This is the 4th chapter of a story I am translating titled “House Ephemera” (蜉蝣の家) by Hatasu Shikishima (識島果).
Thanks to Sherayuki for helping proofread this chapter.
You can read the full Japanese text of this chapter here.
See this page which contains a brief synopsis and links to other chapters (as they are posted).
As usual, whether I continue translating this will depend on feedback/views from various sources. If you like it, please consider leaving a comment here or vote for it on this survey of things I should translate.
Chapter 4: Levin’s Letter (2)
The boat advanced, sliding across the glossy, black surface of the still lake. The man’s rowing was quiet, save for the faint sloshing sound of water. I sat directly across him in the boat, remaining equally silent.
Observing him from up-close like this, there was no mistaking a face possessing both elegance and nobility. Smooth, nearly transparent skin conjured to mind white porcelain. A slender nose ran high down the center, his well-formed eyebrows drawing gentle curves. His distinctive black hair brushed against his forehead–I was suddenly overwhelmed by the urge to reach out and touch it. If night could be said to have a texture, that would surely be it. But, more than anything else, his beautiful amber eyes drew my attention. A rich color almost golden, they reflected the silvery moonlight with each blink, glittering softly in the darkness.
His features stood out starkly in the darkness, and my eyes, the eyes of a small boy, detected a particular specific youthfulness there: he was older than Nigel although significantly younger than my father. At the time, I had not yet spoken to an adult of that age, and as a result I gradually began to tense up in his presence. I had been so excited at first that it didn’t bother me, but I was an introverted child by nature.
He stared quietly at me for a moment with those enchanting eyes, then lifted up the pair of oars out from the water. My curiosity about his intention was ephemeral: he immediately tried to hand them to me.
“Try rowing with these.”
I had, in fact, wanted to try using the oars, so I cautiously took them and plunged them into the lake, mimicking him. But when I tried to row with some force, the boat began to gradually drift in the opposite direction, then suddenly lurched to one side with a splash. I panicked and tried to paddle water, but the oars only bobbed up to the surface. The boat swayed back and forth and I screamed. Eyes opened wide in surprise, the man quickly took the oars back and stabilized the boat. Everything had happened in a blink of an eye. When he saw the miserable, panic-stricken look on my face, he laughed out loud. The pleasant sound of his chuckling gently caressed the surface of the water, forming an arc that softly expanded outward.
“It looks like it will take some time for you to learn how to row properly.”
After mumbling this he returned to quiet, leisurely rowing.
Once the boat reached the lake’s center, he stopped rowing. For a time, the boat drifted soundlessly. He gazed at the ripples rocking the boat ever so slightly as if savoring this serene moment.
The perfectly calm lake resembled the surface of a mirror reflecting the starry night sky, the two of us on a boat floating through the tranquil Milky Way. I got the feeling that we were the only two remaining in the space between lake and sky.
By that time, I’d calmed down and was finally comfortable speaking again.
“Who are you?” I said in a hushed voice bordering on a whisper, as if afraid of being heard by someone.
“What were you doing behind the cottage at such a late hour? Do you live nearby? Or are you a traveler?
“One question at a time,” he said with a smile, amber eyes narrowing gently to the shape of crescent moons.
“My name is Ricardo.”
“Now that I’ve answered one of your questions, you must tell me your name. We must maintain equality between us at all times.”
He had used a strange turn of phrase, but there was something oddly convincing in his voice.
“Andrews. Andrews Levin.”
“Andrews,” Ricardo repeated, as if enjoying how the word rolled off his tongue.
“Andrews, shall we be friends?”
“I’ve never made a friend before.”
Ricardo nodded, apparently unfazed by my response.
“I already knew that.”
“How can that be?”
“I know all there is to know.”
“That’s impossible–you just asked me my name.”
Hearing that, Ricardo chuckled again. He began paddling back towards the shore with firm strokes. I felt a tinge of disappointment; I wanted to remain in the boat with him. He climbed ashore, helped me out of the boat, and said, “Let’s meet again, Andrews.” I nodded hesitantly. Once Ricardo turned away, I stepped quietly back across the ferns to my room and climbed in through the window. Before closing it I strained my eyes to look for Ricardo in the darkness. But there was no sign of him. Perhaps he had returned home, I told myself. I realized my feet were absolutely filthy, so I grabbed a clean towel and thoroughly wiped them down. After some consideration, I balled up the soiled towel and hid it behind my bed board. Finally, I slipped into bed and fell quickly into a deep, dreamless sleep until morning.