Alme stopped clinging to Mirepoc and Mattalast. She was now at an apartment. She was searching through the house.
Parney’s Book, as one who belonged to the Indulging God Cult, wouldn’t be at any man’s place. It should be with one of the Cult’s followers – thus Alme thought.
After massacring False Men, she looked for their hiding places and carefully searched around them. She even looked inside the walls and below the floor.
However, she couldn’t find Parney Parlmanta’s Book.
“Why… These should be all False Men in this city.”
Alme started thinking – was there perhaps another False Man in the city she was unaware of?
Or was the rumor of the Book being in this city a hoax in the first place?
Even so, she couldn’t leave the city. She had no clues about Lascall’s identity other than Parney’s Book.
Stroking Cigal’s picture hanging at her breast, Alme rose up again.
“This city is strange.”
Alme muttered as she looked at the streets. She thought that the Fullbeck she knew grew uglier the more it seemed splendid.
This city was deeply nostalgic. This was because here she met Cigal.
She recalled it for no reason – the day she met Cigal and obtained a new way of living.
Alme hated one thing for as long as she could remember.
In a corner of downtown, between small buildings lined up disorderly, underneath a leaking roof in front of a shop window, Alme was playing her violin. The people coming and going there occasionally threw coins inside her hat without stopping by.
At that time Alme made her living with the violin. She had to earn money from the small change of people wandering from and to the city. She had that violin for as long as she knew. She knew no other way of living, and thought she will probably know no other.
That day it was raining. There were few people who walked around and even less who stopped by.
A woman came near. Without listening to Alme’s music, she threw a paper note inside the hat.
“You’re not listening, so why are you giving this to me?”
Alme asked that woman.
“Isn’t it fine? You’re so young but having it so hard.”
“…I’m not really…”
“Please accept it. I can’t bear staying around kids like you.”
After the woman left, Alme threw the money away.
She hated being pitied. Being pitied meant being looked down at. She couldn’t forgive anyone who looked down at her.
After a while, another man stopped by.
He was dressed in expensive clothing, not unlike the previous woman. He was a man of neat features and long hair. Thinking that he might act like that woman, Alme started playing. In her irritation the sound was rough.
When she finished playing one song, the man wasn’t looking at her. If you don’t feel like listening then get outta here, Alme thought. When she thought of playing another song, a black car suddenly parked in front of the man.
The man said.
“I’m sorry, Cigal-sama.”
Oh, he was waiting for a car. Just as she felt disappointed, a single paper bill was thrown into her hat.
And the man looked at Alme for the first time.
“I’ll come to listen again.”
Even after the car left, Alme stared vacantly at empty air.
“You came back already?”
As Alme returned home, her father murmured this.
“Because it’s raining.”
“You have to treasure the customers that will listen to you even in rain.”
Both her father and mother worked as street performers like her. She was taken by her parents around the world, and they’ve earned their money by performing.
“It’s no good. Everyone goes to the playhouse lately. They can also listen to music on the radio so there’s nothing to do.”
Her father complained to her mother.
All the family planned on stopping their work as street performers and getting employed by the playhouse. However, no place in Fullbeck hired them. Since the family was self-taught, they have been ignored in the city. Only those who received formal musical education could play there.
“We have no choice but go to the countryside.”
“But, we’ve been travelling performers out whole lives.”
“What can we do? No one wants to hire us. We can’t earn our living in this city.”
Alme was silent, listening to her parents’ conversation.
Moving away from the city meant losing their chances to be hired by the playhouse or the orchestra forever. They would have to continue earning their income on the streets until the day they die.
To her childlike mind, this was unbearable. Living the same way all of her life made her feel entrapped.
Alme went to bed. Suddenly, she heard her mother and father talking about her.
“We’ve made our child suffer. If we only didn’t have any children…”
“Don’t say that. It can’t be helped.”
Alme’s stomach boiled at hearing those words. She hated being pitied even by her parents.
Don’t look down on me. Don’t pity me.
Even if they’re my parents, I will never forgive them.
After a while, Alme met that man again. She remembered that his name seemed to be Cigal. On that day the sky was cloudy, and occasionally a thunder resounded between these clouds. She had no customers on this rainy day, so her hat was empty.
The man stood quietly and listened to her violin play.
“Why don’t you go to the music hall? There are many people much better there.”
When Alme finished playing, she asked the man.
“I cannot bear listening to their performance. Their technique is boring and they’re only trying to compete with each other.”
He said those mysterious words.
“Is that not good?”
“Their music doesn’t resonate in my heart.”
Cigal kept explaining.
“Your violin in filled with your anger and frustration. If I were to play the violin my music would perhaps sound the same as yours.”
Saying this, Cigal threw a paper note.
At that moment, a boy appeared from the side, grabbed it and ran away.
Why didn’t you stop him? Alme stared at Cigal with protesting eyes.
“Is something the matter?”
“Why don’t you chase him…”
“Me, chase him? Please don’t say silly things. You’re the one who should chase him.”
Even if she was told this, it was troublesome. Even if she chased him she wouldn’t be able to catch him. Even if she did catch him, the next time he would just use violence.
“That’s why you are useless. No, it’s not just you. Most people in this world are useless.”
Saying this, Cigal put a small handgun inside the hat.
“You’re all waiting for it – for someone to bring you happiness. So you never obtain anything.”
Alme slowly put her violin down. Then, she reached her hand for the handgun and held it.
“That is fine. Grasp it with your own hands.”
Alme was surprised at two things:
The gun was much heavier than she thought.
Also, that she grabbed that gun without any hesitation.
Alme started looking for the boy. Cigal gave her advices from behind.
“Here. That kind of opponent will run to somewhere hidden.”
Following Cigal’s words, Alme kept walking. The gun she held with both hands was heavy.
“They probably have some meeting place. Are there any unpopular vacant lots around here?”
Alme nodded and started walking there.
In a vacant lot, two boys have hanged out together.
“How convenient. If it’s only those two you can easily kill them.”
After chasing them down so far, Alme suddenly became scared. Both of holding a gun and of killing. Killing people. Until now, that kind of act was supposed to be far away from her. Was she going to do it now?
Was she taken by the devil? No, that’s wrong. Alme came here by her own will.
She slowly approached the two boys.
“Hold it with both hands.”
“Aim at the stomach. Align the target with the muzzle’s aim in a straight line.”
She arranged the targeting as she was told, walking slowly. She aimed at the boys in the back alley. They were laughing, thinking it was a bluff.
The first boy was hit in the stomach. The second one who tried getting away was shot in the head. Both of them died easily. Cigal picked up the money they were holding and handed it to Alme. Despite that for him this amount of money was worth about as much as a pebble on the side of the road, he looked extremely happy while handing it over.
“Congrats. This is the first thing you’ve grasped with your own hands.”
Alme looked at the crumpled bill.
“How do you feel?”
“…I don’t know.”
Cigal asked. Why didn’t she feel anything? She couldn’t believe what she’s done. She didn’t think of herself today as the same girl she was yesterday.
However, she wasn’t just scared. She could also feel something welling up inside her chest.
If she kills she will not be pitied. This might be a really good method to avoid being looked down upon.
“…Are you scared?”
“Everyone feels that way at first. However, it will soon change.”
Cigal patted Alme’s head.
“You are right. As you are now, you are right.”
She could see his face through the gaps of her bangs. It was as refreshing as someone who helped a puppy from drowning in a river.
Alme kept playing her violin. She knew no other way of meeting Cigal.
Cigal seemed to come at days when she had no customers, so Alme quit playing as soon as she saw there were many people. They quickly went past the strange street-performing girl.
A while passed. Cigal then appeared in a place different from Alme’s expectations.
One day, she was woken by her mother with these words. The sleepy Alme was shoved inside the closet.
“So you’re here. Aah, how scary.”
Her mother stood in front of the closet to protect Alme. Slightly opening the closet’s door and peeking out, Alme could see several black-wearing men at the front door. Just by looking she could tell they were not decent people. Her father was dealing with them while his back was shaking. She couldn’t hear their voices, but they seemed to be quarreling.
“They’re from the underworld… please hide. Don’t make any voice.”
Her mother’s words didn’t reach her ears. The man in the far back… there was no mistaking it. It was Cigal. Without any hesitation Alme left the closet. Her mother screamed.
“Alme, were you in this kind of place? Are you playing hide-and-seek?”
Cigal raised his voice while smiling. He turned his hand gently to Alme’s back as she approached.
“So, shall we go?”
Cigal laughed and brought Alme out of her house.
As she left, Alme suddenly turned back. Her father seemed to be crying and her mother was too scared to come out. She thought that perhaps this would be the last time she would see them. She thought of saying some words of farewell, but couldn’t think of any.
The car carrying Alme was going somewhere. Cigal said nothing about where he was taking her. She sat in silence next to him in the back seat.
She started talking to him.
“Why did you take me?”
He didn’t look like a kidnapper or a man with strange hobbies.
“Right… let’s say I see something promising in you.”
Cigal said while lighting a cigar.
“Where are you taking me?”
Cigal smiled but didn’t answer.
“This is a sudden question, but have you ever been to Bantorra Library?”
It really was sudden. It was completely irrelevant to the conversation thus far.
“Do you want to go there?”
Alme slightly tilted her head and answered.
Cigal smiled sweetly.
“If you had answered ‘yes’, I would have brought you back as a corpse.”
He spoke cheerfully and with a jesting tone, but it probably wasn’t a joke. However, strangely she felt no fear.
“Bantorra Library is in fact a worthless place. Look outside the window a bit.”
She saw the herd of people passing by. Alme usually stared at them going away, but this time she was the one going away.
“Almost all the Books of the people you can see from here will be stored and preserved at the Library.
But, Alme. Do you think their Books have any value? No matter the Book, it will be buried without anyone seeing it. What will that sort of thing become?”
Even if he told her this, she didn’t know. She couldn’t imagine anything else.
“Both Armed Librarians and Bantorra Library are meaningless. The only Books that should remain are those that have value. Don’t you think so?”
Thinking about it, it might be so. Alme nodded.
“I think so.”
“That is good, Alme. If there were more people like you, the world would have become a slightly better place.”
Cigal seemed satisfied at Alme’s response. He gently put his hand around Alme’s shoulder and kept talking.
“So, what do you think a valuable Book is?”
“I don’t know.”
“It is the Book of a man who lived a meaningful life. The Book of a person who lived his life correctly. And, the Book of a person who lived in happiness. Just like me. Am I wrong?”
Thinking rationally, it was an absurdly self-centered sort of thinking. But Alme was convinced. Cigal’s voice had no arrogance or deception mixed in it. It was the same as if he just spoke of the sky being beautiful.
“You are perceptive.
You would surely understand the truth – that the only valuable thing in the world is my truth. That the only valuable thing in the world is to understand and serve me.
Do you understand? Alme. You should be able to understand this.”
She couldn’t answer immediately. For a short while she stared at the crowd of people outside the window. A certain pleasure was born in Alme’s chest – the pleasure of looking down at people. In this world, only Cigal was precious and only Alme knew this.
None of the people passing by them knew. Only Alme did.
Alme was told so by the pleasure lighting up within her. Cigal smiled in satisfaction.
“Well then, it’s time to introduce myself.
My name is Cigal Crukessa. I am a member of the Indulging God Cult, and one of the most valuable people in this world.”
“The Indulging God Cult?”
“Yes. The Indulging God Cult. The only ones who serve the true God in this world.
On behalf of the Indulging God Cult, I welcome you as a comrade, Alme.”
It was then that Alme noticed – the car was approaching the city’s exit. At this rate, it would leave the city. When it does, she would probably not be able to return.
“Are you worried about your family?”
Cigal asked Alme as she thoughtlessly turned around.
“Do you want to get off?”
Alme understood that this was the time for decision. Will she follow Cigal or leave here?
She had two choices.
Alme firmly shook her head to the side.
“No, I won’t get off.”
Alme opened her mouth as she watched the city becoming more and more distant. She naturally started talking in a polite manner before she even noticed it.
“Umm, what is the True God?”
She thought it was a strange part in Cigal’s story. There should have only been three Gods in the world.
The overseer of Books, Past God Bantorra. He was now sealed in the Library’s depths.
The governor of the world’s people, Present God Toitorra*. He should now be sleeping at the Great Bronze Mountain of Toi.
Finally, the one who determines the future of people, Orntorra*. He passed away from the world at the end of the Paradise Era.
There should have been only these three Gods in the world. Just who was the True God among these?
Alme spoke about this, but Cigal resolutely denied it.
“A truly foolish question. They were mere overseers. Although people revered them, they are in fact not valuable beings at all. They are mere components used to maintain this world.”
“Then what is the True God?”
“Our God. The one who rules all of our happiness. Rather than anyone in this filthy, imperfect world, it is the one who sits at the world’s heights in Heaven, the one who seeks for the perfect happiness. That is God.”
“What is Heaven?”
The word sounded unfamiliar.
“The place holding the Books of those who had valuable lives. That is Heaven.”
“Not the Library?”
“Yes, not the Library. The Library houses worthless Books. Heaven houses valuable Books.”
She never heard about such a place. All Books should have been at the Library. This was the absolute law of the world such as the sun rising from the east.
“Well then, I’m getting off at the neighboring city.”
Their conversation wasn’t yet over. I have more things to ask, thought Alme.
“I’m busy. To tell you the truth, I came to pick you up on my way moving to the next city. I could meet with you only now.”
“You were so busy and yet you came to listen to my violin?”
“Yeah. When I looked at you I just thought… I want that. Although it was a modest meeting, for you it was probably the single most shining moment of your life.”
“Cigal-sama. We have arrived.”
The driver opened the door and Cigal got off. He told him directions as to where to take Alme to.
“See you, Alme.”
These were the words of farewell.
The car started moving again. While driving, the driver spoke to her.
“Do you also want to ascend to Heaven?”
She didn’t really know.
“I’m also like that. I don’t have any lingering regrets in this world. My only life is that of going to Heaven.”
She still didn’t know anything. Neither about the Indulging God Cult, nor the place known as Heaven, nor about Cigal. The only thing that made Alme move was her meeting with Cigal and her wanting to go with him.
However, she threw away everything that she had obtained until now. Thinking about it, Alme’s life was something that could easily be discarded away from the beginning.
Until now she had nothing. That was fine. She was going to get things in her grasp now.
The place she was brought to was a hotel in a small town quite far from Fullbeck.
A man that introduced himself as the Overseer of Paradise welcomed Alme. She could see him but couldn’t remember his appearance. He was a strange man that she’s never seen before.
“I have received contact from Cigal. Normally, to join us you must partake in an ordeal, but since Cigal certified you it is not necessary.”
The Overseer of Paradise happily said.
“What can you do?”
“Play the violin.”
The Overseer of Paradise said, sounding worried. She became anxious that he was disappointed.
“Well, it’s fine. You’re young. You seem to be healthy and able-bodied. If you undergo Magic Deliberation you will surely grow to be a fine warrior. So that you may ascend to Heaven, give it your best.”
“…Umm, what is Heaven?”
The Overseer of Paradise looked disappointed.
“So you came here without knowing anything.”
“No, that is fine. I shall now explain it to you.”
Saying so, the Overseer of Paradise brought out something from his desk.
“There are things hard to understand even after hearing about them a hundred times but can be understood by seeing them just once. Please read this.”
He placed a Book fragment on top of the desk.
“This is the Book of a Magician who lived 1500 years ago. He was the one and only who managed to possess an extremely unusual ability – the ability to see the place that only dead people can reach, Heaven.”
Alme extended her hand. Her fingertip touched the Book fragment.
*In the original text the names of the two gods are mixed up, but this is in contradiction to information from earlier volumes. There doesn’t seem to be any indication that this is Alme who’s making a mistake, and the mountain the Present God sleeps in seems to fit Toitorra’s name, so I decided to correct this for the time being.