Normal, everyday life is always on the verge of coming to an end.
The repetition of each single day, all on the verge of the end, forms that normalcy.
Sometimes newcomers may enter, but at the same time others must leave.
Changing ever so slightly bit by bit, it continues all the way up until that moment when it meets its true end.
The newspapers reported the attack by a group of Beasts to be the doing of The Order of Annihilation Service History. Owing to their already widespread reputation as a group of violent troublemakers, the news naturally became assimilated and believed within the population.
As for what kind of transaction took place between Elpis and Collinadiluche, and the Winged Guard too, no one knew. Morally speaking, spreading the truth would have been ideal, but, in the worst case scenario, that could lead to a war.
However, if nothing else, the Elpis National Defense Force suffered a major loss of influence as a result of the incident. There was also apparently a large change of personnel in the higher ups of the Winged Guard, so it’s safe to say that Elpis won’t be able to pull off anything similar anytime soon.
—It’s also worth mentioning that in one corner of that newspaper, there was a small article reporting the discovery of the transformed corpse of an Orc on the outskirts of Collinadiluche.
Elq Harksten returned home.
This fact literally shook the 2nd Floating Island, a consecrated land and also the most secretive place in all of Regul Aire.
“WaaaaaaaahhhhhhhElqqqqqqqqq” wailed a giant black skull. The One who Sleeps in Death. The One who Shines Darkness in the Garden of Light. Known by various over the top sounding names, Ebon Candle, one of the three Poteau, threw away any shred of dignity and simply wailed and wailed.
A strange light flickered on and off violently in the insides of his hollow eye sockets, and his lipless teeth clattered together vigorously. “I’m I’m so glad you’re ssaaaffeeeeeee.”
“Shut up you useless oaf,” scolded a huge red floating fish. Also one of the three Poteau, Carmine Lake swam around the surrounding air restlessly, making no attempt to hide her irritation. “In the first place, what the hell have you been doing for five hundred years!? I mean, I understand that you used the master’s soul to protect the world and all, but, after all that time, how have you not made any progress on the star boat’s repairs!?”
“W-What am I supposed to do!? Look at me! I don’t even have enough power to repair my own physical body.”
“That’s just because you’re wasting your energy! Just sink this stupid floating island already!”
“You think I could do such a thing!?”
“Both of you, be quiet!” screamed Elq, sandwiched between the two gods.
“But Elq, if we don’t hurry up and get this guy to regain his power and undo the curse, you’ll be in that half dead body forever, you know? Don’t you want to return to your original form as quickly as possible?”
“T-That’s a little optimistic, but…” Ebon Candle commented.
“I’m fine,” Elq said.
“Huh?” “Hm?” The two gods raised confused voices.
“I’m fine like this.”
“W-W-Whyy!? If you don’t properly come back to life, even if we fix the star boat, your body won’t be able to handle riding on it, you know? You won’t be able to leave this world, you know?”
“I won’t go anywhere. I kinda like this world.”
“No no no! This world is coming to an end! There’s hardly anything here! It’s only a matter of seconds before there’s nothing at all!”
“But, there’s still a few seconds left.”
“Where did that attitude come from!? Hey, Ebon Candle, you say something too!”
“H-Hm?” The skull’s teeth clattered confusedly as he was suddenly drawn into the conversation. “Did you meet some nice people while living on the floating islands?”
“I see I see. Find a special someone you’re interested in?”
“……… no, not exactly.”
“Wait a second! What kind of questions are you asking!? And what kind of answer is that!?”
“He’s only the slightest bit handsome. Kutori and Leila lowered their standards too far.”
“I see I see.” Like a kind and gentle old man, the skull chuckled softly and nodded repeatedly.
Around them, the floating fish circled and circled, wailing about this and that.
Meanwhile, Nephren gazed blankly at their exchange. Carmine Lake still hadn’t acquired a physical form or whatever, instead residing in a part of Nephren’s mind. However, as long as Nephren stayed in this special barrier surrounding the 2nd Island, Carmine Lake could move and act freely within the boundaries. She mentioned something about the island being an archive of models of the primal world, so it could mix together the mind and body, but Nephren didn’t really understand, and Carmine Lake never explained in more detail. Nephren wished she had a book.
“Kaiya,” she said to the young Ayrantrobos lady, Ebon Candle’s servant.
“Yes, Miss Nephren?”
“What’s for dinner tonight?”
“I haven’t decided yet, but, since the fruits from the summer garden have been good, I’m thinking of making something with those.”
“Okay, I’ll help you out later,” Nephren said, then started to leave the room.
“Where are you going?”
The corpse of Willem Kumesh had been carried to the 2nd Floating Island and stored in a deep, secluded place. Ebon Candle suggested that they place him in ice again, but Elq and Nephren rejected that idea. Instead, they placed him on a decoratively and neatly arranged bed, where he now lay dead, almost as if simply in a peaceful sleep.
“… are you cold?”
Nephren touched Willem’s hand. Cold.
“Are you lonely?”
She touched his cheek. Cold as well.
She wanted to put a blanket over him, but, of course, doing so would have no meaning. She wanted to lie next to him and nap, like she often did back then, but, again, doing so no longer had any meaning.
“Ebo said it wouldn’t be that hard to revive him.” When she got there Nephren didn’t notice, but Elq stood in the doorway. “He’s the same as me. If Seniolis’ curse is loosened just a little, he’ll become not-a-corpse just a little and come back to life.”
“As a Beast, though, right?”
“Of course, but you wouldn’t mind, right? You’re a Beast too, after all.”
“It’s meaningless.” Nephren shook her head. “Hogging a broken Willem all for myself wouldn’t bring me any joy. I don’t…” She thought a little. “I don’t want to bring him unhappiness.”
“Hmph. You have bad taste too,” Elq said, unimpressed, and stepped inside the room. Then, cheerfully, she lied down next to Willem.
“What are you doing?” Nephren asked.
“No particular reason. I just feel sort of calm here… ow!”
Pulling her by the ear, Nephren dragged Elq off of the bed and continued straight out the room.
“No sleeping together.”
“Why not why not!? We’re both corpses, so it’s not a problem, right!?”
“That’s my assigned seat. I won’t give it up to any corpse or god.”
“This is tyranny!”
Inside a dream, he could see the orange of the twilight sky as the sun sank below the pitch dark horizon. He stood upon a small foothold which seemed to be made of tightly packed ashen hexagons. Besides that foothold, only an empty black nothingness lay below.
Only the half disappeared evening sun and the barely remaining foothold existed here. Nothing else. It was an aged world, on the verge of the end, on the verge of perishing.
In that place, there stood a young man. With nothing to do nor think about, he simply gazed blankly at the sinking sun.
Suddenly, the young man noticed a presence beside him: a small crystal lump lying on the ground. What is this? As he looked at it, the lump began to emit a clattering noise then split, swelled, bent, shrunk, and, in the end, took a shape very similar to that of a person.
—Ah, I see.
This is the Beast inside of me, the young man realized. It was none other than the half of his being which awoke after he swallowed the fragments of the Shiantor. How many hundreds or thousands of years he didn’t know, but he must have been neighbors with this thing for as long as human history. However, they never knew each other before. They never even noticed each other’s existence.
“Hey, you,” he called out, but it didn’t budge. “Nice to meet you… that sounds kinda weird. Since we’ve been together this whole time and all.” Still no response. The Beast simply stood still, not looking at anywhere in particular. “Sorry for always ignoring you. You’re something like a victim too, huh.”
As before, still no response. Instead—
Hearing a familiar voice, he turned around. There, illuminated by the fading scarlet of the sky, he found the ambiguously aged, nostalgic face of a man.
“Looks like you’ve been through a lot. Have any regrets?”
“So many I can’t count.”
“Glad to hear it.” Taking a seat next to Willem, Nils chuckled. “That’s proof you led a fulfilling life until the very end.”
Willem didn’t think it was anything to laugh about.
“I finally understand. These guys just wanted to go home,” he said as he looked at the crystal lump beside him.
“They just wanted to reclaim that ashen sea. The Visitors stole it. Moreover, they stole it because they longed for home themselves. As a result of that clash of homesicknesses, the land fell into ruin, and those who lost their home were driven up to Regul Aire. Everyone just wanted to return home. Just wanted to reclaim.”
The movements of the sun shook Nils’ shadow ever so slightly.
“There’s no need for evil to destroy the world. It always begins with a small wish that no one would ever find fault with. Such a tiny thing leads so simply to the end.”
“You’re right. This world is already done for,” Nils said as he scratched his head. “It’s almost time for me to get going as well. I can only stop in a world and use my power as a Visitor six times, and I used the last one to seal your memories. Now I need to look for a new world and start another journey.”
“… so you were a Visitor, huh.”
It should have been a shocking fact, but Willem wasn’t particularly surprised, perhaps because of his mind’s extreme exhaustion, or perhaps because, from the start, he realized that no matter what this man’s true identity was it wouldn’t be the least bit surprising.
“Want to tag along?”
“This world is already coming to a close. You are dead, and there’s nothing you can do. So how about going to a new realm with me? If all turns out well, you might be able to life an easier life. At the very least, you’ll be able to life a more meaningful life than just being dead for an eternity here.”
“Ah…” Willem thought for a bit. “So in other words, you’re telling me to become a Visitor too?”
Nils nodded bitterly.
“That sounds fun.”
“I think you could be fine no matter where you went.”
It was tough losing home. Painful. But he was able to stand back up. He was able to think of a new place as home. That experience and those memories had now become precious assets to him.
“In the end, I couldn’t do a single thing for you or this world. So this is the last thing I can do for you as a good-for-nothing master,” Nils said, gesturing to the crystal lump with his eyes. “Right now, you guys are just barely separated. I can leave the Beast here and bring just you along.”
“Ahh… that’s what you were talking about, huh,” Willem said as he scratched his head. “Sorry, but, I can’t go.”
“I see.” Nils nodded.
“Losing my home, losing my place to return to, it’s been painful and miserable. But still. It’s always possible to find somewhere new. Anyone can.”
Those valiant people who call Regul Aire home were once residents of the land. How much blood was shed before they were able to accept their new home?
“But it doesn’t go well if you try to rush things. It takes time,” Willem continued. “Standing back up after the pain of loss. Meeting someone new. Getting used to a new place. They all failed at those. The Visitors, and the Beasts too. They tried to reclaim their homeland all in one go, so they chose the wrong method.
Well, at first I couldn’t realize either. But, if you try raising your head and actually looking around you, sometimes, right beside you, there’ll be someone to teach you.”
Willem closed his eyes. In his case, who stood right beside him? Grick, Naigrat, Nephren, … Kutori. They taught him so much it almost seemed wasteful. They saved him, who had been thrown out even farther past the end of the world.
“I want to be by this guy’s side.”
“You’re saying you want to talk with it? That’s impossible. Your mental structures and modes of life are different, you know?”
“I know. I’m not dreaming that big.” In a friendly gesture, Willem wrapped his arm around the crystal lump’s shoulder (?). “These guys can’t see anything except the world of their home. Only what they’ve lost is in their field of view. That’s why they can’t accept Regul Aire, and why they’re so desperate to demolish us.
It’s frustrating, isn’t it? That’s why I want to do something for them. Putting aside the past, something strange is beside me now. I want to help them think that.”
“Are you stupid?”
“I’ve been starting to suspect that myself lately.”
The two of them laughed together one last time.
“You really are a busy guy, worrying about an ended world even after you’re dead.”
“Well, it seems that’s all I can do, seeing as I could never become anyone.”
“… ah—” As he began to say something, Nil’s silhouette suddenly began to blur. “That’s fine too, isn’t it? It’s like you.”
“I’ve been started to suspect that myself lately as well.”
With that, their conversation came to a halt.
Sitting side by side, the two of them gazed blankly at the evening sun.
Suddenly snapping out of his trance and looking to his side, Willem saw that no signs of Nils were anywhere to be seen.
He was now all alone with the crystal lump, the fragment of a Beast’s delusional convictions, in this ending world.
“… well, it looks like we’re going to be together for a while.”
Willem lied down. Enough space remained on the foothold for that. Above, there was nothing, not even the night sky.
“Oh yeah, it’ll be inconvenient if you don’t have a name. Should I give you a nice one?” he said leisurely, then shut his eyes.
—A short while after.
“Hey! Wait, Eudea!”
“Oh, close one!”
Two girls sprinted down the hallways of a broken down house. The floor seemed like it could collapse at any moment, but, both of them having grown used to that, the two girls ran at full speed, skillfully dodging the particularly dangerous looking spots.
“Tonight’s dinner is a celebration for our seniors coming home, so you can’t snack beforehand. I told you that, right!?”
“Well, it just smelled so delicious. Almita, your cooking really is good! I’m sure our big sisters will be very pleased, mhm. Of course I’m very pleased too.”
“Aah you really are annoying! Let me spank you once!”
The building shook with their rapid footsteps.
“Both of you, be quiet.”
“What, are those two at it again?”
“Hey hey, let’s make a bet. Who do you think will win today?”
“Ooh, good idea. I bet tonight’s dessert on Eudea getting away.”
“Okay, then I’ll be the opposite… Tazeka, you want to join too?”
“Hm? Ah… then I’ll bet on Kana. Also tonight’s dessert.”
“Eh, why? This is about Eudea and Almita.”
“Yeah, I can see that.”
Poking their heads out of windows here and there, the girls watched the pair’s escape drama.
“—Today’s lively as always, huh.”
Elsewhere within the same house, in the reference room, a blonde haired lady sitting in a wheelchair laughed cheerfully.
“It kicks up dust, so I’d wish they wouldn’t run around so violently. The big cleaning we just did is going to waste.” While flipping through a bundle of documents, a pink haired lady laughed back.
“That’s the fate of this run down lodge. I think it could really use a nice renovation sometime soon.”
The pink haired lady, Naigrat, put a finger to her cheek and tilted her head. It is often said that the true age of a Troll rarely reveals itself on the outside. As if to prove that stereotype, Naigrat’s appearance had hardly changed since those times.
“Memories are engraved all over the place, so whenever I think about hiring workers, I stop at the last minute. Do you remember the notches on the cafeteria wall? From when Noft and Lantolq used to compare heights.”
“Ah, when they made marks too often and we couldn’t tell which marks belonged to who anymore.” The blonde haired lady smiled with a nostalgic look in her eyes. “Speaking of them, does it look like they’ll be able to come home this year?”
“Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it’ll happen. Their current job is pretty far away.”
“Ah, that’s too bad.”
A lot happened. For example, the rules restricting the fairies’ freedom were loosened, some with conditions attached. As a result, a few fully grown fairies were now living outside the fairy warehouse.
Lantolq held an unofficial position at the Orlandri Trading Company managing any affairs related to the fairy warehouse and Dug Weapons. On the other hand, Noft acted as a sort of part time soldier for the Winged Guard, accompanying salvager voyages to the land to ensure their safety. Both were working hard far, far away from the 68th Floating Island. They couldn’t be called home so simply.
“… oh yeah, how about Collon and the others? Are they back yet?”
“Eh? No, not yet. It should be sometime in the evening.”
“Oh, well then it must have been unrelated. A little while ago, I thought I saw a non-civilian looking airship land in the harbor district.”
“A little while ago? That’s strange, I haven’t heard anything about it.” Naigrat tilted her head again.
Just then, a soft knock sounded at the door, and a girl peeked her face in. “Excuse me, Naigrat and Aiseia. Have you seen Riel?”
The two women looked at each other.
“I can’t seem to find her anywhere. If she went off to play in the forest again that’s dangerous, so I got a little worried.”
A rather thick forest surrounded the fairy warehouse, complete with pools of water in hard to see places. For the inexperienced or young children, it could be pretty risky terrain.
“Oh no! I need to go find her!” Thrusting away the documents in her hand, Naigrat immediately stood up.
“I don’t think we need to worry that much. Aren’t you being a little overprotective?” Aiseia commented.
“Being overprotective is the special privilege of a guardian!” Naigrat said with almost a shout, then dashed out of the reference room.
“Umm… what should I do?” The young girl left behind said with a confused look.
“I don’t think you need to worry.” Aiseia shrugged.
“Kana! What are you doing?”
“Hehe. Taking advantage of this delicious situation.”
“W-Wait a second! Wait there to be spanked!”
“Ah… I guess Tazeka wins the bet.”
“Hmm, I never thought I’d actually be right.”
“… the place really is lively, huh.” Aiseia, left all alone in the reference room, smiled with a tinge of melancholy.
Still seated in her wheelchair, she reached out and touched the glass pane of the window. Once, long ago, he and she had been there, beyond that window, that young man and young girl who dashed restlessly through that short-lived time of the end.
“A lot’s happened, but I’m doing pretty well.” They were no longer here, so Aiseia had no choice but to voice her report in the vague direction of the blue sea above. “What about you guys? Where are you? What are you doing?”
However, the sky, ever so high and infinitely vast, only sucked up her words, returning no answer.
A girl fell out of the sky. Judging from her figure, she was probably a little younger than ten. She must have taken a wrong step while walking on a tree branch, for she was currently plummeting downwards head first. At that rate, she would no doubt have a violent collision with the hard ground, leaving a scene unfit for a peaceful spring afternoon.
The young man stretched out his hands and tried to catch the girl. However, right as he did so his feet slipped, causing him to completely lose balance and fall over with a crash. As a result,
He ended up stuck under the girl’s body and let out a shriek similar to a crushed frog’s.
“S-Sorry!!” After a few second’s delay, the girl, seeming to have grasped the situation, jumped away in a panic. “A-Are you hurt!? Are you alive!? Are any organs crushed!?”
“Ah—I’m fine. I’m tougher than I look.” Wiping the dirt off his clothes, the young man stood up. “But I did get pretty filthy. Are you oka—”
He looked at the young girl. She had blue hair the color of a clear sky and eyes with the deep color of the calm ocean surface. He felt like he had seen her before.
“—Hm?” The two of them locked eyes and froze. “Have I met you somewhere?”
“N-No? I don’t think so… probably…” The girl tilted her head. “I’ve never left this island, and you’re not from around here, are you?”
“Ah—well, it’s been a while,” he answered vaguely.
“Since you’re walking on this path, I assume you have some business with our warehouse?”
“Well then, you’re our guest. Follow me, I’ll be your guide.” The girl whirled around and started walking off with a mature step.
The young man gazed blankly at her back.
“Ah… it’s nothing.” Scratching his head, the man started walking after her.
“Riel!” A voice sounded from the direction in which they were headed. It drew closer. “Riel… ah! There you are!” A tall woman came jogging over. “Don’t make me worry like that. How many times do I need to tell you that you can’t go into the forest alo…”
“Sorry, but, ah, there was a strange animal, well, it got away, but I chased it all the way up that tree, and…”
The girl’s explanation, ambiguous as to whether it was an excuse or a brag, cut off midway. The woman wasn’t looking at her.
“No… way,” the woman murmured with a quivering voice, both hands covering her mouth. “No… that can’t be…”
“Sorry. I’ve been away for a pretty long while.”
“Eh? Eh? Eh?” The girl, unable to comprehend the situation, rapidly looked back and forth between the young man and the woman.
However, the two didn’t explain anything, instead simply exchanging gazes, as if some mutual understanding had passed between them and only them.
“I’m home,” the man said.
The woman’s eyes opened wide, blinked, then began to fill with tears. Her expression turned into a jumbled mixture of crying and joy. Then, with a trembling voice and many pauses, she managed to reply,