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Finale - Sunshine Agnes

Edwin Arnold had never been able to get the better of that girl. Not even once. He was confident in his physical strength and thought himself fairly sharp to boot. Despite that, he was beset with a losing streak that left him at a loss for words.

Not much has changed since that day two years ago and perhaps forevermore.


The wave of light sent everything flying upwards into the sky. Edwin found himself hanging aloft. His hands were held in hers. They were soft and warm like sunlight. Agnes' whole body shined. Her cream-blonde hair looked like white-hot flames.

'Thank you, Ed. It's been fun...'

'Wait, what's going on? Where are we? Am I dreaming?'

'Haha, Ed, you're as dense as ever. Even though you won't be able to remember what happened today, there's something I need to tell you...'

Agnes smiled. It was a rare smile, a pure expression of happiness. She had never shown it to anyone before, simply because she had never been able to--until now.

'I'm a magician, Ed. This is who I truly am.'

Edwin wasn't sure if he was shocked or somehow already knew. Now that he thought about it, Agnes was smart, good in a fight, seemingly knew everything, and even had a sharp intuition. It would explain a lot if she were a magician.

'Ha, well, that's Agnes for ya. Now, then, fix me a bourbon!'

If she could, she would have served him an ice tea instead, but that was impossible. Agnes was no longer in Anchorville.


Edwin was finally discharged from the hospital following his treatment for two ribs that he didn't remember breaking. From there, he boarded a long-distance orbal bus bound for the capital. It was too far a trip for his trusty bicycle. Besides, the time spent idly in the bus would be more conducive to planning his next move.

Montaigne had been arrested for the murder of Mr. Hart. The investigation revealed that Tizze's grave had been violated, and afterward, the young girl was laid to rest once more. The deadly string of car accidents finally came to an end. Edwin leaned against the bus's shaking frame and thought about the future.

The events of that day completely disappeared from the minds of the citizenry. Nobody knew the girl who disappeared. Even Edwin could only scarcely recall what happened that night. Every day, he tried as he might to remember, but only recently recalled their last conversation.

'This won't be the last time we meet. Well, so long as you don't become a reporter, that is.'

'What does that even mean?! Reporters are supposed to seek the truth, aren't they?'

Agnes clasped the esmelas necklace on her neck. The pain she felt was clear as day.

'You're way too oblivious of your own feelings, Ed...'

'Hmph, I won't give up no matter what. I'm going to be a righteous reporter.'


In his spot by the window, Edwin flicked through his notebook of plans. Being a freelance reporter was more challenging than he had ever imagined. His seniors at the paper, including Brandon, were repeatedly exasperated with him during his training.

'There's no way I can back down if Agnes is the one saying stuff like that. I'll take on that challenge of hers. I'll keep being a reporter, and I'll find her all while revealing the uncertainties in this world!'

'Just you wait, Agnes. I swear that I'll find you!'


The wind raced across the vast open prairie. Calvard's winds were magnificent.

'That's some strong wind.'

A girl sat by the window of a familiar bus. She rested her chin on her hands as her cream-blonde hair bobbed in the sunlight. It was the girl who came to Anchorville and brought sunshine wherever she went. Edwin cracked a soft smile and turned to face her.

'Well, a righteous reporter can only believe what he's seen with his own eyes, you know?'

The bus traveled down the gravel road beneath August's vast, blue sky.

<END>

最終回 陽溜りのアニエス

エドウィン・アーノルドがその少女に勝てたことは一度としてなかった。少なくとも覚えている限りは一度もだ。腕っ節には自信があったし、これでもそこそこ頭も切れる……つもりなのだが、出会った瞬間から今日まで、ぐぅの音も出ないほど負け続けている。

そう、2年前のあの日から、たぶん今もずっと。


光の洪水の中で、何もかも吹っ飛んでいた。何もかもが空へ向かって昇っていく。エドウィンはその中でどうやら宙に浮いているようだった。少女の手が伸びてきて、エドウィンの両手をつかむ。その陽光みたいな柔らかい光の中で、アニエスは全体がぴかぴか光って、クリーム色の髪が白い炎みたいに燃えていた。

――エド――………… ありがとう。今まで楽しかった。

――何だよ急に。ってかここはどこだ? 夢なのか?

――ふふっ……エドは本当に鈍いよね。 ――きっとエドは今日のことを忘れちゃうけど…… でも、言っておきたいことがあるんだ。

アニエスはにっこりと笑った。それは『幸せそう』という言葉がぴったりくる、いままで見せたことのない、きっと見せられなかった笑顔だった。

――私は魔法使いなの。 これが本当の私の姿なのよ、エド。

あのとき驚いたのか納得したのか、エドウィンはよく覚えていない。でもアニエスは頭が切れるし喧嘩も強いし、勘は鋭いし何でも知ってるし、まあ魔法使いだってんならなるほどな、と今のエドウィンなら思う。

なるほどな、さすがはアニエスだ、じゃあバーボンを1杯くれ! ……アニエスが居たなら黙ってアイスティを出すだろう。アンカーヴィルの街に、アニエスの姿はもうない。


何だかいつの間にか骨折していた肋骨2本の治療が終わって、退院したエドウィンは首都行きの長距離バスに乗っていた。本当は自転車で行こうかとも思ったが、流石に首都は遠い。それに今後のことを思うとバスの方が都合がよかった。

あのモンテニューもウェーバーハルト氏殺害の容疑で捕まったことだし、墓を暴かれていたティセの身元も調べ、手を合わせてきた。もう事故が頻発することもないだろう。がたごとと揺れる車体に身を委ねながらエドウィンはこれからの事を考えた。

街の人々からは、あの日の記憶がすっぽりと抜け落ちてしまっている。1人の少女がいつ消えたのか誰も知らず、エドウィン自身、あの夜の出来事がうまく思い出せずに毎日ウンウン唸って、最近ようやく少しだけ分かってきたのだ。

確かあの時、アニエスは最後にこう言っていた気がする。

『記者じゃないエドなら、また会ってもいいよ』

『どういうことだよ、そりゃ!』

『だって記者は、うやむやな事を追及しちゃうでしょう?(胸元の翠耀石(エスメラス)に触れて、何だか言いにくそうに)エドは自分の気持ちにも鈍感だからなぁ……』


フン……やだね、俺はやっぱり正義の記者になる。エドウィンは窓際の席で手帳を繰って、次の予定を確認した。独立(フリーランス)で記者をやるのは想像よりずっと大変らしく、特訓してくれたブランドンも始終嘆息していた。

でも……他ならぬアニエスにそんな事言われたら、気になるじゃねーか! 信じねえよ、もう会えないだなんて。……だから、俺は記者を続ける。でもって気持ちとやらもハッキリさせてやるぜ。

待ってろアニエス、絶対見つけ出すからなっ!!


風がどうと鳴って、どこまでも広がる大草原を渡っていく。カルバードの風は雄大だ。「大きい風ね」とあの日の少女も呟いた。この同じバスの窓際で頬杖をついて、陽光にクリーム色の髪をくるくる躍らせて。アンカーヴィルに来た少女はいつだって陽溜りの中にいた。エドウィンは小さく笑う。正義の記者は、自分の目で確かめた事しか信じないんだぜ? 砂利道をゆくバスの上に、8月の青天が広がっていた。 〈了〉


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