Violet Evergaden: Chapter 11
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The Auto-Memories Dolls’ holiday was ending peacefully.
How to spend the end of summer was mostly commonplace – watching the trees outside by the windowsill during the morning, taking strolls with an umbrella around the neighborhood at noon, reading books under the shade of trees at evening, and preparing for the next journey at night. When no one was looking, she would dismantle and reconstruct guns, as well as throw knives at leaves falling from trees in order not to let her arms become lax. But essentially, she was enveloped in serenity. That was the result of her adoptive mother’s influence in treating her like a child.
There were not many who would purposefully attempt to break her silence in the first place. After all, she was someone who instilled the feeling of nervousness in others. She had a reticent and cold beauty. She could cause time and people in her surroundings to naturally stop.
“Violet. You… are coming with me.”
She was not someone suitable to invite to play.
The Flying Letters and the Auto-Memories Doll (Part 1)
Located in a narrow street away from the main avenue of Leidenschaftlich’s capitol city, Leiden, a lone building protruded, reigning amongst several small shops lined up together. The CH Postal Service was a fairly new company that had just entered the mail industry.
A spire with a light green dome-shaped roof and a weather-bird on top could be considered the mark of said postal company. Surrounding the spire was a dark green roof, and the outer walls were made of red bricks that had been sunburned into a tasteful hue. On the arch-shaped entryway, where the agency’s name was printed onto a steel plate in golden letters, there was a bell that produced a merry sound whenever the doors were opened, so as to announce the arrival of customers. Inside the building, a counter could be seen right upon entry, which was specifically the reception desk of delivery items.
There were three floors; the first one was the postal reception, the second was the office and the spire of the third floor was the president’s residence. Currently, on the second floor, the employees of the office were challenging themselves while working desperately.
There was a date called the “closing day” in the company. During it, all transactions, reports related to them, invoices, proofs of payment and everything else involving the operation of the company were neatly cleared up for the month. For the clerks, it was a day of painful battling, as the closing work was added to their regular work.
“You said we’d go together, that you’d take me there…”
Amidst the scene of arduous fighting stood a young woman, directing a reproachful and depressed gaze at Hodgins. She tightly held onto the hem of her clothes and bit her lip as if to assert, “I am pissed”.
She was a beautiful woman with long dark hair and full of mature appeal. She wore an open bustier, which displayed her rich chest without any reserve whatsoever and was connected to her shoulder-to-elbow charcoal-gray inner garment. She also had on a beads choker, a pendant, bangles, hand chain bracelets and rings made of precious metals. Her leather hot pants were dyed blue and had golden cross-stitches. Her embroidery thread garter belt consisted of geometrical patterns and decorated only the bare skin from the middle of her tights to her knee-high boots. She was a person whose everything, from her outfit to her glossy beauty, was poison to the eyes. However…
“No way, no way! If you’re not taking me, I don’t want to go.”
…her actions were that of a child. She was stomping her feet.
“No, I mean, even if you say that, Cattleya…” Claudia Hodgins, the president of the CH Postal Service, smiled stiffly at that attitude. “Look at this mountain of paperwork. It feels like it’s gonna hit me.”
On Hodgins’s desk lay a pile of forms bearing a menace that really did seem as if they were about to hit him. He was applying stamps on them while speaking. His examination and approval were definite requirements for the various documents made by clerks. Perhaps because he blindly trusted the clerks, or because he lacked the will to read, he was simply pushing the papers over without confirming their contents.
“President Hodgins, give the documentation to me once you are done with it. Please take a look at these too.”
The conversation was interrupted. A stack of paperwork was added to the pile.
“Ah, sorry, Little Lux. Did you confirm all of them?”
The one who had come in-between Cattleya and Hodgins was a girl with an innocent face. She had lavender-gray hair trimmed slickly above her shoulders. Although she wore glasses, upon a closer look, one would be able to see that the color of her eyes was different on each side. It was a conservative stereotype, but the scarf around her neck and gold berretta attached to the side of her head were subtle traits of a professional lady.
“I did. The ones revised have tags on them. Please check them.”
Lux Sibyl, the girl who used to be worshipped as a demigod by a religious group in an isolated island, was now working uprightly at the CH Postal Service.
“Thank you. My secretary is the best. Even as an understatement, I love you.”
Lux replied with a hopeless expression to the lady-killer wink shot at her, “Enough of flattery, just please get your… get your arm moving. If only I had stopped you that time… Going on a trip with a stage actress… It was so obvious that you’d soon break up anyways… That time… if only I…”
“How cruel. You just hurt my heartbroken self even more, Little Lux…”
“If only I had made you do your work even if I had to tie you up, this wouldn’t have…”
Since his secretary acted as though she had become involved with some incident and was inconsolable, Hodgins regained his seriousness. “I’m sorry. I’ll buy a stamping machine.”
Lux then spoke to Cattleya as if imploring, “And Cattleya. Please… don’t try to do anything to stop President Hodgins. Everyone’s clocking-out depends on President Hodgins’s progress. I want to go home as soon as possible today…”
The clerks that were silently doing their jobs nodded in unison at Lux’s words. For them, the time they would be set free from the office on that day was an extreme matter of life and death. Cattleya had been pretending not to notice it, but a concentrated pressure from withering occasional stares and voice tones pierced her back with an unsaid “those who intend to meddle should leave”.
“What’s with that…? Acting so arrogant just because you’re the secretary. President’s secretary… how unfair. I wanna be a secretary too.”
“Cattleya, you’re an Auto-Memories Doll, right? Isn’t that better? ‘Acting arrogant’, you say… I was just stating that you may be on your day off, but we are in the middle of work.”
Despite having a young appearance, on the inside, Lux had grown into a completely capable secretary. After having fled from the religious organization, she did her best to repay Hodgins and the company that had taken her in.
“President, leave the snacks for when you’re done with the documents.”
Hodgins’s hand, which had been attempting to take something from his desk’s drawer, retracted.
“What’s with that? What’s with that? What’s with that?! This is because days off aren’t defined for Auto-Memories Dolls, so there’s no helping it, right?”
Cattleya was willing to continue the quarrel, but before she realized it, Lux was answering the phone. The look in the latter’s eyes said “sorry about that”.
“I get it.”
It was obvious at first glance that everyone in the company was busy. She was also aware that she was disturbing them.
Nevertheless, not aiming to give up, the Auto-Memories Doll Cattleya showed a printed pamphlet to Hodgins, who had turned into the aforementioned stamping machine. “But it’s only once a year… that we can go see the ‘Flying Letters’. I… I already wrote a letter, and I didn’t invite anyone else because the President said he would be taking me. I don’t want to go by myself. Attending a festival all alone… isn’t that like a punishment?”
The words “Seventh Aeronautical Exhibition” were written in it. Said exhibition would be held in the maneuvering area of Leidenschaftlich’s army’s Air Force. It seemed to consist of aerial maneuver demonstrations and public displays of the army and the navy’s aircrafts, as well as private ones gathered by volunteers. The “Flying Letters” that Cattleya had talked about was one of the programs. So-called “letters of encouragement to whomever picks them”, collected from civilians, would be scattered from the sky by elite pilots chosen from the army and navy. It was a romantic event, in which the participants were stimulated to send inspirational messages to the strangers that would pick their letters, as well as to themselves. It was the only festival on the continent in which letters fell from the sky. As the description stated that the sixth exhibition had happened several years before, it seemed the festival had been canceled for some time due to intensified wars.
She brought the pamphlet closer as if to make him kiss it, causing Hodgins to sneeze.
“See, I want to go too, Cattleya. But I had forgotten that today was the closing day…”
Cattleya’s eyebrows withdrew. Her amethyst orbs swerved with sadness. Her attitude was similar to a pup crying dejectedly.
A feeling of guilt grew within Hodgins. “Don’t make such a face, my cute lady. The festival involved in the exhibition will go on until nighttime, so I can join on the way. I mean, I also want to let the employees clock out early and go to the festival. But we won’t make it in time for the Flying Letters… I think. Well, I don’t know, but yeah, most likely.”
“I will… be alone until then?”
“Benedict… is… in the middle of deliveries.”
“Never mind him. Why are you mentioning his name?” Her face going red, Cattleya attempted to overturn Hodgins’s desk. It was a strength that could never be imagined to come from those slender arms.
Hodgins hastily held back the desk. “Calm down, Cattleya. I get it. The only other available person close to your age is… Little Lux. Show me the business schedule of the employees.”
Although she was in the middle of a phone call, Lux handed Hodgins a notebook while talking cheerfully. The operational plans of the employees were registered in it.
Hodgins grinned. It was because he had found someone who seemed to be in a convenient condition. “Aah, Little Violet is off-duty.”
“Eh?” A slight rejection could be noted in Cattleya’s voice.
The mansion was located beyond a path of trees. Reigning among flowerbeds of extravagant colors with plants of several varieties in a luxurious and carefully tended lawn, as well as a farm growing seasonal vegetables, was the Evergarden residence, of which Patrick Evergarden was the current head. It was closer to being a castle than a manor. It had chalky white walls and an ultramarine roof. Its architecture was elegant and well-balanced, wholly symmetrical on both sides, from the spires to the windows.
As a gardener sighted Cattleya’s figure while she passed by, he shouted, “Miss Cattleya Baudelaire, right?”
Due to Hodgins talking to them in advance, the gardener had accompanied her from the gates to the mansion, and once she reached the porch, a butler had welcomed her.
“She will be here soon.”
As she waited with nothing to do in an anteroom, before long, Violet Evergarden appeared, just as the butler had said.
It was not only because the massively thick red carpet tended to erase footsteps. Violet had showed herself without making a sound, dressed differently from her usual Auto-Memories Doll outfit. Hair was loosely tied to one side and a flower hair ornament dangled next to her face. The word “lovely” was perfect for her neat white one-piece with blue flower patterns. The small flowers were not simply dispersed, but had been designed to fall all the way down from the top of the shoulders and middle of the chest. As Leidenschaftlich’s climate was still warm even though it was the ending of summer, it seemed that one would be fine with just a dress, yet she wore a dark blue cardigan. It was probably meant to hide her artificial arms. The same old brooch stood on her chest.
“Heh, so you normally dress like this. It’s kinda like a… little lady? Pretty cute. How nice.”
Violet replied, “It is my foster mother’s taste. More importantly, did something happen?” Her blue eyes seemed to say, “What is the matter that caused you to come all the way to my house? Answer quickly.”
Cattleya recalled her conversation with Hodgins. The hand that had been applying stamps had stopped for once, and he had told her how to coax Violet, who was someone shrouded in mystery, “Listen, if you’re going to persuade Little Violet… you gotta say that… it’s a mission given to her by me.”
He had seemed confident. Indeed, Violet gave off an impression of obedience and chastity whenever she spoke to Hodgins. However, that was in a different manner than how she probably treated other people.
——Honestly, this girl is so strange.
Cattleya knew she was a former soldier. She had belonged to Leidenschaftlich’s army along with Hodgins, the man Cattleya loved dearly. Amongst the members that Hodgins, who was already an odd one himself, had gathered to work at CH Postal Service, it was not so unlikely to have someone with a past of being an ex-militant in her personal history.
However, even without taking her history into consideration, Violet was a shady existence.
She never showed a smile. Her speech was polite, yet she never once flattered anyone. With that, she put a distance between herself and others, but did not show any signs of despising loneliness, and was almost as a beautiful, heartless entity made of ice. That was how Cattleya saw her.
“You… know… this… is something that had already been decided.”
That was why she was anxious as to whether those magical words would have effect. Would she listen to the order of anyone that not Hodgins? Even if she did listen, would they have a fun time?
——Still, that’d be better than going to the festival alone.
Reassuring her purpose, Cattleya opened her mouth, “Violet. You… are coming with me. It’s a mission that President Hodgins gave you. Until the President joins me, accompany me to the Aeronautical Exhibition.”
After she spoke authoritatively, a few seconds of silence ensued.
The straight-laced, taciturn, unsociable-looking and beautiful ice girl blinked, her long lashes going up and down, many times before inquiring with a face that seemed to express a question mark, “A… mission?”
“Yes, a mission.”
“Is it… really a mission?”
Cattleya averted her gaze from the reflection of her own flustered figure in Violet’s limpid blue orbs. “I-If… you think it’s a lie, you can ask President about it.”
“No. Today is the closing day and he must be busy, so I will refrain from making phone calls. I understand. If it is a mission requested by the President, I will accept it.” Along with being concerned about the closing day, unlike Cattleya, she had the consideration of an adult for the workplace.
As she received consent, Cattleya soon became nervous. She had a feeling that she was talking to a machine, a fairy, or perhaps a ghost – some sort of indefinite existence that she could not reach a mutual understanding with.
“Hey, will you really go with me?”
“You… kinda don’t feel like you’re alive, but you are, right?”
“I’m just asking this as a matter of course, but the President is very attached to you, so are you lovers?”
“That is not it.”
“What do you think of Benedict?”
“Benedict? He has high-rank combat abilities, and also has surprisingly leadership skills.”
They were quite rude questions, yet Violet answered them seriously without showing signs of minding it. Cattleya immediately became lively with the various replies. She let the joy take over her and started jumping on the spot.
“I’m satisfied that our interests are consistent. Since it’s settled, go get ready! Tell the people of the house that you’re going out. Also, Violet, get a writing paper, envelope and fountain pen too. We’ll participate in the Flying Letters, after all.”
“‘Flying Letters’… If I am correct, that was one of the custom programs of aerial displays presented to the public by the army and navy, right?”
As expected of a former soldier, she was knowledgeable.
Cattleya asked if she had ever participated, and Violet mutely shook her head. “I have never watched it, but I have been told about it as a piece of information…”
Just who had been the one to tell her? Violet did not reveal it.
“Cattleya, is there nothing else necessary other than the writing paper and etcetera? Do I have permission from President Hodgins to carry arms?”
“There’s no need for weapons. What’s with you? That’s scary.”
“You said it was a mission, so that came out on automatic.”
Violet did not understand the limits of things, and Cattleya was sometimes perplexed by her, but thankfully, the two of them were able to go outside together.
The maneuvering area of Leidenschaftlich’s army’s Air Force was located far away from the capitol city, Leiden. The directions to it were not too difficult. The easiest way to get from capitol to it was either through riding shared horse carriages or trucks. When getting off at the stop, a forested area surrounded by trees would be on sight. It was a place so full of greenery that it would cause people that were accustomed to cities to become worried for a second as to where they had ended up, but there was nothing to fear. Crossing a paved forest road while relying on signboards, they would shortly arrive at the maneuvering area, their destination.
The entry of ordinary citizens was prohibited during normal times, but there were no restrictions during the Aeronautical Exhibition. Authorized eating and drinking businesses established their shops around the exercise grounds and formed lined stalls. The military facility changed completely and turned into a place of festivities.
In the venue assembled men and women of all ages. Families of people involved in the army and navy personnel, general participants, avid airplane lovers who had come from distant places yearning to see the aerial displays, and many others. There were mostly males in the male-female ratio. Young girls like Violet and Cattleya could be considered minorities.
“Amazing, it’s so big. They normally practice here too… Look! Fighters? Are those fighters?” Cattleya did not hide her surprise at the warplanes being exhibited.
“That’s a reconnaissance plane, the Ptarmigan.” Meanwhile, Violet gave the exact name of the units. “Both the army and the navy each have Air Forces, but from the names of the planes, one can tell right away which of the two they belong to. The army names theirs after birds. It seems the navy names theirs after sea animals.”
The mysterious, beautiful women eagerly discussing about warplanes appeared peculiar to some extent.
Since the maneuver area usually functioned as a full-fledged military facility, there were many barred zones. Seeing the space of the venue as a rectangular box, the exhibition of the military aircrafts was happening in the outskirts of its center. Surrounding it was a hangar, a stand-by spot for the army’s vehicles, a general resting place for civilians, the actual headquarters of the Aeronautical Exhibition and a control tower built on its rooftop, hidden by a tent. Its inside could not be seen at all. A fence was laid around the headquarters and the control tower at a wide distance from both, and that whoever was not part of the personnel was completely forbidden of entry.
One of the Aeronautical Exhibition’s highlights, which was a live coverage by the army’s publicity, was taking place at the headquarters.
“Please look at the front of the venue. Six fighters, the Sea Snakes, are raiding in. They are changing from a one-row line to a diamond-shaped battle formation. Do pay attention to this well-coordinated flight.”
The navy fighters flew over the maneuver area and passed by while showing off splendid flight techniques. As they soared, white smoke was left behind in the blue sky as a proof of their passage.
“The first pilot is Jude Bradburn from Leidenschaftlich’s Leiden. The second pilot is Henry Gardner from Bregand!”
All attendees looked up at the sky and cheered. An orchestra played music along with the heated commentaries, further enhancing the atmosphere in the place.
Cattleya opened the pamphlet she had acquired in advance and confirmed the show time of the aircrafts currently on demonstration. Things seemed to be progressing according to the prescribed schedule. The Flying Letters were due afterwards.
She grabbed Violet, whose eyes had been stolen by the aerial maneuvers of the fighter aircrafts, by the arm. “Hey, looks like the collecting of the Flying Letters will take a while, so let’s buy something at the stalls and watch it while eating. It seems the flight exercises will go on non-stop. Violet, is there anything you wanna eat?”
“So we are ensuring our meals? If that is the case, is it not better to go for something fitting to be conserved rather than prioritize its taste?”
Without looking at Cattleya, Violet was moving her neck as to follow the units in flight. Cattleya stirred a finger close to her. As Violet turned her head, her cheek was spontaneously stabbed by said finger. It felt flaccid.
“Violet, look at me.”
Although the arm Cattleya had grasped was rigid, the cheek was soft.
——She’s enigmatic, and a bit creepy.
However, Cattleya was somewhat relieved. It was because she had come to know that girl also had soft parts.
She became happy to earn a reaction from Violet, even though it was resistance. “Don’t wanna. That’s punishment for not looking my way. Hey, I feel you’re misunderstanding it; even though this is a mission, it’s also for fun. We don’t need conserved food.”
“Don’t you… sometimes seem like you’re having fun with Lux? See, with tea and all.”
“Aah, yes. We have tea together.”
“That’s it. You’re gonna do that with me. We’re gonna eat, chat, and participate in the festival. It seems everyone from the company will be done with work in a bit, so we’ll join them afterwards.”
“This is… a mission, is it not?”
“It’s a mission. A great mission. A super great mission.” Cattleya forcefully made Violet, who was making emphases and seeking confirmation, walk in the direction of the stalls.
“I would like tangible content details on exactly what sort of mission ‘having fun’ is.”
“You’re talking kinda difficult; you aren’t used to having fun, right? That’s fine, this big sis will teach it to you.”
Violet stared at their joined hands as if it were something mysterious. Even so, she did not shake and disentangle hers, simply following behind Cattleya like an infant bird.
The duo visited the food stalls from one end to another of the fair, buying enough to be almost unable to carry everything in their arms and sharing it with each other. They softly narrowed their eyes upon observing children run after the flying fighters, harshly waved off men who carefreely called out to them for being two unaccompanied women, and appreciated the commentaries from the army’s press while applauding the several warplanes passing by. They also had personal experiences with playground equipment, such as merry-go-rounds and darts, at a so-called emigrational amusement park, blending with the children. Although Cattleya had primarily been on guard regarding Violet, whose personality she had been unable to understand, she was able to think of ways to enjoy herself with the latter due to her characteristic amicability and liveliness.
“Cattleya, please wait. Cattleya.”
“Hey, this is delicious. Really delicious. Okay, open your mouth.”
“I do not wish to eat.”
“It’s a mission, so open your mouth.”
“Are you not just thinking I will go along with anything if you say it is a mission?”
“Aaahn. Hey, it’s gonna fall. It will be your fault if it does.”
She was surprisingly weak to pressure, and therefore, Cattleya probably thought she was cute as a girl younger than herself whom she was taking along on her stroll. Acting as an older sister, too, was something comfortable for Cattleya.
After playing for a while, the two of them decided to take a break. Even though it was the ending of summer, exposure to sunlight for a long time outside caused increased fatigue. They sat on a bench at the general resting place, which was covered by a large tent that blocked the Sun so the civilians could cool down. They were able to watch the flight drills from there.
“Still not done?”
“We do not know the precise destination of these letters. Moreover, they must be of encouragement. This calls the abilities of an Auto-Memories Doll into question.”
Violet was writing for the Flying Letters. The gathered messages would be handed over to the pilots and scattered by airplanes from above the venue. Propeller-type light planes that would serve as the letters’ deliverers had already begun collecting them. The people in charge became the center of attention, women and children swarming over them all at once. That was possibly because their fuselage of a strong yellow color shone strikingly against the blue sky.
Having nothing to do as she had finished writing her letter, Cattleya decided to prod her nose into Violet’s. The other was gradually becoming better at writing mails.
Seeking responsiveness, Cattleya pouted. “Hey, nobody will know who wrote it, so you can just say whatever you like.”
“This is no good. I will redo it.” Violet tucked the letter she had just written into an envelope. She took out a new writing paper, but looked unable to write a single character. “What did you write, Cattleya?”
As she was apparently being asked for instructions, Cattleya answered while puffing out her ample bosom even more, “‘You are lucky for picking up my letter! Something good will definitely happen to you. Even if it doesn’t, it’s not like you will die’.”
“Is this what you wrote?”
That seemed to be very much like Cattleya. However, it appeared not to work as advice for Violet.
“What~? Do you not write letters outside of work or something? Is it really that troubling?”
“I have long stopped writing personal letters. I only write at work.”
Although it only happened for an instant, Cattleya was taken by the slight change in Violet’s expression. She was already someone with a disposition for getting close to others, but diminished the distance between herself and Violet even more. “This topic looks interesting. Why is that? Tell me.”
Violet moved away. Cattleya came closer. Violet moved away again. In the end, the two of them wound up perfectly glued to each other at a corner of the bench.
“Why should I?”
“Because it seems appealing. Why did you stop writing? Shall I try guessing? The addressee was a man, right? And also someone special. The kind of man you’re interested in the most, save for a parent or sibling.”
“How did you know the gender?” Violet gazed directly at Cattleya for the first time.
“Your clients and mine are different. My customers are… mostly young women writing love letters. This is also the so-called ‘maidens in love’. It’s people who want to know what they should do to have a boy on the palm of their hand. Or guys who don’t understand women and want to know what they should do to make a girl look their way. I’m often asked for tips.”
“Is it not enough to simply poke her shoulder and call her name?”
“It’s not in that sense.” Cattleya flicked Violet’s forehead with her finger. “Hey, what kind of person was he? The one you like, I mean.”
“That… is not the… case.”
“Then, do you hate him?”
“There… there is no way…”
Cattleya was unable to suppress a smile.
——What do I do? She’s so fun to tease.
Violet Evergarden – a mysterious, straight-laced and expressionless taciturn. A woman made of iron, who never hesitated. She was crumbling at a single sentence from Cattleya.
“Then, isn’t there no option other than like? It’s not… the normal kind, right? That’s not what your face is saying. Don’t underestimate me. I make money out of including love consultations in my amanuensis job.”
Violet opened and closed her mouth, eyes darting to many directions, which showed she was at a loss.
——She’s like a doll that has just been given a heart. How weird.
Cattleya knew nothing of Violet’s past, and therefore merely treated her as what she was – a teenage girl.
“Hey. I said ‘hey’.”
She only wished to get along with her.
“Hey, what kind of person was he?”
She was alienated of the effects of her actions on Violet. She believed what lay inside the box that she was attempting to open was a gemstone.
“What do you call him?”
But what resided in Violet Evergarden’s heart…
…could not be compared…
“‘Major’. Isn’t that cool? So he’s a soldier. You’re an ex-soldier, after all. How old is Major? What about his looks?”
…to a gemstone.
“I never asked. He was most likely about to become thirty years old.”
“No way. He’s much older than you. So the age difference between you is… about the same as with the President?”
Violet had not talked about that person for a long time.
“His hair was dark, but of a different shade than yours, Cattleya…”
She had described how he was as an individual before, but had never dug too deeply. Although he was someone that both she and Claudia Hodgins had in common, the two of them avoided touching the subject around one another.
Violet averted her eyes from the paper that she had not yet written anything in to the crowd. Soldiers wearing the purplish black uniform that she also used to were part of it. Even though the war was over, the skies had cleared and she no longer lived in the days when she did not know how to write a single word, that multitude and the sound of military shoes brought her back to the time that she had spent in a city of lanterns.
Forever and ever, the person she pursued was only one.
“He had emerald green eyes…”
He was a tremendously beautiful being.
“He took me in, raised and used me.”
The two of them were a tool and her master.
“But, he is not here anymore.”
Although she was his tool, she had not managed to protect him.
“Gilbert is dead.” Hodgins’s words replayed in Violet’s head over and over, accompanied by a heaviness and agony similar to that of a curse.
“Did Major go somewhere far away?”
“Yes. He has gone far away. He has… not returned.”
“Are you still waiting?”
At Cattleya’s questions, willingly or not, Violet wound up thinking…
“I am waiting.”
…about the answer to the words of that day, which she did not give, resisting it while claiming she did not understand it.
“I have been… repeatedly told to stop doing so. However, no matter what, I… I…”
“I love you.”
“I love you, Violet.”
“Are you… listening?”
“I… like you.”
“Violet, ‘love’… is…”
“‘To love’ is… thinking you want to protect someone the most in the world.”
“…end up… waiting for Major to come.” Her face was of someone enduring pain.
That was the moment Violet showed her most humane expression out of the ones Cattleya had witnessed. A small transformation had occurred within that awkward girl. It was a quiet move, which people with abundant emotions would not consider a manifestation of feelings.
A realization dawned within Cattleya. They were not yet intimate. Not friends, either. It was not as if she knew anything about Violet, but she felt as though she had come to.
——He took most of the happy parts of her heart with him. Is that why she doesn’t have so much emotion? Cattleya speculated.
“You… have a crush on someone who isn’t here anymore.”
Unlike what she had imagined, the bush that Cattleya had been pricking was actually the entryway to a deep forest.
The young woman wandering inside said forest was not even aware of how she had become lost in it – she had a blindfold on and did not know how to take it off, left alone to live through fumbling around. Cattleya thought of it as a pity. In reality, that was not a conversation they should be having at such a place.
“What is… a ‘crush’?”
That doll whose heart had been taken away – her colleague who was younger than herself – did not know what infatuation was.
“No, it’s love already.”
The maneuver area was more crammed than when the two of them had arrived. The crowd was increasingly more frantic. Cattleya pointed at the people walking by. They were all of differing genders and ages. Each led lives packed with hardships that could not be seen through naked eye.
“There are many types of it: fraternity, friendship, siblinghood, companionship. Yours is romantic love.”
Harmonious couples that served as examples of it were everywhere. The world overflowed with romance in a natural manner.
Yet Violet denied it. She shook her head, furrowing her brows and biting her lip. “I… cannot… fall in love.” She obstinately negated.
“You did, though.”
“No, I cannot. I do not understand it.”
As seen from the sides, they probably appeared to be having an argument. It was not a fight, yet neither of them backed a single step. One claimed it was love. The other claimed it was not. Both were running counter.
Though steeped in irritation, Cattleya still refused to give in. “Even I… can’t say for certain what something like that is. Love is uncertain, and I don’t get the romantic one very well. But I can tell when it happens. People in love would also be able to tell if they saw you. Your love is that type. Even if it’s towards a person you’re unable to meet…”
Once the words “a person you’re unable to meet” spilled from Cattleya’s mouth, Violet’s blue eyes quivered in sorrow. Hearing them from someone else weighed much more than saying them to herself. The expression she sometimes had on was one that would cause anybody to admonish her with a, “See, you’re making a face like that, so how come?”
“No, I cannot. I really… cannot… Major has…” still, Violet rebuffed it. Her long blond lashes were down. As Violet hung her head, her gaze went towards her chest.
As always, her emerald green brooch lay there. It sparkled brilliantly, never fading.
Even through springs of dazzling moonbows, summers of early rains, autumns of raging gold-leaf winds or winters of congealing frosty nights, just like the existence of the man named Gilbert Bougainvillea that resided within Violet, it would never fade.
“Major has passed away.” The words she whispered in that very instant were exceedingly cruel.
The clock needle between Cattleya and Violet stopped for once. That did not happen in actuality, but the two of them did not make a single movement, as if time had truly come to a halt. Their blinking and breathing was mowed by the world’s time axis for a second.
Once time finally started flowing again, Cattleya could only give a staggered reply, “E-Eh?” Her voice squeaked.
“He is dead. I was unable… to protect him… so Major… died. Even though I was his tool, shield and sword.”
Cold sweat slowly traveled down Cattleya’s back.
——Her heart was stolen… not by someone who’s just not around, but that is dead?
“That’s a joke, right?” Cattleya asked, but received no response from Violet. She failed an attempt to force a smile, which came out as a half-laugh. Her face twitched. At the indelicacy of the things that she had been saying until that point, her breath caught in her throat and she could not properly swallow her saliva. “Violet, did this person… die in the Great War?”
“So I was told. This brooch… remained with me as a relic.”
Ever since Cattleya had first met her, that object had been twinkling on her chest. She had witnessed Violet touching it every now and then with her artificial fingertips countless times. She had always wondered if it was some sort of protection charm.
There was a lot more that she had wanted to say in a rapid succession, yet her attitude was unwittingly precautious. Something buzzed within her. “But, you… don’t… believe that… right?” A thrill similar to an unpleasant presentiment crawled its way through Cattleya’s entire body.
For Violet, the response to that question could be a taboo.
“Hey, answer seriously.”
As she remained silent, her profile, which Cattleya used to only see as dispassionate, was now reflected in the latter’s eyes as something solitary. “I…”
The unpleasant disruption creeped through Cattleya’s entire being, and she wished so badly to spit it out that she could not stand it. “You… don’t believe it, right? You did say… that you were waiting for him.” She wanted to know the answer.
“But, President Hodgins has—”
“It’s fine; tell me what you yourself think.”
“Yes…” just as a criminal accepting a conviction, Violet confessed her sin, “I believe… that Major… is alive.”
Just for how long had she continuously thought about that? Perhaps she had been in such state ever since being informed of his death. Even as she lamented in anguish, even as she attempted to destroy the hope that kept her attached to reality, she might still have denied it all, telling herself that he was alive.
“What the hell are you doing?” was what Cattleya wanted to scream.
Romantically yearning for someone who was far away and blindly loving someone who was deceased were two different things. Just like with Violet and Cattleya, physical distance could be overcome with effort. However, the dead could never return.
“What you’re saying… is the same as getting your arms back!”
Simply spending her time unreasonably through doing something so fruitless, never allowing anyone else to love her beautiful self and believing in the subsistence of a dead person was a waste, and Cattleya wanted to lecture her into stopping right away. There were substitutes both for her arms and for the man of her affections.
“Do you plan to live like this forever from now on? You, Violet…”
“I am aware.” Violet said right away. “It is useless. There is no meaning to it. There is no gain in it. But without Major, I am the same. I have no meaning.”
“Would it be no good if it were someone else? Even if it’s hard now, he will definitely become just a memory one day, so while there’s still time…”
“No… no.” It was almost as though she were proclaiming war against everything that lived, “Major Gilbert Bougainvillea is the only one for me.”
Cattleya stiffened with her mouth agape. Perhaps because a popular unit had passed by in the sky above, cheers rose in their surroundings.
It was as if she was there, yet not. That was the bizarre feeling that those strong blue orbs brought about.
——What’s… with this girl? How can she manage to make people this sad, as if cutting them open?
Her values were differed too much from Cattleya’s. Feelings that had nowhere to go swirled within her chest painfully.
“I understand that this conduct of mine makes people uncomfortable.”
What did she have to live through to develop so much stubbornness?
“Please do ignore me. Please… leave me be.”
“You’re… an idiot, right?”
Even if it were criticized as futile and she were stigmatized as irrational for many years, she would most likely continue to believe it. Even with someone telling her “it’s no use; quit it”, she would merely cover her ears.
“Yes. I am an idiot… and a fool.”
She only desired one person.
Cattleya slapped her own forehead with one hand and growled like a dog. Thinking too much got her extremely heated-up, and her head started to hurt. She was currently even more feverish than when coming up with sentences during amanuensis activities.
——This is no good.
Violet had always, always carried a wish.
——Even someone not so smart like me can tell.
“I want to see you, I want to see you”.
——This is like threatening to push down a child crying by a cliff.
She had been praying while firmly grasping her brooch.
——I can’t blame her.
Such idiocy was Violet Evergarden herself.
Cattleya said bitterly, as if vomiting a silver poison, “Got it. I got it. You’re… an idiot, and… I think… it would be great if you stopped with this… I seriously do, but I also think… there are things… that can’t… be helped.”
The shine of those blue eyes changed. “Really? President Hodgins tells me to stop it.”
She hit Violet’s shoulder with a plop. Cattleya actually wanted to side with Hodgins, but she also wanted at least herself to be Violet’s ally. “That’s because love is necessary for living. Isn’t love like a symbol of happy things? People get married, and one of them dies at some point… but the other relies on the memories they have of that person; something like that. It doesn’t have to be romance… the love you receive never disappears… Parents also count. I… ran away from home and was taken in by President Hodgins. There… were many moments of loneliness for me since I had no acquaintances here. I had terrible parents, but the times when they patted my head… those kinds of things… whenever I was desolate, I would always end up remembering them…”
Violet, who had not known about Cattleya’s circumstances, replied with a, “Is that so?”
The two of them were now finally speaking face-to-face. Their conversation was one-sided no more.
“So love… is a… necessity?”
“It is. What do you rely on to live? You’ve had times in your life until now in which you were treated kindly, and things and words that you were happy to receive, right? It’s because they are… accumulated inside of you… that you are alive.”
“Bu… t…” Violet said in pauses, “even if I had nothing, I… would have been living.”
Cattleya tilted her head to the side. She did not understand the meaning of those words.
“Even now, I am alive. I cannot forget about Major. That is why… this is not love.”
Cattleya did not know that Violet used to live alone in an isolated island. She concluded on her own that Violet living even if she had nothing referred to the period before she had met the major.
“That… is not my case. I am a tool, so for starters, things like that are…”
“Listen to me. A ‘tool’… what are you saying? Is it… because you’re an ex-soldier? You mean warriors are tools? Aren’t you… being rude to the people who protected this country?”
“That is not it. Ever since way before, I… was a tool, so if I do not… remain as one…”
Perhaps due to her not being able to express herself well, Cattleya strongly gripped Violet’s automated fingers.
“I will be of no requirement for Major.”
Once she did so, they could not easily be untangled.
“I am not a person. I am no good… if I am not a tool. If I do not stay as a tool… I cannot fight properly. I would also lose the right of wishing to be by Major’s side. For the sake of wishing to be beside Major, and for being someone’s tool, things of that nature… must be inhibited.”
Cattleya’s head, still tilted, continued leaning sideways more and more, until it seemed like she would fall from the bench. “Wait, I wanna get this straight.” She raised her palm a little, taking on a restrained position.
“All right.” Violet obediently consented. She waited for Cattleya to sort everything.
“Your Major is dead.”
“But you like him and have always been waiting for him. You believe he’s alive.”
“I do believe that he is living.”
“I think that’s love. You’re in love too. But you say that’s not it… because you might stop being useful for the deceased Major otherwise.”
“You’re forcing yourself into not knowing love… and wanting to be a tool. That’s because it’s a way for you to be with him… I don’t get what you’re… saying. You, Violet… I mean, there’s no reason for you to fight anymore, right? Major died, and you’re not a soldier anymore.”
“Yes.” Maybe because such reality was unfavorable for Violet, her answer came out low.
“You left the army, and now, you’re working at our place, right? Do you understand that your motive to deny it by saying that you don’t need love and that it’s not love doesn’t exist anymore?”
“I… do… understand.”
Violet fell silent after that. She was pondering on what to say. Averting her orbs from hers and Cattleya’s laced fingers, she lifted her face after looking down for a while. As she was at last about to open her mouth, Violet suddenly widened her eyes significantly. She had found something.
What was reflected in her big, jewel-like blue irises was a tall man. The man continuously appeared and disappeared within the crowd.
Her hand naturally stretched out. “…jor.” Violet said something in an awfully reduced tone, lips trembling.
The man had lustrous black hair.
“Hey, I won’t be able to get it if you stay quiet. Then why is it that you call yourself a tool?” Tired of waiting for the other’s response, Cattleya cut the stillness and called out to her.
As she did so, Violet abruptly stood up.
Cattleya was surprised at her serious profile. “S-Sorry. Did you get angry?” She asked fearfully, and Violet replied with a “no”.
“In case…” Violet took one, two steps away from the bench, acting as though her heart was not there, drawn into the direction of the crowd.
As her name was called, Violet turned back towards Cattleya for once. “In case that person is alive, this is for the sake of being able to function properly… if there comes a time in which he would need me. Cattleya, I will excuse myself for a little.” Her expression was no longer the one of just a short while before, empty as a ghost.
“Eh, wait…! Where are you going?!”
“I must go after him. I will definitely make it back to the mission.”
Who was it that she had to chase, even it meant leaving Cattleya behind?
Cattleya got up in a haste as well. However, their belongings and letters ended up dropping and rolling down at her feet.
“My… former user.” After saying only that, Violet vanished into the mass of people.
Still standing, Cattleya was dumbfounded. “Eh, Major?” It finally came to her who the person was. “Violet, hey, wait.”
Nevertheless, it was too late. She was already gone. Since she was calm and delicate, her feet almost did not seem so fast, yet her agility was indeed that of a soldier.
“I’m all alone, you know.” Cattleya grumbled, although her shock surpassed her solitude. As she had no choice, she picked up the belongings that had fallen and scattered – fountain pens, writing papers, envelopes, the letter she herself had written.
“Ah.” She found one more letter lying on the ground. It was not her own.
That was Violet’s unfinished message. She had put it in an envelope and left it on her lap as it was. It was the one she had claimed to be unable to compose appropriately and had stopped writing. Cattleya had not noticed it when Violet was writing, but once she took it in her hands, she thought it was a very pretty item.
Since Auto-Memories Dolls frequently used paper and envelopes for writing on people’s behalf, those were often mass-produced by the companies they belonged to. Even so, of course, they would prepare ones fitting for their clients to have at hand, but what Violet had brought from home was obviously different in quality. A bordering of silver roses as drawn on a white paper that felt good to the touch. She had most likely bought with her own savings.
——Even though she had said she didn’t write personal letters anymore…
People who had the habit of writing letters would be able to tell that those were treasured articles. They were selected in a way that the marvelousness of the paper and envelope would already be enough to convey the respect of the sender towards the addressee. They could not be guaranteed as decent just from being expensive. But the ones that had been chosen emanated prominence just by looking.
Cattleya stared at the direction Violet had disappeared into. The figure of a girl running with her golden hair swaying was not there anymore.
“This is punishment for leaving me by myself.” With mean spirit and curiosity, Cattleya decided to try reading what was inside.
Afterwards, once Violet came back as stated, she would tease her about them. Since the latter had said she was unable to write it properly, the contents were unmistakably boring. It was with that in mind that Cattleya had skimmed through the paper.
The inside was not what Cattleya expected. She soon finished reading, for it was only one sheet. She slowly traced Violet’s handwriting with her fingertips.
——I wonder why. Why… did she have… to write like this…
What was written in there were private affairs completely unrelated to Cattleya. She had only just become able to talk to the other on that day. There was a limit to how much empathy she could feel.
——…with words that… seem to gouge people’s hearts?
Nevertheless, a coating of water gradually formed in her amethyst eyes. She could not bear to imagine how Violet had felt during the conversation they had had on that very day, or what sort of memories she had been living with.
The contents of the letter were:
Are you well? Has anything changed? Where are you right now? Do you not have any troubles?
Spring, summer, autumn and winter have passed, and repeat on forever, but only the season where you are here does not come. Whenever I am waking up, falling asleep or feeling hazy, I find myself looking for your figure. I do not dream often, so I feel as if I might forget your appearance. Repeatedly, repeatedly, I replay memories of you in my head.
Are you really nowhere anymore? I have walked so much around the whole world. I have been to many countries. You were not in any of them. I have not found you. Still I search. Even after having been told you had passed away, still I search.
I am following my order. I am alive. I live, live and live. What is there after life is over? Although I do not know, I merely keep on living. Even so—
Violet grasped the arm of the black-haired man. “Please wait.”
The man, who had turned around, possessed the emerald green orbs so typical of the Bougainvillea.