The snow that had been falling all night suddenly weakened as dawn broke, and in the morning, a reborn silver world appeared before people. The snow piles were so light that they could be blown away with a single puff, and the townscape glittered like a sugar art, dazzling.

In such situations, the ones who would not remain silent were the dogs and the boys. “Hey you” They would shrug aside the reproaches and the impressed stares of adults and girls and trample all over this little miracle. These boys were probably over 15 years old, and should have joined the ranks of the adults, yet they seemed excited at this moment for some reason.

The cooking had begun in the town.

The flames of Madame, which had been packed in a brass box to warm people up, became a small stove when the lid was opened, and began to heat up the cold food. People picked the fresh snow into the pots and boiled them into soup or tea to warm their cold bodies.

The town was filled with various sounds, from trampled snow to melted snow to adults grumblings and children cheering. The fresh snow released all the sounds that were devoured the previous night.

“Then papa, mama, I’ll look for her again today. I’ll be home by nightfall!”

In a corner of this town was a family amidst the queue headed to the black surface. The elderly parents brought along a young daughter who they gave birth to much later in their lives.

This daughter had separated from her parents and was moving westward down the main street. The sounds of the streets rained down upon this girl. Puppies barked as they slipped beneath her feet, and the food stall vendors sold hot grilled skewers as they called away.. They are delicious, cheap, and warm. Take a bite and your cheeks will fall off!

“…Gulp…if I find her, I need a souvenir, right? ”

One had to wonder what the girl was looking for as she asked anyone and everyone she met and slowly made her way down. In any case however, she did not appear to be anxious, and went over to any cheerful sounds whenever she heard it, and would excuse herself to buy something she fancied.

“♪”

She took a bite of the crispy pork skewer, and heard the juices popping between her teeth. She could hear crisp sounds of frost being shattered beneath her feet. The town of Ostia was filled with such cheerful sounds, and the girl was enjoying herself as if she were at a concert.

She heard the sound of snow falling from the roofs.

She heard the boys cheering as they pelted snowballs at each other.

She heard the sound of the sun as it floated behind the clouds.

She heard the gentle wail of Madame’s flames, along with the sound of the otherworld echoing from the hilltop..

Finally, the girl found a clue to the sound she was looking for.

“Ahh, it can’t stand the weight of the snow anymore…looks like we need to shovel it, or things will get really troublesome.”.

She arrived at a building about three blocks down the street, and I heard a ‘pompous’ speaking voice. It appeared the building could not withstand the weight of the snow, and a hole broke through the roof. Thus, they were inspecting this accident.

But to the girl, the incident itself was not important.

What bothered her more was the familiar voice in the center of the room, the one that sounded most pompous.

 

“E-Erm! You must be Miss ‘Witch of the West’!”

 

And so Tanya Swedgewood called out to Dee Ensy.

 

+

 

Ai once pondered the difference between dying and sleeping. Surely the people of the past wondered the same. After all, Death was often associated with ‘eternal sleep’, and was often associated with sleep.

It was very dangerous think about such things that could increase the risk of bedwetting, but the young Ai just could not help but ponder the subject.

She felt that from a sensory point of view, sleep and death were two totally different things. After all, how could they be the same when she never experienced sleep, while having slept every day? Just the thought of this question kept her sleepless..

But at the same time, she had an increasing feeling that both were the same.

What would it mean, for example, if she died in her sleep? Would I be able to properly notice so and realize, “Ah, I died”?

Or would she want to realize it?

If there was a Heaven or hell, she would have noticed. But at this moment, those places had arrived.

 

Thus, would she have to think for herself?

 

“……Nnn~”

With these thoughts in mind, Ai slowly sat up.

Maybe it was just her, but she felt that her body was stiffer than when she usually woke up. Her Her muscles were stiff and difficult to move.

Ostia used to be a city for the Living, and there were few plasticators, lacking in experience. They reminded her to be cautious of rigor mortis, so it seemed the symptoms were not too serious..

“Nnn…”

Ai was wearing a pair of pajamas so thin that her calves peeked out, and went to the windowside. She did not feel cold ever since she died. She grabbed the curtains and looked out.

“Woah–amazing!”

It was a world of white outside. The red bricks, gray cobblestones, and black hill were all stained white.

A puppy and a boy ran down the road before her. Seeing them run, Ai too had the urge to run.

But,

“Ah, this is bad. It’s blinding …”

According to the plasticator, the pupils expansion and contraction would not function well after death, and even the tiniest of lights would feel very stinging. From this perspective, the shiny white snow was not a kind opponent to her.

“Well, it can’t be helped.”

Ai could only give up, pull up the curtains, and return to the bed.

Knock knock. She heard two knocks on the door.

“…Ai, it’s me. Are you awake?”

It was Julie. “Yes~, come in~” she called out.

He did not enter however, and called from outside the door.

“Actually, there’s someone looking for you…what now? Do you want to meet her?”

“I have a visitor?”

Given how cautious Julie was, it probably indicated that the visitor was not exactly someone she was familiar with. Ai decided to put a stole over her pajamas, and put on cotton socks. Though she was not cold, she realized that the other party might be taken aback if she was too thinly dressed..

“Come in~”

She wondered who it was, and the door slowly opened before her. Standing behind the door was a girl dressed in puffy clothes.

She was tall for a woman and had a slightly tan skin that gave her a somewhat exotic look. Her hair was long and lightly tied up, tucked into her coat along with a scarf.

Her eyes were tightly closed and never opened.

Ai recognized her.

And she too heard Ai.

“Heh? Miss Tanya?”

Her name was Tanya Swedgewood, and she used to be the class president back at Goran Academy where Ai studied at. She was blind, and because of her Deformed ability that manifested, she was trapped in the academy. Later on, she was freed thanks to Ai, and was living with her parents. That was supposed to be the case…

“Woah. Woah. What brought you here, Miss Tanya!? It’s been a long time!”

Feeling nostalgia, Ai walked over and raised her hands for a hug while forgetting her own situation.

“…………”

“Miss Tanya?…Ah.”

Ai finally realized what was going on when she saw Tanya evade by taking a step back. The latter had her eyes closed as she looked at Ai, clearly looking skeptical, unable to hide a look of disbelief. And then,

“Tch!”

Suddenly, Tanya pursed her lips and made an exceptionally loud chirp. It was similar to the sound of a large bird asking, “What happened?”

In fact, that tongue clicking was basically asking who she was. The shrill sound waves quickly filled the room, creating reflected waves. The speed of sound indicated the temperature of the room, while the sound bouncing off the walls and furniture telegraphed their shape and distance. Tanya gauged everything like a dolphin or a bat. The results were immediate; Tanya understood everything.

“…Erm.”

Ai too knew that Tanya knew, so she smiled at Tanya. She weakly moved her cheeks, tahaha, and just laughed. It seemed a little weird that she could not show a serious face at a time like this, but she had no idea what other expression she should show..

But Tanya had yet to arrive at that point..

“Tch, tch!’

“Miss Tanya?”

“Tch! Tch!”

Tanya’s ability ‘clairvoyance’ was an exploration ability she created from her blindness. It could determine light, heatconcepts, and other information through sound. Her power was so unique and powerful that she could even measure things more accurately than people that could seeperson.

However,

“Tch! Tch! ”

“…Miss, Tanya…”

“Tch! Tch! Tch! ”

But no matter how good a person’s eyes were.

“Tch! Tch! Tch!”

No matter how sharp her ears were,

“Tch… tch…”

It would be pointless if that person did not have a heart to accept its meaning.

Tanya chirped again and again. “Tch…tch…”, like a little bird looking for its parents, she kept chirping, hoping for the answer she wanted.

“…Ai.”

“Yes.”

But she could not find it anywhere, and she chirped for a last time. It was a thing humans had created, for their senses were inferior to animals, and the name was called ‘words’.

“…You’re, really died, aren’t you…”

“Yes.”

Tanya cried. It was the only function left in her useless eyes.

“You idiot…”

“Yes.”

“You’re an idiot, Ai…”

“… yes.”

The heat of the embrace from the Living scorched Ai’s body, but she did not resist.

She received the soft, warm embrace as Tanya buried her face into Ai’s chest, crying. Ai then recalled that she used to fear her living body. To her back then, living was a fear in itself.

“I’m sorry…Miss Tanya.”

“Yes…”

“I’m sorry…”

“Yes…yes…”

There was only sadness swirling. There was no madness or delusion, but pure sadness that rightly circulated.

Tanya was only grieving for Ai.

 

+

 

“…But actually, I had a feeling this day would come …”

An hour or so later, Tanya finally stopped ‘charping’, and was gradually able to talk.

Tanya sniffled away, and the two of them snuggled together while sitting on the edge of the bed, shielding themselves from the incoming torrent of emotions. Tanya appeared to be a bigger crybaby than she used to be.

“‘Eh~~? Is that so?”

In contrast, Ai remained calm the entire time. Unlike Tanya, who was experiencing the death of a friend for the first time, Ai was used to causing others grief. Naturally, she did not wish for this, but the people really were unpredictable, and seemed adaptable to any given situation.

And in terms of being unpredictable, Tanya was no slouch either.

“Hmm, I was worried when I saw you. When I first met you, I thought, ‘Ah, this girl is dangerous’.”

“I-Is that so? I didn’t think it was that bad. …”

“How could it not? It’s really serious. You really don’t know how serious it was?

“Ehh~, really?”

“Yes, really.”

There were ten or twenty things Ai wanted to object to, but she could not defeat the crying girl, and remained silent..

“So when we parted, I cried so hard, knowing ‘I can no longer see you alive’.”

“S-So that’s what you were thinking …?”

“I thought so. That’s why I was so relieved when the letter arrived.”

After they went their separate ways six months ago, the two continued to send letters to each other. Ai would write letters once a month to friends whom she knew where they lived, like Ulla and Tanya, on her recent situation.

But at this moment, Tanya appeared.

“Speaking of which, how did you end up here?”

Ai tilted her head, wondering that it probably was not because Tanya heard of Ai’s death. This place was far from Tanya’s home, and it probably would take a month’s journey to make it here. If she had heard of an obituary, it might be a little too fast. The letter Ai sent out right after she returned home had yet to be delivered.

“Are you alone?”

“Nope, I came with papa and mama…Ai, do you know of the ‘black surface’? It’s a door that leads to the normal world from this town, and people says that it’s ‘a miracle that saves this world’…”

“Of course I do.”

“Ah…were you involved in that too, by any chance?”

“Well, sort of.”

“Wow, I knew it.”

Tanya had a conflicted look on her face as she cried and laughed.

“‘Wow, so you saved the world after all, Ai?”

“…No. I couldn’t save the world after all.”

?” After all…what do you mean?”

It appeared she had to discuss this after all.

“Miss Tanya, the truth is, I’ve given up on saving the world.”

“!”

Tanya stood up, so startled that her blinded eyes opened slightly.

“… I see.”

But for some reason, she was soon convinced before hearing the explanation, and sat back onto the bed again.

“I knew it…”

“? You knew?”

“Yes. You have that ‘sound’.”

Her clairvoyance could convert any piece of information into sound, and this ability could even grasp complicated information in a very objective manner. Surely this was the situation.

“…What kind of sound do I have now?”

Tanya used to say that Ai had ‘the sound of the rainbow that reaches the moon’. Ai did not really understand the meaning of words, but she always felt it was akin to a vague, feeble, fleeting dream that she could not reach no matter how she stretched her hand out. But at this moment,

“…I can’t hear any rainbow sound from you. I only hear ‘a shattered moon sound;”

“Moon?”

“Hmm…the Dead mostly have the shape of the night, but yours is a little different…there’s a bit of warmth, a feeling of a hurt light…”

“??? Is that so?”

“Yes, you’re really a little strange after all.”

Tanya seemed like she was sorting out her thoughts rather than explaning.

“It sounds like you’re like light in the darkness, like darkness in the light, and as soon as you’re about to be filled in by a differnet color, you’ll flip over and hide the colors the outside world has dyed you is…

“I see …”

Ai did not understand what Tanya was saying. Tanya’s world was hers alone, and Ai would probably never get to see it.

Still, that was fine.

‘It’s kind of embarrassing, isn’t it?”

“Mmm. I don’t mean it as a compliment A Dead is a Dead. I can’t believe you’re making such a sound…”

“But still, that’s fine.”

Ai put her head on Tanya’s lap and fawned around like a cat. It was not exactly important, but Tany seemed a little plump compared to before. Her thighs felt comfortable to lie on.

“Somehow, I’ve grown to like the moon.”

She did not exactly dislike it before, but starting on this day, she was fond of it..

“I see…that’s fine then. But wait…what were we talking about anyway?”

“We’re talking about the reason why your family came to this town, Miss Tanya.”

“Ah, that’s right…you know, Ai, we’re thinking of going to that new world.”

Ai jumped up nd looked at her. Her eyes met Tanya’s closed eyes..

“That’s…”

It was not that she had not thought about it. Ever since this black surface was opened, Ai had a feeling her friends might choose ‘the other side’. After all, Julie, Scar, Dee, Alice, and even herself could have made that choice.

But in Tanya’s case, the situation was a little different.

“B-but, if you go there, your ability will disappear, right?”

Beyond the black surface was a normal world where children were born, people would die—and the Deformed would lose their power.

It would be a different matter of it was someone with power stronger than the new world, a ‘Witch’ class level at that, but given the extent of Tanya’s ability, she might not have a shred of it left.

In other words, she would be blind again.

“…Are you okay with that?”

“Yes.”

But Tanya had no hesitation.

“It’s not what I wanted in the first place, I’m okay”

“Fufufu, is that so? Well, then you don’t have a choice then.”

Ai was pleased for some reason. It seemed that Tanya had grown more resolute since that time..

“I’m just worried about everyone else…”

“Speaking of which, what happened to everyone?” all?”

They were referring to the five plus two friends who ‘voluntarily graduated’ from Goran Academy together. Ai had no idea of their whereabouts as they were still moving.

“Well, it seems everyone arrived at their destinations safely. I sent them a letter before I departed for here. Ah, I heard that the academy shut down.”

“Heh?”

Ai could not help but look dumbfounded.

“C-closed down?”

“Yes. It seems they couldn’t hang on any more after that, and I heard that the school was disbanded soon after we left.”

“Ehhhh~~~…”

At that moment, she felt like they were a bunch of idiots for working so hard to escape..

“…it seems like at the start of the year, they couldn’t cover up many problems, in many ways. It’s said that no matter the town or village, they couldn’t ignore the issue of the Dead and the Deformed any more..”

“I, see…”

Fifteen years. That was the timeframe required for a child to become an adult and for the world to come full circle. Physically and mentally, everything had changed, and the common sense that struggled to exist through deception, and the collapse of the school was probably a foregone conclusion.

“So what happened to Miss Mimieta, Miss Memepo, and Miss Momorency?”

Mimi, Meme, and Momo, the three sisters, were Ai’s only remaining friends at Goran Academy. Three minds shared two bodies, and they were noble princesses. After much deliberation, they did not run away but stayed where they were.

The moment she mentioned it, Ai immediately thought of them. They were princesses, but they were very naughty, and never begrudged their predicament. They even boasted proudly “We’ll always be together no matter where we are!” and refused Ai’s invitation to escape the Academy.”

It was so nostalgic. Ai really wanted to know what they were doing.

 

The moment she thought so.

 

“Did you!” “Call for!” “Us!?”

It happened all of a sudden. BAM! The door was slammed so hard, it could have been blown off its hinges. Hyah! Tanya screamed and hugged Ai. The open door slammed into the wall beside them.

Over there was a girl standing with her arms folded proudly.

“It’s been a while, you two!” “How are you two!? “Yahoo~!”

The girl was dressed in obviously one-of-a-kind cowhide boots, a bright red dress, and a rabbit-fur coat.

Something was amiss though. They heard a girl, but there seemed to be three people talking..

“You’re….”

Ai recognized this person.

They were the Gedenberg triplets, who shared 1.5 personalities.

They were the aforementioned.

Mimi (or Meme, or Momo) entered the room with a cheerful smile on her face.

“Wh-what’s going on, everyone!?”

“Nothing, we quickly went back to our old home.” “And then everyone else viewed us differently.” “Deformed are becoming commonplace, so our family had us enter the social world”.

It appeared the rumors of much upheaval in the world was true. The triplets said that after Ai and the others escaped from the Academy, they returned to their homeland. They said they were treated much better than before, and those Deformed were really exalted.

“Hoh~, that actually happened~”

“Yes! And that’s why we got sent here…” “Something about Ai being here…” “We snuck out for a bit to say hi.”

“I didn’t realize that. …

Ai naturally smiled. These were the only friends she had always been worried about, but she had nothing to worry about after all.

“Then again,” “I can’t believe it.” “Ai’s dead~…”

“Tahaha…”

It seems she was the one causing worry instead.

“……” “……” “……”

They probably received news prior to this, for the triplets showed no expression, and di not look really sad. This might be because they had witnessed the death of a kin..

“Huh? But why are you alone?”

Suddenly realizing this, Ai mentioned this to seemingly change the topic. Back in the Academy, two of them were inseparable and did everything together, but only one was alone.

“Did you…”

Their ability was due to the death of one of three sisters, Montmorency Gedenberg, triggering an incomplete Dead revival. In other words, if another body was lost…

“Ahh, that’s not the case.” “The other body is now back at our homeland Fellmigora.”

?” What do you mean?”

“You see, we can all use two bodies, right?” “In other words, no matter how far it is, the message comes over right away.” “So even if two bodies are far from each other, we can communicate over long distances.”

“Ahh, I see.”

In other words, it appeared the sisters were used as a fine telegraph replacement, and added as part of the delegation. It seemed the country had given up on pretense and immediately started using Deformed for convenience.”

But the sisters were not to be outdone. They used them back in the same way to meet a friend while on work.”

“And then—…”

“Miladies…!”

At that moment, another noisy voice rang again.

“Miladies! Where are you?”

“Tch!” “Looks like they’ve found out already.” “A noisy one is here.”

Who? Tanya and Ai both tilted their heads, and a tragic scream pounded up the stairs,

“! There you are! Miladies! You will put me in trouble!!”

Bursting in while panting away was a short boy with a flushed face. It was a face that Ai knew well.

Third Angel, Noellfaen.

He was a nobleman of the southern empire of Fellmigora, and also Dee’s associate (?), wielding the power of light as he negotiated with the town and Dust. He first met Ai during the Madame incident, when they were adversaries. They hardly had the chance to speak to each other, so Ai knew nothing about how. But then…

“Seriously! Please spare us already! The attendants were crying!”

“Tch~!” “We just ran off for a while. What’s wrong~?” “Great uncle, you meanie~”

Ai could not imagine that a person like him would be screaming in such desperation. Noellfaen truly looked like a teacher who was at a loss dealing with his mischievous children, devoid of the image of the uppity and powerful adversary.

“Pardon us~Tanya should be here first…wait, why are the triplets and Noell here too?”

“…What’s going on?”

Saying that, Dee too arrived. It appeared she had just taken time off her busy schedule, for she was carrying papers and escorted by a bodyguard”

“Ah, Miss Dee, thank you for your help earlier ….”

“I-It-It’s the Ghost!” “It’s the Witch of the West!” “She’s really here! Hyah!”

“Ueehh, they say three women together means trouble, but you’re so noisy with just one person.”

“Ah, Miss Ai, apologies for not greeting you beforehand. My sincerest condolences for your loss. I shall drag them away, so please forgive me…”

‘Oiii~ Ai. I brought tea for the guests…we got more people now??’

It was a mess.

The space that was once empty until a few minutes ago became cramped. A large group of friends and acquaintance had gathered in the room, and she could not get off the bed..

This left Ai really delighted, and she exchanged looks with Tanya before they laughed away

 

+

 

Night fell.

Ultimately, Dee did not stay that long. She left some snacks and tea for the Dead as a souvenir, and was immediately dragged off by Maccia.

The triplets, by contrast, were much more persistent. They had to coax Noellfaen, who was nagging at them non stop, until he could not say anything more, and they stayed for luncha and even afternoon tea. Further questioning showed that they were bethorthed. Feeling shocked, Ai wondered, to which of the triplets he was engaged to?

The three sisters finally left after they had their sweets. It seemed their statement that they were fine no matter where they were rang through, and even their farewell was dry and refreshing.

The noise in the room gradually died down, leaving only Tanya behind. And soon, the noise would disappear.

“It’s time for me to go back…”

“Already?”

The midwinter sun moved quickly, and was at the far side of the lake’s surface. Tanya, growing impatient, finally spoke the words.

“You can stay overnight here…”

‘No, I can’t. Papa and mama are waiting for me, and I have to queue…”

There was a  crowd currently queuing to the new world, and an incredible disorderliness was present. Sometimes, the queue was in blocks, and sometimes, it was a normal queue. She had to report for a roll call at night, or there was no guarantee she would be skipped over..

“Then, please let me send you home.”

“Eh, but…”

“I haven’t moved in a while, and I’m kind of bored.

Ai slowly got up, and began to wear her coat and muffler.

“Alright, let’s go.”

“But are you okay?”

“Yes. Ah, but I need to tell Mr Ju—dad, since he’ll be worried.”

Ai walked out of the room and went downstairs, but could not find Julie. She asked Scar, and learned that Julie went out to greet Tanya’s parents. Adults have adult relationships. So be it, she should send Tanya back and return home with Julie..

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Yes.”

Tanya’s overprotective concern left Ai feeling like she was back to a little girl again, and she felt a little awkward. Tanya seemed to be somewhat motivated, sniffling as she led Ai, opening the door..

There was snow.

Fluffy snowflakes fluttering down from the dark sky silently filled the landscape; Ostia was completely covered in snow and ice.

Tch, Tanya chirped, and frowned.

“I hate snow.”

“Why?”

“Because snow covers everything, and only the sound of snow will be left.”

It was rare to see Tanya complain with her cheeks puffed.

“And furthermore, snow absorbs sound, and makes it hard for me to hear.”

“Hmmm? Is that how it is?”

Bubu, Bubu, the snow beneath the feet echoed. Tanya was right in that just from walking on the snow, the usual sounds seemed so distant. Hardly any cars drove by, and the shouts of the hawkers seemed soft..

If there were at least some sound in the body, this silence would be a little better. Unfortunately, nowhere would there be any voluntary sound occurring in Ai’s body.

“……”

Eventually, the snow took the sound away from both of them as well, and the conversation ended.

Bubu, Bubu, they stepped upon the snow as they walked on, and they felt that the footprints were the only proof of their existence, but soon, they would disappear, buried by new snow. This body, without heat and sound, had as faint a presence as a wilted tree.

Ai suddenly remembered that she had forgotten to breathe, and as she inhaled and exhaled, the breath did not turn white.

“Ai?”

Suddenly, Tanya called out. Her voice was filled with confusion, and she stretched her hands around as if she had truly lost her sight.

“Yes? What is it?”

“Ah… there you are.”

“? Yes, I’ve been here the entire time…what’s wrong?”

“…This is why I hate the snow.”

Tanya said something Ai did not comprehend again, and grabbed the latter. She hugged Ai hard, and then held the hand..

“…Please, say something.”

“??? I don’t mind, but…”

Tanya held Ai’s hand like a child scared of getting lost, or a mother afraid of losing her child.

It hurt a little.

“Ah, speaking of which, how long does it take to wait your turn?”

“The staff said it would be three days…but there seems to be lots of mistakes going on, so I don’t know if it’s going to be earlier or later.”

“Is that so?”

“Yeah…maybe I won’t be able to come back tomorrow.”

Ai stopped.

And she immediately started walking again.

“…I’ll miss you.”

“Yes …”

Once again, snow took away the conversation. The silence did not last long this time.

“Ai.”

“Yes?”

“Do you want to go to the New World too?”

“No, no, no.”

Perhaps Tanya did not know that the Dead could not go to the New World. It was an absolute rule set by the black surface.

“No. I know that.”

“Then why?”

But of course, Tanya knew that beforehand. Despite knowing that, she invited Ai to the new world.

“I know. I know that not too long again, the real ‘Witch’ was in this town.”

“…Miss Tanya.”

“Rumors really spread when I was on my way here after all…they say that the Witch has the power to revive the Dead.”

“……”

“I wish that you will continue to live.”

“……”

“Ai, you won’t fulfill my wish?”

“…………”

Bubu, bubu, they continued to step on snow.

Ai felt that she could feel Tanya’s feelings as they walked on. Truly the snow would take away the sound, but in contrast, it amplified the little sounds. The strength from from the hand, the white breath from the throat, they both conveyed Tanya’s feelings..

“Miss Tanya.”

“…What?”

“I’m thinking now.”

“…Yeah.”

The snow fluttered around them was like white walls, and they whispered to each other as they snuggled up together in this small room. The world was small, and nothing separated them.

“No, I’m not exactly thinking, right now, I’m, well, confirming.”

“Confirming…?”

“Yes, I’m sure I already have the answer.”

“Eh?”

Ai stopped and gently nudged forward. The destination they were headed to, the boarding area, was built before them..

“And I intend to finish this confirmation two days later. I won’t hesitate then. ”

“… I see, I don’t know what it is, but it sounds like you, Ai.”

“I’m a little flattered to hear you say that…this decision has nothing to do with my confirmation though—-Miss Tanya.”

“…What is it?”

“I won’t be going to the New World.”

Tanya took these words head-on. Her eyes were closed, her heart was opened, and she took on Ai’s words with this one and only power in this world.

“No matter what happens, I’m going to stay in this world.”

“…I see.”

“Yes.”

Whether Ai lived or died, this decision would not change, for she so loved this world.

“…Yes.”

Since Tanya said so, it meant that she had some decent determination for this. Ai did not say anything more, for the two of them came to undertand each other well.

“Then, it can’t be helped…”

“Yes.”

“…Seriously, I’m really a little jealous of the world that Ai loves so much.”

“You’re part of this world too, Miss Tanya.”

“…But soon, I won’t be.”

“Yes, so I would like you to stay here if possible, Miss Tanya.”

Ai says with a mischievous look on her face.

“Aww…the tables are turned.”

“Fufufun, so your answer is??”

“…Uu, I’m sorry. Did I say something harsh?”

“Not at all. I’m very happy.”

There was no contradiction between wanting to be with them and not being able to be with them.

No matter how much she cared about Ai or how much she wanted to be with Ai, Tanya never made the wrong decision. She had decided, just as the triplets had done, never to be separated from her parents again.

Ai had no qualms about that mindset.

Ai hugged Tanya from the front. The thick clothes did not convey heat, and in contrast, did not freeze Tanya.

“Farewell. Miss Tanya, I’m glad to meet you one last time.”

“…yes, I’m glad to meet you two…

Various goodbyes were coming their way. Life and death, this place and that, today and tomorrow. The sadness, the grief, slowly took shape and flowed out from behind Tanya’s blinded eyes.

“”Bye bye Ai, please take care…”

“Yes…you too, Miss Tanya…”

So they said, but they did not separate. They merely let their hearts be linked while remaining quiet under this silent falling snow..

They did not let go of their embrace until the arrival of their parents.

 

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