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Posted by : Alberto Herrera viernes, 16 de septiembre de 2016

She was speaking to a young person. It was someone around mid-teens, with short, black hair, big eyes, and an intrepid expression on her face. She wore a black jacket fastened with a wide belt on her waist. Suspended from her right thigh was a holster for a hand persuader (Note: A persuader is a gun. In this case a pistol). Inside it was a high-caliber revolver. Attached behind her waist was another automatic-type.

Parked right beside this person was a motorrad (Note: A two- wheeled vehicle. Only to note that it cannot fly).

‚Hello,‛ the person greeted.

‚Hi there. You’re a traveler, aren’t you?‛ The old woman returned the greeting with a smile.

‚Yes. I’m Kino, and this here is my partner,  Hermes.‛





5   Adapted in anime episode 10. Also included in the first PS2 visual novel.



The traveler whose name was Kino introduced the motorrad. The motorrad called Hermes returned a short ‘hello’, and proceeded to ask a question.

‚Do you live near here, grandma?‛

‚Yes, that’s right. What about you two?‛

Kino hesitated for a bit, and then asked the old woman,

‚Is there a country around this area? We were aiming for that place, but we couldn’t find it. Are you a resident of that country, by any chance?‛

The old woman shook her head. ‚A country, huh<. No, there’s none nearby. I’m sure you’ve lost your way somewhere. As for me, I live in a house inside this forest.‛

‚I see. There was a road up until here, though<,‛ Kino sighed.

‚Yeah, but it seemed like an abandoned route. Why don’t we just give up?‛ Hermes suggested.

The old woman realized their circumstances, and asked Kino and Hermes with a lively voice, ‚Say, Miss Kino. Are you going to camp out here for today? It will be dark soon. If you like, I can let you stay in the house where I work for.‛

‚Work for?‛

The old woman replied to Kino’s question. ‚Yes. I work as a maid in the house where I live in. I was gathering ingredients for dinner just now. The house is right there. What do you think?‛





Kino asked Hermes’ opinion. As always, he just answered with ‘why not?’

‚Okay. We’ll take you up on your offer,‛ Kino  said.

‚Oh, I’m glad. It’s the first time that we’ll be having guests,‛ she said happily.



They went inside the forest under the guidance of the old woman. After a while, a field in a forest clearing appeared. Beside it was a long and narrow livestock pen with chickens freely roaming about.

Beyond the fields, there was a single house.

Kino couldn’t help but knit her eyebrows upon seeing the house. It was a three-storey building sturdily made out of stone and bricks. It was much longer than it was wide, and doesn’t have a single window at the sides. It looked more like a downtown apartment, except that it stood alone in the middle of the forest. This house certainly didn’t belong to its surroundings.

‚That’s the place?‛ Kino asked with a hint of doubt in her  tone.

‚Yes. Isn’t it wonderful?‛ the old woman answered.

Soon they made their way in front of the entrance, and the old woman turned to Kino and Hermes.



‚Oh, right. First, I’ll have to inform you about something in advance.‛

The old woman slowly placed her right hand on her chest, and spoke with a gentle smile, ‚I am a mechanical doll.‛

‚A mechanical doll?‛ Kino asked in surprise.

‚That’s right. Even though I look exactly like a human, I am actually very different from you. This body was entirely made from wood, iron, and other things I don’t really know about. I am a mechanical doll created by humans for the sake of humans. My work is to do household chores for the humans residing in this house.‛

‚<<. U-umm<‛ Kino faltered, while the old woman continued.

‚Because this body is already old, I am already getting rickety in places, but I can still work.‛

Hermes asked, ‚Ooh, you sure are well-made. Who created you, grandma?‛

The old woman shook her head. ‚I was not given that kind of information. All I know is how to clean the house, do the laundry, cook meals, read stories to my young master before he goes to bed<‛

‚<<‛

‚I see.‛

Kino remained silent while Hermes voiced his admiration.





‚Well, I’ll have to ask my master about you. I’m sure he would be fine with it, but for the meantime, please wait here.‛

Kino spoke up at last when the woman vanished into the house.

‚Impossible.‛

‚You bet. What are we going to do?‛

‚Well, it seems like we have no choice but to ask this ‘master’,‛ Kino muttered as the entrance opened.

Out came a man in his thirties, a woman of the same age who seemed to be his wife, and a five-year old boy shyly hiding behind the woman. They were all wearing elegant clothes.

After a while, the old woman made an introduction.

‚Master, this is the traveler, Miss Kino and the motorrad, Mister Hermes. Miss Kino, these are my master, his wife, and their son.‛

‚Good afternoon,‛ Kino greeted. The ‘master’ slowly smiled and spoke.

‚Good day, traveler and motorrad. We heard about your circumstances from granny. It seems like you’ve lost your way. We have plenty of vacant rooms, so please feel at home.‛

The old woman seemed very happy. ‚Oh, I’m glad. That’s great, isn’t it? Now that it’s decided, I’ll be preparing the room for Miss Kino, so for the meantime, won’t you keep them company for a while, Master?‛





‚Yes, of course. Leave it to us. Please prepare dinner for one more person,‛ the man said.

‚Now, please come in.‛

Kino and Hermes were guided by the old woman and passed through a spacious living room.

The man read a newspaper while sitting on the sofa, while his wife and child played with an unfamiliar toy. They carried on happily with these activities.

The old woman bowed and left.

‚Um, will you answer a question for me?‛ Kino asked, and the man looked at her.

‚Of course. What is it?‛

‚It’s about that old lady<,‛ Kino spoke hesitantly, ‚Is what she’s saying the truth? That she’s a mechanical doll?‛

The man nodded lightly. ‚Yes, that’s correct. That doll’s a hard worker and is a great help in the house. Thanks to that, my wife and I could work, and have more time for our family.‛

‚I see<. I have one more question.‛

‚What is it?‛

‚Is there a country around here?‛



The man’s face became slightly troubled upon hearing this question. ‚No, there’s no country nearby. Miss traveler, it seems like you’ve lost your way<. This is a  heavily  wooded  area, so that is not possible,‛ the man answered.

Kino asked in return, ‚Then, why are you living in this kind of place?‛

‚<<‛

The man did not say anything for a while. And then he spoke with a smile, ‚No, there’s no country nearby. Miss traveler, it seems like you’ve lost your way<. This is a heavily wooded area, so that is not possible.‛

‚Is that so<‛

After this, Kino said nothing more and waited quietly beside Hermes.

Eventually, they heard the return of the lively footsteps. The old woman announced with a smile, ‚Your room is ready. Please come this way.‛

‚Thank you very much< if you’ll excuse us.‛

‚Have a good time.‛

Kino bowed lightly and pushed Hermes out of the reception room.

The man read the newspaper until the end.



Then started to read it from the beginning once more.



The room they were taken to was in the inner part of the first floor. It was rather spacious, with a painstakingly-made bed and other furniture which seemed to have history. Everything was wiped with a damp cloth so there was not a single speck of dust.


‚You can stay here together with Mister Hermes. There’s a toilet and a shower inside. If you need anything, just ring the bell anytime. My room is right beside the entrance.‛

Kino expressed her thanks. The old woman then left the room to prepare dinner.

Kino sat on the bed and removed her holstered persuader. Then she took off her jacket.

‚Kino, what are we going to do?‛ Hermes  asked.

‚What to do<. To be frank, that family doesn’t seem like they want to associate with us.‛

‚That’s only natural.‛

‚Moreover, there are a lot of things they don’t want to tell  us.‛

‚That’s also understandable.‛

‚Well, since grandma took pains to shelter us, let’s just accept her kindness and stay until tomorrow.‛





‚Understood.‛



After taking a shower, Kino was called for dinner.

The family was sitting in silence in front of a splendid table in the dining room.

The woman moved nimbly on her own, lining up all of the dishes on the table from a food cart. There was fresh vegetable salad, consommé with mushrooms, a portion of steaming chicken served with finely chopped vegetables in olive oil sauce, and well-baked bread fresh from the oven with butter in a bowl.

‚I hope you enjoy this old junk’s cooking. It’s a great honor for me,‛ the old woman bowed and went out of the room.

The man spoke to Kino, ‚Traveler, please help yourself.‛

The family didn’t start eating the food, and just sat expressionlessly.

While observing the family, Kino slowly began to eat. After taking a bite, Kino’s meek expression became firm. Her pace quickened, and her face was full of satisfaction as she tasted all of the dishes.



When Kino has finished eating, the family silently stood up and moved to one side of the room carrying their plates. They moved aside a picture decorating the wall, revealing a small door. They opened it and threw away all of the food that they didn’t even touch inside the hole.

‚<<‛

Kino was looking as they did this.

The old woman knocked and entered the dining room.

‚How was it?‛

‚Yup. It was delicious. That chicken was the  best.‛

‚It was great. Thank you, as always.‛

‚It was delicious——‛

The family answered the old woman’s question without hesitation.

The old woman bowed with a smile, then turned to Kino. ‚Miss Kino. How was the food?‛

‚Eh? Yes, it was very delicious. I enjoyed it very much,‛ Kino    said honestly.

‚Oh, I’m glad,‛ the old woman said happily while laying down the plates with the desserts. And then she left.

Kino ate the dessert —raspberry sherbet— with delight.





The family remained silent and waited for Kino to finish eating, then tossed away the melted sherbet into the hole in the wall.

The man rang the bell and the old woman came.

‚We’ll be excusing ourselves. Miss Kino, please have a relaxing stay,‛ the family said to Kino before they went out. The old woman happily removed the tableware and wiped the table clean.

Kino asked if there’s anything she could help with, but the old woman only shook her head and asked her instead, ‚Miss Kino. I’ll take something for you to drink before you sleep. Do you like hot chocolate?‛

‚Y-yes< thank you very much,‛ Kino said, and the old woman shook her head slowly once more.

‚You don’t have to thank me,‛ and while narrowing her wrinkled eyes,

‚It makes me feel great to be of use to somebody.‛



‚——so that’s how it is.‛

‚I see. But, they didn’t have to throw it away.‛

‚Yeah. I almost begged them to give it to me instead.‛

‚Where’s the family now?‛



‚It’s still seems a bit early in the evening. The old woman told me not to go to the second floor.‛

‚What do you think?‛

‚Well, it’s definitely not normal, but< without knowing the circumstances, I can’t really say anything.‛

‚Right. What about grandma?‛

‚She seemed busy so< I’ll just try to ask tomorrow. It’s been a long time since I have last slept on a bed.‛

‚Okay, good night——‛



The next morning.

Kino woke up at dawn as usual. The weather was good. She moved her body lightly, then performed the maintenance of her persuaders.

When she went out to the corridor, she heard a sound from the kitchen. Kino peeked inside the slightly opened door and saw the old woman happily preparing breakfast. She rolled up fresh dough, and then molded it into shape. Then she coated it with melted butter and put it in the oven. She turned over a big hourglass.

Kino lightly knocked on the door.

‚Good morning.‛





‚Oh my, Miss Kino. Good morning. It’s still too early. Did I wake you up, by any chance?‛

‚No, I always wake up this early. By the way, do you bake bread every morning?‛ Kino asked. The old woman answered as her hands continued to move.

‚Yes. My most important job in the morning is to bake bread. Everyone eats lots of it, you see.‛



The family woke up and sat at the dining table. The man and his wife were wearing business suits, while the son was carrying a small bag.

‚Good morning. Miss Kino, were you able to rest well last night?‛ the man asked.

‚Yes. It was all thanks to you,‛ Kino  answered.

Baked bread, different kinds of jam, honey, soft-boiled eggs, salads, and crisply grilled bacon were lined up on the table.

‚Traveler, please help yourself,‛ the man said. Without hesitation, Kino took as much as she could eat in her plate, and ate with much pleasure.

Just as the night before, the family only sat in silence. After some time, they threw away everything.



Chapter 4: ‚A Tale of a Mechanical Doll‛ —One-way Mission—
The man called for the old woman, who handed them two bags. And then, the three left the house.

The old woman returned to the dining room. When asked how the food was, Kino once again replied honestly.

‚Without a doubt, this one is the best among the recent breakfasts that I had. It was much more delicious than any hotel’s or restaurant’s.‛

‚Why, thank you.‛

‚By the way, I have a question<,‛ Kino said, and the woman stopped and turned around.

‚Yes?‛

‚Where is everybody going?‛



‚——My master and his wife goes to work. Their son goes to a nursery school. Every day, for five days a week.‛

‚Okay—. Grandma really said that?‛

‚Yeah. In any case, the couple works in different places, and since the husband is closer, he drops off and picks up the son from school. Well, it seems like they won’t be home until evening.‛

‚Ooh—. That’s something. Maybe you should have tried to ask where exactly they’re going.‛



‚< Oh well, what are we going to do?‛

‚Why don’t we leave? No one could answer your questions anyway.‛

‚Yup. I was thinking about that too, but let’s stay here a bit longer.‛

‚That’s fine, but why?‛

‚The reason’s a bit personal<.‛

‚What?‛

‚Lunch——‛



Kino took down the luggage from Hermes and pushed him outside. She was wearing her jacket.

Dried sheets were fluttering beside the entrance. The old woman was crouching by the field, doing something.

Kino stopped Hermes and approached the old woman.

‚The potatoes are almost ready. During winter, everybody likes my gratin made from baking potatoes and bacon together in the oven. Maybe I could use some for this evening’s dinner.‛

‚That< also seems delicious,‛ Kino said.

‚Good grief,‛ Hermes muttered with a small voice.





The old woman slowly stood up, looked at the sky, and searched for the sun. She looked at a particular point in the sky.

‚Just perfect. Miss Kino, Mister Hermes, I want to show you something wonderful and rare. Please follow me,‛ she said to Kino whose face was a bit surprised.

And without waiting for Kino’s response, she walked briskly towards the forest. Kino pushed Hermes and followed in confusion.



Inside the forest, there was a path wide enough for one person to walk through. Kino followed the old woman while pushing Hermes along.

After a while, they arrived at a clearing and a scenery opened up before their eyes.

‚Wow<‛

‚Amazing!‛

Kino and Hermes exclaimed in wonder at the same time.

The place where the old woman finally stopped at was the cliff edge of an enormous valley. There was no ground right in front of them. The cliff has a steep angle, and was located at a tremendous height. The distance from the cliff to the other side of the valley was uniform.



Chapter 4: ‚A Tale of a Mechanical Doll‛ —One-way Mission—
When they carefully peeked at the bottom, they saw a lake. The long and narrow stretch of the lake had bright green water.

‚This is amazing. It must be a valley formed by a glacier a long time ago,‛ Kino said.

‚Who would have known there’s something like this nearby? It’s the end once you fall in. Be careful with your speed next time,‛ Hermes said.

Kino nodded in agreement and spoke to the old woman.

‚So this beautiful view is what you wanted to show us.‛

The old woman smiled and shook her head. ‚No. What I wanted to show you was something else.‛

Kino made a dubious expression, while the old woman looked towards the sun once more.

‚It’s about time. Please observe the bottom of the valley  closely.‛

Kino stopped Hermes by the cliff as much as she could, and then looked below.

The green of the lake slowly lightened up, as if it was being absorbed.

‚?‛

And then the lake became perfectly transparent, revealing the bottom of the valley.


‚!‛

Chapter 4: ‚A Tale of a Mechanical Doll‛ —One-way Mission—


‚Kino! That’s!‛

Kino gasped while Hermes exclaimed.

The bottom of the valley was illuminated by the bluish light passing through the water. It was a splendid city. There was a stretch of road networks lined up with a number of stone houses and apartments. More than half were crumbled remains of tall buildings and structures that looked like enormous factories,  with holes opened on the roof. The city was enclosed with tall and thick walls built side by side.

‚It’s a country<,‛ Kino muttered.

The woman spoke in a slow and gentle tone. ‚It’s a country from ancient times. It’s really sad; for some reason, this country was destroyed. Only during this time and season, the amount of light would make the water transparent and reveal this scenery.‛

‚<<‛

‚<<‛

‚I am sure there were a lot of people who lived here; people who lived supporting each other. But that was a long time ago.‛

‚<<‛

‚<<‛



Chapter 4: ‚A Tale of a Mechanical Doll‛ —One-way Mission—
‚What do you think? Isn’t it wonderful and rare to see an empty country appear like this?‛ the old woman asked the speechless Kino and Hermes.

Kino answered, her gaze still fixed at the bottom, ‚Yes<, I was totally surprised<. Thank you very much.‛

‚Oh, I’m glad. To think I can actually be a tour guide,  too.‛



When the old woman told them she has to return to work,

‚I want to look at it a bit longer,‛ Kino said.

‚I’ll go back and prepare lunch. Miss Kino, do you like wild rice soup?‛

‚Ah, yes. I’ve tried it in various countries before. I particularly like it with chicken.‛

‚That’s great. We’ll have that for lunch. Please come back when the sun is at its highest.‛

And then the old woman left. Not long after, the water turned back to its original color.

‚Kino, I thought you’ve noticed, but<‛

Kino nodded. ‚Yeah. This country, or rather, its ruins, are relatively new<.‛



‚Yup. No matter how you look at it, those buildings weren’t from ancient times.‛

While Kino slowly drew Hermes away from the cliff,

‚This may be the valley country that we were looking for<, no, it has to be.‛

‚Right. So, it was destroyed. The information must be outdated because you heard of it from a senile old man.‛

‚Even so, it’s strange that the old woman doesn’t know about it.  It doesn’t seem like she was lying either<. And even if we ask   the family, I doubt they’re going to tell us anyway.‛

‚Hide it or go and ask somebody else?‛ Hermes asked  jokingly.

‚Neither. We’ll leave this place tomorrow.‛

‚Ro—ger< wait, tomorrow? Ah! You wanted to freeload for dinner again.‛ As Hermes figured out the reason on his own,

‚Well, my three days isn’t over yet,‛ Kino answered  resolutely.



Kino ate lunch together with the old woman in the kitchen.

Kino ate the wild rice soup together with baked crackers enthusiastically.

On the other hand, the old woman only ate bread baked simply from some leftover dough and soup boiled from scrap vegetables.





‚I always have this, so it has become my favorite,‛ she said.

As they were drinking their after meal tea, the woman talked proudly about the family.

The master was a very important person in the food company he works for, while the wife works very hard in a machine manufacturing company and sometimes comes home later than the husband. The young master does well in his studies and was popular at school.

The old woman told Kino how happy she was to work as a mechanical doll for this kind of family.

After a short break,

‚Now, to make sure everyone has a nice home to return to, I have to do the cleaning,‛ the old woman said and quickly stood up. Right after, she pressed on her head, as if it throbbed painfully.

‚Are you okay? Maybe you should rest for a bit,‛ Kino said, and tried to get the old woman to sit down.

‚Yes, I’m fine. Maybe I need a little bit more grease?  ——Well,  it’s time to clean,‛ the old woman said with a smile and slowly stood up. She put the tableware in the sink and went out of the kitchen.



‚It’s a good opportunity to stay for one more  night.‛



Chapter 4: ‚A Tale of a Mechanical Doll‛ —One-way Mission—
‚Oh dear. And then?‛

Kino was in front of the entrance, doing Hermes’ maintenance. She was tightening up screws and bolts on various parts, and applying grease where it was needed. Afterwards, she polished his headlights and tank.

‚There, it’s perfect,‛ Kino said as she finished wiping  everything.

‚It’s not ‘perfect’, Kino. My speedometer’s still broken,‛ Hermes complained.

‚I know how you feel, but fixing a speedometer is beyond me. We’ll have to go to a watchmaker for that,‛ Kino said, and  Hermes sighed.

‚Sigh<. I’ll have to endure this for a while.‛



Kino pushed Hermes and returned to the room. They were just in time to see the old woman cleaning and putting the bed in order.

‚Oh, I see Mister Hermes has also become  clean.‛

‚Thanks. But you see——‛ Hermes  complained  and  explained his dilemma. Then the old woman spoke in a casual tone,

‚Can I take a look at the problem?‛

‚Eh?‛


‚Huh?‛

Chapter 4: ‚A Tale of a Mechanical Doll‛ —One-way Mission—


‚I’m used to detailed work, you see. Besides I’m a mechanical doll, so< Anyway, wait here for a bit, my master should have tools here somewhere.‛

Then the old woman went out of the room and came back holding tools.

‚Um, well, for the time being< If it’s no good, then it’s fine, so<‛

As Hermes said this, the old woman disassembled the speedometer and examined the numerous tiny gears inside. And then,

‚Ah, a gear was out of place,‛ she said without a care. Hermes expressed his wonder,

‚Amazing!‛

‚< Uh, can you fix it?‛ Kino asked. The old woman moved around a pair of tweezers like an expert watchmaker. And then,

‚There. I think that should do it,‛ she said immediately and put together the disassembled parts.

‚Let’s try it, Kino.‛ Kino pushed Hermes. The meter worked without a cinch.

‚<<‛

Kino said nothing, and looked at the old woman.



Chapter 4: ‚A Tale of a Mechanical Doll‛ —One-way Mission—
‚Wow! Amazing! Grandma, thank you so much!‛ Hermes said in high spirits.

‚I somehow managed to do it. I’m really glad to be of help,‛ the old woman said in a very satisfied tone.

‚Now then, I’ll have to make preparations for  dinner.‛



‚——I still couldn’t believe what we have seen  today.‛

‚But she fixed it perfectly. Ah, I feel so refreshed.‛

‚I wonder who she really is, that old woman.‛

‚Who knows? What if she really is a mechanical doll?  Then  things would make sense.‛

‚Impossible.‛

‚Impossible, it is. But,‛

‚But what?‛

‚It doesn’t sound like a good thing to say, but she really is one useful person.‛

‚Yeah——‛





Chapter 4: ‚A Tale of a Mechanical Doll‛ —One-way Mission—
During dinner, Kino cleaned up her plate while the family threw everything away, as usual.

Kino asked about the country at the bottom of the lake. However,

‚Too bad, but we don’t know anything about it because it’s so old,‛ was the only answer given to her.

Kino then told them that she’ll definitely be leaving by tomorrow, and thanked them for everything.

‚I see. Tomorrow huh<,‛ the man mumbled.



The next day, that is, the morning of the third day since Kino arrived in this house.

Kino woke up at dawn. She did her light exercises and went outside. The sky was so clear it was almost transparent.

Kino went to the kitchen, but the old woman was not there. She was not in the dining or the living room either.

She went to the old woman’s room and opened the door slightly. Kino peeked inside.

The old woman was collapsed on the floor right before the door.

‚!‛



Chapter 4: ‚A Tale of a Mechanical Doll‛ —One-way Mission—
Kino rushed to her and slowly raised her up. The old woman’s eyes were closed, and she was letting out long and thin gasps of air.

Kino raised the old woman and laid her on the bed.

‚Grandma, can you hear me?‛

The old woman opened her eyes slightly. ‚Oh<, Miss Kino.‛

‚I found you collapsed in front of your door. Are you aware of your body’s condition?‛ Kino asked, and the woman answered.

‚Yes<, I know it all so well<. It seems like it’s time for this machine to break down<. Please, Miss Kino. I have to say goodbye to them. Will you take me to where everybody is<?‛

‚No, I’ll call them. You are in no condition to be moved around. I’ll come back right away!‛ Kino said, turned on her heels and opened the door of the room. There were three people standing  in the corridor.

‚!‛

The family entered the room without saying anything.

Kino gaped at them for a while and then ran back to her own room and tapped Hermes awake.

She came back to the room pushing Hermes along. The three where standing beside the bed, looking down at the old woman quietly. Kino set Hermes on his center stand behind them.



Chapter 4: ‚A Tale of a Mechanical Doll‛ —One-way Mission—
The old woman spoke in a small voice. ‚Everyone< everyone<‛

‚Yes.‛

‚Yes.‛

‚Yes.‛

The three replied one after the other.

The old woman slowly opened her eyes. And while looking at  the vacant space between the husband and the wife, she asked,

‚Have I< been of use< to all of you<?‛

‚Yes.‛

‚Yes.‛

‚Yup.‛

The man, his wife, and their son said as they nodded. The old woman smiled very slowly.
‚Oh, that’s good< to know<,‛ she muttered weakly.

Slowly, she exhaled quietly and lengthily, and closed her eyes. And stopped moving.




Chapter 4: ‚A Tale of a Mechanical Doll‛ —One-way Mission—
Kino placed her fingers on the old woman’s throat. The three only stood quietly.

‚She has passed away,‛ Kino said.

‚Yes,‛ the man replied.

‚She was a human after all?‛ Kino asked in confirmation, and the man turned to Kino.

‚Yes,‛ was all he said, with a sad expression on his face.

‚Well, I don’t believe mechanical dolls could really exist anyway,‛ Hermes said.

‚What are you planning to do now?‛ The man answered Kino’s question,
‚We’ll bury her. You can help if you like.‛



Kino and the others wrapped the old woman’s body in sheets.

Afterwards, the man took the hourglass from the kitchen and laid it side by side with the hands of the old woman folded on top of her chest.





Chapter 4: ‚A Tale of a Mechanical Doll‛ —One-way Mission—
‚Please follow me,‛ the man said. Together with his wife, they  got the body out of the house on a stretcher. The son had a big rucksack on his back, and carried four shovels in his hand with ease.

Inside the deciduous forest, there was a path wide enough for one person to walk through. Kino followed the old woman while pushing Hermes along.

After a while, they arrived at a clearing and a scenery opened up before their eyes. The morning sun shined on the magnificent valley. The light shined diagonally on the green water of the lake.

They laid the body down and started to dig a hole near the cliff, in a place where the lake could be seen very well. Kino followed suit.

When the grave was ready, the man took the corpse in his arms, entered the hole, and gently laid it down. The son opened the rucksack and took out a human skull from inside.

It was a slightly yellowed skull of an adult. Its left side was violently broken. The man placed it carefully beside the old woman’s head. Then the son took out another, smaller skull. This time, it was a child’s. The man put it beside the old woman’s  head as well.

The man turned to Kino and spoke, ‚Her husband and son.‛

The man went out of the hole, handed out the shovels, and  started to dump soil on the grave. The wife and the son proceeded silently.



Kino also began to work on the other side.

For a while, only the cries of birds, the leaves rustling from the wind, and the sound of earth filling up a hole, could be heard.



Kino stood in front of the fresh grave, opening her eyes from a long, silent prayer. Her mouth moved a little, but no voice came out.

Kino turned to the family. ‚We’ll have to excuse ourselves now. Thank you for letting us stay.‛

The man smiled lightly and opened his mouth to speak.

‚Miss Kino, don’t you want to know?‛

‚Know what?‛

‚As to ‘who’ she was, ‘what’ we are, and ‘where’ that place at the bottom of the lake belonged to.‛

‚<<‛

Kino fell silent for a moment.

‚What do you say? We can answer all of your questions, Miss Kino,‛ the wife smiled a little, and spoke with a clear voice.

‚< I would love to know,‛ Kino said.

‚Me too!‛ Hermes chimed in happily.





The son’s eyes brightened up, and with a vivid expression,

‚It’s going to be a rather long story. Is that all right with you,   Miss Kino?‛ he said with the tone of an adult.

‚Y-yes<, I don’t mind,‛ Kino said, slightly surprised.

The man, woman, and child, looked at each other and smiled.

‚But first, look at this,‛ the man said as he placed both of his  hands on the son’s head. He turned it twice to the left, and lifted it from the rest of the body.

‚!‛

Kino’s face convulsed for a moment. The son’s laughing head  was connected to its body with a number of thin tubes.

‚D-don’t tell me< everyone’s<‛

‚Yes,‛ the wife said. And then with her right hand, she removed her left, and let it dangle. The man replaced the son’s head, and removed his own.

‚Mechanical dolls?‛

The man answered Kino’s question by making his head nod with his hands.

Kino exhaled deeply, her eyes still wide open.



Chapter 4: ‚A Tale of a Mechanical Doll‛ —One-way Mission—
‚Wow, I’m surprised! But you sure are well-made!‛ Hermes said happily.



Kino sat beside Hermes, who was set on his center stand.

‚Now that I know ‘what’ you are, kindly tell me ‘who’ she was and ‘where’ that city belonged. And if you can, please tell me ‘why’, as well.‛

‚I understand. Let us explain first about that country,‛ said the male mechanical doll who remained standing.

‚You must have heard rumors about a rare country in the middle of a long and narrow valley<, but you weren’t aware that it was an extinct country torn between two races which were in constant struggle against each other,‛ said the female mechanical doll who remained standing.

‚At times, political confrontations would result in bloodshed. Even so, people lived in it, either from the illusion that things would stabilize someday, or from the reality that they have no other place they could go to,‛ said the child mechanical doll who remained standing.

‚She was born and raised in such a country. Miss Kino, do you want to know her name?‛

Kino shook her head in response to the three people who stiffly stood, lined up near the edge of the cliff.



Chapter 4: ‚A Tale of a Mechanical Doll‛ —One-way Mission—
‚Fifty years ago, she was a doctor of mechanical engineering in that country. She was thirty years old at the time. In that world, she was known as ‘a genius that comes only once in several hundred years’,‛ said the male mechanical doll.

‚So that’s why she was able to fix Hermes.‛

‚I see.‛

Kino and Hermes muttered.

‚Yes. If it’s her, she could probably make all of the parts of a motorrad by herself. Even the parts a hundred times smaller inside the engine; she can make them move perfectly,‛ said the female mechanical doll.

‚<<‛

‚Wow.‛

‚She became unsatisfied with the research sponsorship she received and decided to build her own research facility. Her aim was to create mechanical dolls. Machines which looked exactly like humans, that work for humans, are yet to be created——,‛ said the child mechanical doll.

‚She thought, ‘Mechanical dolls will free humans from  work. And as a result, everyone will have spare time to resolve their differences; then the quarrels thus far will all be a thing of the past,’‛ said the male mechanical doll.



Chapter 4: ‚A Tale of a Mechanical Doll‛ —One-way Mission—
‚She immersed herself into her research. But even with her abilities, creating mechanical dolls of the quality she desired was no simple task. She spent days on end in her research facility, and had very little time to spend with her beloved husband and son. We witnessed this while we were inside our cases,‛ said the female mechanical doll.

‚From time to time, she would look sadly at the picture of her family. Even so, she carried on with her research. And finally, her efforts bore fruit when she completed three mechanical dolls that function perfectly,‛ said the child mechanical doll.

‚I see.‛

‚That’s the three of you.‛

The male mechanical doll confirmed. After that, he continued hesitantly.

‚She embraced us happily. She put us in her car in a hurry, and took us to her apartment, to the place where the people whom  she wanted to share the success of her research before anyone else, waited. ‘They’ll be surprised. I managed to finish just in time,’ she said happily<. But when we arrived, the apartment  was no longer there. In its place was a mountain of rubble, the traces of a big explosion. It was a terrorist bombing born from the feud of the two opposing races.‛

‚<<‛

‚<<‛



The female mechanical doll narrowed her eyes and continued.
‚She jumped out of the car and ran to the mountain of debris. She looked at the corpses lined up beside it and found her husband, with part of his head crushed, and her son, whose lower body was missing. Then, she turned to us and laughed, ‘Now, everyone. My husband and son are waiting. Let’s celebrate!‛ —— She went inside the apartment without a moment’s delay. The rubble collapsed on her. We saved her and took her to the research facility to treat her injuries. Her life was out of danger, but it took several days for her consciousness to return. However, she was not the same person who created  us<.‛

The child mechanical doll continued, his face having the expression of someone who was about to cry.

‚When she regained consciousness, the first thing she told me  was, ‘What time is it?’ I answered promptly, and she reacted with, ‘Oh, my. Master’s going to be home soon. I have to make dinner.’ She then tried to get up with her injured body. We immediately gave her a shot of tranquilizer. But when she opened her eyes for the second time, she asked us, ‘Are you the family that I serve?’ She asked a number of times, until finally, we responded, ‘Yes, that’s right. But right now, you are still in the middle of production. So you have to wait for a while.’ ——No matter how much we tried to fix her and examine every nook and cranny of her brain, we couldn’t find out how she became like this. If only she were a mechanical doll, we could pinpoint the exact place  with the problem.‛

‚< And then, what happened?‛ Kino asked.

The male mechanical doll looked at the other two mechanical dolls, and spoke as their representative.





‚And then, while we were waiting for her to recover physically, the fighting between the two sides escalated. Every day, there would be terrorist bombings, and the other side would retaliate in a similar fashion. We felt that her body would soon be in danger, so we hid her in the basement of her research laboratory. An ugly civil war soon broke out. Eventually, the deafening days which continued on end suddenly came to a halt. The population had decreased rapidly to the point that it could no longer continue as a country. After a while, groups emerged, living however they wanted and going around killing for food. In the end, everyone left the country. We have no idea about their whereabouts, but seeing that there were no rumors that the country was no longer in existence,   probably<‛

‚I see,‛ Kino nodded.

‚We took her with us above ground. She said with a smile, ‘My, how chaotic. It would be really worthwhile cleaning this place up.’ And so we told her, ‘No, we will be moving to a new house. Inside the forest above the valley, there’s a really inexpensive place we could live in. There, you will work for us.’ ——Since then, for 54 years and 341 days, we have been acting as an artificial family for her.‛

‚I see<,‛ Kino said.

‚What about that lake?‛ Hermes asked.

‚To prevent her from recollecting painful memories, we built a dam and submerged the country. The water becoming transparent was not part of our calculations.‛



Chapter 4: ‚A Tale of a Mechanical Doll‛ —One-way Mission—
‚Did you know that her body was getting weaker?‛ The mechanical dolls answered Kino’s question.
‚Yes. We perform a regular scan of her body’s condition<. But   old age was the only thing we couldn’t do anything about.



When everything had been explained, Kino faced the mechanical dolls.

‚I don’t have anything else I would like to ask. We’ll pack up and leave.‛

At that moment, the three mechanical dolls spoke all at once.

‚We were made by her. To work for the sake of humans, yes, to work for her. And so, our mission has come to an end<. But, that was not our only duty! Miss Kino, is there anything you want us to do for you? Just say it. If we don’t do anything for humans, then there is no reason for us to exist! Just continuing to exist will be very painful!‛

Kino answered, ‚No, there’s nothing.‛

‚Please don’t say such things! There must be something! We can be of assistance to you. We can be someone you need. We can be your friends, parents, children, lovers, or enemies.‛

‚<<. I am not interested. I’m sorry,‛ Kino answered expressionlessly, just as before.



Chapter 4: ‚A Tale of a Mechanical Doll‛ —One-way Mission—
‚Don’t you have someone you truly need from the bottom of  your heart?‛ asked a monotonous voice.

‚Right now, there’s no one. Well, except for  myself.‛

‚No way! Not having a person important to you, isn’t that sad? Isn’t that sort of life empty? Humans have to be together with someone. Humans have to live for somebody. If not, wouldn’t that be really painful?‛

Kino shook her head. ‚It depends,‛ answered a monotonous voice.

‚Please make use of us!‛

Kino shook her head once more.

Then they asked, ‚We can’t be of any use to you? We are useless?‛ Kino remained silent.
Eventually, they muttered, ‚Is that so<‛

They turned on their heels and slowly walked. Soon the footsteps vanished, and they disappeared from Kino’s sight.

After some time, the sound of something hitting the water was heard.

Kino peeked below the cliff.



Chapter 4: ‚A Tale of a Mechanical Doll‛ —One-way Mission—
The three were floating face up on the green water.

The lake slowly cleared up. At the same time, the bodies began to sink.

They sank towards the blue city; their arms  wide  open  as  if they  were  about  to fly.





Chapter 5: ‚A Land Not Permitting Discrimination‛
—True Blue Sky—6


‚Anyway, let’s see if we can ask the people around here,  Kino.‛

‚Yeah<. I suppose that’s the best way after all. ——Ah, umm< excuse me?‛

‚Yes? Oh, you guys aren’t from this country, are  you?‛

‚That’s right. We are travelers. We just arrived in this  country.‛

‚Then, welcome.‛

‚By the way, there’s something I would like to ask.‛

‚Sure, what would that be?‛

‚I’m looking for ×××××7. Is there one nearby?‛

‚<<? What did you say just now?‛

‚I was asking if there’s a ××××× around here.‛

‚Wait a minute. Are you making fun of people with that sort of job? What in the world are you trying to pull?!‛

‚Eh? No. I’m just looking for ×××××.‛

6 If ‘true blue sky’ sounds familiar, it’s because you’ve heard something similar in the third story in anime episode 11. Only the last part of this chapter was featured in the anime though.
7 It’s really written as ‘×××××’. You can think of it as a censor beep. In Kino no Tabi, ‘×××××’ denotes taboo word/s, like Kino’s real name.





‚Ah! What a thing to say<. Hey traveler! If you insult  these  people any further, I will not forgive you!‛

‚<<‛

‚Kino?‛

‚< Uh, if that’s the case, then let me rephrase it.‛

‚By all means! That’s what I want you to do!‛

‚Let’s see. Isn’t there a ××××× in this country? Or, is there a ××××× here? That is all I want to know.‛

‚< Truly, what a thing to say! You are such a terrible person! To say it in such a manner, do you not realize the pain you cause them? Wait, everyone come here! Everyone come!‛

‚Oh? What’s the matter?‛ ‚What?‛ ‚What’s with the loud voice?‛
‚Why?‛ ‚What is it?‛

‚Listen everyone. Just now, this traveler said some outrageous things! She used ugly discriminatory words over and over again! Unforgivable!‛

‚You don’t have to shout just because of that<. Uh, is it you? Are you the traveler this lady here was talking with just now?‛

‚Yes, that’s right. But it seems like she finds my use of words offensive no matter what I do.‛



Chapter 5: ‚A Land Not Permitting Discrimination‛ —True Blue Sky—
‚Hmm. It may be that this lady is just being too sensitive and melodramatic. Well, what is it that you want to know, miss traveler?‛

‚Umm, I just wanted to ask if there isn’t a ×××××  here.‛

‚!  W-w-what  a  thing<  Miss  traveler,  please  stop  saying  such things with a calm face. That is extreme mockery of a specific organization, of a profession!‛

‚That’s<. A ×××××, I’m looking for a ××××× that can do ×××××.‛

‚T-that’s enough! If you continue to spit out such careless remarks, we will take action against you!‛

‚Yeah!‛ ‚Cut it out!‛ ‚You scum!‛

‚Huh? Maybe no matter what I do, I will ×××××? What do you think, Hermes?‛

‚Kino. Perhaps, there’s no such thing as a ××××× here? That’s why they can’t conceive of the idea of ×××××. Whether you use ×××××  or ×××××, it’s the same as ×××××?‛

‚Aack! Even the motorrad says mean things! They suit each other so well!‛

‚That’s right! You people are trash. You don’t deserve to live; your existence should be condemned! There’s something wrong with you!‛



Chapter 5: ‚A Land Not Permitting Discrimination‛ —True Blue Sky—
‚Uh, there seems to be a misunderstanding somehow. To rephrase, I was just thinking of a ×××××. Isn’t there a ××××× with
×××××?‛

‚Eeek!‛ ‚What a thing to say!‛ ‚Didn’t I tell you? I was right!‛
‚Hmph, there’s nothing we can do, this person’s rotten to the core!‛ ‚Don’t let the children hear!‛ ‚Boy, let’s go over there.‛

‚This is some trouble<. Hermes,  do you know any good  words  to say?‛

‚How does ‘×××××’ sound to you?‛

‚What does ‘×××××’ mean?‛

‚Eeek—! Terrible! This is too much! You guys sure say such  things so casually!‛

‚Hey damn brat! Stop using such abusive language! Stop this instant! Otherwise!‛

‚Otherwise?‛

‚<<. Hmph! W-what’s that? Are you planning to threaten me with that hand persuader on your hip? Hah! Did you think I would stab you here? Give me a break! I wouldn’t do such a thing! It was only by chance that this knife fell from my pocket, and I was just returning it! Don’t jump to conclusions. You don’t believe a person now? You sad excuse for a human! You a*****e!‛

‚My goodness! You were thinking of using violence to have your way? You’re the worst!‛



Chapter 5: ‚A Land Not Permitting Discrimination‛ —True Blue Sky—
‚That’s right. With that sort of attitude, it’s likely that up to now, she has killed a lot of people just because they don’t agree with her. She thinks nothing of shooting people. This person is a cold- blooded killer!‛

‚Yeah. If we just keep quiet and listen, she’ll say whatever she wants<. Words used without caution are weapons that can hurt people. What a foolish, defective creature.‛

‚Let’s understand her pain. Let’s go beyond our anger and feel compassion towards this person’s prejudiced ideas. I’m sure her parents were trash, and did not teach her what’s right from wrong. Or maybe they were very poor and did not have the time for that. The father must be an alcoholic, and the mother must have run off to become somebody else’s mistress.‛

‚I see<. Well, I sort of understand what everyone is trying to say. My ××××× is ×××××, I suppose.‛

‚Kino, whichever way you say it, isn’t that  ×××××?‛

‚You son of a b***h! To say that again! Leave this moment! Get  out of this country! Get out of our sight! We can’t allow prejudiced people like you to stay in this country for even one more second! We would like to tear you to pieces for the sake of the poor people you have insulted, but since we’re generous, we’ll forgive you if you leave! Accept the mercy of these rational people, and get out of here! Everyone! Let’s expel these b******s with our combined forces!‛

‚That’s right! Get out! Get out of here!‛ ‚Trash!‛ ‚Murderer! Sadist!‛ ‚Get out!‛



Chapter 5: ‚A Land Not Permitting Discrimination‛ —True Blue Sky—
‚This brat! Eat this——‛

‚That would be troublesome. Please stop.‛

‚< W-what are you glaring at? < I-I was just trying to pick up a stone which fell by my feet! Because it might be dangerous if a child trips on it! D-don’t get the wrong idea! You crazy b***h!‛

‚That’s right! This man is a kind person! I know that all too well! But it will take someone so skillful in spitting out words and actions that hurt people like you a whole lifetime to understand that!‛

‚Leave! Leave at once! If you want to die, die outside the country! And then become food for the maggots! This country is too good for prejudiced and violent people like you to breathe in!‛

‚Yeah, yeah! Do not pollute our country! Do not enter our beautiful country! You disgusting f***k!‛

‚When I see this person’s behavior, I remember a ruthless dictator from long ago who ordered the massacre of tens of thousands of people for the sake of his twisted ideology<. It makes me shiver. I’m sure this person is his reincarnation.‛

‚That’s right<. Hey traveler. Get out of this country right now. And know that words can become weapons. But don’t come near this country ever again. Do not infect us with your disgusting disease.‛

‚Yeah, get out.‛ ‚Get out!‛ ‚Beat it!‛ ‚Leave!‛ ‚Please leave now!‛
‚Disappear!‛



Chapter 5: ‚A Land Not Permitting Discrimination‛ —True Blue Sky—
‚< Oh dear. Well, it can’t be helped. Please excuse us. Take care, everyone. As for ×××××, maybe it’s better to ×××××.‛

‚Eeek——!‛ ‚You had to say that just when you’re about to leave!‛ ‚Get out! Get lost!‛

‚Get lost! Get lost!‛

‚Well then. ——Let’s go Hermes.‛

‚Bye-bye everyone!‛



‚——Phew. At last they’re gone. Those guys were  hopeless.‛

‚Yeah. It’s so sad to see that people like that still exist. But they were outsiders after all.‛

‚That’s right. In our country, there are no such prejudiced people. We can only recognize the good attributes of things. We take everything in a positive light.‛

‚Anyway, what were the immigration inspectors doing? Why did they let that crazy traveler get an entry permit? Shouldn’t a person like that be sent to the hospital instead?‛

‚Indeed.‛

‚That’s true. People only come occasionally, so they should at least do their work properly.‛



Chapter 5: ‚A Land Not Permitting Discrimination‛ —True Blue Sky—
‚Well, asking for an intelligent immigration inspector is too much. There’s no helping their stupidity.‛

‚Yeah. No one supervises their work, and even though discrimination is such an unforgivable thing, only the immigration inspectors think differently. It can’t be helped because they were failures since birth.‛

‚There are so many of them that we can’t count them with our fingers, right?‛

‚Ah, I’ve also heard about that.‛

‚So stupid.‛

‚Even so, these trash live long. Did you know? Their life expectancy is twice as much as that of an average person.‛

‚That’s amazing. I didn’t know. How  come?‛

‚Well, that’s probably because they don’t use their heads. And so they don’t age. Having a long life is not necessarily a good thing, though.‛

‚True, true.‛ ‚You can say that again.‛

‚After all, the inspectors dared live outside the walls, in such a barbaric environment. I’ve heard before that those guys come  into the country only once a month, when they receive their salary and go shopping. The rest of the time they spend outside the walls<. I wonder what they do with their   families?‛



Chapter 5: ‚A Land Not Permitting Discrimination‛ —True Blue Sky—
‚Well, they’re barbaric by nature. Barbaric people deserve to be  in barbaric forests and wastelands.‛

‚Ahaha. Nice one. Civilized living is for civilized people, after  all.‛

‚Speaking of which, even if those people decide to get married to a normal person in the country, in most cases they tend to look  for a person who has no parents or relatives. Also, they prefer young ones, those who are barely old enough to get married.‛


‚Ah——, oh no. Then that means, if we get married to these people, we can no longer return to the country?‛

‚So those guys are pedophiles too?‛ ‚Disgusting<. They should die.‛

‚Then once they get married, they can only come into the country once a month?‛

‚Yikes! That’s horrendous. I wonder, what sort of  lifestyle  do they have? Not that I’m particularly interested.‛

‚I heard a rumor that whenever those guys come into the country, they wear hats, masks and gloves, and never take them off even  in summer. Now that’s extremely creepy. And it seems that they don’t reveal their lifestyles even to their closest friends.‛

‚Wow, so terrible.‛

‚Those kinds of humans should never have been born. That’s what I think.‛



‚Indeed. In any case, if you were born as an inspector, you’d be one your whole life. That’s so crazy. If it were me, I’d commit suicide.‛

‚Well by law, everyone’s free to choose their own career. For instance, they can become a teacher inside the country if they want. < Anyway, I don’t think those people are fit for other jobs. If one of them said they wanted a normal job, that may be something worth seeing.‛

‚No, I don’t want to see it! If an inspector applies for the same job as I have, I’ll say ‘It’s regrettable, but we can’t accept you because the documents were lost accidentally.’ I don’t want to get contaminated.‛

‚That’s only a rational decision by a rational person. I’ll do the same thing. If there was an exam, I’ll fail him no matter how high his score was. That’s because if an inspector gets hired, the customers will all go away.‛

‚Hey everyone, let’s stop this talk about trash. It’s a waste of time. Let’s just protect our beautiful culture and carry on with our wonderful lives. There’s no need for us at all to sympathize with the needy.‛

‚That’s right.‛ ‚Well said.‛ ‚I agree.‛

‚Come. Let’s return to our lives——‛



There was a small guard post beside the gates just outside the walls.





Over there, a man was sitting and leisurely reading a book. He was probably around thirty years old. The words ‘immigration inspector’ was embroidered on the white shirt he was wearing.

Kino knocked on the window of the guard post. The inspector placed the book on top of the desk, stood up and went out through the door.

Kino asked the inspector, ‚Excuse me. I’ll be leaving the country right away. What about the departure procedures?‛

‚There’s no need. You didn’t undergo entry procedures either, after all,‛ the inspector said, and grinned, ‚Well, you probably understand the reason right?‛

Kino nodded. ‚Yes, I understand very well. Up to now, I’ve been around various places, but this one set a new record for my shortest stay in any country.‛

‚In any case, please don’t feel violated. All the people in this country feel like that.‛

‚It sure looks that way. None of them seems to be joking around. Anyway, what is a ×××××, really?‛

‚Ah. It seems that it was not like that in the past. The leader that time said, ‘Because a ××××× is ×××××, we can’t ×××××’. From then on,  it’s  ×××××.  Ever  since,  it  has  always  been  ×××××. Probably,
××××× is ×××××.‛

‚I see.‛ ‚I understand.‛



Chapter 5: ‚A Land Not Permitting Discrimination‛ —True Blue Sky—
Kino nodded, and Hermes murmured with profound emotion.

‚Even though you took the trouble to come here, I hope you  don’t feel bad.‛

‚Not at all! It was very interesting,‛ Kino said with a smile.

‚I thought you’d say that. All travelers do,‛ the inspector said, looking amused.

Kino looked up at the towering walls beside her.

‚These walls are also amazing. It’s the first time I’ve seen something like this.‛

‚Isn’t it?‛ The inspector nodded and raised his  head.

The grey walls the two were looking at had no top. Extended right above it was a gently drawn curve which eventually merges with the walls on the opposite side. The entire country was covered with a concrete dome.8

‚It was completely enclosed. I was very surprised when I saw the interior.‛

‚It was like a super-duper humongous egg. When we saw it from afar, we thought it was some sort of a mountain,‛ Hermes said.

‚Since when was it like this?‛ Kino asked.



8 I think this is one of the reasons why the first part of the story has no narration at all. If the interior of the country were to be described, the twist would have been revealed. The other reasons depend on your own interpretation of this  story<.



‚Too bad, but I don’t know. All we do know is that it might have existed back in my great-great-great-great grandfather’s time. It was in one of his remaining drawings.‛

‚Oh<‛

Kino looked up at the walls again.

‚However, it was such a dirty country, Kino. No, not the people, but the town.‛

As Hermes said this, the inspector nodded several times.

‚Yeah, it’s so dirty<. Isn’t that terrible? It’s like that all over the country. As you can see, on top of the enclosed space, they basically have no sense of hygiene at all. I don’t know if you noticed it, but everyone lets their kitchen waste and sewage flow into the street. Upstream the river flowing from the north, the water is clear and there are many fish, but downstream it  becomes pitch black you can no longer tell what’s flowing in it. It’s untouchable. Inside the houses, there are swarms of rats, and there are also lots of cockroaches.‛

‚What’s a ‘cockroach’?‛ Kino asked the inspector.

The inspector spread his thumb and index finger apart.

‚It’s an insect, but it’s about this big. It is flat, oval in shape, and looks greasy. It’s often seen coming out of the kitchen.‛

‚Kino, haven’t you seen a cockroach before?‛ Hermes asked. Kino shook her head.  ‚Nope.‛





‚That’s good for you, Miss Kino. It’s a pretty disgusting sight whenever you see it crawling around in the dining area or in the bedroom. Well, of course it’s like that inside the country. There was a time when I saw a number of them being boiled thoroughly in the hotel cafeteria’s serving pot<. Ah, well let’s leave it at that.‛

The inspector shook his head and hands with an anguished expression.

‚I see<. Insects which I haven’t seen before; it would be nice to see them for a bit,‛ Kino said without changing her expression.

‚Stop, stop! In this world, there are things that you’re better off not knowing at all. A cockroach is one such thing.‛

‚Is that so?‛ Kino asked with a straight face.

‚Yes, that’s right,‛ the inspector said with a wry smile, and then continued. ‚Well, now that I think about it, I don’t know if I can bear living in such a place. I can’t stay there long without gloves and a mask. However<, those people will never know  the  outside world from birth until death. Of course, they think that’s the best thing. That’s what they were taught as they grew up. People who live in paradise don’t dream of new lands.‛

‚I see,‛ Kino said, and turned her gaze at the opposite side of the walls.

The cool breeze blew over the bright green meadows under the clear sky. On both sides of the road due east were neatly trimmed fields. A dark coniferous forest spread out from afar.





Beside a stream a little ways off the walls was the wooden house of the inspector, with its waterwheel turning about leisurely. A woman who seemed to be the inspector’s wife was drying laundry. Beside, two children were playing with a swing suspended from a tree.

‚It’s such a nice place, isn’t it?‛ Kino  said.

‚Thanks. I also like it here,‛ the inspector said with a  sigh.

‚Even Kino can live longer if she stays in a place like this forever,‛ Hermes teased.

The inspector chuckled, ‚That may be true. We inspectors usually don’t die before we see the faces of our grandchildren. However, the people inside the country only live long enough to see their children graduate. Most of them die due to disease. It’s because  of the poor hygiene and the filthy air. Frankly speaking, it’s dangerous in there. They will never be attacked by wild animals or be hit by enemy bullets, but they’re in danger nevertheless.‛

Kino nodded lightly, and looked at the meadows once more.



‚There’s a detour road along the northern walls. If you arrive in front of the western gates, it will be a good idea to stop by since my older sister and cousin are the inspectors over there. You can find accommodations, portable rations and fuel there. If it’s not much of a bother, please tell them my family and I are doing well,‛ the inspector said to Kino who was ready to depart.



‚Thank you very much. I’ll tell them.‛

‚Thanks for everything.‛

Kino put on her hat, and when she was about to ride Hermes,

‚Miss Kino,‛ the inspector asked all of a sudden. ‚What does ‘true blue sky’ mean?‛

‚Eh?‛ Kino turned around.

‚‘True blue sky’. I’m not referring to its literal meaning,‛ the inspector slowly repeated.

‚It’s just like a riddle, eh?‛ Kino said with a wry smile.

The  inspector  nodded.  ‚Yeah,  you  can  think  of  it  that     way.
――The people in the country thinks of the painted interior illuminated with fluorescent lights as their true blue sky. Well<,  if the traveler Kino were to be asked the question, ‘What does ‘true blue sky’ mean to you?’ what would be your answer?‛

Kino seemed a little troubled for a while, and then,

‚< I see. I will answer this. ‘There’s no such thing.’‛

‚Why is that?‛ The inspector asked immediately.



Kino answered with a gentle tone, ‚The sky’s blueness< changes so much depending on the place, time, season and weather. And each one of them was beautiful. In those times I didn’t think  much of them, but now that I recall, I think they’re all beautiful. I can’t tell you which one is the ‘true blue sky’ among all of the skies I’ve seen. < That’s why, ‘there’s no such thing.’ The ‘me’ right now thinks so.‛

The inspector gazed at Kino as he listened to her. Then, he nodded several times.

‚Ah, I see<. There was that sort of answer too<.‛ Hermes asked the muttering inspector, ‚Who had?‛
‚My grandfather,‛ the inspector answered immediately. Kino gave him a questioning look for a moment. And then,
‚I see. You were asked the same question by your grandfather, right?‛

‚Exactly. It was when my grandfather was on the verge of death. At that time, I was still too young to discern things. He said this: ‘It doesn’t matter whether you find the ‘true blue sky’ or not. I asked, ‘What are you talking about?’ And he said while laughing, ‘That’s why it doesn’t matter whether you understand or not. Goodbye, Lügner, my dear grandson.’ And then he died<. Since then, I would vaguely think from time to time what ‘true blue sky’ really   means<.‛

The inspector turned his back to the wall and looked at the blue sky.





‚I don’t know if your answer is correct or not. But<, I’m glad I asked you. Thanks,‛ the inspector said, still looking at the sky.

Kino gazed at the same sky, and gently spoke,

‚You’re welcome. This sky’s blue is also very beautiful.‛







Chapter 6: "A Finished Tale" ―Ten Years After―
Chapter 6: "A Finished Tale" ―Ten Years After―


I finished my work at last. As always, I tidied up my manuscripts. As always, I put them inside an envelope. And as always, I stowed it inside the lowermost right drawer of my desk. It will be kept that way until my editor comes to pick it up.

I stood up from my chair and slowly stretched as I walked towards the center of the room. I stretched from tip to toe, as if I was trying to make myself taller.

After I made a sound like that of a kitten stuck beneath his four siblings, I felt my strength being sucked out. The fatigue which I have forgotten as I wrote in my desk for ten hours straight suddenly came over my whole body.

I love this feeling of exhaustion.

The way I sank into my bed felt different, as if I were very heavy. If I let myself sink completely, I can let a number of hours pass by without thinking about anything.

If I didn’t let myself sink deep enough, my body would feel as if it were floating, and my head would spin. My mind would inevitably be overrun with various thoughts.

My job right now. My plans for the future. If my thoughts stop with that then it’s fine, but if I inadvertently come up a new story, then it’s no use. I will not be able to sleep for a while.



In that case, I will be lying on top of my bed in a strained posture, and if I don’t commit into writing the things struggling inside my head one after the other in the notebook always by my side, they might disappear. Once I have finished everything, the sun would have completely risen. My exhausted brain felt admiration to whoever said the words, ‘Writers work throughout the day.’

I felt like I have the right to be lazy after completely finishing a story which has taken me so much time. I flopped onto my bed.

Thud! My body rebounded, and slowly but surely, began to sink. My whole body felt heavy, and I don’t want to move anymore. Even so, I moved my hand very slightly to remove my long hair which was blocking my breathing. It’s still a bit too early for me to succumb to an eternal sleep.

That’s right. I’ll go and have my hair cut tomorrow. My hair has grown so much after being neglected for some time.

I suddenly remembered my teens; the time when I still had hair too short for a girl.

A time when I still held a pistol and lived amidst gun smoke. And I remembered the day when it all suddenly came to an end.
That cheeky motorrad Hermes, I wonder where he is  and what he is doing right now?

I wonder what he would say if he sees me right now, completely settled down in one country, and a popular female author?

That’s right. I’ll go and have my hair cut tomorrow.





I can’t make it as short as that time, but—— tomorrow, I’ll go and have my hair cut.

Having decided that much, I finally sank into slumber.


* * *


A single motorrad (Note: a two-wheeled vehicle. Only to note that it cannot fly) stood on top of the sand.

It was a sandy beach mottled with a rocky area. Various sizes of islands were scattered across the open sea. The waves were calm. The spring sun soaring above the clear sky leisurely warmed the earth.

Away from the shores, the pine trees growing on the sandy beach increased in number. Soon the clump of pine trees became a beautiful, lush grove.

The motorrad was parked midway between the shore and the growths of pine trees.

It was packed full of traveling luggage. There was a box on each side of its rear wheel which was topped by a big bag and a rolled- up sleeping bag. A small wooden board was fastened at the bottom of its protruding side stand so that it would not sink into the sand.



A lone human lay in hiding on the left side of the motorrad  facing the sea. It was a young person, around mid-teens. Her blond hair was trimmed short like that of a soldier, and she had beautiful emerald-green eyes.

The jacket and pants she was wearing were full of patches all over, and thick rubber-soled sandals were tightly bound on her legs. She was gripping an automatic hand persuader (Note: A hand persuader is a gun. In this case a pistol). This persuader was installed with something like a rifle’s stock, which can be positioned against the shoulders and cheeks when aiming.

With a tensed expression, the human spied with great caution towards the grove before her.

‚Hey, I don’t know who you are, but I think it’s a good idea if  you stop,‛ the motorrad said, but the human did not answer. She kept her persuader positioned and her eyes gleaming, trying not to miss anything that moves.

‚Well, people may have their own circumstances, but to attack Kino, of all people<,‛ the motorrad spoke   again.

‚Shut up!‛

The human replied harshly, and then, with a tone somewhat softer but still with a hint of nervousness, asked the motorrad,

‚So it’s Kino, huh? The name of that traveler.‛

‚That’s right. And the one you’re using in place of a shield is Hermes,‛ the motorrad called Hermes said, and continued with a voice devoid of any tension, ‚Anyway, it’s nice to meet  you.‛





‚Ah. I’m Inid< hey, that doesn’t matter!‛ the human called Inid yelled.

‚Inid, eh? Nice to meet you,‛ Hermes greeted.

Ignoring this, Inid raised her body a little and peeked from the side of the sleeping bag. With her persuader steady on her shoulder, she aimed towards the woods, and fired. Three dry explosive sounds were heard in succession, and three empty cartridges fell on the sand. It was an automatic persuader which fires three rounds with one pull of the trigger.

‚Tsk!‛

As Inid clicked her tongue, Hermes asked, ‚You  missed?‛

‚Shut up!‛

‚With skills like that, you will be the one to get shot  instead.‛

Inid laughed scornfully. ‚That’s what you’re here for – a shield. If your wheels get shot by mistake, that traveler won’t be able to continue traveling, right?‛

‚I suppose so<. But it’s Kino we’re talking about here, so<‛

The moment Hermes said this, the sound of something cutting through the air was heard. Part of the sleeping bag burst open, and the feathers that it contained fluttered in the air. The bullet passed just above the ear of Inid as she tried to peek again. Her blond hair was showered with white feathers.



Chapter 6: "A Finished Tale" ―Ten Years After―
‚< I’m sure she would fire without a second thought, just as you’ve seen.‛

‚<<‛

Inid’s face stiffened, and took refuge behind Hermes’ engine.

‚If you don’t do something soon, Inid<‛

‚D-don’t say my name as if we’re close!‛ Inid cried out while lowering her head as much as she could, and swore under her breath.

‚Why attack a traveler anyway? Just so you know, Kino’s not rich.‛

‚It doesn’t matter. What’s important is that I get to attack and  steal from someone.‛

‚What’s that about?‛

Without answering, Inid swiftly raised her head, and while chasing something moving inside the forest with her gaze, fired several times in a row. Three rapid-fired rounds, five times. Fifteen loud shots echoed in the beach.

After firing, Inid quickly lay down, dropped the empty magazine, pulled a fresh one out of her breast pocket and slapped it into the persuader.

‚Damn! He escaped into the woods!‛



Chapter 6: "A Finished Tale" ―Ten Years After―
‚You missed again? You’re pretty bad at this<,‛ Hermes said frankly.

‚I told you to shut up!‛ Inid retorted angrily.

‚Well, calm down. Nothing good comes from being impatient in   a fight.‛

‚I-I don’t want to be told off by someone like you<. But I suppose you’re right<.‛

Inid took a big breath and lightly shook her head.

‚Well, why are you attacking travelers again?‛  Hermes  asked, and Inid replied immediately,

‚To be recognized as a member.‛

‚Of what?‛

Inid remained prostrate, and while keeping the persuader’s sight aligned with her gaze,

‚For becoming a pirate. The pirates controlling this area have a custom. There is a test for anyone who wants to become a pirate, to be given on their fifteenth birthday. On that day, you have to attack the first person you caught sight of, and steal their belongings. Kill if you have to. If you can’t do this, you can never become a pirate your whole life.‛

‚Oh, I see. But what if your opponent is abnormally strong? What if they fight back?‛



Chapter 6: "A Finished Tale" ―Ten Years After―
‚That will have to depend on your luck<. Luck is also important for a pirate. That is also being tested here.‛

‚Oh, I see,‛ Hermes said with admiration.

‚As for me, today is that day. I will bring down that traveler and be acknowledged. I will follow my father’s footsteps, and become captain someday. And so< I can’t let my boat sink with just the first row!‛ Inid said furiously with a stern face.

‚Hmm< you’re quite desperate.‛

‚So be it. I’ve lived for this day<. I will win no matter who my opponent is!‛

Inid tightened her grip on her persuader. With her emerald-green eyes, she glared into the woods through the gap between Hermes’ engine and frame.

‚Now, come out. You’ve been making me wait forever<,‛ muttered Inid.

After three seconds, something red disturbed Inid’s left eye. She turned away her face in confusion. A single red dot of light now lingered on the top of her shoulder, at the place where her eyes had been earlier. The laser sight cut through the tiny gap between the engine and the frame.

‚!‛

Inid quickly moved her body away from this gap. At the same time, a shot rang in the forest.



Chapter 6: "A Finished Tale" ―Ten Years After―
The bullet did not hit Hermes. Neither did it hit Inid. It hit the wooden board propped beneath Hermes’ stand, and sent it flying.

‚Whoa!‛ Hermes cried out. His stand sank into the sand, and he began to collapse on his left side.

‚Ah!‛ Inid twisted her body to avoid the bag and the sleeping bag which suddenly started to fall towards her face. She eluded a direct hit on her head from these objects, but in exchange, she was pinned underneath Hermes. Face up, both legs under the engine, and her right hand beneath the luggage, together with the persuader.

‚How mean<,‛ the collapsed Hermes mumbled.

‚Ugh!‛

Inid frantically tried to crawl her way out, but her left hand only dug out sand. She pushed at Hermes, but he barely moved.

‚Damn! You’re so heavy! Get off me, you!‛ Inid  shouted.

‚Don’t make me do the impossible,‛ Hermes said.

While looking at the sky, Inid put all of her strength into pushing Hermes off. Somehow he budged a little, and when she thought she could finally free her left leg from under the engine,

‚!‛

The sky became dark. Someone was looking down at Inid. She couldn’t see this person’s face because of the sunlit background, but this person’s right hand was aiming a high-caliber revolver



Chapter 6: "A Finished Tale" ―Ten Years After―
towards her. The red light which should have been aimed at Inid was pointing towards her knees.

‚Damn< you tricked me<. You had two guns<,‛ Inid muttered feebly, her face blank with astonishment.

The person slightly raised her face. It was also a young person in her mid-teens, with short, unkempt, black hair, and wearing a black jacket.

‚Are you okay, Hermes?‛

‚I’m fine, but I’m not sure about your sleeping bag. What about you, Kino?‛ Hermes asked in return. The person called Kino answered, her aim still trained towards the person trapped underneath Hermes.

‚I suppose so.‛

‚That’s great. Well, hurry and raise me up.‛

‚Before that<‛

Kino slowly dropped her glance and stared back at the emerald- green eyes trained at her.

‚Hmph! If you’re going to shoot, do it quick!‛ Inid  spat.

‚Kino, let me introduce you.‛

Hermes explained Inid’s circumstances in plain and simple terms.



Chapter 6: "A Finished Tale" ―Ten Years After―
‚I see. So that’s why you suddenly attacked us. A test to be acknowledged, eh<,‛ Kino said. Hermes, who was still on the ground, effected an air of importance,

‚Yup. A ‘right-of-way’, so to speak.‛

‚<<. Um, ‘rite of passage’?‛

‚Yeah, that’s it,‛ Hermes said and fell silent.

‚You’re getting worse lately, Hermes. That didn’t even sound the same,‛ Kino replied in amazement.

‚< Really? Well, it’s fine as long as you get it. Languages are just like that.‛

‚But it takes me a long time before I get it. So——‛

‚Is that so? But in terms of improving your ability to recall things, my contribution is ——‛

In the middle of the serious discussion Kino and Hermes were having,

‚You guys! Don’t ignore me!‛ Inid swore from below.

Kino returned the revolver in the holster in her right thigh. She picked up Inid’s persuader, removed the magazine, and disassembled it in no time. Then she tossed everything in a distance. She took out a string from the overturned bag and bound the hands and feet of Inid, who was gnashing her teeth in anger. Afterwards, she pulled out Inid free.



Chapter 6: "A Finished Tale" ―Ten Years After―
Kino raised Hermes and tried to somehow balance his stand using the fragments of the wooden board. In the meantime, Inid tried to pull on the ropes with her teeth to escape.

As Kino was finally able to prop Hermes up, Inid forcibly tore away the strings and charged towards Kino.

‚Eat this!‛

Kino quickly dodged Inid’s right straight, and at the same time, grabbed Inid’s collar with her right hand. Inid was thrown down to the ground face up. With her elbow, Kino brought down her entire body weight towards the pit of Inid’s stomach.

‚Guh!‛

Inid let out an unpleasant yelp and fainted in agony. Kino laid her sideways and bound her hands behind.

‚Good grief<‛

As Kino mumbled, Hermes teased, ‚She has guts. You should follow her example, Kino.‛

After coughing up several times, Inid sat up. She then turned her face filthy with sand and tears towards Kino.

‚Kill me! Kill me right now! If I can’t become a pirate, it’s better for me to die! Kill me! You can’t now, you chicken?!‛

‚You heard her, Kino. What are going to do?‛



Kino glanced at Hermes, and then shook her head with a sullen look.

‚Kill me! Are you going to leave it like this?! You bastard! Take responsibility and kill me!‛

Still ignoring Inid, Kino went to the woods and retrieved her other persuader. The automatic hand persuader was tied to a tree branch, a long string attached to the switch of the laser  sight. Kino removed the string and put it back in the holster behind her waist.

When she returned, Kino found Hermes chatting with the downcast Inid.

‚––And so, like I’m saying, luck was not on your side this time. Luck, you hear? Luck. You said it yourself, didn’t you? ‘That is being tested here, too.’ You don’t have to be that dejected; well I suppose you couldn’t help it. That’s all you’ve aimed for your whole life, after all, so I just can’t go about and tell you not to feel down. But that’s that, and you just have to accept it. It’s not like your whole life is over, and maybe in your future choices, luck will be on your side. Something good may be in store for you in the  future——‛

‚Shut up<, shut up<‛ Inid would occasionally mutter in between sobs.

Hermes paid no heed and continued, ‚See, there are times when motorrads have to change riders. When that happens, the driving style and treatment sometimes change drastically, it becomes unbearable. But that’s like a motorrad’s fate, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Perhaps humans are the same too——‛





As Kino sighed, she noticed a small ship appear from the shadow of an island. The ship headed towards their direction in full speed. She could see several silhouettes of men aboard the ship.

‚That is<,‛ Kino said, and Hermes paused his consoling speech to say,

‚Yup. They look like Inid’s mates.‛

Kino nodded. ‚Just in time. Let’s  escape?‛

‚Sure.‛

Kino removed the hat and goggles inserted on her belt, and wore them. She straddled Hermes, and when she was about to start the engine,

‚Traveler! Please wait! We have no intention of doing you any harm!‛ A loud voice echoed from the ship through a megaphone.

‚It’s our law to make amends to those who got dragged into this rite and survive! Please wait!‛

The voice and the ship approached.

‚What are you going to do, Kino?‛ Hermes  asked.

‚Well, just to make sure<‛

As Kino tried to start Hermes’ engine,



‚It’s a law<. Pirates are not supposed to lie<,‛ Inid, her head still hung down, said with a sigh.

‚<<‛

Kino got off Hermes and unfastened Inid’s binds. Inid placed her hands before her, but remained seated weakly.

The ship ran aground the beach. All seven men aboard were shouldering persuaders, but none of them looked aggressive.

First, they surrounded Inid, crouched, and anxiously asked her if she was hurt. Inid did not look at their faces, and only shook her head.

A   bearded,   middle-aged   man   approached   Kino   and spoke,
‚Traveler, I am the captain. Just like I told you before, I want you to take these.‛

The captain took a handful of gold and silver treasures from the bag hanging from his shoulder, and handed them to Kino.

Kino declined the offer, explaining that carrying things which originally belonged to other people might cause suspicion.

When the captain insisted to take responsibility, Kino asked him if he could share some fuel or ammunition.

The captain ordered one of the men to fetch some fuel cans from the ship. Kino filled Hermes tank until it was full.

‚Thank you very much,‛ Kino said to the captain, who shook his head.





‚I am the one who should be thanking you. It’s really frustrating that that child couldn’t become one of us, but it was thanks to you that she could go on living<.‛ then he asked Kino, ‚After you tied her up, you could have killed her if you had so wanted. I believe someone of your skill will not hesitate to kill an enemy right before your eyes. And yet, you didn’t. Why is that?‛

Kino looked at Inid who remained crouched on the ground, weeping. The filthy men around her were crying together with her. Kino looked at the captain’s face, and spoke.

‚I don’t know.‛

‚I see<‛

Then the captain, eyes blurred with tears, muttered,

‚That child is lucky. Very lucky< Let’s just leave it at that.‛


* * *


Thus, on that day ten years ago, I wasn’t able to become a pirate. Thus, I came to live in a completely different world. It was the same, but at the same time, different world. The fact that I couldn’t stay in that world made my heart heavy.

I continued to cry as I listened to the motorrad leaving, as I boarded the ship, and until we reached our hideout.



Everyone was so kind. No one criticized me, laughed at me, or tried to hide their disappointment with smiles. I felt like killing anyone who would do so, but everything well in the end.

Even so, I went to an uninhabited island on my own without asking permission. It was a small island without any food or water. I spent about fifty days there alone.

I did nothing but sit around the whole day in a daze. I thought that I might as well die from starvation. I might have really died for real, if it were not for everyone stealthily placing food and water near me. I am truly grateful to everyone.

After that, I was taken in by a nearby country that secretly supported pirates, as required by law for those who fail the rite of passage. There I started to live a normal life. For the first time in my life, I went to school and studied.

Learning about new things became my diversion.

I finished school much earlier than I thought, and was hired in a publishing company much easier than I anticipated.

It was much more fun than I expected. I ignored books until then, but I became fond of reading them. In time, I found myself wanting to write them, and soon it became my job.

I would never know whether the work I have right now is more worthwhile than a pirate’s.

From time to time, when I see recurrent news or rumors about pirates, my whole body would give out a sense of yearning for that other world, of which I am no longer part of.





But even so< the current me, and not her9, is who I am. And it will remain that way.



Ever since, I would check every single person who comes into the country, but no motorrad called Hermes, nor a traveler called Kino ever appeared.

I would surely welcome them if ever they did come.



There’s no way they could have been attacked and killed by bandits somewhere, right?

Well, at least for them, such thing is not possible. Now, I’ll go and have my hair cut.
I can’t make it as short as that time, but I’ll go and have my hair cut.












9 Pronoun use lost in translation. Inid refers to her current self as ‘watashi’, and her past self as ‘ore’. Both means ‘I’, the difference being ‘ore’ is a much stronger variant which emphasizes masculinity or superiority.





Epilogue: "Amidst the Clouds・a” —Blinder・a—
Epilogue: "Amidst the Clouds・a‛ —Blinder・a—

It was a mountainous region.

The lined up mountain peaks which pointed towards the sky still had snow in some places.

There was a stream of melted snow on the gently  spreading slopes at the foot of the mountain. It created a little pond of water, where there were brightly colored leaves and flowers of highland vegetation. Overlooking ahead was a sea of clouds, and the earth below could not be seen.

A road was running along the slope. It was a wide, well- maintained road.

Between the road and the mountain scenery, there were humans lying in a heap. There were adults and children, about thirty in all. There were two trucks loaded with traveling luggage parked beside them.

From a distance, Kino was looking at the scene with a scope. Her brown coat fluttered as the wind blew.

‚How was it?‛ asked Hermes, who was  parked on the road a  little bit away from Kino.

Kino said shortly, ‚No one is moving.‛

‚Were they killed? By a bandit or something?‛

Epilogue: "Amidst the Clouds・a” —Blinder・a—
Kino shook her head while peeking at her  scope,  ‚Everybody died with foams coming out of their mouths. Besides, because their faces were green from discoloration,   probably<‛

‚Probably?‛

‚They did not know.‛

‚Huh? Did not know what?‛ Hermes asked. Kino stopped peeking, pulled some grass growing beneath her feet, and showed it to Hermes.

‚A similar variety of this grass grows in other places, but there is a type which only grows in high regions. They did not know that, and they boiled and ate them like usual——‛

Kino threw away the grass and looked at the group of corpses from afar. ‚Those people, they did not know. < It was last night, probably.‛

‚Oh— and they all died, eh?‛ Hermes said with an amazed and impressed tone.

Kino narrowed her eyes a bit, ‚It’s not something I’d love to see,‛ she whispered.

‚Then why don’t you just close your eyes?‛ Hermes teased. At   the same time, a strong wind blew, and the hem of Kino’s coat rustled violently.

Epilogue: "Amidst the Clouds・a” —Blinder・a—
Kino held down her coat. As she looked towards the foot of the mountain, a big white cluster rushed up. Kino, Hermes and the corpses were engulfed in a moment.

It became pure white.



Author Note: A Tale of an Afterword —Preface—10


The world has no afterword.


* * *


And then, an afterword was born. There was absolutely no punch line.
Neither meaning nor theme could be seen. Only the slow turning of pages could be heard.
‚That’s right<, I suppose, but<‛

Suddenly, the voice of a human was heard. It was slightly high- pitched, and was like that of a young boy.

‚But?‛

Another voice asked, encouraging the first to continue. It was a rather boyish voice.

There was a silence for a while, and then the first voice gently continued. Its tone was like that of someone convincing himself of something and it was directed towards a deserted place.

10 This is a parody of the prologue of Volume 1 (If you didn't have the chance to read it, but know the anime, it was also the prologue of Episode 12).





‚Is an afterword something that is needed from time to time? Is it a completely useless piece of article? Is it a completely unnecessary part? I don’t completely understand why, but there are times when I feel this way. There are times when I am certain of it<. But during those times, I can’t help but feel that everything’s beautiful and fantastic, be it the text, the illustrations, or the frontispiece. Everything seems dear to me<. The afterword makes everything else more and more appealing, and I figured, unreasonable though it may be, that the afterword has to be placed at the end of the book for that reason.‛

And after a short interval, continued,

‚Painful things, sorrowful things and jokes, that were cut off, can always be included in an afterword. Definitely, I have lots of such things left to write.‛

‚Uh-huh.‛

‚And that’s why I don’t think I can stop from writing afterwords. It’s so much fun that I would still continue even if I had to expose my foolish side. Besides,‛

‚Besides?‛

‚I can stop anytime regardless of my editor’s opinion. And so, I’ll continue.‛

The first voice said decisively, and then asked.

‚Do you understand now?‛



Author Note: A Tale of an Afterword —Preface—
‚To tell you the truth, I didn’t get it at all.‛ The other voice answered.
‚I think that’s a good thing, though.‛

‚Really?‛

‚Though being an author myself, I probably don’t understand it well enough. Maybe I’m just confused. And maybe I continue to write afterwords to understand it better.‛

‚Uh-huh.‛

‚Now then, the afterword’s over. I have to write something for  the next volume again. <Until next   time.‛

‚Until next time.‛

The rustling of thin sheets of paper was heard, and eventually stopped.





Spring, 2001 Sigsawa Keiichi



Credits










Kino no Tabi Volume 3
—the Beautiful World—


Story Keiichi Sigsawa Illustrations Kouhaku Kuroboshi Translators Amazing Buffalo
Ella LiTTleDRAgo Quincy
Editors Dammitt Moratorius User753
Anonymous Contributors Project Hosted at www.baka-tsuki.org



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