“Hey!” Shun shouted in front.
“Hey! We’re leaving now!” Satoru shouted back.
Hearing his voice suddenly opened a dam inside me. It was as if the past three days were no more than a dream, and we were just rowing down the river to in summer camp.
“Hey, Saki! What’s wrong? Hey…” Satoru sounded confused as I continued to cry, and then started laughing at the same time.
My meltdown went on for ten minutes. We soon reached the other canoes and it spread to Maria as well, turning into uncontrollable mayhem.
When I had finally cried to my heart’s content, I felt much better (though the boys seemed rather tired). We entered the northern reaches of the Tone River and started going downstream. After that it was smooth sailing all the way back to the village…or that’s what I would like to say, but in reality all sorts of troublesome situations kept popping up. First, we had no experience navigating down a river without our cantus. And as our mental and physical fatigue reached its peak, the sun started setting making it hard to see. And the straw that broke the camel’s back was our canoe sinking from smashing too often into the rocks and each other. It was a miracle that no one died.
When the dark curtain of night fell, the river changed again. The starlight shimmered on its obsidian surface, giving the illusion that we were frozen in place, but the roar of the water made it seem like the gentle current was becoming more violent.
I felt this instinctive discomfort. It was a feeling going back before I was born, an ancient memory left over from our cave-dwelling ancestors.
Exploring this feeling more carefully, I would say that it was a need to return home as soon as possible. Satoru and I both felt a strong anxiety toward something that awaited our return. Be that as it may, given our physical conditions right now, it would be suicidal to continue down the river at night. We had no choice but to make camp, but couldn’t find a good spot for a long time. I remembered a dry riverbed we had passed by right before the sun set and felt a flicker of annoyance. Everyone had wanted keep going as far as we could, so we continued on without stopping even though we already knew that it was impossible to get back to town even if we rowed nonstop. We should have stopped then.
We were exhausted when we finally found a place to set up the tents. It was so close to the river that if the water rose just a little we would be immersed, and the rocks were too uneven to make a nice bed. So needless to say, it was not a great spot.
We used the last of our strength to set up the three tents by hand. We dug holes for the tentpoles and covered them with canvas, tying it in place with leather straps. Somehow we couldn’t get it to look as good as it did on the first day of camp.
“Weird. Why can’t we get it right?” Satoru grumbled tiredly.
“We used our cantus that time,” Shun said, still struggling with the tent.
Come to think of it, he was right. That was just three days ago but it felt more like an eternity.
“Satoru, you still can’t use your cantus?” I asked, grasping for a ray of hope.
He shook his head. “Umm. I’m too tired to concentrate, but if it’s just a little, I think i can manage.”
“Huh? What are you talking about?” Maria interrupted, completely lost.
I told them about how I remembered Satoru’s mantra and managed to hypnotize him and restore his cantus.
“I see! So if we know our mantra, we’ll be able to get our power back,” Shun said excitedly. “That monk completely got us with his bluff. His hypnosis was no big deal! Even Saki could undo it.”
Saying ‘even Saki’ was unnecessary.
“But do you guys even know your mantra? I only happened to know Satoru’s by chance,” I looked around at them.