Hellping

And so the world saved Ai.

 

Part I

 

A fly that kept hitting the window.

That was the impression Dee had in her mind whenever she saw Alice.

Bububu. The small fly was hitting the glass with all its might. This silly fly would bash its head against the glass repeatedly, unable to understand the transparent material there.

That was the impression Dee had in her mind whenever she saw Alice.

The fly fluttered around, silently. It would silently bang into the glass window, fall to the floor, and stare towards the window incredulously.

 

“There’s glass there, you know.”

 

Dee sometimes muttered to the fly.

“You’re not talented.”

“You’re not tall enough.”

“You’ll never be a regular.”

And,

“You’re never going to get out of here.”

So, stop it, Dee told Alice.

But Alice, like a fly, would show the face of someone who did not understand what Dee said, and suddenly had the urge to fly through the window again in a huff.

Even if his wings were broken.

Even if its eyes were crushed.

Even if its legs were broken.

 

Part II

 

Dee was rather fond of Class 3-4.

Menhim was scary, Mu was a bully, Alice was always getting into trouble, and Dee was still unable to talk with the boys in general.

There were a lot of fights, once a week at least. If there was not, it was usually trouble. For example, Alice made a fool of himself, Zanerick got caught up in his wanderlust, or Gigi caused explosions.

Each time it happened, Dee would hide under her desk, hiii, and get teary-eyed.

Still, Dee loved Class 3-4.

Menhim was scary, but kind. Mu would bully others, but she did not think it was bullying (that might be a bigger problem though). Alice always caused trouble, but he would reflect on his actions (yes, he would reflect on his actions, but only reflect so).

Dee too was the same. She looked down at herself. She was wearing the standard navy blue school that was according to the school’s specifications, and was uninteresting. Her appearance was top notching, her studies were half-decent, and her athletic ability was completely zero. To a bystander, someone like her would appear to be a gloomy, withdrawn person.

On one hand, that was true. She did have such a side.

But Dee was probably made up of a lot more than that.

Dee (I) liked this class because she understood this class.

And that was why she really hated the current situation.

 

“I can’t take it anymore.”

 

Mu, who had been shouting at her earlier, suddenly lowered her voice. She grabbed her long hair and gathered it up with an elastic band, her dark blue eyes glaring into the classroom as though asking “Who’s my enemy, who’s my friend?” Dee cried out, hiii and chose the third option, neither friend nor foe, and hid under the table to escape.

“Well, wait a minute, Mu.”

Menhim saw that Mu had seriously snapped, and stood up as if he had no choice. The ‘overgrown bean sprout’ was tall, had messy hair, and wore a wrinkled white robe. He was taller, but unathletic, and are no match for Mu, the girl who would write ‘muscle training’ in her hobbies column.

“What is it, bean sprout? You’re not taking his side, are you, bean sprout? I’ll punch you in the face. Get in line.”

“No, , no, I prefer to be on your side, okay?”

“…That’s disgusting.”

“Hm, really?”

“Yeah, it makes me want to beat you up.”

With a heavy thud, Menhim slumped over. It was common to see Mu hit Menhim, she acted too quickly

Mu strode towards Dee—or to be precise, to the seat next to Dee..

“Wait a minute, Mu.”

“That’s right. At least let’s talk about it.”

Parrott and Sufia, who had come out to shield me, were flung aside like a door.

“I’m tired of hearing nonsense!”

Mu looked down determinedly at the boy next to Dee.

This world is a fake? Trapped in space? What the hell are you talking about?”

The boy was grabbed by the collar and lifted.

“Alice!”

It’s true.

Alice let her raise him up like a corpse, his eyes glaring back furiously as he said so however..

“We’re trapped in this space, and we’re not even aware that we’re trapped.”

“What are you talking about, Alice!? Are you crazy!?”

“I’m not crazy.”

“Then you’re insane!? Seriously…you’re, you’re!”

Mu was the one grabbing the collar, Mu was the one who was insulting, Mu who the one who could send Alice flying.

And yet, Mu looked as if she wanted to lose, as if she wanted her words to be denied.

 

“Are you even sane!? You burned down the town?”

 

“Yes.”

The hand was released and Alice fell back into his chair with a thud.

“Why would you—?”

“It’s an experiment.”

“An experiment?”

“Yeah.”

Alice stared at his hands that were completely black since he spent all night splashing oil everywhere and setting fire.

“I was trying to see how much this space can ‘last’. I thought if I destroy the entire town, we’ll go back to our original world…but I couldn’t.”

“You! You’re still at that?”

“…You don’t believe me?”

“Of course not!.”

“Then.”

Alice lifted his violent eyes up at Mu, and countered,

“Where’s the burned town you speak of?”

Mu was speechless.

Alice slid the windows open, and outside it was the town that Alice had just burned, now completely clean.

There was no such scene present.

The town has been burned, destroyed, and restored.

The sin Mu denounced was nowhere to be found.

“You’d call this a reset.”

“W-what did I say? ‘Reset’?”

“Yeah, in this space, everything that is damaged to the point of being unable to recover will be reset to the starting mode…the peaceful initial state where they knew nothing..”

Mu shivered once she heard those words.

“…Let’s say I believe every word you say.”

“Sure.”

“I’d like to ask you one more question. I don’t know about this because I got ‘reset’?”

“Yeah.”

The next moment, Mu took a step forward and strangled Alice.

Dee did not know the significance of that act, and neither did Alice; perhaps Mu herself did not know either. She did not know what the purpose of strangling Alice was. Maybe she wanted to kill him, or maybe she just could not help it. No one knew for sure.

But the first time it happened, Mu had indeed tried to kill Alice.

So Alice reacted in the same way as back then.

Pew, a small bullet flew into Mu’s forehead. The bullet went straight through, ripping through the back of her head and flew out with brain plasma.

Screams filled the classroom as Dee hid under her desk, watching everything.

“Sorry about that.”

Alice mumbled, pointing his gun at his rooted classmates, and fired.

He fired.

He fired.

The first who got shot were the ones who tried to deal with him, followed by those who tried to run away. Friends were shot, bad buddies were shot. The bullets that flew out of his hands hit every target he wanted, killing every single target without exception.

Finally, Alice shot those who were only frightened and cowering.

“I’m sorry…”

Ilanya was shaking and shivering.

“No, don’t do this Alice… this isn’t right!”

“It’s okay…you’ll forget too…”

Pew!

The last gunshot rang out, and the classroom fell silent. The only sounds left were Alice’s ragged breathing, Dee’s sobbing, and Menhim’s sighing.

Menhim, who had been grasping his forehead, trying to hold his head together, let go of them and glared at Alice with exhausted eyes.

“…Alice, I never heard of this.”

“Because you were opposed.”

“Of course…!”

Menhim closed the wide eyes of Mu—his childhood friend.

And then the corpse disappeared into thin air…

“Alice~!”

“Yo.”

Beyond the window, at the ground two levels down, the classmates who were killed were standing there with their bags.

‘Reset.’

Mu, leading the pack, was at the front, waving.

“What are you doing there! It’s time to leave school!”

“Will be right there!”

After saying this, Alice closed the window.

There was no longer any trace of the tragedy in the classroom.

“All is well in the world—right?”

Menhim said, reaching into the pocket of his lab coat for a cigarette that was forbidden in school, and took a deep drag.

Alice walked forward, cutting through the smoke.

“…Let’s go, Menhim, Dee. Now we know that physical destruction is almost impossible. We’ll have to think of another way. I hate this, but we have to try the occult. Maybe some curse reversal, boundary destruction—let’s ask Miranshah about that…”

“Ah, about that, Alice.”

Menhim said to Alice as the latter was about to leave the classroom.

“I can’t do this anymore.”

“…Is that so?”

“Yeah…I’m sorry, but I’m not as strong as I think I am. I won’t be able to help you if this keeps up, and I might end up as your enemy, like Mu just now.”

“……Is that so?”

“I’m sorry.”

“No problem. Thanks for everything…”

With that, Alice shot Menhim, who was immediately ‘reset’, and his body was gone.

Dee stumbled out from under her desk and looked outside. Their classmates were chatting on the field at dusk. Menhim, carrying a flat school bag, ran up to the circle and joked about something.

Dee stared at it, and found it dazzling.

“…Do you want to go back to how it was before?”

“!”

Dee felt a hot presence and turned around to see a dark muzzle there.

The eyes beyond were rotten like a corpse.

“…Do you want to forget the fact that you’re trapped and everything? And go back to your peaceful life?”

“That’s—”

“…It’s fine. If you’re afraid of dying…I’ll kill you.”

The hammer lifted with a click.

“In-in that case…”

Her speaking voice was dry and trembling, as though she had not talked in a hundred years.

“If that’s the case, why don’t we ‘reset’ together…Alice? Let’s stop all this and…just ’reset’, forget about everything and live in peace…”

Alice fumbled with his gun with a troubled look.

 

“No.”

 

The fly flew to the window.

That was the impression Dee had in her mind whenever she saw Alice.

“I don’t like this. I don’t want my beloved Class 3-4 to be stuck in a place like this.”

“But we can’t do it anymore…even Menhim…gave up too…”

There’s glass there, you know. Dee muttered to the fly.

“You’re not talented.” “You’re not tall enough.” “You’ll never be a regular.”

And,

“You’re never going to get out of here…”

So, stop it—Dee told Alice.

But Alice, like a fly, would show the face of someone who did not understand what Dee said.

“Even so, I’m still going to do it…nut that doesn’t mean you have to go along with it. You should be laughing with them. Until the day of liberation.”

“……”

“Don’t worry, I’ll get it done, even if I have to do it alone. Trust me.”

Dee did not believe those words.

“I’m not going to give up.”

But Dee believed those words alone. Alice certainly would not be able to break through this space, but he was never going to give up. He would struggle on alone, as though he was in an eternal torment.

“Don’t do it.”

That was exactly what Dee did not want.

“I don’t care if I die. I don’t want you to be alone, Alice…”

“……”

Dee wiped her eyes with her sleeve.

“So I’m…not going to…give up.”

“Dee…”

“I won’t give up until you do. I’m coming with you, Alice.”

“…I see.”

The gun was immediately lowered.

“…Got it. Thanks…”

Alice turned his back on Dee.

“No.”

Dee shot Alice in the back with a pistol she concealed behind her.

Bang, Alice collapsed In the midst of a roaring sound. There was no astonishment or confusion in his eyes, only quiet conviction.

Thud. The pistol and knees fell to the floor, and Dee grabbed Alice’s body.

“…Sorry,…I’m sorry Alice…but I…I’m…”

“Don’t cry… you idiot.”

Alice did not seem to begrudge Dee even after being shot.

“I’m sorry…hic…I’m sorry…”

“…It’s fine. It’s my bad…that I made you shoot me…”

Dee shook her head. She hated having Alice kill people, and Alice hated the idea of Dee killing people.

“Actually…I know too…that it’s wrong…no matter the purpose, even though it causes a ‘rest’, it’s not right…”

“……”

“But…now, I can’t undo the sins I’ve done. That’s why…I had no choice but to be ‘reset’…I’m not me now…I’m just a monster who’s not afraid…to kill my friends…”

“…Hic, Alice. …”

Alice smiled like he was getting rid of a possessed evil spirit, and stretched out his blood and smoke stained hand to gently pat Dee’s head.

“…But Dee, unfortunately…I will definitely be back here again.”

“……”

“You know they say…stupidity can’t be fixed by…dying, right? Are you going…to kill me… every time I come here…? Are you …ready to become a … monster …?”

Alice seemingly taunted at the last moment.

Dee immediately tried to answer something. She did not know if she wanted to agree or deny, but she tried to say something back to the dying man. She thought hard and looked up to answer him.

But…

“…Ah”

There was nothing but air.

Alice asked the question, but he passed on without waiting for a reply.

All that was left was a painful silence.

Dee sat down and looked up at the sky as if there was a god there.

After a minute or a hundred, the school bell rang. Dee lowered her head weakly, slowly raised her right hand, and put the muzzle of the gun against her temple.

The muzzle that had killed Alice was still slightly warm.

“Hic…”

The trigger was heavier than before.

She was really anguished about that.

“I-I can’t do this…”

Dee burst into tears. She was at her wits end. She did not want to be killed by Alice, and she did not want to kill Alice.

Despair won in the tug-of-war against her survival instinct and the trigger sizzled. The cylinder was slowly turning and the hammer was about to fall into place, just a millimeter away from Dee’s life.

It was almost time to ‘reset’ Dee. She was going to revert from being a monster to a human being again.

If not for Alice’s arrival.

“What are you doing, Dee!?”

With the words, a gust of wind flew in and kicked the gun away.

“Damn you! That’s my dad’s gun! What the hell were you doing with that?”

“…Alice?”

‘Reset’.

The Alice here was the Alice who knew nothing. It was the Alice who had never even dreamed of killing anyone.

“What’s wrong with you…why are you doing this…hey, talk to me. Okay?”

“Alice.…”

Dee burst into tears, opened her arms and tried to jump into his chest.

 

(I will definitely be back here again.)

(You know they say…stupidity can’t be fixed by…dying, right?)

 

She remembered that Alice’s chest was shot through by her bullet.

“…What’s going on?”

Alice asked, and Dee looked up at him.

“………… Nothing.”

“But you—”

“I said it’s nothing!”

Dee pushed Alice out of the way and started running.

“H-hey!”

Dee heard Alice’s voice behind her, but she did not turn around.

She could not cry onto that chest again.

She could not let that hand pat her head again.

 

+

 

And so the loop began again.

In this fake world.

Where Dee was left alone.

 

Part III

 

Tatata—It was an enjoyable sunny afternoon, and Dee carried a basket as she ran with light steps. The relieving summer sun burned the nape of her neck, and the basket contained food that was freshly baked, the heat searing her chest..

—That idiot Alice!

Alice skipped school again on this day. It was one thing if he had merely skipped school, but he did so after stealing shovels, candle lamps, books, and wheelbarrows from all over the school. Thanks to her, Dee got a lot of sarcastic remarks from Mu and Menhim.

According to them—you should at least control your boyfriend.

(He’s not my boyfriend!)

With a swoop.

The rhythmic four beats were punctuated by a loud staccato, and the cans that had been lying in the street flew through the air.

Hmph! It made Dee feel slightly better. Dee was slightly distracted by the sound, but her face paled once she saw the empty can fly. The can tumbled through the air with surprising force and crashed into the window of the liquor store..

“Wawawa!”

She crouched down with the basket, waiting for the outburst.

Five seconds.

Dee spent that long with her eyes closed, then looked up fearfully. Then, suddenly realizing that she no longer needed to do that, she started running again.

All that was left was the sound of empty cans rolling around and the sound of running feet.

 

+

 

As expected, Alice was there.

On the outskirts of the city, there was a very tacky archway that said ‘Welcome to Ostia, the city of greenery and lakes. It was an arch that every kid in this city has used at least once for target practice. The lake side of Ostia was crowded with young tourists, but the mountain side of Ostia looks deserted with only temples and hot springs.

Alice was holding a chainsaw, sawing against the wall of a rundown souvenir shop.

“…………….Alice?”

Dee, who had intended to get angry the moment she saw him, was taken aback by her appearance.

She saw someone who was in full gear, feet covered in boots, body covered in uniform and work clothes, and on his head was a helmet with a headlight. On these parts were the words ‘gardening club’, ‘janitor’, ‘Ostia school equipment’ and so on.

Dee approached the figure with trepidation.

“…Erm…Alice…right?”

She could not tell if it was really Alice, for she could barely see his face through the dustproof goggles and mask. But the only person who would do something like this would be Alice.

Over ‘here’, at least.

…Maybe it’s not Alice after all.

As soon as she thought that, Dee shriveled. She should be overjoyed if it was someone she did not know instead, but she was still terrified. She was always shy with strangers.

It was always Alice who helped her out in such situations.

“Say, Alice…”

That Alice (?) was the one who terrified her most, and that contradiction was so frightening. Dee stood behind the chainsaw man, “Hey” and patted him on the back while calling out fearfully.

“Who is it?”

“Kya?”

The man’s movement was more of a reflex than a reaction, and he had no intention of turning around or using the chainsaw. However, there was no way anyone would not be terrified of a chainsaw being pointed, and Dee was terrified by the spinning teeth and the man’s growl, collapsing immediately on the spot.

She thought it was Alice’s voice. It had to be. But when confronted by a chainsaw mask that looks like something out of a horror movie, she was unable to comprehend, and her thought process was seemingly severed by the silver spinning teeth.

“A-Alice? It’s you right, Alice…do-don’t do this. Your clothes are a joke…”

Ah, speaking of which, it seemed those who said such lines in horror movies would die? A corner of Dee’s mind was mysteriously calm, which confused her. calmly confused. The calm confusion was further compounded by the question, What are you going to do now that you’ve noticed that?

The chainsaw man crouched down.

His face was obscured by a protective mask that covered his eyes.

“…!”

Dee closed her eyes in horror and called out the name instead of begging for help.

“Al-Alice…”

“What?”

Brrrr….The chainsaw blade slowed to a stop…and the man lifted his goggles.

Appearing there was a familiar face with familiar black eyes.

“What’s up Dee, you need something?”

Dee’s first thought was to yell at him. She wanted to yell at him for skipping school, for getting her insulted, for making her feel insecure until a moment ago.

She was going to yell at him for everything.

“Alice. …”

“Whoa! What the hell are you crying about!?”

But Dee was so relieved that Alice was there that she decided not to.

“……………Hic…this, is, your lunch.”

Instead, she offered him the basket that she had planned to give him a longer while ago.

“… I made it for you. Eat it.”

Lunch was long overdue.

Alice’s stomach grumbled.

 

+

 

Alice swallowed three baguettes and a liter of milk like a cow, and ate a whole cabbage with salt sprinkled on it for dessert.

“So, what are you doing here Alice? ”

Alice did not thank her for the treat at all, and wanted to get back to work. Dee tugged at his hem to get him to sit down, shoved a cup of tea in her hand to keep her from running away.

“Isn’t it obvious.”

This stalling lasted for a second.

“We’re getting out of here. ”

The mug was returned to Dee.

“I’m continuing then. Thanks for the food.”

“… Wait. Sit down….”

She patted the space next to her.

“But I’ve already finished lunch and dessert. I had my tea too.”

“…I have cookies.”

“Bon appétit!

Dee handed over a paper bag, and Alice munched away happily. Difficult as it might seem, it was actually easy to talk to Alice. One simply needed to give him something to eat.

Then Alice was like a vending machine, spewing out information for every cookie he ate.

“—I mean, if I can’t push it, I’ll try pulling it, if I can’t pull it, I’ll try raising it, if I can’t raise it, I’ll try breaking it. If I can’t get out by walking normally, I’ll try walking through the roof, if that doesn’t work, I’ll try walking through the white part of the crosswalk, if that doesn’t work, try…that’s how it is.”

“I don’t get it at all.”

“I thought so.”

Alice spoke as if he was explaining a highly technical fine play in basketball, and Dee merely answered as though she was brushing off this explanation, for she did not understand any of this at all.

“…Alice, do you really think that’s going to get us out of here?”

“No.”

To her relief, Alice immediately admitted and did not explain further.

“But, well, these are the only things I can try now, and it’s free to try, so…”

Then Alice looked at the town, scanning it.

 

“…I’m definitely going to get out of here and break Class 3-4 free.”

 

The town, Alice and Dee’s town. the town of Ostia where the two of them and Class 3-4 existed. It was their beautiful home, filled with green mountains to the east and the sparkling lake to the west. It was a town where no once spoke, even with Dee breaking a window, and Alice wielding a chainsaw.

It was a town where no one but the members of Class 3-4 lived.

“I’ll do anything for that.”

And with that, Alice stood up this time.

“Well, that’s why I’m not going to school. I don’t want to give up everything and live a fake life all over again.”

He picked up his chainsaw and headed for the wall. Dee whispered to his back,

“…It’s impossible…we can’t get out of here…”

So stop trying. Dee told Alice.

“Hey Alice, do you know? There’s talk in class right now about ‘resetting’ you…”

“Haaa, that’s radical. Did Mu start it?…Well, still.”

But Alice still looked as if he did not understand a word Dee said.

 

“But I’ll still do it.”

 

And with that, he went back to tearing apart other people’s houses.

“…Hey, Alice, wait up.”

Dee followed his back. There was no big reason for it.

It just felt natural to Dee.

It was enough for her.

“Oh?”

Alice put his arm in to see if he could get through the window of the grocery store that was in his path.

That was when it happened.

 

+

 

Oooh, oooh—…the sands of the wilderness pounded the ruined city. The cobblestones were covered with sand, and the houses were torn to shreds by the glassy wind. There was not a single sign of life, only the wind caressing the trunks of the once splendid stores.  The cups of the tea houses, which would have been crowded with students at dusk, were covered with mud.

It was the everyday life of a common ruin that could be seen everywhere these days, and the image of this planet sprawling towards the future.

In a corner of such ruins, there was a broken window of a small general store.

There, an arm stuck out.

As if breaking the surface of the water, the arm emerged out of the window and wandered around as if groping in the dark.

The arm fluttered, appearing to be full of surprise and confusion, picking at the grains of sand hitting the hand, and repeatedly reeling and reaching out. Soon after, he noticed the window frame surrounding him and grabbed it. Another hand popped out of the void. Both hands gathered strength as they seemingly try to pull themselves through, and with a push.

“………………Oh?”

Alice Color returned to the present world.

His face dug into the sandstorm, and he blinked repeatedly.

“……I did it.”

He immediately knew what it meant, and his face relaxed.

“ALRIGHT————————!”

He did a fistpump

“I did it! I did it! I’ve finally done it!—Wait, woah woah woah!”

As a natural consequence of letting go of his hands, Alice fell.

“Wooarrgh!”

Thud, Alice was unable to control himself, and made a half-turn on his face before lying face up on his back. He was covered in sand from the painful blow, but he was still smiling.

“Hahaha! I did it! I did it! I’m finally out of here!”

He thrusted his hands  at the sky, and his victorious cry blended with the sandstorm.

“Deal with it!”

Alice was crying. It was simply because he had sand in his eyes, but he did not to wipe the tears away as they continued to flow.

Until he heard that voice.

“Al…ice ~. W-where…did you go~…I’m…scared… ”

Another ripple spread in the window space, and another arm reached out.

“Uuu~~~Alice~~where are you~?”

Alice hastily wiped his tears, and got up.

“Wait, Dee! Be careful! You’re going to fall!”

“Heh? —kyaa!!?”

It was too late, Dee leaned forward and fell, just as Alice had.

“Tch!”

Alice crouched down and got into a hugging position.

Dee spread her arms wide and leapt over without looking, firmly convinced that Alice will definitely hold her. Alice gave a wry smile at this situation, while Dee stuck out her tongue.

It was the kind of telepathy unique to those two.

But this time, Alice could not hug Dee.

“Eh?”

They both muttered in unison at the same time, at the same place, and separated.

Dee slipped through Alice and went to the ground.

“Eh? Eh? What is this? A-Alice!!, Alice~~~~~~!”

Neither Alice nor Dee knew what was happening, Alice was supposed to hold Dee, but all he caught was sand. Dee Dee was supposed to be hugged by Alice, but before she knew it, the earth was right in front of her.

“Wh-what’s going on, Alice!”

“Dee!”

Alice turned around in panic, and found an incredulous sight before him. Dee was drowning in the solid earth as if it were a bottomless swamp.

Alice’s hand reached out, and so did Dee’s.

However, their hands slip through again, not grabbing each other.

“Ali—”

And then, with a thump,

Dee sank into the black earth as though she was swallowed by a stormy sea. The last face she showed was bewildered wondering why she was not in Alice’s arms than any other phenomenon.

“~~~~~~!”

Alice clung into the earth and clawed at it, “Dee! Dee! ” he called out with all his might. The black earth easily swallowed up Dee, but naturally rejected Alice’s fingers, and his nails were peeled off..

Alice kept calling. That was all he could do anymore. He shouted out loud, hoping that his clumsy childhood friend could still hear him, on the off-chance that she accidentally went through the planet.

“Dee!”

Come back. And,

He continued to shout until his throat ripped apart. He kept slamming the ground until his fists cracked.

Alice screamed, his thirst quenched by the blood. He kept flailing his fists that were starting to let out a moist, knocking sound.

The passing of time was extremely cruel, as though waiting for Alice to be too injured to move. The earth hid the most precious thing to him like a mischievous child.

But everything seemed to be a nightmare.

For Dee suddenly returned.

“…”

They did not call each other names and rejoice, nor did they sob and hug each other. There was no room for that anymore. They just faced each other like a mirror, reached out to touch each other’s hands as if they were touching a mirrored surface.

And this time, they were completely certain that they did not touch each other.

Dee stared dumbly at the hands overlapping in front of her. Their hands moved slowly, seeking each other’s presence, but they never touched each other.

They could not feel anything.

Not even heat.

“What’s this …?”

Dee pulled her hand back as if she was fooled.

“Why am I…like this…!”

She hugged herself tightly with her arms, as though affirming her presence.

“What is this…is this…the outside wordl…?”

Then Dee lifted her face.

She looked at the world.

There was a storm of yellow sand blowing before her, the sight of the familiar town after death, herself who could parse through objects for some reason, him who could not do so, the lack of Life in the entire street, and,

The presence of Death lingering in the entire town.

Ohhhhhh, ohhhhhhh—…

“What is this…?”

The city was filled with the Dead. They lost their minds, their bodies rotted, and their throats let out the same cry as the wilderness breezes.

This particular part was called the Dark Age. It occurred between 15 years ago and 13 years ago,before the Gravekeepers were born, and the world was covered with death and despair.

—Such was life of a common ruin that could be seen everywhere these days, and also the image of this planet headed to its future.

“This is the…outside world ….”

It was then that Dee saw the dead for the first time in her life. She knew about them, but the world she was in did not have a ‘moving Dead’. It was her first time seeing one.

And at this moment, one of them stumbled towards the two.

“Oh, oh, oh?”

“Hii!”

“Ohhhhh, wwwhhhhaa’s with you? “

It was a yellow mummy wearing shiny glasses and an uncomfortably brand new florist apron.

“Isn’t this AliceAlice and DeeDee? It’s so late at night how can students students how not go home still not go home still…”

This dead man also had his own set of ethics as he approached them.

“Not good not good not good not good not good—”

“Kyahhh!”

The Dead bared his teeth and reached his right hand out that had bones poking out from it. Dee was so scared that she could not move a finger. The dead man’s hand touched her neck without hindrance and then went right through. This made Dee feel an inexplicable shock, and then…

A gunshot.

A low velocity bullet blasted through the dry flesh and bones, preventing the Dead from walking.

“Alice!”

“What?”

Alice did not let his guard down as he raised his gun, watching the remaining Dead.

“Th-that was!? That’s Wendy’s dad, right…!?”

“So what?”

“Alice, what have you…?”

Dee—with her hand that could not touch anything—tried to deliver a slap at him.

Before her eyes though, Alice kept spitting a sticky, red mess of vomit.

“Even then, so what…say …Dee?

He wiped his blood and tears and vomit away using the hand that was still wielding the gun.

Dee could not say anything as she looked on.

Alice put away his gun and walked on. He stepped on what he had just spat out, and moved into the sandstorm.

“…You’re leaving …?”

Dee asked, clutching her arms hard as she turned toward his back, asking.

“Yeah.”

Alice’s answer was as she expected.

The fly kept hitting the window.

That was the impression Dee had in her mind whenever she saw Alice.  This silly fly would bash its head against the glass repeatedly, unable to understand the transparent material there.

“There’s glass there, you know.” Dee sometimes muttered to the fly.

 

“It’s useless to go…”

 

So don’t do it anymore, Dee would tell Alice.

 

“Hey, let’s go back…I really hate this place. I’m, scared…I’m really scared…really. You think so too, don’t you, Alice? We don’t know how bad the outside world has become…Come on, let’s go home, okay? Let’s go back to our Class 3-4 world. It may be closed, but it’s a much better place than this. It’s a good thing we know that. Isn’t that right?”

“……”

—But Alice, like a fly, would show the face of someone who did not understand what Dee said—

 

“Hey!”

“You go back.”

 

He wanted to fly through the window.

 

“I’m going. I’m going to free us.”

 

When Dee heard that, she decided. She was scared, but she decided.

“…Then I’m going too!”

“Oi!”

“I’m coming with you!”

“…Go back, you idiot.”

Alice reached out a hand to shove her away. His hand passed through her shoulder though, and he could not do so.

“!!”

Dee squealed and backed away while Alice withdrew his hand with the look of a child who had messed. Dee reached and touched the part of her body that Alice’s hand had penetrated to make sure it was still there, and then moved her stiff cheeks to force a smile,

 

“H-hmph! It’s not that easy to abandon me! Now you can’t push me away or lock me up.”

“…Yeah, seems that way.”

“…I-I am definitely going with you, Alice!”

“I told you I get it…I get it, so…”

“I’ll definitely…definitely…it’s scary… but I definitely…”

Dee could not help but sob.

Alice ruffled his hair hard, and answered reluctantly,

“Do as you please.”

Tears flowed from Dee’s eyes and dripped down her tiny chin. The tears glistened as they rolled on her skin, but as soon as they left her skin, they immediately lost their presence and disappeared without a trace, leaving no water stains at her feet.

“Stop crying…let’s go.”

“I-I’m not crying, stupid Alice! W-Wait! Wait for me!”

And so the two of them started walking.

That was twelve years ago, when the first Gravekeepers had finally started to descend, when Kizuna Astin started calling himself Hampnie Hambart, when Julie was still happy, when Ulla had yet to kill ten thousand people, when Tanya and the others were babies. And,

It happened when Alice was already Alice.

“Let’s go…to free ourselves, and Class 3-4.”

“Yeah!”

This was before Dee became the ‘Witch of the West’.

 

Part IV

 

On Monday, God created the world.

On Tuesday, God distinguished the order and chaos.

On Wednesday, God honed the numerical values.

On Thursday, God allowed the Time to flow.

On Friday, God overlooked every corner of the world.

On Saturday, God rested.

And so, on Sunday, God abandoned the world.

 

15 years ago, God suddenly appeared before humanity, and told them.

“That world is overflowing with people. This world will come to an end. Ahh, I have failed.”

Leaving only these words behind, God vanished, and back then, while humans were lavishing hymns on this world of Spring, they were left quaking. Their species existed for less than a hundred million years before they finally met God. However, those first words from Him, were words of farewell.

 

From that day on, Man could no longer die.

 

Their hearts ceased to beat, their flesh rotting. The Dead could continue to act.

 

From that day on, Man could no longer be born.

 

The flames of the factories had extinguished, and new humans were no longer built.

After God no longer inhabited this world, humans screamed in agony. Millions shrieked to the point of vomiting blood. The Living quickly whittled down in numbers, and then the entire world was filled with the Dead.

And so, the gravekeepers appeared.

These gravekeepers were the final miracles that God had granted for the sake of Man.

Gravekeepers would never age, and never know fatigue. God gave them the most ideal of bodies humans could ever think of, had them build graves, and bury the wandering Dead, their work being ensuring the peace of the Living. At this point, Man could finally rest.

Children were no longer born, the Dead roamed, and the Gravekeepers ran.

Such were the End Times.

 

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