quaint_twilight: (kagetora)
quaint_twilight ([personal profile] quaint_twilight) wrote on November 20th, 2009 at 10:59 pm
Book 16 Chapter 17 贖罪
Japanese to Chinese translation by Hinako. Chinese to English translation by me.

Basics of this chapter: Kagetora reflects


How long had he been walking?
He could only hear his unusually loud footsteps and his panting.
It seemed like there was no end to this dense, green forest no matter how far one walked. Takaya held his wound as he plodded through the mountain wilderness. He was only thinking of getting as far away from that place as possible.
The bird people did not pursue him. Perhaps he had thrown them off his trail. But Takaya was no longer sure of where he was.

Where is this place...?

Takaya was lost. Furthermore, he was in darkness. He had stumbled several times over the tree roots. The ground was covered in snow, making it rather slippery. Were these remnants of the landslides in the past? Rocks of various sizes hindered his way. Considering his injuries, it was not easy for him to maneuver over those rocks or to climb that precipitous slope. Takaya dragged his heavy body forward.
Every corner of this mountain woods looked the same. Furthermore, the layers of snow gave one the impression of walking in circles. He really could not tell where he was. Neither could he tell how far off he was from that place. With his speed, perhaps he had not gone far at all.

"!"

Takaya suddenly slipped over the snow, sliding about five meters down the slope.

"Ngh..!"

He managed to steady his body by grabbing onto the tree roots. He was desperately gasping for air. He had long exerted more than what physical strength he had. Takaya no longer had the stamina to stand and sat up on the ground. He looked up at the sky as he caught his breath. He could see the black sky above the canopy of the dense, green forest.

I can't walk... anymore...

His mind was vacant and his consciousness darkened. The condition of his injury was not good; one small movement and his lungs would scream, his sternum would ache. His limbs did not seem to be his as they were unbearably heavy and slumped powerlessly onto the ground.

Because of the frost, the tree trunk he was leaning against was moist and slippery.
It was a cold night. The snow had stopped not too long ago. In its place, the icy mountain air stung his lungs. If his sweat grew cold, he would probably be further robbed of his body heat. Furthermore, this place would become extremely chilly at night. His fingertips were already numb. At this rate, the high-neck school uniform would not be enough to withstand the cold. With his current strength, it was not certain if he could still reach the foothills.

...This is it.

Takaya closed his eyes in defeat.
This was the result of his recklessness.
He was well aware of his injuries. Even a healthy person should not underestimate the harsh cold of the night in the mountain woods. One could die from one's lack of discretion, especially so in fleeing to such a place in this type of physical condition. Takaya was not ignorant of this point. Under normal circumstances, he probably would not have made this sort of decision.
But there was no time to think about the consequences.

Am I going to perish in these mountains, die in this wilderness...

He pondered vaguely. A smile unexpectedly appeared on his tired face. Laughter came out of his trembling throat. What kind of a situation had he landed himself in? It was so stupid, so outrageous, that it was downright absurd.

As he looked at the night sky, he felt an uncontrollable wave of nostalgia. Not too long ago, he had once laughed at his own ludicrous predicament in a similar fashion. When was that?

That night at Kuniji...

Unable to return home to his drunkard father, he alone had paced up and down the streets. It was the same as his current situation, a cold night, except that he had bought a cup of hot coffee to warm his cold hands back then. At that time, he could not go home and there was no place for him to stay downtown either. Thus, he was forced to put up with the freezing winds throughout the night, huddled up in the darkness at one corner of a construction warehouse. The cigarette in his mouth had been extremely bitter. That night had been so cold. There was also hunger. His body and mind, frozen to the bone. ...Extremely miserable. He never expected leaving home to be such a miserable affair. It could not be helped if he had turned into a corpse by the next morning. As he recalled the past, he laughed at himself.

It was miserable and pathetic. Enduring his own misery and lonely helplessness, he desperately buried his face into his sleeves, unable to stop shivering from the cold.

I haven't changed at all...

Right now he was in a similar predicament. Barely five years had passed since then, but it felt like he had gone through a long journey. The feeling that he was going to die on Mt. Aso was exactly the same as his thoughts of death on that night five years ago. Just that there was no warm cup of coffee this time or the cheap knife in his pocket...

"Ngh.."

In moving his body a little, the pain from his wound heightened to the worse degree. Takaya was breathing heavily as he leaned against the tree trunk. His vision grew vague; his consciousness dimmed. His entire body felt tired and heavy. ...At this rate, he was really going to die in the wilderness. Despite thinking in this way, Takaya's heart no longer had any strength left to put up a struggle.
Exhausted, he closed his eyes.
He lifted his head towards the sky.
Not even his tears could flow out...
He had spurred himself to escape. However, this result was not wholly unexpected. The result of fleeing into the severe winter of the mountains in this condition could not be clearer. There was no chance of success. It was a reckless act and he knew it.

I obviously know...

He closed his eyes and parted his lips slightly.

Can I... give up now...

He should just give up. ...This endeavor.
As expected, it was meaningless.
Meaningless was the only way to describe it. It was nobody's fault, nobody's but his. The one who had brought about this hopeless circumstance was his headstrong self who could not abandon his foolhardy heart right to the end.

--It ended long ago.

The words he did not want to acknowledge...

--As a living being, you're merely running away from the solitude that you have to bear.

I know...

Takaya whispered like a dying little bird.

I'm well-aware of the futility of this situation...

It was nobody's fault.
He was the instigator. It was not a crime someone else had committed.

I completely understand...

He had always caused so much suffering to Naoe, so much sorrow. His display of childishness was such a pointless front. All of his groveling was such a grave act of immorality. In order to prevent others from discovering his powerless self, he always lived in fear. The ridiculous threats he made were indicative of his apprehension of this world. Never was there such a person who had lived so long yet made so little progress...

Even after living these 400 hundred years...

It was not so much stupefying as comical. His true character resembled the frivolous king that appeared in fairy tales. Intoxicated by the showers of praise, he was blinded to the fact that everybody was really laughing behind his back.
But the truth was that the king knew. He constantly feared the day when someone should come and expose his depravity, reveal his shame, and thus he passed each day with unease and trepidation.

He was afraid of others suspecting that he was not as amazing as portrayed but merely putting up a show of power which he did not possess. He was immensely proud of himself when commended on his brimming charisma. But the truth was, if he was not so highly esteemed by others, he would not be able to find his place. He was such a person.

That was why he understood what constituted a 'truly charming' person, and that was, a person who was not artificial. That person would not be pained even if he disappointed others. Perhaps only someone who did not yearn for any sort of reward would be able to capture the hearts and adulation of others. Although he did not fully understand the ways of the world, at the very least, he knew that the so-called charisma he had was artificial. Thus he was prepared for the day when his true colors would be revealed, causing disillusionment in everyone. He could hardly sleep peacefully because of his fear of being exposed by someone acquainted with a true model of charisma.

He was as timid as a mouse. Because his personality type could be subjected to criticism, he paid extreme attention to the possibility that his insufficiency be discovered, to the extent of feeling threatened. He would become incredibly self-conscious from a single mention of his inferiority and harbored caution and bitterness towards anyone who so much as brushed against his inner guilty conscience.

He could only maintain a relationship with those who were interested in him, therefore he never took the initiative of expanding his circle of connections. For such a passive person, it was only a matter of time before everybody left him.
He could not form a normal interpersonal relationship. Naoe had once criticized this.

That's right... not normal...

He was waiting for this one person but wanted to always surpass him.
And yet he wanted them to have a 'normal relationship'.
It was a contrived and egoistically stupid matter; a normal person would not even think of such a thing.

Not normal at all...

As he confronted the source of his feelings of inferiority, Takaya lifted his muddled brown eyes to the sheet of black covering the canopy. The darkness was so dense that not even the stars could be seen.

He had always conducted himself fastidiously due to his anxiety. What should he do in order to lead a normal life like everyone else? Although he had sought for ways to achieve this, things always failed to pan out smoothly, which only made him irritated, uneasy and disgusted with himself.

...I want to be like you.

He wanted to be able to communicate with many people on equal footing like he could. He wanted to be like that.
He just wanted to be like that.
After 400 years, he merely wanted to be like everyone else.
However the circumstances of his surroundings always fostered his willfulness, making him indulge in careless elation. Furthermore, he did not have the courage to resolutely change his low self-esteem.
After all the trouble of obtaining this body to provide himself with another opportunity, the results were still the same.
On top of that, he had forced both of them down the worst possible path.
Look.
This was the result.

I know that... very well...

His irredeemable character...

There is no worth in me that deserves your love. Right from the very beginning, there was no such worth.

The one who is waiting...

Is me...

Takaya rested his cold, exhausted body against the tree trunk.
He always found his [Naoe] lack of pretense to be so beautiful. Glorious and honest. The number of people who desired him [Naoe] must be as many as the stars in the vast sky. The way he [Naoe] only paid attention to him had made himself so conceited.

...Everything was lost.

Right now he did not even have enough strength left to criticize himself...


It started snowing again.
The pure-white snowflakes swayed down from the apertures in the forest canopy. Takaya stretched out his thin fingers, catching a snowflake. It dissolved on his fingers into ice-cold water.
It seemed like the cold had begun to steal his bodily warmth. His fingertips were frozen. Once he relaxed his muscles, his teeth started chattering due to the intense cold. Takaya hugged his shaking body, huddling up.

The inner vicinity of Mt. Aso was growing colder, no wonder it was snowing.

There was no sign of the bird people. Had Kiyomasa defeated them? What would that man do next? Return to Nobunaga?
What about Motoharu? What about Kousaka?
Will they send soldiers after him? At this rate, it was impossible for him to reach the foothills, but perhaps they would not find him until morning. Even if they did find him,

I can't... move anymore...

The bitter snowfall cloaked the entire area in white.
No sound could be heard. ...It was so quiet that his ears ached.
This mountain was a living organism and the red, burning blood stored underground was a testament to this.
Perhaps this place was closest to the Earth's berserk life force. The so-called eruptions, the heated lava of the Earth's blood...
This savage mountain region, a product of the hundreds of millions of years that had passed...

It continued to snow.
Takaya gazed at his surroundings with a sense of familiarity.

Yes...

In his previous life, he died at Mt. Aso.
Takaya closed his eyes.
He had always forbade himself from thinking back because he did not want to remember.
That last decisive battle at Aso. His power had clashed directly with Nobunaga's Hakonha. Nakadake had erupted as a result of the enormous explosion of energy. And in the midst of the furor, an entire mountain was nearly destroyed and his body had been ripped to pieces.
Naoe's child...
Was still in the womb...
As if trying to recall the feelings from that time, Takaya looked up and placed his hand on his abdomen. Her appearance appeared in his blurred vision.

Minako...

The Mary who granted this thirsty throat with the water of tranquility.
Her motherly love forgave everything in his existence. She had even silently acknowledged the irredeemable sly and coward that he was. That smile appeared in his eyes like a pure light, truly brimming with the love of the Holy Mother.

Endearing Minako...
Pardon my sin.
The one who subjected you to the most cruel act, was not Naoe, or any other person...
But myself.


--Only you will I never forgive!

He was told that these words had always tormented Naoe.
But, it wasn't like that.
The one he could not forgive was not Naoe.
Neither was it her. She was the victim. It was Naoe and his... No, she was the victim of his [Kagetora] incurably vile heart.

The first to find out about the miserable affair was Haruie. After having been separated for several months, Haruie noticed a difference in Minako's body when she went to see them. Through Haruie's interrogation, it seemed that Minako had the intention of keeping it a secret from Kagetora. But Haruie had decided to inform Kagetora about it.

--Listen to me calmly. Kagetora.

When he heard this, apart from his violent anger at Naoe, Kagetora also felt, in the deepest darkness of his heart, the satisfaction of a devilish desire. With the way things had transpired, it could be concluded that he had completely obtained this man called Naoe. He finally had his entirety in his hands. A plan of calculated precision had been designed in his subconscious. And the fact that this desire, which should not have existed, was fulfilled had Kagetora intoxicated to a nearly despondent level. He had committed a crime for his own sake. Committed the unforgivable sin of violating the Holy Mother.
With this, Kagetora understood that the most wicked person in this affair... was himself.

Everything that happened after that had been retribution. Although it was executed by means of Naoe's power, the fact that he had killed her remained unchanged. In order to live, he had sacrificed her.
Via the taboo of kanshou...

Please forgive me1. These words...
I don't have the courage to say it.


The snowflakes continued to pile up.
Under these circumstances, even the soul would become frozen. He could feel his body slowly weaken, losing its vitality.
Even the energy to blame himself was exhausted.
He was so foolish, foolish enough to flabbergast another.


What should he do to obtain forgiveness?


It seemed like he had started to hallucinate.
He did not know why there were the shapes of his family in the darkness. It was the backyard of his previous residence, a precious scene. There was the figure of his mother, Sawako, over there. The Magganou tree peony was in full bloom. His hated father was also there. On his face was the gentle smile that he used to be very fond of. Miya was standing to one side, her hands full of Magganou tree peony seeds, laughing at him.

Brother, let's plant this.

Those flowers will never bloom now... Miya.

Takaya said to his sister in the hallucination.

She was the sister he always protected. In becoming her shield, he could endure whatever hardship that came his way. I grew strong because you said you needed me, because you were completely dependent on me, and it made me feel that I could stay in this place. Miya could not lose him. This became his raison d'être.

I have never considered you as my burden...

You are important to me. That carefree and naive smile of yours has always saved me. Even now...


Just give up...

He was once again thinking of these ridiculous escapes, there was really something abnormal in him.

--Naoe will not come to save you.

His reason for attempting this reckless escape,
Was because he could not bear to be confronted with the fact that Naoe would not come to save him should he continue to stay there. That was all.

Am I... running away again?

He had already sworn to himself, braced himself, that no matter what happened, he would not avert his eyes from the truth.

--You are now in a nightmare.

He heard Kaizaki's words. Takaya could not forget that warmth. He had seen a fool's paradise when Kaizaki embraced him. Why were his arms so similar to Naoe's? It was surprising that the person who pursued him so intensely was someone other than Naoe. Takaya had willingly let him embrace him as though he had forgotten to take all matters into consideration

Kaizaki...

How could he come so close to his heart when he obviously wasn't Naoe?
Or was it that anyone of similar character could replace him? In the end, was that all that came out of it? Just like that?
...Just like that.

--You are in a maze...

Does such a maze really exist?

Or was he still in the maze? Then was he to die in this maze without ever escaping...?


In his muddled state of mind, Takaya witnessed many hallucinations for some time.

Yuzuru was angry, saying,

You must come back.

Sure... He replied in his heart. Takaya tilted his head slightly.

But you should be okay right?

You'll be fine even if you don't have me, right?

Yuzuru was strong. Much stronger than he was. He could definitely overcome any difficulties. And also overcome his own destiny...
When he first met Yuzuru, the primary feature he noticed was his strength. Straightforward, tough... Although Takaya had a rebellious appearance, he still envied him in his heart. He had wondered if he could acquire some of his strength if he were to stick with him.
Yuzuru was very strong. He had the same kind of strength as Kagekatsu. Without a doubt, he had to be the one for the Uesugi. History was correct. In order for the Uesugi to endure that turbulent era, he had to be the one.

Were the others protecting Yuzuru well? Those reliable people. Chiaki, Ayako, Irobe.
And... Naoe...

Naoe---...

He murmured his name again.
The pain in his heart had reached its peak; he was paralyzed now. Be it anger, hatred or sorrow, he could not feel anything.

I can't feel anything anymore, Naoe...

Where did things go wrong?
Your existence is truly too immense...


The dancing snow made a white carpet on the earth.
Leaning against the tree trunk, Takaya slid down and closed his eyes.

I want to have you once more.
Will it not work?
Must I give up now?
Why didn't I say this earlier?
Before all this... happened...


Like that night of flames...

With these two legs, he had to go and confirm it.

Take the truth...

With these two hands, he had to seize it.
This blood-depleted body was so cold it could no longer budge.



Father---....2



Snow continued to pile up.
The frosty snowflakes accumulated on his outstretch legs and his shoulders. His body temperature continued to drop. His consciousness had dimmed. His eyelids were heavy. He could no longer feel pain or the cold. His fingers could not move either.
The forest was extremely quiet.

I've always felt...

Always felt extremely...
Extremely tired.


He could hear the sound of footsteps.
The sound of armor.
The dead closed in.
Hearing the loud clanging of armor...
Takaya opened his eyes a little.
In the snow-white forest, one appeared. And then another.
Skeletal figures of departed spirits clad in irreparable armor had appeared.
They were very much like the departed spirits he had seen, with armor that could not be shed even in death, attached to a deep grudge.

Is this an illusion...

It did not seem like it.
Takaya lifted his head, then closed his eyes. They did not look like onryou who have simply died in the wilderness. In this case, he might be torn to pieces.
A small smile appeared on his lips.

...Hurry and set me free...


The armor-clad death gods had descended.
For his requiem.


1 This is directed at Minako.
2 He is calling out to Kenshin, not Ujiyasu.


End of Volume 16.
 
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