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Chapter 10 - Path of the High Priestess

The grandfather clock in the parlor struck twice, and Agnes quietly crept out of her room. By the light of the moon, she passed through the cafe and slipped out into the chilly night.


The previous day, she ended up drawing one last card to determine when she should make her move. It was the High Priestess, the second arcana, and thus, 2 AM.

'Ed'll be fine, I just know it,' Agnes had thought. She looked down at her shaking hands. 'I can't get ahead of myself, though. Ed could die if I'm not careful. I just need to follow the cards and wait until 2 AM before doing anything.'


'Meow!'

Kagemaru roosted on Agnes' head. He was heavier than he looked. Agnes wondered if his laziness was making him fat. That said, she felt a certain sense of comfort having his weight atop her head. Agnes took a deep breath to center herself beneath the glow of the full moon above.

'Let's get going.'

Now relaxed, she could feel the septium veins flowing beneath the earth. She walked down the dimly lit streets, guided by her instinct towards the darkness beyond.


Anchorville's nights were cold, even at the height of summer. Agnes wore a light sweater. Her cream-colored hair complemented the pale moonlight. With each step, the esmelas necklace around her neck jostled in time.

The tiny stone was the only thing Agnes' mother left to her. The memories had become so distant that Agnes no longer remembered her own mother's face. When Agnes was a child, her mother used her powers in public, and then had to disappear. Such was the law of her clan, though Agnes couldn't recall how she knew such a thing. 'We carry dangerous hidden potential within us. We must keep it hidden and live amongst the others,' she recounted.

Before long, the road led out of the city and came to its end at the base of a large hill. 'A cemetery...' murmured Agnes. The top of the hill was lined with rows of black tombstones. Among them, she saw something moving about.


'Edwin! He's here!' she exclaimed to herself.

Someone in a coat stood some distance away. She recognized his coat; it was still charred from the traffic accident a few weeks ago. 'I've told him so many times to get rid of it, but he's still wearing that ratty thing!' thought Agnes.

She removed Kagemaru from his perch atop her head and crouched behind a gravestone. She berated herself for wearing such a conspicuous outfit. Regardless of her unpreparedness, she knew Edwin was in mortal danger. She steadied her breathing, eyed the distance between herself and Edwin, and slunk into the shadows.

第10回 女教皇の道

大時計が2回鳴るのを待って、アニエスはそっと部屋を抜け出した。外から差し込む月明かりを頼りに薄暗いカウンターを抜け、ドアへ向かう。内鍵を外して深夜の冷気の中へと滑り出た。


あの後、もう1度だけタロットを引いた。占う内容は「自分がいつ行動を起こせばいいか」。──答えは女教皇、つまり午前2時だ。大丈夫、エドはきっとまだ無事だとアニエスは思った。午前2時に出かければきっと救う事ができるだろう。アニエスはふと、自分の手が震えているのに気がついた。

今動いてはダメだ、きっとその間違いでエドは死んでしまう。今は何もしちゃいけない。午前の2時まで何もしないで耐えなくちゃ──


「ブニャッ」カゲマルが頭の上に飛び乗った。カゲマルは見た目よりずっと重くて──たぶん怠け者だから太ったんだと思う──、でもその重さが我に返らせてくれる。アニエスは輝く満月を見上げて、一つ短く深呼吸をした。「……行こう」

調子は悪くない。目をつむって街を流れる七耀の淀みを感じ取ったあと、アニエスは仄かな夜道を歩き始めた。……この先にきっと『闇』がある。


アンカーヴィルの街は、真夏でも夜は冷え込む。おまけに時間が時間だから、アニエスは薄手の白いセーターを着込んできた。クリーム色の髪が月光に透き通り、歩調にあわせて首から下げた翠耀石(エスメラス)がちゃりちゃりと小さな音を立てる。

母が自分に残してくれたのは、このちっぽけな石だけだった。アニエスはもう母の顔を覚えていない。まだ小さい頃、母は人前で力を使ってしまって、どこかへ姿を消したのだ。それが自分たちの一族の掟……。教わった覚えは無くても、なぜだかはっきりと知っている。自分たちはとても危険な可能性を秘めていて、……だからひっそりと息を殺して、誰にも気付かれないように生きていくしかないのだ──。

やがて道は市街を抜け、大きな丘へとやってきた。墓地みたいだ、とアニエスは思った。丘の上へ向かって墓碑が黒々と立ち並んでいる。そしてその中に、ヒラヒラと舞う何かが見えた。


……いた、エドウィンだ!間違えるはずがない、あれは例の交通事故のときにあちこち焦げてしまったエドのコートだ。あれほど買い換えなさいって言ったのに、まだあんなのを着て!

ともかくアニエスは身を伏せて、カゲマルを頭上から外して腕に抱いた。どうしよう、もっと地味な格好をしてきた方がよかったかもしれない……

でも、きっとこの先でエドは殺される。アニエスは呼吸を整えて、慎重にエドとの距離を測り、そっと闇の中へと滑り込んだ。


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