The sky was clear, without a cloud in the sky. The perfect weather for a walk.
Celeilia wore the silver woven hooded coat she always wore, and took in hand what would be a small basket for hiking in my world, as she walked out from the castle gate.
“We’re visiting the Castle Town?”
“Yes. Mizuki, today, I want to let you know my world.”
“Got it. The truth is, I was a little curious myself.”
I’d spent the last few days in lodgings of the imperial court magician brigades, and while it may have been of my own accord, I hadn’t a chance to stop by the castle town. I had only gone through it on the first day.
More than anything else, walking through the desolate streets alone was a little scary.
But bidding farewell to it with such scary sentiment would be sad.
I mean, this is where Celeilia lived, and where many more lived their lives.
I walked beside her, and looked over the town.
There wasn’t any wind, and it was warm, so nothing but the dead silence of the townscape came into my senses.
Mine and her footsteps, atop the weed-ridden stone pavement was all that was there to break that silence.
And Celeilia stopped in front of a single house… a store with a small signboard propped up against it.
Even from outside, I could see the store’s interior was a bit dusty.
Inside, the stone pots that were used in the castle let me tell it was a food store.
“This is the Lahn shop I frequented. They baked loads of lahn every day.”
The word that even the candy couldn’t translate was likely the name of a food.
“Remember, you ate it on the day we met, Mizuki.”
“Oh, that nan-like bread.”
“So you have it in your world too, Mizuki?”
“Yep. It’s not all too common in my country, but I’ve eaten it before”
It appears the nan-like lahn was a staple in her country.
Grown on rice, I wasn’t all too familiar with it, but it had a pleasant taste that could become a habit.
“It was a shop managed by a guy with quite a scary, rugged face, but the taste was quite nice…”
Her eyes were looking far away.
I’m sure she wasn’t looking at me. She was watching a scene of the restraint full of people.
I wasn’t able to see the same world. For some reason, that made me sad.
“… Let’s go to the next one.”
We walked off with the lahn shop to our back.
The castle town was like a maze, and without Celeilia to lead me, I’d have already been lost.
The only things for my eyes to follow were Celeilia and her shadow.
I looked at my right hand.
This world without another living life was arousing a feeling in my heart I could equate to none other.
Eventually, what came into sight, was a white building.
After years of wear, its stone walls had chipped away here and there.
“This is the Nil Magician’s Association I served from when I was eight, to when I was fifteen.”
“Eight? This country puts people to work at such a young age?”
“Yes. Was it different from where you came from, Mizuki?”
“Where I was, even part time work was for high school… around sixteen at least.”
Honestly, I couldn’t conceal my surprise.
Of course, from history class, I had known that such an era existed.
But from my point of view it was a time too far away… of the distant past, so seeing one who truly experienced it, seeing Celeilia before me was surprising.
Thinking back to when I was eight, that was when I was going to school, and playing around with Yuuji.
I couldn’t imagine that small self of mine working at such an age.
“For them to be able to go on without putting the children to work… Mizuki, your world is a good one.”
“… Right. That’s what I want to think.”
The worse parts of my world came up in my mind. But a large number of good things came up alongside them.
At the very least, in the scope of the world I could see, there were plenty of kind people.
“What sort of place was this?”
“The association head who lived here was a detestable person. He would work me ragged every day. What’s more, my salary was this~ small, and I had to support myself. It was quite a time.”
“That’s must’ve been a tough life.”
“That isn’t the case.”
I tried imagining it a little.
A young Celeilia ordered around by a scary old woman.
It was like the tragic backstory of a fairy tale protagonist.
“I was on the luckier side. I mean, I had magic talent from the time I was born, after all.”
“Oh really. Come to think of it, what is the difference between the magicians’ association, and the imperial magic brigades?”
From their names, it may be hierarchical, or perhaps the latter operated on a national level, but it was difficult to think of what job to equate it to in my world, so I tried asking.
“Right. The magicians’ association is practical applications, and the imperial magicians are research, perhaps?”
It was different from what I imagined, but a pharmacist and chemist came to mind.
One to sell the drug, the other to make it.
Both were important jobs, to help the lives of others.
As one was managed by the government, I’m sure it had some harsh prerequisites.
“But there’s something I still wonder, even now.”
“Right. There are various sorts of magic, but this country has a rule of one person only being permitted to one type. Break it, and your license is revoked, and you’re driven out the country.”
“Hmm… that sounds harsh.”
“When you want to study multiple magics, you generally have to call over someone from a different faction. There can be months on end of nothing but meetings over it. If one person was simply permitted more than one, I’m sure research would have advanced much further.”
One per person might be similar to a business measure.
In Japan’s edo period, merchants of a single union had definites on what to and what not to make.
Perhaps magic was the same, and so magic was one per person?
Huh? But up to now, Celeilia’s used fire, water, wind, nil. Just from what I’ve seen, she can use at least four sorts.
Perhaps as she’d said before, she wanted someone to judge her for it.
“So what sort of lifestyle did you live here?”
“We produced intermediary paper. Though compared to what you can find in the castle, it’s much lower grade.”
It looks like there’s a ranking to it.
I don’t know the specifics, but it looks like magic’s got a lot going to it.
“But here, my sister… not that we were related by blood, but anyways, there was a really kind girl living here. If she wasn’t there, I wouldn’t have even thought to become an imperial magician.”
She introduced the absent girl with a happy tone. I’m sure that she was as kind a girl as Celeilia said.
“So you really liked her, Celeilia?”
“Yes, she was really nice to me… I’ll never forget.”
Seeing Celeilia’s expression, the face of the teacher who looked after me in elementary school came up in my mind.
He ended up being my homeroom teacher no matter what grade I was in. A good teacher at that.
He worried for me when I had lost my parents, and looked after me the next year, and the year after that. From a teacher’s perspective, I must have been a pain, but still he was kind.
I won’t forget his rage back when we had yet to learn the meaning of leaving a flower vase on a desk.
He could be scary, but he had me on his mind when he got angry. He must have a kind heart.
And I definitely won’t forget that sentiment.
“I’m sorry, Mizuki. For making it so awkward for a while.”
“It’s alright. I can understand what you’re feeling… no, saying that would just be rude, but I get it a bit.”
“… Thank you. Next is…”
And so she and I roamed around the castle town without people.
Just as the people had walked their home back when the town was alive.
It was vaster than I could have imagined.
The proof of just how many lives had lived… and fragments of those lives remained scattered around in stasis.
Balls that rolled about unadulterated, tableware left on the table, carts parked right in the middle of the roads, merchandise still laid over the merchants’ cloths.
It’s not like everyone had disappeared because they wanted to.
There wasn’t anyone left to know the reason, but I’m sure they were forcefully erased.
Just who could have… maybe it wasn’t anything human to begin with.
But for what purpose did something like this…
It may have been a natural phenomenon, or maybe even a magic I didn’t know of.
But according to Celeilia, it would be impossible to wipe out all life at once.
What’s more, not only humanity, all life at all.
Just what fruitless event could have happened…
“Mizuki, you must be tired from all that walking, right? Should we stop for lun… fusa?”
“… It looks like the effect is wearing off. What should we do?”
The effects of the mysterious candy were to last a few hours.
Putting one in my mouth in the morning, and having it last to lunch was a longer time than it had lasted before.
There were two drops left.
According to Celeilia, they were quite a precious commodity, and getting another would be next to impossible, so we had to take them with care.
Because neither I nor she would be able to communicate our thoughts.
After calling my name, she popped one of the two remaining drops in her mouth.
For some reason, she closed the candy box.
I was sure they didn’t have any meaning unless two humans ate them at once.
“Celeilia, what are…!?”
The moment I thought I was embraced, I felt the overlap of our lips.
And her extended tongue had the candy balanced atop it…
It’s no good. My head was going white, and I couldn’t form a thought.
My face felt really hot. It was as if the blood of my body was gathering in my head.
Celeilia pulled her hood over her head, and hid her expression.
But she was red to the tip of her ears.
Not that I’m one to talk.
“The last one is necessary to return you to your world, Mizuki. So we have to economize them…”
“I-I see. Will we be fine on effective time?”
“Yes. It’ll be a little short, but it should be fine for up to where we’re going.”
Uuh… this is awkward.
Perhaps it would be best I said something.
When we had talking normally only moments before, the words were getting caught in my throat.
“For now, how about lunch?”
Celeilia produced some food from her basket.
It looked like a triangular pie. A food that made me think of something fried in wheat flour.
When I accepted it and took a bite, I found the crisp taste of unfamiliar vegetables and minced meat within.
But the events from before were too impactful for me to remember the taste.
It was tasty. That’s all the memory that remained.
“Well then, Mizuki. Follow me to the last place.”
We headed away from the castle town, up a road to the top of a hill.
Jutting out from three months’ worth of grass and weed, stood a lone windmill.
On a wide tower built of piled stone, a large propeller leisurely turned.
This world’s characteristic clear air rode the wind to set it in motion.
Only one. A single flower petal danced around in the air.
Beyond the mill bloomed a field of blue flowers.
A variety I’d never come across in the wisdom mother and father had hammered into me from my youth.
And the unique scent of those flowers wafted around in the breeze.
… Yep, this is quite a comfortable place.
“Hmmm! This is my favorite spot.”
After taking a big stretch, Celeilia informed me.
“It really is quite a nice place.”
“I know, right? Even after I grew up, it’s a place I’d go whenever I found some free time.”
With a darkening expression, she pointed her finger towards the castle town.
The place we had spent the day wandering around.
The person-less town, yet the town where their breath still remained.
“Mizuki, can I ask for two final wishes?”
“Yes. First, instead of Celeilia, could you call me Sherry?”
That was one in my world as well, a pet name or nickname.
Something used with people more close to one another.
“Sure. I got it, Sh-Sherry.”
“Ah! You hesitated a bit there.”
“Fufu, thank you, Mizuki. Is there any way you’d like to be called?”
“Ye~ah, my friends all just called me Mizuki, so I never really thought about it.”
Is that so, she said as she looked off over the town once more.
The wind let her transparent hair flutter.
Putting her hand over her eyes, she looked far off into the distance.
I could see it clearly because of her hair’s lack of definition.
“The other one is…”
“Don’t forget this world. Don’t forget… me.”
She took a deep breath before she said that.
I looked back over the events of the day.
The castle town was scattered with all of Sherry’s memories.
And the time we spent walking together had become a good memory for me as well.
So without feeling forced at all, I could say it clearly.
“Mizuki, thank you…”
When I nodded and answered, her eyes turned a little teary.
“Hey, Sherry. If you’d like, do you think you could come with me to my world?”
“… That sounds nice.”
“… But it’s impossible.”
She asserted that quite definitely.
Her expression was… sorrowful, a face of hers I didn’t want to see again.
“All that was written on any of the documents only pertained to summoning.”
“Yes, a system of this world to call forth people from other locations in the same world. Summoning and recalling were made in a pair, so their base premise made it so that you could return those summoned ones to their original locations.”
“But otherworldly summoning operates on a fundamentally different principal. Because you try calling out for something you can’t even know exists, the authors only thought of the summoning part of it. As for recall, all I can do by my abilities is to rely on the memories of the target to influence and aim the spell of the caster.”
I don’t really get it, but I do understand it seems to depend on me.
But then why can’t Sherry come along…
“Mizuki, you can remember your world, can’t you? You can remember your precious ones, can’t you?”
“And I can’t.”
All that had been completely natural to me was out of the realm of her imagination.
Just as even now, I won’t really have a grasp of the concept of magic.
Like that, my world… the scent of the air, the scenery, the people, the flora, fauna… she had no way of knowing any of the slight factors my body had grown accustomed to over the years.
No matter how long I talked on about it, even if she could imagine it, there’s no way it would be the same.
“Hey don’t make that sort of face! I can do fine on my own.”
“You’ve given me hope, Mizuki. If I tried to wish for anything more, I’m sure god would be angry with me.”
That can’t be.
A god that would get angry at something like that…
“Now let’s return to the room, and return you to your original world.”
When she said that with such strong will, I couldn’t say anything in response.
The road back was silent from beginning to end.
I wanted to tell her something, but I wasn’t really sure what that something was.
This feeling is… one I haven’t felt since I lost me real mother and father.
Unsure of what it was I was so afraid of, unsure of what it was I should do.
Once we had returned to the room, Sherry tried to spin out some words, but the effects of the candy had worn off.
The time was closing in.
I barely had a chance to say the words I had to get across.
Sherry placed a candy drop in her mouth, and exchanged it in the same way she did at noon.
But my body didn’t heat up as it had before.
Instead, something akin to nihility was seizing my heart.
“Mizuki, you treasure your precious things, people, world, don’t you?”
That wasn’t what I really wanted to say.
Just what is it I want to do?
Mother… father… Yuuji…
What were they thinking back then when they saved me… I don’t know.
She suddenly called out my name in a loud voice, so I responded by reflex.
“Is your sentiment towards all you hold dear really something so small!?”
What I ended up leaving behind wasn’t something that trifling.
Everyone was so precious to me, so important and irreplaceable.
“Of course not!”
“Then prove it to me!”
“You yourself are the proof. So return to the world, and find happiness for sure!”
… Oh, I see.
So Sherry was the same.
She saved a powerless me.
She’s one of the people who gave me courage.
“Then go on. Picture hard the memories of your own world, and hold them strongly to your heart.”
“You definitely can’t turn back, alright?”
I nodded to her words.
And after reflecting my affirmation in her eyes, she smiled and opened the door to the room.
As if being sucked into that room, the empty air blurred out, and a little red, blue, green, yellow, white, black, various colors were melting into the open space.
It was a peculiar spectacle, as if I was watching a scene from a movie.
“Now picture your precious people in your mind, and keep on walking.”
On those words, I walked into the room.
The moment I took a single step in, I was filled with an uncanny floating sensation.
But still I walked.
I didn’t look back.
Because one of my precious people told me not to.
It was Japanese.
Even when then candy should have been translating, the pronunciations was off…
Those words had come clearly through Sherry’s voice.
I walked without turning.
To return to where everyone was.
Sherry said to remember my important people.
Mother, father, Yuuji.
Think of everything that exists in my world.
Believe that doing so would be returning the favor to her.
When I was young, I was helped.
They took my somewhere every week, every day to cheer me up.
When I was young, I was taught.
That flowers were a beautiful thing.
When I was young, I was saved.
I learned I wasn’t alone.
On a rainy day, I had noticed it.
That not everything around me was a bad thing.
I kept walking.
No matter how painful it is to be, how bitter, how sad…
On the edge of my path, I saw a single beam of light.
That is the place I’m to return to.
Warm colors, the scent of flowers, the saccharine smell of sweets.
It all fit.
Capture everyone’s characteristics, their kind hearts.
The light gradually approached.
The point of light continued to sway as if it would go out at any moment.
Reach out your hand. Reach out.
To return to everyone.
You have to reach out.
My hand touched something.
A yellow flower petal.
Geranium… a flower that held the meaning of friendship.
And it had two other meanings.
One was 『Affection』.
The other was…
The language of flowers stuck on to yellow germaniums alone.
“I got it…”
The words I wanted to tell Celeilia were only coming to me now.
The memory of the day everyone lent me their hands played back to me.
The rain was falling, and on that day, I had quite a detestable sentiment.
Flowers were left on my desk, and I cried my heart out.
It wasn’t that I was sad.
I was happy.
That I wasn’t alone… that there were people who could reach out their hands to me.
“I have to turn back…!”
I’ll end up leaving Celeilia alone.
Even when I was the only one who could reach out a hand to her.
『You definitely can’t turn back.』
That’s surely what she said.
And so I ended up breaking my promise.
I was unable to comprehend what sort of abnormality would arise in the art of magic.
I have to return to Sherry.
She said it, didn’t she?
To imagine strongly.
I dug up all the memories in my head.
Of how I descended the mountain by the river. Of how I followed the river to a ghost town. Of how I met her while wandering lost. Of how we traveled together. Of how I saw magic for the first time. Of how we reached the castle. Of how we first exchanged words in the underground treasury. Of how I spoke of my precious ones. Of how I ate her cooking. Of how she led me around the castle town. Of how she told me to call her Sherry under the wind mill.
And of how Sherry and I… kissed.
The happiness, and sadness and whatever else.
Of the days I spent there, remember it all.
In the crumbling form of space, a single light began to form.
… And I reached out my hand towards it…