No. It can’t be. What are you saying? That’s so cruel…
I tried to protest, but no words came out.
A voice was calling me.
I suddenly awoke.
“Saki, were you having a nightmare?”
I opened my eyes and saw Satoru’s worried face peering into mine.
“…yeah, kind of.”
I was drenched in sweat. I tried to smile, but it probably just looked like an unnatural grimace.
“We’re here. We’ll have to use our skis from here on out.” He looked concerned. “Do you want to wait here? I think I’ll be alright by myself.”
I shook my head firmly. “I’ll come too.”
“…okay. Got it.”
He seemed to realize it was pointless to try to talk me out of it.
Our tracks were still clearly visible around the area where the snow huts had been. This was the place we had set out from yesterday. All we had accomplished in the past day was to circle back right where we had started.
No, it was even worse than that. The day before, we had known we were in for a difficult journey, but we also felt certain that we would be able to find Maria. Now, there was nothing to go on.
Still, we strapped on our skis and pushed off, hoping for a stroke of good luck.
The second search yielded no results.
Maria and Mamoru seemed to have managed to unearth the sled and take it with them. But even after scouring the area within a ten-meter radius, we couldn’t find a single sled track. Maria probably anticipated that the town would search the immediate area and levitated it out. Once they were a good distance away, she could set it down and erase its tracks in the snow as they traveled.