It was dark but I could still make out their expressions.
“I know mine,” Shun said.
“I remembered it using various methods. But no matter how many times I chanted it in my mind, my cantus wouldn’t come back. I guess you still need the hypnosis to release it.”
Our mantras had been stolen; in other words, the goal of the hypnotic suggestion was to make us forget it, so the fact that Shun managed to remember it on his own is astonishing. Shun’s explanation was that he had various mnemonic devices so that if he ever forgot his mantra, he would be able to rediscover it.
“I can’t remember mine though,” Maria said dejectedly.
“Did you write it down anywhere?”
Maria, Mamoru and I looked at each other.
“I did.” I remembered that I had carved it on a charm and hidden it under the floorboards.
“Me too…it’s in my diary.”
Each syllable of our mantra was sacred, so we were forbidden to let anyone else know what it was. Strictly speaking we weren’t even supposed to write it down. But the three of us didn’t trust something so important to just our memories and had all recorded it in some form. And Satoru and I showing each other our mantra was so egregious as to be unthinkable for any other team. In hindsight, this was further proof that our group was made up of special students.
“Then we’ll be fine. When we get back to the village, Satoru and I will show them that we can use our cantus. That way they wouldn’t think that we had it sealed. The rest of you can say you’re too tired and go back home. Then after you’ve found your mantra, find Saki and she’ll restore your cantus.”
Shun’s words cleared away all my worries in an instant. Although I wasn’t happy that Rijin had been killed by the queerats, I couldn’t deny the fact that dead men tell no tales.
We cheered up considerably at this. With Satoru levitating the canvas, we set up the three tents. We gathered dried branches, built a fire, and cooked a meal of rice gruel. The food was even more tasteless than the dinner we had made the first day we arrived, but it seemed like the most delicious thing in the world.
After we ate, we sat around the fire and took turns talking about what happened while we had been separated. Shun, Maria and Mamoru’s story was completely unexciting. After Satoru and I had been captured by the Ground Spiders, they followed in an attempt to rescue us, but soon realized that there were too many guards and decided to go back to the village for help. They tried to travel during the day, but were so startled by the sounds of war that they spent most of their time hiding in the bushes. When everything fell silent at night, they crossed hurried toward Kasumiga Bay. When we caught up with them, they were so overjoyed that, in Maria’s words, “I thought I was being tricked by a tanuki.”1
In contrast, our story kept them mesmerized the entire time. They questioned us relentlessly about when we were in the Ground Spider’s cage and the part where we killed the sentry, but fell silent when we started talking about the Robber Flies being attacked and how we wandered through the underground tunnels. They cheered when Satoru miraculously recovered his powers at the last minute and launched an all-out counterattack, but went fell silent again in mute amazement as the situation evolved beyond their wildest imagination.
Since Satoru was the storyteller, I was left to correct and supplement his story. Satoru prided himself on being a talented storyteller, but he usually bluffed so much that I thought I would have to retell half the story. It was a needless worry. The three of them listened like a group of children, with their mouths half open and eyes shining with amazement.
There was silence when Satoru finished his tale, filled with only the sound of the crackling flames. Then someone opened their mouth and the dam was released. Among all the questions thrown at us, the one everyone was most interested in was why we had been so keen on running away from Kiroumaru when he had protected us.