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Violet Evergarden – Chapter 4

readviolet~October 26, 2017 /Uncategorized

The Scholar and the Auto-Memories Doll

 

For his young self, that person was his entire world. He would never have thought she would be gone one day. If she were not already there from the start, at the very least, she was his outright guardian from the moment he was born until he became aware of the things around him. She would find him whenever he ran off crying and praise him whenever he did something good. If he reached out his hand, she would even embrace him. She was a grand existence, better than him at everything.

He thought that was what a parent was supposed to be.

——Take my hand. Otherwise, I can’t walk. Look at me. I can’t live without being watched over by you. Don’t go anywhere. This responsibility is upon you.

The ones devilish enough to hoax that person and steal her from his everyday life were to him criminals that should be judged – devils that had destroyed his world. Even having such depraving intentions was a sin in itself.

After he had stopped contemplating the door that would not make any sounds of someone coming back home no matter how much time passed, he came to despise everything that had led to his crumbling down. He would never be misled, lying to himself that he was okay with it. He would trust no one, always incompatible with others. And he would never fall apart. Such was his desecration against his old self that had cried while staring at the door.

He believed being that kind of person was acceptable.

 

Eustitia, a city renowned as the capitol of astronomy, was located on a low-inclination mountain range. Its people, living at about 1,500 meters above sea level, were observers enchanted by the night sky stars. The center of Eustitia, built by shaving off the mountains, was its Observatory, stone buildings densely congregating around it. The only way to reach the city that practically sprouted from the extensive land was to ride a train to the base of the mountains, then hop onto a ropeway that creaked rustily as it rose. Unlike most metropolises of several hundred kilometers sparkling with neon lights, it was a world under a sky untainted by human-produced colors, enveloped in a natural jet-black veil.

On one side, it was called the capitol of astronomy due of its superiority in astronomical observation, but it could also be said that the most remarkable characteristic of the city was being the home of one of the world’s leading astronomical research institutes. It was named after a maritime navigation king that had managed to get his hands into enormous amounts of wealth during his lifetime, Shaher. Observatories that had been erected in many places under influence of the deceased Shaher’s hobbies still existed, as courtesy of the continuous sustenance from his family group.

The Shaher Astronomical Observatory’s Research Institute ensured a vast assortment of activities, such as discovering new stars, researching anything related to astronomy and manufacturing telescopes. Meanwhile, the Shaher headquarters in Eustitia managed books about every known star, collected from all over the world. Having been established as the annex of the astronomical observatories, said headquarters safeguarded a gigantic library that could make book addicts salivate and pass out with just one look. Of course, every one of its books were about stars and the myths related to them. But even so, the amount of works it possessed was overwhelming.

In the atrium room, black iron spiral stairs that went on forever served as bridges between each floor, while an order-made gold chandelier that formed the image of a star descended from the ceiling. Not the slightest gaps could be spotted in-between the books stuffed in the shelves. Many desks and chairs could be found sca

ttered around the place, but sofas were in bigger number. From cloth-covered luxurious ones to cute ones with cat legs, the sofas of many different shapes and qualities were support for the researchers.

The people who worked there were in charge of diverse tasks, such as arranging classifications, providing assistance for visitors and decoding ancient writing of foreign literature pieces. Amongst them, the one said to be the least appealing job was in the manuscripts department, which preserved books so old as to be on the verge of deterioration. Just as the name indicated, it was the department where already published handwritten books were transcribed into typewritten format.

Although the people from said department steadily worked on the manuscripts to an astounding extent every day, they currently found themselves in the middle of a small crisis. A large amount of astronomy books had been selected out of an ample literary collection bought from a certain influential family’s warehouse. The great number of volumes was a problem, but even more so was conserving them, given the state they were in. The texts were barely readable and many pages would rip when turned. The only thing that could be done without damaging the books was opening them. In addition, the number of people in the manuscripts department was of eighty employees. Even without days off for a whole year, they would still not be done rendering all the manuscripts that had been brought in.

Taking the condition of the books into consideration, it was required with urgency that all volumes were transliterated simultaneously. That was when those people gained the opportunity to come in contact with professionals from a completely different field of expertise – the ones unmatched at typewriting jobs, Auto-Memories Dolls.

 

The ropeway shook restlessly. Several well-dressed females of wide-ranging ages walked in lines through the opened door. From ladies with reading glasses to girls in their early teens, dressed in either western or eastern-styled clothes, of varying races and eye colors. Everything in every single one of them was note-worthy. And what they had in common was that all of them had been rented by the world’s biggest enterprise, Shaher.

The last one that had hopped off the ropeway wore cocoa brown high-lace boots. The emerald green of the brooch on her chest shone foggily along with her golden hair and wondrous blue eyes. The dark red ribbon that decorated her head emitted a smooth luster and her white ribbon-tie one-piece dress calculatedly highlighted her feminine refinement. Her Prussian blue jacket finely matched her calm and dignified air, bringing out the milky white shade of her skin. She fixed her hold on her trolley bag and cyan and white-striped lace umbrella, turning it upside down and raising her face.

Clad a colorful micro-mini kimono, a red-haired oriental Auto-Memories Doll that had ridden the ropeway with her whispered to one of her co-workers, “In my country, people like that are nicknamed ‘lilies walking amongst peonies’.”

An unique flower that stood out more than any of the ladies in town. Without a doubt, she was exquisite. Her beauty was the kind that made it difficult to approach or speak to her. Unlike the others that got along well and conversed with each other, she simply marched onto the stone-paved road towards their destination.

 

A young man observed the city through a small telescope from one of the rooms in the Shaher headquarters. As work hours had not yet started, he carelessly wore a flaggy, half-unbuttoned dress shirt and trousers, merrily watching the view outside from the window beside his bed.

“Leon, hey. Come take a look. The girls that ‘rush everywhere at any time’ are arriving.”

The other youth, Leon, responded to his roommate’s words with a frown, “How about getting changed? Since the amanuenses will be here soon.”

Fussy-looking almond eyes could be spotted behind his thin-framed glasses. His developing, young facial features indicated him to be in his mid-teens. His long hair was of a rare sea green color and his skin, which was the same shade as he had been born with and not a product of being burned by the sun, was of a beautiful brown. Unlike his roommate, he had already put on his necktie and buttoned his cuffs.

“Auto-Memories Dolls, huh. They’re gorgeous women that use beautiful words to write for their clients! Aren’t they worthy of being reverenced?”

Leon retorted in a low tone to the man that was about five years older than himself, “They’re like prostitutes, right? I’ve heard that aiming to get rich men to marry them is their objective.”

“Who told you something like that? Don’t you say it in their faces. You’re bad with words, after all… and women are scary when angered. Especially those who work like that. There might be women like you described, but these have come all the way to assist common citizens like us. Show some respect.”

“Shaher’s association will pay them, won’t it? If that’s their job, it’s not a reason to show respect. Since they were going to be paid anyway, the renting didn’t have to be of human-like dolls. Why do we have to let a bunch of women into our offices?”

“You mean the other invention of their creator, Professor Orlando? It seems that suggestion was already made. A lot has been discussed, but we couldn’t afford renting 80 of them to have one machine per person. They’re expensive. And there aren’t many corporations that make business from renting out things like that. It’s also easy to put together a large number of dolls when they have such a close relationship with postal companies.”

Though Leon was disgusted by those words, he understood them well. Postal affairs worldwide varied according to each continent, but the deliveries of postal items of their own continent did not follow patterns, as they were led by a private company. It was said to be the master of the current generation’s postal agencies aberration, where the users had to choose a postal company based on potential limits for the distributions and fees to have their items delivered. However, the Auto-Memories Dolls had a side-business partnership with the local postal agency. They gave off the impression of being high-grade exclusive use of the wealthier classes, but the fee plans were many. Moreover, the modest care of those carefully selected, well-trained women would often be requested more than once by the same user. Their presence in the market was not immense, but by no means was it small.

“We can’t extend their work hours too much, but if the price is more affordable, it’s fine if we hire cute human-like dolls. Things are better this way. They even make corrections in the texts. Besides, Leon… if the ones coming were men, you wouldn’t have uttered a single complaint, would you?”

Silence.

“I seriously think your hatred towards women… is disproportional. I don’t know the cause… but I believe you’ll be cured from it if you fall in love. You miss out on a lot by not experiencing romance.”

Leon looked as if he was biting back cynicism. Although he was not fond of being told that his face of displeasure fit him well, his current expression matched his overall appearance. “Why does everyone… say that it’s weird to not be into romance?”

It seemed that was something he was used to hearing.

“No, I’m not saying it’s weird. It’s just a waste. What do you even live for?”

“People can live without that! I love my job, and I like this place. That’s why I’m put off by Shaher’s decision. Don’t you see we’re exposing our sacred work to something inappropriate? Letting women into a workstation packed with men always ends up in…!”

“‘Sacred… work’, huh…”

“It’s not something anyone can do. You and I are here because we’ve been chosen. Document-deciphering techniques require learning all sorts of languages. We of the manuscripts department are men of exceptional talent.”

“It’s dull, though. Men everywhere. We do have some women in charge of literature collections related to flowers, though… ah, but they might be the majority in the references section. I wish I’d been drafted there.”

Leon stayed silent while observing his roommate grin broadly at the approaching women. He put on the work jacket he usually wore over his shirt and left the room at once. Though he heard his name being called from behind, he ignored it.

The corridors were enveloped in the gentle morning atmosphere. From the windows, early sunrays shone brightly while pouring into the dim halls and bird chippings could be heard. It was also from them that he could see a fellow staff member writing the words “Welcome, Auto-Memories Dolls” onto a hanging banner.

The faces of the men he crossed paths with in the males’ dormitory seemed somewhat foolish. Even those who usually never bothered shaving their beards were now putting their bare jaws to display, frequently peeking into their hand-mirrors.

“Leon, good morning! Man, finally the fateful day has come… hey?”

“Why’s he making such a scary face? It’s the same as always, though.”

He passed by the spot without greeting his sneering colleagues.

“Everyone is so giddy about ‘women’ and ‘love’. Isn’t it pathetic?” Over being repetitively told the same things, within the silence of such a delightful morning, Leon clicked his tongue and kicked the wall with his polished leather boot. “To hell with ‘romance’!”

The birds outside immediately reacted to the violent sound; all the ones that had settled on the nearby trees flew away. His foot apparently hurting from the kick, Leon let out a groan after walking a few steps.

 

The entrance hall of the Shaher headquarters, where constellations and mythical characters were drawn on the dome-shaped ceiling, was where the Auto-Memories Dolls had gathered, their constant talking reverberating like ripples. Presented in front of their colorful figures was a member of Shaher’s manuscripts department’s personnel, who sported a comfortable-looking black gown known as an ‘academic dress’ and a square college cap with a tassel, letting out what sounded like a purposeful cough.

Upon a signal from his hand, other members with the same get-up appeared from the back in a line. Though there were several women, the men were in bigger number. Amongst them, Leon seemed to be the youngest. His youth was evident in the midst of so many adults, as each one of them tensed up with rigid cleverness typical of a group of specialists that had come from other countries.

“To the Auto-Memories Dolls here assembled, we are terribly sorry for the long wait. I am the manager of the manuscripts department, Rubellie.”

The chitchatting died immediately as the first man that had showed up spoke. As if synchronized, the Auto-Memories Dolls bowed elegantly in various ways, their voices becoming one, “Pleased to make your acquaintance, Master.”

The chorus was cheerful, incompatible with the old hall. Soon after, the women took glances at one another and burst out in giggles. Apparently, greeting at the exact same time was something they had not done before. Indeed, all of them were business rivals that had been dispatched by many different amanuensis organizations. And the women marketed as Auto-Memories Dolls were required to receive high-grade tuition regarding the details of their very old profession. Therefore, responding with grace to counterparties was to them a common rule.

Albeit flattered, Rubellie coughed once again and opened his mouth, “Your contract period is of a month. In that meantime, we will make a copy of hundreds of precious literature pieces. The total number of staff members in our manuscripts department is 80 people. My respected 80 Auto-Memories Dolls, the goal for the manuscript transcription progress in this one month is 80%. If I were to be completely honest, I wish you could stay for much longer, but the maximum availability for hiring extremely busy ladies such as yourselves is only of 30 days. Another reason is that the amanuensis whose efforts we had wanted to make use of in this limited time are frequently summoned by the military. All of us from the manuscripts department have awaited you from the bottom of our hearts. We will be in your care.”

As he took his hat off and bowed, the other members followed suit. Nothing had started just yet, but already something warm sprouted in the hearts of said experts, who found themselves in the presence of one another by a miracle.

 

After the introductions, work soon became the topic. The manuscripts were supposed to be worked on in pairs. Rubellie announced the partners one by one, and the people called would be sent to the workroom. Lined up with everyone else in the hall, Leon waited for his name to be called as well.

It seemed his roommate had been paired with a kimono-wearing Auto-Memories Doll. While escorting her, he turned backwards and showed Leon a firmly clenched fist.

“Next, Leon Stephanotis. Leon, please step forth. Your partner is… from the C.H. Postal Company, Miss Cattleya Baudelaire. Miss Cattleya Baudelaire, please step forth.”

The manuscripts department staff members held their breaths at the woman weaving her way forward through the remaining ladies. She had actual doll-like facial traits and body, and the air about her hinted that her attractiveness was not her only gift.

“A-Are you Miss Cattleya Baudelaire?”

The doll turned her head just a little towards Rubellie, whose throat had gone dry for a second. With watery blue orbs and long blonde lashes that cast shadows over them, the woman gave him a bewitching look that could perplex anyone without hesitation. “No, I have come here as Cattleya’s substitute. I rush anywhere to provide any service a client might wish for. I’m from the automated dolls service, Violet Evergarden.”

Her voice was enough to captivate everyone and take control of the entire place.

“I’m from the same postal agency as her. She was drafted for two jobs at the same time by mistake, so I was dispatched for this one. Her period of absence will be of a week, and after that, the originally-hired Auto-Memories Doll, Cattleya, will come. However, a message of apology from the president was supposed to already have been delivered…”

A young woman that seemed to be a secretary stepped beside the bewildered Rubellie. “I’m sorry. Come to think of it, we received a call three days ago. Since the only change to be made was in the registration name, I thought I could do it later and… hum…”

Rubellie waved his hand at the discomfited girl. “No, well… it’s fine as long as her place isn’t vacant. Now, Miss Evergarden, we entrust working with our grumpy Leon to you. Leon, your partner has suddenly changed, but a brilliant gentleman such as yourself will have no issues with that, right?”

With all the attention of the room on him, Leon remained quiet, not uttering a single reply.

“Leon…?” Rubellie peeked at his face from the side.

Even for an onlooker, it was as if his time had stopped. He even forgot to blink and breathe. An abnormality Leon had never felt before weighted on his chest.

——My heart… is throbbing. What is this… what is this woman? What did she do to me?

His eyes were wide open, his mouth agape, his ears flushed red. Such reactions were caused by the rare beauty in front of him.

“Leon. Hey, Leon?” Not even his superior’s words could reach him.

——A strange feeling… is burning within my body.

Violet tilted her head a little at the glare he shot at her, so fiery it almost could make one melt, calling out to him, “Master?”

Leon Stephanotis. Sixteen years old. Born and raised in the arms of Mount Eustitia, he had always watched the night sky, leading a life of ever being addicted to astronomy. His time was dedicated to the stars, with no openings in his routine for outsiders to sneak into. That was how things were supposed to be even now. Until the present moment, he had never known romantic love, as his misogynistic heart was being touched by someone else for the first time.

 

“I will now begin to write the words recited by Master without fail. About the graphs in this book, if you so wish, I could later submit a perfect copy of them. I’ve also heard that everything was supposed to be typewritten. Is it alright if the device I use is my own? Or is there one of yours already at hand?”

The workroom of Shaher’s manuscripts department was lively with noise. Several books lay on the lined-up sofas. The place was cramped with people working side by side, pushing away the books and diagrams to uncover free space for the typewriters to be settled on. Such a thing was only the expected with the number of people having doubled. Leon and Violet sat on chairs beside one another, the gap between them so small that their knees could touch at any moment.

“Use the one in front of you. Each and only the modern devices in Shaher are unified by a common password. Don’t leak it.”

“Of course, anything related to Master’s job is strictly confidential.”

Not at all feeling intimidated by a device she was not familiar with, Violet started using the typewriter. Leon’s eyes kept being drawn to her stunning profile.

——This is odd… as I thought, I’m not in good health.

Leon struggled with the mysterious palpitation without having any idea of what its cause could be. While everyone else worked properly, it would be a disgrace for him as part of Shaher’s manuscripts department to become ill at a time like that. And so, without informing his situation to anyone, he desperately attempted to act like his normal self. However, the way people around them saw it…

“Leon… is blushing.”

“My… it’s definitely that kind of thing, isn’t it? He’s fallen for her, right?”

“So he did have interest in women. I was thinking that…”

“Ah, you too? I also used to think so.”

“Right… I mean, we’ve never seen him date anyone.”

“Uwah, I feel like a parent watching my son grow up.”

Leon’s friendly older colleagues were quick to understand his change in expression and had been worried, but ended up watching over him from their distanced seats as if having fun.

His title was of youngest astronomer with enough knowledge to be part of the manuscripts department. A young staff member who was acknowledged by his boss was likely to be seen as a nuisance, yet the men of the manuscripts department staff treated him like a little brother.

The curious onlookers’ stares carved holes into Leon’s back, but though he had noticed them, he settled for not saying a thing, glaring daggers at them in return. The ones being scowled at merely laughed and resumed their tasks.

Her hands still on the typewriter that had been readied for use, Violet gave a slight nod and fixed her gaze on Leon again. “No issues with the operation method. Now, Master, please start reciting.”

“The first one we’ll do is a description written in Lingua Franca about a comet from two hundred years ago named Alley. I’m warning you: I’m fast at translating. Usually, when we form pairs here in the manuscripts department, one does the translating and one writes it down. If you can’t keep up, you’re an unnecessary dead weight.”

“I am aware.”

That brief reply struck Leon as a sign of overly-confident attitude. A desire to break that pride bubbled within him.

“Then, let us see your skills.” He carefully turned to page one of the book that was about to fall apart with a pincet. “An arrow of light cutting through the dark heavens reaped the neck of Saint Barbarossa with its hauling long tail. To quote the late astrologer Ariadne, ‘the Light Arrow is a harbinger of ill omen’. After the shine of said light faded, a plague spread, and the kingdom echoed with news of its monarch’s death. It’s said that Saint Barbarossa was also shot by the Light Arrow, which torn apart his soul and body. From what Ariadne revealed, there have been appearances of the Light Arrow in the past. The reason of Light Arrow’s existence is said to be the kidnapping of a bride by king Reinhart from the Fairy Country. In this occasion, a nobleman died. However, the fact that the woman was turned into Reinhart’s wife while her former groom was offered as sacrifice in a blessed banquet is not a tragedy. He revived with a new body in the Fairy Country, sited in the gap between life and death, with his soul preserved for eternity.” Leon recited smoothly without pausing even once, not sparing a single glance to the one doing the writing. He could hear sounds of typing as he spoke, wondering how far she had gotten. Once he stopped to check…

“Master, please continue.”

…Violet had just finished copying his recitation. He was taken aback for a second.

——She might type quicker than me.

Instead of amazement, he felt frustration.

“It seems I can go even faster.” Leon cleared his throat, focusing his nerves and recommencing the translation. “Willingly or not, the nobleman’s death impacted the peasants. Many become insane upon sighting the Light Arrow. Some would throw themselves into the lake while seeking its reflection and drown; some would chase it and never come back. There are also many who become strangely weak-spirited after having witnessed the Light Arrow. Moreover, the Light Arrow is not a sign of bad luck only in our country. A traveling troubadour once said that, in the Orient, there’s a legend of when the Light Arrow set the sky on fire as it passed by. The people of that land would fill up bags with air to breathe into them until it was gone. It’s been heard that there were also people that roamed around selling those bags filled with mountain wind. However, amidst the despair of watching everything be burned down by that entity running along the heavens, the helpless people could only stare. Great things always begin and end in places we cannot reach. If the ultimate end ever comes, it would surely be something as bright as that.” He did not even stop to take a breath, exhaling heavily after speaking, then hurriedly turning towards Violet.

“Master?” She was already done typing, having perfectly transcribed the depictions into the document.

The frustration he had suppressed earlier merged with irritation. He somehow could not handle seeing her look so calm. “Don’t get cocky!”

Violet’s fingers moved rapidly onto the keyboard.

“No! Don’t write that! I wasn’t reciting!”

“My apologies.”

“Damn it… I’ll win no matter what… no! Don’t write this either!”

“My apologies again.”

 

After several hours of repeating the same process, the two of them were far ahead of the other pairs with their amount of work. While checking the copied documents, Violet glanced sideways at Leon, who held onto his throat that ached from reading too much.

“We were able to do the equivalent of three days of work today. Master, you are great.”

“Ah, is that so…” overtaken with sense of defeat, Leon did not rejoice much.

Her typing speed was a particularly noticeable ability even in the manuscripts department. Regardless of being a specialist, he had lost to an outsider, which he resented.

“I assume we were twice as quicker as the other pairs. Does this not mean that, we keep it up, we’ll be able to finish all of the paperwork by half of the contract period?”

“That’s… impossible.” Leon scanned the progress table placed on one of the workroom’s walls. The name of each pair and the goal progresses and achievements of the day were registered in it, and all pairs presented numbers far more advanced than planned.

It was then that Leon actually looked at Auto-Memories Dolls other than Violet. Even though that was their first break after working for eight hours, they were all smiles, amicably chatting with each other. In contrast, much like Leon himself, the manuscripts department’s men were completely exhausted. It could be an exaggeration to describe them as a heap of corpses, but it was not just one or two of them that had collapsed onto the nearby desks.

“How… can you girls be so energetic…?”

“By ‘energetic’, you mean…?”

“Anyone would get tired after doing so much transcribing… normally.”

Violet blinked questioningly a few times. “Rapid writing certainly does require concentration and stamina, but that does not cause too much fatigue in comparison to traveling.”

“‘Traveling’, you say… you mean to where your clients are?”

“Yes. It’s part of our job as Auto-Memories Dolls to go anywhere a client needs us to at any time. Even if that turns out to be the interior of an unexplored dense jungle or a large nation hidden behind dozens of mountains, we can withstand taking any means of transportation while carrying nothing but our bags for a whole year.”

“Even though you’re women?”

“Most Auto-Memories Dolls are female.”

“Well… even so… there are places that are dangerous, right?”

“That’s right. But does not everyone have the minimum of physical strength and self-defense techniques? Since I’m from the C.H. Postal Agency, I am also assigned to conflict areas. In those cases, I carry firearms with me, which adds in quite a bit of extra weight. Typing for a few hours is…”

It appeared she had wanted to say “is nothing”. Leon felt the irritation swirl in his chest again. But at the same time, his mind changed a little about the idea he had of Auto-Memories Dolls. From an ordinary person’s point of view, an automated doll was a special professional whose services could only be afforded by high society.

——I thought they were entertainers of rich men, but…

A posture undisturbed even after long hours of effort. The consistent composure of an attendant. Severe work conditions that do not seem to include definite days off. Agendas that demand going to dangerous areas. If anyone were to ask him if he could do it all, the answer would be no.

“Why are you… doing such a hard job?”

——It’s not the kind of thing one could accomplish just by wishing to marry a rich guy.

Violet answered blandly, “It’s the role that was given to me.”

“By your company?”

“That… as well. But never once did I think it was too hard. I think that… going all the way to my clients and depicting their feelings, as if I were receiving the thoughts of someone that had an ancient tale written in their mind and giving form to them, is extremely… unique… and wonderful.”

Her words instantly blew the weariness away from Leon’s body.

——I understand. I totally understand.

In the distance past, someone used to observe the stars and research them as he did now, and Leon could sense a romanticist feeling whenever that person talked about them. The empathy, admiration and fear he felt towards that person, who was no longer around, as well as the feeling of accomplishment of deciphering a manuscript for the first time, were all very exceptional.

“You’re right…”

It was truly wonderful.

“Even though… you’re a woman… you get it.”

“Does being a woman… have anything to do with it?”

“Well, no… there isn’t…”

Upon being praised by that Master for the first time, Violet let the corners of her lips curl up a little when he was not looking.

 

The Auto-Memories Dolls that had been nicknamed ‘penalty assistants of the manuscripts department’ continued working at full power the following days.

The thoroughly-educated ladies’ alluring demeanor and way of carrying themselves did not appeal only to men, as they were commended by other women as well. Amongst them, the one that stood out the most was Leon’s partner, Violet Evergarden. Her classy charm was one of the reasons, but what also attracted the men was her cool behavior. She started gaining worshipers.

“Be careful. People are envious of you.”

Although he was warned right away and did not understand it at first, Leon later realized what was going on. Even after finishing looking for materials or typing manuscripts out, the two of them always walked around the building together. Leon, who was bad with words and inept with women, and Violet, who, almost like a real doll, mostly spoke in a robotic manner, were not supposed to be a cheerful-looking duo. Yet logic did not reach those whose eyes were clouded by love. And the ones that were the most jealous were men outside of the manuscripts department.

“Then, what did you wish to talk about?”

Having hit a wall with the translation, Leon had headed to the library to search for a dictionary. Since the one he had wanted was in a place so high that he had to climb a ladder, he had left Violet waiting on a nearby chair. As he came back feeling triumphant after finally getting his hands on the book like a treasure hunter, he found Violet surrounded by three young men of the references section, who smiled at her from ear to ear.

“Just that it’s a pity you got Leon as partner. He has a nasty personality.”

“True. Even though he’s an orphan that wouldn’t have been able to lead a decent life if it weren’t for Shaher taking him in…”

“A flower on a precipice like you would be wasted on him. If it gets boring, come to the references section. Do you like talking about stars? We’re better at that than the manuscripts department guys.”

Violet expressionlessly listened to everything being said.

——Ridiculous.

Leon clicked his tongue. Although he was easy to anger, he had received such treatment so many times that he was quite frankly used to it. Rather than fury, nothing was on his mind other than a part of himself asking in an amused tone, “This again?”

He was more than conscious of his own origins, his wicked character, the fact he was younger than everyone else and that very few people actually liked him. It was probably due to appearing unfriendly when dealing with people of other departments. His reputation amongst them was not quite positive. He might not even have had his work in the manuscripts department recognized had he not caught the eye of his boss, Rubellie. Leon led a lifestyle where he did not seek for other people’s affection, and therefore was never upset by defamation of that sort. He was not offended in the slightest.

“I am an orphan as well.” Violet’s words tore through the silence of the library as their impact was conveyed. They had considered her voice beautiful before, but it was the first time it sounded so pure. “I have most certainly not had the satisfying life you seem to be suggesting.” The impetuous sentence resonated casually.

——She’s… lying, right? Was what Leon thought, but he could see her serene and frank attitude from the space between the men’s backs.

“It’s only been a few years since I have learned how to read.”

Although his heart was unharmed by anything regarding himself, he was assaulted by pain at Violet’s confession.

“Also, forgive me… for firing your words back at you, but… at the very least, the people from the manuscripts department more joyful and skilled than me when it comes to talking.” Violet, still beautiful as ever, unpretentiously revealed herself. “If what you wish to discuss is about places of birth or childhood… would you mind if I do not participate?”

“T-This is wrong. You’re not… like that. Right?”

“Nothing is wrong. Compared to Master Leon, I’m the one who has the most depriving life… I can assert it even without your confirmation.”

“H-His mother was a wanderer.”

“I don’t even know my parents’ faces. Besides, I myself am a wanderer. I’m an Auto-Memories Doll, after all. If you intend to advocate only for me, your remarks are contradictory.”

“You’re… saying this to cover up for Leon because he’s your partner, aren’t you?!”

Violet turned towards the man who had said so with his face beet-red. “I’m simply speaking the truth… however… that might be right…” Her golden lashes shook as her rouge lips waited for her thoughts to take shape. Violet Evergarden was most likely not the type to shrink back, no matter how much others urged her. “My contract might have been sealed by Shaher’s management, but my master at the moment is Mister Leon Stephanotis alone. If you attempt to hurt him, I shall protect him with everything I have. This might be a deviation of my professional duties… however, it’s my nature as a doll.”

The young men, who were completely dismissed, had no idea how to refute.

“Let’s go, our words aren’t getting through.” With that one statement, at last, the three quickly stepped away from Violet.

Indeed, the world she lived in was different from theirs. Even if they were fellow human beings, even if they spoke the same language, that fact remained unchanged. It was as if they were facing one another on opposite shores – their words would not mesh. Such was an unfortunate truth, but there were many who would not realize the sad part of it.

An onlooker asked in low voice about what had happened and was told about Violet in whispers.

“What’s with her? Talking in that kind of way just because she’s pretty… who does she think she is?”

“Seems like she’s an orphan…”

Gossiping with no sense of guilt. People started talking loud enough that only those with damaged ears would not hear it. Even so, Violet sat down with a well-mannered posture and continued to wait for Leon. She awaited his return, and nothing else.

For Leon, her figure was unbearable for some reason. It was dignified. When he had first met her, too, he had thought she had a dignified beauty. Without a doubt, she was prettier than any woman he had ever met. The nobility of her caliber was admirable. However, she had just displayed a singular kind of beauty.

——Something… something different. Something purer and immensurable. Something…

She seemed like even more of a dazzling person now. That made his chest ache.

Leon clicked his tongue again and walked slowly, reaching his hand out for Violet.

“Master.” Violet raised her face.

At the same time, Leon held onto her arm and made her stand up. They made their way through the library’s extensive corridors in a fast pace. Their shoes rattled against the floor.

“Master, have you found what you were looking for?”

“It’s here.”

“That’s good.”

“It’s not.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s not good at all!”

——Isn’t it my fault that people started thinking badly of you?

The subject did not go further than that.

“Is that so? By the way, does this library has books of departments other than the manuscripts one?”

“Hah? Of course… there are tons of books about constellations. Is there any you want to read?”

“Yes. For someone that travels often, it’s useful to collect knowledge.” Violet acted as if the previous disturbance had not affected her in the smallest amount.

Her object of interest was a pile of books close by. Not even the excessive warmth of Leon’s hand on her arm had put a damper to it. Even though he had wanted to leave as soon as possible, he stopped in his tracks instantaneously.

“Then, start choosing right now. You need a card for borrowing books. It’d be a pain to make one for you, so let’s just act as if I were the one borrowing them.”

“But… we’re in the middle of work hours…”

Leon once again felt indescribably itchy at Violet’s restraint. “It’s just a matter of picking a few of them, right? Besides, I made you wait, so this is retribution. You’re modest over some weird things. Even though you always say whatever you want…”

“My apologies.”

“I’m not mad, so don’t apologize.”

“You aren’t?”

No matter how one looked at it, Leon’s face showed displeasure.

“I’m not. This is just the face I have.”

With her lips tapering as if she was sulking, Violet narrowed her eyes a little. “I’m told I’m expressionless. Such is the face I have.” She said in a similar way to him. “We are a bit alike.”

Leon found difficult to release his hold.

 

“Then I said, ‘this is scary, huh’. And what do you think she said back? ‘You’re cute’! Kuuuuuh! I couldn’t handle it! She’s the one that’s cute! Right? Hey, are you even listening, Leon?”

Three days had passed since the collaborative work had started. As usual, his roommate babbled to no end instead of just changing from his pajamas. He had been talking about Auto-Memories Dolls since early morning, yet Leon had stopped listening midway. While he fastened his tie, something else was on his mind.

“I’m not. Your story doesn’t matter. I can’t think of anything other than the observation of Alley’s Comet that will happen in four days.”

“As I thought, you weren’t… Alley’s Comet had a cycle of 200 years, was it? Welp, if we miss this, we won’t be alive the next time.”

“I wonder how it can be so beautiful.”

“The tail of light created when the comet passes by is very fantasy-like in the existing images of it. I’m also looking forward to seeing it. I’m thinking of inviting my partner. Come to think of it, wasn’t your super pretty partner only going to stay for four more days?”

“My chest… hurts unbearably… when I look at her.”

“Why don’t you try to invite that pretty girl, Violet? And hey, what did you say just now? Weren’t we talking about the comet?”

——Just four more days, huh?

The observation of Alley’s Comet was a big event for Shaher’s staff. For comet of long cycles, only people born within their visiting periods are able to see them. It was a miraculous chance. However, though the comet occupied Leon’s mind, so did Violet.

Ever since she had come, after each day of work, he would count the remaining hours he would spend with her. At the break of dawn, he would find himself thinking on and on about things such as what to say when approaching her, or why she would always be missing during lunchtime. And that would ease the stinging pain in his chest.

“Back to my topic… it’s fruitless no matter how much you like her. She’s an Auto-Memories Doll. She’ll soon disappear somewhere. Well, women are normally like that, though. When you think things are doing fine, before you realize it, they’re filing a letter of divorce and it’s over. Then they get mad like, ‘I have been holding back about it all this time’ and leave. It’s just a matter of not holding things in and talking about them.”

——I don’t want… to become attached to her in that way. I don’t want to. I don’t want to.

He shook his head in attempt to stop thinking about her and failing. As though to admonish himself, Leon intentionally fastened the tie even tighter. It was as if his neck was about to twist. But in truth, it had been hard to breathe for a long while now – ever since meeting Violet.

 

It was customary in Shaher for everyone to halt their activities during lunch period. Director Rubellie would say that it was for the sake of their work quality.

Within the Shaher headquarters was a cafeteria that could accommodate not only the visitors but also the entire staff of every department. There were meals that could be bought and take-outs. It was a free space. Leon would usually be at said cafeteria, but today, he had refused his colleagues invitation to sit together, walking around the halls after getting himself nothing but a bacon and lettuce baguette and a drink.

——Where’s she?

He found the person in question without much trouble. There was a balcony that could be accessed through the hardly-used emergency stairs. A statue of a star goddess majestically stood on the stone handrail. Violet sat on the rail as though nestling on said goddess. With her drink on one hand, she fed bits of her bread to the birds. Her brightly shining golden hair emitted a soft glow and made her look even more God-like.

The birds flew off once Leon opened the door. “Do you… hate being seen while eating?”

As though having taken notice of his footsteps, without being startled at all, Violet nodded.

Leon moved closer, sitting by her side. “Why?” he inquired, biting into the baguette.

Violet averted her eyes, as if deep in thought. “When I’m eating or sleeping, I’m defenseless. I can’t properly react if an enemy attacks.”

“‘Enemy’, you say… even if you’re a woman traveling alone, do things that dangerous really happen?”

“It’s just a habit. I was a soldier in the past.”

“Hah? You?”

“Yes. Is that strange?”

Leon flinched as Violet slowly moved her neck to look at him. As her eyes met his sea green hair, they narrowed slightly at the excess of brightness.

“I-It is… I mean, you… no matter how you look at it… you’re just a woman.”

“‘Just’…?”

During work, he had come to find out that her arms were prosthetics. He had thought they could have been the result of some accident, but after being told she had been a soldier, he understood everything. Continentally speaking, disabled veterans were not a rarity. There had been a war going on between big countries called the Continental War until a few years before. But even after having heard that revelation, Leon, who knew nothing of Violet’s past, could only see her current self.

“You’re… just a woman…”

For him, the first ‘woman’.

Once again, Violet had a thoughtful expression for a moment. “Master is one of a kind.”

“Eh, how so?”

“Wherever I go, I am generally told that I am odd.”

“Isn’t that because of your clothes? They’re fluttery and seem hard to move around with.”

“Isn’t Master’s academic dress even harder to move around with?”

“It is. There are people that don’t even wear anything under those things during summer. Because they get moldy.”

“It would be terrible if there were wind blowing in these occasions.” As she commented seriously, Leon ended up smiling. “By the way, Master, did you have anything to talk about?”

“Y-Yeah… it’s nothing much, though. On your last day here, Alley’s Comet is coming. And, hum… it’s gonna be a really big deal, so I came to tell you about it…”

“Alley’s Comet is… the one mentioned in that manuscript, right?”

“That’s right. It’s got a 200-year cycle, so we won’t be able to see it again in this lifetime. Then, want to see it?” while asking, Leon internally prayed that she would somehow say yes.

“Yes, I would like to see it.” Violet nodded.

Leon balled a fist, crushing the baguette he had been holding. “Is that so? I guess it’s a given since we’re partners. There was no need to invite you.”

“Are you making an invitation or not?”

“I-I will! I am! You’re invited. The observation is before dawn so we’ll start getting ready at two o’clock. You’ll probably be sleepy by the time you have to leave, is that okay?”

“No problem. Just two hours of sleep is enough for me.”

“Get more than that… I understand. You just have to wait for the day to come. We’ll be the ones to prepare anything that might be of need. See ya. Sorry for intruding.” Getting down from the rail, Leon walked away.

After turning a few corners in the corridor, he leaned his back against a wall and squatted down on the spot. Cheeks stained crimson, sweat traveled down his forehead. As a hand made its way to his lips, and he realized he was grinning. Violet’s response of “yes, I would like to see it” replayed on repeat in his head.

“Fu… fuha… fuhaha…” it was good that there was no one around as he burst out in laughter, abruptly returning to himself after a few seconds. He got up in a hurry, straightening his clothes and wiping the sweat off. “I’m… this is weird… what is this…?” still not knowing the name of his peculiar disease, Leon let out a miserable voice and covered his face with both hands.

Violet, whom he had left behind, was watching whatever had happened to the baguette forgotten on the railing.

 

The Eustitia Observatory was equipped with a huge astronomical telescope, considered the world’s largest. Other than it, the Observatory had countless smaller telescopes that could be borrowed and set up. Since the place was the best celestial bodies’ observation spot in Eustitia, one could view the sky from anywhere they preferred, as it would make no difference so long as they had the right tools. In the dead of night, still too dark to properly see anything, Leon met up with Violet after gathering the telescope pieces, along with blankets for two and a few other items.

“Master, I’ll carry these.”

“It’s fine.”

“But… they look heavy.”

“It’s fine!”

Violet walked behind Leon, away from the stone-made cityscape. Although it was a warm season, in a city located within mountains, the coldness was still enough to prickle one’s skin during nighttime. To add up, they both headed farther above into the mount. Once they arrived at the desired place, their bodies were utterly frigid.

“Here, cover yourself with this. And drink the soup. I’ll put up the telescope.”

Other observers could be seen here and there at the spot Leon had chosen. At a glimpse, it looked like a spacious open field, but just a little ahead was a precipitous cliff. Still, there were no obstacles in anyone’s field of vision, and the large trees in the surroundings created good resistance against the wind. It was the best day for a star to come back after 200 years.

“Master, is that Alley’s Comet?” Violet asked upon sighting a small lump of light in the sky.

“It’ll look even more beautiful in a few. The closer the comet gets to the Sun, the more it evaporates from the heat, and that’s what creates its tail and makes it take the form of what people call a ‘shooting star’. The times when it’s visible are either when the Sun is setting in the west or right before it rises in the east. It’ll take some time but it’s worth the wait. Here, sit.”

Violet was gradually encircled by the things Leon had brought – a mat that had grown weary from usage, cushions that could withstand being sat on for long hours, a soft and lukewarm blanket and a delicious soup that warmed up the body from inside out.

“You still cold? Women get chilly so easily that it’s a pain. Want one more layer? Put it on.”

Although he had a brute way of speaking, he was a caring boy.

“Master is… very kind.” Violet whispered at the same time as he talked.

“D-Don’t spout nonsense. I’m not kind. And I’m no good with women. I treat them with disdain.”

“Is that so? It seems to me that you are very gentle. It does look like Master does not hold conversations with female staff members, though…”

He looked like he had no interest in others.

“Sincerely, I hate women…” After blurting it out, he wound up looking for Violet’s reaction. She merely waited for him to continue. “I-It’s not… like I hate all of them… it’s just that this is like a curse… no matter what, whenever women are around, it ends up being bad for me in some way. I know… that there are good women out there.”

“Has a woman ever… done something malicious to you?”

The answer to Violet’s question was a scar in Leon’s heart that he had not shared even with his colleagues.

——She will… be gone soon, anyways. No matter what I say, we’ll never meet again afterwards. So isn’t it okay… if I become honest in front of someone for once in my life?

Leon thought while looking into the eyes of that beautiful woman. Luckily, she was a straight-laced taciturn. She would definitely not go on gossiping about the past of a young man that she had met in the mountains. Even if she did, the damage that could cause would be minimal.

“Can you promise me… you won’t tell this to anyone?” Leon, who could not open up without such precaution, let go of the telescope that he had just finished setting up and firmly held onto her two hands.

“As you wish.”

His own hands, which had been gelid from the nightly wind, were now tense and sweaty in the peak of his nervousness. “I… I was… I was born and raised in this city. You… heard a lot about it back in the library, right?”

“You were listening…?”

“I was. It’s just as they said. My mother was a wanderer, a gypsy. Do you know what gypsies are? They’re people that visit many places and do performances, like dancing, singing, and crafting, thus promoting their own works… they’re similar to you, Auto-Memories Dolls.” while speaking, Leon started to reminisce to the parent that was no longer around. “Most gypsies are free-spirited women. There are those who hook up with men wherever they go, and those that fall head over hills and chase after one. They’re normally one of these two types. My mother was no exception to this, and fell in love with a man from this city, giving birth to a child. That was me.”

Leon’s mother had told him about how green was an extremely rare color for hair. It was a mutation born from an abrupt genetic mixture of multiple races. That was why he was so special and precious, she used to say – because he was the result of love between so many people. His mother had flaxen hair that had always smelled sweet. Since she had lived without ever dyeing it despite being teased for it, her words held great weight. No matter how much it was seen as bizarre, she had never stopped seeing it as a blessing.

He actually did not have many memories about his father, who was often not home. He worked at Shaher’s literature collection department. He had a grizzly beard and slump shoulders. It could not be said with just one look that he was a good person, but Leon’s mother was completely in love with him.

“Mom got my father to marry her by asking him directly.” His words sounded dark, but it was the truth.

He did not understand why his stunning mother had fallen for a reserved man that spent most of his time looking at stars. Similarly, he did not understand why his father had accepted her. Only, the two always seemed to get along well. Whenever his father would hear his mother cheerfully singing while reading his newspaper on the sofa, he would invite her to dance with him, force himself to get up and execute the steps poorly, without ever being rough to her. Their child would be reading picture books of stars nearby, listening to their laughter from behind his back. Such was their life.

He believed they were a good family.

It was said that the relationship between married couples often sullied due to issues with their children, but in their household, there was no such thing. After all, the object of his mother’s affection was primarily his father, and he was nothing more than the outcome of it. That was why it was obvious that his mother would leave in pursue of his father when he did not return from a search for literary collections.

When she contacted the literature collection department, she was told he had gone to abandoned ruins that used to be the base of an ancient kingdom. The underground empire had collapsed due to famine after the magnificent forest above it was destroyed by consecutive natural disasters. As it had turned into an abandoned graveyard, it was occupied by wild beasts and thieves.

It was rumored everywhere that whoever entered the site was cursed to never come back alive, yet the task of finding out the truth behind six researchers that had vanished without even their corpses being left behind was too important to ignore. However, in the end, the ones that had left with such purpose had returned without any clue on the whereabouts of the first group.

The literature collection department staff were explorers, and perishing during their journeys was not uncommon. Leon’s mother had been prepared for it to happen when marrying his father, but accepting it and being able to bear it were two different things. Her son or her dearest husband – putting both on a balance, she eventually had chosen which she loved most.

The last time he saw her was her back opening the door of their house with full intent to venture into a world overflowing with light. Before doing so, she had silently packed her luggage, handled Leon enough money for a few months and enough food for a few weeks, and told him about adults that he could rely on if anything happened, throwing away her role as mother after patting him on the head once. The moment she had suddenly turned around, she was simply a woman going after her husband. Hers was the silhouette of someone that had been baptized by people who spoke lightly of love.

During that time, of course, he had been sad for being abandoned by his mother. The hardest part was being ignored after having called out for his mother with a small and tearful voice, as if pleading. Although his mother had supposedly heard him, she had opened the door without hesitation.

“I’ll come back soon.” She left him with a cruel lie in exchange of a farewell and disappeared, not coming back even once ever since.

——Surely, the times the three of us had together will never return either.

Had she planned to leave her child and run off somewhere? Or maybe – it was the conclusion he was the least fond of imagining – she who had lived for love could have died for it. And Leon hated himself for still wanting to be keeping watch on that door even now.

——Women are selfish… they soon become obsessed with romance and love without thinking about the trouble they cause to others around them. If things are good for them, they don’t care about anything else. Love is what causes fools of that sort to be looked down upon by people. Is it okay for a parent to do something like that?

Where were his infant self’s feelings supposed to go? What was right and what was wrong? As the sight from his memories kept replaying in his head, so did the questions of “why?” and “how?”, several hundreds of million times. How were the wounds from losing that person and from reaching his hand out to the past supposed to heal?

For his young self, that person was his entire world. He would never have thought she would be gone one day. If she were not already there from the start, at the very least, she was his outright guardian from the moment he was born until he became aware of the things around him. She would find him whenever he ran off crying and praise him whenever he did something good. If he reached out his hand, she would even embrace him. She was a grand existence, better than him at everything.

——Take my hand. Otherwise, I can’t walk. Look at me. I can’t live without being watched over by you. Don’t go anywhere. This responsibility is upon you.

Such was what a parent was supposed to be.

——That’s what I used to think.

After finishing revealing his personal history, Leon rubbed his chest upon feeling his heartbeats intensify. Even though he had merely talked about the past, his heart reacted candidly, which affected his entire body.

——I’m an idiot, even though I’m not a child anymore.

He had had an unfulfilling childhood, but it was not as if he had never been fortunate. Shaher’s foundation had taken him as an orphan in after being notified that he had been abandoned and his relatives were gone, unfalteringly raising him until he was able to become an independent citizen of Eustitia. He later managed to get the great job of his dreams. He was fully aware that holding an eternal grudge towards his mother for leaving him was irrational. Even so…

——Even so, my sad past will not disappear.

In order to even the heartbeats, Leon sucked in a deep breath. Violet sat mutely by his side. The wind blew past the area, shaking the trees with its strokes. The cries of insects resounded softly, the sky filled with countless stars and one comet. Perhaps that had not been the best topic to discuss during such an ideal night.

Violet’s once quiet rose-colored lips opened unexpectedly, “Master… your honorable mother was very important to you, right?” She spoke in an awfully casual manner, yet the way she had pronounced ‘important’ sounded as if it had been borrowed from somewhere. Her words did not seem to have her real feelings properly imprinted in them.

Leon gazed at Violet. “I’m not really… sure about it anymore, but that probably used to be true. I must have felt this way before since she was my family… What about yours?”

“I have no blood-relation family. I’d been in the military since I was little, and the kind of family Master is asking about… I feel that I finally have a vague idea of it by now. Only… there was someone who took me in when I was a child.” Violet turned to look at Leon, who had never left the mountains, with her ocean-blue eyes. Her gaze while staring at his green hair, which was said to be the result of a wonderful love, was exceptionally solemn for some reason.

“Don’t you feel lonely being apart from that person?”

For a second, all of Violet’s movements stopped completely. Her pupils shook relentlessly, indicating she was at loss. A hand unwittingly reached for her emerald brooch. “To say this… could be seen as disqualifying of me as a doll. However, to tell the truth, I cannot comprehend… feelings such as loneliness, sorrow or love. I know what those feelings are. Except, I do not know if I myself can feel them. This is not a lie. I really do not know… still, just by not knowing this, it could be… that now, I may indeed be lonely.”

He might have denied those words had they been said by someone else. However, there was a taste of verity in the way that enigmatic woman spoke. It was as if the beautiful Auto-Memories Doll had the body and mind of a puppet. Nevertheless, Leon engraved her baffling words in his mind.

In the darkness of the night, Violet appeared smaller than during daytime. Although she looked like a doll, she was not really one. She was a genuine human being; a girl wrapped in a blanket.

“You… dedicate yourself to your job too much. Even if you call yourself an Auto-Memories Doll, you’re a normal woman through and through. Not a doll. You’re definitely… supposed to be lonely. Even I have times when I feel alone. R-Really rare times, though… Don’t you… occasionally think about this person?”

“I do.”

“Doesn’t your heart hurt like hell when you spent too many days away from them?”

“It does.”

“Won’t you feel lighter when you see them again?”

Violet closed