“…it’s probably Mt. Tsukuba’s shrine,” Satoru said, perusing an old map he had brought.
Although he wasn’t completely back to normal, Satoru had more or less recovered his energy after being back on solid ground.
“A shrine?” I asked, holding back a shriek as I accidentally trod on a toad. There were nasty animals creeping all over the mountain.
“It has a history of at least two or three thousand years. This building too, was probably already considered really old a thousand years ago,” Shun added.
“Should we eat here?” Mamoru asked.
Everyone was undoubtedly hungry, but the prospect of eating lunch here was unappealing.
Just as I was about to object, a blood-curdling scream came from my left. Someone else must have stepped on a toad too, I thought. But when I looked, I saw Satoru standing there, stiff as a board. And when Shun rushed over, he too froze.
I realized that all four of them had become still as statues. No one could answer my question.
What in the world was going on? I was this close to having a panic attack. Then, as I followed their gaze and saw what they had seen, it was my turn to scream.
In front of me was a bizarre creature I had never seen before.
The names evil minoshiro and false minoshiro came to me. The thing definitely resembled and minoshiro at first glance, but was completely different upon closer examination.
It was about fifty or sixty centimeters long, with rubbery skin that stretched and contracted constantly, making parts of its body bulge and shrink amorphously. On its back were clusters of half-transparent spines like a sea urchin’s, each glowing brightly with all the colors of the rainbow.
The ever-shifting colors overlapped and mixed, creating shimmering patterns in the air. Even with my sunglasses on, I could feel the beautiful lights numbing my brain.
The false minoshiro slunk slowly toward the shrine, leaving a trail of lights in its wake.
My own scream had awakened something in my mind. I turned toward Shun and Satoru and started shouting at them, “Hurry…Satoru! Shun! Catch it, it’s getting away!”
But neither of them moved; they simply stared at the false minoshiro.
I started to use my cantus, but hesitated. Earlier, I said that it was dangerous for multiple people to use their canti on the same thing. If someone was already focused on a target, it was better for everyone else to not use their canti, no matter what the situation was.
Both Shun and Satoru’s gaze were fixed on the false minoshiro. Usually, this was a sign that they were using their canti, but in spite of that, both were frozen to the spot.
It felt like an eternity, but in reality only a few seconds passed. The false minoshiro ambled into the tall grass and disappeared under the main building of the shrine.
I couldn’t understand why the four of them were still frozen in place, and I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t even know what had happened in the first place to make them like that. I wanted to shake them awake, but was seized with the irrational fear that if I touched them, they would fall over dead.
The first to be snap out of the trance was, surprisingly, Mamoru.
“…I’m hungry,” he said in a small voice, looking around.
“Um, what exactly happened just now?”
Maria, Satoru, and Shun all came to their senses and sank onto the ground. Satoru looked really sick and Shun rubbed his eyes.
“Are we dead?”
Ironically, Maria’s question startled us into full awareness.
“That story was probably a lie. Don’t worry about it,” Satoru said, groaning.
“Probably” made it sound like he was trying to pretend that he wasn’t the one who made up the lie in the first place.
“That aside, how come I couldn’t move at all?”