Really belated translation of a short story for Touji’s birthday. There was another celebration for his birthday this year, but I didn’t buy the wall scroll.
The Cowherd’s Wish
Saijou Touji woke up to a pleasant afternoon breeze brushing against his cheeks.
The bamboo that his grandchildren and great-grandchildren brought entered the corner of his aged vision. There were long strips of cards hanging on the branches that swayed in the wind and each one had wishes written on it. The contents of them all were similar; in short, “I hope grandpa gets well” was written on them. The bamboo and the cards were things his grandchildren brought so that he wouldn’t be lonely.
Perhaps, while he had been sleeping, he arrived in a world that was different from before… Ridiculous thoughts such as these came to him. Until he met his beloved wife, as a whole, familial warmth was something he lived without and so, even now, he felt this blessed situation was like a dream.
Touji was absent-minded from having just woken up, but he still asked a question he knew the answer to.
“Do you know what day it is today?”
In the cabriole-legged chair beside the bed sat his old, but still the world’s most adorable—at least Touji thought so—beloved wife, who was peeling an apple. Her wrinkled hands skillfully used the knife and the parts with the peel became a rabbit’s ears. Previously, Touji had begged to eat a rabbit-shaped apple made by his wife and, ever since then, they had been in this shape. In these old years, she would basically give in to Touji and answer his requests with a sigh and “You’re a hopeless person”.
After being beside the man she wanted to kill for decades, rather than giving up it was more like she had entered a realm of understanding.
Touji thought this as he stared at her and then, finally, a calm and lady-like voice answered in the space that was left.
“Tanabata, isn’t it?”
In his heart, Touji lamented with a “See?” and let out a wry sigh.
This day that society called Tanabata—was actually Touji’s birthday.
However, she had never personally celebrated this, even up to this present time of them being old. She had held birthday parties after their son had been born, but it was all for their son. It was most certainly not to please Touji.
In the past, he couldn’t help but feel sad about that but, now that he was old, he could understand. Rather, in spite of being confined, raped, and then getting married, it was amazing she accompanied him to this point and he was grateful from the bottom of his heart. That was why he wouldn’t say any complaints this year too and would go along with her answer.
“That’s right. Did you write your wish?”
“I wrote that I wished for a certain someone to choke on a hollow and disgusting apple with no sweetness and then pass away.”
“Hahaha, I’ve been getting weaker lately, so this year it might actually happen.”
Every year, they would exchange similar words. After this, she would continue with “Several decades have passed with me thinking this, so it’s not going to be granted.”
In any case, he thought this year would be the same, but she was excessively silent for a long period of time. She seemed to be thinking of something absent-mindedly with a fork stabbed into the apple. Eventually, the wind blew in and rustled the leaves of the bamboo and she held out the apple as if that space of time hadn’t happened.
To be honest, recently it was a little painful to swallow. However, he wanted to eat the apple she had cut and so he continued to act healthy. Today, Touji also held back from choking and as he chewed on the apple he said “Oh my” with a smile.
“It’s full of sweetness and delicious. Mm, this… has been the most delicious one so far.”
“Oh dear, did I make a mistake? Lately, my eyes have also gone bad and I can’t make a distinction. That won’t do. I missed killing you this year too.”
“Haha, I’ll do my best so that I can receive your killing intent next year too.”
“I’ve been telling you that your efforts are going in the wrong direction, dear.”
She placed the knife on the bedside table and sighed.
In truth, all of the elderly care could be handed to the servants, but because she wanted to do “whatever she could” she must have tired herself out.
Somehow, Touji managed to raise his hand, was was becoming hard to move, and stroked her cheek.
“I’m sorry. I should hurry up and die, but I just seem to be tenacious.”
“Yes, honestly. You’re so tenacious… I felt like you would live forever.”
The ending was different from usual and, hearing a bit of sadness, Touji laughed soundlessly.
“It almost sounds like you find that to be a shame, so I’m in a good mood.”
“Because today is a special day.”
Touji’s heart danced, thinking that she was possibly talking about his birthday.
However, she lowered her eyes and seemed to brush away his expectant gaze with irritation.
“I have to grant my grandchildren’s wishes on Tanabata, at least.”
“Grandchildren, huh… I have a good son, good granchildren, good great-grandchildren… Thanks to you, I had a really nice life.”
“I had a really terrible one.”
“Ahaha, I suppose so.”
She said “Yes, it was extremely painful and filled only with that…” while looking at the swaying bamboo leaves.
Perhaps it was because he was going senile, but he seemed to see a sad smile from the side of her face.