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Vol. 0 – Prologue
The wind blew. My body quivered.
… It was slightly chilly.
With the advent of Old Man Winter right around the corner in late autumn, the morning wind was growing more and more frigid. Still, I wonder if hot air was being generated by the large horde which had gathered in the moorland? I’m unable to bear it.
Besides, when the time comes, no one will care about the cold.
Save for the restless messengers running around—both sides altogether being made up of one hundred seventy thousand men—most of the people, however, were tired of waiting patiently at the moment.
The allied soldiers’ tension could be seen, their faces stiff. And yet, no one fled. As for why, it was because of their confidence in being victorious. Okay, it was because I had intentionally and easily cajoled them.
The soldiers intending to obtain merits crowded the vanguard and were particularly enthusiastic amidst the allied forces. They dreamed of fame for themselves, and wore looks which concealed their excitement. However, they’ll probably soon come to realize something: people’s dreams are written and empty dreams are read. These dreams of theirs were naught but a mere fantasy.
The fates of the soldiers serving in the vanguard had already been decided.
They do not notice it. Nor do they care. To think that I, who was supposed to be their ally, a friend of the chief of staff of their entire army, to have personally planned something.
Aah, who could have imagined such a thing?
There is no bridge of glory onto which they step forwards. It is just a gorge which leads to their ruin and hell. I invited them to a cliff ledge. And now, I shall kick them off.
I wonder what they’ll feel when they find themselves standing in their final resting places?
—A longing to live? Repentance? Or maybe Rage?
Hehehe, you’ll surely die, spitting your resentments towards me.
Well, so what? Those are all just my candorous thoughts.
Okay, so deceiving people is bad. … There’s no need to mention it. However, to be tricked like this by a teenage girl, they are obviously lacking in capability, and should feel just a little regret.
I don’t pity the soldiers that I set up. There is no mercy for them. Instead, I shall ridicule them. I haven’t the slightest feelings of guilt. I threw away such sensibilities a long time ago. The more you don’t [feel], the more exciting it is. It’s not too far off now.
Hmm, I wonder what the old me would think of the current me? Okay, so, around when I was still in Japan. I had unconsciously considered doing such things. Ahead of me, beyond the battlefield, I looked across and fixated my gaze on that person.
Nearby, a conscripted escort, who was a female soldier, spoke up quizzically.
Oh my, that’s not good. Was my face showing it?
There must be something wrong with me for allowing myself to slip up and get absorbed in my thoughts. In the first place, is it wrong to think about unrelated matters before a decisive victory?
Although, when I think about the conclusion of this decisive battle, I can’t help but feel sentimental. Looking back on the path which I’ve tread up until now, I think it’s a bit reasonable.
… I wonder if it’s pointless. Yep, it’s pointless. If I don’t brace myself…
I played with my long, black hair, pretending as if there was wind. The escort soldiers looked as the wind blew my black hair adrift, but they concealed the look of fear within their eyes. Coupled with the same colored black eyes and hair, it was an exceedingly rare hue around these parts. Furthermore, combined with the characteristics of my (yellow) race and the complexion of my skin, my appearance couldn’t be called anything but rare. Among Caucasians, the Japanese already looked as if they should be called heretics from how they looked.
I brought both this peculiar look and knowledge from my original world. As a result of the combination of the two, I received two exaggerated nicknames, one known as the “Foreign Witch”. Just now, I was addressed as the second nickname, “Lady Witch”.
Hitherto, the escorts had been staring at my face with looks of suspicion and fear.
I smiled at the girl.
“It’s nothing, Erma.”
“…… Yes. Is that so?”
I wonder why she didn’t look truly convinced, though, Escort Erma nodded and then returned her gaze forward.
Good grief, was I somehow able to dodge the question? Though I can’t say it went well.
Nevertheless… Are things still not moving yet?
I think I’ll fly over to the general and take command of the entire army.
In a spot a little ways away, a young general could be seen, and at that moment, he was unsheathing a blade from the scabbard affixed to his hip.
Oh, it’s finally time. The tense moment everyone had been anxiously awaiting had arrived.
Slowly, the general raised the arm which clasped the blade. Suddenly, he pointed his blade towards the sky.
The air shook. A large number of people swallowed their saliva. Such sounds could be heard.
“To the entirety of the army! CHARGE!”
With that voice, he swung his blade downwards. One beat later, the charge horn blew and resounded. And then―
The air vibrated. Rough voices reverberated all around. The roar of horses and soldiers advancing across the land. The music of the battlefield could already be heard. Soon after, the sound of arrows hurtling through the air, the metallic clangs of sword fights, the cries of agonizing deaths, all joining in an ensemble.
Aaah, it’s commenced.
… Hey, is this really alright?
Astonishingly, some part of my conscience seemed to remain and questioned me.
―Yes, this is fine.
Naturally, the corners of my mouth rose. I made a warped smile. The smile of a witch.
I can’t turn back now. I also don’t feel like going back.
To that routine. Living peacefully, yet depressedly, in Japan.
Vol. 0 – Chapter 1
—”Kokoro”, written by the great writer Natsume Soseki, is an entire novel based on the motif of egoism. The writing was implemented in Japanese textbooks, and when I read over it for the first time, I received an indescribable shock.
It wasn’t something along the lines of ‘It was interesting’ or ‘I was impressed’. That being said, if you asked what my thoughts on it were, I’d be troubled.
… I can only say I was shocked.
Up until then, I had known my heart with clarity—to be frank, it was strange, in a sense, I remember being astonished.
However, that didn’t seem to be the case for the friends around me. They unitarily spoke of impressions such as ‘dark’ or ‘depressing’. Alternatively, they’d all say that Natsume Soseki’s work “Botchan” was more interesting.
From the way they talked, I saw that they hadn’t been shocked like I had.
I was alone, and was afraid of voicing an opinion different from those of the other girls, so I put on a smile and when along with a “Yeah. it was dark, right?” However, I felt a dark, hazy feeling in the back of my mind.
For some while after that, that story lingered in a corner of my head. During lunch, when we had fun talking while the cherry blossoms bloomed. Or on a day when I was heading back home after school, or when I was absentmindedly replying “mhm” to my friend’s whining. Suddenly, I’d just remember it.
I thought about forgetting it altogether. However, by no means could I resist the unfathomable and mysterious charm that the opus possessed, so, I decided to visit the library alone after school.
Thus, I, Hasegawa Shizuku came across Todo Akane in the library.
Tap, tap, tap. Every time I took a step forwards, my footstep echoed. The corridor on the first floor fell deathly silent, and couldn’t feel any signs of people.
It wasn’t surprising since it was after school and all classes should have finished by now. Students without any extra-curricular activities had already left school, leaving behind sports clubs on the fields; cultural clubs were on the fourth floor where the fine arts and music rooms were, and teachers should be on the second floor inside the staffroom.
I finally arrived at my destination shortly after walking through the uninhabited corridor. I placed my hand on the sliding door, gingerly pulling it aside.
The door opened noisily. Thereupon was a male student sitting at the service counter—it was likely that he was part of the Library Committee— glanced my way. But immediately lost interest as his gaze fell upon the book in his hand.
As I set foot inside the library, I shut the door behind me as my eyes darted around.
Are those windows that are still ajar during winter for ventilation? The sound of the cold wind shrieking, along with a clinking sound as the baseball club made their hits entered from the window. Inside, there were sparse figures of people at the tables.
I don’t know any of them… right?
I muttered inside my head as I probed the room fearfully.
After I finished letting my gaze travel the room, I let out a breath of relief. Still, as if a burglar, I slowly and quietly strode over to my intended bookshelf. It would be on a bookshelf lined with works from the Meiji and Taisho era.
Let’s see…… this way, I think? Yeah, probably this way. I glanced around restlessly, guessing the pathway as I prowled along. However—
Hmm, I can’t find it.
Right after that, I knitted my eyebrows upon the realization that either my conjecture or sixth sense was off the mark.
I’ve had the chance to use the library previously, but it was considerably hard to find as it was different from the genre I usually read.
The history bookshelf is separate right? … Mmm, it must be a different bookshelf. Internally, I continued to question myself about these seemingly obvious facts.
Even though I would’ve known its location right away if it was on the history shelf…
I muttered to myself unintentionally.
Yes, I’m one of those “(Female) History Buffs” so to speak, and in the library, I’ve had many opportunities to borrow those kinds of books.
When I was little, I didn’t think it was a very girlish hobby, so I wasn’t too openly…
Nowadays, thanks to the term “(Female) History Buff” getting through, I’m able to happily enjoy my hobbies without getting embarrassed.
While thinking incoherently, I went through the shelves. Thereupon, a certain title caught my attention. It was titled “Ginga Tetsudō No Yoru”. A masterpiece by Miyazawa Kenji.
Oh, it must be around here! Reassurance and delight seeped from my heart.
Finally, I came across the bookshelf which I’d been aiming for before and approached it, sliding my finger across the spines of the books.
Akutagawa’s “Kumonoito” and “Rashōmon”…, Kunikida Doppo’s “Musashino”…, Then there’s Tayama Katai’s “Futon”… Here it is! Natsume Soseki’s “Kokoro”.
Curving my finger like a hook, I removed the book from the shelf—
“Are you interested in Soseki’s “Kokoro”?
I uncontrollably raised my voice from the unexpected voice addressing me from behind. Furthermore, the book slipped from within my grasp and dropped onto the floor. After disconcertedly picking up the book, I timidly turned around.
I recognized the appearance of the person who had spoken to me from behind—I managed to endure not raising my voice in astonishment again. Standing behind me was a girl in a loose uniform with long bright dyed hair over her shoulder.
—It was my classmate, Todo Akane.
She and I usually, no, I didn’t usually associate with any of the girls in my class, including her.
Why is she here? Why is she talking to someone like me? I lifted my head suspiciously.
Saying ‘someone like me’ may sound a bit degrading, but it’s a suitable expression for someone like myself who could practically be found anywhere.
For example, in terms of academic marks which make up most of a student’s (figurative) body, mine is in the higher-middle, the most inconspicuous placings. Thanks to my passion for history, only my social studies are top of the class but for every other subject, I magnificently score an average mark.
If there we other points that I was proud of besides history, it would include being taught how to use the abacus in primary school so my calculating speed is faster than normal but…
It’s at a negligible level.
Then, there are the most concerning points to a girl my age. The appearance…
Well, I have confidence in them at least not being bad. Although, it just doesn’t stand out. Yes, there’s no escaping that ‘plain’ impression.
Just like the girl in front of me, it may be able to give a different impression by dyeing my hair but that somehow just doesn’t sit right with me. At the very least, I am making an effort to grow out my black hair… but it’s still hard to call attractive.
Meanwhile, Todo-san, frankly put, could be evaluated by her good looks, and excellent grade.
… Despite this, there was no way she could be called a model student; she was an unusual type of person.
She wasn’t like a delinquent that make huge messes or does anything foolish or anything like that. Just that, she had a side of her which never accepted anything she didn’t want to do, anything she wasn’t interested in or didn’t sit right with her.
Thanks to her being like that, she has numerous stormy relationships which weren’t limited to only students or classmates, but also extended to the teachers.
I’ll do what I want, how I want. Many hate egoistic people such as herself.
However, she was someone who was particularly almost acknowledged by her surroundings. It wasn’t only due to her beautiful appearance nor her excellent intelligence, but also to something I can’t really put my finger on, a charismatic feel from her.
Even if she wasn’t apart of a group of female students, she definitely wouldn’t be a blending into the background. She alone had the atmosphere of a lone protagonist standing alone in a circle of people.
Even though she was a problem child, she was still had the kind of attracting image of an idol.
It was for this reasoning that I couldn’t understand why she was talking to me.
… Was it on a whim?
That was the most likely reason. At any rate, she was famous for being both extremely self-centered and being a moody person.
“Hey, are you listening?”
Todo sounded evidently irritated when she spoke to me again. This is bad, I have to give some sort of reply!
“Uhh! I mean, it seems interesting, um… that…?”
My reply was weak, and furthermore, it was vague and unsubstantial.
… Yeah, I currently had no response. Todo-san must undoubtedly be irritated.
She appeared to want to say something, but, eventually, she said nothing, and stepped forwards silently.
U-using force?! I was panicked by the situation
I moved my body to the side… but Todo-san wasn’t concerned about me and took two books from the shelf, then, handed the books to me.
Once again, I let out a dumbfounded voice, and instinctively took the books handed to me.
“Then you should read these.”
“You’ll definitely like them.”
Todo-san announced to me before then turning and leaving. I stood astounded as I watched the retreating figure. Only after her figure had disappeared, I let out a deep sigh.
With a sense a relief, I finally looked down at the two books handed to me.
They were titled “Maihime” and “Ningen Shikkaku”.
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