Shinrei Tantei Yakumo:Volume 2 Chapter 1
The rain that had started at dawn did not seem as if would stop even after noon; rather, it was just raining more heavily.
The endless pitter-patter of the raindrops created a hazy mist.
It had become warmer with the arrival of March, but with the weather like this, even spring would hesitate to visit.
She really shouldn't have gone out in this weather. Mayuko regretted her decision as she walked along the riverside promenade.
The rain had made its way into her sneakers, making her feel uncomfortable.
In the first place, it was Miki's fault for calling her out on a day like this. She had said that she was lonely because of her broken heart, but when Mayuko thought about it, it was already Miki's fourth broken heart this year.
At the end of the season, her heart was broken, and at the beginning of the season, she fell in love. She was a calculating person. In any case, she was just going to start a love once spring called.
The more Mayuko thought about it, the stupider she felt.
Mayuko stopped in front of the water gate and held her umbrella between her shoulder and her neck so that she could breathe on her hands.
It was cold. Her breath was white. Her red fingertips were trembling slightly.
What sounded like subterranean rumbling reached her ears.
Mayuko examined her surroundings, moving only her eyes.
She found the source of the sound immediately. It was the river, swelling as it swallowed up earth and sand.
The water level had risen, and the current of the now brown river was just like a drove of violent oxen.
Dumbfounded, Mayuko took in the sheer intensity of the current.
The wind suddenly whooshed by.
It was already too late when Mayuko cried out. Her umbrella had been carried away by the wind that had blown from below.
Her white plastic umbrella spun as it tumbled down the embankment.
'Oh, come on.'
Mayuko grumbled her displeasure to nobody in particular and chased after her umbrella. She tried to head down to the lawn of the embankment, but her feet were caught by the soggy turf and she fell on her bum, so she ended up sliding down the embankment like that.
'Argh! This is the worst!'
Resisting the urge to cry at how miserable she was, she stood using both of her hands to prop herself up. Her back and elbows were pulsing with pain. She might have grazed them.
The umbrella was being blown about by the wind on the riverbank.
Water dripped from Mayuko's fringe. While thinking that it might have already been too late to pick it up now, she started walking towards the umbrella.
'... o... p..'
Just as she was about to take the umbrella in her hands, she heard somebody's voice.
She tried asking, but nobody answered. She might have mistaken the sound of the wind for something else. Mayuko sniffled and stooped over to pick up the umbrella.
There was another gust of wind.
The umbrella escaped her fingers and fell into the river, where it was finally swallowed by the muddy waters.
Mayuko couldn't do anything but stare, completely dumbfounded.
I've really got no luck -
She'd go to a nearby convenience store and buy a new umbrella. She'd give up on going to Miki's house for today. She would just hurry home and take a warm bath.
Just as she turned away from the river and took one step, she heard that voice.
She hadn't misheard. It was somebody's voice.
Mayuko asked as she turned around. There was no reply.
'Pl... e... se.'
She heard the voice like it was coiling around her ear.
Who was it? Where were they? Mayuko looked around for the source of the voice. Her heart was beating quickly. She had a unbelievably bad feeling about this.
Finally, Mayuko's eyes saw something incredible.
She couldn't let out the breath she had been holding. In the middle of the river. In the middle of those violent muddy waters, there was a person. A girl who looked to be in middle school.
She was up to her shoulders in water and swaying in the waves.
Her hands were reaching up towards the sky like she was struggling. There were fifty metres between the riverbank and where the girl was. The distance was much too large for Mayuko, who had no confidence in her swimming ability.
Even if she was confident, it would just make for two disasters if she jumped into save her in this current.
Mayuko yelled as loudly as she could. As if ridiculing her efforts, the river's muddy waters roared.
'I'll call for help, so hang on a little longer!'
Mayuko shouted out to the girl in the river.
The girl bobbed up, like she was replying to her. At first, Mayuko thought her eyes were playing tricks on her, but she was wrong.
The girl's shoulders, chest and waist were slowly but surely coming out of the water.
Finally, the girl was standing on top of the raging river.
The unbelievable sight of the girl's figure was vividly burnt into Mayuko's mind.
She couldn't see the girl's face clearly. She could tell that the girl had long black hair tied into a ponytail and was wearing a school uniform with a blazer.
That girl slowly started walking on top of the river towards Mayuko.
How can she walk? People can't walk on top of water -
Mayuko was bewildered by this act that defied comprehension, and her body was stiff - she couldn't move even one step from that spot.
The girl approached.
'No! Don't come here!'
Mayuko screamed so loudly it felt like her throat would split. At the same time, the girl's figure disappeared.
There was only the raging river, as if that girl hadn't even been there in the first place.
Were her eyes playing tricks on her? Was it a dream?
Mayuko pressed a hand against her chest and breathed deeply to try to organise her disordered thoughts.
Gurgle. La historia continúa abajo A sound came from near her foot.
Air bubbles were coming up from the river bank and popping. What? What was it?
Something touched Mayuko's foot.
It was cold. It felt slimy. It couldn't be -
Mayuko timidly looked at her foot.
From the river, a purplish red rotten human hand had thrust out and grabbed Mayuko's foot.
Mayuko's horrified scream was drowned out by the sound of rain.
Though the rain had lightened to a drizzle, it showed no signs of stopping.
Hijikata Makoto looked up at the sky from under an umbrella while waiting for the light at the intersection to change.
The sky was a solid grey, making for a depressing mood.
The rain wasn't the only reason Makoto felt that way. She couldn't get any information today at all. When she returned to the office, her boss would definitely complain.
Her boss's mouth was so spiteful it wouldn't lose even to this weather.
Since she was a new employee who had only been working at the company for two years, there was nothing she could do about the complaints.
However, she hated it when her father came up in conversation. 'I hired you because you were the police chief's daughter, but you're telling me you can't even bring back one piece of news?' That phrase rubbed Makoto the wrong way.
She hadn't mentioned that she was the police chief's daughter even once during the interview. She couldn't remember ever claiming that she could use her father as a source of information.
It might sound like she was just evading responsibility, but the company had just went and thought that on their own.
Even though she was his daughter, there was no way that the police chief could just chat about incidents with her. In the first place, Makoto didn't even have one memory of her father talking about work at home.
Looking at it from the police's point of view, there was nothing more troublesome than having the chief's daughter work as a newspaper reporter. They couldn't just spill the information, but they couldn't handle the situation coolly either.
The chief detective Ideuchi, for example, would openly run just from seeing her face.
Only one detective would ignore her position as the daughter of the chief. He was an extremely detective-like and uncouth man named Gotou.
Even though he would ignore her position, it wasn't like he would give her information. 'You're annoying!' 'I don't know!' 'Get lost!' Those were the only three phrases he would say. Still, it was better than being treated like a fragile article.
On that topic, she hadn't seen Detective Gotou around lately.
According to a rumour, he had had an accident while chasing a criminal, so he had been transferred to a do-nothing job.
There was the sound of metal scraping against metal, bringing Makoto's thoughts back to reality.
Without a pause, there was the sound of a collision with something falling -
When she looked towards the direction of the sound, she saw the bloody figure of a person collapsed in the middle of the intersection. La historia continúa abajo Makoto immediately dropped the umbrella she was holding and rushed towards the person who had fallen face-up.
He was a man in his early twenties. He had refined features, but he was so thin he seemed sickly, and his sunken eyes had lost their light.
The back of his head was caved in, and a cut ran from his left cheek to his nose like a crack, with blood flowing out.
Makoto knelt on the asphalt and asked, 'Are you OK?' At the same time, she took out a handkerchief and pressed it against the wound on the man's cheek.
'Please hang in there.'
She shook his shoulders, but there was no response. She put her ear to his chest. She couldn't hear the sound of breathing or a heart at all.
It's too late to save him -
Makoto thought that as she took her mobile phone out from her bag and pressed 119 to call an ambulance.
Suddenly, she noticed that there was somebody standing behind her.
Maybe it was the driver who hit him. Makoto turned with the mobile phone still in her hand.
A man was standing there. He was slim and had blood flowing from his cheek.
He was the same man as the one collapsed in front of her.
Why were there two of the same man?
Makoto was bewildered when she remembered a story she had heard from a senior at work.
When her senior had gone to a traffic accident to gather data, he had seen the person who was supposed to be dead loitering around nearby.
The person's soul hadn't realised he was dead and had been wandering.
A boring story made up to surprise a junior. That's what she had thought at the time. But -
The man's lips warped into a crooked smile to reveal sharp canine teeth.
It was full of ill will. A cold smile.
Blood dripped from the tip of the man's chin onto Makoto's cheek.
She had to run. Fast. She had to get away from here. No matter what she thought, her body wouldn't move, as if it had been chained down.
Something was flowing into Makoto.
Something else. Something that wasn't her.
- I won't.
There was a voice. A man's voice. It sounded just like it was speaking directly to her mind.
- I won't die.
Her body was tingling like insects were crawling on her.
She heard the voice of the operator from her mobile phone.
Even though she tried to reply, her mouth wouldn't move the way she wanted it to.
- I don't want to die.
She lost her strength, and her mobile phone fell from her hand.
<Hello? What's wrong? Hello...>
The operator's voice sounded far away.
Makoto was being dragged into the darkness.
Ozawa Haruka sat on a park bench.
It was a small park that ran along the national highway. There was nothing except for the bench. When she looked up, she saw the towering Togakushi mountain range. La historia continúa abajo A familiar place. A children's park near her home in Nagano Prefecture.
The sunlight was warm.
Pale pink petals were fluttering down from the cherry blossom tree that stood in the corner of the park.
Two girls were playing with a soccer ball.
They were twins.
One of them was me. The other was my older sister, Ayaka.
This is a dream -
This is a memory from my past -
She knew what would happen afterwards.
She wouldn't be able to catch the ball her sister Ayaka threw, and she would run hurriedly to get it. Her sister would smile.
- You have to keep an eye on the ball.
That was what her sister said.
Her younger self stared at her sister silently after picking up the ball.
She had been mortified. Her sister could catch the ball so well, but it never went well for her.
- Haruka, hurry.
She held the ball up, as if to throw it.
'You can't! Stop! You can't throw that ball!'
Haruka stood to call out to her younger self.
However, that voice didn't reach her.
Her younger self threw the ball.
Haruka yelled while running.
Time flowed leisurely, just as if it were in slow motion.
The ball flew higher than normal.
Her older sister jumped to catch the ball, but she couldn't reach it. The ball went out the park and rolled onto the road.
Her sister went to chase that ball.
'You can't chase that ball!'
Haruka's shout didn't reach her sister.
- Even my big sister can't catch the ball.
My younger self said that.
I didn't have any bad intentions. I just thought I'd bother her a bit.
That was all -
Her sister picked up the ball that had rolled onto the road.
A white minivan travelled towards her.
Haruka closed her eyes subconsciously.
There was the squeal of brakes and the sound of a crash that shook the ground.
My temple hurt. The strength left my knees and I collapsed to the ground.
I knew what was going to happen.
That's why I said to stop -
No matter how much she yelled, the past wouldn't change.
Her hands felt wet. She opened her eyes.
Haruka spoke without thinking. Her hands were dyed red with blood. Blood was steadily dripping from her fingertips.
'Haruka. You threw it far on purpose.'
Her sister stood in front of her eyes.
Her temple had split, and blood poured out endlessly, dyeing her white shirt collar red. La historia continúa abajo 'Sorry. I didn't think it would end up like this... Sorry...'
'It's too late to make excuses.'
'That's not it. This isn't an excuse.'
'I'm dead... Because of you...'
At the same time that Ayaka said that, her body cracked into countless pieces like glasswork.
Haruka jumped up at the same time that she called out.
Her clenched fists were sweaty. Her breathing was erratic.
My memories are returning. Retribution for my jealousy towards my sister.
My sin will never be forgiven -
While the sun had not yet fully risen, the area in front of one residential dumpsite was teeming with people.
There was only an iron fence and a net to scare off crows above it across from a telephone pole - not a particularly extraordinary place. Naturally, the people had not gathered to toss their rubbish. There was currently something that should not have been at the dumpsite.
The corpse of a female middle-school student.
A businessman who had come to put out his rubbish before work was the one who had found her.
Hata Hideyoshi knelt and looked down at the face of the girl who was not yet an adult. Her eyes were open, and her face was frozen in a surprised expression.
Matsumoto Miho-chan. Her whereabouts had been unknown since yesterday. Did she know that she was going to die in pain? That suddenly came to mind.
It was the job of the coroner to accept requests from the police to autopsy the corpse.
People were needlessly afraid of corpses. However, Hata had never felt that fear, even towards the goriest of corpses.
Hata was driven by a simple interest. How much blood has to flow out? From where? How much of an impact can be taken? Which organs can be taken out -
Before a person dies?
If people have souls, death would be the separation of the body and the soul. What, accordingly, ties the body and the soul together? At what moment do the body and soul separate?
People said he was perverted, but to Hata, it wasn't strange at all.
Didn't people want to know the divide between life and death?
'Look, they're serial.'
One of the detectives said that. Hata felt uncomfortable hearing those words.
'What is supposed to be serial with what?'
'Come on. I'm talking about the incident last month.'
'Ah, the one who was strangled and then thrown into the river.'
Hata remembered the incident immediately.
That had been a gory incident as well. A girl called Kinoshita Ayaka who went to the local middle school - she was the daughter of a doctor, if he remembered correctly.
On the way home from school, she had parted with her friends and then her whereabouts were unknown. The police started investigating it as a kidnapping, but a few days after, there were still no ransom demands, and her corpse was discovered at the water gate at Tama River. La historia continúa abajo It was believed that she was thrown into the Tama River after she was strangled.
She was carried by the strong current, so there were many small injuries on her body.
This girl had also disappeared a few days earlier when the police had been asked to look for her.
Following that, there had been no demands, and her body had been discovered. Last time, it was strangulation. This time, it was drowning. The reasons for death were strangely different, but the area the incidents had occurred and the modus operandi of aiming for students heading home from school were certainly the same.
'It seems that there's another girl whose whereabouts are unknown.'
'Yes, I got the confirmation now. She goes to the same school as Miho-chan, the victim this time, and her name is Katou Keiko-chan. There have been no demands since her disappearance.'
If that were the case, it would make this a serial murder case with murder as the final goal.
What an unpleasant incident -
Hata stood up and left the scene of the crime, which was surrounded by blue sheets.
It wasn't a festival, so why were people making so much noise? If they wanted to see so badly, Hata thought they should just let them see.
The people making so much noise would shut up in an instant.
Unexpectedly, Hata felt a gaze that was obviously different from that of the curious onlookers.
A tall man wearing sunglasses. In the middle of the noisy bystanders, there was just one man with a thin sneer.
- The criminal will return to the scene of the crime.
Hata suddenly remembered something that the police were taught.
Ishii Yuutarou stood in front of the door after checking his tie countless times.
His heart was thumping loudly from nervousness.
'Calm down - first impressions are essential.'
While Ishii told himself that, he looked at the plate on the door. <Criminal Affairs Division: Unsolved Cases Special Investigations Room>. In a post that had just been created this month, Ishii had been assigned here starting today.
He hadn't thought such a day would come. Ishii was so excited he couldn't calm the loud beating of his heart.
On the other side of the door, there was a legendary detective who had led the way to the solution for many difficult cases.
A peculiar point of view and outstanding deductive powers. On top of that, he had a strange source of information.
It was said that he gathered his information from the spirits of the dead victims.
He was known as the psychic detective.
At first, he was the target of scorn. However, that changed with time to awe, and now, even the police had to acknowledge his power. Thus was born the Unsolved Cases Special Investigations Room. There were a number of rumours, but that was what Ishii thought.
The police were forced to acknowledge the legendary psychic detective, Gotou Kazutoshi.
Ishii had always loved the occult. When he was in middle school, he watched a show which used clairvoyance to search for those who had disappeared, and it excited him from the innermost depths of his heart. La historia continúa abajo He had been deeply moved when faced with the mysterious powers that people held.
From then on, he read a great number of books related to the occult. Clairvoyance, telepathy, seeing spirits, special powers that science didn't explain - he believed they existed.
For Ishii, who felt so strongly about the occult, Gotou was naturally the object of his reverence.
He kept a picture he had secretly taken of Gotou in his notebook as a charm.
He had wanted to talk with him at leisure one day. To have been reassigned to Gotou's post made him truly glad that he became a detective.
OK, I'm going. While he murmured that in his mind, he knocked.
There was no response.
For a moment, he was perplexed, but soon, he shook away those feelings. He wasn't a guest. Starting today, he would be working here as a detective. What was the point of waiting for a response?
Do your best, Ishii Yuutarou. He gave himself some encouragement and resolutely opened the door.
'Excuse me. My name is Ishii Yuutarou, the policeman who will be working here from today on. Though I am inexperienced, I would like to ask for your guidance.'
He spoke up as he bowed.
There was no response. The room was completely silent.
He took a look around. In the wide eight-tatami room with not even one window, there were two desks facing each other in a small space.
Nobody was there.
Shoot. He had shown up to work on time of all things. Gotou was a detective of such merit - he had definitely left to investigate already. Ah, what to do.
Ishii cursed his own foolishness.
The sound of something like the bellow of a beast reached the discouraged Ishii's ears.
What was that -
Timidly, he went to look for the source of the sound.
Behind the desk, two chairs were lined up, and a man was using them as a bed. In contrast with his muscular body, his arm lay sloppily on the floor, and his mouth was wide open as he snored.
Detective Gotou -
His face was unshaven, and his shirt had turned yellow. Just looking at his appearance, there wasn't much difference between him and a drunk who had slept at the station.
No, that wasn't right. Detective Gotou, after all his hard work, was taking a breather.
That said, he couldn't leave the situation like this.
'E-er... Excuse me...'
Ishii approached the sleeping Gotou and shook his shoulders. Gotou brushed away Ishii's hand with his eyes still closed and turned over.
He fell from the chairs.
Surprised by the dull thunk, Ishii jumped away a step.
Ogouchi, an English lecturer at the university, gave a photo to the student sitting in front of him.
His name was Saitou Yakumo.
With sleepy eyes, he draped himself slovenly over the back of the chair. His attitude showed his apathy. La historia continúa abajo His hair looked mussed up from sleep, but it might have been the so-called bedhead hairstyle. His outfit consisted of worn-out jeans and a white shirt.
He had composure unusual for his age, or perhaps it could be called an enigmatic vibe.
Ogouchi couldn't calm down - he felt like Yakumo could see right to the bottom of his heart.
Yakumo gave the photo a glance and then smirked, like he understood.
'I see. I was wondering what task you had for me, but it was something like this.'
'It's gotten a bit terrible,' Ogouchi said with a weak smile.
He had handed Yakumo a photo that had been taken when he and his daughter went to a holiday house. His smiling daughter, Satoko, stood in front of a beech tree. At first glance, the photo wasn't anything special.
However, he'd noticed something strange when he put it in an album.
There was something that looked like a person's face in the trunk of the beech tree.
Ogouchi had heard a rumour about Saitou Yakumo from a student called Aizawa.
Yakumo had every spiritual ability, and he was the one who solved the murder incident last year which had been a disgrace for the university. Ogouchi was only half-convinced, but he knew that Saitou Yakumo's uncle was the chief priest at a temple, so he decided to consult Yakumo just in case.
Yakumo let out a huge yawn.
'I heard that you were an expert in this sort of thing.'
'Since I'm a university student, my expertise is studying.'
'Well, that's true, but... Er, I was just wondering if you could give me your expert opinion of this photo.'
After Yakumo murmured that, he took another look at the photo and put his left index finger between his brows in thought.
'How is it?'
Ogouchi couldn't bear with the heavy silence and opened his mouth. Yakumo looked up from the photo and let out the breath he had been holding.
'Professor. This is extremely dangerous.'
'Yes. Has anything strange occurred recently?'
'Any little thing will do.'
Ogouchi recalled the past few days. There wasn't anything in particular that sprang to mind.
'No, not really...'
'Please try to remember. I feel a very strong sense of regret from this photo.'
'Come to think of it, yesterday, I slipped on the stairs and skinned my knee. But that's just...'
Yakumo raised his voice and pointed his index at the tip of Ogouchi's nose, interrupting Ogouchi's words.
Ogouchi was startled for a moment.
'But that was just a little thing...'
It wasn't anything special. Slipping on the stairs was something that could happen to anybody on any day.
'If you continue overlooking it, it will eventually bring about a terrible catastrophe. With the situation like this, your daughter's life will also be in danger,' Yakumo said, peering up at Ogouchi. La historia continúa abajo His tone was indifferent. That only stirred Ogouchi's uneasiness up more.
'You can't treat this lightly. It'll be too late to regret after the fact.'
Ogouchi certainly had thought it was frightening, but for it to be a matter of life or death -
'What should I d-do...'
'I'll exorcise the spirit. I can't ignore this knowing that a catastrophe may occur.'
Yakumo put up his hand to stop Ogouchi's words.
'I won't ask for money. I won't tell anybody about this either. However...'
'I'm enrolled in your class, professor, but I've practically never shown up to class.'
'You know what I'm getting at, right?'
Yakumo said that like a reminder. After waiting for Ogouchi's nod, a faint smile graced his thin lips.
'Er, Detective Gotou.'
Ishii, who was sitting on the seat across from Gotou, spoke to the detective hesitantly. Gotou ignored him and turned his chair so his back faced Ishii.
It was Detective Ishii's first day on the job. He was doing everything wrong.
With a face that looked like it belonged to a delicate woman, his silver-rimmed glasses seemed a bit affected.
Ever since he came to the room, he had been squirming while looking over at Gotou.
When he opened his mouth, he would say things like 'What are your interests?' and 'What are your favourite foods?' - it wasn't a marriage interview. Gotou started suspecting that Ishii was gay.
Even under normal circumstances, Gotou could die of boredom after being thrown into this ridiculous newly-established post, but being stuck with this guy just depressed him further.
Though newly-established post had a nice ring to it, in the end, they were just getting rid of a troublemaker.
Currently, the police's solve rate for cases didn't reach twenty per cent. It was the job of this post to investigate those unsolved cases.
It sounded nice at first, but it was just organising files in the end.
It was too stupid to do.
'Er, Detective Gotou, could I ask you something?'
Ishii leant forward as he asked. Even though Gotou had gone out of his way to ignore him - the man should take a hint.
Just as Gotou clicked his tongue, the internal telephone rang with good timing.
He picked up at the first ring.
'Hello, this is the police department's something or other investigation room.'
<Say the name of your own room properly.>
It was his boss, the chief detective Ideuchi. He had goggle eyes and was always finger-pointing at the most trivial things.
He was an annoying man who put on airs, though he'd worked his way up too.
'What was it?'
<Eh?> La historia continúa abajo 'The name of the room.'
<It's the Criminal Affairs Division: Unsolved Cases Special Investigations Room.>
Ideuchi sounded displeased as he replied.
'Ah, right, that's it. Can't it be a bit shorter?'
<Good grief... Well, that's not important. Come to the conference room immediately.>
'Are we going to play shogi?'
<We're obviously going to talk about work!>
Gotou unconsciously held the phone away because of Ideuchi's shrill yell. Hysterical men really were unsightly.
'Yeah, yeah. I'll go right now. I've got nothing else to do anyway.'
<Bring the new kid with you.>
Gotou turned around and looked at Ishii.
He was leaning over with a frivolous smile on his face. If he had a tail, he'd probably be wagging it wildly.
'That's a bit...'
<A bit what?>
'I'm not good with guys like him.'
<Stop whining and get over here!>
The call ended with a click.
'What a pain.'
While grumbling, Gotou grabbed the suit that had been draped over the back of the chair and stood up.
'E-er, Detective Gotou.'
Ishii had gotten up from his chair and was fidgeting. Man, what an irritating guy.
'What are you just standing there for? Let's go.'
Ishii gave an energetic response, but then he stumbled over his own feet and fell.
Gotou could tell it was going to be hard going.
They went up the stairs to the fourth floor and opened the door to the conference room at the very end of the corridor. Ideuchi was at the conference table, looking tired of waiting.
'So what is it?'
'Well, sit down.'
Gotou sat down in a chair as asked. Ishii sat next to him.
While scratching at his receding hairline, Ideuchi sighed. From the looks of it, he didn't have good news.
'OK - don't go around telling people what I'm going to tell you now.'
A sudden change from the phone call earlier, Ideuchi was speaking in a low voice.
Since he had called him all the way to the conference room, Gotou had thought it would probably be something secretive, but it seemed that it was even more serious than he imagined. Perhaps -
"Is it about the serial abduction murders?' asked Gotou, bringing his face closer to Ideuchi's.
The current serial abduction murder case that was occurring under their jurisdiction.
Repulsive incidents were occurring wherein female middle school students were being abducted on the way home from school. Their corpses would be found before any demands were made.
Two girls had already been killed, and one had suddenly disappeared.
'There's no way I'd let somebody like you handle such an important case.' La historia continúa abajo Ideuchi was so blunt that Gotou didn't get angry.
'If that's not it, what is it?'
'This is a direct a request from Chief Hijikata.'
'Ah, that kokeshi.'
Chief Hijikata's face came to mind as Gotou spoke.
Anybody who had seen the chief before would agree. From the structure of his face to his physique, he looked just like a kokeshi.
Ishii, who was sitting behind Gotou, pressed a hand against his mouth. His shoulders shook as he laughed.
When Ideuchi cleared his throat, Ishii stopped laughing immediately. Ideuchi said, 'Good grief,' sounding fed up, before continuing his story.
'You know the chief has a daughter, right?'
'Yes, she's a new reporter at Hokutou Newspaper. She's got guts for a woman and she has a good perspective.'
Gotou recalled her appearance.
She didn't wear makeup, and her long hair was tied in the back. She wore a navy blue suit with sneakers and would run around frantically, but no matter how hard she tried, nobody would give her any information.
'Having the kokeshi as her dad doesn't pay off,' Gotou said without thinking.
'He's not a kokeshi. He's the chief,' said Ideuchi, while grinding his teeth.
'Whether he's a chief or a government secretary, a kokeshi is a kokeshi.'
'Stop saying "kokeshi" over and over again! Everyone's holding it in!'
Holding it in, eh. The sad story of middle management who couldn't say it even if they thought the same thing.
Ideuchi's goggle eyes were roving about.
Although he didn't make a sound, Ishii was holding his sides with laughter.
'What's so funny?'
With no outlet for his anger, Ideuchi blew up at Ishii. Ishii cowered, retracting his neck and stiffening his body like a turtle.
'Now, what about his daughter?'
Gotou waited for Ideuchi to calm down before returning to the conversation.
'Well, there've been a number of problems...'
'Did she cause an incident?'
'No, that's not it, but... er...'
Even though Ideuchi was the one who had brought the topic up, he was mumbling his words terribly.
'Please say it clearly.'
'The chief's daughter is possessed.'
'When you say possessed, do you mean....'
By a ghost?
'I didn't see it myself, but the chief's wife thinks that, at least.'
'Again, of all things to happen to the chief of the police's daughter. If the gossip magazines get wind of this, they'll write something interesting.'
'If the information gets out, you'll be the one I suspect first.'
Ideuchi was glaring at him with a serious expression.
'So, what are you telling me to?'
'You're an expert in that sort of stuff, so just go take a look.'
'I'm not an expert. You don't believe in ghosts in the first place, do you, Chief Ideuchi?'
'Stop complaining. Whatever the cause is, there's definitely something odd about the chief's daughter's condition. That's a problem in and of itself.' La historia continúa abajo Ideuchi talked on and on until his cheeks were red. Maybe he was troubled because of the strange story that was pushed towards him, but it was the same for Gotou.
He wasn't a spirit medium, so even if he went, he wouldn't be able to do anything. Plus -
'It has nothing to do with me.'
'Yes it does! This is an order!'
Ideuchi slammed both hands against the table and stood up. His goggle eyes looked like they would pop out with a boing.
It really wasn't really anything to pop eyes out over though. Well, nothing to be done.
'Understood. It'll be fine as long as I go, right?'
Things had really gotten troublesome.
Haruka absentmindedly looked out the window of the music room at the university.
The sunlight was pleasant. It had been chilly in the morning, so she had regretted leaving the house with a thin parka, but things turned out A-OK.
The cherry blossom tree in the courtyard had green leaves. The tightly closed buds would probably come into full bloom in a week.
The university had already entered spring break. Today was the last practice of the year for the orchestra circle that Haruka was a member of.
On the platform, the conductor was giving a recap of their year. Though Haruka could hear his fervent voice, it slipped through her mind before she could understand.
She hadn't been able to concentrate during practice either and had made a series of mistakes.
She knew why.
The dream about my sister I had seen this morning -
Come to think of it, she felt like this was the first time in a while that she'd dreamt about her sister.
When had she last seen one?
If she remembered correctly, it was when she'd gotten mixed up in the case with the deserted house and met him for the first time.
He always had a sleepy look on his face, was blunt and not nice at all, and was kind of good-looking, but that was ruined by his cynicism.
Through his red eye that could see the spirits of the dead, she had met with her sister again and might have felt that her own sin had been forgiven.
Even though there's no way I would be forgiven -
What was he doing now? He was probably the same as always. She wanted to meet him. Her heart might feel a bit lighter after that.
Right. After practice was finished, she would go meet Saitou Yakumo.
He would probably let out a huge yawn and ask, 'What did you come for?' with eyes that were definitely sleepy even now.
Haruka laughed just imagining it.
'What are you so amused about?'
The conductor pointed a finger at her, so she quickly stifled her laughter.
Other people started laughing as well.
After the signal for the end of the practice, Haruka quickly finished cleaning up and put the music room behind her.
Now that she thought about it, she had made a promise with Yakumo before that next time, she would show her face when she had nothing troubling her. It seemed like that promise would be fulfilled. La historia continúa abajo Her gait was light, as if the leaden thoughts she had been accumulating since morning had been a lie.
Just as she was about to leave the school building, somebody called out to her.
It was Mayuko, who was a member of the same circle as her.
Haruka played flute and Mayuko played violin. Since their parts were different, they had only spoken a couple of times before.
'What is it?'
'Do you have some time?'
'The truth is, there's something I want your advice about...'
Haruka wasn't friendly enough with Mayuko to be asked for advice, and she didn't know her well enough to give advice either.
Still, she couldn't refuse and vaguely replied, 'Ah, OK.' They ended up sitting side by side on a bench in the courtyard.
'This happened about three days ago, but - '
Mayuko's story, which began like that, didn't seem to need the common brand of advice about things like romance or future career paths.
Mayuko told of a terrible spiritual phenomenon she had witnessed.
On a rainy day, she had encountered a girl's ghost by the river. At the time, she had run away frantically, but ever since then, strange things kept happening to her.
She wouldn't be able to move when she woke up, and she'd feel the presence of somebody else in her room. She would hear a girl's voice saying, 'I'll curse you' -
'Please. Help me.'
After Mayuko finished her stories, she asked that with tears brimming in her eyes and trembling lips.
Haruka could understand how she felt, but -
'Why did you ask me?'
'After I asked Miki, she said that Haruka-chan would solve the problem if it was related to spirits.'
I'd been able to guess somehow once I'd heard some of what Mayuko had to say, but it really was Miki -
The story's been pretty distorted. At some point in time, I had been labelled with spiritual ability.
'I can't do anything.'
'But you solved the problem with Miki. Miki said that you can exorcise spirits.'
She really had no responsibility.
She hadn't been the one to solve Miki's case - Saitou Yakumo had.
His left eye, which had been red since the day he was born, had a special ability: it could see the spirits of the dead. He had solved the case using that.
However, Yakumo could only see the spirits of the dead. Accordingly, he couldn't exorcise spirits.
All he did was listen to the thoughts of the dead, determine the reason they were lingering and take away that reason.
Haruka opened her mouth to explain that, but she didn't put it in words.
Yakumo detested his red eye. Because of it, he was called a monster and even his own mother had tried to kill him.
She couldn't talk so freely about that ability, which could even be called his trauma.
While Haruka hadn't made her decision, Mayuko begged her with her two hands clasped. 'Please. I'll do anything.' La historia continúa abajo Haruka herself knew best that she was the type of person who couldn't refuse when somebody asked her for something. Overwhelmed, she ended up replying, 'Ah, OK.'
Mayuko bowed her head multiple times, saying, 'Thank you - really, thank you,' and started crying in relief. In this situation, it was too late for Haruka to refuse.
Now, she would have to break her promise and go to Yakumo with her troubles.
'This might be of some help.'
As Mayuko said that, she held out a folded handkerchief.
Haruka took it and unfolded it in her palm. There was a mobile phone strap inside.
Five dice-like shapes in a row each had one letter written in them.
Haruka felt her heart grow tight.
'On the day I met the ghost, I found this caught on the button on my sleeve after I returned home.'
Mayuko's voice seemed very far away.
The same name as Haruka's dead sister. It was probably just a coincidence. Even though Haruka know that, she still couldn't stop thinking about it.
Ishii triumphantly sat in the driver's seat of the white police car.
Finally. He would finally be able to witness Detective Gotou's skill. On top of that, just imagining saving a woman possessed by a spirit got him all fired up.
Gotou sat lazily in the passenger seat and lit up a cigarette with his legs crossed.
Ishii was entranced by that brusque gesture. What a man. It was wild how his shirt revealed his chest underneath his loose tie.
If he had to say, Ishii was rather faint of heart and couldn't take action. He would always doubt other people's expressions and end up acting while wondering what they thought of him.
Gotou was the exact opposite of Ishii - he had a strong spirit. Ishii admired him for it, like earlier when he had been talking with Chief Ideuchi.
No matter whom Gotou was with, he would stick with his own beliefs, just like the Shinsengumi who had run past the end of the Tokugawa shogunate.
'We will be going to the scene first, correct?' asked Ishii, as he turned the ignition key and started the car.
Gotou spoke while squinting through the smoke.
'There's somewhere we'll be going first.'
'Where is it?'
'Stop asking about everything; it's annoying.'
'Even if you say I'm annoying, we won't be able to drive unless you tell me where to go, since I'm the one at the wheel.'
Gotou's cheeks twitched like a disgruntled cat's and he clicked his tongue.
Why was Detective Gotou angry? Had Ishii said something to rub him the wrong way?
'Head to the university.'
'Which university would you like me to head to?'
'The university on top of the hill?'
'If you know which one, hurry and step on it.'
'Ah, yes sir.' La historia continúa abajo Ishii immediately stepped on the gas and started driving.
What on earth was at the university? Normally, in a situation like this, they should have headed to the scene.
Since it was Detective Gotou, he must have determined there was a clue at the university that would solve the case just from what Chief Ideuchi said earlier.
'Detective Gotou, may I ask a question?'
Ishii asked the question while driving. There was no response. Gotou just looked in front of him while the smoke from his cigarette wavered, as if he didn't hear him.
Taking that as a yes, Ishii continued speaking.
'Detective Gotou, you've solved many cases already.'
'I know that you solved those cases with spiritual power. However, exactly what sort of power do you have, Detective Gotou?'
'What are you saying?'
Gotou lowered his eyebrows, like he had seen something unpleasant, and threw the cigarette in the ashtray.
'There's no point in hiding it.'
'I'm not hiding anything.'
'Can you see spirits? Can you speak with them? Have you been trained? Or was it hereditary?'
'Are you making fun of me?'
'I'm not. I'm serious,' Ishii said plainly.
In order to investigate together, he would have to understand what sort of power Detective Gotou had.
'OK, newbie. I don't know what you've misunderstood here, but I don't have any spiritual powers at all.'
Maybe Detective Gotou wanted to hide his special ability.
'There's no need to hide it. Everyone knows that you're the psychic detective, Detective Gotou.'
He had solved so many cases. It wasn't something he could hide.
'Damn, you're annoying! Shut up for a bit and drive! You baldy!'
'Baldy? Sorry, but I'm not bald yet, though my father certainly has less hair than most. However, my father's father - that is, my grandfather - had hair until the day he died. It's called atavism. At the present stage, it would be too early to judge whether I'll be bald or...'
Just as he was about to finish speaking, something hit the top of his head.
He could see stars in front of his eyes.
'The next time you blabber on about something stupid, I'll go with rock,' said Gotou, holding out his clenched fist.
He should discover the answer to things he didn't know himself instead of asking. That was probably what Gotou was saying.
Ishii interpreted it that way and shut his mouth.
Haruka headed towards the prefabricated two-storey building behind Building B.
Ten small rooms of about four-and-a-half tatami lined each floor and were loaned out to students by the university for circle activities.
Haruka stood at the very end of the first floor in front of a door that had a plate on it which read <Movie Research Circle>.
Calling it a Movie Research Circle was a barefaced lie. He had fooled the university to borrow a room and had taken up residence. His secret hiding place. La historia continúa abajo She'd ended up coming here, but...
For a while now, Haruka had been repeatedly reaching for the doorknob only to retract her hand.
Maybe she should just stop. She'd really just wanted to show her face and chat, but because of Miki, she was in a strange state.
After the last incident, she'd promised Yakumo that she wouldn't bring any more trouble, but she'd clearly picked some up.
'What am I doing?'
She lowered her shoulders and smiled bitterly.
I'm just going to go home today without seeing Yakumo -
Though that would mean she'd be ignoring Mayuko's request, she wanted to keep her promise to Yakumo. She felt like she was just putting off the problem, but there was no helping it.
'Are you going to come in or not? Make up your mind.'
Just as Haruka had turned her back to the door, there was a voice.
She reflexively turned around, but the door was still closed. There was nobody nearby either.
'What are you glancing around restlessly for? You look really suspicious. I'll report you to the police.'
This voice full of languidness was definitely Yakumo's.
She could hear him from the other side of the door, but could he see from there? Clairvoyance? There was no way.
In any case, if Yakumo knew she was here already, she couldn't just leave.
Haruka opened the door hesitantly.
Yakumo was there.
As usual, he had messy hair and sleepy eyes. He looked like he had just woken up and was sitting on the chair behind the square table in the middle of the room.
'Your indecisive attitude is disruptive.
He suddenly talked about what she was most worried about.
'I'm not indecisive.'
'You can't be helped if you don't recognise your problem yourself.'
Even though it was the first time they had met in a while, he was just saying whatever he wanted to.
'I don't need your help.'
Though she had spoken angrily, Yakumo wasn't concerned at all. He let out a huge yawn and raked a hand through his hair. Just like a cat.
'Hey, how did you know I was outside? Clairvoyance?'
Haruka sat on the folding chair across from Yakumo as she asked that.
'It seems you're stupider than you were the last time I saw you.'
'Calling me stupid is too much.'
'Then I'll change my wording. How about simpleton? I think it's perfect for you.'
He's really piling it on from one thing to the next -
'Look behind you,' Yakumo said while pointing at the door.
Following his finger, Haruka turned to focus her eyes on the door.
It was simple once she understood.
It wasn't obvious from just a glance at at the door, which had a poster for the movie Stingstuck on it, but there was a gaping hole the size of a fist. La historia continúa abajo In front of it, there was a mirror. She could see the other side of the door from here.
'It's a peephole,' said Yakumo proudly, folding his arms across each other.
'It's just a hole, isn't it? You can't see in from outside with a peephole.'
'Don't worry about the little things.'
It wasn't a little thing at all though.
'So what trouble do you have for me today?'
So he had figured it out.
She really had planned on showing up for the first time in a while to talk, but even if she said that, Yakumo definitely wouldn't believe her.
She suddenly remembered something Yakumo had said before. 'In this world, there are only two types of people: those who think my red eye is unsettling and those who try to use it.' When she'd heard that, she had decided that she, at least, would try to treat it differently.
That was why she decided to keep quiet about Mayuko.
'I just felt like coming by since I haven't been around in a while. I was wondering how you were.'
'You're worse at lying that you think you are,' said Yakumo, resting his chin in his hands.
She knew that even without him saying it.
'Hey, what were you doing?'
Haruka changed the topic before Yakumo said anything else.
Yakumo pointed at the photo on the table.
A smile woman in her early twenties was in the shot. She was a little plump, but she had a wonderful smile. It had probably been taken at some villa in the mountains.
'Is she your girlfriend, Yakumo-kun?'
'The screws in your head have gotten looser since the last time I saw you.'
Yakumo sighed, looking like he had seen the end of the world.
'The screws in my head? They haven't gotten looser at all!'
This person always said too much. He didn't care at all how she felt. She was an idiot for worrying.
'Take a closer look at the tree in the photo.'
Yakumo said that with his chin out. Haruka brought the photo closer to her and stared, but she couldn't find anything unusual.
'What about it? Stop putting on airs and just tell me.'
'There's something that looks like a human face in the tree trunk,' Yakumo replied while holding back a yawn.
Ah. She'd looked at it nonchalantly so she hadn't noticed, but she understood right after Yakumo told her.
The trunk of the tree in the background looked like it had a human face in it. It had its mouth open wide and appeared anguished, like Munch's painting The Scream.
'This is spirit photography then.'
'No, you're just seeing things.'
That was different from what he said before. She felt a bit like she had been caught by a fox.
'The uneven tree trunk just looks like a face because of the lighting.'
'When the human brain recognises things, it compares them with things that are similar to it and identifies them.' La historia continúa abajo 'True.'
She understood that intuitively.
It was the same as seeing a rabbit on the moon. The shadowy parts of the moon looked similar to a rabbit, so people saw it as a rabbit.
'If the shape is similar, you'll unconsciously recognise it as a face even if it's something else entirely. Furthermore, if somebody says there's something that looks like a face there, you'll have the preconception that there's a person's face when you look and there'll be an immediate effect.'
'That's how it works. Didn't you just prove it yourself? You couldn't tell from just looking, but the moment you heard that there was a person's face, you recognised the uneven tree trunk as a face, didn't you?'
That was true. That was what happened, now that he said it.
Spirit photography often showed up on television shows, but at first, she wouldn't be able to tell what the photos were of. However, once the narration said there was something like a face in the top left, she'd suddenly see a face.
'How is this studying English?'
'Do you know Ogouchi, the English professor?'
'Yeah. The American-sized person, right?'
'That was a good way of putting it. The woman in this picture is his daughter, Satoko.'
'So you agreed to look at the photo to see if there was a spirit there.'
'It's unusual for you to poke your nose into this sort of thing though, Yakumo-kun.'
'I have my reasons,' Yakumo said with a smirk.
When Haruka looked at that expression, she understood why he had agreed to look at the photo.
'Don't tell me you did this in exchange for your English credit?'
'Your guess is right for once.'
Yakumo reclined on the chair with his arms folded in an arrogant manner.
'But this is just an optical illusion, right?'
'That's no problem. Since I said it'd become a catastrophe if it wasn't exorcised right away.'
'That's plain fraud!'
Haruka's tone immediately became harsher upon hearing about such an unfair method.
'Fraud? Listen - if I'd said it was just an optical illusion, he wouldn't have believed me. He would only have been more worried and brought the matter to exorcists more suspicious than I am. Isn't it better that I dealt with it nicely and said I exorcised the spirit for him?'
'It's not better at all!'
Haruka got up and lost her temper. Yakumo put his fingers in his ears to protest how loud her voice was.
It was a ridiculous reason. Why had she wanted to meet up with a guy like this?
She felt herself growing more and more irritated.
'I can understand when I look at you why people say youth these days get angry easily. You might have a calcium deficiency.'
'I'm not angry. I'm criticising your act of fraud. Do you think it's OK to trick people like this?'
Haruka pointed at the tip of Yakumo's nose as she continued her objections. However, it wasn't effective at all on Yakumo. He was completely expressionless, like it was someone else's problem. La historia continúa abajo 'Please don't say things that will damage my reputation. I sold piece of mind. This is a splendid business.'
His twisted logic again -
'I'm going to interrupt your lover's quarrel.'
The door suddenly opened, and a figure with a bearlike large build entered the room.
It was Detective Gotou.
'Please return right now if you know you're interrupting.'
Yakumo replied without a moment's delay.
Gotou's large face twitched. However, his expression soon returned to normal, and he sat in the folding chair next to Haruka.
'Haruka-chan, it's been a while. Are you still seeing this obstinate idiot? If you don't cut it off soon, you'll be unmarried your whole life.'
'I'm just going to say this, but it's not my fault this woman doesn't have a boyfriend. It's a character problem.'
Yakumo immediately threw back a comment at Gotou's frivolous one.
He really was saying whatever he wanted right in front of the person he was insulting.
Who was the one with the character problem? And he just called me 'this woman'. Plus, even though neither of them had ever asked if I had a boyfriend or not, they're both talking with the assumption that I don't -
There were so many things she could retort to that she didn't even feel like opening her mouth.
'Er, Detective Gotou...'
She heard a voice that sounded so faint it could have faded out.
When she took a look, she noticed another person in front of the door.
It was a man who had vaguely delicate features and seemed intellectual, but he gave off the impression of being rather sensitive. Unlike Gotou, he wore a starched sleeved shirt and his tie was tied into a proper triangle.
'Who is that?'
Yakumo exchanged a look with Gotou.
'Ah, he's my subordinate, Ishii,' Gotou replied, looking up at the man standing at the door.
'My name is Ishii Yuutarou.'
Ishii bowed politely.
He seemed like the exact opposite of Gotou. Yakumo lowered his head slightly, as if to say, 'Nice to meet you.' Led along by the situation, Haruka bowed as well.
'Are you Gotou-san's subordinate? I won't say anything awful. You should ask for a job change right away.'
'A job change?'
Ishii responded nervously to Yakumo's sudden words.
'If you're with Gotou-san, your brain tissue will gradually change into muscle. You'll lose your ability to think and become an animal. You should change jobs while you still can.'
'Whose brain tissue are you calling muscle!?' Gotou said angrily, slamming the table.
Ishii didn't know what was happening and was fidgeting. It made sense. Anybody would be bewildered if they suddenly saw a scene like this.
Haruka had been confused at first too.
'So what trouble do you have for me this time?
Unlike Gotou, who was agitated, Yakumo spoke in his usual lazy voice.
'Oh, that's right. You got that it was trouble right away.'
'There's no other reason for you to come here, is there, Gotou-san?' La historia continúa abajo 'That's true. There's somewhere I want you to go with me.'
There was nothing timid about Gotou. Haruka couldn't suddenly get to the point like he did.
Gotou looked surprised at Yakumo's immediate response. Haruka, who had been listening, also thought Yakumo had accepted rather easily.
'What is it? Are you dissatisfied with something?'
'No, that's not it - I just thought you were being scarily obedient.'
'In exchange, please call it even with the incident from last time.'
'So you understand.'
Ishii was still standing, looking blank. He might not have known why he was even here.
'However, today is no good.'
'Why? I thought we could go now.'
'Since I have some other trouble to deal with.'
Yakumo met Haruka's eyes.
She had planned on hiding it, but as expected, he'd seen through her.
Her chest felt tight. She didn't want to be lumped in with the people who just used Yakumo for his eye. She didn't see Yakumo that way.
'I just came to visit since I hadn't come by in a while. I said that I wouldn't bring any trouble the next time I came. Though I forgot the hot chocolate,' Haruka said quickly.
Yakumo stared at her with narrowed eyes. His eyes were sceptical. They were saying, 'That's not the truth.'
'Well, I'll be off then.'
Haruka knew that her face muscles were stiff and smiled before leaving the <Movie Research Circle> room, like she was making her escape.
She might have just made him more suspicious.
But it was fine like this.
It wasn't pity - she wanted to relate to Yakumo not as somebody who marvelled at his red eye or somebody who wanted to use it.
Haruka felt elated, as if she had won something, and started walking while looking at the perfectly clear blue sky.
After noon, there was an investigation meeting to report the results of the autopsy.
Hata stood on the rostrum and read out the results so far to the conference room where fifty members of the investigation team had gathered.
'The cause of the death of the first victim, Ayaka-chan, was suffocation due to pressure on her neck, as was reported before. The second victim, Miho-chan, didn't have any obvious injuries, and her lungs were filled with water. It is believed the cause of her death was drowning.'
The previously silent conference room was suddenly filled with the sound of people talking.
The second victim had been found at a dumpsite. She had died from drowning. They probably felt something was wrong.
'As well, water plants and freshwater bacteria were found in the second girl's lungs.'
'Can we take that to mean she drowned in a river somewhere?'
One of the investigation team members raised a hand and asked that.
'Though we cannot confirm that yet, the possibility is extremely high.' La historia continúa abajo Hata gave it a moment before starting his explanation again.
'Though the causes of death are different, there are lacerations on both of their right ankles that look like they are from something like a rope being bound around them, which links the two girls' cases together.'
'How likely is it that it was the same perpetrator?'
Another question came up.
Hata thought it was the job of the police to decide that rather than his, though it might have been inappropriate to put it that way.
'Currently, no bloodstains or hair from the criminal have been discovered.'
Hata evaded the question and finished his explanation.
He gave his position on the rostrum to Hijikata, the police chief, and sat on one of the chairs at the conference table, which had been set up so the investigation team members could face each other.
He suddenly felt overwhelmed with tiredness, like his nervousness had been unravelled. He didn't really like speaking in front of people.
He also thought there hadn't been any need for him, as the coroner, to participate in the investigation meeting just to read a report.
'Next, how is the investigation going?'
To respond to Hijikata, who was standing on the rostrum, the chief detective Ideuchi stood up as well.
Currently, we are gathering information near the location where the corpse was found, but we have not found any valuable information as of yet.'
Ideuchi bit his lower lip.
Hata couldn't decide whether that action was from anger towards the detestable murderer or regret that he couldn't make an appeal to the police chief.
'Ayaka-chan, the first victim, and Miho-chan, the second victim, and the currently missing Keiko-chan. All three of them disappeared on the way home from school, so we believe the perpetrator may be singling out girls from nearby schools.'
For what purpose?
Hata murmured that in his heart.
'Hereafter, we will be gathering information while focussing on nearby schools. As well, we are narrowing the number of suspects from those who have been arrested for molestation and other obscene acts.'
Hata understood that they could only rely on witnesses since not even one fingerprint or strand of hair had been found. However -
'As well, because we cannot deny the possibility that the female victims were involved in the incident because they took part in compensated dating, we are also reviewing the daily lives of the victims.'
Hata felt the words compensated dating were disproportionate for middle-school students, but that was just for a moment.
If this was a few years ago, mainly high school students would take part in compensated dating. However, the age bracket had lowered recently, and Hata had heard that it had even spread to middle-school students.
The girls would be bought by middle-aged men with daughters of about the same age.
The fathers might have been resolving their resentment at not being able to face their own daughters in a warped way.
The world really was a mystery.
'How is the correspondence with the victims' relatives going? Yesterday, the father of the second victim, Miho-chan, said on a television interview that the police hadn't made any apology to their family.' La historia continúa abajo The conference room stirred at Chief Hijikata's words.
Hata had seen that broadcast too. While the father had been angry at the police, the mother had been hunched over sobbing.
The reality that their daughter had died would never leave them.
This family carried the grief of having their daughter taken away from them irrationally and would probably continue to be eaten away by the stress that came from that for as long as they lived.
That was how Hata felt.
In any case, as long as they didn't know the murderer's goal, they couldn't narrow down the suspects.
Looking at it as the coroner, though he didn't dare to say this aloud, he thought that the investigation was veering terribly off course.
Even if they investigated previous offenders or compensated dating, there probably wouldn't be any results, since there was no indication that any of the female victims had been sexually assaulted.
However, that would mean that they didn't know the perpetrator's goal. It felt like it would be a long battle.
Hata murmured that to himself in his mind.
While driving, Ishii used the rear-view mirror to sneak glances at the young man called Yakumo sitting in the back.
He looked extremely bored, holding back yawns several times as he vacantly stared out the window.
However, Ishii thought that attitude might have been an act. He felt the young man had an indiscernible character.
Why did Detective Gotou bring him along in the first place?
It seemed like they knew each other from before, but he didn't understand their relationship at all. It felt like Detective Gotou treated Yakumo as a friend, and Yakumo seemed polite on the surface but was rude in intent - the end result was that Yakumo joked around with Detective Gotou even though Detective Gotou was part of the police force.
Most of all, Ishii felt uncomfortable having a civilian accompany them on their investigation of the incident.
Strictly speaking, an incident hadn't occurred yet, but there were secrets to be kept in their line of work, and it would also become a problem of responsibility if anything happened.
Ishii had objected to it many times, but Gotou had ignored him, and in the end, he'd wound up here with no explanation.
What on earth was Detective Gotou thinking -
He would only have to wait a little longer. It would probably become clear soon.
'Yakumo, was it really OK letting Haruka-chan leave like that?' Gotou said, breaking the silence.
Was Haruka the name of the girl who had been in that room?
Ishii recalled what Haruka looked like. Her image was still fresh in his mind.
She was a very cute young woman.
She had slightly slanted eyes that looked kind along with a pleasant smile. Her boyish outfit of a parka and jeans matched her short hair which went to the nape of her neck.
Having said that, she didn't give off the impression of being crude. Her feminine delicateness - or perhaps he should say her every gesture - had caught his eye.
Ishii's chest hurt when he thought about her.
'I don't know.'
Yakumo said that with a yawn, sounding bored. La historia continúa abajo 'What a cold guy.'
'I just respected her intentions.'
'You'll end up losing her like that.'
Gotou started snickering as he teased Yakumo.
Judging from the flow of the conversation, was Haruka-chan Yakumo's girlfriend?'
'I've said it many times, but she's just a troublemaker.'
'You say that, but you're really interested in her.'
'She's not my type.'
That was good. Whatever Yakumo's true feelings were, it seemed that they weren't dating.
'So you say. I'll ask you then - what's your type?'
Gotou turned around in the passenger seat with a smirk at the gossipy topic he brought up.
However, Yakumo looked uninterested.
'I don't mind telling you if you tell me how you first met your wife, Gotou-san.'
'I-idiot. As if I could tell you that!'
Ishii found Gotou's flustered expression so funny he burst into laughter.
'What's so funny?'
Gotou was glaring fiercely. Ishii quickly stopped laughing and concentrated on driving.
'Well, you made me ride in the car without any explanation, but what trouble do you have for me this time?'
Just as they reached the large street in front of the station, Yakumo spoke up while running a hand through his hair.
'Oh, now that you mention it, I haven't explained.'
Gotou took a cigarette case from his chest pocket, drew out one cigarette and held it in his mouth.
'If you light that, I'll get off this car immediately.'
'All I did was put it in my mouth,' Gotou replied, putting the cigarette back in the case. He started his explanation. 'Seems like a woman's been possessed by a ghost or something.'
'Why are the police involving themselves with something like that?'
Yakumo raised one of his well-shaped eyebrows as he asked, like he couldn't understand.
'Normally, the police wouldn't budge for a case like this.'
'So why are you?'
'The girl who's been possessed is the police chief's daughter.'
He said it.
Ishii could accept that Gotou had spoken without mentioning any names, but he couldn't stay silent now that Gotou had shared this much information.
'Detective Gotou, it will be a problem if you share information about the investigation with a civilian.'
'It's fine, so just shut up and drive!'
Gotou replied angrily to Ishii's objection.
'But the chief detective said to keep this a secret...'
'This guy is an exception! I said it's fine, so it's fine!'
If Gotou said that much, Ishii couldn't say anything back.
'It's fine. I'll keep this secret, so I won't cause any trouble for you, Ishii-san.'
Yakumo was the one who followed up. La historia continúa abajo Things had ended up rather strange.
Though Ishii still didn't agree, all he could do was obediently absorb himself in driving.
'Plus, it seems like the girl who was possessed has been saying crazy things around the clock.'
'Like you, Gotou-san?'
At Yakumo's jab, Gotou replied, 'Shut up,' and continued his explanation again.
'The chief's wife was really worried about her daughter's stranger behaviour, so she went and called a spirit medium. Luckily, that medium was scared and ran away. Just...'
'Were you told to clean this up before it became public?'
'Well, that sort of thing.'
'You're being used pretty well as a maid.'
'Hey! Whose fault do you think it is that things turned out like this?'
Gotou turned around and bent forward as he yelled, but Yakumo was aloof as usual.
'A problem with your driving skill caused the accident, Gotou-san. It isn't my responsibility.'
'You brat! I'll kick you out of the car!'
'I wouldn't really mind.'
Yakumo smirked, probably to make the detective angrier.
Ishii listened to their exchange in mute amazement.
He was confused by the gap between what he had imagined and reality, and he felt an indescribable uneasiness at the drive which he couldn't envision the end of.
After leaving Yakumo's hiding place, Haruka walked while looking at her feet.
A strong wind that made her feel the advent of spring was blowing from in front of her, so her fringe would be mussed up and dirt would enter her eyes if she didn't look down.
But was that really all -
She felt that the winding slope to the station was longer than usual.
She stopped many times along the way to sigh.
She would have to tell Mayuko she couldn't do anything.
Since she couldn't consult Yakumo, there was nothing she could do. Haruka, unlike Yakumo, couldn't see the spirits of the dead. Even if she left the matter for longer, it would just be wasting her time.
But how should she refuse?
Even though it had been a misunderstanding in the first place, she had already agreed to help.
She recalled how relieved Mayuko had looked then. She had bowed her head multiple times while crying and thanking Haruka.
It'll be difficult to tell her -
Haruka sighed again.
Why did she always stick her neck into things when it wasn't necessary?
Why did she respond that way to Mayuko then?
She knew the reason.
Ever since her twin sister had died, she had always tried hard to be a good girl.
While pretending to live in a carefree manner, she always paid close attention to how people looked at her. She didn't complain about things she didn't like, she never let her smile fade, and she always kept her wishes and desires closed off in her heart. La historia continúa abajo I was scared -
Of having someone say, 'It'd have been better if you died.'
That was why she would pay attention to others' opinions of her and try her best not to be hated. One day, her existence might be rejected. While thinking that -
She probably wanted somebody to say this to her.
It's fine for you to continue living -
Haruka suddenly stood still and took the phone strap out from her beige handbag.
It was the one she had received from Mayuko.
The strap that had AYAKA written on it - the same name as her sister's.
If this strap belonged to the ghost Mayuko saw, that girl was probably dead.
Why, after losing her life, was the girl still wandering in the river?
Yakumo had said this before. Ghosts weren't demons or a new type of life-form. They used to be living human beings.
Why did they die? Why were they wandering? By understanding the reason, the spirits of the dead could be released.
- What sort of feelings did my sister carry?
Haruka gripped the strap in her palm tightly.
She couldn't see the spirits of the dead like Yakumo, but she still might be able to feel something.
She would go to the river where Mayuko encountered the ghost.
It wouldn't be too late to refuse after that.
Haruka raised her head - she wouldn't lose to the strong wind - and took a deep breath before she started walking.
Gotou stood in front of a house.
The house was about ten minutes from the station and was at the entrance of the street.
In the line of cookie-cutter houses, this house cut a remarkably brilliant image, surrounded by white walls with tiled roofs and a set of double doors.
It was a mansion that a regular businessman would never be able to obtain, no matter how hard he worked.
'Damn, building such a huge house with taxpayers' money...'
Gotou kicked at the asphalt.
'You say that, Gotou-san, but your existence itself is a waste of taxpayers' money.'
Yakumo, standing next to him, gave him a fleeting glance as he spoke.
'What did you say!? Try saying that again!'
There was no point getting riled up over everything Yakumo said. He knew that, but there was no reason he had to put up with it.
'I'm saying you should work your salary's worth.'
'Same for you - why don't you go study your school fees' worth?'
'If there wasn't a detective throwing cases at me, I'd show up in class more often.'
He always jabbed at the sensitive points.
Gotou had nothing to reply to that.
'Sorry I'm late. I got lost.'
Ishii, who had gone to park the car, came back running like a girl.
Why did he even go search for a parking lot? He could've just parked on the road. La historia continúa abajo 'You're so slow! How far did you go!?'
Gotou directed the anger that had piled up from talking with Yakumo towards Ishii.
'But it takes five minutes to walk from here to the closest parking lot, and I couldn't help being a bit lost since it's the first time I've been here,' Ishii replied. He took a deep breath and adjusted the position of his glasses with a finger.
Affected gestures like that got on Gotou's nerves.
'At least find out where you can park before coming.'
'But since we came here so suddenly, I didn't have the time...'
He keeps on making excuses. In my time, you'd admit that even your blood was blue if your senior said it was.
Well, whatever -
Gotou cheered himself up before he could feel completely depressed and passed through the gate first.
When he pressed the intercom at the entrance, a sliding door opened, and a woman of about fifty appeared.
She was a Japanese beauty. She was dressed smartly, like she was ready to go to a party at any time.
She was probably the police chief's wife.
'I'm Gotou, the detective.'
Gotou took his notebook from his jacket's inner pocket and showed his identity card.
Ishii also did the same with his notebook and introduced himself. 'My name is Ishii Yuutarou.'
'We have been waiting. I heard from my husband that you would be coming.'
The police chief's wife bowed politely from the waist and invited them in.
Gotou stepped into the entryway.
'How large. It's about the same size as my room.'
Yakumo, who had followed him in, was looking around the entryway while admiring it aloud.
'Excuse me, but who might you be?'
The police chief's wife gave Yakumo a very cautious look.
Her misgivings were natural. It might have passed in a television drama, but normally, no detective would wear a shirt and jeans. It wasn't an undercover investigation.
'Ah, he's a spirit psychology professor. He's currently cooperating with us.'
Gotou felt awkward lying to the police chief's wife, but he decided to just deceive her since he couldn't say that Yakumo was a university student who could see ghosts.
'Eh? You were a spirit psychology professor?'
Ishii turned around, extremely surprised. If he reacted like that, Gotou's lie would have been for nothing.
Gotou glared at Ishii.
'My name is Saitou. It's nice to meet you.'
Unlike Ishii, Yakumo knew how to react in situations like this, and he bowed formally without even changing his expression.
It was mysterious, but his dignified behaviour actually made him look the part.
'We'll be in your care then, professor.'
The police chief's wife didn't suspect anything and greeted Yakumo back. Then, she invited them down the corridor, saying, 'Please follow me.' La historia continúa abajo Gotou walked alongside Yakumo down the corridor, following the police chief's wife.
When he took a glance behind him, Ishii still looked like he didn't understand what was going on, but he was following them silently.
After they went up the stairs and reached the door right by them, the police chief's wife quietly said, 'Here we are.'
It might have just been the light, but she suddenly looked paler.
She rubbed her hands together in front of her stomach, like she was somewhere very cold.
'May we go in?'
When Gotou spoke up, the police chief's wife looked up in surprise. She looked a bit troubled, but then she said, 'Please do,' in a voice that sounded like it might fade out.
It seemed that Yakumo could sense the strange atmosphere beyond the door. His expression was stiffer than usual.
'We're coming in.'
Gotou opened the door and stepped inside.
At that moment, the air suddenly changed.
It was difficult to breathe. He felt clammy. Shivers were running down his spine.
The lights were off, and the curtains were closed. The room was dark.
A woman sat on the bed by the window. That was -
Like all the strength had been taken from her body, her arms lay limply at her side and she hung her head, so Gotou could see the top of it. Her face was hidden by long hair.
She looked like she had lost her sense of self.
Though part of it might have been because he couldn't see her face, Gotou couldn't recognise the woman in front of him as Makoto.
He had met Makoto many times when she was working as a reporter. She wasn't naively cheerful, but she was an ambitious woman with a strong heart.
However, the woman in front of him today was just like a doll.
'Is that it?'
At some point, Yakumo had stood next to him. He spoke while stroking his chin.
'Yeah, looks like it.'
'E-er, Detective Gotou, I...'
Ishii stood in front of the door and was looking around the room nervously.
Man, if he was so nervous when nothing had even happened yet, he wouldn't be any help at all.
'So Yakumo, what about it?'
Yakumo didn't reply to Gotou's question. After sighing deeply, he stepped up to the bed and stood in front of Makoto.
'Who are you?'
His voice was calm as asked Makoto that question.
No, perhaps that had been a question to the ghost inside Makoto -
There was no response.
'Please respond to the question. Who are you?'
Yakumo narrowed his eyes and asked again.
Suddenly, Makoto raised her head.
Like a bamboo screen, long hair covered her face. Her wide eyes were red and inflamed. La historia continúa abajo 'Who are...'
Makoto interrupted Yakumo's words with a beastly howl.
Her teeth were bared and her eyebrows were raised - she looked like a demon.
Saliva was dripping from her mouth.
He heard a short shriek.
It had been Ishii. He had fallen to the ground and was covering his mouth with a trembling hand.
Gotou gave him a kick and then turned around to face Makoto again.
Her body was twitching convulsively.
It was just like a horror movie. He'd scolded Ishii earlier, but the truth was that Gotou was scared too.
'Can you not speak?'
Yakumo was the only one of them who wasn't perturbed. He spoke in the same tone as before and continued asking questions.
This time, Makoto didn't scream, but instead spoke words with a clear meaning.
When he heard that voice which reverberated to the bottom of his stomach, Gotou felt that the woman in front of his eyes today wasn't the reporter Hijikata Makoto but somebody else entirely.
'How long have you been there?'
Yakumo continued asking questions.
In exchange, the woman's body started shaking, little by little.
Then, tears started flowing from those inflamed eyes.
Her jaw quivered, making her teeth chatter.
'... He... lp... me...'
A weak, hoarse voice, completely different from before.
Perhaps that was the voice of the real Hijikata Makoto -
Then, the beastly voice yelled again, and her neck cracked forward and back. She collapsed onto the bed.
Gotou walked up to the bed and looked at Makoto.
She had fainted, but she was still breathing and she had a pulse. Did she lose consciousness?
'Oi. What just happened?'
Yakumo didn't reply to Gotou's words but instead pinched his brow, breathing deeply like he was in pain.
'Oi, Yakumo. What's wrong?'
Gotou tried to take a peek at his face, but Yakumo turned around so he wouldn't be able to.
'It's nothing,' Yakumo quietly replied. Then, he left the room briskly after excusing himself.
The confused police chief's wife asked what had happened, but Gotou shook her off and followed Yakumo out of the house.
He went through the gate and had just stepped on the road when he spotted Yakumo again.
He had his back against a telephone pole and was sitting while pressing against his left eye with both hands. A cold sweat ran down his cheeks. Gotou had seen Yakumo like this a few times before.
'So even you worry about other people, Gotou-san,' Yakumo said hoarsely. He acted this way even at a time like this. Trying to look strong. He had a bitter smile. La historia continúa abajo 'What happened?'
'It was a little intense.'
Yakumo stood up while using the telephone pole for support.
'I said before that souls were like clusters of peoples' emotions.'
'My left eye can see those emotions. Naturally, the way I see them differs depending on how strong those emotions are. Accordingly, the stronger those emotions are, the greater the burden on my eye. It's like the pain you feel when looking at a bright light.'
I sort of understand, but I sort of don't -
No, there was no way he could understand. No matter how many words Yakumo used, the pain of seeing spirits of the dead was a cross that Yakumo would have to continue to bear alone.
He felt a pain in his heart, as if he had been pricked by a needle.
Ishii flew out of the gate, a bit late.
He was sweating bullets for a different reason. Even though he'd been so interested, he'd ended up panicking when it came to the crunch.
'It's fine, so hurry and get the car.'
As soon as Ishii answered, he started running frantically like he had been cornered by a bear in a forest.
'So what happened?'
Gotou turned towards Yakumo again.
'That woman has been possessed by a spirit of the dead. Though she looks like a woman on the outside, he's a man on the inside. On top of that, the situation is rather serious.'
'What do you mean?'
He drew closer to Yakumo.
'I've seen a number of people who have been possessed before, but this is the first case where the body has been so corroded.'
'To put it simply, that spirit is hijacking another person's body.'
'Is that possible?'
The cigarette fell out of Gotou's mouth in his surprise.
'Well, it's probably impossible. Even if the body is a spirit's vessel, it's not like any will do. It's like how organs can be rejected during transplants.'
'What? Then it's fine, isn't it?'
Gotou picked up the cigarette he had dropped and lit it.
It seemed that Yakumo was saying it wouldn't turn out like a horror movie where the body was completely taken over and became somebody else's.
'It's not fine.'
Yakumo spoke sharply, which was unusual for him.
'Her body's being corroded from the possession. She already isn't eating properly.'
'What'll happen like this?'
'This might become debilitating - she could die.'
'Though that's just a possibility.'
This was becoming troublesome again.
They had to do something but -
'What are you going to do?' La historia continúa abajo 'Who is the spirit that has possessed her? I need to look into that first.'
Yakumo placed his left index finger on his brow.
I understand what he's saying, but -
'How are you going to look into that?'
'Do you know when she became this way?'
'If I remember correctly, it was after she fainted at the scene of a traffic accident.'
'Was she in an accident?'
'No, that's not it. A man was hit by a car and she tried to save him, but she suddenly collapsed.'
'And the man at the accident?'
'He had died on impact...'
Oh - that was it! It was the man who died in that accident!
'We'll need to look into that man. It isn't at the level of somebody who is resentful because he died in a traffic accident. The roots are deeper. There's an attachment to life that's strong to the point of greed...'
Yakumo's words echoed oppressively in his heart.
'So, what to do?'
'First is gathering information. I want to know as much as possible about the situation, including the time of the accident.'
If that's how it is, it'd be quickest to talk to that old man -
He didn't really want to, but there was nothing to be done.
With perfect timing, the car Ishii was driving slid into view.
Gotou looked up at the window on the second floor that had its curtains closed.
He had thought he'd be able to just deal with this quickly, but things didn't look like they would turn out well.
Haruka walked along the embankment of Tama River, where Mayuko had seen the ghost.
There was a couple sitting together on the sloped lawn. A boat with a cheerful father and son pair on it floated along the river.
It was a relaxing landscape not even remotely appropriate for a ghost sighting.
After taking the elevated railway and walking about five hundred metres, the water gate came into view.
The large iron gate regulating the water level went across the river. There was a tower that looked like a fire lookout standing in the middle of the river.
White herons were flying around that tower.
'It should be around here.'
Haruka went down the lawn-covered embankment to the riverside.
There was a bent plastic umbrella.
Haruka slowly surveyed her surroundings and spotted a rock that rose about fifty metres from the water. Its surface was flat, but it had become wet from the water, and moss was growing on parts of it.
Haruka tried getting a bit closer. She put her bag on the riverbank and stepped towards that rock.
'Oi, missy. What are you doing over there?'
She turned around at the voice and saw a middle-aged man in work clothes carrying a bucket.
From his outfit, he was probably from the management office for the water gate. There was one more person too. A man of about the same age wearing grey slacks and a white shirt stood next to him. La historia continúa abajo 'I was looking for something.'
She couldn't say she had come to see a ghost.
'What are you looking for?' asked the man in the white shirt.
His cheeks were hollow and there were bags under his eyes. He also looked pale. He felt sickly for some reason.
'Um... Er, my mobile phone...'
The phone strap suddenly came up in her mind and she lied at once.
'It's deep around there, so please be careful,' the man in the white shirt said.
'Give up - you should go home before it gets dark.'
The man in work clothes gave her that advice and then headed back towards the management office with the man in the white shirt.
When she looked up at the sky, she noticed that it had already started getting dark, like the two men had said.
She was wearing pumps today. She walked up the rock carefully so as not to lose her footing and stood at the tip.
She bent over just slightly and took a look at the river.
As the man in the white shirt had said, it seemed rather deep here.
The obscure surface of the water was moving slowly.
Haruka took the phone strap from her jeans pocket.
'Is your name Ayaka-chan...'
She tried asking her question towards the water, but there was no reply.
As she'd expected, there was no way she'd be able to resolve anything by coming here, since she couldn't see spirits.
'... St... p... eady...'
She heard a voice, but she wasn't sure from where.
She looked to the right and the left, but there was nobody there.
She couldn't tell the direction or the distance. The voice felt like it was talking directly to her head.
'Where is that coming from? Where are you?'
Haruka gripped the phone strap in front of her chest and spoke frantically.
Suddenly, she felt a presence -
It was at her feet.
She slowly lowered her gaze.
Bubbles were coming up to the surface of the water.
At the same time as the sound of the water spattering, a hand thrust out from the river.
A rotten purple hand.
The small hand that had not yet grown into an adult's one grabbed hold of Haruka's ankle.
She tried to fix her posture, but it was too late.
Haruka lost her balance and fell into the river in front of her -
The water was cold.
A numbing pain rain through her whole body.
She swallowed some water. She couldn't breathe. Her body felt heavy. She waved her hands about trying to find something to grab on to, but her hands found nothing.
A girl's face floated up in front of Haruka. She looked like she could cry at any moment.
The girl slowly sank to the river bottom.
She had to save her. She had to save that girl.
Haruka desperately stretched her arm out towards the girl, but she couldn't reach.
In a moment, all she could see was white.
There was a man. She couldn't see his face clearly. Who? Who was it?
The man's strangling her neck. It hurts. He's strangling my neck.
I can't see his face, but I know he's laughing.
Stop. It hurts. Save me.
Save me -
Her mind was growing hazy.
Am I going to die? I wonder if I can go to where my sister is -
- Stop. Please, no more.
Haruka heard a girl's voice as she lost consciousness.