an English translation of the novel

Page 206-207

Commotion surrounded me. The screeching of chairs being pushed back. The rhythm of footsteps on the wooden floor. The vibration of students jumping around. The sound of steam whistling from the pot on a stove in the middle of the classroom.

Voices with strange accents. Boisterous laughter. Conversations muffled as if I were listening underwater. Low mutters from an unknown person.

Everyone wanted someone to hear their words. But when all these voices joined together, they filled the air with a meaningless buzz.

Even if the thoughts of every person in the room were spoken aloud, they might all be the same thing. Each individual’s thought has meaning, but when you put them together, they lose direction and become nothing more than a chaotic blend of noises. Just like our leaking cantus.

I was lost in a sea of incoherent thoughts. Leaking… What was it?

“What are you daydreaming about?”

The words appeared on my notebook. The ‘o’ in “you” had a winking face drawn in and the ‘u’ in “about” had been turned into a happy face. I turned and saw Maria looking somewhat concernedly at me.

“Just thinking about something.”

“Let me guess. It’s about Ryou?”

“Ryou?” I frowned.

Maria took my confusion to mean something else.

“No need to hide it. You’re worried about whether he’ll pick you, right? Don’t worry. He definitely likes you.”


Page 208-209

Ryou Inaba. A cheerful boy who I had known since childhood. A natural leader everyone looked up to. But…I was suddenly filled with a sense of discomfort. Why him?

“Ryou’s in team two though. Why would he choose me?”

“What are you saying, all of a sudden?” Maria exclaimed. “That was only in the very beginning, wasn’t it? Ever since he joined team one, he’s always hung out with us.”

Oh right. Ryou had been added our team partway through. Because team two had six members and we only ever had four.

But why weren’t there enough members to begin with…

“Saki, are you okay? You’re acting kind of weird,” Maria put her hand on my forehead as if to check if I had a fever. Then she suddenly closed the gap between us and kissed me on the lips.

“Stop it,” I turned away hastily.

No one was looking at us, but I felt embarrassed all the same.

“See? Now you’re all better,” she said.

“I wasn’t asking you to do that.”

“You’re hoping someone else would, eh?”

“I wasn’t thinking that!”

“You two are pretty close,” Ryou appeared behind Maria.

I felt my face turn red. Maria was going to misinterpret this too, I thought, and turned even redder.

“We’re living out our love here. You jealous?” Maria asked as she hugged me to her chest.

“A little, to tell the truth.”

“Of who?”

“Both of you, I guess.”


Page 210-211

“Liar.”

Simply put, Ryou was smart, tall, and well-liked; you just couldn’t ignore his existence.

On the other hand, he wasn’t the type to think too deeply about things. He wasn’t dumb by any means, but his responses never went beyond the surface of the issue at hand. And he wasn’t particularly stellar at using cantus either…

This made me feel uneasy too. Who exactly was I comparing him to?

“Saki, can we talk before the afternoon classes start?” he asked.

“Hm. I’ll get out of your way then,” Maria floated up in the air and pirouetted, her long red hair fluttering behind her.

“Mamoru has only ever had eyes for you, you know,” Ryou said to her. “When you won the preliminary poll by a landslide, it really shook him up.”

She chuckled, “It’s a sin to be too popular, isn’t it?”

Maria flew away like a whimsical dragonfly and Ryou turned toward me.

“Let’s go somewhere quiet.”

“Alright.”

I had no reason to refuse. I followed him out of the classroom, but stopped short when he made to turn left.

“Wait, I don’t want to go over there.”

“Why?” he looked a little incredulous.

“I…what do you want to do over there?”

I wasn’t entirely sure why I didn’t want to go in that direction either.

“No one will bother us there. It just leads to the inner yard.”

Right. I didn’t want to go near the inner courtyard. But why did I feel so opposed to it?


Page 212-213

“Don’t you want to go outside instead? The weather’s so nice.”

“Oh, sure.”

We turned right in the hallway and went out into the schoolyard. The weather was indeed nice, but there was a chill in the air. Ryou wrapped his arms around himself for warmth. No doubt he was thinking that I was some crazy woman who didn’t know what winter was.

“I’m going to nominate you as my duty partner,” he said, cutting right to the chase.

“Thanks.”

I wasn’t quite sure what to say, so I used the safest reply.

“That’s it?” Ryou sounded disappointed.

“What do you mean?”

“What are you going to do? Are you going to nominate me?” he pressed.

“I…”

This winter, everyone in Sage Academy would be broken up into pairs to serve on duty. In theory everyone would be in male-female pairs, but we didn’t have the same number of each gender, so there would also be teams of three as well as pairs of the same gender.

On the surface, our duties encompassed only day-to-day and event preparations, but for some reason, a pair could only be formed if boy and girl chose each other. So in our minds, this was a nothing other than blatant declaration of love.

During that time,  it was an undeniable reality that the school controlled all our romantic relationships. That was what 「番」 represented. The usual definition was just to perform various tasks, but dictionary says that it also means ‘couple’. Given that the Ethics Committee and Board of Education seemed to be obsessed with word meanings, this idea probably wasn’t too farfetched. 1

“Sorry. I haven’t decided yet.”

Since Ryou had been so straightforward with me, I did the same.

“Do you have someone else in mind?” he asked worriedly.

1 番 can mean ‘turn’, ‘pair’, or ‘couple’, depending on the context. So 当番 can mean ‘to be your turn (to do something)’ aka “duty”, or ‘to be a pair/couple’ (although this isn’t a normal reading, as far as I know).

Page 214-215

“Umm, not really…”

Satoru’s face popped into my mind, but I quashed the idea immediately. He was a good friend, but I didn’t see him in a romantic way.

“Why are you choosing me?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” Ryou answered confidently. “You’ve always been the only one for me.”

“Always? Since when?”

“When? It’s kind of hard to put a finger on something like that, right? But if I had to decide…I guess,” Ryou suddenly looked a little uncertain, “when we were together during summer camp.”

I remembered the star-filled night from two years ago.

“What’s your favorite memory from camp?”

“That…all of it. Being together in the canoe. Oh, remember when you were so into the scenery that you almost fell in the river and I caught you at the last second? That was a close one.”

I frowned. Did that really happen? There had been some dangerous situations during camp, but we had been separated during those times. So wouldn’t it be more normal to remember our first night of camp, or the day we were reunited?

“What about night canoeing?”

“Night canoe?” Then he remembered. “Oh yeah, that was fun.”

Fun… The memory of that night was important to me, and I didn’t like that he summed it up with such a banal word.

We passed by Satoru on the way back to the classroom. He was looking in our direction with a strange expression on his face, but his gaze wasn’t on me. No surprise there since he and Ryou had been in a relationship a while back.

But the look in his eyes gave me goosebumps. It wasn’t a look of jealousy or infatuation. I can only describe it as an expression of pure confusion. Like someone who had seen something completely irreconcilable with reality.