It sure was a mess last night. Julie Dmitriyevich thought. It was late at night when a hoard of of Dead suddenly appeared out of nowhere, including Kiriko, who requested to Ai. Really, it was exhausting.

Julie was not exactly as bloodthirsty as a mother bear herding her cubs. No, he might have such tendencies days ago, but he had calmed down now (probably), and he intended to agree when someone asked to meet Ai..

However, the guys had no idea of how civilian life was like, and when a bunch of people showed up (even the Dead that appeared to be performers!), they said something like ‘you may die if you hear the Princess talk, so please evacuate the folks nearby’, shooing out the neighbours..

Thanks to this, Julie was left apologizing all through the morning.

Furthermore the Dead kept saying things like, “Give Lady Celica back”! and “Is that a Gravekeeper!?” the entire time. Truth be told, if it had not been for the arrival of Dust Believer and Diva, it might have turned into a fistfight.

Those Dead left just moments ago. It was just before dawn.

“Puuaaahhh…”

It was quite late in the morning, Julie was having tea in the living room when he heard Ai yawn.

The sound of slippers being dragged along came from upstairs, the door was slowly nudged open, and behind it was a sleepy-looking Ai. With a subconscious homing instinct, she scrambled to her seat and sat right opposite Julie, the westside seat where the sun shone upon it. She probably looked drowsy or dazed as she pulled back her chair to escape the direct sunlight, and leaned to the back of the chair.

“Good morning, Ai.”

“Good morning…Mr…Julie…”

“Not Mr. Julie, Dad.”

“Good morning…dad…”

Ai was too sleepy, and was obedient. Julie showed a wry smile out of sight, and went to the kitchen..

“Looks like you had quite a blast last night.”

“Nn…yes, that was, really…fufufu.”

Ai probably recalled the happiness she experienced as she gave an unpleasant looking smile. Julie paid no heed as it was common to see..

“That’s good.”

“Yes, it was good.”

Julie boiled some water and brew a pot of tea in a newly purchased pot. A few tea leaves were put in, but the water quickly turned black. It was the new tea for Dead which Julie had just bought yesterday.

“I brewed some tea.”

“Thank you…m~ bitter!”

Ai chugged down the viscous tea like it was strong liquor, and had some sugary snacks. Her appetite had greatly reduced compared to her glutton self before, and Julie was  saddened for some reason.

“Anyway, where did Miss Scar go to?”

“She’s taking Celica to those Ortus folk.”

It might not be surprising after all. Celica was in that state, nbut she was very popular with the Dead. It appeared that she was viewed as an Idol back in Ortus. Apparently, as Ulla and Ai had monopolized her yesterday, the others had much pented up frustration.

“That is surprising. You didn’t stop them?”

“She’s happy to be pampered, so I didn’t really have any opinion…of course, I’m not going to hold back if they plan to abduct her like the last time…”

“Down boy. Calm down.”

Julie felt that it was unreasonable of him to be spoken to like a horse or a cow.

A moment later.

The conversation ended.

The two of them suddenly stopped talking. Snow gently landed outside the wals, the sun was blotted, and the shadows on the table became hazy, disappearing into the wood grain.

Both of them drank tea together. At that moment, ‘I feel happy’, Julie suddenly thought.

And he was surprised at himself.

His daughter died, and might be gone forever in two days, yet he felt blessed, which really shocked him. To Julie, being ‘happy’ was supposed to be something more perfect. He felt that having a wife, a child, no illnesses, good life savings, a good job, and things went smoothly, and this would be what they called ‘happiness’.

But perhaps that is not the case.

His wife was murdered, his own child died, and even the new child died before him, but he might still be a happy man. So he thought at this moment.

That time without a single word said was probably a moment of perfection.

“…how are you doing?”

But Julie was just not used to happiness, and soon broke it up.

“Well, it’s a little weird to say…but I’m fine…that’s about it.”

“Is that so?”

“Yes…dad, more snacks please.”

“Fine, but no more for the afternoon then.”

“Ehh~, stingy~.”

“What do you mean, stingy!? How rude.”

Suddenly, there was a hint of salt. His tear ducts had been I’ve been terribly tearful lately. He was not at an age where he was emotionally unstable, but he just had the urge to cry without knowing why. When sad, his eyes would tear up sadly, and when happy, his tears would tear up happily. He could do anything about it..

“…You seem more lifeless than me, Mr Julie.”

Ai grinned away. Her smile still had the usual mischievous tone that prompted Julie’s tears.

“S-Shut it.”

Julie had assumed that at this age, his personality would have taken shape, but it was then that he realized this was not the case. He reached to wipe his eyes, and turned his reddened eyes to his daughter.

And then, he raised the subject.

“…Today is the third day, right?”

“Yes.”

“You said, ‘I’ll think about it’.”

To be exact, it would take another full day, or in other words, until tomorrow morning. Ai said she would spend that time thinking. Julie had no idea what she wanted to think about, but he knew there was something awaiting him at the end of it all..

“…I guess you’ll come to conclude next morning, right”

In other words, to live or to die.

“……”

He was the one who started this conversation, but Julie went silent without saying anything. What else could he do? Who could simply accept the biological death of his daughter?

Julie’s wish is clear. He wished for her to not disappear. No, if possible, he wanted to catch that ‘Witch’s daughter’ and revive Ai.

He said everything to Ai beforehand. He begged her right from the beginning, sobbing and showed no care for his own appearance. Perhaps that was why Ai said that she would ‘think about it’? This might be the result of Ai’s great compromise.

His best friend, Hampnie Hambart, bent his beliefs for the sake of his daughter and remained in this world for only one day more.

Ai, on the other hand, gave him three days. He was certain this number was beyond expectation, and he had to be glad about it. However, he just could not give up. Julie wanted to live together with Ai forever.

But that might be way Julie could not resolve this.

Just as it was not Ai who could stop him from losing control, but Scar, he was not the one who could get Ai to remain on this world.

Perhaps there was only one person that could do that.

…What the hell is that idiot doing, Julie thought. Doesn’t he know that Ai’s waiting for him?

“…Hey, Ai.”

So Julie could only buy some time.

“What is it?”

“I mean, you don’t have to make a decision in three days, do you?”

He asks pathetically.

“I don’t think you need to hurry with such a conclusion, you know? One week, one month…no, even if it’s one year, nobody’s going to condemn you. After all, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime decision.”

“Mr Julie…”

“Hey, I beg of you. Ai.”

The act quickly turned real as Julie wrapped the Dead’s hands.

“”Please don’t go away…I beg of you…it’s fine if you don’t want to revive, or if you want to leave, but please, don’t disappear…”

“Mr. Julie.”

“Please…”

This time, his tears were real; Julie was so sad that he had to weep. He yearned that this image of his could move Ai’s heart, if only a little.

“…Mr Julie.”

The results, however, were more than expected.

“The thing is, I’ve decided not to be buried.”

“—Huh?”

Ai simply said so, and Julie could not digest it simply, unable to comprehend what she had just said.

“—Eh?”

“So, once again, I shall be in your care again. Today, tomorrow, days later.”

The little head was lowered, leaving a shadow on the table. “Ah, no, here too…” Julie could not help but bow and and lit his head again.

Before his eyes was the sweet grin of a mischievous child.

Seeing this, Julie finally understands the meaning of those words.

“A-Ai! Are you for real?”

Julie stood up so hard that he sent his chair flying, and questioned Ai. Ai simply nodded again with a relaxed expression.

“Yes, it’s true.”

“…Is that so?”‘

The explosion of emotions had nowhere to go to as them landed weakly. The goosebumps he felt over the past few days melts away like a thaw.

It was an incredible sense of relief. Julie felt more relieved than he had ever felt in his life.

“…Thank goodness…”

The big man was going to cry again.

“…Thank goodness …”

I’m sorry for worrying you.”

Ai gave a somewhat apologetic look. Thank goodness thank goodness Julie repeated.

“…No, that’s fine. It’s no wonder that you’re distressed…but that’s good.”

“Fufu, Mr. Julie, that’s all you’re saying. “

“You make it sound easy. Don’t you know how I was going crazy being all worried…?”

“…I’m sorry,”

“Aren’t you always saying those words…seriously, I don’t have the right to be a father if all my kid knows is to apologize..”

Julie acted tough, but suddenly thought of something

“…Anyway, you’re okay with that?”

“What do you mean?”

“You decided before you met Alice…”

“Mr Alice?”

There were two ‘what is this guy talking about?’ faces.

“Why did you mention Mr Alice?”

“No, like, since you said you’re going to wait three days…wasn’t it to hear out his thoughts? “

In fact, Ai had met various people over the past few days and heard their views about life and death. Many friends visited, and it was like a funeral of sorts.

Julie had assumed that the most important of them all was Alice.

“? No, it got nothing to do with him. I do hear out what others have to say, but Im just making sure. I’m not waiting for Mr Alice.”

“Is that so?”

“Yes. I can almost figure tell what he’s going to say.”

“…Is that so…?”

Julie still could not quite understand Ai’s thoughts. He always had a hard time putting his thoughts into words, and never won a quarrel against his late wife or best friend. He can only understand things through the senses on his skin.

From that point of view, he felt this was certainly just like Ai, and that it was the right choice.

“Well, whatever it is, if you’re fine with it, that’s good.”

“That makes things easier.”

“…Want another cup of tea?”

“Please do.”

Julie poured another fresh pot of tea into a cup. This tea made for the Dead was not only rich in flavor, but also has sterilizing and deodorizing properties that make it useful in moderation.

“Huh? No, no, no! Now’s not the time for that! Ai! Now that you’ve decided, you should go through with it soon! Actually, there’s a Dead doctor here yesterday. The suggestion is that you have a surgery called postmortem adjustment! Alright, I’ll contact the guy—”

“Go-Goodness. Please calm down a little.”

‘Goodness gracious’, such was the look Ai gave Julie as she looked at Julie who stood up..

“Doesn’t that take a lot of time?”

“Not just that. It takes a whole day before the surgery to get the molds and figures, and the actual surgery takes another day. After that, it’ll take at least six months for the drying and replacement process, and after that, it continues in phases.”

“Ah, yes. I understand very well.”

Julie whipped out some books and notes something out of nowhere and explained away. Apparently, he had been researching this topic for the past few days. He looked like a parent eager to educate his child. Ai felt grateful, but it really seemed tedious.

“Then let’s start tomorrow then..”

“But I hear the sooner the better?”

“I still want to keep to the three days deadline.”

Three days.

Hearing that number, Julie stopped moving.

“…Is there a meaning to that after all?”

“Hm. I don’t know. Maybe there is, maybe there isn’t.”

“What’s that about?”

Julie had no idea.

“There’s no serious meaning to that. It’s true that I needed time to think, but the rest is just added bonus. Can you please keep it quiet from the rest?”

“I don’t really get it…but alright.”

He raised his hands to the heavens in surrender.

‘I’ve content already. Just do as you please.”

“Thank you. I love you, Dad.”

“This brat… I love you too, Ai.”

Ai hopped off her chair and skipped over to Julie, hugging him from the right flank and putting her head there. Julie rubbed her head with his own cheek, and both of them remained still for a while.

 

Glank gonk.

 

At that moment, the doorbell rang loudly “Sorry, is there anyone inside~?” and someone called out from outside.

“Ah! It’s Miss Tanya!”

Ai slipped out of the embrace and put on her coat.

“Yes~! I’m coming!”

“What? You had an appointment?”

“We’re going to the market together, and then we’ll go visit Miss Dee, and then I’ll going to visit Miss Ulla…”

For a daughter of this age, the father was merely of lower priority. Julie could help but show a wry smile. It was no wonder, for she would rather play with her friends than be with her parents.

Thus, he simply had to fulfill his role.

“Have a safe trip.”

“Yes!”

“Reach home before dark.”

“Got it.”

“Don’t eat. If you can’t take it anymore, lick the incense stick. Do you have some with you?”

“I have some.”

“And…”

“Ahhh goodness !I know everything!”

Ai ran out. She dashed out. She was moving, running, talking.

You’re so naggy, dad!

Ai laughed, and ran out of the house.

And Julie, left behind in the room, cried for a while.

 

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