Even after getting off the elevator, his destination had remained fixed. The path came to a dead end, and there was only one room that could entered. Moreover, out of the numerous terminals that were in the room, only one had not been destroyed.
There was no more crystal dust in sight. They probably knew that Hope would realize that the enemy was not a fal’Cie by the time he had gotten here. Indeed, the crystal dust he had seen on the other floors was fake.
“So this is what you wanted to show me, huh.”
He touched the terminal with his hand. In the dimly lit room, lines of text gradually began to scrolling onto the display.
5 AF, X Month, X Day
The Academy’s orientations for trainees ended, and I was assigned my first practical training site. Bresha Ruins. I’m glad I got what I had hoped for. Although, I had to pull some strings here and there, and suck up to a variety of people, so it was quite the chore.
But… I’m a little afraid to go.
X Month, X Day
I’ve gotten used to life at my practical training site. While there are simple-minded people, there are also cranky people, friendly people, hotheaded people, moody people, forgetful people… I guess, things are the same everywhere? For now, I’m just glad there are people who are easy to deceive.
After coming here, I became well aware of the fact that trainees are just bodies for filling odd jobs. Because they just keep on piling on the work. But, when the next batch of trainees come in, maybe I can use this. Since, it feels like if I can win them over so easily if I just act like a caring sempai and help them out for a bit.
That aside, I’m rather troubled by how little time I am able to get for myself. Even when I just briefly stray away from my post during breaks, I get told to take care of something else, wherever I go. As a result, I’ve made no progress into finding what I was looking for. Even though I had thought I would find what I was looking for right away if I went to where it was. I even remember where it was. Yet, the path leading to it has disappeared. Why?
The most frustrating thing is that because of the appearance of that ‘invisible giant’, parts of the ruins have been sealed off.
X Month, X Day
The invisible giant has been named ‘Atlas’.
X Month, X Day
Along with Atlas, two people have come out of ‘coordinate zero’. I know one of them simply by name. Serah Farron. I don’t know the other one. According to them, coordinate zero is known as a ‘gate’.
It was said that coordinate zero and the anomalies at Bresha Ruins were somehow related. The two who appeared out of coordinate zero are probably capable of doing things that we aren’t. Maybe I could use them to do something about the dead end in my search.
X Month, X Day
I found it! The name on the gravestone reads Nina Stein. I wasn’t the one who died in the cave-in, that day.
But, was it really true? Isn’t this a lie, too? Shouldn’t the name on the gravestone really read… Alyssa Zaidelle? Which is the lie, and which is the truth?
Might it have been that both of us had died? We were the best, strongest and most perfect of partners, after all. It would be such a lie for just one of us to die. Only I stay alive. Wouldn’t that be a lie?
No. It doesn’t matter if it’s the truth or a lie. I am alive. Nina is the one who is dead.
X Month, X Day
My training at Bresha Ruins is over.
6 AF, X Month, X Day
I’ve been chosen to be a part of the Paddra Ruins investigation team. Not as a trainee, but as a fully fledged researcher. This would be my first time leaving Cocoon, but I’m used to living in new places. This also means that I’ll finally be free from doing odd jobs!
It had been Hope Estheim who had recommended that I, despite not having spent even a year as a trainee, be made a member of the investigation team. I know his name. Of course, everyone in the Academy knows his name. But, that’s not it. I’ve known since before long. He was a childhood friend of Elida’s.
But, since he was just like Serah Farron, I thought I wouldn’t let on that I was Elida’s roommate.
Certainly, I had no intention of being his enemy. It’s not that I hadn’t thought of it, but I plan on getting along with him decently. Since he is one of those up-and-coming types.
X Month, X Day
Stop it. Stop it. I had that dream again.
It was agonizing. It hurt. It was scary. Nothing has changed. Why? I wasn’t even the one who died. I thought if it became clear that I wasn’t the one, then the dreams would stop.
X Month, X Day
At the investigation team briefing, Hope Estheim announced his theory about the Paradox Effect. If it’s true, then this means I can’t rest easy even if the name on that gravestone isn’t mine. Is that why I keep having that dream even though I’ve seen Nina’s name?
That’s not it. I won’t accept that. His theory is wrong. I’ll prove it, no matter what…
7 AF, X Month, X Day
Research announcement regarding the gates and paradox effect made at Academy headquarters. It was announced as having been co-authored by Hope Estheim and Alyssa Zaidelle. My research consisted of nothing more than a foundational theory, so I told him just to announce it under his name, but he made the report say it was made jointly with me. What an honest guy.
But, that was unnecessary. It wasn’t the result that I had wanted, after all. I only wanted to overturn his theory. I hadn’t the slightest idea that it would end up confirming the truth of his theory.
It’s like I’ve wrung my own neck. You’ve got to be kidding me.
X Month, X Day
If I had died during that cave-in in 0 AF, then after the paradoxes are resolved, maybe it would mean that I ‘don’t exist’ anymore. I can think of no other possibility based on our current research. Because, the timeline where I’m from came into existence because of the paradoxes.
No record whatsoever of these seven years, my life, or my research would be left. They wouldn’t remain in anyone’s memories. They wouldn’t be lost or forgotten, it would just mean that they never existed to begin with.
Someone will live in my place, conduct the same research as me, and accomplish the same things as me… It would be as if everything I worked hard to achieve was snatched away from me.
Even if I’m not there, nobody would realize. Nobody would be sad. Time would simply continue as if nothing had happened.
X Month, X Day
That dream again. Why do I keep having it over and over again lately?
X Month, X Day
I’ve got to do something. I’ve got to find some way to not get erased when the paradoxes are resolved. Or, I have to find some way to make sure just the paradox I exist in remains.
If I don’t, I won’t be able to sleep. I’m afraid of that dream. I’m afraid to sleep. It makes me feel like I’ll never wake up again.
X Month, X Day
I’m going to think of a formula to determine what timelines have been scrambled by paradoxes.
X Month, X Day
Hope Estheim has predicted an ‘anomaly’ in 10 AF using my formula.
It happened again. I wonder why he keeps figuring out all the things I don’t want him to. Using my foundational theory, of all things. That’s not what I was aiming for. There’s a limit to how much harassment you can take.
Although, it wasn’t as if a nice guy like him would be harassing anyone in the first place.
10 AF, X Month, X Day
The ‘anomaly’ that was predicted with the formula has been revealed. It was the appearance of Serah Farron and Noel Kreiss from within the gate inside the Ruins of Paddra. It ought to have been some sort of better anomaly.
Five years ago, they had suddenly disappeared from Bresha Ruins. When I realized, they were gone. Without a single goodbye. There were still plenty of things i could use them for. Were they just going to disappear without a word this time, too?
X Month, X Day
As I patrolled the inside of the ruins, I came upon a suspicious person. Their appearance resembled that of someone who had been shown in the Oracle Drive. Serah Farron knew him. She yelled the second she saw him, after all. ‘Caius,’ she said.
Had they been the same person? The resemblance was much too uncanny for him to a mere blood relative.
X Month, X Day
I took some time off and went to the Academy headquarters resource center. Although the process of compiling ancient Pulsian records into databases had come a long way, there still remained many undeciphered pieces.
I thought of investigating the old records because I would come across the name ‘Caius’ in them. It was there, regardless of the era. Perhaps ‘Caius’ wasn’t someone’s name, but rather a specific name bestowed upon an individual with a certain occupation or rank. If not for that, might it have been some sort of title?
At this point, the existence of at least five ‘Caius’s’ have been confirmed. Although we haven’t confirmed how long humans of Pulse lived, the assumption is that they only lived about as long as humans on Cocoon do.
If there was one instead of five of that ‘Caius’ person, it would mean that he has a ridiculously long life span.
I couldn’t help but think: if only there remained just a little more Pulsian documents. If only I could find records of just one of the five ‘dying,’ then I would have a huge lead.
X Month, X Day
I began looking into people known as the ‘Farseers’. But, I’ve still only made progress on one point. It would seem as if the ‘Farseers’ and Caius were tied closely together, but I know nothing of the details. There were just too few records on the ‘Farseers’. Or, rather, they might have been erased by someone.
Everything was all too unnatural.
X Month, X Day
I had that dream again.
X Month, X Day
Let’s suppose the individual we discovered at Paddra Ruins was really the ‘Caius’ from the Oracle Drive. Let’s suppose he was someone who had ties to the ‘Farseers’ tribe and accompanied the prophetic seeress.
While this is just my own conjecture, perhaps he knows more about the paradoxes than we do. No, he would have to. If he was a member of the oldest tribe on Gran Pulse, then some stories must have had been passed down to him. You can’t make light of the knowledge of ancients.
Maybe he would know if I asked him. The answer to my dilemma about whether or not the real me is dead, and the current me is just the fabrication of a paradox. Also, whether or not there is any possibility of me staying alive if that paradox remains unresolved.
I want to meet him.
X Month, X Day
I’ve searched all I can, but I can’t find him. There is evidence of someone who seemed to be him around various gates. Is he protecting the gates, or waiting for those who come out of the gates? At the very least, it seems as if he travels around to visit the gates.
That’s why I had thought that if I kept a close eye on the gates, then I would be able to meet him. It would appear as if things will not be that easy.
12 AF, X Month, X Day
The Proto fal’Cie Project has been suspended indefinitely.
The reason behind it was beyond stupid. Since both Hope Estheim and Serah Farron had been l’Cie in the past, they ought to have felt uncomfortable at the mere mentioning of the word ‘fal’Cie’.
Although, I don’t care about what happens in the distant future, so it doesn’t matter that the project has been suspended. What troubles me is that this occurrence has caused the timeline to change. That means the likelihood of me existing in the future has been changed. Now, I wonder, was the change a positive one, or a negative one?
It’s frustrating that there’s no way to know how the scales have tipped.
13 AF, X Month, X Day
The time capsule that was being worked on concurrently with the Proto fa’Cie Project has been completed. It’s for travelling hundreds of years into the future. Unlike with the prototypes up until now, Hope and I will actually be boarding this one.
It seemed that Hope had originally wanted to go it alone. This was because this capsule takes you on a one way journey. While it can take you to the future, it can’t take you back to the past. You would never be able to meet people from this era again. Which is to say, you would be dead in their eyes.
Both his parents had passed away, and all of his ‘companions’ had gone missing. Despite all his efforts, he had only managed to confirm that Serah Farron was still alive. He probably thought that it would be alright for him to go on a one-way journey. Moreover, he placed his bets on the possibility of changing the future. How very like him to think that way.
Also, while it was difficult to say if they were alive or not, two of his companions were inside the crystal pillar. Hope wanted to save them. Right now, there was no way for him to do so. But, what if he went a few hundred years into the future?
Of course, even if he thought doing so was wrong, he wouldn’t admit it. But, we all saw through him. That’s why I knew. No matter how dangerous it was, and how much he had to give up, he would go to the future.
When I said I would go with him, he looked utterly surprised. ‘I didn’t think that was something you would be in to,’ he said. How rude! As soon as I tried giving him an angry look, he took back his words, and apologized. What a simple-minded person.
When I told him that I was used to living in unfamiliar places, and that I had already done so a number of times as a child, he seemed more reassured.
Of course, I wasn’t participating in the experiment for that ‘for the future of mankind’ nonsense. It was because if I went into the distant future, to some unimaginable place, then maybe there would be some way for me to survive. Also, I had the expectation that travelling out of ‘the era I should exist in’ would mean the paradox would become irrelevant.
I wanted to be free. From that nightmare… From the fear of being erased…
X Month, X Day
I’m about to enter the time capsule now. The next time I wake up, that is if I do wake up, it will be four hundred years into the future. A mind-bogglingly long sleep.
I just hope I don’t have that dream while I’m sleeping.
399 AF, X Month, X Day
The experiment was a success. Both Hope and I we able to awaken, unharmed. Although, the time capsule itself had ended up breaking.
Come to think of it, I had met ‘Caius’ during my long sleep. I finally met him. In my dreams, though. Had the location looked like the ‘Valhalla’ from the Oracle Drive because we had viewed the device over and over again during our research, perhaps? Or, had I really been in Valhalla?
It didn’t have to be in real life. Even if it was a dream, there were still many things I had wanted to try asking him.
Hadn’t the real me died a long time ago?
Wouldn’t I end up disappearing if the paradox was resolved?
Is there no way for me not to disappear?
Yet, he didn’t answer any of those. It was my dream, so couldn’t he just have told me what I wanted to hear? He could have just did what I wanted him to, right? Yet, why didn’t he?
He probably didn’t care about me at all. Then I realized. Maybe this wasn’t a dream, but what was actually happening in real life. Wasn’t it because this was real that he didn’t act the way I wanted him to, or give me any answers?
If that was the case, then I can’t back down. I had searched so much, yet failed to find him. If I missed this chance, then maybe I would never get to approach him again.
That’s why I had decided to make him a deal.
I knew that Hope would get in Caius’s way sooner or later. I realized that there was the possibility that Hope and Caius would end up being against one another. Because, Serah Farron’s sister, Lightning, had been shown fighting Caius in the Oracle Drives. To Caius, Hope’s knowledge and brains would become a threat in their own right.
I’ll get rid of Hope for you. Serah Farron and Noel Kreiss too, if you so desire. They don’t trust in me, but they’ll let their guard down. There’s where you can take advantage.
So, tell me how to make a future where I can exist in. Help me stay alive!
The lips of the stony-face, emotionless Caius curled into a smile. Then, in a voice as chilling as his smile, he spoke.
“Two histories cannot exist at the same time. Whether they are true or false, only one may remain.”
I don’t care about whether things are true or false! As long as I get to live! As long as I don’t have to disappear! So, tell me. Save me.
“Then, close the door with your own hands. In order to open the door that you desire,”
With that, Caius had thrown me an artefact. I understood. What his words had meant. He meant for me to give this to Serah and company. As far as I knew, only those two needed these artefacts. This was probably a fake artefact. If they used this to enter the gate, then there was no doubt that ‘the door’ would ‘close’.
They will disappear, and I will remain. I will survive. Live on. Even if what lay beyond was a false history and a twisted future.
Before I realized, Caius had disappeared. Had this just been a convenient dream, after all? I discovered that it hadn’t just been some dream after I had awoken. In my hand was an artefact identical to the one I had seen in my dream.
I will keep my promise. In return for him giving me this, I will erase Hope.
400 AF, X Month, X Day
We were reunited with Serah Farron and Noel Kreiss. Being the kind souls that they were, they made short work of the odd jobs around the Academy. This part of them made me think of how much they were just like Hope.
Thanks to them, all of the parts needed for the New Cocoon Project had been gathered. They really were useful people. They were unbelievably simple-minded, too. All it took was a little acting to get them to trust me, after all. Things like “I’m sorry” and “let’s get along” are like morning greetings to me. Although, as expected, Hope had been a little surprised.
The other two unsuspectingly took the fake artefact from my hands and went into the gate. At first glance, nothing had appeared out of place. That’s why Hope hadn’t realized, either. About the trap that I had laid, that is.
I’m sorry. And, goodbye.
X Month, X Day
Proceeding to conduct operation at Augusta Tower.
The display suddenly turned white. The diary had ended. The instant he realized that the last date had been today’s, a gun had been pressed against his back.
It was Alyssa’s duplicate.
“You’re not planning on killing me here, right? If you had really wanted to kill me, then you ought to have fired a long time ago.”
Alyssa’s duplicate had been slow to move. It gave him enough time to turn around and erase her. With Alyssa’s smile on her face, the duplicate disappeared.
“Alyssa! You can hear me, can’t you!? I know what you want to say!”
He yelled at Alyssa, who must have been monitoring the room from somewhere in the tower.
“There is a way for you to not disappear! There has to be! You didn’t have to do something like this…”
He wasn’t able to continue. Alyssa’s duplicates had stormed the room. Several of them, at the same time.
“It’s not that I have a grudge against you, Sempai.”
All of the Alyssas opened their mouths simultaneously and spoke.
Instead of answering, the Alyssas opened fire. Hope had long since dived under a counter. With the rain of countless bullets came the Alyssas voices.
“I just don’t want to die. I’ve continued living up until now, you see. I’d really continued living for the thirteen years after that cave-in, hadn’t I? Yet, why are you getting in my way? If things continue as they are now, I will cease to have ever existed, you know! Yet, even if you had died here, you would still remain in the official records. All the people in this era would remember you. Isn’t that unfair?”
Even as she said those things, it didn’t seem as if she was being serious. If she had been serious then she wouldn’t possibly do something like erasing them one at a time. There was probably still something that Alyssa had wanted to say. I have to find Alyssa. I want to talk to her properly, face to face.
More than anything, he didn’t want to bring any more harm to those individuals who possessed the exact same appearance and voice as her.
“Please, just stop! Stop doing this!”
The last individual had disappeared. Had she been hoping to justify what she was about to do to Hope by erasing her own duplicates? Maybe she was thinking, ‘Sempai had been perfectly fine with shooting me, right?’
Hope scrambled out of the room. He yelled at Alyssa, whose whereabouts were unknown.
“The mechanisms behind the paradoxes and gates were understood thanks to your foundational theory! The time capsule, too! Even the man-made Cocoon! None of those would have existed without you! So, let’s search again, together! For a way to keep you from disappearing,”
There had to be something. A way for Alyssa to exist even after all of the time distortions had been erased. It was then. From out of nowhere, he heard Alyssa’s voice.
“I had already searched for such a thing a long time ago. I made a deal. I told him I wanted to know how to keep my future and in exchange I would get rid of the person who was in the way. Help me, I said.”
He knew why Alyssa had went out of the way to make him read her diary. It must have been hard for Alyssa to bear it, having had to fight her fears of being erased all alone.
To bear an individual such as Hope who unknowingly continued researching under the slogan of ‘for the future of mankind,’
People are able to think of others only after their own safety has been ensured to some degree. In other words, the act of doing things for other people itself is proof that one is confident that they are safe. To Alyssa, who couldn’t even know if she would still exist in the next instant, a Hope who trusted wholeheartedly in the future must have been such an infuriating annoyance.
All of his words and actions must have felt like betrayal. That’s why she had made Hope erase a number of her own duplicates. It wasn’t as if real blood was being spilled. However, individuals of the same appearance and voice were being erased, one after another. It was comparable to having several cuts carved into your heart. Alyssa had probably wanted to say ‘This is just the kind of thing that you’ve been doing, Sempai’.
“I joined the Academy, wrote a lot of reports, went researching here and there, and even made a number of research presentations… Yet, it’ll be as if none of it ever happened before. There will remain no evidence of me ever existing. Everything will become someone else’s. Don’t you think that is much more cruel than even death?”
“That’s why we’ll search!”
Hope tried to say this as loud as he could.
“We just have to determine the paradox your existence is connected to and then set the timeline by making it follow the distortion as far it can go. Even if we leave a part of the paradox, it should still be maintainable. If we have the assistance of Serah and company who can freely travel through time, then…”
A shrill laughter echoed throughout.
“Sempai, have you forgotten? Wasn’t it I who had erased Serah and the others?”
Hope was at a loss for words. In the diary it had been written that she gave them a fake artefact.
Of course, it wasn’t as if he hadn’t examined the artefact. Just to make sure, he had dated it to make sure it wasn’t something from 400 AF and confirmed that it was an artefact. If not, then he wouldn’t have casually turned it over to Serah and company.
Why hadn’t he thought that it might have been a trap at the time? If it had involved someone from another era, then it would have been easy for ‘something that couldn’t exist in that era’ to be created, after all.
If Alyssa’s distortion had come to light right there, then Serah and the others would still be safe now. While they might not have known the person who had tried to harm them, he could have explained, somehow. All of the research up until now could only have been done because Alyssa was there. If he had appealed to them saying that he needed their help to save that very same Alyssa. At the very least, Hope knew that they would not be ones to refuse.
“I should have… realized sooner. I feel bad about that. But, we’re not out of options yet. Things like this have happened a number of times, before, right?”
It had been by no means easy to tackle these unfamiliar things known as paradoxes and gates. He had gone through a ridiculous amount of trial and error, as well as failures. There were times when he had wanted to throw it all away, too.
The only reason why he kept going despite all this, was because Alyssa had been there. Alyssa had not given up at all. He knew now that in her perspective, her very existence was on the line, so no matter what happened, she couldn’t have afforded to give up. He had only been able to make it this far thanks to her.
“No matter if we failed, no matter how desperate the situations got, we overcame it all. Even if it took time, we’d always kept moving forward!”
It was then. A quiet voice came from behind him.
“This is the result of us moving forward!”
A gun was once again pressed to his back. She spoke in a monotone, matter-of-fact way, but he knew it was the real her. This time, it wasn’t a duplicate, but Alyssa herself. He had become so preoccupied with yelling that he had somehow lost track of his surroundings.
“That’s why I have no choice but to do this.”
He didn’t hear any goodbyes. The sound of gunfire echoed. The hand he reflexively pressed down with was covered in a warm wetness. He knew he had been shot. He thought it was all too quick a way to go. However.
He heard a scream-like cry. He unconsciously looked down at his own hands. He was sure he had been shot, but Hope himself didn’t have a single wound.
“What’s going on!? Why am I disappearing!?”
Turning around, he found Alyssa on the brink of tears, staring at her own hands and the gun. Both those hands and the gun had turned transparent and were beginning to disappear.
“Probably, at some point in the future I would discover a way for you to not disappear.”
If Hope had been killed here, then a way for Alyssa to remain would not have been found.
Otherwise, perhaps Serah and Noel had escaped the danger of the trap laid using that fake artefact. Due to that, the future had been changed drastically. That altered future was not the timeline that Alyssa could exist in. That was far more probable. If the future is altered, then so is the past.
However, regardless of the reason, he had not been able to save Alyssa. Only that grim truth remained unchanged.
“The instant I pulled that trigger, I… on my own? No. That’s ridiculous…”
Both the gun, and Alyssa’s hands that were grasping it had mostly disappeared. Tears were streaming down Alyssa’s cheeks. He thought he would at least wipe them away, but Hope’s fingers would only slip through her cheeks.
“Why are you being nice to me. Even though I tried to kill you, Sempai.”
“Because I am thankful to you, even so. You were a talented researcher and a capable partner.”
She was two faced, self-centered, and never one to reveal her true intentions. She lied with ease. He had realized all of this a long time ago. Even so, the research that Alyssa had left behind was real. Regardless of her motives, there was not a single lie in the results that she had produced.
“Thank you. Sorry for everything up until now.”
Alyssa smiled as if to say that she had really meant that ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’. He could barely even make out her crying and smiling face.
“Even though it’ll be as if I never existed… If you remember me even just a little, then,”
The words ‘I’ll be really happy’ sounded like the wind.