Kamisama no Memochou:Volume 7 Chapter 4

From Baka-Tsuki
Jump to: navigation, search

Chapter 4[edit]

The next day, Yui-san gave me a call.

“Sorry for causing you trouble recently, I suppose?”

Yui-san’s cheerful voice seemed bubbly, but in turn, that made me uneasy. At that moment, I was standing in front of the student council office, reading a report on R High School, and to avoid their eyes, I ran to the corridor to pick up the phone.

“Are you alright?’

I put my elbow on the handrail, asking this. Under the cloudy sky, there were still a few leaves on the ichiyou trees in the atrium.

“I’m fine, more or less. I went around apologizing, and most importantly, to Washio-san! Ahaha.”

Her cheerfulness in turn left me with a chill.

“And also, sorry. I should be apologizing to you directly instead of calling you.”

I knew what Yui-san wanted to say next, and tried my best to think of how to cut her off. However, everything I did was futile.

“You knew, didn’t you? My father…is no longer around. Thank you for everything till this point. You can simply message me the investigation fee.”

“Wait a moment.”

I said without thinking,

“If you cancel the request now, we’ll be bothered too. Right now, Alice—”

My voice trailed off into the void on the other side of the handrail, as I seemingly heard Yui-san’s perturbed sigh.

“What…are you saying?” Yui-san said. “Isn’t he already dead? My dad had his head chopped off by someone! What are you saying now, really? Hey, he’s still unidentified, right? I say I want to go to the police station, but Washio-san and the chairman begged me not to.”

“…Sorry.”

“What are you apologizing for, Narumi-kun? You didn’t do anything bad, you know? I don’t have anything to request from you, so, so…”

Yui-san’s voice abruptly wilted due to a loss of heat, as though ripped apart by the Northern Winds. I could hardly hear the last few words from her before she cut the line.

Hey, Yui-san, don’t you want to know? I asked the quiet phone. Don’t you want to know who chopped your dad’s head off, and for what reason? Don’t you want to curse at the culprit? Don’t you think they should pay for their crimes? Don’t you want revenge?

It was a pitiful rhetoric. I had no energy to answer.

I closed my cellphone, slipped it into the pocket, grabbed the handrail with both hands, and squat down. I understood that there was nothing I could help with, but we continued to investigate. Like an amputee who hallucinate pain from the limbs that weren’t there, I scratched away emptily at the lost arms.

 

The NEET detective agency was located in a 5-storey tall building, there were 6 surveillance cameras set up all around it, so there would be visual recordings of the surroundings. This time, they came into use in an unexpected manner; the 6th camera set at the roof took a visual of the road right before the public park.

“It’s still too far though. No matter how much I try to enlarge the visual, the passers-by are just bean size. I can tell how many there are, but not their genders.”

Alice shrugged as she sat on the bed.

“Well, that’s a huge progress.”

Typically, we would ask the experts in college to clean the image for us through Major’s connections. However, Major obviously wanted to take action alone, so we spent a lot of time trying to get others to do so. The 8 hour video was finally cleaned and sent to us today. Alice and I hurriedly checked on them.

As Alice had mentioned, the video showed us some little bits of intel. Despite this, we got something important. The park couldn’t be seen as it was covered in the thick forest, but the road in front of the park was clear to see. The other side of it was the railway, so anyone entering and exiting the park would certainly be caught on camera.

“December 16th, the last one to enter the park was—”

Alice tapped at the keyboard, rewinding the video.

“This man, at 10pm or so.”

The shadow, the size of a little finger, climbed up the stairs.”

“This one’s Ginji-san, I guess.”

“Logically, that should be the case. The next one was at 4.40am, the next morning.”

Alice opened the search column at the bottom of the screen. The visual got a little brighter, and there was a little black dot on the other stairs close to the station.

I checked my call log; Major called me at 5am, on the morning of 17th December. Ginji-san died, he said. If that was the case, the black shadow should be the first one to find him, Major. 10 minutes later, other people entered the park, probably the other homeless.

“This is you, right?”

Around 5.30 or so, there was a figure in the video who parked his bicycle by the roadside, and ran up the stairs.

“I guess. I don’t remember seeing any other bicycles there.”

At that moment, the sky started to brighten, the patrol cars arrived at the scene, and the park was filled with onlookers. I personally witnessed what happened next. Alice stopped the video.

“The mystery is now an actual fact.”

I nodded.

Typically, the park would be empty at night, and even during the period of the reconstruction being stalled, there were fences around the entrances. Nobody entered over the past few days, and the only exception was Ginji-san, the last resident there.

On the night of that incident, nobody, other than Ginji-san, entered the park from the moment he returned till the next day, when Major found the corpse. Then who was it who chopped Ginji-san’s head off, and for what reason? I couldn’t determine any traces of any tools used to chop a head off being lead into the park.

“How was it done? And why?”


Alice muttered.

I opened my mouth, hey, Alice, you can’t bring yourself to stop, right? Yui-san called me the previous day, and told us clearly to stop the investigation. No matter how hard you try to unravel the mystery, everything is useless Just stop it.

But I couldn’t bring myself to say anything, and never told Alice this. While I was at a loss of words, Alice stood on the bedsheet.

“It’s only 8pm now, still too early. Narumi, your sister must be worried about you, so you can go back now. Come here at 2.30am.”

I lifted my eyes at the detective and blinked,

“2.30?...no, I’m fine with that, but why?”

“There are times when I feel like doing some things an ordinary detective would do.”

 

Modern medicine still refuses to admit the term ‘agoraphobia’, but Alice claimed herself to have such a term. She didn’t believe it to be a flaw, as she hated going out, and would merely spend days cooped up in the office. It was a choice in life, like a short person not joining the basketball club or someone with short hair not tying a ponytail.

In any case, this probably wasn’t a disease. The reason why I felt this way was because, though there was no other way, Alice had been going out recently.

“Yes, but God wrote in that page of my notebook that the sun, moon and stars hate me.” So Alice said, “I don’t mind though. If I really have to go out. I’ll just curse at all the lights in the world before opening the door. The scene of the crime is nearby, so I’ll force myself out.”

Alice sounded haughty, but she wouldn’t go out without grabbing onto the hem of my duffle coat. The dim road lights shone upon us, and the uneven shadows of the two of us reached deep into the darkness of the park. Alice wore a thick gown over her usual pajamas, and the strange combination left me unable to explain. More than that however, just walking into the park was already a bad thing, and it was pointless for me to care.

Thinking about it, this was the first time I actually went for a search ever since I became Alice’s assistant. The police continued to forbid everyone from entering the police, and we chose to visit late at night to hide from time. The last train ride was gone, and there was silence in the stretch near the park. The park was filled with the aura of death, as though within reach. The reconstruction work had stalled the entire time, and thus, the place had areas covered by metal sheets, ground that was dug up, and dried grass. It looked like some tragic piece of puzzle art.

“Can you recall how the corpse was lying down?”

I nodded in response to that question, and stepped into the darkness. There were still traces of black blood beneath my feet, and I didn’t have to work hard to recall that Ginji-san fill in the middle of two large, rusted sheets of metal with dust all over them.

“His head was facing this way, like this—”

I explained what I witnessed that morning to Alice in depth. But despite doing so, it felt so surreal to me.

Even till now, the police has yet to find Ginji-san’s head. Also, since Major probably never stated who it was when he was investigated, the identity of the corpse remained unknown. Yui-san wanted to contact the police, but was cut off by her managing company. Currently, society only knew that an elderly homeless commonly known as Ginji was murdered.

That alone would be enough, right? We could simply let the matter be buried just like this. Even if we do dig up the truth, who’ll be happy?”

“Narumi, take out the tablet.”

Alice’s words caused my thoughts to be disrupted, and I took it out. There were panorama videos divided into 3 hours on the monitor. The visual was optically corrected, but it was still too crude to be seen.

“If we enter the park from here…hm, we’ll still be seen.”

The tablet in my hands was connected in sync to the surveillance cameras in Alice’s office, so that we could affirm that anyone entering the park would be caught on the surveillance cameras. Also, this allowed us to compare with the recording visual. It’s true that this person parked the bicycle at that place, and ran up the stairs to the park. With that, it’s certain that the figure at 5.30pm was me.

Alice knelt down near the metal sheets, and found a H-shape ditch the size of a palm at the barren ground in the middle of a grass patch. What was this mark?

I was too bored, and rewound the visual to 10pm or so at 10pm or so. After having a little, I exclaimed. Alice got up, and frowned at me.

“What is it?’

“There’s a car here.”

I expanded a portion of the screen, and Alice too leaned over. It was somewhat far from the park, but I could see a vague silhouette of a roof under the shadows of the building. Following that, what appeared to be Ginji-san got off the case. We didn’t find this car back then. Which direction were the parking lots at again?

I switched the monitor over to the current visual, and tried walking out of the forest to affirm my position on the monitor. The car was parked on a slope. I gasped. That was a place I was familiar with.

“Narumi. W-wait!”

Alice could out anxiously from behind me, but I rushed down the stations, headed towards the pathway that was the other way from the station. At the left side of the end of the pedestrian pathway, there was a slope that was slightly lumped and exposed with holes of dirt. This was the place; the car in the visual was parked here.

I knelt down, searching for tire marks. The parking lot was really cramped, and only the front end of the car could go in. The front wheels entered like this, and when going out, it would reverse…

Two sets of tire tracks.

With my fingers, I touched the tire marks that were clearly engraved onto the dirt ground.

“…Narumi, why did you suddenly run away!? Why did you leave me behind?”

Alice’s frantic footsteps stopped beside me, and she then knelt down behind me. Her black hair and hem of her gown were touching the back of my hand.

“Two sets of tire marks.” I said. Alice lifted her head, “This one probably belongs to the car we caught on camera.”

Then, we checked on the other crushed, dried tire marks eroded by wind under the street lamps.

“It’s the same set.” Alice muttered. I too nodded.

I once spotted the car that was parked here, and that was a week ago. In other words, that car was probably the same as the one caught on the camera that night.

“It’s Washio-san’s car.”

“Natsuki Yui’s manager, huh?”

Alice said, and I nodded, enlarging the visual to the maximum possible. I couldn’t determine the car make, probably it was because the visual was too crude. Was it really Washio-san’s ? Then why did Ginji-san get off Washio-san’s car? Was the figure down there really Ginji-san? Washio-san might be the culprit, right?

The memories reached out tentatively in my mind, trying to chain everything together.

Right. At that moment—when Yui-san disappeared, I remembered something was amiss in the phone call from Washio-san. Now, I finally understood.

Back then, Washio-san said, “that person might not have been her father.”

Back then, I assumed that he was referring to the homeless Ginji-san not possibly being Katsuragi Kenji. In fact, it was impossible for Washio-san to say this, for he personally interacted with Ginji-san, and was sure he was her father.

Thus, “that person might not have been her father.” there was another meaning to those words. In other words, that need not be the corpse of Ginji-san, or Katsuragi Kenji.

For the corpse was without a head.

Washio-san already knew that the corpse was beheaded.

How did he know? The police never publicly reveal this, and it was not reported on the news.

At this point, a possibility appeared in my mind. Washio-san personally witnessed the corpse, so in other words, he personally watched Washio-san’s beheaded corpse, as the culprit.

I rattled off this spiel of hypothesis to Alice, and a chill crawled through my skin like a centipede as I did so.

But the detective’s expression was the complete opposite to my tone; the more agitated I got, the calmer she was.

“Oh? I see.”

Once she was done hearing me out, Alice frowned, and said,

“I’ve always forgotten how stupid you are, so I won’t scold you today. This is an area of death, and I don’t want to broke the peacefulness.”

Her voice was several times frostier than the night air.

“And if you want to say that the culprit’s Washio, mind explaining why the head was chopped off/’

“I—guess.”

It’s just my simple guess, but that man was very terrified of having everyone find out that Ginji-san was Natsuki Yui’s father. If the tabloids were to find out that a rising idol’s father was a wanderer who dithered at the park, it would become some really juice gossip material. Thus, he killed Ginji-san, and cut the head off to hide the identity.

“So how did he do it?” Alice asked as she looked at me with sleepy eyes.

“So he committed the crime somewhere else. Once he chopped the head off, he took the corpse to the park, and dumped it there. The person caught walking out of the car on the surveillance camera was Washio, who came to dump Ginji-san’s corpse. He dropped it in the park, and hid there till morning. Once he saw the onlookers, he came over, hid in the crowds, and escaped…”

I went on a lot passionate rant of guesses, but Alice merely sighed hard, saying,

“Have you heard of the saying that the Bible is infallible?’

“Infallible…what?”

“It is the insistence that the Bible is without any errors, and there’s no need to think and explain, just read it literally. If we believe in such sayings, the Earth should have been created by God in 7 days, at BC 4000 years. As you know however, by checking the fossils and crust, you’ll find that there is life long before God indicated. How do you think those that insist the Bible is infallible will explain the existence of the fossils and crust?”

I could only blink, unable to understand why Alice started talking about this out of a sudden?

“Because God buried those things that might cause humans misunderstandings into the ground 6,000 years ago.”

“Huh?” If such things could be believed, anything can be explained, “So why did God do such a thing?”

Upon seeing my expression, Alice’s eyes were as frosty as dry ice.

“So I want to ask you, why would Washio do such a thing?”

I finally understood the intent behind Alice’s words, and in the frosty winds, I could feel my cheeks and ears heating up in embarrassment. As she said, why would he do such a thing? If he wanted to chop off the head so that the corpse remains unidentified, couldn’t he just hide the corpse? Why chop the head off and drag the body to the park? The thought of settling a doubt coincided with the idea that the Bible is infallible. In fact, there was no benefit at all.

“This really sounds like some delusion you would weave about the world. You really aren’t suited for the profession of a detective.”

“Sorry…”

I was dejected, and glanced at Alice,

“B-but the possibility of that isn’t zero either! Washio-san’s a prime suspect right now. You saw his car on the camera too.”

Alice shrugged.

“If you really want to investigate Washio, do as you please. I have no interest in that.”

I was stunned. How did Alice end up having such a reaction?

“So you think the homeless killed Ginji-san? He got attacked by BB bullets, so I guess there’s a higher possibility of that.”

“Major said that he wanted to bear responsibility for this and make this his duty to deal with those brats playing soldier. We can leave those people to Major, I don’t have any interest in any of them.”

“No interest…huh?”

Alice’s words were too aloof for my tastes, but the petite detective grabbed the hem of my coat firmly, and gently nodded.

“I just want to know the reasons, and how the head was chopped off. I have no interest in the criminals.”

I let out white breath from my lips.

“Why?”

“Until I get the truth, I can’t explain.”

I was completely befuddled. She just wanted to know how the head got chopped off, and why? Didn’t need to know who the culprit is? What exactly was Alice trying to say?

“I came out of the walls to dig up the truth. Let’s continue investigating.”

Alice stood up, and tugged at the hem of my coat. With much scepticism, I brought Alice up the stairs, and returned to the park.

We passed through the blood stained metal sheets, and into the darkness.

There was a massive shadows under the black thick forest. It was the hut made of vinyl sheets, plywood and cardboard, Ginji-san’s house. On a closer look, Ginji-san’s house was rather large. The height was about as taller as Alice, and the area was no lesser than the NEET detective agency. There was also a few ropes made of nylon strings and tape holding down the place; it seemed it would not be easy to remove it.

Ginji-san probably insisted on not moving because his hut really couldn’t be moved easily. They’re homeless, so if they can move anywhere, they can go anywhere.

In accordance to Alice’s instructions, I opened the plywood doors to check the inside. All possible clues for identification were taken away by the police, and there were only a few towels laid out on the cardboard.

We went to the back of the hut, and found tape of uneven lengths pasted on the walls of the cardboard. I guess Ginji-san probably taped them on to repair the damage from the airgun attacks from the other side of the railway. Alice pointed a finger at one of the marks that were not repaired, and turned to look at the railway. There were trendy street lights at the fence, and on the other side, there was an uneven stretch of darkness. The lights of the bustling streets at the other side was really far away.

Looks like Alice is searching for something, I thought.

Was she trying to estimate where the bullet was fired from? Was there a meaning to that? Can an airgun really kill someone from the other side of the railway? More importantly, Ginji-san was beheaded, so how can that be explained?

Assuming that those kids in military gear killed Ginji-san with modified airguns—and left bullet marks on the head, they chopped off his head to hide the evidence. Was that a possibility?

A high school kid? With a Japanese sword?

I started to feel that this theory was as stupid as the one I said about Washio-san being the culprit, and I shook my head. I really was unsuited to be a detective.

Alice tugged at the hem of my coat, and caused me to recover. She wanted me to bring her to the fence.

“What are you looking for?”

I wanted to ask, only to meet her in the eyes, and I stopped.

Of course, Alice was seeking the words of the dead. That was simply the job of a detective. Once found, the detective would then reconstruct the words in the heart, and would not explain until she found the person to convey them to.

Thus, I merley accompanied Alice through the forests, and walked to the metal fence by the railway. I felt that the weather got colder, probably due to the lack of shelter.

“There’s a hole here.”

Alice muttered, pointing at the feet. There was a little hole at the corner of the fence, large enough for a cat to slip through.

“If the culprit chopped off Ginji-san’s head and escaped from here, it’s true that the cameras won’t be able to capture it at that angle.

But I could not imagine the hole being big enough for a person to get through.

“I never said it was for a person.”

Then what? A shovel car? I stared at the other side of the hole, and there were a few short tracks of rust on the sandy grass patch. Alice remained speechless as she lifted her head up to look. She was staring at a chandelier-like street lamp, but there was no light on this night.

“…There was a fire in the Summer, right?”

“Eh, eh?”

Alice’s sudden words left me taken aback.

“The homeless mentioned to you that there was a little fire in the park, right?”

“Y-yes.”

I did remember Pe-san saying such a thing. Everyone blamed the fire on the homeless for their vinyl bags and combustible huts, and it was increasingly difficult for them to stay there.

“Let’s go back.”

Alice leaned on me as she said,

“Is this really fine? Don’t you have anything else to investigate?’

“No need for that. I already understand.”

I stared at Alice’s face, and felt a chill run down my spine. Her eyes were filled with terrifying fury, and caused my throat to stiff.

How much did she know? Did she link all the clues together? Or that she already knew who did it, and why?

Tens of thousands of doubts rose up my throat like revolting gastric juices, and I did all I could to suppress it back in.

These shouldn’t be the words to be mentioned here.

No, these words might not be able to reach out to anyone, and rot in Alice’s heart.

I quietly asked Alice, You aren’t suited to be a detective yourself, right? Every time you find an answer, you just look sad, wilted. Every time you’re done with your work, you always end up arriving at a dried desert. Even so, you continue to work your way towards the mirage of truth, never stopping. But that’s strange; humans can’t survive in a dry barren land. Is it because you’re a NEET, that if work is about creating valuable happiness, but you won’t be able to get that happiness when you cocoon yourself up, right?

At this moment, I was so helpless, and I could only nod my head silently, holding Alice’s hand as I walked on.

To one to convey the words to. That would be—

“Yui-san said that she wants to stop the request.”

Once I saw the shutters of the ramen shop, I said that.

“…I see.”

Alice stiffly answered.

“Sorry. I wasn’t able to convince her.”

“It’s alright. I’ll deduct a whole lot from your pay. I’m used to work without an outcome.”

“Looks like Major too…wants to settle things by himself.”

“Yeah, because it concerns his pride.”

Then what should I do? With this bloody truth in mind, what could this useless detective do when she can’t be fertilizer or fuel?

At the dark corner of the emergency staircase, Alice stopped in her tracks, saying,

“We can only wait.”

“For what?”

“A miracle.”

 

Alice mentioned about miracles a few times, and the first time I heard of that, was during the incident involving Meo.

“Miracles can happen once to anyone, it’s just that most people don’t notice it when it happens.”

Alice insisted that she’s not a Christian, but such a notion should be similar to religion in itself. In other words, for the Japanese who typically don’t have much religious belief, a miracle would be like hitting a home run at the bottom of the ninth inning, or a plane accident that ended up with everyone still alive. For the Christians, without any hope, little things that happens to us are considered miracles. Not because of whosever prayers, not because of an overlapping coincidence, but that God wrote every miracle in the notebook.

But I had no religious belief, and could not wait.

The following afternoon, I gave the manager Washio a call, but it was mostly just to escape from reality. Even if it was for just a moment, I wanted to forget that I had no reason to continue investigating.

“I got something to talk to you about. Erm, Mori-san, Conductor and Marienkhof-shi—ah, sorry, about the homeless who know Ginji-san. R-right, that’s it. They know Ginji-san’s real name. We’re wondering if we should tell the police. Please lower your voice. I’m still in school. Yes, yes. Eh? Today? Meet today? Got it. I’ll try asking them…money? About that, please ask them directly. 8pm? Okay, I understand. Location—”

Once we agreed on the rendezvous at night, I hung up, leaned my back on the icy wall, and sighed. Conning people really was a tiring thing to do, especially when I didn’t have any trumps. Of course, the intel about Mori-san and the others telling me everything was a lie; I then gave a call to Tetsu-senpai.

“Can you get Mori-san and the others today…? Sorry for asking you do such a strange thing out of a sudden. Ah, it’s fine. Just to scare him; don’t worry if you can’t get them all. Actually, it’s fine even if nobody…really? Y-yes, thanks.”

I hung up the phone, and just at that moment, the prep bell rang. The students were running down the corridor, and I looked out of the windows. There were only 5 minutes left for break time; should I give Major a call? I don’t care about that weird pride of yours; hurry up and spill the beans. How are you going to punish those brats from R High School alone? Should I interrogate him with that.

I didn’t know.

I recalled every word Alice said. She had she had no interests in criminals, only about how the head was chopped off, and why. I didn’t know what that meant. Couldn’t she get the answers to both as long as we found the culprit? Or is it that we can’t catch him without knowing how?

Of course, we can’t find the reason and method. There is no large machinery in the park, and the surveillance cameras never caught sight of any machinery that were moved in and out. No matter who we suspected, we would end up with these two issues. With that, it would be a waste of effort for this stupid detective assistant to act independently without a client’s request.

While I hesitated, the prep bell continued ringing. The teacher could be seen around the corner of the corridor, so I kept my phone, and walked into the classroom.

 

“…So, how’s the jail food?”

“Who knows? What about you, Tetsu? You know?”

“I don’t. Hey, I haven’t been to a Boys’ Home, I’m a good kid! Were you caught and put somewhere before, Mori-san?’

“Nope. Only the detention center.”

“The food there is the worst of all. They gave me two straight days of the same thing.” “There’s no budget.”

The conversation could be heard from the concrete arch beneath the bridge of the railway. I looked around, and peeked in.

“Oh, isn’t that Narumi? Brought food over?”

Mori-san was the first to discover me, and lifted his head. Gathered at the scene in a circle were 4 of the homeless and Tetsu-senpai. The chilly breeze could not enter between the 4 pillars supporting the railway, and it was relatively warm with everyone huddled up.

“Sorry for having to get everyone here.”

I lowered my head, and at the same time, handed the convenience store bag to the older men; the fragrance of yakitori and meat buns filled the cramped place.

“Everyone got arrested before?”

Recalling the chilling conversation from before, I cautiously asked,

“Only Major got taken back, we just answered the questions on the spot.” Conductor answered. Every time, he was dressed in suit, and polite in tone. He might have the appearance of a higher management member of a company, but he was really an actual homeless folk.

“We went over because Major called us over.” Pe-san answered.

“Called? As in cellphone? You have one?”

“Oho, you’re treating us as idiots now, Narumi?” “Let us teach you the harshness of reality!”

“If you want to do day jobs, a cellphone is a must!” “I don’t have since I can’t pay the phone fees…”

“So-sorry.”

I was too ignorant. So in such times, even the homeless needed a cellphone, huh?

Mori-san nodded.

“Ginji-san was already like that when he arrived.”

“But in any case, there’s no need to kill him like that…”

“Wat’ll happen to the corpse?” “Probably dissected, and he’ll become a lonely ghost.” “We might end up like that too.”

Everyone’s voice got weaker, and finally silence. The train passed by from time to time, letting out a resounding boom that wiped out the sound of everyone chomping on cup ramen and fried chicken.

For them, Ginji-san was someone very important. Thus, his death brought about such a deep, impressionable emptiness, and also proved that he wasn’t alone when he was alive.

“Narumi, aren’t you trying to find out who killed Ginji-san?”

Mori-san asked quietkly. That bald head was dyed red due to drunkenness.

“…Yes. I invited everyone here to assist in this. You don’t have to do anything much. I just need an excuse and threat.”

“Hm? Tetsu, you too?”

“I’m fine with not looking for the culprit. I don’t get any pay out of this.”

Senpai’s tone was kind enough as it was.

“It’s just that I have sharp instincts, and I guess you called me here to scare some people, right, Narumi?”

Senpai directed his stare at me, and I nodded,

“Did that guy kill Ginji-san?” Pe-san asked.

“No, I’m not yet—” while I was about to say that I was still uncertain, footsteps and a long slender figure appeared behind me. I turned around, and found a savage looking young man dressed in a white down jacket. It was the manager Washio. He removed what was likely a pair of plain lens glasses, and put them into the chest pocket, stepping into our gathering spot.

“A lot of you here.”

Washio-san sounded somewhat spiteful, glared at us, and stared at me,

“I’ll state beforehand that I have no money. If you’re intending to extort me, I’ll start off stubborn.”

“What’s with that out of a sudden?” Pe-san said, “Who are you?”

“I saw him a few times at the park.”

“He spoke with Ginji-san before.”

The homeless men’s conversation left Washio-san a little startled. It was unsurprising as he had assumed the homeless would try to extort him, but nobody recognized him. I stood up, and retreated slightly so that Washio-san could enter the space.

“Sorry, I lied to you on the phone.”

Washio-san’s face gurned.

“I just want to talk to you about something, and lied to you to get you out.”

Suddenly, I noticed that Tetsu-senpai had walked towards the path leading outside, his arms folded as he stood behind Washio-san. He probably did that to prevent Washio-san from turning away and running in shock. Really, I was grateful to him about that.

“What is it that you want to talk to me about?”

“I want to ask you about this; on December 16, the night before the incident, you drove out to bring Ginji-san back to the park, didn’t you?”

I kept quiet, and watched Washio-san’s reaction. His face looked as thoug there was a thin layer of dirt sticking onto it, for he became stoic-faced.

“…Erm, I’m not trying to fish something out of you, or that you need to make an excuse. We got all the necessary evidence, and the surveillance cameras recorded images of your car and Ginji-san doing the same.”

What I said was a lie. The tire marks could only be considered as weak evidence, and the visual of the car was too small to be seen cleanly. Hearing this, Washio-san sighed, his shoulders relaxing.

“Yes, I did send him back to the park. So what?”

Like him, I too felt relieved. Ever since I became a detective assistant, I started picking up ways to lie that should not be done. Then, I spotted senpai behind Washio-san giving a sneaky grin.

“I don’t know what you’re guessing, but I just so happened to meet that man when I was on the way back to the park, and brought him back. On the car, I was just begging him to leave the park, and I did notify the police about this.”

Washio-san started to speak faster, probably because he was pressurized by the stares of Mori-san, Pe-san, Conductor and Marienkhof-shi staring at him.

“I too was shocked…to hear of his passing. I didn’t expect you guys to suspect me. I don’t have a reason to kill. Why would I want to do such a stupid thing?”

“Then, how did you know that…Ginji-san’s head was chopped off?”

Washio-san immediately widened his eyes, his throat croaking.

As I asked him, I started to sense my voice calming down. I instinctively realized that he wasn’t the culprit. He lowered his eyes, and nudged his toes into the dirt as though he wanted to crush something.

“Of course, it was the people at Hercules who told me that. The reconstruction work is started by the town council, and of course, the police informed them of the details. I’m not sure of the source, but it’s likely the people at the town council informed the people at Hercules.

I sighed, and lowered my shoulders. At this point, it all made sense, fifty thousand times more plausible than the theory of Washio-san being the culprit I said to Alice.

“Is that all you want to talk about? Why bluff me out just for this little thing?”

This time, I lowered my head. However, I had a feeling I had something to ask about.

I heard a voice behind me.

“You’re the last one to meet Ginji-san, right?”

Mori-san asked. Washio-san frowned, and put on the plain lens glasses.

“Is that so? I don’t know. I didn’t intend for that. I’ll say it again, I just wanted to discuss things with him.”

“We’re not blaming you here. What did Ginji-san say to you at the end?”

They want to know what he said at the end? I turned around to look at Mori-san. Pe-san, Conductor and Marienkhof-shi were seated cross-legged on the floor, staring at him intently.

“Like our conversation from before. I said I was willing to take care of him for a moment, but that stubborn man said that he would never leave the park, even if he died. He insisted that it had nothing to do with Yui; he didn’t want to recognize his daughter, and didn’t want to meet her. So why did he want to remain in the park? Is there a treasure there or something?”

Washio-san said, and looked away, probably realizing how agitated he was. The four homeless looked at each other, and nodded in unison.

“…Then…”

“Right.”

“He found it, huh?”

“Hey, you know something?” Washio-san went towards my side, and bent down to ask Mori-san.

The latter merely nodded, and Pe-san beside him answered.

“Ginji-san found his home.”

Washio-san snorted, and got up.

“…How foolish.”

He said, and retreated to the road, glaring at the homeless who were squatted around the warm air.

“You guys are wanderers, no place to call home. No matter where you stay at, it’s—”

Conductor and Mori-san got up, wanting to argue back, but Washio-san’s cellphone suddenly rang. He retreated to the fence, and fished out his cellphone.

“…Yes, eh? Yui? Sorry, can’t hear you. It’s noisy behind me…eh? Yes, yes…I-I’ll be right there!”

Without realizing it, I hurried after Washio-san while the latter was leaving.

“Why are you following me? Aren’t we done?”

“What happened to Yui-san?”

Washio-san stopped, and glared at me, giving a look of one looking to strangle someone else.

“She collapsed. She’s in the hospital.”

 

I don’t suppose anyone had any good memories of the hospital, but my own memories of the hospital were all really terrible. Every time, it’s always about dying people lying on the bed, and I could only shrink on the round stool, being all helpless. On that day, it was the same.

“…She didn’t eat well, did she? Are you her older brother? Her manager!? Please take care of her living conditions. If you underestimate anaemia…”

The doctor told off Washio-san on the other side of the bed as I was collapsed on the chair by the bedside, staring at Yui-san. Her face was pale, her messy hair looking like hard wax, her closed eyelids not twitching. She really looked like a corpse if not for the chest huffing as she breathed.

A burly man in his 50s or so, dressed in golf wear suddenly slammed the door open and barged in. Please calm down, chairman. Washio-san immediately stood up, and the duo got into any argument. Is Yui fine? How is she? Hey, who’s that brat? Please don’t raise your voice, we’re in the hospital. Is that brat Yui’s boyfriend? How didn’t I know about this? Chairman, please head outside the ward room—

Amidst this commotion, Yui-san opened her eyes slightly.

“Yui!”

Washio-san immediately noticed her waking up, grabbed the bed frame, and stared at her.

“…Eh…I…”

Yui-san poked her hand out from under the blanket, trying to block out the light, probably because it was too bright. However, her hand trembled feebly, and landed on her forehead. She ended up shaking the drip tube, and the metal frame let out a sound.

“Why…huh? Narumi-kun?”

“You idiot!” Washio-san lashed out, “Good thing it was a recording. What if it had been a live show?”

Yyu-san snuggled back under the blanket in fear.

“Please get out if you want to make a commotion!” The young doctor told the duo off harshly, shoving them out of the room.

“How dire is her situation now? Does she need to stay in? If there’s a way to get her discharged.”

Washio-san asked as he grabbed the doctor by the collar. They’re basically arguing. You all can vanish for all I care, malicious thoughts appeared in my mind.

“She doesn’t need to stay in the hospital, but you can tell that she needs rest for the time being. Hey, you too! Get out!” The doctor turned around to me.

At this moment, I subconsciously blurted,

“Please let me be able to with Yui-san for the time being.”

The eyes under the plain lenses of Washio-san widened largely, and the chairman in golf wear was looking flushed. The doctor scowled.

“Just for a while. I’ll talk a little, and if she calms down, I’ll go back.”

Unexpectedly, Washio-san was the first to budge. He tugged at the sleeve of the chairman, saying this brat is okay. Let him try talk Yui out of it and get her to calm down. Once done, he led the chairman out of the room while the latter continued to utter something. Finally, “Just 5 minutes.” the young doctor said with a scowl on his face, and vanished behind the door.

The silence finally came upon us, like an ice block crushing at my throat. I sighed, and turned to the top of the bed.

With a look of disbelief, Yui-san stared at me.

“You didn’t eat? That’s what the doctor said.”

“I don’t have any appetite.”

“You didn’t sleep much either, did you? Your make up is a little hick.”

“Nooo, you shouldn’t have said it even if you noticed it!”

Yui-san probably wanted to laugh, but her face was showing a cracked expression.

After some silence, she asked,

“…Why did you come along too, Narumi-kun?”

“Well…I just so happened to come by with Washio-san.”

“Just so happened?”

I was a little hesitant, but discussed to spill the beans.

I told her that on the night before the incident, Washio-san met with Giniji-san. To affirm if he was the cuklprit, I called him out. Thus, I had to report to her about their conversation. Ginji-san did not want to meet Yui-san, and did not want to recognize her. Once she heard that, her expression did not change.

“Why are you continuing with the investigation?”

Yui-san stared at the ceiling, asking with a parched voice,

“Didn’t I say that I want to cancel the request? Why are you still continuing with it? And if Washio-san really was the culprit, you could have been killed?”

It appeared Yui-san wanted to joke with me, as once she was done, she patted me on the shoulder. However, her overly cheerful voice left me uneasy.

Why did we want to continue with the investigation?

I stared at the gap beween the round stool and the bed, hearing the groaning of the warm air as I pondered over the reason.

“…Knowing the truth is as good as dying.”

Yui-san turned her head around slightly.

“That’s Alice’s mantra. She always said that there’s no turning back once we know, and in other words, that part of the other person. If nobody requests anything from her, she won’t dig up ther truth.”

Yui-san’s troubled eyes were wavering between the ceiling and my face.

“Her way of action as a detective will always end up hurting a certain person deliberately. It’s like there’s a locked room, yet she went to open it, to show you that it’s empty inside. However, nobody will be happy by her actions, and instead, a certain part of everyone’s hearts die off.”

Because I was the same, and Tetsu-senpai, Yondaime, Min-san and the others were the same. I opened my hands, seeking traces of blood. I could no longer see them, but I clearly remembered them.

“Bu-but.”

Again, I clenched my fists slightly.

“Just a bit—my heart just feels a little more relaxed than before. It’s just a little, but we can again take a step forward. The hole in the heart remains, but even though it remains we can go forward even with this hole inside.”

I bit my lower lips. As expected, I could explain it well. After I was done, I couldn’t sense Yui-san’s response. It’s like trying to sculpt something in the water, trying to create some kind of image.

“This is what being a detective is about. If you find that it’s pain—”

I stared at Yui-san’s expression face.

“No matter when, you can ask us for help.”

Once I said that, I found something was strange. It felt that I was the one pleading to be saved. Yui-san’s face changed expressions a few times.

“Why?”

She sounded as though she was on the verge of tears.

“Why am I feeling sad? Why is it, when the one vanishing is someone who never existed?”

I really wanted to cover my ears. Saying that, Yui-san stared at the ceiling silently.

I wanted to cover my ears. Once she was done, Yui-san again stared at the ceiling silently.

I too wondered why we felt so sad. It was just the death of someone who never existed, so why did we feel sadness when God created us? Unable to understand, I stood up from my chair, and went for the door.

 

The NEETs, starting with Alice, have a narrow-minded belief of not taking action without any request. After what I experienced this past Winter, I understood really well that it was a reasonable idea. Without a compass, navigation map and a sextant, I would be drifting in the oceans with a drift board, and it really was taxing. In some cases, I might end up drifting further away from land.

However, this stupid and paranoid me was a brat who couldn’t be a NEET, unable to remain still. The following day, after school, I had Kaoruko-senpai create an excuse for me to head to R high school. This time I went to the student council office to greet them.

“You have your graduation ceremony on the 24th? Us too. Let’s go for a gathering once the graduation ceremony ends! I’m a platinum member of the Karaoke shop, so it’s going to be cheap. Remind to call Kaoruko-san along. I’ll get the student sof T Girls High and Y Girls Academy to come along. I’ll be counting on you, Fujishima-senpai.”

I went to exchange the club activity pamphlets with the student council president of R High School, who was as enthusiastic as usual.

I pretended to stare at the introductory pamphlets stacked on the table in a nonchalant manner, and asked,

“I heard your school has a strange club called the History Research club.”

I could sense everyone else other than the president wince.

“You know a lot.”

“Ah, erm, one of my friends is a graduate.”

A third year reading manga in a corner of the room nearly fell off from the chair.

“That graduate you talk of, eh, is that…that Mukai…”

“Right, Mukai Hitoshi. You know him?”

Was he around when the 3rd years first entered? Maybe he might be way older? As I started guessing Major’s age, there was already a commotion amongst the student council members.

“So you’re an acquaintance of Mukai-senpai, Fujishima-senpai?” “No wonder.” “The atmosphere, somehow.” “Mukai-senpai? “I heard he’s the guy who caused the college scholarship budget of our school to be cut by half…” “Ahhh…”

What kind of urban legends did he leave behind? I wondered with a hand on my forehead. With a disgusted look, the student council president said, “I guess you know the history research club is just a resting place for military otakus, a survival game club.”

“I do. Right. They have a member called Hirabayashi, right? Heard he’s just a first year.”

“…Hirabayashi is in my class.” The president said.

“A-ahh, I-I see. Erm, I only know of his name, that’s all.”

Even I too felt that the topic was too forced, and hurriedly tried to round things off.

“Well, that Major—no, about that Mukai-san told me that if I am to drop by at R High School, I’m to visit Hirabayashi since the guy looks like he has some troubles and has been taking breaks. Speaking of which, did Hirabayashi come to school today?”

“He did! Probably to attend make-up classes.”

I was lying when I said that he was taking breaks, and I didn’t expect that to be the case. Hirabayashi had been taking makeup classes after school to catch up on his academics.

The classroom of 1-7 on the third floor was located closest to the stairs, and to avoid others, I sat at the stairwell, waiting for his lessons to end.

This is a strange way of avoiding reality, I muttered to myself as I felt the cold concrete under my backside.

A detective would act as one because one because he wanted to avoid the truth nobody else wanted to understand.

After the bell at 5pm rang for a while, I spotted a teacher entering his old age open the door and walk out, followed by the back door opening. A diminutive figure in uniform walked onto the corridor, and it was clearly the first year student I spotted at the club. He had the appearance of a middle school student, probably because of how small he looked. There were some bruises at the edge of his lips, his eyes had some ban aids. I ran down the corridor, and called for him.

“Erm—”

Startled, he turned around. At first, he could not recognize me, and once he saw my uniform it appeared he recalled. He showed a skeptical look on his face.

“…You’re the one who came to our club…is there anything you need?”

“I want to ask you about the night of the 16th.”

He put his bag on his shoulder, and started running, jumping down the stairs two steps at a time. I hurriedly gave case, but he was not headed for the clubroom, but towards to the entrance.

“Wait, I just want to ask something. Just want to ask!”

He continued ignoring my shouts as he darted down to the entrance, put on his shoes, and ran out. Despite the surrounding stares of the R High school students leaving me awkward, I hurriedly put on my shoes and ran out. His back, dressed in uniform, had already ran off to the back door.

“I told you to stop!”

I caught him near the back door, and luckily, it was a quiet residential area with few people.

“What do you want?”

He waved my hand off.

“This has nothing to do with you!”

“The police has specified the type of gun used. It’s only a matter of time.”

I quietly noted. Of course, it was just my threat, but he went silent. The bag nearly slipped from his shoulders, and he carried it again, turning his back on me.

“…What do you want exactly? Mukai-senpai too came to look for me…”

“The homeless guy who was killed is someone we know, and we’re investigating.”

I tried my best to speak with a gentle tone, explaining to the back of the uniform that appeared to be on the verge of snapping.

“Major’s a maniac, and he found you out faster than the police.”

“I don’t know.”

“I think you may be mistaken. I’m not here to pursue responsibility. I don’t care whether you’re the culprit. I just want to know what happened that night.”

“I don’t know!”

Again, Hirabayashi tried to walk on, and I grabbed the belt of his bag. He turned around to yell,

“LET GO OF—”

“—Vice-Admiral Fujishima?”

I heared a sudden voice from behind me, and following that, a figure in camouflage colors entered my sights. The little hand in leather glove grabbed my arm firmly, and the eyes under the visor were narrowed, glared at me in rage.

“Major…”

“Why are you here? What business do you have with Private Hirabayashi?”

I could not answer Major, and so I avoided his eyes. He then grabbed my arm more forcefully, causing me to let go of Hirabayashi’s bag.

“I told you this is our internal matters. Don’t interrupt.”

“This isn’t your matter alone, Major! This is a case the client asked us to handle!”

“I heard she cancelled it.”

I was left speechless as Major saw through my lie. It was all my selfish motivation. Hirabayashi’s just a stranger, and I had no right to question him.

“Private Hirabayashi, why are you running away?”

Major grabbed Hirabayashi by the collar, and dragged him over.”


“I came here today to ask you personally. All prior contacts had some failure, and I found that the gas, batteries and bearings were all bought under your name. Did you attend every mock battle?”

“It has nothing to do with you, senpai.”

“Who took part in the mock battles on the night of the 16th? I asked you especially because you bought so much consumables, but not the guns. Your personal gun should be the Uzi sub machine gun for beginners you bought at the Mukai seminar when you first joined, and unable to fire bearings.”

I was stunned. Did Major find out that much?

“Were you set up?”

“…It has nothing to do you you.”

“Who shot?”

“I don’t know.”

“Stop fooling around and answer. Did they command you to keep quiet? Don’t worry, I’m going to punish them.”

“Please, leave me alone!”

Hirabayashi waved off Major’s hand.

“You’re no longer a member, senpai. Please don’t say anymore.”

“Why are you protecting them? This isn’t even a notion of comradeship. Have you forgotten the rules of a soldier?”

“I said I don’t know!” Hirabayashi suddenly knocked Major aside on the shoulder.

“I’m your commander! Trust me! I’ll ensure your safety!”

“How do you intend to get me to trust you? You graduated for who know how long, and you don’t know how the club is right now! Why did you encourage me to join the history research club? I don’t want to play any survival games. I shouldn’t have joined.”

Just looking at Major’s back was enough for me to understand how dejected he was, and he even let go. Hirabayashi put his bag onto the shoulder, turned around, and walked away. Major and I could only watch the back of the black uniform. The right hand of Major, covered in leather glove, quivered as it remained clenched, and then let go again.

I felt that I had to say something.

“…You knew that first year for a long time?”

“During summer break, we would get along with the elite students of the affiliated middle school for some study meet, and we played together then.”

Major sensed that he let slip of something, and kept quiet. He gave a look implying that he should not have told me, and continued on,

“If I can report, I will. Go finish your mission, Vice-Admiral.”

“What do you intend to do? What if they are the real culprits?”

“I told you I’ll handle it by myself!”

“Then how—”

“You don’t need to know, Vice-Admiral.”

Major said as he pointed a finger at my chest, and turned around to leave. I bent down, took a deep breath, and wanted to yell at the back of the small figure dressed in camouflage jacket. However, I could not say anything, and merely gather my emotions in my palms as I slapped at my thighs.

What finish my mission? If I could, I would have done it. Right now, I don’t have a compass, navigation map, and no sextant. I’m unable to finish the mission Alice tasked me with, and I don’t know what to say to Yui-san when she’s hiding under the wrinkled clothes. Major, what are you feeling actually? Are you trying to protect your former comrades, or not hoping for their sins to be laid out under the sun? I did say that to Hirabayashi to scare him, but the police aren’t idiots; they’ll figure out this clue soon. Why exactly do you insist on your ideals? Why does everyone bend down and cover their ears? What do I do exactly?

This inexplicable rage became dust that seeped through the gaps between my fingers. The frosty northern winds pricked at my ears, and at this point, I realized that I left my coat in the student council office. I put my hands into my pocket, and went towards the back door.

 

It was completely dark when I arrived at Hanamaru. It’s the season where the day is shorter after all. It was yet to be evening though, and there were no customers to be seen behind the curtains, only Min-san alone busy with the preparations to open the shop.

Right in front of the back door, I spotted two figures seated, facing each other in front of a wooden table.

“I’m going to attack this piece. Mine is Major!”

“Too bad. Mine’s a landmine!”

“Again? Your layout is really annoying.”

“I’m going to start attacking from the right then. I’m attacking here. Mine is Vice-Admiral.”

“It’s Major!” “Ahh damn it!”

“What are you two doing…?’

It’s Tetsu-senpai and Hiro, and there was something similar to a shogi table laid out between them, with several thousand yen notes by the side. These damned NEETs only know how to gamble, goodness me.

“Welcome back, Narumi.” Hiro-san looked away from the board, beaming.

“Don’t talk to me, or else I’ll forget my layout.” Tetsu-senpai again stared at the board.

“Shogi?...doesn’t look like it.”

“It’s soldier shogi. Do you know?’

I know soldier shogi. It’s a game using the ranks of the soldier to attack and defend. However, there are a dozen or so pieces that lappeared dead, and I felt weird.

“Why only ‘Major’ and ‘Vice-Admiral’?”

“It’s the ‘Hanamaru soldier shogi’ we came up with.” Tetsu-senpai gleefully answered, “Only Major, Vice-Admiral and landmine.” What is this…

Hiro explained,

“Major beats Vice-Admiral, because he doesn’t think of Narumi as much.”

“Ehh, well…”

“But Vice-Admiral beats landmines, because you always trample on them, Narumi.” “What do you mean!?”

And thus, the Vice-Admiral piece in senpai’s territory got trampled by Hiro’s Major piece, so the former had to fork out money bitterly.

“Argh, I’ll stop wit this. This Vice-Admiral is really useless, completely useless.” You’re referring to the game, right? Senpai? Is it just me, or is there spite in those words?

“Hey, you NEETs!” Min-san poked her head out from the back door. “I’m not charging you for that, but try out a new flavour.”

A delighted looking Hiro and a reluctant Tetsu-senpai walked into the shop, while I sat on a beer crate chair, spacing out. Again, Min-san opened the back door, saying,

“Hurry in! Or it’s going to clump together.”

“Ah…yes.”

At the very least, trying out new flavors would require me to use my tongue. Thinking about that, I got up, and walked into the shop.

The new flavour was a meat miso ramen, a relatively standard one for Min-san. Tetsu-senpai kept praising it, while Hiro advised that it might be too sweet. I took a bite of noodles and drank some of the soup, remaining still as I held onto the hot bowl.

The icy feeling I felt when I met Major was practically melting away in other ways.

Tetsu-senpai ordered some beer, and started drinking with Hiro. Min-san lowered the volume of the TV, and started washing the pot. The steam covered her upper body, yet I felt exceptionally cold, so I took another gulp.

“Narumi.”

Min-san’s words caused me to lift my head.

“Seriously, I won’t be helping you again.”

“…Eh?”

“I won’t let you have any more free ice cream. Given ow thick-headed you are, how many times do you want me to repeat it?”

“…Oh, eh?”

“It means people view you favourably, Narumi. You should try and improve your stock, Narumi.”

Hiro added as he gave a mischievous smirk.

“Hiro, you play stocks?”

“Not me, but the madams.”

“What did you say about the madams again?”

“Min-san, you’re holding a chopper! It’s scary!”

“Oh really? As long as you keep saying the wrong things, I’ll start doing the wrong things.”

“I’ll start buying stocks too. Can I buy with three different bills.” “It’s not horseracing.”

I nonchalantly listened in on their conversation, slurping at the increasingly cold ramen. What was everyone hoping about me? There was a clear antagonist in every case before this. I knew who I should punch, and who I should run away from. This time, it’s different. Nobody made a request to me, and nobody hated me. I was just a flag bearer, a pipe, a detective assistant who was powerless to do anything other than words.

At this moment however, a sound attracted my attention.

I lifted my head.

I looked around, seeking the sound that rattled my heart. It’s not Min-san, she’s cutting the onions silently; Hiro and Tetsu-senpai are discussing about horse racing enthusiastically. Who exactly was it?

I finally realized that it was the television. There was a homely looking set of a studio with sofas and a round table on the screen. On the right side was a famous manzai pair acting as hosts, and the left side was—Yui-san who was seated there. She was dressed in a turtle neck sweater, a short wool skirt, and long white boots. She was oozing with sexiness on the channel, chatting with the two hosts. There was the word ‘live’ at the bottom right corner of the TV, indicating that it was a live broadcast. I guess it was a special programme to have a live airing at this time. 24 hours ago, she was as good as dead, and now she’s able to smile so heartily in front of the camera. All I could wonder was whether she needed my help. For her, the rectangular world of light was her home. Once she returned to the studio, no matter when it was, she could forget her tears and smile to the tens of thousands of people out there. Why did you come to the NEET detective agency? You alone could have—

I stared at the bottom left corner of the small TV screen.

Yui-san, seated on the sofa, had a brown little thing placed by her waist.

It was an owl doll.

Once I noticed the tail of the owl Yui-san’s right hand was gripping, I immediately left the bowl of ramen on the counter, and ran out. “Hey, Narumi?”Min-san called out for me, but her voice vanished behind the door. I got to the back door, and ran up the emergency staircase. I knocked on the door leading to the NEET detective agency, and opened it without pressing the intercom.

“What, Narumi? You should at least press the bell!”

Alice, seated on the bed, turned around to glare at me, and I rushed into the room, saying,

“TV! Switch on the TV!”

“TV?”

“Just switch it on.”

Alice frowned, and tapped at the keyboard, one of the monitors on the rack at the wall showed a TV show. There were the sofas, round tables, two hosts and Yui-san. Alice’s eyes widened slightly.

“…I heard you have dolls in your room, Yui-chan?” One of the manzai members asked.

“I couldn’t help but buy them on the internet.”

“I have a lot of them in my room too!” “How unexpected.” “I have 5 Gachapins and a Mukku propeller.”

“I want to buy Mukkus dolls too! Propellers are just ordinary fans! ” “Ahahaha.”

“What dolls do you have, Yui-chan?”

“I can’t talk much when I don’t have any dolls with me.”

“Ahh, that one you have. An owl? Owl? Right? It’s really rare.”

“It’s rare, isn’t it? I got it from a friend, and she has double the dolls I have! She really is knowledgeable about them, and I heard this owl is the goddess of wisdom and courage.”

“You’re courageous yourself. You were smacking at my head without holding back.”

“Ahaha. That was out of my own impulse. Actually, the real me is always scared and nervous, and I’m always shivering at the rest area in the backstage. Without the dolls, I really can’t appear on shows”

“Ah, I just saw you holding the doll and muttering alone.”

“No, please don’t mention that!”

“What were you muttering? A mantra?”

“Of course not! I was saying, pleaes save me”

Startled, I turned towards Alice.

The lights on the monitor shone on Alice’s face, showing a ting little shadow, and Yui-san in her eyes were staring at the Minerva in the hands, again muttering,

“I just said to the doll ‘please save me’, just—save me.”

Alice’s hands slipped off the keyboard, and she switched off the monitor. Again, there was only the silence mixed with the noise of the fans in the room, and with bated breath, I stared at Alice’s sidelong face, waiting for the detective’s words.

Alice lowered her head, her flowing black hair completely covering her face. However, she immediately stood up again, and turned towards me.

Her eyes were filled with blaring anger.

“Narumi.”

I nodded.

“Did you tell her—that I’m the speaker of the dead?”

Again, I nodded firmly.

To know is to die, that was what I told Alice. Once I said that, her face was filled with life.

“Got it. Good work. You did well.”

Again, Alice knelt down on the blanket, and picked up the phone. Through the doors, walls and concrete floor, I could hear the ‘Colorado Bulldog’ ringtone downstairs.

“Tetsu? It’s me. we received a request again. Right…right, yes. Pass the word to Yondaime. The more people we have, the better.”

Again, I listened to Alice’s voice, and clasped my hands together, filling the warmth and sweat on my palms. Alice hung up, and again looked at me.

“There’s only one thing left.”

“…What is it.”

“I understand it all, except for one final piece I’m lacking.”

To connects facts with truths, Alice muttered.

“We may lose a friend or so for the sake of that one piece. However—”

“I’ll do it.”

Alice looked up from my chest, and I took it head on, saying,

“Let me beat up Major.”


Forward to Chapter 3 Return to Main Page Forward to Chapter 5