Shinrei Tantei Yakumo -
Volume 8 Chapter 2
VOLUME 8 – THE VANISHED SPIRIT file 02: escape ()
– Where is this?
Haruka stood up on the wooden floor in her bare feet.
There were candleholders in the four corners of the room. The small flames of the candles flickered.
It appeared to be a temple.
– Why am I here?
As if to answer Haruka’s question, a dark shadow walked in front of Haruka. It was somebody Haruka knew well.
‘Yakumo-kun, where did you go? I was worried.’
Yakumo didn’t reply.
The muscles in his face were flaccid and his eyes weren’t focussed. His fingers occasionally twitched.
He looked a bit strange.
Haruka called out once more. Then, Yakumo suddenly started laughing aloud.
He clutched his stomach as he convulsed with laughter.
’What’s so funny?’ Haruka said at last, though she was confused.
Yakumo suddenly stopped.
’What’s so funny, you say?’
Still smiling, Yakumo held up a knife in front of Haruka’s eyes.
The knife, coldly glinting, was dyed red. Blood dripped from its tip.
’That’s right. I’ve finally realised my true nature.’
Haruka stepped back.
Yakumo took a step closer as if to chase her.
’That’s right. Killing people... is fun.’
’Want to test me?’
Yakumo licked his lips.
Before Haruka noticed, his two eyes were dyed a deep red.
Haruka sat straight up.
She opened her eyes not in a temple but her own room. It looked like she’d fallen asleep on the table.
– That was a dream.
Haruka heaved a sigh of relief and looked at the clock.
It was just past four in the morning. This wasn’t the time to sleep. She rubbed her eyes and looked back at her computer monitor when she felt somebody’s presence.
– Somebody’s here.
When Haruka turned around, she saw somebody sitting against the wall.
Haruka leapt up.
The person sitting there with his head hung slowly lifted his head.
’Yakumo-kun!’ exclaimed Haruka, her eyes wide.
There was no doubt about it. It was Yakumo.
His skin was so pale and his lips so dry and purple that it made her doubt he was alive.
His white shirt was covered in dirt and the left leg of his jeans was stained with blood.
’Why are you here...’ said Yakumo in a hoarse voice.
That was what Haruka wanted to ask.
But this wasn’t the time for that. Anyway, she had to bring Yakumo to a hospital to fix his horrible condiition.
’I ran here from the limestone cavern...’
’Tell me later. Anyway, I’ll call an ambulance.’
Haruka took the mobile on the table in her hand.
’Then I went to the lake... Red flowers bloomed...’
Yakumo was talking deliriously.
’I see... I’m... already dead...’
’Don’t say something so stupid!’
’It’s fine... I got to see you... in the end...’
As he spoke, Yakumo’s shadow became gradually fainter and finally disappeared, as if he had melted into the room.
’Yakumo-kun? Hey, where are you?’
Haruka called out frantically, but Yakumo made no reply –
– So noisy.
Gotou woke up to the ringing of his mobile phone.
He’d gone round looking for Yakumo, but he couldn’t find him. He hadn’t thought it’d be so easy, but he still felt tired and disappointed.
He had planned on taking a break by sitting in the car’s driver seat, but then he had fallen asleep.
In the passenger’s seat, Eishin was sleeping while snoring loudly.
Unlike Gotou, who had searched for Yakumo frantically, Eishin had returned to the car soon after and fallen asleep after saying, ’There’s no way we’ll find him when it’s this dark.’
Gotou looked at his wristwatch. It was just past four in the morning.
– Who’s calling at this time?
Gotou answered the phone while rubbing his eyes.
He heard Haruka’s hysterical voice on the other end of the phone.
The way she was so agitated wasn’t normal.
’What about Yakumo?’
<I said he came! Just earlier! In an awful condition!>
’Calm down a bit. Explain what you’re talking about.’
Gotou sat up and tried to calm Haruka down by speaking slowly.
Finally, it seemed like Haruka had regained her calm. He heard her take deep breaths.
<Earlier, Yakumo-kun came to my room...>
Haruka spoke in a hoarse voice.
– He went back to Haruka?
It was possible. It irritated Gotou that Yakumo did that without contacting anyone, but he didn’t care as long as he was fine.
’So Yakumo’s there now?’
If possible, Gotou wanted to talk to him. There was a mountain of things he wanted to ask.
<Yes. Just like... smoke...>
’Weren’t your eyes just playing tricks on you?’
Haruka yelled loudly.
It was true that Haruka for one wouldn’t mistake somebody for Yakumo, but –
’He vanished, right?’
<That might have been Yakumo-kun’s spirit... Yakumo-kun might already...>
Gotou could hear Haruka start to sob.
A heat close to anger started boiling up within Gotou’s stomach.
’Yakumo-kun won’t die!’ he yelled, overcome by his emotion.
– Don’t screw with me. Yakumo died and went to see Haruka?
It wasn’t that Gotou was angry at Haruka, but he didn’t want to believe it. That guy wouldn’t die so easily.
’I’m saying he won’t die! So he won’t die!’
Though it was in a tear-filled voice, Haruka’s reply was firm.
She had become panicked by the sudden event, but it looked like she’d come back to her senses.
She had really become stronger. That was the woman in Yakumo’s heart for you.
’If you did see Yakumo’s spirit, Haruka-chan, did he say anything that could be a lead?’ Gotou said quickly.
<He said, ’Why are you here?’>
<He said he got to a lake...>
<And that red flowers bloomed...>
’There’s a lake nearby.’
Eishin had woken up at some point and he spoke from the passenger seat.
He had probably heard their conversation.
’Yeah. The red flowers are probably crape myrtle.’
Eishin let out a big yawn as he leant back. It seemed like he didn’t realise the importance of his words.
’I said it at the beginning, right? There’s a lake near the temple where a woman’s screams...’
He had said that.
That was when Gotou had heard about the reincarnation of the girl called Hatsune. He’d completely forgotten because of everything that had happened.
But that was a place with spiritual connections.
’Can you go to that lake from the limestone cavern?’
’There’s a path through the cavern. If you go along the river from there, you’ll get to the lake.’
A path through the cavern – that was the first Gotou had heard of it.
Maybe. Just maybe. But this old man was too laidback.
’You should say that from the beginning!’
’You didn’t ask,’ said Eishin without any shame.
– Are you Yakumo!?
Gotou bit back the urge to retort and sighed.
<... Gotou-san, did you realise something?>
Haruka’s anxious voice came from the phone.
’I’ll go to the lake near the temple.’
’No. There’s no time to go pick you up.’
Haruka accepted it straightforwardly without fighting back.
’I’ll call you later.’
Just as Gotou was about to turn on the car engine, Haruka spoke.
<Please absolutely bring Yakumo-kun back.>
Though Haruka spoke firmly, Gotou felt like there was a tremor there.
To be honest, he couldn’t make that irresponsible promise. But –
Gotou hung up and started the car. 𝒊n𝓃𝗿e𝚊𝒅. Co𝚖
Ishii turned around at the sound of the door opening.
Youko came into the room. She had a number of files in her arms.
’That was quick.
Youko didn’t reply to Ishii’s words.
She mechanically placed the files on Ishii’s desk and then sighed, covering her face with her hands.
’If the higher-ups knew I was helping out with things like this, it’d be quite a problem.’ Youko glared at Ishii while propping her chin up in her hand.
Last night, Ishii had told Youko about the cases Yakumo had been involved in in the past.
It had been a long conversation.
At first, Youko had laughed scornfully, thinking it was ridiculous, but as Ishii continued to talk with fervour, her expression changed.
Then, with this case as the background, Ishii talked about how Yakumo had received a request to investigate a spiritual phenomenon related to reincarnation.
Youko had said she didn’t need Ishii’s cooperation, but that thinking had turned one hundred and eighty degrees.
She probably thought that solving the mystery behind the reincarnation story would be necessary to solve the case.
However, Ishii felt divided.
It was because he wasn’t confident that the method they had chosen was correct. And his suspicion about Yakumo was still smoking inside of him.
– Perhaps Yakumo really did kill him.
Ishii bowed his head, feeling apologetic in a number of meanings.
It looked like Youko didn’t like his attitude, because she waved her hand like she was swatting a fly and looked away.
’Then what are we doing next?’ said Youko, tapping the files on top of the desk with her finger.
Ishii had asked Youko to take the files about murders, accidents, suicides and disappearances that had the name Minami in them from the Nishitama precinct.
Minami was the name that Hatsune, who said she was a reincarnation, claimed she had in her previous life.
’We’re going to look for something like it in these files.’
’Something like it?’
’Yes, something like it.’
’Can’t you explain more properly?’
It looked like his explanation had been too vague. Youko tapped the desk loudly in her irritation.
When she acted like this, she was somewhat like Gotou.
’That’s right... Let’s say people who might be Hatsune’s mother...’
’Well, all right. We just have to look for something like it, right?’ said Youko, sounding exasperated, but she took the files in hand and started flipping through them. Ishii started the same work, but his hands suddenly stopped.
Youko’s brows furrowed in irritation.
’Why do you feel like helping now?’
’You said this, right? Though Saitou Yakumo is being chased by the police, he should be chasing the reincarnation mystery. If I chase that mystery as well, I’ll reach him.’
Just as Youko said, Ishii had said that last night. But –
’Is that all?’
Ishii leant forward.
Though Youko usually had good enunciation, she looked troubled.
’... I have a personal interest.’
’He can see them, right... Er, ghosts...’
It looked like it was difficult for Youko to say.
’I’ve seen them once too,’ said Youko in a low tone as she narrowed her eyes.
Ishii understood now.
Normally, even if he said that Yakumo could see ghosts, people wouldn’t believe it, but Youko had seen ghosts herself, so she believed what Ishiis aid.
’What sort of ghost was it?’
’What a strange question.’
Youko smiled, seeming exasperated.
So she can make this sort of expression too – it made Ishii a bit happy.
’It is. You’re strange.’
Ishii didn’t think he was different from other people. He was just a regular old useless guy.
’Yes. How should I put it...’
Though Youko started to speak, she looked down awkwardly and shook her head.
’What is it?’
’Why not tell me? Please do.’
He couldn’t help but be curious now that she had said that much. Ishii pressed further.
’I don’t know how to say it, but I think you’re unsuited for detective work.’
’Yes. You’re too pure.’
Ishii made a vague reply.
– Too pure.
He had been told the same thing countless times before, but Ishii didn’t know what part of him was supposed to be pure.
’Anyway, the ghost story,’ said Youko, changing the subject.
’Ah, that’s right. What sort of ghost did you see?’
’The ghost of my dead lover.’
The regret he felt about asking spread through his chest.
Though it was just his own imaginings, he had thought that the ghost Youko had seen would have been something like a scary story.
’Though it seemed like that person was appealing to me for something, I couldn’t hear that voice...’
’Is that so...’
Ishii almost asked why that person had died, but he didn’t have the courage.
Youko probably wanted to meet that lover of hers again and hear those words.
That was why she was helping to look for Yakumo.
Just as the atmosphere had gotten a bit solemn, Youko’s mobile rang.
’Yes, Natsume speaking.’
When Youko answered, she stood up and moved to the corner of the room.
Though Ishii couldn’t hear the conversation, he saw her expression stiffen in a flash and knew how serious it was.
’I’ll do the rest myself.’
Youko said that quickly and hung up. Then, she tried to leave the room.
’Did something happen?’
Ishii stood up immediately and followed Youko.
Youko put a hand on her chin and looked up at the ceiling. It looked like she wasn’t sure whether she should talk about it.
’The information will come in soon enough,’ Ishii said, giving it a try.
’Another corpse was found.’
’It’s unknown yet whether it’s related to this case.’
’Do you know the identity?’
’I can’t say anything else.’
Youko said just that and then briskly left the room.
– What on earth is happening?
Ishii wouldn’t stand for being left behind in this situation.
He hurriedly ran after Youko.
– He fell.
Gotou stepped down hard on the pedal as he drove.
Haruka said she saw Yakumo. Normally, he’d have put it aside, thinking it was foolish, but he didn’t feel like that right now.
He didn’t have any other leads anyway, so all he could do was charge there now.
There was a sharp curve, but Gotou just turned the wheel at the same speed.
He went right out into the other lane and the tires let out white smoke.
’You’re going too quickly.’
Eishin sounded displeased about being thrown around by centrifugal force, but Gotou didn’t have the time for him right now.
’Hold on tight.’
Gotou pressed down further on the accelerator.
Eishin grabbed the door handle so that he wouldn’t be thrown about.
’You’re being rash.’
’I have to be rash, or I wouldn’t be able to keep up with Yakumo.’
Eishin snorted at Gotou’s reply.
Though Eishin kept complaining, he looked like he was having fun.
’Here!’ yelled Eishin, like he’d suddenly remembered something.
Gotou slammed on the brakes in response. His body slammed into the seatbelt from the impact.
’Can’t you stop more quietly?’
’Then tell me earlier.’
’You were driving too quickly.’
– This old man never shuts up.
’So where is it?’
’Just up this slope.’
Eishin pointed at the weedy path that stretched along the side of the asphalt.
With a click of his tongue, Gotou opened the door and got off.
The sky was starting to grow light.
He passed through the grass and practically had to crawl as he went up the slope.
After about ten minutes, he saw a lake.
Since it was called a lake, he’d thought it would be bigger, but it was only a hundred metres at most to the opposite shore – more of a pond.
He yelled from the bottom of his belly.
The voice just echoed back into his ears with no reply.
’Where are you!? Yakumo! It’s me! Gotou!’
Gotou kept yelling as he slowly walked around the lake.
Though he kept yelling, no reply came back to him.
– Damn it! Where is he?
Gotou looked around frantically.
Red flowers came into his vision. That was probably the crape myrtle they’d talked about.
’Over there then?’
Gotou rushed there on an impulse.
He stopped in front of the crape myrtle tree, out of breath, when he saw something moving in the grass.
– A pit viper.
Gotou kicked a rock by his feet.
The viper slide away.
’Don’t scare me.’
He had just wiped the sweat off his neck when he saw somebody’s foot sticking out from behind a rock.
– Could it be?
Gotou ran over.
There was no doubt about it. It was Yakumo.
He had his back against the rock and was sitting with both legs out. His arms hung at his side and his head hung limply as well.
’Oi! Yakumo! Hang in there!’
Gotou took Yakumo’s face in his hands and pulled him up.
His skin was deathly pale. His body was considerably cold too.
– Don’t screw with me. Did he really die?
’Yakumo, wake up!’
Gotou slapped Yakumo with an open hand.
However, he was as unresponsive as a doll.
’It looked like he was bitten by a pit viper.’
Eishin came over and said that as he pointed at Yakumo’s left leg.
His jeans were rolled up to his thigh. The leg that stuck out was very swollen and there were two small injuries, asi f pricked by a needle, in his shin.
He should’ve bit off that pit viper earlier.
’He tightened his belt above the injury. As you can see, it looks like the bite isn’t that deep.’
’Can he be saved?’
’I don’t know. I can’t tell how long it’s been since he was bit. Anyway, we need to get him to a hospital right away.’
Gotou was about to reply when he remembered something.
’Yakumo’s a fugitive.’
Eishin stood up with eyes wide open. He looked just like a demon.
’Well, the police...’
’Right now, Yakumo’s life is the most important,’ said Eishin, interrupting Gotou.
That was right. Gotou had been so upset he’d almost forgotten what was most crucial.
’Right. My bad.’
’I know a doctor near here. If I ask, the doctor probably won’t report him to the police.’
Eishin’s eyes narrowed back to his usual expression.
Despite what he said, Eishin seemed to be worried about Yakumo from the bottom of his heart. Gotou might have misjudged him.
’Right. Anyway, let’s carry Yakumo.’
– She left.
Ishii returned to his desk alone.
He had run out after Youko, but he fell partway and was left behind. He felt like things like this just kept on happening this time.
’No, this isn’t the time to feel depressed.’
Ishii hit both of his cheeks and took the files that Youko had brought into his hands for a change of pace.
– I’ll look for something like it from these documents.
Now that he thought about it, it was vague. Though that hadn’t been the words Youko used, he didn’t know where to start.
’Oh, you’re here?’
The door opened and in came Miyagawa.
He walked over with a bowlegged gait and sat down on the desk, but he didn’t seem to have his usual pressure – or rather, ambition.
Like an old soldier tired of war.
’Were you still here?’
’It’s been busy on my end of things too,’ replied Miyagawa with no energy in his neck. It looked like his exhaustion had really piled up.
’Is that so...’
’Anyway, there’s something I want to talk to you about.’
’Where’s Gotou?’ said Miyagawa, looking around the room.
’Ah, er, he hasn’t yet...’
Ishii thought that he would be yelled at and pulled up his shoulders, but all that came back was a resigned ’That so’.
’Did something happen?’
’Got a report from forensics earlier.’
Miyagawa took a cigarette out of his pocket and lit up.
Ishii took an ashtray from the desk drawer and placed it in front of Miyagawa.
Miyagawa took in a deep breath of smoke and waited a long while before beginning to speak.
’The fingerprints in the university clubroom that Yakumo lives in match the fingerprints on the knife left at the scene.’
’Seems to be ninety-nine per cent accurate.’
Ishii felt like somebody had hit him in the head with a blunt object.
Even though he had suspected that Yakumo might have killed him in his heart, the shock was stronger than he had expected.
Ishii realised that he, like Gotou, had been certain that Yakumo would not kill somebody.
He might have just thought Yakumo could have been the culprit because of his feelings towards Haruka. That would have been better for him –
Ishii also knew what sort of person Yakumo really was.
Ishii didn’t know how many times Yakumo had saved him. But he had forgotten his debt of gratitude and couldn’t throw away the doubt that Yakumo had committed a murder from the corners of his heart because of his own terrible jealousy.
– I’m such a lowly person.
Ishii gripped his fists tightly and bit down the urge to scream.
’Jurisdiction will change Saitou Yakumo from a person of interest to a suspect.’
– Saitou Yakumo, suspect. Ishii had never thought that Yakumo would be described that way.
’But at this stage, it’s just that the fingerprints match, yes? Isn’t it too early to make him a suspect?’ said Ishii with a hopeful perspective.
Miyagawa shook his head forcefully.
’Besides the physical evidence, there’s also eyewitness testimony. Plus, he ran away from the police himself. There’s nothing that can be done now.’
’That’s all. I came to tell you guys to back off.’
Miyagawa looked at Ishii seriously.
It was a somewhat sad gaze.
’Yeah. What happened so far is fine, but if you involve yourself with Yakumo any more, you’ll be suspected without cause. I won’t be able to stick up for you.’
What Miyagawa said made sense.
Now that Yakumo was a suspect, they would be suspected to be involved in the crime if they went in too deep. If they found out where Yakumo was and kept quiet, that would be aiding a fugitive.
Ishii knew that. But still, he couldn’t reply with a ’Yes sir’.
’With all due deference to you, Chief Miyagawa, the possibility that Yakumo-shi has been falsely accused...’
’Don’t say any more! I know that myself!’
Miyagawa’s angry yell from the bottom of his stomach shook the room.
Though they had been brief, various emotions had been condensed in those words.
It wasn’t only Gotou and Ishii who had worked with Yakumo. Miyagawa had gotten to know Yakumo as well through various cases.
Miyagawa himself thought that Yakumo wouldn’t kill anybody.
However, he couldn’t protect Gotou and Ishii any further.
He had forced everything he wanted to say to the bottom of his stomach and made himself to be the bad guy so as to push Gotou and Ishii away from the case.
’You guys don’t want to handcuff Yakumo either, right?’
Miyagawa said just that and pressed his cigarette into the ashtray. Then, he left the room with slumped shoulders.
Ishii couldn’t think of anything to say to that back.
– What should I do?
Haruka held on to her mobile tightly as she paced around the room.
She was irritated with herself for being unable to do anything at a time like this.
Just thinking about Yakumo’s state made her chest hurt like it was being ripped apart.
– Please. Be safe.
All she could do was wish for that.
She felt that she was terribly small and unreliable.
Just by saying that name aloud, a number of emotions welled up within her, bringing her close to panic.
She placed the mobile on the table. By gripping the red stone on her necklace, she was somehow able to calm her emotions, which had been threatening to explode.
The intercom rang.
– Could it be?
With that thought, Haruka rushed to the monitor.
On the display was Gotou’s wife, Atsuko, and her adopted daughter, Nao.
’I’ll open up now.’
Haruka quickly unlocked the auto-lock at the entrance. After a while, the doorbell rang.
She opened the door immediately and welcomed Atsuko and Nao inside.
’Sorry for coming at this time, but I just couldn’t sit still...’ Atsuko said quietly.
’No. I don’t want to be alone now either...’
’That’s right. It’s really quite the matter,’ said Atsuko quietly.
’My head’s a mess. Even though this is such a serious affair, that person won’t tell me anything. When he called home yesterday to say he wouldn’t be coming back, finally... And he didn’t explain the situation in detail either. He just told me to ask you, Haruka-chan... There’s a limit to being irresponsible.’
Atsuko said that all at once in her agitation.
Though Haruka understood how she felt, Gotou must have been frantic as well. Currently, Haruka was also doing her best to search for Yakumo – she hadn’t thought to contact Atsuko and Nao.
’Haruka-chan, are you all right?’
Atsuko put her hand on Haruka’s shoulder.
Haruka felt like everything that she had been holding in came loose.
She wanted to just cling to Atsuko and cry, but then Nao jumped in front of Haruka.
She buried her face in Haruka’s chest and started to sob.
Haruka hugged Nao tightly.
’It’s all right,’ Haruka said, rubbing Nao’s back gently.
It was mysterious. Though Haruka had been the one about to collapse just earlier, when she took in Nao’s sobs like this, she felt her heart naturally calm down.
– I need to be more reliable.
It made her feel that way.
’Yakumo-kun hasn’t...?’ said Atsuko after things had calmed down.
’Gotou-san is going to search for him now.’
’I see. If he doesn’t find him, feel free to hit him. I give my permission,’ said Atsuko jokingly.
’It’s fine. Gotou-san will definitely find him. Right, Nao-chan?’
Haruka pat Nao’s glossy hair.
Nao, who couldn’t hear, had no way to understand Haruka’s words. But it seemed like Haruka’s meaning had come across, as Nao nodded with her head still buried in Haruka’s chest.
– Yakumo. Come back soon.
The hospital was about fifteen minutes from the lake.
It was a small one-storey town clinic.
Gotou parked at the front entrance. Gotou took Yakumo’s head and Eishin his feet. They went into the clinic and placed Yakumo on the bench in the waiting room.
Since Eishin had contacted ahead of time, the examination room was open, but it was still early, so there were no other patients.
After Eishin set Yakumo down, he went right into the examination room.
’Yakumo. Hang in there.’
Gotou called out to him frantically.
But Yakumo didn’t wake up.
– I’m begging you. Don’t die.
Gotou prayed as he gripped Yakumo’s hand tightly.
Doing that wouldn’t make Yakumo get better sooner. He knew that.
There are things people realise for the first time when they lose something.
Gotou had thought of him as a damn impudent brat who always said hateful things, but at some point, Yakumo had become like family to him.
It became natural for him to be there – if he disappeared, Gotou would be troubled.
Like his wife Atsuko and his daughter Nao, Gotou would protect Yakumo even if he lost his own life in the process.
’The doctor will see him now. We have to carry him to the examination room.’
When Eishin hit Gotou’s shoulder, he came back to reality.
’Right,’ responded Gotou immediately. Then, they carried Yakumo to the examination room.
After they placed Yakumo on the bed in the examination room, an old man with a hunched back and white hair hobbled over.
He was somewhat like the coroner, Hata.
’This is Nakamoto-san. My old friend.’
Eishin gave a simple introduction.
Gotou was about to introduce himself, but Nakamoto started to examine Yakumo, saying ’Let’s see’ like he wasn’t interested in pleasantries.
’It looked like he was bit by a pit viper,’ said Eishin, crossing his arms.
’A pit viper... when?’
Nakamoto’s eyes went wide.
’We don’t know exactly, but we think it was a while back.’
’Bring me the serum immediately.’
Nakamoto instructed the nearby middle-aged nurse.
She looked a bit surprised and stood there with a blank expression for a while, but when Nakamoto urged her – ’Hurry’ – she rushed out of the examination room.
Nakamoto looked at the injury with a penlight and checked Yakumo’s pupils, but then he sighed deeply.
’Can you save Yakumo?’ Gotou pressed.
’I don’t know yet.’
’What do you mean, you don’t know! You’re going to save him!’
Gotou’s emotions boiled over and he grabbed the collar of Nakamoto’s gown.
However, Nakamoto just looked up at Gotou like he had seen something unpleasant.
’Eishin. Take this idiot outside.’
’W-what!?’ yelled Gotou.
Eishin held Gotou from behind.
Gotou tried to fight, but Eishin was stronger than he had been expected and so Gotou was dragged out of the examination room.
’Calm down, idiot,’ said Eishin, like he was rebuking a child.
’How could I calm down?’
’Will your yelling make Yakumo get better?’
Gotou gritted his back teeth.
He knew that even without hearing a lecture from a monk.
’Anyway, you wait there.’
Eishin pushed Gotou to sit down on the bench in the waiting room and returned to the examination room.
All Gotou could do was glare at the door, which slammed shut.
Gotou’s yell echoed through the waiting room.
He was so angry he wanted to punch somebody with all his might. Just as he put his fists down on his lap, his mobile phone rang.
When he checked the display, he saw that it was from Ishii.
’What do you want?’
Gotou answered the phone with evident irritation.
<D-Detective Gotou, it’s t-terrible.>
Ishii’s faltering voice made Gotou even angrier. If Ishii had been in front of him, he would have smacked his fist into his head.
<Ah, yes sir. Actually, Chief Miyagawa told me this information earlier...>
’Like I said, what?’
<Yakumo-shi’s fingerprints match the ones on the knife.>
Gotou stood up without thinking.
Matching fingerprints was positive evidence. It looked like Yakumo had definitely held the knife.
<The Nishitama precinct is going to change Yakumo-shi from a person of interest to a suspect.>
’Don’t joke with me.’
As Gotou muttered that, his eyes landed on the news on the television in the waiting room.
A horse-faced male reporter stood in front of the Nishitama precinct’s entrance and spoke in a rushed manner towards the cameras.
<Just now, according to the information we received, the Nishitama precinct has concluded that city university student, Saitou Yakumo, is the suspect...>
As if to interrupt the reporter’s words, a picture of Yakumo appeared on the screen.
It was probably the photo from his student ID or something like it. He had a white shirt on and a composed expression on his face.
It was probably from when he still wore his black contact lens. Gotou couldn’t see Yakumo’s red left eye.
Gotou heard Ishii call out to him from the other end of the phone.
’I can hear you. I’m looking at the news right now.’
<And there was one more piece of news.>
<Another corpse was found in the Nishitama jurisdiction.>
<I don’t know. But with this timing...>
So it could be serial.
Not just one person but two had been killed – a big case. The Nishitama precinct would probably chase Yakumo with all their strength.
Not all. Detectives from central government would be out soon.
If that happened, all of the police force would be chasing Yakumo.
<What should we do?>
Ishii’s off-the-point question stopped Gotou’s thoughts.
<I said, what should we do now?>
’How would I know?’
’Think about what you should do on your own!’
After yelling that, Gotou hung up.
When he sat down on the bench, Gotou realised that he’d forgotten to tell Ishii that he’d found Yakumo. He thought about calling again, but decided against it. It would be better not to tell Ishii.
If he found out, he would have to report to the higher-ups. It’d bring about problems if he knew and kept quiet about it.
– I can’t get Ishii any more involved in this.
After smiling derisively, Gotou called Haruka’s number from his mobile phone’s contact list.
He’d call just to say they found him.
She had probably been waiting for a call. Gotou heard Haruka’s cornered voice right away.
She had probably been in more pain than anyone. It felt like she might start crying at any moment.
<Did you find Yakumo-kun?> Haruka said immediately.
So many things had happened up until now. To Haruka, Yakumo was irreplaceable, just like how he was to Gotou.
If Haruka lost Yakumo, she would probably carry that with her for her whole life.
When Gotou thought that, he couldn’t speak.
<So you didn’t find him...>
Haruka’s voice sounded like it would fade off at any moment.
’Like I promised, I found him,’ said Gotou, before his heart was determined.
Haruka’s voice was so bright it sounded like a different person’s.
Now, Gotou couldn’t say the truth.
– It’s fine. Yakumo will be saved.
Gotou said that to himself and made his decision.
<Is Yakumo-kun all right?>
<I want to talk to him.>
’Ah, no, right now’s no good. He’s got a bit of an injury. A doctor’s looking at him.’
’He’s fine. Nothing big. He’s getting it looked at just in case.’
Gotou was hit by a wave of regret after saying that.
– What am I saying?
However, it was too late now that he’d said it. If anything happened, he’d make the same thing happen to that quack doctor.
<Thank goodness... Really, thank goodness...>
Gotou could tell that Haruka was crying on the other side of the phone.
– I’m really counting on you.
Gotou glared at the door of the examination room.
<Where are you now, dear?>
Suddenly, Gotou heard Atsuko’s voice from the other side of the phone.
’W-why are you there?’
Gotou became flustered in his confusion.
<What do you mean, why? Nao and I are also worried about Yakumo-kun. Don’t just run off like that.>
Gotou’s voice toned down under Atsuko’s pressure.
He’d know this, but she really had some guts.
<So how is the case?>
’Don’t want to think about it. It’s the worst-case scenario.’
’The fingerprints on the murder weapon match Yakumo’s.’
<Yakumo-kun could never kill someone...>
’I know that.’
Eishin’s words came up in Gotou’s head.
– People’s hearts change moment by moment.
That might be true. There was probably a side of Yakumo that Gotou and the others didn’t know. But still, he wanted to believe in Yakumo.
There was a line that people couldn’t cross. No matter what, Yakumo wasn’t the sort of person who would cross that line.
Gotou called his wife by his name.
He felt like it’d been a while since he’d done that. He didn’t know why, but since they married, it’d become natural for her to be by his side and he’d just gotten by with things like ’Oi’.
But he felt like calling her by her name right now.
There was something he had to say properly while facing her.
’The police are chasing Yakumo as a suspect rather than a person of interest. But I can’t believe it.’
’Could I ask you one thing?’
’If I end up quitting the police, what will you do?’
The moment Gotou said that, he heard laughter from the other side of the phone.
Perhaps Atsuko wasn’t taking what Gotou said seriously. Or she didn’t understand the meaning of the question –
But Gotou’s answer cleared away those feelings of Gotou’s.
<If I had to say what I like about you, there’s one thing. You rush forward with your stupidly honest belief in others.>
’And if you had to say what you hated?’
– She hates me being a police officer?
It was the first time he’d heard of it. It seemed like Atsuko had seen through all of Gotou’s worries.
He’d thought he’d been flying around freely up until now, but it looked like he’d actually just been dancing around in Atsuko’s palm.
He’d made an unbelievable woman into his wife.
’Got it. I’ll try not to be hated.’
Gotou hung up and stood.
There was no reason to hesitate any more. Gotou was determined.
Yakumo might not like it, but he’d go with him to the ends of hell.
– I’m so glad.
Haruka gripped the red stone on her necklace tightly.
After seeing Yakumo in her room this morning, she recalled the time when her friend Shiori died and it had felt like her heart was in her mouth.
Nao was hopping around the room in happiness.
Atsuko held Haruka’s shoulders tightly.
’My husband’s quite the guy, isn’t he?’
Atsuko really looked proud.
Haruka had to thank Gotou. Not just this time – he had stood on the front lines time and time again and protected thim with his body.
’Thank you very much.’
Haruka knew her voice was trembling.
– No good. I’m going to cry again.
’Now, let’s stop with the sentimentality. There’s something we have to do too, right?’ said Atsuko.
’Yes,’ replied Haruka, wiping away her tears with her finger.
Just as Atsuko said, they had something they had to do.
Yakumo had become a suspect. If they didn’t prove his innocence, he couldn’t return even if he was safe.
As if to reply to Haruka’s feelings, the mobile phone on the table rang.
The number on the display was Makoto’s.
<Sorry for calling early in the morning.>
Makoto’s clear voice came through the phone.
<I found a number of interesting things while investigating.>
<A mysterious story about that limestone cave.>
Makoto lowered her tone.
’A mysterious story... is it?’
Haruka lowered her tone as well.
<Yes. Old newspapers were no good, but about ten years ago, the publication department of my newspaper agency put out a book about spiritual phenomena and there was a story about that limestone cave in it.>
Though her voice was quiet, Makoto spoke quickly. It was evident that she was agitated.
’What sort of story was it?’
Expectation welled up within Haruka too.
<Fanatics about that sort of thing said that a woman’s screams could be heard from that limestone cave.>
At this stage, Haruka didn’t know what that really meant, but she couldn’t ignore it.
<And there’s a rumour that you can also hear a woman’s screams at the lake near the limestone cavern.>
’At the lake...’
Haruka recalled what Eishin had said.
Hatsune, who said she was her mother’s reincarnation, shad said she was killed and sunk into the lake.
Hatsune was a girl of about ten years old. The time matched up. It could have something to do with it.
<That caught my interest, so I acted like I was going to gather material for this case and called people in the area. And then...>
Makoto spoke, interrupting Haruka’s thoughts.
’Did you find something out?’
<I got different testimony.>
<Yes. Though he was an old man already past sixty, that person said he heard a crying baby in that limestone cave when he was a kid.>
Though Haruka didn’t know the precise age of the person who had given the interview, she imagined that this was about fifty years ago.
The time was completely different, and a woman’s screams and a baby’s cries were completely different.
She had thought things might have been related, but she felt now that everything was falling apart.
’Isn’t that a different story?’
Makoto said that as if it were a matter of fact.
When Makoto said that so firmly, it made Haruka more confused. Why had Makoto talked about a different spiritual phenomenon?
Makoto continued to speak, sensing Haruka’s question.
<That old man went into the limestone cavern to find out where the baby’s cries were coming from.>
Makoto’s voice changed. Haruka’s heart beat loudly.
Haruka held the mobile tightly and waited for Makoto to continue.
<He saw a woman there holding a child.>
<Yes. That isn’t all. He said that both of the woman’s eyes were dyed a deep red...>
– A woman with two red eyes.
Haruka couldn’t speak in her surprise.
<I don’t know for certain, but don’t you think one of these might be related to the case?>
Haruka agreed with Makoto’s opinion.
Two spiritual phenomena that had occurred in the same place. Hatsune, who claimed to be her mother’s reincarnation. If they found the thread that tied these three things together, they would solve the mystery of the case.
– Think about what you should do on your own!
Gotou’s words kept circling his head like a round.
For a while, he had thought that Gotou had abandoned him and had been dazed in his shock.
But after some time, he had understood the true meaning behind those words, as if they had slowly spread within his heart.
Gotou hadn’t abandoned him. He’d entrusted the matter to him.
When Ishii realised that, he had trembled from head to toe, like electricity was running through him.
No matter how much Miyagawa was against it, there was something he had to do.
Ishii was determined.
First, he needed to gather information. Youko had said that another corpse was found in the Nishitama jurisdiction. He would find out its identity.
The direction of his investigation would change depending on whether that corpse was related to Yakumo’s case.
Ishii took the phone from the desk but was troubled about his decision.
If he contacted Miyagawa through the internal line, the chief would probably be furious. That said, calling the Nishitama precinct without an official request would cause discord.
– What should I do?
Just as he held his head in disappointment, somebody’s face flashed through Ishii’s mind.
’That’s right. Makoto-san might know.’
Ishii quickly called Makoto’s number from his mobile phone contacts list.
<Hello, Hijikata speaking.>
After a number of rings, Makoto picked up.
Ishii felt like it had been a while since he’d heard her voice. Since he had felt like he’d been left behind on his own, this relaxed him a bit.
’It’s Ishii. It’s been a while.’
<Actually, I was just about to contact you too, Ishii-san.>
’Eh? Is that so?’
– What could it be?
’I was investigating Yakumo-kun’s case with Haruka-chan.>
Makoto answered Ishii’s question.
<How about you, Ishii-san?>
’Of course, I’m calling about Yakumo-shi’s case. There’s something I want to know, but...’
<If it’s a question I can reply to, of course.>
’It seems like a corpse was found in the Nishitama jurisdiction this morning.’
Makoto seemed to sense the general situation just from Ishii’s explanation and put the phone on hold after saying ’Please wait’.
A melancholic melody started to play.
While listening to it, Ishii realised that his impression of Makoto had changed.
In the past, he would become nervous in front of Makoto, but now that wasn’t the case.
– I wonder why.
<I’m sorry for the wait.>
Makoto spoke breathlessly, interrupting Ishii’s thoughts.
’What is it?’
<Though I don’t know too much...>
<His name is Matsumoto Hiroshi. Twenty-seven years old. He’s a high school teacher. He had taken an unauthorised leave from work since two days ago, and when a colleague from school went to check out on him, it looked like he had been stabbed multiple times with a knife.>
Ishii felt his feet shake when he heard what Makoto said.
Stabbed multiple times with a knife – that was the exact same method that Seidou had been killed with. Though it was too early to say it was the same perpetrator just from that, it was worth looking into.
<And the location of the crime was about five kilometres from that temple.>
Makoto added to her explanation.
It wasn’t that far. Ishii’s suspicions grew stronger.
<Does it seem related?>
Makoto said that as if she had read Ishii’s thoughts.
’I can’t say anything at this stage...’
Ishii was about to hang up, but then Makoto stopped him, saying <Ishii-san>.
’What is it?’
<I also have information that I’ve gathered. Shall we meet up later?>
That was a welcome suggestion.
He had to explain the situation to Haruka as well, and it would be better to have more heads to think about it.
’That sounds good.’
<Then I’ll pick up Haruka-chan and meet you.>
Ishii hung up and looked at the mountain of files that Youko had left behind. It was possible that something that connected Seidou and Matsumoto Hiroshi was in there.
Ishii rolled up his shirt sleeves and picked up a file.
– Still not done?
Gotou glared at the examination room door with his two hands in fists.
It had been more than two hours since.
He was irritated at himself for only being able to wait. At times like this, he longed for the cigarettes that he had stopped smoking.
Just as Gotou spat that out, the door opened.
Eishin came out. His forehead was drenched with sweat. He looked like he had lost weight.
’How is he?’
Gotou stood up immediately and approached Eishin.
Eishin let out a long breath and then his expression relaxed.
’Seems he’ll be fine if he gets some rest.’
All the force in Gotou’s body left him – it felt like he’d fall right to the floor.
Gotou was surprised himself that Yakumo’s existence had had such an impact on him.
’So what do you plan to do now?’
Eishin looked at the glass door at the entrance, like he had sensed something.
Gotou looked as well.
He saw two uniformed officers approaching the examination room.
The nurse had probably informed the police after seeing the news. This was bad.
’Take Yakumo out of here,’ Gotou said forcefully.
’Are you serious?’
Eishin’s brow was furrowed.
Like Gotou had the time to tell jokes now.
’I’ll stop the officers. You take Yakumo then,’ said Gotou, glaring at Eishin.
For a while, Eishin just looked back at Gotou silently, but he finally shook his head in resignation.
’My, my. To think that I would become a partner in crime...’
’You were the start of this. You should be prepared.’
Eishin smiled wryly and headed to the examination room.
’Now, time to go.’
Gotou walked over with wide strides to the officers that had come in and showed them his police ID.
’I’m Gotou of the Setamachi precinct.’
’Thank you for your hard work.’
The uniformed officer immediately replied with a salute.
’Did something happen?’
’Yes. There was a report that the escaped suspect Saitou Yakumo was here...’
– So that really was it.
Gotou clicked his tongue looked at the examination room.
With bad timing, Eishin came out, carrying Yakumo.
One of the uniformed officers noticed and tried to approach Eishin, but Gotou grabbed the officer’s arm to stop him.
’It was decided that Saitou Yakumo will be turned over to the Setamachi precinct.’
– Please. Believe me.
Gotou looked at the officer whose arm he was holding with that thought in his head.
’I will confirm that.’
After the other officer said that, he took his wireless in his hand.
– No good, eh?
Gotou turned around and kneed the officer with the wireless between the legs.
The officer put his two hands to his crotch and screeched.
’Don’t think badly of me.’
Gotou kicked the man’s defenceless chin.
The officer fell down backwards and stopped moving, loving consciousness.
’W-what are you doing?’
The other officer seemed in shock as he put his hand to the gun holster at his waist.
– As if I’d let you do that!
Gotou grabbed the officer’s arm as he tried to take out his gun and then rammed his head into his nose.
The officer staggered backwards while gripping his nose.
Gotou took a big step forward to approach the officer and performed a lariat with his outstretched right arm.
The officer fell backwards and stopped moving.
– I’ve done it now.
Though it was to save Yakumo, he was interfering with a public servant in the execution of his duties by aiding a fugitive. And he’d been violent on top of that. It wasn’t something a police officer should do.
He wouldn’t be able to be a police officer again with this.
Gotou had thought he would be disappointed, but strangely, his chest felt light. He had been bound by the organisation called the police up until now and had undergone many hardships, but now he was free.
’Shouldn’t have done that,’ Eishin said, poking fun.
As usual, this guy had no sense of nervousness.
’Anyway, let’s hurry.’
Right after saying that, Gotou ran.
There was no time to be sentimental. Once the officers regained consciousness, help would probably come right away.
They had to get as far away as they could before that happened.
Gotou got in the car’s driver seat and turned on the engine.
He waited until Eishin put Yakumo in the back and sat himself in the passenger seat before starting the car.
’There was a movie like this before. The one with a pair escaping after committing a train robbery,’ said Eishin, smiling like he was enjoying this.
Gotou knew that movie too, but he didn’t want to compare themselves to it if he could.
’Do you know how that movie ended?’
’No, how did it?’
Eishin cocked his head.
– Really, what a laidback old man.
’In the end, they were surrounded by the army and shot full of holes.’
– What’s this?
Ishii was looking through the files when he spotted the circumstances of a certain case and his hands stopped without thinking.
It was about a girl’s disappearance ten years ago.
Masuoka Minami, who lived in Nishitama City, was seventeen years old at the time. She went missing on the way home from school. Minami had still not been found.
From her friends’ testimony, Minami had seemed very depressed two or three days prior to the incident.
As well, on the day of her disappearance, she was spotted talking the train at the station in the direction of Shinjuku.
Her father had failed at work and lost his job and her mother was working part-time to support their family. Though she had wanted to go to university, but she was forced to give up.
It appeared that Minami had expressed her dissatisfaction with her family to her friends. The police had conjectured that she ran away from home because she hated her family.
After just looking at this much, it was a case that could happen often.
However, there was a reason Ishii had focussed on this case.
First was the name.
Furthermore, the person who had last seen Minami. That person was the victim of the case this time, Seidou.
There were other things that caught his interest. Matsumoto Hiroshi, the corpse that was found this morning, was the same age as Minami.
Was this just a coincidence – no, it was too much for that.
Ishii felt agitated.
Calling Minami’s family for information would be one method.
The door slammed open. Miyagawa ran in with a terribly angry expression.
His face was completely red – it looked like he could explode at any moment.
Ishii stood up reflexively, back pencil-straight.
Miyagawa brought his face so close to Ishii’s that their noses were almost touching.
His eyes were bloodshot. Ishii felt like Miyagawa might bite into his neck at any moment.
’I told you to back off already. What idiotic...’
Miyagawa covered his face with both hands and sat down right there.
Ishii had no idea what had happened, but when he saw Miyagawa’s unusual reaction, the feeling that something unbelievable was happening grew stronger.
’What on earth...’
When Ishii asked that, Miyagawa stood up there with a reproachful expression and clicked his tongue.
’There’s nothing else to say. This is the end...’
As if to interrupt Miyagawa’s explanation, the door opened.
Youko came in. Her expression was as wild as Miyagawa’s.
’You’ve done it now!’
’Did you know?’
Youko said that hysterically as she approached Ishii.
– What on earth is it?
Ishii’s head felt like it would split in his confusion.
’Your partner acted violently against two uniformed officers and escaped with Saitou Yakumo.’
It was so unexpected that for a while, Ishii couldn’t understand the meaning of the words.
– It can’t be.
’Do you understand what this means? Aiding a fugitive and interfering with a public servant in the execution of his duties. And violence, on top of that.’
’You’re lying. Detective Gotou wouldn’t do that.’
Ishii looked at Miyagawa for help.
’It’s true. He really did something stupid...’
Miyagawa spat that out.
Ishii stood there, unable to believe it.
– I see.
Now, Ishii finally understood. Gotou had already found Yakumo when they talked on the phone. He had been planning on escaping with Yakumo from the very beginning.
That was why he didn’t tell Ishii about finding Yakumo – so as to not cause trouble for Ishii.
– Think about what you should do on your own!
Ishii understood the true meaning of Gotou’s words.
A bitter taste spread through his mouth.
’Even though... I wanted to go with Detective Gotou...’ murmured Ishii.
’What did you say?’
Miyagawa pressed him for an answer, but Ishii didn’t feel like replying.
– He left me behind.
That feeling quickly spread through Ishii’s chest, becoming so heavy it was hard to bear.
Ishii respected Gotou from the bottom of his heart.
Gotou had everything that Ishii didn’t. Ishii wanted to become like him. He wished for that. That was why he had recklessly chased after that back.
And yet –
’I need to go.’
Ishii’s mouth moved naturally.
’I have to go too.’
Ishii took the file he had started reading and started
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