an English translation of the novel

Page 88-89

We spent a sleepless night on the rocky banks of the river. As tired as we were, there was a lingering unease in our minds that prevented us from falling asleep. Still, we managed to doze off enough to recover a bit of energy.

The next day, we set off as soon as the sun rose. As we traveled downstream, I realized that our camp had been right next to Kamisu 66. It was so close that we didn’t really need to stop last night. But given our condition yesterday, maybe it was a good idea we hadn’t continued.

In the morning sun, the Tone River glittered a dazzling gold, as if celebrating our return. What happened to the black river of Hades we had been struggling with just a few hours earlier?

We stopped paddling and let the current carry us along.

The scenery gradually became more familiar. Although I was eager to go home, the closer we got to town, the more apprehensive I felt.

I was sure that we would be met with an entourage of boats to take us in, but didn’t see anyone even as we passed Ikisu Shrine.

With such an anticlimactic response, we relaxed considerably.

Though maybe we should have been more alarmed. It was actually very unusual to not see a single boat this early in the morning.

As we arrived in Hayring at the dock we had set out from four days ago, someone finally came out to greet us.

“You’re back early.”


Page 90-91

It was the Sun Prince, also known as Mr. Endou. His bushy beard concealed his face in such a way that I couldn’t tell if he was smiling that we were back safe or scowling at us for breaking the rules. Quitting partway through the weeklong camp wasn’t that unusual; it was the reason for quitting that was the issue.

“Sorry. Some unbelievable things happened…” Shun said in a choked voice.

The rest of us nearly started crying.

“Well, well, let’s talk about this later, okay? Dock the canoes for now.”

We held back our tears and went ashore. The ropes tying our equipment undid themselves and our supplies flew through the air to line up neatly on the dock.

“Oh, we’ll do it,” Satoru said.

The Sun Prince shook his head, “It’s alright. You’re all tired, aren’t you? Anyway, you should get to the children’s center. Breakfast is being served soon.”

I vaguely wondered why we had to go to the children’s center. It was right next to the docks and had a resting area as well as rooms for overnight stays, but none of us had set foot in it after graduating from Harmony School.

“Sir, we’d really like to go home…” Shun spoke for all of us.

“Ah, yes, I understand. But before that there are some things we need to ask you about.”

“Can’t we go home and rest for a bit?” Maria pleaded.

I was dying to take a bath, but the Sun Prince was adamant.

“Listen to me, okay? Don’t forget that you guys have broken some serious rules. I know you’re tired, but we have to take care of important things first.”

He was smiling as kindly as ever but the tip of his nose glistened with sweat.

“I understand.”

We shuffled toward the children’s center.

“Saki, what do you think about this?” Satoru muttered in my ear.


Page 92-93

“‘Bout what?”

“The Sun Prince’s face is all stiff. And isn’t it weird how he’s forcing us to go to the children’s center?”

“Yeah, but the entire situation is weird…”

I was so numb from fatigue that I felt disconnected from my body. Satoru was annoying me asking such obvious questions. Yes, it was weird. What the hell did he want me to do about it?

Shun opened the glass door with his cantus. I was extremely grateful to him for this. No doubt he was just as tired as the rest of us and would have preferred opening the door manually instead of using even more energy to concentrate his cantus, but he wanted to show the Sun Prince, and anyone else who was watching, that we had not all lost our powers.

As the Sun Prince said, breakfast was being prepared. There were pots of warm rice, salted salmon, tiger crab miso soup, raw eggs, seaweed, salad, and preserved kelp. Even dessert, brown sugar jelly, was in the works.

I was suddenly starving. We filled our bowls and started eating voraciously.

For a while, we were silent.

“We actually made it back okay…” Mamoru said earnestly.

“Okay? We don’t know what’ll happen later on,” Satoru said darkly.

“But we’re back, in any case,” Maria put her hand on Mamoru’s shoulder.

I agreed with the two of them. “Yeah, we might have over-thought the whole thing.”

“What do you mean?” Maria asked.

“Well, even after learning all those horrible things from the false minoshiro, nothing’s happened…”

“Sh!” Shun cut me off. “Someone might be listening.”


Page 94-95

“Oh, sorry.” I clamped my mouth shut. For some reason I was feeling happy and talkative.

“Wait. Maybe…in this,” Shun eyed his half-finished breakfast with extreme distrust.

As if by telepathy, we all understood what he was thinking.

Could they have put something in the food? Something that would relax us and make us spill everything we were hiding.

Satoru pointed decisively at the bowl of jelly. While everyone else had been eating the main portion of their breakfast, I had been unable to wait and already started on dessert. It did have a slight alcoholic smell, but there could be other drugs mixed in as well.

“Hah?”

As our attention was on the bowl of jelly, Mamoru looked out the window and made a strange sound.

“What happened?”

Ignoring Maria’s questions, he started toward the window. At that instant, I saw a large shadow flicker across the window.

Mamoru pressed his face to the glass and peered outside. He turned back. There was a bone-chilling look of fear on his face I had never seen before.

 

The clock chimed eight times. I realized something strange. Even though it was already eight in the morning, I didn’t hear any children around. And I couldn’t, no matter how hard I tried. We were still the only ones at the center.

The heavy silence continued. Mamoru still refused to say what he had seen.

“Thanks for waiting, you guys,” the Sun Prince came in through the door, along with a middle-aged couple I recognized but had never spoken to.

I was sure they were also from the Board of Education.


Page 96-97

“I see you’ve finished breakfast? If you’re tired, we can rest a while,” the woman said, smiling. The forced smile magnified the horse-like features of her mouth.

“Starting now, you will be interviewed one at a time. So, who will go first?”

No one spoke.

“Come now, what’s wrong? Team one is supposed to be the most assertive team. Aren’t you always the first to answer questions in class?” the Sun Prince said, sounding cheerful as always. But his eyes weren’t smiling.

In the end, we went by seat number. Shun Aonuma, Maria Akizuki, Satoru Asahina, Mamoru Itou, and me, Saki Watanabe.

Until then I had never noticed the row of small, two-tatami rooms at the back of the children’s center. We went in one at a time, accompanied by the two interviewers.

…I’ve been thinking about what had happened then, but strangely enough, I can’t remember a single thing. In the ancient psychology books, this is called lacunar amnesia. Satoru doesn’t remember much either. The only thing I can recall is being offered a really bitter tea. So that, plus whatever was in the jelly, made it more of a drugged interrogation than an interview.

In any case, we all finished the “interview” and were allowed to go home. According to Shun’s plan, Mamoru, Maria, and I were supposed to pretend to be sick as an excuse to go straight to our rooms. But that turned out to be unnecessary, since all three of us developed a high fever that day and were confined to bed.

My fever abated after a day or two, but my parents forced to me rest more, so I spent about a week lazing around in my pajamas. Since I couldn’t meet up with the other two, I dug up the charm hidden under the floorboards to find my mantra.

I felt the rush of victory as I chanted my mantra and unsealed my cantus. After all, I had succeeded in fooling all the adults and recovered my god-like power.

I never could have imagined how mistaken I was.