Within the quiet night could be heard the sound of a lonely boy’s breath.
The star above was filled with stars, but not even it could lift the boy’s sorrowful heart.
There were joyful voices just behind him from the brightly lit church, but though it could make his cheeks slacken, it could not make him return.
He sighed as he distanced himself.
He must have thought he was nothing more than a hindrance, but then the wind brought the sound of singing to his ears.
Curious, he found himself walking, and there, he saw the back of an acquaintance.
On a small hill overlooking the small village where they stayed was a nun singing. She wasn’t looking at the star-filled sky above but at the village down below.
As far as the boy knew, she was the very definition of crazy. A brand of crazy so eccentric there weren’t enough words in this world to describe it.
Yet her singing voice sounded so gently as though her usual heroic attitude was but a lie.
It was curious if she’d noticed him or not, but she just quietly sang by herself.
At ‘this time’ the boy didn’t understand the lyrics well, but he knew it was a song praising humans.
She didn’t praise the human race as a whole, nor did she praise a hero who has achieved something.
Instead, she praised the normal things that men and women of all ages did. Those who woke up in the morning, who would greet each other, ‘good morning’, and shed sweat in their work, then return in the evening to sit with their family for supper before finally retiring for the day.
It was a song longing for such days, a song of support for those who lived such normal days, a song that looked up to the life they lived.
Before the boy knew it, he was captivated, and just as abruptly, found himself standing beside her, gazing at the same scenery she gazed upon.
Small lights twinkled from within the small houses of the village, and within every house were people who took for granted these peaceful days.
Yet for some reason…
Neither the boy nor the nun could think of anything greater than the brilliance they shone.
Not the most beautiful treasure of the world nor a bewitching beauty that transcended gender, not even the starry sky above.
『…Shin, as I thought, you’re someone who should be on this side.』
When the nun finished singing, she happily said that without turning to the boy.
───I feel like… I just saw an important memory.
Suddenly, Tomoe woke up, and though sleep tugged at her for a moment, she turned her attention to the dream.
“…Was that Shinichi?”
He looked much younger than he did now, but it was definitely him.
There was a nun with him dressed in nun clothing she didn’t recognize, but regardless, Shinichi and that nun were looking at the same thing, captivated.
“…The night, huh. So they’re guardians that watch over the sun and protect people while staying in the night themselves…”
It was pragmatic for them exorcists to stand in the middle and try to maintain harmony.
That was the safest place to be since it allowed them to see both sides.
But she admired the way those two chose to protect others.
They dwelt in the night and admired the brilliance they saw, yet they never ventured out and merely devoured those that tried to sink that brilliance into darkness.
And when a powerful light that could destroy that normal peace appeared, they would cover it in darkness.
Though she only saw them standing on that hill, she knew that they were people who would do just that.
Even through the dreams, she could tell that the woman was looking at a magnificent brilliance and an equally magnificent darkness.
It wasn’t as much as today, but despite having a tendency for the darkness, the boy happily gazed at that brilliance from within the shadows.
Their eyes were unlike them, who simply mediated because of necessity.
They willfully watched over that small brilliance despite their envy and despite remaining within the night.
What a noble way of living, and what an incredibly lonely life.
No normal person would be able to endure it. Once the darkness within their own heart grew, it would turn into despair and light a flame of envy that would destroy the very thing they wished to protect.
If their light was too strong, the shadows would reject them, and they would burn the eyes of people. Just being able to stand in that place made them abnormal.
That’s why the woman in the dream was happy.
It was her first time meeting someone she could call her kin.
Someone who could stand in the same place, look at the same thing, and think the same thoughts as her.
For someone like her who has been standing in a place too different from everyone else, how long has she been waiting for this moment?
The boy didn’t see it, but Tomoe saw it clearly, the expression written on the woman’s face.
“…Sigh, so your philandering antics were already in full gear by this point.”
She was looking at him like she just met her lover from her past life, as though she’d just been reunited with her other half.
So enchanting was that smile on her that even Tomoe, a fellow woman, couldn’t help but melt.
Unfortunately, for some reason, Tomoe’s chest was full of a loneliness and sorrow that did not belong to her.
There was already no stopping the couple’s eventual parting.
Despite having no basis for it, Tomoe knew that; which is why, the woman’s smile made her chest ache.
Tomoe wiped her tearful eyes and got up, then felt the pendant on her chest before heaving a sigh of relief.
Who knew how stupefied Shinichi would be if she lost his pendant right after she received it?
Either way, it wasn’t something she wanted to see. Tomoe smiled as she vaguely realized where the pendant came from.
“─────Wait. Why haven’t I changed?”
When she looked down at herself, she noticed that she was still wearing the same clothes when they went to save Kouta.
Did she fall asleep without changing? Tomoe looked around her, but then she gulped.
“…A-Ahahaha… Where is this?”
A dry laugh escaped her as she realized she’d been too caught up by her dream.
It was all too easy to imagine Shinichi glaring at her and rebuking her for her foolishness.
The atmosphere in the room was indeed similar, but that wasn’t a good enough excuse.
She had been sleeping in the futon laid on the tatami floor, and the room she was in now was about 285 sqft.
The structure was divided by wooden pillars with white paper sliding doors and Japanese sliding screens.
The interior was indeed a Japanese-style room no matter how one looked at it, but there was a clear difference between a Japanese-style room in a Japanese inn and a Japanese-style room in a house meant for daily living. This was clearly the latter.
The atmosphere of the entire building was just too different to believe it was that inn.
There was also no clock, and her foster wasn’t with her for some reason, so she didn’t know the time.
If the sky outside the sliding door were to be believed, then it was still evening.
She traced back her memories.
After Shinichi gave her the pendant, they separated in the elevator hall.
His room was a private room in the first floor, while hers was a room in the third floor shared among four.
Shinichi wanted to escort her to her room, but she pointed out that they could be seen together by the other students on the floor or her roommates, making others question their relationship, so Shinichi had no choice but to drop the idea.
After using her best friend, Youko’s, name to get Shinichi off of her, she immediately went to investigate something that’s been bothering her.
But just when she was about to make a call on her foster, the person in question arrived.
『’Sup, you two had fun? 』Ryou said amidst laughter.
Tomoe didn’t know how much he knew, but it seemed that he noticed that she had disappeared with Shinichi.
She could sense from his happy expression that he wasn’t thinking anything good, but she didn’t correct his suspicions and just checked something else.
She pulled him into the elevator he came from, and when no one else was looking, she divined Ryou’s fortune. Until now, she hasn’t told a returnee’s fortune.
They’ve passed through the dimensional barrier due to a natural disaster, so in a sense, they have already once left the framework of this world.
If the results for Ryou turned out to be a complete miss, then it would simply mean that her methods of divination didn’t work on returnees.
Pain suddenly assaulted her.
She half-reflexively managed to deflect the pain with spiritual power, but it was already too late.
It was a jutsu meant to put them to sleep.
“Achaa, I was so focused on fortune telling I couldn’t defend. I’d never hear the end of it if Shinichi found out. Regardless, have we been──”
She recalled the last of her vague memory and remembered the last thing she saw.
It was of the door opening upon reaching their floor, and the sight of three figures dressed in black miko attire casting a sleeping jutsu on them.