an English translation of the novel

Page 207-210

“…it’s probably Mt. Tsukuba’s shrine,” Satoru said, perusing an old map he had brought.

Although he wasn’t completely back to normal, Satoru had more or less recovered his energy after being back on solid ground.

“A shrine?” I asked, holding back a shriek as I accidentally trod on a toad. There were nasty animals creeping all over the mountain.

“It has a history of at least two or three thousand years. This building too, was probably already considered really old a thousand years ago,” Shun added.

“Should we eat here?” Mamoru asked.

Everyone was undoubtedly hungry, but the prospect of eating lunch here was unappealing.

Just as I was about to object, a blood-curdling scream came from my left. Someone else must have stepped on a toad too, I thought. But when I looked, I saw Satoru standing there, stiff as a board. And when Shun rushed over, he too froze.

“What’s wrong?”

I realized that all four of them had become still as statues. No one could answer my question.

What in the world was going on? I was this close to having a panic attack. Then, as I followed their gaze and saw what they had seen, it was my turn to scream.

In front of me was a bizarre creature I had never seen before.

The names evil minoshiro and false minoshiro came to me. The thing definitely resembled and minoshiro at first glance, but was completely different upon closer examination.

It was about fifty or sixty centimeters long, with rubbery skin that stretched and contracted constantly, making parts of its body bulge and shrink amorphously. On its back were clusters of half-transparent spines like a sea urchin’s, each glowing brightly with all the colors of the rainbow.

The ever-shifting colors overlapped and mixed, creating shimmering patterns in the air. Even with my sunglasses on, I could feel the beautiful lights numbing my brain.

The false minoshiro slunk slowly toward the shrine, leaving a trail of lights in its wake.

My own scream had awakened something in my mind. I turned toward Shun and Satoru and started shouting at them, “Hurry…Satoru! Shun! Catch it, it’s getting away!”

But neither of them moved; they simply stared at the false minoshiro.

I started to use my cantus, but hesitated. Earlier, I said that it was dangerous for multiple people to use their canti on the same thing. If someone was already focused on a target, it was better for everyone else to not use their canti, no matter what the situation was.

Both Shun and Satoru’s gaze were fixed on the false minoshiro. Usually, this was a sign that they were using their canti, but in spite of that, both were frozen to the spot.

It felt like an eternity, but in reality only a few seconds passed. The false minoshiro ambled into the tall grass and disappeared under the main building of the shrine.

I couldn’t understand why the four of them were still frozen in place, and I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t even know what had happened in the first place to make them like that. I wanted to shake them awake, but was seized with the irrational fear that if I touched them, they would fall over dead.

The first to be snap out of the trance was, surprisingly, Mamoru.

“…I’m hungry,” he said in a small voice, looking around.

“Um, what exactly happened just now?”

Maria, Satoru, and Shun all came to their senses and sank onto the ground. Satoru looked really sick and Shun rubbed his eyes.

“Are we dead?”

Ironically, Maria’s question startled us into full awareness.

“That story was probably a lie. Don’t worry about it,” Satoru said, groaning.

“Probably” made it sound like he was trying to pretend that he wasn’t the one who made up the lie in the first place.

“That aside, how come I couldn’t move at all?”


Page 211-212

“I couldn’t either. Why though? Satoru?” Maria wrapped her arms around herself uneasily.

“I dunno. As soon as I saw the lights, my mind went blank, and I couldn’t concentrate no matter how hard I tried.”

“Ah!” I exclaimed. “It’s just like that time, right? Like when we were at the Temple of Purity, looking into the flames of the altar…”

“I get it,” Shun said, getting to his feet. “That makes sense then. We were hypnotized.”

“What does that mean?”

“It’s an ancient technique for controlling people. Through suggestions, you can make them fall asleep, tell the truth, or do whatever you command.”

I couldn’t imagine where Shun had learned something like this.

“But Saki was fine; she yelled at us to catch it and everything. Maybe she’s so thickheaded she’s immune.”

“No I’m not,” I snapped. “It’s because I was wearing sunglasses…”

The most simple-minded one out of all of us was definitely Mamoru, but I stopped myself before I said it aloud.

“Hypnosis uses flickering red and blue lights. The red sunglasses probably cut down its effectiveness. Let me see it really quick.”

As I wondered where in the world he got all this information from, he put on my sunglasses and stared up into the sky.

“But if Saki’s the only one who can use her cantus, it’ll be hard to catch that thing. It seems to like to hide in narrow crevices.”

“Looks like it. Hey, shouldn’t we be heading back soon?” Maria said, uncharacteristically nervous.

“Why don’t we go back to the canoes and have lunch?”

I wasn’t sure if Mamoru was scared, like always, or just hungry.


Page 213-214

Suddenly, I had an idea.

“It’s okay! We can catch it.”

The four of them looked apprehensive, but as I explained my plan, their doubt gave way to hope and excitement. I couldn’t deny that seeing that gave me a rush.

At that time, we had no idea what the larger implications of catching a false minoshiro were.

 

“Alright, this is great. We got a big one,” Satoru said in a satisfied voice, after he had recuperated a bit.

“These guys look like they could be pretty tasty.” Mamoru too, sounded a lot more energetic now that he had eaten his lunch.

“You’re probably the only person in the world who thinks they look appetizing,” Shun looked slightly aghast.

I felt the same way

Levitating two meters above the ground in front of us were three tiger crabs. Contrary to our expectations, they hung there without struggling, blowing bubbles docilely. All three were a mottled, greenish-brown color, and the biggest crab sported a patch that resembled a map of sorts. The medium sized one had thin stripes on its shell that resembled plant roots and the smallest one had spots of green on it that looked like lichen.

Satoru flipped over the largest crab with his cantus to get a look at its underside. The tiger crab suddenly lashed out when the medium sized crab passed through his field of vision. It made as if to swim through the air and snapped its pincers menacingly.

“Woah. What’s its problem?” Satoru said. He grinned nervously, trying to cover up the fact that he had almost run away in fright just now.

We tied up the tiger crabs with some five-leaf vines. It was hard to do it just right so that they could move somewhat freely but still be under our control. Maria tried to loop the ends of vines around the spikes on their shells to make reigns, but the crabs were smarter than we expected. They kept turning to create slack in the vines and pulling them off with their claws. In the end, we had to pass the vines through bamboo stems to stop the crabs from tearing at them.


Page 215-216

Although it took much more effort than expected, I was satisfied with our result. The sight of the three tiger crabs on the ends of their leashes reminded me of the ancient method of cormorant fishing. We set off looking for the false minoshiro, keeping an eye on the crabs to make sure they don’t get too close to each other.

We thought that the crabs would be unhappy about being bound and led around on a leash, but we were wrong. Or if they were unhappy, we couldn’t tell; all they did was eat. Everything alive within reach was snatched up and devoured.

At first, we were worried that once they ate their fill, the tiger crabs would stop searching for more food. But instead, they continued forward, dismembering their prey with their sharp claws. {The sight of  snakes and toads wriggling in pain seemed to put them off, and they moved on after that.}

If nothing came of the search after all this, everyone would probably hate me for coming up with such an unpleasant idea.

But barely an hour later, Maria’s tiger crab hit the jackpot.

“Looks like it got something again,” Maria peeked under the shrine and grimaced. “Seems like something big this time…”

We all cringed when we heard that. The sight of a tiger crab gorging itself on a larger mammal was something no one wanted to see.

“Pull it out and see,” Satoru said, turning away.

“Help me.”

“You can do it yourself, right? Just use your cantus to pull in the ropes.”

“But it’s creepy,” Maria looked at us imploringly.

I have to confess that I ignored my best friend’s plea and pretended to be occupied with my own tiger crab. I was still feeling slightly ill from having seen Satoru’s crab disembowel its prey just a while ago.


Page 217-218

“I’ll do it, then.”

Unexpectedly, Mamoru volunteered.

The two of them started pulling the tiger crab out while the rest of us hung back, expecting something unpleasant to appear.

“Look, they got it,” Shun said.

Hearing that, we turned our attention to the crab.

“The false minoshiro!” Maria shouted.

I put my sunglasses on just in time.

The tiger crab emerged, holding its prey tightly in both claws.

There was no doubt it was the one that had escaped earlier. Even though the tiger crab was clutching it so fiercely that it looked like it was about be cut in half, it was still struggling with all its strength to escape. When it saw us, all the spikes on its back shot straight up and the tips started glowing.

“Shun! Satoru! Hurry and catch it!” I shouted, then realized I was in the same situation that occurred earlier.

Apart from me, everyone else was standing as if petrified. They had all fallen to the false minoshiro’s hypnotism.

I would have to do it myself then. At least this time I had a powerful ally. One with a primitive brain that was impervious to hypnotism, and a stubborn single-mindedness that never let its prey escape–the ferocious, bubble-blowing tiger crab.

Apart from wearing sunglasses, I also knew not to look at the patterns in the flickering lights, so I remained clear-headed. Through half-open eyes, I started systematically twisting and pulling off the shining spikes.

“Please cease your destructive activity.”

An echoing female voice came out of nowhere, startling me.

“Who’s there? Where are you?”

“You are destroying public library property. Please cease your destructive activity immediately.”

The voice was coming from the false minoshiro.