Extra arc 『The Stage Ghost’s Cappricio』 Chapter 8
「I am a puppet」
Is what she said.
「But, it’s true that I was born from a human mother. My real name is also Mari. …I guess I got caught in the end. I was honestly terrified every time I’d meet with you. I’d thought that anyone who knew about real magic would surely expose my lies someday」
「I don’t plan on exposing the lie. I just want to know your true motives. If you want me to keep it a secret, then I’ll keep the truth to my grave and if you don’t want to talk about it――」
「No. I’ll tell you everything. It’s just that I don’t know where to start. If you’re fine with it, I’ll start from the beginning」
It seems Miria’s–no, Mari Galant’s mother really did treat her badly. She was practically neglected, and she’d get offensive words thrown at her when they met.
「It seems that I’d been a kid who never cried, laughed or talked. My mother, to add to that, was yearning for one child that was stillborn — my sister from a different father. She told me plainly that she didn’t want to recognize a broken child as her daughter」
I wonder what kind of thoughts she had, having such cruel words thrown at her.
The reason she hadn’t cried may be because she had no one to comfort her even if she cried. And the reason she hadn’t smiled or talked, was probably because there was no one near her that she could copy how to smile or talk from.
「But, even though Grandfather was taciturn and unsociable, he did care about me a little. Even though I knew that the puppets were more important to Grandfather than I was, nevertheless, to me, he was my one and only family. And besides, even I had a dream as a child in my own way too. Even though I couldn’t naturally laugh or cry myself, a man who associated with grandfather taught me the existence of something called 『theatre』」
Her tone became a little cheerful. When I heard that, I recalled something.
「Could that person be… Mr. Playright?」
「Yes. I was taught 『theatre』 by that gentleman, and became crazy about it. In theatre, even if the words I say were lies or even if the smiles and tears I had were fake, it was fine as long as I do it well. The fact is, I get to see people, who watch me pretend to cry out or act like I love someone, happy. ……but, as per my usual damaged self, even when my mother died, I didn’t spill a single drop of tear」
When she talked about her mother, she certainly didn’t have any facial expressions. That, to me, looked like confusion over not knowing what the proper expression to make was.
「I had a dream, and, even if it was only one, I had a family. I’d thought that was fine. I might be damaged, but I’d planned to live virtuously, to live as honestly as I could」
She took one short pause, and said in a tone one pitch lower than before.
「……Up until that time came」
Up until the time Nival Galant died, it was common knowledge that he’d been working on the doll that was said to be his best work. Of course, having lived together, there’s no way she couldn’t have possibly known that.
「But Grandfather really hated having others see the creation of the dolls, so even I have never seen those dolls made. Grandfather collapsed in the workshop as he was… After he died, I went into the workshop. I saw the doll that Grandfather toiled over until the time of his death. And, I understood. What Grandfather wanted – what even he wanted, had been my sister from a different father.……There was already a name etched into the doll, 『Miria』。――it was the name Mother had prepared for my stillborn sister.」
With a scornful laugh most likely directed at herself, she continued her monologue sarcastically.
「The doll that had my sister’s name had a.. very gentle and serene expression.……That’s to be expected. It was something that was born by having Grandfather pour all of the passion from Mother’s hopes. Thus, it’s debut as an automaton was already prepared. Furthermore, she’ll debut from the puppet opera with the first script that man has written… She had already been set to star on stage for her first time」
I could feel the fiery rage in Miria’s tone.
「……I… had never been so vexed. Even though I can’t even properly laugh or cry, it seems I’m perfectly capable of being jealous. I saw red. At that time, all of the pieces of grandfather’s work had already been finished and even its assembly was nearly completed. All that’s left was to fasten the arms and it should’ve been able to move… It was fine even if that part of the work wasn’t by grandfather. But, when I think of the promising future awaiting the doll sleeping so serenely, the moment its life begins… When I think of the doll getting all the things I’ve ever wanted once it opens its eyes…」
I could easily imagine what was beyond the pause in those words. Even so, having told me she’d tell me everything, she said this clearly.
「Without completing the doll, I hid the arms and the body away separately. Then, I pretended to be 『Miria』 and came to the puppet opera」
With this, a curious switching of a doll with a human occurred.
「Did Mr. Playwright know about this?」
「I don’t suppose he noticed. As 『Miria』, I always wear makeup when I appear in front of him」
Even so, I suppose there’d still be some similarities. Even by changing her outward appearance with clothes and makeup, her voice was still the same, after all.
Well, let’s leave how the playwright thinks of this aside for the time being.
The problem was about her. I’m not even certain whether I should call her 『Mari』 or whether I should call her 『Miria』.
「……if it’s alright with you, please call me Miria like before. I’m more used to it」
She’d gone ahead and addressed my trouble.
「Compared to the times I’ve been called 『Miria』 up to this point, the times I’ve been called 『Mari』 is honestly way too little that it is not even worth talking about, and…… it feels strange when I’m called by that name」
With her talking badly about herself, I couldn’t make myself say, “Then, I’ll go ahead and call you Miria”.
「……You’re… human, right?」
「I wasn’t made through someone’s hands but born from my mother’s womb. But, up to now, I’ve never once proudly declared 『I’m human』. Don’t you think that humans are people with an abundance of emotions and know how to love someone?」
「……If they have their own thoughts and have a good command of their own words, they are human in my opinion」
「Is that so? I think you’re saying that because you’re kind…… I thought the same when I first stood on the puppet opera stage. As broken as I am, I was still a human, after all. I might die in this place today. If not that, this performance might end in failure due to my lies, I’d thought.……But, the performance had been a success. I think, to the ghost, I looked every bit a puppet, not a human」
「You… believe in the stage ghost?」
「Yes, I do. A lot of people died in the past, performances ended up in failure, and it’s not just that. I, myself, could feel it whenever I stood there. I believe there is……something here. No, it may be better to say someone. If that wasn’t by magic, then it was definitely a ghost」
I wasn’t in the mood to argue here about the presence of a ghost. I had one thing I had to ask.
「So then, while believing that this place was dangerous, believing you’d get killed by the ghost, you still stood on the stage almost every day?」
「It wasn’t that I might get killed. I thought, someday, I want to get killed・・・・・」
I was… speechless.
「I only have one dream now. If I happen to die on that stage, at that exact time, it would mean that the stage ghost recognized me as human. That it recognized me as somebody. No, at that time, it will prove to me that I was able to love that man. Right now, I’m sure my feelings are still a sham… I can do nothing but act well and I still can’t seem to understand my own heart, after all. But unlike a person, I’m sure a ghost will not be deceived by my acting」
With her voice bouncing slightly, she was the epitome of a little girl talking about her hopes.
「……you’re crying for me, I see」
Though she remarked on it, I didn’t realise that tears were dripping down my cheeks. I had been focused on something else.
「……I… deceived you just like all the rest. I’m sorry. I told you I’ll be your friend, pretending to be human――。Even when you found out, you still cried for me. I… never dreamed that I’ll be able to make a friend like that.」
“Then-“, as I attempted to say it, she said.
「Someday, when I die on the stage, I’m sure you will cry for me. But, it’s okay if you cry only a little. At that time, I’ll be extremely satisfied, after all. After you’ve cried a little, please, give me your blessing」
I frantically searched for words to reply.
Not to her mention of death, but a method to prove love. If I could present it to her…
In an opera, characters certainly immortalize their love by dying. But surely there should be a way to prove that love to living people. Otherwise, wouldn’t it be too tragic?
She loved the playwright. She also loved her grandfather. It was evident to me when I heard her story. But, as an outsider, things like my opinions were meaningless here.
As long as she, herself, doesn’t believe it…
As long as she can’t prove to herself that it’s real and not an act…
（……I’m… useless. Right now, I can’t even call out to her. I don’t even know whether it’s right to call her by either of the names…）
At that time, I couldn’t even think of a word to reply to her.