And beyond that was an even bigger lake, so vast that we couldn’t see the opposite shore. It might even go all the way to Kitaura. Unlike the smaller lake that was formed from collapsed earth, this appeared to be an old dam that had flooded a large part of the forest when it was built. That was probably where the name Withertree came from.
“There can’t be any houses farther out,” Mamoru said, sounding like he wanted to leave as soon as possible. “You’re misremembering. X doesn’t exist.”
“Then why…” Maria said weakly, “do I feel like I know what Saki and Satoru are talking about? That the person I knew wasn’t Ryou, but some other boy.”
“It’s just a trick of the mind. All of us are growing up fast these days, but it’s not just that we’re getting taller, our looks and personality are changing as well.”
Satoru and I looked at each other.
Mamoru’s words were quite different from how we really felt. To me, it felt like time was crawling along slower than a snail. I was a bug trapped in amber, doomed to be suspended in eternity.
“Wasn’t there someone else too…?” Maria said suddenly.
We thought hard.
“It doesn’t really make sense that we started out with only four people. Before Ryou joined, X should have been with us. But then we’re still one short. I can’t really remember, but I think there was another person.”
Slowly, the image of a girl surfaced in my mind. Then the gravestone shaped like a house of cards I had seen in my dream.
“There was. I remember,” Satoru said, rubbing his temples as if he had a headache. “Like with X, it looks like some of my memories of that person remains. But why does no one ever talk about them?”
“Stop it!” Mamoru shouted. “It isn’t right. We shouldn’t be prying into this. If we keep talking about it…” he stopped, looking terrified.