“Saki, do you know what ‘false obedience’ means?”
I shook my head quietly.
“It means appearing to obey someone, but actually thinking the opposite underneath.”
“What do you mean by ‘the opposite’?”
“Deceiving the other person, and secretly planning to betray them.”
My jaw dropped.
“People like that don’t exist.”
“You’re right. People betraying other peoples’ trust is impossible. But queerats aren’t people.”
For the first time, I felt the stirrings of fear.
“Queerats worship and obey us because we have cantus.1 But we don’t know how they will behave toward children who’ve not yet awoken to their cantus. That’s why we have to prevent queerats and children from meeting no matter what.”
“But when you give them work to do, don’t they have to come into town?”
“During those times there’s always an adult supervising them.” Father put the documents in a filing box and raised his hand again. The lid shimmered and melted into the box, forming a hollow lacquered block. Because no one else knows what he was visualizing as he used his cantus, it’s hard for anyone other than father to reopen the box without breaking it.
“Anyway, don’t ever go outside the Holy Barrier. Inside, the strength of the barrier makes it safe, but if you take one step out, you won’t be protected by anyone’s cantus.”
“But the queerats…”
“It’s not just the queerats. You’ve learned the stories about fiends and karma demons at school, right?”
My breath caught in my throat.
Fiend and karma demon stories are taught repeatedly during our early years of development. It becomes imprinted in our subconscious. Even though the versions we learn at school are made for children, they still gave us nightmares.
“Are there really fiends…and karma demons and stuff like that outside the Holy Barrier?”
“Uh huh,” father smiled slightly to comfort me.
“Those are old legends, they don’t exist now…”
“It’s true they haven’t been seen for the past hundred and fifty years, but it’s better to be prepared for the unexpected. Saki, you wouldn’t want to suddenly meet a fiend like the herb-gathering boy did, right?”
I nodded silently.
Here, I’ll summarize the stories of the fiend and the karma demon. However, it isn’t the fairy-tale children’s version, but the full, adult version everyone learns when they enter Sage Academy.