“Oh really? So is it a balloon, or a dog?” Satoru joked.
That was our reaction to shock–to lose our heads just a little bit.
“Stop talking about stupid things!” Maria finally exploded. “Do you even understand the situation we’re in? We’ve been abandoned in the middle of nowhere, and on top of that, none of us can use our cantus…”
We stopped smiling.
“You’re right,” Shun said, after a heavy silence. “In any case, let’s head back the way we came. We’ll have to sleep out in the open tonight.”
“Hey…!” Satoru said nervously, grabbing Shun by the arm. He jerked his chin toward the crater.
Following his gaze, we froze.
A group of silhouettes stood forty or fifty meters ahead, watching us silently. Queerats.
“…what do we do?” Maria’s voice shook.
“Isn’t it obvious? We march up and attack,” Satoru replied.
“Attack? How are we supposed to do that without cantus?” I shot back.
“They don’t know that. If we run, it’ll expose our weakness and they’ll come after us.”
“But if we go, we’ll be captured,” Mamoru said in a thin voice.
“Exactly! We have to run,” Maria said.
As I looked at the queerats, I was filled with conviction.
“They definitely don’t want to fight. They just want us to leave.”
“How do you know? If that was the case, they should have left first,” Satoru said stubbornly.
“Their burrows are over there.”
That’s why this group was here defending their burrows in the face of death. The blowdog must also have been…
“Okay, let’s all back away slowly,” Shun said. He only ever took charge when it was absolutely necessary.”Be quiet, don’t provoke them. We’re done for if they think we’re afraid.”
He didn’t need to say any more. We retreated as quietly as possible. Soon it became dark, and every time I heard the crunch of rocks being stepped on, I was filled with fear.
The queerats watched closely as we backed down the hill, but showed no signs of pursuing us.
“I guess Saki was right. They don’t want to fight,” Maria said, sounding relieved.