When I came back, I expected my father to ask where I had been, but he didn’t. He was talking about the plans to install street lamps in the center of the village, as it seemed that using only braziers was not enough. But incandescent bulbs would require electricity, which was only allowed to be used to power the loudspeakers in the public hall. So in order to move forward with the plan, they first needed to revise the Code of Ethics.
“No matter how many times we petition, the higher-ups at the Ethics Committee never agree to it,” my father, the mayor, grumbled as he poked at a piece of fish with his chopsticks.
“It would be nice if you could do something about the lights in the library first,” mother said. Her job as head librarian put her in a position even higher than the mayor’s.
“The library already uses a fifth of our annual budget.”
“I know. But we’ve had to work late recently, and the phosphorescent lamps are too much of a hassle,” she pointed at the light above the dining table.
At that time phosphorescent lamps were widely used for lighting. Often called bontan balls, phosphorescent lamps are large circular vacuum tubes whose insides are coated with a special paint containing platinum or iridium. After you charge it up with your cantus the lamp would shine for a specific amount of time. However, it only lasts for about half an hour before the light starts dimming and you have to charge it up again, so that was annoying.
“Right now only Waterwheel has electricity to spare. But it’s impossible to lay down cables all the way to the library in Hayring.”
“Can’t you just build a new waterwheel next to the library?”
“That would be difficult. It would obstruct traffic, and the canals there flow too slowly to produce electricity.”
The more they continued their spirited discussion, the more I felt that something wasn’t right. It was as if they were purposely putting on this show to prevent the conversation from moving in an unwanted direction.
“…hey, do you know what happened to Shun?”
The two of them fell silent instantly.
I felt my pulse speed up. I knew full well this was a dangerous question, so why did I say it out loud? Was I angry at my parents for carrying on such a useless conversation at a time when we were so worried about Shun? Or was I gambling on the chance that I might discover some sort of clue?