“What is a story, Akira?”
Kai said once he’d gone through the grand gist of things.
He sounded like he was asking me, but truly he was asking himself. That was his peculiar way of asking questions.
“This is what I think. A story means that someone will undoubtedly have to face misery.”
Failing to grasp the meaning, I tilted my head.
“A story where everyone becomes happy—doesn’t exist in this world.”
“There’s no guarantee for that one. I think there are plenty of stories that end with everyone smiling, and wait, I do think those stories are the majority.”
“You’re wrong. That’s the terrifying trap that lies in the story. Certainly, as you said, there are loads of stories out there that have happy endings. But that’s simply for the main character and the ones around them, all that means is that the main cast is happy.”
“If it ends with the main members in a blessed state, the reader misinterprets the story as a happy ending. But isn’t that strange? A story has antagonists and side characters too.”
Unable to refute his words, I stayed silent.
Sure enough, a story where every character that appeared became happy might not exist in the world. The last boss is often defeated in the end, while the nameless mob characters are often easily slaughtered to demonstrate the enemy’s cruelty and strength.
As if they were sacrifices for the sake of the main cast’s happiness.
“Mysteries are a good example. The detective role comfortably resolves the murder, and before long heads off towards the next incident—but the victim is already dead, days of paying for their crime await the culprit, and the story closes with the victim’s bereaved family in sorrow. You see? The people who become happy are overwhelmingly fewer, aren’t they?”
“… I don’t really read mysteries so I don’t really know, but they definitely do have that sort of image.”
“It’s alright for bad people to end up miserable, that recognition exists universally in human society. But I—I think it would be nice if everyone could be happy.”
“Everyone can be happy?”
“Whether they be vice or virtue, main character or side role, if everyone can smile and spend their days, don’t you think that would be the best?”
He said, with a bitter and sweet smile.
I couldn’t respond to those words.
Live ten years, and you figure it out whether you want to or not. Having everyone happy, such a dream-like situation could never happen in this reality.
A majority of the time, someone’s happiness would be tied to another’s misfortune, and the reverse was also a possibility.
That’s why what he said was an empty theory, and pure idealism.
Unless someone experienced unhappiness, neither a human life nor story could ever be established. Yet he was exceedingly serious, no fragment of messing around, he earnestly spoke of a dream.
“If someone has to become unhappy for it, then simply make it that the story never begins. You simply have to stagnate it, forever and ever at the prologue.”
As he said that, I could see a bottomless sorrow in his eyes.
Dark feelings as if he had witnessed human death hundreds, thousands of time, layering and layering over one another in the depths of those eyes.
“That’s why I want to make it. The 《Neverending Prologue》—”
We were on the grounds of the Inari shrine. Kai and I sat side by side on the steps of the inner sanctuary.
The place Kai chose for the end—was the spot we often played together. Of course, I couldn’t tell whether this really was that Inari Shrine or not. It might be some false world he created, or perhaps a spiritual world of sorts.
Well, at this point, no matter what happened, I wouldn’t be surprised.
I—already had it all explained to me.
For example, that Kagurai-senpai came from the future.
For example, that Kurisu-chan was a witch from another world.
For example, that Kikyouin-san was an onmyouji.
For example, that Orino-san was a psychic—or rather, an existence created for the sake of Kai’s goal.
For example—everything about my childhood friend.
The ‘Miniature Garden Plan’ begun in Kagurai-senpai’s era: the salvation of all of humanity by the hand of a manufactured god, a grand and absurd plan. From it he was born, an artificial god. Given 《Finishing Stroke》, an inhuman abnormal power, an existence compelled into saving the world
Apparently, everything up to now had been on the palm of his hand.
My meeting with Orino-san, Kagurai-senpai, Kurisu-chan. That lady in the strange suit ten years ago—meaning my chance encounter with Orino-san. The psychic battle between Masaki-san and Orino-san.
The unnatural transfer of Kikyouin-san who was originally supposed to go to a high school around Mt. Osore. Tsuchimikado-san’s scam. Tama-chan’s rampage.
A young boy I didn’t know called Saijou Mutsuki. My meeting with Yomiga-san.
The looping phenomenon that we were dragged into over training camp. Shakujii Hihihiko-san who came to observe Kagurai-senpai. Kagurai-senpai’s fierce battle with AMLO.
Griel-kun’s visit. Orino-san sealed in another world. Kikyouin-san and Tama-chan, and Kurisu-chan’s battle. The exit of the boy known as Saijou Mutsuki.
After that—Orino-san’s birthday. Switching out with Yomiga-san. Utsurohara-san’s raid. Orino-san’s awakening.
It had all—gone according to Shinose Kai’s plan.
“No, I wouldn’t say it was all in my ballpark. There were some unforeseen situations here and there. For every convenient turn of chance, there was an inconvenient one as well. So instead of saying it turned out exactly as I planned, I’d say exactly as I’d outlined. There were things that didn’t go as I wanted, but in the end, I managed to reach the point I was aiming for.”
After saying that much, he momentarily cut off his words and looked at me.
“You’re calmer than I thought.”
Those calm but somewhat sorrowful eyes stared at me.
“When you noticed everything, I thought you’d be more surprised or disoriented.”
“I am surprised, I’ll give you that, but… it feels like I missed the right time. There were far too many things to be surprised about today, my meter’s already blown out.”
I noticed everything.
When I had never noticed anything before, come so far, I was made to notice it all.
I was one to reject the slightest shred of abnormality, but thanks to Kai explaining it idiotically scrupulously—undoing each and every turn of the knot, I had no choice left but to accept it.
The curse of ten years melted away.
“So what do you think about me?”
“What do I think…”
“I’ve continued to deceive you for ten years, what do you think about that?”
“… I’m troubled to comment. Perhaps I really should resent you, but this is so sudden I can’t really muster it, or rather… at this point, what exactly am I supposed to do about it? Well, it’s undeniably a shock.”
I said with a bitter smile.
“Looks like I didn’t understand the first thing about you, Kai…”
“That’s it! This is the moment worthy of that line!”
Kai gave a mischievous smile.
“But you know, I still don’t know if you were really deceiving me in the first place.”
“What do you mean?”
“I haven’t heard the rest of the story yet.”
A quiet nod, then Kai returned to his tale.
“Making everyone happy is my one and only goal. What I’ve been programmed for. That fact hasn’t changed from the moment I awoke.”
Intermittently, in the tone as if he was telling some old fairy tale, Kai spoke of the first half of his own life. A half that dragged on far too long.
“When I sprouted a sense of self, the first action I took—was to save a certain young girl. I had just been born, I was unsteadily teetering around without aim, when I coincidentally happened upon girl tormented by illness. The time was somewhere around the middle ages, the place a European countryside.”
The girl was afflicted by a disease incurable at the time. While her house was never by any means affluent, even so, night and day, her parents desperately worked to contrive the funds for her treatment.
That being the case, the results were unfavorable, it seems.
“So I healed that girl. Without thinking much about it, if it’s a disease why not cure it, I thought.”
Without thinking much about it, that preface was far too unfitting of Kai, and I felt an off sensation. But I immediately accepted it. The newborn Kai surely didn’t boast his current mature personality. The him I knew was a him eroded into shape by the waves of time.
“And the girl showed a full recovery. When she woke up one morning, she was suddenly in perfect health. Her parents burst into dance. ‘It’s a miracle, thank God,’ they said. Of course, I never showed my form, but I felt like I was being praised, and I did feel accomplished.”
But, said he.
“That was only for a moment.”
“The doctor treating the girl couldn’t live anymore. If the disease was healed, they wouldn’t have to pay his high fees anymore. But to the doctor, those medical expenses were his lifeline. He carried a large amount of debt, and no longer able to return it, he spent his days chased by loan sharks.”
And so—I saved him.
“I didn’t create any money. That would mess up the economy. When he was trying to flee outside the country, I assisted him from the shadow and ensured him a safe route. He was fleeing the country with nothing left to lose, so that doctor was also greatly pleased, ‘Thank God,’ he said.”
I couldn’t say anything. When I saw the sad look on his face, I could somewhat see where the story was going.
“Next up, the lenders who had let the money get away were to be purged by the boss who controlled the whole area. They had failed a job, it was only natural in the underground. And so—I saved them.”
“When that happened, next—No, let’s just stop it at that. There’ll be no end. Anyways, I kept repeating something like that. Whenever I saved someone, someone else faced misfortune. When I saved that someone else, again came another. The moment I thought everything was finally over, next, in a completely different spot, some new misfortune had begun. And I would save them again…”
It was like counting the grains of sand in the desert—like endlessly calculating out pi, a stream of events that would never end. Any normal person would be able to live more arbitrarily. If they spotted an old woman lost at the side of the road, they could just tell them the path and be satisfied with that.
Even when there was no guarantee that old woman would reach her destination.
“When I was in the midst of repeating that, one day, in a deserted back alley, I came upon a single young woman about to be violated.”
“Does mentioning the word rape make it easier to understand? The girl was being threatened by a brawny man with a knife, she might be violated at any moment. What’s more, that child, on closer inspection was that very same girl, the first one I ever saved.”
The girl with the incurable ailment, huh.
“I—didn’t save her.”
I was startled. I didn’t get what he meant.
Didn’t save her?
“The man violating her had previous offenses of burglary, theft, and rape, he was trash with absolutely no hopes of redemption. The sort of pervert who felt a rush of pleasure by forcefully violating a woman, what’s more, the sort of garbage who simply couldn’t contain himself.”
“In that case, even more so, someone like that should—”
“Someone like that should—what?”
As he said that, Kai glared at me with eyes as cold as ice. Like my heart had been clenched, a shiver ran down my spine.
“Should I have captured him and handed him over to the police? Or should I have just slaughtered a piece of human refuse like that?”
“Akira. I said it, didn’t I? I want to make everyone happy. I was made to do so. It was for that reason I was born.”
I lost my words. The value I placed on ‘everyone’, between me and him, that difference was greater than the earth and the heavens. As different as man and god.
His sense of values was—far too equal.
“There are all sorts of trash in the world. The sorts who find happiness in violating people, the sorts who feel pleasure by killing, those that feel their worth in living by dragging other people down… What happiness means, see, it varies from person to person, detestably so.”
“That’s why I didn’t save her. Couldn’t save her. Unable to reach compromise with the contradiction within me, I no longer knew what to do… and I abandoned the girl I had saved myself. Again and again, she wailed out, ‘Save me God!’”
The sort of self-abasing voice that pierced through my body resounded horridly through my ears.
— They don’t know anything about the futility, the pointless, the despair of making the world however you want it…
The words of some time replayed in my head. Those words I only took faintly at the time, come now, they displayed more vivid contour. Even so, all the likes of myself could understand was no doubt nothing more than a dreg of what he carried.
“What came after that were days of failure and regret.”
Saving people time and again, each time hurting more, trying various ways, repeating failures, wavering and mulling, repeating his efforts—
“—Yet even so, I couldn’t make everyone happy. Even if I used every bit of my power, I couldn’t bring peace to the world.”
Gazed at through his sorrowful eyes, I tried imagining it.
If it were me—if I had powers like God, what would I do? All I could think up on the spot was stopping wars and healing the people tormented by injury or ailment. But if I was asked if that would make everything go well, I wouldn’t really know. What’s more—what someone like me could think up was definitely something Kai had already tried out.
The result was days of failure and regret.
Even so—Kai didn’t give up.
“And what I’ve reached is a plan to use the 《Book Marker》 to create the 《Neverending Prologue》.”
A story that never begins.
Where no one has to be unfortunate, a plan I could only think of as an empty dream.
“You’ve personally experienced the absurd power of the 《Book Marker》, haven’t you?”
“Ah, yeah. It’s an amazing power,” I ambiguously nodded.
A literal ‘power to do anything’ was far too fearsome, and honestly speaking, I couldn’t quite grasp it. It was so simple it became contrarily difficult.
Even the dragon balls that came with a sales pitch of being able to grant any wish had various restrictions placed on them.
“It’s so fearsome, at this point you can’t even call foul play. An ability one wouldn’t throw into a battle manga even by mistake. On top of being completely uninteresting, it’s an ability no one can win against, after all.”
“… But can that ‘power to do anything’ make everyone happy?”
I asked. The 《Finishing Stroke》 granted to Kai was, from my point of view, an absurd power as it is. Could something impossible even with that power become possible with Orino-san’s?
“As I explained, 《Book Marker》 is the ultimate power of rule. While I can only reiterate for a different outcome, she can freely commence actions in this world from outside its bounds—for example, controlling human nature is right in her ballpark.”
“C-controlling human nature?”
I swallowed my breath at that turbulent phrase. He made just a bit of an amused smile.
“By ruling the brains of all of humanity, it is possible for her to forcefully make everyone think ‘I am happy’. Something on that level, if it’s her, should be a piece of cake.”
He said and gazed straight at me. Without a single spot of mirth, they were clear eyes. I could instinctively tell his words were no lie.
That’s why I immediately refuted.
“Such a thing… there’s no way it’s for the best. You can’t just change someone’s personality… if making the brain feel happy was all that was needed, it’s no different from drugs.”
“The reason drugs are prohibited is because normal people find drug-induced people to be unpleasant, and that’s all she wrote. Well, of course, there are side effects to consider, but—then Akira. Let’s try a thought experiment. Let’s say there was a drug with no side effects at all, and just taking it would make you happy. Could someone who kept taking it, believing ‘I am happy’ really be called happy?”
After thinking a little, “I don’t think so,” I answered.
I was sure that was somewhat different from a human happiness.
“I thought you’d say that. But Akira. The reason you think so is because you are viewing the act of taking the drug from a third person’s eyes. If all of humanity took the drug, there won’t be anyone left who thinks the action is bad. Meaning—everyone will be happy.”
“No one will suffer, no one will be unfortunate, neither sorrow nor hatred will exist, and precisely for that reason, ups and downs and all developments won’t exist either. A boring world, disqualified from telling any story at all—that is the 《Neverending Prologue》.”
I—couldn’t say anything.
The world he spoke of was by the letter a world where everyone could be happy.
I could understand it, logically speaking. But my heart simply wouldn’t concede.
I didn’t want to believe such a thing could be happiness.
“I get how you feel. But there’s no use in us arguing here. The key to it all has already left my hand—”
And Kai shifted his gaze to the shrine grounds. Where the trees swayed and rustled in the breeze, someone was walking towards us.
It was Orino-san.
Wearing a dress of distinct white and black, it was Orino Shiori.
“Hey. You came later than I thought.”
Once she had made it right beside the steps, Kai called out in a cheerful voice.
“I set it so only humans I invited could enter this space, but… before you, that rule might as well not exist. Whichever way, you were still slow to come. If you were up to it, you should have been able to make it here in an instant.”
“If it were to defeat Utsurohara Gouichirou—meaning to protect someone— it couldn’t be helped that you used your power. But you didn’t want to use this terrible power for your own sake alone. You were thinking along those lines, but you were so worried for Kagoshima Akira, who was led off by someone like me, that at the end of your deliberation, you ended up using it in the end. Was it something like that?”
He must have hit the mark. Orino-san vexingly bit her lip.
“Now then, daughter of mine. You were listening in, weren’t you? Why don’t you weigh in on it.”
A few seconds later, she hesitantly opened her mouth.
“I… won’t accept you.”
It was the same outlook as me.
In regards to Shinose Kai—a complete denial.
“I see. I don’t mind it either way.”
Kai said so easily I felt let down.
“If you deny it, then there’s nothing I can do about it.”
At that moment—
An immense off-feeling was born in my chest. Like some hazy something I had felt the whole time revealed its form as a clear foreign substance.
But—can something like that happen? Was such an elementary mistake even possible?
“W-wait a second.”
I hurriedly cut in between the two.
“Kai… I’d like to think not, but…”
I timidly asked.
“Is the current Orino-san—stronger than you?”
《Book Marker》. The ultimate power of rule. The power to do anything.
While I had forgotten it the whole time, while I had naturally let it slide.
When you think about it, it was unnatural to the extreme.
If it can do anything—then does that mean it can even defeat Kai?
In regards to my question, Kai nodded as if it was only natural. It was a reply that carried with it the sort of soft disdain as if to say, don’t ask something so obvious.
“《Book Marker》 far surpasses my 《Finishing Stroke》. While they’re both powers stationed outside the bounds of this world, their outputs are on different levels entirely. I’ve got a few other assorted skills, but even if I used them all, I’m no match for her.”
“… B-but you don’t have some sort of control switch or something? You have a means to control Orino-san, don’t you?”
“There’s no such thing. If I could control it, it wouldn’t be a ‘power to do anything’ would it? In that instance, the power itself would contradict and negate it.”
The way he said it as if it were nothing at all only accelerated my confusion.
Orino-san also made a bewildered face. I’m sure just like me, she anticipated Kai had some sort of trump card—some sort of means to control her.
And yet, he came with no plan at all.
To think, at the end of the end, there was nothing at all.
“That is the sole flaw in my plan, and a flaw I have no means of patching up. Saijou Mutsuki condemned me for it too. Said he didn’t want to believe he was chasing someone who came up with such a shoddy plan.”
The name he mentioned before.
It seems that person was someone who stood against Kai.
Who revolted against God, and as a result faced retribution.
“Now, what do you do, Cage of Death Remnant?”
Kai gazed at Orino-san.
“Are you irritated at me for making you? Do you resent me for forcing on you such an incomprehensible power? Do you feel you can’t endorse my train of thought?”
“Then just kill me.”
Kai said without hesitation.
His expression didn’t change. It was the same refreshing face as ever.
“While I boast an undying body, you should be able to end me with ease. It’s even possible for you to erase my very existence—no, perhaps I should put it like me. You are the only one capable of killing me.”
While Kai said whatever he wanted, Orino-san didn’t say a thing. She had lost her words, simply covering her mouth. When she was supposed to be the stronger one, when there was supposed to be an overwhelming gap in their abilities.
And yet, she was the one who looked cornered.
“… I, you see, I’m tired. I’m tired of playing god.”
Kai ran a hand through his gray hair. On his mouth, a feeble self-deprecating smile formed.
“It feels like I’m reading the same novel over, and over, and over again. The fact there was no existence above me was nothing but suffering—and so, right now, I feel just a little bit pleasant. Like a load’s been lifted off my shoulders.”
And—he gazed at Orino-san.
“Finally, an existence superior to me has been born.”
“… Then you—”
Orino-san’s expression largely warped, she painfully opened her mouth.
“Made me in order to kill yourself? Is this some twisted roundabout suicide…!?”
“Of course not. I won’t say I want to die. It’s just, at the end, I felt a bit like leaving it to someone else.”
“… Leaving what?”
“I wanted to try and let someone else be judge and jury for a change. An existence superior to me giving judgment. I wanted to taste what that felt like.”
Leaving it to someone else.
Having lived a directionless life of heavy responsibility to ‘make everyone happy’, perhaps this was the last bit of selfishness he could show. The meager wish of an existence standing higher than any from the moment he was born.
“Now what do you do, oh daughter of mine? Do you succeed my will, rule all of humanity and complete the 《Neverending Prologue》? Or will you deny me, destroy me, and take over as the new god reigning over this world?”
I don’t mind either way, he said with a satisfied smile. Seeing his somewhat content expression, a thought came to me. Perhaps Kai had been living for now, for this very moment.
Not knowing whether what he did was right or not, in his days of groping through the dark, perhaps he wanted to be evaluated by someone.
Perhaps he wanted an existence higher than his own to show him the way.
Yet the single girl who became an existence surpassing God shook.
The girl who had all the pain and responsibility Kai shouldered pushed onto her at once looked like she was about to be crushed by that load.
“Think over it all you want. But—you might reach your answer surprisingly quickly.”
At that instant, the space before my eyes warped as a crevice was born. From that crevice just barely large enough for a single human to pass, appeared that girl identical to Orino Shiori.
I said. But Yomiga-san ignored me and walked over to her master, Kai.
“Master. I have returned.”
“Welcome back,” said Kai.
She must have changed at some point, as Yomiga-san’s garments had returned to her usual monotone dress.
A dress with the complete opposite coloring of the one Orino-san was wearing now.
A player two-like palette swap.
“So you’re Yomiga Eri… san.”
Orino-san swallowed her breath.
I see. Come to think of it, Orino-san had never met her. With a somewhat fearful expression, she gazed at her other self.
“That is no more than a name for convenience sake. I am your imitation. To be more precise—one who couldn’t become the Cage of Death Remnant.”
Her emotionless eyes looked back at the other identical in every way.
“It is an honor to meet you, original.”
Rare for Yomiga-san, a terribly cynical line. After saying that so expressionlessly, she turned her body towards Kai.
“My apologies, master. I am a little late.”
“I don’t mind. And the result”
The moment the truck was about to hit, I was taken off somewhere by Kirako-san.
I felt relieved when she said everyone was safe, but that was only referring to the truck’s collision. I never heard what happened after that.
After nodding, “Yes,” Yomiga-san spoke in a level voice.
“Kagurai Monyumi, Kagurai Gakuta, Kikyouin Yuzuki, Tamane, Creastia Crimson Christopher Kurisu, the aforementioned five have—
— All been killed.”
Kill… eh? T-they were kill… ed? All?
I couldn’t understand what she meant. I understood it so little I couldn’t close my hanging mouth.
A death proclamation came all too suddenly.
There was no way I could believe it, nor did I want to.
My brain denied the very notion of accepting it.
“… T-this has to be a lie. Right, Yomiga-san?”
My voice shook to a joking extent. I asked back, desperately clinging to the hope. But Yomiga-san didn’t say anything. “Good work,” Kai responded.
“Even those girls who fought for the sake of the world were far from reaching the 《Book Marker》. The replica’s power falls considerably when held against the original, but even so, she possesses more than enough power to kill them.”
He spoke levelly, an analysis composed to no end.
Nothing entered my ears.
They’re all, dead?
While my thoughts were stagnating as if frozen over—Orino-san moved.
Presumably, she wasn’t using any of her power.
It was an attack purely from her physical might.
A right straight.
Kai didn’t dodge. I don’t know whether he couldn’t or just didn’t, but I had a hunch it was the later. The right fist gouged into his left cheek. Kai lightly bent backwards, pressing both his hands against the stairs. From the edge of his lips, a single strand of blood flowed.
Orino-san’s shapely eyebrows were ruffled as she yelled out. Her face was bright red, her eyes oozed with tears.
“They all… had nothing to do with this! Why did you do something like that!? What do you take human lives for!?”
“… What are you so angry about? Why are you so panicked? It’s nothing big, not to you at least.”
Kai wiped his mouth, and calmly declared.
“If they’re dead—you just have to bring them back.”
Orino-san opened her eyes wide in terror.
The ‘power to do anything’.
I realized anew just how fearsome it was.
It really… can do anything. Anything, anything, anything.
“If you wish it, that alone will bring everyone back. And you can all laugh together, and get all dressed up for your happy ending.”
“… Human life—”
“—Should never be thought of in such a way? Then overlook it. Value your own sense of ethics, and abandon them while having the power to save them. Just as I’ve done all these many years.”
“If you say you want to revive them, so be it. From now on, just like that, you can simply let people live and die by your judgment alone. Save whoever you’ve taken a liking to, kill everyone you disdain, and the world will become a paradise of only the people you like—Orino-san, you can do whatever you want. The world is in the palm of your hand.”
In a tone that stuck directly into his opponent’s chest, Kai spoke.
“Heavy, isn’t it? That’s the weight of the world.”
The weight of making the world however you want it.
The weight Kai had held from the moment he was born.
All of it was now leaning over Orino-san.
If the power to change the world however you wanted really did lie in those hands—then what was a person really to do.
All light had vanished from Orino-san’s eyes. She fell, collapsing to her knees. Holding her head in both hands, pain and sorrow spread into her expression.
“… Don’t want it. This power… I don’t want it. Don’t want it, don’t want it…”
Looking as if she’d break at any moment, Orino-san muttered.
She was being crushed by the weight of the world.
“You don’t want it, huh. Isn’t it a bit late for that? When you’ve used it left and right all your life?”
As he said that, Kai stood from the steps. Standing before Orino-san huddling herself up on the ground, he grabbed her hair and forcefully stood her.
With that uncharacteristic violent act, I hurriedly tried to stop him, but Yomiga-san beside me immediately held me by the shoulder. With her idiotically high strength, I was unable to move.
“Isn’t it a bit too self-serving to say you ‘don’t want it’ now? You surpassed the domain of man long ago, yet still wish to remain human… such selfishness disgusts me.”
“… I-I… I mean, I mean, up to now, that my power was something like this… I never knew…”
Orino-san answered in a sob-mingled voice.
Come to think of it, Orino-san’s psychokinesis was the result of her 《Book Marker》 being incomplete, apparently. So to change the phrasing, one could say she had always been using that power.
I thought that was what Kai was trying to say.
“Just because you don’t know, there are still things you simply shouldn’t do, aren’t there?”
That didn’t seem to be what he was talking about.
“You’ve actually already noticed it, haven’t you?”
Kai said, peering deep into her eyes.
Right after, Orino-san’s shoulders sprung up.
“Why haven’t you looked Akira in the eye once today?”
Her perked shoulders, this time they had begun shaking.
Looking me in the eye?
Yeah, now that you mention it, that might be true. When she saved me from Utsurohara-san, and when she appeared in this space, Orino-san didn’t try to look me in the eye.
Rather, for some reason, it was like she was keeping distant.
more so, like I was being avoided…
“It’s because of your guilty conscience, right? You feel sorry, don’t you? You want to avert your eyes from an unshakable fact, don’t you?”
In regards to Kai’s whispers, Orino-san finally covered her ears. Her attitude was like a small child cowering from a demon or monster.
Just what could have—
“I’ll tell you, Akira.”
The question in my heart was answered by Kai. He released Orino-san’s hair and turned towards me.
“Akira. Kagoshima Akira. The reason I put you at the center of the world is because you’re someone who can’t notice anything. Precisely because you couldn’t notice, you were able to fulfill the role of the singularity point.”
“That’s… yeah, you already told me.”
“Then why couldn’t you notice?”
The reason I couldn’t notice.
It was, ten years ago, because the lady in the strange suit told me.
Because she cast a spell on me.
“The lady in the strange suit… meaning Orino-san told me—”
Orino-san suddenly cried out. My body jerked in surprise.
But Kai didn’t stop.
In a tone more gentle than anything, he smoothly spun his words.
“That’s right. Those memories of ten years ago are your root. But Akira. What if those words were no metaphor, if they were true in the literal sense?”
“If they were Kagoshima Akira’s root in the true sense, what would you do?”
In the true sense?
“Now then. This is changing the topic, but how about you try to recall the Cage of Death Remnant’s ability?”
Orino-san’s ability. 《Book Marker》.
The power to do anything—the power of complete rule— to freely commence actions in this world from outside its bounds.
— For example, controlling human nature is right in her ballpark.
All of a sudden, everything connected.
The missing piece was filled in as a single picture was drawn.
“Ten years before now— for the first time in her life, the Cage of Death Remnant showed a snapshot of her power. At that time, the seven-year-old boy before her eyes became the sacrifice.”
Various scenes flashed back to me.
The lady in a strange suit—Orino-san in a strange suit.
A seven-year-old me.
A boy who believed in heroes of justice.
The lady’s wish—Orino-san’s wish.
“The reason Kagoshima Akira couldn’t notice…? the answer is simple. Because Orino Shiori wished it so. Your particular character was born from her ability. The personality you think of as your own—everything about your character is little more than a fabrication she thought up.”
Meaning, he said.
“She drew up your character setting ten years ago.”