The next day, Nein continued to help people.
“Why is this …”
Nom nom, Nein complained as she chewed on the meat bun they had bought from a stall.
Alice asked as he sipped his tea.
On a side note, Nein was the same as before, jumping and hiding behind Ai’s back the moment Alice talked.
Ai stroked her head. She assumed Nein would refuse her, but it seemed the latter did not have the strength to do so. Nein looked so adorable in this state, and Ai really liked it.
“…Say, did I really do something to that one?”
Alice was indeed hurt.
“Who knows? Maybe it’s because you glared at her fiercely the first time you met—alright, let’s ignore the scary person. What’s wrong? ”
Nein spoke like a field mouse that had retreated to its nest, her head emerging tentatively as she said,
“Don’t those people go over there after their wishes are fulfilled? I’ve been wondering why…”
She said, and the place she pointed at was the hill surrounded by flames.
“Oh, that’s because the black surface is over there.”
That’s where you came from, Ai explained.
At the moment, most of the Dead that Nein had revived were quickly scaling the hill, headed for the New World.
Nein asked in frustration.
“Well, if they die again and can’t get through, there’s no point in this. They came here to get through to the New World.”
“So why? If they die, I can revive them again…what, I said I’ll help fulfill their wishes, but they still want to go over to that world.”
“Ahh, that’s what you mean?”
Ai showed a wry smile.
“That’s because they don’t want to revive again and again.”
Ai raised her fingers to teach Nein, and felt like a teacher. Perhaps Nein too felt that she was a student.
“Is that so?”
Yeah. Some people think that there’s value in ending something. Such people aren’t interested in eternity.”
“Hmm…like you’re dad, Ai?”
Alice widened his eyes as he remained by their side, but Ai was unfazed.
“Yes, just like my father.”
Nein nodded, looking vaguely convinced. Feeling relieved that they could connect, Ai poured Nein another cup of tea.
She did not want to think that she had been careless.
However, she might be careless after all.
“Then, I’ll do the same here ….”
Ai stopped pouring the tea. She did not know what Nein was talking about
Leaving Ai behind, Nein began to get heated.
“Yes, let’s do it! Then those people won’t have to go to the other world!”
“Erm, Miss Nein, what are you going to do?”
“That’s obvious, isn’t it!”
Nein stood up abruptly.
“I’m going to make sure there’s no Dead in this world”
The cold sweat ran down Ai’s back again.
“Yeah! Why didn’t I think of such a simple thing? I can erase the Dead! I shou;d erase the Gravekeepers too! I can let children be born! I just have to make sure everything’s back to how they were fifteen years ago!”
“Y-You can do that?”
“Of course I can.”
Nein beamed and simply answered.
Ai realized that she had truly underestimated the power of this little Witch.
There were three major rules that bound this world, and yet she could easily lift those restrictions.
That’s a lie. Ai did not think so anymore.
She felt sweat trickling down her back, an incomprehensible fear filled her heart.
“Erm, order is important. First, resurrect all the Dead in the world…and then forbid the Dead to rise. Remove the Gravekeepers, let children be born, which one…”
The next thing she knew, Ai shouted.
“No, Miss Nein, you can’t do that! Not at all!”
Nein stopped, for she probably was not expecting to be opposed.
“Why do you say that, Ai? I’ve finally found a way to save ‘everyone’…”
“But that’s wrong!”
Ai began to explain. There was the city of Ortus, the country created by the Dead, who continued to advance even though their souls and bodies rotted. Ai told Nein that these people, at the pinnacle of humanity, did not wish to be resurrected.
“So that method won’t work.”
“Do you understand…?”
Ai breathed a sigh of relief. She felt that Nein was lacking in life experience, but was smart, and she would understand if Ai explained to her.
“But I’m doing it.”
Nein giggled. Ai’s heart froze immediately.
“…Did you hear what I said? I’m telling you this won’t work…”
“But you don’t know until you try, right?”
The words, which were supposed to be positive, sounded so ominous. Trial and error. Failure is the mother of success. One would never know until one tried. Never be afraid to make mistakes.
However, those were the words of Man.
God must not be wrong.
For the miserable state of the world was caused by that.
“…Nein, calm down and listen to me. If you do that, half the world might praise you as a savior, but the other half will call you a destroyer.”
Nein’s face did not falter at all. Ai was at a loss for words.
“Why…you can’t do that. You’ll know if you think about it, right?”
“Yes, I know that. Reality never is the same as imagination, so I think it’s worth trying. ”
The Witch’s Daughter smiled.
“I just need to try. If I know it’s a failure, I can try it again.”
It was the first time she had ever smiled.
“You can’t do that! That’s forbidden!”
“It’s alright even if it’s forbidden.”
It was those eyes again.
“Don’t get me wrong. I don’t care what happens to me, as long as it saves the world.”
Those words seemed familiar. They were Ai’s words.
Those were the words of resolve she always said before Coven, on the Tower of Wishes, and in the Land of the Dead.
“You understand how I feel, right Ai?”
Nein looked at Ai with 100% trust. Ai felt that something was amiss, as though she was hearing these words from herself.
“Because Ai is on my side!”
Their hearts resonated. Ai’s thoughts were read, and Nein’s feelings were conveyed. Her heart shone brightly, devoid a speck of dirt.
Ai was sad. She was sad that she would be the first one to defile her.
With a thud,
A jet-black murk poured into Nein’s mind.
The murk flowed from Ai’s mind. No, it was no longer Ai herself.
Ai Astin was no longer Nein Saikavati’s comrade.
She was, simply—
Her lie was exposed.
Ai bowed her head slightly.
“I’m really sorry ….”
“But you told me…you have the same dream…you said you’ll help me.”
The excuses were meaningless, and any lie was ineffectual towards her.
“I see, so Ai doesn’t think I can save the world…”
Those were also Ai’s words.
Those were the words she said to Julie. She accused him so when she climbed up the Tower stretching into the sky.
What did the big man do then?
“Don’t come here!”
Boom! Ai wanted to walk over, but an invisible force repelled her.
Alice caught her body, but could not hold her up, and became her cushion.
At this point, those around them noticed this commotion, but nobody could stop the Witch.
“Ai! You liar!”
Tears were falling down her face. The hem of her dress was being crumpled like paper.
Ai immediately raised her voice,
“Miss Nein, please listen to me! I did lie! I apologize! But I’m still not your enemy!”
Ai shouted against the strong wind, just as Julie did back then.
“I’m on your side! I don’t want to see you get hurt! So please! Please let me help you!”
“I don’t need that!”
Nein, however, did not stop.
“I don’t care if you’re on my side or not! I don’t care if it’s hostile or friendly! I won’t let anything bind me! Don’t stop my dreams! ”
Nein shouted in the midst of the omnipotent force that no one could enter.
Ahh, Ai realized.
Standing there was the ideal the old her wanted to be.
She wanted to be someone who would only live to save the world, abandoning everything else.
She wanted to be the organ that would exist only for her dream, unfettered by human emotions or consequences.
Every step was for her dream, every breath was for her objective, to finally save the world.
She just wanted to save the world…
“Ai! You used to be the same…”
Ai was exposed to a torrent of emotion, and admitted,
“…Yes, you’re right.”
Nein was right.
Ai herself was helped by Julie and Scar many times. Without them, she would have been a goner. It was a certain fact.
But at the same time, Ai also wanted to be alienated from them.
Just as the armor protecting her would crush her, overly luxurious food became excesses, Ai sometimes felt inexplicably bogged down by them. While it felt wrong to feel that way, she could not suppress the desire to leave them and go on a journey by herself.
The destination of her journey was the clutches of the boy supporting her at this moment.
Ai had no regrets. She could accept this. And yet,
Ai said, supported by Alice.
“Love and kindness are just a cage in front of a dream. You’re definitely correct to cut me off…but, but, Miss Nein….”
“Still, I’m on your side…”
Those were the words of Ai’s third foster father.
“Even if you say you don’t want it, I’ll always be on your side…just, please don’t forget that…”
And so Nein began.
“The Witch’s Daughter wishes…that all the Dead that infest the world…”
Ai thought, closing her eyes.
Nein would be plunged into hell. She would bear all the praise and resentment of the world, and be a cursed existence.
Despite that, Ai would always be on her side. She might complain, or even nag, but she wanted to be by Nein’s side until the very end. Until the day she gave up.
With that vow, Ai waited.
At that moment, a single bullet struck Nein.
Just as a little bird was shot, the white girl twitched once and collapsed to the ground, her pale white hair flying about.
When all was said and done, the blood finally spurted out and dampened the ground.
The white turned to red as it seeped out.
“…What are you doing?”
Ai said, stunned.
She could not believe it. She could not believe that Nein was shouting. She could not believe that the head was gone, and could not believe that,
It was the man next to her who did so.
Time was thawing.
At this point, Ai wondered if it was all a misunderstanding. She assumed there would be someone who would go all ‘what? That’s how it is’ and give her a reason to laugh it off.
But the second and third bullets were fired as if to mock Ai’s thoughts. The second one hit the heart, and the third one hit the neck.
“—! Stop it!”
Ai jumped involuntarily, but Alice took that into account and kept firing. Each of the bullets contained his power as a Deformed, and never missed.
There was no mistake. There was no misunderstanding.
Alice shot Nein of his own volition.
He shot and killed her.
Ai even went so far as to defend Nein.
She found herself crying.
She was prepared. She knew that if Nein brought all the Dead back to life, Ai’s world would be irreversibly changed, and everything would be different.
She hated this.
She hated the fact that Alice killed someone.
She hated the fact that Nein was killed.
She could not convey her feelings into words.
She did not know what his actions meant.
That was why Ai kept shouting his name.
Alice did not give a single answer.
The expression on his face at that moment was as back then. It was of one who had forsaken everything about himself, a black expression filled with despair, fear and a duty.
Seeing this, Ai knew that Alice too had also resolved to do something, as Nein did.
She understood perfectly what Alice had done, and what he was doing, and that he would continue.
He believed Nein to be evil.
At this moment, Alice will never stop. He was like a law of physics or a road sign, an existence that felt that he should have done so.
It was the third time Ai had seen such eyes.
The first time was when he destroyed the world of class 3-4..
The second was when he tried to sacrifice himself and save the town.
But back then, he only forsook his life. It was different this time. Alice was forsaking his own life, and also aiming for another’s.
He had set out on a path of no return, no amends.
The black barrel was staring at her.
Ai had a strong sense of deja vu. It resembled Hampnie Hambart’s eyeball.
“This one’s hopeless.”
Finally, Alice said.
“She’s going overboard with saving the world, like she’s the embodiment of justice. If we let her be, you know what’s going to happen…”
Alice was also thinking the same thing.
Nein Saikavati claimed to be saving the world, but in reality, she would be destroying it.
Even so, Ai tried to be on her side.
But Alice had decided to become her enemy.
“Why did you choose that path …?
Maybe, if Ai could let herself be conceited, it was because…
“…Is it because of me?”
“No, it’s for the world.”
“Is that so…”
How happy she would have been if she could have believed those words.
Alice’s words were a lie. Ai knew that much. They had a mutual trust.
Ai never imagined that there would be a day which their telepathy would hurt her.
“If you understand, move.”
“I’m not moving.”
Ai did not hesitate to expose herself before the bullet, but,
The bullet collided with the next bullet that was fired, and changed course. The bullets pinged with other bullets, and di not hit Ai at all, instead fired towards Nein behind her. Ai had never seen Alice use such an ability before.
Alice suddenly let out a nosebleed. This usage of his ability really strained his body.
They were ineffectual against the Witch’s Daughter.
Muttering, Ai looked over her shoulder.
Nein stood up slowly. There was nary a single scratch on her body, and other than the bloodstained one piece dress, nothing indicated that she had died.
The Witch’s Daughter, with her omnipotent powers, was alive, as she should be.
Alice fired again.
“It’s no use.”
The bullet was absortbed into her hand like a pebble.
“There’s no way you can stop me with such a meager ability…”
The caught bullets fell apart.
“…As for you, I can’t ignore what you just said—”
He fired again. This time, however, the bullet did not touch Nein; it was blocked by an invisible power.
“Wait, when someone is talking—”
“I told you it’s useless! More importantly—”
“—Tell me why I can’t save the world—”
He fired again. And again.
Alice continued to fire bullets nonchalantly, and Nein too was silent. It seemed that like before, Nein recalled her fear of him.
He ran out of bullets.
With a shuffle, the casing fell out, and Alice reloaded his. His fingers were shaking from the overdose of his ability, and he was panting. He was clearly battered, and yet,
“…You’re asking me why you can’t save the world?”
Alice began to talk in a shaky voice, probably to buy time to reload.
“Fine, I’ll tell you…”
Finally, he loaded a bullet.
“The reason you can’t save the world…is because there’s only one world for you.”
“What nonsense are you saying!? Isn’t it obvious that there’s only one world!?”
“…That’s why you can’t save it…”
A second round.
“Listen up, kid. There’s more than one world. Everyone lives in a different world…and you’re forcing us to live in a different world, telling us that you’re going to ‘save’ it…”
A third round.
“Revive the Dead? Erase the Gravekeepers? Revert to fifteen years ago?…I see, you may be right about all of that. But.”
“Do you think you’re doing the right thing?”
“Wh-What? Isn’t that to be expected!?”
“This obvious thing just so happens to not be obvious here—in this world, what’s right is ‘wrong’ because it is ‘right’, happiness is ‘unhappiness’ because it is ‘happiness’. Joy is pain, life is death. That’s being human…so.”
All the bullets were loaded into the cylinder.
“I’m gonna make you human.”
The silver bullet glares at Witch.
Then Alice pulled the trigger.
“! I told you it’s useless!”
Nein clicked her tongue and flailed her arms.
Ai was pushed away by an invisible force. Multiple invisible barriers unfolded and enveloped Nein’s body perfectly.
However, the bullets destroyed them all.
Nein looked incredulous at the blood that came out of her mouth. The dress was slowly being stained with blood.
“…What did you, just, do?”
Even though she had been pierced through the heart, Nein did not collapse.
Despite that, fear remained on her face. The bullets were supposed to shatter without penetrating any of the walls…
And then Alice Color sneered.
“…Enough already, just die.”
Nein’s fear finally materialized, and her face turned pale.
“Don’t run, you monster!”
The Witch ran away. The bloodied one piece fluttered away, and she kicked off the wall, jumping up, and stepped on the back of the rooster windvale.
Alice gave chase. He went up as fast as Nein did, no, even faster.
The movements were completely comparable to Ai’s.
Was that the use of his Buzzer Beater ability? But something was wrong, too wrong. How did he use this perfect targeting ability to the point where he could elevate his physical prowess?
“Wait! Both of you!”
Shouting, Ai started to run, kicking the wall as well, and went up to the roof.
Ai could not catch up with them anymore.
The moment Ai reached the rooftop, there was no one in sight.