an English translation of the novel

Page 30-31

When I listened carefully, I could hear the faint melody carried over by the wind.

“Then let’s call it a tie then,” Satoru said, and the children came out of hiding in groups of twos and threes.

Everyone, ranging from ages eight to eleven, had spent the entire day engaged in a large-scale game of capture the flag. It’s a game like a prolonged midwinter snowball fight, where you have two teams who must invade the other’s territory and in the end whoever manages to steal the other team’s flag wins. That day, our team had made a grave mistake in our opening move and seemed really likely to lose.

“That’s not fair. We were just about to win too,” Maria pouted. She was more fair-skinned than everyone else, and had big, light-colored eyes. More than anything else, her flaming red hair made her very conspicuous.

“Hurry up and surrender already.”

“Yeah, because we’re way better,” Ryou chimed in after Maria. Even at this age, Maria had the makings of a queen.

“Why should we surrender?” I replied indignantly.

“‘Cause we’re better,” Ryou repeated the same old argument.

“But you haven’t even taken our flag yet,” I looked at Satoru.

“It’s a tie,” he declared.

“Satoru, you’re on this team, aren’t you? Why are you taking their side?” Maria snapped.

“I can’t help it, the rule says that curfew is at sundown.”

“But the sun hasn’t set yet.”

“Don’t split hairs, that’s just because we’re at the top of the hill, right?” I said, biting back my irritation. Even though we’re usually good friends, at times like these, Maria annoys me.

“Hey, we really have to go,” Reiko said worriedly.

“When we hear ‘Going Home’, we’re supposed to return right away.”


Page 32-35

“If they surrender, then we can go home,” Ryou parroted Maria.

“Stop it already. Hey, ref!” Satoru shouted exasperatedly at Shun. Shun stood apart from us at the top of the hill gazing at the scenery. His bulldog Subaru sat quietly next to him.

“What?” he replied after a beat.

“Don’t ‘what’ me. Tell them it’s a tie.”

“Yeah, it’s a draw,” Shun said, turning back to the view.

“We’re going home then,” Reiko said and a group of them headed down the hill together because they shared boats to get to their respective villages.

“Wait, we’re not done yet.”

“I’m going, or else the copycats will get us.”

Maria and them looked unsatisfied, but the game had gradually ended.

“Saki, we should go back too,” Satoru said as I walked toward Shun.

“Aren’t you leaving?”

“Yeah,” Shun didn’t look away from the mesmerizing scenery.

“Hey, let’s go already,” Satoru said impatiently.

Shun pointed silently.

“Over there, you see it?”

“What?”

He was pointing in the direction of Gold, near the border between the paddy fields and the forest.

“There, a minoshiro.”

Ever since we were young, we were taught that our eyes were more important than anything else, so we were all blessed with good vision. This time too, from hundreds of meters away, on a footpath between the fields where twilight and shadows crossed, I could discern the white shape of something moving slowly along.

“You’re right.”

“What about it? It’s not like they’re rare or anything.” Satoru’s usually calm voice was tinged with displeasure for some reason.

But I didn’t move. Didn’t want to move.

The minoshiro moved at a snail’s pace across the footpath, through the meadow and disappeared into the forest. As I traced its path, my attention turned to Shun.

I didn’t know yet the name of the emotion I felt. As I stood next to him looking at the village dyed in the light of the setting sun, my chest was filled with a sweet yet painful feeling.

Maybe this too was a fabricated scene. A dramatization made with a mix of similar episodes, sprinkled with a spice we call sentiment…

Be that as it may, these scenes still hold a special meaning for me to this day. The final memory of a life in a flawless world. A time when everything was in its place and there were no doubts about the future.

Even now, when I think of my first love, it still gives off a warm glow, like the setting sun. Even though that, and everything else would soon be swallowed by a bottomless void of sadness and emptiness.


Page 36-38

I’m going to talk a little bit more about my childhood.

In Kamisu 66, children are required to start going to school at age six. The one I went to was called Harmony School. There are two other similar schools called Friendship and Morality.

At that time, the population was a little bit over three thousand. I only found out after researching about education in the ancient past that having three schools for such a small population is apparently quite remarkable. But this only served to show that the true nature of the society I was born in was a lot more than meets the eye. As for other statistics during the same period, over half of the adults in the community were, for whatever reason, pursuing education related professions.

This is inconceivable for a monetary economy. But for a community based on mutual cooperation, money is not necessary. {The spread of human resources naturally directs itself toward areas that are needed the most, and those people complete tasks as required.}

Harmony School was about a twenty minute walk from my house. It’s even faster by boat, but the oars are too big and heavy for children to row, so walking is preferable.

The school is in a quiet location a little ways away from the town center on the southern edge of Hayring. It’s a one-story structure made of dark, polished wood in the shape of an A. The front entrance is the crossbar of the A. When you go in, the first thing you see is the phrase “Cherish Harmony” framed on the wall. It’s the first article in the Seventeen-article Constitution written by a sage from the ancient times called Prince Shoutoku. It means to build everything on harmony. That’s where the name of our school comes from. I don’t know what sayings are hanging on the walls in Friendship and Morality.

Along the side of the entrance were faculty rooms and classrooms. More classrooms are lined up on the right arm of the A. Although the number of people at school, faculty included, was no more than a hundred fifty, we had over twenty classrooms. The administration wing was on the left and students were not allowed to enter.

In the yard in front of the building were a sports field, jungle gyms and other playground equipment, and an enclosure for animals we raised such as chickens, ducks, rabbits, hamsters and more. The students take turns caring for the animals. In the corner of the yard stood a white, wooden instrument box. No one knows what it’s for; in the six years we were at the school, it was never once used.

The courtyard surrounded by the three school buildings was a huge mystery. Students were strictly forbidden from entering and we never had any excuse to.

Apart from in the administration wing, there were no windows that looked out onto the courtyard. So the only time we had a chance to peek inside was if we happened to be in there when the door was opened.

“…so what do you think is in the courtyard?” Satoru asked us with an eerie grin. We all held our breaths.

“Wait, you don’t know what’s in there either, right?” I couldn’t stand him dragging out the tension like that.

“Well, not personally, but there’s someone who did,” Satoru said, looking annoyed at being interrupted.


Page 39-41

“Who?”

“Someone you don’t know.”

“Not a student?”

“He graduated already.”

“What’s with that?” I made my disbelief obvious.

“That doesn’t matter, just tell us what he saw already,” Maria said. Everyone made sounds of agreement.

“Okay. Well, people who don’t believe it don’t have to listen…” Satoru glanced at me slyly. I pretended not to notice. It would have been better to walk away, but I actually wanted to hear what he had to say.

“When students are present, teachers never open the door that leads to he courtyard, right? You know, the one in front of the administration building that’s made of evergreen wood. But that time, they accidentally forgot to check if there were people around and opened the door.”

“You already told us this,” Ken pressed.

“In there was…an incredible number of graves!” He was obviously exaggerating, but everyone else seemed awestruck.

“Wow…”

“Liar.”

“That’s freaky,” Maria covered her ears with her hands. I told her she was being ridiculous.

“So, whose graves are those?”

“Huh?” Satoru had been enjoying the effect his scary story had on the others and was caught unprepared.

“Since there are so many of them, whose are they?”

“I dunno. Anyway, there was a ginormous number of them.”

“Why would they deliberately put graves in the school courtyard?”

“Like I said, I only know that much.”

It seemed like Satoru was taking the easy way out by insisting that since he only heard this from someone else, he didn’t have the answer to everything.

“…maybe they’re students’ graves?” Ken said, and everyone fell silent.

“Students? From when? Why did so many die?” Maria asked in a low voice.

“I’m not sure, but I’ve heard that some people don’t graduate from here and just disappear…”

The students in the three schools in our town all entered school at the same time, but for reasons I’ll explain later, graduated at different times. But this time it felt like Ken’s words had somehow touched on a subject that was deeply taboo and no one knew what to say to that.

At that moment, Shun, who had been sitting apart from us reading a book, looked over. In the light coming in from the windows, I realized that he had really long eyelashes.

“There aren’t any graves.”

Everyone was relieved by his words, but then a huge question occurred to us.

“What do you mean there aren’t any? How do you know?” I asked for all of us, and Shun answered nonchalantly.


Page 42-43

“There weren’t any when I saw it.”

“Huh?”

“Shun, you’ve seen it?”

“Really?”

“You’re kidding, right?”

We showered him with questions. Satoru looked disappointed at having his thunder stolen.

“I guess I never mentioned this before. Last year, there was one time when the homework wasn’t collected. An assignment on a personal observation for science class. The teacher told me to bring them when they were all turned in, so I went over to the administration wing.”

We all waited with bated breath for him to continue, but Shun took his time marking the book he was reading with a bookmark.

“One of the rooms filled with books has windows that looks into the courtyard. There were some strange things out there, but no graves.”

It seemed like he wanted the conversation to end there.  I still had about a thousand questions I wanted to ask, so I took a deep breath.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Satoru said in an unsteady voice I’d never heard before. “What ‘strange things’? Explain properly.”

You didn’t want to explain anything yourself, I thought, but I wanted to hear Shun’s answer, so I didn’t interrupt.

“Um, how should I say this. Lined up at the far end of the courtyard were about five of what looked like brick storage rooms, with big wooden doors in front of them.”

Although his answer didn’t explain anything, it had a strange truth to it. Satoru, unable to think of further questions, tsk-ed.

“So, Satoru, that one guy who graduated, what did he see again?” I pressed. He seemed to realize that the situation had turned on him and hesitated to answer.

“Like I said, I only heard it from someone else, so I don’t really know. Maybe he mistook what he saw, or maybe at that time there were actually graves,” he dug himself deeper into the hole.

“Then why are the graves gone?”