Log Horizon Volume 8 Chapter 4 part1-2
Letting out a wordless sigh, Isuzu listened as if it were someone else’s problem.
She didn’t -really- understand what Rundelhous was saying.
“That’s all we have. As music. Of course, we love the familiar melodies passed down from the past, but we have no other music. It was like that when I was born. And probably far before that. Then we lived like it was only natural, holding no questions of it.”
“Then you adventurers appeared and lots of things happened, terrifying, sad things, but at the same time, so many wonderful things. Flavour was found in cooking, the town markets overflowed with goods we’d never even seen or heard of, and music that made our hearts want to scream was born.”
“And you adventurers, you Isuzu, gave that gift as if it were nothing. Playing without distinction for adventurers or people of the land. Do you remember? In Bloom Hall. Their waitresses are all passionate, put they change at fixed intervals? Waiting at Bloom Hall is a popular job among people of the land. So they change at fixed intervals. Do you know how many young elves go to Bloom Hall, gripping tips? They’re travelling bards. The learn new songs at Bloom Hall, frantically memorising them, and then spread them over Yamato.”
Isuzu herself noticed how shaken her expression was.
Her fists, gripped tight on her lap shook, her nails biting into her palms was a distant sense of reality.
Her eyes and ears drank in Rundelhous’ words as she was forced to understand.
“Do you remember? The bars and inns we’ve been in since leaving. With you just announcing a little song, everyone is so happy they’re moved to tears? They’re truly happy. Bright and boisterous songs they’ve never heard before. Songs that lighten the mood and make them rush and dance. Or songs that make them want to be close to their loved ones, to give open thanks to familiar people. We had never heard them before. You’re a hero for bringing them to us. The words thank you are clumsy. They’re too simple and don’t show just how grateful we are. But, everyone is truly happy.”
“Ah— Uh… Rudy.”
Isuzu’s tears dripped forth.
Her feelings were a maelstrom, and she couldn’t speak.
Of course, she was happy to be wanted, and she felt that if she could be praised, it would become her speciality. But that was just a small part of the entirety.
The feelings of wanting to deny it were much greater.
She felt guilty for them being moved so much by the work of an amateur like her. Because of those feelings, she wasn’t serious at all. Naturally, she loved music. She sang until her voice was hoarse, and strummed the lute until her arms gave in. But she didn’t feel that it was even with the feelings of gratitude held by the people of the land.
She felt it was awful.
It was impossible to have only forty two songs from birth.
That kind of world was impossible.
If it was, then what could they do on lonely nights. Or when congratulating a friend. When they let loose happiness, or when they felt inferior.
Without songs, how could they keep living?
Isuzu was just having fun and playing concerts again and again. Playing songs people had never heard, songs that changed people’s lives, that changed everything, she hadn’t a single fragment of the resolve or mettle for those things.
She was lost for words.
With everything swelling and hardening in her chest, she didn’t know what to say, her welling tears pushed at her back, and only that came out. Rundelhous calmly held her gaze.
“I’m a fake.”
She didn’t mean to.
Up until now she had had no idea the people of the land held those kind of feelings.
Isuzu let out a miserable sigh at not being able to speak.
She knew her fists were shaking awfully.
“My— no, the songs I sing are from my world. ”
“But, we people of the land truly are happy.”
Isuzu didn’t mean to do that.
She didn’t mean to gift such outrageous, exaggerated things.
They were just nostalgic, familiar songs from her father’s collection that she sang.
Rudy was grateful to her father’s things, not Isuzu.
In other words, Isuzu was just an amateur, a copy band.
The embarrassment and guilt didn’t stop her tears. On the contrary, they flowed more and more. She understood that she’d deceived the crowds until now. She’d grown complacent on other’s songs, and been flattered into making merry.
She’d not even imagined, but it was obvious. It was like she was stealing the songs and hard work of the singers she loved so much and looking like it was hers. To people that heard it for the first time it was like it was Isuzu’s song and made them grateful.
And this world was blank like Isuzu never imagined.
A world that until now had only had forty two songs.
Her chest tightened and her lips quivered.
That was just a dirty thief’s act.
Isuzu had vainly dirtied this pure white world of songs.
“But I’m… an amateur… a copy band… so it’s not.”
She cried pitifully until her sniffling nose began to hurt.
Her weak nose sniffling sounded.
She wanted to apologise, just earnestly apologise.
But she couldn’t at all think of how to.
She had done something that couldn’t be undone.
“But, I didn’t, I didn’t mean to lie.”
His strong tone surprised Isuzu and calmed her down as she raised her gaze.
In front of her was Rundelhous.
The light spilling from the windows illuminated his soft blond hair as it swayed in the night breeze.
His normal joking expression had subsided, and he looked at Isuzu. His thoughtful eyes looked straight at her. And in the will and compassion in them, Isuzu’s body shone and time was still.
He was more awe-inspiring than ever to her.
Suddenly, Isuzu noticed something.
Rundelhous was a year older than her.
“People of the land sometimes gather in the Guild Hall in Akiba.”
Blocked by tears and snot, Isuzu could only respond miserably.
“The number of people of the land in Akiba has been gradually increasing. Luxury, security, with the wealth of things Akiba has, it’s a place even the people of the land yearn for. Not just the singers from earlier, the blacksmiths, tailors, chefs, and even the assistants and maids come to Akiba. If they spend a few months in Akiba, they can learn things they couldn’t learn even if they studied for their entire lives in other cities. And can become many things.”
“Like you, Rudy.”
“Yeah, that’s right, I became an adventurer. There are many things they want to become.”
Rundelhous answered gently to Isuzu’s question, hoarse from crying before continuing.
“But it’s exceptionally difficult for people of the land to like in Akiba. You adventurers are kind, and aren’t unreasonable. Looking at it impartially, we’re like neighbours, but you can’t deny there are differences. Lots of things differ, our worries and our troubles. To discuss those things, we gather.”
“So that’s what it is.”
As if crying, Isuzu answered.
If he were to say that, there were many things she could understand. In a week, Rundelhous would go out once or twice in the afternoon. He wasn’t going on adventures or shopping, she didn’t know where he was going, but it was to talk with the people of the land.
“There’s the official organisation that sent the counsellor from Watermaple Mansion. Even so, about ten people split off and just talked things over whilst eating. I live as an adventurer in Log Horizon’s guild house so there’s lots of things I can advise on. It’s that kind of gathering, but don’t you think there are lots of things after the discussion of worries?”
Isuzu shook her head like a child.
She felt like Rundelhous had gone far away, that she was forlorn and didn’t know anything.
“This is amazing, wonderful! We talk about things like that.”
Rundelhous proclaimed strongly, with a proud smile.
Isuzu hadn’t followed the conversation and Rundelhous continued talking like he was persuading.
“Do you know how you can double your money? Do you know how to gather lots of grain for flour? Did you know if you spray strong black rose tea on tomatoes then it drives away the insects? About the fishing road you don’t have to bait, and stain resistant clothes? There are massive amounts of new things. It’s a wonderful town. And the luxury isn’t hidden by the adventurers. Of course, it’s hard for people of the land to live there, but it’s also lucky. Something happens every day. What wasn’t possible yesterday might be today. Tomorrow is a different day from today. Those words mean exactly what they say in Akiba. And your songs are one of those shining things.”
Isuzu couldn’t say anything.
She could just stare at Rundelhous’ smile, tears continuing to roll down her cheeks. His words had greatly shaken her.
His encouraging gaze shook something inside that even she didn’t notice. An unknown passionate strength of character was born inside her, confusing her.
Isuzu though Rundelhous was an amazing friend.
That was because he’d clearly said he wanted to become an adventurer. That friend, just a little older than Isuzu, on the boundary between boy and young man, she respected his surety of the future. It wasn’t about results, she strongly felt to declare that. A country school girl wasn’t complete, because he held that firmness of character.
Whilst reciting about puppies and walks, with that alone, Isuzu felt she couldn’t compare. She knew that her carefree, optimistic friend was actually noble and proud.
But it wasn’t just Rundelhous.
Probably all of the people of the land gathered in Akiba were the same.
They had something they wanted to become, Isuzu was completely different, it was a shining town that could grant concrete dreams. No, maybe even all that those that lived in this world, the people of the land dreamed and resolved for.
They were said to be so much weaker than adventurers, but their words, their hearts had overwhelmed her.
For them, to have an irresponsible school girl sing songs with no dream for the future, Isuzu felt deeply shameful.
Isuzu sang of dreams, hope and love. Of a bright tomorrow, anti-establishmentism, motorways and Snoopy. Songs with no deep thought. She noticed there was no serious thought or meaning behind the lyrics.
She was so ashamed she couldn’t even say, she felt pathetic.
That realisation shocked her. She said she loved music but hadn’t thought of those meanings. Even though she showed dreams to the people of the land.
She felt a strong inferiority and feelings of guilt.
It was the first time she’d felt she was so pathetic.
Large tears flowed endlessly like a child.
And within the sadness, the biggest thing was that she loved music. Even though she felt she’d just committed a horrible mistake, song reverberated inside her.
“What is it, Miss Isuzu?”
“I… want to be alone.”
He was speechless.
Isuzu’s eyes, bright red from tears looked at him.
Certainly, if she hadn’t said anything, he would stay with her. Giving words of comfort and encouragement. But, they weren’t too sincere. Isuzu needed time alone, and it had to be here, tonight.
The inferiority, the guilt, the shame and the anguish, they were all Isuzu’s. To Isuzu who had stolen music, that was a natural punishment, and she wanted to be alone with that pain.
Even if that weren’t the case, Rundelhous had given her a lot.
“Go back to your room, I need to be alone.”
Rundelhous anxiously looked at her.
She noticed but stubbornly refused to meet his gaze.
“I understand, Miss Isuzu.”
Rundelhous stood there for a while, trying to say something, hesitating.
Her body stiffened in the night as she resolved to fight.
A resolution against herself, for the first serious fight in her life.
Tohya took a deep breath as he stepped quietly out into the morning mist, surveying his surroundings.
The whitish light of spring lit up the still cold town.
He could hear small calls from afar, the boats fishing. If he were to look around, and walk to towards the hill, there would be a group of people of the land, they were probably farming. Choushi was the same, people of the land fundamentally had extremely early mornings.
Having said that, the town certainly wasn’t filled hustle and bustle.
To adventurers like Tohya it wasn’t, but to people of the land, it was a chilling March morning. Just as they were using up the last reserves of fuel from the winter, people of the land closed their houses tight to try and preserve the heat inside and people moved quickly along the roads. Of course, that was because it was early, Once the temperature had risen slightly and the sun’s rays invited them out, the streets would probably be overflowing with people, Safiel was a large town in the area.
Tohya laced his hands together by his head and started roaming aimlessly.
It seemed that Rundelhous was up late last night so was still asleep, and he couldn’t hear a peep from the girls’ room. He could have gone back to sleep, but he didn’t really feel like it so stepped quietly outside to not wake anyone up.
Even in Akiba Tohya preferred spending his time outdoors rather than small rooms. On Earth he would have WebTV, mobile games, manga, a tablet and such, there was an abundance of indoor entertainment, but that wasn’t so in Celdesia. As a reaction to wanting to go out in the past being selfish, he preferred being outside even more.
Tohya roamed along the main street.
The street was the highway they’d followed up to this point. Near the town the ancient asphalt remained so it was well made. It was about wide enough for two carts to pass.
In the original world, this area would have been an open urban area. The big town of Surugawan or something, he remembered Shiroe saying that. In Celdesia, it was a fairly large town of the people of the land. At the moment, the shops he was killing time by looking over were closed, but that was actually more convenient for Tohya, because he wanted to take a walk alone.
Leaving the town he greeted a person of the land and helped a little with moving their things.
He took out his sword and practised forms and swinging.
Tohya liked the town where time passed slowly. With Isuzu and everyone using up their energy in the concert, and Minori wanting to gather information, they planned to stay for at least another night.
There was plenty of time and Tohya enjoyed being alone after a while.
Having fun and being noisy with friends was good, but walking alone like this, as if to affirm his legs filled Tohya’s heart with a sense of satisfaction. It wasn’t a bad feeling.
Once noon passed, the area livened up, housewives putting up washing and children appeared in the main street. People of the land grilling fish at the roadside shared with him, and he looked care-freely around the town.
The main street was red clay, and continued further west.
Walking ten minutes west, the streets were broken up by fields, and finally a river appeared.
“Oh yeah, Choushi had a river too.”
Tohya murmured faintly to himself.
While wondering why that was, he realised that by the river there was plenty of water, convenient for both living and farming. He’d learnt about depositional plains in classes, the flow of the river created the plains, then he clapped his hands together, realising that Safiel was a depositional plain.
He’d noticed several times while camping, but slopes were surprisingly inconvenient.
It made both camping and cooking difficult. It would probably be too much for farming. At any rate, the world had gravity, water wouldn’t flow to high places, at least normally. So it was reasonable for a town to gather in the flat lands near a river.
He thought that far and murmured that classes were useful. He’d thought they were meaningless social studies, but it seemed not.
He arrived at the river bank and turned right, heading upstream.
Without any particular reason, his thoughts drifted to the memory of a woman from behind, with wheat coloured hair.
The river was quiet. Both because the sea was close, and the river was plenty wide enough, there were several small boats floating, with fishermen untying whitish bundles. It looked like netting, straining his eyes, he could see wet, jet black fish flopping around.
Tohya just walked up the path along the bank. There was a pine forest, and narrow streams like irrigation channels that were crossed with wooden bridges.
Upstream and to the right was Mount Fuji. In this world it was called Sacred Mountain Fuji.
Above halfway, it was capped in a pure white cape, it was certainly solemn looking. The surroundings weren’t obstructed by other mountains, so it seemed even more beautiful.
In his sight was a boat shed, and Tohya stopped, seeing a woman’s back on the pier, jutting out into the river. Tohya seemed to curse god. It was really too good.
He didn’t intend to avoid it, or hide, but Tohya couldn’t speak for a fairly long time.
“Good morning, Tohya-san.”
As if she had noticed him as he approached the pier, Dariella turned back and smiled. Tohya greeted her, feeling uncomfortable.
He often felt like this when with this woman.
He didn’t know what to talk about.
In the first place, in his life up until now, there weren’t any beautiful women past twenty. Thinking back to a year ago, the only women around him were Minori, his mother, and his fifty-ish form teacher. Of course, there were classmates who’s names he knew, but there weren’t any of them he could say he knew.
Now, there was his sister Minori, Serara and Isuzu were a little older than him but were his friends. They formed a party around the same age, so that was obvious. He went to the West Wind Brigade to practice fencing, and there were many girls there, and they were affectionate, but they just treated him like a child, so it was a little different.
Tetora was of course out of the question, and Akatsuki was out because she felt like an older sister. Of course, he couldn’t say that to them/
If he was to go further, Maryelle and Henrietta might be close. They were a different type, but they were pretty women. But there wasn’t anyone who bewildered him as Dariella did.
“Won’t you sit?”
The pier was old, but it was solid and had several boxes on it.
The fishermen probably used them as seats. That was the best for fishing, but in the morning haze, Fevael River was a beautiful scene from there.
Dariella sat properly, with her knees together. Tohya stretched out his legs and sat down as if holding the edge of a box.
A faint, sweet smell was mixed in with the wind.
Tohya sat uncomfortably, not able to think of anything to talk about. He knew that this would happen if he sat next to her so he thought it was strange he still talked to her. It might be because he thought it was wrong to ignore someone you were travelling with, even if it was for a short time. But he didn’t know if that was the only reason. He just found it hard to ignore her.
“You’re up early, Tohya-san, are you out for a stroll?”
“Yeah. But I’m not always up early, I just happened to be today.”
“I see. The mornings are cold in this season, so futons must be heaven.”
Dariella smiled gently, giggling at her own words.
Her gently tied hair spilled over from her shoulder, swaying on her cape.
“Are you out for a morning stroll, Dariella…san?”
“I am, I naturally sleep lightly and I’m often out at this hour. If there’s somewhere that allows it, that is.” Tohya grew uncomfortable and turned his gaze away but Dariella didn’t seem to pay it any mind. Still smiling happily, she continued, “It’s because I live on the road. I go everywhere learning and recording things. This time in the morning is precious at my destinations, I can observe many things without other people getting in the way.”
“Where do you normally live, Dariella-san?”
Tohya felt a slight discomfort at those words and questioned to interrupt them.
“If you say live, it should be around Ikoma I suppose.”
“Further west from here. Past where you call Kyoto.”
Inexperienced with geography, something came to his mind.
In his head, he had a recognition sort of like ‘Kyoto is up and to the right of Osaka?’
Tohya only knew that they were currently right between Kyoto and Osaka, on the Pacific coast. Past Kyoto would be roughly in the middle of them, at that rough estimate, Tohya felt surprised.
In the original world, Kyoto to Osaka would take around three hours. That was by bullet train. In this world it would probably take more than ten days. The Half Gaia Project may have shortened the distance, but travelling through the savage lands and countryside required a lot of effort.
But even so, what Tohya was surprised at was the proximity.
Coming on this journey, he felt that Osaka and Kyoto were closer than the original world, even with the twenty first century bullet train.
If he were to repeat the journey again, Tohya would understand the arrival. Just how to be able to arrive, how much effort it would need, Tohya understood that now. And he had the confidence he could do it.
Sitting on the bullet train for three hours and then no sense of arrival, now, Tohya could walk there on his own two feet.
“But, I live alone in a cabin in the mountains, it’s not a place many people visit, so when I want to experience the atmosphere of a town , I take a journey like this.”
“Isn’t it dangerous?”
“I’m used to it, besides, thanks to Plant Hwayden’s guarding, the roads are fairly safe now.”
That was a name he’d heard often recently, a huge, consolidated guild in western Japan. He’d heard it was similar to the Round Table Conference, an organisation that had gathered many adventurers and had Osaka as its stronghold.
“That’s a guild in Minami, right?”
“It is indeed, they’re a knight order which uses Minami as a base and protects Yamato’s peace.”
“A knight order?”
“I heard they appeared as a new knight order to maintain public order now that the Izumo Knights from the Ancients aren’t here. It’s a sign of the change from the era of the Ancients to the era of Adventurers. In fact, Plant Hwayden’s achievements are huge.”
Tohya could see how it would seem so to a person of the land and agreed, asking.
“What are their achievements?”
“First, after all is said and done, they restored public order. They lessened the victims of monsters to the west drastically. And with new machines and flood control, we’re expecting that agriculture will become much easier.”
Tohya thought it was like Roderick Firm and 8th Shopping District.
“And since then, employment has increased. Beginning in Minami, there are lots more jobs that people of the land can earn decent wages in, and they’re happy. There’s many jobs involving looking after the adventurers. It’s a wealthy, beautiful town.”
Tohya asked if that was the case.
With a soft smile, Dariella asked.
“Tohya-san, are you perhaps uninterested?”
“That’s… not it.”
He felt he’d like to see a town like that. Tohya had deeply understood that Akiba wasn’t all the world had from coming on this journey. The travelling had agreed with him more than he thought it would. He’d thought it might be more boring, or harder but the trip was fun. He wanted to go with his friends.
That was literally curiosity and interest.
He didn’t mean to go right now, and he didn’t intend to go with this woman.
“Than, when you get the chance, come to my house please.”
Dariella softly stroked Tohya’s averted head.
Her white, slender fingers passed through his hair and tickled, Tohya frowned.
“If you do, I’ll guide you and we can go out on a trip.”
Tohya replied with a shrug.
“You haven’t been looking at me for a while now.”
“That’s not true.”
Tohya sullenly answered Dariella’s teasing tone. The moment he answered, he felt like he’d been lured in. That his childish stubbornness was seen through. Knowing that, he felt his frown deepen.
“Do you hate me, Tohya-san?”
“I hate that.”
It was like words had a tail, he thought.
The tail tied words together and he had to check before he spoke. If he didn’t he’d speak about things he didn’t mean to. He’d learnt that in his wheelchair, but it was like he gave into temptation.
Tohya felt the tail drag his next words out of him.”
“Because you’re always smiling.”
Dariella’s expression clouded.
Tohya regretted saying things he shouldn’t to someone he had just met, and would soon part from.
“And that is?”
He hated Dariella’s smile she used to keep up appearances.
He hated the ghost-like black eyes she smiled with.
He hated the attitude she had as she softly touched his hair.
“Even if you didn’t smile, you wouldn’t look strange.”
So Tohya himself was taken aback at the hurtful words. He was irritated more than he thought at the flaxen haired woman. He felt the outline of his own emotions in his words.
Her expression faded as if it had lost its heat, and her eyes were as he though, as if she had abandoned anything and everything. Her mouth was in a smiling crescent but no one would think her expression a smile.
Tohya saw the same expression that had stared him back in the mirror, ages ago.
It was dreadful, but much better than her expression like she was going out in her best from before.
It was better, because that was Dariella’s true expression.
“Why would you say such a thing?”
Tohya looked away.
He hadn’t meant to say it. So even he didn’t know why he had. It was probably fate, or chance, he thought of those worthless reasons. It just didn’t sit well with him.
Dariella’s clenched fists showed a glimpse inside, that he’d gone to far.
What Tohya was about to say was lost.
For in the northern sky, small but clear, he saw an ominous black silhouette.
This was the first omen of the trial approaching Safiel.