”Sluggish Symbol, Inane Illusion” is a story written by Yuki Fujimura that is published on syosetsu.com. I enjoyed it so much I decided to start translating it into English.
This story takes place in a unique society, where each citizen is legally obligated to write a single book during their lifetime.
You can see more information about this novel including a brief synopsis, my original review, previous translated chapters, and the original Japanese chapters at this table of contents page.
Chapter 2: Masatoshi Sakizaki
Saki Mitsumura was a weird girl.
I felt bad judging her just because she’d made a slightly odd request of me, but the next day something happened to convince me completely.
I always darted out of the classroom as soon as school was over, but today she’d somehow preempted me.
I was the first person to reach the school’s main entrance, where I opened my steel shoe box.
Someone had placed a letter inside it.
Its white envelope was addressed to me.
I flipped it over; the sender’s name was nowhere to be found. But I recognized the beautiful handwriting.
I’d always seen these clean characters on the blackboard expressing the correct answer.
By no means did I did get excited that this might be a love letter, but when I realized she’d sent it, what little expectations I had dispersed like dust in the wind.
I tried to return the letter to her shoebox––––but stopped my hand midway.
Orderly characters written on stationery paper were visible through the partially transparent envelope.
With only a glance, I knew it was a novel. A chill ran down my spine.
My intuition is wrong pretty much all the time.
But now, for the first time ever, I knew that my intuition was right.
In other words––––I knew that once I read this letter, there was no turning back.
The gentle voice moved something deep within me.
When I turned around, just as I expected Saki was standing there.
My beautiful classmate–even in her everyday standing pose she was a work of art.
I took one look at her imposing form, standing like a lone victorious soldier on the battlefield, and answered weakly,
“I don’t want to get involved.”
The moment that words are used to express a thought, they restrict that thought.
The instant the words are spoken, that thought is transformed.
In order to convey information to another person, a small sacrifice is required, like a spray of water disappearing into the air.
But I wasn’t willing to make that sacrifice.
That’s why I wanted to avoid saying anything unnecessary.
Getting involved with another person’s novel was the last thing I wanted to do. This was because I also had to write my own book someday.
Saki wrinkled her well-formed brows into a frown.
I held out the envelope to her.
“Give this to someone else. You’ll be better off that way.”
“But I wrote this for you.”
“I don’t understand why you chose me.”
Could she really have been that impressed by ‘Memories traced by a corpse’?
I’m happy she enjoyed it, but I only introduced it to her. I didn’t expect her to repay me in any form.
But upon seeing my response, she suddenly smiled wide-eyed at me.
My eyes were drawn to the sight of such fragile beauty, like flowers being scattered from a cherry blossom tree.
“––––Sakizaki, you’re always so careful with your words.”
But I won’t say that she had figured me out.
After all, that could have been said by anyone. It was well known that I, lacking any particularly close friends, was silent except when I had something important to say.
But the next thing that came from her lips, nobody else could have said.
“You don’t have to write a single word of your own. Just read my story for me. The book I write will remain with you forever. It will surely change your life–more than a countless number of stories written by others.”
Saki clasped her hands together in front of her and bowed her head.
“So please read my story.”
Her words were utterly beautiful, lacking even the tiniest bit of waste.
––––She’s quite sure of herself.
The book I write will change your life–what the hell is she talking about?
But her words resounded deeply within me, as if they were part of a story told just for me.
I looked down at the white envelope in my hand.
I only hesitated for a few seconds before opening the thin envelope. I withdrew the single sheet of stationery.
It contained the beginning of a story.
There was something about the passage–a sense of serenity–that touched me.
I held my breath and followed the string of characters with my eyes.
Before I knew it, there was a lump in my throat and tears streaming down my cheeks.
––––This girl is completely crazy.
Her self-confidence was the real thing.
I now understood.
Saki would–without a doubt–change my life.
“So will you do it?”
Before I knew it, she was right in front of me, leaning over slightly and staring intently at me.
Maybe she was trying to determine my facial expression when I had my handkerchief held to my eyes. I had the urge to tell her “No!” just to spite her relentless persistence pursuing a wounded enemy.
But that would be an unnecessary utterance. So I simply nodded.
“Yeah, count me in. Is this the story you are writing? Around how many pages are you planning?”
That number of pages would easily amount to the combined size of ten to fifteen regular-sized books. With that thickness, she’d have to spend quite a bit of her own money.
Even ignoring financial considerations, that book would be long. Too long. Bookstores wouldn’t be happy and printing companies likely wouldn’t be either.
But more importantly, any book that long would surely have unnecessary parts. This girl should give some consideration for her readers.
As if sensing my unspoken thoughts, Saki puffed her cheeks out and pouted.
“Let me get your advice about that stuff later. For now, I’m going to start writing, so just read.”
“…I want to see the plot outline ahead of time.”
“There is none.”
Writing a 3,500 page book without an outline–what in the world is this girl thinking?
Maybe she’s planning to spin off an epic side story in the middle of the main story arc.
For some reason, Saki was now standing tall with a defiant attitude, head raised.
“Also, if I told you about the story in advance, you’d know all the plot twists and it’d be no fun, right?”
“I’d still rather see it first. Modifying the plot structure after you write all 3,500 pages would be a nightmare.”
“But it’d be no fun right?”
This girl is hopeless. She’s not even listening to a word I’m saying.
She’s looking to recruit someone to proofread her work, then doesn’t listen to suggestions. Certainly, since everyone has their own perspective it’s not necessary to listen to every single piece of advice, but there’s a limit to everything. It’s like going mountain climbing in the snow wearing a thick animal costume–there’s a mix of “That makes sense,” and “Are you crazy?”
Saki realized I was getting annoyed and quickly waved her hand in front of me.
“Don’t worry. I write really fast.”
“Just please make sure you don’t end up finally publishing your book when we are both 80 years old. If that happens, I’ll have to hurry up and fulfill the responsibility for writing my own book.”
“Wait until I finish writing the book. I promise I won’t make you wait long.”
“But it’s 3,500 pages.”
“I’ll finish by the time I’m 18, before I get old and senile.”
Saki smiled, ignoring what I said.
There was her defiant attitude again, but she was making sense.
“There are some conditions though.”
“I have some as well.”
“My first is that the manuscript I give you has to be read in front of me. I want to see your reaction.”
“My condition is that you don’t tell anyone I’m helping you out with your book.”
“Sure, and that goes the same for me. My other condition is––––you can’t start writing your own book until you finish reading mine.”
That’s a strange request, I thought, but I guess she wants me to focus on proofreading.
I wasn’t planning on publishing my book until after high school anyway. I plan to spend ample time carefully refining my words.
Reaching agreement on the conditions, we both nodded.
“Alright. So when should I start?”
Saying that, she pulled a few pages of report paper from her bag.
I guess the paper from her letter came from that. I was so excited about reading through the next part of her story, I almost screamed.
Saki grinned at me.
“Let’s go, Sakizaki. It’s time to get busy novel writing.”
I just couldn’t resist her words.
=== End Chapter 2 ===
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