Kino no Tabi:Volume7 Epilogue
 “To Do Something ･ a” —life goes on. ･ a—
There was a forest and a road.
The forest was spread over totally flat ground as far as the eyes could see. Trees of different sorts were growing luxuriantly, and harmoniously blended with each other.
The straight road was going through the forest, as if dividing it into two parts; a single brown line among many shades of green. It was a pretty narrow, earthy road — a car and a carriage could barely pass each other in it.
In this forest, there was a field and a house on the side of the road.
The long and narrow field was planted along one side of the road. On all four sides, the field was surrounded by well-defined straight lines of tall trees. One half of it was nothing but soil, and on the other half were ridges with planted spinach. And a little further, on the other side of this field, a log house was standing.
This log house had a single pair of double doors that led inside and largish windows across the perimeter. In front of the entrance and beside the windows at the opposite side, there was a terrace built of thick boards. A small stable was standing near the house, but now there wasn’t a single horse in there.
Someone vigorously opened one of the windows, then the adjacent ones.
When all the windows had been opened, a hand appeared and started putting props. Finally the front door swung open and a girl came out.
She was in her early teens, slightly taller than an average teenager. Her below-shoulder length hair was tied back in a ponytail. She was wearing lace-up boots and light brown pants that were quite big, so they were rolled up several times. A green cotton jacket was slipped over her white shirt.
The girl was carrying a single sheet under her arm. She hanged it on a rope that was stretched on the terrace near the entrance, and fixed it with wooden clothespins on both ends. The drying sheet was lightly swayed by the wind.
Then this girl lifted up both hands and stretched herself. The forest was thinned where the field and the house were located. She gazed at the blue sky spread over this place.
The morning sky visible through the foliage was cloudless and crystal-clear. A beam of light, which just emerged from the horizon, was being shattered into pieces by multiple tree trunks.
The chirping of all sorts of birds was heard from everywhere as if surrounding her.
“Yeah. The weather is good today,” said the girl with a smile.
She entered the house and this time came out with a motorrad (Note: A two-wheeled vehicle. Only to note that it cannot fly). A carrier was fixed above its rear wheel and black boxes were installed on both sides of it.
The girl started pushing the motorrad to the terrace. The width of the entrance was just enough for a person with a motorrad to pass through. On the way, the motorrad shook once towards the girl, but she hurriedly recovered balance.
The girl put the motorrad on its center stand on the terrace and let out a sigh. And then:
“Get up! It’s morning!”
She started hitting the motorrad with clenched fists and yelled. It continued for a while, but soon:
“Huh? Uh… Yeah, yeah—— Morning,” said the motorrad.
The girl stopped hitting it and the motorrad said reproachfully:
“Hey, can’t you wake me up more politely? To be beaten every time——”
“The weather is good.”
“Do you hear me?”
“I do. But it’s your fault since you can’t wake up no matter how much I call you and yell at you,” the girl answered cheerfully.
“Good morning, Hermes,” she greeted the motorrad.
The motorrad called Hermes answered the girl:
“Good morning, Kino.”
The girl named Kino softly nodded. She turned to the house entrance, and her long hair swayed in the wind. With a smile, she addressed an old woman who came out of the house:
“Good morning, Master.”
“Morning. The weather is quite good today, isn’t it?”
The old woman, carrying a sheet under her arm, looked at the sky, and said the same thing to the girl in a calm tone.
She seemed fragile, but at the same time, her back was straight. Her gray hair was tied back. She was wearing a light green cardigan over slim pants and a white shirt. There was something similar to a small leather pouch attached to the belt behind her back. It was catching the hem of the cardigan.
But it wasn’t a pouch; it was a holster with a cover. The grip of a small-sized high caliber hand persuader (Note: A persuader is a gun. In this case, a pistol) was sticking out of the holster, which was placed in such way that it would be easy to pull it out with the right hand. It was a revolver with a short barrel.
The old woman, who was drying sheets, asked the girl:
“What were our plans for such a lovely day again?”
“We were going to cut down a tree in the forest. The gunpowder seller will come early in the afternoon, so we have to get everything ready. After that, there’s nothing else in particular,” answered the girl.
The old woman gave a satisfied nod.
“Yes, of course.—— Well, in that case let’s cut the tree in the afternoon. Until then, let’s do your shooting training after breakfast.”
The girl agreed and then asked:
“Should I make breakfast again?”
The old woman answered this question with a smile — an observant eye would have noticed that it was a slightly taut smile:
“No, I’ll do it myself.—— This is my everyday pleasure.”
“Seems like you really like to cook!” the girl said joyfully.
Right after entering the log house through the front door, one will find himself in a living room. In the center, there was a small table made of lengthwise-cut logs, and three chairs. A corner of the room was carpeted with bricks; a steel wood-burning stove was installed above them. A stovepipe attached to its side extended to the outer wall.
The girl quickly put some logs in the stove, lighted a match and kindled the fire with a thin piece of wood. She looked at the smoothly flaring fire and closed the stove door.
The girl turned around; right before her eyes was a coat.
The long brown coat was hanging on the wall in the living room, ready for use for a person heading outside.
The girl gazed at it silently for a while.
Then she headed out to call the old woman.
A small table has been carried out to the terrace. It was pretty wide, made of wood, and had folded legs. A gleaming black hand persuader, exposed to the sun high above the forest, was lying atop of it. It was a slim high caliber revolver with a long barrel. A paper box with bullets carelessly put in it was lying near the persuader, and there was a small bottle filled with green liquid gunpowder as well as other wooden boxes containing cleaning equipment and various accessories.
On the opposite side of the road, a thick plank was placed horizontally between two trees pretty high above the ground. A small rusted frying pan, tied to the plank with a sturdy string, was hanging down from it.
The girl, standing beside the table, took the revolver. It felt slightly heavy, but she tightly held it up. She looked at it from the side and confirmed that it wasn’t loaded. After that she raised the hammer and pulled the trigger and then pulled the hammer back. She repeated it several times to check that it was functioning well.
“I’m going to insert the bullets,” said the girl.
The old woman replied from behind, “Yes, please.”
Hermes was standing at the center stand behind her; the two sheets were being swayed slightly by the wind a little further from him.
The girl half-raised the revolver’s hammer with a finger of her right hand and placed the revolver’s body into her left hand. Using a syringe, she injected green liquid gunpowder into the front of the cylinder chamber, in other words, the hole in the rotating part. Rotating the cylinder with her left hand finger, she injected gunpowder in all six chambers.
The old woman said calmly from behind:
“Of course, if you insert too much gunpowder, it will increase the burst power, but it will also greatly increase recoil. I think the current amount is just enough for now. You can slowly increase the amount, once you’ve gotten used to it. In case you injected too much, by no means fire a second shot. You should keep that in mind.”
The girl replied that she understood. Next she stuffed a felt patch in one hole and inserted a .44 caliber bullet inside. She bent towards her the lever under the barrel, and using the connected rod, pushed the bullet inside. She repeated the same process for all six bullets. Finally, she inserted her finger into a grease can and applied it to all the holes, as if making lids. After that she properly cleaned her finger with a rag, and placed small percussion caps one by one at the back of the cylinder, at the place hit by the hammer.
It took some time, but in the end the revolver was fully loaded and ready.
The girl gently laid the revolver on the table; its barrel was pointing at the opposite direction.
“I’ve made the preparations. There’s no one on the road, is it alright to shoot?”
The girl asked the old woman without turning around.
“You’ve forgotten again.”
The old woman took out two cotton pieces from her pocket and approached the girl. She inserted it in the girl’s ears.
“Ah, yes. Thank you.”
The girl laughed awkwardly, facing the same direction. The old woman also inserted earplugs.
“Now you can shoot.”
The girl slowly raised the revolver, her right hand’s index finger stretched. Then she added her left hand, as if rolling around the right one, and started stretching both arms. She fully stretched her right hand, while her left one was slightly tightened. She stepped back a little with her right leg, positioned her body diagonally and her face dead straight.
She aimed exactly at the frying pan. With her left hand’s index finger, she raised the hammer. The cylinder rotated slightly, positioning the hole and the barrel on a straight line. And then, she pulled the trigger with her right hand’s index finger.
A white smoke spread at the same time as the heavy roaring sound was heard. The revolver and the girl’s hand sprang up. In a moment, a spark was emitted and the frying pan started spinning with furious speed. It was spinning to the left, twisting the string.
One more roaring sound. The frying pan suddenly stopped spinning. The second bullet hit the opposite side of the pan, thus negating the pan’s movement.
The third bullet hit the center of the frying pan, sending it to the back. The pan moved forward like a swing. The fourth bullet forcibly stopped this movement. The fifth bullet pushed the pan back once again. It swung back, then forth. Half-way back, it was hit by the sixth bullet.
Getting extreme acceleration, the frying pan rotated by 180 degrees. When it was above the plank, it started falling, hitting the plank and falling forward.
Trying to return the frying pan’s string, which made a full circle, to its original position, the girl stretched her hands and threw up the pan, but it came back, so she tried again.
The girl looked at the frying pan that wasn’t moving as expected, and frowned.
She made another attempt, but failed once again.
The old woman, her arms folded, gazed at this scene from the terrace. The motorrad asked from behind:
“How was it?”
The old woman quickly glanced back at the motorrad, but instantly turned around.
“This child shoots the same way she did for the first time——”
The woman made a pause and breathed out.
“She is talented. It seems that there are, after all, people who have natural shooting skills since birth. It doesn’t depend on a person’s gender or age. Compared to those who are really hooked with persuaders, there’s a much greater number from those who don’t like them that become very skilled. How ironic.”
The girl jumped and threw the pan upwards with both hands, but it hit the top of the plank and returned back. She hastily stepped back to avoid being struck by the pan, which was full of cavities.
“If you’re called “Master”, then does that mean there are some skillful disciples of yours out there?” asked Hermes.
“Yes, there are. Well, it’s worth teaching. The more you teach, the more skillful you become.”
“I wish the same could be applied to driving a motorrad.”
“It depends on you. You should practice more. But——”
The old woman was still showing her back to the motorrad.
“‘If you are a skillful driver, it doesn’t mean you can win a race’, right? In the long run, this is what you should worry about.”
Hermes fell silent for a moment and then asked:
“So, ‘if you are a skillful marksman, it doesn’t mean you can survive a duel or a death fight’?”
The old woman turned around.
“You are quite perceptive. What if I teach you how to shoot? I can attach a weapon to your lights or exhaust pipe, how about that?”
“No, thank you,” said Hermes.
The woman looked forward and said in calm tone:
“If you live in a safe country, you shouldn’t hesitate to make compromises when you have to cooperate with other people. In much the same way, if you want to survive in this dangerous world, you shouldn’t hesitate to shoot a person.”
“Have you told her this?”
“No, and even if I tell, no one would completely understand that. On the contrary, at ordinary times a person would ask himself ‘what does this mean?’, and at a critical moment this thought will just plague you.——So I keep this thought to myself.”
When the old woman stopped talking, the girl returned back to the terrace with quick steps.
“Master, can I shoot one more time?” she asked.
The old woman nodded with a smile.
“It’s the only thing that I can’t teach her,” said the old woman.
The sun was pretty high and the air was warm. Hermes was standing beside the house with his engine running; the sound from the exhaust pipe resounded through the forest. The girl was standing near him. She was wearing a thick brown leather jacket, a leather riding helmet and a small windbreak goggles. A pair of gloves tightly covered her hands; her knees were wrapped with old bandages made of thick felt.
“I rode something like this long ago. But I’m not sure if I can still do it now,” said the old woman.
“What were you like at that time, when you were traveling?” asked the girl, and then continued with a smile:
“I bet you were the same kind person as you’re now!”
For some time it was silent except for humming of the engine. The blue sky and the green forest.
“Yeah, probably,” the woman said seriously.
The girl slightly opened Hermes’ throttle.
“Is it enough, Hermes?”
“Yes. Well, drive slowly at first. Today it’s alright to slowly increase the speed, step by step. You should practice how to drive fast and stop quickly.”
The girl straddled the motorrad and removed side stand with her left leg.
“Well then, let’s go!”
She started driving on the earthy road, slowly at first, as Hermes told her to.
The old woman watched this. Right in front of her eyes, the sound of the motorrad’s engine suddenly became louder.
“Hey, don’t speed up so abruptly!”
Leaving behind Hermes’ screams, the motorrad disappeared in the cloud of dust raised by the rear wheel.
The old woman put out a deck chair on the terrace. While she was sitting there and leisurely gazing at the sky, the girl on the motorrad came back with a loud roar. There wasn’t a single dirty spot on her jacket.
The girl abruptly hit the brakes on the road in front of the house. Fixing the rear wheel, she slid the motorrad to the side and stopped. The clouds of dust one again danced in the air, but in a moment they were moved away by the wind.
“One more time?” asked the girl.
Hermes immediately replied that it was enough for that day.
“Alright. Thank you,” said the girl and turned off the engine. Stillness immediately returned to the vicinity.
The girl pushed Hermes towards the house. She stopped beside the terrace and put the motorrad on its center stand.
“I’ll wash you now,” said the girl. Hermes thanked her with a tired voice.
The old woman asked the girl to change clothes. The girl answered her in lively voice and went to the house.
“So how was it? ——Is it worth teaching?” the old woman asked Hermes.
The wind blew on the terrace and swayed the two sheets.
“Well, um…, you’re pretty good at speeding and stopping. This time let’s practice bringing me down and lifting me up,” said Hermes.
The girl took off her leather jacket and put on the green cotton jacket. To put it simply, she was wearing the same clothes as in the morning, except for the gloves. The sun was at its almost highest point; its light reflected on Hermes’ tank.
“Alright, what should I do?” the girl said.
“First of all let’s move a little — to the ground on the right side,” instructed Hermes.
The girl started pushing him to the edge of the field, holding the handle from the left. Compared to the road, the ground there was softer, although the tires didn’t sink too much in it. There was no need to worry about hitting the motorrad’s body, unlike on the terrace.
“Yeah, this place is fine. —— Regardless of time and place, if you aren’t able to get up the motorrad by yourself, you can’t ride it. Usually this is practiced before actual driving. That’s why we are holding the training in such a place. You should learn to lift me up from the left and from the right.”
“I understand. Let’s start the practice.”
“Alright. First try to bring me down.”
“Okay,” replied the girl and let go of the handle. Then she pushed the motorrad to the right.
“Huh? ——Wha—! Hey!”
Hermes fell down under its own weight. The tip of the handle sank into the ground.
“Done,” said the girl.
“You should do it slowly!” yelled Hermes.
The girl practiced picking Hermes up from both sides several times.
She brought him down gently, then lifted him up and put down the stand. When she was picking him up from right to left, she lowered the side stand on the left with her hand in advance, so that it won’t fall to the left after it was lifted.
“You’re becoming quite good at this. More composed. Later we should practice this on a slope,” said Hermes.
As Kino was wiping her sweat, the old woman called out from the terrace:
“It’s ready. Let’s have a lunch.”
“Alright! I’m coming,” the girl replied cheerfully, turning around.
Hermes, who at that moment was lying on its left side, spoke to the girl frantically.
“Well, I think it’s quite obvious that you should get me up before leaving. Hey, don’t leave me like this. —— I beg you!”
“I bet there are really tall trees at the boundary between the field and the forest. Let’s go there after lunch. We could use it as firewood later,” said the old woman.
The old woman and the girl were sitting face to face at the table, which they brought to the terrace, and were having a meal under the blue sky.
Two sets of aluminum plates, mugs, and high pots were lying on the table.
A plate was divided in three parts — a rather thick ham steak in blueberry sauce was lying in front, baked potatoes were in the center to the left, and to the right was a boiled carrot. The old woman cut the carrot in small pieces with a grayed knife that seemed to be used in assassinations or hand-to-hand fights, but definitely didn’t look like a dining knife. She put a piece of carrot into her mouth with a silver fork in her left hand.
The girl poured some tea from the pot into her mug and asked the old woman.
“Will we be using a saw to cut the tree, or will a woodcutter cut it with an axe?”
The woman slightly shook her head.
“No. It’s not an easy task to cut down a tall and thick tree. It’s dangerous, so you have to think about the direction of the fall. To put it simply, we’ll use an electric saw.”
“Do we have such a thing?” the girl asked with a piece of ham in her fork.
“No,” answered the old woman.
The girl put the ham in her mouth with a puzzled look.
An explosive sound roared through the forest.
It was the sound of shots fired from a persuader, but they were mixed together, so it was heard as a single prolonged sound.
The chips of wood started dancing nonstop at the bottom of the trunk of a tall tree. The holes began to appear on the side of the trunk with a crunching sound, as if a big, invisible beaver was nibbling at it. When the long sound stopped, the tree trunk had big bite marks on it.
A tripod was installed on the ground in front of the terrace, where the girl practiced not long ago. It was quite a big tripod constructed out of thick green pipes. The tripod was firmly placed in holes in the ground — one leg in front and two at the back. A fully automatic rapid-fire persuader was installed on top of it. It was aimed exactly at the tree.
A huge number of empty cartridges were scattered around a thick felt cloth that was spread between the tripod’s legs. Several metal and wooden boxes were aligned near the tripod. The shovel, used to dig the holes, was sticking out from the ground nearby.
The old woman with ear buds in her ears was squatting behind the tripod. Looking through the sights installed beside it, she made fine adjustments to the persuader’s aim using a dial and a lever on the back of the tripod.
Then the mixed explosive sounds were heard again. A storm of bullets passed through the field and pierced the opposite side of the trunk in the place that had bite marks, and the wood chips once again dashingly danced in the air.
Rat-a-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat! Rat-a-tat-tat-tat-tat! Rat-a-tat!
Almost at the same moment when the sound stopped, the tree started leaning to the side that it was initially shot at. The narrow trunk that was left slowly bent, then broke. The tall tree started falling down, scattering around its leaves.
The tree hit the ground and the neighborhood trembled with a low sound, the tree didn’t spring off even once. And then, right on the boundary between the field and the forest, it fell sideways parallel to the field.
The girl gazed at this scene with eyes wide open and ears closed. Hermes was standing behind her on his center stand.
The sheets drying on the terrace earlier were put away and only a small towel was hanging there. Nearby, the two plates used earlier were also hanging by the small metal things attached to the hole in the plates. Several small, snow-white clouds appeared on the sky and were floating very slowly.
“Alright,” the old woman muttered. A white smoke was curling upwards above the tripod from the heated fully automatic rapid-fire persuader. Under the tripod, a mountain of more than two hundred empty cartridges, fired in 10 seconds, was crumbling like a sand hill.
“Yes. It’s done,” said the old woman, removing her ear buds.
“Cool!” The girl was delighted.
“How unreasonable. ——Well, I suppose it’s better than converting a motorrad’s engine into chainsaw…,” Hermes mumbled quietly while looking at them.
“Master, what will we do with this tree?”
The girl looked at the toppled tree, which still had leaves and branches.
“We’ll leave it like that for some time.”
The girl turned her surprised face to the old woman.
“We’re just going to leave it?”
“Yes, that’s right. In this case, the leaves will fall off the branches and the water inside the tree will come out. It will take some time, but later it will be completely dry and will become perfect lumber.”
“Really?” the girl exclaimed looking at the tree.
“That’s why there’s no need to shoot anything else,” the old woman said with a smile.
The old woman waited until the empty cartridges got colder and then scooped up a number of them with the shovel and placed them in the wooden box. The girl searched for cartridges that bounced away, gathered them all and put them in a box.
Lastly, the old woman covered the tripod and the persuader with waterproof cloth. After that, she returned to the house carrying a metal box to put away the unused bullets. The girl ascended the terrace.
“Good job,” said Hermes.
“But I almost didn’t do anything,” the girl replied.
She leaned on the terrace and looked at the sky for a moment.
The gentle wind was blowing, shaking the girl’s hair.
The blue sky spread far, far away beyond the increasing number of round clouds. The silently floating clouds created an illusion, as if the sky moved in the opposite direction.
The woman called out the girl from the house entrance.
But the girl just kept staring at the sky.
“She is calling you,” the motorrad said in a rather loud voice. The girl lowered her gaze in surprise.
“Yes, you, Kino,” the old woman said in a kind tone, standing in front of the girl.
“Uh, yeah, of course… Sorry, sometimes I still think that it’s not me you are calling.”
The girl felt embarrassed. She laughed, but wasn’t distressed.
“——Plus, I have been thinking about ‘Kino’…”
The smile disappeared from her lowered face. She looked at the floorboards at the old woman’s feet.
The old woman lightly placed her hand on the girl’s shoulder, and spoke to the girl who raised her face in surprise.
“You’ll get used to it eventually.——I like the name ‘Kino’. It’s short, easy to pronounce and it sounds good.”
“I think so too!” the girl replied in a lively voice.
“For me you are Kino.—— You are Kino.”
“I am… Kino,” the girl mumbled as if reciting. And then: “But! But, Master,” said the girl, looking at the old woman, raising up her clenched fists and shaking them several times.
“I prefer to refer to myself using a male pronoun. Don’t you think it suits me better? I’ve got a feeling, since the first time I’ve heard it, that it’s a perfect feat for me.”
“A perfect fit?” Hermes asked from the side.
“Yeah, that!” Kino answered instantly.
The old woman said in a calm tone:
“You’ll get used to it too. It’s impossible to change something all of a sudden. Go easy; like that tree, calmly waiting its time. The winter will pass, the spring will come——There’s plenty of time to think about it.”
“By the way, “Master” sounds kinda mysterious, is there a hidden meaning in it?” asked the girl.
The old woman holding a dry towel turned her face with a dubious look.
“What is the meaning of “Master”? I’ve been thinking for a long time that it’s pretty unusual. Ah, maybe it’s an ordinary thing in a foreign country.”
Hermes and the old woman kept silent for a while. A cool wind blew between the two people and motorrad.
The old woman gently folded the towel she was holding and said:
“Kino… Please sit at the table. I’ll teach you various things.”
Then the two disappeared inside the house.
Their conversation was unintelligible to Hermes, who was left on the terrace, but then:
He heard the girl’s surprised voice.
“So “Master” is not a name?!”
“Oh, my…,” said Hermes.
Hermes, standing on the terrace in front of the small house, could hear the quiet sound of the wind and the two voices coming from inside the house.
“Let’s have the afternoon tea.”
“Okay, I’ll make it. ——As you taught me.”
“Alright, please do.”
For some time a sound of fire kindling and water boiling was heard.
“Perhaps, they fell asleep,” muttered Hermes.
“Thank you. It smells nice. What tea did you make?”
“Um, I can’t read, but it was from the red can. You’ve made it earlier and it was delicious.”
“It’s apple tea. Let’s drink.”
The number of clouds has increased even more; the joint clusters were floating on the sky.
“Tomorrow will be cloudy,” Hermes talked to himself.
The old woman asked:
“If the weather tomorrow will also be good, what should we do?”
The girl answered immediately:
“We can air the bed mats!”
The sun started going down, and it was twice lower than its highest point.
The girl hit the motorrad with clenched fists and yelled.
The motorrad gave a shout:
“Yeah-yeah… It’s morning, right?”
“Nope. The gunpowder seller is about to arrive, so I’ll move you aside,” said the girl.
She pushed Hermes and removed the stand. She kept pushing him slightly and then nimbly jumped onto him when the motorrad slid down the terrace. She drove with this force on the ground, then turned around and slid him between the road and the terrace.
“That’s really good. But you still need to change the way you wake me up,” said Hermes.
The girl stopped the motorrad.
Soon a carriage appeared from beyond the road. It was clearly visible in the distance since the road was absolutely straight. The old woman, who came out of the house, stood on the road and gazed at the distance.
“He is here.”
“I’ll make the preparations,” said the girl and ran towards the stables near the house.
Soon a carriage pulled by a pair of horses stopped in front of the terrace. The coachman was a well-built, middle-aged man with long beard, wearing leather coat and overalls. He had two holsters with automatic persuaders inside them under his arms. The carriage carrier was loaded with a number of wooden boxes fixed with ropes.
“Good afternoon. Thank you for coming,” said the old woman.
The man descended the carriage and gently lowered his head towards the woman.
Installing a plank diagonally between the carriage and the terrace, the man slid some of the cargo down the plank and lined them up on the terrace.
The girl put a manger beside the horses. In order to fill another tub with water, she hurriedly ran to the well behind the house with a bucket and came back.
The man started opening the lids of the wooden boxes placed on the terrace. At first, he opened those that were not nailed down.
“Here are the vegetables, as always. The meat — pretty good bacon. The eggs are also in here. The earlier you use them, the better. And a dozen jars of honey.”
After that he used a crowbar to open the boxes with nailed down lids. He showed its contents.
“Here are the gunpowder and the fuel — it’s more than usual since I thought that the weather might worsen. Please, take a look for yourself.”
“Yes. Thank you very much.”
The man looked at the tripod placed on the ground. The persuader has been detached already.
“How was the new model of the fully automatic rapid-fire persuader?” the man asked the old woman as if in anticipation.
“It’s not bad. I have not a single complaint concerning its performance. But the fact that there’s no tripod for my physique is painful, that’s all. It’s a good one.”
“If you say that… the engineers in my country will be happy,” the man’s face broadened into a smile.
“I’ve used it to cut down a tree not long ago,” the woman said instantly. The man looked at the toppled tree.
“……. Um, I won’t report that to the higher-ups,” the man said with a glum face.
“When you’re my age, calculating efficacy and laying explosives are troublesome.”
“… If you need help in physical work, just call me. I’ll gather some men and come.”
“Alright, I’ll do that in case of an emergency.”
From the terrace, the man glanced at the girl, who was giving water and food to the horses. Then he asked the woman, “Well… I’ve asked it many times already, but don’t you want to live in the country? The people will be happy to see you there.”
“As I’ve said many times, I really appreciate their feelings, but I don’t intend to move there. Besides, I’m not living alone now.”
“Um, I’m just asking, but… what will happen to this child? Is she going to live here with the motorrad for the rest of her life?”
“That is her own choice. It’s her own life. When she finds something that she wants to do, she’ll do it. Though I want her to live here, it’s not my call,” the old woman said firmly.
The man, who has much greater physique, lowered his shoulders.
“Please call me again whenever it suits you…”
“Alright. I’ll call you some time.”
Then the man lifted the boxes by himself, and started transferring them to the house. He carried some of them in and carried out some from the house. After he loaded them on the carriage, he helped the woman to put away the tripod.
“Here you go.”
The girl put a cup of tea on the table in front of the man.
The man was sitting on a chair in the living room, his coat removed. The old woman was sitting opposite him. The girl put her cup nearby and also sat at the table.
“Thank you. What a nice smell. What kind of tea is this?” the man asked the girl.
“It is the apple tea you’ve delivered to us earlier,” the girl said happily. She raised her mug with both hands and carried it to her mouth. The man lightly raised his cup and started drinking.
Time slowly passed. The man told the old woman the latest news about the country. After that, he made a note about the planned time of his next visit and the things he will bring.
“Well, I should get back before it gets dark.—— Thank you for the tea.”
He stood up with his coat in his hand. The old woman and the girl were about to escort him outside the house when,
“——Uh, this is…”
The man stopped. In front of his eyes was the brown coat carefully hung from the wall. The girl stopped.
“I’ve seen a man wearing exactly the same coat not long ago. I think I saw it somewhere.”
The girl held her breath. The old woman beside her asked the man:
“Oh! Who was this man?”
“He already returned home. In his country, this is the only durable coat that is suitable for traveling, so it seems that everyone uses it. So they always laugh when they meet someone outside the country and realize that they are fellow countrymen.”
The man continued without noticing the girl staring at him.
“This country is not far from here. They are engaged in trading too.”
“Where is it?!” The girl suddenly cried out in a loud voice.
“Where is it?! Where is this country?!”
The man gave a surprised look at the woman and the girl. The old woman didn’t say a word.
“Please, tell me where this country is!” said the girl, as if clinging to the man.
“So, we are going to that country?” asked Hermes.
The girl instantly replied:
“Yes, I’m planning to, that’s why I’m doing this.”
The girl was refueling Hermes on the terrace. She was pouring fuel from a can through the spout. The day was coming to an end. The sky, almost completely covered with clouds, was dark.
“Hey! That’s enough!” shouted Hermes.
The girl hurriedly stopped tilting the fuel can. She placed it on the floor and firmly put a cap on Hermes’ tank, which was fueled to the utmost.
“Are we really going?” asked Hermes.
A little bit earlier.
“I’ve said it already, this country is located nearby.”
The gunpowder seller answered to the girl’s importunate question. But Kino kept firing her questions in quick succession.
“Can I reach it by motorrad? Can I?”
“Eh? Yes, you can. I’m going there by carriage, but if it’s not a rainy season, the road isn’t that bad… I guess…”
“How long will it take to arrive there?”
The man glanced at the old woman.
“Well… If you go by carriage, it will take two days. But it’ll probably take only one day by motorrad. The straight road goes through the forest, so you don’t need to worry about getting lost… Did I answer your question?”
The girl nodded several times and replied:
“Yes… Thank you. Thank you very much…”
After seeing the gunpowder seller’s carriage off:
“I see… I understand your feelings.”
The woman was talking to the girl on the road.
“… I want to do this. I… want to do this. By all means. —— Will you allow me?”
The old woman nodded.
“Well, I won’t stop you. Because it’s your own life. But this will not necessary have a good outcome.—— This might end very bad.”
Then the woman asked the girl:
“Do you really want to go there?”
“I’m going,” the girl replied to Hermes.
“Then I’ll try to be of help to you.”
Saying this, the old woman came out of the house. Being called, Kino entered the house pushing Hermes. She placed him near the entrance, far from the lamp and the stove. The old woman came out of the room, carrying a big leather bag.
She put the bag on the floor and opened it. She took out a folded black jacket and black pants. Then she took out two belts for the jacket and for the pants, both made of thick material. There was also a hat with a brim and flaps that could cover the ears, and goggles with much more solid frame compared to ones they used for horse riding.
“Please, put these on. Your usual clothes probably aren’t fit for traveling. I asked the gunpowder seller if he had some clothes that are suited for riding a motorrad and he brought these.”
The girl raised her head.
“Actually, I wanted to give it to you as a present for your next birthday. But because such time has come—— Well, it’s kind of early, but it’s for you.”
“……. A…” The girl opened her mouth and was about to thank her.
“Please, take this too.”
With these words the old woman took a holster from a shelf on the wall. It was meant to be worn on the waist and it was pretty long. It contained the high caliber revolver that the girl used in training.
“Master, this is——”
“Yes. Tomorrow you should load it with bullets, perform maintenance and hang it on your belt, and then depart. This thing is important to keep you safe.”
“But what? I used it when I was young, so this persuader is very valuable, don’t you think?”
The old woman smiled broadly. “Well, because it is really valuable—— Please, take a look.”
The old woman took out a finely crafted pitch-black wooden box from the bag. She put it on the table, entered the key combination and opened it.
“There’s nothing to worry about. I’ll lend ‘one’ of them.”
When they both peeped into the box, they saw three more revolvers that looked exactly the same, divided from each other with boards; six spare cylinders were also placed in there.
“You will also need this plus the bag to put your luggage into. You can place it on the carrier, I suppose. Please, take it with you.”
The girl looked up at the woman’s face.
“Thank you very much. I don’t know what to say…”
The old woman lightly placed her hands on the girl’s shoulders.
“It’s early to thank me. Besides, who knows how everything will turn out? Maybe you’ll regret it, thinking, ‘If that person hadn’t save me back then, I wouldn’t end up like this.’”
“Or maybe you won’t. Everything depends on you. Kino, I don’t regret that I saved you. And—— I wish you luck.”
The next morning.
The clouds, hanging low in the sky, were floating far away. The rising sun wasn’t visible, and it wasn’t raining.
Hermes was standing on the terrace with his engine turned on. The leather bag was tied to the rear carrier. A spare fuel can was placed above it.
The girl was standing nearby.
She was wearing the black jacket, the black pants, and the thick belt strapped around her waist. Several pockets were attached to the belt; the holster with the high caliber revolver was hanging on her right thigh. Her long hair was tied back in a ponytail and was hidden under the jacket. She was wearing a brimmed hat with flaps covering her ears; the goggles were hanging on her neck.
The old woman came out of the house and said something to the girl.
The girl nodded firmly and said:
The girl put on the goggles. She straddled Hermes, removed the stand and slowly descended to the road.
She changed direction and set off.
A motorrad was driving on a single road through the forest.
This straight, plain and solid road seemed endless. The opening in the forest created by the road was stretching to the horizon; the sky there had a lead color.
“You’re speeding too much!” said Hermes.
“Really?” the rider answered shortly.
“Yes. Even if you don’t rush like that, we will still arrive in the afternoon.”
“But, it’s alright, I guess…”
“For now. But if the road becomes rough, it won’t be good.”
“Plus I’m tired. Reduce the cruising speed. What if we didn’t arrive there because of your reckless behavior?”
When she reduced the speed, Hermes breathed out.
“Kino,” he addressed the rider, but didn’t receive an answer.
“Eh? —— Ah, yes. What?” The girl finally noticed Hermes’ question and asked back.
“I’ve got a question. What are you planning to do when you arrive in that country? I haven’t asked you about this essential point yet.”
She was quiet for a while; the trees just kept moving in the opposite direction. It seemed that she and the motorrad stood still, while the scenery, which didn’t change a bit, was moving.
The girl slowly spoke: “I am not ‘Kino’, after all…”
“I think that I’m not ‘Kino’. No, I think that ‘I’m different’. That’s why I’m going there… to his homeland…”
“I’ll look for people who knew Kino, his family. I’ll meet with them…”
“What will you do when you meet them?”
The girl slowly raised her head. She looked at the dark gray sky spread above her.
“I’ll apologize,” said the girl, turning her gaze back at the road.
“Wouldn’t it be better to tell them what happened first?”
“Yes, I’ll tell them and then apologize…. That’s why I’m going…”
“Well… It’s off-topic, but don’t you want to make a small break? You’ve been driving for quite some time, your arms and legs must be tired because of the vibrations.”
“No, it’s fine.”
The motorrad was running through the forest.
The girl continued to drive without stopping until afternoon.
She stopped Hermes on the side of the road and had lunch.
She put some honey from a small pot on her bread and ate it without saying a word.
When she was about to drink water from a flask, Hermes told her:
“I guess you know that you should avoid drinking unboiled water.”
The girl reluctantly made a fire using solid fuel, poured the water in a cup and drank.
She almost silently cleaned up, put on her hat and goggles and started driving on the very narrow road.
The forest, reflected in her goggles, was floating from the center to the sides. The motorrad continued moving on the straight road.
The girl lost the sense of time, as the sun was hidden behind the cloudy sky.
“It’s alright. Even if you don’t rush like this, we’ll be in time for afternoon tea,” said Hermes.
And then he urged her to look at the sky in the west. A small blue crack in the clouds in the west part of the sky was visible between the trees.
“The weather is getting better. Seems that we won’t get wet.”
The girl didn’t answer. She just kept turning up the throttle with her right hand.
Soon the motorrad stopped in front of a wall standing in the middle of the forest.
“It’s here. I’m sure,” said Hermes.
The girl alighted the motorrad and slid down the goggles.
The walls of this country had the same color as the forest itself. Judging by the walls’ curve, the country wasn’t that big. The stone walls were covered all over with ivy, and at first sight it looked like moldering ruins.
The girl slowly removed her hat and goggles. She took out her hair from under the jacket and let it hang down her back. She looked at the towering walls in front of her and stood there petrified.
Suddenly she heard a sound of opening doors and lowered her sight in surprise.
A little further by the road was the gate. Two guards came out of the guard post. Both had old rifles on their backs — one was in his thirties, and the other one was quite young, around twenty.
“Uh, are you a traveler? Do you want to enter our country?”
“Yes,” Hermes answered instead of the girl.
The guard looked strangely at the girl who was about to say something.
“Uh… Here is… Um…”
Then the girl dashed to the carrier. She lowered the bag and opened it before the guard made a surprised look. She took out a gently folded brown coat from the bag.
“This… probably belonged to someone from this country…”
She presented it with both hands to the guard.
The guard accepted it with suspicion.
“Can I look at it?”
The girl nodded. The older guard spread the coat and said: “Yes, this coat belongs to a person from our country. Let me see…”
He looked inside the inner pocket.
“Yes, there’s still a resident number in here. 48402-15855, who might this be?—— I’ll look this up.”
The young guard repeated the number and went to the guard post near the country wall. After some time he came out holding a thick ledger.
“‘48402-15855’. Yes, there’s such number. This person left the country from this gate four years ago. His name is——”
“Kino!” the girl shouted.
Both guards were startled when she said the name in such a loud voice.
“You’re right… His name is ‘Kino’.”
They both looked at the girl. The older one asked her carefully, trying not to look too harsh: “If you don’t mind, can you tell us where you got it?”
The girl didn’t answer the question. She just said: “Does he have any family?—— If he has, I want to meet them! Please!”
The guards were surprised when they saw the tears flowing down the girl’s face.
Dozens of country residents gathered on a small square at the inner side of the gate. It seemed like they were returning from work or from fields and, after hearing that a traveler came to the country, they lined up near the gate and talked about it.
“As if they don’t have anything else to do.”
The elder guard was stunned seeing so many people from the guardroom. The girl was sitting on a chair with the same stiffened expression on her face; the motorrad was standing beside her.
“We’ve contacted the family, so they’ll come here soon, Well, at least can you tell me what happened?” said the guard.
The girl slightly shook her head.
It was afternoon. The number of clouds on the sky rapidly decreased. The blue color of the sky was getting deeper.
Soon a truck arrived at the square. This little truck with a platform attached to the back was used for work in fields. From inside, a middle-aged woman and an old man came out. They pushed their way through the crowd and entered the guard house.
The woman gently spoke to the girl, who hurriedly rose up.
“I’m not Kino’s family. But I was asked to come here and take you there.”
“To his only blood relative —— to his mother. Will you come with me?”
The girl nodded. The guard asked the old man if it’s alright.
“Huh, we won’t bite,” came the answer.
“So we want you to give her a permit to enter the country. This child is an invited guest.”
They loaded Hermes onto the truck’s platform and fastened him down.
“Hm, I’m wondering how it’ll go,” he mumbled, as if it has nothing to do with him.
The truck was running on an earthy road between the fields.
The girl was sitting silently in the passenger seat with the coat in her lap.
The truck stopped at a street where houses were standing close to each other. It was a log house, standing among the trees.
Everyone got out of the truck. The old man spoke to Hermes: “Would you mind staying here? It’ll be troublesome to load and fasten you again.”
“I’m not the one you should be addressing,” said Hermes.
The old man agreed and asked the girl the same question.
“Come on, I’ll be here. It’s fine.”
“If it’s alright with you, Hermes, then so be it…,” the girl said.
Leaving Hermes behind, the three people entered the house. They opened the door and found themselves in a room which was quite dim.
There was not a soul in the living room that they just entered. There was a table with two chairs and a brick fireplace that had no fire lighted.
The girl took off her hat, put her goggles in it and held it under the folded coat.
“We are here,” the middle aged woman called out.
“Yes, I’m coming.” A woman’s voice came out from the inside.
The girl’s left hand tightly grasped the coat.
Soon a single woman came out of the back room.
It was a slightly thick-set woman of 45-55 years old, wearing round-lens glasses. She was wearing an apron above a one-piece dress.
Seeing the girl, the woman addressed her with a smile. “Ah, it’s you. I was told that you know something about my son. What a charming traveler.”
“What is your name?”
The woman offered her a chair. After the girl sat down and placed the coat in her lap, she sat at the opposite side of the table.
“What should we do?” asked the old man.
“Please leave us alone. I’ll have you take care of her later.”
After that the two who brought the girl, left the house.
With the sound of the closing door, the room fell into silence. After some time, the girl spoke first.
“… Um,—— I’m returning this!”
She put the folded coat on the table.
The woman took it and slowly looked at the number on the inner pocket.
“There’s no mistake. This belonged to my son, Kino. Where did you——”
“I’ll tell you everything! I’ll tell you!” the girl screamed and leaned forward.
“… I understand.”
The woman nodded lightly and said to the girl:
“But first, please, wipe your tears.”
While the girl was frantically explaining what happened, the clouds on the sky were blown away, exposing the setting sun. An evening glow lighted up the greenish brown rural country and the log house. The room was filled up with a mix of light red and orange.
“So, that was it,” the woman said in gentle voice.
“I am sorry,” the girl repeated four times.
“Thank you for letting me know.—— I almost gave up, since he didn’t come back and I didn’t receive any letters from him for a long time. When I heard about the coat, I thought that he probably passed away.”
The woman said this indifferently, her voice lacking emotion.
“I am sorry…,” the girl said quietly, still without removing her gaze off the table.
“There’s no point in blaming yourself.”
“Still… I’m sorry. If I haven’t said such things to my family…”
“Then you won’t be you, right?”
“Still… This random person, Kino, wouldn’t be dead… if that day I hadn’t said anything… and looked forward to my birthday quietly…”
“That child…,” the woman said, then suddenly changed her tone. She started speaking lightly, as if chatting about ordinary things. “That child told me that he would like to travel. He said that it relates to his own growth and the growth of the country. He left the country many times, then came back, then left again… Since he “became an adult”, he rarely appeared in his own country.”
“That’s why, every time he left, I would be waiting for him, thinking, ‘What if he doesn’t come back?’”
“Please, tell me one thing.”
The girl raised her face —half in tears and half with an almost dead expression— and replied quietly, “Yes?”
“Do you have a place to return to?”
“Eh?—— Yes. But…”
“That’s good. That’s really good. You must return there. But it’s already too late, so please stay for a night in ‘this country’.—— I’ll make some tea.”
She rose up from the chair, moved to the kitchen near the living room and sat there.
“Um…,” the girl said as if remembering something, rising from the chair. She heard the woman’s voice:
“It’s alright. You don’t need to help me. Stay where you are.”
For some time only a noise of burning wood was heard. Then the sound of boiling water. The sound of pouring.
In the room, completely colored red,
The girl was touching the coat lying in front of her.
When she was about to put both hands on her knees,
She touched something cold with her right hand. She pulled back her hand in surprise. She slowly lowered her gaze and checked the thing she just touched.
It was the persuader inserted in the holster. A matted black piece of metal in the crimson air.
The girl slowly put her hand on her knee, avoiding it.
She placed two steaming cups of tea on the table. The woman took the coat from the table and disappeared in the back room. When she came back, she moved a tea cup towards the girl and also took a seat.
The girl took the cup with both hands and sipped.
“Is it too hot?”
Making two more sips, the girl said that it was fine. Then one more sip.
“You seem really thirsty,” said the woman.
The girl almost instantly drank half of the cup. Then she slowly breathed out.
“It’s delicious,” said the girl.
The next moment she heard the woman saying, “Thank you.”
The world in front of her eyes slowly tilted to the right.
There was a loud sound of a person striking the floor, followed by the sound of a chair falling down.
Still sitting on the chair, the girl lost balance and fell to the left along with the chair. She pushed away the tea cup with her right hand, spilling the tea on the table. The teacup tumbled down near her face with a dry sound. The girl’s tied up hair scattered across the floor.
She looked at the wooden ceiling that seemed distorted to her, and let out a voice as if gasping for air.
In the red atmosphere, she saw the woman’s head that seemed as if it was covering the ceiling. She saw the woman looking down at her and stretching her hands.
The hands, which seemed bent, stretched towards her throat.
“If it wasn’t for you…”
She clearly heard the woman’s voice. And then the feeling of cold hands at her throat.
“If it wasn’t for you, my son wouldn’t have died.”
The hands squeezing her slim throat were full of strength.
She breathed out with difficulty and let out a short sound.
“If it wasn’t for you, my son would’ve come back safely. Kino would’ve come back. Kino would’ve been alive. Am I wrong?”
The girl couldn’t see the expression of the woman’s face hovering above her. She just saw a black mass.
The evening sun was viciously dyeing red everything in the room through the window. The woman continued throttling the long-haired girl who was lying face up.
“Do you understand my pain? Do you understand the feelings of a mother whose son had died? Do you understand what it feels for a person who can do nothing except wait?”
“If it wasn’t for you!”
She applied even more strength.
Neither breath nor voice leaked out of the girl’s throat, her arms only moved up slightly and then fell down. Trying to grab something, she once again raised her shaking arm, but it fell down. That moment her right hand felt something cold. She held it tightly and drew her arm back moving only her shoulder. Removing the holster strap, the gleaming black cylinder and then the barrel appeared.
The woman was speaking slowly with her mouth opened wide.
“If it wasn’t for you, Kino would’ve come back.”
“If it wasn’t for you, Kino would’ve come back——Gh!”
The long barrel of the revolver was inserted in her mouth. The trembling from the girl’s hand was transmitted to the barrel, so the woman’s teeth started clicking.
The woman loosened her grip. The girl breathed in deeply and then groaned when she breathed out.
“Now… I am… I am Kino…”
The clicking sound stopped.
“I’m not going… to let someone kill me… again…”
The crimson world. The wooden living room.
A person, who was leaning over another person on the floor, sprang up along with the sound of an explosion, as if shocked with electricity. After that, without saying a word, she fell down on the second person lying on the floor.
The crimson world.
A dying person was leaning face-down over an unconscious person lying on her back.
The great amount of blood has soaked into that person’s hair.
In the crimson world, something more reddish was spreading on the floor.
After some time, when the sun disappeared behind the forest and the country’s wall, the room suddenly started falling into darkness.
Someone was peeking through the window near the entrance into the room that didn’t show any signs of life.
The next morning.
Kino woke up at the crack of dawn.
She opened her eyes and slowly raised her body. Then she pushed aside the warm blanket. Kino looked down at herself and noticed that she was wearing clean white underwear.
Upon hearing the sudden voice, she turned her gaze and saw Hermes, standing on his side stand.
“Ah, good morning, Hermes,” replied Kino.
She looked to the left. The bed was standing next to the wooden wall; the weak light of the morning sun was coming into the room through the window on that wall.
She looked to the right. In the small room, there was only a simple table, a chair and a coat hanger. The washed and folded white shirt, boots, the holster with a persuader inside and the hat with goggles were lying on the table.
The black jacket and the pants were carefully hung on the coat hanger.
“——Where am I?” she asked in a stupefied voice.
The answer came from the outside of the room.
“You’re still in this country. This is my house,” replied a middle-aged woman as she opened the door. She was the one who met her yesterday.
“It’s the morning of the second day since your arrival to our country.—— How do you feel? Any dizziness in your head or numbness in your legs or tongue?”
She asked this with the same gentle tone as the day before. Kino shook her head.
“That’s good,” said the woman.
For some time, Kino remained seated on the bed with a dazed look, her eyes wide open. She was breathing quietly and slightly moving her shoulders up and down.
“What about that person?” Kino asked shortly.
“The funeral and burial were held last night,” answered the middle-aged woman and added, “I’ll wait while you dress yourself.” And then she left the room.
Kino got out of bed and looked at her clothes. There wasn’t a single spot on the collar of her jacket.
She dressed herself like the previous day. She put on the black jacket, strapped the thick belt around her waist, and slung the holster on her right thigh. There were only slight traces of a dry, black something left on the revolver, which was used to fire one bullet.
When she was going to put her hair under the jacket,
It was the first time she noticed it.
“You should probably look at the mirror, it is behind the coat hanger,” said Hermes.
Kino quietly made three steps towards the mirror and stood before it. It reflected a person with a short hair.
Kino looked at this person for some time. Then the person in the mirror started moving her mouth.
“Kino… I am—— Kino.”
The moment Hermes said this, the door opened. The two who met her yesterday entered the room — the old man and the middle-aged woman.
“Your hair was soaking with blood. Well, we thought that it might be wrong, but still this person has cut your hair.—— Do you mind?”
Kino moved her gaze from the mirror to the woman and answered with a short ‘no.’
“Um, well. Please, take a seat,” said the woman.
Kino sat on the bed, while the two brought chairs from the corner of the room and sat beside her.
“Well, where should we start?”
When the woman opened her mouth, Kino asked back: “What… what will be the punishment for what I’ve done…?”
“In our country, ‘rightful self-defense’ is not a crime. However, ‘aiding a suicide’ is quite a serious crime. According to our laws, the punishment will be deportation from our country. —— Do you understand that?” the old man asked, and Kino nodded in return.
“I do, but… why?”
The woman slowly talk combined with twittering of the birds outside.
“There are many softhearted people in this country. —— But there are young people who don’t like it, so they leave the country and travel. Well, it seems that they can’t escape their nature after all.”
“Let’s get back to our conversation. This person had been waiting for a very long time, all alone. Do you understand the feeling of a mother who waited all the time for her son to come back home?”
“No,” answered Kino.
“It’s alright.” The woman nodded and continued: “I think she realized that she doesn’t have to wait anymore and sighed with relief. When she understood what happened to him, she became free from anxiety. —— Well, yes, she gave you a tea that caused paralysis, but I’m sure she clearly understood how it would end when she started throttling a person who has a persuader.”
“Do you get it?”
Kino shook her head. “No, I don’t.”
“Well, you may not understand. But it’s alright. I just want you to understand one thing.”
“What is it?”
“You don’t have to cry about this anymore.—— It’s over.”
“We’ll do the rest. You should return back to where you came from. I’ll talk to the guard at the gate where you entered the country. You should take the direct road.”
Pushing Hermes, Kino left the room. She found herself on the street under the light blue sky. The morning haze still quietly hung over the country.
Coming out to the street, Kino made a deep long breath.
“Please, take this, Miss Kino.”
The middle-aged woman stretched her hands and presented her something.
It was a folded brown coat. It was the same coat that Kino brought.
The old man spoke to her.
“That person left it along with a note that says: ‘Don’t bury it with me, give it to her.’ People say that a long time ago it was a present she gave to her son on his birthday. Now—— it’s yours.”
Kino silently put Hermes on the side stand, and received the coat from the woman.
She stretched the coat and put it on. Its hem almost touched the ground.
“It’s quite long,” said the old man.
“Uh-huh,” said Kino.
That day the guard sent the traveler off early in the morning.
That traveler was riding a motorrad and wearing a long coat with its hem wrapped up to her thighs.
After seeing off the motorrad disappearing in the woods, the guard gave a yawn, looked at the sky and returned to the guard post.
Above the green forest and the country walls.
The morning haze cleared and the blue sky spread as far as the eyes could see.
 Translator’s Notes
- Literally: “I like ‘Boku wa Kino’ more than ‘Watashi wa Kino’. Don’t you think that ‘boku’ suits me better?”
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