Operation story: 12-18

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St. Marsol Classroom
Victoria Streets Night

Before operation

Golding dies in the presence of the Damazti Cluster. The heavily injured Baird also walks alone towards the end of her life.
<Background 1>
Golding Thank you for accepting my plea, Damazti.
Damazti Cluster It is not a difficult wish to grant.
Coincidentally, we just freed ourselves from some nastier things.
A classroom. You ended up inviting us here in the end.
A rational and reasonable decision, Golding. You always said you saw yourself as a teacher, after all.
Golding I think, I shall die here today.
Damazti Cluster You're set on this.
Lettou will be sad.
Golding I have to do it.
Damazti Cluster Why are you so hung up on this?
Golding You're right, why am I?
I can't let go of the children, I worry that they can't find a place to belong in our current world. I can't let go of Molly either, she's a good girl, but she doesn't know how to protect herself.
And of course, there's Heidi... but I've let her down. I only hope she won't resent me.
Probably a difficult thing to do, seeing as I've caused the deaths of so many.
I deserve any resentment coming my way.
Damazti Cluster Golding, you know dying like this won't change anything.
Honestly, we're confused by your decision...
In our long-lived experience, it isn't rare to see one embrace death, but we're still puzzled by it.
We are well familiar with the words, "sacrifice," "repellence," "guilt," and perhaps even more.
The final outcome always leads to death.
Sorry, but this is such a futile act to us. Death holds little meaning and isn't worth such obsession.
Golding Death is just death.
I know what you mean, Damazti. I understand what you're saying.
If I wished to make amends for the fallen Self-Salvation Corps fighters, perhaps the better choice would've been to live on, to care for the families left behind, to heal the suffering in their stead.
But, I know... I can't do that, I can't possibly face all that...
I'm so scared.
Damazti Cluster Is facing death easier than facing your fears?
Golding Perhaps.
I've always run away from things... I thought I could keep living as long as I avoided getting caught by the tide.
But when does one finally stop running and admit that one's life has fallen apart?
When does one admit that one's old life never existed in the first place?
I can't bring myself to face all of this, so I'd rather choose to die before I completely succumb to my despair.
Let me lie to myself just this once, Damazti.
[The Cluster shapeshifts into Golding, and...]
Sympathy From the Cluster.png
Golding You've taken my form.
"Golding" Don't get the wrong idea, Golding. We don't actually like our job that much. We won't deceive those precious to you.
We just... want to better understand your feelings.
It's a difficult emotion to understand, so we can only try to feel it firsthand.
Golding You asked me before how to live a life.
How am I even supposed to come up with an answer?
Then again, now that I've realized my own powerlessness, choosing to give up could also count as a choice, right?
"Golding" "Give up," Lettou also said this before.
Golding No, it's not about giving up on yourself and letting life wash over you.
It's to give up on the act of living.
"Golding" Give up on living, you say.
Golding All these experiences...whether they hold joy or pain, there isn't really a need to hold onto them so tightly, right?
In fact, you feel as though you're in the middle of a labyrinth, you realize the walls are in fact made of said experiences.
I wouldn't even call this a struggle, it truly is the coward's choice.
But at least... I won't stand by their side again, right?
I'm... just so tired of it all.
"Golding" ......
Goodnight, Golding.
<Background 2>
Baird *sigh*
I'm at my limit.
I really am... so tired.
Well, at the very least, the Glasgow Gang managed to reunite while I'm still here.
I hope they can all get away safely.
Baird staggers to a wall, and slowly sits herself down, drawing a long bloodstain behind her.
Her hand is already going numb. She tries to make a fist, but to no avail.
Baird Hah.
Ugh... death sure hurts a lot more than I had imagined. Hurts more than when Hannah socked me in the jaw.
She turns her head and spots a corpse not far from her. Lean and emaciated, he seems to have died a few days ago.
It suddenly occurs to her how familiar the corpse's face is.
Baird So this is where you ended up, Mr. "Next Academician."
A can of meat lay close to the timid citizen, its contents completely cleaned out without even a little bit remaining.
Baird blinks a few times at something strange by the poor man's side. From the wall to the floor is... a bunch of black curvy lines?
Words and diagrams.
Only now does Baird realize that he had picked up another pen to write with– a battered charcoal pencil, a tool far less respectable than his precious fountain pen.
She touches her own pocket. The fine fountain pen that had belonged to him is still with her. It's a shame McClaren never read the final words written by this gorgeous pen.
She manages to drag her body with some difficulty towards the writing on the wall, and carefully makes out the tiny handwriting.
She laughs, and also starts coughing.
Baird A thesis on heraldry as an application to be a Fellow of the Royal Victorian Academy of Science?
Mister, you chose to write this of all the other things you could have written?
It's totally useless.
Baird skips over the long, stupefying paragraphs of research and references.
The paper ends abruptly. After a blank page is an angry note from the man on how he had forgotten some important material he wanted to add.
His desperation shows through the broken writing that eventually fades off the page.
At some point, he seems to have begun writing his wishes instead.
"I hope 'The Genealogy of the Ashworth Family' can manifest in my hands soon."
"I hope the editors will understand how significant my work is, and increase my book advance."
"I hope the professor won't be angry at me, those were just academic arguments and I still respect him very much."
"Fine, if I get the chance, I'm willing to concede the debate, and share some of his tea again."
"I'm still so hungry, I could really go for the fried fins sold on the street corner."
"I hope Jane hasn't forgotten me, I love her just as much as when I left her."
"I'm a scoundrel. I hope those kids at the gym are doing alright."
"I want to drink three million barrels of whiskey."
"Aunt Sarah, I miss you, I'm sorry to have grown up into such a bad child."
"Bloody hell."
"Bloody hell, who would even grant my wishes? I've prayed as hard as I can to all the beings I know and don't."
"If that evangelistic Liberi Cleric showed up right in front of me, I'd give him a thrashing for sure."
"Alright, fine."
"I hope that everyone's wishes comes true, that everyone can be happy, safe, and healthy, to live their best lives, every single one."
"I hope no one will suffer anymore, or be tortured, everyone should be smiling, and all tears should evaporate off this great land, along with hunger."
"I hope that all of this wasn't in vain."
"I hope that all of this–"
A long scratch mark follows, and the writing stops there.
Baird ......
Well, I guess this is it.
Baird raises her hand with much difficulty. The pen nib is almost dried out, and she tries making several marks before leaving a short line in black ink.
"I hope so too."