an English translation of the novel

Page 416-417

“Squonk, do you remember us?”

“Kikikiki… yes, gods.”

“Where did Maria and Mamoru go?” Satoru got right to the point.

“I do’t know, gods.”

“You don’t know? Weren’t you with them?”

“Yes. But they went far away.”

I closed my eyes, unable to resist the despair flooding my heart.

“Far away? Where?”

“I do’t know.”

“Don’t you at least know the direction?”

“I do’t know. K-gods. But I have a ledder.”

From inside his tattered shirt, Squonk took out an envelope and handed it to me. I opened the envelope quickly. The letter inside was written in Maria’s handwriting.

 

To Saki, my love.

 

By the time you read this letter, Mamoru and I are probably somewhere very far away.

I never would have thought I’d have to write such a farewell letter to my dearest friend and lover. I’m really, really sorry.

Please don’t look for us.

Writing this makes me strangely sad. I remember we were so angry when Mamoru left us a letter with these very same words. But I’m afraid I’m not eloquent enough to say it any other way.

I’m really happy that you are so worried about us. And I understand how you feel. If our places had been reversed, I would be worried as well. However, there is no other way.


Page 418-419

We can’t live in Kamisu 66 any longer. The town would not allow it. If it were just me, that might have been alright, but Mamoru has already been branded as one unfit to live. There’s no turning back once you’re branded. Don’t you think we’re treated more like objects to be disposed of if found defective than like human beings? Once the kiln is opened and the pottery examined, all that are found to be warped or cracked are fated to be smashed. If all that awaited us was destruction, then we decided we would rather run away in hopes of finding a different future. 

 

To be honest, I wanted to go with you. That’s the absolute truth. But you’re different from us. I’ve told you before, that you’re an incredibly strong person. I don’t mean physically, or in terms of will or spirit. Rather, you’re easily moved to tears and quickly discouraged. I loved that part about you too. But no matter what difficulties you face, even if every fiber of your being is consumed by grief, you always recover. You don’t break easily.

I’m certain you can continue to live and become a valuable member of the community.

The same doesn’t go for Mamoru. And if I let him out of my sight, he will not live long. Please understand.

 

Once I left town, one thing became clear to me.

The towns are twisted.

Don’t you think so? Can towns that kill their children to maintain peace and order be considered a normal human society? According to the false minoshiro, our history is one filled with bloodshed. However, I don’t think our current society is any better than the dark ages of the past. Looking back on what happened in the towns, I am beginning to see what it is that warps it.

It is the adults’ deep fear of all children. 

Perhaps this has always been this case. It’s obvious that seeing the next generation tear down everything you have struggled to build is difficult to accept, especially if it’s your own children. 


Page 420-421

The way the adults of Kamisu 66 look upon their children is different, however. It’s as if they are watching a row of eggs hatching, waiting anxiously to see if it is an angel, or, in a one in a million chance, a demon. 

Based on intuition and premonition, hundreds upon thousands of eggs are smashed and discarded, and I refuse to be one of them.

When I decided that I had to leave the home I was born and raised in, I was overcome by sadness and loneliness. But when I thought about how everyone else would feel, it gave me pause. If I were to be eliminated by the town, my parents would be devastated at first, but forget about me in time. Just as your parents did with your sister.  

I believe that our relationship is different. If I were to be disposed of, I’m sure you wouldn’t leave me to die. If you were in danger, Satoru or I would do anything to save you.

We had another friend. One whose name we aren’t even allowed to remember. He, X, would have come to our aid too, right?

That’s why I have to help Mamoru now.

But being separated from you and Satoru is so incredibly painful. 

 

Luckily, we have our cantus, a powerful tool that will probably help us survive even if we are cast out into the wilderness. That is the one thing for which I am deeply grateful to the town and to Sage Academy. 

From now on, Mamoru and I will create a new life together. 

To that end, I have a request. If the town asks about us, I want you to tell them that we have died. We are planning to go far away to escape the eye of the townspeople, but if they could forget about us, it would help me sleep much better at night. 

I hope from the bottom of my heart that there will come a day when we will meet again.

 

With love, Maria


Page 422-423

My tears continued to fall long after I had finished the letter.

Inside the envelope was a sketch by Mamoru of Maria and me, smiling together.

As Satoru took the letter and began reading it silently, he put his arm around my shoulder. I tried to stifle my sobs, but the tears just wouldn’t stop. The feeling that I would never see Maria again seemed to be turning into reality.

 

After the snow hut was destroyed, the only clue we had to go on was Squonk. So that was what we ordered the Robber Fly colony to look for. Even though we didn’t completely trust Yakomaru, the situation was dangerous enough that we needed all the help we could get.

But in the end, we were the ones that had been used. To the cunning queerat, tricking a couple of blindly desperate kids was child’s play.

The robber flies from which the colony gets their name are so called because of the vicious way they trap and suck out the innards of other insects. The characters in the name, 塩屋, come from the white tip at the end of the male fly’s body. Another species with the same characteristic is called the great birdcatcher fly.1 There are no records of this species in the ancient encyclopedias, so they must have appeared only in the past millennium. Even now they are rarely seen, apart from a small area outside the Holy Barrier. Compared to robber flies, they are much larger, between thirteen and eighteen centimeters in length, with long, thin bodies like a dragonfly’s, lined with numerous spiracles for efficient oxygen exchange. Because of this, we used to call them thousand-eyed dragonflies when we were younger.

Great birdcatcher flies tend to lurk behind tree branches, waiting for sparrows, thrushes, white-eyes, Japanese tits, shrikes, starlings and other small birds to pass by before attacking from behind and killing the bird by severing its medulla oblongata with its sword like mouth. Then it would gorge itself on the birds blood until it was so fat it could no longer fly. They have even been known to attack crows.

Robber flies are called 虫引虻 (mushihiki abu, literally bugcatcher flies) in Japanese. There is a related subfamily of flies, which in English is still called robber flies, but in Japanese is シオヤアブ (shioya abu), and this is the name of the queerat colony. It’s usually written in katakana, but the book uses the kanji 塩屋虻 (still pronounced shioya abu), because 塩屋 describes the white tip on fly’s body. So when Saki talks about the birdcatcher flies, 塩屋大鳥引 (shioya ootorihiki, literally white-tip big birdcatcher), she’s referring to the bugcatcher naming convention. The name birdcatcher fly is made up, because no such thing exists.


Page 424-425

While the Robber Fly colony may symbolize the bottom of the food chain in name, their penchant for overthrowing their superiors make them more predators, like the great birdcatcher, than prey.

 

After somehow following the trail to the Goat Moth colony, further clues as to Maria’s whereabouts stopped abruptly.

Despite Yakomaru’s promise to put forth every effort in the search, we had no idea exactly how much we could rely on him, and there was no way he would be able to do it in time. My promise to Tomiko, to find and bring Maria and Mamoru back by tomorrow, was looking more and more hopeless.

Satoru and I discussed for a while, and came up with an alternative plan.

“As you wish! Leave it all your servant Yakomaru.”

There was no choice but to follow Maria’s instructions in the letter and report to the town that they were dead. When I asked Yakomaru to corroborate with our story, he promised to do so without a second of hesitation. I had thought for sure that he would disapprove of lying to the Ethics Committee, but he agreed so readily it made me suspicious.

“I think the best story will be to say that they were swept away by an avalanche. Since no one knows where they were buried, it’ll be difficult to find the bodies.”

True, that was the most plausible story. For someone with cantus to fall to their death was unusual, but saying that Maria had fallen trying to save Mamoru as he fell from his sled would probably work.

“It might take a bit of time, but I believe we will be able to produce some bones. If those are presented to the committee, it might help the story.”

We started.

“What do you mean, bones? Where are you thinking of getting them?” Satoru asked, his tone severe.

Yakomaru went pale and stammered, “…no, that is not what I meant! You misunderstand! Of course, procuring a god’s bones would be impossible. Forgive me for saying so, but some of our bones are visually similar to yours. An exceptionally tall queerat is about the same height as a young god. So, if we carefully scrape those bones against rocks…”