Earthen Miraculous Sword/Story/Prologue

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~○闡裡神社にて~

~At the Senri Shrine~

 无現里(むげんり)。
 現実には存在しないこの国でも時の流れ方は変わらず、
 ただ川上から川下へ流れ落ち、
 季節と景色もそれに伴い移り変わる。
 物静かな模様の穹窿から、何者にも遮られること無く降り注ぐ旭日が
 小昼の時を告げる数刻前のこと、
 蛇は蛇穴に入り、色彩を纏うことに飽きてきた景勝が単墨色へと衣を更え、
 新たな季節を迎えるにあたり、雪化粧の仕度を整えようとしている
 そんな季節。
 ようするに晩秋。

Mugenri.
Even in this country that doesn't exist within reality,
time simply flows downriver as always,
and the seasons and landscape change accordingly.
The morning sunlight poured down from the calm clear skies some hours ago,
unobscured and proclaiming the arrival of mid-day.
Now, though, as the snakes crawled into their dens, the beautiful scenery became tired of sporting so many hues.
It changed into a dull inky color, as if preparing for the snowfall that would blanket the land and welcome the coming season.
Yes, it was that time of year.
That is to say, the end of Autumn.

 この国に鎮座する闡裡(せんり)神社の新たな住人達は、
 外とは少し違う生活にもようやく慣れ初めてきたところであったが、
 その異端の地にて新たに築き上げた『平凡な日常』という名の砂上の楼閣も、
 木の葉すら舞い上がらない程度のこの日の"野分"によって
 顛覆を余儀なくされようとしていた。

The new inhabitants of Mugenri's Senri Shrine had finally started to get used to their new lives, different as they were from the ones they led outside.
Yet the "ordinary lifestyle" that they had constructed in this strange land was fragile; so fragile, in fact, that it would inevitably be overturned by an Autumn wind too weak to even whirl some leaves about.

 神社の厨房にて、
 代理の神主を押し付けられた鳳聯 藪雨(ほうれん やぶさめ)は
 二つの湯のみに墨の様に真っ黒な汁を注いでいた。
 小気味良い音を立てながらそれらを注ぎ終えると、
 鼻歌交じりにその下に置いてあったお盆ごと
 湯のみを持ち上げ、その中身が"コーヒーとして"最後を迎える地へと
 足を運んでいった。

In the shrine's kitchen, Yabusame Houlen, who was appointed as a substitute priest, poured an inky black broth into two teacups.
The cups made a pleasant sound as they finished pouring.
Yabusame hummed a nonchalant tune as they picked up the tray and cups both, and headed towards the place where the cups' contents would meet their ends "as coffee".

 藪雨がそのコーヒーの搬入先と定めてるこの神社のもう一人の代理神主、
 燕楽玄鳥(えんらく つばくら)を探すのだったら、
 その研究室(玄鳥の自室)か、境内の縁側でもグルッと一周、
 景色でも眺めながら回ればいいだろう。
 大抵はそこらで怪しい実験でもしてるか、欠伸でもしながら
 ボーっとしてる”てい”を装っているだろう。
 その証拠に今日と言う日も縁側に腰を掛け、
 分厚い本を弄びながら欠伸をしている玄鳥の姿を藪雨は難なく発見した。

Yabusame searched for the one they were bringing coffee to: Tsubakura Enraku, the shrine's other substitute priest.
If one were looking for them, it'd be best to check the research lab (that is, their room,) or to take a quick walk around the shrine's veranda while enjoying the scenery.
They'd usually be performing strange experiments in those places, or yawning and stretching just to put on the air of someone slacking off.
As evidence of that, Yabusame easily found them sitting on the veranda that day, yawning and fiddling with a thick book.

 藪雨「あれ? まだ勉強終わってなかったの?」

Yabusame: "Huh? You're still not done studying?"

 玄鳥の元へたどり着いた藪雨は意外そうな顔をしながら、
 片手で持っているお盆から湯のみをひとつ玄鳥へ差し出した。

Yabusame gave a look of surprise as they reached Tsubakura, while holding out one of the teacups from the tray for them.

  玄鳥「んっ・・・『勉強』はとっくに終わってる、だがノルマはまだだ、
     あと16周だ」

Tsubakura: "Nnh... I finished "studying" a long time ago, but I still haven't fulfilled my quota. 16 readings to go."

 片手で差し出された湯のみを受け取りながら、もう一方の手で本を捲りつつ、
 肩は竦めながら首を横に振り、目を瞑りながら眉を顰め、
 口からは舌と共にため息を垂れ流している玄鳥の様子は、
 大げさにその退屈さを視覚的に表現して、
 相手に分かりやすく伝わるようにしているようで、
 普段からの聞き手の理解力の低さを物語っていた。

Tsubakura flipped through the book with one hand as they took the teacup with the other, closed their eyes, frowned, drew back their shoulders, tilted their head to the side, and let out a huge yawn with their tongue hanging out.
This exaggerated display served to make their boredom easy for Yabusame to pick up on, which said a lot about how thick-headed Yabusame was.

 鳳聯藪雨、燕楽玄鳥・・・この二人はこの世界、
 『无現里(むげんり)』に閉じ込められると同時に
 重役(神主)を任された身であった。
 どうせなら巫女さんがよかったと愚痴る藪雨と
 どうせなら株主さんがよかったと愚痴る玄鳥だったが、
 その後それらの事について二人で話し合い(じゃんけん)をして、
 それぞれで役割分担を決めたのであった。
 その結果として、地味で小難しい仕事の全てが玄鳥にまわり、
 日々神社の仕来りや由緒、神事や无現里の歴史等々を
 とある人物に日々叩き込まれる生活を送っていた。
 一方藪雨はというと、料理や掃除洗濯といった家事全般を請け負い、
 堅苦しい神事とは程遠い役割を獲得したのであった。

Yabusame Houlen and Tsubakura Enraku... as these two were sealed up in this world of Mugenri, they were also entrusted with an extremely important role (that of priests).
Yabusame complained that they'd rather just be a shrine maiden, and Tsubakura complained that they'd rather just be a stockholder, but after having discussed matters (played rock-paper-scissors), they divided the priests' responsibilities betwen them.
As a result, the boring and tiresome work became Tsubakura's job, as well as having a certain individual drill the shrine's everyday rituals and traditions, Mugenri's history and so on into their head every day.
On the other hand, all the cooking, cleaning and general housework were contracted out to Yabusame, and so they successfully avoided having to deal with the shrine's stiff rituals.

 藪雨が差し出した湯のみを受け取った玄鳥は、
 渡されたものに入っているものが、
 通常の用途ではそこにあるべきではないものだと認識しながら、
 それを口にした。

Having taken the cup from Yabusame, Tsubakura was aware that the substance contained within was definitely not something that belonged there under normal circumstances, but they drank it anyways.

 口の中で黒い液体を舌の上で存分に滑らせ、
 味をしっかりと噛み締めてからそのまま喉奥に流し込んだ玄鳥は、
 一息ついた後、藪雨を見てニヤリとした。

They swished the black fluid around on their tongue, savored the taste well, and swallowed it.
After taking a breath, they looked at Yabusame and grinned widely.

  玄鳥「この世界に来ても、お前の腕は健在のようだな」
  藪雨「それを飲んでそう言うのはたぶん玄鳥だけだろうけどねー」

Tsubakura: "Even since we came to this world, your skills in the kitchen haven't dulled a bit."
Yabusame: "You're probably the only person alive who would say so after drinking that."

 そう言いながら、藪雨は頭を傾げながら苦笑した。

While saying that, Yabusame leaned their head back and gave a strained smile.

 ???「なんですか? それは?」

? ? ? "Hm? What's that?"

 背後から聞こえたあどけない声に反応した藪雨が振り向いた先には、
 暗黒色の髪をなびかせた子供の姿があった。
 年柄年中、丈の短い袖無し羽織を着ているその子供は、
 そこから由来して周りから・・・

Yabusame turned around in response to the innocent voice they heard.
Behind them, there stood a child with long, fluttering black hair.
The child wore a short, sleeveless haori all year round, and as such, those around them called them...

  藪雨「あっ、ジンベイくん」

Yabusame: "Oh, it's you, Jinbei-kun."

 っと呼ばれているが、本名を知る者は誰もいないようだ。
 秋風も渡り鳥を追いかけるように飛び去り始め、身を震わせるに足る空風と
 一年ぶりの再会を果たすこんな季節でも、
 ジンベイは平気な顔で甚兵衛羽織を素肌に一枚だけ悠然と纏っていた。
 ちなみにこの人物こそが玄鳥の教師であるので、
 それ故に時に玄鳥はジンベイのことを『先生』と呼んだりしている。

..."Jinbei". Nobody seems to know their real name, however.
Even in this season, where Autumn gales blow as if chasing the migrating birds, and where one reunites after a whole year with dry winds harsh enough to make one shiver, Jinbei was perfectly comfortable in their single-layer haori.
Incidentally, this very person is Tsubakura's teacher, and so Tsubakura sometimes calls them "Sensei".

  藪雨「コーヒーだよ、知らない?」
ジンベイ「ん~、もちろん聞いたことはありますが、
     僕は茶葉で作ったものぐらいしか飲まないので・・・」
  玄鳥「! あ~、よかったら先生も一つどうですか?
     何事も挑戦といいますからねぇ」

Yabusame: "It's coffee! Don't you know?"
Jinbei: "Hmm. Of course I have heard of it, but I don't drink much more than what I prepare with tea leaves, so..."
Tsubakura: "...! Ah, Sensei, would you like a cup as well? You say that you should try everything at least once, after all."

 妙案を思いついたのか、玄鳥は悪戯な笑みを心の奥底に隠し、
 見せしめるように自分の湯のみを啜りながら、
 もう一つの湯のみの中味をジンベイに勧めた。

Perhaps having thought of an ingenious prank, Tsubakura held back a mischevious smile.
They offered Jinbei the contents of the remaining cup, while sipping on their own as if to show that it was fine.

ジンベイ「いいのですか? 藪雨さんの分は?」
  藪雨「えっ、うーん・・・いやー、僕はいいかな~」

Jinbei: "Are you sure? What about Yabusame-san's coffee?"
Yabusame: "Ehh? Uh, umm... no, I think I'm fine, really~?"

 藪雨はあからさまに慌てたが、
 ジンベイはそれを只の遠慮の類のものだと思ってしまった。

Yabusame was obviously very flustered, but Jinbei thought they were simply being polite about giving up their own drink.

 それが最大の敗因であったことを、数秒後に思い知るのだが・・・

They would only realize the horrible mistake they had made several seconds later...

ジンベイ「それでは、お言葉に甘えて・・・」

Jinbei: "Well then, I think I'll take you up on that offer."

 幼子のような身長のジンベイに合わせてしゃがみ込んだ藪雨から
 ジンベイは湯のみを受け取り、それが放つ蒸気に鼻を湿らせた。

Yabusame crouched down to meet Jinbei's childlike stature, and handed them the cup.
Jinbei took it, wetting their nose with the vapor rising from the cup.

ジンベイ「へ~、不思議な香りですね~・・・
     頭の後ろの方がジンジンするような・・・
     これが豆汁ですか・・・」

Jinbei: "My, what a mysterious smell...
    It makes the back of my head tingle...
    Is this what they call bean milk...?"

 そう言い終えると同時にその黒い汁を口にしたジンベイの姿を横目に見て、
 玄鳥はしてやったりとほくそ笑んだ。

Tsubakura chuckled to themself at the sight of Jinbei drinking the black liquid.

 涼しい顔をしていたジンベイの顔が変貌していくのには、
 さして時間を必要としなかった。

It took no time at all for Jinbei's calm face to undergo a dramatic transformation.

  藪雨「えっと・・・だ、大丈夫? ジンベイくん?」

Yabusame: "Uh, hey... Are you okay? Jinbei-kun?"

 涙目になりながらも口の中のモノを意地で咽喉の奥に押し込んだジンベイは、
 息荒げに俯きながら玄鳥を睨んだ。

Jinbei valiantly struggled to swallow the substance in their mouth even as their eyes watered.
They cast a glare up at Tsubakura while breathing heavily.

ジンベイ「図りましたね・・・」
  玄鳥「おやおや、サッパリ」

Jinbei: "I see you tricked me..."
Tsubakura: "My, I have not the slightest idea what you mean."

 悪戯心をまるで隠す気の無い玄鳥を恨めしそうに見るジンベイをよそに、
 玄鳥は平然と同じ含有物の液体を啜っていた。

Tsubakura made zero effort to hide their mischevious intent.
Despite Jinbei's disgusted glare, they calmly sipped at their own compound liquid.

 やっぱりこの世界の人でもこの味はダメなんだ・・・、
 っと心の中でつぶやきながら、
 今日のは毒物が入ってない分、マシな方なんだけどなぁ・・・
 っとも思った。
 藪雨は"玄鳥用の二杯分"とは別に、自分用に台所に置いてきた
 『特製でない』コーヒーの味を懐かしみながら、
 ジンベイが悶えてる様を同情の眼差しで観察していた。
 だが、そもそも自分は紅茶党だったことを思い出し、
 明日にでも茶葉を買いに行ってみようかなぁ・・・
 などと今の内に予定を立てておくことに頭を回し始めた。
 もっとも、明日になっても藪雨当人がその予定を覚えていられる確率は
 天文学的確率で低いのだが・・・

"Ah, yep," they thought to themself. "Even the people of this world think the taste is awful..."
"Even though it was pretty light stuff," they also thought. "Since there was nothing poisonous in it today..."
Aside from 'Tsubakura's two cups', Yabusame had prepared coffee for themself as well, which they had left in the kitchen.
They glanced sympathetically at Jinbei's agony, while yearning for that non-"specially made" brew.
But then they remembered that they were more of a tea person to begin with, and thought "maybe I should go out and buy some tea leaves tomorrow..." and so on, putting their mind towards making plans ahead of time.
Of course, the chance that Yabusame themself would actually remember those plans by tomorrow was astronomically small...



ジンベイ「まっ・・まぁいいでしょ、この件はツケとくとして、
     今は過去の返済の話をしましょう」

Jinbei: "W... well, anyway. You can make this up to me later. For now, let's talk about repayment for some previous things."

 敗北を認めながら、ジンベイは次第に平静を取り戻しつつ、
 湯のみを藪雨が持つお盆に乱暴に返して話題の路線を変えた。

Recognizing defeat, Jinbei gradually regained their composure.
They shoved the cup back onto Yabusame's tray and changed the subject.

  玄鳥「そのことなら、たったいま101周目を読み終えたところですが」
ジンベイ「へ? なんだ、もうあと少しじゃないですか、随分と早いですね」
  玄鳥「由緒と歴史を煩悩の数だけ読ませるなんて、
     陳腐な修練だと思いますがね、102周目」
ジンベイ「どんなに頑張っても一ヶ月は掛かると思ったんですけどね~」
  玄鳥「暗記だけなら最初の一周で十分だろうに、103周目」
ジンベイ「出来る出来ないではなく、これが仕来りですからね!」
  藪雨「玄鳥はズルイからね~、本当にきちんと読んでるってところが」

Tsubakura "If you're wondering about that, I just finished the 101st reading."
Jinbei "Eh? Wow, you only have a little bit left. That's awfully fast."
Tsubakura "Making me read the rituals and history as many times as there are worldly afflictions, though? Really? Real stuffy way to learn, if you ask me. 102nd."
Jinbei "And here I thought it'd take you at at least a month, no matter how hard you tried~."
Tsubakura "If it were just memorization, I would have been fine after the first reading. 103rd."
Jinbei "It doesn't matter if you had it down the first time. This is how it's traditionally done!"
Yabusame "Tsubakura's hardly playing fair either, what with how they're actually reading it properly~."

 玄鳥は二人の言葉に対して反応することもなく、
 風圧で自身の髪が靡くほどの勢いで本を捲りながら読み進め、
 数秒後にパタンっとそれを閉じた。

Without responding to the other two at all, Tsubakura continued reading, flipping the book's pages like wind blowing through one's hair.
Several seconds later, they closed it with a thud.

  玄鳥「それで、こんな手の込んだ"偽者"をつかった
     悪戯の成果を見にきたんですか?」
ジンベイ「おー、やっぱりバレてましたか」
  藪雨「え、どういうこと?」
ジンベイ「実はそれ僕の創作なんですが、いかがでしたか?」
  玄鳥「煩悩を意識しながら108回読むと
     謎が解ける仕組みは面白かったです。 内容は酷いが」
ジンベイ「これは手厳しい・・・、
     ま、実はそれについては今は正直どうでもいいんですけどね」
  藪雨「・・・? じゃあ他に何か用があるの?」
ジンベイ「えー、といいますか・・・・右手をご覧ください」

Tsubakura: "So. Did you come to see the result of your prank, having made this whole elaborate 'fake'?"
Jinbei: "Ohh, so I've been found out."
Yabusame: "Huh? What do you mean?"
Jinbei: "That book is actually my own original work. So, how was it?"
Tsubakura: "The setup where the mystery is solved once you read it 108 times while keeping the worldly afflictions in mind was interesting. Subject matter was awful, though."
Jinbei: "How harsh... But, to tell you the truth, I honestly don't care about that now."
Yabusame: "...? So, is there something else you want us to do?"
Jinbei: "Hmm, how should I say this...? Watch my right hand."

 そう言いながら、ジンベイは縁側から見える景色に右の掌をかざした。
 ジンベイの手の導きにより藪雨と玄鳥の視線は、ジンベイの顔、
 肩、腕、掌、指先、その先の景色へと移ろい、
 そして最終的にはその延長上にある空へと到着した。

As they said so, Jinbei pointed at the landscape visible from the veranda.
Yabusame and Tsubakura's lines of sight followed the hand from Jinbei's face to their shoulder, then their arm, their palm, their fingertips, and the scenery beyond.
Then finally, at last, they arrived at the sky above.

 本日の无現里の天気は、晩秋の趣を感じさせながらも見事な秋日和であった。

Mugenri's weather was that of a beautiful, clear late Autumn day.

 三人が臨む一点の空を除いて・・・

All except for one point in the sky that the three were looking towards...

  藪雨「うぁー、すごい曇ってるね~」

Yabusame: "Woah, it's super cloudy over there~!"

 藪雨は目を見開きながら、ジンベイの掌の延長上をじっと眺めた。
 視線の先には晴天の中に唯一、巨大で分厚い雲が『唯我独尊』
 っとでも言いたげに浮かんでいた。
 他は快晴であるにも関わらずその場所だけが異様にまで曇っているのは、
 中々の奇観であった。
 まるでそこで雲が固まり、動かなくなってしまっているかのようで、
 風にも流されずにその場に留まり続けている。
 そしてそれに扈従して、雲の下の世界はまさに常夜の国のように・・・

Yabusame gazed at the point Jinbei had indicated, eyes opened wide.
There was a single massive, thick cloud floating in the otherwise clear sky.
It was truly a spectacular sight. One would be tempted to call it outright vainglorious.
The one strangely-cloudy spot was a wondrous sight, starkly contrasted against the clear blue surrounding it. It was as if the cloud had hardened in that spot and wouldn't move, even as the wind blew against it.
Owing to this, the land below must have seemed like a world of eternal darkness...

  玄鳥「数日前からあんな感じだな、あれならずっと寝放題だろうに、
     うらやましい限りだ」
  藪雨「あ、そうなの?」

Tsubakura: "Yeah, that thing. 'S been like that for days. If it was like that here, then I could sleep all I wanted. I'm jealous."
Yabusame: "Oh, are you?"

 マヌケな声を境内の庭に響かせながらも、
 藪雨の目線は曇り空に釘付けになっていた。

Even as Yabusame's foolish voice echoed through the shrine garden,
their eyes remained glued to the enormous cloud.

  玄鳥「そいで、あの黙劇中の雲がなんだっていうんですか?
     中に天空の城でもあるのかな?」

Tsubakura: "So, what the heck is this huge cloud we're gawking at?[1] There a floating castle in there or something?"

 玄鳥は面倒くさいという内心を隠すつもりの無い口調で、
 師であるジンベイに訪ねた。
 それに対してジンベイは呆れた顔で玄鳥と藪雨を見た。

Tsubakura asked their teacher, Jinbei, in a tone that made no attempt to hide their annoyance.
Jinbei, in response, looked agog at Tsubakura and Yabusame.

ジンベイ「知りませんよ、私がああした訳じゃないですし」
  藪雨「えー? どういうこと?」

Jinbei: "How should I know? It isn't as if I did it."
Yabusame: "Huh? What do you mean?"

 藪雨は曇り空から目線をジンベイに移し、
 気だるそうな玄鳥の代わりに質問した。

Yabusame moved their gaze from the cloud back to Jinbei,
and responded to them in place of the listless Tsubakura.

ジンベイ「さあ? 単なる異常事態じゃないですか?
     『異変』ってやつですよ、巷で有名なあの」
  玄鳥「単なるものでないから異常で異変なんじゃないのか? はぁ~あ」

Jinbei: "Who knows? It's just a regular old abnormal situation. 'Incidents', they're called. They're quite famous in the village streets."
Tsubakura: "People call things 'abnormal' or 'incidents' because they're not regular, you know? Haa~augh."

 玄鳥は先の展開が読めたのか、
 ため息と欠伸と台詞を絶妙にブレンドしたものを喉から吐き出しながら
 伸びをして、その姿勢のまま縁側に横になって
 仕舞いには目すら閉じてしまった。

Perhaps Tsubakura could tell what was coming, because they were already bored of it.
While releasing a superb blend of yawning, sighing, and talking all at once, they stretched out, laid down on the veranda in that same posture, and finally closed their eyes.

  藪雨「異変ー? どういうこと」
ジンベイ「まぁ、誰かしらが悪巧みして、
     ああいう風になってるってことですかね」

Yabusame: "An incident? What's that?"
Jinbei: "Well, it means that someone came up with some sort of sinister plot and made the clouds that way, I suppose?"

 藪雨のお惚けな質問に、ジンベイは親切にも答えた。
 なにせ、藪雨にそれを理解してもらう必要があったからだ

Jinbei kindly answered Yabusame's foolish question.
All else aside, it was important for Yabusame to understand at least that much.

  藪雨「悪巧み!? ど、どうするの玄鳥!?」
  玄鳥「そりゃ・・・誰かがどうにかしなくちゃ、なんじゃないか?」

Yabusame: "Sinister plot!? Wha- what'll we do, Tsubakura?!"
Tsubakura: "Well... I guess someone will have to do something about it, or whatever?"

 ホッコリした藪雨の間の抜けた質問に、
 やる気の無い玄鳥の応答が生温くなって返ってきた。

Tsubakura, already checking out of the conversation, gave a lukewarm reply to Yabusame's idiotic question.

  藪雨「ほへぇー・・・それで、誰がどうすんの?」

Yabusame: "Huh-whaa...! So, which someone is gonna do what thing, exactly?"

 その答えを聞きたくなさそうな顔をしている玄鳥のことなど露知らず、
 藪雨は無邪気な質問を放った。

Yabusame, completely unaware that Tsubakura didn't want to hear the answer to that, kept innocently asking questions one after another.

ジンベイ「もちろん、貴方達がどうにかするんです」   藪雨「えっ」

Jinbei: "Why, you two will take care of it, of course." Yabusame: "Huh?"

 唖然としている藪雨をよそに、もはや観念した玄鳥は体を起こし、
 普段ののっぺりした表情に復帰した。

Ignoring Yabusame's shock, Tsubakura finally accepted their lot and got up, with their regular expressionless look having returned.

  玄鳥「超過勤務手当てが出るのなら、ですね・・・・行って何をしろと?」
ジンベイ「まぁそんな些細なことは気にせず、
     行くだけ行って人柱になるなりなんなりと、
     手段や方法は全てお任せします」

Tsubakura: "Well, if I'm getting overtime pay for it... what do you want us to go and do?"
Jinbei "Oh, don't you worry about any trifling details like that. Just go where you can, become a human sacrifice or what have you, and I'll leave it up to you to figure things out."

 冗談なのか本気なのかわからんその言葉に玄鳥はうへーっと舌を出した。

Not quite sure whether Jinbei was being serious or not, Tsubakura stuck their tongue out at them.

  玄鳥「なんで最高位の神職自らが生贄にならにゃあかんの」
  藪雨「ひとばしら・・・?」
ジンベイ「死ぬ気のない者はすべからく死ぬべし、
     ・・・っというのがこの世の常です」
  玄鳥「仕事内容と逸脱してる気がするような、しないような」
  藪雨「ちょーかきんむ・・・?」
ジンベイ「お財布の紐は誰が握ってるのか、
     また晩御飯にでも思い出させてあげましょうか?」

Tsubakura: "And why's a supremely high-ranking priest such as m'self hafta go get human-sacrificed or whatever...?"
Yabusame: "Hu-man sa-cri-ficed...?"
Jinbei: "'Those who have no intention of dying should verily die by all means.' ...That's the way things go in this world."
Tsubakura: "I get this weird feeling that this is a big departure from the job description? Buuut that might just be me."
Yabusame: "Job-des-crip-tion...?"
Jinbei: "It seems you've forgotten which of us is holding the shrine's purse strings. Perhaps I should give you a little reminder when dinner comes around?"

 二人の会話の内容を2%も理解できていない藪雨をよそに、
 ジンベイの言葉の銃口は二人に向けられた。

Ignoring the fact that Yabusame didn't even understand 2% of what they were talking about, Jinbei pointed the muzzle of their proverbial gun at the two of them.

  玄鳥「うへぇ、レンコンか」
  藪雨「! イヤだ~、レンコン飽きた~」

Tsubakura: "Oh, so we're having radishes again?"
Yabusame: "...! Nooo~! I'm sick of radishes~!"

 この部分だけ会話の内容が理解できた藪雨は、
 それでなんとなく話の流れも分かったようで、
 足をじたばたしながら駄々こね始めた。

At the very least, Yabusame could understand that part of the conversation.
From that, they more or less worked out what Jinbei was getting at, and began kicking their legs back and forth and throwing a tantrum.

 ジンベイ「いっそ、全く無くても私は大丈夫なのですよ」

Jinbei: "Really, I'll be fine even without any dinner. Hardly my problem."

 闡裡神社代々の式神はそういいながら、ニッコリと笑った。
 それは藪雨にとっては可愛らしく、玄鳥にとっては不気味な笑顔であった。

The Senri Shrine's generations-old shikigami smiled brightly.
To Yabusame, their grin was adorable, and to Tsubakura, it was just creepy.

  藪雨「夜ご飯の為ならしかたないね!」
  玄鳥「恐怖政治が長続きしないということを、
     すぐに証明してみせましょう」
ジンベイ「はいはい、舌の体操はここまでにしといて」

Yabusame: "Well, if dinner's on the line, there's only one thing to do!"
Tsubakura: "Let's head out there and and prove that no reign of terror like this ever lasts long."
Jinbei: "Yes, yes. You can give that eloquent tongue of yours a rest now."

 不満げな玄鳥の言葉と視線を無視しながら、ジンベイは話を続けた。

Jinbei continued the conversation while ignoring Tsubakura's muttering and glowering.

ジンベイ「そうですねぇ・・建前上、留守番もいたほうがいいので、
     お二人の内のどちらが現地に向かうか決めてくださいね」
  藪雨「ほーい」
  玄鳥「へーい」

Jinbei "Ah, yes, and... it'd be good if one of you stayed here at the shrine, if only to keep up appearances. So decide which one of you will head out to the incident location, if you please."
Yabusame: "Yeppers!"
Tsubakura: "Yessers."

 快く返事(?)をする二人であるが、
 当然どちらも「自分が行く」なんて面倒なことをするつもりなど
 毛頭無かった。
 「どちらが行くか決める方法をどうするか」
 っという事を決めるだけでこの後も
 随分と時間を有するのであるのだが、

The two of them responded cheerfully(?), but neither had even the faintest intention of actually volunteering for such a nuisance of a task.
Just answering the question of "what should we do to decide who goes?" took them a great deal of time by itself,

 それはそれとしておこう。

but for now, let's leave that as it is.

※----------------------------------------------------------------※

※----------------------------------------------------------------※

~○人里から少し離れた森の中~

~In a forest near the Human Village~

 里から道を外れて森の中をすこし抜けた先に
 小さな開拓地と丸太で作られた小屋があった。
 手荒で、杜撰に造られたその粗末な小屋は、
 多少の雨風を凌ぐには十分であるだろうが、
 嵐でもやってきた日には"パタンっ"と
 良い音を立てて倒れてしまいそうな程頼り気がなかった。
 そこには気配も服装も似たような3人が住み着いていた。

Some ways past the forest beside the road coming from the village, there was a clearing. A log cabin stood in the middle.
The ramshackle cabin, roughly and crudely built, served well enough as shelter from the rain, but it didn't look very reliable.
If it were to collapse with a satisfying "kerplonk!" on a stormy day, hardly anyone would be surprised.
There were three people, similar both in presence and in attire, who lived there.

 頬赤「今日は一雨きそうだな」

Hooaka: "Looks like it's gonna rain today."

 窓から空を見上げながら、炎のような真っ赤な髪の色をした人影は、
 憂鬱そうに呟いた。
 ロウソクと外から取り込む光以外に照らすものの無い薄暗い部屋の中では、
 特にすることがなく。
 雨が降ってこられると非常に退屈になってしまうのであった。

One of the three figures, their hair as red as fire, muttered gloomily as they looked out the window at the sky.
There wasn't really anything to do in the dim room, lit by nothing more than a candle and what little light came in from outside.
Whenever it rained, the inhabitants of the cabin became unbearably bored.

 蒿雀「ここのところずっとそればっか言ってるよね、アカは」

Aoji: "You've been saying that every day we spend here, Aka."

 丸太を切っただけのお手製の椅子と机に突っ伏しながら、
 弱々しい声で呟きに応答する緑の髪の青い人影。
 この似た姿形をした二人はここに棲息していた。
 突然聞いたことも無い国に飛ばされ、財産も住居も食料も無い状態から
 一ヶ月間、死ぬ気で生きてきたが、
 最近になってようやく安定した生活を送れるようになってきていた。
 水と食料の確保、小屋の仮建設・・・
 それらが揃った今、必要とされているのは『資金』だった。
 その『資金』については、ここにはいないもう一人が
 現在仕事を探しに行っており、この二人はその帰りを待ってた。
 っというより、待つ他にやる事がないらしい。

The blue-clothed, green-haired figure replied in a frail, muttering voice, as they plopped down at the hand-crafted chair and table (which were more like logs cut in half, really).
This similar-looking pair had been living in the cabin for a while.
They had suddenly been whisked away into this land they'd never heard of, without any assets, food or even a place to live, and had spent about a month with little hope of surviving.
Recently, though, they'd finally been given a stable lifestyle.
A consistent supply of food and water, a cabin that served as a makeshift residence...
With those things taken care of, what they needed now was "funds".
The cabin's third resident, not currently present, was out looking for a job to earn those "funds", and the two in the cabin were waiting for their return.
Or, rather, they had nothing else to do but wait.

 頬赤「だってずっとそんな天気なんだから使用がないじゃん」
 蒿雀「そう言って、一度も降ったことないけどね」
 頬赤「人に伝えると正夢は実現しなくなるって言うじゃん、
    だからお前のせいだ」
 蒿雀「えぇ・・・」

Hooaka: "Yeah, 'cause the weather's been like this the whole time! What else is there to say?" Aoji: "It hasn't rained even once, though." Hooaka: "They say if you tell people about the predictions in your dreams, they won't come true. So basically it's your fault."
Aoji: "Eh..."

 要領を得ない話ばかりしている所を見ると、二人は相当に暇のようだ。

Judging by the pointless conversations they kept having, they were both extremely bored.

※----------------------------------------------------------------※

※----------------------------------------------------------------※

黒巫鳥「もう一度だけ聞く・・・・どうして暇を持て余していたんだ?」

Kuroji: "I'll ask one more time, and only once... Why, exactly, do you have so much free time on your hands?"

 しばらくしてみると、帰ってきた黒髪の量産型は、
 眉を中央に寄せながら残りの二人を地面に正座させ、
 自分は椅子で足を組みながら説教と洒落込んでいた。

After time had passed, the black-haired mass-production model returned home.
Furrowing their eyebrows, they had the other two sit on the ground, took the chair and sat cross-legged on it, and prepared for a good old-fashioned lecture.

 蒿雀「その・・・余りにもすることがなくて・・・」

Aoji: "Well, um... There's not really anything to do, and..."

 末っ子の蒿雀は黒巫鳥から目をそらしながら小声で返事をした。

The youngest child Aoji avoided their older sibling Kuroji's glare, as they replied to them with a small voice.

黒巫鳥「出る前に私は言ったよな?
    『金が溜まったらきちんとした家を建てるから、
    今の内に木材を集めておけ』・・・って。
    あれから一刻は過ぎてるが、
    それなのにどうしてここには一本も切り倒した木が無いんだ?
    イリュージョンでこれから出てくるのか?」
 蒿雀「ごめんなさい・・・」
黒巫鳥「いいかお前ら、少しは生活が楽になったからといって、
    決して油断のならない状況だということには変わりないんだぞ?
    我々は一刻も早くこの状況を打破しなくてはならない、
    だから一分一秒を大切にして生きていかなくちゃいけないのに、
    なんだこの体たらくは!」
 頬赤「一分一秒が大切なら、こんな説教してる暇ないんじゃなーいの?」

Kuroji: "You remember what I said before I left, right? I said, 'If I make some money, then we can build a better house, so you two should go collect lumber in advance...' Some time has passed since then, so why haven't you collected any wood? Do you think the trees are going to chop themselves down?"
Aoji: "Sorry..."
Kuroji: "Listen up, you two. Our living conditions may have become slightly more comfortable, but the fact remains that we can't afford to be careless! We must break through this sorry state of affairs as soon as possible! You need live while treating every minute and every second as precious, so what excuse do you have for this idleness?!"
Hooaka: "If every minute and every second is precious, why are you wastin' everyone's time with this dumb lecture?"

 反省してる演技すらしようともしない頬赤が、
 天井を仰ぎ見ながら皮肉を言った。

Hooaka retorted while staring at the ceiling, not even pretending to reflect on what Kuroji told them.

黒巫鳥「次にどうでもいい事で口を開いたら、
    今日の晩飯はお前以外がご馳走になるぞ」

Kuroji: "If I hear any more cheek from you, you'll be the only one not enjoying dinner tonight."

 ふー、やれやれ・・・っとでも言いたげな表情で
 頬赤はため息をしながら黙りこくった。

Hooaka gave a sigh and then fell silent, as they made an expression that screamed "gimme a break already".

黒巫鳥「もういい、とにかく仕事を決めてきたぞ」
 蒿雀「えっ!? 見つかったの」
黒巫鳥「いや、雇い主が居たというわけではないが、
    近くの里では最近子供~成人の学力低下が著しいと
    老人どもが愚痴を漏らしていた」

Kuroji: "Now, that aside. I've decided on a job."
Aoji: "Huh!? You actually found one?"
Kuroji: "Well, no, it's not as if I've found an employer. But the elders in the nearby village are complaining that the younger generations, from children to adults, are all terribly uneducated."

 蒿雀「あ、ってことは!」

Aoji "Oh, so that means...!"

 話の流れを察したのか、蒿雀は嬉しそうに声をあげた。

Possibly having grasped where the conversation was going, Aoji spoke with a delighted voice.

黒巫鳥「学び舎開設で一儲けだ!」
 蒿雀「学者一家、鵐家の出番だね!」

Kuroji: "I'm going to establish a schoolhouse, and we'll be rich!"
Aoji: "It's the debut of the Shitodo, the family of scholars!"

 はしゃぐ蒿雀を見て笑みを浮かべる黒巫鳥は、ふと頬赤の方をみた。
 その話をきちんと聞いていた頬赤は、訝しげに自分のことを指差し、
 無言の主張を訴えていた。

Seeing Aoji in high spirits made Kuroji smile, before they glanced over at Hooaka.
Hooaka, who had been listening carefully, silently raised a question by pointing at themselves with a quizzical look.

黒巫鳥「お前は・・・・小中学生レベルの授業を担当か・・・
    それか用心棒ってとこだな・・・」

Kuroji: "You... Maybe you could be an elementary or middle school teacher... No, maybe just a guard..."

 ひとえに智識が無いと言われた頬赤は
 あくまで無言で「はーい」っと口の動きだけで返事をした。

Hooaka, who had just been blatantly told that they weren't smart enough to teach, stubbornly mouthed the word "a'ight" without making a sound.

黒巫鳥「そこで一つ提案があるんだが、
    学び舎を開設するには里の住人と信頼関係を築かなくちゃならん」
 蒿雀「えー・・・でも僕達ここに来たばかりだし・・・」
黒巫鳥「そう、だから『売名行為』が必要だと思わないか?」
 蒿雀「うーん、そうだけど、何をして売名するの?」

Kuroji: "On that note, I have one proposal. In order to get the schoolhouse built, we need to establish a trusting relationship with the village's residents."
Aoji: "Oh... But how could they trust us if we just got here?"
Kuroji: "Yes. So don't you think we may need to do some... self-advertising?"
Aoji: "Mm, I guess so, but how are you going to advertise?"

 黒巫鳥はジェスチャーで芸をしてみせている頬赤を
 マジマジと見ながら、話を続けた。

Hooaka silently mimed various performing arts.
Kuroji gave them a pointed stare, then continued talking.

黒巫鳥「道化、神楽に自信があるなら止めはしないが、
    それより言い方法がある」
 蒿雀「っというと?」
黒巫鳥「最近、随分と長い間曇り空が続いているよな?」
 蒿雀「うん、ここんところずっとそうだね」
黒巫鳥「巷ではこれを神や妖怪による『異変』だと言って騒いでいる」
 蒿雀「ふーん、本当にそうなのかな?」
黒巫鳥「実際、何者かの陰謀によってこういう異常現象が起こる事は
    この国ではよくあるらしい、
    本来では神社に勤めてる奴がそれを毎回解決してるらしいが・・・」
 蒿雀「神社って・・・藪雨と玄鳥がいる?」
黒巫鳥「あぁ、原因が何であるにしろ、
    奴等がその気になったらこの程度の自然現象、
    強引にでもすぐ解決できるだろう」

Kuroji: "If you're confident in your skills as a clown or kagura dancer, I'm not going to stop you, but I have a much better idea."
Aoji: "Which is?"
Kuroji: "Recently, the sky has remained cloudy for quite some time, right?"
Aoji: "Yeah, it's been like this every day."
Kuroji: "The people of the village are making quite a fuss about it, saying it's an 'incident' caused by some god or youkai."
Aoji: "Hmm. You sure that's true?"
Kuroji: "In fact, it's apparently quite common in this land for individuals to cause abnormal phenomena like this as part of some plot. Originally, every incident was resolved by those working at the shrine, but..."
Aoji: "The shrine... you mean where Yabusame and Tsubakura are?"
Kuroji: "Yeah. Regardless of the phenomenon's origin, something like this would be easy for them to resolve by force, once they put their minds to it."

 黒巫鳥のその言葉に蒿雀は過去の出来事を思い浮かべて、
 うんうんっと納得したが、
 それと一緒に疑問も浮かび上がり、黒巫鳥に聞いた。

Kuroji's words reminded Aoji of various past events, and they nodded in agreement with Kuroji's observation.
At the same time, this led to another question, which they asked Kuroji about.

 蒿雀「だけどまだ曇ってるよ?」
黒巫鳥「うむ、おそらくあいつらはまだ『異変』について知らない、
    もしくはこの現象が『異変』だと気がついてないのかもしれない」
 蒿雀「あぁ、神社ってここから結構遠いもんね」
黒巫鳥「そう、だからこれはチャンスだ」
 蒿雀「え?」
黒巫鳥「この『異変』を我々の手で解決すれば、
    我々の名声は鰻のぼり、鯉のぼり! 天までのぼって龍となる!」
 蒿雀「そんな上手くいくかな~」

Aoji: "But it's... still cloudy, though?"
Kuroji: "Mm-hm. It's most likely that they still haven't noticed the 'incident', or that they've noticed it, but haven't recognized it for what it is."
Aoji: "Yeah. The shrine is pretty far away from here, after all."
Kuroji: "Right. So, this is our chance."
Aoji: "Huh?"
Kuroji: "If we solve this incident ourselves, our names will go down in history! We'll swim farther than eels! Fly farther than carp! Even ascend into the sky as dragons!"
Aoji: "You sure it's really gonna go that well~?"

 苦い顔をしながら蒿雀は弱音を漏らした。

Aoji squeaked out a complaint as they made a bitter face.

黒巫鳥「どうせ暇なのだから、やるだけやってみてもいいだろう」

Kuroji: "We have nothing else to do anyway, so we may as well try it and see!"

 つい先ほど自分が言っていた事を完全に無視しながら、
 黒巫鳥は蒿雀を説得しようとする。

Completely ignoring what they themself had been saying earlier,
Kuroji began coaxing Aoji into helping them.

 蒿雀「うーん・・・どうするアカ?」

Aoji: "Umm... What should we do, Aka?"

 蒿雀が意見を求めると、頬赤はサムアップしながら満面の笑みを浮かべた。

Hooaka grinned ear to ear and gave a thumbs-up in response.

 不安げな蒿雀とやる気満々のフリをしてる頬赤を交互に見ながら、
 黒巫鳥はよし、っと短く声に出して椅子から立ち上がり、
 窓の外の曇り空を眺めた。

Kuroji looked back and forth between Aoji (uncomfortable) and Hooaka (pretending to be excited), then nodded and leapt up from their chair.
They gazed out the window, towards the cloudy sky.

黒巫鳥「決定だな、・・・・それじゃまずは別行動をとり、各自情報収集だ」

Kuroji: "It's decided, then. ...To begin, we'll split up and each do reconnaissance work."

 こうして、それぞれが別々の理念を抱きながらも表層上は結託し、
 立て付けの悪いお手製の木の扉は、
 音を立てながら3人の小鳥達を見送ることとなった。

Thus, though they each had differing opinions, they all agreed on the surface.
The poorly-made wooden door squeaked as they left the cabin on their mission,
giving a send-off to the three little birds.

Notes[edit]

  1. Tsubakura's original line includes a pun (...typo?) on '目撃' (witnessing) and '黙劇' (pantomime), both pronounced 'mokugeki'.