Shinrei Tantei Yakumo -
Volume 8 Chapter 1
VOLUME 8 – THE VANISHED SPIRIT file 01: suspicion
Life is a momentary phase The end of life is a momentary phase – Dougen
Saitou Yakumo woke up to his own yell.
His body was covered in sweat as he lay on the wooden floor.
– A dream?
After realising that, Yakumo slowly sat up.
He didn’t remember the contents of his dream, but he was left with a smouldering impression in his chest that it had been incredibly unpleasant
That’s how dreams are –
His vision was blurry, as if he were surrounded by fog.
The back of his neck hurt like it had been squeezed tightly.
– Did I hit it on something?
Then, his surroundings became clear. He had thought he was in the university’s Movie Research Circle room, where he usually slept, but it seemed he was wrong.
It was dim –
There were candleholders in the four corners of the room, with the small lights of the candles flickering. The room was about twenty tatami in size.
At first glance, it looked like a temple, but rocks dripping with water jutted out of the ceiling and the wall in the back and the narrow pillar in the middle of the room supported the limestone ceiling, which looked like it might collapse at any moment.
This was probably built out of some limestone cave.
– Why am I here?
Yakumo was trying to search through his memories, but the pain in the back of his neck stopped him. He let out a groan and closed his eyes.
His forehead was covered with a cold sweat.
He was taking deep breaths to try to calm down when an offensive smell suddenly assaulted him.
Yakumo knew what that smell was immediately.
Yakumo leant back without thinking.
There was an aging fifty-year old man collapsed there in priest’s robes.
His eyes were wide. A purple tongue hung from his half-open mouth.
He had dug his fingernails into the floorboards, probably because he had frantically struggled to get away.
There were stab wounds all over the man’s body.
The large amount of blood that had come out of his wounds spread around the man, as if to draw his figure.
It was clear to anyone that Yakumo was already dead.
Yakumo knew this man.
His name was Seidou. The chief priest at the temple.
’What is this...’ murmured Yakumo, covering his face with his hands. Then, he suddenly felt something strange.
He felt something sticky on his palms.
– It can’t be.
Yakumo held his hands up in front of his eyes.
They were a deep red –
From his palms to his fingers, congealed blood stuck to his hand.
Again, Yakumo looked at Seidou, who lay face-down.
There was a knife stuck in the floor.
The blade was stained with blood up to the handle.
Yakumo had a creeping suspicion.
There was no sign that Seidou had been dragged. The blood seeping into the floor around him also showed that he had been killed here.
– Something happened.
The more he tried to remember, the more the back of his neck hurt. Like there were memories there that he himself wanted to forget.
While bearing with the pain in the back of his neck, Yakumo slowly stood up.
– I won’t forgive you.
Yakumo heard a voice from somewhere.
A woman’s voice that echoed with darkness, like it had been strangled out of the bottom of her stomach –
When Yakumo turned around, he saw a woman with her head facing down standing in front of the double doors which were the only exit.
She wore a navy blazer with a short check skirt. It was probably a uniform from some high school.
Her wet hair clung to her face.
Her skin was so pale that her veins appeared, faintly blue, and she was sickly thin.
Yakumo knew that in front of him wasn’t a living person but a ghost that he was seeing with his red left eye.
Yakumo looked at the girl.
– I won’t forgive you.
The girl said that again in a voice filled with hatred as she slowly lifted her head.
Her eyes were bloodshot, as if she were possessed by something.
Hatred, resentment, envy – those eyes condensed a variety of negative emotions.
– Die. Pay for it with your death.
The girl repeated herself in a voice as hoarse as an old woman’s.
’Why would you go so far...’
Without replying to Yakumo’s question, the girl went through the entrance, as if she had been sucked in, and disappeared.
Using the wall for support, Yakumo chased the girl.
Just as he was about to try to push open the doors, he suddenly stopped.
There was a piece of paper about the size of a business card stuck on the doors.
There was a short message on the piece of paper.
The moment Yakumo read the message, his eyes went wide.
If someone who didn’t understand looked at it without knowing the point, it would probably be difficult to understand the meaning from the message. However, Yakumo was different. He immediately understood the dreadfulness indicated by that message.
– This is bad.
Yakumo wanted to make a call, but he didn’t have his mobile. That wasn’t all that was missing. He couldn’t find his wallet or key either.
He turned around, but they hadn’t fallen in the room.
Either he dropped them somewhere, or – anyway, looking at the situation, it would be useless to stay any longer. He needed to get out of here as soon as he could.
Yakumo took the paper off the doors and stuck it in his pocket. Then, he took a candleholder in his pocket and pushed open the doors.
With the help of the faint light of the candle, he looked around.
Right in front of the doors, he saw the bare rock face of a limestone cavern.
Water dripped from the rocks above his head. The cave continued, about five metres wide and two metres tall.
– Seems like this is the only way to proceed.
Yakumo tried to advance, dragging his body forward, but his feet were unsteady, as if the ground were shaking beneath him.
After walking a few steps, he put his hand against the rock wall and took deep breaths with heaving shoulders.
He heard footsteps.
Somebody’s here –
The moment he lifted his head, he was hit by a strong light.
Yakumo’s vision went white, like a smokescreen had been put up in front of him.
’What are you doing here?’
It was a man’s voice. It had an intimidating tone to it.
After blinking a number of times, he finally saw the person standing in front of him.
It was a middle-aged uniformed officer holding a torch.
Yakumo was lost for words.
At the current stage, his memories were still vague, so he had no way of explaining.
’You look a bit pale...’
The middle-aged officer walked towards Yakumo.
’I’m fine,’ replied Yakumo, looking away from reflex. But it was a bit late. The middle-aged uniformed officer looked surprised.
Yakumo knew what he was going to say even without hearing the rest.
His left eye was red – that was why he was surprised. In the past, seeing a response like this would hurt him deeply, but now he thought of it like nothing.
People were frightened of others who were different than they were. It was natural as a living being.
A voice echoed through the limestone cavern, interrupting the silence.
Yakumo turned his eyes towards the doors to the cave, which were still open. A young uniformed officer stood there, pointing inside agitatedly.
It appeared he had noticed the corpse in the cave.
’What happened?’ asked the middle-aged uniformed officer in a relaxed manner.
’S-somebody’s dead!’ shouted the young uniformed officer.
That was the sign.
Yakumo pushed the middle-aged uniformed officer aside and ran.
The middle-aged office fell on his behind and yelled, ’Wait!’ Unfortunately, Yakumo couldn’t obey that command right now.
Yakumo just ran with all his strength towards the exit.
After running about fifty metres, the path took a large curve.
He saw the light of the exit after the turn.
The officers’ voices and footsteps followed him.
Even if he ran out of the exit, with his exhausted body, he would probably be caught soon. That would be the end of everything.
– What to do?
Yakumo stopped and looked around. He spotted a gap between the rocks.
Limestone caves were complex – there wasn’t only one exit. Perhaps this gap would connect to another exit. However, if it was a dead end, that would be like running into a cage himself.
Yakumo made his decision and decided to dive into the gap, hiding himself quickly.
He stifled his breath –
The footsteps of the officers caught up soon after, but they went right by.
After a pause, Yakumo moved to look at the exit.
After the officers discussed something at the exit, they split up, running left and right.
Yakumo let out a sigh of relief, but then he returned to the problem at hand.
He couldn’t hide here forever. The officers wouldn’t search that far either. If they couldn’t find him, they’d return to the limestone cave.
That said, going to the limestone cave’s exit now would be suicide.
He really would have to go through the gap in the rocks to the end.
Yakumo stooped over and stepped into the deep darkness.
Suddenly, the bloody image of Seidou flashed through Yakumo’s mind.
– Did I do that?
He wanted to deny it – there was no way – but at this point, Yakumo didn’t have the evidence to.
Anyway, he had to escape now.
After moving about ten metres, he saw a small light.
There was an exit ahead.
With relief, he took another step. Then, his foot slipped.
It was already too late when he spoke.
The rock he had stepped on crumbled loudly.
Yakumo fell into the darkness, dragged in by gravity –
After Ozawa Haruka finished her orchestra circle practice, she headed for the prefabricated building in the back of Building B.
There were ten small rooms of four and a half tatami in size on each floor.
Haruka stood in front of the room at the very end of the first floor. There was a plate that read Movie Research Circle on the door, but it was a blatant lie.
The owner of the room, Saitou Yakumo, had fooled the university’s student union, created a fictional club and used the room as his own.
Yakumo’s left eye had been red from birth and had the unique ability to see the spirits of the dead.
– A hateful guy.
That had been Haruka’s first impression. A contrary person who was unfriendly and hated to deal with others.
Starting with Miki’s case. Haruka had experienced many incidents with Yakumo.
Most of them had been depressing, but with those experiences, Haruka’s impression of Yakumo had changed a lot.
Because of Yakumo’s unique ability, his own mother had tried to kill him and others looked at him like he was strange.
After experiencing hardship, Yakumo had put a wall between himself and others to protect his damaged heart.
However, inside he noticed more than anyone and had a kind side to him.
After Haruka noticed that, Yakumo seemed cute to her.
Somehow, she could relax with him. Though he probably didn’t intend it himself, she felt like she was being protected.
Now, she would go see him whenever she had time.
One of her friends had asked her if they were dating before. Unfortunately, the answer was no.
Though she had experienced many things with Yakumo, time had passed without any particular developments, and before she’d noticed it, she was here, half a year from graduation.
After that – there was probably nothing.
They might have experienced too much to become more than friends.
Close, but far. That was her relationship with Yakumo.
I wonder what Yakumo thinks – she did want to ask, but she felt like doing so would ruin everything they had built so far.
She was very afraid of that.
– What am I thinking about?
Haruka smiled self-derisively and looked towards the door again.
Today, she hadn’t been involved in some case like usual. It would be Yakumo’s birthday soon. She had thought about giving him a present, but she didn’t know what he would like.
After worrying about it, she decided to ask the person himself and came here.
’Yakumo-kun, you here?’
Haruka called out as she opened the door.
However, Yakumo was missing.
’What? He’s not here...’
With a sigh, Haruka sat on her usual seat by the door.
A dreary room with nothing in it –
Even the chair she sat on was just a rusty folding chair that could be found anywhere. That said, it made her calm.
It was a small room, only four and a half tatami in size, but she didn’t have to put on airs here – she could be herself.
Haruka rested her head on the table.
It was quiet.
’Yakumo, won’t you come back soon...’
Once he got back, he would definitely complain, saying something like ’What are you doing here?’ or ’Do you have this much free time?’.
When Haruka had first met Yakumo, she would become seriously mad by what he said.
However, now it was as natural to her as a ’Good morning’. It was comfortable.
She had never felt this way with anyone else before.
– I probably like...
To clear her head, Haruka took out her mobile and started typing a message.
It was to Yakumo.
She had never received a reply from Yakumo after messaging him. It was just a one-way digital signal.
It was mysterious how she still felt like they were connected this way.
<Do you want anything?>
Haruka sent a short message and lay on the table again.
I have so much time –
Gotou Kazutoshi yawned as he sat on the chair.
Nothing case-like had happened recently. He knew that he shouldn’t want cases as part of the police, but sitting at a desk didn’t suit him.
The Unsolved Cases Special Investigation Room that Gotou was stationed at had the goal of cleaning up cases that had been placed aside, as per the name.
That said, most of it was just paperwork. For Gotou, who thought before he acted, it was like torture.
After Gotou had sighed for the nth time, the door opened.
’D-Detective Gotou! I-it’s terrible!’
Ishii Yuutarou flew in with a panicked expression.
’You’re so noisy,’ responded Gotou with a click of his tongue.
Gotou could count on one hand the number of times things had actually been terrible when Ishii said they were.
Ishii faltered, suddenly losing his momentum.
Gotou had thought that Ishii had grown a bit, but he really didn’t have his feet firmly planted on the ground.
’What are you making such a fuss about?’
’E-er, I passed.’
’That. I passed.’
As usual, Ishii didn’t get to the point.
’What’s that? Say it clearly.’
’The promotion exam.’
Ishii’s breathing was ragged.
’Like I said, I passed. The assistant inspector promotion exam.’
Gotou wasn’t properly listening, but when he understood the meaning of the words, he suddenly come to his senses.
’What did you say just now?’
’I said, the promotion exam...’
’That isn’t it. I meant the rank.’
Ishii puffed up his chest in pride.
’You’re going to be an assistant inspector?’
– What the hell.
Gotou’s sleepiness flew away all at once.
’What’s wrong? You look pale...’
Ishii looked at Gotou’s face in concern.
Though he probably didn’t mean it this way himself, it felt like he was pitying Gotou. It irritated him.
Gotou lifted his hand to hit Ishii’s head, but he didn’t drop it.
Ishii adjusted the position of his silver-framed glasses with his fingers. His gesture, which annoyed Gotou even normally, especially grated on his nerves today.
’Aren’t you happy for me?’
– Happy? You kidding?
Gotou hurriedly swallowed the words he had almost said.
If those words left his mouth, it would be like he had acknowledged the dirty jealousy in the bottom of his heart.
’Congratulations, Assistant Inspector Ishii.’
Gotou turned his chair around so his back was facing Ishii.
He knew himself he wasn’t acting like an adult, but knowing that didn’t change anything.
’Are you angry?’
Ishii walked in front of Gotou as he said that.
– This guy really can’t read the mood.
’I’m not angry!’
Ishii’s brows furrowed in his confusion.
’Do you know my rank?’
’You’re a police inspector.’
There was no malice in Ishii’s words. That just made Gotou more irritated.
’I’m the same as you. Assistant inspector.’
’Are you joking again, sir?’
Ishii shook his head, as if to say ’My, my’. That gesture made Gotou even more annoyed.
Gotou clicked his tongue and stood up.
’E-excuse me... Where are you going?’
’I will be having lunch. Assistant Inspector Ishii.’
Gotou bowed theatrically towards Ishii.
’Please stop that.’
Ishii wriggled like a mollusc and clung to Gotou.
’Let go of me!’
Gotou thrust Ishii away and left the room, but then his feet suddenly stopped.
– Why am I so angry?
He didn’t have a response.
– The corporate ladder can kiss my ass!
Like that, he had done whatever he wanted up until now. He hadn’t even tried taking the promotion exam, since it was annoying.
Even though nobody had told him to do it – even though it was what he himself wanted – why was he so irritated?
Gotou kicked the wall and started walking.
Splish, splish –
Yakumo regained consciousness while hearing the periodic sound of dripping water.
– I’m still alive.
When he opened his eyes, he saw limestone, winding like a gigantic organism.
Yakumo sat up from his face-up state.
He saw a faint light coming in from outside. Though it was small, there was a hole to the outside. It looked like he could get out if he crouched.
A creaking pain ran through his left leg, making Yakumo’s expression contort.
The lower left half of his jeans was ripped and soaked with blood
With the support of a rock jutting out from the ground, Yakumo got up and started walking, dragging his injured left leg behind him, and escaped the limestone cave while stooped over.
He was in the middle of a forest of cedar trees.
He looked up and saw the summer sun peeking through.
He naturally narrowed his eyes and covered them with his hands. Then, he heard the sound of running water.
About five metres ahead, he saw a stream.
It was about as deep as his ankle. It seemed like a spring was the water source – he could see clearly to the bottom of the stream.
Yakumo went into the stream, put his face to the water to drink it and wet his dry throat, and washed the wound on his left leg.
Then, he rubbed his hands together in the water to wash the blood off.
The red water slowly flowed away.
It would probably soon fade into the rest of the water, making it indistinguishable.
Yakumo got out on the rock on the opposite side. He ripped the left sleeve of his shirt from the shoulder and wrapped the injury on his left leg on it, using the sleeve as a bandage.
Yakumo went to the nearby cedar tree, sat down and calmed his breathing.
– Why did this happen?
After he had regained his calm, that question came to Yakumo’s brain.
The man who died was the priest of the temple, Seidou. The two of them had walked this weedy path last night and went into the limestone cavern – he remembered that.
Something was following them then.
But Yakumo wasn’t sure of what. When he tried to remember, his head started hurting, as if to stop him.
Yakumo gave up on trying to remember what happened around the incident and started organising his thoughts in order.
Yesterday morning, a man came to the Movie Research Circle at the university.
It was Eishin. He was fairly old, but he had a large frame with a good physique. At first glance he looked gentle, but he was broadminded.
He had been the teacher of Yakumo’s uncle, Isshin.
After Isshin’s death, he had been persistent in trying to get Yakumo to continue at the temple, so Yakumo found him troublesome.
’There’s something I’d like to request.’
Eishin had said that the moment he entered the room.
Despite Yakumo’s refusal, Eishin continued anyway.
’Do you know about reincarnation?’
Yakumo was half-dumbfounded when he heard the word.
The rustling of a tree brought Yakumo back to his senses.
Something had run through the grass.
Yakumo was relieved, but he knew he couldn’t stay here forever.
If the police found his way out of the limestone cave, they would probably come here right away. He had to put as much distance as he could between them before them.
Most importantly, he couldn’t just keep running like this.
He needed to gather information and confirm what had happened. No matter what terrible truth was waiting for him, it was his duty to know.
Yakumo stood up with determination and began to walk along the stream –
With complicated feelings, Ishii threw himself into the paperwork.
I want to become like Gotou as quickly as I can – he had frantically tried his hardest with that mind set and taken the assistant inspector promotion exam for that reason, but he hadn’t thought he would really be able to catch up.
And he was also surprised that Gotou’s rank was assistant inspector.
Did he fail the test? No, that wasn’t it. He probably hadn’t had the time to even take it.
Rather than taking a promotion exam, Gotou had chosen to act as a detective inspector. And how was Ishii in comparison to that?
After asking himself that, Ishii thought he was horribly lowly.
His shoulders slumped just as the door to the room opened.
The chief of the detectives, Miyagawa Hideya, showed up.
Though he had a small frame, he had a bald head and thick eyebrows. Underneath that, he had glaring eyes with a sharp glint in them which had the pressuring air of a carnivore.
’Where’ Gotou?’ said Miyagawa in a forceful and gravelly voice after looking around the room.
’Ah, er, he just stepped out.’
’Slacking off at a time like this.’
Miyagawa walked in angrily with large strides and then sat on top of the desk with his arms crossed.
’Did something happen?’ Ishii asked timidly.
’This morning, a corpse was found in the back of a limestone cavern in Nishitama,’ said Miyagawa with a sigh.’
The victim was Todayama Seidou, the priest of a nearby temple. Fifty-eight years old.’
Miyagawa continued his explanation in a flat tone.
’The incident occurred at about nine this morning. There was an anonymous tip about a corpse in a limestone cavern in the mountain area of Nishitama.’
It wasn’t rare for anonymous information to come to the police.
Especially in big incidents, informants didn’t want to get involved.
’It seems like that limestone cavern’s famous as a spiritual spot.’
’Perhaps he went there to test his courage?’
’We don’t know the details yet, but it’s possible. Anyway, two policemen went that and found a corpse, like the tip said.’
Ishii gave a response lacking feeling.
He saw the outline of the case, but it was out of their jurisdiction. He didn’t know why Miyagawa had gone out of his way to talk about it.
’It seems like the corpse was stabbed all over.’
’Stabbed... all over...’
The image of a priest covered in blood in the limestone cavern came up in Ishii’s head. He gulped.
If he actually saw it, he probably would have screamed.
’So the Nishitama precinct sent a request for cooperation.’
Ishii was surprised.
’Why is that?’
’The two officers he went witnessed a suspicious man at the scene.’
Miyagawa’s way of speaking was impassive, like he was reading a speech, but his expression was unusually grim.
’Is he the culprit?’
’The Nishitama precinct says it’s likely.’
’In the officers’ testimony, the man who ran from the scene had a red left eye.’
Miyagawa said that without a pause.
It took some time for Ishii to understand.
Ishii only knew one person with a red left eye.
– Saitou Yakumo.
But that was just from the people Ishii knew. He couldn’t deny the possibility that there were other people with red left eyes.
’Look at this.’
Miyagawa might have sensed what Ishii was feeling, because he took a piece of paper from his breast pocket and placed it on the desk.
It was a copy of an identity card which looked like a student ID.
When Ishii saw what was written there, he was lost for words.
– Meisei University, Saitou Yakumo
’There was a wallet at the limestone cavern. Seems like this was in it,’ explained Miyagawa.
Yakumo’s head flashed through Ishii’s mind.
Well-defined features and skin was white as porcelain. Terrible bedhead and sleepy eyes.
He had a blank expression and acted indifferent ot everything, but in the back of his eyes, he coolly observed others’ words and actions.
It was true that his perception had led them to solve many cases, but at the same time, Ishii felt frightened.
When he stood in front of Yakumo, he felt like Yakumo saw right to the bottom of his heart, so Ishii couldn’t relax. There was something mysterious about Yakumo.
It might have been because Yakumo was the son of that man –
’The Nishitama precinct’s sending a detective over,’ said Miyagawa while crossing his arms.
’Could it be that we are – ’
Ishii exclaimed without thinking.
They were going to cooperate with a detective from the Nishitama precinct and chase Yakumo. To Ishii, it just seemed like a bad joke.
’Don’t complain. I told them in advance that you’re Yakumo’s acquaintances.’
’I-isn’t that bad?’
’They’d find out anyway. It’d be even worse to hide it.’
It was just as Miyagawa said. If they hid it, the information would come out easily once they searched. If it was found out later, it would become an even worse problem.
’Anyway, get Gotou back before they get here.’
Miyagawa finished with that and then briskly walked out the room with his bow-legged gait.
Ishii felt like a gigantic weight had been placed on his shoulders. It seemed like he would be crushed flat.
– Did Yakumo really kill someone?
Ishii couldn’t find the answer to the question eddying in his heart.
Assistant detective inspector? To hell with that.
Gotou was walking on university premises in his irritation.
The first term of university had ended and now it was summer vacation. It wasn’t bustling like usual – it was rather leisurely.
Gotou was headed for the Movie Research Circle room, where Yakumo was.
Gotou didn’t know himself why he had come here.
If they met, Yakumo would just complain and make Gotou more irritated.
Despite that, Gotou would want to meet Yakumo when he was in an ill humour. This wasn’t the first time.
It would be difficult to explain, but Yakumo made him feel that way.
’Sorry to bother!’
As Gotou said that, he opened the door to the Movie Research Circle.
’If you know you’re a bother, please leave.’
– This brat!
Gotou swallowed the words he was about to say and his eyes went wide.
In front of him wasn’t Yakumo but Haruka.
’... is what Yakumo would say.’
Haruka laughed, shrugging her shoulders.
’Oh, it’s you, Haruka-chan?’
Gotou sat on the folding chair in the corner of the room and loosened his tie.
The room had no air conditioning – just an electric fan. If he stayed an hour in this room, he’d be drenched in sweat. 𝐢n𝑛rℯ𝒶𝚍. 𝑐o𝘮
’Would you like something to drink?’ asked Haruka, standing up.
’Anything’s good as long as it’s cold.
’Roger, Detective Inspector Gotou.’
’It’s Assistant Detective Inspector.’
Gotou hadn’t meant to say it, but it slipped out of his mouth.
Haruka looked confused.
’It’s nothing. Anyway, something cold.’
After saying that, Haruka went to the refrigerator in the back of the room.
Recently, it had become so natural that he hadn’t noticed, but looking at it like this, Gotou felt like he’d visited the house of a newly-wedded couple.
Even though a man and woman of the same age were at such an intimate distance, they weren’t dating. It boggled Gotou’s mind.
Rather than the two of them both not being honest with themselves, they were probably just not good with romance.
’Though I don’t have the right to say anything...’ said Gotou as he stretched.
’Did you say something?’
Haruka came back with a bottle of tea.
’It’s nothing. Anyway, where’s Yakumo?’
Gotou accepted the tea from Haruka and gulped it down.
’Gotou-san, you weren’t together with Yakumo-san then,’ said Haruka, sitting down on the folding chair and propping her head up in her hands. From that response, Haruka didn’t know where Yakumo was either.
’Is there another case?’
Haruka looked at him doubtfully.
It appeared that she thought Gotou only came to see Yakumo when there was a case.
’That’s not it. I was just wondering how he was since I haven’t seen him around lately. How about you?’
’I felt the same way.’
At this lull in their conversation, Gotou’s mobile phone rang.
The display showed Ishii’s number.
’Your mobile’s ringing.’
Gotou thought about ignoring it, but with Haruka’s comment, Gotou had to answer.
<Detective Gotou, it’s terrible!>
He heard Ishii’s agitated voice from the phone.
’Don’t make such a fuss.’
<But it really is terrible!>
’Then talk,’ Gotou said curtly.
It really did make him irritated to think that this useless guy was on the same level as him.
<Ah, yes sir. After you went out, Detective Gotou, I was doing paperwork for a while, when...>
’Forget the preamble,’ Gotou interrupted.
<I-I apologise, sir. This morning, a corpse was found in a limestone cavern in Nishitama.>
Though Nishitama was a neighbouring city, it was a different jurisdiction.
The police organisation was very aware of its borders. If people stuck their necks into other jurisdictions’ business, there’d be trouble.
<The police are chasing a man as an important person of interest because of evidence and eyewitness testimony.>
’So that’s the culprit then.’
<W-wait! That’s not it!>
Ishii hurriedly stopped Gotou before he could hang up.
’What’s not it?’
<The name of the person of interest is Saitou Yakumo-shi.>
’Ah, I see.’
Gotou was about to hang up when he suddenly realised what Ishii had said.
– It can’t be.
<Excuse me... Detective Gotou...>
Ishii’s wavering voice came through the receiver.
’What’d you say just now?’
<I said that the person of interest was Saitou Yakumo-shi...>
Gotou hadn’t heard wrong.
’When you say Yakumo... You mean that Yakumo!?’
Gotou sat up as he shouted in his agitation.
Haruka looked at him anxiously, seeming to sense that something terrible had happened.
<Yes sir. That Yakumo-shi, the one we know.>
’You’re kidding me.’
Gotou couldn’t accept Ishii’s words.
However, Ishii wasn’t the type to fool people or joke around. That made his words ring true.
Yakumo was a person of interest in a murder case – like Gotou could accept something as stupid as that.
As if to deny Gotou’s thoughts, something somebody said flashed through his mind.
– That child will kill people.
Yakumo’s mother, Saitou Azusa, had said that.
It was a rainy night fifteen years ago.
That day, Azusa had had her hands on the neck of her own son, Yakumo, while incoherently saying, ’That child will kill people.’
Were those words that came from delusion or a prophecy –
Now, Gotou couldn’t see the answer.
<Hello, Detective Gotou?>
Gotou came back to his senses when he heard Ishii’s voice.
This wasn’t the time to remember the past.
’Explain in detail.’
Gotou sat down on the chair again with a hard expression.
Yakumo stopped his walking along the river.
A drop of water hit his cheek.
He looked up. Thick clouds blanketed the sky.
’An evening shower...’
As if they had waited for Yakumo’s murmur, large raindrops suddenly started to fall.
Climbing down the mountain would be dangerous in the rain.
Yakumo looked around and saw a large rock with a hollow in it a bit beyond the river.
He could probably take shelter there if he stooped over.
Yakumo quickened his pace while dragging his left foot and slid his body into the hollow of the rock.
The large raindrops hit the ground loudly, creating a light mist. Yakumo decided to rest until the shower was over.
He ran both his hands through his hair and wiped them off.
After letting out a long sigh, a woman’s face flashed through Yakumo’s head.
– Ozawa Haruka.
He couldn’t remember clearly now what his first impression of her had been.
Somebody troublesome has come along – he had probably just thought something like that.
She would disappear once she had used him and didn’t need him any more. He had thought she’d be one of that type. After some time, he wouldn’t think about her again. Like scenery passing in a car window.
However, the word Haruka had said so casually had destroyed the prejudices and sense of values that Yakumo had had up until then.
Haruka had said that when she saw Yakumo’s red left eye.
Though Yakumo didn’t say it, that word had healed Yakumo’s impoverished heart more than anything that had ever been said to him up until now.
Because of his red left eye, which could see the spirits of the dead, he was viewed as something strange and looked at by the world with curiosity.
Hate. Fear. Pity –
Each of those words hurt Yakumo’s heart, as if they were sharp blades.
– I’m not wanted.
It was natural for him to think that way.
I don’t want to be here. I want to disappear. Yakumo had wished for death countless times, but as somebody who could see the spirits of the death, he knew that death was not a release from pain.
Yakumo felt like the word Haruka had said when she saw his red left eye – beautiful – had pulled out a stopper that had been in his heart.
Like it had told him it was all right for him to exist.
There had been many cases after that. While going through those, Haruka had become more than somebody who was just passing by.
That wasn’t all. After she had become a part of his life, Yakumo’s world had started to change.
Isshin and Nao. And Gotou – Yakumo had realised that there were other people who wanted him to be there.
At some point, the world had become something he didn’t want to lose, and there were people he wanted to protect.
In the past, he would have thought that troublesome, but it was different now.
It was pleasant. He had been taught that he wasn’t the only person in the world. It felt like he was being released from the suffering that he had been burdened with up until now.
– Why am I suddenly thinking about this?
With a self-derisive smile, Yakumo shut his eyes.
Perhaps because his nerves had calmed, he was assaulted by a heavy sleepiness.
He had somewhere he could return. That was why he had to return. There were people who were waiting – people he wanted to see –
Just as his neck lost its strength, Yakumo’s eyes flew open.
He couldn’t fall asleep carelessly in a place like this.
Yakumo shook his head.
At the same time, part of his memory came back to him.
He was in the cavern at the back of the limestone cave. Where Yakumo had woken up.
The flames of the candles were flickering.
Seidou stood there with lifeless eyes, as if his soul had left him, and gripped a knife.
’What do you plan to do after knowing the truth?’ asked Seidou in a flat voice.
At the time, Yakumo had said something, but he couldn’t remember what –
’I see. Then...’
Seidou smiled slightly and gripped the knife more tightly.
Everything suddenly went dark – and then another image appeared in his mind.
A place like a temple.
’Do you believe in reincarnation?’ said Seidou.
A girl had been standing next to him.
She had bobbed hair and well-defined features, like a doll.
’I’m the reincarnation of my mother.’
Though the girl smiled, there was no emotion there.
This girl was empty.
While he was thinking, a jolt of pain ran through the back of his neck, bringing him back to reality.
A piece of a memory, just a moment. Everything was jumbled. He couldn’t determine at this stage what it meant.
However, it appeared clear that there had been some sort of quarrel between Yakumo and Seidou.
Furthermore, Seidou had been holding a knife. It wouldn’t be difficult to believe that after their quarrel, Yakumo had stabbed Seidou.
The doubt that had started to disappear came back again.
’That can’t be.’
By saying it aloud, Yakumo cut down the growing anxiety in his heart.
If he theorised recklessly without all the information, he would become bound by a hard perspective and would be able to arrive at the truth.
For now, he wanted information. In order to do so, he would need to go to Seidou’s temple.
Yakumo waited for the rain to stop.
’What’s wrong?’ Haruka asked Gotou once he finished his call.
Though she hadn’t heard clearly, she could tell that something terrible had happened to Yakumo from the bits and pieces of the conversation she did hear.
Her heart was pounding.
It made Haruka recall what had happened half a year ago. The incident when Yakumo had disappeared without a word –
The corners of her eyes felt warm just from thinking about it.
She didn’t want to feel that way again.
Gotou sat there silently with a stiff expression without answering Haruka’s question.
It felt like he wasn’t sure if he should talk.
That attitude made Haruka even more worried about the gravity of the situation.
The heavy silence continued.
The sound of the rain sounded incredibly loud.
The rain was heavy – the sound of the countless raindrops hitting the ground rang through the room.
’Please tell me.’
Haruka gripped Gotou’s arm.
Guess there’s no avoiding it – with that expression on his face, Gotou let out a breath in resignation and said ’I don’t know the details yet’ as his preface.
’A corpse was found in a limestone cave in Nishitama.’
Could it be –
Haruka felt like she had suddenly fallen into a bottomless darkness.
Tell me it isn’t true – Haruka stared at Gotou with that wish.
’The person who died was the priest of a nearby temple,’ said Gotou, as if he had sensed Haruka’s feelings.
She knew it was indiscreet, but she was relieved that the corpse wasn’t Yakumo.
’The police are chasing Yakumo as a person of interest.’
Haruka said that without thinking.
It wasn’t like she hadn’t heard what Gotou said or that she didn’t understand what the words meant.
She just couldn’t believe it.
’The detectives witnessed a man with a red left eye fleeing the scene. And there was a wallet left behind as evidence. Yakumo’s student ID had been in it.’
’From that situation, it’s likely Yakumo’s involved in the case somehow.’
Gotou had said what Haruka didn’t dare to say.
She felt like a knife had been thrust through her.
’... It’s a lie.’
After a silence, Haruka said just that.
She was saying that to herself. That can’t be it. She wanted to believe that. She wanted that to be true.
Words from a terribly desperate wish –
’I know that.’
Unlike Haruka, Gotou’s words had force behind them.
There was no doubt there. There was a confidence in them – like it was natural.
’Right. There’s no way he’d kill anybody.’
Though Haruka gave a firm reply, she couldn’t clear a niggling doubt.
’The question is what to do now,’ said Gotou, interrupting Haruka’s question.
They needed to find out the truth to see why this had happened. And –
’Where’s Yakumo-kun now?’
’I don’t know.’
Gotou crossed his arms in his displeasure.
’Did he run?’
’Seems like it.’
Haruka realised what had been bothering her.
’Why did Yakumo-kun run?’
Haruka didn’t understand.
If he hadn’t killed anybody, he wouldn’t have needed to run. He could have just explained what he was doing.
And Yakumo must have known that running in that situation would be unbeneficial for him.
’I don’t know.’
’Was there something that happened that made it necessary for him to run?’
’It’d be faster to ask him.’
’But we don’t know where he is.’
’We’ll find him.’
Gotou puffed out his chest with confidence.
’We just have to check the places we think he might be.’
Gotou wasn’t joking – he probably really meant to do that.
However, Haruka didn’t think they’d be able to find Yakumo that way. Going around mindlessly wouldnt’ do anything – they needed to find a clue.
’Are there no leads?’
’Ah, that’s right.’
Gotou seemed to recall something after hearing Haruka’s words. He clapped his hands together.
’What is it?’
’Seems like the place where the corpse was found was a spiritual spot.’
’A spiritual spot...’
Haruka murmured that as she mulled it over.
It was likely that Yakumo had been there following some spiritual mystery for some reason.
Even if that were the case, it was incredibly unlikely that Yakumo would chase a case related to spirits of his own volition.
’Did somebody bring a spiritual investigation to Yakumo?’
Haruka said the question that came to mind.
’But who would it be?’
’I don’t know.’
’I don’t either...’
Haruka thought about it, but she couldn’t think of anybody.
Just as the conversation had come to a lull, the door opened.
Haruka stood up and looked at the door, thinking Yakumo might have returned.
However, the person standing there wasn’t Yakumo –
Ishii’s shoulders slumped in his disappointment.
He took off his glasses and leant on the back of the chair, looking up at the ceiling.
The detective from the Nishitama precinct would be here soon, but it didn’t seem like Gotou would be coming back – he’d hung up the phone, saying <Only share info>.
Ishii understood why Gotou thought that way too.
If he met up with somebody from the Nishitama precinct, he wouldn’t be able to move freely. And he probably didn’t want to be asked too much about Yakumo.
However, Ishii didn’t like being left behind. He couldn’t explain why Gotou wasn’t here, and he didn’t have the confidence to do this alone.
Ishii covered his face with both hands. Then, he heard a knock on the door.
Ishii hurriedly put his glasses back on and stood up.
The door opened. Ishii looked at the door and saw a woman standing there.
She was probably in her late twenties. She was tall, but she had an elegant figure.
Her hair was very short. With almond eyes, she looked strict at first glance, but she was quite the beauty with her feline features.
’My name is Natsume Youko. I’m from the Nishitama precinct.’
While saying that with good enunciation, she took out her police ID and held it in front of Ishii’s eyes.
’Ah, I apologise for not introducing myself sooner. I am Ishii of the Setamachi precinct.’
Ishii was still troubled as he gave a polite bow.
’I believe that Chief Miyagawa has already contacted you.’
Youko walked right up to Ishii.
When she looked at him with her clear eyes, Ishii felt awkward and dropped his gaze to the floor.
’Ah, yes. I heard earlier.’
’So... where is the other detective?’ said Youko, looking around the room dubiously.
She had hit him where it hurt.
’E-er... today... er, he wasn’t feeling well...’
It didn’t look like Youko was going to accept Ishii’s explanation as she fixed him with a stare.
It wasn’t like she was glaring at him, but it made Ishii feel timid.
’A-anyway, please sit down.’
Ishii tried to change the subject and took out the folding chair in the corner of the room.
’About cooperating with the investigation...’ said Ishii once Youko sat down.
’I’ll say this now, but you don’t need to cooperate with the investigation.’
Youko’s eyes narrowed as she said that in a clear tone.
Ishii was so surprised that that was he replied with.
’I said that you don’t need to cooperate with the investigation.’
’What is it?’
Youko looked at Ishii sharply.
Though Ishii was surprised by what Youko said so suddenly, he felt like she and Gotou were a bit similar.
An aloof detective who liked working independently. That was the impression Ishii had.
’But... the superiors have said...’
’The people at the top don’t know the situation. Working with an impromptu team would be no help at all. Furthermore, investigating with a man...’
Though Youko didn’t finish, her feminist side could be seen.
’Then what did you come to do today?’ asked Ishii after gulping.
If she didn’t want to ask for help with the investigation, why did she come all the way here? Ishii didn’t understand.
’You know Saitou Yakumo, right?’
That gave Ishii a start.
He couldn’t reply immediately – his gaze just wandered. However, it wasn’t as if the answer was stuck to the walls or the ceiling, so he was just wasting time.
’You know him, right?’ repeated Youko.
’Ah, no... Rather than knowing him... Well, I do...’
Ishii wiped the sweat on his forehead.
He knew it was a pointless answer. He really was useless.
’Why is he?’
It was a straight question. Like Gotou, she appeared to be the type who hated beating around the bush.
’No, we don’t know where he is either right now...’
If they did, they would have already gone to meet him.
’Then tell me where you think he would go.’
Youko’s eyes were forceful.
Under that pressure, it was difficult for Ishii to breathe. No criminal could escape if she were chasing them. It made Ishii feel that way.
’Places I think he would go...’
’Places he often visits. His lover’s house, his friend’s house. Anything’s fine. Just tell me the information you know.’
There was fervour behind Youko’s words.
It appeared that she had already jumped to the conclusion that Yakumo was the culprit at this stage.
’Detective Natsume, do you think Yakumo-shi is the culprit?’
After a silence, Ishii finally said just that.
’It’s certain that he’s the most likely suspect.’
For a moment, Youko looked surprised by Ishii’s response, but then her expression became blank again and she replied in a flat tone.
’What do you think?’
When Youko asked a question back, Ishii was lost for words.
It appeared like Gotou thought there was no way for Yakumo to kill anyone, but Ishii couldn’t say that for certain.
Yakumo, who could see the spirits of the dead, respected life more than anybody else. Ishii knew that.
But on the other side of that, Yakumo was sometimes cold – to the point it was obsessive – about the things he couldn’t forgive.
’What’s wrong?’ said Youko, sticking out her pointy chin.
’I believe it is too early to say...’
’Is that from the situation? Or your personal opinion?’
Another difficult question.
Ishii adjusted the position of his glasses.
– Which is it for me?
As if throwing a bone to Ishii in his confusion, Youko’s mobile rang.
’Hello, Natsume speaking.’
Youko answered immediately.
Ishii couldn’t hear the conversation, but from the atmosphere, it looked like she had new information about hte case.
’Understood,’ replied Youko, sounding agitated.
’Did you find something out?’ said Ishii once Youko hung up.
’We were able to confirm this from a trainee monk at Seidou’s temple.’
’What is it?’
’Saitou Yakumo and the victim Seidou appear to have left the temple together late last night.’
Youko smiled triumphantly.
Though they were still at the stage of gathering evidence, that testimony made it seem more like Yakumo was the culprit.
’That is only one testimony about the situation.’
’That’s not all.’
’Fingerprints from the cup that we believe he used in the temple’s living quarters match the ones left on the knife at the scene.’
Ishii couldn’t breathe.
If even the fingerprints matched, he couldn’t say anything.
No, it was still too early to come to a decision. Ishii shook his head.
There was no proof that Yakumo really used that cup. They just believed that – that was what Youko had said.
’Fingerprints will be taken from Saitou Yakumo’s room,’ said Youko, anticipating Ishii’s thoughts.
It looked like that she hadn’t overlooked anything.
If they matched the fingerprints from Yakumo’s room, that would confirm their suspicion.
’If the fingerprints from the room match the knife, he would go from being a person of interest to a supect.’
’Hurry and tell me where Saitou Yakumo is.’
Youko looked like she might like her lips at any moment.
Ishii couldn’t help but look away from her persistence.
– Yakumo might be back.
Haruka looked with hope towards the door but standing there was a priest in religious clothes.
He appeared rather old, but he had a large frame that rivalled Gotou’s with a round, shaved head. He had a good physique and looked like a good person.
’What an awful shower,’ said the priest in a forceful tone as he wiped the raindrops off his clothes.
It was an unreserved attitude. It felt like he’d mistaken them for someone else.
’Excuse me...’ said Haruka, confused.
’Oh, what’s this?’
The priest looked at Haruka like he had just noticed her.
’Do you need something?’
’Oh, it’s the first time we’ve met. You’re Ozawa Haruka, right? Just as the rumours say, you’re quite the pretty girl.’
After taking a hard look at Haruka, the priest said that and gave a hearty laugh.
It appeared he was a considerably lively man.
’Don’t be so loud, you damn monk,’ said Gotou.
’Is it OK to say that? Who do you think helped you get the place you’re staying in now? You can’t have forgotten.’
The priest puffed out his chest.
It looked like Gotou knew the priest. And the priest knew Haruka’s name. Haruka felt like she was the only one who was left out.
Though Haruka spoke up, she had so many things she wanted to ask she didn’t know what to say.
’That’s right. I haven’t introduced myself yet. That’s my bad.’
The priest awkwardly scratched his head as he said that, like he couldn’t overlook Haruka’s confusion. Then, he sat in the chair Yakumo usually used.
’Excuse me...’ said Haruka after the priest sat down.
’You don’t need to worry; I’ll tell you.’
’My name is Eishin. As you can see, I’m a humble priest.’
After Eishin said that with a voice full of energy, he smiled, his eyes closing as he did so.
Actually, Isshin was my disciple. I heard about you from him, Haruka-san.’
’I-is that so?’
Isshin was Yakumo’s uncle – the person who had raised him.
Haruka had been in his care a number of times too. Though he had already passed away, to Haruka, he was somebody unforgettable.
’The teacher watches his disciple and teaches him. We’re alike, right?’
Haruka was confused.
Though they had just met, his appearance and personality – no matter how she looked at it, Isshin was –
’You’re not alike.’
Gotou spoke Haruka’s feelings.
’Can you really say that?’
Eishin looked at Gotou meaningfully.
It looked like Eishin had a hold of one of Gotou’s weaknesses, because Gotou just said weakly, ’My bad.’
’Gotou-san, er... Do you know Eishin-san?’ asked Haruka.
’The hell I know him. He’s just a damn monk.’
’Can’t you give a better explanation?’ Eishin interrupted immediately.
Somehow, when she watched their exchange, Eishin seemed less like Isshin and more like Yakumo.
’To put it simply, he’s like my landlord.’
Even after Gotou explained, Haruka didn’t really understand.
’The priests’ quarters that Gotou is staying in belongs to the religious organisation.’
’Eh? Is that so?’
Eishin gave an additional explanation which made Haruka surprised.
Since Isshin had lived there before, she had thought it belonged to him. Haruka had thought that Yakumo had let Gotou stay there while thinking of Nao, but it seemed that wasn’t the case.
’Normally, those unrelated to the religion are not allowed to stay there, but my wheedling got them special permission to stay there. Under the condition that Yakumo would take on the temple duties.’
Though Haruka spoke like she understood, the last sentence Eishin said came up in her head.
– Under the condition that Yakumo would take on the temple duties.
’Is Yakumo-kun going to become a priest?’
’Don’t take what the damn monk says seriously.’
’That’s my plan.’
’Yakumo didn’t agree to that.’
’What’s with that baseless confidence of yours?’
Gotou and Eishin continued to quarrel. ’Why did you come here today?’
Haruka asked a question to stop their conversation.
’Oh, that’s right.’
Eishin clapped his hands together.
’Actually, there’s something I want to ask Yakumo. Where is he?’
Eishin looked around the room. The room was small. He should have been able to tell if he wasn’t here, but his movements were exaggeratedly large.
– Can we tell Eishin the situation right now?
Haruka looked at Gotou since she wasn’t sure.
Gotou nodded and started to speak.
’Yakumo’s in some trouble right now.’
Eishin cocked his head.
’Yeah. There’s no point hiding it, so I’ll say it clearly. The police are chasing him as a person of interest in a murder case that occurred in Nishitama.’
’Could it be the victim is Seidou?’
’How’d you know that?’
’I heard earlier that Seidou was killed.’
’Was he an acquaintance of yours?’
Gotou bit onto the words Eishin said without any hesitation.
’Not just an acquaintance –I was the one who told Yakumo to go to see Seidou.’
’What did you say!?’
Gotou stood up in his excitement.
Unlike him, Eishin had a sad expression on his face.
’Excuse me... Could it be that you requested Yakumo’s help in an investigation of a spiritual phenomenon...?’
Haruka said what came to her mind.
’You’re quite quick.’
Eishin nodded a number of times in admiration.
’How are you so calm!? You’re the start of this! You damn monk!’
Gotou grabbed Eishin by the collar, but Eishin just smiled.
’Wait, Gotou-san. Please calm down.’
Haruka stepped between them and tried to pull them apart, but she didn’
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