Shuumatsu Nani Shitemasuka? Mou Ichido Dake, Aemasuka? Volume 1 Chapter 4 part2

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After a full night's sleep, Feodor awoke to find that his cold was gone. He could move his limbs without pain, and he even felt more cheerful than usual.

Unfortunately, Feodor's movements remained too stiff for the military doctor that visited him to certify him for release. He had been forced to take an impromptu one-day vacation and told to spend it resting some more, "just in case." It was grating - he didn't have the kind of time he could waste idly sleeping in his room. Of course it wasn't the best idea for a sick person to be found wandering around a military base during their day off, either.

Somehow, he felt as if he'd forgotten something important, something he wanted to talk about with someone else, but any definite memories of the subject refused to manifest. It was a sensation akin to trying to dig through loose sand; what was scooped out of the hole kept spilling in again, obscuring the few pieces of the memory he could almost see.

"…Well, it's probably not a big deal."

It would normally irritate him to be unable to remember, but instead Feodor felt oddly placid. At the very least, it probably meant he didn't have any sort of emergency he had to immediately get under control. Even if it was something he had to get done, he could try and remember it again some other time.

There was also a strange sensation lingering on his forehead, almost ticklishly warm. He was rather curious what had placed it there and why.

Feodor's musings were interrupted by the enormous yawn escaping his throat. It's been a while. Maybe I should head over into town.

He didn't need any explicit permission to leave the base. There was a huge gaping hole in the wire fence on the other side of the grounds that remained unrepaired even now - and indeed, would perhaps never be repaired until the day this base's duty concluded



Feodor narrowed his eyes, squinting and glaring at the poster. However long or many times he did, the reality of what was written on it failed to change. It wasn't something like a letter with contents that changed if stared at for 30 seconds without blinking; There weren't any surprises or tricks hidden within the poster.

"Farewell and so long! Thank you very much for your patronage!"

A hurried and half-baked glue job attached it to the wall; the upper-right corner was already peeling off. As it flapped in the breeze, the characters forming Farewell and so long distorted and fluttered.

If this paper was to fly off somewhere else, then maybe the shop would need to open up again… nah, I guess not. No way. Yeah.

Feodor's shoulders dropped with disappointment as he forced himself to accept reality.



"…And so, that's why I don't have any donuts today." Feodor said flatly, closing the door to the theater rooftop spot behind him. Tiat, who had arrived before him as usual, glanced at him briefly. She made a small noise of acknowledgement, then looked back out over the town. "What, that's all? You weren't surprised?"

"I knew that already. I saw that it was closed when I went shopping the day before yesterday."

"Oh, I see…" How boring.

Whenever they sat and shared their enthusiasm about eating delicious things, Feodor thought it somehow felt nice. He'd thought that she would share his feelings, would be just as dejected as he earlier was after hearing the answer to her question, "Where are those indispensable donuts?"

"…This city is getting smaller and smaller, isn't it?" Tiat eventually mumbled quietly. "Hey, do you remember? The day we first met here?"

"You mean the day you asked me to 'forget about' you?"

"Now that you mention it, that did happen." She laughed. "That day, I was screaming I'll protect this town! while looking here and there all over. There were some interesting places, like a weird porcelain shop and a secondhand bookstore where you could browse freely. And this one fine glassware shop too, which Panival would've liked…"

Feodor thought it seemed odd to mention Panival's name, but it could be because she'd asked about the place at some point and found out it didn't exist anymore.

"I was so shocked when that bookstore went away," Tiat said. "They had all the artbooks of people like Wilhornakia Tenace."

"Really. I've never heard her name before. Who's she?"

"An Ayrantrobos painter. She's old, but really beautiful."

"Oh."

"Her drawings were so vivid, and the books had these incredibly enchanting, glossy fur coats. I thought I might buy them up in bulk and take them all into the barracks. I kinda regret not doing that now."

"So that's why…"

It's strange. The conversation they were having now should be one in which they shared their feelings of loss, talked about how painful it was to see the city they knew becoming desolate. A heartwarming moment of connection and communication between a superior and his subordinate.

Instead, it was more like the distance between himself and Tiat was widening, even as she became less judgmental the more they spoke.

"Are they really such good paintings?" he tried.

"Yeah, they are."

Dammit, the distance just keeps getting wider.

The lights at Tiat's feet flickered and lit up. By now she had become used to the warning signs, and so immediately stood, moving to the side. A massive amount of steam gushed out from where she had been just a second ago, too late to do any damage.

"You know, this stuff isn't so bad once you get used to it." Tiat said. "It's like the entire city is breathing."

"I never thought about it that way before."

"This place, or rather, this town," Tiat sat back down, opening the basket beside her, taking out a donut and biting into it. "It's like a well-made toy, right?" she asked in between chewing. "There's lots of these vents around, right? It's like all the buildings are dollhouses, except some guy built mechanisms into them that cause the people living there to start dancing at a certain time every day. That kind of thing?"

"Hey, wait a minute."

"Oh, but… if the people who live here are leaving, then it kinda starts feeling like the parts are breaking down too, so it's twice as lonely."

"No, no, just hold on!" he cut off her rambling. "That thing in your hands. What is it?"

Tiat looked at him, a malevolent smirk on her face. "Want one?"

"Of course! What, was there some other shop I didn't know about still open?"

"Too bad for you, it's not for sale." She took out another donut and offered it to Feodor. He walked up, taking it, then sat down next to her. "I asked Lakish for some yesterday, and she deep fried them for me," Tiat said. "Since that girl gets along with the kitchen ladies so well, they kept quiet about her using the fryer a little."

"…That's supposed to be against military regulations."

"If you're going to arrest us, go ahead and do it. Or are you saying we're only in trouble because it's you who found out about us?"

Feodor dropped his eyes to the donut in his hand. It had been cooked to a fine golden-brown and lightly sprinkled with powder, probably made from stir-frying some kind of plant seed. By the standards of donuts, it looked absurdly tasty.

"I didn't see or hear anything."

"That's what I thought you'd say," Tiat said cheerfully. The remaining half of her donut vanished into her mouth like magic. Although it ran contrary to everything he should do as a soldier, he bit into the one in his hands as well.

"…Wow."

"She's the best, isn't she? Ever since she was young, that girl has worked at a bakery near us whenever she had the time to. If it's any kind of cooking that uses flour, she's the best on the 68th Floating Island!"

Among the islands of Regul Aire, those exceeding a certain size were numbered. The smaller numbers were closer to the center, and grew larger as they got to the outer edge. An island numbered 68 would be considered extremely rural.

"What sort of place is it?"

"Hmm?"

"You mentioned it just now - the 68th Floating Island," Feodor said impatiently. "Is that your hometown?"

"My hometown? Well…" Tiat hesitated. "Yeah, I guess it feels kinda like that. You want to know about it?"

"Naturally. I'm interested in the environment that can create a personality as unique as yours."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Tiat cracked a grin, then started talking.

Deep within a forest, there was a dilapidated wooden building. It was nicknamed the fairy warehouse. Nobody knew how long ago it had been constructed. Normally, around 30 young fairies were gathered there. The caretaker watching over them was currently a female troll, whose slender (but strong) arms supported their lives. She was kind, and sometimes scary. Her skills involving feminine hobbies led many of them to begin wondering just how old she really was. Given the warehouse's limited budget, their everyday clothes were mostly stuff knitted and sewn by the troll. Due to her tastes, their clothes actually tended to look cute most of the time. "Even if some girls happen to suit them more than others." Tiat added with some annoyance.

"No, if they're cute clothes, they probably suit all of you fairies just fine," Feodor said.

"…While it's impressive you're able to say that so naturally, somehow you don't sound very honest."

"I don't? No matter how much of an Imp I might be, do you really think that means I'm always flattering people or telling lies?"

"Well, look, your race doesn't have anything to do with it. I just can't bring myself to believe those prepared responses of yours."

"You can say some incredibly cruel things sometimes, you know that, Tiat?"

She shook her head, then went back to telling him about her home. Although a number of fairies were older than her, most of them were younger. Since they hadn't become adults yet, they couldn't go into battle. All of the children were the picture of cheekiness and had promising futures ahead of them. She told him about Eudea, always full of energy, and about Masha, who was smart but hated reading. Almita, who took care of her still-young sisters, and Kanna, who liked to cause mischief and was always getting smacked by Naigrat (apparently the troll caretaker's name) on the butt.

She didn't stop there. Feodor heard next about her favorite theater in the Beastman residential zone one could walk to from the warehouse, and about how much she admired the various outer towns there. He also heard about the many places she'd thought she would like to visit. Among them, only Collinadiluche stood out as a town she had enjoyed a lot.

"It was incredibly fun," she said. "I want to go there again, there's people I want to meet there, and… and…"

Tiat abruptly stopped talking. Her huge green eyes quivered, teardrops appearing at their corners.

"Ahaha…" she laughed weakly, rubbing at her face. "J-just wait a sec, they should stop soon… oh no… I'm remembering all kinds of stuff now…"

Falling one after another, more and more tears poured out. "The book I lent to Almita… she hasn't given it back to me yet… and I promised Eudea we would go watch the stars together… my match with Kanna… w-we haven't settled it yet…"

With every fresh memory she recalled, another tear fell onto the copper roof tiles.

Ah. So that's it. Feodor realized what all her talk had been about. This girl thought she'd resolved herself to die, to finally give up on life.

But that's wrong, isn't it? You just didn't want to remember all your reasons for living.

One tear for one memory. Endless tears for endless memories.

"…Sorry." He took out a handkerchief and held it out to her in apology.

"W-why're you apologizing?"

"I asked something weird and made you remember something painful."

"What's so weird? It's just a story about my family."

"But isn't your family weird?"

"What the heck is that supposed to mean?" Giggling weakly, Tiat snatched the handkerchief and wiped her eyes. Feodor watched its pristine white fabric change color.

"…Hey." Tiat peeked over the formerly-clean cloth. "Can I ask another weird question?"

"Sure, I'll listen."

"Thanks." She didn't talk again for some time. "I guess… I'm afraid… of dying, after all."

Now what am I supposed to say to that? They passed a few seconds in silence as Feodor thought about it.

"…Accepting you're afraid and facing your fear anyway is what people call courage, I hear." He'd heard the words coming out of his mouth before, from his always-right big brother. "It's… natural to feel that your own life is important above anything else. But that's exactly why when you find something more precious than your own life, you'll be happier than any person could ever," Feodor concluded, trying to reword it as something he might say himself.

"So I should keep courage, huh? Yeah… I guess something like what I'm doing is important." With his handkerchief still pressed against her eyes, Tiat smiled. It was a hollow, emotionless smile only succeeding at exposing teeth.

"Well-"

"Oh, right!" Her forceful interjection overrode his almost plaintive voice. "Why don't we change the subject? What do you think of Lakish?!"

"H-huh?" His thoughts screeched to a halt, hitting a speed bump before they started moving again. "What?"

"Well, you see, Lakish seems like she's pretty interested in you. It might be slightly in bad taste for me to be doing this, but as her big sister, I think it's only proper that I should make the effort to grant my little sister's wishes!" Tiat said hurriedly. "You see, that girl's not like the bad, strange, ones who suddenly hurt themselves for no reason. She's someone who makes other people feel good and safe, and stuff! So hey, how about it?"

Not only was her stuffed-up nose turning her voice nasal, but she talked so rapidly her words blurred together. Feodor felt his eyebrow twitch. "How about what, exactly?"

"That girl really makes you feel good! Isn't she a good girl? It might surprise you, but that's au naturel Lakish for ya! Moreover, as you can see, she's good at cooking! As a man, wouldn't you give a girl like her high points?"

He certainly wouldn't deny that. "So, in other words, you want me to become her lover?"

"Whoa, nice guess! Did all my cheering work?"

"That's…" Feodor felt something beginning to twist inside him. "Isn't that like the older fairy you mentioned earlier? The one who discovered her man before she died?"

"H-her man… that's a bit direct, don't you think? But in terms of general framework, it does kinda match up!" Tiat laughed bitterly. "…Hey, wait. How do you know about Kutori?"

"It's because I'm your superior," he said smoothly. "I know whatever I need to know about you." A huge lie. I heard it straight from Lakish's mouth. "But weren't you the one who wanted to be like… Kutori, was it? So why are you trying to set up a man for Lakish instead?"

"S-set up? That's even more direct…"

"It's the truth. Actually, if that's the kind of story you want, shouldn't you be the one to do it?"

"Heh? Me?" Tiat's face went blank as she processed what he'd said.

Then she blushed red like a tomato about to burst. "No, no, no!" she yelped, waving her hands and contorting like someone trying to flag down an incoming airship. "M-me, you see, well, never mind! I'm not like - not like that girl, I'm not honest or considerate! I'm reckless, not cute at all, and my shelf life is only three months!"

That self-evaluation has quite a lot of things I could object to. Feodor swallowed his sarcastic remarks. "Well, if you say so. But are you really fine with that?"

"Y-yeah… geez, that's bad for my heart." Breathing deeply, she rubbed her chest. Was it so bothersome an idea?

"So why Lakish, then?"

"Oh, well, it's not like I tried to hide it or anything, but… do you know about Seniolis?"

"Somewhat." The girl in question's full name was Lakish Nyx Seniolis. According to the documents he'd read, it was no ordinary name. "The Dug Weapon that Lakish is compatible with, right?"

"Yes. It's also the sword that was tuned to the strongest Leprechaun, who died five years ago. Kutori Nota Seniolis."

Sword? The Dug Weapons are swords?

"Among the four of us, let's see… if it's bare fists, then Collon is easily the strongest of us."

I'm well aware. In our daily training, she constantly shows off her physical abilities. Sometimes she carves it into my body. That stranglehold last week seriously hurt.

"If you want to know who's best at wielding conventional weapons, Panival would be at the top."

I know that too. Despite being entirely self-taught, she's showed unbelievable skills in armed combat.

"But when it comes to Venom or Dug Weapons, Lakish is absolutely the sole champion. The three of us could take her on all at once and still lose."

…That, I didn't know. I never expected something like that from her.

"Because of that, the higher-ups see Lakish as something like a trump card. Since she's so valuable, she's probably going to end up living a long time compared to us."

Her smile this time was powerless and insubstantial. The gray expression he'd seen on her face when he met her in this spot for the first time.

"I'm just no good. I can't be like Kutori, no matter how much I try. But if it's Lakish, she might be able to do it - to live the life of a wonderful fairy soldier. That's why I want to entrust everything that's impossible for me to her."

"And what will you do after that?"

"You should know by now." Her typical, polite smile had returned. "I'll just do my best. Whatever it is I can do for them. Since I can't be like Kutori, the only thing I can do is put on a brave face and show them my courage."

"But then… in her final moments, she went to battle again by herself for the people important to her. She knew she wouldn't ever come back again, and despite that, she left smiling…!"

Feodor nodded to himself, thinking about Lakish's words from the other day.

"You get it, right? So, then…" Perhaps as proof of their promise, Tiat pushed the basket of donuts over towards him.

The four remaining within emitted a charming radiance, all their toppings different. She had promised that all of their flavors were first-rate. From the one he'd eaten, he believed it. He would eat all the donuts, even if he had to sell his soul to do it. But…

"I'm sorry." Feodor reached into his uniform pocket, removing his glasses and putting them on. His soul aside, there was something he refused to sell.

Tiat stared at him. "Why? Do you want something better?"

"That's not the problem." This is the same as when Lakish asked me for a favor about Tiat. I can't accept this conversation. "You said you'd entrust your dream to Lakish."

"Yes."

"Then listen. If you become a sacrifice, do you truly believe Lakish will be able to move on?"

"That's…" Tiat sighed. "Look, she'll be fine, okay? Perfectly fine." It sounded as if she wanted very dearly to believe what she was saying. "We're fairies, alright? You don't consider every single fired mortar shell to be your comrade just since they're crammed into the same firebox, do you? It's the same as that. Having your companions die and vanish is normal for us."

"Uh huh."

"It is!" Tiat nodded fiercely.

"So the same is true of that older fairy you talk about so much?"

"Of co-" her defiance wavered. "O-of course it is!"

Ah. That's what it was, all along. Remembering all the expressions on her face he'd come to know, one of them stood out as holding conviction. And with it, the true form of the irritation he felt whenever he looked at her.

Adult fairy soldier, Tiat Shiba Ignareo. When all's said and done, you…

"You just want a reason to die."

He had been mostly talking to himself. He didn't know if she'd normally hear it, but that was the kind of small whisper he had meant it to be.

By some dint of chance, the wind changed in that moment, blowing from behind him, and carried his voice to her ears. Her face instantly turned an ugly crimson shade. "Wha…nnaargh…"

"No matter how much you chase after your beloved Kutori's great accomplishments, you understand that it's impossible to ever catch up to her, don't you?" Feodor pressed. "You, yourself, should know that you can't live your life so dramatically or in the same way she did. Admit it. You're tired of chasing after her, tired of living to pursue your dreams."

"No…"

"So now, even if it's only just the one time you can, you've found a fake accomplishment and clung to it with all you could. 'I'll tackle unwinnable battles for the sake of my comrades,' is that what you wanted? Doing that just means you're going to wind up showing your back - just like Kutori - to your remaining allies."

"That's… not true…"

"You're just using the name of the older fairy you respect to stage your own dramatic suicide."

Tiat opened and closed her mouth wordlessly.

He didn't feel like showing her mercy. "You know that, right? But Lakish won't be perfectly fine after you and the other two die. She might be able to keep up appearances for a while, but eventually - inevitably - her mask will start to crack."

"W-why… why are you saying this stuff?"

"Because I've had a similar experience before." Feodor adjusted his glasses. "Someone important to me died, saying it was for the sake of the future. The person in question probably died satisfied, and my mind can comprehend the logic that went into that decision. But still, my heart - every fiber of my being - refuses to believe it was necessary."

"That's… really painful-"

"You're extraordinary," Feodor interrupted her. "You've warped yourself to the point where you're actively searching for a way to die. I guess it might be a result of the environment you were raised in… but I cannot understand it!"

"…What do you mean?"

Feodor scoffed. "You know, to turn out this way in a world where not even idiots are raised like that. Certainly, getting yourself killed might seem oh-so-dazzling to you all. But if that's so, why are your comrades so important to you, even though you've all had the same terrible experiences?"

He gathered his breath. "That's another thing I'm disgusted about. You've had cherished people taken from you, yet you can't bring yourself to hate them whatsoever. You've experienced the pain of losing others, so why are you so adamant on repeating that cycle?!"

"T-that's…" Tiat, whose head had been hung low, suddenly looked up and tensed herself as if she'd decided something. "Because that's what Kutori would've done!"

"That again?" Feodor rolled his eyes. "Like I said, you're just using that as an excuse-"

"You don't know anything about Willem or Kutori! Don't just say whatever you like!"

Feodor was taken aback by the seething anger in her voice. The fairy soldier in front of him, who had slumped her shoulders and allowed him to lay into her again and again, now glared at him with eyes filled by burning spirit and willpower.

She looks like a warrior about to charge off to the battlefield.

"I might be immature and often wrong… I might not know many things, and I might be bad at understanding other people… I might not be a beautiful woman, or be able to cook… but Kutori wasn't like me. If I'm wrong about chasing after Kutori, then the bad person here is me. It's impossible for Kutori to be a bad person! So…" Tiat took in a deep breath, just like he'd done a few moments ago. "So don't go and insult them!"

Something crept along Feodor's spine, ice-cold liquid sending his entire body into shivers.

He couldn't get a handle on what it was. But he could just barely sense that it definitely wasn't any kind of good feeling. If this conversation continued as it was, then that emotion would probably come exploding out of him, and he wouldn't be able to contain it immediately.

"Fine." Feodor stood up and turned. "You can keep the handkerchief. Throw it away if you don't need it anymore."

"What? H-hey, wait! This conversation isn't over-"

Leaving Tiat stammering, he threw open the heavy iron door and stepped down the stairs. As he left the theater, he heard it slam behind him.



He was envious. Jealous.

Tiat could chase after that back she admired, her partners at her side and her heart engorged on the belief that her chosen path was unequivocally righteous. Even though she faced a hell she couldn't return from, even though she knew it from the outset, her resolve was such that she kept moving forward without stopping.

Feodor, too, had someone he admired once. But that back was too far away now to catch up to.

After the day he was executed, Feodor never once thought that he wanted to be like his brother-in-law. In fact, it was the reverse. The path to proving the righteousness of my big brother doesn't lie in doing things as he would have done.

From the moment Feodor realized that, he turned away from the back he admired to walk his own path,

"Because that's what Kutori would've done!"

The memory made his heart shiver with irritation all over again.



Feodor was at the fried chicken stand near the old mine when he heard the explosions.

Booming noises echoed through Lyell, four larger and smaller explosions coming in from different directions and distances.

His stormy emotions, which he'd been so close to allowing to slip free, had calmed after some time. Because of his persistent obstinacy, he'd missed his chance to eat more of Lakish's donuts. As Feodor walked through Lyell, thinking about the donuts, he'd grown hungry. With the hunger came regret about what he had done and said. He shouldn't have gone so far, but he couldn't help but open his big, stupid, criticizing mouth.

Still, if he decided to eat something sweet after walking away like that, Feodor would have felt as if he'd lost in some way.

The solution found at the end of his worries: greasy fried chicken. He'd had to go out of his way to get to the stand, but the chicken's painfully strong and burning spices would definitely destroy his taste buds to the point where he'd be unable to taste anything sweet for the next few days. It was the perfect method to sever his lingering attachment to donuts.

"What the-" Feodor spluttered, whipping around as the explosions reached his ears. He hadn't even had a chance to finish buying his fried chicken.

The stand owner yawned, not sounding terribly concerned. "Maybe another control mechanism broke down somewhere?"

No. He could easily tell the difference. It's not that kind of sound. It's an explosion that used gunpowder.

He briefly entertained the possibility of bombardment exercises, but quickly disregarded it. Though the numbers of residents had already dropped by a large amount, Lyell remained a civilized city. The Winged Guard wouldn't be permitted to start launching artillery shells directly into the center of the city.

That left two possibilities. Assuming they weren't in peacetime anymore, either the Winged Guard was responsible, or someone outside the Winged Guard was. Either way, it led Feodor to the same conclusion.

Right now, somewhere in this city, an enemy of the Winged Guard is here.



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