an English translation of the novel

Page 125-127

One more important restriction is that we are not allowed to attack the opponent’s pusher. Otherwise, everyone would just target the pusher and it would be destroyed before the other team had a chance to do anything. However, only one pusher is immune to attack, so while we are allowed to use more than one, it is disadvantageous to do so. Most teams only used one pusher.

“So, is this good for the pusher?” Shun asked, his forehead glistening with sweat.

While we were all fooling around with the clay, only Shun had the capabilities to freely shape it to his will. It was impossible for the rest of us. The overall shape was a short cone with a shallow rounded bottom like a boat’s to help it glide on the field. In order to control the ball, there were two arms coming out of it at a hundred-twenty degree angle from the front. It looked like a person with his arms outstretched.

“That’s pretty good. It’s simple, but still looks cool,” Maria commented.

“So now all we need are attackers. Since Shun is focusing on working the pusher, we should split up the rest of the work among the rest of us,” Satoru said, taking the opportunity to hand out tasks to us.

“How is team one doing?” Mr. Endou poked his head in, smiling at us. His round face, framed by his hair and beard, somehow earned him the weird nickname “Sun Prince”.

“We’ve just finished the design for the pusher,” Satoru said, proudly showing off the model.

“Oh, you’ve done a pretty good job in such a short time.”

“Yup, we’re thinking of hardening it now.”

“Who’s controlling the pusher?”

“Shun.”

“Just as I expected,” Mr. Endou nodded.

“Well, the rest of you work hard on the attackers.”

“Yes sir!” We replied energetically.

Later, after a heated discussion, we decided on five attackers. Shun would control the pusher and an attacker simultaneously while the rest of us each had an attacker.

At this time, no one remembered that there used to be one more member in team one.

 

Our first round was against team five. That was a stroke of luck. Rumor had it that team three had built the best pieces and was the favorite to win the competition, and that team two had been spotted behaving suspiciously.

A round of rock-paper-scissors determined us to be the first to attack. Since this was our first match, we were nervous to see what team five’s defenders would look like. They had six wall-like defenders moving from side to side, blocking the entire width of our path.

We huddled together in a circle, each of us silently reciting our mantras.

“As we expected, they’re using the most basic strategy,” Maria whispered, looking delighted.

“This won’t even take half a minute,” Satoru chuckled like he’d already won.

“Let’s break through the center,” Shun said quietly. “With that kind of defense, we can break through wherever we want, but it looks like the middle of the field is the flattest.”


Page 128-129

When our pusher and attackers came onto the field, all the members of team five looked disturbed.

The pusher glided slowly into position with its arms up behind the ball.

The attackers were deployed in a neat formation. Three were positioned in a triangle in front of the ball and the other two were guarding either side of it.

The vanguard attackers were shaped like triangular pyramids, with the tip pointed forward. They looked like paper airplanes because the long edge of the pyramid was touching the ground, and the flat side was facing up. The two guards were bottom heavy, shaped like squashed cylinders, with numerous protrusions on the surface. Actually the protrusions had no real purpose, but had the effect of making the guard look more sturdy.

“Play fair, work together as a team and do your best. Got it?” the Sun Prince announced, and blew the whistle to start the match.

The vanguard advanced slowly. The pusher was still building up power, so the heavy ball stayed where it was. While it was stationary, the ball was vulnerable, but trying to rush it too much risked damaging the pusher. Then again, since Shun was controlling it, such a blunder was unimaginable.

The defenders couldn’t gather up the courage to advance and continued wavering uselessly from side to side.

The ball finally started rolling slowly forward. It gradually gathered speed and hurtled down the field with the three attackers leading the charge.

Team five finally realized our plans and hurried to gather their defenders in the middle, but it was too late. We were going to crush them in a single blow. The attackers plowed through the defender’s heavy walls like they were made of paper. A second later, the marble ball rumbled past. All that happened in the blink of an eye.

The second we broke through their defense, team five was defeated. The marble ball made straight for the goal and fell into the hole with a resounding thud. The time was twenty-six seconds, faster than Satoru had predicted.

“I wish they had tried harder; that wasn’t even a competition,” Satoru said.


Page 130-132

“Seriously, it was like they didn’t have a defense at all.” Even the usually quiet Mamoru agreed.

But if we became complacent, things might turn out bad.

“The other side still gets to attack,” I tried to get them to focus. “We haven’t won yet.”

“We’ve basically already won though, right? No matter how I think of it, there’s no way they can score a goal in under twenty-six seconds,” Satoru said, still smirking.

“But we never know what might happen. Don’t get caught off guard,” Shun said as we moved our defenders onto the field.

When we saw the pieces team five was using, we were all dumbstruck.

Since their defenders were so plain, we had been expecting the same of their attackers. Unfortunately we had grossly underestimated them. They had used a cleverly deceptive all or nothing strategy.

“What is that? Huh?” Maria said in a low voice. “All six of them look the same.”

The pieces were rectangular, with a protruding arm like a bell hammer.

“They made all of them pushers,” Satoru whispered.

The Sun Prince took one of the pushers and drew a red circle on it, indicating that it was the one we were not allowed to attack.

“But we’re allowed to attack all the others right? So that one still doesn’t have any defenders to protect it…” I said.

“It’s okay if one or two pushers are damaged. If all six pieces push, any of our defenders would be crushed by the speed of the ball,” Satoru answered.

So that’s how it was. The whistle sounded and the ball started rolling, quickly gathering speed.

Four of our defenders are shaped like door-stops, the idea being that we could wedge them under the ball to slow its movement and throw it off track. But two of them were sent flying by the speed of the ball before they could do anything.

The two that were left went after the pushers on the edge. One managed to flip a pusher over, but with five remaining, the ball showed no signs of slowing down.

“This is bad. At this rate…,” Satoru shouted.

The ball was moving a lot faster than ours had been, so if it scored a goal, we would lose.

Our trump card was our fifth defender, sitting in the middle of the field. It took aim down the path the ball was traveling.

“Shun, I’m leaving it to you!” Satoru shouted.

The defender was shaped like a thick disk, with a knob at the bottom where it touched the ground. When the ball rolled onto the defender, it would spin a hundred-eighty degrees, sending the ball back where it had come from. It was Shun’s brilliant idea.

The ball came barreling down the path at an incredible speed. But I had no doubt that Shun would be able to time it just right.


Page 133-134

However, something unexpected happened. The ball hit a an uneven patch on the path and jumped a little into the air.

Shun instantly adjusted the defender so the ball wouldn’t jump over it.

The ball landed with on the defender with an unpleasant cracking sound. Although Shun spun the defender, the ball bounced back up again, and continued on, its path unchanged.

“It’s too late now…” Satoru said dejectedly.

At this speed, it wouldn’t take twenty-six, but more like sixteen seconds to reach the goal. Just as I looked away, Maria shouted.

“Ah! What’s that?”

I looked up and saw an unprecedented scenario unfolding before me. The ball had gathered so much speed that team five had completely lost control of it.

One of the pushers was pulled over in front of the ball and crushed.

The forces directing the ball became unbalanced and the ball swerved to one side.

There was no way to stop the ball anymore. It missed the goal by a large margin and flew off the field.

“Since team five can no longer continue, team one is the winner,” the Sun Prince’s voice sounded like a voice from heaven.

“Yes!”

“We passed the first round!”

“Team five really sabotaged themselves. Probably because their tactics were too extreme.”

As we gathered together to celebrate our victory, I realized Shun was standing outside the circle.

“What happened?” I asked.

Shun turned toward me, holding the defender and looking dejected.

“This is bad. It cracked.”

“Huh?”


Page 135-136

Everyone gathered around Shun. Since the clay was baked at high temperatures, it should have the strength to withstand the weight of the marble ball on top of it. All the same, we never expected the ball to jump and fall onto the disk.

“Well we don’t know if we still have one or two matches left, but does this mean we won’t be able to use it?” Maria asked.

“Yeah, it’ll probably break the next time a ball rolls onto it. It’ll be impossible to spin it and throw the ball off course.”

“So we have no choice but to go out with only four defenders…”

We tried to come up with countermeasures, but couldn’t think of anything good, so we decided to take a break and go find out who our next opponents were.

Since there are five teams, the numbers are uneven for a tournament. How they do it at Sage Academy is, two pairs of teams are picked by lottery to compete, and the two winning teams draw straws. The winner proceeds directly to the final round and the loser fights the team that was seeded in the first round. The winner in that round becomes the other finalist.

Depending on your luck, you could win the tournament with just two bouts, or have to do all three.

In any case, we went to watch the bout between team three and four. As rumored, team three was strong, and we got to see both their offense and defense.

Their pusher was a complex curved shape, like a horseshoe, that could control the ball perfectly. Their attackers were similar to ours, but seemed more refined.

What surprised us was how they used their two defenders, which were shaped like kokeshi.1 Between the two  stretched a rope made of wet clay. When the ball rolled over the rope, it naturally wrapped itself around the ball and stopped it from moving forward. Although team four eventually made it to the goal, they lost a large amount of time.

“They’re pretty smart to think of that,” Satoru said grudgingly.

“We were wrong to assume we had to use hardened clay.”

“It seemed like they were pretty confident that they could cause their opponents to lose enough time to ensure their own victory.”