Magical Girl Risuka
Illustrations by Kinu Nishimura
Translated by Andrew Cunningham
Magical Girl Risuka is a typical NISIOISIN fantasia-if anything could be said to be "typical" about NISIOISIN's work. NISIOISIN is without parallel in the light novel world as an inventor of strange universes and fantastic characters, and the strange and gorgeously complicated world of Risuka is no exception. While much of Risuka's fictional universe is of NISIOISIN's own wild imagining, the story contains some references to another world-forger, H. P. Lovecraft. Some of the books that Risuka is studying refer to the Cthulu mythos. (Also interesting to note: The Book of Thoth is a real book by Aleister Crowley.) Nyarlathotep is one of Cthulu's elder gods, the only one to take human forms and use human language. A reference to Japanese folklore and the kamaitachi (a demon that takes the form of a sudden whirlwind, capable of cutting through anything) completes NISIOISIN's rich web of references. The translator has also made an attempt at rendering Risuka's distinctive style of speech, which NISIOISIN rendered in rather idiosyncratic Japanese.
Born in 1981, the prolific NISIOISIN has already revolutionized the Japanese literary world with his fast-paced, pop culture-fueled novels. He debuted with The Kubikiri Cycle in 2002, beginning his seminal Zaregoto series, and Bakemonogatari was published under Kodansha's popular Kodansha BOX imprint. In 2007 came the magnificent conclusion to his twelve-month consecutive serial novel, Katanagatari-for which NISIOSIN wrote one novel a month for an entire year-also for Kodansha BOX. In addition to xxxHOLiC, NISIOISIN tackled another major manga franchise with Death Note Another Note: The Los Angeles BB Murder Cases, based on Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata's blockbuster series. Zaregoto, Book One: The Kubikiri Cycle was published in the United States by Del Rey Manga in 2008. Kinu Nishimura is an illustrator who has also worked as a graphic designer for Capcom on such projects as the Street Fighter game series.
I happened to witness what might have been an incident, or might have been an accident, but either way was clearly a truth, exactly one week ago, Sunday last week. Events had brought me far from my place of residence in the city of Kawano, in Saga Prefecture, taking me across prefectural lines into Fukuoka Prefecture, the city of Hakata, the town of Kizuna. There are a number of ways in which I could describe the business that brought me there, but they all boil down to "meeting someone," and looked at from a different perspective, you could even claim I had come with no clear purpose at all. Either way it was not inevitable that I should arrive at the spot where I witnessed this truth; I believe my being there was pure coincidence. Because of things like this, I cannot bring myself to hate coincidence. Events occurred while I was standing on subway platform number 1 in the New Kizuna Station, waiting for the train that would take me back into Hakata proper. The time was definitely 6:32 p.m. I can say so with confidence because that was the moment at which the train I had intended to board was pulling into the station. All Japanese trains, private or government-operated, are invariably punctual. Which means it was 6:32. The customary announcement, "Train approaching platform 1. Please remain behind the yellow lines," echoed through the station, and it happened a few seconds later. Four people lined up in front of me, preparing to board the train. I did not know any of them, but I know their names now: Kagawa Sakiro, Yana Harusame, Manabe Saki, and Tainaka Umi. With perfect timing, just as the front of the train was about to pass us, they all flung themselves out in front of it. I remember that moment happening in slow motion-whether the result of chemicals in my brain or simply a trick of the mind. I saw them seemingly sucked toward it, struggling against one another to be the first to fall. I saw the train's driver gaping as if he were witnessing the destruction of earth and heaven-but only for an instant, a mere instant.
A moment later, the speed of my vision returned to normal-and what happened afterward need not be explained to anyone, assuming blood still flows to their brain. They were pulped, their bits flung together till it was impossible to tell which belonged to which. Trains have been designed for the simple function of moving quickly along tracks, and what might occur if they happened to strike a human being has never really been on their designers' minds. The four victims and I were lined up near the front end of the platform, but it made little difference. We were facing a massive chunk of iron, a veritable symbol of destructive force. Even if we had been at the far end of the platform, near the front doors of the train, the best they could have hoped for was that their bodies might have remained recognizably human. At present, this is the extent of the truth as I know it; and if that is all there is to it, then I do not see a problem. Certainly, because of this truth the train was delayed a wasteful thirty minutes, but I am not so petty as to be infuriated by such trivialities. Anger is a waste of energy, and I make use of it only if there is something to be gained in the process. But there were a number of factors to this truth that suggest it would not remain a simple truth, and I viewed this as problematic. The first problem is an obvious one-the fact that four people chose to jump simultaneously. If one person had chosen to dive in front of a train, I would understand. If a single person had tripped and fallen onto the tracks, that would have been even easier. Suicide or accident, such incidents have become a ceaseless ritual, occurring constantly in all parts of the country, on every day of the year. But for four people to engage in that ritual together-that was different. It was unthinkable that they had chosen to do so together by chance, coincidentally-and the idea of it being a planned suicide was also dubious. If they had been family members or close friends, group suicide might have been an option, but from what I had observed standing behind them, there was no connection among the four: Each of them was a complete stranger to the other three.
I am rather confident of my ability to observe human behavior. (Bring anyone you like to me, and no matter who they are, I will provide you with an itemized list of a hundred facts about them-obviously, not including any details of their appearance, just facts about their inner nature.) And the newspapers after the incident verified that there was no connection among them, so that can now be put down as an objective fact. In other words, if the first problem was the simultaneous nature of it, the second was the lack of connection among them. I doubt there are many so foolish as to have not worked out the third problem-namely, that it was absolutely impossible. For four strangers to fall onto the tracks simultaneously-to make that situation occur, the only reasonable method would be for the person standing immediately behind them to push them off the platform. Indeed, the police and the news media are actively looking for the "culprit" behind this "case"-sadly, a futile effort. For the simple reason that the person standing behind the four victims was me; and I had not pushed them. I would never do anything like push four complete strangers onto the train tracks, never do anything that failed to provide some future benefit. But no matter what I say, without your even needing to bring up the Cretan paradox, mere words on my part are hardly convincing. More convincing than any exhortation on my part is the simple fact that it was physically impossible for me to have pushed the four of them off the platform. I might have been able to push one, assuming that one was a frail woman . . . but I, Kugi Kizutaka, was, at the time, four feet five inches tall, weighed seventy-three pounds, and was ten years old. I had no means at my disposal capable of forcibly moving four adults at once. Regardless of that, if I had stuck around, I would undoubtedly have been suspected, but I took advantage of my size to slip away during the commotion. So. Yes. The fact that it was impossible for me to have been the culprit in their deaths led to one conclusion: It was impossible. Absolutely impossible. The sum total of these three problems-simultaneousness, lack of connection, and impossibility-made it clear that this problem was a problem for me.
As I said before, I went to Fukuoka for no better reason than to meet someone, so my encounter with this truth could be viewed as an unexpected accident, but as far as I was concerned, an accident like this was something to be met with open arms. I will happily state once more that I cannot bring myself to dislike coincidence. My first thought was to go to see Risuka directly, that very evening, but since the deaths of four people would lead to a rather thorough police investigation, I decided to allow a week for things to settle down and spent the time dealing with other matters. If the situation resolved itself in some insipid fashion in that time, then I hardly need dirty my hands with it. But these thoughts were nothing more than a pretense; inwardly I was convinced. Conviction is a very modest way of describing it for someone with my personality, but in truth, a conviction is what it was. I was convinced that the four I had seen sucked toward the tracks had not been victims . . . but sacrifices. "Hey, Risuka. I came to love you." She did not respond.
"I mean, came to see you."
I had not expected Risuka to demonstrate any high-level interactive abilities such as a proper comeback, but the fact that she failed to show any reaction at all was in itself a rather dejecting moment, and one that left me awkwardly explaining my own bad joke. I picked up a cushion (bat-shaped) lying in the corner and sat down on it without bothering to get permission. Risuka was sitting at her desk, her right hand moving steadily. Writing something. I stood up again and stood behind her, peering over her shoulder at the desk. A thick hardcover book lay open on her left and a college-ruled notebook on her right. They call it "college-ruled," but actual college students almost never use them. She appeared to be copying everything from her left to her right.
Which meant the book on her left must be one she had recently acquired or had borrowed from some secret library-a book of magic. Risuka believed that copying grimoires was both fun and productive. The shelf to one side was packed with books on all kinds of magic, the only notable feature of her otherwise rather drab room. De vermis mysteriis, Liber-damnatus, Cultes des goules, De masticatione mortuorum in tumulis, Celaeno Fragments, Turba philosophorum, Kryptographik, The Book of Thoth, Malleus maleficarum, Dhol Chants, Image du monde, Necronomicon-she had all the major works (although most of them were handwritten copies). The only way she could get her hands on rare books was to copy them out herself. In that sense, what Risuka was doing was actually collecting the contents of grimoires, and copying them out was simply a means to that end. Collecting the originals would be quite expensive and take up a lot of space, so this was more practical, and the fact that she was writing them out all translated into Japanese was, apparently, perfectly normal for anyone from the Kingdom of Magic.
"So . . . Yikes! You scared me." Risuka had suddenly turned toward me and screamed.
"I was much more scared! Eh? Why suddenly is Kizutaka here?"
"Well, unlike you, I can't actually use any magic, you see. So I went through the door of the coffee shop downstairs, ignoring the Closed sign on the door; said hello to Chamberlain, who was cleaning; had him open the door behind the counter; climbed up the stairs; walked down the hall; knocked politely on your door; knocked again when you didn't answer; and when you still didn't answer, I opened the door and came inside."
"Heh . . . How exhaustingly orderly of you," she said, nodding, as if impressed. "Welcome. Anywhere is fine to sit. Would you like something to drink?"
"Nah, I'm not that thirsty. It isn't that hot yet. And that can be a dangerous question, coming from a girl who lives in a coffee shop."
"I would not try to take money from a child."
"What are you copying?"
"Mm? Oh, the title . . . I do not know. I am investigating presently. Rarity is its one merit; it is not a book of much importance."
"Hunh . . . Always looks like such a lot of work. If you could figure out a way to make your magic work with a copier instead of doing it by hand, you'd save a lot of effort."
"I would not do so, even if I could," Risuka said crisply. "The fun of this is in the copying itself." "The process itself provides enjoyment? That is a handy system. Ideal."
"Is not the same for Kizutaka?"
"Enjoyment comes with process?" she asked, assured.
I shook my head. "Not for me. The process is never more than a means to an end," I said. The process was never more than a means to an end. I had rarely spoken truer words.
I discovered the existence of Mizukura Risuka last April, immediately after entering the fourth grade. To be strictly accurate, I had heard a year before about a transfer student in the class next door who refused to come to school, and I knew that this student was named Mizukura Risuka. I had naturally paid sufficient attention to events in other classes. But I did not discover the true nature of the existence known as Mizukura Risuka, did not discover that she was a witch from the Kingdom of Magic beyond the Gate, until our classes were changed and Risuka's name ended up on the same attendance sheet as mine.
Of course, whether she was in my class or not, she refused to come to school at all, and I did not know what she looked like. I could probably have found out if I had poked around, but when she was in the other class, I had not seen the point. But once she was in my class, and I was elected class representative for the fourth straight year and the seventh straight term, I did have a reason to make contact with her. In my capacity as class representative, I went to see a problem child.
Excerpted from Faust 2 by FAUST EDITORS. Copyright © 2009 by Faust Editors. Excerpted by permission of Del Rey, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.