an English translation of the novel

Page 98-99


To a forty-year-old adult, two years might not be a big deal. At most, their hair might become a little grayer, their bodies a little stiffer, a little heavier, or their breath a little shorter. That’s what happens to most in two year’s time.

But for twelve-year-old children of any era, drastic changes can happen within two years.

For me, being fourteen was more than just growing five centimeters and gaining six kilograms. Or for boys, an even more radical thirteen centimeters and ten kilograms. That’s just on the outside. There were changes within us as well.

I gradually became accustomed to looking up to Satoru and Shun. It wasn’t a bad thing, but was a surprise to me. Ever since I could remember, they were my good friends as well as competitors, but at some point, they became something else. And it was a completely natural change.

When I came to realize it, I was far behind them, chasing after their retreating figures. It was a strange sight, tinged with an unexplainable feeling.

No, I know exactly what it was. Jealousy.

Since the beginning Shun has always been special to me. I couldn’t tear my eyes from him that day as the sun set over the field and the wind ruffled his hair. His clear voice and sparkling eyes never failed to enchant me. I always believed without a shadow of doubt that Shun and I would be together.

On the other hand, Satoru was as plain as you could get. I admit that he’s smart, but compared to Shun who overflowed with so much talent that you could sense it in the air around him, Satoru was nothing special. Still, ever since we had survived the Ground Spider attack together, my view toward him has changed as well. He was always friendly and the most comfortable person for me to be around.

That’s why my jealousy was so complicated. Seeing them together made me feel left out.

Page 100-101

But what had changed the most in the last two years was probably the relationship between Shun and Satoru. Although they were never on bad terms, Satoru always viewed Shun as something of a rival, and sometimes acted awkwardly around him.

However, his feelings toward Shun had changed completely these past two years. Before, he would always turn away from Shun’s bright smile, but now, more often than not, Satoru would smile back, gazing deep into Shun’s eyes.

I was always aware that I was in love with Shun. And I could clearly see the romantic feelings Satoru had when he hugged Shun.

On the other hand, I couldn’t tell what Shun thought of Satoru. Growing up with his good looks and intelligence, he was already used to people admiring him. So he had a calm, or to put it bluntly, a certain tolerant attitude toward his admirers. But watching the two of them, it wasn’t just Satoru blindly longing for Shun. I would say that even though Satoru was the proactive one, Shun did seem to accept his feelings.

The final conclusion came from what I saw one day in the field. I suddenly spotted the two of them walking along like lovers, hand in hand, unaware of the world around them.

I turned on my heel and made to leave. But my curiosity betrayed me and I found myself following them at a distance. I knew I would be hurt if I saw them being intimate, but I couldn’t stop myself.

Once out of sight of the village, the two began frolicking like puppies. Or to be specific, Satoru pranced around Shun, hugging him from behind. I was suddenly keenly aware that I would love to have been born a boy. If I had been, Shun would choose me over Satoru in a heartbeat.

The Ethics Committee and Board of Education were extremely strict about relations between adolescent boys and girls. So for kids of our age, we were limited to strictly platonic relationships with the opposite sex.

However, they seemed to look extremely generously upon even the most intimate same-sex acts. So apart from a few people, everyone defaulted to a homosexual relationship.

Page 102-103

They crested the hill and lay down on a field of white clovers to talk. I hid in a clump of bushes twenty or thirty meters away and watched, not daring to breathe.

It appeared that Satoru told a joke, as Shun threw his head back and laughed, showing pearly white teeth.

Satoru stared for a second, then suddenly threw himself on top of Shun. For a while, they didn’t move.

I couldn’t see them clearly from my position, but I had no doubt that they were kissing. Satoru held Shun tightly. For a moment, Shun simply lay there. Finally, he returned the embrace and began playing with Satoru’s body, trying to flip him over so that he would be on top. Satoru resisted. They struggled, but Satoru had the advantage. Shun finally gave up and slumped back onto the ground with the expression of a girl who was resigned to her fate.

Seeing this, Satoru went completely mad. He pinned Shun to the ground and kissed him passionately on his lips, cheeks, throat, and neck.

I flushed just seeing this and started running my hands over myself unconsciously. I didn’t know whether it was because of how affectionate Satoru was being with Shun or because I wanted to be in Satoru’s position. Whichever it was, or maybe because I was the odd one out, my heart burned unbearably in my chest.

Satoru traced his fingers lovingly over Shun’s lips. Meeting no resistance, or perhaps getting carried away, he stuck a finger into Shun’s mouth and made him suck on it. Shun allowed such a rude imposition with a generous smile, but still nipped Satoru’s fingers with his teeth from time to time.

Caught up in the heat of the moment, I leaned forward a bit too far. As Shun raised his head to pretend to bite Satoru’s hand, I felt him notice me for a split second.

With a start, I withdrew into the shadow of the bushes. But he had probably seen me. I thought I would die of shame. I stayed hidden for a while, but decided that I would look one more time to check on the situation.

Satoru was lying on top, trying his best to pull Shun’s pants off. An enraptured look came over his face as he uncovered Shun’s thighs, as perfect as if carved from pure white marble. Then, as though handling a small animal, he gently began rubbing Shun’s penis.

Page 104-105

Shun laughed and squirmed as if he were being tickled, but didn’t really resist.

I guess I only imagined him noticing my presence.

Without standing up, I turned and crept away. If I kept watching, I’d go crazy.

I had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen anyway. Earlier I had accidentally seen two boys from team three making love with each other.

At that time, I had observed out of simple curiosity. It was obvious that the two were too sex-crazed to notice anything else. They lay on top of each other in opposite directions, each with the other’s penis in his mouth. Occasionally, it went so deep into their throat that even I felt like throwing up. But it didn’t seem to be enough for them. Obviously, as boys, they couldn’t have sex the proper way, but it didn’t stop them from trying. The sight of their penises thrusting violently reminded me of minoshiro mating.

I had zero interest in seeing Shun and Satoru engage in such a stupid act.

Feeling miserable, I left the area. I wanted more than anything for someone to comfort me. One person came to mind.

I went looking for Maria after I got back to town and found her at home on the back porch. Thankfully, all her family members seemed to be out, but there was still an annoying third wheel. Mamoru.

“Saki, what’s wrong?” she asked in a bright, clear voice.

In the past two years, Maria had grown into a young woman with beautiful arched eyebrows, sparkling eyes, a straight, perfect nose, and expressive mouth who carried herself with confidence and determination. The only thing that hadn’t changed was her flame-red hair.

“I just suddenly wanted to talk to you,” I said, smiling at her while throwing Mamoru a cold look.

Mamoru avoided my gaze and slid out of sight.

Page 106-107

Maria sat on the veranda, swinging her feet off the side. Mamoru sat a little distance away, concentrating on drawing Maria. He wasn’t drawing with pencil and paper like we did in Harmony School. Instead, he had a wooden board spread with a thin layer of white clay and was using his cantus to draw with powdered stones such as garnet, fluorite, beryl, cordierite, and columbite.

The portrait didn’t just look like Maria, but also managed to capture her spirit. Even I had to admit that he had an amazing talent.

Mamoru had lost his mother to typhoid fever when he was young, and seemed to view Maria as a surrogate since both had red hair, a rare trait in our town. According to Satoru, red hair was never an Asian trait, so Mamoru’s mother and Maria’s possibly mutual ancestors must have come from a distant country many generations ago.

From what I remember, Mamoru became attached to Maria right after we entered Sage Academy. But even now, during puberty, he showed no interest toward his own sex, no matter how many cute boys approached him. He lived in the westmost village of Oakgrove while Maria lived on the eastern coast in Whitesand. Even so, Mamoru took a boat to meet Maria at her house every morning. Although his devotion was touching, at our age, relationships with the opposite sex was a huge taboo, so Mamoru had to use drawing as an excuse to visit her.

He was always with Maria and paid no attention to anyone else. As for Maria, she seemed moved by his affection and the two of them gradually grew closer. Actually their relationship looked more like one between a master and her loyal dog.

But since I was universally recognized as Maria’s lover, Mamoru’s life was sometimes rather depressing.

“Hey, let’s go for a walk,” I said, hinting that I wanted to be alone with her.

“Okay, sure,” she smiled understandingly.