an English translation of the novel

Page 236-237

And beyond that was an even bigger lake, so vast that we couldn’t see the opposite shore. It might even go all the way to Kitaura. Unlike the smaller lake that was formed from collapsed earth, this appeared to be an old dam that had flooded a large part of the forest when it was built. That was probably where the name Withertree came from.

“There can’t be any houses farther out,” Mamoru said, sounding like he wanted to leave as soon as possible. “You’re misremembering. X doesn’t exist.”

“Then why…” Maria said weakly, “do I feel like I know what Saki and Satoru are talking about? That the person I knew wasn’t Ryou, but some other boy.”

“It’s just a trick of the mind. All of us are growing up fast these days, but it’s not just that we’re getting taller, our looks and personality are changing as well.”

Satoru and I looked at each other.

Mamoru’s words were quite different from how we really felt. To me, it felt like time was crawling along slower than a snail. I was a bug trapped in amber, doomed to be suspended in eternity.

“Wasn’t there someone else too…?” Maria said suddenly.

We thought hard.

“It doesn’t really make sense that we started out with only four people. Before Ryou joined, X should have been with us. But then we’re still one short. I can’t really remember, but I think there was another person.”

Slowly, the image of a girl surfaced in my mind. Then the gravestone shaped like a house of cards I had seen in my dream.

“There was. I remember,” Satoru said, rubbing his temples as if he had a headache. “Like with X, it looks like some of my memories of that person remains. But why does no one ever talk about them?”

“Stop it!” Mamoru shouted. “It isn’t right. We shouldn’t be prying into this. If we keep talking about it…” he stopped, looking terrified.


Page 238-239

“What? You think we’ll be disposed of?”

There was a cold silence after I said that.

“Saki, didn’t we talk about this at summer camp too?” Maria asked, her face pale.

“We did. I think we did. I can’t remember anything specific though. I hit a wall or something when I pursue that train of thought,” Satoru said. “But I do remember talking to Saki about it. And also everyone else too. Around the campfire. X agreed with what I said then.”

Satoru was pushing on his temples with both palms as if trying to get rid of a horrible headache.

“Stop! I don’t want to listen to this any more. We shouldn’t be talking about this! We’re violating the Code of Ethics!” Mamoru screamed hysterically.

This was the first time I had ever seen him lose control like that.

“Alright. Calm down,” Maria put her arms around him and patted him soothingly. “Let’s drop it. …okay, you two?” she glared at us.

We nodded.

 

The magic mirror projected its image onto the dark planks of the fence.

Satoru and Maria were silent for a moment. Mamoru had gone home already, saying that he felt sick.

“What do you think?” I pressed.

Satoru finally spoke. “Um. …it’s pretty crude, but I think that’s because the creator was a beginner at using their cantus.”

“Yeah, it’s basically the same as what we did for our assignment,” Maria agreed.


Page 240-241

“Now do you believe that I’m telling the truth?”

“I never thought you were lying in to begin with. And I believe that it was possible you had a sister. Just, isn’t it a bit far-fetched to assume that she was eliminated by the school?”

“If she had died of an accident or sickness, they wouldn’t have had to hide it from me, right?”

Maria avoided my eyes. “I guess that’s true. But maybe they just wanted to protect you from having sad memories.”

“But look at the characters. Don’t they seem too clumsy? Like Satoru said, my sister must have been bad at using her cantus.”

“I won’t deny the possibility, but it’s still just speculation.”

Satoru took the mirror from me and adjusted the angle at which it projected onto the fence.

“Now that I look at it, I wouldn’t say that it’s all badly done. The characters are carved properly stroke by stroke. It’s just that they’re kind of crooked and overlap each other…”

At the time I didn’t understand what Satoru was trying to get at. Much later, I learned that this kind of writing was caused by a type of visual impairment, and was surprised at how perceptive Satoru was. I strongly suspect that my sister had been judged to be inadequate at cantus because of her vision problems, but now that most records have been lost, I would never know for sure.

It appears that these vision problems had been called nearsightedness or astigmatism back in the old days. To treat it, people wore glasses with lenses of various prescriptions. This brought their vision back to normal and they could live life without any problems.

“Anyway, I did have a sister.” I took the mirror back from Satoru and held it up high. “This is the proof.”

“Cut that out,” Satoru said quietly, “you’ll get in trouble if anyone sees you.”

“Saki, I understand how you feel,” Maria whispered with her arms around my shoulders. “But please don’t stir up any more trouble.”


Page 242-244

“Stir up trouble? I just want to know the truth,” I said indignantly. “Not just about my sister, but also that girl in our team. And even more importantly…”

X. The faceless boy. The person I loved more than anyone else, whose face I could no longer recall.

“Our friend.”

“I understand. It’s not easy for me either. I have so many memories of him, but all the vital parts are missing. I want to do something about it just as much as you do. But I’m more worried about the friends that are alive right now.”

“You don’t have to worry about me.”

“I’m not. Because you’re strong,” she said.

“Me?”

“Yes. I can tell this is harder on you than anyone else. But you’re enduring it. I don’t think most people could bear that pain.”

“What exactly do you take me for?” I said, shaking off the arm she had around my shoulder.

“Don’t take it the wrong way. I’m not saying you’re heartless. On the contrary, you’re more sensitive than most. But you’re able to shoulder that pain and sadness and live on.”

My anger subsided as I saw the tears in her eyes.

“We’re not as strong as you. I always act big, but I’m the first to run away when things get bad. …but there’s someone even weaker than me or Satoru.”

“You mean Mamoru?” Satoru asked.

“Yes. Mamoru is too kind and fragile. He would never recover from betrayal. Not just by people, but also by the world he believes in…” Maria slowly put her arms around me. “The world is full of things that should probably be left unknown. Don’t you think that sometimes the truth is the cruelest of all? Not everyone can bear it. I’m certain Mamoru would lose it if you brought up any more of these frightening truths.”

Nobody spoke for a few moments. I sighed.

“Okay.”

“Really?”

“I promise Mamoru won’t hear another word of it.” I hugged her tightly. “But I won’t give up until I find the truth. Because if I don’t…it would haunt me forever.”

 


Page 244-246

The faceless boy. I wasn’t going to let him be forgotten just like that. It would mean he had never existed in the first place. I would get back my memories of him no matter what.

The three of us embraced, kissed, comforted each other and drew strength from each other’s presence.

We headed back to the dock just outside the town of Waterwheel. The place was usually empty, and the fence that ran along the waterway made it the perfect spot for our meeting.

As we untied our boats, a voice called to us from behind.

“Do you have a minute?”

I turned to see a middle-aged man and women standing on the dock. There weren’t many people in Kamisu 66 I had never seen, but these two were completely unfamiliar to me. The woman who had spoken was short and plump and gave off an aura of harmlessness. The man was also slightly chubby and smiled kindly at us.

“You’re Saki Watanabe, right? And Maria Akizuki, and Satoru Asahina?” he said.

“Yes,” we answered confusedly.

“Don’t be so nervous. We would like a few words with you, that’s all.”

Were we going to be eliminated? We glanced at each other, but didn’t know what do to.

“Um…are you from the Board of Education?” Satoru asked bravely.

“No, we’re working under your grandmother.” The plump woman smiled at him.

“Really?” Satoru relaxed.

What was going on? I had never heard anything about Satoru’s grandmother before. The woman saw the confused expression on my and Maria’s face and smiled again.

“Satoru Asahina’s grandmother is Tomiko Asahina, the head of the Ethics Committee.”