Kino no Tabi:Volume15 Chapter4
「Photo's Days」 —the Beautiful Moment—
「Since That Day」 —Since I was Born.— 
Why are motorrads (Note: A two-wheeled vehicle. Only note that it cannot fly) born? No one knows.
Why can they talk?
Why isn't anyone surprised that they can talk?
Since no one knows why in the first place, no one finds it strange not to know.
I don't know either, even though I'm the one writing this.
Even though I'm a motorrad too.
"Sou, I'm back!"
I was dozing by the window in the peaceful spring sunshine, when the owner of this tiny little room flung the door open and came marching back in.
The owner was human.
Her long black hair was tied behind her head, but now she pulled out her hairpin, and her hair swooped down to her back.
She was wearing work clothes without the slightest hint of sex appeal, although they did look easy to move around in: jeans and a long-sleeved shirt under a vest that was covered in pockets.
She dumped an aluminum box from o ff her shoulder onto the bed.
The box contained several single-lens reflex cameras, as well as alternate lenses and film.
"Oh hey. Welcome back, Photo," I said.
Her name was Photo.
Obviously not her real name.
It was just a nickname, but that's what everyone in this country called her.
never had a name when she was a slave, and no longer has the name she had before then.
I've never met anyone with a fate as strange as Photo's.
If you searched the whole world over, I'm sure you could find people that are more amazing, as well as people that are more amazed, but I'm not about to go looking.
She was an orphan.
She had parents and a grandmother when she was young, but around the time she could have started school, they were killed by an epidemic, one after the other.
Her country was ruled under a single religion, which also ran the orphanage. And that's where Photo was raised for almost 10 years.
As long as you followed the doctrine closely, you'd be able to live a long life in that country, raise children, and then eventually die.
And that was how Photo was (of course, that wasn't her name back then). She was raised as an obedient "good girl" who was never anything except prim and proper.
However, she ended up leaving the country for a wonderful reason.
I thought it was just for motorrads, but it turns out it can happen to humans too.
That is — she was sold.
One day, the leader of the country, whom the people called the "high priest", came up a bit short while trying to pay some merchants for a few things. The country was known for its gem mining industry, but they were having a bad year.
Of course, the merchants weren't interested in giving hand-outs, and they made it clear that they wouldn't be selling their goods for less than full price.
The high priest was in a tight spot.
I'm only guessing, but whatever he was buying, he probably needed it to impress or control everyone else. He might even have needed it just to stay in power.
So the high priest offered Photo as part of the trade. Like, "Use her as a servant."
I don't know why Photo got picked, but ironically enough, she's a hard worker.
"If these gems aren't enough for you, what if I add this girl?" that wonderful priest proposed. Photo, for her part, quietly consented to being a servant.
It sounds okay when you say "servant", but really, she was a "slave".
And so, Photo was loaded onto one of the merchants' trucks and taken out of her country, about a year ago now.
The merchants used Photo as a slave.
There was the chief and his family, and then their subordinates and their families, which added up to 30 merchants and 3 trucks in total. They worked Photo like a draft horse and bullied her for amusement.
The abusive language was constant, and if they felt like it, they'd hit her once in a while too. She wasn't fed nearly enough.
So what did Photo do in such an awful situation, you ask? — She just kept working as hard as she could.
You see, she's a complete idiot.
In the country she comes from, pretty much everyone believes in unrealistic, childish sayings like "The world is one family" and "Love will save the world."
They believed that they were so full of love that their country was the most beautiful in the world.
In reality, it was all the high priest's dictatorship, but it's hard to see that from the inside. Anyone that did notice it probably joined up with the priest to get their share of the pie.
And so, Photo believed that life would be wonderful as long as she always did her best to trust people, never doubted them, never tricked or hurt them, and always loved them as her neighbors.
Even after she taken from her country as a slave, Photo still tried her best to work as hard as she could.
The merchants laughed in her face for it.
And honestly, I did too.
Like, "She gives idiots a bad name."
Like, "She won't last long out in the real world."
But wow — humans' lives are a real mystery. Like they say, "No one knows what the future holds."
This was a few days after Photo became a slave.
The merchants set up camp on a mountain above the clouds, and then something hilarious happened.
They used some of the plants growing nearby for cooking, and everyone dumbly ate it up. That plant is fine for cooking when it's growing on flatland, but at higher altitudes, it's poisonous.
Well, I guess it would have been even dumber if they did know and didn't notice.
It was a small mistake, but a fatal one.
Everyone that ate it went into a seizure and died. Photo was the only one left alive.
And actually, she tried to eat it too.
The idiot could have just let it happen, but she realized at the last second that it was poisonous, and tried to warn them all. Like, "Wait don't eat it!"
But she didn't.
Well — maybe it would be better to say that "she hesitated for a second and couldn't", but anyway, some stuff happened and in the end, she was the only one left alive.
She seemed shaken up about it for a while, but who cares?
All the merchants dropped dead and Photo got her freedom.
I met Photo for the first time in the back of a truck.
The merchants were only keeping me around until they could sell me, but they hadn't been able to find any takers for a while.
You better not say it's because I'm a small, folding-type or that I'm weird.
I was cooped up in the truck the whole time, so that was my first actual look at Photo.
She was 155cm tall, maybe? She wasn't especially fat or skinny, but being a slave for a few days had made her thinner than normal.
Her hair was black, ragged, and tied behind her head. If she let it down and brushed it properly, it'd be pretty long.
So anyway, I basically got my freedom at the same time as her.
Then, since I didn't want to get left behind, I taught Photo how to drive a truck. And then we dipped right out of there.
Oh, and also I told her to load up the truck with anything we could sell.
Photo went crazy and said no, it was stealing. It was really tough to talk her down, but eventually I said, "Think about it. Couldn't you use that money to help someone in need?"
Finally, after she heard that, she went along with it.
I was actually talking about her, but I don't know if she got what I meant.
I directed and Photo loaded, until the truck was full of all sorts of stuff.
The other two trucks were a camper for the chief's family and a truck for the merchants' daily living, so we didn't need them, we just took the cargo truck.
We took food and fuel from the other trucks, and jewelry off the dead bodies. We also grabbed a few dangerous-looking persuaders (Note: a persuader is a gun), as well as ammunition.
Photo ditched the old rags she was wearing, and pulled on some movable clothing from out of the merchandise. A long-sleeved shirt, jeans, and a hat with a brim. She kind of looked like a rich girl on an adventure.
Then Photo started up the truck, and I hoped her dangerous driving didn't get us killed.
After that we had quite an adventure.
In order for Photo to survive, and for me to not get left to rust — the first thing we had to do was make it to any country with people living in it.
Obviously, we weren't about to go back to her home country.
If possible, it'd be best to avoid the nearby countries too. If word got out about Photo's situation, that crazy priest might try to come after us, saying, "She belongs to our country!"
We drove the truck over the rough gravel path for several days.
We figured that if we stayed on the road long enough, we'd eventually run into a country somewhere. Along the way, there was a fork in the road, and we just had to trust Photo's gut.
The journey was carefree like that sometimes, but it was also insanely dangerous at other times.
Like, a girl traveling without anyone else, just a loaded cargo truck, is the best kind of prey.
If I saw anyone that looked like a thief — no, any adult that looked even slightly capable of doing harm — well I wouldn't be able to save her anyway.
Even in the best case scenario, she'd be a slave again. In the worst case, she'd be dead.
I decided that if that happened, that was just her fate.
I just want to point out that I did try to plan for that, at least a little, by offering to teach Photo how to use a persuader. But she flat out refused.
Considering how the last merchant died, I suppose that's understandable. Also, I gave it some more thought and changed my mind; even if I taught her how to shoot, that wouldn't immediately make her battle-ready, so I dropped it.
There was no one else with us on the road, so Photo and I talked a lot.
I'm the one who came up with Photo's new name.
After racking my nonexistent brain, "ｘｘｘｘｘ・ｘｘｘｘｘ" is what I decided on.
And Photo even liked it, at first —
It's been thirty days now since Photo got her freedom.
We've been on the road the whole time, except for one day when it was raining too hard to see anything.
I was in the truck bed the whole time, and Photo was in the driver's seat the whole time. It's not like we could switch, anyway.
Photo wasn't getting any better at driving, but she desperately kept herself going. She cut down on meals (usually one meal a day). At night she slept lying down in the driver's seat.
We drove somewhere from 100 to 200 kilometers every day for 12 days. Somehow, we managed to make it pretty far.
We came down from the mountain and passed through desert plains, and then we came to the edge of a huge lake and followed the huge river from there. On our journey under the constantly changing sky, we saw a lot of different animals.
Photo was really enthusiastic about everything she saw. Since I could only see out of a small window in the back of the truck, she described it to me.
"If only I could capture this scene in a picture..." Photo said, longingly.
"It's no big deal if you wanna stop and draw it," I said.
But Photo responded sadly, "I've never drawn before. I don't know how... it's fine."
The pretty scenery was great and all, but as we went farther and farther, our fuel supply continued to dwindle.
The merchants had attached massive fuel tanks to the truck's frame in case they had to cover long distances, and we'd taken the spare fuel from the other two trucks before we left, so Photo was able to refuel our truck several times.
But still, we were starting to run out.
If we were to run out of gas out in the middle of Mother Nature, Photo's luck would run out too.
At that point, we were in the middle of a gigantic forest. The only color you could see was the early summer green. The weather was good, and it was the morning of the 14th day.
Thankfully, the dirt path was dry and not too bumpy. The climate wasn't bad either.
I said to Photo, "Hey, listen up. Today's the breaking point. If we run out of gas, you should take whatever you need and keep walking by yourself. You should be able to get a few kilometers farther at least, before you run out of food and water. Don't give up until the very end! Keep fighting to survive for as long as you can! You can do that right? And — you can just forget about me!"
My speech was good enough to move anyone to tears, if I do say so myself, but Photo's response was, "Sou! I see something!"
She was pointing at the walls of a country, making me look like a big dumb clown. Ahhh, so lame.
With the very last of our fuel, we just barely made it there to the country.
"We did it! A country! We didn't have to leave Sou behind after all!" I thought to myself.
This kid, Photo — Like, maybe she was just born with naturally good luck? Like, maybe she's blessed by the god of fortune?
Nah, I changed my mind, but after we got to the country, I understood.
It wasn't over yet.
Just making it to a country didn't mean that we were safe and sound.
It could be a country with corrupted roots, like Photo's birthplace, or a country that was tangled up in a civil war.
Or maybe they would find some reason or another not to let us in.
We could only see the walls from outside, so who knows, maybe everyone inside the country had died already.
Even if it was an awful place, if we could at least get in and find living people, we could buy more fuel and go on to the next country. At the very least, we still had a truck full of valuable merchandise.
But if it was a country without science or technology, they might not even use engines. In that case, we wouldn't even be able to get fuel.
"Still, if that happens, I can just help work in the fields! I'll work as hard as I can!" Photo exclaimed cheerfully from the driver's seat. Okay, so that's fine for her, but then what about me?
What's a motorrad without fuel? Decorative furniture? Not funny.
"Sorry, Sou... For you, being ridden around is what makes you happiest, right...? Sorry."
I didn't ask you to look like you're gonna cry on my behalf.
But I did keep on praying that they we could get fuel.
Anyway, in the end, yes, they had fuel.
First of all, it was a huge country. The walls went all the way around the country in a circle, but the wall looked like it went in a straight line.
As we got close to the gate, a guard came out and ordered us to stop.
When I heard from Photo that he was wearing a uniform and carrying a rifle, I relaxed a bit. At the very least, we were dealing with people that knew what a persuader was.
The guard was completely taken by surprise to find that Photo was the only person in the huge truck. I mean, that's understandable.
Photo shut up and let me talk, like we agreed on beforehand.
I said that for various reasons, Photo and I were merchants, and we were hoping we could enter the country to trade.
I was afraid that if we suddenly said, "Hey, we're drifters. Please let us live in your country," they'd refuse to let us in.
They made us wait for a long time, but they eventually decided to let us in, at least for now. We were told that there was a marketplace in the center of the country, and to go there.
They said that because the country's so big, they'd send a guard along to show us the way and — Oh bravo! They brought a small four-wheel-drive out of a garage. So they have fuel.
I immediately begged the guards to sell us some fuel. We traded away a beautifully engraved knife that we took off one of the dead merchants. We probably came out behind on that trade, but at the moment, getting fuel was more important.
We started the truck and followed the squad car into the country. The road cut through fields of crops.
The earth had been packed and hardened, and then paved with stones. There were a few other cars on the road, but Photo had gotten used to driving enough by now that she was able to stay in her lane.
But seriously, it was a big country.
It was still morning when we started driving to the country center, but it was already evening by the time we arrived. Honestly, I was amazed.
Looking out at our surroundings, they were decently advanced, I guess.
The level of technological development in our world is so different depending on the country, so some countries have computers everywhere, and some countries don't even have combustible engines.
We did see cars driving around, but they weren't totally commonplace yet. Farming machines were still pulled by horses and oxen, and there didn't seem to be many cars for individual use.
The country was massive, and there were a few large buildings here and there, but most of it was farmland. Well, at least they probably had plenty of food to spare.
If you were wondering whether the country was entirely flatlands, there were several rivers, a few large lakes here and there, and some pretty tall mountains, so the view never got boring.
Photo's eyes went wide as she looked around at the fresh scenery. During the journey, she had seen plenty of nature and wildlife, but there hadn't been anyplace like this with people living in it.
"This country is so big and pretty," Photo muttered, more than once.
We passed through a few towns (I kept mistakenly thinking maybe this is the country center), and took several breaks. As night started to fall, we finally made it to the center, which was definitely the largest town yet.
As we came to the center of the country, the number of cars started to increase, and there were even street lights. The country was so spacious that there were no high-rise buildings, but Photo was impressed by a dome building that might have been a military base. She said in amazement, "I didn't know humans could build such big buildings, Sou... Wow..."
At about that time, I said doubtfully, "It's not bad... I guess."
Photo wanted to try to settle down if we found a good country, and during the journey, she had asked me to make the final call.
I wasn't sure yet whether it was a good country.
I could tell that it was a lawful country by how clean the towns were. A country that isn't dirty or unnaturally clean is an orderly one.
There was no civil unrest, there didn't seem to be a huge wealth gap between the rich and the poor, it wasn't overpopulated, and with all of the farmland, there wouldn't be any food shortages.
Suddenly finding such a perfect country like this — isn't this some kind of trap?
I was very seriously thinking all of that through, which isn't like me.
We were brought to an area by the side of the main road, which stretch out, long and narrow.
It was what you'd call an "open-air market", but right now, all of the tents, all of the chairs and tables were folded up and put away, and there was no one in sight. Not business hours, I guess.
We stopped the truck and waited, and then stomp stomp stomp, a group of about 20 people came up to us. They were all adult men and women.
Since they seemed like they wanted to talk, I had Photo bring me down from the truck for the first time in a few dozen days.
My handles were folded up, so I just looked like a box on wheels, and everyone around us looked puzzled.
A tall, middle-aged man with a business suit and a beard introduced himself as one the country's politicians. Now, I don't know why there was a politician hanging around the empty marketplace, but he began by asking us, "I beg your pardon, but how exactly did a single girl and a motorrad become traveling merchants without so much as a convoy?"
Well, of course he'd be curious. It's a pretty weird situation. I can understand why people might not want to buy anything from such suspicious merchants.
I already had a cover story made up for when we got asked this.
In order to prepare her for being independent, Photo's parents had sent her on a trial run to see how well she could do on her own. Her parents were waiting outside the country with a convoy, and would meet up with her again after she left the country.
Another advantage of this story is that it might help prevent people from trying to attack Photo and steal our stuff, since they'd be afraid that the rest of her group would find out.
Okay, time to focus hard and tell the story.
"I'll tell you everything! Everyone died!"
"I was the merchants' servant, and all of the merchants died from a poisonous plant!"
Who said that? Who told them the truth!? — Of course, it could only have been the black-haired little girl standing next to me. Photo.
I was speechless. Like, why did she have to be so stupidly honest about everything?
If you say that, they might just steal all of our stuff right here, you know? If you say, "I found this", there are plenty of assholes in the world that will just respond with, "Then you won't mind if I steal it."
Even if it wasn't something you found, there are still lunatics that will try to justify it like, "This was mine from the start."
But it was already too late. The old man that called himself a politician said, "Oh...? Please, tell us more."
His face seemed kind at first glance, but his eyes were twinkling suspiciously as he pulled up a chair for Photo. Clearly, he was ready for a long story.
Ah boy... Don't blame me.
Even after we walked so many fine lines just to get here, we might've tripped into the bottom of the abyss right at the very end.
I didn't bother talking anymore, and Photo went into full detail about everything.
Not a single lie. Everything. Even how she hesitated to save the merchants at the last second.
After she finished her story, she said, "The truck, the merchandise, none of it was mine to begin with, so I want to offer it to everyone in this country. In exchange, please allow me to live here. Anywhere is fine, and I'll work as hard as I can."
She'd throw away all of that profit, just for that?
If you sold everything in the truck at a reasonable price, you could be insanely rich, you know?
If this is how stupidly honest she really is, it might actually be a serious illness, I thought. Hasn't she ever heard the phrase "Nice guys finish last"?
I was so flabbergasted that I didn't even have the energy to be mad. Oh sure, just do whatever you want.
And then Photo opened her mouth one more time, "And please give Sou to someone that will cherish and ride him."
Still worried about me, of all things... You're gonna make me cry.
The old politician and everyone else gathered around us had been very seriously listening to Photo's story in silence the whole time.
Once Photo was done with her grand speech, the politician turned to me. "Do you have anything to say?"
"Nope. It's just like she said," I said, carelessly.
"Okay then. All of these goods will be seized. They'll be sold off and the profits will go to the national treasury. We'll give you a small finder's fee. Take that and leave." Well, that's what I expected him to say, with a calm look on his face — but I was wrong.
"I see. That explains the mystery then."
"Since you've told us the truth about everything, it's only fair that we tell you the truth as well."
"The merchants that owned this truck used to visit our country quite often too. We knew them personally. They were actually scheduled to come here a few days prior. As soon as you arrived here alone, we knew that something unexpected must have happened."
Wait what?! So they knew from the start?
"So, if you had stolen these goods from them somehow — well, there would have been more than a little trouble."
"But I see now that it was actually their own mistake that did them in. All you did was pick up what they left behind. Since all of them died and since you're the ones that brought those goods here, they are yours, and — you have the right to sell them just as they would have."
"In order to help you sell those goods, I propose that we hold an auction. Of course, we will take part of that as sales tax, but the rest of the money is yours to do with as you wish. If you pay your taxes and follow the rule of law, then I see no reason not to let you live here. How's that?"
Photo didn't seem to understand any of that, so I broke it down for her, "Basically, you can live here and you can also get really rich!"
I guess nice guys do alright for themselves — once in a while.
From there, several things happened one after another.
First, the details of Photo's story were made confidential under the country's laws. This country had radio and newspapers (not television yet), but all press coverage was strictly controlled.
There were two reasons for this.
First, to hide the fact that Photo was rich.
Photo's immigration was approved, so she became a citizen, and at the same time, she became very wealthy. We decided it was best to keep that a secret, just in case.
Second, so that if a friend of the merchants happened to come through, they wouldn't try to claim ownership of the merchandise.
It wouldn't have been possible to try to take back the things that the citizens had bought. The people that were gathered at the empty marketplace with us did their best to keep it secret. There were some cool people in this country after all.
The auction was a huge success.
Everything sold at a pretty good price. Nothing was left unsold.
The price of the gems and precious metals in particular made me grin.
A lot of them were the merchants' personal items that they had on them. For Photo, who was hesitant to pull them off the dead bodies in the first place, especially while they were soaked in spit and blood, selling them off made her look especially uneasy.
The truck we traveled in was bought by an automobile company.
It seems they wanted the truck in order to disassemble and study it, in order to mass produce it, since it runs so well. Disassembling it would also keep any friends of the merchants from asking the wrong questions.
Before the auction happened, Photo and an employee from the auction company were listing the items for sale, when I said, "If you're willing to listen to a single request from a motorrad, can I ask you not to list me for auction? I have a feeling that this braindead little girl still needs an instructor. That would be me. I think I need to hang around her for a little while longer."
Photo's eyes went wide in surprise, but the auctioneer agreed in stride.
"Oh, and one more thing. There are 3 silver-colored boxes near the rifles, you can leave those off the list too. The girl's going to need them in the future."
Photo scratched her neck. She didn't know what was inside them, after all.
Once the auction was over, Photo opened a bank account and then transferred over the taxes and commission fees all at once.
I checked around to see what living costs in this country were like, so I already had a sense of it, but still, the amount in her bank account was enough to make me grin.
Basically, Photo had enough to spend the next 10 years living in luxury. If she lived more modestly, make that 30 years.
"No way! Just goofing off all the time? There's nothing good about that!"
Photo was genuinely mad.
"So you're just not going to use it?"
"Then — I'll donate it! Who should I talk to about that?"
"Stop, you moron! Just calm down. Let's think about how to use it, okay? Don't just spend it however you want! Umm... Yeah, because I helped you earn that money, remember? So you can't just decide on your own. And I won't decide on my own either. We have to work it out together and agree. Right?"
Finally, after she heard that, she went along with it.
Ahh, that was tiring.
After deciding to live in this country, we needed to find a place to live. We couldn't just stay in a hotel forever.
"If I want to help out on a farm... I think we should get someplace close to the fields."
This girl is sti-ll saying things like that?
I called up a real estate agency and picked out a nice place.
It was a one-story house for rent on the outskirts of the city center, nestled into the side of "Poplar Street".
Urban areas are too crowded, and the countryside is too empty; neither of those would have been a good choice.
When we went to see the little four-room flat, Photo was seriously shocked. "What are we supposed to do with all these rooms?"
Maybe she just lacks common sense.
Once we moved into the house and finished greeting our new neighbors (even though the houses are pretty far apart out in the suburbs), Photo and I were ready to start our new lives.
On the first day, after putting away most of our few belongings, Photo let out a cry, "I'm bored! I want to work!"
That's a weird thing to say, right? What a workaholic, this girl.
But you're barely educated, so you can't take on any hard jobs.
"Yeah, and I said farmwork was fine!"
Yeah, but why would a filthy rich girl do farmwork?
"Producing food is a really important job!"
I get that, but let it to the pros! You don't know a thing about this country's crops, so you'd just get in the way.
"I'll go work in the mines! I'm really good at finding stuff in the dirt!"
That's great, but they don't have any mines here!
"Then — I'll be a luggage carrier!"
What are you gonna carry with those flimsy arms?
"Ahhh, I just want to do some kind of work!"
How about going to school? You're still young, and you don't need to worry about the tuition.
"I want to do some kind of work!"
Oh come on.
Photo and I talked it out for a while, and then I remembered, "I know! Hey, open up those silver boxes!" I'd forgotten all about them, with everything that had happened.
Photo looked at the big, black, SLR camera and the alternate lenses inside with a puzzled face.
"It's an optical device, so don't drop it."
"What... is it for?"
I explained what a camera was to Photo.
"It's a magic item that can capture the scenery without needing to draw a picture."
For a while after that, Photo went crazy with taking pictures.
I knew they sold reversal film (also known as positive or slide film) in this country, and we stocked up on a bunch of it so that Photo could focus on taking as many pictures as she wanted. Obviously, we couldn't develop them ourselves, but there were professional shops where we could have it done.
It was really tough to teach Photo everything about cameras when she didn't even know they existed — but it was fun.
Since she was such a serious-minded person, she was also really good at focusing. She learned how to use it pretty quickly. A model student.
The first time she saw the developed film with a loupe and a lightbox, she went, "It's magic... Whoa..."
She stayed hunched over the entire time.
After that, Photo became addicted to the camera, nothing but click click click. And she got better at it, too.
At the same time, she was also getting better at riding me.
Now that I was finally "owned", it would've been a shame not to get used, so I taught her that too. I'm very grateful that she had ridden a bicycle before in her hometown.
Photo took me out for a drive and snapped pictures. That was all we did, every day.
Technically, we were just goofing off and having fun all the time — but she didn't seem to mind.
If there's something you like to do, you just want to put your heart and soul into it every day. Even Photo acted like a regular kid once in a while. That was comforting to know.
First, Photo took pictures of the country's scenery, which was full of beautiful farmland. She got tired of just that, so she started taking pictures of people and things too.
She checked the developed film with a loupe, and then chose the pictures that were well-shot or that she liked to be printed. Printing isn't cheap, you know.
We put the pictures up in the house for decoration, and for the pictures that she took of other people, she printed copies for them as thanks.
Cameras in this country were still pretty expensive, so they weren't popular yet.
The high-performance SLR that Photo had was something only used by corporations, professional photographers, and a few rich people.
Anyone would've been happy to receive such a clear and detailed picture.
Once, when Photo delivered a big print of a farming family all gathered together in front of their house, they were so grateful that they gave her way more meat and vegetables than she could eat by herself (so she gave it away to the neighbors, which they loved).
Around that time, a few requests started to pop up here and there, "Would you take a picture of me and my family for a fee?"
She agreed immediately to photograph them without even asking for thanks, making even more people happy.
The rumor started to spread, "There's a photographer on Poplar Street," and the number of clients continued to increase.
She kept taking pictures, and then the rumor became, "There's a single girl on Poplar Street that started her own photography studio." At some point, it had turned into a store.
At that point, I pushed Photo into going to town hall to make it into an official shop and to get registered as a "professional photographer".
We put a mailbox outside our door and notified the post office. I also thought about installing a telephone, but there wouldn't be anyone to pick it up while we were gone, so I gave up on that.
Regardless of whether we were turning a profit, we'd have to pay taxes, so I hired an accountant to manage our funds. I also decided on a price for photographs so that we'd make sure to turn a profit.
"Ehh? I'm fine with just a thank-you though," Photo complained.
"What are you saying? Isn't this the 'work' you wanted so badly?" I asked, a bit snidely.
She looked more doubtful than ever before, but she didn't say anything.
And so, we hung a sign out on Poplar Street that said "Photography, Open for Business", and we started our shop.
We'd get a request, and then Photo would drive out with me to take the picture. It was the birth of the little girl cameraman.
Not long after that, they started calling Photo "Photo". It was the birth of her nickname.
The beautiful name I had racked my brain over, "ｘｘｘｘｘ・ｘｘｘｘｘ", wasn't popular at all in this country. Apparently it sounded weird, it was too long, and it was hard to pronounce. Well excuse me for being so tacky.
So they just shortened "photograph" (or "photography") down to "Photo".
Pretty much everybody called her that, so soon she started calling herself Photo too, and eventually I did too.
Today, Photo's going out to take photographs on commission again.
This time it's a group picture for a nearby kindergarten.
I've never met anyone with a fate as strange as Photo's.
She became an orphan, she became a slave, she failed to kill herself, she became a wanderer, she became super rich, and now she's a photographer.
She never has to worry about money, and she can spend her days doing what she loves for her job.
Once, on a mountain where poisonous plants grew, she said to one of the merchants, "I believe this is a test for my future."
I don't know if she still thinks that. And I'm not going to ask. Right now, she's happy taking pictures and the people here are happy to have her.
I was thinking about this absentmindedly and dozing by the window in the peaceful spring sunshine, when the owner of this tiny little room flung the door open and came marching back in.
"Sou, I'm back!"
- This is a summary of and sequel to Volume 12, Chapter 10.
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