an English translation of the novel

Page 179-180

For a while now I had been plagued by an uneasy feeling.

Leave. Now. Run as far away from here as possible. That was what my gut was telling me. I didn’t want to stay here a second longer.

But I thought about Shun, and tried desperately to encourage myself. I couldn’t turn back now. I was the only one who could save him.

I kept going, using the deformed plants as guides. The forest seemed to be twisted in a spiral. If that was the case, then Shun had to be at the center.

The silhouette of the trees resembled giant, tentacled monsters, beckoning toward me. I continued onward, ducking and dodging under the branches.

Before I knew it, I had been enveloped in a thick, milky fog that obscured everything more than a couple centimeters in front of me. I kept hearing whispering noises. The wind, sounds of laughter, and occasionally what seemed to be words, though I couldn’t make out what they were.

The information I was getting from my senses were vague and distorted. Even the ground beneath my feet seemed soft and unreliable. The compass needle spun around and around uselessly.

Soon, I couldn’t even tell whether it was light or dark anymore. My eyes had stopped working.

What was happening?

My head began to ache as if someone were squeezing it with a clamp. Even thinking was becoming too much of an effort. I stood paralyzed, all feeling draining from my body. I couldn’t tell whether I was standing or sitting.

What was this place?

“Shun! Where are you?” I shouted.

My mind cleared for a moment when I heard my own voice, but it soon clouded over again. Just as I felt my consciousness fading away, I heard a voice.

“Saki! What are you doing here?”

“I don’t know. I don’t even know where…”

The mist suddenly vanished as if it had been sucked away and the ground returned to its familiar solidity.


Page 181-182

“Shun!”

A young man stood twenty meters ahead, wearing the purity mask that the shinshi wear during the demon chasing festival. But the voice was unmistakably Shun’s.

“You shouldn’t have come. Go home, Saki.”

I shook my head.

“Look at this,” he pointed at the ground.

At first it was too dark to see, but then the ground began to glow softly and I saw that it was covered with writhing insects.

All of them were deformed. Moths of all sizes unable to fly because of their wilted wings and bulging abdomens. Beetles with the legs on one side of their bodies elongated as if on stilts, stumbling around in endless circles. And centipedes with their front and rear ends fused together so that they were literal rings.

“If you don’t want to end up like this, leave now.”

“No,” I said stubbornly. “Tell me what exactly is going on. I won’t move an inch until you do.”

“Don’t be stupid!” Shun said sharply.

“I’m fine with being stupid. I came all the way here to rescue you. A tainted cat almost killed me along the way,” I said in a choked voice.

“You met a cat?”

“Yeah. I was saved thanks to the charm you gave me. But there’s probably another cat around.”

“I see…” He took a deep breath. “Fine. Ten minutes. You can stay for ten minutes and I’ll explain as much as I can. But you have to leave once time is up.”


Page 183-184

I couldn’t stand here and argue with him forever, so I nodded.

Suddenly the area was lit as if by a spotlight. I looked up and saw that the aurora filled the entire sky. A curtain of pale green hung across the sky, blended with ripples of red, pink and purple light.

“How…? Shun, are you doing this?”

I knew that the aurora only appeared at the north and south poles. Although I didn’t understand how it worked with solar wind and plasma and whatever, I could tell that pulling off a stunt like this was something not even Shisei Kaburagi could do.

“…I would have to break our promise if a tainted cat attacked us while we’re talking. Let’s go to the bungalow,” he jerked his head at the building behind him.

I noticed it for the first time. The wavering light from the aurora shone upon a small house, strangely crooked, as if seen through a distorted lens. The beams supporting the building were twisted, and the straw on the roof stuck out in all directions like an angry porcupine.

“Why is the house all weird?”

“Even now, I still keep trying to change it back to normal.”

He went in through the oval doorway and I followed.

“Ten minutes…I think I can keep it under control for that long.”

Wasp balls that had been strewn all over the floor lifted into the air. I felt like I had walked into a hornet’s nest as the balls hummed loudly.

“What is this for? It’s so noisy.”

“It can’t be helped. Bear with them for now.”

Shun crossed the dingy room and sat down at a large wooden table. Its warped surface was covered with books and piles of paper.

“Will you sit over there?”

He indicated a chair at the other end of the room. I shook my head and stood in the middle of the bungalow, looking around. Everything was deformed in some way, even things made of what were supposed to be sturdy materials like wood and stone. I felt like my senses were malfunctioning or that the fabric of reality was wearing thin.


Page 185-187

“Where should I start? …all problems stem from the human mind.”

I frowned, completely lost as to what he was talking about.

“The conscious self is just the tip of the iceberg. The subconscious that exists below the surface is many times greater. That’s why we can never fully understand our thoughts and feelings.”

“I didn’t come for a psychology lecture. I want to know what’s happening to you.”

“I’m explaining right now,” he said in a muffled voice.

“Why are you wearing that mask? Take it off. It gives me the creeps.”

“I can’t,” Shun said curtly. “Besides, there’s no time. …listen. No matter what people do, they can never completely control their mind. Even if they think they think they can control their conscious thoughts, they don’t know what’s going on in their subconscious. Our cantus is the most tangible manifestation of that.”

“What do you mean?”

“For physical actions, there are multiple stages between forming an idea and completing it. Motive comes from our subconscious and must pass through our conscious mind before it can be realized, so logic and reason can change or stop an action from being taken. However, for our cantus, the inception and execution of an action is more or less simultaneous. Even if it’s wrong, there’s no time to correct it.

“But don’t we have to follow prescribed methods and picture very specific things to use cantus?”

“Those images are consciously created, but there are still things hidden in the darkness of our subconscious.”

The pitch of the humming wasp balls seemed to rise  slightly.

“I don’t understand what you’re saying. Even if there were images we weren’t aware of deep in our minds, we wouldn’t be able to make use of them. For one thing, if we don’t chant our mantra, our cantus wouldn’t work.”

“You don’t understand. No matter how strictly you try to control it through hypnotic suggestions and mantras, cantus always leaks through the holes in our subconscious.”

“Leaks?”

“Yeah. Cantus is constantly leaking out. In a sense, we are always subconsciously changing the world around us.”

“That’s…” I was speechless.

I thought the idea was ridiculous, but couldn’t get the words out.

“Saki, what do you think the Holy Barrier is for? Do you think it can protect us against threats from the outside?”

“I don’t know. What do you mean?” I was totally confused.

“The Holy Barrier was created to deal with internal threats, not external ones. And the threat is our leaking cantus. Whether it’s karma demons or fiends, all the things we are afraid of come from within.”

Shun’s voice was calm, but the spinning wasp balls began to quiver.


Page 188-189

“Of course, the power that leaks out is feeble and won’t wreak havoc overnight. But if we are continually exposed to these thoughts, there’s no telling what the result will be. That’s why we need to direct it outside.”

“How?”

“We’ve been conditioned to fear the outside world since childhood. The image of that dark boundless world merges with the dark universe that is our subconscious. In our minds, the subconscious becomes directly linked to the outside world, and the cantus that leaks out is directed outside the Holy Barrier. The barrier is a psychological device that helps “purify” us.

I didn’t really understand all the difficult things he was saying.

“…so, what happens to the cantus that is directed outside?”

“It probably takes effect on various things. No one has researched this, so we don’t really know.”

Shun spread out his hands and the swarm of wasp balls began cruising slowly around the room.

“But I think it does explain some things. For example, the minoshiro. It didn’t exist a thousand years ago. In evolutionary terms, a thousand years is equivalent to one night. The ancestor of the minoshiro was probably the sea slug, but how did it manage to evolve so drastically in such a short amount of time?”

“Our cantus created the minoshiro?”

“Not just that. Possibly tiger crabs and haythatchers as well. I’ve looked up all the new species that have been discovered in the past thousand years. This extraordinary rate of evolution starts, and ends, around the Holy Barrier.”

What he was saying was so strange that I immediately rejected it.

“…whatever leaks out is just a scrambled collection of thoughts, right? How does that create a clearly defined creature like the minoshiro?”

“There are templates in our collective unconscious. Jung, a psychologist, calls this an archetype. The shadow, the great mother, the wise old man, the trickster, and more. These characters appear in myths all over the world because they are projections of the archetype. It would be really interesting to study which archetypes minoshiro and haythatchers come from.”

I thought over everything I had just heard, but still wasn’t sure if I understood it all.