an English translation of the novel

Page 78-80

When he pushed on the blade, it retracted into the handle.

I remained lying on the floor for a while, utterly confused.

The pain faded away and I could move again.

I got up, seething quietly at this prank. Before I could open my mouth to complain, the changes in my body took me by surprise.

“Shocking, isn’t it? But with this, you’ve passed the final test,” Head Priest Mushin’s face had returned to its usual benevolent expression. “If you can feel another’s pain as your own, there’s nothing to worry about. It’s time to grant you your own mantra.”

My body felt normal again, but I still could do nothing but nod.

“But please don’t forget the pain you felt. Remember it every once in a while and make it a part of you.” His words went deep into my heart. “This is what makes humans different from beasts.”

 

The monk who was praying threw some pill-shaped things and poured fragrant oil into the altar and the flames flared.

The sound of the monks chanting sutras behind me sounded like the echoing chirps of a thousand crickets.

After washing myself, I put on white clothes like those used to dress a corpse. I sat behind the praying monk and put my hands together.

The ritual continued without end as my fatigue peaked. It had to be close to morning. Scattered thoughts floated up and vanished like bubbles. I could no longer think straight.

{Every time something was thrown into the flames, it was as if my sins and worries were being burned away, but the ritual was taking so long that I thought I must be a person with particularly deep sins and worries.}

“Now, your heart and body have been sufficiently cleansed. From here, let the last of your worldly desires be burned away,” Head Priest Mushin said from behind me.

I bowed once. Finally, I was being released.

“Look at the flames.” The voice I heard from the darkness sounded like it was coming from the heavens. “Look at the flames.”

I fixed my gaze on the fire dancing above the altar.

“Try to control the flames.”

“I can’t.” Ever since the Spirit of Blessing came, I hadn’t once tried to use my cantus.

“It’s okay, you can do it. Make the flames sway.”

I stared at the fire.

“To the left, to the right. From side to side…side to side.”

It was hard to concentrate, but after a while, my focus suddenly sharpened and the flames flared up. The inner flame grew brighter and the heart of the flame was almost transparent. The outer edges of the flame flickered.

Move. Move.

No, it’s not the flame, I realized all of a sudden. Fire is made of a bunch of shining particles, but they’re too spread out to have much substance.


 
     

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