The Chosen

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This interlude deals with serious psychological issues and contains implied acts of violence.
As such, reader discretion is advised.
The Chosen Children of Ursus
Previous Habits
RI Room
Peterheim High
Istina tries to treat herself inside her dorm, but at that time, May knocks on her door to visit.
Accompanying May is Natalya, another member of the Ursus Student Self-government Group.
<Background 1>
Istina ......
It's plugged in.
Is it recording? "Test. Test."
Seems all right.
Now what should I say?
[After a moment of silence...]
Istina Ahem.
Closure lent me this device for the purposes of... Well, the application says "recording self-diagnosis and treatment of trauma using exposure therapy and related methods."
A mouthful indeed.
It is a very simple machine to operate. I just check that the battery is charged, toggle this switch... And now it will record automatically.
(Talking to yourself is so difficult.)
(I honestly thought it would be easier to just open up to a screen.)
When I asked about alleviating or at least controlling my symptoms, the medical staff suggested this...
"Why not try talking it through with yourself...?" They made it sound so easy.
Okay, we have video now. Not that I'll be showing this to anyone. Not that I would ever want to show this to anyone.
Calm down, Istina. No need to be nervous. We're all friends here. Just speak your mind. Let it out.
All those things you've been unable to share with others, you can say to yourself. Over and over again.
It's certainly a feasible idea.
So let's take us back...
While it may seem like there's nothing wrong, I know, sooner or later, we will have to deal with this. With so much.
I know that Gummy and Natalya can never forget those things. What happened in the school... what happened after we left the school... No one could forget.
And Zima, she... I think she has been having nightmares recently. Leto seems like she was able to let it go, but... can someone ever truly let it go?
As for me? I believe I can face up to it. But can I, actually...?
No one will speak of it. But somehow we will have to come to terms with it, in the end.
[After another moment of silence...]
Istina ......
...Still hard.
Phew... all right. I do think I am starting to get used to it though.
Let's begin, for real this time.
I suppose I'll introduce myself first?
(Deep breath)
I am called "Istina"—This is, of course, a codename. My true name is Anna Morozova.
Mmm. It's a name I've not heard in a long time. It is my name, of course, but it feels somewhat unfamiliar. How strange.
Istina's Teddy Bear.png
Istina This is Vika. A good friend of mine.
Vika was my best friend before I joined the Student Self-Government Group.
Now I live at the headquarters of an organization called Rhodes Island, where I am classified as part of the "Ursus Student Self-Government Group."
Mm. This group was my idea, but it was Zima who truly founded it. And while we are indeed independent, at the moment there are only five of us.
Zima, Natalya, Leto, Gummy, and myself.
There used to be more. But we are the only ones left.
Ah, of course, Vika is also a member.
We currently serve as "Operators" for this Rhodes Island... I suppose it's a kind of job.
I don't mind it. Fair pay for fair work.
Zima has no plans to leave, for the time being. And although she does not speak her mind, I know she is satisfied here. And from time to time, I find myself thinking it would be nice to stay.
The truth is, while we're all together now, we did not come from the same school.
Gummy, Natalya, and I attended the same high school. Zima and Leto went to another one.
Oh, but Zima was sort of famous, even at our school. In fact, every student in the district knew about her.
I suppose she is something of a born leader. I recognize that she was the right choice to lead us.
Reunion found us defenseless and occupied Chernobog, our city.
Then some... things... happened. Reunion took a handful of kids from our school, me among them, and marched us over to Zima's campus.
There may have been students from other schools there too. I'm not certain. It was a chaotic time.
It's still not clear why they did it. But it was all orchestrated by the white-haired boy leading that Reunion outfit.
I think he may have been even younger than us? I don't know.
I got the impression he had to convince the other leaders to round up the students, at which point they locked us inside Zima's school.
Looking back now, it all seems ridiculous.
We were locked in there for maybe two weeks, and...
<Flashback starts here>
Background-Chernobog Avenue.png
Background-School Hall.png
<Background 2>
??? Anna!
Phew! Thank heaven it's you.
Pull me up, Anna.
<Flashback ends here>
<Background 1>
Istina ...and we fought.
We fought within the sealed-up school. And when we managed to escape from it, we fought in the city blocks of Chernobog.
Every one of us has something we must come to terms with.
[Someone knocks the door.]
Istina (It wouldn't be Gummy this early. Who could it be...?)
Just a minute.
(I think I'll just leave the recording running. I don't want to worry about saving and closing it.)
Who is it?
??? It's me!
Istina Who?
??? Huh? I'm surprised at you, Junior Detective Istina! How could you not recognize my voice? Are you playing dumb?
Istina Could you keep it down?
And I've told you a thousand times, I'm not your junior detective.
??? Hah. You two are getting along nicely.
Good afternoon, Anna. I'm here to bother you too.
Istina ...Eh?
<Background fades out>
Istina Natalya?
[Someone enters the room.]
<Background fades in>
Istina Tea.
May Ah, thank you!
Mmm...It smells fantastic. A fine tea indeed!
By the way, you took quite a while to open the door. Are you busy, Istina? Are we interrupting you?
We could always come back later. I really only came to return this book.
Istina I'm not busy. Don't worry about it.
Not with anything pressing anyway.
May Oh...?
Natalya Relax. If Anna says we're not bothering her, we're not bothering her.
Anna doesn't lie about things like that, now does she?
Istina ......
May Hehe. Glad to hear it!
Oh, but I never expected you were the type to lock your door. How cautious.
And handy! That kind of caution will serve a junior detective well!
Istina I've been very clear with you that I'm not interested in this junior detective nonsense.
And besides, I just happened to have a reason to lock the door this time.
Natalya But I'd think you are the type to lock your door, actually. Anna's always been the most cautious of us.
Istina Don't tease me, Natalya.
Natalya Heh heh. I just can't help myself with that adorable face of yours.
Istina ...*Sigh*.
May Anyway, it's quite nice that you take high tea in the afternoon. As it should be!
Istina You really have a thing for tea, huh...? Your face, with that expression, it reminds me of freshly browned toast.
May What? What's that supposed to mean?!
Istina I suppose it means you look silly.
May Oh? How dare you? That's over the line!
Hmph. No matter! Look how magnanimous your senior detective is. I even brought you biscuits!
Istina Oh? Biscuits? Now that's unexpected...
May Is it?
Istina Sorry, I didn't expect you to bring snacks. I figured you only came to mooch some tea. I misjudged you.
May I'm not some freeloader!
Look, I prepared an extra special thank you gift! With Hibiscus's famous vegetable scones—!
Istina Very good. Let's see you off now. Hurry on back where you came from.
Right now, immediately, through the door and to the right. Have a nice day.
May Hey now, you needn't be so forceful. The scones are delightful, I promise.
Here, try one.
Istina No thank you... Really, stop, I... Don't just shove it in—
Mmmf! Mmmrrfff...!
Natalya Ahahahahaha! Now this is what I meant by you two getting along. I'm jealous.
Istina & May Utter nonsense. You think we're getting along? / Hehe, like two peas in a pod, eh?
Istina Eh?
May Huh?
Istina Not that we get along poorly, I'd say we just...
May I had this all wrong. We don't like each other at all!
Istina & May ????
Natalya Hahahahahaha!
Istina Na– Natalya!
Natalya Haha, pffft, hahaha! S- sorry, I just... You two clearly connect on a deeper level than I thought. Pff-hahaha!
May Uh.
Istina ...*Sigh*.
There's no way we could be that funny. But whatever... May's here to give back my book. What brings you over, Natalya?
Natalya Me? I've had some things on my mind lately. Things I want to talk over with you.
Istina Oh? Important things? That's not like you. Especially to have you come to me.
Natalya Hey now, I've always been close to you, Anna.
But it's really nothing that important. We can come back to it later. Let's enjoy our tea time for now.
Istina Yes, let's.
Woah, May! Be careful! Don't go prancing around with your teacup. It'll spill.
May I'm not a child! It won't spill.
Istina *Sigh*...
Sorry, I wasn't expecting guests, so the room's a bit messy.
There isn't a good place to entertain guests in the dormitory. But you don't have to stand there, Natalya. Just sit anywhere, like May.
Natalya I'll take you up on that.
But Rhodes Island does provide nicely furnished dorms. Clean and tidy ones at that.
You're right that they don't make for good house parties though. Not like we used to have.
Istina Those were more banquets than parties.
May Oh? Banquets?
Natalya What's the difference?
Istina They're completely different!
Natalya Are they?
Istina Absolutely.
May Ooh, a banquet sounds lovely...
Natalya Let's not get carried away.
That was another time. The big house, the lifestyle, none of it has anything to do with who I am now.
And that Sonya, she always teases me about it. Tactless.
If it weren't for you, Anna, I'm sure Sonya would be butting heads with everyone left and right.
Istina ......
May I honestly think we live quite well right now. It's leagues better than when they had me on undercover investigations.
And by the way, Istina, your room is already very clean. You've got so many books, and they're all so well-organized.
Istina We're still in the midst of setting it all straight. And Gummy's always been rather fastidious.
Natalya That's true. Our Gummy does like to sort things.
Even back in those days, in a place like that, she'd still keep everything we gathered all nicely sorted.
Istina Same as she ever was.
May A place like what...?
Istina ......
May But a tidy roommate could be great, or I suppose it could be hell.
Oh, and who's this lovely little doll here?
Istina !
Don't touch her!
May Eep!
Wh– what's the matter? You scared the life out of me.
You didn't have to be so rough.
Istina ......
My... apologies...
It's just, this is something very important to me.
Natalya That's...
Anna, didn't that belong to...
So you took the doll with you, you—
Istina Please stop talking, Natalya.
Stop talking.
Istina I'm fine. Don't worry.
Natalya ...Anna...
Stop talking.
Natalya I heard about it... what happened back then...
There was nothing anyone could have done. No one could have known.
Stop talking!
Natalya ...It was tragic. But we all know it wasn't your fault.
Shut up!!
Natalya You were just a second too late. You did all you could.
Istina ......
I know. Thank you. I'm fine, Natalya.
I'm fine.
<Background fades out>
I'm fine.
That's what I've always said to everyone.
Zima, Gummy, Leto, Natalya... They all think I'll be fine.
I almost believe it myself.
It wasn't my fault.
Or was it?
I just got there too late.
No, I wasn't late.
I did all I could.
...all I could.
—I'd already made my choice.
<Background fades in>
May Ah, this book! Isn't it the last volume of the detective series I've been reading?
Istina Hm? Oh, that one. Yes, you have a good eye.
This is the most precious title in the series. The final act in the story of the world's greatest detective... Hmph, I had to beg the Doctor over and over again to help me hunt it down.
May Oh, that reminds me... Back in the old country, I saw what I'm pretty sure was a signed copy of the first edition on the bookshelf at home.
Oh the memories. I cried my eyes out the first time I read it!
Istina Eh?
Autographed... and a first edition at that...?
Natalya Oh, what rotten luck.
I remember Sonya saying Anna moved mountains to try to get any signed copy of that author's work. And she's still empty-handed.
They're just too rare.
May (Uh oh. It was that special, was it? There's too much old stuff like that back home. I never noticed!)
Um, err, anyway, Istina. Could you, uh, lend me this book?
Istina ......
...I can. But didn't you say you'd read it before?
(Grumbling) A first edition. Signed. Copy?
May Oh, well... I did, but it's been so long, you see. It's about time for a reread.
It– it's really quite something that you've got a book like this here. Hahaha, you can read it anytime you like!
Istina Hm.
When you put it that way, I suppose I ought to lend it to you. For now.
May Oh, Istina, that's marvelous! You're the greatest!
(Phew... No problem there then.)
Istina Hmph.
(Grumbling) You could stand to be a little more aware of the feelings of others.
(Quietly) But nevertheless... thanks.
May Did you say something?
Oh, these biscuits are to die for. You really won't have one, Istina?
Istina I didn't say anything.
They're just normal biscuits, are they? I could have a taste...
<Background fades out and in>
Istina But I didn't expect to see you and Natalya together. How do you know one another?
May Oh, I wouldn't say we know each other that well. Natalya just happened to lend a hand when I was covertly investigating Penguin Logistics.
Natalya Glad I could help.
Istina You talk about investigating Penguin Logistics quite a bit. Still haven't given up on that, eh?
May I'll never give up! I've staked my reputation as a Royal Detective—
Istina Personally, I think you've long since forfeited your reputation as a Royal Detective.
May Why you...! Hmph. I've had just about enough of you!
The point is, we only happened to bump into each other on the way here.
What's more, the last book I borrowed from you was absolutely riveting. I just had to come talk about it as soon as I turned the last page!
Istina Well, that's not entirely off the table...
It's been a while since I had a good talk about detective novels. And the plot in that one is indeed one of my favorites. "Riveting," you said?
May I most certainly did! How does one even come up with such a twisty plot? Ooh, I swear my hair stood on ends as I read the final reveal!
Istina I'm sure. It's a perfect cocktail of literary creativity and logical deduction that jabs the reader right in the psyche. Easily my favorite one in the series.
May Oh—I see. It's so clear to me!
It was written in the first person, so... The murderer was actually the protag—mmffst. Mmffmm?!
Istina Fool! You can't just spoil the whole thing! Natalya hasn't read it yet!
May Mmmmmpf!
Pfah—Haah! You almost killed me...
Nnng! I bit my tongue. That hurt. I understand not wanting spoilers, but that was way out of line, Istina!
Natalya Interesting. You really like your detective novels, eh, Anna? I don't usually see you so excited to talk about something.
Istina Oh? R– really?
Natalya Really. In fact, I think you'll have to let me read one too. Since they're clearly so compelling.
Istina You want to read too, Natalya? I never would have imagined. Every time I asked you before, you'd say the same thing: "When I have time."
Natalya Huh. Is that right...?
But when I see the two of you crowing on about these books, I can't help but want to join in.
Istina All right then. The more the merrier.
May There really aren't many people here who can hold a conversation about great art... The Doctor reads, but finding time for a conversation is no simple task.
Natalya The Doctor... Ah, you mean that one commander.
May I see you're familiar, Natalya?
Natalya I am. That one is quite a unique presence on this vessel. And I've had the pleasure of bearing witness to that particular commander's field operations.
May It's too bad. There's some special meeting or some-such on today. I wanted to give the Doctor a biscuit.
Istina Don't worry, I'm sure Hibiscus will make sure the Doctor gets a share.
Natalya Yes. Dr. Kal'tsit keeps a close eye, but it's clear that everyone is just as concerned about the Doctor.
The medical staff, in particular. I went for a test recently and overheard several medics discussing adjustments to the Doctor's diet... I believe the confiscation of snacks was mentioned?
May Hahahaha. That's a fairly reasonable step, no?
Istina Gummy was moaning about that too. Honestly, what does that one eat every day?
Also, what was that about a "test," Natalya?
Natalya Oh, I would appreciate some discretion in this matter. I haven't made up my mind yet, but... it is why I came here today.
Now's not the time, actually. Let's come back to it another day.
You'll know soon, Anna. In all likelihood.
Istina Oh?
All right then. I won't pry.
Ahem, let's get back to the matter at hand. Why don't we start Natalya off with the classics?
Natalya Oh, is that the matter at hand then?
May Hehe, it's an excellent opportunity to introduce a friend to your beloved hobby.
Istina I wouldn't let this go so easily.
Natalya Ooh... you're positively oozing passion right now.
Istina But of course!
Don't underestimate the power of the detective novel. No matter the type, a masterwork carries a living soul within it.
Natalya Heh heh. That's an Annaism if I've ever heard one. But that doesn't make it any less true.
Istina Reasoning out the plot of a novel is part of the fun, but the true draw of the detective genre goes much deeper.
May Istina speaks the truth, but I have to say my favorite part is always when the detective unmasks the true culprit.
And if we're talking classics, we of course have to talk about "that one," eh?
Istina "That one?" Do you mean...?
May "That one!" Yes!
"One truth prevails! The murderer is—You!"
Natalya Oh, I know that one. It's a detective's catchphrase.
May Righto. No matter how many times I hear it, it still gets my heart racing!
Istina Indeed.
But in my opinion, it's after the culprit is found that the real thinking, the real interesting bit begins.
May What do you mean?
Istina Allow me to answer your question with another question, May. Upon cornering the criminal, and after arriving at the truth, what is it the detective should do?
Should she announce the truth to everyone, securing a conviction?
Even when the truth is clear, the law may from time to time be an ineffective remedy. What then, can she do?
Does she allow this criminal to get away with his crimes? Or does she take the law into her own hands?
Natalya Such things happen in the real world too. With no simple solution.
If I were her...
May ...Hmm.
Did you just want to drop that one on us?
What are you even talking about, Istina? You've been acting off all day. Are you feeling alright?
...No, no fever?
Istina ...I'm sorry?
May A detective's duty is to uncover the truth. The rest is up to the police, of course. She can't play judge, jury, and executioner.
Every part of the justice system plays a role. The police, the courts, and detectives like us. Isn't that obvious?
What's that face now? Did I say something so shocking?
Istina Of course I know a detective can't legally convict a criminal.
I just never expected to hear you talk sense...
May Hey now! What's that supposed to mean?!
Istina Nothing. Just talking to myself.
May Now, given the world we live in, we've got a fair number of people who pass their days killing and killing. Murder may not seem a crime of particularly immediate concern, but we'll set that aside for the moment.
It remains our duty, as detectives, to seek out the truth and uphold the law to the best of our abilities.
We may not pass judgment. We may not go above the law. We may not exact our own justice.
Istina ......
May To do harm to others, no matter how we may package it, is an immoral act. The character of such behavior is immutable.
Istina Indeed. You're right...
May Whether or not the crime is ever known to others, whether or not judgment is ever passed, the knowledge of the crime lives forever within the criminal.
And it is the detective who digs out that truth! Ah ha! Just saying things like that feels so stupendously cool!
Istina The knowledge of the crime...
You're right.
No matter the justification, regardless of whether or not it is known to the world, what's done is done.
And someday...
Natalya Oh my, our little chat here has turned rather dour.
Istina ...Sorry. I shouldn't have brought it up.
Natalya Oh no, it was quite the enlightening discussion to witness. But on the rare occasion we meet again for afternoon tea, let's discuss something a bit lighter.
Istina Yes. Good idea.
May The tea's gone cold.
Hm? Is that...?
Istina What is it, May? You stood up just to have something catch your eye?
May It's, well, see for yourselves. What's that outside the window?
Natalya Hm? The window? Let me see.
Oh, it's... flying? And flying this way.
Looks like some sort of drone?
Istina A drone?
It is a drone... But what is it doing out here? Actually, I think it's caught on the rigging.
May Ah! Well, if it's attached to the landship, it can't be a threat, eh? Nothing to worry about then.
Istina Are you mad?! Don't just go diving out windows!
May Hehe, gotcha—
Natalya May! Watch your footing!
May Eh?
Istina *Gasp*!
<Flashback starts here>
<Background 2>
??? Anna!
Phew! Thank heaven it's you.
She slipped just like that.
Her body wafted back and forth, the breeze blowing her long hair, so clean it clashed with the scene around us. That stark contrast made it seem like the entire episode was nothing but a dream.
??? Pull me up, Anna.
I froze. Silent.
??? ...Anna?
With a light touch, the dream slipped away.
No words. No sound. Just a few small marks on my fingertips.
??? ...Anna, please, what are you doing?!
<Background black>
I just watched her fall.
<Flashback ends here>
<Background 1>
Istina ......
Natalya May! That was so reckless! Are you hurt?
May It definitely hurts, but I'm alright. Nothing permanent.
Oh, but there's a note taped to the drone!
And it's for you, Natalya.
Natalya Huh? For me?
Let me see.
Istina ......
May Hm?
Wow, what happened? You look like you've seen a ghost!
Istina ...I'm fine.
May Are you sure? You're definitely not sick? I wouldn't think any less of you.
Istina *Sigh*...
May What?
Istina What kind of absolute moron would dive out a window and go hanging from the rigging just to get her hands on a mysterious drone?
A woman with a brain would use a tool, or ask me to use my Arts!
May Well I didn't think of that, okay?!
Istina Use your head next time!
Don't scare me like that. Idiot.
Istina Give me your hand.
May Eh? No need for that, I'm really okay.
Istina You scratched your hand on the windowsill.
Don't play dumb with me. I see right through you. You have a terrible poker face.
May Ugh.
Your eyes are way too sharp.
Istina As a "junior detective," keen powers of observation are a must, no?
May Ack.
Istina Well, it's not a deep cut. We'll just wipe it clean, apply some disinfectant... and we're done.
But you'll still want to have a medic operator look at it, no matter how small the wound.
May It's nothing serious. Don't get so worked up!
But thanks all the same. Hehe.
Istina *Sigh*.
Natalya The note is a summons from Silence.
Istina Dr. Silence?
Natalya Yes, it's about the test I mentioned before.
But it's kind of scary. How did Dr. Silence know I was here?
May Anything's possible with drones, right? From Dr. Kal'tsit on down, the medics all have their ways...
Natalya That's for sure.
Sorry, Anna, it seems I'm off to Medical.
Istina No problem. It's clearly something important. Go take care of it.
May Well, I'd better be on my way then too.
I've returned your book, and borrowed another. A complete success!
Istina What's a complete success?
Natalya Let's do this again soon.
If all goes well, I'm looking forward to telling the whole Self-Government Group the good news.
Istina Yes. As am I.
Natalya Anna...
Nothing. Forget it.
Until next time.
May Toodle-oo~
[May and Natalya leaves.]
Istina ......
"The good news," huh?
Vika, tell me, what exactly will that good news be?
Natalya, and Zima, or Sonya... if they can get along...
Is such a thing possible? Yes, I think so too.
I have never forgotten about you. About what happened to you.
Would you blame me, if I did? You would, wouldn't you?
No? I know that's not true. I know you, Vika. And I know that's a lie. In fact, I know you can't speak at all.
You've been with me for so long. You're still by my side today.
One day, we must all come to terms...
...But not today. Not now.
It seems... I am not strong enough. I still can't do it. Not yet.