"I give this translation 314 points!"
"Out of how many?"
And here we go with the preface and the prologue. In typical Baccano! style, don't be too surprised if things are really confusing at first - it'll all make sense later.
Complete PDF here!
Preface & Prologue
I an understand. I just cannot follow.
Christmas. Another unfamiliar word.
You look cheerful.
Your clothes are certainly strange, though. Is it because Valentine's Day is just around the corner? All those round things on your clothes... you'll end up neurotic.
I see. So that's the method to your madness. Pretty enthusiastic, aren't you.
Looking at you makes me remember him.
...Happy End was his nickname. You can call him Mr. Happy End, or The Happy End, or whatever you think sounds cool. He'd be satisfied as long as Happy End fit in there somewhere.
Right, he's a strange one. He can't see anything but the happiness of others, you see. No matter whether the person who wants happiness is good or evil.
What kind of person is he? If you're asking whether he's happy... I don't think he knows, himself. But if you were to give him a definition of either good or bad, he's absolutely evil. No doubt about it.
That doesn't make sense, you say? You have no idea. You can't just decide out of hand that everyone who wants happiness is good, can you?
...You want to hear more? The rambling of a wanderer like me?
Haha, my thanks.
Well, I still have a bit of time until my companions get here, so if it's okay with you I'll kill some time by telling you the tale.
This is... that's right. It all began 300 years ago, aboard a certain boat...
1711, The Atlantic Ocean
The Advena Avis
"Damn it! Get up! Wake up, everyone! We're all going to die! We're all going toaaaaaarrrrgh..."
Chaos reigned aboard the ship.
In the darkness, all they could hear were screams.
These alchemists had left their homes for the new world.
They had succeeded in summoning a demon.
And in doing so, they achieved one of the ultimate goals of alchemy - eternal youth.
But that immortality came with a troublesome restriction.
There was one way for them to die. Another immortal would put their right hand on their head. And then, all they had to do was concentrate and think, "I want to eat." Once that happened, all the victim's knowledge, memories, experience - sometimes even their personality - would be devoured. They would die, and the one who remained would inherit all that they were.
But naturally, there was one who thought of it from an opposite direction. This restriction actually allowed him to imagine a different conclusion.
Eat everyone and become king of the immortals, inheriting everyone's experiences.
The second night after the demon came and went, there was a man who chose a road that would ultimately lead to eternal loneliness. The name of that man, the one who turned on his fellow alchemists and transformed the ship into a living hell, was....
"It's Szilard! That crazy old man's betrayed us all!"
"Damn it... Stop him! Someone stop him! It doesn't matter who does it, just eat him!"
"Watch out! He's already eaten about five people! He doesn't move like an old man anymore!"
As shouts rang out on board, there was one who tried to hide in the ship's hold.
She was sixteen, perhaps seventeen. Even at a glance, one could tell that she was out of place in this situation: a girl with silver hair, wearing glasses.
...I'm scared. I'm so scared. I have to hide somewhere.
...He's... he's hiding somewhere, too. I know it.
I have to find him...
Confused by the commotion caused in the middle of the night, she ran as though fleeing, away from the direction where the shouts were coming from. Though she had been planning to hide in the hold until the chaos died down...
Reflected in her wide, frightened eyes was the mocking smirk of the old man who had caused this uproar.
"To think I would come to eat a young girl here. My sexual desire has long since faded, but I'm so excited right now I have no regard for such things."
And so said, his right hand tensed atop her forehead.
But absolutely nothing happened.
The eyes of the old man - Szilard Quates - widened slightly. It seemed as though he was surprised, but shortly understanding dawned on his face.
"Sylvie, you wench... you didn't drink it?"
Szilard's eyes shone with cold light. The girl Sylvie stiffened, unable to speak.
...I'm going to die.
The moment the thought rose in her mind, the old man's right hand fell from her head and onto the floor. His arm had been severed at the elbow, and blood spurted furiously from the wound.
Droplets of blood splashed onto Sylvie as well, but soon the liquid began to tremble and, like a hive of insects, flowed back into Szilard's right arm. Linked by a line of blood, the arm rose into the air and snapped onto its owner's stump as though connected by a rubber band.
"It seems as though immortality doesn't grant immunity to pain. It's fortunate I was able to test it out on you."
An arrogant voice rang out in the hold as Szilard struggled to overcome the pain. It was a young man with dusky skin. In this right hand was a blade that looked like a Chinese meat cleaver, and silent rage flared on his features.
"Nile... you wretch...!"
"My anger right now can't be expressed in words, but I will tell you what I feel anyway. I'm going to kill you."
The man called Nile raised his cleaver high into the air, toward Szilard, whose arm had completely healed.
"Though it's just a waste of breath, I say this... Die."
The thick blade cut the air as though to cleave Szilard's head in two. The old man threw himself to the side, just barely avoiding it, and fled toward the stairs across from Nile at a dead run.
Instead of chasing after Szilard, Nile knelt and addressed the young girl shivering under him.
"Mm. Are you unharmed?"
Sylvie raised herself to her feet and opened her mouth to reply.
"Hey, I see you two are just fine."
From above Nile's head, a cheerful voice came down, completely at odds with the desperate situation.
"It looks like I don't even have to ask. You guys are fine. That's great, just great. Sylvie, Nile, both of you. Now then, this might be a bit sudden, but smile. Come on, give me a big smile that shows all your teeth."
The two looked up and saw a man grinning widely, the ongoing crisis aboard the ship reflected on his face not at all. He hooked his fingers into the sides of his mouth and spread them wide in a huge smile.
"Shee? Shma, shma! (See? Smile, smile!)"
"This is no time for jest, Elmer."
"Who's joking? You should smile whenever you're in a pinch. Smiling makes you calmer," the man named Elmer said, the joy in his voice wilting a shade at Nile's harsh reply. Still, the smile on his face showed no signs of disappearing... and yet, there was something strangely unsettling about it, and even Nile found it impossible to tell him to stop.
"Only a fool like you could smile in a situation like this. If you're going to hide, do it quickly."
Elmer shook his head. "Nope. I'm going to go and convince old man Szilard to stop, so you two just sit tight here."
Sylvie and Nile's eyes widened at Elmer's confident voice.
"I say this: it's impossible. Even if you manage to make him stop, Maiza won't stand for it. He's going to die anyway, so it'd be better for us to kill him quickly and cut our losses to a minimum."
"Then I'll just convince Maiza to be merciful."
"Right, rubbish. So I'll go and convince him first. If I fail and get eaten, then you can do what you want."
"Don't do it!" Sylvie shouted, despite herself. Elmer's casual tone, as though he was going to grab a quick snack, had forced her into speaking. "How do you think you're going to stop him? He... he smiled when he tried to eat me! Like he was enjoying it... There's no way that words will work on someone like him!"
But Elmer's reply was even more surprising.
"I see. Old man Szilard smiled, huh... Then I guess things will work out somehow."
Elmer ignored the surprised expression on Sylvie's face and grinned.
"Smile, Sylvie! You've got to smile!"
And, leaving behind the sound of cheerful laughter, his face disappeared from the doorway.
The two left behind. At length, Sylvie found it in herself to hesitantly ask a question.
"Umm... Nile, what did Elmer mean by, 'Maiza won't stand for it'?"
A shadow passed over Nile's face.
"It can't be... It's not, right? It's not that, is it?"
Sylvie grasped Nile's dark arm and shook it fiercely, as though to wring an answer from him.
"Tell me it's not! Tell me it's not that! Please, Nile!"
Tears began to flow from Sylvie's eyes, but Nile could do nothing but keep his silence.
"Damn it, where is that old man!?"
"I found him! He's on the deck!"
"Hey! Old man Szilard! Over here! Look here and listen to me!"
"Who is that? Is that Elmer?"
"That, fool, what, is he, doing, there." 1)
The sound of water, and silence.
Elmer's consciousness was consumed by endlessly spreading darkness.
And... through it, he heard a voice.
[Are you alright.]
The voice brought Elmer to his wits.
It was a strange feeling, as though he was floating in the air. He could see the face of a man through his slitted eyelids, a face that seemed somehow familiar. And beyond that, only darkness.
[What a foolish one you are. To think you would do a somersault on the prow to grab the old man's attention. Well, no matter. You fell into the sea so you weren't eaten.]
...Ah, that phrase. Well, never mind. That's right. I remember that. This man is the demon.
The demon who had given them immortality. As Elmer pondered why he was still here instead of gone back to wherever he came from, the demon calmly spoke again.
[I had planned to go back, but something caught my eye, you see. Well, no matter. Anyway, it looked like you were trying to convince that old man to stop, but... do you really think that was possible?] the demon asked quietly, staring at Elmer as though he was some sort of strange life form. Elmer gave it some thought and replied, grinning from ear to ear.
"I think it's possible. Sylvie said that Szilard smiled, you see."
"...The fact that he smiled means that he was still human, after all. Even though that might be the smirk of a murderer moments after a kill, I don't deny the fact of a smile. As long as you can smile somehow, you can still talk things over. Things might be different if this was a war, but this is just something about an individual's feelings and desires, isn't it? No matter how slim the chance might be, I want to give it a chance."
[Hmm. But seeing how you turned out, I think your goal might have been a nearly impossible task.]
"That's fine. I didn't think that the happiest ending in that situation would involve Szilard being eaten instantly, see. But letting him go would be even worse. I'm going to convince him to apologize from the bottom of his heart, and make him atone for what he did for all of eternity... until the others forgive him."
[Are you ignoring the ones who've already been eaten?]
"The dead can't smile. They can't be sad, or angry, either. That's what it means to be dead. If ghosts really do exist in this world... I don't think you can call those people dead. Well, I mean, respect for the dead might be an important thing, but... I don't really care."
The demon was silent for a moment, and then its voice rang directly inside his head.
[Hmm. I thought you were just a good-natured simpleton, but it seems you've got more evil than good in you. Well, no matter. You're an interesting one. Very well, I guess you could call this a connection between us.]
The demon said something unbelievably exciting.
[I'll give you any power you want, just say it. If you wish, I can take away all the conditions from your immortality. I can give you the power of farsight, to look at distant places, or the power to stop time, or mind control. Anything.]
"Like Aladdin's magic lamp."
[Something like that. Except it's just one wish instead of three.] the demon said mockingly, shaking his head.
Elmer gave it a moment of thought and grinned.
"I've made my decision, demon."
[That was fast,] said the voice inside his head, surprised.
Unhesitatingly, Elmer gave voice to the power he wanted.
"Look, demon. What I want is...."
"Hey! Are you okay, Elmer?!"
"He's woken up!"
"What a relief."
The sound of a hand slapping a cheek. Elmer sensed light flooding his field of vision.
He looked around and saw he was back on the deck, the soft light of the morning sun shining warmly over him. He gave it a moment of thought and concluded that someone had fished him back up after he fell into the sea.
"...What happened to old man Szilard?"
"Mmm, Huey and Denkuro had him cornered, but he jumped into the sea and we lost him."
"I see..." Elmer said shortly.
He stopped trying to get up, instead laying flat on the deck and looking up at the sky, his mind awhirl with thoughts. The morning sunlight shone in his eyes, but he could still make out stars in the faint dawn sky.
He glanced away and saw his comrades heaving sighs of relief as they looked down at him.
Their smiles helped him on his way back to sleep.
But... just before he lost consciousness, he realized that someone on the ship was wailing in sorrow, and he smiled a sad smile.
"No, Sylvie. You have to smile. Smile..."
Muttering as though talking in his sleep, the thin thread of his consciousness snapped and he sank into deep darkness.
And... time passed.
A village in northern Europe
The stately, grand array of trees hid the village from sight under a veil of snow.
It was a place rife with conifer trees, almost too many, side by side as though to rebel against the laws of nature. And amongst those trees, a lone shadow trudged through the woods.
The man, his silhouette made large and cumbersome by his thick winter clothes, looked to be wandering aimlessly through the snowy cascade of trees.
"This is a bit of a pinch."
The shadow stopped in front of a huge hardwood and muttered to himself. The steam caused by his sigh clouded immediately into white mist that blocked his vision. He glanced up to the sky as his breath dispersed into the air.
He could barely make out the sky through the thick barrier of conifer trees. The dark navy color told him that the sun would set soon.
"So it was fake information, huh. Well, I guess if you think about it there's no way a castle'd be in a place like this."
Fixing his gaze back on the ground, the man looked about.
A line of pure white snow could barely be glimpsed through the strangely thick barrier of trees.
"Now, what to do. Should I turn back, or..."
He looked around, mumbling to himself. The area in front of him had less white than the path from which he'd come. The forest was strange enough as it was, but the woods blocked out sunlight in a peculiar way, making it seem as though there was only darkness lying before him.
The man gave it a second of thought, then began trudging forward deeper into the forest.
As though he was being led by something...
Someone is in the forest.
He wears thick clothes, and only part of his face is laid bare to the cold air.
He notices me standing at the entrance to the village and says something.
What a strange expression. The corners of his mouth are raised and his eyes are only half open. It was an expression I have not seen often on the faces of the townspeople.
The expression that the "outside people" sometimes show. I still do not know what this expression means.
No. I should know, but the knowledge has merely vanished from my memory. Because I have not had the chance to see it for so long.
"Wow, but it's really cold, isn't it! Freezing! Come on, let's thank this incredible chill! If it weren't for this cold, these winter clothes of mine would've been useless!"
A strong, clear voice.
"Anyway, is there an inn in this village? If there is, can you show me the way? I slept a night in the forest and I've been walking all day, so I'll take any place I can get."
An inn. A facility to temporarily house outsiders.
Such a thing does not exist in this village. With that knowledge in mind, I shake my head.
"What, no? That complicates things. Is there any place I can rest a while? Anywhere I can find shelter from the rain and the wind will do. Mmm, even someplace like a watermill would be just fine. I wonder what kind of place this village is. I didn't think there'd be people living in the middle of a forest like this. Maybe there's a road to the city on the other side? But on the map it said that there was nothing but forest for dozens of kilometers in every direction. I must say, you can't trust anything you haven't made sure of yourself! Don't you think? Oh, that's right. My name's Elmer. Elmer C. Albatross. El for short. Nice to meet you!"
Words. Words pour forth from this man in a flood. More words than I can comprehend, and so I cannot form a reply. In just one breath, this man releases more words than the villagers do in a month.
I manage to grab hold of that one proper noun amidst the barrage that assails me.
"Ah, I'm sorry! It's been so long since I've met anybody, so I just babbled on and on about myself and didn't even let a cute girl like you get in a word edgewise! Uhh, you can understand what I'm saying, right? I think I'm talking in the language of this country. Wait, maybe I'm not? Well then, starting again from the top, is there any place I can get some rest?"
I an understand. I just cannot follow.
"I will... lead you. Master... Elmer."
A normal reaction. I replt as I would to any of the townspeople. But Master Elmer cocks his head to one side.
"Huh? Why're you talking like that? Ah, maybe that's it. Do you work as a waitress at a restaurant or something?"
Without even waiting for a reply, Master Elmer lets loose with another flood of words.
"The townspeople here are pretty queer, aren't they? They ran inside and locked themselves up the moment I came! Maybe they hate outsiders? Or maybe they're getting ready for Christmas!"
Christmas. Another unfamiliar word.
At a loss for words, I merely stare silently at Master Elmer's face.
"...What what what what? Did I say something wrong? Here, I'll apologize."
"What is... Christmas?"
I give a reply.
That is my duty.
"...Huh? You don't know? Christmas. Aha, I'd thought that everyone around here would know since it's even spread to the East these days, but maybe the religion around here's different? Perhaps I'll look into it later."
The last part he mumbles to himself. Then, looking at my face, he suddenly smiles.
"That's right! This'll do it! If it's not against the laws of the religion around these parts, I'll teach you about Christmas! Let's see, Christmas is... well, in short, it's a celebration! Everyone laughs and smiles and eats cake and turkey and gives presents to each other!"
Master Elmer's face fills with even more frantic energy. His voice ring loudly. His hands advance toward me.
Master Elmer's hands stroke my cheeks.
"That's right, smile. Everyone smiles when there's a festival. Smile, yeah! Smile! This might be a bit sudden, but cute kids like you are cutest when you're smiling. Mmm, that is, this is probably a little trite, but I'll give you a smiling face as a Christmas present! I'm telling you, you'll be cute. You'll be charming! You'll be really adorable! All the boys'll only have eyes for you!"
And so said, Master Elmer pinches my cheeks lightly. Instead of resisting, I remembere one fact.
The expression on Master Elmer's face is called a "smile."
And that is the expression one makes when they are happy.
"I'll open a celebration the day after tomorrow, so sit tight and wait for it! Come on, this is the part where you smile."
Little by little, they come back. The emotion known as happiness and the memories related to it.
I want to remember more. More, more.
I feel that if I talk with this person I will remember even more. That I will learn things I do not know yet. At the celebration called Christmas, two days from now... More, more.
Another memory flashes into my mind.
Perhaps this is the emotion known as "joy." Or perhaps "hope" would be a better word...
That happened two days ago.
A hard stone floor.
The sounds echoes through the air.
Squish. Crunch. Bam.
The sounds repeat endlessly.
The thing that was Master Elmer rolls bonelessly before my eyes.
Just a simple thing. A human shaped piece of meat, leaking crimson liquid, encased in cloth.
The villagers surround it. All of them, holding stones and wodden clubs, taking turns bringing their weapons down on Master Elmer's body.
A shadow stands before me.
A middle aged man. Hairy. Leader. The mayor of this village... Master Dez.
"What have you been scheming with this outsider, you wench?"
Master Dez swings his club at me.
My entire body is paralyzed. My body writhes on the ground of its own accord.
"Damn it, filthy girl... you actually led him to this place, this cursed monster's home!"
I can see Master Dez's foot. Underneath his hefty shoe is a pretty paper decoration. No. Not pretty any longer. It had been pretty, once.
Pretty. I wonder at the fact that this word has made itself known in my head.
When had I remembered the word "pretty?"
The club comes down once more upon my head and my body becomes unable to move.
I lift myself onto my back and stoop, surreptitiously picking up the ornament.
The decoration is in the shape of a man in red clothes.
The flattened ornament, and Master Elmer's huddled body.
Looking at the two, a certain emotion makes itself known to me.
But I cannot remember.
What is this emotion? What should I do when this feeling boils up inside me?
I cannot think of anything. And that was why I cannot do anything.
If he had but tought me. More, more, more, more, more....
How many years has it been since I wished for something so strongly?
Even knowing that that wish would not come to be...
With myself on my back, I look at on at the spectacle before me.
The people in the room begin to mutter amongst themselves.
In the time it took me to breathe twice, the villagers fall silent and look at each other.
A moment later, a hoe sinks deep into Master Elmer's back.
The crimson-smeared hoe retreats, and the red becomes a line flows.
In the candlelight, the scarlet seems very warm.
Red, red, redredredredredredredredredredredredredredredredredredredredredredred....
Just when it seems that every emotion in my body will be stained red and my thoughts will come grinding to a halt...
As though to make sure, the hoe comes down once more.
Red. Red. Red.
That color is clearly remembered inside my mind.
The uneasiness inside me becomes even worse, and I almost become sick, but even that feeling is soon drowned by the endless red.
1): The guy who speaks in this very peculiar fashion is named Veg. He actually makes an appearance in a subplot of the fourth novel, Drugs & Dominoes, as a drugmaker employed by the Runorata family. The Drugs part of the title, if you will.
His storyline mostly has to do with another novel-only character, Roy Murdoch, and so the anime version of this novel's storyline (which has to do with Eve looking for her brother and the Runorata Family's war with the Gandor Family) kinda rubbed him out, and the parts that Roy played were mostly handled by various other characters, while the conflict with the Runorata Family as a whole was kinda downplayed in favor of the Eve looking for Dallas plotline.