“You are all very special. Most students are regularly hypnotized from a young age so that we can control their minds. They are unable to even think about bad or potentially harmful things. However, we did not, by and large, take the freedom of thought away from you and your friends.”
“Because docile lambs alone cannot protect the town. Leaders must be broad-minded and tolerant. Their convictions must be strong enough to even do dirty work from time to time. To match the changes in the town over the years, the leader needs to be a highly adaptable individual who strives to survive no matter what.”
“So I was put into team one for that?”
“Yes,” she said simply.
“What about Satoru? Was he chosen because he’s your grandson?”
“My grandson…” Tomiko smiled inscrutably. “The name Asahina is just a string of syllables Satoru and I happen to share. Team one was a group of students with special qualities. Having all of you together made things much easier to manage.”
She stood up suddenly and went to the other side of the hearth. Crouching next to the orange-striped cat, she rubbed it behind the ears. It purred delightedly.
“But unforeseen incidents kept happening. My biggest regret was having to dispose of the boy we had the greatest hopes for…” She glanced at me then resumed talking normally. “This time too. It would have been impossible for any other children to consider running away from the town and living on their own. They would have been paralyzed with fear at the thought of crossing the Holy Barrier. But those two are different. Threatened with death at home, they chose instead to live alone in the wilderness.”
I was speechless. Somehow, she had seen through everything.
“A very rational decision, if you ask me. It is the result of free thinking. But right now, it threatens the fundamental safety of the towns.”