/ Ennui, Chapter 0x004
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Prologue V: Endless Haze

By Una Ada, April 11, 2023

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“Well then…” Now that it’s just the two of us, it’s time I explained the situation a bit. Ah, but how much can I really tell him? A part of me just wants to air everything, but the other part of me thinks that he probably can’t handle that. It’s not like it’s that big of a deal, though.

“You’re the… student council president, Inoue-san, right?”

“Ah, we’ll have to start there.” I just had an idea! Why don’t I just answer his questions, let him decide what he’s ready to learn! “Yes and no. This body exists as a sort of avatar of mine, created so that I could enter that world whenever I wanted without causing too much of a stir. Yuri, then, exists to inhabit this body whenever I’m not, to keep it fresh so to speak.”

“So, you’re not Yuri?”

“Nope.” I am, however, realizing now how funny that name is in context.

“Then Yuri is… what? Like, not real?”

“No, no, no… well, uh, hm. She’s about as real as you, I think. She’s her own person, she can do whatever she wants, fee will and all that. Given her whole class representative thing, she seems to have done pretty well with that, honestly. That being said, we do have a sort of agreement. I’m not going to force her to let me use this body just whenever I want, can’t really build trust with someone like that, but as long as I explain the situation then she usually allows it.”

Yuri is surprisingly strong-willed and it threw me off quite a bit when I first met her. Though, really, what could I have expected from someone modeled after myself? Anyway, if he’s just going to keep asking about Yuri, then it’s probably best if I mix up the styling on this body a bit. First, this hair has to be shorter, must be nice to be able to grow it out however much you want like this, but my hair is the good ol’ regulation length right up to the jawline. The color is off too, mine is more of an ashen gray than this sleek black. Finally, a bit of sharpening to the jaw and nose… oh, and fluffing up the eyebrows a little bit… et voilà! Now this body looks just like me, albeit in a Japanese high school uniform.

Okay, it did just occur to me that doing this might just confuse him more. Shit. Whatever, I’m not going to go backpedaling now.

“Ahem. So, this is me: Inoue Yulia, not Yuri. You can think of me as something of a god, if you want.”

“… Right… okay… so, uh, Yulia-sama then, okay.”

His words sound like he’s trying to calm himself down despite not seeming all that riled up in the first place. I’d even go so far as to say he’s completely unaffected by this situation altogether. Kind of boring, actually. Didn’t even get a half-assed gasp at my transformation, nor did I get a sigh at proclaiming myself a god. Fuck, this makes me want to poke at him more.

“Yes, ‘Yulia-sama,’ I like the sound of that. Any more questions, Imari-san?”

“Kind of creepy to hear you call me that, actually.”

“Oh-ho, then what, pray tell, would you like me to call you?”

“Maybe stick with ‘Yamada Imari?’ That’s what Yuri-san called me the… uh… two times she ever spoke to me.”

“Haha, very well. Then, let me rephrase: any more questions, Yamada Imari?”

He ponders for a bit, holding his elbow in his off hand as he pats his fist against his cheek. Is that a thing he does? It’s not like I was watching him constantly before, so I can’t be certain.

“Is this… uh, this place, is it… am I… I don’t really know how we ended up here, or what this place is so… did I die?”

“Nope! Not at all. Not only are you still alive, you’re the only one from that little diorama you call home that can say so. Well, besides Yuri, I suppose.” I’m going to laugh a bit. Yes, I’ll let out an obvious giggle to get across the point that I am laughing at the idea and I’ll hide in the sleeves of this uniform’s blazer to make it seem unintentional. How, then, will he respond?

“Just me? But why? Of all the people in this world, why am I the only one alive? I didn’t really do anything to deserve being alive in the first place.”

Oof, fuck. Was he really that depressed this whole time? Still, that was a pretty interesting response.

“Again you’re being silly. There is no ‘this world.’ It was a fun experiment while it lasted, but I’m bored of it now. That world is gone. Poof! All data expunged!” I’ll admit that this one is maybe, possibly, depending on the ontologies to which you subscribe, technically not exactly true. Look, it’s better to rip the bandaid off quickly. Whether or not I’m too lazy to transfer someone to a new world twice shouldn’t really have any bearing on the fact that what he would consider to be “the world” is no longer something that technically exists and that this place is definitely not something within it.

“Wait, what’s that supposed to mean?”

“I’ll admit that I did make a few exceptions… like you, for example, though that should be fairly obvious. And to answer your original question… I’m not a hundred percent sure myself, to be honest. Maybe I just see a bit of myself in you? Or maybe I just think it would be a fun way to pass the time! I don’t really think too deeply about these sorts of things.”

“No, I mean, what? The world is… gone?” Are those some gears I hear turning? There’s actually a hint of shock in those eyes, maybe he’s going to start tearing up soon. “Okay… assuming I believe you, then what exactly are we doing here? What even is this place?”

“This place is— how do I put this? This space is something like a staging area. It’s just a place to review some data between worlds. To put it in more philosophical terms, you could call it limbo.” Theology isn’t really my area of expertise, please don’t quote me on this one.

“Alright, so, I’m not dead, but I am in limbo? Why? How?”

“As I said, it’s a staging area. This is where I’m preparing things from your former world to move to other projects. That includes you, of course, and that tree…” I point off into the distance, hopefully he doesn’t notice that I literally just moved the tree there.

“A tree?”

“I’m so glad you asked! See, this tree is a very specific cultivar of cherry blossoms exclusive to some parts of Japan that is absolutely gorgeous. I never could have made something this pretty on my own, so I wanted to keep it!” Even if I threw the rest of the world in the trash. “There was also a couple of birds, three different minerals, and a small house in an architectural style called something like ‘carpenter gothic.’ All fascinating specimens, but I’ve already sent them off to their destination.”

“I just… don’t get it.” Jesus, is he doing this on purpose? “Why am I here?” He looks towards the tree like it’s supposed to provide him some sort of guidance here.

“That should be pretty obvious, you can’t honestly say you haven’t figured that out. You, Yamada Imari, are one of the things I’m preparing to move to another world. This is one of those reincarnation stories you like.”

Despite spelling it out explicitly, he’s still staring at the tree in silence. I can’t blame him, it’s a beautiful tree in bloom. Still, I’d like to get going on this whole process sooner than later, so I step in front of him. “Well, how do you feel about reincarnating right now?”

“I guess,” his tone is vacant and his eyes refuse to acknowledge me, “it’s probably better than going to some shitty college.” “That’s the spirit! Let’s get a move on then!”

“It’s not like you’re giving me much choice, is it? You already said the world is gone. So, what? Am I supposed to be the hero and destroy the demon lord or something?” I’m not going to read too deeply into this, just going to take it to mean he’s accepted the situation as it is. Hurray!

“No, no, nothing like that. I just want to see how you… I just want to give you a second chance is all.”

“You’re not going to turn me into a girl to fuck with me or anything, are you?” His gaze finally turns to meet mine.

“I wasn’t planning on it, unless that’s something you want.” I grin back at him. “Is that something you want?”

“No. Well… kind of… maybe… I just think it might be something new. Yeah, just something different if I’m going to be living a whole new life is all.”

“Of course, of course, just mixing things up. I gotcha. Fair warning, though, the world I’m sending you to is a bit… let’s just say you might struggle a little.” There was almost a sparkle in those eyes a moment ago, but now they’re vacant once again, oops. “Don’t worry about it too much, I’ll make sure it isn’t too bad for you. Hell, I’ll even send Yuri with you, since I’ve got her here anyway.”

Not leaving a moment to protest, I slap my hands together for a nice, resounding clap and Imari disappears. Now I just have to make sure I can actually transfer someone to another world… and maybe do something with that tree.