Three days passed, and whenever the sun was up, we would continue walking.
No matter how far we walk, all we find are empty houses, and fields overgrown with weeds.
Occasionally, unlike the normal houses we passed, we would see large mansions, but even they aren’t being managed. Weeds encroach their boundaries.
What we’re walking down is a wide road. I guess it was a sort of highway.
I’ve heard before that in the countryside of spacious countries, the roads go without maintenance, and they stay the same as they were many years ago.
But this should have been a large road before. The hard ground made easy for people to walk on doesn’t seem to have encountered a single person or carriage in months. Foliage spreads from the cracks in it.
I remember horse-tail growing from the gaps between the concrete in early spring.
At that time, I was honestly impressed at its tenacity to grow from a place like that, but I feel something different from the plants on this road.
Specifically, what’s different? If I was asked that, I don’t believe I could answer.
But, something… I feel something wrong.
This land is way too quiet.
How long ago was it that I last heard the cry of the birds, or the hum of the bugs?
When I try tracing back my memory, they were already gone by the time I found myself stranded on that mountain.
Only the rustle of trees and the sound of wind echoes through this world… I can’t feel the breath of life.
The only life I can feel is…
“Mizuki, tarte nimyaku!”
Celeilia gives an encouraging voice as she points forwards.
In these days, I’ve yet to be able to understand her words, but we can at least come to some sort of understanding with gestures.
What we was, when we reached the top of a small hill, was a large castle.
Compared to the amusement and theme parks I’ve visited, it’s stone made… and built in an old style.
When I think of a Western Castle, I imagine the ones in the amusement parks back home, but this one is quite different.
It’s built out of stones of a single gray color. From the many years since it’s been made, the ramparts have been slightly scorched by the sun.
As if to protect the interior, four towers had been built forming a square around it.
An on the inside, the same stones had been stacked up to create the foundation. It was a solid castle.
But from me who envied the whimsical buildings of the amusement parks, this seems more like a giant prison than a castle.
That’s how different it was to the castle I idealized in my mind.
And naturally spread out around it was a castle town, and houses of the same gray stone of the castle were lines up neatly.
I don’t know what time period the castle was built in, but in Social Studies, I heard that many years of construction have to go into making a stone castle.
Does the fact that it’s preserved so gallantly make it a world heritage site?
Places like these tend to attract tourists, so people should gather naturally.
“Chnika hyoph, Mizuki.”
“Yeah, let’s go.”
There’s a bit of a distance to the castle town, but the simple fact that we have a goal in mind fills me with power. I match Celeilia’s fast pace as we head off to the castle town.
Even though I think I’m going relatively fast, Celeilia is always a few steps ahead of me despite the fact she has more luggage. As a boy, it’s a little embarrassing. Considering our difference in strength, I guess it can’t be helped, but perhaps I should start training my legs.
If I return, a marathon is… harsh, so I’ll at least start walking to build up stamina.
Eventually, we approached the city gates that were so large I had to look up at them
From afar, it looked like a miniature city, but as we approached, I found it exceedingly large.
The gray stone work has been deeply stained black and reddish-brown in some places over the years.
And vines encroach the giant walls.
The bridge that leads into the town… It was also made of stone, and easy to walk on.
After dazing off for a while, I noticed Celeilia standing at the base of the bridge, waving her hand at me. I ran to catch up with her.
As I crossed the empty gate, the sights of the Castle Town extended before me.
Just like the castle, the houses lined up were made by piling up loads of stone.
While a few weeds grew here and there, the stone paved roads were a welcome improvement to the hard ground.
The houses are equipped with wooden… cross framed windows.
“It’s like a ghost town…”
A town silent as death itself. A silent street. A silent city… A silent world.
Life isn’t here either.
From what I can see, it hasn’t been that many years since some of these houses were built.
It’s strange for stone buildings like these to be preserved so beautifully.
How should I put this… it wouldn’t be strange for them to be more weathered or broken, but it’s as if up ‘til a few months ago, people had been living here just fine…
“Mizuki, horriki nit!”
As I was being overcome with anxiety, Celeilia called out to me.
It may be embarrassing, but I truly am glad that she’s with me.
Celeilia appears to have a goal in mind, and whenever I would have stopped, she gripped my hand and led me on.
This used to be a large city, I assume. The castle town is really wide, and the streets are so complex I think I would get lost alone.
It’s possible that Celeilia once lived in this town before.
Her movements were so smooth that the thought passed through my mind.
What we were slowly approaching was the castle we saw from the top of the hill.
“Roph, Hitkima mezmo hottechyo sokchenma kezo…”
Speaking in a somewhat regretful tone, Celeilia began to increase her pace.
When we passed through the castle gate, I looked up at three separate buildings.
The first was the large castle. The other two, I don’t know.
Celeilia steps into the castle without hesitation.
The interior was dim, and slightly moist. The ventilation also seemed bad.
Protruding from the wall were stands for torches, most likely used to illuminate the place.
As if they had burned out long ago, chips of carbon were scattered around my feet.
More than a castle, the cold atmosphere of a fort ruled the area.
On the way through, we descended a staircase, but the drop between steps was quite harsh and irregular, so I almost fell many times.
And what Celeilia finally stopped at was gold and silver. A door fitted with many precious metals and pretty gemstone ornaments.
“Is there something beyond here?”
As she nodded firmly, she gave the door a strong push.
It won’t open.
Celeilia tilts her head out of curiosity.
“Could it be…”
I tried pulling at it.
The door, that had been made overly heavy by all its ornaments, drags along the floor as it starts to open.
When I looked towards Celeilia, I found her face was slightly died a pink color.
Is she embarrassed?
So even she makes mistakes.
I had arbitrarily made an image of her as a perfect person who could do anything.
I mean, she showed me magic feats every day. I had expectations, or perhaps it was aspirations.
But perhaps this is a bit relieving.
Up ‘til now… no. Even now, I find this lifeless place scary, so that calmed me down a little.
The inside of the door was dark, and I couldn’t really see, but a faint glow escaped through the shuttered windows on the other side.
When Celeilia open the window, the room’s contents were illuminated.
Everything was intricately decorated… there were a lot of things, but the basic layout of the room included a rug, bed, table, and a book shelf.
On the floor ant table, dust has piled up.
If I were to describe it in a single sentence, this looks like the bedroom of royalty…. Could it be…
Looking closely, the area to the right of the shelf’s layer of dust was slightly lighter than the rest of the place.
“Roph, hohoki maymo.”
As I noticed, Celeilia spoke, and started pulling at the shelf.
I don’t know what’s there, but I’ll help out.
The book shelf was lighter than it looked, and with two people, it was easy to move.
“Is this what you call a hidden passageway?”
Behind it was a hole so narrow only one person could pass through at a time.
On the other side of the hole was a stairway leading downwards, but any further than that was too dark to make out.
Celeilia left her luggage in the room. She took a few red sheets with in one hand.
No matter how many times I see them her papers are miraculous. When we camp out, they have a high output, but now they let off a warm light to grant us vision.
With the other hand, she grasped mine, and started descending the stairs.
The heartbeat transmitted to me through our linked hands seemed unusually loud.
We descended a few levels, and the atmosphere told me we had made It underground. Before us was a large room, and its contents left me at a loss for words.
It was a mountain of treasure.
What was reflected on my eyes was golden metals, and gem-ornamented accessories. Large jewels, precious-looking old books, crowns and tiaras. There were staffs, and other things that seemed valuable.
There’s the phrase treasure hoard, but I think it’s the perfect phrase to use here.
From the mountain of priceless treasures, she produced a small box, and presented its contents to me.
Six balls of hard candy were lined up.
Because of their age, their quality was much lower than anything you would find in a store.
More importantly, they were placed in an area with no temperature or moisture regulation. Some of them seem to have melted slightly. I’m a little hesitant to try placing one in my mouth…
Before I could say anything, she immediately popped one into her own mouth.
“Rach, Mizuki, o minette.”
She grabbed a single candy, and closed in on my mouth.
I think minette meant to eat. It’s a word she often repeats around eating time, so there’s no doubt it’s related to the act.
I look at the approaching candy ball.
It really is a little dirty. This will require some courage to eat.
“If I eat that, I’ll ruin my stomach, so…”
“Yazka kachya hachime!”
It was the first time Celeila shouted at me.
She seems a little angry, does she not?
She’s asserting her will much more strongly than before, or something like that.
Yeah~… It’s scary, but since she’s led me all the way here, I might as well muster up some courage.
I take the ball, and timidly pop it into my mouth.
What started rolling and spreading around my tongue was quite a strange flavor.
Not sweet, per say, and it didn’t have any sort of scent like mint.
I really can’t find words to describe it.
At the very least, in my life, I’ve never tasted anything that resembled it.
If I were forced to give a description, then perhaps a melting ball of glass that dissolved as I licked it… that sort of flavor.
“Mizuki, are my words getting through?”
I heard someone call out to me, so I turned around. And of course, only Celeilia was there.
I mean, the voice clearly called me Mizuki.
What does this mean? Could it be that Celeilia learned Japanese?
No, that’s not happening.
Even if she understood it, she would have told me earlier.
Seeing my dumb-found expression, Celeilia offered a soft smile.
“I can call you Celeilia… right?”
“Yes, I am Celeilia Flamell.”
As she answered my question, Celeilia showed a slight moisture in her eyes, as she occasionally did on our travels, as she smiled.
“Always… Mizuki, I wanted to talk to you…”
“With me? Wait, Celeilia, just who are you?”
“I am just Celeilia. This country’s… no, Mizuki, a resident of a world different than yours.”
With a lonely expression, she nodded.
“You may not believe me, but the worlds Mizuki and I were born in are different ones… I think.”
“Um~… you mean like a difference in language, or country, or something like that?”
“Mizuki, I am certain of it. I mean, in the world I live in… in this country, there exists no such thing as the tool you keep in your left pocket.”
I immediately stuck my hand into the pocket.
In it was the outdated-model cellphone I had been using for many years.
In the past, when I thought it was still too early for me to have one, Mother and Father bought it for me. The reason it’s so old is for sentimental reasons. To power it, I have to go to the store and buy five batteries. Its functionality is quite low, and compared to the latest trends, it’s quite heavy.
But to me, it’s quite an important item.
“This is just a normal cellphone, though?”
“Right… so to you, it’s normal. Then is this something you often find around you, Mizuki?”
The warm patterned papers painted with Red dyes acting as our light.
Around me… there wasn’t any sort of magical tool like that.
In the first place, being able to understand each other after merely placing a candy in my mouth is strange. It’s something like magic.
The strangest thing was that the words I heard from Celeilia were definitely still the words of a foreign land, but only after my brain has processed it, does it turn into Japanese. If I didn’t call it magic, what would it be?
“Since times are as they are, I’ve been using them like this, but usually you can last a week on a single sheet, you know.”
“Then that candy was the same?”
“Yes, it uses very precious materials to manufacture, so this country’s king only had six of them to call his own, but a person who puts one in his mouth will be able to temporarily understand the words of others. It’s a really convenient item.”
“Was it alright to use such a precious thing on me?”
“There’s no problem. I mean, its owner, people to accuse you, and people to judge you; they’re all gone.”
I tried to ask what she meant, but unable to spit out those words, the merely dissolved into my throat with the candy.
— It’s because of how sad Celeilia seemed as she cast her eyes at the ground…
I just wanted to know why she had to make such a face.
It isn’t just today.
Yesterday, and they day before, and even before that, I just wanted to cheer up Celeilia as shs smiled to me with such sadness.
“Got it. I’ll take your word for it, Celeilia.”
“Yep. This world is a different one than the one I lived in. Another world. It’s natural that the language is different, and the place I’m in right now is one of the countless countries in this land.”
“Thank you… Mizuki…”
“That’s my line. Thank you for showing me the roads up until now. I would be really troubled if I were alone.”
“That may be so. You didn’t seem to be used to sleeping outside… ah, but that crunchy sweet snack was really tasty. Was that your hand-made, Mizuki?”
“Yeah, it’s a food from a foreign country in my world…”
In the three days it took to reach here, I thought the Supplement Combo Shortbread (Chocolate Flavored) would go bad, so I fed some to Celeilia.
At the start, perhaps because it was a foreign food, she hesitated like me. But after taking a bite, she seemed to really enjoy it.
“My best friend loves sweet things, but I was concerned about his nutritional balance, so as some point I got around to learning how to make them. Because as long as it’s a sweet snack, he’ll eat it.”
Shortbread is a traditional Scottish sweet, and while there’s been a bit of a miscommunication between languages, if you say Ca○rieMate, most people understand.
(TL: Calorie Mate is a Japanese energy bar cookie somewhat like shortbread.)
My friend had a similar image of it, so when I tried mixing chocolate into it as an experiment, he happily ate it, so I ground up nutritional supplements, and mixed it in.
“I see. Mizuki, you like that person, right?”
“Yeah, he’s my lifetime fried.”
Celeilia made a really sad expression.
I was about to ask the reason, but in the next instant, a smile resurfaced on her face.
Did I see it wrong?
“But Mizuki, that brown sickly-sweet liquid was no good. That’s long since crossed the limits of rationality.”
The Condensed Coffee Milk is definitely a bit much for the average person.
But that man took this irrational liquid, and put honey and maple syrup in it before swallowing it. But the scene was too scary to bring up.
I think it’s okay to drink on occasion, but regular intake is hazardous.
“Celeilia, why were you in that house?”
“Because that was my birthplace.”
“I see. It’s nice and quiet, and the air is really clear.”
“… That’s right.”
For a split second, shadows covered her face, and she made a dark expression, but she forcefully covered it up with a smile.
“Hey, Mizuki. I’d like to hear more about you.”
“Really? Well, I don’t mind, but…”
I really do want to pep her up. But whenever the talk turns in her direction, she hangs her head.
I conceal the questions I really wanted to ask, and at some point, I started talking about nothing but myself.
“My Mother is a person who teaches the art of arranging flowers, and my father is one who sells them, and…”
Before I noticed it, I was talking about those precious to me, my friends, my school, my life, my everyday matters.
It seemed that these pointless details were enough for her.
Eventually, I had dwindled on things to talk about, and the amount of words exiting my mouth decreased in number.
“Mizuki, I’ve decided.”
She grasped both of my hands, and squeezed them.
And unlike the expressions she showed me before, the soft ones that seemed to accept everything thrown at her, she made a serious face as she stared into my eyes.
It felt as if I was going to be sucked into those golden pupils.
And there I noticed.
Her hands had begun to tremble.
Before I could ask her for the reason, she began spinning out words.
“Mizuki, prepare your heart. From here on, I’ll tell you about everything I know, everything about this world.”
Once. Twice. Celeilia takes a few deep breathes, before making a serious expression. She spoke.
“There is no life in this world.”
“To be more specific, three months ago, one day, starting with humans, all forms of life vanished.”
“Mizuki, did you find nothing strange about the road we walked to get here?”
Of course it was strange.
From the time I found myself on that mountain, to the moment I met Celeilia, I didn’t see a single bug or a single bird.
That didn’t change for the three days I spent with her.
All I ever heard was the sound of the wind, and our own footsteps.
The sound of leaves rubbing against each other, and the sound of flowing water was still there, but there was absolutely nothing else.
Even if she didn’t ask, this isn’t just the first or second time I thought it strange.
But… I had intentionally prevented myself from thinking about it.
“Yeah, I did think so.”
“Three months ago, on the day all life vanished in the neighboring building… the royal magic brigade ‘The School of Nil’s lodging house, I woke up, but no one was there.”
“… And you’re sure they didn’t move somewhere?”
In order to deny reality, I ask something I already knew the answer to.
Even though, through Celeilia’s behavior and the current situation, I knew she told no lies.
“This country’s Royalty, Knights, Soldiers, the Court Magicians, Civilians, there’s no way that they all moved away at once. No, even if they did, there would be no reason to.”
The words Knights and Magicians tamper with my sense of reality, but but even if she didn’t explain the fact that an unbelievable amount of people disappeared, I would have understood it.
However, even if that’s the truth, why is Celeilia here and well?
From her behavior, I get the feeling that even she doesn’t know.
And… the one going through the most pain through this talk is Celeilia…
“At the start, I thought I had just slept in. The eternally lively lodgings were completely empty… but I immediately noticed something was strange. I mean, the soldiers who started training early every morning weren’t there either, and there was no one in the castle town.”
Let’s try imagining it.
On day when I woke up in my own bed, Mother and Father weren’t there.
After going outside, I still couldn’t find anyone, and when I reached school, my best friend wasn’t there.
Even when I went to the station, there wasn’t even the shadow of a person… what would happen to me?
I would be afraid. Simply afraid.
I’ve heard stories like hers appear in Manga an novels, but still, it’s scary.
All of her precious people suddenly up and disappeared one day, the simple thought makes my bode shake.
“I was scared… I searched everywhere. I feared they might hate me, but I even illegally broke into others’ houses. After a week, even though I knew it was wrong, I started treating everything in the castle as my own property…”
I don’t know the situation, but I don’t think it could have been helped.
Even if you become alone, you have to live on.
You still have to eat meals, and you have to find a place to sleep. So even if I found myself in a similar situation, it wouldn’t be strange for me to find myself stealing from the super markets and convenience stores.
“After that, I searched. The nearby villages, my home town, and even the neighboring countries. But in that country, or the one after that, or even the one after that, there was no one…”
“In the end, I was tired. I decided to return to my home, and live a quiet life.”
I’m sure Celeilia finally gave up.
There was no longer anyone in this world besides her, and from here on, that fact wasn’t going to change.
There was more than enough supplies if she wanted to live alone.
If she wasn’t going to die by her own hand, even if it was scary, she had no choice but to live.
“And by the time I had gotten used to my new life… Mizuki, you appeared.”
“Yes. I thanked god. Thank you for letting Mizuki be born, thank you for letting him be alive… again and again, an uncountable amount of time, I offered my words of thanks.”
So that’s why she shed tears so happily back then.
If I was in a similar situation, I would have clung to her in tears.
… I mean, what she had given up on had suddenly appeared before her.
“So I always wanted to remain by Mizuki. If Mizuki was going to travel, I planned on following him to the ends of the earth.”
Past tense? Does that mean that now is different?
“But soon, I noticed. That Mizuki wasn’t a person of this world, that he didn’t know that there was no one else here… that he had only wandered here by some coincidence.”
“… Yeah. I suddenly found myself in a different place than the one I had been in before, I went down the mountain, and I met you, Celeilia.”
“I’m glad Mizuki is a kind person. I was in confusion at that time. No matter what sort of person you were, even if you were a violent individual, I would have followed you.”
Perhaps… that isn’t strange.
There’s no life in this world for her besides me, so even if she didn’t value me as a human, but as a form of life in itself, I wouldn’t feel bad about it.
Even if I was truly a villain, she wouldn’t have resisted me.
I mean, she had fulfilled her dream. Her dream of finding some life out there besides her own.
“When I brought you here, I merely intended to exchange words with you. I never intended on telling you about this.”
“I thought that if Mizuki had to know, he wouldn’t always stay by my side.”
“… Let’s see. No, I think I would still be with you.”
It may have been nice for Celeilia to have found me, but the same goes for me.
If I was alone, I would have been shaking in a corner, alone, in this foreign world.
“Mizuki, I’ll say it again. Prepare your heart.”
In a pained shaking voice, Celeilia declared it.
Her words were of a reality cold enough to trample over all I knew in my world.
No, the truth is more… I noticed it long, long ago.
If I pretended I didn’t know, if I kept fooling her, and deceiving my heart…
It had to come to me in words. I had to have someone other than me say it, or I would have continued escaping from reality for my whole life. That was the sad, cold truth.
“At this rate, Mizuki, you won’t be able to return to your own world. You’ll never see your precious people again.”
It felt as if the ground had collapsed below me.
The blood in my body instantly turned cold.
It should have been something obvious, but it was the truth I had been averting my eyes from.
When I snapped back to reality, I noticed that Celeilia’s words were no longer entering my ears… just the words, 《You’ll never see your precious people again》 kept echoing in my head.