The Zashiki Warashi of Intellectual Village:Volume2 Chapter 3
- 1 Chapter 3: Uchimaku Hayabusa @ Shibuya Girl A
- 1.1 Part 1
- 1.2 Part 2
- 1.3 Part 3
- 1.4 Part 4
- 1.5 Part 5
- 1.6 Part 6
- 1.7 Part 7
- 1.8 Part 8
- 1.9 Part 9
- 1.10 Part 10
- 1.11 Part 11
- 1.12 Part 12
- 1.13 Part 13
- 1.14 Part 14
- 1.15 Part 15
- 1.16 Part 16
- 1.17 Part 17
- 1.18 Part 18
- 1.19 Part 19 (3rd person)
- 1.20 Part 20
- 1.21 Part 21 (3rd person)
- 1.22 Part 22
- 1.23 Part 23
- 1.24 Part 24 (3rd person)
- 1.25 Notes
Chapter 3: Uchimaku Hayabusa @ Shibuya Girl A
The value of land inside the ZR Yamanote Line was generally ridiculously expensive, but Ochanomizu was a student district. That meant a thorough enough search would turn up apartments cheap enough for a student.
But that meant the apartment was meant for a student. Normally, a single man with a job would be ashamed to live in one. In fact, the landlord would usually refuse someone like me, but I had managed to avoid that.
It seemed the female college students felt safer when they knew a police officer lived in the same apartment building.
I was a bit annoyed that the landlord used my private information as a sales point, but it was the best place I could find. As a pitiable public servant, I could not afford to do anything about it.
I was in the living room the apartment had despite only being meant for students. The table held quickly-made toast, milk, a premade salad, and simple scrambled eggs made in the microwave. While I ate that breakfast, my cell phone rang.
It was my sister-in-law’s number.
It was likely about the cardboard boxes in the corner of my room.
“Did you get them?” she asked.
“Yes, unfortunately. Three boxes is going too far.”
“Don’t be picky. They contain Intellectual Village-made rice, summer vegetables, soy sauce, miso, mirin, and sake. You would have to wait to even make a reservation to get that from a restaurant.”
That was true. And if word got out I had it, it would probably bring in tons of thieves and robbers.
“Please, give me a break. You know I can’t cook.”
“Um, this may be an awkward question, but how do you survive, Hayabusa-kun?”
“These days, you can make a dinner by buying a premade salad and side dish at the supermarket, throwing a pack of white rice in the microwave, and adding hot water to a cup of miso soup.”
“That is not how to live a happy life.”
I wanted to protest that I simply used the extra time for things other than food.
But before I could, I heard the sound of a struggle over the phone.
“Um, nee-san? What is going on?”
“The Yuki Onna and Nekomata are fighting behind me. They cannot agree whether to watch The Unknown Secrets of the Antarctic or The Pet Café that Cats Love. …Now, now, stop that! If you keep acting that selfishly, Shinobu will grow to hate you.”
The sounds of a struggle immediately ceased.
My nephew’s rare disposition seemed to have taken effect once more. Weren’t the Yuki Onna and Nekomata both deadly Youkai? Then again, my disposition making them hate me and my brother’s disposition making them fear him were quite something too.
After being sure the commotion was over, I returned to the conversation.
“Could you at least send cucumbers or tomatoes or something else you can slice up and eat as is? I don’t even know what to do with a squash. I don’t like getting a long line of brand-name crops the gourmets of Akasaka would drool over and just watching them rot.”
“I will take that into consideration, but I cannot do anything about what I already sent you. If you are not going to learn to cook, you can use them to get to know your neighbors.”
Having said that, my sister-in-law ended the call.
She probably just ran away because she did not like how the conversation was going.
I was the one police officer living in an apartment building meant for students. I was never going to get to know my neighbors very closely. There would be a larger rift between us than between an elementary school student and a frightening looking PE teacher. If I rang my neighbor’s doorbell, they would probably think some incident had happened.
Then again, I couldn’t stand for brand-name crops on a level where a bunch of grapes cost 30 thousand yen to rot away into organic fertilizer, so I nervously headed to the neighboring room.
I rang the doorbell and a female voice so unambitious I wondered if she had low blood pressure came over the intercom.
“What is it…?”
“Um, my family went a little overboard in sending me summer vegetables, so do you have room for any?”
I heard frantic footsteps, a crash, and then a shout of “Slippers!? Where are my slippers!?” from beyond the door.
The door shot open and a college girl in a track suit with a towel around her neck and a compress on her shoulders charged out with a full-faced smile.
“How wonderful, you Kasajizou!! Now I can escape this life of soaking ramen in water to infinitely double it in size!!”
“How low on money are you!?”
Despite all that trouble, I still had to leave for work at the same time. As much as I would have loved some more time. After closing the front door of my apartment, I headed on foot to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department.
My workplace was in a nice place like Sakuradamon. That was why I wanted a place to live in Ochanomizu.
“Oh, if it isn’t the detective.”
“What the hell are you doing here, mystery freak?”
When I turned around toward that sudden voice from behind, I’m betting my expression was not a pleased one. A girl with twintails named Hishigami Enbi was smiling at me.
That mystery freak could be summed up as “a suspicious person who frequently appears at the crime scenes of bizarre murders”.
The mystery freak preferred to wear revealing outfits such as swimsuits, but now she was wearing the obvious outfit of a student: a short-sleeved blouse and a wine-red pleated skirt. I was fairly certain it was the uniform of a nearby high class girl’s school. I had no idea if the kneesocks were a designated part of the uniform.
Knowing her, she would say she chose to wear them herself because they were necessary to solve a murder. But as long as you did not look too deeply, she was just a nice rich girl.
There were even banks and heavy industry companies that used the name Hishigami.
If you flipped through the channels during primetime, you would probably find a commercial for a company affiliated with her family.
“I’m just headed to school. You’re the one out of place here, detective. I thought you usually used the subway.”
“Why do you think I would be walking to work in this horrid heat while dressed in a suit, mystery moron?”
“Hah hahn. The suit looks cheaper than necessary, but it also looks new. Did your boss tell you to hurry up and break it in so you can run around in it?”
“…That’s right, dammit,” I replied in annoyance.
Police detectives did not wear cheap suits because they had no fashion sense. While it was not as bad as the police dramas where everything was resolved in 60 minutes, a police detective was one of the few jobs that required physical labor in a suit. The suit would get muddy, bloody, and torn by suspects armed with blades. And so no one would wear a custom-made high-class suit.
And since we had to run around a lot, a brand new suit could be a bit restrictive. That was why we intentionally put an extra burden on a new suit to break it in.
For that reason, police detectives gave the impression of being the public servants with zero fashion sense who wore cheap mass-produced suits that were horribly beat up.
“By the way, detective, what are you pursuing now?”
“I can’t tell a civilian that. Employees have a duty to keep secrets.”
“I’m feeling a bit depressed. You could always let me join in if it’s something I would enjoy.”
The mystery freak pouted her lips, but we had arrived near the famous rich girl’s school. Enbi waved and then left.
Afterwards, I wiped away my sweat with a handkerchief and stopped at a convenience store for water when I couldn’t stand it anymore. Finally, I made it to my workplace in Sakuradamon.
It was the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, the symbol of the city’s law and order.
Due to the influence of police dramas, it seemed to have become the symbol of Japan’s police force as a whole. Looking at that awe-inspiring building was enough to improve even my mood a bit. It always made me realize my job would directly affect people’s lives for better or worse.
The uniformed police officer standing in front of the entrance gave me a faithful salute.
However, the usual fastidious greeting did not accompany it.
Instead, a middle-aged police officer whispered to me.
“Oh, Uchimaku-san. You probably shouldn’t look inside right now.”
“Eh? Is something going on? Things do seem a bit noisy… Are they filming a drama?”
The front of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department was one of the leading location filming spots in all of Japan. But to prevent terrorism, the inside shots were all done on sets back at the studio. I highly doubted a request to directly film inside would have been approved.
In response, the middle-aged police officer shook his hand side to side and said, “No, no. Um, it’s summer break, so it seems a group of elementary school children is being given a tour. Naturally, they weren’t allowed to bring in their cell phones or any other recording devices.”
“Oh… Yeah, I don’t want to get caught up in that.”
With that offhand comment, I peered through the glass door and into the front lobby. Even through the glass, I could hear a chaotic deluge of voices.
“Do you have katsudon!?”
“Where’s Investigator Itako from TV?”
“Can you show us the investigation headquarters!?”
There were a lot more kids than I had expected. It looked like more than 100 but not quite 200. A young female police officer was waving a small flag in front of them, so she looked somehow like a bus tour guide.
I whispered to the middle-aged police officer who was still hanging around for some reason.
“Looks like the Sakura Police have plenty to do. Oh, wow. Look at the face of the big guy from the organized crime countermeasures division. I’ve never seen him look so exhausted. I gotta snap a photo of this.”
“Wait, don’t do that, Uchimaku-san! If he notices, he’ll constrict your carotid artery!!”
“You say that, Nakada-san, but I can see your shoulders shaking as you try to hold back laughter.”
Just as I held up my phone, my eyes met with those of the big man displayed on the small screen.
That fifth dan in judo (openweight) opened wide the eyes of his stone-like face and pointed straight at me.
“That’s a detective from Department 1!!”
“Bh!?” I spat out.
Well over 100 children all turned to look in my direction.
“A detective from Department 1!”
“Investigation Department 1 is where they shoot handguns all the time to kill the criminals!!”
“Th-th-that bastard!! He turned them on me because Department 1 is more popular!!”
Just to be clear, detectives in Investigation Department 1 did not shoot handguns all the time. It would be a lot easier if we could, but we prided ourselves at being the best in the world when it came to capturing criminals alive.
The middle-aged police officer then said, “Uchimaku-san! If you’re going to run, do it quickly! You can enter through the materials delivery entrance. Otherwise, the children will surround you!!”
“No, it’s a bit late for that! Wah! This is like a store during a really good sale!!”
I need to turn their focus somewhere else!! But is there any job more popular than a detective from Department 1!?
Just as I started to panic, a god of salvation appeared.
Mezu Gen. He was an older man with deep wrinkles on his face. His hair was a very shiny black because it was dyed. While he was not as muscular as the large man from the organized crime countermeasures division, his sharp gaze held enough force to silence a fifth dan in judo. He was the leader of my department. However, he was often called “cute” by the young female police officers because of his habit of wearing the necktie he received as a father’s day present.
“…What is this commotion?”
Instead of answering his simple question, I pointed at him and raised my voice as loud as I could to announce, “That’s the chief of Department 1!!”
To make a long story short, he slammed his fist down on my head later on.
But do not forget that the department chief pointed at a man in the prime of his life who came running up after a jog around the imperial palace (accompanied by an extremely annoyed looking bodyguard in black) and shouted “That’s the superintendent general!!”
I worked for Investigation Department 1 of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department.
But that did not mean I was always having meetings at the investigation headquarters or rushing out to suspects’ houses based on an important new piece of investigative information.
Sometimes not much was going on.
The department chief would not call out to a low-ranking detective like me often, yet he suddenly did just that.
“Uchimaku, you have the safety class today, right?”
Since I had nothing better to do, I had been trying to work up my own original blend by mixing together several different types of coffee beans, but now my eyes opened wide.
The department chief went on to say, “Y’know, the safety class where you head out to a school to put on a puppet show and kamishibai. The materials you need are here. Be there in half an hour. That is all.”
“Wait, wait, wait! That isn’t a job for Department 1. What about the Life Safety Division or Traffic Division? In fact, why is anyone from the main police department doing it? Can’t an officer from the school’s area handle it?”
“Normally, yes. But it seems middle and high school students these days don’t like kamishibai or puppet shows, so they keep falling asleep. They want a detective who has felt real danger to more effectively explain the recent SNS trouble. Someone who reeks of blood should give it more tension.”
As the department chief breathed a heavy sigh, I recalled a certain fact.
It had been me who had brought an end to the SNS murders back in May.
“But won’t we get complaints if we use an actual incident to draw their attention?”
“The police’s job is not just to resolve crimes that have been committed. We must also prevent crimes before they are committed. We will use whatever means we have available to us. But be careful. Make sure to hide all personal information.”
The department chief placed a giant envelope on my desk and quickly left.
I had no choice but to check inside the envelope.
“How am I supposed to know what to say when I have to be there in half an hour?”
“I can still hear you, Uchimaku. I did not tell you until now because I did not want to deal with your complaining. Do you understand now? Then get going.”
The safety class was a school activity, so I could not be late. I glanced through the materials, put them back in the large envelope, and left.
While I rode the elevator to the first floor, it stopped midway down. A detective from the Life Safety Division got on. Unlike me, he was the type of detective that always wore a nice suit.
“I heard you have to go out in this heat to present a safety class at a middle school. This is the middle of summer break, so the students probably won’t be happy about it. Try not to lose the attention of every single student in the school while they’re gathered in the gym. Nee ha ha.”
“Chehh. I take it I was the only one that didn’t know about this ‘surprise party’.”
“You need to be around some living people every once in a while. It’s not healthy to deal with nothing but murder cases.”
Once the elevator reached the first floor, Toujou-san left.
While it was true I dealt with nothing but murder cases, I did try to keep my focus on living people.
The middle school was within walking distance. Most of the police officers gathered there were uniformed officers from the “usual” station. I felt out of place as the only murder case detective in the bunch.
“…You can’t be serious.”
“Is something the matter?” asked the school’s female director in a refined manner.
That was a very difficult question to answer.
Outside the window of the faculty room, I could see the mystery freak waving at me with a big smile on her face.
This is her school?
A very bad feeling wrapped around me despite having no proof anything was going to happen. But just as I expected, my cell phone rang. After receiving the never-before-heard threat of “come on out or I’ll charge into the faculty room and kiss you”, I had no choice but to exit the school building.
“What do you want, mystery freak? I’m kind of busy.”
“So am I. I need to get to the gym soon for the school assembly. But let’s talk first. If you ignore me, I’ll forcibly have my way with you here.”
I let out a heavy sigh.
My mental state was similar to some chocolate melting under the hot sun.
“If you’re interested, I take it this is about some kind of incident.”
“That’s right. What about you, detective? Why are you here for this SNS safety class? Are you using it to get into the school because you caught the same scent I’m after?”
I had no ulterior motive for being here, but was something actually happening around the mystery freak?
“If it’s urgent, I’ll hear you out. Despite how you act, you are civilian and I am a police officer.”
“So you understand.”
I had tried to warn her by emphasizing the fact that she was a civilian, but the mystery freak did not give in at all.
She glanced away from me and beckoned someone over with her hand.
“Okay, Tomoe-chaaan. This is the detective I was talking about. There’s no distinction or division between adult and child with him, so he’s our ally.”
I do too have a division and distinction there!!
It would be a major problem if I still acted like a middle schooler at this age!!
A face peered out from behind a pillar along a nearby outside pathway.
She was a girl with an appearance that made you think her braided hair was to help with her school records. She wore glasses, but she looked more like an athlete or martial artist than a bookish girl. Her body was wrapped in supple muscles. She appeared to have a better figure than the mystery freak.
However, both her muscles and figure did not look natural. It may have been the popular thing to do, but it appeared she had done a fair bit of “grooming”. She was the type who would have tons of diet ebooks on her phone.
You weren’t supposed to push yourself too hard while still growing, but the world was a harsh place.
“No, Enbi. It can’t be a detective. I don’t think he can help us.”
She seemed openly hostile, but it would have been jumping the gun to assume she was hiding something she felt guilty about. During some sort of incident, even the most innocent normal citizen did not want to approach the police.
“Tomoe, he isn’t that kind of detective.”
“Enbi, I decided to ask you for help because you gather information using several different routes, but I am opposed to using him. Forget my request. I’ll do this on my own.”
This Tomoe-chan turned her back on us and muttered one last comment.
Her voice was quiet, but it possessed a piercing sharpness.
“I can’t trust the police. They can’t do anything.”
After watching Tomoe-chan leave, Enbi sighed.
“I’m not trying to show off, but explain to me what is going on. This smells really fishy to me.”
“Fine, but neither of us has much time. We can continue this in the afternoon. Let’s finish with this school day first.”
As expected, the best I could manage in the SNS safety class was to make sure it did not absolutely fail. There was no way I could give much of a presentation when I was suddenly thrown up on stage with no script or rehearsal time. Think of it as the school expecting some high-level acrobatic flying while all I delivered was a safe emergency landing. That required some skill too, but it was tragically difficult for others to tell.
But at least the mystery freak had managed to suppress her laughter while listening to me speak.
After finishing with the school day, Enbi and I met up outside of the school.
“Detective, do you want to get lunch somewhere?”
“It’s exactly noon. Everywhere will be busy.”
“…Oh. That’s a sad statement that shows what sort of restaurant you eat at.”
“More importantly, tell me if you know of anything that might be a serious issue.”
“We can speak while we walk.” The mystery freak raised her index finger while taking the lead. “I will omit any uncertain information if that is okay with you.”
“Just tell me what you can.”
“Lately, Jinmensou have been spreading among high school girls in Shibuya.”
I had thought every restaurant in a student district like Ochanomizu would be packed at lunchtime, but we found an empty café a bit off the major roads where the employees were dressed as masters and maids. The mystery freak swiftly moved to a table in the back like she had done it a thousand times before.
“This place makes all the sales it needs for the day with the morning meals they sell in front of the station. Everything else is just a hobby.”
“I don’t care about the restaurant. Tell me about this incident. What was that about high school girls in Shibuya? I’ve never seen those creatures except on TV.”
You could say they were synonymous with lies.
Most anyone could easily tell just how much truth there was in any rumor that began with “according to some high school girls in Shibuya”.
The police received a lot of unreliable-sounding reports and tips, but the credibility dropped considerably if that term was mentioned.
After ordering a hot sandwich and an iced coffee produced in some place with a horribly long foreign-sounding name, the mystery freak said, “Well, just think of that as a symbol or a framework that was easy to use. The Jinmensou problem has reached one of our students. That would be middle school girl in Ochanomizu. It might have reached some elementary school students as well. Think of it as being a problem for all minors who hang out in Shibuya.”
“Just to check: are you sure there really is something to this?”
I glanced through the menu and grimaced.
Why is there not a single thing on the menu spelled with less than 50 characters?
The mystery freak ignored my hesitation and ordered something for me without asking.
“Jinmensou, those giant tumors in the shape of a human face, are spreading among those girls. You came from an Intellectual Village, so you know what a Jinmensou is, right?”
“The story goes that they appear as a symbol of evil deeds when a person has lied or sinned too much. It’s the same as the Futakuchi Onna. But they do not have the ability to kill as they merely appear on the surface of the body.”
Seeing one in an Intellectual Village was one thing, but it bothered me a bit that Jinmensou were appearing in the great metropolis of Tokyo.
Youkai disliked modern cities, so they tended to gather in rural areas. It was possible someone was forcibly altering that aspect of the Youkai so the Jinmensou would spread through these Shibuya high school girls.
The mystery freak put mustard on the hot sandwich when it arrived which made the picky master frown.
“These Jinmensou are a very serious problem when they appear in the sensitive adolescent school society. You would likely be isolated if those around you found out something that creepy had appeared on your body. …And that goes double for a girl’s skin. They hold irresponsible dreams in regards to their skin.
“Would they really be purged like that?”
“It wouldn’t be so bad with a simple scar or burn. After all, it isn’t your fault if you get hurt. But a Jinmensou is a Youkai. And it appears in response to lies and sins. Not only does an ugly tumor several centimeters large appear, but everyone assumes it’s your fault. These people can’t help but be socially purged at an accelerated rate.”
A student who had no place in the inescapable framework of a school might feel enough fear to end their own life.
Was that the issue the mystery freak was worried about?
That did not include a “criminal” which is what she would be most interested in.
“I understand that this leaves a lot unknown about the appearance of the Jinmensou,” she continued. “But what if this is a Youkai-related Package that allows someone to freely make these face-shaped tumors appear or disappear? That would give this person the ability to ostracize any student in a school at any time. Doesn’t that sound like it would lead to crime? For example, it could be used to control the frightened girls affected by it.”
If that was true, it was indeed a problem with a great risk.
If the situation only advanced below the surface due to the restrictions of a school society, talk of it could definitely spread around without the organizations of adults learning of it.
“…? What’s wrong, detective?”
I was unable to work up any motivation without a murder or a corpse and this seemed outside the usual realm of her twisted interests.
“Hm? Are you feeling unmotivated because it’s outside the jurisdiction of Department 1?”
“My job can be rather vague. You could say it’s my job to resolve any major incidents or matters that are not handled by other departments.”
And if I went back to the office, I would just be given another annoying job by the department chief.
I decided to make up a lie about feeling sick from the anxiety of suddenly going up on stage so I could avoid heading back for a while.
“Let’s do some investigation. Where should we start?”
“Shibuya, of course. I’m meeting someone there.”
“One of the rumored high school girls. We won’t get anywhere without first seeing one of these Jinmensou for ourselves.”
We rode the train to the ZR Shibuya station.
“Did you meet this high school girl on the internet?”
“Yes, but I’m not entirely sure it was really a high school girl I was talking with. It might have been some group of gaudy guys who are trying to become kidnappers. That’s why I asked you to come along, detective.”
“Just as you explained in the gym today, SNSs are filled with dangers. It only makes sense to bring along some insurance. Kee hee hee.”
Please don’t laugh like that. Just thinking about how awkward and nervous I was on that stage makes me want to die.
We left the station and headed to a plaza surrounded by countless buildings. The plaza doubled as a large bus roundabout and was often used as a meeting point.
I beg you, Mr. Uniformed Police Officer. I’m one of you. Just because I have a girl clinging to my side doesn’t mean you need to glare at me with such suspicion.
“But this Jinmensou issue has a delicate side to it, right? Will she really open up to someone like me? I’m a guy, I’m an adult, and I’m with the police. That’s three distinct boundaries.”
“I’d say it depends on the person. Some girls might want to ask for help from someone larger than themselves.”
“But that girl at your school held some pretty blatant hostility towards me. What was her name? Tomoe-chan?”
“Hachikawa Tomoe-chan. Her situation is a bit unique.”
“No, people like you who can talk to a police officer so cheerfully are the exception.”
“Oh, c’mon, detective. Surely you don’t think you’re a whisky-drinking, trench coat-wearing, tough-looking nice guy who lives in a hard boiled world. You’re more like a cute little animal.”
“I’ll have to disagree if you’re trying to say I fill the role of a mascot. But anyway…”
I trailed off before I could continue.
I sharpened my senses and checked my surroundings again.
The mystery freak called out, “Oh, it’s Tomoe.”
The same Hachikawa Tomoe-chan from before was glaring our way from in front of a convenience store at the base of one of the large buildings surrounding the plaza.
I suddenly recalled that she had said she would “do this on her own”.
“Hey, mystery freak. She isn’t the high school girl afflicted with a Jinmensou you were talking about, is she?”
I received a blatant click of the tongue in response.
But from Tomoe-chan rather than the mystery freak.
“If that was the case, I wouldn’t use such a roundabout method. It would have been simpler just to talk with you at school.”
“I suppose that’s true.”
“…You’re such an idiot. You had enough information to figure that out. If you had thought about it at all, you would have known right away.”
Yes, but it’s my job to ask those things you can “know right away” dozens or even hundreds of times while watching the reaction of the people I ask.
Hachikawa Tomoe-chan pointed at my nose.
“Anyway, I don’t need anyone as useless as you here. If this Shibuya high school girl learns a policeman is here, she might turn right around and run away. Then we will lose any hint we might have gotten.”
“So you’re saying…um…”
“Hachikawa. Hachikawa Tomoe.”
I of course already knew that, but calling her by her name before she had introduced herself would only have increased her distrust of me. Playing dumb could be a real pain.
“Hachikawa-san, are you here to contact the same person as the mystery frea-…I mean, as Hishigami-san?”
“That’s right. I was the one that asked Enbi for help after meeting this girl online. If I had known that would lead to someone as troublesome as you tagging along, I never would have done so!”
I felt a bit bad for the mystery freak, but this was the normal reaction.
It would have been stranger if some boring man wearing a suit was not rejected upon trying to join a group of sensitive adolescent girls.
“We can talk about this later.” I said.
“Move away from the entrance to that convenient store. Pay attention while walking through the city. The siren attached under the eaves is on.”
That was an SOS indicating a robbery.
It had been this I had initially noticed, not Tomoe-chan.
I turned to the mystery freak and said, “I’m going in. You take Hachikawa-san away from here. The robber might try to flee. Stay away from any obvious paths and wait. Understand?”
“Detective, did you bring your handgun?”
“Don’t underestimate me.”
I was of course going to handle this unarmed.
I was a police officer. I would have a chance to be of some use outside of extreme exceptions like Zashou Island where every single villager was guilty and armed with hunting weaponry.
But I frowned in confusion upon subduing the culprit who was shouting while threatening the cashier with something like an awl.
The criminal was a high school girl.
And when her skirt flipped up, I caught a glimpse of something on her thigh.
A report had to be submitted in the process of handing the criminal over to the local police station, so my department chief naturally learned of what happened. He shouted angrily at me with incredible force over the phone, but even he seemed hesitant to be too angry since no one was hurt, no damage was done, and the (attempted) robber had been arrested.
As I killed time in the police station’s standard waiting room, a young detective from the station approached me with a clipboard in hand.
“I am Inoue.”
“Hi, I am Uchimaku.”
“Thank you for your help. We will handle investigation if you do not mind.”
“Sure, sure. Um, do I need to sign this?”
I spoke to Inoue-san while using a ballpoint pen to sign my name on the paperwork on the clipboard.
“I would like to hear her motive if that’s okay.”
“That is fine, but isn’t this more a job for the Life Safety Division than Department 1?”
“…? Has she already said something?”
“A bit.” Inoue-san lowered his voice to a whisper. “This was an attempted robbery, so she was of course after money. However, the main issue is why she wanted that money.”
“…Have you confirmed that she has a Jinmensou?”
“She showed it to us,” replied Inoue-san. “She has a tumor about 5 cm across resembling a human face on her right thigh. It looks similar to the bump left by a bug bite.”
According to the mystery freak, someone could freely cause these Jinmensou to appear or disappear and could therefore threaten the targeted girls. But for a simple robbery?
As I thought, Inoue-san said something I did not expect.
“The girl…Her name is Sayama Yae by the way. She says she needs the money to pay an exorbitant medical fee to treat the Jinmensou.”
“To treat it?”
“Yes.” Inoue-san paused for a beat. “With cosmetic surgery.”
After hearing what I needed to hear, I left the police station. It was already evening. The mystery freak had been troubling the uniformed police officer at the entrance with a barrage of curious questions, but now she ran over to me.
I looked around and asked, “Hey, where’s Hachikawa-san?”
“She left. It looked like this was quite a shock to her.”
“Had it been a shock for a violent crime to occur so nearby or for the person with a hint to the Jinmensou incident to be taken in by the police?”
“More importantly, detective, what did the high school girl who committed that attempted robbery say?”
“I can’t reveal information on an ongoing investigation.”
“Is she in debt over cosmetic surgery that insurance won’t cover?”
I quickly checked over my suit for any listening devices.
The mystery freak shook her index finger and said, “Tsk tsk. If you think about it, you will come across several odd points, Uchimaku-kun.”
“Oh, is that so.”
“Don’t ignore me!!”
I started to walk to the subway station, but the mystery freak ran up and latched onto my back.
Stop that! That police officer is getting a dangerous look in his eyes!!
“For one thing, it doesn’t make sense to commit a crime after promising to meet with me or Tomoe. I can only think she was planning to get arrested from the beginning. But what would leave her with so few options? I can’t think of very many situations.”
“What if the person who gave her the Jinmensou demanded she bring them money?”
“Then she would have tried to make sure the robbery succeeded.” The mystery freak moved from my back and circled around in front of me. “That high school girl might have been thinking of opposing the person behind the Jinmensou from the moment she initially contacted Tomoe to meet her. But she must have reached some sort of limit in the time between then and now. Since it was a robbery, it must have to do with money. And if the girl was trying to oppose the Jinmensou, then it isn’t hard to guess how she would do so.”
If the Jinmensou disappeared, she would have nothing more to fear.
So she would remove it by force.
But it was a giant tumor 5 cm across on her thigh. This was different from healing a pimple. If she used a blade to cut it off, she would need to call an ambulance.
In that case, it would be quickest to leave it to a professional.
“What good would it do to have the Jinmensou surgically removed? I thought you suspected the criminal could somehow cause the Jinmensou to appear and disappear. And this is a Youkai that appears as a symbol of lies and sins. Won’t it just appear again if you try to forcibly remove it?”
“Perhaps. But how is that a problem for the clinic being paid to remove it?”
“If a Jinmensou appears, they can surgically remove it. If it appears again, they can surgically remove it again. …That cycle is perfect for them. It ensures repeat customers, so the clinic probably loves it. It’s entirely possible they have been whispering something about these Jinmensou just like they use the characteristics of obesity and acne to their advantage in their advertisements.”
We had been assuming the criminal was using the isolated system of a school, but cosmetic surgery did seem to provide the criminal with more to gain.
No matter how deeply the cosmetic surgery clinic was related to this as a whole, it seemed we needed to look into it.
At 11:30 that night, I finished my work for the day and decided to leave the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department. When I reached the first floor lobby, Toujou-san from the Life Safety Division entered with a lot of subordinates in tow.
“Huh? Were you out for a nighttime raid?” I asked.
“Yes. In fact, you’re the one that gave us this extra work.”
“We stopped by the cosmetic surgery clinic related to the Jinmensou. We checked any places that had received an unnatural number of new patients recently and found it right away. It was Kaguya Beauty Clinic in Harajuku. It was a stereotypical ‘pitfall’.”
So it was an illegal business that targeted minors. This was common with OB/GYN, cosmetic surgery, or other clinics that deal with delicate issues. They would charge exorbitant prices and then open up pathways to various underground means of earning money for those who could not pay. These “pitfalls” were designed so people would not be able to pay.
This had mostly started after all abortions in which the mother’s life was not threatened had been banned by the Newborn Protection Law meant to fight the tide of Japan’s low birthrate. These sorts of business had started appearing and spreading what fields they dealt in.
“So where did this pitfall lead? A subcontractor in charge of phone scams?”
“A group that stockpiles cell phones and resells them. It does not look suspicious if high school girls constantly buy the latest phones. This might be related to a large criminal organization. Now we need to meet with the Organized Crime Countermeasures Division. Thanks for the all-nighter you gave us, Uchimaku-kun. Maybe I’ll treat you to something later.”
“…Was the clinic involved in giving the girls the Jinmensou?”
If so, all the loose ends had been tied up.
Toujou-san shrugged and said, “We looked through everything, but that was probably done elsewhere.”
“Do you have proof of that?”
“The disturbance was too great. If Kaguya Beauty Clinic controlled everything, they would have kept it all on a lower scale that would have been harder to find.”
That meant the clinic was simply profiting off of something someone else was causing.
The true criminal behind it all was elsewhere.
“Understood. Call me if it looks like you’ll need Department 1 for anything.”
“It is our job in the Life Safety Division to ensure you are not needed.”
I parted ways with Toujou-san and left the building.
It was very late at night, but the roads still had cars on them. That said, there were not many options when it came to eating out. Bars would still be open, but they got expensive if you used them as a primary source of food.
I had no choice but to enter a nearby convenience store and put a microwaveable side dish into a shopping basket.
That was when I ran into the mystery freak.
“I’m going to stop asking how you always show up like this. And I won’t tell you anything about the clinic. That’s police information.”
“I doubt you found anything. That clinic itself was nothing important.”
“The clinic itself?” I asked as the mystery freak grabbed a package of drinkable yogurt.
“I was able to get my hands on a list of people who used Kaguya Beauty Clinic. It wasn’t just high school girls. The list contains everyone from housewives to elementary school kids. But I recognized some of the names on the list.”
In this case, she did not simply mean she saw the names of some acquaintances.
She went on to say, “Detective, do you remember the SNS murders case you solved back in May?”
“What about it?”
“Go back over it again. That will tell you how deep this goes.”
That was what the mystery freak said.
“Can I assume something dangerous is lurking down below all this?”
“If there was not, I would not give you such an unnatural warning. You were the one who directly solved that case even if I helped a bit. The ones behind the Jinmensou likely view you as the most dangerous person to them. So what if you do not stop at the beauty clinic and dig deeper? The odds are good the criminals will take direct action against you.”
“Understood.” I checked on the contents of my basket. “If they introduce themselves so obviously, I will have an easier time arresting them.”
The mystery freak smiled a bit and patted my shoulder.
“You’ll be fine with that mindset. …But really be careful. If I’m right, these aren’t people who will hold back from attacking just because their enemy is a police officer.”
Enbi headed on to the register, paid for her drinkable yogurt, and left the store.
That mystery freak was accustomed to mysterious serial murders, so this must be truly dangerous if she felt the need to warn me so seriously.
I decided to remain focused as I paid at the register and left the convenience store.
I never thought I would be taken out not even 50 meters from the convenience store.
A sudden blunt blow to the back of my head sent me to the ground where I was then assaulted by a storm of violent kicks and punches.
When I came to, I was in the police hospital.
The sky outside the window was orange. I assumed it was dawn, but it turned out to be sunset. The electrodes attached to me and tube on my arm were enough to tell me something horrible had happened to me.
“You aren’t looking too good,” said Toujou-san of the Life Safety Division from where he sat on a folding chair.
I frowned in the hospital bed and asked, “Um, why are you here, Toujou-san?”
“The witness report said it was a group of boys. As a street fight, it was handed over to our division. …I’m not sure how anyone could tell exactly how old they were since it was dark and they were wearing full face helmets, but people tend to assume late night attacks like that are the work of boys.” Toujou-san gave a slight smile. “But they have guts to attack and try to kill a police officer. We’ll make sure to find who did this.”
“…Um, what exactly is the situation? My memories are hazy after the first hit, so I don’t really know what happened.”
I doubted I had been able to escape in that situation.
Had this enemy simply been giving me a warning instead of trying to kill me?
Or had something caused them to stop before they finished the job?
“Oh, is that so? The attack occurred in the early morning last night near a convenience store in Ochanomizu. A group of four or five helmeted males – well, technically we don’t know for sure they were male, but that’s what the witness said – beat you to a pulp on the side of the road. But the attackers ran off when the witness screamed. It seems the attackers were speaking Japanese.”
“I see. Good….”
It was not my survival I was glad of.
It was that this witness had not been hurt after letting out that scream.
And if I was the only victim, that meant the mystery freak had not been involved despite being nearby.
Toujou-san toyed with the remote to the room’s TV.
“What do you think of the situation, Uchimaku?”
“I don’t like it.”
I had been injured just after receiving a warning.
Unless some unrelated group of boys had coincidentally decided to attack me at that moment, the attacker’s intent might very well have been to assassinate me.
In this country, not many deadly weapons were easily obtained.
But it took skill to sneak up behind a detective who had some knowledge of judo and kendo.
Had the attackers run away when the witness screamed because they had decided killing the witness as well would make the attack stand out too much?
If that was the case…
Whoever was behind the attack had not given up on taking my life. The odds were good they would try to use some other method of eliminating me.
“Don’t look so grim. I don’t know who did this, but they can’t do anything while you are here in the police hospital. You can stay here until I put an end to this.”
“I can’t do that.”
If my opponent saw street violence as but one card among many options with which to kill me, they might be a highly skilled specialist.
It was possible they possessed a card that allowed them to kill a target in a police hospital while making it look like the target’s condition merely took a turn for the worse.
The police hospital may have been secure, but my location could not be hidden while I was hospitalized.
If the enemy arrived to kill me, my safety was not guaranteed.
I gathered my strength to sit up and felt a dull pain in my head and across the rest of my upper body. I grimaced, but ignored with the pain. I could not remain on the defensive. To survive, I had to go on the offensive and hunt down the identity of my enemy.
“Wait, wait. Aren’t you getting a little too hot-blooded? Are you okay?”
“No. It’s because I’m a coward that I feel the need to go on the offensive here.”
Merely changing from the hospital gown and into my suit was enough to make me want to scream, but I had to bear with it.
“I want to talk with the person who saved my life. Can you get me that information?”
“I can, but you explain this to your department chief. I’m not going to save you from him.” Toujou-san pulled out a notepad and flipped through the pages. “Let’s see, it was a student from Ochanomizu. Her name is Hachikawa Tomoe-san. She is a minor in middle school, so be careful with how you handle this. At her age, the people around her will probably make a bigger deal out of this than she will.”
Hachikawa Tomoe-chan, the witness of the attack, lived in a family-oriented apartment in Ochanomizu. It was seven in the evening, so I was not sure if the pillar of the family, the father, would be home yet. I could smell the scents of dinner being prepared.
…What a pain.
The situation would be a lot easier to handle if both parents were home. I did not want the father thinking I had intentionally come by while he was away.
The front entrance automatically locked, so I could not even enter the apartment building. I entered the room number to call them over the intercom. As expected, Hachikawa Tomoe-chan’s mother sounded displeased when I said I was a police detective. Although she did not start talking about warrants and lawyers based on what she had seen on TV dramas, so it could have been worse.
But I needed her consent. If she refused to let me in, there was nothing I could do. If I abused my power and claimed she was obstructing the duties of a public servant, I would be stuck writing an apology in the seiza position by the end of the day. I would probably have my pay reduced for a week as well.
What is she going to do?
Just as I started wondering that, I heard footsteps belonging to someone other than the mother. The mother then called out the name Tomoe. The speaker then produced the sound of a door opening. I tilted my head in puzzlement and Hachikawa Tomoe-chan came running out to the front of the apartment building before long.
“D-dete-detective!? What are you doing out of the hospital!? You were bleeding so much!”
“My injuries were not life threatening. And even if I am a police officer, I am still a working member of society. Everyone knows you have to work if you are able.”
“Everyone knows that…?”
“Well, I know I look pretty pathetic with all these bandages, but I’m doing fine. You don’t need to worry about me. More importantly, do you mind if I ask some questions about last night? The attack might have been related to the Jinmensou incident.”
Tomoe-chan fell silent.
Finally, she opened her mouth to speak.
“Why are you pursuing this so seriously? This is just another job to you. Unlike me, you have plenty of other incidents to worry about.”
I decided it was best to hide the fact that I wanted a chance to strike back before the enemy could make their next move. It was likely out of guilt over not being able to save me that she was actually speaking with me and being fairly polite.
“I can’t say this is the job I want to work on most, but it comes in second. I do my job because I want to, so I am willing to risk my life for it. Is that so strange?”
“…You’re an idiot,” muttered Tomoe-chan. “But you might have more guts than that person.”
She may have been referring to the person that had caused her dislike of the police.
But gathering information about the attack came first.
“It would be a huge help if you could go through everything you know about last night’s attack. First of all, what were you doing there?”
“That convenience store may be a good distance from here, but it is a convenient place for reading magazines without buying them. I use it as a destination when I go jogging.”
“…You jog that late at night?”
“I do it just before going to bed. My mom-…My parents let me as long as I keep my cell phone’s GPS on.”
Hachikawa Tomoe-chan had a nice figure wrapped in supple muscles, so she did seem the type who would be mindful of such things.
“Okay, about the attackers then. I remember nothing beyond the first strike from behind. Do you know where they came from or where they went when they left?”
“…? It wasn’t toward the subway station. I think they ran off in the direction of some convoluted back alleys.”
“Were they on foot or did they have a vehicle?”
“I don’t know. They ran away on foot, but they might have had a vehicle waiting further on.”
“I was attacked with blunt weapons, but did do you remember what those were?”
“Hmm… I think one guy had some kind of stick. And one had a sock.”
“It was long and stretched out. It was swollen like something was stuffed inside. Something to weigh down one end.”
This was going to be difficult. If they did not all use the same sort of weapon, I had less of a hint for my investigation.
If they had used weapons that not many people have such as stun guns or a special sort of baton, I might have been able to hunt them down based on the information alone.
I asked a few more questions, but did not receive much useful information. Partway through, I changed my tactic to seeing if Tomoe-chan was lying, but I saw nothing suspicious in her words or eye movements.
“Thank you very much.”
“Just to be safe, you should probably stop your nighttime jogs for the time being. Do you mind if I tell your parents that as well?”
“Tell them whatever you want,” said Tomoe-chan while averting her gaze. She then added, “But I will not stop pursuing this Jinmensou incident.”
Oh, come on.
Don’t you know that is much more dangerous than your nighttime jogs?
You’re looking right at a man who was beaten to a pulp over it.
“I can’t leave it to that person. I would just get an arbitrary promise and nothing would ever actually be done about it.”
“Um, you mentioned ‘that person’ before as well. Do you mean Hishigami Enbi-san?”
At their school, Tomoe-chan had told the mystery freak she would do this on her own because she could not trust a police detective.
“Eh? Oh. No, no. It isn’t her. I have no reason to blame Enbi.”
“It doesn’t matter who it is,” cut in Tomoe-chan sharply. “But if you don’t know, that means Enbi really did keep quiet about it.”
Wait, wait, wait, wait.
This is starting to sound dangerous.
Not only was Hachikawa Tomoe-chan hiding something, but the mystery freak knew what it was. I had a feeling it would be dangerous to not get the information out of her here, but she was not a suspect. I could not forcibly interrogate her, so there was nothing I could do if she was not willing to tell me.
…I’ll get it out of the mystery freak later.
“Anyway, I will pursue this Jinmensou incident no matter what happens. Detective, you should not be wandering around with your injuries. You should get back to the hospital. Good night.”
Tomoe-chan then ran back into the apartment building. The lock activated, so I could not pursue her further.
What could I do now besides asking the mystery freak for information related to Hachikawa Tomoe?
The day before, the mystery freak had told me to check the list of people who used Kaguya Beauty Clinic and to look for a connection to the SNS murders from May.
It pained me to simply do what the mystery freak told me to do, but it was my best bet.
But despite my attempt to look cool, the real world was not the same as a police drama in which any case could be solved in 60 minutes. In reality, the police were not blessed with an environment that allowed them to focus on a single case until it was solved. We often had to handle multiple cases in parallel and sometimes private problems that had no relation to the case got in the way as well.
And so at 7:30 that evening…
“Uchimaku, we’re going drinking tonight. You’re coming whether you like it or not.”
As soon as I arrived back at work, the department chief, Mezu Gen, told me that with a stern expression. I could only stare at him in shock while still wrapped in bandages.
Needless to say, the department chief and I were not on friendly enough terms to go drinking together.
And regardless of how well we might get along, being asked to go drinking with your boss did not seem as if it would lead to a fun time.
The department chief must have had his own thoughts on the matter because the wrinkles of his usual stern expression grew threefold.
“Looking at your face while drinking is not my idea of a pleasant evening,” he said. “Chief Superintendent Mishima invited us. Refusing would affect both of our futures. If you understand, then get ready.”
“Wait!! That’s two ranks higher than superintendent! Why does someone like that have his eyes on someone unimportant like me!?”
Above a superintendent was a senior superintendent, and another step above that was the chief superintendent.
In terms of numbers, this was at a level even higher than billion or trillion. This was more like a number like googol that you could live your everyday life just fine without knowing about. That was how little in common there was between someone in a dead-end detective job like me and a senior superintendent or chief superintendent.
By the way, there were only two positions higher than chief superintendent.
“Because you did something that stood out enough for him to notice you. And don’t forget that it is thanks to you that I am caught in the middle of this.”
The department chief gave me a horrible glare as we boarded a taxi. The atmosphere in the taxi was so awkward the driver remained silent as he drove us to a residential district in Ningyocho. I had not known that high-cost area filled with office buildings had a residential district. And naturally (?) we stopped somewhere with no sign, main entrance, or parking lot. It did not even have the bare minimum of what one would expect of a bar. It looked like the sort of house you could see anywhere.
“Is this the chief superintendent’s house?”
“…That’s enough. Do not say anything more, Uchimaku.”
We entered what looked exactly like the small yard of a house, the department chief knocked on the back door, and a woman wearing a kimono answered.
“Mezu-sama, Uchimaku-sama. We were expecting you. Come in. Mishima-sama has already arrived.”
The woman in a kimono had a pin mic on her collar and an earphone in one ear. When she led us inside, the scenery completely changed. The building had looked like a small house from outside, but it was a small but luxurious Japanese-style bar inside. This limited space could likely rival the top floor of a resort hotel.
“…What is this place?”
“Did you think Ginza and Akasaka were as good as it gets? Only the nouveau riche get excited over that. In a world where people truly spare no expense, the bars do not have signs.”
The bar had a counter and a few tables, but it was empty except for a single customer at the counter. This was not because the place was doing poorly. Its prices were so ridiculously expensive, it could function with this alone.
That one person raised a hand.
“Hey, hey. Over here, over here. Sorry about the sudden invitation.”
He was Chief Superintendent Mishima.
A lowly detective like me would never have any chance to speak with someone like him even if we were in the same building. He was in his late thirties, but he looked like the perfect example of the bachelor living it up. He was of course older than me, but he must have looked like he had just learned to walk from the department chief’s perspective. The department chief was old-fashioned and had also always hated the elite, so there must have been a powerful force at play for him to be obeying without complaint.
Rising to chief superintendent by one’s late thirties was rare even in the elite Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department. People like him tended to rise through the ranks quickly, but that alone was not enough to explain it.
That monster smiled and said, “C’mon, sit, sit. This is a bit of an odd bar that only serves cocktails with a sake base, so sorry about that. But they’re quite good if you give them a chance. It’s all on me, so drink as much as you want.”
Anyone who took up that offer in a high class bar that did not list a single price on its menu was most likely not a working member of society.
So why did the chief superintendent call us here?
But without giving any hint towards that answer, Chief Superintendent Mishima began some pointless small talk.
“Uchimaku-chan, I’ve heard you get along quite well with the middle school aged daughter of the Hishigami family.”
That’s the first thing you bring up!?
The department chief’s look grew even sterner, but the chief superintendent’s tone remained unconcerned.
“Oh, I’m not trying to find fault. In fact, that takes talent. The Hishigami women invite disaster, after all. It seems that is actually a rule in that family. Grabbing the reins of one of them and not being thrown off is quite a feat.”
“Wait…eh? What are you saying?”
“If you don’t understand, you don’t need to. Oh, right. We have been arguing over who to choose to be the next ‘police chief for a day’. You have a youthfulness to you that is popular with middle school girls, so who do you think it should be? Who are the popular idols right now?”
“I don’t know!! I can’t keep track of the names and faces of those idol units with dozens of members!!”
“Do you think Omikuji Maidens or Fortune Telling Girls would be better?”
“I think Seman Stars would be best.”
The department chief glared at me, but what was a poor public servant like me supposed to do? If I had remained silent, he still would have glared at me!
After that, Chief Superintendent Mishima insisted that I try some sake-based cocktails that had been turned into psychedelic reds and blues. Those upside down triangle cocktail glasses could hold a larger volume than I thought.
I also spotted some junmai daiginjo made by my brother behind the counter.
They were named Red Yukata and Black-Haired Beauty, so he must have been fond of that Youkai despite how much she was afraid of him. Looking as frightening as him may have worked against him in some ways.
“You aren’t looking any different.”
“Oh. This is not enough to get me drunk.”
“That isn’t what I meant. Normally, when people are brought to this sort of bar and forced to drink this kind of expensive drink, they want to make informed comments even if they can’t tell the difference from normal drinks. I used to do it myself.”
Oh, that’s what he means.
This may have been the very best the city had to offer, but I grew up in an Intellectual Village. After drinking entire cardboard boxes full of the finest Japanese sake in the country or even the world, I had lost all sense of its value.
In college, I had searched out the greatest hidden bars the city had to offer and found none of them could compare to the stuff back home, so I eventually gave up on caring about the quality of sake at all.
But sadly, it was not based on my skill, so I could not brag about it to anyone.
“Oh, right. Uchimaku-chan, I heard about your achievement in that convenience store robbery. You arrested the robber with no injuries or damage, right? It was the best conclusion for both the victim and the criminal.”
Only a child would get excited over being praised here.
As an adult, I had to be extra careful of the department chief who had remained silent for a looooooooooong time now.
“Oh, um…sorry about all that.”
“No, no. I don’t mind. The regulations regarding that are there to allow the police to do their job as efficiently as possible. If you had waited for a police officer in that jurisdiction to arrive, someone might have been stabbed inside the convenience store,” said Chief Superintendent Mishima with a big grin on his face. As an adult, I could sense something unsettling like the alcohol was sending him in a negative direction. “Uchimaku-chan, this shows that you have grown enough to instinctually sense what the purpose of a police officer is. You do not need the rules to compensate for you. That is something worth praising you for. But,” added the chief superintendent to preface some sort of negation.
“The real system of society is much more severe than what you see in police dramas. You can only ignore the rules when doing so will produce a better result than following the rules can. For example, think about this convenience store robbery. Safely arresting the robber is fine, but what if your attempt had failed and your actions led to the clerk getting stabbed? Do you think we would cover for you then?”
“We would not. Police officers are only human, so they will sometimes fail in extreme life-or-death situations. They need to be rebuked in such situations, but they also need to be protected. If they are all too afraid of making a mistake to do anything, we could not protect the law and order of this country. But certain appearances need to be upheld while protecting the people of our organization. If you follow the rules and do everything right but do not make it in time, we can protect you. But if you break the rules and act on your own initiative and that leads to someone’s death, we can do nothing to protect you. Do you understand what I mean?”
“Good. Whether you know the risks or not makes a lot of difference. I will overlook it just this once. This may sound trite, but I have great hopes for you. Especially when it comes to cases related to Youkai. Otherwise I would not have set up this opportunity to speak with you.”
I did not like the sound of having myself and Youkai linked together like that.
But as an adult, I made sure not to show it on my face.
“But you will find things more difficult in the future. The power of the police lies in the power of the organization. If you lose that power, you will be in much more danger than you realize. Keep that in mind.”
After a few hours, I was released from that drinking party that left me with a stomachache.
The department chief had remained completely silent the entire time, but he spat out a comment as soon as we left the bar.
“That is not someone you want paying such close attention to you.”
“…I know that all too well. If I was drawing a picture diary, today would probably be filled in completely black.”
“I doubt a monster of that level would care about a simple detective. This may be a disaster brought on by that Hishigami girl, but be careful. Appearing ‘useful’ to the people at the top is not always a good thing.”
When I went into work the next day, I entered the archives room to view the files I had been unable to view the day before. The area was crowded with steel racks which were all filled with thick clear file folders of case records. A lot of them were unsolved, so the mystery freak might have drooled if she saw this collection.
Most of the data was searchable by computer, but some records were abbreviated or changed slightly in format or presentation in the process of digitization. The best method was to check the computer first and then check the physical reports for the details. I had not written all of the reports for this case.
The May SNS murders.
The case had not been called that from the beginning. For one thing, it had not been a murder case initially.
We simply had some strange suicides with no apparent motive.
As they were investigated, it turned out all of the people had used a certain major SNS service. The incident had produced five “suicides” in a single month and had spread to many different areas through the wide range of people’s online connections.
As you might imagine, it had been a complete pain in the ass dealing with different police stations fighting over whose jurisdiction it fell under. Fortunately, it had not spread overseas.
The victims had ranged from elementary school age to high school age. At the time, they had been judged isolated suicides due to people “flaming” the opinions the kids posted online. They had gathered attention as proof of how modern society was lowering the age at which children committed suicide.
Ultimately, digging into the suspicious aspects turned up a group at a prestigious private university and four people were arrested. Once that happened, the talk shows began covering it as a demonic murder spree by candidates for the upper levels of elite corporations.
The mystery freak had told me to go over that case once more.
But not much about it was still suspicious. We already knew how they had disguised the murders as jumping suicides and how they had used other victims’ accounts to contact them.
The only thing left was…
When questioned, the four arrested had given nothing but ridiculous statements. Some people said they were trying to get a psychiatric examination to lessen their punishment and other people said they were following the disturbing logic of twisted elites. But those four had found a stable and successful means of killing people and no one had found a clear answer as to why.
Was it related to this Jinmensou case?
To be honest, I was doubtful.
But when I compared to the documents on the Kaguya Beauty Clinic and the SNS murders, I did find some odd information.
“…A few names show up in both.”
Some students had been involved in both cases.
But the SNS used had been a popular one, so the number of related individuals was quite large.
It was not too surprising to find a few of those had also used Kaguya Beauty Clinic. And yet…
The SNS and the Jinmensou.
As I puzzled over the two cases, my cell phone rang.
It was from the mystery freak.
“Hah hah hah. Have you arrived at the truth yet, detective?”
“I feel like an idiot for worrying when I realized you were near the scene of the attack.”
“H-huh? You mean I could have grabbed at your heart by pretending to have been attacked?”
It won’t work if you just pretend.
Not that I want you to actually get attacked for that reason.
“You’re hiding something about Hachikawa Tomoe, aren’t you? If something happens because of that, I will officially blame you.”
“This involves her privacy, so I wanted her permission. But whatever. Let’s meet for a chat. Detective, you were attacked despite my warning. You clearly need all the help you can get, so I’ll lend you a hand.”
“You said the SNS murders and this Jinmensou case are linked, right? I’ve found a few common names between the two, but…”
“I’ll tell you about that as well. Just compare the two cases. Don’t the structures seem similar?”
“The SNS murders killed people while making it look like they committed suicide over the flaming on their page. The Jinmensou case uses a giant tumor to isolate the target from their school life. …Do you see the common theme?”
“That’s right. Isolation from an organization or group. Detective, you thought the masterminds of the SNS murders were those four elite candidates from that prestigious private university, but it may have gone deeper than that.”
And now the person controlling it from the shadows was using someone else for this new case. Was that why the Jinmensou case showed hints of being similar to the SNS murders?
“If that is true, this is a big deal.”
“It already is a big deal. You can’t say you don’t know what happened to you. At any rate, we can discuss this further when we meet. This is something that needs to be discussed in person.”
That evening, I met up with the mystery freak in an unpopular café in Ochanomizu.
“Oh, am I?”
I walked over to the mystery freak’s table in the back and sat down. As always, she had chosen a café with ridiculously long-named items on the menu, but this time I pointed at something random and ordered it.
“Let’s cut to the chase. How exactly is the solved SNS murders case linked to the current Jinmensou case?”
“Let’s start with the hidden side of the SNS murders.”
The mystery freak pulled out a smartphone with a leather cover that made it look like a memo pad.
She placed it on the table and said, “On the surface, the victim’s page was flamed to make their murder look like a suicide. But you know that of course.”
“Wait, wait. On the surface?”
“Evidence has turned up that the flaming itself was intentionally created by a different group. In other words, the criminals did not want to target the people who were flamed. They attacked those people because someone else flamed them.”
“…So they had some other purpose?”
“Question: what do the five victims of the SNS murders have in common?”
“Their ages and locations were all different.”
“They were students from elementary school age to high school age.” The mystery freak called up a few documents on her smartphone. “The four from the prestigious private university did the actual crime, a few others handled the flaming, and some leader controlled it all. Now, were these murders based on an abnormal motive that normal people cannot understand? If so, would the other members of the organization have been able to understand the motive either?”
Most serial killers worked alone because abnormal motives could not be shared.
There were different categories of murderers, but different people would not get along and cooperate in abnormal murders just because they fit the same category.
“Is this not an issue of individual ideology? Did the entire group gain something from this? …Like money maybe?”
Desire for money was the most obvious common factor between people. Unlike with serial killings, it was easy to see several people working together to rob a bank.
“All of the victims were minors. I doubt they had much money and they had no life insurance. What did the entire group gain from killing those five?”
“I came up short there too. No matter how much I researched the victims, I could not find anything.” Enbi displayed a new document on her smartphone. “Which is why we need to think about this differently. What the criminals gained came from someone other than the victims.”
“Look at this. You should get it right away.”
Enbi pointed at the smartphone in the middle of the table and I looked down at it.
The screen was small so the smaller text was difficult to read, but I was able to read large headline right away.
Child Board Meeting Plan.
As I read the details, I could feel my mind growing blank.
…What is this?
“The Child Board Meeting. To put it simply, it’s a plan to influence the children of the management and stockholders of large corporations. Those powerful adults cannot be influenced by external pressure. But what about their children? Someone who knows how to use the internet has control of the ‘general consensus’ on the SNS. They can ostracize a specific target by thoroughly flaming them. By creating an environment that harms their children, they can indirectly influence and control the adults in the corporations. That is the Child Board Meeting.”
“But can’t the parents just keep their kids away from the SNS once the problems begin?”
“Those information tools are already a part of school life, detective. Information is just as necessary to them as water and oxygen. If they do not take part, they will be isolated. If they do not reply, they will be ostracized. And no matter how powerful their parents may be, their power is of no use in the closed environment of a school. But if they know their precious child is being ostracized in that ‘holy ground’ where adults have no influence, what options are left to them?”
One was a case of using the information services making up another side of school life to freely isolate a chosen target. The other used the physical effects of a Jinmensou to alter the social standing of the target. Looking at it that way, they were very similar at the core.
“But isn’t that banned under deceptive obstruction of business laws?”
“Maybe. But even with rules punishing obvious violence and bullying in schools, limited actions carried out within the range of groups of friends may not be stopped. That is why parents and teachers tell kids to choose their friends carefully. Seeing something directly is one thing, but distant whispers of people abetting in a crime is unlikely to lead to legal restrictions.”
“But that isn’t a system for murdering the children. In fact, they would want it to spread below the surface without causing too much trouble.”
“The SNS plan did not work well. They may have influenced a few people, but a few children chose to oppose them without bothering their parents with it. They were of course ostracized as a result. Both on the SNS and at their actual school. I suspect some of those children approached the truth in their desperate resistance. And the criminal group needed to quickly eliminate those clever children.”
“…And they disguised it as suicide, hm? The suicides stood out because of their ages, but they camouflaged it with the false motive of ‘flaming’ because adults would not really understand it. Even if they had tried to tell someone something important before they died, people would assume they felt so cornered due to more childish reasons.”
“This data,” the mystery freak tapped the side of her smartphone, “is based on what I found on a page separate from the SNS. I have confirmed the details with other sources. It seems it was gathered by the ostracized children as they tried to follow the movements of suspicious information.”
“It looks like those four from the prestigious private university were working for someone else. Do you know who that was?”
“No. The children were all eliminated in the SNS murders before they made it that far.” The mystery freak sighed. “But I think the Jinmensou case is being done for the same reasons. You should go back and look into the family of the girl who tried to rob that convenience store. You should find a manager of a corporation, a large shareholder, or someone else who holds power.”
We did not know how large this criminal group was, but if they were trying to slowly manipulate the financial activities of the country with simultaneous attacks on multiple large corporations, they were likely quite large.
It was possible something on the level of a large criminal organization was behind it.
“This is a tough one.”
“Yes, it is.”
“Now I see why you are so interested in the Jinmensou case despite only caring about corpses. It’s connected to the SNS, so you could say that murder case isn’t over yet.”
“You’re making me blush.”
“Why would that make you blush? And how does the rest of this fit in?”
“What do you mean?”
“Why is Hachikawa Tomoe-chan pursuing this case? She saw me beaten up right in front of her. She should know the risks all too well. Also, she seems to dislike the police and keeps mentioning some mysterious person. How does all of that fit in?”
“Oh.” The mystery freak let out a small groan. “I did not want to get into more uncertain information. This is all on Tomoe’s word alone. I have not confirmed any of it, so do not simply accept it as true.”
“Tomoe says her neighbor is being affected by a Jinmensou. The girl’s name is Tsumada Mio. She is also in middle school, but I have never met her because she goes to a different school.”
If that was true, I might be able to find something that led to the heart of this case. After all, I had not met many people directly related to the case. The high school girl from the convenience store robbery was the only other one.
“We can’t speak with her. It seems she has disappeared and no one can find her.”
“…She’s gone missing?”
She had gotten involved in a crime related to the group behind the SNS murders and then went missing. The situation looked quite serious.
“That part is a bit unclear. She might have simply run away from home or she might just be hiding in her apartment. Also,” the mystery freak raised her index finger, “the timing is a bit odd.”
“Tsumada Mio fell victim to the Jinmensou during April of this year. Yet the other cases we know of were recent. In fact, the SNS murders had not even come to the surface at that time.”
What is going on?
While Jinmensou were rare, they were still a type of Youkai. It was entirely possible Tsumada Mio had just so happened to develop one with no relation to this case.
“April is when the class change happens. It is possible Tsumada Mio simply made some mistake during all that and ended up holing up at home. Her worried parents could have later heard about the Jinmensou incidents and decided she was a victim of it too,” said the mystery freak.
“But this isn’t an Intellectual Village; it’s the capital of Japan. Youkai hate modern cities, so I doubt one would naturally appear here.”
“We have never actually seen Tsumada Mio. We have no way of knowing if she actually has a Jinmensou or not. She may have started wearing more clothes to cover her skin, but that could always have been due to a scratch unrelated to the Jinmensou. Right?”
I could not say she was wrong.
After all, we had too little information.
“Then let’s go check. We just need to gather enough information to say for sure.”
“If Tsumada Mio has been reported missing and it turns out she is actually holed up at home, her parents will be guilty of a false police report or falsifying public documents. …It’s a bit of a forceful method, but I can use suspicion of that to get some information out of the family.”
“You can do that if you want, but won’t you get in trouble if it fails?”
“I’d definitely get a pay cut,” I said decisively. “But it is possible Tsumada Mio will become a victim similar to the victims of the SNS murders. If we find out she is unrelated, that is fine by me. At any rate, we need to take a step forward.”
And it failed splendidly.
Despite showing up in the evening, Tsumada Mio’s parents led me to the empty girl’s room. It seemed the report of her having gone missing in April was accurate. The room was attentively cleaned, but showed no sign of being lived in.
“It may be a problem to hear this, but we are not all that worried,” said Tsumada Mio’s father with a slightly sad smile. “She has always been good at grasping how things work. She is probably making use of some structure of society to provide herself with a new place to live.”
“…Do you mind if I look through any notes or memos of hers?”
“No, but the…what was it? Life safety? Anyway, the group that deals with children already went over it.”
“Just to be sure.”
I looked around the room while taking a mental note to ask Toujou-san or someone else from the Life Safety Division for the data later.
It was a stereotypical room with a desk, a bed, and a bookshelf. But it seemed lacking in entertainment. I could see almost no electronics. Not only did it not have a TV, but it had no audio equipment either.
When I pointed that out, the father scratched his head and said, “I do not know what it is called, but she had one of those things that is about the size of a notebook. The ones you use your fingers directly on the screen with.”
“A tablet computer?”
“Yes, that’s it. She used it for both movies and manga.”
“Do you know where that tablet is?”
“Mio-chan took it with her.”
That was too bad.
That may have been why I could not find a school bag despite seeing plenty of textbooks.
If she used it that heavily, it was probably filled with personal information and information on her friends.
If she kept her data on the cloud, I might be able to access it via the internet provider, but teenagers like her tended to be more sensitive about personal information than adults. If she had kept the cloud setting off, it would be impossible to reach the tablet’s data.
I ended up just checking through what was in the room.
I found a notepad with a ton of small photo stickers on it, but I doubted it would help me find where she had gone. I could check who the people in the photos were, but the Life Safety Division would have already done that. And they were probably just friends from school.
There were a lot of the photo stickers and she was photographed with both boys and girls. Given how many of them there were, I doubted they were all from just one class. Either her social network extended beyond just her class or she was involved in clubs or the student council.
From what I could see, I doubted she had made some huge mistake during the class change in April like the mystery freak had suggested. She seemed like the type who would make herself the center of the class wherever she ended up.
“Okay, this might be painful to think back on, but did anything about your daughter change just before she disappeared?”
“For example, did she suddenly start wearing stockings or tights as if to hide her skin?”
“Now that you mention it,” muttered Tsumada Mio’s father.
For the convenience store robbery girl, it had been on the thigh. Even so, it was too soon to assume it always appeared on the thigh. But still…
“She started wearing the bottom of a track suit below the skirt of her school uniform. I told her to stop because it was indecent, but she said it was popular in her class.”
It seemed I needed to check the school she went to.
“By any chance did you ever see below those pants?”
“Of course not. That would be below her skirt. She is hardly the age to be bathing with her father. I doubt even my wife would know.”
In the end, all I knew was that Tsumada Mio had started to hide her legs before she went missing. The situation would change greatly depending on whether there had actually been a Jinmensou there or not.
“No, wait a second,” said the father suddenly.
“What is it?”
“I never saw Mio-chan’s legs, but I know someone who might have.”
“Who is that?”
Someone who would have seen her thighs below a miniskirt? Her boyfriend maybe?
However, my guess was wrong.
“Her school had a physical examination just before she went missing. It is possible the health teacher saw her legs.”
I used my cell phone to call Tsumada Mio’s school.
Given the time, most of the faculty had left the school already, but when I explained this was related to a police investigation, I was eventually connected to the teacher in question.
The middle-aged female voice told me, “Y-yes. Tsumada Mio-san had a large tumor in the shape of a human face on her right thigh.”
“Bingo.” I met up with the mystery freak after leaving the apartment. “In April, before the SNS murders in May, Tsumada Mio already had a Jinmensou.”
“Just to be sure, is it possible the health teacher was lying?”
“It’s possible, but this makes sense.”
“What do you mean?”
“Her personal notepad was covered in small photo stickers, so she must have had a lot of friends. She was popular. So why did she disappear in April during the class change? She wouldn’t have had any complaints about her school life.”
“What if she did not disappear of her own free will?”
“Or her position in the school changed once the Jinmensou was discovered during the physical examination in April.”
Enbi frowned slightly.
“But she defended against it by wearing the track suit pants below her skirt, right? I doubt she would have let it be revealed so easily. Couldn’t she have come up with a reason to delay her examination until after school when everyone else was gone?”
“At the very least, the health teacher knew about the Jinmensou,” I said calmly. “But people are not perfect. The teacher might have told someone.”
“…That would have been terrible,” groaned the mystery freak in a low voice.
As someone at the same sensitive age, she may have been able to more clearly imagine what a tragedy that would have been.
“We still do not know if this Jinmensou is the same as the ones related to the incident connecting back to the SNS murders. But we can explain it if it is.”
“As a test case. The criminals are trying to ostracize any child from their school with a Jinmensou. That way they can manipulate their parents who are managers or large shareholders. If they fail, they make an enemy of adults with a lot of power. In that case, they would want to test it out beforehand. They would want to prove they could ostracize even the most popular kid in a class.”
“The SNS murders did not come to light until May, but the trouble that prevented them from manipulating the adults must have happened before that. And once the SNS plan failed, the criminal group would have prepared for their next project.”
“And after they proved they could ostracize a popular kid with a Jinmensou, they prepared to use it on a larger scale…which is what we are seeing now.”
“Wait.” The mystery freak placed a hand on her chin. “So in Tsumada Mio’s case, they had yet to fully establish their Jinmensou Package, right? They would not have deemed it a success just by viewing her from a distance. They might have made a slight mistake and left some hint to the person behind all this.”
“Or Tsumada Mio might have seen something herself.”
Either way, it seemed Tsumada Mio’s circumstances were different from the other victims. And even if that was not the case, I still needed to find a way to protect her and soon. Given the circumstances, I was not easygoing enough to optimistically think she had simply run away from home and would be back eventually.
“I’m heading back into work. I want to go through the data the Life Safety Division gathered on her. Mystery freak, what will you do?”
“I want to go into the Metropolitan Police Department with you.”
“It’s too late for a field trip.”
“Then I will try to track down Tsumada Mio on my own. I don’t know how far I can get, though.”
“Do as you wish.”
“Don’t forget that you were attacked yesterday. Detective, you are probably still standing in a very hot position.”
And then we heard a footstep.
The mystery freak and I turned around to find Hachikawa Tomoe-chan. She was wearing stylish sportswear and spats, but I had no idea if that was the uniform of her school or a teen brand. I had forgotten she was Tsumada Mio’s neighbor. If she was out now, she may have moved her night jogs to the evening.
Or perhaps she was attempting to track down Tsumada Mio as well.
The mystery freak tried to keep her voice as tender as possible as she spoke.
“I will not stop,” cut in Tomoe-chan. “I will not stop no matter what. …Detective, do not become the same as that person.”
After spitting out that comment, she disappeared into the apartment building.
In the end, I forgot to ask Hachikawa Tomoe-chan who “that person” was.
Fortunately, I was not beaten up on the streets two days in a row.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department was a government office, so it of course had set work hours. However, the type of work we did meant it had almost no limits on overtime. For serious cases such as serial killers, it was common to work 70 hours straight and seeing people napping with a blanket on the floor was not unusual.
But the place was still mostly empty in the middle of the night.
All of the lights were off in the building and it was covered in the same eeriness as a hospital after lights out.
Inside, Toujou-san from the Life Safety Division said, “It’s a good thing you caught me before I left.”
“Sorry about this.”
“You needed the investigation data on Tsumada Mio, right? That case is not being treated with any importance. We deemed it to be a girl running away from home of her own free will. We investigated the Tsumada household with the family’s consent, but we did not find much.”
“It seems she had quite a lot of friends, so could she have gone to a friend’s house when she ran away?”
“No. It seems something happened to Tsumada Mio just before she disappeared. We decided she ran away because her social standing in school collapsed. I doubt she would have relied on someone from school.”
“Um, I saw her notepad and it had quite a lot of photo stickers on it. Would all of those people really have turned against her?”
“Some people just want to see someone popular fall. Having a lot of friends does not say anything about the strength or depth of those friendships.”
Then where did Tsumada Mio disappear to?
Four months had passed since then. I doubted a kid could rent an apartment just by saving up her allowance. Not to mention that she would need a guarantor to sign the contract.
Was she using a facility like an internet café? Or had she pretended to be in high school to get a part-time job?
I could come up with a few ideas, but none of them seemed realistic. She was a middle school girl. At that age, she was supposed to be protected by her parents or another guardian. If she was forcing herself to live independently, she would stand out enough for a uniformed police officer or someone else to notice.
“I heard Tsumada Mio disappeared with her tablet computer. Did you check the GPS?”
“All of those obvious functions were turned off. She hasn’t been communicating using it at all. We have been sharing information with other police stations, but have found nothing. Okay, I’ve sent the data related to Tsumada Mio to your computer. If you want more accurate data, head to the archives room. The number is…”
After jotting down the number, I bowed in thanks to Toujou-san once more.
“Sorry about keeping you for so long.”
“It’s fine, it’s fine. I can still just barely make the last train. Tell me now if you need anything else. If I have to turn around again, you’re paying for my taxi. Got it?”
Toujou-san then quickly left the dimly lit floor.
Now that I was truly alone, I turned toward my computer.
I did not care how trivial it was.
I just wanted any kind of hint I could find that would lead me to Tsumada Mio.
I scrolled through the information for a bit, but none of it stood out to me. It included some personal information I had not known, but I could have found any of it on my own if I had taken the time.
After a bit of scrolling, the text grew corrupted. The attached image files were so corrupted I could not tell what they were supposed to show.
Had they been damaged during the transmission process?
I turned toward the hallway, but Toujou-san had likely already left the building. And he had said he would just barely make the last train. I could not bring myself to call him back now.
Fortunately, he had told me the file number ahead of time.
“I guess I have to check the paper files in the archives room…”
I walked down the hallway and put some change into a vending machine selling breads with different foods inside. Food and drink were not allowed in the archives room, so I ate a korokke bread before continuing on my way.
The building was empty enough in the middle of the night, but I truly was the only person in the archives room. I walked along the metal shelves lined up like in a library and pulled out the clear file folder I needed. I carried that giant folder with me and sat down at a reading desk.
I used the narrow field of light from a desk lamp to read through the text.
It detailed the information regarding the investigation of Tsumada Mio’s disappearance. It listed the date of her disappearance as well as various details about her before and after her disappearance: what she had said and done, her relationship with her friends, any sightings of her, how much money she was thought to have, etc. However, none of it seemed it would help me.
How had she lived during the four months since her disappearance?
And where was she now?
“I guess this is all they’ll have for a disappearance with no hint of foul play,” I muttered out loud.
The police would not treat a simple disappearance as an important incident. And when it looked so much like she had voluntarily run away from home due to her personal circumstances, not much would be done. Her information would be sent to the police around the country and we would hope one of them would find her.
As I reflected on that fact, something seemed off to me.
I lifted the thick file folder up a bit. It was quite heavy. The report was at least as thick as a dictionary.
Cases of runaway girls were fairly common, so why had such a thick folder been created for Tsumada Mio’s case?
I was confused.
But I was not given enough time to find an answer.
With a loud zapping noise, an arm circled around from behind and pressed a torn electric cord against the center of my chest.
I heard a loud thud. It was the sound I made when I collapsed from my chair. My vision had been turned sideways, but I could see someone looking down at me from above.
Is this person…insane? Murdering someone…inside the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department…!?
“Oh, don’t worry. It’s fairly common for police officers to kill themselves inside the police department. Although they almost always use a handgun.” The speaker seemed to be grinning. “Also, I doubt this will be enough to kill you. Most people who try to commit suicide outside of their home will prepare multiple tools in case the first one does not finish the job properly. …And sometimes they will persuade a decent normal person to help.”
When I heard the person’s voice, I finally figured out what was going on.
The corrupted information…on Tsumada Mio…was not a mistake… It was a trap…to lure me…out to the archives room…!!
Strength was gradually returning to my arms and legs, but would he give me the few minutes I needed to recover? Toujou pulled something out of his suit pocket. It was a fruit knife inside a plastic sheath. It was neatly packaged in a plastic bag to keep it from catching on the fabric of his clothes.
“When making a murder look like suicide, it’s important not to make any wounds on the hands that look like they were made in defense. But don’t worry. The investigation will show you stabbed yourself in the throat after the electric cord did not kill you.”
He sounds so delighted!!
Since he was trying to kill me, Toujou was most certainly related to the SNS murders and the Jinmensou. When I thought back, I realized Toujou had been involved in the investigation of the “group of boys” who attacked me, the search of the beauty clinic, and the search for Tsumada Mio.
He had been in the perfect position to limit the information found to keep the investigations from getting anywhere.
The SNS murders had grown to such a large scale that Investigation Department 1 had been called in. They may have kept the Jinmensou incident on such a small scale to make sure it remained within Toujou’s Life Safety Division.
Yet I had taken action this time too.
And I was the one who had put an end to the SNS murders.
Was that why?
“You keep calling me Toujou, but who exactly do you mean by that?”
I did not know what he meant.
The person trying to kill me was most certainly the Toujou I knew.
“If you think I am Toujou Miyabi of the Life Safety Division, you are wrong. He happened to share the same family name as me, so it was easier to switch out with him. The real one is buried in a mountain somewhere.”
“And if you think I am a pawn of those behind the SNS murders and the Jinmensou, you are wrong again. Do not put me in the same category as that pathetic organization that can’t even assemble one little Package. Did you really think I was a pawn of that insider group that thinks they’re such intellectuals? …What I am interested in is the bug they accidentally created.” Toujou smiled while pulling the fruit knife out of its plastic sheath. “I will find Tsumada Mio. I will use her in a much more wonderful way than they would have. So, well, just give up. The pain will be gone soon.”
In the end…
His mistake was in crouching down so he could put the blade in my hand. He either failed to follow his duty as a police officer or had never been one to begin with, so he gave me what I needed for my counterattack.
I was able to move my arms and legs a bit, but I was still not strong enough to support my body’s weight and sit up.
I somehow managed to reach my arm out toward Toujou’s belt as he crouched down before me.
I found what I was looking for. It was near his right pants pocket.
Hey, Toujou. Real police detectives don’t carry their guns around everywhere like on TV.
If you acted more like the real deal, you wouldn’t have to worry about this!!
In the next instant, several dry gunshots rang out.
With the gun still in its holster, I had removed the safety and pulled the trigger. The bullets strayed too far to the side to injure Toujou, but it still gave him quite a shock. He had been kneeling down near me in order to safely falsify the evidence, but he suddenly moved away from me.
“Gh…!!” I groaned while still unable to stand up.
My face was covered in sweat, but I did not have time to wipe it away.
“O-oh, c’mon. Are you an idiot? At least use a .38.”
After making sure the gun was still in its holster, anger filled Toujou’s face.
He unhesitatingly held up the fruit knife.
“If you’re gonna do it, then do it. But everyone in the building will have heard those gunshots. Whoever’s on guard duty will be here before long. 30 seconds maybe?” I sneered at him from the floor. “You can kill me easily enough, but can you dispose of the body? If you can’t, you’re going down with me.”
Toujou made up his mind quickly.
He turned back on the safety of his holstered handgun, kicked open the door to the archives room, and ran out. But even if it was the middle of the night, this was the headquarters of Tokyo’s law enforcement. He would not get away that easily.
Not long afterwards, a few uniformed police officers ran into the archives room.
“Hey, why did it take you three minutes to get here?”
“Wh-what happened?” asked the men while looking around at the obvious signs of a struggle and the walls with bullet holes in them.
It seemed I had put a large burden on myself by forcing myself to act as soon as I had. A wave of nausea belatedly hit me and I tried to force it down as I spoke to the men.
“Attempted murder is what happened. Put out a notification for the arrest of Toujou Miyabi…or someone using that name.”
I went back over the information in my mind.
Someone was working behind the scenes of a single incident that connected the SNS murders and this Jinmensou incident. While investigating Tsumada Mio’s disappearance to uncover this person, the Life Safety Division detective named Toujou Miyabi had attacked me.
But it seemed he did not belong to the organization behind the Jinmensou.
When talking about Tsumada Mio, he had not been interested in the Youkai-related Package but in a bug created by an adjustment error. The details were unclear, but Toujou Miyabi saw some form of meaning in the bug that Tsumada Mio had become and had therefore taken her from the Jinmensou group.
“I was the one who was attacked, so why am I the one in an interrogation room while that bastard Toujou is still walking free?”
I tried to remain calm, but it made no logical sense.
Just as I angrily kicked at the table screwed to the floor, the interrogation room door opened. Mezu Gen entered. He was the department chief for Investigation Department 1.
“You caused quite a commotion.”
“I think you mean I had one forced onto me.”
“I cannot believe there were gunshots in the middle of Tokyo’s law enforcement headquarters. And with a .45 caliber which is not the caliber of the handgun you are issued. …We could not find the gun in question, so where did it go?”
“I was the one that fired it, but its owner left with it.”
Dammit, Toujou. How did you manage to escape from somewhere as strict as this?
The department chief sighed and his face grew even more wrinkled than usual.
“Investigator Toujou Miyabi left the building over 2 hours ago. And he was not found anywhere in the building at the time. Keep in mind that all of the entrances and exits were sealed the instant those gunshots were heard. What do you make of this situation?”
“He told me the real Toujou Miyabi is buried in a mountain somewhere. What am I supposed to make of that?”
“Uchimaku.” The department chief spoke my name to cut me off. “Think about how I feel when I am woken up and have to head back into work after the last train to deal with a subordinate’s scandal. If you keep up this nonsense, I will snap your neck. Let us speak frankly. I have never liked your jokes. I was being honest with you. Now, be honest with me.”
“Do you think I snuck a .45 caliber handgun past the strict security here to fire wildly into the walls of the archives room? Why would I do that!? What do I gain from that!? Do you seriously believe I did that, department chief!?”
“That is not what I am talking about. No matter how unreasonable it seems, if the evidence at the scene says you are guilty, you are guilty. That is how the system works. So, Uchimaku, clearing your name will be quite difficult. Someone from Department 1 will not have a fun time in jail. Just because you are a former detective, does not mean you will be given a private room.”
“Toujou Miyabi – or someone using his name – used an electric cord to shock me in the archives room. He was about to stab me with a fruit knife to make it look like suicide. I fired the handgun in Toujou’s holster to escape my predicament. Toujou fled with the gun still in his possession. No matter what anyone says, that is the truth!!”
“He said something about finding special value in Tsumada Mio who he called a bug in a Package! The Jinmensou organization was trying to do something with her, but he said he would steal her from them!! We cannot waste time here. If you insist on restraining me, at least send someone else to search for Tsumada Mio!!”
The department chief brought a hand to his forehead and let out a heavy sigh.
He then spoke to me in such a low voice that I could barely hear him.
“I do not often feel like this. It feels like I am rushing down a set of invisible rails. It feels like I am acting according to the plans of someone I have never seen. I am aware of that.”
“But I have never seen anyone reach a happy ending when they try to force their way off of those rails. Some are unnaturally demoted, some are driven insane, and some suddenly disappear or commit suicide. This is not an interrogation room. It is a set of rails telling us to waste our time. Making a mistake here will lead to a horrible fate. You need to understand that first.”
“Department chief!! Do you really think I am someone who would back away from a case for my own saf-…!?”
I shouted back at the department chief, but he reached over the table and grabbed my collar.
He then pulled with tremendous strength.
But he then whispered in my ear so quietly that it could not be recorded or seen on a video.
“I am never able to reach the truth. I can only send people like you out to find it.”
“So when I see people like you, I get the urge to tell you the following: whatever you choose, always weigh the risks before choosing.” He paused for a moment. “But your life belongs to you. How you act now is your own decision.”
Strength left the hands holding my collar.
I dropped back down into my seat.
A slight silence fell over the interrogation room.
I slowly placed my hands on the table.
And then I forcefully stood up.
“I have been telling you what I want to do this whole time.”
Some problems were beyond solving. For example, there had been an isolated island filled with hunting weaponry where every single one of the hundreds of villagers was the murderer. But I had a chance of resolving this before it reached that level.
I had always been afraid of the look in the department chief’s eyes, but now I stared him directly at him.
I could stare him in the eye now.
“There is still a lot I do not know about the goals of the Jinmensou organization or this person going by the name Toujou Miyabi. But the odds are very high that they intend to do harm to Tsumada Mio. I will find her before they do and protect her. I will not let her become one of the dead who I find so uninteresting. Please let me do this.”
“Is there any chance you will change your mind?”
“I have no reason to change my mind.”
“Fine then.” The department chief slowly stood up. “No matter what assignments I give to the other detectives, you will be stopped somewhere. I will arrange a means for you to leave from here.”
“Do you really have time to worry about that? Until you arrest Toujou Miyabi and clear your name, you will be viewed as a dangerous criminal who fired inside the headquarters of the Tokyo police. …Uchimaku, do you remember Chief Superintendent Mishima?”
“The guy who set up that painful night of drinking?”
“Yes, that monster who should have nothing to do with the likes of us. He is neither an evil man nor a good man. In other words, he does not go easy on his enemies or his allies. He is the sort of person who would deem it an appropriate response to shoot you in a situation such as this. Do you understand what I am saying? If you do not want to be shot by your own colleagues, you must escape Tokyo as quickly as possible.”
I have no idea what kind of connections or influence he used, but the department chief led me out of the interrogation room. We headed to the underground parking lot where the usual guard from the front entrance was waiting.
“Over here. Use this scooter. Here’s the key.”
But isn’t this Nakada-san’s? I’m about to be an escaped dangerous criminal who fired a handgun in the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, so won’t it be a lot of trouble for him if I use his scooter?
The department chief must have sensed my concern because he said, “It will of course be treated as stolen. This will increase your list of crimes, but do not worry about it too much.”
How much of a villain am I becoming on paper?
I put on the borrowed helmet while thinking seriously about the situation.
Nakada-san then added, “Oh, and this is my cell phone. Use it however you wish. Don’t forget to turn your own phone off. Take this handgun, baton, and handcuffs as well. I took them from the storage room.”
Wait, wait, wait!! I’m about to be treated as a dangerous criminal who fired in the middle of the police department and then escaped the interrogation room. If I’m carrying this around, won’t I end up shot by a Special Assault Team!?
And I’m pretty sure that look on the department chief’s face is saying “I didn’t tell you to go that far”!
“Uchimaku, a search across Tokyo is sure to begin soon. Focus on driving safely. Avoid the major roads. Be especially careful when crossing rivers. All the roads focus in on the bridges, so they make excellent checkpoint locations.”
“Uchimaku-san, good luck. We cannot leave the rails, so please show that the justice the police claim to protect does indeed exist. That is likely what this missing girl needs the most.”
“That was my plan from the beginning,” I said before opening up the scooter’s throttle and shooting out of the underground parking lot.
Midnight had already passed and the trains were no longer running. Tokyo had long been called the nightless city, but the government district of Sakuradamon had relatively little light and was wrapped in darkness.
I could no longer rely on the organization known as the police.
I needed some other power to search out Toujou Miyabi and Tsumada Mio who he was after.
“I almost feel like I’ve already lost…”
For the time being, I stopped the scooter near the entrance of a park and operated Tanaka-san’s cell phone with my thumb. I was of course calling the twintailed mystery freak, Hishigami Enbi.
Before I could explain anything, she said, “Since you’re using a different number, is this an emergency?”
“Pretty much. I am about to be a wanted man around the country. But what I must do remains the same. I need to find out everything I can about Tsumada Mio so I can find her. I need your help.”
“Oh, I see… Well, fine. You owe me one, though. A big one. Be prepared to at least give me a swimsuit oil massage.”
“Don’t say such indecent things to a police officer!!”
“What are you talking about? Oil massages are good for your health and beauty. They aren’t indecent at all.”
I could almost see her grinning face.
“Anyway, where are you?” she asked.
“Then you can use my base in Kudanshita. It has all the tools and funds you might need.”
“Where’s the key?”
“You just have to enter a number. Today is Friday, so…enter all of the digits in the first 100 digits of pi that create a multiple of 7. Three errors and you’ll be permanently locked out.”
“What a pain in the ass!!”
“If it wasn’t a pain in the ass, it wouldn’t be a very good key. By the way, detective, you can use any of the tools I have prepared, but do you know where you will begin your investigation?”
“I was almost killed in the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department. I’m going to start by investigating the guy who did it.”
“I see. I just received some new information too, so you can look into that while you’re at it.”
“What is it?”
“Tomoe has disappeared,” she said as if she was fed up with all of this.
And yet I was the one who most of everything was happening to.
“Tomoe’s mother just called me. It seems she is calling everyone she can for information. Her mother thinks Tomoe might have run away from home, but I bet she’s chasing after Tsumada Mio.”
“Before, she had at least been following her curfew. Why would she suddenly break that rule?”
“The odds are good she found some information on Tsumada Mio ahead of us. You might find something if you search Tsumada Mio and Tomoe’s rooms.”
I pictured Hachikawa Tomoe’s face in my mind and I remembered something else.
“Come to think of it, who was ‘that person’ Tomoe-chan kept mentioning?”
“Oh, yeah. I forgot to explain that.” The mystery freak hesitated for a moment. “Tomoe’s mother got remarried, so she is not blood related to her current father.”
So is this new father “that person”?
But my guess was wrong.
“Tomoe’s real father is a police detective. It seems he would get so lost in his work that he ignored looking after her or even speaking to her, so they did not even possess the bare minimum of familial bonds. Hence why he is just ‘that person’. But he was the first person she asked for help when Tsumada Mio disappeared, so I think she really did trust him deep down.”
That must have been why she hated the police.
He had not been able to find Tsumada Mio and therefore had not lived up to his daughter’s trust.
But now that I was isolated from the police and could use all the help I could get, it might be worth seeing if he might help me.
“By the way, what was this detective’s name?” I asked.
“Answer me, mystery freak. What was his name!?”
When I asked again, Enbi nervously spoke a name.
It was the last name I had expected.
“Toujou Miyabi. Do you know him?”
I’m pretty sure I stopped breathing for a few seconds.
“Detective…?” asked the mystery freak in puzzlement.
The Toujou Miyabi she had just mentioned was likely not the same person that had attacked me.
The man using Toujou’s name had said the real Toujou Miyabi was buried in a mountain.
So that’s it.
It all fits together so nicely, dammit!!
“Hey, mystery freak. You work to find Hachikawa Tomoe-chan. That’s your top priority! Being even a second too slow could be the difference between life and death!!”
“What do you mean?”
“I know why she disappeared. She is likely with someone she believes is her father, but this Toujou is someone else! Given the situation, Tomoe-chan probably realized something due to being so close to Tsumada Mio. And she has given that hint to Toujou. Toujou thinks he can use her, so he is tricking her so she will lead him to the missing girl. And once that is over, he will have no more need for her!!”
“Understood. What will you do, detective? Since you are only interested in the living, I thought you would focus on Tomoe.”
“That does suit me better, but I have something I have to do first.”
I ended the call and sat down on the scooter’s seat.
I started by travelling to the mystery freak’s base.
My plan was to grab a complete set of the forensic kits she liked to use and then head to Toujou Miyabi’s residence.
Part 19 (3rd person)
Hachikawa Tomoe was sitting in the passenger seat of a 4-door domestic luxury car.
Toujou Miyabi sat in the driver’s seat.
He was someone claiming to be her father.
“I have learned that Tsumada Mio-chan has been spotted in the area you just told me about, Tomoe.”
“She is most likely relying on her grandparents. A girl with no financial foundation will ultimately rely on her relatives rather than some stranger trying to pick her up on the street. Since she was not with her parents, her grandparents or other relatives seem likely,” said Toujou as he merged onto a major road.
“Wouldn’t her relatives have been the first place the police checked?”
“She is not a suspect of any crime. If her family covers for her, there is nothing we can do. We can only write up a report saying they said she was not there. And even if we had done a search of her grandparents’ home, I doubt we would have found Tsumada Mio-chan there.”
“What do you mean?”
“Her grandparents own quite a lot of land. They own several mountains. And according to a neighbor, they built small huts all over their land during the 0-yen lifestyle boom that was big on TV shows for a while. I cannot search private land without a warrant and I would have a hard time finding her hideout in all those mountains even if I did.”
“And so you relied on me?”
“You said you had seen some photos, right?
“…Yes. Mio said she had gone on a bit of an adventure while over at her grandfather’s house over summer break.”
“Do you know where it is?”
“Generally. She drew out a map while bragging about it. But the map was not to scale or anything.”
“That is fine. As long as you can tell me which way to turn, that is enough.”
Hachikawa Tomoe secretly glanced over at the man holding the steering wheel.
He was focused on driving, so she could only see the side of his face.
“…You’re finally acting like a father.”
“I have not done anything yet. When we reach the mountain, I will make sure to find Tsumada Mio-chan.”
The man calling himself Toujou Miyabi secretly gave a slight smile.
Hachikawa Tomoe did not know the meaning of that smile.
She thought she heard what sounded like a large dog growling.
And it did not seem to be coming from outside.
It seemed to come from within the car.
It sounded as if something in the backseat directly behind her was growling so closely she should have been able to feel its breath on her.
In one corner of Kudanshita’s lines of tidy office buildings, a room in a short and worn-down multi-tenant building functioned as one of the mystery freak’s bases.
I could almost see the mystery freak proudly puffing out her chest as she had bragged about how she could easily live there with the convenient store and laundromat on the first floor as well as the leisure spa only a 100 meter walk away.
“It would be really depressing to live here…”
The area around all four walls was filled with piles of files on unresolved cases. That was all that was in the room. There was a table in the center of the room, but it did not even have a chair to go with it.
A balled up sleeping bag had been left below the table, so it looked like about the worst possible place to try to get some sleep.
The room had no refrigerator or sink, much less an actual kitchen, but for some reason it did have a storage area below the floor. I opened it up and found a few bags the size of toolboxes.
I pulled them out and looked through them. They were all divided into sets for different tasks. For example, one held a laptop and a few USB memory sticks, one contained several types of reagents, and one was filled with bankbooks and cards.
I grabbed the bag containing the set that looked useful for forensics. I returned the others to the storage space under the floor.
I left the building, tossed the bag into the luggage area below the scooter’s seat, and headed for Toujou Miyabi’s residence.
The mystery freak had apparently previously learned the dead Toujou Miyabi’s address from Tomoe-chan.
The mystery freak had said the following over the phone:
“It’s in Ichigaya. It’s actually quite a nice house, but its size may have emphasized the loneliness after his family left.”
If the current Toujou was using that same house, something might remain there. He would have at least eliminated any information the real Toujou Miyabi had found, but the current Toujou’s scent might still remain there.
I drove the scooter to my destination.
The value of land anywhere within the Yamanote Line was incredibly high and high-rise buildings were used to make efficient use of the limited space…or so I thought. It turned out there were exceptions. It was no match for an old house in an Intellectual Village, but it must have taken a lot of effort to build a house of this size in the city.
“Detective, how are you going to get inside?” asked the mystery freak over the phone.
“I don’t have many options.”
“If you break a window, you’ll probably set off an alarm.”
“I’m not going to go that far.”
For one, I doubted any obvious evidence would remain inside the building. Any traces of the Toujou Miyabi who was buried in the mountains would have been eliminated by the Toujou who had taken on his face.
“Do you think Toujou Miyabi was suddenly attacked one day?” I asked.
“It’s hard to say.”
“If he began to catch a glimpse of the person behind all this while he was investigating the whereabouts of Tsumada Mio, I do not think he would leave the data he had collected where it would be easily found. He would hide it in some difficult-to-find place. …But still somewhere nearby.”
I stopped the scooter in front of the house and climbed over the wall and into the yard. At this point I was illegally trespassing, but I could not guarantee Hachikawa Tomoe-chan’s survival if I did not find any hint to Toujou’s whereabouts.
If I was a police detective, where would I hide data other than in the archives room?
Depending on the scope of the enemy, there could be a risk of having your entire house burned down.
“He needed a way to ensure it could not be destroyed even if the house was burned to the ground.”
I opened the bag I had borrowed from the mystery freak and pulled out the forensics kit. It could gather data from fingerprints, hairs, and bloodstains.
Forcing my way into the locked house would be a last resort. First, I would slowly investigate around the outside of the house while focusing on the yard.
If my thinking was correct, he would not have used anything wooden that would burn away in a fire. Concrete seemed more likely.
As I used a special device to spray a chemical, one spot gave off a pale light.
This was at the manhole located directly beside the hot-water heater. A single portion of the ground there was hardened with concrete and I found a bloodstain on the underside of the small manhole lid.
Technically, this was the trace of something being written with blood and then washed away by water.
I was seeing a luminol reaction.
Most people have heard the term in dramas or movies. Bloodstains could not be completely erased just by washing them away. No matter how much it was washed, the stain would remain and it would stand out too much if the entire manhole cover was thrown away. A replacement lid could not be ordered from a hardware store and the manhole could not be left open. The stench would gather the attention of the entire neighborhood.
What it had written was…
“A 20-digit number and a string of 11 alphanumeric characters? Is this for an online data storage site?”
The 20-digit number would be the ID and the 11 characters would be the password. The ID number resembled the ones used by a major company.
The data storage itself could be accessed from a normal cell phone. I opened up the login page and entered the number and alphanumeric string from the luminol reaction.
I found a large number of reports.
I could view them, but a different password was needed to delete or edit the data.
Most of it was text and low resolution photos. It seemed Toujou Miyabi would use any break in his work to input any information into his phone and add it to the storage.
As I skimmed through the text, I could see him start searching for Tsumada Mio and slowly discover the link to the SNS murders.
I also found a list of all reports of sightings of someone who may have been Tsumada Mio.
Seventy to eighty percent of that sort of information was always useless, but it seemed Toujou Miyabi had diligently pursued each and every one of them.
From what I could see, he had a very methodical personality.
After enough useless leads, people tended to grow more lax and write less detailed reports, but that was not the case here. Every single report was filled with detail.
Why had he been so dedicated to his job?
Working for the organization known as the police meant you had to face death. A normal person would be unable to withstand it. To face it calmly, they needed to construct a “mental detour”.
For a similar example, think of doctors.
They cut open several people with blades every day. They must have grown used to doing so. But if you gave a doctor a knife and ordered him to go kill someone, he would refuse. Some of them might even vomit if they were holding a blade for the purpose of killing someone.
That was their “mental detour”.
They were not hurting anyone; they were saving them. That was why they could do it.
That was how humans worked.
For me, it was helping the relatives of the victim and anyone else who was still alive. For the mystery freak, it was figuring out why the victim had died.
That was how people were able to face things that could not be looked at directly.
So what had it been for Toujou Miyabi?
The answer to that was hidden in this methodical text.
“…I see,” I muttered.
The data stopped being updated at the end of May.
That was when the SNS murders had been solved. That was when the person behind the project had moved on. That was when the Jinmensou project had begun and Toujou’s interest had turned toward Tsumada Mio and the person behind it all. That must have been when something had happened.
“All of this evidence was ignored and sealed away for various reasons. Was it your doctrine to gather up every last piece of it?”
If that was the case, these overly methodical reports made sense.
The thick report in the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department’s archives room was amazing, but this was something else entirely.
He had not simply investigated Tsumada Mio because his daughter had asked him to.
The detective named Toujou Miyabi had been the type to head to the depths of hell so that he could hear the cries of those too deep in the darkness to be reached just by stretching out an arm.
“And this is what became of him?”
Even as his family had left him because he failed to hear the voices of those closest to him, he had continued to pursue the case and had stepped on a landmine he should have avoided at all costs. And as a result, his daughter’s life was now in danger from someone with the exact same face and the exact same voice.
Could this really be allowed to happen?
Could the dead be dishonored any more than this?
I returned the manhole cover and left Toujou Miyabi’s house.
It was not like me to work for the sake of the dead like this.
I boarded the scooter, put on the helmet, and called the mystery freak.
“I found some data from Toujou Miyabi’s personal storage. Tsumada Mio’s grandparents’ house is in Okutama. The police went to the grandparent’s house to question them, but Tsumada Mio was not there. However, those grandparents own a mountain. If they have a small cabin somewhere, it wouldn’t be difficult to hide a single child.”
It was not unlikely that grandparents would tell a lie or two to protect their granddaughter who had lost her place at school and home due to the Jinmensou. This was another “mental detour”. Even if they could not lie to deceive the police, they might be able to lie to protect their granddaughter.
“Where exactly is it?” asked the mystery freak.
“I don’t know. But Toujou made his move because he thinks he has a chance. And he brought Hachikawa Tomoe-chan with him. To be honest, I don’t see why he would need Tomoe-chan here. Which means…”
“Tomoe knows the answer?”
“You’ve made your way into Hachikawa Tomoe-chan’s house as her classmate, right? Make sure you find something. I’ll be heading for Okutama.”
“How are you going to catch up to them!? If he has Tomoe with him, they must be in a car. Plus, they have a large head start. No matter how fast you move, Toujou will get there first!!”
“True. But the police are searching for me, so they’ve set up checkpoints throughout the city. He’ll get through just fine because they look like father and daughter, but he needs to stop and put on a smile at each checkpoint. That should slow him down a good bit.”
“Tomoe disappeared an hour ago.”
“If he is strictly following the legal speed limit and stopping at each checkpoint, I can catch up. I just need a way of heading straight to Okutama at almost 100 kph.”
“The police are on high alert. If you drive that fast on a normal road, they’ll catch you right away. And they will almost certainly have checkpoints set up on the highway.”
“If I use normal roads, yes. And I can’t use the highway with this scooter anyway.”
“Then what are you going to do? The trains have already stopped.”
“The freight trains haven’t. They also don’t stop at the intervening stations. They head straight to the last stop at Okutama.”
I called up a map on the cell phone and displayed the points where overpasses crossed over the train tracks.
And I found the perfect spot.
It was right near a curve where the train would lower its speed.
I’ve seen it in plenty of dramas and movies, but will I really be okay if I jump onto a freight train? It isn’t going to rip off my arms and legs, is it?
Part 21 (3rd person)
“Over there. I think it’s to the left of that big tree,” said Hachikawa Tomoe while needlessly pointing.
The road was so narrow a single car covered it over entirely. The mountain road was pitch black due to the lack of streetlights and a passenger car drove along it at the legal speed limit.
While holding the steering wheel, Toujou said, “This area wasn’t designated an Intellectual Village, was it?”
“The village at the base of the mountain was, but Mio’s grandparents were opposed to the change. They could do nothing to change the view of the entire village, but they were able to keep their private property from being included.”
“Do her grandparents have a phobia of electromagnetic waves or something?”
“I don’t know. But even if they do-…Oh, it’s there. Once you make this turn, it should just be a direct path there.”
“I see,” muttered Toujou as he slowly stepped on the brake.
The car came to a stop on that empty mountain road.
“? Wait a second. What’s wrong? Did something happen?”
“Did an animal dart across the road up ahead? Oh, or did you blow a tire?”
“Tomoe-chan,” muttered Toujou. He let out a heavy sigh and then smoothly reached for the side of his waist with his right hand. “You are an interesting girl in a lot of ways. For one, you came out to this remote area with no suspicion whatsoever.”
For an instant, Hachikawa Tomoe did not know what to think.
Her entire mind was focused directly forward.
She was trying to grasp what it was that was being held out toward her.
It was a shiny black hunk of metal.
It was a handgun.
“W-wait. What are you-…?”
“Get out,” said Toujou, cutting her off. “Get out. If you do not, I will drag you out.”
Overpowered by that gun barrel, Hachikawa Tomoe slowly opened the passenger-side door and stepped out of the car. She thought she was being abandoned in that dark mountain, but she was wrong. Toujou then stepped out from the driver’s seat. He pointed the large handgun at her once more.
“…What are you doing?”
“I no longer need you, Tomoe-chan,” said Toujou with a thin smile. “By the way, this is not my first time to kill. I’m quite used to it, so please don’t pointlessly try to persuade me, resist, or beg for your life. I do not have time to deal with such annoyances.”
Hachikawa Tomoe had no idea what Toujou was saying, so she simply tried to run away.
But she never even managed to turn around.
She froze in place before she could move.
“Grr,” came a bestial growl.
Something was only 30 cm behind her. As soon as she heard it, sweat poured from Hachikawa Tomoe’s entire body. Something huge and overwhelming was there. This was not just a large dog. This was something that could easily break through a cage at a zoo.
“Do not turn around,” said Toujou as he grinned and continued to aim the gun at her. “It will probably be easiest for you if you die without learning anything.”
“Do not worry. I do not need to make this look like suicide. If a body is found here with a bullet through the head, the police will probably assume you just happened to come across someone who was here to bury another corpse. The same thing happens all across Japan. No one will think I did it.”
Something was directly behind Hachikawa Tomoe.
But an obvious gun barrel was directly in front of her.
There was nowhere to run.
No one would come to save her.
“This is not a .38 issued by the police. This is a .45 I acquired for myself. Even the bullets are quite cool. The bullet will blow apart half of your soft brain as soon as it hits, so you will feel no pain. So there is nothing to fear. …At the very least, it is a better fate than being attacked by a canine beast while walking along a mountain path.”
“Farewell, Tomoe-chan. You will probably go to heaven, so send my regards to your real father.”
And that was all.
He did not hesitate.
He pulled the trigger.
A dry gunshot rang out.
Flesh exploded out and the air filled with the stench of blood.
Hachikawa Tomoe limply fell to the ground.
Her wide-open eyes reflected the scene before her.
It was a male voice.
It was the voice of the man named Toujou.
“Ghh!! My…arm…! My…my arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrmmmmmmmmmm!!”
He was trying to use his left hand to hold the wound on his right arm, but that left hand was already dyed red.
This was not surprising.
Toujou’s right arm had been blown off at the wrist. The giant black handgun was gone. It had exploded from the inside and several shards had fallen to the cracked asphalt.
It was obvious what had happened.
The gun had malfunctioned.
But there had been no reason for that malfunction.
Normally, at least.
“…Ahh! Th-that bastard… It had to be him. He touched my gun in the archives room. He tampered with it!!”
The bestial growl from behind Hachikawa Tomoe grew. It seemed to be reacting to Toujou’s mental turmoil.
“U-Uchi-Uchima-Uchimaku!!! How dare you…how dare you take my haaaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnndddddddddddddddddddddddddd!?”
Hachikawa Tomoe thought he was going to give into his anger and have whatever was behind her attack. She thought she was going to be torn apart and eaten as if by a lion or tiger.
But that did not happen.
As if in response to Toujou’s shout, two gunshots rang out somewhere else on the mountain. Sweat was pouring from Toujou’s face due to the intense pain, but the gunshots seemed to bring him back to his senses.
He looked at Hachikawa Tomoe and hesitated over something, but ultimately gave precedence to running away. While holding his mangled wrist, Toujou ran off into the deep darkness of the mountain.
Hachikawa Tomoe remained motionless for a while.
She could not grasp what was going on.
When I fired those gunshots in the dark mountains of Okutama, I did not actually know exactly where Toujou and Hachikawa Tomoe-chan were. I had only entered the mountain the mystery freak had learned Tsumada Mio’s grandparents owned.
However, if my sabotage had been effective, there was a chance Tomoe-chan was still alive.
And if I let him hear those gunshots, it would tell Toujou I had come this far. He would assume I knew where he was that I was staring at him through my gun’s sight in order to keep him from killing Hachikawa Tomoe.
I had actually only fired randomly up into the night sky.
As I ran along the mountain road toward the sound of the initial gunshot, I finally spotted an abandoned car. The road had a small bloodstain on it, grotesque pieces of flesh and fingers were scattered about, and Hachikawa Tomoe-chan was sitting on the ground.
“Hachikawa-san!!” I ran over and grabbed her shoulders. “Are you hurt? It looks like the gun malfunctioned, but did any of the fragments hit you!?”
She seemed to be conscious, but she was slow to react. She may have experienced a great mental shock. She slowly moved just her eyes to look at me.
“He…tried to kill me…”
“He…he tried to…but he’s my father…he had a gun…and that growling…m-my father…tried to k-kill me…!!”
Hachikawa Tomoe-chan still thought that Toujou was her father.
It was only natural to be shocked when her “father” tried to kill her.
“Hachikawa-san, this is going to be tough to hear, but please listen.”
“There’s more? What more could there be? I’ve had enough! I can’t deal with anything more!!”
“The real Toujou Miyabi-san was likely killed around the end of May. This man is someone else entirely.”
“Your father was not the kind of person who would kill his own daughter! He worked until the very, very end to fight against this kind of villain! That’s why I was able to make it here. The data your real father gathered led me here!! You do not need to think he betrayed you. Your father lived a life you can be proud of.”
Which truth was better?
Both being killed by one’s father and learning your father died months ago were too much to accept.
But once a case began, I focused on the living more than the dead.
I could not lie to a living civilian for the sake of a dead detective.
“…Who is he?”
“I don’t know,” I answered honestly. “But whoever he is, I will arrest him. I will not let him hurt you, Tsumada Mio-san, or anyone else.”
Should I leave her here or take her with me?
I was unsure what to do, but this Toujou had clearly tried to kill her. It would be too dangerous to take her to the scene of a firefight.
“You follow this road down the mountain. The mystery frea-…Hishigami Enbi-san is heading here. You should cross paths.”
“Be careful,” said Tomoe-chan with a pale face. “His gun was not his only weapon. He controlled some sort of large beast. It seemed to go nuts when he started bleeding.”
I was not sure what she meant, but I nodded.
I wondered what she was thinking as she sat on the ground there. Her expression was twisted into something that none of the standard emotions adequately described.
“…Please save Mio.”
“That’s my job,” I said before running down the mountain road.
Toujou must have been bleeding quite a bit because drips of blood could be seen along the cracked asphalt. I could not trust that trail of blood too much because it could be a trap, but it would still function as a decent guide.
As I thought, I pulled out my cell phone.
Is this Toujou still using Toujou Miyabi’s number?
“It seems you made a huge mistake. You should hurry up and surrender. You won’t last 30 minutes with that much bleeding.”
“Don’t underestimate me. I already had the wound bitten closed. Do you really think you’ve won? I had to go to some extra effort in the archives room to make it look like a suicide, but if all I have to do is kill you…”
The conversation continued as I jogged along the mountain road.
I was not trying to trace his location.
I was fairly certain Toujou had lost a hand. Holding the cell phone would take up his other hand. I could tell whether he was using speaker phone from how much background noise was being picked up. In other words, as long as he was speaking on the phone, Toujou could not use his weapon. I was ensuring my safety.
“Uchimaku, how much do you know?”
“Enough to know that arresting you will bring this to an end.”
“Ha ha. Well, you’re right about that.” Toujou seemed to be laughing somewhere on the mountain. “Those idiots making that pathetic Package were causing too many problems, so I slaughtered them. That faux-intellectual insider group had gotten a bit carried away, so they had almost no military might. Houjou and Saijou tried to stop me, but Tsumada Mio is simply that valuable. If they had simply agreed to hand her over, none of this would have happened.”
“What do you hope to do with Tsumada Mio?”
“You will find out when you get here and see this. Personally, I can barely wait. This is greater than I expected. I bought bone marrow from an Inugami bloodline and changed my blood type with a transplant in order to fuse with the Inugami, but this is on an entirely different level. This goes even beyond the ultimate objective of our organization.”
“Ultimate objective? Organization?”
“Damn, this hurts… That’s right. Our objective is to remake the human body into that of a Youkai. I thought Houjou had beaten me to it, but it looks like I’ll be first.”
I heard an unpleasant sound over the phone.
Is he just coughing or is he actually coughing up blood? I wouldn’t think that would have caused any internal bleeding…
“Hey, Uchimaku. Think back to the Jinmensou incident. That group was attaching Jinmensou to girls passing through Shibuya, but how do you think they attached the Jinmensou to their target?”
I had not actually cleared up that aspect of the case. For one thing, a Jinmensou was a Youkai. Unless they had a good reason, they would not appear in the city.
“Jinmensou appear as a symbol of the lies someone has said or the sins they have committed. But those lies have a certain requirement. You could call this the starting point.”
“Are you saying Tsumada Mio was involved in something?” I asked.
“Yes, exactly. You did some research on Tsumada Mio, right? What sort of impression did you get of her?”
“She seemed like a sociable girl with a lot of friends before the Jinmensou appeared. Her social circle had spread even beyond her class.”
“Do you know that for sure?” cut in Toujou with a sneering voice.
Shit, his injuries should be slowing him down. Have I still not caught up to him?
“You only know that because of the notepad in her room. The one with all the photo stickers on it. But doesn’t it seem odd for it to still be there?”
“You don’t mean…”
“She took her schoolbag and tablet computer with her when she disappeared, so why did she leave behind that notepad with all its photo stickers? That should have been the symbol of her status. Why was it still there?”
“It was faked…?’
I felt like the ground was lurching beneath my feet.
But when I thought about it, it was not all that difficult a thing to do. Photo stickers could be found plastered all over the city. Even an amateur could retrieve some and reattach them somewhere else.
But why would she do it?
Perhaps she had not wanted to worry her family or her neighbor from another school, Hachikawa Tomoe-chan.
In that case…
“Some Jinmensou are said to spew toxins from their mouths. Those covered in the toxin will gain a face as ugly as the Jinmensou,” said Toujou. “A certain rumor has spread through Shibuya. It says Tsumada Mio, a poor girl with no friends, has been gathering photo stickers. In order to save this isolated girl, people are to claim to be Tsumada Mio’s friend if asked. Well, it seems even the real Toujou was fooled by this and assumed she was popular. …That is a lie and a sin. Whenever she was lied about, Tsumada Mio’s Jinmensou spewed toxins that afflicted the bodies of the liars and caused the ugly faces to multiply.”
“How could this happen…?”
The original masterminds behind the Jinmensou had wanted to use them to threaten the children of corporate executives and shareholders, so they had likely approached the children who met the Jinmensou’s requirements and asked them that question. They may have pretended to be a teacher or from a private investigation company.
Their responses may indeed have been lies.
But were those lies really worth calling sins?
“Then why did the original Jinmensou appear on Tsumada Mio?” I asked. “She may have lied about having a lot of friends, but she was still in the city. I doubt a rural-loving Youkai would attach to her there.”
“I don’t know, but something about the Jinmensou’s nature was likely twisted in the Package. For example, what if a Jinmensou they acquired somewhere was attached to Tsumada Mio’s umbilical cord where it was stored in a corner of her grandparents’ rural house? Even if she was in a distant place, that would still qualify as the Jinmensou afflicting her body.”
And then that single Jinmensou patient had led to an explosive outbreak centered on Shibuya.
If that was the case…
“So you’re after the special case at the source of the infection?”
“I’m glad you finally understand. The fusion of a human and a Jinmensou might lead to something not human if taken to the next level. And it does not require fine-tuning for each individual human. As long as Tsumada Mio exists as the core, it will spread without end. This will greatly shorten the work and examination needed in the past methods such as transplanting bone marrow from an Inugami bloodline.”
“Do you really think I’ll let you do this?”
“And I will not let you stop me. Don’t think you will get off as easily as just losing a hand.”
The call suddenly ended.
At the same time, I spotted a wooden cabin through the gaps in the cedar trees. It was a small cabin, but it still looked larger than my apartment. It had a small water wheel that may have been used to generate power.
In the end, I had been unable to catch up to him partway there.
But Toujou’s goal was to capture Tsumada Mio, not kill her. I doubted he would harm her right away.
I pulled out my .38 caliber revolver and slowly approached the cabin.
The cabin’s lights did not appear to be on.
The trail of blood headed straight to the front door, so Toujou was likely already inside.
I pressed up against the wall next to the door and touched the doorknob.
And I turned it.
After making sure it was not locked, I kicked open the door.
The attack came immediately afterwards.
I suffered a fatal wound and was knocked to the floor.
It seemed it had only been intended as a playful attack.
Nevertheless, I was knocked across the cabin as if I had been struck by a large truck. I could not breathe. I coughed up a great bit of blood. I tried to bring my hands to my mouth, but they only twitched slightly and would not move.
“Cough!? Cough cough!!”
“Didn’t I tell you, Uchimaku?” Toujou’s voice filled the darkness of the cabin. “Simply killing you is no problem for me. They are known as Inugami, but they are actually more like a formless curse. It does not matter if you dodge to the right or to the left, or if you charge forward all at once or cautiously approach. If I tell it to do it, it will do it. That is all there is to it.”
“Grr,” came the growling of a large beast.
What is going on?
Is there a lion or a tiger hiding in this darkness? Or is Toujou making that growling noise?
I had no way to know which it was.
Wait a second.
Toujou and this beast are here, but where is Tsumada Mio?
I could not sense her presence.
Was that third party really in the small cabin?
“No, I did not expect this either,” said Toujou.
I could hear someone feeling along the wall. However, I did not know where my handgun had gone after I dropped it. And even if I did know, I still could not move my body after that impact.
Finally, I heard a clicking noise.
It was the sound of a plastic switch being flipped.
At the same time, bright light filled the world and blinded me. It took me several seconds to realize this was nothing more than a fluorescent light.
Now that the cabin was illuminated, I could see it truly had nothing but a blanket. Not only did it have no items of entertainment such as books or a game system, but it had no refrigerator, washing machine, or anything else needed to live one’s life. That made sense for an emergency cabin in the mountains, but I could not see how a teenage girl could have lived here for months.
And in the center of the cabin was some dense mass.
“…Pant… You’re…kidding me…”
“It’s pretty horrible,” muttered Toujou with a thin smile on his face as he stood against the wall sweating and holding his injured arm. “I’ve heard of a man who survived for a month after his car was buried in snow. It seems the low temperature brought on a state similar to hibernation. …But this goes beyond that. How do you think it’s possible for a human to survive for four months without eating or drinking anything?”
This mass was sitting in the seiza position.
This mass was wearing a long-sleeved sailor uniform.
I had once heard about the process of Sokushinbutsu from my old man back home. That was not actually a ghost story, but it had still scared me more than any other story I had ever heard.
A sealed room would be dug into the ground and a Buddhist monk would enter it. All the exits would be completely sealed, he would be given no food or oxygen, and he would simply continue praying until he was mummified. This was different from being forcibly buried alive or killed. They dried themselves up of their own free will. They cut off all the animalistic instincts that were natural for humans and took a certain path to its extreme.
This was a lot like that.
But this was not an overly light corpse that looked like dried up twigs. All of the skin had become a bluish black, but the body still contained moisture and its surface was writhing slightly.
“Seems that way. I’ve never heard of a Jinmensou attaching itself to a corpse. And that means Tsumada Mio is still alive even in this state. Her body has been remade so that she can remain alive.” True admiration could be heard in Toujou’s voice. “However, it does not seem that movement is based on her own will. That is just the Jinmensou covering every inch of her body moving around as they please.”
Those words sent a definite chill down my spine.
It can’t be….
It can’t be!!
“Are you saying all of that bluish-black stuff is made up of Jinmensou!?”
That can’t be true.
That’s too horrible to be true!!
Those girls had felt they would never be accepted with even one of those tumors that were a few centimeters across. And now Tsumada Mio was completely covered in them. To cover her entire body, it had to be more than just a dozen or two.
In my confusion, I pointlessly searched for some way of denying the truth before my eyes.
“But a Jinmensou is a tumor that looks like a large bug bite. They don’t turn that color!!”
“I don’t know why they’re like this. Maybe they were always like this and maybe this is a result of the Package. If my umbilical cord theory is correct, they might have made their way in through her stomach. At any rate, it seems the tumors may have moved inside her instead of staying on the surface. Once they filled her up, they caused a great change to the flow of her blood. This discoloration may be similar to a type of internal bleeding.”
But why were there so many Jinmensou?
The girl from the convenience store robbery had only had one.
“I had thought Tsumada Mio’s Jinmensou would simply spew toxins to assault the girls in Shibuya, but it seems each time those girls lied, a new Jinmensou would also be appear on Tsumada Mio as a sort of feedback. It’s like she’s bearing the burden of all the lies of the city. I wonder how many Jinmensou she even has attached. I doubt 100 or even 1000 would be enough to account for this. Ha ha!!”
I glared at Toujou from where I lay collapsed on the ground.
“What are you going to do with her?” I asked.
“Take her home with me, of course. Like I said, I’ll be the first. No one else in the organization has a specimen that has left humanity behind as much as this. I thought I could never catch up to Houjou, but with her, I might be able to surpass him. Not to mention Saijou and Nanjou.”
My handgun was lying quite nearby.
If I could only muster up some strength, I could grab it right away.
“Stop that.” Toujou shook his head. “Surely you know a bullet will do nothing here. I was testing you before. I only had the Inugami lightly charge at you. If I snap my fingers and order it to bite you, you’re done for. Your upper body will have to say goodbye to your lower body.”
“Are you…someone like Hishigami Mai?”
“Hishigami?” Toujou frowned slightly before continuing. “Oh, yes. I had her right arm bitten off during a personal job a long time ago. I remember because her body had an interesting composition. But she altered her body while remaining human. That is too far removed from our principles.”
That went well beyond my expectations.
Both the fact that he had torn off that monster woman’s arm and that she had recovered from it with no scar were well outside my ideas of how the world worked.
“Now then, can we get this over with already? I will be taking Tsumada Mio with me. You will remain here. Okay?”
“…Don’t you need to kill me?”
“I intended to, but that would be too boring. Since you gained your freedom after the situation I left you in, I can only assume you escaped the interrogation room. I wonder what the police will decide happened when they find you at the site of Tsumada Mio’s disappearance? That sounds a lot funnier than just killing you.”
“Your blood is all over this place.”
“That doesn’t matter. It isn’t enough to identify me. I have no more use for the Toujou Miyabi identity. I just need to alter the electronic medical records on the cloud to make sure these bloodstains can’t be traced back to me. I will return to the world I came from. The likes of you can never reach that world.”
As he spoke, Toujou approached the bluish black Tsumada Mio sitting seiza-style in the center of the cabin. I tried to move my fingers.
Okay…I can just barely move them. I should be able to stand!!
That was when I heard the same bestial growling as before.
I was only a few meters from my handgun. However, that growl was an obvious threat keeping me from advancing those few meters.
Toujou picked up the unmoving Tsumada Mio and carried her over his shoulder.
My mind was filled with nothing but the distance between my fingertips and the handgun, but I could not avoid having a few words leak from my mouth.
“Stop it. The time to beg for your life has long since passed. I’ve already lost a hand, remember?”
“Leave Tsumada Mio here. She isn’t something you can just use like this!”
“Ha ha hahh.” It seemed Toujou could not help but laugh. “C’mon, Uchimaku. I had no real reason to explain everything to you like I did. I could have put on some act. And yet here I am speaking with you. Why do you think that is? I understand all too well how valuable information is, so why would I do that?”
“Tsumada Mio has become a symbol of judging people for their lies, so it is best not to lie in front of her, Uchimaku. I don’t know if you thought it was the etiquette of adulthood or something, but it may have been a mistake to say something so idealistic in front of her. …A fatal mistake.”
Almost at the exact moment Toujou finished speaking, pain exploded in my right thigh and left wrist.
I felt the same sort of heat combined with itching and pain as with a bug bite except much, much worse.
I knew perfectly well what was happening to me.
Before long, the itching passed along the major nerves of my body and took control of all my body’s senses.
“Gaahhh!? This is…a Jinmensou…!?”
“Just to be clear, this wasn’t me. Uchimaku, you did this to yourself. It’s quite ironic really. You are punished for your idealistic statements made for the sake of justice and I survive unscathed for honestly saying such horrible things.”
The itching was so bad I grew confused as to the size of my own body, but a question still remained in my head.
What did the Jinmensou react to just now?
I had come this far to save Tsumada Mio. My intentions there had not changed. So why had the Jinmensou reacted to a lie?
Had I lied without even realizing it?
Or did something qualify as a lie as long as Tsumada Mio thought it was one?
For one thing, it was still unclear what basis Tsumada Mio used to determine if something was a lie.
If it was simply anyone with any connection to her making any lie, everyone who had been around her would have been affected by a Jinmensou.
But that had not happened.
For example, her parents and her neighbor, Hachikawa Tomoe-chan.
None of them had shown any sign of being affected by a Jinmensou.
“What is it, Uchimaku? You have the look of someone who has finally solved a puzzle, but this is already over.”
Tsumada Mio was so utterly covered in Jinmensou that not even the color of her skin was visible.
The Jinmensou would spread without limit when a lie was spoken.
Could it have been that I…no, that we were mistaken about something? It was a crazy idea, but we had never actually checked or proven that it was not the case.
Were the Tsumada Mio her parents and Hachikawa Tomoe-chan had told us about and the Tsumada Mio the Shibuya girls, Toujou, and I were talking about really the same person?
“…Are you really Tsumada Mio?” I muttered without thinking.
Toujou looked puzzled and then the girl – or rather, the object in the shape of a girl – burst into tiny pieces. What looked like pieces of flesh scattered across the four walls and floor of the cabin, but that was not what they were.
They were all shaped like human faces.
Hundreds or even thousands of them had condensed into the shape of a girl.
These were Jinmensou.
They were the core of the lie.
This was the punishment for all of those who had spoken as if they knew who Tsumada Mio was despite not knowing anything about her.
As soon as the girl-shaped object blew to pieces, the itching and pain eating into my body disappeared. The Jinmensou for telling lies were gone. Completely gone.
I immediately jumped for my handgun, but Toujou managed to shout calmly despite having lost his greatest prize. My fingertips reached the .38 caliber revolver, but I did not have time to grab it and aim.
My upper body was assaulted by an impact so strong it felt like an invisible dump truck had hit me. My body slammed against the wall.
I slid down to the ground and found Toujou was holding my gun. The Inugami must have retrieved it for him.
“What happened? Hey, Uchimaku. Where did Tsumada Mio go? Where did you hide her!?”
Can you not see her?
It may have been because I had finally grasped the truth and it may have been because I had finally tried to face the real Tsumada Mio.
Either way, I could now clearly see another girl standing right next to me.
“Out with it, Uchimaku. Where did Tsumada Mio go? If you don’t tell me, I’ll shoot you in each limb one at a time.”
“Hey,” I cut in with a smile. “Why are you relying on that gun when you have that Inugami as a secret weapon? Is it because that’s a Youkai you’re controlling? Yeah, I can see how that would be scary. It’s a monster with a will of its own. Even if you think you have complete control, you never know when it might bare its fangs toward you.”
“…What are you trying to say?”
“This is a bad habit of yours. Have you already forgotten how you lost your other hand?”
With a look of realization, Toujou frantically tried to throw the handgun away, but it was too late.
The sound of a metal balloon bursting exploded out.
And Toujou’s remaining hand was blown to pieces.
A scream surged out.
I dug my fingers into the wall to slowly stand up.
“This is the second time, Toujou. It’s not even funny when you’re this stupid.”
The method of causing the revolver to malfunction like that was not easy, though. And the fact that the Inugami did not immediately attack me afterwards meant I was right about Toujou losing his ability to control the Youkai.
An Inugami resided in the blood.
I had always thought that was a way of expressing the more abstract concept of it sticking with a single family or bloodline, but Toujou had mentioned a bone marrow transplant. That meant the blood literally was the controller for the Inugami.
Maybe it was having a steady pulse, maybe it was blood pressure, and maybe it was simply the amount of blood. Whatever it was, Toujou was losing the ideal environment for controlling the Youkai that resided in his blood. Tomoe-chan had also said the Inugami had gone nuts when he started losing blood. What had sounded like him coughing up blood while we spoke over the phone may have been something similar. The Inugami was akin to a type of curse and it wielded a strange Youkai like power that would hit regardless of where you tried to evade. However, none of that mattered if he could not control it.
“What’s wrong, Toujou? Can you no longer use your Inugami?”
“If you can’t, what do you think is going to happen to you?”
I had been struck by the Inugami and felt like my body had been horribly crushed, but I was still in a better state than Toujou. He had lost both hands in gun malfunctions and had lost quite a bit of blood. And if he could not control the Inugami, there was a danger of its fangs tearing into his own body.
“You…?” muttered Toujou blankly. “Someone with a supporting role like you…defeated me…?”
“That’s right. You’re just another criminal.”
Without his gun or Youkai, he was just a normal human.
And that meant he could be fairly judged in the courtroom and thrown in jail.
“You are charged with trespassing, attempted murder, and abduction of a minor.”
Toujou and I clashed head on at close range.
But all I had to do was my normal job.
When Toujou tried to smash the side of my head with his leather shoe that clearly had a weapon hidden in it, I swept his other leg out from under him, grabbed his necktie, and slammed his back to the floor. While he was unable to breathe, I held his arms in place, but I suddenly froze when I started to pull out my handcuffs.
“…With both your hands gone, I suppose handcuffs won’t do any good.”
I had no choice but to handcuff his ankles together instead. At any rate, he could not use his arms, so there was little need to seal his movements.
“Toujou, I have no idea who you really are, but you’re under arrest.”
But this is the kind of person Toujou Miyabi remained to the very end. This is the kind of person Hachikawa Tomoe-chan entrusted the safety of her friend to despite her complaints. This is what it is to be a police officer.
Part 24 (3rd person)
After receiving word that the man going by the name Toujou had been arrested, the department chief of Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department’s Department 1, Mezu Gen, gave some instructions over the phone. He requested the formal wanted status on Uchimaku Hayabusa be rescinded.
Chief Superintendent Mishima’s standard policy was “all’s well that ends well”, so he did not interfere. However, Mezu Gen still felt a chill run down his spine when he thought about what would have happened if Uchimaku had not succeeded.
Uchimaku had needlessly caught the attention of someone dangerous.
For once, Mezu Gen actually felt pity for one of his subordinates.
And he was still unable to determine why a monster of that level was giving so much focus to a single detective in a dead end job.
It disturbed him a bit, but it was obvious no answer was forthcoming. He set that problem aside and focused on the job before him.
Whoever it was that had been arrested had been transported to a large police station in Hachiouji, but if it was true that the real Toujou Miyabi had been killed, this would be a job for the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department or even the Public Security Bureau. It would be necessary to prepare a prisoner transport vehicle to bring him here as soon as possible.
Suddenly, the department chief’s cell phone rang.
The number displayed on the screen was that of a familiar subordinate.
However, he heard a completely different voice when he answered.
It was a girl of about ten.
“The real danger is yet to come,” she said.
“…Who is this?”
“I am not protesting your actions. You did the right thing. But that has brought about a problem that we cannot have brought to light. Our world will not allow it. So be on your guard. Be very, very careful that your prisoner transport vehicle does not under any circumstances meet an unforeseen accident before arriving.”
“I see. So you are from that side of things.”
The girl replied with the soft tone of someone explaining the difference between the geocentric model and the heliocentric model to someone who did not understand the structure of the world.
“We exist right alongside you. There is nothing dividing us and there are no restrictions keeping anyone from moving from one side to the other. That is why I am telling you to be careful. Our world is always watching yours. And we are close enough to easily – so very easily – reach out and touch it.”
“So you’re telling me not to get involved?” The department chief gave a derisive snort. “If your side had done your job properly, this never would have happened. Is that what you want me to say?”
“Are you not going to say it?”
“I don’t see it that way. The Japanese police system is not perfect. That is what creates the openings for the likes of you to play at being allies of justice. That’s all this is. This is nothing we should be upset about or anything you should be proud of. It never was and it never will be. Do you understand what I mean, young lady?”
“I see.” Her voice seemed unable to hold something back. “If you have that much determination, we need not worry about leaving this country to you.”
“So to the very end, you’re going to play the part of someone on the side of justice, is that it? And you’re going to look down on me as you do it?”
“Well, I hope you will stick with this game of make believe a little longer, then.”
“What are you trying to say?”
“All the Jinmensou that spread from Tsumada Mio disappeared as soon as the concentrated mass of lies was destroyed by the truth of Detective Uchimaku Hayabusa discovering the real Tsumada Mio. However, one thing remains: the Inugami contained within the body of the man going by the name of Toujou Miyabi. No matter how you restrain him, he will undoubtedly break out of jail as soon as he inevitably regains control of that Youkai.”
“…Are you saying you can do something about that?”
“If possible, we would like to retrieve him, but I doubt you would agree to that. As your reward for resolving this case on your own, I have contacted you instead of our usual contact so that I can tell you the means of neutralizing that Inugami.”
“Control of his Inugami comes from the special bone marrow inserted into his spine. If you burn away that bone marrow with x-rays and transplant some new bone marrow in its place, the Inugami will leave him.”
“Do you know Japanese law? We cannot commit any acts of violence on a restrained suspect. Cutting open his body and exchanging bone marrow is out of the question.”
“But if the suspect’s life is at risk, you have the right to perform an emergency operation at a police hospital without the suspect’s consent. …And the suspect is in a fair bit of danger with his hands missing. What if a detailed examination found another illness needing treatment? Couldn’t that provide enough reason for the operation?”
“…Are you asking us to clean up your mess?”
“I will leave the ultimate decision to you. However, only we have the fluorescent substance that will display only the Inugami bone marrow. If you do not ask for our help, this person going by the name Toujou Miyabi will eventually escape. We will take care of it if that happens, but I can make no promises as to the number of people who will lose their lives before we get there.”
The department chief let out a sigh.
The dignity of the police was important, but he preferred to prioritize the safety of all involved.
And so he gave his answer.
“Send the fluorescent substance here. We will finish this.”
- A Seman or Seman Doman is a type of Japanese magical charm with roots in Onmyoudou.
- Inugami literally means Dog God.
- It’s worth mentioning that the four names Toujou, Houjou, Saijou, and Nanjou are each made with the kanji for one of the four cardinal directions (Tou = East, Hou = North, Sai = West, and Nan = South) and a kanji pronounced “jou”.
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