearly say that artifacts that have lost their power are exempt from the usual rules.
I have no legal basis, but you have no more of one for keeping it.
If we are following the agreements to the letter, no one is allowed to assert ownership of inactive artifacts. It belongs to neither you nor me; it is simply an abandoned object with no owner whatsoever.
What? So all you got it, 'I don't need a reason! It's mine and that's final'?
To put it bluntly, yes.
'And as an addendum: nanny nanny boo boo.'
Hmph. Well, if that's how you want to play it...
What's YOUR take on this, Kevin Graham?
Well? By all means.
M-Me?! I thought I'd been kicked out of this conversation!
...But, well, I can't say I don't want to take it back to Arteria with us.
But after all the help Liberl's given us, I'd feel kinda bad just snatching it from them without even giving them a valid reason.
Hmm... Both arguments have a degree of merit, but neither is clearly more correct.
I'm not quite sure how you'll solve this one.
You, uh, DO know that you're smack dab in the middle of this, too, right?
What is it?
Why do you both look so surprised?
What do you mean, 'Why'?
Did the two of you not hear that?
Oh, no WAY... That thing wasn't giving off any orbal readings at all anymore! Zero! Zip! Why's it suddenly active again?!
I believe that settles our dispute.
It sure does.
Thank goodness! Problem solved.
I've never seen one quite like it. It looks like a box of some kind. Or a cube, maybe.
In accordance with the pacts of the church, I, Kevin Graham, will be assuming custody of it from here on out.
You, and all who aided you, have the Septian Church's deepest appreciation.