an English translation of the novel

Page 355-356

“You can’t be,” I laughed, thinking it was a joke.

But her expression did not change. “My episode with the fiend when I was a nurse was 245 years ago. And I’ve been chairman for the Ethics Committee for 170 years.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “B-but, how did you…” I couldn’t even finish the question.

“How did I live so long? Why do I look so young? Come now, don’t look at me like you’ve seen a ghost.”

I shook my head.

“My grades in cantus usage were always perfectly average. In today’s Sage Academy, I might even stumble over some of the second year lessons. But there is one thing I can do that no one else, not even Shisei, can. I can regenerate my telomeres. Do you know what those are?”

“No.”

“I see. So even this information is restricted. Telomeres are the parts at the ends of our chromosomes. Every time a cell divides, its telomeres are shortened a little bit because they can’t be fully regenerated. Once the telomeres have worn down, the cells lose their ability to replicate and death is inevitable. So the length of our telomeres dictates the length of our lifespan, like the length of a wick on a candle.”

Since my knowledge of biology was limited by the classes I had taken, I couldn’t fully understand what Tomiko was saying. But the image she created was clear enough. The nucleus of a cell divides the double helix of its DNA in order to replicate. With time, the ends of the strands of DNA shorten. If it were possible to reset these parts to their original length, eternal life was a real possibility.


Page 357-358

“…so even though Satoru is related to me, he’s not my grandson,” Tomiko said, sounding amused. “I still remember the birth of my first grandson 210 years ago. And that saying that grandchildren are cuter than all other children is completely true. I can’t remember them being anything but little angels. But the feeling doesn’t really extend to great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren. Satoru is removed from me by nine generations and so has only 1/512th of my genes. That’s not to say I don’t adore him, but the feeling of being blood relatives isn’t really there.”

So it’s possible that even though Satoru calls Tomiko “grandmother”, he doesn’t actually feel that it’s true. Plus, his two real grandmothers are probably still living, making it even stranger to call her that.

“I’ll tell you everything when you return.” she said.

Before I left, she said something that sounded like a parting gift. “I’ll have a new lesson for you once you return; you must be bored with what you’re doing at Sage Academy.”

“It’s…fixing a vase could come in useful.”

“Indeed. But I’ll share a little secret with you. The mental image to repair your telomeres is a little like the one needed to fix a broken vase.”

Remembering how naive I was back then always makes me break out in a cold sweat. Someone with that sort of knowledge could achieve any goal, or act upon any desire as easily as taking candy from a baby. (I just recently came across that phrase in one of the ancient books and thought it was a terrible metaphor. Did people really do that back then?)

Anyway, I set off with the boat in high spirits. My fourteen year-old body was filled to the brim with the conviction that I would find Maria and Mamoru and bring them home.

Of course, saving my friends was the most important thing, but I couldn’t deny that in the back of my mind, I was thrilled to have been the chosen one.

Now that I think about it, since I had been appointed the successor to the current leader, I probably tried to act the part.

At first, spurred on by the excitement of such a promotion, I tried to go as fast as I could. But after a while, the biting wind cooled my head a little.

Traveling alone was dangerous; Mamoru was the prime example of that. If Squonk hadn’t rescued him, he’d definitely be dead by now.


Page 359-360

I stopped the boat.

I needed a partner. One way or another, I had to find Satoru, but I didn’t know where to start. I do know he was questioned by the Board of Education after he came back, and he most likely made it out alright because Tomiko was there.

I regretted leaving in such a hurry. I should have asked Tomiko for permission to bring Satoru with me. I struggled to decide whether I should go back. But something made me hesitate.

Snow fell heavily, flakes melting as they touched the dark surface of the water. The sight reminded me of something.

Tomiko’s eyes. They were dark and fathomless, like she had seen all the mysteries of time…

In the end, I decided to turn back. But as I was about to do so, a boat approached me from behind. It was hard to see through the snow, but I immediately recognized the silhouette of the person speeding toward me. He was probably using the same speedboat as me.

“Hey!” he yelled and waved as if trying to confirm the occupant of the boat ahead of him.

It was Satoru.

“Over here!” I waved back.

“Saki! Thank goodness I caught up to you,” he gasped. “I was afraid I was going to have to look all over for you in this snow.”

“Why? Weren’t you questioned by the Board of Education?”

“Yeah, last night, by that awful Hiromi Torigai. It was bad enough the first time, but they called me again today and I was half ready to be killed.”

“Good thing your grandmother was there.”

Satoru probably didn’t know about his true relationship with Tomiko yet.


Page 361-362

“Yeah… She really saved me there. But I was stuck waiting in a tiny room all morning. When she finally told me to come out, she immediately told me to go after you. I had no idea what was going on so it really surprised me.”

“You know what we need to do?”

“We need to bring Maria and Mamoru back, right?”

That was all he needed to know.

Unlike before, we now knew where Mamoru’s snow hut was, so we used the waterways and stopped as close to our destination as possible. We went all the way to the edge of Oakgrove, then traveled two hundred meters over land, skimming through the snow on the boat’s skis. We ran over quite a few rocks along the way, and the bottoms of the boats were probably badly scratched, but there was no time to worry about that.

It was a relief when we arrived at the Tone River. We slipped into the water and traveled two kilometers upriver before landing again.

We moored the boats on some rocks to keep them from drifting away. I finally noticed that they had the “God’s Eye” seal on the sides, along with a red number and a Sanskrit character. It was the first time I had ever seen the word Ban, the symbol of Vairocana, used. The boats probably belonged to the Ethic’s Committee, and had undoubtedly never been handled so roughly before.

We unloaded our skis and shouldered our backpacks.

“Let’s go.”

It was barely past noon, but the sky was slowly filling with clouds, making it look like the sun was about to set soon. It was still snowing, and the cold wind felt like knives on our skin.

As if pulled by an invisible rope, we skied straight up the hill, snow flying out behind us a we went.