Volume 2 (tankobon)
As you are reading this particular page of the story right now, what sort of scene is unfolding around you?
What is happening with the wars, with starvation, with the world? Is the killing still continuing? Is hatred still overflowing? Is despair still brimming?
Do you believe in the word “hope”? I’ve always wanted to believe in it―that the world could be mended, that people would be able to throw their weapons aside. Someday.
Writing stories for young people is none other than to tell a tale of hope―because there should be nothing born from despair.
That was how I’ve felt up until now, and obedient to that belief, I’ve been weaving stories that tell of hope, but cavalierly.
“You don’t know anything. You don’t know what it’s like to starve, to shiver in the cold, to groan from a wound that’s festered because it’s been left untreated too long; you don’t know the suffering that follows when that wound becomes infested with maggots, and you start rotting alive; you don’t know how it feels to watch someone die in front of you, while there’s nothing you can do to help them. You don’t know a single thing. You’re just rattling off pretty words.”
“You’re just looking for an escape route. You’re looking for a way to avoid getting hurt.”
“Words aren’t things that you can toss around casually. You can’t let yourself be forced to say something, and just put up with it. But you don’t know that. So that’s why I’m not going to trust you.”
The numerous harsh words that Nezumi hurled at Shion were also blades bared against me, and needles that stabbed my body.
Yes: I feel like I’ve lived thus far without knowing anything, nor trying to know. I suffer no ailments; I never need to worry about food for tomorrow; I live life without having to feel a smidgeon of fear from being blasted by landmines or rocket bombs. I love my somewhat boring, but peaceful life. And that’s fine in itself. But when I peeled back a bit of that peaceful life, I couldn’t go without seeing that it was actually very closely connected with foreign lands that seemed so distant; with the war and starvation that people were suffering in those lands.
Individuals are always connected to their nation, and the nation is always connected to the rest of the world. It is impossible to cut them apart. And I have finally realized that.
That was why I wanted to write this story, no matter what it took. Along with a certain boy called Shion, I wanted to reach out and touch the world. I wanted to write of a young and clumsy soul opening up his physical body, and understanding the world through the pain and joy he felt through it.
But to be honest, there were several times while writing when I thought I would never be able to be like Shion. I couldn’t face off with the world as honestly as he. I couldn’t yearn for another as earnestly. I couldn’t weave words as truthfully. And I was afraid of getting hurt. I was always coming up with convenient excuses for myself. I couldn’t beg like he could.
At this point of having written up this story, for some reason I feel something closer to defeat rather than fulfilment.
I’m sorry, here I go again, complaining. Those most unsteady in their stance are the ones that talk the most, and make the most complaints.
Anyway, the story is still developing. I sincerely hope that you will be able to enjoy it as Shion and Nezumi live, move, and weave their story into existence.
I have no idea what will happen to these two, either. I’m not being mum on purpose: I honestly can’t predict what will happen.
But this is for certain: I do know that I don’t want to leave Shion as an idealist who is all talk; and I don’t want to make Nezumi into a terrorist of pure hatred. I would not want that to happen, no matter what. So what do I need to do in order for it not to happen? What is needed for them to survive, for them to avoid “becoming enemies”, as Nezumi once said? I know that I must think about this with a steady gaze not on fantasy, but reality. And that must mean to focus the spotlight on the ugliness of the nation-state, the frailty of human beings, my own low-handedness, and never to avert that gaze.
And of course, in the end, I want to tell a tale of hope―not cavalierly, with an agreeable smile on my face, using limp and lifeless words that are merely pleasing to the ear. I want to speak with words I’ve invested my own self into―I could mumble them, for what it’s worth―but I want to speak of hope, the kind I’ve grasped with my own hands. I want to become that kind of writer.
I don’t have the confidence I’ll succeed. I already know very well how powerless and incapable I am. But to me, it seems like there’s still no other way than to keep fighting alongside these young men.
I dedicate my heartfelt gratitude and hold in utmost admiration, Mr. Yamakage Yoshikatsu of Kodansha’s Editing Department, but at the same time I want to complain to him, “It’s so draining, this work.” But I know that he would probably―no, definitely―reply with, “You’re being indulgent. You’re a professional. At least make sure you don’t let Nezumi and Shion laugh at you. Come on, straighten up.”
Well, we’ve come to the end. My gratitude to the following people (no complaints this time): Mr. Kageyama Toru, for creating the world of No. 6 more realistically, more fantastically, than anything my imagination would have been able to create; and Mr. Kitamura Takashi, for giving No. 6 its unique glow and shadow through photos. Thank you.