VOLUME 9 – THE SPIRIT OF SALVATION file 02: frenzy ()
Haruka was shocked as she looked at Gotou.
In the corner of the Movie Research Circle room which Yakumo made his secret hideaway, Gotou was sitting in a wheelchair.
His hands and arms were bound with rope. It looked like he wasn’t conscious – he sat limp like a puppet which had had its strings cut. There was no trace of the usual Gotou there. Haruka had never even dreamt of seeing Gotou again like this.
‘Please tell me in detail what happened,’ Yakumo said in a harsh tone, standing directly in front of Gotou.
’Sorry. It was my fault.’
The weak response came from Eishin.
Eishin had both a large body and a large personality, but even he was listless in this situation.
’It doesn’t matter right now whose fault it was.’
With a sigh, Yakumo sat in his usual seat.
’Right...’ Eishin said to himself, and then he started explaining what had happened up until now.
In Aokigahara’s Sea of Trees, a woman had found a corpse while exploring. Then, there had been a phone call from a ghost –
And then Gotou had answered the ghost’s call, and no other than Eishin had been the one to goad him into doing it.
That was probably why he was saying it was his fault.
’Honestly. I have to say it was careless.’
Yakumo put his chin in his hand, exasperated.
Haruka felt the same way. If they had been a bit more careful, this wouldn’t have happened.
Eishin smiled bitterly.
’So what are you going to do?’ asked Haruka, leaning forward.
There was no point blaming what had happened. The problem was what to do next.
’In all probability, the spirit possessing Gotou-san is probably the ghost of the corpse that was found.’
’The problem is the corpse’s identity then.’
’Yeah. But there’s something that concerns me.’
’The man with two red eyes?’ asked Eishin.
Haruka was concerned about that too. The man with two red eyes whom Rina had seen in the Sea of Trees – it couldn’t be just a coincidence.
’If he’s involved in this, there’s a chance that there’s some involvement with the case.’
’I see,’ replied Eishin, scratching his chin.
’Well, there’s no point thinking about it now. First, we have to gather information.’
Yakumo put his index finger on his brow.
His almond eyes seemed to let off a cold light.
’Then what should I do?’ asked Eishin.
’That’s right. First of all, Eishin-san, could you talk to the man who went exploring with Rina-san?’
’There might be new developments... right?’
’Got it. I’ll give it a try.’
Eishin briskly got up and left the room.
’This is really troublesome...’ grumbled Yakumo. Then, he looked at Gotou again.
Haruka felt the same way as Yakumo. She had never thought that Gotou would be possessed by a ghost.
’Hey, why was it Gotou-san?’
Haruka asked the question that suddenly came to her head.
There were people who were possessed by ghosts, and people who weren’t. This time, Gotou wasn’t the only person who answered the phone. The woman named Rina had also answered.
But Gotou was the one who was possessed – why was that?
’I talked about this before, but I think it’s something similar to wavelengths.’
Yakumo’s eyes narrowed.
’The wavelength of a soul differs with each one. When they match up, possession can occur.’
Yakumo had compared possession to an organ transplant before. For the transplant to be successful, various conditions such as blood type had to match up.
’So Gotou-san’s wavelength just happened to match.’
’That’s it,’ said Yakumo.
Then, Gotou slowly lifted his drooping head.
Perhaps he had woken up.
Haruka tried to rush over to him, but Yakumo stopped her.
’Give it up.’
’Ur... gh... Ya... Yakumo... Why are you here?’
Gotou spoke in a pained voice.
Yakumo got up from his seat and crossed his arms in front of Gotou.
’How do you feel?’
’The worst... My head hurts...’
’I don’t know... I... answered the phone... and then...’
As Gotou spoke, it seemed like it hurt him to breathe. His body wrested about violently. However, because he was bound with rope to the wheelchair, he couldn’t move as he wanted.
Gotou’s body rattled loudly.
’Gotou-san! Please get a hold of yourself!’ Haruka yelled frantically.
Gotou let out a beastly howl, throwing his head back. Then, he stopped moving. ’Yakumo-kun.’
’It’s fine. He’s still alive.’
Yakumo ran a hand through his hair.
– Things have become really serious.
All Haruka could do was look in shock.
Ishii visited Meisei University with Makoto.
After Ishii called Yakumo to tell him there was something he wanted his advice on, Yakumo had told him to come to the Movie Research Circle room.
’It feels a bit strange,’ said Makoto, looking around the campus like it was something mysterious. They had passed the school gates and were walking along the brick road.
’What do you mean?’
’Doesn’t being at school remind you of your school days?’
’Ah, now that you mention it, it does,’ agreed Ishii.
Ishii felt that way sometimes too. However, Ishii didn’t have many enjoyable memories of his youth to remember.
I wonder what sort of university life Makoto had – Ishii suddenly wanted to know.
’And it’s even stranger to be walking with you, Ishii-san.’
’I-is that so?’
’Yes. It feels a bit strange. But it’s fun.’
Makoto stuck out her tongue playfully.
Why was Ishii’s heart beating so loudly? He thought about it, but he couldn’t find the reason.
While this was happening, they reached the prefabricated building in the back of Building B. After taking a deep breath, Ishii knocked on the door that had a plate that read <Movie Research Circle>.
Yakumo’s voice came from within.
Ishii hesitantly opened the door.
Ishii saw Haruka there. Next to her was Yakumo.
’It’s been a long time,’ greeted Ishii, putting a hand on his head.
Ishii was surprised at how strangely calm he was now, when his heart would soar just from seeing Haruka’s face in the past.
’Makoto-san’s with you too, I see,’ said Yakumo, noticing Makoto.
’Yes. It’s been a while. I apologise for coming uninvited.’
’No, I actually had a number of things I wanted to ask you too. Please come in.’
At Yakumo’s invitation, Ishii and Makoto entered the room.
Then, Ishii’s eyes spotted somebody unexpected.
Ishii had called Gotou after he quit, but it had been about a month since they had last met in person.
Ishii was so happy that he was about to embrace Gotou, but Yakumo grabbed Ishii’s arm, making it impossible for Ishii to approach Gotou any further.
’Please don’t carelessly approach him,’ Yakumo said sharply.
’Eh? Why not?’
’Gotou-san has been possessed by a ghost,’ Yakumo said with a sigh.
’By ghost, do you mean that ghost?’
’Yes, that ghost.’
Ishii leapt away without thinking when he heard those words, which he was so sensitive to.
When Ishii took a good look from a distance, he saw that Gotou was bound to a wheelchair and that his head was hanging limply.
It looked like he was unconscious.
’It’s because he runs ahead and does unnecessary things that this happens.’
Yakumo kicked the wheelchair casually.
’It’s fine, since the one thing that’s sturdy about Gotou-san is his body.’
’No, that’s not the...’
’It seems like things are quite troublesome.’
Even Makoto sounded surprised by the situation.
’Yes, it’s an unwelcome nuisance. More importantly, please sit down first.’
Yakumo urged them to sit in the opposite chairs.
After Ishii shared a look with Makoto, he sat down, though he was still confused. Yakumo waited until they were seated to sit down himself.
’Excuse me... Will Detective Gotou be all right?’ Ishii asked.
’To be honest, I don’t know.’
Yakumo ran a hand through his messy hair.
His words sounded incredibly irresponsible.
’I don’t know who the ghost possessing Gotou-san is or what the ghost is trying to do. There’s nothing that can be done.’
Yakumo had a point, but still –
’I need to help Detective Gotou right now!’
’Ishii-san, you’re following a different case right now, right?’
’That’s true, but...’
’This is just a suspicion I have, but I think that the ghost possessing Gotou-san and the case you are following are connected in some way.’
’I-is that so?’
’It’s only a suspicion, but she mentioned a deep forest and told me to save someone...’
’What are you talking about?’
’Just talking to myself. Please don’t concern yourself over it.’
Ishii didn’t understand, but he didn’t press any further.
It was Yakumo. He had to be thinking of something.
’Anyway, first we have to clean up the various problems in front of us. I think that will be a shortcut to solving the case.’
It sounded like Yakumo was trying to convince himself with his words.
Eishin sat at a table in a family restaurant in front of the station.
Since it was dinnertime, the shop was rather crowded. Perhaps it was unusual for a robed monk to be sitting by himself – a lot of people were staring. He was used to it though.
’Are you the monk named Eishin?’
After a while, a young man came in front of Eishin.
He had a long, thin body and a wide grin.
Eishin had asked Rina to call out the young man who had gone with her into the Sea of Trees so that Eishin could talk to him. The truth was, it would be faster to have her here too, but she refused.
It seemed like she had been disillusioned by the incident with him in the Sea of Trees.
’Are you Hiroki-kun?’
’Yeah,’ Hiroki replied with a shrug.
Young people these days didn’t know how to speak to their elders. Maybe they were trying to act like people in Europe or America, but Japan had Japanese culture.
’Well, sit down,’ Eishin urged, repressing his irritation.
’Hey, you an exorcist?’ asked Hiroki once he sat down.
– An incredibly rude guy.
’Decide for yourself.’
’Eh!? Seriously?! Try showing me!’
Hiroki’s eyes sparkled like a child, like he was happy about something.
– He’s really annoying.
’If you tell me what happened in the Sea of Trees, I’ll put a curse on you.’
After giving that carefree reply, Hiroki started talking about the events that occurred in the Sea of Trees.
However, since there was an incredible amount of bragging and sound effects in his story, it took him a long time to get anywhere. It took a full forty minutes for Hiroki to finish, but in contrast to that length, there was no substance. If you talked normally, it would only take five minutes.
’So you didn’t see a ghost?’ asked Eishin.
’I see. So then you contacted the police.’
’Yeah. Rina-chan had fainted so I was seriously panicked,’ said Hiroki, shuddering dramatically. Though his gestures were exaggerated, there was no anxiety in his words.
It looked like he couldn’t even understand the gravity of finding a corpse.
’Were you questioned by the police?’
’Yeah, but they just acted where I was and stuff like that and took the video camera I was using to film.’
’Actually, I’d like you to get that back.’
Eishin couldn’t believe his ears.
’I’m begging you, man. It’d be a pain to go all the way to Yamanashi.’
Hiroki leant back and forth, like a kid begging for a toy.
– Why do I have to do your errands?
Eishin swallowed his anger right before it erupted and stood up from his seat.
’That was helpful.’
’If that’s all you need, call me any time.’
Hiroki stood up and patted Eishin’s shoulder.
That moment, the anger within Eishin erupted. Yelling at a brat like this wouldn’t have any effect though.
’I’m just going to give you a warning.’
’The spirits in the Sea of Trees are incredibly ill-willed. You’ll be the next to be cursed.’
However, Eishin’s expression didn’t change. He looked straight at Hiroki.
Led by the force in Eishin’s eyes, Hiroki’s smile turned into a frown. Then, sweat started pouring down his forehead.
’You’re kidding, right...?’
Hiroki’s voice was shaking.
’Unfortunately, you’ll die in the near future.
’W-wai... Stop that.’
Eishin ignored Hiroki’s frantic pleas. He went to the counter to pay and then left the family restaurant.
– It’ll be good medicine for him.
Eishin let out a satisfied sigh before walking away.
Haruka headed for the temple where Gotou lived.
She was going to tell Atsuko, Gotou’s wife, what had happened. She passed through the gate and went to the priests’ quarters. Her legs felt weak.
She really didn’t want to go tell such heavy news.
However, there was no point standing here and worrying about it. Haruka gathered her determination and pressed the intercom button at the entrance.
Haruka heard a voice. Then, the entrance’s sling door opened to show Atsuko.
’Oh, hello, Haruka-chan,’ said Atsuko, sounding surprised.
It was the first time Haruka had come here alone since Isshin had died.
’Good evening. Actually, there is something I need to tell you...’ said Haruka, still feeling troubled.
Atsuko seemed to sense something as her expression hardened. ’Come in,’ she said, inviting Haruka inside.
Haruka went to the living room and crouched on the tatami. Nao, drawing in a sketchbook, looked up.
’Nao-chan, it’s been a while.’
After Haruka said that, Nao’s face lit up. Nao leapt towards her.
’You doing well?’ said Haruka, patting Nao’s head.
Haruka heard that voice in her head. Nao couldn’t hear, but in exchange, she talked directly to people’s hearts like this.
’Well, sit down,’ urged Atsuko.
Haruka sat on a cushion. Nao sat next to her with a smile.
’Would you rather have tea or coffee?’
’Please don’t mind me.’
’You don’t have to restrain yourself. We’re going to be relatives in the future anyway.’
’Eh?’ said Haruka, confused.
’Well, when you and Yakumo-kun get married, won’t we be relatives?’
Though Haruka understood what Atsuko meant, unfortunately there were no plans of that.
Haruka didn’t want to take it seriously and deny it either, so she decided to let it pass with a wry smile.
’Then I’ll have tea.’
After a while, Atsuko returned with tea from the kitchen.
’So what did you have to tell me?’ said Atsuko, sitting across from Haruka.
With Atsuko in front of her like this, Haruka didn’t know what she should say.
However, thinking about it wouldn’t start anything. Haruka took in a deep breath and started to speak.
’Actually, this is about Gotou-san...’
’Did something happen?’
Atsuko’s expression became grim immediately.
With a deep breath to calm herself down, Haruka told Atsuko what had happened to Gotou.
Atsuko listened to Haruka in silence. Since Atsuko’s expression didn’t change much, Haruka didn’t know what she was feeling.
After a silence, Atsuko put a hand over her mouth and started giggling.
’He really is an idiot.’
Atsuko laughed aloud like she couldn’t keep it in any longer.
Nao started laughing too.
’Excuse me... I don’t think it’s a laughing matter...’
Haruka wasn’t sure what to do with the unexpected response.
’It is. It’s like that saying – going for wool and coming home shorn.’
’Aren’t you worried?’
For just a moment, Atsuko’s expression clouded over.
Those were probably her true feelings – Haruka understood that.
’I’m worried, but all I can do at a time like this is believe, right?’
Atsuko showed Haruka a smile.
– She’s strong.
Haruka felt that anew.
When Gotou had gone missing before, and when Isshin had been stabbed, Atsuko had stood firmly on her own.
No matter what happened, she waited and believed. Perhaps she had the resolve to do that.
’I thought it’d be tough when I married him,’ Atsuko said suddenly.
’I mean, he never thinks before acting, right? He always sticks his neck into danger.’
Haruka felt like she understood.
Even though Gotou treated others’ lives with care, for some reason, he didn’t have that same care for his own. Yakumo was the same way.
That was why it frightened Haruka to watch. It was hard to be the one waiting.
’At first there were many sleepless nights for me, but I realised something.’
’What did you realise?’
’No matter how reckless he is, he always comes back. That’s why I wait and believe in him.’
’I see. Definitely...’
’And it’s fine with Yakumo-kun there. He’ll do something about it.’
Atsuko patted Haruka’s shoulder.
’Ah, that’s right. I’ll show you something good.’
It looked like Atsuko had remembered something as she clapped her hands together and stood up.
After saying that, Atsuko left the living room.
Nao took Haruka’s hand and smiled. She definitely believed in Gotou too. That was why she could smile like this.
– I need to believe to.
In her heart, Haruka thought that with conviction.
After Ishii returned to the precinct, he contacted Shimamura Eriko of the Criminal Affairs division immediately.
She was one of the detectives in charge of Hideaki’s case. Ishii chose her because she had been Gotou’s past partner.
Ishii thought that she would give him a bit more information than another detective.
’I would like some information regarding Hideaki-shi’s case, but...’
After saying that, Ishii was told to wait at the conference room.
Ishii went into the conference room, as he was instructed. It looked like Shimamura wasn’t here yet. Ishii sat on a chair and leant back.
He had never thought that Gotou would be possessed by a ghost.
Yakumo had said that Gotou’s incident and Imoto’s suicide in his flat were connected, but Ishii didn’t understand why Yakumo thought that.
However, all Ishii could do was believe and act.
’Sorry I’m late.’
About ten minutes later, the conference door opened, and a woman in a dark blue suit came in.
She had wide shoulders for a woman and a heavy frame. It felt like she could be in a gang.
’No, I’m sorry for calling you out.’
Shimamura waved away Ishii’s concern and sat across from him.
’Ah, I’m sorry, I haven’t introduced myself yet. My name is...’
’Ishii, right? I’ve heard about you from Gotou and Atsuko.’
Ishii cocked his head unconsciously.
It made sense for Shimamura to know Gotou, but Ishii hadn’t thought that she also knew his wife, Atsuko.
’You didn’t know?’
’Didn’t know what?’
’I’m the one who introduced Atsuko to Gotou.’
Ishii was so shocked that he almost fell from his chair.
’Unexpectedly, you don’t know much about Gotou, even though you were his partner.’
It was true.
Though Ishii and Gotou had always been together as partners, they virtually never talked about their private lives.
They unexpectedly knew very little about each other.
’It’d be better for you to stop apologising so quickly like that.’
’Ah, no, but...’
’I’m just saying this here, but Gotou’s got high hopes for you.’
Ishii was shocked once more.
’He’s a clumsy guy so he can be cold, but he’s different on the inside.’
’I-is that so?’
Ishii couldn’t believe it.
Ishii had never seen even a tiny amount of that from Gotou. Ishii felt like he had always just been tripping over himself and causing trouble.
’You didn’t even realise that?’
’You’re apologising again.’
Ishii hurriedly swallowed the words he was about to say.
’Ishii’ll become a good detective, he said...’
’When he quit being a detective, he went out of his way to find me and bowed his head to me. Telling me to help you if you were in trouble.’
’Detective Gotou did that...’
Ishii felt something warm welling up within him.
Will I be able to live up to those expectations – Ishii had lamented the lack of Gotou’ presence and had given up, thinking he could do nothing, and shut himself inside a shell. His own biased view.
– I’ll live up to Detective Gotou’s expectations.
Ishii was filled with strong determination.
’Let’s leave the soppy stories now. Here’re the case files.’
Shimamura placed a bundle of documents on the desk.
<Thank you very much. Also, how did Aoi Hideaki’s questioning go?’ asked Ishii, looking at the files.
’He kept saying he could see ghosts, but there’s no way that police can believe that.’
Shimamura smiled wryly.
As members of the police, they really had no way to accept the existence of ghosts.
’So he’s still in detention?’
’We didn’t keep him.’
’It wasn’t an arrest. It was just a questioning.’
That was true. At this stage, he was just suspicious – there was no proof.
’Do you think he’s the culprit?’ asked Ishii.
’It seems like Chief Honda thinks that. He’s going to have him questioned again.’
’What do you think personally, Shimamura-san?’
’Innocent, obviously,’ said Shimamura, seeming exasperated.
’Why do you think that?’
’I don’t know how to answer, but if I had to say, it’s my gut feeling from many years on the force.’
’Yeah. It’s been a while since I’ve seen eyes as straight as his. He’s the not the type of man who could kill someone.’
’Then he really can see...’
’I don’t know about that, but that flat was a completely locked room.’
Ishii knew best, as the first eyewitness, that the flat where the corpse was found was a locked room.
’Yes, it was.’
’And Imoto had posted on an internet forum in a way that suggested he would commit suicide.’
’An... internet forum?’
’Yes. There’s a site where people who want to commit suicide gather, right?’
’You’re talking about that?’
Ishii hadn’t accessed the site himself, but he had heard rumours.
People who wanted to kill themselves gathered on that forum and revealed the emotions they felt. In the past, people who met on that forum had committed a group suicide, making it a societal problem.
’Honestly. Even though everything’s a mess already with the corpse from Aokigahara. What a mess...’ said Shimamura with a click of her tongue.
’The Yamanashi precinct requested help regarding the Aokigahara corpse case.’
If Ishii remembered correctly, Gotou had been investing a spiritual phenomenon in Aokigahara’s Sea of Trees when he became possessed by a ghost.
– So they really are related somehow?
’Excuse me... Why was help requested for the Aokigahara case?’ asked Ishii.
’Seems the victim was from here. One of the leaders of Jikoukoushinkai.’
’Imoto, the guy who died in the flat, was part of the same religious group.’
Yakumo’s theory might really have been right. The Aokigahara case and Hideaki’s case were related.
’Honestly... This is awful,’ grumbled Yakumo, standing in front of Gotou, who was in a wheelchair.
If this was going to happen, I should have seriously stopped him when he told me he was going to become a spiritual detective – the wave of regret within Yakumo kept pushing forward.
Gotou let out a groan. His body writhed. Then, he slowly lifted his head.
Yakumo put strength into his left eye’s gaze.
’Who are you?’ Yakumo asked towards Gotou.
However, there was no response. It looked like he was in pain.
’You... gil... ed...’ said Gotou.
To be accurate, they were the words of the spirit of whoever was possessing Gotou.
’Were you killed?’
There were no words after that. Gotou’s head dropped down and he stopped moving, as if he had been unplugged.
’No luck, eh...’
Yakumo looked up at the ceiling, pressing a hand against his left eye.
The fluorescent light seemed bright.
After doing that for a while, Yakumo looked at Gotou again.
He couldn’t feel the usual energy from Gotou. Yakumo was surprised that it made him feel lonely.
He had met Gotou more than fifteen years ago. Gotou had been a novice officer, and Yakumo had just been a boy.
At that time, Gotou had saved Yakumo’s life.
Because fate was a mysterious thing, a few years after that, Yakumo ended up meeting Gotou again because of a certain case.
At first, Yakumo had just thought of Gotou as a greedy detective who wanted to use his ability.
It was only recently that Yakumo realised that Gotou’s true intentions were not as he thought. Gotou was clumsy, but he supported Yakumo in his own way.
At some point, Yakumo himself had started to trust Gotou.
He had felt that painfully when his uncle Isshin died. At that time, Gotou had said that he would take in Nao.
Though Yakumo hadn’t said it aloud, he had thought that with Gotou, he could entrust Nao to him with no concern.
During an incident a month ago, Yakumo had been pursued as a suspect. Gotou had come to save him without any hesitation.
Gotou had known that doing so would force him to leave the police, but he hadn’t paused anyway.
The man was so straightforward that it was stupid. That was why –
’It would trouble me if even somebody like you disappeared,’ murmured Yakumo, closing his eyes.
Then, he suddenly felt somebody’s gaze.
– Who’s there?
When Yakumo opened his eyes, there was a woman standing there.
Yuuka’s mouth moved, as if she was trying to urge Yakumo to do something.
However, it was too faint. Finally, Yuuka’s spirit disappeared, as if it had melted into the air.
’So the two cases really are related?’ said Yakumo to himself.
The next morning, Haruka went to the Movie Research Circle room.
To be honest, she hadn’t been able to sleep well the day before. It had been a great shock.
’Yakumo-kun, you here?’
When Haruka opened the door, Yakumo greeted her with a yawn.
Though he always looked sleepy, it felt like he had gone a step above that today.
’You...?’ said Yakumo, rubbing his eyes and stretching.
Haruka looked at the corner of the room and saw Gotou in a wheelchair, in the same spot he had been in yesterday.
’Honestly. Because of this bear, I wasn’t able to sleep properly,’ said Yakumo, stifling a yawn.
’Was he violent?’
’No, his snoring is loud. Seems like you snore even if you’re possessed.’
Haruka ended up laughing without thinking.
It was irresponsible of her, but she thought that things would be fine if Yakumo could still speak lightly like this.
’So how are Atsuko-san and Nao?’ asked Yakumo after Haruka sat down.
’They accepted it more calmly than expected.’
Atsuko had been unexpectedly unruffled. She had even shown Haruka pictures of Gotou’s younger days.
However, even if Atsuko acted like that, she was actually concerned.
’So what are you going to do next?’
’First, I’m moving this bear elsewhere.’
He couldn’t be put back in his home.
The ghost might leave Gotou’s body and possess Atsuko or Nao.
’I was thinking of leaving him to Hata-san.’
Yakumo glanced at Gotou.
Now Haruka understood. If Gotou was left here, Yakumo wouldn’t be able to move freely. Hata worked at a hospital. If anything happened, he would be able to respond to it. But –
’Is that OK?’
’I mean, Hata-san is...’
Hata wasn’t a bad person, but there was a problem with his interests.
He called his work as a coroner his hobby, and every time he saw Yakumo, he would cheerfully say something awful like ’Let me autopsy you’.
If he saw Gotou like this, he might cut him up with glee.
’Even Hata-san wouldn’t do that.’
Though Yakumo was calm, Haruka was concerned.
Just as Haruka said that, the door opened.
It was Makoto.
Haruka immediately gave her seat to Makoto and moved to the seat beside Yakumo.
’I’m sorry for coming early in the morning,’ said Makoto, sitting down.
It seemed like she hadn’t had enough sleep either, as she looked a bit tired.
’How was it?’ said Yakumo, getting to the topic at hand.
Yesterday, he had asked Makoto to investigate the corpse Rina found in Aokigahara’s Sea of Trees.
’There’s still a lot I don’t understand, but...’
Makoto took newspaper clippings out of her bag and lined them up on the table.
Yakumo started reading immediately.
’Maehara Rina was the one who found the corpse. That’s what was reported, but there was a man named Urakawa Hiroki with her.’
Makoto took out her memo pad and started explaining as she looked at it.
’The police think it’s a murder.’
’Yes. The corpse was burnt black. At first, they thought it was self-immolation, but they found a stab wound in the chest.’
’Do they have the identity?’
Yakumo’s eyes narrowed.
’Yes. Hiyama Kenichirou, fifty-two years old.’
Makoto placed a photo on the table.
Yakumo took the photo and gazed at it. Haruka took a peek at the photo too.
The man was slender with chiselled features. He seemed composed.
’This is definitely the person possessing Gotou-san,’ said Yakumo after a silence.
Though Haruka couldn’t be optimistic yet, but knowing who was possessing Gotou was a big step forward.
’What sort of person is he?’ asked Haruka.
Makoto took more files out from her bag.
’Hiyama Kenichirou-san was one of the leaders of Jikoukoushinkai, a rising religious group.’
Haruka cocked her head. She had never heard the name before.
’I will look into the details after, but it seems like they worship mountains as sacred and suddenly grew in power in these past two years.’
’How are the police viewing this case?’ asked Yakumo.
’A murder case related to the religious group’s internal interests... is what they’re thinking.’
’What is their reason for thinking so?’
Even the police wouldn’t just suspect that it was an inside job because the victim was a leader of a rising religious group.
’A khakkhara had been dropped at the place where the corpse was found.’
’What’s a khakkhara?’ asked Haruka.
’To put it simply, it’s a staff with a number of metal rings on top. It’s used in religions like Shugendo so that when walking in the mountains, the noise makes beasts and snakes scatter.’
Yakumo’s explanation helped Haruka see an image in her mind. She had seen something on television before where a mountain priest walked with something that kept ringing in his hand.
’So that religious group used a khakkhara,’ said Haruka.
However, it looked like Yakumo still hadn’t accepted it.
’That isn’t the only reason, right?’
’It isn’t. There was a rumour of a split in the inner group before. Currently, the Yamanashi precinct and the Setamachi precinct, where the main base for the religious group is, are investigating together.’
’The religious group’s base is here?’ said Yakumo, sounding surprised.
It was a surprise for Haruka as well. She had been sure it was in Yamanashi prefecture.
’It seems like that.’
With a wrinkle in his brow, Yakumo rubbed his chin.
’What is?’ asked Haruka.
Yakumo looked at her sharply.
’Earlier, Makoto-san said that the religious group worshiped mountains as sacred.’
’Worshiping mountains as sacred means that they believe that mountains have supernatural powers, which is the reason they worship them.’
With that explanation, Haruka could also understand why Yakumo was suspicious.
’So it’d be normal for them to have their base somewhere near mountains.’
’That’s not the only thing that’s strange,’ said Makoto, after Yakumo nodded.
’What else is there?’
’It seems like the founder, a woman named Minegishi Kyouka, says that she can see the spirits of the dead – that is, ghosts.’ 𝚒𝚗𝒏𝐫e𝒶𝙙. 𝒸o𝑚
’Is it true?’ said Haruka in surprise.
However, Yakumo remained expressionless.
’Don’t take everything at face value.’
’In either case, we’ll need to pay a visit,’ Yakumo said quietly.
His narrowed red left eye seemed to be filled with curiosity.
Ishii woke up to the sound of his mobile phone ringing.
Since his glasses weren’t on, he couldn’t see properly. He fumbled around his desk and picked up his mobile.
Since he had just woken up, his voice was hoarse.
He had looked at documents until late last night. Then, he had just fallen asleep at his seat without returning home.
The voice he heard from the opposite end of the phone was Yakumo’s.
Ishii fumbled around the desk again and then put on his glasses. Then, he slapped his cheeks. That woke him up a bit.
<How was it?>
Ishii explained the information he had received from the documents and Shimamura to Yakumo.
<In short, the possibility of suicide is high at this stage.>
’Yes, that’s the case, but...’
<Ishii-san, you can’t accept that explanation.>
There were just too many things that didn’t seem to fit together. He didn’t know where to start.
<Ishii-san, did you see the scene of the crime?>
’Not too clearly...’
Ishii had been the first eyewitness, but he had had his hands full with reporting the crime and at the time, he hadn’t been able to observe the scene carefully.
After that, Honda had taken them off the case, so he couldn’t enter the scene.
<If possible, I would appreciate it if you could go see it with your own eyes and report what you see to me, Ishii-san.>
Ishii agreed with Yakumo’s opinion. Looking at it with his own eyes might bring about new information.
’Understood. I’ll give it a try.’
Ishii had just hung up the phone when Miyagawa came into the room.
’Don’t just say “ah”,’ said Miyagawa, sounding like he was in a bad mood. He sat at the opposite desk.
’So what did you do?’
’Ah, no... er...’
For a moment, Ishii wasn’t sure if he should tell the truth.
However, hiding it wouldn’t start anything. Miyagawa would definitely understand.
Ishii told Miyagawa everything that had happened yesterday after they split up, including how Gotou had been possessed by a ghost.
That was the first thing Miyagawa said after he had finished hearing Ishii’s story.
Even as Ishii apologised, he looked at Miyagawa with disappointment. He had been sure that Miyagawa would understand –
’If that happened, why didn’t you contact me earlier!?’
Miyagawa’s fist slammed down onto the desk.
In contrast to Miyagawa’s anger, Ishii welled up with happiness. Miyagawa really was whom Ishii believed him to be. No matter what Miyagawa said, he wasn’t the type of person who could leave something alone.
’What are you grinning for?’
Ishii quickly corrected his expression.
’So what did you find out?’
’Ah, yes. There are a number of parts.’
Ishii handed the documents he had borrowed from Shimamura yesterday to Miyagawa. After Miyagawa accepted them, he started reading them with a stern face.
– He might give me a new opinion.
Ishii looked at Miyagawa with hope.
’If I had to make a decision from this situation, it has to be a suicide.’
Miyagawa threw the files onto the desk.
’Looking at it from the situation, that is the case. However...’
Ishii had thought frantically last night as he stared at the files.
The flat had been locked. It didn’t look like anybody had fiddled with it. That room had been completely shut off.
However, Ishii still couldn’t shake away his suspicions.
’The reason for suicide isn’t that strong,’ said Miyagawa.
It was just as he said. That was the biggest reason for Ishii’s doubt.
Imoto had attempted a robbery and ended up in a confrontation. He had punched Aoi Yuuka. That had caused her serious injury, and Imoto had committed suicide in his guilt –
At first glance, it lined up, but he must have known in the first place that it was likely that somebody would be harmed in a robbery.
Furthermore, Ishii would have understood Imoto’s guilt if Yuuka had died, but she was still alive. Also, the police’s investigation hadn’t reached Imoto. In short, he hadn’t been pursued.
– Would he have thought as far as suicide in that situation?
The investigation team had had doubts about that too. That was why they had questioned Aoi Hideaki, thinking he had killed Imoto for revenge.
’But there’s no evidence anywhere that it was a murder.’
Ishii had doubts, but he had returned to the same place.
’In any case, Aoi Hideaki has the key to this,’ muttered Miyagawa.
Was Hideaki’s ability real or fake – the answer to that question would change the direction of the case.
’So what do you plan to do?’
’I was thinking of looking at the scene once more.’
He had no proof that he would find something, but perhaps he would see something by going there once more. However –
’Got it. Then the guards there will be in the way.’
Miyagawa smirked, like he had read Ishii’s mind.
Eishin stood in front of Yakumo’s secret hideaway, the Movie Research Circle room.
He was here to report on what happened yesterday and to move Gotou.
When he opened the door, he saw Yakumo, Haruka, and one other woman there.
’Oh?’ said Eishin.
’Come to think of it, it’s the first time you’ve met. This woman is Hijikata Makoto-san. She’s a newspaper reporter. She’s helping out with a variety of things,’ explained Yakumo, sensing Eishin’s question.
’My name is Hijikata Makoto.’
Makoto stood up and made a polite bow.
She had a refined air to her and was a woman with polite manners. Haruka, and then Makoto – why did beautiful women gather around Yakumo?
’My name is Eishin. I am pleased to make your acquaintance.’
Eishin returned the bow.
’Please sit down,’ Yakumo urged. Eishin took the seat next to Makoto.
After a pause, he spotted Gotou in the corner of the room. He was in a wheelchair, completely still.
’Is he alive?’
’So far as it goes,’ replied Yakumo, giving Gotou a glance.
When Eishin looked more carefully, he could see Gotou’s shoulders moving up and down slightly. It was strange for a man who was like walking noise to be quiet like this.
’So how was it?’
Yakumo turned his gaze towards Eishin.
That was right. Eishin almost forgot. Eishin told them what he had heard from Hiroki yesterday.
He kept the little threat he made a secret.
’A video camera...’
As expected, Yakumo showed interest in that.
Eishin didn’t know if it’d be useful, but he wanted to see himself.
’Excuse me... Perhaps I would be able to acquire it.’
Makoto was the one who spoke, raising a hand.
’Is that so?’ asked Yakumo.
’Yes. I can’t guarantee it, but...’
’Could I request that of you?’
’Yes, I’ll try.’
A refreshing smile appeared on Makoto’s face.
’Hey, what are you going to do next?’
After the conversation came to a lull, Haruka looked at Yakumo.
’We’re moving Kumakichi, right?’
Eishin responded for Yakumo.
’Ah, right. You’re taking him to Hata-san, right?’ said Haruka, who had heard about it before.
However, Yakumo contradicted that.
’Let’s change the plan a bit.’
’What are you talking about?’ said Eishin in dissatisfaction.
He had gone out of his way to borrow a HiAce with a lift from somebody with a job related to social welfare.
If the plan was changed, all his hard work would be for nothing.
’We’ll just be making a number of stopovers.’
Yakumo slowly stood up.
There was a daring smile on his face. It felt like he was planning something dastardly.
However, Eishin didn’t dislike that sort of thing.
’Where’re we headed?’
’A number of places,’ Yakumo replied vaguely.
– I don’t get it, but it feels like it’ll get interesting.
Eishin felt unbecoming expectation well up within him.
Ishii went with Miyagawa to the apartment where the incident had occurred.
Ishii could see that there was a rope in front of the room barring access and one uniformed guard on watch.
’There is a guard, as expected,’ said Ishii, feeling disappointed.
It was possible to go through the front and show their police IDs to gain access, but Ishii and Miyagawa had been taken off the investigation.
If the guard checked with the investigation team, that would make things troublesome afterwards.
’Leave it to me.’
Miyagawa hit his chest and then walked straight for the door.
’Wait, Miyagawa-san!’ said Ishii, running after Miyagawa.
’I’m Miyagawa from Criminal Affairs,’ said Miyagawa with a hard expression on his face. He placed a hand on the guard’s shoulder.
’Actually, I want to go inside to check it out.’
’I wouldn’t mind, but...’
’I know. Honda told you not to let people in without his permission, right?’
’That’s why I’m asking you in private.’
Miyagawa suddenly brought his face closer to the guard’s.
’Did you become an officer to be Honda’s dog? Or to protect the safety of the citizens?’
’Of course it was for the safety of the citizens,’ responded the guard clearly, eyes shining.
’Then go along with that conviction.’
The guard, completely pulled in by Miyagawa’s cajolery, handed over the key to Miyagawa.
That was definitely consent to let them in.
Ishii and Miyagawa nodded at each other. Then, they opened the door and went inside.
There was a sink and a washroom in the narrow corridor. It looked like there was a bathtub too. That was unusual, these days.
In the back, there was a room as living space, but it was a small space, only four and a half tatami in size.
Though it wasn’t unbearable, there was a strange smell. Perhaps because of the food waste around the room or because of the corpse – Ishii couldn’t tell.
He held his breath as he looked around the room carefully. There was a gap in the wood above the door that would allow a rope through, and there was a mark there from friction. Imoto had probably put the rope here and hanged himself. There was a stain on the tatami below.
The image of Imoto hanging in the room came up in Ishii’s mind. Ishii shut his eyes and shook his head to get rid of the image.
The glass door to the veranda was broken from the outside.
Ishii and Miyagawa had done that. At the time, they had stuck a hand through to unlock the door.
The glass door had been shut, if he remembered correctly.
Ishii looked towards the entrance. That had been locked too, and there had been a chain lock too.
This room really was a locked room –
The only place to get out would be the hole for the vent in the room’s wall. Ishii had seen a movie where a liquid-metal robot had slipped in through a gap like that, but that was unrealistic.
– So there’s really nothing?
Ishii was about to give up when his eyes fell on a photo in the corner of the room.
He crouched and picked it up.
It was a photo of a family. On the left of the photo, there was Imoto Yasuo. In the centre, there was a child of about two years old. On the right, there was a woman with a gentle smile.
– Why is there a photo here?
Ishii tried standing underneath the wood when Imoto had hanged himself.
He thought about Imoto’s state of mind. Then, Ishii realised it.
Imoto had probably been looking at this photo when he hanged himself.
Then, he ran out of breath, so the photo slipped from his hand, falling into the corner of the room. He might have really been prepared to kill himself.
That thought grew stronger within Ishii.
’Where are we?’ asked Haruka, looking up at the ten-storey apartment building. It seemed to be built for families, and was rather large from the outward appearance.
– Make a number of stopovers.
Yakumo had said that. Then, he had had Eishin and Gotou wait in the car and come to this apartment.
’This is where the Aoi siblings live.’
Yakumo slowly walked towards the apartment.
’So for your stopover, you were going to meet Hideaki-san?’
’But that person...’
Yesterday, the police had come and taken him away. Would he have been let out so easily?
’He wasn’t arrested. He had agreed to questioning. Since it hadn’t been forced, he was probably let out a while ago.’
Yakumo ran a hand through his messy hair and pressed the intercom button.
Hideaki’s voice came back immediately.
’It’s Saitou Yakumo. I was thinking about talking with you for a bit.’
<I’ll open the door now.>
The automatic doors opened.
With an anxious expression, Haruka followed Yakumo through the automatic doors.
They went through the entrance and into the elevator, where Yakumo pressed the button for the third floor.
’What are you going to talk to Hideaki-san about?’ asked Haruka.
’I didn’t think about it...’ Yakumo replied briefly. Then, he fell silent.
His expression was unusually stiff.
Finally, the elevator reached the third floor. They went down the corridor to the door to the room at the very end. With good timing, Hideaki opened the door and looked out.
’It’s the first time you’ve come, Saitou,’ said Hideaki with a smile, inviting Yakumo and Haruka into the room.
They went past the entrance to the room at the end of the corridor. It was a living-cum-dining room ten tatami in size, with a kitchen counter. It had a relaxing atmosphere to it.
Hideaki urged them to sit at the dining table.
Haruka and Yakumo sat down together. Hideaki sat opposite them.
’It’s a large room,’ said Yakumo while looking around.
’Mum and Dad left this to us. Thanks to that, I didn’t have any trouble looking for a place to live with my sister.’
Hideaki was smiling as he glanced at the sideboard.
There were photos there. In the photos, Hideaki and Yuuka, and people who were probably their parents, were smiling.
They were peaceful and happy family photos.
’Where are your mother and father?’ Haruka said without thinking, and that moment, Hideaki’s expression clouded over.
In that instant, Haruka thought – Shoot. Earlier, Hideaki had said, ’Mum and Dad left this to us.’ She should have been able to realise from those words.
Haruka bowed her head, but Hideaki shook his head with a smile.
’It’s fine. My mum and dad passed away four and a half years ago. It was a traffic accident...’
’Is that so...’
Haruka dropped her gaze to the table.
Hideaki and Yuuka had lived alone after losing their parents. On top of that, Yuuka had been wrapped up in this case.
When she thought about that, it was intolerable.
’So what did you come here for today all of a sudden?’
After a pause, Hideaki turned his eyes to Yakumo.
’It seems like it’s been tough...’ said Yakumo, sitting in front of Hideaki.
’That’s not true.’
It wasn’t just the matter with his sister, Yuuka. He had been questioned by the police too. It must have been tough, but Hideaki was showing them a smile.
Haruka couldn’t tell whether he was putting up a strong front or if he was just a strong person.
’What were you asked by the police?’
’He asked why I knew the person who assaulted Yuuka.’
’How did you respond?’
’I said I could see ghosts.’
Hideaki didn’t falter when he said that.
’The police didn’t believe you, right?’
’They didn’t. They kept asking the same question, but since it was the truth, I couldn’t say anything else.’
Hideaki smiled wryly.
’A stubborn guy,’ said Yakumo, more to himself, and then he got up from his seat.
He looked around the room and stopped by the sofa.
’Your sister collapsed in this room, right?’
Hideaki nodded and stood up. Then, he stood by Yakumo and looked at the floor.
He was probably remembering the incident. Hideaki’s brown eyes looked like they were wet with tears.
’The culprit wasn’t caught on the security cameras?’
’According to the police, the data was wiped.’
Yakumo’s brow furrowed just slightly.
’Hey, do you remember?’ Hideaki said suddenly.
Yakumo looked at Hideaki with a bewildered expression.
’You saved Yuuka in high school, right, Saitou?’
’I don’t remember.’
Yakumo looked away.
Perhaps it was a topic he didn’t want others to touch.
’Don’t try to hide it. Yuuka was caught up in a case. Because of that case, I realised that you could see ghosts.’
Hideaki walked to where Yakumo was now looking. Yakumo’s expression was blank, like he couldn’t hear him at all.
What could the case be – Haruka was curious, but she felt like she definitely couldn’t ask.
’It’s not like I was trying to save her. That just happened as a result.’
After a long silence, those words came out of Yakumo’s mouth, like that had been strangled out.
’That’s what I thought at first too. At school, Saitou, you never showed any interest in anyone else, and I thought you were really cold guy.’
’Just as you say, I’m a cold person.’
’That’s not true.’
When Hideaki denied Yakumo’s words, his tone changed – it was firm.
’It’s not. Do you remember our conversation in the graveyard?’
’Did that happen...’
’At the time, Saitou, you said that even if you could see ghosts, you couldn’t save anyone. But that’s not true. Saitou, you’re kinder than anyone else. That’s why you suffer. Because you don’t want to lose your friends, you didn’t make them in the first place. I realised that. That’s why...’
’That’s enough about me,’ said Yakumo in a voice that wouldn’t allow any discussion, interrupting Hideaki.
Their gazes met. It felt like sparks would fly.
Haruka didn’t know Yakumo in high school, but she thought that Hideaki’s opinion was correct.
The reason for that was that Haruka had also thought the same way when she first met Yakumo. Yakumo wasn’t a cold person. He was kinder and more sensitive than anyone.
Haruka’s opinion of Hideaki had changed greatly.
The two of them might not have been friends in high school. They might not have talked. But still, Hideaki tried to understand Yakumo. He was one of very few.
Rather than being interested in Yakumo because they shared the ability to see ghosts, it was more like Hideaki had looked at Yakumo as a person.
’A stubborn guy.’
After looking at Yakumo for a while, Hideaki’s expression suddenly softened.
’Yeah. That hasn’t changed.’
’We weren’t that close.’
’I could tell just from looking.’
’Sorry for coming over suddenly today. I’ll come again.’
Saying just that, Yakumo suddenly left the room.
– Eh, no way!
Haruka didn’t want to be left here alone. She bowed towards Hideaki and hurriedly ran after Yakumo.
She finally caught up to him in front of the elevator.
– What’s the hurry?
Haruka was about to ask when Yakumo turned around.
’I feel like I saw the truth, just slightly.’
’Yeah. What his sister wanted to save...’
Yakumo’s narrowed red left eye probably saw something that Haruka didn’t understand.
– I got wrapped up in a case unexpectedly.
After Makoto returned to the newspaper company and sat at her own seat, that thought came to her.
She was the most concerned about Gotou. Makoto had been possessed by a spirit before.
She felt a chill when she recalled that time, even now.
Feelings of somebody who wasn’t her had flown through her, seeping into her heart. It was more terrifying than could be imagined.
– I want to save him, no matter what.
With strong determination, Makoto took her mobile and called the number of her old co-worker, Takizawa.
He was currently at a newspaper that dealt with Yamanashi, but he had been at the same company as Makoto before.
He had given her a variety of information during a certain case. Fortunately for her, he was at a Yamanashi newspaper company now.
<What, it’s you?>
When Makoto said her name, she heard a sigh from the other end.
It wasn’t unreasonable for him to have that reaction. She had called him last night too to get information.
The information she had given Yakumo this morning had all been from Takizawa.
’I’m sorry for calling again.’
<What do you want this time?>
’I heard that the young man who found the corpse had been filming the scene with a video camera.’
Takizawa sounded exhausted.
’Do you know of it?’
<Yeah. There was a local detective there. He showed me it in private, but it had been pretty creepy.>
<Yeah. You’re pretty knowledgeable about spiritual stuff, right?>
To be accurate, Yakumo was the one who was knowledgeable.
However, because Makoto had been involved in many incidents of that kind, she was now known within the company as a reporter who was knowledgeable about spiritual phenomena.
’Though I’m not that knowledgeable... Was something filmed there?’
<Filmed there, eh.... Anyway, that detective had been pretty afraid. Since it was from a rising religious group, the detective thought there might be a curse.>
<Anyway, I’ll send the data, so once you’ve checked it out, I want your opinion.>
’Understood,’ responded Makoto. Then, she hung up.
She had thought it’d be difficult to get the video, so this was a bit underwhelming.
After she took a break, she suddenly thought about Ishii.
He had seemed rather depressed about the incident with Gotou yesterday. Makoto picked up her phone and called Ishii’s number.
<Hello, Ishii Yuutarou speaking.>
She heard a more cheerful
If you want to read more chapters, please visit AllNovelBook.com to experience faster update speed. You can also log in to your account there.