A cloud shot down from the jet-black sky. When it reached the ground. it burst open, revealing a knight clad in gleaming armor.
“I am the Grand Heavenly Sword, Alden. In the name of the Cloud Knights, I have been sent here to maintain order. All sinners beware!”
The young knight stood ready with his sword and staff, and as he bellowed the bandits froze in place on the road.
“The Divine Law must be upheld!”
When he saw that his adversaries hadn’t immediately bowed in supplication, the knight readied himself for battle.
Keter Sanctuary: a nation once known as the United Sanctuary that was founded by the hero Alfred. Time had not been kind to the area.
Keter Sanctuary was actually made up of two separate countries.
The first was the land-based Old United Sanctuary region, home to many humans. The once-prosperous Holy City of Sacred Albion had been destroyed, with little left but ruins.
The other was the capital that governed over that ground-based nation: an enormous floating island known as Ketergia.
The citizens of Keter Sanctuary living on the ground lived in fear of attacks from bandits and monsters.
Meanwhile, the citizens of Ketergia, that utopia in the sky, lived a comfortable life thanks to the goods harvested by the lords of the land below and their own abundant magical prowess. They also benefited from their own form of defense against any potential attackers—The Cloud Knights.
One evening when Alden was on patrol, he suddenly received a warning alert from the sky communication network Cloud Net.
“Block 32. Report of a burglary. No injuries. Nearby Cloud Knights report to the scene to ensure the safety of all concerned.”
Several Cloud Knights, including Alden, responded to the call.
Alden mumbled to himself as he altered the course of his ≪Cloud≫.
Alden’s armor created a cloud around him using divine magic, allowing him to travel wherever he wished. This was how he was able to immediately reach anywhere in Ketergia. It was also one of the reasons his order was known as the Cloud Knights.
“This isn’t right.”
Block 32 was in the northwest area of Ketergia and was home to the city’s power plant. The only things in that block were power generators, conduits, magic converters, and other industrial equipment. There shouldn’t have been anything worth stealing.
“This is Alden, heading to Block 6. Staying on alert.”
Alden didn’t wait for a response from HQ. He went straight to Block 6, a residential area on the other end of the city from Block 32. The large sword on his back cut through the air, drawing a great white arc in the night sky.
Alden was a descendant of a long line of Cloud Knights. His grandfather told him stories of how his ancestors fought for the Old United Sanctuary using blasters.
The Cloud Knights were the most highly revered order of knights in Keter Sanctuary. Of course, the selection process to join was exceedingly strict, especially for a citizen of the surface as Alden was. His grandfather and father alike were delighted when, as a brash 20-year-old eager to uphold the law, he made it through the most difficult of trials. They happily paid the high price to get him up to the floating city. In this way Alden differed from the other Ketergia-born elites. However, being born on the surface made him resourceful, and having known poverty he was far more spirited than them. Alden wore his nickname of “groundling” with pride.
“As I expected.”
Looking down on the residential area, Alden could see a number of shadows moving on the streets. This was most unusual, as the law-abiding residents of Ketergia would all be in bed at this hour.
“Unauthorized persons detected in Block 6. Moving in to secure the area.”
Alden descended. He emerged from the ≪Cloud≫ and stood there, illuminated by the nearby streetlamps.
“The Divine Law must be upheld!”
There were four shadows. Were they monsters? Or some kind of sub-human? Whatever its true form may have been, Alden was sure it would be no match for his sword. And what a sword it was—a great two-handed sword with a wing-shaped design forged right there in Ketergia.
Someone called out his name from the darkness.
This time it was the young Cloud Knight who froze in place. He remembered that voice.
There was a faint tremble in Alden’s voice. Before him stood someone he knew as a boy living down on the surface, now dressed as a bandit.
“I thought it was a good plan, but I should’ve known you’d see through it. We used to do the same trick back when we stole potatoes.”
“What did you steal?”
The man who was once his friend took something out of the bag he was holding and threw it at the Cloud Knight. The other shadows followed suit. Unlike Hunter, the other three all stood with their daggers drawn. Ketergian law was strict. Unlawful access to the floating city, along with the attempted theft, would mean they were not likely to ever see the surface again. Which meant they would likely resist with everything they had.
“Jewelry. That’s what the people up here value over everything else, isn’t it? They take everything from us commoners who work our fingers to the bone to gather such treasures. But you know, this stuff is much harder to trace on the black market than money. We just want to take what rightfully belongs to the surface. This belongs to us.”
“You call that justice? Do you think this is how we will get equality between the nations?”
“I couldn’t care less about equality. Do you have any idea how miserable our lives are down there?”
“I know. I grew up there, remember?”
For a moment the Cloud Knight’s facade fell, revealing the old surface dweller beneath.
“What happened to you, Alden? You used to be the pride of the neighborhood. Your family always held on to their dignity, no matter how hard times were. Not like us. We’ve had no choice but to join the Resistance.”
Alden and Hunter stood as still as statues. The three shadows also stayed put.
“Can’t you turn a blind eye just this once? For old times’ sake?”
Alden’s reply came immediately.
“So, you’re going to kill us?”
“No. I am here to arrest you and bring you in to be judged.”
“Always so serious. You haven’t changed a bit.”
The three figures started to panic.
Lights turned on in the surrounding houses. It wouldn’t be long before reinforcements arrived.
“Take what you’ve got and run. I’ll take care of the knights.”
As Hunter instructed the others, they took the loot and ran. Alden heard a buzzing sound; it must have been a lightweight aircraft. It likely barely got them up to Ketergia from the surface. They risked their lives coming to the city.
Alden’s face grew stern. There was no escape from a Cloud Knight once they had you in their sights. Resistance was futile.
“You’re really not going to budge?” asked Hunter.
Alden shifted his sword in response. The air around it glowed with all the colors of the rainbow.
It was the Cloud Knights’ signature stance. The moment an enemy moved, the Cloud Knight would strike with all their might. They would put all their energy into that single attack.
The standoff continued, with neither side willing to make the first move.
“Okay. I know I can’t win against you.”
Hunter dropped the two axes he had hidden behind his back.
He could have attacked Alden with those sharpened blades if he’d wanted to, and not even revealed he was armed at all. Hunter was the best axe thrower the surface had ever produced.
Alden remained silent as he bound his old friend’s hands with magical rope.
“If I had tried it, would you have killed me?”
“I’d knock the axes aside. You must pay for your sins.”
“I’m sure I will.”
Hunter looked down as Alden looked up to the sky.
Two young Cloud Knights descended in their ≪Clouds≫ out of the night sky.
≪Notes about Terminology≫
One of the six Royal Paladin clans that occupy a seat on the Round Table, the highest body of government in Keter Sanctuary. The Cloud Knights belong to the Heavenly Knight Brigade, one of the highest orders of knights in the realm.
The Royal Paladins were the defenders of law and order, known to crack down hard on criminals in defense of the nation.
The Cloud Knights took pride in fulfilling their duty of protecting the Heavenly Floating Islands of Ketergia.
Supervising Editor: 中村聡