an English translation of the novel

Page 251-253

The false minoshiro’s speech entranced us so thoroughly that we could offer no rebuttals. Thinking back on it, this trait might be one of its many self-preserving functions.

“Once the psychological approach was exhausted, it was replaced with medications designed to regulate hormonal balance in the brain. This method too soon revealed its limitations, because it was impossible to keep people on medication for their entire lives. The next notion to take precedence was ethology, focused on the societies of primates called bonobos. Bonobos are sometimes called pygmy chimpanzees, but while chimpanzees are known to fight amongst each other, sometimes to the death, there are almost no violent physical encounters in bonobo groups.”

“How come?” I asked.

“When stress and anxiety among members of a group arise, they relieve it through intimate sexual behavior. Mature males and females engage in intercourse, but even immature and same-sex individuals will rub their genitals together in an act of sexual play. Primatologists and sociologists decided that it was of utmost importance to change the current violent society into one of love, like the bonobos’.”

“How did they change it?”

“The book ‘Toward a Society of Love’ lists three steps. The first was to have frequent physical contact like hand-holding, hugging, and cheek-kissing. The second step was to encourage such contact between the opposite as well as the same sex from childhood to puberty. They wanted to make it a habit to use sexual play, and the ensuing orgasms, to dispel tensions between people. And the third step was to encourage free sex among mature humans. Of course, convenient and reliable contraceptives would be needed.”

We glanced at each other.

“…so, people back then weren’t like this?” Maria asked apprehensively, her brows knitted.

“I have no data regarding the current state of society, so it is difficult to draw a comparison, but in the ancient civilization, there were numerous levels of taboo regarding physical contact. Also, in many places, homosexual love was forbidden and oppressed. Same with free sex.”

For us, physical contact was a perfectly normal, everyday occurrence. Girls with guys, girls with girls, boys with boys, adults with adults, children with children, and adults with children. Basically, intimate contact between people was a good thing. {The only exception being that any actions that might result in pregnancy; upon fulfilling certain conditions, a permit could be obtained from the Ethics Committee.}

“But even that was not sufficient. Computer simulations predicted that the society would collapse within ten years even if all the proposed measures were carried out perfectly. The reason for this was abundantly clear. All the members in a PK society possessed the equivalent of a launch button for a nuclear missile. If just one person lost control, the entire infrastructure would be destroyed.”

As before, I could only understand about half of what the false minoshiro was saying. Nevertheless, the gravity of what it was saying was apparent.

“Human behavior can be controlled with education, psychology, and eugenics. And since humans are also a type of primates, ethology can also be applied to create a safer environment. However, in order to protect the dam called society, not even a single crack can be allowed in its walls. The final solution brought about the idea that humans were nothing more than social mammals and to treat them as such.”

Page 254-256

How ironic. Just when humanity had at last attained power equal to the gods, it was more than they could handle. In order to control such power, humans were demoted to the level of monkeys, and then from monkeys to mere mammals.

“A ethologist called Konrad Lorenz who lived during the peak of the previous civilization said that powerful animals like wolves and ravens, as well as social animals, have an innate mechanism that causes them to avoid conflict with members of their own species. This is called attack control. On the other hand, physically weaker animals like humans and rats do not have as much control and tend to fight amongst each other, to the point of violent massacre. So if PK users are to live together in society, a powerful restraint on violence is essential.”

“But how did they do it?” Shun whispered as if talking to himself.

“The only effective way was to alter the human genome. Wolf DNA was decoded and the gene responsible for attack control was isolated. But just that is not enough. Something that could suspend their ability to attack is also necessary.”

“So in other words, you’re saying that human’s attack control abilities didn’t come from wolves, but from some other incredibly powerful thing?”

“There is no concrete data as to whether humans were able to manipulate genes to that extent, so there is only conjecture. However, two mechanisms were inserted into the genetic code. The first was regular attack control identical to the wolves’. And the second was something called ‘death feedback’.”

A shock ran through me. Death feedback was something that we had heard again and again since Harmony School, and was deeply engraved in our consciousness. It was the most shameful, horrible way for a person to die.

“In the beginning, they came up with ‘conscience feedback’, which would disrupt a person’s concentration when they wanted to attack someone with PK, to complement the attack control mechanism. But the results were inconsistent, so they were unable to use it in the real world. Its replacement was the simple yet effective ‘death feedback’. ‘Death feedback’ operated on the following principles. When the mind recognizes that the user is attempting to harm another human, their PK subconsciously activates and stops the functions of the kidney or parathyroid. This results in symptoms such as discomfort, heart palpitations, and sweating, which can be intensified through education, conditioning, and hypnosis. At this stage, most people would stop attacking, but if they continued, tetanic asphyxia caused by low blood calcium, or cardiac arrest caused by a rapid spike in potassium concentration would kill them.”

“That’s…impossible,” Satoru choked out.

If all that were true, what exactly have we been believing in all these years? That we, humans, had been granted the power of gods because of our virtues was what we had always been taught. But in reality, without the threat of death holding us back, we would fight until mankind was destroyed. Didn’t that mean we were even baser animals than wolves and ravens?

“That’s a lie! It’s all bullshit,” Maria said through gritted teeth.

“But it makes sense,” Shun said in a low voice.

“So you believe it?”

Instead of answering me, Shun asked the false minoshiro, “…did fiends appear after that?”

Page 257-259

I frowned. This was where our conversation had started, but what do fiends have anything to do with what the false minoshiro was saying right now?

“No. Fiends, or sufferers of the Raman-Klogius syndrome, existed before the fall of the previous civilization. Karma demons, cases of Hashimoto-Appelbaum syndrome, is presumed to have developed at during the same period. But in the chaos during the wars and the Dark Age, their existence did not garner much attention.”

At that time, I didn’t really understand what the false minoshiro meant. But thinking back on it, fiends and karma demons would have been perfectly camouflaged in a world ruled by violence where bloodshed and death were everyday occurrences.

“So you’re saying we only started noticing fiends and karma demons since our society came about? But doesn’t it seem like our society was structured specifically to prevent their appearances to begin with?” Shun asked sharply.

“I do not have information about the present society, so I cannot answer your question.”

“But what you said earlier about death feedback, why do fiends…”

“W-wait a sec,” Satoru interrupted, sounding flustered. “Shun, you might understand what’s going on, but we’re not following at all. Fiends, that Klogius thing, what exactly is that? And what’s the difference between fiends and karma demons?”

“Raman-Klogius syndrome is another name for…”

We were all listening intently, but the rest of the sentence would never be heard.

The false minoshiro and the tiger crab holding it were suddenly enveloped in white hot flames.

We jumped back instinctively, and stared dazedly at what was happening. The tiger crab let go of the minoshiro and tried to flee. It waved its pincers wildly and dragged its body across the ground, but couldn’t put out flames. It let out a screech, curled up on its back and eventually stopped moving.

The false minoshiro writhed back and forth, its body secreting large amounts of thick, foamy liquid. But it was as if the flames had come from the pits of hell and could not be extinguished. Its rubbery skin melted in the heat and quickly burned out.

Then, something strange appeared above the burning body of the false minoshiro.

A mother holding an infant. It was a three-dimensional image. She looked appealingly at us with tears in her eyes. Breathing became painful, and our bodies froze up.

Amazingly, the flames disappeared the moment the image of the mother appeared. But it seems like the false minoshiro had played its trump card too late. Weird lines started flickering through it as it slowly darkened and suddenly disappeared.

Soon, the false minoshiro stopped moving as well. Acrid, white smoke rose from its blackened body.

“Who…?” Satoru asked hoarsely, looking around at us.

“Who what?” Maria asked blankly.

Page 260-262

“You saw that, right? The way the fire burned was unbelievable. It had to have been created by cantus, I think. But who did it?”

When we heard the answer come from a voice behind us, we all jumped.

“I did.”

It was someone in dressed in priest’s clothes. He was astonishingly tall, with sharp, hawk-like eyes. His head looked freshly shaved, and beads of sweat covered his forehead.

“That was a demon whose words beguile the mind and ensnare the spirit. It must be incinerated on sight. What in the world are you doing here?”

“We were…” Satoru made to answer, but was at a loss for words.

“Traveling up the Tone River for summer camp,” Maria finished the sentence.

“Did the school give you permission to come this far?” The priest crossed his arms, looking grimmer by the second.

We didn’t dare lie any more.

“…sorry. We did not receive permission. We did not mean to come this far.” Shun said deferentially.

“I see. You didn’t mean to? So you trapped some crabs for fun, accidentally caught that demon, and then accidentally got on the subject of fiends.”

None of us said a word. There was no way to explain our way out of the situation.

“I am Rijin, a priest emeritus serving at the Temple of Purity. I know very well who all of you are.”

The priest emeritus held the highest position of the educational division at the temple. I suddenly remembered. He had been standing beside Head Priest Mushin as [second in command] at the initiation ceremony.

“You will now come to the temple with me. You will not be allowed to return to the village until Head Priest Mushin has been informed of this.”

“Please wait a moment. Before we go, I have just one question,” Shun pointed at the false minoshiro’s remains. “Was everything it said a lie?”

Our hearts pounded painfully in our chests as we listened. He shouldn’t have asked, I thought. Just as I expected, Rijin looked at us with a strange glitter in his eyes.

“Do you believe it?”

“I don’t know. It’s very different from the knowledge we’ve learned in school. But there was a consistency to what it said.”

Shun’s words exposed what we were all feeling. But in situations like this, honesty may not be the best policy.

“You have broken the rules coming to a place you do not belong. Furthermore, you have been swayed by the words of a demon. That alone is a grave sin, but the real problem is much greater.” Rijin’s voice was so cold it froze our blood. “You have violated the very foundations of the Code of Ethics, the last of the Ten Precepts, ‘Do not desecrate the Three Jewels’. You have fallen for the words of a demon, and questioned the teachings of Buddha. Therefore, I must seal your canti immediately.”

Rijin reached into his robes and brought out a sheaf of papers. Two folded half-sheets that formed a human shape. He put five in front of us.

The head and trunk of the figure were covered in strange symbols that looked like Sanskrit. I remembered the ceremony at the Temple of Purity when Head Priest Mushin had temporarily sealed my cantus.

Page 263-265

No, I thought. I don’t want to lose my cantus. I don’t want relive that feeling of helplessness I had before I graduated from Harmony School. But we weren’t in a position to disobey.

“Now, I will seal you cantus inside these emblems,” Rijin announced. “Make your emblems stand.”

I uprighted the figure in front of me. Suddenly, tears were spilling out of my eyes and down my cheeks.

“Shun Aonuma! Maria Akizuki! Satoru Asahina! Mamoru Itou! Saki Watanabe!” Rijin’s voice echoed through the surrounding trees, “Your cantus have been sealed here!”

A multitude of needles, like crimson wasps, flew from his hand and impaled the figures through the head, torso and limbs.

“May your mind heal…let your desires be burned away…and the ashes return to the vast, wild earth…” Rijin chanted in a low voice as the emblems burned up in a burst of flames.

That was all fake. It was nothing more than a simple hypnotic suggestion. It shouldn’t have rendered me unable to use my cantus. It only worked before because I was still young, and hadn’t made my cantus my own. Now, my cantus belongs wholly to me. No one can take it away.

I desperately tried to convince myself of that. But Rijin wasn’t finished with the sealing ritual yet.

“Remember, you gave up your cantus in front of Buddha at the Temple of Purity. Through Buddha’s compassion, you received a pure mantra from Head Priest Mushin, summoned a new spirit, and were granted your cantus once again.” Rijin’s voice took on an ominous note, “But you, who have strayed from the Buddha’s path, your spirits have fled, and your mantras vanished. Take this to heart. You will never remember your mantra again.”

He was using a hook embedded in our subconscious, like during the initiation ceremony. In order to give a new suggestion, all he had to do was call up that hook, then control our minds in any way he liked.

At the time though, it worked like magic. The mantra that we usually had engraved in our hearts disappeared without a trace.

I looked around at my friends, trying to find a ray of hope, but everyone bore the same expression. Satoru was shaking his head, face twisted like he was about to cry.

“Now then, let’s go.” Rijin gave us a contemptuous look. “Don’t drag your feet. We must reach the temple by sundown.”