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The mole had dug a very deep trap hole; and inside Muoru had caught the
strange Crow, who looked like a child. Even though Crow had given him the
helmet, Muoru still tricked them into falling into the trap. He realized that
the deception went against his moral code, but he had no other choice.
There was no time.
How much time did Meria have left?
And how much more pain can her heart endure?
There wasn’t a tool in the whole world that could measure that, but even if
there were, it would probably be better not to use it.
And so this was the second time he was going to talk about the pain Meria
didn’t need to suffer.
“Okay then, why don’t we talk?” Crow asked.
Looking at the Crow he’d captured, Muoru launched his questions.
“Well then, first of all…I’d like you to tell me who you truly are. Was the mask
you showed me back when we first met, a fake?”
“No, it’s not a fake,” Crow said, looking up at Muoru with an innocent
expression and once again pulling out the mask from somewhere on their
“This is real. I got it from my “hunter” friends.”
“What? So, in other words, you’re saying that you’re not one of those
“Your intuition is sharper than any claw, Mole-kun.” Crow dropped the mask
and mocked Muoru the same way they usually did. Then Crow shrugged. “I
apologize for lying. I thought it would make things easier…but it’s a bit
difficult to explain my position.”
“It’s alright if it’s difficult. Just tell me, or I’ll bury you. I mean it!” Muoru
scooped up some dirt and held it over the hole.
It may have been a threat, but if Crow screwed around anymore he was
prepared to bury the lower half of their body.
Pouting, as if saying ‘give me a break’, Crow reluctantly spoke. ”Well
then…I’m a ‘representative from the victims’ a.s.sociation’ so to speak.”
Muoru shook the shovel and some clumps of dirt rained down into the center
of the hole.
“Hey, hey cut it out! I’m telling you the truth this time.”
“Well, you sound like you’re s.c.r.e.w.i.n.g around. But if not, tell me, what type of
suffering are you complaining about?”
“About the devils of course. Could there be anything else?”
“If you’re not joking about being a representative, then there ought to be
others,” Muoru said, intending Crow’s words to be just another joke.
“Yes, there are others. Ten of them,” Crow replied quickly with a thin smile.
“Why are you asking me about that anyway? You’ve already met them.”
“Are you talking about Meria?” Muoru asked right away. He couldn’t think of
anyone else it could be. “Is she also a member of your imaginary victims’
“She qualifies,” Crow answered. “But, she’s different…she’s not a member
“Why is that? Meria…”
There was no one who suffered at the hands of those monsters like the
undying grave keeper girl…and even if there were they’d been killed a long
time ago and were probably buried in a grave.
“Unfortunately our movements are limited to the day. Since that girl can’t
come out into the graveyard except at night, we’ve never met. But, I can’t say
I completely don’t know anything about her…” Crow was being vague and
speaking in a roundabout way.
Muoru wanted to probe further into what they meant, but before he could
ask another question –
“But I knew Maria well in the past. Definitely more than any other person
around these days,” Crow said something he couldn’t ignore.
…The person he didn’t know, the grave keeper who Meria said was like an
Why did that name come out of Crow’s mouth? I mean, Crow seems to know
the graveyard well, so it isn’t that strange that they would know it, but still…
Attempting to hide his discomposure, Muoru turned his gaze away from the
bobbed-haired person in the hole and sat down.
Then as he moved to sit on the ground cross-legged, he heard Crow say,
“Why do you think Maria died?”
He quickly turned around. Just a second ago, no, just a moment before, Crow
had been in the hole. But now they were standing to his side, their voice
sounding like they were close enough to rest their chin on his shoulder.
How did you do that?
“Grave keepers shouldn’t die. So then, how did Maria die?”
“She probably burned up in the sun.”
“What, she told you that?” Crow seemingly surprised, blinked at the response
that flew out of Muoru’s mouth. ”Yeah, it’s just as you said. Well, it’s not like
she roasted like a sunny-side up egg or anything. That’s one
misunderstanding I should clear up.
“There is no way to kill The Dark. In fact, from the beginning, the concept of
death hasn’t applied to them. They certainly hate the light, but if it touches
them, their movement will only stop. They won’t die. And when night comes
they would simply start moving again…and resume their killing of humans.
“But, despite the fact that sunlight is necessary for humans, the grave
keepers who have stolen their powers will die if touched by it. Don’t you
think that’s strange? Why do you think that is?”
“I couldn’t care less about that. What I want to hear is…” Muoru had started
off curt, but then he trailed off, unable to get out what he really wanted to
say…He was completely confused, unsure how he should try and continue, or
what he should try and ask.
“Humans that consume a part of The Dark become grave keepers. So,
although Meria is still human, at the same time a part of her is “The Dark.”
Those two aspects are intertwined and they cannot be separated. And they
both have an equal effect on her. So if light hits her then her grave keeper’s
body would stop. Which would mean death for a human.”
Muoru craned his head to the side. “Stopping is death?”
Crow poked Muoru’s chest with their index finger.
“Can you stop your heart?”
“Idiot, if I did that…”
I’d die…right, so that’s what Crow meant.
“Right. Now it’s not just your heart, but also your breathing, your brain, your
nervous system, and everything else…See, the human body is in some way
always moving from the time they were in their mother’s womb until the last
moments of their life. Even when someone is asleep, fainted, or unconscious,
their body never stops. In other words, the concept of stopping is precisely
how humans are able to perceive death.”
Muoru grabbed his chest. “Hmm, so if the monster’s part becomes unable to
move, so too do the grave keeper’s heart, lungs and such- basically all of their
human parts also stop moving. And as a result, they die…is that what you’re
“That’s right.” Crow nodded.
Muoru bit his lip.
Many thoughts were racing around in his head. But overall he was mostly
thinking about how far he should trust Crow’s words.
All this doubtful talk was nothing more than guesswork. But then again who
wouldn’t be troubled by putting their weight on a potential trap suspension
…Still, Crow had an objective; and probably the only reason they got so close
to Muoru was to achieve it.
Right….there was no other way…I’d have to do it…to her….with my own
“Mole-kun, I want to hear how determined you are.” Crow looked directly at
Muoru. “You may not believe me, but I really like you Muoru. And I have an
idea of something you can do for Meria, a way to help her. So tell me, how
far are you willing to go for her?”
Muoru had absolutely no trouble answering.
The night air was bitterly cold, making Muoru run his hands up his upper
A humid breeze was blowing and above his head the leaves howled. Thin
clouds hung in the dark sky far above, and even father above than that was
the perfectly circular moon shrouded in a haze.
The thick ma.s.s of leaves blocked the moonlight, preventing it from reaching
the giant tree’s roots. Standing within that flickering shade made him feel like
he was taking a step outside the human world and entering into the domain
He kicked off his tattered shoes, stuck his fingers into a depression in the tree
trunk, and relying on just his physical strength, started to climb. His limbs
weren’t used to the motion, and he clung to the tree like a frog, sluggishly
making his way towards the top. He would have felt at ease if his palms could
grip the opposite side of the trunk, but the tree with ‘the strongest monster’
underneath was gigantic. It was so big that if he spread his arms out wide and
tried to hold it, there wouldn’t be any bend in his elbows.
Muoru realized he wasn’t good at climbing trees, but out of the things he had
to do, this could definitely be called the easiest.
He finally reached one of the branches jutting out from the tree. Though just
a branch, it was thicker than the usual tree trunk. It was so huge that when
the large-statured Muoru rested his entire body weight onto it, his body
didn’t stiffen in terror. He then stuck his head upwards into the overgrown
Surrounded by thick leaves that seemed to absorb the moonlight, he could
barely see anything. In fact, he felt like trying to find something within the
leaves was about as difficult as fis.h.i.+ng out a ring that was dropped into a
No matter how much he strained his eyes, it was useless.
Left without a choice, Muoru started to search with just his palms and his
instincts. He couldn’t rush. From tip to tip, the total ma.s.s of the giant tree’s
branches could fill the entire mansion in the corner of the graveyard. Plus, he
had to search from his position without changing his grip that much.
Determined, Muoru blindly pushed his way through the thick leaves and
branches. It was like he had dove into a dark ocean and was roaming
randomly about the water. The sharp, pointed branches scratched his cheeks
and earlobes. And the detestable leaves even made it hard to breathe, to say
nothing of the fact that he couldn’t see anything.
Suddenly the sweaty bottoms of his bare feet slipped.
He grabbed a young branch at once and his body jerked, s.h.i.+fting the majority
of his weight onto his left hand. A chill ran through his body. The ground was
more than two meters down and if he were to break his foot or something at
a crucial time like this, then he’d be the biggest fool in the world.
He carefully set both of his feet back on the branch and restored his balance.
Muoru then reached his right hand into the darkness above…and plucked a
He couldn’t see it, but even in the dark he knew that it was the fruit he was
searching for. The moment he grabbed it the fruit squirmed in his palm, like
he had caught a living fish.
Slowly, Muoru s.h.i.+fted his position and dangled down from the branch with
one arm. Then he jumped down. When he hit the ground, a rush of pain shot
through his legs which numbed them slightly.
But he pretty much didn’t feel any sense of accomplishment from his first
The next one though…
Muoru timidly held his hands out into the moonlight. In his grasp was the
thing that would change his life.
The part of the monsters.
The dark fruit.
…The grave robber’s harvest.
It was halfway between an apple and a peach in terms of general shape and
size. But looking closely, it also resembled a heart with large arteries or
something. As for the color, it looked like it had been painted jet black with
squid ink. And even though it was a part of the monsters, no claw or anything
like that suddenly sprouted out and attacked him while it was in his hand.
Could this tiny thing really grant humans immortality, but as a consequence
make them unable to stand under the sun?
However, Muoru had touched something very similar to the fruit in his
hands. It felt exactly like the monster’s sack of flesh he’d pushed before; it
wasn’t hot, it wasn’t cold, it wasn’t soft, it wasn’t hard, it felt exactly like an
organ from a corpse.
Since he wasn’t able to see at all, the fact that he had grabbed the fruit
blindly in the dark had instinctually made him uncomfortable. And exposing
the fruit to the light only intensified that feeling. The unpleasantness welling
up inside him was similar to having to vomit something up from deep within
He felt like chucking the fruit away into a random direction. Instead however,
he howled towards the moon and opened his mouth wide like an aggressive,
Then he bit into the fruit.
He imagined it would taste bitter like bad coffee, but it actually had no taste
at all. It didn’t have any juice nor smell like a normal fruit and he could barely
even feel its texture in his mouth. From the moment it entered his mouth,
whether it was on his tongue or going down his throat, all he felt was
something like sticky mud expanding. It was like his mouth was full of
Then a jolt of terror gave him gooseb.u.mps.
The contents in his mouth were wriggling like a worm.
A strong wave of dizziness a.s.saulted Muoru and his instincts immediately
took up their defenses. In an effort to get their body’s idiot owner to throw
up the extremely foreign substance, Muoru’s immune system forced his
throat to convulse.
Desperately, Muoru covered his mouth with his hand to stop the
regurgitation. It was slow, but as he endured the discomfort,
gradually….gradually the contents of his mouth started to disappear. Yet they
weren’t so much going down his throat as they were slowly wriggling itself
into the walls of his mouth and permeating into his body’s cells.
…before long the first change occurred, but it wasn’t in his stomach. It was
They felt different.
And before he knew it, his legs became terribly heavy.
If he just stood normally, his legs weren’t impeded in any way. But when he
tried to walk, his ankles felt like they were shackled with an iron chain, or like
someone had grabbed onto his legs and was pulling him down.
Thinking back on it, Meria had always been the same way. He couldn’t recall
ever seeing her run.
Could this be what having the dark inside you feels like?
He looked down at his feet.
The shadow that extended from them seemed like it was strangely getting
bigger…and thicker. And from what should have been his shadow on the
ground – rather, through the shadow as a conduit, he seemed to feel a giant
presence coming from a deeper place.
It was just like the dread he’d felt when he first arrived at the graveyard
blindfolded. The terror that he was walking over corpses, and walking over
something much larger beneath them.
And now, a part of his body had transformed into a fragment of that. Neither
walking nor lifting his legs could sever the connection he felt. And to make it
worse, he even saw a hallucination where his core and his heart were being
pulled downwards towards that darkness…Just like when Meria’s limbs were
torn off and automatically crawled back to her body and reattached
themselves, Muoru felt like his body wanted to return to the body of the
monster beneath the ground.
He was hesitating. Far more than ever, he regretted the fact that he couldn’t
undo what he’d done.
…But for Muoru there wasn’t much to be confused about.
No matter how many signs, indications, and so on, if they got in his way he
would consider how to deal with them. And if they weren’t an obstacle, then
this wasn’t the time to be afraid.
He gave up and looked at his body.
There didn’t seem to have been any other changes so far, but…he had to
From his pocket he drew out a piece of gla.s.s. He’d picked it up from the
garbage, some small cylindrical piece of some kind of liquid bottle. It had
been broken from the opposite end of the bottle mouth and was sharp and
Decisively, he swung it across the back of his left hand.
The pain was more or less what he’d imagined.
As if he’d nicked a vein, a depressingly thick dark blood spilled out and ran
down his fingers. It was like he’d grown a second heart and a dull pain
pulsated with each of his heartbeats.
Muoru looked at the wound with a complex look on his face. He was starting
to get the feeling that he’d done something extremely stupid to himselfThen
within several heartbeats the wound sealed up and vanished.
The gash on the back of his hand sealed itself back to normal from the inside,
like a pair of closing lips. It wasn’t fast or shocking, his skin just automatically
closed. And other than the sticky blood on the back of his hand, and the
stinging pain, there was absolutely no trace of the wound.
Naturally he felt uncomfortable, but despite the remnants of the pain, his
discomfort was more directed towards the wound that should have been
His lips curled into a twisted smile.
But of course it was absurd to think a scratch on the back of his hand was
sufficient proof of his immortality.
And he absolutely couldn’t fail at what he planned to do next.
So another more in-depth test was necessary.
Still undecided, he extended a finger, but then he wavered
It was only natural for there to be a far greater resistance to what he was
about to do than when he had put the part of the monster into his mouth.
Though he said it was just for confirmation, the action was the same as
suicide. His fingers trembled. His whole hand trembled. He simply couldn’t
Feeling his resolve begin to weaken, Muoru bit his lip and recalled the feeling
of Meria’s neck in his arms.
Then he thrust his fingers into the inner side of his leather collar, and with all
his strength ripped it off.
The right artery attached to “the witch’s thread” ruptured and a flood of
blood rushed out from his torn neck.
Unexpectedly there was almost no pain.
However no matter how many times he tried to look down at his neck, the
endless pure red liquid spilled out from a place he couldn’t see. It was
undoubtedly a sight that would make people faint.
The right half of his body was colored red before he knew it, and without
thinking Muoru pressed his hand to the wound. Suddenly his vision started to
dim… he was low on blood.
Naturally, instead of using paint, his body was using the oxygenated blood
that should have flowing around his brain to stain the right side of his body.
…This was bad, he thought from the deepest area of his consciousness.
This was different from all the wounds he’d suffered up till now. He felt like
he was going down. He couldn’t fight it, nor could he resist it. In fact, the very
places he should have been drawing energy from were disappearing. It left
him feeling hopelessly powerless.
-Whether or not it was true, he felt like he was desperately drowning. And in
the end even his consciousness started to fade. He lost his balance and fell to
It’s no use, he thought in a daze.
Slowly his shoulders relaxed and with a lurch, he crumbled to his side with his
tongue sticking out from his lips.
…then he realized… his vision had cleared without him even noticing it.
His anemia had faded.
The fountain of blood had stopped.
And his wound had closed.
He stood up straight, feeling just as strong as he normally did. He simply
frowned at his blood-soaked clothes sticking to his skin.
But as Muoru stood there, with a body drenched in blood, slowly, a genuine
smile leaked out from his lips.
Muoru should have been aware of how unskilled he was at that sort of thing.
At any rate, he was only a mole specializing in the digging of trenches. He
wasn’t a public prosecutor or a detective, so racking his brains would
naturally result in limited answers even if he just tried to guess.
But since he’d been brought to the graveyard he did have a lot of time to
think about things as he dug holes. Plus, he’d heard some stories that had
shed some light on his predicament.
So now he had new questions about his situation, with different hypotheses
coming to mind regarding the potential answers.
First, I’d like to emphasize the fact that I didn’t kill 2nd Lieutenant Hedger
And I swear, my old companion, the shovel labeled ”Case #50357: Dangerous
weapon A”, the item rolling around within the military court’s evidence
storage area, which was probably more like a junk room anyway, definitely
wasn’t what it looked like.
Someone else was the killer.
Hedger Reeve’s true killer.
Somewhere in the world was the person who had removed Muoru’s shovel
from his sleeping area, hit Hedger’s empty head once, discarded Muoru’s
b.l.o.o.d.y companion in the trash pile and then falsely blamed him for the
During his trial no one had even satisfactorily looked into his potential motive
for the murder. However, if the military police had asked his soldier
companions for a bit of information, they would have probably gotten
sufficient answers supporting their claim. Probably statements like, “Muoru
was rebellious so he was often physically punished by the lieutenant” or “The
lieutenant would knock over Muoru’s food”, or “The lieutenant made Muoru
clean up the horse dung all by himself”.
But, I wasn’t the only one of Hedger’s called good for nothing underlings who
was the target of his bullying. In fact, there were most likely no ends to the
amount of people who resented the lieutenant.
So, even the true culprit’s motive stemmed from a grudge towards Hedger.
Muoru didn’t have any doubts about that hypothesis.
At first Muoru thought that the thought of killing the man had only come to
him once or twice. However, thinking about it now he wondered, was that
Did Hedger Reeve’s true killer really send him to the world of the dead out of
…from here on out, his theory was nothing more than a guess. And though he
was merely thinking ‘hypothetically’, What if the true criminal’s goal was
to utilize the prison system to falsely accuse a young working mole and make
him come here?
Even Muoru was aware of how absurd that idea sounded.
But it went without saying that this graveyard was definitely an abnormal
place. And on occasion, the common knowledge of the outside world was
obscured. So, he could only make a judgment based on what he had
personally seen and heard himself.
Which brought him to Crow’s first piece of testimony- “That old man is
terrible. It’s like, no matter how many people are employed to dig holes,
once they become unable to deal with the devils, they soon become useless.”
Even working a simple job of digging holes didn’t seem so simple here. And if
there were many cases where the laborers soon became useless, then it was
likely that Daribedor must have been looking for other people who, besides
having physical strength, would be able to keep a secret and cause no further
trouble in extreme situations. This meant that Daribedor probably didn’t
object to the idea of employing a former mole shackled with a prisoner’s
Eventually death would comer even for the grave keeper who stole The
And if multiple people couldn’t be grave keepers at the same time then
preparation was definitely important…perhaps, Meria was something like a
spare for Maria.
So if possible, they found someone who seemed to be able to withstand
dealing with those monsters. And if by chance the person was able to
tolerate harsh labor then that was probably like killing two birds with one
stone. Plus it didn’t matter if they tried to escape, because with a part of
their body changed to The Dark they wouldn’t be able to leave the graveyard.
In other words, the reason I came here…
In the end that reason was mostly unrelated to his hypothesis.
Daribedor had made him dig graves, in advance.
That was where another piece of Crow’s evidence came in. – “The demons
seem to understand their disadvantages. Now they aren’t just refraining from
hunting or luring out humans, they don’t appear before them at all.”
It was only after he’d specifically finished the grave, that the flesh monster
had come to the graveyard. So, in other words the attack had been planned.
How in the world they did it he didn’t know, but Daribedor or the masked
people probably had a way to summon the monsters.
Of course, simply summoning it wasn’t going to kill it. So in essence, calling
the monster was no different than sticking one’s hand intentionally into a
But in this graveyard…there was a grave keeper.
Even so, Muoru didn’t know why or under what pretense they were luring
the monsters, nor did he know if that act exposed the graveyard or the grave
keeper to danger. Could it possibly be for the sake of mankind or was that just
When he’d asked Crow about that they’d answered, “Even I want to know
that these days. What I do know is that the people who take down the devils
get a reward. And the bigger they are the more that sum jumps up. The
masked companions make their living off that.”
According to Crow, the reward surprisingly didn’t come from a country or a
temple organization, but from one human’s wallet. The true ident.i.ty of that
person was largely unknown and even for the masked hunters it was half
shrouded in mystery. But some reasons for only one individual to provide the
rewards were that, there were no ties of obligation, and that they would give
“a very fair payment” to the person who took down the monster.1
The orphaned Meria and the others like her didn’t even have a family
register.2 They were humans that didn’t exist. So it must have been simple
for Daribedor to deceive them with promises of a reward.
“Very fair payment” This phrase is italicized in j.a.panese for emphasis. I believe it is supposed to show
Muoru’s skepticism with the current payment scheme run by Daribedor.
Probably the same as in other countries, but in j.a.pan everyone must register their ident.i.ty with a so-called
“family registry”. This is basically a record of each family in j.a.pan. Since it doesn’t factor individuals but
families, basically the author is saying Meria has no family. Which would explain why in j.a.panese she is
called “Meria of the Ma.s.s Grave.”
Even Muoru smiled in sympathy. It was a very easy story to understand.
Although he’d only seen the inside of the mansion once, he could still recall
the awfully extravagant furniture and decorations.
Provided a grave keeper like Meria was there, calling the monsters to the
graveyard would generate a large amount of money for the caretaker.
As that flood of guesses rushed into his head, Muoru worried that the
murderous feelings he’d once harbored towards Hedger were now burning in
his chest for a different reason. And due to those feelings he now felt like his
new companion in his hand was screaming to be used for a far more
productive task than digging holes.
However, if he did that then this time around he’d be facing a genuine life
sentence. And of course in that case there would be no chance to clear his
name from the false accusation. And he wouldn’t be able to disclose any
proof he had for his previous theories. He had no money for a bribe. All he
had was his own body and his feelings for Meria.
Suddenly Muoru felt a s.h.i.+ft in the atmosphere. He strained his eyes and
scanned the dark graveyard, but he couldn’t see any change. Then he looked
towards the sea of gravestones, then the trees in the dark forest, but again
he didn’t see the bizarre giant-faced monster, nor did he see the sack of flesh
monster with many legs, or anything that could be called their kin.
Am I jumping to conclusions or am I just too high-strung?
Muoru looked down at the hole he’d dug at his feet. It was so comically large
that the average person probably would never think it was a grave. The grave
looked more like a ruin excavation site or a large-scale underground trench.
And Muoru felt that if a monster truly large enough to fill the hole
approached, anyone would be able to recognize it no matter how far away it
But did that kind of thing really exist in this world?
At that moment, Muoru couldn’t think of a single joke.
“Mr. Prisoner,” a husky voice said.
The old man’s nose-less face was pale as if he’d lost all his blood. He was
gripping a black pistol in his shaking right hand, with a finger that looked like
a withering branch resting on the trigger.
“Answer me! Where did you hide the grave keeper?”
Though the muzzle was pointed at him, Muoru barely glanced in the old
“You didn’t find her? That’s too bad.” The boy flashed a small, challenging
smile. “I mean, how many places could there possibly be to hide here?”
“This is not the time to screw around. That thing is already coming here! It’ll-
“Is that so? That’s….good,” Muoru interrupted, turning to face Daribedor
directly. ”Well in that case, why don’t you hide yourself? I don’t think the
monster distinguishes between grave keepers, prisoners, or pigheaded old
“You…your collar!” Daribedor scolded, noticing Muoru’s collar was off.
Though Muoru’s legs were extremely heavy, he took a long stride towards
the old man. And a dry gunshot followed.
Daribedor fired two bullets, the first burrowing to the right of Muoru’s navel
and the second drilling directly into the center of his stomach.
From that point, Muoru felt a cramping sensation, as if bizarrely powerful
pliers were twisting inside him. Grunting through the pain, he grasped
Daribedor’s neck, and like he’d managed to do with Crow several days ago,
he chucked the short-statured man into the deep hole.
Daribedor screamed. Maybe it was because of his hatred for the man, but to
Muoru it sounded hideous. Perhaps the fall broke one of his legs or
Muoru dropped to his knees, clutching his open stomach with a smile on his
“I’m sorry…you’re not injured, are you?”
A b.l.o.o.d.y froth came up Muoru’s throat and bubbled out his mouth. The pain
seemed to be coming from the ruptures within his body. Probably on the
inside of the small opening in his torso, his stomach was ripped open causing
his digestive acids to spill out and burn his organs.
Muoru could hear the man shouting out some profanities from the bottom of
the deep hole and he wished he had something to shut him up. But since
he’d made the hole with a water well in mind, no matter what the old man
did, he wouldn’t be able to get out of the hole without some tools to a.s.sist
“Ugh.” Muoru lay down on the ground, groaning in pain.
This was probably the first time he’d ever experienced pain like this in his life.
Under normal conditions, something like a bullet would have been enough to
kill him. But before long he became able to stand, and as soon as his legs
were strong enough to support him, he left the hole.
Once again the wind seemed to have gotten stronger. And Muoru felt a chill
as it blew on his blood-soaked clothing. The clouds were moving awfully
fast. The wind blew through the trees, stirring up the branches and making
the leaves cry out in a chorus.
Though Muoru’s time was limited, he couldn’t do anything but wait.
I haven’t forgotten to do anything right? Muoru thought spontaneously.
Somewhere far away, Muoru heard Dephen howl. Crow had taken that d.a.m.n
dog somewhere during the day. He didn’t know what Crow used on the dog,
but when Crow’s childlike hands caressed the animal, it became docile as if it
had been castrated. Somehow those black pupils had even
seemed brighter than usual.
Surprised, Muoru had asked Crow how they had tamed the dog, but Crow
just laughed and jumped atop the dog’s back. If Muoru had done that,
Dephen would have probably bit off his crotch.
I wonder what Crow is doing now…
In the end, he felt Crow had completely evaded revealing their true ident.i.ty.
If he thought about it rationally, something as absurd as “The victims’
a.s.sociation” was most likely just another makes.h.i.+ft attempt at deception.
But in order to steal the power from Meria – and so that she wouldn’t be
able to resist – it was necessary to keep Dephen from interfering.
All so that he could do…to Meria.
The wind was gradually getting stronger.
Muoru twisted his head and looked around his surroundings. Suddenly, the
world shook as if an earthquake struck.
Though at first he thought it was just in his imagination, all of a sudden the
feeling swelled in size like steam about to erupt. It was an overwhelming
sensation, just like the night when his skin had gotten gooseb.u.mps after
seeing the monster with countless legs for the first time. But regardless of
when and from where whatever kind of wind came to attack him, he stood
Then a metallic screech quickly touched his ears. It was definitely unclear and
seemed to repeat over and over again like the creak of a warped gear or
wheel. But it was clearly a terribly unpleasant sound.
The fierce wind tormented Muoru. And as his feet stumbled, for an instant
his shadow seemed to blur. Then Muoru looked up and saw a darkness
shroud the moon like an eclipse.
…Far above in the starry sky, a thin rift in the clouds, like smoke, wove its way
downward. Inside that break in the clouds, something contorted its
horrifically long body from side to side as it flew, wingless, through the air.
The wind was so strong now Muoru felt like he was about to be blown away,
but in defiance he grabbed onto his knees and stared at the existence he
would have to confront.
The creature in the sky was a giant serpent made of thousands of swords.
Maybe it was because of the far distance between him and his opponent, but
from Muoru’s perspective, watching the creature swim through the air
seemed more elegant than unpleasant. Its bizarre body as it meandered its
way down from the heavens was so large it initially seemed to cover the
entire moon. But then its descent changed and it approached with the speed
of a falling arrow. And as the distance between them shrank, the creature’s
shadow it cast on the ground seemed to grow without limits.
Its body was like a magnet dropped into countless, sharp sewing needles - no
that wasn’t quite right - it was more like it was made out of glossy, black
hiltless double-edged swords. Though at a glance they certainly looked like
needles from a distance, as they moved closer he saw that in actuality each
of the blades was so large that Muoru couldn’t possibly wield them, even if
he used both of his hands.
Also the blades were vibrating with the same high speed as a chainsaw, giving
the impression that they were like dense human hair covering a giant, long
and narrow body. As the monster’s body slithered back and forth through the
air, here and there the swords rubbed against one another and emitted a
high-pitched shrill. At the same time, violent blue sparks, like electricity,
leaked out and followed behind the giant serpent as it soared through the air
and cut through the night.
The sight of it descending headlong towards the ground was like a
thunderous judgment raining down from heaven.
And Muoru was standing directly beneath it.
He was like a mole caught in a tornado or something. And the moment it
made contact, his entire body felt disorganized like he’d been thrown into a
giant mixer, scattering his consciousness. But before he lost all sense of
where he was, he could still sense that he was smiling.
—-It was a maddening pain.
But since it was the same pain Meria had experienced earlier, Muoru couldn’t
help but smile.
He loved Meria.
And if the two of them lived in different worlds, then he would go over to her
world, even if that meant leaving the world of light, the world he’d lived in
his entire life. None of that mattered to him… only her.
Despite all of the deception he had used, he and the girl were tied together
now and there was no escaping that. But he was sure of one thing: after this
there would be no more tricks and deception.
He really was smiling, even though it seemed like all of his methods, his
objectives, basically his entire list of priorities had remarkably flipped. The
only reason he had gotten close to her in the first place was to escape from
this place. And now he’d chosen to remain so that he could stay close to her.
His body parts that were flung and scattered about were slowly reattaching
themselves. Without even being able to look away from the attack, Muoru
watched the faceless giant serpent use its body of countless blades to turn
his body into tiny pieces.
The vibrating double-edged swords were terribly sharp and easily able to
sever not only his muscles but also his bones like thread. And in just ten
seconds Muoru was cut into a thousand pieces of meat. Then as his body
slowly returned to normal, immediately it was ripped back apart. And it
happened again. And again.
Muoru saw his insides dumped onto the ground. He saw the color of his
organs and the color of blood in the distance. He saw the cross section of his
bones and both his brain fluid and the jelly that had been protecting it. He
was grateful he’d put down his helmet before the ordeal.
When his brain was split open, for a moment he felt trapped within a deep,
pure red darkness as time seemed to move slowly. But soon after, the horrific
pain forced him back into reality. It was like all of his wisdom teeth
were leaving his skull in an act of rebellion.
However there was value in having the experience.
Muoru smiled as he screamed. Most people who tasted that kind of pain
never returned from it, but Meria had certainly gone through the same
experience too. And so maybe that was one way he could get close to her.
Muoru smiled as those bizarre thoughts swam in his mind.
Then he screamed from the shock of having his body torn to shreds and flung
all over the place. If he had the lungs or mouth to scream then he screamed,
and if he had the limbs to writhe, then he clawed at the ground like a
madman. And if he retained his consciousness then he thought of Meria. He
thought of the color of her hair, her honest blue eyes, the taste of when he
kissed the helmet on her head, the warmth of when she pressed her cheek
against him, and the sound of her heart on his back. Those thoughts helped
him maintain his sanity throughout the endless fatal wounds and suffering.
The instant his face was bisected like an apple, he saw that some of the
blades of the snake’s body had stopped moving, like they were dead. It was a
sign that maybe the h.e.l.l wouldn’t go on forever. As his consciousness
returned Muoru held that hope in his heart. He extended his fully attached
right arm and tried to stop one of the swords from attacking him. When he
grabbed the vibrating blade his fingertips burst open like popcorn, and a pain
slipped diagonally down from his right shoulder to his torso.
This has to hurry up a little… Muoru thought as he vomited up frothy blood
and tumbled to the ground. Countless of the giant serpent’s swords still
This needs to be settled by dawn. The blood loss was causing his
consciousness to fade. It was like he was falling asleep. I guess that’s okay for
now, Muoru thought. Until the lower half of his body returned he couldn’t
Muoru opened his eyes and looked up. The clouds had dispersed without him
And the starry sky was beautiful.
“So tell me…what are you willing to do for her?”
Muoru replied immediately, “Whatever I can.”
Crow grinned. “Right. Now that’s a good answer…thank you.” Their tone was
surprisingly warm, and compared to their usual provoking demeanor, it
seemed….dare he say it, cute. Of course “cute” for Crow had a different
meaning than what he thought of Meria.
Unconsciously, Muoru’s bent mouth opened to speak. “You’ve never shown
me any kind of grat.i.tude before.”
“Well, don’t sulk about it. I think your pa.s.sionate heart is embarra.s.sing.”
“Ugh, you,” Muoru groaned, swinging his arms at Crow in response to the
insult, but for some reason he completely missed. He figured if he put all of
his energy into his swing he’d at least be able to land a single blow. Crow
sneered as Muoru exhaled in frustration, then jumped back onto the
But their smile soon vanished. “If you’re ready to abandon your life as you
know it,” they said in a sing-song kind of manner, “Then you must steal half
of the girl’s power – half of the curse.”
“No problem,” he said.
There was not even a hint of confusion for Muoru. He was resolved the
moment Crow had uttered those words. And maybe it was because of his
conviction that he also felt a bit of hope.
The grave keeper and the mole. Though there was a hopeless gap between
them, if the world thought they weren’t supposed to be together then
something needed to change. He was going to be the one to change it, and
this method would grant him his wishes.
“But how do I do it?” Muoru asked.
“Essentially only one person can be bestowed with the power of the grave
keeper, so if two people shared it together then the power would be halved,”
Crow answered as they crossed their thin legs. “But in order to do that, you’ll
have to kill her once.”
Muoru couldn’t believe his ears.
…what was this idiot babbling about? For a moment Muoru was at a loss, but
he quickly shook off that hesitation and said, “You want me to drag her out
under the sun or something? … I can’t do that.”
Crow laughed. “Well it doesn’t matter to me if she doesn’t die.”
“So, as I thought…”
“You’re not a total idiot, so try using your head. There’s another way to block
The Dark’s power. It may be weaker than exposing her to the light, but it’ll
still work even at night. It’s a method that owes itself to this very place,
where the souls of humans sleep. Please… think about it deeply. You should
already know it.”
As Muoru stared at Crow, he bit his lips and started thinking.
He remembered all the conversations he’d had with Crow.
He thought about the graveyard that stretched out beneath his feet.
Then he looked at the shovel in his hands.
Then the gravestone Crow was sitting on.
Ma.s.s grave…a graveyard humans and monsters shared.
“You understand now, don’t you?” Crow asked, reading the change in
“Now then, this part is essential, so don’t forget it. If you do this and weaken
her power, in the end—” Without hiding their large smile, Crow explained the
rest of their plan.
After hearing it, Muoru turned completely red and spluttered out, “Is that
“It should be all right. And I think you’ll be happy when it happens.”
Muoru bit his lip again. It was frustrating that he couldn’t say no to Crow’s
idea. So, with feelings of uneasiness leaking into his words he asked, “Is it
“It’s okay, it’s okay….well Meria certainly won’t agree in getting you involved
so you’d probably have to do it by force, but…” Crow stopped, their face
warping as if trying to put up with some kind of pain. “Maria really valued
Meria. She wished for happiness in Meria’s life. There’s no mistake about
that- in fact when it comes to that and only that, I’m telling you the absolute
“….However, Maria wasn’t very patient. No, it’s more like she didn’t have
extraordinary willpower. The devil’s part inside of her, the disgust, the pain of
not dying…they all proved to be too much for her to handle. And that’s why
she ended her life.
“Sure, it’s easy to think that such a feeling couldn’t be helped, but….in the
end the only thing she regretted was leaving her younger sister to such a
Perhaps it was just cowardice, but Maria was terribly worried for Meria, even
though they weren’t related by blood.
“And that is precisely why she can’t sleep…so no matter what it takes, I want
to grant Maria’s wish. I want Meria to be happy.”
I feel the same way…
Although he’d went so far as to throw Crow into a trap to try and get
information out of them, that was his only intent. The rules of the world he’d
come from were quite different from those governing the monsters and the
grave keeper. And they seemed like something people like him could do
nothing about. Even if he tried to think about how to fight those rules, his
choices were extremely limited. And so even now it didn’t seem likely that he
could save Meria.
Even so…helping Meria gain happiness would probably bring him happiness
What would her face be like if I were able to remove the source of her pain
If it were possible—-even though he understood that it was unreasonably
selfish, he still wished for such a future. And if someone could see him now,
they would certainly think that such a wish could make him happy. Even
though far from being unable to escape, as a trade-off he would never again
be able to leave the graveyard again.
Would I really be happy?
Without much of a change in his expression, Muoru smiled. It was funny how
he wasn’t even trying to think about all the things he’d considered until now.
Since coming to the graveyard he’d only thought about escaping, and before
that he felt he’d pa.s.sed each day only thinking about how to live longer. But
in the past his only job was digging holes, regardless of which thoughts filled
“I’m sorry, Mole-kun,” Crow said. “Perhaps after this…you and your body will
have to go through a lot of terrible suffering.” Crow then lowered their head
“Umm.” Muoru laughed weakly, feeling a bit embarra.s.sed about what he was
about to say. “Thank you for worrying about me, but…for me, being here but
unable to do anything is far more painful.”
The final stars disappeared.
Muoru couldn’t even see the moon anymore.
In the pale sky the nearest star, the sun, seemed to be approaching. He could
sense that giant celestial sphere rising up from right under the eastern
horizon. And sure enough the first light of morning finally arrived, with his
death following closely behind.
His body was already sensing his ominous fate. It was a sensation completely
different from when the monster tore and scattered his body apart. In fact,
the feeling was a pain which seemed like someone had directly stuck their
hand into his back, grabbed a hold of the central nerves around his spinal
cord and brain stem and squeezed them tightly.
The snake made of countless blades was gigantic. And powerful. Each of its
double-edged blades had severed Muoru’s body, inflicted fatal wounds, then
became motionless, creating a process of death and rebirth that repeated
throughout the night.
But despite the pain he felt when the last blade pierced through his chest,
when Muoru realized that the blood spewing out of his mouth was gradually
decreasing, he felt relieved.
I made it through.
The monster’s long and ma.s.sive body was now in the giant hole he’d dug out.
And each of the creature’s blades, which were densely packed together like
the needles on a hedgehog, were stained red with Muoru’s blood. The area
that the monster had rampaged through not only had sharp gouges in the
ground, like a trough had been used to plow the land, but also many of the
graves had been mowed down in the attack.
However, now wasn’t the time to bury it. Anyone could do that and besides,
when the sun rose neither he nor the monster would be able to move within
With his silver shovel in one hand, Muoru ran.
He ran to the place right beside Maria’s grave, at the feet of the tree where
the king of the monsters slept.
Well …he tried to run.
The shadow of The Dark within him felt extremely heavy, like he was
dragging a giant steel ball and chain. In fact, no matter how much energy he
put into his legs, he couldn’t move faster than a stagger. And trying to get his
body to go a bit faster seemed to exhaust all of his energy. His c.u.mbersome
body made him click his tongue in frustration.
His surroundings were already so bright that there was no need for an oil
lamp or an electric lantern.
How much longer until sunrise?
His mind was possessed with a wild impatience as if he had gone insane, but
his body did not follow suit.
As best as he could, Muoru hurried and hurried and eventually managed to
reach his destination. At first glance it didn’t look like there was anything
there. The only movement were the leaves rustling atop the giant tree to the
side of Maria’s final resting place.
But below his feet were definite traces that the earth had been disturbed…
Muoru carefully slid the tip of the shovel into the ground.
And scooped, and scooped.
….Yet on the fifth scoop, as if he could no longer tolerate the wait, he threw
aside the shovel and dropped to his knees. Then like a genuine mole, he used
both of his hands to claw at the ground.
He remembered the first time they’d met.
Don’t forget. Don’t forget the first time you met Meria.
He’d fainted in the middle of the night at the graveyard and awoke to Meria
burying him in the hole he’d just dug out.
-It seemed like their positions then and now were reversed.
Muoru’s fingers curled around a strand of light brown hair, filthy from all the
dirt. Hair was a girl’s life, so he couldn’t help but feel guilty as he clutched the
filthy strands…but, compared to everything else he’d done, dirtying her hair
was probably low on the list of reasons why she’d hate him.
Still, she would probably consider all the things he’d done up till now
preferable to what he was going to do next.
In the dim light of early dawn, Muoru dug out the girl he’d buried with his
It was all selfish.
All of it just to suit his own selfish desires.
He needed the power of the grave keeper and since more than one person
couldn’t have the power at the same time, he had to steal it from the current
grave keeper, Meria. She was human, but at the same time a part of her was
The Dark. Burying her body sealed her power and weakened her, or in other
words, put her in a death-like state. But of course, he couldn’t leave her like
Once he had dug out her entire body, he rested her back across his lap.
“Now this is essential. The final step-” he could practically hear Crow’s
There were many traces of tears on his beloved’s cheeks. Without thinking,
he wiped them, but no matter how many times he repeated the movement
his mud-covered fingers only made her dirtier. It was like a metaphor for his
current situation, painfully repeating the same thing over and over again but
to no avail.
He cupped his left hand under her chin and pulled her unconscious body
Then like a grave robber, Muoru stole a kiss.
Though his eyes were closed as he did it, the instant his lips touched hers, he
felt a bright white light radiate inside his eyelids. He tasted dirt and the rusty
iron taste of blood. But there was also another flavor, sweet and tart, like an
Partly due to his anxiety over the situation, and partly due to his own desire
for her, he unconsciously stayed in that position, in that kiss for a while.
Then, using his right hand to prop up her lower jaw, Muoru gently opened
And the darkness poured deeply and indulgently into her body.
Slowly, there was a sign that her closed eyelids blinked.
Burying Meria in the ground that the monsters were sealed within was the
first measure needed to revive her from her death-like state. And then he
only had to give half of the substance that had dissolved within him back into
the body it was already familiar with. He understood those steps, and now
he could confirm that Crow hadn’t been lying. But the way he had to return
The Dark was….
“Good morning, Meria.”
Meria instantly became aware of her surroundings and removed herself from
Muoru’s grasp. The clumps of dirt still attached to the hem of her robe
dropped to the ground. Judging from her expression it seemed like she
understood he had done something to her.
“Muoru…” She was staring at Muoru with a strained look on her face, like it
was taking everything she had just to say his name.
Then she opened her mouth again, but seemed to hesitate, as if she didn’t
know what to say. Soon after she turned red, but whether it was due to the
blood rus.h.i.+ng to her face out of anger or out of embarra.s.sment, Muoru
However, despite being covered in blood and dirt, he broke out into a smile.
He’d seen her crying, smiling, troubled, and embarra.s.sed, but maybe this was
the first time he’d seen her angry.
Why in the world do I think she’s also cute when she’s angry?
“My neck hurts.” Meria said with a stiff voice.
The moment he apologized, Meria lowered her head to the ground and took
his right hand.
It really feels as if we’ve switched places.
The first night when he’d seen Meria’s secret, when he’d asked her if they
could be friends, he had also taken her hand in the same way, except she was
the one covered in blood.
“All because you were worried about me…”
As Meria looked at his hand, which was stained a deep crimson despite not
having a single wound, she seemed to understand everything. The anger
disappeared from her face and a look of sadness replaced it.
I don’t really want to see that.
Even so, an extraordinary relief was spreading in his chest.
“I never wanted you to have to experience that kind of pain, Muoru.”
“It wasn’t for you,” Muoru said with a smile. “It was for the money.”
The benefactor would pay him the reward for dealing with the monster. In
the past that d.a.m.n old man had embezzled all of the reward that should
have gone to “Meria of the Ma.s.s Grave”. But no matter how many people
Daribedor employed, prisoner 5722 refused to be put in the same position.
And if the reward amount was really what Crow said it was, then he
could buy his freedom…or maybe have a castle built.
Ignoring Muoru’s wide grin, Meria looked at him sharply and pinched the
back of his hand, as if to say, “Don’t lie to me!”
That wasn’t really a lie, but it was only 10% of the whole truth.
Right, it wasn’t that much of a lie. But the fact that his actions had made it so
that the warm hand now gripping his own wasn’t covered in blood was more
than enough of a reason for his actions. Of course with her blue eyes staring
at him he couldn’t possibly say that.
“You’re really not an honest mole.”
Meria and Muoru both looked up at the same time and saw Crow sitting atop
a nearby gravestone, looking down at them.
“Wow, should I say that it’s been a long time, or that this is our first time
meeting one another?”
The moment Meria recognized Crow’s figure, her eyes widened in shock.
“…Y…You…what…?” Meria seemed strangely fl.u.s.tered, and the color
completely drained from her face as if she’d seen a ghost or something.
“No, this isn’t the first…your way of speaking and the color of your eyes is
different…but why…why do you look just like Maria?”
Meria suddenly tried to stand, but because she’d been buried for so long her
legs seemed paralyzed and soon she fell back to the ground. Crow then got
off the gravestone with a smile on their face as they reached down towards
Meria and offered their hand.
With a face mixed with confusion, Meria tried to grab Crow’s small hand. But
then Crow suddenly jumped back onto the gravestone without even taking a
running start…making Meria’s hand grasp nothing but air. Their movement
had been graceful and smooth, like they were completely weightless. Yet this
time neither Meria nor Muoru who was standing behind could even pretend
they were surprised.
“Sorry, but though I may be Maria, I’m also not Maria—I’m Crow. All the tens
of grave keepers who have killed themselves by burning up in the sun…I am a
spirit born from the pieces their souls left behind. So again I am Maria, but
I’m also not her.
“However, not only does it seem like her p