We rode in a windowless houseboat like the one I took to the Temple of Purity. However, this time the boat went by the normal waterways and did not make pointless changes in direction to try to throw off our sense of direction, so I had a rough idea of where we were.
The dock was a normal dock as well. That was a little anticlimactic since I was expecting to be taken outside the Holy Barrier.
I spotted the town hall and library where my parents worked out of the corner of my eye as we headed toward a narrow alley branching off of the town’s main street.
The Ethics Committee was set up just outside the center of Hayring. It looked just like a normal shop until we entered the front gate. I saw a long hallway stretching out before me and realized it was actually a pretty big building.
We arrived at a quiet inner parlor. There was sandalwood incense burning and a scroll depicting winter peonies hanging in the alcove.
Next to a large lacquered table were three deep purple floor cushions lit by the light filtering through the paper windows. We sat down apprehensively.
“Please wait here for a moment,” said the woman escorting us, and slid the door shut.
“What’s going on?” Maria and I asked Satoru in unison.
“You never told us your grandmother was the head of the Ethics Committee.”
“You haven’t been spying on us for her, have you?”
“Hey, wait a sec,” Satoru said, recoiling. “I didn’t know either.”
“Didn’t know what?”
“That my grandmother…I mean Tomiko Asahina was the head of the committee.”
“You’ve gotta be kidding me. How could you not? You’re her grandson.”
“Just hear me out.” Satoru backed away from us so hastily that he fell off the cushion. “You guys didn’t know who the head was either, right?”
“Unlike with other jobs, the members of the Ethics Committee aren’t public knowledge. The members keep their own identities secret as well.”
“Couldn’t you tell somehow?” Maria asked, still suspicious.
“Not at all,” Satoru said seriously, sitting up cross-legged.
“But she’s your grandmother,” she said obstinately.
“I’m perfectly aware of tha…”