Chapter 12 – The Wall Inscribed by Travelers
Apparently, the people in the left half of a certain country were on bad terms with the people on the right half, so they had built a wall running through the middle and decided not to have any dealings with each other.
Of course, the wall was already in place when I arrived at the left side of the country, and just like the other side of the country that rejected this side, the neatly maintained ash-grey wall stood there boldly while also giving off a cold feeling.
When I touched it, I found that it was pleasantly cool
“No matter how I look at it, it is dull. It’s very dull. This is the worst.”
While I was killing time by rubbing my cheek up against the wall, a government official from the left side of the country came up behind me whilst grumbling that.
While keeping my cheek pressed against the wall, I asked him “What is the matter?” with a puzzled expression.
“Just what are you doing over there…”
The official looked at me with an exasperated expression and said,
“You see, the right side and left side of this country are on very bad terms, to the extent that we each wish for the people on the other side to go to hell, but take a look at this. Don’t you think this wall is a little too dull to be the separator between this side and the other side?”
“…? What do you mean by dull?”
After I heard what he had to say, I nodded to myself as his logic was satisfactory. Moreover, it seemed that the left side and the right side could also not endure the thought of losing to each other.
Both this side of the wall and the other side were the same dull grey color, but this was exactly the reason why the official was drowning in despair.
There was no doubt that this side of the wall was clearly superior to the other side. However, there was no clear evidence to prove that this side was superior.
In short, what the official was trying to say was,
“Look at this wall. This wall itself is the absolute proof that this side is superior to the other side — We want something we can boast about like that.”
Apparently, that was the situation. Well, that’s simple and straightforward. A truly easy to understand problem.
It was a problem quite suitable for the people of this country who raised up a grey wall despite their burning desire to clearly delineate everything into either black or white.
“I hear that you are a traveling witch. Do you have any good ideas?”
Without missing a beat, the official threw that question to me.
I let out a groan after keeping my cheek pressed against the wall for a little while longer.
After letting out the groan, saying “Well, it’s not like I don’t have any ideas at all,” I made him an offer.
Incidentally, the people of this country had a tendency to want to clearly delineate and classify everything in a proper category, but this trait was also shared by the people on the other side of the wall.
“Hey there. I hear you’re a traveling witch. By the way, take a look at this wall. Don’t you think it is a rather selfish thing? Actually, there is something I’d like your opinion about.”
I had gone to the other side of the wall — in other words, the right side of the country, and just as I had done on the other side, I had my cheek pressed up against the wall.
A government official from the right side of the country came up to me and, as expected, he made the same request of me as the official from the left side.
I groaned again in the exact same way as I did previously, pretended to think about it for a while, and made an offer to this side as well.
“Well, it’s not like I don’t have any ideas at all.”
After saying that, the official was extremely happy, and shouted, “Is that true!?” with his eyes sparkling.
“Yes, it’s not like I don’t have any ideas. However, there is one condition — Official-san, do you have a knife?”
“Hmm? Aah, I do have one, but…”
The official gave me the knife he wore at his waist, while looking at me suspiciously.
“What do you intend to do with that?”
Saying “This is what I wanted to do,” I stabbed the knife into the surface of the wall.
With a scratching and scraping sound, I started carving shapes into the wall.
Just what is this girl planning to do?
As the official was furrowing his eyebrows and thinking that, I had finished carving a sentence into the wall.
『This side of the wall is a very nice place.
—A traveling Witch』
“……What is this?”
The official was continuing to furrow his eyebrows. It looked like he was slow on the uptake.
“In short, while this wall acts like a symbol to separate this side of the country from the other side, it also serves to prove how wonderful this side is, right? So you should just have visiting travelers carve their impressions into the wall like I just did. The more inscriptions you have, the more it will serve to show how wonderful this side of the wall is.”
“Hmm… But I can’t really say that I like such an approach very much…”
As he said this, the official from the right side of the country deepend his frown, forming a crease in between his eyebrows.
I actually gave a good idea because he came to me and asked, but this is the response I get.
While resisting the urge to droop my shoulders in disgust, I acted like I suddenly remembered something and said, “Ah, I forgot to mention something.”
I used a certain magical phrase on him.
“The other side of the wall already has many such inscriptions on it.”
I heard about this later, but after I left that country, it apparently became a custom to give every visiting traveler a knife and have them carve a sentence into the wall.
However, I wonder why it is that the citizens of that country belonging to the different halves are constantly in conflict, but on just the single matter of continuing that conflict, their opinions matched so well.
The above was an excerpt from Volume 5 of 『The Adventures of Nike』
It had not been very long since she had become an apprentice witch when that girl visited that country along with her teacher
Her teacher spoke, as though she had just remembered something.
“Ah, by the way, that country has really delicious food. Aaah… I want to eat some delicious food… Well then, let’s go. To that country.”
This was the main cause of the entire incident.
At her sudden proposal, the girl wondered what this person was talking about all of a sudden, but it wasn’t like she had any particular place she wanted to go instead.
And so, the girl nodded to her teacher’s sudden proposal, and prepared to go there along with her teacher. However, since it was her teacher who had proposed this plan, she used the fact that she was being pushed around on short notice as an excuse, and said, “Ah, if you’re going to treat me to some food, then I’ll go,” and received a slightly displeased expression in return.
And so, after several days of flying on their brooms over grasslands, they reached that country.
Just as her teacher had said, the food in that country was so delicious it felt like your cheeks would melt.
What her teacher had failed to mention, however, was that there was a large wall that ran through the center of the country, dividing it into two parts.
The two of us looked up at that wall.
One of them was a youthful witch with ashen hair. She was probably somewhere in her mid twenties.
The other one was that witch’s disciple. She was an apprentice witch with beautiful long hair as black as night.
Right then, now for the real issue at hand.
That girl — the apprentice mage.
Who was that girl who was always being pushed around by her teacher, while her desire to become a full-fledged witch only grew stronger with each passing day?
Please answer the question in no more or less than four letters.
…Alright, time’s up. Right then, let’s compare answers.
Who was that girl?
The correct answer is…
That is the answer.
Hearing my teacher call my name, I turned around.
“What is it, Sensei?”
“Take a look at this wall. Isn’t it amazing?”
My teacher’s voice was slightly excited.
“Haven’t you already visited this country before?”
When I asked that question, my teacher slumped her shoulders as if she wanted to say Aah, this kid doesn’t get it at all.
“I’m saying that it has become a lot more impressive since the last time I was here.”
On the wall were a number of — an innumerable number of — inscriptions carved into it. There were things like:
『This country is the best!』, 『This is the best country I’ve seen in my life!』, 『The two of us are going to get married soon』, and 『We, partners in travel, will live on forever』 and other completely unrelated words carved into it. In this way, there were traces from all sorts of travelers carving their inscriptions into the wall.
Apparently when my teacher was last here, the wall was completely plain.
When I replied with a “Oh, is that so?”, she said in an even more boastful manner, “Do you know who started the practice of carving sentences into this wall? That’s right, it was me.”
I didn’t really understand what she said, so I ignored her.
“But what is the point of this? Is there any meaning to carving sentences into the wall?”
“There’s no real meaning behind it. The people of this country just like to compete with the opposite side. They want some way to prove that they are better than the people on the opposite side. So that’s why people who visit this side and think that it is a nice place will leave a message on this side of the wall. Similarly, people who visit the opposite side and think that it is a nice place will leave a message on the opposite side of the wall.”
So putting it frankly, it is a kind of popularity contest.
However, if it is a popularity contest, there is something that I’m curious about.
I tugged on my teacher’s sleeve and asked, “So, which side is currently on top?”
“Oh, you want to know which side is more popular?”
“Isn’t that only natural? It’s obvious that the more popular side will have better food.”
After a brief silence, “……Eh? You’re still going to eat?”
My teacher once again made a slightly displeased expression.
Although this might be presumptuous of me, I would like to announce the results of looking at that ash-grey wall from both sides.
The answer is…
“They’re both pretty much the same.”
The number and type of sentences were the same, and they were similarly laid out on both sides of the wall.
There were small differences, like instead of 『The two of us are going to get married soon』, there were things like 『Screw this, I want a divorce!』 carved into the wall, and instead of 『We, partners in travel, will live on forever』, I saw 『Screw this, I’m leaving this group!』However it was basically the same.
In other words, it was not possible to use the wall alone to measure the difference between the two sides.
“Well, maybe the difference between the two sides lies in how they prepare their food.”
I had that thought, so I dragged my unwilling teacher along and went to a restaurant on the opposite side of the wall, but the food on the other side was delicious as well, and as expected, I wasn’t able to rate either one over the other.
Feeling a sense of contentment from having full stomachs, the two of us once again returned to the other side of the wall.
“I ate too much… I can’t walk anymore…”
Incidentally, I was the only one feeling contentment from having a full stomach. My teacher was nearly out on her feet.
“Sensei. The other side of the wall looked nearly identical to this side, how can that be?”
My teacher rubbed her belly, let out a sigh, and replied.
“It just means that a lot of people who thought that the other side was wonderful felt the same way about this side as well.”
That means that even though the two sides are competing with each other, there is basically no difference between them at all.
Still, I suppose that’s only natural. Even though they were divided into left and right halves, the two were originally part of the same country, and only their desire to not lose to the other side caused them to end up in this state.
The two sides of this country are like mirror reflections of each other, and they serve to spur each other on to greater heights.
“……Why is it that neither the right side nor the left side have realized that the other side is developing in a similar fashion to them?”
Hearing that question that I unintentionally spoke aloud, my teacher smiled gently.
And she gave me this answer.
“Isn’t it obvious? It’s because neither side has ever tried to see what is on the other side of the wall.”
“There is supposed to be a strange country with a large ash-grey wall that runs through its center.”
Trusting such rumors, a certain witch touched down in that country.
She was a traveling witch. She was wearing a black robe, a black tricorne, and a star-shaped brooch that was proof of her being a witch.
She looked to be in her late teens. Despite that, her face looked like that a much younger girl.
“Wow, this is amazing.”
Standing in front of the soaring wall, the girl said that in a low voice. That wall was full of messages from all sorts of people who had visited the country.
By the way, speaking of that traveling witch.
Who is that girl who is living as a traveling witch just because it suits her tastes?
That’s right it’s me — too bad! It is I, Saya!
“Hey there, so you’re the Witch from the 『Administrative Bureau of Magic』? What do you think of this wall?”
An official from that country came to stand beside me. I was dispatched to this country to fulfill a request from the officials of this country.
“It’s amazing. I can see that a lot of people have come to visit this country.”
I’m living as a traveler partly because it suits my interests, but my job involves traveling to places all over the world to resolve problems.
The Administrative Bureau of Magic basically works to resolve issues caused by magic, but we also take on other requests that can only be completed by using magic.
For example, the current job.
“Witch-dono. I assume you have already read this in the request form, but — can you please do something about this wall? About a decade ago, we started to have travelers carve their messages into the wall based on the suggestion of a traveling witch, but it looks like the novelty has worn off over time, and visitor traffic has fallen along with the number of people who are interested in writing a new message on the wall. The wall has been abandoned.”
Since it was a witch who started the practice, I suppose they want a witch to develop it further.
In other words, the present condition of this country was such that they arrived at the naive idea of borrowing the wisdom of a traveling witch, hoping that it would somehow fix their problems.
Was it really worth making making an official request to prevent this wall from being abandoned? If you ask me, this wall is pretty amazing even the way it is now.
“What do you say, Witch-dono? Do you have any good ideas?”
I stared at the wall for a while and thought about it.
It was a wall where a lot of travelers had left behind their marks. There were a great number of words and opinions engraved here — huh? What’s with this message?
『This side of the wall is a very nice place.
—A traveling witch』
It looks a lot older than the other messages, and it is surrounded by a golden border and looks to be treasured more than all the other messages.
“Ah, that message was written by the witch who first made the suggestion of letting travelers write their messages on the wall. Due to her idea, our country was able to develop this far.”
Oh? That’s pretty amazing. Looks like she was an incredible witch — eh?
“This handwriting, I’ve seen it somewhere before…”
The details of the handwriting were subtly different, but I feel like I’ve seen it somewhere before. To be precise, I saw it at an inn in some country a number of years ago. What’s more, those words seemed to exude a sense of kindness and beauty. There’s no doubt about it the person who carved this sentence must have been a witch who had ashen hair and azure eyes she was likely related to my dear Elaina-san moreover when I look closer I can feel that the presence those words give off is about fifty percent similar to Elaina-san’s so it was probably Elaina-san’s mother or someone similar wait don’t tell me Elaina-san has a daughter who wrote this? Of course there’s no way that can happen so it was definitely her mother and her mother was probably the first person to carve their message into this wall how amazing how wonderful what are the odds of meeting Elaina-san’s mother in a place like this, this is definitely the work of fate, yes now we have no choice but to get married my beautiful and lovely angel Elaina-san you’re so wonderful oh Mother it is so nice to meet you my name is Saya your daughter has always been looking out for me by the way you are also dreamy and beautiful you look just like Elaina-san but even so Elaina-san is more dreamy and wonderful as expected of Elaina-san Elaina-san Elaina-san Elaina-san Elaina-san Elaina-san Elaina-san Elaina-san Elaina-san Elaina-san v v Elaina-san Elaina-san Elaina-san Elaina-san Elaina-san Elaina-san Elaina-san Elaina-san Elaina-san Elaina-san Elaina-san Elaina-san aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
“Witch-dono, are you okay? Your eyes are exuding madness.”
“Ah, I’m fine. I was just in a trance.”
“Ah… I-I see…”
I was drawn to this wall for some reason.
But I’m fine. In fact, I’m in top form.
Due to coming across traces of Elaina-san’s mother, my brain started working at a furious pace.
In other words, I instantly thought of a solution to the problem concerning this wall.
“Mister, can I borrow your knife?”
“I hardly feel comfortable with the idea of giving you a knife…”
“Come on, it’ll be fine.”
The official handed over his knife, while looking obviously reluctant to do so.
I immediately used that knife to carve some words into the wall while saying to him, “You see? This is what you must do. This is the best solution.”
『I love Elaina-san Elaina-san Elaina-san Elaina-san Elaina-san Elaina』
If you’re curious why the last one has no honorific, it was because the official used all his strength to stop me.
“What do you think you’re doing, you fool! This wall is our important treasure with a long history! It is not some foolish thing you can play with by writing about your carnal desires!”
He was extremely angry.
I was just nonchalantly ignoring his words of anger.
“What are you talking about? This is something very important.”
“Important, my foot! This wall is meant for people to write about how wonderful this country is when they visit here!”
“Ah, about that rule. How about changing it from today?”
“……What are you talking about?”
It looks like he didn’t understand what I was trying to say.
And so, I explained it to him in detail.
“Starting today, you should allow the citizens of this country to write whatever they want on the wall. Things like their passionate feelings about the person they love, or their dreams for the future. You should let them write about the things they love, as much as they want.”
“Why? What is the point of doing that?”
I thought I had explained it pretty clearly, but it looks like he still doesn’t understand. Or maybe it is just because his anger is almost beyond control.
He’s such a straight-laced person.
And so, I explained it even more clearly, in a soothing manner.
“After all, it is the people of this country who built this wall, correct? In that case, the wall should be used for the sake of the citizens.”
The wall does not belong to the travelers.
I told him that they should make it a wall that they could look at with pride.
A certain witch arrived at that country.
She had ashen hair and azure eyes. She was wearing a black robe and a tricorne, and that girl, who was wearing a star-shaped brooch proudly on her chest, was a traveler as well as a witch.
She appeared to be in her late teens.
Incidentally, she was the kind of lovely young woman that certain people might describe as a beautiful and lovely angel.
Just who is that girl?
That’s right, it’s me.
One of the literary works that influenced me the most as a child was 『The Adventures of Nike』. The witch who appears in those stories had carved a sentence into a wall, and among the fans of the series, it was said that there were many such countries around the world where such a wall was presumed to exist.
This was one of those countries.
As the author was said to have actually visited the country and carved a sentence into the wall, any true fan of the series would want to see that writing in person and pay homage. It was at the level of a customary pilgrimage where people would regularly come to this place.
I happened across this country while I was in the middle of my travels.
Despite that, I entered the country with a fairly high level of anticipation.
“……It’s been destroyed…”
The wall had been destroyed.
There was no massive wall in that country, it had become just a regular country.
What’s going on? Don’t tell me, did I make a mistake and come to the wrong place? I tilted my head in confusion, but there was no doubt about it, it was definitely the same place that the author had visited.
『This side of the wall is a very nice place.
—A traveling witch』
『This side of the wall is a very nice place.
—A traveling witch』
Two copies of the same sentence had been placed there, as a memorial. Those sentences were enclosed in golden borders and placed in the center of the country, where the wall once stood.
“Welcome! Would you like to buy a piece of the wall? It’s cheap!”
“Would you be interested in buying a souvenir?”
“It’s not ordinary wreckage, it’s wreckage from that wall! It’s rare, I tell you!”
The wall had been removed and the country had become just another ordinary country. And in the center of that country, the citizens were walking around selling pieces of the wall that had been broken down into hand-sized pieces that were small enough to carry.
It looked like they were unexpectedly popular, as there were a lot of travelers crowding around those salespeople.
Still, it’s just rubble, right? Those stones only ever had value because the were part of the wall…
As I had no interest in rubble, I left that place quickly.
Right now, it was no longer the case where the country was divided into right and left sides, each with their own officials. Instead all the officials were now gathered in one place.
While I was walking along the street, I saw a building that was in the middle of being built.
『New town hall currently under construction』
I saw a sign which said that. Well, since that’s what is written on the sign, it must be so.
“Hmm. I’m not sure how to feel about this building. The entrance is on the right side.”
“What are you talking about? The windows are on the left. You have the better deal.”
“What are you talking about?”
“What are you talking about?”
There were two old men who looked like officials, looking at the building under construction and having a quarrel about something unimportant.
While pushing down the anger that threatened to rise from the depths of my heart , I asked, “Are you officials from this country? Or are you just a pair of wrinkled old men?”
“We are indeed government officials.”
“Although it is also true that we are wrinkled old men.”
“That’s fortuitous. Actually, there is something I would like to ask—”
And so, I told them what I had seen after coming to this country, and my reason for coming here.
“Fumu fumu. I see. That is certainly a valid question.”
“In fact, there are still quite a few people who come here, saying that this place is a holy land from that book or something of that sort.”
“Why did you destroy the wall?”
When I asked that, they told me the reason.
Here’s what they said.
About ten years ago, due to a suggestion from a certain witch, travelers had begun to write their opinions about the country on the wall. However, quite recently, the citizens had also started to write about their feelings on the wall as well.
The names of the people they loved. Their hopes for the future. Their absurd wishes. Things that could definitely not be said aloud. Descriptions about the shape of the king’s ears. And other wild delusions.
Alongside such things, the people of this country wrote about many other things as well, without holding back. They went to town on the wall, gradually scraping it away bit by bit.
A great many travelers had already carved many things into the wall, so in no time at all, the wall was filled and there was no space left to write anything.
It just goes to show that the people of the country had many things that they wanted to write on the wall.
However, now they had a problem
Before a few weeks had passed, the people of the country had become unable to bear looking at the words that they had written based on whatever happened to cross their minds at the time.
“Oh gods, what is this, it’s so embarrassing.”
“Who the heck wrote this nasty stuff about me!?”
“I broke up with that person the day after I drew a lovers’ umbrella on this wall! I don’t want to see it anymore!”
“Ugh… I wrote some pretty outrageous things here when I was drunk…”
You get the idea. The complaints from the citizens increased with each passing day.
Well, that was only natural. Unlike travelers, the citizens had to live in the same country where the wall stood. They had to keep living there, while looking at that wall everyday.
Well, it’s said that “You should leave your shame behind when you go on a journey”, after all.
However, if the citizens do that and start writing whatever they want, it will become preserved as an embarrassing memory that they can’t get rid of.
In the end, with the number of complaints increasing every day, they finally decided to tear down the wall quite recently.
At some point, the people of the country realized that they had stopped resenting the people who lived on the opposite side.
It is likely that they saw themselves reflected in that massive wall.
Their preoccupation with thinking that they were better than the people who lived on the other side had been wiped away by the shameful things that they had written on the wall themselves.
We are not superior to them.
After all, see how foolish we are.
We should be apologizing to the people on the other side.
For the first time in their long history, the people of that country crossed over the wall and had a discussion with each other. Surprisingly enough, it looked like both the left and right side had been thinking the same thing, and so the process of destroying the wall after the discussions were complete went very smoothly.
“In the end, it turned out that there was no need for a wall in this country. From the start, we were all the same in every way.”
“Well, we will probably live as an ordinary country from here on.”
They finished their story by saying that.
In this manner, the citizens had destroyed the one reason why travelers would want to visit their country.
“Oh hello there, pretty Witch-san. How about buying a souvenir?”
“Let’s see… I suppose it might be okay to get one as a souvenir.”
“Thanks for buying!”
After returning to the center of the country, I purchased a piece of rubble (pocket edition) from the wall and started walking towards the gate of the country.
The piece of rubble that I purchased had the letters 『Elai』 carved into it.
……Wait, it can’t be that someone decided to carve my name into the wall, right? Right??
While feeling a sensation that couldn’t be put into words, I stuffed that piece of rubble into my bag.
In the end, I wasn’t able to see the thing that I was looking forward to see. This country is still barely able to function as a tourist spot by selling the rubble from the wall, but I’m sure that once they run out of rubble to sell, this country will become just another ordinary country.
It will turn into just another mediocre country, existing in one corner of the world where no one is under the impression that they are superior to someone else.
Oh well, maybe that is a good thing for this country after all.
A country does not exist for the sake of travelers or tourists. There is no need for a country to go to extraordinary lengths and adjust itself to travelers’ needs just to make them think that it is a wonderful place. Instead of working to ensure that tourists are kept happy, it might make more sense to make the country a place that is convenient for its citizens to live in.
A country belongs to the people who live there, after all.