NieR Novella Translation: The Witches’ Banquet
Warning: This work contains explicit imagery. Proceed with caution.
I first heard about her in a town I visited toward the end of my pilgrimage.
This town, shielded from the sun by a cloak of white mist, was no stranger to attacks by Shades. The denizens lived in fortified, tank-like dwellings. The way the town was constructed reminded me of a giant spider’s nest, the houses eggs.
I called the young people into the square, as I do in all the towns I visit, to deliver a sermon on the virtues of tolerance and peace. Just as I was commending them for their bravery in living each day under the threat of Shades, one of the youths stood up, scowling.
“You don’t understand anything. Listen, it ain’t the Shades we’re afraid of. There’s a scarier monster lurking around these parts… that damn Shade-possessed woman!”
As those words left the young man’s lips, everyone gathered let out sighs and soon an oppressive silence descended upon us. When I became flustered by this, the young man, named Dimo, laughed mockingly. His tone became even more derisive.
“Feel like preaching the value of tolerance to someone like her? Eh, little miss do-gooder?”
I’m accustomed to people looking at me with jaundiced eyes for being both of educated mind and attractive build. I realize my ideals of a truly tolerant world may ring hollow to the ears of an uneducated person living hand-to-mouth. I’ve been sneered at and belittled throughout my journey by many an unenlightened individual, but because I realize the depth of their ignorance, I can find it within myself to forgive. At such times, I only smile at them. I never give into hate or fear. I just continue trying to deliver those less fortunate than I, such as this Dimo character.
“I have heard that the mere touch of a Shade upon the skin causes pain worse than death. I have never met anyone possessed by a Shade, but this person’s suffering must be immense. It brings a tear to my eye just thinking about it. I don’t understand how you could treat her so unkindly.”
When I finished speaking, I was met by dozens of hollow stares.
Having learned of the prejudice against this person, I traveled from door-to-door, aggressively collecting information about her. Some of the villagers refused to speak of her, as if she was cursed, but most were happy to discuss — and in the process, slander — her.
Apparently she became possessed the same day she lost her only relative, her grandmother. Consumed by grief and loneliness, they say she had intercourse with a Shade, which caused half of her body to take on an inhuman shape. She now kills Shade and man alike in order to devour their corpses. On the days she is not killing, she seduces men… As I listened to these obviously fabricated stories, I felt my sympathy for this woman growing. My desire to shield her from discrimination was sincere.
When I said I wished to speak with her, the villagers eyed me suspiciously. Not disheartened, however, I wound up paying Dimo a fair bit of coin to lead me to where she lived.
“Paying good money to gawk at a half-Shade… Some pillar of morality you are, huh? Wouldn’t it be easier to visit the freak show?”
Not allowing his words to upset me, I held my head up high. Soon enough, I would have the opportunity to deliver that poor, pitiful soul.
Around the time the mist began to mask my view of the town in the distance, we came upon an open clearing. One of the tank-like dwellings I saw in the town stood in it, half-collapsed. The outside walls were red with rust and cracking, full of giant holes.
“This is the place.” Dimo said, but I could hardly believe someone lived here.
I rushed to the house and called out, but received no answer. There was no one inside. Peeking in, I caught sight of a lovely crown of flowers and what looked like a child’s drawing scrawled in colorful crayons hanging up on the wall. Feeling deeply reassured, I turned to Dimo, exuding confidence.
“Look here. Her heart still has enough humanity left in it value beauty. I have no doubt she is as human as you or I!”
The instant I made my proclamation, I heard the sound of several pairs of footsteps. The atmosphere became unsettled, and I saw Dimo’s face pale as the scent of something rancid reached our nostrils.
“Damn! Must be Shades — “
Before he could finish speaking, a geyser of blood erupted from Dimo’s side. It sprayed over me like rain. A Shade emerged from the thicket, its body encircled by what looked like golden rings. The only reason I did not let out a shriek at the sight of its ghastly visage was because the rain of blood had already dulled my senses. Three or four more Shades appeared, forming a circle around me, inching closer. Their feet made sloppy, horrid sounds on the grass. The mist, grown thick, choked me and my nose was assaulted by the smell of decay.
Would the Shades kill me, or would I suffocate first? As I pondered my fate in some far away part of my wavering consciousness, my attention was caught by a glimmer at the edge of my vision. The next thing I heard was a roar of wind and the sounds of soft meat being sliced.
It couldn’t have taken a second. Before I could blink the Shades, still screeching, had been cut into bits. Rubbing my eyes, I saw a woman standing with two large blades in her hands. She was wearing a sultry costume that exposed her shapely form to the elements. The smile on her face seemed to extend from ear to ear.
“How the hell do you like that, you goddamn shit eaters?! I’m not gonna stop chopping until I’ve diced you into a fine fucking mist!”
I could hardly believe the words that were spilling happily from her open mouth. Her sharp eyes seemed to burn red, and her clothes, wet with blood, glistened as they clung suggestively to her body.
This… This was the poor soul possessed by a Shade?
Forgetting the fear I had for my life, I stood agape, staring at this woman who could not be further from the image I had of her.
I wasn’t until she had made good on her words and the last Shade stopped screaming that I registered Dimo’s pained wails.
“A-are you okay?” I inquired, drawing near him.
“You saw that, right?” He gasped at me. “She’s as bad as those monsters! She kills Shades even though she’s one herself… and she enjoys it, too! She gets off on it! There’s no way she won’t end up killing a human someday soon! Take my word for it and get the hell out of here!”
Cradling his wounded side, Dimo got to his feet and made to leave.
“Wait! Did she not just save our lives? She killed those Shades to protect us! And still you’d shower her with hate? She’s a good person… Why can’t you see that?”
Dimo looked at me blankly. The sarcasm and meanness was gone from his eyes; in their place I spied a gaping void. Narrowing those eyes, he stated in a dry, rattling voice:
“That thing isn’t human. Don’t you get it, preacher? I’m not being prejudiced. It’s only natural to hate a monster!”
Dimo then took off on unsteady legs. Despite his deep wound, he fled with surprising speed.
Alone now, I steeled my resolve and approached the woman. She must have overheard the conversation between Dimo and I, but she said not a word about it.
“Are you injured?” I asked. She remained silent. She wouldn’t even meet my eyes. I saw blood running down her inner thigh and removed my scarf, thinking to use it as a bandage. Splattered with Dimo’s blood, it wasn’t entirely sanitary, but I thought it better than nothing.
“Allow me to wrap a bandage around that.” I thought she might stop me, but she kept still. Taking this as a sign of acceptance, I hurriedly began to wrap the scarf about her thigh. I noticed each time my fingers brushed her leg, she gave a little jump, and that struck me as so human… so girlish… I couldn’t help but smile.
“Could I speak with you for a while? I’d like to be your friend.”
So saying, I followed her into her home. I realize I was being pushy, but recognizing she was obviously awkward when it came to socializing, I figured I ought to take the lead. Hesitantly sitting on the wet, semi-rotten floorboards, I began to speak of the wonders of tolerance and good will toward man, just as I always did. This time, however, so aware of her personal plight as a victim, my speech was even more impassioned.
I got carried away and, by the time I’d finished, it was already late into the night. When I looked at her, I saw the woman had drifted off, her back facing me. Attacked by Shades and forced to sleep in this hovel… Oh, this poor, courageous woman! Had the bleeding of her wound let up? I wondered, as my own eyelids grew heavy.
I don’t know how long I slept, but I awoke from the coldness of the night air piercing my skin. It was still quiet and dark out, the sun not yet risen. When I looked to my side, I found the sleeping form of the woman was no longer there. Straining my eyes, I saw drops of blood on the floor leading outside.
Alarmed, I hurried out myself. Making my way through the obscuring mist, I soon felt the presence of someone further off into the bushes. I raised my voice to call for her before realizing I had yet to ask her name. In this night previously muted by silence, the abrupt sound of pained, ragged panting penetrated my ears. There was no mistaking it; that was her voice.
“Ugh… hah… hah, hah, hah, hah… Aaaah….”
Had her wound reopened? Did she come out here to withstand the pain alone? Needing to know, I stepped forward.
“Are you all right? I can redress your wound…”
The mist lightened enough for me to see her. I gave a sharp gasp once I had.
She really was possessed. The left half of her body swelled with unfathomable darkness, strange lumps circulating inside of it. It seemed as if it were another creature, with a mind of its own, separate from the rest of her.
She had noticed me by then, so I did my best not to look disturbed. Repeating “All men are brothers!” in my mind like a prayer, I flashed her a smile. But her gaze was turned downward. I followed it, eyes pulled toward what she held in her demonic left hand. The moment I comprehended what I was looking at, all the hairs on my body stood on end.
What she held in her hands was… a large, engorged male member. Yet, it was hers. I could clearly make out veins throbbing on the swarthy organ.
She wasn’t merely possessed. She was of both sexes!
“On nights after I kill Shades… I can’t stop myself…”
Lifting her head to face me in the mist, the woman spoke her first words to me. Her eyes were narrowed, thin lips open like a fine cut on her face. Her pupils locking onto me, her left hand began moving up and down furiously. Her breathing became even more ragged, and her upturned eyes began to lose focus. I knew what was coming next.
I cried, averting my gaze from the climactic moment.
“Don’t come near me, you… you monster!”
As I scrambled frenziedly away, her shrieking voice seemed to pursue me. Her earsplitting wailing sounded like she was simultaneously laughing and crying.
Scared. I’m scared. Disgusting. Revolting. Hateful. I hate you. Disgusting. Revolting. I can’t understand. I don’t want to understand. Disgusting. I’m scared.
From inside my heart hideous feelings, that up until then had not existed there, surged; I realized I, too, was crying, at the top of my lungs. I then promptly regurgitated the contents of my stomach.
That was the sum of my experience with that woman. Since the one night I spent with her, as if a screw came loose within me, ugly and hateful emotions continue to overflow, unbidden.
I hate her for making me like this. I despise her. I fear her. She’s disgusting. Hateful. Scary. Scared.
Oh, but please do not misunderstand me. I’m not being prejudiced; she’s not human. No one with a body as hideous and terrifying as hers could possibly be. It’s only natural to hate a monster… to wish for its death… is it not? Can you honestly tell me I’m wrong?
I’m not wrong… Am I? Am I? Am I? I’m not being cruel. I’m not the ugly one here. I’m an upstanding person. Am I? Am I wrong? I’m not wrong.
Am I? Am I?