It was the following day.
Colio went out for a walk just like yesterday. And just then, he walked in the opposite direction of the general flow of people during the morning.
The previous day, there were three people walking like this. But now, only one was left.
Colio realized how much the situation changed in a single day.
Just like yesterday, Colio’s feet brought him to that alley. Once again, without any reason.
Maybe Relia would be there? He thought of such things while walking.
“Boy, how was it? Did you read it?”
A voice called to him. Colio stopped and turned around.
It was the Book seller from before. Colio thought he was carried off by that Armed Librarian, but he probably resumed business after that guy died. Colio didn’t really care about it, neither today nor yesterday.
“…I don’t understand what you’re talking about.”
The Book seller probably came to request payment for the Book of Calico Princess. Colio thought it was troublesome.
Saying this and trying to escape, Colio’s eyes were suddenly drawn to something among the items being sold.
“What is that?”
Colio asked while pointing at a Book. The man answered.
“Hmm? Isn’t it obvious? It’s a Book fragment. Do you want to buy it, boy?”
Colio knew the milky-white color of that Book. It was the same color as the one belonging to Calico Princess. Almost all other Books were colored somewhere between white, grey and brown, but that Book was as white as milk.
It was the same as before. Thinking this, Colio stretched out his hand.
The moment his finger touched it, the world around him changed again.
Even Colio could not hear himself muttering this.
“…It’s going to hurt a bit. But bear with it like a good boy, okay?”
The first thing he heard was this voice. He immediately recognized it was Calico Princess.
“It’s because I need to apply the medicine.”
Calico Princess was inside a hut made of rotting wood.
A lone child was lying on hay. He was a pale and poor-looking boy. There were many lice on his wildly-grown hair and fleas inside his straw clothes.
It was dim inside the hut. The lamp next to Calico Princess emitted a faint light. The smell of whale oil drifted in the surrounding air.
Outside the window it was probably night-time. But no one in that hut even thought about admiring the beautiful starry sky.
Other than Calico Princess, there was no one else sitting next to the heavily breathing boy.
“…I want… water. It hurts…”
The moment he said that, the boy started coughing violently. It was a cough that sounded like his throat was burning. Calico Princess took the razor blade resting on the boy’s chest.
Calico Princess’s white gloves were covered by dirt and blood. Only at the back of her hand some whiteness had remained.
Her dress was in terrible shape. The hem of the pure white skirt was already indistinguishable from a dust cloth, the lace on her chest was blackened by blood, and the wings decorating her back had been cut in half. The tragic state of her dress looked as if she passed through a chimney. Her pretty calico hair was tied in a string and lay on her back.
“Water’s no good; your stomach can’t take anything right now. Since you’re a good boy, please be patient.”
On the boy’s slender arm there was a cut about two centimeters deep. She removed the gloves from her hands, revealing pretty long fingers.
“It’s going to be itchy for a while, but you mustn’t scratch it.”
Calico Princess held a small bottle in her hands. She applied the red liquid inside to her fingers and started coating the boy’s wounds with it.
“…Here we go, all good. For the following day, not matter how much it hurts, you can’t drink any water. Okay? Promise me.”
There was no response. The boy started coughing again.
“I know you’re suffering, but endure it. Please. Just for a little bit longer.”
Calico Princess said while hugging the boy’s body.
“I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.”
“…Thank you, miss…”
The boy said while being held to her chest.
“But, who are you?”
Calico Princess put the boy down without answering anything. He continued staring at her.
When the boy’s coughing had stopped, Calico Princess left the hut. The place seemed to be the countryside. There was a bleak church built down a steep hill.
The lone hut with the boy inside was on the edge of the hill.
It was a dark night. Calico Princess wore a black cloak on her head and ran leaning towards the ground. In order to avoid the center of the village that was lined with many houses, she was entering a forest. She didn’t have any lamp. Despite the darkness, she could still walk around as if it was daytime.
She entered the forest. But just as she passed next to a tree…
“Where are you going?”
A voice called. Calico Princess turned around and saw a single person there.
He was probably in his forties, and terribly obese. He wore a luxurious black mantle with gold embroidery and put a clown’s hat on his head. He was a strange-looking man.
Colio was surprised. He was absolutely sure no-one was there before when she had passed.
“Oh my, Princess. Your dress is dirty.”
“Since when you were watching?”
Calico Princess said. Her voice was filled with hostility.
It was the first time Colio heard her use such a voice. Before this and in the previous Book, her voice was always filled with mercy and sadness.
“All along, Ever-Laughing Saint.”
“Didn’t I tell you not to call me that?”
The voice of Calico Princess became even more hostile.
“Forgive me for my rudeness.”
Saying this, the man bowed. Retaining this posture, he sank into the ground.
It was then that Colio realized this man was a Magician. Since in the present era magic was in decline, most humans didn’t get even a single opportunity to see such a casual use of an advanced magic in front of their eyes.
“…Where is that boy, Ever-Laughing Saint?”
It seemed Calico Princess was called the Ever-Laughing Saint. But Colio wondered where the “Ever-Laughing” part came from. There was only one time he ever saw her smiling. Her face always looked like she was suffering.
“He’s just a kid.”
“Hahaha, that again?”
This time, the man appeared on top of a tree.
“Since you’re always rushing outside every night to meet your knight lover, he must be a splendid knight. How did you like my bedtime story?”
“Stop saying stupid things.”
“Oh my, there is some straw stuck to your hair.”
“…Didn’t I say to stop that?”
The man disappeared again.
“Please do not displease me. You did not forget you attained your current position only because of me, did you?”
Something resounded from under Calico Princess’s cloak. Colio soon understood it was the sound of her having drawn a sword.
“Ooh, how frightful. In front of your sword, my magic is as good as a child’s toy.”
Saying this, the man appeared under the tree again.
“…What do you want?”
“It’s troubling when you do such things. We’re trying to make a profit here.”
“…That kid won’t be able to buy our medicine. It doesn’t affect us at all.”
“…That’s not what I said, Shiron.”
Wyzaf’s face changed at once. Up till then he wore the face of a gentleman, but under it a vulgar expression was exposed now.
“If you do such things, I’ll have to correct everything by myself, and you won’t like it, Shiron. This isn’t about one or two brats.
You know what would happen if you keep going that way.”
“Apologize. If you won’t apologize, I’ll accordingly kill one person. If you complain I’ll kill another one.”
Calico Princess talked hesitantly.
“I’m sorry. It’s my fault.”
The man suddenly smiled, and bowed respectfully.
“That’s enough, our Princess.”
“I’ll now prepare a lavish feast for you, princess. I’ll also prepare as many superb men as you want. I can prepare delicious men for you, or make it so it will be twenty degrees during the night, or perhaps I’ll get you a little boy who’s as cute as a puppy.”
“I don’t want any of that.”
“Do not say so. We have to celebrate our grand victory.”
“Grand victory? What?”
“Dragon Pneumonia already spread throughout Cadarra Kingdom. The king himself came to apologize to us. We were all awarded knighthoods, and he also prepared three years of our national budget.”
“Will we sell them medicine?”
“No, we have to spread the disease into the Nichinbeta Region and further to the east.”
“Do you understand what’s going to happen if we don’t do it soon?”
“I do. Many people will die.”
“…Please. Sell it already.”
“Don’t make me laugh.”
‘Kukuku’, the man disappeared with an unpleasant laugh.
He left some final words as if melting them inside the wind.
“Anyway, please do not commit suicide. If you die, you understand what the world will come to look like afterwards, right?”
Even after the man disappeared, Calico Princess stood there. Her expression couldn’t be seen.
The Book ended there. Colio let his fingers go of it. Standing in front of his eyes, the Book seller said,
“That’s no good, you can’t look at it before buying it. You have to pay me.”
Colio took out twenty kirue from his purse. He grabbed the second Book with his sleeve and put it inside his pants pocket.
“I’ve seen a Book like this before. Is there only one Book like that?”
“Can’t you tell by looking? It’s broken. Because it’s broken, you can only read parts of it. There’re probably plenty more of it.”
Oh, so there are plenty more, Colio thought. For some reason, he was incredibly happy.
“Do you have any more?”
“…Boy, if you’re curious, how about this Book?”
“I don’t need it. I want another Book of the same person.”
“…I don’t have any right now. If you come to me again sometime I might have it.”
Colio wasn’t really sure if he could trust him, but he thought that was good enough for now.
Colio returned to the inn in a fast pace, and once again read the Book he just bought.
He watched her voice, expressions and movements numerous times. Even her dirty dress and hands looked beautiful. Even the dim stuffy hut seemed like a magnificent place just by her being in it.
But that hut was already more than a hundred years old, so nothing should be left of it now. While thinking this, Colio felt pain in his chest.
She gave medicine to sick children. Without caring to get her hands dirty. Colio was moved by this. He thought it was wonderful. He once again read the Book and gazed upon the figure of Calico Princess.
Colio read the Book countless times. Since a while ago the sun already travelled across the sky and the day was coming to a close. At some stage he noticed the sinking sun and the fact that he was hungry. But more than that, he wanted to see Calico Princess again. And it wasn’t just the two Books he already possessed. He wanted to see many other Books.
Colio remembered that Book-selling man said he might have some more of it at a later time. He immediately grabbed his purse and ran outside.
He ran to the opposite direction of the flow of people returning to their houses. Each time he took a rough breath, the hole in his chest containing the bomb ached. Even though that pain made him cringe, Colio couldn’t stop running.
He arrived at the Book seller’s spot. But nobody was there right now.
Colio surveyed the surroundings, but couldn’t find the “Book” dealer.
He ran around the alley looking for him. He returned to the main road once to search among the crowd of people.
But he just couldn’t find him.
He gave up looking for the Book seller. Maybe he could instead find some Book that had fallen on the ground.
But he didn’t find any Book fragments either. Colio was exhausted and hungry, and he lowered himself to the ground. He crouched there until it became late. After a while, he gave up and wobbled back towards the inn.
The sunset today was still dim. He walked while sadly thinking of this.
Suddenly, he noticed the figure of a woman from behind around the corner of the road. His head becoming blank, he ran forward.
Calico Princes now turned to the left. He was sure he saw it.
Colio turned around the corner and saw the woman walking ahead with her back to him.
“…Was this an illusion?”
He couldn’t understand why this woman seemed like Calico Princess to him. It was just an old woman with completely white hair. The old woman walked away without turning around.
The disappointed Colio regained his composure. Thinking about what he was doing, he smiled wryly.
He perfectly assimilated it.
He forgot everything except Calico Princess.
“What’s that supposed to be…”
Colio said. But he actually understood. He learned about this feeling just yesterday.
“…Is this love at first sight?”
His chest hurt. The bomb screeched inside his chest as he ran. When the cut ribs were exposed to the air, he could feel pain.
But, it wasn’t the place that hurt. his pain wasn’t because of such a reason.
Relia went somewhere, and he would surely never return.
Colio didn’t know where to find Hamyuts Meseta.
He had no idea what to do from now on.
However, the intense pain in his chest drove out all of those thoughts.
As the sunset passed, now a grey moon floated low in the sky.
In the corner of a small tavern, Ia Mira suddenly recalled the boy she met last night. He was a gloomy boy named Colio Tonies. They held a strange conversation for a while, and separated without intending to meet ever again.
“It’s nothing. Come on, drink.”
Ia Mira was in the middle of work. She was sitting on a cheap leather sofa and poured a drink as she leaned against the body of the man sitting next to her.
Inside the dim interior, many women like Ia were pouring alcohol, bending over or offering flattery for the men that returned from the mines.
She concealed her tear marks with makeup and wore a dress so short that if she were to move a little her underwear could be seen… or rather, she intended them to. It was a terribly cheap dress, but that couldn’t be seen in the dark.
Next to Ia, there was a man and one of her colleagues on the other side. They wanted to head for the private room at the back of the tavern. By passing money to women, you could spend a night with them in the private room – this was the tavern’s rule.
No man had paid Ia to come to the private room today. If I won’t get that customer now, I won’t make any money today, Ia thought in her heart. But maybe that was for the best.
Just a little more and she would quit the job. Just a little more and she could work at whatever she wanted – thus she thought ever since Cartohelo died.
Then, the customer Ia was hanging out with took something out of his breast pocket.
“Hey, will the two of you drink it?”
Then, the customer’s hand moved quickly. It seemed he did something to the drink with what he pulled out. Since it was dark, she couldn’t see what he’s done.
“…Huh? What was that?”
“Isn’t it fine? I’ll pay you double.”
Occasionally there were men with strange hobbies or drugs in the private room. Ia experienced that countless times. During those times, Cartohelo always comforted her afterwards. Because he was there, she could put up with any painful thing.
The man put some money into the chest of Ia’s dress. She didn’t have time for hesitation. Ia poured the sweet wine into her mouth. She could feel something like jelly sliding down her throat.
As Ia drank it, the man suddenly got up and quickly went out of the tavern. The voice of the clerk calling “please do come again” sounded silly.
The sidelined Ia checked her body’s condition by moving her neck and listening to her heartbeat.
She didn’t feel like anything happened to her. She didn’t feel sleepy or strange at all.
But because of this, she was scared.
Dealing with someone with unknown goals was scary. It was even scarier now that she didn’t have Cartohelo.
Walking to the back of the store where the owner was wiping off glasses, she spoke in a small voice.
“…Sorry, but I want to leave early tonight.”
Around the same time, Relia was walking by himself in the nighttime town.
There was a cloth bag on his back. On his hip was a wallet that became considerably lighter.
Relia slowly crossed the wave of people downtown. The voices of men and women reached his ears from the lined up establishments such as taverns and brothels. However, Relia didn’t have any interest in those.
Colio was surely thinking he ran away. But he didn’t mind. Because he had nothing to do with Colio anymore.
“…Running away, huh?”
It might be better to just run away like that, Relia thought.
He could search for a job at some town, hide his past and live normally.
Maybe it would have been good if he could do that.
But it was probably impossible.
Neither the people controlling him, Hamyuts Meseta nor the bomb inside his chest will allow him that.
Thinking about this, Relia passed by a woman wearing a cheap dress. She seemed to have an uneasy expression, but Relia didn’t notice.
Colio was probably still running around aimlessly. But unlike him, Relia had a goal in mind.
He wasn’t afraid of dying. He abandoned his life long ago. In exchange for that, he gained determination. He was determined not to act the way those people wanted him to. Somehow, this determination allowed Relia to stray from the path they intended for him.
Using the bomb in his chest, he was to kill the enemy boss. They wanted to make him go to the Library to do that.
This was the reason Relia separated from Colio, and his reason to live.
This was not meant to avenge Hyoue. It wasn’t in order to do the right thing either. Nor did he do it because he wanted to survive.
This was Relia Bookwatt’s completely unrelated revenge.
He didn’t know anything about the enemy. He only knew the face of the man issuing orders. Even that guy was probably just an underling like Colio and Relia.
He didn’t know the leader’s face, their location, their purpose or even the organization’s name. The only things remaining in his memory were the names “Indulging God Cult” and Crukessa.
Relia pondered about what he should be doing from now on.
Should he believe in his power and act alone?
However, Relia who had no knowledge or skills couldn’t fight. He had the bomb in his chest, but since it was made to kill the enemy’s boss he would probably be attacked, and it wouldn’t do just killing an underling together with him.
He could try to get help from someone. That seemed to be more realistic.
So, who should he ask for help?
The answer was simple. The enemies of his enemies were his allies. There was no option other than Hamyuts Meseta.