an English translation of the novel

Page 151-153

“No, it was just an accident. Both team one and team two can be considered winners, okay?”

Having heard what the teacher said, no one else dared to complain.

The tournament that had gotten the entire class riled up ended on this unexpected note.

“I can’t believe this. He definitely did it on purpose!” Maria seethed. “Team three even warned us before the match.”

“Yeah, no way it was an accident,” Mamoru said in agreement.

“He planned the whole thing,” Satoru chimed in. “Slipping past the ball, breaking the pusher’s arm, it was all part of the plan. Don’t you think so, Shun?”

Shun stayed silent, his arms crossed.

“What? Don’t tell me you believe him?”

Shun shook his head.

“No…I’m thinking about what happened before that.”

“Before?”

“The pusher suddenly stopped, almost as if it had hit a wall.”

“Huh?”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. The pusher felt really strange. And it’s not like there was anything on the ground stopping it.”

We were at a loss for words. Shun had the sharpest senses out of all of us, and he wasn’t the type to just make up stuff like this.

In that case, the only possible explanation was that someone had used their cantus to stop our ball. Apart from breaking the tournament rule about using your cantus directly on the ball, the fact that someone had interfered with another person’s cantus – I’ve mentioned this before – was a blatant violation of the Code of Ethics. If two canti were to come in contact with each other, a rainbow interference pattern would appear and space would become distorted, creating an extremely dangerous environment.

In other words, someone in team two was okay with breaking the most fundamental of rules.

Imagining a person doing that was so disturbing it felt like the ground was about to give way beneath my feet. That day, we were silent on the way home. Everyone was probably in a state of shock. But even then, we didn’t know the true nature of the fear that writhed deep inside us.


Page 153-154

During puberty, even the smallest problems often feel like the end of the world. But our young, naive minds do not stay worried for long; we soon forget what it was that was causing our anxiety in the first place.

In addition, thanks to a subconscious defense mechanism we call forgetfulness, even more serious issues that would cause us to question the world we live in disappear from our minds like wisps of smoke.

Once the ball tournament was over, we turned our attention to the most important event Sage Academy held each year, summer camp. Even though the name makes it sound happy and carefree, it was actually an action-packed week-long camp where the teams paddled up the Tone River and lived in tents without any adult supervision. We had to have our teacher approve our itinerary to make sure it didn’t clash with another team’s schedule, but that was the only input we would get from them. This would be our first time going outside the Holy Barrier since our visit to the Temple of Purity, so everyone was as excited and nervous as if we had been told we were going to explore a new planet.

Our anticipation and anxiety grew ever more intense each day, and every time we saw each other, someone had a new story or rumor or theory they had heard about summer camp. Although none of these discussions were based in fact, and thus weren’t actually helpful for our trip, they took our minds off of our worries.

And so, the bitter aftertaste from the unsatisfactory conclusion of the ball tournament did not linger long on our tongues. We did not remember the long-absent Reiko Amano, nor were we concerned with the fact that another student, Manabu Katayama, had disappeared from our midst.

Of course, this lack of thought itself is undeniable proof that our memories were being meticulously and deftly manipulated.


Page 155-156

“Saki, row properly,” Satoru complained for about the thirtieth time.

“I am doing it properly, you’re the one that’s not cooperating,” I responded for the thirtieth time.

Canadian canoes are operated by a pair of rowers sitting in a line and moving in tandem, but if their movements weren’t synchronized properly, they could row forever and never get anywhere. What that meant was that Satoru and I, partnered by lottery, were the worst imaginable pair.

“Man, why is that pair so different from us?”

From our perspective, Maria and Mamoru were in perfect harmony. Even though we had only a two-hour lecture on how to operate the canoe the day before, they looked like they had been partners for years. Not only that, but Mamoru had enough spare time to entertain Maria with rainbows he made out of the spray from the boat’s wake.

“Watch them carefully. Mamoru is matching his speed with Maria. Since the person in front can’t see what’s going on behind them, it’s up to the second person to adapt to the first.”

“But Maria is actually rowing properly. You just keep looking at the scenery and forget to row at all,” Satoru continued to grumble false accusations.

The early summer breeze flowing down the wide expanse of the river felt wonderfully cool. I stop paddling for just a little while and take off my hat, letting the wind tease my hair. The towel around my shoulders waved like a cape, exposing the back of my sweaty T-shirt for the wind to dry. The rubber life vest was torturous to wear, but a necessary precaution.

All along the riverbanks were clumps of reeds, and the chirps of the great reed warbler could be heard coming from within.

Suddenly, I felt the canoe gather speed and glide forward smoothly. For a second I thought Satoru had seen the error of his ways and was rowing the boat with all his strength. But of course that wasn’t it.

I looked back and saw that he leaning on the side of the boat, with one hand under his chin and the other trailing in the water.

“What are you doing?” I asked seriously.

He looked up. “The river feels so nice, like the ocean, just without all the salty spray,” he said, completely missing my point.


Page 157-159

“Weren’t you the one who said that we should go as far as we can without relying on our canti? You’ve given up already?”

“Don’t be silly. We could’ve done that if we were going downstream, but it’s too hard to row against the flow,” Satoru  yawned.

“That’s why we were just offsetting that with our cantus so…”

“If you’re going to go to all that trouble, why not just use your cantus to propel the boat in the first place? Anyway, we could always row on the way back.”

It was pointless arguing with Satoru when he was already in lazy-mode. I turned my attention back to the scenery. Looking closely at Maria and Mamoru together, and Shun rowing by himself, I could tell that their canti were doing more than just canceling out the force of the river rushing against them. It seems like it’s only human nature to take the easy way out.

Shun waved at us from the riverbank and pointed at the reeds with his paddle. The other two canoes changed course and headed toward him.

“Look, a great reed warbler’s nest.”

The little nest was built at chest height, so I could see right into it if I stood up in the canoe. The canoe rocked from side to side; Satoru grabbed the sides for balance and peered out at it.

“Woah, it really is. But is it,”

The nest was about seven or eight centimeters in diameter, propped up carefully on three thick reeds. Inside were five small brown-speckled eggs.

“…really a warbler’s nest? It could be a haythatcher’s, right?”

To be honest, I couldn’t, and still can’t, tell the difference between the two.

The haythatcher gets its name from the fact that it builds its nest in fields of silver grass, but in reality, it more often makes it out of reeds near riverbanks.

“It’s the real thing,” Satoru said from his seat. “Haythatchers have to make a lot of nests, plus they don’t raise their young, so their nests are always crude-looking. See how this nest is in a place that’s hard to see from above? Most haythatcher nests are really exposed.”

“Also, you can easily tell from the way the edges of the nest look,” Shun added. “Reed warblers stand on the edge to take care of the young, so the edges are flat, whereas haythatchers just leave it the way it is once it’s finished, so the edges are pointy. Also, warblers sometimes use their own feathers to make the nest. Needless to say, haythatcher nests won’t have any feathers in them.”

Since boys often use fake haythatcher eggs to pull pranks on people, it was no wonder they were so knowledgeable about this. Even though none of us had ever been interested in those foul smelling things.

We made a note of where we found the nest along with a simple illustration of it, and continued on our way, keeping an eye out more.

Summer camp wasn’t just fun and games. It was part of our placement for science courses, so each group had to do research while at camp, and present it when they got back. Ours was a really vague topic called “Species Around the Tone River”. Before we left, we had been having a heated discussion about what exactly we should write about, and had just agreed on a starting point (isn’t that enough already?), when Satoru started telling one of his tall tales as an example.


Page 160-162

“Blowdogs?” I burst out laughing. “Something that weird couldn’t possibly exist.”

“I’m telling you, they’re real,” Satoru said with a completely straight face.

Since Satoru always reacted so defensively to being doubted, we often laughed at the things he said, just to provoke him. We usually only half-believed his stories anyway, but this time, he was being too unbelievable.

“Some people have seen them recently.”

“Like who?” Maria asked.

“I don’t know their names.”

“See, it’s the same as always. He always insists there are witnesses, but when you ask for a name, he gets all vague all of a sudden,” I said triumphantly, but Satoru ignored me and went on. Why did he get such a kick out of fooling people?

“If you heard his name, you’d probably know who it was. He said that he met a blowdog at the foot of Mt. Tsukuba.”

“What did he go all the way to Mt. Tsukuba for?” Maria fell for Satoru’s story hook, line, and sinker, forgetting all about the problem of who the witness was.

“A job for the Board of Education, like a survey or something. They obviously don’t tell kids all the details. Anyway, when he got close to the mountain, a blowdog came lumbering out of a cave.”

Just as I started looking for holes in Satoru’s story, Mamoru spoke up.

“What did it look like?”

“It was about the size of a dog, completely black, with a fat torso. Its head was barely half the size of a normal dog’s and hung so low that it almost touched the ground.”

“Is that really a dog?”

“Who knows, it might not be.”

“It doesn’t seem particularly dangerous,” Maria said.

“Yeah. But if it gets mad, its body swells up like a balloon to warn its enemy to stay away. But if they provoke it even more…!”

“It puffs up bigger and bigger until it explodes, right? Does that really not sound dumb to you?” I cut in, but Satoru switched tactics in an instant.

“But that’s the problem.”

“Huh?”

“Doesn’t it completely defy common sense?  If you wanted to fool a bunch of people, you’d come up with something more believable, right?”

A bunch of objections came to mind, but I kept quiet. If I said anything, it would mean that I was accepting his ridiculous story.

Still, it seems like Satoru felt he had got one over me.

“I’ve heard that blowdogs are messengers from god, but to me they’re just normal animals. There are a lot of animals that try to make themselves look bigger when provoked, blowdogs are just an extreme example. When it blows up, the enemy will likely be killed, or at least seriously injured,” he said.

Shun, who had been listening silently until now, spoke up. “Still, it sounds unbelievable.”