“Is this the scene?”

Dee climbed over the cordon, and tried to make his way deeper into the ruins. Before she could do so, another arm reached out at that moment.

“Hey! What are you doing to your boss? Let me go!”

Grabbed by the scruff of the neck and hung like a cat, Dee flailed her arms in protest. The person in question however was having none of it.

“You’re Idiot, we haven’t checked if it’s safe yet. Wait a minute.”

This exceptionally large man with bandaged arms was one of Dee’s Deformed followers, Destructive Fist—Maccia Electus.

“You say it might not be safe, but everyone entered…”

“The weight of our lives are different from yours. That’s expected.

“Everyone’s the same…—here we go!.”

“Ah! Hey!”

Quickly removing her coat like a lizard’s tail, Dee quickly proceeded inside.

The further in she went, the more obvious the traces of destruction.

“…This is horrible. ”

At first glance, one would assume it was another one of Ostia’s many ruins.

But on a closer look, one would notice there were lots of strangeness.

The ruins that existed in this town were slowly formed after fifteen years, but this alleyway was shattered into pieces as though it was kicked by a giant. Dee could not imagine what would have caused such destruction. The stacked bricks twisted into spirals, and the cobblestones turned to sand.

And it was said this was just the aftermath.

“Report.”

“Yes.”

An attendant stepped forward to speak,

“—Nein Saikavati and Alice Color, who were reported as missing last night, are still fighting—Please take a look at this map.”

The map that was spread out had several check marks on it, indicating places where the two were seen fighting, and the location of the battlefields.

The old man put the most recent checkmark on the map, this alley. Dee frowned,

“…I can’t understand. Why do they keep changing battlefields?”

The old man wearing a monocle answered.

“Yes. According to eyewitness accounts, the deduction is that there is a great difference in fighting intent. Alice was acting with full intent to kill, while the Witch was running away without fighting back. In other words, this jumpy battlefield seems to be the result of an endless retreat.”

Nein ran away and Alice gave chase. The two would fight whenever they met, and the Witch would escape again.

The repetition resulted in a pile of check marks scattered all over the city.

“I see… Any contact with the two?”

“Nobody met Alice thus far…as for the Witch, dozens have already spotted her…”

The old man’s brow furrowed, and seemed to have difficulty talking. Dee shot a frosty look deep into the ruins, and said,

“And that one there?”

There was a man huddled up, hugging his knees.

“…, ……………….”

The man was dressed in a terribly awkward manner. He wore a crown, tiger fur, and was huddled among hordes of gold coins. He looked like a mad king.

One had to wonder what happened to him, for he gave a listless smile, frozen still like stone.

At every battlefield, there were always such people left behind.

These people mostly had lots of gold or food gathered around them, and they were shriveled in the middle of it all, not moving at all.

“Who knows what Witch’s Daughter is up to…”

Dee muttered, but they knew this answer. It was obvious that she wanted to save the world.

“…And Alice too.”

Dee knew the answer too. Alice Color was always trying to save the world.

And yet, Dee did not understand what happened.

“…Whatever—Anything else?”

After that, some information was shared, and the meeting was over.

“Alright, dismissed. As soon as you find Witch’s Daughter, notify the task force. Go ahead and attack once you receive intel without my approval.”

The group answered in various tones and left. Dee stopped some of them and gave them a series of detailed instructions.

Once done, Dee felt exhausted, as though there was something overcooked in her mind. She first too a breath, and then some candy from her pocket, chewing on it hard. Fatigue and sleep deprivation had her exhausted to the point of dying, and she lacked sugar in her brain, so she had the urge to have coffee full of sugar. The moment she thought so,

“What now, little girl? You look terrible.”

Unwittingly, Julie was standing before her with a cup in hand.

“Ohh! You’re unusually thoughtful, Uncle! I see you differently now! I love you!”

“Shut it, I have a wife and kids.”

“Yes, I’ll just have a different view of you then! Good work~.”

Dee took the cup and downed half of it down at once. The coffee was warm and sweet.

The conversation paused for a moment. Dee could tell that Julie was concerned about her.

“…It’s naïve (sweet).”

“Is it? I think it’s normal…”

I don’t mean that…Dee said and sipped her coffee.

“So? What do you want, Uncle?”

“Hm, I was wondering if you had any information on those kids.”

“…Why are you asking?”

Dee gave a bitter look. Truth be told, the situation was beyond anything Julie could handle. There was nothing this prehistoric hunter could do about it.

However, Julie’s answer exceeded her expectations slightly.

“Of course, I’m going to beat up those bad kids for running away.”

He said, cracking his fists.

Dee was taken aback.

“No, no, Uncle , they didn’t run away from home…”

“What? Is it wrong? They haven’t called home in two days, you know?”

Dee was about to say something, but she stopped mid-sentence.

“………No, you’re right. What you say is correct, Uncle.”

It was indeed a world crisis, a supernatural battle that rivaled even the gods.

Despite that, it was not a bad thing for someone to participate because of such a reason, so Dee thought

“Once we find them, I’ll tell them off. They should at least contact us.”

“Yeah. I was intending to do so.”

“… Fufufu.”

Naturally, Dee laughed. Julie’s naivete really felt comfortable to her.

In hindsight, he was always like this. He was strong, mature, sensible… and therefore an ordinary adult who took a passive role, an ordinary person who was pestered by a super annoying father and daughter, Hampnie Hambart and Ai Astin.

But still, without him, the situation definitely would not have turned out like this.

With that, Dee bucked up and shattered the empty unglazed vessel. She was actually intending to convince Julie with her oratory skills, but she decided not to.

“We don’t know exactly where they are exactly, so we can only guess through uncertain intel from clairvoyant and precognitive Deformed.

“I don’t care how they’re like. Just tell me where did Alice, Nein and—”

Then, sounding pained, Julie said,

“…Where did Ai go?”

 

+

 

Even before I was born, I knew who I was.

The moment I fell to the ground, I was already in my current form.

 

(Are you awake?)

It was a night where moon and stars could be seen.

In an empty meadow, a nameless baby was quietly born.

Beside the baby was the biological mother. She was a very old person with a very tired face.

(Do you know what you’re going to do?)

She asked. I answered.

(Of course.)

(Good to know. …)

As soon as she said that, she collapsed. I wasn’t surprised, because I knew that she had passed all her power to me, and she couldn’t live much longer.

And yet, my eyes were wet.

(…What is this…)

I raised my hands and touched my cheeks. My face was wet with salty water, and it’s warmth.

(That’s sadness.)

The woman said.

Why? I asked. Why did you leave me such an unnecessary thing?

(It’s necessary. You’re different from the old ‘me’ in a particular way.)

The woman didn’t cry, for she didn’t have that function.

(Listen carefully, I couldn’t save the world, others can’t save the world. That’s to be expected, because nobody is born to save the world (everyone).)

 

(But not you.) The Witch said.

 

(You’re the only one who’s truly born to save the world. You’re the ideal I sought.)

(Then why do you create such an existence …)

I wiped away my tears, and came to a deeper understanding of myself: The Witch risked her entire existence to create this monster called me, and she did have supernatural powers.

But the mentality was,

 

(Why? ! I’m just a kid!)

 

I had a very ordinary human mentality, just like the Witch’s childhood.

I was suddenly terrified. I felt as if I had been handed a bomb that could destroy the world.

The Witch smiled..

(That’s why, “Witch’s Daughter” …, only an innocent child can dream enough to save the world. …)

(Why? I don’t understand!)

(If you don’t know, figure out a way. This process will become the path you’ll take…)

Mustering the last of her strength, the Witch pointed to the East.

(Go, my daughter.)

There was a black surface that swayed lazily.

(You are pure impurity.

You are a newborn immortal.

An incompetent God.)

Just as a creature would naturally head for the light, I was shown the path I should take.

(…Just go on to save the world without thinking, no reason or motive. You have the power to do just that. …)

(…I get it.)

Wiping away my tears, I stood up.

(I’m going to save the world. …)

(… Yes, weep with sorrow, fall with defeat, but still go forward. That’s the fastest way to go…)

I shook the tears away, and walked on.

(But still.)

Finally, the Witch uttered a curse.

 

(But still, you’ll never save the world.)

 

(…Ah yes, I believe this. I can’t save the world. Nobody can save the world. I know this, and you know this…)

But are you still going? The Witch whispered sadly.

I looked back once and said to her,

(Yes.)

(…Is that so?)

The Witch smiled, as though she was facing a happy end.

(I feel relieved to hear that…)

And then the Witch died.

(… Good night. Mother. I’ll take care of the rest.)

 

I swore, and jumped into the black surface.

 

+

 

“Haa—haa—haa–ugh!”

Deep within an alleyway, Nein was panting hard.

“What’s…what’s going on…!!”

She was hit with many bullets all over her body, and her supposedly white one piece dress was completely red.

It was impossible. She had the power of omnipotence, so why did she end up like this? Somehow, these were caused by the bullets fired by a mere human!

The bullets should not be able to hit her. Even then, such small wounds should heal in the blink of an eye…but…

“It hurts!~! Goodness! What is this!”

Nein dug his hand into the wound in his shoulder and pulled out the bullet that was lodged there.

Nein dug her fingers into her shoulder wound, and pulled out the bullet buried within.

She saw the removed bullet, and was horrified. The bullet was moving like a maggot, trying to reenter the wound.

“—!!! Disappear—”

She waved her hand and exerted telekinesis and matter decay to finally shatter the bullet.

Haa, haa, Nein panted.

She was hit with a few of such bullets.

“—!! Ahh! Goodness!”

She scratched herself all over, and once she pulled the bullets, she burned them.

“~~Haa—haa—haa…Damn.”

She took out all the bullets, and all the wounds were healed, but her fatigue would not disappear. It felt like she suffered a curse, and the inexhaustible power was a little weakened.

That was impossible. What number could be subtracted from infinity to ensure that infinity was subtractable?

“…Damn, but there’s no point in thinking about it…”

For Nein, however, that did not matter.

The important matter was to save the world.

She would do anything to ensure this was possible, whether it was her omnipotent power or her own body.

“…I have to hurry.”

Nein walked down the alley, keeping an eye on her surroundings. Right, this was not the time to be playing tag.

For she wanted to save the world.

And she found a way to do it.

Yes, Nein grinned.

But then…

 

“Haa… haa… haa….”

 

A voice came from across the alley.

“I finally…found you…”

Nein’s smile froze. On the other side,

“I’ve been looking for you, Miss Nein!”

The world (Ai) was after her, trying to save her.

 

+

 

Ai finally saw her face.

That was all Ai needed to be happy.

“Miss Nein!”

Ai hugged the little girl as hard as she could.

“Thank goodness! Really, thank goodness! I was so worried that I would never see you again!”

“…Hmph, of course not. I’m invincible.”

Objectively speaking, that might be the case.Not many people in this world could harm the Witch.

But even so, the worry in Ai’s heart just never disappeared. She was worried that Alice, the one with eyes of hellish color, might actually be able to do so.

Ai was terrified as she ran over the town. She had been terrified, thinking that everything would end without her knowledge.

“… Anyway, let’s go home for now.”

She said reaching her hand out.

“Alright?”

“…….”

Ai said so, but she did not think Nein would obey. She had said so like a greeting, like ‘good morning’, or ‘hello’, and wanted to convince her with the following words..

However,

“I understand.”

Nein nodded and grabbed Ai’s hand.

“……Eh?”

Ai looked at the small hand that connected to hers, sensing as if the joke had been taken seriously.

She felt something was amiss.

“What’s wrong? Aren’t we going back.”

“Yeah… yeah, you’re right…”

Ai squeezed her hand to make sure she was holding a hand. The palm of the connected hand was warm, and she could not sense a lie.

Is she up to something? Even if that was the case, it was much better than letting Nein run away. Ai decided, and did not ask anything as she kept walking.

“~♪ Just like~The flowers~”

Nein held Ai’s hand, clearly in a good mood the latter had never seen before, and started humming. Ai’s confusion only deepened.

“~♪ And then? Back home, to that apartment”

“Ye-yeah, I guess so…actually, it would be nice if we could find Mr. Alice on the way.”

The moment Ai said so,

“Oh, you two are here? I’ve been looking for you two for a while.” Alice popped up from across the alley.

“! Miss Nein, get back!”

Ai defended Nein instinctively.

“Oi oi, don’t look so scary.”

But Alice’s expression was calm.

“Mr Alice… you….”

Ai had assumed she was mmistekn. Before her, Alice did not have the distinct ‘sneer’.

He looked as clear headed as he was days ago.

“It’s okay, Ai, it’s fine now.”

Nein came out after her. There was no more fear on her face.

The two of them stood side by side, looking like good friends.

“…What do you mean?”

“Well, you see, Ai, I’m done saving the world.”

“Huh!?”

Ai’s mouth could not close.

“That’s right. There’s no reason for me to kill her.”

“H-How is that possible…?”

What could possibly have happened to make this possible?

“It’s the same with you, Ai.”

“…As me?”

“Yes. I failed too.”

“Failed…?”

“Yeah, I failed. So I gave up.”

Ai had failed by not granting Alice’s wish.

So what exactly did Nein fail at?

“I’ll tell you the details later.”

Nein held out her hand.

“So for now, let’s go home and eat. ”

“……”

Alright?”

But Ai did not take her hand.

“What’s wrong, Ai?”

Nein asked in confusion..

I thought you wanted to be like this.

“Isn’t this what you want, Ai?”

She was right.

“Don’t you want a happy ending for everyone, where everyone gets saved?”

The Witch snickered, indicating that she could make that happen as long as Ai held her hand.

But Ai…

“Ah, I see…”

Ai did not hold that hand.

“Miss Nein, is that what you call saving everyone…”

And then Ai woke up.

 

+

 

The next thing she knew, she was lying on the ground.

“…Why?”

Before her was Nein, standing there, looking dumbfounded.

“…Alrighty”

Ai got up at once and and looked around.

There was no one else present.

“Was that a hallucination?”

There was no reply. It did not matter to her, for she was not hoping for one, and already expected this to happen.

That probably was not an illusion, but the real thing, just like the World Tower.

Except for one thing.

“Why didn’t you take my hand?”

Nein shouted.

“If you took my hand, you would have been saved! You’d be happy!”

Nein lamented, having ruffled her hair.

At that moment, Ai already understood what was happening in the town. Those people whom she found at the battlefield all shared the same experiences as she did. She realized what Nein had been trying to do.

“Is that what you call ‘saving the world’?”

“Yes! That’s right!”

Nein smiled tearfully, as if she was proud of his dead cat.

“I finally understand! I finally know what to do to save everyone! Fufufu! I had the right answer all along! ”

Ai felt heartbroken.

She felt as though she was dealing the fatal blow to a dying beast, granting wish on a life that was left only with misery

“I’ve! Been! Wrong! I was wrong the entire time! I thought about everyone, the world, I thought so big, but that’s wrong! That’s not how it should be! Just as the world is made up of small stones, ‘everyone‘ is made up of individuals’!”

Thus,

“Then I should simply grant everyone’s wishes.”

Nein was laughing madly.

Then I can simply grant everyone’s wish, save one when I meet one, and save everyone!”

It sounded like an anecdote about the impossible.

Saving everyone was a fantasy, but Nein could make it possible. She could find every person on this planet and save them all.

That was the power of omnipotence.

“I can make everyone’s wishes come true! I can bring the Dead back to life! I can cause all sadness to disappear! I can create a world without sadness! A world without misfortune! I can bring such a world to everyone! That’s why! The will be saved!”

Ai already knew the result.

“…So the result will be like those people looking like statues?”

Ai understood. She knew what would have happened to her if she held Nein’s hand.

Nein would be reformed, Alice would be a peaceful state, and the world would be at peace. She would live to a century.

And then, one by one, the wheels would come off. She would wait for her death, the moment everything ended, and pray for their revival.

From that point on, it would be all downhill. One wish would grow into two, three, and finally an infinite number of wishes that were granted.

And so on, and on, and on, and on, and on……

And when all the wishes were fulfilled, with nothing to do, she would end up like a statue.

“I don’t want that.”

“Why!?”

Nein shouted.

“Ai, don’t you want to be happy?”

“No.”

Ai nodded confidently. “in that case …,” Nein said, extending her right hand.

But Ai did not take her hand.

“But you know, Miss Nein, even if I want to be happy, I don’t want misery and sadness to disappear. ”

Ai spoke softly, seemingly coaxing,

” Miss Nein, I like to be happy, and have fun…but I like sadness too, or unhappiness…”

When there was sadness…there’s happiness.

When there was joy…there’s misfortune..

Ai Astin could not be happy just by being happy.

“That’s why you can’t save me.”

Was she ever such a greedy creature? Was she a sinful human who was not satisfied with just being beautiful, and also not satisfied with just being dirty. Was she an existence who was very proud of being ‘I’?

Ai thought to herself that this was what it meant to become an adult.

So, naturally.

“…No…”

The child cried.

“I hate this…”

Nein’s eyes began to fill with tears, and they flowed out past her eyelids. The tears were pure and unadulterated, containing only sadness, and fell from her chin to the ground.

“I…don’t want this…I’m supposed to…save the world ….”

Such must be a pure emotion that only a child could have.

In a corner of the world, a child’s cries echoed.

“Waaaaaaaahhhh!”

“…I’m sorry, Miss Nein…”

Ai  hugged Nein. Ai was the culprit who dealt the dealing blow to her dreams, but she cried out of guilt. She too was heartbroken by this.

But these did not matter to her.

“…What should I do from now on …?”

Nein asked, looking dumbfounded

“Fail, Miss Nein.”

“…Fail?”

“Yes, fail in your dreams, give up…and be yourself.”

Ai brought her face overto the soft hair, hoping to convey her feelings, even a little.

“Please change, Miss Nein, don’t live for your dreams, listen to your heart, and decide for yourself what you want to be.”

“…Can I do that?”

“Of course.”

“……Even for a monster like me?”

“Yes, I have examples here.”

Ai bumped her forehead onto Nein’s, and whispered. Perhaps embarrassed, Nein immediately turned her head away.

“People can change, Miss Nein, anytime, anyone…”

How should she try to get the message across? What could she do to get Nein to understand? Ai kept pondering about these things, and Ai just tried to convey her heart. But only beautiful words came out the moment she spoke, and it was as though there was thick cloth between them.

Thus, Ai did not expect Nein to change her mind. She did not believe that her words could get Nein to ‘fail’.

So…

 

“Okay, Ai! I’m giving up on my dream!”

 

The moment she heard those words, Ai woke up.

 

+

 

“Ah~ahh…I was seen through again…”

The next thing she knew, Ai was lying on the ground.

“…Eh?”

Nein was standing alone before her.

“It’s troubling. Ai, you’re too strong…what am I supposed to do …?”

Hahahaha…she laughed dryly and tilted her head like a puppet.

And then a tear fell.

“What can I do…I can’t save Ai…I can’t save you…I really want to save you!”

She ruffled her hair, and stomped hard on the stone pavement.

“…Miss Nein. Did you…”

Ai jumped up and looked around. The memory came flooding back.

Was this….

Did time rewind?

“Ah, I scared you, Ai…I didn’t want to do this…ahhh.”

A horrible feeling of dread ran down Ai’s spine.

“Miss Nein!”

For the first time, Ai yelled in anger.

“What did you do to me?”

This did not happen only at this moment. Including the prior moment, there were at least two instances. No, maybe me.

Surely Nein has done so many times before.

“…I tried…”

“What!?”

“I was trying to figure out how to save Ai …”

Ai almost collapsed from dizziness.

It did not just happened twice or thrice. Surely Nein tried to rewind time so many times, and failed repeatedly.

All for the sake of saving the whole world.

The cold sweat did not stop trickling.

“… Hey, Ai.”

There was a broken, teary smile before Ai, one that seemed teary, happy, angry, and yet troubled.

“You said so, Ai—you told me to be myself if I fail…”

Ai did. She did say so.

Just as Ai had been forced to give up her dream after helping Alice, she wanted Nein to fail and start a new life.

But,

 

“But, Ai, I can’t fail…”

 

It was as if an automaton was crying.

“Because I am omniscient. There is nothing I can’t do. No matter how many times I fail, I can always try again…”

The Witch’s Daughter, who had the power of Omnipotence, was akin to a Dead that could not die despite so, and could not simply ‘fail’ in a way any ordinary person could easily do so.

“I’m…wondering what I should do ….”

Nein said, her back teeth clicking. She could not fail, but at the same time, she could not succeed.

For the world (Ai) had already been saved.

She could not save what had been saved.

Thus.

In the end.

No matter how she struggled.

Ultimately,

There would be one person left in this world who could not be saved.

“What do I do …”

Thud, the lonely God fell to her knees and cried, spilling tears of despair.

‘! Just give up! Don’t care about the world! Just leave it!”

‘ ….I can’t. If I do, I’ll cease to be me. Because I was created for such a purpose…”

Nein shook her head weakly.

“And there’s no point in giving up. Someday, I’ll pretend that I never even gave up.”

“—!”

For the first time, Ai begrudged the Witch whom she had never met.

The Witch’s work had been perfect.

She knew she could not save the world, so she tried every trick in the book, and finally created Nein.

She gave the power of God to a mere child, and discarded her, ensuring that she would never grow up (give up).

There was no way for Ai to stop Nein through reason. This was the reason why the Witch, who was the only one who could stop Nein, disappeared.

“Hey, Ai…I’m scared… I’m scared….”

The invincible being was scared. She was scared of herself.

“Calm down, Miss Nein!”

“…Even so, I’ll definitely try to save everyone…I can’t help but fulfil; everyone’s  wishes, no matter whether they want to become stone statues…”

“No! Stop thinking anymore!”

“I can’t save the world, and yet I can’t help but save the world…I’m like a grinder out of control, levelling the world, turning everyone to stone…”

Hugging her trembling body, Ai sought desperately for words. But the only answer that came out was despair.

Nein was a cog in the wheel that was ill positioned. Its power rolled towards a place where it should not be, and she rumbled across the earth, destroying everything in its path.

She thought she was saving the world, and in fact, she was doing exactly that, but,

But she would end up destroying the world.

“What should I do…Ai… what should I do…?”

The landscape of the apocalypse would surely be silent. Humanity, seemingly fossilized, would smile happily in this graveyard-like town.

“Save me, Ai…save me…I don’t want this…I hate this ….”

“—!Miss Nein!”

Ai held the trembling, bloodied child in her arms. She could not hug her any tighter.

But that was all.

There was nothing more she could do.

 

“…Ahh, I get it.”

 

All she could do was wait for him to appear.

“”I’ll save you….”

She turned around,

She saw Alice Color standing there with a hellish smile.

 

+

 

Yeah, she’s just like me.

That was what Alice thought of Ai from the first time they met.

How so, if someone were to ask, he really did not know to answer. If he had to, it would be ‘she’s so relentess’, or ‘never think of people as people’.

It was not a criticism.

For these were the qualities Alice was looking for.

For that was the kind of person he wanted to kill himself.

That was why Alice chose Ai as her partner.

He felt that she should be able to do what she had to do—but at this moment, he felt he merely enrusted the expectation of her doing the job onto Ai.

Ai once called him ‘noble’.

Dee, Bendo, and even Julie had such something similar to him.

But Alice had never thought about it that way.

He merely weighed two different things on the sacle.

His own life and the lives of his classmates.

His own life and the lives of the town.

Needless to say, the result was almost an equilibrium.

But still, his my life was slightly lighter than theirs.

So what else could he do?

“No, no. No ordinary people will actually think this way, you idiot.”

Who was it who said that?

“Humans are wavering creatures, especially when they’re forced to make a choice. Especially when our own lives are at stake. You’re not normal when you’re willing to die just because your heart weighs a feather less.”

He remembered. The person who said these words too was the kind of guy who did not care about his own life.

Truly they were father and daughter after all. They were so alike in that way.

Yes, he had always forgotten about it.

The main reason why he assumed they were the same.

Was because he assumed she was someone who could not change.

Alice believed that there were two kinds of people in this world.. ‘Those who could change’, and ‘those who could not’

Naturally, Alice was the latter, and he assumed Ai was the same.

He assumed they would would live and die with for their dreams.

Whether these dreams would be fulfilled, they would leave nothing behind.

He assumed it would be a one-way ticket, like a shooting star, only exploding far beyond the sky.

But he was wrong. Ai was a person who could change.

He was shocked.

You got to be kidding. He thought,

It was as if a firework that was fired through the sky had fallen without exploding. Also, the debris of this firework was a ‘second life’ rolling around happily.

Even though she could no longer fly, she looked so happy.

And so, Alice thought.

Maybe,

Just maybe,

Was it possible for him to change?

Could he continue to live if he remained with her?

Yes, he thought

But that thought………………

 

—Once again, one would mention the scales again.

The question would be: Which was heavier?

A world, or his own life?

 

+

 

Alice had changed.

His body was covered in scars, his clothes tattered to the point of not covering him, half his shoes were missing, and there was a bright red tear running down his left eye.

The only thing that remained eerily intact were the pistols in his hands. Alice was seemingly dragged along by them like a puppet.

I’ll save you, so Alice said. Normally, such words would have given Ai great trust and a s a little concern.

But not this time.

“Miss Nein, please stand back.”

As before, Ai shielded Nein behind her back.

“…You’re hurting me.”

Alice and Ai faced off again each other. Alice sneered.

” It’s as if we’re enemies…”

“That’s not true. I don’t have any enemies.”

When the moment she said that, Alice gave a puzzled expression.

“…Still the same as ever.”

The smile was a little calm, like before.

But it soon disappeared.

Alice said,

“Enough, move over.”

“…What are you going if I do?”

“I’m going to kill that kid.”

 

Alice’s words were too radical, and Ai’s eardrums were hurting.

“…Mr Alice…”

“You know what? The kid shouldn’t even be there. I’ll kill her. Hand her over.”

“Mr Alice!”

Ai did not want to hear

She did not want to hear those true, heartfelt words.

“Why have you…changed so much …?”

Alice was silent.

“Why…have you become… like that?”

“I haven’t changed at all.”

Alice sneered

“I’ve always been this way. I find my purpose, and decide what I want to do…that’s who I am… I haven’t changed…if you think I’ve changed, that’s just you being weird…”

It was a murderous smile.

“Don’t forget. I once tried to get you kill someone…I’m someone who’ll do anything for the sake of my goals…”

Suddenly, Alice called out the Witch’s name.

“Nein.”

“…What?”

Nein stepped forward, overcoming Ai’s restraint.

“You, do something about that outsider. She’ll get in the way of our fight.”

“Wait!”

“…Why do I have to do that…?”

“What do you mean outsider? Wait! Both of you.”

Ai was Ignored.

“It’s no use. My buzzer beater has ‘evolved’ to the point where it’s effective against you, but it’s unlike ‘omnipotence’. It can’t do anything other than kill. ”

He twirled his guns.

“We’ll settle this between us.”

“…Understood.”

Hey! Don’t ignore me while talking—mgya!”

Ai’s body was suddenly flicked aside, and she was pinned onto the ruined wall.

You got to be kidding! I’m excluded at this last moment! How am I supposed to take this!

Ai exerted all her strength into her body to fight against the invisible force.

However, her body did not move a single millimeter.

At the border between the town and the wilderness, the two faced each other in silence.

A war-like atmosphere engulfed them.

“…Is this fine?”

“Very good. I’m going to kill you as painlessly as possible.”

Alice said, and raised his guns. Nein frowned unhappily.

“…Just to say this, if you’ve eavesdropped my conversation with Ai and think that I want to die, that’s a big mistake…I’m still going to save the world. I won’t let you stop me here.”

“You’re the one who’s mistaken.”

He lifted the firing pins.

“None of these matter. You’re going to be ended here.”

And the triggers were squeezed.

“Die.”

 

+

 

Bang bang.

Bullets flew out of both hands, crossing the air faster than sound and closing in on Nein faster than the blink of an eye.

They were too slow.

Nein could see everything clearly. She was able to slow time down, and she was able to grasp the movement of the bullets and the shock waves, and avoid it with time to spare.

That was supposed to be the case..

(! It’s still coming after me!)

The bullets were seemingly attached to a string, distorting the laws of physics completely as they aimed for her heart.

Nein dodged at the last moment creating an invisible force field and trying to envelop entire bullets.

But still…

“Ha!”

The two bullets tore through the force field with ease, shattering the sixth and eighth rib, hitting together in the middle of her.

(—! Again!? What’s going on!?)

The wounds were instantly repaired. However, apart from the physical damage, her ‘omnipotence’ was a little damaged. The proof of it was that she could not reverse time anymore, and could not change her fate.

Bang bang. The second shots were fire.

“Ugh!”

Nein hardened her body and moved faster than the bullet.if she could not stop it, she should just run away. The ordinary person Alice would be powerless. That was what Nein did to barely escape.

But,

“You’re not running away.”

“What!?”

Nein tried to escape, but she was cordoned off..

The third shots were fired. The bullet that hit her shoulders drilled towards her heart ike maggots.

“Kyaaahh!”

It was impossible. What power did his bullets have? How did Alice Color cheat to the point where she had nowhere to escape.

“You…you! What’s with you!”

The answer were bullets.

“You! Listen to me! What you’re doing is useless! No, it’s not just useless! It’s harmful! Stop pressing me! Anymore and—”

A bullet blew the brain stem out of her right ear.

“—! You!”

Her clavicle to the chest were torn..

And then Nein started.

“Fine! I don’t care what happens now!”

The shackle came off at once.

 

Since it was the same as failing,

It was time to all the way.

 

“I’ll kill you!”

Nein started to retaliate.

 

“Ugh! Ugh! Let me go!”

Stuck like a specimen on the wall of a ruin, Ai struggled to break free. But the force restraining her body was too much for her to grasp, and she had no way of escaping.

Before her, Alice maintained his one-sided attacks, but it was to be expected. Nein wanted to save the world, so she originally could not ‘kill people’

But that was only if the difference between powers was established.

If there was a power that could threaten Nein’s life, or an existence that threatened Nein’s dream itself…

 

“I’ll kill you!”

 

Nein would show no mercy.

“Mr. Alice, run!”

 

+

 

“I’ll kill you! I’ll kill you! I’ll kill you!”

The hollowed hole was shot immediately. As before, the bullet hit the spot where it was aimed.

But Nein was no longer fazed by such things.

It was like the relationship between a man and bees. When the two meet, the person would usually run, and one might assume the bees had the upper hand.

However, if the human decides to fight till the bitter end.

Such an advantage could be erased instantly.

Like this,

“Gah!”

Suddenly, Nein flipped her long, white hair, and pounced across the ground like a beast.

“!”

Alice immediately fired some suppressing shots, and two rounds shot through her thighs.

Nein did not stop. The human continued to charge forth, mentally prepared to be stung, and the bees had no effective measure to respond with.

The automatic trigger was pulled, and in less than a second, the remaining bullets were spat out and hit Nein’s face. She found them a nuisance.

She decided to strike there first.

“You’re in the way!”

Nein showed a smile from beyond the cloud of gunpowder and jumped into the storm of more bullets. She took seven bullets but did not stop, and closed it.

“One!”

Alice’s right hand was crushed.

Nein’s hand chop did not exert strength, and instead, the automatic pistol and palm bones were shattered the moment she touched them

“Gah!”

Alice immediately pointed the revolver in his left hand at Nein. But that, too,

“Two!”

A single touch destroyed everything. Everything that touched Nein’s fingertips shattered in an instant.

Alice fled, his useless hands dangling. With one right foot, he kicked the cobblestones to keep her distance.

Nein deliberately did not give chase.

“Ahahahaha! Serves you right!”

Nein laughed with the face of a cat filled with torment, as though she was letting off steam.

“Fufuf, seriously, why was I being so polite? I should have done this! I just had to save them even without caring about what they say!”

Slowly, she bowed her head like a lady.

“Thank you for teaching me, Alice. I’ll thank you for this. Thank you for breaking my restraints.”

“…No problems.”

“Yes! Fufuf, how does it feel? Your most important arms are shattered. You wanted to save the world, but you hurt yourself. How miserable do you feel! But don’t worry! I’ll erase all your misery and regret! I’ll make you happy forever!”

“Haha, that sounds nice…”

Alice said. He sounded like a sore loser.

“Hmm, you don’t think I can?”

“No, I’m not doubting you there… take care of me if I lose.”

“…If you lose…”

Nein raised her eyebrows unhappily.

“You’ve already lost….”

“Not yet?”

Alice lost his weapons, his hands were shattered, and in the face of the Witch.,

He continued to sneer audaciously.

“The game’s still up for grabs.”

This person had yet to give up

Vigilance returns to Nein’s face. Immediately, the distance that had been unintentionally closed between them was separated.

In the midst of this, Alice made a movement.

With his crushed right hand, he grabbed a stone at his feet and flicked it.

The stone flew in a precise parabola towards Nein’s chest.

What? Nein sighed, embarrassed at her own action. It was ridiculous how she fell for this loser’s bluff.

Well, whatever, if this rock hit her, she would end it all.

So Nein waited.

And the stone hit its target.

Buzzer beater.

Suddenly, a small explosion blew out Nein’s chest.

!? W-What…?”

What just happened?

Nein did not understand. Why would a very ordinary pebble explode? Why did she suffer such great damage?

“See? I told you. …”

Alice sneered through the smoke.

“The game is still up for grab…”

Nein let out a little scream.

 

+

 

Buzzer Beater was an ability to hit whatever he threw.

The essence of this power is the ability to twist the odds to hit the jackpot.

The moment this power awoke in him, Alice was immediately struck with a doubt.

 

What would happen if he used this power to aim at something he could never hit?

For example, a target that was beyond reach or buried underground. How would his power work? Alice wondered, and tried it out.

As it turned out, his ability worked properly. A ball thrown with such weak force that it would never reach the target was carried to the goal by an accidental gust of wind, and a buried target he aimed at was exposed by a sudden earthquake, and the bullet hit.

Alice never told anyone about the results and never experimented again.

Because he was scared.

The Buzzer Beater, the ability to hit with perfect accuracy, was absolute. As long as Alice felt that he could ‘do it’, it would fulfill his wish regardless of the odds.

That was why Alice forbade himself to aim at an uncertain target after that.

The vow had been broken only three times.

And this was the fourth.

Surely this would be the last.

 

+

 

Haa, haa, Alice panted hard.

He was already a demon, but the act of using his power to kill Nein caused his head to ache. His conscience was hurt at the thought of taking a life.

He should just let the dogs eat his conscience.

“Damn you! How about this?”

Nein tore up the sand and soil and used it as a shield. But this fancy trick could not stop the power.

Alice randomly threw a pebble he had picked up. In an instant, the stone was swallowed by the sand and disappeared.

But this Buzzer Beater.

The pebble accidentally swam through the sand, was accidentally flung out, and landed onto Nein’s chest.

“Hii!”

It was another explosion. Nein collapsed beyond the dust cloud.

“Ugh! You!”

Regenerating the wound on her chest, Nein immediately retaliated. Countless rubble floated and flew towards.

Alice moved strangely to intercept the debris. He used his right hand to grab his left, and ‘threw’ himself.

All the bricks flew past Alice and disappeared.

“That’s”

The entire sequence of actions was forcibly triggered by Alice, a physical phenomenon called ‘Tunnel Effect’. All matter have wave-like characteristic at a microscopic level, and there was a miniscule chance of him passing through matter.

Of course, the odds of this happening was so low that one would say it had never happened since the beginning of the universe.

But,

Even so, with Buzzer Beater, Alice Color,

Alice Color could easily trigger it and turn abstract into reality.

Alice waved his arm, and did not hold a single pebble.

The air he threw out decomposed instantly into vicious oxygen molecules that burned Nein’s throat.

“Gah! Gah! …this!”

But still, Nein instantly healed her wounds and pounced on him.

Alice ‘threw’ himself once again. The moment he did so, the muscles in this ‘thrown body’ would be optimized, allow him to exhibit physical abilities beyond those of a Gravekeeper.

He raised his broken hands to intercept, and tripped the girl with judo.

But still,

“Gah!”

He was no match for the Witch’s Daughter.

Alice’s left arm shattered with a snap.

“Haa…haa…give up…….”-

“…Don’t wanna.”

Alice responded by flailing his right arm. The fist struck Nein with enough force to split the earth.

As her flesh exploded and scattered, Nein fired a slap in return. Alice’s ribs shattered and several holes appeared in his lungs.

The two of them were like millstones grinding against each other.

They were hit, and they struck back.

Ai could do nothing but watch them.

“Stop it, both of you…stop fighting…”

Ai could not run away or run to them, and just wept away.

After a while, the bloody fistfight eventually calmed. Amidst this space, Nein,

“…Is this fine?”

“What do you mean……?”

He kicked. He got kicked back.

“…You aren’t going to say anything?.”

“Hah, aren’t you the same….”

Both of them hit and got hit for the umpteenth time, but they still continued to fight.

Alice rigged the almost zero probability as he swung his fists.

Nein hit her, twisting the laws of cause and effect and physics.

By then, it seemed that Nein had already understood everything Alice was trying to do. It was like an old story, about two people coming to an understanding through fisticuffs, and Alice grinned.

“Don’t worry. She’s…capable of change.”

“………Yes.”

And then.

Then a gush of red and black blood broke through his throat and flowed out.

Alice’s body could not handle his ability anymore, and it was finally at its limit.

“…Looks like this is as far as I can go. ”

He said, and immediately pulled his distance, raising his right hand and clenching it tightly..

“Is that so….”

Nein too readied her right hand in a hand chop.

This would be the final blow.

“Let’s go …”

Alice started to run.

Each time he stepped on the ground and waved his arms, his ability was activated. It was as though Buzzer Beater was trying to throw himself over.

Every ounce in his body began to break through the sound barrier. The body of an ordinary person began to break apart under the pressure. Still, Alice moved forward.

 

With the first step, his left hand was torn to shreds.

 

Leaving the ragged part of his body behind, he continued forward.

With the second step, his left foot fell off, and with the third step, his right foot.

It did not matter. He would not need these after the battle anyway.

“Ohhhh!”

Alice merely reached his fist out and flew over.

He did not think of the consequences.

He was like a bullet that was fired, not turning back

He charged towards the Witch’s heart.

Nein was just waiting for him with her hand blade extended.

And then,

 

“Gah…”

 

They stood still, as if in an embrace.

It looked as if Nein was holding Alice as the latter fell.

But it was not.

“…Ah?”

Alice had a perturbed look on his face as he looked at the empty right hand, and he then turned to look behind.

He saw a thin right hand stab through his ribs and sternum, gouging out his heart.

“Tch. …”

Alice coughed out lots of blood, so much that one would wonder how he had so much blood left to spit, and even the tongue click sounded so slimy.

“…What the. I thought I could do a better job …”

“You can’t. You’re the one chasing after all…”

“You’re right…”

But.

“But not anymore, Witch’s Daughter.”

Alice smirked at him.

This was where it actually began.

“You’re going to come after me.”

“…Yes.”

“I’ll say this first, I won’t forgive you if you mess up…”

With the last of his strength, he shoved Nein away.

Like a lance stabbed into his heart, this bloodied arm was pulled out.

The heart, still beating feebly, passed through the chest again, unable to return, and flew out from the other side.

Alice grabbed his heart.

“Come on! This is the last of my power!”

With all his strength, he raised his still beating heart.

“Take this, Witch! This is my heart! My everything!”

Amidst the blood, Alice yelled his dying words.

And he threw his heart out.

 

“Diiiieeeeeee!!!”

 

‘The final blow (Buzzer Beater)’

 

The magic bullet was thus unleashed.

 

 

 

The heart landed gently onto Nein’s chest and fell.

At the same time, Ai was released.

“Mr. Alice!”

Everything was already a mess. Her reason, her emotions, even her senses were all in a jumble.

After tripping over three times in the middle of nowhere, Ai spent five seconds getting up, and finally reached Alice.

“Ah, ah, ah, …”

Alice was already dead. He threw his heart, and died.

Ai had no idea what she should do in such a situation.

She did know whether to be sad or angry, and she pondered in what seemed to be some mad calmness.

Alice was indeed dead.

But the matter was yet to be over.

“Er-erm…Mr Alice….”

Ai spoke to the corpse. She wanted it to wake up.

“Mr Alice, come on, wake up.”

Shake, shake, shake.

“…it’s useless.”

Just then, she heard a voice behind her.

Nein, the one who killed Alice, stood there.

The vibe she had had a complete change over the past few hours. Her cheerfulness had faded, and she looked worn out and tired.

“…Miss Nein.”

Ai asked, neither resenting nor hating her. She was not exactly interested in the answer.

“What do you mean…useless?”

“He’s not going to get up yet, because he’s still alive.”

“Eh?”

Look, Nein said, pointing to the ground. Alice’s heart was there.

The heart was still beating. Thump, thump, thump.

Ai’s face lit up. In hindsight, she must have been out of her mind. That was when Ai felt that Alice could be saved.

Ai rushed to the heart, hoping to put it back in place.

But,

“Kyaa!”

For some reason, the heart was so hot that she could not touch it.

“Miss Nein!? Did you do this?”

“…No. It’s all his power…look, it’s starting.”

As Nein had said, the heart was about to turn into something different. The heartbeat did not weaken, and instead grew stronger, and hotter, turning the heart red..

And then,

 

Boom! The heart burst open and a tiny sparkle came out of it.

 

The glow flew through the air at an unbelievable speed, immediately piercing Nein’s chest, and flew up into the western sky.

“Ugh…”

“Miss Nein!”

Ai rushed over to Nein, but the wound in the latter’s chest had already begun to heal.

“…It’s fine, I can still heal this much…but Ai, you need to look at Alice…his final self…”

She then pointed to the opposite sky (east) for some reason.

Ai turned around. Before she knew it, the night was almost over. The sun was beginning to rise.

There was also a silvery light rising up faster than the red sun.

And Ai saw the light for what it was.

 

The light was a silver bullet that shone bright white.

 

The bullet straddled the celestial sphere like a shooting star that will never fall.

“…Hm, it’s not pretty….”

Nein earnestly described this existence that had killed her.

“What are you saying? Please run!”

That bullet was somehow aimed at Nein.

“It’s no use…no one can escape—ack—that glow…”

Nein was shot by the bullet while talking.

“—!…W-What is that!?”

Ai looked down, and even Alice was turned into silver particles that chased after the bullet.

“That’s Alice Color’s dream form….”

Nein replied.

“It’s the ultimate bullet, created by Alice with his ability (Buzzer Beater).”

“Why is he…”

“Of course, to eliminate me—ack—”

She was shot again.

“I never thought he’d use his powers like that…Alice really ‘threw himself’ with the Buzzer Beater at the very end…now that bullet is a perpetual motion machine…it’s an accelerator that inherits all of Alice’s ability and keeps ‘throwing itself’’—uu—”

As she had said, the bullet continued to speed up.

At the same time, Nein’s regeneration was slowing down.

“… Are these bullets aimed at you?”

“To be precise, not really—kfft—”

Nein gave a teary smile.

“What Alice is really after is the ‘evil’ itself…”

“’Evil’…”

“An insignificant wish of trying to kill me definitely wouldn’t affect me. Alice went after something bigger, something big enough to take me down with it. It’s the very concept of evil—kfft—”

Nein put her hand on the cheat wound, still smiling,

“…It seems he’s really trying to save me…and kill me before I destroy the world—kfft—and turn me human…”

Nobody could tell if Nein’s smile was happy or sad.

“He’s willing to enter such a godly realm for that purpose…to kill me when I can’t die.”

That bullet would certainly kill even God.

“Miss Nein…”

In the morning glow, the shooting star raced endlessly.

“Miss Nein, do you, want to, die…?”

“No, I want to live, of course. I still want to save the world. That’s what I’m created for.”

But still,

“But still…I think I might die.”

“Then let’s run!”

“No.”

Nein firmly refused.

“Why not? You should be able to run away with your ability, right!?”

“If we run, he’ll go for the next target. Once he settles this target, he’ll go for the next…until he destroys everything he thinks is evil. And until the very end, I believe he’ll… ”

Nein pointed a finger at Ai.

“Me?”

“Yes, Ai, you’ll be killed at the very end.”

“Am I evil too?”

“No, you’re not. You are probably the furthest thing from evil to Alice…but even so, he’s going to kill you one day. That’s the power of abbreviation, or eternity…”

By saving the world with one set of values, it would end up destroying the world.

“But that’s why I can save the world.”

“Eh…ah!”

Ai remembered Alice’s last words.

“You’re going to come after me.”

“That was!”

“That’s what he meant. He really saved me…”

Ai finally realized what they had been tryin-g to achieve.

In the face of the bullet that would destroy the world, Nein’s dream finally took on meaning.

“I will stop that bullet.”

When two opposing forces contradict each other, the more powerful one wins.

“I’m going to stop it and save the world.”

But if the two were completely equal,

The two powers would neutralize, and be eliminated.

“That’s why, Ai, I’m leaving now.”

Ai tried to run towards her. But,

“No, don’t come her. I don’t know what’s coming…”

“Miss Nein…”

“Thanks, Ai, that was fun. I’m happy, and glad. You ruined my dream completely, but—”

Nein smiled while she was pierced through the heart.

 

“I was so happy to have a big sister.”

 

About that, Ai too was the same.

“Me too…”

She could not stop crying.

“I’ve been thinking…that it’s like…I have a little sister too.”

“Aaha, I should have called you…’big sis Ai’ earlier”

And Nein smiled,

“’Goodbye’!”

Then Nein smiled and ran off, not looking back.

 

+

 

At the same time, Ai too started running.

“!”

She overtook the weakened Nein and stood between West and East.

“Why? Move aside!”

No, she was not moving.

Ai knew Nein’s dream.

It was a dream she once had, a dream to make this world a brighter place, free of all cruelty.

Ai knew Alice’s pride.

A person who did not think he was noble, but was noble just by existing.

But such things,

 

“It! Doesn’t! Matter!”

 

She did not care about the world.

“Miss Nein, you idiot! Why do you have to be so suborn!?”

If she wanted to self-destruct, sure.

“Mr. Alice, you idio! Why do you never discuss things through with me!?”

It did not matter what they thought. Since these two were so stubborn, Ai too would be stubborn!”

 

“I’ll! Step! In!”

 

Ai then stood between them.

Nein said that the bullet was going to destroy the world, and that it would finally hit Ai.

Then, surely, the hardest person for that bullet to penetrate would be Ai.

Thus, Ai became the shield.

She swapped the last for first, and intercept him right there and then.

She did not care about the world. She was definitely sturdier and more stubborn than something called the world.

Besides, this would be the second time she saved Alice’s life.

No matter whether it was twice or thrice,

She was going to personally save Alice!

“I don’t care about the world!”

Ai could finally say those words without hesitation, and even proudly.

She would rather the world be destroyed than loser the two of them.

Come on.

It was a showdown.

 

Then a silver light fell from the sky.

 

 

The tiny bullet was like a giant lathe.

“Kuh! Guh!!”

The silver bullet that continued to penetrate without being blocked by anything. This time though, it was different. It seemed to crash into an invisible wall and spun before Ai’s chest. The bullet kept spinning forward and backward, scattering iridescent sparks each time.

“Mr Alice!”

In the midst it all, Ai hugged the light.

She gripped it with everything she had, as if to stop its spinning.

“———!”

She felt her body was going to fall apart. Even so, she did not loosen her grip.

“———!”

Just as she did back then in the classroom at dusk.

Ai grabbed him and would not let go.

“I’m definitely bringing you back!”

The bullet inched forward, causing a sharp pain in her chest.

“Kuuu!”

But Ai did not run away. Rather, she embraced the bullet and tried to align her heart with it.

Her bones creaked. Her soul felt like it going to break. But she would not let go.

Thump, thump.

The two heartbeats became one.

“Mr. Alice!”

 

At that moment, scattered lights poured down upon the town of Ostia.

Scar and Celica were watching from the window of their apartment.

Julie and Dee leaned out of the car to watch.

Everyone who lived and visited in the town was staring at the light.

 

The people saw a myth before their eyes.

 

At the intersection of the town and the wilderness, an iridescent bullet struggled to pierce the planet.

At the border between morning and night, a girl spread her arms to catch a shooting star.

 

It was a dream from a time when the world was surprisingly simple, a childhood dream that everyone had when they were children.

It was the terminal of a lonely dream that could only be harbored those days.

 

Eventually, the dream began to shatter quietly.

 

“Mr Alice…”

Ai stood before the bullet that was obviously slowing, and spread her hands wide.

The bullet, which had lost its ferocity, slowed down with every rotation like a bud opening, growing larger, and somewhat resembled a butterfly hatching.

The silvery glow of Alice was like a newborn Gravekeeper.

…He could be rather cool if he had just kept his mouth shut ….

With each increase in color, Alice slowed his rotation and returned to his usual self.

Ai took a step forward and embraced him as he floated.

As soon as she caught Alice, he fell as if he had remembered the concept of gravity. The weight of his body was a joy to Ai.

“Hey, Mr. Alice.”

Ai called softly. But all that came back was a sound sleep.

“Seriously…please wake up…”

Ai was peeved at it, and decided to pull a little prank on him.

She remembered this would happen whenever the story reached this part.

“────”

And then a surge of light illuminated the world.

Ai lost consciousness.

 

+

 

“……….Good morning.”

There was a very awkward face staring at her up close.

So much so that Ai almost laughed.

“…Good morning, Mr. Alice.”

Alice was grumpy and puffy, wearing a blanket he had found from somewhere. Her body was brand new, and he had his limbs.

Ai was on a lap pillow.

Waking up in his lap made Ai feel somewhat happy.

“Fufufu…is this heaven?”

“Who knows? Well, if you’re with me, it might as well be hell.”

“That’s fine too.”

“……”

Ah, he was embarrassed.

Ai was so elated that she grinned and touched Alice’s hair without permission. He had pointy black hair, and the touch felt spiky like a tropical fruit, far different from the puffy feeling before.

Even so, Ai far preferred the Alice of at this moment..

“…Oi.”

Alice said with a tone that was slightly different from reproaching. Ai obediently stopped her hands, raised her head and looked forward.

There was a white girl there.

“………Big sis…”

Nein said, slumping to the ground.

“…Can I…still call you that…?

“Of course.”

Ai wondered what she was brooding over, but it turned out to be such.

“But, I caused trouble, for big sis…”

“Don’t worry about it.”

Sliding a hand through her soft hair, Ai pulled Nein into a hug.

“… But I’m sure I’ll do the same thing again, won’t I?”

“…I wish you’d hold back a little.”

“I can’t…”

Nein said, and was on the verge of crying. Ai patted her head to console her. Well, whatever, she was willing to apologize, which made her so many times better than the boy who was pouting with a poker face.

“Let’s talk about it later. I’ve got an idea.”

“What?”

“I said let’s talk later. I’m not trying to be mean.”

Just then, they heard a voice from across the street calling, “Ai—!” She looked over, and saw Dee waving at them, sitting in the blue car that was headed here.

Alice stood up, moving with such poise that there was no need to worry at all.

“…Well, we can chat about that later…haa, I guess I didn’t solve anything after all…”

What a waste of time. He said again, and sighed hard.

He might be right.

So Ai thought, but she was upset for some reason.

So,

 

“────”

 

“Huh?”

It was amazing. She had never seen such a stupid face before.

Surely she had the same face.

“Alright! Let’s go home!”

Then Ai stood up energetically.

“Oi! Wait a minute! What did you just do?”

“I didn’t do anything—! I don’t know—!”

“Ah! I saw it! Big sis! You—”

“Wa~wa~wa~!Miss Nein, Miss Nein, Miss Nein!”

And so, the three of them returned to the town.

 

 

 

 

On their way back,

As Ai tried to climb down the crumbling stone wall, her knees went weak and she nearly fell.

“What’s wrong? Are you tired?”

Alice said, turning around.

“Ah, no…I just felt some pain in my chest. …”

“…Hmm, do you want me to hold your hand?”

“Eh? No need…”

Surely she would blush if he held her hand? After all, that one bit caused her heart to race..fast…?

……Hm?

So, Ai noticed, and gently put her hand on her own chest.

 

 

—It did not race?

 

 

That was all she could think.

“Oiiii! Let’s go!”

“Ah, yes!”

 

 

The moment she was called, Ai immediately forgot about her current discomfort and started running.

 

 

 

 


But by then, Ai’s heart had already stopped.

 

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