Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Kino's Journey V - 2nd Story: The Land of Permitted Murder

(Originally translated and written as part of my senior project in the spring of 2012.
Note that since this was going to be graded by my Japanese teacher, I erred on the side of an overly literal translation.)
Kino's Journey -The Beautiful World- V
2nd Story : Land of Permitted Murder
-Jungle's Rule-
There was a prairie and a lake.
The flat earth was covered in grass and trees as far as the eye could see. Clear water from underground bubbled out to fill small ditches, forming several small ponds. 
The bright summer sun illuminated the vegetation on the ground and in the water. There wasn't a cloud in the sky. The blue, dry atmosphere extended everywhere. 
There was one way through the prairie.
It was a narrow road and judging from the grass growing on it, it didn't seem to have seen much traffic. Avoiding the lake, the road extended roughly from east to west.
One motorrad (a motorcycle) was running west down the road, fully loaded with travel luggage on its back, both sides, and on top. A silver cup strapped to the side of the bag was rattling as the motorrad sped along the path. 
The driver was wearing a black vest under an open white jacket. Around her waist was fastened a thick belt with a hand Persuader (a pistol) holster on her right thigh and a slender automatic one holstered against her lower back. 
The rider wore a brimmed hat with goggles over her black hair. Under the hat was the driver's young face. She seemed to be in their mid-teens. 
"There's a horse. See it? Kino," the motorrad said suddenly while riding.
Kino, the driver, narrowed her eyes under her goggles at the road ahead.
"Yeah, I see it. Looks like someone's there."
Kino released the handle with her left hand to check the Persuader against her back and then the revolver at her thigh with her right hand.
"I'm stopping, Hermes."

On the side of the road was a horse, laden with luggage, drinking from the lake. Near it was a man with a hat over his face, sleeping on his back. The sound of the motorrad's engine woke him.
The young man, who appeared to be in his twenties, wore riding pants and boots, a thin jacket, and a hand Persuader holster on his right hip containing a forty-five caliber automatic.  
The man waved to the approaching motorrad.
"Hey," he called out to Kino as she brought the motorrad to a stop.
Kino got off the motorrad and put down the kickstand, leaving the engine running.
Kino and Hermes, her motorrad, greeted him.
"Are you from the country up ahead?" the man asked.
"No. We're on our way there now," Kino replied.
"Great, I was just on my way there myself. How about going together? That way you could take half my load for me. It oughta be light for a motorrad," asked the man matter-of-factly.
"I can't do that," replied Kino, just as straightly, with Hermes chiming in with agreement.
The man frowned, openly showing his annoyance, "Well aren't you a cold one. You can't even do that simple thing?"
"That's right," Kino answered with a polite smile. "If I did that, I could just take all your stuff and run. Then I'd get there first and sell it all." 
Kino turned away in disinterest and the man tut-tutted in disapproval. 
"Well, that's alright... But by the way!" The man looked at Kino as if staring right into her. "Do you know about that country? Have you heard what kind of country it is?" the man asked.
"I don't know any details, but I've heard that it's a very gentlemanly country," replied Kino. 
The man burst into laughter and said with a smirk, "Who told you that?! That's completely wrong!"
"What did you hear?"
The man laughed again. "Heh heh heh. Guess it can't be helped. I'll enlighten ya, since it's so amusing. About that country... they call it 'The Land of Permitted Murder'."
"Sorry, what was that?" Hermes asked.
"By law, murder isn't prohibited. You can't steal, but hurting and killing people and every other crime like that isn't prosecuted. It's like it's the murdered person's fault more than the murderer's. It's a jungle in there, just inside the walls. It's a pretty well known story," said the man, who seemed to be enjoying himself.
"And you're wanting to go there then?" Kino asked.
"Yeah, of course. I'll live there. My home country has ludicrously good security and everyone's on stupidly good terms with each other. I absolutely despised it. It was always 'laws, laws, laws' there, so did 'em a favor and ditched the place."
"So, how do you become a citizen of this other country?" asked Hermes.
"I dunno... at this point I'll just live there and see how it goes." The man paused, "If there's a guy I don't like, I'll beat him to death. Seems like a good place for someone like me," he said, acting cool.
"Hmm... That doesn't sound very interesting to me," Hermes replied. The man looked offended.
"Well besides that, there's someone I look up to in that country. Maybe you guys have heard of him? That 'Mr. Legal'."
"No." "Don't know him." Kino and Hermes said shortly.
"I guess you guys really are from out of town." The man paused in amazement for a moment and then started to gladly and quickly explain. "That 'Mr. Legal', he's from a big country to the south where he's the leader of a band of robbers and terrorists and is a well-known serial killer. He accidentally got himself caught, but was such a tough guy that he escaped just before the hanging and fled the country. That's already decades in the past, but he still hasn't been caught so it's almost certainly like they say, that in the end, murderers end up in that country. They say assassins and killers from all over the world gather in that country. So surely he'd be free to kill as much as he wants. I really look up to him and would love to meet him. I wish I could tell you even more!"
"I see. Well, with that we'll be off then," Kino said, climbing back onto Hermes.
"You're a boring one... Hey," the man called out to stop Kino, glaring at her. "You really can't carry anything for me?"
"Yes, please carry your own travel luggage," said Kino, as though stating the obvious, and immediately started up Hermes.
The man was left surrounded in the roar of the engine.
He looked over his shoulder as they drove off. "Fine. I swear, if I see them again inside that country..." he muttered to himself and laughed. 

Walls connected to the lake with aqueducts and canals which had been dug outside. The white stone walls towered tall above them.
It was evening when Kino and Hermes arrived near the gate. As soon as they arrived, the bridge over the canal slowly lowered down.
"So, a country where they don't prohibit murder...  I bet there'll be some amazing things in there," Hermes said, seemingly enjoying himself.
"Probably so."
"You ready?" 
"As ready as I'll ever be." 
"You don't need to do any preparations for your Persuader?"
"I always do them, so it'll be fine. Now then, shall we go?" Kino replied and started crossing the bridge.

"Do you wish to immigrate? Or are you are you traveling and wish to stay for a short time?" an immigration officer inquired to Kino from inside a small guardroom outside the gate.
Kino told him that they were the latter and would like to stay for three days.
"Are you aware that this country does not legally prohibit murder? Regardless of whether you are a citizen or a traveler, within this country, killing for any reason will not be considered a crime. Do you understand?" the immigration asked as a precaution. 
Kino nodded.
"Knowing this, you still wish to enter the country?" the immigration inspector asked again.

"Strange country, isn't it?" Kino said while taking down the luggage from Hermes.
Inside the hotel room, there was a simple chair and bed, as well as a lamp and fan placed along the wall. In the corner was a fireplace, sealed shut so it could not be used. 
"You think so? I was thinking that it was pretty normal," Hermes replied, propped up on his center stand in the corner of the room.
"That's what I mean. And besides that, the town is beautiful and even in the evening there are a lot of people out walking around. The people aren't nervous and there don't appear to be many police officers in town. The stores didn't have any sturdy shutters either. And they're kind to travelers as well."
After passing through the city walls, Kino and Hermes had ridden for a while through farmland. When they asked directions to a hotel in town, the people nearby gathered and happily had shown them the way.
Hermes asked, "In other words?"
"What I'm saying is that the public order here is very good, and that's what's strange," Kino replied.
"Ah, I see. Since murder isn't legally prohibited, were you hoping for gangs of ruffians strutting around, women fighting in bars, and dogs trotting around biting people's hands? That's too bad," said Hermes.  
"Well, I wouldn't really say I was hoping for it..."
Kino unloaded her luggage next to the bed, took off her holster and vest, and removed the revolver called Cannon from her right thigh.
"Or perhaps...." Kino murmured to herself while she looked at the Cannon's black luster.
"Perhaps what?" asked Hermes.
"Well, whatever. You might understand eventually." Without saying a word more, Kino laid down on the bed with the Cannon still resting on her chest.
"What's that? ...I guess there's no point in asking any more. Goodnight." 

The next morning Kino woke at dawn as always. 
She opened the window and shutters. A quiet street and a clear blue sky with thin streaks of clouds stretched out before her eyes.
Kino warmed up with some light exercises, then began training with her Cannon and Woodsman, the automatic she kept on her back. She repeatedly practiced her quick draw, rapidly pulling each gun from its holster to a firing position. Afterwards, she disassembled the guns and cleaned them before returning them and the cleaning oil to their holsters.
After taking a shower, Kino got some breakfast from the hotel. With the sun risen, she tapped Hermes awake and left the hotel.
The town was lined with old stone buildings. Along both sides of what seemed to be the main street were shops, the upper floors of which had apartments.
Kino went into a store and sold the things she didn't need as well as other sellable items from her travels , then bought the things she needed. Once the good-hearted, middle-aged shopkeeper learned that Kino was a traveler, he gave her a bargain.
Behind his chair, a long rifle-type Persuader was propped up. Kino asked whether it was for defending against robberies, but the shopkeeper shook his head.
"We've never had a robber in this store or the neighboring stores. This," the shopkeeper answered, "is for killing people."
"Hmm... When?" Hermes asked.
"Hm? Who knows when... I know the sort of situations, but I don't know when they'll arise, so I always just keep it around," the shopkeeper replied with a laugh.
"I see," Kino murmured quietly.

After they had finished shopping, Kino and Hermes rode around to see the country. The country was not very big and by the afternoon they had finished their tour and returned to the main street.
They found a restaurant with tables alongside the street and Kino took a seat, with Hermes behind her chair. A cool breeze passed through in the shade.
Kino asked the waiter if they had anything sweet and was told that there was the recommended special. Without really knowing what it was, she ordered it.
"Here you are. Please take your time."
What came out was a cream crepe of tremendous size, piled up like a mountain on a huge plate.
"Everything's a challenge."
Kino attacked it with a knife, chopping it up roughly until, after some time, she had eaten all of it. Hermes just watched in amazement.
A short while after she finished eating, a number of elderly people came and sat down in a group around Kino.
Having found Kino, an elderly lady from among them asked, "Hey, are you the traveler?"
Kino said yes and the old woman said that they had just finished their hobby of dancing and that they always came to that shop to eat afterwards, so naturally they came today too, and continued on about things that Kino didn't particularly ask about. 
"So traveler, don't you think this country has very good public order?" the old woman asked.
"Yes, it's very good," Kino said honestly.
A man in the group with a cane and a long white beard asked Kino, "Where are you heading?"
"I don't know," Kino answered.
"Well then, do you know, Mr. Motorrad?" the old man asked.
"You kidding?" Hermes replied, the pitch of his voice raising at the end.
"Hm... Well then, how about moving to this country?" said the old man.
"Yes, that's a great idea! Why don't you do that? We'll help you out and can find a place for you to live as early as tomorrow, then it's just a simple matter of procedure down at the town hall, you'll just need to sign your name on the paper and then--"
Then, softly ignoring the old woman who was talking as fast and loudly as a machine gun, the old man said to Kino, "How about it? I think this country would be well suited for a person like you."
"What kind of person is that?" Hermes asked from behind the chair.
The bearded old man answered with a smile, "A person who can kill people."
Kino paused for a while and then shook her head.
"Is that so. That's too bad... But I hope you'll have a relaxing stay. Traveling is dangerous business, so hopefully being here a bit will put your mind at ease."
"Thank you. I'll take you up on that."
"I wonder what you'd think of this country's sweets? They're really quite nice; I think they'd make a good souvenir for your travels. Then we could talk a little about matters outside the city walls instead," the old man suggested. Kino shook her head, with a chagrined face.
Hermes explained, "Sorry, she just finished stuffing herself with those sweets."
"Ah, is that right? Well then, how about tea tomorrow morning?"

The next day. Specifically, it was the morning of the third day since Kino had entered the country.
Kino got up at dawn. She did her light exercises and Persuader training, took a shower as though reluctant to part with it, and had breakfast. 
She arranged the luggage and piled it up on Hermes, securely fixing it to him.
She tapped Hermes awake and headed out to the restaurant on the street. The bearded old man from the day before was leisurely drinking tea. Kino was stopped by the old man and they talked about the state of the neighboring countries. The old man squinted his eyes and seemed to greatly enjoy listening. Then he treated Kino to tea and dessert and the two of them divided up the mountain of it and ate it together.
"I'm afraid we'll have to be going soon," said Kino as the restaurant began to get crowded with the noon rush.
"Is that so...  Well, thank you, I honestly enjoyed our time," the old man said politely with a bow, which Kino reciprocated. 
Kino pushed Hermes back out to the street. She started the engine and the sound echoed out somewhat disrupting the quiet of the town.
On the street, Kino nodded to the old man with the cane just as she put Hermes into gear.
"You!! I found ya! Stop right there!" shouted a loud voice. "It's you! You on the motorrad with the black vest!"
The man Kino had seen outside the country two days before came screaming out of a building. Kino cut Hermes's engine. The street became quiet.
"This place is just perfect. Don't move!"
All the people in the area were paying close attention to the man. He approached Kino, who got off Hermes and kicked down his side stand.
"What is it?" Kino asked, standing in front of Hermes.
"The luggage you've got on your motorrad, put it all on the ground!" said the man, who stood a short distance away.
"May I ask what for?"
"I'll take it for ya. It must be pretty heavy, right? So I'll help ya lessen the weight. I'll take it all, use what I can use, sell what I don't need, and use it for my living expenses. Sound like a plan?"
"I understand, but I couldn't possibly trouble you so much. I refuse,"  Kino said. 
The man cackled and added, "If you refuse, I'll kill you here and now. I'll ask again. If you value your life, leave your luggage and go. Don't worry, I'm not gonna take your clothes off or anything. How about it?"
The man glanced to the holster on his right hip, where a loaded hand Persuader could be seen. 
The people who were in the street started pulling away into buildings.
"So you immigrated then, huh?," Kino said.
"Of course! I'm now a citizen of this country."
"But you don't act like one," said Kino. 
The man frowned. 
"Huh...? That stuff doesn't matter. What's your reply?"
Kino looked to her left and right. No one was in the streets but she could see shadows in the second floor windows of the buildings.
"We refuse. Since we're already leaving the country."
"I guess there's no more negotiating then..."
The man spread his feet shoulder width apart and shook out his hands and shoulders.
"Hermes... Sorry but, could you give me a sec?" Kino said quietly.
"Understood. Just patch up the holes afterward, alright?" Hermes replied.
The man pulled out his Persuader from his waist. Kino reacted quickly and twirled out of the way.
She took cover, crouching behind Hermes.
"..huh? What are you doing? Coward! You didn't even draw?! Is that thing on your waist just for decoration?" the man howled, thrusting his Persuader forward with his right hand and taking a step closer to Hermes.
"Don't take it personally." The moment he said it, an arrow came flying at an angle from above, hitting his right arm.
The Persuader fell. The man looked at his arm. Where the arrow pierced his arm, blood flowed and dripped. 
Just as he cried out in pain, another arrow came flying and hit the inside of his left foot, piercing his boot and pinning it to the ground. 
"Gyah-!" The man was in agony. He couldn't remove the arrows from his foot or his arm.
"OWWWWCH-!! Dammit! Damn it!!"
The townspeople gathered quietly around the screaming man. Everyone's face was calm, and they all were holding some sort of weapon. A man holding a big knife. A youth readying a Persuader. A young woman holding a club. A woman came out from an apartment with a crossbow.
Kino looked out at the scene, peeking out half of her face from behind Hermes's tank.
"Hey! The hell'd you do that for?! Damn it hurts..."
The old man with the cane approached the man and spoke.
"It's no good... You can't do that. That's why we stopped you."
"Wha- What...? Damn it! Hurry up and take these out will ya?!"
"I'll answer your question," the old man said quietly. "Here, in this country... The act of killing people is not allowed."
The man glared at the elderly man.
"What? You liar! This is the country where murder isn't prohibited! That's why I bothered to come here in the first place!"
"You're right. You aren't mistaken about that. That's why we're here." The surrounding people chimed in calmly with agreement.
"Wh-What are you saying? What are you talking about? Hey! You bastard! I don't get a thing you're sayin'! Hurry up and take out these arrows! I'll beat ya to death!"
"I can't do that. In this country, people who have killed others, people who have tried to kill others, and people who try to kill others, all of them have ended up being killed themselves."
"So why then?! Murder's not illegal, right?! That's why I came! 'Cause you didn't stop murderers!" the man ranted in confusion.
The quiet old man's voice continued,
"Saying it's not prohibited doesn't mean that it's allowed."
"...Quit screwing with me! Who the hell do you think you are anyway, your majesty?"
The old man narrowed his eyes, which were surrounded by wrinkles. 
"Who, me? I'm no one deserving of being called 'majesty'. I'm just one citizen, an old man by the name of Legal." 
The man looked up at Legal with his mouth hanging open.
"Sorry, but you are dangerous." Legal twisted the handle of his cane and pulled to reveal a sword painted a glossy black. With his weight behind it, he pierced the man's heart with the sword. And then he twisted and pulled it out.
The old man with the cane gently closed the eyes of the dead man, and everyone who was there took a moment of silence.
Kino had been watching the scene from behind.
"The death of a fellow man is always a painful thing," someone said, and everyone nodded. Someone requested that arrangements be made for the National Cemetery and someone else took on that responsibility.
Then everyone went their separate ways and returned to where they had been before.
Legal approached Kino and just said, "Take care, alright?"
"Alright," Kino replied and started Hermes's engine. The sound of the engine rang out, somewhat disturbing the quiet of the town.
Kino nodded to the elderly man with the cane from in the street and put Hermes into gear.

The motorrad rode west along a road between a meadow and a lake. When riding along the edge of the lake, their image was reflected with the sky's on the surface of the lake. 
"There's a horse. See it? Kino," Hermes said suddenly while riding. Kino narrowed her eyes under her goggles at the road ahead.
"Yeah, I see it. Looks like someone's there." Kino released the handle with her left hand to check the Persuader against her back and then the revolver at her thigh with her right hand.
"I'm stopping, Hermes."

On the side of the road was a horse laden with a large amount of luggage, drinking from the lake.  Near it was a man with a hat over his face, sleeping on his back. The sound of the motorrad's engine woke him.
The young man, who appeared to be in his twenties, wore riding pants and boots, a thin jacket, and a hand Persuader holster on his right hip containing a forty caliber automatic.  
The man waved to the approaching motorrad.

"Hey," he called out to Kino as she brought the motorrad to a stop.
Kino got off the motorrad and put down the kickstand, leaving the engine running.
Kino and Hermes greeted him.
"Are you from the country to the east of here?" the man asked, and Kino shook her head.
"No, I'm traveling. I was in that country for three days and I just left a little bit ago."
"Is that so... There's something I'd like to ask but..."
"What might that be?"
The man's face clouded and he said in a serious tone, "I heard from a traveler I met by chance that that country is safe and pleasant, and that it's a gentlemanly place, so that's why I came here." Then he asked, " that true?"
"Yes, you're not mistaken," Kino replied and the man's face relaxed. "But that might depend somewhat on what your feelings are," added Kino.
"My country? Yeah, it was a rough place... Security was the worst. Every day there were multiple murders. I even had to kill and steal from God knows how many people to protect my own life. Even they would've liked to have a normal life... I don't want to kill anyone any more. So I left that unpleasant country and now I want to live in a safe one."
"I see. In that case, I think you'll definitely like the country up ahead. There's an old man named Mr. Legal, who it'd be nice if you could visit. If you talk about stories from your travels, I think he'd tell you lots of things too."
"That right? Thanks for the tip," the man said.

After that, Kino asked the man all about the road ahead and the country she was heading to next and the man told her honestly what he knew.
Kino thanked him and made to leave.
"Oh, there was one more thing I wanted to ask..." the man called out and stopped her. "In fact, I heard one strange thing concerning that country when I was in the neighboring country. But could it really be true...? If you happen to know any details..."
"What sort of thing?" Kino asked.
The man hesitated a little and shook his head. "Nah, it's fine. It's so strange, I don't even believe it. It's too disconnected from common sense. It's something I'd find out as soon as I got there anyway, so I'll just find out with my own eyes."
"Is that so... Well then, I think we'll be going now."
"Right, bye then."
The motorrad drove off and the man got on horseback and headed east.
The man was jostled on the horses back. "Is it really true...?" he muttered. "That in that country they pile up the crepes like mountains."

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