Dantalian no Shoka:Volume1 Chapter6
 Special Chapter 2 - The Lifetime Book
Der Gevatter Tod
There were two guests sitting at the counter of the bar.
One of them was an old man with a bony face and stale skin. His long, unkempt beard was white like the ashes in a stove.
The other guest was a young man who was wearing a leather frock coat.
Though his sincere features implied a good upbringing, a mysterious atmosphere enveloped him which did not reveal a single unguarded spot.
While toying with his pint of lukewarm ale, the young man was absorbed in reading a book. It was a novel with a thin cover.
When the young man had read about half of the book and ordered his second pint of ale, the white-haired old man suddenly addressed him in a hoarse voice.
"Lad... it seems you like books?"
The young man smiled at him and nodded.
"Yes. I like them. How about you?"
"...I hate 'em. They're boring."
The old man said so and chugged his glass of strong distilled liquor. Then, he laughed lightly in self derision.
"Things are just repeating themselves in this world. There's nothing new out there. Even the book you're just reading is just a clichéd plot that consists of rewritten tales and myths if we'd analyse it precisely. The story patterns people can think of have been exhausted ages ago."
The young man gazed silently at the old man and eventually smiled amusedly.
"You might be right on that."
The old man nodded with a most serious face.
"But listen, there is a single book in this world that does not get boring."
"What's that book called?"
The young man asked back calmly. The old man looked a bit triumphantly then and answered,
"Your book, lad."
"Right! The book in which your entire life is written down, from birth to death."
The old man raised the corners of his cracked lips and smiled. The young man tilted his head slightly,
"I didn't know such a book existed."
"I bet you didn't. I didn't believe in such a thing, either, until I saw it with my very own eyes. But for each person, there exists a book that belongs to him... of course, including myself.
"Have you read it? Your own book."
The young man widened his eyes in surprise.
"You bet! Oh, I've read it!"
"When and where did you?"
"I already forgot that. I was still a child then, you know... but I still remember this scene clearly. It was a library built like a maze. Bookshelves, tightly packed with books, completely covered the walls with no end in sight. It was almost like a cave reaching into the depths of the earth---"
While muttering so, the old man closed his eyes as if he was visiting this place in a dream.
"And your book was in one of those bookshelves?"
The young man asked back in a serious voice for some reason. The old man answered while leading the sparsely remaining liquor to his mouth.
"Yes. As you say. But not just my book. There were books of all the citizens of this country... no, there were the books of the entire world's population. The thick books belonged to the long-lived people, who have made numerous experiences. And the thin ones belonged either to the people who died young or to the people who may have lived long but have had a monotonous life."
"How was your book?"
When the young man asked him, the old man saddened.
"It was surprisingly thin! So thin, I almost fell into despair... my life was boring and, on top of that, short."
"But aren't you..."
The young man narrowed his eyes in bewilderment. Countless wrinkles were carved into the old man's face as proof of a long life.
"Oh well... I didn't want to die, you know. So I racked my brain and groped for a solution."
The old man chuckled with a dry throat.
"Our life span is destined from the beginning by this book. If the grim reaper really does exist, then I'm sure he comes to take us when he finishes reading our book... Thus, I thought: In that case I just have to make sure it doesn't end."
"Is that possible?"
The young man asked.
"Didn't I mention? My book was surprisingly thin."
The old man said slovenly.
"So I got rid of that bothering cover and tried to stick the first and last page neatly together with glue. So that one would unknowingly return to the first page when reading... in other words, there's neither a beginning nor is there an end to my book any more. It's an endless cycle."
"I see. So that's how you..."
The young man tried to bend his book like the old man had explained to him. When he overlapped the two covers, the thin book became a round bundle of paper. And indeed, one couldn't find a beginning nor an end any more.
"But I regret it now... my life was saved of course, but in return, it became a recurrence of the same events over and over. Well, naturally, since it's a thin book."
The old man said so and sent the young man a pleading glance.
"Please, lad... Could you find my book and tear it, if you ever lose your way into that library? If you don't, I'm condemned to live the same boring life without being able to die, over and over---"
The young man wordlessly gazed at the frail-looking old man for a while. Then, he smiled gently and nodded.
"All right. I promise."
While thanking him repeatedly, the old man bowed.
Tears poured out from his eyes. In the end, the old man fell prostrate on the counter and started to sleep, tired from crying. It seemed like he was completely drunk.
"My, my... did the gramps fall asleep?"
The bartender, who wordlessly polished glasses until now, recognized the figure of the old man sleeping and sighed. The young man kept silent and shrugged his shoulders. While mentioning that it's his treat, the bartender poured out new ale to the young man.
"My sympathies for listening to his horror story."
The young man raised an eyebrow and asked back. The bartender showed him a broad smile,
"Yeah. If that gramps gets drunk, he always starts to babble that story. It's always the same. I don't know how much I've already heard it myself."
"Is that so?" muttered the young man. Then he continued, but seemed to speak to himself.
"I see... a life that has become a recurrence of the same events, huh?... surprisingly, this might just be the truth."
The bartender looked at him in puzzlement, but the young man just smiled and enjoyed his ale.
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