Kino no Tabi:Volume6 Chapter7
There was a forest.
The dense forest was spread over a flat land. Tall trees with narrow leaves, wide trees that shed their leaves during winter, and a various jumble of green things were mixed together in the forest. A thin layer of moss grew on the ground which was barely exposed to sunlight.
Inside the forest, there was an almost perfectly straight road. All over the bumpy road’s surface were traces of accumulated water. Occasionally, the roots of thick trees run across the ground, disturbing its flatness.
‘What a bad road,’ remarked a running motorrad (Note: A two-wheeled vehicle. Only to note that it cannot fly). There were boxes on both sides of its rear wheel, with a big bag, a sleeping bag, and a coat on top. The motorrad was heavily loaded with traveling luggage.
‘But still, this is a shortcut,’ said the motorrad’s driver. She was a young person in her midteens, wearing a black jacket, a hat, and goggles. The front of her jacket as well as the wide belt for it was wide open to let in the early summer wind. She was wearing a white shirt underneath.
On the driver’s right thigh was a hand persuader (Note: A persuader is a gun. In this case, a pistol) holster, containing a high-caliber revolver. On her back was another one – a small automatic type.
The motorrad was running through the forest road without using up much speed, avoiding and clearing the scattered obstacles. The surrounding trees reluctantly opened up a relatively straight road right ahead.
A strong wind blew, and the forest trembled. The leaves danced, fell on the motorrad’s tank and the driver’s head one by one, and once again were blown away by the wind.
The driver looked up at the sky through the branches of the trees; swarms of small grey clouds were being carried away by the wind.
‘The wind has become stronger, maybe it’s going to rain,' said the motorrad, and the driver replied, ‘I hate getting wet.' The driver added, ‘If we find a large tree, let's stop. I should probably collect some firewood,’ and dropped the speed of the motorrad.
Once again the wind noisily blew through the forest. The motorrad said in a surprised tone, ‘Wait a minute Kino, there’s a building,’ and the driver called Kino stepped on the brakes.
‘A building? Is it a house, Hermes?’ Kino asked the motorrad. The motorrad called Hermes replied, ‘If I had to day, then I'd probably say it's a school or a town hall.'
Kino looked left and right, but could only see the forest. ‘Where is it?’ she asked. Hermes said, ‘From here, enter a bit to the right side of the forest,’ and added, ‘The land is flat so I'll be able to run’.
‘Could there be someone living there?’ Kino asked. ‘None at all, definitely,’ answered Hermes.
Kino chose a flat surface, and entered the forest with Hermes.
The building was inside the woods. It was hidden by the shadows created by the trees.
The building was made of stone and bricks. It was wide, has two storeys, and looked like a small school. The large square foundation stone was constructed symmetrically. At its center was the wide entrance, the fallen doors decayed below. Above it, there was a protrusion which may have served as a clock tower. It was lined left and right with two or three spacious rooms.
The building was in tatters. The sloping roof which might have been originally of a red color has almost completely faded and was spotted with the brown and black of fallen dead leaves. A dense layer of ivy has crawled over the dirty cream-colored walls. All of the glass windows were gone, leaving gaping square holes.
Thick and tall trees beside the building were competing in enclosing the building. It's as if they did not want to let it escape. Some of the roots have dug into the foundation which has begun to break.
Kino and Hermes were in front of the building.
‘Another splendidly battered building, eh,’ said Hermes. Kino got off Hermes and carefully put down the stand.
‘Is there something inside?’ Kino asked, and Hermes answered, ‘Some lizards, and a lot of bugs.'
In the strong wind, Kino entered the dark mouth of the wide-open entrance. After a while, she went out.
Hermes asked how it looked inside, and Kino said that the floor was still tiled and intact, and there was not a single place where the roof has caved in.
‘Just right. Let's sleep here for today,’ said Kino, and ‘We can keep out of the rain, too,’ Hermes agreed.
It couldn't be seen from the place where Kino and Hermes were right now, but much deeper in the forest, there were hundreds and thousands of buildings lined up at regular intervals — all of them were collapsed and completely wrecked by the trees.
Kino started Hermes’ engine and passed through the entrance. She turned on the headlight, and a white light shined through the dark hallway. The place was muffled with the damp and stagnant air, along with a smell similar to that of the forest’s soil.
The hallway extended on both sides. They turned to the right and slowly rode while the hum of the engine resounded in the dark hallway. The wall has blackened and the wallpaper has peeled in several places. Light shining through a small, shattered wardrobe created a shadow.
Kino rode Hermes into a room. It was located in the right corner of the building. There was nothing inside the room, which might have been originally a classroom. A weak wind entered through the frameless windows, and the leaves on the tiled floor shook.
Kino stopped Hermes near the entrance and cut off his engine. The echoing roar of the engine stopped, and a suffocating silence drifted in the room.
Kino stood Hermes on his center stand, producing a metallic noise.
“I’ll borrow this place,” Kino said to no one in particular. 
Blue people watched Kino and Hermes.
They were like thin, obscure, blue light or fog, but with the form and size of humans. Also, they had no noses or mouths, only two eyes, located where they're supposed to be. The eyes were staring at Kino.
There were about ten people in the room. There were tall ones, and short, child-like ones as well. They surrounded and continued to stare at Kino and Hermes.
‘Well, you have to clean first,’ said Hermes. ‘Yup,’ Kino agreed. Kino examined the dirt of the floor by scratching it with her foot. She went to the center of the room, and the blue people who were there glided soundlessly away from her.
‘I need to brush away the leaves. I'll go get a branch to use as a broom. Wait a minute.’
As Kino said this, she placed her hat and goggles on Hermes and went out of the room.
The blue people stood, closely packed together, along the dark hallway. They gazed in unison at Kino as she went out. Kino found that the door at the end of the hallway was gone, and headed for another exit. The blue people made way for Kino, and soundlessly followed the passing Kino from behind.
The blue people stayed behind the exit, and stared at Kino as she went out of the building.
Kino broke off a branch with leaves, and returned carrying it with her left hand.
Upon returning to the room, ‘Now let’s start cleaning,’ said Kino, and began to sweep the leaves from the floor with the branch. The blue people continued to stare, and drew away as if not to interfere with the cleaning.
Kino gathered the leaves and placed the branch on top so the leaves would not scatter. The tiled floor was somewhat cleaner than before. She stretched the tarp she usually used against the rain with the rope, removed the boxes from Hermes’ rear wheel and laid them down. Then she laid the luggage in a corner of the room away from the window, and chose where she would sleep. There she put the sleeping bag and the big bag. The blue people continued to stare at Kino.
‘I’m done. This is much better than camping out,’ Kino said. Hermes agreed.
‘Now, only gathering firewood is left,’ Kino said. She took out a cloth bag from one of the boxes, held it in her left hand, and went out to the forest once more.
When Kino returned to the room, the blue people gazed at her all at once. Inside the bag were plenty of dry leaves and branches. Kino removed her waist belt, and took off her jacket.
‘That was close,’ said Hermes, and Kino nodded. At about the same time, rain trickled down from the sky, now thick with clouds. Soon the drizzle turned to rainfall. Among the blue people staring at Kino and Hermes, some looked outside through the window.
The rain was quiet at first, and then noisily and continuously fell, dampening the forest and the building. From the window, splashing water droplets shimmered as they jumped into the room.
On top of the tiles at the center of the room, Kino placed the dried leaves and thin branches, and placed the thick branches on top. The blue people gazed at Kino’s skill.
Kino took out a matchbox from one of her belt pouches, and took just one waterproof match. She carefully rubbed the match, waited until it was burning, and then transferred the flame. The leaves, then the thin branches burned, and eventually the fire settled down.
A small bonfire was born in the center of the room. The white smoke drifted towards the window, lingered a bit, and was soon quietly drawn out.
From the box, Kino took out two pieces of thin, long-legged, U-shaped iron bars, and joined them together. Then she placed the tripod on top of the bonfire. On top, she placed a dull, silver-colored cup, and filled it with water from her canteen.
Kino sat down at the edge of the tarp, facing the fire. She sat with her legs in front of her.
‘It’s a bit early, but I'll have my meal.' As Kino said this, she took out her portable rations from the bag behind her. The food was long, rectangular, and clay-like, and was wrapped in paper. Then she put it back Without opening it. ‘I’ll have this for today,’ she said and took out a tin of canned food instead.
The canned food was big and thin. A cow was drawn on its peeling paper label.
Kino took out a camper knife from one of her pouches, and pulled out the can-opener. She opened the can and opened the lid without clipping it off. The blue people peeped at the contents of the can from behind Kino. Inside was thinly sliced meat cooked with several pieces of garlic.
The water in the cup became hot and soon came to a boil. Kino took the cup with her thickly-gloved right hand, and replaced it immediately with the tin of canned food. She adjusted the burning branches so that the fire wouldn’t be too strong; just hot enough to warm the meat.
From the box on Hermes’s rear wheel, Kino took out a lunchbox-like rectangular can. She slowly opened the tightly sealed lid and placed it on top of the tarp. The inside of the can was divided in two. One half contained tightly packed tea paper packs, and the remaining half contained crumbling sugar cubes.
She squeezed out one tea pack with her left hand and put it in the hot water. Soon the water was stained with the tea's color. And then, she dropped one sugar cube.
Outside the window, the rain continued to fall, making quiet sounds like that of a cloth ripping apart. The outline of the trees in the forest became blurry with the thin sprays of water.
‘It’s a good thing we are under a roof.’ Kino agreed with Hermes’ words. While the blue people surrounded and stared at them, Kino slowly sipped her tea.
When the meat was ready and simmering, Kino adjusted the fire a bit more. After a few sips of tea, she said, ‘It’s mealtime.' She then put on her glove with her left hand, grasped the lid of the tin, and lifted it from the tripod.
Kino took out a small foldable spoon from one of her pouches. She pierced the meat with the slightly cracked tip. The blue people stared as Kino carried the meat to her mouth——, and exclaimed, ‘Ho—t!’
‘I knew it,’ Hermes said.
In the room where Hermes was parked, Kino was sitting on top of the tarp, leisurely drinking her second cup of tea.
An empty can was lying beside the small flame of the bonfire. The rain continued to fall outside the windows.
The blue people were still in the room. The shadow or fog-like blue people were staring at Kino and Hermes, who were happily talking about their plans for the next day.
It was still raining when the night fell and the forest became dark.
From the holster of her unfastened belt, Kino took out her .44 caliber revolver she called ‘Canon’. When the blue people saw the shiny black persuader appear, they trembled and their eyes opened wide.
Kino raised the hammer with her thumb. It clicked, and the blue people trembled at the same time. Each time Kino checked if the parts were still functioning, it produced a clicking sound, which instantly made the blue people tremble for a while.
Still holding Canon, Kino untied the rolled sleeping bag. She opened the zipper on its side and spread it over the tarp. The blue people moved away soundlessly.
Kino set aside her sleeping place against the wall, and then approached the faintly flickering flame of the bonfire. She broke and spread the burning branches, and soon the flame disappeared.
The room was finally dark. The square, gray color of the scenery outside the window seemed like a paper cut-out floating amidst the dark.
Kino moved on top of the sleeping bag. She lied down, left her boots outside, and put herself inside the sleeping bag. The rolled hood served as her pillow. Only Canon which she held in her right hand was sticking out of the sleeping bag.
‘Isn’t it cold?’ asked Hermes. ‘With this rain, I don’t think the temperature could get any lower,’ Kino said while lying down.
‘See you tomorrow then,’ Kino said. She closed her eyes and soon fell asleep.
The blue people, still blue even in the dark, stood inside the room, staring at Kino and Hermes.
The rain stopped in the middle of the night, and the clouds were pushed away by the wind.
Before long, the bright, glimmering stars appeared on the surface above the forest.
And nobody was there to see it.
Dawn came to the forest, and color returned to the damp atmosphere.
Inside the sleeping bag, Kino opened her eyes.
The thin blue morning light entered the room from the window. Nothing changed in the scenery during the previous night.
While the blue people looked on, Kino stood up and stretched her body, still holding Canon. She put on her jacket and fastened the belt.
She walked towards the window, and the blue people standing there moved away. Outside the window, the morning mist has spread beyond, concealed by the trees. The chirping of birds could be heard.
Kino went out of the building. She stopped in front of the room where they slept, and performed light warm-up exercises on the muddy ground. Then with a magazine still attached to Canon, she practiced her quick draw. The blue people watched everything from the window — Kino drawing her persuader repeatedly.
Kino returned to the room and sat on top of the tarp.
The sky and the room were bright. While the blue people observed, Kino disassembled, cleaned, and reassembled Canon. Kino also performed a light tune-up on the one behind her waist, the automatic-type persuader she called ‘Woodsman’.
On the remains of the bonfire, Kino placed branches and lit a fire. She made the same tea, but ate the portable rations this time.
'Now then,’ said Kino and began to clean up. She cooled the tripod and lightly rinsed the cup. She wiped her face with a damp cloth, and looked once at the collar of her shirt.
When she finished rolling and tying the sleeping bag on top of the bag, the sun has already risen. Its rays were passing through the gaps of the trees in the forest.
Kino literally slapped Hermes awake.
‘Ah, good morning,’ said Hermes, and Kino said, ‘The weather is good today.' Hermes said, ‘But the road must be muddy.'
Then Kino said, ‘Let's find a river at once, where we can wash and take a bath.'
When all of the luggage has been loaded, she scattered the remains of the bonfire and buried the empty tin under the dead leaves. The blue people lined up inside the room and looked at Kino once more.
‘I haven’t left anything,’ Kino said. She hung the goggles down her neck and put her hat on.
Kino went across Hermes, kicked the starter, and started the engine in one shot. The roar of the engine rebounded in the room, and escaped to the forest through the window.
The blue people stared at Kino and Hermes. Soon, Kino straddled on Hermes, and removed the weight from the stand. She went to the middle of the room and broke into a little run. The blue people drew away.
With her left foot still on, she tilted Hermes and started the accelerator. She let the rear wheel slip and changed Hermes’ orientation abruptly. She went out the room like this, running through the corridor lined up left and right with the blue people. From the building’s central entrance, she went out towards the space surrounded by the forest trees.
Kino looked back at the building. In the windows, and by the entrance, the densely packed blue people stood and looked at Kino and Hermes.
‘Shall we go, then?’ Kino said to Hermes, and Hermes replied, ‘Let’s go.'
Kino looked up front, and then turned back one more time.
“Thank you.” 
Kino said softly, facing the building. Then she faced up front and launched Hermes off.
While looking at the motorrad slowly riding over the muddy road, the blue people waved their hands.
Inside the forest, there was a decaying building surrounded by trees, grass, and ivy. It was lit by the bright morning light. From all of its windows, blue people were looking out, waving their hands.
Waving their hands, forever and ever.
 Translator's Notes
- Haven't seen it yet, but this chapter is supposed to be in the first Kino no Tabi PS2 visual novel.
- This is the first of the only two dialogues (enclosed in double quotation marks) in the whole chapter. If you've noticed all the previous conversation between Kino and Hermes, as well as the succeeding ones, are in narration. You'll understand why soon...
- Because of this, I think that the dialogues in this chapter were reserved for instances when Kino was actually communicating with the blue people. I'm quite sure Kino was aware that they were there. I know it's not a ghost story, but when I realized what I was translating, the hair on my arms stood on end.
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