oneill: Haibane Renmei - The Abandoned Factory at dawn (廃工場)
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Scrapped Princess | Canzonetta of the Unforgiven | The Weak | Part 1/3

Shannon and Pacifica were standing stock still in the middle of the street.

There was no one to be seen.

In late-morning, the central shopping street is as good as an artery for the town. The hustle and bustle of a town is its breath, and the activity of the people who come and go are the blood that gives a town its spark of life.

Barring some extraordinary circumstance, this flow is never cut off. If it ever is cut off, the town dies as a matter of course. In other words, it becomes a ruins.

Actually, the sight that spread out before the two of them was reminiscent of a ruins.

There was not a single trace of a passerby, and almost all of the doors and windows had been shut up tight.

There were people around. Shannon's keen senses definitely picked up several signs of human presence; however, each and every one of them was was holding their breath and hiding . . . as though afraid to set foot outside.

No, that wasn't it. What they were afraid of was . . .

"Umm . . . I kinda . . . get the feeling we're being avoided," Pacifica said in a confused voice as she scratched her cheek.

Shannon made a swift survey of their surroundings, moving only his head. At the corners of his eyes, he caught glimpses of shadowy figures that seemed to be sneaking looks in their direction, but they hurried to duck for cover before his gaze could fall upon them. He and Pacifica exchanged a glance.

"The hell did you do?"

"Did you do something, Shannon-nii?"

". . . Pacifica," Shannon said, sighing. "Just how do you see your big brother, anyway?"

"Just how in the world do you see your darling, adorable sovereign, Shannon-nii?"

"As an explosive, selfish princess."

"When have I ever exploded?"

"No, it's more like you could go off at any time . . . that kind of thing."

"If that happens, I'm taking you down with me."

But even though they tried bickering along these lines, no one came to stop them, and neither did circumstances change.

There in the middle of the deserted street, Shannon and Pacifica fell into an awkward silence.

In all honesty, Shannon could make a few guesses as to what had caused the change that had come over the townspeople. Pacifica likely could as well. It was simply that neither one of them wanted to think about it.

"Anyway . . . we can't do any shopping like this."

As usual, they had gone shopping at Winia's request, but . . . the shopping streets were in this state. If Shannon and Pacifica's suspicions were correct, no matter where they went throughout the town of Taurus, the circumstances would not change.

". . . Wanna head back?" Shannon said, sounding harried as he started back the way they had come.

"Eh? But . . ."

"There's nothing we can do about it. We could drag 'em out of hiding, make them explain exactly what's going on, but . . . that'd probably just make things worse."

As she stood, confused, at Shannon's side, Pacifica peered up at his profile.

"Shannon-nii . . . are you angry?"

"These days, if getting angry about something won't do any good, then I don't let myself get angry. Can't help feeling sad about it, though."

". . . Yeah." Gripping the cuff of her elder brother's sleeve, Pacifica nodded.



In the partially repaired kitchen, Winia peeled potatoes, lost in thought.

Shannon. Raquel. And Pacifica.

Winia knew their true identities. To be perfectly honest, it had shocked her. That was only natural. The Scrapped Princess was the greatest taboo in the Kingdom of Leinwand. It was not a matter than involved a girl from an inn in a backwater town.

Yet even knowing that . . . even so, Winia was glad (and proud as well) that the feelings she had for them had not really changed.

. . . It'll be all right. It'll be all right, Winia thought.

This time, she would not run away. She would not belie her own feelings of love. She loved those three. And she could put in the effort to go on loving them.

That was the only thing that would not change, no matter what happened. It was the truth within herself.

"Winia."

Hearing her name, Winia looked up.

An old woman stood at the kitchen door, clinging to the wall for support. She wore subdued, tawny house clothes on her petite frame, and had a stole wrapped about her shoulders. Her nervy features (which piqued curiosity about her free-wheeling youth) were certainly those of an inn's landlady, but . . . right now her face showed a two-fold haggardness born of illness and old age.

She usually spent her time sleeping in the inner room and rarely set foot outside, but . . . she was Winia's only blood relative: her grandmother, Felicia Chester.

"Obaachan. You're up and about all of a sudden . . . Are you feeling all right?"

"Yes, yes . . . I'm fine. Just fine. I'm feeling rather well today."

She certainly didn't look it. Winia set down the potato and the kitchen knife and walked up to her grandmother.

Her grandmother--who tended to lie abed around eight or ten days at a stretch--rarely got up on her own and came as far as the kitchen. It was likely that even Shannon and his sisters, who had been staying at the Big Bear for very nearly a month and a half now, had barely seen her at all.

"Honestly, what is this all of a sudden? You don't look so good, you know?" Winia said as she lent a shoulder to her grandmother. "Have you been taking the medicine Randall-sensei gave you?"

Her grandmother received regular house calls from the physician, Randall. Though I call them "regular," he stopped by whenever it was convenient for him . . . that was his condition. In return, he only charged them a bit more than actual cost for his services.

In truth, they would have liked for him to make a house call as often as once every three days, but it would have been impossible to pay him using just the income they received from running the Big Bear. Perhaps Doctor Randall had taken this into consideration as well because he made absolutely certain to visit once a week.

"Of course I have. By the way . . ."

The grandmother looked at her granddaughter with upturned eyes.

There was something ugly in those eyes . . . Winia thought that for just a moment, and felt ashamed for it.

"Those . . . those three who are staying here . . ."

"The Casulls?"

"Those three . . . have them leave tomorrow. No, today, as soon as possible."

". . . Eh?"

Winia stared dazedly at her grandmother's face.



Tup. A small stone struck the ground at their feet.

". . ."

Tracing the path it had flown, they saw a shadowy figure in the alley formed between two buildings.

"Mi--"

Pacifica started to call out to the beckoning baker girl, but Shannon pressed a hand over her mouth.

Keeping it there, he dragged his little sister along, and the two of them quickly ducked into the alley.

". . . Michelle, um--"

"Something strange is going on here, you know?" Michelle said, cutting Pacifica off and giving her a disconcerted look.

"Something strange?"

"You're telling me you don't know about it?" asked Michelle. She did not venture to go into any detail.

"There's so many things it could be, we got no idea," Shannon promptly answered.

Michelle sighed. ". . . Oh, come on, now . . . There are strange rumors going around about you guys, and right after our campaign did so well, too."

"What kind of rumors?"

"That you're serial murdering siblings on the run from the Royal City. You killed one of Mauser's Inquisitors, for instance. And a bunch of other stuff besides. Like, Shannon, they say you raped and killed a little girl."

"That's pretty damn brutal," Shannon said, sounding as though it had nothing to do with him. "And you're fine talking to people like that?"

"Yeah, since it's a bunch of crap."

"How can you be so sure about that?"

"Michelle-sama is an excellent judge of character--there's no pulling the wool over my eyes . . . is what I'd like to say. It's just, I grew up in the city, you know. I've sort of got firsthand experience about how quickly rumors spread, and the way they spread. But these rumors, on top of spreading weirdly fast, they're so totally vague."

"That's how rumors are, though, isn't it? Vague?"

"I dunno about that. Setting aside the details, the heart of a rumor is usually pretty well fixed. Otherwise they don't spread. I think someone's spreading these rumors on purpose."

". . . Looks that way," Shannon said, surprised by Michelle's unexpected acumen.

"So . . . what are you going to do?"

"Nothing much to do. Brute force is useless against a rumor. If we try to explain ourselves, we'll just hit a dead end." Shannon shrugged. "Nothing for it but to leave town."



"Information warfare . . . ?"

"We're short on time, though, so the execution was extremely crude."

In a hilly area on the outskirts of town, SpecOps Combat Technician Christopher Armalite and Intelligence Agency Demolition Squad Leader Luke Sturm stood face-to-face.

"Fortunately, it seems that information concerning the Scrapped Princess has not leaked to the people of Taurus," Luke said as he looked down on the city of Taurus. Seeing him, Chris felt his blood freeze in his veins.

Actually, there was one person who knew about Pacifica's past. That girl from the inn . . . Winia. However, he had made it a point not to report her. Even he couldn't really understand why, but it had seemed like the right thing to do.

"Because of that, we started out by spreading easily comprehensible rumors, to hold the dissemination of the truth in check. Once the original rumors have permeated the town, it will be extremely difficult for new ones to gain a foothold. In the end, there's a high probability of their being driven out of town sooner or later. If we can bring them down as soon as they leave the city, we can finish this with the fewest number of witnesses."

"But--"

"Their combat skills may be highly developed, but we also have reports that say their mental preparedness as combatants retains a certain immaturity. Once they've been driven out of town, their morale is sure to suffer. That alone will cloud their judgment and dampen their spirits, which should allow us to bring them down without any unnecessary losses. We've deployed personnel to the expected routes and are having them stand at combat readiness."

Chris stared aghast at the man before his eyes.

Though he spoke in one steady stream, he gave no impression of loquacity. It sounded as though he were talking of everyday matters, and his voice held neither enthusiasm nor trembling. It merely had the air of someone indifferently reciting mathematical formulas.

If any way of fighting could be called low, it was this; however, Chris--who had gone so far as to take a hostage and still been defeated in the end--was in no position to criticize.

To say nothing of the fact that this man's goal was to complete the mission with as few casualties as possible. No matter how mean and low it may have been, there was a certain justice in it.

"What will you do? Return ahead of us and make your report or see the mission through to its completion?"

"I have orders from the Baroness to observe the situation until the end and then make my report, regardless of success or failure."

Though he could not shake the feeling that something was not quite right, there was nothing else Chris could say.



". . . I'm sorry."

Hearing those quiet words, Winia looked back over her shoulder.

Raquel was standing in the doorway from the kitchen to the dining room. It seemed she had been in the dining room by chance. Most likely . . . she had heard every word of Winia and her grandmother's conversation.

"Um, Raquel-san--"

"We'll go just as soon as Shannon and Pacifica get back. We'll come back someday to pay for the repairs, I promise."

"That's not it. I don't care about the money. I . . . It's just that Obaachan believed those silly rumors . . ."

"It's all right."

Apparently, there were a number of rumors flying throughout the town . . . and before they knew it, Shannon and his sisters had become homocidal maniacs who had no qualms about killing women and children.

Of course, they were baseless, unreliable rumors.

But Shannon always walked around carrying a sword, it was a fact that Raquel had used offensive magic within the city limits, and more than anything, there was Winia's abduction . . . After putting the pieces together, anyone could guess that they were no ordinary travelers. It certainly left more than enough room for rumors to spread.

"It was easy enough to guess that things would turn out like this someday. We'll be fine. It's more important for you to make up with your grandmother, okay?"

"I know . . . I know that, but . . ."

The words would not come.

In the end, Winia had refused to do as her grandmother said.

They had not quite quarreled, but for Winia--the meek, obedient, good little grandchild--to offer her silent refusal seemed to have come as quite a shock to her grandmother. Perhaps she had even felt betrayed.

As she had wordlessly returned to her room, her back had seemed terribly small in Winia's eyes.

"Why . . ."

Winia hung her head in shame. It was not sad. Nor was it painful. It was just so intensely frustrating.

"Why are people so stupid . . . ? They have eyes and ears . . . they have hearts and minds . . . so why?"

Why didn't people think for themselves?

Why did they believe flimsy rumors? Why did they simply abandon others without even trying to understand each other, without even trying to believe in each other?

That went for her as well . . . for turning her back on that boy.

And for her grandmother, for believing idle rumors.

And for those children who had called her a mongrel kid and not come near her.

Actually, it probably went for most people.
Scrapped Princess - Raquel Casull smiles softly as she embraces Winia Chester.
". . . No one's as strong as that," Raquel said, hugging Winia close while Winia bit her lip and wept. "They're not strong, so they lose their way, and feeling lost makes them afraid, so they look for simplistic answers. That's not wrong in itself. It's just the way things are."

"But . . . then I--" Winia said as she wiped her tears on her sleeve. "I want to be strong . . . I want enough strength to go on believing, no matter what happens."

"There are people whose strength keeps them from realizing when they're wrong. People who think their beliefs are absolute can be unyielding, and they hurt others as a result," Raquel said as she gently stroked the girl's hair. "So . . . it's not a matter of weakness being wrong, or strength being right. Because in the end, things like strength and weakness are nothing more than simplistic labels themselves. I can't explain it very well either, but . . . it probably doesn't make any difference who's right and who's wrong."

"But . . . But . . ."

"I'm glad I got to know you and the other people in this town, and that's good enough. It's enough for me . . ."

So saying, Raquel let Winia go . . . and gave her a reassuring smile.

---

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Also uploaded a couple of relevant Super Guide scans I missed the first time around, here and here. Will try to get better scans once I find the box that's got my X-ACTO knife in it.

Date: 2012-08-23 04:56 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] badtzhobby
Thank you for this translation.
What a sad part. At least, there are 2 people believing in them. Must be very lonely for the siblings, I'm glad they got each other.

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