The Fairies of Collinadiluche
After being tapped and touched all over her body, Aiseia then had a light shone up against her eyes to check their movement, was forced to drink medicine for test purposes and answer questions about her mood, and, while a small amount, had her blood drawn.
“Uhhh, having my body played with like this, I can’t get married anymore…” Wearing only a gown over her bare skin, Aiseia sat up on the patient bed. “Anyways, the inspection’s over now, right?”
No response. The Kikuroppe doctor made a troubled face as he stared at her medical records. As a general rule, reading the expressions of other races with different facial structures was no easy task, but, still, there were times when the message got across.
“… you really pushed yourself,” the doctor said faintly, as if struggling to speak.
“Ahaha, well, my stubbornness is the one thing I always have confidence in.” Aiseia shrugged off his comment with her usual laugh as she buttoned up her gown.
“Your life force is all wilted. Your body is forgetting what it means to live. If you receive a wound, it most likely will not heal. The strength depleted by igniting Venom will never return.”
“Mhm, I had a feeling that was the case.” She responded to the Kikuroppe’s serious tone with the most cheerful voice she could manage.
“Next time you stand on the battlefield, I don’t know whether you’ll be able to come home.”
“I guess so. Well, it’s finally my turn, huh.” Still sitting on the patient bed, Aiseia swung her feet back and forth. “To be honest, living so long, my mind’s been the one suffering lately. The ones I want to live keep dying off, and meanwhile I keep living this meaningless life.”
“There is no such thing as meaningless life.”
“Ah… true, we aren’t even life.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“Wouldn’t it be better to mean it that way? It’s not good to sympathize with a disposable tool.”
“It’s true that many people think that way, but they are all people who don’t know you guys directly, people who aren’t even told that the fairies have individual personalities. We don’t think of you guys as dis–”
“If you doctors don’t send us off to our deaths, Regul Aire can’t be protected.” Aiseia cut the Kikuroppe’s words off midway. “That’s why we’re not recognized as a race. That’s why we’re treated as weapons without rights. It’s necessary, because everyone needs to be able to properly use and dispose of us without hesitation, am I right?”
“Yes,” the doctor said in a bitter voice with a heavy sigh. “I’ll recognize that much. But what we think individually is our own choice.”
“If there are too many adults who spoil us, we might start saying ‘I don’t want to die so I won’t fight’, ya know?”
“… I suppose.” The Kikuroppe’s single eye turned away.
“Hm. You’re acting a little suspicious. Are you hiding something?”
“Well, it’s nothing important, but… if, just hypothetically, you guys maybe didn’t have to fight anymore, you could maybe continue living, what would you want to do?”
“Ah, a very sudden question.” Aiseia thought for just a little. “If this is just hypothetical, then, I guess pretty much just what I’ve been doing this whole time.”
“This whole time?”
“Spending everyday leisurely over at the warehouse in the forest. The little ones playing noisily, our childlike mother figure scurrying around… watching all of that while relaxing with a book. It’s so stress free, my life span keeps getting longer.”
“… haha, I see. Yes, I see.” The Kikuroppe nodded repeatedly. “Like I thought, you should live a long life,” he said, defeating the whole purpose of their conversation.
Lakish’s body tuning ended. The good numbers indicating her impressive natural ability earned her praise from the doctors. And with each compliment, Naigrat’s mood sunk deeper and deeper. After all, how could a girl be happy after hearing praise of her high functionality as a blade or a bomb? If Lakish had talent, then it would be better if an opportunity to use that talent never came. Naigrat hoped it wouldn’t. Stay away!
Tiat and Lakish let out synchronized sighs of admiration.
The Barley Market, one of Collinadiluche’s foremost tourist attractions. Originally, it was, as the name implies, a wholesale market which dealt only with barley. Once another market was built close to the harbor district, it lost its role and became just a popular plaza. Various artists displaying their talents dotted the wide open space. A Ballman clown juggled countless knives, a Frogger magician breathed a thin column of fire, and a group all wearing matching masks filled the air with lively music.
“Wow, wow, wow!” The curiosity of a child, once unleashed, knows no bounds. Tiat sprinted this way and that from one crowd to the next. She pulled Lakish along, who let out screams as they went.
“H-Hey, don’t run so fast! Don’t forget that you guys are being watched!” Because of the formal procedures for handling weapons in the Winged Guard, when the Leprechauns went outside, they required one accompanying officer at the very least. The pitiable fourth officer who got stuck with the job chased the two around as he yelled after them helplessly.
Naigrat watched with mixed feelings. “… it would have been nice if we really did come here just to sightsee.”
She knew it was a hopeless wish. The girls were here to prepare for battle, a battle which they shouldn’t have needed to be involved in. But only because of that was a little sightseeing allowed, a selfish request which would have usually never gone through.
Speaking of selfish, there was Nephren, who, as Naigrat saw earlier, was not dead after all. However, she wasn’t exactly fine either. Having gone through a transformation in a different meaning than Kutori, Nephren would never again return to the fairy warehouse. Naigrat felt lonely, but not sad. The world is a big place, and the sky is a narrow part of it. Being able to believe that Nephren was off somewhere doing well gave Naigrat enough comfort. For those who had already passed away, however, she couldn’t even wish that.
“Hey, Naigrat, this way this way! They’re having an arm wrestling competition! Want to enter with this guy!?”
Looking over, Naigrat saw Tiat waving her hand enthusiastically, the fourth officer managing a confused smile yet still rolling up his sleeves, and Lakish bowing in apology. So cheerful, without the slightest clue of what’s going through my head… that’s very good.
“… alright, but…” Naigrat waved her hand in return. “If I enter, the competition will end right away!” she said, then ran over to where the kids stood.
For all things, always try asking. Upon asking if she could enter the Central Grand Library with the expectation of receiving a ‘no’, Lantolq instead got a firm ‘okay!’ from the mayor’s daughter, Firacolulivia… or Firu, as she preferred to be called. Then, before half a day had passed, Lantolq got permission to enter.
This gave Lantolq, the one who asked, quite a surprise. After all, they were country bumpkin fairies with no rights. On the other hand, the Collinadiluche Central Grand Library was one of the foremost places where the wisdom of all Regul Aire gathered. The huge difference in calibre made Lantolq feel as if some punishment would be brought down upon her just for being near the library.
The entrance permission card, handed over to her in an envelope, also looked somewhat like a dangerous weapon. Underneath many imposing stamps were the mysterious words ‘The holder is granted permission to view up until secret archive B-47’. What the heck is B-47? Does it have the kind of secrets where if you know you have to be disposed of?
“… you think of some reckless things too, Lan,” Aiseia mumbled, holding the same entrance permission card.
“Please don’t point it out. I am already well aware, and it’s crushing me.”
“Well then, let’s go! I may not be very useful, but I will help you with your research to the best of my ability!” Firu, getting hyped up all by herself, walked forth with strong strides. “I cannot be of any help in your original battle. Even trying would be an insult to the determination of the fairies. So for things that I can do, I will do my best!” A red flame burned in her eyes.
“When she turns on like this, she gets really troublesome…” Aiseia remarked.
“Has this happened before?”
“The technician messed things up a bit…”
That guy again? Why does everyone reveal their annoying side when it comes to him?
They brawled with countless books. Lantolq thought her head would boil over. She liked reading books. She also didn’t hate thinking. But all things have a limit. After being stuffed with information beyond its capacity, her head felt very feverish.
“Should we go outside for a bit to rest and organize our notes?” she suggested.
“Hmm, I think I’m gonna stick with this book for a little longer. You can go first,” Aiseia responded.
“I’m going to help Aiseia, so you go ahead. Oh, there’s a good pudding cafe behind this library, so how about you wait there and we’ll meet up?” Firu said.
They’re tougher than they look. “No, we probably shouldn’t split up. Since we’re fairies and all,” Lantolq said, then glanced at the man in the military uniform standing idly beside them.
“I was told by the First Officer to let you act freely as much as possible. But don’t go too far.”
Unexpectedly, he gave them permission. Lantolq had doubts about whether or not it was actually okay, but, if he said it was fine, she wasn’t going to argue.
“… I see. Well then, I might as well,” she said, then, with notebook in hand, stood up.
She found the cafe that Firu mentioned rather quickly. Perhaps because it was located off the main street, not very many customers were present. However, apparently, almost all of those customers were not tourists but locals, meaning that the cafe was good enough to attract regulars.
After taking a seat on an outdoor terrace, Lantolq picked out a milk tea and apple pie from the menu full of delicious looking choices. She then opened her notebook and looked back over some of the things she copied from various books.
What even are Leprechauns in the first place? Why do they exist? Where do they come from, and where do they go? Those were the questions which Aiseia raised one day in the fairy warehouse. The list gave off the impression of the troubles of a pubescent teenager. And, unfortunately, they were precisely pubescent teenagers. Children of other races would probably look for answers to such questions in philosophy books or fiction, but they were poring over necromancy research books, and the most advanced ones available in Regul Aire at that.
“We really are suspicious things, aren’t we…” Lantolq mumbled, then remembered that she was alone.
Since they had been together for so long, she always got the feeling that Noft was right there by her side. Noft herself didn’t think too much about things and overall wasn’t exactly the brightest, but she was good at listening. Noft could pull words out of Lantolq even when she was deep in thought. As a result, Lantolq picked up the habit of talking to herself. Well this is no good, she thought. She was aiming to be an independent woman with everything together, but it didn’t seem to be going too well.
“I don’t seem to be getting anywhere, no matter what I do…”
Lantolq took a bite of the crisp apple pie. Delicious. Just then, a strong wind blew. It scooped a few pages of notes out of Lantolq’s hand and carried them up into the sky.
She reached out in a panic but couldn’t reach them in time. The moment she stood up to try to stretch further, another gust of wind sent her remaining notes flying.
“A — Ahh!!”
Deeply regretting her carelessness, Lantolq stared dumbfoundedly up at the sky. Ignite Venom in a hurry and chase them? No, I won’t make it in time. Run and chase them? No, I won’t be able to catch them, and I feel like I’ll just mess something else up. What to do… what can I do? As she hesitated, time continued to flow, and her notes went up higher and higher and…
Not higher? As if a snapshot of time had been frozen in place, all the papers suddenly stopped moving.
After a brief pause, the notes began to move again. However, this time, they ignored the wind and, as if being reeled in, gathered in the hands of a man standing in the street, an old man with an imposing face wearing a rather conspicuous white mantle.
“Oh, the girl from the other day! What a coincidence!” Not seeming particularly surprised, the old man in the street started to make his way over, the bundle of notes in hand. “Studying hard, even in a place like this? Very good, very good. The things you learn while young will become your weapons in the future. Of course, you must also learn how to use them or else it’s meaningless… hm?” The old man looked at the bundle of notes and frowned.
“Thank you. They are very important notes,” Lantolq responded.
“Hm, advanced necromancy? A rather strange subject for a student to choose for a research project.”
“Well, I am not a student, and I’m not exactly doing anything as noble as ‘studying’. I’m also not trying to prepare for the future. I just want to know something now.”
“What?” The old man handed the notes over. “… I see. Your hair color. You are also a Leprechaun.”
For a moment, various emotions whirled around in Lantolq’s head. Those who knew of the Leprechauns did not necessarily have a very good impression of them. She braced herself, afraid of what expression would cross the old man’s face next.
“Oh, then the other young lady must have been your manager. My apologies. I once decided to never see them in person, but now I ended up meeting you and even exchanging conversation.”
What could this mean? The old man’s face twisted in pain ever so slightly, but surely. Neither hate nor discrimination, but rather guilt seeped out from that expression.
“Um, are you okay?” Lantolq thought it was a foolish question herself. If the man wasn’t okay, it was very clearly her own fault. She wasn’t in the position to put on a nice face and act worried.
“… haha. You’re worried about me? You’re one kind girl.”
For some reason, he complimented her. Well, ever since they first met, Lantolq got the feeling that they weren’t really on the same page during their conversations. It was a kind of frustrating feeling, as if some important gears didn’t match up yet kept on turning.
“Guess there’s no unmeeting someone you’ve already met. Coincidences are coincidences. Whether you take them as good or bad luck only depends on how you handle the situation.”
What is this guy saying? In front of a bewildered Lantolq, the old man pulled out a chair and sat down across from her. His large frame looked just a little odd on the small cafe chair.
“There’s something you want to know involving necromancy, correct? Try asking me. I will answer.”
“Ah, the thing we’re trying to research is a bit difficult…”
“I figured. I don’t mind, so ask away.”
He won’t give up. Earlier, the old man took one look at Lantolq’s notes and understood them to be about necromancy. From that, she guessed that he was fairly knowledgeable. However, what they wanted to know definitely wasn’t something that any old wise man would know.
“… what are Leprechauns?” Lantolq tried asking anyway, doubting he would be able to answer.
“I see. You’re getting right to the point. Very good, very good.” The old man nodded happily for some reason. “Now then, from where shall I start.” He thought for a moment. “Long ago, the Visitors ordered the Poteau to create the Emnetwyte.”
“Huh?” This has nothing to do with my question, Lantolq thought.
Not paying attention to her apparent confusion, the old man continued. “They didn’t create them from nothing. They prepared base materials and modified them. There were roughly two types of these base materials. One consisted of the only life which existed on the planet before the Visitors’ coming, the ‘Primal Beasts’. The other consisted of the souls of the Visitors themselves, tired of living a life of endless wandering. As for the modification method…”
The old man pointed to the half eaten apple pie on Lantolq’s plate. “It was the same as that. They wrapped the ‘Primal Beasts’ with their souls, which they shattered into fragments. The souls forcibly overwrote the Beasts’ flesh, casting a large curse on them. What were once ‘Beasts’ transformed into entirely different beings with figures similar to those of the Visitors, in other words, the Emnetwyte.”
“Uh… um, ehh?”
It didn’t match up with the commonly accepted world creation myth. The grand scale of it all confused Lantolq. And, first of all, he still didn’t answer her question. She didn’t even know where to start. However, there was one part that caught her attention: the Visitors used the ‘Primal Beasts’ to create the Emnetwyte.
“But, well, after that, the Emnetwyte grew too much. The number of pies increased, but, unfortunately, the amount of crust didn’t. The crust, the souls of the Visitors, never increased beyond the original amount present when they were shattered. So, with each passing day, the crust grew thinner and thinner.”
“… could that be what is meant by ‘the beasts were released from within’…?” That was a hypothesis which Lantolq arrived at the other day on the land. However, that thought came from an old book she just happened to find. Why was the old man, who didn’t have a chance to read the same book, saying something similar?
“Yes, very good. Did you already figure out that much?” Impressed, the old man looked over the notes on the table. “The ‘Primal Beasts’ were originally undying and indestructible beings. By being sealed inside the mortal Emnetwyte, they changed. Regret. Hope. Spoiledness. Justice. Kindness. Fear. Disinterest. Ignorance. Dragged along by all those various things which lead humans to death, they became beings which represented seventeen types of death.
If those things got released, the Emnetwyte would go extinct. The humans, realizing that, thought of a plan. Luckily, at the time, Visitors still remained, albeit only two of them.”
The Visitors. Even now that legend is passed down, how, a little more than five hundred years ago, the Emnetwyte Braves slew the last Visitor.
“They wanted to use those souls to create new pie crust. However, it failed. They couldn’t recreate what the Poteau did with human technology. The Visitor’s soul didn’t shatter cleanly and ended up in a mess of countless scattered chunks. With no way to cook all the new pie, the end came as expected. Well, I left out quite a bit, but that’s the gist of it.”
“… um.” Hesitantly, Lantolq raised her hand. “That was a very interesting story, but it only explained what the Emnetwyte are, right? I asked about the Leprechauns.”
“Of course, I answered that too.”
Argh, we really aren’t on the same page. However, even if they weren’t on the same page, they were still having a proper conversation. All Lantolq needed to do was decipher his words as if she were reading a difficult old book. If she did that, then surely she would understand. With that in mind, she thought back over his story.
“… could it be…” Then, Lantolq realized. The soul of the last Visitor didn’t shatter smoothly. The new pie remained unbaked, and the ingredients, the soul fragments, remained scattered. “The failed next generation of Emnetwyte that the Emnetwyte couldn’t complete. That is our true nature?”
“Hm. Your understanding is not mistaken.” The old man nodded. “However, I wouldn’t say ‘failed’. Well, the interpretation depends on the person. You can take it optimistically or pessimistically.”
Before that, there was something more important. If what gramps said was really true, then that answered many mysteries that had remained unsolved on Regul Aire for centuries. That couldn’t be right, but Lantolq somehow felt like it was.
“Why do you know this?”
“I’ve lived a somewhat long life,” the old man answered with a shrug.
“If what you said is true, it is not known at all in this world. Why would you tell something like that to someone like me?”
“I owe you girls something.” He smiled with just a slight hint of sorrow. “I cannot apologize nor take anything back. Nor would I be qualified to do so. But I can at least do this much. Anyway, it’s nothing more than a cowardly and selfish old man comforting himself.” He stood up. “I doubt we’ll meet again, but this was valuable time.”
Trying to stop the old man from going, Lantolq stood up in a hurry, but, in that moment, a gust of wind blew by. Worried that her notes would fly off again, she panicked and closed the notebook. When she looked up again, the old man was nowhere to be seen.
“Whew… I’m exhausted.” Like a student on the way home from school, Aiseia walked over with eyes spinning from overwork. Firu, her condition unreadable beneath her Lucantrobos fur, followed close behind. “What happened, Lan? You’re spacing out.”
“… what are we? Why do we exist? Where do we come from and where do we go”?”
“Actually receiving the answer feels… unexpectedly empty…”
“Laan? Hello? Lantolq?” Aiseia waved her hands back and forth in front of Lantolq’s face.
The fork sitting on the plate of half eaten apple pie clanked slightly.