It is an afternoon on a day with subtly unfavorable weather and gray clouds covering the sky.

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“…”

“Akira-chan, you’re in a foul mood… but you still manage to look picturesque.”

[It suits you well, Akira.]

I have been standing at the back entrance of the Japoterasu Sanatorium in a dreadful mood.

The reason? It goes without saying.
But I will dare to mention it.

Because despite my utmost refusal, I have been subjected to a thorough make-up session and forced to don a spectacular women’s kimono!

Damn you… 

“It’s inconceivable to not dress up at all when you’re going to Takamagahara!” the female doctor insisted with all her might, and there was no time for resistance since the nurse, who reminded me of the crisis of chastity in that instance, made me tense up while carrying out her unnecessarily excellent maneuvers…

To add to that, after my makeup was done, the nurse who applied the makeup said, “I can’t expose this image of myself to anyone,” while her nose was dripping with blood.

Thanks to her, I was sent to the back door.

“Oh, you have arrived.”

“Hmm?”

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A two-horse carriage and several members of the Security Organization pull up in front of us at this moment.

Considering that the carriage bears the emblem of the Security Organization, which is a composition of the sun, the moon, and a sword, this may well be the carriage in which I will be riding.

The person who is likely to be the most superior among the assembled people then bows to me before speaking.

“My name is Suzunari Kuri, and I have been entrusted by Susanoo-sama to escort you.
Please come this way, Akira-san.”

“I understand.”

The door of the carriage is opened and I enter it alone.

And as soon as I settle into my seat with the door closed, it starts to gently move at a pace equivalent to a person walking away.

Well, I suppose no one would dare to interfere with the carriage that is heading to Takamagahara, given that it bears the emblem of the Security Organization and has such a large number of guards, so I will simply relax until we reach the destination.

I consequently make an effort to progressively rest slowly while taking in the sound of the horse pacing, but…

[Speaking of which, Akira.]

“What is it, Ys?”

[I am not familiar with the structure of this city… Japoterasu, so I would like you to enlighten me, how long does it take to reach the place called Takamagahara?]

“Oh, about that.
Now that you bring it up, I suppose it makes sense that you are unaware of it given that you go by the name Ys, which denotes that you are not a local god.”

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Ys requests me to describe this city before that, so I explain it to her.

Here in Japoterasu, the city is surrounded by walls in three directions and faces the sea on the southeast side.

On the inside of the city, Takamagahara is situated at the summit of a hill called Amenoyama, which also accommodates the Security Organization’s headquarters and political facilities.

The aristocratic town surrounds it, followed by the Sanatorium, industrial facilities, markets, and residential areas.

Moreover, there is a river running through Japoterasu, and this river flows into the sea.
If this side where Takamagahara is located is called the West Town, the other side of the river is called the East Town, which is more akin to a fort than a town.

As for how long it takes to get to Takamagahara, the question that Ys wants to ask…

“I think it will take about an hour at this pace.
Perhaps.”

[Perhaps?]

“I was assigned to a residential area on the outskirts of West Street.
When I joined the Security Organization, I went to the headquarters once for a gathering, but that was at the foot of the Amenoyama area.
In short, I have no notion because I have never gone to Takamagahara.”

[What’s with that…?]

Ys sighs in amazement, though it is natural for me to not have any idea of the place I have never been to.

I mean, it’s the kind of place where the Gods are usually present.
If a common member like me were to go there without a reason, I would be killed without a doubt.

“Hmm?”

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[What?]

“May I have a word?”

The man who just identified himself as Suzunari then speaks from outside the carriage as it tilts slightly and draws to a halt in that position.

“What’s wrong?”

“I apologize, but this is a sacred place, and without the permission of Susanoo-sama and the others, we are not allowed to enter.
But rest assured, the horses will go up there even without a guardian.”

“…I understand.”

No sooner have I replied than the carriage resumes advancing slowly again, and I lightly open the carriage door to take a peek outside, just to be sure.

“This is…”

[It’s a barrier… though I’ve never seen anything of this magnitude before.]

The personnel of the Security Organization who are apparently accompanying me to this location can be seen observing me from a distance with envious expressions on their faces when I peer out of the carriage as the horses are just going past the trees where the shimenawa ropes are hung.

Or rather, now that I stop to think about it, there seems to be an oddly large number of young individuals my age among those escorting me.
I wonder why is that.
But it’s a bit late to be pondering on that now.

In the meantime, I have moved beyond the location where the shimenawa ropes are strung, and at that same moment, I notice a change in the air and realize what Ys meant when she used the word “barrier” earlier.

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“I see.
No wonder normal people can’t enter… it’s too clean.”

[Right.
For average folks who require a certain level of stagnation, not to mention Akira, who is so near to it, this cleanliness would be nothing but venom.]

This place is truly a different world.

The entire area is brimming with divine power, the power used by gods, and Ys, which should normally be non-embodied, has materialized of its own will.

The vegetation is vibrant, the air is devoid of any stagnation, and the birds’ chirps are more melodic than any music played by humans.

Yet it is too picturesque for me to perceive this place as a genuine space.

For some reason, I feel like being here for an extended period of time is not something I wish to do, but I suppose I’ll just have to put up with it until I finish what is required of me.

[I can see it now.]

“Right…”

At this point, in our field of vision, we could make out a shrine that appears to be many times greater than the one that is set aside for those who want to enter into a contract with the gods from below.
The carriage eventually stops as it approaches the shrine’s entrance.

“So they want me to come in?”

[It seems so.]

With both of our feet firmly planted on the ground, we alight the carriage.
The front door of the shrine opens soundlessly, untouched as if to beckon us inside and following a brief exchange of nods, Ys and I step into the shrine.

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