Hole 2: Grave Keeper
“It’s incredible that you were able to complete such a large hole in just four days.”
Realistically speaking, no ordinary person would think the giant hole was a grave just by looking at it. The result of all the digging, which caused Muoru’s arms to be swollen from the strain, looked like the excavation site of some historic ruin.
He already felt like the silver colored shovel given to him at his arrival had become something like a companion. Of course he’d only had it for a short time, but during that brief period it was by no means inconvenient. His previous shovel may have been made from good materials, but this one was much lighter. If he swung the shovel thousands of times a day, its light weight would definitely be helpful for his arms. And no matter how much he abused the tip, it never lost its sharpness. But most importantly, the blade was wide, meaning he could scoop up more dirt than before. And on the other side, the grip had been ingeniously designed to make carrying loads easy.
The thought of losing his companion after this hole, should he fail in his mission, made him sad. He thought it would definitely help him succeed. But of course, his primary driving force couldn’t be compared with his attachment to a shovel.
“Honestly, I truly appreciate your effort. You’re probably tired, so please head back and relax,” Daribedor said with a smile, but that smile was in no way a reward for Muoru.
Muoru went to leave, but then he remembered something and stopped himself.
“Ah, I would like to ask one thing,” Muoru said, looking over his shoulder and down at the small-statured old man. “Will it be better if I don’t sleep tonight? That is, does it look like I’ll have to work tonight?” The underlying question his words implied being: Will the monster be coming tonight?
“Perhaps. Well then, yes, that would be good.” The wrinkles around Daribedor’s mouth seemed to deepen.
Muoru gave a light nod then left.
That’s one less thing I have to trust to fate.
Yet at the same time, now he had a clear time limit.
Muoru washed himself at the reservoir, and then he passed the rest of the time the sun was out back in the graveyard underneath the giant tree.
He went to Maria’s grave close to the tree and placed a nameless flower in front of the stone. It was pretty much a weed, just something he’d picked in the area, but he supposed it was better than nothing.
He then stabbed his shovel into the dirt and put the flower into the ground.
When finished, Muoru rested his back against the trunk of the tree and watched the evening sun set for what might perhaps be his last time.
As the sun set into the distance, descending into the deep, dark forest, he thought it was big, warm, and even gentle.
At some point he nodded off and had a dream. In it he recalled his father’s sturdy, strong back. It created such a sense of loneliness, that he wished he could see his father more every day. Until that point, Muoru had had no idea just how important he was to him.
Then night came.
The last night.
There was no need for Muoru to go searching; Meria came almost at the same time as the sun fell.
That night four days ago, she’d looked miserable after he’d told her they would be parting. Even the dark robe she was wearing seemed to be of a darker hue.
And now he was driven by the urge to comfort her as she stood before him, even if he had to tell a lie. But he couldn’t. If he told her what he was thinking about doing next, she’d no doubt be against it.
And it was preferable that Meria didn’t have a say in the matter.
….He was a really cruel person. And even if his false charge were cleared up, he’d still have to endure the fact that he hurt her as punishment.
If I had to punish myself for that, I wouldn’t be just a normal prisoner. I’d put myself on death row for sure.
“Muoru,” the girl called his name with a voice that seemed devoid of energy.
She then looked at the ground for a while, gripping her sleeves as if she wanted to say something. Muoru didn’t dare try to look at her face.
Even then he felt that was cowardly.
“This is where we part ways,” the girl finally said after the long silence.
“If this is the end…I have just one request.” Meria lifted her head. Her eyes were watery, but her gaze was substantially strong. “Face that way,” she said.
He didn’t know what she intended to do, but in the end Muoru turned his back to her.
This can’t be happening… whatever you do, don’t stab me with a knife. The moment he had that foolish thought, he felt a light impact, like his back was hit by a large ball.
He couldn’t believe it. She had buried her beautiful face in his rugged back.
As his body stiffened, he heard her take a deep breath behind him.
“You smell like the sun,” she said, but he didn’t just hear her voice through the air, he also heard it through his skin. “I’ve longed for it for so long.”
He felt the blood in his body begin to boil, but even more than that he could feel the warmth from Meria’s nose and mouth pressing against him.
“I just stink of sweat,” he said without thinking and feeling a little embarrassed.
“Be quiet,” she said, like she was commanding a sulking child.
At night, the graveyard was silent. And with the two of them also standing quietly, the only thing he could hear was the girl’s deep breaths.
Finally noticing her hand, Muoru realized she had crossed her hand in front of his navel completely unnoticed.
You’re crafty. Muoru thought automatically. In this posture, I can’t hug you back without breaking your arm or something, right?
Standing there in that position, Meria’s breathing was like a sleeping child’s.
Trying to preserve the silence, Muoru turned around and desperately suppressed the urge to hug her back. The feeling seemed to fade with the same slowness as the setting sun, and when it finally did completely disappear, he could hear the sound of his heart pounding below around the point where he felt the girl’s warm breath.
Try saying it again, stupid bird, the boy thought, in his head cursing what Crow had said before.
The girl is hollow, like she has the heart of a skeleton.
He didn’t know how long Meria’s face had been pressed into his back, but at the very least it was long enough to leave lines from his clothes on her blushing cheeks.
“Thank you,” Meria muttered to Muoru after he turned around.
Terribly embarrassed, the two of them couldn’t meet each other’s gaze.
…But embarrassment wasn’t the main reason why Muoru couldn’t look into Meria’s eyes
“This time you look away,” Muoru said.
Still blushing, Meria nodded once and obediently followed his request.
Muoru reached out to her dark hood and lowered it. The sight of her hair was like the beauty one would see when opening a jewel box.
He pushed his fingers through her hair, revealing the nape of her neck. The two of them both shivered the moment his fingers touched her skin and for a moment Muoru removed his hand. But then he took a deep breath to calm himself.
He then whispered a single word and put his arms around her slender neck.
…And snapped it.
 A very interesting phrase. The Kanji = Stupid bird, but the phrase references Albatrosses. An albatross in English is also a metaphor that means “a wearisome burden, such as inescapable guilt or responsibility.” It is possible that the author was thinking of the English metaphor, but I think they were just calling Crow stupid. That would fit better with the “Muoru’s cursing”.