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“Ah, I see, you’re a visitor from another world?”
“Visitor from another world?”
After descending to the surface for the first time in 1000 years, the first person I encountered was a pink-haired girl tilting her head in confusion. She was dressed in a sailor-like outfit made of an unknown material, covered with a woolen garment, probably for warmth. However, such attire is hardly sufficient for this snowy terrain, as if she was thrown here unknowingly.
“Occasionally, there are people who wander in from other worlds. Suddenly finding themselves in an unfamiliar place, right?”
“Wow… I see, so that’s it! This means I’m in another world!”
“No, wait a minute, you should be a bit more skeptical.”
“Eh, but there’s no reason for you to lie, right?”
Her naivety in accepting such an outlandish concept without a hint of doubt worries me. I have no obligation to care for her, it’s just a fleeting encounter after all.
“Anyway, it seems we both have complicated situations. How about this?”
“Yes, let’s go together since meeting here must be some kind of fate!”
…It seems my attempt to casually deflect the situation was misinterpreted as an agreement.
“I’m Momose Kaguya. Nice to meet you!”
“Wait, hold on, wait! I have a lot to say but first, wait. Why are you assuming I agreed to go along with you?”
“Because I’ll die if I’m alone here!”
That’s true, as a visitor from another world, she has no means to keep warm in this blizzard. If she steps out of this heated area, her life would be short-lived.
“But I have no reason to take you with me. Maintaining this heat isn’t free, you know. Can you provide a fair exchange?”
“A return favor? Um…”
It’s unlikely she has anything of value, likely having been thrown into this world with nothing but her clothes. Her bag probably doesn’t contain anything worthwhile. The easiest form of compensation would be money, but she surely doesn’t have the currency of this world.
I’m being unnecessarily harsh, turning down a negotiation from the start.
“Um… if this is okay…”
“Hm, what is this? It’s light for metal.”
She fumbled in her bag and pulled out something that shone like metal but felt soft to the touch. It seemed to be just a wrapper, with something else inside.
“Hehe, it’s a calorie bar, a kind of snack. Maple syrup flavor.”
“Food, huh… It’s not poisoned, right?”
“No high school girl carries poison around!”
I don’t quite understand what ‘Joshikosei’ means, but it’s rare for someone to casually carry poison. Tearing open the outer wrapping reveals a wheat-colored bar resembling a ration. It doesn’t look particularly appetizing, but the faintly sweet smell is indeed like maple syrup.
…It doesn’t seem to be poisoned, and I haven’t had a proper meal in a while. It’s unlikely she would endanger my life since I control the heat source. Out of curiosity, I took a bite of the so-called ‘calorie bar.’
“Listen, it’s not that I fully acknowledge you accompanying me. This is a give-and-take relationship. In exchange for providing food, I’ll escort you to a safe place. It’s nothing more than a contractual agreement.”
“All those complicated words are hard to understand, but it means you liked the calorie bar, right?”
“It’s just a coincidence of interests, don’t get it twisted!”
Laika-san turned out to be a good person. He agreed to take me to a place where people live in exchange for sharing the calorie bars. I thought I was in big trouble, but I was lucky to meet such a kind person. Thank you, calorie bars.
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“Laika-san, you’ve been walking for a while. Do you know the way?”
“I had a quick look at the surface when I fell. I confirmed there’s a village-like place in this direction.”
“Wow, that’s amazing. But why did you fall from the sky?”
“To be precise, from a prison above the sky. I was thrown out, even though I had just finished serving a 1000-year sentence.”
“A 1000-year sentence… Is that normal in this world?”
“Of course not, it’s exceptionally abnormal. Execution would have been quicker.”
“Wow, that’s incredible.”
“You don’t believe me, do you?”
“No, no! It’s just… you seem very young for that.”
1000 years is an unfathomably long time, even if I were to become a grandmother ten times over, it still wouldn’t be enough. Such a cruel amount of time for one person to bear alone. But the Laika-san in front of me looked like a grade school girl, far from a grandmother.
“Ah, the original body decayed and was discarded long ago. The last vessel for the transfer was this girl’s body.”
“Ah… they took the soul out of a body that had reached its lifespan and transferred it to another, younger body. This was repeated over 1000 years, and the last transfer was into this young girl’s body.”
“Wow… that is… that is… What?!”
“It took you quite some time to grasp that.”
While I finally understood, it seemed like a rather extreme method. In a world with magic, transferring souls from body to body might be possible, but it felt like crossing a line that shouldn’t be crossed.
“Is that… okay?”
“It undoubtedly crosses several ethical and taboo lines. Usually, the soul would wear out and become a shell first.”
“That makes sense… But what kind of crime warrants a 1000-year sentence… Huh?”
As I was pondering, I looked away from Laika-san for a moment. That’s when it happened. She disappeared from in front of me. In an instant.
No, that’s not right. Looking closely, she had just fallen face down right in front of me. Her white hair blended with the snow, making her momentarily invisible.
“What happened, Laika-san? You’ll catch a cold!”
“I… can’t move.”
“Are you okay?!”
“My legs are heavy, breathing is difficult, my body feels like a weight… Was there a delayed curse…?”
“Isn’t that just fatigue?”
Laika-san is much shorter than me. Thinking about it, trudging through this deep snow must have taken a lot of energy. Plus, after being imprisoned for 1000 years, she must be extremely out of shape right now.
“Nonsense… What’s with this body? It’s too frail…”
“Resting here isn’t an option, I’ll carry you! These chains are heavy and in the way, let me take them off!”
“Stop, don’t touch, don’t pick me up, don’t carry me! And these chains, if you carelessly touch them, the curses inscribed on them might…”
“Ah, sorry, it just broke. Were they weakened from rust?”
“What did you say???”
I pulled a little too hard, and the chains binding Laika-san snapped. It made her much easier to carry. In fact, she was so light that I wondered if I was really carrying her.
“Laika-san, are you there? How much do you weigh?”
“I don’t know about this body. Damn it, why do I have to endure such humiliation…”
“Wow, no, this is bad, you’re too light! We need to eat, fill our stomachs!”
“Fine, just walk faster. Unlike me, you have plenty of energy left!”
“Ah, look! Is that the village over there?”
As I started carrying Laika-san, I soon spotted what seemed to be the village we were looking for. The fence surrounding it and the silhouettes of people were barely visible through the snow.
“You blatantly changed the subject.”
“Well, well, let’s talk to the villagers we see here! I wonder if they have a bath.”
“It’s good to be optimistic, Momose-kun.”
“You can call me Momo, what is it, Laika-san?”
“Then Momo-kun, take two steps back.”
I stepped back as instructed and something flew towards where I had just been standing. The long, thin object that landed crisply in the snow was something not commonly seen in modern Japan. I had only seen it once before when a kyudo (Japanese archery) club was practicing.
“It’s an arrow, isn’t it? If I had kept walking, it would have hit me.”
“An arrow!? Why!?”
“Both of you, don’t move!! The next shot will hit!!”
A sharp voice cut through the blizzard. Looking back towards the village, I saw several figures pointing their bows at us.
“That fireball, it’s magic! You’re one of those bastards’ allies, aren’t you!!”
“What should we do, Laika-san? They seem angry!”
“It’s obvious. Hey, we’re just travelers. We don’t know your situation, but can you offer us shelter?”
“Shut up, what else are you planning to steal!!”
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It’s no use; I feel their readiness to shoot. If they shoot us with all those bows, both Laika-san and I will die. We need to get away calmly.
“What a hassle. Should I annihilate this spark of trouble?”
“That’s too dangerous! Let’s talk it out, okay!?”
“They were the first to bring out weapons. There’s no reason for us to give in.”
“No, no, no! Sorry, we apologize if we did anything! Please lower your bows!!”
I felt an intense heat behind me, much stronger than the fireball. Even though our acquaintance was brief, I knew Laika-san was someone who would take action. And with enough power to fight against these numbers, I had to act quickly to prevent a disaster.
“Playing dumb, huh! What you guys have done to this village so far… uh…!”
“Ah…! Laika-san, sorry, it’s going to shake!”
“Huh? Hey, wait a minute, what are you doing!”
In an instant, I forgot about the bows and arrows, and my body reflexively started running. I rushed to support the man who had collapsed, his body limp and blood seeping from his abdomen. It was a serious injury; had shouting worsened his wound?
“What…! You, girl, get away from him!”
“This man is injured, is there a doctor in the village!? We need treatment fast!”
“What are you talking about…”
“First, let’s get treatment! Move aside, please!!”
I carried the unconscious man on my shoulders, moving through the dazed villagers.
…Wait, I was carrying Laika-san before, wasn’t I? How am I supporting this man?
“Girl… remember this matter for later…”
“Ah! Sorry, Laika-san, really sorry!!!”
When I slowly looked back, I saw Laika-san sprawled out, buried in the snow, lying on her back.
“No wonder it was good that you dropped me onto the snow!!! I didn’t hit my head, so it was lucky!”
“I have no words to return…”
After slipping off Momo-kun’s back, I was carried into the largest house in the village. Fortunately, I wasn’t seriously injured, but I was brought in along with the bleeding man. On the simple beds made of just straw and sheets, the pale-faced man and I were laid down separately.
“So, how is his condition?”
“It seems like the wound just opened. We’re stopping the bleeding with bandages for now… but it’s only a first aid measure.”
“It’s okay as long as his life is not in danger. But I’m surprised you had such things with you.”
“Ehehe… I was in the track team, and injuries were common, so I always prepared well.”
From her bag, she pulled out a small red-cross bag containing bandages, disinfectants, and more. Her efficiency was impressive; wherever she learned it, she’s very good at applying bandages.
“I’m sorry for scaring you children like that.”
“Exactly. It would be nice if you could consider our side too, being falsely accused all of a sudden.”
The man, who had been quite fiery until he lost blood, now looked quite downcast. It’s good to reflect, but I’d prefer the sincerity to be shown with a substantial amount of money.
“Laika-san! Don’t worry about it. For now, rest well, eat, and replenish your blood.”
“Ha ha… Food, huh? I hope I can eat properly.”
“Everything has been taken away, after all.”
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Stepping off the straw bed and peering out the window, the view outside was dismal. Most of the roofs and windows were destroyed, and in the worst cases, some houses were nearly in ruins. The only safe place seemed to be this house. A storm or blizzard alone wouldn’t have caused this.
“Attacked by a gang of thieving magicians, that’s why they mistook us for enemies. Right?”
“…Are you really a child?”
“Only in appearance, I’ve been attacked several times already. Have you been under attack for long?”
“Yes, about a month ago, they started targeting our village. They took all the food and supplies we needed to survive the cold period, and we couldn’t resist.”
“Can’t you seek help outside? Not the police, but… um…”
“It’s impossible. With this snow, it’ll take three days to reach Elrnat. Going there without proper equipment is suicide.”
Elrnat, must be a place name, but I don’t recognize it. It’s normal not to have any geographical knowledge after 1000 years. Besides, I have no idea where I was dropped.
“That’s tough, no phones or cars… Hmm, what should we do, Laika-san!”
“I don’t care. I have no debt or affection for this village. I plan to leave tomorrow.”
“Wait, did you hear what I said? In this snow…”
“No problem, if we ignore the snow, it won’t even take a day. Besides, if we dawdle and those thieves show up…”
A massive impact and roar shook to the core, and what used to be the village fence flew past the window like a piece of paper.
“…Laika-san, it seems we’re already too late.”
“Ah, damn… it’s an unlucky day today!”