Miyoko no Naku Koro ni
Escape Chapter (4th Arc)
Episode 16: Magic
It was a little shocking to learn that Fumie was Ebina’s daughter, but when Miyo and Lambda considered, it made sense. Ebina’s only child, a mere baby in the flashbacks, was taken away from her because she couldn’t raise it by herself — or perhaps she didn’t want to, or didn’t believe herself capable. The baby was “confiscated” by Sumire Ichihara, so of course she would put in back in Sky House.
According to Fumie, Ebina had chosen her as an agent without really knowing the child she picked was her own. Fumie overheard the truth from the headmistress one day. Not once over all the years had Ebina admitted to knowing she was Fumie’s mother, but Fumie could somehow tell, at this point, that she did know. Honestly, though, she thought it was better that the two of them didn’t talk about that topic at this point. Fumie was already twelve and used to being an orphan. Maybe on some level, she loved Ebina for watching out for her now and then over the last five years. But Fumie felt no need to dig deeper than that.
As she thought about all this, Miyo headed downstairs to the birdcage with Sayuri. Another day had passed. A few hours after breakfast, Miyo planned to go set the birds free herself. But when she said she was going to see them, Sayuri said she wanted to go, too. In the past, Sayuri explained, she’d always need permission from whoever was on patrol downstairs. In the last few weeks, though, more and more children had been coming to see the birds, and there were too many to bother with getting permission every time. This was good, Miyo thought. Now she could set the birds free without the staff knowing it was her who visited last.
Beyond the dining hall, kitchens, and storage closet, the birdcage was situated near the middle of a small, dusty, and lightly furnished room. There were two large windows in the room and it had a very creaky, weak old door. Sayuri closed it behind them. The birdcage had been placed on a short piece of furniture with three drawers. The cage was rounded like a cylinder, but with the top of it rounded. It was small, only about 16 inches tall and, and made of steel bars painted black to resemble cast iron. Three different birds — green-and-yellow parakeets — were crammed into this one living space, with no room to fly.
The whole cage stank profusely. Birds feces were covered the flooring and some of the bars of the cage. The water dish was empty. There was no sign that the soft wood flakes at the cage’s bottom had been changed recently. Miyo had never been particularly fond of animals or pets, so it all seemed especially gross to her. She wondered at the fact that Sayuri could come see the birds so often and describe them with such awe, when they were in such a wretched state.
“My poor little birds,” Sayuri said, hurrying over to stand next to the cage. She looked closely at each of them, and then turned to Miyo, who stood several steps away. “There’s something I do when I come to see the little ones,” she confided. “I like to sing to them. They calm down a little when I do that. Is… that okay? Will you be bothered, Miyo-san?”
“Of course not, Sayu-chan. Is that paper you’re carrying a lyric sheet?”
“Sort of. It’s… um, well… it’s something I wrote myself.”
That’s what Miyo had thought. She smiled. “Please, go ahead and sing it.”
Reluctantly, Sayuri did so. Her voice was weak and high, but very soft. These were the words.
“Why do my flowers grow, oh?
Do you know? Do you know?
Half is nature and the other half is secret.
It’s a secret! Can you keep it?
Belief, faith, magic, and rhyme.
Mystic words, and a child’s time.
Believe it’s real, and don’t say nay.
Power of fairies, and a child’s toil.
Some flowers die; even so, I say
There is magic in the soil.“
A strange feeling came over Miyo as she listened. She felt sleepy, soothed, and even close to content. She saw visions before her eyes of flowers growing from seedlings all the way to mature plants with bright and beautiful blossoms. The air smelled fresh, free of the stink of the dirty cage. Miyo could hear soft birdsong, and she thought she was imagining it at first, but when she opened her eyes (when had she closed them anyway?) the parakeets were indeed singing softly. By the time the simple song was over, everything somehow seemed cleaner and brighter, the birds were calm and two were even sleeping, and Miyo felt like she could breathe easier.
“That’s amazing, Sayuri,” she said in awe.
“Thank you,” said the younger girl, but as for herself, she looked inspired and determined rather than relaxed. “Miyo-san. Please don’t tell anyone what I’m about to do now.”
As Miyo watched wordlessly, Sayuri went and, with effort, opened one of the windows. Then she opened a drawer in the small furniture under the cage, and pulled out the key to the padlock around the cage’s door. She didn’t even shake or breathe heavily as she unlocked the cage, picked up each bird one at a time, and let them go out the windows. Miyo had expected Sayuri to be timid and slow like usual, but when it came to this bold action, it was like she was on fire.
Miyo snapped out of her daze and silently closed the window. “I think you’ve done a great thing, Sayu-chan,” she said. “May I keep the key? I want to remember this day forever.”
The birdcage key was thus acquired, but as Miyo and Sayuri opened the door and crept out of the small, dusty room, the hardest part was yet to come. There was sure to be a staff member nearby. Miyo could only pray it wasn’t Hosoda. She tip-toed along with Sayuri behind her, and felt increasingly nervous and shaky. She had to do something to calm down, so she started repeating the words to Sayuri’s song under her breath. The only part she could remember was, “Belief, faith, magic, and rhyme; Mystic words, and a child’s time.” As she chanted this in her head, she pictured a random staff member fast asleep in the dining hall.
The dining hall was the last room before the staircase leading up to the bedrooms. If the girls could clear this room, they were probably safe. Ebina, after all, was the only one patrolling the upstairs, and at this time of day, she would be checking on the kids in the far wing of the second floor. Now, sure enough, there was a female staff member in the dining hall: a large, plump, and grumpy woman whose name Miyo did not remember. But she was fast asleep, seated on the benches with her upper half sprawled over the long table.
Sayuri urged Miyo to hurry up the stairs. Until she reached the shared bedroom and shut the door behind her, Miyo did not relax. When she finally calmed down from the tension, she felt flabbergasted. The staff member had been fast asleep exactly as she hoped, and exactly as she’d envisioned. It was just too convenient. Because of this turn of events, Sayuri and Miyo wouldn’t be punished. Nobody would know who let the birds go. Miyo couldn’t help thinking that the words she recited quietly in her head had something to do with this miraculous turn of events.
“I say,” Kaneko observed in the tea room of the Witches, “those girls just used magic.”
“It was Sayuri, unconsciously using magic,” Frederica said, sipping peppermint-chamomile tea and trying to appear calmer than she really was. “It’s nothing too shocking, really. Young girls like Sayuri are the best suited to become Witches, especially if they have a helping hand. But as you and I both know, those kind of soft and innocent would-be Witches always “grow up,” and reject magic in a few years. It frustrates me to see them give it up so easily. Weaklings.”
“But there are those Witches, few and far between, who grow into their magic instead growing out of it. I heard about one recently. Ah, what was it? The Witch of Resurrection, I believe?”
“Oh, you mean little Ange Ushiromiya,” Frederica said with a nod. “It’s still too early to say for her. With the environment she’s in, she’ll likely develop anti-magic toxins. That aside, I have never heard of a Witch coming from this area in this time period. Ange is the closest match. Sayuri won’t become a Witch. Besides, with no other magic users to guide her, a girl like her would never realize her power.”
“What about Miyo-chan then?” asked Kaneko, with a slow smile creeping up her round face. “I am a Witch, and a smart one at that. So despite you dismissing it all as Sayuri’s magic, I can tell what happened. Miyo’s potential for magic use was just unlocked by the younger girl’s song. She used a little bit of simple magic herself, reciting the rhyme and envisioning what she wanted to happen. The rhyme had been imbued with magic by Sayuri. And Miyo’s own magic reacted with it and caused a sleeping spell to be projected into reality.”
“What an interesting observation.” Frederica acted like she didn’t care.
Kaneko could see through that mask. “My dear Bernkastel, are you perhaps using this game for another plan besides satisfaction or vengeance? You have something in mind, don’t you?”
Frederica replied carelessly, “Maybe I am. Maybe I’m not. Who can say?”
To Be Continued