Sleeping Beauty, A Princess of Thorns (Part 2/7)
I had a long day and was barely able to get this in. Hope you enjoy – there’ll be more!! I’ll try to get these done more “early evening” and not “right at the date change”.
I’ve started “Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The End of the World” by Murakami Haruki (in translation) btw. It just reminds me how difficult Japanese is to put into English, even for translators that have been living in Japan all their lives.
「茨姫」”Episode 04: La Belle au bois dormant” from Volume 2 of ダンタリアンの書架/Dantalian no Shoka/Bibliotheca Mystica de Dantalian/The Mystical Archives of Dantalian.
Sleeping Beauty, A Princess of Thorns (1)
There was a very long road covered with weeds that continued along a rising slope. The way was unkempt and overgrown; the surface of the road was hard and uneven, littered with tree branches and stones and very hard to walk upon. Outcroppings of rock stuck up along the path as well; if you weren’t careful, you would be sure to trip.
All around the path was dense forest, and even if you could make out the faint tracks of horses, it was clear this road was rarely used.
Down this all but abandoned path deep into the mountains walked a young man and a young woman.
They were if anything, out of place. The young man looked about twenty, wearing a frock coat and a knapsack on his back. He walked like a soldier, but he didn’t appear to be a ruffian. From his earnest face you could tell at once he had been brought up in a well to do family.
Walking right behind him was a small girl, twelve, thirteen at most. She was unbelievably beautiful so much that she looked as if she were a doll made out of porcelain. her eyes were pitch black, as dark as night. Perhaps she had some strong oriental blood in her? Her skin was especially characteristic, the color of milk mixed with honey, smooth as if it were made of fine china.
The clothes she wore too were pitch black. They made one recall the ceremonial costume of medieval knights, a strange outfit one could neither call a dress, or armor. The hem of her skirt flared outward with many layers of frills; ribbons wound about a waist so thin it looked as if it might have broken, but against that background of lace and decor were metal gauntlets and plated armor at her hips, creating a dissymmetry that furthered her strangeness.
“I’m bored,” tHe girl whispered, in between light gasps, short of breath.
It was a beautiful voice that sounded like birdsong, but it had a clear twinge of impatience. She repeated herself to the unresponsive young man in front of her.
“Huey, I’m bored. I’m tired. My legs hurt and I’m hungry. Why are you making me go through all of this? Why do I have to climb up this mountain road, far from any kind of civilization? The only things that work so hard to defy gravity are smoke and idiots. I guess that makes you an idiot then?”
“There’s nothing we could have done. The road was too bad to take the car.” The young man named Huey, sighed and turned around and looked at the sullen girl behind him with a bitter smile. “…and anyway Dalian, weren’t you the one who suggested that we investigate this village?”
“…No one told me that it was this deep in the mountains and so far away from everything else. Do people really live all the way out here?”
“Well I heard that at least a horse drawn carriage could pull through the roads around here, but…”
“Forget about horses, I haven’t even seen a monkey. Well, except you,” the girl named Dalian barked.
It really was an awful road. It twisted and turned and its slope was steep. Even though it was noon it was still faintly dark. If you weren’t careful and wandered into the forest there were sudden cliffs that would open right in front of you.
“Don’t tell me you’re lost. How dull can your sense of direction be!?”
“Don’t make it seem like I’m lost all the time…” Huey’s face twisted a bit. “We should be in the right place… There weren’t any forks in the road for us to wander off down, and this mountain is certainly Carabosse’s territory… It does bother me though that the village at the foot of the mountain was empty.”
“No matter how you look at it, that place was a ruin,” Dalian muttered emotionlessly and turned to look behind her.
You couldn’t see it from where they were, but at the foot of the mountain was a small village, an agricultural village you might find anywhere, surrounded by orchards and wheat fields. However, none of the villagers were there. All of the buildings and things inside them were left just as they were, as if everyone had just suddenly vanished.
“That policeman in the previous village who gave us directions didn’t say anything about it though.” Huey was puzzled.
“If he wasn’t lying or hiding anything, then the village must have been abandoned very recently… ugh. I don’t know. It didn’t seem like there was a sudden plague or disaster, and it doesn’t make sense for a whole village to get up and move right before the harvest season.”
“Well whatever. I’m hungry and I’m tired. Do something about it, Huey,” said Dalian, ignoring the serious look on Huey’s face.
“You want to rest somewhere? I’d be bad if the sun sets on us, so I’d rather we reached our destination first…” Huey shook his head and looked up at the sky. It was still around noontime, but the sun would set early on this mountain as it was surrounded by other high ridges. They had maybe two, three hours until sunset.
“Alright, then why don’t you carry me?” Dalian sighed a short condescending sigh and proudly raised her chin.
“Huh?” Huey blinked.
“I’m saying I’m going to let you carry me! Now be thankful of my gracious heart and kneel down already!”
Huey just stared at Dalian for a while, but finally answered,
“You know, for the past hour or so I’ve been carrying your luggage too…” He, pointed to the pack on his back, thinking he might as well try a little resistence, but Dalian didn’t seem to care.
“This is pretty heavy you know? What exactly did you pack in here?”
“Books. Just in case.”
“Books!? Why are we carrying books up a mountain?”
Dalian looked coldly up at Huey’s shocked face.
“Just how much of an idiot are you? What would happen if we ran into trouble somewhere up the mountain, were stranded and had neglected to bring any books!?”
“And just would these books come in handy if we were stranded?”
“Only idiots run about recklessly when they’re lost, it’s a waste of energy. You didn’t even know that?”
“Well that’s true, but what does that have to do with books?”
Dalian looked up at Huey all confused and proudly threw out her chest.
“As long as you have books, you won’t have to be bored waiting lost in the mountains.”
Huey paused for a moment, and the smiled.
“I guess we can throw all this away then.”
“What are you talking about, you long-torsoed-dimwit! Didn’t I just explain everything to you!”
“Alright, I’ll let you pick then. I can carry you, or these books, but not both.” Huey sighed. Long-torsoed-dimwit?
“Don’t worry Huey. I’ll carry the books, so you just carry me.”
Huey narrowed his eyes, tired of all of this.
“You really think I’m an idiot don’t you.”
“H..how did you know!?” Dalian raised her eyebrows in surprise.
Huey ignored her and started walking away, but suddenly stopped in his tracks. There was someone standing up ahead on the twisted path before them, a young woman wearing clothes he did not recognize.
Her hair was wrapped up in a turban with complex designs, and she had a old fashioned folk like cape draped around her shoulders. In her left hand was a small basket made of vines and it looked as if it were filled with herbs.
“Ah.” The young woman had noticed Huey and Dalian and turned around, surprised. It was a natural reaction to have toward such suspicious outsiders.
Huey smiled in a friendly way and called out to her.
“Do you live in the village up ahead?”
“Yes… well, I’m not sure our community is grand enough to be called a village…” she said awkwardly and nodded, and then with caution, “And you are? Is there any reason you’ve come here?”
“Well actually, we’re looking for someone.”
“Are you an acquaintance of one of the people that live here?”
“Well, not really…”
Huey lowered his eyebrows a little, troubled. The woman stiffened.
“To be exact, we’re looking for a book. This person we’re looking for is supposed to have it.”
“A book?” The woman glared at Huey with suspicious eyes, but not without reason. Who would believe that someone would come this far into the mountains looking for a book?
At a loss for words, Huey turned back around to Dalian, but Dalian was silent glaring back at the woman in the cape like a small frightened animal.
Maybe Dalian’s shyness was contagious, for the woman in the cape took a few steps back as if she was frightened. If Huey wasn’t careful or said the wrong words, it look like she might scream and run away.
An anxious silence crept in….
…and was broken by a strange “grrrrrrr” sound, like some small animal growling. A ridiculous sound was a waste to all the anxiety that had built up.
Dalian came to her senses, wrapping her arms around herself as her face turned bright red.
The sound that broke the silence was Dalian’s stomach growling.
She froze, staring at her feet.
Huey bit his lip, trying his best not to laugh.
The woman in the cape stared at Dalian for a minute, but as soon as she realized what had happened she burst out laughing, trying to hold it back before giving up altogether.
And so, bright laughter sprung from that mountain road and spread into the forest surrounding it.