“Another barrier inside the town that goes all the way around Pinewind.”
It didn’t make sense no matter how I looked at it. The Holy Barrier was supposed keep bad things out, but now it seemed like it was holding something in.
Satoru sighed deeply, “Anyway, if we want to keep going, we’ll have to cross the barrier.”
I nodded. Going beyond the Holy Barrier was completely different from crossing a simple “entrance prohibited” rope. If we were found out, nothing we could say would help us.
But I already knew that this was the only way to find Shun.
We ducked under the rope, careful not to touch any of the streamers.
At first it seemed that nothing had changed. But as we kept going, abnormalities began to appear.
The usually lush undergrowth in the forest looked as if it had been mown down by a hurricane. Everything was twisted and dying.
I couldn’t read Satoru’s expression. We continued in silence.
The sky was only slightly overcast, and the sun was still high in the sky, but our surroundings grew darker and darker. The trees were blocking out the light, their thick branches seemingly fusing together to form a roof above us. In comparison to the undergrowth, the trees seemed to have grown much more than was normal.
Satoru broke off a branch and lit it with his cantus. Even though it was still broad daylight, we couldn’t see where we were putting our feet without a torch.
After a while, we saw a sliver of light between the trees. We tried to get closer, but were stopped by the roots of the trees. They rose out of the ground like giant snakes, coiling this way and that, over and around, making it impossible to walk through. It looked like an alien world. I was just about to suggest that we cut through with our cantus, but realized that it would leave obvious proof that we had been here. I reluctantly started picking my way through the gaps in the trees.
“Saki,” Satoru turned around, holding the torch aloft. “Look.”