an English translation of the novel

Page 394-395

“Are you okay?”

A quiet “yeah,” was all I got from Satoru.

“I wonder how much the gas has dispersed.”

Even though I still couldn’t see him, I felt Satoru shake his head.

“It won’t.”

“But that’s impossible. It can’t stay in the tunnels forever, right?”

“That’s true, but it probably won’t disappear for a few days,” Satoru sighed heavily. “Before that, we’ll either run out of air, or the gas will make it up here.”

Bile rose in my mouth. Were we going to die where we stood?

“…then, what should we do?”

“No idea,” Satoru answered shortly.

“If the Robber Fly colony manages to win, they might dig us out. Even in that case, we still have to wait until the poison gas disperses.”

Despair drained us of all energy. We had been so desperate to find a safe place that it wasn’t until now that we noticed we had walked into our own graves.

Waiting helplessly for the end was tantamount to psychological torture. Compared to this, running from the poisonous gas could probably be considered fun.

“Hey. Even though we’re stuck in this situation…” the words came out naturally.

“Hm?”

“I’m glad I’m not alone.”

“Are you happy you can drag me down too?”

I smiled slightly.

“If I were alone, I wouldn’t be able to stand it. And I definitely wouldn’t have made it this far.”

We had tried our best, even if the final result was to be stuck at a dead end with no escape.


Page 396-397

“Same here.”

I was relieved that Satoru seemed to have returned to his normal self. {Maybe those who were mentally disturbed were incapable of suffering.}

“I wonder if Maria and them got away okay.”

“Yeah, probably.”

“That’s good.”

That was the end of our conversation.

In the darkness, the only thing that moved was time.

Has it been a minute, five minutes, or half an hour? I jerked awake from a half-sleep.

“Satoru! Satoru!”

“…what?” he answered uneasily.

“It smells. Don’t you understand? The gas has reached us!”

The smell of rotten eggs, same as the one that had been at the exit.

“We can’t stay here anymore. Should we try going ahead?”

“No, this is the highest point we know of. If we go down, it’ll be suicide.”  Satoru thought hard. “You have a better sense of smell than I do, which way is the gas coming from? The exit, or both sides?”

“I can’t figure out something like that.”

I could sometimes tell where sounds were coming from, but I didn’t think I could do the same for smells.

“No, wait.”

I walked a little toward the exit and sniffed the air, then did the same in the other direction. I was glad that Satoru couldn’t see me. I was sure I looked like a queerat twitching its nose.

“…I think it’s only coming from one direction. The place where the exit was.”

“Then we might be able to make it. Let’s try to block up the tunnel.”

“How?”

“By burying it.”

Satoru stuck the spear into the ceiling and started pulling it down. I couldn’t see him, but from the movement in the air and the chucks of dirt that hit me on the face, I could imagine the effort he was putting into it.


Page 398-399

“Saki! Watch out!”

Satoru suddenly crashed into me. I flew backward into the tunnel with him on top of me.

I was just wondering what had happened when tons of soil started falling from the ceiling. Covering my face with my hands, I waited for the cave-in to stop. I couldn’t even open my mouth to scream. When it was finally over, I was covered with dirt, and my legs from the knee down were completely buried.

“Are you okay?” Satoru asked worriedly.

“Yeah.”

“That was dangerous. We were almost buried alive.”

Thinking logically, trying to bring down the ceiling of the room you were in was stupid, but our instinctive drive to survive caused us to act without thinking of the consequences. And in the end, it proved to be fortunate.

We extricated ourselves from the dirt and confirmed that the path was completely blocked. And just to make sure, we patted the mountain of dirt to make sure that it was solid enough that gas couldn’t pass through.

“Hey, look up. If you brought more dirt down, wouldn’t it go through to the outside?” I asked looking up at the gouged out ceiling (of course, I couldn’t actually see anything).

“You can’t hear anything coming from the outside though. There’s probably still more than three meters to go. It would be impossible to dig out from here. We’d be buried alive for real.”

In the end, we sat down on the dirt again.

In the commotion of blocking the path, I mistakenly believed that we were making progress. But now that I thought about it, our situation hadn’t changed a bit. Compared to earlier, we were in an even narrower space, and if the gas suddenly came from the open side of the path, it would be all over for us. If we collapsed the other side of the tunnel too, we’d soon run out of air and suffocate.

This time, we were doomed.


Page 400-401

I didn’t want to die here. But there was nothing more we could do. As I waited for my life to end, I was surprised at how unemotional I was. But I was too tired to muster up the energy to feel anything.

I edged away from Satoru and sat hugging my knees. Hallucinations started appearing once again. The outside world was so infinite that most things pass unnoticed. This fact came easily as if a switch had been flipped. After wandering through the darkness for so long, our mental defenses were weakened, and the demons in the hidden corners of our mind were free to run rampant.

The first thing I saw was a minoshiro. Its semitransparent body ambled slowly in before me, right to left. It was incredibly realistic. The ends of the Y-shaped feelers on its head and the quills running down its back glowed white, red, orange, blue, and other bright colors.

Then, shining green threads of sticky mucus started dripping from the ceiling. In the blink of an eye, a glowworm galaxy appeared.

The minoshiro appeared to be stuck in the dripping mucus. It twisted itself free and continued walking, but in the end was still trapped. The threads swayed like a chandelier, gradually binding the minoshiro tighter and tighter.

Then, the minoshiro started autotomizing his trapped feelers and quills one by one.

The now bald minoshiro’s back started glowing vibrantly with all the colors of the rainbow. The colors mixed and overlapped, creating stripes and spirals in the air. The beauty of it made my mind go blank.

At some point it transformed into the false minoshiro, its colorful afterimage still lingering above its back, and started disappearing from my field of vision.

The residual light slowly faded away into darkness.

Was everything going to fade away as well? Just as I thought that, the scenery changed completely.

Suddenly, an orange light erupted right in front of me. A flame burning above an altar.

From underground comes the sound of chanting, interrupted by orange sparks.

It’s the scene from that day.

A praying monk threw some pills and poured fragrant oil into the fire, making it flare up dramatically.


Page 402-403

The chanting sounded like a chorus of crickets reverberating in my ears.

That was the day of my initiation to receive my cantus.

Why is it that as my life neared its end, I don’t think about my family, or the happy times in my childhood, but of that scene.

Suddenly, a completely different memory surfaced.

 

“That’s against the rules. We can’t tell anyone what our mantra is,” Satoru said pertly.

Although he was usually up to no good, Satoru suddenly decided to put on the act of a model student.

“It’s fine. We’re friends, right? I won’t tell anyone,” I wheedled.

“Why do you want to know anyway?”

“I want to see what it’s like. Like how it’s different from mine, and such.”

“…then tell me yours,” Satoru said slyly.

He was provoking me. Fine. Two can play at that game.

“Okay. How about this? We’ll write it down, and show each other on the count of three.”

“…um. Actually, no. If we show it to someone else, it’ll lose its power.”

That’s not how it works, I wanted to say.

“So? It’s not like I’ll be looking at it long enough to remember it. Just flash it for a second.”

“Then what’s the point?” Satoru asked suspiciously.

“It shows that we’re friends. Also, we can get a general feel for how long it is and such.”

I managed to convince him, so we wrote out our mantras on sheets of straw paper.

“Ready? One, two, three,” we flipped our papers around and looked at each other’s mantra for a tenth of a second.

“Did you see it?” Satoru asked worriedly.