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Sugar Dark - Chapter 1

Published at 15th of March 2016 07:37:31 AM


Chapter 1

Hole 1: Grave Digger


Chapter 1
The ground beneath his feet was wet and all around him he could hear the
sound of stirring trees and the cries of birds . Although the boy was wearing a
blindfold, he quickly realized that he had been dropped off near a forest .
After being released from the stench of the paddy wagon’s old leather
canopy, filling his lungs with fresh air was almost like a sweet feast . Even
thinking about before he had been arrested, he couldn’t recall ever having
breathed such wonderful air as this .
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However, the moment the boy was about to take another deep breath, he
was kicked hard in the back .
“Walk, prisoner 5722 . ”1
Called by his name, he followed the officer’s directions . The boy was fairly
taller than average, and his body had such a thickness that by only looking at
his shadow on the ground, he appeared to be a full-grown adult . But, things
like his mouth, his unblemished tanned skin, and his faint body hair made it
clear that he was obviously still a young boy .
“Where am I? No, better yet, where am I headed?” The boy muttered in a
low, husky voice .
He wondered if this blindfold was concealing the internment camp, and also
how many hours he had he been in the paddy wagon . No one had bothered
to tell him where he was going . However, he also hadn’t dared to ask . Yet, for
argument’s sake, even if he had, he knew that there were only two possible
responses . Either he was replied to in a suitable manner or he had his face
shoved .
In his head, walking while being unable to see was difficult, but in reality the
road was flat . Since he couldn’t depend on his eyesight, his other senses were
working much more than usual to collect information about his surroundings .
His hands were handcuffed and right in front of him a military police officer
was on the other end pulling him forward . Unlike himself, that guy showed
no signs of being human .
1
For the term slave, in the original Japanese it was written [オリッド/oriddo] . Later when the boy first
meets Karasu, it is explained that this term is an old slang used for slave oarsmen on Galleys . Possibly a
combination of the word Oar 「オール/ouru」and slave 「どれい/dorei」
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The boy could feel the glorious rays of the early summer sun, and he
breathed in the naturally fragrant air of the forest trees . Though he
sometimes stepped on weeds, he never tripped or stumbled over errant
roots . This place didn’t seem like a wild, untamed wilderness .
But, it was strange .
What is this place?
His heart was pounding .
Although he couldn’t say for certain, he did feel that the ground he was
treading over did not resemble anything he had encountered in his 16 years
of life .
Memories and images of the scenery he had traversed and the scenes he had
witnessed floated about his mind . His old hometown’s beech wood forest,
the brickwork and stoned paved streets in his town . He saw the snow
covered nameless roads and the lone soldier continuing to dig out trenches in
the wasteland .
No matter where you went, you could see the tracks of their tanks . The scent
of oil, coal and sand hung in the air . He noticed the grooves of the supply
unit’s carts, and also the sight and smell of horse manure scattered about .
The remains of the destroyed military encampment were littered with traces
of burst explosive casings . There was also the smoke of gunpowder…and the
stench of burning, human flesh .
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Sweat oozed out from his pores . One of the beads trickled down to the collar
at his neck, a shackle that prevented him from escaping . Though it irritated
him, there was no use wanting to remove the irons . Neither the cuffs on his
wrists or the collar at his throat allowed him to do as he wished . What’s
more, although his legs were unfettered, he noticed that trying to lift his
thighs was becoming excruciating painful and he could feel his legs growing
heavy .
He didn’t want to go any further .
Yet, unexpectedly within the darkness of his blindfold, a strange impulse
mounted in his chest . As he walked in shoes which were de-laced to prevent
potential suicides, he was starting to think that the land he was walking
across wasn’t sparsely covered with weeds like the hairs in his beard .
It’s like I’m walking on top of something…
The rope binding his wrists pulled taut .
The officer stopped and sharply cluck his tongue . The boy’s body stiffened in
response, preparing for a further thrashing . However, the pain never came .
Instead, the blindfold was roughly ripped off his face . The boy’s pupils had
gotten so used to the darkness that the sudden early summer rays bearing
down on him were quite violent . He twisted away as if he had been slapped,
covering his face, which only made the officer sneer .
“Eyes up, brat . ”
Blinking, the boy did as he was told .
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His vision was blurry, white and hazy .
The first thing to come to focus was his guard . As he had expected, the man
looked like he was in his 30s with a lean, long and thin face . The next thing to
enter his vision were the damp ground and the overgrown greenery…then
came the graves .
Graves . Graves . Clusters of graves . Within the forest clearing were lined
countless of the monuments of death . The stones came in various different
shapes and sizes, and even the intervals between each were strangely
irregular . There were stones separated by a distance of about ten steps, all
the way down to one stone which thrust up from the ground isolated from
the others . Half even seemed to be buried in the forest . Some of the
gravestones were made from fresh new granite and some of the graves had
been eroded by the rain, their epitaphs and inscriptions no longer legible .
There was no sense of uniformity or order in this place .
“Could this be…?” In a young voice oozing with shock, he continued to ask his
guard, “By any chance did you have me walk here just to save yourself the
trouble of transporting my corpse?”
Laughing, the man replied, “So what if I did?”
“Then I guess this would be yet another tragedy based on a false claim . ”
In response the guard kicked him in the pit of his stomach .
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Although he doubled over in pain, the color in the boy’s face remained
mostly unchanged as he presented a bitter smile . Since he had been told that
he would receive a life sentence, he had never thought he would be executed
here .
Heh, I bet this guy wouldn’t even be punished if he killed me .
“Anyway,” the jailer continued, “this is the place where you’re going . ”
With a bony index finger, the guard pointed in the direction they were to
travel . At one of the corners of the border between the forest and the
graveyard, the boy caught a glimpse of a mansion and its white walls . It was
barely visible, as if it had been buried within the thick green of the broadleaf
trees . As far as he could see, it looked like a place where only one person
lived .
As they drew closer to the mansion, the boy being pulled forward by the rope
wrapped about his cuffs, he realized that the walls weren’t painted white .
The color was actually the white of recently quarried stone . The building also
wasn’t that big, but its perimeter was completely surrounded by a palisade2
of black iron without a trace of rust . The countless tops of the fence posts
each appeared like the tip of a spear, all pointing to the sky as they warded
off thieves . The gate’s side entrance, an iron door almost blending in with the
iron posts, had been firmly shut . Naturally, there was no welcome party to
take them in .
2
Tall iron fence
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The boy started to doubt whether anyone even lived there . The area did not
give even a hint that there had been any recent activity . Between the fence
and the building was a small garden, which although fully weeded, was flat
and featureless with not even one tree or shrub . There were neither
fountains, nor sculptures and he couldn’t even find a line for drying clothes .
Yet, instead of those things, there was a mechanized buzzer and receiver to
the side of the iron entrance . People of the lower classes did not have access
to things like telegraphs, to say nothing of the entranceway it was furnished
within . When it comes to telegram machines, even though he had seen them
often during his military service, just like tanks, they were tools only utilized
by their specialist officers . People like him, people that were just
“battleground moles”3 had no opportunity to touch these kinds of things .
Wow . Shockingly this place is quite luxurious, the boy thought in surprise,
keeping his opinion to himself .
The guard, unfamiliar with how to handle the device, awkwardly pushed the
buzzer . He then picked up the receiver attached by a long and narrow cord .
“This is the Filbard military police, Warrant Officer Barrida . As arranged, I
have escorted prisoner 5722 . ”
After a little while, a seemingly old man responded in a terribly hoarse
sounding voice .
3
Probably cannon fodder .
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“We were expecting you . Thank you officer, we greatly appreciate your
service . ”4 The receiver’s volume seemed so loud that the boy standing
behind the guard had no problem catching what was being said .
“At the current time, Officer, your duties have concluded . Since we will now
manage the current situation ourselves, we no longer wish to inconvenience
you . Please, we hope that you will encounter no difficulties on the road
home . Safe journeys and we hope you remain in good health . ”
Hearing this, the long-faced guard’s expression seemed to twist with anger .
No matter how politely the words were spoken, to be turned away and
denied entry like a simple peddler of goods seemed to wound the warrant
officer’s pride . In a griping voice the guard replied .
“But my duty is to personally make sure that the prisoner has indeed been
escorted . I would like you to open the door for me . And for starters, isn’t it
rude to not even show your face?”
“We appreciate your response . However, while we are grateful you took the
trouble of coming here, the prisoner’s work papers have already been signed
by two parties, myself and your military . Furthermore, regarding the content
of that agreement, I do not recall there being a clause that requires you to
hand the boy over directly… . ”
“But…” though the officer refused to back down, before he could insist
further, the voice from the receiver cut him off .
4
This character’s dialogue is written with extremely polite Japanese . I tried my best to translate this into
English, but the prevalence of formal honorific language has diminished greatly in English . Overall, the
speech should sound slightly archaic .
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“Pardon me, soldier . Are you Warrant Officer Barrida Clemens attached to
the East Filbard area of the Racksand prison camp?”
“Um, that’s right…” The guard responded suspiciously to the unexpected
name confirmation .
Whoever was on the other side of that receiver, spoke with as much courtesy
as their voice allowed .
“Although it is for your convenience, at our discretion please allow us to
make arrangements for you to visit the restaurant at the foot of the
mountain called ‘The Cat’s Earpick’ . There you will be able to enjoy your time
with the woman of your fancy . Of course, drinks and other services will be
fully paid for and provided . And since your return to the detention camp will
probably be delayed until the next day, we shall inform your superiors of the
situation . So, what do you think about this offer?”
Suddenly presented with such a blatantly obvious consolation, the horse
faced officer, lost in a wide blank stare, blinked5
. Changing the subject as if
the dispute had been resolved like an enemy who had just received their final
blow, the hoarse voice continued .
“As for the boy, is he wearing a collar?”
“Uh huh…” the officer decidedly did not hesitate for long . “That’s right . ”
5
I translated the phrase ニンジン as “Consolation” here, but the full phrase is 突然この上なく判りやすい
ニンジンを差し出され。
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Dejectedly, the guard hung up the receiver and helplessly muttered into the
air, “I don’t want to be in this gloomy place anymore . He turned around and
the moment the boy entered the guard’s line of sight, the guard’s face
shifted into one of embarrassment .
Then, seeming to recall the fact that he was looking at a worthless prisoner,
the guard spat at the boy’s feet .
“Hey, Superior officer killer, don’t even think about running!”
As if he were throwing away a cigarette butt, the guard released the end of
the rope wrapped around the boy’s handcuffs .
“Once a month, there will be a fixed inspection . If there is any problem, you
will immediately go right back to the detention camp . Also, as long as your
employer is even a little dissatisfied with you, he will be okay with the idea of
keeping the collar on . Besides, no matter where you are, there is nowhere to
run .
Laughing, the boy replied, “If I were to hide under the ground, it feels like I
wouldn’t be found no matter who was looking . ”
Hearing this, the officer roared with laughter . His mood appeared to have
improved 100 times compared to the last several minutes . Judging from the
horse-faced guard’s face, the boy could tell there was probably going to be
many brief and unexpected visits .
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The man withdrew the handcuff key from one of his uniform pockets and
flung it into the courtyard . Then, with a gait that almost looked like he was
walking down steps, he made his way back to the paddy wagon .
And so with his handcuffs still on, the boy was left in front of the iron door .
He wondered what to do now; after all he had heard nothing from his captor .
Well, whatever happens now, I’m sure in the end it won’t be very good .
As he approached the iron gate entrance, trampling leaves beneath his feet,
a high pitch “Caww” screeched in a deep voice above his head . Looking into
that direction he saw a giant crow spread its wings, its recent flight shaking
the branches of the trees . It was hard to believe that this bird with its
ominous cry could possibly be related to birds like the hummingbird or the
tree sparrow .
He recalled the words the guard had said just a few minutes ago . “I don’t
want to be in this gloomy place anymore . ”
–The boy absolutely agreed .
Even now, the strange feeling that had welled up inside him when he was still
blindfolded had not dissipated . He again took a look around his surroundings .
The weather wasn’t too hot . And probably a typical person would find
standing within the early summer sunlight and breathing in the fresh air
filtering in through the trees to be quite agreeable . Nevertheless, the boy and
the officer both shared the same opinion . It wasn’t simply the fact that there 
Hole 1
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was a graveyard; there seemed to be something in this place that made
humans uneasy .
Once again, this time using his eyes, he confirmed the ground that he was
walking on .
This place is unpleasant . Well, it’s no wonder since I feel like I’m walking on
the backs of corpses .
When the officer’s figure had completely faded into the distance beyond the
graveyard, the iron door slid open by itself . With a clank, the sound of heavy
metal crashing together reverberated through the air .
Then about 30 steps from his position, from the building’s entrance covered
with detailed engravings, a black dog suddenly poked out its snout from
behind the doorknob . The dog was larger than any dog the boy had ever
seen . If he had to say, the dignified appearance gave him the impression of a
wolf, but its thick coat of fur had been thoroughly combed . In addition,
within its eyes there was a calm radiance that was only present in welltrained
dogs . However, above all, watching it approach without its paws
making a sound was elegant .
As the black dog held the key that the guard had thrown away in its mouth,
the boy stood completely still, his gaze fixed on the creature . From his
distance he couldn’t tell at all whether or not this creature was hostile or
friendly .
“Please come in, Prisoner 5722 . That dog will serve as your guide . ” The voice
came from under a hood used to shield the hanging receiver from the rain .
The hoarse man spoke as if he were looking right at the boy .
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The dog then faded back into the darkness of the entranceway . Even though
the dog was massive, within the space of one of its body lengths, the boy
could see absolutely nothing within the mansion’s dark interior .
He told me to follow, but…
There was no one guarding him, nor was there anyone pulling him forward by
a rope . Yet, even though his jailer had been turned away from the door, was
he really that unguarded?
No, rather . Should he have just been grateful that the dog wasn’t holding the
rope in its mouth?
Even for a prisoner, wearing a collar and being dragged forward by a dog as if
they were holding his reins was far too pathetic . Of course, he didn’t think
the dog understood that feeling .
Soon after entering the terribly dark and windowless mansion, he couldn’t
feel anything other than the chilly air . But, once his eyes readjusted back to
the darkness he noticed he was at the entrance of a somewhat narrow
hallway lined with something like oil lamps leaking out weak light .
After waiting for the boy to start walking, the dog proceeded to lead him
down the hallway and he followed after the creature as if being pulled
forward . There was a high quality looking carpet with geometric patterns
spread out across the floor . In fact, seeing his dirty shoes leave footprints on
its surface made him feel that he was committing some kind of crime .
“Welcome to the Mass Grave . ”
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The voice echoed the moment he treaded into a large parlor . It was the same
hoarse voice that had silenced his guard a little while ago .
The lamp fixtures that decorated and illuminated the room were made from
a cut glass so beautiful that his sense of value couldn’t comprehend how
extravagant they were . There was also a statuette of a human with wings
extending out of his back, an oil painting of a girl and her pet standing at the
lakeshore, and fine golden candlesticks decorating the parlor . And resting in
the center of the room was a large leather easy chair . On its cushion sat a
stoop, extremely small statured old man . Although the boy wanted to hide
his feeling of unease, he his mouth opened and he spoke .
“You’re the owner of this place?” The boy asked the question, but he didn’t
think the man looked the part .
Then without even realizing it, the boy’s eyes gravitated to the man’s nose .
No, more accurately, the place where his nose should have been . In this old
man’s case, the stump of a nose looked like it had been scraped off, and now
all that remained in the center of his face were two deep holes . Yet even
more unsettling were his difficult to read, smallish eyes . He completely
looked like a goblin straight out of the fables of old . Still, he did seem to wear
his tail coat stylishly .
“Forgive me for not introducing myself sooner . My name is Daribedor . You
may think of me as this place’s caretaker . As you might have already guessed,
it has been decided that from today onward you shall work in this place . ”
The boy’s had planned to purposely speak in a cynical way in order to trick
the old man into revealing the truth, however Daribedor’s polite attitude
never crumbled . By intuition alone the boy knew this man was not the
likeable type .
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He then asked, “But, what exactly am I supposed to do now?”
Hearing that, the old man with a made a strange, wry smile and said, “Don’t
you think there is only one thing prisoners have to do in this place?” Then
from the holes where his nose should have been, the old man snorted
derisively .
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Chapter 2: Part 1
Prisoner . 1
Originally, the way jailers said the word was a reference to slave oarsmen on
ancient galleys . Since the slaves mostly toiled on commercial boats, the
phrase has continued to be used for grueling work environments . However,
in the present where instead of oars, boats are powered by steam engines
and paddle wheels, all criminals serving out their sentences are collectively
referred to by the term . According to the law, all prisoners without exception
were forced to undertake an assigned labor, without exception .
The prisoners had to do such tasks as: butchering animals, disposing of
excrement and waste, mining for minerals, and clearing wildernesses . Due to
the difficulty and grueling nature of the labor, there were very few people
assigned to the tasks that had actually wanted to do them . And in the case of
life imprisonment, in particular, prisoners were forced to toil until the end of
their lives without the chance of parole .
… . The shovel the boy had been provided with was only one pinky’s width
shorter than the ones he had used in the past . The shaft was made of
extremely dried and hard plain wood, and acid-resistant steel had been used
for the blade and the handle . It looked completely new, as if it had been
brought here straight from the factory .
1
Oriddo
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It had been three days since the paddy wagon had brought him to the public
graveyard . And whenever the boy named “prisoner 5722” wasn’t sleeping, he
was using that shovel to continue digging holes .
His living space was the complete opposite of his high quality shovel . As for
his bed, he had been provided with some space in the decaying stable at the
back of the estate . The straw that had been spread across the floor was stale
and although it looked like horses hadn’t been raised there in a very long
time, on each of the discolored wall’s wooden posts, the characteristic stench
of livestock lingered .
Shortly after the sun appeared, the old man and an old woman turned up .
Other than the clothes, the hair, and the hooked nose, which looked like an
old witch’s, they looked exactly the same . However, compared to the man
who didn’t drop courtesy for the sake of decorum, the woman, with a face
that looked like dealing with a horse would be far less objectionable, spat
out, “Get up and do your job, you little wretch . ”
So the boy put some hard bread and extremely strong, salty soup into his
stomach and made his way to the graveyard . And in the midst of the harsh
sunlight, he put up with the discomfort and continued to dig graves for
somebody’s future corpse .
To tell the truth, from the moment the blindfold had been removed… . in
other words, the moment he realized he had been taken to this graveyard,
the boy had a vague hunch that this same fate would probably happen to
him . At any rate, this hard labor suited him . He was already accustomed to it .
That’s because digging holes and trenches was the primary responsibility of
the foot soldiers .
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…he wondered how many knights had been moved from the front lines of the
battlefield and reassigned to be foot soldiers . As firearms developed after
the industrial revolution, knights, pike men and bow soldiers all across the
board were deprived of the opportunity to be useful . Since all foot soldiers
were armed with firearms as a result of mass production, there was a large
demand for some cover to shield their bodies from the hail of bullets . And
because it was convenient, the foot soldiers had spread out endlessly…and
with shovel in hand they proceeded to dig out large swaths of land . Thus the
so called “battleground moles” were born .
Having just dug out a rock the size of his head, the boy cursed the thick tree
roots at his feet . At the same time, he offered a silent prayer to the human
bones that no one could possibly know . No matter if it’s a wilderness, a level
plain, the edge of a forest, or an abandoned wheat field, I pray that my Mole
companions, no matter where they are…no matter where they are…I pray
they are still digging too .
Back then, he had been glad the military shovel given to him had extended
the length of his arm . His body remembered that length . And so for the boy
neither the heat rash developing under his collar nor the whorl of hair on the
back of his head scorching in the direct sunlight were as unpleasant as the
new shovel the old man had given him that was just a pinky’s width too
short .
Nevertheless, a big hole like this probably wasn’t required just to bury one
person .
He took a breather for a while and looked down at his work . As ordered he
had dug the hole, but it seemed big enough to fit a small house .
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“If a curled up human corpse were buried here, they probably wouldn’t even
need a 10th of the space . Maybe they are planning to use an extremely large
coffin,” he muttered to himself .
Or, as fitting a place called “The Mass Grave”, the boy wondered just how
many people they planned to bury in this hole .
After a large battle there would be many corpses coming here…was that why
he was here?
Well, however they want to use these holes is none of my concern .
There was something else he should be thinking about, something else he
should find out .
For the three days since he had arrived, the only thing he thought about as
he dug was escape . Strangely, it seemed like at this Mass Grave he was the
only prisoner being made to work .
His warden…no, although it looked like he was watching the boy 24 hours a
day, if Daribedor happened to do something then there would be no one
who would know where the boy was . If somehow the boy were able to
conceal himself, then wouldn’t he be freed from this foolish existence of

digging holes? However, if he wasn’t able to get out of there, then for the
whole remainder of his life-sentence he would be forced to waste his life
doing forced labor as “Prisoner #5772” .
“This is not a joke”, he muttered over and over as he dug .
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This situation is definitely not a joke . I’ve got to escape from this place . This
gloomy, depressing place…
Compared to the usual shackles and prison bars he had during his trial, the
lax restraints at the Mass Grave were a good opportunity . First he would
somehow sneak away from this place . Then he would go by a new name,
become a different person, and start over in a place where groups like the
military or the police couldn’t reach…
As the boy toiled, thinking only of escape, his third day of work became night .
The graveyard in the wake of the sun’s disappearance was eerier than ever .
In the decaying stable, wind blew in through the cracks, making it excessively
chilly . He doubted the idea of him needing something like a lamp or candle
had crossed anyone’s mind at that estate . So, whenever the clouds covered
the moon and the stars, his stable was completely enveloped in darkness . It
was the exact same condition as when he was blindfolded . He had no choice
but to pull up his blanket . Hell, even falling asleep on the first night had been
difficult, and if he had to confess… . scary .
There are no such things as ghosts . In his mind he understood that .
However, in the midst of the total darkness where there was no one but
himself, with the old hinges creaking and the creepy, ominous sound of the
wind blowing into the stable through the cracks, he couldn’t help but think
someone was approaching .
Of course if he jumped up and strained his eyes he’d be able to confirm that
there was no one there . Still, as this feeling came back again and again, he
started to doubt whether or not he truly didn’t believe in things like ghosts or
spirits slipping out of their corpses .
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Well, at the very least this place wouldn’t be troubled by corpses holding onto
regrets .
Although he had been frightened, for two days his fears proved to be nothing
but a waste of time .
Fortunately, (well whether it was fortunate or not he didn’t know, but) on
this third night there was not a single cloud, and the moon was bright . It was
so bright he could clearly see the tip of his toes, making it an ideal night to
take a walk .
The boy rose out of his bed of straw and sheets . As he stood, the black dog,
which as usual was sprawled across the ground at the entrance of the stable,
looked his way .
“I’m just taking a piss . You probably don’t go in your own bed right?” The boy
said, lightly waving his hand . The dog then exited the stable with the boy
following closely behind .
It’s a courteous, albeit scary looking dog, but it does seem to understand
what I say .
This reminded him of the two big problems he had regarding his escape .
The collar around his neck and also…this dog .
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No matter what the boy did, the black dog named “Dephen” was always
watching . And even if the boy wasn’t directly in the dog’s sights, he felt like
he was always within the dog’s area of perception . So if the boy tried going
anywhere, eventually “Dephen” would be at his back, following .
“By no means should you think about escaping,” Daribedor had said to him
on the first day . “Dephen here is an excellent grave keeper . At the same time,
he is also an unparalleled hunting dog . His sense of smell and his fangs make
him worthy of being a jailer second to none . ”
A dog as my jailer? At first the boy was only half convinced but…
For the three days he had been under watch, this dog had performed its task
to a high standard of excellence . In the distant past, humans had often fought
directly with hounds and it had been difficult to win those struggles without
suffering any injuries . Even though the boy didn’t really know what would
happen if he could succeed in a surprise strike against the dog with his
shovel, it didn’t matter because the dog never came into a suitable striking
range .
It would have been good if Dephen lost its vigilance when it was feeding .
Nevertheless, even though only a few scraps of bread had been thrown at
the boy, that dog would certainly still be able to locate him by the lingering
scent .
After relieving himself, the boy didn’t directly return to the stable . Instead, he
aimlessly walked by the mansion’s side fence . He was reluctant to head
towards the graveyard . Even the sound of the leaves rustling in the wind
made him feel uncomfortable .
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But…obviously nothing was going to come out in the night, right? Nothing like
a legless guy, or something like that .
Well, even if he decided to postpone his escape, it was necessary to know
something about what the graveyard looked like without the sunlight . In case
he escaped in the middle of the night, he would have to cut through the
unknown dark forest no matter which direction he went in … . and that would
probably be suicide . Yet, even provided he could walk the distance, he didn’t
know if he would be able to actually reach the nearest town . Even if he were
able to find some tire tracks, and that was being optimistic, he would still
need to follow a roadway . And in order to go down a roadway he would have
to leave the graveyard .
That’s alright . There are no such things as ghosts . Besides, wasn’t I far more
terrified back when that gun turret was pointed at me?
After that thought passed through his head, the boy used the same cautious
stride as when he was blindfolded and stepped into the graveyard . The
innumerable gravestones bathed in the moonlight, creating a blue shine that
stood out in the middle of the darkness . But at the same time, the actual
color of the weathered stones made him think of bones .
He had planned to learn the ins and outs of the mass cemetery, but since his
vision couldn’t penetrate the deep darkness, he instead started to feel that
the graveyard was far too vast . No matter which direction he faced, he saw
the same gravestones scattered about with the thick black forest in the
distance . And since he’d been lead in various directions when blindfolded,
the boy was sure he wouldn’t be able to find his way back to the stable . Still,
strange as it was, the fact that the unsympathetic black dog was always
following behind him was actually reassuring .
Hole 1
26
“Prisoner, whether or not you’re relieved about your jailer leaving, rest
assured this jail hound will accompany you . ”
As he thought about Daribedor’s words, a bitter smile involuntarily leaked
out .
Look, it’s alright . This place may have a touch of those ghostly superstitions,
but in the end ghosts are things that only come out in stories .
As the wind blew, he walked through the graveyard, his spirit somehow
invigorated .
Of course he was aware that this was a bluff . The nape of his neck beneath
his collar, and even his two muscular arms had Goosebumps . This is far
enough for today…I should continue tomorrow… with each step these gentle
thoughts crossed his mind .
Suddenly he noticed he was standing in front of the hole he had dug earlier
that day . From his position it looked like some sort of cellar could be
constructed within the massive hole . The moonlight didn’t reach the bottom
and the darkness seemed to be like a liquid, pooling at the bottom… there
was also no inscription on the gravestone . It was a grave that didn’t belong to
anyone .
During the day he had wondered who would be buried in the hole .
And now, questions about what would happen to him after he died welled up
in his chest .
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27
If he had broken one of the rules within the confines of the detention camp,
he would have been informed in detail of the penal code . But no one had
told him what would happen if he died here . For example, if his escape was
unsuccessful and he died from having his windpipe gnawed by the black dog,
would his body be buried in this graveyard afterwards?
To the boy it seemed pointless, since there was no one who would grieve for
him . Plus, before at the trial it was decided that the boy’s name, the name his
father had given him, would be revoked . So there probably wouldn’t be a
name on his tombstone, anyway .
The gravedigger has no grave of his own .
That sarcastic thought once again made him smile bitterly . But he didn’t
know whether he should feel sad or frustrated by the situation . The feeling
was vague and left him feeling empty . In fact, the emptiness resembled the
darkness within the deep grave .
While he listened to the sound of the sudden wind, he thought he heard
something else . It sounded like rustling clothes…like something was moving .
Twisting his head at the sound, the boy noticed that the dog had disappeared
without him knowing .
Cold sweat ran down the back of his neck .
Finally left alone, the boy remembered just what kind of place he was in . And
so like a person with a guilty conscience, he hastily checked his surroundings .
Hole 1
28
The group of tombstones surrounding him…
The giant hole at his feet…
The rustling dark forest…
The slightly, waning large moon…
And also, just barely in his field of vision…
There was something there .
Other than me, what could possibly be in this remote graveyard in the middle
of the night?
……… . His mind went blank .
Whatever it was, it was about the size of a human wearing a nearly black,
dark, navy hood . Its overcoat reached down to its feet and fluttered in the
wind .
Hole 1
29
Wraith2
. Wight3
. Shade4
…the eerie fables of ghosts that the adults had
thoroughly indoctrinated into him when he was small raced within his head .
The hood created a shadow, preventing the boy from seeing the person’s
face . However, he was certain it was at the very least aware of him . After all,
it was coming right towards him .
Should…I… . run?
It was difficult to breathe . He didn’t run, but only because his body
completely didn’t hear his mind urging it to flee . His fear took over, causing
him to panic, his mind completely blotted out . His legs were frozen, as if he
was a soldier in front of a thrown grenade . He felt violently dizzy, shaking in
that spot . Maybe it was some benevolence or mercy from the heavens that
his bladder was empty .
Swaying slowly side to side, the approaching person’s pace was actually quite
slow, but the boy could by no means sense that .
Am I… passing out…
2
死霊 with レイス Furigana . A Wraith is a visible spirit
3
悪魂機鬼 with ワイト Furigana . A wight is an archaic term to refer to a supernatural being .
4
影魔 with シエード Furigana . A shade is a specter or ghost .
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It was a strange sensation . He must run . It was the only thing the boy thought
about . He must run . From that ghost…from this graveyard . Even though his
legs felt like they were rooted into the ground, he poured all his remaining
energy into the limbs and urged them to move .
But the next moment the power drained from his knees and with a jerk he
fell . As he tumbled downwards, for some reason he felt the distance to the
ground was farther than it should have been .
Nothing good happened after all .
In the middle of the graveyard, in the middle of the night, the boy lost
consciousness .
…but a slight moment before all faded to black, within the hood of that
creature, he thought he saw a white face .
Hole 1
31
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 .
Hole 1
32
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 .
Hole 1
33
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 .
“… . ”
Hole 1
34
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 .
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…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 .
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37
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 Grave1

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 .
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 .
Hole 1
38
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 .
Hole 1
39
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 .
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 .
Hole 1
40
“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
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 .
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41
“…”
“…”
“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 flowers5
. However, it
was the first time he had ever experienced this sensation from just talking to
someone . And that was far from unpleasant… .
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 .
Hole 1
42
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

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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 .
Hole 1
43
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 .
Hole 1
44
Muoru stared on at the outline of her cloak, but after a while it faded into the
darkness……like a ghost or something .
Hole 1
45
Chapter 3
As the earthworm was pulled out of the ground, the unlucky creature was
chopped in half at its stomach and died .
Although it probably was nowhere near the same level as an actual mole,
even a battleground mole like Muoru was still accustomed to seeing worms
every day . Of course as the worms suddenly appeared in the grave, he often
accidentally bisected the creatures .
Yet despite the frequency of the event, today Muoru was captivated by what
should have been just a common sight . He didn’t know why he was so
enthusiastically staring at the worm’s dried up corpse, but in the end he
dropped it to the ground .
Since today he was made to dig a new hole, perhaps he had been mistaken
when he thought the grave he had partially dug yesterday would belong to
him . Thankfully, this time it was just a hole for one normal sized human .
However, as he dug deeper, he had to transport the dirt further and further
away from the hole, to the point where the amount of time he was
transporting dirt became much longer than the amount of time he was
digging .
As for the size of this large hole, well… he had already noticed four worms
that he had struck . Also, as if he were a fool, the depth he had to dig was
demarcated with a long wooden ruler bound with a black piece of cloth .
According to that guide, today’s assignment was approximately 1 and ½
meters .
Hole 1
46
…but Muoru noticed that for that assignment he had dug about the length of
his knee to his foot too deep . Incidentally, his lack of attention also led to him
missing the ground repeatedly and striking his foot with the shovel .
“Stop daydreaming and focus,” the boy muttered out loud, purposefully
hitting himself in the head .
No matter how hard he tried, he hadn’t been able to fully concentrate all
day . Or perhaps he should say he felt his thoughts weren’t focused on his
task . Even though his body was digging, it felt like his mind was still half
asleep .
By the time he finished digging the hole the sun had already set . For Muoru,
today’s work took far too long . He wasn’t particularly trying to push himself,
especially since there was no one coming to praise him…to say nothing of
how his treatment wasn’t improving . On the other hand, he was still
unwilling to cut corners, which he figured was probably not the best decision .
“Mr . Prisoner,”1 Muoru heard Daribedor say just as he was starting to tidy
his equipment . “It seems that you have just finished,” the old man continued,
looking down at Muoru’s completed hole .
“Yes, well…”
1
殿 dono is an honorific phrase used in formal correspondence or to people hierarchically beneath you . I
believe in this case Daribedor is being extremely polite, which fits with his character so far .
Hole 1
47
That’s right, it was a cinch! He forcibly contained the sarcastic quip in his
throat . His feeling that it would be difficult to deal with this nose-less old man
hadn’t changed since their first meeting .
“I know you’re probably tired, but now I would like you to help with the
burial… . . oh don’t worry, just putting dirt on something is simple . As for the
place, it’s where you were digging up till yesterday, so you don’t require
directions right?”
“No, I got it,” Muoru answered curtly, walking away with his shovel in hand .
“…Ah, right, right . ”
However, as he was leaving, Daribedor yelled for him to stop .
“As your predecessor living on this land, I have one word of caution . Even for
prisoners, if you don’t want to enter the holes you dig, it would be better to
restrain yourself from prying excessively into matters . ”
“…?”
Whatever story he was mentioning, Muoru didn’t understand . But before he
could inquire about the meaning, the old man quickly went back towards the
mansion .
As he walked, Muoru pondered what the man could have meant .
Hole 1
48
…Perhaps he was aware of how he had been ambling about yesterday,
looking for a way to escape .
Then the encounter he had popped into his head .
Meria .
The girl who went by the name of Meria Mass Grave .
If he were to believe what she had said, then she was this land’s grave
keeper .
However, he didn’t intuitively know specifically what tasks the position of
“Grave Keeper” was responsible for . As for digging holes, he was already
doing that, and the caretakers of this cemetery were the humans in the
mansion, Daribedor and the others .
If he were to speculate, perhaps the grave keeper was charged with
protecting the graveyard from robbers or people trying to steal the contents
beneath the gravestones . But even if he could clearly say that was the case,
he didn’t see her being a fit for such a violent confrontation . Yet, although
her words and speech were like something from another world2 , in Muoru’s
eyes she was quite normal and appeared to be nothing but a powerless
girl…well, maybe it was hard to say that her appearance was simply normal .
2
浮世場慣れている部分 I think this should be translated as an Ivory Tower= a place secluded from the
normal world, sometimes where scholars study and look down upon the world . So, I translated it simply as
“another world” .
Hole 1
49
At any rate, even tonight she should be conducting a search of the graveyard .
Well, at least Muoru thought so . Every night, the girl seemed to be patrolling
the area or something, which was also something he would have to factor
into his calculations when he was escaping . And for that reason, Muoru
proceeded to check whether Meria was there or not .
But as he advanced into the graveyard he could see people gathering in the
distance . There were many men gathering in large numbers around the hole
Muoru had been digging until yesterday .
They’re probably having a burial .
…However, from the edge it didn’t appear like any type of melancholic
event . Although it was a burial, Muoru didn’t feel a fragment of sadness that
should have been natural for such an occasion . There wasn’t even any wailing
or weeping .
As he tried to approach closer, he could see that the people were wearing
mourning clothes like black suits and coats, and…their faces were covered by
white painted masks . The white masks were completely expressionless,
except for the area of their eyes which could be seen through the masks’
threadlike slits . They were very much like masks of death . And although the
people’s physical bodies were different, the masks were all the same .
What kind of event is that? They’re probably not having a masquerade ball in
a graveyard, thought Muoru . Of course, the mole boy had never attended
such a party .
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50
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51
…Maybe it’s bad manners to show your face or something like that . 3
Although he was suspicious of their purpose, the boy bowed slightly towards
the people who seemed to have noticed him and continued his
approach…that was when he saw something strange .
In the middle of the giant grave that the girl had partway buried him within
yesterday, now…the hole had been filled with the head of a giant beast .
When he first laid eyes on it, he didn’t immediately exactly understand what
he was looking at . That was understandable of course . Whatever it was, it
was something outside of his everyday knowledge . In a rush he rubbed his
eyelids, praying that what he saw had been a hallucination . He then opened
his eyes one more time .
He could see his face reflected in the creature’s large, gigantic eyes, like
those from a human-sized head .
Now there was no doubt, the thing being buried in the grave was definitely
the head of a gigantic monsters not from this world . No, to be more precise,
it was a gigantic, enormous monster whose body was entirely composed of
its massive head . What was even harder to believe was that under the
monster’s densely furred jaw, where on a human there should have been a
neck, there was something like a lizard’s body growing out . Compared to the
enormity of its head, its lizard body was laughably small, but even so it
appeared to have strong muscles and vicious looking claws .
3 素顔を見られちゃまずい連中だっていうことか?
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52
The creature’s body had been pierced all over with stake-like spears, and its
jaws and sides were hedged and bound with barbed wire . The monster was
completely unable to move . Yet still the sight of it filled Muoru with
extraordinary fear . He didn’t think THAT thing was really dead . Even now he
got the feeling that if its restraints were broken then it would come bounding
towards him .
“… . ”
A strange voice leaked out from his throat, but in the end Muoru regained his
composure . Cold sweat was gushing out of his body, and the center of his
face was hot, as if it were burning . His knees shook as he trembled . He didn’t
know what he was looking at, but he did understand that such an
unbelievably dangerous creature like this was not something that humans
normally encountered .
Seeking help, he looked over to the people at the perimeter…but the masked
men standing to the side in a straight line seemed to be shrouded by a dark
pane of glass, preventing Muoru from meeting any of them eye to eye . From
that line one person stepped forward and approached the boy .
“Well, get the dirt,” ordered a muffled voice from behind the mask .
Not understanding what the man had meant, Muoru stared vacantly back .
Then he recalled that he was gripping his shovel tightly in his left hand .
“Quickly!” the small-framed, masked man said in an irritated voice . “Hurry
and bury it!”
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53
Standing at the edge of the hole, the boy prisoner hesitated . He felt like he
was standing at the entrance to hell .
“Quickly,” the masked man urged multiple times . “Quickly, quickly . ”
Muoru thrust his shovel into the piles of dirt he had previously made and
wildly scooped the dirt into the hole . He didn’t see his hands or his body… the
only thing in his sights was that damaged monster .
What… is this? What in the world… is this?
He hadn’t heard of this kind of existence outside of fables . It had a distorted,
twisted form that ignored the laws and standards of this world . For example,
its jaw could probably eat a head like Muoru’s in one bite . Just a tenth of its
outward appearance was terribly fiendish, and certainly it would enjoy
savoring the taste of humans .
Although he was just repeating the movement he should have been used to
over and over, before he knew it he was out of breath . While the boy
repeatedly took shallow, ragged breaths, something seemed to possess his
hand to continue moving . There was no distinction between white and black
in the monster’s eyes, only the dull color of bile . But more noticeably was
that around the large eyes, there were many small eyes close to it .
And now the boy felt those eyes were looking at him… all the way down to
the last one .
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54
Half in a daze, he continued his work . When he finished dumping the final
scoop, the state of the ground looked almost no different from the
surrounding area . No one would ever think that a monster like that was
buried there .
Suddenly the graveyard he was in seemed to expand, stretching outwards .
No way… are creatures like that the only things buried here? Beneath these
gravestones, are all the corpses from these monsters?
Although his fearful questions raced about his head, there didn’t seem to be
anyone who could answer them . From the group of masked men one moved
towards the place where Muoru had buried the giant thing with a head twice
as big as his . The man set down a cross-shaped gravestone that he was
carrying on his shoulder, and at that moment Muoru felt a groan emit from
the ground .
It didn’t seem like the masked companions felt it was necessary to offer
things like scriptures or offerings to the monster, and so they watched
silently until the gravestone was finished . Then once it was done, they left .
In the distance Muoru could faintly hear the sound of exhaust being expelled
from a large-sized vehicle somewhere in the direction of the graveyard
entrance . But the sound quickly faded away, leaving Muoru all alone and
staring at the ground in the same dazed state as when he was digging the
hole .
Although he felt like he was in a nightmare, he couldn’t seem to wake up no
matter how much time passed .
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Is this…real? That kind of thing?
Muoru needed someone to pat him on the shoulder and tell him that it was
all just a joke . But even if he waited for the setting sun to drop beneath the
canopy of trees, they would not appear .
His head was boiling, and flat-out couldn’t think about anything . It was all too
bizarre .
…If he tried to think calmly, that kind of monster probably didn’t exist . Yeah,
that’s right . Perhaps I should try and dig . If he dug out the hole, certainly
nothing would come out . It was all just a hallucination .
The boy picked up his shovel and thrust it into the ground . However, when he
lifted up the first load of dirt… . his hand stopped and his mood cooled . If he
tried to put it into words, he would have said it was absurd to feel this way .
It doesn’t matter what was buried here, once it gets too dark I won’t be able
to see what’s down there anyway .
With the power draining from his hand, his grip loosened on the handle and
the dirt spilled out to the ground .
… . should I go back?
… . to where?
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He could hear the sound of his teeth grinding . Go back? He was a prisoner .
This was where he was being imprisoned, a slave forced to labor . He was not
able to leave from this place . And even if he did there was nowhere he could
return to . He supposed the run-down, dilapidated stable with his bed was the
graveyard’s only bonus but other than that, where could he really go?
Why am I hesitating?
Well, move…
His right leg felt very heavy, but he made it move one step forward . But, his
toes weren’t facing the stable, they were pointing towards the entrance of
the graveyard . And after forcing himself to take that first step, the next step
was much easier .
He threw away his unpleasant shovel and with all his energy broke into a
dash, as if he were running away from a destroyed military camp .
Although he didn’t have any destination or plan in mind, and even though he
could get injured, he forced all of those thoughts out of his head and with
reckless abandon, ran, ran, and ran . The only thing he knew was that with
each step he distanced himself bit by bit from that monster .
Running with all of his energy was not enjoyable . Yet, despite the deep
darkness and the unreliable moonlight, he did feel as if the world were
getting brighter, as if the sun were rising in front of him .
But soon he came to realize that his hope for escape was nothing but an
illusion .
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He hadn’t advanced very far, in fact he hadn’t even left the graveyard, when
he felt some sort of wind approaching from behind . The only thing the boy
imagined it could be was that gigantic headed monster, having succeeded in
crawling out of its hole and now chasing after him .
The fear brought him to his senses and in response he pushed his body past
its limits and bolted forward . He was completely like an herbivore fleeing
from a carnivore, except he was already pathetically running out of breath .
Whereas digging holes was the specialty of moles, his running stamina was
woefully insufficient .
Then, feeling that the pursuit was about to end in one way or
another, Muoru mustered up his courage and twisted around .
And without a doubt, a black creature was behind him . However, it wasn’t
even a tenth of the creature he had buried earlier .
Instead, it had rapidly moving limbs and a tail like a feather duster… . then
Muoru’s right leg twisted so much that he felt it had caught on fire .
In a rush the creature blew past him and gravity yanked Muoru downward .
He crumbled into a twist and tumbled forward .
“Ugh…damn dog!!”
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Muoru extended his arm in an attempt to break the dog’s neck, which
currently had the boy’s thigh in its mouth and was responsible for dragging
him to the ground . However, the instant he touched the black fur his world
was once again turned upside-down . When he was learning martial arts in
the military, he had to learn how to properly receive a throw from an
instructor without injuring himself . But, as the dog twisted him about, Muoru
was unable to slap out4 and ended up violently kissing the earth . There was a
strange, white pain when his nose hit the ground . Trying to endure the pain,
he clenched his fists and thought, I’m going to break this dog’s skull with my
leg .
“Dephen, stop!”
The voice came from far away .
It was a firm and serious young woman’s voice .
The dog’s movement stopped . The power drained from its jaw and there was
a wet, suction sound as its fangs separated from the boy’s thigh . A red liquid
pooled to the surface and after a few seconds, blood freely flowed out of the
now severed vessel .
4
Slap-out, a technique where the receiver of a throw literally slaps the ground to lessen the force of the fall
and have the hands absorb most of the impact .
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Once he was confident the dog wouldn’t come and attack him again, Muoru
inspected his rather disgusting wound . His hemp pants had been ripped like
paper and beneath he could see holes bored into his leg . Looking to the dog
he saw fresh meat hanging from its jaw . And since his body was still surging
with adrenaline, he didn’t feel anything but a hot numbness; however he
knew that such a dirty wound like this would definitely hurt later on .
“Damn it,” the boy muttered .
“Muoru?”
The dark hooded girl walked to the side of the dog in order to confirm his
identity . And although it wasn’t his intention, once again they were in a
position where she was looking down at him, just like last night .
“… . does it hurt?”
The girl stared at the boy’s blood-soaked right leg without a flinch .
Muoru silently looked back to his wound, wondering what she thought of him
not answering . For a while the girl stood still at the boy’s side and then
finally, as if speaking to herself, she sighed .
“I don’t like pain,” she muttered .
With a jolt, Muoru jumped to his feet .
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The girl’s face had a slightly perplexed expression . More than his wound, she
seemed to finally notice that Muoru’s state was different from yesterday .
Muoru stared fiercely at the scowling girl . And in return the girl seemed
restless, looking at him with hostility in her eyes as if he were a wounded
beast …was it really hostility or was it fear?
“You said that you were this place’s grave keeper,” Muoru said in a menacing
tone . “If so, then don’t you know what is buried under this ground?” As he
shouted the words, he pointed to the ground .
The emotions had been boiling within him and the fear he felt towards that
mysterious monster had arrested his thoughts . He could also feel the hot
throb in his right leg, all of which were snatching away both his calm
composure and cool sense of reason at the roots .
He understood that the rage towards her was just him venting and it was
mostly unreasonable, but as usual the girl just looked at him with her eyes as
clear as a lake . He had no idea whether or not she could show another
expression .
However, that beauty and that transparency irritated him .
“Whatever that is, tell me! …or are you friends with that thing?”
As if going to strike her, Muoru reached forward and grabbed her by the
lapel… . no, he tried to grab her lapel . But once the boy’s big hands touched
her, she immediately tumbled to the ground with a weak, “Ah” .
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There wasn’t any resistance, just like thrusting a hand into water .
She had fallen down way too quickly, and since Muoru had mostly been
standing on one leg to shield his injury, when she unexpectedly collapsed
Muoru also lost his balance . His knees struck the ground, and then his
posture pitched forward and placed him right on top of the girl’s face-up
body .
…It was as if he had been trying to knock down the girl .
Practically squashed, Muoru was finally sure that the girl had a body, weight,
a human smell…and warm skin . The girl blinked like she didn’t know what
happened . And while Muoru lay on top of her, their bodies touching from
about their elbows to their fingers, she stared into his eyes .
As for Muoru, he froze just like a child shocked from dropping a plate to the
floor . He didn’t plan to do this . It was an accident… . but still he probably did
hurt her . Thinking that, the boy finally returned to his senses .
“You smell like the sun…” the girl, completely covered by the boy’s shoulder,
whispered at his cheek .
Hurriedly, Muoru moved off her body .
“I’m…I’m…sorry . Did you hit your head or something?” Forgetting the
inquisitive attitude he had showed her earlier, the words suddenly poured
out of his mouth . His worked up emotions had disappeared and he seemed
to have returned to his usual self .
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Muoru thought about trying to help the girl up, but when he attempted to lift
his own body he found that he couldn’t . The wound he had forgotten about
on his right leg had grown heavy and a severe pain shot through his body to
the center of his head .
He managed to get his body into a squat, but he was unable to contain his
groan of pain . For a time, he wasn’t able to think straight and the pain
seemed to black out his other senses . Until the pain died down, there was
nothing he could do but wait still . He clasped his eyes shut, clenched his
teeth and without moving, silently endured the pain .
After a while, he lifted up his now sweaty face, but Meria had already
disappeared .
“Well, that’s not surprising . ”
After what he did, it made sense that she would be cautious of him . He
probably would have apologized had he not still been angry with that damn
dog…but…despite obviously paying for his mistakes, for some reason he felt
bitterness in his mouth . He regretted his actions and felt guilty about his
indiscretion with Meria .
Trying to hold back the flow of his ruptured blood vessels, Muoru once again
checked the condition of his thigh .
His right pant leg had been shredded into pieces and the fabric was soaking
with blood . He could even see the horrifying teeth marks in his flesh . Yet
fortunately, even though the bite marks went deep, it didn’t seem like any of
his primary arteries, bones, or nerves had been touched… . However, he did
feel uneasy . Seeing the dog’s tough jaw, he knew that if it had really 
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mustered its strength it probably would have easily been able to feast on his
thigh .
Just as he was thinking that, he turned his head and saw the black beast
calmly sitting on its haunches, the scent of blood not arousing him in the
slightest . It was entirely as if a few minutes ago they hadn’t been fighting .
The edge of the boy’s mouth stretched into a thin smile .
Ha ha…so you took it easy on me .
Even if it had just been a joke when Daribedor claimed the dog was a
“superior hound”, Muoru had to admit the title was quite apt . The dog was
really a nuisance, and it was about a hundred times more formidable than a
human guard that would often doze off . And whether or not Muoru’s actions
had been a good rehearsal for his escape, the price for the practice made him
grimace .
…However, if he left his wound alone like this he was sure it would fester .

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Even though he didn’t wish for a clean bandage or a disinfectant, at the very
least if he had some kind of alcohol, then he would be able to wash both his
wound and the inside of his mouth . But it didn’t seem likely that the stingy,
old woman would hand over those kinds of things for a prisoner who had
failed to escape .
And so his future looked miserable . Especially since he felt that even if he
returned to the stable in his current state, much more than one night would
pass if he fell asleep . 5
5
Interesting phrase, but I believe Muoru believes he may die .
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As he stood there for a while, considering giving up, suddenly across the
graveyard he saw an orange light slowly swaying back and forth and drawing
closer .
…If he were the person he was a few hours ago, then he might have made a
big fuss over it being a disembodied soul or something .
But, he didn’t get scared like he had yesterday . This was definitely a situation
where being scared was beneficial, but where did his fear go?
…Well he was afraid of something much more than ghosts and whatnot…and
they were buried beneath his feet .
He tried waiting a little longer and saw that the light was leaking out of a
square hand lantern . That’s right . There was no way that warm colored light
could be a disembodied spirit .
As the lantern approached, it turned out it was being held in the left hand of
a dark robed human . Surprisingly, it was Meria Mass Grave . The girl surely
wasn’t moving quickly, but the sight of her stride was enough to make him
stop breathing . Still he was most likely worrying over nothing; his shortness
of breath was probably just due to him being out of shape .
In Meria’s opposite hand, she was holding a small wooden box .
After a short silence, the girl squatted right next to the boy, placed the lamp
on the ground and held out the box . Even before he took it, Muoru could
faintly smell the scent of disinfectant solution
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Once in his hands Muoru realized that he felt anxious about applying the
antiseptic solution to his wound .
Ever since she had arrived she had been silent and Muoru was unable to read
what kind of emotion there was in her large eyes…Eyes that were staring
directly at him . After handing over the medical supplies she didn’t try to run
or anything, nor was there any sign of fear on her face . And because she was
squatting down, the bottom of her cloak curled a bit upwards, revealing her
lower leg, with skin as smooth as porcelain .
“Is it okay if I use this?”
Although it would have been very interesting if the girl said no, Muoru still
thought it was best to ask . The girl affirmed his question with a nod .
“Thanks for the help . ”
Within the box were a full array of products such as gauze, absorbent cotton,
disinfectant, compresses, and things to warm the wound, all methodically
supplied . And they were all new with no traces of used products in the box .
Muoru once again wiped the blood with the cloth of his right pant leg, and
then he placed the cotton soaked with disinfectant on the wound . The
alcohol stimulated his nerves with a stinging pain .
Meria was quiet, staring at him transfixed as if she were looking at a rare
theatre performance or something .
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For some reason he was unable to calm down and as a result the hand that
was applying his bandage clumsily fumbled around . Plus, he didn’t like the
fact that she could hear his wild breathing .
After he managed to finish his treatment, he returned the wooden box to
Meria and the girl rose to her feet .
Then quietly she said, “I am not The Dark . ”
“…the…da…?”
The boy tried to parrot back the unfamiliar phrase she had used, but then he
recalled the words that had come from him the moment he had pushed the
girl to the ground… “Are you friend’s with that thing?”
The next moment, as if the fuel had been cut, there was a “whoosh” and the
flame disappeared . Since his eyes had gotten used to the light, once he was
again engulfed by the darkness, he suddenly lost sight of the girl .
Then, quicker than Muoru was able to say anything, from somewhere he
heard her say, “Good bye . ”
That monotonous voice sounded terribly lonely . But was that impression just
a trick of the mind…or was that just what he wanted to hear…?
Whichever happened to be true, the boy had been left all alone, and there
was no one he could ask .
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Chapter 4-1
…For just a little bit, Muoru retraced his memories .
He was in the middle of that chamber room at the Rakasand detention
camp . It was the day he received the guilty verdict, around the time he was
waiting for the people behind him to reject his sentence .
As had been previously expressed, the great majority of guilty people were
forced to engage in prison labor . But of course there were exceptions, for
example in the case of the prisoner who had plotted to kill royalty and didn’t
have a body suitable for labor .
That man didn’t have a right arm, a right shoulder, or a right ear . He was
known as the Railway Bomber and was imprisoned in the cell in front of
Muoru . But, Muoru didn’t know his name . Just like how Muoru went by the
designation, prisoner 5722, that man had had his original name taken away
and was now death row inmate 367 .
Housed in the same hospital as his other victims, he miraculously survived,
but he had lost the majority of the right side of his upper body . And as a
result, it was easy to come to the conclusion that he had been the culprit .
Muoru remembered the man telling him with a smiling face, warped by his
pain, that if he were to die in that state right there, it would have been
pleasant .
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Although the boy couldn’t tell whether the man had turned 40 or not, they
did have the same robust body type . And even though he had suffered that
serious injury, the man talkatively complained about the food and demanded
alcohol in the same way as the other prisoners .
Due to the construction of the hallways, the detention camp carried sounds
terribly well, and even that prisoner’s voice boomed down the halls . The
surface of his spirit and mind appeared healthy…up until the moment his
execution was announced .
Three days later…one of Muoru’s half-smiling jailers said that after he saw
the state of the death row inmate, he thought the man seemed to have
become an entirely different person .
The hair remaining on his left side had become white, and it looked like he
had aged more than 20 years all at once . If someone tried talking with him
they wouldn’t receive any sort of normal response . And he no longer seemed
to feel any excitement from eating .
He just picked at his wounds, making the people in the surrounding chambers
wince in disgust .
It so happened that prisoner 5722 was able to see this change happen right
before his eyes .
After going through with the suicide bombing, he should have been prepared
to die . And quite so, he should have assumed he would die if his plan had
gone according to plan, but whether it was due to karma or just his fate, he
narrowly escaped from death . But now, he was being cornered by the fear of
his approaching death, moving with the swiftness of a clock’s second hand .  
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Even so, on the morning of the third day, a strange thing happened . As
Muoru woke up, Death Row prisoner 367 raised one hand and greeted him
with a wide grin .
Although the whiteness of his hair, nor the wound he picked at hadn’t
changed, his demeanor appeared the same as before he had received the
announcement for his execution . And in his eyes there was no sign of
madness…on the contrary it seemed like he had found some sense of peace .
He wondered if there had been some kind of psychological change within
death row inmate 367’s mind during those three days… . but there was no way
of knowing that then, and there never would be in the future .
The corridors of the detention camp carried sound extremely well . Certainly
they were purposefully made for a moment like this .
Muoru heard the sound of the gunshot that ended death row inmate 367’s
life clearly, as if he had been straining his ears to their limits .
#
The dawn brushed away the darkness, and the countless gravestones and
trees cast long shadows on the ground . The morning dew glittered, as if
decorating the nameless weeds with the skilled craftsmanship of jewelry .
Even though Muoru was aware of the strangeness within the graveyard, the
sight of the morning had not changed even a little . The same could be said
about his life . The old hag would kick him awake, and then he would cheat his
stomach with some poor excuse for food, after which he would toil in the
graveyard, digging holes .
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However, up until yesterday and even today, there had barely been any
changes to his work .
…the tip of his shovel struck something hard .
As he removed the dirt, the gigantic bile-colored eyes appeared, glaring at
the boy who had disturbed its sleep .
That hallucination came unexpectedly and from the side it would have just
looked like the boy with the muscular arms had suddenly froze in place . But
for Muoru, each time he saw that hallucination, cold sweat dripped down his
body . That fear was not a laughing matter .
Of course, his mind tried to figure out just what that thing was he saw
yesterday . But, just as it had been at the detention camp, there was, as
expected, no one here to explain the essential information he needed to
know . At least if someone gave him a hint or something, maybe he wouldn’t
keep seeing that illusion in the ground… . At this rate, soon the creature
would probably turn up in his dreams .
And after smirking to himself dozens of times in a self-deprecating manner,
suddenly…
“Yo, prisoner gravedigger,” an unknown voice called out to him .
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Muoru, as if he were a fish that just had a rock thrown at it, turned around in
a flash . Behind him, about ten or so steps away, a small-statured boy sat atop
a gravestone . He didn’t recognize the child, and the fact that the person had
caught him unaware made him uneasy… . wait, boy?…no, girl? He couldn’t
really tell . Their face and their body were still like a child, lacking any
secondary sexual characteristics to distinguish their sex .
They had black bobbed hair coming down to their chins, and they were
wearing a childish yellow cape . Slender legs stuck out from their checkered
shorts, and despite not wearing socks, for some reason they were wearing
army boots .
“Who are you?” Muoru asked without trying to hide his suspicion .
“Oh my, you say such unfriendly things . You probably met me and the others
yesterday, right?” The person tilted their head in Muoru’s direction and lifted
up the edge of their lips tightly in a friendly smile . “What am I saying? It’s
understandable that you don’t recognize me in this state . Here…look at this . ”
The person thrust their hands into their cape pocket…and pulled out a white
mask . Of course, it was crazy to think he didn’t remember it .
Goosebumps ran down Muoru’s spine . The memory it reminded him of was
like a nightmare . Despite there clearly being a slender child before his eyes,
for the moment he couldn’t see anything other than the face of that gigantic
beast .
That’s right, remember… . Although I was digging holes, didn’t I sense those
seemingly difficult to walk-in shoes approach?
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If the person saw Muoru’s face stiffen, they continued on without seeming to
notice . “It’s good that you have completed the first stage of your work, but
it’s indeed break time . If it’s alright with you, how about a drink?”
Strangely, as they spoke in a mature fashion, they stuffed the mask back into
their pocket and took out a liquor bottle instead . The amber colored liquid
was down to the label .
Without saying a word, Muoru returned to his digging . He didn’t think there
was any reason for him to get involved with this person .
“Ah, are you ignoring me? Yeah, you’re ignoring me . And after all your
trouble I was actually thinking about telling you about the thing you saw
yesterday . ”
As he considered whether or not to let their offer slide, the child-like person
lifted up their chin as if offended and sat cross-legged atop one of the
gravestones . They had the liquor bottle in their mouth, and then removed
their hand, supporting the bottle with only their lips and teeth as they loudly
chugged the liquid .
And from time to time those eyes stole glances his way .
Muoru sighed in disappointment . This brat wanted to talk and there was
nothing he could do about that . And even now, whether or not he wanted to
know more about those creatures didn’t mean he wanted to be asked about
them . However…
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“If you tell me that information, will something good happen to you, like
you’ll get a reward or something?”
His question was to see just how serious this person was about telling the
truth about the situation . And though there was a lot he didn’t know about
the monsters, this person was extremely suspicious . For Muoru, no matter
how many monsters there were in the world, he wasn’t able to stomach
someone placing their butt on a gravestone .
They removed the liquor bottle from their mouth and with a slightly red face
said in a shocked voice:
“… . Well, you’re a deeply skeptical mole huh? Do you eat fried worms or
something?”
Muoru answered flatly, “Salty soup is enough for me . ”
Hearing his response, the person on the gravestone leaked out a grand sigh,
but soon they regained their composure with a smile .
“Yup, good things will happen,” they said .
“So there was something . ”
“Right, but as for why…” They jumped up, standing on the gravestone with
their feet and hands spread wide . “Well, for now let’s just say I’m overly
stubborn like you; I just love planting half-truths in people’s minds . ”
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Then, as if they were somehow impressed by what they’d said, the child-like
person silently looked down at him from the tombstone . Yet the person’s
height wasn’t even half as tall as Muoru . So even with the extra height of the
tombstone, they were only barely able to look down at him, now only a bit
taller than Muoru .
Unconsciously, a laugh slipped out of Muoru’s mouth, but he tried to mask it
as a yawn .
Well, that’s probably good enough to get them to talk .
Of course, whether or not he believed what they said was a different story .
“Okay, so are we going to talk about what happened or not…ah, before
that…” Muoru jabbed his shovel into the ground, using it as a cane to take
the pressure off his still injured right leg . Then he asked, “What’s your
name?”
The person pulled back the bangs of their jet-black bobbed haircut, showing
Muoru their face . “I’m Crow,” they said, “Look at my hair, isn’t it just like the
color of a crow’s wings?”1
1
This character’s name is くらす、but it’s supposed to be strange to be called Kurasu or Crow . If I translate
as Kurasu, the similarity would be lost and it would just look like a Japanese name .
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Muoru rolled his eyes and smiled bitterly . He didn’t feel the need to retort .
No matter how you thought about it, “Crow” was a false name .
Once again sitting on the gravestone, the self-proclaimed “Crow” asked back,
“And who are you?”
For a moment the boy was unsure what to say . Frankly he had no interest in
honestly giving his real name . Then suddenly the name Crow had called him
earlier popped into his head .
“You can call me Mole,” Muoru answered .
“Good, so the Crow and the Mole then . ” Crow giggled delightfully . “Hey
Mole-kun2
. I like you . So, we should be friends . How about it?”
“I refuse,” Muoru immediately replied .
“Really, that’s too bad,” Crow bellowed into the air without a trace of
disappointment in their voice . Then, without warning Crow cryptically said,
“30,270,000 . Do you know what number this is?”
“…ummm . ”
2
Kun is casual honorific usually used with boys .
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Muoru, who had only thought that he would be made to listen to the true
nature of the monsters was caught off guard, and so he thought about it a
little . But in the end he didn’t know .
“I wonder if it’s the contents of my wallet,” he said, trying to say something
witty . But, he didn’t even own a wallet, let alone any money to put into it .
Crow cheerfully announced the correct answer . “It’s this country’s current
population, according to the population statistics white paper from the
Filbard General Affairs Bureau . Didn’t you know that?”
There was no way he could know that . Or perhaps he should say that apart
from the number of allies or enemy soldiers, the population of the country
never crossed his mind . As such, he couldn’t quite say whether it was large or
even small . And to hear those words coming from the mouth of someone
who looked like a child made him feel extremely uncomfortable .
“So the population from about 100 years ago was about 2,600,000 . Well, due
to how long ago that time was it’s difficult to know the exact number . Hey,
don’t you think this is a bit incredible? In just 100 years the population
increased by more than ten times . Why do you think that explosive growth
occurred?”
Muoru thought about the question a little bit longer than the previous one .
Although there was no evidence to support Crow’s number, for the time
being he assumed it was correct . If indeed the population had increased
more than ten times, then there would probably be a significant factor
involved . For ants, provided there was one queen ant, they could create a
colony, but it was not so simple for humans .
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He was having trouble conceptualizing the seemingly giant number in Crow’s
story, so he tried shrinking it to a scale that he could imagine . First he
pictured a village in his mind with 100 people . What kind of factor would be
sufficient to increase that population to 1000 in 100 years?
Muoru answered, “Did the amount of food distributed increase?”
For humans, no matter what they did, their first priority was always food .
Like a car that can’t run without gasoline, if a human was not properly
nourished they would not move . So, if the amount of people increased by a
lot, then probably a lot of food was necessary . No, wasn’t it not the amount
of food available, but rather the ability to harvest said food that determined
the size of a population?
Crow gave him a big nod in response to his previous answer .
“Yup, not bad . ten points . ” Then Crow laughed . “Of course a perfect score is
100 . ”
“It wasn’t just not bad . ”
“That’s one point of view . Certainly due to the improvement of the seeds and
manure, the number of seeds that could produce viable wheat increased . But
at the same time, if the population of farmers increased, so too would the
amount of farmland . If that’s the case then the general population couldn’t
have increased tenfold . There are also various other factors involved . That’s
why only ten points . ”
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“Did you say various?” Muoru pressed . It completely had no connection with
the matter of the monster, but Crow’s skillful way of talking intrigued him .
Plus, he felt it had been an awfully long time since he’d chatted with
someone in a lighthearted manner like this .
However, Crow’s next words were unlike anything he had heard from all the
different types of people he’d met in his life .
“Just like you said, due to the improvements in the farming industry the
harvests increased . After that things like gas lights and electricity were put
into practical use and there was a sharp increase in the human lifespan .
Steam engines were invented . So steam trains and boats were made, and
from those advances the transportation network was established and
movement became faster . Thanks to these things, the number of talented
people, resources, and the mobility of information remarkably increased, and
the death caused by famine decreased…”
Muoru was completely silent, prompting Crow to ask, “Are you following
me?”
As if surrendering, Muoru shook his head .
“Well…if I minutely give you examples from everywhere then there won’t be
any end to this conversation . But, if I had to lump all of those reasons
together into one overarching factor, I’d have to say it’s the development of
civilization . ”
“Civilization huh…” the boy suspiciously repeated back that vague word .
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“The development of civilization,” Crow continued . “In other words you could
also say the increase in the quality of life…Look, you probably call
refrigerators conveniences of civilization, right? As civilization expanded,
through their greed they were able to generate a surplus of time and space
for living . And as that happened, of course the humans had sex . ”
At that point Crow stopped talking, maybe in order to see if their words had
triggered a reaction in Muoru’s face . He however looked away and said
nothing . Then Crow, as if fully satisfied, gave a smug smile .
“Well, needless to say, the amount of children increased . And thanks to
advances in medicine, things like miscarriages and stillbirths remarkably
decreased . Probably these events were due to people not washing their
hands before surgeries, to say nothing of the fact that people didn’t receive
anesthesia or even blood transfusions . It was because of these reasons that
childbirth was a significant risk to women’s lives . Of course, over time things
like the existence of bacteria beneath a microscope were discovered, and the
research into immunizations advanced, leading to the average lifespan being
extended about 20 years . ”
While Muoru listened to Crow, the wound beneath the bandage on his right
leg ached .
Naturally he had cleaned the wound last night . But if Meria hadn’t brought
him the box of medical supplies, his wound would have started to fester . And
at the worst he may have died from tetanus . Even though he wasn’t the best
student at school, this was common knowledge even for a common mole like
himself .
But more than 100 years ago there weren’t things like microscopes, and even
physicians did not know of the existence of bacteria .
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In that era, much more than now, no matter what kind of injury or sickness a
person suffered, they could easily have died . The fact that this no longer
happens is certainly what they call the advancement of civilization .
Yet after Crow’s fluent explanation of the various holes in his idea, while also
summarizing what had happened in the previous 100 years or so, Muoru got
the feeling that the miraculous tenfold growth of the population was
improbable .
Reading the boy’s emotions by the color in his face, Crow continued their
speech .
“Well…the real issue is this: Human history has continued uninterrupted for
many thousands of years . However, why is it that after this era came to pass,
suddenly civilization began to advance? To say it another way, why was
civilization unable to develop before the so called, “Dark Ages”?
…It’s simple . It’s because there was some kind of obstacle preventing
civilization from doing so . ” Crow didn’t wait for the Mole’s response and
continued, “The culprit is at your feet . ”
Unconsciously the boy lowered his gaze and looked at his worn out shoes
caked with mud and black insects crawling all over them .
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“For your information, I’m not talking about those pill bugs3
,” Crow said in a
teasing voice .
With a sour look, Muoru kicked up some dirt and responded, “It’s like they’re
ants from a different world or something . ”
…Honestly speaking, he was grateful Crow had inserted a joke into their
conversation .
No matter how many burials took place, he could not completely wrap his
mind around the reality that seemed to destroy all the common knowledge
he had possessed up till this point .
Then Crow’s originally happy demeanor vanished .
“Devils . Undying monsters . Night horrors . Bizarre hosts . The Dark . ” While
bending a finger Crow stated each name with a face that looked like they
were going to vomit .
“They are called various names, but each correctly identifies the same thing:
mankind’s worst enemy . These things do not have what we call life . Just like
the words suggest, they are undead . Even if you cut them, burn them or chop
them into very small pieces, like a joke the will come back to life…
3
Also known as roly-polies in the US .
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Ah, I can see from your face that you don’t believe me . Maybe because it’s
really dreadful to think about . Even if these monsters’ limbs were torn off
and flung away, they would scurry back across the ground and stick back
together . Such a spectacle would cause quite a bit of trauma, but I’m sure
you’ll see it at least once . ”
Muoru tilted his head and replied, “Well, I’ve already been shocked to the
point where I can’t bear to dream…” Maybe it wasn’t worth worrying about,
but something Crow said had curiously bothered him . Throwing in another
topic he asked, “So as for limbs, you’re saying that the monster’s entire body

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is not just a face?”
“Yeah, they have an infinite number of shapes . But what they all have in
common is killing humans . And they also hate the sun . Thankfully those
creatures are completely unable to move beneath the sun . As for the
rest…right…basically they are stronger the bigger they are . And going by that
rule, the monster from yesterday was pretty formidable . ”
“…Wha…really?”
“Well, things like names and appearances are not important . But what you
have to remember is that for humans these are the worst enemy…In other
words they can be called mankind’s ‘natural enemy’ . These things kill
humans, they don’t eat them . They kill them . Do you understand the
difference?”
Muoru slowly nodded his head in shame . Even if he didn’t count the false
accusation against him, when it came to killing, his soldier persona was
second to none .
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As soon as Muoru noticed Crow pondering what to say next, Crow suddenly
started to tell an unpleasant story .
“For example, although it would be difficult, if you were able to imprison a
lion into a pen with a large food supply, such as a mole, when the lion got
hungry, no matter how hard it tried to resist, after about three minutes the
mole would probably be killed . And the lion would have its meal . If that
didn’t happen, the lion would probably die of starvation .
However, what if the lion was full? And within the same pen they tried
putting in a mole and a horse’s carcass? Surely in that situation the mole
wouldn’t be killed anytime soon . ”
“Umm, what are you trying to say?”
“The only reason carnivores undertake such a troublesome task like hunting
is because they have to do it in order to survive .
It is said that the only reason a carnivore would go through with such a
troublesome task as hunting is because they must do it in order to survive . So
by that logic, if a pet cat receives food from its master, isn’t it unlikely for it to
purposefully sneak into the house next door and hunt mice?”
“Humans…it probably kills humans,” the boy hanging his head said bluntly .
“Right, but for the most part it’s not like they have a specific objective . ”
Somewhere within Crow’s words was a bit of sympathy .
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“Certainly there is a large amount of people in our world who have cruel
hearts, and as a result many tragic events occur . However, there are probably
only a few people who kill just because they want to, right?
“Ah, isn’t that madness? Those people are not humans, they’re monsters . ”
“That’s exactly right . Which is precisely why the things beneath your feet are
also inhumane monsters . ”
Muoru responded with silence .
“At any rate due to these bastards, for the previous thousand years humans
were unable to consistently advance their civilization . Even if someone by
chance invented something, either they had no means to talk about it, or
they were killed before they could share their discovery . First of all, despite
doing everything they could to survive, the common citizens were particularly
limited when it came to their knowledge of these beings . Everyone was
uneasy and didn’t know when these demons would come out in the middle
of the night to kill them all .
Yet as those completely dark days passed by, somehow through a lot of effort
the people were able to gather and store information for the future . ”
Muoru had an objection to that last part but he remained silent . It seemed
like Crow’s long story was about to come to an end .
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“Changes in the power relations between humans and these demons started
to occur, but that was 300 years ago . Then humans accidentally stumbled
into possession of a way to defeat the immortal demons . And because of
that, for the past 200 years the world has flourished in some way or the
other . In fact, right now we are approaching an era of prosperity we have
never experienced before . ”
Muoru’s general feeling about Crow’s story was a bit vague, or perhaps he
should say Crow’s words just took a lot of time to digest .
Probably that’s to be expected . For a prisoner who was no more than a young
boy born to a poor mason, humans, civilization, devils, natural enemies and
so forth were all concepts beyond his comprehension . Unfortunately his
facial expressions revealed that fact . But before Crow could notice his
expression, he said, “To sum up…” Muoru stroked his beard . “People like you
successfully defeated that monster . Is that what you’re trying to say?”
Crow smiled in satisfaction .
“You understand well . Hmm, it seems like you actually have some brains, not
just muscle . ”
“Get off my back . Oh and by the way, is it true that birds forget to breathe
after three strides?”4
“Hey! That’s cruel . Besides you’re mistaken . ”
4
鳥が三歩で息を忘れるのは本当か?
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As he watched Crow take offense to his words, he could see nothing but the
good points of a youngster . But there was probably no reason to think the
young folk from the town would come all the way to a place like this and
have a conversation like they just had . Plus there was that mask . What
meaning did it have?
However, before Muoru could ask about the towns nearby, Crow said, “See
you next time,” as if having finished everything they wanted to talk about .
Like a bird taking off, Crow jumped off the tombstone and like a child they
waved, then ran off . And just like that they disappeared, like they had
dissolved into the air .
The remaining boy sighed and rested his chin on the handle of the shovel he
had spiked into the ground . While he stared at the evening light of the setting
sun, he pondered Crow’s words .
#
…Three days after it was announced that he would die by shooting, Muoru
wondered if there had been some kind of psychological change in Death row
inmate 367’s mind . But, now it was too late and there was no way to find out
whether that was true or not .
But Muoru did learn one thing from looking at him from nearby .
No matter how beyond one’s capabilities a task seemed, Humans will be able
to prepare their hearts provided they have sufficient time . At the very least
that man was able to do so .
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In the eyes of the people only fixated on his end, maybe it would appear to
be nothing but meaningless complacency .
In either case, there are probably people who think that if a person is just
going to die, that readiness would make no considerable difference .
However, did the prisoner walk by his own power to the execution area with
his chest stuck out proudly and his head held high, like his usual demeanor?
Or was he dragged down the hallway little by little, dripping urine as he
wailed and cried… . that range of possibilities proves that readiness could
indeed make a difference .
But it goes without saying that for Muoru, Death row inmate 367’s situation
was much more preferable . Of course, those monsters were not something
that moles like Muoru tended to be able to handle . But more than that, his
unease stemmed from the fact that there was nothing that could kill those
things .
And the grave was not an inescapable cage .
That’s right…
What should I do?
That was the only thing that was important .
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Even though he knew about the monster’s existence, like the sight of a
graveyard that never changed, just knowing things like the monster’s name
and its history would probably not change reality .
What to do?
What should I do?
What do I want to do?
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Chapter 4-2
“…Hand,” the girl commanded and in response the black dog placed its
forearm, about the size of her own, onto her white palm .
Once again Muoru encountered Meria in the graveyard as the sun was
setting…no, he didn’t encounter her, he met up with her . This meeting was
different than the first time he was looking up at her from the bottom of the
hole, or the second time when he had been running away from the dog . This
time it was intentional .
Even if everything Crow had said was true, his task of digging graves stayed
the same . For Muoru, there was no major difference between digging graves
for humans or monsters . And it looked like his work wouldn’t change for the
rest of his life . That…wasn’t a joke .
I must escape .
But in his current state, he thought that dog at her side having the back of its
ears scratched was much more of a menace than the monsters buried in the
graves .
Looking at Dephen made his leg throb . Although thanks to Meria his wound
hadn’t festered, at the moment running was probably impossible . However,
even if he was able to run again, last night’s events would only repeat
themselves .
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Plus there was only one way out of the graveyard, so if he kept an eye on the
path it would eventually lead to his escape . Now if he could make a wish,
he’d ask for a map .
But then there was the collar .
Not the black dog’s, but the one attached to his own neck . Even though
recently he had gotten so used to it that he forgot all about it, somehow he
would still need to get rid of it . Though only his prisoner number was
inscribed, the collar seemed to scream, “I’m a prisoner!” as he walked . Of
course the military police and local sheriffs would capture him out of a desire
to accumulate good points with their superiors or peers . However, by the
same token he couldn’t carelessly go out in front of people, out of fear that
they would report him .
Although it would have been great to have that collar removed from his neck,
naturally the people who attached it seemed to have been well aware of that
fact . As a result, the core of the leather collar used a unique fiber called
“Witch’s thread . ” For hundreds of years assassins, swindlers1
, and the like
had habitually used this material for various purposes . It was thin, but
extremely tough to the point where even high quality pliers or shears can’t
sever it .
1
In hurigana it readsいかさま師 which is swindler/cheat, but the kanji reads 魔法使い which is a witch
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And to make matters worse, as they were telling Muoru that his prison
sentence would be longer than five years, the collar was surgically connected
to his right carotid artery . If any prisoner tried to force the collar off, their
carotid artery would be severed by the “witch’s thread” as easily as cutting a
boiled egg, ending their life . Since assassins originally had used the string as a
garrote, its reliability was guaranteed .
Fortunately, for the most part Muoru wasn’t bothered by it anymore . But
there were some prisoners who couldn’t endure the serious thread of death
constantly attached to their blood vessels…they went mad and ended up
ripping off their collars . One of the bald physicians had tried to intimidate
him during the surgery by telling him that this insanity claimed the lives of
five or six people a year .
But even if the collar was successfully removed, he would still feel isolated
and helpless .
His mother, his father, and his brothers should be alive, but by no means did
that mean he could return home . However, even though he’d be lying if he
said he didn’t want to see them, it had already been five years since he left
home and he wasn’t suffering from homesickness or anything like that .
Fundamentally, since he had been neglected when he was being raised, he
couldn’t really count on them to help him because they had never expressed
any kind of loving sentiment . And more than that, not only would his
returning home now after such a long time inconvenience his family, but they
probably thought it would be better if they never saw him again for the rest
of their lives .
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It was strange but he wasn’t very sad about that . Probably, that was because
there were a lot of more important things he should be thinking about . Or
perhaps he might just be a cold person . However, the boy understood that
there was a big difference between a third party getting involved in his
situation or not .
And the first…no, the only handhold he seemed to have was Meria .
He was aware that she was mysterious . Even her personality was vague . But
yesterday she had given him medicine, and even though he was a
prisoner she wasn’t avoiding his area of work . There was absolutely no way
she could be a bad person .
Plus, if he got information from the girl known as the grave keeper and if she
was able to cooperate with him for even a little bit, then the chances of him
successfully escaping would probably increase .
Of course, he and the girl were just strangers in this place who only knew the
other’s face . So, if he suddenly tried to ask something like, “‘I want to escape,
will you help me?” far from cooperation, she would most likely send him back
to the internment camp . But the best method of approach was for him to
somehow get her to drop her guard . If that happened, then in the end she
would voluntarily help him .
This type of thing, ah, what was it called? It was a word he didn’t normally
use, but once it came to him he made a tight fist . Right, ensnare .
And now that his objective was decided, he felt it was much better to take
action than just crouching there thinking about it . So Muoru returned to the 
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graveyard during the night and took a position where he could ambush Meria
and startle her slightly, but…
“Muoru?”
Crouching on the ground, the light brow-haired girl called out the boy’s name
while petting the dog at her side and staring uncertainly in his direction .
After hearing her call out his name, Muoru hesitated about what to say .
“Umm…that…ah, um, nothing,” the boy stammered and again a silence fell
between the two .
It’s not nothing, Muoru!
Muoru beat himself up over not being able to think of any good words . His
future freedom hung on whether he was able to skillfully grab her attention
or if she denied him .
He thought about bringing up the pleasant conversations he had with his
fellow soldiers surrounding the base campfire . But then he realized the gist of
those jokes involved the veteran tank pilots boasting about how great
their rifles were .
Crouched at a slight distance away from him, the girl mysteriously watched
him struggle to speak, his face dumbfounded and his throat choking on his
words .
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Her eyes were as dark as the cold sea, and the blue was so deep a color that
they seemed to suck him in .
Again there was silence . But there was nothing he could do; the girl in front
of him simply left him at a loss for words .
Those eyes stared at him, waiting for him to speak, but his head was
completely blank and no thoughts came to mind . She was totally different
than both those military police officers who just did their service with sulking
faces, and Crow who spoke far too casually, as if they were good friends .
Then suddenly he realized the one fundamental fault in his previous tactic .
How exactly was he supposed to go about ensnaring a girl?
Muoru Reed, private E-1, master of the battleground moles .
At any time, no matter the weather, the moles were ordered to dig holes
nonstop . With just their durable clothes they were able to crawl along for
more than five kilometers . And they were able to take apart and clean their
military rifles in a blink of an eye .
But he had no idea how he was supposed to get his hooks into the girl in
front of him…
“Meria…”
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That was the extent of his words . His tendency to keep quiet couldn’t handle
anything more than that .
He gulped loudly . How long was he going to be nervous? He hadn’t even
thought that just swallowing spit would cause such a loud noise .
Once his thoughts were decided, immediately he said, “Would you like to be
friends?” words he felt he had heard somewhere else .
The girl blinked a few times then asked, “What?” in a small confused voice .
I shouldn’t have asked that .
He failed . He broached the topic completely wrong . In a rush his face and
head turned red, just like the time he had chugged some strong alcohol in
one gulp . The impulse to immediately grab a pistol, put it to his temple and
blow out his foolish brains welled up inside him .
While the boy was thinking about fainting in agony for his ignorance, the
nearby girl on the other hand looked like she hadn’t even understood his
words, blinking again and again . But then with the slowness of sand falling in
an hourglass, her cheeks flushed a deep vermilion .
And after a little while she looked away from him and said, “…I can’t . ”
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It was the first time she had spoken without meeting his gaze . He could see
that the earlobes protruding from the edge of her hood had turned a deep
red .
It was strange, but even though she had clearly refused him, Muoru felt
relieved .
Laughing at himself he asked, “Why?”
Meria stood with her profile facing him as she answered . ”It’s because I don’t
understand . When you say friend, what do you mean?”
“…Well that…um, even I can’t give you an exact definition . ”
Muoru also looked away, thinking for a bit before explaining somewhat
incoherently . “Friend, well, um…it’s one step past acquaintance…what is
it…Mutual? No more than that… in order to know each other better two
people think about getting closer…kind of like that . ”
Basically everything he said to Meria was equivalent to the phrase, “Let me
get closer to you . ”
Overflowing with embarrassment, Muoru was unable to continue his
explanation any more than that .
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Then as if tossing around an idea in her head, she hung her head in silence .
While he waited, Muoru watched as the flickering light from the lantern she
had placed on the ground made the shadow of her jawline waver erratically .
Before long the girl lifted her face, but it was not to take back her previous
refusal .
“Where did you come from, Muoru?” she asked him .
After a moment’s hesitation he answered, “Rakasand’s detention camp . ”
“Rakasand?”
“Ah, it’s in the East kingdom . You’ve never heard of it?”
Meria’s red face nodded deeply . “I have never left this place” .
Muoru was perplexed for a moment, so like peeking through a hole, he
stared at her white neck . Of course, there was no evidence that she was a
prisoner here so that made it a bit difficult to believe her . But at the same
time it did make a lot of sense .
I get it . She truly has been separated from the world .
There was one thing he slightly believed from the story Crow had told him
before . Before steam engines were invented, in other words until just 100
years ago, the best method of travel over land was horses . Other than that 
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the only thing you could do was walk . In that time, common citizens were not
able to think about traveling . That’s precisely why they not only didn’t go on
military campaigns, but for the most part they seemed to never leave their
hometowns .
Even now, if a person lived in some kind of country or farm village, it
probably wouldn’t be that uncommon…
Looking up at the boy, the girl asked, “And so, tell me…what kind of place did
you come from Muoru?”
After that for a while, the two of them talked with the lantern light flickering
between them .
Meria listened to each of Muoru’s words seriously, but asked a question if
there was something that interested her . . And as she asked him questions,
Muoru, even by his usual standards, answered quite clumsily .
Like the time he was around alcohol he was very talkative . He told her about
the town where he was born, his family, what type of thing a tank was, the
importance of strategically placed trenches, his favorite rations, how
cabbages grow…
What am I talking about? I don’t talk about these things to friends, nor
anyone for that matter .
He was able to handle her questions, but just feeling Meria’s focused gaze on
him made him feel strangely embarrassed . However, at the same time it was
a little creepy .
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He used a branch to draw a map on the ground, and looking up to the sky he
pretended to reminisce, but didn’t meet the girl’s eyes . That was when
unexpectedly he understood how to squeeze out some words from her .
In addition to him already having a plan, Meria seemed to be a superb
listener . Claiming to have never left this graveyard, she occasionally didn’t
understand the premise of some of his stories . Yet, even though the boy’s
explanation was difficult, Meria displayed a keen ability to surmise the heart
of what he was trying to say .
…but it did take a little effort for her to understand the concept of
“domesticated animals” .
He told her the story of how the campaign cooks had prepared a whole piglet
roast as a treat for him and his fellow soldiers during a victory celebration .
Muoru recalled the fragrant scent of the animal fat and herbs and started to
realize his failure to notice the drool accumulating in his mouth . But Meria
was not interested in the food’s flavor or how it was prepared; she instead
expressed interest in what he talked about next .
“After that did that “pig” receive a proper burial?”
“No… I wonder if we used the bones to make dashi . ”
“Dashi?”
“Put the bones into a huge pot and stew them for a long time . Eventually it’ll
turn into something like a soup stock . ”
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“You even eat the corpse? That’s…cruel,” she muttered sadly, looking
dejected by the conversation .
But for domesticated animals, they don’t think it’s cruel, they don’t think
much of anything .
With great effort Muoru tried to explain . Somehow he tried to persuade
Meria that the animals existed to be raised as pets in order to be eaten (or in
order to be killed), but the right words wouldn’t come out . For him it was
common knowledge that seemed extremely natural, but he couldn’t think of
any other words that would make her understand .
The conversation went off on a tangent before he knew it . Some of the girl’s
crazy questions would cause the topic to once again fly off in the wrong
direction, then due to his misunderstanding, the conversation would plunge
vertically to the earth and suddenly they had returned to the topic they were
discussing before .
And if he figured out how to say something even slightly eloquently,
unexpectedly it would teleport away…and so on, until again the conversation
became as derailed as a car which had long since been unable to move . So, in
the end he couldn’t clear up her confusion .
However, thanks to the tangents, their conversation kept going, not ending
abruptly . Muoru felt that was quite miraculous…
“…I think I basically understand,” she said as she stood up . The moon within
the distant clouds had moved to the middle of the sky .
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The girl’s calm quiet profile strangely appeared to tense . It was completely as
if she had just grasped some groundbreaking truth .
“The Dark, they don’t exist in the world you come from, huh?” Once again
the word that the girl had said yesterday came out from her lips .
He was having trouble guessing the meaning of that word .
“That’s right,” he muttered .
The boy looked up at the girl .
Within the dim moonlight, the girl’s face, hidden within her hood and looking
dejectedly down to the ground, was beautiful . It was something he didn’t
think was from this world .
Staring at her at that moment, Muoru was unable to stand, though the
reason was not related to the injury in his leg .
And even though she never showed those emotions on her face, within the
inner part of her calm eyes, he could clearly sense that her inward feelings
were being shaken up .
–Just like the shock he had felt when he learned of that monster’s existence .
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–The idea that there was a world where that monster didn’t exist was just as
shocking to that girl who had lived here for so long .
The two were very similar, and that was exactly why they were absolutely
different . Just like how the moon and the sun never crash into one another,
their separation couldn’t be helped .
The cold, summer, evening breeze blew above the countless gravestones
lined up on the ground .
“It’s about time for me to leave”, Muoru said, jerkily standing up .
“Tomorrow I’ll also be digging holes from the morning onward . ”
He could see Meria nod .
“… . see you,” the boy said once again expecting her to nod .
But there was no response .



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