Finally back after her wounds healed, Omou Mia popped by the afterschool library for the first in quite a while. But Takeru was nowhere to be found.
“… Okina-kun was injured?”
“Yes. Heard it was a traffic accident or something. God, it really is a dangerous world we live in. I mean, he collapsed and you had to nurse him the other day, right… more importantly! Are you alright Omou-senpai!? I heard you were severely injured, and the police were called in or something, and because of that, you’ve been away for a whole week…”
“Ah, yeah. I’m fine, just fine. A bit jumbled, but I’m already better.”
“Is that… so.”
After her face clouded with anxiety, Nozomi scratched her cheek.
“No, then that’s good. See, haven’t there been too many strange incidents in these parts lately. It’s making me sensitive. Man, seriously, it’s best for there to be nothing going on.”
With a bitter smile, Nozomi mumbled an addition.
“There’s really no guarantee tomorrow will never come as normal, after all.”
She was searching for Takeru to invite him to visit Sawako’s grave.
This past week, Mia’s father’s good friends—the Foundation’s arrangements had her hospitalized, and during that time, Sawako’s funeral and burial had all been carried out without her.
Now, Sawako slept in a grave in Tsukimori City. She heard the funeral was held by the parents of Teiko FC, and a great many people in the neighborhood. The moment Mia was discharged, she knew she had to visit the grave.
According to the chief mourner, Takeru didn’t show at the funeral either. Her phone calls wouldn’t connect. If he was in a traffic incident, did that mean he was hospitalized now? Should she go see him? But she had no idea what to talk to Takeru about these days.
Mia returned from school alone, and made for Sawako’s grave.
Perhaps because summer was close, the blue still remained in the sky. It was a nice clear sky.
She took the public train and bought a bouquet of flowers close to the station she got down on.
Sawako had always liked them: vibrant assorted hydrangea.
With bouquet in arms, Mia borrowed a bucket and scoop at the cemetery entrance and proceeded towards the grave.
Going down the graveyard that smelled of incense, when she reached the spot she’d been told of Mia’s feet stopped. There was a prior visitor at Sawako’s grave.
It was Takeru.
To Mia’s voice, her childhood friend with his hands together in front of the grave turned with a surprised look on his face. Wearing the same unfashionable glasses as ever, Takeru was in casual clothing. It made her curious that he was wearing a long-sleeve shirt in this weather, but he didn’t seem to be injured anywhere.
“Are you alright? I heard you were out from injury.”
“Yeah, just twisted something a bit. More importantly, how about you…”
Mia mustered all her strength to answer.
“… I’m fine, so…”
Takeru’s nonchalant words sounded terribly kind.
The grave was already lain with flowers. A vibrant assortment of hydrangea.
“… We got the same flowers.”
“Sawa-chan would shout, ‘I don’t need this much!’ Wouldn’t she?”
“She’s at least say ‘Pick something more sensible’.”
“Ahaha, she would! She really would, I can hear it! Really, Take-chan, don’t make me laugh.”
Mia laughed. It was so out of place, her tears were flowing up.
Aw man, I decided not to cry.
But if I’m crying because I’m laughing, then it doesn’t count, right?
“So the tears come out even if I’m not sad… haha…. I really am beat there… no, no… and wait, there’s way too much coming out… haha, haha.”
One after the other, the hot moistness dripped down her cheek.
The momentum of the tears picked up. They began to come accompanied by sobs.
“… Why won’t they stop, why, why… I decided I wouldn’t cry anymore.”
I can’t cry anymore. I’m going to be fighting alone from now on.
This was supposed to be a grave visit to report her resolve. Like this, she wouldn’t be able to look Sawako in the eye—
She was called in a nostalgic voice, a nostalgic name.
Takeru held out a handkerchief. There were damp spots over the pure white handkerchief.
“You can cry if you want to. You don’t have to act tough when you’re with me and Sawa-chan.”
Curtly, in a tone that hadn’t changed from the past.
“You’re Mia. You haven’t changed at all, you’re the crybaby Omou Mia.”
Mia sniffled as she reached for the handkerchief. The warmth that would accept her as she was.
For now, for this moment alone, to remove the mask of a hero.
— I shall never fall. As long as you exist, no matter how many times it takes, I’ll come back.
Mia stopped her hand.
The corpse voice of frozen emotion reverberated in her heart.
— Until we meet again, Gaimoon… my beloved Hero!
“… Thank you, but I’m fine.”
Mia retracted her hand. After forcefully wiping her tears away, she showed a smile.
“I’m not the past me anymore. So you don’t need to worry.”
You can’t get close. You can’t show yourself.
You can’t let that Alchemuls steal anything else away.
“Take-chan, you should save that consideration for your girlfriend. Not a childhood friend like me. Otherwise, you’ll never be popular, you know? … You don’t have to, worry about me anymore.”
So I’ll sever these feelings.
To distance my precious people from that battle. To protect the peace of those dear.
“… Got it.”
Takeru quietly tucked away the handkerchief and picked up his bag.
“… You’re leaving already?”
“I have some business to attend to after this. So, Mia,”
Once again, Takeru called to her. Someone curt, but filled with kindness.
“See you tomorrow.”
Mia’s throat stuffed up.
See you tomorrow. How many times had Mia lost her ‘normal’ tomorrow?
There’s no guarantee tomorrow will come as normal. None at all, so she had to protect it. It was in order to protect it that Mia had become a Hero, become Gaimoon.
So Mia answered. There was her own resolve determination.
“Yeah, see you tomorrow.”
— My dear Take-chan.
The thin assist suit under his casual clothes drove his fractured limbs.
Mia didn’t doubt it in the slightest. In that case, it looked like he could go to school normally tomorrow.
Today’s meeting was guided by Sawa-chan, or perhaps a curse.
But Mia would likely never find out the antipathy Sawako held towards alters.
He had already made his choice.
The moment he killed Sawako, Takeru had lost the qualifications to ever truly be happy.
An SNS notification came to his tablet terminal. From Ecole—Sakurai Kanon.
‘Everyone’s ready. Can go at any time.’
He immediately tapped in the reply.
‘Understood. Proceed plan as scheduled. I’ll give orders from here.’
Today, once again, evil was squirming in Tsukimori City. The alters were creeping.
A drop of water fell from the tip of Takeru’s nose.
The sky that had been clear up to a moment ago, before he realized it, had been covered in a sheet of gray clouds.
She didn’t take the handkerchief. Mia had already accepted the path to live as a hero. From now on, it would be impossible for Mia and Takeru’s paths to cross.
It was impossible for them to interact as anything other than enemies.
The moment he felt the reality of it, Takeru’s chest hurt so hard it might burst open.
There’s no way to turn back time.
He would need to discard these emotions. We would need to lose these feelings.
So Takeru chanted.
To redefine his own existence.
I am the leader of Calamity Co. Leviathan, Lord Helvenom. And,
I am fear, I am awe, I am shadow,
— I am Alchemuls: The absolute evil for my hero.