After about 10 minutes, they arrived at a place that seemed to be a quarry. They couldn’t find anybody in the small office or in its vicinity, so listened to the kitsune’s directions and simply entered the grounds.
“It’s over there!”
When they went down the gravel road that started just past the office, they could see something that looked like a relatively small pond. But as far as they could see, there was nobody there.
“Mucchan!”, Sousuke loudly shouted as he ran up over, but nobody answered.
“Did they get completely submerged?”
Hiroto and the kitsune also came staggering along, as they stared towards the pond. Then, they heard faint cries coming from somewhere.
The kitsune headed towards the sound, accompanied by the kuda-gitsune that had appeared from underneath Sousuke’s shirt. After going around the shore of the pond and following the sound of flowing water, they found Mutsu buried chest deep in mud. A kitsune also there, with only its snout visible above the surface.
“You’re here! Sou-san! And Hiro-chan too!”
“Fwease stof movim, Muhu-dono.”
“Oh, sorry, my bad.”
When looking closer, Sousuke and the others could see paper figures of various sizes standing on the shore and pulling a rope. The other end of it was in the mouth of a kitsune that Mutsu held in her arms. The other kitsune was not visible anymore.
“What should we do? If I take the rope, I’ll have to move so we’ll likely sink further down, and it’ll be slippery because of the mud. And If we continue to delay things like this, the kitsune won’t be able to hold on.”
“If we just sit around being scared to do anything, you’ll just sink down. I’ll go in there to come to you, and then Yuno-san can-”
“No. That’s a terrible idea, then we’ll have a second disaster.”
“Muhu-dono. If we wait, I wiw fuffocate.”
“That’s right. Are you resigned to sinking to your death?”
Mutsu glanced towards the forest.
“I’m still okay. Sou-san, take the rope, then the paper figures will cross over and pull out the kitsune first.”
“Mutsu, but then you will-”
“I’ll be fine. I’ll grasp the rope with all I have, so do your best, Sou-san.”
As soon as Mutsu said this, the big paper figures let go of the rope. Sousuke rushed to grab it. Mutsu’s body was sinking deeper into the mud and now she already neck deep.
The rope cut into Sousuke’s hands as the paper figures quickly walk the rope to stand before Mutsu. Their thin paper arms plunged into the mud to grasp the kitsune’s forelegs.
“Kitsune-san, let go of the rope and let me take it after they lift you out.”
“Got it,” came the kitsune’s muffled reply.
The moment that the kitsune was lifted out, Mutsu raised both of her hands and tightly gripped the rope. Then she wound it around her wrists so it wouldn’t slip out of her dirty hands.
The paper figures tossed the kitsune into the direction of the shore, where he landed. Then they grabbed Mutsu’s arm, still standing on the rope.
“Sou-san, pull me up!”
Sousuke pulled with all his strength. The rope had cut into his skin to the point of drawing blood. Hiroto also joined him in his efforts.
Very slowly, Mutsu’s body drew closer to the shore.
Suddenly Mutsu put one of her hands into the mud again.
“What the hell are you doing?!”
Mutsu used all her strength to pull out a long and narrow object from the mud. She handed it over to the paper figures and let them carry it ashore.
“I’m sorry, please endure it.”
Mutsu held on to the rope pulling the rope in the opposite direction of Sousuke and Hiroto. She somehow managed to stay afloat but was still slowly sinking. Pulling on the rope, she did all she could to get out of the mud.
“Just a little more.”
When she reached a place about an arm’s length from the shore, the paper figures reached out to pull her up.