Kino no Tabi:Volume6 Chapter5
 “A Land That Never Forgets” —Not Again—
The forest had been scorched.
The steep slopes of the bump-like mountains of the mountain range stood out. Over there, all of the trees were lined up in straight pillars, the branches of which were blackened from the fire. A number of charcoal pieces were lying about on top of the burnt and hardened ground.
Lead-colored clouds hung above the sky as if matching the dreary scenery. The morning sun which was supposed to be in the sky was nowhere to be found. From time to time, the clouds let one or two drops of rain fall.
There was a road which looked as if it was sewn on the mountainside. The width of the extreme up and down curves of the road could fit only one vehicle. Here and there were muddy puddles of water left on the exposed wet soil.
Running on this road was a single motorrad (Note: A two-wheeled vehicle. Only to note that it cannot fly).
A pipe carrier replaced the back seat, on top of which was a big bag. Boxes were attached on both sides of the rear wheel. A rolled sleeping bag and a brown coat were tied up on top of the bag.
The driver was a young person around mid-teens, wearing a black jacket and a wide belt tightened around the waist. Suspended from her right thigh was a holster for a hand persuader (Note: A persuader is a gun. In this case, a pistol), containing a revolver. She was wearing a brimmed hat covering both of her ears, and goggles strapped around her eyes.
The driver was riding carefully on the muddy road. She stopped at once in front of a big puddle, estimated its depth and passed through it in one breath.
“Hey, Kino.” While running, the motorrad below asked the driver.
The driver called Kino answered, “Hmm?”
"Do you remember how many countries we've visited up to now?”
Kino shook her head. “Nope. What about you, Hermes?”
“No way—. I asked because I thought you would know,” the motorrad called Hermes answered with a light tone.
Kino spoke, “I remember some of the countries very well. However, it’s impossible to remember all details. Even if I kept a diary, I wonder if it would be any different.”
“Humans soon forget things which don’t leave them a strong impression. I might have forgotten some countries I’ve gone to, however...”
“However?” Hermes asked.
“Sometimes I think it is wonderful that humans can forget,” Kino answered while passing by a shallow puddle.
“What do you mean?"
“Think of it this way. Because humans can forget unpleasant and painful things, they can go on with their lives without wallowing in despair.”
“Oh, I see."
“Well, that depends on the person. Sometimes remembering bad things can be good.”
“For instance, one knows from experience that tilting too much on a muddy road will result in slipping and falling, right?” Hermes asked.
“Well, I’m sorry.”
Kino’s left leg and left elbow, as well as the left packing box were dirtily caked with mud.
The snake-like mountain road went down to a valley and began to run side-by-side with a stream. The flow of the river was fast, and its water was cloudy.
Kino and Hermes continued to ride, and eventually the mountains ended and the road changed to a smooth and downhill path. Just ahead, a country could be seen.
The country enclosed with walls was built on a small plain in the valley basin. The river from the mountain flowed into the country, where it divided into a number of tributaries.
“At last we’ve arrived. That took some time,” said Hermes, and Kino answered.
“The road was so horrible it made me really tired... I want to relax for three days. I wonder if I can sleep in a hotel here.”
“Since we’ve gotten into so much trouble just trying to reach this place, I hope there are interesting places we can visit. It would be nice if there’s a festival or something.”
“A festival, eh? It would be nice if there’s one.”
Kino and Hermes kept running down the long and gentle slope.
“Here. The entry procedures are done. Thank you for waiting.”
The guard in the guard post between the city gates talked to Kino.
“By the way, did you come here in time for the ceremonies?”
“Ceremonies? No.” “What’s that?” Kino and Hermes asked.
“Oh, so you didn’t know. The fact is, today, tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow, exactly during your three-day stay, we will be holding ‘The Great Flood Commemoration Ceremony’. We hold this ceremony on the same days each year, so that we would never forget about the great flood which occurred seven years ago.”
“There was a flood?” Kino asked immediately. The guard nodded with a smile.
"Yes. That was the most terrible flood ever. It was so horrible, that it may be the first and probably the last in this country's history. One week of heavy rains submerged the whole country, panic ensued, buildings were damaged, and casualties emerged. The muddy water did not subside for three whole days, and even after it did, pollution and infectious diseases became major problems. So that we would never lose those painful memories, we hold this ceremony on the same days, in every corner of the country.”
The guard spoke. "Miss Kino, if you like, you can participate with the residents in the ceremony. You see, all of the citizens are obliged to take part in it.”
Kino passed through the walls while pushing along Hermes, and found themselves in a square.
“Something is going on already.”
A lot of people have gathered. A speech could be heard.
“——And we have survived that horrifying flood. With the memories of the victims in our hearts, we are grateful for the peaceful life we have now, and from here on, this country will rise to greater heights——”
Under the cloudy sky, a man on top of a stage was passionately addressing the people through a loudspeaker. Behind him were several representatives seated on chairs.
“——Never, yes, never shall we be able to forget those events, we vow to continue to live strongly——”
Kino slowly pushed Hermes and approached the congregation.
“——I speak here, safely, and would like to share the joy of the end of this ceremony in the morning at the eastern gate!”
When the warm speech was over, everyone gave silent prayers.
One of the citizens from the dispersing crowd noticed Kino.
After some greetings and self-introductions, this resident began to explain about the terrible flood seven years ago, and how it originated the commemoration ceremony. Almost all of his explanation was the same as the guard’s version, and lasted for a while.
“Look, miss traveler,” another resident showed the tick marks painted on the wall. There were marks high above the person’s head.
“The water reached up there at its highest. Isn’t that tremendous?”
A narrow river was flowing beside the square. A water inlet from the gate guided the water from the outside straight through.
"Normally, that’s a small stream, but that time a large amount of water flowed through it. More and more water came in even after the gates were closed. The rain did not stop. There was nothing we can do.”
Kino looked at the stream and the water inlet.
“Hey, did you see the remaining water level at the gates?” The resident asked. Kino furrowed her brows for a moment, and then quietly shook her head.
The whole country was spread over a flat plain.
One-storey houses made of wood were standing side by side along the neat and orderly farmlands. Creeks ran parallel with the roads, and the water drained into the vegetable fields. The embankments were made of ordinary soil, on the surface of which, tiny yellow flowers were blooming.
Kino rode leisurely and headed towards the center of the country. Large buildings were lined up towards the center. Kino found the hotel and entered.
They were guided to a room, where Kino placed Hermes and unloaded the luggage.
Afterwards, Kino climbed up to the roof of the two-storey hotel, where the laundry was being dried.
From there, the wall could be seen very well beyond a number of tall buildings, and beyond it was the basin enclosed by the mountains. Green mountain peaks were lined up downstream to the west, while upstream to the east the peaks were dark brown in color.
Kino looked at the sky. There, the usual clouds were floating.
“I should probably get back and have some sleep.”
In front of the room, a hotel employee spoke to Kino.
“Oh, so you were here. Miss traveler, everyone came out for this noon’s ceremony. We haven’t prepared lunch. If you don’t mind, you can come to the ceremony. A meal will be served there, and you can eat as much as you like.”
And then Kino entered the room.
“Therefore it's decided that I'll go,” she said to Hermes.
“What’s with ‘therefore’?” Hermes said.
There was a large park around the center of the country, near the hotel. There were paths and lawns, planted trees and a man-made pond.
In the center of the park was a large concrete platform, at the bottom of which was a statue of people riding on a boat. It was the monument for the great flood commemoration, and lit candles were lined up around it.
The big stage from earlier was placed in front of the monument; a makeshift tent served as its roof and in the middle of it was a podium with a microphone. A flag was hoisted at the center of the park with the words ‘Do not forget that day’ written on it.
A number of people have gathered. All of the chairs in front of the stage were filled. Around them, the heads of people who don’t have seats can be seen. In every corner of the square, tents of food and drinks were lined up, and people were busy moving about in preparation.
"Everyone looks so happy, is this actually a festival?” Hermes said.
Eventually, band members holding their musical instruments gathered beside the stage and sat down on their assigned seats. Various people of all ages climbed on stage, all dressed up. The microphone was tested.
The host went up the stage and proceeded with a lengthy introductory speech. The ceremony has begun.
First, everyone gave short, silent prayers.
And then, the people continued the leader’s oration.
Next, the host introduced and honored the firemen, seated on the prestigious seats in the front row, who were known for their heroic deeds during the time of the flood.
Subsequently, the people on-stage were introduced, and were asked to give a speech one by one. A middle-aged woman ‘touched with the warm feelings of the people in the shelters'; A man who, ‘after losing his job, was encouraged by people under the same circumstances'; and a schoolteacher who, ‘together with his students, replanted the roadside trees which were swept away during the flood.'
The ceremony continued at length.
“Wake me up when it’s over,” said Hermes, who soon became quiet.
The last speech of a girl was about how, after she lost her father, she was able to continue on with her life thanks to the support of the kind people around her. When she let her father in heaven know that she’s doing well in the form of a letter, the audience came to tears.
“Miss traveler, here take this.”
A piece of paper with lyrics written on it was passed over to Kino, and at the same time,
“Then, so as not to forget that day, let us all sing the ‘Requiem’. Let us send our feelings to heaven.”
After hearing the host’s voice, the conductor made a bow and swung his baton, and the band started playing.
The chorus sang, and the audience sang together with it.
Kino looked at the lyrics.
“Requiem ~Do Not Forget That Day~”
It was a quiet spring day
It was supposed to be a peaceful spring day
A single drop of rain became gazillion drops, showering the ground
A single day of rain became nine days of rain, showering the country
And we cried, what in the world is happening!
At last, the night of the tenth day came
That time, our homeland was
struck by a muddy stream (struck)
struck by a muddy stream (struck)
Oh, what in the world is happening!
The country was like an ocean, the houses were like islands
The peaceful dining table was suddenly covered with muddy water, the dishes floated, grandfathers drowned
Many people lost their lives, lost their homes, lost their havens
That day, our homes were
And that time
Our unity was put to the test (put to the test)
Our courage was put to the test (put to the test)
Finally the water subsided, rivers returned to being rivers, the ground dried up
No matter how much time will pass, we won't forget that day
We want to tell all of you in heaven:
We won't forget that day
We won't forget (won't forget)
We won't forget (won't forget)
About that day
When the song was finished, there was a big applause, and the ceremony ended.
Some people went home, some stayed to chat, but most people lined up beside the tents giving away food.
Kino slapped Hermes awake, and lined up. During the time of the flood, the people cannot obtain food, and for several days after, food was rationed continuously throughout the country. In order to recreate the event, the people line up to get food, a nearby person told Kino.
“So as not to forget that time, right?”
After lining up for a long time, Kino received her meal. There were two rice balls and boiled soup of vegetables and meat. She sat down beside Hermes and ate.
After the meal, Hermes asked, “What do we do next?”
“We saw the festival,” Kino answered. “So we have an opportunity to go out and get the things we need.”
Kino went out of the park and headed towards a nearby shopping district. The place was alive with the hustle and bustle of people coming home from the ceremony.
She looked for a store selling clothes, and inquired with the saleslady.
“Do you have a white shirt?”
“What do you think about this?”
Upon saying this, the saleslady showed her a shirt. At the back, the words, ‘Seven years have passed since then: I am proud to have survived that disaster’, were printed in big letters. On the left chest, there was a cute embroidery depicting a submerged house.
“It’s a bit more expensive compared to normal shirts, but it’s a very popular souvenir from this country. As to other——”
The saleslady showed a kiddie shirt with the words, ‘This year I'm taller than the flood's water level in the country’s center.' A hat with ‘If you're old, be proud. You have survived that spring day’s flood.' A coat marked with the street’s water level at the back, and so on.
“Aren’t there any... normal ones?” Kino asked.
“Well, right now these are our best sellers, so we don’t have other items lined up,” The saleslady answered.
Kino gave up on the shirt, headed to a tool shop next, and inquired for the knife inventory. There were only knives with big carvings on the grip, saying ‘7th year anniversary: Spring has come again.'
Without much choice, she then looked for a sharpening stone. One was being sold in a special commemoration pouch. Kino asked for the price of this item.
“That’s too expensive. Don’t you have anything cheaper?”
“Well, it’s because of the anniversary. Isn’t the pouch nice?”
“It’s just stone, right?”
“These are the only stuff we have until the day after tomorrow. But, right now, everyone will gladly buy it.”
Without buying anything, Kino went next to the ammunition shop.
Kino asked the male shopkeeper in advance.
“Hey, do you have 7th year anniversary hand persuader bullets? .44 caliber enamel points?” She asked, approaching the back of the shop, and there was a quick reply,
“I’m sorry, miss traveler. We only have normal ones.” The shopkeeper said apologetically.
It began to rain soon after she came back to the hotel. The heavy rain fell noisily.
“That was close. We would have been soaked to the skin,” said Hermes.
Kino was silent, and looked at the scenery outside.
And then, Kino caught sight of one of the employees, and spoke. “Quite a downpour, huh?”
“Yeah, it’s like this every year, during this season. By the way it’s odd; until now, the season’s rain was scarce, and the river’s water had considerably decreased to a good level. With only this much, there can be no floods or landslides.”
Upon returning to the room, Hermes asked Kino, “Is something the matter? You seemed thoughtful at times since yesterday.”
Kino answered, “I have forgotten...”
“I feel as if I’ve forgotten something.”
Kino tilted her head. “...What could it be?”
The next morning.
As Kino woke up and looked outside, she found that the rain lasted throughoutthe night. It’s almost dawn, but the sky seemed close, and very dark.
After disassembling and cleaning the revolver she called ‘Canon’, Kino proceeded with her quick draw exercises.
The sky has not brightened a bit even after breakfast, and the rain has maintained its strength.
Upon returning to the room, Hermes spoke to Kino. “Are you planning to relax and rest all day?”
In the room, Kino performed a brief maintenance check of Hermes, and inspected her luggage afterwards. She sharpened several knives with an old stone.
Even after finishing this, the rain outside still hasn’t stopped. Kino turned on the radio in the room.
‘——And for this 7th year anniversary, we will be bringing you live until the end the ceremony proceedings scheduled starting lunch. For we will never forget that day——’
Kino turned thoughtful once again.
“Did you remember?”
She shook her head in response to Hermes’ question.
“It’s no use. ——For the meantime...”
Kino stood up.
“For the meantime?”
“I’ll go ask if I can eat lunch here.”
Kino left the room.
Kino received her ration right after asking the employees if the food will be distributed for lunch. At the same time, she heard from the weather forecast that the rain will be continuing until the next day.
"This downpour is a good thing. The winter was so dry that the forest fires did not even dissipate.”
Just as Kino turned to go back to her room,
She turned back to the employee. “When did those forest fires started?”
“Eh? Well, about one month ago. Perhaps, a lightning bolt started the fire, and then it continued to burn for several days. The nights after that were so beautiful. The fires began to burn around the mountain at about the same time we were preparing for the anniversary."
Kino nodded several times, with a quiet expression. “I see...”
Upon returning to the room, Kino quickly stuffed the biscuits and canned sausages in the bag.
“We’ll leave now.”
Kino hauled the luggage on Hermes, and tied a folded tarp over it to protect it from the rain.
Kino took her coat, hat and goggles, fastened her belt, and checked Canon on her right thigh.
“This rain might cause another great flood. Let’s leave this country right away.”
“Eh? Didn’t they say that the rain falls like this every year? Then shouldn't it be okay?” Hermes asked.
“That’s right but, I remember now.”
“Oh, what is it?”
“A woodcutter I met back in Master’s place told me. ‘A burned forest is no longer a forest. Never stay in a valley downstream the forest fire,’ he said. It appears that the force that holds the water in the forest drops. That’s why it’s normal for the water in the river to go down. But, once heavy rain comes down.... I finally remembered. I do not have any evidence, but his place is very low, and I have a somewhat bad feeling, so I want to get out of this country as soon as possible. Do you get it, Hermes?”
“That’s fine, but, what about your three-day rule?”
“What do we do if there’s no more life to protect?”
“I see. So to speak, ‘While there’s life,——’”
“‘——there’s hope.' Let’s go.”
Kino checked out of the hotel without giving any particular reason.
Then she wore her hat, strapped her goggles on, closed the collar of her coat, wrapped the bandana around her face, and rode into the rain.
In the furious downpour, Kino headed to the western walls and immediately departed. On the muddy road, she rode without stopping until she reached the western end of the basin.
Once again, they ascended the road away from the river.
Then Kino said, “This area is good. Let’s stop beside this steep slope.”
Before entering the deep mountain valley road, Kino got off the road, and placed Hermes under a thick tree on top of a hill.
She stretched the tarp and rope to make a shelter from the rain. Then she flattened the grass underneath with her foot and assembled her small one-person tent. She placed Hermes beside it.
She put her wet hat and goggles on Hermes. She squeezed the bandana, wiped Hermes’ tank, and dried it on Hermes’ handle.
Kino leaned on the trunk of the tree and began to eat her lunch. Water droplets hanging from the branch would occasionally drop inside her coat.
“Aaah. ... I hate rainy days.”
“My condolences. If you stayed in the country, you will be under a roof, on a bed with white sheets, and a hot shower waiting for you.”
After eating, she sat back and relaxed.
The visibility was very poor far into the mist. The big water droplets from the tree hit the tarp occasionally.
The rain continued through the night. The rainfall did not wane in strength.
The next morning.
As usual, Kino woke up at the crack of dawn.
The rain had stopped. Kino crawled out of the tent, wearing her jacket, and Canon in her right hand.
“Good morning, Kino. It’s great to see that you slept well,” said Hermes.
Kino got out beneath the tarp and stretched her back. “Yeah. ——It’s great."
She looked at the scenery through the thin morning light.
The basin has spread to the east, to the surrounding walls. The basin has turned into a big swamp. The muddy color has spread over the water’s surface.
Gradually, as it became brighter and the sun came out, the country’s appearance could be clearly seen. The river coming to the country from the eastern mountain overflowed, as well as its tributaries inside the country. It looked as if the buildings in the middle were floating, and only the roof of the houses could be seen.
“It’s a great flood. Do you think it set a new record?”
“Oh dear...,” Kino murmured.
“As I thought, perhaps they did not replace the gates since the previous flood. The water intake was the same, but the bank of the river is lower.”
“By now, the people of that country may have remembered that flood a long time ago. Or maybe they have forgotten. Which one do you think it is?”
She put away the tent and the tarp while taking in the scent of the wet forest.
After finishing her breakfast of portable food, she loaded all of her luggage, and revved Hermes’ engine.
Kino looked up at the lush green mountain.
“Let’s go then. I was told the road here is pretty safe."
Kino started Hermes off.
She rode off to the west, on the muddy road.
And then, on the seventh curve to the left, she slipped and fell.
While lying down, Hermes got angry.
“I-told-you-! There is very little friction in a muddy road, so you’re not supposed to tilt while riding!”
“My bad, Hermes.”
“Yes. Quickly raise me up, raise me up!”
“Upsy-daisy,” Kino raised up Hermes. Her left leg and left elbow, as well as the left packing box were dirtily caked with mud.
“Jeez. Don’t tell me you’ve completely forgotten?”
"Nope." Kino shook her head While wiping the mud off a nearby tree’s leaves and bark.
“I thought it would go smoothly this time.”
“Is that so?”
Kino started Hermes once more.
“It’s okay,” Kino said while running.
“What is?” Hermes quickly asked in return.
“I think I can pull it off next time.”
“I’ll pull it off for sure.”
“I told you it’s enough.”
“I already got the hang of it. I’ll be able to do it.”
“No, thank you.”
“The rear wheels should flow as well.”
“The method is to reverse turn the handle——”
The motorrad ran through the green forest.
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