“Yeah. Did you see her?”
I looked silently up at the pitch black sky. In addition to being the night of a new moon, the stars were obscured by a thick layer of cloud.
“…I don’t know. It might have only been a kid who looked a lot like her.”
Still, even just looking at her from behind, the similarities were too precise to be coincidence. But if Maria had wanted to meet me, why did she run away? It was almost as if she were leading me here.
There was a faint buzzing by my ear. I jumped away from it instinctively.
“A mosquito,” Satoru said, sounding disconcerted.
Spotting it in the light of a brazier, he flicked it away with a twanging sound.
“Why is there a mosquito here?”
Usually, there are no flies or mosquitoes inside the Holy Barrier. Especially not mosquitoes, since everyone hated the thought of having their blood sucked and killed them on sight.
“Maybe it came in when someone headed out into the mountains.”
“On the night of the festival?”
Were there people who got drunk enough to go wandering outside the Holy Barrier on this night?
“Um, or maybe Inui and his team are back.”
A week ago, the Wildlife Preservation officers had set out with the grand goal of killing two hundred thousand members of the Robber Fly colony within three days. But it hadn’t happened. Yakomaru’s entire army had vanished, as if they had sensed that the gods of death were coming after them and gone into hiding.
“Could that be it…”
After my experience in summer camp, I knew that sleeping out in the open, eating rationed meals and whatever could be scrounged up in the forest was extremely tough. So they might have come back into town to restock and recharge. But I also got the feeling that Inui’s team wasn’t the type to leave a mission incomplete .
“Well, let’s go back. The firedrawing contest is about to start.”
Firedrawing was using cantus to create beautiful pictures out of fireworks shot into the sky. Every year, the most powerful cantus users competed against each other to the wild cheers of the watching crowd. It was the highlight of the Summer Festival.