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World line a

Extra   Return~ World Line a~[]

“Whaaah!”

Ion was engulfed by a pure white world. There was no up and down… nor left and right.

She was dumbfounded and couldn’t do anything as the black speck that had appeared in front of her rapidly expanded and swallowed her up.  No, perhaps it was more accurate to say that she had flown at high speeds to the distant edge of the pure white world.

The pure white world disappeared into the distance behind her, and the darkness left in its place became her entire world.

“Uwaah!?”

Suddenly, she flopped down under the pull of gravity.

What had happened? Had the spaceship broken down? Or was there a hardware accident like a meteorite strike? In any case, it was clear that there had been an unexpected emergency.

Ion immediately grasped her head and leaned forward. She braced herself, anticipating a shrill alarm and violent tremors. However……

“…………”

5

10 seconds…… 30 seconds…… And a minute…… No matter how much time passed, she didn’t hear a single sound, much less felt a crash.

You could always hear some sort of sound on the bridge of the ship. The fact that it was dead silent was abnormal in and of itself……       

(Did I die just like that?)

She didn’t feel pain or anything else wrong with her body. Ion slowly got up and eased her eyes open.

“I’m alive… right?”

The bridge and the expanse of space beyond the tempered glass should have been there before her.  But in reality, it was a pitch-black world where she couldn’t even see the light of the stars, much less the bridge…… Ion immediately realized she was somewhere other than the bridge of the spaceship.

“Where……am I?”

She looked around nervously.

The world she had thought was pitch-black was in fact, faintly illuminated by a white light from above. She started to get an impression of her surroundings as her eyes adjusted to the dark……

She was in a spacious room that appeared to be long abandoned, with run-down folding chairs and tables thrown in the corners.

(Noelia Laboratory?)

But she immediately shook her head and rejected the thought. It was too narrow and barren to be the lab.

6

She happened to look up at the ceiling where the light was shining through, and could see a large white star through the small window.

“The……moon?”

It was something she hadn’t been able to see in a long time. The planet Earth’s sole satellite, which shone with a beautiful yet cold radiance.  Ion knew what it was, as well as its name……

“It’s the moon!”

As soon as she recognized the moon, her memories leading up to this point came flooding back.

Ion and Nero had headed towards the center of EXA_PICO in the ship in order to return to Earth from CIEL.  They had eventually heard from the ship’s system that the conditions were right, and immediately after thinking “We can finally go back to Earth!”, her vision was engulfed by the white world, and had led to where she was this very moment.

It had been so sudden she didn’t know what had happened……

She closed her eyes once more, took a deep breath, and slowly let it out.  After putting her right hand to her chest and calming herself, she opened her eyes again and looked around the moonlit room.

“This is where I was stabbed by Nouma……”

Nei Yuuki had been repeatedly pierced through the chest with a screwdriver by the Bot-controlled Nouma, and had lost her life in this room.  Afterwards, her soul had been transported to CIEL by the activated Genologic Machine.

And when she dropped her gaze and looked down at her body…… It was not the familiar body of Ion…… Ionasal.kkll.Preciel that met her eyes, but the original vessel her soul had belonged to.  The body of Nei Yuuki.

7

“My body……”

Ion……or rather, Nei Yuuki, lightly stroked the back of her left hand with her fingertip.  The feeling of her fingertip gliding across her skin and the ticklish feeling on the back of her hand were proof that it was her body.

“I made it back home……”

*squeeze*…

Nei hugged herself close.

Earth, which she had dreamed of returning to, but had given up on.

Her true body, which she had told herself she would never be able to lay hands on again.

She was breathing in Earth’s air for the first time in 5000 years.  Touching her own body for the first time in 5000 years……  

*sob*……              

The corner of her eyes felt hot, and an endless stream of tears spilled out.

“I made it back, everyone……”

Delta, Cas, Sarly, Nay, Shirotaka, Kanon, Renall, Nero……  The faces of everyone who had worked hard so Ion could go back to being Nei came to her mind one after another.  She clasped her hands in front of her chest, overcome with feelings of gratitude she couldn’t put into words.

8

“I…… I really made it back to Earth, dear……”

Poroppo~♪

“Uwaah?!”

The unexpected melody brought her back from her thoughts.

“What? What?!”

It felt like the sound had come from her body.  She felt around in a fluster, and a device with a large screen covered by a soft case fell out of her pocket.

“Wh-wah!”

She twisted and danced around, and managed to catch the device!

“Ah, my phone?!”

Now that she knew that the device was her phone, Nei remembered that the sound just now had been her email tone.

“Oh yeah!  What’s the date?!”

She had managed to make it back, but what if it was decades later, like in the story of Urashima Tarou……  She faltered with her phone, anxious at the thought.

(Now……h-how did I get the screen to display again?)

She tried pressing the buttons along the side of the phone, but nothing displayed on the screen.

“H-huh?  That’s not it……maybe here?”

Despite her struggles operating her phone for the first time in 5000 years, her wallpaper and the date displayed on the screen the instant she touched the button on top.

9

<April 21, 23:50>

Wasn’t that a little after the point in time she had been taken away to CIEL?......

Nei had spent over 5000 years (though she had been in a state of sleep for most of it) on Ra Ciela as Ion.  Yet not even seconds had passed when she returned to Earth.

“Now I’ll be able to restart……”

A sigh of relief escaped her mouth upon learning she had returned at the best possible time.  She wiped away the tears she had shed and composed herself.

Nei had finally been able to progress to a <world where her soul wasn’t taken away to CIEL> after 5000 years!

“That’s right, what about Nero……?”

Nero, who had been taken away to CIEL just like Nei.  She had also headed to the center of EXA_PICO with Ion so she could return to her own world.  Nei was able to return, but did Nero make it?

She looked around the dim room in search of Nouma.  That silver robot with shining red eyes who had driven Nei into this basement was nowhere to be found.

If she was safe, and Nouma wasn’t there, then that meant……

“We did it Nero……we made it back.”     

10

Nei had returned to right after the point in time she had been sent to CIEL, so Nero should have returned to the moment she had been sent to CIEL as well.  The fact that Nouma wasn’t there was proof.  Bot, who had been controlling Nouma, no longer had any need to interfere with Earth to save Nero.

Nei looked up at moon once more, illuminated by its light.

“Everything is truly over now.”

The past where she had been wounded by Bot had vanished, and she wouldn’t be targeted again either.  Looking back, her numerous experiences that had stretched on for far too long, and yet had ended in an instant flashed through her mind like a revolving lantern.

“Goodbye, Ion.  Ionasal.kkll.Preciel……”

She bid farewell to the part of her that was Ion to give herself a sense of closure, so she could live her true life as Nei Yuuki.

“I’ve got to hurry home.  Aya-chan and the others must be worried……”

She turned around and pushed open the rusted door leading out of the basement.

And just beyond the door…… something like a crude doll was sitting with its back turned in the middle of the dark passageway, shining gold in the moonlight.

“!”

How could she forget the one who had saved her time after time?

“Yumekichi!”

11

She rushed over to Yumekichi and picked him up.  It wasn’t entirely clear because of how dark it was, but she could immediately tell that nothing was broken.  She couldn’t find a single scratch on his moonlit gold exterior either. 

“I’m back, Yumekichi.”

Nei spoke to him while lovingly stroking his head.  An old screwdriver was clasped in his hand.  There wasn’t a single drop of blood on it, of course.  And the Genologic Machine near where he had been sitting was still.

“Can you see?  I made it back home……”    

Unsurprisingly, there was no response from Yumekichi.  Even so, she continued to talk to the person who had existed inside him.

“You were protecting me long before we met in that room.  Over and over again, in different forms……”

She hadn’t realized it 5000 years ago, but now it was clear.  The person who had manipulated Yumekichi, leaving behind their kind heart…… was the person from a parallel world she had met in CIEL.  The person who had believed and worked together with her to the end.

She switched him on, just in case.  His eyes glowed blue, and he entered standby mode, but he didn’t enter the AI-based autonomous mode. 

“That’s……right.”

They were no longer by her side……

12

A deep loneliness gripped her heart at the thought.

“I know, I won’t cry.  I can’t cry after finally making it back to my world.”

If Nei had merely had a superficial relationship with them……  She probably would have broken down in tears.

But that wasn’t the case.  Not after they had seen all of her heart……  They had accepted all of her, even the negative parts that were afraid of parting ways and refused to fully trust them.  And Nei had accepted them, despite her heart being revealed to them like she had feared more than anything else.

What could be happier than being able to form such a deep relationship with someone, even if they may never be able to meet?

(Our hearts won’t be torn apart just because we’re from different worlds.  We are always connected……forever and ever.  Right?)

She was lonely, but she brought her right hand to her chest once more, cherishing the warmth in her heart.

“Hehe.  Are you thinking about me right now?” 

She picked up Yumekichi once more and hugged him close. 

“Thank you, Yumekichi…… Terminal-san…… Earthes……”

She hugged him tighter.

“Thank you……dear.”

13

***

“I’m back. Yumekichi, Nouma.”

Nei greeted Yumekichi and Nouma on the rack where they were sitting side by side as she arrived home from university, and set the large bag on her shoulder down on her desk.

Life on Earth after 5000 years.  She had automatically adopted some of her habits from Ra Ciela at first, and made a lot of mistakes.  But she got a feel of living on Earth again in a few days, and was now spending busy days enjoying the mix of nostalgia and novelty.

“Huh?”

She looked over at Nouma and tilted her head.

“I feel like something is…… Ah!”

She looked around the floor…… and hurriedly picked up the fallen piece of paper she noticed in a corner of the room.  She put a fresh piece of tape on it, and stuck it back where it belonged……on Nouma’s head.  Written in neat handwriting on it was the message “Don’t go arbitrarily making things, Aya-chan!”

“I wonder if the wind blew it off?”

Bot hadn’t ever manipulated Nouma in this world.  But Aya had visited Nei worried about the future, opened up to her about her troubles, and built Nouma similar to how she had before.  Their relationship had also turned out much like how it was in the past she was familiar with.

14

“I wonder if Aya-chan will next come to visit after summer vacation starts.”

Nei poured sparkling water from the bottle she had taken out of the refrigerator into a cup, and enjoyed the feel of the carbonation as it went down her throat.  Golden Week was over, and she was parched from jogging home in the early summer-like weather.

“Now then.  Let’s finish before dinner!”

Nei transferred the Genologic Machine from the rack to her desk, took out a number of parts from her bag, and lined them up next to it.  They were new parts for the Genologic Machine she had borrowed the Robocon Club’s equipment to manufacture.

She sat down in the chair, removed the exterior of the vacuum tube radio-like machine with practiced hands, and replaced the unit and substrate inside with the new parts.

She had been exposed to many cutting-edge machines on Ra Ciela, and had made an Earthes-class robot herself, so the Genologic Machine was no longer a mystery to her.  Even though there were still many materials she couldn’t get on Earth, it wasn’t that hard to modify it so that it was safe using the knowledge and experience she gained on Ra Ciela.

And when the sun was setting, dying the sky orange……

“Alright! The “Modified Genologic Machine” is complete!”

She picked up the identical-looking Modified Genologic Machine, and spun around while jumping for joy, expressing her delight with her entire body.

15

The remodeled Genologic Machine lacked the ability to send the user’s soul to Ra Ciela, and had a greatly reduced output.  But it was more than enough for her purpose.  And that purpose was……?

“Then, without further ado……”

She flipped the Modified Genologic Machine’s switch without hesitation.

The vacuum tubes on the exterior shone, and the various analog gauges began to move.  Their needles soon stabilized, and informed her that it had started properly.

“Now then……  Ah, I forgot the mike……”

Having realized something was missing, Nei hurriedly took out a retro-style desktop mike that matched the feel of the Genologic Machine from under the desk.  She placed it on the desk facing herself, and plugged in the cord at the end to the port on the back of the machine.

“Ahem……  Hm!   Aaa-, aaa-……”

Several of the needles moved with her voice.  She confirmed that the audio input was working properly, then put her hand to her chest, took a deep breath, and let it out slowly to calm herself……

*click click*!

She reached for the rotary switch on the front of the Genologic Machine and turned it two clicks to the right.

(Oooh, I’m nervous……)

16

A gentle expression despite her stiffness……  that seemed to be gazing at some place far in the distance rose to her face.

(What should I say?   There are a lot of things I want to tell them, but I can’t send that much……)

She was able to calculate the interdimensional communication channel frequency she had used to converse with them by utilizing records left behind in Yumekichi’s core unit. She then built a transmitter for sending voice data to their terminal using the Genologic Machine’s interdimensional communication device that could transmit positional information as a basis!

(I wonder if they’ll listen to this message?

What will they think if they do?

I hope they’ll be surprised…… and then delighted……

Ah, maybe they’ll be a bit angry when they listen to it because they might have been eagerly waiting for me to do something all this time, so they’ll be like “you’re late!”)

Nei held back a smile, and slowly opened her mouth……

“To my beloved.  Hello dear.  Are you doing well?  Thanks for watching over me to the-“

<END>

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