Part 111: Ange's Recollection
October 4th, 1986, 6:07 PM
"Is Genji-san or anyone there...?! It doesn't matter who, bring us a bath towel...!!"
There was already a full-blown typhoon outside, and it was starting to pour down hard. Even though she'd had an umbrella, Maria had been in the rose garden amid all that wind and rain the whole time. She had grown ice cold.
Maria had gotten into a minor fight with Rosa in the rose garden and had been told to stay there. She had done as she was told and had continued to wait in that spot, even though rain was pouring down. Rosa certainly had gotten a little emotional and angry, but Maria's stubborn whim was probably more to blame. The cousins, who had seen that exchange, were relieved to see that mother and child were close to each other again.
Rosa scrubbed Maria's head with a towel. She seemed overcome with worry that Maria had caught a cold, but Maria herself was nonchalant.
"Are you okay? You didn't catch a cold, did you? Maybe we really should go back for now and get a change of clothes..."
"Uu-, I'm just fine! More importantly, I'm hungry, so food's better than changing clothes, uu-!"
BGM: Moonlit Night
"It's a really good thing she had an umbrella. I was thinking she might be soaked to the bone. The fact that she had an umbrella certainly is a silver lining."
"But Maria! Even if you have an umbrella, you've gotta get to shelter when it starts raining so hard, okay? Little girls definitely shouldn't let their bodies get cold."
"It's okay, Jessica-chan. It's Mama's fault for telling her to stay there. I'm really sorry, I'm really sorry...!!"
"Uu-! I'm a good girl? I'm a good girl for doing what Mama said? I stayed there even though it was cold, stayed there until Mama came! Uu-uu-!"
"Yes, you really are a good girl, Maria. You did exactly what Mama said... Very well done. But next time, even if Mama tells you to do something, find some shelter if it starts raining like that. Okay...? Promise Mama."
"Uu-. Promise Mama. Uu-☆"
As Rosa gently held Maria, they joined their pinkies together and promised. Battler and the others realized that by touching her mother's pinky, the warmth had started to return to Maria's body.
"...Then, if you would excuse me."
As Kanon bowed with a blank expression, as though he'd done nothing that required gratitude, he left the parlor.
"...Okay, it's already dinnertime. Let's all go together. I'll even give Maria my dessert for being so good."
"Uu-! Really Mama?! Uu-uu-, get dessert, uu-uu-uu-♪ Love Mama, love Mama!"
"Hey, Maria, don't jump around. Mama loves you too, Maria. Love Maria, love Maria."
"I love Mama too, love Mama! Uu-uu-uu-uu-!"
Rosa and Maria looked really close. Even the cousins who watched started to feel a long-forgotten warmth fill up their chests.
"It wasn't like that for me. Mom was always yelling at me to study, study, study."
"That's because they love their children. A parent's love isn't always gentle and indulgent. My mother was strict with me too, but now I realize that it was because she treasured me so."
"Uu-uu-uu-! Love Mama, love Mama!"
"Love Maria, love Maria♪ So, shall we get some food? Let's be friends and hold hands."
"Uu-! Be friends and hold hands! Mama and me, friends, friends♪"
"Yes, that's right. Mama and Maria are friends. We'll aaalways be like this. I love you, Maria..."
The sudden sound had come from the teacup Gretel had been holding, which had fallen and smashed.
"...Sorry. I got careless. Sorry for dropping it."
The cup on the floor had smashed to pieces. Would it really have made such a sound and smashed to pieces just by being dropped from that height? Even someone as thick-headed as Battler could realize that she was in a bad mood over something, but he couldn't understand why she had suddenly grown so displeased.
When she made to bend over and pick up the fragments of the cup, Ronove appeared out of nowhere and stopped her.
"You will injure yourself. Leave the cleaning up to me. Shall I bring you another cup of black tea...?"
"...I don't need it. I guess a demon's black tea just doesn't match my tastes."
"Hoh. To think there's someone whose tastes aren't satisfied even by Ronove's tea. I must respect your discerning palate."
"...I'm getting bored, so I'll go out for a second."
"Bored? Wait a sec, this is where things start to get interesting. About now, Maria is probably going to say that she got an umbrella and a letter from Beatrice again, right? This is the essential part..."
"Excuse me. Sorry, I'm counting on you to clean this up."
"Leave it to me."
Without saying anything else, Gretel disappeared of her own accord. Her form literally melted and disappeared into thin air...
There was definitely a displeased expression on her face. But neither Battler nor Ronove, and of course, not Beato either, could understand why her mood had so suddenly worsened. All that remained was the scent of the black tea she'd spilled...
...I don't like it. No, to be more blunt, it disgusts me.
"Why, you say?! Isn't it obvious...?"
"Uu-. I don't understand..."
Even Maria onee-chan, with that blank expression on her face, irritated me. As I held my hands palms up in the empty air, from out of nowhere, a single book landed on them. It was Maria onee-chan's diary. Even though I didn't turn the pages, the pages were flipped through, despite there being no wind, and the door to Maria onee-chan's world opened.
"...Why do you think I'm not happy, Ange?"
"...Think about it objectively."
"By objectively, you mean from your viewpoint, right?"
"...Are you trying to say that the truth is different for me and you, Maria onee-chan?"
"Truth can change its form depending on the observer. And observers from the future always overwrite that form. Ange, what are you trying to do to my happiness...?"
The pages of the diary were flipped through at greater and greater speeds... Then, a brilliant light poured out from the depths of the diary, swallowing everything up and painting over everything with white.
BGM: Mystic Forest
"...Uu-. Then, what about your promise to go to the movies with me on Sunday...?"
"The movies...? Umm-"
Judging by Rosa's tone, she had clearly forgotten that promise. But Maria's response to that was an apology for asking...
...I'm sorry. Maria apologized for troubling her mother by asking that question...
"...I'll stay home. I'll definitely wait patiently. I'll take a bath every day and change my underwear. And I know where the money is. I'll go to a different store every day. I'll try not to go out too late. If a policeman asks, I'll say I'm running errands for Mama. I'll do what Mama says, like Mama says."
"...That's right. You really are being a good girl. If you do that, I'll buy you a present. Okay? Go to bed by 9:00. You mustn't tell the teacher or any adults that Mama isn't coming home. Okay...?"
"...Yes. So Mama, do your best at work. Do your best, finish your work, and come back as soon as you can... I... won't cry all night and annoy the neighbors anymore... So come back quickly..."
"...Well then, I'm busy, so I'll hang up. Be a good girl and wait. Don't do anything you shouldn't. Goodbye."
*click*. With a tone of finality in her voice, Rosa hung up the phone without waiting for Maria's answer. Maria politely set down the receiver and returned to the sofa. There sat the stuffed animal Sakutaro, with whom she'd been watching TV until a second ago. Sakutaro was holding the remote control to the TV. The TV had been turned off because of the phone call. He looked like he was telling her to push the switch because he wanted to watch TV again quickly.
'...Uryu? You don't want to watch anymore, Maria...? If the actors' team gets all the questions right, they can still make a huge comeback. Uryu-!'
"...No. That's enough... TV."
Again, Mama was busy with her work and didn't come home. Mama works so much overtime that she doesn't come home until late. Because she has 'dates' or something, she always comes home after drinking a lot of alcohol, even though she's not good at drinking, and with a pale face, she'll go straight into the shower and then to bed. And because she has overtime even on the weekends or something, she says she has to spend the night there, and almost never comes home.
...Recently, she started saying something about how she's got a big job she's working on, so this sort of thing happens a lot... The pictures I did my best on during drawing time were laughed at by everyone, but even so, I wanted to show them just to Mama, and once again, she won't be able to look at them for me. And I could talk about the time everyone pushed the job of cleaning up onto me, but I did my best by myself and was praised by the teacher. Or the time I went shopping, and the man at the shop said I'm always such a good kid and gave me a free canned coffee. Then there was the time I wanted to encourage Mama because she worked so hard on her job... and hid a card for her under her pillow.
"...And there's a lot... of other things...I wanted to talk about."
"...I hate her job. If only she'd just quit."
'A job is an important thing for adults to do. It lets Maria eat, buys clothes, pays for school lunches, and pays the deposit for summer camp. All that happens because Mama works and earns money.'
"...I don't need food. Don't need clothes. Don't need school lunches and don't want to go to summer camp. ...It's not like any of the groups will let me join in."
'Uryu... Just now, on the phone, Mama promised that she'd buy a present when she comes back from work, right? I think she made that promise because you're important to her, Maria, and she'd feel bad if she made you lonely.'
"...You think so?"
'Uryu! It definitely isn't a pain for her, or annoying, or anything! Mama also wants to be by your side all the time, Maria. It's also painful and sad for her, since she can't do that. I remember when she spent the whole night by your side, crying.'
"...Yeah. I didn't understand why she was crying, but she was so sad, and I couldn't do anything but stay silent by her side."
'I remember the last thing Mama said then. ...She said 'Thank you, Maria'. She said that just by being by her side, you were her only ally in the world. Uryu, do you remember?'
"Yeah... I'm her only ally in the world, she said."
Sakutaro set the remote control on the table, crawled up onto the sofa, sat on my lap, and spoke to me, gazing into my eyes.
'...I'm sure Mama feels the same way you do, Maria. The designs Mama draws are the only ones laughed at by her clients. Only Mama's company has troublesome jobs pushed onto it by other companies. Mama is the president, so she has to take care of everything by herself. Only Mama's company never gets included in the business of other companies. Mama's only ally is Maria. If you tell her to stop doing her job, where in the world could she find an ally...?'
'The only person I have in the whole world is Maria. The only person Mama has in the whole world is Maria. ...What about you, Maria?'
"...I've got Mama, and I've got you too, Sakutaro..."
'So, Maria, you aren't lonely at all! Uryu!
'Since Mama's busy with her work, she can't be together with you very often, but please, don't blame her for that, Maria. In exchange, I'll always be here, will be by your side forever. So don't cry, okay...? Uryu... Can't your sadness be stopped... if I'm with you...?'
"...Uuu, uuuuuuuuuuu, Sakutaro... Uuuuuuuuu!! Uwaaaaaaaahhh, waaaaaaaaaaaahhh..."
...Even though weekends when Mama didn't come home weren't that rare a thing. It wasn't as though that night was particularly painful or sad compared to other nights. And yet, Maria's tears poured down.
'Uryu-...! Maria, don't cry... I'll always be with you... Even if you cry, Maria, I won't. I'm a lion cub, so I won't cry even if I'm lonely. Even though I want to cry too, I won't...!'
"Why won't you cry, Sakutaro...? Even though you're so sad that you can't hold back the tears, you won't cry...?"
'Uryu. But if I cry, who will make you feel better...? So I won't. After all, I want to get your spirits up.'
"If I get my spirits up, will Mama come back...?"
'When Mama comes back, if she's welcomed by a happy Maria, I'm sure she'll be happy. Uryu.'
"...Mama... will be happy...?"
'Uryu. If you do that, then I'm sure her fatigue from work will also be healed. Then, I'm sure she'll start feeling better sooner and will play with you a lot.'
'When you come home and Mama's waiting for you there, and she's in the kitchen in high spirits, don't you feel really happy? I'm sure Mama feels the same way.'
"...So if I watch over the house in high spirits, Mama will be happy too?"
Sakutaro nodded deeply with his big head. The tears couldn't keep falling from Maria's eyes. If she greeted Mama with a tear-stained face, Mama would probably get sad too.
'You know about it, Maria. You can't use the magic that creates smiles if you aren't smiling too.'
"...Yeah. I know. So, I won't cry anymore."
'Hey, Maria. I have an idea for how to have a fun time. Uryu, wanna hear it?'
BGM: Sakutarou's Adventure
"A pajama party...?"
'Until you get tired late tonight, eat candy and drink soda in bed, and play with me.'
"A pajama party. Yeah, sounds fun. I don't have to go to bed at 9:00, right? Mama won't get mad if I don't sleep?"
'This is a secret between me and you, only for when Mama isn't around. So tonight, until you get sleepy, let's have fun the whole time. Let's eat jellybeans and try to guess what color we'll get next. Let's split open peanuts and try to guess which half is the Grandpa. Let's search for treasure in the closet. And more, and more! I wonder what it'll taste like if we mix cola and melon soda.'
"Uu-. I wanted to try it once, but asked Mama if it was okay and she got mad."
'Uryu-! Let's keep it a secret from Mama and try it out♪ Tonight, let's play a lot, laugh a lot, and blow away our tears with happiness. Don't worry, it'll definitely be fun if I'm here! I'll definitely make you happy, Maria.'
"Yeah, yeah! It'll definitely be fun if Sakutaro's there. I'll definitely be happy. Thank you, Sakutaro. I won't cry anymore. Let's play all we can, get happy all we can, and say welcome back when Mama gets home."
'Uryu-! Tonight, let's play a lot and feel a lot better♪ Let's have the kind of secret party we can only have when Mama isn't here. If we're noisy enough, I'm sure plenty of friends will come to play from the land of the looking glass and wonderland. Then, we'll have so many friends that we won't be able to get bored. Uryu-!'
BGM: In the Sun
She played by sticking her hand into the bag of jellybeans without looking, trying to guess which color she'd pull out next. Sakutaro had good intuition and got it right a lot. Maria also had a brilliant streak where she guessed right four times in a row. The game where she split peanuts open and tried to guess which was the Grandpa... was easier than guessing the color of the jellybeans, so she got it right a lot. Sucking her salt-covered fingers was impolite, but that was the yummiest part.
She liked both cola and melon soda on their own. She hoped that by mixing her two favorite drinks, there might be a flash of light like alchemy, and a new drink that no one had ever tasted before would be created. She got excited about how, if it turned out really delicious, she'd call it Sakutaro Soda and sell it. But, unexpectedly, it had a weird taste that she hadn't hoped for. And the color was somewhat dull and thick. Maybe I shouldn't have been surprised that black and green mixed together would make this. Too bad. I imagined that it'd become a sparkling pineapple color.
But, it was an awesome, incredible, fun night. If it's this fun here, maybe Mama will feel like coming home and drop by out of the blue. So, I got the feeling that Mama might suddenly come home and went to the front door many times to check, but there was no way Mama would be able to come home when she was this busy with work. But rather than a feeling of loneliness, it felt just a little disappointing that Mama couldn't join in on this fun late-night party. Sometime soon, I'll do this when Mama is around and let her join in. Mama likes some things I don't think are yummy, so she maybe she'll really like Sakutaro Soda. When Mama comes back tired, I'll serve her some.
And more than anything...
Her work is always so tough and she comes home so tired, so I hope I can share this happiness with her. Mama will almost certainly come home tired late Sunday night, and I hope I can brighten her day even just a little by sharing this happiness...
Then, I decided to give a present to Sakutaro for proposing this wonderful party. It was a small, red muffler I found when searching for treasure in the closet. When I was still very young, Mama knitted this tiny thing. 'Maria' was embroidered on it with knitting wool.
I softly wrapped that muffler around Sakutaro. It really suited him, accenting his yellow with red very well.
Sakutaro looked embarrassed as he wore his first present ever. Yeah. It really looks good on him.
"Uu-. Sakutaro, thank you so much for everything. It was so fun tonight. I can't even remember why I was crying. Let's be together from now on. And let's always play and laugh together."
'Uryu-! Love you, Maria!'
"Me too. Love you, Sakutaro."
After playing so wildly, Maria's room was a mess. Maybe she played a little too much. But I'm tired for today, so let's sleep together. And tomorrow, we'll clean up together and welcome Mama with a clean room. All right, Sakutaro?
"...Is this your happiness, Maria onee-chan...?"
"Yeah. I'm happy."
"...Even though you were looking forward to that movie so much, and Aunt Rosa promised that she'd definitely take you, she completely forgot."
"She just happened to forget because she was so busy with work. Even if she remembered, with her work, there'd be nothing she could do. Whether she remembered or not, Mama would've spent the night at work. She couldn't go to the movies. Whether she remembered or not is a minor issue."
There's no way that's a minor issue. After all, when Aunt Rosa answered 'Movie?' on the phone, it was obvious that she'd completely forgotten her promise. And when she heard that, Maria onee-chan's mood definitely darkened.
"Well, like you say, even if Aunt Rosa had remembered her promise, you wouldn't have been able to go to the movies in the end. But even so. To think that your mother just forgot her promise to spend one of her few days off with you, it's sad. I'd be mad."
"...Yeah. It was sad. Because even if she had remembered, we wouldn't have been able to go to the movies."
"...But after that, I had a very, very fun night with Sakutaro. You must've thought that pajama party looked really fun too, Ange."
"...There's no way that would be fun. I mean, all that messing around you did that night... was just intentionally making a big fuss about nothing, all so you could forget that you were lonely and that your mother wasn't coming home."
"That's not true. I really did have a fun party with Sakutaro."
"...Where was something like that ever written in my diary?"
"It isn't written anywhere! But... by reading in the gaps between every line, I can understand your feelings! You didn't have a good time at all that evening! And you stayed up late when you were told not to, broke the strict rule about eating sweets outside of snack time, and when even that didn't bury your sadness, you went wild in your room...and made a mess of it, right...?!! And after you made a mess of your room and were all tired out, all you did was claw at the bed sheets and cry yourself to sleep, right...?!"
"...The diary does say that Mama probably forgot her promise about the movie... and that I stayed up late having a pajama party with Sakutaro... and made a mess of my room searching for treasure."
"Yes. And... this is what it means! You were starving for Aunt Rosa's love, Maria onee-chan...! And Aunt Rosa always put her work and her public image first, always keeping you on the back-burner...! That's what disgusts me! Because I know just how superficial Aunt Rosa's words of love for you were!! You should realize this yourself! So, how can you say you're happy despite that?! I don't understand... that part of you, Maria onee-chan!! Even at my age, I can't understand it at all...!! Why aren't you sad? Why is it that you can experience a reality filled with misfortune and can call yourself happy?! I can't do it, I can't understand it...!!"
"...You're a sad kid, Ange."
"I don't get it!! Why are you pitying me?!"
"...Even though a 'fact' about a really fun pajama party is written about in my diary, if the same 'fact' is observed by different people, it has a different form."
Truth is unfixed and changes its form every time it's witnessed. By the way it's perceived... in other words, depending on the person who perceives it, a single truth becomes different truths. And truths of the past are painted over by truths of the future...
"In this diary, I wrote that what happened that night was very, very fun."
"...You described the events of that night as something very happy."
"And yet, when you read the diary, the events of that night sound very, very sad."
"...Even though you describe it as a happy scene, I read between the lines and realized that that wasn't true."
"...Are you... happy with this, Maria onee-chan?"
"Yes. I'm happy. That's why I feel sad for you, since you wouldn't be able to feel happiness in a similar situation."
...Right now, I'm like she was then... Just as isolated, with no friends.
Ange... had accepted her isolated reality for what it was. But Maria... painted over her isolated reality with a reality of happiness. Ushiromiya Maria took a sad truth... and changed it into happiness. That was... the only, and yet very large, difference between me and Maria onee-chan.
And, even though I'm unable to accept it, I'm also jealous of that power.
"Yes. That's right. This is 'power'. I was able to find happiness with that power. Because you don't have that power, you can't find happiness, Ange."
"What... is... that power...?"
"I didn't know what to call that power either. Not at this point in time, at least. Eventually, I was taught its true form. I'll talk about it later. On the next page. So then, so then, late Sunday night, Mama came back with a present, just like she'd promised..."
"Mama, welcome hoooooooome!!"
'Uryu-!! Mama came back, Mama came back!'
Waiting to greet Rosa as she returned home all tired out...was Maria, in an unbelievably good mood, holding Sakutaro. Most likely, Rosa's worn-out expression was partly because she really was tired, but partly because it would be a pain when Maria, who should've been grumbling after staying home alone for several days, would cling to her, sobbing. However, when she was welcomed by an unbelievably happy Maria... and found that her fears were unbelievably needless, Rosa couldn't hide her surprise.
"Wh-What's going on, Maria...? You're in a great mood...?! Is someone here...?!"
It was strange enough to make Rosa think that a friend had come over, and that she'd come home right when they were having a good time playing together. But there were no other shoes by the entrance. Even though Maria was in such high spirits, she had been home alone. At first, Rosa was suspicious that the cause of this unexpected good mood could be nothing good, but that really was a needless fear, and in any event, Maria really had been in a good mood while she watched over the house. Even if Rosa's heart had been as cold and hard as a rock, after being welcomed with a smile like this...
Rosa started to honestly accept that smile, and a smile rose to her own face automatically. In that smile, you could no longer see any of the weariness of someone who'd been unable to return home for several days.
Maria kept talking about what a fun time she'd had playing with her stuffed animal, Sakutaro. Rosa really hadn't imagined that the stuffed animal she herself had given would be so appreciated, and she couldn't hide her pleased surprise.
"I see. So you spent the time together with Sakutaro. Well done, Maria. Here's a present for Maria and Sakutaro for being so good."
'Uryu-! A present! A present!'
"Uu-! What is it, what is it?!"
Both Maria and Sakutaro started jumping around.
Inside was a Scotch cake. It looked to be of very high quality. But Maria was more interested in the other one.
The other one was an even bigger box, and it was pretty heavy.
"Go ahead and open it. They might become new friends for you and Sakutaro, okay?"
"Waaaaaaaaaahhh...! What's this?! What's this?!!"
Squirrels, rabbits, small birds, dogs and cats. And they were all holding musical instruments. In addition to them, there was also a panorama-style background. A forest scene was drawn on it. The small forest animals were gathered in a plaza and looked like they were having a good time.
Rosa set it up on the table. And when she then lined up the ceramic figures like chess pieces in front of it, it became a band of forest animals.
"Isn't it wonderful? I saw it in a store window, and I was taken with it at a glance. This is a present for you for being such a good girl home alone, Maria."
"Uuuu---!!! Thank you, Mama!!! Awesome, Sakutaro! Look how much our friends have grown...! It's just like you said, Sakutaro. It was true that if we had a fun, noisy time, we'd get more friends...!"
'Right, didn't I tell you? Look, we have more friends, look, we have more friends! Uryu-♪'
Relieved that her gift had been appreciated, Rosa remembered that she'd been filled with several days of weariness...
"Mama, you really worked hard...! Go take a shower. If you take a hot one, I'm sure your weariness will go away. Wanna take a bath? I'll choose what to put in the bath today!"
"Thank you. But it's already late, so get ready to go to bed. Mama is tired, so I'll just take a shower and go to sleep. I have to get up early tomorrow."
"Yeah, got it! Here, Mama, I'll take off your coat for you."
"I can do it myself... Oh, thank you."
"Mama, your coat is full of smells from outside. Uu-? Oh, sorry, something fell out. I'll pick it up, okay?"
When she took Rosa's coat, a receipt or ticket stub or something fell out. It had been in Mama's pocket, so it was probably important. Maria hurriedly picked it up...
It looked like a ticket for the Green Car or the Shinkansen or something.
Instead of the Rosa who had been there just a second ago, enjoying the gift with her daughter and recovering from her weariness with a long-awaited return home, there stood a person who looked exactly the same, but who had a completely different, terrifying expression on her face.
In her hand was the ticket stub that Maria had picked up. She had stolen it from Maria's hand in an instant. Just a few seconds too late, by the pain of her hand that had been hit... and her mother's expression, Maria realized that she must have done something wrong. But she didn't know what she had done that had gotten her in trouble. It was probably because of that ticket stub-like thing. Was she not supposed... to touch it...?
Even though she had tried so hard to welcome Mama with fun and happiness, she had touched something important to Mama without asking, and had ruined that pleasant atmosphere... So Maria apologized immediately.
Even though she must have heard those words of apology, Rosa's expression actually darkened. Maybe those weren't the words she had been hoping for. Maria didn't know what to do... and stared at her mother's reaction...
Then, even though it should've been such an important ticket stub, Rosa crushed it up and hurried off to her room... Maria... didn't really understand what she had done wrong...
'Uryu... ...You didn't do anything wrong, Maria... ...That's why tonight was so very happy.'
'And when Mama takes a bath and clears her head, she'll go back to being the normal, nice Mama. So you mustn't worry about it. Uryu.'
"You're right... Mama's tired too. Uu-, mustn't worry about it. After all, we were so happy tonight."
"...Ange, I think you're looking for happiness in the wrong way."
"You're the one who's wrong, Onee-chan!! How can you call this happiness...?!! It's so... pitiful that I can't watch anymore!!"
"What is...? That Mama suddenly got mad? That happens sometimes when humans get tired. Condemning a person because of a momentary misplaced emotion isn't very adult of you, Ange."
"...I can't believe I'm hearing this from a nine year old... But that's not the problem! That ticket stub you picked up was clearly strange!"
"What was? There was nothing strange about it, and it has nothing to do with the happiness of that night, right...?"
"Aunt Rosa called because she'd be staying over at her company because of work, right?! Why Atami?! Isn't that what you call a vacation?! It means she left you and went on a vacation, right?! And you normally don't go on a vacation by yourse-"
"Even if that was a ticket for Atami, that alone doesn't make it proof that Mama lied and went on a vacation, right...?"
"She lied on the phone, and then she changed her expression so drastically and grabbed it from you! What more proof could you want...?!!"
"...It might have been from a business trip long ago, right? Or maybe she just happened to pick up some trash and put it in her pocket. It might've been a receipt from someone who worked for her, who went on a business trip. In that case, it would be important for her work. It wasn't a toy, so I can understand why Mama took it away. This evidence you're talking about is only circumstantial. Imagination and delusions. I don't know why you're interpreting it in a way that makes our relationship worse."
"I'm the one who doesn't understand why you're interpreting it in a way that's so convenient for Aunt Rosa!!"
"...As I thought, you're a pitiable child, Ange. Even though there are so many Fragments lying about you that could make you happy, you can't find them."
"...Instead, you only look at unhappy Fragments and continue to get hurt. That's why you're scared of being hurt...and only start looking for happiness after you check to make sure there's nothing around you that could hurt you."
"...When I talk with you, Onee-chan, it gets hard to tell which one of us isn't making sense."
"You know what? There are lots of happy and unhappy Fragments, and they fill the world up. So people who can't find happiness right beside them won't be able to find it no matter how hard they look. Like Tyltyl and Mytyl searching for the blue bird."
"...Oh yeah. The story did have that moral."
"You're the complete opposite, Ange. You're searching for a world without a Fragment of unhappiness. But that's the same as the blue bird. So you'll be unable to find your happiness for all eternity. Is Battler Hansel? Or is he the blue bird...?"
"...Give it a rest already. In any event, I understand that a night of happiness was wasted because of a single scrap of paper."
"It sure is scary. That a single scrap of paper could do that. In that case, maybe the power to get your happiness back can also lie in a single scrap of paper, right?"
Rosa's face twisted with a mixture of anger, sadness, and a fierce self-hatred as she flew into her room and closed the door. Maria's 'sorry' had sliced into her chest sharper than a knife.
At that time, she noticed a cute envelope placed on her study table. It was probably something that had come with a girls' magazine.
...To Mama: Let me share my happiness with you, it said.
She took it, and after hesitating, opened it... and read what was inside. Then, after letting two large tears... drip down the paper... she flew out of the room, hugged Maria from behind as she headed for the bathroom, buried her face into her daughter's back... and cried.
Then, realizing that she was the one who should be apologizing, she apologized. Why is Mama apologizing...? There was no answer to that question...
"...To me, your happiness is...too painful, Maria onee-chan."
"...I understand how you feel, more or less. Before I realized I had that 'power', even I was a pitiful child who could only find Fragments filled with misfortune, just like you are now."
"...What is that 'power'? This power that I don't have, but you do... Are you saying that I'm unfortunate and you're blessed because I don't have that? Just what is this thing you can't describe except with an abstract word like 'power'...?"
"Yeah. You do want to know that, Ange. That's why you've been reading my story so far. Of course, I'll teach you. I'll show you the secret to that power. And it's something I taught you about long ago, when you were little, right...? Did you forget...?"
"It's okay, I remember. Now I... no, she. She will teach you."
"...She...? Who's that?"
"Yeah. The 'power' I have, but Ange doesn't."
Maria and Beato said it together. And then they started giggling because they'd said it at the same time. It was an innocent reaction, one that didn't seem like Beato at all.