an English translation of the novel

Page 240-241

We wiped the sweat from our faces and tried to undo the knots in our stomach. But it seemed like Mamoru had finally reached his limit; he turned and started throwing up into the thickets.

“Stop it! Shut up!” Satoru shouted. “Don’t listen to what it says!”

“No…hold on. I just have a few more questions,” Shun said, though he was pale as a ghost. “That’s enough about the bandits. What happened to the other three groups?”

“The approximately nineteen slave empires in Northeast Asia survived for six hundred years on a policy of mutual nonaggression and nonintervention. Out of the four empires that existed in the Japanese archipelago, I only have records of the Holy Cherry Blossom Empire, which consisted of the Kanto and Chubu regions. The Holy Cherry Blossom Empire’s longevity was second only to the New Yamato Empire, which encompassed everything west of Kansai. However, the Holy Cherry Blossom Empire went through ninety-four generations of emperors in five-hundred seventy years.”

“You don’t have to tell us the histories of all ninety-four of them,” Maria said, frowning.

“Why did the emperors succeed each other so rapidly?” Shun looked more shaken than the rest of us, but pressed onward resolutely.

“‘A Study of the Holy Cherry Blossom Empire’ quotes historian J.E. Acton, ‘Power tends to corrupt, and absolute powers corrupt absolutely’. The PK users that ruled the slave empires wielded a power that had never before existed in the history of humanity. They were literally god-like, but such powers came with equally devastating consequences.”

The false minoshiro’s story was so captivating that we hung onto its every word despite our better judgment.

The Holy Cherry Blossom Empire started as an oligarchy ruled by a select group of PK users. Wave after wave of political purges occurred until only one person remained, who then ruled as an absolute monarch.

“The emperor’s whereabouts were always concealed, and he traveled with numerous body-doubles, but in an empire with a large population of PK users, it was impossible to detect and thwart every assassination attempt. So after the bandits died out, {one family of PK users ruled over tens of thousands of citizens.} But even this couldn’t bring true peace and stability.”

Page 242-244

“…let’s go back already. I’m kind of tired, and I’ve been thirsty for a while now,” Mamoru complained tearfully with his hands still over his ears.

Nobody moved.

“‘A Study of the Holy Cherry Blossom Empire’ reports that all six of longest-reigning emperors had the same psychological ailment. Numerous researchers from the Historical Fieldwork Research Society/ Sakura Observation Group lost their lives investigating this topic.”

Apart from Mamoru, the rest of us had succumbed to a new form of hypnosis. The false minoshiro’s voice had penetrated our eardrums and was echoing directly inside our minds.

“Each emperor was granted a posthumous name depending on the deeds he achieved during his name. In some cases, there was also derisive monikers given by the public. Records state that during the coronation of the fifth emperor, the Emperor of Delight, the public’s cheers and applause went on for three days and three nights. It may sound like just an exaggeration, but the truth of the matter was later revealed. The first hundred people to stop clapping were turned into sacrifices. They were set on fire, and their blackened bodies turned into statues to decorate the palace. From then on, the Emperor of Delight was called the Emperor of Eternal Screams,1” the false minoshiro continued placidly.

“The thirteenth emperor, Empress Airin, was called the Queen of Sorrow. Every morning, she took joy in watching public executions of people who had displeased her in some slight way. It became customary for palace workers to fast so as not to throw up in horror during the executions.”

“…thirty-third emperor, the Emperor of Magnanimity, was nicknamed Wolf King his entire life, but it gradually took on a negative connotation. This was because he would often go out for a walk in the city on a whim, and leave a mountain of corpses in his wake, like the aftermath of a rampaging beast. The Emperor of Magnanimity’s PK image was of the maw of a giant beast dismembering the limbs of people, though parts of the corpses were said to bear the teeth marks of the emperor himself.”

“…Magnanimity’s son, the thirty-fourth emperor, the Emperor of Pure Virtue, was called the Heretic King after his death. When he was twelve, he strangled his sleeping father and fed him to the dogs. He was praised by the public, but he soon became paranoid of being assassinated himself, so one by one, he killed his younger brothers and male cousins and let roaches devour their bodies. But even though there were no longer many PK users who could usurp him, his rule was exposed to other threats. Assassination attempts by normal citizens began. In the end, the Emperor of Pure Virtue developed an abnormal obsession with feeding live humans to wild animals.”

“…sixty-fourth emperor, the Empress of Holy Beneficence, was nicknamed Owl Queen even before she came to power. She believed in all sorts of strange cults, and her PK manifestation was a monstrous owl that came out during the full moon and abducted pregnant girls, cut out their fetuses, skewered them, and offered them up on an alter to the deviant gods of these cults.”

The words used for “Eternal Screams” translate as Avici and Raurava, two of the Buddhist hells. More info here.

Page 244-246

I shuddered. The image I envisioned when using my cantus was very similar to that; I could clearly picture a giant creature swooping through the night sky.

“…became customary for the succeeding emperor to kill the current one in order to take his place. Once the successor reached puberty and his PK was awakened, the emperors life was a candle in the wind. As such, the princes were kept under close watch for signs of rebellion, and it was extremely common for them to be killed preemptively, or thrown in a dungeon with their eyes put out. The seventy-ninth emperor, the Emperor of Merciful Light, realized that he could use his PK the night he turned nine years old. At daybreak, he snuck toward the palace and hid himself in the niche behind one of the big vases that lined the hall, where he had a perfect view of the throne. The moment his father, the Emperor of Sincerity, sat down on the throne, he stopped his heart. Then, using his PK to make it appear as though his father were still alive, he snapped the necks of all the emperor’s advisors and aides and hid their bodies in vases along the hall. Over twenty people were killed, but to the Emperor of Merciful Light, known as the most heinous murderer in the history of the Holy Cherry Blossom Empire, this was just a warmup exercise. To him, killing was as natural as breathing. Some even suspected that half the time he wasn’t even aware that he was using his PK when he slaughtered his retainers and citizens. During his reign, the population dropped by half, corpses piled up in the fields, drawing clouds of flies that blocked out the sky, and the smell of decay could be detected from kilometers away. Nowadays, the name Emperor of Merciful Light has been forgotten, and only the King of Carnage1 remains. But the extent of his inhuman personality can be seen…”

“Stop! I told you to stop already!” Satoru screamed. “What’s the point of listening to this? Everything could be made up, for all we know. Shun, drop it already. This’ll drive us crazy.”

“…I don’t enjoy listening to this either,” Shun licked his bloodless lips and looked at the false minoshiro. “How did our society come about? That’s all I want to know. Don’t tell me anything unnecessary. Just explain how our society came to be.”

“The five centuries of the Dark Age ended with the demise of the slave empires. They had long since severed contact with the mainland, and through intergenerational elimination, the PK bloodlines in the Japanese islands had all but died out. The empires split and fought amongst each other. The wandering hunters living in the wild began plotting attacks against the now ungoverned villages, but the villages banded together and the wars increased in intensity. In the decades of fighting that followed, the number of people killed was greater than the sum of PK victims in the past 500 years. The scientists, who had only been observers until now, stepped in at this time to impose order.”

The name actually translates to “mountain of corpses and rivers of blood”, but that’s a tad long.

Page 247-248

So that’s what it was. A warm  feeling of relief spread throughout my chest. The blood of the emperors didn’t flow through our veins, much less those of the bandits. We were descendants of the group that always sought to protect logic and rationality.

“…but how did that society become the current one? The commoners of the slave empires and the hunter-gatherers didn’t have cantus…PK, right? Where did they go?” Shun asked in rapid succession.

The false minoshiro seemed to have anticipated this. “There are few reliable sources from the past few centuries. Unfortunately, I cannot answer your question.”

“Why? The scientists must have kept records, right?” Maria pursed her lips.

“They did during the Dark Age. But in trying to impose control and create a new society, different policies were adopted. Since all knowledge is essentially a double-edged sword, they wanted to control the flow of information as strictly as possible. Unfortunately, this meant that a lot of books were burned. The Tsukuba Branch of the National Diet Library, in other words, I, analyzed the situation and determined that this was a dangerous situation. For the time being, I decided to hide out in Mount Tsukuba along with numerous backups.”

The false minoshiro’s definition of ‘for the time being’ seemed to encompass a couple centuries.

“After that, the library’s outer shell changed, growing feelers to imitate a minoshiro. Even if a cantus-wielding human came along, I could use light hypnosis, one of my add-on features, to make a getaway…”

“I’m not asking about that!” Shun snapped. “How did the society change from theirs to ours? No, maybe it didn’t change. The scientists were the ones that created the current society, right? If they were our ancestors, they would’ve had cantus. But unlike the emperors and bandits, they never fought. Why is that?”

“Isn’t that…” obvious, I wanted to say, but swallowed my words. 

I realized it wasn’t obvious. If our world was really like one of Scheherazade’s stories, then human history was an incredibly bloodstained one. In other words, if this living thing called a human was intrinsically so violent and bloodthirsty that even tiger crabs pale in comparison, then why was our current society so peaceful?

Page 249-250

“They realized the infinite potential, as well as the destructive power of PK, so the biggest issue at the end of the previous civilization was how to protect oneself from harm. To this end, psychologists, sociologists, biologists, and other researchers conducted various studies, but there is no information on which policies they adopted in the end.”

“What were some ideas they had?” I asked.

“One of the first proposals was the importance of education. Early education about sensibility, logical and moral education stemming from parental guidance, zealous proselytizing about religion, every aspect of education was clearly laid out. But results showed that although education was of life-or-death importance, it wasn’t omnipotent. No matter how perfect the education system was, humankind’s violent tendencies could not be completely repressed.”

Although it was merely summarizing the content of various texts, the false minoshiro spoke as fluently as if it were espousing its own beliefs.

“Another suggestion was a psychological approach. Anger management techniques that trained the mind, such as zen, yoga, and transcendental meditation, along with more extreme measures like psychotropic drugs were also studied. Both were effective, though it was immediately clear that neither was a panacea. However, psychological and behavioral tests could filter out potential problem-children with almost perfect accuracy. So the next step was to implement the ‘Rotten Apple Theory’. After that, it became convention to eliminate a child who showed any warning signs.”

A chill ran up my spine. I didn’t want to think about it, but I couldn’t help it.

Could it be that this convention was still accepted these days? In Harmony School, and in Sage Academy…

“But even that wasn’t enough to avert all dangers. Even normal humans, warm, friendly people leading fulfilling lives, can forget themselves in a moment of anger. Research indicates that ninety percent of peoples’ stress comes from other people. How do you maintain a safe society if, in a split second of intense anger, you could easily rip off the head of the person in front of you?”