Volume 1 Chapter 5
Life of a captive
Next day and the one after that, there was an aerial bombing. Though I couldn’t see it, just heard the sound of flying airplanes. I was indoors, so saying specifically it was a house arrest.
Luckily there isn’t a single direct hit on the village. Djibril says that at this point in the season, wind blows away the bombs outside the valley and they fall on the west side. Just in case of unexploded bombs that area is off-limits. Because this village is at the bottom of a valley, I guessed it must be hard to drop bombs. On the opposite beyond this village it had to be tough.
Current military retribution has ended with this. From professional curiosity I was interested in where they had dropped the bombs, but it ended at just that.
And then another 10 days passed.
House arrest loosened and I could move quite freely within the village.
As my overseer Djibril is following me , but even with a headgear she is a cute girl, so it’s a pleasure.
I was fully motivated to leave the company, so honestly speaking I had no complaints with this treatment. I think the position I found myself in is the same as that of a noble, one where you don’t have to hurt people. It’s a very lucky position and I am happy with it. Comparing this feeling to 6 000 000 yens of annual income. It’s cheap – I thought. That job wasn’t worth it.
I also thought about what I am going to do, after I go back to Japan. Well, probably looking for a job is the first thing, but after that?
I feel sorry for Sophie and Lanson, but I think there is an extremely high probability that they have successfully escaped. Directions and route weren’t bad.
It was just a coincidence, but I didn’t evacuate them to this village, instead I guided them to the nearest camp. Originally I planned to think up something, so that this village won’t become a target, but unexpectedly it was exactly what happened.
And here I am, fairly satisfied in the village.
Village at the bottom of the valley is in fact built symmetrically. The true meaning of the bottom of the valley are symmetrically built buildings on the wasteland, where pebbles and rocks are scattered. Originally buildings were only at one side, but after USSR’s collapse, population began to grow and it expanded.
The reason they don’t build at the bottom of the valley is probably because originally there was a river here, but maybe there is also another reason.
Going up and down the fields similar to terraced rice-fields, I am looking at wheat. Touching grain ears is a nice feeling.
Eating conditions are good, there is also freedom to some extent, so I am going to exercise every day.
Patrolling terraced rice-fields is one of such exercises. When I reach the highest place I’m out of breath, so that made it a good training. It’s only a habit left from the job, but I considered it a good thing. Good things for health are good.
Djibril runs after me when I climb. I don’t know how useful she was as a guardian, but she had enthusiasm – that’s for sure. I thought that she started to grow her hair a little, but because of the headgear I couldn’t find out.
She is looking down at the village, like me.
“You like it here, don’t you?” – she started to talk.
“Because it resembles Japan?”
“That too a bit.”
I smiled. I couldn’t say that I’ve actually never been to terraced rice-fields. That’s why I said something which had nothing to do with it.
“They say fools and smoke love heights.”
“I think Arata is not a smoke.”
“Well, that stupid one.” – when I said that, for some reason Djibril scowled.
“That never crossed my mind.” – she says.
I unintentionally smiled. I know well she doesn’t make a fool of me. But I feel she overestimates me. Because of that she must have ignored the stupid one from the beginning.
When I laugh, I notice Djibril casting down her eyes, but I didn’t say anything.
“Every year when the river appears those fields are washed away with earth and sand. Terrific view.” – said Djibril, while watching the village. It is a sight she was seeing from a very young age.
“Setting aside the arrangement of stones, it must be hard to cultivate again.” – when I said that, Djibril smiled behind headgear.
“But patriarch says that thanks to that we can cultivate every year.”
“Wheat can be hindered by repeated cultivation, right? Like a Nile, huh?”
I remembered history lessons. Who would think that high school knowledge will come in handy.
“So Arata knows about the Nile river? I heard about it from the legends.” – Djibril is surprised.
Confused I denied it.
“I also know it from stories. I learned about it in school. Right, Herodotus said that Egypt is Nile’s gift. Thanks to Nile’s flooding they can harvest a lot of wheat. Now I see. Here is the same as Nile.” – I said and smiled.
It washes away soil damaged by repeated cultivation. It must be indeed a terrific sight.
Well, I don’t know when I can return home, so perhaps I will be able to see it.
Settlement of rent
I noticed it on the 10th day since I was a prisoner.
I failed to pay the rent for this month. It’s about that room in Tokyo.
Damn – I thought. At the same time I also thought, that maybe they will forgive me for just one month of default. But still I wasn’t thinking about maintaining this room anymore.
For a moment I unexpectedly cut my connection with figurines, anime and LN’s. Well, whatever – I thought.
Nowadays Djibril is trotting behind my back. And I also have my friend, Omar.
It’s a small world, but well… that’s not bad – I’ve been thinking recently. Still I’m living without dreams or perspectives, but I’ve got new important things.
What about ideas to reverse this situation? I am thinking about that while walking, so that Djibril can keep up.
I don’t have any dreams or hopes. It’s ok. It means I was that kind of man.
Moreover what about helping out with Djibril’s and Omar’s dreams and hopes?
If I can face them without a sense of superiority or pity, maybe it’s possible. No, it is possible. I thought I can do something good.
“What happened Arata?”
“I thought that I want to see you growing up.”
Suddenly Djibril staggered. After that she pulled her slipping off headgear with both hands and said:
“I am already grown up enough”.
I laugh. She’s saying that, but she’s still a child.
I didn’t want to admit it until now, but I have a military talent. The company and the village keep saying that to me.
Still I doubt the existence of this talent, but I thought I don’t need to hesitate to use the fact that everyone is saying I have it. I am going to use it as much as I can. I can surely use it to feel good, until I flashily lose once.
Now I only have to wait for an opportunity.
Though I am sure there isn’t much to wait for.
Living as a prisoner
Life as a prisoner continues. It’s already half a month since that day.
I know the flow of time more or less from observing the moon. Counting time using moon is a great thing, in the past it was probably even more important – I thought. From the perspective of an amateur like me, changes of the moon were easier to see than sun’s.
Although I was a prisoner I was enjoying it. Unlike me, Omar looked quite worn out by those 2 weeks.
“You’re looking tired. Are you okay?”
When I asked Omar about it while washing my face in the morning he made a bitter smile.
“I admire your shamelessness.”
“Worrying doesn’t change anything. Everyone successfully escaped, you know.” – I consoled Omar.
After he washed his face he looks at me while wiping with a towel. I thought those eyes look like eyes of a good man.
“What do you think will happen from now on? I want to hear your opinion as an OO.”
After his words I have a horribly uncomfortable feeling. Come to think of it I was after all an OO. Though it was a short period of time, not even a year. I thought that it must be a burnout syndrome.
Omar is looking at me with a serious face. He is a precious friend. That’s why I regained some motivation.
“OO’s aren’t prophets.” – I said as a preface and continued.
“Strictly speaking we aren’t soldiers. We are beyond the frame of major international treaties.”
“American army won’t look for us, will they? It also doesn’t seem that the company will make a move.”
“Situation seems hopeless.”
Is it really true? – I wondered. Personally I don’t have any background in military service, so maybe because of that I can’t feel American’s army worth in looking for us. From the beginning I didn’t have any expectations from the company.
I am thinking about what he said.
“Simply put, only because American’s army or the company won’t help us it doesn’t mean it’s hopeless.”
Omar is earnestly listening to my words. He is washing his face for the second time. We were usually separated. Washing our faces was one of the few occasions when we could see each other.
“So it means there is ‘another’ possibility?” – he says.
I nod. I also wash my face for the second time. Water is cold.
“Of course. Putting aside your American nationality, I don’t have a value as a prisoner. And they know it too.” – I said.
“Right, if they were to kill you, they would do it earlier. Honestly speaking I think they’re still wondering what to do with us. What do you think they’ll do in the end?”
“Make us do manual labor? Release parasites? Hand over somewhere? Finally there aren’t any other options.” – when I say that, Omar dressed himself.
“I don’t like the perspective of being handed over to some guys who’re holding a grudge against Americans.”
“I think usually it’s manual labor.” – I said it, considering the most sensible scenario.
Patriarch and Djibril’s father took a risk to some extent, so if they were going to hand us over, they should have done it in the beginning. After obtaining prisoners from the camp raid that would surely be enough. – after I said that, I went for breakfast.
But I think they won’t make us wait for so long – I added.
Boatman on the rock
Omar is worn out more than I expected.
I was sunbathing leaning on the rock near to the patriarch’s house and worrying about the negative things he is saying. Recently I got into sunbathing. Thereupon Djibril’s father came and sat on the rock.
Which reminds me that previously the composition was the same.
Djibril’s father probably did it on purpose. He looks at me and smiled with satisfaction.
“So what, would you like to take my daughter now?”
It was the first thing he said. While wondering why he is saying things like that, I sought a rebuttal.
“I think Djibril is a very good daughter. Leaving that aside, why me? I don’t understand.”
“She is a child who was once handed over to your guys and Americans. She is corrupted. She can’t marry a man from the village.”
When I frown Djibril’s father smiled.
“Yeah, that face. You were also frowning before, when father, the patriarch spoke.”
“Yeah, obvious. You say obvious things as they are. You’re decent. That’s why. Patriarch, Americans and probably me as well. We’re aiming for different things.”
There is a person who thinks similar to me. Surprised I was looking at Djibril’s father face.
He looks back at me.
“You think patriarch and your company are decent?”
“Right. If I’m giving away a daughter I want it to be at least a bit decent guy.”
I was angry, thinking that result of that thinking was someone like me. I felt very sorry for Djibril. I was looking at her father and talked back.
“Omar is honest and pure. It’s because of politics that he hired soldiers from this village. I think the company wanted to avoid trouble, so they wanted to tie friendly connections with nearest – this village. And accordingly with children…”
Something bitter was thrust deeply into my mouth when I just thought about words like “rape”, so I frowned.
Djibril’s father slightly nods.
“I know. If that were the case that would be nice. But the one who got hurt is my daughter. Disobeying teachings is like suicide. Whatever I say, whatever you say, Djibril can’t have ties with this village’s men. That’s why.”
After he said that he looked at me and said.
“That’s why it’s you. If it’s you she would still accept it.”
That was what parent’s true intentions were. I was struck by that and couldn’t move. I couldn’t completely understand not only Djibril’s thoughts, but women as a whole, but I understand well Djibril’s father – that’s what struck me.
“Please let me think.” – when I said that, Djibril’s father cast down his eyes like he was bearing the pain.
“Please hurry. There’s not much time left.”
Thinking and strolling
I wonder what does it mean, that there’s not much time left.
I was strolling while thinking about it.
During this half of a day my confidence got worn out more than Omar’s.
I can’t gather my thoughts.
Even if I ignore the matter of the wedding, nothing but bad aftertaste is left. A bitter one.
So far I’ve been unconsciously doing bad things. Now, even if it’s not only my fault, because of this a girl I know is in a horrible situation. Even if it’s for a moment I wonder about a man’s position, in which he’s getting money and hurting others. I wanted to do something for my conscience. From the bottom of my heart.
I thought it’s impossible that there is no other scenario, in which Djibril could become happy by her own will.
If that was the OO’s work, I think I could do something, but unfortunately it’s a different story than military affairs. When I think about it, it’s a good thing that things which military can do are limited.
I realized it and took a breath. It’s a known story that politics is above military.
Suddenly I thought about what would Sophie say. Would she laugh? Or make a frowning expression? Well, usually if it’s her she would grumble. It’s strange, but she would say such things for sure. Her manner of ignoring reality is indeed irritating, but as an idealism it’s not wrong, I think.
I feel that Sophie is a much more praiseworthy person sticking till the end in her idealism, than me that is maneuvering as I see fit between reality and idealism.
There is something disturbing in thinking that far – I thought.
When I raised my face in fact there was something disturbing. Something behind my back pulled my suit. It was Djibril.
“What’s the matter, Djibril?”
“Beyond this point the village ends, Arata.”
“Oh, right. Sorry.”
I’ve read in novels about walking too far while thinking, but I haven’t thought that it will happen to me. I was a little embarrassed.
“Shall we go back?” – I say while correcting my suit.
Djibril shook her head and nodded. I faintly heard the rustling of the headgear.
We walk together. In the camp that view wasn’t anything special, but in this village a man and a woman walking together seems like something that doesn’t happen. That’s why Djibril walked a little behind.
I can’t calm down at all.
“What was father saying?” – calls me a voice from behind.
Walking I was thinking about how I will answer. It takes a lot of time making an English essay in my head. I am still far away from speaking automatically.
“He is concerned about you.” – I said. It’s not a lie.
“I see.” – she replied and walked in silence.
I am really perplexed as to how I should speak to her. In the first place my English is bad. Well, first of all I don’t know what to say in Japanese, so it comes before an essay.
“Please don’t worry. Even if I go far away it will be okay.”
I turned around confused. Come to think of it Djibril’s father also said that there is not much time.
“What do you mean, far away?”
“I can’t be in the village, so I will go somewhere.”
I stopped and thought about the meaning of that words. It was clear that it isn’t going somewhere of her own will.
So exile… or precisely throwing away, is that how the village thinks?
“Not only you, isn’t it?”
Thinking about everyone in team C made my body and expression stiff. Just taking a bride is not a solution.
I have realized that Djibril was putting hands on her mouth and running somewhere. Still standing still, I couldn’t even stop her.
They made me wait more than I thought.
That day I was thinking about Djibril and other children in the house I was given, while a messenger came in. And then together with Omar we were guided to one room, where the patriarch was waiting.
As always on a ceiling there is a glittering pet bottle. I’ve always been wondering what’s that, but I couldn’t breach this topic.
Patriarch opens his mouth:
“Company said we’re not, but that’s right.” – I replied to the patriarch.
He nods with his deeply wrinkled face and continues.
“If that’s the case what do you think about being hired by this village?”
I folded my arms. That was a bit unexpected. I was imagining that they will rope us into farm work, but that was completely different.
Patriarch looks at us with curiosity.
“What is it?”
“Well… is there a military threat?”
“American army will come. Thereunder your company probably will as well.”
Oh, now I get it. My fight just ended, but I noticed that in fact nothing has ended. Thinking that it will end just on the aerial bombing is a convenient way of thinking.
“So you’re saying to just betray them?” Omar makes a grim face.
Patriarch softened his expression a little and answered that not betray, just this time to make a contract with us. Before Omar asked what’s the difference I grabbed his arm.
“Let’s listen to the end my friend.” – I said that and Omar just said sorry to me.
On the patriarch’s face appears a smile. Presumably this person likes sincere manly friendship. It’s that macho thing. – I thought. This time for real. I can’t possibly come to like it.
“Well, actually the one who will come are the government troops. The ones, which are supporting the American army.”
I nodded and started to think. So my opponents would be the ones who’re receiving guidance from the green berets.
I looked at the patriarch and opened my mouth. I had in mind team C and Djibril.
“I am okay with being hired, but first I want to confirm a few things.”
Patriarch was drawn into the conversation quicker than I thought or maybe he said that in surprise. I put my doubts into words.
“You’ve tried to give American army a hard blow. It’s ok. However before the attack I think you knew it would happen, I mean the retaliation. So where and how are you going to settle that?”
“How does it concern your employment?”
“To do my work well I must understand my employer’s intentions.”
That was half-true. The other half is that I need to gather intel.
Maybe it’s because our positions were different, but I couldn’t help thinking that from the perspective of my former enemy, that is guerrillas side – aren’t we trying to fight a war we have no chance of winning?
I was thinking that now I’ve gained a chance to ask this question, I always wanted to ask.
Patriarch sighed, took a deep breath, breathed out, and then looked at me.
“There was a village across the mountain from here”
The elder continues:
“This village was 4 months ago attacked by your company or American army. Do you know about it?”
I thought my heart was going to jump up, but Omar spoke first.
“I hear it for the first time. Really? They attacked a village?”
The elder bitterly nods.
“If you want to see it, I will send you there. Maybe that was an example to non-cooperation, but we together with neighboring clans made up our minds. We’ll fight to the end. It’s better than being separately slaughtered. They even attacked escaping girls.”
“It’s a lie.” – I muttered before Omar. The time fits, but because of mountains the radio waves wouldn’t reach. It has to be lie, it’s impossible.
“I can even take you there tomorrow. But I answered honestly. What about you?”
Omar looked at me. I was pale. Then looked at the patriarch.
“I can’t believe it that suddenly, but let me think for a bit. If it’s true I also have an idea.”
Omar covered up for me. – I thought briefly. I noticed that together with gratitude for Omar my nausea couldn’t stop.
Is it all my fault? A grand play I’ve created and I’ve been taking role in at the same time?
I’ve been suppressing spasmodic laugh and nausea, when I saw the patriarch leaving.
“Do you know about it?”
“No, I don’t. I’ve felt sick just thinking about it.” – I lied.
I feel sick. Very sick.
“Certainly.” – says Omar with a face only a fine fellow can have.
I stood up. I didn’t even manage to say to the end that I am going to throw up. Until morning I’ve been throwing up many times.
To the deserted village
Next day, together with an escort – a few watching us soldiers – we walked with Omar to a place, where there was a village.
I don’t remember anything from the route. Being sleepy was tough. If I weren’t sleepy I would have probably gone mad.
Because of sleepiness I lost consciousness, so I was helped up many times by Omar.
“You’re so bold when it comes to yourself, but you’re so weak after being startled about one massacred village.” – said quietly Omar, who was now energetic instead of me.
I felt friendship from that sound.
It’s not like that, Omar. – I think. You’re completely wrong. I don’t have a feeling that I look bold, but I feel sick because of myself.
That’s what I thought, but didn’t say anything. It hurts that I can’t say it. I have a feeling that I am steadily turning into a miscreant.
On the other hand what am I going to do now? – I say to myself after cooling down. Didn’t you keep your job and come as far as here to see it for yourself?
This is exactly it. I am here now, because I surely wished for it. To see for myself. I thought I would regret it my entire life, that’s why I’ve been rejecting going back to Japan.
But I feel like throwing up.
I am crumbling and there is no Shawii, what should I do? Should I rather rely on Djibril?
Is it even possible? – I think. I solemnly understand that I’m the lowest kind of person. But I haven’t thought even once about trying to do that.
We’ve reached the deserted village.
Topographic maps and sights which I was always seeing at OO’s job are piling up before my eyes.
Even if I’ve tried to forget that map, it’s not a thing I can forget so quickly.
Bullet marks on buildings are fresh. When I looked at the roof, where there was a blown away window by a grenade, I felt gloomy.
I was asked by a guard if we should walk around outside the village.
He says that there are no corpses because neighboring villages helped with the burial.
Being doubly grateful for making a burial and that I didn’t have to watch the corpses, I walked around outside the village. From the south to the east side.
Wind was blowing up clouds of dust, making patterns on the ground. Trampling down on them I was walking in silence.
Ahead there is a little protruding hill. I see a road on the hill. It must be a place, from where I was easily shooting at the refugees. There was a hill and road too.
When I looked down I saw a mass graveyard on the side of the road. I was thinking that when it comes to a critical moment my sickness also stops.
I descended from the hill and sat down before graveyard.
It couldn’t be helped that my tears were falling.
What have I done?
^1. Felt that there should be at least one reference, and it does sound a bit stiff to me. Well the general idea is that he likes it there and he doesn’t need to repeat his stunt with that village.