* * *
To live is sadness.
To be alive is not.
-I am alive.-
When I met the traveler named Kino,
I was still living in the country of my birth.
I was eleven years old.
To be honest, I don’t remember what my name was back then.
I recall I was named for a flower,
Because if you changed around the pronunciation a little, it turned into a nasty insult,
And I used to get made fun of for it.
Prologue: To Do Something・B
-Life goes on・B-
“Welcome back, Kino,” said the old woman in front of the little cabin in the forest.
Before her was Kino, riding on Hermes. Kino turned off the engine, propped up Hermes on his side stand, and opened her coat.
“I was just about expecting you. Welcome home.”
Kino walked up to the old woman. “I’m home, Master.”
The evening sky was still glowing with the light of dusk. Night was spreading quickly in the east. Kino and the old woman stood side-by-side on the cabin terrace, looking up at the sky.
Some time passed in silence before Kino took off her hat and goggles.
“I see you’ve gotten a haircut,” said the old woman. Kino ran a hand through her slightly messy hair.
“Yes. I like it this way.”
“It suits you very much. I like it too.”
“Same,” Hermes said from below.
Kino reached for the holster on her right thigh and drew a persuader. She held it by the barrel and handed it to the old woman by the grip. “Thank you for lending it to me.”
The old woman gently received it and checked that it was fully loaded. “You’re welcome.” Then she stuck it on the left side of her own belt like it was the most natural thing in the world. “Did you do what you had to do?” she asked with a smile.
“Yes,” Kino said. “But…now what? What should I do now?”
The old woman replied, “That’s a question only you can answer.”
Still wearing her coat, still standing on the terrace, Kino fell into thought. Soon she looked up at the old woman.
“Master. I want to become strong, if I can.”
“Wonderful. I can teach you how. What do you say?”
“Yes, please. And also…”
“Please tell me about your travels. More about them, I mean.”
The old woman nodded again and again. “Of course. You do seem to love those stories of mine, Kino. Have I told you the one about the mountain country, where the leader ran away because he didn’t want to serve anymore?”
Kino shook her head.
“Well,” the old woman began, walking inside.
“Please tell me the story,” Kino said, following her in.
Hermes watched them in silence.
And once they had disappeared—
“Huh? Wait, take me with you!”