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Shinrei Tantei Yakumo - Volume 3 - Chapter 2


Published at 14th of March 2016 04:33:09 PM
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Chapter 2

VOLUME 3 - THE LIGHT BEYOND THE DARKNESS


file 02: curse (TRANSLATION NOTES)

-

1

-

‘Old man, you here?’

Gotou opened the door by force .

He found the person he was looking for right away . He was sipping tea at his desk by the wall in the room of about four and a half tatami in size .

He was Hata Hideyoshi, the perverted old man whose job as a coroner was his hobby .

Once Hata looked at Gotou’s face, he let out an ostentatious sigh .

Gotou was surrounded by guys like this . Wasn’t there anyone who was more honest and serious?

Ishii’s face showed up in Gotou’s grumbling mind . He was no good . Though he was serious, there was a problem with his level of it .

After shaking his head, Gotou sat on the round chair opposite Hata .

'What do you need from me this early in the morning? I don’t have the time to babysit you,’ said Hata, a frown on his wrinkled face .

This guy was annoying . Gotou didn’t have the time to drink tea with a demon either .

'There’s something I want you to look into . ’

'If it’s an investigation, make a request through the proper channels . Last time I went in on my own, yes? I got quite a talking to for that . ’

Hata let out a high-pitched giggle that didn’t sound human at all .

We don’t have the time to be laughing . It’s really creepy, so could you stop, you demonic old man –

'But I came all this way because it isn’t a request that I could make through the proper channels . ’

'You like picking up trouble too, don’t you?’

Of course he didn’t pick up trouble because he wanted to .

Restraining his irritation, Gotou put a plastic bag with the mobile phone inside on Hata’s desk . It was their only clue right now .

The blood-stained mobile phone that had been left in Asami’s room .

'What’s this?’

'A mobile phone . ’

'I can tell that by looking . I’m asking what the details behind it are . You really are an idiot . ’

This old man just went and said whatever he liked . Gotou was at the point where he wanted to break his neck, but he didn’t have the time for that now .

'Yesterday, a woman living in an apartment suddenly disappeared . ’

'A disappearance? Then why don’t you just investigate it normally?’

'It’s a bit of a messy situation . ’

'Messy?’

'Yeah . Seems like Ishii had been at the scene too . That woman had been talking on that mobile until right before they got to the room, but the door was locked .

'Meaning…’

'It was a locked room . ’

If he told someone else that somebody had disappeared from a locked room, they’d probably laugh at him, but this old man – just him – was different .

This subject made Hata’s eyes sparkle like a child’s .

'Oh! Then this mobile phone was left at the scene . That is interesting . ’

'Don’t get so happy, old man . It’s indiscreet . ’

'But isn’t it interesting? I rarely see things like this . ’

Hata let out another high-pitched giggle .

'I don’t know anything for sure yet . It could easily be somebody’s trick . ’

'But Ishii-kun was at the scene as well, yes? If it were a trick, Ishii would probably have noticed . ’

'That fool’s like a decoration . He wouldn’t notice even if a murder happened right in front of his eyes . ’

Gotou felt exhausted thinking about that scared face Ishii had .

If Ishii were more reliable, he might have heard a different story, but since he was a fool, he only got information from the reporter Makoto and the exorcist Kamiyama .

He couldn’t know if the information had been distorted .

Gotou remembered the spiritual phenomenon he’d experienced in that room, but he decided not to mention it .

Inconsistent with his occupation, Hata showed an extreme interest in the occult . It might have given him a strange perspective .

'So what is Ishii-kun doing today?’

'i made him wait outside . We have to move on to the next place fast . ’

'I see . I just have to analyse the blood on this mobile phone . ’

'Exactly . This’ll be wrapped up quickly if it isn’t human blood . ’

Hata picked up the plastic bag and looked at it with fish eyes . It felt like he’d stick out a long tongue and eat it if Gotou looked away .

'Well, anyway, that’s all I ask,’ Gotou said finally, and he left the room . Now, after the demonic old man was the monster cat .

-

2

-

'I’m coming in . ’

Gotou opened the door to the <Movie Research Circle> .

Yakumo was sleeping curled up in a corner of the room . He really was like a cat .

'Oi, wake up!’ said Gotou, sitting down and clapping his hands .

Yakumo stirred restlessly . Just his right eye opened to look up at Gotou, but then he closed his eye again right after .

'Oi!’

'Gotou-san, just by waking me up you’ve ruined my entire day,’ said Yakumo, still curled up .

Honestly, was this guy like this right after he woke up too?

'I don’t care – just wake up!’ urged Gotou, repressing his anger .

However, it still didn’t seem like Yakumo was going to get up .

'That’s enough . ’

'I’m still sleepy . You have something to say, correct? Please go ahead – I’ll listen like this . ’

Gotou raised a fist, ready to punch him, but he stopped himself . A hole would open up in his stomach if he tried to deal with Yakumo fair and square .

Well, fine . Yakumo and old man Hata were essentially the same . If he talked a bit about the case, Yakumo should eat it up like a fish caught by bait .

'Hey, Yakumo . There are some mysterious things in this world . ’

'What are you babbling about?’

'Last night, somebody disappeared from a locked room in an apartment . ’

'I thought that you had grown a bit, but I was too naive . ’

'That wasn’t a joke . Somebody really disappeared . There were witnesses too . On top of that, it seems like a ghost made her disappear…’

Yakumo arched up like a zombie .

The monster cat was coming for the bait .

In a better mood, Gotou explained what happened last night in detail, including Kamiyama, the exorcist .

After Gotou finished talking, Yakumo sat down on the chair opposite him, still in a T-shirt and a jersey, while running a hand through his bedhead .

His left eye was naked so his red eye was exposed .

It was really a good thing he hadn’t brought Ishii . He would’ve made a huge fuss again .

'What do you think?’ Gotou asked Yakumo, who was rubbing at his eyes like a cat washing its face .

'I’ve never seen anything like that, at the very least . ’

'It’s the first time for me as well . ’

To be honest, Gotou still didn’t believe it .

The suspicious that he was being tricked hadn’t gone away .

'Under my reasoning, it is impossible for spirits of the dead to make somebody living disappear . ’

'Ghosts are clusters of human emotions and have no physical influence…’ said Gotou, remembering what Yakumo often said .

'Yes, but that reasoning of mine has not be proven scientifically . To put it simply, it is only my guess,’ Yakumo said with a bitter smile .

'So are you saying it’s possible for a ghost to make somebody living disappear?’

'I did not go that far, but it would be wrong to think that what one does not believe does not exist . Even I would change my way of thinking if I were shown definite proof . ’

'I see . ’

There were many things about ghosts that hadn’t been explained yet . Since they could only infer from experiences, it meant there were countless possibilities .

'Well, putting aside whether the phenomenon truly happened, I have met that exorcist before . ’

'W-w-what did you say?’

'Please don’t speak so loudly in the morning,’ Yakumo said, plugging his ears .

'When and where did you meet?’

'Yesterday, when I was investigating the apartment where the ghost I mentioned had appeared . ’

'So what do you think? Do you really see him as an exorcist?’

'I don’t know . Even if he says he can see ghosts, that is a problem of subjectivity since nobody can completely turn into him . ’

'How appropriate . ’

'However, it is a fact that there was a spirit where he said there was one,’ said Yakumo, his brow furrowed . No matter what he said, it seemed like he was concerned . Well, for Yakumo, it’d be weirder if he weren’t .

'Which would mean he’s the same as you . ’

'That would be the case,’ said Yakumo disinterestedly . He let out a huge yawn .

'This isn’t the time to yawn carelessly . ’

'Why not?’

'Well, there’s a guy with the same power as you!’

'And?’

’“And”, you say…’

Unlike Gotou, who was agitated, Yakumo sighed, as if to say 'Honestly’ .

'I mentioned this before, but being able to see the spirits of the dead is just part of my disposition . It is only a little rare . It wouldn’t be strange if there were other people with the same disposition . ’

Now that Yakumo mentioned it, it was just as he said .

It wasn’t like it was certain that Yakumo was the only person in this world who could see the spirits of the dead . Actually, Gotou knew another .

A man with two red eyes . A man who called himself Yakumo’s father .

Though it was true that there were many exorcists who were suspicious, Gotou couldn’t assert that they were all frauds .

'What do you want to do then, Gotou-san?’ Yakumo asked while stretching .

'What do I want to do? I want to find out why somebody disappeared . ’

Seeing Yakumo’s attitude, it made how agitated he had been earlier seem stupid .

'Then just speaking here is pointless . At any rate, the place where – ’

'We’re going,’ Gotou interrupted .

'That will be one favour . ’

Honestly, this guy was only reliable for that .

-

3

-

Ishii was sitting on the white bench right inside the school gates of Meisei University .

He was waiting for Gotou, who had gone to see Yakumo .

The truth was he should have gone with him . However, Ishii didn’t know how to deal with Yakumo . No, 'didn’t know how to deal with’ wasn’t the right phrase . To be honest, he was scared of him . He didn’t want to have anything to do with him if possible .

However, they definitely needed Yakumo’s help for this case .

The event from last night replayed in his head .

No matter how many times he simulated it, he didn’t find anything unnatural .

Somebody disappeared from a locked room in front of everyone . He remembered a horror movie he had watched before . A vengeful ghost dragging person after person into the dark . How terrible . He could be next .

Ishii felt something run past him .

'Ah, could it be Ishii-san?’

Haruka stood in front of Ishii, who had turned around at the voice .

'H-H-Haruka-chan . ’

'It’s been a while . ’

Haruka bowed her head with a smile .

She matched her denim miniskirt with a pink camisole . It was a summery and refreshing outfit .

Ishii was captivated by the nape of her neck, which shimmered with a faint layer of sweat .

'What is it?’

'No, it’s nothing . ’

His face red, Ishii hurriedly turned his gaze to his feet .

'Why are you here today?’ Haruka said, sitting across from Ishii . Ishii’s neck snapped around in his nervousness .

A refreshing citrus aroma tickled his nose .

'Ah, I, um, Detective Gotou asked, that Yakumo-shi, er…’

'There was some incident then . So he went to see Yakumo-kun . ’

Haruka leant forward a bit and looked at Ishii’s face .

Ah, that wasn’t good . Haruka-chan . She was too defenceless . With that posture, he would be able to see her undergarments .

'Yes, well . That’s right . ’

Ishii, who didn’t know where to look, pointlessly looked up at the sky .

'Aren’t you going to go, Ishii-san?’

It hurt to have her say that .

'Er, I, um…’

'Could it be that you’re afraid of Yakumo-kun?’

'No, er…’

He was lost for words since she had hit the bull’s-eye .

'Could it be that you really are afraid?’ said Haruka, like she thought it was unexpected .

It wasn’t really unexpected . It would be stranger if Ishii could connect to him normally .

'Haruka-chan, er, aren’t you afraid?’

'Of Yakumo-kun?’

'Yes . ’

Haruka stared afar, like she was thinking about something .

If Ishii had to say, her young face, for that moment, looked like an adult’s .

'Nope . I’ve never felt afraid of him . ’

'I-is that so?’

'Though there’ve been many times I thought he would hit me,’ Haruka said, raising her right hand in a fist to imitate him .

Just as I thought, Yakumo habitually torments Haruka-chan . That’s –

'That’s unforgiveable . I will defeat your enemy, Haruka-chan,’ said Ishii, standing up in his irritation .

For a second, Haruka looked blank, and then she suddenly covered her mouth and started laughing .

'Ishii-san, you’re interesting . ’

Ishii didn’t understand what was interesting .

'Interesting, is it?’

'Sorry . It’s rude to say something like that . ’

'No, not at all . That’s not what I…’

The atmosphere had become somewhat awkward .

He really didn’t understand women’s thoughts . Ishii’s shoulders drooped like he had withered and he sat back down on the bench .

'Ishii-san, I think that you’ve definitely misunderstood Yakumo-kun . ’

Haruka suddenly started speaking . Though she was smiling, the tone of her voice was firm and serious .

'Misunderstood… him?’

'Yes . Because of that ability, Yakumo-kun has suffered in a way we could never understand, and that has made him like a misanthrope . ’

'Eh . ’

Ishii had felt that too .

In front of Yakumo, there was a wall that stopped other people from getting near him . Without showing his heart to anyone, he observed others from the outside .

'But… for this reason, he’s straightforward and can be very kind . ’

Kind? Him?

It was difficult for Ishii to believe what Haruka was saying when he still doubted whether Yakumo even had feelings .

Rather, Haruka was much kinder for defending him even though he treated him that way .

'Is that how it is?’

'But since he isn’t honest, he behaved that way . When you become used to it, unexpectedly, he has his cute points . ’

Haruka smiled happily .

Ishii didn’t understand even one millimetre of Yakumo’s cuteness, but at least he understood very well how cute Haruka’s smiling face was .

'What are you grinning about? It’s creepy . ’

Gotou’s fist came down on Ishii’s crown in his happiness .

’D-Detective Gotou . ’

Ishii stood up instinctively .

Yakumo was behind Gotou as well . He had sleepy eyes as usual, and Ishii couldn’t understand what he was thinking at all .

No matter what Haruka said about his being kind, Yakumo was a mystery to Ishii .

'Gotou-san, it’s been a while . ’

Haruka stood up and bowed her head .

'Oh, it’s Haruka-chan . So that’s why Ishii was grinning . ’

'No, I wasn’t really…’

Ishii made an excuse, but he shut up at Gotou’s glare .

'Did you bring trouble for Yakumo-kun again?’

Haruka said that sulkily and with a pout .

That expression was cute too . Ishii couldn’t help but grin a little again .

'You can’t really talk about other people . ’

'Please don’t put me together with you, since I have no trouble this time . ’

Haruka puffed her chest in pride .

'Ah, that so?’

Gotou snorted and then let his cigarette .

'Ah, Gotou-san . Smoking is forbidden on the school premises . ’

'You’re too fussy . You’re becoming more and more like Yakumo . You won’t be able to become a bride . ’

Gotou left that sharp parting remark and walked away briskly . Yakumo sighed and then followed him .

'Ah, wait, Yakumo-kun . Are you going to go?’

'Yeah . ’

Yakumo replied flatly to Haruka’s question .

'About what you requested…’

'How was it?’

'It was just as you expected, Yakumo-kun . ’

Haruka gave a proud thumbs up .

Yakumo looked like he was thinking for a while, but he finally raised an eyebrow like he had thought of something .

'There’s something else I’d like you to look into . ’

After walking over to Haruka, Yakumo brought his face close to hers and talked to her quietly .

What on earth was he saying? Ishii indirectly approached them and strained his ears .

'Eh, that’s impossible . ’

When the explanation was finished, Haruka objected loudly, but Yakumo continued talking like he didn’t care .

'The address is in the documents in my room, so pick it up from there . ’

'Like I said, it’s impossible for me . ’

'Don’t think about it too hard . You just have to go take a look . ’

'But what will I do if I get caught?’

'You can just say sorry and run away . ’

'That’s…’

Yakumo ignored Haruka’s anxious expression and clapped a hand lightly on her shoulder, saying, 'I’m counting on you,’ and then he walked after Gotou .

– What on earth did he ask her to do?

Ishii wanted to know . Led by that impulse, Ishii tried to call out to Haruka .

'Ishii! We’re going!’

Gotou’s angry voice echoed from far away .

Ishii wasn’t sure which to prioritise, but he didn’t have enough courage to speak to Haruka so he followed Gotou’s instruction and started running .

He fell –

-

4

-

In order to change her mood, Makoto put aside her work and went to the lavatory .

Though there was a mountain of things she had to do, like checking manuscripts, the event from last night kept replaying in her head so she couldn’t concentrate .

She sighed, looking at her reflection in the mirror about the sink .

Where did Asami go –

If somebody abducted her, how did they take Asami out of the locked room?

Did she really get taken away by a ghost like Kamiyama said?

She didn’t understand anything .

She wanted to find Asami as quickly as she could, but right now all she could do was entrust the investigation to Gotou and Ishii .

She was irritated at herself for not being able to do anything during her friend’s crisis .

After sighing countless times, something suddenly passed behind her .

A chill went down her spine .

It wasn’t as if she had seen it clearly, but she had felt it .

Makoto stopped breathing and timidly turned around, but there was nobody there . She had merely been mistaken .

Her nerves might have been oversensitive .

Makoto let out her breath and looked at the mirror again when her mobile phone rang . Though the number was withheld, Makoto hurriedly answered, thinking, 'Could it be?’

'Hello . ’

She heard a noise that sounded like rain from the receiver .

'Hello . Asami?’

Makoto called out, but there was no reply .

However, she felt someone on the other end .

'Hey, who is this? Respond…’

Makoto called out again, but she was interrupted by a groan from the receiver .

She couldn’t tell whether the voice belonged to a man or a woman .

An ominous voice that sounded like it was struggling with pain –

’…Who is this?’

Though she was shaking in a strange terror, Makoto called out towards the phone .

<Diiiiiieeeeee . >

The hoarse voice jolted her eardrums .

She could clearly tell this time . That was a woman’s voice .

Makoto threw her mobile phone in her surplus of emotions . It fell onto the tiled floor .

Her heart was beating so furiously it felt like it would burst out of her chest, and she was covered in a cold sweat .

Makoto crouched . Though she wanted to run away, she couldn’t move for a while .

How much time had passed? Her mobile phone was ringing again .

A paralysing fear ran through her body .

Makoto timidly took her mobile phone from the floor . The number displayed on the monitor was that of the exorcist Kamiyama .

– He might have found something out .

Makoto wiped away her cold sweat and answered the phone .

'Hello?’

<My name is Kamiyama . Do you mind my calling your mobile phone, Makoto-san?>

She could hear Kamiyama’s characteristic calm voice .

'Not at all . ’

A request –

'For me?’

<Yes . You mentioned that the first time there was a spiritual phenomenon, it was at a bar . >

'Yes, that’s correct . ’

<Would it be possible to gather the members who had been at the scene then?>

Since she had exchanged email addresses with Shinichi then, she would be able to contact him . She could just have him talk to Yuuya .

'I think it’d be fine . ’

<If we solve the mystery of the spiritual phenomenon, we will be able to save Asami-san . >

Kamiyama’s voice was filled with confidence .

-

5

-

Gotou looked up at the apartment Asami had disappeared from with a cigarette in his mouth .

Since something like that had happened, to him, it looked like there was a heavy atmosphere hanging over only the building and its surroundings .

Next to him, Yakumo was looking up at the apartment in the same way .

There was no way for Gotou to know if anything was reflected in those eyes, which were narrowed like they were looking at something bright .

'You see anything?’

'The sky and the clouds,’ Yakumo replied bluntly .

'I know that even without you telling me . ’

'Then please don’t ask . ’

As usual, only his mouth was skilful . He had completely sidestepped the point of his question .

Gotou clicked his tongue and turned around to see that Ishii already had tears in his eyes from fright .

Honestly, what a useless guy . There was no way for a person to disappear anyway .

'So this really isn’t some sort of prank?’

Gotou looked to Yakumo for agreement .

'If that were the case, Makoto-san, the reporter, and Ishii-san as well would be complicit . ’

It was just as Yakumo said . Ishii and Makoto had been there . At the present stage, that was what it would mean .

Putting Makoto aside, Ishii isn’t the sort of guy who’d do that . But –

'The medium might’ve planned it . ’

'At this point, he does not have a motive . ’

'Well there’s that . Obviously he’d get some money with fraudulent exorcism . ’

Gotou said the first thing that came to mind .

'It would have been different if he had saved her in the nick of time, but currently he would become the exorcist who failed to exorcise the spirit and let a woman be taken away by a vengeful spirit . ’

It really was just as Yakumo said .

It would be unnatural to bring about his own failure on purpose . The best method would have been to save Asami just as she was about to be taken away, if he had wanted to trick them .

'The location is nearby,’ Yakumo muttered .

'The location?’

'Yes . The apartment with Rika-san’s ghost is nearby . ’

'You saying there’s a connection?’

'I don’t know . I just said that it was nearby . ’

'You’re quibbling…’

'Incidentally, Ishii-san, that exorcist came to this apartment before Asami-san disappeared, yes?’

Yakumo ignored Gotou’s objection and turned the conversation to Ishii .

'Ah, yes . He mentioned that . He came by that evening, but he thought it was a wandering spirit since there was nothing there…’

Ishii responded stiffly, as if he were talking to the chief of the police or something .

What was he getting so nervous for talking to a university student? He should hurry up and get used to him . Gotou restrained his feelings of wanting to hit Ishii .

'Perhaps he reached the same conclusion as I did,’ said Yakumo, narrowing his eyes a little .

The same conclusion –

'What do you mean?’

'There is no spirit here . ’

Yakumo gave a firm response to Gotou’s question .

'Then you’re saying that exorcist called Kamiyama is the real deal?’

'Why are you so hasty in jumping to conclusions?’ Yakumo complained, and then he stood in front of the automatic door with the auto-lock .

'If you’d just let me say – ’

Gotou was riled up, but Yakumo was not concerned at all .

'Please hurry and open the door,’ Yakumo said with a yawn .

Gotou opened the door with the key he had borrowed from management the night before and took the elevator right by the entrance .

Yakumo and Ishii followed after him .

They went up to the ninth floor silently and went along the long and narrow corridor to stand in front of Asami’s room .

'I’m opening the door,’ Gotou said, and he opened the door .

Hot air rushed out from the room at his face, but he took off his shoes at the entrance and stepped inside the room .

Yakumo, who came into the room afterwards, walked about the room while running a hand through his messy hair .

Gotou sat cross-legged in the centre of the room and followed Yakumo’s movements with his eyes .

A square space of eight tatami in size . There was a bed, a sideboard and a television on the wooden floor – a normal room that could be found anywhere .

Since it was rented, it didn’t seem like there would be any secret passageways .

'Nothing stands out . ’

Yakumo gave up after a while and sat with his legs stretched out across from Gotou .

'No good?’

'It’s no good . ’

Yakumo’s brow was furrowed, and he ran his hand through his hair in his irritation .

'Damn, what’s happening…’

'That’s right . Ishii-san . ’

Yakumo turned around and called out, cutting short Gotou’s grumbling .

Gotou turned to look for Ishii too, but he wasn’t there .

'But he was here just a moment ago . ’

Yakumo cocked his head in curiosity . That guy probably left the room in his terror .

'Oi! Ishii!’ yelled Gotou towards the entrance . At the same time, there was the sound of footsteps on the floor, and then Ishii peeked in .

'W-were you calling me?’

'Don’t say “Were you calling me?”, you fool!’

'Y-yes sir . ’

Ishii straightened his spine so he was standing still and straight .

After shaking his head like he didn’t know what to do with the two of them, he said, 'When you came into this room, Ishii-san, the door was locked, correct?’

'Y-yes . The door to the entrance and the window connected to the veranda were all locked . ’

'And the door chain?’

'It wasn’t on . ’

'Did you find Asami’s key?’

'Yes . It was on the table…’

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'Nobody left the room . ’

'That’s correct . At that time, there were three people in the room, just like now . I think it would have been difficult for somebody to leave the room without our noticing . ’

Perhaps Yakumo might have thought that somebody had been hiding in the room and then escaped afterwards, but it was impossible in that situation .

It really was a locked room .

Yakumo put his finger to his brow . The expression in his eyes changed .

'So it really is like that… but then she… am I wrong…’

He kept murmuring to himself .

'Did you realise something?’

'No, not at all . ’

Yakumo shrugged dramatically at Gotou’s question .

'Don’t lie! Didn’t you just say “So it really is like that”?’

Though Gotou drew closer to him, Yakumo didn’t move . He put his fingers in his ears to complain about the noise .

'You’ll annoy the neighbours . ’

'It’s your fault for not talking properly . ’

'I have no proof . ’

'Just tell me the theory . ’

'What came to my mind is only a possibility . If we head forward recklessly, we will be misled like with the last case . ’

Gotou couldn’t deny that .

There was nothing more dangerous for a case than having preconceptions . If they didn’t look at all the possibilities, the carpet could be pulled out from underneath them .

But –

'What are you planning to do?’

'There isn’t anything to do but continue to straightforwardly investigate all areas, is there?’ Yakumo said with a yawn .

Well, it wouldn’t be as convenient as solving the case just from seeing the apartment . He wasn’t that discouraged, but he was still heavy-hearted .

'No going about it – I’ll reconsider everyone involved . Yakumo, you help too . ’

'I would rather not . ’

An immediate reply . Even if he was going to refuse, there had to be a better way to put it .

'Aren’t you curious?’

'I am curious, but I’m busy . ’

'Busy? All you do is sleep,’ Gotou complained, a cigarette in his mouth .

'Honestly, have you already forgotten?’

Yakumo took the cigarette in Gotou’s mouth and handed it to Ishii .

'Forgotten what?’

'I have another case . ’

That’s right –

The ghost of Sawaguchi Rika, who had committed suicide . Though Gotou hadn’t been the one to make the request, he couldn’t say he was unrelated .

Damn . This was really becoming troublesome .

-

6

-

'Honestly, he just does whatever he wants . ’

Haruka walked down the road by the railroad as she looked at a memo .

Though she was half-hearted, she was following Yakumo’s instructions and going to meet the father of the woman called Sawaguchi Rika, who had committed suicide .

A train roared past, bringing a wave of hot air with it .

Yakumo had asked her to go talk to him while pretending to be a friend, but would she be able to do it well? She wasn’t proud of it, but she wasn’t the type of person who could adlib .

While dissatisfied at Yakumo, Haruka reached the place she was aiming for .

An old two-storey apartment made of wood . Sawaguchi Rika’s father lived in the corner room on the first floor .

Haruka kept looking back at the memo to make sure she hadn’t gotten the address wrong .

There’d be no problem if she acted naturally . She was just going to ask him a few questions .

Plus, she always caused trouble for Yakumo, so she should help out every once in a while .

'OK!’

Haruka gathered her determination and pressed the buzzer at the entrance with a trembling finger .

After waiting for a while, the door opened, and an old man with white stubble appeared .

He had an extremely stubborn-looking face and there were deep wrinkles on his forehead .

'U-um, is this Sawaguchi-san’s home?’

He nodded without saying anything .

'Ah, h-hello . My name is Ozawa Haruka . I was Rika-san’s friend . I was in the area so I wanted to put out incense for her… . ’

He stared at Haruka with a sharp gaze, and Haruka’s words fizzled out under that pressure .

– Yakumo, this is really bad .

Haruka restrained the impulse to run away deep into her heart .

After looking at Haruka like he was evaluating her, he clicked his tongue .

She really had been found out . The feeling of wanting to give up spread through Haruka .

However, he kept the door open and turned away from Haruka to walk inside .

Did that mean he wanted her to come in?

'You’re putting out incense, right?’

While Haruka was hesitating, she heard his voice from the back of the room .

'Please excuse me . I’m coming in . ’

Haruka went into the entrance after bowing, passed through the corridor and stepped into the tatami room at the back .

The room was six tatami in size with a Buddhist altar in it .

There were two tablets . One was Rika’s . The other was Rika’s dead mother’s .

There were white chrysanthemum flowers and manjuu[1] at the altar . It was well maintained .

Haruka felt bad for lying but she knelt in front of the altar .

There was a photo of a smiling woman .

She’s Sawaguchi Rika –

She had a smart and firm look, a cheerful and bright woman . That was the impression Haruka got .

When the photo had been taken, the woman probably had no idea what the future had in store for her .

That collapsed for her in an instant .

When Haruka thought about that, it made it hard to breath .

'What did you really come here to do?’

He said that while sitting cross-legged to Haruka, who had finished placing the incense and praying .

'Eh?’

Haruka couldn’t find the words to reply in her surprise . She really couldn’t do adlib .

'You’re not Rika’s friend, right?’

'Why… do you think that?’

'You’re too young to be her friend . If she were alive, she’d already be twenty-seven . ’

Now that he mentioned it, it was true . Haruka looked for an excuse, but she couldn’t find one . Plus, she had a question . If he knew she wasn’t a friend –

'Why…’

Why did he let Haruka into his home?

Haruka spoke, though she thought she would be crushed by her anxiety .

'You’re too nervous . I felt like Rika told me to let you in . ’

His eyes narrowed and a sad expression appeared on his face .

She wasn’t sure if he would believe her, but she couldn’t lie to him . Haruka prepared herself to tell the truth .

'I am not acquainted with Rika-san . I’m really sorry for lying . ’

She thought he would be angry, but she was wrong .

He looked at Haruka’s eyes silently . It seemed like he was waiting for her to continue .

Haruka took a deep breath and then started explaining the events that had brought her here .

Rika-san’s ghost was still wandering at the apartment .

If possible, she wanted to set her free, but she needed to find out why she died in order to do that .

She wanted him to tell her what he knew – anything was fine . If she had left anything behind, she wanted him to show her .

She didn’t think she explained it well like Yakumo, but she did the best she could .

'That’s ridiculous . ’

When Haruka finished her explanation, he spat that out .

As she expected, it was no good .

Her feelings sank like she had fallen into a bottomless swamp –

'I had an older twin sister . ’

Those words spilled out of Haruka’s mouth unconsciously .

Haruka herself didn’t understand why she had suddenly started talking about this . Though she felt doubtful, she couldn’t stop .

'But she died in an accident… I thought my sister might have resented me, so I’ve always been suffering . But recently, I finally found out my sister’s true feelings . You might wonder what this has to do anything . But even though the dead won’t come back, don’t you want to know the feelings the left behind?’

His lips were in a thin line and he didn’t reply .

'Perhaps your daughter – Rika-san – didn’t commit suicide . ’

Haruka said the last bit like she was clearing out something that had been caught in her chest .

At first, she had been an outsider who was cooperating with Yakumo’s request, but at some point, she had empathised with Rika and really hoped that they would find out the truth .

'I want to know the truth, but how would someone like you that I don’t know anything about find out what I couldn’t for five years?’

'I can’t guarantee it . ’

He snorted at Haruka’s reply like he had been made a fool of .

'Why are you doing something like this in the first place when it won’t do you any good?’

Haruka couldn’t reply . There would be no point in saying something hypocritical like 'I want to save her’ even if those were her true feelings .

'This is pointless,’ he said, refusing her bluntly, and stood up to leave the room .

My explanation really was no good –

It’d be fine if it was just her who was depressed, but she might have hurt him .

Haruka bit her lips to keep in the feelings building up inside her .

'Oi . ’

She looked up at the voice to see him standing there, when he had just left . He had a notebook with a red cover in his hand .

'Take it,’ he said curtly, and he held the notebook out towards Haruka .

Haruka accepted it, though she didn’t understand what was going on .

'What is this?’

'Rika’s diary . ’

'Why are you giving me something so important?’

'I still don’t believe that Rika killed herself . Something horrible did happen to her, but Rika reported it to the police and was trying to get past it . Rika was so stout-hearted . She wouldn’t…’

His eyes were red, and he covered his face as he rubbed at his nose .

His feelings pierced through Haruka’s chest .

'I still think that Rika was killed – she didn’t kill herself, though the police didn’t believe me . Rika was a strong daughter . You’re the first person who’s told me that Rika didn’t kill herself . That’s why…’

His hoarse voice trailed off .

However, she understood even without hearing it . That’s why he was giving the diary to Haruka .

He had probably tried countless times to find out the truth behind the incident .

But he couldn’t do it . He still hadn’t given up now, after five years .

She was somebody he’d just met who might not know anything, but he saw a slight hope there .

'Please allow me to borrow this . ’

Haruka stood up, bowed her head deeply and left the room .

-

7

-

After splitting up with Yakumo, Gotou first called Hata .

He wanted to know the results of the mobile phone’s bloodstain analysis .

<I thought you’d be contacting me soon . Since you’re impatient . >

After answering the call, Hata let out a strange giggle .

That was creepy . Demonic old man .

'So how was it?’

<That was genuine human blood . >

'W-what did you say…’

For Gotou, who had been hoping somewhere in his heart that the disappearance of the woman called Asami had been a prank, those were analysis results that denied it .

<Blood type O . Is that the same as the woman who disappeared?>

'Yeah . ’

He felt dizzy as he replied .

<Though it’ll take some time, should I do a DNA test?>

'Yeah, thanks,’ Gotou said weakly, and he hung up the phone .

'Oi, Ishii . What do you think?’

Even though Gotou thought there was no point, he asked that question to Ishii in the driver’s seat .

Like he had been waiting for that, Ishii’s face lit up like a puppy’s before it got a treat .

'I think that she was whisked off to the spirit world by the vengeful ghost’s strong spiritual power . ’

'Hah?’

'The spirit world . Where people who have died go . The world after death . ’

'You know . ’

'In the past, there have been people who have gone to the spirit world temporarily while they were living . The gate that connects this world and that world is distorted somehow…’

What the hell is the spirit world? He should say something more convincing .

So, what to do now –

Gotou mulled over his thoughts while lighting his cigarette .

The beginning of this case was a get-together at a bar . Maybe he’d gather the members that had been there and talk to them .

Gotou called Makoto’s mobile phone the moment that came to his mind .

<Hello, this is Hijikata . >

After a few rings, Makoto answered the phone .

'It’s Gotou . You free now?’

<Actually, I was just thinking of calling you, Detective Gotou . >

Makoto’s tone was hurried .

If she was thinking of contacting me herself –

'Did something happen?’

<Kamiyama-san just called me, actually . >

'That exorcist?’

Gotou thought of the exorcist, black from head to toe .

Was he really the real thing? Gotou hadn’t arrived at that answer yet .

<Yes . He asked me to gather all the related parties in order to investigate the spiritual phenomenon . >

He can’t be thinking of doing the same thing –

'So what are you going to do?’

<I have contacted them to arrange a good time . If possible, Detective Gotou, I would appreciate it if you came as well…>

He had planned on going even if she hadn’t asked .

'Time and place?’

<It has been decided that we will meet at eight this evening in the bar . I will email you the address afterwards . >

'Thanks . ’

Gotou spat out his cigarette and hung up .

If Kamiyama was there too, he had to call Yakumo again to have him check the situation .

Gotou called Yakumo’s number from his mobile .

-

8

-

Haruka tottered along while looking at her fingernails .

Though she’d gotten a big lead, that didn’t mean she was in high spirits .

Can we really find out the reason why Rika’s ghost is still wandering?

This diary is too heavy for me –

'You’ll fall if you walk like that . ’

Haruka stopped at the voice .

She didn’t need to check . That voice and that tone – it was Yakumo . Yakumo stood in front of Haruka . She hadn’t noticed his arrival .

'Are you already done with what Gotou-san asked?’

'I thought it’d be dangerous with you by yourself . I came to check on you . ’

Yakumo yawned .

'That so . ’

'Well, with you looking like that, it seems like you were turned away . ’

With a bitter smile, Yakumo ran his fingers through his messy hair .

She would normally get angry, but she didn’t feel like it right now .

Haruka handed the diary to Yakumo silently .

'What’s this?’

Yakumo was surprised – a first .

'Rika-san’s diary . ’

'I see…’ Yakumo murmured as he took the diary .

The face of Rika’s father came up in Haruka’s head .

He still hadn’t accepted his daughter’s death after five years .

Following that image, her mother’s crying face on the day of her twin sister’s death came up .

'Rika-san’s father said his daughter didn’t commit suicide… but nobody believed him…’

'Does he have any basis for saying that it isn’t a suicide?’ Yakumo said disinterestedly .

Haruka felt incredibly angry . It wasn’t about basis or proof .

'That’s not it!’ she yelled, forgetting that she was at the side of a road .

'Rika-san’s father has been suffering by himself for so long… so…’

Haruka didn’t even know what she wanted to say herself .

Yakumo said something, but it was drowned out by the roar of the passing train and didn’t reach Haruka’s ears .

'I…’

Tears fell from Haruka’s ears .

Why was she crying? She didn’t know . She didn’t know, but she couldn’t clear away the tight feeling in her chest or the feeling that a hole had opened up inside of her .

'My bad . ’

Yakumo said that gently, completely different from how he usually spoke . He drew Haruka close so her head rested against his chest .

Her legs shook at the unexpected action .

'Yakumo-kun…’

'I gave you a tough time . ’

She heard Yakumo’s voice close to her ear .

Though he normally wasn’t honest at all, the warmth of this contrary person slowly spread to her very core .

Haruka surrendered herself to that warmth and cried with all her heart .

-

9

-

Ishii parked his car in a coin-operated parking space .

He saw the entrance to Bar <Snake>, where the incident had begun, about ten metres ahead of him .

The neon sign with its red letters and black snake design gave an uncanny glow .

Gotou, in the passenger seat, tried to contact Yakumo countless times, but it seemed that he hadn’t been able to reach him .

Even though Ishii didn’t know how to deal with Yakumo, he had hoped that he would be with them this time . While he was a mystery to him, even Ishii understood that Yakumo’s insight and ability to see the spirits of the dead were indispensible to solving this case .

'That guy, running off at the crucial moment… well, fine . We’re going,’ Gotou said, glancing at his wristwatch .

'Er… do I really have to go?’

'Of course you do, idiot . ’

Gotou’s fist came down on Ishii’s head .

Of course I do –

'Don’t dawdle . ’

Gotou got off the car with a cigarette in his mouth .

'Y-yes sir . ’

Ishii followed after him immediately .

There was nothing he could do this time . He would just be a hindrance . He had to be useful, even if just a little bit .

Ishii had gathered his emotions and started walking, but with timing like a surprise attack, something hit his shoulder from behind .

'Aaagh!’

He shrieked in his surprise .

When he turned around, he saw Kamiyama standing there .

When he stood in the dim lighting with his black suit, it was uncanny how only his chiselled features stood out .

'So you came as well, detectives . ’

'Ah, well…’

Before Ishii could finish his vague reply, Gotou cut in .

'We’re keeping watch to make sure you don’t pull any tricks,’ Gotou threatened, glaring at Kamiyama .

However, Kamiyama just accepted it with a smile .

'I won’t pull any tricks . I don’t have any expensive items to sell either . ’

Just as he said, Kamiyama’s hands were empty .

Conversely, that made Ishii anxious .

'What’s your reason for sticking your neck in if you’re not selling stuff?’ Gotou asked, lighting his cigarette .

'At the first stage, I misunderstood the situation . Because of that, this is what the situation has become . Since I feel responsible, I would like to solve this case if I can . That’s all . ’

'I hope that’s the truth . ’

Gotou said that and then briskly went down the stairs that led to the bar in the basement .

'I wonder if he dislikes me . ’

Kamiyama smiled self-derisively .

'Er, is this really OK?’ Ishii asked, turning his anxiety towards Kamiyama .

'What are you talking about?’

'If you’re going to be exorcising the spirit, won’t you need tools?’

'I said this before as well, but I can see the spirits of the dead . If anything, that is my tool . ’

Kamiyama, looking full of confidence, followed Gotou down the stairs to the bar .

Please don’t leave me by myself –

Ishii followed the two of them down the stairs .

-

10

-

While Haruka boiled water in the kitchen, she looked at the six-tatami room . Even though she should have been used to her own flat, she felt a strange sense of discomfort . The reason for that was the person who was sitting while leaning against the bed – Yakumo .

He was flipping through the pages of the diary with a serious gaze .

Now that she thought more about it, they had known each other for more than half a year, but it was the first time that Yakumo had come into her room .

That made her a bit nervous .

Haruka took out two mugs, made hot cocoa for two and carried the mugs to her room .

'What is this?’

'Hot cocoa . ’

'Even though it’s swelteringly hot?’ said Yakumo with a sigh .

He wasn’t cute at all . Haruka returned to the kitchen without saying anything, took out ice from the fridge and threw a large amount into Yakumo’s mug .

'Iced cocoa . ’

Yakumo scowled and drank the cocoa .

Afterwards, he let out an 'Oh!’ in surprise and stared at his mug . She thought he was going to say something, but he just flipped through the diary pages and immersed himself in his task .

Does it taste good? Bad? Say something –

Haruka washed down her dissatisfaction with cocoa and sat on the cushion opposite Yakumo .

Then, she remembered how she had buried her head in Yakumo’s chest and cried earlier, and she went red all the way to her ears .

Though it had been embarrassing, at the same time, she had felt an enveloping warmth .

Did Yakumo think nothing of it at all?

Interrupting Haruka’s thoughts, Yakumo’s mobile phone started vibrating on the table .

'Your mobile’s ringing . ’

'It’s Gotou-san . ’

Yakumo didn’t look away from the diary .

'Is it OK for you not to answer?’

'It’s fine . That person should think by himself a bit more . ’

'That’s strict of you . ’

'That is a difference in opinion . This is also a form of kindness . ’

That was a nice way of putting it .

After the mobile stopped vibrating, Yakumo stopped flipping the pages of the diary .

It seemed that he had found something .

Haruka peeked at it as well from the side . Rather than words, there was a design of a cross with something like a black cord coiled around it .

'What’s this?’

'Who knows,’ Yakumo said, running his fingers through his hair .

'I wonder if it has anything to do with her suicide . ’

'I don’t know, but it seems like it is related to the assault . ’

'Why?’

'This date . It’s the day she was assaulted . ’

Yakumo pointed at the date written in the diary .

However, even if it seemed to be related at the current stage, they didn’t know what it meant .

Yakumo started flipping through the pages of the diary again . Haruka silently watched Yakumo .

With the page that the design was drawn on as a boundary, Yakumo’s expression became more suspicious . The contents of the diary had probably made an about-face after that date . Regardless of the actual person’s hopes and intentions, her life had changed .

Every day had probably been painful and difficult .

She felt a tight feeling in her abdomen just from imagining it, but that still was not even a fragment of the pain of a woman who had actually experienced it .

Even though the crime left such great injuries on its victims, the penalty imposed on the assailants was only a three-year sentence . If it was the first offence, there was a high chance that they would get a suspended sentence, which was equivalent to essentially nothing .

Finally, Yakumo took a deep breath and shut the diary .

Even Yakumo looked exhausted . He pinched his brow with his fingers and appeared to be thinking about something, but he suddenly looked up like he had thought of something .

'There’s something I’d like to ask you to do,’ Yakumo said with his eyes narrowed .

Eh, again –

Haruka readied herself . Since she had been helped so many times before, she didn’t mind helping out some, but she would like to hold back from something as difficult as the request Yakumo had made earlier .

'Don’t look so worried . It’s not anything difficult . ’

It wasn’t something she could believe so easily .

'Really?’

'However, it’s slightly troublesome but simple work . ’

Her sad nature as a woman was not being able to clearly refuse .

-

11

-

Gotou crossed his arms at the entrance of the bar and looked around .

Makoto, Shinichi and Yuuya, who had been at the scene, were sitting at the same table they had been that night, and the bartender was behind the counter, just as he had been .

Ishii, who looked like he couldn’t find a place for himself, was walking about nervously with shrugged shoulders .

In the centre of the bar stood Kamiyama .

It felt like he was going to put on a show .

'Now . ’

Kamiyama clapped his hands together loudly and started speaking .

'Yesterday, everyone experienced a spiritual phenomenon here . Is that correct?’

Nobody replied to his question . However, Kamiyama didn’t appear to pay any attention to that and continued speaking .

'I believe you may already know, but Asami-san’s whereabouts became unknown last night . Suddenly, from a locked room…’

Kamiyama slowly started walking towards the table where the three of them sat .

Makoto’s face was pale, and she stared at him without moving . Shinichi was smoking with an unpleasant expression on his face, while Yuuya was tapping his foot like he couldn’t calm down .

After a beat, Kamiyama said, 'She disappeared . ’

'She disappeared? There’s no way something as stupid as that happened . ’

In his irritation, Shinichi put out his cigarette in the ashtray .

'No, this isn’t a lie . This is the work of a strong vengeful spirit . There are witnesses as well . Isn’t that right, Mr Detective?’

Kamiyama looked at Ishii sharply .

Ishii froze like his hands and feet had been bound, and he moved his lips like a fish, incapable of making a response .

'Asami did disappear from the room, but…’

Makoto answered for Ishii .

'I-is that true?’ asked the bartender from behind the counter, leaning forward as he did so .

'A woman did disappear, but that’s all . I don’t remember the police ever saying that a vengeful spirit did it!’

If he left the situation as it was, they would all be caught up in Kamiyama’s mood .

Gotou spoke wildly .

'In your position, Detective Gotou, you cannot help but say that, I see . ’

Kamiyama’s smile was provocative .

It was infuriating, but Gotou closed his mouth, since he felt he would just get more caught up in Kamiyama’s words the more he objected .

'I will continue talking then . Regardless of the opinion of the police, I believe that Asami-san’s disappearance was the work of a vengeful spirit . Accordingly, I think it may be related to the spiritual phenomenon that you all experienced here . ’

Kamiyama looked around at the faces of the people in the bar .

Everyone turned their eyes away from Kamiyama . There was an unpleasant silence .

'What do you want to say?’

Gotou cut in, unable to stand it .

'If my thinking is correct, everyone is in terrible danger . ’

The bar grew noisy at Kamiyama’s words .

'This is just tasteless fraud, isn’t it?’

Shinichi’s language was harsh as he glared at Kamiyama .

'I have no intention of doing such . ’



'You can’t be counted on . Nobody would honestly say they were going to . ’

Shinichi’s complaint was natural . Nobody would reply 'Yes, I am’ if asked 'Are you a fraud?’ .

'Well, it isn’t to be unexpected that you will not believe me . However, it is the truth . ’

'Ridiculous,’ Shinichi muttered .

Kamiyama accepted those words with a bitter smile .

'There is one thing I would like to ask everyone . Could it be that strange phenomena have already started happening around you?’

At Kamiyama’s words, everyone started rustling .

'Something has happened, has it not?’

Kamiyama looked to the bartender, Makoto and Shinichi . Then, he looked to Yuuya, the youngest –

'A w-w-woman…’

Yuuya spoke, his gaze desperate .

'Shut it . ’

Shinichi interrupted Yuuya without a moment’s delay .

However, Yuuya couldn’t stop now that he had opened his mouth .

'That woman was in my room and looked at me… “You die too!” That’s what she said…’

At the same time as he finished speaking, Yuuya held his head in his hands and let it hit the table .

'Um, actually I also got a call on my mobile phone today from an unknown number, and the person said, “Die . ”’

Makoto spoke up to add to what Yuuya said .

'Er, I also heard the same words everyone else did last night at that locker . ’

Even the bartender continued, pointing towards a locker by the lavatory .

I don’t want to accept it, but if everybody experienced the same thing –

Gotou lit his cigarette .

'I see . Then there is almost no mistaking it . ’

Kamiyama looked up at the ceiling .

'Do you think you know what’s happening?’

Makoto stood up .

'Yes . Yesterday, I coincidentally met a woman’s ghost at an apartment . She held a very strong as well as deep resentment . ’

'A woman’s ghost…’

'Her name was Sawaguchi Rika…’

'W-why’s she coming up?’

Gotou spoke up without thinking and drew closer to Kamiyama .

'It seems you know her . ’

'You can’t be saying that Sawaguchi Rika’s the cause of this chain of spiritual phenomena . ’

'That is exactly what I am saying . The spiritual phenomena that have been occurring around everyone are all her work . ’

'Don’t be ridiculous! It’s not related at all!’ Gotou yelled, wanting to deny it wholeheartedly .

However, Kamiyama’s expression did not change a whit, and he looked straight back at him .

'I am not joking . She is wandering . Can you see them? Her pain, and her resentment . ’

Kamiyama looked down and then opened each of his eyes with his hand and took something out .

'I can see them . ’

He had taken out contact lenses . Upon looking up again, Kamiyama’s eyes were a flaming red .

This guy has red eyes too –

'Eek . ’

Ishii’s shriek echoed through the bar .

Gotou reflexively hit Ishii’s head and turned back to Kamiyama .

'Your eyes…’

'The spirits of the dead are reflected in my eyes . ’

Kamiyama narrowed his eyes in the dim bar .

'You’re kidding . ’

'I think that it is not a coincidence that everyone had gathered here . ’

'What do you mean?’

Kamiyama smiled at Gotou’s question .

'I mean that one of the people here is the cause for her resentment . Of course, I won’t ask them to come forward . However, the person should know who they are . To disclose the truth…’

'That’s enough!’

Shinichi interrupted Kamiyama’s speech by hitting the table .

However, unlike Shinichi, who was agitated, Kamiyama did not seem concerned at all . He looked like he was observing a reaction he had expected –

'The missing Asami-san . She was carried off to the world after death, which is filled with suffering . ’

'That’s insane . ’

Gotou tried to oppose Kamiyama .

'It is the truth . Unfortunately, she will not return . That is how strong and deep Sawaguchi Rika-san’s vengeance is . ’

'If you don’t stop this, I’ll send you to prison!’ threatened Gotou, grabbing Kamiyama by the collar .

'I wouldn’t mind, as long as you take responsibility for appeasing the anger of Sawaguchi Rika-san’s spirit then . ’

'What did you say?’

'If you do not, there will undeniably be another victim!’

Gotou couldn’t decide whether Kamiyama’s words were truth or lies . He had unwittingly been caught up in his words .

He unthinkingly let go of Kamiyama .

Kamiyama fixed his collar and again looked at the people in the bar .

'You may be next . No, it may be you…’

Nobody met Kamiyama’s eyes .

Though the air conditioning should have been working, the bar felt enveloped in a heavy and damp air .

In the silence, the lights in the bar suddenly went out all at once .

It was impossible to see anything . A complete darkness .

– Damn . What’s happening?

In the confusion, there was the sound of something falling with a clang .

A pale light appeared in the darkness .

'Eeeek . ’

Ishii’s shriek reverberated .

In the pale light, there was a woman .

That woman, with the left half of her face covered in blood and long black hair –

It had to be fake . He’d find out what it really was . Gotou had just started rushing towards the woman when the lights went on again .

He closed his eyes – it was like a smokescreen had gone up .

When Gotou opened his eyes again, the woman had disappeared completely, like she had never been there in the first place .

Just like Kamiyama said, something is really trying to cause something, no doubt about it –

'Everyone saw that, correct? The woman with her deep resentment . ’

'Aaaaagh!’

Just as Kamiyama finished speaking, there was a scream . When Gotou looked, Shinichi was cowering and clutching his arm .

'Are you all right?’

Makoto approached him .

'What’s wrong?’

Gotou spoke as well .

Kamiyama slowly walked towards him, and the bartender also came out from behind the counter .

The right sleeve of Shinichi’s white shirt was dyed red .

'Who did it?’ Gotou asked as he rolled up the sleeve . There was a deep cut on Shinichi’s right upper arm .

'I-I don’t know… When I noticed…’

Shinichi’s forehead was covered in sweat as he spoke while withstanding the pain .

'Please take this . ’

Gotou took the handkerchief Makoto held out and wrapped it around the cut on Shinichi’s arm .

There was a tattoo on his arm of a cross with a snake coiled around it . Blood had trickled there, making it look as if the snake had been given sacrificial blood .

-

12

-

Yuuya was shaking outside the bar .

The fear swelling in the bottom of his stomach . It felt ready to explode . It seemed like no matter where or when, somebody was watching him .

The injury that appeared on Shinichi’s arm earlier –

What should he do now? Did he have to live every day in fear of that woman?

He could have borne it if it were just fear, but Asami had disappeared from the locked room and was still missing .

Where on earth has she been taken –

Had she gone to the world after death from which she wouldn’t return, like the exorcist called Kamiyama said?

A horror movie he had seen with Shinichi some time ago came up in the back of Yuuya’s mind .

It was about a pale woman with long hair disappearing with the characters one by one .

He had laughed at the time, but he hadn’t thought it would actually happen to him .

'Are you all right?’

At some point, the exorcist Kamiyama had walked up to stand in front of him .

Yuuya shook his head at Kamiyama’s words . No matter what, he couldn’t say that he was all right .

'Actually, I have something I’d like to discuss with you,’ Kamiyama said calmly .

'To discuss…’

Yuuya replied in a shaking voice .

'That is correct . I would like to save you if possible . ’

'Save me?’

Was the exorcist saying that he wanted to save him from the ghost of that woman?

If he was, Yuuya would definitely accept .

'I anticipate that, unfortunately, you will be the next victim if the situation continues like this . ’

The tone of Kamiyama’s voice was strict .

That… hadn’t been a joke .

Yuuya didn’t know anything and hadn’t done anything either .

He didn’t want to become the next victim . He wouldn’t .

'I definitely don’t want that . ’

'Yes, which is why I said I would save you . ’

'Do you really mean it?’

Yuuya clung to Kamiyama and begged him, throwing away his pride . Even if he put his head to the ground, his life was irreplaceable .

'Please calm down . I said this earlier as well, but I would like to save you even without your asking me to . ’

'Really?’

'Yes, really… However, in order to do that…’

-

13

-

Ishii was walking through the corridor in order to go to work when he heard a shout from the Unsolved Cases Special Investigations Room .

Ishii rushed in to see what was happening and saw Gotou and Ideuchi yelling at each other .

'What are you planning to do!?’ shouted Ideuchi .

'What do you mean, what? Of course I’m going to investigate,’ Gotou spat out, holding a cigarette in his mouth .

Ideuchi turned around, bluntly showing his discomfort with his body .

'E-er, what is this?’ Ishii interrupted, though he was puzzled .

'Ishii . Did you know too?’

'Eh, what am I supposed to have known?’

The conversation had suddenly turned to him, but he didn’t know what on earth they were talking about .

'The assault case five years ago . ’

'The assault case…’

He was talking about the case which Gotou had asked him to take the documents out for . He remembered immediately, but he wasn’t sure whether he should say that aloud .

'Why are you dragging out a case that was already solved ages ago?’

'Er…’

Ideuchi drew closer to Ishii, who was lost for a reply .

'Oh, it’s been solved? I didn’t notice . I’ll be more careful in the future,’ said Gotou, his attitude all the more impudent as he spat out his cigarette .

'Be serious!’

'You’re noisy . ’

'What kind of attitude are you taking towards your boss!?’

'My boss, eh…’ said Gotou, like he didn’t want to talk any more . Then, he put out his cigarette in the ashtray, took his jacket from the chair and headed for the door .

Ideuchi called out to him .

'Where are you going?’

'To investigate, obviously . ’

'Weren’t you listening? The case from five years ago is…’

'I’m investigating another case,’ Gotou interrupted .

'A different case?’

'The daughter of the chief of police was talking about a ghost . There’s no problem with that, right?’

'You…’

Gotou ignored Ideuchi, who seemed like he still wanted to talk, and left the room .

'Ah, yes . ’

Ishii hurriedly chased after Gotou, who had left the room .

'Er, why was Chief Ideuchi so angry?’

'No idea . He’s just hysterical . ’

Gotou’s words were harsh .

Certainly, Ideuchi could sometimes be hysterical, but it still appeared that Gotou was excessively defiant towards him .

Ishii drew up his courage and asked, 'Er, Detective Gotou, do you hate Chief Ideuchi?’

Gotou suddenly stopped in his tracks and glared at Ishii with a furrowed brow .

'Yeah, he’s the guy I hate most . Next to you . ’

’T-that can’t be…’

Ishii’s head went blank . His knees threatened to buckle .

It can’t be true . Detective Gotou says he hates me . What am I supposed to now that I’m hated by somebody I respect?

Detective Gotou, tell me it’s a lie –

'More importantly, Ishii . I’m counting on you for that . ’

'For that?’

'Honestly, you fool . I talked to you about it yesterday . I’m going to meet the exorcist from yesterday with Yakumo . You’re going to look into the backgrounds of the people there yesterday . ’

Gotou jabbed Ishii’s chest with his finger .

That was right . He had been so shocked he almost forgot completely .

'Ah, yes, I remember . ’

'Bye . ’

Ishii watched as Gotou walked away with a wide stride .

-

14

-

'I’m coming in . ’

Gotou opened the door for the <Movie Research Circle>, which Yakumo was using as his secret hiding place .

Yakumo was sleeping with his arms crossed while reclining in his chair .

How could he sleep in this sauna of a room?

'Oi! What time are you going to sleep until? Wake up!’

'I said before that by waking me up you ruin my entire day, Gotou-san,’ said Yakumo with his eyes closed . This guy really wasn’t cute at all . While grumbling in his heart, Gotou sat in the chair opposite him .

'It’s because you didn’t answer the phone yesterday that everything’s such a big mess . ’

'Did your wife run away from you again?’

– As if I’d ever consult you about my wife leaving home .

'I’ll kill you if you make another boring joke . ’

'My, my . A policeman is announcing that he will kill somebody – what a dangerous time this is . ’

Yakumo finally opened his eyes and stretched .

'I don’t want to be a comedian – I don’t feel like playing the straight man . ’

'Why don’t you try?’

'Try what?’

'Being a comedian . If you pair up with Ishii-san, you would definitely be popular . ’

'Just die already!’

Honestly, he just kept on interrupting .

He didn’t come to joke around . Gotou took a breath to clear his head and started speaking .

'I met somebody with two red eyes . ’

The moment Gotou said that, Yakumo’s expression changed .

He really was sensitive about this topic .

'What do you mean?’

Gotou explained what happened last night at the bar to answer Yakumo’s question .

He described what happened as accurately as he could, of course mentioning the impossible spiritual phenomenon that occurred inside the bar, as well as the atmosphere of the bar, what the people there were wearing and even the design of Shinichi’s tattoo .

In particularly, he spoke as accurately as he could about what he remembered of Kamiyama .

Yakumo did not interrupt much, but his eyes narrowed slightly in doubt when Gotou said that the ghost that appeared in the bar was Sawaguchi Rika and that Kamiyama’s two eyes were red .

'This has become another troublesome affair,’ Yakumo said tiredly after Gotou had finished speaking .

'It really is a pain . ’

'Why didn’t you call me from the start?’

This one sentence of Yakumo’s brought the anger in Gotou’s stomach to a boiling point .

'You’re the one who didn’t answer the phone!’

However, Yakumo just sleepily scratched at the back of his neck even while he looked at Gotou raising his fists . He didn’t seem nervous at all . It made Gotou feel stupid for being angry .

'Gotou-san, could the tattoo on the arm of the man named Shinichi that you mentioned earlier be…’

While Yakumo spoke, he took a piece of paper that was nearby and drew something with a marker .

'Was it this?’

Yakumo showed what he had drawn to Gotou .

Something like cord coiled around a cross . Though there were slight differences, the contour was exactly the same as what had been on Shinichi’s arm .

'No doubt about it . This is it . Why do you know about it?’

'The explanation would be long, so I’ll omit it . ’

'Don’t omit it . I don’t understand . ’

'I understand, so it’s fine . ’

'You know…’

Gotou started speaking, but he didn’t end up saying the rest .

There was no point saying anything to Yakumo . No matter how much he asked, Yakumo would just speak in riddles . All he could do was wait for Yakumo to bring the topic up himself .

'Let us return to the topic at hand . ’

'Just do what you want . ’

'In any case, it seems that we need to meet that exorcist once more . ’

'Yeah, I was planning on doing that from the start . ’

In order to get a breakthrough to solving our current trouble, we have to decide whether the exorcist named Kamiyama is the real deal or a fake –

And Yakumo was the only one who could judge that .

-

15

-

Ishii checked his notebook again after entering the reference room .

Gotou had written the names and contact addresses of everyone who had been there last night .

That was Detective Gotou for you . Ishii had been so disturbed by the event that he had just been flustered and hadn’t thought that far .

Five people’s names were written down . However, they knew Makoto’s background .

Gotou had said he would directly meet with Kamiyama, so he just had to investigate Murase Shinichi, Ide Yuuya and the bartender Yagi Keita .

Ishii started up the computer used for searching, entered the names of each of them and started to investigate for previous offences .

If anybody’s name came up, it would make the rest of the investigation easier .

That said, it wouldn’t be so easy – after searching up their names, none of them had a previous offence .

Now, what would he do next?

It was impossible for one person to check three people’s backgrounds in the first place .

Usually, the work would have been split up .

No, he didn’t have the time to be timid . Ishii had done nothing good at all this case . He felt like he had been doing nothing but shrieking .

Inside Ishii’s head, he remembered something Gotou had said to him during the last case . 'You’ve got some guts for a guy in charge of playing the fool . You did good . ’ He felt a warm feeling in his heart just from remembering it .

For a repeat of that emotion .

– Do your best, Ishii Yuutarou .

-

16

-

'Hey, Yakumo . Why are you helping me out?’

While driving the car, Gotou asked Yakumo in the passenger seat this question .

Yakumo looked surprised . It made sense . Gotou wasn’t sure why he was suddenly asking that either . He wasn’t thinking straight .

However, he couldn’t help but feel suspicious . Though he had complained about everything, Yakumo was helping him , even to the point of risking danger to himself . Why was that?

Yakumo could have just ignored him and been done with it .

Actually, Gotou might have been directing that question to himself .

Like Ideuchi had said, why was he sticking his neck into an unrelated investigation? What would come out of it?

That was no good . Lately, he kept on thinking about useless things .

'Never mind . Forget about it . ’

Gotou took back his question with a bitter smile . Yakumo smiled bitterly as well .

'Gotou-san, isn’t it time for you to stop blaming yourself?’

'Hah? Blaming myself? What do you mean?’

What was this guy talking about?

'I mean exactly what I said . It hurts to watch you, Gotou-san . ’

'It hurts?’

'Yes . Gotou-san, you quickly empathise with the victims and assailants . Accordingly, you rile up, shout and cry together with them . Usually, these should be cordoned off by saying something such as “This is how it is” . ’

Gotou felt like he had been stabbed where it hurt most, but he didn’t want to acknowledge it honestly and also felt that it wasn’t something he could do .

'That’s not true . ’

'Feel free to deny it, but you’ve noticed yourself, have you not? When you empathise and then reach a conclusion that you do not desire, you blame yourself, saying that if you had done better, it wouldn’t have turned out the way it did . ’

'I said you’re wrong . ’

Gotou’s voice was getting louder .

However, something like that wouldn’t work on Yakumo .

'In the first place, the flow of fate cannot be changed by the power of one person alone . No matter how hard you work, undesirable conclusions will come your way . To blame yourself for that would be foolish . ’

Gotou wanted to object, but he couldn’t find the words .

He had no plans for great justice, but like Yakumo said, Gotou always thought after a case ended .

Couldn’t there have been a better ending –

If he had noticed earlier, couldn’t there have been a different path?

But, like Yakumo said, that was foolish . It was nothing more than regret .

'However . ’

After a silence, Yakumo started speaking again . With eyes full of intent, he continued while staring straight ahead .

'However, even if one cannot change everything about the results, it might be possible to find respite, even if it is incredibly slight . ’

Gotou looked at Yakumo’s face in his surprise .

It was mysterious – this curt, unsociable and contrary person appeared, somehow, to be filled with kindness .

'That is why I am helping with your investigation, Gotou-san . I might be the same type of person as you . ’

The moment Gotou heard Yakumo finish speaking, he started laughing at how odd it was .

'What is so funny?’

He didn’t feel like responding to Yakumo’s question, but it amused him so much he continued laughing with his stomach in knots .

'Let me withdraw what I said . Please make this the last time you drag me into one of your cases . ’

Sulking, Yakumo turned his face away .

What a cute guy . He used to be a man whose eyes looked down on everything in the world, but he had changed . It was Haruka-chan’s doing . That was youth for you .

The face of Gotou’s wife, Atsuko, appeared in his mind . He shouldn’t laugh at other people . It had probably been the same for him .

When I lose sight of myself and am at the ready, she leaves home like she’s been watching me, but when I’m completely absorbed in the case and everything starts to storm, she unexpectedly comes back .

Women are terrifying, really –

* * *

Kamiyama’s office was in the next city .

It was on the first floor of an apartment in the residential area . There was no sign . There was only a plate on the door which read <Kamiyama Psychic Research Institute> .

A while after Gotou pressed the intercom button, there was a reply: <Who is it?>

'Gotou, the detective . ’

<Please wait a moment . I will open the door . >

After the door opened, Kamiyama stood there . Like yesterday, his clothes were black from top to bottom . However, his shirt was ironed stiff, unlike Gotou’s .

'There’s something I want to ask . ’

'Please go ahead and come in, though the space is small . ’

Gotou thought he’d be refused since he had come without an appointment, but Kamiyama quickly opened the door and invited Gotou in .

'He’s not with the police, but there’s someone I want to bring with me . You mind?’

When Gotou finished talking, Yakumo walked a step forward from behind him .

'Ah, you’re from that time . ’

Yakumo curtly replied with only a 'Hello’ to Kamiyama’s surprised exclamation .

Gotou and Yakumo went into a living room that was ten tatami in size .

The walls were lined with bookshelves full of materials related to psychic phenomena, and there was a reception area in the middle of the room, but that was all .

It didn’t feel lived in . Well, that made sense if it was used as an office .

Gotou sat next to Yakumo on the sofa at the reception . Kamiyama took out cold tea and sat on the opposite sofa .

'Is it no smoking here?’ Gotou asked, taking a cigarette from his pocket .

'Please go ahead,’ Kamiyama replied . He took an ashtray from below the table and placed it in front of Gotou .

It was great that they had gotten this far, but what to talk about now? Gotou lit his cigarette and took in a deep breath of smoke while he mulled over his thoughts .

'You probably want to know who I am . ’

Kamiyama was the one who broke the silence . Gotou felt a bit troubled when he was so direct about it, but it would go more smoothly if Kamiyama started the conversation himself .

'That’s it . With the trouble this time, your existence, to put it frankly, feels out of place . ’

Kamiyama smiled pleasantly at Gotou’s words .

'I like people like you, Detective Gotou . ’

'Eh?’

'You are a person who cannot lie . ’

His attitude made it feel like he had seen right through him . Gotou couldn’t relax .

Gotou looked towards Yakumo sitting next to him, but he was just looking blankly at Kamiyama . It didn’t feel like he would add to the conversation .

'I gain nothing from being liked by you . Anyway, when’d you start being an exorcist?’

'About five or six years ago…’

Kamiyama replied calmly .

'What did you do before then?’

'It might surprise you to hear that I used to be a teacher . ’

'Eh?’

'It’s true . I don’t mind if you check for yourself . I was a high school teacher . ’

Teacher and exorcist – there wasn’t any connection .

'Why did you decide to become an exorcist?’

At Gotou’s words, Kamiyama glanced at Yakumo . Whether or not Yakumo felt Kamiyama’s gaze, his expression was still blank .

'I was not able to see the spirits of the dead in the past either . I lived a peaceful life as a very normal teacher . However, at some point, I was assaulted by a terrible dizziness . I was hospitalised for a while . ’

Kamiyama stopped speaking there and took a sip of tea .

'It had been a heart attack from overwork . I wandered the boundary between life and death . When I woke up, for some reason, my two eyes had been dyed red . ’

Yakumo’s cheek twitched in reaction to Kamiyama’s words .

'The doctor did not know why either . As nothing in particular was wrong with my body, I was discharged from hospital . It was ever since then that I could see the spirits of the dead . At first, I thought that my eyes were deceiving me . However, it was no illusion . ’

Yakumo’s left eye had been red from birth . Was Kamiyama saying his two red eyes had been acquired?

'And then you became an exorcist?’

Gotou put out his cigarette in the ashtray .

'Regardless of one’s intentions, if it is an ability that one has been endowed with, one should use it . Do you not think that it would be a great loss if one did not? It is the same as not learning music when one has perfect pitch . ’

'Isn’t it up to the person whether they use it or not? There are guys in this world who’ve got classy cars but don’t drive them . ’

Kamiyama laughed out loud at Gotou’s response .

It was an overdramatic response . Everything he did got on Gotou’s nerves .

'Detective Gotou, you truly are an interesting person . That is one way of looking at it . What do you think?’

Kamiyama’s question was directed towards Yakumo .

Gotou wanted to know the answer to that as well .

'Why do you ask me?’

Yakumo’s expression didn’t change .

'I said this before, but it is because you have the same ability as I . Am I incorrect?’

'Why do you think that?’ Yakumo replied in a low voice .

'I feel it . It might be better to say that we call out to each other . ’

Yakumo snorted at Kamiyama’s words .

'Please tell me the truth . ’

'As expected, I’ve been found out . It’s a simple story . There is a contact lens in your left eyes, correct? A black one . I wear those as well . On top of that, when I met you at that apartment, you followed the ghost of the woman who was falling from the rooftop with your eyes . If somebody else had been looking, there would have been nothing there . That’s why I thought that you could see spirits . ’

'It is as you imagine . I can see them . ’

At Yakumo’s response, Kamiyama smiled in satisfaction .

'I want to ask you as somebody who has the same ability . Asami-san’s disappearance this time, and the serial spiritual phenomena . How do you see it?’

'What do you think?’ Yakumo responded .

'I think that the ghost of Sawaguchi Rika-san, who committed suicide, wants revenge because of her furious hatred . I do not know the recipient of that hatred, but they are probably somebody who was at that bar . ’

'Revenge…’

Yakumo said that quietly .



'Asami-san did something unfortunate . She was simply involved . If we do not appease the anger of Rika-san’s spirit, there will be another victim . ’

'Are you saying that the spirit of that woman made the woman called Asami-san disappear?’

Kamiyama nodded at Yakumo’s question .

'I was at the scene . That is all I can think of . I have told you my thoughts . What are yours?’

Yakumo bit his lower lip and looked about, seeming slightly troubled, before he started talking .

'I recognise that the spirits of the dead are clusters of that person’s emotions . ’

'I think the same way . ’

'No . In my thinking, the spirits of the dead exert no physical influence on the living . ’

'Which would mean that the ghost could not have made Asami-san disappear . ’

Kamiyama’s expression, which had been calm until now, changed .

There was a feeling of challenge floating in the air . It was a natural response since his reasoning had been denied outright .

'Though this is only my pet theory…’

'Then how did Asami-san disappear?’

'I do not have the answer to that . ’

'Then you should not be able to deny my thoughts . ’

'That is correct . ’

Yakumo readily affirmed what Kamiyama said . Was he accepting defeat?

'I have experienced many things since becoming an exorcist . From those experiences, I believe that the stronger the dead person’s thoughts, the greater the physical influence they exert . ’

'Do you have an actual example?’

'For example, lovers can feel their partners’ emotions even without hearing them in words, yes? Do you not think that is a demonstration of the physical influence of emotions?’

'Calling that physical influence would be an incorrect definition . Moreover, you are making too great a leap in logic . It is the same as saying that people would be able to fly if they wished for it .

To Gotou, it looked like Yakumo was irritated .

'Then, let me ask you once more . Why did Asami-san disappear?’

'I said this earlier as well . I do not have the answer to that . ’

'Then would you cooperate with me?’

'W-what?’

Gotou had just been listening, but he spoke in surprise at Kamiyama’s extremely abrupt words .

He glanced over to his side to see that Yakumo looked surprised as well .

'I also have not had that much experience . It would be a bit too heavy for me to carry this case alone . It would be reassuring to have you there with me as someone with the same ability, but…’

'Good results will not be borne from the cooperation of those with differences in opinion, regardless of whether or not they have the same ability . ’

After Yakumo said that, he stood up on his own .

At this point, it didn’t seem like they could get any more information out of Kamiyama . Gotou stood up with Yakumo .

'Sorry to both you, sensei . ’

'I do not like being called that . ’

Kamiyama smiled bitterly at Gotou’s words .

'That’s right, Yakumo-kun . Do you know a man who has two red eyes like I do?’

Oi, wait a minute . A man with two red eyes?

'Oi, you know that man?’

Gotou grabbed Kamiyama by his collar in his agitation .

'Yes, though even if I say that I know him, I have only met him once . ’

'Where?’

'Togakushi[2] in Nagano . When I was studying because I was thinking of becoming an exorcist, he called out to me . ’

'Don’t tell me he’s the one who suggested it . ’

Kamiyama shook his head .

'No, certainly not . Please stop it . Do you know that man?’

'Yeah . ’

They didn’t just know him – they were quite indebted .

'Then you understand, yes? There is no man more terrifying than him . I understood that the moment I met him . Those eyes have a darkness that swallows everything . There is not even a fragment of human emotion . His very existence is evil . That is how I saw it . I do not want to have him as an enemy or an ally . ’

When Gotou let go, Kamiyama shook his head left and right in relief .

Gotou glanced over, but Yakumo had already left the room .

-

17

-

Makoto sat on a chair in the conference room and held her head in hands while looking down .

Outrageous events had been occurring in succession . However, nothing about them was clear . Everything was shrouded in mystery, including Asami’s disappearance .

Gotou had said to leave the investigation to the police, but she couldn’t just watch . Newspapers had a different information network than the police .

A short man with a hunched back opened the door and came in .

'I’m Takizawa, but are you Hijikata-san?’

'Yes . ’

Makoto stood up from her chair to bow, and then she urged Takizawa to sit in the chair opposite her .

'I sincerely apologise for asking you to come so suddenly . ’

'Don’t worry about it . You can’t write a good story if you hold back . ’

Takizawa let out a hearty laugh that did not suit his stature .

Makoto had passed by him countless times in the corridor, but it was the first time she’d faced him directly like this . He had seemed somewhat shady to her, but that laugh swept that impression away completely .

'The truth is, there is something I would like to ask you . ’

'No problem, as long as it’s something I can answer . ’

Takizawa lit his cigarette and took an ashtray for portable use from his pocket, grumbling, 'Can’t walk with my head held high with the company being non-smoking . ’ Though the conference room was actually still non-smoking even if he brought a portable ashtray, Makoto didn’t say that aloud .

'The case with Sawaguchi Rika-san that occurred five years ago . Do you remember it?’

That was the very reason Makoto had asked Takizawa to come .

Five years ago, Takizawa had been in charge of the series of articles after Sawaguchi Rika’s suicide five years ago that attacked the police investigation until the criminal was arrested .

Takizawa rubbed the stubble growing on his chin and moved his shoulders in circles .

'I remember . Not just Sawaguchi Rika’s case – I remember all the incidents I’ve been in charge of . You should beat all the articles you’ve written into your head too . They’ll become your own info source and food for writing good articles . ’

'Ah, yes . ’

Makoto gave an indifferent response without thinking .

At the news agency, it seemed like there were many people who would go on boasting like this . It might have been because they had seen such a variety of things and had knowledge about them .

'So, why’s that case got your interest now?’

'I’m currently pursuing an article about women after they have been victims of assault and became interested in Rika-san’s case . ’

Makoto gave the reply that she had thought up .

'If she talked about spiritual phenomena now, it would take a long explanation, and there was the chance that he might not believe her .

She made the more reliable choice .

'Damn . ’

Takizawa put his hand on the back of his neck and released his breath .

'Truth is, I’ve been looking into that case again too . ’

'Is that true!?’

Makoto exclaimed in surprise, since she hadn’t expected Takizawa’s response .

'Yeah . ’

'Was there something suspicious about it?’

Takizawa didn’t reply – he just groaned .

It was natural for him to not want to talk about it if they were both pursuing the same topic, but she wanted to know if Takizawa had any new information .

'Well, I guess it’s fine since our topics don’t overlap . ’

Takizawa put out his cigarette in his portable ashtray .

'What on earth is it?’

'There’s a porn site that’s been popular online lately . ’

What Takizawa was talking about seemed to be the complete opposite of assault cases, but Makoto didn’t say that aloud and simply nodded to urge him to continue .

'It caught my interest so I went to take a look . It’s an image and video download site with a membership system, but the contents weren’t normal . ’

Takizawa lit his second cigarette .

There were some people who couldn’t stop smoking once they started smoking – perhaps Takizawa was one of them .

'There’re the so-called rape ones, but they’re not actually that rare . It’s just that virtually all the ones on the market are fake . They use anonymous actresses, put a mosaic on their face and just make it look like the real thing . That’s natural, since it’d be a crime if they actually did it . ’

'Could it be that that site had…’

Makoto’s heart felt tight .

Putting up images of real assaults for entertainment – nothing could be more unforgiveable . If the victims found out… But –

'How did you know they were real?’

'I said this earlier, right? I remember all the articles I was in charge of . They become my original info source . ’

It can’t be –

The blood drained from Makoto’s face . What would someone have to be thinking to do something so terrible?

Her fingers wouldn’t stop trembling in her rage and fear .

'You catch on quicker than you look . It’s just as you imagine . I saw a certain face on that site . ’

'Sawaguchi Rika…’

'That’s right . Since it was a home video, the date was right on the screen – there’s no doubt about it .

How horrible –

Makoto’s hands were in fists .

'Worse still, there was a caption in the opening saying “April 2000, suicide by jumping from her apartment” . Can you believe it?’

Takizawa’s eyes were red as he stared straight at Makoto .

Makoto shook her head . She didn’t want to believe it . At the same time, tears welled up in her eyes .

She felt like she had been touched by a fragment of the suffering and sadness of Rika, who was being disgraced even after her death . The humiliation that smeared her was so great that simply from imagining it, she couldn’t look anyone in the eyes .

If somebody had really thought of doing something like this, they could not be normal .

It wouldn’t have been strange at all if they were murderous .

'I don’t think I’ve got a particularly strong sense of justice, but this I can’t forgive . ’

'I feel the same way . ’

'I’m going to block off all their escape routes and make this into a story . ’

Takizawa’s voice was full of a strong intent .

-

18

-

Honestly, what was happening?

Gotou’s irritation had reached its peak . Yakumo had been silent ever since they left Kamiyama’s office, and he just kept on saying 'I cannot say anything until there is more information’ no matter what Gotou asked .

Since he couldn’t do anything else, he brought Yakumo back to his secret hiding place and ended up doing the rest of the investigation alone .

He easily understood Yakumo’s reason for suddenly leaving . The existence of Yakumo’s father – the man with two red eyes . Was that man wrapped up in this case?

No, no . Gotou shook away his thoughts .

His already panicked head would be even more confused if he thought about that here and now . Anyway, he would just do the investigation he was responsible for .

Gotou visited the high school in the city that Kamiyama had been employed at .

It was the first time he’d gone, but he knew the name . It was famous – kids with heads somewhat different from Gotou’s attended it .

He entered the school building from the front gate and switched in to a pair of slippers for visitors[3] .

It had been twenty years since he’d gone into a school . Schools were mysterious things . Even though this wasn’t his old school, he felt nostalgic .

Upon entering, he found a plate with the words <Staff Room> on it to his right .

When he slowly opened the door, the teachers inside the room all looked at Gotou at the same time . It made him remember his days as a student, whether he wanted to or not .

'I’m Gotou – I contacted this morning . Is the teach called Mamiya here?’

Because he had been flooded with sentiment, he ended up using strange vocabulary .

'Ah, you must be Detective Gotou . Please come in . ’

A thin middle-aged woman raised her hand at the back of the room . She was an oval-faced woman with tortoiseshell glasses . It felt like she might say 'zamasu’[4] at any moment .

The teachers in the room started whispering . That’s a detective? It felt like he’d start hearing voices saying that .

He could have just accepted it boldly, but he felt like a student who’d been called out and ended up walking in a clumsy manner .

'Please sit down . ’

Urged by Mamiya, Gotou sat down on the seat next to her .

'Now, you mentioned that you wanted to ask about Kamiyama-sensei . ’

'Ah, that’s right . ’

'I would like to ask this first, but has Kamiyama-sensei…’

He knew what she wanted to say even if she didn’t say the words aloud . Anyone would have that response if police came to ask about their old colleague .

'He hasn’t done anything . This is just for confirmation . The police are an unexpectedly troublesome organisation . Even if we know there’s nothing, there’re a bunch of things we have to look into for reports . You probably don’t just visit the homes of problem kids when you’re making house calls, right?’

'I understand what you want to say, Detective, but that is also so that families can come to know the teachers . ’

Mamiya sounded indignant .

He’d said something bothersome . He didn’t feel like talking about education right now .

'Sorry about that . Well, anyway, I wanted to know what sort of person Kamiyama was . ’

'Though it is not as if I know about his private life, he was rather popular with the students . Have you met him before, Detective?’

'Yeah . ’

'Then I think you should understand . He was a very kind teacher . He would listen seriously even to the trivial stories of students, and he was sharp – he understood the students’ feelings well . ’

Kamiyama as a teacher, and Kamiyama as an exorcist now –

To be honest, Gotou had expected that Kamiyama would be a completely different person . He’d thought that would be a starting point for the investigation .

However, there wasn’t much of a difference in his impression from listening to what Mamiya said .

'There was one student who was particularly passionate . A beautiful young girl with long hair – if I remember correctly, her name was… Kawaguchi-san? No, maybe it was Yamaguchi-san…’

Mamiya pat her wrinkled cheek as he thought .

'I heard that he quit because he’d fainted from an illness . ’

The conversation would veer off topic if he let it continue . Gotou forcefully put it back on track .

'Yes . He had seemed to be overworking since a little while before, but one day, he was suddenly hospitalised . He retired then . ’

'What illness?’

'It had been so sudden that I couldn’t ask about the details . ’

There were no inconsistencies with what Kamiyama said .

At the present stage, he could say that Kamiyama had been speaking the truth .

'I see . I said this before, but this is just a formality . It seems like this was a wasted trip, so I’ll excuse myself,’ said Gotou, standing up .

He didn’t have to hurry so much, but Gotou didn’t know how to deal with this female teacher called Mamiya . He felt it’d be better to leave before she started talking about some other nonsense .

'Excuse me, Detective . ’

Mamiya called out to Gotou .

'What?’

'What is Kamiyama-sensei doing now?’

Didn’t she know? Well, maybe that made sense .

'He’s an exorcist . ’

Upon hearing Gotou’s words, Mamiya looked flabbergasted .

It was a bit dramatic, but that response made sense too –

-

19

-

Ideuchi dragged himself to his apartment door .

The weight his body felt from overwork had accumulated over the years and would not budge .

He wasn’t finished work now either . He had just come home to change and would have to head back in an hour .

He didn’t believe in ghosts like Gotou did, but he wondered sometimes whether the weight on his body wasn’t overwork but curses from people related to the cases he had handled .

He lived burdened with their hatred .

For Ideuchi, Gotou was only a troublemaker, but he sometimes felt envious . How much easier it would be for him if he could let his emotions burst out as Gotou did without being bound by the organisation .

Killing his emotions ate away at his spirit more than he had imagined it would .

When Ideuchi opened the door, the lights were on . Had he come back today? Ideuchi noticed that he had hesitated for a moment .

Why did he have to restrain himself around his own child? Ideuchi walked into the living room with deliberately loud footsteps, but he didn’t see anybody . Was he in his room? Ideuchi dropped the bag on his shoulders onto the floor and sank into the sofa .

Since when? When had he started refusing to come home –

Unnecessary thoughts passed through his head . It wasn’t as if he and his son were on particularly bad terms . It just always felt awkward when they saw each other .

'Dad . ’

Ideuchi was taken aback when he suddenly heard his son’s voice . He couldn’t see him from his position, but his son was probably at the entrance to the living room .

'Oh . You were here?’

Ideuchi replied from where he was .

Didn’t he already know that he was here? Even he thought what he was saying was strange .

'I’ve got something to talk to you about . ’

Talk? With him? He was probably just asking for money again . Ideuchi had thought he’d be fine since his son had started working part-time, but it seemed like that wasn’t the case .

'What? I’m not going to give you allowance anymore . ’

'That’s not it . ’

After saying that, his son came around from behind him and sat opposite Ideuchi .

How many years had it been since he had last sat with his son like this?

Did he get more piercings again? Was it so cool to wear clothes that didn’t fit him? He had many things that he wanted to say, but he didn’t know how to say them . He’d used being busy as an excuse to leave all the childrearing to his wife . His wife was no longer around .

What was I trying to protect –

'I actually want your advice . ’

His son’s eyebrows were lowered as he spoke in a shaky voice . The expression was very similar to Ideuchi’s own . Not just the expression . His cowardliness and timidity were also exactly like him .

Ideuchi smiled bitterly .

'Go ahead, but I don’t have much time . Keep it short . ’

'I’ve been cursed . ’

What was he saying?

The damp uneasiness inside Ideuchi’s heart grew –

-

20

-

Ishii sat by himself in a booth of a real estate agency .

Coffee had been placed on the table, but he didn’t feel like drinking it .

Nobody had been in the data for people with criminal records, but he hadn’t been discouraged .

He had just met them once, but he didn’t think any of them would commit a crime .

Next, Ishii contacted the place Shinichi worked at .

It was a small event planning company, and according to the woman at the office who answered, it seemed like Shinichi had started working two years ago, but he had a good work attitude and could become a pillar of the company .

It was also correct that the young man called Yuuya had started working part-time as well a few months ago at Shinichi’s introduction .

Contrary to his appearance, he had a reputation as a serious young man .

From the conversation, the woman at the office particularly favoured Shinichi .

When he said that the police were investigating the two of them, she had been awfully disturbed and had persistently made sure that he hadn’t done anything .

Next, Ishii went to the real estate agency for the apartment the two lived in . His goal was to ask about details such as the rent and the contract .

He could find out their economic situation from the rent, and he could see if the guarantor lived nearby .

'Excuse me, I apologise for the wait . ’

The manager, who had left the seat, brought back an envelope .

'No, there’s no need to apologise . ’

The manager sat across from Ishii and handed him the envelope, only to grab Ishii’s arm when he reached out for it .

'I said this earlier as well, but this is not actually something I can show you . Please do keep that in mind . ’

Recently, with privacy protection acts as such, even if you said you were police, you couldn’t easily get documents and investigations were delayed .

'That is fine . It is not as if I will take it out with me . ’

The manager said, 'I see,’ and let go of Ishii’s arm, but there was still a feeling of anxiety there .

It seemed like it would be better to look at it before the manager’s mind changed .

Ishii took the contract documents for the flat out of the envelope and flipped through the pages . The rent for the flat they lived in was one hundred fifty thousand a month .

It was an appropriate amount for a relatively new 2LDK outside of the twenty-three wards of Tokyo .

He flipped through some more pages .

When he looked at the leaseholder column, he suddenly let out an 'Ah’ of surprise .

The manager looked over to see what had happened .

Ishii went back to the page to check the address, apartment name and room number . It was definitely the one he had received last night .

'Excuse me . This contract is definitely for that room, correct?’

'Yes . ’

'This is definitely the leaseholder’s name as well . ’

'Yes . ’

'Are you certain?’

'A copy of a licence is attached at the very end,’ said the manager, sounding tired at Ishii’s insistent questioning .

'Licence . ’

Ishii opened up to the last page like he had been told to .

Just as the person in charge had said, there was a copy of a licence attached . The ink was blurred and the photo wasn’t clear, so he couldn’t confirm it . However, he could confirm the name .

'What is this…’

Ishii stood up in his agitation .

The person in charge looked at Ishii blankly .

Ishii had just found something serious . He couldn’t pin down the agitation boiling up inside him .

-

21

-

'Yakumo-kun, you here?’

Haruka visited Yakumo’s secret hiding place and found Yakumo staring at something seriously .

That gaze was on a necklace with a red stone on top of the table .

He had received that necklace along with a letter from a boy on a road by the river after the last case .

'What? You again?’

Yakumo noticed Haruka and said that with a yawn . Really, what was with his attitude?

'I’ll leave then . Even though I went all this way to help you with what you asked . ’

'You should say that first . ’

What? It sounded like he was saying she shouldn’t come unless she had something to do .

Though Haruka felt dissatisfied, she took the seat opposite Yakumo and handed over the diary and memo .

'I’m done, but I couldn’t do all of it . I left some parts out since I didn’t understand them . ’

'That’s more than enough . You’ve helped me out . ’

Without checking the contents, Yakumo took them and placed them in his shirt’s breast pocket .

For some reason, he didn’t seem like the usual Yakumo .

'Hey, what are you thinking?’

'I was lamenting the future of somebody as carefree as you . ’

This person was just – he really thought of the most impudent things .

'You don’t have to worry – a bright future’s waiting for me . ’

After Haruka said that, something suddenly came to mind .

What would Yakumo’s future be like? What was he planning to do after graduating from university? He was burdened with a painful and sad past, and his future would involve seeing the spirits of the dead whether he wanted to or not .

'Hey, Yakumo-kun, what are you planning on doing after you graduate?’

'Who knows? I’ll think about it when the time comes . ’

Haruka didn’t think those were Yakumo’s true feelings .

She wanted to see what was in the depths of his heart, but he definitely wouldn’t tell her even if she asked .

'Why not become an exorcist like that person we met?’

She thought he might get mad, but she was wrong .

Yakumo took a deep breath and closed his eyes .

'Sometimes, I don’t know . ’

Rare for Yakumo, he spoke slowly and his voice sounded helpless .

It was like a cloud floating in the sky .

'Don’t know what?’

'This left eye which can see the spirits of the dead . Sometimes I wonder if it’s all just an illusion and I can’t actually see anything . ’

'Of course not . ’

Like he hadn’t heard Haruka at all, Yakumo continued speaking .

'Maybe I’m just making up convenient stories to satisfy my ego, even though the truth lies elsewhere…’

'Yakumo…kun . ’

'The truth is that what I and that man see are different, even if we have the same eyes . Even though I see it as sadness, he sees it as hatred . He looks at souls and sees darkness as humanity’s true nature, regardless of whether they are dead or alive . I also can’t deny it . ’

'That’s too depressing,’ Haruka said, finding it hard to breathe .

She didn’t want to think that the true nature of humanity was simply darkness .

'I know . My eye can see a small point of light past the darkness… I wonder which of us is correct…’

It was like he was reciting a philosophy book .

Haruka felt like she had seen Yakumo’s true nature in those words .

Yakumo was always complaining and never went easy on her, but no matter what he said, he would always try his best for others .

It had to be because Yakumo believed that there was a light beyond the darkness, no matter how trying, sad or painful the darkness was .

It didn’t matter whether he was wrong or correct . Even if it was just his wish, he was Yakumo because he could see that light .

'What you see isn’t an illusion, Yakumo-kun . You’re definitely wrong . I can guarantee it,’ said Haruka, nodding multiple times .

Yakumo looked at Haruka and snorted . He looked embarrassed as he ran a hand through his hair .

'Honestly, how carefree can you be?’

'What do you mean?’

'Even things that are true would become false if you guaranteed them . ’

This person really is –

'You’re so contrary . ’

'Well, in any case, I’ll take your advice and stop thinking about boring things . ’

After saying that, Yakumo picked up the necklace by its chain and stared at the red stone dangling from it .

'This time, I doubted what I saw because of him . There will be an answer if I connect what I saw as it was, without doubting it . ’

It was like there was a light of strong intent at the back of Yakumo’s sleepy eyes . Haruka stared at that light like she was being sucked in .

It felt like she had gotten a little closer – just a little – to Yakumo’s heart .

'What are you looking at? It’s creepy . ’

This person, just by saying one thing, would completely ruin the mood .

'What do you mean, creepy? I was just looking at that necklace because I thought it was pretty,’ Haruka said, clenching her teeth .

Yakumo sighed and flicked the red stone with his finger .

'It really is a beautiful colour . I wonder what the stone is . ’

'It’s probably topaz . ’

'There are red topazes?’

'They’re incredibly rare . It costs as much as a work of art . ’

'Really…’

'Topaz is said to increase creativity and psychic ability . ’

After saying that curtly, Yakumo tossed the necklace towards Haruka .

She lost her balance since it was so sudden, but Haruka caught it with both hands .

'If you like it, I’ll give it to you . ’

'Eh? But isn’t this important to you?’

'My mother used to wear it . ’

How could she accept something like that blithely?

'Don’t you have to return it to your mother, Yakumo-kun?’

When Haruka asked that, Yakumo smiled bitterly .

What did that expression mean?

'It’s fine . I want you to have it . She can’t wear that anymore anyway . ’

When Yakumo said that, his eyes were a sad colour, like that of a deep ocean .

Could that possibly mean –

-

22

-

After returning to the police quarters, Gotou was walking down the corridor to head back to his post .

He’d gotten zero info . He wasn’t really hoping for anything, but it didn’t seem like there was anything to do but wait for the results of Ishii’s investigation .

It felt like a lot of things were connected but they didn’t connect . It felt illogical .

If they were to put this case in order and explain it, what Kamiyama said seemed the most correct . Rika was cursing unrelated people in her resentment .

If she still had a grudge against someone, there was no saving them . Saving who? Her?

No . I’m the one who can’t be saved –

'Where did you go? I was looking for you,’ Erika said in exasperation . She grabbed Gotou’s arm and pulled him into a nearby investigation room .

'Why are we going in here?’

'It’s obviously because I don’t want to be overheard . You really are slow . ’

Yeah, yeah, he was slow .

In his anger, he crossed his arms and leant against the wall .

'So?’

'I put the screws on one of the guys in charge at the time and had him tell me some things . ’

Put the screws on really wasn’t something a woman should be saying .

'Chief Ideuchi said a bunch of things, and it took some time since I couldn’t make my move, but it looks like the case was deliberately abandoned . ’

'Deliberately?’

'Your voice is too loud . ’

Eriko hurriedly covered Gotou’s mouth .

'There was no clear statement, but it seems like there were orders with that nuance . ’

'Seems like there’s more to this than meets the eye,’ said Gotou, pushing away Eriko’s hand .

'Seems so . It stinks . ’

'Why?’

'Don’t know . That’s what you should investigate,’ said Eriko with a shrug .

One possibility was that there hadn’t enough people .

At the same time, they had had a murder case that would affect the police’s dignity if they hadn’t solve it quickly .

They hadn’t had the freedom to split up the detectives for an assault case . That was why Gotou and Eriko had been taken out and some newbies had been put in charge .

They’d shaken her up, gotten the case to be put away, and that’d been the end of that .

They didn’t have enough people for all the cases – that was how it was with the police now . It was also a fact that they had to think about the power balance between cases of varying levels of importance .

However, if that was how it was, that meant that a woman died as a result of that policy .

'And there’s another thing . ’

'What?’

'I asked the person who first arrived on the scene when the suicide was discovered – seems like there really was a note . ’

'You sure?’

'Yes . The guy turned the notebook that was used in the time inside out while looking through it . ’

Evidence that hadn’t been in the documents .

Somebody stole it . On top of that, it had to have been an inside job .

However, that would mean Gotou’s idea about not enough people would be rejected .

'Somebody hushed up the fact that she killed herself . ’

Gotou said the words as they came to him .

'What for?’

Eriko gave an immediate reply . It was as she said . Gotou felt like nobody would gain anything from concealing the suicide . Plus, evidence proved that it was a suicide in the end .

Maybe there hadn’t been a note in the first place .

Somebody killed her and made it look like a suicide . The note was a diversion –

There’s no use . It doesn’t connect –

Damn . The case was really irritating .

Gotou kicked the nearby chair as hard as he could .

-

23

-

It wasn’t a problem she could keep to herself . Makoto felt that way so she went to the police, even though her concern might be misplaced .

After talking with Takizawa, Makoto went to see the site for herself .

She wanted what he said to be a lie . She had hoped for that, but her computer monitor displayed the truth .

Everyone was unforgiveable .

The person who had done this . The people who sold the images . Also, the people who enjoyed looking at these images .

Makoto felt so much hatred just as a bystander . From Rika’s perspective as an actual victim, it wouldn’t be strange if she found everything she saw detestable .

Makoto was probably part of what Rika had seen .

Her endless hatred had even enfolded Asami . The moment she thought that, Makoto saw something in that image that she remembered seeing before .

Makoto decided to hand over this information to Gotou and Ishii-san .

Takizawa might criticise her terribly, but it wasn’t the time to worry about that .

Makoto was passing in front of the investigation rooms when she heard the sound of something falling . She stopped walking in her surprise .

A door to one of the investigation rooms opened and Gotou suddenly came out while roaring like a beast .

'You’re so noisy . Keep it down a bit . ’

A woman with the same physique as Gotou came out while complaining .

Makoto remembered seeing her before . If she remembered correctly, she was an investigation member named Shimamura .

'As if I could!’

Her eyes met with Gotou’s as he yelled in his irritation .

Makoto bowed her head deeply and walked towards Gotou . Shimamura might have been taking her into consideration because she quickly left after hitting Gotou’s shoulder .

'Unfortunately, we haven’t found your friend yet . ’

Gotou turned his gaze away from Gotou, like he felt uncomfortable .

Makoto thought that his speech and behaviour didn’t match with his real self . His sense of justice and responsibility were absurdly strong and he was kind on top of it, but it felt like he was ashamed to show it openly .

'No, that isn’t it . There is some information about Sawaguchi Rika-san’s case that I would like to discuss with you . ’

'Information? What is it?’

'Yes, er, but here would be a little…’

It wasn’t something they could talk about while standing .

She had brought her computer to explain . She wanted him to see it if possible . Gotou might have guessed that, because he started walking and gestured for her to follow .

* * *

Ishii returned to the police quarters in high and proud spirits .

Detective Gotou would definitely be happy . Ishii’s expression naturally relaxed just from imagining it .

'Detective Gotou, I did it!’

Ishii opened the door with vigour .

Gotou just glared at him like he was noisy . Ishii froze .

'What are you standing there for?’

Ishii hurriedly entered the room after Gotou said that .

Makoto was there was well . Ishii sat on the round chair beside Gotou .

'A-ah, Makoto-san, w-what has brought you here?’

Ishii had planned on saying that as naturally as he could, but he was clearly stammering .

He always ended up nervous when talking with Makoto because of the memory of his terror .

'Perfect timing . You listen too . ’

'Listen?’

'You’re so thick-headed . She’s here with info on the Sawaguchi Rika case . ’

Detective Gotou, I have essential and important information too – but Ishii couldn’t say that in this situation .

Ishii couldn’t do anything but follow Gotou’s instructions .

Makoto was using the laptop computer on the desk . Gotou and Ishii lined up their shoulders and looked at the monitor .

The monitor displayed the words <Rape Club> .

Ishii knew there were sites where fanatical people gathered, but he hadn’t thought there was something so tasteless and blatant .

'Isn’t this porn?’

It seemed like it was just as Gotou said .

Thinking about it, it was really strange for two male detectives and a female reporter to be looking at something like this together .

'That was what I thought at first as well . ’

Makoto replied without taking her eyes away from the screen . Her voice was shaking .

'Could this be real?’

Real? Of course not – there was no way . Rape was a crime .

'Unfortunately…’

'But how do you know it’s real? Aren’t they just making it look real?’

Makoto didn’t reply to Gotou’s question . She just moved the mouse to navigate through the site .

Finally, a list was displayed on the monitor . They could probably images and videos by selecting from the list .

The slowly moving cursor stopped on one name .

Sawaguchi Rika –

That . It couldn’t be . It was impossible .

When Makoto clicked on the name, the site displayed a picture of Sawaguchi Rika’s face along with detailed information .

<Sawaguchi Rika . 22 years old at the time . Certain place in the metropolitan area . Can’t get enough of her expression as she endures the disgrace like a champ . April 2000, suicide by jumping from her apartment . >

The comment was disgusting . Ishii was seized with a feeling of nausea .

'What kind of idiot would do this!?’ yelled Gotou, who couldn’t help but hit the table .

The woman who had taken her life because of this case was being humiliated even after her death . This was completely unforgiveable .

'I feel the same way . ’

Makoto’s words were heavy .

The emotion she felt might have been closer to hatred than anger .

Makoto clicked Sawaguchi Rika’s name again .

No . He couldn’t – he couldn’t look at something so cruel . Ishii’s knees were shaking so much it felt like they would buckle .

An image in a frame popped up and started moving . There was a woman walking down a street . The camera was probably following Sawaguchi Rika . From the image, it seemed like there was a camera affixed to the passenger seat of a car .

In an area void of people, the car stopped and there was the sound of a door opening .

A man ran after Rika . The man covered Rika’s mouth and dragged her forcefully as she resisted fiercely .

The scene changed . It appeared to be a room in a basement .

The wall was bare concrete . The room appeared fairly large, but there was nothing in it that stood out . Rika had her arms and legs bound with packing tape so she couldn’t move . She was looking in fear at the camera .

A man came into the frame . He was wearing a knit mask so his face couldn’t be seen .

Here, Makoto stopped the video .

'What is this?’

Gotou covered his face with his hands . He could still speak . What Ishii had seen was burnt freshly into his mind, and when he imagined what happened afterwards, there was just this feeling of agony that felt like it would crush his abdomen .

Makoto turned around and looked at Gotou’s and Ishii’s faces fiercely .

'Please arrest the administrator of this site no matter what . ’

'You don’t have to tell me . ’

Gotou was grinding his teeth out of anger .

'But currently we are concerned with Rika-san . Please look here . ’

Makoto looked to the monitor again, moved the cursor and zoomed in on the arm of the man who had come into the frame .

'This pattern . Haven’t you seen it before?’

There was a tattoo of a cross with a snake coiled around it .

I’ve seen this pattern before –

'So that really is how it was!’ exclaimed Ishii in his agitation .

'Don’t be so loud right next to my ear . ’

Gotou hit Ishii’s head .

'Eh, but – but – this pattern…’

'Calm down and explain . ’

After Gotou said that, Ishii took a deep breath and took out his memo .

'Actually, I was looking into the person called Murase Shinichi, but the name of the person living in his flat is the name of the person who assaulted Rika-san: Oori Kazushi . ’

'So there was a connection,’ Makoto said, coming to grips with what was being said . 'I was also concerned with this tattoo when I saw this video, so I came here . Last night, this tattoo was on Shinichi-san’s arm . ’

Gotou yelled, 'Move over!’ and pushed Ishii aside to take documents from his desk drawer and spread them out . Oori Kazushi’s photo was there .

All of them were frozen by the photo .

The hair was different . The shape of the eyebrows was different . The eyelids were one-fold and two-fold . Shinichi was about ten kilograms skinnier .

However, the differences between Oori Kazushi and Murase Shinichi could easily be changed with makeup, plastic surgery and diet .

Ishii’s heart was beating wildly .

'Damn! So that’s how it was!?’

Gotou slammed his fist into the desk .

'Murase Shinichi and Oori Kazushi were the same person,’ Ishii said with confidence .

Oori’s prison term ended two years ago . He had changed his identity then and started living as Shinichi .

That had to be it . That was the only thing that made sense . Then everything added up .

Rika’s spirit was aiming for Murase Shinichi and Oori Kazushi in hatred . That hatred had run wild and swallowed up Asami .

Makoto had started crying without anyone’s noticing .

Ishii felt startled as he looked at her back .

There was no way for Ishii with his meagre experience with woman to tell whether her tears were from sadness or relief .

All he knew was that it showed her kindness towards others . He might have been looking at her with prejudice up until now .

'You here, Gotou?’

Ideuchi’s voice cut through the suffocating atmosphere and he looked in from the doorway .

That moment, Gotou openly clicked his tongue .

'What?’

'You got time?’

'I’m busy now . If you want to lecture me, do it another time . ’

Gotou refused him bluntly .

Normally, Ideuchi would start yelling . Ishii stiffened, but what he actually heard was different from what he imagined .

'I’m not here to lecture you . I just want to talk . ’

Gotou probably sensed something from Ideuchi’s attitude, which was different from usual, because he just said, 'Get his fingerprints to confirm,’ and then he left the room together with Ideuchi .

In the now quiet room, a mobile phone started ringing . Ishii leaped in surprise at the noise which he hadn’t expected .

'Yes, this is Hijikata . ’

Makoto answered the phone . While the conversation continued, her expression grew increasingly grim .

Ishii felt a strange apprehension –

-

24

-

Gotou fixed his stare on Ideuchi’s receding hairline .

How many times had he met with Ideuchi in the conference room like this before? He probably couldn’t even count the number .

This man was pitiful too . Gotou was to blame for half of the hair that had fallen out . Gotou smiled self-derisively .

'What’s so funny?’

'No, it’s nothing .

Gotou fixed his posture .

'Now, let me listen to that not-lecture of yours . ’

'You really don’t ever change . I’m envious . ’

His tone let Gotou down somewhat .

In the first place, it didn’t sound convincing at all if he said he was envious since he had made a fool of him so many times before .

'I don’t know what you’re being all sentimental about, but please keep it short . ’

'That’s right . I actually want to ask you for advice . ’

Ideuchi looked at his feet while he spoke .

His hands had been squirming about too like he couldn’t calm down . He might have been confused as to about why he had put the words 'Gotou’ and 'advice’ together .

Gotou felt the same way . He quarrelled all the time with this man . Hearing that he wanted to talk with him now was unpleasant .

'Please ask for romantic advice elsewhere . That’s out of my jurisdiction,’ Gotou joked, unable to stand the atmosphere .

'Of course that’s not it . I just want to talk a little about my son . ’

'That’s really out of my jurisdiction . I don’t have children . ’

This man had a kid?

Gotou felt a bit surprised, but when he thought about it again, it was natural for Ideuchi’s age . He just hadn’t had any interest at all in Ideuchi’s private life up until now .

'It’s an embarrassing story, but my son came to me today to ask for money . ’

'Why not just give him allowance? You’ve got the money, don’t you?’

'You’ve got quite the mouth . You should know how much I make . Plus, it wasn’t at the level of allowance . ’

Well, if comparing to what he had to do, a police officer’s salary was surprisingly low .

'And?’

'I asked him why he needed so much money . ’

Here, Ideuchi raised his head .

Deep wrinkles, shadows around his eyes and pale skin . He looked visibly older than people of the same age . As a part of management, his nerves might have been worn away more than was imaginable .

'My son said he had been possessed by a woman’s ghost . ’

'A ghost?’

'It seems like an exorcist said that if he didn’t pay money, he would die . I didn’t think he could be tricked by something like that, but I might not have supervised him well enough . This is your field of expertise, right?’

Of all people, this man’s son .

'You telling me to look for that exorcist?’

After biting his lip, Ideuchi nodded .

As if Gotou knew about that sort of thing . He should at least wipe the ass of his own son . That’s what he wanted to say, but for some reason, Gotou pitied Ideuchi .

'Give me some info . That’s right – first, the name of your son and that exorcist . ’

'Sorry about this…’

Ideuchi said those words like they had been squeezed out of his throat, and then he handed Gotou a business card .

– Kamiyama Eiji .

That was what was written on the business card .

'Where’d you get this?’

'I took the business card from my son . ’

Gotou suddenly remembered the members at the bar last night . Makoto, the bartender, their current problem Shinichi – probably Oori . And then there was the young man who called himself Ide Yuuya .

'Could your son’s name be Yuuya?’

'You know him?’

'No, I heard it from somebody before…’ Gotou replied vaguely .

So it really was that young man . Ideuchi and Ide – what a half-baked alias .

But now, Kamiyama’s goal was clear . Money . He’d talked all high and mighty, but he was just a hyena like the other exorcists .

It’d be easy to tell Ideuchi what he knew now, but doing that would mean bringing Ideuchi into the case .

It was obvious that if he did, he wouldn’t be able to move as freely . It would be a better plan to keep quiet .

'Detective Gotou, it’s terrible!’

Suddenly, the door opened and Ishii flew into the room like he was falling .

'What happened?’ asked Gotou, but Ishii’s breath had escaped him and he couldn’t speak .

Honestly . Then there was no meaning in rushing here .

'E-e-excuse me… Earlier, the exorcist contacted Makoto-san saying another person disappeared from a locked room…’

Ishii finally spoke .

This was the second person –

’D-disappeared? Who?’

'The young man called Ide Yuuya who was at the bar last night . ’

Ideuchi stood up in reaction to Ishii’s words .

This idiot . His timing was the worst .

'Oi, Ishii . Tell me in detail about what you just said . ’

Ideuchi seemed to have sensed the situation right away and drew closer to Ishii . Ishii replied with an energetic 'Yes sir!’ and tried to continue .

'It’s nothing!’

Gotou jumped up from the sofa and covered Ishii’s mouth .

'I was asking Ishii . ’

Ideuchi drew closer, like he felt something .

Ishii still didn’t seem to understand the situation . It’d be best for them to get out of here as quickly as they could .

'It’s really nothing,’ Gotou said, and then he dragged Ishii out of the room .

He wanted to avoid having Ideuchi crawling around them at least . In the worst situation, he might forcefully make them wash their hands of the case .

Gotou couldn’t hide it forever, but he wanted to stretch the time as much as he could .

'Ishii, we’re running . ’

'Eh? Running? What do you mean?’

'I don’t have the time to explain . We’re going before this becomes troublesome . ’

Gotou started running . Ishii started running after him as well .

He fell –

-

25

-

Gotou, who had run from Ideuchi, brought Ishii and Makoto straight away to Meisei University, so that they could meet one of the most contrary people in history, who had taken up residence at the university .

'What did you come here for so late at night?’

Yakumo was complaining as usual, but when Gotou started explaining the situation, he pinched his brow with his fingers and listened without saying a word .

Ishii and Makoto might not have been able to calm down, because they were standing next to each other by the wall instead of sitting down .

It took some time for Gotou to share all the information he knew .

It had felt like he’d understood the situation, hazy as it was, but when he explained from the start like this, he noticed that everything was actually still half-baked .

After Gotou finished talking, Yakumo thought for a while, but he finally gave Gotou a sharp look and started speaking .

'Did anyone see Yuuya-san disappear?’

'Nobody here did . Seems like Shinichi who I talked about just now was there with him . She called to check . ’

Makoto nodded silently to confirm what Gotou said .

'There is a possibly that the person called Shinichi-san may be the same person as Oori Kazushi-san from the assault case then . ’

'Yeah, that’s right . ’

They didn’t have fingerprints or any physical evidence, but that had to be it if they looked at it from the situation .

'Then the exorcist, Kamiyama-san, declared that this series of incidents was caused by Sawaguchi Rika-san’s grudge . ’

'Yeah, that’s right . ’

Yakumo put his index finger to his brow .

'I’ve got it,’ he said quietly .

'W-w-wha – you’ve got it?’

He wasn’t Ishii, but Gotou had to stutter in a loud voice in his surprise .

'I’ve said this before – please don’t speak so loudly . At this distance, I can hear you if you just speak normally . ’

Yakumo was covering his ears as usual to show how loud he thought Gotou was . Even though he had to know how important what he had said was .

'Have you really got it?’

'Please don’t make me say it again . Well, there are some parts that I don’t understand, but I’ve roughly grasped the situation with this series of incidents . ’

'Explain it then!’

Even if Yakumo complained about his loud voice, Gotou couldn’t calm down .

It appeared that Ishii and Makoto felt the same way . The mood had been painful, but the two of them were now leaning forward, eating up the conversation .

'You really are a hasty person . This is just my conjecture – I have no proof at all . If we make a big fuss without proof, he’ll get away .

That’s true –

'To say nothing of how there haven’t been any victims that seem like victims in this case . The police wouldn’t move for something like this . ’

Well, what Yakumo said made sense .

It would be a different story if the police would acknowledge that a ghost made somebody disappear, but as long as they wouldn’t, they wouldn’t move at all .

But then –

'What should we do?’

'It will be troublesome, but you should investigate more . Once we have all our cards, all we can do is go to the scene . ’

The corners of Yakumo’s lips turned up in a smirk .

Even if Gotou asked him more, Yakumo would just be as slippery as an eel without saying anything at all . It was mortifying, but it seemed like all Gotou could do was obey Yakumo’s instructions .

'Then what should we be investigating exactly?’

'First, there is something I would like you to confirm . ’

'What?’

Gotou slackened his tie because he found it hard to breathe .

'The investigation has not been finished yet . Please look into the bartender’s personal history . Oori Kazushi’s as well . He is working at an event planning company, correct? Please look into all the work he has done .

Gotou understood why he should look into the bartender .

However, he didn’t understand why he should look into Oori Kazushi’s work . It didn’t seem like looking into something like that would be of any use .

'Now, Ishii-san . ’

Yakumo took a nearby notebook and wrote something with his pen . He ripped the page out and handed it to Ishii .

Ishii took the memo nervously .

'It may be a bit troublesome, but please prepare the items listed there as quickly as you can . ’

'What on earth is this?’

Yakumo waved away Ishii’s words .

'Please don’t ask me right now . If there is anything you don’t know, please try asking Hata-san . He should know . ’

Ishii consented with a sigh .

'E-excuse me, but is there anything I can do to help?’

Makoto stepped forward and spoke up . Yakumo looked at Makoto with a raised eyebrow . Makoto flinched, but she continued speaking .

'Asami – my friend – has gone missing . Please let me do something as well . ’

Gotou understood Makoto’s feelings well, so he said, 'Why not let her help Ishii? She’ll do better with that too . ’

Yakumo ran his fingers through his hair like he thought it troublesome .

'Please don’t say something so idiotic . I will say this now, but Makoto-san is in an extremely dangerous situation . ’

'What do you mean!?’ Gotou shouted .

'Like I said, please don’t speak so loudly . ’

'Shut up! What do you mean, dangerous?’

'I mean exactly what I said . ’

Yakumo responded to Gotou’s question with an extremely natural expression .

'Currently, two people are missing . You are likely the next target, Makoto-san . ’

Yakumo pointed at Makoto .

At that moment, the blood drained from Makoto’s face . It looked like Yakumo had drained Makoto’s vitality himself .

Does that mean Makoto’s going to disappear too –

-

26

-

Ishii was driving the car .

Gotou was in the passenger seat and Makoto was in the backseat .

Ishii didn’t understand what Yakumo was thinking at all .

However, they couldn’t ignore Yakumo after he’d said Makoto would be the next target, so they were driving her home .

Gotou was smoking one cigarette after another, while Makoto was looking down and rubbing her hands on top of her lap, like she was cold .

Nobody spoke .

'Is the air conditioning too strong?’ said Ishii, unable to bear with suffocating atmosphere in the car, but Makoto just shook her head .

It really had become a serious state of affairs .

From the way Yakumo was talking, it sounded like the case would be over soon, but unfortunately, Ishii didn’t think it would .

The series of incidents this time couldn’t be settled simply with just victims and assailants .

If it was like Kamiyama said and Rika’s grudge had caused these incidents, there would never be an end .

No matter what words they used to console her, her hatred couldn’t be cured .

'You can just leave me at the next corner,’ Makoto said from the backseat .

Her father was the chief of the police . It would be unfortunate in a number of ways if they ran into him . Makoto was probably looking out for them .

Ishii looked to Gotou for a decision .

'The next corner then . ’

Gotou put out his cigarette in the ashtray .

Ishii listened to Gotou’s instructions and stopped the car at the intersection with the hazard lights on . He saw a white van parked ten metres ahead of them .

It looked like somebody was in it, but the engine wasn’t on .

'Really, thank you very much . ’

After Makoto bowed her head deeply and got off the car, she turned left at the intersection and walked away .

A man got off the van and walked in the same direction as Makoto .

The car’s licence plate was covered with black tape so it couldn’t be read .

'Detective Gotou, look…’

Ishii’s heart was thumping as he pointed at the back of the man turning the corner .

'What?’

'Just now, a man walked in the same direction as Makoto-san . ’

'A man?’

Gotou was too slow, so when he turned his eyes, the man had already turned the corner .

Ishii remembered the feeling that was rising in the pit of his stomach . He had a bad feeling about this .

'I’m going to go check on the situation . ’

'What situation?’

Ishii turned away from Gotou’s question and got off the car . He started walking briskly towards Makoto and the man .

The further he went into the dark, the faster his heart pounded . His back was coated in sweat .

The residential area at night was blanketed in silence .

The streetlights placed at intervals made it all the more eerie .

Makoto’s house was about fifty metres down the road, after turning the corner at the park .

When he approached the park, there was the sound of a tree branch rustling . Ishii jumped up in terror like a fish that had been caught and reeled .

He took deep breaths and looked over to see somebody’s figure standing across from the shrubs .

'W-w-who’s there?’ Ishii called, his voice shaking .

The figure threw what he was holding – something like an iron pipe – and ran in the other direction .

Should he make chase? While Ishii was trying to come to a decision, the figure disappeared into the dark .

It was too late to start the chase now . Ishii gave up and slowly went into the park . He looked around, but Makoto was nowhere to be found .

Maybe she had gone ahead and had already gotten home . Well, that would be good .

His tension eased .

The next moment –

Something grabbed onto Ishii’s right ankle .

There was a woman with blood coming out of her head by Ishii’s feet .

'Aaaaahh!’

Ishii let out a bloodcurdling shriek .

'Stay away . Stay away . ’

He was trying to shake off the hand gripping to his ankle when he kicked the woman’s head with his left foot .

The woman lost her strength and suddenly collapsed .

Eh, could it be –

Ishii’s bad feeling struck home . The bleeding woman who had collapsed was Makoto .

I know I was surprised, but what have I done –

* * *

Gotou was staring out absentmindedly from the passenger seat of the car .

What’s got Ishii so worked up –

Just as he had lit up his umpteenth cigarette, he saw a man run around the intersection corner . He looked to be in a hurry, and he got in the white van that had been parked there since earlier .

The image of the assault he had seen earlier suddenly came up in Gotou’s head .

The car that had been tailing Sawaguchi Rika had been a white van . The same model that was parked in front of him .

On top of that, the number was hidden with tape . It was suspicious . Maybe he should question him –

Gotou got out of the car immediately and briskly approached the white van .

'Oi . You . Show me your licence . ’

Gotou peered into the white van to see the driver seat and was startled . The man in the driver’s seat was wearing a black mask .

'Show me your face . ’

At the same time as Gotou said that, the car engine started .

'Wait! Hey!’ yelled Gotou, but the white van drove off into the dark night .

'Damn it!’

Gotou kicked the asphalt in his anger .

– It hurts .


-

NOTES:

[1] Manjuu (まんじゅう or 饅頭) are steamed buns with fillings .

[2] Togakushi (戸隠) is a small village with only four thousand people, though there used to be ten thousand . It has a SHRINE and has mountains, which have a SKI RESORT .

[3] It is customary to take off your shoes in Japanese schools, so slippers are prepared for visitors . Here are some PLASTIC SLIPPERS put out for a school festival . People (such as parents) may bring their OWN FANCIER SLIPPERS .

[4] Zamasu is an ending for sentences that originated in Edo . Though it is part of theYAMANOTE DIALECT, it seems that it is not often heard outside of anime and manga . It is considered polite and a bit hoity-toity . Pointy glasses like the ones Mamiya wear used to be called ZAMASU GLASSES (ざますメガネ or zamasu megane) .



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