Everyday Life D – Romanticist's Chaka-Poko
Synchronised to the galloping of a horse, a single carriage raced down a road.
This silhouette raced through the light scattered by the trees, and like a leaf being swept along in the great passage of time, it was reflected ever so gently on the surface of this world.
However, if one were to raise any kind of issue with this silhouette, it may be that...
The silhouette itself, was the only thing that actually existed.
It was a black that swallowed up even the light itself, and reflected nothing.
From level footing, this roofed carriage looked as if it was made out of a 'shadow' which had somehow transitioned to a higher dimension.
Similar to the vehicles used by nobles in an earlier time, it looked as if it had been taken straight out of a children's story.
That is, if that story were told with shadow puppets.
What was even more out of place... was that the head of the single horse which was pulling the carriage, was covered with black, Western looking armour, so like the rest of the carriage, it reflected no light.
In the window of this carriage taken straight out of a shadow theatre, could be seen the upper halves of two highly contrasting bodies.
The first was a young man, wearing a coat so white it seemed to directly oppose the image of the vehicle.
The second looked as if they could easily pass as the driver of the carriage... as they were wearing a jet black outfit which could only be explained as a 'shadow' given form.
One of them... The woman wearing the black outfit, turned towards the man, and held out a PDA.
[This is the first time I've turned it into a roofed carriage, I guess I can do it if I try.]
Seeing these words displayed on the screen, the ma dressed in white spoke with a broad smile.
“Of course, that's because you can do anything, Celty.”
[...... You always compliment me like that, so it's kinda starting to lose its effect.]
“No way! Ok, I get it Celty! In order to prove how great you are, I must challenge even the limits of human strength, right? So, go ahead Celty. Tell me what I must do for you! If you wish it, I could even write an epic poem, spanning more than a thousand pages, about your antics in Ikebukuro, and then spread to the farthest corners of the world, even further than the Bible!”
In response to his stupidity, the woman in black clothing started typing on her PDA indifferently.
[Shut up for a bit.]
The man she had called Shinra had deflated like a child after being scolded.
Then the woman he had called Celty relaxed her shoulders, and nudged Shinra with her elbow.
[Don't look so down. You really are bipolar aren't you.]
“...... Of course I would be this excited!”
With his eyes sparkling once again, Shinra looked towards Celty's neck.
“The last time we went on a trip together, was when I was a kid, and you took me out on the back of your bike!”
[Was that really a trip?]
“Well, even if you don't recognise it as such Celty, that just means this is definitely our first time! Amazing, this is a big day for us! Is it ok if I take this to be our honeymoon!?”
[...... Don't get too carried away, or this honeymoon of yours might not last long.]
Being scolded again, Shinra's shoulders drooped, and he looked downwards, but...
“...... …...? ......!?”
Suddenly realising something, the man rose up from his seat in the carriage, and shouted.
“W-wait, just now, you didn't say this wasn't a honeymo-...... -gah!”
Doing so, he bumped his head on the roof of the carriage, and was now holding it while moaning.
[O-oi, are you ok!?]
“Owowowow...... I'm fine...... I saw stars though......”
[Are you sure you're ok? I'm sorry. I probably made the roof too low. I don't have my helmet on, so I couldn't really tell where to put it.]
Seeing her write these words with her PDA, Shinra's expression became gentle.
“No, it's fine. I think this height is perfect. It's my fault for suddenly standing up like that.”
[Wait, are you really, really ok? Sorry, I just don't really know how much hitting your head hurts......]
“It's fine, it's fine. It's better if you don't know. More importantly, you just asked me three times if I was ok. That kindness of yours is the best medicine for me, Celty.”
[Don't be stupid.]
With this short response from her PDA, Celty turned towards the window, in a huff.
That Celty, I bet her cheeks are turning red right now. She's so cute.
Shinra thought so, but of course, there was no way he could confirm she was blushing for sure.
After all... she didn't even have the cheeks for blushing in the first place.
Celty Sturlusson was not a human.
She was a type of fairy from Scotland and Ireland commonly referred to as a 'Dullahan', who would go around visiting the residences of people who were close to passing away, and inform them of the time they had left.
She would visit them while carrying her own head under her arm, and riding a coach driven by a headless horse known as the Coiste-Bodhar. Any who were foolish enough to open their doors as she passed, would have a bucket of blood poured over them... This was the dreaded legend of the Dullahan, which had been passed down throughout the history of Europe along with that of the Banshee.
Some theories compared it to the Norse legend of the Valkyrie, but she herself couldn't tell you the truth of it.
It was not that she didn't know.
To put it accurately, she couldn't remember.
Back in her homeland, her head had been stolen from her, and along with it, her memories had disappeared. In order to get it back, she had followed the signs, and eventually came to Ikebukuro.
She had turned her horse into a bike, and her armour into a riding suit, and till now she had wandered this city for decades.
However, she had not been able to recover her head, and so her memories had not returned, as of yet.
She had figured out who had stolen her head.
She knew who it was who had been obstructing her search.
But in the end, she still didn't know where her head was.
For now, Celty was ok with this.
It meant that she could spend time together with the one who loved her, and the friends who had accepted her for what she was.
She believed that this was happiness, and that she could continue to live like this.
Keeping her strong determination hidden in her heart, the headless woman showed her intentions through her actions, in place of her non-existent face.
This was... the existence known as Celty Sturlusson.
Yet, even for this incarnation of the absurd, she had her own version of everyday life.
As a courier of Ikebukuro, upon request, she would deliver various goods, to many different places.
She was treated as somewhat of a Jill-of-all-trades, but she only saw it as a casual job, at best. She didn't really have a sense of professionalism.
Till around a year ago, her reason for putting effort into this job, was because she thought delivering all over Ikebukuro might increase her chances of finding her head, but... Recently, she had begun to work more diligently, thinking 'If I don't deliver this, somebody may be troubled'.
While before she would be ok with handling less lawful goods, she had tried to cut back on this kind of job lately.
It would be fine if it was only her getting involved with the police, or illegal organisations, but now, she had many friends who she didn't want to get wrapped up in that sort of trouble.
Of course, the first on that list, Shinra Kishitani... he himself was quite closely involved in that kind of trouble from the start, in his work as an underground doctor.
At her root, Celty was an earnest person, and would be busy almost every day, whether it be doing her normal work, or helping other people with their own problems on her days off.
On her true holidays, she would usually end up doing the same things she would normally do after work, like lazing about the house, or playing games with Shinra.
Because of this, today's trip was truly the closest she had come to a true holiday.
On a mountain, far from the city.
A trip along a promenade, swaying in the carriage, and looking upon a lake outside.
There were no other people around of course, as they had investigated this beforehand.
The place they had come to was frequently used as a courage-testing course in summer, and there were rumours about ghosts appearing in the surrounding abandoned buildings.
In some ways, the headless woman riding the black carriage suited this environment, but really, a Western carriage driving around Japan was too much of an absurdity in itself.
At first, they had been a bit worried about this, but... In the end, they chose this place because of its lack of people, and ended up sharing a day trip, just with each other.
As she was always being looked after by Shinra, thinking he needed a rest, Celty had been the one to suggest they take a trip together.
Her current outfit was a Gothic style dress, which fit quite well with the carriage. In the place of her usual helmet, she was wearing a ladylike hat, along with a cape.
If the outfit was completely white, it might look almost like a wedding dress, but... the dress and cape, which were arranged like shadows, gave the same impression as a Western mourning dress.
However, Shinra had been constantly in high-tension next to Celty, who looked like a widow.
Answering Shinra's wishes, today, instead of her riding suit, Celty had made various outfits out of 'shadows', and had been changing into them appropriately since that morning... Being solely devoted to Celty, it was no surprise that Shinra had been excitable all day because of this.
Shinra had also done away with his usual lab coat, and had changed into casual travel clothing for today. Of course, he had maintained his regular pure-white image though.
Since this morning, his eyes had been shining even more than usual, and every time Celty got changed, he would cry out in delight at her new outfit.
Though, for her, 'getting changed'... Only meant that she stood in the same spot while the shadows crawled around her into a new form.
May 5th, noon.
“Hey, Celty. When you're changing clothes, can't you, you know... I want to see you taking off each piece of clothing one by one, then slipping your long, white arms through the sleeves of a new outfit, but...... bhogh!”
Celty answered Shinra's proposal with her elbow.
[You pervert. What would happen if somebody were to see me changing in here?]
“Does it really matter if they seeeowowowowowow.”
With his cheek being pinched with all force, and his face distorting, Shinra still tried to force a smile.
“I'm sorry, I was joking, I really don't want anyone to see. Your changing scene belongs to me, and onl-ouch!”
Taking a full force poke to the temple, Shinra was left dazed and dizzy.
While he was like this, the shadows around Celty crawled about, and changed into a new outfit.
As he had the PDA shoved in front of his face, Shinra turned from the device to look towards Celty...
And he saw Celty sitting there, seemingly embarrassed, wearing a jet-black school uniform.
[I brought this red scarf from home to try it out, but, when I wear it I probably look like I came from some brothel or something, don't I......]
As she was missing her head, rather than a street walker, she looked more like the victim of some strange mystery crime, but Shinra's face suddenly turned serious, and he knelt on top of his seat in the carriage.
[What's wrong? I-it looks weird, doesn't it?]
She didn't really know what her partner was doing, and started wondering if she should change back into her usual riding suit, but then Shinra, looking like he was about to cry, bowed his head to her.
“I've loved you since the first time I saw you. Please go out with me, I beg you.”
[You're being weird, Shinra. What on earth are you doing?]
Maybe she shouldn't have hit him so hard before.
Suddenly becoming quite worried, Celty thought about turning the carriage around and heading to a hospital, but... Shinra wiped away his tears, and grabbed Celty's arm lightly.
“No, I'm sorry. It's just, since I was in high school, I've always wanted to, you know... confess like this, to you, pretending we were in the same high school......”
Shinra was speaking in circles. Celty's shoulders dropped as she typed her response.
[You're pretty annoying, you know.]
“Wahh. I would even reject any girls who confessed to me, by saying 'But, you have a head, so...'......”
[Go and apologise to those girls, on you knees, right now. But more importantly, is anyone fine for you as long as they don't have a head?]
In response to the cynical sentence she had typed, Shinra vigorously shook his head back and forth.
“Of course not! It wouldn't matter what you had above the neck Celty, be it human, a cardboard box, even an earthworm, or a slug, I would still love you!”
[Stop saying disgusting things like that!]
Actually, it's more surprising that there is a girl who actually loves a freak like this.
This goes beyond having strange preferences.
“Although, once that story started spreading, girls kinda found me gross, and wouldn't come after me any more. Shizuo even said unreasonable stuff like 'It's your fault that girls even stay away from me now'.”
[I don't think that's really unreasonable.]
“Really?...... Yeah, I guess so. You're probably right, Celty.”
Seeing Shinra smiling and laughing like a child, Celty thought to herself.
'Strange preferences', huh?
Yep, that's me all right.
The strange man who fell in love with a headless woman, and the strange woman who fell in love right back.
Smiling wryly on the inside about her relationship with Shinra, Celty started typing on her PDA.
[Anyway, why were you getting so worked up over this kind of outfit? Seems like it's not just you, but most other men as well.]
“I don't really know about other guys, but at the very least, I have a reason. To me, we have limitless potential together. Even if I was born somewhere and sometime completely different, I'm sure we would have met through a different situation. I want to experience every single possibility that I can with you!”
[Oh, you really had such grand thoughts?]
“Well, that's the official reason. Really I just want to drown myself in desire by seeing you in as many different ways as possible, then......”
As he was speaking, Shinra had brought up his guard and closed his mouth.
[What's wrong? Are you finished?]
“A-ah, it's just, usually by now I would have an elbow coming at me...... Huh? Speaking of which, I feel like I remember something like this happening a few months ago......”
As Shinra murmured this, Celty also remembered.
Right, we did have this kind of mood back then, I guess.
When Emilia rang the chime on our door, then barged in.
It shocked me when she suddenly jumped at Shinra and hugged him.
Looking back on it now, it seemed silly, but she had actually been quite jealous back then.
She had surprised herself when she suddenly realised that she loved the man before her eyes.
How on earth did I end up in love with a guy like this.
Perhaps, within the memories stored in her 'head'... Would the Celty who lived her life as a fairy in Ireland have this sort of experience?
Going on a day trip with the one she loves.
That kind of 'human' happiness. In the past, would she ever have felt something similar to this? Just what kind of life did she have?
It would be a lie to say she wasn't curious.
“What's up, Celty? Are you feeling sick!?”
Seeing Shinra's face, Celty thought.
In the end, the everyday life she was living right now, was more important than that past.
Celty wrote teasing words on her PDA, then softly placed it on Shinra's lap.
[So, what was it you were planning to do...... after 'drowning yourself in desire'?]
[If you start building up your desires in this carriage, what exactly is going to happen to me?]
Huh? He went quiet.
Celty had thought he would start rambling in panic as he normally did, and she peeked towards him as he sat silently, staring at the PDA.
His expression had vanished, and he now looked somehow serious.
What should I do? I wonder if he's angry that I teased him so much.
The moment she tried to take back her PDA, so that she could type an apology...
Shinra grabbed her arm tightly.
Shinra was different from usual, more serious.
It was slightly unpleasant, when that serious face began turning red.
“Umm, well...... Thank you.”
“Thank you...... Celty.”
He's thanking me!?
“I'll try my best!”
His best at what!?
She was trying to type out a retort, but she still couldn't get back her PDA.
If she were to calm down, she could have easily stretched a shadow out to grab it, but currently, the word 'calm' was a completely foreign concept to Celty.
At this point, Celty's entire body was an expression of 'confusion'.
Shinra was starting to reach out his hands towards Celty's shoulders, with a glint in his eyes.
Wait a- seco-......
If Shinra had been joking around like normal, Celty could just send him flying and that would be the end of it. But with his current serious expression, Celty didn't even know what she wanted to do any more.
At least let me close the window......!
The moment she shouted this from the depths of her heart...
[ ♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪♪ ♪ ♪♪♪♪ ♪♪ ]
From Shinra's breast pocket came the sound of his phone's ringtone.
It was the newest hit from the idol that they both supported, Ruri Hijiribe.
Seeing this as a chance, Celty took the phone and pushed it towards Shinra's face.
Ignoring Shinra, who could no longer speak due to the phone in his mouth, Celty finally managed to pick up her PDA, and started typing on it quickly, with several shadow tendrils.
[It's your phone, Shinra.]
“It's ok, I can leave it.”
[That's bad, you may be an underground doctor, but it still means you have people's lives in your hands.]
“If you say so, Celty......”
Though he seemed depressed upon being hindered like this, Shinra picked up his phone and put it to his ear.
While Shinra was on the phone, Celty thought to herself.
Ahh that was a shock.
It's not the first time this kind of thing has happened, but......it was still a shock, in a place like this.
I mean, it's embarrassing in front of Shooter as well......
“Ahh! Ahh, ahh! It really has, hasn't it! Do you mind if I congratulate you on still being alive?”
'Still being alive', he must mean......
Probably someone from the Awakusu, or related to them.
“Oh dear, you haven't been shot by somebody, have you? Though, from your voice you seem fine, at least.”
Yeah, must be.
“...... Ah, well, that shouldn't be too much trouble, but can we leave it till tomorrow night?”
So he'll be working tomorrow night, huh. I guess we can't stay here overnight then.
“Unfortunately, I'm off today, and I'm actually outside of Tokyo at the moment.”
I suppose it's fine. We can just wait for another chance, then borrow a bungalow and come back.
“...... For her?”
Huh? Shinra's face just changed colour a little.
I wonder what they're talking about.
“As a fellow human, I should probably recommend that you don't do that.”
No, really, what are they talking about!?
Is it someone like Shiki telling him that they're going to bury someone!? But why tell Shinra!?
“Well, that girl is kinda Celty's cooking teacher, so...”
Why did my name come up!?
Teacher!? Cooking teacher!?
Ah, wa-, wait a second......
“Oh? She cut the call.”
[What was that, Shinra!? Who was on the phone!? My 'teacher', do you mean Mika-chan?]
Seeing Celty asking questions in a panic, Shinra thought.
What do I do.
If I tell her exactly what the call was about, she might say she has to run off and save her.
No, Celty would definitely do that.
That is what I'd expect from Celty. That is why I love Celty!
Shinra reconfirmed his love, but he still hesitated to speak the truth.
After all, the person he had just been on the phone to, was the mastermind behind the plan to take Celty's head from her.
There was a chance, that by some miracle, Celty's head might be returned to her.
And Yagiri-san even clearly said that her 'objective is not to kill her'.
Taking these various details into consideration, the result was...
“It was Seiji Yagiri. Sounds like they had a fight or something, don't worry about it.”
He had lied with a smile, and with absolutely no sense of guilt or hesitation.
“Oh, was that all.”
Celty had gone out of her way to type out her silence, and show it to Shinra.
With the screen still pointed towards Shinra, the headless school-uniformed girl skilfully pressed keys on the PDA.
The ever increasing ellipses shown of the screen continued putting pressure on Shinra's heart.
“...... Hahah, Celty.”
As a stiff smile floated to his face, Celty stretched out her shadow over Shinra, and held down his body.
[Stop lying, you liar! It was her, wasn't it! That Namie Yagiri or whatever her name is!]
“Ahhhh, Celty, you can tell I'm lying just by looking in my eyes now, huh! That in itself makes me feel like we're connected, I'm so happy!”
[Would you say 'were you shot?' or 'still alive' to Seiji-kun!?]
“Celty, are you a detective!? …... Ok, I get it, I'll tell you the truth.”
Shinra sighed like he had given up, and then continued to speak.
“Apparently, Namie-san is planning to change Mika-chan's face back to how it was. But, you see, Mika-chan likes her new face, doesn't she? So, she asked me if I could do some plastic surgery on her again while she's sleeping or something. That's what I was saying she probably shouldn't do.”
“I wouldn't want to do something like that and end up being hated by her, right? I mean, she's your cooking teacher. When I told her that, she shouted about how I was 'useless', then cut the call. The reason I lied is because I thought when you heard her name, you might start chasing her to look for your head, so I got scared......”
At this point, Celty began withdrawing the shadows she had been using to hold down Shinra.
[Don't be silly, Shinra. I already told you that I don't care about my head anymore, didn't I?]
“I know that, but I'm still scared. Scared that your head might start drawing you to it or something like that.”
[You worry too much. More importantly, I wonder what the woman is thinking. She couldn't suddenly start having feelings of guilt about tampering with a girl's face after all this time, could she? Though I guess it's pretty ironic that Mika doesn't even want to go back to her old face.]
As Celty typed this to him, Shinra looked at her and thought to himself.
I'm sorry, Celty.
You don't know this because you don't understand just how dangerous Namie Yagiri can be, but......
The truth is, it seemed like she was planning something a lot worse than that.
But, in the end, I want to keep you as far away from her...... as far away from your head as possible.
After making it so she would see through his first lie, Shinra had then been able to fool Celty by telling her something as close as possible to the truth. Rather than lying, he had really only 'left out a detail', but it had enough of an effect to stop Celty from getting involved with Namie for now.
…... I'd say the atmosphere isn't right for continuing what we were doing.
And I kinda feel like I've forsaken Mika-chan.
Well, she did say that she didn't plan to kill her.
Feeling as if his previous excitement had been showered with cold water, Shinra looked towards his phone with hatred, then tried to stealthily press the power button, but...
[For a change of mood, how about I change into another outfit?]
With Celty's line of text, Mika Harima and Namie Yagiri both disappeared from Shinra's mind.
In the first place, he didn't give a damn about the mastermind who had deceived Celty, by having him tamper with a girl's face.
“Wait just a second, Celty! Please, just let me immerse myself in this student-like mood for a little longer! I'm at that awkward age where, I want to call you Senior Sturlusson, but I also want you to call me Senior Shinra......”
In front of Shinra, as he said this nonsense... Celty suddenly stopped moving, then bound Shinra with her shadows once again.
“Wah, what!? What!?”
[Sorry, just wait for a second.]
Then, Celty gave some sort of signal to her headless horse, Shooter, and had him stop at the end of the road.
Then, leaving a confused Shinra behind, Celty got out of the carriage.
“Wai-...... Where are you going, Celty!? Wait! Don't leave me! I may have my faults, but for you I can change! I'm sorry that I so carelessly taped over that 'World Mysteries Discovered' you recorded last week!”
His sorrowful shouts echoed around the forest, but Celty's uniform-clad figure continued to disappear into the trees.
10 minutes later.
To Shinra, it seemed he had spent an eternity inside the carriage...
When suddenly Celty returned, as if she hadn't even been gone.
“Celtyyy! You came back for me!”
[What an overreaction.]
“But, but...... I really thought that you might have been leaving me here.”
[I dunno about you, but I wouldn't leave Shooter behind, would I?]
As she typed out these heartless words, Celty released Shinra from his shadow bonds.
[Anyway...... I felt the prescence of a fairy for the first time in a while, so I went to say 'hello'.]
[I suppose you call them spirits, or mountain gods or something in Japan. But, seems like even in Japan, your forests are full of them. Reminds me of the woods back home.]
Celty seemed to feel somehow nostalgic, but as most of her memories had been taken along with her head, those memories of the woods in her homeland were quite vague. Shinra didn't venture to say this out loud, and instead asked her a question with a gentle smile.
“Ehh, so, did you say hello?”
[Yeah...... Mm...... They didn't seem to be bad guys or anything, but...... They just welcomed me to Japan...... and then......]
Typing out her words with some hesitation, Celty seemed somehow embarrassed.
[They said it was the first time they'd met someone who was so close to a human, and wished me good luck......]
“Well of course you do your best! He sounds like a nice guy! Ah, wait...... Does that mean they were watching us?”
[No...... They said that when a man is being so rowdy, they hear it whether they want to or not......]
If she were human, this would be where she starts blushing. With her school uniform, and the way she was looking timidly towards Shinra, she looked to him like a junior at school.
“Hahaha, rather, why don't we let them seegebuh-...... Why!?”
Shinra, who had been trying to calm Celty down by putting his hands on her shoulders, had received a hellish blow to his throat.
[More importantly, Shinra...... What...... did you say you did to the video I recorded?......]
Without even the time to make and excuse, Shinra was restrained by shadows for the third time that day.
[I was so excited when I recorded that...... I wanted to watch it with you, and have some fun seeing who would get the most answers right!......]
“Ahhhh, I-I'm sorry Celty! In it's place, how about I get you a Gold...... no, a Crystal Hitoshi-kun, will that make you happy!?”
[Confiscated! And now, the tickling!]
“Wai-! While I'm all bound up like this!? I'm sorry, Celty! I know it must be hard for you, but if you keep tickling me I might go to Heaven but please stop but please don't stooop!”
Ten tickling tentacles made of shadow were heading towards the sides of a confused Shinra, but then...
For the second time, the sound of Shinra's ringtone echoed through the air.
[You can take that.]
The tendrils she had extended took Shinra's phone out of his pocket, then brought it to his ear, while pushing the 'receive' button.
Looking half relieved and half disappointed, Shinra started talking into the phone.
“Yeah, hello...... Ah, it's you Shizuo.”
Shizuo, huh? He had a pretty rough time yesterday too.
Remembering what that friend of hers had done yesterday, throwing a motorbike, kicking a car, saving a little girl, Celty laughed internally, in spite of herself, and the anger that had been rising within her ceased.
“No, don't worry, you don't have to thank me. Actually, I'm kinda in the middle of something right now...... Yeah, yeah, ahh, ok then, cya tomorrow or something.”
It looked like he had finished his call, as Shinra breathed a deep sigh, then spoke to Celty.
“...... I'm sorry, Celty. So sorry.”
[Strange timing for an apology.]
With her poisonous mood disrupted, Celty maintained her imprisonment of Shinra, and looked toward the scenery outside the window.
The lake in the middle of the forest was reflecting sunlight, and creating brilliant, wavering beams.
The 'prescence' she had felt before had faded, and now there didn't even seem to be signs of any animals around, let alone humans.
With inappropriate timing, Shinra...
“Well, I kinda did want you to punish me, just a little.”
… said this perverted line, so Celty decided to tease him a little bit.
[If you want it that much, then I'll make sure to punish you plenty.]
Typing this in her PDA, Celty covered the windows of the carriage with 'shadows'.
“Uwah, it's pitch black!”
Hehehe, he's so scared.
“What are you going to do!? What's going to happen to me!?
I'll just leave him like this, and do nothing.
“Actually, being all alone in the darkness, with a girl wearing a black school uniform, is making me pretty excited!”
I see. Maybe I should get changed then.
The surroundings were completely black, so Celty could relax slightly as she moved her shadows around.
It was normally quite hard to transform her clothing without letting her skin be seen, but using the darkness to her advantage, Celty bravely began to do so...
But at the exact time where most of her skin would have been visible, on top of the table in front of his seat, Shinra's phone began to ring again.
In the middle of the darkness, the phone's display shone brightly, illuminating the cabin...
And the image of Celty's fair skin began burning into Shinra's retinas.
In a great panic, Celty reflexively hid Shinra's eyes behind a wall of shadow, then rushed to cover her entire body the same way.
On the other hand, unable to see, Shinra fumbled about till he managed to find his phone, then in his slow, confused state, he received the call.
“Yeah...... Hello...... Ahh...... It's you...... Yeah, I know...... I think they're probably in the Yagiri Pharmaceuticals Warehouse 3...... Your sister said something about calling her out to that place...... Yeah, cya.”
Shinra answered each question like he was in a trance, but Celty wasn't listening to the details.
There was no way she could have, in her state of semi-panic.
As she wrapped herself up in more shadows, and managed to calm herself down, Celty finally opened the windows of the carriage.
Bathed in the soft light coming from the forest, it seemed she had been in quite a rush... for she was now dressed in the same outift she used to wear in Ireland, jet-black armour and a matching helmet.
With her in this form, holding out a PDA, something seemed very much out of place, but...
In Shinra's eyes, that armour was nowhere to be seen.
[D-did you see, Shinra?]
[N-no, I mean, obviously you've seen me like that in my bedroom and stuff, but having my skin seen in a place like this is kinda... I mean I said it before, but Shooter is here too, and...... It's kind of embarrassing, or something......]
As Celty typed out her confused words, the smile of an enlightened man rose to Shinra's face, and he spoke.
“It's all ok, Celty.”
“Celty, you're so cute. Fufu.”
Shinra is broken!
Shinra was laughing maniacally, and Celty tried to bring him back to his senses with a slap.
[Wake up! Come on, get a hold of yourself!]
“Buah. Boh....... H-huh, Celty? Why are you wearing armour?”
[Eh? O-oh, umm...... This is......]
“Armour...... I see, this may be the fundamental outfit of a Dullahan, but this was unexpected! This form doesn't exactly scream femininity, but mixed with Celty's cuteness, it's perfect!”
After just returning from that world of delusions, it appeared that Shinra had fallen into a different one.
Though, Celty didn't look completely discontented with Shinra's compliments. Just from putting on the outfit of her old self, it felt as if that past self had been accepted.
As if that was too embarrassing for her, Celty started trying to transform her outfit once more.
“Ahh, wait a sec, Celty! Let me take a picture!”
With the crawling shadows in front of him, Shinra rushed to prepare the camera of his phone.
The moment she was changing into a new outfit, though not to the same extent as before, her arms and legs would come in and out of view... And thinking this was a perfect photo opportunity, Shinra pushed the camera button.
…... But, an instant before he did so, the phone started to ring, and camera mode was forcefully cancelled.
With a voice nearing a scream, Shinra picked up the phone angrily.
“W-who is it!?
“'Who is it'?...... That's the first time I've heard such a dynamic 'hello'.”
“Oh, it's you Izaya. Bye.”
“Oi, don't hang up. I'm kinda stuck here, so I got bored. They finally let me borrow the hospital phone, just now.”
“Hospital? Did something happen to you?”
“So you didn't watch TV King this morning, huh? Well, I got myself stabbed yesterday.”
“Oh, I see. Bye.”
Shinra, completely one-sidedly, cut off the conversation.
[…... Who was that?]
Shinra readily answered this question from Celty.
“Izaya. He got stabbed or something, and now he's in hospital.”
[Ehh? Will he be ok?]
Shocked, Celty wrote this last sentence into her PDA, but...
After thinking about it, she deleted it and typed something else.
[…... Well, I don't know the details, but he probably brought it upon himself, no?]
“Of course he did.”
[And if he took the time to call, then he must be pretty lively.]
“Yeah. He sounded pretty energetic to me.”
Realising that neither her nor Shinra were at all worried, Celty thought about Izaya.
That guy...... Not in the same way as Shizuo, but he is still the type who you don't really have to worry about if they get injured......
[But still, are you sure you weren't a bit rough on him just then?]
“It's fine, Izaya is the type of masochist who still loves humans even if they treat him badly.”
[You're no better. But, with stab wounds you have to worry about infections and blood clots and things. I think you should apologise to him later. Even now, your only friends are Shizuo and Izaya, you should try to keep them at least......]
“Yeah...... I guess so. If you say so Celty.”
As he said this, Shinra's phone rang once more.
[Oh, speak of the devil. Looks like even Izaya gets anxious after being stabbed.]
“Yeah I know...... Hello?”
Celty smiled on the inside, as she watched over Shinra taking his call, but...
“Yes...... Yes...... Eh...... Yes, I am Izaya's friend, but...... I'm sorry, I'm kind of on a trip at the moment, so...... Motives?...... I can think of so many, it would be hard to pinpoint just one... Since high school, that guy has never been up to any good. No, I myself am perfectly unimpeachable, thank you.”
Somehow that conversation had turned strange.
It didn't seem like he was talking to Izaya at least.
And hearing him use a word like 'unimpeachable', Celty suddenly thought to herself.
Looking back now, Shinra hasn't shown off any of his usual big words, or proverbs today, huh.
Usually he would be using them all over the place to remind me how smart he is.
…... I wonder if he's just nervous, or maybe he's enjoying the trip so much that he forgot......
If it were the latter, then I guess I'd be relieved.
While she was thinking this, it looked like the call had ended.
[Who was it this time?]
“...... Someone from the police.”
“They were asking if I knew anything about Izaya's injury...... I think they must have used the redial function on the hospital's phone or something. Ahh dammit, I was so worried thinking that they'd found out about my underground doctor's business!...... We finally get a real holiday, and now I feel like I've been dragged back into reality.”
As Shinra's shoulders dropped, his phone rang again.
With a stiff face, Shinra picked up the phone... and heard Izaya's voice from the other end.
“Yo. Did you just get a call from the police, by any chance?”
“Thanks to you, yes.”
“I see. I'm pretty bored here, you know. When I thought about you, out there, enjoying your holidays, I got all irritated. So, I thought it might be fun to have the police call up an underground doctor. How was it? Did your little heart skip a beat? You're probably savouring your holidays along with Celty, so I hope I helped spice up your relationship a bit.”
“A-hah-hah. Izaya, I hope you die in a horrible accident involving ceramics.”
After this, Shinra cut the call, and his shoulders drooped deeply.
Then... His phone began to ring again.
“OI! If you don't stop this, I'll tell everyone about that thing you did back in middle school, Izaya!”
It was rare for Shinra to show his anger, but... there was no reaction from the other end of the call.
As he started to find this suspicious, Shinra noticed something.
He noticed that, beside him, Celty had raised her own phone to the spot just above her neck.
He checked the screen of his own phone.
Along with a number, the words [Celty My Honey] were lined across the display.
Looking back and forth between his phone and Celty, Shinra guessed at the intention of his partner...
After letting out a simple-minded laugh, he smiled and spoke quietly.
“Thank you, Celty. This is why...... I love you.”
They were words she had heard hundreds, no, thousands of times.
And now she heard them both from Shinra's mouth, and the phone, at the same time.
In between these two voices, Celty suddenly realised.
Ahh. I see.
This is what they call happiness.
Thinking like a true romanticist, she continued to listen to Shinra's words, without typing anything on her PDA.
Celty was lost in his words, and Shinra spoke, while reading her emotions... and sometimes they would simply stop, and look at each other.
It may have looked like Shinra was only having a one-sided conversation, but he was reading Celty's every emotion with true skill as he talked, and it felt as if they were having a full conversation.
At some point, Shinra stopped speaking, and they just pressed their shoulders together in silence, but...
For some reason, Celty thought to herself.
Ahh, I see.
She thought something which would usually be obvious, and would not need to be thought about.
But, she had been able to confirm this feeling... and that made this holiday of hers all worth it.
I really do...... love Shinra.
After this, they would get wrapped up in a lot more 'abnormal' things than usual, like coming across a murder attempt deep in the mountains, getting attacked by a bear which had escaped from the zoo, and getting mixed up in a dispute between two groups who were both after a prize for finding the supposedly extinct Japanese Wolf........ But that, as they say, is another story.
Without knowing about this near future of theirs... Celty and Shinra bathed in their own happiness.
With the two riding inside it, buried in each other's shoulders, the jet-black carriage made its noise. -chaka-poko- -chaka-poko- -chaka-poko-
As if trying to interrupt their time together...
Shooter, pulling the carriage along, let out a deep, deep breath from a hole in the helmet shaped to fit his head.
As if he was heaving a big sigh about the two romanticists sitting behind him.
-chaka-poko- -chaka-poko- -chaka-poko-*