an English translation of the novel

Page 59-60

Another silence filled the room as everyone was struck dumb with shock.

“Why…do you think that?”

“Everything on the battlefield had been turned to ash, but there was one thing, I noticed, that remained untouched. The arrows.”

“What do arrows have to do with anything?”

“The Giant Hornet and Robber Fly colonies use two different types of arrows that are easily distinguishable from each other. There were a good number of Giant Hornet arrows left at the scene. And they were all completely undamaged.”

“And?”

“If the arrows had hit something and bounced off to land on the ground, there would be obvious signs of damage to them. The only way they could be in perfect condition is if they had been stopped in midair by cantus.”

If anyone other than Shisei Kaburagi had put forth this idea, no one would have believed them.

“Ah! So then…excuse me,” Satoru hurriedly suppressed his excited shout.

“It doesn’t matter. Continue,” Tomiko said, looking kindly at him.

“Right. There was something I found odd when I was at the scene. None of the dead Giant Hornet soldiers were carrying weapons. Of course, the victors in a battle usually take their opponent’s weapons, but they would also usually leave the broken ones behind. …but if their weapons had all been snatched away by cantus, that would explain it.”

“B-but, there’s no one in this town that would side with the Robber Flies and kill the Giant Hornets. And obviously no one on the Wildlife Protection or any other division in our department would do it,” Mr. Kaneko said, sounding panicked.

“Yes. Of course, it is not anyone living here. Let me think…yes. Could it be another district?”

At Kaburagi Shisei’s words, excited chatter arose once again, but Tomiko shook her head firmly.

“That’s impossible. The closest districts to us are Iroishi 71 in Tohoku, Tainai 84 in Hokuriku, and Koumi 95 in Chuubu. None of them would be stupid enough to try something like this.”


Page 61-62

“Tomiko has been in contact with these districts for years and has kept a close eye on them,” Hiromi Torigai added in her quiet voice.

“Yes, I have been observing them for a very long time. Every district does the same. We all fear not knowing what is happening outside our borders. So the nine districts in the country gather to talk about the appearances of fiends and karma demons, as well as exchange other information deemed important for public safety. So I can promise you that the only thing every district cares about right now is sustaining a peaceful living environment.”

“I see. Obviously, they gain no advantage by provoking anxiety in others,” Shisei Kaburagi said casually, as if he had known this all along. “So now the possibilities are even fewer. If it isn’t someone from our district, and it’s not anyone from another district, then what about those that left our town in the past?”

My heart almost leapt out of my chest. He was talking about Maria and Mamoru.

“That is impossible,” Tomiko said solemnly. “Those children are dead.”

Lies, I thought. Tomiko was covering for them. If she wasn’t…

“I have heard that we have received their remains. But that was two or three years after they went missing.”

“Yes. So you should be clear about what happened.”

Remains… My head was spinning from disbelief.

“But I am becoming suspicious of those too. Because the one who discovered and brought us the remains is none other than the one who I suspect is behind this atrocity. Yakomaru.”

My mind snapped back into focus as I remembered the words Yakomaru had said twelve years ago.


Page 63-64

 

“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.”

“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…”

 

That’s right. No doubt that’s what happened. Yakomaru brought them the false bones. For a schemer like him, it would have been easy as pie. He cleverly manipulated queerat bones and…

“The bones are definitely real.”

I wondered if I was mishearing. What was Tomiko saying?

“We examined them as thoroughly as possible. There is no doubt the bones are human. There were no inconsistencies in age or gender either. Their dental records from Harmony School put it beyond all possible doubt, but to be even more sure, we had the experts at the Lotus Farms confirm that the DNA matched as well.”

No way. She was lying. I couldn’t believe it. Maria couldn’t have died. She just couldn’t. Cold sweat ran down my back and my vision began to dim.

“I can say with absolute confidence that Maria Akizuki and Mamoru Itou are dead. They had nothing to do with this incident.”

Tomiko’s words resounded like the wrathful judgement from the god of death.

What happened after that? I can only remember vague images and fragments of conversation.

The meeting was in such disorder it took a while to reach a conclusion. There were debates on how we should find the person helping the Robber Flies, but the fates of the queerats seemed to have been decided from the start.

Throughout all this, I felt Satoru glancing anxiously over at me.

Hiromi Torigai suggested that the next week’s summer festival be postponed until everything was settled, but the only reaction she got was pitying smiles from those who thought she was simply being her usual neurotic self.

In the end, the topic of how to search for the human traitor was left for next time. The committee unanimously agreed that Robber Fly colony and all its allies were to be exterminated even though we didn’t fully understand the extent of their crimes yet.


Page 65-66

Inui and four other members of the Wildlife Protection Division were introduced to enthusiastic applause. They were all veterans who had mastered the skills to efficiently wipe out tens of thousands of queerats in a short amount of time. It was fitting that the queerats called them gods of death.

After the Security Council meeting, I bid a quick goodbye to my parents and Satoru and left feeling sick to my stomach. I repeated Maria’s name to myself as tears streamed down my face. But even as my mind was in such disarray, a small part remained surprisingly calm and kept asking the same questions over and over.

What had I expected these past twelve years? Did I actually believe that Maria and Mamoru would still be alive? And even if I said I did, was I just trying to deceive myself?

Maybe I had been slowly preparing myself over the years to face their deaths.

The sadness I had felt when I left the faceless boy was already more than I could bear. Now all I could do was wall off the part of my heart that contained all my pain, and let it quietly die in isolation.

 

There are quite a few annual festivals in Kamisu 66. In the spring there is the Planting Festival, Demon-chasing Festival, and Illness-dispelling Festival. In the summer, there’s the Summer Festival, Fire Festival, and Spirit Festival. In the fall, the Harvest Festival and Labor Thanksgiving Festival. And in the winter, the Snow Festival, New Year Festival, Sagichou Fire Festival…

Out of all those, the one with the most ceremonial, and also most exciting one was the Summer festival, also called the Monster Festival. The name makes it sound kind of scary, like everyone dresses up like monsters to scare each other, but it’s not. Most of the dressing up involves festival committee members wearing straw hats and covering their faces to offer wine to festival goers. In order to create the right atmosphere, the Summer Festival is always held on the night of a new moon. On that night, all the lights in the town are extinguished. The only illumination comes from the braziers and lanterns lining the canals and the occasional firework. Enveloped in darkness, the town is transformed into a stage for the next act.

But from another perspective, it is also a time when the district is completely isolated.

We are just one of the nine little districts scattered throughout the entire Japanese archipelago. Although we cling desperately to our “Japanese” identity, the truth is we had been completely cut off from several millennia of Japanese history. Kamisu 66 was just an island lost in time…


Page 67-68

All of our festivals have been celebrated annually for over a century, but they are all just recreations based on texts and images from the ancient civilization. The Monster Festival originally came from a foreign land as well, but we revived it with carefully added components from other traditional celebrations.

Sometimes, I wonder. Are these borrowed and fake traditions, after being celebrated for hundreds of years, now considered real?

 

The canoe stopped right in front of a brazier, and I was temporarily blinded after being in the dark for so long. I swayed unsteadily on my wooden clogs.

With Satoru’s help, I managed to disembark onto the dock.

“You okay?”

“Yeah.”

Suddenly, a memory from a Summer Festival over ten years ago swam into focus. Maria and I dancing around delightedly in our new yukata.

 

“Our yukata match!”

“Yeah, we’re twins!”

I still remember what they looked like. Mine was blue with white dots and red goldfish, and Maria’s was white with blue dots and red goldfish.

She spun gracefully in her clogs. Her movements were so beautiful that I could only stare.

“Let’s go!”

“But if we’re not careful, we’ll get caught by the monsters.”

“It’ll be okay. We can use the magic words.”

“What magic words?”

“The moms were talking about it the other day. It’s called a mantra. I’ll teach you.”

Since we didn’t have cantus yet, the world appeared full of wonder and danger. But we firmly believed that once we were grown up and had our powers, nothing in the world would frighten us.

Maria ran off ahead. As I watched her retreating figure, I suddenly felt helplessly lost, and reached out, shouting her name…