This it the sixth chapter of a novel I am translating and publishing on this blog. See this post for the first chapter and more details about the novel.
I want to thank the author, Yuki Hoshizaki (星崎ゆうき) for giving me permission to translate and publish this chapter here, as well as Yeti san (from the site Shousetsu Ninja) for performing a quality check on this chapter. You can find the original Japanese text of this chapter here.
Because of the large amount of time it takes to translate a chapter, as well as my desire to focus on content that my readers enjoy, I consider this translation to be in a provisional state––in other words, if I don’t get enough positive feedback, I may stop translating this story.
So if you enjoy it, please consider liking or commenting here, or rating/commenting on novelupdates.com (see this story’s page here, which has links to all the other chapters). You can also send feedback on the story to the email address “selftaughtjapanese (at) com”, and commentary will be forwarded to the author as needed.
Past, Present, You
by Yuki Hoshizaki
Translated by J.D. Wisgo
Chapter 6: July 5 (afternoon)
I’m back at the station where I ended up yesterday after missing my stop. My school attendance is in a pretty bad situation, but yesterday I left early and skipped my afternoon classes under the pretense of not feeling well.
I pass through a small ticket gate, stopping before an old vending machine beside a waiting room. I withdraw my wallet from my back pocket, insert a silver coin into the slot, and press the button for a sports drink.
“When Sora passed away, it seems that her mother moved away.”
While heading for the exit opposite of the one I took yesterday, I check the map on my phone.
“Let’s see…her parents’ house is in Chichibu City, Saitama…”
Natsu’s friend Chisato Yamamoto gave me some information about Sora. I was really thankful to Chisato, who somehow understood this was a serious matter and didn’t ask me about what was going on.
Sora had apparently lived together with her mother, having lost her father at a young age. But soon after starting Joyo’s middle school she had frequent health problems and was unable to attend most days, so there were very few students who knew her. Chisato told me that after Sora’s death, her mother returned to Chichibu City in Saitama Prefecture.
“It’s definitely this road, right?”
The farther I get away from the station the fewer houses there are and the narrower the roads get. Surrounded by mountains, the expansive rural landscape here somehow makes me uncomfortable. All I have to rely on is my phone’s GPS and the single piece of paper Chisato gave me with an address. The July sun beats down relentlessly, refusing to ease up even in the late afternoon, gradually sapping the moisture from my body.
I withdraw a bottle containing the sports drink from my bag, twist open the cap, and drink the clear liquid down in a single gulp. The sensations of the cold liquid in my empty stomach and a gentle breeze caressing my cheek take the edge off the sweltering heat.
After turning down a few streets in the countryside I walk down a narrow road lacking a single car or person, when a large house surrounded by a stone wall comes into view. The magnificent tile roof reminds me of a long-past age. I don’t see anything like a nameplate beside the gate, but with no other residential-looking buildings nearby this must be where the family of Sora’s mother lives.
I pass through the wide-open gate and into the inner courtyard. The garden is surprisingly large, its thick vegetation emitting a moist scent of summer. On the right is an old shed cluttered with an assortment of tools used for farm work, giving the impression a farming family has lived here for generations. I continue ahead across the muddy ground, when the entrance of the main building finally comes into view.
Beside the dark-colored wooden door is neither intercom nor buzzer. I raise my voice reluctantly and call out, “Is anyone home?” tightening the navy blue tie hanging loosely at my neck.
There is no sign of any movement inside the house, but the door is cracked slightly open, allowing me to peep inside. I touch my hand to the door, intending to get a better look, but it is lighter than I expect and swings open.
“Oh no, this isn’t good. I’m basically trespassing…Um, is anyone home?”
“Hullo there, door’s open.”
Surprised by the loud voice behind me I spin around and find an old woman of short stature standing there. She wears baggy work pants as if coming in from the fields, and a wide dark-grey hat covers her entire head.
“Ah, you surprised me. I’m really sorry…”
“Sure, jus’ come on in.”
Saying that, the woman removes her work gloves, shoves them into her trouser pocket, and enters the house still wearing her mud-caked boots.
Finding a complete stranger at your door and asking them to come in without being the least bit suspicious gives new meaning to the word “careless”, but the old woman is removing her boots without any concern for that.
“A friend of Sora?”
I’m completely thrown off guard by this unexpected question. Does this woman have the ability to predict the future too? Judging from the curve in her back she is quite old, yet contrasting with her appearance is a deep voice and a confident way of speaking that I can’t help but like.
“It’s in your eyes. Your eyes tell me. Now then, come on in.”
Though I’ve seen them in photographs and movies, this is the first time I’ve actually stepped foot in a traditional house with an earthen floor. There is something truly primitive about this space, like something out of a Japanese fairy tale. The funny thing is that I feel certain it’s primitive, despite the fact I have no memory of ever actually seeing such a place before. Perhaps we are all simply fooling ourselves about what the world actually is. That includes Sora’s existence.
For certain, that girl does not exist in this world. She does not exist, yet she clearly appeared before my eyes.
“Go inside. To the tatami room in the back.”
Inside the fireplace-furnished kitchen is a giant pillar that holds up the roof. That pillar must have supported this house for a great many years. I get the feeling that this ancient pillar alone has created a great sense of security here. But on the other hand, when did my pillar of support disappear? Or perhaps it is I myself who has become invisible.
“Oh, yes ma’am…”
I hurriedly take off my shoes and then walk slowly across the cold kitchen floor. Despite a lack of air conditioning, ventilation here is good so there’s no indication of the heat outside. I gently open the soot-stained sliding door near the back of the house.
On the right side of the room is a set of shoji doors, summer sunlight passing through the thin paper to gently light the tatami-covered interior. At the center of the falling light is a household Buddhist altar.
“Could this be…”
[end of chapter]
(English Translation Copyright © 2019 by J.D. Wisgo)