A grey and cloudy sky would not have been out of place over the ruins of Sorakara School, now in a state of such disrepair it is on the verge of being considered a haunted spot. Constant thunder—like a cheap B-list horror movie or something—would also have been perfect for the present situation. Perhaps then, Takeya would have become used to this place.
But the sky is not grey, never mind some kind of healthy blue. Even today the sky is a ridiculous cotton candy-esque pure white. A fake looking sky like one might find inside a fancy picture book. Not only that, but there are small birds and fish going around and around in circles like a baby on a merry-go-round or cute little mascots. There’s no way they could be real.
It’s abnormal. It’s a different world.
Naturally, the sky alone being pretty did not ease Takeya’s spirits. He is constantly seeing things that remind him of the difference between the sky and the situation the students are in.
They are under the magical girl’s rule. This place is an inescapable magical cage in which she raises humans as cattle – The 21 Confectionaries.
The boys and girls confined here cannot escape unless they return the sky back to its true state.
“Haa…. Haa…. Haa…”
Takeya was running through the ruined courtyard with a bastard sword on his back. No one had been maintaining the courtyard, so weeds were overgrown everywhere and stones were scattered all over, making it difficult to run through.
But Takeya could not stop running. If he did not exhaust himself to the point he could no longer think, he would probably be crushed by the hopeless reality that awaits him.
“Haa…. Haa…. Haa…”
The weather was uncomfortably warm and the air humid. It felt horrible. It was like he was inside someone’s mouth. He wanted to stop breathing but had he no choice but to continue.
Inhale the horrible air. Sputter it out. Inhale. Sputter.
His sweat was sticking to his skin like sugary sweets.
Everything was unpleasant.
Takeya was fighting with his desire to simply flop over until something flew in front of him.
“…What’s that? A blue butterfly?”
The world ended 10 years ago.
The Human Yield started 13 years ago. In the first three years humanity was reduced to a mere 1% of its former population, and many animals and plants went extinct.
Takeya had no memory of seeing a butterfly in the world after that. He thought they had died out like everything else.
It was painful, but he lifted his head at the rare sight and followed the butterfly with his eyes.
He could see classmates undergoing “lessons” just like him where the butterfly was heading.
The one who had tired herself out during her run and was on the ground staring up at the sky was a 12 year old girl, Hatogaya Koko.
The students in the Sorakara Farm do not choose their own classes. Rather, they are assigned into one by the magical girl.
Takeya and his 29 classmates are in Class 18. However, they are not necessarily in the same school year.
For Koko, the youngest, going through the same lessons as the rest of the class is hard. She is often seen exhausted.
On the opposite side of the age spectrum, next to Koko, was the oldest member of the class , the gentle 18 year old Yumeji Eishin. Though he was still not an adult, the gentlemanly Eishin was gently taking care of the exhausted Koko.
The blue butterfly continued flying around.
Nearby was Takeya’s long-time friend, Kaira Shuuhei, gritting his teeth and practicing with a wooden sword. Giving him a sidelong glance with an overwhelmingly pained expression was the 2 metre giant, Ichinohe Arashi.
The blue butterfly turned towards Takeya. Two girls ran in front of him. The idol of the class with her good looks and personality, Arimi Yuki, and her good friend Saki Nono.
It is easy to accept that those two gentle personalities would be good friends, but actually seeing them standing together made Takeya want to raise his eyebrows, since Nono wears a gasmask that she never takes off. The idol and the gasmask girl. It was like something pulled out of a book or a weird painting. They gave him a polite nod as they passed him.
Everyone had their own weapon. Shuuhei had a dagger in addition to his wooden sword. Arashi had spiked knuckle dusters, Eishin a spear, Miyuki a naginata and Nono a Japanese sword. Even Koko had a small fusetto dagger.
They weren’t having a battle royale or anything. They must carry them for their lessons.
Everyone is exhausted by the lessons. Exactly how exhausted they are differs from person to person, but that is only natural. There is no way to make sense of these nonsensical lessons the magical girl puts them though.
In the lessons, everyone finds a weapon that is suited to them and then trains their skills in using said weapon. They exert themselves and receive instruction from the magical girl.
However, nobody knows why this is done.
It could be motivational were it something that would be useful in defeating the magical girl, but weapons are useless against an unaging immortal like her. Besides, there’s no way she would give lessons on how to kill her.
Takeya and the rest of the students are forced to do the lessons without understanding why.
Since they are handling weapons, there are occasional injuries. There have even been cases of death.
But even if they don’t feel like doing the lessons, they do not dare skip them.
Why? Simple. Those who do not participate fully in the lessons will be eaten by the magical girl. Those who resist even a little are prioritized as sacrifices. Those who will never become adept at combat are also prioritized.
The students in Sorakara Farm are eaten due to subversive tendencies or their poor performance. The lessons probably have no real meaning. The beings known as magical girls see no value in humans beyond food and entertainment.
Takeya pondered the idea that she most likely intended to make the students fight each other for her own enjoyment after they had become skilled with their weapons and felt sick.
Takeya heard a shrill voice.
There are only youths in Sorakara Farm, so there are no adult teachers. Those who administer the lessons on behalf of the magical girl are the only things that exist between her and the humans.
“Cheer up, Takeya-kun!”
That is one of them, an animal that looks like a stuffed rabbit toy. If one were to judge based on appearance alone, this mysterious animal would actually look quite cute. It gently jumped onto Takeya’s shoulder.
“Yep! That’s me! The class is all together. It’s bad if you’re all gloomy. Cheer up! Happy!”
Usakoro rather skilfully held onto the still running Takeya with his hind lends and raised his forelegs, creating a pose resembling something you would see from a triumphant athlete.
“I’ll do anything to cheer you up, Takeya-kun!”
(He says that a lot.)
Any magical girl past a certain level of power has mascots aiding them.
These mysterious beings like Usakoro are known as “Lucett”. They seem to obey the magical girl unconditionally, so there is no way they would do what a human like Takeya asks.
Even though he knew he would not get a real answer, Takeya felt like riling him up.
“Anything? Well then, I wonder if you’ll tell me where White Noisette is?”
The mere act of uttering that name made Takeya’s fist clench. It made him feel like he had been filled with curses.
The name of the magical girl that is imprisoning, raising and eating Takeya and the other students.
Usakoro responded to Takeya’s request by shaking his head from side to side in an exaggerated fashion.
“No way! I’ve been ordered to never ever reveal Noir’s pre-transformation form. You should know, I’ve told you this a thousand times. Asking impossible things, you’re messing with me!”
The students have never seen White Noisette before. She lurks around the farm in her human form.
It’s actually very rare. Usually magical girls utterly despise returning to their human forms.
She is still immortal even in human form, but the magic she can use is limited and her powers become the same as that of any other human.
She can expand the 21 Confectionaries, but she is unable to use other magic such as the kinds used in battle.
Despite these weaknesses, she is stubbornly attached to the idea of hiding her true form and hiding among the students.
Besides, she definitely has a sinister reason for it. If she were to eat someone that thought she was their friend and trusted her, then their despair would be so much worse. Something like that.
It is only that natural that Takeya would think like that. That is just the kind of the thing magical girls are.
Usakoro, assuming the now-silent Takeya might be depressed, hurriedly started his follow-up.
“I told Noir that you’re sad Reika is going to be “taken.” I’m sad as well.”
Usakoro’s shoulders slumped down in dejection.
“But she didn’t listen. She said Reika’s grades were bad, so it couldn’t be helped.”
I didn’t care. The methods of his master will not be changed, no matter what Usakoro thinks.
“I get it. Enough. I’m done talking.”
Takeya grabbed Usakoro and threw him away.
“Waaa! You’re horrible!”
Usakoro flew through the air and landed steadily on his feet. Despite their cute appearance, Lucett are actually quite tough like that.
Takeya continued running and ignored Usakoro, refusing to look back.
One of Takeya’s female classmates, Youko, grabbed Usakoro and hugged him tight.
“Ah! Youkou-chan! What’s wrong?”
It was Youko Mitsushi, overflowing with sex appeal in a manner one would never expect from a 17 year old girl.
“The hooks on my bra are broken. Could you get me a new one from town~?”
“Eh? Same reason as before?”
“My boobs are too big and they just keep getting bigger. There’s no helping it . ”
“I see… Anyway, why are you showing that much cleavage?”
“There’s no reason to hide my most alluring features, no~? They say a wise falcon hides its talons, but there’s no way I can hide ones as big as these.“
She bent her back and pushed her breasts out as she spoke.
Despite how she may seem, she is actually very perceptive of her surroundings. Perhaps she had noticed that Takeya was sick of talking to Usakoro and decided to help?
Takeya went back to concentrating on running. It was the only thing he could do. He had already been running non-stop for three hours.
Ah, speaking of which…
Before Takeya had realized it, the blue butterfly had disappeared. And though he was still concentrating on running, that realization caused him to relax his legs ever so slightly.
They started cramping. Releasing the tension in his legs caused the fatigue from hours of constant running to unleash itself in one burst.
His left calf was overcome with pain, like it was going to go numb.
In reality his muscles had probably been burning for ages, even if his was mind was too preoccupied to notice.
His vision went blurry. His head was pounding. His fingers started feeling weak. His throat felt like a desert. Even just breathing was painful. The world started blinking in and out of existence like a dying light bulb.
But, if he stopped… If he stopped…
Takeya turned his head and looked backwards. There was nothing of note to see, but he definitely felt as if something had been coming up behind him.
Like a haze, a spirit, a transparent yet clouded something was coming after him.
He didn’t want to be caught. He didn’t want to be captured. He didn’t want to have something pop out right in front of him.
His body was at its limit and was screaming at him to stop running. But he didn’t want to stop. He couldn’t stop.
Someone… Save me…
Takeya fell down.
Or rather, he was pushed down.
“Get it together, you!”
His back hurt. Not only had he been knocked down, he was also being ridden. A pair of thin white arms were wrapped around his waist.
They weren’t heavy, though. Girls are quite light.
“This is pathetic! You’re making me depressed as well now. Stop messing around!”
Takeya turned his neck and looked at the girl who was shouting in a shivering voice.
Anyone could recognize her just by looking at her distinctive long blond hair. Or she could by identified by being the only person who would do this kind of thing to Takeya in the first place, the 15 year old half-German Seto Lilly.
Her words were strong but her eyes were watering.
“No seriously, stop messing around!”
“I’ve told you this a thousand times! Stop being so over-familiar, don’t drop honorifics! Anyway, you’re messed up, so stop running and dragging your legs.”
Lilly had her arms wrapped around Takeya with all her might, but they were also shaking. She started slowly letting him go when he put his hand on her.
I’ve stopped running, huh…?
But nothing happened. He should have been being chased by some shapeless entity, but nothing happened. There was no formless apparition foisting itself upon him. Indeed, there was never such a thing in the first place.
By pushing Takeya to the ground, Lilly had saved him from his own delusions.
“I was… dragging my legs?”
“Yeah. You were like a zombie or something. Your face looked blank.”
He was being scolded, but he couldn’t help breaking into a smile anyway. Seeing Lilly being the same old Lilly was comforting.
“I see. I’ll stop running.”
Lilly turned her tearful eyes to look into his.
“Really! So Lilly, could you let go of me?”
Lilly’s mood returned to normal as she stood up. But when Takeya stood up as well, Lilly’s eyes flew wide open for some reason. Her face started turning red.
“Huh? Lilly, what’s wrong?”
She was red all the way up to her ears. She put her hands on her cheeks.
“I-I, it was an accident, I hugg-”
“Ahh! It’s nothing! Nothing!”
“What do you mean nothing? You must be sick or something if your face is getting that red. Tell me wh-“
There was a knife at Takeya’s neck. And not just some fancy little decorative knife, a heavy duty survival knife that could rip his throat open effortlessly.
“If you keep pushing me, I’ll have to kill you…”
She was serious.
Takeya raised his hands to signify his surrender.
Lilly breathed in and out raggedly. Eventually she calmed down and put her knife away after a few deep breaths. She then directed her emerald green eyes straight at Takeya.
Oh right, she gets mad at me for not saying Lilly-san but has no problem not using honorifics for a senior like me.
Takeya briefly considered pointing this out but decided to keep his mouth shut.
“There is no way to defeat the magical girl, to defeat White Noisette. You understand that, right?”
Takeya said nothing.
“You need to give up to win. You need to give up to survive. But living a bleak life like White Noisette wants us to is completely unacceptable. So even if we can’t win, we can at least not lose!
No matter whatever horrible things I go through, I will stay calm and look to the future. I won’t let things go according to her plan. Never!”
Lilly started right at Takeya, her eyes filled with righteous indignation.
“I can never meet my mum and dad outside the farm ever again. My friends could be killed any day now. I myself could be killed before that. White Noisette could have a change of heart today and massacre all of us. There is no future for food like us.
But I will not despair. I will keep looking forward. I will enjoy my life as much as I can to the bitter end.”
Lilly inhaled, bent to side and exhaled every molecule of air from her body with one huge breath. The anger in her face had already disappeared completely.
“That is something I can do… So…”
Her face had turned into one massive smile.
“I want you to do it as well.”
That face was definitely looking forward.
That face was truly dazzling. Takeya lost his breath.
She’s absolutely right.
Takeya thought that from the bottom of his heart.
Fundamentally, magical girls cannot be killed. In the face of the harsh reality that nothing can be done about White Noisette, Lilly’s way of thinking is the only one that makes sense.
“Lilly-san! What is it?”
“I like you.”
Yes, he likes her. He loves the amazing girl that can hang on to such ideals in such a depressing situation. He wants to hold her close to him.
“But that means…”
Lilly’s eyes widened.
“I-I didn’t mean…”
“Sorry, that was nasty of me.”
Takeya immediately apologized.
But there was no room for changing what he said. Lilly’s ideals were correct and beautiful, and that is exactly where they would lead.
“Lilly, do you remember what I said before? That I’d be dead if it wasn’t for Onee-san? That when the world ended and everyone was busy with their own survival only she helped me? That she saved me, a complete stranger?”
Takeya continued without a single doubt in his mind.
“I love her.”
Lilly bit her lips and gave a light nod of her head.
“…Yes. I know that for you she is more important than anyone else. I’ve always known that.”
“Important doesn’t even begin to describe it. She is a part of me… No…”
Takeya declared without a moment’s hesitation.
“She is my whole.”
Lilly went quiet at Takeya’s bold words.
“Thank you for encouraging me. I’m happy you feel that way. But I live for her sake, and that cannot be changed.”
Even if it leads me to my death. Even if it leads my friends to their deaths.
Lilly tightened her fists, sensing Takeya’s unease.
“But what are you going to do? Do you intend to die along with Reika? That… That I can’t allow!”
“No way I’d do that.”
Lilly shouted in surprise but widened her eyes as she realized what he meant.
“Indeed. But I’m going to do it anyway.”
‘It’ being the exceptionally reckless option. But no matter how reckless it may be, Takeya had no other choice.
“I WILL kill the magical girl, White Noisette.”