an English translation of the novel

Page 316-317

“What was it?” Satoru leaned forward in anticipation.

“I only caught a glimpse of it before it melted away into the shadows. It was an unbelievably huge, white cat. There were bloodstains on the floor. It might have been hurt by the tornado.”

We were silent.

“Yesterday, I wanted to wait for Mamoru to finish his supplementary classes, but the Sun Prince told me to go home because it would take too long.” Anger flared in Maria’s eyes. “They were planning to isolate and kill him right from the start…”

“Wait. Why do they want to get rid of Mamoru? His cantus is average, and there’s nothing wrong with his personality. He’s quiet and cooperative…”

“How would I know? He saw a copycat. Twice! How can you still doubt him?”

As Satoru and Maria argued, a prickling unease began to grow in my mind.

Based on the stories Tomiko told me, there wasn’t anything strange about wanting to eliminate Mamoru. When he was being stalked by the impure cats, he had used his cantus in a dangerous way toward an unseen attacker. It showed that he might be reckless enough to attack other people if he were frightened. This involuntary confession posed another issue. His cantus couldn’t be properly controlled on a conscious level, which meant that he was at risk for becoming a karma demon in the future…

It scared me that I had unconsciously been thinking about it from the Board of Education’s point of view.

“I remembered something when I saw the copycat,” Mamoru said quietly. “I’d seen it before.”

“What are you talking about?” Satoru asked dumbly.


Page 318-319

“I can’t remember clearly, the memory might have been erased…but I was hiding behind a storeroom in the inner courtyard. When the storeroom opened, a copycat came out.”

“I remember that!” Maria shouted. “I…was there too.”

There was a heavy silence.

Our naive plan to find Mamoru and bring him back was crushed. What would we do now? We were at a loss.

 

Since Mamoru’s leg might be broken, it would be impossible to bring him back right away even if we’d wanted to. So Satoru went back alone to tell the Sun Prince that Maria and I had caught a cold and gone home early.

Maria and I built another snow hut next to Mamoru’s. I had brought a sleeping bag just in case, but Maria didn’t have anything so we went to dig out Mamoru’s sled.

Luckily, Mamoru had more than enough food and daily necessities, so we brought them back on the sled and built a cook fire. We melted snow for water and made dinner for the three of us. Squonk shared some of our dried meat.

“It looks it’ll be clear tomorrow,” I said, sipping tea.

“Guess so,” Maria said, a little curtly.

“If the weather holds, Mamoru can ride the sled.”

“Ride it where?”

“Well…” I stopped.

“I’m not going back.” Mamoru raised his head.

“But-“


Page 320-321

“I’ll be killed.”

“He’s right! He was almost killed once already,” Maria said.

“But realistically, there’s nothing else he can do but go back, right?” I tried to persuade them. “I talked with the head of the Ethics Committee, Tomiko. If we tell her…I’m sure she’ll understand.”

Actually I had absolutely no confidence in anything I just said. Tomiko might decide that Mamoru was indeed a danger to the town, and even if she didn’t, I doubted she would overrule the Board of Education’s decision just to save him.

“No, we can’t trust anyone in the town,” Maria said, point-blank. “You may be right that the Ethics Committee isn’t the one making the decision to eliminate students. But they go along with it. If they didn’t, people wouldn’t disappear. Like your sister, or the girl in our team, or X.”

I thought about the faceless boy. What would he say in this situation?

“So what will he do if he can’t go back?”

Mamoru answered, “Survive on my own.”

“What? This isn’t like going to camp, you know? You’ll have to spend the next few decades by yourself…”

“I don’t like it either. But I’ll manage somehow with my cantus.”

“Somehow…”

“I think we’ll manage.” Once again, Maria came to his rescue. “With enough practice, a person can survive alone. But he won’t be alone. I’ll be with him.”

“You can’t be serious!”

My head spun.

“Mamoru can’t do it alone. Plus, we chose each other as partners.”


Page 322-324

Surprisingly, Mamoru disagreed. “No, you have to go back. Your parents will worry.”

“Why? Don’t you want to be with me?”

“Of course I do. I’m really, really happy. But living away from the town will be difficult. I don’t have a choice since I won’t be allowed to live if I go back. But you can…”

“Don’t worry about that,” she smiled gently. “So that’s why you ran away without telling me. There’s really no one as kind as you are. But it’ll be the two of us from now on. Okay? Promise.”

Mamoru didn’t speak, but tears welled up in his eyes.

I sighed deeply. There was nothing I could say to change their minds.

 

That night, Maria and I made love in the snow hut.

“I won’t be able to meet you again, will I?” I asked petulantly, with my head between her breasts.

“No, we’ll definitely meet again,” she smiled as she stroked my hair. “I love you, Saki, from the bottom of my heart. But right now I’m worried about Mamoru. There’s no one else who will protect him.”

“I know, but…”

“What?”

“I’m jealous.”

“Silly,” she laughed. “From now on, Mamoru and I have to fight to survive the harsh elements of nature. I should be jealous of you.”

“You’re right. I’m sorry,” I apologized meekly.

“You’re forgiven,” she said, tilting my chin up and kissing me lightly.

We kissed each other deeply and passionately, like we never wanted be parted again.

That was the last time Maria and I kissed.