“Let’s hear it.”
“There was an assignment he couldn’t really work out. It should’ve been easy for him. But he’s such a pessimist, once he considers the possibility of failing, it’s hopeless.”
Did he run away from home because of that?
“No, I think the Sun Prince gave him an earful. …then I joked that they might send a copycat after him, and he went pale as death and took it really seriously.”
If that was true, then I was also partly responsible. It had probably been a bad idea to talk about the kids that had disappeared from school.
Maria and Tomiko had been right that Mamoru was much weaker than me.
Suddenly I remembered something that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
“A chain is only as strong as its weakest link…”
“What?” she asked a little suspiciously.
I said it was nothing, even as I tried to work out the confused thoughts in my mind. Just now, a frightening thought had flashed through my head, but I couldn’t get a good grasp on what exactly it was.
Oakgrove was on the western end of the district. During this season, it was directly in the path of the winds coming off the river, so it was unbearably cold. When we arrived, the frigid air had already completely numbed my face.
I tied Hakuren 4 to a post, hoisted my backpack, and put on my skiis, which looked like a combination of traditional round snow shoes and Telemark skiis.
On the underside of the skiis were thin, angled spikes that helped you brake when you pushed your foot back, making it possible to walk on flat ground. You could also skate by spreading your legs shoulder-width, bending forward, and propelling yourself with your cantus. It was easy to go uphill this way as you could go as fast as you wanted. When going downhill, you simply used them like normal skiis.
Maria wore normal shoes and hovered in the air like a ghost.