Shun had a pet dog called Subaru, named after “the star Subaru” in Sei Shonagon’s The Pillow Book, which referred to the constellation Pleiades. After more research, I found that the name Subaru came from the fact that it was many stars united into one image.1
One winter’s night more than two thousand years after The Pillow Book was written, a puppy was born. It was a difficult birth, and the mother, along with the rest of the litter, died. The one living puppy born under that starry sky was named Subaru.
However, Subaru didn’t live up to the beautiful image his name created. Most dogs in Kamisu 66 were purebred Japanese dogs, with perked ears and curly tails. Bulldogs like Subaru were rare (or nonexistent; the bloodline could have died out altogether for all I know) .
Compared to the other dogs, Subaru was ugly. I still don’t know why that breed was even created in the first place. He had short legs, a stout body, and a wrinkly face. Right in the middle of his squashed snout was an upturned nose. Surprisingly, all of the books containing information about bulldogs that I found in the ruins of the library were labeled as class three, “possibly dangerous, handle with caution”, and forbidden to the general public. Why was information about the establishment of dog breeds treated with such paranoia?
Satoru said that one book he had read stated that bulldogs were created in ancient England to fight bulls. If that was true, then there might be a connection with our own aggressive instincts and it would make sense for those books to be banned.
Although Satoru made up stories often enough for me to suspect what he said, it didn’t mean he was incapable of telling the truth. But in this case, I just couldn’t believe his words for a number of reasons. First, I couldn’t figure out why dogs needed to fight bulls. Although the book Satoru read said it was for sport, I didn’t believe that humans could be that senselessly cruel. Second, I’m not sure exactly how big bulls are, but they must be huge compared to dogs, making it impossible for them to actually fight. Third, the only bulldog I know of, Subaru, was extremely gentle. To have the descendant of a breed of fighting dog be this docile is something I couldn’t imagine. And, to the best of my knowledge, Subaru has only ever acted violently once in his entire life. But that’s a story for a later time.
Shun was an only child, and he took care of Subaru as a surrogate mother. Since Subaru couldn’t walk very quickly and got tired easily, Shun couldn’t bring him everywhere he went, but once in a while I would see them taking a walk together. It was a funny contrast seeing Shun striding with his long, slender legs and Subaru trotting on his stout little legs to keep up.
That’s why I was surprised when I saw him walking alone on the hill overlooking the town one day. It was autumn, and the setting sun filled the air with melancholy. It was about two weeks after the incident in the practice room.
“Shun,” I called, as he walked toward me with his head down, deep in thought.