It was morning.
Bam! Ai slammed the door open and pushed her way into the room.
It was the second cry. She yelled as loud as a cannon, and stormed into the room like an invading army. In contrast, “Hiii…” the owner of the room murmured and curled up like a woodlouse.
Ai pried the curtains apart to bring the cold breeze in. She tossed the shirts, undergarments and the like that were scattered messily onto the floor into the laundry basket, and then,
“It’s morning! Please wake up~!”
She looked down at the woodlouse shriveled on the bed and fired off her third greeting. The woodlouse however merely wriggled and muttered, “No….”
“Please don’t say that and wake up!”
“Goodness! I’ll have to use this move then!”
Ai snatched the blanket away, and tumbling out of the blanket was Dee Ensy, wearing only a shirt. Like a hermit crab that has lost its lodgings, Dee hid her cold bare bottoms beneath the bedsheet.
It appeared she returned home late and fell asleep.
“Ugh. Please let me off…I just fell asleep…”
“I know that…but today’s not the day to sleep in.”
Ehh~why not~ Dee grumbled and tried to snuggle between the blanket and the mattress.Ai spoke up as she grabbed Dee by the latter’s buttocks, and finally heard a voice that leaked out from Dee’s covered head,
She murmured and got up in a jolt, looking over at Ai. Her eyes regained the luster of intelligence.
“Are you awake?”
“I’ve brought you a uniform, so please change.”
After that, Dee became obedient. She grumbled that it was too cold, but she did climb out of bed, washed her face, and wore her school uniform. Ai too helped a little and combed her hair at the end.
“Alright, it’s done.”
Ai patted DeeI give on the back. Dee bounced to her feet and said, “How about it? Am I pretty?” “Yes yes” Ai replied curtly.
“You’re the prettiest in the world.”
“Hmph hmph, thanks.”
Then they left the room side by side, slowly down the stairs. The morning sun shone through the window, illuminating each strand of the old flooring.
“But speaking of which, it’s refreshing to experience the reverse and be taken care of by you, Ai.”
“Now that you say that, I guess that might be the case after all.”
They walked down the steps as they chatted about what was probably the most unimportant conversation in the world. Dee, walking behind, patted Ai’s head without permission, but there probably was no special reason for it, so Ai did not say anything.
“See you later.”
They reached the third floor, and parted ways, Dee continued down to the first floor, while Ai continued down the hallway.
She knocked on the door before her.
Surprisingly, there was a response.
Krack. Alice opened the door. To Ai’s surprise, he was already awake.
“Oh my, Mr. Alice, you’re already…awake…?”
Ai’s voice trailed off as she spoke, for Alice’s outfit was completely different from what he usually wore.
He was wearing a jet-black suit that resembled obsidian.
“What? You look surprised.”
“Ah, no…I was just thinking that you’re able to dress decently too, Mr Alice.”
“…Coming from you of all people? Watch this.”
Thak. Ai rubbed her flicked forehead as she sized him up from down to up. One had to wonder where Alice obtained this suit, for he was dressed in a complete three-piece suit that was seemingly tailor-made for him.
She was initially surprised, but on a closer look, he looked decent at least. It was a lot better than his usual tattered uniform, and Ai felt it would be great if he always groomed himself this well.
“Huh? But Mr Alice…”
Then Ai noticed. While Alice looked perfect in his suit, there was something missing.
“Where’s the tie?”
Alice’s face clouded instantly. There was a missing fabric on his neck, one that should be there.
…Anyway, why did he call it ‘that guy’?
“That guy’s here…”
Saying that, Alice pulled out a piece of fabric that resembled ‘a snake with wounded intestines’.
“I just can’t defeat it…”
His expression was that of one who had ‘valiantly died in battle’.
Erm…Ai put her index finger on her chin, tilted her head, and spent three full seconds picking her choice of words, before giving up on the fourth.
“Mr. Alice, can’t you tie a tie?”
“I can tie ropes well though.”
He said proudly, but this was not what Ai was asking.
“So you can’t tie a tie?”
“Ugh!…Shut up. Why would I know a skill that’s like killing myself? I’m not suicidal.”
“This person just called all those who knows how to put on a tie suicidal.”
Looks like I have no choice now. Ai sighed, and picked up the tie.
“Please don’t move.”
She said, and wrapped her arms around his neck, much to his surprise.
“Oi oi, you’ve got to be kidding me. Isn’t it super difficult? It’s not something that can be learned after seeing it a few times, right?”
“Don’t worry. I’m perfect at rope work.”
“Ugh!…hu-huh? So you’re willingly suicidal?”
“Ahaha~, I guess it’s more like, willingly murderous?”
“Please be quiet.”
“Good that you understand.”
Then Ai tied Alice’s tie.
She reached her hands out. Alice lowered his head to help out, so Ai wrapped her arms around his neck as though she was going to hug him. The pure white cloth was tied around him. Somehow, they were closer than usual, and the atmosphere became a little gaudy, and ticklishly unbearable. They tried their best to seek a topic and continue with their broken conversation, but just could not think of anything.
At that moment, Alice said.
Ai heaved a sigh of relief and tied a knot.
“Yeah, didn’t you have to tiptoe before you could reach my head?”
That’s true, so Ai thought. That seemed to be the case when she first met Alice.
“…Come to think of it, that’s the case.”
Ai could not help but feel nostalgic.
In hindsight, she was always tiptoeing and acting tough.
She was acting tough to become a Gravekeeper.
She was acting tough to save the world.
She acted tough, pushing herself to her limit, and finally suffered setbacks.
Back then, Ai was really dejected.
She was dejected not because her dreams were destroyed; she was dejected for she was no longer dejected about those shattered dreams.
“Those clothes look better on you than they used to.”
For that reason, when Alice said that, Ai was elated, and yet a little dejected.
It was the Gravekeeper’s outfit, which she hardly wore these days.
Just as Alice had chosen the suit as his formal attire, Ai too chose the Gravekeeper outfit as her outfit for the day.
“Oh, but well, I used to think these are ‘Gravekeeper clothes’, but now these feel like ‘normal clothes’.
Ai was momentarily silent.
Her heart heated up and ached at the same time. The pain seemed to be that of how it felt when the limbs grew. Apparently, both body and mind wuld ache a little when they grow.
“…By that logic, aren’t you acting tough, Mr. Alice?”
“Why? I’m not acting tough though?”
“Oh? Really? Aren’t you acting tough, wearing clothes you can’t wear by yourself?”
“Ugh!…Amazing! I can’t come up with any excuses!”
And so Ai’s task was done .
The knot was a rather rugged Windsor knot.
After checking Alice from top to bottom, Ai was satisfied with her work. She was certain that in this appearance, Alice would not embarrass himself anywhere.
“Yes, it’s done.”
For some reason though, this boy suddenly started swinging fists, checked his footwork, and pulled out the two pistols hanging in his pocket.
“Yeah. It’s good.”
“… I see.”
Ai let out a sigh.
“Then, let’s get going, shall we?”
“Yeah. The sooner the better, I guess…it’s a happy day after all…”
Alice grinned as he said so. For some reason, the smile appeared malicious.
“It’s a wedding.”
Kekeke, Alice giggled, and Ai could only sigh.
“And it’s a funeral too.”
It was late autumn, the lakeside was blessed with beautiful autumn weather, and it was a fine day to live and die.
On that day, three weddings and three hundred funerals would be held in Ostia.