Shinrei Tantei Yakumo -
Volume 7 Chapter 1
VOLUME 7 – THE LOCATION OF THE SPIRIT file 01: altar ()
Oomori Masato groaned without thinking as he looked up at the cedar tree.
At the centre of the marsh, surrounded by white skunk cabbage, the cedar tree stood as if it had been left behind.
It was probably taller than ten metres. The branches that jutted out seemed to cover the sky entirely.
At its roots was a gigantic rock about one metre tall. It appeared to be of ancient and honourable origin, but there was no way for Masato to know that detail.
He just felt pressured by its existence.
’You still looking around?’
Masato turned around at the voice to see his classmate Tomoya standing there.
Tomoya was short for a sixth grader. Masato had to look down at him.
Tomoya looked up at the cedar tree too.
When it was decided that they would go to Kinasa, all he would say was ’What a pain’, but it seemed like he was enjoying the trip considerably.
’That’s really amazing,’ said Tomoya.
’That’s all you ever say.’
’Eh? Ah, yeah.’
Tomoya’s half-closed eyes closed even further when he smiled.
The day Masato transferred in, Tomoya had been the first to talk to him.
Why’d you move here? Where were you before? Masato had thought that he’d be asked those questions, but Tomoya hadn’t asked any of those.
What anime do you like? Do you like soccer or baseball better? All he asked was silly questions like that.
Masato had lost his father in the incident half a year ago. His mother already had another family, so his uncle took him in and he moved to Nagano.
Before transferring, he had been concerned about how to explain his complicated circumstances, but since he wasn’t asked about it, it had been conversely anticlimactic.
At the same time, he was happy. He felt like he had been accepted.
’Hey, Masato, you come too.’
When he looked over, he saw that Tomoya had at some point climbed on top of the rock at the cedar’s roots and was standing with an intimidating pose.
’It’s a great view.’
’Hey, you two. It’s time to group back together.’
Masato was just about to climb the rock too when his classmate Yumiko called out to them.
She was a girl who left an impression, with big round eyes and long glossy black hair. Her somewhat playful voice was similar to the trainee teacher who had supported Masato with all her might when the incident with his father happened.
The worrywart teacher who sent him letters every week to see how he was doing –
’Come on – hurry up!’
Yumiko urged them on.
Masato spotted the teacher in charge and the other students gathered in front of the cottage a little ways away.
’There’s still time, right?’ yelled Tomoya from the top of the rock.
’Climbing again? It’s dangerous.’
’It’s fine – I’m athletic, unlike you.’
’That’s not the point.’
Yumiko puffed out her cheeks sulkily.
Masato ended up laughing at their amusing conversation. Then, Yumiko looked at him.
’You too, Masato-kun.’
Masato quickly wiped the smile off his face and looked away.
’If you don’t like it, try coming up here.’
Tomoya stood on one leg and held out his arms to balance himself.
’Just leave that guy alone.’
Yumiko took Masato’s hand.
The pleasant coolness of her hand surprised him.
Masato started walking, pulled along by Yumiko.
’Oi, Masato! You betraying me!?’ yelled Tomoya.
The next moment, Tomoya’s body trembled and he slipped off the rock –
’Tomoya-kun, are you OK?’
After Masato’s eyes met Yumiko’s, he hurriedly ran towards Tomoya.
Tomoya wasn’t moving.
’That’s why I said...’
Yumiko sank to the floor with a pale face. Then, Tomoya sat up.
Tomoya stood up while scratching his back.
It seemed he was OK. Masato’s expression softened, but that was just for a moment.
He shuddered –
A chill ran down his spine.
An unpleasant feeling, like somebody was watching him.
He hurriedly looked around, but all he saw was a wide field of white skunk cabbage and the mountains behind them.
However, he didn’t relax.
The feeling of being followed was still there.
His heart was beating loudly.
He gulped. Suddenly, a hand touched his shoulder.
Masato jumped without thinking.
Tomoya looked surprised.
’Ah, no, it’s nothing.’
Masato shook his head.
My mind’s just playing tricks on me – so he told himself as he looked at the cedar again.
There was a person standing by the rock at its roots.
No, to be correct, it was a shadow in the shape of a person.
Masato knew immediately that it wasn’t something from this world. He couldn’t explain it. His instinct told him that.
The shadow approached Masato.
Masato stepped back as confusion and dread bubbled up within him.
’Masato-kun, are you OK?’
Yumiko looked at Masato with concern.
– Oh no.
The moment he thought that, it was too late. Yumiko’s body jolted and she fell on top of the white skunk cabbage with her eyes wide open.
’Oi, Yumiko... What’s wrong?’
Tomoya shook her shoulders as he spoke, sounding like he would burst into tears at any moment. However, Yumiko made no response, as if she were a doll.
– What? What’s happening?
Masato stood there in confused shock.
After stepping through the ticket gates of Omotesando Station, Ozawa Haruka took the long stairs from the subway up to above ground.
There was not even one cloud in the blue sky.
’What nice weather.’
Haruka covered her eyes with a hand.
The straight road was lined neatly with green-leaved keyaki trees, with open-air cafes and shops with large show windows on both sides.
Though there were many people, it seemed relaxed, as if representing the current sunny weather.
Haruka looked at Saitou Yakumo, who stood beside her.
Wearing a shirt and jeans, he yawned, looking bored as he ran a hand through his messy hair.
He was the same as always.
On the other hand, Haruka had taken over an hour to decide on an outfit.
Since she was going out with Yakumo, she had been rather troubled over how to coordinate her clothes. She had decided to change her hairstyle and makeup just a bit as well.
If she told Yakumo, he’d probably make fun of her for wasting her time.
’So where are we going?’ said Yakumo, sounding sleepy.
’Are you leaving everything to me?’
’You’re the one who dragged me all the way out to Omotesando because you said there were good shops here.’
– All the way out to Omotesando, he says.
Haruka thought about complaining, but she decided against it. She couldn’t win against Yakumo in an argument.
However, not that she thought about it, Yakumo really didn’t match up with Omotesando. It was like a cat swimming in the sea.
When she thought about that, Haruka ended up smiling at the amusing image.
’What’s so funny?’
Yakumo glared at her.
Haruka’s heart skipped when she saw his red left eye.
That deep and vivid red was so beautiful that she felt like she was being sucked in every time she saw it.
Haruka quickly stopped smiling.
Yakumo’s left eye wasn’t just red – it also had the unique ability to see the spirits of the dead.
In the past, Yakumo hated it and covered it with a black contact lens.
However, one month ago – because of the incident when he lost his uncle Isshin, Yakumo stopped hiding his red left eye.
It might have been Yakumo’s own way of mourning.
To be honest, Haruka was a bit worried. Wouldn’t some people see the left eye and find it disturbing or frightening – and if that happened, would Yakumo shut off his heart again?
However, she was being overanxious.
It would be a lie to say that nobody obviously thought it was disturbing, but it was only a small number of people. Most didn’t care.
– The world won’t change just because my left eye is red.
The person who had said that was Yakumo himself.
He had lost Isshin, who had been important to him, but Haruka felt like one of Yakumo’s clouds had cleared.
Yakumo glanced at Haruka.
’You’ve been smirking creepily for a while now.’
– That was an awful way to put it.
’Smirking... don’t you think saying that is rude?’
’I wouldn’t say it if I did.’
He ruined the mood with just one sentence. He’s the worst –
’Please wait. I can’t do it on my own.’
Gotou Kazutoshi ignored Ishii Yuutarou’s cry and left the <Unsolved Cases Special Investigation Room>.
Though Ishii was almost in tears, it wasn’t like there was a big case. All he had to do with paperwork which wasn’t particularly urgent.
Gotou got in the white sedan that was parked in the parking lot and stepped on the pedal.
When he was waiting for the light to turn at the intersection, he unconsciously looked out the window.
Though the sun had already sunk into the valley of buildings, the sky was still bright.
The trailing clouds were died a reddish purple.
Now that he thought about it, he hadn’t left the precinct this early ever since becoming a detective.
He also felt like he had placed himself in that murderously busy atmosphere to make an excuse not to go home.
However, things were different now. He wanted to go home as quickly as he could, even if it were just by a minute or a second.
– I have somewhere to return to.
He felt surprised that he was honestly pleased by that.
Passing through the road in front of the station, he drove onto the road to the university, turned at the second corner and stopped his car at the gates of the temple on the top of the steep slope lined with gingko trees.
A few months ago, he’d come here as a guest, but now this place was Gotou’s residence.
After he’d decided to take Nao in, they had looked for a place where the three of them colour live, but he couldn’t find one. When Gotou was troubled, the priest who was Isshin’s teacher, Eishin, called out to him.
Though he was considerably old, his body and attitude were large – he was a remarkable character.
After Isshin died, Eishin had undertaken everything, from the temple’s funerals to memorial services.
Because of him, the Gotou family were temporarily staying at the temple where Isshin had lived.
Normally, priests’ quarters were possessed by the religious group, so Gotou, an outsider, wouldn’t be allowed to stay there, but Eishin had anticipated that.
On top of acting very kindly to the Gotou family, he had urged Yakumo to take over for Isshin.
Thanks to that, Yakumo showed up even less frequently at the temple.
Though Gotou felt bad about Yakumo, they now had a place they could live at a reasonable price, though it was only temporary.
Gotou went through the gravel garden and opened the sliding door to the priest’s quarters.
Atsuko called out from the kitchen.
Instead of replying, Gotou took off his shoes at the entrance, passed through the living room and entered the kitchen.
He asked that straightaway.
’Reading in her room,’ said Atsuko, shaking her head in exasperation.’
’Hey, is it really OK for you to skip out and come home?’ asked Atsuko when Gotou was about to go to Nao’s room.
’There isn’t any important work.’
’You really are a useless employee.’
’Shut up. Ah, that’s right. Where are those two?’
Gotou changed the topic.
Those two of course referred to Yakumo and Haruka.
’Come to think of it, they’re not back yet. Even though we can’t start until the cake’s here.’
’Aren’t they just loafing around on their date?’
’They might not come back.’
When Gotou shrugged, Atsuko laughed aloud.
After they started living with Nao, Atsuko really laughed much more often. It wasn’t a bad thing. It was pleasant talking to her like this.
However, Gotou just couldn’t get used to it. He felt embarrassed.
Gotou escaped from the kitchen just as Nao came into the living room.
She wore a pink shirt under her overalls and had a book as thick as a dictionary in her hand.
The back of her bob cut stuck out like a spring.
’Ooh aah eii,’ said Nao, lifting her head to show her big and round eyes, which were sparkling.
Other people might not be able to understand Nao’s words, since she was deaf. However, Gotou understood more than enough.
’Hey. I’m back.’
He patted Nao’s head.
Right as he did so, Nao smiled brightly and leapt into his arms.
There were people who would sacrifice everything and even kill others for their children. Gotou couldn’t understand it before.
However, things were different now. He felt like he could lose anything if it were the sake of this child.
When he’d first taken Nao in, he had felt anxious.
Would a seven-year-old child who had just lost Isshin, the person who raised her, ever accept them? More importantly, would he be able to become a parent? That anxiety had coiled about him.
Though he didn’t know if he’d become a parent, Nao’s smile saved him.
He sat cross-legged in front of the table and Nao sat on his lap. Then, the sliding door opened.
’Honestly. I can’t believe you.’
Haruka showed up as she voiced her dissatisfaction. She had paper bags in both hands.
Though she spoke in an angry tone, she looked like she was enjoying herself.
’It’s a difference in knowledge.’
Yakumo came in after her while running a hand through his hair.
He looked as sleepy as always.
Nao stood up and walked up to them.
’You’re so slow! Where were you loafing about?’
Yakumo looked up at Gotou’s words.
’I didn’t think I’d ever hear those words from you, Gotou-san.’
’What do you mean?’
’I mean that I don’t want to become an irresponsible adult.’
After the incident with Isshin, Gotou had thought Yakumo had become a bit more honest, but his mouth hadn’t changed one bit.
’I’ll punch you!’
’Don’t fight like children – help out.’
Urged by Atsuko, who had peeked out at them, Haruka immediately went to the kitchen.
Nao followed her like a puppy.
Yakumo shrugged, looking exasperated, and he sat across from Gotou.
’It’s OK, right?’ Gotou said quietly.
’Who knows? I didn’t choose it.’
’If you didn’t choose it, it’s fine.’
’What do you mean by that?’
’Just like you always say, I mean exactly what I said.’
Though Yakumo’s expression was blank, his cheek twitched like a cat’s.
’You should help too!’
Atsuko interrupted the conversation.
After sharing a look with Yakumo, he smiled wryly and headed towards the kitchen.
Once the preparations were completed, they had a cheerful meal.
Before Nao had come, he always eat a lunchbox from the convenience store with Ishii. He didn’t eat around a table with a bunch of people like this.
Finally, Atsuko and Haruka chose a good time to leave their seats.
Yakumo yawned, seeming bored. Nao’s eyes were shut, perhaps because she felt tired after eating.
’It’s too early to sleep.’
Gotou shook Nao’s shoulder lightly.
Nao’s eyes darted around.
In the dark, Atsuko brought in a cake with candles, which faintly lit up the living room.
Haruka followed her.
’Nao. Happy birthday,’ said Atsuko as she placed the cake on the table.
’This is a birthday present. Happy birthday.’
Haruka gave a wrapped box with a red ribbon to Nao.
’Happy birthday,’ Yakumo murmured.
’Nao. Happy birthday. Blow out the candles then.’
Gotou patted Nao’s shoulder.
However, Nao didn’t move, her face downcast.
The silence continued in the flickering light of the candles.
When Gotou spoke to her again, Nao shook her head back and forth.
Her shoulders were trembling.
Finally, she started to cry loudly.
This child had held in her feelings all this time. It was her custom.
She had probably acted cheerfully so as not to worry the people around her.
Now that Gotou thought about it, Nao had lost her real mother soon after she was born. After that, she lost Isshin, the person who had raised her, and Gotou and Atsuko had taken her in.
There was no way she could have remained composed with such great changes in her living environment. The young girl had lived her life while doing her best to bear with everything.
– No matter what anybody says, Nao is my daughter.
With that thought, Gotou hugged Nao tightly.
Nao hugged him back as she sobbed. 𝐢𝙣nr𝙚a𝗱. 𝚌૦m
’That’s right. You’re our daughter,’ said Atsuko in a tearful voice.
Haruka had tears in her eyes as well.
’I don’t care, but if you don’t blow out the candles soon, the cake will burn.’
With the perfect timing to ruin the moment, Yakumo interrupted.
Though he was looking away, as if he thought the whole scene uninteresting, Gotou didn’t miss how his eyes were wet.
– Honestly. What an awkward guy.
Though Gotou thought that, he didn’t say it aloud.
Nao nodded. She took a deep breath in front of the cake and then blew out the candles.
A moment of darkness –
When the lights turned on again, Nao was smiling.
I will protect this space.
– That is what I live for.
Gotou vowed that once again in his heart.
’I wonder if she’s OK...’
With a backpack on, Masato was talking with Tomoya as they walked away from school.
Ever since the day they went to Kinasa for their field trip, Yumiko had not come to school. It had already been three days.
’It’s probably just a cold,’ Tomoya replied carelessly.
There was a reason Masato couldn’t accept it as lightly as Tomoya did.
The black shadow that had appeared then –
After Yumiko collapsed at the bottom of the cedar tree, she hadn’t come to school. Masato didn’t know what that shadow was, but she thought there might have been a connection.
’If you’re so concerned, why not go?’
Masato was surprised by Tomoya’s suggestion, which he hadn’t expected.
’Just go visit her.’
’She’ll be OK.’
’Really. Let’s go.’
Tomoya turned around before Masato could answer and started running, making his backpack rattle.
Masato ran after him.
Tomoya’s actions always surprised Masato. At the same time, he was envious. Masato always thought twice before doing anything. His past experience had a great influence on that.
The case he lost his father in –
– It isn’t your fault.
That person said that to him. However, that case still stayed in his heart.
Somebody might be hurt because of me – when Masato thought that, he felt like his lungs were being constricted.
’It’s probably just ahead.’
Tomoya stopped and pointed at the narrow footpath by the convenience store.
Masato saw a house with a black roof at the end of the twisting rood. To Masato, it had a terribly uncanny feel to it, partly because it had started getting dark.
Masato swallowed and then walked after Tomoya, as if hiding behind him.
It felt like it was getting darker with every step they took down the footpath.
After walking about halfway, Tomoya stopped.
’What is it?’
Masato stopped too.
Tomoya turned around with a suspicious expression as he pointed down the footpath.
There was a black shadow there.
It was getting closer –
Masato recalled the shadow he had seen at the cedar tree and stiffened.
’Oh, it’s Yumiko,’ said Tomoya.
Masato squinted in the dim light.
Since she was looking down as she walked, Masato couldn’t see her face clearly, but it was definitely Yumiko.
Normally, she would run towards them with a smile, but she was acting strange. She continued to walk forward with her head down, as if she hadn’t heard Tomoya’s voice.
Masato spoke when Yumiko was right in front of them.
Yumiko stopped firmly.
’Are you OK?’ said Tomoya.
Yumiko didn’t move, staring at her feet. She was definitely acting strange.
’Are you crying?’ asked Masato, trying to look at Yumiko’s face.
Yumiko still didn’t reply.
Tomoya’s hand brushed Yumiko’s shoulder.
Then, Yumiko slowly lifted her face.
Masato yelped without thinking when he saw that face.
Yumiko’s face was as pale as a corpse’s. That wasn’t all. Her wide eyes were bloodshot and her half-open mouth was foaming.
’Are you really Yumiko?’ said Tomoya in a trembling voice.
Yumiko looked back and forth between Masato and Tomoya with her bloodshot eyes.
Then, her purple lips moved. They looked like a different living thing entirely.
Her voice shook the earth.
Tomoya reflexively leapt away from Yumiko.
Yumiko looked at Masato.
– Eh? What?
Masato couldn’t move in his confusion and terror.
Yumiko stuck out both hands, put them on Masato’s neck and tightened her grip.
– I can’t breathe.
Yumiko’s bloodshot eyes looked right at Masato. Her face was that of a demon’s.
– I’m going to be killed.
The moment Masato realised that, he used all his strength to force Yumiko away from him.
While screaming, Masato ran away at full speed.
I’m scared – controlled by that emotion, he continued to run as fast as he could –
After Ishii finished work, he was leaving the precinct when somebody called out to him.
Ishii turned around at the familiar voice.
– It really is Hijikata Makoto.
Perhaps because of her hair, which she had put up today, she looked more elegant than usual. With a slender body, her grey pantsuit matched her well.
Ishii stopped to greet her.
As she was a newspaper reporter, he often met her like this.
’Are you finished work?’
’Yes, for now...’ he replied vaguely.
Ishii was stationed at the department of the <Unsolved Cases Special Investigations Room>. It sounded nice, since it could be called following up cases that were unsolved, as per the name, but it was actually just paperwork.
There was an incredible amount of it, which made it near impossible to finish. Accordingly, he wasn’t sure if he had actually finished work or not.
’Would you like to have dinner?’
Ishii couldn’t hide his confusion at Makoto’s sudden suggestion.
It wasn’t as if he had any special feelings for Makoto. It was just that he hadn’t ever been invited out by a woman like this.
’Yes. Actually, there was something I wanted to consult you about, Ishii-san...’
Makoto nodded happily.
However, Ishii was even more confused. Makoto was an intelligent woman. He couldn’t think of anything she would want to consult him on.
’Do you have other plans?’
Makoto peered at Ishii’s face when he didn’t reply. She looked incredibly lonely.
’No, that isn’t...’
’Then, let’s go.’
’Eh, ah, yes...’
Ishii left the police precinct, led away by Makoto.
They headed for a family restaurant about a five-minute walk from the precinct.
’So what is it you wanted to consult me about?’ asked Ishii after they sat at a window seat.
Then, Makoto’s expression suddenly became hard. It appeared to be a serious topic. Ishii gulped and waited for her to reply.
’Actually, I am writing a report on somebody for work.’
’Who is this report on?’
When Ishii heard that name, he felt like he had been pushed off a cliff.
With gooseflesh on his skin, for a while he couldn’t even open his mouth in his shock.
Nanase Miyuki hadn’t only brutally murdered her own family at the age of ten – she had also been involved in a number of cases while cooperating with Yakumo’s father, the man with two red eyes,
In the case that occurred half a year ago, she stabbed Gotou and seriously injured him.
Just remembering that cold smile made Ishii shiver.
Ishii was finally able to squeeze just those words out of himself.
Thinking about writing a report on such an evil crime was enough to make him frightened.
’It’s work. But it’s also true that I have a personal interest in her.’
Ishii didn’t understand. What was interesting about a woman who would kill people for fun – and there was no way you would understand her no matter how much you investigated.
’Yes. Why did Nanase Miyuki commit those crimes?’
’She always had that disposition.’
That was how Ishii truly felt.
There were some things about Nanase Miyuki, such as her family environment, that he should have empathised with. However, her act of killing her whole family at the age of ten was beyond understanding.
Rather than the environment changing her, Ishii felt like she had been born with an evil disposition.
’Is that really the case?’ said Makoto doubtfully.
’What do you mean?’
’I’ve just started investigating, but I think that there was a deep love behind her actions.’
Ishii mulled over it.
There was no word that could be more inappropriate for Nanase Miyuki. Ishii thought that it was because she didn’t have anything resembling human love that she went mad.
’I think that she killed her family in the beginning because she wanted love.’
’Killing because she wanted love... I feel like it doesn’t connect.’
’Is that so?’
’I think there is a paper-thin difference between love and madness.’
Makoto’s eyes were sparkling so brightly it was uncanny.
Ishii even felt afraid – he looked away and bit his lip.
’A woman can be incredibly cruel for love. No, I don’t think it’s cruel. Rather, it could be perceived as sublime.’
’When Nanase Miyuki killed her family at ten, she met the man with two red eyes.’
’What sort of existence was the man with two red eyes to her?’
Ishii did feel that their relationship was connected more deeply than just conspirators.
However, Ishii didn’t know what it was.
’I think that to her, he was a lover and a father.’
’I think that she loved the man with two red eyes from the bottom of her heart and worshipped him. To her, I think he might have been a symbol of her existence.
’A symbol of her existence?’
Ishii hadn’t had that perspective.
He hadn’t even thought about how Nanase Miyuki and the man with red eyes had been tied together.
’A woman could go anywhere if it were with the person she loves.’
’Is that so?’
’Yes. There was a person named Abe Sada in the past, yes?’
Ishii knew the outline of the incident.
Abe Sada, who worked at a small restaurant named Yoshidaya, had an adulterous relationship with the owner of the shop named Ishida.
When that relationship was revealed, the two of them ran away together. After having sex, she strangled Ishida to death.
The disturbing actions of Abe Sada came afterwards. She cut off Ishida’s penis and kept it on her person until she was arrested.
’Abe Sada killed the man she loved. It wasn’t because she hated him. She killed him because she loved him. It seems contradictory, but in her head, it was the same.’
She killed him because she loved him?
’I don’t really understand...’
Ishii, who didn’t have proper experience with love, had no way of understanding the warped shapes of love –
’I don’t know. She was gone before I noticed...’
Masato spoke to the uniformed officer sitting in front of him.
After that, Masato and Tomoya went together to Yumiko’s house. They had thought that their eyes must have been playing tricks on them and that Yumiko was at home. However, they were wrong.
When Masato and Tomoya visited, Yumiko’s family also realised that Yumiko had disappeared and called the police in a panic.
Since they were the ones who saw her last, Masato and Tomoya were called to the local police station and were questioned by the police.
’Do you remember anything else?’
Tomoya shook his head.
It seemed like he didn’t plan on talking about how Yumiko had strangled Masato. Masato felt the same way.
He wanted that to be some sort of mistake.
’How about you?’
The officer turned to Masato with narrowed eyes.
Even though somebody had gone missing, this officer didn’t seem nervous or impatient. It was like the officer didn’t care about Yumiko at all.
Masato might have been irritated by that attitude. He said something he hadn’t planned on saying.
The officer’s eyebrows furrowed.
’A demon was there.’
The officer shook his head, like he was fed up.
– He really didn’t believe me.
After Masato sighed in resignation, somebody gripped his shoulder.
– Who’s there?
Masato turned around and saw an old woman there, about seventy years old. He had greeted her once before. It was Yumiko’s grandmother.
Though her face was wrinkled, her eyes were opened unusually wide. It was bloodcurdling.
’Is what you said just now true?’ said Yumiko’s grandmother.
Her hand gripped Masato’s shoulder even more tightly. It was surprising that there was such strength in such a thin hand.
’Granny, we’ll talk to you later, so please wait.’
The uniformed officer tried to turn Yumiko’s grandmother away, but she pressed Masato further.
’Did you really see a demon?’
’Y-yeah, I did...’
When Masato responded, Yumiko let out a cry – he couldn’t tell whether it was a shriek or a moan – and stumbled backwards.
She had lost her strength from earlier and was trembling, as if afraid of something.
’Are you all right?’ the uniformed officer asked, panicked.
’She was spirited away. That girl was spirited away.’
Yumiko’s grandmother covered her face with trembling hands and sat on the floor.
The uniformed officer frantically tried to sooth her, though he seemed confused.
Masato didn’t understand what had happened.
However, the words ’spirited away’ remained incredibly raw in Masato’s ears –
After leaving the local police station, Tomoya spoke to him.
His eyes were filled with a strong anger. Masato looked to his feet, unable to face his eyes directly.
’It’s your fault,’ Tomoya said with ragged breathing.
’Yumiko disappeared because you ran away.’
Tomoya’s quiet words pierced Masato’s heart.
– Because I ran away.
He felt like everything that had built up until now had collapsed all at once.
While Masato was looking for a reply, Tomoya turned on his heels and ran off at full speed.
– Tomoya’s gone too.
All Masato could do was see that back off.
Higashino Hiroyuki gripped the wheel nervously.
It wasn’t that he wasn’t used to driving. It was just that it had been five years since he started working as a guard. It was the first time he’d driven a patrol wagon with a prisoner on it.
Nothing would change just because a prisoner was there. He knew that, but he just felt an incredible pressure from behind him.
When he looked at the rear-view mirror, he saw a woman sitting with her head down between two guards in the backseat through the metal grid that divided them.
The woman’s name was Nanase Miyuki.
She had fair skin and elegant features that would make you think she was a model, but she was a criminal who had been involved in a number of crimes up until now.
Higashino couldn’t understand why she had committed such repulsive crimes.
She had a faint smile on her face.
Higashino didn’t know if it was a natural smile or a smile because she had noticed him, but it was so beautiful he had to swallow his breath.
’You curious?’ said Yano, the senior guard sitting in the passenger seat.
His eyes were cold.
’No, that isn’t...’
’It’s said that beautiful roses have thorns.’
Yano smiled frivolously, like he thought something was funny.
’Is she really a criminal?’
Yano let out an incredibly gloomy sigh.
’That’s not for us to think about.’
’But if she was falsely accused...’
’Why do you think that?’
He couldn’t reply immediately. Higashino had just said what he felt – he didn’t have any proof.
It could be called a feeling close to delusion.
’You’re the type who’d get serious about a hostess.’
’There’s no way I would,’ replied Higashino, offended.
Then, he looked up and saw something unbelievable.
In the middle of the road lit up with headlights, there stood a man. He had long hair that flowed down his back and wore a black suit and sun glasses.
He was just ten metres away.
Higashino slammed the brake just as Yano yelled.
Just as he thought his body had shaken from the recoil, the car veered sharply to the right. The violent impact ran through his body.
Higashino fainted –
How long had he been out? There was the smell of something burning when Higashino opened his eyes.
Black smoke filled his vision.
Higashino took off his seatbelt and climbed out the car from the broken front window.
Black smoke was coming out from the area where the petrol tank was. It seemed like it had caught fire from the accident.
The tank might burst at this right.
Higashino looked around. Yano was still buckled into the passenger seat. If he didn’t save him now –
Before Higashino could return to the car, a man stood in his way.
A black suit and sunglasses – the man who had suddenly appeared in the world earlier.
Higashino spoke those words without thinking.
When he slammed on the brakes, the man had already been in front of his eyes. He couldn’t have made it in time. but the man had no injuries at all.
The man looked at Higashino and smiled.
A cold smile that sent a shiver down Higashino’s spine.
Then, the man slowly took off his sunglasses.
His two eyes glowed red like a blazing flame –
Haruka ran –
She passed through the gates and went straight for the back of Building B to see the two-storey prefabricated building.
It was used by student circles, lent out by the university. The <Movie Research Circle> at the very end of the first floor was where Haruka was headed.
’Yakumo-kun, there’s big trouble!’
Haruka opened the door forcefully.
’You’re being so noisy so early in the morning.’
At the back of the room that was about four and a half tatami in size, Yakumo sat up in his sleeping bag.
He ran a hand through his messy hair and yawned with half-open eyes.
<Movie Research Circle> was just the name – Yakumo actually lived here. He made up some bogus documents, tricked the university and used the place as his own room.
’It’s not the time to be relaxed.’
’It would be stranger to get worked up without knowing the reason.’
’Oh, I see.’
She strangely understood.
’Slow and steady wins the race. Anyway, why not sit down?’
At Yakumo’s suggestion, Haruka became just a bit calmer.
It was true that there was no point getting worked up by herself. First, she would calm down. Haruka told herself that and sat in the chair.
Yakumo slowly got up and sat in the chair opposite Haruka while rubbing his eyes.
’So what trouble do you have for me this time?’
Though the way he said it irritated Haruka, since she really had brought trouble this time, she couldn’t object.
’I got a call from Masato-kun this morning,’ said Haruka after taking a deep breath.
’When you say Masato, do you mean that Masato?’
’Come to think of it, we promised to go visit him, but we still haven’t gone...’
Yakumo’s eyes narrowed.
Haruka and Yakumo met Masato about half a year ago – he was a student at the elementary school where Haruka was a trainee.
He was involved in a certain case, lost his father and received a grave wound psychologically.
Yakumo had run about with her to save him.
After the case was over, Masato’s uncle took him in and he moved to Nagano, but Haruka had still been concerned so she continued to send him letters.
She was worried about his emotional state and about whether he was used to his new environment.
However, it seemed like his uncle and aunt treated him well and he had made friends at school – he seemed to be much more cheerful than when she’d first met him. Masato might have been able to stand up again. Haruka had thought that, and then she had received the phone call.
After Haruka asked, Masato explained all the strange things that had been happening around him at once.
Going to Kinasa for a field trip. His female classmate who had suddenly fainted there. And then her disappearance –
When Haruka heard that, she went to Yakumo to consult him.
At times like this, Yakumo was really the only person she could rely on.
’So what happened to Masato?’
Yakumo still didn’t seem nervous. He stifled a yawn.
’He called me earlier.’
’Is he doing well?’
’He asked me to help him...’
’What do you mean?’
Finally, Yakumo’s expression became serious.
’He said his friend was spirited away...’
Haruka stated Masato’s words just as he had.
’Tell me in more detail.’
Yakumo’s eyes glittered.
’What a pain,’ grumbled Gotou, once he saw the pile of documents on the desk.
Gotou had always been better at acting than thinking, but all he did day in and out was paperwork. He hated it from the bottom of his heart.
His building irritation made him want to start smoking again.
Sitting at the opposite disk, Ishii spoke up while smartly adjusting the position of his silver-framed glasses.
’Your hands have stopped.’
’Shut up!’ said Gotou, clicking his tongue.
Somehow or other, Ishii had started sharing his opinions with Gotou recently.
Though Gotou was happy Ishii had grown, he didn’t like having Ishii nag at him like a sister-in-law.
’To hell with your “but"s. I hate paperwork.’
’But if we don’t finish this, we can’t participate in the investigation. We have to pick up what we didn’t do last night.’
Even though Ishii talked around it, Gotou didn’t like being complained about.
Just as Gotou raised a fist to hit Ishii, his mobile phone rang.
’Who is it?’ answered Gotou with a snort.
<I’ll say it again, but please correct your telephone manner.>
From the phone, he heard Yakumo’s extremely sleeping-sounding voice.
Yakumo’s voice was grating.
’I don’t want to hear that from an unsociable guy like you.’
<Even without your saying it, anybody would know that you’re incorrigible.>
He was acting like he misheard on purpose.
Yakumo had to be the best in Japan at angering others.
’You making fun of me!?’
’I’m gonna hang up if you’ve got nothing to say.’
<Do you think I have so much free time that I would call you for no reason, Gotou-san?>
There had to be a better way to say that.
’Then tell me what you’re calling me for.’
<Please come now.>
<I’ll wait at the front gates.>
’Am I a cab?’
<Something like it, right?>
<Please don’t speak so loudly.>
Gotou stamped his foot.
<Anyway, it’s an emergency. Please hurry.>
’Don’t screw with me.’
<Why not? You must have nothing to do anyway.>
’You bastard! What do you mean by that!?’
Gotou let out a yell, but Yakumo had already hung up.
– Really, what a selfish guy.
Gotou grumbled inwardly and looked at Ishii, who was quietly doing paperwork.
Though Gotou could just ignore Yakumo’s request, it’d let Gotou get out of this boring work.
’No way out of it.’
Gotou put his mobile in his pocket and stood up.
’Detective Gotou, where are you going?’
Ishii looked up.
Though Ishii might not have intended it to sound this way, it felt pointed.
’Going out for a bit. I’ll leave the rest to you,’ said Gotou. Then, he left the room.
Ishii watched Gotou leave the room and grumbled without thinking.
From the earlier phone call, Yakumo had probably called Gotou out. Gotou probably thought it was a way to escape the paperwork. Ishii didn’t mind. But –
’I wish he would have invited me...’
Those were Ishii’s true feelings.
Gotou wasn’t the only one who didn’t like paperwork.
Ishii was depressed too, stuck in this room.
’Gotou, you here!?’
Interrupting Ishii’s thoughts, the door opened, and Chief Miyagawa came in.
Though he was of small stature, he had a shaved head and a glint in his eyes. If you didn’t know him, he looked more like a member of a gang than a detective.
Ishii stood up automatically.
’Ah, er, Detective Gotou went to the washroom...’ lied Ishii, still standing pencil-straight.
Miyagawa’s eyes were wide open as they stared at him.
’By washroom, you of course mean that he went home.’
He found out –
’Well, fine. Ishii, you come alone,’ said Miyagawa.
’The investigation, obviously.’
’Eh? Just me? Detective Gotou is...’
’Stop flapping your mouth. You’re a detective too, aren’t you?’
Miyagawa’s words pierced Ishii’s chest.
That was right. He was a detective too.
Up until now, he had relied too much on Gotou and even forgot such an obvious thing. That thought roused his body.
Ishii took the jacket from the back of his chair and ran after Miyagawa, who had left the room with a wide stride.
He fell –
’Don’t lag behind!’
Ishikawa was pulled back up by Miyagawa’s yell and he jogged up to Miyagawa.
’Excuse me, but what investigation is it exactly?’ asked Ishii, taking a memo pad and pen out of his shirt pocket as he did so.
Miyagawa stopped and pulled Ishii’s shoulder close as he started speaking quietly.
’A patrol wagon carrying a prisoner yesterday was in an accident.’
’An accident? Shouldn’t that be the duty of traffic...’
’I know that without you telling me. Wait ’til I’m done!”
Ishii stiffened under Miyagawa’s pressure.
Miyagawa cleared his throat awkwardly, like he thought he had said too much.
’The patrol wagon in the accident was carrying Nanase Miyuki.’
– Nanase Miyuki.
When Ishii heard that name, he thought his heart might stop.
’W-what happened to her?’
’That’s what we’re investigating.’
’If you’ve got it, let’s go.’
Miyagawa started walking briskly.
Ishii wanted to follow, but his feet wouldn’t move the way he wanted them to.
– I don’t want to go.
It seemed his body was reflecting that.
Something incredibly awful was going to happen. That premonition disturbed Ishii’s heart.
Miyagawa yelled back at him.
Ishii automatically replied with a ’Yes sir!’ and started running. His feet tangled.
He fell –
Gotou drove the car.
He took the main street in front of the station and went up the curving road to see Meisei University, his destination.
When he approached the front gate, lined with red bricks, he spotted Yakumo standing there.
Gotou honked and started the car. Yakumo got into the passenger seat immediately.
’I was tired of waiting.’
That was the first thing Yakumo said.
’What kind of tone is that?’
Though Gotou complained, Yakumo let out an incredibly bored yawn. He even finished with another complaint: ’If you have the time to complain, please start the car already.’
’I don’t mind starting the car, but where to?’
’Anyway, please head to the Kobomatsu intersection.’
Gotou felt somewhat like he really had become a cabbie.
’So what happened?’ Gotou asked while stepping on the pedal.
Since it was Yakumo, he wouldn’t call Gotou out for no reason. There must have been some sort of trouble.
’Do you remember Masato?’
’That kid from the incident at the school?’ said Gotou as the boy’s face came up in his mind.
He had an atmosphere incredibly similar to Yakumo’s and seemed to have a considerable psychological wound from the incident.
’Yes. It seems he’s got into some sort of trouble.’
’So you’re going to help him?’
Yakumo looked out the window.
Unusual for him, Yakumo had a proactive reason.
Gotou wasn’t unrelated either. He was concerned about the boy.
’Got it. I’ll go too.’
He said that naturally.
Yakumo looked surprised.
– You too, buddy.
Gotou swallowed the words he was about to say. Yakumo would just complain anyway.
After a while, the car reached a junction of five streets.
’Around here then?’
’Please go to the front of that apartment.’
Yakumo pointed ahead of the intersection.
With cream-coloured walls, it was a pretty apartment with a glass entrance. It was probably for students living alone.
Though Gotou asked that, Yakumo just yawned and looked out the window. It looked like he didn’t want to explain.
After Gotou sighed, he saw somebody coming out of the entrance.
It was Haruka.
She wore skinny jeans and a pink parka as she walked towards them with a large tote bag.
It was like she was going to go on a trip.
’I’m sorry for the wait,’ said Haruka as she caught her breath. Then, she got into the backseat, as if it was a matter of course.
Gotou turned around and asked, ’Haruka-chan, you’re going too?’
’Of course,’ replied Haruka with ragged breathing.
’Gotou-san agreed to cooperate,’ Yakumo said with a smirk.
’That’s Gotou-san for you.’
Haruka clapped her hands together.
Somehow, Gotou didn’t feel happy. He had no proof, but he felt like Yakumo had cornered him.
’Anyway, please head onto the highway and drive along the road,’ instructed Yakumo with a yawn.
Though Yakumo’s lofty attitude riled Gotou up, there was no point saying it now. Gotou just started the car.
After a while, Gotou asked, ’So where are we going?’
’Nagano,’ replied Yakumo, still looking out the window.
– Nagano, eh?
Gotou mulled over it for a while, but he thought something was off.
’Obviously the one in Nagano prefecture.’
Gotou slammed the brakes, shocked by what Yakumo had said in such an obvious manner.
Gotou was forced forward. The seatbelt dug into his shoulder.
’Gotou-san, that’s dangerous,’ protested Haruka from the back seat.
Yakumo was glaring at him furiously from the passenger seat too.
However, Gotou was the one who wanted to complain.
’Shut up. I didn’t hear anything about going to Nagano!’ Gotou yelled.
’Of course you didn’t. I didn’t mention it,’ Yakumo said naturally. It made Gotou even more irritated.
’I said, I didn’t mention it. It’s natural that you didn’t know.’
’That’s not what I’m talking about.’
’That what is it?’
’I have work. I can’t go so far away with you!’
Gotou hit the wheel in his agitation.
’Didn’t you say you would cooperate for Masato’s sake?’ said Yakumo in an expressionless voice as he ran a hand through his hair.
’That’s a different story.’
’How is it different? Your heartlessness doesn’t change.’
Gotou ground his teeth together.
’I understand. If you don’t want to, it’s fine.’
When Yakumo backed off like this, it gave Gotou a bad feeling.
’I’ll consult Atsuko-san.’
’Why’re you bringing up my wife?’
’If it were Atsuko-san, she would take us to Nagano.’
Yakumo crossed his arms and looked up at the low ceiling.
This was bad. This wasn’t a threat. If Gotou refused here, Yakumo really would use Atsuko as a cab. That’d be a problem in and of itself.
’Fine. But I’m just driving you to Nagano.’
’Yes, drop off and pick up is enough.’
Yakumo smiled with narrowed eyes.
When he showed this expression, he was always plotting something.
– I’ve got a bad feeling about this.
Gotou started the car with uneasy feelings.
– Yumiko’s gone because you ran away.
As Masato took the bus to Nagano Station, those words kept repeating in his head.
Tomoya had said that last night.
Those words pierced to the deepest part of Masato’s heart, making him remember what happened with his father half a year ago.
Masato had run away in his fear then too.
As a result, his father died. That wasn’t all. A lot of awful things happened too.
– I won’t run away any more.
He had made that vow and started his new life in Nagano, but he had run away again. Because of that, Yumiko was gone.
Anxiety curling in his chest, Masato got off the bus at the Nagano Station traffic circle.
He sat on the blue bench at the bus stop and hated that all he could do was wait.
The regular bell for the departing Shinkansen pierced his ears.
When it was decided that he would live with his uncle in Nagano, he had been anxious, but his uncle and aunt had welcomed him kindly.
The two of them didn’t have children of their own – they’d said that Masato was like their own son.
Though they sometimes scolded him, it wasn’t through illogical violence the way his past father had done. They would reasonably explain what was wrong with what Masato had done.
He’d fit in more quickly at the new school that he’d thought he would too, because Tomoya and Yumiko were there.
Their smiles had saved him.
To Masato, they were the first friends he’d made – they were irreplaceable. But still, he ran away - that thought kept running through his head.
’What should I have done?’
Though he spoke aloud, nobody replied.
When he looked up, he could see a chain of tall mountains overlooking the whole town. Masato now felt resent towards those sublime mountains.
The field trip he’d taken to those mountains had been the start of it.
He looked towards the clock by the escalator to the station platform.
It was exactly five o’ clock. It was the arranged time.
He looked around, but the person he was looking for wasn’t there.
– Will she really come?
He wanted to believe in her, but with his heart as fragile as it was now, he couldn’t help but be anxious.
To escape the weariness is his shoulders, Masato curled up and hugged his knees. Though it was May, the wind was cold at this time. It chilled him to the centre of his body.
– What should I do?
’Sorry for the wait!’
At the same time as the voice, somebody tapped him on the back.
Masato leapt up in surprise.
In front of his eyes stood Haruka’s smiling figure.
Unlike the suit she wore during training, her casual attire of jeans and a parka made her look younger.
Next to her stood a large-framed middle-aged man. He raised his hand and said, ’Hey.’
After the incident with his father, Haruka told Masato the story. This was probably Detective Gotou.
’It’s been a while.’
Yakumo appeared from behind Gotou.
As usual, he wore a shirt and jeans and had a hand in his messy hair as he yawned.
However, one thing had changed.
When Masato had last seen Yakumo, he had hid his red left eye with a black content lens. However, now the red left eye was bare and unhidden.
Yakumo also seemed to have a different air to him.
’Sorry we’re late,’ said Haruka, touching Masato’s shoulder.
’It’s all this bear’s fault.’
Yakumo pointed at Gotou.
’Why’s it my fault?’
’Didn’t you get lost?’
’You! Who do you think brought you here!?’
’Please don’t speak so loudly in the middle of the street. It’s embarrassing.’
Yakumo put his fingers in his ears to complain.
Masato opened his mouth, but he couldn’t think of what to say.
When he saw Haruka’s and Yakumo’s faces, he felt whatever it is that had been stuck in his chest snap. He started crying.
Together with Miyagawa, Ishii went to the hospital affiliated with the police.
Yano, the man who had been in the passenger seat, wasn’t gravely injured, but his whole body was bruised. He also had third-degree burns on his legs and was currently undergoing treatment in the ICU.
Higashino, the man who had been driving, got off with light injuries and was able to talk.
When Ishii went into the hospital room, he saw a man in his early thirties lying on a bed. He was probably Higashino. He had a cut on his cheek, but there were no other obvious injuries.
Higashino seemed to notice Ishii and Miyagawa and sat up with a nervous look.
’I’m Miyagawa of the Setamachi precinct.’
’My name is Ishii.’
Ishii followed Miyagawa and showed his police ID.
’Oh,’ Higashino replied flatly. There was no energy in his face – it was like his heart wasn’t here.
’Please tell us about the incident,’ said Miyagawa, pulling the round chair for guest use that was nearby and sitting down. Ishii remained standing and took out his memo pad.
’What happened?’ Miyagawa asked directly.
Higashino’s brows furrowed as he played with his fingernails, looking troubled.
’It was so sudden...’ Higashino said helplessly.
Miyagawa turned his sharp gaze towards him. To escape it, Higashino looked out the window.
’A man suddenly appeared on the road.’
’He jumped out?’
When Miyagawa asked that, Higashino shook his head vigorously.
’That isn’t it. It was sudden. A man in the middle of the road...’
Miyagawa didn’t look like he had accepted Higashino’s testimony, but he urged him to continue.
’It was too late when I noticed. I couldn’t make it in time... so I thought as I slammed the brakes and turned the wheel.’
’And then you turned sideways,’ said Ishii, recalling the state of the scene.
’What was the distance?’ asked Miyagawa, his voice one step lower.
’About ten metres...’
’How many KM were you driving at?’
’I think it was about fifty.’
’Then you probably didn’t make it even if you stepped on the brakes.’
Higashino’s shoulders shuddered in fear.
It was just as Miyagawa said. If he had been driving at fifty kilometres per hour and suddenly stepped on the brakes, it would take thirty metres to stop. If the man
This chapter upload first at Read Novel Daily
Please report the problems you have identified regarding the novel and its chapters.Report