Chapter 2

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Hole 2: Grave Keeper

Chapter 2

There were flies flying about the waterside.

It was something he hadn’t noticed until then. That is, he felt it was the first time he’d seen insects since he came to the graveyard, which was a little surprising. Especially since only a bit before his tenure at the graveyard, there hadn’t even been a day where he didn’t see flies.

“Wherever lots of people gather, flies and merchants will come without fail.” He had forgotten the person who’d said that, but certainly a large family in the middle of an expedition would have flies buzzing all over.

When it came to the military, the excrement from people and horses, the large amount of thrown away food or scraps, and the corpses created an environment that didn’t lack in feed for the insects. Incidentally, other than digging trenches, digging out holes to be filled with that stuff was also one of the moles’ responsibilities.

And refusing to succumb to the lively flies buzzing loudly about, the military camps were also visited by village merchants who had purchased permits from the upper ranks.

The man sent from the merchant’s guild had a horse-cart fully-loaded with luxury indulgences, like tobacco, alcohol, chocolate bars, newspapers, playing cards, bulletproofing charms, sunglasses, and changes of undergarments, all of which the soldiers would distribute around wherever they made camp.

The days that were particularly hectic were immediately after paydays or on days when the merchants came with sexy photos of famous actresses. Both caused a flood of rough, uncultured guys to break out into scuffles, so the MPs[1] were dispatched to prevent the fist fights and force people into lines.

One thing that was interesting though was the merchandise. Though 100% of the clients were certainly men, the horse carts also had other products like perfumes and lipsticks, clearly female products no matter how you thought of it. Depending on the cart some even sold various clothing accessories.

Naturally, for a long time Muoru had wondered what kind of soldier would buy and use these products. But one day that mystery was solved when he stumbled upon one of his superiors after they’d gotten their hands on their pay. With a smile, his superior had bought some earrings. Then he walked right from the horse cart straight back to the tents set up at the rear of the camp.

Of course, buying a permit in order to sell merchandise during a military campaign was not just the right of the merchant’s guild. There was also another tent called the “Heroine guild”[2], clearly made from a flowery patterned cloth different from the material the soldiers used.

He didn’t know his superior’s intentions, but Muoru assumed he’d gotten the merchandise as a way to woo a sweetheart or something.

Be that as it may, that merchant’s horse cart was not coming to this graveyard and even if it did Muoru was broke. Plus, he couldn’t imagine Meria getting excited about receiving things like lipstick or perfume as a present.

Well, that may just be a problem with my imagination.

The girl was different from the usual female. Even Muoru, who had only used his military allowance to buy envelopes or a little bit of alcohol, understood that much.

And hearing about his troubles, Crow added, “The heart of a skeleton”.

Just before making that statement, he’d been worrying excessively about his inability to close the distance between him and Meria, and the seemingly unoccupied Crow discussed the topic with him absent-mindedly.

The more he thought about it afterwards, the more he thought he’d made a mistake.  The topic at hand was an ideal source of teasing for someone like Crow, who was the type of human who seemed to jump up with all their energy if they felt something seemed a bit fun.

“So that’s it… that was what you refused to tell me earlier,” Crow hummed out without even trying to hide their cruel-looking smile. “Good grief, I wish you had come to me about this earlier. This mole has become interested in the opposite sex!”

Well Crow seems to be in high spirits.

Crow’s misunderstanding wasn’t enough to warrant correction. He was getting close to Meria precisely because he needed a way to escape, nothing more and nothing less. However, if he tried to correct Crow’s repeated misunderstanding, it was clear as day that he would become even more of a target for teasing. Though he was reluctant, there was nothing he could do but let the misunderstanding continue in this way.

“Well, other than presents, it is also fundamental to praise her good points. For example, if it was me who had their hair complimented, I’d be happy.”

No one was asking about you.

Resisting the desire to retort that way, Muoru instead did a mental simulation. Meria appeared inside his mind and spoke. Fortunately he had an abundance of things he could compliment her on. And of course because it was his imagination, his words didn’t get jumbled up. Yo Meria, your hair is beautiful as ever. Thank you Muoru. It makes me so happy to hear that.

“…No, that wouldn’t happen. She definitely wouldn’t be happy.”

Crow directed a look full of sympathy at the boy frowning alone.

“Yeah, yeah, Meria-chan right? I can’t come here except during the day so I’ve never met her, but somehow she seems like a rather difficult person.”

…That really was true. However he just couldn’t say things like, “you’re being unreasonable, so stop it.” Maybe he was in fact a good guy, Muoru thought, somewhat ignorantly.

…somehow it seems like even I’m really giving up.

Then instead of comforting him, Crow said something strange. “Hmm, that makes sense. In other words, maybe the girl has the heart of a skeleton.”

“The heart of a skeleton?” Muoru asked back without thinking.

Crow’s eyes suddenly narrowed, and like a hypnotist they spoke in a way that was completely fascinating.

“Look, try to imagine the interior of a skeleton’s left breast. Flesh and organs intertwine. And behind the white ribs…”

Crow abruptly closed both of their hands together, as if right before giving a cheer.

“It’s hollow,” Crow continued.

Muoru exhaled, as if being lied to.

“What are you talking about?”

“The trouble with your comprehension is not just with your ears.”

Crow placed a hand to their chest and spoke in a mysteriously serious tone.

“I think even you have experienced this- Haven’t you ever felt your heart jump when hearing something wonderful or shocking? Right, if I were to guess, those important words reach far deeper than just your outer consciousness.

…But the girl you’re thinking about, she doesn’t seem to have that kind of feeling. No matter what you say to her, I think your words may never reach her heart, just like as if she didn’t have one.”

Hearing that, Muoru unconsciously bit his lip.

“Ah hey, hey, don’t feel down like that. This is nothing more than my own, arbitrary guess. It might simply be that she has bad social skills right?”

“…If that’s true, then great. But really, I get the feeling that it’s useless no matter what.”

Laughing at the boy’s timidity, Crow said, “Well, let’s confirm whether the girl has a heart or not.”

“Huh?”

The girl is a human so physically she definitely has a heart. Meaning this “heart of a skeleton” should have just been an analogy. Yet Crow had just said they should confirm it…a statement that completely bewildered Muoru.

“Yes, so close your eyes,” Crow said and Muoru unconsciously obeyed.

Then Crow, as if casting some kind of spell, said, “Look, try to imagine the girl’s left breast. Under her clothes, her undergarments, her skin, her flesh, her bones, under all of that. Is there really a heart? Shouldn’t we try and confirm? How you may ask? Well, it’s simple. Touch her directly with the palm of your hand, and if you feel the beating it’s okay. However, if your fingers were to undo her clothes and expose the swell of her chest you may love it…”

“…”

Crow grinned and pointed at Muoru’s face.

“Oh, my Mole-kun. You’ve got a nosebleed. Perhaps you’re imagining something perverted.”[3]

“Fu…Fu… Fuck you idiot! I am not thinking that! I’ll bury you!” Muoru shouted as he covered up the area beneath his nose with his hand, which only made Crow laugh.

“Wow, how amusing. This is the first time you’ve responded to me like this, Mole-kun!”

…It was a complete and utter mistake to discuss this with Crow.

…Well, there was no one else who seemed to be able to discuss Meria with him.

After thinking about it for a while, Muoru realized that he couldn’t give her a gift, nor did he think she’d understand his compliments. That being the case, at least he should worry about doing something she wouldn’t hate. It was an incredibly timid way of thinking, but currently Muoru couldn’t make any other decision.

Next to the run down stable, where he slept, there was a reservoir that seemed to have originally been used to give water to the horses.

Waking up earlier than usual, Muoru went there, filled an old cracked bucket with water and dumped it on his head. In the middle of the uncirculated reservoir water, mosquito larvae floated about. He didn’t even notice them as he put the bucket back into the water and repeated the action.

The water was lukewarm, and it had the faint smell of mold, but it had no problem waking his absentminded face.

“Listen Mole-kun, even at the best of times you’re covered with mud on a regular basis,” Crow had said earlier while handing over a razor for him to shave with. “At least when you’re not digging holes you can try to bear in mind good hygiene. No matter how much you don’t display your true behavior, there won’t be any girl who’ll like you if you’re unhygienic.”

It was completely none of Crow’s business. Then again, were there actually people who cared if moles were covered in dirt? To say nothing of girls….

Grumbling complaints about the insinuating Crow, Muoru nevertheless shaved his beard and thoroughly removed the filth from his body.

In the distance the east sky was starting to brighten, but the sun still hadn’t shown its face. On the other side of the sky, the moon was just barely visible.

Although it was a good idea to put on clothes after drying up, he felt a little lost not having something to do.

He still had time before he had to start working. However, after making the effort to bathe, he couldn’t bring himself to go back to bed. So, he willed his legs to take him towards the graveyard.

How’s Meria doing? Suddenly that question floated into his mind. He always went to bed before her so he didn’t even know what time she left the graveyard. Was she still guarding the graveyard? Muoru walked with those thoughts on his mind. But then even if they did run into each other, he had no idea what they should talk about…

As he traveled from the graveyard to the stable, there was no way he could miss the side of the mansion on the way. Like usual he passed the side of the black iron fence, but this time he could hear water coming from about where the small garden was.

Ordinarily he would have been on the verge of thinking it was someone watering the plants, but then he recalled that the mansion’s garden was flat and definitely had no shrubbery at all.

I’m sure it’s just the running water and pipes at the back of the residence, Muoru thought as he lightheartedly went around to the back.

But Meria was there.

She was kneeling at the center of the garden on a nook paved with concrete. To the side there was a thin pillar with a faucet attached to the tip. A somewhat blue hose was plugged into the faucet, and her white arm was holding that hose around the middle and hoisting it over her head. From the tip of that hose water poured out and washed over her whole body. And her appearance from behind…was just like when she was born.

Just before dawn, in a world still showing signs of darkness, the girl was washing her body.

…Isn’t this strange? The boy was confused.

Her hair that was always covered by her hood went down to just above her waist. And that dripping wet light brown hair clung to her white skin.

Skin that was completely bare, from her hair all the way down to her feet.

4

…Strange, it was a contradiction…Why despite that slender figure…why with that seemingly soft skin…?

“Muoru…?”

Whether or not she’d felt his gaze, he didn’t know, but in that moment Meria turned to look at him over her shoulder. The completely defenseless girl’s line of sight and the rigidly still boy’s gaze mingled across the iron fence.

Then the girl tossed away the hose and covered her small chest. The girl lowered her head, and water dripped down from her narrow chin, hair, the tip of her elbow, and other places.

“I’m..I’m sor…”

The next moment, a terrible growl erupted from the thicket and the dog jumped out. It had jumped out with enough force to rip him to shreds. So without clearly saying his apology, the boy ran away.

I never figured I’d see Meria bathing there, Muoru thought as he desperately moved his legs.

Perhaps, I’m just dreaming, just like every night…?

He wasn’t sure about that, but there was one thing he knew wasn’t a mistake. Though he hadn’t intended to see her there, now that he had, she would probably hate him even more.

Next Page


[1] Military Police

[2] Brothel

[3] In Japan there is a pseudo belief that thinking lewd thoughts will cause a nosebleed (this is prevalent in anime). Technically the translation is “you have a lewd look on your face”, but that doesn’t mesh with the idea of a nosebleed, which is why Muoru covers the area under his nose in the next line.

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