‘Now, I did say that this mountain has no name, but it does have a nickname. There is a river flowing near the house, so this place is called Mount Sawa because of the abundance of water. Although I am now living in the former village chief’s house, there was once a village here. Apart from this one, there were five or six houses, and the residents have all moved to the village at the foot of the mountain or to nearby towns due to old age.’
I was curious as to what had happened to these people’s land ownership, but it appeared that they’d been renting the plot of land cultivated by the former village chief, thereby eliminating any land ownership issues. The village chief and his family tried their best until the end, but the combination of the mountain’s harsh climate and their own waning strength as a result of age forced them to abandon their home and live at the mountain’s base since three years ago. ‘As for their children, it seems they have a house in N-city’.
Nonetheless, they returned to the house once a week to maintain the house and fields, as it was their property. That’s why the house was already habitable by the time I arrived. ‘They said they couldn’t take care of the house during the winter as they should have.’
Otherwise, I would have had to start from scratch with the house and would probably have given up on it quickly due to how tricky it was to thread the road through the area. From the village at the base of the mountain, it would take about 20 minutes to drive to the house. Moreover, driving was exceptionally challenging due to the area’s narrow and winding roads. Even though this area didn’t get much snow, it was still the kind of place you’d have trouble visiting in the winter.
‘I’m really glad that I have the chickens. I’m definitely one of them now. All of my chickens are outstanding. They’re so brilliant that I doubt they’ll be replaced anytime soon.’
Perhaps because I bought the mountain as an escape from reality, I didn’t know what to expect about mountain life. I think I would have been stuck early on if an old man hadn’t lent me his minitruck out of concern and given me a list of things I needed to buy to live in the mountains, saying he was a friend of a relative on my mother’s side of the family.
I moved here at the end of March. In other words, it’s already the end of April. I was able to watch TV and use the internet because there was electricity and radio signals coming in. I also bought propane gas from the village down this mountain. When it came to water, I got it from the river. ‘Technically, the water comes from a spring.’ Toilets here, are flushable. Although, there was no sewage system installed. Instead, it used septic tank. That’s why it’s obligatory to call a contractor once a year to clean it. I heard that the maintenance was quite expensive.
‘I’ll talk about this another time, but for now, I need to figure out what to do with the pit vipers I’ve caught.’
With the arrival of warmer weather, a family of pit vipers, which had previously been hibernating in a house in this village, became active. And the first one was caught by Pochi about a month ago. Since the snake wasn’t very long, it probably hadn’t been long since it was born. Pochi then brought the snakes he had caught to show them to me with the utmost gusto. As for me, I was terrified.
“Eh? A snake… Is it a viper? Do you want to eat it?”
Pochi simply nodded.
“Err, are you fine with that? If yes, I suppose it’s fine… I don’t need it, you can have it,” I continued, to which he relished happily with the other two chickens.
‘But do chickens eat snakes, though?’ Upon closer inspection, the snakes were indeed vipers. Some kind of stripes covered their bodies, giving them a sinister appearance. When I went to gave them a second look, there were no trace of any vipers left. ‘Oh… did they eat them all? What about the poisonous parts? I wonder if they tossed them away.’ Later, I kept an eye on them for a few days and was relieved to see that they were in good spirits. I was glad I didn’t have to say goodbye to them over some viper’s poison.
“Ah! Yes, yes, you can eat them…”
Once I gave the go-ahead, the trio resumed their communal feeding. For the time being, it appeared that Pochi and the others were aware that I was their owner, as they frequently came to show me their catch. But now it was becoming more of an issue because snakes were bad for my heart. Then, two days later, Yuma came to show me what she had caught—‘Hey, hey, how many vipers exactly are there in this mountain?!’
I decided to go shopping later that day in another village. I went to an old man’s house who was a friend of my mother’s family. Pochi insisted on riding in the backseat that day, so I reluctantly obliged.
“I see, pit vipers… Guess they’ve been breeding since people weren’t around much anymore.”
When the old man told me this, I shuddered. The weather was getting warmer, and all kinds of bugs were emerging. The snakes were waking up from their slumber and becoming more active. In response to my explanation that my chickens had been catching and eating them, he remarked, “That’s a waste~”
“I’ve been wanting to try some viper liquor. Will you bring me a live one next time? I’ll buy it.”
“Oh no, I can’t possibly do something like that!”
“I’ll show you how,” he said before arriving at my house the next day during the day. Then he demonstrated with a snake Tama had previously caught.
“I’m surprised chickens eat snakes, but give me the one you catch every three days.” Then, the old man continued, telling Pochi and the others, “Other than that, you can feed them as long as they are doing good,” lifting their spirits before departing with the bottle containing the viper.
And, this was about a week ago.
Since then, this was the second time I’ve caught a snake. It was terrifying, but I was relieved to know that it was beneficial to someone. The pit viper I caught the last time was also loaded onto the mini truck. Today, it was Yuma’s turn to sit in the passenger seat.
‘Alright, let’s off to that village.’
 It’s written in kanji in the raws, as 沢 (Sawa) = Mountain stream or valley. Hence the explanation of ‘abundance of water’ in the next following sentence.