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Humanity has Declined: Volume 2 Chapter 1 Part 3/3

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A hard sound reverberates behind me as I surrender to the chaos reminiscent of another dimension.

“Huh?”

Instantly, I am flung out like a champagne cork, get entangled with the hamsters, and carry them with me as I fly through the rain.

“Woaaaahhhhh!?”

The impact must have been extremely powerful because we fly away with considerable force. Our formation holds for a short while before the hamsters lose their grip, and we slowly disintegrate in midair like a snowball.

“Until we meet again, Ms. Humaaaaaaann~”

Yameta’s voice and form fade away.

“Ahhh, good luck to you, too, Yameta!”

We each must go our separate ways.

What a day today has been. I contemplate what has happened as I glide along.


… It seems I passed out for a while.

I find myself hanging like a keychain ornament from a nail stuck in a tree trunk.

Oh, and the trunk’s on fire.

“Yeek!”

I come free after thrashing around a little. Looks like only the string I’d used to strap the spoon to my body was caught on the nail. I stick the landing from a height of about fifty centimeters.

“… Help?”

Looks like this tree took a direct hit from that lightning strike. I can’t believe I was crucified at such a spot… If it hadn’t rained, I might have suffocated to death from the smoke.

I almost died again right after I was saved.

Come to think of it, how did I manage to avoid getting skewered like a spit-roast?

Thinking back on that moment, I can still hear the sharp noise those claws made when they hit me.

“Ahh, the spoon took the hit?”

The spoon had been positioned on my back so that its scoop perfectly cupped my bottom, and it ended up acting as a shield. I was pushed through the hole with the force of that blow alone.

“… I’ve got to run!”

I’ll probably be discovered by the weasels if I stay here. So I start walking.

And promptly fall into a river.

“EEeeek! When it rains, it pours!”

It’s no wonder the river’s in spate; it’s been raining cats and dogs, after all. The relentless current pulls me away from the riverbed into the depths where I can’t find any footing.

“…Aahrgleblb…”

As the water enters my mouth, The word “𝓕𝓘𝓝” flickers in my mind. A deathly omen.

Ahh, I wonder what manner of death would be most comfortable… Burning to death, dying of a disease, bleeding out, falling from a height, suffocating, drowning, becoming roadkill, exploding… There are so many ways to die, yet I only get to try one of them.1

Personally, I think it would be better to freeze to death. I’ve heard that you can die as if you’re sleeping. Burning to death is the worst! It’s definitely a horrible way to die. That doesn’t mean drowning is good, though… My consciousness is fading. Well then, everyone, goodbye.

I’m pulled below the surface made chaotic by the storm above, and sink to the calmer depths.

I make eye contact with a frog. A frog?

The frog lazily swims towards me, out of the underwater gloom. It grabs my hand and pulls me out of the water onto a mound with force strong enough to ignore the current.

“Th-Thank you so much~”

Water drips out from the corner of my mouth. I’ve heard that even water can be lethal at the proper dosage, but I’m just glad to have been saved for now.

The frog stands tall and dignified on two legs. He looks quite handsome, and I’m not saying this just because he saved me.

“Hey there, missy. We’ve got quite some heavy rain today, don’t we?”

“… It talks.”

“Days like this just lift your spirits so much, don’t they?”

“Huh?”

I feel quite awkward listening to this frog spout such an incomprehensible statement without missing a beat.

“Oh, my apologies. I’ve still got my raincoat on, haven’t I?”

At that, the frog splits in two from the top of his head downwards, like some sort of multilayer toolbox2 mechanism.

“………”

I calmly watch over the aberration. A lot of things happened today, so my heart is numb. I can accept any chaos now. I’m practically an embodiment of chaos at the moment, anyway.

The frog has split open… Now, just what do its innards look like?

I take a peek, only to reel back in surprise.

“Huh? A-A human?”

Inside the frog is a human (?) with a slender figure. Their face is androgynous. A being of incredible beauty. No, they couldn’t possibly be human. But they should be even smaller if they were a fairy… Then, just what is this being?

“M-may I know who you may be?”

“Who I might be? Who indeed; I’ve never thought about it, hm?”

Their face is beautiful, with delicate features akin to a drawing inked with a G-pen or a plotting pen.

“Are you… a fairy?”

The fairy (?) lazily leans forward. Their face draws closer. Their eyes, clear, as if a placid lake’s essence has been poured into them, focus on me. Eyes brimming with curiosity. I can only tremble and shrink back in fear, like a hamster caught in a weasel’s glare.

After a spell, the fairy (?) breaks into a broad smile and speaks calmly.

“I do believe that is the case.”

Even if this one doesn’t look like a fairy, even if they have good manners, it’s pretty clear they are a fairy.

I’ve been invited to the fairy village.

I am carried by a wooden box elevator to a part of the forest’s canopy, about twenty meters above the ground. What’s a canopy? The highest part of heavily wooded areas, such as forests, where the trees’ leaves and branches tangle together to form a thicket.

Not only do the leaves grow well in the sunlight, but it’s pleasantly warm, and the canopy is blessed with air and rain; it’s where the winners of the forest live.

The twenty-meter height feels more like three hundred meters now that I’m bite-sized.

There are a surprising variety of creatures living in the canopy.

There are insects and birds everywhere. The diversity is quite impressive, and the smaller critters, particularly, seem exceptionally lively. The abundance of resources and energy is what makes this place favorable to fairy life.

The village’s architecture is rather eccentric.

Houses carved out of pumpkins are placed here and there, with vine bridges and planks for corridors going every which way. Elevators made of wooden crates suspended from vines are set up in various places. Where the branches that extend out are particularly sturdy, round boards three meters across are placed to serve as plazas.

The facility is well-equipped. For example, they have an insectarium – as opposed to a zoo – which is quite popular, and it consistently attracts large crowds who come to see the ladybugs, pillbugs, and fleas within.

There are always festivities going on somewhere, and the merriment is never-ending. It’s a genuine terrestrial… Er, no, an arboreal paradise.

The population is by no means large. Perhaps a hundred or two hundred. It can’t be more than five hundred. The low noise level despite this place being a fairy village must be due to the low population.

What determines their population is whether the place is fun or not.

This is a pretty fun settlement but it doesn’t stand out much because it is so high up. I believe that is why its development is stunted.

As for things like the frog suit, they’re only used for rainy days. They’ve become rather popular lately, I’m told.

You can never find fairies, no matter how hard you look. It’s more often the case that the fairies would come to you instead.

And so, I turn to the matter of the spoon. I immediately quiz the residents on it.

“I’ve never seen it before.” “Nope.” “Not a clue.” “I’ve got nothing.” “Nada.” “Not the foggiest.” “I sure would like to say I do, but I’d be lying.” “What is this thing, by the way?”

No information. No solutions. That’s all I’ve got in the end. Likely, the fairy who made the measuring spoon was never here in the first place. Some random fairy in a faraway place. I’m at a loss.

Fairy society is way too low on the searchability index! (Customer complaint)

My mind is made up.

“Let’s just give up!” (smiles)

It’s a safe place.

Separated from the constraints of survival of the fittest, every day is another celebration. And thanks to the variety of snacks that seem to appear out of nowhere, food isn’t a concern. My living standard is much better than my days with the hamsters. Food appears unprompted. The view’s great too.

“I should just stay here forever, no?”

And so, I’ve decided to live here, my optimism sky-high.

After all, the other fairies play every day too. It’s not just me. So it’s okay. But this is just an escape from reality in the end. I do know that…

At first, I constantly felt pressured by the abnormal beauty of others around me. Still, strangely, I didn’t feel we were too dissimilar. I quickly got used to it. An easy existence, an easy life. A wonderful kingdom.

We would play tag and hide-and-seek.

We would play ball, sing, and dance.

I’d eat sweets when I was hungry.

The most thrilling game of all is the slider, with a vine ropeway. It’s a game where one uses a network of vine cables connected to pullies on different trees to zip around. At first, it was scary, but thanks to the net hanging below and well-secured fixtures, even I’ve started having fun with it. I’m more into this game than anyone else in the village right now.

“Being alive is wonderful?”

I’ve been turning more and more into a fairy, perhaps because I’ve stopped needing to use my head to stay alive.

Oh, that’s right. There’s one thing that’s been bothering me.

It’s about the difference in our bodies.

While I am only about three heads tall at most, the fairies tower over me, being six to seven heads tall. Every one of them has an androgynous charm, and each is a beauty without parallel; they all look practically divine. Compared to my current size and intelligence, even these playful fairies are a clear upgrade.


One day, as I enjoy my loose lifestyle…

“Nobody’s managed to find any snacks today, eh?”

A fairy, back empty-handed from the world below, delivers some shocking news.

“That’s a shame.” “Looks like we’re going to have to do without…” “It’s time to start pacing ourselves.” “I don’t mind fasting every once in a while.” “Stuff like this was bound to happen someday.”

Nobody seems bothered by this.

But I can’t possibly skip a meal for an entire day. I’ll have to put forth my case.

“But, the hunger, it’s hungry?”

“Oh, you’re saying you’re hungry, Miss?!”

“This is serious.” “I’d like to do something about it.” “Does anyone have any good ideas?” “Mhmm, ’tis quite the challenging challenge.”

A crowd of fairies immediately surrounds me, and they all start a debate.

I’ve become something of a mascot here, so they just adore me.

“Well, looks like we’ve got nothing in the end.”

“Ahh, there’s nothing…” Looks like even if I’ve got a winning personality, there’s nothing to be done when worst comes to worst. “Wanna try making some?”

“You mean we should make sweets?” “I see; producing what one doesn’t have is one method, isn’t it.” “Quite, quite.” “Well, you guys? How about we try making some snacks?” “It’s only the gentlemanly thing to do.” “But it’s impossible.”

“Ugh!?”

The severe conclusion is this immovable position.

“Why not!?”

“It’s because we’re so bad at making sweets.”

Oh, is that how it is…?

“Bad at it?”

“It’s because we’re too sloppy.”

“Sloppy…”

Precise measurement is an ironclad rule when making sweets. Even a slight change in proportions can drastically affect the result. And furthermore, there are many delicate processes involved, such as baking and mixing.

“And so, we can’t do it.”

“…Hmm.” I think for a moment and say, “I could make them if we had the stuff?”

“You could, little miss?”

“Aye-aye, I can.”

The fairies look around at each others’ sculpted faces and whisper amongst themselves.

“We should be able to get you the ingredients.”

“Pretty please?”

Almost all the ingredients are assembled before me in just half a minute.

“That was fast!”

“Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any cake flour.”

“Ah, then let’s use this?”

For the first time in a while, I will have to borrow the power of the measuring spoon.

“Lookie here?”

I thrust the measuring spoon high into the sky with both hands.

“It’s a spoon, isn’t it.” “Looks to be one.” “I wonder what it’ll be scooping.” “Surely something scoopable.” “I hope it’ll scoop a lot of things.” “I hope so, too, if you know what I mean.” 3

Having gained the fairies’ attention, I stab the spoon into my head. When I pull it out, the spoon is laden with cake flour.

“Oh! This is splendid!”

I bask in the flood of applause, feeling very self-satisfied.

“Oh, the number on the spoon has dropped from 32 to 16.”

It really has become 16 now. I’ve been wondering about this number for a long time now…

“Ah…?”

A wave of dizziness washes over me, and I crouch down on the spot. I squeeze my eyes shut and patiently wait out the discomfort. But when I open them again, I’m struck by a strange feeling.

The fairies have grown even taller.

Eight heads… no, nine?

We’re all ten centimeters tall, but now the fairies seem twice as tall as me.

“What in the…?”

I feel like my voice has suddenly gained a strange lisp.

“Thi* is shocking.” “To thin***ch a thing woul*appen.” “This feels li**mething out of a dre**sn’t it?” “You could say this is an astounding dev*ent.” “Uh huh, A ve***ngular phenomenon indeed.” “Do any of you sirs her*ow of this phen*n?” “Never, never i**ife.” “But I’m sure t***hing related to us.” “Yup, it’s got to be.”

Uh, what’s happening?

The voices have an astringent timbre, and their tone seems to have become quite solemn…?

It even feels like some of the words I hear are literally falling in one ear and out the other somehow… It reminds me of something. It’s like when I was a kid, back when I couldn’t understand conversations between adults at all.

As my anxiety grows, one of the fairies bends down to meet my gaze.

Ah… I feel a little relieved now. It’s a soft feeling.

“Little miss, you don’t look well.”

“I’m okaay?”

“It seems as if you have been reduced to half your original height by way of some special phenomenon. If I were to haz**’d say that me***poon of yours is the cause, and I beli*** theories of the fairy race have been used in its construction.”

“…” I can’t understand a thing. “… Could you give me a bite-sized explanation?”

“All right, let me give you the Easy version.” The fairy clears its throat. “A certain kind of* endowed with a vaccuum * - something is **** below -***- in ordinary circumstances **** is to say **** due to which something accidentally *** with the nucleus and * because of which the complex and densely superimposed *****-ed *** regarding which, we can say the functionality -**- is why this happens, but *** is caused by, **** superimposition is a composite ** -ed when it changes, ** is extremely high –”

“Shuddaap!!”

“Is something the matter?”

“I don’t get a thing!”

Strange. I’m acting weird, and the fairies are acting weird, and my head’s spinning and I want to just break into a sprint and be somewhere else, whatever works!

“Then, allow me to explain it to you frightfully simply.” The fairy picks up the measuring spoon, which is now much longer than I am tall. “This spoon has converted ** intelligence **cake flour.”

“…Ah.”

From intelligence to cake flour?

What’s intelligence mean?

“Frankly, what I *** is your brain power.”

“Brians?”

“Brains.”

“Briianns?”

I lean my entire body to the right and reply with another question.

“Your brains.”

The fairy responds while leaning to the right as well.

What do I think about this rather shocking revelation?

“I-I s-see. Ahaha.”

I’ve entirely lost the ability to actually be devastated by this devastating truth.

“Normally, it wo**ier to make something ** lowers one’s intelligence, but if you’re going to pay att***etails, the joke ** may more effective if you *** physical effect on the body.

The number has increased to 49 as the fairy holds the spoon.

Ahh, that number really is… That means…

“I see. I’ve caught on ** now. So basically, this spoon *** goal of turning ** think into flour,” says another fairy.

“That’s right. But if you’re going to go to the trouble of turning brain power into flour, it *** interesting unless one’s physique *** impacted to correspond ** intelligence. I believe that’s the premise the one *** this was operating under.”

“Oh, now that explanation really agrees with me.”

It doesn’t agree with me, though.

“Fun is the most important factor, after all.”

No, it isn’t.

Oh, you’re terribly right.”

Even though something terribly wrong has just happened?

“Hahaha!” “Mhmhmhm!” “Hohoho!”

The fairies are all laughing.

They’re laughing like perfect gentlemen, as if to say, “Welcome to High Society!”

“Ahaha, Mhehehe.”

I’m laughing too. It’s fun. I’m such a simple creature now. My head’s in the clouds, and my sense of crisis is dead.

But there is a part of me that still feels an indescribable dread.

“Ahaha…”

Tears roll down my cheeks as I laugh.

I cry tears bigger than the raindrops I saw in the forest back then as I clutch the hem of one of the fairy’s clothes.

“… Help…”

I won’t say I want to have fun anymore. I won’t skip work.

I won’t steal vegetables with you, Mr. Hamster.

I won’t stay up late.

I’ll stop pouring water into ant hills.

I won’t say no to becoming a cog in society.

I’ll help out at the community farm. I won’t pretend to be sick and take a break.

I won’t refuse to do something because it isn’t my dream job.

I won’t be lazy about replying to letters from friends.

“So please, save me…!”

“Looks to me like the miss doth protesteth too much the notion of shrinking any further, eh?” “Oh, indeed it does.” “I can’t ignore this cry for help” “For real.”

A representative steps forward and comforts me with elegance.

“Please do not cry, little miss. For there ** a way.”

“How? What do I have to do?”

“If you *** your intelligence by way of this spoon, your physique will also be resized to match.”

I can’t really make out the finer details of the fairy’s words, perhaps because of my intelligence reverting to toddler levels, but I listen intently all the same.

“The solution is simple. You only ** to elevate your intelligence.”

“The solooshun? Allowait?”

I can’t really understand what he means.

Sensing that, the fairy rephrases its words with a - “That is to say-”

“So she has to study, doesn’t she?”

“Aaah…!”

I can understand that!

I put my hands together and worship the fairy’s divine countenance.

“You must study.”

This fairy is like a god!

Which is why I’ve started studying.

The fairies have prepared a special study room for me. I’m very moved.

But for some reason, it is built like a cell.

Or rather, it isn’t “like” a cell; it actually is one. There’s not a single fairytale-like element to be found. This is an awfully realistic prison. As for the materials I’ve been provisioned with, there’s a study desk with a chair, a toilet, a bed, a small shelf to store daily necessities, and a bookshelf. The sole thing that can be claimed to be a luxury item is a sexy poster of Rita Hayworth4 (an ancient actress) displayed on the wall.

… And that’s all I get.

The windows are small, and the entrances are barred, preventing anyone from entering or leaving freely. Beyond the bars is a dingy concrete hallway. A bookshelf covers the entirety of one of the walls. Its only contents are textbooks and reference manuals, which are an absolute bore to read. The goal is to improve my intelligence, so it seems they’ve crammed the shelf with textbooks for every field they can get their hands on.

“… sort of like a mail room?” 5

I feel like I’m going to break down soon.

But, as if to say they wouldn’t allow me to do that, a watchman appears.

"No. 4, GET BACK TO STUDYING."

The watchman is a mech. It’s got an oil-drum body straight out of one of those old movies set in a galaxy far, far away.

Who’s No. 4? Why, little old me.

"GET BACK TO STUDYING AT ONCE."

A synthesized voice with unnatural intonation is hassling me.

“I am studying…”

"STUDY EVEN MORE."

“I’ve already learned a lot, you know?”

I’ve read a lot of books today. I’ve spent about three hours just reading. My brain’s at a boil due to overuse, and I can’t think straight anymore.

“My head is spinning.”

"OK"

A syringe pops out of Mr. Droid’s abdomen with a sha-chink. It’s pre-filled with a green liquid.

“… Wh-what’s that?”

"THIS IS A DRUG TO REFRESH YOU."

“To refresh me?”

“YOUR FATIGUE WILL GO FLYING WITH A BOING"

… Wait, aren’t such drugs illegal?

"ACCEPT THIS. STUDY MORE."

“I-I can do it without medicine!”

"MUCH OBLIGED."

I’m relieved at the sight of the syringe being stowed away again.

This robot is scary…

I sit down at my desk and pull out some hard-core educational books from the bookshelves with titles such as “Let’s begin with COBOL ~ If you study this, you can eat for life ~”, “The Investment Technique of the Gods ~ Olympian alchemy that can net you a hundred million bucks lickety-split ~”, “Why are people only ever 90% of what they appear to be?”, “The dignity of a fool”, “How to write the perfect light novel” and so on.

“………”

That robot keeps constant watch over me. It doesn’t need to rest.

I’m making no progress with my reading. All this material is from an ancient period, so with no background information, I can’t understand a thing.

I quickly run out of patience.

“… Um, how about a break?”

"I HAVE NO NEED FOR A BREAK."

“But I do, though?”

The robot considers this. Its mono-eye flickers as it moves up, down, left, and right.

"... NOW, I SHALL PROVIDE YOU WITH EQUIPMENT FOR YOUR ENTERTAINMENT."

“All I want is freedom…”

Something is thrown into the cell through the slot where I get my rations.

It falls with a rattle… an iron ball on a chain.

"ENJOY YOURSELF BY ATTACHING THIS TO YOUR ANKLE."

“Ahh…”

I suddenly feel very drained, and look out of the window at the scenery outside. Tall-bodied fairies are playing Kemari6 outside. Ah, how elegant…

I want to be a part of that crowd.

I’ll be killed… At this rate, I’ll die a dog’s death in the clink.

“No. 4, IT’S TIME YOU GOT BACK TO STUDYING. OR ELSE, I’LL HAVE TO MAKE ALL YOUR FATIGUE GO BOING, YOU KNOW?"

The robot must be trying to rattle me; it’s constantly extending and retracting the syringe with a sha-chink.

“Uuuuuu….”

I feel so down.

Suddenly, the poster on the wall flips open.

Behind that sexy shot of Rita Hayworth is a square depression, and in the middle of it is a red button. There are some instructions next to it.

"Press to give up."

“Eii”

I push the button without any hesitation.

The wall is split in two, and as it slides apart in opposite directions, freedom spreads before me.

I grab the spoon, my sole personal possession. It’s a bit difficult to carry, what with my five-centimeter height, but I can still barely manage. As for the number on the spoon, it’s still 16. The intelligence indicator hasn’t budged. Solitary confinement hasn’t helped me, but it hasn’t hurt me, either.

“… I’ll do my best tomorrow.”

With that resolution, I run outside.

The number instantly clicks down four times and now reads 12.

“Ahii!”

It’s gone down. Ah, whatever. I’ll just have to work hard starting tomorrow, right?

"ARE YOU SURE THIS IS A GOOD IDEA?"

The robot asks me a question from the other side of the bars behind me. It is as if the side that is the prison cell has been swapped. I give it a confident reply.

“I’mma do it, okay?”

"DO WHAT?"

I clench my fists like an energetic kid.

“…Something.”

"I SEE."

I feel like that robot is pitying me.

But right now, I just want to play. I’m filled with the urge to do so.

I take off helter-skelter towards the Kemari-playing fairies.


My intelligence stat is currently at 11.

That’s what the spoon tells me.

People with an IQ of 11 deserve the utmost sympathy. It’s hard.

You won’t ever pass any tests.

But it’s not all bad. You don’t have to sweat the details, and you can’t understand complicated things. You can live with your head in the clouds and have a life where you just eat, sleep, and play. That sounds nice.

Actually, it might not be, but I’ve heard it is.

Lately, I’ve been keeping a ladybug as a pet. I’m five centimeters tall, so it’s about the size of a puppy. I leash it and take it for walks. I did give the ladybug a name, but it escapes me at the moment. I did want to write it down, but I forgot to, so I’ll never know.

Also, I’ve become able to ball up like a pillbug. I’m practically the same as a fairy now, which is nice.

Also, croutons are delicious. I often munch on them.

I play every day. With the fairies. All the fairies like me. I’m the only little one. But I’m loved. It might be nice to just live the rest of my life like this.

“Why don’t we go play ** God’s house, * miss?”

“God?”

“That’s right. Casa de Dios.”

“But I’ve never been there before.”

“It’s quite * fun place, * know.”

“How fun?”

The towering fairy thinks for a bit, then replies.

“Well, you can * sweets, and * a name. It was from God that I gained my knighthood, you see.”

“Hmmm.” I don’t really get it. But it seems like fun. “A’ight, leff go.”

“Yes, let us be off.”

As I smile, some tiny corner of my consciousness goes, “Huh?!”

I feel like I should know, but I also don’t.

Something feels off, but I forget about it soon enough.

Later, we all go to God’s house together. It’s an enjoyable experience. For some reason, this place I’ve never visited before is quite familiar. When I can’t remember such things that I should have been able to remember, I feel a kind of “Hmm” feeling coming on.

It’s a very special kind of fun. But for some reason, the fairies still say - “Unfortunately, it looks like God isn’t here today.”

“Huuhh?”

“There’s usually ** gentle, lovely, ** God who lives here.”

I just can’t understand what these fairies say anymore. But one thing I heard very clearly is that God is lovely. I’m excited just thinking about it. I’m excited, so I’m going to play. Merriment begets joy.

There were a lot of fairies just a moment ago, but now they’re nowhere to be seen.

Fairies are so mysterious.

They zip around and switch places so suddenly… It’s only natural. They move around at a dizzying pace, doing all sorts of things. The fairies are tall, which proves they’re adults. I absentmindedly wonder if they have a lot of work to do as adults.

About ten fairies came here with me, but it feels like they’re all off doing something else.

I would have liked to have accompanied them, but I can’t keep up with their movements, so I’ll just wander about like I usually do and occupy myself with whatever catches my fancy.

“Oh, lemme start wif dis ting.”

I’ve found a giant cookie.

“I can’t wait ta see whaf’s next, if things start out like dis!”

The cookie is about as tall as I am. I smash it with the spoon and carry it to a nearby house. There’s lots of furniture in here.

As I look at a picture while I shove a piece of a cookie into my mouth…

“… Too stale.”

These stale cookies must be sad and lonely. Such unfortunate cookies need a loving hand. Next, I discover a mountain of sand.

“A worthy challenge, this is!”

But when I thrust my hands into the sand, I’m suddenly on the verge of tears.

“…Huh?”

I don’t think I’d cry like this even if a big bug hiding in the sand were to bite me… So why? What was it again… Why do I feel I’m touching something important?

As I’m spacing out, one of the fairies comes over.

“Hey, that’s cake flour.”

“Cayke flower.”

I know.

I know it’s cake flour.

“We could make cookies with this, couldn’t we.”

Oh, that’s right.

We could make cookies.

“Then, why not?”

“Fresh cookies are an ultimate treasure for us. I’d love to bake some, but it’s impossible.”

“…I can make them, you know?”

I should be able to bake them, but I’m not confident.

I have only vague memories that hint that I can.

“If you tell us what to do, we could at least help.”

“In that case-”

Let’s bake a batch of cookies.

I feel like I absolutely must do that.

The number on my measuring spoon has decreased from 11 to 10.

Using the measuring spoon, I scoop up the flour.

When I see the number on the spoon, my head goes fuzzy. But I endure it.

“I’ve put together the things you asked for, miss!”

“Tanks.” (Translation: Thank you very much.)

They’ve gathered the ingredients very quickly. I’m going to use them to make cookies.

“Umm…”

What was I doing again?

My brain’s not working, so I have to carry on with just muscle memory. It turns out I’m surprisingly familiar with the process, so things go smoothly for now.

I jump down to the bottom of the bowl with the ingredients and knead and mix and knead and mix. As the ingredients meld together and become dough, I yell at the fairies above.

“The egg whites, anybody got the egg whites?”

“We have to pour it all in, bit by bit, yes?”

Round and round, round and round. The mixing and kneading continues.

“… I’m a-doin’ it!”

The sweet scent of vanilla essence wafts out of every inch of the dough.

“Ahh, what a wonderful aroma. Why don’t we just eat it as is?”

“Nothin’ doin'”

It only smells good. It’ll still taste bad. We’ve only just gotten halfway into the process.

The finished dough is removed from the bowl (using a fairy-powered crane), and we all help stretch it out. Now we’ve got a dough carpet.

“It’s done…”

Now then, as for the next part…

“Huh? Huh?”

I can’t explain it with words anymore.

I pick up the necessary tool myself and hold it up with a “Lookit!”

“Oooohhh” roar the fairies.

What I’m holding… is an iron frame shaped like a star. Like this: (☆).

Yes, we’re cutting the cookies now.

This is the most fun part of making cookies. We take turns stamping out cookies one by one. The finished stars are carried out in pairs and lined up neatly on a baking tray.

Once we’re done, the carpet will be full of holes.

But I’ll knead it up again, stretch it out, and stamp out even more stars.

“This feeling… It’s nostalgic.”

Even if my brain can’t remember it, my body remembers. Thank goodness.

The spoon’s number reads 7 now.

My heart skips a beat. But I don’t even know why I’m scared.

It’s all I can do at the moment to focus on the work in front of me –

Almost all the dough has been cut into stars now, and we end up with two trays worth.

“Next… Da Ting!”

It’s time for the thing.

The greatest hurdle yet. Baking the cookies.

Turn the oven temperature to one hundred and seventy-five degrees.

I can’t possibly do this task myself, so I ask the fairies to do it for me.

The baking trays we spent so much effort on are brought into the kitchen.

A big group of fairies marches down the hall like palanquin bearers.

“Go! Go!”

I’m stuck to the front of a tray as if I were one of those women that tend to be attached to ship prows.

“It’s this way! All of you!”

The fairies in charge of the kitchen greet us with a wave of their hands.

The two trays proudly advance through the throng.

“Foxy-colored!” (Translation: We must put the trays into the center of the oven. The cookies will take ten to fifteen minutes to cook. Small things like cookies tend to get burnt quickly, so keep a close watch. Once all of them look slightly golden brown, we’re done! We must move the cookies to a separate wire mesh to avoid burning them now! We could also make something cold to drink as well. Once we’re done, it’s snack time!)

The baking has begun.

It’s a delicate stage in the process.

If we slack even a little, we’ll have a bunch of burnt crusts on our hands.

I’m the only one here who can tell when it’s time.

I have to get a hold of myself.

But… I’ve already been reduced to a very sorry state.

I’m staggering.

It took quite some time to put the trays in the oven.

The number… What’s the number on the spoon now?

I take a timid peek at it, only to see the number change from 5 to 4.

“Ah~”

All of a sudden, the light fades from the world.

It’s quite a drastic change, to be honest.

My knowledge and consciousness are jumbled together, and I clearly remember myself for just this one instant.

But this is no sign of recovery. It is a final struggle akin to the blaze of will accompanying one’s death throes.

The light that once brightened my surroundings is being pulled back from whence it came… Upwards.

My field of vision tunnels, and I can only perceive my surroundings like a searchlight piercing the ocean depths.

It’s a world bereft of all but my spirit, a lonely world.

It reminds me of being singled out under the spotlight on a dark stage.

This is all of the world I can recognize now.

It is the world of intelligence 4.

I look up at the ceiling, but all I see is darkness. There isn’t a single thing that can liven up my heart now.

I wonder what happened to all those fairies?

Looking around, I saw a strange pinstripe pattern surrounding me.

– What could this be?

I’ve never seen anything like it.

It’s a series of finely alternating dark gray and black vertical lines.

The pattern seems to stretch off into the distant heavens, beyond my line of sight.

You could probably replicate this if you take a tube with the insides painted a black and gray pinstripe pattern, then put the tube over a person’s head.

Just what kind of mysterious occurrence is this…? I’m going to think about it carefully and then dismiss it.

“… This is enough, isn’t it?”

I feel my heart grow heavy.

I can’t think straight anymore.

I can’t even grasp how frightening it is to be at 4 intelligence points anymore.

I just want to rest peacefully.

That’s all.

I sit on the riverbed with my knees held to my chest.

4 shall turn to 3, and when, in the end, 1 turns to 0, I will lose myself forever.

Ah, I remember now.

I named my pet ladybug Algernon.

Somebody, please, feed Algy for me if I become a dunce.

Please, I beg you.

And now, I sink. Like a piece of pumice dropped in a pond.

My spirit has disappeared.

Countless images flicker vividly beneath my eyelids.

It’s what the Japanese call “Soumatou” 7.

Memories of my childhood.

My days at School.

The events of the graduation ceremony.

Life with Grandfather.

Meeting the fairies.

My friend, pointing and guffawing at me.

“…”

Wait… Isn’t this from the first time she caught me out?

I thought I’d banished that memory from my mind, so why now!?

Such humiliation… Certainly, I had been humiliated many times throughout my life… But, suffice it to say that this particular event was the first time…

It was the first time I’d ever been shamed like that!

My friend Y… Let’s just say she’s got a personality problem.

It’s frustrating. To think I’m about to disappear after turning into an idiot.

I can’t suffer her, of all people, knowing.

Knowing that I’ve died such a shameful death.

“… No way… There’s just no way.”

If I’m going to die anyway, I’d like to die of old age. Peacefully.

Thinking about it fundamentally, would one really die if their intelligence hit 0?

What if only my consciousness disappears… and my body still stays alive…

The ugly image of such an end looms large in my mind.

“That’s the last thing I want happening…”

What I need to escape this situation…

Is information…

Yes, information.

Someone, please, give me some information.

Give me some juicy stuff, some insider info, something that’s classified!

I frantically latch onto the densest bit of information I can find to fuel my will to live.

In this drab, dim world, there’s only one source of dense, technicolor visual data around. It’s the video track of my life flashing in front of my eyes.

“Replay! Fast-forward! Double speed! Treble speed! Quadruple speed!!”

My brain starts wolfing down the torrent of information.

This is as efficient as I will ever get when it comes to learning things.

The number on the spoon flickers between 0 and 1.

“Khuuuuuhhh~!”

Gradually, 1 becomes more and more dominant until it settles there with a plink.

“There’s more where that came from! 10x speed!”

My flashback is running on fast-forward at a terrific clip.

And then, there are my memories. I can make out voices. No, I have to understand the voices. I’m desperate.

It’s super effective.

The number becomes 2, then 3. It hops to 4, then skips 5 and jumps straight to 6.

The stripes surrounding me begin to morph.

The pattern’s lines grow wider.

They seem to be growing thicker and more numerous.

The brightness also changes.

What had been just a lone spot of light grows stronger, and, in contrast to what happened earlier, the darkness recedes, with more and more light brightening my vision.

My intelligence stat is now 10.

As the stripes thicken and regain their color… I realize what they actually are.

“Legs?”

Countless legs, stretching above with infinite superiority.

“Then up there…”

Higher beings.

Demonstrating a stature proportional to their higher command of information.

Higher beings. Or should I say, beings with higher intelligence.8

There’s such a disparity in intelligence between us that we aren’t cognizant of each other. We don’t even recognize each other’s existence.

A bamboo-like leg that may belong to a fairy stretches into the heavens.

I can’t see their thighs or their hips. I only have a weird, vertically distorted view of their shoes.

You know those speed limit signs they used to draw on the roads in the old days?

Those would be drawn stretched out vertically to account for one’s perspective from inside a vehicle. That is what it feels like to me.

My intelligence stat is now at 14.

Everything around me is flickering, perhaps due to the rapid rise in my mental acuity.

“I have no choice… It’s going to be rough on my brain, but…”

I can’t miss this chance.

I shall make my return as the genius girl I was before!

“Fast forward at 20x speed!!”

The slideshow swooshes along at breakneck speed.

Now that I’ve recovered to a good extent, I can clearly recall my more unpleasant memories as well.

“Ahh, nooo!?”

Ahh, this is painful… It’s all embarrassing memories…!

It makes me want to stay cooped up at home forever!

The number breaks through the 15 mark.

“Wh-what’s that?”

Something descends towards me from the heavens.

At first, I can only make out a faint speck, but it gradually expands as it draws closer.

A star-shaped… golden-brown…

Cookie!

A cookie has come down from the sky.

“Ahhh!”

I embrace the giant cookie that fills my vision as if welcoming a god.

The gnarled digits that have been holding the cookie vanish into the sky.

A fairy, perhaps?

Ah, the aroma of freshly baked cookies!

That’s a lot of information.

People perceive an unbelievable amount of information daily just by living their lives.

I open my mouth wide and bite into the cookie.

As I chew and experience its crunchy mouthfeel, I transform every single bit of stimulus into information.

“Ahh, fuch haffinefff!”

I finish the giant cookie in one go.

Immediately after, the number jumps to 45, like a joke.

“Eeeeek!”

Perception updated. Cognitive limits updated.

The moment my intelligence reaches 45, I regain enough intelligence to perceive the world as it actually is.

And the next thing I know, I find myself in a world of color.

“… Ah, I-I’m back…”

I pat my face and rub my limbs one by one.

“Hehh, hahh, hohh.”

The loneliness that was eating away at me till just a moment ago, pecking cracks in my psyche, has now vanished.

“Are you okay?”

The fairy’s face is level with mine.

“Ooh, I even managed to grow to ten centimeters…”

Just a single one of these cookies got me this far in an instant?

“The cookies just finished baking, Miss!”

The fairies are swarming around a pile of warm, freshly baked cookies.

As they chat, they bring pieces of the cookies to their mouths.

“Ah…”

Those cookies… The ingredients…

Only now do I realize it.

What used to be inside my head…

“Staaaahhhhppp!”

I run up to the mountain of cookies, flapping my hands wildly about, and proclaim: “A-actually, these cookies have been poisoned!”

“Huuuuhhh!?”

The voices of the fairies echo about.

“So you can’t eat them! Give me any you’ve taken!”

I retrieve the cookies from all the fairies.

“It’s dangerous, so I’ll take care of disposing and sterilizing them!”

“Whaaaat!?”

Do you think what I’m doing is disgraceful?

But it just can’t be helped, you know?

These cookies are the very essence of my intelligence.

If the fairies ate it all, I wouldn’t be able to regain my intelligence, see?

The material this measuring spoon creates.

It isn’t flour.

It is a materialization of intelligence, converted into a baking ingredient.

It’s high-grade9 flour, so to speak.

What a terrible pun.

I’m ready to apologize a million times after things get sorted out.

But this is a matter of life and death.

I hope you can understand that.


I ate the cookies by myself.

All of those many cookies, each many times my own weight; all by myself, yes, all by myself.

Thanks to that, my IQ has recovered to 250. Do you remember what it was initially?

I used to have an intelligence stat of 322.

I ate all the cookies, and now I’m at 250. That’s about a 72-point difference.

Setting aside what intelligence I had gained by studying just my life’s memories, over fifty of my intelligence points have managed to disappear somewhere. Some vanished inside the fairies’ stomachs. But there are other reasons too.

Those intelligence cookies… I’m glad I was able to recover most of them.

Because you see, some of them ran away.

I still haven’t found all of them yet.

Fortunately, my mind and body improved to near normalcy after I crossed 100. I’m going to the office to apologize for my long absence. I’d say I’m about 90 centimeters tall at this point. The size of an antique doll.

Wouldn’t grandfather like something like this? That’s what I’m going for.

“It’s been a while, Grandfather. It’s me.”

Grandfather gives me a terrible glare.

“… I swear, you… No, save it. Don’t say a thing,” he says as he massages the bridge of his nose.

I suppose I can’t call myself a granddaughter this eccentric old man can be proud of yet… I still have a long way to go.

But I do think I’m on the right track as far as my appearance goes, you know?

I mean, I’ve got a small frame now and a fragile look going on too!

“… Oi, listen up. There’s a particular aura people tend to have.”

“An aura?”

“Everything is determined by your aura. Even if you look fragile, anybody can see through you if the aura you emanate doesn’t match your lady-like charms.”

“…”

“You lack that mystique. Even if you look like a doll, you’re still a philistine on the inside.”

“A philistine…”

“Give it up. Also, hurry up and return to how you used to look. You look too small; it’s distracting.”

He’s saying things that make it hard to believe we’re related, but it seems I won’t be held responsible for vanishing so abruptly. Well, it turns out there’s a reason for that.

“It hasn’t even been a day since you disappeared. I know you were doing something in the kitchen last night.”

Oh me, oh my…

Not even a day has passed?

“I thought I’d been gone for ten days…”

“It’s quite strange, but here’s a fact for you. Whether it’s a small animal that only lives for a few years or a large elephant that lives for decades, the heart of every animal beats the same number of times during its lifespan.”

“…Huh?”

“That number is said to be one hundred and fifty million times. Or rather, that’s the average. Of course, how fast the heart beats depends on the animal.”

It’s an awfully difficult thing to wrap my head around, but as I am now, I get the feeling that it could be true.

“Time seems to fly past at a dizzying pace for small creatures compared to humans… Is that what you mean?”

Grandfather gives me a contented grin. Though, I feel like there was a sneer mixed into it as well.

“Indeed.”

It felt like ten days, but in reality, it was all over in a day.

It’s a hard thing to believe.

Even though I’ve experienced it for myself now, I’m not sure if I could have believed such a thing without going through all that.

The lifespan of a small creature is much shorter than a human’s.

Perceiving the world from the eyes of a small creature weaves an entirely different picture than from a human’s eyes.

Just as the fairies looked different depending on the “degree” of my intelligence.

“Get back to your original size as soon as possible. It’s just; you won’t be doing your marriage prospects any favors looking like that.”

“Wha…!”

I blush and stumble over my words once I realize what he means.

Now that I’m at 250 intelligence, my physique has returned to human standards.

… I’ve been through way too much to get it to this point, after all.

How tall am I? As of now, I’m about a hundred and fifty centimeters tall. The ratio of my parts is a bit off, so I still have some doll-like features. I don’t know whether to feel happy or sad about that.


There are several after-stories to this adventure.

For the first one… Let me tell you about what I found under the floorboards.

One day, after I’d returned to human size, I heard something under the floor. I immediately tore off the floorboards and took a peek. And what did I find under them, but some wild hamsters. Five of them.

They all had nails on their backs and wore jackets.

… Yeah, I’d recognize those hamsters anywhere. When I found them, our eyes met, and the poor things froze like deer in headlights. To think that I used to live with them as their guest… They probably couldn’t recognize me.

I did feel a little lonely, but I couldn’t blame them. After all, the hamsters lived in their own world, and I was no longer a part of it.

They’d probably been through a lot of scary things since that time.

All five of them were hairless from stress. Their fur was in tatters. They must have been running for dear life. So much so that they had to hide under the floor of a human’s house.

Oh, the poor things.

And so, I decided to donate all the miniature furniture I’d made along with some food as a present to my new downstairs neighbors. It had to have been a step up from their thatched-roof hut days, right?

Now that I was human-sized again, things like sunflower seeds were easy to obtain.


I would sneak a peek under the floor occasionally after that. They looked to be well settled. The furniture had traces of use, and there was less of the food I’d given them. Oh, and then -

“Grandfather, can you get me some female hamsters?”

“Whatever are you going to do with something like that?”

“They’ll live with me.”

“Are you going to eat them?”

“… They’ll live with me.”

“I’ve heard hamsters are a rather rare animal… Do you mind if I find you hybrids?”

“Yes, as long as they’re female, anything should be okay.”

Soon, two female hamsters were brought from a nearby town by caravan.

I released them under the floor. The hamsters must have been quite surprised. To think, one day, a couple of girls fell from the heavens.

I called out - “Talk things out amongst yourselves now, if you’d please,” and put the floorboards back.

If they ever managed to make a comeback as a species and develop a more advanced civilization, well, that’d be in the distant future. But it would probably still happen faster than by creating lightbulbs from scratch and making progress on their own.

If everybody else is dead at that time, I’d like to ask them to take good care of our planet!


The second after-story.

“There was a fire in the forest.”

That’s what Grandfather said.

“Haah.”

“And that fire’s driven out a lot of wild animals into the surrounding areas. There shouldn’t be any particularly dangerous animals around, but be careful when you’re in the forest.”

That’s what I was told at the office when my intelligence stat was around 260.

According to the gentle old Egg lady, there was a rumor going around amongst the villagers that feeding hungry wild animals had become popular.

And then, the next day.

“Oh?”

As I was walking to the distribution center to pick up some groceries, a white creature with a lengthy torso wrapped itself around my feet.

“…You…?”

It must have decided that I’d have food since I was carrying a paper bag.

It was clinging fast to me in a desperate attempt to appeal… But it wasn’t a white weasel.

“Ah, is this… an ermine?”

An ermine. Of class Mammalia, order Carnivora, and family Mustelidae.

Even he, who had looked so frightening, was nothing more than a small animal in a human’s eyes.

Moreover, he was so used to being fed by humans that he’d even learned how to flatter them.

When I met him at a size of 10 centimeters, it was more like, “Lord Ermine!” you know.

I could see his brown-furred ermine friends dotting the pasture past the stone wall.

“You do know you tried to kill me, right…”

The white ermine was sprawled out to block my path, exposing his belly. Was I going to feed him, or wasn’t I? His demeanor oozed desperation at whether things would actually work out.

“Now listen here-!”

He shuddered and jumped about a meter high. Wasn’t he supposed to be a tyrant or something?

“Ah, whatever…”

Sighing, I took out some food for him from my basket.

This excited him to no end.

With no pride or anything, he began circling around me.

“Being able to get food just by snuggling up to the strong is the clichéd dream of the weak, isn’t it.”

“…… Sq-squeak?”

The way the white ermine was trying to cozy up to me was quite awkward, and he didn’t seem used to doing it.

But even that embarrassed attitude was enough to satisfy me.

“Here you go.”

When the white ermine took a bite out of the bait, the other brown ones also slowly came to investigate. It seemed their hierarchy hadn’t changed since.

But there were three missing. And all of them had singed fur. So that meant they had to bid adieu to three of their rank. That fact made it easier for me to pity them.

“Let me pet your stomach.”

I forced the white ermine to flip over, ignored his squealing, and petted him until I was satisfied.

“That was fun.”

“Squee~….”

I decided to forgive him with that.


The third after-story.

This is the last one.

Grandfather had some acquaintances who would come around to the office from time to time to talk over tea.

Naturally, I was usually present too, but I was pretty much a stranger to Grandfather’s guests. And, of course, seeing as I was both his granddaughter and also his subordinate, I would be exposed to a barrage of nosy questions every time.

It tended to get rather embarrassing, but I tried my best to put up with it.

Since I would’ve probably gotten punished if I didn’t do something praiseworthy every once in a while…

As a result of all this, I interacted – albeit only slightly – more with the villagers, and my fear of loneliness, which had been quite serious, was also gradually fading.

So, let’s get down to business.

“Still, there’s been more weird creatures wandering about lately.”

I stiffened up in surprise when I heard our guest casually disclose this.

“What do you mean by ‘weird creatures’?” I asked as I busied myself with the tea to avoid showing my inner turmoil.

I’d usually have escaped back to my desk after greeting the guest. But this time, I was sitting on the sofa. This prompted Grandfather who was sitting beside me to give me a dubious look.

Starfish-like.

My bad feeling was right on the mark.

They’d finally been exposed to the public eye.

I leaned forward, urging our guest to continue.

“Everyone in the village calls them starfish bugs, but… I think there’s been another outbreak of weird things crawling around, yeh know?.”

“Well, that sounds quite bad. I hope there’s something I can do to help.” This was the meat of it.

“So, where did you see that starfish bug?”

“Hey, you…”

Grandfather started to say something, but I stopped him with a glare.

This was a matter of life and death for me.

“Mwell, at the village…”

The old man began to speak but suddenly pointed to the wall. “There’s one o’er there!”

“!!”

I leaped out of the sofa with lightning speed and went after the small starfish-shaped creature clinging to the wall, slapping it dead before it could even react.

This creature could use its five limbs to jump like a grasshopper.

“Ho-ho. She looked rather delicate, but that’s quite the lively granddaughter you’ve got there, eh, Professor?” the old villager quipped.

“How embarrassing.”

“Not all young girls could kill a bug with their bare hands, Ah tell yeh.”

“This is so embarrassing.”

Grandfather’s voice was eerily deadpan. But I’m sure he meant every word. He was genuinely ashamed of me.

But there’s no way he could have known what I was doing, right…?

“I-I’m good at exterminating these bugs. If you see them in the village, please let me know.”

I concealed the starfish I killed behind my back and somehow managed to brush the matter aside.

“That’s enough; just sit down. You’re being a disturbance,” said Grandfather.

“Yes.”

Starfish bugs.

They were actually the cookies I baked with the cake flour I extracted from my brain.

There hadn’t been anything weird about them back when they were fresh.

After I’d eaten as much as I could, I tried to save the leftovers for another day, thinking I’d eat them little by little, but… They came alive on the plate I’d left them on, then scuttled off in every direction.

The starfish bugs turned out to be cookies fashioned from my intellect.

From that day onward, my days of starfish hunting began secretly, parallel to my daily life.

I had resolved to do so ever since the cookies came to life, but the cookies were out of the oven now; they inevitably went feral. Once, I even spotted one dividing. Anyhow, I have a feeling I’ll be busy hunting them down for as long as it takes to get all my lost intelligence back.

Well, I could study and recover on my own, but…

“… She’s a strange child.”

“Nah, nah, it’s just the generation gap between you two. Ah’ve been facing it with mah grandkid too.”

I stood around with a smile plastered on my face while the two old men continued to talk. Then, when they weren’t looking, I took the opportunity to pop the starfish I’d killed into my mouth.

I heard a small click somewhere.


Fairy Memo [Fairy Tools]

All the tools made by the fairies have strange effects.

It depends on the tool. Some of them are rather dangerous, so if you ever get your hands on one, be careful.

Their shape and dimensions are almost invariably targeted at human use, so it is said that these tools are created to be gifted to humans, not for use by the fairies themselves.

For some reason, fairy tools can disappear, even under the tightest scrutiny. How marvelous!


  1. Duuumb ways to diiiieeee… So many duuuumb waaays to diiiiieeee…. ↩︎

  2. A toolbox that swivels outwards on two sides from the top to open, like this↩︎

  3. ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) ↩︎

  4. Very sexy ↩︎

  5. This is likely a mistranslation. Please leave a comment if you can make it better. Here’s the original japanese: “……きが、めーるかも?」” ↩︎

  6. Ancient japanese football. ↩︎

  7. See here for more info. ↩︎

  8. The words I’m translating as higher beings (上方) and information (情報) are homophones; they’re both pronounced as “jouhou”. ↩︎

  9. High grade as in… you get high grades with brains. Lol, get it? ↩︎

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