We looked at each other. If they used bats, then the town’s reply might come before the night was even over.
“…by the way, some colonies have recently started using falcons instead of pigeons, which is against the rules of the original pact. And although using bats is supposed to be safer, I’ve heard that some colonies have started training horned owls to capture the bats…” Squealer seemed determined to continue talking for the rest of the night.
“Hey, Squealer,” I said as neutrally as possible. “We kind of want to take a walk around there.”
“Where are you going?” Squealer looked surprised. “It’s already three hours past sundown. It’s dangerous to go far.”
Three hours past sundown was approximately ten o’clock.
“It’s fine. After all, the Ground Spiders have been exterminated, right?” Satoru’s jovial tone was much more natural than mine.
“But if anything were to happen, we’d be entirely responsible. I’ll call for some guards right now…”
“No need. The two of us just want a change of scenery. Okay? We’ll be back soon. So there’s no need to tell anyone,” Satoru said, taking my hand and pulling me away.
When we turned back, Squealer was still standing in the same spot, watching us go.
“Won’t he think it’s weird?” I whispered.
“We can’t help if he’s a little bit suspicious. Anyway, we have no choice but to run away, right?”
We continued walking slowly away from camp. Pretending to look up at the sky, we peeked behind us. Once we ascertained that no one was looking, we hid in the shadow of the trees. Crouching low, we entered the grove of trees in the middle of the field.
“Do you know which way we should go?”
There was supposed to be a compass in my backpack, but after so much running around, I had no idea where it had disappeared to.
“Yeah, kind of,” Satoru looked up at the orange moon hovering over the treetops. “It’s almost the full moon, so the moon comes out from the east, travels through the southern sky at night, and sets in the west in the morning. Since it’s about ten o’clock right now…”
Satoru’s vague mumbling wasn’t exactly comforting, but since I knew almost nothing about astronomy and had no sense of direction, I had no choice but to listen to his judgment.
We traveled through the wilderness, going eastward as best as we could. Since last night, we had taken so many winding paths that it was impossible to tell how far we were from Kasumiga Bay. And thinking back to when Rijin was leading us to the Temple of Purity, we had been unbelievably tired, but had somehow continued onward, making numerous zig-zags as we went. Yet for some reason, I was convinced that if we just kept going east, we would make it to where the canoes were hidden before sunrise.
After three hours of hurrying through the pathless forest, I was starting to lose stamina. My feet hurt and my head spun. I was starving, but more than that, I was so thirsty that it was almost unbearable. But since we had not prepared any water bottles, I had no choice but to endure it. Anyway, we took a break, choosing an area where the grass was wet with dew.
“We’ve gone pretty far, haven’t we?”
“Yeah. More than halfway there, probably,” Satoru assured me confidently.
I didn’t think he had any basis for his claim, but I also didn’t think there was any good in questioning him, so I accepted his words quietly.
How were Shun, Maria and Mamoru doing at this moment? I glanced unthinkingly behind Satoru as I thought, and jumped.
“Nothing. …I just thought that looked like a blowdog,” I pointed at a piece of rotting wood.
Satoru smiled,” It does kind of look like one.”