Satoru’s voice brought me back to the present.
“Nothing. I just spaced out for a moment.”
“Oh. …let’s go that way. There’s some sort of show going on there.”
I took his hand and started clip-clopping down the street in my clogs.
Although the wide streets lining the canals were brightly lit with braziers, blackness extended into the distance on either side of us. It was as if we were walking on a bridge suspended above the land of the dead. The illuminated path was safe, but if we ventured off into the darkness, we would never be able to return.
As far as I can remember, I had never missed the Summer Festival, and I’ve experienced this strange feeling each time.
Along the path were other people heading to the festival. Everyone was wearing yukata and clogs, and holding paper fans. Happy sounds of talk and laughter echoed all around, but to me they just seemed as meaningless as the rustling of the wind.
I saw the monsters ahead. Both wore straw hats and had covered faces, and one wore a tengu mask that completely hid their identity.
The two monsters offered the passersby wine. We took the paper cups and drank the wine in one swallow. It was sweet sake. I began to feel a little tipsy just from that.
“Look, the lanterns are coming.”
He pointed at the clusters of lanterns being carried on long poles. In the ancient civilization, each pole was carried by one person, but the ones we had now weighed over a ton, making that was impossible. Every summer, each of the seven towns design and build their own lantern, but Withertree had not participated since the disaster twelve years ago, so Hayring usually built two lanterns to make up for it. This year, the town of Withertree was making a comeback, and there were eight lanterns in all.
The giant lanterns came slowly down the path. The one right before me was from my own town of Waterwheel. The lanterns were decorated with pictures of various waterwheels. Overshot, backshot, undershot, breastshot…