I’ve discovered an interesting short novel called “The Rainlands” (雨の国) by Haruka Asahi (朝陽遥), and gotten the author’s permission to translate it into English and put it on my blog. You can find the entire original Japanese text for the story here (on Kakuyomu), and the first chapter here.
It’s a fictional, fantasy/adventure tale (the genre is officially listed as “alternate universe fantasy”), and as it is a longer work I’ll be presenting it in a series of unnamed chapters. The original work was published as four longish chapters, but I’ll be breaking these down into more bitesized pieces.
If you enjoy this story and want to read more, please consider liking this post or leaving a comment. That will help me decide whether I should translate more of this, or move onto another story. You can also vote for it on this poll.
For those who are interested, you can see a brief synopsis below. The first chapter follows that.
There were rumors of a place where the rains never ceased. Half of the month was a deafening, torrential downpour, and the other half a drizzle, at best slightly overcast. The sky was clear at most once or twice a month.
How could people actually live in a place where it rained constantly? Was it some sort of divine protection, or simply the raw power of the human mind? Driven by a burning curiosity, I departed on a journey to the mountainous region known as The Rainlands.
What I would discover was nothing like what I expected–a culture at times oddly familiar and yet disturbingly foreign.
“The Rainlands” by Haruka Asahi: Chapter 1
There, the rains never ceased. Half of the month was a deafening, torrential downpour, and the other half a drizzle, at best slightly overcast. A clear sky was seen, at most, once or twice a month.
I heard there were people somehow living in a place like that, and driven by a burning curiosity, I decided to travel there.
How could anyone actually survive in a place like that? The more I thought about it, the stranger it seemed. I was born in a small village nestled in the mountains. Compared to other areas, I’d say it rained pretty frequently, but even that was only once every two or three days. If, by some freak act of nature the rain continued for several days, the mountainsides would surely crumble, and the crops wash away. Rivers would flood, houses rot and collapse.
In fact, once in a blue moon something akin to that would happen in my hometown–when the rains continued for nearly ten days and everyone had to escape to the high ground, leaving their possessions behind.
Was it some sort of divine protection, or simply the raw power of the human mind that enabled people to actually live in a place where it rained almost constantly? That is what I endeavored to know. If due to human ingenuity, some part of me hoped I could bring back even a small piece of it to my village. But this trifling wish paled in comparison to my overwhelming curiosity.
On the way there, traversing a road I’d heard of in a nearby city, sure enough, the sky began to darken by degrees. A long range of mountains continued in the direction where I was heading, obscuring the sky with irregular shapes. Occasionally, clouds spilled over from the far side of the mountains, enshrouding the peaks.
I was told that surrounded by those mountains, at the end of a treacherous, winding road, lie The Rainlands.
The existence of a road meant that people still used it. Otherwise, it would have disappeared long ago.
However, even for a seasoned traveller like myself, the way was far from easy.
Thanks to my large stature, it was easy going on the road that looked up to the towering mountains. The trouble began as soon as I entered the ragged mountain path.
To begin with, a light drizzle clouded my vision. The road initially ran along the bottom of a gorge, but at some point, it gradually sloped to one side, eventually becoming the edge of a steep cliff formed from a stretch of bare, bleak rock.
In a place with unending rain, wouldn’t something like a road be immediately buried by the crumbling earth of a landslide? This thought was in the back of my mind before I had begun this journey, but now that I was actually here, the answer was obvious. This land was made from crude, craggy mountains without a trace of soil. Any dirt had probably been washed away from the surface ages ago.
The rocky path had turned slippery from many years of wind and rain, and a moment’s distraction could make you lose your footing. At worst, you could find yourself suddenly plummeting headlong into a ravine.
With such unsure footing progress was difficult, worsened by rain that sapped my strength. There were notches that had apparently been carved in the rock to prevent slipping, and with firm steps I proceeded inch by inch, the soles of my shoes against the tenuous foothold. My nerves were soon worn thin, and after only 15 minutes of walking I was exhausted.
Why in the world did anyone want to live in a place like this?
While resting in a cave, I complained to a merchant from a caravan I had chanced upon. With a relaxed smile he said, “It is said that this ancient road has been here since the beginning of time.”
He narrowed his eyes as he spoke, as if trying to see back through time. Apparently when this road was first built, The Rainlands had not yet existed.
This means people had been living here first. At one point there was some sort of extreme natural occurrence which transformed the climate, triggering continual, torrential rains, and it became The Rainlands. Nevertheless, the people here survived. More than just surviving, they decided to stay here. At least that is how the story goes.
After that, they let me join the caravan, where I followed in the rear.
When I peered up at the sky through the fine rain, the sun was barely visible behind a thin layer of clouds. When the downpour eased up, I halted and for the first time in awhile examined my surroundings. It was quite a strange sight to see such dense vegetation cover the ground, especially in a place like this with so little sunlight.
My arms and legs had lost feeling sometime ago from the elements. As I walked, I nibbled on dried food, causing rain to get in my mouth. But my endurance wouldn’t hold out unless I had something to eat.
The closer I neared my destination, the harder the rain fell. To my dismay, the wind also began to pick up. A few times it was so harsh that I had to stop and crouch down to shield my body until the gusting finally let up.
Far below me, I heard the rush of flowing water. In the valley I guess the rain had intensified, making the river surge downstream.
Shortly after, a faint glow appeared on the far side of the curtain of rain. But my exhausted mind could only vaguely comprehend there was some sort of light beyond and lacked the energy to consider its significance.
The members of the caravan continued on in silence. From the beginning, they seemed to avoid raising their voice to be heard above the din of the rain, and for the most part refrained from speaking, except at certain critical junctures in the road when communicating with those behind using pre-arranged vocal signals.
Just when I had safely navigated a few sudden changes in elevation by following the signals of the caravan, and the light that had been visible for some time was finally near at hand, suddenly the visibility improved drastically. I realized that the rain was no longer beating down on me.
I gazed up to discover a rocky ceiling above me. I had ended up in a cave.
Whew, I’ve finally made it.
I simply stood there with a dumbstruck expression as the members of the caravan around me each voiced relief.
The inside of the cave was warm and its air surprisingly dry. There were fires burning here and there. It seemed these were the origin of the light I had seen from outside.
The man who appeared to be the caravan leader smiled, his arms around another person’s shoulders as they celebrated their reunion.
The other person was an older man of short stature. It took me a some time to realize it, but the folks from this land all tended to be on the short side. This was perhaps due to some nutritional deficiency, or possibly things had ended up this way because big bodies tended to get in the way while living in a cave.
The leader introduced me to the old man, mentioning I was an infrequent traveller to these parts.
The old man, an inhabitant of The Rainlands, slowly smiled and mumbled something in response. Because of his thick accent it took me a moment to make out the meaning of his words. But they appeared to be an expression of welcome.