A Dream’s End, a Dream’s Beginning
In Regul Aire, deep inside the forests of the 68th Floating Island, is a warehouse. According to the documents, it is a facility owned by the Winged Guard, inside of which very important weapons are stored. Strictly speaking, this is not a lie. However, it does not give a very accurate picture of the actual situation.
The warehouse acts more like a barracks, which is large enough to house around fifty people. Stored there, or rather living there, are over thirty young girls. Also, the expenses necessary to maintain the facility are almost all paid by the Orlandri Trading Company, the manager who actually does anything is an employee of Orlandri, and the place is even marked as the Orlandri Trading Company’s 4th Warehouse on the map.
The morning sun rose once again over that warehouse.
Dawn’s intense rays of light penetrated the curtains and illuminated the room. The chirping of the birds could be heard loudly through the walls.
Raising the upper half of her body out of bed, Kutori stared blankly at the ceiling. A thick layer of fog seemed to envelop her memory; she couldn’t clearly recall the events of the previous night.
She lightly rubbed her eyes. A sudden shiver ran through her spine. Needless to say, winter mornings are cold. If she lounged around in her pajamas any longer, she might catch a cold.
Guess I’ll get up. With her still foggy head, Kutori tried to remember her plans for the day. However, it proved to be a difficult task. She vaguely felt like there were no more battles for a while, which meant she would be free after daily training. That was good. She needed all the time and freedom she could possibly be allowed in order to go after him.
An image of a young man with black hair popped into her mind. After that, memories of last night slowly began to come back to her.
That’s right. She had fainted. Overcome by encroachment from her previous life, she had fallen into a sleep she should have never woken up from. But for some reason, she woke up, clung onto Willem while crying in front of everyone, then her stomach rumbled loudly, then Lakish brought her some oatmeal, she wolfed it down, then went right back to sleep.
What is this? What she some animal whose only desires were to eat and sleep? Did she only act on instinct? Was desperately clinging onto Willem in front of everyone one of her instincts? What happened to her reason and sensibility? She couldn’t have been any more pitiful. Her face felt like it would burst into flame.
But, her desire to eat and sleep was proof that she was alive. It was evidence that her body was trying to live on. When she thought about it that way, it didn’t seem so bad. And if she didn’t think about it that way, she might die inside soon.
Patting her flushed cheeks, Kutori looked around once more. She was in the clinic, not her own bedroom. Someone had probably been kind enough to carry her here after she suddenly passed out down the hallway. That someone was most likely — no, most definitely — Willem, but she tried not to think about that too much. A smile spread across her face.
Kutori Nota Seniolis is the oldest fairy soldier in the warehouse, a grown woman. She needed to be a role model for the little ones. Well, she might have set herself back a bit last night, but that was all the more reason to be careful now. She couldn’t let them see her disgraceful side anymore. Just as she made up her mind to get up and wash her face before anyone saw it, the door opened.
“Oh?” A red haired woman walked in. “Looks like you were able to wake up this time.”
She was tall and considerably older than Kutori, perhaps around twenty years of age. Despite clearly being a grown woman, her face gave off a somewhat childish feel, and the frills on her blouse and apron only made it more prominent.
“Willem was really worried, you know? He was all like maybe she’s in another coma, or maybe she really won’t wake up again this time, and said he was going to stay by you until you woke up, so I had to kick him out.” The woman entered the room, opened the curtains, watered the flower pots, and changed the calendar. “Well, you had a great smile while you were sleeping, and your breathing and everything seemed fine. I had him put you in the clinic just in case, but how are you feeling now? Nothing’s gotten worse, has it?”
“Eh? Ah… um…” It took Kutori a moment to realize that she was being talked to. She stared at the woman blankly and blinked. “Nai… grat?”
“Ah, nothing.” Kutori waved her hands about to try to dismiss the question. That’s right. The woman’s name is Naigrat. She was sent here by the Orlandri Trading Company to manage the equipment in this warehouse. She takes care of us.
“What’s wrong? Half asleep?”
“Yeah, I guess.” Her head still didn’t seem to be fully functioning. Apparently, the morning sun and Willem’s name weren’t quite enough to clear her mental fog. “Nothing’s wrong, I just feel out of it. I’ll go wash my face–”
“Kutori!!” The half opened door suddenly became fully opened with a loud bang. “Kutori! You’re not a ghost!” A small green haired girl flew over like an arrow and clung onto Kutori.
“Hey, don’t be so rough. She just recovered from her sickness.” A second girl with purple hair approached a bit more calmly.
“Tiat… Panival.” Kutori called their names, as if to make sure she still remembered them. She looked down at the girl hugging her stomach.
“My apologies, Kutori. Tiat could never calm down the whole time you were broken. I don’t think she was able to sleep much last night either,” Panival explained.
“Is that true?” Kutori asked Tiat, but received no response. She poked the top of the little girl’s head, but still nothing. She then grabbed the girl’s head and tilted it up only to discover that Tiat had fallen asleep while hugging her. “I guess so.” By the looks of it, Tiat really didn’t get much sleep last night. Knowing that Tiat cared for her so much made Kutori feel glad yet sorry for Tiat at the same time. “Not able to calm down after thinking about someone’s death, huh?” And also, it made her a little sad. “You’ve grown up, Tiat.”
Leprechauns are the lost souls of children who died so young they were unable to comprehend death. They are not strictly living, and therefore do not have the instinct to fear death. Which also means they do not grieve for the deaths of others.
But that all applies at a young age only. As the fairies grow, their hearts and minds change as well. By the time they are fully grown and start to stand on the battlefield, they are pretty much able to understand death. Their minds are able to recognize the permanent loss and immense sadness which accompany that phenomenon.
For an ordinary person of an ordinary race, that is called growing up. It is something to rejoice over. But for Leprechauns, it is suffering. They are born and raised for a single purpose: to be consumed on the battlefield. To grieve every time one of them fulfills her destiny would surely overburden the heart. As a result, many fairies pretend to not notice the feelings which stir inside of them. Deny them as unnecessary baggage. Suppress them as if they are something to be overcome, not to be dwelt on.
If Tiat chooses a different path, if she chooses to face her unfamiliar feelings head on, then surely great suffering awaits her in the future.
“It’s okay to be happy at her growth.”
Surprised, Kutori looked up and saw Naigrat standing there with a gentle smile. “Was I thinking out loud?”
“I can tell that much at least. How many years do you think I’ve been here watching you guys?”
… Ah, that’s right. What Kutori now felt towards Tiat were the same feelings that her seniors once felt towards her. And Naigrat had always been there watching over them.
“Anyways, I suppose we’ll let Tiat rest in here. You were going to… wash your face, was it?”
“After that, you should stop by the cafeteria to eat breakfast and show your smiling face to everyone. Then come back here,” Naigrat said. “You look fine, but we can’t be careless. There’s a limit to how much we can do with the equipment here, but we’ll try to do at least a basic physical examination.”
“Ah…” Of course. Why didn’t Kutori think of that herself? As expected, her head still wasn’t functioning properly. She needed to go wake herself up. “Okay, I’ll do that.” She peeled the sleeping Tiat off herself and laid her on the bed. Then, Kutori gave herself a light slap on both cheeks and headed for the door.
“… hm? What’s with that?” Panival asked, pointing to Kutori’s hair.
In the middle of her long, blue hair, a single tuft of red was mixed in.
“Eh? What is this?”
Kutori tried rubbing it out, but the discoloring remained. She tried pulling on it, but it was stuck to her head like all the normal hair. She examined it once more in the sunlight, but it was clear that the red was simply the natural color of those strands, and not stuck on by some sort of dye.
“Maybe it’s a lasting effect of your coma. I don’t think it’s anything to worry about. There are a few species whose hair color changes with the seasons or with their growth, you know?” Naigrat interrupted. “It’s a pretty color anyways, so I think it’ll be just fine.”
Will it really?
Kutori never liked her hair color much to begin with, so if it was going to change then that didn’t necessarily bother her. Just a few strands of red hair wouldn’t mess up her outfits or anything. Besides…
“I’m sure Willem would say he likes you just the way you are.”
“Stop reading my mind!” Kutori half yelled.
What am I? Kutori thought to herself.
The answer seemed simple, yet complicated at the same time.
A leprechaun. A spirit who failed to die properly. A form of life not living. A weapon made to sacrifice everything and protect those who are living.
She was attuned to Dug Weapon Seniolis. Fifteen years of age. Place of appearance: inside the forests of the 94th Island. Length of unrequited love: almost one month.