an English translation of the novel

Page 216-217

 

That night I had a long, rambling dream. Most of it was forgotten as soon as I woke up, but the final scene was burned into my mind.

I was in a dim, empty place. In my hands I held a bouquet of flowers. I realized that I was in the school’s inner courtyard. It was filled with gravestones as far as the eye could see. No matter how hard I tried, it was too dark to make out the words carved on the stone tablets.

I put the flowers on the grave directly before me. It was new, but the stone had already been weathered away and it sank into the ground as if melting into it. It was impossible to read the name on it.

As I stood there, an intense feeling of loneliness washed over me, like a hole had opened in my chest.

“Have you forgotten about me already?”

Someone spoke to me. A boy’s voice. It was painfully familiar, but I didn’t know whose it was.

“I’m sorry. I just can’t remember.”

“I see… I guess it can’t be helped.”

I turned in the direction of the voice, but no one was there.

“Where are you? Let me see your face.”

“I don’t have a face,” he said quietly.

At these words, I recalled an infinite sadness. I see…he didn’t have a face anymore.

“But you should know it well.”

“I don’t know. I can’t remember.”

“It’s not your fault,” the voice said kindly. “They erased my name after burying me.”

“Who? Why would they do that?”

“Look over there. They’ve all been erased.”

There was a strangely-shaped gravestone that looked like a house of cards. Most of it had already crumbled away, rendering the name illegible.


Page 218-219

“There, and there too.”

Farther on, more gravestones stood silently. Those had no names to begin with, only a disc inlaid in the stone. As I approached, I realized that they were mirrors. If I got closer, would they reflect my face? My footsteps faltered.

“It’s okay,” the faceless boy said behind me. “Don’t be afraid. That’s not your grave.”

“Whose is it?”

“Take a good look and you’ll understand.”

I peered into the mirror.

Light flickered in my eyes.

I put a hand up to block the dazzling light. Then slowly, I opened my eyes.

 

Daylight glimmered through a gap in the curtains.

I stretched, got up, and pulled back the curtains. The rising sun dyed the window pane with yellow light. A few puffer sparrows flitted energetically from tree to tree.

It was the same morning scenery as always. I wiped my eyes. Even as I was dreaming I knew I had been crying.

I went and washed my face to prevent my parents from noticing.

The clock on the wall showed that it was not yet seven.

I thought about all the dreams I had ever had. Who did the voice belong to? Why did it sound so familiar, and why did it fill me with such sadness?

Suddenly I realized that the mirror in the dream was one I had seen before. Not in another dream, but in reality.

My heart started pounding. I had seen it when I was very young. Where though? Considering my age then, it couldn’t have been too far away. Somewhere near the house… no, somewhere in the house. There had been a large box stuffed with all sorts of odds and ends that I thought of as a treasure chest. I would spend all day digging through it and not get bored.


Page 220-221

The shed.

There was a large shed near our house. The top half was made of plaster and the bottom half was built with corrugated metal. It was surprisingly spacious inside and I had spent much of my childhood playing in there.

I put on a jacket, slipped quietly down the stairs, past the entrance hall, and out into the yard. The sharp morning air made my face sting, but felt thoroughly refreshing as I took a few deep breaths.

I opened the large door of the shed with some difficulty.

There was barely enough light coming through the wooden slats of the window to illuminate the inside. The room was about eight tatami mats large, packed full of shelves, with a staircase to the second floor at the far end.

Relying on my vague memories of the place, I went up the stairs. There were shelves along the wall, with sturdy wooden boxes on them.

Each box probably weighed a hundred kilograms or more. Using my cantus, I opened each in turn.

It was in the fifth box.

I took out a circular mirror about thirty centimeters in diameter. Unlike the usual silver-backed glass mirror, it was much heavier, absorbed heat very quickly, and appeared to be made of bronze. It was exactly the same as the one in my dream.

Slowly, memories began to resurface. I had definitely seen this mirror in the past. And probably more than once. I examined it carefully. Bronze left out for a long time would begin to oxidize, and in extreme cases, turn completely green. But the surface looked only slightly cloudy.

The last time I had seen the mirror was within the past five years at the very least. It must have been polished at that time.

I put the box back and brought the mirror outside with me.

I didn’t want my parents to see, so I went around the house and set off down the waterway in Hakuren 4. Even though it was still early morning, there were already quite a few boats on the canal. The wind coming off the water was cold. Doing my best to be inconspicuous, I traveled down the less populated waterways and stopped at an empty dock.


Page 222-223

I rubbed the mirror with the piece of cloth it came with to try to get rid of the cloudiness. It was more difficult that I had anticipated. I used my cantus, imagining the dirt falling off of the mirror, and gradually the bronze regained its pinkish-gold luster.

Ever since I found the mirror, I had been thinking that it was a magic mirror.

Magic mirrors are a kind of mirror created using a technique that has existed since the ancient times. You can’t see anything by simply looking at it, but if you direct the light of the sun hitting it onto a surface, words or pictures appear in the projection. It worked by scattering light from micron-thin variations in thickness of the bronze. The projections only show up in sunlight; candles, torches, and phosphorescent lights have no effect.

In the past, the bronze first had to be ground down to the proper thinness, then the design was painstakingly scratched into the bronze and polished until it was invisible to the naked eye. But it was the subject of one of our first practical lessons at Sage Academy. In order to master the delicate touch needed to control our cantus, we all had to create a magic mirror. I remember completing mine in just one lesson. It said “Saki” and had arabesque designs on it. I thought I had done a splendid job.

I tracked the sun with the mirror and directed it at the wall of a building near the dock.

The letters that appeared in the circle of light were so clumsy that they seemed more like messy sketches. Still, they clearly spelled “Yoshimi”.

 

When I entered the classroom, Ryou was chatting and laughing with his friends, as usual. Most of them were from team two.

“Hey, I’m counting on you today,” Ryou said when he spotted me, smiling with perfect confidence.

“I need to talk to you.”

“Sure, where should we go?”

“Doesn’t matter, it won’t take long.”

I stood up and left the classroom. Ryou, aware that his friends were watching, put on an air of self-possessed calm and followed. I stopped in the middle of the hallway that led to the inner courtyard.

“There are a few things I want to ask you.”


Page 224-225

“Okay, shoot,” he said, casual as always.

“It’s about when we went night canoeing.”

“You’re still going on about that?” he said with a wry smile, shifting his gaze away.

“You taught me the basic tenet of night canoeing. Do you remember what it was?”

 

“Don’t look at the fire.” 

The faceless boy’s words echoed in my mind.

“Why?”

“The first rule of night canoeing is to get your eyes adjusted to the darkness before you go. Otherwise you won’t be able to see anything when you start rowing.”

 

“It was so long ago, I don’t really remember… Something about watching out for the rocks, I guess?”

“That’s fine. Here’s something more recent then. Why did you break up with Satoru?”

Ryou was completely flummoxed.

“It…it doesn’t matter anymore, does it?”

“You guys were such good friends. It even made me jealous.”

“Oh really,” he said uncomfortably.

“Okay, last question. It’s about summer camp again.”

“Fine, whatever,” he replied carelessly.

“It’s about the priest Rijin. Do you remember how he died?”

“Who’s Rijin? …he died? What are you talking about?”

“It’s fine,” I interrupted his confused babbling. “I guess it really wasn’t you.”

“What do you mean?”

“I won’t be putting your name down for pair duty.”