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Kyoukai no Kanata - Chapter 1, part 8 [English]

nakulas Aug 12th, 2013 4,441 Never
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  1. *** Visit <http://nakulas.blogspot.com/2013/04/kyoukai-no-kanata-volume-1-progress.html> for more information.
  2.  
  3. A quiet old confectionery, situated in a certain tranquil residential district, stood before me. It looked like the sort of place that would be expensive even to raze, almost as if it had been left there in a near-abandoned state until somebody figured out what else they could do with it. Though it was not so late that people would have cleared off the streets, there was nobody nearby. I knew why. I walked into the confectionery, which positively oozed decadence.
  4.  
  5. It was open today, albeit doing no business, same as always. The interior was covered with a wood-patterned wallpaper. That, plus the sliding paper-screen doors, made the shop feel very traditionally Japanese. A bell was set atop a neat desk, along with a number of products for sale. Presumably, the idea was for customers to carefully examine the goods themselves before summoning the shopkeeper.
  6.  
  7. I tapped the bell twice. Shortly, the shopkeeper - a woman in the prime of her youth - emerged from the backroom. She wore a tidy black kimono with flower patterns on it. Her red-brown hair was tied behind her head and held in place with an ornamental crimson hairpin. Though she was very attractive, she wasn't just there for show. The way she carried herself, it seemed like she could have people flocking to her if she so desired. And yet, she wasn't making any sales. Granted, her shop wasn't in the best of locations, but there was an entirely different reason that it wasn't popular. Well, to be precise, it wasn't just that it _wasn't_ popular - she didn't _want_ it to be popular.
  8.  
  9. Appearances can be deceiving. She was a xenor, too: Shindō Ayaka.
  10.  
  11. "Did you put up a new repulse barrier? There's nobody around here."
  12.  
  13. "Now 'at ye mention it, ay. Th' old one was gettin' rusty an' I was gettin' more customers. I prefer livin' alone. Dinnae wanna get caught up in th' city life. Ye know what I mean, Kanbara?"
  14.  
  15. Implicit in her reply was the sense that she was not happy about my visit.
  16.  
  17. "Well, sorry. I didn't _mean_ to bring the city life with me."
  18.  
  19. "Dinnae trouble yersel. Asides, it was me 'at told ye tae see me if ye war aseekin' tae talk. An' also, ye're a young man. I'm no' surprised."
  20.  
  21. "Sorry, what?"
  22.  
  23. I had a bad feeling about this.
  24.  
  25. "Ye got so caught up in yer fantasies o' me 'at ye just haed tae see me in th' flesh, eh?" she said, cocking her head.
  26.  
  27. "Like hell I'd fantasize about you naked!"
  28.  
  29. "So ye were fantasizing aboot _somebody_ naked, were ye? Ye're an immense pervert, Kanbara. A lust-oni."
  30.  
  31. Silence. That was one doozy of a loaded question.
  32.  
  33. "You say 'an immense pervert; a lust-oni'; I use the power of anagrams and say 'a supreme environmentalist'.  At least I'm eco-friendly."
  34.  
  35. Ye know, Kanbara, ye're likely th' only man in th' world 'at'd give me sic a daft excuse. Or d'ye hae something better up yer sleeve?"
  36.  
  37. The end was nigh. I was seized by an urge to head back from whence I came, whistling off into the distance.
  38.  
  39. Just then, when I was on the verge of dying of mortification, Ayaka shot me a ruthless, knowing look.
  40.  
  41. "So, whit brings ye here?"
  42.  
  43. It was like she was a completely different person now, no longer the lackadaisical shopkeeper she was before. And if I had to pick, I'd say that this is closer to the real Ayaka. As a xenor, she wanted to know what could possibly bring a half-dreamghast like me to her doorstep.
  44.  
  45. "I've got a question for you", I said, stating my business.
  46.  
  47. "Well, nae reason for us tae stand here. Let's go in an' hae a sit."
  48.  
  49. She showed me into a small Japanese-style room, with floor space enough for four-and-a-half straw mats. There was something charming about her bedding - she hadn't bothered to put it away. Ayaka brought a teapot and a teacup and sat across from me at the coffee table. Steam rose from the freshly-poured green tea. As she offered me a cup of tea, Ayaka was the first to break the silence.
  50.  
  51. "I surmise I know why ye're hither, but ye just gae aheid an' tell me. Please keep it short. Yer expositions're always too langsome."
  52.  
  53. "Bugger off."
  54.  
  55. Anyway.
  56.  
  57. I told her about how a number of xenors had been coming here recently. Along the way, I also told her about Kuriyama Mirai. At the end of my explanation, nodded coolly.
  58.  
  59. "Kanbara, d'ye mind if I ask ye something?"
  60.  
  61. "Sure?"
  62.  
  63. "Sae bein' as ye cam' all th' way here tae see me, I guess shanna hae tae ask, but dinnae yer xenor pals know anything aboot 'at?"
  64.  
  65. They just warned me not to stick my nose into these things."
  66.  
  67. "I see... if thay mean ye well, at's at, eh?" she said, smiling icily.
  68.  
  69.  It looked like I had stumbled upon whatever it was that Mitsuki and Hiro'omi had been hiding from me. If I could figure out what exactly it was, I could probably figure out what Kuriyama was here for, too.
  70.  
  71. "Do you know why xenors are amassing here?"
  72.  
  73. "A lull's a-comin'."
  74.  
  75. "A lull? As in when the wind stops and the sea is calm?"
  76.  
  77. "Right ye be. Th' same, 'cep for dreamghasts. Dreamghasts become less active for a spell."
  78.  
  79. I get what she's saying. But that still doesn't make sense.
  80.  
  81. "Isn't that a good thing? Wouldn't you _want_ dreamghasts to be less active?"
  82.  
  83. "Ordinar' folk would, ay. An' 'at's why it puts some folk in a bind."
  84.  
  85. I fell silent. Of course there would be people who wouldn't want dreamghasts to be less active. Like, for example, the xenor standing right in front of me: Shindō Ayaka, professional dreamghast-exterminator. The confectionery was just a facade to hide her real identity. It certainly wasn't turning any worthwhile profits for her. If the need for xenors declined due to the lull, then obviously she'd be hard up for work.
  86.  
  87. "Is the lull going to last all that long?"
  88.  
  89. "Na, nae more 'an two months or sae."
  90.  
  91. "Are you going to be alright, Ayaka?"
  92.  
  93. "I shanna be troubled by a lull or two, lad", she replied.
  94.  
  95. Then, she pulled a pipe from within her kimono and put it to her lips. The way she looked, wearing a kimono and pulling at her pipe, had a certain something to it. She looked relaxed in the face of the oncoming lull and the ensuing lack of work she would face; so much so that it was clear she was a xenor of high standing. I could feel a certain air about her; one that allowed me a glimpse into just how awesome she was, what with her repulse barriers and all. Her role as the proprietor of a failing confectionery really was just a facade.
  96.  
  97. "I dinnae know if ye noticed, but Japanese sweets last a long time. If I ration thaim rightly, I should carry on 'till harvest time or sae."
  98.  
  99. "Okay, time-out. You were planning on subsisting on bean jelly and frozen candy!? I can't believe I wasted my admiration on you!"
  100.  
  101. "Kanbara, dinnae ye forget why ye're here", she cautioned me.
  102.  
  103. Then, she closed her left eye. She can see the true forms of dreamghasts when she concentrates, but only through her right eye, was it? If that's what it was, then it didn't really make sense for her to be looking at me that way. She already knew who I was. I guess it might be useful for identifying dreamghasts disguised as humans, though. Or, could she maybe do something else with her right eye?
  104.  
  105. Suddenly, something came to mind.
  106.  
  107. "Will my ghastmacht decline during the lull?"
  108.  
  109. "Likely, lad. But 'at isna whit I wis talkin' aboot."
  110.  
  111. "There's something even more important?"
  112.  
  113. I gulped. I couldn't even imagine what could be worse than my ghastmacht diminishing.
  114.  
  115. "Weel, I'd like tae make some clink. Let's git down tae business."
  116.  
  117. She pulled out a chart labeled "Price Schedule" and set it on the table. There were all sorts of details on the chart - the cost of a consultation; a list of prices for dreamghast extermination jobs, broken down according to the difficulty of the job in question; and even some a la carte add-ons.
  118.  
  119. "You were going to charge me for this? Is that really the kind of relationship we have!?"
  120.  
  121. "Our kind o' relationship is _hou_ I make money, Kanbara."
  122.  
  123. Silence. "Our kind of relationship" was one in which she had damn near bounty-hunted me.
  124.  
  125. "If ye'd like, ye can lay wit' me while we talk. Are ye awantin' tae?"
  126.  
  127. "Hell no!
  128.  
  129. Anyway, getting back on topic....
  130.  
  131. "Ye see, I only mentioned 'at some folk'd be in a bind tae get ye thinkin' aboot xenors. Truth is, nae xenor'd end up in th' poorhouse 'cause o' a lull or two. Forsooth, it makes for a good chance to spend yer extra dough."
  132.  
  133. Ayaka continued to smoke her pipe. I remained silent, waiting for her to continue.
  134.  
  135. "Asides, a lull opens new opportunities for xenors. There isna any other time when ye can fight dreamghasts 'at'd usually be too stout for ye. For youngsome xenors who want tae become famous, 'tis a golden opportunity."
  136.  
  137. Ayaka clenched her right hand into a fist. Apparently, she had a television. Her standard of living didn't matter, though. What _did_ matter was what she had said about the lull being a golden opportunity for young xenors who wanted to become famous.
  138.  
  139. "So, you mean... you're saying that there's a jumbo dreamghast in the area?"
  140.  
  141. "Ye hae good wits. All th' xenors 'at've been acomin' hereaboots must be schemin' tae use th' lull tae fight dreamghasts."
  142.  
  143. "Which means that Kuriyama is here looking to fight the jumbo dreamghast, too?"
  144.  
  145. "I dinnae know aboot 'at. She didna know 'at other xenors war comin' hither, did she?"
  146.  
  147. "That's right."
  148.  
  149. Ayaka nodded.
  150.  
  151. "I cannae imagine 'at she'd try tae fight one o' 'em stouter dreamghasts by hersel'.  Th' call for xenors an' th' glut seem important, too. Ere ye know for sure whatfor she's here, ye'd best be careful."
  152.  
  153. "So, I don't know much about the ways of xenors, so this might be a dumb question. Is it all _that_ shameful to be upstaged by other xenors?"
  154.  
  155. "'At isna it, lad. There's folk that'll use th' lull tae dae evil. There always hae been."
  156.  
  157. "Evil...."
  158.  
  159. That would explain why the Nase group was dealing with the influx of xenors with an abundance of caution. There was still something that was unclear to me, though. Why did Kuriyama come here? What did she want to achieve?
  160.  
  161. "Thare're evil folk out thare", she mentioned, suddenly.
  162.  
  163. There was clearly some deep meaning in what she said. With that, she opened her left eye. To an outside observer, it may have seemed like she was being haughty, but she was probably just waiting to see how I would react.
  164.  
  165. "What's that supposed to mean?"
  166.  
  167. "I meant whit I said. 'At's all", she replied, brushing off my question without a moment's hesitation.
  168.  
  169.  Well, whatever. Eventually, I might be able to get an answer out of Kuriyama herself, and who knows, maybe she really did come here ignorant of the situation here. For the time being, what was most important was for me not to doubt her. That'd suffice.
  170.  
  171. "By the way, how much less immortal will I become?"
  172.  
  173. I finally brought up the issue that had been at the back of my mind the entire time:  immortality. I didn't have a resilient body or any unusual fighting capabilities. My immortality was really the only thing that made me unhuman.
  174.  
  175. "I cannae be sure, lad. Tae tell ye th' truth, I haena th' wee-est idea aboot this. Ye might still be immortal all through, or ye might lose yer mendin' ability altogether."
  176.  
  177. "I see."
  178.  
  179. Even with all her experience, she must not have encountered unusual cases like me very often. That was to be expected. Not much I can do about that. If the world _was_ teeming with immortal dreamghasts, there wouldn't be much point in having xenors around in the first place. I pulled out my phone and checked the time.
  180.  
  181. It was 9:05 pm.
  182.  
  183. Somehow, we'd manage to spend nearly an hour talking. If she didn't have any more information for me, there wasn't much point in me staying any longer. I was about to stand up to leave when Ayaka spoke.
  184.  
  185. "Say, Kanbara, have ye heard anything from yer mam or dad?"
  186.  
  187. She saw right through me. She was really something. The we're-still-alive postcard came to mind. It wouldn't do for me to agree right away, though.
  188.  
  189. "Why do you ask? Something come to mind?"
  190.  
  191. "Dreamghasts an' xenors alike cannae ignore th' lull, lad."
  192.  
  193. Her suspicions seemed to have been well-grounded. I couldn't help but sigh loudly. I pulled the postcard out of my bag and laid it on the table.
  194.  
  195. "Looks like it haes something psychic embedded in it. Can I shaw ye what's inside?"
  196.  
  197. She was a real expert. She had told me about psyclones before, but an ordinary person looking at the postcard wouldn't notice anything unusual about it. Ayaka, however, recognized it the moment she laid eyes on it - she didn't even have to physically manipulate it.
  198.  
  199. "There might be some information in there about the lull."
  200.  
  201. "I suppose sae."
  202.  
  203. Ayaka seemed to agree with my supposition. She turned the card upside-down and set it back on the table. A psyclone bubbled up from the blank white rectangle. After a few seconds, it was complete. An image of a real person was clearly visible, albeit the person was shrunk down to a height of thirty centimeters. In particular, the person in question had cat-like ears sprouting from her head. She was also my mother.
  204.  
  205. "Yoohoo♪ I've got an impurrtant message fur you, so listen up♪"
  206.  
  207. I silently turned the postcard back over. The side with my address was now face up. We were in a small Japanese-style room, located in the back of a quiet confectionery, situated in a certain tranquil residential district. A xenor in a kimono sat opposite me at a coffee table. There was just one thing for me to say.
  208.  
  209. "Can we pretend this never happened?"
  210.  
  211. The world grew silent.
  212.  
  213. If a meteor were to fall from the heavens and destroy the earth now, I think I would be fine with that. I did my best to wipe off the cold sweat from all over my body. Neither of us spoke for what seemed like forever. Eventually, Ayaka solemnly broke the silence.
  214.  
  215. "Was 'at yer mum?"
  216.  
  217. "It was! She's always been kind of weird! On parent's day in elementary school, she was the only one who sat with the students. She even raised her hand to ask questions! She has a really unconventional personality!"
  218.  
  219. "Come tae, Kanbara. Whit's got ye all in a fuff?"
  220.  
  221. Saucy as always. To preserve the honor of the Kanbara family, I'd have to make her vanish... but that's a conversation for another time. It's tough to sympathize with a narrative with a number of disparate motivations, after all. It was more important that I extract any useful information about Kuriyama and the lull and so forth. Sealing Ayaka's lips was a secondary concern. Well, and also, this isn't the kind of thing that ought to prompt me to start thinking about pulling off a locked-room murder. That's the sort of thing that'd get me knocked out of a new writers' contest in the first round.
  222.  
  223. I'd have to clear my family's name some other time.
  224.  
  225. "Let's hearken a bittie more, lad."
  226.  
  227. "...Wait, Ayaka."
  228.  
  229. She seemed to have misunderstood something. This was an important point of honor for the Kanbara family.
  230.  
  231. "My _dad_ is the dreamghast. My mom's a xenor, same as you."
  232.  
  233. Ayaka just blinked at me, with her pipe still at her lips. After a while, she finally asked a question.
  234.  
  235. "Then why daes she hae those cattie ears?"
  236.  
  237. "Presumably an accessory."
  238.  
  239. "An' why dae they look like th' real MacKay?"
  240.  
  241. "She's a stickler for stuff, dammit! Plus, as a xenor, she must've seen the real thing before!"
  242.  
  243. "Is that sae?"
  244.  
  245. I wasn't sure whether or not Ayaka believed me; either way, she flipped the card back over before I had a chance to say no. The psyclone bubbled up atop the table. My face fell. Though I wasn't really conscious of how I looked at the time, it must have seemed like I was facing the end of the world.
  246.  
  247. "Yoohoo♪ I've got an impurrtant message fur you, so listen up♪"
  248.  
  249. Her first line played again. This amounted to a new form of torture.
  250.  
  251. "Yer mum's dang unconventional, eh? Did she e'er think tae win hide-an'-gae-seek by stickin' oot 'er bum?"
  252.  
  253. "So, what, first to be found wins? Wait, you mean my mom seems _that_ unconventional!?"
  254.  
  255. "But ye know, I'm a wee bit jealous. She haes a son in high school, sae she must be at least thirty, ay? She looks fair younger 'an 'at. I'm impress'd th' cattie ears suit 'er sae well."
  256.  
  257. "I appreciate the compliments about my mother, but can we get back to what she was saying?"
  258.  
  259. Ayaka puffed out some smoke and nodded. She put her pipe away, perhaps to indicate that she was going to stop with the idle chatter. I set my embarassment aside and focused on the thoughtscreen
  260.  
  261. "Are you eating riiight? You'd better not be eating packaged food all the time, young man. If you don't cook for yourself every so often, you won't be getting a balanced diet. And I think you know better, but make sure you don't do anything illegal. That would make Ya purrty sad♪"
  262.  
  263. The cat-eared figure in the psyclone squeezed her ample breasts between her arms. I have no idea what could have possibly compelled her to show off her cleavage in a message meant for her son. I wished I had a hole to go hide in... or, hell, I'd dig one myself if I had to. Incidentally, my mother's name is Yayoi. Kanbara Yayoi - weird as she is, she's still a well-renowned xenor.
  264.  
  265. "Ye've gat one heck o' a mum. Seems like she haes a screw lowse, an' she haes whaupin' breasts too, eh?"
  266.  
  267. "Stop saying things!"
  268.  
  269. For the next thirty-ish minutes, I underwent psychological torture at the hands of the psyclone.
  270.  
  271. I gave thanks for Japan's ban on firearms. If I had had a loaded gun in my hand, I would've pulled the trigger. No question about it. I'm sure that in her own way, she cared about her son, living all alone. Even so, the way she displayed her affection was off. Way off. Even if the cat ears did suit her, watching her was like watching a shock video. I wanted to look away so badly. There was nothing cute about it at all.
  272.  
  273. Well, anyway. She eventually got to talking about the lull.
  274.  
  275. "...so beeee careful! Don't purrn yourself out♪"
  276.  
  277. She only spent five minutes on it, dammit. The psyclone blipped off.
  278.  
  279. It was silent again. Ayaka was the first to speak.
  280.  
  281. "We didna git much good lore oot o' 'at."
  282.  
  283. "Don't say that! How am I supposed to make sense of all that suffering now!?"
  284.  
  285. "Weel, 'at's acause o' I'm a xenor. She daed a good job o' sayin' all th' important thingums aboot th' lull in five minutes, eh? E'en a greenie lad like ye coud unnerstaund it."
  286.  
  287. Ayaka ruffled her bangs.
  288.  
  289. "Yer mum's... Ya's information was grand", she continued. "If ye didna know me, ye'd've needed it." That was the truth, plain and simple.
  290.  
  291. "Yeah, but all I got out of it was some stuff about the lull."
  292.  
  293. "Th' lull's gaun'ae start soon. A heap o' xenors're comin' hither tae bag th' stout dreamghast. An' also, the're mair o' 'em 'an onybody expectit. Nou 'at ye know all 'at, ye can choose whit tae dae yersel', can ye?"
  294.  
  295. She wasn't wrong about that. I now had information about the lull, information I couldn't get out of the Nase. Thanks to that, I had a fair idea of what was going on (i.e. the xenors coming here) and what was eventually going to happen (i.e. the xenors slaying the jumbo dreamghast).
  296.  
  297. "Also, d'ye mind if I take a look at 'at letter? If I gie it some time, I micht be able tae get some more lore oot o' it."
  298.  
  299. I figured I couldn't say no to that. If there was a chance that she could get some more information out of it, it'd be good to let her have a better look at it. When it comes to information, the more the merrier.
  300.  
  301. "When you're done with it, give it back, okay? I'd really prefer to destroy it right now, but, you know."
  302.  
  303. "No' a problem, lad."
  304.  
  305. Ayaka nodded coolly and picked up the postcard. Best to leave technical matters to the technicians, of sorts. I just had to do everything I could do, and nothing more. I picked up my bag and set about getting ready to leave. Just then, a hint that Ayaka had dropped came to mind.
  306.  
  307. "By the way, you mentioned something about 'evil folk', didn't you?"
  308.  
  309. "Ay. Thare's folk out thare 'at crave tae be famous, sae much 'at 'ey'd let other folk be duin for."
  310.  
  311. "Or people that want to become famous without dirtying their own hands."
  312.  
  313. "Ye get it, eh? Mebbe I'v been thinkin' too little o' ye, lad."
  314.  
  315. Ayaka chuckled and smiled coldly at me. A glut of ne'er-do-wells, huh.
  316.  
  317. "In any case, thanks for helping me out."
  318.  
  319. I bowed and stood up. Ayaka stood up, too, presumably to see me off.
  320.  
  321. I wasn't sure how things would go, but I was sure where I should go. How better to learn how ne'er-do-wells think than to ask a ne'er-do-well himself? I knew someone who fit the bill perfectly. There was no sense in backing down just because he threatened me that one time. I was about to step outside when Ayaka called out to me.
  322.  
  323. "Kanbara, wait."
  324.  
  325. "Yeah?"
  326.  
  327. I turned around to look at her, and waited for her to continue.
  328.  
  329. "Na, ne'er ye mind", she said, shrugging her kimono-clad shoulders and shaking her head.
  330.  
  331. "If you say so. It sounds like you were going to say something serious there. Those had better not be your last words, okay?"
  332.  
  333. "Kanbara, ye oughta... na, ye dinnae hae tae worry aboot 'at now."
  334.  
  335. Everything's okay... for now. On the flip side, that means that there's no telling how things will go in the future. I tore my gaze away from Ayaka and left the confectionery. There was nobody around, thanks to her powerful repulse barrier. There was no guarantee that she would remain my ally through and through.
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