This is the 10th and final chapter of the fantasy novel “The Rainlands” (雨の国) by Haruka Asahi (朝陽遥) which I am translating from Japanese with the author’s permission. It is about a man’s journey to a mysterious land where he has a ideological conflict with the indigenous customs there.
You can see a synopsis and table of contents with other chapters referenced here. You can find the original Japanese text for this chapter here. Because the original story is made from four long chapters, I have broken it up into shorter ones, and this chapter comes from last half of the original chapter 4,
It’s been a great journey translating this work and very rewarding to have made it to the end. I may write another post about this story, possibly with some comments by the author (if I can get them).
While this completes the translation of this work, I recently discovered there are are several other stories set in the same universe written by the same author, and I think the end of this story indirectly connects to one of them. If you are interested in seeing any of those others translated, please like this story or leave a comment.
“The Rainlands” by Haruka Asahi: Chapter 10
As soon as Yakt’s health returned, we departed the village.
I got the sense that his reason for going with me was never disclosed publicly. But even so, I think there was an unspoken understanding among the villagers. While it would be a lie to say we didn’t receive cold stares from a few people, overall we were treated with a degree of respect. But those who had pestered me for stories of foreign lands stopping showing their faces.
Despite all that, I still received the same food as everyone else, and the ladies continued attending to Yakt’s needs in silence. Several times I even saw them self-consciously squeeze his gaunt hand in encouragement.
On a morning when the rain had eased to a light drizzle, we stepped outside, leaving the cave. It was a lonely departure with no one to see us off.
Yakt turned back towards the cave entrance and looked up at me anxiously. Seeing him for the first time outside, I noticed his eyes were the same color as that girl’s–a lucid amber.
I nodded back at him and took his hand, leading him onwards. His thin, bony palm had a familiar warmth to it.
I had given Yakt a bare minimum of supplies to carry, but they still seemed disproportionately large compared to his tiny, emaciated body.
We travelled for some time, being careful not to slip on the wet ground, until around the time the receding cave entrance became obscured by the mist, a figure appeared before us, blocking the path. Yakt whispered the word sister under his breath.
It was her.
She spoke her brother’s name and fell into silence. On the verge of tears, her voice had a pure, transparent beauty to it, just like when I’d heard it outside before.
Yakt hesitated slightly, then suddenly–as if propelled by an explosive force–ran to his sister.
For a moment they embraced tightly, clinging to each other’s bodies.
I had the impression that normally women were forbidden from leaving the caves except on clear days. The cave tunnels were narrow and, around this time of day, busy with villagers coming and going. After somehow escaping undetected, she must have waited here for a very long time in order to see her brother off, getting drenched in the process.
But it almost seemed too convenient that she had managed to reach this place without the others finding out.
On that night when I had ended up at the boys’ cells deep inside the mountain–now that I think of it, not even a single person had reprimanded her for disappearing down the hallway, almost as if guiding me towards the cells. Furthermore, the second time I had sneaked into that tunnel, nobody came to check on Ian after he cried out. Even assuming the sound of rain and wind would help muffle the sound, isn’t it odd that nobody heard someone screaming at the top of their lungs? Even though that shred of fish Ian had tossed away would have surely been rank the next day, nobody had noticed it and raised a fuss…
Where these things not expressions of the villagers’ compassion?
Or perhaps, it was all simply a series of coincidences. Or an attempt to feign ignorance in order to follow their customs.
I never found out the truth. Nor do I think I will ever return to that place again.
The bodies of the two siblings finally separated and they nodded in unison. Yakt took my hand and resumed walking as his sister kneeled on a hard rock surface, head hung low.
We walked silently through a landscape of gray, the distant greenery blurred by mist. Once in awhile, a bird would make a lonesome call–a long, low-pitched cry.
I wondered how this boy felt about being exiled from his hometown because of me. So many times I was on verge of asking him, but each time I swallowed my words.
Whenever we found a place sheltered from the rain and stopped to rest our legs there, Yakt would turn around and look back anxiously at the village he’d left behind.
I watched with pity as he gazed upon his hometown, seemingly giving up hope of ever returning there, yet bearing no ill will towards those who had banished him.
Although Yakt’s health had recovered significantly, I began to have doubts as to whether this skinny boy of short stature would be able to survive the dangerous mountain trails.
However, despite his anxious demeanour, Yakt pressed onward without a single complaint.
Just then, a bird burst out of the trees, the sound of its wings flapping high above as it flew by. It was a large, beautiful bird with wings of pure white.
“Where is that bird headed?”
Yakt said this as he pointed to the sky. His voice was unexpectedly buoyant.
Yakt’s cheery attitude may have just been an act. But within it I detected an undertone of genuine, limitless interest for the outside world, just like in the cave when he had begged me for more stories of foreign lands.
“Hmm, where indeed…I have seen the same type of bird in a country far to the west.”
Hearing this, Yakt gazed up at the sky for some time.
I looked at his face and had a sudden realization. Perhaps I had been misjudging this boy just as I had misjudged Ian.
I decided to stop pitying Yakt more than was warranted. At that moment I began to finally see him in a different light.
Surely, no one would disagree that it was unfortunate for an innocent boy to be nearly killed, then driven from the place where he was born and raised. Nevertheless, that boy had to somehow continue living.
Pity was not going to help him survive now.
With the rain luckily not getting any worse, we made it through the ravine around noontime the following day.
We had reached the boundary of The Rainlands.
As we sat on a dry rock and rested our weary legs, our skin at last warmed by the sun, Yakt looked up and squinted against the glare of the sky.
“The clouds are…”
Yaku pointed at a break in the clouds. The sky was cleanly divided in two by the peak of a large mountain. On the far side was nothing but heavy rain clouds. On the near side, a crystal blue sky stretched to the horizon.
When I explained to Yakt that the rain clouds almost never crossed over to this side of the mountain, he looked up once more at the sky, eyes wide in amazement. He then looked back and forth repeatedly between the rolling plains stretching before us and the ravine we had passed through.
In the coming days, Yakt would surely think time and time again about the many things that had slipped through his gaunt fingers.
I prayed that wherever the boy ended up, he would find happiness that surpassed his time in the caves. If there was one thing he needed now more than anything else, that would probably be it.
“Alright, let’s go.”
I grinned and extended my hand to Yakt. He looked at me while rising to his feet and returned the smile.
Just as I began to walk forward slowly, his bony, warm hand in mine, a large white bird like the one I’d seen earlier cut gracefully across the distant sky.