an English translation of the novel

Page 127-129

Shun had a pet dog called Subaru, named after “the star Subaru” in Sei Shonagon’s The Pillow Book, which referred to the constellation Pleiades. After more research, I found that the name Subaru came from the fact that it was many stars united into one image.1

One winter’s night more than two thousand years after The Pillow Book was written, a puppy was born. It was a difficult birth, and the mother, along with the rest of the litter, died. The one living puppy born under that starry sky was named Subaru.

However, Subaru didn’t live up to the beautiful image his name created. Most dogs in Kamisu 66 were purebred Japanese dogs, with perked ears and curly tails. Bulldogs like Subaru were rare (or nonexistent; the bloodline could have died out altogether for all I know) .

Compared to the other dogs, Subaru was ugly. I still don’t know why that breed was even created in the first place. He had short legs, a stout body, and a wrinkly face. Right in the middle of his squashed snout was an upturned nose. Surprisingly, all of the books containing information about bulldogs that I found in the ruins of the library were labeled as class three, “possibly dangerous, handle with caution”, and forbidden to the general public. Why was information about the establishment of dog breeds treated with such paranoia?

Satoru said that one book he had read stated that bulldogs were created in ancient England to fight bulls. If that was true, then there might be a connection with our own aggressive instincts and it would make sense for those books to be banned.

Although Satoru made up stories often enough for me to suspect what he said, it didn’t mean he was incapable of telling the truth. But in this case, I just couldn’t believe his words for a number of reasons. First, I couldn’t figure out why dogs needed to fight bulls. Although the book Satoru read said it was for sport, I didn’t believe that humans could be that senselessly cruel. Second, I’m not sure exactly how big bulls are, but they must be huge compared to dogs, making it impossible for them to actually fight. Third, the only bulldog I know of, Subaru, was extremely gentle. To have the descendant of a breed of fighting dog be this docile is something I couldn’t imagine. And, to the best of my knowledge, Subaru has only ever acted violently once in his entire life. But that’s a story for a later time.

Shun was an only child, and he took care of Subaru as a surrogate mother. Since Subaru couldn’t walk very quickly and got tired easily, Shun couldn’t bring him everywhere he went, but once in a while I would see them taking a walk together. It was a funny contrast seeing Shun striding with his long, slender legs and Subaru trotting on his stout little legs to keep up.

That’s why I was surprised when I saw him walking alone on the hill overlooking the town one day. It was autumn, and the setting sun filled the air with melancholy. It was about two weeks after the incident in the practice room.

“Shun,” I called, as he walked toward me with his head down, deep in thought.

1 Pleiades is usually written only in hiragana as すばる(subaru), but Saki says that it comes from the kanji 統ばる (subaru), meaning ‘many united into one’

Page 130-131

“Saki,” he said, sounding as if he were waking from a dream.

The hazy evening light made it impossible to read his expression.

“What’s wrong?” I took a step toward him.

“Stay back!” he said sharply.

I halted. We were twenty meters apart.

“Why?” my voice rang with sadness.

“…sorry. But I want to be alone.”

“Alone?”

“Yeah.” He looked straight at me, then averted his gaze.

“Is that why you broke up with Satoru?”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“But why? You want to be alone so much that you’d abandon all your friends?”

“That’s…even if I explain, you won’t understand.” Shun took something out of his pocket.

Metal orbs glittered in the setting sun. Wasp balls. You use your cantus to levitate them and spin them around at high speed to produce a buzzing sound. It was one of the first toys we used at Sage Academy to develop our powers. No one in our class bothered with them anymore, so it was strange to see someone as skilled as Shun using them.

“I don’t think we’ll be able to meet for a while.”

The three balls orbited Shun’s head, catching the light of the sun and buzzing discordantly.

“What do you mean?”

“I can’t go to school for the time being. I have to get treatment.”

“Are you sick?” I was extremely worried. Was he contagious? Was that why he couldn’t come near us?

“Hm. Sick…it’s not like a cold or a stomach flu. How should I say this? It’s not my body that’s sick. It’s my mind.”


Page 132-133

At the time, I didn’t understand what sickness of the mind meant. Was he infected, was it some bacteria, or a virus?

“Well, I have to go.”

“Wait,” I called out as he turned away. “Even if we can’t meet at school, I can still visit you sometimes, right?”

“I don’t know about that,” he seemed to be hesitating, “I won’t be living at home anymore.”

I gasped, “Where are you going then?”

“To a small bungalow for rehabilitation, or that’s what they call it, but it’s really just a small house. I’m moving there in a few days to start living by myself.”

“Where is it?”

“I can’t tell you that.”

I was speechless. Until then, the idea of keeping secrets from each other was an impossibility to me. If he really couldn’t tell me, then the truth must be worse than I could imagine.

“Shun.” My mind was completely blank. I didn’t know what to say. “Are…are you really going to be totally alone? What about Subaru?” I asked, mentally prepared for the worst.

“He’s at home,” he said simply. “I wanted to take a walk so I snuck out by myself.”

I was slightly relieved that Subaru was okay, but I was still getting more worried by the second. What in the world had happened to Shun?

“Is there any way I can help you?”

He didn’t answer. The only sound was the buzzing of the wasp balls.

“Shun, I’ve always lo-”

I was so close to confessing my feelings for him, but he interrupted.


Page 134-135

“Saki, I don’t know if I should tell you this but I think it’s for the best.”

“Huh?”

“Remember the summer camp two years ago? We thought we managed to hide the fact that Rijin sealed our cantus. But we didn’t.”

“What?” I didn’t understand what he was trying to say.

“They probably knew everything. I don’t know why, but I think they simply decided to delay punishing us.”

“I don’t know where you’re going with this.”

“They’ve been watching this whole time. I just recently noticed.”

My body felt heavy, like a sinking ship. Cold sweat rolled down my body.

“There’s probably no need to warn you by now, but, Saki, watch out for the cats.”

“Cats? What cats? You mean copycats?”

Shun moved his head ambiguously, neither a nod nor a shake. “Oh yeah…here, take this.” He took off the choker he was wearing and threw it to me.

It was a lot heavier than I expected. The thick leather band was inlaid with metal rings that opened up on hinges. It looked like a neck cuff for prisoners.

“What is this?”

“A charm against cats. I made it.”

“Subaru has one too, doesn’t he?”

Actually it looked nothing like Subaru’s collar. He smiled briefly at my joke, but didn’t laugh.

He started to walk away, but stopped all of a sudden.

Some small white animal was coming toward us. Subaru. Running as fast as his little legs could carry him.

“Silly dog…I told you not to follow me,” he said quietly to himself.

Then he turned away from me, away from Subaru, and walked quickly down the hill.


Page 136-137

The little bulldog ran after him, wagging his tail. He wasn’t very good at running to begin with, but his steps looked even more unsteady now.

Then I noticed that Subaru’s right hind leg seemed to be injured. No, that wasn’t right. There was something weird about it.

But before I had a chance to take a closer look, he had disappeared into the deepening twilight.

 

“In other words, we have to find out where Shun went,” Satoru said quietly.

“But how?” I asked uncertainly, though Satoru’s words did cheer me up a little.

“How? With every possible method,” he said, completely unfazed.

“Are you still trying to get back with him?” Maria said, giving him a cynical look. “Now that we know he didn’t break up with you because he hates you.”

“That’s not my intent,” Satoru answered levelly. “Anyway, don’t we all have a lot of questions to ask him? Are we really under surveillance? What did he mean by watching out for cats? And…” Satoru’s hand clenched into fists, “what in the world is going on with Shun?”

I felt my heart twist painfully. I hadn’t told anyone about what I had seen in the broken chicken egg. I knew instinctively it had a direct connection to whatever problems Shun was facing right now, but if I said it out loud, then my fears would become reality, so I couldn’t say anything no matter what.

Shun hadn’t gone to school in four days. We gathered behind the school building after classes were out and were having a huddled discussion.

“…but if they’re really watching us, wouldn’t it be better not to do anything that stands out?” Mamoru said carefully.