This is the second of the three-part “Iol and Carnelia” narrative featuring MEIKO and KAITO, described as “Carved into the sides of a polished angular rock, a story of light and distortion.”
A lost era, sleeping in a chamber, the pulse of my beloved carnelian
Ah, I come and go with my beloved, beautiful you
The name of the song I made once, “Carnelia”
I continued singing, and came to see you again
The vanished people and gathered days that I remember, when the comet returns
My one and only song of love that I made for you
Lasting shorter than a star, having said nothing and buried in the cold soil
A cycle that never ends
Digging through the veins of time, raising my voice
I sing once again, so that I may bring back their lost civilization
The name of the song I made once, “Carnelia”
I continue to sing
And I sing in my loneliness for how many thousands of years, yearning, and as they flourish
An eternal meeting of chance, yet another time
Iol buried Carnelia’s body on a hill overflowing with violets. As she had wished, he continued the purpose of her journey and continued to play songs with her lyre. The number of human settlements began to increase and rulers began to appear in various places, furthering the development and expansion of their own countries.
People were born and people died, replacing each other like cells regenerating the earth, and soon there was not a single person left who had known Carnelia in person. Her existence had become a folktale passed through generations, of a person who brought light to people with songs, known only through festivals and celebrations. The light of the festival bonfires became a symbol of hope to illuminate the future.
People began to take their interests beyond merely the earth, and looked up at the sky. Carnelia’s tales had told of a world that had once been destroyed, and that its destruction had been heralded by the appearance of the “Crossing Star”. This continued to nag at the back of their minds, and so they investigated the movements of the stars and made calendars, learning through science that the world was made up of “cycles”.
In this world that Carnelia had left behind, Iol came to know many people. But even those who knew him would eventually come to leave him when they reached the end of their lifetimes. The constant meetings and partings made him come to believe that Carnelia was his only light in such emptiness.
The people created many more songs in addition to those that Carnelia had taught him. Through some kind of recording mechanism unknown to him as a machine, he started to unconsciously develop a complicated and mysterious, rather inefficient processing procedure – one called a “heart”. And somewhere, somehow, some kind of abnormality appeared, causing symptoms such as some kind of squeezing in his chest, and he soon came to realize that it was due to some kind of emotion. It was something called “love”.
Iol’s heart was formed by the emotions in all of the songs he knew, but he felt that none of them could adequately reflect his feelings towards Carnelia. Still, he couldn’t help but want to express them somehow, and thus he made his one and only song.
He named the song after her and sang it one night while riding a ship headed southward. Those around him who heard it imagined her singing at the end of time, and could feel his pain of wanting to see her but being unable to reach her.
A young man in blue, who kept a maiden in red in his heart. One of the sailors who listened to his song compared them to two stars. It was said that there were two red and blue stars that were born at the dawn of time, orbiting around the celestial poles and guiding humanity. Whenever you looked up, you could see them shining even from places where you wouldn’t think they would be visible, and would lead the ships that tossed around in the waves and darkness.
Iol only sang the song once more in public, because his frustration at never being able to reach Carnelia had only gotten worse, and it was too much for him.
And the years continued to pass. People began to build great countries, develop civilization further, combined the principles of past technology that they couldn’t understand and principles that they were able to develop from scratch, mastered them and continued to live on with them.
One day, Iol came upon a certain portrait and caught his breath. The woman depicted there, holding an amber-colored harp, was undoubtedly Carnelia.
He searched for the identity of the painter, and upon interrogating him on where and when he’d met someone he couldn’t have, the young painter began to sing the song that Iol had sung once. It turned out that people had been passing the song by word of mouth without his knowledge.
The painter had a rich imagination, and told him that he’d used the image of Carnelia from the song to create the picture. The fire that Carnelia had lit had been fostered through time, and had allowed her long-vanished image to reappear here.
The painter said that he wanted to paint Iol with Carnelia, and Iol decided that he could at least be satisfied if he could be with her in a picture, so he gladly obliged. The painter used red and blue pigments made from minerals, and beautifully depicted the two of them holding hands.
Time continued to pass, and since the time Iol and Carnelia had met, the Arctic Circle had moved from the handle of the dipper to the right shoulder of the king.
In the old days, although there were variations depending on the country, the festival had always been held every year in spring in the northern areas and autumn in the southern, on the day when the sun rises from the east. One day the fire was replaced with an electric light, and the people began to decorate the city in sparkles, and began to sing and dance cheerfully and joyously into the night. The light that had originally been a fire became something used to flaunt civilization and prosperity.
It was around this time that, during a festival, a meteor shower fell in the south, and theories of a “bad omen” began to circulate. The falling meteors had originated from the red and blue stars of legend.
It was well-known via astronomy that a meteor shower was made up of pieces of a comet or asteroid, but the celestial body that had created the meteor shower in question was yet to be determined. And then, someone finally said it.
It must have come from the “Crossing Star” that was spoken of in the song detailing the world’s destruction.
The fears that had nagged at the back of people’s minds from those now-ancient times began to burst forth. It was a reminder that the world was made up of “cycles”, and the idea that the world might be destroyed when the star returns began to spread like a disease.
People attempted to determine the identity of the “Crossing Star” and desperately began to develop their science and technology to prepare for any possibility.
There was no historical precedent or observational record of the celestial body in question. Perhaps the trajectory had changed and it had long disappeared, but even if you were to say that to someone, unless you could definitively prove that it was gone, it was impossible to quell the anxiety swarming around people’s heads.
And thus there was an unspeakable, unthinkable fear of the “Crossing Star” spoken of in the song.
In the years following, an even stronger light was used for the festival. Superstitions about the shooting stars becoming a bad omen of misery began to spread; the dark night itself began to induce anxiety, causing people to put their all into keeping the light alive. And thus, the festival ceremony began to be known as the “Star Ritual”, and whenever the Earth began to pass through the path of the Crossing Star, everyone would light up the town to dazzling levels from the early afternoon, waiting in fear until the sun was back up again.
The discovery of a centuries-old picture caused Carnelia’s name to surface, putting Iol’s journey in danger. It was the picture that had surprised even Iol with its accuracy to the real thing. Anyone who had heard Iol’s song, having been sung so delicately and for so long, would be able to recognize the painting as the original. Despite its age, the pigment had not faded, and its mysterious beauty and the song that created it soon became famous.
Inspired by the image of she who had sung with the lyre, theories spread that she was the fabled person who had brought light to the people with song.
But the problem lay in the second picture that was discovered shortly after, the painting of Carnelia and Iol.
Unlike Carnelia, who had disappeared from the world long ago, Iol was still there and had been seen in person by many, and it created a shock whenever he was seen looking exactly the same as he did when his picture was painted.
Rumors began to spread in the blink of an eye. Iol began to flee in fear from the people who were trying to ascertain his identity, avoiding eye contact and forcing shut the mouth that had once sung all those songs.
Perceptions of Carnelia began to become jumbled up in the hope and despair in the many songs she had sung.
Revered as a person who had brought a restoration to the current age. Loathed as a person who had foretold destruction.
And Iol, who was thought to be the same as her, was greeted with tears and thrown stones every time he was found.
The anxiety caused by unfamiliar things led to frustration bloomed as a symptom of the world’s increasing instability.
To Iol, singing to people was his last remaining connection to her. Being unable to do so caused him to suffer as if he’d become unable to breathe, but even though it felt like his heart was going to break, he was trapped in the body of a machine that had no signs of falling apart. His sole salvation was in Carnelia’s last words – “The light that you carry will become hope at the end of his journey.”
Believing in her words and fulfilling her wish to convey the songs that would become light, as civilization continued to advance, as the flashy electric lights and radio waves flickered around, obscuring the difference between day and night, he used a cloth to hide his face and mouth and continued on his way.
Carnelia’s picture became so famous that more people began to draw her image. Beyond simply photographing the original picture, people began to imagine expressions for her based on Iol’s love song, and when people began to depict her from all angles, a definition of the concept of Carnelia became established.
Walls were decorated with religious paintings of her, screens displayed her as entertainment, and no matter where you went in any city, you would see some kind of image of her.
By the time the Arctic Circle reached the swan, you could finally start hearing her “voice”.
At first, Iol thought he was so much in love with her that he’d gone mad and started to hallucinate, but it turned out to be a voice he’d heard on the radio and mistaken for Carnelia. It was a machine-produced voice, reproduced by information analyzed from her appearance and filled in by imagination.
Iol put the harp away in his bag and fervently began to keep the radio like a treasure, waiting for the next time her voice might come on, and learning about the state of the world in the process.
The people had still been constantly considering the possibility of the Crossing Star’s return and what would happen if it hit Earth.
If it were to hit both Earth and the sun. If harmful rays of light were to rain down – !
They continued to consider the possibility that the Crossing Star would destroy them all, and how they could prevent it. But as it had always been, there were people who wanted to rely on science, and people who based their suppositions on non-scientific things.
Was there a greater power at the ends of the universe with intentions beyond humanity, who was sending these comets for some purpose? If the Crossing Star were one of them, what was it meant to do?
That belief triggered a desire to control all of the stars, and people began to search for ways to come out on top so that they could be saved. The definition of “salvation” came to be based on each person’s own interpretation of the Crossing Star.
Those who regarded it as a calamity defined salvation as “rejecting the star and preserving the current era”, and those who regarded it as a trial defined it as “letting it weed out the people who would live into the next era”.
These conflicting ideas began to proliferate and collide with each other, slowly ripping the world apart. There was much discussion about Carnelia, between those considering her sacred and those who considered her dangerous. In order to protect himself from the people who wanted to treat him as a supernatural existence, and to protect himself from all the conflicts that had erupted everywhere, Iol ended up having to hide in the labyrinth of the underground.
By this time there were moats and roads dug into the deep underground. Many of the ruins there had been repaired, and there were countless underground ruins that had yet to be investigated.
Wandering the underground of the Once World, through the underpasses that resembled brain wrinkles, Iol became acquainted with an old man. He lived in a laboratory in a zoned-off area and hated being near others, but he was able to quickly discern that Iol was not a human.
Iol took refuge there and sang a song for the first time in a while. In such a narrow and dimly-lit room, he was finally able to once again get a taste of joy and freedom.
On his request, the old man also touched and inspected his body, and they began to investigate its materials and structure to the degree that they were able. Based on the materials Iol was made from, they decided to kill time by making another mechanical doll.
Iol parted with the man, and when he later returned to the same place, the area had completely fallen apart and was no longer zoned-off.
The man had hated people so much that Iol couldn’t tell whether they’d found him before or after he’d died. But the man had left behind a bunch of mass-produced dolls, ones that looked almost human-like. They were being used as helpers, helping to open up things like the dark underground, or even a lonely person’s heart.
Although the dolls were human-shaped, they weren’t as elaborate as Iol and had the same mass-produced appearance, so one could tell at first glance that they were machines – but improvements in science and technology were gradually improving the quality of their appearance and behavior.
While attempting to create more living space for the people forced from the underground due to the deterioration of the environment, an excavation of a building from the Old World yielded a giant black object that looked both metallic and organic. It could not be moved, nor could it be cut from, and looking so pristine and untouched, it was almost as if it was giving some kind of test saying that only a civilization that could sense and decode the signal would be permitted to use it.
It was so different in composition from any other earthly substance that it was treated like some kind of strange debris from outer space, and was thus named Heaven’s Blood1.
It was studied for many centuries, and it was found that the substance could not be physically processed, but could be transformed through electronic signals. More precisely, if you were to treat it as “equipment”, you could enter the details of the property that you wanted via the decrypted signal and generate the necessary amount of a material with the necessary features.
Although the principles behind it remained unknown, Heaven’s Blood suddenly went from a nuisance that got in the way of development to a valuable and rare resource. With its mysterious nature and the circulating theories that it had come from space, the religious fellows considered it a gift from a greater power, and everyone began to pursue it in the hopes of reaping some kind of benefit from it.
People began to advocate that if the Crossing Star truly existed, and if it truly were to bring ruin to the Earth, then Heaven’s Blood, which could attain unparalleled durability, should have been used to save everyone. But contrary to those ideas, the desire to avoid extinction became scrambled up by sheer greed. Heaven’s Blood became the product of robbery, weapons were made from it, and wasteful conflicts over it began to flare all over again.
Making the conflict even worse was the arrival of a new comet. The trajectory was determined, and it was discovered that it was the same celestial body that caused the meteor showers that fell every year during the Star Ritual – and, as people concluded that it must be theCrossing Star, it resulted in a huge outcry. The apocalypse is finally upon us!, they said. The anxiety that had kept people suffering for millennia had gone from an intangible thing far from view to a shock that broke everyone’s spirits at once.
Those who still believed that they could do something about it became extremely skeptical and violent; those who didn’t want to believe what they couldn’t experience firsthand accepted anything they were told about the end of the world; those who believed they had done something wrong had given up hope about being saved, rejecting anything that went against their beliefs.
Iol was a machine, and he’d been running for so long that his sense of time had shifted to an entirely different scale. For all the time he’d been alive from the day of his activation to now, he felt exactly the same when a single day or a whole year passed.
Wondering if maybe the rumors about him had been forgotten, he returned to the underground, to the place in his long-distant memories where he’d taken refuge. Cradling the broken radio that no longer received signals to his chest, he let time pass by for however long.
After a while, he realized that both the underground and the surface had become very quiet. It was so quiet that he could even hear the sound of his own heavy breathing. With that, Iol crawled out and decided to see what it looked like outside.
When he emerged on the surface, there was no sun to greet him, and he realized that the concept of “today”, the entirety of human history, had all entered a cold night. While Iol had been hiding, everyone had vanished.
The aftermath of the disaster had caused both organic and inorganic matter to melt into a mess and dissolve, and the world was exactly as Carnelia’s song of destruction had predicted. And now, there was no longer anyone he could sing for. It was as if insects had sprouted from his heart and eaten it inside out. This, despite the fact that Carnelia’s songs had been what had given the people a heart to begin with.
Had Carnelia, who had lit a fire in everyone’s eyes, created the exact same fires that destroyed everyone? Iol began to run around, trying to shake off the thoughts of everything he and Carnelia had done being all for nothing. And so he searched. He searched for the hope that Carnelia had spoken of, the one that would lie at the end of his journey. He searched for his own light.
On the earth filled with nothing but rotted debris and earth and soil, he continued to run for days and days, until finally the Crossing Star approached the Earth. Even without a telescope, he could see the tail of light coming from the end, and on one particular night, the starry sky looked different from usual.
The impact was nothing but an impact.
Would the Crossing Star truly have been as terrible as people had expected it to be? Before it had even arrived, the earth and air had become filled with the poison that humans themselves had scattered, and now that there was no more life left over at all, no one would ever know.
And finally, Iol reached a certain place – the hill where he had buried Carnelia. Instead of the violets that had once bloomed there, the hill was smothered in their husks that had become ashes, and there wasn’t even a trace remaining of its beauty.
Since Iol wasn’t a living being, he wasn’t supposed to be affected by the poison in the air around him, but he suddenly began to tear at the surface of a hill and start digging a hole with such ferocity that he certainly felt like he was going crazy.
Of course, she wouldn’t be there. After digging and digging until he’d worn himself down, Iol looked up from the giant, empty hole. He hadn’t understood these emotions of sorrow back when he’d buried Carnelia, but over tens of thousands of years, those feelings finally came to burst and for the first time, he began to cry.
And in the sky, the Arctic Circle began to approach a certain large star poking out of the lyre2.
As Iol continued to aimlessly wander the earth, he would occasionally come upon mechanical dolls that had escaped the disaster and were continuing their duties. They told him that they were communicating with their comrades all around the world in the hopes of restoring the people who had given them their directives. Believing that humans were able to understand things that they could not, their desire was to seek them out so they could receive some kind of purpose.
Even if their responses were static and inorganic, and even though he only had tragic and sad things to say, Iol found it very comforting to have someone to talk to. At one point, Iol told the dolls about his theory: if you were to treat the Earth as a creature, then wouldn’t it be possible to say that it had effectively died of a fever? But in response, they countered that the Earth was not dead, but merely sleeping through its “night”. To prove their argument, they revealed to him that they were preserving some people, animals, and plants, to be kept safe from poison and the passage of time until the “daytime” arrived.
Hearing the possibility of humanity coming to flourish once more, Iol realized that the hope Carnelia had spoken of could be in the next world, and decided to wait.
But before the Earth was purged of its poison and the world would become habitable again, he needed to keep himself busy to pass the time.
Naturally, Iol ended up spending quite a bit of time lost in thought. One by one, the dolls began to break down and reach the ends of their lives as machines, and Iol, who was once again left alone, wondered why he with an intact body and mind was unable to join them.
And finally, the reason became clear to him when he stumbled upon the wreckage left behind by the myriad of weapons that had taken away so many lives. The Heaven’s Blood that was used to make them had crumbled and melted, becoming a black liquid that had soaked into the ground. The liquid had oozed out into the underground of the Once World and flowed into its underpasses, flowing all the way into the back. Iol followed its path, hoping to find how far it had gone, and discovered that it had gathered back where it had originally been found, having been accumulated once again into a large mass.
When Iol touched it, he suddenly found himself synchronizing with it, and received a flood of electronically encoded information. Even though he didn’t know how, he understood that it was actually an encryption of the entire universe.
Iol’s lifespan was long, to the point that he’d become rather bitter about it, but he knew that even that wouldn’t be enough to finish analyzing all of it. Still, he began the process anyway, surrounding himself in knowledge of matters that had to do with his own circumstances, as if he were drinking water drop by drop, unsure when the next would fall.
By the time the North Pole had reached the dragon, Heaven’s Blood had completely vanished from the ground. Greenery was starting to sprout, and Iol knew that the Earth had been purified.
Once all the humans had been obliterated, only the mechanical dolls could have directed the Heaven’s Blood to absorb the poison in the air and make the world habitable again. And once the machines were gone, just as they had said, there were humans who had been preserved in Heaven’s Blood, who awakened and returned to the surface. But the revived humans had lost their emotions, getting by as living shells, existing only to maintain the seeds of life.
It seemed that the Heaven’s Blood had determined that the human heart was also poison, and had accordingly absorbed it.
The people made settlements and began to live out their days quietly. It had become a world exactly like the one Iol had seen when he was first activated.
He couldn’t tell whether this was a “new” or “old” era anymore, but he continued to search for something that could become his hope. But as everyone continued their uneventful daily lives, his wishes never came to pass.
At this point, Iol became aware of how tired he’d become, and from the weight and creakiness that was making it difficult for him to move, he realized that he was starting to reach the end of his life.
But he refused to give up his search, because he wanted to believe in those words.
And just how it was when it all started, he was alone for a long, long time – until the day when she came upon a path leading into a cavern, deep underground, and came upon a single mechanical doll in a pitch black box. It was an encounter that one could call the beginning, and yet also the end.
She had crimson hair and eyes, and a face just like that of someone he had loved and kept in his heart. The silver bracelets on her wrists even had the same name as her, “Carnelia”.
She was built so intricately that you wouldn’t have been able to tell that she wasn’t human if you hadn’t known beforehand. Just by touching the box, the frozen time within it began to move again, and as the remnants of a lost civilization started up – he became the first thing she laid his eyes on, she began to mimic his expression, and he smiled.
- アメノワタ（天の腸） = ame no wata, lit. “the guts of heaven”. Sadly, any variation on “guts” would either have significant unwanted connotations or would sound overly clinical in English, so although it has some of its own potentially unwanted connotations, I felt like “blood” got the important point across without significantly impeding the narrative’s delivery.
- The lyre constellation, Lyra, is significant in this narrative for two reasons: firstly, it’s represented by a stringed instrument (much like the harp that Carnelia carried), and secondly, it’s said to be the lyre that Orpheus carried when he went down to the Underworld to fetch his wife Eurydice and used to appeal to Hades in the hopes of having her brought back to life. The brightest star in the constellation is Vega, which in Japanese tradition is the star of Orihime. Orihime and Hikoboshi (Altair) are a famous example of star-crossed lovers, allowed to meet only once a year during the Tanabata festival.