Brave Story, page 1
BRAVE STORY by MIYABE Miyuki. Copyright © 2003 MIYABE Miyuki.
All rights reserved. Originally published in Japan by KADOKAWA SHOTEN
PUBLISHING CO., LTD., Tokyo. English translation rights arranged with
OSAWA OFFICE, Japan, through THE SAKAI AGENCY.
English translation © VIZ Media, LLC
Jacket painting and map illustration © 2007 Dan May
Designed by Courtney Utt
No portion of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any
means without written permission from the copyright holders.
VIZ Media, LLC
295 Bay Street
San Francisco, CA 94133
Haikasoru eBook edition, December 2010
Chapter 1 The Haunted Building
Chapter 2 The Silent Princess
Chapter 3 The Transfer Student
Chapter 4 The Invisible Girl
Chapter 5 The Incident
Chapter 6 The Door
Chapter 7 Beyond the Door
Chapter 8 The Realities of Life
Chapter 9 Enter the Tank
Chapter 10 Falling
Chapter 11 The Secret
Chapter 12 The Witch
Chapter 13 To Vision
Chapter 1 The Village of the Watchers
Chapter 2 The Cave of Trials
Chapter 3 The Novice Brave
Chapter 4 The Endless Field
Chapter 5 Gasara, Merchant Town
Chapter 6 The Highlanders
Chapter 7 The Abandoned Chapel
Chapter 8 The Dead
Chapter 9 The Escape
Chapter 10 The First Gemstone
Chapter 11 The Real World
Chapter 12 Meena
Chapter 13 In Maquiba
Chapter 14 The Spectacle Machine
Chapter 15 The Camp
Chapter 16 Lyris
Chapter 17 The Town and the Cathedral
Chapter 18 Mitsuru’s Whereabouts
Chapter 19 The Magic Hospital
Chapter 20 Mitsuru
Chapter 21 The Swamp of Grief
Chapter 22 Tearsheaven
Chapter 23 Dark Water
Chapter 24 A Vision of Death
Chapter 25 The Blood Star
Chapter 26 To Sakawa
Chapter 27 The Reunion
Chapter 28 The Elder of Sakawa
Chapter 29 The National Observatory of Lourdes
Chapter 30 The Lecture
Chapter 31 The Second Gemstone
Chapter 32 Wataru
Chapter 33 The Fugitive
Chapter 34 S.O.S.
Chapter 35 The Tragedy of Lyris
Chapter 36 The Cathedral Cages
Chapter 37 Jozo’s Wings
Chapter 38 The Icy Capital
Chapter 39 The Precept-King
Chapter 40 Parting
Chapter 41 Night in Gasara
Chapter 42 A Conversation at Night
Chapter 43 The Plan
Chapter 44 Escape from Gasara
Chapter 45 The Imperial Capital of Solebria
Chapter 46 The Mirror of Eternal Shadow
Chapter 47 The Isle of Dragon
Chapter 48 The Broken Capital
Chapter 49 The Mirror Hall
Chapter 50 The Parting
Chapter 51 The Traveler’s Path
Chapter 52 Wataru Alone
Chapter 53 Freedom
Chapter 54 The Last Fight
Chapter 55 The Tower of Destiny
Chapter 56 Wataru’s Wish
You have been chosen. Walk the true path.
The Haunted Building
No one believed it at first. Not even a little.
It began right after the beginning of the new school year, and no one knew who started it. Rumors are like that.
Everyone knew the story, down to the last detail. They could even tell you whom they had heard it from, and when. Still, even if you traced the chain of he-said, she-said a hundred people back, you wouldn’t find the original source.
“Hey, you know that big building next to the Mihashi Shrine, over in Kobune? They say it’s haunted!”
That’s how Wataru Mitani heard it, from Katchan, the son of the bartenders over at Bar Komura. Katchan’s real name was Katsumi, a girl’s nickname. The story went that his parents—expecting a girl—had decided upon the name way ahead of time. The obstetrician told his mother that the ultrasound showed it was “definitely, beyond a shadow of a doubt, a girl.” But on that ninth of April, eleven years ago, a healthy baby boy arrived one week ahead of schedule, his wailing cry so distinctive that soon everyone, even the people in the nursing ward across the hall, came to recognize it instantly. It was a funny cry. He sounded hoarse and gravelly.
“My old man says I must’ve been smoking inside my mom’s tummy.”
Wataru didn’t find it hard to imagine at all. He remembered, with a laugh, the year they entered Joto No. 1 Elementary School together. They walked to class one December morning, both donning their school-issue yellow hats. As soon as they got into the room, Katsumi had run over to the sputtering old kerosene heater and stood there, shivering, even when the teacher came in the room. When he was told to take his seat, he replied as casually as could be, “Oh, don’t mind me. Just get on with it, chop chop, chop chop.” Wataru had somehow managed to keep from bursting out laughing until he got home, where his parents thought he was making the whole story up. The episode had since become legend, and, even now that they were all in fifth grade, the teachers would say things like, “Doing your homework, Komura? Chop chop!”
Katsumi’s voice had been hoarse as ever when he told Wataru the rumor about the haunting in hushed, excited tones. His voice broke when he said the word “ghost.”
“You’ve always been into ghost stories, Katchan.”
“It’s not just me, everyone’s talking about it! Some guy was walking by there the other night and he saw it! And when he tried to run, it chased him!”
“So, what kind of ghost is it?”
“They say it’s an old man.”
Oh, how unusual. “What’s he dressed like?”
Katchan scratched his nose, and his raspy voice became even lower. “He wears a cloak. A black cloak, covering everything, like this,” he said, swinging his hands up as if to throw a hood over his head.
“So how could they see his face? How would they know he’s an old man?”
Katsumi’s face wrinkled. Wataru would sometimes run into Katsumi and his uncle at the market or at the station, and his uncle would always greet him with a bright “How are you,” his face wrinkling in exactly the same way.
“I don’t know, you can just tell. That’s the way ghosts are,” Katchan grinned. “Why do you take everything so seriously? I swear, your dad must’ve put a steel trap in your head by mistake.”
Wataru’s father, Akira, worked at a steel company, which wasn’t to say he actually spent time on a factory floor forging steel bars or anything like that. The company ran all sorts of ventures—from foundries to shipyards—continuously expanding as demand for its core product dwindled over the years. At thirty-eight years old, Akira had spent only a few weeks in the company’s steel factory, right after being hired. Since then he had worked in R&D, then the PR department, and now he was stationed at a subsidiary company specializing in vacation resort development. Still, Katchan had insisted on calling him Wataru’s “steel-workin’ dad” since kindergarten and had never tired of the joke
But Wataru was stubborn. He could never just accept something without a clear logical rationale behind it. It was a trait he picked up from his father.
His grandmother on his father’s side had first pointed it out about three years ago. The family had gone to her house in Chiba for summer vacation, and, though Wataru was still shivering from a day of swimming, he had asked his grandmother for a shaved-ice treat.
“Shaved ice? With you fresh from the sea?” she had said. “You’ll catch your death of cold.” He had protested, and his grandmother had laughed and shaken her head. “Just like your father, always eager to argue a point. Poor Kuniko!”
His mother, Kuniko Mitani (always “that Kuniko” to his grandmother), pretended she wasn’t listening.
“In ten years of marriage, that’s only the second time I’ve heard your grandmother say something nice about me,” his mother had told him later. She asked why they had been arguing, and Wataru had explained, “She told me I couldn’t eat shaved ice after swimming in the sea, so I asked her why she sold it at her shop.”
His mother had laughed out loud. Akira Mitani’s parents ran a food and drink stand on Ohama beach, on the Chiba Peninsula. A small public beach house was attached to their setup, with showers and places for people to change. During the busy summer months, Wataru’s grandmother would be out in back, making shaved ice in a big metal can all by herself.
“That’s a good point,” Kuniko had said, giving him an affectionate pat on the head, “but your grandmother is right—you do have your father’s argumentative streak.”
When Akira heard the story days later, he had frowned. “Don’t confuse a kid whining for a treat with the argument of a rigorous, logical mind,” he had said, as logical as ever.
In any case, Wataru was not the sort of boy to readily believe in ghost stories, especially not one as riddled with holes as this one was.
The building in question, the one next to the Mihashi Shrine, was actually still under construction. It stood in an awkward, half-completed state almost exactly midway between Wataru’s home and the school, so he passed it every day on his way to and from classes. He knew its story well, even though the rumors kept getting it wrong.
The building had been under construction for what seemed like forever. A crew had started work on the site during spring break more than two years ago, when Wataru was still in second grade. The eight-story steel framework had gone up first, and everything seemed to be proceeding on schedule, until one day, work stopped, and the whole building was covered in blue plastic tarps. As far as Wataru could tell, there were no construction workers on-site anymore. A while after the heavy machinery stopped coming, somebody removed the old blue tarps and put up new blue tarps in their place. That’s when Wataru noticed a new construction company had moved in.
According to Kuniko, the tarps had been replaced once more after that, and the name of the construction company had changed, as well. After that there had been no change to the site at all, and so the building stood there, draped all in blue, not quite a proper building, coldly looking down on the surrounding houses. A placard out in front that had listed a timetable of projected completion dates had disappeared.
“The contractor and the builder had some kind of dispute, so construction stopped. Happens all the time these days,” his father had said with a roll of his eyes, and Wataru soon forgot about it himself. But Kuniko’s interest was piqued, and she had started asking around.
The Mitani family lived in a large apartment complex with nearly three hundred units. They bought their apartment right after Wataru was born, and moved in right away.
Wataru had several friends among the kids who lived in their building, and they rode the same bus to kindergarten. Kuniko, too, made friends among the circle of mothers in the complex. One of the women she came to know was married to the manager of a local real estate agency. Because of this, she was well informed about all the local properties. One day, their conversation had drifted to the topic of that “terrible eyesore” next to the revered Mihashi Shrine.
“Remember how the temple grounds used to be so large? Well, I guess it was hard to maintain all of that. So, once when they were refurbishing one of the old shrines, they sold off some of their empty acreage. That’s where that building is standing.”
The company that had bought the land and begun construction of the building was a rental office place called Daimatsu Properties, headquartered in downtown Tokyo. It managed properties throughout the metropolitan area, and while attracting a shrine’s business spoke well of the company’s pedigree, it wasn’t particularly large. In fact, from the sound of it, the whole operation was run by one man with the stuffy-sounding name of Saburo Daimatsu.
Wataru’s family lived on the eastern side of Tokyo, or “Old Tokyo,” as the locals called it. Years ago it had been little more than a string of factories, but the quick commute to the city center (only thirty minutes or so) made it attractive to residents. Over the past ten years, apartment buildings had sprung up like mushrooms after the rain. With the coming of the apartments and the people who lived in them, the face of the town changed. To long-term residents like the real estate agent’s wife, their little borough was like a poor girl who had suddenly married into wealth. “Oh, it’s the same old town,” she would say, “but now it’s all dressed up for a cocktail party.”
Wataru’s father was born in the countryside of Chiba, and his mother came from Odawara, a coastal town to the west. Being recent imports themselves, neither of them completely understood how the locals felt, but they did sense the town’s vitality. It was an easy place to live, and it was only getting better. A quick glance at real estate advertisements confirmed that property values were rising. The price tags on all the new apartment buildings jostling up against each other were comparable to those in other more established parts of town. For Daimatsu Properties, it must’ve seemed like a great idea to buy the land next to Mihashi Shrine. Apparently, Mr. Daimatsu had paid quite a bundle for it.
“Now, with its neighbor being a shrine and all, they couldn’t rent the building out to just anyone. The area is zoned for industry, but it’s right up against a residential zone,” Kuniko told them at the dinner table, repeating what she had heard from the real estate agent’s wife. “Still, they went around to a lot of potential tenants: a coffee shop, a beauty parlor, a cram school. They were going to make the upper floors into rental apartments. Until…”
Days after the building’s steel frame had gone up, the first contractor on the job went bankrupt. Daimatsu Properties quickly began a search for another contractor to pick up where they left off, but since starting that kind of work halfway through is much more difficult and costly than starting from scratch, it was hard for the company to find a deal. After a two-month delay, they finally found a new contractor to resume construction. Thus the blue tarps changed for the first time.
“So this new place came, and they got started, and then…”
Unbelievably, after only a few months, the new contractor, too, went bankrupt.
“As you can imagine, Mr. Daimatsu was in quite a fix, and went dashing about looking for another contractor. He finally found a small one interested in the property. In fact, just like Daimatsu Properties, this new contractor was basically a one-man operation.”
It was the last job he ever took. Three days after the paperwork was signed, the third contractor died of a stroke.
Kuniko shook her head. “Such a small operation couldn’t run without its foreman, and there was no one to take his place. There was a son, but he was still in college. Ultimately, the contract was voided, and so the building still stands, unfinished.”
Walking by the building on his way to school every day, even Wataru could clearly see the signs of deterioration on the abandoned edifice. The concrete had dried out and begun to flake at the corners. Exposed steel struts were stained gray by the rain. Inconsiderate passers-by had thrown garbage at the base of the tarps, and stray d
One day in early spring, a strong wind blew off one of the tarps, exposing a steel support post and a steel staircase and landing on the second floor. This was the only part of the building interior visible from the outside. If the ghost had been seen anywhere, that was the place.
Whose ghost was it supposed to be, anyway, Wataru wondered. If it was an old man, then, based on what he knew of the story of the site’s construction, maybe it was the ghost of the third contractor who had died from a stroke just after taking on the project. But why would he be wearing a hooded cloak? Wataru couldn’t imagine the foreman of a building contractor walking around dressed like that. Even if, for argument’s sake, the man had owned a favorite hooded coat, and now wore it as he haunted the empty halls of the building, that still didn’t explain why he was haunting it in the first place. Was he concerned about the progress of construction? Did he regret having died unable to fulfill his contractual obligation? It seemed a little dry, for a ghost story. And, if he was in the construction business, surely he would realize that rumors of a haunting would drive away other potential contractors, making things even worse for Mr. Daimatsu, the very client he had promised to help.
Wataru had thought about it all through recess, and when he got back to the classroom and found that everyone was still talking about the haunting, he gave them his opinion. That was when one of his classmates claimed she knew exactly what kind of ghost it was.
“It’s a bound spirit,” she explained with utmost seriousness. “It’s what happens when somebody dies in a car accident or something. They’re bound to the place where they died, haunting it.”
Of course, that didn’t make any sense either. The building stood on old temple grounds. There couldn’t have been a car accident there. Wataru told the girl as much.
“Then maybe somebody snuck onto the grounds and committed suicide,” she retorted. “There, their spirit wanders, as lost in death as it was in life.”
The other girls around her ooohed and aaahed in approval.
“You know,” one of her friends said, “whenever I walk by that shrine I get a weird tingling feeling down my back. Once my knees started knocking together—like I was cold, right? Even though it was warm outside.”