an English translation of the novel

Page 197-198

When a minoshiro can’t escape from a tiger crab, it will drop its feelers as bait, hoping that the tiger crab will let go of them to eat the feelers. There’s an interesting phenomenon that occurs here that isn’t seen in other animals: bargaining. How many feelers the minoshiro is willing to drop is a function between its physical fitness and how hungry the tiger crab is.

In the case that negotiations turn sour, the minoshiro will start attacking with its quills. The tiger crab can forcibly overpower the minoshiro, but if a quill slips between the gaps in its shell in the process, there’s a good chance it will die.

This rational behavior is surprising for two species that aren’t particularly intelligent. But for the tiger crab, releasing the minoshiro after it drops its feelers is probably just common sense.

 

Let’s get back to summer camp.

The next morning, we set about making breakfast and rice balls for lunch with our mess kits. Then we took down the tents, filled in the holes from the poles, covered up the traces of our campfire, packed everything back into the canoes and set off.

We traveled down the river through the morning mist, using both our paddles and our canti. On our left we could hear frequent bird calls, the high, stretched-out cry of the meadow bunting.

The sky was overcast ever since we woke up, which was a shame, but breathing in the fresh morning air drove away any sleepiness I had.

This part of the river was a lot wider than where we were yesterday. The right riverbank was a haze in the distance and often completely obscured by mist.

I thought back to geography class in Harmony School, when we learned about the transition between the Kasumiga inlet and the Tone river.

Two thousand years ago, Kasumiga Inlet was a huge inland sea called Katori Ocean that connected the present day Tone River to the ocean. At that time, the Tone River flowed much farther west into Tokyo bay.


Page 199-200

To avoid the frequent flooding of the Tone River and to increase the land available for agriculture, Tokugawa Ieyasu decided to divert the river. After hundreds of years, the estuary was redirected all the way to Inubousaki. Sand was used to partially fill the Katori Ocean to reduce its size and it became the Kasumiga Inlet. (I became interested in Tokugawa Ieyasu after learning that he was able to pull off such a big project, but unfortunately, this story is only instance of him in history and geography textbooks.)

In the thousand years that followed, the Tone River and Kasumiga Inlet became what they are today. First, most of the parts that ran toward Tokyo bay rejoined with the Tone River. It goes without saying that a barren area like Tokyo has no need for water. So, the water lever in the Tone rose, and in order to prevent flooding, a canal was constructed to connect it to Kasumiga Inlet. Because of that, the inlet expanded to a almost its original size. It surpasses Lake Biwa in terms of surface area and is now Japan’s largest lake.

And now, since the lower reaches of the river run right by Kamisu 66, we built multiple canals to use the water for transportation. That’s why going upstream, and finally emerging at the river proper for the first time is quite exciting.

“Hey, let’s go faster,” Satoru said.

“Why? Don’t you want to look around here?” I asked.

“I’ll pass. There aren’t any animals here anyway.”

“But we’re almost at the place we’re supposed to be camping at tonight, right?” Mamoru said uncertainly.

“What are you talking about? Have you forgotten the true purpose of this trip? It’s to look for the evil minoshiro and blowdogs, yeah? Come on, let’s hurry up and cross the inlet and disembark.”

“Umm, Sun Prince said that we’re not allowed on the far side of the inlet. Getting off there…”

This time, even Maria looked hesitant.

“It’ll be fine. We’ll just take a quick look around and leave,” Satoru said nonchalantly, paddling away.

“What should we do?” I asked Shun, who looked deep in thought.

His answer was not what I expected.


Page 201-202

“It would be bad if we were found out. But I kind of want to go see, since I don’t think we’ll get another chance to come here in the future.”

With these words, it was decided. Satoru came up with the sneaky idea of going to our formerly planned camping spot and leaving traces to make it look like we spent a night there.

“That way, when the next group comes along, they’ll think we were actually here, right?” he said, sounding pleased with himself.

I’ve never seen him look nearly as happy after doing something actually worth praising.

We set out across the lake again, going faster than was prudent. A small tern flew above us, challenging us to a race, but Sakuramasu 2 caught up to it in seconds. The bird wheeled around and flew out of sight.

I stretched out at let the breeze flow over me. I took off my hat before the wind blew it away and let my hair fan out behind me. My poncho-towel flapped and fluttered.

Even though I couldn’t see anything but water around me, I didn’t get tired of the view. The sun glancing out from between the clouds made a dazzling display on the crystal clear water of the lake, and the spray from our boat made miniature rainbows in the air.

I was so into the scenery that it took me a while to notice my vision going weird. Colors started flickering in front of my eyes and I saw afterimages in the corners of my eyes.

Turning around, I saw Satoru staring intently at the surface of the lake. When trying to move something, like a boat, on water, you first concentrate on an area in front of the boat, and try to reduce the distance. {But after gaining speed, you have to imagine pushing off the water and gliding over it in order to move.}

Both ways involve a lot of concentration and is tiring to do for a long time. Plus the fact that the boat is constantly moving up and while you’re staring at a fixed spot means that it’s easy to get seasick.


Page 203-204

Satoru noticed my glance and looked relieved. “We’ve come pretty far, do you want to switch with me?”

I shook my head slowly, “I don’t think I can.”

“What do you mean you can’t?” Satoru said, sounding slightly angry.

“My eyes are all weird, I think I stared at the reflections for too long,” I explained.

Satoru stared disbelievingly at me, then reluctantly said, “I guess we can’t help it then. I’ll have to propel the canoe the whole way.”

I apologized to him, then remembered that I had a pair of sunglasses in my backpack and put them on. They were from my father, who ordered it specially from an artisan. It was made of high quality glass with a special mix of madder and persimmon dye that blocked the sun’s rays. I should’ve worn them right from the beginning.

Everything turned a shade darker when I put them on, but at least my eyes stopped hurting.

We were forbidden to use our cantus if there were any problems with our eyes. Someone as skilled as Shisei Kaburagi could use his cantus in complete darkness, beginners like us needed to be able to see what we were doing in order to create the proper images in our mind.

We crossed Kasumiga Inlet within an hour. As we were travelling over the deepest part of the lake, there was a big splash from the reed thickets and a huge shadow appeared in the water, vanishing in the next instant. It had a sort of diamond shape to it, so it was probably a tiger crab. Since we were nowhere near the shore at that time, I realized that tiger crabs must be better swimmers than I had originally thought.

Behind the reeds, we could see the deep forest and the green river running from it. We looked it up before coming here, and learned that the river was called Sakura River. Mt. Tsukuba should be right in front of us, but it was hidden by the tall trees.

Partway up, the river branched in two. We weren’t sure which way to go, so we chose the left branch because it was flowing more rapidly. About a kilometer later, the dense trees opened up and we saw Mt. Tsukuba ahead of us. The Sakura River wended northward from the west side of the mountain.


Page 205-206

If we kept following the river, we’d end up too far away from Mt.Tsukuba, so we disembarked here.

“Yes! We made it,” Shun said, stepping off first.

I went next, followed by Maria, Mamoru, and lastly Satoru, looking exhausted from propelling the canoe the whole way himself. He went off into the bushes and we heard him throwing up. I felt a pang of guilt in my chest.

We hid the canoes among the reeds. Having come this far, it was unlikely that anyone would spot us, but we did it just in case. And to prevent them from floating away, we anchored them deeply in the mud.

“So what now? It’ll be lunchtime soon,” Mamoru said, looking hopefully at us.

“Let’s first go up the mountain and take a look around. Bring only light things that you need, and we can eat lunch when we get up there.”

Since Satoru was still groggy, Shun volunteered to be the leader. We usually complain when Satoru takes control, but everyone was willing to follow Shun. So we shouldered our backpacks and set off up the mountain.

The pathless climb was harder than we expected. Whoever was at the front used their cantus to clear away the ivy and brush, but it was so tiring that they had to switch every five minutes.

On top of that there was an astounding number of bush mosquitos, black flies, and other bloodsucking insects swarming around us. These insects can’t enter the Holy Barrier, which is why there were so many out here. Even though we kept killing them, they never stopped coming. We had to use our canti continuously, which burns a lot of energy. {And because my sunglasses made it hard for me to see the smaller bugs, I was even more tired.}

That’s why when a strange abandoned building suddenly appeared in front of us, we were all dumbstruck.

“What is that?” Maria asked, sounding creeped out.

It wasn’t unreasonable. The building was about the size of Kamisu’s public hall, covered so thickly in ivy and lichen that it looked like a slumbering creature that had grown out of the forest itself.