an English translation of the novel

Page 112-113

“I think you should stop too.”

“If I don’t do anything, it’ll die!”

I calmed down, drove their voices out of my mind and chanted my mantra.

“But this is really bad.”

“We were taught to be compassionate to all living things, right?”

I focused on the queerat bobbing in the water. The problem was that it kept moving and all the leaves and debris made it hard to get a grasp on its size.

“…it’s easier to lift it up along with the leaves,” Shun said, realizing my dilemma.

I cast him a grateful glance and tuned out the others.

I concentrated on lifting the mass of leaves, imagining it rising up. Finally, it broke the surface tension and hovered above the water.

Water trapped in the pile cascaded into the canal. Bits of leaves that had escaped my notice fluttered down. The queerat should be somewhere in there, though I couldn’t see it. I slowly guided it toward the shore. Everyone stepped back to make room.

I gently dropped it on the path.

The queerat was alive.

Thrashing and kicking, it managed to turn over and cough up a flood of water and bubbles. Up close, it was pretty big. It was probably a meter tall fully upright.

“Wow, it looked like you just scooped it up with a big net. That’s a perfect levitation.”

“Yeah, thanks to your advice.”

As I was basking in Shun’s praise, Satoru cut in.

“What do we do now? If the school finds out…”

“As long as they don’t find out, it’s fine.”

“I’m saying what if they find out?”

Maria came to my rescue.

“Everyone absolutely has to keep this a secret, okay? For Saki’s sake.”


Page 114-116

“Okay,” said Shun without hesitation.

“You too Satoru, got it?”

“You don’t have to tell me. But what if it gets out somehow?”

“It doesn’t seem like anyone saw us. As long as no one says anything, it’ll be fine,” Maria replied. “Mamoru?”

“What?”

“What do you mean, what…”

“Nothing happened today. I didn’t see anything. I had nothing to do with the queerats or anything.”

“Good boy.”

“But what do we do about this?” Satoru wrinkled his nose at the queerat.

“It’s not going to talk to anyone.”

“Can queerats talk?” Shun looked curious.

I approached the queerat who was still lying on the ground. I wondered if it was injured somewhere. When the other queerat saw me, it also fell prostrate to the floor.

They were obviously afraid of humans.

“Hey, I saved your life, got it?” I tried to speak gently.

“You shouldn’t talk to queerats!” Mamoru shouted in a strangled voice from somewhere behind me.

“Hey, can you hear me?”

The soaked queerat nodded silently. Looking a lot more comfortable now that it was back on all fours, it crawled over to me and made a movement like it was kissing my shoes.

They both bowed. Somehow, that simple action was full of meaning. Suddenly, I really wanted to know what their faces looked like.

“Hey, look this way,” I clapped my hands lightly.

“Saki, stop it already,” Maria sounded slightly stunned.

“Seriously, you can’t…the queerats,” Mamoru sounded even farther away now.

“Do you understand what I’m saying? Lift your head up.”

The queerats lifted their heads nervously.

Somehow, I had been expecting a cute face like a field mouse’s, so I was shocked.

Under the hood was a face uglier than any I had ever seen on a living thing. It had a flat snout, more like a pig’s that a rat’s, loose pale skin that hung in folds and was covered in brown, downy hairs, and shiny, beady eyes.

“Th★k yu Thakyu. Kikikikiki. Kakakakaga★…ds. Gods.”


Page 117-120

The queerat suddenly started speaking in a high squeaky voice. I froze in surprise.

“It’s talking…” Maria murmured.

The other three were dumbfounded.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“§@★#◎&∈∂Å♪” it chirped in a sing-song voice. Spit frothed at the corners of its mouth.

I knew it was saying its name, but there’s no way to write it out in Japanese, not that I even remember what it was.

“Well it looks like we won’t have to worry about them ratting us out,” Satoru said, sounding relieved. “It’s not like anyone will understand what they say.”

Our anxiety gone, we started laughing. But for some reason, a chill ran up my spine as I looked at the queerats.

It felt like I had touched on something taboo that was hidden deep in my heart.

“Although we can’t use their names, there should be some other way to tell them apart,” Shun mused.

“You can tell by their tattoos.”

Surprisingly, it was Mamoru who had spoken.

“Tattoo? Where?”

“Somewhere on their forehead. It should have their colony and identification number,” Mamoru said, his back still turned.

I put my hand tentatively on the queerat’s head and lifted its hood. It stayed docile like a trained dog.

“There it is.”

Down the length of its forehead, the words “Goat 619” were tattooed in blue ink.

“What do these words mean?”

“It has to be the colony’s emblem,” Shun said.

Queerats have three characteristics that are unlike most other animals.

The first is their appearance which is the basis for their name. Queerats resemble hairless rats and are around sixty centimeters to a meter in length. Standing upright, they’re between 1.2 and 1.4 meters. In some cases they can be as tall as an average human.

Second, even though they are very clearly mammals, they are eusocial, like ants or bees, and live in colonies with a queen. This is a trait that comes from their ancestor, the east African naked mole rat. Small colonies have only around two or three hundred workers, but large ones can have thousands, even up to ten thousand, workers.

Third, queerats are far more intelligent than dolphins or chimpanzees. Some would even say they are as intelligent as humans. Those who pledge allegiance to humans and become “civilized colonies” are given protection in return for their tribute and labors. The colonies are named after various insects.

For example, the colony with the greatest strength and most often recruited for public works operations is the Giant Hornet colony. Other colonies dotted around Kamisu 66 are the Wood Ant, Deerfly, Dragonfly, Spider Wasp, Robber Fly, Giant Stag Beetle, Cave Cricket, Paper Wasp, Ground Beetle, Tiger Beetle, Goat Moth, Diving Beetle, Cricket, Blue Centipede, Plant Hopper, Pyraloid Moth, Garden Tiger Moth, Tachina Fly, Millipede, Orb Spider, Cricket, and more.

“The ‘Goat’ probably stands for the Goat Moth colony,” Shun said.

“They’re probably all tattooed, since there are so many of them you can’t recognize them just by sight.”

“Then this guy is a worker of the Goat Moth Colony.”

Goat Moth was a small colony with only two hundred workers.

“Goa★moth. Goat Moth. Chichichi. Co★ney…Grrrrr,” it said, shivering.

“It looks cold.”

“It’s completely soaked. And since queerats live in burrows, I imagine their body temperatures are naturally lower,” Shun said.

We let the queerats go. The two of them bowed low as we left. No matter how many times I looked back as we walked away, they remained bowed.


Page 121-122

“As I thought, there’s only the dung beetle method, right?” Maria said.

This was about a month after the queerat incident.

“That’s way too obvious,” Satoru objected. “Every group is going to have thought of that. Plus, it’s impossible to control the ball like that.”

We were having a discussion around a lump of clay sitting on the desk.

“What if we made a big ring and put the ball inside? That way, the ball will move with the ring wherever we want it to go,” I said, swinging my legs from my perch on the desk. The idea had come to me out of the blue and I thought it wasn’t half bad.

“But it might lose power halfway through, and what if the ball rolls over the ring?” Satoru objected again.

I was about to snap at him when Shun pointed out something rather more important.

“It’ll be hard to make sure the ring stays on the ground the whole time. If even one part of it floats up, we’ll get a penalty.”

“…right,” I admitted.

“We’re not getting anywhere just thinking about it. Why don’t we just try it out? That way we’ll get a feeling of how much clay we’ll need to use to make the pusher.”

As Maria suggested, we allocated about half the clay to making the pusher and the other half to making attackers.

“Is this it?” Satoru sounded disappointed.

“I wonder how much the ball weighs,” Maria mused.

Shun folded his arms and thought. “It’s made of marble, so I’m guessing over ten kilos.”

“That’s about how much clay we have total. So in other words, the pusher is about half that weight at most,” Satoru sighed.


Page 123-124

“But as the clay dries out while it’s baked, it’ll also get lighter, right?”

“Oh yeah! So then at he very end, the pusher will only be about the third of the ball’s weight.”

Everyone else still looked confused, but I couldn’t help smiling when Shun agreed with me.

“So we’ll have to push it from behind after all,” Mamoru said.

“Now we’re back to the same idea.”

The ball tournament was five days from now. That means that in those five days, we had come up with a basic strategy, make a working pusher, attackers and defenders out of clay, and learn to control them perfectly.

Here I’ll explain the rules of the tournament. There are two teams, the offense and the defense. The offense rolls a large marble ball across the field into the goal while the defense tries to block. The total time allowed for one round is ten minutes, and the team that takes the least time to score a goal is the winner. In the case where neither side scores, both teams play defense as well as offense in a tiebreaker match where the first team to score wins.

Throughout the match, you can only use your cantus, but there is one serious restriction. You are not allowed to alter the ball or the field with your cantus. That means we have to be good at controlling our pieces, the pusher and attackers when we were the offense, and the defenders when we were on defense. In addition, our pieces are not allowed to lose contact with the ground. {If we were allowed to use floating pieces, we would be able to use the ball to absorb any impacts the pusher might sustain.}

The field constructed in the inner courtyard of the school is two meters wide and ten meters long, and paved with sandy dirt and patches of grass so that it required considerable concentration just to push the ball in the a straight line. The defense could put the goal wherever they wanted, but could not do anything else, like making potholes or mountains to protect it.

The pieces only have to be within the weight limits. We are free to decide what shape, or how many pieces we wanted to use, but the more pieces we use, the harder it is to control them all.