Chapter 9 – A Tale of Items: The Overgrown Ruins
Good morning. Good day. Good evening.
I wonder which one is the correct greeting? Not that it matters.
This is the first time the two of us have had a correspondence like this, isn’t it?
That being the case, allow me to introduce myself properly. It’s nice to meet you.
My name is Elaina. The Witch of Ashes, Elaina.
I am a witch with ash-colored hair and azure eyes. I wear a black robe, a tricorne, and a brooch that is shaped like a star.
I’m sure you already know all of this, but I decided to introduce myself, just in case.
Due to some reasons, I am currently trapped in a country that is right under your nose — or rather, something similar to a country. Sadly enough, I messed up. I wasn’t being careful enough, and I made a mistake. I can make any number of excuses, like my evaluation of the situation was too naive and I let down my guard, but in the end, it was my blunder.
By the time I decided to run away, it was already too late and I had become trapped in this place. My escape routes were completely sealed. Even now, I can feel the slight remnants of sanity in my head being violated by some external agency. Soon, I will lose all sense of self.
And so, I’ve decided to throw you outside for the time being.
I have a favor to ask of you, the person who is reading this letter on the other side of this large gate.
Would you please save me? I am most certainly in a strange country right under your nose, probably experiencing joy while being treated as a slave by some strange beings.
There is only one thing I want you to do right now.
Would be so kind as to take me — the one who is being manipulated by these strange beings — out of this country? If I am able to leave, I think everything will work out. I will probably regain my sanity.
I might probably resist the idea fiercely, but please, take me outside by force if you have to.
Unless you do that, I might end up dying here.
Under normal circumstances, I know that this isn’t something I should be asking of you.
However, even if I send out a message from here asking for aid, I don’t think there would be anyone who would conveniently come into such a deep forest to save me. By chance, should someone actually come here, would I still be alive at that time? More importantly, would they not end up sharing the same fate as me?
Besides, you are not human.
You are a thing, just like them.
That is why I decided to ask you for help.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime gamble.
It’s been a while since I used this magic, so I don’t know if you will actually be able to read this letter.
Even if you do read it, there’s a chance you might just tear it up and throw it away. Asking you for help after all the time I’ve spent working you to the bone, there can be nothing more shameless than this.
That is why I am aware that my request is extremely selfish, ridiculous, deceitful, and if it causes you to tear up this letter and throw it away out of irritation, I can’t really complain.
However, I cannot keep myself from imploring you.
Please, save me—
When I woke up, I saw that letter lying beside me.
In neat handwriting, that letter contained an apology and a request for help.
The place I was standing in looked like a deep forest. Just like what was written in her letter, I saw something resembling a country.
There were puddles of water near my feet, probably because it had rained recently. Peeking into one of the puddles, I saw my reflection.
I had a befuddled expression on my face.
My age was somewhere in the first half of my twenties. I had pink hair that was slightly messy, and apart from the color, I looked exactly like her.
My attire was also shockingly similar to hers, as I was wearing a black robe. However, since I am not a magician, I am not wearing a tricorne or a star-shaped brooch.
I was surprised that my human form resembled her to this extent.
It is said that pets resemble their owners, but apparently that principle holds true for possessions as well. I learned something new today.
This is an amazing revelation.
If I manage to safely reunite with her and save her from her predicament, maybe I should share this revelation with her.
“…Right then. Time to go.”
I spoke out aloud to no one in particular.
As expected, my voice was identical to the voice of that person — my owner, Elaina-sama.
It happened while I was flying through a forest on my broom.
“Ah, it’s raining.”
What’s more, it was a strong rain that started to fall all of a sudden.
The sky had been overcast and grey throughout the day, and the clouds gave off a feeling that it would start raining at any minute, so I wasn’t surprised when it started to rain. In fact, that is why I had been flying beneath the trees, so that I could take shelter at a moment’s notice.
However, the force with which the raindrops fell exceeded my estimations.
“Eh, come on…”
Well, there was no other way to describe it. The rain easily penetrated through the tree branches that extended over me like a ceiling, and I was soon drenched.
This is certainly annoying.
At this rate, I’ll catch a cold.
While I had puffed my cheeks in irritation at my misfortune, I saw a large building conveniently sitting at the end of a small path between the trees.
Such good luck.
Without any hesitation, I decided to enter that country.
“Hello~! Is anyone there?”
I had put away my broom, stood in the rain while holding up an umbrella, and then knocked on a gate that was built into a wall shorter than the nearby trees. The branches of the trees and ivy appeared to embrace the walls, and looking at how they appeared to be one with the surrounding forest, it was evident that this country had been around for a long time.
I was waiting patiently, but in my heart I urged them to open the gates quickly.
Right after I silently urged them, the gates opened.
The doors opened with a creaking sound, and I caught a glimpse of the other side of the gate.
Seeing what was there, I stiffened.
I was dumbfounded.
On the other side of the gate was a single book, floating in the air. It was flapping its pages like a butterfly to remain in the air.
I immediately realized that this was not an ordinary country.
“Ah, hello. Could I stay here for a while to take shelter from the rain?”
I thought about turning back, but I liked the idea of continuing to stay outside in the rain even less.
It looked like the book understood my words, as it bobbed up and down once and then turned to follow the path that extended inward from the gate.
Is it asking me to follow?
“Thank you very much.”
And so, I entered that country.
Behind me, the gate that had only opened moments ago made a creaking sound once again.
By the time I turned around, the view of the world outside the gate had already been cut off.
This place looked too decrepit to be called a country, but not quite enough to be called a ruin.
There were things lying around everywhere. I didn’t see it from outside the gates because of the heavy rain, but after coming inside I saw the terrible state of the place. The road that ran in between the houses — the road I was walking on — was filled with things like broken crockery, broken watches, stuffed toys with their stuffing leaking out, and other such small items.
This was definitely a strange place.
Eventually, the flying book entered a certain building. There was a signboard lying on the ground near the entrance with the words “Inn” written on it. I stepped on the signboard and went inside.
“……What the heck is this?”
The inside was even stranger.
『………』 『………』 『………』 『………』
It looked like the flying book was not the only thing that could move by itself. There was a chest of drawers (without the drawers), chairs that were missing a few legs, a broken staff, and a broken broom moving about freely as well. They were moving like living creatures. As soon as they saw me, they started hopping up and down in place.
……Are they welcoming me?
No, but still.
“Excuse me, may I stay here for a while?”
The book moved up and down.
“Thank you very much. Is there a room where I can sleep?”
After I said that, the book moved by flapping its pages and showed me to a room. If you wanted to say something good about it, it could be called quaint; or it could simply be called a worn-out single room. Even so, I was thankful.
Despite the worn-out condition of the room, the bed and other furniture appeared to be as good as new, and I could see that they had been repaired. The contrast gave it an uncomfortable feeling.
“What about the payment?”
The book moved horizontally from side to side. The raindrops that were still on the book splashed on my face.
“……Just to confirm, the the bed in this room won’t just start moving around by itself, right?”
“Why aren’t you saying anything?”
No, it’s not like it ever said anything in the first place.
After that, the book slowly left the room, and then,
As expected, the bed started moving about by itself, so I kicked it out of the room. Incidentally, I also threw out the other pieces of furniture that were in the room.
After ensuring that the room was completely empty, I changed my clothes, pulled my sleeping bag out, and went to sleep.
On closing my eyes, I could hear the sound of the rain gently echoing inside the room.
It was still raining on the next day.
Unfortunately, I would have to put my traveling on hold for today as well.
The flying book came to my room, as if to wish me a good day.
“Ah, good morning.”
“Ah, I’m sorry, but can I stay here until the rain stops?”
After nodding once, the book moved back and forth.
Is it asking me to follow?
After that, I shut the door to change my clothes, and then followed the book. After leaving the inn and walking for a while, a castle-like building that was larger than the other buildings in the country came into view.
The flying book stopped there.
“What is this place?”
Even though I asked that, the book didn’t reply. As if it was ignoring me, it moved and went through the open gate by itself.
I was somewhat dissatisfied, but followed it inside as I didn’t have any other choice. I thought there was something it wanted to show me.
The book again stopped in front of a door that was at the end of the corridor on the first floor.
As expected, the door opened by itself.
After that, I was once again lost for words, just like I was when I first entered the country.
I was dumbfounded.
After carefully reading through the letter that she had sent, I went up to the gate and knocked.
“Good morning. I’m… a traveling item. I am actually an item, but due to certain reasons I currently have the form of a person.”
From the perspective of the floating book on the other side of the gate, this must have been a very peculiar greeting. What on earth is a traveling item?
『Hoho? An item, you say? Then perhaps, can you also hear my voice?』
“Indeed I can.”
『Fumu…. Yes, this is very interesting. It was worth living for such a long time after all. I got to see something good.』
“Thank you for the compliment.”
『But why have you taken the form of a human? If you don’t mind, would you mind telling us about your circumstances?』
“Sure, I don’t mind.”
『In that case, I will guide you to the place where my friends are waiting. I would like for you to tell your story in front of everyone. Hearing the tales of an item from outside the country will be good entertainment for us.』
“I see — very well. In return, I would appreciate it if you could prepare room for me where I can stay.”
『Naturally. We will prepare the highest grade room for your use.』
In that way, I was able to openly infiltrate that country.
『Damn, isn’t that chick totally cute?』
『I know what you mean.』
The gates were saying things like that while they shut behind me with a creaking sound.
『By the way, what kind of form did you originally have?』
Hearing someone speak from ahead of me, I turned my head back to the front.
It’s only natural that they should ask. Also, there is no reason why I should hide it.
So I told them the truth.
“You know how witches carry brooms? I am one of those.”
After walking to the approximate center of the country, I was shown into a castle-like building that was larger than the surrounding structures.
『Please come this way, Traveler-sama.』
Following the instructions of the book that was guiding me, I used the staircase near the entrance to climb to the second floor.
“What kind of castle is this?”
『This place once was a country. It was governed by a king, and this building is where he lived. In short, it was the royal palace.』
I continued to follow the book.
“By the way, where is that king now?”
I asked with a puzzled expression.
Hearing that, the book replied without even the slightest hesitation.
“He is no longer around.”
The book only gave me that simple answer.
In a strangely cold voice.
It then stopped in front of a door at the end of the second floor’s corridor.
『Please enter, Traveler-sama. I will introduce my companions.』
While I stood there dumbfounded, I saw that there were a few people there, right in front of me.
There were only a few of them, but it looked like there were still people living here.
“Oh my. All your legs are broken? Don’t worry, I’ll fix you up as good as new.”
“Plate-san, Plate-san. You’re not exactly young anymore, so you should probably show some restraint — Hiii! I’m sorry, I’m sorry! Please don’t throw the broken shards at me!”
“Hohoho. Plushie-dono, you are in a sorry state indeed. No matter, I will fix the damage.”
Apparently, these people were tasked with repairing the items here. They were spread out inside a large room, and were sitting in front of items that looked very old and damaged. There were both men and women from different age groups. They looked like they came from various walks of life, as there were some dressed as travelers and some others dressed as magicians.
In short, it was a room filled with chaos.
While wondering what was going on, I walked over to an old man who was in the middle of working. He was dressed like a magician, and gave the impression of being an experienced veteran.
“Excuse me, what exactly are you doing?”
The old man looked at me, and,
“Hou, a newcomer? A cute one to boot.”
What does he mean by ‘newcomer?’
“Fumu fumu. Are you a witch? That is good. Our workload will be reduced by quite a bit.”
“Umm… What do you mean by ‘workload’ and ‘newcomer?’ I don’t understand.”
“Hmm. It looks like you still don’t know what sort of place this is.”
“I only arrived here yesterday.”
“That explains it.”
The old man stroked his snow white beard, and then spoke while sewing on the arm of a small bear plushie that was hopping up and down in front of him.
“This is a place where broken items are fixed. All items eventually reach the end of their life span, and we are tasked with repairing the items that come here.”
“Incidentally, items that were broken on purpose before reaching the end of their lifespan also come here.”
Are the people here masochists or something?
However, why are these people being made to repair the broken items?
“Did you come to work here after being hired by the people who live in this country?”
If possible, I wanted to meet with the people who lived here — I would like to understand what is happening in this strange country.
However, the old man shook his head.
“Unfortunately, that is not the case. We are simply working here in this country.”
I suddenly had an idea.
“I see. So you were all also caught in the torrential rain yesterday and came here to seek shelter?”
And so, they are repairing the items as thanks for being allowed to stay.
I see, I see.
“No — Unfortunately, that is not right either. We are all living here. We are living here for the purpose of dedicating our time to the items in this country.”
“So you’re staying here full time? Why go to such an extent?”
“No idea. I have forgotten the reason. Hohoho.”
It looks like this elderly gentleman’s memory has declined quite a bit.
“…Since when have you been living in this country?”
“No idea. It was probably since quite a long time ago. I found this place when I was working a traveling merchant in search of popular products. At some point I had started toiling away in here.”
After hearing what he had to say, I finally realized what was strange about this place — a place which seemed like a country, but wasn’t actually one.
Thinking back, just the fact that items were moving about by themselves was more than enough reason to feel that things were strange.
I turned around to look at the book that was floating in the air. It was still completely silent while hovering in place like a butterfly.
It looked like the book noticed my gaze, as it came up to me. As usual it was silent, and showed no signs of wanting to speak, so I had no idea what it was trying to tell me.
And then, the book came to a stop in front of my eyes.
That’s when it happened.
A feeling like my head was hit with a hard object — and then I was assaulted by a sense of instability as if the world had flipped upside down.
When I recovered my wits, I realized that I was lying down on the floor, and the flying book was looking down at me.
My body felt as heavy as lead and I could feel my control over my body slipping away, until at last I wasn’t able to move so much as a finger.
My memories of what happened after that are quite vague.
“So, these are your companions?”
The second floor of the castle. The room at the end of the corridor was overflowing with all kinds of items.
From small items like pens, to large items like bookcases. There was a wide variety of them. They were looking at a book that had the same cover as the book that was hovering beside me, and were talking amongst themselves.
『No, it’s like I said. Look at this! It’s completely broken! It will never move again.』
『I’ve lived a very long life after all… my body has broken down in several places over the years. Hey, why don’t you try fixing it?』
『This is the end of the road for me… I am a defective product that can’t even move properly… Uuu…』
Those items that were pathetically complaining all at once to the books all looked to be fairly old and were in bad shape.
Just what kind of place is this? Seeing me look puzzled, the book gave me an explanation.
『This is the reception desk for items looking to be repaired.』
『After taking requests for repairs or periodic maintenance here, we send them to the repair room that is located on the first floor.』
『It is also a place where my companions gather to talk about useless things.』
“Do all old people have a habit of gathering in such places when they have nothing to do?”
『In addition, it has become something of a fad lately for different items to combine their bodies together. See, over there in the corner of the room where the items are piled up.』
“I see it. But it looks like nothing more than a trash heap to me.”
Hearing that, the book started to laugh.
『Since we have no way to amuse ourselves, we have an overabundance of free time. It can’t be helped.』
While speaking, the book moved towards the back of the room.
『Come this way, Traveler-sama. I will introduce you to everyone.』
I followed behind the book as asked, but maybe because my current appearance was very strange, I could tell that the gazes of the old household items, and the gazes of the books that were keeping them company, were all focused on me.
The book that was guiding me stopped in the center of the room, and spoke while flying around me in little circles.
“Hello, everyone. Today, a companion of ours with an unusual appearance has come to our country. Please take a look. It is an item with the form of a person.”
A commotion spread throughout the room.
『Imagine that, an item with a human form.』
『This is highly unusual.』
『It was worth living a long life, just to see this.』
『Poor thing, being forced to take the form of mere humans…』
『Everyone, please remain silent. The fact that such an item exists is a grave situation that we should all be concerned about. Let us hear from her about how she came to take such a form. After that, let us offer her our support.』
And then, the book said,
『The fact that she is an item just like us is reason enough. She is our companion.』
After saying that, it left my side and came to rest at a spot away from me, as if urging me to go ahead and talk.
I felt like all the gazes in that room were gathering on me.
After staying silent for a while, I began to speak.
I spoke while going over the plan that Elaina-sama had outlined in her letter, a plan that would help her escape from here.
“I was turned into this state due to a curse that was cast on me by an evil witch—”
My memories from after I fainted were very vague.
When I woke up, I saw that I had been returned to my room. Strangely, the bed and other furniture that I had pushed out of the room had returned their original places, but for some reason I found that I didn’t particularly mind that as I stood up and walked out of the room.
My destination was the first floor of the castle.
Just like the other people there, I was working to repair the broken items.
“Uwaah, you’re so dirty. But it’s okay. I am a witch, so I can take care of this amount of dirt, no problem.”
The voice that came from my mouth had a sickeningly sweet tone, wholly unlike my usual voice. I was talking to the item that was not really an item while using magic on it.
“Fumu. Not bad, newcomer. It looks like you have a knack for this. Hohoho.”
“You think so? Ufufu.”
The girl who had a broad smile on her face after being praised by the old male magician who was working nearby was also unfortunately me.
In that place, I ceased being myself.
I spent the whole day in that manner, with my memories and consciousness vague as if I was within a dream. My body refused to obey my will, it was as though I had been turned into a puppet.
Perhaps the most frightening thing was that I didn’t even find that to be strange.
I came back to my senses only once night had fallen and I returned to my inn room.
“Uuu… Just what is going on….”
When I thought of my scary reality, I couldn’t stop trembling.
Now that I think about it, I’ve visited a similar place once in the past.
It was a strange country that had a lot of cats, and the people were all entranced by them. Back then, I was able to escape because I coincidentally happened to be allergic to cats, but…
If this place is similar to that, and there is some property that causes people to become entranced — just what could be the source of this power?
There was no need to even think about it. This was a place where people were entranced by objects. No doubt the people here are made to love objects without any limits, just like what happened in that other country.
This is a problem. I need to escape from here, no matter what. Even if it is still raining, that doesn’t matter. Compared to being outside in the rain, this place is even worse.
There’s no time like the present, I might as well make my move right now—
Just as I was getting anxious and pulled out my broom,
Before I could react, the sheets from the bed that had returned to the room shot out and bound my hands, and pulled me down unmercifully.
Ah, there’s no way I can run away from here.
That’s what I thought after I was unceremoniously dumped into the bed and covered with a blanket.
This place is like a prison.
The next day as well, I spent the day working in a dreamlike trance as if it was entirely normal.
“—There you go! You’re all fixed up. Take care!”
With a big smile on my face, I was seeing off a stuffed toy that I had just repaired a few minutes ago. I was even waving my hand. I felt like asking that girl just who the heck she was. Even though it was me.
When it was time for lunch, we were served food that was barely sufficient by the the frying pan and chopping board (as usual, they were quite old).
The food they gave us, without exception was grass, grass, and even more grass that was probably growing somewhere nearby. In other words, they were weeds.
“Hohoho. This is delicious.”
“This raw leaf is so juicy!”
“Ahh… to think I would be eating so well… I am so fortunate.”
However, everyone was eating it very happily.
I was taken aback. However, my expression was still stuck in a smile.
My face still had a smile on it as my hand reached for the weeds, but that was really too much to bear, so I put my entire will into stopping my hand from moving. My hand was trembling in mid air as my will and something else fought a desperate battle for control.
“Hmm? It looks like you are still able to regain your sanity occasionally.”
The old man spoke to me while looking at me doubtfully. While munching on the weeds.
“Looks… like… that’s the case…!”
Ah, I was able to speak.
“Hohoho. I was like that in the beginning as well. I didn’t want to work in this place, so I tried my best to slip out somehow.”
“H-How… about… now…!?”
“Stop talking in a hoarse voice with that smiling face, it is scary.”
After finishing all the weeds on his plate, the old man spoke.
“I don’t particularly feel anything now. In fact, I am happy from the bottom of my heart that I can stay here.”
“Don’t worry, you will feel the same way sooner or later. Just like me and the other people here.”
And then, the old man told me this.
“Don’t worry about it. Just surrender yourself to the items here. You will be able to live in peace.”
There’s no way I’m going to do that.
That is what I wanted to say to him, but unfortunately that was when my consciousness lost the fight.
It was like that in the beginning.
Which means that the more time passes, the harder it will be to find a chance to escape.
Looking at it another way, it means that there is still a chance for me to escape right now.
That night, I had a thought.
Ah, I can just use my broom to escape.
Fortunately, as it hadn’t been too long since I was locked up here, there were times when I was able to exercise control over my whole body.
It was the same on the day that the persistent rain had finally stopped, and on that day I regained full use of my body once again.
“This is my chance.”
Or so I thought.
I was not foolish enough to waste such a chance.
I immediately took control of my body and prepared to escape as quickly as possible.
First things first. The furniture and bed would just get in my way. I pushed them out of the room immediately. While I was at it, I froze the door solid with ice and made it so nothing could enter the room. I could hear loud noises coming from the other side of the door but I just ignored them.
The second step. I pulled out my broom. That’s it.
The third step. I cast two spells. The first was a simple spell that any magician can use, but it was also a spell that people rarely had any use for. The second was a spell that I invented back when I still had a lot of free time on my hands, during the time I studied under Fran-sensei.
I cast both those spells.
And now for the last step.
I wrote a letter. That’s it.
My preparations went without a hitch.
『………!』 『………!』 『………!』 『………!』
However, there was no way that they would let me escape so easily. As soon as I finished writing the letter, the bed and other furniture that I had kicked out of the room gathered a large number of their companions and broke through the frozen door.
After the ice shards went flying everywhere, I saw a bed, a desk, a chair, a plate, a kitchen knife, rope, a futon, and sheets fly into the room as a group.
I immediately ran away. Just as I planned, I broke through the window and flew over the area outside that looked like an abandoned ruin.
As I thought, they didn’t seem to want to let me escape so easily, as a flood of items came through the broken window and chased me. Strangely enough, even the shards of the window glass that I had broken only moments ago were also chasing me.
Holding onto the broom with one hand, I used my staff to shoot many of them down with blasts of wind, but unfortunately there were too many of them.
Not just the items that had come through the broken window, even the ones that were lying around in the area started to chase me.
Eventually, the group of items turned into a giant swarm.
While feeling somewhat repulsed by the sight, I turned my gaze to the front. I was only a short way away from the gate of this strange place. It would be good if I could just leave this place behind like this.
—However, things didn’t go that smoothly.
Just when I drew close to the gates, my body stopped responding to my will as if this was the plan all along. Even though I tried my best to force my body to listen, all I managed was to make my body tremble.
Eventually, my body jumped off the broom against my will.
“……So I failed, after all.”
I crashed into the roof of a building and lay there, looking up at the sky. At this point, my body even stopped trembling as I lost control entirely. Only the part of my body from my neck up was still able to maintain my consciousness.
No, I expected this to happen. I knew it would end this way.
It would have been for the best if I was able to actually escape on my broom, but from what the old man said, I understood that even if I tried to escape in such an ordinary manner, it would not work.
Even if I tried to escape, the strange power that filled this country would interfere with my mind and immobilize me. Even if I used magic to destroy every single item I saw, it would have ended in the same way.
That is why I cast those two spells on my broom.
The first was a simple spell.
It was a simple magic that would let my broom fly by itself for a certain amount of time.
The second spell is the important one.
The second spell gives life to items. It gives them life, and changes their appearance to that of a person. It is a very strange spell that has very few applications. Back when I was studying under Fran-sensei, I used this spell a lot to pass the time.
I never imagined that it would come in useful at a time like this.
I was the target of the items that were chasing me. There should not be any reason why they would chase after a mere broom. Surely, my broom will be able to safely escape from this country.
Looking up, I saw my broom flying away by itself through the sky.
Please, save me—
The letter that was written in that manner had some more details as well.
The letter explained in great detail about how exactly Elaina-sama planned on escaping from here. It was written in such great detail that it would be hard to believe that it was written in a hurry.
It is my belief that the items in this country have been driven mad due to continuously being exposed to the magical energy that is pouring out from the surrounding forest.
For some reason, there is no sign of the original residents of this country. The only people here are those like me, who have wandered in here by accident. And every single one of them have been enslaved by the items.
Most probably, the items in this area hold feelings of dislike towards humans.
So here’s what I think.
I am certain that when the items here find out that you are an item with the appearance of a person, they will start to feel pity for you. They will likely show you unneeded sympathy. Once they meet you, they are certain to ask about how you ended up in such a state.
When they do, here’s what you should say.
“I was turned into this state due to a curse that was cast on me by an evil witch.”
You will need to lie and tell them that you were given human form because of a curse cast by an evil witch who wanted to torment you.
And then, ask them this.
“That witch is so evil that she has even taken the lives of other people. I am currently searching for her whereabouts. Everyone, have any of you heard about her? She has ash-grey hair and azure eyes, and is fairly young.”
This will almost certainly cause the items who heard that to feel shaken. There might even be items that react with anger.
There is no chance that none of them will remember me. When they find out that the hated person who came to their country just a few days ago is actually a personification of evil, they will not be able to stay calm.
And then, for the final act.
This is what you should tell them.
“If any of you remember seeing such a person, can you please bring her to me? I need to take her back to my home country and have her executed.”
They will most likely be happy to hand me over to you.
The suffering of humans is their greatest delight, after all.
…And that’s what was written in the letter.
I proceeded according to the directions laid out by Elaina-sama.
As per her plan, the objects who were listening to me set great store by my words, lamented over my fake circumstances, and cursed and showed hatred towards the witch with ash-grey hair.
So far, things went according to plan.
『I see… You must have had a very hard time after being turned into such a horrible form. Truly, I feel for you from the bottom of my heart.』
“Thank you for your consideration.”
I made a show of being thankful towards the book that was totally off the mark with regard to my actual feelings.
They will probably never understand my true feelings of being happy at having the same appearance as my owner.
“So, did that witch come here?”
I tried to move things along. I want to help her escape from here as soon as possible.
『Yes, she’s here. Right now, she’s probably helping with the repairs downstairs.』
“In that case, I would appreciate it if you would hand her over to me.”
When I said that, the book shook sideways.
『That is not possible.』
I was wavering at this situation that was different from what was expected, and the book explained further.
『Unfortunately, we cannot hand her over to you. We have already planned to execute that witch ourselves.』
I was shocked this sudden turn of events.
Elaina-sama, what should I do now?
In the end, I raised a fuss saying that I wanted to check if that person really was the Witch of Ashes, and I was taken to the room on the first floor.
And sure enough, Elaina-sama was there.
“Uwaah. This is horrible. Look at those split ends! Your hair is an absolute mess. Oh, and the cuticles are a mess too.”
She was in the middle of repairing a broom.
『Oh? You’re a cute one. Hehe. Show me your panties.』
“Alright, let me fix this~ Please stay still for a bit~”
By the way, it looked like their attempt at talking to each other was a failure.
The book approached my side and asked while looking at that scene,
『Is that the evil witch?』
“……Yes, that’s her. Still, why were you planning to execute her?”
“She has rampaged too much within this country. Also, she seems to be quite stubborn and her mind refuses to conform to our country’s standard. If she is left alone, she might completely regain her consciousness someday.”
“And so you want to execute her? That’s a rather violent way of thinking.”
“Compared to how we used to be in the past, we have actually become quite peaceful. Back then, most items would just try to kill humans on sight.”
At this point, I remembered something. So I asked a question.
“By the way, what happened to the people who originally used to live in this country?”
The book answered my question.
『They’re all gone.』
The reply was deadpan.
『We threw them out.』
“There you go, now you’re as good as new!”
『Hey, how about going on a date with me next time? Hehe.』
“Next customer, please~”
By the way, Elaina-sama was continuing her work in an indifferent manner.
The book told me the truth behind what had happened in that country.
It was a little over a decade ago.
He said that back then, this place was still a proper country where a lot of rich people lived. It was a fairly prosperous country with a large population.
However they were all horrible people who did not treat things with care.
The country was surrounded by a forest. They had an overflowing source of raw materials, as all they had to do was chop down a nearby tree and they could make more items. Items were rarely repaired in that country; if something broke, it was usually just replaced.
The people were too lazy to even transport the old items out of the country, so they were all just thrown away in one corner of the country. Even though they were still usable and were still alive, the people made up reasons like “they are scratched up” and “were bored of using the same old things” to throw them away.
With their feelings of resentment growing ever stronger, the pile of items that were thrown away while they were still in the middle of their lifespans observed how those people were living their lives.
The small pile of items that were thrown away in a corner of the country eventually kept getting larger and larger.
Their hatred and pent-up resentment also naturally grew over time.
Eventually, once the height of the heap of items grew higher than a tree, the people started saying things like,
“What should we do with all this trash?”
“It’s just taking up valuable space inside the country.”
“It’s in the way.”
“It’s ruining the view.”
“Let’s just bury it under a mound of dirt and call it a hill.”
“Let’s throw them out somewhere else.”
The conversation on this topic lasted for a long time, but the word “reuse” did not appear even once during the discussions.
In the end, the people of the country agreed on a compromise wherein half of the objects would be disposed of elsewhere, and the other half would be buried. Despite the fact that the items were still in usable condition.
At that moment, the anger of the items that had been buried reached the bursting point.
And that is when the change occured.
The items that had been mistreated by the humans gained the ability to move by themselves, and the people started to adore items. It was just like what happened in that country where the people had turned into cat lovers.
Perhaps the magical energy that resides inside deep forests has such an innate ability to mess with minds.
In any case, all the people who happened to be there at the time turned into servants of the items.
Meanwhile the objects used their resentment as their driving force and became capable of moving around by themselves.
Despite the change in the people’s attitudes, this was not enough to sate the anger of the items. After being thrown away like common trash, the items had lost all faith in humanity.
『This place will be our country from now on. You bastards get out and leave behind everything you own.』
The items gathered the people of the country in one place, said those words to them, and kicked them out of the country.
However, since people are unable to hear the voices of items, it is likely that they just ran away after being creeped out by the sight of items moving around on their own.
In any case, that was how this country made up of only items came to be.
However, the items had made a grave mistake.
Even items will stop moving once their lifespan is over. For about ten-odd years, no people approached the country and the items lived in seclusion, but then their comrades started collapsing one after the other.
If any items broke, there were no people around to fix them.
The items were just troublemakers without any plans.
Since they were in trouble, the items decided to open the gates of the country and invite people inside.
Travelers who had lost their way and happened across the country by chance, for example.
Or travelers who just wanted to take shelter from the rain.
Without exception, the people who came nearby were allowed inside, made to fall in love with items, and treated like slaves and put to work.
And then, a few days ago, she had come to this country — that is what I was told.
『Eh? A witch with ash-grey hair? Oh, that one. She’s being housed in that inn over there.』
It was quite late in the night when I sneaked out of the high-class inn (though despite being called that, it was, as expected, quite old and in pretty bad condition) and I went around asking every object I found that was still awake until I found out where Elaina-sama was staying.
Since she had caused such a huge ruckus yesterday, I was worried that she might have been moved from her inn room to the prison, but it looks like she is still in the inn that she originally stayed in after coming here.
“I would like to see more of how that witch is suffering in this country. Please let me see her.”
When I said that while putting on a prideful air, the items easily accepted my request and led me to her.
I might have a human appearance, but I am actually an item. I don’t need to fear having my head messed around with by staying in this country.
Which means that until the magic wear off — until I return to being an item, I can come and go as I want.
And so, after a day’s gap, I returned to the place where Elaina-sama was staying.
I opened the door after knocking, and saw Elaina-sama there.
She was sitting on the bed and gazing blankly up at the moon through the window. A slight breeze was blowing in from the window that I broke the other day, and it was caressing her beautiful hair.
The window had still not been repaired, and the fragments of glass on the floor were peevishly raising cries like 『Come on, fix me already.』 I’ll just ignore them.
“So you are the Witch of Ashes, Elaina-sama?”
When I called out to her, she turned her face towards me.
“That’s right. Who are you? Oh, are you a newcomer? I see…”
“I didn’t say anything of that sort.”
“I’m sleepy, so I want to go to bed soon.”
“I’m not going to let you sleep tonight.”
“It was a joke. Ahem.”
I cleared my throat, and,
“Actually, I came here today to inform you about something.”
I moved the conversation to the main topic.
“Inform me… Actually, just who are you?”
“I am one of the high-ranking people in this country.”
That was a lie.
“A high-ranking person…? Was there such a thing?”
“Yes, of course. Actually, I decided to meet you in person after seeing your work here.”
“Oh, you’re here to praise me?”
“It’s the opposite.”
I continued to spout more lies.
“You have been fixing the items here a little too well. In the first place, the items in this country aren’t really that keen on being repaired.”
“What did you say?”
“In fact, they actually want to be broken.”
That was of course a lie as well.
“Really? But the people in that large castle said that repairing the items was our job.”
“They are all mistaken as well.”
“Yes, I’m serious. All the items that are gathered in this country have the same thoughts as well. It looks like there was a misunderstanding because you can’t understand what they are saying, but they are actually all masochists.”
“More than anything, being destroyed by a girl of tender years like yourself gives them the greatest joy.”
“They want to be broken but are getting repaired instead, so they have a lot of pent up frustration.”
“That’s the current situation.”
Elaina-sama sat with her head down and looked crestfallen.
I raised my hand and pointed at Elaina-sama.
“However, you don’t need to worry. There is still time to fix your mistake.”
“This is what you should do from here on—”
I had gotten that far when it happened.
The sheets from the bed that had been silently listening until then suddenly stretched out and bound my hands.
I was immediately pulled into the bed and covered by the blankets.
『You bastard. What are you plotting? Are you planning to go against us?』
The bed was talking to me.
『I will be reporting your suspicious actions to my comrades.』
“I won’t give you the chance to do that.”
I continued talking from where I was interrupted.
“Elaina-sama, from now on, destroy every single object that stands in your way. That is the best way to show respect for them.”
“Yes, I’m serious. By the way, the gates of this country wanted to be destroyed by you.”
“Please destroy them. Right now.”
“Right now, please.”
Elaina-sama looked like she was thinking about it, but replied right away.
“I understand. I’ll go destroy them.”
“That is for the best — by the way…”
“Is there something else?”
I stretched out a hand from the bed and said,
“This bed is also a masochist.”
“So I should destroy it?”
Elaina-sama nodded at my words and took out her wand. And then she pointed it at the bed that was restraining me.
『Hang on, if you do that you won’t get off lightly — ahhhhhhhhhhh!』
An agonized cry echoed through the room, but I’m sure Elaina-sama didn’t hear it.
The path from the inn to the gates was filled with the screams of many items.
『It hurts! It hurts! It hurts! Ahhhhhh!』
『Hiiiiii! Please, no more—』
『Nooooooooo! I’m going to breaaaaak!』
“You bastard, how dare you — Ah, hang on, nooooooooooooo! ”
Elaina-sama’s gallant figure as she cut through the swarms of items assaulting her was a sight to behold.
“Umm, is this really the right thing to do?”
The look of doubt on Elaina-sama’s face was also a treat to see. Truly a sight for sore eyes.
“It’s fine. They are all very happy.”
Of course, that was a lie. I followed behind Elaina-sama while lying with a straight face.
Apparently, lying is my forte.
Is this also a case of resembling my owner?
As expected of a witch. There was no way that mere objects could stand against Elaina-sama, and we reached the gates without breaking a sweat.
『It looks like we should not have believed the words of an item that has a human form.』
Even though we had made it this far, it looked like going out through the gates would take quite a bit of effort.
All sorts of items had gathered together and taken the shape of a gigantic humanoid monster. It seemed they had created a monster on the fly by gathering all of the items that were nearby.
The monster made up of items was large enough to look down on the gates, and even the trees of the forest.
And it let out a laugh like that of a mob character.
Ah, I did hear that combining different items together was the current fad.
The book that was speaking was located approximately in the place where the face should have been.
『A large number of our comrades have died because of you two. You shall not be forgiven. We will use this giant that was formed from the bodies of all our remaining comrades and send you to the depths of hell—』
One of the arms of the so-called giant was blown away.
『Hang on, I’m still in the middle of talking here.』
“Elaina-sama, please wait a moment.”
After seeing the arm that was blown away flatten a nearby house, the giant (actually, the book) spoke.
『Humans are always like this. They are selfish, make as many of us as they want, and abandon us without a second thought when we are no longer of any use to them. How foolish. They create us, but take no responsibility for the lives that they create. And what’s more, our words never reach them — can you understand it? The anger of being thrown away while you’re still far from reaching the end of your life?』
“Sorry, but no.”
I shook my head.
It is something I, who have been cared for by her ever since I was born, can never understand.
『This is the shape of our anger. This giant is the personification of our resentment towards humans! With this, we will destroy the detestable humans—』
The remaining arm of the so-called giant was also blown away.
“Eh, you’re still not done?”
“Please wait a little while longer.”
Elaina sama’s pouting face was also incredibly cute, but we are in the middle of an important discussion right now.
Let’s get back to the main topic.
“I understand why you are all angry with humans. However, that doesn’t give you the right to hurt people.”
『What are you talking about? They hurt us, so we will hurt them back. Isn’t that a perfectly legitimate reason?』
“And I am telling you to know your place. We are made when required, and thrown away when we are no longer needed. That is our fate.”
『But then we will be no more than slaves!』
“I’m not done talking.”
Saying that, I continued to speak.
“When we are no longer required we are thrown away — after that, we just need to wait. Keep waiting until we are remade, and until we are needed again. Wait while treasuring the memories of the time when humans took good care of us.”
That’s why, holding such resentment is like barking up the wrong tree — that’s what I told the giant while looking up at its face.
『Even if we are barking up the wrong tree, our anger is genuine! We will never forgive humanity — and you as well! The two of you will die here together!』
Well, that’s that.
It looks like my words aren’t reaching them at all.
“You are all mistaken.”
Despite that, I continued to talk to them.
“However, I understand your feelings at not being cared for.”
Saying that, I tapped Elaina-sama on the shoulder.
It looked like Elaina-sama understood what I wanted to say with just that action, as she readied her wand.
Magic was released from her staff, and it blew the body of the giant that was about to attack us to pieces.
“Now, I hope you can rest in peace.”
I wonder if my words are still not reaching them.
After we walked out through the gate, Elaina-sama finally regained her consciousness.
In the forest, under the moonlight, she had a horrible expression on her face.
“……I feel like I’ve woken up from a terrible nightmare.”
“Unfortunately, it was all real.”
“……You are… You’re my broom, aren’t you?”
“Yes. Indeed I am.”
“Is something wrong?”
Her hair moved a little as she gently shook her head.
“It’s just that you look a lot like me, so I was surprised.”
“I’m sure that items resemble their owners.”
“Just like pets, huh?”
I just nodded silently.
Both of us fell silent for a while.
During that time, her expression was so complicated that I don’t know how to put it into words. It looked like she was deeply considering something, or worrying over something, at any rate, it was a dark expression.
“Is there a problem?”
I tilted my head and asked her that.
Hearing that, Elaina-sama replied.
“………Umm. Thank you… for saving me. Also—”
I didn’t want to hear what she was trying to say.
She also wrote the same thing in the letter, but even though she had magic that would let her speak to items, and knowing that she could talk to them if she wanted, she never attempted to meet me face to face. She probably wanted to apologize for that.
“I understand how you feel.”
I spoke while cutting her off.
“There is no need to worry. Even if we cannot talk to each other, even if my voice doesn’t reach you, I will always belong to you. No matter how hard you make me work, I will not resent you.”
“However, I’m not sure what to think about flying around with a ghoul’s head still stuck on the front.”
“Ah, sorry about that.”
I continued to speak.
“I’m not particularly bothered by it — but if you want to make it up to me no matter what, I do have one request.”
“Are you willing to hear it?”
Elaina-sama immediately nodded.
And I so I unreservedly made one selfish request.
“—Please, save them.”
The country where items are capable of moving autonomously… It has been a few weeks since I was there.
The sky is clear. The invigorating breeze of the early summer blew through the trees of the forest and caressed my face.
I had only been away for a week, but the place already looked a lot different from before.
Was it because the sky was no longer overcast?
No, that’s not the only reason.
“Wow, this is really quite amazing.”
“There are so many…”
“Hey, stay in line! Stop messing around.”
“Hey, I saw that first!”
“Shut up, I don’t care.”
“It’s first come, first served.”
Near the narrow gate, merchants were arguing with each other while carrying items out of the country. The beds of their wagons were piled with such a large number of broken items that the horses that were pulling them were without exception crying out in distress.
“Hey there. This is really an amazing place, huh? It’s overflowing with wonderful items. If we fix them up a bit and sell them, they’ll fetch a considerable profit.”
One of the merchants said that to me.
“Really, thank you so much. It’s lucky that you discovered this place.”
“I came across it by accident when I was looking for a place to take shelter from the rain.”
The items that were loaded on the wagons were all broken, but could be used again after repairing them.
They have not yet reached the end of their lifespan.
Perhaps that is why she wanted to once again give them a place where they could be of some use.
Perhaps that is why she wanted to save them, so that they could have a happy life this time around.
One of the merchants said that as he pushed a bag into my hands. It was fairly heavy, and looking inside, I saw a number of silver coins.
“I gathered that along with my comrades. Please accept it. It is a repayment for showing us such a good place.”
I immediately pushed it back into the merchant’s hands.
“I don’t need it. I didn’t tell you people about this place because I wanted money.”
“Hmm? Then what was the reason?”
I replied to the merchant who was looking at me with a dubious expression.
“It was a request. From a treasured partner.”
From that girl who is way too kind-hearted.
Ever since I first came across her, I had not tried to talk to her even once.
Until now, even though I could use magic that would let me talk to her, I couldn’t bring myself to do so.
The reason is simple.
I was afraid. I didn’t want to know what sort of things my broom would usually think about. I didn’t want to imagine what sort of things that girl, who was my belonging, would think or what she would look like when given a human form.
That is why I never used that magic on any of my belongings.
However, I am glad that I met her in that country overflowing with items.
I was very happy that she saved me.
Right now, I am very happy she is my broom.
“Alright, time for us to go.”
I thought that in my head, but didn’t say it aloud.
I am a person, and she is an item.
We are not meant to be able to talk to each other.
However, I believe that my feelings will reach her.
I sat on my broom and kicked off from the ground.
As if responding to my call, the broom gently floated off the ground and flew into the sky.
The sight of the old country where merchants gathered in large numbers slowly faded away from sight, and a new world spread out before my eyes.
My job as a traveler, which was on hold for a few days, once again began in this manner.
Along with my precious belongings.