I ran, desperately, as if a single life was at stake.
But I couldn’t find any survivors.
The village only had a few more houses to check on this side of the orchard, and then it might be over.
It all seemed hopeless.
Just as I began to give up,I heard a sound from inside one of the nearby houses. It was a muffled sob.
I approached cautiously, trying to silence his footsteps. I got close to the door and listened carefully.
It was definitely the sound of someone crying.
He was sure there was someone alive inside. But what should he do?
When he emerged before the villagers, his clothes would give him away as an outsider. There was no way to avoid suspicion.
But he couldn’t just ignore the situation, not with the old man’s condition and his own conscience.
He took a deep breath and knocked on the door.
He waited patiently for a response, but none came. The crying continued.
He opened the door slowly and saw a woman lying in a pool of blood with a young boy crying beside her.
The woman was probably already dead. He was speechless, unsure of what to do next, and stepped inside.
The boy finally noticed him and looked up, but then returned to crying at his mother’s side.
He showed no signs of fear or trying to escape. It seemed that he was too consumed by his mother’s death. She was probably his mother, and he was too young to understand how or why this had happened.
He didn’t know what to say or do. He still couldn’t explain why he had come. But he found himself slowly approaching the boy and enveloping him in a tight embrace.
The boy didn’t resist, but only cried harder in his arms. The man began to feel the weight of emotion press down on him, as he also wanted to cry.
The boy’s body was warm, and that was all that mattered for now.
How much time passed like that, he didn’t know.
Eventually, the boy stopped crying and just stared at his mother’s face. The man waited silently, observing the boy’s reactions.
Finally, the boy turned his gaze on him and asked something that he couldn’t understand.
I couldn’t help but smile bitterly.
“Sorry, I don’t understand your language.”
The boy looked at him curiously.
That was inevitable, since he clearly didn’t speak the language.
I introduced myself as “Fujimiya An” and gave a slight nod.
Then I tried introducing myself with my gestures and hand movements.
Hoping that he got my message, I pointed my finger towards the boy.
He looked confused.
I tried again and pointed at myself.
Then, I pointed at the boy and asked with intent, “And you?”
“Ignis,” he replied with a start after a moment of confusion.
We called out each other’s names and nodded in agreement.
At least we knew each other’s names now. It wasn’t as if we had become friends, but it was a promising start. I was relieved that he wasn’t being too guarded around me.
“Ignis”, I thought to myself, “that’s a beautiful name. Even though it may have a different meaning in this world.”
Now, the question was, What to do next?
I wanted to take Ignis to the old man, but he had been crying uncontrollably. I couldn’t just abandon this woman either.
I tried communicating again with gestures, I pointed at the woman and then to the outside of the house, making the digging motion, then laid my hands on the floor and gestured to bury something.
“I can help you bury her?” I wondered if Ignis understood what I meant.
He looked at me with a troubled expression, appearing as if he were about to cry. Finally, he nodded in agreement.
I, too, nodded in response.
I needed to find tools to dig and a place to bury her first.
As I was thinking about this, I felt a tug on my hand, and Ignis led me outside, pointing to the direction we needed to go.
Without saying anything, we arrived at a warehouse.
Ignis ran inside, and after a few minutes, he returned with two shovels.
He was able to discern my intentions.
As I reached for the two shovels, he looked at me solemnly and handed me only one.
I could sense his strong will to do it himself.
Guided by Ignis, we walked for about thirty minutes, taking a narrow path along the side of an orchard that led to a small hill.
The view from the top was beautiful, and we could see the entire village.
“Is this the right place?”
He nodded and pointed to the ground, understanding my question even though I hadn’t said it.
We worked silently, side by side, digging a hole big enough for her.
It was hard work, and even though I was tired, I was impressed with Ignis’s perseverance to see it through without a word of complaint.
When we were done, I wiped my brow. “Let’s head back now.”
I plunged the shovel into the pile of dirt we had excavated, and we left.
When we arrived home, Ignis disappeared into the back room and began rummaging through something.
When he returned, he held up a beautiful dress that was unmistakably designed for a woman.
It was clearly of a higher quality than anything she had been wearing before.
“This must be her dress,” I said to myself, impressed with the workmanship and quality.
“Do you want me to put it on her?”
I gesture as I ask.
“Alwion anc iceu”
Most likely, that’s what Ignis wants.
However, there’s some reluctance to take off and change a stranger’s clothes, which I understand, but does Ignis not have a problem with it?
Oh wait, maybe Ignis isn’t old enough to think like that.
Let’s do what Ignis wants.
“Alright, just wait a minute.”
I make the gesture to wait, then go to the well to fetch water.
I carefully wiped the blood off the young woman.
I try not to overthink things at first, but once I start working with Ignis, I don’t experience any extraneous emotions.
After cleaning her up, the two of us dressed her up.
As she lies on the sofa in the living room, she looks so beautiful that it’s hard to believe she’s dead.
For a moment, I’m transfixed by her visage, then Ignis heads to the kitchen to begin preparing a meal.
It’s not just because we’re hungry; it must be a tradition to have a meal before sending off the dead.
I offer to help, and we cook for three people.
While we cook, Ignis gestures for me to eat too.
I’m not bragging, but I’m confident in my cooking.
After we finish preparing the food, we lay it out on the table in front of the sofa.
As we sit around the table to eat, Ignis folds her hands in front of her nose and begins speaking as if in prayer.
“Oaqma qama qam.”
“Ura rua ura”
“Ikhji deso so deso”
“urino ssso ssso.”
“Qam qam qam”
I don’t understand what he’s saying, but I can tell that he’s praying in earnest.
So I take the same prayer-like pose as Ignis.
When the prayer is done, Ignis opens his eyes and looks at me.
“How’s the food?”
I ask. But his expression quickly turned sad.
Perhaps he’s thinking of her mother, who can no longer eat.
We silently finish the meal, and by the time we’re done, the sky outside has started to turn orange with sunset.
It’ll be dark soon.
We’ll bury the woman tomorrow when the sun comes up.
Now, when we’ve finished eating and settled down, I call Ignis.
“Ignis, come with me for a bit.”
I gesture outside.
“The sun is setting, so let’s bury her tomorrow when it rises.”
“We’ll come back here in the morning.”
“Just wait here.”
Using twigs, I draw a picture on the ground and use gestures to explain.
He nods, and I hope he understands.
I lightly pat Ignis’ head and see a hint of loneliness in his expression.
He must feel so helpless.
I wish I could stay with him, as I feel guilty leaving a child alone.
But there are other things we need to do.
I sent him back into the house and said sorry.
Then I went to check on the old man, hoping that he was still alive.
Please be alive.
As the sky begins to change color with the sunset, I start running again.