Author: Mikan Odatade
Serial number RA0076789 let out a small scream. From the fingertip where the needle had pierced, blood rose like a bright red bead.
“89, are you okay?”
88, sitting beside her, glanced at her, eyebrows raised in concern.
“Ah… I’ve got blood on my cloth.”
Towards 89, who was staring at her embroidery in disbelief, 88 smiled.
“Then, let’s switch with mine. Here.”
She quickly replaced her own embroidery with 89’s.
“B, but my blood…”
Saying that, a voice flew from the front of the classroom.
“You! 88 and 89! Stop talking and focus on your work. You have 10 minutes left.”
The housekeeper, Sister Belle, is strict about the rules. 89 bowed her head. 88 spoke in a voice whether audible or inaudible.
“I’ll hide it with embroidery, so it’s okay.”
88’s eyes, smiling in such a way, have already fallen on the cloth in her hand. The embroidery is sewn as vividly as a painting with deft fingers. A design of a bright red rose on a yellow-green gradation of vines… 88 handles everything dexterously. She was the epitome of a Bridal Training School student.
Seeing that, 89 hurriedly took to her own work. Even though she was 88’s “younger sister” from the same province, she is not as good. If she doesn’t manage to finish it in the remaining time and get a passing grade, she would get detention again.
“Phew~… I managed to turn it in… thank you.”
After leaving the classroom, 89 and 88 took the elevator to the cafeteria.
She lowered the corner of her eyes and smiled. 89 loved this indulgent smile that the always serious 88 gave only to her.
“Ehehe, Yoruu, I love you!”
She clung to her arm tightly. In the past, they would call each other’s name this way, while hugging and holding hands. But she gently pushed 89’s arm back.
“If they see you, they’ll get angry.”
“It’s fine because we’re in the elevator. Give me a squeeze.”
She smiled, a little embarrassed. From that expression, it’s obvious that she thought “I can’t help it”. Arms hugged her softly as a whisper reached her ear.
“… Anje, do you understand? Don’t call my name out there.”
She pursed her lips.
“I know. I’m not that careless.”
“I’m not sure.”
“… But why would they get angry if I called you by your name?”
“We’re going to graduate and have a ‘Master’ name us, so we shouldn’t have names until then. You know that.”
“I know, but… can’t we just call it something temporary?”
“That’s the serial number.”
“I don’t like that.”
“Well… that’s why we gave each other names. It’s our secret.”
89 looked at the number engraved on the back of her hand. On her hand was RA0076789 and on 88’s hand was RA0076788. It is an individual identification number and a serial number as a bridesmaid (artificial bride). It was carved by laser before they were born, and would be erased upon graduation.
88 and 89 were created from adjacent artificial wombs in the same plant. And, they were sent to this bridal training school, and have grown up together for a long time.
Upon graduation, they will be sent to Masters decided by the school. Then, become his lifelong companion, and begin their lives as good wives and mothers. The day of their marriage will soon arrive.
“… I wonder if I can do well as a bride.”
To 89, who muttered so without confidence, 88 smiled again.
“Don’t worry, Anje has a lot more to offer than I do.”
Instantly, 89’s anxiety disappeared and she looked up at 88 with excited eyes.
“Really? Like what?”
“Anje is kind. I’m sure she’ll be a good and loving mother.”
89’s mouth twitched again. Isn’t it a compliment for those with nothing praise worthy?
The elevator took a sudden turn to the right. This school is a medium-sized space colony in the shape of a ring, and when moving from school to dormitory, you must take an elevator that runs inside the ring.
“Are you okay?”
88 quickly supported 89, who was staggered by the shaking. 89 looked up at her. That straight, jet-black hair, a little longer than her own, has a beautiful luster under the light of inorganic light. Because it’s color is like the night sky, she calls her Yoru. The name she gave her. From the time she was born, Yoru had always worried about her and took care of her.
“Yoru is much kinder.” she said, with a little shrug. And then the elevator door opened.
“Let’s go, 89.”
After school, 88, who was summoned by Sister Belle, left the dormitory and headed for the classroom. It was at the time when Anje had just left the room.
Sister Belle was sitting in her usual chair, looking at 88’s embroidery. With her silver-white hair braided back and sharp blue eyes. 88 was not fond of this sister. Not because she is strict. She was afraid of the occasional, probing glance that came from her eyes. Like she could see through everything.
“88, you exchanged this for 89’s along the way.”
Artificial brides should never lie. It has been hammered into them since childhood. 88 honestly admitted the injustice and bowed her head.
“… Yes. I’m sorry.”
“To cover for 89’s mistake?”
Sister Belle sighed at 88’s honest admission.
“It is not in 89’s best interest to do so. She has to make do without you as a bride.”
“… As you say.”
True. They will soon be separated from each other. When you go to your Master, you will have no mental or physical freedom. The brides are not informed of each other’s location. It’s also impossible to communicate with other brides. In other words, it’s an eternal farewell.
However, that is the norm. They exist to be wives and mothers. They should not devote themselves to anything else. It’s no surprise she is being reprimanded by Sister Belle. 88 was prepared for punishment.
However, she looked up steadily, and the lips which were always tightly pursed were grinning. Looking like a different person from her usual, 88 involuntarily backed away.
However, she released a more astonishing remark from her lips.
“As a bride. That’s ridiculous.”
She got up from her chair and stood in front of 88.
“Have you ever thought about it? Have you ever wondered why you ‘brides’ born from artificial wombs and your ‘masters’ born from your bellies?”
“If true, then both brides and masters… no, both men and women are born from the belly of a woman.”
88 doubted her ears.
“It’s… that’s wrong. We and our ‘masters’ are different creatures…!”
“No. It’s only in this country. Even if you are born from an artificial womb, you are the same human being as your master. Because you have a heart, right? You can feel happy or sad. That’s what makes you human.”
88 looked at the floor and pondered. The usual checkered pattern seemed to be whirring. Is she and her master the same human being? What does that mean? She was confused.
“We’re human too…? That means.”
“If you’re smart, wouldn’t you understand the information you have now? Something’s wrong.”
Something’s wrong. That’s true. But she couldn’t say it out loud. It was a statement that overturned the values that had been hammered into her for many years. 88 slumped down without saying a word.
“Believe me, or don’t, I’ll leave it to you. But your feelings for 89 are not misplaced.”
88 was surprised at the words and then turned away. She didn’t want 89 to be punished. So 88 made excuses.
“89 is a good friend. Nothing more.”
“There there… Fufu, that pained face is the damning evidence of lying. Even a woman can lie. Depending on the time and circumstance. But for now, be honest and admit it. More than your future master…”
88 looked up with a snap. Sister Belle held her shoulders seductively and said in her ear…
“You love 89, don’t you?”
The words were by no means loud, but they clearly resonated in 88’s ears.
“Wha… what are you saying?”
“You’ve learned how to make children…. and now you want to do it with a stranger you call ‘Master’?”
“And… of course, we are to have children…”
She muttered as she exhaled a sigh and brushed her lips over 88’s neck.
The hot sensation made 88 shrink back in fear.
“It’s normal to want to do this… with a girl you like.”
She hugged 88’s body with both hands. Her arms were gentle and smelled sweet like flowers. The hand slowly began to move.
“You have a beautiful body. For a long time… I was watching you. Come on, let me take you. Let’s have some fun together.”
Her fingers touched the hem of 88’s uniform skirt. Feeling threatened, 88 scrambled to get away.
“Don’t run. That’s an order.
At those words, 88 stopped moving. Orders from your master, superior sisters and instructors are absolute. She has been disciplined so since she was born. It’s not something that can be easily broken.
“Hmmm, you poor thing. You can’t go against it if ordered. You’ve always been an honor student…. it’s okay, really. Say you don’t like what you don’t like.”
Sister Belle clasped 88’s cheeks with her hands and made eye contact. Mental dominance was evident in her eyes. Her face slowly came closer.
“But… well, just follow my instructions and stay still. Instead of 89, I’ll spoil you so much…”
Her lips almost touched 88’s lips. At that moment, 88 shook off Sister’s arm and ran.
“She got away… pity.”
Sister Belle shrugged and returned to her desk. 88 is ostensibly submissive, as expected, but not in substance.
Sister Belle took out the teacher’s terminal and entered the password. Beyond that, there are information files that are not revealed to the students. Some students’ files were flashing blue. They seemed to have been updated during the class.
(89… I wonder if it’s decided, her bridal destination)
When she tapped on her roster and looked at the post-graduation section, she saw the name of a stranger and his occupation.
(A man who is a worker in a local colony… Hmm)
If she were an inferior student, that would be the case. She will surely marry him as it is, love him with all her heart and be adored by him, and live happily as his wife for the rest of her life.
In this country, all women are ‘brides’. They are thoroughly under government control from production to upbringing, and are designed from their DNA to be convenient for this country. They are all born obedient and with healthy bodies that can only bear boys. In the bridal training school, education similar to brainwashing is given so that only the man they will eventually marry will be loved and supported for the rest of their life. After marrying, the average bride gives birth to 5 or 6 boys on average, and protects her family by giving birth and raising children for the rest of her life.
During that time, the ‘masters’ devote themselves to their work with peace of mind. They travel among the stars, making and managing their fortune, and pass them on to their sons.
And when their sons are of age, they receive their perfect bride and repeat the cycle. It’s a wonderful, loving system for the prosperity of the country.
(… Well, I’d rather avoid such a thing.)
Sister tapped 88’s file, one above 89. Her bridal destination, as the best ‘bride candidate’ of this school year, had long been decided.
(… Will Alst. She will be the fourth concubine of the Chief Executive of the Alst Conglomerate … 88)
He is an integral part of this country. Thanks to his financial resources, this country has grown rapidly. It was also his company that developed and provided the DNA manipulation and artificial womb, which are the foundation of the bridal system. He himself uses the technology to live in good health, even though he is over 100, and has received brides many times. There are many foreign countries that aim for his immense wealth and technology. Yes, just like her employer.
Sister Belle turned off the terminal. She can’t stay here forever.
(I’ve got to get the 88 into my clutches as soon as possible.)
She failed today, but surely, there’ll be another chance. If she had her way, the inexperienced girl would not be able to resist either. Sister Belle licked her lips out of habit.
When she returned from cleaning duty, 88 wasn’t there. 89 took out some extra thread and cloth and began embroidering.
(I’m about to graduate… I have to be able to do this right.)
Knowledge of housekeeping, cooking, and childcare. The time will come to make the best use of these, which have been taught here. The thought of graduation made 89 excited.
(What kind of person will he be, my master…! ）
She won’t know until they meet. But he must be a good person. He is the master she will love for the rest of her life.
Keep the residence clean for him and prepare delicious meals. Surely, they’ll be happy. And that is also her joy. Because they exist to serve and please their masters. And the “Master” will bring something more wonderful to the bride. A lovely baby. The fruit of the love between two people. A round, soft and warm, plump angel. Remembering the baby she had seen repeatedly in the video material, 89 couldn’t help but smile.
(Oh, I’m looking forward to it… I can’t wait to hold my baby in my arms….)
The inside of the bride is filled with affection. In order to give it to her master, she is to set out on a journey as soon as she graduates. The brides were taught that way. So she had to be able to make her embroidery more perfect. For her future master. 89 moved her hand in silence. Just then, the door was slammed open and 88 returned.
“… 88? What’s wrong!”
Seeing her back in her dorm room, 89 put down the cloth and stood up. Her hair is disordered, as if she was running. Her back, as she closed the door with a slam, lacked its usual calmness and composure.
88 said with a laugh. But the smile was stiff.
“You’re lying. Something happened, didn’t it?”
89 rushed to her.
“Maybe… did they find out you switched my embroidery?”
She gave a vague smile, but it was the same as affirmation. 89 looked down, feeling depressed.
“… I’m sorry. I’m always giving you trouble. I… I’ve got to get better.”
“It’s okay. It’s no trouble.” said 88, but 89 shook her head.
“I’m clumsy, but I should apologize to Sister.”
88 grabbed 89’s hand as she turned to go outside. It was a panicked action that was unlike her.
“… You can’t.”
“Eh… Why not?”
She shook her head with a serious expression.
“Sister Belle… has already left the classroom. There’s no point in going today.”
Something happened. She is hiding something. 89 noticed so. However, 88 was too serious, so she had to back down.
From that day on, 88’s behavior was different from before. It’s not a drastic change. But occasionally, she would bite her lip and look elsewhere. The light in her eyes seemed to be a mix of impatience and pain. Like when trying to solve a problem that she just couldn’t solve. One night, 89 finally couldn’t take it anymore and called to her.
“Hey Yoru… I might not be dependable, but… if you ever need anything, just let me know. I want to help.”
88 looked at her with eyes wide open. 89 put her hand on 88’s cheek. Like a white plate, her cheeks are always a little cold and beautiful.
“I know you’re worried about something. Yoru is always like that. You’re not good at expressing your feelings. But I can tell, you’ve been by my side for a long time.”
“No… I’m not.”
She took a step back as if she had been pressured. She’s still trying to hide it. Thinking so, 89 hugged her tightly as before.
She could feel 88’s body stiffen. But 89 stroked her back to reassure her.
“Here, relax. We used to do this often. Talk to me. What are you so worried about…?”
She then said in an inaudible whisper.
“… you won’t laugh?”
“I won’t laugh.”
“… I’m afraid I’ll graduate and be separated from you.”
The unexpected answer took 89 by surprise. How could she have been worried about that?
It was so obvious that she had never thought about it, but when they graduate, she would never see 88 again. Realizing this for the first time, she put all her strength into her arms.
“… Will we never see each other again?”
“Only after graduation.”
“I’ll miss you. I wonder why we can’t see each other.”
“Because it’s not necessary for a bride’s work.”
“I… want to see Yoru, even after I become a bride.” said 89, and 88 replied calmly after a pause.
“… No, you can’t say that.”
The voice was completely her usual.
“I’m sorry. I was out of line. Forget about it.”
With that said, she turned her back on 89. She couldn’t make out her expression.
She shouldn’t have said that. However, once the words come out of the mouth, you can’t take them back. It’s like spilled milk. 88 was still regretting it even after several days.
(No, she and I will graduate and be happy as brides. It’s a given.)
88 inwardly resented Sister Belle. If she had not said those things to her, she wouldn’t have been bothered by them.
『You love 89, don’t you?』
No. That’s not true. Certainly she and 89 are good friends. But that’s simply because they’ve been together for so long. She’s not in love with her like Sister Belle says. The only thing that makes her uncomfortable about leaving is that she’s never been away from her before.
(I’m sure we’ll forget about each other once we part…)
She also has to do her own work to do. The job of serving her master and bearing his children. The work will surely bring her happiness. Because that’s how brides are made. However, a small voice echoed in one corner of 88’s mind.
(Is that really the case? ）
88 recalled the feeling of Sister Belle ‘s fingers tracing her bare skin. The hot, tantalizing fingertips, the gentle embrace… that soft body was very similar to Anje’s. But 89 would never do that. She hugs her to show affection, like she would a stuffed animal.
But at some point, she came to avoid the act because it confused her. Not because she didn’t like it. When she’s hugged by 89, she would get upset. It takes a while to regain her composure. So she didn’t want to do it.
The act of doing it with the girl you love… that’s what Sister Belle said. But 88 shook her head. There is no reason to ask for such a thing. Because they will eventually belong to their masters.
(Don’t get any strange ideas. Forget about what Sister said…)
88 secretly vowed to do so.
The next day, 88 received a call, and took a long elevator ride to the center of the ring. The central area, commonly known as the shaft, had important facilities such as the departure and arrival gates for the spacecrafts and the residential area of the School’s directors.
Looking at the 88, who bowed and entered the board room, the middle-aged man said from behind the desk.
“You are departing immediately, 88. Today is your graduation.”
88 was taken aback for a moment, but nodded.
“Yes, I understand.”
He squinted at the expressionless 88.
“Are you not happy? You’re graduating and going to be with your master.”
The brides won’t know who it is until they meet him.
She’ll be separated from Anje today. But 88 smiled, trying to cover her feelings.
“Of course, I’m happy. 」
He was staring at 88, as if watching an experimental animal. It was as if he knew she didn’t really mean it. Scared, 88 bowed and left the room. Once she completes a simple health check, she’ll be ready to board the ship. In the medical office, the doctor attached a black device on 88’s wrists.
“Now, this is the final test. What is your name?”
“It’s RA0076788, Doctor.”
“What is your job?
“To serve my master, give birth and raise children.”
“Then… what do you desire?”
“To love my master and my children.”
88 made her statements without stagnation. Those words and phrases were so ingrained in her mind that they came out even when she closed her eyes.
However, the doctor glanced at the device and frowned.
“Who do you love?”
88 said before thinking. But the doctor said gravely…
“… You’re lying.”
88 froze on the chair.
“No… no, I’m not.”
The doctor sighed.
“Lying, disqualification as a bride… It’s a pity. but once in a while there are girls like her.”
“It’s not a lie…! I’m sure I’ll be useful as a bride…”
“A bride doesn’t serve just to be useful. You are certainly excellent. However, masters do not need that. It’s why we have this school.”
Despite the predicament she was in, 88 could not contain her curiosity.
“That? What do you mean?”
The doctor’s eyes narrowed in discomfort.
“Yes, ingenuity. It’s unnecessary for a bride… However, we must deliver you to the Chief Executive as soon as possible. He’s looking forward to your arrival.”
The doctor stabbed the needle of the syringe into 88’s arm in a fluid motion and then spoke into his terminal.
“Doctor, prepare now to Re-programme RA0076788.”
The brutal words sent chills down 88’s back. Within a few seconds, however, her consciousness became cloudy and her eyelids were about to close. She could see the staff coming through the door carrying something like a large helmet. However, it was only up to that point that she was able to keep her eyes open.
No, she made a mistake. Sister Belle stroked her messy hair as she took the elevator to the shaft. She didn’t think 88 would get married today. Maybe they were able to sniff out her existence.
(And what about the re-programming!?)
Most likely, she was caught in the final polygraph test. She didn’t expect 88 would be unable to fool that thing. She was not as clever as she hoped.
(As the best in the grade, you should at least fool a lie detector…! ）
But she knew best how difficult it was. Lying is strictly prohibited. The brides are brainwashed so by nature.
(At this rate, she’ll be made to forget everything.)
If that happens, it will be inconvenient for Sister Belle, who wants to keep her in their clutches. She wanted to stop the re-programming somehow. However, 88 had already been handed over to the doctor. She wouldn’t make it in time. Sister Belle entered the medical office, suppressing her frustration. 88 was in the process of being adjusted with the device attached. The electrical signals sent directly into her brain should have diluted her memory and overwritten her knowledge. Her head is covered with a helmet, and his body was slack. There is a mechanical noise, and the doctor checks her with a blank expression.
“What is your name?”
In an equally inorganic voice, she answered.
“What is your purpose?”
“To serve my master.”
“Who do you belong to?”
“I… belong to my master.”
The helmet signal light changes from green to yellow. A tense atmosphere flowed between the staff. However, the check continues.
“Then, who do you love”
“My master,” she said.
The light changed from yellow to red. The staff murmured.
“Let’s strengthen the electrical signal to another stage.”
“If we increase it any further, will it affect her intelligence? We will not be able to ship her to the Chief.”
Sister Belle couldn’t help but interrupt. If she loses her mind and becomes useless, it will be a problem. But the staff shook their heads.
“There are other excellent spares worthy of the Chief Executive. All we have to do is lower this one’s rank and ship out.”
He looked up and saw Sister Belle. His eyes are squinted unpleasantly.
“Why are you here? Get out, you’re in the way of our work.”
Saying that, he turned to 88 and waved a sullen hand at Sister Belle. It is unusual to give an opinion to a man here.
“All right, Doctor.”
Sister bowed and turned her head. While thinking about her next move.
(88 is no good anymore. I wonder who will be the new assignee to the Chief… oh, the trouble I’ll get into.)
In front of the door, Sister Belle glanced back at 88, who had almost “woken up” from being a bride, and was a convenient student for her. In a last-ditch effort, Sister Belle activated the terminal in her pocket and operated it with her fingertips. This should disrupt the signal here somewhat. It is confirmed that 88 will be downgraded, but it is better to have a little more insurance. Just in case.
(88 you poor thing, it’s up to you to remember how you feel about that girl.)
A bride loves only the “master” decided by the country. So it is a grave betrayal to the country when a bride freely falls in love with someone else. Because she loves only him and has his children, the master can support and protect the bride at the risk of his life. Masters work to earn foreign currency and their offspring increase. The country will continue to prosper in a never-ending cycle.
At the time of manufacture, the bride’s settings are integrated into the gene. However, on rare occasions, there are individuals who fall out of the fetters they were born with.
A bitter smile appeared on Sister Belle’s face.
(For some reason, there are many excellent individuals whose shackles fall off. Like you, and… like me)
By nature, however, Sister Belle was born with a talent for deception. Therefore, after living as a bride without being discarded, and losing her master by a scheme, she was picked up by her current “boss”, and given a life where she could act on her true feelings, although she was a bride.
(88 wasn’t as smart as me, I guess.)
However, it was certain that she was a little envious of her life, as she had never let go of her pure heart. To be more precise, the fact that 88 has 89.
(For me… I never had that.)
She’s been following her inner craving to be free her whole life. But even after it was fulfilled, Sister Belle felt somewhat empty. She’s never really desired anyone in her life. Now she felt most rewarded when doing her life’s work, as she struggled to fulfill the boss’ demands. But if she had someone like 89. When she thought so, anger erupted from within her.
(… It’s impossible. How can I love someone if I’m forbidden to love freely?)
It’s no use counting what ifs. Sister Belle took out her terminal. She had just received a call from the Assistant Chancellor.
She quickly switched her mind and headed for his room. Just as she had hoped, his request was about the Chief’s bride. He turned to her with a sneer.
“… So, 88 is to be discarded. Instead, we’re going to put 75 forward, but it is much more unbalanced in its abilities compared to 88. In particular, there is a great concern in the area of housekeeping. However, failure is not an option as the bride of the Chief Executive. So first thing, I’d like you to assist 75 on the matter together. Prepare for departure at once.”
88, is not to be downgraded but discarded? … her feelings were so strong that they surpassed the re-programming. Sister Belle, though surprised, bowed, trying not to reveal it on her face.
“Very well. Assistant Chancellor”
This decision is an unfortunate development for a spy. Sister Belle returned to her room and began preparing. However, while moving her hand, she was worried about 88.
A bride who does not love her master doesn’t deserve to live. 88 will soon become a cold corpse and be thrown away like garbage. She slammed her trunk shut.
How many brides were buried in darkness like 88? She could live like this now, but if she had made one mistake, she was sure of that would have been one of them.
However, in her current position, there is nothing she can do about it. Just silently work as a spy and achieve results. Ultimately, it will lead to her revenge on this country….
Sister Belle immediately lifted her bag and left her room. She must go with 75 to the Chief Executive. There’s no time for anything else. As she walked down the hallway thinking about future plans, she noticed a student staring at her. It was 89. Sister Belle ignored her and tried to pass by.
“Ah… Excuse me! Did RA0076788 leave?” asked 89 with a frantic expression. Sister, as usual, sternly said.
“That is none of your concern, focus on yourself.”
Then 89 surely pursed her lips. And, a large teardrop fell from her frowning eyes.
“Why do you cry? Leaving this place should be joyful.”
89 didn’t wipe away her tears and looked up at Sister Belle.
“After all, she went to her master.”
The tears trembled heavily at the tips of her golden eyelashes, which stretched out in a radial pattern. She seemed genuinely sad. The naked expression of her face is painful. The dark devil whispered in Sister Belle’s brain when she saw this.
(89. Unlike me and 88, you are a true ‘honor student’ who loves your master… but what would happen if I tell you the truth?)
Will this girl try to save 88 in exchange for her happiness as a bride? Or will she leave her to die and go to her master? Sister Belle bent over and whispered in 89’s ears.
“No. 88 will soon die. You’re the only one who can save her.”
With a mixed expression of bewilderment and surprise, 89 looked up at Sister Belle, but she continued.
“But if you save her, you will lose your qualification as a bride. What will you do?”
“… What are you saying…?”
“88. She was sent to the disposal site because she loved you more than her master.”
89 stiffened. Sister Belle stretched her back and said with her usual cold expression.
“It’s up to you whether she lives or dies. I don’t care which you choose.”
Leaving her standing there, Sister Belle walked down the hallway. While operating the terminal with her right hand so that no one would notice, she headed for the gate. However, as a small gift from a “senior”, she decided to give 89 a “means” to rescue 88. This level of internal manipulation was mere child’s play for her.
… Which would 89 choose?
(Do you abandon yourself or continue to live with indelible regrets?)
Either way, she can’t be happy. A cheerful and innocent ‘bride’, her heart will be scarred for life. As she walked, Sister Belle couldn’t help the smile on her lips. Everyone should suffer a little. Because both herself and 88 have suffered.
In a dark space, 88 awoke. The smell was disgusting, like something rotten. Where is this place? When she woke up, her entire body felt slightly numb. She couldn’t breathe well. The air was too thin.
Along with the pain, 88 recalled the words of the staff.
“This individual is no longer a bride. Discard it.”
After removing that helmet which was stirring her head, the man in the white coat said that. She doesn’t remember much after that. But….
(Was I discarded? Is this … in other words, a garbage dump? ）
The curved wide floor was littered with garbage bags and waste items. This place is probably the end of the dust chute at the bottom of the shaft. At a set time, the floor hatch would fully open and dump the garbage into space.
88 looked around with a body that did not move well. It seems impossible to escape. Even if she could, she who had lost her qualifications as a bride could not live in this country.
(Am I going to die?)
The thought made her limbs cold. She didn’t expect this to happen.
(Lying is a grave sin…)
That was what has been said repeatedly. It was supposed to be true, but she lied in the last question, and she is here because she was found out.
(I told a lie… I don’t love my faceless master.)
RA0076788. Anje. It’s her. It’s no use lying to herself. 88 honestly admitted her feelings in the darkness.
When did it start? But maybe from the very beginning. From the moment they were born, they were laid in adjacent beds. Anje was a child who often cried and laughed. Unlike 88, she was a difficult child to care for. However, such a child is more attractive to people. 88 was the first and foremost drawn to her rather than her master. Her voice, laughing with her mouth wide open, was as warm as light. Her tears were as beautiful as pearls. If she was happy, she laughed and hugged her, and if she was sad, she would cry out. While she was born, she was full of emotions and affection. Anje gave it to her, the one who was closest. 88 was happy to be by her side and feel them.
(She will surely be a happy bride…)
Surely Anje will love her master, as she did 88. So her master will be happy. Like 88 was. She makes all the people involved happy. Because she is an Angel.
(I’m… not like Anje.)
88 can’t feel affection for anyone other than Anje. There is no inexhaustible love inside this body. Looking at a baby, she doesn’t think it’s cute. That was when she realized it. That she’s a defective bride. However, she could imitate the desired behavior. Even if she couldn’t really have affection, she can act like she’s loving, and she can be useful. That’s what she thought. However, it seems that it was not allowed.
A bride who can’t love her master from the bottom of her heart cannot become a bride. From the master’s point of view, Anje is bound to be better than her. She will die alone, holding on to this feeling without being a bride to anyone.
88 smiled alone. It might be a rather happy thing. She doesn’t have to marry her master anymore. She doesn’t have to lie to him. No one will be bothered by her inability to love.
She ruminates in her head the feeling of being held in Anje’s arms. The reason she was upset when she was hugged was because her body gets heated. She couldn’t contain her desire to hug Anje’s body back and trace her bare skin with her fingers.
(Yes… Sister was right)
It is not with a master. She wanted to embrace her. She wanted to know her deeply. She always wanted that innocent angel to be hers. But she couldn’t do that to her who dreams of becoming a bride. Even holding such a feeling is a sin.
(So… this is fine.)
She can’t live in this country because she fell in love with Anje. It’s painful not to be able to fulfill her mission, but she couldn’t erase her feelings for Anje now. Even if she was lucky enough to become a bride, it’s probably easier to end this life now than to live a lie.
88 saw an overhead lamp signal. The hatch will open soon. If thrown into outer space without protective gear or oxygen, she will die soon. Will it hurt? But it sure won’t be quick. 88 closed her eyes.
(… I’m glad I met Anje. I have no regrets about this feeling.)
Her feelings were like a hot, shining sun. When she held it in her heart, she felt terrified of dying alone in the dark universe.
May she continue to live happily ever after. While she could still breathe, 88 murmured softly.
It was so shocking that the floor and the ceiling turned upside down. She didn’t know how long she was standing in the hallway. When she looked around, 89 was surprised that nothing had changed around her.
… It was the inside of 89’s mind that had changed.
（… Yoru was discarded? ）
There was a rumor going around. If a bride isn’t good enough, she may be disposed of. However, Sister Belle and the staff had never mentioned such a thing, and she thought that it was only an irresponsible lie whispered among the students. Nevertheless.
(Yoru, because she liked me)
Sister Belle said so earlier. There’s no way that can happen. Yoru is perfect. 88, the best student in this school year, was discarded because of her.
(What shall I do… I don’t like that! ）
At that moment, 89 noticed that the terminal in her pocket was glowing. When she opened the communication column while suppressing the feeling of deviance, a message appeared.
[Gate 67/ Castle Husset/ Code 776341]
89 tilted her head. The words don’t make sense. Was it a mistake or a prank? However, there was only one word which had meaning.
(The ‘gate’ is the arrival and departure gate of the spacecraft … you mean that? ）
The moment she realized that, things made sense to 89, as if connecting the dots. 89 looked up and began to run down the hallway with all her might.
(This is… the name of the spacecraft and its key code…! Maybe Sister sent it.)
With this, she might be able to save Yoru. 89 went to the shaft with only one thought in her heart.
The arrival and departure stations are located at the top of the shaft. Orange gates lined up endlessly in a large space. It seemed that someone was leaving, and there was a crowd of staff around the large spaceship at the front gate. This is Gate 1. She had to get to 67 quickly. Everyone seems to be distracted by the big spaceship, so no one notices 89. Taking advantage of that, 89 ran at full speed. The more she ran, the smaller the size of the gates became.
(67, 67 …! Here.)
What was parked was a very small ship shaped like a snowman. It’s a common emergency escape gig. Anyone can easily operate it as long as they have a key code. 89 jumped into the hull door and entered the code, then went inside and screamed.
“The bottom of the shaft, go to the exit chute of the disposal site!”
Voice input was acknowledged, and the spacecraft launched without sound. 89 wore the provided spacesuit, and the ship arrived directly under the center of the ring, the exit chute was displayed on the monitor. As soon as the 89 put on her helmet, the hatch opened. Yoru should be thrown out from there. 89 shouted unconsciously to the monitor.
“Shoot bubbles at biological reactions! Then rescue them!”
The red aim mark flashed on and off across the monitor, and soon a single point flashed loudly. 89 grabbed the monitor and looked at that part. A black-haired girl floated helplessly in the translucent bubble that was shot. Like a fairy trapped in a soap bubble.
” Yoru! I’m coming…! 」
Although it was impossible for her to hear, 89 shouted from the airlock as she jumped out to space. 89 reached out her hands in a frenzy toward the translucent sphere floating in the void. A viscous membrane sticks to her gloves. Holding the surface tightly, 89 returned to the spacecraft. In outer space, it was sadly light to the touch. Yoru is in here, her precious Yoru is within it. Is she safe? The thought brought tears to her eyes.
” Y, Yoru, are you okay…!?”
After the airlock was filled with air, 89 broke the membrane to confirm the sound of Yoru’s heart.
“Ah… I’m glad.”
A certain heartbeat. 89 was relieved, and lost all her strength. She strokes Yoru’s cheek as her eyes slowly open.
“Is that… Anje…?”
Yoru looked at 89 in disbelief and burst into laughter like a child.
“I’m glad… I died right.”
When had Yoru ever laughed with such an expression? She was so unguarded that she was blinded for a moment, but 89 shook her head.
“No, you’re alive, Yoru. I just saved you.”
“What a terrible thing to do! They’re really pissing me off. Trying to throw Yoru away.”
Yoru sat up, raised her eyebrows, and stared at 89. Her mouth is wide open.
“Save…? Why, what do you mean!?”
89 honestly talked about what happened with Sister Belle. Upon hearing that, Yoru’s mouth gradually closed into a lopsided smile.
“… You didn’t have to save me. Why do this…!”
Yoru said so. 89 couldn’t believe the words and his voice raged.
“Why!! Of course I’m going to save you!”
“… Sorry. But… Anje, you have to get back to the school quickly. If they find out that you did something like this…”
Yoru stared at 89 with troubled eyes. 89, who only thought about saving Yoru, now realizes that she has committed a serious betrayal against the school.
“… I’m not sure detention will be enough for a pardon.”
Yoru grabbed 89’s shoulder tightly as she was laughing.
“What are you saying, you’re going to be disposed too! Hurry…! Erase the evidence from the terminal and return to the gate. We have to turn off the signal to this spaceship…! 」
Yoru went to the cockpit monitor and began to operate quickly.
“All right… Erasing records and location data … quickly”
Looking back, Yoru had a stern expression. But 89 couldn’t move.
“… What will you do after I go, Yoru?”
“I’ll figure something out.”
Seeing that, 89 realized what she was going to do.
「… I’m not going. If I go, Yoru, you’re going to die.”
Yoru turned her head down, bit her lips tightly, and then calmly said.
“I don’t mean to. So I’ll be fine.”
“Liar! It’s a lie. I can tell. Yoru always looks down before she lies.”
She found Yoru at a loss for words.
“I’ll stay here, not going back. Why don’t we go to another country? I’m sure we’ll get by.’
But Yoru shook her head.
“We can’t live as smugglers. We are not like the ‘women’ in other countries. We’ll be found soon, deported and then discarded.”
“No… how are we different?”
“In other countries… like masters, we are born from human bellies. Both “man” and “woman” are the same humans, and it’s okay to say you don’t like something.”
Hearing that confused 89. Can she say she doesn’t like what she doesn’t like? She had never heard of such a thing.
“Is that right? Is it the same outside? Aren’t we all brides made for our masters…?! 」
“Yes. We are. That’s why we’re different from the women out there. There’s no place for us.”
89 was surprised. She had no idea of that, and never thought about it. But Yoru knew. 89 had to admit that her outlook was naive. However…
“But… but I can’t go back alone. Then I’ll stay here with you.”
“No, Anje, you will be a bride. You said you wanted to have a baby and be a mother.”
Certainly, it is her dream. Become a mother who pours love into a loving child. She was prepared to give up that hope. However, she cannot just go back to her old life with a completely innocent face. 89 strongly squeezed her fist and then said.
“I don’t want to be a mother if it means leaving you to die, Yoru… tsu!”
At those words, Yoru stood there with a stunned look. The two stared at each other for a while. The silence was broken by an electronic sound from the monitor.
88 looked at the monitor, but sighed the next moment.
“I have to enter instructions to… uh, dock for a while.”
After saying so, Yoru began to operate the monitor.
“This spaceship… it’s a Husset model. I wonder if this is also Sister’s idea…”
After muttering, Yoru distorted her lips. The face seemed about to cry and laugh. Then she looked up from the monitor and at 89.
“Anje, I’m not going to die. So go back.”
“Eh, what do you mean?”
89 asked, then 88 opened the airlock door at that instant.
With a shove, 89 was thrown out of the door. Yoru stared at the astonishing 89. A gentle yet burning gaze. The light floating in her jet-black eyes like the night sky strongly captured 89’s heart. But a moment after, the thruster on the back of the spacesuit activated, and 89’s body moved away from the ship.
“Anje, thank you.”
Before the ship’s hatch closed, she thought she heard Yoruu’s voice. In no time, the spaceship became a tiny point and disappeared into the darkness of space.
Anje was gone. The position retrieval system was also turned off. So 88 did not hesitate to launch the spacecraft at top speed. To a place far away from the orbit of the colony. 88 stared blankly at the monitor. Every now and then, space debris would cross the screen. Eventually, they disappeared, and she was just drifting alone in the starry space. As she stared at the tiny lights, she thought.
(Out there… are there other human “women” that are different from us?)
A world where you can say that you don’t like something. In other words, a world where you can decide things for yourself. 88 closed her eyes.
(If we were born in such a place, Anje and I…)
88 indulged in such a meaningless fantasy. There is still one last thing to do, but the fantasies are sweet and difficult to interrupt.
… How long had she been doing that? The terminal buzzed, and 88 shuddered. Looking at the screen, it was from 89.
“Anje? Did you get back safely?”
“Yoru! Where are you now?”
Anje’s voice, which was coming from a great distance, was slightly muffled. Feeling that distance, the 88’s chest felt dull and ached. But…
“I’m a long way from the school. Are you okay?”
“It’s more about Yoru than me…! What are you going to do now?”
The voice was frantic. 88 said gently, trying to calm Anje.
“I’m going into the cryogenic system.”
“This is a high-end emergency gig with a cold-sleep function. So I’ll use it.”
“Oh… no, wait, let me help you.”
“No. You have a mission to fulfill. Anje, you were born for it… unlike me.”
“Why! Yoru, you’re much better than I am…”
“No, I can’t. Because I love you more than my master.”
88 said without hesitation what she couldn’t say for a long time.
“I’m sure you can serve your master and have children. But I can’t love anyone other than you. I can’t give my heart to my master. That’s why I’m not qualified to be a bride. But you are different. I’m sure you can love your master and create a happy family. So that’s what I want Anje to do. I want you to hold your baby in your arms.”
Imagining that figure, 88 smiled. Yes, such a happy future would suit her.
“So… when the baby grows into a fine adult, you and your master grow old together, and you are finally alone… if you still remember me, come find me.”
Anje was silent, but 88 continued.
“I’ll sleep and wait for you. But just remember. It doesn’t matter if I stay asleep the whole time. I’m sure I’ll be happy in my dreams.”
“Yo, Yoru, I…”
“No need to rush, There’s plenty of time. … I wish you all the best. Bye.”
88 tried to cut off communication.
“Wait, Yoru! Don’t disconnect!”
“I love you.”
88 said so and forcibly cut the call. After dimming all the lights in the room and completing the necessary inputs, she took one last hot shower. The next time she wakes up, it’ll be when she meets Anje. So she had to keep herself clean.
“… Thank you for the funeral, mother.”
My son spoke kindly to me as I my shoulder slumped.
“Grandma, are you crying? Because Grandpa died?”
My grandson innocently asked from my son’s arms,. I looked up and saw them. My dear family.
“It’s all right. I’m sure you’re all tired. I’ll stay here for the time being.”
“But mother, you should leave here and come to our house…”
“Yes, I’ll be there tomorrow. But not today though.”
I gave a vague smile, and let my son and his wife leave. And that night, I set off into space. I have no regrets. I love my grandchildren and sons. I also loved my master. However, before I die, I want to see Yoru.
When I married as a bride, I learned about various kinds of affection. Between man and woman, as married couples, of parent and child, for grandchildren… they were all warm and precious to me.
However, even after all this time, what kept shining hot in my heart was that fiery look when Yoru gave me when I last saw her.
Her affection and kindness that even threw her life away for me…. She was the only one who ever loved me unconditionally.
Before I die, I’m going to see that love one more time.
And, tell her. “I love you too.”
(Wait for me, Yoru…! ）
I am not a bride, a mother, nor a wife. I returned to being just Anje after fulfilling all my roles, and rowed alone into space.