“Are you sure? Is the crow really watching us?” Shun whispered doubtfully.
Upon closer inspection, the crow didn’t seem to be paying particular attention to us.
“Anyway, let’s just hurry. If we can get to the canoes before Kiroumaru shows up, we’ll be okay.”
Satoru hurried to walk next to me.
Traveling through a grove of oak and chestnut trees, we heard the faint sound of splashing water. The breeze changed directions and we smelled the unique odor of the lake coming from the east. We rushed recklessly onward.
Finally we arrived on the shores of Kasumiga Lake. A sea of reeds rustled gently on the water’s edge.
“Here!” Shun pointed at the area where the canoes were hidden and dashed forward.
We made to follow, but at that moment, a large shadow cut across the sky.
I looked up and saw a crow. Was it the one from before? It soared lazily four or five meters above us and landed on a pine branch. It looked over and crowed provocatively. It didn’t seem to know how scary people could be.
It was a shame I couldn’t use my cantus. I wanted to chuck a rock at its head. We waded through the reeds ankle-deep in the mud, looking for the canoes.
They were nowhere to be seen. I was pretty sure this was the right place. After searching fruitlessly for five minutes, I started getting impatient. The crow was still sitting on the tree, watching our every move and letting out ear-grating caws.
“Weird. It couldn’t possibly have been washed away…”
Even Shun was starting to doubt himself. Then, help came from the most unexpected person.
Mamoru’s voice had never sounded so promising to me before. We extracted ourselves from the mud and ran in the direction of that jubilant voice.
The canoes appeared to have pulled free of their moorings and been blown around by the wind. If it hadn’t been for the anchors sunk into the mud, they might have drifted away altogether.
We promptly raised anchor. As when we arrived, Satoru and I were in Sakuramasu 2. Maria and Mamoru were in Hakuren 4 and Shun was in Kamuruchi 7.
“Well, then. I will be departing,” Squealer stood on the shore to watch us leave.
“Thank you. We couldn’t have come this far without you,” I thanked him sincerely.
At least, my feelings at that moment were real.
“I wish you a safe journey.”
Squealer stood respectfully as the canoes moved slowly away from the banks.
“Let’s go,” Satoru said.
I turned around and put my paddle in the water.
This time, no one could use their cantus, so we had no choice but to manually row our way across the bay.
We started rowing clumsily. Once we reached the Tone River we could just ride the current downstream. But to get there we had to rely on our own strength.
Unfortunately, we made the mistake of overworking ourselves early on. There was still quite a distance to go, but we were all exhausted. My arms were painfully sore and my palms were blistered. It wasn’t yet noon, but we were already burned from the unrelenting sun. The water I splashed on my face to cool myself evaporated within five minutes.
“Heeey, let’s stop a bit,” Shun called, looking worriedly back at us.
Although he was rowing by himself, he was still a lot faster than the rest of us.
“I’m doing fine,” Satoru yelled back.
“We have a long head start. We should take a break while we can.”
Even though I was impatient to get out of here, it was true that we hadn’t had a good rest since yesterday. We decided to take Shun’s advice and take a break.