Chapter 2-2

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Hole 1: Grave Digger

Chapter  2-2

…His oldest memory was of a sound. Off and on he could hear a high pitched Kiin.kiin coming from the area next to his small room. He had been looking at an old-looking ceiling, something he was all too familiar with…his house’s ceiling…his hometown home’s ceiling.

Trying not to wake his sleeping brothers next to him, the young boy quietly slipped out of bed. With his feet on the floor his field of vision was much lower than it was now…. He was only faintly aware that it was a dream of his childhood.

Kiin…Kiin…

He soon realized what the sound really was. His stonemason father was swinging a chisel and hammer.

The young boy stared fixedly at his father’s rounded back as he sat on a small stepladder and poured all his mind and energy into carving the stone.

In truth he couldn’t really recall his father’s voice. But he did remember that he was a stubborn and quiet person. Actually, he was extremely quiet….very much like a rock. Perhaps if you faced a stone for a long time then maybe your body and heart would become just as hard. His father’s shortly trimmed beard seemed to be prickly like the scrubbing brush he was used to using. And the palms of his slightly dirty hands were as coarse as elephant skin.

Then there was his height. The man was by no means taller than the boy’s current height. In fact, if he thought about it now, it was probably strange that someone as tall as him was born to such a small statured man. However, in the midst of his memories he remembered his father appearing big enough. And looking at his strong and solid frame left a strong impression.

As the boy continued to motionlessly stare upwards at his father’s back, his father turned his head towards him.

“XXXXX, can’t sleep?” he asked, calling the young boy’s name.

He couldn’t accurately recall the sound of the voice, probably because it was a dream. And the voice he did hear faster than how his father would have spoken. Even so, the boy felt a sense of relief. Most likely because his father had called out his name…

#

Since when did I start having dreams of my father…, the prisoner thought in the middle of his slumber.

He quickly woke up… If possible, he had to get ready for today’s work before that old noisy woman came back. Yet, for some reason he was so warm and comfortable that he didn’t feel like getting up. It was similar to the great feeling when your senses and consciousness started to fade in a pleasant bathtub. And so for just a little bit more, he figured it was okay to continue dreaming about his father.

He could taste dirt in his mouth.

Getting an unpleasant feeling, the boy opened his eyes.

However, despite his intents, for some reason his left side was completely dark. He tried to blink, but a sharp pain shot into his left eye. And as he lay on his side, to his right he could see a dirt wall right in front of him.

“What is…?”

With a start, he rose up and instead of being on a futon, dirt, of all things, tumbled off his body. Half of his body was buried beneath the ground…no, rather it had been buried. The fact that the boy was now within the very grave he had dug out earlier was no joke at all.

That’s right, I passed out.

Before he even understood the situation above him, clumps of dirt poured down and covered his head. “Waah, what the, ugh.”  Spitting out the foreign substance, the boy looked up.

“You were alive?” said lips the color of cherry blossoms.

The blade of a shovel, which looked just like the same new tool the boy had received, seemed to shine a bright silver as the moonlight reflected off the metal. On the blade sat the next load of dirt, but was more interesting was the girl holding the shovel and looking down at him from the lip of the hole.

“….”

The dark navy cloak the girl wore was definitely the same as the one he saw before fainting. And what he had seen through her hood had certainly appeared to be human, but in reality, it was beautiful. At least he thought so. For a reason other than fear, the sight of her made him forget to even breathe.

For a time, she looked mysteriously at the motionless boy in the hole. But then she slightly tilted her head to the side and asked, “Or are you moving despite being dead?”

“….What are you talking about?” the boy blurted out in response to the extremely strange question, his rigid demeanor completely gone.

Her voice was slight and beautiful; her dark blue eyes seemed to be full of suspicion, and from her hood spilled out silky reddish brown hair. In his 16 years of life he had never seen a creature so beautiful.  And he thought he would never see anything more beautiful in the future either.

1

…Wait. Don’t get angry. Have you forgotten where you are? The boy asked himself, squeezing his eyes shut.

Trying to calm his thrashing heart, a great number of questions welled up within him.

Needless to say, the girl’s expression looked like she hadn’t seen him working in the graveyard the past few days. Even with just a short glance, he believed he could never forget her face. But what in the world was she doing at this hour in this place? No, his body felt it was unnatural for a girl to be alone in the graveyard by herself at this hour.

She looks like a human, but I can’t say with certainty that she’s not just a beautiful ghost

No, for starters…

“Who are you?” the boy asked, standing to his feet.

The hooded girl, as expected, looked at the boy with a mysterious gaze. Although she didn’t look panicked or frightened, her expression seemed to be a cross between confusion and interest.  It was as if in the middle of walking along the road she happened to come across a chick hatching out of an egg.

At first the girl said nothing, but when he was starting to wonder whether her silence was due to her not understanding the question, she finally said, “Meria Mass Grave.[1]”

It took him a while to understand that that series of words was her name.

“Meria?” In order to confirm, he repeated the name and the girl nodded slightly.

Continuing, the boy asked, “What in the world are you doing here in the middle of the night?”

The girl answered, “It’s only natural, since I’m the grave keeper.”

As if those few words completed her explanation, the girl…Meria said nothing more.

No longer able to endue her silent gaze, the boy averted his eyes and decided to focus on crawling out of the hole. As he worked to climb out of the hole which was about the same depth as his height, he eventually noticed his messy footprints where he had lost his footing.

It seemed like the moment he thought Meria was a ghost and tried to flee, he fell, and incidentally hit his head and lost consciousness.  It was probably also the reason for the stiff pain in his neck. There was definitely nothing more unpleasant than that pain.  Well, the fact that the girl was barely paying attention to his struggle made his skin burn.  So with a flushed face, he climbed the hole’s slope.

Once his feet finally touched the surface, he stood and found himself looking down at the girl who was now looking up at him. Standing side by side the girl came up to about his chest. For a girl he could say she was rather ordinary in that respect.

They were either the same age or she was a little younger than him. Her small body from her head to her ankles was completely covered by her plain dark navy coat and other than her face, the only part of her that was exposed to the open air was her bare white feet.

“…And you are?” the girl asked, tilting her head to the side.

His image was reflected in her clear blue eyes, which were like the surface of a lake with no waves.

Who are you?

That question and her straight gaze seemed to pierce directly into the depths of his mind.

Well…who am I…after all?  He wondered how he should respond and multitudes of potential candidates rushed around in his mind.

The third son of a stone mason, a battleground mole, a superior officer killer, prisoner #5722. And now the nameless gravedigger. Each of those names was correct and they certainly represented him.

But…

For me, what do I want to be called?

“Muoru”.

It had been taken away…his real name…

“My name is Muoru Reed.” [2]

…when he was born….it was the name his father had given him.

That word was different than the dirt that had been in his mouth. He was able to spit it out without feeling uncomfortable or out of place.

If he thought about it, it was a foolish name. But as long as a person’s memory didn’t fade away, it was impossible to snatch away their name.

“Muoru, huh?” As if mimicking his previous dumbfounded expression, she repeated back the boy’s name.

The boy took a step back, distancing himself a bit from the girl.

Then, as if protecting his heart, he grabbed his chest.

Why am I this surprised when she only said my name?

Surprised that he was even shocked by such a thing, he forcibly searched his mind for the reason. Maybe, although he could say it, he had completely forgotten what it was like to actually hear his name.

That must be it. It was the only reason.

The girl again leaned her head to the side, her glossy hair slightly swaying in front of her chest.

“So then, what were you doing?” the girl asked him.

“I was just…Pihhhh…..” [3]

“…”

“…”

“Pih?” Meria asked with a pretty voice, repeating back to him the partial phrase he was hesitating to say.

“Relieving myself,” [4] Muoru rephrased, his chest tight.

“Right.” The girl nodded, and as she did, in the space between her hood and her hair, he caught a glimpse of her thin collarbone.

“Ah, umm…” Mumbling, he searched for words.

Though there should have been many questions he should ask, the thoughts in his head were strangely, revolving slowly, and he couldn’t recall any of them.  Fixing his eyes on the girl, he could feel his mind grow slightly numb, like the time he was drunk on alcohol and the smell of flowers[5]. However, it was the first time he had ever experienced this sensation from just talking to someone. And that was far from unpleasant….

Suddenly the girl turned away.

“Well then….” Meria said, briskly starting to walk away as if she had lost all interest in him

“Wa…wait a sec!” Muoru shouted impulsively.

“…..?”

“No…..that,” although it was good to tell her to stop, as usual his only half functioning mind had no idea what to say next. She looked back over her shoulder at him. With her hood only half concealing her profile, the girl gazed straight at him, unblinking, as if the two of them were children seeing who could stare longer.

He didn’t know whether she was being too conscientious or not, but even though the boy could not even string together two words, the girl motionlessly waited for him, as if time had stopped.

“….That shovel, it’s mine. Sorry about this, but could you leave it there?” He asked, in a tone lacking confidence as he pointed to the shovel.

Meria had been holding the boy’s shovel, but after he had spoken, as if she had finally remembered, she looked down to her hands.  Then she glanced at Muoru’s hole she had started to fill earlier, before turning back to the boy.

“Did you dig this hole?” she asked.

The boy nodded yes and Meria, with an expression in her eyes that was difficult to read, continued to stare at him.

Then without warning she rushed towards him, almost stumbling from the speed. But before crashing into him, she stopped herself about a step away and held out the metal shovel. Reflexively, the boy accepted the shovel. As before, no wisecracks or quips came to mind.

Instead he said, “Thank you”.

Although he felt that politeness wasn’t necessary when having his own property returned to him, at any rate, he wasn’t able to say anything else.

“…”

The girl for some reason rapidly blinked her eyes. As she looked at him, he could see the reflection of the beautiful moon. Then suddenly, as if retreating, she distanced herself from him.

“Goodbye,” the girl said. “ummm…..Muoru?”

“Yeah…”

As the boy remained there dead still, Meria, without turning around, walked away.

Muoru stared on at the outline of her cloak, but after a while it faded into the darkness……like a ghost or something.

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[1] The kanji reads Meria of the Mass Grave, however the katakana stylizes her name without “of/ the”. I believe the author wanted the name to sound like an actual name, however the actual Japanese makes “mass grave” sound more like a title than a surname.

[2] Muoru is the Japanese spelling of Mole.  The pun works because of the wealth of loanwords in Japanese, however it seems a bit odd for a boy to be named Mole in English, so I kept the Japanese phrase.

[3] 「小便」The book has しょ…う written down,  And since he was urinating, it is probable he was trying to save face a little.

[4] [手洗い] A polite phrase for toilet, and most likely a polite way to say he was relieving himself.

[5] I believe this is a drug reference.

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