- Translator’s Notes
Author: Mariko Shimizu
In cooperation with the SoftBank Corporation
Volume 1: Precognition
To me, people are but actors on the stage that is reality. There exists a disparity, however, between the role these people wish to play and the role assigned to them by life. Those who have grown weary of playing roles they feel miscast in will invent delusional stages of their own – stages that enable them to play the roles they’ve always yearned for – and that’s where I, Kitsune Kanazawa, come in.
“So, what you’re saying is, you take the money of people on the verge of going Baroque, and in exchange, you push them over the edge.” Ruby said this while throwing herself onto the sofa and thrashing her dainty legs around in the manner of a child.
“It’s better than freeloading around random offices. Get up. That sofa is for customers.”
“I’m only sitting here because Kitsune’s too cheap to buy more than one chair.”
“Here comes a customer.”
Ruby soundlessly sprung to her feet. At that moment, a girl dressed in pale green entered the room. Although her face – small and buried by long hair – was beautiful, I could see aimlessly drifting eyes behind her eyelashes. A Baroque.
“Oh, I’ve made the wrong choice again.”
The girl suddenly fell to the floor.
Disconcerted, I helped her into a sitting position and had her take a tablet I produced from my pocket.
“This medicine will allow you to speak without the need to inhale.”
I’ve grown accustomed to dealing with the eccentricities of Baroque customers.
“Thank you. Yes, I can feel it becoming easier to speak. It’s just as I thought, Baroque Shops really are amazing.”
I answered only with a comforting smile. To tell the truth, the tablet I gave her was… well, never mind. It doesn’t matter.
“My name is Ami.”
Ami was sitting very properly, with both hands resting neatly on her knees. Her manner of speaking was similarly mature and elegant. She might be rich upper-class.
“Forgive me, but could you tell me your last name?
“It does not matter.”
I put on a well-informed smile. It was one of the 18 different smiles I commonly used in my line of work.
“... Um, I’ve heard that people can obtain the Baroques that you’ve collected here.”
“That is correct, would you like to search for one?”
I booted up the computer on my desk. Underneath the desk, Ruby was curled up and wearing a broad grin on her face. She liked to hide here during customer visits and spy on what I was working on.
“I retrieve search results through keywords, so if you could, please tell me a little about the characteristics of the Baroque.” While saying this, I ran my fingers over the keyboard.
“Without any warning, a white light will suddenly appear before me. Beyond the light are transparent doors, and beyond those doors lie multiple futures. I choose one door. The future I have chosen is the future that comes to pass.”
“With 100% certainty?”
“Before I arrived here, I foresaw your face and this room. I also saw the faces of two other men. I chose your face from amongst the three, as yours was the youngest and most apathetic.”
Ruby snorted laughter from where she sat under the desk, but fortunately Ami was like most Baroques in that she didn’t react to her surroundings.
“But as soon as I entered this place, I was able to see my next immediate potential futures. Will I die, become scared, or become a different person from who I am now… oh.”
Ami covered her eyes with her fingertips.
“After I’ve made a choice, I can see what happened in the futures I didn’t choose. If I hadn’t ended up here with you, one of my futures was a happy one in which I came into possession of a songbird. I’m only ever able to make the worst choices.”
The way her pretty lips moved between her hands made her appear as if she was a creature whose face was blank save for a pair of lips.
“Can you see the futures of people other than yourself?”
“They’re difficult to make out. Those who own antiques without appreciating that they possess mementos of the deceased will, before long, follow in the footsteps of the antiques’ previous owners… just as a person who tries to save a friend who has been bitten by a poisonous spider will himself discover that he was the one who has been bitten and poisoned.”
“Do other people also have multiple doors available to them?”
Ami removed the blindfold she had formed with her hands and looked at me with the eyes of someone who saw things I could not.
“No. Fate cannot be changed.”
Well, she certainly seemed to be more rational than the average Baroque. I printed out the finished story and handed it to Ami.
“I am the sword that Maat wields in her right hand. I kill those who would defile Maat, purifying them. There is no scabbard to sheath this sword. Maat’s left hand holds a scale which always tilts slightly to the right, for while the sword has no heart, the pain the sword carries is-”
“She’s the Egyptian Goddess that governs the laws of reality.”
“Yes. That’s right… yeah… yeah.”
Ami read the story many times over and nodded.
“This most certainly is my Baroque.”
“I’m very glad you were able to find it without incident.”
“Thank you very much.”
Ami bowed carefully, paid the bill, and left to return home.
I was disappointed at the simplicity of the job, as considering how well she was dressed, I had thought I could have earned a bit more cash from her.
“What was that about Maat’s sword?”
“Baroques like that only need stories with a minimum of thought put into them. Precognition had become the core of that kid’s delusion, so I didn’t have to be terribly original.”
Ruby had tumbled back onto the sofa some time ago.
“Kitsune, why don’t you ever seem to watch television?”
“I do, just rarely. There’s more information online.”
“I only caught a glimpse of it, but that girl just now, her name’s Ami Tayura and she’s a TV star.”
“Oh, really.” I wasn’t surprised.
“She has the amazing talent of precognition, and she often does demonstrations on special programs. I don’t know about you, but if she’s able to predict other people’s futures then she doesn’t seem that Baroque to me.”
“Daytime television always appeals to nutcases like you.”
“They said on the television that her accuracy rating was 70%, but I suppose they could be saying a lower rating on purpose just to cover themselves.”
“I don’t know if they are, but Baroque Shops use similar tactics.”
Nine days later, a package from Ami arrived at my address.
“This is the weight on Maat’s scale.” Along with that letter, the package contained the carcass of a songbird. Gifts from Baroque clients are not uncommon. I hung the thank you gift by the window.
“Did you know Ami died?”
Ruby had come by and immediately began playfully poking the hanging songbird.
“Rumor has it, her precognition disappeared all of a sudden, and in her shock, she went completely Baroque and walked straight into District Zero where she was eaten by an Abnormal.”
“Looks like she was right about you being the worst choice after all.”
“I think she made the correct choice in the end, considering her ultimate fate.”
Perhaps Ami had escaped the worst fate of all by only seeing and selecting the worst possible fates for herself. After all, it had been my job to turn her regrets into delusions. Ami had been a heartless sword, incapable of suffering. Even if she had been ripped apart by an Abnormal, I had graciously removed nearly her entire ability to feel pain.
“Given how well it all worked out, I wonder if in that moment, I too shared in Ami’s gift of foresight.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means that only foxes are cunning enough to pay heed to foresight.”
I could not remember anything I have ever said provoking such a malicious expression of boredom as I then saw on Ruby’s face. I tried to force a smile. Then, considering I only had two types of smile that I used outside of work, I gave up because it was more than she deserved.
vol.1 "PRECOGNITION" END
Volume 2: Empathy
“D-do you think that fish will forgive me?” Mayu inquired of the elephant plush that had been placed atop the desk.
“Did you pick up all the fragments?” I answered for the elephant, from just outside Mayu’s range of vision.
“Yeah. I wr-wrapped them all in p-paper and put them in a box.”
“Well then, the fish won’t be lonely. Even after they’ve been smashed, they’ll still be right by your side.”
“That’s right. Right, right.”
Mayu stood from the sofa and turned around. Thin cheeks framed the frightened white face, the right half of which was covered by black hair. The left eye had the far off look indicative of a Baroque.
“Ah, thank you. I’ll be sure to come back again.”
The wallet Mayu took out in order to pay the bill was dirty and worn out. It looked as if it originally had a picture painted on it, but now it was all but invisible. However, the money was still in good enough condition.
“What are you up to today? Confessions about a broken fish plate?”
Ruby, who had been waiting and watching from under the desk, emerged and lifted the small elephant’s ears upward.
“Yes. Don’t break that, it’s the main reason that client comes here.” From stuffed animals to plates with pictures of fish on them, Mayu only converses with inanimate characters in order to avoid contact with real people.
To Mayu, destroying a stuffed animal is tantamount to murder and disposing of a broken plate in the trash is akin to concealing a corpse. But as long as she lives, she must continue to consume objects. As such, Mayu suffers from constant guilt and always speaks in a quavering voice.
“Customers like that are rare, aren’t they?”
“Returning visitors? Yes, they are.”
Mayu had come to the office three times so far.
“It seems like you’d have a Baroque for that kid. Why don’t you give one to her?”
“It’s not time for that yet. Every time she visits, she pays me more money.”
“Oh, right. But even foxes in fairy tales would feel awful about doing that to someone.”
“Despite appearances, it’s what’s best for the clients.”
“If it were me, I’d give that child a soap bubble Baroque. Like, the souls of broken items do not disappear, they just spread into the air. Like in a fairy tale.”
“That’s why you’re a freeloader, you’re not suited for work in a Baroque Shop.”
I started up the computer on the desk and added a little Baroque to Mayu’s file.
“I’ll be back.” Ruby threw the elephant at me.
“Don’t eat anything you find on the ground.”
I could hear a siren in the distance. It had already become public knowledge that the sound signified that an Abnormal had been discovered by the Hunters. Nighttime in the city grew more dangerous by the day, but Ruby had left without a second thought.
I didn’t know where she called home.
Mayu returned 4 days later.
Her face and clothes were blackened by something that looked like soot. I hurriedly placed the elephant on the desk and hid. Mayu burst into tears as she ran to the elephant.
“E-e-e-everyone’s d-d-dead. They all burned until they were b-b-black.”
“Who burned?” my elephant asked.
“All the kids in the car. I was h-hiding, ah, I went to see and everything was just fire, fire, fire.”
That certainly seemed to be the case, as Mayu smelled of melted plastic and burnt hair.
I remained quiet until Mayu had finished sobbing.
After 12 minutes had ticked by on the wall clock, Mayu raised her face and nodded at the elephant.
“Yes. This time, I will get revenge on that evil Clear Demon.” Mayu’s voice was stronger than I had ever heard it before.
This “Clear Demon” was likely to be one of Mayu’s family members, specifically her mother. Mayu had occasionally grieved over a demon who had come and taken everyone away. I am sure this must have been her mother, who was simply trying to clear up space around the house. I didn’t know if it was this same mother who was responsible for the burning, but if Mayu returned home, she might cause harm by taking “vengeance” on her mother.
“Please wait a moment. Before you do that, have this.” I snuck over to the computer next to the tiny elephant and called up the Baroque file I had prepared for Mayu.
“My eyes are the lenses of a video camera. My captured footage is managed and stored in a secure location by an old man who always faces left. The footage captured in my eyes erases the future of whatever it sees, thus everything I witness can go on happily sleeping inside me. It is my job to lay them down to rest. The old man who keeps these secrets, occasionally illuminating them in order to relive the past, is my Grandfather…”
“That’s my Baroque?”
Mayu was parting her bangs. Her Baroque left eye was looking at the elephant, while the right eye that had appeared from under her hair was looking straight at me.
“Yes. The snowman that fell from your mittens and dropped to the street when you were 7, or the girls drawn on the candy wrappers that were burned today – you can meet them again anytime you wish.”
“And the evil spirit?”
“I’m sure the old man will take her away.”
“... I see…”
“So will this Baroque do?”
Mayu left the shop, only to be replaced by Ruby who had just come in. She smelled of smoke, just as Mayu had. Come to think of it, hadn’t she gone chasing after Mayu last night…?
“It wasn’t me! It was some pyromaniac Baroque kid’s fault… probably.”
“Why were you following Mayu?”
“I had time to spare, and I thought it would be boring if she got eaten by an Abnormal before I got to see her get the Baroque you made for her.”
“So, you’re a bodyguard now, and suddenly Mayu’s precious items just happen to go up in flames while you’re looking after her.”
“But as long as you gave her a Baroque, it doesn’t matter if her reality burns.”
“I don’t think we can say that for sure yet.”
Certainly, Mayu stockpiled the things she loved without ever throwing any away. It wasn’t so much that she was sad whenever she threw items away, more that she feared the objects would resent her for throwing them out. Resent her, just as she herself hated the Clear Demon. However, Mayu’s mission was now to record the hearts of objects. If she was able to safely store objects within her delusions, she would be freed from her fears.
“Do you need the tiny elephant anymore?”
“Do whatever you want with it.”
“Gimme. To tell you the truth, I really like fairy tales.”
Four days later, a woman claiming to be Mayu’s mother stopped by with a cake.
“Thank you so very much. That kid of mine finally threw out her mountain of trash.”
The slice of cake I ate was surprisingly delicious. I was absolutely positive that Ruby would not want any, so I hid the rest immediately. Before I had a chance to sneak a second slice, Mayu died. Instead of the customary letter, her suicide note had been recorded on a videotape.
I felt that if I ate more cake before watching the video, I would be showing preferential treatment to the Clear Demon. I loaded the videotape into the VCR. There were shining dots scattered across the image, probably due to dust that had accumulated in the old, disused player.
On the screen was a close-up of Mayu.
“Today I will be moving to Grandfather’s house.”
To summarize, Mayu turned her head to the left and drove a pair of scissors deep into her right eye. I heard a gasp from behind me and when I turned, I saw that Ruby had arrived unnoticed and had been watching the video. I rewound the video and replayed it countless times. Countless times Mayu said she was moving to her grandfather’s house, countless times she stabbed her right eye and died. I ejected the tape that Mayu had become a part of. This black rectangle was Mayu now.
“She truly went to a world of objects.”
I find the finality inherent in my work to be reassuring.
It’s a good thing I said the old man was facing left. I had only said that because historically, curators have been depicted facing left. If Mayu had been facing right and stabbed her left eye, I’d have worried that she died lucid and not Baroque.
Ruby sighed impertinently.
“Kitsune, do you think that foxes are always heartless?”
“Another fairy tale?”
“... No, this. I noticed it this morning.”
Ruby was holding the tiny elephant. Its right button eye had been pulled off and a hole made in its place.
vol.2 “EMPATHY” END
Volume 3: Escape
“Kitsune, do you know what Baroque Mania is?” Ruby asked.
“It’s a place on the internet where people exchange information and images concerning Baroques for fun. Do you want to visit it?”
“I don’t need to.”
I walked to the corner of the room and began straightening the potted plants. With all the recent earthquakes, they had a tendency to slide out of place. The door opened while I was trying to think of a way to secure them. Looks like I had a customer.
A boy had entered. He was injured, his right arm streaming blood while his left did its best to stem the flow. He was out of breath.
“Please look after these.”
The boy held out his injured, shaking right hand. He then opened his tightly clenched fingers to reveal two bloody keys resting in his palm.
“Please come in.”
After taking the keys from the boy, I carried him to the sofa where I laid him down… No, that wasn’t quite right. Only then did I notice that the soft feeling skin was that of a girl, not a boy.
“Was someone killed?”
I brought a towel over to bind the girl’s wound and stop the bleeding. At first, I thought about taking them to a hospital, but quickly discarded the idea. If they chose to come here over a hospital, then what they needed wasn’t a doctor, it was my Baroque Shop.
“Those people never give up.”
“Were you being chased?”
The girl nodded.
“What do they want?”
“My Baroque. Of course, it can’t be obtained without those keys.”
The girl grinned broadly, her eyes exhibiting the faraway look shared by all Baroques.
“I’ll be going, now that I’ve deposited the keys with you. Whatever you do, don’t ever give them to those people, okay?”
The girl got up, shakily.
“When will you be in contact next?”
“Five days, if I don’t get caught first.”
“How about a password for when next we meet? Kitsune, for example.”
“You can call me Rie.”
Hunching to the right, Rie went on her way while covering her wound. Breathing a sigh of relief, I took out the keys.
“Will the people who stabbed that girl come here?” asked Ruby, who had watched the whole scene unfold.
“Who knows. Her wound was fresh, so she must have been in the vicinity. It probably happened just like this-”
I used my left hand to imitate cutting my right arm.
“Are you saying there are people like that around here?”
“Of course, this kind of thing is happening everywhere.”
Feigning motivation, I began to work. Powering up the computer, I created a new file for Rie. Before these 5 days were up, I would have to unlock the key to Rie’s delusions and figure out who was trying to steal her Baroque.
The following day, I returned from running errands only to find the office in a peculiar state of disarray. The floor had been stained with artificial looking footprints that led into the kitchen. They were nearly everywhere, save for the faucet and storeroom. When I investigated, I found broken pieces of cups as if they had been thrown to the ground, as well as my old stack of magazines torn up and scattered about. However, the damage seemed limited to the kitchen. I checked and sure enough, the computer on the desk hadn’t been touched.
“Those people, huh?” Ruby came up and began gathering shards of broken cup.
“Why did they only go after the kitchen?”
“Probably because what they wanted was in the kitchen.”
But I couldn’t discover what their aim was. After all, it looked more like a protest than a house search.
“There’s blood on the floor.”
“Looks like it continues for a bit.”
“I bet we can follow it back to their gang.”
“Sounds like fun.”
“We don’t want to get too involved in our customer’s affairs.”
Then all of a sudden Ruby stopped coming by.
Four days later and Rie’s Baroque was ready to go, but I still hadn’t been contacted. I logged onto an unlisted network used by fellow Baroque Vendors to trade information on Baroque clients. Searching for the name Rie and using ‘delusion of being pursued’ as a keyword, I was able to pull up three results.
One of the people had already been killed by an Abnormal, and the other was located a great distance from my address. The final profile that remained was a Rie Saito, who I was convinced was the Rie I was looking for. The Baroque I had prepared for her truly suited her, if this data was anything to go by.
I immediately printed out the Baroque and grabbed the two keys I had been entrusted with before departing. Rie’s house was located in the center of the general population zone. As I knocked on her door, I started to wonder if she had run off somewhere until I heard her voice reply.
“Kitsune. I’ve brought the you-know-what with me.”
Rie opened the door just enough to reach her slender arm through the gap. The towel I had bound around her arm was still there. I placed the Baroque into her outstretched hand.
“I am a young adult accompanied by two lions. The white lion is my volition, the black lion my instinct. These lions simultaneously exist as my allies and within my flesh, kicking up sandstorms, passing through me, running as they guide me to victory. I will forever travel in the company of lions…”
“Lions are fast.” I explained.
“Those guys would never be able to catch up with me.”
“Are the lions satisfactory?”
“Yes. Animals are more reliable than humans. I will never lose sight of you.”
Rie unchained the door and leaned out further so that she could pay the bill.
“Thank you. This will forever keep me out of their reach.”
With that, Rie ran outside. Left alone, I decided to enter Rie’s house.
The house was empty and seemingly deserted, occupied only by the humming of appliances. Perplexed, I wandered into the kitchen. Following the hum, I discovered a gigantic refrigerator – and in its shadow – lay the captive Ruby, her ankles attached to a water pipe by way of a pair of handcuffs.
“Oh, look who it is. It feels like I’ve been going Baroque, being chained up here like this.”
I tried one of the two keys Rie had entrusted to me and was able to remove the handcuffs.
“At least she was kind. She actually gave me food to eat.”
“It must have been boring to be here all alone.”
According to her data, both of Rie’s parents had run off. When they had been present, they never seemed to care much for her. Rie grew up in a cold home, often left alone to indulge in her delusions.
Even someone not well-versed in Baroques would know that delusions of being pursued stem from a desire to be pursued. Just as she had captured Ruby, Rie had wished to be captured and belong to “those people” who had been pursuing her – in other words, her parents. Perhaps she can finally be happy, now that she has her delusional black and white lions to fill the hole left by her family.
Ruby used the refrigerator to climb to her feet.
“Do you think that she trashed the office kitchen because we don’t have a refrigerator?”
Looking closely, the refrigerator in this kitchen had a keyhole mounted in its door. Its presence made me apprehensive.
I inserted the other key Rie had left me into the refrigerator. The door opened. Two dark lumps rolled out from its depths.
“Oh my god…!”
Ruby covered her face and sat down. Damn it, my heart was pounding. The delusional entity that had been pursuing Rie wasn’t her family. It was Rie’s own feelings of guilt for having gone too far in her desire for a family.
“... It seems even Baroque Vendors can make mistakes.”
Even while shaking, Ruby’s sarcasm could not be stopped.
“Well at least the customer was satisfied. Amazing, considering you couldn’t even figure out if your client was a man or a woman.”
Anyway, it was already too late. Rie had escaped into the world of delusions. Perhaps I had failed – I should have changed the color of her two lions to black and purple, in order to match the corpses of her mother and father that lay abandoned on the floor.
vol.3 “ESCAPE” END
Volume 4: Immortal
“At this time, we would like to convey that there is no cause for concern regarding the formation of this combat force…”
Following the government announcement, a CG model of a Death Squad was broadcast, showing people what they could expect the Hunters of Abnormals to look like.
“Amazing, aren’t they? It’s like something from an old monster movie.” Ruby enthused as she watched the television.
“What do you mean, their uniforms?”
The deep red bodysuits with weapons hanging from belts was a bit contrived in terms of style, but it worked rather well as a strategy to reduce public fear of the Abnormals.
However, the government’s words had done nothing to soothe Baroques. In the 6 days since the announcement confirming the existence of Abnormals, 13 customers came into the shop.
“I died three more times. If I keep dying, I won’t be able to preserve my body.”
“I’ve befriended a small grim reaper that lives near my ear but he’s awfully noisy.”
Most of these Baroques were related to themes of death or being killed, so I started handing out Baroques about being androids or immortals to everyone, telling them that they couldn’t be killed by Abnormals.
“Is that really okay? Just giving out the same Baroques over and over?”
“I have too many clients to keep up with. And besides, none of them have complained yet.”
Just then I heard someone knocking.
Ruby disappeared beneath the desk.
“Does this shop buy Baroques?”
The girl who had come in was wearing a black mourning dress. Her long golden hair was covered by a black lace veil, and she carried a white handkerchief in her palm.
“I regret to inform you that we do not buy Baroques at this establishment.”
“Even a Baroque of immortality?”
“I’m afraid so…”
I scrutinized the customer. The was a high possibility they were Baroque, based on the slight tremor of their fingertips, but I could not be certain as the veil obscured their face.
“While I cannot buy it, could I possibly suggest bartering? I can make arrangements for an appropriate Baroque to exchange for yours, if that would be to your liking.
“...That’s fine. Here is my Baroque.”
The girl produced an envelope, which she placed on the desk.
“My contact information is written inside, so please get in touch with me when a Baroque is available.”
The girl left without ever giving her name or showing her face.
“That kid looked like they had just come from a funeral procession.” Ruby popped her head out from underneath the desk.
I opened the black envelope.
“I am a descendant of a clan of immortals. Our family emblem is our name itself. Even when a ship carrying a thousand people is swallowed by the waves, even when the mountains blow fire and a city is wreathed in flames, even when monsters attack the people, that name will never die. Those bestowed with the power of that name will become immortal. Beware, any mouth which speaks that name incorrectly will be sealed…”
“Hmph. It’s well constructed.”
“What do you mean?”
“To give someone an immortal name requires power, in other words, some kind of condition is necessary. The Baroque itself is only the prologue, so to speak, while the clauses about correct usage of the name as a condition for immortality form the conclusion to the story. It all sounds very legitimate, considering none of it is real.”
I flipped the envelope over. The black, mummified remains of a spider dropped soundlessly from inside.
“The immortal name becomes a curse, sealing the mouth of anyone who misspeaks it.”
“Will Kitsune die unless he says it correctly?”
“I wonder if that mourning dress was because she was coming back from the funeral of a Baroque Vendor who failed to guess it in time.”
“That’s awful! You’re not meant to die over something like this!”
“I wasn’t aware you knew the schedules governing life and death.”
“Hey, you are absolutely going to guess the immortal name!”
“I hope I’m up to the task.”
On the contrary, the investigation went nowhere. I’d previously researched immortality legends for writing Baroques of that nature, but I hadn’t gained any conclusive answers from that. Ruby was constantly in a state of anxious suspense, but I didn’t believe I was in any danger from the mystery surrounding the Baroque. In the unlikely event that this was a genuine curse, it would be the end of Baroque Shops altogether.
Before I knew it, seven days had passed. On the morning of the eighth day, the girl appeared wearing the same mourning dress as before. There had been strange thunder all morning.
“I heard you were able to prepare a Baroque?”
I didn’t remember contacting her. Just then, Ruby appeared from behind the girl.
“I was the one who called you. Hey, the name that makes you immortal is the vampire Miraluca right? The necessary power comes from blood and roses that bloom at night.”
“Idiot, what are you doing?”
Of course, the answer wasn’t going to be that simple, Ruby should have understood that much at the very least.
“What did I say wrong..?”
The girl shook out the white handkerchief she was holding. A pitch-black spider emerged from within and fell on Ruby’s exposed knee. Ruby collapsed on the spot. The spider was poisonous. Ruby’s delicate limbs began to convulse, her pupils dilated.
“What is the meaning of this?”
“You already know the answer to that.”
Something occurred to me suddenly as I watched Ruby spasming on the floor, I headed to the computer and I prepared to finish the Baroque I had been working on.
“And what is the answer to that?” I asked as I worked.
“I am the angel’s trumpet that heralds the time of resurrection. My sound purifies corruption and invites the people to the distant eternal country. But resurrection is impossible without destruction. Knowing this rule, I pass through the ruined corpses, my sound calling them to dance. And thus, we dance to the eternal country…”
“The name that imbues the power of immortality first requires a life to be sacrificed. Sinking a ship carrying a thousand people, sacrificing your brethren to demons – only then will the name bestow immortality. Only by stealing the name of your victims may you extend your own lifespan. You who have killed Ruby now bear the name of Ruby from this moment onward.”
“Dear customer, are you sure you want this Baroque?”
The girl removed her black veil. Although she acted the part well, her eyes were not those of a Baroque. She placed money into my outstretched hand before turning and exiting the shop. With her veil removed, her golden hair swayed – revealing a glimpse of small, fake wings on her back.
“Ruby.” I called to her immobile form.
Had Ruby deliberately sacrificed herself in order to save me? Nevertheless…
“Thank goodness, that went well.” Ruby woke up with a broad grin on her face.
“Weren’t you poisoned?”
“I can’t die from a spider’s… no, a tarantella’s poison.
The word reminded me of something. Tarantella. Dancing down the path to the eternal country. Dancing sickness. Angel’s trumpet. The angel wings on the back of the mourning girl. Was the girl pretending to be Baroque in order to get close to me and kill me as part of some kind of trial issued by the Angels?
Trial. A captive friend, a thin boy with light brown eyes, the Nerve Tower, a young man who discarded his wings.
“I don’t like this.”
I shook my head to clear my mind of these images.
I’m just an ordinary Baroque Vendor, and Ruby is a selfish freeloader who hangs around my office. The world is gradually becoming more and more distorted, but I’m just living an ordinary everyday life.
I didn’t want to think about things that may or may not have happened. Instead, I suddenly asked a question that had been on my mind.
“Ruby, you wouldn’t happen to be my delusion would you?”
Ruby smiled as her outline shimmered.
“Sure I am. You, me, everyone, we all only exist within a Baroque.”
My heart felt like it was coming apart at the seams as it slowly filled with delusion.
“It’s not so bad being immortal, Kitsune.”
The delusion of Ruby couldn’t be killed by spider venom that drove people Baroque.
“I ended up with a good Baroque after all.”
I went over to my desk like I always do, and saved a new file to the computer.
the final volume “IMMORTAL” END
It’s worth reiterating that Kitsune’s name means “fox” in Japanese, as these chapters make repeated reference to it.
Mayu’s “Clear Demon” is described using a word that can mean “to be transparent” (like a ghost) or “to leave a gap in something” (as in creating gaps in Mayu’s stockpile by tidying up). I did my best to preserve the dual meaning but it gets a little lost in translation.
Considering “Empathy” released almost concurrently with the PS1 port that introduced Thing Person (aka “The Collector” in the Atlus dub), there is a nagging similarity between him and Mayu, from their love of inanimate things to the bangs covering their right eyes. However, this connection is likely coincidental or merely referential, as Mayu is typically a girl’s name and she uses the gender neutral “watashi”, whereas Thing Person uses the masculine “boku” (although Alice does this as well). That and the whole being dead thing.
- The word “tarantella” is derived from the name of the “lycosa tarantula” spider whose poison was once believed to only be curable through music that induced dancing frenzies. For more information on the historical roots of the Tarantella Melody and dancing sickness, please see the translator’s notes for “Baroquism Syndrome Volume 1: Sense Sphere.”