”Sluggish Symbol, Inane Illusion” is a short novel written by Yuki Fujimira that is published on syosetsu.com, which I enjoyed so much I decided to translate 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 9: Defeat
“All individuals must author and publish a single literary work within their lifetime.”
This clause from Chapter 2, Section 16 of the Fundamental Education Act was established long before any of us were born.
One life, one book. This was a strict social rule and considered to be common sense.
Of course, there were rumors of those who bought and sold their obligation to publish, but those deals were done behind closed doors, and if you were caught the penalty was harsh. To make matters worse, you now had a criminal record. For the remainder of your life, society looked upon you as a felon. It’s like they used to say to criminals back in the day: good luck finding anyone to marry or hire you.
But was Saki’s request really the same thing as crossing this perilous bridge?
No, it was much, much worse than that––––a genuine act of madness.
“Give my obligation to publish, to you?”
“Yeah. We just publish both of our books on the same day. I’m even thinking about how we can get through the screening process.”
“You mean we publish two volumes about the same story?”
“In traditional novel terminology, I guess you’d call it a two-volume series.”
Was she really serious about this?
She seemed to have no intention of covering up the fact we would be committing an illegal act.
A single person publishing two books––––we would be making this transgression public to the world.
Naturally, as the main perpetrator she would surely be arrested, as would I.
Saki was asking me to be her accomplice with full knowledge of this.
From the very beginning, she had chosen me with this in mind.
“–––– Have you lost your mind?”
“Of course not.”
“We’ll be arrested by the police.”
“I know that.”
“We’ll be throwing away our lives.”
“I know that too. So what?”
“You’ll also be implicating me.”
She smiled, face overflowing with confidence.
“But Sakizaki, you don’t actually care about that sort of thing, right?”
Her beauty nearly drove me insane.
How did I ever end up in a situation like this?
Her request to proofread had been a complete lie. She has taken things too far. I should have declined her stupid offer.
This girl is a total bitch.
She’s a bitch and…but…so I…
“…Show me that manuscript.”
I extended my hand to her.
Saki, as if predicting my response, respectfully kneeled before me.
“Here, take it.”
And thus, I took hold of her world.
What makes a good story?
I’d talked at length to her about this many a time.
Though it wasn’t something I normally do, I put my thoughts into words. I told her “this is how it should be” and tried to pigeonhole her.
About how to make readers happy. How to make a well-written novel, a masterpiece.
–––– But now when I look back, none of that really mattered.
All my suggestions evaporated into nothing before a living, breathing world.
That isn’t what the act of storytelling–the act of creation–is about.
“Sakizaki, our job is to create a story.”
Just as the Creator had done at the beginning of time.
From the birth of a glorious hero, to the withering of an ephemeral flower.
We create our world in its entirety, one piece at a time.
From the day we were born, we have been given the freedom to do this.
–––– As it should be.
My eyes darted across the page, following her story.
“…This is crazy.”
My knees were wet with fallen tears.
“You are totally crazy…”
“I know that.”
“You are even crazier for having chosen me.”
“I have confidence in my ability to judge others.”
“But the craziest one of all is me, who is going along with this.”
My trembling fingers turned the page.
I touched her world.
A world so self-important and so awkward, and yet so beautiful.
An author removing parts of themselves from a book––––what a foolish idea. Saki’s world mirrored herself in every way imaginable.
The proud, true expression of––––
If you don’t call this love, then I don’t know what is.
Once, I had wanted to write my own story.
To pour my whole heart and soul into it. One life, one book.
Atlases lit the fire of my imagination. The more history I learned, the more ideas I developed.
But there was no longer any reason to do that.
“…Even though I haven’t actually done anything, even though I’ll never be able to publish my own book, I’ll be a criminal. A wrongdoer.”
Society will probably see this as a thoughtless act of youthful indiscretion. An act only possible by a idiot who doesn’t care about his future.
But such ridicule has less worth than a spec of dust.
The rantings of strangers never bring about anything of merit.
I stared at Saki.
Her good looks called to mind a finely crafted doll.
I gazed directly into those world-encompassing eyes.
“Saki, you are the worst.”
“But your story…is the best.”
I exhaled deeply.
And wished my breath would somehow reach her.
“If you want to change my life, go ahead.”
I’ll give her everything.
Just as she desires.
“Saki––––my book is yours.”
I pray that I as long as I live, I’ll never again face such a terrible betrayal, a terrible defeat.
Her trembling voice whispered softly in my ear.
“You’re really going to love it. After all, I’m writing this book just for you.”
But this lie was all I got in return from her.