Inui and four other members of the Wildlife Protection Division were introduced to enthusiastic applause. They were all veterans who had mastered the skills to efficiently wipe out tens of thousands of queerats in a short amount of time. It was fitting that the queerats called them gods of death.
After the Security Council meeting, I bid a quick goodbye to my parents and Satoru and left feeling sick to my stomach. I repeated Maria’s name to myself as tears streamed down my face. But even as my mind was in such disarray, a small part remained surprisingly calm and kept asking the same questions over and over.
What had I expected these past twelve years? Did I actually believe that Maria and Mamoru would still be alive? And even if I said I did, was I just trying to deceive myself?
Maybe I had been slowly preparing myself over the years to face their deaths.
The sadness I had felt when I left the faceless boy was already more than I could bear. Now all I could do was wall off the part of my heart that contained all my pain, and let it quietly die in isolation.
There are quite a few annual festivals in Kamisu 66. In the spring there is the Planting Festival, Demon-chasing Festival, and Illness-dispelling Festival. In the summer, there’s the Summer Festival, Fire Festival, and Spirit Festival. In the fall, the Harvest Festival and Labor Thanksgiving Festival. And in the winter, the Snow Festival, New Year Festival, Sagichou Fire Festival…
Out of all those, the one with the most ceremonial, and also most exciting one was the Summer festival, also called the Monster Festival. The name makes it sound kind of scary, like everyone dresses up like monsters to scare each other, but it’s not. Most of the dressing up involves festival committee members wearing straw hats and covering their faces to offer wine to festival goers. In order to create the right atmosphere, the Summer Festival is always held on the night of a new moon. On that night, all the lights in the town are extinguished. The only illumination comes from the braziers and lanterns lining the canals and the occasional firework. Enveloped in darkness, the town is transformed into a stage for the next act.
But from another perspective, it is also a time when the district is completely isolated.
We are just one of the nine little districts scattered throughout the entire Japanese archipelago. Although we cling desperately to our “Japanese” identity, the truth is we had been completely cut off from several millennia of Japanese history. Kamisu 66 was just an island lost in time…