Cage in Lunatic Runagate/Third Chapter

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第三話 浄土の竜宮城 Chapter 3: The Dragon King’s Palace in the Pure Land

不純物を含まない月の風が音も無く海面を揺らす。風以外に水面を乱す物は何もない。目の前の海には何の生物も棲んでいないのだ。

A wind bearing no impurities sweeps soundlessly causes ripples on the surface the sea. Nothing else disturbs it. After all, nothing lives in the moon's seas.

地上の生命は海から生まれたという。気が遠くなる程の長い時間、生き残りを賭けた生命戦争が繰り広げられた。

It's said that life on Earth came from the seas. At a time so far into the past that the mind boggles to consider it, a desperate war for survival was unfolding.

他を圧倒する為に体を大きくする生物、酸素を利用して素早く動く生物、新天地を求め地上へと進出する生物、地上から空を目指す生物……様々な形の勝者が現れ始めた。海は生命の源であり最大の戦場でもあった。そんな歴戦の勝者である海の生物に穢れが無い筈も無い。

Creatures who became larger to overwhelm others, creatures who used oxygen to move nimbly, creatures who moved to dry earth seeking a new realm, creatures that left that earth for the skies, many new victors began to appear. As the source of all life, the seas were also the greatest battlefield. As the victors of such a embattled history, there were none that were supposed to have remained impure.

だが月の都には穢れのある者は殆どいない。だから目の前の海には何の生物も棲んでいないのだ。如何なる海の生物も月に移り住む事は適わなかったのである。そう、この海は何一つ穢れていない、ただ一点だけ、水面に移っている青い星の場所を除いて——。

However, there are nearly no impure beings in the lunar capital. So, the sea that stretched out before my eyes is devoid of life. Not a single of the creatures from this sea were able to take up residence on the moon's surface. Yes, this sea bears not a single impurity, save one thing, the place where it reflects that blue planet.

「お姉様? 静かの海に何か見えましたか? 最近、よくこの海を見に来ているようですが……」

"Sister? Did you see something in the Sea of Tranquility? You've come here to check on it quite often lately..."

「いいえ。今日も何も起こりませんでしたわ」

"No, nothing's happened today, either."

私がそう答えると妹の綿月依姫(わたつきのよりひめ)は心配顔をした。

When I said that, my younger sister, Watatsuki no Yorihime, looked concerned.

「最近、兎達の間に不穏な噂が流れているから……私達も行動を慎重に行わないと」

"There have been a lot of rumors causing unrest among the rabbits lately... We should be careful about our movements."

「大丈夫よ、何の心配もいらないわ」

"It will be fine. There's no need for concern."

「いいえ、私達は地上の民に手を貸しているんじゃないかと疑われているのです。何故かというと……」

"No, I mean, people suspect us of aiding those from the Earth. And that's because..."

私の能力の所為って事かしら?」

"Because of my power, perhaps?"

「ええまぁ、それも有るんですが……どちらかというとお姉様の行動が怪しいからじゃないでしょうか」

"Well, it may be because of that, but... don't you think your behavior as of late looks suspicious to other people, Sister?"

「私は海を見ているだけなんだけどねぇ」

"But I'm only coming here to watch the sea."

「海を見てるだけって、それが怪しい行動だと思われるのです。そんな自由に行動されると……何れ兎達に(かなえ)の軽重を問われても(*注)知りませんよ?」

"But people think that's suspicious. If you're going to act with such liberty... I believe the rabbits may start wondering if you are truly pulling your own weight." (*1)

「私は最初から重くはないけどね。大丈夫、私達には八意様から頂いた未来があるんだから」

"Well, I never was that heavy to begin with, anyway. Don't worry, the future that Lady Yagokoro left for us is still there."

そう言った私ではあったが、風に僅かではあるが穢れが含まれている事に気付いていた。私——海と山を繋ぐ事が出来る月の姫、綿月豊姫(わたつきのとよひめ)にだけ見える異変を感じ取っていたのだ。

Even as I said that, I realized the faintest trace of impurity borne in the wind. It was a portent of calamity that only I, Watatsuki no Toyohime, the lunar princess with the power to connect mountain and sea, could sense.

僅かの穢れは気の所為なのか、それとも密かに穢れを持ち込んでいる者が存在するのか。もしくは月の都で良からぬ事を考えている者が居るのか……。

Was it just my imagination, or had someone secretly come brought the impurity from the Earth? Was somebody planning some foul deed in the capital...?

依姫には余計な心配をかけたくなかったのでその事は伝えず、私達は静かの海を後にした。

I didn't want to worry Yorihime unnecessarily, so I kept the matter to myself, and together we departed from the Sea of Tranquility.

月面が荒涼とした世界だと誰が言ったのだろう。時には生き物を苦しめる事もある季節も存在せず、一年中春の暖かさ、夏の活気の良さ、秋の豊かさ、冬の侘しさ、全てを兼ね備えた気候。青い星の下に輝く美しい桃の木。そして兎達の笑顔の絶えない月の都。

Someone once said the surface of the moon was a bleak and desolate world. There is no trace of the seasons which bring occasional discomfort to the living; it's a climate that combines the mildness of spring, the liveliness of summer, the plenty of autumn and the loneliness of winter year-round. The beautiful peach trees glimmering beneath the blue stars. And, of course, the lunar capital, full of the smiles of rabbits.

私達が都の道を歩いているといつもの様に兎達が挨拶をしてくる。兎達は道ばたで将棋を楽しんだり、お茶を飲んでいたり、昼寝をしていたりしている。私達も笑顔で挨拶を返しつつも、この兎達はちゃんと自分の仕事をしているのか疑問に思った。

The rabbits greeted us like they always did as we walked through the streets of the capital. They lined the roads whiling away the time with activities such as shogi, sipping tea and napping. Even as we cheerfully returned their greetings, we couldn't help but wonder if they were really doing their work.

月の兎にはそれぞれ仕事の担当が割り当てられている。一番多いのが農作物を管理する兎であるが、他にも薬搗き、掃除、月の都の警備等々、多くの仕事が兎達に任されている。

The rabbits of the moon are assigned various tasks. Most of them work in agricultural affairs, but many other jobs are left to them as well, such as medicine making, cleaning and the defense of the lunar capital.

我が綿月家は地上の監視を担っているので、うちで飼っている兎は月の使者であり、いざとなれば地上の者とも闘えるように鍛えられている……筈である。

Since we, the Watatsuki family, are in charge of watching over the Earth, the rabbits we keep at our house serve as lunar emissaries, and are trained to do battle, presumably, with the Earth if the occasion arises.

月の都は完成された高度な都市であった。物質的、技術的な豊かさはとうの昔に満たされており、精神的な豊かさを高める事が最も重要であるとされていた。勿論それは月の民にとっての話であり、月の兎達はその為に働かなければいけないのだが。

The lunar capital was a perfect advanced metropolis. Its physical and technological wealth had been established far into the past, which made enhancing its spiritual wealth all the more important. Of course, this is according to the people of the city, but it's important for the rabbits to work towards these ends.

ただ、それを実現する為に必要な事は、穢れた物の存在を決して認めない事だった。万が一月の民が穢れを負ってしまうと地上に落とされる。月にとって地上は大きな監獄であった。そして地上に落とされた罪人を監視するのが私達、綿月姉妹の仕事である。

However, this perfection would have been unattainable in the presence of any impure living thing. If by some off chance a Lunarian were to become impure, they would be banished to Earth. To the Lunarians, Earth was a great prison, and we, the Watatsuki sisters, watched over those who were sent to Earth.

私達は屋敷に戻り、桃の葉を浮かべたお茶を飲みながら今後の対策を練る事にした。

We returned to the mansion, sipped tea flavored with peach leaves and set about planning our defense.

「困ったわね。最近の噂には」

"These recent rumors are troubling."

私がそう言うと、依姫は何を言うかといった表情で「お姉様が自由に行動しすぎるからじゃないですか?」と言った。

When I said that, Yorihime adopted an expression that seemed to question whether I know what I was saying and remarked, "Isn't that because you've been acting too freely of late, my sister?"

最近月の兎達の間で流行っている噂がある。表の月に刺さっていた地上人の旗——我々はアポロの旗と呼んでいる旗が、いつの間にか無くなっていた事から噂は始まったらしい。

It was a rumor that was spreading among the rabbits. It seems to have started from the news that the flag that had been planted on the light side of the moon, which we called the Apollo flag, had disappeared.

その噂とは月の都の保安に関する物だった。「地上から誰かが攻めてくる」とか「月の都に反逆者が居る」だとか、他愛のない物ばかりだったが、純粋で噂好きな月の兎達はそれを信じていた。

The rumors concerned the security of the lunar capital. They were all silly, baseless things, like "Someone is going to invade from Earth", or "There's a traitor in the capital", but the rabbits were naive and loved rumors, so they believed them.

地上の敵が来るとしても反逆者だとしても、まず疑われるのが私達である。私達は職務と能力の関係故に、月の民の中でも最も地上との距離が近いからだ。特に私達は半永久的に地上に落とされた特級罪人、八意様に育てられた数少ない生き残りである。今では私達は八意様を探しに行かなくなってしまったし、疑われても仕方がない。

Whether an enemy attacked from Earth or a rebellion began on the Moon, we'd be the first to fall under suspicion. This was because, our duties and abilities aside, we were the most closely-related to matters regarding Earth. On top of that, we were the only two still alive who had been raised by the high-level criminal who had been semipermanently banished to the Earth, Lady Eirin Yagokoro. Since we had not spent too much effort in looking for her, it's only natural that people would suspect us.

「噂なんて七十五日もすれば消える筈なんだけど……もうかなりの時間経っているのに消えないから、そろそろ私達は潔白だと皆に見せた方が」

"They say rumors are fated to disappear within seventy-five days, but... none of them have actually done so, even after all this time has passed, so I believe it is now necessary to prove to everyone we are innocent."

「依姫は心配性ねぇ。兎達が大げさで噂好きなだけでしょう?」

"You worry too much, Yorihime. It's just because the rabbits love rumors so much."

流言蜚語が社会を揺るがす事は自明である。だから噂を無視する訳には行かないのだが、逆にそれを利用して社会を纏める事も出来る。私はどんな噂であれ否定するより利用した方が良いと考えている。いたずらに否定すると逆に不信感と混乱を招きかねないからだ。

Obviously, an unfounded rumor can still cause panic among society. So, we couldn't really afford to ignore the rumors, but on the other hand, we could also use them to our advantage to keep the public under control. I personally think it's better to take advantage of a rumor than to deny it. A forceful denial can invite mistrust and disorder.

「そうは言っても……」

"Maybe, but..."

「噂は真実でも虚偽でも構わない。恐らくは虚偽の物ばかりだと思うけど……でも、噂が流れているという事だけは誰が見ても真実なの。私達はその上で行動を選べば良いだけの話。噂は利用出来るのよ」

"It does not matter if the rumors are true or not. Of course, I don't think they are... but it's obvious that rumors are spreading around the capital now. All that means is we must choose our actions with prudence. We can use the rumors to our advantage."

「でもねぇ、疑われていたらお姉様みたいに自由に行動して気楽に楽しんで……安心して生活なんて出来ないわ」

"But, you know, if we're under suspicion I can't just do as I please like you, my sister... I can't live a carefree life like that."

「何よ。人を無神経みたいな言い方して」

"What? Can't you say it a bit nicer than that?"

お茶の時間は終わり、自分達の職務に専念する事になった……と言っても、戦闘要員兎達(しかも最近新しい人員を確保したばかりである)の戦術指南を担当する妹に比べ、地上との通路と使者の兎の先導を担当する私は普段やる事は殆ど無い。精々、私も一緒になって稽古に参加したりする位である。

Tea time came to an end, and it came time to apply ourselves to our duties... yet, compared to my sister, who is in charge of drilling the members of the Rabbit Guard (and they had just inducted a new member), I, who am in charge of watching over the path to Earth and leading the rabbits we use as emissaries, usually don't have much to do. Usually, I will join them in their training.

ただ、今は戦闘兎達は緊急事態である為、邪魔をしないように再び静かの海を見に行く事にした。静かの海は月の都の正反対に存在する海である。

However, since the Rabbit Guard are in a state of emergency preparation now, I decided not to disturb them and stole away to watch the Sea of Tranquility once more. The Sea of Tranquility is the lunar mare that spreads out across the moon on the opposite side of the moon from the lunar capital.

——何も棲んでいない海は静かに波を揺らしていた。私は海を見ると昔を想像してしまう。

Waves rippled in silence across the lifeless ocean. As I watched the ocean, memories of the distant past sprang to my mind.

海で生まれた生命は、生き残りを賭けた長い戦いの末に海は穢れ、そして勝者だけが穢れ無き地上に進出した。

The life that arose from the seas in the very beginning staked its continued existence in a long battle, and its conclusion, the ocean was defiled, and only the winners set out onto the land, which then knew no impurity.

陸上ではさらに壮絶な生き残りを賭けた戦いが繰り広げられた。ある者は肉体を強化し弱者を食料にした。またある者は数を増やし食べられながらも子孫を残した。陸上を離れ空に穢れの無い世界を求める者も居た。敵う者は殆ど居なくなったが順応性を失い絶滅した者も居た。地上を諦め再び海に戻る者も居た。勝者はほんの僅かであり、数多くの者は戦いに敗れ絶滅した。

On land, the epic battle for survival unfolded once more. Some creatures became strong and fed on the weak. Some increased their numbers and were able to leave successors after being eaten. There were even those who cast aside the earth and sought a pure world in the sky. There were even those few who had no competition but lost their ability to adapt and went died off. Some even gave up on the earth and returned to the sea. There were very few victors, and most were destroyed in the battle, becoming extinct.

生命の歴史は戦いの歴史である。常に勝者を中心に歴史は進む。そんな血塗られた世界だから地上は穢れる一方だった。生き物は本来いつまでも生きる事が出来るのだが、穢れが生き物に寿命を与えた。生命の寿命は短くなる一方だった。

The history of life is a history of conflict. And winners dictate how history is recorded. The Earth is a world of impurity because it is this sort of blood-stained world. Living things tend to live on forever, but the impurity stole away their longevity. It was a world of the short-lived.

現在、地上は百年以上生きる事の出来る生き物が殆ど居ない世界になってしまった。

Today, Earth has become a place where almost nothing can live for more than a hundred years.

しかし穢れが与える寿命の存在に気付いた賢者がいた。その賢者は満月が夜の海の上に映るのを見て、穢れた地上を離れる事を決意したという。

However, there was a sage who realized that the impurity was stealing life from all living things. It is said that while watching the full moon hanging in the sky over the ocean, this sage became determined to free themselves from the impure Earth.

海から地上へ、地上から空へ移り住むかの様に、賢者は地上から月に移り住んだのだ。その方が月の都の開祖であり、夜と月の都の王、月夜見(つくよみ)様である。

As if moving from living in the sea to the earth, or from the earth to the sky, this sage left the Earth and took up residence on the moon. This sage is the founder of the lunar capital, the lord of the night and of the lunar capital, Tsukuyomi.

月夜見様は自分の親族で信頼の置ける者をつれて月に移り住んだ。月は全く穢れて居なかった。その結果、月に移り住んだ生き物は寿命を捨てた。寿命が無くなるという事は、生きても死んでもいないという意味である。それは月とは穢れの無い浄土、つまり死後の世界と同じだったのかも知れない。

Lord Tsukuyomi took only relatives he had the utmost trust in and moved to the moon. The moon was completely without impurity. As a result, those who had moved to the moon forsook any lifespan. That they had no lifespan meant they were neither alive nor dead. In that sense, the moon is be a Pure Land, without impurity. It may even be the same as the world in the afterlife.

勿論、月の民も月の兎も不老不死ではない為、事故や戦いによって死ぬ事はあるだろう。そうでなくても月の都に住んでいる民も、僅かにだが穢れを持っている。私達だって何れ寿命で死ぬ運命にあるのかも知れない。

Of course, since the lunar citizens and the moon rabbits aren't immortal, they can die in, for example, accidents or battles. Still, even the citizens of the lunar capital bear just the faintest trace of impurity. Even we may be fated to die some day.

私達の師匠は月夜見様よりも長く生きている。月夜見様が月に移り住んで都を建てる時に最も頼りにしたのが、私達の師匠——八意様である。

Our master has lived even longer than Lord Tsukuyomi. When he moved to the moon and built the capital, the one he relied on the most was our master, Lady Eirin Yagokoro.

「……お姉様。また海を見ていたのですか? そんなに海が気になるって事は、やっぱり何かあったんじゃないですか?」

"...My sister. Have you come to watch the sea again? If you're so concerned to come here so often, does that mean something has happened, after all?"

依姫の呼ぶ声がした。考え事をしていたら随分と時間が経っていたみたいだ。

Yorihime's voice called out to me. Once I stopped to think about it, it seemed quite some time had passed.

「いや、八意様の手紙の内容が本当だとすれば、まだ変化は無い筈だけどね」

"No, if we're to believe the contents of Lady Yagokoro's letter, then no change should have already occurred."

「それなら良いんですけど……」

"I hope that's the case..."

「地上から誰かが攻めてくるかも知れないって考えながら海を見ていたら、昔を思い出しちゃってね」

"I was watching the sea while wondering if someone would attack from Earth, and it reminded me of long ago."

「昔って……。もしかして八意様が裏切って地上にお隠れになられた時の話ですか?」

"Long ago... Do you mean when Lady Yagokoro betrayed the moon and hid herself on the Earth?"

「ううんもっと昔。依姫は覚えていないかな?」

"No, much longer ago. Do you remember, Yorihime?"

「もっと昔って、千年以上前の話? 流石に簡単には思い出せないですが……」

"Even longer ago? Over a thousand years ago? I can't quite recall off-hand, of course..."

「私は千五百年以上前の話でも思い出せますよ。ほら、地上の人間が静かの海から亀に乗って現われたのを」

"This happened over 1500 years ago, and I can remember from before even then. Come now, don't you remember when that human from Earth came riding on a turtle from the Sea of Tranquility?"

今、私達は静かの月の海の前にいる。月では海は地上と最も近い場所である。その為、稀に地上の生き物が紛れ込む事があるのだ。

We were standing before the Sea of Tranquility, but the moon's seas are its closest points to the Earth. As a result, living things from the Earth would occasionally find their way there.

地上ではその現象を神隠しと呼んでいる。だが、神隠しは月の都に来る事だけを指す訳ではない。過去、未来、地獄、天界等、様々な世界に迷い込む事を指す。何故その様な事が起こるのかを、八意様は昔、次のように説明した。

This phenomenon is called spiriting away on Earth. However, this doesn't just refer to things finding their way to the moon. It also refers to things getting lost in the past, the future, Heaven, Hell, and various other places. Long ago, Lady Yagokoro explained to us why this happens.

〝量子的に物事を見た場合、起こり得る事象は必ず起こります。何故なら量子の世界では確率的に事象が決まるのに、その情報を完全に捉える事が出来ないからです。結果を求められない確率で起こる事象とは、如何なる低い確率であろうと0ではない限り存在する事象なのです。この世は量子から出来ている以上、地上から月に生き物が偶然紛れ込むなんて珍しい事ではありません。それに私達だってそうやって地上から月に移り住んだのですから〟

"From a quantum point of view, possible events will absolutely always happen. This is because in the quantum world, everything is decided by probability, but it's impossible to capture that probability with exact precision. As long as an unrealized event has a non-zero probability, no matter how low it is, it will occur at some point. Since the universe is built on quantum phenomena, it's not all that unusual that living things from Earth should find their way to the moon. After all, that's how even we came to live on the moon."

私はいち早く八意様の押絵を理解し、今では地上と月を結びつけ、自由に行き来できる数少ない能力者である。

Right away I understood Lady Yagokoro's lesson, and now I am one of the very few who have ever had the ability to bind together Earth and the moon, who have the power to go back and forth between them at will.

月の民は昔から世界が可能性で出来ている事、どんな事でも起こりえる事に気付いていた。だからこそ、地上から月に移動する事が出来たのだ。余談になるが現在の地上の人間の科学力の発展は目覚ましく、数十年前からミクロの世界は可能性で出来ている事に気付いているという。その事実は月夜見様を驚愕させた。何故なら月の民が一番恐れている事は、地上の人間が月に来る事だからである。今のところ、表の月に原始的なロケットを飛ばす程度で済んでいるが、油断は出来ないだろう。

The Lunarians had long ago realized that our world is built on probabilities, that absolutely anything can happen. That was what enabled them to move from the Earth to the moon in the first place. Digressing somewhat, the human scientific community on Earth awakened to the fact that the microscopic world is built on potential some decades ago. This development shocked Lord Tsukuyomi. This is because the one thing the Lunarians fear the most is that the humans from Earth will find a way to get to the lunar capital. For now, all that's happened is the launch of a primitive rocket to the side of the moon closest to them, but we can't afford to be careless.

「千五百年以上前? 地上の人間が現われた事? 亀に乗ってって、えーと……」

"Over 1500 years ago? A human from Earth suddenly appeared? And riding a turtle..."

「大分昔の話だからね。水江浦嶋子(みずえのうらのしまこ)がうちに来たのも、お師匠様が地上に降りるよりずっと昔……」

"Well, it was quite a while ago. The time when Mizue no Uranoshimako came to the moon, much further back than when our master went to Earth..."

それはもう千五百年以上は昔の話であるが、水江浦嶋子と名乗る人物が水に映った青い星から出てきた事があった。

Over 1500 years ago, a human by the name Mizue no Uranoshimako appeared from the blue planet reflected in the ocean.

神隠しにあった大抵の人間はすぐにパニック状態になり、自分の理解出来る世界に帰りたがるものである。だから見つけ次第私の力ですぐに帰してやる事にしていた。

Most human victims of spiritings-away go straight into a state of panic, and seem to want to return to the world they knew. So, as soon as I find them, I typically use my power to send them back.

だが、彼は違った。栄華を極めた月の都を見るなり地上に帰る事も忘れ、もう少しここに居たいと言い始めたのだ。彼はもしかしたら頭が少し弱かったのかも知れない。ただ私も地上の人間に興味があったので、八意様には内緒でうちの屋敷に匿う事になった。

However, he was different. As soon as he regained his senses and saw the lunar capital he forgot about returning to Earth, and began to say he wanted to stay here a little longer. Maybe he was a little slow. But, since I was interested in the people of Earth as well, I let him stay in our mansion for a while, keeping it a secret from Lady Yagokoro.

彼の話はこうだった。彼の仕事は漁であった。いつものように漁に出かけていると、背中が五色に彩られた不思議な亀が泳いでいるのを見つけた。余りにも珍しく美しかったので、どうしてもそれを捕まえたいと思い舟で後を追った。陸が見えないくらい沖に出た辺りで、海に飛び込みようやく捕まえた。

This was the story of Urashimako. He was a fisherman, and one day as he was setting out as usual he saw a strange turtle with a shell dazzling in five colors. Since it was so unusual and beautiful, he decided to make it his by any means and set his boat in pursuit of it.

しかし、近くにあったはずの自分の舟が何故か見あたらず、途方に暮れて亀の背中に捕まって彷徨っていたのだと言う。その為、いつの間にか自分の居た世界と異なる世界に紛れ込んでいる事に気付いていなかった様子で、ようやく辿り着いた月の都を海の向こうの国だと勘違いしていた。海の向こうの国——実際は月の都だったのだが、それが蓬莱国だと思い込んでいたのだ。

He followed it out to sea so far that he couldn't even see the shore, and eventually dove into the sea and caught it, but his boat, which should have been nearby, had suddenly disappeared, so he simply clung to the back of the turtle and let it lead him in its wanderings, with no destination in mind. And so, without realizing he had slipped out of his own world and into a totally different world, he finally arrived at the lunar capital, mistaking it for the country across the ocean. The land across the ocean was, of course, the lunar capital, but he believed it was the land of Hourai.

私はそれは違うと訂正した。〝お前が今居る場所は蓬莱国などではなく海底に存在する『竜宮城』である〟と嘘を教えた。五色の亀は迷子になっていた私のペットであり、捜していたら貴方が背中に捕まっていた、という事にした。

I told him this wasn't the case, and fed him the lie that he wasn't in the land of Hourai, but at the Dragon King's Palace at the bottom of the sea. I said the five colored turtle was a lost pet of mine, and that when I'd gone looking for it, I'd found it with him clutching to its back.

嘘を教えたのは地上の人間が月の都への興味を持ち、権力者が月の都を目指す事を恐れたからだ。今思うとこの判断は間違っていたと思う。その間違いは後に八意様の手で修正される事となる。

I lied to him because of the interest Earth humans had in the lunar capital, and because I was afraid that someone powerful might find it. In retrospect, I believe that my judgment was wrong, and this mistake was corrected through the actions of Lady Yagokoro.

浦嶋子は歌って踊る兎達の楽しげな日常を見て、ひどく感動していた。海底はこんなに楽しいものなのかと感心するばかりだった。

When Urashimako saw the amazing sight of the lunar rabbits singing and dancing, he was incredibly moved. He was amazed that the bottom of the ocean was such an enjoyable place.

月の都は昼間でも太陽と共に星が見えるのだが、彼はその空を見て疑問に思っていた。〝何故、海底の空はこんなに星が見えるのか?〟と訊かれたので、それは星ではなく、魚達が毎日躍っている姿なのだと教えた。ここは魚の姿も点に見える程、深い海底なのかとまた感動していた。

The stars are visible along with the sun during the day from the lunar capital, so he became doubtful when he first looked at the sky. "Why are there so many stars in the sky on the bottom of the ocean?", he asked, so I told him they weren't stars, but the shimmering forms of fish dancing in the ocean. He was impressed that we were so far beneath the sea that even the fish looked like little dots.

そうして、勘違いしたまま浦嶋子は三年ほど月の都で暮らしたのだ。地上の人間でそこまで長く月の都に滞在した者は少ない。だから私はよく覚えていたのだが、依姫にとってはそんなに重要な記憶ではなかったみたいだ。

And so, Urashimako spent three years in the lunar capital under these false impressions. It was truly unusual for someone from Earth to spend so much time in the capital. That's why I remembered it so clearly, but it seems Yorihime doesn't have as strong an impression of that time.

「水江浦嶋子? ああ、確かにそんな人間も居たわね。確か、釣り好きな彼もめでたく神になったんでしたっけ?」

"Mizue no Uranoshimako? Ah, yes, I remember such a human. He loved fishing, and eventually became quite a splendid god, didn't he?"

彼は三年経って、ようやく家が恋しくなったと言い始めたのだ。普通の人間なら数時間で思いそうな感情を覚えるまで随分と時間がかかったものだ。

After three years had passed, he began to speak of a yearning for home. Most humans would be a little homesick after a few hours, but it took quite a bit of time for him to feel that way.

「そうよ。その人間よ。今では彼は筒川(つつかわ)大明神だわ、一介の平凡な漁師が出世したものね」

"That's right. That human. He's the Tsutsugawa deity now. Not a bad place for a simple fisherman to end up."

一度帰りたいと言い始めたら、もう何を見ても感動しなくなった。帰りたいと駄々を捏ねるだけであった。

As soon as he began to say he wanted to go home, nothing here could move him anymore. All he ever did was complain about how much he wanted to go home.

私としても帰りたいと言う人間を帰さない理由は無い。そもそも黙って月の都に穢れのある人間を入れていたのだから、ばれる前に帰した方が良い。

I had no reason to keep a human here who wanted to go back to Earth. Since I'd kept an impure human here for so long in secret, it was better to send him back before I was found out.

だが一つ気がかりな事があった、彼を地上に帰して三年間も何処に行っていたのかを問われれば、彼はここで過ごした経験を語るだろう。そうすれば竜宮城——月の都に興味を持つ者が出てくるかもしれない。それは月の都のピンチを招きかねないのでは無いか。

However, there was one thing I worried about: if someone asked him where he'd been for the past three years, he'd surely speak of everything he'd seen here. That might make people interested in the Dragon King's Palace, in the lunar capital. This would be a problem for the capital.

私は八意様に全てを打ち明け、そしてどうすればよいのかを相談した。意外にも八意様は人間を匿っていた事に関しては何も怒りはしなかった。

I confessed everything to Lady Yagokoro, and consulted with her on what the best course of action would be. To my surprise, Lady Yagokoro wasn't at all angry that I'd kept a human here for so long.

八意様は即断で〝そのような人間は亡き者にするのが一番です。海に出てから三年も姿が見えなければ、地上では死んだ者として扱われてるでしょう。大体、地上から来た生き物を興味半分で匿うからその様な事態に陥ってしまうのですが……〟と言った。

Lady Yagokoro's advice was: "It's best to make someone like that a dead man. People on Earth would treat someone who went out to sea three years ago and hasn't been seen since as dead. Well, this is generally what you'd expect to happen if you halfheartedly hide some living thing that's come here from Earth for so long..."

「そうそう、筒川大明神ね。あんな欲深き凡庸な人間を神として祀っているなんて、私達から見たら滑稽ですけどね」

"Yes, yes, the great Tsutsugawa deity. Though, it seems laughable to us that such a greedy fisherman could be revered as a god."

「八意様は即断で殺せって仰ってたけど、流石にそれは可哀相だしねぇ」

"Lady Yagokoro advised us to kill him right away, but we felt too sorry for him to carry it out."

私は流石に自分が匿った所為という事もあり、とても殺す気にはなれなかった。妹も同様であり、やはり殺す気にはなれなかった。

Of course, the fact that I'd looked after him so long made it difficult to kill him. My sister was the same, so she didn't want to kill him, either.

仕方が無くそれ以外の良い方法は無いのですかと訊いてみた。そうすると八意様は微笑んで〝勿論ありますよ、貴方達は優しいのね〟と言って、別の案から最善なものを教えてくれた。

That being the case, we asked if there were any other way to deal with this situation. Lady Yagokoro smiled and said, "Of course, you're both too kind for that," and suggested a different, truly excellent plan.

別の案とは、『水江浦嶋子を覚えている人間が存在しない時代に送り返す』という物である。つまり、竜宮城と地上では時間の流れが百倍近く違うという事にし、三百年後の地上へ送り返すという物だった。

The alternative was to send him to an era where nobody remembered who Mizue no Uranoshimako was. In other words, to create a time difference between the Dragon King's Palace and Earth of a factor of almost a hundred, and return him to a time three hundred years after he left.

当時の私達は何故その案が最善なのかはよく判っていなかった。自分の事を知っている人間が誰も居ない世界に送り返されたら、人間は途方に暮れるだろうし、竜宮城の事を皆に言いふらす事には変わりないのではないか。だが、八意様は間違った事を言わないのである。私達は絶対の信頼を置いていた。だからその案を採用する事にした。

At the time, we didn't understand why that solution was best. If we sent a human back to a world where he didn't know anybody, he'd just be confused, and he'd still tell everyone about the Dragon King's Palace. However, Lady Yagokoro was never wrong. We placed our absolute trust in her. So, we took her advice.

三百年後の地上に送り返す為には、まず彼を人工冬眠(コールドスリープ)させる必要があった。私達は千五百年以上前の当時の最先端の医療技術であった人工冬眠を施し、そのまま三百年ほど眠らせた後に地上に帰す事にした。まさか三百年後になる前に、八意様との突然の別れがあるとは思っていなかったのだが……。

To send him back to a world three hundred years after the time he left, we decided to place him into cryogenic storage, which was cutting-edge technology at the time, and return him to the Earth after he'd slept for nearly three hundred years. Of course, we hadn't suspected that our sudden parting with Lady Yagokoro awaited us less than three hundred years away...

「それで、何故御姉さまはその話を今?」

"But why are you bringing that up now?"

「今、地上から同じ様に人間が紛れ込んできたら、私達はどういう行動を取ればいいのかなと思って」

"I was wondering what we should do if someone comes like that from Earth again."

かくして水江浦嶋子は、五色の亀に連れられて月の都に紛れ込んでから三年程楽しんだ後、三百年後の地上の世界に戻る事になった。

Thus, Mizue no Uranoshimako was brought to the lunar capital on the back of a five-colored turtle, and spent three wonderful years there before being returned to an Earth where three hundred years had passed.

彼は砂浜に着いたときから何か違和感を感じていた。白い砂、松の木、青い空、漁をしていた頃と何一つ変わらぬ筈なのに、海風に違和感を覚えた。不安になった浦嶋子は自分の家に戻ったが、家があるはずの場所には何もなく草が生えていた。さらに知人の家を訪ねても、そこに住んでいる者には見覚えはなく、それどころか村の誰一人、浦嶋子の事を知っている人は居なかった。彼は余りの絶望に悲嘆した。

Something felt wrong as soon as he reached the sandy beach. The white sand, the pine trees, the blue sky; even though nothing at all should have changed since the day he set out fishing, he felt unease on the sea air. The anxious Urashimako returned to his house, but where his house should have been there was an empty expanse of grass. Even when he went to his friends' houses, the people living there had no recollection of him, and not a single person in the village knew who he was. He fell into deep despair.

「今なら……すぐに追い返すか殺すと思います。あの頃ほど私達は愚かでは無いですから」

"Now... I think we should send them back right away or kill them. We're not as foolish now as we were then."

「千五百年前のあの頃ほど優しくない……と?」

"Or we are not as kind as we were fifteen hundred years ago...?"

物語はそこで終わらない。

The story doesn't end there.

八意様は地上にお隠れになる前に、浦嶋子に手土産として玉匣(たまくしげ)(*注)を渡せと言っていたのだ。さらに彼には〝この玉匣は地上での生活に困ったら開けなさい、しかし再び竜宮城に来たいのであれば決して開けてはいけません〟と伝えろと言われていた。

It's said that before Lady Yagokoro went into hiding on the Earth, she sent Urashimako a tamakushige (*2) as a gift. It's also said that she sent a message along with it. "If you ever become troubled by your new life on Earth, open this box. However, if you ever want to return to the Dragon King's Palace, you must absolutely never open it."

あの玉匣には何が入っていたのだろうか。八意様の居ない今となっては、確かめる手段も中身を再現する事も出来ない。

I wonder what exactly was in that. Now that Lady Yagokoro is no longer here, there's no way to find out or to reproduce it.

どうやら浦嶋子は地上に降りてからすぐに玉匣を開けてしまったようだ。自分を覚えている人が誰も居ない世界に余程絶望したのだろう。泣き叫びながら玉匣を開けた。しかし不幸はまだ終わらなかった。玉匣を開けた彼の肉体はみるみる間に若さを失い、そこに歩くもままならない老体が残された。その玉匣は肉体を老いさせる何かが詰まっていたのだ。

In any case, it seems that almost as soon as he returned to Earth, Urashimako opened it. It was probably too depressing to continue living in a world where nobody remembered him. With a loud cry, he opened it. However, his misfortune did not end there. In an instant, all his body lost all of its youth, and he quickly aged to the point where he could no longer even walk. Something had been sealed inside that hastened his aging.

しかし老人となった事が幸いした。三百年前の話を知っている老人は、村では生き神様の様な扱いを受ける様になった。彼の不思議な話は神の世界の話と信じられ村では伝説となった。当時の人間には彼ほど老いるまで生きられる事は少なく、また文字も読めなかった為、話が出来る老人はもて囃されたのだ。浦嶋子が若い姿のままだったら、ただの与太話だと思われただろう。

But this sudden aging was a blessing in disguise. This old man who knew about things that happened three hundred years ago was treated as a living god. His strange tale was believed to be a tale from the world of the gods, and became a legend in the village. Few people in that age lived to be as old as he was, and he couldn't read the script of the time but could still converse with others. If Urashimako had appeared to be young, his story would probably have remained idle gossip.

さらに浦嶋子の伝説は時の天皇、淳和(じゅんな)天皇の耳まで届いたのだ。淳和天皇は浦嶋子の竜宮城の話を聞き、それこそが常世の国——蓬莱国であると予想し、非常に関心を持った。蓬莱国は不老不死の国であり、当時の権力者は誰しもが競うように探していた。ただ、伝説は既に陳腐化し始め蓬莱国の存在は疑われ始めていたから、浦嶋子の伝説は天皇を大いに喜ばせたのだ。

At length, Urashimako's story reached the ears of the then-current emperor, Jun'na. Emperor Jun'na listened to Urashimako's tale of the Dragon King's Palace, and he believed that he had found the fabled land of eternity across the sea, the land of Hourai, so he took great interest in the man. The land of Hourai was the land of eternal youth, so all of the authority figures of the age were searching desperately for it. By then, the legend had become somewhat cliched, and people began to doubt the existence of the land of Hourai, so hearing the legend of Urashimako pleased the emperor greatly.

淳和天皇の予想は的を射ていたが時は既に遅かった。浦嶋子は一歩も動けぬ程老いており、天皇の遣いが到着してまもなく息を引き取ったのだ。

Emperor Jun'na set about his plans immediately, but it was already too late. Urashimako was so old he couldn't take a single step, and by the time the Emperor's men found him, he had already breathed his last.

天皇は水江浦嶋子に蓬莱国から帰還した数少ない人間という威徳を認め、彼の為に神社を造らせ、さらに彼に筒川大明神という神号を送った。

The emperor recognized Mizue Urashimako as one of the few men to have ever gone to the land of Hourai and returned, erecting a temple in his honor and bestowing upon him the Tsutsugawa divinity.

偶然神隠しにあった水江浦嶋子。彼は神様の仲間入りを果たし、それと同時に蓬莱国——月の都信仰も確固たるものとし、地上の権力者に蓬莱の民の威厳を知らしめたのである。

Mizue no Uranoshimako, a man who had been spirited away by chance. He was entered into the ranks of the gods, and by doing so strengthened people's faith in the land of Hourai, in the lunar capital, and made all of the era's authority figures aware of the majesty of its people.

お師匠様にはこうなる未来が見えていたのだろうか。愚かな疑問である、当然見えていたのだろう。でなければ、三百年余り眠らせた人工冬眠も老いてしまう玉匣も、ただの戯れとなってしまう。お師匠様は厳しそうに見えて、一番優しかったのである。

I wonder if our master knew that this would happen. No, that's a foolish question, of course she knew. If she hadn't, then having him put into cryogenic storage for three hundred years and preparing the tamakushige that would age him was just idle play. Our master may have seemed the harshest one of us at first, but she was in fact the kindest.

「今では、何百年も時を超えて未来の世界に行く事を『ウラシマ効果』と呼ぶらしいですわ」

"Now, it seems that traveling hundreds of years into the future is called the Urashima Effect."

「神様となり、その上に未だに名前が残っているのであれば彼も幸せでしょう。ねぇ依姫、私達にそこまで先の未来を見通す事が出来るかしら? もうすぐ地上から何者かが現われるかも知れないと言うのに……」

"He's become a god, and his name is left to history. I'm sure it's made him happy. Hey, Yorihime, I wonder if we can predict what will happen so far in advance? It would be nice, since it seems like someone may come from the Earth..."

私達共通の思い出話を楽しんでいた依姫だったが、少し険しい顔をした。

We enjoyed reminiscing, but suddenly Yorihime made a grim face.

「私達は八意様が居なくなってから様々な事を学びました」

"We've learned quite a few things since Lady Yagokoro left us."

依姫は海の方を見て言葉を続けた。

Yorihime looked out across the sea and continued.

「学んだ事は、私達にはそこまで深い考えを持つ事は出来ない。思慮の浅い優しさは人間も月の民も不幸にすると」

"We've learned that it's impossible for us to have such a deep comprehension of the future. That careless kindness can be problematic, both for humans and Lunarians..."

私は少々強張った依姫の肩に手を掛けた。

I placed a hand on Yorihime's tense shoulder.

「ならば、もうすぐ来るであろう人間が攻めてきた時、私達は追い返す事に専念すれば良いのです」

"In that case, when the invaders from the Earth come, we'll have to do our best to repel them right away."

「お姉様……八意様みたいな言い方するのですね」

"My sister... that sounds like something Lady Yagokoro would say."

「私の方が年上ですからね」

"That's because I'm the older one."

「って、これだけ永く生きていれば大差ないでしょうに」

"...But we've lived so long that a difference like that is insignificant."

「いいえ。年の差は何年、何千年経っても決して変化する事のない事実なのです」

"No. No matter how many thousands of years pass, that's something that will never change."

「つまり、お姉様の方が先に隠居するって事ですね。八意様みたいに」

"Hm, that means that you'll retire first, doesn't it? Just like Lady Yagokoro."

依姫は少し笑顔になった。私はそれを見て肩から手を離し「ところで、兎達の稽古は万全かしら?」と聞いた。依姫は溜め息を吐いて答えた。

Yorihime smiled a bit. Seeing that, I lifted my hand from her shoulder and asked, "By the way, have the rabbits perfected their drills?" Yorihime sighed and responded.

「ああ、ええ。皆、頑張って居るんですけどね、いかんせん人手不足で……。そういえば新しく入ったレイセンを重点的に稽古付けてるのですが……筋はイマイチです」

"Ah, I suppose so. They're all doing their best, but I'm afraid we're a bit understaffed... I think I've been spending most of my time training our new recruit, Rei'sen, but she just isn't very strong."

「でしょうねぇ。餅搗き担当の兎なんて歌好きでいい加減でとろい奴が多いから。あんまり戦闘向きじゃ無いかもね」

Yorihime sighed, and smiled a bit. I let go of her shoulder when I noticed this. "I bet. A lot of the rabbits assigned to pounding mochi are a pretty dull lot that just love singing. They're probably not worth much on the battlefield."

「昔のレイセンの方が才能有ったのだけど……今は何処で何をしてるのか」

"The old Reisen had some talent... I wonder where she is now?"

月の使者担当は月の兎の中でも比較的規律が厳しく、肉体労働で楽ではない。だから逃げ出す兎も少なくないのだ。レイセンとは先の戦争が始まる前に逃げ出した兎である。

The rabbits assigned to be lunar emissaries have relatively strict regulations, and it involves no small amount of physical training. So, it's not that unusual for rabbits to run away. Reisen was a rabbit who'd done just that before the start of the last war.

レイセンは能力的には高かった。簡単に姿を消し、人の心を乱す事が出来た。だが、性格は臆病で自分勝手であった。その性格は戦闘時は致命的であると予想は出来たが、矯正は出来なかった。結果、協調性は低く、実践の前に任務を放棄し地上に逃げてしまったのだ。

Reisen was exceptionally talented. She could hide easily and disturb the minds of others. However, she was also somewhat cowardly and self-centered. Obviously, these were potentially fatal traits for a soldier, but we couldn't correct them. As a result, she was uncooperative, and before the time for battle came, she abandoned her duties and fled to Earth.

レイセンを探し出し月に連れ戻す事も私達の仕事ではあるのだが、アレから四十年以上経ってしまい時効とするしか他に無かった。レイセンは地上で人間に捉えられ鍋にされたか、穢れにまみれて月に連れ戻すには適さないと判断した。

It was our job to search for Reisen and bring her back to the moon, but over forty years had passed since then, and there was no point in pursuing the matter further. We decided she'd probably been made into some human's stew, or had been tainted by the Earth's impurity and could no longer be admitted back into the lunar capital.

「今のレイセンはセンスも良くないし、少し鈍くさいので心配です」

"I'm worried about the new Rei'sen. She doesn't seem to have much sense, and seems a bit dull."

今から三ヶ月程前だろうか、私達の元に傷ついた兎がやってきたのだ。

It was about three months earlier that this rabbit had come to us in a wounded condition.

その兎は餅搗きが嫌で地上に逃げたのだが、そこで八意様から手紙を託され、再び月に戻ってきたのだと言った。八意様捜索を打ち切ってから既に数百年は経っていたのだから、まさか八意様の方から連絡があるとは思っていなかった。

She said she had tired of pounding mochi and fled to Earth, but Lady Yagokoro entrusted a letter to her there, so she came back to the moon. It had been several hundred years since we'd ceased the investigation into her whereabouts, so we hadn't thought that she would reach out to contact us.

手紙の内容は月の都を守る為のものだった。〝もはや月の都には戻る事が出来ないし、こうして連絡を取る事も私達に迷惑を掛ける事になるので余り本意ではないが、地上の者で何やら良からぬ事を企んでいる輩がいるという事をどうしても伝えたかった。直接連絡を取るのは危険だと思ったので、偶然居合わせた玉兎を利用した事は許して欲しい〟との事だった。

The contents of her letter told how to protect the lunar capital. "I can't return to the lunar capital anymore, and I don't intend to cause trouble by contacting you in this manner, but I had to do something to tell you that somebody on Earth is plotting something untoward against the moon. Since I thought it would be too dangerous to contact you directly, I hope you'll forgive me for using this moon rabbit I happened to meet."

手紙を持ってきた兎は私の屋敷で匿う事にした。餅搗きに嫌気がさして地上に逃げたのだからその罪は小さくない。だが、八意様の手紙を持ってきたという功績もあるし、何より兎が可哀相な気がしたのでレイセンと名付け匿ったのだ。

We let the rabbit who'd come with the letter stay in our mansion. The crime of escaping to the Earth to avoid pounding mochi was not a small one. However, she'd done the service of bringing Lady Yagokoro's letter to us, and I felt sorry for her, so we gave her the name Rei'sen and let her stay with us.

「それに今のレイセンも、一度地上に逃げた経歴も持つからねぇ。また逃げ出さないとも言い切れない」

"Plus, our current Rei'sen has already fled to Earth once. We can't say for sure that she won't try to run away again."

「八意様の手紙通りならば、近いうちに地上から攻めてくる者がいる筈というのに、大丈夫かしら?」依姫は私の方を向いてそう言った。

"If everything happens as Lady Yagokoro has written, the invaders from Earth should be coming soon, but I'm still unsure about the situation." Yorihime said, turning to face me.

「今度は、兎には頼らない方が良さそうね。依姫、貴方が自ら戦えば良いのです」

"It's best not to rely too much on the rabbits this time. Yorihime, when the time comes to fight, you should fight personally."

「え、ええ。敵の数にもよりますが……」

"V-very well. Of course, it depends on how many come..."

「大丈夫。貴方には数多くの神様が味方してるんだもの」

"It'll be fine. After all, you have many gods on your side."

——私達の会話は中断を余儀なくされた。

An unexpected emergency interrupted our conversation.

静かの海の向こうから何者かが飛来してきたからだ。

Something had flown from the other side of the Sea of Tranquility.

静かの海は月の都の正反対に位置し、この辺は月の民や兎達も余り訪れる事は無い。

The Sea of Tranquility was on the other side of the moon from the lunar capital, so the citizens of the capital and the moon rabbits seldom visited it.

飛来してくる者を注意深く観察した。小さな黒い塊——どうやらそれは鴉の様だ。

With great caution I observed the being that was flying towards us. It was a small black mass - apparently in the form of a crow.

「鴉……?」

"A crow...?"

「お姉様。鴉は太陽の化身です。月夜見様のお姉様の使いかも知れませんよ」

"My sister, a crow is the avatar of the sun. It may be a familiar of Lord Tsukuyomi's sister."

「……いや、あれは違う。憎しみを持った血、欲深き好奇の目、穢れた羽を感じる」

"...No, it's not. I can feel the avarice in its blood, the greed in its eyes, the impurity in its wings."

あの鴉が太陽の化身ならば、その足は三本で瞳は赤でなければいけない!

If that crow was an avatar of the sun, it would have three feet and red eyes!

「あれは——地上の鴉です」

"That is... a crow from Earth."

鴉には私達の姿が見えていないのか、一心不乱に飛んでいた。それどころか動物が持っているという帰巣本能などの超感覚が働いていないらしく、ただただ真っ直ぐ飛んでいるようである。やがて私達の頭上を越して飛んでいった。

The crow didn't seem to be able to see us, but it flew doggedly on. In fact, it seemed to be driven not by any sort of homing instinct, but simply flew straight ahead, never wavering in its path. Eventually it flew right over our heads.

「地上の鴉……やはりこれも神隠しなのでしょうか?」

"An Earth crow... Perhaps this is another spiriting away?"

「もうすぐ攻めて来るであろう敵と何か関係があるのかも知れない、後を追いましょう!」

"It may be related somehow to the invaders that will come from Earth, so let's follow it!"

鴉は時折方向転換をするだけでまっすぐ飛び続けた。

The crow flew straight on, occasionally making minor course corrections.

「何か妙ね……地上の鶏が迷い込む事は滅多にないし、それに飛び方が機械的すぎる」

"Something is odd... Birds from Earth hardly ever appear here, and its flight seems too... mechanical."

鴉は晴れの海を越え、雨の海を越え、嵐の大洋へと飛び続けた。

The crow crossed over the Sea of Serenity and the Sea of Rains and flew on towards the Ocean of Storms.

「やはり、あの鴉は何か目的があって地上から裏側の月にやって来ている!」

"I knew it, that crow flew from Earth to reach the far side of the moon, looking for something!"

それは、鴉が事故でやってきたのではなく誰かが仕向けた刺客って可能性があるという事だ。

That is, it was likely that the crow hadn't come here by accident, but someone had sent it here.

月の都は裏側の月に存在し、さらに結界を張りその姿は隠されている。人間が攻めてこようと、その結界を破れない限り月の都には入れないのだ。その結界の内側に飛び込む為には決められたルートで都を目指す必要があるのだが、何故か鴉は見えない筈の海の道を辿っていた。まるで式神(コンピュータ)の様な正確さであった。

The lunar capital is on the far side of the moon, protected by a barrier that hides its existence. As long as that barrier is in place, a human could never reach it. To make its way into that barrier, the crow would have to fly along a predetermined route, but somehow it was following the sea road that should have been invisible to it. With almost computer-like accuracy, like a shikigami.

鴉はスピードを一切落とさずに嵐の大洋を越えた。このまま行くと月の都の結界を破りそうである。

The crow crossed over the Oceanus Procellarum without dropping its speed. At this rate, it looked like it would cross through the barrier surrounding the capital.

「お姉様。このまま行くと月の都に辿り着いてしまいそうよ!」

"My sister. If it continues any further, I believe it will reach the capital!"

「あの鴉は相当穢れを持っています。入れさせる訳にはいきません」

"That crow has a great deal of impurity. We can't allow it to do that."

妹に鴉の追跡を任せ、私は先回りをし鴉の行き先を操作する事にした。月の都に辿り着く為の最後の海に罠を仕掛ける為だ。

Leaving the crow's pursuit to my sister, I went on ahead to manipulate what was at the crow's destination to lay a trap over the final sea between it and the capital.

海の上で暫く待っていると鴉は生物と思えない程、私の頭上に正確に飛んできた。

After pausing to hover over the sea in a completely unnatural fashion, the crow flew directly over my head.

穢土(えど)に生まれ、悪心に操られし穢身(えしん)、お前の浄土はここではない!」

"Born in the land of impurity, you impure being controlled in malice, your pure land is not here!"

私が両手を広げると足下の海が次第に水分を失い、乾いた大地が姿を現し始めた。

As I spread my hands, the sea beneath my feet immediately began to drain its water, and the parched earth beneath it began to show through.

草木の生えていない荒涼とした山、人間の月面探査の残骸、黒い空。そして空気の無い世界。

A barren mountain devoid of grass or trees, the remnants of machines from the humans' lunar expeditions, a black sky. And, a world without any air.

荒涼とした表の月——これこそ地上の追い求めた月の姿である。何と醜い、寂しい世界なのだろう。

The desolate near side of the moon. This is the lunar world that the humans discovered. It is an exceedingly cruel, lonely world.

大気と重力を失った鴉は、飛ぶ力を失い回転しながらゆっくり墜落し、口から泡を吹いた。そしてまもなく息絶えた。呼吸が出来ずに窒息死したのだ。

Having suddenly lost its atmosphere and gravity, the crow spiraled slowly towards the ground, foaming at the mouth. Before long, it expired. Unable to breathe, it asphyxiated.

私は海と山を繋ぐ事が出来る。表の月と裏の月を結ぶ事も出来る数少ない者の一人である。

I have the power to connect mountains and seas. I am also the only person with the power to connect the near and far sides of the moon.

鴉が完全に動かなくなった事を確認すると、再び海は水を湛え、豊かな大地が姿を現した。

Once I'd confirmed that the crow was no longer moving, the sea was filled again with water, and our plentiful land came into view once more.

「お姉様! 鴉はどうなりましたか?」

"My sister! What happened to the crow?"

「完全に息絶えたわ。この鴉は誰かの意思で月に送られ、確実に月の都を目指していた、これが判った今、殺す事が最善だった筈です」

"It's dead. This crow was sent to the moon by someone; it was definitely heading toward the lunar capital, and knowing that now, clearly it was best to kill it."

「……ええ。それが最善で間違いないです」

" ...Yes. That was certainly for the best."

「この鴉の死骸は、少し調べる必要がありそうですね。依姫、何か調べておいてくれないかしら?」

"I believe we'll need to study this crow's corpse a bit. Yorihime, would you look into that for me?"

「私は兎達の訓練で忙しいのです。お姉様はやる事が無くて暇なんじゃ無いですか?」

"I'm already quite busy attending to the rabbits' training. Don't you have quite a bit of free time yourself, my sister?

「う」

"Uh."

私は暇が大好きなのに。

And I do love my free time so.

「大体、お姉様は緊張感が足りないのですよ。いっつも桃を食べたり海に行ったり、たまに稽古に顔を出したかと思えば兎達と一緒に雑談したりして……」

"You have no sense of urgency, my dear sister. You're always eating peaches and going to the ocean, and if you ever do show up to training sessions you're only engaging the rabbits in idle chatter..."

調べ事は私の得意分野ではないのだけど。まぁ、戦闘も戦術指南も調べ事も普段はみんな妹任せだから、一つぐらいは私も何かしないといけないかと自分を言い聞かせた。

But investigating isn't my specialty. Well, I usually leave war, battle instruction and investigation to my sister, so I told myself I really ought to contribute something once in a while.

「あーあ、判りました判りました。私が調べておきますよ」

"All right, I understand. I'll handle the examination."

私達は軽く笑った。その笑いには若干の緊張が含まれていた。

We smiled to lighten to mood, but there was tension in our smiles.

pg.53 *注 しかるべき地位に付いている人物についてその資格が疑われる事

  • 1 - The literal phrase is "Doubting the weight of the kettle."

pg.64 *注 豪華な化粧箱、玉手箱

  • 2 - A splendid treasure box
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