an English translation of the novel

Page 141-142

We met team three walking out as we were heading to the inner courtyard.

“I really thought we would be going against you guys in the finals,” I said to Hiroshi.

“Same here, I thought we would win,” Hiroshi said regretfully. “If only this hadn’t happened…” He held out the horseshoe-shaped pusher. A large part of the bottom had been torn off.

“How did that happen?”

“One of the defenders smashed into it on accident,” Hiroshi said, running his finger over the broken edges. “The ball started rolling the wrong way and it took us over a minute to get it back on track.”

“In the end, team two won with a minute and thirty six seconds against a minute forty one seconds. That was just so cruel, don’t you think?” The most arrogant girl in the class, Misuzu, put her hand on Hiroshi’s shoulder and sighed.

“It’s their fault they hit you.”

“Well it was an accident, so what can you do about it,” Hiroshi said unconvincingly. “Be careful,” he said as he left. “Who knows what will happen in the finals.”

Hearing something like that before a match felt like some sort of omen. We started paying extra attention to everything around us. And when we saw team two’s attacker, we were taken aback.

“Is it riding on a wheel?” Satoru whispered disbelievingly.

“We considered that too, and decided not to do it because the axle wouldn’t hold up. How strange. Isn’t it a bad idea to do this with clay?”

Shun squinted at the attacker.


Page 143-144

“Look closely; it’s a ball, not a wheel.”

The main body of the pusher had a ball set into the bottom. Since you could only see about half of it, it looked like a wheel.

“It looks like the body is just riding on the ball. If something bumps into it, won’t it fall off?” Satoru said calculatingly. “They should have stuck it in all the way.”

“No, if they put it in as far as possible, it’ll be easy for sand to get in, which would be a disaster. But even as it is now, I think it would break soon anyway,” Shun said doubtfully.

“If sand stops the ball-wheel from moving, then it’s the same as just pushing it normally, right? They probably just want to get a good start to break through our defense,” Maria said calmly.

Our questions were answered as soon as the match started.

“Two of them…!” I exclaimed in surprise.

The two aces of team two, Ryou and Akira, were both controlling the pusher.

Ryou was probably operating the body of the pusher to direct the marble ball, while Akira concentrated on keeping the two halves together as well as removing anything that might jam the ball-wheel. Having two people use their canti in such close proximity is dangerous, so most people would avoid having multiple people control one piece, but in this case the benefits far outweigh the risk.

Since the ball-wheel didn’t create much friction against the ground, they could move it smoothly with their canti. Even when they were moving as fast as team five had been, they had perfect control over the marble ball.

Even though we tried as hard as we could to defend, the pusher zig-zagged easily through the gaps in our defenders.

Satoru’s defender pulled a sharp u-turn chasing after the pusher and crashed into Mamoru’s slow-moving one, sending it flying off the field.

“It’s damaged,” I told Shun, sighing.

“Looks like it. That pusher is really something. Now we can only count on your idea working.”


Page 145-146

We stopped controlling the defenders and stood by to monitor the bout. Seeing this, the members of team two seemed to think that we had given up and rushed ahead triumphantly. Then they came to an abrupt halt and looked around, bewildered.

“What’s going on? There’s no goal,” Manabu shouted at us.

“There is,” Shun replied.

“Where?”

“We don’t have to tell you guys anything,” Satoru said smugly.

“Hey, stop the time! Something’s wrong,” Manabu complained.

“Don’t you dare,” Maria warned the timekeeper, a student from team four. “Don’t stop the time until one side has won.

“I’m serious! How can we continue the match if there’s no goal?”

“Like I said, there is one,” Shun said calmly to the angry Manabu.

“Look for it. Though it’ll cost you time,” Satoru taunted.

Even as his teammate, I thought Satoru was being annoying. To the enemy, he must be absolutely infuriating.

“We’re just wasting our time if there’s no goal.”

“There is a goal. If there isn’t, then we’d be in violation of the rules, and lose the match,” Shun said quietly.

Manabu looked around suspiciously. If we could keep this up for a little longer, they will have wasted almost two whole minutes.

“…it’s hidden, isn’t it,” one of the members suddenly realized.

Although they scanned the field desperately, the goal was nowhere to be seen.

“This is cheating!” Manabu growled through gritted teeth.

“There’s no rule that says you can’t hide the goal.”

“Yes there is! Altering the field is a huge violation.”


Page 147-148

“Well, we didn’t change the field in any way. Shall we give you a hint?” Satoru asked.

Afraid that he would let something slip in the heat of the moment, I quickly interrupted.

“We’ll tell you the trick later. But hadn’t you better keep looking? This is cutting into your time, you know.”

Manabu looked perplexed, but went back to searching for the goal. Even if he found it now, more than a minute would have passed. And it was also possible that he might just never find it. The goal was perfectly covered by the thin clay disk disguised to look like the sandy ground. Much like how a ray burrows part of itself into the ocean floor to blend in, the edge of the disk was concealed by sand. (Contrary to Satoru’s claim about not altering the field at all, what we were doing was probably just short of breaking the rules.)

For a while, team two pushed the ball around, searching fruitlessly for the goal. Then by a stroke of luck, they managed to roll on top of the disk. Since the disk was only made right before the match, it wasn’t properly strengthened and couldn’t hold up the weight of a ten kilo ball. It broke in half and the ball fell into the goal.

“Ah, it breaks too easily, just as we thought.”

“But it’s fulfilled its purpose. They took over three minutes so it’ll be an easy victory for us,” Satoru said optimistically.

We were all taken by his enthusiasm. There was no way team two’s defenders were strong enough to stop us for three minutes.

Even as we switched sides and moved our pusher onto the field, we were still full of confidence.

We didn’t realize anything was wrong until team two started approaching us in waves with over ten defenders. Each person controlled at least two and attacked indiscriminately, slamming relentlessly into our attackers. Since there were so many, we couldn’t stop them all. Some slipped through and headed straight for the ball.

Even in the face of the onrushing defenders, Shun kept moving the ball forward calmly. Since we still had three minutes to spare, there was no hurry.


Page 149-150

We were almost halfway across the field; even though only a minute had passed, we could already see the goal up ahead. Even though team two had many defenders, they were small and light and didn’t have the strength to stop the pusher from continuing forward. Victory was within our grasp.

In that moment, the ball stopped jerkily as if held back by a tether. Shun looked startled. When he tried pushing the ball harder, something happened.

A defender came flying in from the side, slipped past the ball and rammed straight into the pusher.

With a high, clear sound like a struck bell, pieces of ceramic went flying through the air.

Everyone gasped. The defender flew off the field, and we saw that our pusher’s left arm was broken.

Even though the match hadn’t been stopped, all of us, and the members of team two, were frozen in shock. All except one person.

Another defender came in from the same direction and pushed the ball. It slowly rolled off the field.

Who did that? I looked over team two’s dumbfounded faces and glimpsed Manabu grinning broadly. Instinctively, I turned away, feeling like I had seen something I wasn’t supposed to.

“Hey! The hell are you doing?” Satoru shouted furiously. “You just…you just,” he couldn’t even bring himself to say the rest.

“Sorry, it was an accident,” Manabu said.

“An accident? That’s just an excuse,” Maria yelled.

“Okay, stop the time,” the Sun Prince stepped between us.

The timing of his appearance was impeccable; he had probably been watching us from somewhere.

“It’s unfortunate, but because of the accident, the final match is a draw.”

“What! But the other side violated the rules, right?” Shun said forcefully in a rare show of protest.