Tatatata—it was a refreshing afternoon, and Ai carried a basket as she ran forth with light footsteps. A vintage clothing store, a dry cleaner, a cosmetics store, a beauty salon, a tailor’s shop, the ruins of Ostia passed her by on the right.

Tatatata—Ai, maintaining this pace, stopped in front of the tailor’s shop and runs back to the beauty salon to look into the broken mirror.

There was no shovel, no straw hat, no Gravekeeper outfit.

There was a girl with long hair wearing an autumn-colored one piece dress.

She probably looked cute.

She felt she was \cute.

…She hoped she was cute.

“Good.”

Her hair was not bouncing, and her grooming was fine, Ai checked everything, one by one, and ran off again.

On the way, a few mischievous old men said, “Hey, Ai, what’s up? Going on a date?” Ai smugly replied, “Yes, I am,” sending them into a whirlpool of confusion.

She blamed the running for her reddened face.

Ai ran up the hill to Ostia.

 

“Sorry Mr. Alice, I’m late!”

“No worries, I just got here too.”

“What’s that?”

Alice, who was sitting in one of the ruined houses, turned around.

Alice was also no longer wearing his school uniform. Instead, he was wearing an oversized leather jacket and worn out jeans.

He naturally nudged aside, giving a space for Ai to sit down.

Ai carefully held the hem of her skirt and sat down.

“Thank you.”

“I’m supposed to say that…so, what’s for today?”

“Tandoori chicken, meat pie, and white bread. There’s also dessert.”

Ai spread a lunch mat before the wall of the ruin and laid out the contents of the basket.

“Oh, that’s quite a feast.”

“By the way, I made the dessert,.”

Saying that, she took out the crispy Cat Tongue.

“Oh, that looks delicious. I mean, it is good.”

“Ah! Why are you eating it now when it’s dessert? ”

“It’s good—but I think I like it a little less sweet.”

“I didn’t ask about that!”

Ai said angrily, but she wrote down the words ’less sweet” in her mental notebook.

“Goodness, you’re so greedy…”

“You of all people don’t get to say this about me…you’re going to eat today, aren’t you?

“I hope I’m not interrupting anything.”

“You are.”

“…Sorry then.”

“My bad my bad. Let’s eat together, please don’t take the food away—”

“Goodness, You’re a horrible person.”

“Aren’t you the same? You’re still trying to be courteous with me?”

“What do you mean, trying? I’m being courteous.”

“That’s bullshit, it’s just your personality. Just say you want to stay, that’s too troublesome.”

“Mmm.”

“What?”

Sparks flew. Ai thought she should teach this fellow a lesson.. He was lacking in gratitude even after she had been bringing him food every day. She felt she should let him hear it on this day.

So she thought, and was about to roll up her arms.

 

Grrr. And then,

 

Ai’s stomach let out a little sound..

Whoosh—she could feel the blood rushing to her face, and also oozing lots of cold sweat. She felt it was horrible of her to self-destruct before the battle started.

“Ah, no, this, erm…”

Ai was flustered, and tried to excuse herself.

“Eh, erm, it’s not…erm…erm…”

No matter what she said, Alice had already won. Even the slightest sneeze would kill Ai.

But…

“I’m tucking in!”

“Ah….”

Alice declared loudly and began munching on his food, offering Ai some bread as well.

“….I’m tucking in.”

Ai took a small bite of the white bread in her hand.

 

“”It’s so peaceful. …

“So peaceful…”

They let out a satisfied sigh as they sipped their after-meal tea. The exhaled breathes was warmed by the hot tea, and was then instantly cooled by the much colder air.

“Is it fine for things to be this peaceful?”

Pep pep, a hawk chirped lazily. Autumn was in full swing.

“I guess so?”

Alice said in an equally languid manner.

 

“Tomorrow might be hell after all…”

 

He said, putting his face close to the wall and sneaking a peek outside.

Ai too put down her tea, stood up, and stood next to him, looking up the hill.

There was a ruin that had been destroyed by bullets and bombs, completely different from the buildings that had been eroded by wind, snow, and years. The scars of war grew worse as they walked up the hill, and the area near the peak was almost barren.

And in the middle of it all were the cause of war.

“Wow….”

“Freaky as ever.”

The Ostia School for Boys and Girls had been swallowed by the monster.

The place resembled a pile of garbage that had fallen from the sky. Pies of flesh and machines were baked around the edges of the school walls. A town’s worth of iron piles was rinsed through a super-sized washing machine.

 

“Gachigachigachigachigachigachigachigachigachigachigachigachigachigachigachigachigachigachigachigachigachigachigachigachigachi.”

 

The top of the mountain was crawling with a swarm of iron worms that were clacking their jaws.

“……”

They reeled their heads back as quickly as they poked their heads out.

“All I can say is, ‘bwoah’.”

“Yeah, woah, that’s disgusting. I really hate bugs. ”

Alice rubbed his arms, seemingly really disgusted. Would he really be able to proceed with the scouting.

“I’ll get the job done.”

Alice understood the meaning behind that gaze, finished the tea in his hand, and stood up.

Ai stood up as well. The two of them looked at Madame, who continued to grow.

The enemy was powerful and the damage was enormous.

They had no dream, no overflowing impulse.

But still,

“Shall we?”

“Yes.”

Ai and Alice still had things to do.

“Today is the beginning of another life.”

“Yeah.”

One might not have dreams, one might not see tomorrow.

But one shall not stop living.

 

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