After the gale subsided, I saw the tranquil blue sky above us. In dazzling morning light, we were like two moles that had accidentally burrowed aboveground, squinting our eyes and filling our lungs with fresh air. Goosebumps prickled my skin as I was exposed to cold air for the first time in a long while.
Once he was accustomed to the light, Satoru looked upward. The hole in the ceiling shimmered and grew larger. He created a gentle slope in front of us, and as if using a mold, shaped the dirt into a staircase. They felt as solid as if baked from terra cotta bricks.
“I’ll go first.”
“Wait,” I held him back. “I’ll go look first.”
“No, the Ground Spiders might shoot you from afar.”
“That’s exactly why I should go first. If something happens and you can’t use your cantus anymore, then we’re done for.”
I didn’t say anything more and started up the stairs. Before exiting, I listened closely for any movement, but all was silent. Nothing apart from bird cries.
Keeping my body low, I poked my head out.
The whirlwind had flattened out the grass, but I still couldn’t see anything. I crept out quietly on all fours and slowly stood up after checking that the surroundings were clear.
Everything swayed gently in the breeze. There were no corpses, no wreckage, nothing.
Satoru came up behind me. “How is it?”
“There’s nothing around.”
Looking farther, more than a hundred meters out, I saw what I thought were queerat corpses. Maybe from the whirlwind. From this distance, it’s hard to tell them apart from humans. A shiver ran up my spine.
“They’re definitely around here somewhere. The wind couldn’t have killed them all.”
We stood motionless, carefully observing our surroundings. Someone like Shisei Kaburagi could create a vacuum lens in midair (the opposite of a normal lens, it magnified things using a concave surface), but of course Satoru didn’t have the skill to do that.