“If even you kitsune couldn’t find them despite trying, then that should mean that it definitely has something to do with youkai.”
“Did you find anything strange when you went to search for them?”
The kitsune was quiet for a while, trying to remember. Then he answered:
“There were a lot of spiders.”
“A lot of spiders? Isn’t that normal in the mountains.”
“Well, yes, but not like this. All we could find were huge amounts of cobweb. And it was extremely quiet too.”
Hiroto jotted the information down on a blank part of the calendar that they drew the map on, remarking that they didn’t know if it actually had anything to do with the case yet.
“What do you mean by quiet? Isn’t it usually quiet around here since there are no people or shops?”
“That’s not the kind of quiet I’m talking about. As you can see, this place is in the mountains, and yet there were no wild boars or monkeys. You always hear about wild animals damaging crops and produce, but recently there are so few animals that we don’t even hear about things like that happening.”
Neither Sousuke nor Hiroto could really understand his sentiment. Wasn’t it a good thing that crops were not getting damaged?
“Maybe someone called pest control on them so they ran away from the area?”
“Could be that too.”
The kitsune started walking again.
“Huh, a Shinto shrine?”
“Yes, Here in Tagumi, we have this shrine and the one we live in. In Yamagumi, there are three if I remember correctly.”
“That’s a lot.”
“We’ll, I suppose it’s about a shrine per village.”
When the road split into two, they followed the one that the kitsune said would lead to the parking lot. There were paddy fields as far as the eye could see. Right now, they were dry, and the ground looked thirsty for water.
Just when they got on the car, discussed if they should visit Yamagumi next, Sousuke got a call from Mutsu.
“Where are you guys now?”
“We’re at the agricultural cooperative. Where are you, Mucchan? In the mountains?”
“Well, all I can see around me is a mountain… We’re in a bit of a pinch, though. We got stuck in a swamp and can’t move. It’s sucking us in. Help me!”
“What! A swamp? You got stuck in a swamp?!”
Sousuke started asking the kitsune where the swamp was in a panic. All he got in reply was a look of puzzlement.
“Give the phone to the kitsune. I’ll do the same on this end. …Argh! I can’t reach!”
“Hey! Since you’re trying to pass one of them the phone, just get them to tell you where you guys are instead.”
“Hello!! Save us please!!”
It seemed like Mutsu had succeeded in passing over the phone.
“Where are you? Were there even any swamps around in that area?”
The panicked voice of its friend seemed to make the kitsune on Sousuke and Hiroto’s end agitated, and its fluffy tail appeared behind it. However, this time, neither Sousuke or Hiroto paid it any mind.
“You know that place where that mountain has eroded? There’d been talk about making a public park in the area some time ago too. It’s in the inner parts of that place.”
“Got it. We’re coming over immediately.”
Sousuke roughly threw the kitsune into the car so it landed on Hiroto.
“Where is that place?!!”
“Turn right after leaving the parking lot. Then follow the mountain road.”
Sousuke listened to the kitsune’s directions, as he forcefully pressed down the gas pedal. He recklessly drove the car on the twisting and turning mountain road at a high speed.
Hiroto managed to remove the kitsune from above him and sat up, clinging on to the driver’s seat to keep his balance. When he glanced at the speed meter, it shoved over 100 km/h (≈62mph).
Maybe it was because of carsickness or having seen Sousuke’s unpredictable side, but Hiroto felt dizzy.