Recently, rumors have been going around that rain is leaking into the hallway on the second floor. A quick visit confirmed that some carpentry work was indeed necessary. Someone could be called in from town on a later day, but for now it could use some rough patching up. Which meant he needed some wooden boards and a–
“– hey, do you know where the wooden hammer is?” He turned around to discover that his question had been directed at absolutely no one.
Well that’s strange…
Up until now, a young girl with sky blue hair had always been at his side. It had become such a regular thing that he took for granted that she was still there now and asked her a question, but…
“Kutori?” He called out her name, but no answer returned. An uncomfortable feeling began to swell up in his chest. “Aiseia? Ren?” He also tried calling the names of Kutori’s two closest friends, but again no one was there to respond.
He decided to take a break from fixing the roof leak and search for the girls. Around and around the building. From one end of the first floor hallway to the other. The reading room. The playroom. The storage room for training equipment. The kitchen and the cafeteria. He climbed up to the second floor and diligently checked each room.
Outside. Around the forest. Around the swampland. He went all the way to town and peeked in every store. The bookstore. The clock shop. The theater. The accessory shop. The cafe. The butcher. They weren’t there. They weren’t anywhere.
He grabbed every fairy he saw and tried asking, but the answers he received were all the same. Haven’t seen them. I don’t know.
Right as he began to ask himself what the hell was going on, someone tapped on his back. Turning around, he saw a tall Troll woman — Naigrat was looking at him with a melancholy smile.
“It’s time for you to accept it already,” she said gently. “They’re already dead.”
“You won’t find those girls anywhere.”
What’s she saying? Is this a joke?
This group of floating islands known as Regul Aire verges on destruction rather frequently. The cause, apparently, stems from the wasteland below, up from which numerous invaders ride the wind and drift onto the islands. And fighting against those invaders requires ancient superweapons, and activating those weapons requires the fairies, who have the appearance and soul of young girls. On top of their tiny shoulders rests the fate of the entirety of Regul Aire. A twisted and unstable world. A world which has no certain future. A world of the end.
“Did you forget? You saw them off to battle.”
Of course he remembered. There was no way he could forget. But he made a promise. If she lived and returned home, he would listen to one request. When he told her to survive and come home, she broke out into a smile and replied ‘leave it to me’. So there’s no way she…
“You better get used to it soon. In this world, it’s just an everyday occurrence.” A kind and tender voice, like that of a mother trying to comfort her upset child.
How long they had been there he didn’t know, but, following Naigrat’s eyes, Willem noticed four small fairies gathered nearby. For some reason, those little ones, the carefree girls always running around and causing a ruckus, were all standing in a line perfectly still and silent. With artificial like expressionless looks, the four stared straight at him. In each of their thin arms, they carried familiar swords. They all opened their mouths at the same time and said, “I’m going now.”
At that moment, a strong wind blew. He instinctively covered both eyes with his arms. But when he opened them again, the four figures were already gone. In their place, a single white feather of unknown origin floated down in front of his eyes. Right as it was about to touch the ground, however, a strong wind blew again, carrying the feather off to some faraway sky.
“You should get used to it.” Naigrat repeated those words once more, then closed her mouth.
Wait. Is this a joke? He should get used to it. He understood that much. But what, exactly, should he get used to? Kutori, Aiseia, Nephren. Where were they? When would they come home? Those four that were just here, Collon, Lakish, Panival, Tiat. Where did they go off to with those swords? What did they go off to do?
He found no answer to any of his questions. Of course, even if he did find answers, he wouldn’t be able to accept them. Running away from reality. A childlike tantrum. No matter what others said, he would never be able to accept them.
No. Stop that. Don’t give me that garbage.
If that was reality, then he didn’t want to look at it anymore. So Willem closed his eyes, plugged his ears, and, to stop his mind from wandering to anything else, began to recite the names of the Regal Braves in his head. All those names he memorized as a child started to wash away the unnecessary thoughts. Abel Melkera. Tolben Shunol. Wecker of the Aromatic Jade. The Nameless One in Black.
“Tira Noten. Wiley of the Rotten Blade…”
He opened his eyes and stared at the blurry ceiling above for a few seconds. Looking over at the window and confirming that the morning light was shining through the beige curtains took another few seconds.
“The Stranger Nils, Leila Asprey…”
Pushing aside his blanket, he sluggishly sat up and cracked his neck. After taking some time to grasp his current situation,
“Well thank god that was all just a dream!” he exclaimed in a tearful voice, and buried his head in his hands.
Not everything inside the dream was a lie. It’s true that this world, Regul Aire, exists on top of a layer of thin ice. And it’s also true that this layer of thin ice is being supported by a bunch of antiques and the young girls who wield them.
Kutori, Aiseia, Nephren. Those three girls departed for a harsh battlefield. And he, the manager of the fairy soldiers (at least that’s what his official title was), Willem Kumesh, saw them off. All also true.
And there’s one last point in that dream which was faithful to reality.
Since the battle started, half a month has passed.
The girls have yet to return home.