an English translation of the novel

Page 8-9

When I opened my eyes, the room was already dark.

Everything earlier seemed like a dream. Everyone was together. Father. Mother. Satoru. Shun. Maria. Mamoru. I can’t remember exactly, but there may have been others as well.

 

In a familiar dinner scene, the dining table was replaced by the ball tournament field. Satoru and I were on the side, trying to use our cantus to move the pushers. The opposing team was steeped in shadow, so I couldn’t tell who they were. Innumerable enemy pieces rose up from the earth and bore down on us. We ran blindly without knowing where the goal was. 

The enemy chased us persistently, gaining territory while pressing us farther and farther back. We were slowly being driven into a corner. Soon, we were completely surrounded.

Just as I thought we had no way out, the nearest enemy piece was blown away with a solid bang. Then another. Then even more as if in a chain reaction. 

It was unmistakably Satoru’s doing. Blatantly breaking the rules. No, even more than that…

I suddenly realized that the enemy’s pieces looked like queerats. Panicked, I tried to escape, but couldn’t without killing them all.

I stared dumbly at Satoru.

Part of his face was in shadow, and I couldn’t see his eyes. But there seemed to be a slight smile on his lips. 

Page numbers are reset because this is the start of Volume 2

Page 10-11

I woke up with my heart racing.

Then I recalled where I was. At once, the anxiety caused by the real world swept away all traces of the dream. How long had I been asleep? If Satoru’s intuition was correct, we were still in danger.

Listening carefully, there were no sounds other than Satoru’s breathing.

I realized there was something near my pillow. Two bowls on a wooden tray. I picked it up, but couldn’t tell what was inside. I sniffed it and smelled the faint scent of miso. Just then, my stomach let out a loud growl. Thinking back on it, I hadn’t eaten anything since lunch yesterday.

There were no chopsticks, but something roughly carved out of bamboo that looked like a lotus. I hesitated for a second, then put the lotus into the bowl and brought it to my lips. I didn’t know what was in it, so I tasted it carefully. It was extremely bland, like porridge with nothing in it, but before I realized it, I was spooning fervently from the bowl.

The bowl was empty in seconds.

In my hunger, I looked greedily at the second bowl. It was his share, but if he continued to sleep like this, he wouldn’t need it tonight.

Of course, I wouldn’t actually steal his food, but being only half full was even more unbearable than not eating at all.

I tried to wake Satoru. Though I knew that I should just let him sleep. To be completely honest, I wanted to shake him awake and tell him that there was food, and have him say that he didn’t want it so I could have it instead.

I shook his shoulder, but he didn’t wake up. It was pointless. He had single handedly stopped a blowdog from exploding and thrown another deep into a cave. On top of that, he had already been exhausted and wasn’t in any shape to be using his cantus to begin with. If he hadn’t managed to muster up the last of his strength then, we would all have been blasted to death.

Embarrassment flooded through me and I stopped shaking him.


Page 12-15

Now I was starting to worry. Could pushing his body and mind past their limits leave lasting damage on his brain? On top of that, there could also be side effects from the haphazard hypnosis I used on Satoru to help him regain his cantus.

Satoru let out a quiet groan. I couldn’t see him clearly, but he seemed to be grimacing with pain.

I leaned in and kissed him softly. His face relaxed into a slight smile. There was a glimmer as his eyes caught the light. Although this wasn’t a prince’s kiss, it seemed to have the same effect.

“Saki…how long have I been here?” he asked hoarsely.

“I don’t know. It’s already dark outside.”

Satoru sat up slowly. “Is there something to eat?”

I passed the bowl to him. “How did you know?”

He put his finger to my lips. So the prince didn’t wake from the princess’s kiss, but from the lingering aroma of food. Satoru must have been hungry, since he finished the bowl even faster than I did. He looked like he wanted to lick the bowl when he was done, but noticed me looking at him.

“Hey, do you think we’re still in danger?” I asked the question that had been bothering me the most.

“Yeah,” he said without hesitation.

“But what danger? The Ground Spiders have been wiped out…”

Satoru put his finger to my lips again. Though for a different reason than before. “Isn’t there a guard outside?”

To be honest, I had not thought of that. We had been sleeping like logs inside one of the rooms of the Giant Hornet camp. It was a simple shelter with a thatched bamboo roof. The only entrance was covered with a hanging straw mat.

I crawled slowly over to the entrance and peeked outside. There they were. Two armored queerats standing guard. Silently, I crawled back.

“There is.”

Hearing this, Satoru pulled me closer and whispered in my ear. “If they’re low level soldiers, they probably won’t understand much Japanese. But let’s talk like this just to be safe.”

His breath tickled my ear. I put my lips to his ear.

“But why do we have to be so cautious? The Giant Hornet colony is…”

Before I had fallen asleep, I had thought of the same question.

“You’re right. They’re the most loyal to humans,” he whispered. “But that doesn’t mean they’re loyal to us. Kiroumaru and them are only unswervingly obedient to the adults, right?”

“So?”

“So in the end, their priority is what the Ethics Committee says,” he stopped abruptly.

“You don’t think the Ethics Committee wants to do something to us?”

His hand tightened on my shoulder. “We met the false minoshiro and learned things we’re not supposed to know about.”

“But that…!”

“Sh. You’re being loud,” Satoru was silent for a moment, his attention on the door. “Let’s assume what the false minoshiro said is true. It’s disgusting to imagine, but if humans really could attack each other with cantus, our society would be destroyed in an instant. So wouldn’t they use any method possible to prevent that, no matter how frightening?”

“But are they really going to do something to us?”

“Don’t people always say that they remove potential problem children before anything actually happens? In other words, they’re disposed of.”

“Disposed…it can’t be. Don’t say something so ridiculous. That can’t happen!”

“Think about it. In Harmony School and Sage Academy, students disappear every year, don’t they? It’s weird no matter how you think about it. If they’re not disposed of, where do they go?”


Page 16-19

I felt all my hairs stand on end. Although listening to what the false minoshiro said had been frightening, at the time I only half-believed it, so I didn’t think too much. But now I felt more terrified than I had been all last night.

“But…but, no one knows that we met the false minoshiro.”

Rijin was the only witness, but he had been killed by the blowdog explosion.

“There’s proof though,” Satoru said chillingly. “We had our cantus sealed, right? They wouldn’t do that unless we had broken a serious rule.”

“…so they’re not going to help us?”

If the town decided to get rid of us, it meant that we had no place to return to. Tears welled up in my eyes.

“No, there’s still hope. It should be possible to at least go back to the village. Our parents will help us somehow. Especially your mom, isn’t she the head librarian?”

“Y-yes, but,” my mind was spinning. “Then what exactly are you worried about?”

Seeing that I still didn’t understand, Satoru let out a sigh. “Kiroumaru will probably include us in his report about the Ground Spiders. If they find out that you can’t use your cantus, they’ll know that something happened. And if they decide to deal with us right here, they’ll command Kiroumaru to do it.

I felt that he was over-thinking it. “Getting rid of us…even though they have no proof for anything?”

“It’ll be too late once we get back,” his voice shook. “If we tell even one person about what we learned, the information will spread in an instant.”

“…but!”

“And if what the false minoshiro said about death feedback is true, then no one in the village can kill us. If they do, they’ll die too. That means that they usually go outside the Holy Barrier to get rid of problem children. …I think they use queerats.”

I was speechless. Would they really do something that terrifying?

Cold sweat ran down my back. Did the initiation at the temple take place outside the Holy Barrier for the same reason?

“Kiroumaru probably sends his reports by carrier pigeon since that’s the fastest. If the pigeon is quick enough, it can get to the village before sundown. Then the committee will discuss and send back a response by the next morning at the earliest.”

“Then we have to get out of here now!”

“Yeah. It’s obvious they’ll send someone after us, but if we can make it to where the canoes are hidden, we may have a chance.”

 

Soon after, the worst possible situation became reality.

Although Satoru had recovered a bit after sleeping, he was still far from being able to use his cantus like he usually could. Just concentrating on a target made his head hurt, so it was as if his powers were still sealed.

So how should we deal with the two guards outside? This situation was completely different from when we were trapped by the Ground Spiders.

We left the hut as nonchalantly as possible. The two guards bowed deeply and sent us off.

“Slowly. Don’t act alarmed,” Satoru hissed. “If we just look around like this, it’ll look like we’re taking a post-meal walk.”

“It’s not like we ate enough to need this though.”

The camp was made of twenty to thirty small huts. Of course, the entire troop would fit in the huts, so most of them probably spent the night underground. The path between the huts were lit with braziers, around which fluttered enormous moths.


Page 20-23

After our battle with the Ground Spiders, the sentries seemed much more relaxed around us. They bowed silently when they saw us pass by, but made no other movements.

Then, it should be easy for us to slip off into the night without too much difficulty. That was the plan. But a commotion erupted behind us and we froze.

“Gods! Where are you going?”

Squealer. We returned slowly.

“You’ve woken. Have you eaten?”

“Yes,” Satoru said, smiling stiffly. “It was quite good.”

“Is that so? Our food is completely different. All they have here is that bland miso porridge. The Giant Hornets are not used to entertaining guests. Just for reference, what did you eat?”

How should I answer? Why was he asking such unnecessary questions anyway? I was starting to get annoyed.

“That aside…what are you doing?”

“Well, I was working until just recently. I’m not complaining. Since the Giant Hornets saved us and all. General Kiroumaru was injured in the explosion and writing reports is difficult for him. Speaking of, in such a huge army, General Kiroumaru is the only one who can actually read and write Japanese, if you can believe that.”

“What report?” Satoru asked sharply.

“Ah, a simple account of the subjugation of the Ground Spiders was sent to Kamisu 66.” Squealer looked blankly at us as we both started asking him questions.

“Saki, you go first.”

“Okay. What did you write about the subjugation?”

“Of course, the details of the entire battle. From us being attacked by poison gas until the part where reinforcements arrived…”

“Did you write about us too?”

“Huh?” Squealer looked suspiciously at us.

“I mean, if you write something weird, our teacher will get mad at us when we go back.”

“Don’t worry. I will not write anything dishonoring the two people we are most grateful to.”

“But, what exactly did you write?”

“Ah, well. About how the gods were lost and met the Robber Fly colony by chance, and after that, how the  gods helped us escaped safely from the Ground Spider’s ambush, stuff like that.”

“Nothing other than that?” I asked, relieved.

“Of course not, just…”

“Just what?”

“Since the two of you seem to have exceeded your physical limits, I thought you needed extra care, so I made a request out of concern for you.”

“What do you mean, we’re not well?”

“Ah, well, in this fight, the male god seemed to be the only one using his power. The male god is no doubt fatigued, and I thought perhaps the female god was ill.”

This meddlesome rat. Despair and anger clouded my vision. I looked pleadingly at Satoru.

“…Squealer. You said you were working until just now?”

Why was Satoru asking about something so irrelevant?

“Yes. I finished just a while ago.”

“Then how are you sending the report? It’s too dark now to send it by carrier pigeon, isn’t it?”

“Yes. The Giant Hornet colony uses pigeons for emergency communications during the day, and bats at night.”