Phew. Done at last. My thoughts (along with a copious amount of bitching) are at the end, so I'll spare you for now. Enjoy!
Preface & Prologue
The Children of Bottle
A week passed after the tumultuous events of that night, and life in the village continued as it always had.
Nobody ever saw Felt again after that fateful night... and those brave souls who mustered their courage and ventured into the old castle found it empty, as though no one had ever been there.
The villagers arrived at the conclusion that suited them most, that the enraged demons had taken Felt for their own dark purposes and left.
The five witches had obviously been servants of the demons, and the blame for Dez's death was placed squarely at their feet. There was nothing left to question; the case was closed...
...Or so they thought.
It all started one morning, when the villagers drank the water they'd brought back from the well that day.
Some of them imbibed it directly; others used it to cook their food.
"Wha...t? Wha, wha, what's happening?!"
The moment the liquid passed their lips, they found strange memories being implanted directly into their heads. Memories of themselves abusing Phil... but these recollections were not from their viewpoints, that of the aggressor, but from that of the victim, Phil.
The pitiful efforts she'd made to try and protect herself became their own struggles; the injustices she'd suffered from blind prejudice and hatred became their own wounds.
These experiences were painful. The memories were not distributed equally, but instead took root deepest in the hearts of those who had tormented her most.
"Stop... go away. I'm sorry. So please, go away, get out of my head..."
But the girls were no longer there for them to beg for forgiveness.
And so, the sun rose over the village, again, and again. The memories that seeped into their minds remained as objective facts, unchanging. So it was the next day, and the day after...
Unforgiven, unabsolved, they were left with only that pain in their hearts.
For ever, and ever...
"I have to say I didn't expect you to have a vindictive streak like that."
"Yeah. I mean, you threw Phil's 'water' straight into the village well."
Czes and Elmer sat on a modern sofa in the laboratory outside the forest, chatting idly.
"That's their punishment, not being able to ask pardon for their crimes. Really, though, I never even dreamed that it might be possible to make someone take the water and then choose not to resist. It's the perfect way to clear up all the misunderstandings. They get to share all of Phil's past, her memories, and her experiences. Then when Phil thinks that they've had enough she can just go back there. Mmm. Maybe it'd be best to visit before old man Bild dies and the villagers all go their separate ways."
"That's a bit..."
"Speaking of misunderstandings, I hear the villagers thought that my Christmas and Easter celebrations were some sort of demonic ritual. I should go back someday and make things clear, don't you think?"
"Don't go and make this personal," Czes said, rolling his eyes, and Elmer seemed to acquiesce, casually looking away and switching tactics.
"So, Czes. When are you going to smile for me?"
"I heard you were shouting something along those lines while you escaped from the villagers back then."
Elmer's knowing grin suddenly brought back his memory of that night. And the moment realization dawned in him, Czes's eyes widened comically and a cold sweat began beading on his brow.
"Phi, Phil! That little...!"
"Come on now, don't try to run away from this. Smile. Do you need something funny? I'll see if I can't rummage out a tiger from inside a folding screen." 1)
"What're you talking abo.... Dammit! No! Not in front of you! Never!"
Elmer grinned as Czes threw a childish tantrum and raised his voice in a rough approximation of Sylvie's tones.
"Aww, you're so cute, Czes."
Czes's face reddened as he shouted angrily at Elmer, but Elmer just threw back his head and laughed merrily.
Half a year after the showdown in the forest, the five alchemists finished their new research in Bild's laboratory.
They had been working toward a solution to ensure that homunculi could survive outside the forest... in other words, to make them human. Maiza's knowledge alone hadn't been enough, so they had to resort to consulting a certain homunculus who lived in New York and the young man who lived with her by phone, but in the end they found a solution.
"So what now, Maiza?"
"...I'd like to visit Japan to try and find Denkuro, but for now I think I'd better go back to the family in New York."
"I'll go with you... there're some people I want to see again," Czes said quietly.
His friends in New York were good people; he knew that now. He'd left - no, fled - with Maiza because he couldn't bear to face them, but... but now, he thought he might be able to be honest with them.
Elmer observed them for a moment before giving his opinion.
"I think I'll nip over to Japan, then. Haven't been there for the longest time. I think I'll check whether they've made a new Super Mario. Ah, mmm. I'll contact you if I see Denkuro, of course."
"I think I'll follow you. It's been so long since I've seen Mr. Denkuro."
"I say this: I shall go as well."
Sylvie and Nile moved to stand next to Elmer, and so their destinations came to be cleanly divided.
Without even superficial farewells, they quietly opened the door that led outside.
After all, temporary goodbyes meant nothing to them. They had all the time in the world.
Even as they prepared to step outside... Felt still sat in a chair ensconced in the corner, staring gloomily outside with Phil's face. Sylvie noticed her still brooding and discretely made her way over.
"What's wrong? Didn't you want to see the outside?"
Felt was silent for a moment, then slowly looked up at Sylvie and opened her mouth.
"Is it really alright for me to do that?"
"I'm still not sure. With Phil's memories in my head, I've finally realized just how despicable I really was. No, I guess it'd be better to say that I found myself confronted again by something I already knew. Even if Phil does find it in herself to forgive me, what do I do once I'm outside? What should I atone for? I've been thinking about this for the past six months... but I still haven't found a good answer. Does someone like me really have the right... to live outside?"
Felt looked down, self-hate coloring her voice.
She felt rather than saw Sylvie's hands touch her cheeks, and then the next moment she found herself staring up at her. The same gentle smile as always was fixed on Sylvie's face, the one thing that seemed out of place in the otherwise seductive air about her.
"You mustn't look so down. Didn't Elmer tell you that you looked best when you were smiling?"
"More times than I care to remember over the past half year. But I still can't find my goal in life. I can't help but think everything that drives me might peter out once I see the outside... I'm afraid."
Sylvie sat down next to Felt, perching herself on the edge of the chair.
"Remember that night back then? When you told me that I had no goal in life?"
Her words brought back the memory of that night so clearly it felt like it had taken place only a few days ago. Felt had told her that she had no goal in life, and so she'd surely lose in a battle of wills.
"If I don't have a goal in life, does that mean that I don't have the right to keep on living, to laugh?"
"That... Forget it. I was stupid."
"No, I don't mean it like that. What I mean is that you're wrong right now."
Still smiling, Sylvie looked into Felt's eyes, lowering her voice so only Felt could hear her.
"To tell the truth, my goal in life was revenge."
Surprised, Felt found herself staring back at Sylvie, eyes wide.
A thread of sadness entwined its way into Sylvie's smile as she continued.
"After I lost my lover to Szilard... every moment of the next three hundred years was spent dreaming of getting my revenge on him."
"But you said you wanted eternal beauty..."
"That was for revenge, too. I thought that if I looked completely different, he wouldn't realize it was me. I'd sidle my way casually up to him and then grab the bastard's head before he could react. Silly, isn't it? But then... I heard from Maiza that Szilard was dead. I couldn't believe it."
Complicated emotions filled her voice, and Felt could only hold her breath and listen, humbled.
"Elmer was right. I'd have gladly bathed in the blood of virgins if I thought it would get me what I wanted. I was that desperate. And that's why the news of Szilard's death was such a shock. I felt like I'd lost, in an instant, everything that kept me alive and going."
The smile returned to Sylvie's face.
"Compared to me, your wish is so positive. I envy you. And what a wish! To see the outside world... I've never heard of such an exciting goal. You don't know it yet, but the world is much bigger than you could possibly imagine. I've been alive for three hundred... but I couldn't even dream of saying that I've seen all the world has to offer."
Sylvie caught sight of a silhouette approaching from behind and the force of her smile intensified.
"But back on topic. I found myself involved in a bunch of stuff just as I was trying to get used to the shock of Szilard's death... To be honest, I don't think I'd have been able to make it through if not for Maiza and Nile."
"So all I want you to do is try and look out for the people around you as you try to absolve yourself and fulfill your wish of seeing the world. That should be enough... Though Elmer seems to have made helping others his actual objective in life."
Her piece said, Sylvie made her way back to her companions.
Felt opened her mouth up to ask her what she'd meant, but someone grabbed her hand and tugged on it.
She turned around and saw Phil, ready to leave.
"Let's go," Phil said, smiling. Struck by the purity in that smile, Felt stood, and only belatedly realized that she'd nodded already.
"There's something magical about a smiling face. And I mean that literally."
"Oh boy, here he goes again."
"No no no, I'm serious! Just seeing a smile gives me strength. Listen, a smile is the best genetic memory contained in the human genome, and the act of laughter is one that's natural to us from the very moment we're born..."
"What ever happened to crying and frowning?"
"...Ah, wait, look at it this way. The 'waaah' a newborn baby makes is actually a laugh. 'The Terrible Sight of a Newborn Baby Roaring With Laughter!' or something along those lines... no, instead of 'terrible', how about 'bizzare'?"
"I say this: shut up."
Elmer opened his mouth to continue his ridiculous argument, but caught sight of the girls standing ready to leave... and together, they all walked outside into the sunlit day.
...To be honest, in a part of my mind, I think I might have been afraid of the outside.
No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't find anything to smile at after that night when I gave Felt one of my bodies. So much so that I felt more anxiety than happiness when I heard the news that we'd be leaving for the outside.
Certainly, there was a time when I'd wanted to see the outside world. But can I... Can I, who lived this long knowing only this forest, really adjust and survive in the outside world?
...This forest is your bottle and your flask. You are beings that cannot exist outside of your containers...
Now I can remember my past clearly. And now I can't forget what the alchemist who created me said to me. I think he was Master Bild's grandfather, and upon realizing that I didn't even know his name, I felt wretched.
I told Master Elmer about my misgivings, and he laughed and said, "What, that's all?
"You and Felt haven't even left your bottles yet."
Then Master Elmer's smile faded slightly, and he became just a trifle more serious.
"I think that everyone might be a homunculus in a way. We can't survive outside our flasks... outside the world we know and are comfortable with, you see. But it's possible, entirely possible, to expand the size of the flask itself... Ah, how should I put it? That's the best example I can think of. And Huey made faking deep philosophical insights look so easy, too."
Huey. I remember hearing the name crop up in their conversations once or twice. Curious, I asked about him.
"Mmm... I'd say that meeting him yourself would be the best option... Ah, right. When we go outside you can go visit him yourself. Anyway, the only way to expand glass is to heat it up. A cold expression like that just won't do."
As I listened, I suddenly, hesitantly, thought to myself that I wanted to see the outside. I had hoped that I would change my mind all at once, but it seemed that things weren't fated to be quite so easy.
I think that I was able to build up that small hope for the past six months thanks to the people around me.
Now, I want to show Master Elmer my smile.
I want to laugh, even louder than Master Elmer.
And to do that, I think I'll go outside and see the world. More things than even Master Elmer has seen. I might see things that I would rather have not, but I want to become stronger, so that I can smile even then.
I'll travel with Felt. I haven't forgiven him completely yet, but as we travel together, someday, I'll make him smile.
And then, all together, we'll show Master Elmer our smiles.
...Then Master Elmer will smile back. I'll have made Master Elmer smile. No, not just him, but many other people...
As I think of that day to come, I find myself looking forward, just a little, to venturing outside.
"Ah, I ended up only showing Phil a few of the celebrations I had in mind," Elmer mused, remembering the days spent in the castle as he stood in front of the great double doors.
"I was thinking of teaching her about Valentine's Day in February. While making chocolate, of course. Then I realized there was no way we'd be making decent chocolate with what we had in the castle, so that was that."
Nile turned to look at him.
"Chocolate?" he said, curious. "What does Valentine's have to do with chocolate?"
"It's a campaign that the Japanese chocolate companies came up with to raise sales. They spread this rumor that if girls gave boys chocolate on Valentine's Day, their love would come true."
"That's nothing but a sales promotion," Sylvie pointed out. "Not a celebration."
Elmer shook his head.
"That's where you're wrong. Whoever thought this up was a genius. They managed to make this thing more than a boom. It's culture, now. A developing sort of culture that's spreading across the world thanks to the efforts of snack companies and artists. It's a celebration that evolves, I'm telling you! They say that many of the events we celebrate today were originally held to wish for good harvest and wealth, right? So what's wrong with having a celebration for the good of chocolate companies? And what's more amazing is that they made another day for boys to return the favor, called White Day! I just can't get enough of the spirit building up here."
"Come to think of it, I hear that there're marketing campaigns for Valentine's chocolates in New York these days, too," Maiza commented offhandedly, as though remembering something. "They must have taken tips from the Japanese."
"Yeah, I remember Miria and Ennis talking about it when we called last year."
The light dancing in Elmer's eyes only intensified as Czes chipped in as well.
"Really, now? Aha, I see! The Japanese fellow who imported Christmas must've exported Valentine's!"
"What... the holiday of Saint Valentine's Day existed before the chocolate, Elmer..."
Elmer just laughed in reply and took a huge step outside. He spun around to look at the others, the blinding sunlight falling about him like a cloak. The girls were just making their way out, joining the rest at their place just inside the gateway.
"What I'm saying is that I'd like Phil and Felt to try their hand at participating in these celebrations precisely because they are what they are. The village they're from doesn't have any native festivals, so there's nothing for it but to make up your own. That's all."
Elmer's smile, directed at the five girls hesitantly emerging from the castle, was the same as ever.
Almost as though that was the way his face was meant to be.
And then, raising his voice, he cried out to Phil and Felt.
"This place is more like a closed bottle than a flask. Just like you were born, everything you can imagine was created here. Good things and bad things, equally."
Elmer spun around, flinging his arms out wide with the sun at his back.
"Welcome to our bottle!"
1711, The Atlantic Ocean
Elmer listened to the demon's question and slowly opened his mouth.
"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. I want to see you smile."
"Laugh for me. Sincerely, happily, loudly and longly. Show me how a demon laughs. Teach me what can make a demon happy."
He could feel the demon's surprise, and already he was satisfied.
"Your smiling face will definitely give me strength."
The demon before him was unable to conceal its shock as it stared at him.
[...I wasn't expecting that. My apologies. I underestimated you.]
The demon's face slowly twisted into something that could have been a smile... and the world once again began its plunge into total darkness.
[I've been around for thousands of years as a demon who grants human desires... but this is the hardest wish I've ever heard.]
Just before darkness engulfed the world completely, Elmer extended his hand and grabbed the demon's arm.
"No, no, you mustn't run away. You can't lie, either. They don't call me a true believer in laughter for nothing. I can spot a fake smile at a hundred paces."
The demon avoided Elmer's gaze as the man scolded him, nonplussed. Surprisingly, Elmer only chuckled.
"Look, demon. I've got something to ask of you. If my wish is too hard for you to grant, I might be persuaded to give you some time to work on it. On a few conditions, of course."
"You know Maiza, right? The chap who summoned you."
"He's just lost his little brother. He's got to be feeling shocked right now. Maybe angry, maybe sad... maybe even hopeless."
[A reasonable assumption.]
"So, I was thinking maybe you could watch over him. I'll be looking for old man Szilard, so you stay by Maiza's side and help him with this and that. Not as a demon, as a human being. Well, considering that you actually look human, that shouldn't be such a problem, should it?"
"Travel with him in the New World they're going to arrive at soon. Until he can find it in himself to let himself go and laugh. Then I guarantee you'll be able to smile as well. If we happen to meet after that... then show me. Be happy for our reunion. Even if the reason you're happy is because you can tell me, 'Ha! I can smile after all! Eat that!' that's fine. I just want to see you smile."
Silence, as the dark ceased its endless writhing.
Just as Elmer's consciousness slipped from his grasp, he heard the voice of the demon clearly in his mind.
He'd made the demon actually make an effort to do something. Perhaps this was something incredibly bizarre. Maybe if he told someone, it would make them laugh. Or maybe they'd just smirk, disappointed...
Elmer lost consciousness, his mind occupied with trivial thoughts.
And time marched on...
2003, New York
Anyway, the food here's not bad. The smell of honey's a bit overpowering, but I guess it's fine.
Yeah, that's the end of Mr. Happy End's story.
I don't know whether he finally got to see the demon's smile, either.
I'm here in this store to find out. I've heard rumors that the demon's staying here, you see.
...What? What's with that look on your faces?
You want to meet them? The demon and Elmer? Are you serious?
Haha, you two are strange.
Me? My name is... Phil Nibil. I hope that one day we'll meet again.2)
Until then, I hope you'll stay happy.
And if you ever meet him, give Happy End my regards.
Tell him I don't think I've atoned for everything yet... but that we're happy right now.
The others might be angry, but I think he'll enjoy that more than anything.
That's all I can do to repay him.
Isaac and Miria, was it? Right, I'll remember your names.
Then, I'll be on my way. Until the day we meet again in this honey-drenched restaurant.
I wish you both a happy ending... no, a happy forever...
Baccano! 2001 - The Children of Bottle
1): From a story where a cruel magistrate became the town laughingstock after he challenged a local boy to capture a tiger drawn on a folding screen, and then angrily pointed out that there was no way a painted tiger could move once the boy asked him to drive the tiger out so he could throw a rope around its neck. It makes more sense in context, I swear. （´・ω・｀）
2): This is actually Felt. This is obvious in the original because she uses the "ore" (masculine) pronoun to refer to herself, but I couldn't fit this in and make it sound natural.
I'm too lazy to do Narita's afterword in full, so here's the rundown: He had this in the works since book 2, before he'd even finalized Czes's character. Originally, only Elmer and Maiza were slated to appear. Then he decided "what the hell" and added in every original immortal currently left, with color pages cameos from the ones he couldn't fit into the main story. He comments that this novel is different from his previous Baccano volumes in pretty much every aspect - the time, the number of characters, the setting, etc. That's about it, really.
Now my turn. (゜∇゜)
Yes, Phil's last monologue is written in "normal" font in the original as well. I think it's supposed to show that she's finally become fully "human," if you get what I mean. It shows in her speech patterns too, which I tried to work in during the chapter 5 showdown as she yells at Felt... though I'm not really sure if anyone actually noticed it.
As noted above, Felt continues using "ore" even when he's in Phil's little girl body, and yes, even in 2003 after 2 years to adjust. Of course, given that they're all actually supposed to be speaking a European based language (I would wager German, but I have no evidence to back this up at all) or English later on, I suppose it doesn't matter.
Some stuff I disliked while translating: Narita's constant usage of normal words with special in-universe meanings. Extremely awkward for me to translate, and a habit he seems to have picked up from reading too much Nasu Kinoko. You know, Origin, Root, Death... now look at Narita's Liquor, Water, Eating, etc.... blargh.
The constant use of extended dashes as a replacement for ellipses (also courtesy of Nasu) and the overuse of repetition to express characters' emotions (again from Na... sensing a trend here?) were annoying too. I replaced all the dashes, which came at various lengths that ranged from normal to almost half a line long, with ellipses. I also refrained from typing out
Don't get me wrong. I don't have a problem with reading this stuff, it's just that it bothers me when I translate. I dunno. It could be personal preference. You tell me.
I think that's enough bitching, yes? I'll stop here. Anyway, I hope you guys enjoyed reading this book (hopefully far more than I enjoyed translating it, that's for certain) and I'd love to hear what you thought of it.