Chapter 20

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VOLUME 1-2

Chapter 20

Touya awoke on a stone floor.

His languid sleep was torn away by the cold in the air and the numbness of his limbs.

There was a dusty smell here similar to that of the base camp’s basement. The air also felt damp.

In the dim space, various survival tools were laid out on the floor in a disorderly fashion.

He could also faintly see the contours of various tool-like objects whose purpose he couldn’t divine—and the fact that he could see them meant that it wasn’t nighttime right now.

—It’s like I’m in the middle of a painful dream.

Those words, said by someone to him before, resurfaced in his mind.

There were dried tear tracks left at the corners of his eyes, and the sensation of having seen a bad dream lurked in the back of his mind.

He strained his ears as he remained in his prone position, and he heard the faint sound of a waterfall.

The out-of-place feeling on his ankles was from shackles placed on them. His hands were also bound by rope, preventing him from moving freely.

“Hey—hey.”

Suddenly, the tip of a bare foot lightly poked his head.

“Ani-san. Oanii-san1. Are you dead?”

At last, his memories started coming back to him, and his consciousness regained focus.

“I’ve brought food. If you’re alive, get up and eat it.”

A burnt bamboo pipe was rolled in front of his eyes.

The still-hot pipe was emitting bubbles of rice paste and giving off steam.

There seemed to be grilled fish cooked with rice inside it, and it gave off such a savory smell that it caused Touya’s forgotten hunger to attack him from the pit of his stomach.

“……Kuh…”

Enduring the pain, Touya lifted the upper half of his body and came face-to-face with a little girl who was crouching and peering at him inquisitively.

She was also chewing on a piece of fruit in her hands.

Touya shifted to sitting cross-legged and properly faced the girl while scratching his head.

“You’re that wolf girl, right? That missing child that Hinooka mentioned.”

“Hah? I’m Suzuran.”

“…I see, Suzuran, huh?”

Hearing her name repeated by him, the girl’s face became slightly red.

It appeared she wasn’t used to having her name said straight to her face like that.

“It’s a secret from Hime2. Hurry up and eat.”

“Didn’t you say that you didn’t care if a thief died?”

The girl lifted her slender chin and snorted defiantly.

“You didn’t kill any of my wolves with your sword.”

“I was just too busy trying to defend myself back then.”

Touya spoke his frank feelings, but the girl continued speaking.

“Sekkachimaru didn’t kill you either. So I’ll help you.”

“By Sekkachimaru, you mean that huge white wolf?”

“Are you going to eat it or not?”

“……”

The girl glared at him.

Unable to win against his hunger, Touya picked up the bamboo pipe.

He had neither chopsticks nor a fork, so he took out a bamboo leaf within the pipe and scooped up the food on top of it while using his bare hands to eat. Having tableware wouldn’t have changed his lack of freedom much, considering his hands were tied together.

However, the taste was different from what Touya expected, making his face reflexively break into a smile.

The girl who had named herself as Suzuran watched him happily as if she were the one eating.

Judging by the brightness in the air, it appeared to be sometime early in the morning right now.

The light that leaked into the room gradually brightened, and Touya managed to figure out that he was in an arch-shaped cave constructed at the base of a castle, most likely a stable.

Even as he ate the food, the terrifying memories of yesterday’s events played back through Touya’s mind one after another.

It was the memory of a completely one-sided struggle, with the ferocious white wolf cornering him and easily smashing the branches he’d used in place of his swords. He was finally hit by its claws and thrown into the rocky area of the river, on the verge of being crushed by its huge body.

He couldn’t believe he was still alive right now.

Right before he had blacked out, he had looked up from the ground and seen the cold eyes of the witch looking down at him.

“…I’ll give this back to you.”

After wiping his fingers on his cuffs, Touya took out a hair ornament from his pocket.

It had been torn off Suzuran’s head from the blow he’d dealt against her during the initial surprise attack a few days ago.

“The hairpin I got from Hime…!”

The girl grabbed the hairpin as if to steal it away from him.

“Tch, so you really are a thief.”

“Haha. I’d intended to bring it back as proof of making first contact, but I’m not in a position to say that anymore.”

“Fausto kontaku?”

As Suzuran arranged the hairpin back in her hair, Touya once again spoke up.

“By Hime, do you mean that scary woman? Is that person the… mistress of this castle?”

“That’s right. Hime is my mistress and my foster parent.”

“Foster parent…? Then what about your real mother, Suzuran?”

“My mom is Sekkachimaru.”

“Huh?”

“I don’t remember it myself, but apparently Sekkachimaru picked me up from within the forest when I was a baby. That’s why Sekkachimaru is my mom.”

“…I see.”

Leaving aside the veracity of her claim, her words seemed to support Homura’s conjecture.

“Is there anyone else here?”

“There’s lots. Kirimaru, Kosuke, Koroku—”

“Aren’t those… the names of wolves? I’m asking if there are any other humans living in this castle.”

“There aren’t any. There’s only ever been me and Hime here.”

“…Just the two of you… huh?”

Touya couldn’t hide his disappointment at hearing that.

And though he really had wanted to ask his next question from the start, he voiced it hesitantly.

“Hey, what happened to my companions?”

“They died.”

“…!”

“That girl who used Mathematica ran way with that Mayo person, before they died together.”

The girl declared it bluntly.

“Mayo… you mean senpai? The person you took away!?”

Touya leaned forward and questioned her accusingly, and Suzuran uncomfortably wrinkled her nose.

“It’s because she went and ran away on her own…”

“Liar! She died!? She really died!?”

“I’m not lying… I watched the whole thing from afar while I hid…”

Suzuran hugged her knees and curled upon herself.

“They jumped into the waterfall basin while being chased by Hime, and then there was a huge flash, and they didn’t resurface afterwards.”

“…A flash…?”

Touya immediately guessed the true meaning of the sight that Suzuran described.

That bright flash was surely the light of an emergency withdrawal.

Even if that wasn’t the case, it was too unnatural for the two of them to just disappear after jumping into the water. This told him that they had managed to escape from the witch in some way.

Touya gradually regained his calm. Even so, he still hadn’t restrained his anger as he continued questioning Suzuran.

“Why did you kidnap senpai?”

“…”

The girl downheartedly dropped her shoulders and refused to meet his gaze, looking just like a reprimanded dog.

If she was self-aware of the fact that what she did was wrong, then there was hope that she could change and rehabilitate.

“Lately, Hime has been acting strange… The wolves don’t listen to what I say either…”

The girl murmured in a disheartened tone, so Touya tried speaking to her seriously.

“Suzuran, I have something important to tell you. Please listen.”

“I have to go now. Hime will wake up soon.”

Suzuran stood up and moved to leave.

“Why are you running away from Hime?”

“She’ll get angry at me.”

“Isn’t she your mistress and the person who raised you?”

“……”

Suzuran’s expression sank as she unconsciously played with her hairpin, and on the arm she lifted up was the bracelet that Homura had talked about.

It consisted of a faded plastic ring bound and reinforced with strings of vines. The jingling part was broken, but it was definitely the remains of what was once a toy rattle.

“—Were you scared, Suzuran? That’s why you kidnapped senpai, Mayo? To get a replacement for Hime. A replacement mother. Yeah, it’s true that senpai and Hime look a bit alike.”

The girl hesitated as she was about to leave and couldn’t shake off Touya’s words.

Enduring his body’s pain, Touya stood up.

“Suzuran. Your mother is neither Sekkachimaru nor Hime. Your real mother is on Earth. Come back to Earth with me.”

“……Earth?”

“Yeah, it’s where you come from.”

“…Kuh… I can’t do that. I can’t leave Hime alone…!”

At that moment, a voice calling her name came from outside, making Suzuran jump.

“—Suzu, is that thee?”

“……!”

The moment she heard that, the girl became frantic and knocked over several tools on the ground as she ran out of the stable.

“Hey, Suzu! Come back here!”

The voice scolded her.

The owner of the voice entered the stable while grumbling.

“Even though ‘tis time for her morning practice… That girl should start acting her age already…”

Touya tensely went on guard.

The person who had entered the dim stable saw Touya standing alongside the wall and suddenly stopped walking.

“Hyah!”

She faltered in shock and pressed her hands against the chest of her kimono, which was wrapped in a sash. However, Touya was the one who was surprised here.

Her appearance was definitely that of the witch who had attacked Touya and Homura yesterday. But the atmosphere she gave off was somehow different now.

“W-What was that for? Don’t surprise me like that.”

While adjusting her breathing and taking some deep breaths, she stared at Touya fixedly.

“Are thou—”

She looked at the cords binding his hands and feet, and then peered closely at Touya’s face.

“—Kumagorou?”

“…Huh?”

“Then, Hachi perhaps?”

“No.”

She clapped her hands in realization.

“Haha, I got it—thou art the retiree from the tenement house, right?”

“I’m not Kumagorou, Hachi, or the retiree from the tenement house!”

“…?”

She touched all over Touya’s cheeks with a puzzled expression.

Touya had been prepared to have his life in danger, but he just couldn’t keep up with this.

“My, I bethought thou wast a life-like puppet, but—could thou perchance be a guest from afar?”

“Guest… I guess that’s one way to put it. Anyway, I’m not a puppet, I’m human.”

“If thou art a human, why art thou tied up? Art thy a criminal?”

“……You really don’t remember? You did this. You set that wolf after me.”

“I did?”

She pointed at herself and tilted her head in puzzlement.

“I don’t recall that at all.”

Touya couldn’t help but sigh and feel drained at how much difference there was from her truly fearsome and witch-like manner yesterday.

Suddenly, the iron shackles on his legs unlocked by themselves with a clank.

Rolling up her sleeves, the witch beckoned to him.

“Lift thy arms… Hmm… these wast tightly bound…”

She took out a small knife and cut the rope. Touya had suddenly become free.

As Touya rubbed his swollen arms, the witch gracefully bowed to him.

“I misunderstood it as another one of Suzu’s pranks. Please forgive me.”

“…Based on your behavior, you don’t seem to remember senpai or Homura either.”

“…?”

The witch became puzzled again.

This was a once-in-a-million chance for Touya to escape.

But Touya chose not to do that.

If Homura and senpai had safely completed the emergency withdrawal, they would request help to save him and other investigators would eventually come here. When that time came, they had to avoid it turning into another conflict at any costs. That was Touya’s thinking.

And he was also concerned about Suzuran, who had run away to hide herself.

“I’m Touya Takumi.”

“Touya—”

The witch nodded as she put her hands back within her sleeves in a calm and easy manner.

“Thou mayest refer to me as Iotsumisumaru no Hime3. I toldeth Suzu to calleth me either Subaru or just Hime, so I doth not mind if thou doth the same.”

“…Then, can I call you Subaru-hime?”

“Thou’ll maketh me blush.”

The witch smiled as she swept her haori4 around her to escape from the cold morning air.

Touya was startled at how her appearance as she let out white breath in the cold air reminded him of senpai once again.

“Shalt we go have breakfast? The sun wilt have already risen if we wait for that truant tomboy.”

When Touya mentioned that Suzuran had just fed him—

“Then I shalt pour some tea. Thou art a rare and precious guest, after all.”

+++

Touya was given a tour inside the castle.

It was an old stone castle that had been kept clean.

The castle’s construction was actually very similar to their base camp. They had both probably been constructed by the same group of craftsman in eras close to each other. However, there were almost no points of commonality between them when it came to interior design. Both the furniture and decorations fit in well with this castle, proof that substantial years of work and training had gone into making the place.

The castle was built on a slope with the mountain at its back, and the stable that Touya had been tied up in was in a semi-basement that reached from the ground floor down to the castle basement.

And now, Touya was looking down at the vista below the castle from a high terrace after having climbed some stairs.

Before him was a small plain located in a mountain valley.

There were orchards and a small cultivated field at one corner of the plain, where many puppets could be seen tilling the soil. Subaru had called them “puppets5”, and the human-like doll that Touya and Homura had encountered in the marshland forest was most likely the same. He felt intrigued by the idea of puppets that moved with magic.

Touya could also see livestock pens near them, and sometimes he could hear the clucking sound of chickens.

Enclosures that looked a lot like Japanese tea arbors could be glimpsed amidst the village, and the whole village, which looked so different from the construction and decorative style of this old castle, gave off a strange and mysterious feeling for Touya.

“It’s so peaceful…”

As he quietly felt awed by this sight, Touya was offered to sit at the table on the terrace.

It seemed like a compact and peaceful life, with more than enough for Subaru-hime and Suzuran to live here by themselves as long as the puppet workforce was maintained. Touya didn’t see anything like fences to block outside invaders either.

There was a weaving machine with weaving cloth still inserted in it on the terrace. The cloth had the same kind of strange design pattern as the kimonos that Suzuran and Subaru wore.

After setting tea utensils on the table, the witch sat down facing Touya and gazed at the same vista as him with a teacup in hand.

“Won’t thou consume some pickled radish?”

“Haah. Were these vegetables grown in those fields?”

“Indeed.”

As Touya gave thanks for the food and reached a hand out to the plate, the witch looked at him with a proud expression.

Touya seemed to be forgetting the situation he’d been placed in a bit too nonchalantly.

However, it was the witch who broached the topic.

“—Now then, Touya. The fact that we can speaketh the same language means that thou cometh from Edo or some other feudal domain in the land of the rising sun, correct?”

“You can tell…!?”

“Of course. Thou ranneth afool of the Tengu Kakushi, correct? It must has’t been difficult.”

“Then, are you also from Earth… from Edo?”

“No. I wast born in this land and hath taken mine first bath as an infant in the water of that waterfall.”

At that point, Subaru’s words cut off and she took a quiet breath.

“The one who cameth from Edo is mine father.”

“Your… father?”

In that case, she was a half-breed born from a Nutellan and an Earthling from centuries past—Touya surreptitiously gulped.

“Mine father wast a retainer of the shogun, serving as chief treasurer.”

Touya was already plenty taken aback by her first words, but it was even more disconcerting to hear the kind of words from historical dramas like “retainer” and “chief treasurer” from the mouth of a golden-haired princess who didn’t look Japanese at all.

He felt like he couldn’t look down on Homura anymore for having teased him that it was all like a game.

“By retainer, you mean he was an upper-class samurai serving directly under a shogun6, right? Then, what was the name of the feudal lord that he served—?”

“He was called Ienari the Fool.”

“The Fool… eh…?”

When he heard the shogun’s name, Touya reflexively shuddered.

Tokugawa Ienari was the shogun who ruled for several decades around 1800 AD.

In Nutella’s flow of time, that would have been at least over a thousand years in the past.

Despite the fact that Subaru-hime’s appearance looked as young as the twenty-year-old Fujimori-sensei.

“Ienari the Fool pushed onto mine father the responsibility for the acts of ineptitude that he and his council of elders hadst committed, forcing him into light exile. In the land whither he wast undergoing house arrest, mine father apparently ranneth afoul of the Tengu Kakushi.”

“Light… exile?”

“Hath thou heard of details of what hath happened after his disappearance thither?”

“…No, unfortunately. The only events I know of from that period are… aah…” Touya scratched his head with a grown. “…At most, things like the revenge of the Forty-Seven Ronin… Wait, that’s from a different era.”

“I see. Well, never mind, I doth not particularly care. Well, I doth has’t a little bit of lingering attachment, but, well, never mind.”

“I’m sorry.”

After looking down at the land beneath the castle with downcast eyes, Subaru pulled herself back together and once more turned to fix her gaze on Touya.

“Even if thou are a criminal, that dost not make thee mean or servile. The laws of the shogunate don’t reacheth hither either. Of course, it depends greatly on how shameful and wretched the crime is, but… ah, that’s right.”

Out of the blue, the witch left her seat, and when she came back, she was holding a familiar sword in her hands.

“My sword…!”

Touya reflexively stood up, and the witch nodded.

“As I thought.”

The witch unsheathed the sword and examined the blade as she held it aloft.

“I has’t never seen forging so complete and pure. This is an excellent blade.”

As Touya faced the witch with the sword between them, he couldn’t help but tensely recall what had happened at the graveyard.

He still couldn’t believe this was the same person as back then.

Noticing Touya’s anxious face, the witch softened her expression and re-sheathed the blade with another graceful motion.

“A blade is a warrior’s soul. Never separate it from thy person.”

Saying that, she held out the handle to Touya.

“You’re giving it back?”

“Thou bethink ‘tis careless of me—? But this blade doest not carryeth the scent of blood.”

“…No. Thank you very much.”

Touya respectfully accepted his sword.

The witch nodded in satisfaction and returned to her seat.

However, she next spoke in a despondent manner.

“I hath found that blade during mine morning stroll, but… mine clan’s graveyard wast terribly damaged by beasts.”

Touya froze in shocked as he was searching for someplace to put down his sword.

“This castle and the region around it art within the domain of the wolves. On rare occasion, beasts that might be huge enough to destroy gravestones doth creep into this domain to steal crops from the fields, but…”

Her sad expression was unbearable to watch.

‘The damage was caused by your magic’… Unable to say the truth, Touya didn’t know how to console her. What if she eventually revealed her terrifying witch persona again—it would be a lie to say that he wasn’t anxious about that.

Even so, his feelings of pity for her didn’t change.

“I’ll help you clean up and repair the graves.”

“…I see, thank you. Tis a difficult job for the puppets, and Suzuran is too much of an unruly child for it.”

Subaru-hime chewed on pickled vegetables while gazing at the beautiful mountain surface.

Suddenly, she turned to Touya and asked a question.

“By the way, Touya, has’t thou heard of Otoshibanashi?”

“Otoshibanashi…?”

“‘Tis also called Rakugo7. Has’t thou ever seen a performance of it?”

“Rakugo? Y-Yeah, I’ve a bit of experience with it.” Though he had only seen it once or twice on television.

“How unexpected. Suzuran keepeth pestering me to perform for her. I has’t already performed all the ones I hath learned from mine father. Hath thither been any new stories?”

“You perform Rakugo?”

“Indeed—”

Rolling up her sleeves, Subaru took out a folding fan affixed with transparent weaving from the sleeve to the wooden frame, and took a very Rakugo-like storytelling pose as she began to speak.

“Eh~, goldfishes, goldfishes, three goldfishes, the middle goldfish, the pop-eyed goldfish. Heavenly gods, three heavenly gods, the first heavenly god’s nose is chipped, the middle heavenly god is a good god. The tiger roars, the tiger roars, the tiger roars so much. The puppy~ snorts~. I wast originally the same. If I goeth to the pine grove where I parted with thee, shalt the pine’s dew fall or will mine tears? Ajurakamokuren, kyuuraisu, tekerettsunopa8.”

Subaru finished by spreading out her arms.

“…………”

Touya stiffened in place, wondering what had just happened.

Cough.

Subaru cleared her throat a little and corrected her sitting posture.

“…M-Mine father liked Rakugo. Apparently, he wast even carrying a Rakugo book when he befell upon the Tengu Kakushi. Whenever I hath grown tired during mine training and studies in mine childhood, he would speaketh much about Rakugo and perform them for me.”

“You memorized all the stories from the Rakugo book?”

“Indeed. ‘Twas unexpectedly useful. That girl is the type to easily grow bored… Yes. ‘Twas right by this window…”

Subaru nostalgically gazed down at the table.

“If it’s just telling you Rakugo stories, then that’s pretty easy. Unfortunately, I don’t remember any myself, but I could show you lots of Rakugo books after I go back—”

“Go back…?”

Suddenly, Subaru’s expression darkened.

Touya felt a chill run down his back.

+++

In the end, Suzuran didn’t come back to the castle—

So Subaru and Touya went to repair the graveyard by themselves.

Though he did honestly want to help with the repair work, Touya’s greater priority was to persuade Subaru and Suzuran to let him bring the little girl back to Earth.

After Touya and Subaru walked down the castle’s stone steps, a white wolf appeared before them.

“……!”

Subaru calmly stepped forward.

“No need to be afraid. This is Yukiwarimaru. He’s the leader of the wolves that have served mine family for generations. Yukiwarimaru is the one who found Suzuran in the woods as well.”

“Yukiwari…?”

That particular word sounded familiar to Touya.

“—However, that girl hath never been able to get rid of her habit of reading the kanji for Yukiwari as Sekkachi, and keepeth calling him Sekkachimaru all the time. Yukiwarimaru is also troubled by it, right?”

Upon having its name called, the wolf gazed at Subaru with deep reddish brown eyes.

Human and beast.

With the mistress of the castle standing between them, Touya and Yukiwarimaru gazed warily at each other.

Touya’s sword wasn’t on his waist. Right now, he was only carrying the bamboo basket containing work tools. After careful consideration, Touya had decided to leave the sword back at the castle.

He looked with complicated feelings at the wolf’s tough body, whose muscles undulated beneath its white fur every time it walked.

“…He has a grey spot on his brow, hence the name Yukiwari9… huh?”

“Indeed. Thou art quite perceptive.”

“It comes from the name of the mealy primrose… right?”

“Indeed. The mealy primrose is connected with mine family motto.”

“—Family motto, huh?”

Touya gulped at the creeping hunch that was starting to grow in him.

+++

The two of them now stood before the rows of damaged graves.

Subaru sighed with her hands on her hips.

“They really didst a number on this place. I doth not even know whither to start.”

Touya looked over the disastrous scene as well.

“Are all the people buried here Nutellans?”

“Nutellans?”

“Ah, no, err—I mean, were they all native people who lived in this land?”

“The name ‘Nutellan’ hast a strange ring to it… Mine father called them the People of Sagacity. Of course, there art ancestors of mine family buried hither as well.”

“The People of Sagacity? So they all lived and died at the castle.”

“…No.”

Subaru shook her head.

“Since I becameth old enough to beeth aware of mine surroundings, the only ones who has’t been newly buried in this soul garden art mine mother and father. I hath only heard about the deceased sleeping in the other graves through hearsay and hath never met them directly.”

“……”

Touya was once more hit by an inexplicable feeling, because he couldn’t believe that those were the words of someone like her who had lived for many, many years in this land.

If that was really true, for just how long had she lived all alone—?

“Mine mother wast the daughter of the village chief. The People of Sagacity art naturally long-lived, but my mother wast unfortunately born weak in body. She died when I was very young. I only recall a little of her face.”

“…That must have been lonely for you.”

“‘Tis fine. I hadst mine father. The People of Sagacity who hath lived at the castle left and went on a journey to a faraway land.”

Subaru knelt before a gravestone and picked up a damaged flower with her fingertips.

“Where did they go?”

“…That hast nothing to doth with thee.”

Subaru replied without turning around, the coldness of her tone confusing Touya.

Her back seemed to be clearly telling him ‘I don’t want to answer that’.

“In any case, several hundred years has’t already passed since then. Mine father remained in this land. Because he loved this land whither he lived with mine mother. I feel the same way as well, even now—”

Placing the flower on her knee, Subaru ran a finger along the very Japanese-like gravestone that Homura and Touya had noticed before.

“I personally engraved the words mine father hath left behind on this gravestone. I hadst plenty of time to do so, anyway.”

“Then… you’ve been here all alone ever since then…”

Touya was rendered speechless.

Subaru continued to stare at her parents’ gravestones, seeming in low spirits.

Resolving himself, Touya decided to ask her the big question.

“Subaru-hime. I have a request.”

“What is it?”

The witch quietly asked back without turning around.

“It’s true that I came here from Japan, from Earth. That goes the same for that girl—for Suzuran. I probably know her birth and parentage.”

“Thou art making a marriage proposal just after meeting her? Thou art quite hasty.”

“No, not that, I mean that I didn’t come here through Tengu Kakushi.”

“Hoh.”

“Suzuran has a family. You’re definitely her family as well, but her true family is on Earth. I want to bring Suzuran back to Earth.”

After a short silence, Subaru touched the flower on her knee with her fingertip.

“I thought it wast something like that. However…”

The witch murmured dispassionately.

“Those whom chance upon the Tengu Kakushi only experience misfortune when they try to returneth to their homeland. If thou say that is not the case for thee, thou can returneth to Earth or wherever thou like. But please doth not tread upon this land ever again.”

“……But Suzuran—”

“Suzu is mine daughter. She is mine only daughter, who I personally fed and raised since she wast a baby.”

“……”

As the witch quietly stood up and turned around, the flower in her hand swiftly wilted before Touya’s eyes.

“Thou likely has’t already noticed, but the flow of time hither is different from Earth. ‘Tis a cruel providence. Even if she wast someone’s true child, they would no longer beest able to recognize her.”

“That’s not true. Homura realized it! Her true mother surely will too.”

“Even so, would that bringeth happiness to Suzu? Can thou promise that Suzuran would not cry after being taken far away from these familiar hills and fields and from the wolves she wast raised with like siblings?”

The wilted flower broke apart and scattered from her fingertips.

“…I don’t know.”

The witch sneered as her expectations came true.

“The misfortune hath already occurred. It hath already passed. Therefore, what more is thither to seek?”

“That’s just your own opinion—It’s something for Suzuran to decide for herself.”

“She is still just a small child.”

Subaru’s gaze became sharp like knives.

“Why did you remain here? Did your father wish for you to stay here?”

“…Kuh… Silence.”

“Subaru-hime, it’s because you yourself chose to do so.”

Even as his heart was pained by her history, Touya continued to speak.

“I don’t believe that your father wished for you to remain all alone. Even if you stayed here until you finished caring for your father’s father, why didn’t you go and look for the People of Sagacity—your irreplaceable comrades.”

“—Silence.”

“Please understand. Entrusting your feelings to Suzuran as well is too cruel.”

Not faltering before the witch’s angry gaze, Touya spoke resolutely.

“You became alone by your own choice. You overlooked your living comrades and chose those who had already died. The ones who miss you aren’t your dead parents, but your comrades. Even now, somewhere out there, they’re surely still thinking of you, Subaru.”

“Silence! Do not utter another word!

“——”

Touya realized that he had become unable to speak words with his mouth, just as the witch had ordered.

Not only that, his entire body was starting to rapidly turn numb.

“Do not bring calamity hither from outside this land.”

A green flow appeared and wavered between the witch’s fingers.

The witch’s eyes glowed ominously as she stared down at him, causing Touya’s consciousness to promptly black out.

Chapter 20 END

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TRANSLATOR’S NOTES

(1) Ani-san and Oanii-san are older renditions of Onii-san (older brother). This is indicative of the older dialect of Japanese that Suzu and the witch usually speak, though Suzu’s way of speaking is less overtly archaic and more informal than the witch’s, so I make the translation of her speech come out closer to modern speaking in order to accentuate the difference.

(2) Hime: Japanese word for “Princess”, but Suzu says it rather informally and doesn’t attach the usual respectful suffixes to it, so it’s used more like a name/nickname than a title in this case.

(3) In English, this translates to “Princess Iotsumisumaru”. Here, the title “hime” (princess) is used a bit differently than in English. In ancient Japan, the title was frequently added to the last names of noble women from the time of their birth as a suffix, to the point where it was more like a natural part of their names than a separate title.

(4) Haori: a traditional Japanese sort of hip- or thigh-length kimono-like jacket, worn over other clothing.

(5) Here, a different word for “puppet” is used than the one that Touya has been using, which more specifically refers to “a puppet controlled by others” than the more general term meaning “a human-like doll/figure”.

(6) Shogun: literally means “general”, but it is specifically used as the title for the (usually hereditary) military dictator of Japan who ruled behind the symbolic status of the emperor, a system of government that was maintained from 1192 to 1867.

(7) Rakugo: a traditional form of Japanese storytelling, performed by a professional storyteller through only their words and gestures, most often with comic elements. Otoshibashi is an older name for it.

(8) Sorry if this all seems nonsensical, Rakugo storytelling sometimes uses a very different form of grammar and language compared to normal Japanese, and I’m not well-versed in it enough to give it a satisfactory English translation. The three nonsensical words at the end in particular have no real meaning as far as I can tell and are there only for stylistic purposes.

(9) Yukiwari: means “breaking through frozen snow to reveal the ground”. It also refers to the Yukiwari in Yukiwarisou (the Hepatica flower, otherwise known as the mealy primrose).

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10 thoughts on “Chapter 20

  1. Thanks for the translation.

    “As Touya rubbed her swollen arms, the witch gracefully bowed to him.”
    Is Touua rubbing his arms or her arms?

    “Subaru knelt before a gravestone and picked up a damaged flower with his fingertips.”
    Since Subaru picked up the flower, wouldn’t it be “her fingertips?”

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  3. Hime is so stronk… i hope she doesn’t get violent again.
    Her story reads as a tragedy, I hope she doesn’t have a sad ending.

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  4. Pingback: Most Recent Releases (Updated 07/02/16) | NanoDesu Light Novel Translations

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