Translator: Kurehashi Aiko Editor: Queenie
Elizabell disappears into the hut, leaving the boy all on his own. After the boy waited for a while, Elizabell returned with a handful of dried plants which she handed to the confused boy.
「What are those?」
「Medicinal herbs. If eaten in too high of a quantity it can be a potent poison, but if drank in moderation it can be used as a medicine.」
「Ahh! T-thank you… I’m in your debt!」
The boy smiled at Elizabell’s words, but soon enough his face was distorted in pain and he sat on the ground while holding onto his leg. Elizabell’s face turns curious as she comes closer to the boy.
「What is it this time? –––– Oh, this? It seems like you’ve injured your leg.」
Elizabell crouched down at the boy’s side, taking a closer look at his injured leg. She then extends her hands towards his leg and they begin to shine brightly. It was probably thanks to a magic stone emitting light that she kept hidden in her hand. When the light subsided, the boy looked at Elizabell with an expression of relief painted all over his face. Without looking at him, Elizabell got up and cleaned her clothes of the dirt that got all over it.
「Now then, you should be fine with this. But this time around I mean it, go back home.」
「W-wait just a moment!」
When Elizabell tried to get back to her hut, the boy grabbed the hem of her robe, trying to stop her from leaving. Elizabell looked back to see the boy looking straight at her.
「Umm, can I come here sometimes and see you again?」
Surprised, Elizabell stares at the boy. Then he just gets up, says “Let’s meet sometime in the future!” and runs away without saying anything more, flashing her but a single smile as a farewell. He then gets off the stage.
The woman was left alone on the stage, shining bright like a lonely flower. Even while wearing ragged clothes, her beauty was so strong that it couldn’t be contained. She then rose hear arms and head to the sky, spinning around and started to sing.
「Ah, what a stupid child! But somehow I get a feeling that we are going to see each other again! Ahh, but I’m the stupid one as well! For I expect of this child to actually come and meet me here again!」
I knew it was just an act, but the amount of expectation mixed in with the grief was so real and genuine that I couldn’t perceive it as just an act alone. While the whole audience was enamored by the performance, the lights of the magic stones faded, and the troupe master appeared on the stage once more. He bowed down to the audience and took off his top hat while the curtain was being lowered. He opened his mouth.
「Thus, Elizabell met her fate. Since that time, the boy would often come to her house and visit her regularly. Now, we would like to propose a short break, but do please stay to witness the ending of the story about the Black Witch!」
There was a loud applause from the audience. I was also clapping my hands, unable to comprehend just how a group of actors could have delivered such spectacular performance. I mean, how was that even possible? It was just a performance on stage. But even so, they went and did something completely magnificent with it. Honestly, I was reluctant to leave my seat, as I wanted to know how the story unfolds right away. While I was doing that, suddenly a long and yellow stick appeared right in front of my face.
「Here, big sister. This is for you.」
「Juri-kun? Is this……?」
Juri-kun handed me something that looked exactly like a popsicle, but it was intense yellow in color. I tried to sniff it, but the smell was unlike anything I have ever smelled before. Juri-kun gave a small laugh while he took his own popsicle and put it into his mouth.
「I bought it at one of the stalls. It is a candy made from local specialties. Big sister, you had a somewhat weird expression out there for a moment, so I thought this might make you feel a little bit better.」
「Ah, thank you. I’ll give it a try.」
I put the candy in my mouth as well, thinking it was sweet of him to care about me in such a way. As for the candy itself, it was very sweet and tasted like some kind of southern fruit, a kind of mixture of mango and honey. However, since the entire thing was frozen solid it really felt like a fruit rather than an ice-cream. While I unconsciously smiled with joy, Juri-kun sat right next to me, smiling as well.
「Tasty, isn’t it?」
「Yes, very. Thank you so much, Juri-kun.」
To be perfectly honest, this ice-cream alone wouldn’t be able to completely get rid of those strange feeling that awakened inside of me during the first part of the play, but I was sure that it would be more than enough to get me through the second half of the play no problem.
While I was thinking that to myself, the light lit up on the stage once more, illuminating the troupe master. He bowed down again while taking off his top hat before he eventually spoke up again.
「Now then, everyone! Please excuse us for keeping you waiting! Please listen to the story that we are about to tell you. Elizabell initially rejected the boy as he kept on coming back to visit her. Sometimes she would mock him with cruel words, while on other occasions she would forcefully teleport him outside of the forest’s premise. But even so, the boy kept on coming back. And slowly, Elizabell started to grow fond of his visits. Soon enough, the Witch realized that the boy’s presence and smile began to heal the deep wounds and scars that were covering her heart. Eventually, when the number of boy’s visits could no longer be counted on the fingers of both hands……」
The troupe master raised one hand. It must have been a signal for something. The curtain quietly rose up. On the stage, there was the boy and someone wearing deep hood. It was Elizabell, who was about the same height as the boy. There were some whispers going throughout the audience. Once Elizabell took off her hood, she turned out to be about ten year old girl, with splendidly long dark hair.
「Yes, it is I.」
The twenty-something Elizabell was gone now, replaced by this young girl. Everyone seemed to be wondering what was going one here, and the little Elizabell smiled mischievously at the boy, thinking his confusion must have been amusing.
「Is this figure more to your taste?」
Her voice right now was soft and gentle, completely different from her older self. The boy kept on looking at her, blinking a few times before eventually whispering,
「Y-you didn’t really needed to do that…」
「You seem to be that kind of man that doesn’t understand just how a woman’s heart works. Hence I decided to revert back to my younger self.」
「P-please don’t treat me like a child! B-but still, Elizabell, just how old are you really!?」
「… Weren’t you told to never ask a woman about her age, under no circumstances whatsoever?」
「Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch!!!」
As Elizabell pinched on the boy’s cheek, there were quite a few laughs coming from the audience. Seeing the two right now somehow reminded me of how that man and I used to be during our childhood. He was the one with black hair and I was the one who initially approached him. Was it like that? There was certainly an intimate connection between the boy and Elizabell. I don’t know if I was the only person to think like that, but for now I decided to keep on watching the events on stage.
Personally, I have never pinched that man’s cheek like that and I probably never will seeing as we are now, but it would certainly be priceless to see his eyes full of tears… but I digress.
Back to the stage, the spotlights centered on the troupe master again. Unlike his previous expression, this time around he seemed to be sad, as he spoke in a hushed voice.
「However, the peaceful times were not meant to last.」
Alongside those words, the background changed into that of the city again. At the stage’s center, a bunch of islanders were talking to one another.
「Can we really afford to let this Witch stay on our island like that?」
「What if she brings disaster upon us one of these days?」
「I’ve heard that recently she managed to charm a child. What if she targets more children?」
「If that starts to happen, it will be too late to act.」
「We must kick her out as soon as possible!」
「I’m in on that idea!」
「We must drive the Black Witch away from here, so that she never comes back!」
The islanders keep on shouting. Somehow, the ice-cream in my mouth stopped tasting good. The words of the islanders were cutting me deep, hurting my heart. Elizabell didn’t do anything wrong. So why was she receiving so much hate?
Repeating those words in my heart, I felt that I was about to boil with righteous rage. I keep on telling myself that this I just a story, nothing more. Still, right now I wanted to just stand up and leave this place at once.
“This story is based on a legend.” Juri-kun said that. In other words, even if it wasn’t exactly like that, it must have looked pretty similar. Even if it happened three hundred years ago, it was still inexcusable.
On the stage, the boy was running towards the forest, wanting to warn Elizabell of the angry mob that was coming her way. The scenery changed again to the forest one, with the boy banging on the hut’s door shouting: “Elizabell! Elizabell! Elizabell!!”
「What is it? You’re being awfully noisy. What do you want?」
Elizabell finally leaned her head out from behind the door, and the boy took her by the shoulders and started pleading towards her.
「Elizabell, you must run! The villagers are all coming here, wanting to drive you away! Hurry, before they reach you here! Please, hurry and escape……」
Suddenly, while looking at the boy’s concerned face, Elizabell smiled broadly.
「I see. Thank you for warning me.」
It was the smile of a mature woman, so uncharacteristic of a little girl. It looks as though both of the actresses were on par with their acting skills, for both of their iterations of the characters were simply spectacular.
Elizabell looks away from the boy, her eyes unfocused and empty, as though she’d already given up.
「But it seems that you unintentionally brought some uninvited guests with you.」