Volume 1 Chapter 3
VOLUME 1 – THE RED EYE KNOWS
file 03: message from the dead (TRANSLATION NOTES)
There is something called premonition .
It comes when somebody you are close to is about to die . You feel it in an omen .
The omen appears differently to everyone .
Some might feel it vaguely, while it isn’t rare for people to say they see something like a single firefly in the winter or someone’s death in a dream .
There are people who have experienced seeing somebody who should have been very far away suddenly appearing before sleep, saying ‘Thank you’ or 'Goodbye’ in the end and suddenly disappearing .
This premonition comes as a final farewell to those left behind from those who are going to their deaths –
That is what is usually thought, but there are cases where it is different .
Premonitions are sometimes imbued with important meanings .
The words of those who are going to their deaths, wrung out with the last of their strength –
A message that must not be overlooked –
Haruka couldn’t sleep that night .
She had her part-time job after her lecture, and she had to do her report due tomorrow when she returned home .
It was two in the morning when she got into bed .
Though she felt like she should have fallen asleep immediately, she couldn’t sleep at all .
She opened her eyes slightly and looked at the clock . It was already past three . She had been in bed for over an hour .
These sleepless nights came to her frequently .
It was always when she remembered her sister’s death and felt guilty about it .
However, she had been able to sleep well ever since meeting Yakumo and coming to feel her sister’s presence close to her .
It had been a while since she hadn’t been able to sleep like this .
Suddenly, Haruka felt a presence and opened her eyes .
She could see her dim room . She looked around as much as she could by turning her neck, but she couldn’t see anything .
She had just been mistaken . There was no way that somebody would be in her room .
The moment she was about to close her eyes, she saw a shadow wriggle in the corner of her eye . She sat up reflexively .
Her heart beat wildly . She was sweating . She timidly turned her eyes towards the corner of the room that she had spotted the shadow in .
The shadow was Shiori, one of her high school friends .
'What are you doing at this time? You could have called if you were coming . ’
Shiori didn’t reply .
She just looked at Haruka with a blank expression .
But how had Shiori got in?
'Did I forget to lock the door?’
As Haruka said that, she reached up to turn on the lights .
’… Ru… n…’
Shiori said that in a weak voice .
There was clearly something strange about her –
'Hey, what’s wrong?’
’… Please… ru… n…’
'Run from what?’
'Hurry… Run . ’
Haruka didn’t understand what Shiori was saying .
Haruka got off the bed and tried to approach Shiori .
Then, a line of dark red liquid flowed down Shiori’s forehead .
Drip, drip, drip .
The blood burst out, like water from a broken dam .
Shiori’s face and white sweater were dyed red, and the carpet at her feet were dyed dark red as well .
Haruka froze in shock – she couldn’t even scream .
Shiori said 'Run’ once more and collapsed .
Haruka finally managed to scream and tried to run up to the collapsed Shiori .
However, the moment she tried to touch her, a fire burst up and enveloped Shiori’s body .
Haruka instinctively leant away and fell backwards .
Why fire all of a sudden? No, she didn’t have the time to think .
Haruka stood up, but the fire and Shiori had disappeared .
Haruka frantically turned on the lights .
The sudden light made her vision go white . After blinking a number of times, her eyes finally grew accustomed to the lighting .
She looked around, but she couldn’t see Shiori –
Did she see an illusion? No, it was too real for that .
Thinking about it wouldn’t start anything . Haruka picked up her mobile from the table and called Shiori’s number .
<The number you have called is not currently in use . >
There was a message .
Did she call the wrong number by accident? Haruka checked her call log .
It had been Shiori’s number . Maybe the reception wasn’t good . Haruka tried calling again . The result was the same .
Shiori hadn’t mentioned changing her number . Something was strange .
Haruka’s heart felt uneasy .
Shiori’s apartment was about a five-minute walk from here .
There was no point just thinking . She’d go take a look .
Haruka picked up her beige coat from the coatrack and wore it over her pyjamas . Then, she put on sandals and ran out of the room .
When she took the elevator and left the apartment building, she cursed her rashness .
The cold air bit at her through her coat .
She was also wearing open-toe sandals . Her toes had already lost feeling .
She thought about going back to her room to change, but she had slipped up . The apartment entrance had an automatic lock .
Her key was in her room .
There was nothing she could do .
Haruka felt disappointed, but now that she thought about it, Shiori’s apartment was just nearby .
If she held on for a bit and went to Shiori’s to explain, Shiori would probably giggle in her usual way and make some warm cocoa for her .
Shiori’s cocoa was a bit different from the instant kind you could buy at the super market . The aroma was exceptionally good .
It seemed like she used a secret ingredient, but she wouldn’t tell Haruka even after she asked .
Haruka would get Shiori to tell her this time .
Haruka walked quickly on the road to Shiori’s apartment .
She had gone to the same high school as Shiori and were going to the same university .
They lived near each other, so they often made visits .
Rather than going places together, they would go to one of their places and read or watch television together, just doing what they wanted .
However, they hadn’t had many chances to meet as of late .
Shiori’s parents had died in a fire at the end of last year, and she had quit the university .
Haruka had thought that Shiori would return home, but she started working at a department store and was still living in the same apartment .
Haruka had been happy, thinking they’d be able to keep in touch, but the rhythm of a university student’s life and a working person’s was different . They weren’t able to meet up as frequently as they had .
She had last seen Shiori about two months ago .
She remembered telling her about meeting Yakumo and the gist of the case surrounding that .
After walking about five minutes, Haruka reached Shiori’s apartment .
Shiori’s room was at the very end of the second floor .
Haruka looked up – the room lights were off .
Of course . While thinking that, Haruka took the steel stairs up to the door at the very end for room 204 .
She rang the doorbell . No response .
She tried once more and placed her ear to the door . Still no response .
She couldn’t continue ringing the doorbell at a time like this . She couldn’t yell or knock loudly either .
'Shiori . ’
Haruka put her face to the door and quietly knocked the door with her finger .
Please . Wake up . Haruka prayed that, but the door didn’t open .
Haruka leant against the door and looked up . The sky was starting to brighten .
It felt somewhat like she was in water .
'The person in that room moved out . ’
Haruka came back to her senses when somebody suddenly called out to her .
A young man was looking at her curiously . It made sense .
'E-excuse me . When you say moved out…’
Haruka couldn’t believe his words and asked him that .
'Yeah, about a week ago? There was a call, saying to cancel the newspaper subscription since she was moving . ’
'Is that true?’
'There’s no reason for me to lie, right?’
That was true .
'Do you know where she moved to?’
'I don’t know . I asked, thinking she might subscribe to our newspaper after moving, but she didn’t say . ’
Was Shiori really gone?
'More importantly, you’ll catch a cold . ’
The young man said just that and returned to delivering newspapers .
Haruka was stunned –
Gotou Kazutoshi’s eyes narrowed as he looked up at the sun, which was starting to set . He lit his cigarette .
There was a burnt house in front of him .
The walls and roof were mostly gone . The pillars were pitch-black, and a number of them had collapsed .
Though the firefighters were using hoses to clean up, they looked fatigued .
It made sense . Surrounded by cars parked on the road, when they arrived, it had already been too late .
Corpses covered in black sheets were carried out .
'Damn it . ’
Gotou spat that out with a glob of saliva .
Police had been too late with everything this time .
It made sense . The culprit’s movements had been beyond their imagination . They’d even sent a will to the police and used gasoline to set everything on fire .
It was an unpleasant case .
Gotou threw away his cigarette .
'Do you feel like starting another fire?’
There was a shrill voice .
A small-framed old man in a medical gown walked up beside Gotou .
His facial features were in the centre of his square face . He was wrinkled all over like a dried persimmon .
It was Hata Hideyoshi, the coroner .
'What, it’s you, old man?’ said Gotou, bored .
'But they really got us good . ’
Hata’s shoulders shook as he laughed .
This old man was as creepy as usual . Even Rat Man would be cuter .
'Yeah, they really did . ’
'Well, that’s the end of it, anyway . ’
'What do you mean, end of it? Is it OK for you to be loitering around here, old man? You have to autopsy the corpse, right?’
'I’m not autopsying it . With it all black like that, the autopsy won’t show anything . ’
'You’re not going to do it?’
'I’m not . I’ll leave it to somebody else . They have the blood type and belongings like rings . They just have to look into the cause of death . ’
This old man really was quite a pervert .
His attitude towards work changed completely depending on the state of the corpse .
The more destroyed the corpse was, the more excited he became, but he didn’t do burnt corpses . The family of the corpse would probably faint if they knew the body was being autopsied by a man like this .
'Isn’t that skipping work?’
'Do you know how many corpses I get to autopsy in a year?’
Hata suddenly turned serious .
'Who knows? Probably a hundred?’
'One hundred thousand in the whole country . I don’t have the time to do all that personally . ’
Gotou couldn’t say anything to that .
'Corpses really should be fresh . ’
After saying something awful, Hata laughed again . Why did strange people like this surround Gotou –
He was fed up .
'By the way, Gotou-kun . That boy who can see ghosts . Could you let me meet him next time?’
Why did Hata know Yakumo? For a moment, Gotou was surprised, but then he remembered .
Come to think of it, he had carelessly talked to Hata about Yakumo during the last case .
'Why do you want to meet Yakumo?’
'Scientific interest . ’
Gotou cut Hata down immediately .
Scientific interest? It was just his perverted desires .
If he thoughtlessly let Hata meet Yakumo, he might autopsy him alive .
'Don’t say stupid things and get back to work . ’
Gotou waved his hand like he was shooing away a wild dog . Then, he took out another cigarette and lit it .
'Gotou-san, do you have some time?’
Who was it now? It was a rookie who’d just been placed .
Gotou had forgotten his name . No, he hadn’t known it in the first place .
'There is something I would like you to look at . ’
The rookie held a photo out towards Gotou . This was –
Gotou couldn’t hide his surprise .
Haruka woke up to the sound of rustling fabric .
She had fallen asleep on the table at some time .
Her blurry vision slowly became clearer . She saw a man sitting in front of her looking displeased .
'What on earth are you doing here?’
A pointed way of talking . Ah, so it was Yakumof .
Haruka rubbed her eyes and lifted her head .
Yakumo had his usual bedhead . He was wearing a black jersey .
'Morning . ’
As Haruka greeted him, she looked at the clock in the corner of the room .
It was still before six . It looked like she’d slept for about fifteen minutes .
'Explain what you’re doing,’ said Yakumo, running a hand through his messy hair . He sounded irritated .
It made sense . Anybody would be angry if somebody broke into their room .
'Actually – ’
Haruka explained the strange thing she had experienced .
Something must have happened to Shiori .
When Haruka was sure of that, she went to see Yakumo, even though she knew it was an unusual time .
He didn’t answer when she knocked or called .
Haruka had been troubled and finally tried the doorknob – it had opened without any resistance .
Yakumo had been sleeping in the corner of the room, curled up in a sleeping bag . He had looked like he was in a bad mood even while sleeping, so Haruka had decided to wait until he woke up and sat down on the chair .
'So you’ll go into people’s room without permission if the door is unlocked?’
Once Haruka finished her explanation, that was the first thing Yakumo said .
'You’re at fault for being careless . Locks are there to be locked . Did you know that?’
'I don’t want to hear that from a blockhead who left her auto-locked apartment without her key . ’
Haruka had no way of winning against Yakumo in an argument .
Yakumo yawned and stood up . Then, he turned his back to Haruka and suddenly started taking off his shirt .
'Wait – what are you doing?’ said Haruka, covering her eyes with her hands .
'I’m obviously changing . ’
Haruka was astonished .
How insensitive was he?
'Starting to change in front of a girl – what kind of sense do you have?’
'I’m just going to say this, but this is my room . I can do what I want . Don’t speak so loftily when you sneaked into a guy’s room without permission . ’
Now that he said that, it was true .
So many things had happened that Haruka was less wary of Yakumo, but now that she thought about it, this was the same as sneaking into the house of a man who lived alone at dawn .
Her face went red like it had been lit on fire .
And, now that she thought about it more, she had no makeup on .
'Yakumo, you here?’
After hearing a familiar thick voice, the door suddenly opened .
Gotou was the one who showed up .
When Gotou saw Haruka in Yakumo’s room, his eyes went wide .
It was like he had seen the end of the world .
The cigarette in his mouth fell to the ground .
'Ah, sorry . ’
'E-er, this is – that’s – that’s not it…’
Haruka frantically made excuses, but she couldn’t find an appropriate explanation and was flustered .
The misunderstanding just grew bigger .
'No, it’s fine . I’ll come after . ’
Gotou closed one eye clumsily . He had probably meant it to be a wink .
Then, he closed the door and left .
What terrible timing . He had completely misunderstood . Haruka would have misunderstood too if she had been in the situation .
'Everyone’s noisy this morning,’ mumbled Yakumo, sounding annoyed .
When Haruka looked, Yakumo had already finished changing and was scratching his bedhead .
He was pretty carefree .
'Hey, what should we do? He misunderstood and left . ’
'Is that inconvenient?’
'Inconvenience isn’t the problem here, right?’
'It’s nothing to be concerned about . People will wonder about other people’s actions even if they don’t do anything . People will suspect you no matter what you do . ’
Was it true –
'Well, you don’t have to fuss so much – that old man always follows the same pattern in his actions . ’
After saying that, Yakumo walked up to the frosted glass window opposite the door and forced it open .
Standing there, stooped over and peering into the room, was Gotou .
'You found out?’
'What do you mean, you found out? Please don’t act like a child at your age . If you keep doing things like that, your wife will run away again . ’
'Again? What do you mean, again? Got this, Yakumo? Women who run away once won’t come back a second time . It’s too late to regret afterwards . ’
'Oh, so your wife isn’t back yet . And it looks like you’re reflecting on your actions a bit . ’
Gotou gritted his teeth .
'I don’t want to hear that from a gutless guy who won’t do anything even with such a cute girl in front of him . ’
Gotou snorted .
'The reason I won’t do anything with her isn’t a matter of will . ’
'It’s this person’s tastes . That is, it’s a matter of my preferences . ’
Saying that right in front of me –
Haruka didn’t even feel like objecting .
'If you’ve got the time to say boring things, please get in already . You have some business, don’t you?’
'Ah, that’s right, that’s right . I almost forgot . ’
Gotou nodded, ending their joking conversation, and went to the front, coming in through the door .
Haruka felt awkward facing Gotou like this . She had to change too, and she was concerned about her room, which she had left unlocked .
Haruka told Yakumo that she would come back later and left his secret hideaway .
'Even though she came all the way here . I feel like I did something bad . ’
Gotou scratched his stomach as he sat in the chair Haruka had been in .
However, it was also true that he didn’t want Haruka to hear what he was about to say .
Though last time it had all been facts that he knew, this time it was just Gotou’s theory, and it was also a personal privacy issue .
Forget about his boss – he hadn’t even talked to his colleagues about this .
'Though I’m grateful that there’s one fewer noisy person here,’ Yakumo said in his usual acerbic tone as he yawned .
Gotou smiled wryly .
Though this guy was saying this, Gotou thought that he actually felt differently on the inside .
Maybe it wasn’t romantic, but Yakumo definitely trusted Haruka . They had some problems, but Yakumo definitely thought her more important than others .
But if Gotou pointed that out, Yakumo definitely wouldn’t acknowledge it .
Yakumo might not have noticed himself .
'What are you smirking about? It’s creepy . ’
Gotou came back to his senses .
He was annoyed, but he had no way of beating Yakumo in an argument .
'So what does the busy detective need from me so early in the morning?’
When Yakumo spoke politely, it just sounded like superficial courtesy .
'It might be morning for you, but it’s still night for me – I haven’t slept a wink . ’
'I don’t really care about your lack of a sense of time . ’
'Ah, yeah, you don’t care . ’
Yakumo’s words really irritated him, but if Gotou retorted to each one, it’d burn a hole through his stomach lining .
Gotou decided to continue talking .
'There’s something I want you to look at . ’
'It’s spirit photography, isn’t it . ’
'Correct . How’d you know?’
'There isn’t anything else you’d show me, Gotou-san,’ said Yakumo .
'I don’t remember showing you anything else either . ’
As Gotou said that, he placed the brown envelope in his hand on the table, took a number of photos out and spread them out .
A burnt house was in the first photo .
The photos were probably from right after the fire .
Some of the pillars that were left were still smoking .
Gotou placed the second photo down . There was a person burnt completely black in it . The person was face-up, reaching up with a hand and looking pained .
'Taken this morning . And…’
Gotou placed another photo down .
There was a woman probably in her early thirties .
The photo was probably taken at a wedding reception . She wore a gaudy purple dress and was laughing with her mouth wide open .
'Is this woman the burnt corpse from earlier?’
'Yeah . ’
Gotou placed one more photo down .
It was the same burnt house in the earlier photo, but there was somebody standing in the house in this one . A woman in white .
'This is…’ said Yakumo .
Gotou smirked at that .
'So you can tell? It’s probably just what you think . There wasn’t anybody there when the photo was taken…’
'Thinking normally, it would probably be the spirit of the woman who burnt to death, but since you went out of your way to bring it here, is there something that makes you think otherwise?’
'You really are sharp . I’d like to have you as a subordinate . ’
'I’d rather die first . ’
'Do you dislike the police so much?’
'Please don’t misunderstand me . The one I dislike is you, Gotou-san . ’
That was quite a firm tone .
Gotou ignored Yakumo and took out another photo to put on the table .
There was a dark-skinned man in his late thirties . He had a sharp profile that didn’t look Japanese .
Though he was handsome, he looked sickly and swollen .
'This person has a disease in his internal organs, doesn’t he . ’
'Correct again – congrats . You win a trip to Hawaii . ’
'Says someone who’s never left the Kantou region,’ muttered Yakumo loudly so that Gotou would be able to hear .
Shut up! No, just ignore it . Ignore it .
Gotou continued his explanation .
'The man’s name is Katou Kenichi . Died of a heart failure last month, but there was something suspicious about his death . After investigating, it turns out he’d been taking small doses of poison for a long time . ’
'How’d you find that out?’
'There’s a perverted old man who loves looking into that sort of stuff, see . ’
'How excellent . You should learn from him, Gotou-san . ’
Gotou felt unpleasant just recalling that perverted old man’s face .
Is he kidding? Who’d learn from that?
'Since the culprit’s got to be somebody who can give him doses of poison continuously, that naturally narrows down the suspects . ’
'A relative then . ’
'Right . Katou Kenichi was pretty wealthy . Well, he himself only had a small realtor’s office, but his dad had a lot of land . ’
'For the inheritance then?’
'Right . He had one younger brother, but he was quite the player . His dad ended up leaving all the inheritance to his brother Kenichi . ’
'So you suspected the younger brother?’
'The younger brother came up in the investigation, but he lives in the next city and doesn’t really come here, so he was left out . Remaining is…’
'He had a wife . And that burnt corpse is that wife . ’
Gotou clapped his hands together without thinking .
'Exactly . It’s easy explaining to you . ’
'Please forget about the boring interjections and finish your explanation already . ’
What an impatient guy .
'The police marked his wife, Fumiko . After getting the evidence, the police were on the verge of arresting her when a letter came . It was from Fumiko, saying she couldn’t deal with her guilty conscience and would take her own life…’
'And that fire in the photo was a result of her suicide . ’
'Right . When we got there, the house was already burning . ’
'Is it definitely from her?’
'Yeah, the handwriting analysis is done . ’
'Isn’t that nice? That’s the end of it then . ’
Yakumo yawned, seeming bored .
The end of it? To hell with that .
'Do you think I’d come all the way here if it was?’
'You have a lot of free time . ’
Gotou would punch this guy .
'This is just my gut – I have no evidence . ’
'Will that be of any use?’
And he never shut up!
'I don’t think that woman had the balls to kill herself . Looking at the way she killed her husband, Kenichi, she’s careful and cunning . ’
'Well, that’s true . ’
'Without that perverted coroner, we probably wouldn’t have found out the truth behind the murder . She’d been intent on killing her husband for years and years and acted like she didn’t know it . It’s not your average brand of boldness . ’
Gotou said that all at once and hit the table in his agitation .
Yakumo pinched his brow with his fingers – it looked like he was thinking .
'So what do you think actually happened, Gotou-san?’
'I suspect the brother, Junichi . Kenichi was killed by his wife, Eriko, and Eriko was killed by his younger brother, Junichi . Since then the inheritance would go to Junichi . ’
'Then, can’t you just go get the person named Junichi-san?’
Gotou groaned and scratched his head .
'Tried that already, but the guy’s got an alibi . Got a parking ticket and went to the precinct . And it was because of Junichi’s car that the firefighters arrived late . The story’s too neat . ’
A steel alibi .
Gotou was at the end of his rope .
'So what are you telling me to do?’
Asking that even though he knew .
Though Gotou thought that, he explained anyway .
'I think this ghost photo might be a lead . ’
'I see . I understand, but there is too little information and the story is too abstract – I don’t know where to start at all . ’
'So it’s really no use…’
'I can’t guarantee it, but I’ll look into what I can . ’
The conversation ended quickly for one with Yakumo – Gotou stood up in his surprise .
'But please allow this to clear the favour from last time,’ said Yakumo, pointing at Gotou .
Gotou understood now .
So Yakumo had anticipated it .
If Yakumo refused, Gotou had been thinking about threatening him with the favour form last time .
This guy really is cunning –
Haruka asked the apartment administration to unlock the entrance and somehow managed to enter the room .
Since the entrance did have an auto-lock, her room was fortunately intact .
After letting out a sigh of relief, her phone rang .
It wasn’t her mobile, but the home phone she rarely used .
When Haruka picked up the review, there was a long silence . Then, the phone call ended .
A prank call?
Haruka took a shower and changed .
She wanted to go straight to Yakumo’s, but she didn’t want to meet Gotou again . She sat down on the bed and looked out the glass door .
She tried to understand what had happened last night, but it wouldn’t be so easy .
She couldn’t even tell what was reality and what was illusion .
The curtains waved in the wind .
That was strange . The glass door should not have been open .
Haruka stood up and walked to the glass door .
Between the lace curtains, on the other side of the glass door, there stood Shiori .
Haruka hurriedly pushed the windows aside, opened the glass door and went out on to the veranda .
However, no matter how she looked, she didn’t see Shiori .
Where did she go?
Haruka leant over the veranda to look, but there was no way she’d be there . This was the fourth floor of the apartment .
There was no way for somebody to be on her veranda .
It must have been an illusion –
Haruka went to Yakumo’s secret hiding place after noon .
She had put on makeup properly this time and was wearing a turtleneck sweater with a denim skirt, instead of pyjamas .
'Honestly, I’m not a detective . Why does everyone do this…’
That was what Yakumo said right after Haruka came to visit again .
As Yakumo spoke without even hiding his displeasure, he boiled water with an alcohol lamp and beaker .
Gotou had probably brought him some sort of trouble too .
Though Yakumo was complaining, to be honest, Haruka thought it’d be better for everyone if he became a spiritual detective or something .
While Haruka was thinking that, a teacup was placed in front of Haruka .
It was green tea .
'Eh? Could you have been boiling this in the beaker earlier?’
'There’s no “could” about it – I was . I borrowed it from the lab . It’ll be happy being used by me than for some incomprehensible scientific experiments . ’
Ack . What kind of nerves did he have?
'I don’t think that’s the problem… If I drink this, it’ll hurt my stomach . ’
'Stop complaining and just drink it . The secret ingredient is hydrochloric acid . ’
Like she’d drink this!
'So what did you want to talk about?’ urged Yakumo .
How should she explain? Haruka couldn’t think of an effective way, so she just told Yakumo what had happened in order .
Yakumo crossed his arms and leant back on his chair, listening silently as he looked up at the ceiling .
If somebody who didn’t know him were looking, his attitude might have made them feel indignant, but Yakumo was still listening properly even if he acted like this .
'A better explanation that Gotou-san’s . ’ Yakumo smiled as he put his hands together and placed his elbows on the table . 'That old man tries to make his stories dramatic and throws the order out the window – it makes it hard for the listener . ’
Haruka hadn’t experienced herself, so she couldn’t say .
'So what can you understand?’
'That’s different . An easy-to-understand story is different from understanding what’s behind a story . ’
That was true .
However, Haruka didn’t have anything to say back to that .
Her shoulders drooped in disappointment .
'However, I understand to a point the possibilities of what might have happened around you . ’
Yakumo started to speak, bringing the conversation together .
'Yes . There are two possibilities I can think of . Even you should have come to this conclusion if you heard the story objectively, but you’ve been very subjective about it . ’
'Because of that, you rejected both of the possibilities you could naturally have reached before noticing either of them . ’
Haruka didn’t understand what Yakumo was talking about .
'Let’s verify that . First, one possibility is that all you saw was an illusion . ’
'That’s not it . I saw it with these eyes,’ Haruka said firmly .
'See, you just rejected a possibility, right?’
Haruka understood now what he’d meant .
Just as Yakumo said, if she had been listening as a third party, she would have definitely suggested that possibility first .
So that was what he was talking about .
'What you saw was all an illusion, and your friend moved away without telling you because of some circumstances…’
'Shiori definitely wouldn’t…’
'Listen to me until the end,’ reprimanded Yakumo .
'It’s because you erase possibilities like this that your reasoning fails . ’
'It is entirely possible that she had to move in a hurry and will contact you afterwards . Maybe you’ll be able to laugh it off as something silly once you hear the circumstances . ’
That was true, now that Yakumo said it .
Haruka felt her shoulders relax slightly . Though Yakumo didn’t seem to like it, she really was glad that she’d talked to Yakumo .
'And the other possibility?’
When Haruka asked that, Yakumo’s expression clearly changed .
'I didn’t want to talk about it until I knew more about the situation if possible, but…’
'It’s one of the possibilities, right?’
'Yes . I want you to listen to this just as a possibility . ’
Haruka nodded .
Yakumo ran a hand through his hair and started to speak .
'Supposing what you saw wasn’t an illusion…’
I don’t want to hear it .
Somebody in her head said that . Probably herself . Another self .
But that voice didn’t reach Yakumo . Yakumo’s words continued mercilessly .
'Perhaps your friend is already dead . If she appeared in front of you as a ghost…’
Haruka felt like she had fallen from a high place .
Her ears were ringing . She couldn’t hear the rest of Yakumo’s words .
Dead because she’s a ghost? Shiori was dead? No . That can’t be . I don’t want to acknowledge it . Aren’t there living ghosts?
Living ghosts –
'Hey, there are things like living ghosts, right? Aren’t those the spirits of living people?’
Haruka gripped the table and leant forward .
Though Yakumo looked dubious at Haruka’s sudden action, he still responded to Haruka’s question .
'It isn’t entirely impossible . Just as I said before, if ghosts are the clusters of people’s emotions, I can’t deny the possibility that they’d leave the body even without dying . The living ghosts you’re talking about are often referred to as out-of-body experiences . A third possibility…’
Yakumo kept talking as he rubbed his furrowed brows .
Haruka waited for Yakumo to gather his thoughts .
'Though it’s a hopeful perspective, it isn’t as if that wouldn’t work . Shall we bet on that possibility?’
A flame of hope lit up in Haruka’s chest just from hearing Yakumo’s words .
She’d be able to meet Shiori . Definitely .
Yakumo and Haruka first headed for the management company of the apartment Shiori lived in .
Haruka remembered that they had looked for rooms together when they first came to Tokyo .
It was a mall shop by the shopping street in front of the station .
On the way, Yakumo bought an assortment of cookies from the bakery . It was wrapped nicely and even had origami on it .
Of course Haruka paid .
Yakumo didn’t explain what it was for and just said it was a necessary expense .
There was a table for guests and a counter, with a desk in the back .
That was all there was in this constrained space .
Even though there were customers, nobody greeted them with a 'Welcome’ . But it wasn’t like the employees were working so hard that they wouldn’t notice .
'Excuse me . ’
When Yakumo leant over the counter and called out, a bald man appeared .
'Excuse me . I’m the older brother of Itou Shiori, who lived at 204 Heights Hinoki . It seems like my sister forgot something… I’m sorry, but could I borrow the key?’
Yakumo politely said a number of lies .
The bald man didn’t check anything . He just took a key from the key rack on the wall in the back and handed it to Yakumo . He didn’t say anything .
'Ah, by the way, did my sister come to greet you properly?’
The bald man shook his head, still silent .
'As I thought . That girl… I told her she had to properly greet the management company she was under the care of . She really is irresponsible that way . ’
Yakumo kept going .
However, it was a natural performance .
'Ah, I’m sorry about being late, but please eat this with everyone . ’
Yakumo handed the box of baked goods they bought to the bald man .
The bald man’s expression went soft immediately . How easy to understand .
'The truth is, we’re troubled too . She suddenly called, saying she would cancel the contract, and came the day after to return her key . We were at fault too, but we haven’t even heard her address for returning the deposit . ’
'I’m really sorry . ’
Yakumo looked completely like an apologetic older brother as he continued .
'Ah, if there are any necessary documents, I’ll write them right now, so would you show me the contract?’
'Ah, wait a sec . ’
The bald man went back to his desk and took one contract from the pile of documents there .
Yakumo looked at it fastidiously .
Haruka peered at it from behind .
The cancellation form was stapled to the last page of the contract, and the new address was in Nagano . Shiori’s home address was written there .
Shiori’s home in Nagano was burnt there . It wasn’t there any more . But –
Haruka had a bad feeling .
'I’ll make Shiori come again and properly fill in what’s necessary for the deposit repayment too . ’
'I’m sorry about that . ’
The bald man wiped his forehead with a handkerchief .
'Did my sister cause any other trouble?’
After thinking for a bit, the bald man brought his face close to Yakumo’s and started speaking .
'Ah, I don’t know if it’s all right for me to tell this to her big brother, but a man would go in and out . Well, it’s nothing strange for a woman that age, so I didn’t say anything, but…’
Shiori’s boyfriend? Haruka hadn’t heard about that .
Haruka knew the boyfriend Shiori had had until two years ago, but Shiori hadn’t shown any signs of dating someone afterwards .
Up until now, Shiori would always tell Haruka in detail even if she didn’t ask .
'And then, at some point it became a warzone . Another girl was there and there was a scuffle in front of the apartment . There were complaints from the neighbours too… I think that might have been the reason she moved…’
'That’s a lie!’
Haruka spoke up without thinking . The bald man stared at her .
'Ah, thank you . I’ll return the key tomorrow . ’
Yakumo said that quickly, grabbed Haruka’s arm and left the shop .
The story just now was completely different from Haruka’s image of Shiori .
Shiori wasn’t the type to fight over a man .
Haruka had been with Shiori all this time . When they fought, Shiori always apologised first .
That had irritated her . It had felt like Shiori was treating her like a child . That had made them fight more .
For that Shiori to get into a scuffle –
* * *
Haruka and Yakumo stood in front of the apartment that Shiori had lived in .
It was an old two-storey apartment .
There was rust on the railings and the walls were dirty too . When Haruka thought about how Shiori wasn’t here any more, it felt even dirtier .
'Probably nothing is left,’ murmured Yakumo as he took the stairs up .
Haruka didn’t mind . If she didn’t look at it herself, she felt like she wouldn’t be able to acknowledge that Shiori had gone .
Haruka followed Yakumo’s back and went up to the door to Room 204 .
Yakumo opened the door, letting out a sweet smell .
It was the smell of Shiori’s room . She didn’t really move . She was still here .
Haruka pushed past Yakumo and went inside .
However, it was just an empty space .
There weren’t even cardboard boxes, let alone furniture . It was cleaned up well – somebody could move in right now and it wouldn’t be a problem .
All that was left was the smell –
'How clean,’ said Yakumo, who had come in .
Yakumo walked to the centre of the room and looked around .
A six-tatami room with a kitchen and bathroom . A regular one-person apartment .
'Hey, did that girl called Shiori smoke?’
Haruka shook her head .
She hadn’t ever seen Shiori do that .
'Look at the walls . ’
Haruka looked at the wall as she was told .
There was the yellow of tobacco resin on the walls .
Though Haruka didn’t realise upon first look, only the places where furniture and photos had been remained their original white colour .
Parts of Shiori that Haruka didn’t know kept appearing .
She felt weak . Haruka sat down right there .
The wooden floor was cold . Yakumo went to the bathroom .
'Could you come here?’
After a while, she heard Yakumo’s voice .
Haruka stood up and looked inside the bathroom .
Yakumo took out a photo . Shiori was in it . She had a really gentle smile .
It was a completely different from the smile she had when looking at Haruka .
Next to her was a man with finely chiselled features . He was probably in his late thirties .
'Is this Shiori?’
'Yes… Where’d you find this?’
'The mirror… It’s unnatural . ’
'Why? Didn’t she just forget it?’
'No . This place is so keen – she wouldn’t have left behind one photo . And if the photo had always been there, it would be wet from the humidity . ’
This photo wasn’t wet at all and didn’t look like it had been . Come to think of it, it was true .
Shiori was always meticulous . She even kept a diary .
'She probably left it on purpose . ’
'She probably wanted somebody to see it,’ said Yakumo, scratching the back of his ear .
'You, maybe . ’
Haruka looked at the photo in her hand, but why did Shiori leave this photo? Haruka didn’t understand .
'Does she not have a pinkie finger on her right hand?’ said Yakumo, pointing at the photo .
'She doesn’t . She was in an accident when she was young… She said she doesn’t mind at all, but I think she really did . ’
'She’s strong . ’
'Shiori never talks to anybody even when anything tough or sad happens to her . She takes everything on herself and always tells people about it afterwards…’
Shiori was always like that . She never showed what she was thinking on her face .
'Hey, why do you think Shiori didn’t tell me about her lover?’
'Probably because it was adultery . ’
'Eh? How can you tell?’
'Look at the man in the photo . He has a wedding ring . ’
Haruka looked at the photo again .
It was just as Yakumo said . The man’s left hand had a silver ring on his ring finger .
'I suspect the sensitivity of a man who would keep his wedding ring on when taking a photo with another woman . ’
Yakumo didn’t have the right to talk about other people’s insensitivity either .
'Why wouldn’t she tell me it was adultery?’
'If you knew, wouldn’t you object to it?’
Haruka thought of something then .
When Haruka had heard that the man Shiori was dating had been two-timing, she had gone out of her way to go to find that man and complain .
'Probably nobody wants their lover to be rejected . ’
That was true .
There was nothing sadder than having something important to you be rejected . Especially by a friend .
Haruka was angry at herself .
'What is that? Are you saying it’s my fault? Because I’m stiff and stubborn, Shiori didn’t tell me – that’s what you’re saying, right?’
'What, so you know . ’
Yakumo was as acerbic as always even now .
'That’s awful . ’
'You don’t have the time to start sobbing here . ’
When Yakumo told her that, Haruka bit her lip .
That’s right . I have to look for Shiori .
Gotou woke up to the sound of his mobile phone .
He remembered up to leaving Yakumo’s secret hideaway and returning to the precinct by car .
It looks like he’d fallen asleep at the wheel . Natural, since he hadn’t slept properly .
'Who is it?’
Gotou answered the phone in an unpleasant mood after waking up, without checking the ID .
<What sort of telephone manner is that?>
'What, it’s you, Yakumo…’
Gotou rubbed his eyes, yawned and put a cigarette in his mouth, lighting it .
<Don’t just say “what” . Honestly . >
He heard Yakumo’s usual voice .
Gotou didn’t want to hear that from a voice that was even sleepier than he was .
'What do you want?’
<I acquired some useful information regarding your request, Gotou-san, but since you don’t seem that interested, I’ll hang up . >
Gotou woke up immediately . He leapt up from the seat .
'What did you find out?’ said Gotou with vigour .
However, it looked like those words hadn’t reached Yakumo .
There was just a beeping noise .
'That guy . He really hung up…’
Who the hell does he think I am?
Gotou immediately called Yakumo back, but Yakumo wouldn’t answer even after multiple calls . He was enjoying Gotou’s frantic response .
An even worse personality than Gotou’s wife, who had left the house .
It took a full five minutes before Yakumo answered .
'Ah, Yakumo-kun, I’m sorry about earlier . I’m reflecting on it . Really . ’
<Do you always apologise to your wife like this?>
'Ack . ’
If Yakumo had been in front of him, Gotou would have wanted to punch him .
Well, Gotou was the one who’d made the request, so even if Yakumo were in front of him, Gotou couldn’t do that .
All Gotou could do was force a laugh out . He just wanted to get to the topic .
'So what did you find out?’
<Before that, there is somebody I would like you to find out the whereabouts of . >
<It’s her friend . >
'By her, do you mean Haruka-chan?’
<Yes . Her friend’s name is Itou Shiori…>
'Oi, oi . Wait a sec . Even if it’s your request, I can’t look for her friend . You should know that much, right?’
What on earth was he thinking?
That was too much as an exchange .
<Well, please don’t make such a fuss . If you listen to what I’m about to say, you’ll want to look for her, Gotou-san . >
Was this some sort of hypnotism?
'Is she some amazing beauty?’ joked Gotou, but Yakumo completely ignored him .
<The woman named Shiori cancelled her contract at her apartment a few days ago and suddenly disappeared . >
'That’s common among young woman . ’
<I went to the apartment she used to live in today and found something interesting in her room . ’
Acting all mysterious .
'What was it?’
<A photo with her lover . >
'That’s not strange or anything . ’
Gotou felt a bit disappointed after Yakumo had said something meaningful like 'you’ll want to look for her’ .
<And if the person beside her were Katou Kenichi-san? Wouldn’t that pique your interest?>
'What? She was Katou Kenichi’s lover!?’
Gotou was so agitated that he hit the wheel .
The horn honked loudly, even surprising himself .
<I can’t say anything for certain yet, but you can’t say it’s completely unrelated to your case, right, Gotou-san?>
It was just as Yakumo said .
The lover of a man who had been killed had gone missing with this timing . It couldn’t be a coincidence .
'I’ll go there in two hours,’ shouted Gotou . Then, he hung up, got off the car and ran .
After parting with Yakumo, Haruka trudged back to her room at the apartment .
Yakumo instructed her to talk to her and Shiori’s mutual friends about the situation .
Haruka took out her high school graduation album and flipped through the pages while looking for people that would fit, when her intercom rang .
What was it? She saw a mailman through the intercom monitor .
'Excuse me, could you stamp this?’
He held out an envelope that required proof of delivery .
There was no sender, but Haruka could tell it was from Shiori immediately from the handwriting . Haruka was so agitated that she snatched the envelope .
'Er, excuse me . The stamp . A signature would be fine too . ’
The mailman’s urging brought Haruka back to her senses .
She borrowed a pen from him and signed . Then, she shut the door .
With shaking hands, she opened the envelope . Five sheets of paper came out .
<To Haruka – >
They were sharp letters for a woman .
Haruka had made fun of Shiori because her writing was like a man’s . It really was Shiori . Haruka was glad . Her chest felt warm .
She recalled one of the possibilities that Yakumo had mentioned .
He’d said that Shiori might have moved away silently and that when Haruka heard the reason, she would think it was silly .
Haruka went into her room, sat on the bed and started to read the letter .
That letter began with <Sorry> .
Gotou went to Yakumo’s secret hideaway exactly two hours afterwards .
'For Gotou-san to be on time, it’s rarer than a horse race ticket that pays out one hundred times its value . ’
Acerbic right as he opened the door .
Gotou suspected that if Yakumo couldn’t say sarcastic things, he probably wouldn’t open his mouth for the whole day .
Even objecting would be troublesome, so Gotou sat down silently .
'Did you find anything out?’ asked Yakumo as he stretched in a bored manner .
'You make it sound so simple . There’s a limit to what you can do in just two hours . Police investigation power isn’t bottomless . ’
'Though you were the one who said two hours later, Gotou-san . ’
'Ah, yeah, I was at fault . ’
Gotou threw the envelope he’d brought on the table .
'The results of two hours of investigation . ’
Yakumo took the contents out of the envelope and started looking at the documents .
'Anyway, at the current stage, I know the name and address . And workplace . ’
'She’s a department salesperson?’
'Yeah . She suddenly quit there a few days ago too . Seems like a request was sent in . Don’t know if it was the department manager or section manager, but they were really angry . ’
Gotou recalled the situation .
Even though it wasn’t like Gotou was at fault, the manager had turned all that anger towards him .
Gotou was irritated just thinking about it .
'What the hell do they think the police are?’
'Thank you for your hard work protecting the safety of citizens . I’ll listen to your complaints afterwards, so please continue . ’
Gotou cleared his throat and continued .
'Her parents died a year ago in a fire . Her only relative is her grandmother, but she’s got dementia . She’s in a facility . Seems like she’ll be taken care of until her death with the girl’s parents’ insurance . ’
'Not a single relative then?’
'Yeah . Her grandmother can’t even recognise her grandkid’s face . The land where the burnt house was has already been sold…’
After saying that much, the feeling of discomfort Gotou had had during the investigation came up again .
'What’s wrong?’ said Yakumo, who had already noticed Gotou’s unease .
'No, I was just wondering why she didn’t return home when her parents died . ’
'Maybe she didn’t have anywhere to return to?’
'Maybe . Places for people to return to come about when there’s somebody there for them . ’
'It seems you’ve grown to understand other people’s feelings slightly . ’
Yakumo smirked .
'You’re the last person I want to hear that from!’
Gotou bared his teeth as he said that threatening .
'But if she had no place to return to, then where did she go?’
'There’s only one place people go when they’ve lost the place they return to…’ Yakumo said with sad eyes .
Actually, where did Yakumo return to? That thought suddenly came to Gotou .
Maybe he was one of those people with nowhere to return too .
'I thought about asking some movers I know, but it was no use . ’
'She sold all her furniture . The stuff she couldn’t sell, she got rid of . And she cancelled her mobile contract that day too . Seems like she wasn’t planning on going anywhere . Just like you said…’
She wanted death .
A lonely woman killed the man she loved .
She probably had no more reason to live . Her reason to live –
Did you need a reason to live? Gotou’s mind was wandering again because he was tired .
'Anyway, let’s give up on finding her for now… Ah, I almost forgot . This is the only clue that I got . ’
'What is it?’
'I talked to the apartment’s management company . Apparently, a man who called himself her brother came today and borrowed the apartment key . She should be an only child . It’s shady, right? I sent the fingerprints in – they’re being analysed now . ’
Yakumo thrust his thumb out between Gotou’s eyes .
'It’s this . ’
'The fingerprint on the key . It’s this . ’
'I’m saying that I was the one who called himself her brother and borrowed the key . So my fingerprint will show up . ’
'You idiot! Say that earlier! I was looking into it . ’
'You didn’t ask . Anyway, please just cover it up appropriately . ’
Gotou’s strength left him in his disappointment and he hung his head .
On top of the only clue disappearing, he had even more work now . This pest!
'But you’ve done well investigating this much in just two hours . ’
'Much better than being praised by the chief, but I still don’t want to hear that from you!’ yelled Gotou, pointing at Yakumo . His temper had reached its limit .
'You’re noisy . ’
Yakumo stuck his fingers in his ears and frowned .
'Well anyway, my gut feeling is that the girl named Shiori is suspicious . No, I feel bad about Haruka-chan, but Shiori’s black . She killed Fumiko and disappeared . Revenge for killing her lover . It matches up . ’
'It doesn’t,’ said Yakumo, crossing his arms .
This guy always complained about what other people thought .
'Isn’t there a will?’
'You know, it’s that thing . Forced the wife to write it with a knife or something,’ said Gotou, mimicking holding out a knife .
'Does the handwriting seem like it was written under threat? And being told to write a will makes it certain that you’ll be killed . If the wife had been forced to write it, she would have written something for help . Anyway, it’s unnatural . ’
Now that Yakumo said that, it was true .
'What you thought first is the most likely, Gotou-san,’ said Yakumo, ending the conversation .
What the hell had those two hours been for?
Gotou suddenly felt exhausted .
'This is depressing…’
'Well, in any case, leaving this as it is would be unpleasant . We have nothing to lose, so let’s…’
'Go to the scene of the crime!’
Gotou regained his energy and finished Yakumo’s sentence .
When Haruka finished reading the letter from Shiori, her head went blank .
She couldn’t believe any of it .
Even though the writing on the letter was Shiori’s, it felt like the contents were from someone else .
The letter that started with 'Sorry’ first wrote about the man that Shiori was dating .
Just as Yakumo thought, they had had an adulterous relationship .
They met at a bar and started talking suddenly .
He had a problem with the relationship with his wife and said that he didn’t have anywhere to return to .
Shiori had felt that she didn’t have a place to return to either .
They made a place they could both return to .
Soon, Shiori became pregnant . He decided to leave his wife too .
And then, he died –
It was a heart failure . Shiori had miscarried in shock .
However, Shiori didn’t accept that .
Shiori remembered what he had said to her .
I’ll be killed by my wife –
Could it be? Shiori was thinking that and about to investigate when the wife came to Shiori’s home .
Then, the wife gave her one million yen, telling Shiori not to spread any dumb rumours .
At that time, Shiori realised . She had killed him –
Then, she had a fight with her in front of the apartment .
Ever since then, Shiori felt hate towards her and a killing intent .
She had killed the person Shiori loved and even given money to Shiori to keep her quiet . Shiori couldn’t forgive her nerve . Shiori didn’t have anything else to love .
Shiori killed her and decided to die herself .
Then, at the end of the letter, she wrote 'Sorry’ again .
All she had kept quiet until now . Troubling Haruka, since her friend was a murderer .
Deciding to die on her own –
It was selfish . It really was . Shouldering everything herself like that . Haruka wouldn’t forgive Shiori if she died .
But how can I save her if I don’t know where she is –
There’s one person! Just one person who might be able to save Shiori .
Haruka picked up her mobile .
Gotou looked out from the driver’s seat .
The layers of clouds moved slowly, covering the sky which had started to grow dark .
'Looks like rain,’ he said to Yakumo in the passenger seat .
However, Yakumo didn’t respond, like he hadn’t heard anything .
He had been thinking seriously about something since earlier .
Gotou had no way of knowing what Yakumo was thinking . All he could do was ask .
'Hey, what are you thinking about?’
'I’m not thinking about anything . ’
Yakumo frowned, looking annoyed .
So he doesn’t want to talk? Gotou clicked his tongue .
Then, a mobile phone rang .
It wasn’t Gotou’s . Yakumo took his mobile out of his pocket and answered .
Yakumo looked suspicious .
Though Gotou couldn’t hear the conversation clearly, he could hear a frantic woman’s voice . Was it Haruka-chan?
'Please just calm down . I can’t tell what you’re saying,’ Yakumo said like he couldn’t stop himself .
’… So you got a letter… I see… And then…’
Gotou almost missed a red light because he was paying attention to Yakumo’s conversation .
Gotou slammed the brakes .
He thought that Yakumo would complain about it, but he seemed to be concentrating and didn’t say anything .
'I see… I understand… So that’s how it was…’
Though it sounded like a slow conversation, Yakumo was somehow able to get something out of Haruka, who seemed disturbed .
'I’ll call you after, so wait until then . ’
After saying that, Yakumo hung up .
'What was it?’
'It turns out that your gut is sometimes right, Gotou-san . ’
This, after talking so seriously?
'Don’t say stupid things . Get on with it . ’
'She got something . ’
'Yes . It seems like she received a letter from the girl named Shiori, saying that she killed Fumiko and that she would die too…’
'What? That’s bad! We need to stop that Shiori right away!’ shouted Gotou, led on by his rising emotions .
'Stop her? How will you find her?’
Now that Yakumo said that, Gotou realised he was right .
A woman who had disappeared without even telling her best friend wouldn’t be easy to find .
'And if she is truly intending to commit suicide, if we think about the timing, she must already be dead . ’
'Why do you think that?’
'With Fumiko’s death . she achieved her goal . It would be different if she had another . On the other hand, if she doesn’t die now, she probably doesn’t have any intention of dying afterwards, right?’
'You say that, but people’s emotions aren’t set results from chemical responses . ’
'A difference in opinion . ’
Yakumo crossed his arms and looked out the window .
'But that’s the end of that . No need to go to the scene now . ’
When Gotou tried to make a U-turn, Yakumo stopped him .
'No, let’s go . There is something that I can’t get off my mind . ’
'Something you can’t get off your mind? What?’
Yakumo shut his mouth .
He had probably drawn out the blueprints to the case using his train of thought .
It hurt to admit it, but this guy had never made a wrong guess before .
Gotou decided to go along with Yakumo’s theory .
* * *
When Gotou and Yakumo reached the scene of the fire, it had started to drizzle .
Rain in December was so cold that it hurt .
'Hope it doesn’t start to snow…’ muttered Gotou, looking up at the sky .
Yakumo slowly went to the middle of the building that had burnt down .
'Wait . ’
Gotou ran after Yakumo .
Yakumo had gone to the middle of the building, but the ceiling and walls were mostly burnt down – there wasn’t much left that could be called a home .
On the floor, there was misshapen glass and plastic .
Puddles from the firefighting efforts were still there .
'There is one thing that concerns me . ’
Yakumo’s breath came out white as he stood up .
'If the girl named Shiori killed Fumiko, why would she make Fumiko send a will to the police?’
'To fool the police, obviously . ’
'Is that really the case?’
When Yakumo turned around, his eyes seemed to know something .
It made Gotou feel dread .
'What do you mean?’
'If it were to hide her crime, wouldn’t that suggest she wanted to continue living?’
'Well, yeah . ’
'Then why did Shiori send her a letter? And saying that she intended to commit suicide at that…’
It was just as Yakumo said .
Gotou’s heart was restless .
People who intended to suicide from the beginning wouldn’t need to make a murder look like a suicide .
Gotou had thought he’d seen the reality of the case, but it wasn’t true .
They were still missing something important .
At his feet, there was water that had been dirtied with ash .
His breath was so white that it cut through his vision .
Yakumo knelt where the white line had been drawn in the shape of a person’s body and looked at something .
'What are you looking at?’
Yakumo didn’t respond to Gotou’s question .
Did he not hear? Or did he not feel like answering? Gotou had no way of knowing .
Either way, all he could do was wait .
Gotou put a cigarette in his mouth and tried to light it, it wouldn’t light up properly, perhaps because it was wet .
'Why are you here…’ murmured Yakumo .
The sound of the rain hitting the ground continued .
Gotou couldn’t see anything .
'I see…You were here from the start . Which means… she…’
When Yakumo said that, there was the sound of thunder from faraway .
'What on earth… Then…’
Yakumo stood up, his expression suddenly changing .
'Oi, Yakumo . What’s wrong?’
'Gotou-san, there is something I want you to ask the coroner to confirm immediately . ’
'Coroner? What are you saying?’
'Just hurry!’ shouted Yakumo with an angry look .
Gotou had never seen Yakumo so agitated . It was urgent . Gotou immediately called Hata’s mobile .
<What do you need?>
He heard Hata’s relaxed voice after one ring .
'There’s something I want you to check . ’
<Something you want me to check?>
'Oi, Yakumo! What should he check?’
Yakumo took the mobile from Gotou .
'The burnt corpse from before . Was the pinkie finger on the right hand missing?’
Yakumo held the phone silently .
That response . Looked like Yakumo’s hunch had been right, but Gotou didn’t know at all what it meant .
When Yakumo hung up, he used Gotou’s mobile to make another call .
After Haruka finished talking on the phone with Yakumo, she put the letter in her coat pocket and ran out of her flat .
Yakumo had said he’d call afterwards, but afterwards would be too late .
Shiori was trying to end her life now .
She had lost her parents . She had lost the person she loved . She had lost the child of the person she loved . She might have lost the very reason for living .
But did you need a reason to live?
Shiori was probably sad beyond Haruka’s imagination .
I might not have the right to say this when I suffered hesitatingly for so many years after my sister’s death .
But I still want Shiori to live .
Even if she will have to walk with suffering in the future –
Haruka left the apartment, but she didn’t know where to start looking, so she wandered the streets like an abandoned cat .
Soon, rain started to fall .
She walked alone on the road to the park when she heard her mobile phone ring with the sound of the rain .
There was a number Haruka didn’t recognise . Could it be? Haruka answered .
<Are you all right? Where are you now?>
It was Yakumo’s voice . What did he mean by all right?
<Where are you now?>
Yakumo repeated himself once more while Haruka was confused .
The reserved Yakumo had lost his composure .
'I’m looking for… Shiori…’
<Got this? Return to your home right now . Don’t take one step out of it until I get there . >
'What are you talking about? I’m looking for…’
<She’s already dead!>
Yakumo’s shout pierced Haruka’s ears . Her head shook .
Shiori’s dead . So she really is…
Unexpectedly, that was the thought that came to her head .
I knew before Yakumo said it . But I just didn’t want to acknowledge it –
The corners of her eyes felt warm .
Haruka didn’t know if the drops on her cheeks were rain or tears .
<Choose a path with as many people as possible when you head back . >
Yakumo emphasised that .
Many people –
Haruka looked around . She was the only one there .
She heard the sound of a car . A van .
It slowly passed by Haruka . Then, the car door suddenly opened . Hands reached out and pinned Haruka’s arms behind her back .
'Ah – ’
Something was clamped over her mouth, stopping her yell halfway –
'Oi! Give me a reply! Oi! Damn it!’ yelled Yakumo, throwing the mobile against the ground .
The flip phone broke in half, and the parts flew about .
’… Oi . That’s mine…’
Gotou’s voice didn’t reach Yakumo .
Gotou picked up his mobile, which was in a sad state .
'Ahh, this is beyond repair . ’
'Damn it! What should I do…’
Yakumo kicked the ground in irritation .
'Calm down . What happened?’
Gotou grabbed Yakumo’s arm .
'We completely misunderstood!’ sad Yakumo, shaking off Gotou’s hand .
'The one who burned to death wasn’t Katou Fumiko . It was Shiori-san!’
'W-w-what did you say!?’
Gotou was so shocked that his voice jumped an octave .
'Fumiko’s alive! Shiori is probably similar in body shape to Shiori-san . Same blood type too . That’s why she used her as an substitute . ’
'You’re lying, right?’
'It’s the truth . I checked with the coroner just now . Shiori-san lost her right pinkie finger in an accident when she was young . ’
'So the burnt corpse was missing the right pinkie finger too?’
What the hell .
It’s because they didn’t have enough people working that they ended up here –
'She sent a will to the police on purpose, killed Shiori-san, lit the place with gasoline and burnt her house . The younger brother, Junichi, made the firefighters arrive late by parking on the road . In order to burn the body to the point that it wouldn’t be able to be identified!’
'So showing up at the police for the parking ticket would become his alibi . ’
And they could split the inheritance .
There’d be no search for somebody who was supposed to be dead .
So they would have had an easy life waiting for them .
A cold chill ran down Gotou’s spine . It was disgusting . He wanted to throw up . They were worse than cockroaches .
And they’d totally got them good .
No matter how much forensic science had advanced, they didn’t have the money or time to analyse the DNA for every case .
If they had enough evidence, that was the end of it . They’d used that blind spot . That was why they went out of their way to send a will –
'Anyway, let’s look for Fumiko right now . ’
'It’s too late for that!’
Yakumo yelled from the bottom of his stomach .
'Shiori-san sent a letter to her before she died . ’
'What you were talking about earlier?’
'Yes . And Fumiko has noticed . ’
'The diary . Shiori-san kept one . Shiori-san probably wrote about writing a letter to her in that diary . Katou Fumiko should have her . ’
'What did you say!?’
Gotou understood why Yakumo was having a fit .
The only mistake in this plan . That was the letter that Shiori-san left behind .
'So where’s Haruka-chan now? I’ll send someone . ’
'She suddenly ended the call earlier with a scream…’ Yakumo replied lifelessly .
So even this cold-hearted person could worry about others like a normal person now .
That was quite the change . Gotou wouldn’t let those emotions be stolen from Yakumo . He’d save her no matter what . Gotou was hit by that strong impulse .
'Don’t dawdle! We’re going!’
Gotou ran towards the car . It was still too early to give up .
Haruka was forced into the backseat of the car .
The knife felt cold against her neck . If she moved even a bit, she would be cut .
The man holding the knife to her neck had a face that looked like Shiori’s lover .
However, the air about him was completely different .
Though Haruka couldn’t see her face clearly, it looked like the driver was a woman .
Her hair was permed into very large curls and the smell of perfume filled the car .
'Where are you going?’ asked Haruka, focussing on her trembling throat, but the two of them didn’t answer .
'What do you want with me? Who on earth are you?’
A cold sweat ran down her body .
The car stopped at a light .
The woman at the driver’s seat leant towards the back and smirked, showing her teeth, yellowed from cigarettes .
'Right . I didn’t introduce myself yet, Haruka-chan . ’
'Why do you know my name?’
'I asked your friend . Her name was Shiori-chan, right?’
'Do you know Shiori?’
Haruka leant forward, but the man next to her immediately grabbed her and pushed her back down to the seat .
'What a noisy brat,’ said the man, his cheek twitching like a mouse’s . It was a spiteful and slimy voice .
'My name’s Katou Fumiko . That’s Katou Junichi,’ said the woman driving .
Haruka felt the blood leave her face all at once . This woman was Katou Fumiko .
The woman Shiori was supposed to have killed –
But she was in front of her now . Which meant –
'From that face, you do know the situation . ’
Fumiko looked at her coldly .
'Yes . I made it look like I’m dead . ’
Made it look like she was dead?
Could it be –
Haruka glared at Fumiko .
'Don’t look like that . I’m not going to do anything to you . ’
Fumiko petted Haruka’s hair .
A chill ran down Haruka’s spine . There was no truth in her words .
If she really wasn’t going to do anything, she wouldn’t have called herself Fumiko .
'We’re looking for a letter . It got to you, right? A letter . ’
Ah, so that was their goal .
'I don’t know anything about a letter . ’
'Don’t lie!’ said Fumiko . Her palm came flying .
Haruka had no time to avoid it – it hit her . A flash of heat spread through her face .
'There’s no point hiding it . It was written in this diary . Saying that she sent a letter to tell only you the truth!’
Fumiko threw a diary at Haruka .
Without saying anything, Haruka embraced that diary .
Oh, so Shiori was killed by this person . As a substitute…
Tremendous sadness and anger boiled up within Haruka at the same time .
'So where’s that letter?’
'I thought it was rude, but I’ve already searched your room . You’re so careless, leaving your room without locking it . ’
Like I’d respond . I’ve never forgive these people .
'Tell me already! Where is it!?’
The woman slapped Haruka again .
Haruka slammed into the seat . She did it on purpose . She would pretend to be collapsed in pain .
She heard a honk from behind them . The light was already green . Fumiko clicked her tongue and started the car .
Haruka took the letter out of her coat pocket in a way that they wouldn’t notice and pushed it into the back of the car seat . She would probably be able to buy some time this way .
However, what was she buying time for?
Despair spread through her chest .
They’d got on the car, but where to now?
Driving at random wouldn’t solve anything . Where did they have to look to find Haruka-chan?
Damn it . What were they supposed to do? Gotou clicked his tongue .
'Gotou-san, you said that Katou Kenichi had land left to him by his parents, right?’
'Yeah, what about it?’
'What has happened to that land now?’
What the hell was he thinking about at a time like this?
Gotou looked at Yakumo’s profile . His expression was the definition of seriousness .
'One plot’s that burnt-down house . I think there’re some in Shizuoka and Nagano too . And one more should be within the city . I think one of them was an apartment building that’s in construction?’
'There,’ Yakumo said with confidence .
Gotou was doubtful, but he didn’t have any idea about where else to go .
Yakumo was probably saying it as a possibility too . Thinking about it was a waste of time . They had to bet on that possibility .
Gotou stepped on the pedal .
Gravel flew out behind the wheels as the car sped up .
'They are desperate to get that letter . They need to talk somewhere there aren’t many people,’ Yakumo said quickly .
If they made the wrong guess, they would be out of luck .
Even if they managed to catch Fumiko in the end, there would definitely be one more corpse .
'I’m gonna fly . Hold on tight . ’
Gotou turned on the siren and pressed down on the pedal more .
* * *
The van Katou Fumiko was driving went onto the premises of an apartment building that was under construction .
The building itself was mostly finished .
All that was left was the interior .
They went around the two-storey building to the back, which had an entrance to the basement . They went down the slope .
After reaching the bottom, they turned left . The car stopped at the end of the road . It looked like an underground parking lot .
The only lights were the car’s headlights .
Junichi grabbed Haruka’s arm and pulled her out of the car .
Haruka fell forward, still holding the diary, and hit her face .
It felt like her lips were cut . Her face twisted in pain, but she didn’t even have time to gasp before Junichi grabbed her hair and pulled her up .
'Let go of me – I’ll stand up on my own!’ yelled Haruka, shaking Junichi’s hand away .
Fumiko flicked a switch on the wall .
There was the sound of an electric motor and screeching metal . It was probably to close the garage door . Haruka went pale .
She felt like her light of hope had flickered out .
Now, the parking lot was completely closed off .
Nobody would come save her even if she screamed .
She shut her eyes, knowing that it was too late for her .
I can’t stand it . Even though the people who killed Shiori are right in front of me, I can’t do anything –
But even if I die, at least Yakumo will find out the truth .
That was the only good thing to come out of this .
Will Yakumo be angry for me?
If I die, will that insensitive and unfriendly contrary man be a little bit sad?
Those thoughts suddenly came to Haruka’s head –
* * *
'I hope we make it in time,’ murmured Gotou to nobody in particular .
His palms were sweaty because of his agitation, so they didn’t have a good grip on the wheel .
'Please make it in time,’ Yakumo said immediately .
'You say that so easily . ’
'Is it difficult even for you, Gotou-san?’
This guy said really hateful things even at times like this .
'It’s no problem . ’
Gotou hadn’t touched the brakes even once .
Horns kept honking as he kept passing cars .
Though Gotou could hear people screaming, honking and slamming their brakes to avoid Gotou’s wild driving, he didn’t have the time to worry about that .
If they were a minute – even a second – late, it would be too late .
They had to hurry .
If Haruka-chan didn’t immediately hand over the letter under threat, they might be able to save her .
Don’t give up . I’m bringing Yakumo now . Do your best .
Gotou thought that, though there was no way for that thought to reach her .
'Gotou-san! Look in front!’ shouted Yakumo, just as Gotou was about to cut through an intersection .
The car driving in the opposite direction made a sharp right turn .
Gotou turned the wheel, but it was too late .
There was a terrible noise as the car shook .
The car went onto the kerb, mowing down three parked bicycles and slamming into a telephone pole .
The front glass cracked like a spider web, while white smoke came up from the bumper .
Damn it . At a time like this .
Gotou clicked his tongue . He felt something wet on his cheek . After touching it with his hand, he found out it was blood .
He looked at Yakumo in the passenger seat .
'Somehow…’ replied Yakumo, holding his shoulder .
Gotou looked to the back . A black car was stopped by the kerb .
Though the front bumper was damaged, it was just a scratch . Looked like Gotou and Yakumo were the only ones injured .
Gotou tried to turn on the car engine again .
It wouldn’t light up . Gotou tried once more .
No luck . Damn it .
'I’m begging you! Work!’
* * *
Junichi took off Haruka’s coat and checked everything that could be a pocket .
Fumiko checked Haruka’s pants pockets and even stuck her hands up her shirt .
All Haruka could do was stand there and bear with the humiliation .
'Nothing here,’ said Junichi, throwing the coat aside .
Fumiko seemed to have given up too, as she went to stand in front of Haruka and held up a knife .
'Why not start talking already? Where’s the letter?’
Haruka would be lying if she said she wasn’t afraid .
However, that didn’t mean she would yield .
She was going to be killed anyway . This was all she could do . Haruka glared straight at Fumiko .
'Do you think you’ll be all right? I’m just going to say this, but in the real world, protagonists die . ’
'I know that . To speak honestly, you don’t plan on letting me go anyway, right?’
After a moment, Fumiko’s fist came flying .
It was different than her slaps from earlier . Haruka saw stars as she staggered backwards, hitting the car and falling down .
She could taste blood in her mouth .
'Talk already! We don’t have the time for this either!’ yelled Fumiko, her hair a mess .
This was good . No matter how tough they acted, these people were worried .
As long as they didn’t know where Shiori’s letter was, they would have to continue being frightened as they imagined their downfall .
Right . If I use their anxiety or –
But no matter how shaken they were, Haruka couldn’t do anything against two people .
'You’ll really let me go if I tell you where the letter is?’ Haruka said as she stood up slowly .
Fumiko looked surprised, but then that changed right away into a high-pitched laugh .
'Of course, girl . ’
Liar! Haruka shouted that in her heart .
'I put the letter in my room . ’
'Don’t lie . We searched the room . ’
'Did you look properly? In the refrigerator, too . ’
It was the first lie that came to her head .
She wasn’t Yakumo – she wouldn’t put everything in a refrigerator .
Junichi looked up, as if thinking .
'Tsk . ’
Junichi clicked his tongue and ran towards the car .
Fumiko threw the car key at Junichi . Success .
The garage door opened and the car drove out, tires screeching . Now, Haruka was one-on-one with Fumiko .
'That had better not be a lie or you’ll really get it . ’
How would she get it? Haruka looked at Fumiko and smiled .
Fumiko’s cheek twitched .
'Why did you kill Shiori? Because she stole your husband?’
'You’re seriously misunderstanding something . ’
'Yes . Misunderstanding . ’
Fumiko looked down at Haruka triumphantly . There was a faint smile on her lips as she put a cigarette in her mouth and lit it . She blew the smoke out at Haruka .
'Everything went according to plan . Of course that includes making it look like my husband was sick and killing him, but the police seeing through that and finding out it was a murder and your friend noticing that I was the one who killed him – that was part of the plan too…’
'So you planned to kill Shiori from the start . ’
'Yup . This plan wouldn’t have succeeded without your friend . No, I thought up this plan because of your friend . Our physique and blood type were the same . And her parents were dead too, with no relatives . Don’t you think she was asking to be killed as my substitute?’
This person –
'Of course I don’t! Shiori wasn’t born to be your substitute! Shiori had her own life! You ruined all of that!’ yelled Haruka with all her power .
I can’t forgive her . I definitely can’t forgive her!
For the first time in Haruka’s life, she truly hated somebody .
'Don’t act so tough!’
Fumiko’s fist came at her again . This time, Haruka managed to take it standing .
'You’re the one acting tough . ’
'Girl . Your friend wouldn’t have been wrapped up in this if she didn’t commit adultery . She deserved it . Her forbidden love got too hot for her, so she really ended up burning . ’
Fumiko laughed aloud .
'You’re just angry she stole your husband from you . ’
'You just don’t shut up . I’m done with you . Die . ’
Fumiko put the knife to Haruka’s neck .
It felt cold .
It was too late for Haruka now .
Life was too short .
If I die, I’ll go meet Yakumo .
Yakumo will definitely find me .
He’ll say something sarcastic with his sleepy face as usual, like 'What are you here for?’ –
'Don’t give up…’
Haruka heard a voice in her ear .
Shiori’s voice –
Haruka’s eyes snapped open . There was a light of hope .
She couldn’t give up yet .
Haruka rushed at Fumiko with all her strength .
Fumiko staggered back and fell down . For a moment, she looked stunned, but then she stood right up and tried to run at Haruka .
'You’ve misunderstood something too,’ said Haruka, pointing at Fumiko .
Fumiko stopped in her tracks .
'Yup, misunderstood . There are people besides you who know about the letter . And they’ve noticed the truth behind this case . ’
'Stop making up stupid lies!’ yelled Fumiko angrily, but her eyes were anxious .
She probably felt something from Haruka’s sudden change in attitude .
However, it was too late even if she felt something .
'If you think it’s a lie, look behind you . ’
At Haruka’s words, Fumiko turned slowly, like a rusty mechanical puppet .
Then, her eyes went wide in surprise .
Yakumo and Gotou were standing there .
'Katou Fumiko . I’ve got quite a few questions for you,’ said Gotou, holding out his police ID . For some reason, his face was covered in blood .
Fumiko’s mouth flapped open and shut as she tried to say something, but nothing come out .
'Ah, and we ran into Junichi at the entrance . He’s handcuffed right now,’ Gotou said lightly, spreading his arms .
Fumiko looked dumbfounded . It made sense . There was nowhere for her to run now .
Her plan was completely ruined .
She was just an empty shell now . Gotou placed a hand on Fumiko’s shoulder .
Then, Fumiko suddenly turned to face Haruka and rushed at her with the knife .
Gotou tried to stop Fumiko, but he was a moment too late .
Fumiko avoided Gotou’s arm and ran at Haruka .
Everything seemed to be in slow motion to Haruka .
She was too shocked and afraid to move .
She yelled as loud as she could .
Yakumo said something .
Haruka was going to be stabbed .
The moment she thought that, somebody moved to stand in front of Haruka .
Fumiko didn’t reach Haruka . She tripped on something, fell forward, and dropped the knife .
Gotou didn’t let the chance slip away .
He climbed on Fumiko’s back, pulled her arms behind her and restrained her .
'Are you all right?’
Yakumo went up to Haruka .
'Shiori… Shiori saved me,’ said Haruka as she collapsed right there .
Her body shook from fear and the relief she felt from being released from that .
'Oh, her,’ said Yakumo, looking beside Fumiko .
So she really was there .
'Thank you,’ said Haruka, looking in the same direction as Yakumo .
'Can you see her?’
Haruka shook her head at Yakumo’s question .
'I can’t see her . But I can feel her . I can tell Shiori’s here right now…’
Haruka gripped Shiori’s diary tightly in front of her chest .
There was the faint smell of cinnamon from the diary .
'Oh, I see now…’
Haruka started laughing quietly .
She knew the secret to Shiori’s cocoa . The secret ingredient was a cinnamon stick .
'You’ve been saved by many people… There must be something that makes them do that,’ said Yakumo, like he was thinking about something .
My sister saved me . Shiori saved me . I really have been saved by a lot of people .
Haruka looked at Yakumo’s face, and all the feelings she had been restraining came up at once .
She bit her lips, but she couldn’t hold them in any longer .
They came out from her eyes as tears .
Haruka clung to Yakumo and started sobbing .
Two days after the incident, Gotou visited Yakumo’s secret hideaway .
During questioning, Fumiko admitted everything .
The results of the DNA test proved that the burnt corpse was Shiori .
Fumiko and Junichi were charged with two premeditated murders and assaulting Haruka . It would take a few years before the results of the trial, but if the premeditated murder charges stuck, they’d be severely punished .
The death penalty . Even if they were lucky, they’d probably get life terms .
Even though Gotou had gone all the way here to explain the aftermath of the case, Yakumo didn’t seem to care .
He leant back on his chair and yawned .
'What – you’re not interested even though I went out of my way to explain?’ said Gotou, his irritation evident .
'There’s no point showing interest now, is there? All we can do is already done . I know the truth even without hearing the police report . ’
'Well, that’s true…’
'Furthermore, Shiori’s spirit, which was the key to solving the case, wasn’t mentioned in the police report, right? Isn’t that a bit different from the truth?’
'Yeah, yeah, I got it . ’
Gotou waved a hand limply .
I was an idiot for thinking about explaining to him .
'What I want to know is how you’ve been punished . ’
Gotou didn’t want to talk about that .
Even though he’d solved the case, of course that wasn’t publicly acknowledged .
Though it was while he was chasing the culprit, he had hit a civilian’s car and run off .
'Anyway, it’s house arrest until that’s decided . I might get fired . ’
'It never rains but it pours . ’
Saying it like it had nothing to do with him .
Gotou wanted to say that Yakumo was partly at fault, but he stopped himself .
They’d saved Haruka-chan – that was good enough .
'But it’s not all bad, right?’
'It seems your wife’s returned,’ Yakumo said nonchalantly .
'H-how do you know that!?’
Gotou stood up in shock .
'I heard it from somebody named Hata-san . ’
'Why are you and Hata-san…’
Gotou started speaking, but then he stopped .
He could guess . It was that old man . He’d probably do anything to satisfy his urges .
'But your wife will just run off again if your lose your job . ’
'I don’t need your concern . And it’s not like I don’t have an idea,’ said Gotou, sitting on the folding chair again .
'It must be a worthless idea anyway . ’
'Don’t decide that for yourself . I was actually thinking of opening a detective agency . ’
'Do your best on your own . ’
Yakumo yawned .
'About that . When I open my detective agency, I was thinking of recruiting an excellent assistant . ’
Gotou stared at Yakumo .
He’d probably figure it out without Gotou saying the rest .
'Please stop looking at me . It’s creepy . ’
'Will you think about it?’
'I would rather die . ’
As expected .
Gotou snorted .
'That’s not all you’re here to say, right?’
Yakumo crossed his arms and looked up .
This guy really had terrifying perception . He saw through everything .
To be honest, Gotou wasn’t sure he should talk to Yakumo about it . He didn’t know how Yakumo would react .
His desire not to talk about it if possible was stronger, but if he hid it now, Yakumo would have to walk that path eventually anyway .
Gotou opened his mouth, determined .
'Actually, during Katou Fumiko’s questioning, it seems like she said something strange . ’
'Yeah . She said that she wasn’t the one who made the plan . ’
'Was it Junichi?’
Gotou shook his head .
'Seems like a man visited Fumiko one day . He’d seen through her desire to kill her husband and offered up this plan . ’
'She says she can’t remember his name, let alone his address or his job, even though she thinks she heard them . It’s too weak a story to have been made up . But even if we do believe it, if she doesn’t remember him, there’s nothing we can do . ’
'So you’re concerned, Gotou-san…’
'Yeah . I think her memory was erased with hypnotism or something . Plus, they remembered something about that man . I can’t help but be concerned about this one thing . ’
'What is it? Please stop putting on airs . ’
'Seems like both of that man’s eyes were red…’
Yakumo ran a hand through his hair and shut his eyes .
’… So he’s still doing that…’
Yakumo said just that after a silence .
So that really was it . Yakumo had confirmed Gotou’s fear .
He had wanted it just to be a coincidence .
* * *
Haruka visited Yakumo’s room two days afterwards .
She was going to head home afterwards to attend Shiori’s funeral . She wanted to visit Yakumo before then .
'Have you calmed down a bit?’ said Yakumo, after he sat down opposite her .
Haruka nodded silently .
To be honest, her heart was still unsteady .
'It’s like that . ’
Yakumo scratched his cheek awkwardly .
’… No, it’s nothing . ’
After crossing his arms and thinking for a bit, Yakumo said, 'You’re always so chatty, so when you suddenly shut up like this, it’s strange . ’
'What? Don’t make it sound like I’m a walking ball of noise . ’
'Am I wrong?’
Haruka was too exasperated by Yakumo’s usual attitude to say anything .
She didn’t have the energy to retort right now .
Not just now . Ever since the incident, she hadn’t been eating properly . She stayed inside her flat and kept crying as she read Shiori’s diary .
'Shiori-san’s saying “Thank you” to you,’ said Yakumo .
'You can see her?’ asked Haruka, leaning forward .
Yakumo nodded silently .
'I’m thankful too . And sorry,’ Haruka said quietly, looking around the quiet room slowly .
There was no response .
'I wonder if she heard me . ’
'She did . ’
'Shiori-san has a message for you . ’
'I don’t know what she’s talking about, but she says the guy’s better than she imagined . She also says that you’re obstinate about the important things, so you should be more honest…’
That was just like Shiori .
For the first time since the incident, Haruka laughed aloud .
Yakumo cocked his head, looking confused .
'Tell her I don’t need her concern . ’
'What on earth are you talking about?’
'It’s fine . It’s nothing . ’
Yakumo didn’t press any further .
It looked like he thought it was a pointless conversation anyway .
'I was thinking about this the whole time . If I understood more perspectives and wasn’t prejudiced about things like adultery, Shiori would have talked to me sooner… It hurt . I felt really pathetic . ’
'I’m not sure about that,’ said Yakumo, running a hand through his messy hair .
'If you were a more perceptive adult, wouldn’t Shiori-san not have been your friend?’
Haruka thought about what Yakumo meant, but she still didn’t understand .
'I’m saying that the relationships between people are difficult . ’
Yakumo shrugged as he looked at Haruka, whose brow was furrowed .
'I don’t understand . ’
'I’m saying being incomplete has more meaning for people . ’
'I don’t understand at all . ’
’… In short, I’m saying you can just stay the way you are,’ said Yakumo, shaking his head in exasperation .
'Hey, stop calling me “you” already . ’
'What should I call you?’
'You can just call me by my name normally . ’
'I refuse!’ Yakumo said bluntly . Then, he sipped his tea .
Haruka checked the time on her wristwatch and stood up .
'I have to go soon . ’
Yakumo didn’t say anything, as usual .
He yawned like a cat . Was he incapable of saying 'Bye’ or 'See you later’?
Though it’d just feel creepy if he said it .
'Hey . Can I come by next time when nothing’s up?’
Yakumo didn’t respond, as expected . Haruka gave up and put her hand on the doorknob .
'Please . Don’t bring trouble with you next time . ’
Haruka turned around and saw Yakumo drinking tea with his usual sleepy expression .
'I will then . I know how to make amazingly yummy cocoa . I’ll make it for you next time . ’
Haruka opened the door and left the room .
Haruka didn’t even think that she’d end up breaking the promise she made with Yakumo –
 Rat Man (Nezumi Otoko / ねずみ男) is a character from GeGeGe no Kitarou . He is a youkai and human halfbreed who looks like a rodent . He is characteristically stinky and filthy .