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Sugar Dark - Chapter 2

Published at 15th of March 2016 07:37:57 AM


Chapter 2

Hole 2: Grave Keeper


Chapter 1
By any measure Muoru’s singing ability was seriously lacking .
Alone as he swung his shovel, Muoru sang a smattering of songs, from things like
popular tunes he’d heard on the radio to bits from his marching chants . And since
no one could hear him, he sang the words the way he wanted; that is, his voice
was off key and sometimes he would even make up words .
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Though his voice was loud, it seemed to disappear into the uninhabited
graveyard .
The singing was his only comfort, helping him to forget his dislike of the idea that
he would have to toil with these corpses forever . And though he was continuing
to dig holes, he was in good spirits, as if he had returned to the past, more
specifically, the condition he’d been in one month ago .
The only things he was lacking compared to that time were people to harmonize
with and a helmet .
He had started to get used to his short shovel and the collar that could not be
parted from his neck, but now he started to notice the lightness at the top of his
head .
No matter what I do, it’s obvious that I’ll probably never get my hands on a
helmet .
At a glance it did not seem to be a necessity in this quiet graveyard . Plus if he
wanted to protect himself from that monster, an iron helmet probably wouldn’t
be enough . But for some reason Muoru really liked that headgear . It brought back
memories such as the first time him and his fellow young soldiers, all around the
same age and rank, had touched a rifle and boasted about future heroism . Now
looking back on that event with slightly disillusioned eyes, he remembered he’d
worn a helmet that entire day and even as he slept .
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Since then, particularly during a military operation, he was never apart from his
helmet even if there wasn’t an enemy within the surrounding ten kilometer
perimeter . Admittedly, Muoru understood it was a bit strange to feel that way,
but perhaps there was hope and a sense of security that came from the helmet
protecting the most important part of the human body . After he became a grave
digger he tore a sheet into pieces and wrapped it around his head in efforts to
prevent heatstroke . But that thin cloth was completely unsatisfactory .
“Mr . Prisoner, thank you for your hard work . ” Coming from behind Muoru’s back,
the old man’s voice cut into Muoru’s song . “You seem to be alright even though
you’ve seen those things . ”
Completely as if he were inspecting the administering of a medicine in an animal
experiment, Daribedor looked Muoru over with his small eyes .
Muoru slightly scowled . His right leg was wrapped with a seemingly yellowing and
dirty bandage imbued with the bodily fluids oozing out from his wound…
Then he recalled the girl who lay under his arms after he’d knocked her down in a
panic .
“Far from it, actually you’re increasingly working harder . That’s good . ”
“Well, it’s not like I’m not curious,” Muoru said . Then trying to insert a slight
probe into his words he continued, “For example those things… where did they
come from?”
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“Where… . that’s another philosophical question . ” The old man’s mouth twisted,
one could even say he made an unsightly smile . “You probably wouldn’t ask
questions like ‘where do humans come from’ . Isn’t this the same kind of
question?”
“Mostly from a woman’s stomach,” Muoru jested, but Mr . Daribedor was not
amused in the slightest .
Not even trying to hide his displeasure, Mr . Daribedor started to return to the
mansion, saying the following, “Well, I understand why you’re not afraid of them .
It’s because of those people who frequently appear at night . Though it may be
disappointing, it is much better to refrain from excessively going out at night . It
would be a problem for this place if you were killed after all the work you’ve
done . ”
… . Crow as usual liked sitting on top of gravestones . And after hearing the story
about Daribedor from Muoru, they giggled mockingly .
“That old man is terrible . It’s like, no matter how many people are employed to
dig holes, once they become unable to deal with the devils, they soon become
useless . ”
Reaching the limits of his endurance, Muoru readily ignored Crow’s meaningful
leer and asked, “Do you know each other?”
Crow shrugged and answered, “Well, honestly speaking, I hate that man . Be that
as it may, he’d take care of us in this graveyard if you and I were to die . ”
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“…what do you mean?”
“What, I didn’t say? Even people who know about the devils’ existence are able to
be buried here . ”
Muoru slightly hesitated, his questions piling on top of another . “Wait! Aren’t
only monsters buried here?”
“What are you saying Mole-kun? Isn’t what you are digging now human-sized?”
…that was exactly right .
He had dug multiple graves, but since the burial of the monster, none had been
designated to be as large . After hearing how strong the big monsters were, he
didn’t feel like it was a worthy to question to ask if the smaller ones were more
peaceful .
Crow continued, “Why in the world do you think this place is called a “Mass”
graveyard? It’s simple . It’s for humans and devils . The name comes from the fact
that their two incompatible existences are both buried here…but as for humans,
it’s not common for them to come here except under special circumstances . ”
A non-childlike, sarcastic smile spread across Crow’s face .
“So…for example, what about the grave you are sitting on?”
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“Yup, I think this is a human grave . ”
“Get off . Right now . ”
“Haw…” Crow pouted, making a commotion with their feet, until Muoru raised his
shovel threatening them into obedience .
“Ah, you’re such a good guy . You don’t seem like a prisoner at all,” Crow said as
they placed their feet on the ground and sighed deeply .
“Why is that?”
“Why is what?”
“It seems strange . To borrow your words, those monsters are mankind’s natural
enemy right? Why did your companions have to bury it so courteously?”
Having lost their seat, Crow sat cross legged on the ground . Like a child they
wanted to sit quickly . No, that wasn’t right . Even though he’d seen their child-like
appearance many times, sometimes when they spoke he completely forgot .
“Do you remember that those things are immortal?”
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“Ah,” Muoru nodded . Crow had definitely said that . “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 they will come
back to life…”
Gradually the boy noticed the uncomfortable feeling with those words .
Reading the change in their expression, Crow continued . “Right, it’s strange right?
Burials are courtesies you conduct for dead things . Yet, in spite of that, in this land
we are burying enemies that somehow cannot die… Of course, just because we
give them a memorial service doesn’t mean we sympathize with them . ”
Muoru was silent .
“Before you guessed that ‘hunters’ exterminated those demons . That’s right .
Hunters certainly fought with the demons . However, they couldn’t exactly finish
the job .
But for example, if the humans from ages ago were able to wield the same type of
power that “demon hunters” had when they hunted down these monsters with
rifles, then I think mankind then would have had the same access to the
prosperity humans have now . ”
That’s right, Crow had definitely said that in their previous conversation . They had
said that the monster’s existence was an obstacle to the advancement of
civilization .
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“As humans we can’t kill those things . Well, if they are bound head and foot then
they won’t be able to seize anyone or anything . But that’s the best we can do .
Unfortunately…”
With a face full of remorse, Crow bit their lip .
“Wait, isn’t that exactly why it’s strange?” Muoru interjected . “Didn’t you say
something the other day about how people were able to acquire a method to
defeat these monsters?”
“Ah, yeah, that method is at your feet now . ”
“So, the beasts buried underneath this graveyard are allegedly immortal . Haven’t
you heard of a method to destroy them?”
“You don’t get it huh? Hey look at this . ” As if playing in a sandbox, Crow rapped
on the ground .
“There’s something more to these things than just having a physical body . If you
constrict them you’ll be able to prevent them from moving . But even if you try to
drown them in water or bury them in a hole, eventually they will break out from
their confinement and resume their slaughter .
Then it seems that one day someone tried burying them in a human grave . “
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“…so you’re saying after the burial they can’t come back to life?” Muoru asked,
finally picking up on what Crow was saying .
Crow nodded and gave a weak smile .
“Although your question ‘why don’t the demons come back to life if they’re
buried in a graveyard,’ has been asked before, I don’t know . Even great scholars
don’t know . However, maybe for starters it’s because these demons exist in
bodies we don’t understand .
Since they’re so different from the living creatures of this earth, there’s even
some sort of story that says they came from the moon . The guy who first tried to
bury it in a graveyard… . well, maybe he planned for it to be some kind of joke or
something . ”
“So, back then some guy eating sea slugs intended for this all to be a joke,” Muoru
said laughingly at Crow, even though the child-like person had a mysterious,
miserable-looking expression .
Scribbling on the ground with their pinky, Crow answered . “Well, this is just my
hypothesis…Perhaps if the people who were killed by those monsters held a
grudge then maybe the things tied up here would be unable to reanimate . ”
“Don’t say such scary things . ”
“You’re not shaken are you?”
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“I don’t know, I just don’t like ghosts,” Muoru said with conviction .
Crow lifted their face and puffed out their soft-looking cheeks .
“I wonder…” While doing that childish action, again they said something even an
adult wouldn’t say . “Well…even if their power is sealed that doesn’t mean they
can be buried in any graveyard . It has to be old land, land with power; the type of
land that has been protected by humans, and has continued to serve as the
opposite of a human cradle for a long time . That kind of land has become the
eternal prison of those things .
Exactly like this place…”
Remembering his discomfort, Muoru asked, “Well, by any chance is this not a
terribly important place?”
Crow laughed . “Yeah, it’s one important place . And of course, there are other
graveyards that exist for the purpose of defeating the demons . It is exactly
because this task is so important that insurance is necessary . If there were only
one place, for example this place, and if it were to be destroyed then those
demons would come back to life and there would be nothing we could do .
“…Well, for the most part the other places have been disguised, and ordinary
people are prohibited from entering to protect them from entering without any
knowledge of what lies beneath . ”
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That makes sense, maybe that’s why no one seems to be visiting the graves here .
The fact that there were no visits by ordinary people was a negative factor,
decreasing his chances of finding a clue as to how to escape . Still…
“It is strange, but…” Although he understood what Crow was saying, Muoru was
currently concerned with something else . “Until probably a hundred or so years
ago, humans lived in fear, without any method to kill these monsters, right? If
that’s true, then why were people unaware of these monsters’ existence? At the
very least I and the people around me shouldn’t have been completely in the
dark . ”
“That’s simple . You didn’t need to know,” Crow said, nodding quickly as if making
a hasty promise .
“Losing their overwhelming immortality their numbers are decreasing much more
rapidly than in the past . One thing that’s interesting is the demons seem to
understand their disadvantage . Now they aren’t just refraining from hunting or
luring out humans, they don’t appear before them at all .
“And, by all means we’ve observed this tendency . The monsters are not
increasing . So you could say that them not dying is some kind of weakness- Take
for example a military force . No matter how strong they are, without supplies
they are probably quite weak, right?”
“Ah, that’s right . ”
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Crow’s analogy was indeed quite easy to understand, so the boy above the moles
responded with a deep nod .
Strictly speaking, the military forces composed of humans and the monsters were
probably different, but in either case after losing their total strength they would
both be unable to revive themselves . And soon after that it would be obvious that
they were gradually getting worse and worse .
“Yeah, it’s that, “Crow continued . “After all the effort it took to decrease the
number of demons, the injuries also became fewer . Gas and electric lights were
developed and now even if the sun sets standard activities are able to continue .
As long as people are scared of the fading threat of darkness, that fear will have
an effect on industry and economy . So as a result, the countries thought it was
preferable to keep the monsters a secret . Call it the dark living in the dark . ”
Muoru, still not persuaded, had been biting his lip . Crow then continued their
explanation .
“So don’t think it’s a lie that the world completely didn’t know . ”
“Huh? It’s true?”
“Well, let me ask, how was the first night you came to this graveyard? You
weren’t scared, right? Why not?”
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“Well about that…it’s because when I was a child my mother, terrible aunt or
someone had completely terrorized me . They talked about things that come out
of graveyards at night, ghosts, evil spirits…zombies and things like that . ”
“See? Aren’t those all the same things then, ‘creatures that harm humans’? It
seems that the stories involving the devils have changed a bit in the same way as
the names they were called . ”
Then Crow giggled .
“Well, due to the extreme level of secrecy it is difficult just to find someone who
can dig holes in a graveyard, without that person losing their sanity . And if that
person goes to the graveyard, it is likely that they have certain qualities . ”
“Qualities?”
“Such as being able to endure the situation where mankind’s natural enemy is
drawing near, the quality of having strong nerves . To put it simply…they’re
tough . ”
“I’m not tough or anything like that,” the boy said flatly .
“What? I know you’re saying that you have no will-power like me, but you don’t
have to be modest . ”
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“I’m not being modest or anything . Deep down I truly think that . If I was truly
tough then I wouldn’t be…” Muoru cut himself off and looked away .
“No, it’s nothing . ”
“What…what are you saying?”
Crow insistently wanted to hear what Muoru was about to say, but with a sour
look on his face the boy stubbornly kept his mouth closed . He didn’t show his true
face, just like a mole that burrows underground .
In the end Crow got angrier and stuck out their extremely red tongue in the boy’s
direction .
“You’re an idiot mole-kun! Trying to look better than you really are!” Crow
shouted as if they enjoyed degrading him . Then in the same way they had
appeared, Crow abruptly went away .
Muoru heaved a heavy sigh . With Crow gone, Muoru was the only one left in the
graveyard as the sun reached high-noon .
Though singing songs had been able to trick him into a different mood, he noticed
that instead of song lyrics, more and more sighs were spilling from his lips .
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Honestly speaking he had thought he was reasonably tough . And as for the
military, even though it was just a bunch of assholes relying solely on their
muscles, like an all-male household, he could only sometimes call them tough .
However, his confidence in his toughness had been rapidly fading since he had
been brought to this graveyard . And nowadays it was to the point where he had
to tell the childlike Crow not to misunderstand .
-He was frightened of the night’s darkness .
-The existence of these monsters had begun to take away his sanity .
-Recently, he worried that the grave keeper girl was absolutely nowhere to be
found…
…and, that the girl must hate and fear him .
It’s understandable, Muoru thought, trying to interpret his own emotions .
It was natural to feel uneasy . That girl is my important…she is my important
foothold in escaping from this place .
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The other day when he was running wildly – the time he asked her to become his
friend – he felt that he’d been able to converse quite successfully . But since then
he was not able to respond at all . Either he was the only one stalling in the air as
he fruitlessly spun his wheels, or he was crashing into the girl’s words of rejection .
As for Meria, since she always asked him as many questions as possible, she’d
been mostly unable to tell him the things he wanted to hear, which Muoru
thought was unfair .
“Why does she only show her face at night?” “What specifically does a grave
keeper do?” When he threw those kinds of questions at her, she made a troubled
face and shook her head .
When he saw her make that expression he grew anxious over the possibility
that, perhaps she hates me . However if that were true she’d probably avoid
meeting him face to face every night…So sooner or later the day would probably
come when she’ll talk to me right? Would that day really come?
But where he was now, that day couldn’t be anything but very far away .
Good grief, who did Crow say was tough?
He laughed . Such a thing was ridiculous . If he was really what they called tough,
then he probably wouldn’t have gone into a state where he couldn’t calm down
just from thinking about a girl .
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Anyway, though he hadn’t received an answer from the girl’s lips about
friendship, he was able to find out how old she was . Fourteen years had passed in
her life . Plus he had learned a bunch of other miscellaneous facts too, such as she
liked ripe apples and hated the rain after her clothes were dirtied by mud .
However, in the end she still wasn’t his friend . And they never agreed on a
specific time or place to meet up .
So as a result, when it became night Muoru went out looking for her in the
graveyard .
Maybe it was inefficient, but strange as it was, the time he was searching for her
wasn’t a bad thing . He even felt it was fun, though he couldn’t clearly say why .
Even the graveyard, which in the beginning had been terribly frightening at night,
was no problem for him now . In fact, just the light from the stars was enough for
him to be able to walk . Humans’ power to adapt is incredible .
But the graveyard was excessively vast, and even though he’d gotten used to the
sight of the gravestones and trees extending seemingly forever outward, he was
still unclear about where he was . The first landmark he made was a giant tree
growing roughly in the center of the graveyard . While remaining conscious of how
to get back to the tree, he went searching for Meria, but tonight even though he
walked about the graveyard, he was unable to find her .
He picked up pebbles and twigs while he continued to walk, and then when his
legs got tired, he was suddenly struck with an idea . He called out to Depphen who
had been trailing him by a slight distance .
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“You’ve got a good nose don’t you? Wouldn’t it be great if you helped me
search?”
He was only half-joking when he made the request, but after a while he thought
he saw the dog wriggle its nose before turning its body and bolting away into the
darkness . With a start, the boy followed after him .
And tonight Meria was directly beneath that giant tree holding her knees .
It seemed like she was hiding in the shadow of the roots, but she didn’t seem to
notice his arrival . The tree was so big that if men were to hold hands it would take
five men to encircle it . And the exposed roots were just thick enough to hide her
crouching figure . .
He felt calling out to her as she sat there would be the first time he’d ever
initiated their meeting .
Perhaps she’s always been the one looking for me, the boy thought, imagining
that pleasant possibility .
Muoru purposefully made a lot of noise with his shoes as he approached and the
girl, as if shocked, hurriedly concealed her hands behind her crouched knees .
“Yo, what are you doing?”
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Meria’s face was unusually flustered . She was like a child caught in the middle of
trying to hide one of their mistakes .
Muoru looked at Meria’s legs . But not in a perverted way, the girl’s knees were
covered by her coat and she was hiding something behind them with both of her
hands .

…Silence .
With the two of them in those positions, the extremely awkward silence
continued . It was clear that for her they’d met at an inconvenient time . However,
though it was a common story, the thing the girl was desperately concealing only
excited his curiosity . He even wondered to what extent she would hate him if he
forcibly lifted up her legs .
Of course, I couldn’t actually do that to her .
He didn’t know whether or not she’d run out of patience with him as he stood
there, but as if giving up she hung her head and took out the mysterious item
from under her knees .
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Filling up the palms of both her hands was a gloss-less chunk of deep black .
Besides the color it had the imperfect spherical form of a peach and near the top
were what looked like small teeth marks . If it had just been that it would have
looked like nothing more than some kind of bad fruit but…
Muoru seized his chest at once . As if a door was suddenly opened without a
knock, he had a recollection .
Before his eyes he saw someone hit by an explosive, and the unknown man in
military clothing fell backwards .
His head along with his breastbone had been blown off, but underneath Muoru
could see the man’s heart stubbornly beating .
As for the clump in the middle of the girl’s hands, the pulsing of the black fleshy
part beneath the teeth marks looked just the same as that heart . Completely…it
was completely the same .
…Was it like a part of something?
“What is…that?” Muoru asked, shuddering .
However, Meria with her head hung said in a small voice, “I can’t…”
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He understood . Even if that was the only thing she thought to say, he knew what
she meant . Basically, after a week of hearing her use it in response to various
topics, he understood it as her way of saying, “don’t ask me that”
The intention behind the refusal stood in his way like a deep chasm which he was
standing at the edge of . And on the opposing cliff was the girl . But as he tried to
go to her side he realized that no matter how much dirt he threw into the empty
space, the chasm would never be filled .
Meria brought the black fruit back to her lips, moving extremely slowly as if the
boy wasn’t even there . She then began to eat .
Looking at the girl’s plain mouth, Muoru asked, “Is it good?”
He didn’t expect her to respond, but then with the fruit attached to her mouth,
she slowly shook her head .
Even for her, today she was acting strangely . Although you could never give her
the compliment that she always exhibited good social graces, this was the first
time that Muoru felt she was clearly avoiding him .
‘Are you bothered by my being here?’ –, He was thinking about asking, but when
he opened his mouth the only thing that came out was, “Well, let me have one
word . ”
Right . She considered him an annoyance . That he understood .
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…But even though he understood it, to actually have it confirmed made his weak
self feel hopeless .
Leaning his back against the trunk of the tree, the boy was at a loss .
And with the fruit still touching her lips, the girl sadly shook her head from side to
side .
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Chapter 2
There were flies flying about the waterside .
It was something he hadn’t noticed until then . That is, he felt it was the first time
he’d seen insects since he came to the graveyard, which was a little surprising .
Especially since only a bit before his tenure at the graveyard, there hadn’t even
been a day where he didn’t see flies .
“Wherever lots of people gather, flies and merchants will come without fail . ” He
had forgotten the person who’d said that, but certainly a large family in the
middle of an expedition would have flies buzzing all over .
When it came to the military, the excrement from people and horses, the large
amount of thrown away food or scraps, and the corpses created an environment
that didn’t lack in feed for the insects . Incidentally, other than digging trenches,
digging out holes to be filled with that stuff was also one of the moles’
responsibilities .
And refusing to succumb to the lively flies buzzing loudly about, the military
camps were also visited by village merchants who had purchased permits from
the upper ranks .
The man sent from the merchant’s guild had a horse-cart fully-loaded with luxury
indulgences, like tobacco, alcohol, chocolate bars, newspapers, playing cards,
bulletproofing charms, sunglasses, and changes of undergarments, all of which
the soldiers would distribute around wherever they made camp .
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The days that were particularly hectic were immediately after paydays or on days
when the merchants came with sexy photos of famous actresses . Both caused a
flood of rough, uncultured guys to break out into scuffles, so the MPs1
were
dispatched to prevent the fist fights and force people into lines .
One thing that was interesting though was the merchandise . Though 100% of the
clients were certainly men, the horse carts also had other products like perfumes
and lipsticks, clearly female products no matter how you thought of it . Depending
on the cart some even sold various clothing accessories .
Naturally, for a long time Muoru had wondered what kind of soldier would buy
and use these products . But one day that mystery was solved when he stumbled
upon one of his superiors after they’d gotten their hands on their pay . With a
smile, his superior had bought some earrings . Then he walked right from the
horse cart straight back to the tents set up at the rear of the camp .
Of course, buying a permit in order to sell merchandise during a military campaign
was not just the right of the merchant’s guild . There was also another tent called
the “Heroine guild”2
, clearly made from a flowery patterned cloth different from
the material the soldiers used .
He didn’t know his superior’s intentions, but Muoru assumed he’d gotten the
merchandise as a way to woo a sweetheart or something .
1
Military Police
2
Brothel
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Be that as it may, that merchant’s horse cart was not coming to this graveyard
and even if it did Muoru was broke . Plus, he couldn’t imagine Meria getting
excited about receiving things like lipstick or perfume as a present .
Well, that may just be a problem with my imagination .
The girl was different from the usual female . Even for Muoru, who had only used
his military allowance to buy envelopes or a little bit of alcohol, understood that
much .
And hearing about his troubles, Crow added, “The heart of a skeleton” .
Just before making that statement, he’d been worrying excessively about his
inability to close the distance between him and Meria, and the seemingly
unoccupied Crow discussed the topic with him absent-mindedly .
The more he thought about it afterwards, the more he thought he’d made a
mistake . The topic at hand was an ideal source of teasing for someone like Crow,
who was the type of human who seemed to jump up with all their energy if they
felt something seemed a bit fun .
“So that’s it… that was what you refused to tell me earlier,” Crow hummed out
without even trying to hide their cruel-looking smile . “Good grief, I wish you had
come to me about this earlier . This mole has become interested in the opposite
sex!”
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Well Crow seems to be in high spirits .
Crow’s misunderstanding wasn’t enough to warrant correction . He was getting
close to Meria precisely because he needed a way to escape, nothing more and
nothing less . However, if he tried to correct Crow’s repeated misunderstanding, it
was clear as day that he would become even more of a target for teasing . Though
he was reluctant, there was nothing he could do but let the misunderstanding
continue in this way .
“Well, other than presents, it is also fundamental to praise her good points . For
example, if it was me who had their hair complimented, I’d be happy . ”
No one was asking about you .
Resisting the desire to retort that way, Muoru instead did a mental simulation .
Meria appeared inside his mind and spoke . Fortunately he had an abundance of
things he could compliment her on . And of course because it was his imagination,
his words didn’t get jumbled up . Yo Meria, your hair is beautiful as ever . Thank
you Muoru . It makes me so happy to hear that .
“…No, that wouldn’t happen . She definitely wouldn’t be happy . ”
Crow directed a look full of sympathy at the boy frowning alone .
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“Yeah, yeah, Meria-chan right? I can’t come here except during the day so I’ve
never met her, but somehow she seems like a rather difficult person . ”
…That really was true . However he just couldn’t say things like, “you’re being
unreasonable, so stop it . ” Maybe he was in fact a good guy, Muoru thought,
somewhat ignorantly .
…somehow it seems like even I’m really giving up .
Then instead of comforting him, Crow said something strange . “Hmm, that makes
sense . In other words, maybe the girl has the heart of a skeleton . ”
“The heart of a skeleton?” Muoru asked back without thinking .
Crow’s eyes suddenly narrowed, and like a hypnotist they spoke in a way that was
completely fascinating .
“Look, try to imagine the interior of a skeleton’s left breast . Flesh and organs
intertwine . And behind the white ribs…”
Crow abruptly closed both of their hands together, as if right before giving a
cheer .
“It’s hollow,” Crow continued .
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Muoru exhaled, as if being lied to .
“What are you talking about?”
“The trouble with your comprehension is not just with your ears . ”
Crow placed a hand to their chest and spoke in a mysteriously serious tone .
“I think even you have experienced this- Haven’t you ever felt your heart jump
when hearing something wonderful or shocking? Right, if I were to guess, those
important words reach far deeper than just your outer consciousness .
…But the girl you’re thinking about, she doesn’t seem to have that kind of feeling .
No matter what you say to her, I think your words may never reach her heart, just
like as if she didn’t have one . ”
Hearing that, Muoru unconsciously bit his lip .
“Ah hey, hey, don’t feel down like that . This is nothing more than my own,
arbitrary guess . It might simply be that she has bad social skills right?”
“…If that’s true, then great . But really, I get the feeling that it’s useless no matter
what . ”
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Laughing at the boy’s timidity, Crow said, “Well, let’s confirm whether the girl has
a heart or not . ”
“Huh?”
The girl is a human so physically she definitely has a heart . Meaning this “heart of
a skeleton” should have just been an analogy . Yet Crow had just said they should
confirm it…a statement that completely bewildered Muoru .
“Yes, so close your eyes,” Crow said and Muoru unconsciously obeyed .
Then Crow, as if casting some kind of spell, said, “Look, try to imagine the girl’s
left breast . Under her clothes, her undergarments, her skin, her flesh, her bones,
under all of that . Is there really a heart? Shouldn’t we try and confirm? How you
may ask? Well, it’s simple . Touch her directly with the palm of your hand, and if
you feel the beating it’s okay . However, if your fingers were to undo her clothes
and expose the swell of her chest you may love it…”
“…”
Crow grinned and pointed at Muoru’s face .
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“Oh, my Mole-kun . You’ve got a nosebleed . Perhaps you’re imagining something
perverted . ”3
“Fu…Fu… Fuck you idiot! I am not thinking that! I’ll bury you!” Muoru shouted as
he covered up the area beneath his nose with his hand, which only made Crow
laugh .
“Wow, how amusing . This is the first time you’ve responded to me like this, Molekun!”
…It was a complete and utter mistake to discuss this with Crow .
…Well, there was no one else who seemed to be able to discuss Meria with him .
In the end Muoru knew he couldn’t use a present, nor did he think she’d
understand his compliments . That being the case, at least he should worry about
doing something she wouldn’t hate . It was an incredibly timid way of thinking, but
currently Muoru couldn’t make any other decision .
Next to the run down stable, where he slept, there was a reservoir that seemed to
have originally been used to give water to the horses .
3
In Japan there is a pseudo belief that thinking lewd thoughts will cause a nosebleed (this is prevalent in anime) .
Technically the translation is “you have a lewd look on your face”, but that doesn’t mesh with the idea of a
nosebleed, which is why Muoru covers the area under his nose in the next line .
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Waking up earlier than usual, Muoru went there, filled an old cracked bucket with

water and dumped it on his head . In the middle of the uncirculated reservoir
water, mosquito larvae floated about . He didn’t even notice them as he put the
bucket back into the water and repeated the action .
The water was lukewarm, and it had the faint smell of mold, but it had no
problem waking his absentminded face .
“Listen Mole-kun, even at the best of times you’re covered with mud on a regular
basis,” Crow had said earlier while handing over a razor for him to shave with . “At
least when you’re not digging holes you can try to bear in mind good hygiene . No
matter how much you don’t display your true behavior, there won’t be any girl
who’ll like you if you’re unhygienic . ”
It was completely none of Crow’s business . Then again, were there actually
people who cared if moles were covered in dirt? To say nothing of girls… .
Grumbling complaints about the insinuating Crow, Muoru nevertheless shaved his
beard and thoroughly removed the filth from his body .
In the distance the east sky was starting to brighten, but the sun still hadn’t
shown its face . On the other side of the sky, the moon was just barely visible .
Although it was a good idea to put on clothes after drying up, he felt a little lost
not having something to do .
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He still had time before he had to start working . However, after making the effort
to bathe, he couldn’t bring himself to go back to bed . So, he willed his legs to take
him towards the graveyard .
-How’s Meria doing? Suddenly that question floated into his mind . He always
went to bed before her so he didn’t even know what time she left the graveyard .
Was she still guarding the graveyard? Muoru walked with those thoughts on his
mind . But then even if they did run into each other, he had no idea what they
should talk about…
As he traveled from the graveyard to the stable, there was no way he could miss
the side of the mansion on the way . Like usual he passed the side of the black iron
fence, but this time he could hear water coming from about where the small
garden was .
Ordinarily he would have been on the verge of thinking it was someone watering
the plants, but then he recalled that the mansion’s garden was flat and definitely
had no shrubbery at all .
He was sure it was just the running water and pipes at the back of the residence .
So, he light-heartedly went around to the back .
Meria was there .
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She was kneeling at the center of the garden on a nook paved with concrete . To
the side there was a thin pillar with a faucet attached to the tip . A somewhat blue
hose was plugged into the faucet, and her white arm was holding that hose
around the middle and hoisting it over her head . From the tip of that hose water
poured out and washed over her whole body . And her appearance from
behind…was just like when she was born .
Just before dawn, in a world still showing signs of darkness, the girl was washing
her body .
…Isn’t this strange? The boy was confused .
Her hair that was always covered by her hood went down to just above her waist .
And that dripping wet light brown hair clung to her white skin .
Skin that was completely bare, from her hair all the way down to her feet .
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…Strange, it was a contradiction…Why despite that slender figure…why with that
seemingly soft skin…?
“Muoru…?”
Whether or not she’d felt his gaze, he didn’t know, but in that moment Meria
turned to look at him over her shoulder . The completely defenseless girl’s line of
sight and the rigidly still boy’s gaze mingled across the iron fence .
Then the girl tossed away the hose and covered her small chest . The girl lowered
her head, and water dripped down from her narrow chin, hair, the tip of her
elbow, and other places .
“I’m . . I’m sor…”
The next moment, a terrible growl erupted from the thicket and the dog jumped
out . It had jumped out with enough force to rip him to shreds . So without clearly
saying his apology, the boy ran away .
I never figured I’d see Meria bathing there, Muoru thought as he desperately
moved his legs .
Perhaps, I’m just dreaming, just like every night…?
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He wasn’t sure about that, but there was one thing he knew wasn’t a mistake .
Though he hadn’t intended to see her there, now that he had, she would probably
hate him even more .  
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Chapter 3
The graveyard prisoner dug holes .
That was his job–his duty .
The size of the holes were designated and marked by four cuts in the ground . But
for some reason he could only find one of the markers today .
Maybe it was some kind of mistake, he thought, as he looked around the ground
at his feet . Yet he still couldn’t even find another marker .
Being at the edge of the mass graveyard, the gravestones surrounding him
weren’t densely arranged . It was much different than the uniformity of a city’s
housing complex; here the graves were sporadically placed .
What does it mean?
Rapping on the shovel on his shoulder, the boy glared at the ridiculous single
marker . Did Daribedor make a mistake? He placed his foot atop the meaningless
rivet and looked up…
“…”
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At that moment he finally noticed the second rivet cut into the ground, but it was
extremely far from where he was standing . Thinking it was preposterous he went
to check . Strangely, it was placed at the distance where the third or fourth rivet
was usually placed . And if the marker really wasn’t a mistake, then this hole was
double the size of the first hole he’d made to bury that giant headed monster .
Muoru’s spirits fell . How much effort is it going to take for me to finish this one?
Then he grew terrified . …how big is this one that it needs to be buried in a hole
this big?
Not only did he realize the time and effort it would require, he also understood
the answer to his second question . It was only natural, after all . Even though the
monster would have to be smaller than the hole he was going to make, the hole
was still large enough to hold a pile of three tanks or more .
“The monsters have infinite variations of size, but what they share in common is
they are stronger the bigger they are . ” He remembered Crow’s words from before
as he tried to get to work . Was Crow and the people they were with planning to
fight with the thing that was supposed to go in the grave he was digging? If so
they would have to pray for safety since by Crow’s own admission the monsters
were undying .
Sighing, Muoru stabbed his shovel into the ground and lifted out his first scoop of
dirt . With that same action he scooped again, then another scoop, another scoop,
another scoop, scoop, scoop, scoop…
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…and despite how many times he’d repeated that action, by the time the day
grew dark the hole wasn’t even halfway finished .
Even though he’d gotten used to the activity, as one would expect he was tired .
After all the effort he made that morning to wash away the dirt at the reservoir,
he’d completely returned to the filthy state he’d been in before . Even though he
was a prisoner, now he felt like his condition was some kind of punishment . But if
that were the case, what exactly was the punishment for?
That was a false charge . I didn’t really do anything bad . He touched his chest with
his hand and recalled the sight he’d witnessed that morning .
At the same time, he felt a part of himself unintentionally harden .
Although it had been an accident, peeking at Meria as she bathed was certainly
criminal .
He’d wondered all day what was the best way to speak with her if they met .
Without a doubt, the first thing out of his mouth should be an apology . What he
had done was shameful; there were simply no other words to describe it .
With that resolve, he went back to the reservoir and washed up . However, it
seemed like the dirt had already fully permeated into his kneecaps and the tips of
his fingers, and so no matter how much water he poured on his body, he could
never get rid of it . But in order to cool his head, he fervently dumped the water
on his head over and over again like some kind of religious ascetic .
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Soon after, he headed off towards the graveyard, and in the distance he could see
the familiar orange lamplight floating in the dark of the night . It approached him
with the same languid speed it always had .
Good, maybe she’s not that mad .
If she was angry she wouldn’t try to meet him . That simple line of logic reassured
him .
“Meri…” but as he tried to speak she halted, still quite far away . Still feeling guilty,
Muoru made no move to draw closer .
“…”
“…”
An uncomfortable silence fell upon them . It’s no good if I can’t properly
apologize . Muoru tried to open his mouth but before he could say anything Meria
spoke .
“For a little while, don’t come out at night . ”
The inside of his nose popped in pain and Muoru felt like kicking himself for
feeling relieved .
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“I’m sorry . I guess you’re mad after all,” he said hanging his head in shame .
Meria, whose face was wrapped by her hood, shook her head . “I’m not mad . ”
The girl’s behavior seemed to be saying, “You don’t need to apologize,” to the
boy .
“I’m really sorry, it wasn’t on purpose! Occasionally I wake up early and go for a
walk . I heard some water and it caught my interest then…No really, I didn’t intend
to peek at you, yet still I saw you there…”
Muoru’s face was turning red . Halfway through his explanation his words had
devolved into rambling to the point where he didn’t even know what he was
trying to say . It was like he had the demeanor of an elementary school child .
“…please, for heaven’s sake…” Muoru said, but his desperate words didn’t seem
to reach the girl .
“I’m not mad or anything, so please . For a while, just stay in the stable at night . By
no means go outside . Please, I’m begging you… . ”
She grabbed the edge of his cloak so tightly that the color drained from his
fingers . And in that grip she did nothing but plead for him to remain inside, over
and over again .
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So not having a choice, for the days after that Muoru would return to digging the
giant hole during the day . Then at night he would spend his time in the stable, his
mind worrying endlessly as he stared at the crumbling tattered wall to pass the
time .
He had no idea how long the girl had meant by “for a while” but she had only said
not to go out, that didn’t mean she had broken off relations with him .
If what he thought was true then just as the words “for a while” implied, soon the
suspense and anticipation would die down .
…but for two or three days nothing could be done about his body itching with
impatience . Could it really not have been helped? It was unintentional… . That
excuse had once again begun to make its presence felt inside his mind . And the
only way to quiet those thoughts was to hear directly from Meria . That’s right,
even though he didn’t feel like he could properly say what he wanted to her,
there was nothing else he could do .
Then one night he unexpectedly heard the dog’s howls coming from the direction
of the graveyard .
Unable to relax for some reason, Muoru tried leaving the stable .
The completely cloudless, starry sky looked just like usual; as if there had been no
changes in the two days he’d stayed in at night .
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But…why? Why is my skin prickly with goosebumps?
The boy tried gently rubbing his arms . He’d gotten used to the graveyard at night,
so it wasn’t that his day-dreaming was causing both his fear and the goosebumps .
…it is probably just my imagination .
But he couldn’t trust his feelings about the current atmosphere if his mind was
deceived by misapprehension .
Then something happened . If an earthquake, as the name implies, is a
phenomenon where the ground shakes, Muoru thought the area seemed to be
trembling slightly . He would describe the feeling as being the same as watching a
giant tsunami rise over the horizon . Within that wave were a swarm of possibly
countless enemy soldiers, now vigorously rushing towards him, preparing to
attack .
Maybe he was feeling the beginning of a premonition or
something . No . Whatever the feeling was foretelling, it was going to happen soon .
With those feelings he returned to the stable, but he didn’t think it was possible
to wait completely still until the morningMaybe
I should get ready to run or something .
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Right after thinking that, Muoru ran out of the stable and rushed towards the
mansion’s gate . At a glance he thought the night graveyard was nothing more
than ordinary . On the sloping, wide ground the ground was sprinkled not with
humans, but gravestones . The wind made the forest trees howl, and the entire
area was shrouded in darkness .
Muoru ran towards the large tree growing in the direct center of the graveyard .
He wasn’t very skilled at climbing trees, but if he were able to climb it then he’d
probably be able to look out over the entire graveyard .
But when he finally arrived at the root of the tree out of breath… . he saw it .
It was his second experience where his brain was unable to grasp what he was
seeing .
Muoru couldn’t quite single out the previous memory as he stood confronted
with a creature that wasn’t something you saw in the everyday world . The first
experience had been quite recent . It was when that giant-headed monster was
bound hand and foot and buried .
Now .
In front of his eyes now was an extremely gigantic sack of flesh .
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If he forced his eyes to look up he’d see that the distorted, spherical, soft mass of
folded over flesh resembled the head of an octopus…but octopuses didn’t come
this far inland, they should have eyes, and they definitely weren’t bigger than a
two story building .
It was a monster .
Or as Crow said, a devil . Or as the gravekeeper girl said, The Dark . And this one
was even bigger than its companion, the other giant-headed monster he’d buried .
But this was different from that time . This time, it wasn’t bound or anything like
that . This one had moved . The giant fleshy octopus-like head was not supported
by eight legs with suction cups…no its legs were harder, just like a beetle’s, and
they only helped make the monster look bigger .
The tip of each leg abnormally tapered to a sharp point and looked like a claw,
depending on how you looked at it . Of course it wasn’t natural for it to have
things like a rough and bony claw anywhere on its body . And as for the number,
countless legs of varying lengths extended out from the bottom of the sack of
flesh, all wriggling restlessly like the legs of a centipede .
It was extremely bizarre and creepy and he definitely got the feeling it wasn’t a
creature of the natural world .
That creature was facing ahead, where…Meria was .
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Muoru forgot to breathe .
She wasn’t running or trying to escape . Rather, she and the monster were facing
each other .
Even with the hooded cloak wrapped about her, she still appeared to have a
slender body, which in front of that monstrous giant beast looked terribly tiny .
And even from his far distance, Muoru thought he could see the same quiet
expression she always had on her face .
The monster brandished one of its legs like a sickle .
Run, he tried to say, but his voice wouldn’t come out .
But whether he shouted or not made no difference . It was already too late .
The leg wagged side to side like a reptile’s tongue, the end equipped with its
sharp claw .
Then… the girl’s left hand twirled over and over in the air like the tip of a broken
sword, before hitting the earth and rolling on the ground .
There was a feeble, tiny scream .
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And though it wasn’t loud, it couldn’t possibly be that loud; the sound of her voice
still pierced Muoru’s eardrums .
In the next moment four of the creature’s tentacle-like legs, extended and pierced
Meria’s body . Her screams soon disappeared . There was a claw stabbed through
her body, right below the throat she needed to scream . The other scythe-like
claws were stabbing through her right arm, her left thigh, and through her
navel… . each of the four jutting out from her body from their tips to their centers .
Then the monster used those four extended legs to lift her up into the air .
Blood rushed out of the girl’s mouth, and one moment later, as if her body
couldn’t hold it in, a large amount of the red liquid spilled out from the lower half
of her body .
The monster shook the helpless girl in the air and hurled her body to the ground .
As it threw her body, its claw that was pierced through her navel split her open to
her inseam, allowing her abdomen and entrails to spill out from her body like a
long tail . Then she hit the ground, her blood splattering the surroundings as if the
monster had just crushed a fruit full of juice . And on the earth her intestines
painted an arc on the ground .
Meria…
She was still alive .
She was sobbing .
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No matter how muscular or strong a man was, they’d definitely cry after receiving
terrible injuries like those . Of course, it wouldn’t be strange for them to die
before crying, since they were in other words, fatal wounds .
…but despite all that, the girl stood .
At first she was unsteady, resting her hands on her knees . But then she
straightened up and her legs stood firm .
Then the boy saw something that was more unbelievable than even the monster .
The guts that had spilled out of her torn abdomen wriggled like worms and
crawled back inside her body . Then after everything that should have
been hanging outside her body was once again inside her body, the grievous
wound splitting her from her inseam to her back automatically sealed itself up,
stopping the bleeding .
That wasn’t all; her left hand that had been ripped off at the beginning of the
assault rolled across to her body as if pulled by a magnet . It then crawled up her
leg, stomach, chest, and back, before joining with her wrist, restoring her to two
complete arms . It was as if she was a doll and her hand and body were being
stitched back together by some invisible tailor .
Witnessing that unbelievable spectacle made Muoru recall the words Crow had
said to him once . “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…”
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Meria was pierced multiple times, and her body was split apart . And each time
she was injured she would mutter a scream as if giving up…but then her ripped
arms and legs, her scooped out organs, her split apart torso, and her smashed-in
head, would all return back to how they were before . No matter what kind of
injury she received, it couldn’t kill her . However, like someone who took pleasure
in grisly homicide, that giant monster wielded its edged tentacles and continued
its slaughter on Meria for what seemed like forever .  
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Underneath the shining moon and the stars, on a ground that seemed to stretch
on forever, the unnatural monster continued to ravage Meria’s body . It seemed
like the cruelty would never end, but as time went on the monster’s energy
seemed to be gradually weakening…
The reason was simple .
Its moving legs were decreasing .
Underneath the giant’s mass there still seemed to be countless sharp legs
sprouting out, but now more than half were not moving . One by one the legs that
should have been wriggling restlessly, suddenly stopped and never moved again .
But they weren’t stopping randomly . In fact, looking closer it seemed like the legs
that stopped moving were always the ones that touched Meria .
He had no idea why, but as for the facts: the girl approached and whenever the
monster’s legs wounded, cut, or pierced her they would eventually stop moving
and hang loosely as if the nerves inside had been severed . Gradually the
monster’s energy depleted to the point where the remaining legs could not
support its mass . And when the mass of flesh crumbled to the ground, it caused a
tremor that rocked the earth .
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If this were what was normally considered a fight, then it would only be natural
for there to be an overwhelming difference in strength between the monster and
the girl . If the monster had been confronting Muoru, even if they fought a million
times, he’d probably die each time . And truthfully there really was a gigantic
difference in strength between the girl and the monster .
Still, the hideous, fiendish monster was unable to kill the girl who was as thin as a
plant stem; in fact its body was weakening bit by bit . It was like a rock, weathered
down through long months and cycles of endless rain .
Of course, since it was a giant, the speed in which it weakened was terribly slow .
Until finally the last leg stopped moving .
The chunk of folded flesh, larger than any kind of statue, now couldn’t even
struggle with something like an ant . As the extremely violent creature stopped
moving, though it was strange to say, it seemed to look despondent and
discouraged, like a patron at a festival that had just closed .
Covered in blood despite not having a wound on her body, Meria slowly, with the
same slowness she always showed, stepped up to the monster and touched its
flesh with her right hand .
The atmosphere vibrated without a sound . It wasn’t a change he could see with
his eyes, but, it did become quiet . So quiet, it was like the world had stopped .
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The creature didn’t move an inch . Meria crouched to the side of the creature,
limp with fatigue . She took ragged, deep breaths over and over again . And even
though she was still alive after being stabbed, pierced, and ripped apart her pale
profile now looked like a corpse .
“…Muo…ru?” the girl looked up with a face dripping with tears .
The boy didn’t try to hide the sound of his footsteps .
Looking at him, Meria stopped crying . No, it was probably better to say she held
them back .
He didn’t know why she did that . Especially since it would have been much easier
to understand her if she’d sobbed on him like a child .
Should I approach or should I leave?
…The only thing he could think of was getting closer to her .
But before the reason he hadn’t shouted was self-defense .
If he’d shouted, “run” that monster would probably have turned its weapons on
him and killed him the moment after it killed the girl . That’s why he couldn’t
shout – why he didn’t shout . And really, there was nothing wrong with that
hypothesis; it just didn’t include the possibility that Meria would still be alive .
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He painfully regretted what he did, but it was difficult to excuse himself for
running away just to save his own skin . But despite what others may think, he
really didn’t intend to run .
…but, “Meria . ” There was no energy in his voice .
The girl’s expression as she held back the tears was harder than any kind of mask,
and Muoru was unsure whether or not she could take it off .
-Are you okay?
- Are you hurt?
-Tell me, what in the world are you?
Those questions flitted through his head but if he asked them he didn’t think they
would ever get through to Meria .
After defeating that monster, trembling with pain, being scared, being wounded,
and now covered with blood and hanging her head in shame, what could he
possible say that would be good…? He didn’t care who it was, he just wanted
someone to tell him .
“…Want to be my friend?”
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“…What?”
The boy forcefully grabbed Meria’s right hand .
The right hand that had finished off the monster .
“Even though you rejected me the other day, I’ll let that slide,” Muoru said,
pretending to reminisce as he smiled awkwardly . Just like when he’d asked her
before, Meria blinked as if it was amusing or something .
“It’s not really fair to say no a second time after you’ve rejected someone once
already . ”
Like a magician who can captivate the hearts of children by producing a flag from
their palm, Muoru spoke with the same smooth, talkative manner he usually
used . But more importantly, Muoru was bestowed with composure, and if he
continued with that tone and look, even his kindness would ooze out of his
demeanor .
“…Well, am I right?”
There was no change in Meria’s expression . She didn’t say anything, nor did she
even shake her head from side to side . She just stared at the ground .
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Looking at her was like watching the liquid start to spill over the edge of a cup
filled to the brim . And then from her wet eyes a single tear ran down her cheek .
“Are you unable to stand?”
The girl nodded, a tear falling down her face with the movement .
Muoru craned his neck to the side and averted his eyes from Meria’s body as
much as possible . He then let go of her hand and swept his strong arms under her
legs . He placed his right arm behind her knees and his left under her back as he
scooped her up into the air .
“…Wha, what are you doing?” the girl cried out flustered .
“You probably need to wash up . And after that change clothes, and stuff like
that,” Muoru just replied in a direct and flat tone .
Even Muoru knew what carrying her body must have looked like, but he didn’t
think this was the time to worry about it .
Well…she probably wasn’t a princess or something .
Having said clothing, Meria blushed, as if she finally noticed her appearance .
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Even though there were no wounds on her body, her clothes were in tatters . The
black coat she always wore had been ripped to shreds and only bits of it clung to
her body like the fragments of a shell on a chick that just hatched; a state that
could be called “barely clothed” .
The condition of her clothing led to the mystery of what was inside her thick, dark
shade of a robe finally getting solved . It looked like she was wearing nothing but a
thin dress as her undergarment . Nevertheless, the girl in his arms had very little
fabric left to cover her important parts and what did remain was stretched tightly,
exposing her relatively longish legs more than halfway up her thighs . All of which
made it difficult for Muoru to know where to cast his eyes .
If only there weren’t blood stains running down her skin…
Being able to think those foolish thoughts was probably a sign that he’d finally
calmed down from before .
A few minutes after he started to walk, Meria asked with a timid voice, “I’m not
heavy?”
Although her voice seemed to be cracking, it wasn’t frail . Her life didn’t seem to
be in danger, but she probably wasn’t completely safe . Her cheeks looked like
they were suffering from a rush of blood to the head caused by fever, her
breathing was labored, and he could feel her heart was beating terribly fast
through his hands on her back .
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…the girl was certainly not usual . However he didn’t want to be a hindrance and
pry too deeply . So as best as he could, Muoru tried to put her at ease .
“Even if you were three times heavier, I’d still be okay”
Her body was uncomfortably slender, to say nothing of its lack of weight . Or
maybe I have more energy in my arms because I’m nervous .
“…”
Meria looked away and sighed quietly .
Even though she was covered in blood, her profile was still beautiful . Her
expression appeared meek, but he could sense she was certainly thinking
desperately about something .
As he walked, all of his concentration was focused on Meria, as if his field of vision
were sown to her . He looked at her long eyelashes, her eyelids, her white and
scarlet colored cheeks, and her pink lips . And if he were to bend down just a little,
he’d be close enough to touch them .
Instead he listened .
Those lips were muttering something incoherently, barely making a sound .
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And as a deep emotion spread across her face…”Maria,” the girl called out
someone’s name .
Those words weren’t meant for him, he had no doubts about that . And not only
did Muoru have no idea what the name was, but Meria’s mind seemed to be
somewhere else .
The name had sounded similar to other female names、a connection he
pondered in his mind over and over… .
But, then she fell silent .
All the power had left the girl’s body, as if she’d fallen asleep . For a moment he
thought his arms could feel a change in her body, but that thought quickly blew
off into the horizon .
As she wasn’t taxing his muscles, he realized he should walk carefully so he didn’t
shake that much .
As a result, walking to the mansion’s gate must have taken several minutes .
But for Muoru, he felt the time he spent carrying the girl across the long distance
to the gate passed in an instant .
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Then he sat Meria on the ground, her body still paralyzed from exhaustion . The
first time he was dragged here was when the military police had picked up the
receiver, as if it was some great accomplishment . He had wanted to look, but he
couldn’t, so now he didn’t remember how to use it .
Two or three times he heard a tuning sound like on a radio come from the
receiver . It probably only worked by having the other side call…however, there
was no one who came to answer .
“Is right here okay?”
Meria took out a key and pointed towards the side entrance .
“But…” Muoru said perplexed .
“- Mr . Prisoner, you found her . ” A voice said from behind Muoru .
Daribedor looked up at the boy without trying to hide his unusual and unpleasant
expression .
“Since right now there is a demon in the graveyard waiting to be buried, I would
like you to please attend to your vocation for me,” the old man said .
“But she’s injured…”
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“Injured?” The man interrupted, then like an imp bent backwards and released a
roar of laughter into the air . “Where?”
Meria, crouching with her head hung, didn’t have a single injury on her body after
all .
“She…”
“It’s okay if you don’t know . ” The noseless old man grabbed the girl’s arm and
though there was no difference in their sizes, he dragged her beyond the iron
gate . Muoru tried to follow, but the black dog came out and intercepted him .
In the end, he couldn’t even see Meria as she was drawn into the house .
Then, he remembered the “vocation” that the old man had mentioned .
—Burying that monster . Whether he agreed or not, that was the prisoner’s job .  
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Chapter 4
Muoru was in the middle of the dark .
He imagined he was staring at the wooden wall running with rain water . Around
him, he could clearly hear the sound of water dripping as if there was a hole in the
ceiling . Lying down and grabbing one of his knees, Muoru’s thoughts meandered .
…how long has it been since there was livestock in this stable?
Judging by the condition of the walls that had been exposed to the wind and rain,
and the damaged interior, it would seem like it’d been a long time since the
structure had undergone any maintenance .
But despite the condition of the stable, the mansion was likely a new building .
Even though he’d heard the graveyard was on an old plot of land, the mansion
was either a new building or it had been totally reconstructed from scratch .
However, back in the stable the ceiling and the support pillars were rotting and
falling apart, to the point where they were almost unusable . Yet, if he were to
guess from the still usable floor space, he’d say the barn was probably large
enough to house ten riding horses .
It may have been empty now, but that didn’t mean the stable was built for no
purpose . Muoru had no idea how long ago it was, but at one point there were
definitely horses in the stable .
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–Since ancient times humans and horses had lived together .
It was as if the beautiful herbivores had been mistakenly made by the gods solely
for the purpose of being ridden by humans . In the past they excelled as a method
of transportation, they helped with tilling the fields, and during wars they rode
with their owners into the battlefield . The unit of measurement “horsepower”
remained from that era and it was still widely used and recognized .
However, nowadays the value of horses has continued to decrease .
From the advances in science and the subsequent invention of new technology,
horses seemed to have been replaced by vehicles and railways for all the industry
duties they had once been considered useful for . Since humans were always
looking for ways to increase efficiency, horses, which have been mankind’s
companions since before recorded history, have been disappearing from the
limelight .
There was even a car at this graveyard mansion . Muoru had seen the blackened
and seemingly high class vehicle zoom about more than once .
Certainly the removal of the livestock and domesticated animals from the stable
followed the arrival of that car . And now that stable served as the residence of
the gravedigger instead .
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Since the first day he’d stayed and slept there, Muoru had noticed many
remnants from the previous gravediggers . There was a long black strand of hair
whose owner’s sex he couldn’t determine, some strands of brown frizzy hair, an
impression in the straw he slept in, and various, dirty scraps of clothing . They
were all scattered about the stable inconspicuously and at the moment Muoru
could not see them .
He crouched motionlessly in the dark stable, devoid of even a trace of a light
source . And since he couldn’t see, he became acutely aware of the nature

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surrounding the building . If he tried to walk out into the graveyard it would be
just like when he had been blindfolded in the past .
In the middle of that darkness he held out his hand in front of his face . Though he
couldn’t see, by touching something with his fingers he could adequately imagine
whatever was in front of him .
…Already two days had passed and Muoru could still clearly remember the feeling
of touching that monster .
#
Graced with an electric lantern lent to him by the old woman, Muoru took his
shovel and returned to the graveyard .
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Inside the lantern, which resembled an insect cage, was a battery and lighting
equipment composed of a metallic alloy of copper and zinc . And from the mortar
sealed front of the box, the lantern gave off artificial white light at the flick of a
switch . It didn’t need coals or oil to light up the surroundings, making it a valuable
and convenient tool .
If this had been under normal circumstances, Muoru would be delighted to get his
hands on such an apparatus .
But now…
He was in the graveyard in the middle of the night . Beneath him was the trackless
path he and Meria had returned to the mansion on a few days ago . This time
though he walked alone, carrying his shovel as usual and the lantern . The trees
were rustling around him as he neared the rows of graves, all beneath a half
moon that was wrapped in sparse clouds .
The wind blowing against his skin was only lukewarm, but there were still
goosebumps on his arms . Sweat dripped down the entire length of his back, and
he found it difficult to breathe .
Before he had grabbed Meria’s blood-covered hand and they had talked for a
little while…just for a little bit . But even then he felt like he had encroached upon
something that she was trying to hide . When she was leaning against him, it was
the first time Muoru had ever seen her nervous .
But now…
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His fickle feelings once again completely froze him in place .
If it were just a bad dream or something, then it’d be okay… He thought, trying to
console himself…but unfortunately there was no longer a thread of a chance for
him to escape .
Since that monster was so terribly big it had already entered his field of
vision . Instinctively he wanted to look away .
Yet looking away made no difference . Whether he chose to look or not, it was still
there .
A short, yet massive shadow was cast on the slightly sloping graveyard ground .
And it didn’t move an inch . The monster casting the shadow was similar to the
images in picture books, something like a giant ocean monster…though now as a
corpse it seemed like the spectacle of the creature had come to an end .
Muoru’s legs stopped about fifty paces away from the monster .
What am I doing? I shouldn’t have to approach that . I should be running away
from it .
“Mankind’s natural enemy . ” The meaning of the phrase was becoming more and
more clear to him .
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Since before written history, over many thousands of years, mankind had lived in
fear of those things, of them . It was true that for several hundred years humans
had prospered a bit and were no longer consciously aware of those monsters, but
deep down in their bones the memory and the fear of them persisted .
Both Muoru and the horse-faced MP, who had escorted him, both felt it when
they first arrived here . Without saying anything, they both could feel the
ominousness in the air . At the time, Muoru had thought it was a result of the
image of a dark place the word “graveyard” conveyed .
But the reality was completely different .
Probably the moment he arrived at the graveyard his body understood the
truth . In fact whatever the feeling was, it was able to grasp this truth better than
even his standard five senses could .
And now, he knew that monsters which could kill him easily were sleeping under
the very ground he was standing on .
Shit, this is no joke .
The boy finally became aware of the impossibility of the task before him .
From now on I…
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Now he had to bury that thing .
But first he had to move it to the hole it had taken him forever to dig . And in
order to push it along the ground, he’d have to get closer and touch it .
His body and heart froze just thinking about it .
There is no way I could do that…huh, what’s that smell?
Suddenly, he could smell the stench of something like rotting fish . Muoru, who
had been devoting all his attention to the monster, looked away, as if he were
running away, to search for the source .
What in the world, why have I not noticed it until now?
He looked at his feet illuminated by the lantern light .
The surrounding soil…was stained and soaked with a red liquid .
His mind couldn’t think of anything else, it had to be the blood that was spilled
from Meria’s body .
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He clamped down his mouth, closed his eyes, and then made his legs carry him
forward towards the monster .
Muoru didn’t know whether it was “The dark” or just a devil .
Now that fallen, gigantic monster was dead…no, he didn’t know if it was alive or
not . But regardless if the expression “its existence was undying” was appropriate,
for the time-being the giant mass of flesh was completely motionless .
If it really can’t move, then no matter how often they were called “mankind’s
natural enemy” it shouldn’t be able to harm me, right?
Relying on that fact, Muoru endured the pain in his chest and continued his
approach .
He walked with a shaky gait, as if he were crossing a suspension bridge where the
rope had been severed .
His closed eyelids had plunged his vision into complete darkness, but despite that,
he advanced bit by bit .
Something small hit his cheek .
Muoru in a laughably, comical display of surprise opened his eyes .
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As he did, he found himself now standing face to face with the monster .
“…uh . ”
Without twisting away from IT, he wiped his cheek with the back of his right hand .
Not only did sweat seep into his mud covered glove, but also a drop of coolness .
It seemed like before he knew it, the clouds had rolled in and darkened the sky .
Which meant what was now on his cheek was probably the first drop of the rain .
Even as he craned his head backwards to look up at the night sky, the monster’s
body never left his field of vision . The soft and flabby sack of flesh was easily more
than twice Muoru’s tall height . And it had a trunk much wider than him with
countless clawed legs . But while it had those things, the eyes and mouth that
were expected of creatures were nowhere in sight . And within the giant sack of
flesh, whose ugliness reminded him of boneless creatures like leeches and
octopuses, he was unsure if there was something actually stuffed inside .
He was close enough that he could touch the monster . And just looking at it for a
moment was rewriting his beliefs that such a creature couldn’t exist . There
seemed to be no limit to the swell of unpleasant feelings he had, and as if
triggered by his emotions, a blood vessel in his forehand throbbed, inducing a
sharp pain in his skull .
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At his feet the monster’s legs were spread like a spider web . All of its countless
legs were longer and thicker than a giant serpent which could strangle a bear to
death . On top of that, springing from the tip of each of the legs was a claw like an
executioner’s sickle, all of which looked sharper than any blade he’d ever seen .
And on those sickles he could see Meria’s blood clinging in thick globs .
It was too late to stop himself from thinking about that now . A little while ago a
countless number of the monster’s claws had been ripping through her body,
each more than enough to kill her . And each one of those blows that had
mutilated Meria’s body was seared into Muoru’s pupils .
But now he had to touch and move that monstrous creature .
Even though he had drawn this close, it was still a ridiculous idea .
In fact, the idea was driving him crazy .
The blood on its claws was the same blood that clung to Meria’s hand when he
had grabbed it
-Whatever secret the girl had, he didn’t know .
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Yet, even if he asked her, she most likely wouldn’t tell him . And if she did, it would
probably be something that he couldn’t understand .
One thing was certain though . Meria, a single girl, had opposed that monster .
With those thin limbs, and that small body…
Muoru didn’t quite know what to call the force that compelled his body into
motion . Willpower? Backbone? Regardless, he placed his hands on the monster’s
core and pushed with all his strength .
What he felt through his gloves was not warmth or coolness, nor was it softness
or hardness . Rather, it was the completely weird sensation of thrusting a hand
into the innards of a corpse .
Shaking violently, the sack of flesh tilted .
From the vibration, Muoru thought the monster had woken up .
Looking at his hands, he thought he could see the thin gloves eroding all the way
to his flesh .
But there was no erosion, just a problem with his mind .
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Resist, he thought . Resist, resist, resist, resist… .
He was surprised by a burning sensation in his eyes . His vision was blurring and
something hot ran down his cheek .
Muoru wasn’t sure when it had started, but his eyes were tearing up .
“Aaaagh!!” the boy screamed in irritation . However, instead of giving up he
borrowed from his despair and once again pushed against the giant monster .
As Muoru mustered as much strength as he could, the grotesque body started to
advance forward, the sound of the movement as loud as a landslide . Muoru put
everything he had into his arms, even digging his toes into the earth to brace
himself, but in the end he was only able to move the monster a little bit .
Throwing his shoulder down and pitching forward, the boy continued to push .
-All while the thick landslide sound continued .
-All while he continued to endure the unpleasant feelings spilling out of his body .
-All while his shouts, sounding like someone was vomiting, echoed through the
graveyard .
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But Muoru was the only person there to hear his shouting . And as he continued to
push against the grotesque body, gradually the rain striking his back increased in
intensity .
#
While he listened to the sound of the rain leaking through the stable — No, while
he crouched beneath the still secure and non-leaking roof, Muoru stared into the
darkness .
It rained non-stop for two days .
When it was just a passing shower, the rain didn’t hinder his work . Since it was
summer, when the temperature lowered it was actually easier to pass the
time . But he couldn’t walk through the graveyard at night . With the clouds hiding
both the moon and the stars, he couldn’t even see what was right in front of his
nose .
However, when he didn’t go outside his face wore a different, pleasant
expression . He figured there was a lot to think about…and that he needed time to
collect his thoughts .
With the changing of the times the horses had disappeared from the stable . Yet,
even after departing they still left traces . And so thinking about the possible other
gravediggers that had lived in the stable before him, Muoru wondered, where in
the world did they go?
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Once Crow had said to him, “No matter how many people are employed to dig
holes, since they are unable to tolerate the existence of the demons, they will soon
become useless . ” At the time he’d ignored the words, but now Muoru felt he had
firsthand evidence that Crow’s words were true .
Suddenly there was a knock on the stable door .
It was a small sound, but definitely not something that occurred naturally . In fact,
being so accustomed to the quiet sound of the rain leaking, the tiny knock was
enough to startle him .
“Muoru . ”
But after two days, the moment he heard that voice his shock turned into relief .
There was only one person in this whole graveyard who called his name like that .
The door opened quietly and Meria entered, leading with her lamp . The device’s
weak light dyed the room orange . She remained silent the whole way from the
door and even when she eventually sat down .
Since the ceiling was rotting and riddled with holes, in order to avoid getting
soaked by the leaking drops of water, the two of them had to sit so close that
their knees were touching .
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Her face was mostly concealed by her hood, but she didn’t even try to meet his
gaze . She probably came here without an umbrella, Muoru thought as he looked
at her dripping wet bangs and slightly damp cloak .
Like usual, Muoru was too nervous to really speak . There were endless questions
he wanted to ask: Was her body okay? Did she forgive him for the peeping
incident? Who exactly was “Meria” and what in the world was a gravekeeper?
But, he was unable to put any of them into words . In fact, he never thought Meria
would visit the stable in the first place . There was no reason to think she’d
forgotten what happened, but as he took another look at her from a much closer
distance…
“Is something wrong Meria?” the boy asked, his thoughts running wildly .
Meria withdrew her left hand that she was hiding in her cloak . She was holding a
very large apple .
Speechless, Muoru just sat there as the girl seemed to squeeze the fruit before
eventually handing it over .
“I can have it?” he asked suddenly, just like when he’d borrowed the first aid kit
before .
But this time Meria didn’t nod or do anything . The only thing she did was
continue to hang her head and hide her face .
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Thinking it couldn’t be helped, Muoru looked down to the fruit in his hand . It was
large and magnificently ripe, and its weight seemed to suggest it was full of juices .
Personally, he liked all fruits except pineapples so technically this apple was the
first treat he’d received since he’d arrived at the graveyard . Honestly speaking, it
had been a while since he’d even had an apple that hadn’t been touched by
worms .
“Ah…” The girl opened her mouth at last and Muoru looked up .
“I will be your friend,” she said, shutting her eyes as her face turned redder than
the apple he was holding .
Muoru again looked away as if someone had struck his cheek .
Somehow looking at her directly embarrassed him more than watching her bathe .
Though the words were different, the feeling behind them was like she’d
just confessed her feelings for him .
…Was it really similar?
Unable to bear the embarrassment any longer, Muoru asked, “Um, Meria?” The
words sounded like a protest and the girl instantly sat up straight .
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I should speak as gently as possible .
Although he was troubled by the situation and the effort he wasn’t accustomed
to, he continued . “I don’t know why I have to think this is so embarrassing . But
being friends is not that big of a deal so it’d be okay if you just say “yeah or sure” .
Those words should be okay don’t you think?”
Meria slowly opened her eyes with the same slowness as the moon rising into the
sky . Quietly he watched her long eyelashes flutter .
The girl’s blue eyes slowly looked to his .
Muoru found himself looking away from her more and more . He was again feeling
the impulse to touch her hand…and he desperately thought he needed to kill that
feeling .
Still looking at Muoru, Meria eventually nodded once . “Sure” .
Muoru lifted his face .
Then as if suddenly switching from offense to defense, she quickly started to
hesitate .
“Sor… sorry . I came suddenly . ”
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“It’s okay, I wasn’t sleeping,” he said, but she didn’t seem to be really listening .
“But, it was just that . No matter what, I wanted to tell you that . ” The moment she
stopped speaking, Meria jumped to her feet with a rare display of agility and a
face once again turning red .
Looking at her back as she started to cross the stable, Muoru said, “Thanks… . for
the apple . ”
Meria nodded once . “Sure”
With her hand now on the doorknob, Muoru asked another question to her
turned back, “You said don’t come out for a while, but is it alright now?”
Meria nodded once and the boy forced a smile .
Then she was gone .
Alone again, Muoru chewed on the apple in the dark . The fruit was juicy, sweet,
and it smelled good .  
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Chapter 5-1
Muoru definitely felt he was in “midsummer” as he looked upon the graveyard
flooded with the glaring noon light .
The ground had darkened as if it had forgotten all the rain that had fallen up till
yesterday . And due to the sun burning the growing vegetation and moss, a
choking smell of greenery hung in the air .
Muoru placed down his shovel and walked to the graveyard empty-handed .
It wasn’t that he was skimping on his job; he’d followed his instructions and in
fact he’d only stopped digging a little while ago . He wasn’t trying to prolong his
work either, but if a person didn’t take occasional breaks in this heat, they’d be in
danger of heat stroke . Generally speaking, if it was one of his mole companions, in
this type of weather they’d faint without any hope of being discovered . And in the
worst cases there was even the possibility they could die of dehydration .
Well, there may be a dog, but basically I’m the only human here .
Even so, if he took a break he didn’t know whether it was better to go back to the
stable for a bit or simply lie sprawled out under the shade of a tree, looking idly at
something . For the moment however, his feet were taking him towards the place
he’d buried that monster several days ago .
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Naturally he didn’t feel like going there, but despite the fix he was in as a result of
the work he was made to do as a punishment for the false charge, he felt
compelled to check on the status of his work .
That level of rain shouldn’t have washed away the soil after I’d packed the ground
so firmly .
When he arrived at the grave, Muoru saw something that hadn’t been there
when he’d been digging several days ago .
It was a gravestone…
Someone must have set it up when the rain let up .
…that’s right . Since they weren’t just dumping a simple corpse into a hole, a
gravestone was necessary . But though at the time he’d been desperately pouring
all of his energy into burying that gargantuan monster, he hadn’t even given that
idea a single thought .
Maybe Daribedor arranged for someone else to set it up .
He drew closer and examined the stone . The slab came up to his hips with corners
that had been shaved down to make rounded edges . The material also had the
cheap quality like some kind of grey andesite . On its face was an epitaph, but
there were only various numbers carved into the stone, no name .
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This wasn’t made by a very good stonemason, Muoru thought as he traced his
finger across the top carved seal . My father was definitely more skilled than this .
However, just like how he could barely remember the sound of his father’s voice,
the last time he’d seen his father’s work had been ages ago . If he were being
honest with himself, he felt the memory had faded away to the point where he
could not fairly compare it with the stone in front of him .
In addition to the current year, there was also what looked like a number
denoting measurement on the stone face for some reason . It seemed to indicate
the size of the monster buried beneath his feet .
To be sure, if something went horribly wrong and the monster was dug up, it
definitely wouldn’t be a laughing matter .
Muoru again stared closely at the epitaph . The following narrow and long
sentence seemed to describe the monster in detail .
“Huh? Mole-kun, you can read?”
“…so, where in the hell do you spring up from?” Muoru said, his face lacking
either amazement or resignation as he reoriented himself to face Crow, who had
yet again managed to sneak up on him .
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They were wearing their usual outfit with the familiar black bobbed hair, the
yellow cape, the checkered necktie and matching shorts, along with the tough
army boots . At a brisk pace Crow crossed over to Muoru, hopped into the air and
sat atop the new monster’s grave .
“It’s simple . I swoop down from the heavens . I am just a bird after all . ”
The boy sighed; Crow didn’t even have wings on their back .
Muoru then lightly shook his head and in an unusual action from himself, sat
cross-legged on the ground .
“Hm, what’s wrong? It’s not good if you don’t drink enough water . You’ll get heat
stroke . ”
“No, my head’s just tired… I’m using parts of it I usually don’t use after all . ”
He rarely went to school and he couldn’t read without bumbling like an infant; the
same was true for his writing . However, just knowing some specialized words,
understanding numbers, and being able to sign their name onto a pay slip receipt
or attendance sheet was enough for a soldier tasked with doing manual labor to
be able to function properly . Reading books or maps and thinking about things
like tactics were not his responsibilities .
“Yeah, amazing, amazing…” Crow said while clapping, though their applause
lacked any energy .
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Feeling like he was being made fun of, Muoru glared at Crow . But then Crow
looked to the heavens and said, “I can’t read or write at all . ”
Muoru didn’t know what to say . He was a bit surprised to hear Crow say that .
He’d heard that long ago paper was something with an extremely high value .
Unless one was a scholar, nobleman, bureaucrat clergyman, or something of that
level, things like bound books were an impossibility and something that person
simply wasn’t fated to use .
And even now there certainly were children who were never exposed to
information due to their area not having a school . In poor farming villages
children were still quite precious for hard labor and so it was preferable for many
of them to engage in more practical endeavors, rather than reading and writing .
…but .
He found it impossible that Crow couldn’t read after they had explained in
torturous detail how the existence of those monsters had somehow affected
entire civilizations .
“Pah…”
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“Ah, you’re already making fun of me!” Crow replied, as if suffering from
indigestion . They looked angry, with their cheeks puffed out . “But it’s okay . Even
birds have many friends . And I have real smart friends too . If I ever needed help,
I’d simply have one of them read it for me . ”
That was Crow’s character, thinking they knew tons of people .
“Don’t sulk…it’s bad, and a bit unlike you,” Muoru said .
“Well…right back at you . I mean, don’t you think it’s surprising that you can read
better than me? I don’t think that’s fair . So, why?”
“Why…that’s a good question . My family was definitely poor so I wasn’t really
able to go to school . And even though I never asked, it felt like my brother wanted
to teach me . If I think back on those memories, I guess my brother could only
somewhat read and write . ”
“Wow, it sounds nice to have a great older brother…is he well?” Crow asked
cheerfully .
“Well, I’m not sure how he is . I think he’s still alive but it’s already been over four
years since we’ve last seen each other,” Muoru said with a shrug .
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His eldest brother should be at their father’s home, training to follow in his
footsteps . Even with the passing of the times, and with the amount of
stonemason work fading along with the influence of the temples, he was probably
still working in some fashion .
His second eldest brother had entered the military before he did . Since they
belonged to the same company Muoru thought perhaps they’d cross paths, but
unfortunately his brother seemed to have been garrisoned far away and so they
never saw each other .
And now I’ve become this… I’ll probably never see either of them again for the rest
of my life .
“That is… . lonely huh?” Crow asked, awfully sympathetic .
“Well, that may be so . But we’re all adults now . And no matter how good or most
likely bad our relationship is, my brothers would never put themselves into the
same kind of ditch as me . ”
“…But…it’s not good that your family was pulled apart . ” Though Muoru had
already resigned himself to that reality, Crow’s statement still bothered him .
“If you feel like that then you shouldn’t become an adult . Being unable to see
your family even if you want to would probably be sad for you huh?”
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“About that, well… in the end everyone eventually has to say goodbye someday .
But, won’t you won’t be able to see them again if you die?”
“Well, that’s right… . I guess . ” Even if Muoru understood in his mind, his emotions
didn’t try to agree .
Looking at the dark expression on Crow’s face as they sat with their legs dangling
and their eyes pointed to the ground, Muoru could clearly see Crow’s irrational
inner thoughts pushing to the surface .
He had an unusual feeling as he looked at Crow . For Muoru, Crow was more of a
mystery than Meria, which meant he couldn’t trust them . And even though Crow
spoke to him in a friendly manner, it was probably because they were hiding
something . He felt that way even now .
“By the way, you said that you had a lot of friends outside this place,” Muoru
asked suddenly, causing Crow to look up with a start, not even a single bead of
sweat on their face .
Even in this damn heat, Crow is completely unaffected . I’m jealous .
“Um, well about that . ” Crow was a mysterious unknown . Everything Crow said
was suspicious to the point where Muoru had no idea if it was okay to believe
them .
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However when Crow had said, “It’s not good that your family was pulled apart,”
Muoru got the strong impression that those words were actually Crow’s true
feelings . And it was a plus that the words weren’t bad . Nevertheless, just because
for a moment Crow had spoken the truth, it didn’t mean Muoru could trust
everything else Crow said .
But one thing Muoru thought was that if something was available, then it should
be used .
So looking at Crow, he said, “If it’s possible, I’ve got a favor I’d like to ask…”
#
That night when the rain lifted, it was the first truly clear night in a long time
where it was possible to see stars covering the entire sky .
Muoru had been taking a short nap in the early evening, stretched out on his
straw bed . He was facing up towards the holes in the dilapidated stable’s ceiling,
looking through them at the night sky .
It was a good night, he thought .
Even the temperature had fallen to cool levels . Plus, with the current amount of
starlight, he’d certainly have no trouble seeing where he was going outside .
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And probably even tonight Meria was alone in the graveyard .
Muoru couldn’t really think of a reason why he didn’t go and see her . She even
said it was okay for him to come .
… . but something was keeping him from taking action .
He was always tense . The girl was an important foothold for his escape plans, yet
not knowing the best way to talk with her, he was nervous about the possibility
that she hated him . But though he lacked the experience of talking fluently and
was not very skilled at it, he couldn’t fail . And so, he was tense . He was always
tense .
He also felt like there was a giant hook caught in his chest, locking his legs still .
“What do you want to do Muoru and what is the best way to do that?”
Whenever he felt like he had reached his limits, Muoru would always simplify the
situation by using that phrase to collect his thoughts . Only focusing on trivial
matters to the point where he missed more important things was the pinnacle of
stupidity .
However, right now he felt like he was swaying from his own warning . He was also
starting to question his own behavior…and that doubt was becoming the hook in
his chest .
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I should be sure .
Getting close to Meria was not the “more important thing” he was supposed to
be focusing on . It may have been a method for his escape, but it was certainly not
his goal .
Muoru slapped his cheeks with both hands .
It may not get rid of the hook, but as long as there are no misunderstandings it
should be alright .
“Alright, let’s go,” he purposefully said out loud as he stood, opened the door
with its creaking hinge and went outside . At the corner of his vision he could see
the dog’s body sluggishly rise up, then follow behind him without its feet making a
sound .
Once Muoru decided to go, his legs and feelings felt lighter, as if his worries from
a little while ago had in a moment gone quiet . He forced a smile .
This is definitely strange if I say so myself .
He hadn’t even walked that far when the dark bushes near the stable rustled . But
there was no wind .
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Muoru jumped in surprise, as if an enemy were about to ambush him .
Then it started to come out .
Cautious and ready to bolt into a run at any moment, Muoru stared in the
direction of the sound . A black robed figure was peeking at him from the shadow
of a tree, like a ghost .
“Meria?”
“Oh . ” As the figure emitted what sounded like a small scream, it suddenly hid
back behind the trunk of the tree .
Even with just a glance of her profile, when coupled with that voice there was no
mistake that Meria was the person in the shadows . But he had no idea why she
was hiding in the first place .
A strange silence fell upon the area .
“Umm…”
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Unable to decide what the right move in this situation was, Muoru stood still . He
had planned to head towards the graveyard, but he didn’t need a person to guide
him there . Granted, her being here definitely helped him out by cutting down on
the time he would need to search for her, but something told him she was here
for a different reason .
Hidden in the shadow of the tree, the girl kept on peeking out from the darkness,
as if observing his movements . Muoru got the feeling that she really wanted to
call out to him, but for some reason she couldn’t .
She was acting like some kind of small animal, timidly hesitating as it looked upon
something unknown that had captured its attention . Muoru even felt that if he
clumsily reached out to her, like an animal, she would scurry away in a dash .
Or perhaps could it be that…
Neither one of them could approach the other or call out . They were only ten
steps apart, but despite their eyes locking onto one another they were both
unable to communicate their true intentions… . Muoru wondered just how long
they stood like that .
Then before long, Meria finally stepped out from behind the tree, as if she had
been beaten in some sort of competition .
“I just happened to be passing by,” she said, though not to Muoru, it was more so
directed at her toes .
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Muoru remained silent . He couldn’t think of anything to say in response . It was
way too clear that she had tried to make a joke to mask her behavior . But it was
so hard to imagine Meria telling a joke that Muoru didn’t know whether it was
okay to laugh or if it would be better to say something funny back .
But as Muoru silently stood indecisively, the girl continued, “I’m sorry… that was a
lie . ” Her hood was hanging low over her face, concealing her features and
muffling her voice .
You didn’t just happen to pass by .
However, he couldn’t bring himself to ask, So then, why? Even without asking
though, he had some hypotheses of his own .
He thought back to the times they had crossed paths before . Even two nights ago
when Meria had visited the stable she had a clear purpose for coming . But looking
at her demeanor today, she didn’t seem to have any specific reason for being at
the stable .
So, basically… .
…did she come just to see me?
Or in other words, did she want to spend time with me?
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“Ah, um, hey,” Muoru said, his voice suddenly going high-pitched, making the
dog’s ears twitch . Even he thought the sound was unexpectedly loud, which
perhaps explained why Meria retreated back a step, as if his voice was repelling
her .
“The apple,” he hurriedly continued, in an attempt to stop her from running off .
“It was delicious . ”
Looking away from Muoru’s gaze, Meria nodded . “Yeah . ” 
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Chapter 5-2
“The strange guy often comes around noon . ”
They were free to sit anywhere they wanted in the sprawling, vast graveyard
grounds, but probably due to human nature Muoru found himself sitting next to a
tree .
Underneath the starry sky that seemed to stretch on forever, he and Meria sat
side by side on the root of an elm tree .
“A strange guy?” Meria craned her neck at Muoru’s words .
“Ah, what’s a good way to describe them? I mean, I don’t even know if they’re a
boy or girl . Oh and by the way, Meria, do you know anything about the monster
hunters wearing masks?”
Other than the time Crow had talked to him, there had been several times up till
now where he’d been rounded up by the group of masked people for a burial . But

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other than giving him simple instructions they never talked to him . And what’s
more, those times didn’t even seem like the atmosphere for conversation .
Certainly people like Crow were an exception among exceptions .
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“Um…” Meria scrunched up her face, as if painstakingly scrutinizing Muoru’s
question .
“I know a bit about them, but it’s difficult to say . I’ve been told that they come
and go in order to mark The Dark, but they never show their faces or speak . At
least not to me… . ”
–If they don’t talk to you and they don’t talk to me either then…
“Well, who?”
Silence answered Muoru’s question and Meria, with a troubled expression,
turned away .
This is what always happens, Muoru thought as feeling of both dejection and
discouragement spread through him . In times like these, no matter what he tried
to ask, it was useless . She had completely shut down and he couldn’t force her to
respond . And it would be a terrible waste to sour their relationship by pressing
the topic of Crow, despite all the effort it took to just get their relationship to this
point .
I’d have to repeat everything…
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The night was significant because it was the time he could attempt to get useful
information out of Meria . But though she was a skilled listener, she didn’t really
try to say anything herself . Up until now he’d been painstakingly talking about
himself and the outside world as bait, even though he was unsure whether or not
he could really maintain the conversation . But after one month of talking about
himself, it was only natural that he was running out of material . So, tonight he’d
tried changing it up a bit and talking about Crow- yet it didn’t matter, the result
was the same as always .
Unsure what to say next, Meria suddenly looked up and said, “Forgive me . ”
“Huh?” Muoru asked, bewildered by the unexpected apology .
“Muoru, you always work all day long . However, even though you must be tired
you still come out to see me at night… . ”
“…”
“But, after all that I never know what I should say…”
“Why is that?” Muoru asked back in a somewhat challenging manner . Meria’s way
of speaking was slightly irritating him . ”Why can’t you talk?”
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The fact that she cared at all about him being tired and whatnot was annoying .
After all, he wasn’t doing anything more than the same kind of monotonous work
he was accustomed to . With that kind of work all he needed was physical
strength . Even more so, the fact that she was worrying about him angered him
much more .
After hearing Muoru’s slightly harsh words, Meria looked like she was about to
cry . “But,” she started, “I feel…”
“Huh?”
“I feel you hate me . ” She looked away immediately, waiting for his judgment .
The question was so shocking that Muoru’s mind fell into a state of halfsuspension .
He felt like he’d heard a similar story somewhere before . Granted,
the two stories didn’t exactly mirror one another, but it did seem like they came
from the same tree . No, it wasn’t just a story he’d heard before, but it was
something he was guilty of as well .
But even though Muoru had always been uneasy about whether she hated him,
he never imagined that the girl was thinking the opposite .
“Oh, I feel the same way . ” The words seemed to pour out of his mouth without
his consent, possibly due to the unknown emotions stirring inside him .
“What?”
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“If one of us is doing the hating, then it is definitely you who hates me . Me
however…”
Meria’s blue eyes opened wide and as she strangely cocked her head deeply to
the side, she asked, “Why? What did I possibly do to make you feel that way?”
“Uh…” the boy hesitated . He thought he shouldn’t speak; however, at the same
time he felt that staying quiet only made the situation more awkward .
In attempt to escape from Meria’s gaze he looked away and continued . “No, what
I meant was…I saw you bathing . ”
Meria’s skin was more transparently white than any person he had ever seen in
his life . But in an instant everything from her ears to the back of her neck turned
scarlet .
“Th… . that…” and each time she tried to say something she only became even
more red .
Eventually, she covered her face and fell silent before she was able to say
anything intelligible .
Muoru bit his lip hard .
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He was starting to hate himself . And for some reason he was starting to feel
ashamed of his actions . When it came to digging his own grave, the work he did
during the day was plenty .
But…
“But…” he said, forcing himself to shake off the feeling of self-loathing rising in his
chest .
It may have been mostly out of desperation, but as he’d told himself when he left
the stable, his primary reason for talking to Meria was to get information out of
her .
Though he thought it had mostly faded away, he still felt a bit angry . Perhaps it
was because Meria seemed to be falsely accusing him . So, borrowing from the
embers of that anger, Muoru continued .
“I know it’s just an excuse, but at the time I really didn’t do it on purpose . Besides,
it’s a bit your fault too . The mansion probably has its own showers . So, why then
did you have to wash up outside?”
Meria blinked . “But, I’m not allowed inside the house . ” Even though what she said
was so unexpected, she maintained a flat tone .
“What?” Muoru asked . “Well, where do you sleep?”
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For a moment Meria looked like she was thinking about what to say, but then she
pointed to the ground .
After thinking about it for a moment, Muoru asked, “In a basement?”
Meria nodded .
“That’s um…” the boy hesitated .
How in the world was he supposed to interpret that? It sounded strange to him .
And even though it might have been just his impression, he felt that a person
living underground was not common . Generally, people with good social status
didn’t sleep beneath the ground .
Really, no one slept underground, besides maybe soldiers on the battlefield who
slept in trenches at the front lines after an enemy explosion went off .
However, Muoru had his doubts about what she’d said . If he collected all the bits
of information he’d gotten about the mansion, it didn’t seem like the basement
was directly connected with the building . And more specifically, that would mean
she didn’t have the right to come and go into the building as she pleased . If so,
wouldn’t that make her just like a prisoner?
“I’m not angry,” Meria said . ”I even said so the other day . You haven’t done
anything particularly cruel or painful to me, Muoru . ”
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Tossing around his thoughts concerning the basement, Muoru snapped to
attention and listened carefully to her words . As she looked at him with the hem
of her dark blue robe tightly gripped in her hands, her cheeks once again flushed .
“But, but…that…was embarrassing, but…”
“I’m sorry . ” He had to apologize . Even if he hadn’t intended any of it, he still felt
that looking was mean . “Lo…look, that’s that . But they say that forgiving one
another is important . If people don’t call a ceasefire then the war will never
end…so since we’re the same in this matter, what do you say we call a truce?
As soon as he was finished, he felt like he’d committed another mistake . I
shouldn’t have said that .
Not only did it seem to suggest that they should stop the conversation already,
and that it’d be okay if Meria didn’t talk anymore, but at its core it also seemed to
suggest that she should stay away from him .
But for some reason Meria didn’t simply nod in agreement to his proposal .
Why?
There was some kind of confusion between the two of them . He clearly
understood that she wasn’t angry about him bringing up the peeping incident
again, but her silence now didn’t make him very optimistic .
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Yet why did it look like Meria was worrying so hard over this? Most likely she was
hesitating about something, even though just the other day she’d seized the
courage to say to him, “I’ll be your friend . ”
Before she’d expressed her concern that she didn’t know what a friend was . She
probably still wasn’t sure . But about that…
“Ah . ” Muoru suddenly remembered what he’d said to her the first time she’d
worriedly declined his offer .
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 . In reality, Muoru didn’t really know what he was talking
about . He’d just given her an answer on the spur of the moment .
-That night, it felt like so long ago .
Since then Meria had heard a lot of his stories; he often rambled in a disorderly
way, but he did indeed talk a lot about himself . In fact, in many ways he felt Meria
knew the person “Muoru Reed” better than anyone else .
But when it came to her, he found it difficult to say he knew anything at all about
her .
And about that, doesn’t she feel the same way? Doesn’t Meria want me to know
more about her?
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He was being self-centered, and maybe his thinking suggested an inflated ego . But
at the same time he didn’t feel the thoughts came from his conceitedness . In fact,
he felt like Meria’s feelings were being directed at him . And if that were true,
wouldn’t that mean that Meria had definitely come out to see him?
Before he’d felt there was a deep chasm between the two of them . A hole which
couldn’t be filled by any means . And at first he thought the day she would talk
about herself seemed far off in the future .
But when they parted ways that night and Muoru said to her, “See you . ”
With a slight wave of her hand, Meria replied, “Yeah…see you . ”
So maybe, that day was surprisingly close .
#
Soon however, cold water was thrown on Muoru’s high spirits .
As Muoru tried to return back to the stable, Daribedor ambushed him in front of
the mansion . The old man placed an electric lantern, with its blinding white light,
at his feet .
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He lifted his right arm slightly and drew closer . “You’ve grown quite close to the
girl haven’t you?”
There was a hard, clicking sound . It was a sound Muoru was quite accustomed to,
though he hadn’t heard it in a long time…a firing hammer .
Daribedor was aiming a black revolver at Muoru and even in the darkness Muoru
could clearly see the shape of the small muzzle . Though the bullet would be small,
it would still be enough to kill a human .
“If so, is there anything wrong with that?” Muoru asked cautiously . It was
tempting to think the old man hadn’t noticed his meetings with Meria . But the
real problem wasn’t that he was aware of the situation, it was how he’d judged it .
His employer Daribedor had the right to deal with him, with any prisoner,
however he pleased . And so whatever job he made Muoru do, no matter how
many days he withheld food from him, and whether he sent the prisoner back to
the detention center or not were all perfectly within his power . And in the worst
case scenario, so would shooting him dead in this place .
I don’t plan to simply kick the bucket like that .
His facial expression hardened without thinking . He had various injuries but luckily
or unluckily he’d yet to experience getting shot . And so though he couldn’t
imagine what kind of pain it would be, judging by the caliber, unless it went
terribly awry he felt it should certainly result in instant death .
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If that’s true…
With the gun pointed at him, the small old man showed the most repulsive smile .
“I’m not that worried about that . Rather, I’m impressed you were able to win her
over . It seems like you have an impressive ability for deception, isn’t that right?”
Daribedor laughed loudly, an irritating sound that was getting on Muoru’s nerves .  
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…was he reprimanding me for seeing Meria?
Despite resenting Daribedor for saying whatever he liked without knowing about
any of the hard work it took for him to get this far with Meria, Muoru remained
completely stoic .
The old man’s cheap attempt to provoke him was annoying . But he’d had a lot of
experience with that kind of thing . In fact, his ability to maintain an emotionless
expression and tolerate the jokes from most of his older army companions helped
make him more mature than his looks seemed to suggest .
If I’d known, would there not be a problem? Or…would Daribedor have an issue
with me regardless of what I did?
“You look like you want to say something,” Daribedor said, the smile vanishing
from his face . In the dark, the wound where his nose should have been seemed
like a darker hole than even the muzzle of the gun .
Muoru answered, “Not really…I just don’t think you ever warned me that playing
around in the middle of the night would interfere with my work . ”
“Of course, I’d only do that if there seemed to be some kind of deficiency . But Mr .
Prisoner, you surpassed my expectations long ago and have done extremely well .
Yes, really far beyond your duty…” As he spoke his finger rested on the trigger .
“At any rate, preserving the tranquility of that girl’s heart is not a job we can do . ”
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A gunshot roared through the air .
Reflexively all the muscles in Muoru’s body stiffened and unintentionally he
squeezed his eyes shut .
In less than a second the boy understood he hadn’t been hit . There was not a
wound anywhere on his body .
He opened his eyes and saw a small hole in the ground at his feet . Steam was
rising up from it and mingling with the gunpowder smelling air .
“However, can you remember this for me?” Daribedor smiled again, making a
literally, terribly warped expression on his face . “It’s unnecessary to think about
using the girl to try and escape . Even if you use her, it would by no means change
anything…No, rather if I felt like it, I could get another laborer as many times as
I’d like . And you are by no means the first gravedigger to be buried in the hole
they’ve dug . ”
Daribedor fired another bullet, creating another hole in the ground, this one
being much closer to Muoru’s toes . Then with a satisfied look, the old man went
back into the mansion .
Muoru remained there motionless, his eyes locked onto the two holes at his feet
but his mind not really registering them .
… . tranquility…?
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Ringing in his ears more than the sound of the gunshot or even any kind of threat
Daribedor had made, was the phrase he’d used to describe Meria .
And for a long time after Muoru stood in that spot, pondering what the old man
meant .  
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Chapter 6
What do I want to do?
And what should I do in order to achieve it?
Muoru found himself asking the same questions over and over . Probably it was
because when it came to achieving his objective, there weren’t a whole lot of
options to choose from .
I must escape .
How many times had he muttered that since coming here? It was an expression
that should have acted as a propellant to continue his thoughts, but now in order
to erase his indecision it filled his mind .
Right, I must get out of here .
But, wasn’t the very situation of me becoming a prisoner a bit strange in the first
place?
#
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“Hey, tell me Muoru, what kind of crime did you commit?” The girl asked as she
gently touched his collar with the tip of her finger .
Reflexively, Muoru backed up into the tree, fidgeting slightly at her touch . He
wanted her to forgive his uneasiness, but at the same time he was well aware of
how the collar had been attached to his skin and the possible implications should
it be removed . And even if he trusted Meria, if by accident the collar were
dislodged his life would end .
And after that Muoru was strongly reluctant about the topics she tried to talk
about . But Meria was serious . No, that wasn’t quite right . Though she’d only
joked around once up till now, her eyes now seemed to shine brighter than ever .
He felt Meria wasn’t simply curious, she was eager to know more .
With difficulty, as if his lips weighed a ton, Muoru said, “Murder . That’s why . ”
Well, that was what the world thought and what was written in the courthouse’s
record of the trial .
One morning his superior 2nd Lieutenant Hedger Reeve was discovered dead in
the corner of a trench . Because of both the neighboring country’s self-defense
force, who didn’t try to come out of their fortress, and the top brass on his side,
who didn’t try to force their way through the enemy’s defenses, the war situation
was mostly at a standstill . So the murder of the 2nd Lieutenant of the 16th
infantry unit caused quite an uproar . During all that unrest, the disappearance of
a 2nd-class infantryman’s favorite shovel seemed trivial at best .
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Then about 30 hours after the body was discovered, the military police regiment’s
search dogs discovered the shovel in a dump of scrap wood . And it was stained
with the 2nd Lieutenant’s blood . Unfortunately, as a young off-duty soldier
without an alibi that could be verified, in a week the Court Marshall was over and
“Muoru Reed” was deemed the culprit .
In all honesty, the guy was really clever to use my shovel for the murder .
The boy who had become prisoner #5722 laughed .
It wasn’t that there was an insufficient motive . Hedger Reeve was human
garbage .
He wore things like looted sapphires and jingling dirty gold around his neck . And
countless times he boasted about the terrible details surrounding how he got his
hands on them . He was the worst drunk and would frequently beat his
subordinates depending on his mood . He also loved dice and if he lost big he’d
turn almost completely red and flip over the gambling table . Though he was the
commanding officer of the moles he was never seen with a shovel in his hand . He
usually, in his self-important way, observed the diggers from the cool shade .
The time when the 2nd Lieutenant was eventually buried must have been when
Muoru was surrounded by cooking fires with his fellow moles and laughing again
and again throughout the night . Really, it had to have been then when Hedger
Reeve’s corpse was buried in the corner of the battlefield .
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The restrained boy insisted again and again both in the investigation and in the
military court that, “I didn’t do it, this is a false charge . ” But, other than that was
there anything else I could have done? They were blaming him for something he
knew nothing about . And of course, without an alibi or evidence there was no one
who’d believe him .
“That’s not true,” Meria said, her calm voice seeming to shake the cemetery air as
it called Muoru back from the depths of his dark memories .
“You absolutely didn’t do that,” she continued, looking straight at him . From her
face, Muoru got the sense that she didn’t doubt his innocence even a little…He
felt she believed him .
“Aa,” something like a yawn spilled out of Muoru’s throat . He understood it as his
resolve started to weaken .
In his head he recited his objective . I must escape…then a second time…and a
third .
Then tearing away from the girl’s blue eyes, he said, “Thank you . If you were the
judge, I would have definitely been found innocent . ” He then smiled to drive
away the doubt swirling about in his chest .
Of course if he were acquitted then he’d never have been sent to the graveyard
and he wouldn’t be meeting with Meria every night like this .
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“Well, truly you’re not someone who should be here,” Meria muttered with a
sinking expression . Somehow even she seemed to feel the same way he did .
As was expected, Muoru wondered how he should react to her words… . how he
should react to the expression on her face .
Suddenly his mouth moved automatically, “Hey, this is just hypothetical, but…,”
he said, not looking at the girl . “If I tried to escape from this place…if you’d like…”
Noticing that he was probably about to blurt out something he shouldn’t, he
promptly stopped talking . As he hesitated to continue he could feel Meria’s gaze .
Then to ease her gaze he finally told her .
“It’s completely up to you, but…if at that time I tried to escape, would you want
to run away with me?”
Meria blinked a few times then looked down to the ground .
Conversely, Muoru felt calm as he carefully and silently watched her reaction .
The words had jumped out his mouth as if they had a will of their own, but in the
end he didn’t think his invitation was so bad . But though he didn’t have any clear
grounds to prove it, Muoru did think that Meria wouldn’t snitch on him to
Daribedor even if he revealed his desire to escape .
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Though he’d thought about it many times, his idea to escape was still not
something one could call a plan . However, whatever form he sought assistance in,
certainly when he ran away from the graveyard the plan would involve Meria . If
that was the case, then he thought that there would also be some kind of benefit
for Meria as well .
Even though I don’t have an exact plan, it’s probably a good idea to place Meria
at the center of the scheme, right?
Maybe her existence wasn’t entirely a hindrance . . .
While he was aware that was an overly-optimistic thought, he couldn’t ignore the
fact that somewhere inside his heart he was hoping it were true .
He could easily imagine that the girl had received either the same treatment,
something similar, or worse at the mass graveyard .
Mankind’s natural enemy, the monsters that went by numerous names .
The gravediggers before him had certainly met their end, being unable to handle
the terror sleeping beneath their feet and the repulsiveness of those they had to
bury .
And that was definitely not a story limited to the grave digging .
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He recalled- the figure of Meria’s back as she stood in front of the monster made
of a sack of flesh . Her arm that was torn off and flung away . Her torso that was
stabbed through .
Right, Muoru already knew to what extent the grave keeper was made to suffer .
“…”
Without a change in her expression since his question, the girl remained
completely quiet and still . Sometimes like she was shivering, her small lips
quivered .
However, though the girl never said, “No,” Muoru did feel that at the end of her
internal conflict words of rejection had entered into her mind .
Is there nothing else I can try?
Then like he had before, Muoru went to grab her hand…
But their fingers didn’t overlap; she had dodged his hand .
“I’m sorry,” Muoru quickly said . “What am I saying? Forget it . I was just…”
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“No,” Meria interrupted him . “It’s my fault,” she said shaking her head . “It’s not
your fault…My feet…my feet can’t leave this graveyard . ”
Muoru didn’t know how to respond .
Those words, somehow Meria sounded like she was being completely literal . It
wasn’t that she had a psychological resistance or anything like that; truly she was
saying that it was physically impossible for her to leave this place .
Why in the world was that?
“Muoru . ” Hearing her call his name, Muoru looked up . “Can you come with me
for a bit?”
#
With the girl holding a lamp and leading him, the two of them walked slowly
through the late night graveyard .
Along the way they didn’t say a word .
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More than his feet which were barely visible in the dark, Muoru focused his sights
on Meria’s back as she walked in front of him . Her small shoulders, the bulge of
her shoulder blades beneath her clothing and most of all the back of her head,
covered by her hood .
Why does she always have her hood up? The question suddenly sprung up in his
mind as he stared at her .
It wasn’t flattering and he felt it was a waste to conceal all of her beautiful hair
except for a few bangs . He’d only seen her with the hood down twice . The first
time had been when she was out bathing and the second time was when the
monster had shredded her cloak . The first time, when she was soaking wet had
been fleeting, the second time when she was covered in blood…not so much . And
thinking about it more, he predicted he’d never be able to directly look at her
again .
If I were to reach out now and remove her hood, I wonder what would happen .
As he was thinking that idea over, he was suddenly seized by a mix of impure
ideas and mischievous urges… . But, soon having second thoughts, Muoru slapped
his face .
I know it was just a while ago, but I wonder if she’s already forgotten how stupid I
was before .
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His thoughts went to a few minutes ago when he’d tried to grab her white hand,
but only succeeded in clumsily grasping at the air . And really when he thought
about that, he felt if he tore off her hood here for no reason, she’d probably react
no differently than if he’d lifted up her skirt .
But someday I do want to see what she looks like when angry .
As he was thinking those foolish thoughts, the girl walking in front of him
stopped .
A bit in front of them was the giant tree at the center of the graveyard . The thick
growth of leaves at the top of the tree were blocking the moonlight and created a
shadow on the ground .
And in front of the girl stood one tombstone . Although Meria had purposefully
brought him here, she stood stock still and fell silent .
Standing behind the girl’s back, Muoru read the epitaph .
On it was a date from two years ago, and-
“Ma…ri… . a…?” It was the name of someone the boy didn’t know .
It was a name that had slipped out from the girl’s lips before .
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“Maria was also a grave keeper,” the girl said exactly as the stone said .
“Is that your mother?” Muoru guessed, since the sound of the names resembled
one another . However, the girl slowly shook her head .
“I don’t think so . ”
“…you don’t think?”
“Maria and I are nothing alike . And even though our ages were not that far apart,
I have lived here since before I could remember, but, I have never met any kind of
person who called themselves my mother . ”
That quiet manner of speaking was no different than her usual tone, but as she
stood there in front of the grave, from the sorrow of her hands as she entwined
them as if she were reminiscing and her seriousness, Muoru was able to
understand to what extent Meria longed for this person called Maria .
“Probably…I think ‘sister’ would be closest… . that is if Maria allows me to say
that . ” Meria once again went quiet .
Muoru stared at the girl . Though he should have gotten used to her appearance,
even now Muoru felt her profile was beautiful . And her furrowing brow above her
shut eyelids seemed to express the hesitation in her heart .
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Muoru finally felt that the time to ask her was now .
“What is a grave keeper,” he asked .
“A grave robber who steals the power of The Dark,” Meria answered .
The boy kept silent .
… . He didn’t know the reason why he was troubled . It was good that she’d
answered him, but at the same time he didn’t know what to do . And unable to
think, no words came to mind .
While looking over her shoulder, the girl stared at his toes .
“Muoru, aren’t you scared of me?”
He shrugged . Fortunately he was able to produce a proper answer .
“You said before that you’re not those things’ friend . ”
“Did I?” The girl cocked her head to the side .
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“Don’t you remember? It was the second time? The time…” he hesitated .
The second time he’d seen one of the monsters, the time when it was actively
moving about above the ground, he’d largely lost his cool . And so recalling those
memories was embarrassing .
Slowly turning around, the girl said, “Do you know the power of The Dark,
Muoru?”
“Umm… . just a bit . ”
The Dark went by various names . They were devils . They were undead . And more
simply, they were monsters . They didn’t appear except at night; they were
immortal, and they were mankind’s greatest enemy .
He’d gotten that smattering of information from Crow, but even now Muoru
didn’t know just how far he should trust them . Even though he’d had verified a bit
of that knowledge with his own eyes .
-That included the girl’s body .
“Even I don’t really know what they are,” Meria said . “But the phrase grave
keeper indicates people who have the power of the dark within their bodies . ”
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“Within?”
“Yeah . It’s just like you saw, they are neither alive nor inanimate… . You see, for
The Dark, their form is not important . I can’t really explain it well, but…take for
example an apple . After you eat it, all that’s left is the core . So, then it’s no longer
an apple right?” As the girl explained, sometimes she added small gestures to
accompany her words .
“For living things, it is exactly because they preserve their body’s form that they
are able to sustain themselves . If they lose their form, they become something
different than what they were before they lost their form .
But, as for The Dark, think of them as movable clay with murderous intent .
Whether The Dark are made up of a glass of clay or a bathtub full of it makes very
little difference . They are not something that ‘will die’ . So, no matter what
ordinary method is used to damage them, they will always return to the form
they had before… . ”
Then Meria panicked as if she noticed she’d caused him to misunderstand .
“But, ummm… . of course the clay is just a metaphor . The Dark don’t actually mix
with one another . It’s not that . Rather The Dark repel one another .
Perhaps it’s correct to say that when touched by a powerful Dark of a higher
order, weaker ones become choked up . Then they enter into a pseudo dead
state . ”
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Muoru desperately turned the girl’s attempt at an explanation over and over in
his head, struggling to understand .
It was certainly something he’d heard in a first aid lesson . All living organisms if
looked at under a microscope were made up of tiny, tiny particles called “cells” .
He didn’t know why they retained their form instead of scattering, but at any rate
he’d learned that animals had things like “bone cells” and “tissue cells” and those
cells intertwined and all formed one living being .
But those monsters didn’t seem to follow the same rules of life as other living
things . Their bodies were made up of something that couldn’t be killed or
destroyed .
“I have a part of them inside me,” Meria said as she pressed a hand to her chest .
“How?” Muoru asked . “You’re human right?”
The girl gave a deep nod, then with her eyes still fixed on her feet she continued .
“The Dark buried in this graveyard aren’t resurrected . But, their bodies are
beneath the ground…and… . . ”
Meria looked up to the dense overhang of branches above .
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“I was taught that buried under this tree is the strongest of all The Dark,
something that could be called their king . From the seed that grew out of his body
sprung out roots, and from that body the tree sucked out its nourishment and
grew . And so within this giant tree and its trunk flow the power of The Dark it was
formed from…And of course the same is true for its fruit . ”
The instant he heard that, Muoru recalled when some time ago she was under the
tree eating something .
-The clump that was so dark it was as if it were collecting the darkness . The fruit
that was pulsing completely as if it had a mind of its own .
So, is she saying that was a mix of both a plant and the monsters?
“This giant tree bears only one fragment of The Dark . So, the grave keeper, me,
eats this and steals their power . Stealing the greatest power makes me feel just
like a grave robber . And with that power, even if the other Dark touch me or act
hostilely towards me, in the end only they will become unable to move . ”
“So to answer your question… . I am human, but at the same time a part of me is
the same as The Dark . So, I can’t leave from the body buried beneath this
tree… . or in other words, from the mass graveyard .
And…I can’t die . ”
Seriously?
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In a slightly surprised tone, the boy collided with the question that had been
sitting in the corner of his mind for a while .
“Wait a sec; didn’t you say this so called Maria was also a grave keeper?”
If “Maria”, whom Meria felt was an older sister, was a grave keeper, then she also
had stolen the power of the monsters . If so, then wasn’t it strange for there to be
a grave for her here? The epitaph was made to mourn for a human who had died,
but grave keepers shouldn’t be able to die…I’ve seen it with my own eyes .
Or, were there still things she hasn’t told me?
If that’s true, then Meria… .
Can she also die?
“Maria…” with a pained, dreadful voice, like one a person would have if they were
vomiting blood, she managed to squeeze out an answer to his question .
“Maria… . killed herself . ”
Like she was about to burst into tears, Meria’s lips trembled and when she
continued it was at a hurried pace .
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“When Maria was here I wasn’t a grave keeper . Under the limits of the power,
two humans cannot be grave keepers at the same time . Even so, at the time I
didn’t know why she had killed herself . But the first night after becoming a grave
keeper, The Dark in the form of a six legged tiger heartily chewed on my right
arm…”

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The girl ran her hand along her right upper arm, close to her shoulder joint .
From her sinking expression the boy could tell that now in her mind she was
playing back the memory of when the monster had plucked off her arm back
then . She was reliving the fear she felt…and the pain .
“The pain… . I hate the pain,” she said .
Under his clothes Muoru felt the wound on his right thigh throb . It was where
Dephen had bit him when he tried to escape before . Without a doubt the giant
black dog had taken it easy on him . Yet, despite its fiendish jaw, Muoru’s leg
wasn’t torn off . And as the days passed he’d even been able to forget there was
even a scar .
But immediately after the bite had happened, Muoru remembered a blindingly
white pain had come over him . Even though the dog had taken it easy on him the
pain from the bite had been almost unbearable . And if just that could hurt that
much…
Why type of thing was a body that couldn’t die?
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Just some time ago he’d seen the ghastly sight .
By the countless sickle-like legs of the mass of flesh monster, Meria was killed
again and again . She was pierced . She was smashed . She was split open . She was
torn apart . She was broken…she was killed .
They were injuries that should have been fatal . And whether it was extremely
fortunate or unlucky, with injuries like that there was no need to ask about the
victim’s health . Having only one life, an ordinary human could not suffer more
than one fatal wound .
…But in just that night, how many times did Meria’s body taste the pain of death?
Certainly the wounds she’d received had disappeared, no matter how deep they
had been . However, the memories couldn’t be extinguished . The memory of the
pain, the memory of the fear, they were unable to be alleviated and were building
up like sediment .
It was like torture . And it was in terribly bad taste .
No matter who it was, one day they would become unable to tolerate that
experience . And if someone had to suffer the pain equivalent to dying over and
over again, then without a doubt they’d soon think death was preferable .
-Grave keepers can’t die, Meria had said .
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But that was a lie .
The grave keepers do die .
Their hearts die .
And they lose to Thanatos . 1
-Meria was no different .
“The girl dissolved in the sunlight,” the girl said in a cruel, matter of fact tone .
“As the east sky brightened, the stars disappeared . Though I wanted to stop her, I
didn’t know what to do . Nothing I said was getting through to her, so I couldn’t do
anything but watch .
Then the first ray of light struck Maria .
1
The actual Kanji reads: The earnest desire to die . Thanatos itself is the personification of death in Greek
Mythology . According to Sigmund Freud, it is also the Death instinct, or the desire to die .
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Though the spring light should have been gentle, for Maria it seemed to be like
boiling hot oil, and as her entire body was bathed in the light, like a worm she
writhed on the ground . It seemed like the power of The Dark inside her was
ripping her body apart… . ”
Muoru didn’t know the person Meria was describing . So when he closed his eyes
the sight he imagined in the back of his eyelids was instead a girl with reddish
brown hair, burning up in the sunlight .
There was no way to confirm how accurate his imagination was, however one
thing he was not mistaken about was that it had happened here… . at this
grave… . at his feet .
“The girl enveloped by the light seemed to be extremely, extremely suffering . Yet
despite that, she also seemed happy . To be able to die made her happy, that
much I could understand as I watched from nearby .
But then Maria wept . She wept for me, the girl she was leaving behind . You see,
she knew that after her body was destroyed I would become the next grave
keeper . ”
The girl lightly brushed the edge of the tombstone as she spoke .
“Then I buried her soulless corpse here . ”
Silence .
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Muoru couldn’t find any…any…any… . words to say . His feelings were massively
shaken by this event which was something he’d never experienced in his life .
“I’m sorry, Muoru,” she suddenly said .
Why did she need to apologize? Muoru’s confusion again intensified . The person
who needs to apologize is me…but…but…I…
The girl looked in his direction, but her gaze didn’t meet his .
“You didn’t come here because you wanted to, so I don’t think you should hear
these things…” She said, but then as she continued her tone was much more
cheerful .
“Since becoming a grave keeper, I have been completely alone and nothing good
has happened to me . I haven’t been able to see the sun and…I’ve had a lot of
painful thoughts . I can’t go anywhere else so I thought just being able to guard
this grave would be enough .
But I was never happy . ”
Using her hood to cover her face even more, Meria then placed her hand above
her mouth .
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“That was until you let me become your friend . ”
Peaking beneath her hand, Muoru could faintly see Meria’s expression
soften…and for the first time he also saw…her smile .
Muoru’s temples were pounding .
I will escape . Again he recited those words in his mind . That was the only reason
why I got close to you .
In order to get someone who seemed to know the graveyard well to cooperate
with him, he had to first get closer to the girl . That had been his plan and now the
plan was in the process of bearing fruit .
She trusted him and she understood that he shouldn’t be here .
Just looking at that, there was no mistake in thinking that the matter was
progressing to a great success . But…
If it’s such a success, then why do I feel this empty?
Is it just me covering up my feelings of hatred for myself?
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237
To just achieve his important objective, there weren’t that many options available
to a prisoner like him . And everything would be for nothing if he weren’t able to
achieve his objective as a result of his methods . So he strongly asked himself:
What should I do?
What’s the best way to escape from this place?
Those questions should have been the only important issues at hand .
However, even though he was well aware of this fact, he couldn’t stop himself
from wondering over and over again if there was anything he could do for Meria .
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Chapter 7
Underneath the noon midsummer sun with a cloth wrapped around his head, the
prisoner Muoru was digging a hole with the shovel he had already gotten used to .
He thrust the blade into the ground, scooped, lifted up, and dumped . Then he
swung his shovel downwards again . The series of movements were never
interrupted, like he had the precision of a machine and the smooth methodical
motions of a wild animal .
“Gooood Morning Mole-tan . ”1
With a smile that showed a happiness seemingly coming from the bottom of their
heart, Crow appeared and interrupted Muoru’s work .
“Mole-tan…?”
Muoru glared back at Crow with scorn in his eyes… . but then his sights became
glued to Crow’s head . Specifically, to the huge object atop their small bobbed
hairstyle .
1
“Tan” is similar to “kun” it is a cute title of endearment usually used for someone close to the speaker .
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“You…that,” Muoru said with a groan .
“Uh-huh, it’s the thing I promised you . Look . ”2
“Thank you3
…no, I’m sorry, it’s just I didn’t think you’d actually bring it . ”
“What are you talking about? It was no sweat . But really, I don’t understand why
you wanted this…can you put it on for a bit?”
“Of course,” Muoru answered, tying the cord beneath his chin . The skin of his
cheeks were automatically pulled upwards and started to itch .
Great, this is perfect . Of course he couldn’t do much with just that . But at the very
least it gave him the appearance of being full of energy .
He felt like he wanted to participate in a Double Ten4 to use up his excess energy .
However, besides his headgear, he had no equipment for the activity, or a course
to run on . So he would just have to continue putting up with digging holes .
2
It’s worth noting that Crow’s dialogue is written in katakana, this is to give the impression of childishness
3
This “San-kyuu” is a Katakana form of the English phrase “Thank you” . It is generally considered a childish phrase
and in this case is meant to be sarcastic . However, after the pause, Muoru shifts to a more adult tone which is
shown in the text by a switch to hiragana .
4
20 kilometer Military march .
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Amazed by how excited their actions were making Muoru, Crow sighed in
disbelief .
“You really like that? What could that simple thing be good for?”
“Don’t worry about it . Someone who only likes shiny things probably wouldn’t
understand . ”5
“What? How did you know I like money?” Crow asked, leaning their head to the
side . Then they laughed . ”Money is great! Collecting it is fun! If you have money
you can do anything! And of course it’s shiny, but I also love the fact that it’s
enjoyable to use . Until you enter the next life, money is a good thing to have . ”
This time, it was Muoru’s turn to be surprised .
He felt it was unpleasant for a child to say those kinds of things while wearing an
innocent smile, like that of an angel .
Up till that point, Crow had been behaving as if they were making some grand
proclamation . But then, Crow made an ugly smile and asked, “By the way Molekun,
are things going smoothly with the girl?”
5
Shiny here refers to gold coins, jewels, or fancy possessions .
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241
Muoru tried to show Crow a face of hesitation, as he stepped away from the
grave he’d been digging until now . Then he beckoned over to Crow, as if inviting
them to a secret conversation .
As Crow pranced their way closer, Muoru said in a small voice, “Ah, maybe you
could say it’s going well . ”
“Really…what happened?”
“I tried to be honest with her . That’s all . ”
“Ah, is that right? And I thought the unfriendly Muoru was much more fun . Oh
well, if it makes her happy then I suppose it’s alright . ”
Muoru raised his arm to push Crow .
“Oy . ” Crow dodged his blow effortlessly, as if they were weightless . But then with
the same force as if they had been bitten by a snake, Crow sank beneath the
ground .
“Ey, wait a minute Mole-kun . What are you doing! My butt hurts!”
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242
With a sigh, Muoru recovered his shovel . The hole Crow had fallen into, specially
made by the mole, was narrow and deep . A child’s body could be buried up to its
head, but Crow’s fingers could barely reach the edges of the hole .
“I didn’t want to trick you like this, but it can’t be helped . I unfortunately don’t
have many options to choose from . So, since I’m being honest about this, I hope
you will be the same . ”
“What do you mean?” Crow asked with a face looking like it was about to burst
into tears . “Aren’t I a good crow? This kind of thing is cruel . ”
Without paying any heed to the complaints coming from beneath his feet, Muoru
asked, “There are things you haven’t told me, right?”
Crow’s expression darkened .
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“Let’s start with you . You show up way too much . The people who frequently
come and go from the outside world are the employees from the food
wholesalers . And if we don’t include them then we’d have to talk about your
mask-wearing friends . They come about as often as the wholesalers . But even
they don’t come as often as you . Plus, all of them seem to always go back and
forth in a big trailer . So, I think it’s only natural for me to have questions . Now tell
me, why are you the only one who can move about freely from this place?”
From the bottom of the hole, Crow smiled . “Well, well . You catch on quickly . It’s
regrettable that you were only made to dig holes . Has anyone ever told you
that?” Crow’s smile looked inhuman, as if their face had been cut from the edge
of their lips to their cheeks .
“Okay then, why don’t we talk?”
Even Muoru smiled . Crow’s words were funny .
A good crow? What a joke .
It was well known that since a very long time ago, crows have had the reputation
of being ominous birds .
#
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Then evening came .
The boy was busy leveling the hole he’d used to intimidate Crow . For Muoru,
filling holes was particularly more enjoyable than digging . All he had to do was
place a loaded shovel above the hole, tip it, and let gravity do the rest .
He filled the hole until the dirt was level with the ground, then he used his shoes
to lightly stamp out the traces of the dig .
That was exactly when he saw the small-statured Daribedor walk over .
“What’s that, Mr . Prisoner?” The old man asked, staring curiously at Muoru’s
head .
“I found it . It won’t be a problem right? I think it’s a simple consolation for when I
buried that monster . ”
“It’s fine, I suppose . ”
“Okay, but other than that, can I be of any use? Do you need help with another
burial or something like that?” Muoru asked as he placed his shovel on his
shoulder .
Daribedor shook his head . “I came about tomorrow’s work . ”
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246
Then leading him outward, they eventually reached a massive unused plot of land
amidst a jumble of tombstones in the graveyard .
Muoru already had a bad feeling about the assignment .
Daribedor bent down, drew some markers out of his pocket and stabbed the first
into the ground at his feet .
“The hole will be from here…”
He walked with even smaller steps than Crow, but his feet didn’t stop . They never
stopped . The two of them just continued walking and walking . For the longest
time Daribedor didn’t even make an attempt to put down the second marker in
his grasp .
Time seemed to be flowing frightfully slowly .
This is good, stop . Stop already, Muoru wished in his mind as he glared at the old
man . He felt like catching the old-man off guard, rushing to him and yanking the
back of his custom-made tailcoat to stop him .
“…to here,” Daribedor finished, eventually placing down the last of the four
markers .
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247
Muoru barely registered what he’d said . It was such a massive distance . It made
the hole he was ordered to dig earlier for that fleshy monster seem laughable .
“Well, then . I know it’s a lot to ask, but if you can, please begin tomorrow . ” After
that brief statement, Daribedor politely bowed his head, turned back towards the
mansion and began to walk past Muoru . The boy didn’t really want to have any
sort of close conversation with the old man, but as he passed…
“Am I burying an airship?” He couldn’t help but ask .
Like a cicada, Daribedor laughed, and then he left .
It seems like I’ll have to do it earlier than I thought .
Daribedor had told him it’d be okay to start tomorrow, but Muoru’s body was
already in motion . Though he was starting a little ahead of schedule, he knew he
wouldn’t be able to make that much progress, and yet he worked nonetheless .
Soon he was forced to go back to the stable and fetch the cart he used for moving
dirt .
The size was really absurd and it wasn’t entirely a joke when Muoru asked if it
were an airship . Of course he wasn’t just talking about the hull of the ship, but
also the streamlined air-sac stuffed with helium . 6
6
Streamlined: Having a contour designed to offer the least possible resistance to a current of air, whatever, etc . ;
optimally shaped for motion or conductivity .
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The bigger they are, the more power they have .
The first one he saw, the monster with just the face, was buried in a hole that
could fit in the stable .
The one that had hurt Meria had been twice as large . It possessed a terrifying
power, and was essentially immortal, to the point where it was doubtful that a
company of elite tank corpsman could stop its movement .
And now, the hole he was digging was for something even larger than both of
them .
And if that were the case, then just how powerful is the monster they expect to
put in here?
He couldn’t help but shudder . Did a monster like that really exist in this world? He
felt like just one of them could lay waste to an entire country .
So in that case, did a grave keeper have to stop a single country’s destruction – or
more than that, were they supposed to prevent the death of humans with their
very own bodies?
Muoru poured all his energy into digging out the hole and a mountain of dirt soon
piled up before his eyes . In fact, by the time the sun had set, the dirt was taller
than he was .
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249
Muoru was grateful that there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and that the moon was
shining brightly . And perhaps, that night sky was also the reason why Meria
wasn’t carrying her usual lantern .
“Muoru…?” Meria asked with a doubtful voice as she came up to Muoru’s side . It
made sense since half of his body, up to his hips, was in the hole .
But when Muoru looked up, he noticed that she seemed to be looking strangely
at something on his head .
Ah, that’s right . Though he’d just received it today, he’d completely forgotten the
feeling of it . It was something his head was used to . The item Crow had brought
for sure didn’t have a national emblem, but it was the same design and shape as
the officially adopted equipment the infantry used . Even the size was exact, as if it
had been fitted to Muoru’s head with a tape measure .
“Ah, this?”
As Muoru was about to tell her its name, with difficulty she said, “A helmet?”
The two of them then moved and sat on the edge of the hole . Seated directly
beside him, Meria seemed extremely embarrassed, but at the same time, she also
looked somehow happy .
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250
In that good mood, Muoru explained how incredible the helmet was . Since
ancient times helmets had been used continuously to protect the body’s most
important part . As the current age came, the combination of steel and plastics
made them both lighter and tougher . And with tank shells and grenades flying
across the battlefield and spreading shrapnel with each explosion, protective gear
for the body was essential . They could also, for the most part, protect a person
from handgun bullets shot from mid-range or farther .
The lives of countless soldiers were saved from raining bullets because of these .
And probably, even that leader7 who was sniped in an open car during a parade
could have been saved if he’d worn a helmet . But of course, the battlefield
wasn’t the only place where helmets are considered necessary . They were also
used in various ball games, sports, horse riding, when riding a motorcycle, at the
construction site of a new mine…
“…but why are you wearing it now?” Meria asked? Though she seemed to be
enjoying listening to Muoru, it was her first question on the subject .
Muoru found it difficult to respond .
In the middle of the night, shade had no meaning, and of course bullets weren’t
flying towards him .
The reason I’m wearing this…
7
Most likely a reference to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, however it could also be
referencing the assassination of US President John F . Kennedy .
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“It feels good,” the boy answered .
“Really?”
Seeming to have honestly accepted his response, which he’d only said under
pressure, Meria cocked her head to the side, envy written across her face . It was
like she actually believed the helmet produced that kind of effect .
The boy started to correct himself, but he quickly stopped himself . Instead, he
undid the strap beneath his chin, then with both hands held out the helmet
towards Meria .
“Would you like to try it on?” he asked .
Meria’s eyes lit up . “Can I?”
Muoru nodded and then Meria casually removed her hood .
…Honestly speaking, the moment he’d been waiting for the longest time to
happen, to see Meria with her hood down, was no accident . In fact, handing over
the helmet had been his plan all along .
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The hair she was hiding within the dark cloth spilled down from her shoulders to
her back . Being so close to one another, he could also smell the faint scent of
soap, but that wasn’t the most striking feature . Illuminated by the moonlight,
Meria’s light brown hair sparkled beautifully, as if it had sugar woven into it .
Then, looking bashful, Meria faced Muoru and held out her hands to receive the
helmet . Her arms were slightly spread wide, as if she were waiting for him to hug
her .
… . He couldn’t do that, though he hated to admit it .
Meria was cute .
He liked her .
The way she hung her head to the side, the way she fluttered her eyelashes- each
of her movements he couldn’t help but love .
He felt like if he hugged her tightly now he’d end up stealing a kiss .
…but he couldn’t do that .
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As to why, he wasn’t quite sure, and it was difficult to put the feeling into words .
But when he handed over the helmet, looked at the girl’s pale and delicate
hands, then looked back to his own dirt-stained hands, the reason became clear .
She and I are from different worlds .
He really liked everything about her .
Not just her physical appearance, or her body- though I’m certainly not
denying that . He liked everything, even her heart which Crow had said was like a
skeleton’s . And just seeing himself reflected in her blue, tranquil eyes made him
feel like the insides of his arms were slowly twisting .
If someone asked why he felt that way, the only answer he could probably give
was that her heart was burned into her eyes . He’d never felt this way before . And
in his mind he was strongly considering how good it would be to really be hugged
by her .
But, she was a grave keeper .
She’d taken in the power of the dark, couldn’t die, couldn’t go out into the sun,
and couldn’t leave the graveyard .
And he was prisoner #5722 . But it was a false charge and he did not intend on
spending the rest of his life here digging graves…I won’t do that that, no matter
what .
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Since the helmet didn’t fit her head, it nearly completely covered her eyes .
“It’s heavy,” the girl mumbled .
Muoru laughed . “Meria, your hair’s caught in the strap . ”
“Huh?”
Muoru made his move and reached for the strap hanging beside Meria’s neck and
gently pulled it forward .
… . What he’d just said was a lie .
Muoru softly put his hand on the helmet as it slipped down on her head .
The edge of the helmet’s lower half was now at her lips, completely blocking her
sight .
Thinking she couldn’t see anything, Muoru inched his body closer without making
a sound . Then he kissed the helmet directly above her forehead .
“Muoru?”
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“It seems like it doesn’t fit you after all,” Muoru said as he backed away and
removed the helmet from her head .
Did she feel it?
His heart seemed to be beating with enough force to break his ribs .
If he was this flustered from just touching the steel, he wondered what would
happen if he’d kissed her for real .
Fumbling with the strap, he peeked to his side and saw Meria staring at the
helmet in his hands, a slightly regretful expression on her face .
She didn’t seem to have noticed what he’d done .
“Meria…” Muoru began, shifting his body to hide his reddening cheeks .
“Just like I’d said the other day, I came here as a result of a false charge . And the
fact that I’ve become a prisoner is nonsense . ” The girl silently nodded in
agreement and Muoru continued . ”So, I will escape from here . I will leave this
place . And when I finish digging this grave – that will be goodbye . ”
The expression Meria showed when she understood was the second most awful
of the reactions Muoru had expected .
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“Right…that’s better…for you . ”
There was surprise on her face… . and sadness .
Muoru felt a bit of sadistic joy that Meria was sad that he was leaving her . But the
second most awful reaction also made him feel the most at ease .
Though there was no excusing the fact that he had a selective imagination, in
truth he simply couldn’t imagine what would happen had his admission not gone
over well and she backed away, crying or something .
But regardless of her reaction, what he had to do didn’t change .
There was no time .
Like it or not, he had to do it .
This was the last time he would dig a grave as a prisoner .
His only wishes now were that the plan would go well and that he’d be able to
handle what came after .
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Chapter 8
“It’s incredible that you were able to complete such a large hole in just four days . ”
Realistically speaking, no ordinary person would think the giant hole was a grave
just by looking at it . The result of all the digging, which caused Muoru’s arms to be
swollen from the strain, looked like the excavation site of some historic ruin .
He already felt like the silver colored shovel given to him at his arrival had become
something like a companion . Of course he’d only had it for a short time, but
during that brief period it was by no means inconvenient . His previous shovel may
have been made from good materials, but this one was much lighter . If he swung
the shovel thousands of times a day, its light weight would definitely be helpful
for his arms . And no matter how much he abused the tip, it never lost its
sharpness . But most importantly, the blade was wide, meaning he could scoop up
more dirt than before . And on the other side, the grip had been ingeniously
designed to make carrying loads easy .
The thought of losing his companion after this hole, should he fail in his mission,
made him sad . He thought it would definitely help him succeed . But of course, his
primary driving force couldn’t be compared with his attachment to a shovel .
“Honestly, I truly appreciate your effort . You’re probably tired, so please head
back and relax,” Daribedor said with a smile, but that smile was in no way a
reward for Muoru .
Muoru went to leave, but then he remembered something and stopped himself .
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“Ah, I would like to ask one thing,” Muoru said, looking over his shoulder and
down at the small-statured old man . “Will it be better if I don’t sleep tonight?
That is, does it look like I’ll have to work tonight?” The underlying question his
words implied being: Will the monster be coming tonight?
“Perhaps . Well then, yes, that would be good . ” The wrinkles around Daribedor’s
mouth seemed to deepen .
Muoru gave a light nod then left .
That’s one less thing I have to trust to fate .
Yet at the same time, now he had a clear time limit .
Muoru washed himself at the reservoir, and then he passed the rest of the time
the sun was out back in the graveyard underneath the giant tree .
He went to Maria’s grave close to the tree and placed a nameless flower in front
of the stone . It was pretty much a weed, just something he’d picked in the area,
but he supposed it was better than nothing .
He then stabbed his shovel into the dirt and put the flower into the ground .
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When finished, Muoru rested his back against the trunk of the tree and watched
the evening sun set for what might perhaps be his last time .
As the sun set into the distance, descending into the deep, dark forest, he thought
it was big, warm, and even gentle .
At some point he nodded off and had a dream . In it he recalled his father’s sturdy,
strong back . It created such a sense of loneliness, that he wished he could see his
father more every day . Until that point, Muoru had had no idea just how
important he was to him .
Then night came .
The last night .
There was no need for Muoru to go searching; Meria came almost at the same
time as the sun fell .
That night four days ago, she’d looked miserable after he’d told her they would be
parting . Even the dark robe she was wearing seemed to be of a darker hue .
And now he was driven by the urge to comfort her as she stood before him, even
if he had to tell a lie . But he couldn’t . If he told her what he was thinking about
doing next, she’d no doubt be against it .
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And it was preferable that Meria didn’t have a say in the matter .
… . He was a really cruel person . And even if his false charge were cleared up, he’d
still have to endure the fact that he hurt her as punishment .
If I had to punish myself for that, I wouldn’t be just a normal prisoner . I’d put
myself on death row for sure .
“Muoru,” the girl called his name with a voice that seemed devoid of energy .
She then looked at the ground for a while, gripping her sleeves as if she wanted to
say something . Muoru didn’t dare try to look at her face .
Even then he felt that was cowardly .
“This is where we part ways,” the girl finally said after the long silence .
“That’s right . ”
“If this is the end…I have just one request . ” Meria lifted her head . Her eyes were
watery, but her gaze was substantially strong . “Face that way,” she said .
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He didn’t know what she intended to do, but in the end Muoru turned his back to
her .
This can’t be happening… whatever you do, don’t stab me with a knife . The
moment he had that foolish thought, he felt a light impact, like his back was hit by
a large ball .
“Meria?”
He couldn’t believe it . She had buried her beautiful face in his rugged back .
As his body stiffened, he heard her take a deep breath behind him .
“You smell like the sun,” she said, but he didn’t just hear her voice through the
air, he also heard it through his skin . “I’ve longed for it for so long . ”
He felt the blood in his body begin to boil, but even more than that he could feel
the warmth from Meria’s nose and mouth pressing against him .
“I just stink of sweat,” he said without thinking and feeling a little embarrassed .
“Be quiet,” she said, like she was commanding a sulking child .
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At night, the graveyard was silent . And with the two of them also standing quietly,
the only thing he could hear was the girl’s deep breaths .
Finally noticing her hand, Muoru realized she had crossed her hand in front of his
navel completely unnoticed .
You’re crafty . Muoru thought automatically . In this posture, I can’t hug you back
without breaking your arm or something, right?
Standing there in that position, Meria’s breathing was like a sleeping child’s .
Trying to preserve the silence, Muoru turned around and desperately suppressed
the urge to hug her back . The feeling seemed to fade with the same slowness as
the setting sun, and when it finally did completely disappear, he could hear the
sound of his heart pounding below around the point where he felt the girl’s warm
breath .
Try saying it again, stupid bird1
, the boy thought, in his head cursing what Crow
had said before .
1
A very interesting phrase . The Kanji = Stupid bird, but the phrase references Albatrosses . An albatross in English
is also a metaphor that means “a wearisome burden, such as inescapable guilt or responsibility . ” It is possible that
the author was thinking of the English metaphor, but I think they were just calling Crow stupid . That would fit
better with the “Muoru’s cursing” .
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The girl is hollow, like she has the heart of a skeleton .
He didn’t know how long Meria’s face had been pressed into his back, but at the
very least it was long enough to leave lines from his clothes on her blushing
cheeks .
“Thank you,” Meria muttered to Muoru after he turned around .
Terribly embarrassed, the two of them couldn’t meet each other’s gaze .
…But embarrassment wasn’t the main reason why Muoru couldn’t look into
Meria’s eyes
“This time you look away,” Muoru said .
Still blushing, Meria nodded once and obediently followed his request .
Muoru reached out to her dark hood and lowered it . The sight of her hair was like
the beauty one would see when opening a jewel box .
He pushed his fingers through her hair, revealing the nape of her neck . The two of
them both shivered the moment his fingers touched her skin and for a moment
Muoru removed his hand . But then he took a deep breath to calm himself .
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He then whispered a single word and put his arms around her slender neck .
…And snapped it .



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