Facing the Past
Recently, Naigrat has been acting a little strange. Staring blankly out a window, looking like she’s about to cry, burying her head in her arms, suddenly going off to hunt bears in the mountains… well, no, she always does those things, but… but still, something feels off about her lately. It’s hard to put into words, but something’s definitely up.
Putting that aside for the time being, Lantolq Itsuri Historia was currently facing a problem of her own.
She baked a pound cake. She had crushed up coffee beans and kneaded them into the batter, added a little brandy for flavoring and some roasted nuts for texture. Making desserts had always been one of Lantolq’s hobbies. In the past, she often borrowed a corner of the kitchen and baked up all sorts of sweets for a change of pace on days with no training. She even got really into it for a time. Overall, she had a good amount of faith in her skills.
After finishing this pound cake, Lantolq was almost certain of its success. She had to fight hard to keep a slovenly smile from spreading across her face. With expectations of rabid praise, she handed out portions to all of the little ones.
After everyone had a chance to try their first bite, rather unenthusiastic faces filled the room, as if someone had come and stamped the exact same expression on every one of the girls.
“Something’s a little off,” Tiat mumbled.
“It tastes like an imitation.” Panival struck a painful spot.
“It’s bitter!” Collon declared with crumbs stuck all over her cheeks.
Unanimous negative reviews. Lantolq soon realized the cause of her failure. The flavor that she wanted to taste was different from the flavor demanded by the little ones. She had forgotten to take such a simple fact into consideration. If she had just given one thought to the people actually eating her creation, she would have avoided such a novice mistake. Feeling a bit overwhelmed by her incompetence, Lantolq plopped right down to the ground.
“Ah, I think it’s really good! It has an adult taste!” Lakish stood up from her chair and desperately tried to defend the failure of a pound cake.
Lakish really was a good kid, always being considerate of others. Lantolq wanted to give her a hug. However, that kindness stung just a little bit at the moment.
Lantolq tried participating in the little kids’ ball games. The trend at the moment appeared to be a new type of play unknown to her, so first she had to learn the rules. It involved two teams competing to get the ball into the opposing team’s goal. In order to win, a team had to either obtain a certain number of points overall, or have every member of the team score at least once.
“Willem taught us this game. He said it’d be good practice for fighting in a team.”
Hearing that slightly irritated Lantolq, but she didn’t let it show on her face. She didn’t want anyone to know how conscious of that second technician she was, so she held it in. Instead, she made up her mind to dispel that frustration by dominating the game.
It didn’t turn out to be so simple, however. Being a fully grown fairy soldier, Lantolq’s physical abilities far surpassed those of the little ones. So naturally, going all out against opponents with such a great inherent disadvantage would have been very immature. She thought that if she didn’t go easy on them, the game wouldn’t have been any fun.
The kids went all out. And Lantolq suffered a miserable defeat. The reason was clear: one person alone could not score for every team member. Also, strength and speed alone did not do much to help all those teammates score. Skills like teamwork and the ability to keep track of everything going on at once came into play, and Lantolq turned out to be no match for the little kids in those regards.
“The theory is to save the best scorers for the later half of the game. In the first half, they can just play defense.”
“Also, the ability to help a teammate score is more valuable than the ability to score itself.”
“Fighting spirit and guts!”
Words which somewhat sounded like advice piled on top of the defeated soldier. Lantolq plopped herself down on the ground.
“I-It’s okay. I’m sure you’ll get good fast!”
As usual, Lakish tried to cheer her up. She really was a good kid. But, again, that kindness stung just a little.
“Watcha doin’?” Aiseia asked, poking her head out from the playroom window.
“What am I doing… I really wonder…” Lantolq leaned her back against a nearby wall and answered in an exhausted voice.
Despite her personality, Lantolq still held a certain pride at being one of the older ones in the warehouse. As someone who grew up there and served as a guide to the little ones, she couldn’t lose to some guy who suddenly came out of nowhere. With that reasoning, she had declared a silent war against a certain absent someone, but obviously it ended in miserable defeat.
“Still can’t get the technician out of your head? It’s no use fighting someone that’s not here, ya know?”
“No, it’s not that,” Lantolq pouted and faced away.
“… what? Did I say something funny?”
“Ah, it just brought me back a little. When he first came here, Kutori had a similar reaction.”
Wait a second I won’t allow this I definitely don’t have the same feelings for that technician that Kutori had in fact it’s more of the exact opposite our reactions just happened to coincidentally be similar so you can’t tie us together like that…
“I see,” Lantolq answered quietly, suppressing the urge to yell out her real thoughts.
The sounds of Noft merrily kicking the ball around drifted over to Lantolq on a gentle wind. Judging from those battle cries, Noft had quickly gotten the hang of the game and was going at it with the little ones. In other words, that made Lantolq the sole failure. Overcome by a helpless feeling of defeat, Lantolq slid further and further down the wall until she sat on the ground.
“… by the way, Aiseia. You haven’t been in the reading room recently,” she said in place of a heavy sigh.
Just until the other day, Aiseia Myse Valgalis had been holed up in the reading room and reference room, focusing intently on some kind of research. Lantolq didn’t see her outside those two rooms except to eat, bathe, or sleep.
“Did you finish researching what you wanted to know?”
“Hmm not really finished, more like the opposite…” Aiseia folded her arms on the windowsill, rested her chin on top of them, and let out a long sigh. “I realized there’s a limit to how much I can find here.”
“For resources relating to us and Dug Weapons, if you ask Naigrat, you can have them sent here from the Company. Is it something different?”
Since the fairy warehouse was a Leprechaun and Dug Weapon research facility, at least on paper, management allowed some funds to be spent on specialist books and the like, even ones with doubtful relevance. The research books that Lantolq used when she got into the ancient language, the words that the Emnetwyte once used, for a little originally belonged to Nephren, the reading monster of the warehouse.
“The subject itself isn’t the problem. If I coulda bought them I would’ve right away, but apparently it’s a precious book with only five copies in all of Regul Aire. Not only can you not get it with cash, you need special permission just to have it shown to you.”
“Well… I guess there’s not much you can do then.”
“Yep. Absolutely nothin.”
Lantolq and Aiseia simultaneously let out a heavy sigh. Being weapons, the Leprechauns didn’t have permission to leave the warehouse and walk around freely. Needless to say, no one would have trusted them enough to show them such a valuable book.
“I still don’t think we’re alike,” Lantolq said.
“Watcha talking about?”
“Kutori and I. She wouldn’t have given up so easily.”
“Ah, true true.”
If Lantolq remembered correctly, that’s the kind of girl Kutori Nota Seniolis was. It’s not that she was so dumb she couldn’t understand the concept of impossible. She understood it perfectly well and accepted it. However, she was extremely terrible at getting that truth to work well with her feelings. Her reasoning and emotions clashed together head on, and in the end she always ended up suddenly running off somewhere. Lantolq never saw it as a very smart way to live, but she did occasionally think that it looked like a fun way to live.
I don’t think I’ll ever be able to live like that. Well, not that I want to anyway, Lantolq thought, pretending to not notice the sharp pain in her heart.
“Well? What were you researching anyways?”
“Hm, want to know?”
“I guess…” Of course Lantolq wanted to know. She just never found the right moment to ask. After they lost their good friends, seeing Aiseia hold back her tears and silently confine herself to the reference room, Lantolq found it hard to approach her. “Is it okay if I ask?”
“It’s nothing worth hiding. I just wanted to know what exactly we are.”
“… philosophy, huh?”
“No, not in that sense. In a more practical… or physical meaning. The technician said that Leprechauns have existed for a long time, but they used to be pretty different from us now.”
“Apparently they were smaller and didn’t think about much.”
Lantolq looked over to the grounds. She saw very small fairies who didn’t look like they were thinking about very much covered in mud and running around excitedly. Also, Noft blended in with them perfectly.
“Ah, different from them too,” Aiseia said. “Small like small enough to sit on the palm of an Emnetwyte. Since they were a sort of natural phenomenon resulting from the fragments of a deceased person’s soul which mistakenly took physical shape, they were almost like illusions, hard to even touch.”
Leprechauns were a type of ghost, natural phenomena which resulted from a soul who failed to understand its own death and wandered into the world. Lantolq already knew that. Based on that assumption, it also made sense that they wouldn’t have a stable body or sense of self. It seemed more natural that such souls would appear as no more ephemeral wisps, like the old Leprechauns which Aiseia just talked about, and which Willem Kumesh once spoke of.
“The materialization of a soul. Apparently, that by itself isn’t too rare of a phenomenon. However, the soul of just any regular animal is so small it can’t form into anything more than some thin fog,” Aiseia continued.
“… that’s strange.” Lantolq was a bit interested now. “So if fairies are no more than that, how can we explain us?”
“Yep, that’s the question. We’re ghosts, but we have actual flesh on our bodies… well, not too much in some cases,” Aiseia, eyeing Lantolq’s chest area.
Hey! You have way less than me I have a good amount compared to all the other fairies wait no this isn’t the time to be talking about that…
“But anyways, I looked over some recent research books, but they didn’t say anything too different. Fairies are ghosts, and ghosts have a physical mass very close to zero. Their materialized form is unstable, and they’re prone to simply vanishing into thin air,” Aiseia continued.
“Well… that makes sense if you think about it. This warehouse is like a dumping grounds for unanalyzed relics of the past. We’re creepy and might blow up at any moment, so we got pushed onto this 68th Island out in the boondocks.”
“That’s true. There was someone who proposed a new hypothesis though. He was a previous manager here.”
Wondering if she might have known him, Lantolq started digging back into her memories, but soon realized its futility. Almost all of the managers sent to the warehouse served their entire term without ever showing up at the warehouse. Obviously, she wouldn’t have remembered any of them. Only one face popped up at the mention of the title of manager of the fairy warehouse, or second enchanted weapons technician.
“He said that if the soul of any regular animal is too small, then assuming that the original being must have had a ridiculously huge soul resolves the contradiction and explains the existence of the Leprechauns,” Aiseia explained.
“Huh?” Lantolq’s initial reaction slipped out of her mouth. “What kind of reasoning is that? Even if the contradiction goes away, any sense of credibility just went out the window.”
“I mean, we’re talking about souls and ghosts. There’s no point in arguing whether it’s realistic or not at this point.”
“We’re talking about us, and we’re real! Of course it needs to be realistic.”
“Well,” Aiseia said with a cheerful laugh. “We’re ghosts and monsters… in other words, we’re working with the assumption that we’re not real.”
“If you say that… then there isn’t any point to all this, is there?”
“The brief dream of a child who died young. That’s what we are. There’s no point in averting our eyes from that fact.”
That… may be true, but…
“By the way, my… uh, Aiseia’s previous life was also a Leprechaun. She lived here around ten years ago, swung the Dug Weapon Pachem around, and died at eighteen.”
“… what?” Lantolq stared at Aiseia, only to see her usual hard to read smile.
“And that hypothesis I just mentioned doesn’t contradict with my memories. If a Leprechaun is the fragment of a gigantic soul, then it fulfills the conditions to serve as the ingredient for a new Leprechaun.”
“Ah, keep this a secret from everyone else, ok? I’ve lived for a relatively long time, but I’ve only ever told this to you and Kutori,” Aiseia said, then laughed her usual laugh.
Lantolq thought that perhaps Aiseia had forgotten the proper expression to make in times like these.
“Of course, we can’t jump to the conclusion that all of our previous lives were Leprechauns. Even if every reincarnation results in the same species, there must be something different if you go back far enough. Whatever’s there, that’s what I wanted to know.”
Lantolq couldn’t think of anything to say back.
“Well, since I didn’t get very far, there’s nothing more to say. If the technician were still around, I bet he coulda given me some advice, but he’s not. I originally started researching to see if there was any way to help Kutori. As you can tell, I didn’t make it in time, so there’s not much point anymore.”
Aiseia laughed again. This time, however, rather than a mask which concealed all of her true emotions, it was a melancholy smile, one that almost made Lantolq want to cry just looking at it.