an English translation of the novel

Page 219-221

“That’s because you keep trying to hypnotize us.”

“The use of defensive light hypnosis by terminal machines is sanctioned under ordinance 488722, item 5. Please cease your destructive activity immediately.”

“You stop hypnotizing us, then I’ll stop ripping your glowy things out.”

“I repeat my warning. Please cease your destructive activity at once,” the false minoshiro repeated obstinately.

“I’m warning you too. If you don’t stop, I won’t either. I’ll rip out all those glowing things!”

Surprisingly, the false minoshiro stopped shining. Seems like that simple threat was effective enough.

“Are you guys okay?”

The four of them still looked like they were in a stupor.

“Undo the hypnosis, now! Or else I’m going to start plucking again,” I said warningly.

The false minoshiro replied hurriedly, “Effects of light hypnosis wear off in time. The National Institute of Psychiatry’s report, number 49463165, states that there are no observable side effects.”

“Undo it. Now. Or else….”

I didn’t need to finish the sentence. The false minoshiro suddenly let out a piercing noise and I ducked instinctively, covering my ears. The four of them started moving as if waking up from a dream.

I turned slowly back toward the false minoshiro, bursting with questions I wanted to ask it.

“Who are you? What are you?”

“I am the Tsukuba Branch of the National Diet Library.”

“A library?”

“If you are inquiring my model and version, I am a Panasonic Automotive Archive, Autonomous Evolution version SE-778H Lambda.”

I wasn’t sure what that meant, but no matter what sort of monster it was, that was an absurd self introduction. It was like someone walking up to you on the street and saying “Hi, My name is National Library”, or “I’m a school”.

“Are you saying you’re actually a library?” I asked cautiously.


I looked over the false minoshiro. Now that it had stopped wriggling and glowing, it definitely looked man-made.

“Where are the books then?”

“All paper based print interfaces have either decomposed, or have been lost through wars or other destructive activity. No remaining existences have been confirmed.”

“I don’t really get it, but the point is there are no books? So you’re just an empty library?”

“All information is archived in 890PB of holographic memory.”

Page 222-223

I had no idea what it was saying.

“…if you’re trying to confuse us with big words, maybe I should just tear out all those feeler looking things.”

Making threats wasn’t something I was particularly fond of doing.

“The contents of the books are stored inside me, and can be accessed at any time,” it replied immediately.

That was better, though I still wasn’t completely clear how it worked.

“What kinda books?” Satoru asked conversationally.

“All 38,242,506 volumes published in Japan since 2129 AD and 671,630 reference volumes in English as well as other languages.”

The five of us exchanged glances. Kamisu 66’s largest library, in Hayring, had under three thousand books available to the public, and if you included all the books in storage underground, the total amounted to maybe ten thousand. That a body as small as the false minoshiro’s could hold over four thousand times that number was a lie not even Satoru would dare to tell.

“Accessed at any time means that you can read them whenever you want?”

“That is correct.”

“So if I asked you any question, you’d be able to find the relevant book out of all the ones stored inside you?” I asked doubtfully.

“Yes. The average query time is sixty nanoseconds,” boasted the false minoshiro, or rather, the Tsukuba Branch of the National Diet Library.

I didn’t know how long sixty nanoseconds was, but I assumed it was something like sixty seconds.

“T-then…I want to ask…!”

I suddenly became really excited. I could get answers to everything I’ve ever wanted to up til now. Hundreds of questions came to mind all at once. Just as I was about to speak, Satoru interrupted with the most useless question in the world.

“Why are there so many toads around here?”

Page 224-225

“Why do you look like that if you’re a library?” Maria asked.

Shun looked like he wanted to ask something too, but was too out of it from the hypnosis to form a coherent sentence.

“I…I want to ask,” I finally decided what I wanted to know most. “Do fiends really exist? Also, what about karma demons?”

We waited with bated breath. Sixty seconds passed, then two minutes, then three, but the false minoshiro remained silent.

“Hey, why aren’t you answering?” Satoru couldn’t wait any longer.

“User registration is required to access query services,” it said, without a trace of guilt for making us wait for nothing.

“Geez, shouldn’t you tell us that first?” Satoru said reproachfully.

“How do we register?”

The false minoshiro ignored Satoru and addressed Maria’s question.

“You must be eighteen year or older, and supply proof of name, address, and age with one of the following: driver’s license, insurance card (with address), passport (a copy with full date of birth, and current address), student identification (with address and date of birth), certificate of residence (issued within the past three months), or other official identification. All must be within the expiry date.

“Eighteen? But we’re…”

“Furthermore, the following forms of identification are not valid: employee identification, student identification (lacking date of birth or address), commuter passes, business cards…”

The false minoshiro was probably talking about some papers that were used way back when. We had a rough idea of what it was talking about because we had learned a little bit about the strange age in which pieces of paper were more important than the people themselves.

“What if we don’t have any of those things?” I asked.

“If user registration is not completed, query services will be unavailable,” the false minoshiro said in the same placid voice.

Page 226-228

“Guess it can’t be helped it. I’ll just have to tear you apart bit by bit to get to the books inside you.”

“Destructive activity is a criminal offense punishable by law.”

“What should we do? Start by pulling the feelers out, then cutting it in half?” I said to Satoru, miming a ripping action.

“Hmm, look at how rubbery its skin is. We should probably skin in first,” Satoru leered, catching on to my plan.

“…documentation requirements have been waived. Beginning user registration process!” it said loudly, still in the same soothing female voice. “Will each user please pronounce their name clearly.”

Each of us stepped in front of the false minoshiro in turn and said our names.

“Iris pattern, voice print, and head MRI authentication complete. User registration complete. Shun Aonuma, Maria Akizuki, Satoru Asahina, Mamoru Itou, Saki Watanabe, query services are available for three years starting today.”

“Alright then, why are there so many toads…”

Shun covered Satoru’s mouth with his right hand. “There are a mountain of questions we could ask, but I want to hear the answer to Saki’s first. …do fiends really exist? What about karma demons?”

The false minoshiro didn’t pause for a second this time. “The word ‘fiend’ returned 671,441 hits in the database, and can be roughly separated into two groups. ① Creatures that have reportedly been sighted in the ancient past, frequently called demons, ghosts, ghouls and other similar names, that do not exist in reality. ② A term invented in the final years of the ancient civilization to describe those suffering from Raman-Klogius syndrome, also known as ‘Fox in the Henhouse’ syndrome. It is not confirmed to exist in the present, but did in the past, and is highly likely to recur in the future.”

We looked at each other. We couldn’t fully understand what it was saying, but we could tell that it was something we would never be taught, and something we were definitely not allowed to know.

“Karma demons were also discovered before the fall of the ancient empire, and was a common term for severe cases of Hashimoto-Appelbaum syndrome. Along with fiends, their existence in the present in unconfirmed, but there is a high risk of reappearance.

“That…” Shun hesitated.

I saw his face pale and understood painfully well what he was thinking.

We shouldn’t ask any more than this. The warning came unconsciously.

But opening Pandora’s box when we knew perfectly well not to has been human nature since the dawn of time.