Demon Child, Chapter 1.
from Aili's translation of Ono Fuyumi's Mashou no Ko.
Right when Hirose walked through the gates of the schoolyard, he saw a group of students in front of the entrance to the school, all wearing their monochromatic school uniforms and full of the clamor that one only finds at high schools. It might be better to say that this clamor had the particular feeling of a long vacation's end. The wind carried a faint indication of the sea, as well as the chirping of the cicadas.
The uniforms of the students were gray and white. Their bright sky gray ties had a certain refreshing feeling about them. Though from the students' standpoint, they might make the heat nearly unbearable. Some of the students who had loosened their collars for the sake of keeping cooler, were caught by a teacher standing beside the gate and lectured at.
Seeing this, Hirose couldn't help but smile, but then realized that his collar was slack as well. He hurriedly clamped his briefcase under his arm and retied his necktie. A sliver of a wry smile came to his face.
When he had attended this high school, their uniforms didn't have ties. They weren't used until the second year after he had graduated. They'd originally worn a stuffy open-necked shirt with black students' trousers as their summer uniform, before it changed into the present look. That style was more suited for the serious teachers. The fact that he was now one of those serious teachers—or rather that he was training to be a teacher—was a bit funny.
He entered the school through the faculty entrance with the other teachers. Passing some familiar faces, he greeted them with nods as he reached into his briefcase and pulled out a sketch of the school to verify the layout of the building. He looked around for the special classroom.
- - - - -
Hirose had graduated from this private high school over three years ago. According to the hensachi, this was a high-class boy's school. That, in addition to its long history, was why it was considered a prestigious school. Besides the fact that a high percentage of its graduating students were admitted to famous universities, there was little else worth mentioning. Though it wasn't a particularly interesting high school, it wasn't one that was particularly disliked either.
This school had only a high school division, which was a bit unusual compared to other prestigious schools of this sort, and there were only six classes in each grade. Also, each class was made up of only about 40 students. It could be considered a relatively small school compared to other city schools. When Hirose attended this school, it had been an ancient brick building in the center of the city. However, because of recent trends, the school had already moved outside of the city. This had happened the year after Hirose had graduated three years ago.
It wasn't until he began to make arrangements to train as a teacher that Hirose had stepped foot in his alma mater for the first time since graduation. Though had he actually wanted to return, he could have done so at any time. But for some reason or another, he had felt a bit nervous.
When he had gone to school here, this place was his own territory. This was where his life had happened. This was a place that was very nearly an extension of his home. However, once he graduated, it became someone else's place. He had become an outsider, an invader. Not to mention that in Hirose's situation, the entire school had moved after his graduation, and the uniforms had changed completely. For him now, there wasn't much of a difference between his alma mater and a school that was completely new to him.
He had previously seen the new school mid-construction. It was close to the sea and all around there was barren land extending into the distance. In the midst of this, it had the backdrop of a calm sea, and a group of buildings were rising up which looked like some sort of pavilion. A wide road passed straight through the center of the flat earth, and more and more large apartment complexes were being built in the vicinity of the school. He still remembered that when those buildings and the school were in the middle of construction, they created a curious shape. It seemed to him like a tanker or an aircraft carrier was floating on the surface of the water.
And now, construction on the apartment buildings had been completed, and houses had been erected and arranged closely on the once-bare farmland. It all formed a large scale new town. The route of the private railway had also been extended, and there was an expanding bustling street in front of the brand-new train station. However, to Hirose it was still an unfamiliar area.
Absolutely nothing here fit in with the sentimental feelings he had attached to the words "alma mater." There were no brick buildings to speak of, nor were there trees on the grounds filled with even more of a gloomy feeling than the school building. Even applying the word "history" to describe it seemed a bit too trite, and using the word "tradition" seemed a little too improper and didn't carry with it any meaning.
The school was extremely large and bright. The trees that stood between the school buildings created weak shadows. The lawn that was designed in geometric shapes within the grounds radiated a dense green hue, but because it had been managed too cleanly, it was instead missing the impression of thriving vegetation. The trees lining the sides of the walkway from the main gate to the courtyard should be cherry trees. From looking at the thickness of their trunks, they were probably moved here from the old school in the city, but after being planted at regular intervals and deliberately pruned, the feeling he received was completely different from what it had been.
Of course, he didn't feel any strong emotions from returning to his alma mater, but instead a yearning for something he used to depend on and was now lost floated into his heart. For some reason, he felt like he could rely on no one. That feeling was very like the particular one Hirose always felt when he was depressed—like the sentiment of having lost one's homeland.
Hirose's supervising teacher was a science teacher named Gotou. Because it was a private school, the teachers seldom left. Teachers like Hirose who came in the middle of school terms were now mostly chosen from the teaching school within the school.
Gotou was a chemistry teacher and had been Hirose's homeroom teacher when he was attending his first year. Hirose had received a lot of his assistance and was heavily influenced by him.
Hirose quite liked Gotou, and Gotou felt much the same way. Unless it was completely necessary, Gotou never went back to the faculty office. He had made his own dwelling in the chemistry preparation room, and Hirose had spent three years in there as well. Due to this, Hirose had a particular familiarity with chemistry, and thus, his grades in chemistry had also been a bit higher. Because of this, he had joined the science department in college. However, he didn't want to become a researcher, nor did he want to become an ordinary salaryman, so he had decided to become a teacher. Perhaps it's not completely due to the fact that he saw in Gotou a teacher's ideal which sparked something within him, but it wouldn't be too much to say that everything he did was somehow influenced by Gotou.
- - - - -
The special classrooms had been put together and separated into an area of their own called the special classroom section. When he had come before in August to receive guidance, he had been instructed on this day to go to the chemistry prep room right after he arrived at school, but he had no idea where the chemistry prep room was located. He looked about as he walked, referring back to the sketch. The special classroom building that was completely unfamiliar and quiet gave it a feeling of isolation. He found the chemistry lab at the end of the third floor and the chemistry prep room was right beside it.
Hirose lightly knocked on the door of the prep room. A hoarse voice immediately responded from inside.
"Excuse me," said Hirose as he opened the door. Suddenly the smell of oil carried on the cool air from the air conditioner rushed at him. It was the smell of turpentine that was inseparable from the chemistry prep room.
"Hello. Well, don't you look completely like an adult now?" Gotou was smiling teasingly as he stood in front of an easel by the window of the not particularly spacious prep room. Gotou painted purely out of individual interest. Though he was an amateur, he could paint like a professional, and he also had the duty of the art teacher of the required art club. He was not currently painting, but looking at a work he had completed.
There was a cabinet placed on one of the walls. Across from there, three tables had been set tightly together against the other wall. Brush cleaners, painting supplies and a palette were scattered on one of the tables next to the easel. On the other two tables there were what looked like teaching materials, but they were in a mess just the same. The lab instruments and canvases that were strewn about the floor and the periodic table and memos posted on the wall made everything very disorderly, and the impression of the prep room that Hirose used to frequent could be superimposed very closely onto this one.
Hirose looked at Gotou's face, which had not changed at all, and finally smiled. At last he had the feeling that he had come home.
"It's been a long time," said Hirose, and Gotou immediately laughed. They had met in August when he was undergoing guidance, so it hadn't been very long since they saw each other, but when he saw Gotou in the prep room, Hirose felt a kind of feeling that he hadn't seen his teacher in a while which was hard to express.
"All of a sudden you've become an adult and reached the age of wearing ties."
"Fortunately." After exchanging greetings, Gotou pointed at the first desk from the door.
"Just use Tanno sensei's desk." The only ones teaching chemistry were Gotou and Tanno. Tanno was a gentle, elderly teacher who respectfully could not stand the smell of turpentine and very rarely came to the prep room. Of course, Gotou's personal effects were placed on top of Tanno's desk. Even this was a habit that he had had when Hirose was still in school, and Hirose remembered it fondly.
"Doesn't look like you're going to be late, eh?"
"Well, people grow." After Hirose said this, Gotou laughed loudly.
Hirose's parents changed jobs in the winter of his second year in high school. At the time, there was no way for him to apply for a transfer, so Hirose stayed behind by himself and rented out a house. He then attended a local college, so the result was that he had stayed where he was born and raised up until now.
Once he had started living on his own, no one was around to make him go to school, so there were many instances when he was late. He had been reprimanded as irresponsible by his third-year homeroom teacher after he had been tardy for an entire month straight. After he was lectured, his absences increased even more. In short, it seemed that he didn't like going to school.
In reality, Hirose had not been the kind of kid who could fit into the school environment. He had never been very close to anyone in his grade, and he wasn't good at reaching an understanding with the teachers. It wasn't that he hated studying, but having to be imprisoned within the enclosed school together with other people for a long several hours was unbearably hard on him. When he had lived with his parents, it was bothersome arguing with them, so he dutifully went to school. However when he was living on his own, it was like his bindings had been undone and he gradually started skipping classes. Though it never became so serious as to the point that he refused to go to school, it might also be going too far to say that it was purely out of laziness.
After many quarrels and discussions, Hirose did not improve at all and simply caused his homeroom teacher to be at his wit's end. In the end, his homeroom teacher could only grumble to Gotou, who had a good relationship with Hirose.
"People are like kusaya," Gotou had said. "When you're not used to it, you think it's smelly and it makes you sick. But once you do get used to it, you can really enjoy its great flavor. If you think it's too smelly and throw it away, then you'll never be able to eat it."
In response to Gotou's words, Hirose had responded then that he would never eat it. In reality, that was when Hirose had seriously pondered going into the mountains, building a hut, and living in seclusion as his alternate plan. Though he felt this way, he was still at least a little bit influenced by Gotou's words. Afterwards, Hirose was gradually able to open-mindedly deal with other people. These sorts of situations were common in the third year of high school.
In short, Hirose had been considered a difficult student, but all Gotou did was patiently listen to Hirose's complaints. All the other teachers knew of this situation and because of it, they tacitly allowed Hirose to rely on Gotou day and night. When he thought about it now, Hirose felt that he must have been a lot of trouble for Gotou.
"Well then, why don't we go to the faculty office?" Gotou wiped his hands on the towel at his waist. That movement was a habit of his when his frame of mind changed.
"All right." Hirose nodded, set his briefcase on the desk, and walked behind Gotou, who had a calm expression on his face.
What was strange was that Hirose didn't have any feelings of alienation. In the end, he felt as if there was clearly no particular reason for Gotou to purposely ask him to come to the prep room, though perhaps the purpose had been to make this process a bit easier for Hirose.
Hirose went to the faculty office for a meeting and then attended the opening ceremonies. The student teachers this year numbered less than ten, and Hirose was the only student teacher in science. All of the eight people had been classmates of Hirose, but he didn't really remember any of them.
Hirose was not born with a social personality that allowed him to make a lot of friends. He didn't have an interest in bringing his impressions of yesterday's television shows to school the next day to talk over. Outside of school, he had even less of an interest in exchanging opinions on students and teachers with other people. He knew that if he wanted to improve his interactions with people, he'd have to endure this phase, but for Hirose the high schooler, he didn't have the desire to take on this challenge. He didn't ever think that living alone was a hardship, and he wasn't afraid of isolation. There were many classmates with whom he had never spoken to by the end of school. He spoke a bit with a few of the other students who had spent a lot of time in the prep room, but his relationship with them wasn't so good that he would arrange to meet up with them outside of school. Thus, if one was forced to say whom he had been friends with in high school, there was probably only Gotou.
When Hirose was called up by the headmaster for his introduction in front of the students who were sitting in neat rows, he couldn't stop thinking about this.
- - - - -
After the opening ceremony ended, Gotou went to the homeroom of the class under his guidance, and Hirose followed behind.
Gotou was currently advising class six of the second year.
"My responsibility is sixteen hours a week, four second-year Chemistry classes and two first-year Science I classes. Other than that, I also have homeroom and mandatory clubs. Right now, I'm going to entrust them all to you."
"I'll go through the whole process once so that you can see how to proceed. Later on, it'll be entirely up to you. I'll watch over you kindly from the side."
"Are you just going to watch?"
"Of course I'm just going to watch." Gotou smiled.
Hirose could only murmur his response, "Yes, yes."
"All right, everyone here?" Gotou surveyed the classroom from the podium and started the class with an opening speech. Hirose stood in front of the schedule posted beside the podium and endured the students' gazes that made him a bit uncomfortable. Some of the looks were full of curiosity, while others were those of avoidance. He knew that the attention and the curiosity of the students were all directed at him.
In a hoarse voice, Gotou went over key points that the students should know. His clear enunciation and his easy-to-understand, modulating tone made Hirose nostalgic.
Gotou's topic extended to the plans for the athletics festival to be held in ten days, and therefore all the students' attention was directed at the podium. It wasn't easy to shake off the hold of their gazes, so Hirose quietly breathed a sigh of relief.
"Some things should be addressed over in the student council, so without going too far, you may act as you wish." These words seemed to be Gotou's favorite thing to say. "You can do whatever you want, but I won't be accountable for it. Go ahead and do anything that you feel like you can be responsible for."
Hirose cracked a smile and looked from Gotou to the students. The students all had different reactions. From Hirose's point of view, Gotou was a good teacher, but this didn't imply that all of his classmates had felt that he was a good teacher. Some people thought he was mean, and some didn't like that he acted as if he understood other people. There were even some who had taken Gotou's words at face value and regarded him as an irresponsible person. Seeing all the different expressions on the students' faces gave Hirose this impression.
Hirose looked around the room and smiled wryly. It was a class of forty kids, all similar ages. In a school setting, this was completely normal, but once you left this environment, there was no scene stranger than this, a group of people of the same age, in the same dress, and having the same expression. They all had the faces of honor students, and it made Hirose think of a neatly arranged carton of eggs.
Hirose thought this as he looked about the classroom, and then his line of sight suddenly stopped.
There was a student sitting in the back of the classroom that caught his eye. Hirose stared at him for just a little bit longer than a moment, but he didn't know why.
He did not have a distinctive appearance. He was neither particularly ugly, nor particularly clear. He was not looking somewhere else, and he didn't have any expression on his face. He was just like the other students, looking blankly at the podium where Gotou was standing. To the contrary, it was obvious that he was just not alike the students around him. If you had asked what was different, Hirose could not have said, but he was certain there was something different about him.
If he was forced to say, he would probably say that it was the air about him that was different. Hirose felt like the atmosphere that surrounded the student, the feeling that he gave out, and other such things were the greatest differences between him and the others.
This was a strange guy, Hirose thought to himself just as he heard Gotou calling him. Gotou waved at him, and he quickly put his thoughts away as he walked over.
- - - - -
Gotou said that the time of year when everyone could pass their days happily had come again, and then he introduced Hirose to the students.
"This is student teacher Hirose. You should treat him with the appropriate kindness." As soon as Gotou said this, there were some sounds of dry laughter scattered throughout the classroom. Gotou gave the attendance record to Hirose.
"Call roll, give this handout to them and you're done. I'm going to go take a nap," said Gotou as he pointed to the handouts on top of the podium. Hirose nodded. Gotou chuckled softly as he left the classroom. It looked as if he didn't want to watch Hirose in action for the first time.
"I am Hirose. Pleased to meet you." After he greeted them, Hirose followed Gotou's instruction and passed out the handout. He divided the handouts approximately and gave them to the students sitting in the very front and watched them send the papers back. At the same time, he looked at the faces of the students. His line of sight still unexpectedly stopped on 'him.'
'He' took a handout from the stack handed to him from the students in front of him and sent the remainder to the person sitting behind him. He made no sound and it looked as if the air around him was completely static.
If 'he' had been both really weak and a skinny person, perhaps Hirose would not have paid special attention to his presence. To the contrary, 'his' behavior was completely opposite to his lively appearance. Perhaps it was the impression his upright waist gave. 'His' outward appearance completely expressed the openhearted and healthy atmosphere that only growing people had. However, when 'he' moved, he didn't make any sounds, nor did he convey any mood. At least it seemed from his appearance that one would expect him to have the untroubled behavior of a young man, but 'he' entirely lacked this. It was this sort of extreme discrepancy that caught Hirose's eye.
As he received the extra handouts, he thought, what an interesting guy.
When Hirose took attendance, 'he' responded with an extremely tranquil tone when "Takasato" was read. Because the voice of a young person was originally lively, it gave Hirose even more of an impression that this voice was a bit monotonous.
"So, it can be read 'Takasato'?" Hirose casually asked for confirmation because he wanted to hear 'him' speak again. However, he replied very simply with a "yes."
When Hirose returned to the chemistry prep room, Gotou was pouring coffee into a beaker. As he was passing the attendance record over, Gotou pointed at his desk and took out another beaker from the cabinet. Hirose placed the attendance record on Gotou's desk and opened the bookshelf to take out a jar that had been placed inside along with the mess of teaching materials. He knew that one of them contained sugar, and another contained creamer.
"You still remember?"
"How could I forget?" replied Hirose, and Gotou laughed. The clear jar with a label stuck to it on which nothing was written was the sugar, while the brown jar was the creamer. For a person like Hirose who had previously hidden in the chemistry prep room all the time, he could not be any more familiar with these things. Hirose put the jar and the medicine spoon on the table, and Gotou handed over the beaker. Hirose took out his handkerchief to hold on to the beaker. Without it, a beaker filled with hot water would naturally burn one's hand. If one wanted to enjoy tea in the chemistry prep room, a handkerchief was indispensable.
"This brings back memories."
"Sure does!" Gotou said this in a very satisfied manner, which Hirose found funny.
"Have students been coming here lately?"
"Nobody spending day and night here like you did, though some people come here during their lunch break and do what they like doing."
Hirose couldn't help but smile. "Do they cook ramen in beakers and make popsicles in test tubes?"
"It's just as you say," laughed Gotou. "Well, that sort of person will always be here, but you're the first in history to have come back as a student teacher."
Hirose laughed softly. When he was still in school, there were others who spent their days in the prep room, but most of them were just like him. After graduation, they chose diverse paths in life—from researchers to doctors, and even some actors and activists—but none of them chose to become a teacher.
"How's it feel to imitate a teacher?"
"It's hard to describe in words."
"I'm thinking there probably isn't much interesting about that class."
Hirose hung his head and cracked a smile, and then suddenly remembered. "There's a kid who doesn't seem quite like the others."
"Ah," replied Gotou. "So you've notice as well. Is it Takasato?"
Hirose nodded and Gotou smiled. "Your ability to pick out people who aren't like others is quite good. When I saw Takasato, I thought that this guy is a lot like Hirose."
"His type is a bit different, isn't it?" asked Hirose. Gotou looked up at the ceiling.
"There is a difference, because you had a nervous look to you. But he's conspicuous all the same, don't you think?"
"Was I that noticeable?"
"Of course you were. You and Takasato both stand out."
"Perhaps you could call it an eyesore." Hearing this, Gotou smiled again.
"That kid is in the art club too. —The pictures he does all have a rather profound effect. He's a strange fellow."
"When I say that he's strange, I'm saying he's several times stranger than you. On the contrary, you were much easier to grasp." Gotou's expression had somewhat of a deep color that was hard to describe. "You and I both don't really belong in the same category as regular people, so it was very easy for me to hold on to you. But Takasato's just not the same."
"Isn't Takasato also outside the category of regular people?"
"But not in the same way. You and I are different from other people by our own choosing, but there's no way for Takasato to blend in. It's because his nature is completely different from that of other people, so we can tell that he's unlike an ordinary person. That's how he is different."
"You've been observing him quite closely, haven't you?"
"Yep," said Gotou with a crooked smile. "The atmosphere around him is completely different from the other students, right?"
"It is different."
"Rather than saying he's strange, I think we should say that he's a different sort of person." There could be a little bit of worry heard hidden in Gotou's tone.
"Is there a problem?"
"There's no problem. Takasato differs from you. He's a good kid, but not only does he have a good head on him, he also has a cooperative personality."
"I was a lot of trouble for you then."
The polite and proper way this was said made Gotou laugh. "He's like the eye of a typhoon. He himself is very peaceful, but everything around him is chaotic. You'll know very soon. Though this class isn't very interesting, you can't manage them with ordinary methods."
"Because Takasato's there." Gotou got up after he said this. He pulled open the curtain and let the sunshine fill the entire room. He wiped his hands off on the towel at his waist and then stood in front of his easel.
The view of the campus was in the process of being completed on the size-ten canvas. It looked like one part of the campus scene was being painted with a strangely bright color. A few students that looked like monsters or fairies wearing school uniforms were also painted on it. There were people hidden behind trees with old-seeming expressions on their faces, others on a bench who looked like toads, and some making wild poses while looking at them. At first glance, it had a dark feeling to it, but after a closer look, one could sense a humorous tone and warmth to it that was hard to explain.
The first time he saw something that Gotou had painted, Hirose was really surprised, but he immediately felt like it was a work full of Gotou's style. Gotou normally painted the scenery of the school, but it was rare for people to appear in his paintings. Hirose knew that once, Gotou had signed a picture, "Conference," wherein strangely-dressed animals were gathered in the faculty room drinking it up, but as a result, it caused the headmaster to have a few words with him.
It wasn't necessarily because of Gotou's nudging, but Hirose had also chosen the art club as his mandatory extracurricular. Perhaps he just liked the feeling of closing himself off that came with facing a canvas. He had previously wanted to paint something like those that Gotou had done, but in the end he simply came to the cruel realization that he wasn't very good at painting at all.
Seeing Gotou starting to look over his unfinished painting, Hirose quietly sat down in front of the desk and opened up his training journal.
- - - - -
The following day was the beginning of regular classes. Hirose followed Gotou everywhere, and by that afternoon, he was standing at the podium covered in sweat. The training period was a very short two weeks, or more properly said, it was twelve days. Hirose enthusiastically threw himself into his work, and at the end of the two days that added up to a sixth of his training period, the floating atmosphere that preceded the athletics festival began to permeate the school.
The white flowers were in full bloom.
His entire field of vision was taken up by a large plain. The sky unfolded like a sphere that had been cut in half. The field was like an endless disc. He had never seen one so wide that it extended all the way to the horizon.
He looked around. The field formed a complete circle of 360 degrees. The green extended out flatly without the slightest variation.
He said this to himself, and it wasn't until then that he realized he didn't even know what this place was. What is this place? He felt like there wasn't anything like this around his house or surrounding his elementary school, and not even on the road to school that was now so hard to recall.
Then he lifted his head. The sky was a complex arrangement of colors. It was the first time he had seen a sky of this color.
Most of the sky was light blue. It looked a little bit lighter than the sky ordinarily was, or perhaps it was because it was covered in a thin layer of cirrus clouds. In the middle of the light blue, there was a gradation of pink and light green.
He looked absent-mindedly up at the sky. In his mind he thought, the next time I color the sky, I'm not going to use blue, but try using light blue instead. As the cirrus clouds slowly drifted about, the color of the sky began to shift like the aurora.
After watching the sky for a while, he looked around once more and talked to himself again.
—But try not to forget the moon.
A moon, pale and white as a full moon in the morning, climbed up into the sky of incredible colors. Around the moon, he could see dim, white stars. He followed the shapes of the constellations and saw a second moon.
He subconsciously widened his eyes.
—It looks like there's more than one moon.
After counting carefully, he saw that there were a total of six moons floating about, each with a different shape and size. The sun could not be seen anywhere.
This was unimaginable to him and he stared up into the sky for a long moment. The air wasn't cold, nor was it hot, and the wind blew gently towards him, carrying along with it a slight fragrance. It was the scent of flowers with the smell of grass.
He took a deep breath, and then turned toward the ground. The soft, down-like green spread across the flat earth. The grass reached up to his knees. Its stalks stretched straight out from in between its thin leaves and a few claw-like flowers were attached to the top. From up close, the flowers were sparse, but from a distance, it looked like a haze of white.
Whoosh, a slightly strong wind began to blow. The grass and the white flowers swayed together in the wind. When the small flowers bumped into each other, it made a clear sound like that of glass touching glass. The soft grass tickled his legs.
And then he became aware. It wasn't a field at all, but a marshland. His small legs were in the transparent water just up to the middle of his shins. He had never seen water this still before, and he even questioned whether or not it was possible for water to be like this, completely without ripples or flow. The most incredible thing was that his legs didn't feel wet at all. He tried lifting his leg to see what would happen. The water droplets were like shattered crystals and glistened as they fell. Not even a little moisture remained on his skin.
The bottom of the water was blanketed with gray stones. No wonder the ground was flat. The big square rocks had been arranged neatly and were covered up to their tops with water. The thin but apparent green stalks grew out from in between the stones. Small fish came swimming and flipping out from the dark places of the clustered bunches of grass into the light.
He cheerfully let out some sounds of joy. He thrust his hands into the water, planning to pull some fish out. Under the pursuit of his small hands, the fish didn't fearfully dart away, and not only that, they even actively swam near his fingers. Whenever he moved his fingers, they would come closer.
—What in the world is this place?
He used both of his hands to draw out water with fish in it and then looked around. He began to understand that this sort of place was impossible. Water dripped through the cracks between his fingers, and when the fish slipped through his fingers with the falling water, they tickled him slightly.
—What a beautiful place.
He nodded his head meaninglessly. He looked around once again and then began splashing his way forward. With every step he took, the flowers would continuously sway, producing a crisp clinking sound around his legs.
Afterwards, he didn't know quite how long he had been walking for, but he felt simply like he had walked quite a distance. No matter how long he did walk, he didn't feel the least bit tired. It continued endlessly, and he didn't get tired of the views of the countless and familiar flowers that revealed themselves no matter how many times he looked at them. He was very content and kept walking, carrying with him a happy mood. From time to time, small birds would fly from a place unknown to him and come to perch upon his head or his shoulders. After playing about for a bit, they would fly away again.
Following the flight of the birds with his eyes, he discovered that in front of him the field ended at a distance. The white flowers broke off to the side, and he could barely see a portion of blue-green. It seemed as if there was a river flowing through here.
He walked towards the river. However, he walked and walked and was simply unable to walk closer to the river, just as though he were chasing drifting water, never being able to catch up to it. He played with the little fish and the small birds as he walked for quite a long time, finally arriving at the river.
Though it had looked like a narrow river, it was actually a big one. The other side appeared to be so far, and the river bottom couldn't be seen. The stone-covered ground stopped abruptly. Other than the deep green water, he couldn't see anything else in front of him. He looked closely, but the color of the water appeared to be just as deep and solid everywhere, as if there were no areas that were shallower than others. He was clear on the fact that the bottom of the river probably didn't rise and fall either.
He walked to the green at the edge of the deep and wide river, and then he didn't go any further. He didn't know how to swim yet. Though it didn't look to have any current, he didn't think he could cross such a broad span of the river.
He looked around disappointedly. Something in the distance appeared to give off light. After a closer look, A bridge had been positioned upriver (or downriver) in a distant part of the winding waterway.
This bridge was translucent, as if it had been built out of glass or something like it. He cracked a smile and walked forward along the edge of the river, towards the bridge in the distance that he could only faintly see.