Chapter 11 – Long-standing Grief
Rostalf, also known as the Clocktower City, was a beautiful country located in a peaceful location on the plains.
The country had well-ordered tall buildings and a plaza in the center, and in the plaza was a large clock tower that towered over everything else. Just as that girl sat down on a bench in the plaza, the hands of the clock pointed straight up into the sky, and sound of the bells that rang out to indicate that it was twelve o’clock resounded throughout the country.
Frightened by the dignified sound of the bells that seemed to make everything within the country resonate, the distant birds took quick flight.
That girl blankly watched this scene.
She was a girl in the latter half of her teens, with ashen hair and azure eyes.
She was a witch, as well as a traveler.
It seemed the beautiful surroundings set her heart at ease, as the girl let out a deep sigh.
Oh, that wasn’t the case.
Apparently, she was just hungry.
“I have no money…”
Also, it appeared that she was just short of money.
Well, in any case.
Just who was that witch who was being tormented in such a manner by hunger and lack of money amid the beautiful scenery?
That’s right, it’s me.
Unfortunately, it is me.
I feel like I’m about to cry.
Speaking of what had happened before I reached this point is no easy task.
In short, I wasn’t keeping a close enough eye on the contents of my purse. This happens all the time.
I kept thinking that I could earn some more money in the next country and putting it off, and when I came to this country, I went to see a play based on the 『The Second District Serial Killer』 that was said to be very popular, and on the way back, I stopped at a street-side bread seller to buy some bread while thinking that the play was really interesting, when I finally realized that I had spent far too much money.
A few copper coins had somehow managed to safely remain within my purse, but it was otherwise empty. In other words, the entry fee for the play was higher than I had anticipated.
For the above reasons, I was currently short of money.
Well, that wasn’t as hard to explain as I thought it would be.
Also, the ending was quite self-centered.
Since I had no choice, I was walking around the plaza which had the clock tower in the center, searching for an opportunity to make a profit.
Apparently this country really likes 『The Second District Serial Killer』, as posters for the aforementioned play are pasted everywhere I look. Now that I think about it, I’m fairly sure that every seat was filled when I went to watch the play as well.
“Hey, did you see the play?”
“Yes, I did. The execution scene in the end was especially wonderful!”
“It’s amazing how they showed such brutal death scenes!”
“I know what you mean!”
I wanted to know just what that person understood. Isn’t it as simple as just feeling sympathy?
I resisted the impulse to hang around and hear more of the conversation.
The play that I watched earlier is another topic that is hard to talk about — I take that back, it’s actually a rather straightforward play that depicts half the lifetime of a serial killer. It is one of those sob stories that are all too common. Although it has been dramatized, it seems to be roughly based on true events.
What kind of story is it, you ask? Well, it’s something like this.
The story is set at a time about a decade ago.
There was a young girl by the name Selena. She used to live an ordinary life in an ordinary household.
However, one day, a robber forced his way into that ordinary household, and her parents who were at home ended up getting killed. Selena-san happened to be away from home by chance and hence her life was spared, however she had lost her parents.
That pitiful child ended up being taken in by her uncle.
However, she ended up receiving ill-treatment in that house. She was treated very badly by her uncle. Her heart turned dark and she started to hate people. She started to hate this wretched and irredeemable world.
Eventually, she gave form to her impulses and stabbed her uncle. Her uncle died. After that, she started to stray ever further from the proper path. She apparently had discovered great pleasure in killing people.
After that, she started killing people one after the other, and started to be known as 『The Second District Serial Killer』.
However, serial killers, like all other bad people, will eventually fall from grace.
Three years ago, she was captured by the genius young witch, the Witch of Lavender, Estelle, and was apparently executed.
And so, this country became peaceful.
All’s well that ends well.
It was an exceedingly ordinary and mundane sad story of the birth of a villain and her subsequent fall.
However, it appears that serial killers, those beings who have strayed from the path of humanity, have a tendency to fascinate other people.
For example, when I went to a bookstore, I found a large number of people who were interested in books like the one that lists the various acts of Selena the serial killer, or perhaps a book going for a more controversial angle, such as 『Perhaps the “Second District Serial Killer” was actually a good person?』 which had a flashy sign board saying “Bestseller.”
Well, you get the idea.
I really wonder why such things happen.
I decided to ask a middle-aged man (a salesperson) in the bookstore who was dusting off some books.
“I’m not sure about that either, but for better or worse, strange people who do things with ease that normal people cannot do will easily draw the attention of people.”
“That’s probably why those books sell so well.”
It was a strange feeling, like I understood what he wanted to say and yet did not understand.
By the way, he then asked me if I would like to purchase a copy, so I showed him the contents of my purse.
“If you’re just looking to waste my time, then please leave!”
He shouted at me. Yikes.
As if it was only natural, the Second District of Rostalf, the Country of Clocks, where the serial killer in question often carried out her murders became a place of immense successful business, as if it was some sort of holy land.
“Look! This is the hallowed ground where Selena carried out her murders!”
“Amazing! Ah, so this is one of the spots where she killed someone?”
“It definitely gives off the kind of aura that makes you think that someone was killed here!”
“Hey, let’s try lying down on the ground.”
“Amazing! I feel like I’m about to get killed!”
I was a little worried that all the people here were a little deranged. Are they really alright? That’s just ordinary ground over there.
I gave them a sorrowful look as I passed them by.
Despite the fact that she was an irredeemable villain, she was quite popular. I could not understand it at all.
Still, while I had only come this far because I was caught up in the moment, it appeared researching the activities of 『The Second District Serial Killer』to try and find a chance to make a profit was the correct decision.
Among all the flyers of the play that were pasted in the alleyway, I noticed that there was just one that was different.
This is what it said:
『Recruiting magicians for ultra-short part-time work! A chance to earn a fortune!』
A fortune? Okay, that got my attention.
Furthermore, I was also interested in the person who was doing the recruiting.
『If you’re interested, please come inside this house. (If you’re just looking to waste my time, then please leave.)』
That was also written on the flyer.
There was also a signature on the flyer that looked like it was written by the person themself.
The name Estelle, The Witch of Lavender, appeared as well. A name that I was familiar with.
Her house was well ordered. To put it in a positive light, it was a clean place. To put it in negative way, there was hardly anything in there. There were some lavender flowers growing near the window sill, but apart from those and the bare minimum of furniture, there was nothing else in the house.
“Welcome. Please take a seat over there”
Guided by Estelle-san, I took a seat on the sofa.
She brought out two belated cups of tea and then sat down opposite to me.
I gave a seated bow that made me look like I was peering at the cup of black tea that had been placed near me, and, “Well then, regarding the payment for the work…” I immediately got down to business.
“Instead of the details of the job, you’re more interested in the money…?”
After looking amazed, she gave me a tired smile.
“You look fairly young. How old are you?”
“I turned eighteen this year.”
“Hoho. And how old were you when you became a witch?”
“That would be when I was fourteen.”
“Ah. So you’re one year slower than me.”
“……Out of curiosity, how old were you when you became an apprentice witch?”
“When I was around ten years old, I think.”
“So it took you three years to go from being an apprentice witch to a full-fledged witch?”
“Well, that’s how it is. By the way, I started serious magic training when I was eight, so it took me two years to become an apprentice witch, and three to become a full-fledged witch.”
“I became a full-fledged witch in one year. So you’re two years slower than me.”
After a brief silence, I spoke.
“How old are you now?”
“Ah, you’re one year closer than me to being an old woman.”
“……Hey, are you perhaps making fun of me?”
“Oh, not at all.”
After saying that, I immediately brought the conversation back on track.
“So, what kind of job is it? And I’d like more details about the payment as well.”
“……It looks like you’re more interested in the payment after all, so let me start with that.”
Estelle-san placed a bundle on the table and slid it towards me. The contents of the bundle made a jangling sound from the force of her push.
An indication of a large amount of money……!
I immediately opened up the bundle.
Just as expected, it is a large amount of money. No, this might actually be more than I expected.
There were a large number of gold coins inside the bundle. There were too many of them for me to count. There were so many coins that I wouldn’t even be able to hold them all in both hands.
From a quick calculation, there was enough money here to live on for the next three years even if I did nothing but go from one wild party after another.
There was so much money that I sat there, mute with shock.
“That’s the bonus for completing the request. If you manage to properly carry out the job, I’ll give all of that to you.”
“Are you serious?”
“I’m very serious.”
It was only natural that even I was thrown for a loop at this unprecedented amount of money.
“Umm, what kind of job must I carry out to earn such a large amount of money?”
“Hmm? Did I make you anxious, by any chance? Don’t worry. I just want you to come along with me, Elaina-san.”
“Go with you…? Where do you plan on going?”
Saying that, she pointed her finger downwards.
“Ah, inside the teacup?”
“No, further under it.”
“We are going to this country — to put it more precisely, I want to go back to the place this country was ten years ago.”
“Ten years ago…? Just why would you want to — more importantly, how are you planning on getting there?”
“You’ve suddenly started asking a lot of questions.”
She let out with a small chuckle.
“Ever since I started working in this country as a witch, I have been researching magic to find a way to go back ten years in time. I want to go back in time so that I can prevent that unhappy event from occuring. Hey, Elaina-san, do you know what was in this place ten years ago?”
“The same country, as it was ten years ago.”
“It’s not just that.”
“Ten years ago, there was a certain child in this country. There was a girl who lived here, and she was still sane back then.”
And then, she told me that child’s name.
One again, it was a name that I was familiar with.
It turns out Estelle-san and Selena-san were actually friends as children.
They had been on good terms since they were very little, and other people used to say that they were like sisters. One of them was a genius magician. The other was just a regular girl. Viewing it that way, the two were not really alike, but in spite of that, the two of them were very close and the ability to use magic (or the lack thereof) did not affect their friendship in any way.
It was eleven years ago from now that these good friends were separated and were no longer able to see each other. It was one year before Selena-san’s parents were killed.
Estelle-san, who was overflowing with talent for magic despite her youth, had to leave the Clocktower City Rostalf behind and go to a different country to pursue her magical studies and become a witch.
After spending five years on her training, Estelle-san graduated from being a magician to become a full-fledged witch.
Estelle-san’s high aptitude for magic was naturally rated highly by the Clocktower City of Rostalf as well. When she became a witch and returned to her home country, she was asked by the King to “work for the betterment of this country as a State-affiliated witch.” It was a great honor. She accepted his request without a second thought.
She wanted to share this happy news with her best friend, Selena-san, right away.
It was then that she found out that the girl who had once been her childhood friend had completely changed. She learned that in the period of five years that they hadn’t met, her childhood friend had turned into a person who killed other people for pleasure.
Despite her sadness, Estelle-san tried several times to talk Selena-san out of it. However, her efforts were all in vain. Even though she lay in wait for Selena-san and tried to reason with her, Estelle-san’s voice did not reach her. No matter what she said, Selena-san would only look upon even her once close friend as just another part of the world that she detested.
Ever since that time, whenever she found spare time between jobs, Estelle-san carried out research regarding a certain magic.
It was magic that would let her go back in time.
She wanted to go back in time and prevent the incident that caused Selena-san lose her sanity.
“It seemed she experienced many sad things in the time I wasn’t here — so I want to be the one to save her. ”
That is what Estelle-san told me.
“Right after I came to this country, I saw a play that was based on the life of Selena-san, but…”
“In that case, I don’t need to go into detailed explanations. Selena died three years ago. She’s not here anymore.”
“If I remember correctly, she was executed for her crimes.”
“That’s right. I was the one who carried out the sentence. Even though it took me three years to chase her down and capture her, even though it might have been possible to return her sanity, I was forced by the King and the citizens to kill her right away, and in the end, I removed her head from her shoulders.”
“That is why, I want to go back and try again from the beginning.”
I can no longer bear to live in this world when she is no longer here — that is what Estelle-san said to me.
She said that with a scrunched up face while biting her lips.
I wetted my lips with the tea that had gone cold, as if to avoid looking at her pitiful expression, and then gave her my reply.
“I understand the circumstances. However, I don’t understand how you’re actually going to do this. Even if we managed to go back in time, why would you need my abilities once we are there?”
Hearing that, Estelle-san suddenly stood up from the sofa and went to open a door that was in the far end of the room. I could see that two chairs had been placed next to each other in the dimly-lit room on the other side of that door.
And behind those chairs, there was a large furnace.
“The magic that I have created is not that simple to use, and it was not something that I could create without sacrificing something.”
“When a magician runs out of magical energy, they can sacrifice something to gain more magical energy, correct?”
“……Yes. Well, you’re not wrong.”
For example, it could be their voice, or their memories.
By using such things that are a part of them as an advance payment of sorts, a magician can in return produce a massive amount of magical energy.
Since it is incredibly reckless — and besides, I have nothing that I feel so strongly about — I have never used this method.
“For the past five years, I have been continuously extracting my own blood. In addition to that, I have also been funneling every last bit of my existing magical energy into storage. It takes a mind-numbing amount of magical energy to go back ten years in time.”
“However, even with my blood and the magical energy I have amassed, it is still not enough. I need just a little more.”
So that means…
“So you’re saying that once you go to the past you will be completely out of magical energy, so you want to have a witch accompany you for protection in case anything happens.”
“Hmm. You’re a little off the mark.”
Estelle-san took two rings out of her pocket.
“Elaina-san, you just have to wear this ring and go back in time with me. I’ll take care of the rest.”
Saying that, she gave me the ring.
It was a small ring set with a beautiful gemstone. It was just the right size to fit on my little finger.
“What is this?”
“I made it back when I was still in training, hoping it would make Selena happy. As long as we are wearing these, we can share our magical energy. Back then, I thought that Selena would be able to use magic as well if we used these rings.”
I slipped the ring on to my little finger.
“So you want me to wear this ring so that you will be able to use magic once we go back in time as well?”
“That’s right. If possible, I would like to meet that girl after she has regained her sanity without having to sacrifice anything else from my body.”
She nodded at my words and continued to speak.
“What do you say? Are you willing to take the job?”
She spoke, and asked me that question.
I responded to her question while extending the palm of my hand towards the ceiling and looking at the ring that glittered on my little finger.
“I am a little interested in what this country was like ten years ago.”
I am a traveler after all — that’s what I said.
The two of us sat side by side in the chairs placed in the dimly-lit room. I had more or less formed a vague guess about them, but apparently we would be able to go back in time by sitting in this chairs.
“Are you ready?”
Estelle-san looked at me while holding her staff in both hands. After seeing me nod, she said, “Well then, here we go—” and pointed her staff at the furnace that was behind us.
I saw that her hands were slightly trembling.
“……Are you okay? Your hands are trembling.”
“I’m fine. This is due to anaemia.”
“You seem to sweating as well.”
“That’s because of anaemia as well.”
“……Doesn’t that mean you’re actually not fine at all?”
“Even so, I’m still doing this. If I don’t do this now while I am still able to, I’ll easily lose this chance.”
“Are you ready?” she again asked me.
“How about you, Estelle-san?”
“I’m ready. I have been ready for the past five years.”
She waved her staff and sent a pale blue light towards the furnace.
As soon as she did that, the door of the furnace popped open and a thick stream of energy with the same pale blue color twisted about like a snake as it flowed out. The stream of energy started to spin around in a circle with us at the center, and eventually we were enclosed inside a hemisphere of light.
My vision was filled with a strange light that seemed cold and yet warm.
As I was blankly watching this sight from my place upon the chair, Estelle-san said, “Ah, sorry. There’s one thing I forgot to say.”
“What is that?”
When I looked at her with a puzzled expression, she closed her eyes, saying just that.
Seeing that, I let out a laugh.
I woke up to the clamor of ringing bells.
Apparently, I had fallen into a deep sleep.
What I saw before me was a view that had little changed from what I saw earlier. For better or worse, it was just a room without anything in it.
Did we actually go back ten years in time? I only remember being released from inside the hemisphere of light.
“It looks like it was a success.”
However, unlike me who had doubts, she seemed to be fairly sure of the result.
“Look, Elaina-san. The room is back to looking like it did ten years ago.”
“I’m sorry, but I see no difference.”
“It’s completely different. Like this bit, that bit, and that bit over there.”
“It all looks exactly the same to me.”
“To me, it looks entirely different.”
Well, she has been looking at this room for a long time, so I guess that is only natural. Unless you’ve been looking at it every day, you wouldn’t be able to see any difference.
“At any rate, since I’m seeing it for the first time, I see no difference.”
“In that case, let’s go outside and confirm it.”
Estelle-san’s light purple hair gently waved as she stood up from her chair and headed out of the house.
I followed her out of the house and shut the main door behind me.
Well, there was nothing left to say on the matter.
“You’re right, it does look a little different.”
Outside Estelle-san’s house — in the alleyway, to be exact, there was supposed to be a depressing number of flyers about that play pasted on the walls, but right now I couldn’t see a single one.
It wasn’t just that. Although the view of the surroundings was pretty much the same, there were some areas that were strangely at odds with what I remembered.
For example, the shop that had tables outside spilling over into the alleyway had a different name. Also, the flowers blooming near the window of the house had a different color.
The view of the surroundings that I saw now had accumulated a number of such small changes.
The clock tower that I could see rising up behind the houses was the same as when I had been blanky gazing at it earlier, just continuing to mark the passage of time. The sound of the bells that signified that it was five o’clock reverberated in my ears.
After following my gaze, Estelle-san said, “Our time limit is one hour. When we hear the sound of the bells for six o’clock, we will be returned to the future, ten years from now.”
“We can only stay for one hour?”
“With my magical energy, staying for one hour after traveling ten years into the past is the limit. However, that should be more than enough.”
And then she said, “As long as I have that much time, I can easily wipe away what is going to happen in the next ten years.”
While we walked in the alley, Estelle-san opened a memo pad.
“The robber should attack Selena’s house twenty minutes from now. So let’s go over there and stop him.”
“What is that memo pad for?”
“I worked for the country, after all. By making full use of my authority, I was able to collect a number of facts about that incident.”
“I’ve compiled all the information I could find regarding that time, including eyewitness reports, in this memo pad. In about twenty minutes, a degenerate wearing a black cloak will apparently force his way into Selena’s house. Once he’s there, he will slaughter her parents and then proceed to strip the house of all its valuables.”
“If we ambush that degenerate before he reaches the house, then the entire issue will be settled.”
“You mean to drive him away?”
“Of course. That’s why I came here.”
Estelle-san gave a big nod.
“If Selena’s parents didn’t die, then I’m sure her life would not have been messed up so badly.”
If the root cause of the whole issue is removed, would that mean that all the people who were killed by Selena-san would also return?
Should that happen, I wonder what effect that will have on the future. By just preventing the birth of one serial killer, I wonder how much the future would have changed once we return?
At the very least, that play will no longer exist.
While I was deep in thought, Estelle-san spoke to me in a disinterested manner.
“Well, no matter what I change here in the past, it will have no effect on the future that we return to.”
“……? What do you mean?”
“Basically, even if we interfere here in Selena’s past, the future where I killed her will not change. I went through a lot of literature when I was researching magic to travel back in time, but every person who managed to create magic to travel back in time said the same thing. They said, 『Even though I returned to the past, it didn’t change anything.』”
Although only a little, I have also looked into magic that allows people to travel back in time. Depending on how you look at it, the magic that I use to heal wounds can also be considered a variant of such magic, after all.
“So, you’re saying that even if you change the past, something else will occur that will cause the same outcome in the end?”
It is said that all things will end as they were meant to, so no matter what you do, even if you change the past, you will still end up with the same result in the end?
However, she shook her head, causing her light purple hair to sway.
“That’s not it. In the first place, we will not even be able to confirm if the past was changed. Our past has already been set in stone, after all, and there is no way to change it.”
“Ummm… I’m sorry, but I don’t understand it at all.”
I’m frowning so hard that there are wrinkles all over my forehead.
Estelle-san let out a long breath as if she was annoyed.
“Okay, then let me put it in simple terms. Let us call the world that we have lived in so far as ‘A.’ The ten years of past that have already occured in that world are fixed and there is nothing we can do to change that. I mean, that future exists only because we didn’t interfere in its past.”
“In that case, what exactly is this past that we have traveled to?”
“I suppose we should call it the past that we can affect. Let us assume that this world is called ‘B.’ The two of us are originally from world ‘A,’ ten years in the future. However, the past that we traveled to belongs to the world ‘B.’ And when we return, we will go back to world ‘A,’ which is where we came from.”
“In other words, no matter what we do in this world, we will not have any indication of it in our world.”
After that explanation, I finally understood what she was driving at.
However, in that case…
“So no matter what you do, the past can’t be changed?”
She nodded to show that I was right.
“Umm, this might be really rude, but in that case, does what we are doing now have any meaning?”
“That really is a rude thing to say…”
“If your theory is right, then that’s the obvious conclusion.”
What was the point of changing the past, if it had no effect on the future?
That would be the same as thoughtlessly and carelessly winding time back, and I feel that it achieves nothing more than to pointlessly increases the despair of living in a world that cannot be saved.
In spite of my uneasiness, she shook her head.
“It is not meaningless. After all, doing this will at least make me feel better.”
And then, she said, “Just thinking that there is a future where that girl can be saved is more than enough to make me feel better.”
After that, the two of us walked for a while, observing all the things that were different between now and the future.
—That house over there is running a bakery, but in the future that shop no longer exists. Apparently, the owner’s wife ran away with someone.
—See that child doing practice swings with a sword over there? In the future, he will grow up to be a splendid soldier. It looks like he dreamed of being a soldier from when he was this young.
Estelle-san talked about such things with a happy expression, and I watched her from the side as we continued to walk.
“By the way, we’re nearly at Selena’s house—”
Estelle-san cut her sentence off in the middle and suddenly stopped in her tracks.
When I looked back to see what was the matter with her, I saw Estelle-san standing with her eyes widened and mouth agape, staring blankly.
Her gaze was directed toward the opposite side of the alley that we had just stepped into a moment ago.
“……? What’s wrong?”
I craned my neck and looked in the same direction as her.
There was a single girl there.
It was a girl in her teens, with long hair the same color as my azure eyes. It appeared that she was on her way back home from shopping, as both her hands were full of bags.
Estelle-san called that girl by that name. She called her name out in a hoarse voice as if it took a great effort to wring out that word, and in the next instant she had run up to that girl, fell to her knees in the alley, and was gently embracing her.
“Eh…? Wha… Miss, who are you? You’re scaring me.”
The girl had her eyes widened at this sudden turn of events. She was obviously frightened.
“Selena. It has been so long. I’m so sorry. Even though you were going through such scary experiences, I wasn’t there to save you. I’m really, really sorry.”
“Umm… Miss, who are you…”
“Just wait a little longer, I will definitely save you.”
“……Are you a recruiter for some new religion or something, Miss?”
Despite her age, Selena-san had a good head on her shoulders.
After letting go of Selena-san who was looking at her with obvious suspicion, Estelle-san said, “Hmm. I guess that was strange. Sorry.”
“Not ‘was,’ the strangeness is in present continuous tense.”
“I’m really sorry. I just wanted to give you a hug.”
“……Are you some new kind of pervert or something, Miss?”
“No, I’m a person from the future.”
Selena-san pretended to be astonished, and told a lie to quickly escape the current conversation.
“By the way, I’m busy right now so I have to go. I don’t have time to talk to you.”
“…I understand. Sorry.”
After being coldly rebuffed, Estelle-san furrowed her eyebrows while looking a little lonely, and moved away from her.
After being freed from Estelle-san, Selena-san looked back multiple time to ensure that the strange lady who had appeared out of nowhere was not following her as she walked out of the alley.
“……Just wait a little longer, Selena.”
Estelle-san muttered those words to herself. I felt like an unshakeable resolve was contained within those words.
“It looks like she turned you away quite harshly.”
“She was always like that. However, despite her manner of speech, she’s a very kind girl deep down.”
We used to see each other every day when we were children, so I know that to be a fact — that’s what Estelle-san said to me while looking in the direction that Selena-san had gone.
Her gaze was overflowing with kindness.
After reaching Selena-san’s house, the two of us immediately put our plan to save her parents into action.
The plan went as follows.
To begin with, Estelle-san knocked on the door of the house.
Saying that, Selena-san’s father opened the door and showed himself.
“Hey there. I’m Estelle’s sister, although we have different mothers.”
“Ah. It true, you look a lot like Estelle-chan. But what do you mean, you have different mothers?”
“Well, let’s just set that matter aside for now.”
“Is it really okay to put that aside?”
“It’s fine. More importantly, I have a message from the two of them. Would you like to hear it?”
“Very well… What is it?”
“There is something important she wants to do concerning Estelle, and so she wants you two to come over right away.”
“What is this important thing?”
“No idea. I’m not sure about that either.”
“You came all this way to deliver a message that you don’t understand?”
“Well, that’s how it is. In any case, it seems to be something important, so please come with me right away.”
“……Hmm. I wonder what it is.”
In that way, it was a plan to get Selena-san’s parents out of the house.
And the plan succeeded admirably.
The plan from here on out is extremely simple. Taking advantage of the time when Selena-san’s parents were getting ready to go out, Estelle-san whispered it to me in secret.
“Elaina-san, please wait inside Selena’s house. I’ll give you this memo pad, so please read it carefully and make sure you prepare for what is about to happen.”
“And what will you be doing, Estelle-san?”
“I will keep watch over Selena’s Papa and Mama. I have no idea what will happen by changing their fate. I have to protect them.”
In other words, the troublesome part of the work was pushed to me.
I was one in Selena-san’s house, waiting for the robber to show up.
To kill the time, I was blankly look through the memo pad that Estelle-san had left behind, while listlessly waiting for the time to come.
Estelle-san’s memo pad contained information about the incident that occured ten years ago — which is to say, now — in minute detail.
The incident is supposed to happen a few minutes from now.
A degenerate wearing a black cloak will boldly enter through the front door and kill Selena-san’s parents, after which he will proceed to steal every single item of worth from the house and make his escape. Apparently, Selena-san was from a fairly wealthy family, which was why her house was targeted.
True enough, even in the closet I was currently hiding in, I could see a number of expensive-looking clothes. The dining room that I could see through the slight opening in the closet door was also exceptionally beautiful, and had been decorated with a number of over-the-top gold ornaments.
I see, so it was one of those robberies for money that were fairly common.
However, there is one point about this incident that makes me feel uneasy.
Apparently, both of Selena-san’s parents had been stabbed repeatedly by a sharp blade. They died after receiving dozens of wounds in different parts of their bodies.
It seems like an excessively violent act for a mere robber. It appears that Estelle-san also felt that this was strange, as she had written down the following sentence at the end.
『There is a chance that the robber had some sort of grudge. The robber was not after the valuables, but actually her parents?』
I see, in that case I can understand why Estelle-san went along with them as a guard. She left me behind here because she was unable to entirely discard the possibility that the robber was just an ordinary robber.
And now, it appeared that the possibility she didn’t want to discard could be discarded entirely.
The ring that I was wearing on my little finger started to glow, and a pale blue light extended out and away from closet.
I felt the sensation of magical energy being sucked of my body.
In other words.
Estelle-san is using magic.
Most likely, Estelle-san is currently confronting the robber.
Despite her flaws, Estelle-san is still a witch.
She is a genius who was able to find a way to go back ten years in time.
Would a mere robber give her any trouble? I can’t help but think that the fight will be over before it even begins.
If the information we have regarding the attack on Selena-san’s parents is true, then there is only one perpetrator. Even if he is armed with a blade, there is no way he will be able to put up a fight against her.
Due to these reasons, I was very relaxed.
I walked in a carefree manner through the city illuminated by the setting sun, and followed the thin stream of pale blue light that extended from the ring on my finger.
I don’t want any trouble, so it would be nice if everything was settled by the time I reached her.
—I suppose that was too optimistic.
When I reached the place I was heading to…
I reached there just as the ring stopped emitting the stream of magical energy.
I had just turned into a dimly-lit back alley with a number of trash cans lined up on one side.
I was immediately forced to accept that all of my preconceptions were flawed.
The two of us were mistaken about everything, right from the start.
Both Estelle-san and I had misread the situation completely.
“—Ah, you were with this woman earlier, weren’t you, Miss? Aah, this could be a problem.”
She had not lost her sanity after her parents were killed.
“What should I do about this? Maybe I’ll just kill you too.”
If she had been insane to begin with, and just acted normal in public, then there was no way to tell that she was actually insane even if they met everyday.
“I can’t let you live now that you’ve seen me, you know?”
That young girl was standing with a twisted smile on her face in the back alley where even the slanted rays of light from the setting sun could not reach, and looked over at me.
She was holding a knife in her hands, and her face and clothes were splattered with blood. That young girl who was drenched in the blood of the three people who lay at her feet was dyed in a deep red color from head to toe.
“Sorry, but won’t you die for me as well, Miss?”
That young girl was the same one we had happened across just a little while ago.
It was Selena-san herself.
It was easy enough to guess what had happened before I got here.
Estelle-san was on the lookout for a robber dressed in a black cloak. Of course she would not have her guard up against Selena-san, who appeared before her without even bothering to disguise herself.
“This person was saying some strange things about having come here from the future. Are you also the same as her, Miss?”
It is likely that Selena-san had understood something when she had been hugged by Estelle-san earlier.
“……What would you do if I said that I was?”
“I don’t particularly care, I guess. Either way, I need to erase any witnesses.”
“This person is wearing a witch’s brooch, so I was on my guard thinking that she would be incredibly strong, but she was unexpectedly nothing special. She was a weakling. It was way too easy.”
She was talking while directing an unbelievably cold gaze at Estelle-san who lay at her feet.
“……Why did you kill your own parents?”
Hearing my question, Selena-san replied without changing her expression even a little bit.
“To tell you the truth, my parents had been mistreating me. So I killed them. Hey, do you think I’ll be forgiven for this?”
“Since the day I was born, I was raised while my father constantly tormented me and my mother constantly scolded me. My father only ever looked at me with lustful eyes, and my mother always saw me as another woman and felt jealous. Despite that, we acted as a perfect family in public. We were that sort of warped family.”
“Since they were already broken, I just finished the job.”
The girl had a bright smile on her face.
It was not a cute smile befitting a girl her age, that smile was an incredibly twisted and repulsive.
Selena-san slowly walked towards me.
“—You gave me a scare. The two of you showed up with unbelievable timing to wreck my plan, after all. ”
“By plan, do you mean putting on a black cloak and pretending to be a robber?”
“That’s right. As I thought, you’re well-informed. Is it because you’re from the future?”
Even though the appointed time had passed, no robber had turned up at Selena-san’s house. That was probably because the person who was supposed to come into the house as a burglar had gone somewhere else instead.
The bags that Selena-san had been carrying earlier when we happened across her were strewn about on the ground.
I could see some black fabric sticking out of one of the bags.
“Hey Miss, if you are really from the future, would you mind telling me something? What kind of person am I in the future?”
“I am a traveler. I haven’t been in this country for very long, so I don’t know what kind of person you turned into.”
I pulled out my staff and stood ready.
“Actually, in the future ten years hence where I come from, you were already dead.”
“Eh? I was killed? By whom?”
“By your best friend.”
“Eh? But I don’t have any friends, you know?”
“Oh wait, are you talking about Estelle?”
Seeing me nod, Selena san clapped her hands while looking extremely happy.
“Ah. I see, I see. Now I get it. This dead woman here is Estelle from ten years in the future, right?”
“I knew it! That’s what I thought.”
I didn’t answer her, but she probably took my silence as affirmation. While clapping her hands in enthusiasm, she said, “But why did she kill me?”
She tilted her head in confusion.
“It was because you became a mass murderer.”
“Me? A mass murderer?”
The Second District Serial Killer.
That is what she was called in the future.
Ironically enough, we were presently still in the second district. In the end, Estelle-san and I were unable to prevent the birth of the serial killer.
No, instead of saying that we weren’t able to prevent it, I should probably say that were already too late to do anything about it.
“I see, I turned into a mass murderer. I suppose that makes sense.”
Going back ten years was not enough, Selena-san had already been broken long before this.
Pointing the knife in her hand at me, Selena-san kicked the ground and ran towards me.
“I mean, killing people is so much fun!”
She ran at me while saying that.
I had also raised my staff towards the girl who was running towards me, when it happened.
The trash cans that were lying on the ground suddenly attacked Selena-san from the side and pinned her to the wall. They flew at her one after the other, spilling their rotting contents and releasing a smell while crashing into Selena-san.
“……I won’t forgive you.”
From the other side of the rising stink, I heard a low voice.
Holding her staff in one trembling hand and using the other to support her abdomen that was still leaking blood, Estelle-san was standing up.
Despite being in a horrible condition of being wounded all over her body, she was still alive.
Standing in the middle of the rotting garbage, Selena-san looked at Estelle-san.
“What, you’re still alive? Maybe I should have stabbed you harder—”
Estelle-san didn’t let her finish her sentence. She swung her staff as if to interrupt her words, and a pale blue mass of magical energy sped sped towards Selena-san relentlessly like a bullet.
The ring on my finger began to shine so bright that it was almost blinding.
Estelle-san screamed as she swung her staff again and again.
“Ahahahaha! It hurts! It hurts!”
Selena-san was still laughing, even after being pelted with spheres of magical energy.
“You were deceiving me all along? Making a fool of me all along? Even though I thought we were friends!”
“Ahaha! Estelle is trying to kill me! Ahahahahaha”
“I thought we were friends! I thought you could go back to being a good girl! All this time — all this time you were just deceiving me!? Say something!”
“Ahahahaha! It hurts! It hurts, it hurts, it hurts! Ahahahaha!”
“You — monster…!”
And then, Estelle-san stopped moving, with her staff still pointed at Selena-san.
The pale blue light emitted from the staff extended towards Selena-san like a stream of smoke, wrapped around her neck, and started to constrict.
“Hahahahaha! Hahaha! Ha—”
Her staff steadily moved to point upwards, and Selena-san, who had collapsed onto the ground, started to float into the air.
The repulsive laughter little by little lost its vigor, and started to wither away.
Even while struggling to grasp the smoke around her neck that couldn’t be touched, even while she was frothing at the mouth, Selena-san’s smile did not disappear from her face.
While looking down towards Estelle-san who was standing below her, she was definitely smiling.
“—You murderer,” Selena-san whispered.
Her back suddenly straightened.
At this point, the horrifying sight that I saw before me could only come to the worst possible end.
“Estelle-san, please wait. Stop, this is—”
This is very wrong.
Even if opponent was a mass murderer, would anyone wish for such an ending?
I immediately put my hand on the ring. If I pulled it off, our magical energy would no longer be shared. At the very least, I can stop Estelle-san from becoming a murderer.
If I do that, then—
What should I do after that? What sort of ending should I give to this sorrowful tale?
I wonder if it was because of my hesitation. The ring on my little finger seemed to be fixed in place and showed no signs of coming off.
What’s more, my hand started to tremble and I found it hard to even get a grip on the ring.
Apparently, I was more afraid of being in this place than I thought.
While I was wasting time, Selena-san’s fading laugh turned into a cry of pain, and her hands that were on her neck started to flail around.
Her cries of agony just increased my sense of desperation.
It took me several, long seconds of agony to remove the ring that was feeding a continuous stream of magical energy to Estelle-san.
After bouncing on the ground that was drenched in blood, the ring drew a red arc in the air before finally coming to rest.
“Estelle-san, stop this. This is wrong. You can’t—”
I immediately tried to persuade her.
I tried to get her to reconsider what she was doing.
However the smoke that was strangling Selena-san did not disappear.
“I don’t need any memories of you. I don’t need any of it. They should all just disappear, along with you!”
The ring was indeed no longer on my finger. I had stopped supplying her with magic.
Just where was this magical energy coming from?
“I should have never tried to save you. I should have never looked back. I should have never lamented your death.”
Her eyes, brimming with resentment, looked similar to Selena-san’s eyes.
At a loss for what to do, all I could do was to stand there blankly with my staff gripped in my trembling hand.
My confusion and fear bound me hand and foot, and kept me immobile in that place.
It happened just as Estelle-san, whose face was set in a twisted expression like she had given up on everything, whispered those words.
—the bell began to ring.
The ringing of the bell announced that exactly one hour had passed since we came here, and both Estelle-san and I started to be enclosed in a cocoon of light. The view of the surroundings started to blur, and eventually disappeared altogether.
We were out of time.
The smell of blood, and the sounds of the girl being strangled also disappeared.
Everything before me dissolved into a vague, white color.
In this way, the tale of going back to save a single girl ended with not a single person being saved in the end.
The sound of the bells was still echoing.
When I opened my eyes, I found myself back in the original world — the world she had called ‘A,’ or in other words, the world we originally came from.
Everything I saw before me looked familiar. The empty room. Two chairs lined up next to each other. Lavender flowers growing near the window.
And next to me, was Estelle-san.
She was staring at the ceiling with a blank expression. She was in a daze, with an expressionless face.
I didn’t know what she was thinking, or what I should say to her.
I just waited there as the time continued to pass.
“…Hmm? What was I doing?”
After a while, she finally opened her mouth.
“Why am I sitting in a place like this…? Hmm? I can’t remember.”
“Ah. You are… Elaina-san, right? What exactly was I doing until now?”
I wasn’t able to answer her.
“I feel like I’ve forgotten something important… someone important… What’s going on? I can’t remember. What was it again?”
I spoke up.
“Don’t you remember anything about Selena-san?”
“Hmm? Who’s that?”
She had forgotten it all.
By the time she returned to the future, she had forgotten about everything that had happened ten years ago, even the fact that she had traveled back in time.
As we spoke, I understood what had happened. At that time — by the time I had removed the ring, she had already started to generate magical energy by herself using a reckless method.
She had gone and converted all her precious memories of her best friend into magical energy. She had thrown away the memories that formed such a large part of her personality.
After returning to the future, all she did was stare blankly into space. She had become wholly apathetic.
“I can’t seem to remember it at all… My head feels really fuzzy. Did you say Selena……? Who was that?”
She just looked more and more confused as she continued to think.
“Elaina-san, I can’t seem to remember her at all. What was her relation to me?”
She looked at me with a puzzled expression.
I stood up as if avoiding her gaze, and gave a short reply.
“No relation. Not anymore, at least.”
The country had well-ordered tall buildings and a plaza in the center, and in the plaza was a large clock tower that towered over everything else.
While I was passing through the plaza, the clock struck three o’clock and the bell rang out.
Looking back, I blankly stared at that sight.
In the end, I left that house as though I was running away. Of course, I didn’t receive the payment. There was no way I could accept money from her for the work we did in the past, when that past had ceased to exist for her.
And besides, even though I went to the past with her, I didn’t do anything that would deserve a reward.
Thinking that people would definitely be able to live happily if they could turn back time and redo their past, that was an an extremely careless way of thinking.
Perhaps, even if you can look back on time that has already gone by, trying to redo it is wrong. Going back in time to change the relationships between people is on an entirely different scale from using magic to manipulate the bodies of people to heal their wounds.
However, even with that being the case, I was far too helpless in that world.
I was frightened.
I was overwhelmed by the despair, and the tragic sight of a person being killed before my eyes.
I think that perhaps my senses were numbed because I had been traveling for such a long time.
I am a witch, and a traveler. That’s all I am. I am not capable of doing everything by myself, or handling all problems with competence.
After traveling to the past, I was reminded of how inexperienced I am.
It was made painfully clear.
Lukewarm tears ran down my face.
I had started to cry before realizing it, and I stared up at the clock tower, as if to avoid looking at myself.
The echoes of the bell had faded away, and the clock tower stood there as always, just marking the passage of time.
It relentless moved ahead, marking the passage of time without ever looking back.
“……I suppose I should get going.”
And so, I started to walk again.
I took one step at a time, without ever looking back.