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Moms' Song of Remembrance
Through the trees, she could see the House burning.
Illuminated by the flames, the smoke rose far up into the sky. The massive fire engulfing the House lit the dark forest bright red.
Isabella caressed the heads of the children, who had fallen asleep with their heads resting on her lap. Until only a few moments ago, they had been crying, but now they were silent except for the sound of them breathing peacefully in their sleep.
A song escaped her lips, her voice hoarse.
Isabella sang a familiar song quietly to herself, like a lullaby. Her lovely voice rang out in the stillness, blending with the sound of the flames burning the building.
One of the supports collapsed with a loud screech.
Isabella watched the House slowly burn down, singing all the while.
In her mind, this House, where she had raised Emma and the others, overlapped with the one in the Plant where she had spent her own childhood. Isabella lowered her eyes, looking down at the children sleeping peacefully, leaning against her lap, with tears still on their cheeks.
The children, sleeping in blissful ignorance.
Isabella glanced over at one of the group, a boy with short black hair.
She felt certain that he understood what his older siblings had accomplished that night, though she didn’t know how much a child only 4 years old would be able to grasp. She continued gazing at his angelic face.
What had she felt, when she learned the truth?
She realized, with silent surprise, that it had been almost 20 years since then. Back then, she had been a child living in the House in complete ignorance, just like Emma and the others had been.
The place she had always believed to be a happy orphanage was really a plant for raising children as food for “demons.”
The daily tests were to produce higher-quality “brains.”
The Mama she had loved was on the side of the demons–the caretaker for children meant to be eaten.
The reason they weren’t allowed to go beyond the forest was that the walls imprisoning them were there.
And the siblings she thought had left for foster families were all killed.
The faces of all the siblings who she had played and laughed with as a girl appeared in the back of her mind. She still clearly remembered the names and faces of every single one, as well as all the things they had said to one another. The little brother who had cried and complained every morning because he couldn’t tie his shoelaces. The little sister who had always wanted her attention.
That name, associated with the song she had been singing until that moment, was always in Isabella’s heart, impossible to forget.
In a low voice, the same as when she was singing, Isabella spoke his name in the darkness of the night.
The memories that had come back to her as she stood on the wall a short time ago replayed over and over again in her mind, as though they were being shown by a broken projector. Isabella grimaced.
I suppose it’s because I’ve never thought back on it until now….
The past she had locked away came surging back, from twenty years ago.
That night, she had seen Leslie off with a bright smile, only to learn the truth about the House once it was all too late.
She still vividly remembered the despair she had felt standing on top of the wall, so long ago.
It had been cold, much like this night, and snowing. A pitch-black abyss had stretched out beyond the wall, swallowing up the white snowflakes that delicately floated down.
Little Isabella couldn’t wrap her mind around the implications of the scenery before her eyes. What is this…? The outside world, where Leslie lived, was supposed to have been beyond the wall.
Isabella looked back, dazedly, toward the voice that had echoed in the silence. Mama had called out to her from below the wall, and she was smiling.
And then she told Isabella the truth about the world.
That they were raised to be eaten.
That there was no world for humans outside.
That he was dead, when he was supposed to have gone to his foster parents.
After that, a storm of fury and despair raged on and on within the girl. She hated Mama, and the ones controlling the farm. She swore to herself that she would escape, no matter what.
But no matter how her violent emotions might sway her, the girl was smart enough to understand that regardless of what methods she used, it would be impossible to escape from there.
At 12, Isabella chose the path to becoming a caretaker.
Isabella’s thoughts drifted to the fluttering ropes, so brilliant against the darkness, and the children beyond them.
Emma and the others had reached the other side of the wall.
They had made it “outside” this closed-off world.
They had accomplished the escape that she had given up on that day.
The frozen winter air caressed Isabella’s cheek. Her face had lost the severe expression it held when, in her role as their Mama, she pursued Emma and the others, and instead had a mother’s gentle smile.
The wind brought the smell of smoke. Isabella pulled a blanket over the children so that the ash wouldn’t fall on them.
After a strong gust of wind, burnt fragments of paper began to fall like snow, and one landed right next to Isabella.
Isabella nonchalantly picked up the piece of paper, which was scorched around the edges.
Isabella’s eyes widened at the lines of familiar handwriting. The feelings that welled up inside her blurred together with the song that she had been singing. Why now, she thought. She had never once opened that notebook, all this time.
She spoke his name as though saying a prayer.
Written on the paper was a certain list…
Bright sunshine illuminated the roof of the House. The joyful voices of small children rose up from here and there around the yard.
A short distance from the yard, underneath a tree on top of a hill, a boy was singing to himself.
He had silky hair and a freckled face, and his eyes were a pale color. He created a gentle melody in a restrained voice, quiet enough that only the butterfly that had flown close to him would be able to hear.
“What a beautiful melody.”
Hearing a voice suddenly address him without warning, from a branch above his head, made the boy who had been singing–Leslie–jump with shock.
The girl he had addressed as Isabella nimbly leaped down from a branch high in the tree, her hair, done up in a single braid, sailing through the air behind her as she did so.
“I heard a wonderful song while I was climbing the tree, and I couldn’t help myself…” Isabella smiled and said, “I’m sorry.” Leslie put a hand over his heart, which was still pounding.
“You scared me…”
Isabella sat down next to Leslie, hugging her knees.
“So what’s the name of that song?” Isabella asked, and for a moment, Leslie hesitated. He considered keeping quiet, but he was happy that Isabella had shown an interest in his song, so he answered in a small voice.
“It… doesn’t have a name. I didn’t give it one.”
Isabella instantly intuited the meaning behind his words and leaned forward in surprise.
“You wrote it, Leslie?!”
That he hadn’t named it, meant that he had composed the song himself. Leslie replied to her, confused by her unexpected reaction of surprise.
Isabella breezily said, “That’s amazing!”
She gazed at Leslie, her dark eyes open wide. She geniunely believed it. Anyone who could do something she couldn’t was truly amazing. She smiled brightly.
“Let me hear some more!”
Leslie had never expected her to say something like that, so he blinked in surprise and looked back at Isabella. Beisde him, Isabella was waiting for him to sing for her.
Leslie felt embarrassed in front of his first audience ever.
“But keep it a secret, okay? I’d be embarrassed,” he said, raising his index finger. Isabella smiled and nodded in response.
Leslie began singing, in a soft voice, as though he were telling a secret.
His voice, shaky and faint at first, gradually grew clearer and stronger.
Isabella hugged her knees and watched the boy beside her sing.
Leslie almost always had his gaze downcast, as though he had no confidence in himself, but when he was singing–doing anything related to music–his eyes would shine with wholehearted enjoyment. As she watched him, Isabella began to sing along with him.
Leslie glanced at her, surprised that she had picked up the tune so quickly, but he continued singing along with her without missing a beat. Isabella took a deep breath and repeated the pleasing melody.
Such a beautiful song…
Their song drifted from the hill along with the wind.
After that, Isabella sang that song with Leslie many times.
The time she spent with him was relaxing and fun.
Isabella enjoyed playing with the others, doing things like running around or playing chess, but the time she spent with Leslie brought her a different kind of comfort. Being with him was soothing.
The gentle atmosphere that surrounded Leslie was embodied in his song.
When she had told him so, trying to compliment him, he smiled awkwardly and averted his eyes.
“I’m not any good…”
Isabella found it strange. He could compose music of his own, and he was an excellent singer. He could even play the violin. Yet Leslie still acted as though he thought very little of himself, and told Isabella with a laugh that she was the amazing one.
From Leslie’s perspective, Isabella was perfect, able to do anything, and be better at it than most.
She was smart enough to always get perfect scores on the tests, and she was also an exceptional athlete and swift runner. Everyone loved her. Their younger siblings looked up to her and adored her, while the older ones recognized and respected her as even more capable than themselves.
Compared to Isabella, Leslie thought of himself as boring and bad at everything. He was no good at studying, and he would always be one of the first caught in games of tag. He never knew what to say to people, and he knew that if he couldn’t be fun to be around, no one would have any respect for him, either.
He loved music, but to Leslie, that wasn’t something worth taking pride in. It was cool to be good at studying or sports, but if you were good at music, that’s all it was, nothing more. That was how Leslie viewed his situation.
Which is why he wanted to become able to do just one thing–besides music–better than Isabella could.
He wanted to change.
Now that he thought about it, it was a long time ago when he had begun writing down his “goals” for that.
Leslie sighed. “I couldn’t do even one of them, as always…”
Leslie was sitting alone in his room, on his bed, during their free time in the afternoon. He held a small notebook open in his hand. He traced the words written on the page with a finger and sighed.
At that moment, Isabella peeked inside the room from the open doorway.
“Leslie! Mama wants to see you.”
“Oh, o-okay, I’ll be there right away.”
He quickly closed the notebook and stuffed it back in the drawer. Getting up from the bed, he followed Isabella down the stairs.
In the dining room, they were well into their preparations for dinner. Mama was scolding some of the younger children for running around, and Isabella called out to her.
“Mama, I brought Leslie.”
At the sound of Isabella’s voice, the woman she had addressed as “Mama,” clad in a black dress and white apron, turned to face her. Beside Isabella, Leslie nervously shifted his gaze, wondering what Mama would say to him.
Mama put a hand on his shoulder.
On hearing those words, Leslie lifted his gaze and met Mama’s eyes as she smiled kindly.
“You’re going to join a foster family.”
Translated by /u/hwaetnow
You are reading Novels Chapter 2 in English. Read Chapter 2.000 of Novels manga online on ww3.readneverland.com for free.