On Monday, God created the world.
On Tuesday, God distinguished the order and chaos.
On Wednesday, God honed the numerical values.
On Thursday, God allowed the Time to flow.
On Friday, God overlooked every corner of the world.
On Saturday, God rested.
And so, on Sunday, God abandoned the world.
But those who loved fables were beaten to the ground, still thinking about Heaven.
They were tired of the life caused by fatal diseases, and had wishes and wishes and wishes.
But when fulfilled, there was no ‘me’.
People tilted their heads at the sky.
They could no longer move forth, nor look back.
And there was no reason to move.
For ‘my’ wish.
Was fulfilled with a ‘snap’.
And thus, the balance between life and death would be restored, and the glory days would come and go.
When did the dream become ‘I’, and when did ‘I’ become the dream.
Everyone became a dream, and ‘I’ disappeared and became a God.
But the end of the celestial sphere remained far away, and the newborn gods wept. ‘I didn’t want to be like that,’ they wept and sang of their love.
Surely one day, God and Man shall part again.
Life and death shall be separated, dreams and people shall be separated, and the world will go past Monday.
Thus, the time Man (Ai) and God (Alice) could remain together would be no more than a thousand years.
In the end, nothing worrisome happened and the third day passed peacefully. Ai and Tanya held hands as they toured an entire row of stalls. In the afternoon, they visited Dee and the triplets with snacks. Ai had to visit Ulla in particular, as there would be quite a commotion if she visited Ai instead. The Dead suburb that was built overnight on the outskirts was surprisingly crowded with people, and even the Living, visiting with trepidation, were mesmerized by the masks and perfumes.
After returning home, Ai again wrote letters. This time, she wrote everything that happened recently and directed them to the addresses of the other classmates she heard from Tanya..
Time flew by.
It was night.
It had been a long while since Ai was alone, so she decided to sort out her luggage. There was a mysterious piece of paper she received from someone in Ortus, writing materials from Goran Academy, owl accessories and penguin containers from the World Tower and various other places, and a few other things. She removed these precious junk and dusted them off.
Among them, Ai found several items that were really important. A fox mask given to her by the Lion, a makeup kit from Tanya and her friends, a snow globe given to her by Dee,
And Anna’s perfume.
“…It’s very nostalgic.”
This perfume was contained in a glass vial, and was used by Anna, her foster mother, one of the few mementos that Ai took along from the village.
The contents of the perfume had hardly diminished. Ai was reluctant to use it, and it had a strong smell as it was made for the Dead, so she had rarely used it until now.
Drip drip, Ai tilted the bottle silently. The fragrant drop landed on the back of her hand, spread out thinly, and was released into the air.
The memories themselves rushed through her nostrils.
‘That moment’ returned like a storm. The last night she stayed in that village, the manner in which she cried like a fool, packing her luggage, the night where she gave up and stuffed herself with sweets, the night she put on perfume for the first time.
“…Mama Anna. I’m sorry. You’re right, this smells good. …”
Bowing her head in the direction of Heaven, Ai apologized politely. In her imagination, Anna and Yoki at her, goodness you. The stinging scent of soap and lemonade was pleasant to Dead’s nose.
“…Maybe I should start putting on makeup and stuff.’
Ai capped it back, and put it away in the box, letting out a melancholic sigh. She had to learn how to put on makeup, not as a fashion statement, but as a matter of etiquette. Perhaps she should go back to Ortus and ask Lion to make a new mask for her.
She then unpacked the backpack Julie had been keeping care for. In hindsight, this backpack was a very important item that she had used since the beginning of their trip. The right button was loose and the corner of the lid was torn.
Ai took out the synthetic yarn she bought at lunchtime and knitted the backpack. She added three reels to thicken the bag, and and strengthened it with oil and wax.
Next, the straw hat. It was dried and tattered after two winters. It was a pity, but Ai decided to throw it away. It was woven during spring and to be discarded in winter, so she had no choice..
These were the Gravekeeper’s clothes. They were tailored to fit her recently…but she probably would not wear it again. Ai I sprinkled camphor on it and folded it carefully.
“…I really feel nostalgic the more I clear them. ”
Ai held up the shovel to reflect the light of the lamp. There was a blurry reflection of herself on the dull bent surface, It was a crying and smiling face.
In the end, there was only one Dead buried with this shovel.
Kizuna Astin, her father who was with her for only four days, a kind man who was unwilling to stay with her.
Ai took out a rag and some polishing powder, and took extra care of the shovel. She cleaned off the parched mud and polished the blade nice and shiny.
She then applied oil to it, , wrapped it in paper, and put them deep in the closet with the clothes.
“… Thank you so much for all you have done for me. Good night.”
Bam, she shut the closet, and the tools reflected light for the last time.
She felt a little tired.
Deciding to take the rest of the day off, Ai put the tools away. She poured the washing water out from the window and closed the shutters. She went to bed and put a cup over Madame’s flame.
Within her blanket, she waited for the sleepiness to come. Recently, she felt unbearable as she had been forced to think about such bitter things at this time of the night, but on this day, she could finally get some peaceful sleep. Such was the power of having decided on something.
Starting tomorrow, she would probably be very busy again with surgeries and other things. However, she was glad that she could make this decision. The deadline of three days she had set was correct after all. While it was important to take the time to deliberate, if it got too long, she would be caught in a deadlock.
No, there was one thing Ai had yet to do.
“Mr Alice and Miss Nein didn’t return after all…”
She had assumed she would not get angry, but the moment she said so, her voice was unexpectedly resentful. Apparently, she was really in a bad mood.
“…Seriously, what were they doing?”
She said that, but she knew what they were up to. Most likely, theywere doing some really, really, really stupid stuff.
Three days. The time limit of ‘three days’ was actually meant for them. Her intention was for them to return by then.
But it was fine. Since they would not return, Ai knew their intentions, and she would take the initiative to look for them..
“Fuaa…well, whatever. We’ll talk about all these, tomorrow…
The sleepiness finally arrived, and Ai wriggled under the blanket. She stopped her fake breathing and sank into the depths of death.
And it happened right at that moment.
Kon. She heard that sound agao. Ai got out of bed and approached the window. Kon. There was a muffled sound banging on the lowered shutters. Kon.
Ai was struck by a premonition.
The sound was probably caused by a pebble, hitting the same exact spot.
What should she do now? Ai’s face naturally curled into a smile. It was the smile of a cat that had seen its prey. She approached the window and leaned her face against it. Perhaps she should just ignore it until morning.
The moment she had this thought, the sound got louder. It seemed the stones used were getting larger. Goodness, this violent guy. Immediately after that thought, the sound becomes louder. It seems to be turning into a big stone step by step. What a violent man. What will you do if the window breaks?
“…Well, I got no choice now, right?”
She opened the curtains, unlocked the glass windows, and opened them outwards.
The first thing she saw was the moon. The snow seemed to have stopped before midnight, and there was not a cloud in the sky. Looking down, the town below was a world of shadows. Flames and snow swayed away/
Alice was standing at that corner.
He was next to the tree right before a house. He was just about to throw a pebble, and his raised arm was lowered awkwardly as he raised his eyebrows. “You could have hurried out earlier.” He murmured with his lips.
Ai, on the other hand, simply closed the window without saying a word. The pebbles seemingly panicked as they started flying over. Ai opened the window slightly and had a peek downstairs, only to see a head three stories below her, bobbing up and down.
‘Next time, if you make such a face again, I’m slamming the door on you’, Ai gave such a look, and forgave him.
Alice heaved a sigh of relief and suddenly grabbed onto the wall. Eh? Before Ai could react, he he used the gaps in the stone and the gutter as footholds and quickly cleared the height of the building, three stories high.
“Hey! Wait, what are you thinking?”
“Just get me in there.”
“Ah goodness! You’re really an idiot, Mr Alice!”
“I know that.”
And with the midwinter cold wave blowing in, Alice climbed into the room. The curtains fluttered and a slight powdery snow fluttered.
Ai closed the window angrily. There was no courtesy in Alice’s words at all, and she felt like an idiot for being so happy just a moment ago.
“Why didn’t you just come in normally?”
“…I can’t…if I get caught by the old man, I’ll be in trouble.”
“Then you should have taken the scolding there. Don’t you know how worried everyone was about you?”
Both of them knew the place so well that they could walk through the dark room like deep sea fish. Ai sat on the edge of the bed, and Alice dropped his bags and sat down in a chair. There was no light. The full moon was enough.
Looking up at him from the corner of the room, Ai saw that he was very battered. He was wearing a shirt and pants that he obtained from somewhere, wearing a thin coat. He was also dressed like a saint from a picture book, carrying a large bag.
“What’s with the baggage? Sp,e present for me by any chance?”
“…No way…no, actually, I did spend three whole days for this, so I can’t say this isn’t the case… ”
“Woah, woah. Can I open it?”
‘Wait, so it’s not like that. … Hey! Don’t touch me without permission! Sit down!”
“Wait, I told you that’s not it…oi! Don’t touch! Sit down.”
Yes! Ai answered firmly, and sat back down right when she was about to stand upright. If she had a tail, she would have been shaking it. The last time Alice bought a present for her was on her birthday.
Ai naturally smiled. To her, having such a conversation with him was very precious, and valuable.
Speaking of presents, this conversation was already one. She was elated just thinking about what he wanted to say next, and what he had intended to give her. After all, it had been three days since they had met, and they were meeting under the full moon, without telling anyone.
Hence, Ai was silent. She acted like a maiden pretending not to know about the gift hidden in her date’s pocket, smiled and waited for the words.
“I’m here today to talk to you…”
Alice looked very serious. He tried several times to speak up, but he ended up stammering every time, worried about Ai’s reaction. Ai really treasured such a reaction, and was delighted as she thought about what he would say (the present)..
“……You really are dead, aren’t you?”
That one line left Ai grumpy immediately.
The smile stiffened into something completely different. The imaginary tail quickly disappeared and went someplace else. Ai crossed his legs and sighed.
“…Haha, I really don’t have the right to say this…”
Alice, however, did not seem to notice at all, as his voice sounded as enthusiastic as an actor who has just finished a performance without being able to capture the excitement of the audience.
“…But it’s not too late! Ai, you can come back to life…”
“Stop. Stop, Mr. Alice.”
Ai gave a gaudy , taps his forehead with a thump, and tells the stage manager to give him some acting instruction.
“…Is that what you want to talk to me about??’
“? yeah. What else?”
Amazingly, the actor had no idea what was the mistake he had committed. Ai let out a long sigh, having assumed that she had received a present, only to receive a trash can instead.
“Mr Alice, you really have such a habit, don’t you?”
“Hey, I’m being serious.””
“Oh my, you’re making it sound like I’m not.”
Ai would have liked to have had a more meaningful conversation. No choice but to go with the flow though.
“Have you been busy about this over the past three days?”
Predictably, Alice must have been running around the whole time looking for a way to save herself. It was so predictable to Ai, that she was not amused at all.
“After all, it seemed that I killed you…”
His face winced in pain. Ai did not want him to show such a face, and it might sound blunt, but she felt it was a little troublesome..
But, well, there was no other way to ask, so Ai had no choice but to lead him on.
“I don’t really know what’s going on around here, but can you tell me?”
“…How far back do you remember?”
“Up to the point where the three of us were coming home in the morning.”
Even till this day, Ai could remember. It was a day when autumn was about to end. They woke up at the border of the town, and returned together.
“It happened after that. You got in the car and started to sleep. … and never woke up.”
On Julie’s drive home, someone noticed something was off about Ai’s breathing, and she was immediately taken to the town council infirmary. But by then, Ai’s heart had long since stopped.
“Why did that happen? Was it a heart attack or something?”
“You idiot! How could that be possible?
Listen seriously! Alice lashed out, but Ai was no longer interested in the cause of death itself, nor did she want to hold anyone else responsible for it. If Alice said that he was the one who killed her, she would simply leave the matter as it was.had killed him, it would have been fine.
“Didn’t you try to block me when I turned into a bullet…”
“The final blow. The magic bullet (Alice).
That day, in order to defeat the Witch’s daughter, he turned even his own heart into a bullet and fired it. Thus, his heart was shot out ‘as a bullet for himself’ and was targeted at the Witch’s daughter.
However, at that time, Nein had already eroded the law of the world and became an existence equivalent to reason. Thus, Alice’s target grew and flew towards the concept of ‘evil’. He could not counter Nein if he did not target such a great goal.
But it was also a dangerous act. ‘Evil’ and ‘people’ were inherently inseparable. Soon after, his bullet would evolve to the limit and shoot down even the tiniest of evil, and surely would kill even the kindest of people in this world. Even Ai would be no exception. After all, ‘good’ and ‘evil’ were just two sides of the same coin.
It is impossible to target evil only, but the magic bullet still primed itself at it. It was similar to Nein Saikavathi’s act of ‘destroying the world while trying to save it’.
The two dreamed of defeating an ‘evil’ that did not exist and ‘saving’ a world that had already been saved. And because of that, they wanted to destroy the world.
But they met. The Witch was born in a world without evil, and the Magic Bullet was born in a world without threat.
Therefore, the two of them finally came to be able to save the world. There was ‘evil’ and ‘those that would destroy’. Once both clashed with each other, they would disappear, and the ‘world would be saved’..
But there was a third person who hated that outcome..
Ai Astin, who loved them both, was there.
She became a shield, exposing herself before the silver bullet. She received Alice with her body, which was deemed the ‘the furthest thing from evil’.
“—But the story’s not going to end that nicely. It’s just that the last thing that was supposed to happen came first.”
That was the view that would happen after Alice had destroyed all humanity.
After shooting down everything, Alice would revert back to being human, alone. In a world without humans, there would no longer be good and evil.
Alice’s index finger reached out and pointed to Ai’s left breast. There, wrapped in pajamas, two buttons were undone, revealing a little bosom.
Thank goodness the Dead would not blush. Ai quickly covered her bosom.
“…Thanks for telling me. But please don’t stare at me too much. It’s rude.”
“You idiot. Like anyone’s going to look at such an unimportant thing.”
“… Unimportant …”
“That’s not it. I’m talking about further inside.”
Ai again looked at where the finger was pointed at, and found it was aimed precisely at her heart.
“…You didn’t hear from the doctor? My bullet is there now.”
Ai hurriedly looked into her chest and touched it with her right hand. There was no such wound, but her finger clearly felt something amiss..
“Do you understand now?…The one who killed you, was me…”
“So…that’s how it was”
An awkward silence filled the room. Murderer and victim. Living and Dead. There was an unprecedented divide between them, binding whatever he wanted to say. Alice’s expression was that of a sinner who wanted redemption.
“Well, that’s fine.”
“I forgive you, not like I can do anything about it now.”
“…Oi. I’m not joking. I’ll get angry if you don’t take this seriously.”
“That’s my line, The moment I wanted to see you, you were gone for three whole days, and when you finally showed up, you’re angry at me!? It would be one thing if you had asked me before doing all that. Then you’d understand how I feel in a few words.”
“… no, but that’s.”
What can I say, Ai could not help but show a wry smile. Alice was still unable to understand her feelings, and hastily dragged over the bag that was by his side..
“…Sorry that I didn’t come to see you…but! What else could I do to get you to revive!? ”
“I told you that you should have looked for me. ”
“Even if I did, you’d have rejected it!”
Ai, who had been caught off guard by what she thought was an unfolding stupid conversation, started to listen intently. Alice smiled.
“…What, you thought I didn’t know you? Don’t take me for an idiot. I know what you’re thinking. It’s not about you. It’s about what I want.”
“My my, how barbaric of you. I prefer you like this though, Mr Alice.”
Conversations should have some elements of surprise to be fun. Ai smiled once again and sat uprigt.
Alice hung his head weakly as he seemingly cupped her knees.
“At least, please revive…Ai.”
“Hmm, what shall I do?”
“Let me pay for my sins.”
“Oh, that’s no good. Then I don’t want to.”
Alice really had been saying such annoying stuff. If he really wanted to atone for his sins, he just needed to buy a flower, anyone would do. Ai did not wish for him to pick off some flower off a precipice.
“…I’lll definitely revive you.”
“I’m fine either way.”
Ai did not really want to stay dead or revive. He just did not want to rely on powers or miracles to determine her own destiny (rule).
For she was certain this was the right way to walk the path of eternity.
Thus, she was willing to be persuaded if it was acceptable..
“…Goodness, you really are.”
For the first time today, Alice smiled.
“It’s way easier for me if you go all ‘I don’t want to’, but you’re saying ‘I’ll listen if you can convince me’, and you’re so stubborn. That’s terrible of you.”
“I don’t think I’ll get persuaded though.”
“Don’t regret those words…alrighty.”
The saddlebag was placed before her. This was definitely Alice’s secret weapon. It was big enough to hold at least one child.
…? Somewhat, this luggage was….
Alice then turned the bag over. The content rolled out in a recoil, rolling under Ai’s feet and facing the sky.
It was Nein Saikavathi, completely bound ang gagged.
Ai uttered in a dumbfounded tone, noting the condition rather than the person. The young girl was tied up with rough ropes on her arms and legs, and she was bound so tightly that it felt like her joints were locked together. Also, her eyes and ears were covered , and her mouth was stuffed with cloth.
“I’ve been chasing her over the past three days…”
Alice rubbed his shoulders hard.
Ai wondered why Alice was giving off a ‘see, I really worked hard at something, right? vibe.
“In the meantime, would you mind jumping out the window there?”
“…You really don’t know the reason…?”
After feeling very disappointed, Ai released Nein’s restraints anyway. She cut the rope, and removed the earplugs and blindfold.
‘Oh dear, you poor thing. It must have been hard for you to be chased for three days and three nights by such a brute… ruining your beautiful skin.”
Rubbing the mercilessly carved marks of the rope, Ai removed the mouth gag. But,
“Hiii! Nooooo!! ”
Nein fled, fearing her benefactor, She retreated back over the distance she was rolled, and hid behind Alice.
“I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry…”
“…What’s going on? I’m so shocked.”
Covering her ears and closing her eyes, Nein hid behind Alice as if to escape something scary.
But of course, Alice was not going to stand on Nein’s side, as he messily grabbed her by the hair and dragged her out.
“Hey, Mr. Alice!”
“Look, Witch of Omnipotence! Look at what you and I have done!”
“I don’t wanna! I don’t want to see her! I can’t see her!! Nooooo!!!”
“If you don’t like it, revive her! bring him back to life! ‘Fail’ for your sins!”
Ai leaped with explosive force, and with her first step, she cleared the room and grabbed Alice’s arm hard. It appeared that even as a Dead, her power as a Gravekeeper was still effect. Ai practically dislocated his arm.
However, Alice overcame Ai’s strength with his arm strength alone. The ‘final blow’ was the power of probability manipulation he had shown in the previous battle. Even at this moment, he was still using this supposedly limited ability.
Ai finally understood the reason why she felt amiss. Alice never returned from that relalm, and thus, he had such hellish eyes.
“I told you, didn’t I? I don’t care what you think. Come on Witch’s daughter, bring Ai back to life quick…”
“No! I don’t wannnnaaa!”
“Oi, don’t lie, brat. Tell us what you really think.”
Fending off Ai with his left hand and Nein with his right, Alice stared at the Witch with his fiery eyes.
“You want to revive Ai too, right?”
“I know. That’s why you didn’t want to see her. Because if you see her, you’ll ‘fail’ …or you’ll know you’re not human…”
“No…no…that’s not it!!!”
“Of course it is.”
Alice sneered like a villiam. He spat out venom that cornered the Witch.
“It’s simple, being able to ‘understand’ is already the beginning of corruption.”
“Now ‘fail’ and bring Ai Astin back to life!”
And Ai snapped.
She threw a bedsheet at Alice, robbing his vision, and sent a sweeping kick at him, sending his weight flying.
Ai then launched a kick toward the center of gravity that had nowhere to escape to.
Alice shot out like a fireworks display. This was the first time Ai saw a human body bouncing off the wall like a ball.
Oddly enough, just as Ai said, the ball finally broke the glass window and flew outside.
Ai panted even though she had no need to, but it was to be expected after seeing such an inhumane act from Alice. Ai even felt that her heart that was supposed to stop had started again. That was how angry she was at his behavior.
“Ai! I just heard something…”
A large man barged into the room, and Ai immediately barked an order.
“There’s the dumbest guy in the world under the window there! Yes! There’s one amazingly stupid idiot! Please get him back here! ”
Julie listened obediently even though he probably had a lot of questions on his mind. Ai had the urge to go downstairs and lecture him, but compared to this trivial matter, there was something more important she had to do.
“Miss Nein, it’s all right now. The idiot has gone away. …”
“…I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry…”
Again with this reaction. Ai had enough. Her heart was shattered.
“Calm down. Don’t worry, I won’t do anything.”
“No! Don’t come here, Ai! Get away from me!”
The little hands where the rope marks remained clear slapped aside Ai. Her feet, as thin as dead branches, clawed at the floor as she scurried away.
Ai held her body tightly, but determined not to let go as she hugged Nein. The child was hot like a flame.
Surely Nein felt the exact opposite coldness, for she showed disgust on her face, and immediately realized this about himself as she got rid of this expression.
Ai felt that anyone would be shocked and disgusted by touching a dead body, and felt that it was a natural reason. She did not think Nein truly meant it..
However, a child would not think of such logic, and this ended up hurting her. The look of fear deepened, and despair washed over her tear-stained cheeks.
Nein shouted again. All the stalling and deception crumbled and turned into a scream.
“I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!”
“Goodness, what have you been apologizing for all this time?”
“I’m sorry! A! I’m sorry for killing you! ”
“Oh, that’s…really not an easy thing to apologize for.”
Ai was bemused by this. At the same time, she knew why Nein was struggling.
In other words, they both believed that they were the ones who caused Ai Astin’s death. It was stupid.
“If only I had…given up on my dream…none of this would have happened.”
“Please don’t mind. It’s not something anyone could have dealt with.”
“…It’s not that we can’t deal with it.”
A voice came from behind. It seemed they came upstairs.
“Seriously! Can you not say such things? Mr—Alice?”
Have you reflected on your actions!? Ai was about to lash out at him, but she turned around to see Alice’s red and swollen face, and he looked strangely unhappy.
“What happened to your face?”
“…The old man hit me?”
“…Because I stayed out.”
Ai could not help but burst out laughing. On a closer look, there was a familiar slap mark on the red swollen cheek.
As to be expected of dad. This really is something suited to be settled with a slap.
“…Oi. No laughing.”
“I’m sorry. Fufufu. Mr Alice, you’re right. Dad’s quite a nuisance.”
That Julie had already gone to sleep. Ai could not thank him enough for his thoughtfulness.
Nein buried her face into Ai’s clutches, crying like a baby. No, it was not a figurative speech. She was indeed still a newborn child.
“I’m sorry…I’m sorry…”
She was just a child with tremendous power.
“…Ai, I need your help.”
Another strange term was uttered. Why was she supposed to help him here?
“Yeah, so that she can ‘fail’ ….”
“You keep saying that, but what is this ‘failure’ you speak of?”
“…Didn’t you experience it before? That ‘failure’”
She remembered. The ‘failure’ they could refer to was that incident alone..
The classroom at dusk. A collapsing world.
That was where Ai ‘failed’.
“…Just as when you revived me, I’ll get her to revive you…”
“Ahh, so that’s what you mean by ‘fail’?”
It was the biggest mistake Ai made, a mistake that shattered her dream of saving the world.
Ai, who had vowed to make everyone’s wishes come true, had trampled on Alice’s wish to ‘disappear’, and revived him on her own accord.
Of course, at this moment, Ai willingly embraced the failure. Despite that, she was utterly defeated given the perspective of her fulfilling her dreams.
“You probably don’t wish to be revived, right…”
“Well that’s right.”
“So if I force a revival, this one here will be ‘selfish’…”
A ragged right hand grabbed the shoulder, and a Ghost whisper melted the Witch’s brain.
“Hey, Witch’s daughter. Don’t you regret it?”
Once again, the flames of obsession flare.
“Aren’t you really sorry? Don’t you regret so much that you want to die? —But don’t worry. You have the power to make amends.”
“But-but it’s …”
“Betraying your dreams? That’s all right, though, isn’t it?”
He grab her slumped chin and forces her to look at Ai’s face.
“You said it before, didn’t you? Even if you ‘fail’, you don’t care, and you can start over again. Then all the more you should use this chance to ‘fail’.. ”
Nein’s face shook with hesitation; Alice’s face showed a fiendish grin.
“Now, do it, ‘Fail’. ‘Fail’ at everything and be happy…”
“Wait, hey, both of you, stop! Stop! ”
“…Seriously, what’s with you? ”
“That’s my line.”
Alice shot a hostile look towards Ai as though she was a referee. Ai in turn glared back with the same face.
“What are you doing, Mr. Alice? I don’t like this.”
“I thought you wanted her to fail too!”
“I did, but …ah seriously! Mr. Alice, please go out. Out. Out.”
“What? I just …”
Chased away like a dog, Alice went to the corner of the room.
“Yes, yes, I won’t ask anything now.”
Ai let Nein cry on her belly without asking any questions, as though she was hiding a bird in her clutches. She gently stroked the marks of the rope and combed her damaged hair. She wanted a brush.
“Can you grab that brush over there?”
“…Hey. Is that something I have to do now?”
Alice unwillingly handed over the brush. Ai received it and combed Nein’s hair. Each of them became neat and tidy upon being combed through. A brush or two, and Nein’s hair quickly regained its former richness.
“Alright now, Miss Nein, look up.”
“But your nose must be stuffy and painful, right?”
“There you go.”
Ai wiped away Nein’s tears and let her blow her nose, and was reminded of many times. She recalled how her hair was braided in this room, how they slept together on the same bed. She loked the way the hair looked.
“Heree, it’s done.” ”
Ai turned the mirror towards her at an angle where the moonlight could be reflected.. The girl, still a little red around the eyes, had her hair tied in a bun.
“Have you calmed down, Miss Nein?”
It appeared this was not the case, for Nein cried again. However, her tears were a little different from before, and they were clear and pure.
“Good girl good girl.”
It appeared the tears were not going to stop for a while as Ai just kept petting her head.
…Even then. Ai thought.
Alice’s hell-colored eyes were waving flames.
Nein’s face was teary, for she was terrified of her own power.
In contrast to how severe they were, Ai’s normaly was a stark contrast to them, and she wondered where the difference came from. Of the murderers and the murdered, the latter would have suffered more, yet she was so normal, and could still care for others. In contrast, Nein and Alice had become as sharp as a plague.
She was not going to escape with the answer of ‘because everyone’s different’. It was to be expected, so it was simply a matter of fate and time.
Ai had Julie.
Ai had Julie and Scar.
She had Celica, Dee, and Tanya. The triplets, Ulla and Kiriko.
It was because of all of them that she was able to stay so calm. She had no shred of doubt in her mind.
Because they wre around, Ai could cry. Because everyone’s face shed tears for her, whose body was parched after death..
Because they laughed, Ai could smile. Because her friends rejoiced and taught her that even at the end of death, one could smile.
If she had such people in her life to begin with, perhaps she would not have harbored a dream. Most dreams were made at the expense of loneliness.
Those two were the result of that extreme.
The magic bullet ‘Alice’
The Witch ‘Nein’
Ai stared at the lonely back before her and the shadow in the darkness, and felt her heart was on the verge of tearing apart..
How lonely would people be if they had dreams that they could not share with anyone? How tragic were those who save the world, only to be stoned thereafter?
That was what frustrated Ai. As a part of the world that made these two lonely, She was increasingly filled with anger.
“Yes. What is it?”
Finally, perhaps calming down a bit, Nein bit her lip, lifted her head, and said,
“Yes, yes, I’ll listen to anything.”
“…Please, give me a wish…”
“Yes.…yes! That’s it”
Fire filled those eyes.
“Please! Please ask something of me! Please, like ‘revive’ me! ”
The Witch begged. She probably knew the answer by now, but she still sparkled with her last hope.
“When that happens! I won’t have to fail!”
Nein hugged Ai’s lap like a a child begging for her parents to buy something, beaming away as she hugged Ai’s legs, beaming away. She felt like as long as she did not look at the dire reality, her wish would come true.
“Yes! Let’s do that! That’s all you need to wish, Ai! I can remain perfect then! I can save the world!”
“Please! Think of it as saving me! Yes? Okay?”
Ai hugged Nein’s shoulders. The coldness of her body stopped Nein, right when her words could not.
“…before you do that, may I ask you one thing?”
“! A wish, right? Yes! Of course! I’ll make it all happen!”
Nein was elated with the unexpected result. Her smile hurt Ai.
“I’ll ask then.”
“You won’t call me ‘big sis’?”
It was the last promise they made.
(Can I call you big sis?)
Nein asked bashfully when Ai woke up In the wilderness.
The Witch’s Daughter, Nein Saikavathi.
The girl who had inherited everything from the Omnipotent Witch and was imbued with god-like powers was frozen before that question.
“Are you willing to?”
“…Will you make a wish if I call you that? ”
“No. It has nothing to do with that. It just makes me happy. Miss Nein, you never called me that before, even though I told you so.”
“Woah. Good girl. Thank you.”
Ai kept clapping away, but Nein’s face grew darker.
Ai actually did not know why those words pained Nein so much. She simply missed not being called that..
“Yes. Sounds good.”
“yes yes. Wonderful.”
“Big sis…big sis…big sis…”
Tears began to trickle down again.
“What’s wrong?” Does it hurt anywhere?”
“…I…never had a big sister…”
“Ah, that’s terrible…”
“I…never had …any friendssss!”
“I…just need a dream…that’s all …!”
There was an emotion smoldering inside Nein that could destroy the world three times over. But none of that power leaked outward, only raging within her.
The young God is crying.
“Why did you have to enter my heart!”
A frail person would cry when things would not go his way.
“All I have is a dream! If only I could save the world! I don’t need any big sister! I don’t need any friends! Stay out of my heart!”
Ai did not meant to bully her, nor did she mean to hurt her.
Still, Ai had to say this.
“I don’t intend for you to revive me.”
At that moment.
“I’m sorry, Miss Nein…”
“Noooo! Donnn’’’ttt! I don’t want you to diiiieee!”
“I’m really…sorry …”
Standing between God and Man, Nein was about to be torn in half. Nein as a human desperately wanted Ai to come back to life, and yet Nein as God could not accept the fact that Ai did not want a wish.
“I’m sorry, Miss Nein…”
Ai embraced her with a body that no longer warmed her and stroked her cheeks, even though she was the very cause of her grief.
‘Nooo nooooo! Waaahhhh!! ”
Nein cried. The manner in which she grabbed Ai and cried was akin to that of a little sister who had lost her older sister.
“I’m sorry, Miss Nein…”
Ai could only apologize. Their wishes had completely missed each other, and no matter how they tried to get close, they would never intersect.
“Now then, what do you want to do?”
The magic bullet seized this chance to whisper. He put his hand on Nein’s shoulder, and lied to her,
Only this time, Ai did not stop him. She was no longer qualified to do so.
“Your last hope is gone…now all you can do is ‘fail’.”
“Ah, yes. Give up on saving the world, ignore Ai’s wishes, and do what you want.”
“What? Didn’t you say so before? You said that you can always start over as many times as you fail…so what’s wrong with that? Even if you fail, even if you become happy, there’s nothing wrong with that…’… even if you fail, so why not? It’s okay if you fail here and be happy …another ‘Nein Saikavathi’ can do this ‘success’…”
“Another, me …”
Nein stumbled to her feet alone. She heard the devil’s sweet whisper, and got up between dreams and reality.
Alice gently budged her back.
But Ai did nothing. She did not stop them, and did not encourage them. She silently waited for Nein to make her decision.
‘It’s okay…to fail…, it’s okay for me…to be happy….”
The final whisper entered Nein’s heart, and she basically cried and smiled with a human expression.
Eventually, Nein shook her head.
“”No…even so…I don’t want… I can’t give up my dream,… even if big sis dies…even if I can’t revive her…I can’t give up on this…”
“You’ll never be happy!”
The die was cast. She made the decision never to return.
“‘Still, I want the world!”
Teary, battered all over, her heart torn to shreds, Nein still did not give up her dream.
“I don’t care how painful it is, how much I crash! I’m going to save the world!”
“What are you saying—”
“I’m willing to destroy the world for the sake of sake it!”
Alice was slackjawed. Nein was fine with destroying the world to save it. He was speechless in the face of this absurdly contradictory statement.
“Even though I killed Ai! Even though mama died! I still want the world! I want to save everything and everyone!”
That would be a declaration that no living person in this world would agree to. A metaphor for it would probably be a millstone that has lost its axis, a lawnmower that would grind everything over, or a blast furnace that was out of control. It was a disaster for everyone.
“So be it!”
So Ai stood up, standing and crossing her arms like a senior to a junior.
“In that case, I have nothing to complain about! Please continue to work hard!”
Yes, that’s all. That was her implication as she clapped and returned to the bed, clearly glad that they were able to resolve this.
However, the two people before her looked like they had witnessed a bipedal pillar clock.
“What’s with the looks on your faces, you two?”
Nein’s shock was especially noticeable.
“Is-is this fine!?”
“But, but! Ehh!?”
“To be honest, I was a little lost, but since you could argue against Alice ven then, I got nothing more to say.”
“Bu-but, I can’t revive big sis…”
“Seriously, how many times have I said that you ‘don’t have to’?”
Once she said that, Ai waved Nein over. After that proud boast, Nein sheepishly hesitated for a while, before leaping into Ai’s clutches.
Ai exerted strength in her arms.
“There’s nothing good or bad about that. You’ll do whatever it takes to save the world, won’t you?”
“Then I have nothing to complain about…of course, deep inside me, I really think ‘I really hope that you don’t do that’, but since you insist so, I can’t do anything about it..”
Burying her face into Nein’s soft hair, Ai kept sniffing her scent. Nein’s scent was sweet, with a bit of scent, and some otherworldiiness..
“I told you once that you should ‘fail’, didn’t I? Otherwise, he said, you’ll never be happy.”
“I’ll correct that.”
One could never be happiy unless loneliness was forsaken. That was what Ai had assumed, but she was mistaken.
It was just an experience, the same thing as saying to someone, ‘I feel sorry for you’.
Ai learned then that there were two kinds of loneliness.
One was the loneliness of being alone. a double-edged sword to attain one’s dreams.
The other was the loneliness that was created for others. It was a cage others created to protect themselves, pointing to one person and saying ‘that guy’s different from us’, a cage for humans to watch a freak show..
Ai was so close to being a part of that.
“There is nothing to cry about, Miss Nein.”
Ai lovingly embraced the Witch’s Daughter who would destroy the world.
“Live as you wish, as you are, as you want to live.”
Nein began to cry again, like an abandoned dog that has been betrayed and still believed in humans.
She would cry whether she was happy or sad. Ai thought about how Nein really took after her senior, and could not stop her wry smile..
“Even if I say it’s wrong, you’ll still do it, won’t you?”
“I don’t mean that.”
“Fufuf. Sorry, just being mischievous here.”
Saying that, Ai kissed Nein on the forehead. The bullied got angry..
“Even if the whole world denies your dreams and says you’re ‘evil,’ I’m on your side.”
“I won’t let you be alone. I may look like this, but I’m very clingy?”
“Yes. Really really. But can you be this happy? ”
Nein lifted her head and looked at Ai’s eyes.
“That means, ‘I will never be saved by you,’ you know?”
Nein’s tears temporarily stopped. She realized who she was fawning towards, her worst enemy.
“I support you, Miss Nein, but I’m not interested in the dream itself. Actually, I think it’s absolutely impossible.”
“Th-That’s not true!”
“”Really? Well then, there are already two people here that you can’t save. Maybe there are many others.”
Ai realized for the first time as to why Dee and Alice loved to mess with her. It was really fun.
I’ll save Ai someday, I promise!”
“I see. I’ll be waiting then.”
“Argh! You’re making fun of me!”
“I’m not making fun of you. I’m just worried.”
It was then that Ai was glad that she had cried lots to Ulla. It allowed her to remain calm at this critical moment.
“‘It’ll be a rocky road…I know it very well. You’ll get hurt, you’ll be lost, you’ll be battered.”
“‘If possible, I really want it to be like this. I want to hold you and let you hold me forever.”
“Y-yes! I…feel the same.”
But still, they could not stay together, for she could not give up her dream.
Thus, Ai wished for there to not be any loneliness, at the very least.
“…Thank you, big sis…”
It was time to say goodbye.
“I’ll…be going then…”
“Because I’m saving the world! I can’t stay here!”
“I see…take care then, Miss Nein. Be careful of cars, okay?”
“Don’t follow strange people, okay?”
“Don’t drink unprocessed water. And be careful of what you eat…and..”
“A-argh, big sis, you’re naggy!!”
“Mm, how rude.”
Ah. Before she realized so, Nein had slipped out of Ai’s clutches..
Light began to dance in the darkness. By some miracle, the Witch turned herself into light and faded away.
“…Whenever it gets too hard, you can always come back.”
“Hmph, I won’t. The next time I see you, big sis, it’ll be when I save you!”
“You’re so lonely and you like to act tough.”
“I-I won’t feel lonely!”
Nein’s former bravado was back, and she puffed his chest with oomph.
“…See you then.”
Even so, she nodded obediently at the end, the light burst out, and returned to darkness.
Ai gently chased after the remaining speck of light. She reached out with both hands and caught it in her palms.
And the light vanished just before she could do so.
Still, Ai held on to what little warmth was left and did not move.