an English translation of the novel

Page 30-31

When I listened carefully, I could hear the faint melody carried over by the wind.

“Then let’s call it a tie then,” Satoru said, and the children came out of hiding in groups of twos and threes.

Everyone, ranging from ages eight to eleven, had spent the entire day engaged in a large-scale game of capture the flag. It’s a game like a prolonged midwinter snowball fight, where you have two teams who must invade the other’s territory and in the end whoever manages to steal the other team’s flag wins. That day, our team had made a grave mistake in our opening move and seemed really likely to lose.

“That’s not fair. We were just about to win too,” Maria pouted. She was more fair-skinned than everyone else, and had big, light-colored eyes. More than anything else, her flaming red hair made her very conspicuous.

“Hurry up and surrender already.”

“Yeah, because we’re way better,” Ryou chimed in after Maria. Even at this age, Maria had the makings of a queen.

“Why should we surrender?” I replied indignantly.

“‘Cause we’re better,” Ryou repeated the same old argument.

“But you haven’t even taken our flag yet,” I looked at Satoru.

“It’s a tie,” he declared.

“Satoru, you’re on this team, aren’t you? Why are you taking their side?” Maria snapped.

“I can’t help it, the rule says that curfew is at sundown.”

“But the sun hasn’t set yet.”

“Don’t split hairs, that’s just because we’re at the top of the hill, right?” I said, biting back my irritation. Even though we’re usually good friends, at times like these, Maria annoys me.

“Hey, we really have to go,” Reiko said worriedly.

“When we hear ‘Going Home’, we’re supposed to return right away.”


Page 32-35

“If they surrender, then we can go home,” Ryou parroted Maria.

“Stop it already. Hey, ref!” Satoru shouted exasperatedly at Shun. Shun stood apart from us at the top of the hill gazing at the scenery. His bulldog Subaru sat quietly next to him.

“What?” he replied after a beat.

“Don’t ‘what’ me. Tell them it’s a tie.”

“Yeah, it’s a draw,” Shun said, turning back to the view.

“We’re going home then,” Reiko said and a group of them headed down the hill together because they shared boats to get to their respective villages.

“Wait, we’re not done yet.”

“I’m going, or else the copycats will get us.”

Maria and them looked unsatisfied, but the game had gradually ended.

“Saki, we should go back too,” Satoru said as I walked toward Shun.

“Aren’t you leaving?”

“Yeah,” Shun didn’t look away from the mesmerizing scenery.

“Hey, let’s go already,” Satoru said impatiently.

Shun pointed silently.

“Over there, you see it?”

“What?”

He was pointing in the direction of Gold, near the border between the paddy fields and the forest.

“There, a minoshiro.”

Ever since we were young, we were taught that our eyes were more important than anything else, so we were all blessed with good vision. This time too, from hundreds of meters away, on a footpath between the fields where twilight and shadows crossed, I could discern the white shape of something moving slowly along.

“You’re right.”

“What about it? It’s not like they’re rare or anything.” Satoru’s usually calm voice was tinged with displeasure for some reason.

But I didn’t move. Didn’t want to move.

The minoshiro moved at a snail’s pace across the footpath, through the meadow and disappeared into the forest. As I traced its path, my attention turned to Shun.

I didn’t know yet the name of the emotion I felt. As I stood next to him looking at the village dyed in the light of the setting sun, my chest was filled with a sweet yet painful feeling.

Maybe this too was a fabricated scene. A dramatization made with a mix of similar episodes, sprinkled with a spice we call sentiment…

Be that as it may, these scenes still hold a special meaning for me to this day. The final memory of a life in a flawless world. A time when everything was in its place and there were no doubts about the future.

Even now, when I think of my first love, it still gives off a warm glow, like the setting sun. Even though that, and everything else would soon be swallowed by a bottomless void of sadness and emptiness.