We stopped abruptly. Fear and confusion washed over me in a wave.
There were three silhouettes. Looking in this direction.
False hope had gone to my head. Statistically speaking, there was only ever a fleeting, one in million chance of escape. But hope is like a flame–more prayer than logical thought, stronger than fear–that drives us to action.
Satoru and I looked at each other simultaneously, and nodded.
Slowly, we walked forward. Any path we could take would bring us closer to escape. This particular path would be to expose our weakness–the fact we couldn’t use our cantus. Right now, all that mattered was to see who our enemy was.
As these thoughts ran through my head, I took one step, and another.
Looking at the black shadows, the desire to run away flared inside me once again, and my knees shook. Was I walking into the jaws of destruction?
No, it can’t be. That, those shadows…I definitely recognize them. I’m positive. I kept telling myself this. But they stood without moving and I couldn’t make out their identities.
A little closer and I would be able to tell. Just then, golden light spilled over the mountain ridge, blinding me with its rays.
The three figures were swallowed by the light.
I froze. But then.
I heard a shout. A voice I instantly recognized that I’d been longing to hear. Shun. Satoru dashed forward.
“Shun! Maria! Mamoru!”
I ran forward in a daze. Stumbling toward the light.
The five of us hugged and clapped each other on the shoulders, laughing and crying deliriously like idiots. In that instant, all the pain we had experienced, and all the suffering that was to come seemed a universe away. We reveled in the miracle that we were all unharmed and reunited.
I wished time could stop at that moment.
If time had frozen then, our group of five wouldn’t have lost so many members…
“So, anyway, let’s get to the canoes!” Shun was the first to get a hold of himself. “We can take our time to tell our stories then.”
His words made me swallow the mountain of questions I was just about to ask.
Maria was startled by something behind me.
“What’s over there?”
I patted her gently on the arm. “Oh, that’s Squealer. He showed us the way here.”
“Honored to meet you. I’m Squealer, from the Robber Fly colony.”
The three were astonished at his fluent speech.
“The Robber Flies lost many of their soldiers while fighting the Ground Spiders and were one of the forces behind the Ground Spider’s defeat,” Satoru explained.
They looked surprised.
“The Ground Spiders are gone? Really?” Mamoru asked, his eyes wide.
“Yeah. The Giant Hornet army came and wiped them out. But we’ll talk about this later. There’s no time. Right now, we need to get to the canoes as soon as possible.”
Even Shun appeared to be having trouble wrapping his head around the situation. “If the Ground Spiders are gone, then isn’t there no need to run anymore?”
“No. I’ll explain later,” I urged them forward.
“Then what in the world are we running from?” Maria asked, glancing at Squealer as he lead the way forward.