I moved into place, twisting a bundle of tree roots together and lighting it to make a torch. The first moment was crucial. The fiend needed to get a clear glimpse of us.
My heart was pounding so hard it made my hands shake. Cold sweat broke out all over my body. The fiend was going to appear any time now. Failure was not an option. Not only our lives, but the lives of millions of others were at stake.
I felt dizzy and nauseated. My head began to throb with pain.
And then it happened.
My thoughts became surprisingly clear. I felt my mind opening up to everything, like I was no longer just myself. It was a strange, but not unpleasant sensation. I felt an almost overwhelming joy, that could almost be described as the moment of sexual climax. That was it. I was sure. Shun was whispering in my ear, in my thoughts.
I could clearly see all my feelings of indirection, uneasiness, and doubt as if through someone else’s eyes.
My doubts about Kiroumaru were still there, but I could now see that the root of these feelings were coming from somewhere else.
“The enemy believes they are hunting us, and in their focused pursuit they will not realize until the end that they have become the hunted.”
Kiroumaru’s words echoed in my ears. He was talking about the enemy, but couldn’t it apply to us too?
I had heard the same thing before. When they were teaching us to play Go at Harmony School.
Trapped by the thought of trapping… When you’re concentrating too hard on trying to take your opponent’s pieces, you open yourself up to have your pieces taken.
Why was this saying stuck in my head?
Yakomaru… Back when we still called him Squealer, he had said he learned battle strategies from reading a Go book.
I couldn’t imagine that someone that crafty hadn’t already guess our plans. After being outsmarted by Kiroumaru earlier, would he risk exposing the fiend, his trump card, to danger?
That wasn’t all either. Had Yakomaru really not anticipated losing his soldiers in that attack? His cool disregard for his subordinates’ lives was characteristic of his fighting style.
If he had us dancing in the palm of his hand this whole time…
I started sweating again.
But we couldn’t back out now.
Kiroumaru burst out of the tunnel ahead. We locked eyes for a moment, then he quickly disappeared down another tunnel.
“It’s coming…!” Satoru said in a low voice.
Suddenly, the image of fear itself appeared.