The Soldier and the Auto-Memories Doll
Aiden Field, since childhood, proclaimed to his parents that he would become a baseball player. He was slender and his limbs were wrapped in supple muscles. Although he was not handsome by any means, the dark blond-haired boy’s face could be considered decent upon a close look. He was that kind of person.
He was talented at the sport enough to bear ambitions towards it, and after graduating, he had already decided to join a prestigious baseball team. His parents were proud of their son. Although he was a small town boy, perhaps he could indeed become a professional baseball player. To him, such a future was already certain.
However, that path was no longer open.
As Aiden grew up, instead of becoming a baseball star, he found himself in the battlefield, within the dense forest of a continent far away from his beloved motherland. The oilfield drilling facility of enemy nation that his country fought were hidden. The mission of the 34th National Army, which Aiden belonged to, was to charge into the facility and take complete control of it.
The squad was a total of one hundred people. Their strategy was to split into four groups and strike from all sides. It was not supposed to be a difficult task, yet the people from said groups were currently scattered and fleeing.
“Run, run, run!” someone from one of the surviving corps shouted.
Had someone from their side revealed their plans to the enemy, or was the other nation simply a step ahead? It was supposed to be a surprise attack, but instead, they had been attacked first. The simultaneous raid from all four sides was easily destroyed along with the formation of the groups by the sudden rain of bullet amidst the darkness.
They were a last-resolve gathering of young men to begin with. They were different from instructed mercenaries. The youth who only knew how to properly operate farming equipment, the boy who said he wanted to become a light novel writer, the man who had opened up about having a wife that was in her second pregnancy – the truth was that none of them wished to be fighting there. There was no way they would wish for such thing. Regardless, they had come to that place.
After confirming from the corner of his eye that the people from the split-up corps bolted to the opposing direction, he himself also rushed into the forest breathlessly. The terror of him being done for no matter where he ran off to took over his body. He had actually heard agonizing screams the moment his feet had kicked the earth. Erasing the cries of birds and insects, only said screams and gunshots resounded. From that, Aiden was able to accept the fact that all his comrades were being exterminated.
The feeling of being the hunter reversed into being the target that could be killed in a matter of seconds. It was a huge discrepancy – the former’s fear was sinning, the latter’s fear was losing their life. Neither of the two was good, but as human beings, neither wanted to die. They favored eliminating others rather than being eliminated. However, at the moment, Aiden was amongst those who were about to be killed.
“Wait!” a voice called from behind, its owner trotting up to him with a gun in hands. A small silhouette could be spotted in the dark. It was the youngest member of the squad, a child still in his tender years.
“Ale…!” Aiden grabbed the hand of the boy that had stopped moving his legs and resumed running.
“I’m so glad! Please, don’t abandon me! Don’t abandon me! Don’t leave me all alone!” Ale pleaded while crying.
He was a ten-year-old born in the same province as Aiden, whom he was familiar with. As he was the feeblest of the
squad, he was not counted as fighting power and worked as a replenishment boy.
By national decree, all men over sixteen were unconditionally enlisted in the military, and those of inappropriate age were deemed to be rewarded if they volunteered. The boy had once talked in slightly rude tone about how he had enlisted to pay off for the medical expenses of his mother, whose body was too frail. Aiden would rather see the child survive than himself. Even though he was supposed to worry about the boy first and foremost, his feet had moved on their own.
——Ah, to think I would forget about this small kid and escape by myself…
His eyes could see beyond the blackness.
“As if I would abandon you! I’m glad you’re alive! Let’s hide somewhere!”
The two sped up around the interior of the forest. While running, they could hear numerous cries from different directions. If they ran into the wrong place, death could be awaiting them with its scythe ready.
“No… I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die…”
Ale’s soft whispers to God and the terrified shrieks hurt badly in Aiden’s ears.
——I don’t… wanna die either. There’s a lot of people I want to see again waiting for me, and a lot of things I want to do.
“It’s alright, Ale. It’s alright, so just run, run.” He wanted to calm the boy down, but could say no more than that.
If he were one of the superior officers, would he be able to keep his cool while such a situation unfolded? The reality, nevertheless, was that he was just a young man. As he was in his late 10’s, he was not considered adult enough.
——Ah, someone save us. I don’t wanna die in a place like this. I don’t wanna die. No matter what, I don’t wanna die.
Gunshots echoed again, closer than before. He could see that leaves were falling from the trees in a certain direction and was able to tell that an enemy was approaching from behind. He wanted to stop his own breathing in order to even his loud heartbeats.
“Run! Run! Run!”
At the same time he mentally berated Ale for not being able to keep up, he reprimanded himself.
——I’ll end up dying too. I’ll end up dying too.
Yet, he did not think of letting go of that tiny hand. He could never do so. Aiden gripped it even tighter.
As they kept moving, an explosion occurred. His vision went completely white for a second. His body flew, then immediately hit the ground. It rolled onto the soil for about three meters and stopped once it hit a collapsed tree. The taste of blood spread in his mouth.
“Ta…” within seconds, his consciousness became blurry. But his eyes were open, and his limbs could still move. It was an unbelievable feat that he was alive.
That had most likely not been an artillery bullet. He whipped his body, covered in dirt from the impact, and confirmed his situation. The path he had been running on just a moment before had become a gigantic hole. The vegetation had been burned and everything was blackened. Aiden had no idea what their enemy had shot them with, but was aware that their position had been discovered, and that their enemy had no mercy in order to annihilate them.
“A… Ale…” even so, Aiden glanced at his side upon taking notice of the hand that he had not let go of. He went stiff as he realized the boy that was supposed to be there was not on sight.
——He’s nowhere… Ale… is nowhere…
The hand, still warm, it resided within his palm. But the rest was gone. No head, no legs. He could see nothing other than half of an arm, its bones sticking out of the torn flesh.
His heart was so noisy it felt like his eardrums would erupt. He turned backwards. In a remote place, he could spot a small head between the fallen trunks. It did not move.
“Ale!” he called out, having spasms as he was on the verge of crying, he noticed the head flinch slightly, its mouth forming a smile.
——Thank goodness, he’s alive.
“Wait for me…”
Upon hearing the boy’s voice, he felt even more relieved.
——He’s alive. He’s alive.
The little head moved more, turning to look at him. He was covered in blood, but still alive. His arm had been blown off, but he was still alive. As Aiden was about to go to him and run away with the boy in his arms, the moment he made a move, more gunshots ensued. Those were not flashy bullet sounds like the previous times, but that resembled the sound of riffles. Aiden desperately ducked to dodge the shooting, while someone’s curt yelp could be heard from within the darkness.
——“Someone’s”… yeah, right. The only people in the surroundings were Ale and himself.
He did not rise until the gunshot sounds were gone. His heart beat at an unpleasant rhythm.
——My heartbeats… are too noisy. Aah, be quiet, be quiet…
“Why are you shooting so much? Are you having fun?” was what the dense rain of bullets made him want to ask. Once it ceased pouring, he raised his neck and realized that the little head had stopped moving.
The eyes that had gazed at him as if he was the only one they could depend on now ogled him as though they were about to fall off. The boy’s mouth hung open from back when he had uttered his last words. Ale had perished while staring at Aiden with wide eyes.
“Ah… ah… aah…! Aah!” strange screams escaped Aiden’s throat. He offed from the place as fast as he could. Still feeling the stare of those pupils on his back, he ran like crazy.
His heart hammered his chest. His mind was in uproar, as if it yelled with the intensity of a hundred people. Maybe that was because of the gunshots. Or was it because of Ale’s “wait for me”?
Every part of his body was disgustingly too warm. It felt like being baked in his own body temperature.
——Ale is dead. Ale is dead.
He knew there were several other people in that battleground who had ended up the same way. Many could already be dead from stepping onto landmines or being shot down.
——Ale is dead. Ale is dead. That little Ale is dead.
“Ah… aah… aah… aah… ah… ah…” screeches continued coming out of his throat in light of his feelings, which he did not even understand that well. Although he had intended to scream with all his might, his voice was too faint, insignificant in the sea of countless others. “Ah… Aah… Ah… Ah… Ah… AAAAAAAAAAAAAH!” tears burst from his eyes. It seemed his breathing could stop from all the catarrh in his nose. Even so, only his legs moved, and he did not stop running.
——No, I don’t want to die…
Such were the most obvious sentiments – the instinct of survival, the fear of death.
——I don’t want it, I don’t want it, I don’t want it… it’s fine even if I can never play baseball again. It’s fine, so… I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die. I didn’t come to this place… out of free will.
——One more time… I want to see Mom and Dad one more time. I don’t want to die. I have so many people I want to see again.
The faces of the people from his hometown kept appearing in his mind one after another. Lastly, what he recalled was the smile of a certain girl. It was the face of his lover, whom he had left without being able to say goodbye to or even know the taste of her lips.
——If I knew things would be like this, I would have kissed and embraced her even if by force.
Even at a time like this, he thought of her so fondly.
If he kept that up, he felt that he could die at any moment, even without receiving any bodily damage.
“Maria! Maria! Maria!”
And if that did happen, it would be deplorable if she continued thinking of him even after his death.
——No, I don’t want to die! I don’t want to die!
It was too pitiful, he thought.
——No, I don’t want to die! No, I don’t want to die!No, I don’t want to die!No, I don’t want to die!No, I don’t want to die!No, I don’t want to die!No, I don’t want to die!No, I don’t want to die!I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die on the cold land under the lonely sky of a country I don’t even know how to pronounce the name. I still know nothing of life’s true joy and happiness. Only eighteen years. I’ve only lived for eighteen years. I have the right to live more. Have I been born die a dog’s death in a place like this? That’s not it. I’ve been born to be happy. Is that not right? Have I been born to suffer? Wasn’t I born out of my parents’ love? That’s it; I have the right to be happy. That’s how it’s supposed to be. Besides, it’s not like I want to kill anyone from this country. The government decided on its own that we were obligated to come here. I don’t want to hurt anyone. I don’t want to hurt anyone. I don’t want to be killed anyone. I don’t want to kill anyone. Where in this world has anyone ever been born to kill others? Isn’t that meaningless? Why do we have to fight one another just because we live a little far away from each other? What would be left after we did so and died? Who decided things should end this way? I’m a human. I’m a human being. I’m a human being with doting parents. I have a home to return to. I have people waiting for me. Even so, why is it that a lad like myself have to take part in war? Who started something like this? At the very least, it wasn’t me. At the very least, it wasn’t me. I never wished for something like this to happen. I don’t want this. I want to go home. I want to go back to my hometown. I want to go back to my hometown. Aah, I want to go back. Right now, I want to leave this place and go back to that beautiful countryside town. Right now. Right now. Right now. Right now. Right now. Right now. Right now. Right now. Right now. Right now. Right now. Right now. Right now. Right now. Right now. Right now. Right now. Right now. Right now. Right now. Right now. Right now. Right now. Right now. Right now. Right now. Right now. Right now. Right now. Right now. Right now. Right now. Right now. Right now. RIGHT. NOW.
“Ah…” a different, dumb-sounding voice dripped from his lips. His back was unbearably hot and he had to crouch down after an impact. As his knees could not immediately support his own weight, he fell face-first onto the ground.
——What… is this? It feels like there’s lava pouring from my back… It’s too… hot.
Unable to Aiden lay down, emptying whatever was in his stomach. To think he was vomiting even though he had not eaten anything. However, it was actually blood.
——Eh, no way… I threw up… blood… I… why…?
Aiden moved his neck to look at his back for the first time. He could see a black stain spreading out even in the darkness. There was no way it could be sweat. He was then able to confirm that he had been shot as he heard the sound of boots slowly approaching and spotted several armed soldiers coming from behind.
Upon seeing that Aiden could still move, the men laughed. If they were gambling, it was probably a wager on who could kill him with a single shot. Most likely, Ale and the others had been dealt with in the same manner.
“This is the fiftth.”
They seemed like young men of the same age as Aiden. Their bodies basked in the enjoyment of merely cornering someone, drunk with the atmosphere of war. Had they been born somewhere else and met different people, they might not have turned out that way.
Aiden had killed many random people in the frontlines, yet he had just come to understand what a warfare truly was. It was about murdering people, pure and simply. And those men had fun with it. Even with greater causes being used as justification, the essence of war did not change. To realize that only when he was about to be killed was ludicrous.
Whatever reasons nations had to fight each other held no value in combat zones. Such was the plain and cruel truth. Aiden was a murderer, the enemy were murderers, and one of them would have no choice but to die. As things turned out, the one soon to be wiped out was him.
——Why have things become like this?
The men chatted in spite of Aiden, who still lay on the ground.
“It’s thirty points if it hits the back.”
“I told you to aim for the head, didn’t I? Dumbass. We’ll lose the bet.”
“Enough already. Let’s look for another prey. This one can’t move anymore anyways.”
“Aim better next time.”
Once the talk was over, he would surely be eliminated. It could be in the most atrocious way, with his clothes striped off of him and his body dragged along the soil.
Tears spilled from his eyes again.
——No, no, no.
Once the laughing men were no longer watching him, he crawled onto the earth as to somehow flee.
——I don’t want to die like Ale. No, no, no, no, no. Anything but this kind of death. Someone… help. Help me. Someone… help me. Someone… God… God… God… God…!
“Hey, don’t ya go runnin’ off.” Along with a cold voice, the sound of gunshots echoed.
His leg had been hit. Perhaps because of being shot in the back earlier, he did not feel any pain, only the heat. Panicking at the fact that his sense of pain was numbed and that his foot no longer moved, Aiden cried.
The gunshots continued repetitively. It felt like a game. His remaining limbs were shot one by one as though to be made even. His body cramped with every shot, and the men watching snickered. Shame, humiliation, despair and grief assaulted his body.
“This guy’s like a frog.”
“This is fucking gross. Hurry and kill him.”
“Yeah. Kill him, kill him.”
“Next is the head.”
The sound of a bullet magazine being filled ensued. Aiden was too scared of everything by that point, squeezing his eyes shut and preparing to die. It was at that moment that something tremendously huge fell from the sky like a clap of thunder. Swirling repeatedly, it pierced the earth. Was it a sign that a great existence was coming to put an end to such foolish conflicts? For a second, due to the shock, that was what all of the men thought. However, what had descended was not a mythical deity but a giant axe. Its silver blade was soaked in a red rain of blood. Its handle had a pointed tip in a shape that resembled a flower bud.
Axes were symbolic representatives of all weapons – more brutal than guns, more efficient than swords. Even if that was the middle of a battlefield, for something of that sort to fall from high above was nothing short of cryptic. And the abnormalities did not end there. A flying object noisily made its way towards them.
“It’s a Nightjar!”
Such was a monoplane that had been popularized in the weaponry industry and distributed from the prospering north to the rest of the country. It was a double-seat type of fighter plane, slightly bigger than compact one-seat boats. Its main characteristic was its form, which was similar to that of the bird it had been named after, with large wings and sharp fuselage tip. Its hull was thin but it was largely used as surveillance plane due to its outstanding speed.
——Which side? On which side is it?
Neither Aiden nor the soldiers who had been about to shoot him could move. Which of them was the Nightjar an ally of?
Someone dangled from a long iron rope that hung from the low-altitude plane. The person stretched their arm to grab the battle-axe cast down to destroy everything in that place, spinning around the holder several times before landing on the ground. Watching such acrobatic body movements, Aiden inhaled deeply, but his breathing only became disturbed instead.
The mysterious being slowly raised her head. Only her white face was truly visible amidst the darkness. It was like a white rose blooming in the night. Even with his vision slightly distorted by tears, Aiden could tell how stunning she was. Her blue irises reminded him of the far-off southern seas, her lips as red as the moonrise in a desert. Her facial features would have made his heart race were that a normal day, but in such a situation, he felt nothing but fright. Her golden hair shone brightly even in the blackness, making the burgundy ribbon on it stand out.
No matter how one looked at it, she was a woman as beautiful as a doll.
“Excuse me for interrupting your talk. I have taken the liberty to intrude from above.” Her voice resounded loudly, “Is Mister Aiden Field around here?”
Speaking so elegantly and bearing such dignified appearance, she could be either an angel or a death god, leaving the men bewildered. That was only the expected – with a woman of that caliber showing up in the battleground, one would not be able to help but wonder if they were hallucinating. Aiden, who had become a little relieved that the other men were focusing on her, was soon struck by dread again.
——What… is this?
Why was that woman looking for him? While pondering over it, Aiden was in a dilemma and could not think of anything to do other than answer to the unfathomable entity, “I-It’s me… I’m Aiden.”
Maybe revealing his name had been a mistake. It could put him in an even worse situation. Even so, the faces of the people from his hometown resurfaced in his mind.
“Help… me…” he pleaded hoarsely.
As the woman’s emotionless eyes stopped on him, who still lay on the ground, she graciously bowed her head. “Pleased to make your acquaintance. I rush anywhere to provide any service a client might need. I’m Violet Evergarden from the automated dolls service.”
By the time the soldiers came to their senses and pointed their guns at her, she was already holding onto her own weapon. It was an axe larger than the average human height, yet she lifted it with both hands as if it weighted nothing, like some sort of monster. The men shivered from fear.
“What the hell is this woman?! Alright, just kill her! Kill her!”
“Di… Die, die, die, dieee!”
Gunshots echoed together with the shouts, but the woman remained unharmed while readying axe, which did not obtain a single bullet scratch.
“Here I go… Major.” After whispering lowly, the woman jumped over Aiden, aiming to slash the men. Though she looked petite and fragile, every one of her footsteps resounded thunderously.
Since Aiden was in such a precarious state, it was hard for him to twist his neck and look backwards, yet he yearned to see the state of the fight enough that he somehow managed to watch it from the corners of his eyes. It appeared the woman was dancing rondo, but in actuality, she was merely swinging the axe towards the opponents by swirling widely. It was an exceedingly bizarre technique. She would protect herself from attacks by using the blade almost as a replacement for a shield, then grab onto the handle buried in the earth and lift it upright, spinning on her heels.
The men who soon could not defend themselves from the offenses delivered by such a delicate body surrendered and started screaming. Even though her movements seemed light, the outcome they had led to was the opposite. She mastered a variation of certain-kill classical martial art that Aiden had never witnessed before. The guns were being shattered by the tip of the axe’s handle as though they were as brittle as children’s toys. Just by also being hit by the handle on their shoulders, the men were brought to their knees.
“She’s… a monster!” one of them yelled, running away without being pursued.
The woman concentrated solely on attacking the men that confronted her in a machine-like manner. It was obvious she was accustomed with extreme battles, to the point that the word “accustomed” itself was an understatement.
“This… damn woman! Die! Die!”
The woman swiftly continued to exchange blows with the men that shot blindly into the darkness, swinging the axe without hesitation and gradually getting closer to them while dodging the bullets. The instant one of them reached for a weapon in his pocket and charged at her stomach, she spun her slender legs broadly and kicked him in the face.
None of her flowy moves went to waste as she kept landing consecutive blows. The difference in power was overwhelming. Surely, even if there had been more soldiers against her, the situation would have not changed. It was as if the woman’s strength resided unshakable within the axe she held onto.
——Why… doesn’t she use the blade? Aiden thought puzzlingly. With such a vicious axe, she could easily put an end to everything if she used its main force, but did not do so. Settling for wielding it as a blunt weapon, she did not give any fatal blows.
The battle was short-lived. After beating everyone but him, the woman returned to Aiden’s side. Squatting, she peeked at his face. “I am sorry for the wait.”
It was then that Aiden noticed how the one named Violet Evergarden had a face with reminiscing child-like features.
——Isn’t she… about as old as me?
Her well-developed beauty gave the impression of a mature adult woman, but her figure was also close to that of a girl.
“Master…” Violet gasped deeply upon taking a closer look at Aiden’s whole body.
“Th… Thank you… for saving me… Hum… how… do you know me?”
As Aiden spoke with a trail of blood coming out of his mouth, Violet took a set of bandages from her bag and started wrapping them around his wounds. “Master has called for me. You contacted the automated dolls service after seeing our advertisement, is that not right? The fee has definitely been paid.”
Hearing that, Aiden searched in his memory despite his reasoning becoming hazy due to blood loss. Come to think of it, he had been shown an old pamphlet by someone from the corps while drinking at the bar of a city next to his former battlefield. The bar’s bulletin board was filled with varied informational services, message fliers and memos, and the man had found that one pamphlet among them.
“So it was true… that ‘the automated dolls service will rush anywhere anytime’?” he smiled at the promotional catchphrase. It was at that second Aiden recalled he had indeed contacted the service as punishment for having lost at a card game, and it had cost him an absurd amount of money.
“What type of doll do you wish for? We take any request.”
After being asked by a young man on phone, Aiden replied without thinking much, “I’d like an exquisite beauty who could come into the frontlines. Ah, a female, please.”
“The dolls required to travel to dangerous areas are especially expensive.”
“Is there no way to make it cheaper?”
“A relatively cheap offer is if you rent one for the minimum time of one day.”
“Then I’ll go with that. Hum, my account is—”
He had forgotten to cancel the order afterwards, and had probably not spoken so articulately on the phone since he was drunk at the time. Amongst the people that had partied with him like idiots, no one remembered what he had done the next day due to being hungover.
——To think she… would really come… Plus, a woman like this alone in the middle of a combat zone… one exactly the way I asked for, no less.
As Violet’s figure reflected in Aiden’s eyes, she looked like nothing other than an angel.
“H-How… did you know where I was?”
“Company secret. I cannot answer that.”
As she refused so curtly, he could only fall silent. If a mere amanuensis corporation had managed such a feat, how in the world could it be a “company secret”?
“For now, Master, let’s just get away from here. Does your body hurt? Please endure…”
“No, it doesn’t hurt… just feels really hot… This is… probably… pretty bad, right?”
At Aiden’s tearfully voiced question, Violet swallowed whatever she seemed to be about to say. After a momentary silence, she accommodated the axe in a holder fastened around her body and put her arms around Aiden. “I’ll have to treat you like luggage for a little while. Please bear with it.”
Her body enshrouded with strength, she lifted him up. In spite of her previous statement, it was closer to carrying him like a princess. Embarrassment seemed possible even at such a time, and Aiden felt like laughing through his tears.
From that point, Violet’s actions were quick. As she ran through the jungle despite carrying a grown man, he worried about whatever she would do if they encountered more enemies, but it seemed that would not be the case. Apparently, Violet had received instructions from someone. A voice occasionally leaked from the big pearl earrings she wore, and she would move after replying to it in low tone. After a short while, the two arrived at an abandoned cottage with the intention of using it as temporary hideout.
——Is this place really safe? It’s not like we can hide forever, either. Aiden thought. He somewhat understood through his body’s condition that he would not last much longer. Violet had treated him with first-aid, but his bleeding had not ceased. If that were possible, it would already have stopped.
“Keep your body hidden here for a little bit.”
The inside of the cottage was covered in spider webs and dust. Letting Aiden down on the floor, Violet rummaged in her bag, pulling out a blanket.
“There’s… a lot… inside that, huh?”
The corners of Violet’s lips lifted slightly at Aiden’s question. After straightening the blanket, she placed Aiden in the middle and enclosed it around him.
“I feel… stuffy…”
“It will become cold later.”
“Is that so?”
“Most likely. I have been told so.” Those were like the words of someone who had seen countless people pass away.
Aiden felt even more intrigued by Violet. What kind of background did she have? How was she so strong? Many questions floated about in his mind, but what came out of his mouth was something completely different, “Could you… write a letter in my stead?”
Violet’s expression stiffened at Aiden’s words.
“Or maybe… could that telecommunication device of yours reach my country?”
“Then, please… write me a letter. You came here… because I hired you, right? Please write it. After all, it feels… like I’ll die soon… so I wanna… write a letter.” His throat started to grow dry and he coughed after speaking.
While watching him spit blood, Violet rubbed his shoulders and nodded. “Understood, Master.” Her face expressed doubt no more. She took what seemed like good quality paper and a pen out of the bag, placing it on her lap, telling Aiden to recite the letter for her.
“First is… Mom and Dad, I guess…”
He talked about how they had raised him with so much love, how they had taught him baseball, how they were surely very worried since not many letters could be delivered from the battlefield, and how his last letter had turned into his will. He then conveyed his gratitude and apologies.
Writing rapidly, Violet captured his feelings with preciseness. Whenever the words piled up, she would ask if the terms used were good enough, bettering the letter’s contents. Aiden had not been able to write to his parents with frequency partly due to being no good with gathering his thoughts, but it was different with her around. Words were born one after another – all he had wanted to say overflowed.
“Mom… even though I had told you… that I’d become a baseball player… to get money for you to restore our house… I’m sorry. Dad… Dad, I had wanted you to watch more of my matches. I was really happy… when you told me you liked seeing me hit the ball. I… I actually started baseball because I wanted to be praised by you. I feel that, if there was… anything else you praised me for… it would have been an option too. There’s nothing more fortunate… than to have been born as your son. I wonder why. I’ve… always… been so happy… and, well… I’ve gone through quite a lot of hardships… but… I never thought I’d die like this.”
Even though he had not been taught by his parents how to kill…
“I didn’t think this would happen. Like, normally… normally… people imagine becoming adults, finding a lover, getting married, having kids… I-I… I… I thought I would be able to take care of you. I didn’t think… that I would be shot without really knowing why… and die in a country so far away from you. I’m sorry. I’m also sad… but the two of you… surely… will be sadder. I was supposed… to come back to you securely… since I’m your only son. I was… supposed to come back. But… I won’t be able to. I’m sorry. Sorry.” He resented so much not being able to see his parents again and felt so guilty that his tears recurrently halted his words. “If… the two of you end up being reborn… and becoming a married couple… I’ll go there. And then… I want you to give birth to me again. Please. I didn’t intend for it to end like this. I had wanted… to become happier… I was supposed… to show my happy self… to you two. It’s true. So… please. Dad and Mom, you pray too. Make me your son again… please.”
Violet wrote down every single word he sputtered. “I could make them more accurate, but at this rate, I feel it will be better if the letter contained Master’s way of speaking.”
“Rea… lly? Would it be okay… even without prettier words?”
“Yes… I think this way… is better.”
“When you say it like that, I kind of feel… into it…” he compulsorily laughed, coughing more blood.
Violet wiped his lips with an already blood-soaked handkerchief. “Is there anyone else you wish to write to?”
As he was asked so with a hint of urgency, Aiden was quiet for a moment. His vision was blurry even though tears were no longer coming out. Violet’s voice was also somehow distant. If Violet was in a hurry, he must have been looking terrible. He was about to die.
The smile of a simple girl with braided hair came to his mind.
“To… Maria.” As he whispered her name, his love engulfed him to the point of wanting to bite something.
“Miss Maria… is it? Is she from your town?”
“Yeah. If you deliver it together with my parent’s, you should be able to know who she is. She’s a childhood friend from the neighborhood. We were together since we were little… she was like a little sister… but after she confessed, I realized I probably… liked her too. But… I came here… without having done anything couples do with her. It’s kind of awkward to date a childhood friend… haha, we should have… at least kissed… I would have been glad to, honestly. I’ve never… done it before.”
“I shall transfer these feelings of yours to the letter. Master, just a bit more… please do your best.” As if making a wish, Violet tightly held Aiden’s hand.
Unable to feel her warmth or even her touch, he started weeping again. “Yeah.” After organizing his foggy thoughts, Aiden began to speak, “Maria, are you… doing good?”
——The reason why I’m starting this letter with such a casual greeting… is because I don’t want you to feel me dying.
“I wonder… if you’re… lonely… that I’m not there. It would be a problem… if it turns out you’re crying everyday… but I’ve… seen your crying face… since we were kids… and it’s cute, so you shouldn’t… cry in front of men.” Memories of the time he spent with her replayed one after another. “I wonder if you remember… when you… confessed to me. You had… told me to not reminisce… to that time, but… y’know, I… I… was really… really… really… happy back then.”
——The way you smiled in my arms with your cheeks dyed pink.
“I was really… so happy…”
Her figure when she was still small. The time she started letting her hair grow long. The woman Aiden loved deeply just from the moments they had spent together was carved within him.
“That was probably… the peak… of my life… seriously. I mean, I can’t remember anything else. Much more… than when I… won a baseball tournament… or was… praised by dad… what made me… the happiest…”
——My Maria. My Maria. My Maria.
“…was being told… that you… were in love with me.”
Being told for the first time by someone other than by his parents that he was loved without any hesitation.
“To tell the truth… I used to… only see you as a little sister… but you’re… too cute, so… I soon… fell for you… You will… become even more gorgeous from now on, right? Aah, I’m jealous… of the guys that will be able to see it… If I could… I’d have… wanted to… make you… my bride… and lived… built a small cottage… in that countryside, with you. I… loved you. I love you… Maria. Maria… Maria…”
——Aah, my cute girlfriend. If only you were here right now.
“Maria, I don’t wanna die…”
Violet’s breaths rang loudly in his ears.
“Maria, I wanna… go back to you…”
——Aah… my head… is gradually… melting.
“I wanna… go back… to… you…” He could not keep his eyes open. But if they closed, he felt the words would stop as well. “Maria… wa… it… even if… it’s just… my soul… I’ll come back… but it’s… fine if I’m… not your only… just wait. Just… don’t forget… don’t… forget… the first man… that you… confessed to. I also… won’t… forget. Even by… the gates… of heaven… I won’t… forget. Maria… don’t… forget me.”
——Violet, is it… all written?
“Ah… no good… my… eyes won’t… open. Violet… I entrust… my let… ter… with… you… tha… nk… you… for saving me… and for… coming… I’m not… alone… I’m… not… alone…”
“I’m here. I’m… right here. I’m by your side.”
“Please… please… touch me…”
“I’m holding your hand now.”
“Ah… some… how… it’s… true… it’s… gotten… cold. It’s… true… I’m… cold… I’m… co… ld…”
“I’ll pat your hand a little. It’s fine. It’s only cold for a while. Soon, you’ll find yourself in a warm place.”
“It’s alright. Master, it’s alright.” Violet’s voice sounded a little pained.
Aidan progressively lost track of where he was. Where was that place? Why was his head so unclear at that moment?
——Hey… I’m scared… Mom, for some reason… I can’t see anything… It’s scary…
——I’m scared. Scary, scary, scary.
“It’s okay.” As someone assured kindly, Aiden calmed down and smiled just a little.
At the very end, the words he had wanted to say no matter what left his mouth, “Mari… a… kiss… me…”
——I had… wanted to kiss you. But… I was always too embarrassed… so I wondered if you could be the one to do it.
A little after he thought so, he could hear the sound of touching lips.
——Aah, I managed to have my first kiss with the girl I like in the end… Maria, thank you. Thank you. Let’s… meet again.
“Rest in peace, Master.” Someone’s voice echoed from far away.
He was uncertain of who that “someone” was, but one last time, Aiden uttered a whisper as light as a breath, “Th… ank… you…”
Violet hugged the letter of the young man that had died in front of her while crying, before carefully packing it into her bag. Standing up firmly, she addressed to the communication device, “As of now, I’ll be returning. Please report where the landing point of the transport unit is. Also, this is my own selfishness, but… I’ll pay the transportation expenses, so please… let me take… one corpse with me.”
There was not a single teardrop on her face.
“Well, even if you say it’s a shortcoming, it can’t be helped. I understand. I don’t… always do things like these, so… yes, please. Thank you very much.” She spoke dispassionately, as though she was in an office. However, as she carried Aiden Field’s body once again, that time, she held him far more lightly, not at all bothered by the bloodstains it left on her white one-piece. “Master, I will take you home.” She said to the boy that smiled a little with his eyes closed. “I will definitely… take you home.” In her expressionless features, only her red lips trembled slightly. “That’s why… you won’t be lonely anymore.”
Embracing the youth, she silently left the cottage. From beyond the jungle, gunshots and screams could still be heard, but Violet did not turn back.
The amanuensis business and postal companies had a close relationship. Normally, the letters of the amanuensis would be delivered by postmen, but since this one came from a distant country in war, the Auto-Memories Doll delivered it personally.
A beautiful agricultural area surrounded by golden rice fields. She could agree that it was a bucolic town as splendid as it seemed when the young man wailed that he had wanted to come back to it. Even as Violet, an outsider, peeked out of the window of the carriage she found herself in, every by-passer greeted her.
To that tender land, she brought a sorrowful message.
Her destination was Aiden Field’s birthplace. Violet reported everything to the elderly couple that had answered the door, handing the letter – handing “him” – over to them. She then proceeded to tell them about his last moments, not forgetting anything. Maria, the girl whose illusion “he” had seen just before passing on, was there as well. They listened to her talk while shedding tears without uttering a word. It seemed the boy’s image was imprinted in their hearts as to never be forgotten.
The girl, red-faced, broke down when accepting Aiden’s letter. “Why? Why did he have to die?” she asked Violet.
The latter remained silent, not answering any of the questions. Even though she was normally expressionless and would merely say whatever she was supposed to quite frankly, she was at a loss for words upon being hugged by a crying woman at the time of her departure.
That was an unexpected thing to hear.
“We’ll never… forget your kindness.”
As though not used to being embraced by someone, her body stiffened and flinched awkwardly.
“Thank you… for bringing our son back.”
At such warmth, her eyes expressed bewilderment.
She stared at the woman who conveyed her gratitude while crying – at Aiden’s mother. For Violet, it was somehow unbearable, and she replied with a weak, “No… No…” An ocean of tears spread gently within in the blue orbs that looked at “him”. “No…” The sea turned into a single, light droplet, and poured down her white cheek. “I’m sorry… I couldn’t protect him.” Those were not the words of the Auto-Memories Doll Violet Evergarden, but of a young little girl. “I’m sorry… for letting him die.”
No one blamed her. Even Maria, who had lamented along the lines of “Why?!”, did not find Violet to be guilty. Everyone present simply embraced each other and shared their grief.
“I’m sorry…” Violet continued to apologize repeatedly in a low voice. “I’m sorry for letting him die.”
“Tha… nk… you…”
No one blamed you for anything, Violet Evergarden.