“Edgelands”（さいはての地 ), a short story by Haruka Asahi (朝陽遥) is part of a fantasy/adventure series, which includes “Rainlands“, of which a translation is published at SelfTaughtJapanese.com. I have the author’s permission to publish the translation of this two-part story. This is the first half of the second part. The beginning of the story is posted here. I would like to thank Locksleyu from SelfTaughtJapanese.com for help with translation checking and proofreading.
They call this place Edgetown—a small mountain village overlooking a vast, blazing wasteland. They say that no one can survive beyond this point, but young Noi can see the faint outline of a mountain in the distance.
Does anyone really know what is on the other side, or is it just that no one has ever dared the perilous journey?
Noi, refusing to accept baseless rumors, waits for nightfall to begin his journey…
“Edgelands”, set in the same universe as “Rainlands”, is a testament to the yearning of a human soul.
Edgelands (Part II a)
I wonder what’s on the other side of the wasteland.
Noi thought he could hear his brother’s voice; he opened his eyes.
It was dark. Even after blinking several times, his eyes still wouldn’t adjust to the darkness.
Had that voice been a dream?
There was a damp smell—maybe dirt or mold. The floor under his body was apparently some kind of flat rock. Upon that, a thin blanket he didn’t recognize was wrapping his body.
Not knowing where he was, Noi sat up and rubbed his eyes several times.
He could still see the afterimage of the dawn’s vivid light from moments before. Did he pass out from exhaustion, there at the foot of the mountain on the edge of the wasteland?
“So you’re awake, huh?”
Noi jumped up at the unexpected voice.
“Relax. It’s me.”
The voice, with a hint of sarcasm, belonged to his uncle.
Eyes finally beginning to adjust to the darkness, Noi squinted and stared in the direction of the voice; he could just make out the outline of a person.
Noi found himself asking, “Why?” Then he realized his uncle was laughing softly in the back of his throat.
“Why do you think? I followed you here, of course. When your mother shook me awake my heart almost stopped. Are you trying to kill me?”
Even while scolding him, Noi’s uncle’s voice betrayed a hint of delight. “Goodness, I could see you the whole time, but you were moving so fast that even I couldn’t catch up with you.”
It seemed his uncle wasn’t as much shocked as he was intrigued.
The voice he heard in the wasteland must have been his uncle calling him. Noi squirmed in embarrassment.
On the way, he had looked back many times, but never once caught a glimpse of his uncle pursuing him. That said, his uncle clearly had no trouble keeping an eye on him. It seemed that the “Guiding Eye” really was extraordinary.
“I couldn’t bring Tika here…they’re originally cold-climate animals, so what can you do?”
Tika was the name of his uncle’s four-legged bird. As he complained, Noi’s uncle handed him a leather bag. He could hear the slosh of water inside.
“We can’t go back until the sun goes down anyway, so keep resting.”
Now that he mentioned it, Noi’s body ached from head to toe. Especially his feet, which were tingling now.
Finally, a wave of relief washed over Noi. He drank some water and laid back down as if collapsing. He shivered, body heat robbed by the cool stone.
If it had taken even a little longer for his family to discover his absence—or if his uncle happened to be buying salt outside the village at the time, he would truly be dead by now. With that thought, he finally began to feel afraid.
“Where is this place?”
Noi took in his surroundings. He couldn’t see much, but judging from his voice’s echo, it seemed he was in a rather large space.
“This is the cellar of a structure. We’re not far from where you passed out.”
Noi jumped up from the floor at his uncle’s words. He looked around, his eyes still struggling to adjust to the dark. The full extent of the space was concealed by darkness, yet from touching the flat floor, if he had to guess, it was clearly made by human hands.
“Just as I thought! Someone had lived here!” yelled Noi with excitement. Past the wasteland, the edge of the world, where everyone kept telling him no one could survive—someone lived here in the beyond.
It felt unreal—what Noi had believed all along had become a reality.
“Be quiet. It’ll cave in!”
Noi drew back not at what his uncle said as much as at his harsh tone, and he quickly shrunk back. He lowered his voice and said, “Then this place is—”.
“I guess someone must have lived here long, long ago.”
“Well, what about now?”
Noi sensed his uncle nodding through the darkness.
“It seems that no one has lived here for quite some time…if I hadn’t known about this place, the two of us would be corpses.”
Embarrassed, Noi apologized softly. Apparently finished with his lecture, his uncle could no longer suppress his laughter.
“By the way, what you did was crazy. Did the teasing really bother you that much?”
Offended, Noi grimaced, but in the dimly lit cellar, his uncle probably couldn’t see his face anyway.
Noi sulked in silence for a while, but thinking about his uncle’s words, he suddenly realized something that made him even angrier. His uncle said he had known about this place, which surely means he had come here before.
Noi asked him, and his uncle gave a simple nod.
“Well, I was a kid once too. Just like a certain someone.”
Judging from his voice, it was clear that, rather than picking on Noi, it was more like he was smiling to himself.
So how come no one else in the village knew about this place? When Noi asked this, his uncle lightly nodded. “Because I didn’t tell anyone.”
“Because they wouldn’t believe you if you did?”
“No, I just wanted to keep it a secret.”
His voice had a mischievous tone, at odds with Noi’s usual image of his uncle. This was the first time he had ever heard his well-respected uncle utter something so childish.
“It would have been fine to let you in on the secret. But I thought if I told you, you might go off and do something reckless. But hey, the result was the same regardless.”
Noi squirmed uncomfortably, then turned his back to his uncle and lied down on the floor again. The rock floor was surprisingly cold. The scorching heat of the world outside seemed like a dream.
“Go to sleep. Tonight we have to walk all through the night again.”
He obediently followed his uncle’s directions and closed his eyes; his heavy, exhausted body felt like it was being pulled to the bottom of the sea, as he drifted into a deep slumber.