Baccano! 1934 Alice in Jails - Streets Episode - Chapter 1, Part 2 of 3 (10/29)
Gonensei Chapter 1 (10/37)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Baccano! 2001 - The Children of Bottle: Chapter 3

I'm still technically on hiatus, but I had this chapter half done so I figured what the hell.

Also, good news. A kind soul who I know only as tigredebolsillo has uploaded a scan of the 2001 novel raw in addition to raws of all the other novels here (hoshit link's dead), so now I have all the pictures from the book. Previous chapters have had their drawings added in (click them to see them full size!). Color pages are currently undergoing editing, though depending on how I feel about them I may just half-ass them.

Color Pages
Preface & Prologue
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5



The next day
Christmas Eve

A long table stood in the center of the largest room in the old castle, the dining hall, currently the five immortals' gathering place. Instead of food, five glasses of water had been placed in a line along the table. Though there was no food, various Christmas decorations were hung on the walls, and the candle set up on the tabletop cast enchanting light over the room.

"Meeeeeeeerryyy Chriiiiistmaaas!"

Congratulations rang through the halls, the queer intonation perhaps due to overexcitement.

The man who had said it was currently tied up hand and foot in a chair at the head of the table, while Maiza and the rest were seated around him. Captured in the middle of the night, the castle's master had spent the rest of the night bound to his seat. But even then, he immediately began to give orders the moment he woke up, transforming the inside of the castle into the image of Christmas cheer.

They wondered to themselves why they had to do such things, but once the girls living in the castle all wordlessly set to work, they had no choice but to roll up their sleeves and help as well.

"Merry Christmas, my ass," Sylvie grumbled tiredly with a snort. "I can't believe you actually jumped off the roof once Czes found you... Don't you think that's a bit stupid, even considering you're immortal?"

"There's no such thing degrees of stupidity! You could say that all things that have exceeded their limits are too-"

"I say this: I don't want to hear it."

"Oh, come now!"

While Elmer bickered good-naturedly with his companions, Czes kept his silence. In the end, Elmer hadn't revealed the details of his conversation with Czes to the others, and glossed over it by saying that he'd made the decision to jump off by himself. It seemed to Czes that Elmer was covering up for his sins, and he even considered revealing what had happened to the others, but while he sat frozen with indecision, the situation had advanced without him.

"No matter what led to you falling from the roof, it's fine as long as you and Czes know what happened."

Maiza seemed to have noticed that something had happened between the two, but he seemed disinclined to interfere. Come to think of it, Sylvie and Nile, too, did not deign to ask what had happened on the rooftop.

Perhaps all of them already understood, and they were just protecting him by pretending not to notice.

...But that's meddling with my business even more than anything else.

But Czes himself was none too eager to make sure, and so he kept his mouth shut. Quietly, he remembered what had happened in the dead of night. All that he could think of was the image of his own right hand on Elmer's head.

...Could I trust someone else that much?

The question popped up suddenly in his mind, and Czes could only shake his head. If it were Maiza... or his new friends in New York, Isaac and Miria, or the woman who'd taken him in and acted as his big sister, Ennis, then he wouldn't mind if they placed their hands on his head. But as for willingly offering his head, of his own will at that... that, he couldn't say.

So, taking that into consideration, how could Elmer have acted as he did, to a person he'd met for the first time in nearly three centuries? Czes had wrestled with this matter all night. It would be easy to simply decide that Elmer was a simpleton, but the air around him was different from other people. For example, Isaac and Miria - the foolish couple living in New York - would no doubt smile and thrust forth their heads if he asked, believing in him without a second thought.

But the man known as Elmer was infinitely calculating. He wanted to make people smile, not from natural impulse, but with a firm, scheming objective in mind. Those schemes might be quite faulty, but nonetheless Czes was absolutely mystified.

What had made him that way, what had prevented Czes from even thinking of eating Elmer?

And as he struggled with such questions, suddenly Elmer struck up a conversation with him.

"Don't look so down, Czes. Now, I say, is the time for smiles to rule the world. In other words, uh, the frowners are going to die. Think of a cartoon demon king who takes over the world. He's grinning from ear to ear, right? He's not smiling because he took over the world, the bloke took over the world because he was smiling. So what we've got to do right now is smile before he does, and give food to the starving people of the world so that they can smile too..."

...Perhaps it would be best not to understand him.

While Czes despaired, Nile swung around arrogantly and cut to the chase.

"This isn't the time to go on another one of your rants, Elmer. Come to think of it, you're the demon king to these villagers anyway. I say this: you must keep your promise. Now, speak."

"Nile's right, Elmer. When we asked one of the girls yesterday, she said that she'd been kidnapped away from the village as a living sacrifice. They didn't deign to elaborate, but... just what is going on? It doesn't seem like you've used violence, but depending on your answer the consequences may become quite severe."

For once, the laughter was gone from Maiza's features, but Elmer merely smiled in the face of that forceful stare.

"Kidnapping, eh? That's got a bad ring to it, don't you think? All that happened is that the villagers offered them up when I asked for living sacrifices."

"That's the same thing."

"No it's not. You see..."

Elmer shook his head as though to say it was a long story, and with a sigh began to elaborate on what had happened.

The tale of how a demon had come to be in the village.

"Now then, where shall I start... Right. It all began when I was murdered in the village."


December, three years ago

When Elmer found the village, a young girl stood before him.

Her mannerisms, humble to the point of servility, aroused his curiosity, but he put that aside and decided to let her show him around.

The villagers did not show themselves before him, and the houses all stood silent, their doors firmly locked. Only the many eyes from the shadowed windows stayed persistently fixed on him.

"Oh dear, my, my my my. I can feel the hungry stares of wild animals all focused on my back. This is awkward. Is this what they mean when they say it's hard being popular? Or maybe aliens are planning to abduct me... I say, do you think being popular with aliens would mean I'm universally attractive?"

Guided by the girl, Elmer made his way, rambling, to a hut that stood alone on the outskirts of the village.

"Wow, is this it? Really?"

It was an ancient cabin that could not be called good in any sense of the word. It looked as though another proper snowfall would send it crashing down. One of the doors had fallen off completely, and that paired with the broken windows made it doubtful whether it could even stave off the cold at all.

"...I guess it makes sense. Doesn't look like anyone's living here. No, sorry if I sounded ungrateful. You went to the trouble of helping me out, after all. And I did say that all I wanted was somewhere to find shelter from the wind and rain. Right, I think I'll stay here, as a sign of respect for your efforts. I'll pay you back tomorrow by telling you all about Christmas, so just you wait."

So said, Elmer tried to part ways with the girl, but for some reason she followed him inside.

"Hmm? Ah, I'm fine. I'll manage by myself, so you can go home," Elmer said, smiling, but the girl's face was clouded with uncertainty as she replied.

"This... is my house..."


Grin still fixed firmly on his face, he looked around once more at the darkened interior.

And slowly, the smile slipped off his features.

Inside the hovel, which could not by any stretch of the imagination be called fit for human occupation, a handful of girls sat staring at him.

All of them were dressed shoddily, and as one they were completely expressionless. They all looked very similar, like sisters.

As Elmer stood still, dumbfounded, one of the girls - the one who had guided him to the shack - carefully opened her mouth.

"I think... one more person will be manageable, somehow... if it is too crowded I will sleep outside..."



"No, you see, I was absolutely gobsmacked. If it had been a gaggle of beautiful women I would've been overjoyed at discovering such a harem, but come now, you don't expect me to lay a hand on girls who don't look a shade over fifteen at the oldest, do you? Well, no, I hear that that sort of thing's right popular in Japanese comic books, but it's a bit of a shock stumbling on the real thing."

Still strapped to his chair, Elmer rambled on and on about his past. It was hard to believe, but Maiza and the others had seen the girls who looked so alike themselves, so they decided to listen on.

"So what did you do then?"

"Right. I thought to myself that they had to be sisters who had lost their parents, or maybe they were being bullied by the village youths, so I kept my mouth shut instead of asking about it. I walked around the village the next day but none of the townspeople showed themselves to me. I knew they were looking at me from afar, but when I went to try and talk to them they all ran away. So I just decided to ignore them and look for a better place for the girls to live. And that's how I found this old castle. I hear the villagers won't come here because they think there's a monster, but I looked around and found nothing. So I cleaned this place up and now we're all living here together."

"I can understand that much. But why have you been branded as a monster yourself?"

Elmer grinned cheekily.

"I just wanted to decorate this place a little for Christmas since it was a genuine castle in the snow, you know? The girls helped me out and we managed to decorate the entire place in one night. We didn't have any colored paper or anything, so we had to use sticks and stones, but... Well, anyway, on the next day the villagers all came rushing to the castle on the next day - Christmas. I thought to myself that they'd finally decided to contact me. In fact I was expecting to have a nice little Christmas party to get friendly with all of them, but they were all holding weapons! Wanted me to leave the village immediately, at that! I tried to protect the girls but I found myself completely outnumbered, faced with dozens of hoes and sickles. What a desperate situation! ...What do you say? Are you on the edge of your seats yet?"

"...Please tell me you aren't making this up."

"Don't look at me like I'm some sort of habitual liar. No, no, I'm telling the truth, honest... Well, anyway, long story short I ended up dying once."

Sylvie's eyes widened.

"What... how?"

"I complained a little and then suddenly that mayor chap, Dez, decided to give me a right big whack on the head. And not only that..."

"...They saw you regenerate," Maiza finished for him, quietly.

He must have been right, for Elmer looked away as he continued.

"When I came to, there was a wooden stake stuck in my heart. You have no idea how much it hurt. Honestly, I found myself feeling a bit sorry for vampires then."

"I understand. Heart wounds hurt like nothing else," Czes said suddenly, remembering something, then shivered as though he'd suddenly been dunked in cold water.

"Well... once I got the stake out, I was fine again in no time, and... since in the end nobody had died, I decided to clear up any misunderstandings that might've come up and headed back to the village."


"Those villagers looked scared out of their wits. I can't begin to tell you how funny it was. This woman selling fruit in the center road fainted dead away the moment she laid eyes on me... In the end the villagers surrounded me again and this time burned me alive. I ran away with my last breath, still on fire, and managed to throw myself off a snowy hill and put out the flames, but my body wouldn't stop rolling and I ended up buried in the snow. Ah, still, the snow ended up hiding me so I guess things worked out."

Stupified silence.

"The sun came up again and shone down on me. When the snow melted away and I came to, I realized my lower body was completely frozen! It took me a solid day to get back to the castle, but since in the end nobody had died, I decided to clear up any misunderstandings that might've come up and headed back to the village on the next day."

"Huh?" Sylvie interrupted suddenly, looking like she wanted to ask him something. But Elmer ignored her and kept talking.

"Those villagers looked scared out of their wits. I can't begin to tell you how funny it was. This woman selling fruit in the center road shrieked and ran away... In the end the villagers surrounded me again and tied me up and threw me into the river. Aah... I finally dredged up on the riverbank and walked through the forest, back to the village. Since in the end nobody had died, I decided to clear up any misunderstandings that might've come up and-"

Perhaps sensing the atmosphere around him, Elmer coughed discretely and skipped ahead.

"Anyway, I kept doing that, day after day."

"I say this: you are a fool."

"Don't take the piss out of me like that, Nile. I just thought that if I showed up time and time again with a smiling face, no matter how many times they killed me, eventually they'd figure out that I meant them no harm."

"If it were me, I would have left immediately."

Nile stated the obvious, but Elmer quietly shook his head.

"I hadn't reached my objective, you see... Mmm, I guess I'll explain that later. Either way, I was planning to stay the course... but then I saw that the girl who'd shown me to her home that first day had a bad cut on her face... When I asked her about it, she told me that the mayor'd hit her. Well, then that really got me riled up... so I decided to play a few pranks on the villagers. When I showed them a little tricks I'd learned back when I was scamming people with alchemy, they started to treat me completely differently, like a demon king or something."

Sylvie had been quiet up till then, and now she finally opened her mouth.

"Yeah... The people of this village aren't normal, either. You didn't do a thing to hurt them, but still they insist on seeing you as an enemy..."

"It's nothing out of the ordinary. They say that Europe back during the witch hunts was even worse. It's true that there were inquisitors who'd do anything for money and others who made up witches just to get their jollies from the pain of others, but the general public's mob mentality was just as bad."

Elmer laughed aloud, though the subject of his rambling wasn't funny in the least.

"You chaps don't understand just how scary normal people can be. You simply can't see the terror that any Joe Bloggs off the street can cause."

Elmer's grin widened even more as he remembered the things he'd gone through.

"Human beings become savage when they're conquered by their own greed. But most of them can control themselves. Those are what we normal people. But what do you think can cause that savage reaction in normal people, even more than greed? I'll tell you the answer. It's fear."

"Hmm, I can't say I comprehend completely, but I do understand."

The masked man nodded, and Elmer quietly nodded back.

"People use their own fear as an excuse to excercise their power. To protect themselves. It's something that's allowed to anyone in a mob of terrified people. Though I must say, being on the receiving side is quite vexing, hahaha."

Elmer took a moment to catch his breath, then continued the story on a different vein.

"So let's change the subject. I told the villagers to bring me a live sacrifice every year. It was a joke, of course, but they must've taken it seriously, because they really did send me a girl. I was forced to ask for enough food to feed her. I thought it was a fair enough demand, considering how much the villagers had abused her."

"...The food is one thing, but there's still a problem. We'll ignore the matter of your pranking for now as well. All we want to know is the nature of those girls-"

Just as Maiza was poised to strike the heart of the matter, Elmer's body gave out a series of popping noises.

As the rest of them stared, eyes wide...

"Speaking of pranks, I showed them something like this, wahahahahaha!"

Smoke suddenly billowed forth from Elmer's body.

He threw himself backwards and disappeared into the smokescreen, still laughing. Nile hurriedly grabbed hold of the chair, but all that was left were some loosened ropes and a gas canister.

"Was that sound just now..."

"Mmm, it seems he dislocated his own joints. Mmm... what an unpredictable man."

Elmer's voice came from the ceiling, as though jeering at the four of them.

"Don't worry! Even if you can't catch me... February! Everything will be revealed come February, so..."


Morning, December 26th, 2001
The old castle

The sky was clear and startlingly blue, and the air was bitingly cold.

The castle hadn't looked that big from the outside, but once she was inside Sylvie soon came to realize that it was quite large. She held a New Year's ornament in her hand as she looked around and sighed heavily.

"What's going to happen in February, anyway?"

That meant she had to spend the next thirty-five days in this castle. It was harsh punishment for a woman who'd always enjoyed the fruits of civilization.

How many years had it been since she'd been in a place with no shower, no TV, not even a magazine or two?

Now that she gave it some thought, strange thing after strange thing had happened ever since they'd made their way into this forest. An isolated village. Girls mounted on horses. A bizarrely constructed castle. An old companion who was now ruling as a demon. And villagers who feared him more than was natural.

Compared to just a year ago, when she'd celebrated the end of the 21st century's first year, this village seemed more like a fantasy world that one would find in a book or movie.

"Honestly... it feels like this place is stuck in time a century ago... no, even farther back than that," Sylvie muttered to herself, staring once more at the ornament in her hand.

The decorations Elmer had prepared were exquisitely crafted, recreating the ornaments of New Year's celebrations from all over the world. They had mounted them where the girls told them to; the girls passed on Elmer's demands as though they were constantly in contact with him.

But the girls didn't seem inclined to talk about themselves. The first night they'd arrived, Maiza had told them that they could go back to the village if they wanted, and he'd explain the situation to Elmer, but the girls had merely shaken their heads.

Come to think of it, we don't even know their names.

Upon realizing that she didn't even know the names of the girls she'd been living with for the past month, Sylvie resolved to get closer to them. She wanted to talk to them immediately, but such an opportunity didn't show itself.

Just as she was about greet noon alone, gripped by a strange sense of loss, an unexpected chance presented itself.

"Umm... Master Elmer says that if boiled river water will suffice, he can prepare a bath for you..."

Someone suddenly spoke to Sylvie as she stood at the door, inspecting a Japanese kadomatsu decoration. She turned around to see one of the "sacrificed" girls standing in the light from an open window, glancing timidly about.

"Tell him to come and say it himself."

"Ah, yes, my apologies..."

"What're you saying sorry for? And you don't have to call someone like Elmer 'Master'. That goes for other people, too."

Sylvie gave her a warm smile and walked up to her, stooping and bringing herself to the girl's eye level. Tilting her head slightly to one side, she said, "I'm Sylvie. Sylvie Lumiere. If it's okay with you, could you tell me your name?"

The girl seemed slightly surprised, but perhaps Sylvie's smile calmed her, for at length she hesitantly opened her mouth.

"I... My name is Phil..."

"Really? Thank you, Phil! You don't have to talk so politely to me, you know. Just call me Sylvie."

Suddenly, Sylvie realized something. She should have noticed it the moment she met Phil, but she'd been too distracted by the entire town's strange atmosphere to see it.

"You... can speak English?"

"Y-yes. Master Elmer said a while ago that I might need to know it..."

Sylvie listened carefully. While Phil's inflection was a bit peculiar, she had no problem understanding the girl. Elmer had definitely taught them with some sort of goal in mind.

"He isn't trying to spirit them away from this place, is he?"

But even as she said it, she realized that if what Elmer had said before was true, there was a good chance that these girls had been abused in the village. In that case, taking them away wasn't necessarily a bad thing.

"I guess it's up to you girls to decide."

"Excuse me?"

"Ah, mm, it's nothing. I was just talking to myself."

Sylvie quietly cocked her head to one side and looked at Phil.

Phil avoided her gaze, unsure of where to look... and soon enough she mumbled, "Excuse me," and tried to leave. But Sylvie walked along with her, matching Phil's pace.

"Umm... What..."

"This is a connection, isn't it? I want to know a little more about you. What do you say we go for a little walk inside the courtyard?"

The girl stopped walking and stood stock still, silent. It seemed a slightly unnatural lack of motion for simple indecision, but soon enough she raised her head and looked up at Sylvie expressionlessly.

"Very well. I have just received permission from Master Elmer."


Unable to understand the meaning of what Phil had said, Sylvie was momentarily flustered, but she decided that the girl had probably made a grammatical mistake because of her incomplete grasp of the language and put it out of her mind.

Little did she know that that strange statement had in fact revealed Phil's true nature...


A few hours ago
The mayor's home

"I'll be back soon, father," the mayor's son said. The sun was just beginning to peek out from the village's south side.

"Do what you will," Dez replied gruffly. Laid out before him on the table were the still uncleared remains of breakfast, and a glass filled with water.

A few others were also in the mayor's house, the village's important figures who had been at the meeting before. They were called important, but they didn't really have any special positions; all that was different was that their opinions were given a tad more weight than normal.

Unlike the mayor, these men looked after Felt with worried eyes as he strode toward the door. As he grasped the doorknob, one man who looked to be the eldest among them suddenly spoke.

"Are you really determined to go?"

"They'll only be on their guard if we all move together. And we just want to see what they're doing, so it'll be better if I go to scout alone."

"Even then, you're the mayor's son. You shouldn't have to do this."

"If not me, then who? Nobody else would go willingly. And since I'm the mayor's son, if I'm discovered I can at least attempt to negotiate."

"Yes, it's true that you're braver than us..."

"Let him leave," Dez suddenly said from his place at the table, dismissing the townspeople's worries.

"There's no need to say that!"

"The whole reason your son is going in the first place is because you can't do a thing-"

All the people in the room raised their voices in protest, but the mayor's response was cold and terse.

"Then why don't you go in his stead?"


"That's enough, father..." Felt said, and walked out of the house and into the cold.

The villagers followed him out, muttering to themselves and throwing sidelong glances at Dez as they left.

"Such a good young man..."

"He's become a different man ever since his wife died..."

"Can't even clear his own dishes without his son..."

"I pity young Felt..."

Dez threw back the glass of water and snorted to himself, ignoring the villagers' snide comments.


Confirming that he was alone, Dez allowed himself a sly smirk. He looked up at the ceiling, his gaze unfocused, and smirked.

His expression, his smile that was as utterly cold and devoid of humor, would have made any observer freeze with fear or recoil with revulsion.

Any observer, that is, with the exception of one smile junkie, the man the villagers feared as a demon.



Today will be an extremely busy day.

I expected as much.

I must take down the Christmas decorations, and start preparations for the celebration of the new year.

But today is different. There are people.

People from "outside" this forest. I think they are Master Elmer's old friends.

They treat me kindly. At first, that in itself was painful.

But now things are a little different. Because I have decided to hope that maybe I will be able to leave together with them.

I will probably be betrayed by this wish. But at least I can hold this dream close until that time.

I am used to pain. Even if they leave this forest, it will merely be a return to normalcy. The first days, the unchanging days. The days I lived bereft of dreams and hope, bogged down in a quagmire of forgetfulness until I lost, little by little, even the ability to think...

I stop my pondering, my mood becoming foul.

I decide to concentrate entirely on preparing for the new year.

These kadomatsu decorations are ones we used last year as well... it seems that they are normally supposed to be made with plants called "bamboo" and "pine," but such plants do not grow in this country. Master Elmer said that one day he would show me the real thing, but that is probably impossible.

The oldest memory in my mind comes back to life.

A place that is not here - most likely a place near where I was "born again" over and over.

In a room with walls and a floor made of something that is neither stone nor wood - the man strokes my head and speaks.

...That forest is your bottle and your flask. You are beings who cannot live outside...

Aaah, now I can finally, painfully realize what he meant.

No matter how much I dream, how much I wish, in the end we...


A sudden voice makes itself known to me, and I turn around.

Master Felt is standing before me, in front of the hut at the edge of the village.


"I'm going to head to the castle now."

Master Felt says his piece and looks into my eyes, expressionless.

"What should I do? To you, that demon's companions are-"

He stops suddenly and looks down.

"Sorry, it's nothing."

Perhaps Master Felt has noticed I am perplexed, for he hides his face with his hands and looks away as he speaks.

"It's okay. I might have said what I said the day before yesterday, but... I'll make sure you won't have to become a living sacrifice."


I become more puzzled than ever. What is this man talking about?

"We've lowered our tails and did as the demon asked so far, but I tell you, we're going to force him out of this forest before February - before you have to be offered as a sacrifice. And then, well... I couldn't do anything up to now because of my father, but once we get rid of that demon I think I'll be able to muster my courage. I'll do my best so that the villagers won't torment you anymore."

Master Felt nods, his eyes filled with conviction. I am at a loss for what to do.

By demon, he must mean Master Elmer and his friends. Forcing them to leave would lead to the instant destruction of my wish. But the words Master Felt just uttered are more than enough to replace that dream.

"See you again," says Master Felt as he leaves.

...What should I do? Should I just wait for the outcome, swept up by the things around me? Or should I make a move? If I do, what should I try to do?

Ah, hesitation eats away at my mind. If only, if only, just now... if Master Felt had smiled, just a little, if he had but given me a selfless smile like Master Elmer, then perhaps I might have been able to find some small amount of hope in this village.

Using such useless thoughts as an excuse, I find myself once again choosing to let myself be caught up in this current.

But in truth... I want to smile, too.

Right now, I cannot smile sincerely. I cannot even force a fake one, for that would feel like betraying Master Elmer. I cannot even fool myself.

Once again I stop thinking... and concentrate solely on taking care of the kadomatsu decorations at the castle's entrance.


The castle garden

Sylvie and Phil walked through the garden, enjoying themselves underneath the clear blue sky. The sunlight was blindingly bright, but it was still winter, and as though to prove it their breath steamed white in the cold air.

The garden was decently kept, perhaps thanks to Elmer, and there was a sort of messily, haphazard road leading from the main gate to the inside of the castle.

Sylvie asked Phil many questions as they walked. She wanted to learn a little more, anything at all about her - and Elmer's goals - but all of her efforts ended in failure. It seemed Phil wasn't inclined to talk about herself at all, replying to any and all questions with either an awkward expression and a bowed head, or a short, "My apologies, I do not know." It felt more like she was genuinely unaware of who she was, rather than like she didn't want to answer.

She didn't want it to feel like she was interrogating the girl, so Sylvie attempted to make small talk with Phil as well, but Phil refused to take the lead in the conversation.

Throughout the entire talk, Phil said only one thing, near the end of their walk, that stayed on Sylvie's mind.

It was when Sylvie brought up the other girls living in the castle.

"That's right. The other girls... they all looked a lot like you. Are you sisters?"

Sylvie only mentioned it in passing, but upon hearing the question, Phil suddenly looked more unsure of herself than she had all day. She paused as though thinking over what to say, and then quietly opened her mouth.

"Um... I am not sure, but... I am the only one living in this castle."


What could she have meant? Confused, Sylvie started to pursue the matter... but was suddenly brought to a halt.

There was a small shadow moving about in the corner of the garden.

But instead of looking at it, Sylvie gave the girl a smile like always and murmured in her ear.

"Phil, the wind's starting to get stronger. What do you say we head inside?"


Phil obediently agreed, perhaps having not noticed the shadow.

The two headed back into the castle without a second glance at the garden.

Leaving the shadow behind in the cold wind.


"Hmm, to think there'd be an entrance to an underground tunnel here."

"It seems to be some sort of escape route. I didn't expect such a thing to be in this castle."

Nile and Maiza had searched the castle thoroughly, and discovered a set of stairs in what seemed to be the castle's study. It could hardly be called a study, actually - it was a small room filled with bookshelves, but the books themselves had nearly all rotted away. Thanks to that, though, they'd easily been able to discover the device that moved the shelves.

"Let's go down."

"Just a moment. First, let's see what kind of books are here."

Maiza held Nile back and reached for the few remaining writings that were left. These books, too, were nearly eroded away from age, but they managed to make out the letters on the pages... and looked at each other.

"...These are quite familiar."

"I say this: I agree."

It seemed that the book Maiza had picked just happened to be... no, that wasn't it. He looked around at the writing on the books around them, and gave his certain opinion.

"The majority of the books here... are written on the subject of alchemy. In particular..."

Upon hearing Maiza's conclusion, Nile's eyes, hidden in the depths of his mask, shined quietly.


...I've been seen.

Felt held his breath from his place in the garden's shadows, his palms slick with sweat.

He had been able to slip unnoticed into the garden because the main gate had been flung wide open, but directly afterward one of the girls who was supposed to have been given up as a sacrifice had walked out into the garden together with the outsider woman who had come to the village not too long ago.

He hid behind a tree next to the gate's pillar, but the two slowly approached him, absorbed in some sort of conversation. Felt decided that if he stayed where he was he'd discovered, and used the brief window of time when the two were looking in another direction to dart behind another tree in the corner of the garden.

But when he poked out his head to see what was going on, the two had stopped walking, and after talking a bit more they turned and went back into the castle.

Perhaps they had noticed him and were going to call their companions.

Anxious, Felt stopped dead in his tracks and decided to wait and see.

"Say... this place has become fancier than it was last year..." he muttered to himself, examining the castle from his place in the shadows.

Strange ornaments were festooned on every window, colored overwhelmingly in shades of red and white. The colors failed utterly at blending in with the stone masonry, and that incongruity made the castle look even more ridiculous. But to the villagers, that oddity would seem more terrifying than anything.

Two sculptures made from the trees of the forest stood at the entrance. Two stick had been cut at an angle and stuck into the ground, and a material made of conifer leaves had been tied to the bottoms. It seemed like a weapon, perhaps a trap, or maybe even some sort of shamanistic totem, and the sight of it filled Felt's heart with strange anxiety.

He swallowed dryly, the tension in his body at its peak.


A sudden voice. A cold electric shock ran down the boy's spine.

The sweat on his palms dried in an instant, and he found himself unable to even turn around; his breathing itself suddenly felt like it was outside the passage of normal time.

His consciousness rocked violently, as though he would explode at any moment, but his body refused to follow his commands. Perhaps the sudden shock to his mind had severed its link to his body.

From behind the paralyzed Felt came a voice that was more than sufficient to put his worries to rest. The clear tones wrapped warmly around his back.

"Aren't you cold standing there? Why don't you come inside and have some tea?"

Felt finally gathered his wits and slowly looked back.

Behind him stood the mysteriously beautiful woman who had surely just gone inside, and on her face was a gentle, cheerful smile.


The castle's drawing room.

The fireplace's crimson light shone faintly on Felt's surprised face.

Across the table from where he sat were Sylvie and Czes. They had tried to call Nile and Maiza as well, but they'd been unable to find them no matter how much they searched. They'd considered looking a bit more, but then decided that Felt would only feel pressured when surrounded by four people, and so only Sylvie and Czes were there to hear the boy's story.

"Mmm, where should I start? I'm Sylvie, and this is Czes. Nice to meet you."

"Ah, ahh... well, uhh, I'm named Felt Nibil."

Even caught flat-footed as he was, Felt decided to tell the truth and give his name. He had feared that in the worst case, he would utterly fail at negotiating and be captured as a prisoner, but never in his wildest dreams had he imagined that they would invite him to the drawing room and introduce themselves amicably.

"Have you come to scout us out?"

The boy sitting next to Sylvie laughed scornfully at him. Caught red-handed, Felt could only bow his head, unable to make any objection.

"Now, now, Czes. He's our guest, you can't talk to him like that!"


"Oh, you. Don't give me that look. It doesn't suit your cute face at all!"

Sylvie laughed merrily as Czes made a strangled noise and shut his mouth, his face flushing bright red. However, they were talking in English, and Felt could not understand.

"Sorry, don't worry about it. Aah, that's right. The only one among us who can't understand your language is Nile, the masked man, so you can say whatever you want to us."

Though Sylvie spoke reassuringly, Felt found himself at an utter loss for what to say. He couldn't just up and tell them to leave the village, and the atmosphere was in no way proper for him to bring up the subject of the sacrificed girls. More than anything, negotiations were impossible as long as the demon Elmer wasn't present.

Just then, another thought came to the forefront of Felt's mind. Perhaps these two were monsters as well, just like Elmer.

The curiosity grew and grew, and at length Felt raised his voice in an attempt to grab the lead of the conversation.

"Uh... Just what sort of relation do you have... to the one called Elmer?"

It was quite a roundabout question, but Sylvie soon realized what he meant and smiled mischievously as she told him the truth.

"Both this child and I are basically the same as Elmer. I guess you could say that we're immortals who heal almost instantly from any wound... more or less?"

Stunned by such a casual admission, Felt reeled with shock. It was the outcome he had feared most, but Sylvie's voice was so pleasant that he found it hard to realize it for the problem it was.

"Immortal... then that means you are also... evil creatures?"

Felt suppressed his mounting agitation and just barely managed to force the question from his lips. Sylvie, on the other hand, replied just as easily as before.

"We're not evil. We're purely human, not demons. Though I suppose we did get some help from something that called itself a demon. Oh, that's right. Now that we're friends, how about we tell you more about that?"

"Wait, can we afford to reveal something like this?"

Surprised, Czes tried to hold her back, but Sylvie merely smiled and nodded.

"It's fine, it's fine. We've got nothing to lose from telling him, and it's up to him to decide whether or not to believe us. Ah, but then again, if he can believe in 'evil creatures' then I suppose that this story shouldn't be so hard to swallow."

As though those words had made Felt remember something, his eyes widened and he suddenly found his voice again.

"Right... What about the 'monster' in this castle... What happened to the monster that was supposed to be here before Elmer came?"

Sylvie and Czes could only look at each other, bewildered, at Felt's clear question.


"Huh? You... you don't know? They said it's been living in this castle for decades."

"A monster? Elmer didn't say a thing about that... He didn't even mention anything remotely like it."

Felt silently stared into Sylvie's eyes for a long moment, then heaved a great sigh of relief.

"I see... it must have been only a rumor..."

The latter part he said quietly as though talking to himself, and he bowed his head, the tension draining from his body.

"I'm sorry I worried you with such strange questions. Uhh... I'm actually a little curious about who you are..."

Felt put a little more oomph in his voice and tried to change the subject. The fear and anxiety that had been in his voice just a moment ago had vanished. Perhaps relieved herself, Sylvie smiled softly and began to lay out their story to the village youth.

"I see. Where should I start. It all started three hundred years ago..."

The past that flowed forth from Sylvie's lips came vividly to life in the minds of the two boys. Felt, who had never seen the outside world, couldn't imagine it clearly, but to Czes, the memories came back as nostalgic sights and sounds.

The scenes that unfolded endlessly before him were infinitely beautiful, and at the same time infinitely sad.


"I say this: I can't see a thing."

"There's no need to say it. Here, I'll turn on a light..."

Nile and Maiza had descended underground through the stairway in the study, and naturally there were no lights in the tunnel. Maiza lifted the light he'd brought from the car to search the castle and cautiously raised it up, flashing it around.

The tunnel led straight away from the entrance, and about ten meters from where they stood the stone walls petered off, melting away into a passage made of tightly packed dirt.

The two looked carefully at each other, and slowly advanced down the tunnel. They summarized what they knew of the village as they walked down the cold, drafty shaft.

"Blast, just what kind of forest is this place? An isolated town, a strange castle, girls meant for sacrifice, and all of those books... Are you sure this is just someone's private property?"

"Yes. Officially, this place is owned by a rich citizen of this country... I was unable to contact the owner ahead of time, as I already told Sylvie and Czes. It seems that he inherited this land from an ancestor, but he doesn't seem to be doing any business as of now."

"A rich brat living off the bounty of his forefathers, then. With this much land, the family could probably live easy for at least three more generations... though the fourth would fall upon hard times."

As Nile calmly made his predictions regarding the lives of other people, Maiza too spoke seriously, remembering the atmosphere of the village.

"But... I noticed a few goods in the village that I'm sure can't be found around here, like those decorations that Elmer prepared."

"Hmm. And?"

"That mayor bothers me, as well. He told me 'You're not the peddler'. It's safe to assume that they receive oil and other essentials from this peddler... but if such a person exists, then where is he coming from?"

"Indeed... Now that you mention it, it is rather strange."

But Maiza wasn't finished, and he continued laying out his doubts to Nile.

"I just can't understand. This castle, this village... A place of this size might avoid a wide-area scan, but a precise observation satellite would no doubt capture it accurately... and not only that, this is a time when aerial photos are a matter of course. There must be a public institution somewhere that knows all about the way this land is being used."

"Hmm, really?"

"Yes, and more than anything else, the very fact that one individual is in possession of this much land is very peculiar. This country wouldn't look kindly on such things."

As they approached the section made of reddish dirt, the two tall men stooped as they walked on. The tunnel was so moist they almost expected drops of water to fall from the ceiling, but they continued talking, heedless of the mud smearing their clothes.

"In other words, someone is pulling strings."

"It would be stranger if someone wasn't. It's the 21st century and this village is still completely isolated from the outside world. No matter what the circumstances, there's no way that human rights organizations and the mass media would stand for such a thing."

"Such a thing wouldn't have been so strange three centuries ago."

"It's no different now. The situation is a bit different, but remarkable stories always come and go according to the times."

"Is that so? I suppose you're right. Now that I think of it... Maiza, do you use the internet?"

"Not much. I haven't stayed at one place much during the last thirty years, after all. And furthermore... this is a bit embarrassing, but the circumstances of today are a bit frightening. Consider that the information and experiences we accumulated over three centuries can be accessed in the space of a day through the internet... Though I called home and it seems that some of the organization's members have become rather obsessed with it."

"Among us, Huey, I think, is probably skilled in using it."

"Once we found our way outside, Elmer would most likely buy a computer too."

The two made their way to the end of the tunnel, filling the space with idle chatter.

The dirt walls had melted back into stonework somewhere along the way, and to the left of the dead end that faced them there were rocks sticking out of the wall, leading upwards like a ladder. Maiza pointed the light at the ceiling, and they could see there a square hole blocked by a stone cover.

"It seems we're supposed to head up."

"If I were to bet on it, I would say we're in the cemetery. Tunnels like this always lead to such things."

"Then I'll bet that we're next to the well behind the castle."

After cheerfully making their predictions, Nile made his way up the stone ladder and carefully slid back the cover. Gravel and dirt rained down from above, and Maiza unconsciously raised both hands to block the barrage.

The stone cover moved back, and thin lines of light shone between Maiza's fingers.

Nile poked his head out and looked around... then shoved the lid completely out of the way and spoke, satisfied, under the moon.

"I say this: I won."

They found themselves in a graveyard surrounded by countless trees, and through the tightly gathered conifers they could catch slight glimpses of the castle's rear. It hadn't seemed like they'd been walking that long, but they'd come farther than they thought.

"It seems I lose," Maiza said regretfully as he spun slowly in place, looking around.

It was a small cemetery, with no path leading there that they could see, nor any fence walling it in. The gravestones, about half a dozen in number, were set up almost buried between the trees, so a casual hiker would probably have passed by without noticing.

Most of the graves were unmarked; only the one in front of the stone cover had a strange sentence carved onto it. It was written in an antiquated form of the country's language, as though someone had transcribed a passage spoken by one of the villagers.

[Ye who could not grasp humanity, may you find rest beneath this place.]

The words didn't appeared to be that eroded, compared to the overall state of the tombstone. It looked to be a few decades old, at most.

The epitaph bothered Maiza, but Nile, unable to read the language, seemed to have noticed something else. He moved the stone cover back into place and then turned to Maiza.

"I ask you this, Maiza. Have you noticed, too?"

Maiza was taken aback for a moment, but soon realized what he meant and nodded.

"Indeed... it seems that it wasn't just a gut feeling."


They'd felt a strange sense of disharmony as they walked down the tunnel.

There should have been nothing but stones and dirt in the passage, which was built in a straight line, but...

...They had felt in there the presence of something other than themselves.

It wasn't something like a mole or a bat, but at the same time it felt slightly different from the air of a human being. They couldn't imagine what it looked like, but from the very air around them they instinctively realized that "something" was there.

It was as though a heavy gaze was pressing in on them from all directions. That was the reason they'd made such an effort to keep the conversation going as they walked down the tunnel.

"I say this: there was definitely 'something' in there with us."

"...Perhaps some sort of evil creature."


"It must have just been a feeling."

"Hmm. I will chalk it up to that."

The two exchanged brief glances, then laughed sheepishly and strode through the trees toward the castle.

While still feeling a certain chilling presence lurking beneath the closed stone cover.


"Then... that's the only reason you became an alchemist, Ms. Sylvie?"

"Well, that's not really it."

Sylvie and the others continued their conversation in the old castle's drawing room. At first Felt had been hesitant to speak, but soon he found himself entranced by the "past" that she revealed. To be precise, by the "outside world" of which she spoke. From time to time she used words he couldn't understand, but once he realized that all of them meant "outside," curiosity surged strongly within him.

Perhaps she knew of the boy's feelings, and perhaps she didn't. Sylvie only smiled alluringly at him like before.

"My interest in an impossible dream like 'eternal beauty' came from a fairy tale I heard as a child. The people who want it in stories are always witches or evil queens, but I thought that it would be okay for maybe one person in the world to achieve that absurd ideal."

The look in Sylvie's eyes changed a bit. Czes, who knew of her past, was the only one who saw the sadness that flashed briefly in her eyes.

"I told that to my boyfriend, and he said, 'Appearances aren't everything'. He told me that he liked me just fine as I was. And... he asked me to marry him and live with him forever if we succeeded in gaining immortality. But that's why the thought came to me. I had to be the most beautiful woman in the world. Then I'd marry him. So that he could be proud that his wife was the world's most beautiful woman. Silly, isn't it? That's why... I didn't drink the liquor of immortality right then."

Sylvie looked up at nothing, her gaze unfocused, as though saddened.

Perhaps he felt something about her, for Felt hesitated before asking her, "Umm... so what happened to him?"

"You know the man who wears glasses? He's called Maiza."

The boy heaved a sigh of relief. Sylvie had fulfilled her wish and was still living happily together with her lover.

But... her story wasn't quite finished.

"He was Maiza's younger brother. I told you about Szilard earlier, right? Szilard ate him first of all."


Sylvie smiled a sadly, leaving Felt at a complete loss for words.

But soon enough her smile found its allure again and she waved her hand casually.

"Ah, sorry, don't worry about it. Mmm... let's talk about something else."

Felt waited a second and slowly opened his mouth.

"This question might seem a little stupid, but..."

He looked away, embarrassed, and gave voice to what he wanted. The fear he'd shown them before was replaced by eager inquisitiveness.

"Tell me... about the outside. About what kind of place it is... I want to know... more."


I stand in the shadow of the door and eavesdrop on their conversation.

I know it is wrong, but I cannot withhold my curiosity.

And once again I begin to think, "just maybe."

At first it seemed as though Master Felt was wary of Mistress Sylvie, but now he looks very happy. Master Felt had always felt less disgust for Master Elmer and I than the other villagers, but from the tone of his voice now I do not think he feels any revulsion at all regarding Mistress Sylvie.

I... imagined a conclusion. How many decades has it been since I bothered to do such useless things? Time and again I have imagined an ideal future, and time and again I have been betrayed.

But this time, this time it feels like my wish may be granted.

Until yesterday, every time I tried to draw the future in my mind I was assaulted by pain.

The violence wielded by Master Dez made me remember that direct agony.

But things are different now. I do not know what is going on, but... when I think of Master Felt's face, I do not have to remember the pain Master Dez visited upon me.

Master Felt will convince the villagers not to fear Master Elmer, and then nobody will be hurt, and then...

...if this village becomes connected with the outside world...

How joyous that would be.

I cannot leave this village. But if more people like Master Elmer come from outside and help this place advance, then that will be enough to satisfy me.

I was born in a bottle, and I cannot survive outside of the flask that is this forest.

But still, I wish. Even if it is just a tiny bit, for happiness to come to this village, to me.

I have no place to live except this town, so...

I can wish for happiness.

Ah, I remember. I remember clearly. This emotion is joy.

Is there anything that is within my power I can do to ensure this village will not disappear?

If this joy becomes a reality...

Then surely, surely I will be able to smile like Master Elmer.


The same time
The mayor's house

The five very similar girls who lived in the village.

Not a single one of the villagers could say for certain Who they were and were they had appeared from.

They had existed ever since the current generation of villagers had first learned to recognize things, and naturally the girls melted seamlessly into the village. The old ones seemed to know something more, but none among them spoke a word of it before they passed on.

There were always five of them, and they didn't seem to grow at all. Once every few years, whenever one of them weakened visibly... a couple of days would pass, and she would be replaced by a new girl.

It seemed like the story of an occult movie, but the villagers weren't particularly terrified.

The girls were obviously different from them, but perhaps because they had grown up knowing them, the townspeople came to regard them completely as "things that were naturally that way."

In other words, they treated the girls the same way they treated "outside."

It wasn't as though asking them would yield a clear answer, and though there had been a handful of people who had attempted to observe the "switch," they suffered the same fate as those unfortunate souls who left in search of "outside."

As such things continued to happen, the villagers tormented the girls more and more.

And that process was accelerated thanks to the efforts of the current mayor, Dez Nibil.

Dez made it a point to abuse them and exploit them for free labor, and at times even beat them. But the girls, instead of rebelling, wordlessly completed the tasks that were given to them with nary a complaint as long as they were given the bare minimum of food needed to survive.

Once things settled like that, the villagers slowly came to mimic Dez... and at present, there was hardly anyone left in the entire village who cared at all for the girls' wants and opinions.

They didn't even notice the fact that all of the girls had the same name...


As Sylvie regaled his son with tales of "outside," Dez Nibil, the man who had made his village abuse the girls, sat alone in a wooden chair in his home, his upper body leaning bonelessly against the back.

To the man who had lost his wife, the biggest house in the village seemed too large.


Alone in his room, the mustached man stared sightlessly at nothing.

And then, still alone, he murmured quietly to the ceiling...

"...The time has come. For this village... and this body."

His face frozen in a humorless laugh, Dez kept his silence.

He looked outside and saw that clouds were slowly beginning to appear in the previously clear sky.

"And for them as well..."

Dez grinned silently, secure in the knowledge that it would soon begin to snow.

His flat smirk appeared together with the silence... and slowly sank into it.


In front of the castle gate

"Umm... I, today, uh... sorry for bothering you."

Sylvie smiled softly as Felt clumsily said his goodbyes.

"It's alright. Come again if you want."

"Of course! But the snow's going to fall in earnest soon... So I can't say when I'll have the chance."

Felt seemed reluctant to leave, but no matter how much he might wish it, he couldn't stay at the castle. So after giving Sylvie many goodbyes he prepared to give her one last farewell before leaving.

"I'll tell the villagers all about you. I don't know why the man called Elmer keeps demanding living sacrifices, but I know for certain that you are all really good people!"

"You probably shouldn't."

Czes had quietly observed them up until then, but as Felt turned to go he finally spoke and stopped him.

"The villagers are extremely suspicious. If you come back and suddenly all you've got to say about us is praise, they might think that we've stolen your soul or something. So you should just say something like, 'I don't know what they were up to, but I think they're not being aggressive at the moment'."

Felt's eyes widened for a moment, but after giving it a moment of thought he nodded.

"You have a point. But I'll try my best to tell them the truth... Anyway, goodbye!"

Once again bidding them farewell, Felt returned to his village.

"What's the occasion? It's not like you to give warnings like that."

"Shut up, I can do what I want."

...It'll leave a bad taste in my mouth if we end up inadvertently starting a witch hunt.

That was the main reason why Czes has chosen to speak, but it was true that the good impression that Felt gave him had been a factor as well. As he reflected on the fact that he was weak to children, he remembered that something similar had happened in the past.

He was remembering the girl he'd met on a train seventy years ago... when suddenly, the memories of the events that had happened on that train came to life as well. Like the train, this village was also an enclosed space. An indescribable nervousness made itself known to the immortal who looked like a boy, but in the end he put it out of his mind as a foundless worry.

...That's right, there's no Rail Tracer in this village.

Lamenting his own cowardice inside his head, Czes quietly turned and went back inside the castle.


"Humdeedum, ladida, dadumdidumdum... ah."

The man humming strangely as he decorated the roof suddenly stopped and checked his wristwatch.

"What're the others doing?"

"...They are gathered in the drawing room, discussing ways to find you, Master Elmer," the girl next to him replied calmly, as Elmer gleefully lay out a red and white curtain.

"Ahaha, I see. Then I suppose I'll be able to stay here for a bit longer," he said, going back to his work with another round of meaningless ditties.

A few minutes later, finished with his preparations to lay out the red and white curtain, Elmer turned again to the girl.

"They still in the drawing room?"


The girl hadn't moved a step from where she stood, but still she accurately reported the situation in a far removed area.

"Right then. I'll use this opportunity to move. I'll look for a chance to hang the curtain on the night of the 31st."

Elmer stretched cheerfully and walked toward the steps leading downward. And just as he was about to step into the tower where the steps where...

"Humdrumdeedum, lalala... la... la?"

The gleeful notes suddenly shifted to sounds of surprise.

The moment he'd stepped inside the doorless entrance, Nile and Maiza sprang from the shadows and grabbed hold of his arms.

"Eh? What's this? This can't be right. She told me you were in the drawing room."

Elmer looked confused, then suddenly gave a great surprised shout.

"Do, don't tell me one of you can stop time?!"

"Of course not."

"Then how... wait."

Elmer frozen, then swung his body around, Nile and Maiza still holding his arms.


The girl who'd been following Elmer around looked extremely like Phil. Apparently named Phil as well, the girl trembled violently the moment her eyes met his.

"My, my apologies, Master Elmer!"

"There's no need to apologize," a smooth voice said, as Sylvie and Czes revealed themselves from under the stairs.

"Sylvie... you can't teach other people to lie like that!"

"Excuse me? All I did was teach her that some lies are alright to tell, and some aren't. Especially when it comes to dealing with you."

Another Phil peeked guiltily out from behind Sylvie. Elmer caught sight of her and sighed, defeated.

"Aha, so you've figured it out, eh. I didn't think you'd catch on quite so fast."

He smiled sadly and gave the answer they already knew.

"Phil is all the same person."


"A homunculus, right?"

They moved as a group to the castle's dining room and sat Elmer down on a chair again. He promised that he wouldn't run this time, so they refrained from tying him up.

"That's right," Elmer said, surprisingly calm. "When did you find out?"

"There were many factors, though we only arrived at a sure conclusion while talking it over a moment ago, exchanging the information we'd gathered."

Maiza moved his gaze to the other side of the room as he spoke. Four girls stood there side by side, staring quietly back at them with worried eyes.

"Sylvie realized that those children shared one consciousness. She put together the incongruities raised by the village boy's stories. Furthermore, according to Czes, even though he observed them for quite some time, and though they passed on our messages to you, he never saw any of them actually talk to you. The same goes for the rest of us. Not only that, but you traveled all over the castle, working on this and that. How could you have avoided us without security cameras? You had those girls observe us for you."

"Oh, smashing. You're talking like a detective."

"I'm serious."

Maiza scolded Elmer's flippant attitude with a grim glare and moved to the heart of the matter.

"We discovered books about alchemy in this castle's study. All of them were on the subject of homunculi, from widely accepted texts to obscure heretic books. But it's unlikely that you gathered all of those books. After all, if we're to believe your story, those children were already here when you arrived at this village."

Elmer was silent.

"Tell us for certain this time. Not only about the nature of those children, but also about the secret of this village."

Perhaps influenced by the seriousness of Maiza's voice, Elmer, too, replied gravely, "I'll tell you in February."


"No, I'm serious, too. Someone's going to come in February who'll be able to tell you all about this much better than I ever could."

"Who?" Sylvie asked, wondering who could possibly come to this isolated land.

"The peddler, that's who."

The others exchanged glances, half of them looking as though they'd expected as much; the other half looking utterly surprised. Satisfied by their reaction, Elmer grinned broadly and asked Maiza a question of his own.

"Well, Maiza, I'm surprised you kept your cool like that. She's not quite properly made, but she is a homunculus, after all, a creation surpassing the realm of modern biotechnology."

This time it was Maiza's turn to chuckle mischievously.

"Yes, well, I know someone very similar in New York, you see."

Czes smirked wryly at Maiza's quip, and Elmer, perhaps having sensed something, fell silent. Nile and Sylvie, on the other hand, merely stared blankly at Maiza's face.

Countless snowflakes drifted by outside the window.

As though closing a lid on the entire area, a layer of white and a veil of silence fell over the lands surrounded by forest.


Chapter 3 End


Chapter 4


  1. ... it's unfair. With every chapter I'm more excited for how it'll continue. ;_; Thanks for taking the time to translate this! You have no idea how much that made my day.

  2. That was just awesome, Spore. Thanks a bunch.

    Enjoy your quality time with your bro. Hope you're back soon.

  3. Ah! You made my day <3

    Thanks for posting this up, even while on hiatus. And, half-assed editings of future images or not, all your contributions are most awesome.

  4. I'm so glad someone is actually translating these novels! Thank you very much. ^_^

  5. Dude, your translations are awesome. Thank you for sharing it. ^-^

    I don't wanna be a pain in your ass, but when are you planning to post the others chapters?

  6. Hey, I was linked to your work just now -- thanks for doing this! It was an incredibly welcome surprise to see translations which actually flow well. Allow me now to express selfish regret that your translational priorities lie elsewhere -- although that's probably good, or I'd pour far too much of my attention into this universe. Aha.

  7. Hey, thanks so much for translating this! I'm on a bit of a Baccano kick, so I hope you update it soon! I myself am a lazy person, so I truly commend you on your willpower and resolve while I sit here at my computer about to take a nap.

  8. Thanks again for translating this! A very awesome read, Elmer's flipping awesome. XD You made my day. <3

  9. I like how this particular chapter ended. Elmer sounding like he's got one over them, but Maiza comes back with a mysterious reply. Good stuff.

  10. You are a gentleman and a scholar