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The Rainlands - Chapter 5


Published at 18th of March 2018 09:11:20 PM
Chapter 5

This is the 5th chapter of the fantasy novel “The Rainlands” (雨の国) by Haruka Asahi (朝陽遥) which I am translating from Japanese with the author’s permission . It is about a man’s journey to a mysterious land and his encounter with its indigenous people and culture .



If you enjoy this story and want to read more, please consider liking this post or leaving a comment . That will help me decide whether I should translate more of this, or move onto another story . You can also vote for it on  .

You can see a synopsis and table of contents with other chapters (as they are posted) referenced  . You can find the original Japanese text for this chapter  .

“The Rainlands”  by Haruka Asahi:  Chapter 5

Deeper in the tunnel, there was a few other small rooms of similar design, but when I looked closely these appeared empty . There was only two people locked down here, in different cells, spending who knows how many days in the dark . Thinking about these poor boys made my heart ache .

"I'll figure out some way to bring food . But for the time being, you'll just have to…"

Before I could finish speaking, Ian suddenly sprang forward in his cell behind me and grabbed the bars with both hands . With my neck craned to look over my shoulder, I stood transfixed by his rage, his surprising strength . The boy screamed out in anger, and the bars nearly shook from the force of his hands .

"Don't be a fool!"

I couldn't clearly make out the stream of curses that followed . I was only able to just barely pick out a few words that, in these lands, referred to something evil, like devil .

At first I was overwhelmed by the boy's tirade, but as I listened I gradually began to grasp its meaning . This fasting ritual was certainly a harsh trial, but only after overcoming it was one considered to be a true member of society . To those who had suffered-and endured-intense hunger, I was indeed a devil bearing a terrible temptation .

Ian's body slumped languidly against the bars, probably exhausted from his bout of screaming .

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Unable to hold back the rage bubbling up from deep within, I let out a deep groan .

Who in their right mind put such an idea into these kids' minds?

Who had forced children to quietly bear this terrifying culling process-calling it euphemistically a "trial"-and persuaded others that it was right and proper to believe that those who didn’t live through it were not real people .

I turned my head soundlessly and gazed into the darkness behind me . Yakt hadn't responded in the same extreme way as Ian, but I could see a familiar mixture of condemnation and uncertainty in his eyes .

Unsure of what to say, I reached once more into Yakt’s cell and squeezed his hand tightly . He squeezed me back, apparently comforted by my touch, but his grip was disturbingly weak .

I stared into Yakt's eyes as they gleamed in the darkness, at a complete loss for words . What could I say to convince these boys that everything they'd been taught was wrong? That calling this culling of children a 'trial' was nothing but a convenient excuse, and their parents and families were waiting patiently for them to weaken and eventually die, all so they themselves didn't have to suffer due to lack of food?

I turned my back on the dark cells and began to run, as if in escape from something . I have a vague memory of saying a few words to the boys on my way out, but no matter how hard I try I can't remember what they were .

As soon as I put a little distance between myself and that place, any sounds made by the boys were quickly enveloped and washed away by the noise of the storm endlessly echoing throughout the cavern .

I returned to the small room I'd been permitted to use during my stay and tucked myself into the blankets in the darkness .  But sleep didn't come, not even for a moment .

The moaning voices of starving children still rang in my ears, refusing to let me rest . On that night the sounds of the wind-which always bore a likeness to a human voice-felt even more malicious than usual .



… . everything they'd been taught was wrong…

These words spun around and around in my head . Could there truly not be enough abundance in these lands to support every child? But I already knew the answer to this question .

That was the reason they reduced the number of children, first starving them and then waiting for them to grow frail . The boys died one by one, beginning with those who had a weak constitution or lacked sufficient will to survive . This was their way of life .

The weak were the first to die; perhaps there was some logic to that .

However, was it not the savage logic of animals?

I wanted to go to every one of the adults' rooms-where they slept soundly, away from the cries of starving children-and wake up each person, grabbing him or her tightly by the collar, and shout, "What you’re doing here is terribly wrong! Don’t you see!"

Yet I did no such thing .

What good would it do to make a scene all by myself? These people had lived like this for many ages, strictly following this custom . I didn't think there was a chance they would listen to an outsider just arrived from a far-off land, preaching about something contrary to their beliefs .

Or perhaps this was simply the excuse of a coward . The people here, believing in this custom, would even lock away their own children and wait for them to die of starvation . Frankly, I was terrified of anyone capable of that .

Sometime around sunrise I finally began to nod off, although the sound of the wind repeatedly woke me .



The wind, whose ceaseless howling filled these tunnels . Was the wind, its sound not unlike a moaning voice, actually the resentful voices of the dead? This thought crossed my weary mind again and again . It was the voices of the countless children who had failed to survive long enough in a dark prison cell .

Beginning the next day, I shifted the location for my daytime discussions to the room closest to the inner tunnel .

I can’t say that I didn't want to immediately leave this place behind along with any memory of it . However if I ran away now, I had the feeling that the terrible sound of the wind would haunt me for eternity . But more than that, it was the lingering sensation of holding Yakt's hand that nagged at me . His withered, warm fingers .

The caverns in this area were wide, with a great number of people living in them . Those in the deeper rooms who had, thus far, refrained from coming to hear me speak were pleased with my change of location and welcomed me warmly . Each of their faces, alight with curiosity, looked identical to the faces of honest, good-natured people, and this confounded me to no end .

These were simple country folk, eager to hear the stories of a wandering traveller . But they were also part of a culture who continued to stubbornly follow a horrific tradition of culling children so they themselves wouldn't starve . I was having trouble reconciling these two things .

Nevertheless, I told my stories, feigning calm, all the while listening intently for any sounds coming from deep in the tunnel .

While I pretended to eat, hiding the food I was given during breaks between my tales, like baked dry fish and boiled root vegetables, I waited for my chance .

Would bringing these things to the boys only upset them more? It would be a lie to say this wasn’t on my mind, but I couldn't just stand by and do nothing .

However, such an opportunity did not come easily .

They seemed to be covertly keeping a watch on the inner tunnel . Even though that first day there wasn't a single person here, since then whenever I approached the tunnel I spotted someone nearby, mending under the light or making small talk .

In the afternoon, when I left the group ostensibly for a bathroom break and headed for the inner tunnel, careful to avoid attracting attention, a short figure emerged from a nearby room and began to approach me slowly .

It was the old woman-the village chief that lead the people of this cave .

Caught off guard, I stopped suddenly, racking my brains for some believable excuse .

But she didn't question me . She just gradually turned to look at me as she passed by, the faintest hint of a smile on her face .

It was the same expression I had seen outside on that clear day: a quiet, transcendental smile .

Before I knew it, I found myself returning to the group . My back was drenched in an unpleasant cold sweat, and I couldn't get the image of the old woman's smile out of my head . That beautiful, peaceful, utterly pure smile .

As I passed in front an empty room, something made me halt .

It was an unused room, desolate and bare without a single item inside . Yet it was always kept spotless, and people always bowed their heads solemnly as they passed by .

Until then I had considered these rooms as their unique way to practice their faith . But I shuddered when, in a flash of insight, I realized the true purpose of these rooms .

Many boys had, at one time, been locked away in a tiny cell deep in the mountains, exhausting their strength until they perished, never to return . These vacant rooms had most likely been their bedrooms .

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