Violet Evergarden - Chapter 21
Translator – Dennou Translations
Stories end one day once they begin. With that in mind, one might deem clinging to themselves, to other people or to anything else in the world as a little foolish. Same for how fiercely their heart was burning. Or how it cried for these things. It would all disappear like a dream eventually. One could think that even just putting in some effort was meaningless. Yet it had started.
Born through some sort of cue, anyone would breathe. Open their eyes. Learn to let out their voice. Figure how to walk. Come to understand what love was. Receive affection. Find out that it was a sickness, and either stop or give continuity to it. Nobody was taught how to cure it. There were also those who never even once accepted it from anyone.
Whatever the case, no one was allowed to stop for as long as they were part of this story, of this world. While living, people would be continuously be involved with death. But if morning came, night would also follow. Hunger would abate and sleep would invite one to the floor. Even after losing love, people craved for it. With its eyes cast down to forfeit, the world gradually emitted a new shine. Manifestation of beauty and hideous collapses were in progress at the same time. There was no eternity, but things went on. The story would continue. The world would go round. Even if it would meet its end one day.
Even without you there, morning would come.
Blue eyes opened.
Purple flower petals fluttered gently in front of her eyes and passed her. They touched her as if to cause tickles, and then disappeared. The illusions of the past that had been surfacing dissipated slowly.
Her wild beast self and her named self. All of the past dissolved into reality, dragged back into the present. Here, there was neither a beast nor the man that it used to call “Major”.
The boat lethargically moved through a large river, an Auto-Memories Doll on it. The rowing of the boater, who wore a big hat, was quite something. For it to cause a chance meeting between her and her past, that had to be a good boater.
The girl, Violet – Violet Evergarden – was looking for someone.
Whenever she opened her eyes, she would wind up doing it. Looking for the person who had given her as much as he could give and then vanished. Looking for the person that she had hurt as much as she could hurt and not managed to protect.
Of course, he was nowhere in sight. There was no way he would be in such a place. She knew it. However, she would end up searching. Her most beloved lord had supposedly died long ago, yet she would find herself searching for him. Even an apparition would do; she only wanted to see him at least one more time.
The world he was gone from had livened up anew and its colors were vibrant. Violet had to live in said world. She had to live in this fresh hell. She could no longer receive orders. Neither could she chase after his back. There were limits to what she could do.
It was easy for people to tell her to move on. However, that was a great difficulty for her. Violet had been told to live. Just as ordered, without attempting to die, she was living while burdened with this difficulty.
“Miss, what is it you’re looking for?”
At that time, Violet was still not a full-fledged human.
The Rose and the Auto-Memories Doll
“Wait,” I prayed.
The dark red ribbons tying her golden hair. The pleats on her white ribbon-tie dress. The light blue umbrella. As if playing around, all of these things fluttered in the wind.
——Wait for me.
It was hard to breathe. Flowers from the jacaranda trees were blocking my field of vision. Their beauty erased everything that could be seen. Yet they were nothing but a hindrance now. What I yearned for wasn’t them.
——Please, wait for me.
Tears welled up. I didn’t know whether they were tears of sadness, relief or frustration.
I didn’t understand anything anymore. What was I doing? I didn’t know. Surely, I had never known. I didn’t even know that I was hurting.
If there was one thing I knew, it was that I wanted her to take me away from here.
That was all.
——So please, wait up; don’t leave me behind.
It was spring. When it came to the four seasons, spring was surely the best one.
I first met her at a time when lilac blossoms were in bloom. Lightly, nimbly, they fluttered down. It was a season where purple flower petals danced in the sky. Spring. A season of sprouting.
What color came to people’s minds when they talked about spring, I wondered. It was probably a different one depending on where each of them lived. Pink cheery blossoms were scattered around higher lands. I had heard that bougainvillea flowers dyed a certain region in pure white. Apparently, the sight of green stems stretching out from within the snow thaw was the face of spring in some places. As for me, when the topic was spring, it had to be jacaranda trees.
The Jacaranda River was located among the mountains of the d’Arthur Region at southwest of the continent. It was a large river surrounded by steep mountains that rose like giants. Bearing the same name, jacaranda trees were planted along said river as if to enclose it, and during the flowering seasons, the color of the water surface would turn violet.
Ordinary trees had their branches, fruits and leaves pointed downward, but jacaranda flowers grew pointing upward, almost like a hand holding a bouquet. Just one of those flowering trees was already a feast to the eyes, so it was simply magnificent when there were many of them together. The sky was blue; the earth was a cloud of purple. Even God would easily let out a sigh when looking down at this scene from the heavens.
There were countless small communities in the vicinities of the Jacaranda River, and in order to go from the outside to a piece of land that had a settlement on it, one basically had to move by boat. Hence why it was so easy for the people who lived in this neighborhood to become sailors as a job. The pay, in contrast, was not so rewarding, but not to the point of making anyone go hungry. People coming from other places would gather into crowds to see the jacaranda trees during springtime and there was demand from the locals even outside of the busy seasons. So I would continue on my job here forever and never lose it.
In this world, inside this little story of mine, I had an encounter with her.
“Excuse me; I heard that there is a village beyond this point. Is it possible to cross the river?”
A foreign object appeared in that tiny world of mine.
“Hello. Yes, I go there often. This is how much it costs and the payment is in advance.”
Her name would eventually roar throughout the business, but at this time, she was a ghostwriter girl who had barely started to travel the world.
“I do not mind. It will be my pleasure.”
“We usually put the names of the customers on an account book. May I have your name?”
That was how she and I met.
“It is Violet Evergarden.”
To be honest, she was the kind of person who could cause people’s time to stop in fascination for a brief moment. This ferry port was crowded in spring. There were many other people around, so of course, I could spot several beautiful men and women who showed up for sightseeing, but she was unlike any of them. No matter what background was behind her, she would only be a strange object in it. Be it rainy or sunny days, winter or spring days. Regardless of whatever the world was clad in, one would find their eyes going towards her. Beauty was not the only reason for it. Her scent was different from that of other living things.
——It’s similar to the feeling I got… when seeing a deer in the mountains for the first time.
Right, a wild beast. She was like a beautiful wild beast. If such a stunning beast appeared in front of anyone’s eyes all of a sudden, they would surely stare fixatedly at it. This one had blue eyes and its mane was golden.
“Please treat me well.”
Her voice was clear, her gestures elegant.
“Is there anything wrong with my appearance?”
“No, no; not at all. Nothing at all.”
She was full of mysteries that other people would not be allowed to touch so easily.
Her outfit might also be at fault. She was well-dressed in a way that one wouldn’t see around this area. A Prussian-blue jacket, a white ribbon-tie dress and cocoa-brown boots that could be deemed as brand-new. An emerald brooch shone radiantly over the ribbon tie. I had but one toy similar to her when I was a child. That young woman was literally just like a doll. On top of it, even the name I asked for matched her lovely looks, to the point I felt like humming without thinking.
“Ms. ‘Violet Evergarden’. All… right. Now, if you please.”
It was a good name. Like an actor’s. I had never watched a play or anything of the sort, though.
“Thank you very much for your patronage today. I am the safest operator around here. Boater Valentine.”
Once the name was written down and the fare was received, my work began.
The customers would be hesitant when getting on the boat regardless of whether they were men or women, but Violet differed from them. She got on it without a sound, quickly sat down and postured herself in waiting for me to start rowing.
Whatever thoughts she was engrossed in, she quietly closed her eyes after taking a glance at the scattering jacaranda flowers. It was a day of warm sunlight and pleasant wind, so she might have become sleepy. The comfortable silence continued for a while. I thought about leaving her alone, but perhaps because the petals that rode on the wind and flew about had tickled her cheeks, she opened her blue eyes. The scenery of earlier was not supposed to be any different, yet she looked left and right as if searching for someone.
“Miss, what is it you’re looking for?”
As I asked so, Violet moved her neck with a twitch like a small animal and looked my way. After a short moment, the answer came in a low voice with an “it is nothing”. She seemed a bit dispirited.
She looked like an uncommunicative person, so I did think she might not go along with a boater’s talk, but wanting a change in mood, I kept on speaking, “Miss, you are in luck. Now is the best time to view them. The jacarandas.”
“Is that so?”
She was kind of a weird girl. Her manner of speech was weak in emotion.
“For me, this is the time to make money. When this period passes, people stop coming to this remote region. This is my main occupation, but many people do boat rowing as a side-job too. When spring is over, they do farming. Miss… it does not seem that you are here for sightseeing. Is it for work?”
“Is it a job related to boats?”
“My, wrong guess. You don’t get scared of the swaying, so I thought you were used to it.”
“Is that how it looks?”
After we spoke that much, Violet finally stopped searching and moved her gaze towards me.
“You do. It feels like you have no fears.”
Silence drifted about. Rather than ignoring me, she seemed to be having difficulty choosing her words.
Until this mysterious beauty spoke up, I was smoothly cutting the surface of the water with the oar. Maybe due to her baggage being heavy, the propelling was slower than I had predicted. She was a slim young woman no matter how I looked at her, so her luggage was probably the one to blame for the rowing’s bad flow. Come to think of it, a low screeching sound ensued whenever she moved. She might have some sort of manufactured item on her.
“You are right. I have been with the navy before, so…”
Oops, the conversation was back.
“Is your family from the military?”
“No, just me. My military service record was ultimately the army. But before the army… the person that I served was a navy officer.”
The reply was covered in enigmas. Her profile was cold. The way she talked was perfectly fitting of a mysterious beauty.
I thought this strange client was a little scary, but let out my curiosity just a bit more. I had never gone outside of these lands, so I loved chatting with the customers.
“I can’t believe it. To think that someone like you used to be a soldier…”
She had no idea what the description “like you” represented. This impression showed through just slightly in her facial expression.
I rode with many people, so I sort of had my own theories about them. I felt like students from renowned schools would make this into a laughingstock if I were to call it a “philosophy”, but… people communicated the actual state of their emotions through the blinking of their eyes, the way they opened their mouths, the highs and lows of their voices and other such things.
They were extremely scarce in this girl, but I could perceive them. Seriously. I was an expert at “observing” others.
“Do you get troubled when people coax you or something like that?”
As I asked out of curiosity, Violet once again had a question mark over her face, but after a while, she blinked as if to say, “I have arrived to an answer for the inquiry” and gave me an unexpected reply. “In my travels, I am sometimes invited by people to become their bodyguard after saving them. I am an Auto-Memories Doll, so I decline them politely,” she said.
I was asking in a romantic sense, so that could not be considered an answer to my question.
What a strange doll. What an odd girl.
——My life would be wonderful if I were born with these looks.
On first meetings, one’s eyes would go to people’s physical appearance first and foremost. Everyone had a preferred type of face, right? I accidentally ended up comparing hers to mine.
Perhaps as I was always wearing a big straw hat so that my skin wouldn’t be damaged by sunburns, my hair was squashed. Even if I took off the hat, the platinum-blond color could get me mistaken for a grizzly old man. Other girls of the same age as me sparkled so much, and yet, just what was I? Being in the same space as them was embarrassing… No, let’s leave what the eyes could see aside. I should serve the customer; serve the customer.
“Beautiful here, isn’t it? These are jacaranda flowers.”
“Ah, they sell fruits on that boat over there. Want to buy any?”
“Do I talk too much? Ah, look! That bird is very rare. Can you tell it has the color of emeralds? It’s called ‘gemstone bird’. The feathers they drop are my treasures.”
“It is beautiful.”
“I think so too! I might get along well with you. What do you usually do to pass the time?”
During my and Violet’s short boat-riding trip, she told me the following:
· She worked for a certain postal company from a military nation in the far south named Leidenschaftlich.
· She was a newbie Auto-Memories Doll there.
· Through her current commission, it was her first time coming to these lands.
· Before arriving here, she drove two groups of bandits away.
· She was told by her boss to bring him local specialties of this area as souvenir.
That was it. She had many stories about her boss.
“So the president and employees are close in your company, huh.”
“Is that so… No, you are right. Our company has just barely been built and there are few employees. If the number of unit members is small, the distance between them and the commander naturally grows shorter. Yes, to someone like me, whose origins are unknown, he is a compassionate person.”
“You don’t have to talk like that about yourself…”
“It is true. I am an orphan and do not know where I was born.”
I added “orphan” to the information about Violet that I had inside me. The things that had happened to this person dictated the air about her, I thought. Was that the reason why she seemed somewhat lonely?
“But now I have people who look after me.”
“Yes. And a kind elderly couple as well.”
“Aah, good for you. Being alone is sad. If you have someone to be with, that’s better. So you used to be in the military but you’re not a soldier anymore now that the war ended. You got yourself a new job and family, is what you’re saying.”
“You’re sailing smoothly!”
Even though I expressly tried to conclude it with good vibes, it was denied.
“I have many problems.” There was a slight creasing between Violet’s eyebrows. “I don’t yet know if I have the aptitude to be an Auto-Memories Doll… I was given a lady’s education and I have studied languages and other such things, but it is hard to say whether or not I can make effective use of that. I have retained the fighting power… but I am in a state where I do not know how to use it.” The tone of her voice faded a little at the end.
“How are you working like that now?” I asked purely out of concern. After all, she was an Auto-Memories Doll.
I came across all sorts of clients, but she was my first Auto-Memories Doll one. It was a job in which people used ghostwriting as their weapon and rushed around the world. I heard there were many women in that occupation, but I never thought a girl as old as me would be doing it. She could very well be writing for a princess from some other country while I was here, rowing a boat.
“Letters have standard sentences. In most cases, if we add the desired content to those standard sentences that we have memorized, they will take form.”
“Hm, hm, I see.”
“However, it cannot be said that letter you wished to write so much to the point of requesting an Auto-Memories Doll was achieved with this. If we cannot correspond to the expectations, we are failures as tools. Therefore, we are once entrusted with the request’s contents, suggest a few types of details, choose the best ones and accept additional demands, should there be any… then repeat. There are also times when my abilities are not enough…”
“You mean contents you can’t write?”
“Any sort of letter can be shaped to a certain extent as long as there is time. It is a combination, after all. However, I am not well-versed in the art of conversation that entertains people. I am told that I am ‘boring’ or ‘unfriendly’ and am often dismissed by the clients.”
She somewhat convinced me. I was terribly sorry for that. But it might indeed be difficult for someone to feel like composing a letter in a fun way with her. If they were hiring her for serious contents, that was a different story.
“Moreover, we normally have to understand the circumstances that our clients are in… Let’s see; it is similar to, for example, approaching someone who is injured. I am supposed to write such letters, but I do not yet understand what a good letter is. It is hard for me to say that I can manage it… In the end, I do not know if I have aptitude to be an Auto-Memories Doll. I am always asking myself whether or not it is all right for me to work in these conditions.”
Perhaps due to thinking a tad too hard, Violet said something incomprehensible – that “it would be much more efficient if our company’s president became an Auto-Memories Doll”. Wasn’t a president supposed to take care of the management?
But, surely… for Violet to be saying something like that about him, he had to be the kind of person who excelled at being considerate.
With the flow of the conversation, I tried asking what I was most interested in, “W-What do you do about love letters and the like?”
It was a field of great concern for someone who had never had any sort of relation with it since birth.
“That is also a combination. You throw in verses from famous poems or songs… Classic romance novels are valuable reference materials as have quite a lot of rhetoric.”
As I received an answer much more direct than I had imagined, almost like boiled vegetables with no taste but their own, my shoulders dropped. I had expected her to reply that she used her own love experiences as reference, but Violet was an extremely serious bookworm. I was a bit ashamed of myself.
I then started the conversation over, “Must be hard that your first job is kind of all about stuff you’re not good at.”
As I said so, Violet dropped her gaze and spoke, “No, we have a bright female Auto-Memories Doll who is the complete opposite of me, so she is put in charge of cases like the ones I just mentioned. In contrast, a large number of transcription cases that are not letters but instead invoices and contract documents, or that require fast writing, come to me. Describing exactly what I see is my field of expertise.”
“I see; it’s a matter of having the right person in the right place. Your boss’s administration is good. So you’ve been managing it one way or another until now.”
“Yes. But this is my first business trip for ghostwriting.”
“F-First!” I accidentally let out a loud voice.
“Yes, my first.”
This girl was on her first ghostwriting business trip. I was sending her on a boat for that. It somewhat felt like I was involved with an awfully grandiose story, which made my heart race.
“Gets you nervous, doesn’t it?” I sought for agreement, but the one feeling nervous was me. “Will you be okay?”
But Violet did not seem to be okay.
“On ghostwriting business trips, the task is to finish it on the spot, and you must respond immediately. I cannot use the means that I have been using until now, such as taking time to write or securing time by cutting sleep and eating short.”
That may have been the reason for her aspect of weariness. Still, I was shocked. When we, boaters, did not want to take our boats out, we would refuse rides even if there were clients. It was a job where we had to have customers, but we decided the discretion on our own. I did not let the ones with a bad attitude on my boat ever again even if they asked. Above all, not eating was impossible. No one could row a boat if they were hungry or sleepy.
“You have to eat… Isn’t that the most important? And you have to sleep too!”
“The most important is accomplishing my missions.”
I could somewhat understand why this girl’s boss was so concerned about her. Since she was an ex-soldier, she was unable to get used to a peaceful life, and the job she had earned required a variety of emotions that did not fit her, so she was competing with knowledge and effort to make up for it. Talk about dangerous.
“But taking care of your health is also part of work.”
Violet cast down her golden eyelashes. What I said probably made her think.
“As I thought, I was better off as a soldier,” she whispered this bit by bit, out of the blue. As she caressed her emerald brooch, she fixed on it a stare that seemed to be burning.
“When I was in the military… all I had to do was chase after one person and protect him. I was always searching for an adult to follow.”
How was I supposed to describe this girl?
“I found myself the best master of all and used to live my life serving him.”
Rather than sincere, she was too candid. Almost like, yes, a child who knew nothing.
“It would have been great if it were like that forever.”
That was why, most likely…
“So he was someone important to you.”
…she honestly thought as much.
“More than anything.”
Her words probably held no lies.
She truly was currently apart from someone important to her and losing heart.
“But the war ended and everything changed. Things are different now. I have been separated from my master, and I must journey around the world all by myself with words and pens as my weapons.”
My country was a prosperous land that had not involved itself with the Continental War. Ever since I was born, I had never once enlisted. I had nothing to respond to her statements. That even though I had nosily asked so many questions – what a person I was.
“Erm… hum, can I say something?”
I wanted to cheer her up. But I had no idea how.
As I faltered, Violet shook her head. “I am sorry…”
She started apologizing for some reason, making me even more confused.
“I spoke too much. Forgive me for… tainting your ears.”
“Why? You didn’t do that at all.”
“I am told not to talk in too much detail about my history.”
“I-Isn’t it okay, though?”
“I must do as told.”
“My deepest apologies. I said things that could disrupt you while you are in the middle of work.”
“My deepest apologies.”
“Isn’t it okay?! You and I are just a customer and boater who can’t see each other anywhere but here!” again, I spoke loudly on accident.
I became a bit flustered. After all, she was apologizing. Even though she was just answering my insistent questions. Even though she was burdened with so much that she wound up unintentionally spilling it to a stranger like me.
“After you get out of this boat, we have no way of knowing what will happen to each other. So please never mind it.”
It was because I asked so persistently that the things she had been holding overflowed.
“It’s all good.”
There was something I could say exactly because I was a boater of a remote region.
“It’s all right,” I affirmed strongly, wanting to do something about those wavering eyes and her aspect of uncertainty. I might have been huffing fiercely too.
Violet looked at me with a gaze that looked like she had just woken up from a dream. And then she nodded with a meek face. “Yes.” Even though she had just nodded once, after a few tens of seconds later, she nodded again while saying, “Yes.”
After that, we eventually reached the shore without talking much.
From what I had heard, Violet’s patron was Mr. Lockhart, an elderly man famous for being rich even within his community. He was already quite old, so it was said that he did not have long.
“You go straight down the road. You should be able to see the village after a while, and Mr. Lockhart’s mansion is the one on highest ground. It has a white roof. The neighbor houses are all extravagant too, so don’t mistake it.”
“On the way back! If you also feel like going back together, look for me!”
“Yes, Mr. Valentine.”
Perhaps because I had asked for it, Violet actually did look for and called out to me as her ride for the way back. Maybe as I had listened to her life story, it kind of did not feel like we were strangers anymore.
After I intimidated and dispersed the other boatmen trying to take her as their customer, I asked, “How was the job? Did it go well?”
“I do not know.”
“At first, he yelled at me, then crumpled the letters I wrote into balls one after another and tossed them away.”
“But once I presented improvement suggestions twenty-three times, he said he had ‘been defeated by my persistence’ and accepted the ghostwriting.”
“Ms. Violet, you actually have a strong competitive spirit, don’t you?”
Later on, according to what I had heard from people of his neighborhood, Mr. Lockhart was a mean geezer who, apparently high-strung from fighting against a disease, would hire people in order to bully them into quitting. My goodness. He was the type of person whom I would not want to associate myself with even once, so I guessed the fact that Violet would not have to deal with him anymore after just this one time was a blessing in disguise.
However, a few months thereafter…
“I will be ghostwriting a letter to Mr. Lockhart’s grandchild for a few months.”
…she showed up again holding a travel bag in one hand and reunited with me. Our interactions continued from that point onward.
I did not know what to name my involvement with Violet. We were not friends. We only ever met due to occupational matters and I never saw Violet other than when she came over for work.
“How did things go after that? Is business going well? We’re in the off season now, so I’m pretty free.”
“It seems that people of the postal industry are seeking not to take work away from those of the same line of business. We, Auto-Memories Dolls, usually receive work from the area surrounding our companies, but the number of business trips is increasing. However, it is hard to say if we are on track. Our president looks over his account book every day.”
As we were both from the hospitality businesses, we had worries in common. So I was also happy.
“My wallet gets really empty in the off season too. Well, I can live just fine with the amount I save up in spring… but I have to find a different job when I want something pricey.”
“A different job. Mr. Valentine, for how many years have you been a boater?”
I reminded myself of my ordinary life’s number of years and work history inside my head.
“Erm, I’ve been rowing for two years. But before that, I was something like a handyman, working in an orchard, taking care of other people’s babies, doing cleaning and washing, running errands and being an apprentice at a restaurant’s kitchen.”
“That is a wide variety.”
“My family’s poor. Dad and Mom are gambling addicts too… We’re so poor that we can’t survive without all of us working. I was eight when they told me I had to get a job because our finances weren’t going well.”
“That is commendable for someone so young.”
“No, Ms. Violet, you’re probably as old as me, right? Eh, how old are you?”
Perhaps she and I really did have a karmic connection, as I was always working whenever she came to these lands.
“Ms. Violet! If it isn’t Ms. Violet…!”
“Mr. Valentine. I was looking for you.”
“Yes. You told me to ask for you the first time we rode. I did this last time as well. Will you take out your boat today?”
“Of course! C-Can I ask again? You were looking for me?”
“I’m so happy! Same for me! I wonder every day if you’re coming anytime soon… Now, now, customer! Please get onto the boat! Go ahead, go ahead. I have tons of things I want to tell you! I see~! So you were looking for me~!”
“Yes, I was.”
The air about her was like that of a tensely stretched thread, yet as time went by, she became able to show different facial expressions.
“You can’t smile?”
“No. I cannot say I have complaints about it, but… I receive such opinions from the clients quite frequently. For now, I am making physical attempts on it. Mr. Lockhart often lifts my cheeks. He tells me to practice. Yet… it does not work very well.”
“That old man is teaching you weird stuff… It’s the first time I’ve ever seen someone pick their cheeks up to form a smile.”
“Mr. Valentine… you excel at smiling. Do you have any trick for it?”
“Eh~, I’m just being carefree.”
“That is difficult for me.”
“Hm~, but that’s a secret of success.”
“‘Secret of success’…”
“This place is a dock, after all. For a kid like me to be working among men, I at least have to be good at acting friendly, or else I can’t survive.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes. That’s why this is something I’ve ingrained in me. Ms. Violet, you’re an ex-soldier, aren’t you? You couldn’t be carefree in the battlefield, so there is no helping that, right?”
“But… that has nothing to do with my clients.”
“Hm~, trying to be better is never too much, but from my standpoint as someone who is also in the hospitality business, I don’t think that is completely indispensable. We give the clients what they seek and they pay the fee. It is essentially this kind of equal relationship. You do not have to abase yourself more than necessary. Customers naturally come to people that do a fine job even if they are unsociable.”
“Is that so…?”
“It is. Someone who instead is friendly but can’t do the job at all is a problem. The fact that you became Mr. Lockhart’s purveyor means you write good letters. It seems he is very particular about his own matters. Y’know, you’re fit for people like that.”
“If so, that is good.”
“Don’t make that face. Shall I lift your cheeks?”
The things we had to talk about with each other whenever we met increased exactly because we were far apart from one another.
“Speaking of which, you are looking for someone, right? Did you find any clues?”
Our respective circumstances slipped in and out of sight.
“But Auto-Memories Dolls have to go to all sorts of places, so there is still hope.”
“Yes. I also think that is the good point of being an Auto-Memories Doll.”
“That so…? Ms. Violet, did you choose to be an Auto-Memories Doll to search for someone?”
“No, perhaps I should say it is wishful thinking. I do not truly believe that I can find him. However…”
By that time, I had realized what the brooch was.
“…I can keep on living while thinking ‘what if’. That is the kind of job it is.”
That it was something related to the important person she had mentioned.
“Is that so…?” while speaking with a laidback voice, I incidentally thought about what that would be in my case.
What was I attached to enough that I would be this obsessed over it?
“You’re the opposite of me. I’m waiting for my family here.”
——If I do have any of that, it’d be the boat my dad used to ride.
“Do you live far away from each other?”
——The house that we all lived in together.
“Huuum… How should I put it? I was sent out to a different town for domestic service when I was eight… and I was completely convinced that my parents and older brother were living here.”
None of what I was attached to was things that could remain in my grasp. It was this land itself.
“When I came back, there was only our house. My family wasn’t in it.”
It was not something I could walk around with.
“They might’ve moved somewhere else… because they hated life here.”
Violet did not frown or make a puzzled face. She just quietly lent me an ear.
“I ran away from the place where I was doing domestic service, so I guess I missed their notice. I think they are troubled now. That they are looking for me. I also want them to come pick me up, but they never do…”
I myself understood. I knew I was saying odd stuff. Weird, wasn’t it? I was aware. If she called me crazy, it would be just the expected.
“Mr. Valentine, should you not be looking for them?”
That question gouged out just a little bit of the weakest part of my heart. Yes, just a little. It pierced me exactly because the person who asked it had stood up from her suffering and was running onward.
“If I leave this place, it’d be a problem…”
But Violet did not say I was wrong at all.
“It be a problem if, by any chance, my brother – no, either Dad or Mom decided to come back…”
She merely whispered a single sentence: “understood”.
Before I realized, I had started looking for her at the dock.
——Is she coming today? Not yet? She might come tomorrow.
“It’s been a while…! Has anything changed? We got to meet again because Mr. Lockhart is still alive, huh.”
“It has. Just that the personnel at my workplace increased again. Mr. Lockhart’s voice is so lively when he is angry that one would not imagine he has a disease. Mr. Valentine, what about you…?”
“Y’see, I’ve been going to study lately! I was influenced by you. I can read easy words, but I never went to school, so I’m bad at writing.”
“I could not write either. However, it should be all right as long as you practice.”
“I don’t have enough paper to practice writing, so I’ve been writing on the ground with a stick these days.”
“If you wish, please use these.”
“Eh, what are those? T-They look expensive. I can’t.”
“I also received paper and pens from someone just like this and began my studies. You can.”
“N-No can do! I can’t get something like that from my customer…!”
As the seasons passed, as the days and months went by, her aspect of anxiousness from when we first met diminished. She steadily built up a record of accomplishments as an Auto-Memories Doll.
“That umbrella is cute. It looks good with your clothes.”
“It is a gift. I also… find it adorable.”
“Is that a passionate request for a relationship from your client?”
“No, that is not it. This is a display of gratitude for my work from Mr. Oscar, the novelist…”
Much faster than I had imagined, yet surely, she was elegantly climbing up that brilliant stairway.
“Heeh, a novelist. I don’t know much about him, but that’s amazing. You might be working at some royal palace one of these days!”
“I have. I wrote love letters on behalf of a princess from a country named Drossel.”
She became someone well-known around the neighborhood in no time.
How should I describe her vigor? Was “forceful enough to knock down birds in flight” too weird? She was an irresistible force that people were drawn to en masse. Somehow or other, she made a great leap in a blink of life.
Her popularity attracted more popularity, and it was amazing that her work had developed so much. There were such people at the dock too, but this could not be achieved without effort. But it did not look like there were ambitions or dreams to Violet’s efforts. Dream chasers had different eyes than ordinary people. She… her blue eyes were as quiet as a midwinter sea no matter in what season I peeked into them.
Her gaze made it seem like she was looking at me from a different world. As if she were staring up at everything from the bottom of the ocean. Yes, it was that kind of look.
She was there, yet was not. Her blue eyes were mirrors that made me feel like I was looking at myself before realizing it, when I was supposed to be looking at her. She herself was also this sort of person, with an attitude as if her mind was elsewhere.
Her fame… if I were to use a metaphor, she was a broken doll who got praised as a result of single-mindedly working on repeat. That was how it seemed in my eyes. Awful way of saying it, huh? But the Violet Evergarden I had first met had been hurt. She was just a hurt girl.
So I was honestly surprised. Because, at first, she didn’t look at all like a girl who would rush up into Auto-Memories Doll stardom from that point. Yes, she did not.
That might be due to the way we met. If I had met the current Violet instead, I would surely have thought, “Such a full-fledged Auto-Memories Doll”. But although she was indeed an eccentric girl, she did not look like that to me. To me… To me, she looked like nothing but a girl from the same generation as myself, stagnated in a world that she was tossed into. An uneasy girl, who had just started working. The type that definitely could be found anywhere all around the world.
One that was also similar to me. From that day, at that time.
“Dad, Mom, Big Bro, where are you?”
She was like me back when I was at a loss as I decided to live by myself.
With the passing years, Violet Evergarden had bloomed to the world into a marvelous lady before I even knew. Just as her name suggested, she was a girl who had blossomed beautifully.
No matter what, I ended up comparing her with myself… Even though we were reuniting after a long while, even though I was happy, I felt too sad for some reason and wound up saying lots of lame things.
“Ms. Violet… you kind of became an unreachable person all of a sudden, huh.”
It was because, even though I had supposedly lived just like her in the same four seasons and the same time that she had rushed through, I was still an insignificant boater.
“My company is still based in Leidenschaftlich, just as before.”
“No, I wasn’t talking in terms of physical distance. It’s… a spiritual thing.”
“You really are admirable. You know, when I think that you’re doing such an amazing job while I’m here, boating without a care in the world… it’s like…”
“Mr. Valentine, you are also working every day.”
“It’s not like boating is a bad job or anything.”
I also didn’t think there was high or low when it came to occupations. Yet I would end up comparing them.
“I quite enjoy it. Rowing the boat, that is. But somehow… like… when I look at you, Ms. Violet… I think of myself. I wonder if I’m okay like this. Because surely, there should be something else I want to do.”
“If only I could change myself too…”
“I felt that we have become closer than back when we first met.”
I was in shock. Because I thought she wasn’t the kind of person to say something like that.
What did people call this?
“It became a habit for me to look for you immediately around here.”
Those words that were almost as if someone was nestling close to you.
“As you have let me on countless times, you have been recorded within me.”
No, that wasn’t it. It wasn’t that she didn’t say those things – she couldn’t say them. After all, Violet had told me when we first met. That she couldn’t write letters that felt like approaching someone who was injured.
She had been worried that she should leave it to someone else; that she wasn’t qualified.
“Have we become far apart?”
Yet she had become able to do it. By practicing a lot. Involving herself with people.
“Mr. Valentine, you always find me as well. Whenever I arrive here, instantly.”
This girl had become able to do what she was worst at.
But even now, it didn’t change that she would touch her emerald brooch when she was uncertain.
“We haven’t…! Sorry. I’m sure I could spot you even if we passed each other in a different city… Sorry, it’s just… wrong. I was wrong…”
Violet had grown up.
That day, when we first met, she had been fretting about being able to write letters that could draw close to someone. Having nurtured her heart through many people and a lot of time, she was now even able to say these kinds of things. This girl was properly fighting against the fate that she had been granted.
Aah, I wanted to be like Violet Evergarden.
I wanted to be like this girl. I really did.
I was still young. I could start over anywhere else. But I did not do that. I couldn’t throw away my family. I couldn’t. Ever thought about throwing your family away?
I… I had never.
Because it was family. People I shared my blood with. We were supposed to be together, right? Parents protecting their children and children yearning for their parents – that was the norm, wasn’t it? When I looked around me, that was what people were doing. Was it all lies?
Why, why didn’t my family manage to be normal? Why was normal so difficult for me? Because I was stupid?
I had gone to a stranger’s place when I was eight years old because my parents had told me to. I went with them as my parents said, “Go with this person to help them out; you’ll get payment for it”. I had the feeling that my parents had been smiling. My brother was the only one who had a serious look – no, he was making a face like he was about to cry as he pulled the sleeve of my clothes over and over. He used to be such a scary brother who was quick to hit me on the head and scold me, but only at that time did he exhaust himself from crying.
“You can’t, okay? Listen to what your Big Bro says. You can’t go to that place,” he had told me.
I remember being extremely perplexed. I only had the impression that my brother was always angry and hungry. He never behaved like he cherished me or anything of the sort. Honestly, I used to hate him.
“But they’ll be angry if I don’t do as they say.”
So I had shaken off the hands that were grasping my sleeve. The expression my brother had back then – those eyes looked like everything in front of him had transformed into rubble.
My brother had said one last time with a tearful voice, “Hey, you can’t; please… don’t go. I won’t hit you anymore, ‘kay? ‘Kay?”
Even so, I had not agreed. Because I was afraid that my parents would get mad.
I hadn’t seen my brother since. Thinking back on it now, he might have actually had affection for me.
As for my parents, had that been something they couldn’t avoid? I still didn’t know. But to put it bluntly, they had sold me.
It was not something so unusual. This area was remote, rural and still rooted in such customs. That might still be my case even now. I was living in a land I had once left, disguised so that no one would know it was me. It would be terrible if I were sold by someone again. So I had made myself up. An unknown boy who had showed up out of nowhere. An outsider who had arrived before anyone knew it. That was me.
I was a huge moron who couldn’t throw away her family even though they had thrown me away.
I ran away from the place I had been sold to after not even three days and, starting out as a beggar, I had saved up a sum in order to go back home. I did anything, from working at an orchard to taking care of other people’s babies, doing cleaning and washing, running errands and being an apprentice at a restaurant’s kitchen. Anything, as long as I could earn money.
I had been sold off to a pretty far-away place, so it took me a year to come back. I was making merry when returned home. About things being back to how they were before. About how my life had twisted a bit but it was back to how it used to be. My mother would surely be happy. She’d tell me I did a good job coming back home.
So, that was why… I even now vividly remembered the feeling of astonishment I had when I opened the door and the house was deserted.
“Dad, Mom, Big Bro,” I had whispered intermittently into the empty house.
There was no reply.
——Aah, so homes that people no longer live in also die, I thought.
I was the child from that day even now, standing stock-still.
“The hijacking case of the transcontinental train… The one on this picture looks like that girl, but she isn’t, right?”
While reading the newspaper that the customers had left behind as usual, I was relaxing at the dock.
The seasons had passed once again and autumn was about to end. Although the years were growing farther from the spring in which I had first met Violet, yet not a single thing had changed.
“Excuse me, are you doing boat rides?”
“Ah, yes. Thank you very much for your patronage today. I am the safest operator around here. Boater Valentine.”
Today, too, I was rowing a boat. That was all.
I would just wake up in the morning, eat, get the boat out, let the customers onto it, do my job, go back home and sleep. A repetition of that. Without anything special happening, without any wonderful encounters or opportunities, I was merely earning enough to eat and protecting my home. Sometimes, I would find myself thinking that I was the only one living this kind of daily life. I had been working since I was little, so I didn’t know how to play very well, and I had no one who was close to me other than Violet.
Even though Violet wasn’t my friend.
“Mr. Boater. Is there anywhere around here where I can have a meal?”
“There is, once you get on land. It might be unlike anything that someone from the big city such as yourself would eat, though… Now, then, be careful.”
Right. Just as she had once said, our relationship was of a boater and her customer, and we would not meet unless she came here for ghostwriting. She was an amazing person who roamed all around the globe and lived in a world completely different from mine.
While returning to the former shore after sending off the customer, I was thinking to myself. Was my life okay like this? I was here today yet again, without attempting to go to where the person that I wanted to be close to was. Even if I used the entirety of the notebook that Violet had given me, I could not report this to her. Because I couldn’t leave my hometown.
“Mr. Valentine. Hello; it has been a while.”
It was a very beautiful morning that day. Illuminated by the Sun as it emerged from the clouds, drops of the rain that had fallen on the previous night were emitting a transparent shine. The person who had appeared in that stunning world was still a foreign body.
Fall just before winter approached. Violet Evergarden was not wearing her usual doll outfit, instead dressed in black. Black hat, black cape over a black dress, and while the suitcase, umbrella and emerald brooch were the same as ever, everything was pitch-black other than them. She was a black-clad Auto-Memories Doll.
As the wind blew, her clothes seemed to flutter in an unnatural manner on her left arm. The arm was gone. Only one of her arms was missing. She had told me somewhere along the way that they were prosthetics, but when seeing her figure without one of them like this, I felt the loss of it even though it was unrelated to me.
“He-llo… Uh, what’s up with… hum, your arm, your clothes and all that?”
It was almost like that kind of thing.
“You came just a while ago, right? The intervals are really close…”
Almost like someone’s funeral. I had never been to one, but I had observed it from the outside before.
Apparently, my questions had her at loss for a bit. After showing a thinkative countenance as from where to start explaining, Violet put her baggage on the ground and pointed at her left arm with her right hand.
“My arm broke. It is being repaired.”
Her artificial doll-like gestures that I had grown fond of before I realized and her clear voice were now turning into the main causes that made my heart restless.
“I can use the right one without any issues. It is inconvenient, but this will be solved eventually.”
I asked the reason behind it and if she had been involved in some sort of accident. Violet did not tell me the details of her situation. She gave a rare, faint smile, looking troubled.
“In the meantime we had not seen each other, truly, many things happened… However, today is not about me but about someone else. I was told he was famous around here, but have you not heard? He has passed away.”
There was only one person whose funeral Violet would be coming to this land for, dressed in mourning clothes. Her ghostwriting patron, Mr. Lockhart. That old man who people said was going to die, yet had always stayed alive.
“I… I don’t have much interaction with the townspeople… We’ve had heavy rain the past few days… and when I pushed myself to get the boat out, I caught a cold… so I shut myself at home… and didn’t see any of my boatmen friends…”
I came up with reasons one after another as if to give an excuse. Even though I hadn’t done anything bad.
“It seems the funeral is already over. The people from that household contacted me, so I came in a hurry.”
“To visit his… grave?”
“That as well, but I also ghostwrote his will on his own request… and it seems there was a dispute among his relatives when the will was opened. They said they want me to confirm if there was really no mistake in the contents…”
I wondered what in the will had aroused the general criticism. Violet did not tell me, as she could not reveal the contents of her contractor’s letters, but when it came to problems that happened after a wealthy elder died, it had to be the inheritance.
“It simply means that the will is just like Mr. Lockhart. This is all I can say.”
So the mean geezer was mean until the end and then left.
“S-So, Ms. Violet, you’re about to get yourself involved in that big quarrel?”
“Could it be it’s your last ride on this boat…?”
“Mr. Valentine, if you are still here by then, I shall go back with you as well.”
“I-I’ll be. I won’t take any other customers today and I’ll be waiting for you on the other side of the river!”
“I think I will take very long.”
“That’s okay… I mean—!”
——I won’t get to see you anymore, right?
There was a knot in my throat because of the sadness, so I could not say these words. But I believed they had reached Violet. She said “all right” after a pause.
And so, I sent Violet to the household’s side of the shore. As I had declared, I did not take on other customers, only waited for Violet.
She did say that a lot had happened to her, but if the essence of what she had experienced, which she could only express with that much, was enough for her to lose an arm, then surely there should still be a commotion around her right now. Poor Violet. Honestly, Mr. Lockhart was a client who gave Violet trouble from start to finish.
Still, if it weren’t for that troublesome client, Violet and I wouldn’t have met. We also wouldn’t have had that accumulation of interaction time as the seasons passed.
“You should’ve lived longer,” I whispered selfishly. My pathetic voice was mixed with whining.
I was a horrible person.
To think I would complain about the time that someone I didn’t even know so well should die. But now, my heart felt like it would break. My composure was gone. That was why my tongue was so nasty.
I did predict that we would become unable to see each other one day like this. I did, yet I had thought it would be a gentler end. More different, more…
Yes, one day. One day, just as I had suddenly become unable to see my parents and brother, Violet would stop coming here. But I couldn’t leave this place, so I would keep standing at the dock, thinking that there might be a day where she would come by.
From the viewpoint of other people, they may think this was sad, but to me, it was an ending that still had salvation and hope to it…
I hadn’t imagined that she herself would tell me this was probably the last time. Besides, to think that my chest would feel so tight just because I was no longer going to see a customer that I only saw every now and then.
I was an idiot.
Yes, I wasn’t good in the head. I was sensitive to the subtleties of other people’s emotions despite not bringing them to life in me. Yet I was insensitive when it came to myself, so I was only able to notice things when they started hurting like this.
Surely, I was all on my own because I was this much of a fool.
“I’m gonna be alone…” the words overflowed from be in a natural manner.
——Be quiet. Don’t cry. It’s like the way you’d cry as a kid.
I was happy. That Violet had hired me and would come to ride on my boat.
“I don’t want that… Again… I’ll be…”
I was waiting here. For someone to remember me and come see me. For them to look for me. I was living by expecting nothing but that.
Same for Violet. She was someone from my generation, who had been tossed into the world all of a sudden. She wanted to search for her important person, for him to find her – she was that kind of girl. But she was doing her best to live. She really did her best, without losing to the unreasonableness of life.
As she grew, I saw her shining as an Auto-Memories Doll almost as if it were happening to a different version of myself. The fact she was doing her best was an encouragement. I thought of her as a comrade. Even though we weren’t friends, it felt like we were.
“Big Bro… when are you coming back…”
I was by myself here. So, before I noticed, my encounter with that girl had become salvation in my life. Because we were the same. Because we were both waiting for people who wouldn’t return.
It was okay even if it were just a few times per year. She had remembered and looked for me. To me, just that fact was, aah, so very…
“I am terribly sorry for being so late.”
I had departed with the boat in the morning, and it was past evening when the black-clad Auto-Memories Doll came back. She did not seem tired, but her voice was on the husky side, so she probably had to talk a lot.
“Good job… How did it go?”
I wanted to make it so that she wouldn’t find out that I had been crying, yet my voice was nasal and clearly an after-cry one. Amidst the sunset, Violet looked straight at me.
“Everything is well. Mr. Valentine, are you all right?”
I did not know, so I fell silent.
——I’ll let you on the boat now. And then, it’ll be the end. You won’t come see me anymore. I don’t know if that’s okay, or if I’m okay with it.
“Give me your hand; come on carefully. This is the time when the sunset and the evening are mixed, after all.”
As if to gloss over it, I conducted myself as merely a professional. Violet’s sense of balance was a bit off, perhaps because she only had her right arm. I helped her until she was seated, and then started rowing.
“It is my first time seeing the landscape at this hour.”
I nodded at Violet’s muttering.
Evening at the Jacaranda River was a sight that looked like a scarlet Sun had jumped onto the water surface. Both the sky and the river would paint themselves red, dyed in darkness before one could take notice. The birds cried as if to announce that it was already time to go home, the boatmen pulling out of work and returning to their houses. It was that kind of hour, that kind of scene.
As winter was about to come around, the trees were bare and most of the fallen leaves over the water had even their colors rusting away as well. There was nothing more fitting of a farewell day than such loneliness.
“Mr. Valentine, thank you very much for being here for me until today.”
Violet’s voice sounded softer than usual. Come to think of it, I felt that the air around her had somewhat changed. I had thought it was because of the mourning attire, but looking at her again like this now, I figured that was not it. Would it be an exaggeration to say that it was as if an evil spirit had been removed from her? She was different from before.
“From the start, for now, for always… thank you very much.”
Yes, back then, when we first met, Violet Evergarden was a beautiful wild beast that had been tossed into the world. She was nervous, wary of everything, unstable and acted kind of cold.
“It might be strange of me to be saying this to someone I only ever see here. But to me, Mr. Valentine, the fact that you let me ride on your boat whenever I come by…”
Yet, within a long time, she had gained warmth and transformed from a beast-like girl into an exquisite young woman.
“I… surely, yes, was ‘happy’ about it. I can now finally say so. Even if it is something trivial for you. I… can only meet you here, so when you said that I could talk to you, I was ‘happy’.”
The scenery was too solitary. My chest tightened at the words she spoke within it.
“I was definitely not suited to be an Auto-Memories Doll. I did not have the gentleness to speak my mind without thinking as you do. However, you affirmed that someone like me had her good points.”
——It’s really over.
“In a world full of denial, it is difficult to affirm anything.”
——This is the end.
“That is what I think. There is much denial in this world. Affirming is difficult. But you did it for me.”
——Please, don’t say any more of these goodbye-like words.
“Thank you very much.”
“I have one more thing I want to tell you.”
——I don’t want to hear them anymore.
“Mr. Valentine, I found the person I was looking for.”
“I found him. I discovered that there are many people in the world who are looking for someone they can no longer see.”
——My time with you is going on as you speak.
“I was told by many that it was foolish of me to wait for him.”
——My time with you is melting away.
“However, I followed my heart, which I did not even know I had.”
——It’s melting away like the foam on the surface of the water.
“Mr. Valentine, I support you always waiting here for someone from here onwards as well. Even if, by any chance, you decide to stop waiting and venture out of here, I will support this too.”
——I liked this purity of yours, as if you’re reflecting the other person.
“I assert your kindness. Because you asserted mine.”
——By sustaining you, I was able to sustain myself.
I let out a scream. Yes, I was bawling. For me to be crying while rowing, I was disqualified as a boater. But Violet did not judge me.
After wiping my tears with the sleeves of my clothes several times, I began rowing again. I had only ever done anything while crying when I was a child.
“Dad, Mom, Big Bro.”
The time when I went searching, calling each of them, in my hometown by the Jacaranda River felt like it had been just a few days ago.
“Violet, don’t forget me,” I said as I cried, looking like an idiot.
“Yes. Mr. Valentine, you said this would be the last time, but I will pay a visit if I receive any jobs to do nearby.”
“That’s a lie…! Countless of my customers have said that… but nobody… nobody… nobody cares about…”
“I support you. This is no lie.”
“It is… It’s just flattery… I-I was… happy that you never forgot about me… but you soon will…”
The boat arrived at the dock almost as if colliding with it. The impact caused the tears to fall from my eyes like rain.
“Sorry; just go.”
I crouched on top of the boat. Aah, I had to help Violet get down. Night was coming. I should not be stalling in a place like this.
I was just a boater and this girl was just my customer. We would end here. It was over.
“I learned that having someone to accept you is important.”
I had to wipe my tears and see her off.
“Even if you cannot see them all the time. Mr. Valentine, if I was a bother to you, please know this.”
I felt the sensation of the only arm that Violet now had touching my back. I turned away from it.
We had met each other in this severe world. A world that I hated. I also hated my life.
But, aah, my God. Even when such cruel sorrow attacked me like that…
“There is an Auto-Memories Doll somewhere in the world who accepts you. Please be aware of this.”
——…the world is beautiful.
As she added a “that is not a lie”, I felt like I would end up waiting for her who knows how many years with just that sentence, so I found myself smiling. My foolishness and Violet’s kindness – those two things made me both cry and laugh.
At the end, we joined hands like little kids. I helped her out of the boat and did not let go after that.
“So it’s not a lie? You won’t forget me?”
“It is not. I will not. I have good memory.”
“If I become someone capable of going to see you someday, will you accept me? Wouldn’t I be a bother? I… Y-Y’know, I… actually wanted to be friends with you. Not just a boater and her customer…”
“Yes, I will.”
“But I can’t right away. I have a family… I don’t, but I do.”
“But, one day… one day…”
“Yes, one day.”
“Surely, on a really nice day for us to reunite…”
“Yes, it will definitely be a good day.”
“Let’s meet again one day, Violet Evergarden.”
After that, just as Violet had somehow changed, so did I. Just as snow covered the autumn lands, the silver make-up melted down before anyone realized and young leaves sprouted from it, I also changed.
It was during spring that this was decisive. As expected, for one to start something, it had to be in spring.
Purple flower petals scattered down on the Jacaranda River. I was simply looking at the scenery in a daze. The harbor was crowded with customers. Even though I was a boater and there were several customers wanting a ride, I was using the boat only for myself, not letting anyone hop in. Without paying any attention to my fellow boatmen, who stared at me with strange looks, I merely observed the entirety of this landscape, so as to sear it into my eyes.
My beautiful hometown. A hometown of which I only had memories sad enough to pierce through my chest. A hometown where no one would look for me anymore. A hometown that surely none of them would ever come back to.
The fact that Violet would not come this year gave me a sensation akin to waking up from a dream. As if my hazy head was clearing up, such change came to me.
——Let’s throw it away.
It was then that I thought at last.
——I’ll throw my family away.
That was what I thought.
The reason why I was clinging to this place was that my family might come back someday. I had to return, I had to stay here, or else I was sure they would be troubled if any of them came home. Because it had troubled me. It had made me cry. So I should be here, I thought.
Even though they didn’t give me love, I loved my family.
——But I’ll throw it away.
I was finally able to think like that. As I did so, tears poured down.
I had taken a long time to arrive to this decision, which was a merciless one, and I was a horrible person who surely wouldn’t die a peaceful death and would, as expected, keep on living like this, without being loved by anybody.
But I was going to do it. I was going to throw my family away.
After all, even if the people who were supposed to love me did not, she existed in my world. Somewhere in this world, there was an Auto-Memories Doll who accepted me. So instead of waiting for someone who would never come home, I should take a leap. Because I wasn’t an eight-year-old kid anymore and could go anywhere.
I rowed my boat. Not for anyone else. For the sake of going out into my new journey.
What should I do? When I thought about what to do first, as expected, that girl surfaced in the depths of my mind. The girl I had seen off while praying, “Wait for me”.
The dark red ribbons tying her golden hair. The pleats on her white ribbon-tie dress. The light blue umbrella. As if playing around, all of these things fluttered in the wind.
It was okay for me to go looking for them from now. It was okay.
——Wait for me.
My chest was quivering. Starting life anew was common place, but now that it was my turn, I was shaking. It was hard to breathe from the fear and expectations. Flowers from jacaranda trees were blocking my field of vision, and although their beauty erased everything that could be seen, they were nothing but a hindrance now. What I yearned for wasn’t them.
What I wished to see – the purple I wanted to meet once again – was no longer this one.
——Please, wait for me.
Tears welled up. I didn’t know whether they were tears of sadness, relief or frustration. I didn’t know anything anymore. The feeling I had wasted so much of my life and the feeling that I had finally gotten to this point were in conflict.
I didn’t want to abandon my family. I didn’t.
But the truth is that I’d always wanted to. Aah, I was such an idiot, such a confusing one.
That was fine. I didn’t understand myself very well either. I didn’t. I didn’t understand anything anymore. What was I doing? I didn’t know. Surely, I had never known. I didn’t even know that I was hurting.
But there was just one thing.
One thing I knew. When it came to things I knew, there was but one.
That I felt so refreshed I shouted to the world without minding anyone, “Violet, wait for me!”
I was going to see her, so I wished she wouldn’t forget me. That was it.
That was all.
Blue eyes opened.
The train had arrived in the city. While the passengers got off in a hurry, a blue-eyed girl was neatly smoothing down the wrinkles on her ribbon-tie dress before gracefully descending to the platform.
She did not act as if looking for someone or show any signs of losing her way. Her figure as she simply walked straight to her destination was almost like that of a mechanical doll. Surely, she would not do things such as be surprised by something or run towards someone upon finding them. That was how she looked.
The perfectly lady-like girl, however, went completely still in the middle of the crowded platform all of a sudden. Her blue eyes had detected something. Upon finding that person, she blinked as if surprised, and then bolted into a run. The hem of her skirt spread out in disarray. The ribbons keeping her golden hair in place swayed.
As she had started running, the other person also pushed through the crowd and came closer. Three, five, ten steps. She, who had broken into a dash, halted exactly in front of him, yet the other did not.
“Violet, welcome home.”
He held her in his arms and buried his face into her shoulder. Her beloved one, whom she had not seen in a while, tickled her with his nose as he sniffed the scent of her hair. He must have been at the platform for a long time. His cold clothes and his body heat conveyed his desire to see her.
“Major, I am back. I did not know you would come pick me up.”
Having changed from a beast into a person, from a person into a girl and then into someone’s biggest love, Violet accepted the embrace of the other person without resistance.
“I am happy.”
Something gradually rushed through her body. It was the sensation that “joy”, “love” and other such feelings had turned into light and were running from the tips of her toenails to the top of her head.
The young woman who used not to know emotions was now in love.
One could spot other charming lovers here and there. Therefore, even as the Army Colonel of this country, Leidenschaftlich, and an Auto-Memories Doll were hugging each other, no one paid them any mind. The intimate figures of both those two and the other lovers were a common sight. If one were to unravel their history, this was a strange pair born through twists and turns, but in everyday life, it was just a part of the scenery.
“Violet. Sorry, I couldn’t hear you. Did you say anything?”
Due to Gilbert hugging her tightly, Violet’s remark was processed simply as an incomprehensible something, but she did not care.
“No, it was nothing much. I have returned, Major.”
“Sorry. Yeah, welcome back, Violet… Did I tell you I wanted to see you?”
“Yes, just now.”
“I heard from Hodgins about when you were scheduled to come back… Tired, are you? I have a carriage waiting so that we can hurry home.”
“Major, what about work…?”
“I came after finishing it. I had to force myself but I have no plans more important than you.”
“Then, can we be together for a little bit as the carriage rides?”
“If you’re okay with it, I can send you to the Evergarden house after we have a meal.”
Gilbert took Violet’s eyes going round as a sign of acceptance. He took Violet’s bag in her stead and, in a natural manner, found himself grasping the hand that had become empty. As he held her hand, Violet moved her gaze fleetingly. She started blinking again upon looking at the two joined hands.
Subsequent to their reunion during the hijacking case of the transcontinental train, the two had confirmed their feelings after the CH Postal Company attack incident and started a new, albeit awkward, relationship.
“What is it?”
“I almost look like a child.”
She indeed was like a child in love.
“Because we’re holding hands?”
“Yes; I would never get lost here, in Leidenschaftlich. You did use to hold my hand before, but… now…”
It was a bit lacking for an army colonel who was past his thirties, but if one were to say that it was fitting of modest people such as these two, it indeed was.
“I’d like you to keep in mind that lovers also hold hands, Violet.”
“Is that so…? Indeed, looking around, there are many people doing this.”
“You had told me you understood… so I perceived us as lovers; was I wrong?”
“N-Not at all.”
“Then, in order to strengthen that perception… let’s change the way we’re holding hands.”
Just by the hold changing into one in which their fingers intertwined, Violet went from just a girl being taken away to a lady being escorted. Violet blinked again. Ever since their romance had come to fruition, each of Violet’s reactions entertained Gilbert, to which he let show a smile that he could not hold back.
“I’ll be happy if, one day, you take my hand without saying anything when I hold out my arm.”
“I need training, Major.”
“Kukuh… That so? Then let’s do it, Violet.”
As the novice couple left the platform, yet another train arrived.
While Violet and Gilbert walked amidst the crowd, a different pair passed right by their side. The young woman was quite a lustrous, beautiful person, whom one could tell was of noble birth. The individual walking with a hand rested on her shoulder as if to protect her from the crowd was an androgynous beauty with unusual silver hair.
Cut short, his platinum-blond hair bore the kind of exquisiteness that looked like it would make chiming sounds as he walked. His jacket, shirt and pants were finely tailored ones. He no longer resembled at all the navigator who used to row a boat in the past.
Feeling as if an old acquaintance had passed by, Valentine halted for a moment.
“What is the matter, Rose?”
Upon being called, Valentine immediately resumed walking with a “nothing”. It was not permissible to stop in the general area of a packed entrance.
“Madam… I had this feeling that the girl I am looking for was here.”
Looking for someone all by themselves. Those two had this point in common.
“Violet Evergarden? That’s right; you will be living as an Auto-Memories Doll in the same city as her. It would not be strange if she did pass by. You will meet that girl someday. And one day – one day, you might also get to see the older brother that you told me about. After all, miracles happen every day.”
However, they had still not realized that the gears of their fates were not yet aligned.
Rose Valentine gave a smile with a “yes, Madam”. “To me, Madam, you are the miracle.”
“Why, my rose does not say such things.”
Rose’s flank was hit rather strongly, but although it actually hurt, the smile did not falter. This was also one of his secrets to success.
“Speaking of which, the Auto-Memories Doll school was truly difficult. I am grateful to Madam for sending me to it, though…”
“Oh, but you have come back as a gentleman who has become able to escort me naturally like this, so it has brought results.”
Rose’s amber eyes widened beneath silver lashes. They reflected his madam’s mischievous facial expression. Rose’s smile collapsed a little and turned into a strained laugh.
“Madam, I managed to deceive people in the past because I used to wear a hat to hide my face, but… can I really do this? Also, does this not mean that I will have to deceive all the other employees and customers?”
There was something he had not told Violet Evergarden. Violet Evergarden was a mysterious girl to him as well, but there was not that great a difference between her and himself.
“I left my hometown in order to start my own life for real, and yet…”
He – no, she was going to begin a new life in this city starting from today. Not just as “Valentine” but as “Rose Valentine”.
The madam of the S.W. (Scarlet Winter) Letter-Specialized Shop, which would later make a name for itself as a unique postal company that mostly employed male Auto-Memories Dolls, replied with an alluring smile.
If there were goodbyes, there had to be encounters. And if there were ends, there had to be beginnings.
“We will not deceive them. You will properly sell yourself as Rose Valentine, the crossdressing beauty, from the very start. We sell a hundred different types of letters, stationery, envelopes. And also the caring customer service from charming young men who have some sort of sparkle to them. There is no mistaking that this will be as addicting as high-grade drinks. It’s exactly because this business is full of women that a shop full of men will shine. Is this discrimination? Are you discriminating against me, Rose?!”
Good endings and bad endings – life went on with both included.
“Haah… But I’m a woman. No, I might be almost a man since I’ve lived most of my life tricking people about my gender…”
“That’s what’s good about it!”
It looked like an eternity but was not, yet on it went.
“Your boyish side and your original girl side. I recruited you taking them into account. Be at ease. You can sell. You can. After all, there is no other such Auto-Memories Doll.”
“Don’t ‘haah’ me. Geez… my lovely rose. Worry not. Have I ever lied to you?”
The story would go on. Cruel as the world might be, beautiful moments would come by again.
“It has still not been that long since I first met you… so, I would not know, Madam.”
Morning would come as long as you were there. Such was how stories were made.