The Girls of the Warehouse
Kutori Nota Seniolis is a fairy. This year she turned fifteen, making her the oldest girl currently in the warehouse and a fully grown fairy soldier. When her compatibility with ‘Dug Weapons’ was confirmed, she had been assigned to the sword Seniolis, whose name she now bears.
A light shade of blue fills her hair and eyes, but she herself is not particularly fond of the color, for two reasons. First of all, as with any typical fairy hair, it attracts too much attention on the streets of town. Secondly, and more importantly, it doesn’t go well with brightly colored clothes.
“… what in the world are they doing?”
Kutori, sitting by the window in the reading room and gazing outside, muttered to herself. A small clearing in the forest spread out in front of her eyes. Young fairies, along with a tall young man, excitedly chased a ball around. She hadn’t really realized it until now, but Willem seemed to naturally merge into warehouse life, despite being a different age, gender, and even race.
The special dessert from a few days ago probably served as the catalyst. When the little ones found out that he made it himself, they instantly dissolved any suspicions of him. Then, before Kutori knew it, they had become attached to him, as evidenced by the ball game occurring before her.
“Seriously… what is with that guy?”
When they first met, Willem struck Kutori as a mystery; he was amazingly kind to her, a stranger, and an annoying one at that, yet seemed to be shrouded in a sort of gloomy shadow. Moreover, he managed to live in a town of beast people despite being a markless himself.
The next time they met, Panival, one of the little ones, had him pinned underneath her in the forest. Now that she thought about it, Willem had also been squished beneath Kutori after her little skydive. I hope he’s not into that sort of thing… she considered the possibility for a moment, but became embarrassed and shoved the thought out of her head.
And lastly… he was always nice to the little kids. Even when that noisy, shameless, annoying, bothersome, irritating group of girls burst into his room, he talked playfully with them without a single complaint or frown on his face and even took the same attitude towards Kutori, who appeared a little later.
The same attitude? Those words stuck in Kutori’s mind, stopping the gears of her thoughts from turning any further. Could it be that Willem saw all of them in the exact same way? Could he be treating the fifteen year old, fully grown, mature, responsible Kutori Nota Seniolis the same way as those ten year old, immature little kids? She didn’t want to believe it.
Besides, he — Second Enchanted Weapons Technician Willem Kumesh — wasn’t even that much older than Kutori. Although his mysterious aura could be somewhat deceiving, she guessed his true age to be a little less than twenty. In that case, the age difference between them came out to a mere three or four years, making them basically the same within experimental error. His age gave him no right to treat her like a kid.
Or maybe, their height difference was to blame. But even then, the problem remained serious. Kutori Nota Seniolis happened to proudly hold the title of tallest fairy in the warehouse. She supposed that, from Willem’s very high point of view, she might still look fairly close to the others. Having Naigrat as another tall target for comparison certainly didn’t help. On top of that —
“Watcha lookin’ at, hm?”
“Ah!” Receiving a surprise hug from behind, Kutori let out an odd sounding scream. “Hey, don’t do that!”
“Haha, sorry sorry. You haven’t moved an inch for a while, so I couldn’t help myself.”
“What kind of reason is that…”
Batting away the arms entangled around her neck, she turned to see Aiseia standing there with her usual smile.
Aiseia Myse Valgalis is also a fairy. At fourteen years old, she is, like Kutori, considered a fully grown fairy soldier and has also had her compatibility with Dug Weapons confirmed. Also like Kutori, her last name, Valgalis, signifies her sword. She has hair colored like a ripe ear of rice and slightly slanted tree brown eyes. Her face always shows a warm, friendly smile.
“He’s a popular guy… it’s almost as if he’s been living here for years. Did ya know? The ball game they’re playing right now… he taught them it apparently. A lot of people can play at once, and even the kids bad at sports can get a little action.”
“Hmm… I see.”
“You’re curious aren’t ya? About him.”
Anyone in this warehouse would rightfully be curious about Willem. Wherever he went, he stood out.
“Your new hat.”
The sudden change of topic surprised the lost in thought Kutori, who almost fell out of her chair.
“You’re taking pretty good care of it, aren’t ya? You stuffed it in your closet and never used it since, keeping it nice and clean.”
“I-It’s not like that means anything! That hat’s only useful as a disguise for when I leave the island… I don’t need it when I’m here! Besides, why are you even bringing that up now?!”
“Hmm?” Aiseia looked at Kutori with a broad grin across her face.
“Nothing, nothing. It’s just, you know, your reaction says a lot.”
“What are you talking about? Anyone would act like that if they were surprised.”
“Are you sure about that?”
As Aiseia continued her interrogation, a rolled up piece of paper suddenly struck her head.
“Please be quiet in the reading room.”
Nephren Ruq Insania stood there with her usual expressionless face. She is, of course, another fairy, but unlike the other two, Nephren is only thirteen years old and won’t be a fully grown fairy soldier until summer of this year. Her compatibility with Dug Weapons was only just recently confirmed. She has faded gray hair and charcoal black eyes. Her height is low even compared to other fairies, to the point that she might be buried if caught in a crowd of the little ones. She wears her signature expressionless face around the clock. Kutori had never even seen her smiling face or angry face.
Looking around, Kutori noticed that the three of them gathered by the window were the only ones present in the reading room.
Nephren took a seat next to the apologizing Kutori. “So, what kind of person is he?”
“I thought you said to be quiet…”
“It’s okay as long as we keep our voices down.”
“So it’s fine to keep talking, huh? … are you interested in him too, Ren?”
“Not really.” She glanced outside the window. “I just thought he was kind of a mysterious person.”
Kutori felt a little relieved that it wasn’t just her who saw Willem that way. If he was just simply a nice and cheerful person, they wouldn’t be so curious about him. He acted so close with the girls, yet at the same time seemed to draw a line between them. He looked to be having so much fun, yet also seemed a little lonely. He blended in so well to life in the warehouse, yet occasionally had a faraway look in his eyes, as if running through memories of a distant place. So Kutori’s eyes were drawn to him. She couldn’t help but wonder about him.
“… Kutori, how many days are left?”
Despite the ambiguous question, she knew exactly what Aiseia was asking about. She used the calendar in her room to keep track, so of course she had the answer memorized.
“Hmm… I don’t know if that’ll be enough or not…”
“What are you guys talking about?”
“Whether or not we have time to fulfill Kutori’s dreams of love, of course!”
Kutori crashed her head into the table in shock.
“Kutori, be quiet in the reading room.”
“S-Sorry — no, not sorry! What are you saying all of a sudden, Aiseia?!”
“Ahaha, no need to be shy. A lot of fairies don’t even make it to puberty, so you’re lucky you can even experience love, ya know?”
“I-It’s not like I was looking at him in that kind of way.”
“… I see. I’ll go look for some stories with interracial marriage. They might be useful.”
“Ren!? I don’t need those!”
“Kutori, be quiet in the reading room.”
“Who do you think’s making me shout!?”
She took a moment to calm down. Outside, the ball, thrown up high in the air by someone, fell back down, drawing out a wide arc in the sky as it went.
“… I really don’t need anything, so please stop. I was finally able to give up on a lot of things… wouldn’t want to have any more regrets at this point.” Kutori spoke in a soft, barely audible voice.
“I see.” Aiseia let out one last sorrowful laugh, then turned her gaze outside without saying anything more.
Nephren nodded slightly, then, without a word, went back to reading the book in her hands.
One week later.
Willem had begun to get an uneasy feeling about his new job again. As he walked down the hallway trying to pinpoint exactly what felt out of place, a loud pitter patter sound closed in from behind.
Two legs pierced into his back, their force amplified by a well executed running jump. Despite the large difference in body size and weight, the beautifully formed attack almost made Willem fall flat on his face. Before he had time to fully recover, small arms wrapped around his neck in a skillful joint locking technique.
“Ahh!! No, no! That’s not what I meant by ‘get him’!”
“The end justifies the means.”
“True, as long as he can’t escape there’s no problem.”
“There’s a big problem!! We’re the ones asking him for a favor.”
“Displaying a show of force before making a request is a basic strategy.”
“That’s something people who are about to kill each other do!”
“Kill! Kill! Kill!”
“That’s not a word you’re supposed to excitedly repeat!!”
His shoulder being twisted in pleasant directions with pleasant grinding noises, Willem took stock of the situation. The usual energetic little critters surrounded him.
“What’s up, guys? You need something?”
“Yes, yes. We have some business with you.”
“We want to read a book, so come!”
“I-I-I told you, no joint locks when asking for a favor!”
Willem agreed completely with this last girl.
“You want me to help you read a hard book? Sorry, but I’m not the greatest at reading and writing, you know.”
“Eh? You’re a technician, aren’t you? Aren’t you supposed to be smart?”
“Oh, I’m super smart. If you have any ancient literature from 500 years ago, I can read it no problem!”
The girls laughed at what they took to be a joke and pulled on Willem’s sleeves.
“We can read it ourselves. All we want you to do is sit beside us.”
“Yeah, it’s a story from long ago, so with just us it’s scary.”
“Well I’m not really scared or anything, but these kids insisted.”
“H-Hey, don’t act all grown up!”
Like always, the girls ran their mouths freely while managing to work together to drag Willem off somewhere.
“A story from long ago?”
“A story about the Emnetwyte!”
Willem suddenly felt a little dizzy at the mention of that name. A strong sense of deja vu overcame him, and his mind started to dive back into the past. The scenery around him, the warehouse on the 68th Island, twisted into the image of an old orphanage. Sights of the place where he once lived then evoked memories of him, the oldest of the children being raised there, taking care of the young ones.
Father, did you mess something up again?
Voices that Willem had tried so hard not to remember replayed in his head. He realized that he had forgotten something important: why he decided to stay on that filthy 28th Island. It was uncomfortable there. Hard to live. No one accepted him, who bore the obvious defect of being a markless. No one gave him a place he could call home.
But those reasons were exactly why he stayed there. He no longer belonged anywhere. Even if he wished to return home, that wish would never come true. On that dumpster of an island, he never forgot that fact. He was reminded of the ugly truth every day.
But this place looked too similar. He had to constantly tell himself that this was not home. He shouldn’t be wearing this unfitting black army uniform. The rank badge on his shoulder was meaningless. He wouldn’t be here for more than a few months. So everything would be fine. He hadn’t forgotten about or betrayed that place.
A voice brought him back to the present.
“Ah, I’m fine. Just didn’t get enough sleep last night. So what’s this Emnetwyte story about?”
“A looong time ago, they were there! Down on the ground!”
The girls all started frantically talking. In a picture book they read before, it said that terrifying creatures known as Emnetwyte populated the land. And because of them, the Orcs were forced into small patches of poor land, the Elves’ precious forests burned, the Reptrace were driven out of their water holes, the Lucantrobos’ peace was disrupted, the Dragons had their treasure plundered. And when the Visitors descended anew to bestow divine punishment upon them, the Emnetwyte struck first, slaying the gods themselves. In the end, they called the ‘17 Beasts’ out from somewhere and self destructed, taking everything else on the ground along with them.
“Scary, isn’t it?”
When told like that, the story certainly was frightening. It made you wonder how the Emnetwyte could have been such heinous monsters.
“Well, it’s a picture book, so it might not be true you know?”
“But it says it’s a true story.”
“Everything says that.”
The girls looked at each other.
“But then, are the Braves from the story also not real?”
“I wouldn’t want that,” mumbled the purple haired girl. The others nodded in agreement.
“I guess there might be some true things mixed in… why would it be bad if the Braves didn’t exist?”
For a second time, the girls all looked at each other.
“Because… we’re also Braves?”
Willem didn’t quite understand. They feared the Emnetwyte, yet at the same time wanted to become the very symbol of the race itself. Well, it’s true that to humanity at the time, the Braves were like a type of weapon. Maybe that’s why the girls, being weapons themselves, felt some sense of closeness to those ancient warriors.
“By the way, um… Mr. Willem.” One of the girls timidly addressed him. “Doesn’t that hurt?”
Upon hearing the question, the pain in his shoulder suddenly returned, unpleasantly reminding him that he had never left the joint lock.