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-NOT!! What are you getting at, with such an inelegant explanation!?
“… I’m not dead?”
My head hasn’t been cracked like an egg… I’m not hurt. It isn’t time for my 𝓕𝓘𝓝 yet. I’m still alive.
“Squak. Squak. Squa-squawk!”
The only thing pierced is the eggshell I wore instead of a helmet. The bird, whose beak got caught in the eggshell, is now frantically shaking its head to get the shell loose.
A chance to continue my existence!
I dive head-first into a nearby thicket and make my escape.
These savage birds, controlled by their hunting instincts, are scary. No, it isn’t just birds; I’d need to be prepared to stake my life against every carnivore I meet going forward, wouldn’t I?
… How could I have forgotten the rule of survival of the fittest?
“I lost him? I escaped?”
The bird doesn’t seem to be giving chase.
I rest my hand on my chest and sigh in relief.
I need to be careful in open spaces from now on.
As I wander around aimlessly, with no map or sense of direction, hoping against hope for a new development, I spot a village.
“Time to be a timeserver1? (translation: What great timing!).”
The village is located inside the hollowed-out remains of a dead tree. There is a thick line of huts with crude straw thatched roofs.
That bird won’t be able to enter this village, and any other predator would be faced with the dead tree’s ramparts.
There’s a village. They’ve taken measures against predators. This means intelligent beings live here, right?
But when it comes to intelligent life on this earth, there’s only one other option, isn’t there?
“Fairies! Anybody! Save meeee!”
I proceed to latch onto one of the huts and violently batter the door that is nothing more than a propped-up plank with both hands and a leg.
A few moments later, the door opens quietly. A furry creature with a tufted chestnut-colored coat appears from within the thatched hut.
“… Not a fairy?” This doesn’t look like a fairy I’ve seen before. “Excuse me, who are you?”
“Thass not somefin’ a visitor’s s’posed to ask now, is it?”
This hut’s resident is a small mammal hailing from the family Muridae, specifically the Cricentinae sub-family, which comes under the order Rodentia – a hamster.
The hamster’s letting out the spiteful aura of an advocate for Communication Rules2, as if to say, “Read the room a little, will ya?”
I am invited into the house, to be entertained by the beast before me.
“Here ya go. Some cold water.”
On a tabletop fashioned out of a piece of flagstone, the hamster places two young leaves with water droplets nestled inside. Probably their version of tableware.
“It’s the mornin’s dew, very delicious.”
“A splendid tea ceremony?”
When I touch my tongue to the droplet on the leaf, the refreshing chill of cold water hits me.
Even a single droplet can be considered a cupful on this scale.
“We’re Djungarian3 hamsters, ya see.”
This hamster is sitting in front of me, skillfully balancing its rump on a stone chair, like a human would.
It’s even wearing a vest - albeit a simple one - completing its intellectual look.
“Well, lemme give it to ya straight; we’re the only intelligent life on this here planet.”
“… So that’s what you think, huh?”
I suppose you’re free to call yourselves that.
“But how ‘bout you. Don’t talk right?”
“Ya seem smart – though ya can’t hold a candle to us – but are ya too dumb ta talk normal?”
“How about I get serious, then!”
I just need to concentrate and suppress my instincts as much as possible.
“… It’s nothing I can’t do, of course.”
“Oh, you sure could pass for one of us now!”
It’s super tiring, though…
Now, there’s a mountain of things I want to know. Where to start is the question. But before I can say anything, my counterpart takes the initiative.
“Uh, I hope ya don’t mind me askin’, but… Just what are you?”
“Me? I’m a mere human.”
“Old humanity, you know? The ones who used to rule the earth. The ones of legend.”
The hamster tries to hide its mirth by putting its forepaw over its mouth. With every hiccupping bout of laughter, its cheek pouches swell.
“What, that ol’ joke again? It’s us hamsters who rule the world!”
Seems like this hamster’s never been outside the well.
“My name’s Yameta. It means ‘Sorta clever’ in our language.”
“I’m amazed at how well this conversation’s going.”
“It’s coz we’re both smart cookies.”
“But for an intelligent species…”
Looking around the hut’s interior, I barely see any furniture.
Its thin walls are unprocessed scrapwood, and the roof is of simple thatch. The only thing in the room that can be considered to be furniture – the table – is similarly just a bunch of piled-up stones. There are no shelves, and daily necessities are left leaning against the wall. Even the pot used to store fruit and nuts is extremely primitively made… Or rather, it’s just unglazed pottery.
“But if you look at these living standards with the right perspective… You’re living a very admirable life, aren’t you.”
“Yer really choosin’ yer words, ain’tcha.”
“Oh, I would never!”
But speaking practically, reaching the level of the world’s most intelligent civilization with only these thatched houses would take tens of thousands of years in my opinion. Not that I can say that out loud.
“By the way, do you live here alone?”
“Nope, we’re rebuilding our civilization at the moment, so my friends are around too. They’re jus’ out fer some business right now.”
“I see… So other than this settlement, are there any… Countries?”
“What’s a con-tray?”
They have no concept of a country?
“… Don’t worry about it. So, to sum it up, your civilization has taken root here?”
“Ah, we’re not really here for that, ya see.”
Yameta’s shoulders, which he had been stoking, dropped.
We’d been a bit off ta the south some time ‘fore we came here. And before that, we’d been way, waay further down south. We got chased to this here spot, by and by."
“Uh huh, I’m glad ya asked.”
After slapping his cheeks with a smush-smush, Yameta begins his story.
“… Truth is, we’ve been at war with them dreadful weasels for ages.”
“A war, eh?”
“Yeah, we’re mortal enemies. Our histories have all been one big bloody kerfuffle, ya see.”
“Haha, I suppose your kind made for a good buffet?”
“No, no, we didn’t take things lying down. We hamstered up and fought ’em off. Thass’right, with our tails held high.”
“But, aren’t you fighting your natural enemy?”
“The bastards are tough. But we can cover the difference in physique with the power of civ-li-zation!”
“But… even if you call it civilization…”
Looking around at the room, it’s easy to understand the level of their standards.
“I know what ya wanna say. Yer thinkin’ this joint’s a tad shabby, ain’tcha.”
“No, uh… But I suppose I am…”
“It’s true, we hamsters oughtta be a lot more cultured than we are right now, what with our brains and all.”
“Coz we’re the smartest race around,” finishes Yameta, his cheeks swelling triumphantly.
“But reality is what it is… There’s nothin’ we can do.”
In the corner of the room, I spy a stone hatchet.
“It’s coz we’re tired. We’ve fought so much over the years that we’ve lost our land, our food, and our friends… If it weren’t for the war, our village would be a whole lot bigger.”
“How many do you number?”
“Until just a while ago, there were fifteen of us, but… Right now…”
Yameta stares at me with his cute, round eyes.
“… Just six.”
“Quite a small population.”
Isn’t this at the level of being a critically endangered species (one on the Red list4)?
So the hamsters have been reduced to this now…
“You… Yer lookin’ awfully judgy.”
“Ah… No, that wasn’t what I…”
I was just pitying you, that’s all.
“Well, whatever. It’s a secret, but I’ll do ya a favor and show you.”
He bounds off the stone and motions to me.
“What is it?”
Yameta puffs up his cheeks nonsensically and triumphantly says: “… It’s super technology.”
In the middle of the settlement is a conspicuously large hut where I am led.
“In here’s the fruit of our ultra-high-tech science. Well, come on in, please.”
I follow him inside to find the “device” in the center of what is quite a vast space for a thatched hut.
“Thass right. It’s this thing. Our collective hamster know-how created this, the incandescent illuminant device!”
The device is composed of a streamlined, transparent shell.
And within its hollow interior is the nucleus, composed of a long, narrow, jet-black structure supported reverentially from both sides. One can easily guess this is this device’s most important part.
From its base, two wires stretch out, leading further into the hut.
What can I say… It’s a lightbulb.
“This thing can light up like the sun on its own, even at night; innit just marvelous technology?”
“… I already know.”
“Huh? You say somethin’?”
“Nope, didn’th thay a thing.” I’ve reverted to fairy mode again. “Ah! Just one question!”
“S’long as I can answer it, shoot!” Says Yameta, his whiskers twitching boastfully.
“Where did you get this thing?”
“… Uh, weren’t you payin’ attention? We built this thing from scratch…”
“You mean to say you built this electric light bulb through your own power?”
“What’s a leet-bolb?”
“This thing works on electricity, doesn’t it? It’s a bulb-shaped thing that creates light with electricity. So, it’s an electric light bulb.”
“Huh, that’s a neat idea. Now that I think about it, ‘incandescent illuminant device’ doesn’t really roll off the tongue. I’ll be borrowing that new name!”
… But seriously, it’s incredible that they’ve managed to recreate the light bulb independently.
“Ahh, to think I was making fun of you hamsters!”
“S’all good as long as ya understand.”
Is he embarrassed? Yameta is twirling around, chasing his own tail.
“But truly, you’ve made quite a splendid light bulb… Even if you’re just rodents.”
“H-Hey, now! I can see the privilege oozin’ out of that sentence; I can!”
“Ah, sorry. I meant to say, you’re all very tasteful rodents, aren’t you?”
“Ah, so that’s what ya meant? But no, that’s undeserved praise!”
Yameta’s expression darkens, and he continues with a “But”:
“… The wisest of our clan built this thing, but…”
“But they got eaten by an owl.”
“Ahh, they got gobbled, huh?”
And so, the lightbulb became a perfect example of lost technology.
“This sword was one of their keepsakes too,” sobs Yameta, as he produces a puny-looking rusted nail from his back. I’m learning new things all the time.
“Yikes, so you haven’t even cracked guns… yet?”
Oh, you’re definitely getting eaten. You’re going to get nommed, for sure.
“What’s a gan?”
“Uh, no… Forget I said that.”
Yameta turns to the bulb and softly rests his hand on its surface.
“We ain’t givin’ up. We’re the only intelligent species, after all. If we propagate technology like this, maybe one day we can be safe from this cruel world where survival of the fittest is the only path forward!”
“Maybe you should try avoiding your own extinction first.”
“… But we don’t have any more girls…”
“Welp, that’s too bad, isn’t it.”
It’s a death sentence.
You couldn’t possibly look more pitiable!
“But that aside, don’t ya wanna see this light bulb glow as bright as the sun?”
“… Ah, you’re going to turn it on?”
From the back of the hut, Yameta draws out a sizeable external device wired up to the bulb.
“We can use this thing to make the bulb light up!”
“Oh, I’ve seen something like this before!”
It looks like a water wheel suspended in mid-air.
Ah, that’s right… It’s a hamster wheel. Used to make up for their lack of exercise.
“Ahhh, I get it now. If you turn this wheel by getting inside and running, electricity will run through the bulb and make it glow.”
“You, yer really smart, aren’t ya? And you ain’t even a hamster. But it’s exactly like you said. This is one of our clan’s highest intellectual pursuits, handed down over the ages. We call it ’the eternal journey’.”
“That name sort of flies in the face of your species’ intelligence, I feel.”
It gives off the impression of doing the same thing over and over again.
This is probably a remnant of the instincts preserved across epochs in their genes.
“Here’s how we use it!”
Before my bewildered eyes, Yameta jumps into the wheel and does as hamsters do.
Ohh, it’s turning a pulley…
Hamsters are rather quick on their feet, aren’t they. The wheel’s spinning at a tremendous speed.
“Ah, it’s lighting up!”
Soon, the bulb begins to flicker dimly. I’m honestly a little surprised at the fact that this bulb actually works.
Suddenly, he takes a tumble.
The wheel has already gained substantial kinetic energy, so it doesn’t stop even when its “contents” rattle around a little.
He ends up getting swirled around, stuck to the inside of the wheel due to the centrifugal force.
He can’t act more pet-hamster-like than this.
Soon after, he gets ejected from the wheel and bites the dirt.
“… It’s okay; you can laugh at me,” says Yameta, stretched out on the floor.
“No, you looked adorable.”
“… I ‘preciate the sympathy…”
“Anyway, let’s start over. I’m a hamster, earth’s hottest intelligent lifeform.”
“That’s all well and good, but…”
We return to the first hut, where I am offered a second drop of water to drink.
“Now then, yer quite the puzzler, seein’ as ya can talk to me jus’ fine. But what even are ya?”
“I am one of a race known as the humans.”
“Hoo-mans… Ya said that back then too. Never heard of ’em.”
“We’re big, and we walk on two feet… Haven’t you ever seen us?”
“We hamsters don’t hang around the big ones. Even if they mean no harm, we’ve lost too many of ours from bein’ stepped on. B’sides,” he massages the tip of his nose with both paws, “You ain’t big, are ya.”
How am I supposed to explain the situation I’m in right now?
Oh, right. There’s something I need to confirm first.
“Ah, I just remembered. Putting aside the matter of humans for the moment, do you know where the fairies live?”
“The fee-ries? Never heard of those either.”
“Seriously? Never seen even one? They’re the same size as you and look just like me…”
Yameta crosses his arms and rocks about, lost in thought.
“… It’s just, I can’t remember.”
He doesn’t know about fairies?
If these hamsters live in the forest, there’s got to be some amount of land shared between them, though…
“By the way,” he turns his big, marble-like eyes towards me - “The only ones that can talk to us are the weasels and a few birds, ya know.”
“What did you say?!”
“Wolves and fish can’t talk. I don’t know nothin’ about bigger animals, coz we’ve never tried talkin’ to ’em. And you’re the first one our size who can talk.”
“What about insects? Can you talk to them?”
“Impossible. All they do is leak their own instincts all over. Ah, want some sunflower seeds? I’ve got some tasty ones here.”
I’m lost in thought.
Could it be that the fairies avoid races like this one?
“Oh, but maybe one’ve my friends knows. How ‘bout we ask them when they’re ba-” The door opens, and four hamsters tumble in.
“What’s the matter with y’all?” asks Yameta.
One of the four, a conspicuously rotund hamster, pipes up in a weak voice that belies his large frame.
“Muhon’s been eaten!”
We hold a wake.
Of the precious six in their ranks, one, named Muhon, is dead. The cause of his death? Food. While on an expedition, searching for food, Muhon encountered the hamsters’ mortal enemy, a weasel, and became lunch. Survival of the fittest is quite the iron-clad rule around here, isn’t it?
Since I’m here anyway, I help out with the ceremony.
We dig a hole together and bring some of the martyr’s keepsakes. I help by using the measuring spoon as a shovel (It’s just the right size).
Normally, the body would also have been placed in the hole, but unfortunately, we must compromise on that.
The hamsters don’t seem to have the concept of gravestones, so there is only a patch of barren earth left once we close the hole.
“… Now there’s only five of us left. The countdown to our doom is inching close by the minute.”
One of the hamsters says something he never should have said.
The five animals shudder frightfully, and their collective gloom coalesces into dark rainclouds over their heads.
Yameta is the first to recover from his overcast emotions.
“No use grumblin’ about the ones who got eaten now. It’s time to stop mopin’.”
Yameta’s recovery is abnormally quick.
“It’s been botherin’ me fer a while now, but… What’s this… Critter doin’ here?”
A different hamster points to me.
“I dunno, but it calls itself a hoo-man. It can understand us!”
“Oooohhh!” the four hamsters roar as they proceed to sniff at me.
“… Uhh, excuse me?”
“Ya don’t smell like a bad person.”
“You can tell from the smell alone?”
I see; animals are amazing, aren’t they…
“Right, time to wind down.”
The four hamsters go inside a hut, where they proceed to restlessly pitter-patter about on all fours.
It’s as if they have suddenly collectively abandoned their intelligence.
I turn around to Yameta for an explanation, only to find him engrossed in cleaning his own face.
“Yameta, could you introduce me to everyone?”
… Rub rub rub
He’s ignoring me. He’s too busy washing his face.
He abruptly stops moving when I give his body a shake. There’s a pregnant pause before he answers me.
“Did, did you just let go of your intelligence?”
“We do that now and again.”
It seems the hamsters can’t hold onto their intelligence for all twenty-four hours of the day and frequently succumb to their instincts.
“So they’re just rodents in the end, eh…”
Such is the civilization of the lower classes; such is their society. I’m basking in my feelings of superiority.
“… But my Fairy mode is just the same, isn’t it?”
I shouldn’t be throwing stones when I live in a glass house myself. How embarrassing.
“… Wanna eat some sunflower seeds?”
Yameta tries to lift my depression with a pat on the back.
And so, I’ve become a resident at the hamster village.
I eat as they do and sleep as they do. This is one of the basics of fieldwork. Understanding the origins and salient themes of hamster culture requires a sharp and flexible mind… There’s no end to the things one can gain from fieldwork.
Raw data. The vox populi. Novel ideas. Secure housing. Safety. Guaranteed availability of necessities. Returning to humanity.
The search for the truth is muddled by a multitude of motives in the midst - with a smidgen of self-interest added in for taste.
The first few days passed quickly… I think.
I say that because I’ve found it hard to accurately gauge the passage of time.
Deep in the forest, it’s hard to tell the difference between day and night.
It’s often dark even during the day, and moonlight considerably brightens the nights.
I’ve thus decided to use my sleep cycle to count the days instead.
I’ve been leaving the village for fairy-finding expeditions all this time. Three berries that I hang from my belt will serve as my lunch.
I carry a nail to defend myself.
This nail has been borrowed from the late Mr. Muhon’s belongings. It’s brand new with no rust and looks quite premium (Quite the grave omen).
Large predators such as cats and foxes wouldn’t be bothered by just a nail, but it probably can repel smaller ones such as centipedes and snakes… I hope. Ahh, but it’s probably a bad idea to fight; escaping is a better idea, isn’t it. Let’s just treat it as a consolation.
The hamsters don’t know anything about the fairies.
And so, I’ve resolved to find the fairies myself, by crawling around on the forest floor.
There is, however, a price to pay for the hamsters’ support.
If I ever find a female hamster around, I need to bring her back with me. Because the hamster village is currently a veritable sausage fest, finding a female is a matter of life and death.
As a rule, they treat you well at first.
To be honest, I would’ve liked to have asked for more help, but I can’t overstep my bounds.
The village is currently in the middle of a fortification project.
The bark of the dead tree already serves as a natural rampart. Due to its small entrance, intruders are limited to around ten centimeters wide at most, so the hamsters should be able to manage easily.
However, the shock of losing one of their comrades had made the hamsters more wary, and so, the fortifications are currently being improved at a rapid pace.
I feel a sharp impact on the top of my helmet, as if struck by a rock. But it isn’t a rock, it’s a big raindrop which has slammed into me after a long fall.
It’s a sudden shower, endemic to the region.
I’m wearing a newly acquired eggshell, but it’s no umbrella.
If the rain, even as a drizzle, falls for long enough, the ground will turn into a quagmire. When this small, even the tiniest puddle can become a dangerous body of water.
I hop under the protruding root of a tree to escape the rain.
fwoosh, zwoosh, fwoosh.
At smaller scales, rain makes a very different impression.
A giant raindrop the size of a fist. It falls and shatters.
The sounds of the rain morph into thunderous rumbles, like that of a landslide, and raindrops that hit the ground generate tremors that I can feel till my knees.
Birds and insects with sharper senses aren’t in any condition to be active.
It feels like the countless little lives spread across the entire forest, like me, have formed a temporary truce with each other.
But there are some who are still active in the rain.
“Oh, a frog.”
On the other side of the violent mist of the rain, sits a beautiful, fresh-green frog. The roar of the rain has probably dulled its hearing, so it does not sense my approach.
The frog is staring at me with its large, emotionless eyes. It’s a size bigger than me, about eleven to twelve centimeters long.
I put a hand on my back and slowly pulled the nail out of the sheath I had made with the grass wrapped around it.
Surely it wouldn’t try to eat something of a similar size like me…
We hold a staring contest for a short while. The frog suddenly departs.
Is the rain’s mist making me see things?
It almost seems like I saw the frog get up and walk on two legs…
“It can’t be.”
I can’t see the frog anymore.
If I could talk to frogs, I’d be able to ask them about where the fairies are. I want to chase after it, but my hesitance to go on a wild frog chase stays my feet.
And to begin with, I’ve got fairy eyes now.
I have to look at things from a fairy’s perspective, and converse with critters such as hamsters and pillbugs too.
I can’t see straight vertically. The greater the zenith, the more my vision twists.
It feels like fancy lenses have been attached to my eyes. And these lenses seem to reinterpret the world around me.
When I look up, the tops of the trees stretch and softly distort like taffy, forming a gaping central circle above.
The pattern reminds me of those mysterious Celtic knots. Or perhaps some kind of fractal.
The way humans see the world ought to be the correct way.
But is that really true?
What if fairy vision is what mirrors the world more accurately?
What if the real world actually works this way?
“Arghh…” I let out a sigh.
I’m starting to feel like there’s not a thing wrong with the world.
The truth is, fairies don’t exist, and I’m actually just a hamster who by some unfortunate turn of events has mistaken memories of her past… Nope, I can’t possibly go on thinking like that.
I jump twenty centimeters up at the sound of a voice behind me.
My challenge vainly fizzles away into the rain’s spray.
As I continue to survey my surroundings with my guard up, I hear another low whisper - “
“… Hey, who is it?”
The voice seems disembodied. I can’t see where it comes from.
As I look about with bated breath, countless whispers pipe up all around me, calling out, “Rain.”
All these voices, echoing about haphazardly, are saying the exact same thing.
Just as the rain does not fall in lockstep, so too are these voices silently celebrating the rain never in synchrony.
“Are… Are these the voices of the plants?”
I do believe I’m right, for these voices have not a shred of emotion whatsoever.
Indifferent and inorganic, like the rustle of rain-soaked blades of grass. It makes me ponder nature’s ways. It’s as if all the grass and trees are crying out in joy at being soaked by the raindrops. Or perhaps this is how the fairies interpret the sound of the rain being taken in by the forest. Either way, it makes for a profoundly strange experience.
Even the voiceless plants serenade these small ears with their words. As if to impress upon me the myriad viewpoints that exist on this earth.
I feel like I’ve had a glimpse of the secret of all creation.
I’m tired of it. Of searching for fairies.
Of this diminutive existence with these miniature eyes and ears. And of all the deep, spiritual insights into the mysteries of life, the universe, and everything that I keep having.
And now, having become a living example of that adage that an easy life leads to indolence, I am currently absorbed in the process of shaping my toenails with a serrated stone (in place of a nail file).
“Where are my sunflower seeds?”
I airily utter an order into the void.
“There’s none left.”
“Didn’t we use to have a lot?”
As I blow on my toes and repeat my order, Yameta says the unthinkable.
“We’re low on food. We’re gonna hafta ration ourselves from here on out.”
For the first time, I look him square in the face.
“… What did you say?”
“We’re runnin’ out coz ya done ate it all, Ms. Human.”
“But this is a civilized society, isn’t it?”
“There’s a bunch of places we go to gather nuts, so we visited ’em all. But the weasels stole those spots from us.”
“To think the conflict’s effects would manifest like this…”
“At this rate, we’re gonna hafta think about packin’ up and movin’ on.”
“The situation is quite dire, isn’t it.”
The matter of fortifying the village must be an exceptionally pressing one.
The hollow is sealed off by a large stone, and just inside is a barricade formed from dry thorny branches. The settlement is built to be ensconced entirely. It is frankly quite imposing.
But since I’ve never even seen a weasel before, I don’t really feel a sense of danger.
“If we had enough food, we’d be able to stay holed up in here forever.”
I have an idea.
“Now, where can we find a place with a lotta grub lyin’ around?”
“You’ve never been to a human village, have you?”
“A hoo-man vallage?”
I call the village’s residents to muster. They number five.
When I explain my plan, the hamsters glance at each other.
Yameta steps forward and raises a paw as if to ask a question.
“So, yer tellin’ us there’s a lot of food sittin’ round this ‘feeld’ place?”
Another hamster steps forward. They’re all practically identical, so it may be that this one’s Yameta instead, but let’s not sweat the details.
“What kinda food do they got there?”
I can’t help but recall my conversation with the egg lady in the distant past.
“Carrots… If I’m not mistaken.”
“That’d be a meal worth eatin’ before we die.” “Don’t say it!” “We just gotta do our best to keep that from happenin’.” “If it’s such a good place, why don’t we jus’ move our nest over there?”
The hamsters form a circle and debate the topic.
“What’s your take on it, Ms. Human?” asks Yameta.
“It’s out in the open, and there are lots of giants around… It may be difficult to settle there.”
“How big are they?”
“More than ten times your size.”
The hamsters become flustered the moment they hear this.
“B-but if they’re that big, innit gonna be dangerous?”
“They’re gentle, so they won’t attack like the weasels would. But things may get dicey if we are discovered while we’re getting the vegetables. So we need to be careful.”
And so, we resolved to launch an expedition to the village. We move with haste. Since I’ve known the lay of the land the longest, I’m coming along as a guide. This trip has become something taking up the whole day and has stretched into the night.
“If we cross that hill, we should be able to see the fields!”
The area feels very different from what I’m used to, but it is also somewhat familiar.
When we finally reach the top of the hill, the vast fields become visible below.
“Thass the place, eh? Looks weird.”
Yameta’s never seen a field before, so it’s natural that he feels that way.
“sniff, sniff, I sense food down there.” “Where’s them giants at?” “What a strange place…”
Looks like everyone’s bewildered by the sight of the human village.
I’ll need to do my best as their leader.
But, what I’m setting out to do is theft in the end.
“Egg lady… I’m sorry. I’m only doing this to survive.”
We aren’t going to steal all of it. We only want a little.
Egg lady’s kind, so I’m sure she’ll be able to forgive me… I’ll make the most delicious sweets for her the day I turn back into a human. But just for now, just for now…
The band of thieves charges at the fields.
The carrots in the Egg lady’s fields are all nice and fat.
Vegetables grown by humans have been crossed and selected over many years and are much sweeter and larger than wild varieties. I knew this was the case, but… I never actually appreciated the fact - until I set my eyes upon that most enchanting of carrots.
“… I don’t even need ta taste it to know it’ll be delicious …”
Yameta’s body quivers, betraying his excitement.
“I’ve gotta hunch… that this thing’s worth puttin’ on the menu for our Last Supper.” “So delicious it’d part body from soul5…” “My teeth are itching for it!” “It’s so captivating!”
The depredators disperse into the field with a shout.
We harvest… Er, plunder the carrots, digging up each and every one of them, and tying them up like potatoes with stalks of ivy.
We’re going about this with a mind to loot everything, not just a part of the field.
“Squeee! What a harvest!”
I, too, have long since abandoned reason and am devoting myself to digging up carrots with my measuring spoon. Which is why I don’t see her coming.
“OOHHHHH, YOOOOUUUU THIEVING RAAAAAAAAAATSSSSS!!”
From the heavens booms an angry voice unlike any I have ever heard before.
Our band of five animals and one human are frozen in shock and can’t react in time.
We hear booming footsteps, and soon a gigantic mountainous body rushes toward us. With incredible speed. What’s left to be said, that’s a human. From a fairy’s perspective, it looks like a giant gray body, but… Those clothes feel awfully familiar… Ah, that’s the Egg lady, isn’t it.
From my ten-centimeter perspective, her human form exudes the irrational vibe of a natural disaster.
Anyone would blank out if a mountain just up and came at them, wouldn’t they?
That’s how I feel right now.
“Oh no! We’ve got to escape! It’s a human, everyone! A human’s coming!”
Shouting things that no normal person would say, I put the rosary of carrots on my back and start running. The hamsters snap out of their frozen stupor and follow behind me.
“Squeeeeek!” cries Yameta.
He’s given himself over to his wild blood, perhaps due to fear.
“GRAAAAAAAAAAH! YOU DARNED THIEVIN’ RODENTS!!! I’M GOING TO BAKE YOU ALL INTO A PIE WHEN I CATCH YOU!”
The deep voice of the human chasing us batters our backs.
Th-That couldn’t possibly be the Egg lady, could it?
Did that mild-mannered-looking person really turn into such a demon?!
Something falls right next to me.
It’s a rock.
The Egg lady’s throwing rocks at us.
I’ll die if something like this hits me!
My mind goes blank as I run.
This dog-eat-dog world is harsh. That’s what I think. But that isn’t all.
Human society is harsh too.
We flee in tears.
“I’LL TURN YOU INTO A PIE!!”
The booming voice chases us everywhere.
I’m completely spent by the time I return to the hamster village.
We were separated when the Egg lady chased us, and I managed to come away with my life, but I couldn’t tell where I was anymore… I wandered about for days relying on familiar scenery and smells until I could finally make my way back here.
I prop myself up on the spoon and poke my head into the meeting hut.
“Ah, Ms. Human! Yer safe!”
“I’m so glad we’re all safe and back together!”
Such nostalgic faces.
One, two, three, four-
“Uh, we’re short one… What happened?”
The four hamsters lower their noses.
“… He didn’t make it.” Yameta’s voice quivers.
“You mean… He got caught and turned into a pie…?”
“Or maybe he was crushed by a stone…”
The room’s atmosphere turns even heavier.
“He was a good guy…”
One of them lets out an earnest wail. The others seem to agree in silence. A deep sadness fills the room. Suddenly, Yameta claps with his paws.
“Right, time ta quit mopin’. We need to leave what’s gone to the past.”
“Yeup, darn straight.” “Let’s just forget all about it.”
Ahh, life is so cheap to those of this race.
“They’re rodents in the end, huh?”
“What was that just now?”
“By the by, Ms. Human, we couldn’t bring back most of tha carrots we scored, but I managed to take one back with me all the same.”
On the table lies a single carrot with bite marks all over it. Looks like they were in the middle of dinner.
“A raw carrot…”
I let my instincts override my misgivings, and bite into the carrot. An indescribably soft sweetness spreads through me.
“This is what bliss tastes like.”
“It’s delicious. I’ve never eaten somethin’ this tasty before.” Yameta looks off into the distance. “But that giant was awfully scary. That was the firs’ creature that’s scared me so.”
“… I’m sorry.”
I apologize on behalf of all humanity.
“Ah, but, but! Not all the giants are bad! There’s a kind lady who lives in the house right next to that field.”
“… No kiddin’?”
“Yes. Giants aren’t all bad people.”
“I sure hope so… Either way, I don’t think I’m ever goin’ back there.”
That’s a given; it was such a scary experience, after all.
“Anyway, we can hold the fort for a spell with this. Less keep goin’, folks!”
There’s a chorus of cheers.
And so, we continue chewing on our carrot as we mourn (and forget) the death of our comrade.
The low rumble of torrents of rain striking the ground fills the world.
Even the thunderclaps I hear feel distant, belying the fact that this rain is unlike your usual shower. Though the sound of the rain is almost a thunderous roar, it is numbed to the point of acting as a lullaby after filtering through the ground.
I am fast asleep in my cabin, surrounded by leaves and straw.
But that doesn’t last long, for my pleasant sleep is broken by an alarm bell (an empty can) sounding.
“Wha-wazz going on? Whazzappening?”
Half in fairy mode, I sit up and wander around aimlessly, carrying a blanket of dead leaves.
Yameta bounds into my cabin.
“They’re here! The enemy’s here! We’re under attack!”
“Enemies… Wait, we’re being attacked?”
“The dang rain was so loud I didn’t notice ’em movin’ the rock blockin’ the entrance! And now they got through!”
“Even when the hole was that small?”
“Them weasels can do it! As long as their heads fit! That’s the kind of creature they are!”
I can hear the hamsters screaming from outside.
“We’re done for if the fence goes down! Less jus’ git outta here!”
“A-Am I in danger too!? I’m not even a hamster…”
I’m sorry, but self-preservation is the only thing on my mind right now.
“Weasels enjoy hunting! It doesn’t matter what race ya are; they’ll hunt ya all the same!”
To think they’d enjoy hunting. I’m surprised they have such wicked urges. But it isn’t out of the realm of possibility in a world where pillbugs talk and hamsters have funerals.
“Surely, there’s a way out?”
That’s the one thing I must know before trying to fight or hole up.
As long as there’s a way to escape so the enemy can’t immediately find us…
“We ain’t got one.”
“There was only one hole here, to begin with.”
“You should’ve made another one, then!”
The hamster considers the idea absentmindedly for a while, then claps his paws together.
“Well, it’s waaaaaay too late ta think about that now!”
We leave the hut with nails gripped tight to survey the situation.
When we cross the plaza and reach the fence, We see the three other hamsters pointing their nails in the same direction. And when I look at what they’re pointing at… I see them.
The weasel corps.
What kind of image do people usually have of that animal we call the weasel?
I’m sure it’s something like this (a picture of a weasel standing up) or something like this (a picture of a weasel poking its head from a hole in the snow).
Indeed, they’re cute and adorable animals. Compared to dogs, they are long and lithe, and their long bodies and short legs mean they have a rather comical physique.
But they’re faking it.
Anyone would know that fact if they were facing a weasel when they’re only ten centimeters tall.
Life in the wild is simply cruel. Even in the presence of a documentary team recording wildlife activities, nobody would volunteer any help for the victims. After all, first things first, “people mustn’t intervene in the enactment of the harsh laws of the wild (narrated),” and second things second is that no matter how many documentaries you may have seen, they’re all just a cash-grab (As you may have guessed by now, I’m a bit addled).
The weasels’ forms remind me of a pack of wraiths.
They have tall, vertical forms, their dark, murky eyeballs are filled with murderous intent, and their sharp claws hover at the ready near their chests.
“Do-don’t they look a little too fiendish?”
“D-don’t they just?”
There are ten weasels in all. They stand straight in a line along the fence. One particularly large weasel pushes through the line and steps forward.
Its full height seems to be about five times that of my own… I can tell at a glance that it is the pack’s leader. The most distinctive feature of this weasel is that of the ten in front of us, only this one has white fur. And that just adds to its evil dignity.
The white weasel calmly surveys the settlement, smiles deviously, and begins speaking in an almost warmly welcoming tone.
“Hey there, you filthy hamsters. Today shall be a day to remember.”
Nobody can respond. Because everyone collectively feels the instinctual fear of attracting this weasel’s attention.
“After all, I get to attend to the final moments of your flock, which I have killed, one by one… Bone. By. Bone…”
That weasel’s eloquence only serves to make it more terrifying.
The hamsters are all trembling.
They’re barely managing to point their nails at the other side of the fence, but I doubt any of them would be able to charge into battle.
“There were so many of you at first, and yet now you number only four… Oh? It seems there is an unfamiliar face here. And it isn’t a hamster’s face either…”
The ruby-colored eyes that only white weasels could possess stare at me intently.
Within those eyes lies a peculiar fixation.
As a member of the old humanity, who once stood at the top of the food chain, there’s no better time to say this.
“… squeak? (I’m pretending to be a hamster)”
Yameta shakes my shoulders with sad eyes.
“They’ll kill ya together with us even if ya pretend yer a hamster.”
“Th-that’s right! Ahh, I’m so confused…!”
As if uninterested in such skits, the white weasel snorts in displeasure.
“… Humph, never mind. It doesn’t change anything if there’s another strange mouse around. Why, this just means we get one more critter’s worth of joy out of this.”
This weasel seems intent on killing us.
My head spins as I wrack my brain for a way to escape, but I’m fresh out of ideas.
“Yameta, that fence… How sturdy is it?”
The fence is quite well-built; it is taller than the weasels and is woven very finely.
Even though they managed to fit through the entrance, the weasels wouldn’t be able to work their way through the gaps in the fence.
Thanks to the thorns woven through it like barbed wire, I don’t think they can climb it either.
“… Can’t say, we never bothered ta test it…”
I can feel my blood draining from my head and curdling within the depths of my heart.
I’m at my wit’s end, aren’t I? But I’m hesitant to say it out loud. Because if I did, it would all actually become reality.
“Um, I’d like to leave now…”
“I feel fer ya, I really do… but you’d best jus’ give up.”
“I don’t want to give up!”
There has to be some chance of at least one of the hamsters escaping if they split up.
“Think, me, think… Think, think, and think again… And bring about a miracle, just like those protagonists from fiction who manage even with less than a one percent success rate…”
I’m lost in thought, with a nail in one hand and the measuring spoon in the other.
Yameta’s whiskers bob up and down in concern. I look at him and declare - “As if I could ever give up! A miracle… I’ll make a miracle happen… We can do it as long as we don’t give up hope! We’re sure to be protected by God!”
For now, I’ll say something positive. Just so God can hear me say it (if he exists).
“Yes, you may as well pray. Cling to your nonexistent hope. And watch in abject fear as your blood freezes to the last drop! But do not ever forget. For you pitiful sacrifices under the mercy of absolute power, the notion of some unexpected savior coming to your rescue is nothing but a trite fantasy of the weak!
… Why’s this eloquent chatterbox of a weasel such a piece of shit?
They may be carnivores, but they’re still one of the denizens of this fairytale world; why couldn’t they just have left it at a playful “I’mma eat ya♪” instead?
The great outdoors sure is tough when you see it for real…
Ahh, it’s all starting to feel like a bad dream… Or rather, I’d like to believe that with all my heart. That this is all a dream. And then I’d like to wake up.
“Well, now, you filthy hamsters. You all seem quite confident in this fence’s ability to stop us from entering, but… Mheheheh, I see it is quite well made. As well made as you lot with brains smaller than the tip of a nail could manage, anyway. But–”
The tawny-furred weasel minions all flash faint smiles and unsheathe their claws.
“It’ll all come crashing down in but one stroke!”
The fence tears open without a fuss as the white weasel sweeps his claws at it. They don’t even need to climb it. Fences are no threat to this dreadful white weasel.
The weasels enter through the tear in the fence, one at a time.
“Now, we shall feast! Let us give them a slow death and enjoy ourselves to the fullest!”
They’re here, they’re here, THEY’RE HERE!
“A miracle! Give me a miracle! I need a miracle fit for a protagonist!”
I thrust my nail and spoon forward and scream at the top of my lungs.
Has my wish been granted, or is it the will of the fates, or did I just get the main character treatment?
I don’t know how that number on the spoon’s handle works, but it miraculously goes up from 31 to 32.
The figures of the attacking weasels seem to be moving in slow motion, giving the scene a dramatic austerity.
“Ahaha, I’m jus’ done with it all.”
Yameta’s tone is strangely cheerful.
His eyes betray the loss of his will to live.
“Dying’s a pretty funny thing, ain’t it, Ms. Human.”
“You can’t give up, I tell you!”
“Maybe life’s jus’ another kind of event that keeps unfolding in the world, over and over again. When I think of it that way, it ain’t so scary.”
“Don’t go philosophizing on me right now!!”
The four hamsters look to be at their breaking point. They’re just about ready to throw away their only weapons, the nails, and scatter every which way. But with the weasels still blocking the entrance, there’s no chance of actually escaping. All they can do is cling to the walls and tremble while huddled together.
Suddenly, a bright flash sears the interior of the hollow.
“What in the world just happened!?”
The weasels panic. After a short delay, a sharp sound, like tearing paper, reverberates through the hollow.
Lightening. And it seems to have struck very close by. The weasels’ eyes are wandering. Fire is quite a terrifying thing from an animal’s perspective, after all.
“I got to live a good life, didn’t I? I reckon I got a fair bargain.”
Yameta continues as if he has nothing to do with what’s going on. He’s already become numb to the fear, and his face is filled with contentment. I didn’t know it was possible to look this pitiful when one gives up on life. I’ve got to watch out myself… If I ever survive.
“Now’s my chance…”
Just as I think of suggesting that we take advantage of the chaos, a part of the wall collapses on its own, exposing a hole. The hole is about five to six centimeters wide.
A hamster, absolutely drenched, pokes its head through it.
He was supposed to have been martyred during the carrot hunt… What was his name… Well, I never did hear, but I thought he was dead!
“Fernández! Yer alive!”
I didn’t know he had such a pointlessly noble name.
“Vamos, amigos… Er, I mean, y’all better haul ass!”
“OOhhh!” The hamsters jump into the hole one by one, their faces bright with hope. I’m the last one through.
“Quickly, Ms. Human!”
I toss the nail away, put the spoon on my back and shove myself through the hole. I see the white weasel rushing towards me out of the corner of my eye. We’ve been spotted!
“I shall not allow your escape!”
The white weasel’s presence swells behind me. Tears well in my eyes.
I flail my limbs about earnestly, but the hole is too small for my bottom to fit through.
“Hurry up, Ms. Human! We gotta’ scram!”
“I-I can’t fit through…”
“Throw away that spoon of yer’s!”
“It’s stuck together with me!”
The hamsters are tugging at me, but there’s no sign of me budging.
“Ms. Human, don’t tell me…”
“No,” I say, composed.
“I haven’t put on weight because I ate too many sunflower seeds or anything.” But that is a lie.
“It’s all because you just sat around all day doin’ nothin’!”
I can’t see him anymore, but I can tell the white weasel is standing behind me. An intense murderous intent. He’s angry that we’ve escaped, even when cornered to this extent.
“You insolent hamsters, I’ll skewer you all yet!”
He thrusts his claws at my protruding bottom.
“It’s no use! Save yourselves!”
I give up and resolve to accept my 𝓕𝓘𝓝.
Humanity has declined.
Predatory opportunism. Like what pyramid schemes do to people with money trouble. ↩︎
A Japanese business culture thing. It’s a convention meant to be followed to facilitate effective project management. Things like who talks first, who to talk to, when to say stuff, etc. The concept is related to the Japanese term Hou-ren-sou. Here ’s a resource where you can learn more (google translate it). ↩︎
The Japanese was “tobisou”, which, if transliterated would mean “will fly”. This seems to be a turn of phrase originating from a 2000 TV drama called Ikebukuro West Gate Park, where a character says “Eat it and you’ll be blown away”. Interestingly, this had a resurgence in 2021 after a wrestler said pretty much the same thing after eating some scallops. Source: Japanese twitter ↩︎