[1. Keep in mind that whenever Filmina says 『Me』 or 『My』 or 『I』 surrounded by those special quote marks, that’s actually her past self. Also, italics means her past self is speaking (most of the time, a couple of times it’s Agedilus but you can tell based on context).]
I open my eyes. I’m here, calmly thinking ‘not again’ at the jet black darkness that spreads around me. I feel like someone is calling out to me, but right now I can’t possibly know who that is.
Well, just what happened to me? I had certainly confirmed in the palace garden that Celves was the culprit that casted the curse on me——then I protected that man from Celves’s blade of light, and I have no memory of what happened after that. By the time I realized it, I was here. I probably, or rather, certainly collapsed by that blade of light and lost consciousness. After that, I must have been led onto this regular nightmare course as always, or something like that.
『……He’s probably angry again.』
Those whispered words echo surprisingly loud in the darkness. ‘Oh?’ I think, perplexed. Usually, my voice doesn’t even come out, drowning in the darkness.
Some time has passed since I even saw this nightmare, but this is the first time I’ve truly sensed this, strangely.
I don’t know for sure how strong that man is, being the head wizard of the royal palace and the savior of the world. But if he has enough ability to be called those titles, then getting hit by that blade probably wouldn’t have been a big deal for him. If so, then I may have done too much, and he’s certainly angry. But, could I really have helped it? My body moved by itself.
Nevertheless, what the heck am I supposed to do now? Where should I go in this place, where I don’t even have any sense of direction? ‘Maybe I can’t go anywhere at all.’ That thought crosses my mind. As if proving it, the mud-like darkness coils around my foot the second I take a step forward. Temperature-less, it tries to drag me downwards to where I can’t see, and I sit down right there.
Then, I see the sight of that man and the young girl with strawberry blonde hair standing beside him, as if a spotlight shines on the two of them in the darkness. The sight of Lunamerie happily talking about something, and that man agreeing with her. Perhaps it’s because I’ve known him for so long, I can tell that although at a glance he looks like he doesn’t care, but in reality his expression is not that annoyed. It’s so ironic, though.
If it was the same dream as usual, I would hesitate at the sight of the two of them. But for some reason, right now, I don’t do that.
Shaking off the darkness coiling around me, I stand up and walk towards them. Each and every single step feels terribly heavy, but I can’t really care about that. Forcibly ripping off the hem of my dress, I determinedly head towards them.
There’s no signs of them noticing me, as I move frantically like an idiot. But I don’t even care about that.
I call out that name now, that I haven’t ever been able to call out in this nightmare before.
His nickname, only allowed for me, that only I can call him. My special privilege he gave me, more beloved than anything else. But though I think he looked at me for a second, he immediately drops his gaze to Lunamerie again. That’s when I believe it for sure.
『You’re not my Edi, are you?』
In that second, the man standing beside Lunamerie crumbles down like a clay doll.
Whatever it was that took his appearance, it dissolves and disappears in the darkness. ‘I thought so,’ I mutter voicelessly. It really wasn’t that man. It was just a counterfeit copy, taking his appearance.
I think it was well-made. But that’s wrong. Why didn’t I realize sooner? If I say ‘Edi’, he always responds in one way or another without fail. Well, it also depends on the situation what feelings he puts in his response, but it’s impossible for him not to respond when I call him. Certainly, when we fight I end up having to call him countless times, but that’s a different story because he enjoys it then. At the very least, it’s impossible from the real Agedilus’s perspective to just completely ignore me like this.
The thing that took his appearance isn’t there anymore. Left there is Lunamerie alone.
I try to call out to her, but I reflexively shut my mouth. Her deep purple eyes stare at me. Her face is expressionless, the loveliness of her features becomes vague, truly looking like a human-size doll. A chill runs down my spine for some reason. I realize too late that I’m being watched. If this Lunamerie in front of me is the same as the clay doll pretending to be that man, surely she’s a fake too, the essence of this mud-like darkness. But despite that, why? Right now, she’s just like——……
My feet suddenly sink down. I can’t even fix my posture. Unable to do anything, I’m just swallowed up by the darkness at my feet, then sinking down. The crying voice steadily gets louder. My instinctive scream too, is swallowed up by that crying voice.
I sink down further and further. My sense of time grows vague. Then, how much time must have passed, I wonder? I’ve already grown tired of screaming, endlessly listening to the crying voice. That’s when my feet suddenly land to the ground. I say ‘ground’ but really, it’s all jet black darkness, so I can only tell by sensation that there’s ground under me.
I try to take a step forward like before but I fail. I end up falling and sitting down again. But even so, I somehow manage to stand up, certainly progressing further one stem at a time. If you ask me whether my destination really is in front of me, I’m not very confident about that. But I know. That when I arrive, 『she』 will be there, always, always crying.
『————Look, I knew it.』
『She』 is here, crouching, surrounded by black thorny vines. 『She,』 who ceaselessly sheds tears as if she’s forgotten everything but crying.
——I didn’t want to die……!
Finally clearly understanding that voice, I look through the vines at 『her』.
She has black hair that isn’t dyed, that no one in this world except that man can possibly have. Dark brown, almost black eyes. 『She』 has all these features like it’s only natural… No, I’ll stop talking in this roundabout way. I know who 『she』 is.
『She』 is me.
『Me』, who lost her life from an unexpected purse-snatcher of all things on a planet called Earth, before I became who I am right now. The first time I remembered this 『me』. I was 3 years old. This is 『me』 who my young self couldn’t react to, and who still isn’t accepting death.
I touch the thorns surrounding 『me』. The black thorns are ominous, reminding me of the patterns on both of Celves’s arms. At the same time, thoughts start pouring into me like a storm from my fingertip as it touches the thorny vine.
Die. Die. Die. 『I』 didn’t want to die. 『I』 didn’t want to die. Why did 『I』 have to die? 『I』 didn’t want to die. Die. Die. The more Filmina lives as Filmina, the more 『I』 disappear. 『I』 didn’t want to die. Die. Die. Die. Die. Die. But 『I’m』 still being killed. 『I』 hate it. 『I』 don’t want to die anymore. 『I』 don’t want to die. Die. Die. 『I』 don’t want to die. 『I』 don’t want to die. 『I』 don’t want to die.
I immediately pull my hand away from the thorn. There’s an awful burn on my fingertip even though I only touched it for just a moment. Holding my hurting hand, I can do nothing but keep looking at 『me』.
It seems anger and fear of dying has isolated 『me』 from me, helping the curse. These thorny vines must be the last stronghold of the curse. I’m sure they are. These black thorns are 『my』 last dam. A castle that deteriorated the curse, made to protect 『me』. At the same time, it’s also a cage that imprisons 『me』.
I take a deep breath once. Then I reach out my hand into the thorns, tearing off those vines, and begin to step further.
Every time I step forward, my hands get burnt from the vines I tear off, the thorns hurting my face and body. It’s not like it doesn’t hurt. But even so, I move forward. The sizzling sound of my hands burning is awfully clear even amidst the resounding crying voice.
It’s because of this pain that even I shed tears. Definitely not because the thoughts – the memories of the past 『me』 – are nostalgic. What’s the point in clinging to a past I can never return to anymore? I already have the 『present time』. Just like how 『I』 don’t have something 『I』 can give up, I also have something I can’t give up.
The truth is, you understand. Don’t you, 『me』?
Finally coming out of the cage of thorns, I stand in front of 『me』. Crying, sobbing in a way so unbecoming for 『my』 age, 『I』 wear the same suit worn for an interview that day, that second 『I』 lost my life. It’s an awful state, if I do say so myself.
But even so, right now I can’t criticize 『me』. My dress is in tatters, my body covered in cuts and gashes, bleeding from everywhere, both my burned hands smell somehow burned, even my face has wounds on it. Even my carefully plaited, arranged hair, is now unrecognizable. ‘This is definitely what they mean when they say ‘walking wounded’,’ I think matter-of-factly.
『I』 slowly look up at me in this state. Yes, now that I look at it again, that really is an awful face. That makeup put on so painstakingly is now all soppy. But this, this really is 『me』.
In front of 『me』 crouching, I crouch down too. Then, I put my arms around 『my』 back. In my arms, 『I』 gasp. I whisper softly to 『me』, who is trembling all over.
『You didn’t want to die, did you?』
『I』 completely freeze. I hug 『me』 even harder, continuing again.
『You didn’t want to die. I get it. I’m the same too.』
Three years old, I got a sickness from an epidemic. Somehow or another, back then I didn’t want to die. But essentially, I must have been dead then. Since I was in the grips of death, 『I』 showed up. I managed to keep my soul latched onto the present world by swallowing down 『me』. Because of that, at three years old I ended up with 『me』. There’s no way I could have accepted the part of 『me』 that had personally experienced ‘death’. Because of that, I ended up deserting 『me』 in a place like this.
『I’m sorry. Though I know apologizing makes no difference here.』
Even so, I can’t help but apologize. 『My』 tears soak into my dress. 『My』 body, which was heaving with sobs, stops shaking. 『My』 hands wrap around my back, as if clinging to me.
——I didn’t want… to die.
——I wanted… to live.
——I’m scared… of death.
『That’s right. But—』
I cut my words off for a moment, looking up at 『my』 face. I smile at 『me,』 who looks like a deer in headlights.
『Hey, 『me』. Now we’ve known things even scarier than that, right?』
Those dark brown eyes widen at my words. Large teardrops fall from those eyes.
That’s right. I know scarier things than death. I remember the time of the demon king’s rule. I’m sure even 『I』 know that too. Why, because 『I』 am me. What comes to my mind is that man’s face, so beautiful it makes me angry. I can’t help but smile at how he makes me remember his sunrise-colored eyes looking at me, whether I like it or not. That’s right. In other words, it’s just like that.
All these thoughts that I don’t put in words must have reached 『me』. As if ambushed, 『I』 look at me. Those lips move. It looks like 『I’m』 trying to say something, but 『my』 voice doesn’t come out.
We both exchange glances at the faint voice we hear. I smile again. Tears fall from my eyes too at that.
Hey, I know you can hear it. That voice, calling us. That man’s voice, calling us with such an unimaginable grieving voice. Because he’s just hopeless. What can he do if we’re not there for him? Hey, you get it, don’t you? The truth is, you understand, don’t you?
I ask that to 『me』 in my arms. In response, 『I』 nod countless times, smiling while crying.
——You married such an unthinkable man, 『me』.
I can’t help but laugh at 『my』 words, spoken with a tearful voice. My wounded body hurts everywhere, but laughter overpowers that. It really is just as 『I』 said. But the one that chose that man was none other than me. There’s no way I can complain after so long. My one and only is that man and no one else.
Well then, let’s go together. We have to go, for that man’s sake and for our sakes too.
My words are transmitted to 『me』 even without speaking them out loud. 『I』 nod deeply. Then, 『I』 disappear from my arms. No, not disappear. 『I』 just dissolved. Dissolved within me, this time for sure.
By the time I realize it, countless warm tears fall down my cheeks. But for some reason, even though my vision is warped with tears, I feel like everything in front of me has opened up completely. Tears sting the wounds on my face but I couldn’t care less about that. Holding my aching body, I somehow manage to stand up. By the time I realize it, those black thorny vines have all withered. The darkness still hasn’t cleared up, but now I know where to go.
I just have to walk where that voice guides me. Yes, Edi. I’m coming now. So just wait a little more.