Sunday, May 23, 2010

Chapter 2: A Dream Flower Bloomed in the Roadside

Translated by narumo/narumonster on Vocaloid Otaku.

A dream flower bloomed in the roadside

Fate. A word I hate.

A gaudy ornament for a heart that understands truth. A permission to stop thought. A justification for the weak to give in to irrationality. A notion that brings a sweet and ugly escape in order to accept a reality you cannot change.
So please, when you tell my story, don’t soil me with that word.
This is a fragment of my memories of a resolute choice.
A song of truth, entrusted to you.

“Could you please stop rushing me so much? I don’t intend to offer any resistance.”
I slightly raised my voice in protest, atempting to coerce them with a small frown while adopting a nonchalatant air.
Naturally, that sort of protest was just ignored. Several men escolting a helpless girl must have been a sight to unsettle as soon as you looked, but there was neither a critical voice nor a sympathetic look in my surroundings.
Mainly it was due to being early in the morning, when few people were around. But even if it was, for example, the middle of the day, on a main street packed with people, I probably wouldn’t have got the reaction I wanted from the crowd surrounding me.
The simplified equipment used by the men was formal to the point of exageration, and completely confined them. The outfit told eloquently to everyone that saw them that they were soldiers of a prosperous empire.
In contrast, I didn’t feel like playing the role of a pitiful lamb forced to march. My back was straight; I stared to the front, and went forward in an intentionally slow pace giving sidelong glances to the soldiers that were urging me to hurry.
“Pay due respect to the Diva! And here I thought that was the first and foremost thing written in the scriptures of the draconic faith.”
Even when confronted with such sarcasm, the soldiers at my sides showed no signs of being perturbed. Those men resembled one another closely in physique and age, wore the same issue uniform, and even reacted in the same manner. I’ve come to suspect that there must be stated in the requeriments for military personnel that the recruits should be devoid of personality.
Nevertheless...I couldn’t yet shake off the undefinable strange feeling I had towards a part of what I had just said.
(I am the Diva. I know that in my head, but it just doesn’t ring true.)
The title of “Diva” holds an absurdely important significance in this world. At times, the singers that captivate large audiences in the opera houses, or the female poets that show off their singing voices in bars and crossroads are praised using the term as a colloquialism. But that never goes beyond a whisper behind closed doors, because if that reaches the ears of the zealous believers or the priests of the draconic faith, there’s the chance that the person may be captured and severely punished for “recklessly scorning the saint”; moreover, such zealous people are found everywhere.
A “Diva” is a special being to that extent. She is a holy being that bears the role of offering songs of prayer and serving the enshrined deity of the draconic faith, the “dragon” that brings eternal abundance to this world. You can never see more than one standing together; there is only one “unreturning holy woman” chosen at a time.
With believers that can easily reach a hundred million, the draconic faith places this person in a central role. Due to offering herself and her singing voice to the enormous “dragon”, the living god that supports this land.
That is the “Diva”; no matter what I do, I can’t equate such a being to myself. Because that was a being that belongs in those stories repeteated more times than I care to count in children’s books and the scriptures of the faith.
But, no matter how much I don’t want to believe it, I was chosen. I don’t understand the details, but it seems I carry the special ability of the “Diva” that manifests only in the females of a special lineage.
But naturally, I can’t give easily guarantees on that subject. My father died young in an accident, and mother, who kept working as a laborer to support my younger siblings and myself, perished some years later as well, due to an illness.
As blessed as this country is by abundance, if you live in it but have no workers, there is no choice but to starve. We lived in such poverty.
“As a matter of fact, you are a person that carries the lineage of the “Diva”; you have such ability. If you consent to become the “Diva” of the next era, I promise you in the name of the Emperor that from now on, you will never live in want again.”
I would have to be a big idiot to meekly believe someone watlzing in with such a story. However, the messenger that conveyed that to me was dressed only with the fineries high ranking government officials use, and furthermore carried a letter signed by the Emperor and the patriarch of the draconic faith; if I were able to harbor suspicions after those two names were brought into the picture, it would be like calling them foolish.
I was unable to believe such a forceful story, yet I had in front of my eyes a big decision.
Two simple alternatives: To become the “Diva”, or not.
If I agreed, my family would be saved from poverty and lack of prospects, and would from now be guaranteed financial stability. However, as the other name of “unreturning holy woman” reflected, I would never be able to return from the “dragon”’s side.
If I refused, my family would remain unchanged in distress, and would continue on struggling with hardship. However, I would be able to be there and share in those hardships with my family.
A wise person might loudly say I had no choice. But, I doubted.
I would soon reach the age to legally earn my living. If I argued only from the perspective of my family’s happiness, it’s not like there was no chance of fulfilling it with my own hands if we waited just a bit more.
A happiness granted by others, and a happiness grasped by myself. When I compared the two, my preferences were clearly slanted towards the latter.
But the fact that the “Diva” of the next era was regarded as indispensable, that was no easy matter.

-If I don’t become the Diva, the world might be destroyed-

Yes, certainly this problem carried that implication. And, when I thought about that point, I couldn’t avoid feeling slightly perturbed.
Why, why, without demonstrating any semblance of hurry, the highest political authorities on the world were even giving me room to deliberate?
Forcing me would be easy. If there was a reason not to do it, then that must mean the authorities themselves had alternatives.
Then, was there other choice? If I assumed their calmness was real and not faked, then...
“If I refuse, can someone else be chosen for Diva?”
There is another “candidate”. Moreover, perhaps is someone more appropriate for becoming Diva than me.
For someone else, that was not a desirable thing, but if someone could shoulder that burden for me, nothing could be better, I thought.
“I see. Your intelligence surpasses my expectations. I like you, child.”
My question, when revealed, was met with a pleasant nod from the head of the Emperor. Instantly, I began to see red, suddenly filled with rage, but I chewed on my lower lip and squashed that feeling.
Losing my head there was likely to turn into the third and worst alternative. My future and the future of my family, was bound to be destroyed and scattered away, leaving no trace.
No one would save me from that. So blowing up was the last thing I should do.
“Just for reference, may I enquire the name of the other candidate? It might actually be someone I know.”
I swear it; I had no second intentions saying that. I was trying to calm down, cracking a lame joke; it was said half-consciously.
I don’t know the exact numbers but, to begin with, just the imperial capital is said to have one million inhabitants. Contrary to what I had said, the possibility that the name would belong to someone I knew was bound to be almost equal to zero.
But, in the end, the answer to my words would become a huge reason for my final choice.
“I wasn’t in the mood for needless talk, but I’ll make an exception for your wits and tell you. The other candidate is...”
Because, he told me, with a pure smile that made me think of an infant tormenting a bug, that the name was...

“Teto!”
Suddenly someone called my name, and I instantly came back from my reminiscing.
It seemed like I indulged myself in a reverie. The scenery surrounding me had completely changed from the residential district, with its jumble of roofs big and small, into the dreary governmental administration district, closer to the center of the imperial capital.
Since many officials were moving over to live in the government office buildings themselves, this section of town wasn’t all that popular, even in the middle of the day. It was an area that commoners pretty much had reason to approach; I also wasn’t at all familiar with it.
It was likely a consensus among the inhabitants of the imperial capital that this district was a place mainly frequented by aristocrats and their sons and daughters. Yes, a fitting place for people, such as the young lady that had just called me.
“You’ve come, Meiko.”
In a sense, she was the person I wanted to see the most. In other sense, the one I wanted the least to see.
When she appeared, I smiled wryly at her without thinking, but I struggled desperately to hold back the joy and confusion boiling in my heart.
I had planned to go without saying goodbye to the younger girl with the fluttering chestnut hair.
Excluding my family, no, perhaps including them, I could declare her the most important person for me, my closest friend.
Even though she was the granddaughter of the current Chancellor of the Empire, and was born into one of the most prestigious families, for some curious reason, gentle Meiko had become my best friend.
---And the one to decide my choice, “the other candidate for Diva”.
“What is going on? Why...you, the Diva! No one told about that.”
In front of Meiko, with her big eyes full of tears and her shoulders shaking as she bitterly complained, I completely lost track of what to reply.
As an aristocrat, she had received an advanced education; also, she was considerably smarter than me. If I gave a half- baked reply, she was sure to see through it and grasp my real intentions. So while I kept silent, I searched desperately for the words I should tell her.
After the group of soldiers conferred amongst themselves with hushed voices, they gave us some room and turned a watchful eye to our surroundings. Thankfully, they seemed inclined to just keep a careful watch for a while. Considering I overheard such words as “chancellor” and “honorable daughter”, it seemed that they knew who Meiko was, somehow.
More than accommodating me, it was probably due to self-protection. But I could rely on such easy to understand behavioral principles.
In all honesty, there was also the circumstance that her character as an “unmanageable woman”, according to a famous story in some circles, with tendencies towards hobbies unsuited for a noblewoman, such as fencing and horse-riding, and often showing herself in places like parade grounds of the military, made her a small celebrity among the soldiers. An incident caused by that personality was the reason she and I first met, but that is a different story.
“....this is my fault, then?”
How did she interpret my silence? After some moments of silence, she let those words out with a sigh.
“Because I am a noble.”
She startled me unintentionally, because I realized what train of thought she was following, and that Meiko was attempting to place her fingers on the truth, without having any information at all.
She was considerably smarter than me. Even though I was supposed to be aware of it, at that moment that fact scared me.
“Meiko”
My lips formed her name to stop her from pursuing that train of thought. However, her young but keen intellect was trying to reach a conclusion without minding such wishes.
“Because I... I refused to become the Diva, you... They are now going after you?”
“Meiko, that’s not it.”
I realized I was being a big idiot. It was as if I had forgotten any other words, I just seemed capable of repeating the name of the young girl who had become my closest friend.
“Because I introduced you to my father...because I hoped to save you from poverty... Yes, the presence of the abilities of Diva wouldn’t be so readily investigated in just anybody.”
She was right. But that had been clear to me. And even though she was right, her conclusion was mistaken for sure.
Because of that gentleness. Because of that stubbornness. Because she thought dearly of me. That’s why...
“I...chose you as sacrifice without knowing it...”
“Meiko!!”
Finally I shouted. My voice was so loud I startled even myself, and the soldiers scattered around us stared at me with dumbfounded expressions.
Meiko, to whom I had directed the force of my shout, seemed ready to howl, her small frame frozen with shock.
Geez, I was the one that felt like crying. In any case, even though I had made up my mind, I was almost wavering when she gave me that look.
I was almost unable to completely throw away my wish to weave a future together with you.
But, for that same reason, I had to tell you.
I shrugged in an exaggerated way and plastered a silly expression on my face, so that it would look to you like it was not a big deal.
“You are really stupid.”
Was I able to say it, with the same attitude, and the same voice as always?
The last image of me to remain in her memories had to be same as the Teto she knew, the one Meiko called her friend.
“Teto...”
As Meiko stared at me, dumbfounded and sputtering with trembling lips, I pressed on, armed with the words I had finally found.
“Are you done? If I become the Diva, the livelihood of my family will be guaranteed by the Empire and the Church. My younger brothers will finally be able to eat as much food as they want. As for my bedridden mother, it seems they are going to have the physicians of the Imperial Court properly examine her. Not just doctors, but prestigious physicians famous throughout the Empire, you know?
All those things I wanted are being waved in front of my eyes. Shouldn’t I reach out for them?
That friend like no other, that person like no other in this world, was someone I would never be able to share my life with. Yes, at least in this world that needed a “dragon” and a “Diva.”
Ah, what a sorrowful and ironic fate! ...Give me a break! Don’t use those words when telling our story.
Choosing something means throwing something away. And I had chosen. But, it wasn’t just that.
“But...if you go there, you won’t be able to come back! You know the reason the Diva is called the “unreturning holy woman.”
“Yes, I know that. I know that much.”
“Then...!”
Suddenly, I smiled at Meiko, who drew closer once more while bracing herself, and consciously lowered my voice, whispering in a quiet but strong tone.
“Someone has to.”
“...Eh?”
As she keenly considered the reason of the change in my attitude, she tilted her head a little as if bewildered.
Her face had an ambiguous expression, seemingly unwilling to hear more, yet at the same time she listened closely to avoid missing anything.
“Even so, someone has to strengthen her determination not to return, or the balance of this world won’t be preserved.”
As I said those words, I unconsciously lifted my eyes to the sky. The heavens above, filled with the clear air of the early morning, were free of clouds, and wrapped around us with a freshness that was almost odious.
“I will go for the sake of the happiness of those I wish to protect. Could you at least remember that?”
“Teto...”
At last, warm tears spilled down from her big eyes, filled to the brim with them. I quickly turned my eyes away from her, and addressing the soldiers scattered in our surroundings, I gave them a small nod.
“Goodbye, crybaby Meiko.”
Just once, I ruffled her soft hair in a purposely rough way, and passing by the side of her still figure, I once more started walking. Immediately, the soldiers fell into a defensive formation at my flanks, their air of severity reinstated.
Meiko did not pursue me any further. From my attitude, she must’ve understood the strength of my resolve, didn’t she?
But, the small whisper that reached me when I passed by her side, wouldn’t leave my ears.

“But, you won’t be a part of that happiness...”

My sight was distorted. I didn’t know how to stop my tears from falling. Still, I desperately stifled my voice to avoid letting out even a sob, and walked with my eyes fixed to the front.
Suddenly, a small speck of color jumped out in a corner of my vision. At once, I rubbed my eyes with a cuff of my sleeves, and when I turned my eyes once more towards it, I saw in a corner of the stone-paved main road, a single flower out of my memories, fluttering in the breeze.
“This flower looks like you.”
That reddish violet flower had the same color as my hair. And it was a memory, one flower among the many growing there in the riverside that was given to me during an excursion with my young friend.
At that time, I turned it down with a strangely awkward and rude attitude, but in reality, I felt really happy, and later I searched for the name of the flower.
In fact, it wasn’t supposed to bloom in the middle of the city like this, but it was certainly that flower. That was the one flower I could never be mistaken about.
Primrose (
primula japonica), the flower of our memories, in the language of flowers, I’m pretty sure it means...happiness.
“That’s no longer a dream we can fulfill...isn’t it?”
Still looking downwards, I shook my head twice while laughing bitterly, and after taking a deep breath, I once again raised my eyes. The scenery I could see wasn’t distorted any longer.
In front of my eyes, the fortress and palace of the emperor towered over the city. My journey without return was barely beginning.

--Oh, “dragon”, as a pillar, I call to you, great bearer.
Consume this singing voice, these feelings, this body, and bring wealth to the world.
To the future she will live. To this world I loved...

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