The sun had set while we were eating, and now we sat chatting around the campfire.
That scene is still burned vividly into my mind. I was tired after a whole day of activity and smoke from the fire was making my eyes water. Since this was our first big adventure outside the Holy Barrier, we were all more spirited than usual. As the sky faded from pale to deep blue, the fire lit up our faces with a red glow.
To tell the truth, I can’t remember the first half our conversations. I remember our daytime conversations perfectly well, but the more interesting topics we discussed that night continue to elude me. It’s as if those memories had been washed away.
At the time, I was wholly concentrated on the boy on the other side of the fire.
“…you’ve never seen it before, right Saki?” Satoru said all of a sudden.
What was he talking about that I’ve never seen before? Anyway, I’ll just give some noncommittal answer.
“Oh, who knows.”
“Huh? So you have?”
I didn’t have any choice but to shake my head.
“See, there’s no way,” Satoru said assertively.
I wanted to refute him, but since I didn’t know what he was talking about, there was nothing I could do.
“That…that’s it!” Satoru suddenly became very excited for some reason. “Just the other day, Shun and I saw it for the first time, right?”
Across the flames, I saw Shun nod. I couldn’t remember when the two of them had become so close.
“It must be something important, to be so heavily guarded.”
“Seems like it. Anyway, I don’t think any of us happened to see it when we were at Harmony School,” Shun said in his calm voice, smiling slightly. “There’s a wall right behind the door, so even if you open it, you still can’t see the inner courtyard. And the teachers are always really careful about opening and closing the door.”
Does this mean they actually went into the courtyard? I was surprised at their daring. The inner courtyard was a square surrounded by buildings on all sides, like the one in Harmony School, and while students were not explicitly forbidden to enter, there were no windows looking into it and people usually don’t get the urge to enter anyway.
“But twice I happened to get a glance while the Sun Prince was opening the door. And the image of bolts on the inside is burned into my mind.”
What would locks look like a thousand years from now? I can’t imagine. They used to just be pieces of metal with notches on them, and gradually became as sophisticated as the gears of a watch. But in our time, there are very few places that need locks, so their designs have become increasingly simple again.
On the inside of the door were a dozen small bolts, arranged radially. You couldn’t see where they were from the outside, so the only way to unlock the door was to have a picture with all the locations drawn on it or recall it from memory, and unlock them with your cantus.
“…and then, I kept an eye out while Shun unbolted the door. We slipped inside and shut the door. Holding our breaths, we went toward the second wall,” Satoru paused for dramatic effect, looking around at us.