Volume 4 Chapter 3

Chapter 3


file 03: embers (TRANSLATION NOTES)




At the morning meeting, the vice-principal Konno informed them that Komai had passed away .

However, Haruka just couldn’t believe it was real . She had been talking to her just yesterday .

The business-like manner in which Konno stated the facts made it feel even less real .

Komai’s flat was on the eighth floor of her apartment . The front door had been closed and it seemed that she had jumped from the veranda .

There were no signs of struggle and a note that read ‘I’m tired’ had been found, so it appeared to be an impulsive suicide .

Haruka had only worked together with Komai for a week, so it wasn’t like she knew everything about her . However, she had been happy about her upcoming wedding . Would somebody like that kill herself –

Something might have happened with her lover .

Haruka was probably hung up because of what Masato had said .

– You’ll die next .

'Ozawa-san . ’

When Yokouchi tapped her on the shoulder, Haruka returned to reality .

'Eh, ah, yes . ’

Haruka raised her head, flustered .

'No questions, right?’

Yokouchi asked for agreement with an exasperated look on his face .


She couldn’t think of a response because she didn’t understand the point of the question .

'Honestly, please get a grip . Everyone’s had a shock . ’

Yokouchi normally felt gentle, but he was unusually irritated today .

'Please forgive me . ’

'The vice-principal will inform the students . Other teachers will help out in shifts for class . Please look after the children in the classroom . ’

'Yes, I understand . ’

'Get a grip, OK?’

'Please forgive me . I just can’t believe that Komai-sensei committed suicide…’

Haruka looked at her feet .

She knew that she had to keep her head up at times like this, but she felt like there was a weight on her head .

'I think it’s possible though . ’

Yokouchi said just that .

Haruka looked up at Yokouchi, surprised by his words .

'What do you mean?’

'Ah, Ozawa-san, you wouldn’t know . ’

'What about?’

'I’ve heard that Komai-sensei had an affair . ’

'An affair?’

'I don’t know the details either, but there was this whole rumour about how she’d had an affair with the dad of one of the kids . Maybe she was troubled because of that . ’

'An affair?’

Yokouchi nodded .

Komai, who had been thinking about marriage, had had an affair –

Troubled because of the affair, she committed suicide . It sounded persuasive, but it felt like it just didn’t link to Komai .

'Are you ready?’ said Konno .

Yokouchi made his escape .

'Yes . Thank you very much . ’

Haruka bowed her head politely towards Konno .

However, Konno didn’t even reply and just looked at her scornfully .

She really couldn’t bring herself to like this person .

Haruka buried her emotions in the pit of her stomach and left the room with Konno .




'Sorry to bother you . ’

Gotou said that as he opened the door to the university <Movie Research Circle>, which was Yakumo’s secret hiding place .

'If you know you’re a bother, please leave immediately . Honestly, please don’t make me say that so many times . ’

Sleepy-eyed Yakumo was sitting in his usual seat while running a hand through his hair .

This time, he really did look like he hadn’t gotten enough sleep . There were faint shadows underneath his eyes .

'Stop whining . I don’t have the time to listen to you either . ’

However, Gotou also hadn’t gotten enough sleep .

He’d said that to get rid of the irritation he’d accumulated .

'What a coincidence . I also don’t have time to waste talking with you . ’

'What did you say?’

'The exit is over there . ’

Yakumo pointed at the door with a yawn .

Damn, only his tongue was in good health . If Gotou talked to Yakumo any more, he’d just become more irritated . It’d probably be better to get the point quickly .

'Old man Hata called . Told me to bring you too . ’

'Is that so…’

Yakumo looked up at the ceiling in exhaustion and sighed, as if he were some young man in love .

Yakumo was probably troubled too, for once .

'So you have troubles like other people do too,’ teased Gotou, since it was a rare opportunity .

'It makes me truly envious of you, Gotou-san, since you have no troubles . ’

'I have troubles too . ’

'About what to eat?’

This bastard –

'Of course not . ’

'Then, about your wife running away . ’

'My wife is at home… probably . ’

Gotou hung his head and put his hands on the table .

He shouldn’t have said anything . He felt exhausted now .

The truth was, he didn’t know where to start with this case . It was suffocating .

This case was really hateful .

'What are you dawdling for?’ said Yakumo as he suddenly stood up .


'If we’re going, let’s hurry up and go . Or can you not move from hunger?’

'You making fun of me?’

'No, I’m mocking you . ’

This brat –

Yakumo quickly evaded Gotou, who had leapt for him, and left the room .

After the case was over, he’d definitely give Yakumo a good punch .

* * *

Ishii thought over the details of what had happened so far while sitting in the driver’s seat .

It really was an unsolvable case .

It should have been surprising for an escaped murderer to be found as a burnt corpse, but what was the most complicated was the state of that corpse .

Hata and Yakumo both said it, but was it spontaneous human combustion –

If it were, they probably wouldn’t be able to get even a clue as to how to solve the case with the investigation methods they’ve used until now . They’d have to add experts to the investigation team .

Ishii conjectured that the possibility of alien invasion regarding spontaneous human combustion was extremely high .

They definitely burnt humans, bones and all, using weapons humans couldn’t even think of .

They should bring the matter to NASA . He would suggest that to Gotou .

Just as Ishii’s delusions were reaching a peak, the passenger door opened and Gotou came in . Then, Yakumo sat in the backseat .

He’d thought they wouldn’t return for an hour, since that was the usual pattern, but they came back more quickly than he’d imagined .

'Start the car . ’

'Ah, yes sir . ’

Ishii started the car as told by Gotou .

'Gotou-san, how is the investigation I requested?’ said Yakumo while looking out the window . He looked unusually tired .

'I’ve investigated a lot about Ushijima Harue . Still investigating that brat’s dad . ’

While Gotou started explaining, he took a file out from the glove compartment and threw it towards the backseat .

Yakumo started flipping through the pages silently .

Gotou began a supplementary explanation .

'Ushijima Harue . Fifty-eight years old . After graduating from high school, she worked at a hostess at clubs and bars, but she stopped in her early twenties . ’

'The reason being?’

'I don’t know the details, but it seemed she was kept by her lover . After quitting her hostess job, she didn’t do anything like work . ’

'And the person who kept her?’

Yakumo furrowed his brows .

'Still investigating . According to a woman living nearby, the guy would change . ’

Gotou was talking like he’d been the one who’d seen it through, but Ishii was the person who’d actually investigated .

After returning from the elementary school yesterday, he’d gone to question people who lived near the apartment where Ushijima Harue lived .

You could find gossip-loving housewives everywhere .

They’d told him in detail about how she used to be a hostess, how a man that looked like a father would sometimes visit with his kid, and how another man – much younger – would go in and out too .

When he thought about how the neighbours were watching so closely, it was exceedingly frightening .

'Then how about Oomori Masato’s father?’

'All I know is the place he used to work . ’

'Which is?’ urged Yakumo as he looked at the documents .

'Oomori Hironori worked at a bike repair shop . He was skilful, but the manager caused some problem and was arrested, so he lost his job . He started doing part-time after that . ’

'Could that be when he got his divorce?’

'Ah, that’s right . ’

'I see…’

Yakumo’s sorrowful eyes looked at the low car ceiling .

He’s realised something – that was what Ishii felt .




Haruka went into the classroom for Class 5-4 with a hard expression and stood at the front next to Konno .

The children shouldn’t have known about Komai’s death yet .

However, it seemed they’d felt the unrest that flowed through the whole school, because the whole classroom was unsteady .

Haruka turned her eyes to Masato, who sat by the window .

He had his chin in his hands and was looking out the window, but his eyes were puffy like he had cried, and he appeared to be holding back his pain .

That child knows something –

'Silence . ’

Konno raised his voice . It was no different from the tone he’d used to reprimand teachers in the staff room . The noisy classroom was blanketed in silence .

The children were waiting for Konno’s next words as they looked right at him .

If it were her, how would she explain Komai’s death to the children –

The death of somebody close to them . They would experience that sometime in their life, but they couldn’t just throw that reality at children who were unprepared for it .

While Haruka was thinking, Konno cleared his throat and opened his mouth .

'Komai-sensei committed suicide . ’


Haruka said that without thinking and looked at Konno . He looked as arrogant as always –

Haruka couldn’t believe it . How could he use the word 'suicide’ of all things?

The children were noisy again .

There were some children talking among themselves, and some children, who already knew the meaning of the word, were shaking and had started crying .

'Sensei, what’s suicide?’

Eri, who sat in front of Masato, raised her hand and asked that question .

'Suicide means killing yourself…’

'Vice Principal . Please stop it . ’

Haruka couldn’t stop herself – she grabbed Konno’s arms and interrupted him .

'They’ll find out eventually . What’s the point in hiding it?’

Konno glared at Haruka, as if he were looking at something filthy .

Did he think that doing that would make everyone do as he said? She wouldn’t yield to that arrogance . Haruka glared back at Konno forcefully .

'That isn’t the problem . The problem is how you expressed it . ’

'You’re just a trainee teacher . ’

Konno brushed off Haruka’s hand .

'You’re the vice principal – don’t you understand the children’s feelings?’

'Don’t talk like you do!’

Konno’s angry voice, inappropriate for a classroom, echoed .

At that, Eri covered her face with her hands and started crying . Maiko comforted her from the neighbouring seat .

'What’s up with him?’

'He’s so annoying . ’

The children started criticising Konno .


Konno raised his voice again as he hit the teacher’s desk .

It didn’t matter that this person was the vice principal . Haruka couldn’t let him stay in the classroom any longer .

'Would you please leave the classroom?’

Haruka stepped in front of Konno and looked straight at his muddy eyes as she said that .

Even though she was trying to chase the vice principal out of the classroom, she wasn’t nervous or afraid at all, to the point she even surprised herself .

Konno’s breathing was ragged, having gone too far to back down .

'This conversation is finished, Vice Principal . Please leave . ’

Haruka didn’t take even one step back and said that firmly .

They glared at each other for a while, but perhaps Konno decided Haruka wouldn’t back down, because he left the classroom with a click of his tongue .

The problem is what comes next –

Haruka went back to the front of the classroom and sighed as she looked at the children’s faces .

'Everyone, listen to what Sensei has to say . ’

To tell the truth, she didn’t know what she should say in this situation, but she couldn’t leave it as it was .

The children’s hearts weren’t mature yet . The injuries their hearts received now wouldn’t heal through their whole life .

Haruka had experienced that herself .

– You can do it .

Next to her, Haruka felt like she heard Komai whisper .




After Gotou went into Hata’s room, he sat on the only round chair in the room, as he had done last time .

Yakumo and Ishii stood by the wall and Hata sipped his tea at his desk . This was also the same as last time .

'Now, the wait is over . ’

Hata rubbed his wrinkled hands together . He was just like a fly that gathered around excrement .

'Stop showing off and talk . ’

Gotou crossed his arms . Hata let out his usual creepy giggle .

'As usual, the idiot is hasty . ’

'What did you say!?’

Gotou leant towards Hata, but he didn’t seem to care .

Yakumo and the old man – he really couldn’t compete with them .

'Well, anyway, take a look at this . ’

Hata laid out for photos on the desk, as if he was going to start playing cards . Everyone looked at them .

The photos on the desk were all of burnt corpses .

'Eek . ’

Ishii jolted and let out a shriek .

'Shut up . ’

Gotou hit Ishii’s head and looked at the photos once more .

They were different from the photos of the scene they were at before, but the state of the corpses was very similar . Even the bones were burnt, and everything had turned into ash .

One photo caught Gotou’s attention .

Though the body had turned into ash, the feet, with the shoes on, were left behind . This was incredibly like Tobe’s corpse .

'Are these photos of that spontaneous human what’s it you mentioned before?’

'Spontaneous human combustion . At least remember that . ’

Hata shook his head melodramatically . The old man always got on his nerves .

'So does that combustion have something to do with this case?’

'Yes, that’s exactly it . ’

At Gotou’s question, Hata smiled happily, showing his yellow teeth . This old man really was creepy .

But wait a minute . If that was the case, it would contradict with what they’d said earlier .

'Old man, the last time I came, didn’t you say that spontaneous human combustion hadn’t been explained yet?’

'That’s right . Spontaneous human combustion hasn’t been explained . ’

Hata looked composed . What was the old man putting on airs for?

'Then isn’t that a contradiction?’

Gotou stood up and stared down at Hata .

'Gotou-san, please calm down,’ said Yakumo .

Normally, Yakumo should’ve noticed a contradiction like this first, but –

'I am calm . What this old man is saying is strange . ’

'It isn’t strange . Hata-san hasn’t said that this case involves spontaneous human combustion . ’

Yakumo ran a hand through his hair like he thought Gotou was troublesome .


'Gotou-san, you asked whether spontaneous human combustion has something to do with this case, so Hata-san just said that it does . ’

'That’s the same thing, right?’

'It isn’t . I said this before as well, but spontaneous human combustion has three main characteristics . Do you remember?’

'Yeah . ’

Gotou nodded .

The fire started in a place with no sign of fire . The fire didn’t spread to the surroundings . The whole body including the bones was burnt –

He knew that .

'The first characteristic of fire suddenly starting in a place with no sign of fire has not yet been explained, though there are baseless theories such as plasma and alien invasion . ’

'So we don’t understand it, right?’

'However, if we take away that first characteristic, we can explain it . ’

'Ah, so that’s what it is!’

Ishii seemed to have understood Yakumo’s explanation because he spoke up while clapping his hands together .

However, Gotou didn’t understand . Perhaps Yakumo thought Gotou looked pitiful as he held his head in his hands, because he supplemented his explanation .

'In short, it isn’t clear how the fire suddenly starts, but if we think of methods which could burn a body including the bones without the fire spreading to its surroundings, it is possible under certain conditions . ’

'Is that how it is?’

Finally, Gotou understood as well .

Nobody had seen the fire start with this case . So, they could put that aside for now and think about how the bones had burnt .

But they needed a temperature of over six thousand degrees to burn a body including the bones . Is that possible –

'Hata-san, I leave the rest to you . ’

Yakumo handed the explanation over to Hata, crossed his arms nonchalantly and leant against the wall .

Hata nodded and began the explanation .

'I should have remembered the moment I saw the corpse . My memory’s gotten worse with age . Also, burnt corpses aren’t my forte . I like them raw . ’

'Shut up! You perverted old man!’

Gotou rejected Hata’s introduction, which was extremely indiscreet .

However, Hata didn’t reflect on it – rather, he laughed in his creepy voice with shaking shoulders .

'Yakumo gave a hint when he said adipocere . ’

'Addie what? Who’s that?’

Come to think of it, they’d mentioned the same guy before .

'Honestly . Do I have to start the explanation from there?’

Hata’s face was sullen, like he had eaten something sour .

'I can explain adipocere,’ interrupted Ishii – maybe he couldn’t keep watching .

'Ishii-kun, thank you . ’

At Hata’s words, Ishii walked to the centre of the room energetically .

'Adipocere comes from adipose, as in body fat, and cera, the Latin word for wax, like in candles[1] . ’

Which makes adipocere –

'Body fat candles?’

'That isn’t it . After a person dies, if they are left under specific temperature conditions, such as a hot and humid location, the fat decomposes, becomes fatty acid, binds with the calcium or magnesium in the water and the whole body becomes something like soap . ’


It didn’t really fit in Gotou’s mind .

'Yes . In that state, the human body becomes like a wax figure and can be kept in that shape without decaying . ’

Wasn’t this completely occult?

'Oi, old man!’

Gotou spoke up in disbelief .

'It’s true . It’s not sorcery or witchcraft – it’s been proven in the medical field and is completely accepted,’ said Hata as he sipped his tea .

Is that so – he hadn’t known .

No, that was wrong . Though it made sense for Hata, Yakumo and Ishii were the strange ones for knowing something like this .

Well, in any case he understood adipocere now . However, he still didn’t understand .

'What does that have to do with burning bones?’

'In order to burn a body including the bones, there are two methods . The first is burning the body at above six thousand degrees, as mentioned before . ’

Hata raised a finger .

'And the other?’

'Burning the body at a low temperature for a long time . Well, it would be about ten hours . ’

Ten hours –

'If there was a fire for that long there, it would’ve definitely spread to the school . ’

Hata let out a creepy giggle at Gotou’s objection .

'You know about candles, right?’

'Of course I do . ’

'Wax wraps around the string that makes the wick . When you light the wick, the wax melts as the wick slowly burns . ’

Even Gotou understood that . But –

'People aren’t candles . ’

'Gotou-san, you should study a bit more,’ interrupted Yakumo as he raked his fingers through his hair .

'What did you say?’

'Just that your knowledge is inadequate, Gotou-san . The human body is built incredibly similar to a candle . ’

'What do you mean?’

'You can think of the fat underneath the skin of the human body as wax and the clothes a person wears as the wick,’ said Yakumo, as if it were obvious .

So the wick was on the outside? It was the opposite of a normal candle . When the clothes caught fire, that heat would burn human body fat and it would burn out like a candle .

'But would it be that easy?’

'If thinking about it normally, it probably wouldn’t go that well, no matter how similar the two are . Though it was different in the past, the clothes that are supposed to make up the wick are now made of materials that are difficult to burn,’ said Hata as he scratched his chin .

'Then it won’t work, right?’

'Now we return to the topic of adipocere . ’

Yakumo put his index finger to his brow .


'The fat in that corpse had probably saponified into adipocere . ’


Gotou unconsciously raised his voice at Yakumo’s explanation .

I see . The fat in the body decomposed by becoming adipocere, seeped into the clothes and made them easy to burn .

But –

'Why didn’t the fire spread?’

Even if the fire started from the adipocere, there should have been other things to burn .

'It was a low-temperature fire,’ replied Hata matter-of-factly . There he went again, using a term Gotou didn’t understand –

'Explain . ’

'You know that fire needs oxygen to burn, right?’

Hata was treating him too much like an idiot . Even an elementary school student would know that .

'Of course . ’

'When there is a low concentration of oxygen, the force of the fire weakens and won’t spread to its surroundings . ’

Hata looked up at Gotou’s expression .

Gotou replied with a nod .

'However, that doesn’t mean that the fire is extinguished . Even if there is no flame, it continues to burn slowly . That’s a low-temperature fire . ’

Gotou recalled the pump room as he listened to the explanation .

A room surrounded by concrete underneath the pool . The humidity and temperature for the fat in a human body to saponify into adipocere . On top of that, the concentration of oxygen needed for a low-temperature fire .

Those elements brought about that burnt corpse .

Wait . That would mean –

'Doesn’t that mean Tobe was already dead before he was burnt?’

'That’s right . ’

Gotou was surprised, but Hata spoke like it was obvious .

'So what was the cause of death?’

'I don’t know . The corpse is in that state, after all,’ said Hata readily . Well, it probably was difficult to decide the cause of death from that state .

'Then what caused the fire?’

'Have you forgotten? I’m employed as a coroner – not an investigator . That’s your job, right?’

It was just as Hata said . Gotou was lost for words .

'Well, if there’s nothing there to start the fire, somebody probably lit it,’ said Yakumo with a sigh .

Gotou looked at Yakumo with a snarl, but Yakumo just yawned, not nervous at all .

This guy . Doesn’t he understand the importance of what he said –

'If what you say is true, this is a murder . ’

'Gotou-san, are you really a detective?’

Yakumo gave Gotou his usual mocking sidelong glance .

'Yeah, unfortunately . ’

After Gotou spat that out, Yakumo shook his head, like he didn’t know what to do with Gotou .

'I said that somebody might have lit the fire . I said this earlier as well, but that corpse was dead before it burned . Lighting it on fire would only be the mutilation of the corpse . Until we know the cause for death, we cannot determine that it was a murder . ’

Ah, that was right .

There was nothing wrong with what Yakumo was saying, but that sort of irritated Gotou .

Gotou couldn’t think of anything to reply so he just clicked his tongue .

'By the way, Hata-san . I actually have something I would like to request of you . ’

Yakumo changed the topic, ignoring Gotou, who was sulking .

'If it’s a request from you, Yakumo-kun, there’s no way I could refuse . ’

Hata let out a demonic laugh .

Yakumo took a white capsule from his pocket and handed it to Hata .

Hata looked at it under a fluorescent lamp .

'This is?’

'This is something that was pilfered from a certain person . I want to ask you to analyse its composition, but…’

Pilfered? Wasn’t that a crime?

How did he have the nerve to be so shameless in front of the police?

'Normally, that would be out of my expertise, but I’ll ask an acquaintance . ’

Hata put the capsule in an envelope on the desk .

'So what are we going to do now?’

Yakumo and Hata both looked scornfully at Gotou, who was crossing his arms .

'What? Did I say something strange?’

'Yes, you did . Isn’t it the detective’s job to decide what to do next?’

Yakumo pointed at Gotou’s nose .

This guy . Making fun of him . Even though he’d instructed him to do this and that so many times before . He just ran away when the situation was bad .

'Er… Detective Gotou . Could I suggest asking for Sasaki-sensei’s opinion?’

Ishii interrupted while raising his hand like an elementary school student .

It appeared Ishii was enthusiastic about profiling, but Gotou was different . He just couldn’t bring himself to like that woman .

'Well, it doesn’t matter to me what method of investigation you choose, but please make sure to properly investigate what I asked of you,’ said Yakumo, like it was none of his business . He rubbed at his eyes while he yawned .

'Then you help with the investigation too!’

'I would rather not . ’

An immediate answer .

It felt like he was lost at sea . However, this always happened .

'Why not? It’s not like you have anything to do,’ said Gotou, still holding on .

'I am visiting a grave today . ’

After declaring that, Yakumo left the room .

Honestly . What a transparent lie .

A man who can see ghosts visiting a grave? That’s hysterical –




Komai’s vigil was held at a funeral hall near the elementary school .

A number of teachers from the school attended, starting with Haruka . None of the children came . That was the decision of the Board of Education .

It appeared the suspicion that it was a suicide had had a great influence .

After passing the reception, Haruka sat on a chair in the lobby and thought about what had happened .

'Oh, I was wondering who it was – is that you, Haruka-chan?’

An enrobed monk waved as he approached .

Why would a monk know my name –

She thought it dubious, but that was only for a moment . When she saw the monk’s face, she immediately understood .

A calm face that made one think of the Maitreya . On top of that, the red contact lens in his left eye .

It was Saitou Isshin, the chief priest at a Buddhist temple and Yakumo’s uncle and honorary parent .

'It’s been a while . ’

Haruka took a formal bow .

'Was the person who passed away somebody you knew?’

Isshin had probably noticed from Haruka’s expression, because he asked that with a stiff expression .

'Yes . I’m training at an elementary school, and she took care of me . ’

'I see . I’m sorry for your loss…’

Isshin put his hands together and bowed his head .

'But seeing you made me feel a bit better, Isshin-san . ’

'It flatters me to hear you say that . ’

Isshin’s narrow eyes became even narrower when he smiled .

It wasn’t flattery – it was how she truly felt . Seeing Isshin’s gentle face made her feel just a bit more at ease .

She hurriedly held back the tears that had welled up the moment she relaxed .

In order to change her mood, she purposefully let out a sigh, when she noticed somebody looking at her and raised her head .

Over by the crowd of people at the reception, there was a boy staring their way .

That’s –

'Masato-kun . ’

Haruka started walking towards Masato .

Why was Masato here –

It might have just been a wrong impression, but Haruka felt like he was trying to express something .

Just as they were almost close enough to touch, Masato noticed Haruka, took in a breath and backed up .

'Wait, Masato-kun . ’

Masato turned around and ran off .

Should I chase him –

Isshin stood next to Haruka as she was lost for a decision .

'Is that child someone you know?’

'Yes . He’s one of the children from my class…’

'That child…’

Isshin smiled awkwardly after he started speaking .

'What is it?’

'I thought that he looked similar . ’

'Looked similar?’

'Yes . He looks similar to Yakumo when he was young . ’

Isshin’s gaze was far away . He was probably thinking about the past .

He was Yakumo’s uncle and also the person who’d raised him, so Haruka felt like her thoughts weren’t altogether wrong .

That child was shouldering something heavy, just as Yakumo was .




At Ishii’s suggestion, Gotou visited Sasaki Mental Health again .

He sat on the same sofa as last time and looked at Anna .

The truth was he didn’t really want to, but if Yakumo wouldn’t do anything, it was true that Gotou had nobody else to rely on since thinking was his weak point .

'I want to hear what you think today . ’

He’d come here already, so he’d get nowhere by griping . Gotou brought up the topic at hand .

'If I can be of any help . ’

Anna smiled amiably .

Ishii had met up with Anna once without Gotou, but he couldn’t tell how much information she knew .

It would be a pain to check, so Gotou decided to explain from the beginning .

At the elementary school that had a fire twenty-eight years ago, Tobe Kengo had been found as a burnt corpse and the cause of death was unknown .

However, they thought that somebody had started the fire after he died –

Also, Ushijima’s mother seemed to think that her son was killed by Tobe, but she’d said that it was a good thing he died .

Anna listened silently, but when he said that the burnt corpse was Tobe, tears welled up in her eyes .

It had been in the news too, so it probably wasn’t the first time she’d heard it .

It appeared that she felt guilty that he died since she had been the one to let him escape .

'In short, what I want to ask if who set Tobe’s corpse on fire, in this situation . ’

Gotou ended his explanation with a question .

'Would you mind if I smoke?’

After Anna excused herself, she snapped a cigarette filter with her fingernails and lit it .

She was probably trying to calm down . Her fingers were shaking slightly .

Gotou took his cigarette case out of his pocket so he could smoke too, but it was empty .

Damn . After Gotou crushed his cigarette case, Anna offered her own cigarettes .

'Sorry about this . ’

Gotou took a cigarette from her case . Just as he put it in his mouth, she flicked open a lighter in front of his eyes .

A thin silver Zippo lighter .

Gotou stuck his face out so that his cigarette could be light . He felt sort of like he was in a cabaret club .

'I can’t say anything at this stage . However, I believe that the person who lit the fire had a violent hatred towards Tobe-san and has some sort of attachment to fire,’ said Anna, slowly blowing out smoke .

That made sense . Putting together what Yakumo and Hata said, the person had lit somebody who was already dead on fire .

Plus, they’d waited for adipocere to form . It wasn’t normal –

'I have a guess as to who the culprit could be…’ said Anna with upturned eyes after putting out her cigarette in the ashtray .

'W-what? Really?’

Gotou tried to keep his calm, but he raised his voice despite that .

'Yes . Though this is only a theory…’

'I don’t care – just tell me . ’

'It isn’t a very difficult rationalisation . You should come to the same conclusion if you analyse the situation, Detective . ’

Anna smiled mischievously .

She really looked a lot younger than she was . Gotou felt that all over again .

'Of course! That’s how it is!’

Ishii hadn’t said anything up until now, but he let out a shout and stood up .

'Sit down, fool . ’

Gotou pulled Ishii’s arm and forced him down . Ishii looked so displeased it was almost impertinent .

'Explain . ’

Menthol cigarettes were really awful .

Gotou crushed the cigarette which still had more than half left in the ashtray and urged Anna to continue .

'Isn’t there only one person? Somebody who holds a hatred for Tobe-san and has an attachment to fire…’

Anna avoided saying the name directly and gave another hint .

That hint was more than enough –

In Gotou’s mind, there was the face of one woman .

A woman with flashy clothes and flashy makeup . She believed that her son was killed in the fire twenty-eight years ago .

So she got revenge by burning Tobe then –

'Ushijima Harue…’

When Anna heard the name Gotou said, her face stiffened and she drew in her chin . Though she didn’t say it clearly, that response was sufficient .

Ushijima Harue –

Seemed they’d need to meet up again .




'Yakumo is coming home today too, so you should come by since you haven’t in a while . Nao will be happy too . ’

Invited by Isshin, Haruka walked to the temple at the top of the slope .

Maybe Yakumo would be angry that she had come of her own accord again, but so many things had happened and she didn’t want to be in her room alone . She also wanted to consult Yakumo about something .

After going to the living room in the priests’ quarters, Haruka kneeled on the cushion and thought over what had happened .

When Isshin came back with tea and sat down opposite Haruka .

He wasn’t wearing his robes anymore – he’d changed into his working clothes . The impression Haruka got from him changed a lot depending on what he wore .

'I should have bought some sweets . ’

After Isshin sipped his tea, he scratched his ear, seeming a bit embarrassed .

'No, I’m the one who’s come at such a late hour…’

'Don’t worry about it . I’m the one who invited you . Yakumo should be back soon, so don’t be so stiff and relax . ’

Isshin smiled . This person’s smile had the mysterious power to easily calm someone’s nerves .

He was completely different from Yakumo, who was cynical towards everyone .

Haruka relaxed and breathed out . Her stiff shoulders relaxed as well .

'It’s unusual for Yakumo-kun to return . ’

Yakumo almost never returned home, since he lived in the little prefabricated room at the university .

For Yakumo, who could see the spirits of the dead, this place with its graves was too noisy for him .

Yakumo had said this himself before .

'I’m only saying this because it’s you, Haruka-chan, but today’s is actually the anniversary of somebody’s death . ’

Haruka couldn’t believe what Isshin had said .

She couldn’t imagine Yakumo going to visit somebody’s grave, when she compared it to how his usual speech and conduct .

Who on earth did Yakumo think so much of?

'Um, whose death anniversary is it?’

She couldn’t stop her impulse of wanting to know, so she ended up saying that aloud .

'That’s right . It’d be better to talk to you about it . That Yakumo will never talk about it himself anyway . ’

Isshin’s eyes narrowed as he thought about something .

Haruka felt like it was a warm and gentle memory .

'This was back when Yakumo was still a middle school student…’

Just as Isshin said that, the sliding door to the living room opened .

'Uncle, don’t talk about unnecessary things without permission . ’

Yakumo stood there with a displeased expression on his face .

'A little bit’s fine, right?’

'No . ’

Yakumo crossed his arms and shook his head at Isshin’s needling .

It appeared that he didn’t want her to know no matter what, but it was human nature to become more curious when things were hidden .

'You’re so petty-minded . ’

'That isn’t the problem . ’

Yakumo was being unusually stubborn .

'I’ll let you know in secret from Yakumo next time,’ whispered Isshin, so that Yakumo wouldn’t hear .

'Why are you here anyway? I don’t remember inviting you . ’

Ah, an expected development –

In the past, she would have been seriously depressed, but she wasn’t even surprised by it now .

'I invited her . ’

'Why do you always do things like this without asking?’

Unlike Isshin, who had spoken nonchalantly, Yakumo was irritated as he objected while raking his fingers through his hair .

'This is my house . I can invite somebody if I want, right?’

You could tell Isshin had raised Yakumo . He wouldn’t lose to Yakumo in an argument .

Haruka laughed without thinking at the amusing scene . Yakumo glared at her without a moment’s delay .

Ooh, scary –


Now that he had been talked down, Yakumo bit his lower lip .

While they had been talking, somebody’s face peered out from behind Yakumo’s back .


It was Nao, Yakumo’s niece .

Nao appeared to have noticed Haruka too, because a bright smile appeared on her face as she leapt towards her .

Rushed at by a seven-year-old girl, Haruka lost her balance and fell backwards .

Nao didn’t seem to care as she moved her hands and feet about on top of Haruka’s body . When Haruka saw that adorable smile, she felt happier too .

This child, who seemed so innocent at first glance, was burdened with heavy shackles .

Nao was deaf .

Yakumo said this before . People compensate for the abilities they’re lacking with other abilities –

While patting Nao’s head, Haruka said Good evening in her head .

– Good evening .

Nao’s voice reached Haruka’s mind .

Even if she couldn’t hear with her ears, Nao could exchange words through her mind .




Tired from playing, Nao was asleep, using Haruka’s lap as a pillow .

Nao had a smile on her face even while she slept .

'Oh, Nao’s gone and fallen asleep . ’

Isshin stood up to shake Nao awake .

'It’s fine . Please let her sleep here,’ replied Haruka, brushing Nao’s glossy hair . Nao turned her head as if it tickled .

'Haruka-chan, sorry about this . ’

'Please don’t worry about it . ’

'She’s such a troublesome child . She’s so pampered…’

It looked like there were tears in Isshin’s eyes .

I wonder where her mother is –

That doubt suddenly came to Haruka . Now that she thought about it, she’d never seen Nao’s mother .

Perhaps this child’s mother is already –

'So what happened this time?’ said Yakumo, interrupting Haruka’s thoughts .

He’d seen right through her then . It appeared that she couldn’t hide the emotions on her face .

'Komai-sensei passed away . ’

She spoke in a quiet voice that was difficult even for her to hear .

She felt as if each time she said it, that truth became heavier .

'Would that teacher be the person we met on the roof before?’

When Haruka nodded, Yakumo’s eyes narrowed as if he were staring at something bright .

It appeared that Yakumo was thinking about what Masato said too, even without her mentioning it .

– You’ll die next .

'I don’t know what I should do…’

Haruka knew herself that her voice was shaking .

She had planned on being psychologically stronger . Komai’s death had been a shock, and she was very sad . But she’d thought that she would be able to withstand it .

But now that I’m in front of Yakumo, why –

Tears welled up in her eyes and fell onto Nao’s cheek .

Haruka hurried wiped the tears away with both hands . Were they tears of sadness? Fear? Anxiety? Her shoulders shook with emotions she couldn’t define herself .

'I’ll let Nao sleep on the futon . ’

Isshin picked Nao up from Haruka’s lap .


'Don’t worry about it . ’

Isshin replied with a smile and took Nao, still asleep, out of the room .

Haruka frantically wiped away the tears that were welling up against her will and looked at Yakumo with her cloudy vision .

'I understand that you want to cry, but there’s no time for that,’ said Yakumo expressionlessly .

There was no sympathy at all for Haruka’s feelings there . His tone was blunt .


Haruka snivelled .

'It’s certain that that boy had some role in this chain of events . Our goal is to lift the curse on him . In that meaning, we don’t understand anything yet . ’

Yakumo scratched the tip of his nose awkwardly .

She knew what he wanted to say next even without him saying it . Before they lifted the curse on Masato, it wasn’t the time or place to cry .

Strict but kind words –

In her heart, Haruka said, 'Thank you . ’ If she said it aloud, she felt like she would start crying again .

'Now, let’s continue . ’

Yakumo raked his fingers through his hair .

'All right . ’

'First – why did that teacher die?’

'A suicide, apparently… it seems she jumped from her flat’s veranda . ’

She hadn’t seen it herself, but in her head, she could see Komai, collapsed on the ground with blood flowing from her head .

'There must have been a reason to determine it was a suicide at this stage . ’

That was Yakumo for you – he was accustomed to cases .

'There was a note in the room that read “I’m tired” . Also, this is just a rumour, but I’ve heard that she was having an affair… but to me, Komai-sensei didn’t seem like she was so troubled she would try to kill herself . ’

'Nobody can know for certain the reason somebody commits suicide except for that person . At this stage, it could be completely unrelated, for all that we know . ’

Yakumo might have been right .

Everyone had different perspectives . Even if some people might find something laughable, for the person, it could have been troubling enough to commit suicide .

'Yakumo-kun, what do you think?’

'I understand a number of the tricks, but I haven’t grasped the flow of everything…’ muttered Yakumo, and he ran both hands through his hair .

'I see…’

'Twenty-eight years ago, there was a fire at the elementary school . I feel like that’s the key, but…’

Yakumo looked bitter as he pinched his brow with his fingers .

'If it’s about the fire twenty-eight years ago, I know a lot about it . ’

The person who interrupted was Isshin .

It seemed that he’d put Nao to sleep and had returned at some time to the living room entrance .

Yakumo opened his almond eyes and looked up at Isshin .

Isshin didn’t continue, instead sitting cross-legged with a nonchalant expression .

'Uncle!’ said Yakumo in his irritation .

'You shouldn’t be so hasty . ’

'I’ll listen to your scolding later . ’

'You’d understand if you thought about it normally though . I graduated from that elementary school where the fire occurred . I was also in the same grade as Ushijima Atsushi-kun, the boy who died then . ’

'Eh, is that so?’

Haruka’s eyes were wide in surprise .

Isn’t he the wrong age – is what Haruka thought, but now that she thought about it, she had never asked for Isshin’s age .

She had just thought that he was much older because of his calm demeanour .

Which means Isshin is in his late thirties –

Haruka was stuck on that odd point .

'Why didn’t you say that earlier?’

'You never asked me about it . ’

Unlike Yakumo, who made a strong objection, Isshin wasn’t concerned at all .

'Then did you know Tobe Kengo too?’

Yakumo threw that question out after swearing .

The murderer who killed his own father, Tobe Kengo –

When Isshin heard that name, his face become just a bit stiff as he nodded .

'Kengo-kun was a really good friend . I can’t believe he’d turn out like that… Before that fire, he’d been such a gentle boy…’

As he reminisced, Isshin suddenly clapped his hands together like he’d remembered something, stood up and left the room .

'Honestly . Can’t see the forest for the trees,’ murmured Yakumo bitterly as he watched Isshin leave .

'Ah, sorry for the wait . ’

Isshin brought an old album back with him, placed it on the table and flipped through the pages .

Haruka and Yakumo leant forward to peer at that album .

'Ah, about here . ’

Isshin stopped flipping the pages .

It appeared to be a picture of a field trip . In the photo, there were children in gym uniforms wearing rucksacks .

'This is Kengo-kun . ’

Isshin pointed at a photo .

There were two boys standing shoulder to shoulder . One was probably Isshin . His gentle expression hadn’t changed even after twenty-eight years .

Tobe Kengo beside him had a gentle expression that wouldn’t lose to Isshin’s .

For this child to kill his own father –

Time really was a terrifying thing .

The faces of the children in her own class came up in Haruka’s mind .

She didn’t want them to turn out like that . Tobe Kengo’s homeroom teacher must have felt the same way .

'Who’s this?’

Yakumo pointed at another photo .

There were two other boys in that photo .

'This is Ushijima Atsushi-kun,’ said Isshin as he pointed at the photo .

Ushijima Atsushi’s face looked very similar to Tobe Kengo’s, but his mood was the complete opposite . The shadow and light of the same thing . That was how it felt .

'His mother treated him awfully,’ said Yakumo, his hands in tight fists .

'How can you tell?’

'Look at his arms and legs . Those are awful bruises . ’

Just as Yakumo said, there were dark bruises on his arms and thighs . There was also a round burn on the back of his hand . That had probably been from a cigarette .

That’s awful –

'But how do you know it was his mother?’

Haruka asked another question .

They could confirm that there were bruises, but it was difficult to say it was the work of the mother just from a photograph .

It could’ve been the father, and it could also have been bullying from the other kids .

'He doesn’t have a father . Also, when Gotou-san met with his mother, it seemed she was incredibly prejudiced against her son . Though I hadn’t thought she would go so far…’

Yakumo’s expression was twisted to the point Haruka thought he might have felt unwell .

'I don’t know the details either, but it’s as Yakumo says . ’

Isshin was the one who spoke .

'These injuries are already not that bad . When he took off his shirt to change into his gym uniform, sometimes his whole body would be covered in welts . ’


Haruka’s chest felt tight .

'Even if we asked why, he wouldn’t say anything . He probably just took it silently . A kid that age would have nowhere to go but home…’

Isshin looked pained .

'Who’s next to Ushijima-kun?’

Yakumo pointed at the other boy to clear the suffocating atmosphere .

'He’s Oomori Hironori . ’

Isshin answered after checking the photo . The boy looked a bit like Masato –

'So that kid’s dad was also in the same grade… Seems possible . ’

Yakumo had a sharp look in his eyes .

What Yakumo said just now – so he really was Masato’s father? The moment she looked at the album again to check the photo, Haruka saw someone else whose face was similar .

'The person in this photo…’

Haruka pointed at the teacher standing in the middle of the group photo .

'That’s the homeroom teacher Konno-sensei . ’

Haruka swallowed her breath when she heard Isshin’s answer . Was this just a coincidence –

'What is it?’

When Yakumo looked at the album, he immediately noticed Konno and furrowed his brows .

'This guy is the vice principal…’

Haruka nodded .

'Konno-sensei became the vice principal?’

'He’s a pretty arrogant guy . How was he when he was your homeroom teacher?’

'Konno-sensei was always like that . He scolded me a number of times too . Plus, there were some girls who said Konno-sensei molested them…’ said Isshin to nobody in particular as he scratched his chin .

'Tobe Kengo, Ushijima Atsushi, Oomori Hironori and the vice principal . For the people related to the case to all be present…’

Yakumo put his index finger to his brow .




Ishii was running –

He was frantically running after Gotou, but he couldn’t catch up no matter how much he ran .

His back was drenched in sweat . It hurt to breathe . His legs were trembling .

'Ishii-san, you are you . ’

He heard Anna’s voice in his ears .

A doubt had sprouted within Ishii because of those words .

Why was he chasing after Gotou?

No matter how much he ran, he couldn’t catch him . The reason for that was simple – he wasn’t Gotou .

The person called Ishii Yuutarou could never become Gotou Kazutoshi .

The moment he had that doubt, he lost his footing and fell forwards .

Gotou’s back was getting farther and farther away –

But Ishii didn’t have the willpower to stand up and chase Gotou .

– I am Ishii Yuutarou .

He slowly stood up, turned around and started walking down the road he had taken .

His gait was light .

Suddenly, a dark shadow appeared in Ishii’s path, blocking his way .

Gotou stood imposingly, occupying Ishii’s route .

’D-Detective Gotou…’

Ishii stepped back .

'Why didn’t you follow me…’

Gotou’s voice shook the air and reverberated to the bottom of Ishii’s stomach .

'No, I, er…’

He couldn’t think of an excuse – he was just confused .

'Because of you…’

When he said that, the stomach area of Gotou’s white shirt was dyed red before his eyes .

That’s blood –

’D-Detective Gotou . ’

'Because of you, I…’

Before he finished his words, Gotou collapsed, face-up .


’D-Detective Gotouuu!’ shouted Ishii as he jumped up .

'You’re so noisy in the morning!’

Gotou’s fist fell upon Ishii’s head .

Ishii’s wavering consciousness was brought back to reality . When he looked around, he saw that he was in the usual Unsolved Cases Special Investigations Room .

A dream –

It appeared that he’d worked until morning and fallen asleep at his desk . This was the second time he’d seen this dream . He had a bad feeling about it .

'I’m heading out . ’

Gotou grabbed his jacket and headed for the door .

'W-where to?’

'Yakumo’s . ’

'Ah, but the questioning…’

'Do it yourself,’ said Gotou one-sidedly, and then he briskly left the room .

Ishii just watched his back leave silently –




In the morning, classes were to be held as normal .

Though Komai’s funeral service was in the afternoon, only Haruka and the year-head teacher were to attend .

The guardians were notified through letters that another teacher would come next week .

Until then, other teachers would take Class 5-4 in turns, and Haruka’s training would continue as well .

Haruka felt uncomfortable with how people were acting as if nothing had happened when she attended the morning meeting .

'Is this really OK?’

Haruka asked that question to Yokouchi, who stood beside her .

'Unfortunately, this is the normal response,’ replied Yokouchi with a shrug .

At the board meeting, it appeared that the question was not the teacher’s motivations or sadness but whether there was any danger to the children .

Haruka felt that was the right way of looking at it .

However, she just couldn’t accept how the homeroom teacher’s death had just been vaguely cleared away .

'Please engage in class without relaxing your attention . ’

With that remark from Konno, the morning meeting came to an end .

What an odd expression . Would anybody relax their attention after somebody they knew died –

As if he had heard what Haruka was saying in her heart, Konno turned his gaze towards her .

It wasn’t like she had anything to be guilty of, but she felt a chill down her spine .

'Trainee teacher . ’

'Yes . ’

Haruka stood up straight and accepted Konno’s cold gaze .

'This is an important time . Don’t cause any more problems . ’

It felt like he was saying everything was her fault .

She wanted to object, but this person wasn’t the type to listen to other people . If she gave her opinion, she would just get into a fight .

'Yes sir . ’

She gave Konno a fierce look, the most defiance she could muster .

Konno made a loud click with his tongue and walked past Haruka .

'Ozawa-san, let’s go . ’

Yokouchi spoke up to her .


'Honestly, please get it together . I’m in charge of class for first period . ’

'Ah, sorry . ’

Haruka hurriedly left the staff room with Yokouchi .

While walking down the corridor, she recalled the conversation she had had with Yakumo last night .

They had found out many new facts, but that didn’t mean they could see the truth .

It felt like they were walking in circles in a forest blanketed with fog .

A vague anxiety spread through her heart like ripples –

After entering the classroom, Haruka stood at the teacher’s desk and took in a deep breath .

'Good morning . ’

She consciously acted cheerfully . However, the children didn’t have much of a reaction . Just a few of them responded in quiet voices .

She looked at the third seat from the back by the window .

Masato had his head on the desk . His shoulders were shaking, as if he were cold .




'Sorry to bother!’

Gotou opened the door to Yakumo’s secret hiding place .

'How many times do I…’

'Shut up . I’m tired of hearing it . ’

Gotou interrupted Yakumo’s words .

Damn, he knows already, but he keeps on saying the same thing –

'So what did you come here for?’ said Yakumo with a yawn .

This brat –

'You’re the one who called me here!’

Yakumo put his fingers in his ears pointedly as he looked at Gotou, who was yelling to the point veins were popping out .

For somebody who’d asked Gotou to come because it was an emergency, Yakumo was incredibly calm .

'What a poor mind you must have if you can’t understand jokes . I pity you . ’

Ah, he just said whatever the hell he wanted to . It had been a joke? It was just harassment .

Gotou sat on the chair and crossed his legs .

'Just say what you want . ’

'By the way, is Ishii-san not with you?’

Yakumo combed his fringe .

'Hey . I headed off by myself because you called me out so suddenly . We’ve got a lot of things to do too . ’

Yakumo replied to Gotou’s grumbling with a yawn .

Honestly . Gotou wished Yakumo would take things a bit more seriously .

'Other investigation? What are you doing?’ asked Yakumo, sounding incredibly disinterested .

Gotou wanted to tell him not to ask if he didn’t care, but he restrained himself .

'Ushijima Harue . ’

'What do you plan to ask her?’

The corners of Yakumo’s lips twisted, like he had eaten something unpleasant .

'Harue thinks her son was killed by Tobe in the fire twenty-eight years ago . ’

'Do you suspect her?’

'Yeah . No physical evidence for it . Anyway, I plan on talking to the workers at the care home she’s at . ’

Yakumo raised an eyebrow while listening to Gotou’s explanation .

'Is that your opinion or that of the rumoured psychiatrist?’

He really was sharp .

'The opinion of the psychiatrist lady . ’

'I see… More importantly, how is the matter I asked you to do?’

Yakumo continued talking, though he looked discontent .

This morning, Yakumo requested that he look into people related to the Tobe family and call for them .

'I got some info so I went all the way there to look into it . ’

'Thank you for your hard work . ’

Everything this guy said was irritating .

'I contacted the woman who used to be the Tobe family housekeeper . ’

Since somebody in the investigation department had gone to talk to her before for the chain of incidents, Gotou was able to confirm the address right away .

'Well done . ’

'An investigation team member already talked to her though . ’

'That’s fine . I’m the one who wants to talk to her . ’

'You plan on meeting her?’

'That is the plan . ’

Yakumo stood up with a yawn .

Since Gotou had figured out that was what Yakumo meant when he said to call for them, he wasn’t surprised .

But I don’t understand –

'Is that housekeeper related to the case somehow?’

Yakumo didn’t reply – the corners of his lips just turned up in a smirk .

That response – could it be?

’D-did you already figure out the puzzle behind the case?’

Gotou approached Yakumo with ragged breathing .

'I’m going to say this first, but my objective isn’t solving the case . ’


'It’s to lift the curse on a boy called Masato . ’

Oi, oi – was that a joke?

Gotou had been cooperating since he thought that Yakumo would help solve the puzzle behind the case, but this was a waste of his efforts .

'You better stop underestimating the police . I don’t care about some curse on some kid,’ said Gotou, clearly angry .

'In order to lift the curse, I need to solve the puzzle behind the case . ’

What a slow way of saying things .

I’m tired of being waved around –




After Ishii arrived at the care home, he went to the drawing room by the reception area .

'I met you before too, didn’t I? My name is Yonemitsu . ’

The care worker that had showed him to Harue last time he came was sitting on the opposite sofa .

Perhaps it was the uniform, but he seemed gentle and friendly .

'My name is Ishii . I’m from the Setamachi precinct . Thank you for meeting with me today . ’

Ishii returned the greeting and introduced himself again .

'This is about Ushijima Harue, yes?’

Ishii had been wondering how to explain, but Yonemitsu brought the topic up himself, which helped Ishii out .

'Yes . Has there been anything odd about her lately?’

Even while he said it, he thought the question was vague .

You needed to be good at talking to get information from the other party for an investigation . However, Ishii had no sense for conversation .

He couldn’t read the other party . He didn’t know when to pause . He didn’t know when to withdraw either, which was fatal .

'Rather than recently, er, she’s been strange ever since she came here . ’

That was somebody who usually talked to the elderly for you .

Yonemitsu took Ishii’s awkward words and gave a firm reply .

'Could you tell specific examples?’

'She often leaves without permission . ’

Yonemitsu covered his head with his hands, like he really felt troubled .


'Yes . She wasn’t there when I went to her room this morning . ’

'Does she leave by herself?’

'Yes . The police have called in the night before . That was why I was nervous when you came last time – I thought maybe she had done something again . ’

The hidden meaning behind Yonemitsu’s words was that Harue could leave at any time .

That made Anna’s theory more plausible .

'How frequently does this occur on average?’

'Hm…’ Yonemitsu’s gaze wandered as he thought .

'She disappears about three times a week . ’

Three times a week – that was fairly frequent .

'Is there anything else?’

'Of course . Ah, we’re really troubled . If she had a family, I’d have a complaint or two . ’

Yonemitsu looked truly troubled as he scratched the back of his neck .

'Would you let me hear about it?’

Ishii leant forward .

'Actually, er, we haven’t told the police about this before but well… fire . ’

'Fire, is it?’

'Yes, fire . I don’t know where she got it, but she lights the sheets and desk with a lighter . ’


'Our facility is non-smoking, so we have heat-sensitive fire alarms . It wasn’t anything major, but we really are troubled…’

Ishii was agitated and listened to Yonemitsu with open eyes .

This was an amazing find . There was almost no doubt about it now .

Ushijima Harue was the one who lit Tobe’s corpse . She had always been waiting for a chance for revenge for her son .

When Tobe was pursued by the police, her chance came –

He had circumstantial evidence . All he needed now was physical evidence . Even if he couldn’t find any, with Anna’s cooperation, it would be possible to build a case .

This had become something amazing .




The old woman keeps going on and on –

That was Gotou’s first impression of Noda Fumiko, the previous housekeeper for the Tobe family .

Even though she was almost seventy already, she kept on talking about pointless things .

It had already been thirty minutes since he’d gone into the house of Fumiko, who lived alone after her husband died five years ago .

He had no interest in the story of her eloping with her husband, but she gave him no chance to bring up his topic .

Even Yakumo had a bitter smile on his face .

'You think so too, yes?’

Fumiko pressed Gotou for agreement .

Even if she asked that, he didn’t know how to respond since he hadn’t been listening .

'Ah, well, that’s right . ’

He gave a vague response .

However, that seemed to rub Fumiko the wrong way, since she turned away with a displeased expression .

'Ma'am, this person is a blockhead whose only worth is his savageness, so talking to him is a waste of time . ’

Yakumo smiled faintly as he mocked Gotou .

Who was a blockhead? He was talking pretty big for a monster cat whose only worth was his cynicism .

'He’s obviously a blockhead . He’s in the way just by being here . Just like my husband was . ’

Oi, old woman . If you say any more, I’ll turn you into a dust cloth!

Gotou yelled in his heart . After Yakumo glanced at Gotou, who was restraining his anger, he finally brought up the topic at hand .

'By the way, ma'am . I heard that the Tobe husband and wife had a wonderful romance and marriage, just like you . ’

'Who said something like that? He was a money-monger . The young miss was unlucky to be caught by a man like that . ’

Fumiko slapped her thighs, like she was going to start a comic story .

'Is that so?’

Yakumo looked purposefully surprised .

It really made Gotou admire him . Normally, Yakumo was blunt and didn’t mince matters, but when necessary, he could act as he needed to for the other party .

'That man tricked the young miss and wormed his way into to the Tobe family to do whatever he wanted . He became an executive in the company, but he just lazed about all year round . ’

'What an awful man . ’

Yakumo’s cheek twitched in plain displeasure .

It was probably an act to get info from the other party .

'On top of that, he was unrivalled in his womanising ways . He even asked for me a number of times . ’

'If it were you, Fumiko-san, I’d do the same . ’

Oi, oi . Was that really OK, Yakumo? Haruka-chan would cry from shock if she heard that .

'It doesn’t matter anymore . Fortunately, I’m an unmarried woman now . ’

'I see,’ said Yakumo with a smile, humouring her, and then he put the conversation back on track .

'But why didn’t the young miss divorce him?’

'The young miss had a big heart . And sometimes the worse the man is, the better they look . My husband was the same . He drank and gambled…’

'The master must have disliked it . ’

The conversation was going off-topic again, but Yakumo forced it back .

'Of course . The master knew very well what sort of man that man was, after all . He tried to persuade the young miss many a time . ’

'Is that so…’

'He didn’t want the inheritance to go to that man . That’s why he transferred the right of inheritance in his will to his grandson, Kengo-kun, and had a trustee take care of it until he was of age . ’

'He didn’t want to hand over the inheritance no matter what,’ muttered Gotou .

'That’s right . It was so thorough that if Kengo-kun died before he was of age, all of it would be donated to charity . ’

If, like this old woman said, Tobe Kengo’s father, Tobe Masashi, had married for the inheritance, that will would have derailed his plans .

'Why the grandson rather than the daughter?’

Yakumo voiced his doubts .

That was odd . If he didn’t want to give the inheritance to his son-in-law, he could have just made his daughter the inheritor .

'The young miss had fallen ill from terrible diabetes a little while after giving birth to Kengo-kun . To say the truth, she could have died at any time . ’


'On top of that, since she had such a big heart, he might have been able to cajole her into giving it over . ’

'I see . ’

Yakumo scratched his chin and then nodded like he understood .

It appeared that the Tobe family had been a very complex household, but did that have anything to do with the case?

In contrast to Gotou’s doubt, Yakumo put his left index finger to his brow and smiled in satisfaction –




Gotou left Fumiko’s home . The moment he got into the car, his mobile phone rang .

'Who is it!?’

<E-er, this is the detective Ishii . >

He heard Ishii’s hesitant voice from his mobile .

What an idiot, as usual . Of course –

'I know that!’

<Ah, yes . Please excuse me . >

Gotou didn’t care about the chitchat – he just wanted him to get to the point already . Honestly . He’d smack Ishii if he were in front of him .

'So what is it?’

Gotou took his cigarette case from his pocket and took a cigarette out with his mouth, but Yakumo from the passenger seat immediately reached out .

What? One was OK, wasn’t it?

<Er, actually according to the care worker, Harue-san frequently leaves the care home without permission . Also, she has set fire to the sheets and desk before . >

'What did you say!?’

If what Ishii said were true, Anna’s theory would be spot on .

<Er… Detective Gotou, have you found any new information?>

Ishii asked his question as hesitant as always .

'No luck here . ’

Gotou glanced at Yakumo in the passenger seat . He let out a big yawn, like he didn’t know what Gotou was thinking .

What came next was up to Yakumo .

<E-er… I was thinking of going to Sasaki Mental Health to ask for the doctor’s opinion…>

Just this time, that sounded more credible than Yakumo .

'Got it . Go ahead . ’

Gotou hung up .

'Gotou-san, is that psychiatrist somebody that is usually requested?’

Yakumo looked sour, like there was something he didn’t agree with .

'Who knows? I’m not sure . ’

Normally, if they thought the suspect wasn’t of sound mind, there would be a simple evaluation . If it couldn’t be determined from that, the prosecutor would call in an expert .

Gotou had no way of knowing what criteria they used to select their experts .

'Gotou-san, could you confirm whether that psychiatrist is somebody that is usually requested, or if that isn’t the case, by what method was she requested?’

If he asked Miyagawa, he could probably ask the prosecutor . But –

'Why is that necessary?’

'It’s piqued my interest . ’

Honestly, it was tiring having to do all this for such a vague reason .

Though Gotou was dissatisfied, he took out his mobile phone and punched in Miyagawa’s number .




Haruka ran in her irritation .

Come lunchtime, Masato disappeared from the classroom –

It was time for her to leave school for Komai’s funeral service, but she was struck by the impulse to find Masato and bring him back .

She explained the situation simply to the year-head teacher who had planned on going with her and ran down the corridor to look for Masato .

She had an idea as to where he was .

She ran up all the stairs at once and went out onto the rooftop .

Just as I thought –

She spotted Masato’s back . He was looking out while leaning against the fence . His back really was like Yakumo’s .

'What can you see from there?’

Haruka called out while approaching .

She thought that he’d be a bit surprised, but Masato had no response, as if he had known Haruka would come .

Haruka stood beside Masato and looked at the same view .

Looking at the town from a tall place like this made it seem like what she was looking at was a picture . It didn’t feel real .

'Do you like it here?’

She couldn’t expect an answer . Haruka had known that when she said it .

'Don’t come any more…’ said Masato, in a voice that sounded as if it would disappear at any moment . Rather than a refusal, his words sounded like a plea .


'I’m cursed . You’ll die too, sensei . ’

Masato was looking down . His shoulders shook like he was holding back tears .

Haruka hugged Masato’s shaking shoulders, enveloping them .

'It’s all right . Your curse will be lifted, Masato-kun . ’

Haruka murmured into Masato’s ears .

'You’re lying! That’s just a lie!’

Masato yelled in a temper and waved his limbs about to get away from Haruka .

'It isn’t a lie . ’

'It is… I’m a killer . Since you’ve never killed anyone, sensei, there’s no way you can understand me…’

Masato’s words struck Haruka’s core, and the pain spread through her body .

Did this child really kill someone –

I don’t understand the situation, so I don’t know what to say . But –

'I’ve killed someone before too . ’

Masato gaped, and his eyes were as big as saucers as he looked up at Haruka .

It’s true . I’ve killed someone before .

I killed my older twin sister . Because of my childish jealousy, I threw a ball far away to trouble her . When she went to get it, she was hit by a car and died .

My evil heart killed my sister –

'I’m cursed like you are, Masato-kun . ’

Ever since that accident, Haruka had carried the sin of having killed her sister . She hadn’t told anybody, and had lived with that shut away in her heart .

I can’t become happy . I can’t do what I want .

After all, I stole my sister’s happiness – Haruka lived while blaming herself .

That was Haruka’s curse –

'But that guy, you know . Yakumo . He lifted my curse . ’

The curse Haruka had carried for so many years had been lifted by meeting Yakumo .

That contrary person had released her from the curse, as if by magic .

'You remember too, right, Masato-kun? The man with terrible bedhead that you met before . He’ll definitely lift your curse too . So…’

Haruka crouched to look Masato in the eyes and tried to hug those small shoulders .

However, Masato put his hands in front of him to stop her .

'It’s too late . Everything’s going to end today anyway…’

Masato turned around and ran off .

Haruka couldn’t move a step, as if she had been frozen in place .

It’s too late –

Those words of Masato echoed again and again in her ears .

Are we unable to lift his curse – that couldn’t be . There had to still be time .

Right, Yakumo?




Ishii sat across from Anna in the counselling room .

How many times have I come to this room –

While telling Anna the information he’d heard at the care home, that thought suddenly came across Ishii’s mind .

When he came to this room, Ishii felt fulfilled . He felt at home .

He could speak so smoothly, as if his hesitant self with no confidence was a lie . Rather than the mood of the room, it might have been Anna that made him feel that way .

That was a psychiatrist for you .

'So that really was the case . ’

When Ishii finished talking, Anna murmured with strong emotions on her face .

With a slow and delicate movement, she took a cigarette in her fingers, lit it with a silver lighter and blew out smoke from her full lips .

Perhaps she wasn’t conscious of it herself, but every one of those gestures was filled with fascinating charm .

'By the way, Ishii-san . Where is Detective Gotou today?’

She had asked the same thing before . It really was troubling .

Gotou didn’t like Anna much . That was what Ishii felt . That’s why he’d gone out of his way to do another investigation .

'Detective Gotou is, er, busy with another matter . ’

'What exactly is that other matter?’

'An investigation . ’

'What investigation is it?’

Ishii had planned on being vague, but Anna pressed for more .

'That is…’

'What is he investigating?’

Of course he couldn’t talk freely about the secrets of the investigation .

In front of Ishii’s troubled eyes, there was a small flame .

Anna had lit her silver lighter and put it in front of Ishii’s eyes .

The flame quivered . Perhaps it was because Ishii hadn’t slept much lately, but that made his eyes blink repeatedly .

'I’ll ask once more . What are the contents of the investigation?’

Anna’s voice sounded far away .


'You can’t hide something from me . ’

That was right . Anna was cooperating with the case . There was no need to hide anything .

'Detective Gotou is questioning somebody . ’


'I don’t know . ’

There was a buzzing in his ears . His body felt heavy .

He was in a hazy state . It was as if he wasn’t the one who was talking .

'You don’t know?’

'I don’t . ’

Ishii hadn’t heard the details either .

'Is Detective Gotou investigating that alone?’

'No . ’

'Somebody is investigating with him . ’

'Yes . ’

'Who is that?’

Ishii really couldn’t say that a detective was conducting an investigation under the orders of a civilian, let alone a university student .

'A certain person . ’


Anna was relentless in her questions .

Why does she want to know that –




Next, Gotou visited an apartment on the corner of a residential street .

There was a bouquet of flowers by the bushes right after he entered the grounds . Did somebody die –

'Hey, Yakumo . What are you investigating?’

Gotou parked his car in the parking lot and turned his eyes towards Yakumo in the passenger seat .

However, Yakumo got off the car briskly without answering .

Ignoring me, eh –

Gotou got off the car as well and followed Yakumo .

Yakumo stopped in front of the automatic doors and crossed his arms in displeasure .

'Gotou-san, it’s an automatic lock . Please open it . ’

Yakumo pointed at the door with his chin .

That really wasn’t the attitude you were supposed to take when asking somebody for a favour .

'If you want me to open it, give me a proper explanation . What are you investigating?’

Yakumo sighed, sounding exasperated .

'Gotou-san, do you really not know?’


'Yesterday, a woman committed suicide by jumping from this apartment . ’

As if I’d know something like that . My hands are full with the current case – I can’t concern myself with others .

Plus, it’s a suicide, right? That’s even more irrelevant . But –

'How’re that suicide and this case related?’

'I’m investigating whether they are . ’

Yakumo looked at Gotou like he couldn’t believe he didn’t even understand that .

'I’m asking what you know . ’

'The woman who committed suicide by jumping was the homeroom teacher of the boy I mentioned before . As well, that boy predicted that homeroom teacher’s death in front of me…’

And then she really died –

So that was how it was . It made sense for Yakumo to think they were related .

'What do you think?’

Yakumo gave Gotou a strong look for his question .

'It is impossible to predict the future . ’

'Of course . ’

'But it is also true that the homeroom teacher died just as the boy said . Either it was a coincidence or that boy knew that she was going to die . ’

'I see . ’

'If it is the latter, I want to know why the boy knew his teacher was going to die . ’

Gotou wants to find out himself .

When Gotou was going to go borrow a key from management, his mobile phone started ringing .

Just when he’d been motivated too – what a pain .

'Who’s it?’

<Hee hee hee . That’s quite a reception . >

Hata said that with a ghastly giggle . He was as creepy as he usually was .

'Old man, what is it? I’m busy . ’

<I’ve got the analysis results for the medicine that Yakumo-kun requested . I thought I’d let you know . >

'Don’t put on airs and just tell me . ’

Damn . What a patronising tone .

Gotou glanced to his side . Yakumo was listening, like he knew what they were talking about .

<It’s zopiclone . >

'What? That a clone of some wild animal?’

<Zopiclone . The sleep-inducing drug . Are your ears already bad at your age? How pitiful . >

'Shut up . ’

There was no reason for him to be pitied by an old man who didn’t have much longer to live .

Yakumo stole Gotou’s mobile phone from the side and started talking .

'Hata-san, it’s Yakumo . There’s something I would like to ask… Have people died after taking that zopiclone?’

'Oi, Yakumo . What are you talking about?’

Gotou spoke, but Yakumo held up his hand to control him .

Yes, yes, Gotou would keep his mouth shut .

'Is that so? Is that drug sold on the market… Then the only way to obtain it without a prescription would be to steal it… I see . Thank you very much . ’

Yakumo hung up and threw the phone back at Gotou .

'Gotou-san, please open up quickly . ’

Not even thanking him, Yakumo said that calmly .

I’ll definitely smack him once the case is over –

Gotou buried his irritation in his stomach and proceeded to the management office with Yakumo .

He told the management he was with the police and explained the situation simply to get the key to Komai’s room .

Komai’s room was on the eighth floor .

It was a one-room flat of ten tatami in size . Cardboard boxes were strewn across the wooden floor .

It looked like the owner was preparing to move .

Her bereaved family were probably in the middle of organising her things .

Yakumo casually began searching through those cardboard boxes, like a cat looking for dinner .

'Oi, Yakumo . Don’t tamper with it too much . What are you going to do if somebody comes back?’

Yakumo stopped for a moment at Gotou’s voice . Even though he was with the police, there was no excuse for if they were spotted going through the deceased’s belongings without permission from the bereaved family .

'It’s fine . They won’t come back for a while,’ said Yakumo, moving his hands again .

'How do you know that?’

'They should be in the middle of the funeral service now . ’

Now Gotou understood . So Yakumo had planned the order for the investigation too .

'What if it ends earlier than expected?’

'That’s fine . Though it might end later, it won’t end earlier . ’

Yakumo started going through the second cardboard box .

'Confident, aren’t you?’

'The person reading the sutras at the funeral service today is somebody I know . I requested that he drag it out as long as possible . ’


'That’s correct . ’

So that was how it was . Isshin, Yakumo’s uncle, was the chief priest at a temple . Then there was no worry of anybody returning any time soon .

Gotou took a cigarette from his pocket .

'Gotou-san, if you have the time to smoke and harm your health, please help out . ’

Yakumo’s eyes narrowed as he combed back his hair .

Honestly . The guy acted like a brother-in-law .

'Even if you tell me to help, what am I supposed to look for?’

'Something that links the woman with this case . ’

That was a vague answer even for Yakumo .

Well, there was no helping it . Gotou would help out . He didn’t know what he was looking for, but he’d look for it .

Gotou took off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves and put his hands on a cardboard box that Yakumo hadn’t touched yet .

'Gotou-san, I found it . ’

What? Just when Gotou had gone out of his way to motivate himself .

'What’d you find?’

Yakumo held out a photo .

In the photo, there were a man and woman who looked to be in their thirties .

'Who are they?’

There was no response to Gotou’s question .

That was because Yakumo’s mobile phone rang and he answered it in the middle of their conversation .

'What? It’s you …’




Haruka left the funeral home partway through the service .

After talking with Masato on the roof, she had gone to Komai’s funeral, but she couldn’t help but be concerned about him .

The year-head teacher sitting beside her had looked at her critically . Haruka had come late and was leaving partway through, so it made sense for her to be looked at that way .

– I killed someone .

The words Masato said wouldn’t leave her head .

Does he really mean that, or –

No matter how much Haruka though, she couldn’t find an answer . But, if it were Yakumo…

After Haruka went out into the parking lot, she took her mobile out of her bag and punched in Yakumo’s number . After two rings, the call connected .

'Hello . ’

<What? It’s you…>

Yakumo’s flat voice came through .

'There’s something that concerns me about Masato-kun . ’

<Keep it short . >

Yakumo’s voice was harder than usual .

'Masato-kun said something strange . ’


'I killed someone, he said…’

There was a short silence . Haruka felt it was very long .

On the other side of the phone, Yakumo had to be thinking something . Haruka gripped her mobile phone tightly and waited for an answer .

<Did that kid really say that?>

'Yeah . ’

<I killed someone…>

Yakumo mulled over those words .

'Hey, is it true?’

<I can’t say anything at this stage . >

She really wanted him to deny it, but just as Yakumo said, they had nothing to determine whether it was true or not .

'Of course…’

<Did he say anything else?>

Haruka recalled the conversation she’d had with Masato . Even something little would be okay – she just wanted a clue . It was a desperate thought .

That’s right –

'Everything’s going to end today… He said that . ’

<Everything’s going to end today…>

'Yup . ’

< That’s bad . >

The tone of Yakumo’s voice had clearly changed .

Even through a phone, it was obvious that he was in a hurry .

'Yakumo-kun, is there anything I can do?’

<OK, listen well . There’s only one thing you can do . >

'What is it?’

<Go right home and stay there . Don’t even think about doing anything . >

Yakumo’s tone made it sound like he was giving an order .

'Hey, what’s going to happen to Masato-kun?’

<Anyway, go home . >

Yakumo forced the conversation to end by hanging up .

The dry wind howled as it passed Haruka by . She had a bad feeling about this –

Haruka couldn’t just stay still . She started running like something was chasing her .




'What’s wrong?’

Gotou spoke after Yakumo hung up .

Yakumo had probably been talking to Haruka . From Yakumo’s expression, it was probably about the boy called Masato .

'No, it’s nothing . It seemed like a troublemaker was going to go on a rampage, so I gave her a warning . ’

Yakumo looked down while pinching his brow with his fingers and started muttering .

'Escape… burnt corpse… sleep medication… left hand… curse…’

Gotou didn’t know what that list of words meant .

Yakumo’s muttering stopped .

Yakumo looked up suddenly with a grim expression that made him look like a different person .

That keen gaze shot through Gotou, making him feel a shiver down his spine .

Could this guy have –

'Solved the puzzle?’

'No, not yet . However, I can now see the general framework of the case . ’


'Yes . ’

'Explain . ’

Gotou gripped Yakumo’s shoulders and shook them .

'I’ll explain on the way . There isn’t much time . ’

Yakumo brushed aside Gotou’s hands and left the room .

Honestly . The guy just did whatever he wanted . Gotou hurriedly followed after him .


After Gotou left the apartment, he sat in the driver seat of his car and looked at Yakumo in the passenger seat . He still looked grim .

'So where should we go?’

'Our first priority is to protect the boy called Masato . ’

Gotou could tell from Yakumo’s voice that his nerves were on edge .

'Do you know his address?’

'The apartment in front of the park on 3-chome . ’

Gotou stepped on the accelerator instead of replying .

'Is that boy in danger?’

'This is just my reasoning, but at this rate, he’ll die . He knows that himself . ’

Yakumo said something awful in a disinterested voice .

Gotou couldn’t tell from Yakumo’s expression whether the kid’s knowledge of his death meant that someone was going to kill him or that he was going to kill himself .

'Can you explain what you mean?’

'The beginning of this case goes back twenty-eight years . ’

The fire that occurred at the elementary school –

So that really was the start? But that made the theory Anna said seem more real .

'So the culprit is Harue?’

'That’s wrong . ’

An immediate answer .

Yakumo wouldn’t put any theories he wasn’t confident of into words . If he said it, there was probably no doubt about it .

'What do you mean?’

'Tobe Kengo is Ushijima Atsushi . ’

'So Tobe did have dissociative identity disorder?’

'Like I said, that’s wrong . ’

Yakumo ran his hand through his hair in his irritation .

'Explain it in a way I can understand!’ Gotou flared up at Yakumo in his anger .

Exasperated, Yakumo shook his head and started explaining, though he seemed reluctant .

'Tobe Kengo died in the fire twenty-eight years ago . ’


'That is, the person who the police believe to be Tobe Kengo is Ushijima Atsushi . They switched places during the fire twenty-eight years ago . ’

Gotou’s face froze in his surprise .

What was he saying? That was ridiculous . Yakumo’s idea was too extraordinary .

'There’s no way they could just switch places so easily . What proof do you have to say that?’

'There are several reasons . It’ll be troublesome to explain them all, so I will show you something conclusive . ’

After Yakumo declared that, he took a photo out of his pocket and placed it on the dashboard . While driving with one hand, Gotou took the photo with the other .

It was an old photo . It seemed to have been taken during a field trip or something . There were four boys .

'From the right, there’s Masato’s father, Oomori Hironori, Ushijima Atsushi, Tobe Kengo and my uncle on the left . ’

So he’d gotten it from Isshin? It was the first time Gotou had seen a photo of the young Tobe Kengo and Ushijima Atsushi, but their faces were very similar .

The difference that stood out was the mole on the cheek .

Mole – wait a second .

While handling the wheel, Gotou opened the glove compartment and tried to take the case file out . However, his hand slipped and most of the contents spilled out into the car .

Luckily, he was able to get what he was aiming for .

The photo of Tobe Kengo that was taken when he was arrested .

Though the left half of his face was burnt, there was a mole on his cheek . In the photo of his childhood, the one with the mole on the cheek was – not Tobe Kengo, but Ushijima Atsushi .

For a moment, his vision went blank .

'You’ve noticed then . ’

Yakumo smirked .

What the hell? Gotou’s hands were shaking . He hadn’t even thought of people switching places . A cold sweat ran down his forehead .

'But how…’

Finally, Gotou said just that .

'First, please recall the testimony of the firefighter . When the firefighter went in, one of the boys was already burnt . ’

'Yeah . ’

'Then, the firefighter was able to determine that the one who was still alive was Tobe Kengo from the toy he was holding, which had the name written on it, and because the boy himself had called himself that . ’

That was right . The firefighter had said that .

It could be explained if Ushijima Atsushi stole the toy from Tobe Kengo . But –

'Even if the firefighter said that, the people around should’ve noticed . ’

'Have you forgotten? Half his face was burnt . That became his camouflage . Then, he changed schools and didn’t approach the friends he had been close to . ’

The way Yakumo said it, it might have been possible to trick the people nearby . But –

'His family would’ve noticed, right?’

'Tobe’s mother had severe diabetes . She probably had the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy and could see virtually nothing . ’

'She couldn’t see…’

'Probably not . Furthermore, since it was near the end, she was probably so weak she couldn’t move . If that was the case, she wouldn’t have been able to confirm properly . ’

It sounded more and more plausible, but there was still a hole in Yakumo’s argument .

'Then how about the dad? He should’ve been healthy . ’

Since he was agitated, the hand he gripped the wheel with was sweaty .

'Of course the father knew that his son had been switched . ’

Gotou was so surprised that he didn’t see the traffic light and cut through a red light . Honks rang all around .

'Don’t be ridiculous . You saying he knew but kept quiet?’ shouted Gotou angrily as he hit the wheel .

He himself didn’t know what he was angry at .

'Please recall what Fumiko-san the housekeeper said . ’

Yakumo was extremely calm .

'What about that old woman?’

'Tobe Kengo’s father, Masashi-san, would have been in a bad situation if his son died . ’

'The inheritance…’

'That’s right . ’

The Tobe family inheritance was to go to the grandson, Kengo, skipping over the son-in-law, Masashi .

If his wife and son died, the inheritance would be donated . That was why he kept quiet .

'Are you saying he lived with some other person’s kid for money even though his own son had died?’

'That is slightly incorrect . ’

Gotou was once again confused by Yakumo’s words .

'What’s incorrect about it? That’s what you said . ’

'This is my theory, but I think that Tobe Kengo and Ushijima Atsushi had the same father . In short, both were Masashi’s children . ’

Gotou recalled Ushijima Harue’s history .

She’d had a lover . Had he been Tobe Kengo –

But if that was the case, it would explain a number of things .

'After the two changed, there was a complete change in Kengo’s personality, but it was vaguely accepted as something caused by the shock from the fire . ’

'Treating him with kid gloves then?’

'Furthermore, nobody looked too closely at that face, which had been so terribly burnt . ’

A number of coincidences overlapped, and this terrible swap occurred –

Gotou felt sick just thinking about it .

'Why did Ushijima Atsushi call himself Tobe Kengo when he was rescued from the fire?’

'It’s in that composition . ’

'I want to become Tobe-kun…’

'Yes . Ushijima Atsushi wanted to be Tobe Kengo . He was attached to him . ’


'Though they were the children of the same father, one of them lived in great comfort while the other was abused daily by his mother . He probably felt a great contradiction in that difference, which warped his mind . ’

So Ushijima Atsushi’s childhood aspiration had been fulfilled –




It was dark by the time Haruka returned to the school .

Only the staff room was lit .

Yakumo had told Haruka to go straight home, but there was no way she could do that .

Masato had said that everything would end today . Was that child going to suddenly disappear from in front of her? That worry wouldn’t leave Haruka’s head . She couldn’t stay still .

Even though she’d returned to the school, it wasn’t as if she had a clue as to how to solve the case .

When Haruka started going up the stairs to head to the staff room, she suddenly felt a gaze on her and looked up .

There was a boy on the second floor landing .

It wasn’t Masato .

That boy looked down at Haruka with a smile .

'Hurry home . ’

When she spoke to him, the boy beckoned her .

He’s telling me to come –

The boy hopped up a number of stairs and then turned around to beckon her again .

Haruka followed that boy up the stairs, just as he invited her to .

'Hey, wait . ’

Even though Haruka called out to him, the boy didn’t stop and just continued going up the stairs .

I’ve seen this child before –

It was the child who had been looking down at her from the second floor window .

Finally, they climbed up to the fourth floor and went out into the corridor . The boy stood about five metres ahead of Haruka in the corridor and was smiling as always .

Mysteriously, the boy’s body was faintly lit up even though they were in the dark .

'Hey, what’s your name?’

When Haruka called out to him, the boy started running .

'Hey, wait a minute . ’

Haruka started running too, but she stopped and turned around because she felt something was odd .

Even though the boy should have been in front of her, she heard laughter from behind her .

She turned around again in her confusion . The boy hopped in place and beckoned her, as if to say, 'Faster, faster!’

He was in front of Class 5-4’s classroom .

'Hey, what are you doing?’

The boy didn’t reply to Haruka’s question . He went into the classroom, as if he disappeared .

That child didn’t open the door –

Haruka gripped the necklace with the red stone she was wearing and slowly and determinedly opened the door .

Nobody was in the moonlit room .

Had that child been a ghost?

Bewildered, Haruka looked at the classroom with its neatly lined-up desks .

Suddenly, she noticed something white on top of a desk . It was Masato’s seat by the window .

Haruka went between the desks and walked up to Masato’s seat .

It was a white envelope . 'To Haruka-sensei’ was written on it in tottering pencil letters .

'To me…’

Haruka unsealed the letter and took the single piece of paper that had been inside .

<I killed someone . Sorry . >

That was the only thing that was written .


Haruka’s body shook like electricity had gone through it .

It didn’t matter whether this sentence was true or false . Masato was asking her to save him . That was how she felt .

Not just now . He must have always been looking for someone to save him .

Masato probably waited for everyone to go home to put the letter here . Then he might still be around .

Gripping the envelope, Haruka flew out of the room .

I promised him that I’d lift the curse – it’s not a problem of whether I can do something or not . I want to do something for him .

The words Yakumo said rang through her head .

– He doesn’t understand what kindness is . So you should just teach him .




Gotou stood with Yakumo in front of the door to the flat Masato lived in .

Looking at it from the outside, it appeared to be a flat for a single person . It felt too small for a parent and child .

'The lights are off . ’

Yakumo peered in from the window .

Are they out – well, it’d be quicker to check rather than to think about it .

Gotou pressed the intercom button by the door .

He waited for a while, but there was no response .

'I’m with the Setamachi precinct . Anyone here?’

He called out while knocking, but that was no good either .

They were definitely out then . He gave the doorknob a try .

It opened –

There was a dark room beyond the door .

Right after entering, there was a kitchen, and ahead was a six-tatami room .

Yakumo left Gotou’s side and entered the room .

He had some nerve trespassing right in front of a detective’s eyes .

Gotou flicked the switch on the wall .

'What the hell is this?’

Gotou unconsciously spoke up when he saw the kitchen in the light .

This is surprising – the kitchen was empty . The fridge and microwave were of course, but there wasn’t any cookware or tableware .

Gotou had heard that lately there were more people who wouldn’t cook and would just eat convenience store lunchboxes or eat out, but this wasn’t at that level .

Gotou took off his shoes and then headed into the room beyond the kitchen .

He tried the switch by the door, but the lights didn’t turn on . When he looked, he noticed that there wasn’t any light fixture and that there was just a plug .

He could tell that it was just as clean and Spartan as the kitchen even in the dimness .

Yakumo stood in the room with a grim expression on his face .

'They must have moved somewhere . Should we look for where they’ve moved to?’

'It’s no use . ’

Yakumo rejected Gotou’s proposal .

'What do you mean, no use?’

'He probably won’t show up again . That was the original goal, after all . ’


'Oi . Explain properly . ’

Yakumo didn’t reply to Gotou’s question . Instead, he pinched his brow with his fingers while looking down and started muttering .

It was as if he was chanting a spell .

'That kid is somewhere… Why did he have to wait until today… He should have been able to move sooner… Did he have another goal… What… What is it…’

Gotou listened to everything Yakumo said to try to understand, but it was no use .

It seemed all he could do was wait for Yakumo to finish his train of thought .

Gotou took his cigarette case from his pocket and tried to take a cigarette out, but it was empty .

When he turned the case over, brown dregs fell down .

'Damn it . ’

Gotou crushed the cigarette case and threw it .

'I’ve got it . ’

Yakumo suddenly raised his head .

'What? Figured it out?’

Yakumo ignored Gotou again and took his mobile phone out .




Haruka went out in the corridor to look for Masato, but she didn’t know where to start .

Maybe he’s on the roof again like before – but she didn’t have the time to think idly .

When Haruka started walking, her mobile phone rang .

It was from Yakumo . He might have found a clue .

'Hello . ’

<There’s something I want to confirm . Where are you?>

That was the first thing Yakumo said after opening his mouth .

'The school . ’

She thought he would complain since she had stayed behind at the school even though he’d told her to go straight home, but it wasn’t the time to be hiding things .

<I see . Will you listen to my request?>

Yakumo replied readily . And a request too –

'Hey, Yakumo-kun . I’ll listen to any request, but I want to know where Masato-kun is first,’ said Haruka, gripping the letter Masato had left .

<My request concerns where that Masato is . >


<Will you listen?>

'Got it . ’

Yakumo probably had a clue as to where Masato was .

<You said before that Masato stole something from the vice principal . >

'Yeah . ’

Konno had approached Masato for that and thrust him away .

She still didn’t know what Masato had tried to steal .

<Also, you saw that vice principal take something from the pool . Right?>

'Yeah . ’

She’d seen it . Something in a paper bag –

<I want you to confirm what that is . >

'How am I supposed to confirm it?’

<It’s simple . Just sneak into the staff room and borrow it for a bit . >

That’s absurd . Is he telling me to steal it? Plus –

'Finding Masato-kun comes first, right?’

<Masato is probably searching for the same thing . >

'What do you mean?’

<There’s no time to explain in detail . I’m counting on you . >

The conversation felt like a wild goose chase .

'Is this really OK?’

<This is my gut feeling, but as long as you have it, Masato won’t die . >

She didn’t understand even a bit of what Yakumo said, but all she could do now was believe him .

'Got it . ’

<I’m heading there too now . >

'OK . ’

<Let’s lift that boy’s curse . >

Yakumo’s strong words shook Haruka’s heart, and the corner of her eyes felt warm .

Even though Yakumo always made complaints, he helped her with her troubles to the end .

'Thank you…’

When Haruka said that, she hung up .

The dark corridor continued in front of her eyes .

Haruka started running towards that darkness –




Gotou rushed back to the car at Yakumo’s insistence and quickly started the car .

'Could you explain already? My head feels like it’s going to split because there’s too much I don’t understand . ’

Unable to hold back, Gotou pressed Yakumo for answers .

'Before that, how is the matter with the psychiatrist?’

It seemed he didn’t feel like talking right away .

Gotou connected an earphone with a microphone to his mobile phone and called Miyagawa .

<I was just going to call you . >

The call connected after one ring, and he heard Miyagawa’s deep voice .

It appeared that he had results .

'So, how is it?’

There was the sound of documents being flipped through from the other end of the phone .

<Honestly . You’ve got some guts, making your boss work for you . Be prepared – I’m going to beat you into shape after this . >

'Please do as you will . ’

Gotou accepted Miyagawa’s words with a wry smile .

Yakumo, the university student who had ordered around the police, was listening beside him .

<Seems that the psychiatrist this time isn’t the one the prosecutors usually call . The usual doctor was busy and recommended this one . >

'Did anybody meet with that psychiatrist before?’

Yakumo was the one who interrupted .

<Seems that way… Oi . Who are you?>

Though Miyagawa replied to the sudden question, he also retorted .

However, Yakumo continued talking regardless .

'So there wasn’t a direct investigation . ’

<That’s probably the case… and I said, who are you!?>

Miyagawa shouted in anger .

'I apologise . I’ll explain when I return . ’

Since it seemed like it’d become troublesome, Gotou said that one-sidedly and hung up .

He looked at Yakumo again .

He was as pale as a dead man, and he was biting down hard on his lower lip .

There was a faint layer of sweat on his forehead .

'Ishii-san went to see that psychiatrist, correct?’

'Yeah, that’s right . ’

But he’d just gone to explain the situation . He should have returned already .

While Gotou was thinking, Yakumo took Gotou’s mobile phone and started making a call .

'Who’re you calling?’

'Ishii-san . ’

Yakumo gave Gotou a sharp look .

He probably wanted to say that it was obvious, but Gotou didn’t understand why .

'What do you want from Ishii?’

'If we don’t call back Ishii-san immediately, the matter will become serious . ’

Call back? What did he mean?

It seemed like Ishii hadn’t answered the phone . After swearing, Yakumo redialled .

Yakumo’s impatience infected Gotou . He felt like his skin was tingling .

'What happened?’

'You still don’t understand? That doctor is a fake . ’

Yakumo’s lips twisted into a frown .

A fake –

'Explain in Japanese . ’

Just as Gotou said that, the call connected .




Haruka descended to the second floor, where the staffroom was, and looked down the corridor .

The lights were off . It appeared the teachers had already gone home .

Paying attention to her surroundings, Haruka slowly walked towards the staff room while concealing the sound of her footsteps .

When she reached the door, she took in a deep breath . Before letting that breath out, she put her hand on the door handle and slowly opened the door .

She opened the door just wide enough for her body to go through, and she slipped through that gap .

Clatter –

There was the sound of something falling . Haruka jumped and looked instinctively towards where the sound had come from .

She could see a shadow that looked like a boy there .


Haruka spoke up .

She couldn’t see his face in the darkness, but she couldn’t think of anybody else .

The shadow didn’t reply to Haruka’s question . He just stood there while looking down .

After Haruka slowly approached him, she could tell it was definitely Masato .

Masato was standing at Konno’s seat .

– Masato is looking for the same thing .

Yakumo had said that . He had probably tried to steal something from Konno .

Haruka stood in front of Masato, squeezed between the desks and looked at him .

There was a grim air about Masato as he stood there, stock still .

'Masato-kun, I was worried . ’

Haruka reached out to touch Masato’s shoulder .

He was shivering slightly . It felt like he’d break if she put even the slightest bit of force into it . He was gripping something in his hand .

This is what Masato was searching for –

'Sensei’s looking for the same thing you are, Masato-kun . The man from before said we need it to lift your curse . ’

Masato looked up .

His eyes were inflamed and his eyelids were puffy . There were traces of tears on his cheeks .

This child had cried a lot without anybody knowing . though Haruka didn’t know what had happened to him, he must have been crying the whole time in his pain and sadness, wanting somebody to save him .

I’m sorry I couldn’t save you until now –

'Hey, Masato-kun . Could you give what you’re holding in that hand to me?’

Masato just looked at his tightly gripped small fists without responding .

'I promise I’ll lift your curse, Masato-kun . ’

Don’t make promises you can’t keep . She felt like she could hear Yakumo saying that .

But she wasn’t saying that carelessly . Haruka was prepared to follow through .

'Really…?’ said Masato with a snivel .

'Really . Do you know about pinky promises?’

Haruka held out her right little finger towards Masato . Masato nodded and linked it with his own .

That moment, the lights turned on in the staff room . For a moment, Haruka’s vision went right because it was so bright . Somebody had come .

Haruka blinked a few times and then looked at the door .

'Why are you getting in my way?’

Konno was standing there . His cheek was twitching .

'Why are you getting in the way of my fun?’

Konno went in between the desks straight for them .

'Konno-sensei . ’

'I need to discipline you two . ’

When Konno was right by them, he raised his right hand .

That hand was gripping a hammer .

'We’re going to run . ’

The moment Haruka said that, she gripped Masato’s hand, turned around and started running .

She flew into the corridor from the other door .

When she looked around, she saw Konno following right behind them .

Yakumo’s going to be here soon . I need to hold on until then somehow –




I can hear an intermittent electronic sound –

Ishii was vacantly aware . After a while, the sound stopped with a snap .

His vision became clearer like a focussing camera .

He rubbed his eyes and looked around . He recognised this room . He was sitting on the sofa in Anna’s counselling room .

He appeared to have fallen asleep .

When had he fallen asleep? He couldn’t remember . His head kind of hurt .

Anna wasn’t in the room .

The electronic sound started again . His mobile phone was ringing in his pocket .

Ishii took out the phone and saw Gotou’s name on the display . Come to think of it, he hadn’t contacted him at all . Ishii hurriedly answered the phone .

'Hello, Ishii speaking . ’

<Are you OK?>

The voice he heard from the phone was not Gotou’s but Yakumo’s .


<It’s me . Yakumo . Ishii-san, are you OK?>

Why was Yakumo using Gotou’s mobile phone, and what did he mean by OK?

'E-er… I’m OK,’ answered Ishii, though he didn’t understand .

Yakumo sighed in relief .

<Ishii-san, where are you right now?>

'Ah, er, I’m at Sasaki Mental Health . ’

<Please leave the building immediately . >

Yakumo-shi sounded cornered, which was unusual for him .

Normally, he was aloof, so for him to be so impatient –

'E-er… did something happen?’

<Just get out of there right now, please . Ishii-san, you are in incredible danger right now . >

Danger? I am? Why?

Doubts kept coming up in Ishii’s head .

'I think I’m very much safe though . ’

<Listen, the psychiatrist called Sasaki is a fake . She’s an imposter . >

Imposter – Anna was? That’s ridiculous . I mean, that person –

Ishii felt a presence behind him and turned around .

Anna was standing behind him with a wide smile .


Anna took the mobile from Ishii’s hand as he started to speak and spoke on the phone herself .

What on earth –

'So you’re Yakumo-kun…’

Anna started speaking, ignoring Ishii’s confusion .

'Who am I, you ask… ? I’ll tell you if you come alone… I’ll be waiting here with Ishii-san . ’

After Anna said that, she put the mobile phone on the carpet, raised her left foot and stepped on it with her heel .

'W-what are you…’

Ishii hurriedly picked up the mobile, but it had split in half and the screen was broken – it couldn’t be used .

Anna gracefully sat down on the opposite sofa, crossed her long and supple legs and combed back her black hair .

'It seems that I will have to bid you farewell, Ishii-san . ’

The eyes looking at Ishii didn’t even have a whit of the gentleness that they’d had before .

The eyes were so cold they chilled Ishii’s body to the core .

Anna lit a cigarette and blew a thin line of smoke from her glossy lips .

Was Yakumo telling the truth earlier –

Then who was the person in front of him?

Though it was delayed, a strange terror came over him and he half-rose to his feet .

At that moment, there was a dull thump .

Ishii’s head shook and he fell to the carpet .

He felt a dull pain in his head . While pressing a hand against it, he looked up to see Anna standing with a cigarette in her mouth and a glass ashtray in her hand .

Did she hit me with that –

His hand felt wet . When he looked at it, he saw that his palm was dyed red .

This is – my blood .

Anna looked down scornfully at Ishii on his hands and knees . Her eyes were filled with disgust, as if she were looking at a cockroach .

'Please settle down . Men in a fluster are unsightly . ’




'Damn it!’

Yakumo threw the mobile phone forcefully .

The mobile phone hit the front glass and split in half .

'You bastard! How many times do you have to break my mobile before you’re satisfied!?’

Gotou shouted in anger, but Yakumo just covered his face with his hands and looked up at the ceiling .

This is unusual – did something happen to Ishii?

'Yakumo, what happened?’

After Gotou calmed down, he asked that question .

'Ishii-san’s been caught . ’

'Caught? By who?’

'The psychiatrist . ’

'That’s ridiculous…’

'It’s the truth . ’

'What for?’

Gotou was so agitated he grabbed Yakumo’s arm and pulled at it .

'I’ll explain, so please look forward and drive properly . ’


When he looked forward, he saw a red light .

Gotou slammed the brakes . The tires screeched and smoked as the car stopped . He’d almost driven through it .

'So what do you mean?’

Gotou wiped the sweat from his forehead .

'As I said earlier, that psychiatrist is an imposter . I can’t say what method she used unless I look into it, but… that’s how it is . ’

So that was what he’d been checking with Miyagawa earlier?

That psychiatrist had been recommended and then employed . Nobody had met her before . That meant nobody knew what she looked like .

'But she’d been recommended by the psychiatrist they always request . ’

'This is my theory . The doctor who was requested by the prosecutor for Tobe Kengo’s psychological examination couldn’t fit it in their schedule . Then, they contacted a doctor they knew . ’


'What if that psychiatrist contacted the doctor they knew through email? And then that email was manipulated and reached somebody else?’

What Yakumo was saying was only a theory, but when Gotou heard it, he felt a chill down his spine .

Who’ve we been talking to up until now –

'Why’d you think the doctor was a fake?’ asked Gotou, since he couldn’t believe it .

'At first it was only a theory . When I heard you talk, Gotou-san, what that psychiatrist said sounded odd to me . Particularly the part about dissociative identity disorder . ’

'What about it?’

Gotou didn’t think Anna’s explanation was unnatural .

'When one personality is active, the others are sleeping… She said that, correct?’

'Right . ’

'You wouldn’t be able to say it wasn’t dissociative identity disorder just from that . It differs depending on the case, but there are some cases wherein even when the personalities change, they are active and keep all their memories . ’

'Maybe she didn’t know?’

'That would be just as unnatural as a police officer not knowing traffic regulations . ’

That would be unnatural .

After checking that the light was green, Gotou stepped on the pedal .

'As well, her diagnosis of Ushijima Harue-san was also strange . It would be impossible for a psychiatrist to analyse the personality of somebody they have never met . ’

Gotou recalled the conversation he’d had with Yakumo about the psychiatrist .

– Is that the psychiatrist’s opinion?

Yakumo had looked discontent when he said that .

So Yakumo had already doubted her then?

'Furthermore, the matter of the murderer’s escape is also unnatural . ’

Yakumo continued his explanation .

'Would both guards leave the room just because there was an alarm?’

That had bothered Gotou too .

'But that really happened . ’

Yakumo raked his fingers through his hair in his irritation .

'Please listen to this as one possibility . She isn’t a psychiatrist, but I think she may be a hypnotherapist or have some knowledge of the kind . ’

'Hypnotherapy – like hypnotism?’

Gotou’s voice cracked . Something bothersome had come up again .

He hated unrealistic psychic abilities like this .

'I’m just going to say this, but hypnotherapy isn’t a psychic ability . ’

Yakumo gave Gotou a glance, like he had seen right through his thoughts .

'It isn’t?’

'Hypnotherapy is a legitimate form of psychotherapy . There’s no need to put somebody to sleep as they do on television . As long as they are relaxed, it’s easy to give simple suggestions . ’


'In other words, go out when the alarm goes off . She probably gave a suggestion like that . ’

That would explain the unnatural movements of the two guards at the scene .

When the bell rang, they unconsciously responded like Pavlov’s drooling dogs –

'But what for?’

'Isn’t it obvious? It was to let him escape . ’

'So they were accomplices?’

'That’s correct . ’

'But if it’s like you said, why’d she cooperate with our investigation and put herself in danger?’

Yakumo shook his head .

'You still don’t understand? She wasn’t cooperating . She was just guiding your investigation . ’

'So that’s how it was…’

Now that he thought about it, Anna had been obstinately stuck on the fire that occurred twenty-eight years ago .

Then, they continued the investigation as they were told to .

'We thought Ushijima Harue was the culprit…’

'That was her goal . ’

So she’s been playing with us . But then –

'Who burnt the corpse?’




After Haruka and Masato went down to the first floor, they ran into the nearby school infirmary, closed the door and locked it .

They shouldn’t have been seen going into this room . This way, they could buy some time .

Haruka’s heart hurt so much it felt like it would stop . How long had it been since she’d run so hard?

'You OK?’

Haruka spoke to Masato .

Though Masato’s shoulders were heaving, he nodded .

Haruka’s strength left her body all at once and she sat on the floor .

'Hey, Masato-kun . What were you looking for?’

Masato walked up to Haruka and held out his left hand in a fist .


As he murmured that, Masato opened his hand .

On his palm, there was an SD card, which could be used for digital camera storage and the like .

Haruka pinched the SD card with her fingers and looked at it from different angles . However, there didn’t seem to be anything strange .

Why did Masato want the SD card so much, and why had Konno been so insistent on taking it back?

It felt like the key to solving that was in the data .


The door shook loudly .

Haruka instinctively hugged Masato and held her breath .

It was OK . If they were quiet, their presence in the room shouldn’t be noticed . A cold sweat ran down her back .

Rattle rattle –

The door continued to shake loudly .

They just waited, hunched together, for him to pass .

Finally, the door stopped shaking .

Thump thump –

She heard footsteps which sounded further and further away until she couldn’t hear them any longer .

Haruka let out the breath she had been holding .

She just needed to tell Yakumo where they were .

Gotou was probably with him, so he’d do something . Haruka took her mobile out from her pocket, when –

The footsteps drew nearer again .

Thump thump thump .

She could see somebody on the other side of the ground glass . So they had been noticed .

Haruka pulled Masato’s hand and they hid underneath the bed .

The door opened right after .

Thump thump thump .

She could see feet walking around the room . Her heart was beating wildly from terror and nervousness .

The feet stopped in front of the bed .

– Please . Don’t notice .

Haruka’s plea was futile . A hand reached out and grabbed the bed, flipping it right over .

Konno stood there .

He had a twisted smile on his face, a hammer in his right hand and a ring of keys hanging from his left hand .

'Getting in the way of my hobby? I really can’t forgive you . ’

Haruka stood in front of Masato as a shield .

Konno held up the hammer .

It’s too late –

Haruka’s body stiffened as she closed her eyes tightly . However, there was no pain or impact .

She timidly opened her eyes .

Konno’s eyes were wide open as he stood there . The hammer fell from his hand and he fell forward like that .

Somebody else appeared before Haruka’s eyes .

'Yakumo-kun… it’s not you…’

That person opened ghastly bloodshot eyes in the dark .




'Ushijima Atsushi was the one who burnt that corpse . ’

Yakumo gritted his teeth .

However, Gotou didn’t understand what Yakumo said .

'Ushijima Atsushi switched places with Tobe Kengo twenty-eight years ago in the fire, right? I’m asking who killed Ushijima Atsushi . ’

'Like I said, Ushijima Atsushi . In the first place, that corpse isn’t Ushijima Atsushi . ’

'W-w-what did you say!?’

Gotou was so shocked he let go of the wheel . The car suddenly started veering .

Shit . Gotou hurriedly grabbed the wheel .

'I knew from the very beginning that the burnt corpse wasn’t the murderer who escaped,’ said Yakumo nonchalantly .

He knew from the very beginning –

'What do you mean?’

'I can see the spirits of the dead . Have you forgotten?’

'I know that . ’

'I found that corpse by pursuing its ghost . At that stage, I realised that the corpse was not the same person as the murderer in the photo you had shown me, Gotou-san . ’

Why was he acting so high and mighty?

'Then you should’ve said so in the first place!’

'I don’t remember ever saying that the corpse was the murderer who escaped . ’

That wasn’t the problem, but there was no point arguing about that now .

'Then who is it?’

Yakumo threw a photo onto the dashboard .

It was the photo they’d found at Komai’s flat .

'The man’s name was Oomori Hironori-san . He was in the same grade as Tobe-san and Ushijima . ’

'He’s that corpse?’

'That’s correct . Furthermore, this person was that boy’s father and also the lover of the teacher Komai Hiromi . Now that I’ve said so much, you understand, yes?’

'How would I understand from an explanation like that, you fool!?’

Gotou hit the horn in his anger .

'Ushijima Atsushi, after his escape, tried to impersonate another person, just as he did twenty-eight years ago . ’

'He tried to change places…’

'That’s right . He had his sights set on Oomori Hironori . Ushijima Atsushi murdered him . He used a low-temperature fire to burn him in the pool’s pump room . ’

There was no way Gotou could understand from that explanation .

'How about the fingerprints?’

'He cut off his own left hand and left it at the scene in order to make it look like he had died . ’

'Why would he go all that way…’

'He couldn’t make himself die if the corpse couldn’t be identified, right? In that sense, the psychiatrist stabbed Tobe as preparation for this situation . What was really cut was the left wrist . ’

He’d gone that far? Why’d he go so far to become somebody else? Your life was something you made yourself, right? It definitely wasn’t something you got from somebody else .

But if it was as Yakumo said, there was something Gotou just couldn’t understand .

'But his son would notice, right?’

'Yes . That was what I was most troubled by . However, I’ve solved the puzzle . It appears that Oomori Hironori-san and his son Masato-kun did not have a good relationship in the first place . Ushijima took advantage of that . ’

'Took advantage of? How?’

'He probably approached Masato-kun right after he had a fight with his father and said something like “I’ll give you magical medicine that will make your father disappear” while giving him that medicine . ’

And then that boy gave that medicine to his father .

In Gotou’s youth, he had also wished sometimes that his parents would disappear .

However, he hadn’t understand the true meaning of disappear . It was on the same level of being angry at a friend .

The boy must have understood the meaning of that word for the first time when he gave the medicine to his father and saw him stop moving .

He wouldn’t have been able to say he killed his own father no matter what . Using that, he was made out to be an accomplice .

Putting such a heavy burden on such a small heart was inhuman .

A hot rage boiled up in the pit of Gotou’s stomach .

'That boy’s incomprehensible behaviour came from his knowledge of the crime and his fear . He wanted to be saved, but he couldn’t say that . He shut all of that in his small heart . He must have suffered…’

Yakumo had a fierce look in his eyes . They looked faintly wet .

This guy knows better than anyone about irrational suffering . That’s probably why he got so into this case, which is unusual for him .

But can we save the heart of a boy who killed his father –

'Please stop . ’

Gotou stepped on the brakes after Yakumo said that .

The school gate was right beside them . He had been so focussed on his thoughts that he’d almost driven past it .

'Gotou-san, I leave Ishii-san to you . ’

After Yakumo said that, he jumped out and ran off .

This might be the last time I see Yakumo –

For some reason, that thought came up in Gotou’s mind .

'Hmph . There’s no way he’d kick the bucket . ’

He didn’t have the time for boring thoughts . He had to do something about that fool .

Gotou stepped on the accelerator and spun the wheel around .




The left half of that man’s face had been burnt and the skin was scarred .

There was also nothing beyond his left wrist .

The man looked at Haruka and Masato and laughed .

The laugh was a cold one, like frozen soil that would never melt .

This man is empty . There’s nothing there – that was how Haruka felt . It was terrifying .

There was nowhere to run in this situation . Masato gripped Haruka’s hand tightly . She could feel his shivering and fear through her skin .

I need to protect this child –

Haruka gripped Masato’s hand back and brought the hammer that had fallen on the floor closer with her foot, making sure that the man wouldn’t notice .

The man slowly approached .


Haruka quickly stooped, picked up the hammer and hit the man’s toes .

Snap .

There was the sound of a plastic container or something breaking .


The man let out a beastly howl and crouched, clutching his leg . Haruka was disturbed by the stronger-than-expected effect and she dropped the hammer to the floor .

'Masato-kun . Let’s go . ’

Haruka pulled Masato’s hand, passed by the man and flew out the infirmary .

She went out the corridor and climbed up the stairs in front of her .

The man chased after them, dragging his foot .

They ran in the dark . She was reaching her limit . The muscles in her legs were screaming .

When they reached the third floor, Haruka turned around . She could hear footsteps but couldn’t see anybody . It appeared they’d gotten fairly far .

Masato was almost in tears .

He was probably afraid . Truthfully, Haruka was afraid herself . If she hadn’t been gripping Masato’s hand, she would have already been crying .

'You can do it!’

Haruka encouraged Masato and ran down the third floor corridor . She put her hand on a door that she spotted .

In any case, she had to buy time until Yakumo got here .

Please open!

Her wish got through . Haruka and Masato flew into the room, closed the door and locked it from inside .

She looked around . Wooden bookshelves were lined up neatly . It was the library .

She sighed in a moment of relief when she heard the approaching sound of a foot being dragged .

Haruka hugged Masato tightly . She could feel Masato’s heart beating quickly .

Please . Pass by us .

Going against Haruka’s wish, her mobile phone rang . It was so sudden she thought her heart would stop .

Haruka pressed the call button and stopped the ringing .

Silence –

Good . He didn’t appear to have noticed .

<Where are you now?>

When she put the phone to her ear, she heard Yakumo’s voice .

Her nervousness left her all at once . She held back from crying .

'The third floor library . Please hurry . ’

Haruka covered her mouth with her hand so that her voice wouldn’t carry .

<I’m at the entrance now . I’ll be there soon, so wait . >

He hung up .

They were saved . Yakumo was coming .

As if to smash Haruka’s relief, the opposite door opened .

She saw a man peek in from the gap between the bookshelves and walk closer, dragging his foot behind him .

Even though Yakumo was almost here, they were going to be found .

Masato was shaking as he held his head in his arms . The moment Haruka saw that, she realised what she had to do .

Strangely, she didn’t hesitate .

She gripped the red stone on her necklace tightly .

Yakumo . Lend me just a bit of courage again .

'Masato-kun, the man you met before is going to come here soon, so just wait 'til then, OK?’

After Haruka patted Masato’s head, she jumped out from the bookshelves before she heard his response .

The man’s burnt face was right in front of her .

He had been much closer than she thought . She stopped breathing in her surprise .

Haruka backed away, putting distance between then .

When the man reached out to try to grab Haruka, she stooped, ran around the bookshelf and appeared behind the man .

The man immediately turned around and chased after Haruka .

Haruka went to the door, keeping a certain distance between her and the man .

A bit more . I need to keep his attention –

Haruka opened the library door behind her with her hand and went out into the corridor .


The man screamed and tried to strike her .

Haruka dodged and started running .

When she looked behind her, the man was chasing her with an incredibly enraged expression, even while dragging his foot .

It went well . She wanted to put as much distance between Masato and that man as possible .

She went down the stairs frantically . There were two sets of stairs – one on the north side and one on the south side of the school building . If she were lucky, she might meet Yakumo on the way up .

However, she discarded that hope when she got to the second floor .

If Yakumo had been coming up this set of stairs, they would have met already . But she was almost at the first floor . It’d work out somehow if she got outside .

The moment Haruka thought that and relaxed, she tripped .

She lost her balance, tumbled down the stairs and collapsed in the corridor with her fast to the ground .

I need to get away quickly –

Just as she pushed herself off the ground and stood up, somebody grabbed her hair from behind her .

'Let go . ’

Haruka turned around, but it was no use . The man dragged her down the corridor .

I think it’s too late for me –




– Haruka-sensei left .

Masato hugged his knees as he shook in fear .

Why did Haruka-sensei try to save someone like me? Why –

He asked that in his heart, but nobody responded to his question .

I’m a cursed kid . I don’t need to be saved . It’s natural for me to die – but then why am I shaking here –

– Haruka-sensei’s going to be killed by that guy . Like Komai-sensei .

It’s all my fault .

It’s because I wanted Dad to disappear –

After Mum left, Dad started hitting me .

He must have been lonely . Dad didn’t hit me when Mum was around .

If Mum comes back, Dad won’t hit me anymore . That’s what I thought .

And I was lonely too .

Mum disappeared so suddenly .

I couldn’t ask why –

After a few months, Komai-sensei started coming to my house .

Dad stopped being violent .

There was still a hole in my heart .

'Could Sensei become your mum?’

Komai-sensei said that .

I said, 'No way . ’

It wasn’t because I hated Sensei . It’s just that only one person can be my mum .

I want to meet Mum –

I thought that Dad knew where she was, so I took a peek at Dad’s notebook when he was out and found Mum’s address .

I sneaked out of school and went to meet her in secret .

Mum was in the next city . I went suddenly to surprise her, but I couldn’t .

Mum was with a man I didn’t know . And she was smiling –

I was so lonely and had cried so much, but Mum was smiling .

I realised that Mum wouldn’t ever come back .

Then, I met that guy .

I’d fought with Dad and was crying in the park .

'If you make him take this medicine, your dad will disappear . ’

That’s what he said when he gave me a bottle full of medicine .


'Really . Then your mum will come back . ’

'Mum will…’

Come back –

If Dad disappears and Mum comes back, nothing would be better .

I did as that guy said and put the medicine in the beer Dad drank .

When Dad drank the beer, he fell to his side and stopped moving . I was panicking when that guy came .

'What a bad boy . You killed your father . ’

'Killed… I did…’

'That’s right . You made him take that medicine and killed him . You’re a cursed kid . ’

I didn’t think that disappearing meant dying . But –

I just wanted to live normally like I had before .

What should I have done?

My stomach hurts . My chest stings . I feel like my head’s going to split in half .

– Somebody, save me . Please save me .

Something black is swelling up inside of me . If this continues –

I think I’ll break .




Gotou parked his car in front of the building with <Sasaki Mental Health>, went up three flights of stairs and opened the door .

The lights were on .

He passed the reception to stand in front of the counselling room in the back .

'I’m coming in,’ said Gotou as he opened the door .

Ishii was standing by the window . He was gagged and his left hand was handcuffed to the window frame .

He’s in awful condition –

When Gotou tried to approach him, Ishii squirmed about as if to tell him not to .

He was yelling something from behind his gag, but Gotou couldn’t hear him .

'Calm down . ’

Gotou walked to Ishii and stooped over .

'Good evening . ’

Somebody spoke from behind him . This voice –

When he turned around, he saw Anna smiling there . This woman . She looked so damn composed .

'Everything’s over already . ’

Gotou stood up and approached her .

The next moment, he felt something cold in his stomach .

It went through his skin deep into his flesh .

The red-hot pain ran through his whole body .

The cold changed to burning heat in the blink of an eye . When he looked down, he saw a knife stabbing into the left side of his stomach .

The blood coming out dyed his white shirt red .

Anna pulled the knife out of Gotou’s stomach .

At the same time as a paralysing pain, blood burst out like a fountain .

This was no good . The strength was leaving his body . Gotou collapsed to his knees on the carpet, unable to take it .

When he looked up while putting pressure on the wound on his stomach, he saw Anna looking down at him like she found the scene amusing . This sadist –

'You know, I hate people who don’t keep promises . I remember telling Yakumo-kun to come alone . ’

Anna poked Gotou’s forehead with her finger .

She was a completely different person from before . A wolf in sheep’s clothing then?

Anna stabbed the bloody knife into the table . It looked just like a gravestone .

I felt like I wouldn’t meet Yakumo again before I came here . Is that what it meant –

'Ishii-san, this is just like your dream . ’

Anna looked at Ishii and let out a vulgar giggle .

Ishii looked down and averted his teary eyes .

What an idiot . You were supposed to glare right back at the other party at times like this . You’d be looked down on otherwise .

'The plan we’d laid out has all gone to waste because of you . In exchange, please let me have some fun . ’

Anna mercilessly kicked Gotou’s nose with her foot .

Gotou couldn’t brace himself and fell backwards .


Damn . He couldn’t speak .

Anna looked down at Gotou .

'My, how pitiful . It must hurt . Your body won’t move like you want it to, right?’

Damn . Damn . Damn . This woman . He’d definitely give her a good punch!

'Ishii-san can’t reach the phone . Gotou-san won’t be able to move at all in this condition . It’s a desperate situation . Will you be able to escape?’

Anna crossed her arms and smiled victoriously .

Oi, oi . Was this a joke? Gotou tried to stand up . Just as he got the top half of his body up, he lost his balance and fell back down .

'My, you’re more energetic than I expected . ’

After Anna said that, she stepped on Gotou’s stomach wound twice with her heel .

'Aagh . ’

That hurts, you bastard .

He tried to shout, but blood came out of his mouth .

'Ah, that’s right . There’s something I wanted to say to Yakumo-kun . Could you tell him for me? Ah, but Gotou-san will be no good . Since you’re going to die . ’

Anna walked to Ishii and murmured something in his ear .

The moment he heard it, Ishii’s eyes went wide in shock .

What? What the hell did she say? While Gotou was thinking, Anna said, 'Well, good luck,’ and she left the room briskly .

With a face that could cry any minute now, Ishii looked at Gotou .

A cold sweat ran down his body . His vision was becoming hazier and he was losing consciousness .

This is seriously bad –




Yakumo took the stairs up to the third floor and rushed into the library .

The bookshelves were lined up and he couldn’t see anybody .

'Where are you?’

He spoke, but there was no response .

When he strained his ears, he could faintly hear somebody stifling tears .

Relying on the voice, Yakumo went to the bookshelf in the very back and peered behind it . He saw Masato sitting there hugging his news .

He’s OK –

'Hey . I came to lift your curse, like I promised . ’

When Yakumo spoke, Masato lifted his tearstained face .

This kid had really had a ridiculous burden on his shoulders . When Yakumo saw the boy’s expression, he felt that all over again .

'That’s a lie! A lie! My curse can’t be lifted!’ yelled Masato in a temper .

'There’s no curse that can’t be lifted . ’

'Everyone dies! I killed them! Dad and Komai-sensei too! I killed everyone!’

As Masato shouted even more, he hit Yakumo’s chest with both hands .

Yakumo accepted the hits and embraced Masato tightly .

The darkness this boy is burdened with is, just like she said, similar to mine .

But who he’s really like isn’t me but her .

This kid was cursed because he killed his father . She was cursed because she killed her older sister .

That’s why I couldn’t leave this kid alone . Unconsciously, I put the darkness this kid’s in together with the darkness I used to have .

'OK? Listen up . You didn’t kill anyone . ’

Yakumo said that while still hugging Masato . At the same time, Masato stopped moving .


'Masato . What you made your father take was just regular sleeping medicine . That was a trap to make you think you killed your father . ’

'A trap…’

Yakumo nodded silently .

'Masato, you didn’t kill anybody . ’

It was clear from Hata’s component analysis .

The medicine this kid had had just been a sleep-inducing drug . However, Ushijima Atsushi used that to make it seem like Masato had killed his own father .

Kids of this age would probably think at least once that it’d be better if their fathers disappeared, without knowing the true meaning .

He’d cowardly used that chance .

He’d probably planned on killing this kid too if he was in the way . Like he killed his own father – who would he have tried to change into then?

Yakumo buried his anger in the pit of his stomach and wiped away Masato’s tears with his finger .

This kid had really done his best .

This little body had suffered so much it wouldn’t have been strange if he cracked . Yakumo had suffered a lot himself, but he’d had Isshin beside him .

But this kid was alone . No, that’s not right . She was there –

That meddler might have been this kid’s support, even if it was just a little .

'Where’d she go?’

'She told me to stay here… She left the classroom… Because of me, Sensei…’

Masato’s expression twisted again . Tears started welling up too .

'Don’t cry any more . It’s something she chose to do herself . It’s not your fault . ’

Yakumo patted Masato’s head .

That idiot . She could’ve stuck around a bit longer . Did she act as a decoy to protect Masato?

Since she’s so slow, there’s a strong possibility that she got caught . Now, what to do –

There was no time to search the huge school building . He’d have to get them to come out then .

Yakumo gripped Masato’s two shoulders with resolve .

'I said this before, but I’m cursed just like you . ’


Yakumo nodded, took out the contact lens in his left eye and looked at Masato with his deep red eye .

Masato was so surprised his body jolted . However, he didn’t seem scared . There was envy in his gaze .

'OK, Masato? Curses are in people’s hearts . ’


Masato repeated Yakumo’s words .

'That’s right . Hearts . ’

Yakumo put his finger to Masato’s chest .

'Whether you lift the curse or not is up to your heart . Got it?’

Masato nodded silently .

All right . What a strong kid –




Haruka lay beside Konno on the infirmary floor .

Her mouth was covered with packing tape and her hands and legs were bound with that packing tape as well . She couldn’t move .

A caterpillar could have moved more freely than she could .

The muscles in her body hurt . That man had kicked her a number of times while still holding on to her hair and dragged her here .

Nausea and the chills assaulted her in turns . She didn’t have the will to fight back any more .

I wonder if Yakumo met up with Masato – that was her only concern .

The man brought rectangular cans from somewhere . Of course he spilled the liquid inside on the floor, but he poured it on Konno and Haruka too .

She could tell what that liquid was without asking from the smell . It was gasoline –

When Haruka realised what that man was trying to do, she felt like cold water had been dumped on her .

He was probably going to burn the whole school down, along with Haruka and Konno .

Terror rushed through her . She felt like giving up .

Konno let out a groan beside her and was shifting about in an attempt to escape .

However, the man spotted him immediately .

Without any hesitation, the man stomped on Konno’s face . Again and again . He stomped on him until he stopped moving .

I was taken prisoner like this before . Yakumo saved my life then .

But it really might not work this time –

Crackle .

The sound of static came out from the installed speaker .

The man’s hand stopped as he looked around .

After the static, there was a click sound and then a voice came out of the speaker .

<Ah, ah… Seems like it’s working . >

This was Yakumo’s voice . He really had come .

He was probably using the emergency building announcement system in the staff room .

<Ushijima Atsushi-san, you’re there, right?>

The man responded visibly to Yakumo’s voice .

This man’s name is Ushijima Atsushi – but that person should have died twenty-eight years ago .

<I have a proposal for you . Could you return the clumsy girl you’ve got there? If you do, I’ll hand over Oomori Masato-kun and the VTR data . >

What was Yakumo saying?

Exchange with Masato? If they did that, he’d be killed . She tried to say that, but she couldn’t since her mouth was covered .

Even if she could say it, her voice wouldn’t reach him .

<Let’s both stop playing tricks . If you kill her before we meet, I’ll immediately inform the police . Of course, if you follow through with your promise, I will never disclose what I know . What do you think? It isn’t a bad proposal . >

The man stared at the speaker on the wall seriously .

<I’ll be waiting by the pool outside . Within ten minutes… click . >

The voice was cut off .

What was Yakumo thinking?

Haruka didn’t want to be saved if Masato’s life would be sacrificed .

Was Yakumo OK with that?

Haruka’s thoughts were interrupted when somebody suddenly grabbed her hair .

The man took the packing tape off of Haruka’s feet, forced her to stand and dragged her out of the infirmary .




Why did things turn out like this –

Ishii lost himself in a sea of regret .

He had spent the most time with Anna, but she’d made him dance around without him even noticing her true nature .

Plus, if he had just run away immediately when he got the call from Yakumo, things wouldn’t have ended up like this .

His mistake would be paid for with Gotou’s life . Ishii couldn’t stand it .

Ishii pulled his handcuffed left hand with as much strength as he could muster . He pulled at it again and again .

Each time, the handcuff dug into his wrist, making a wave of pain shoot through him . However, the essential handcuff and the window frame it was attached to didn’t budge at all .

Even if he wanted to call for help, the closest phone was on the desk .

He stretched his arm out so far he thought it would snap, but he couldn’t even reach it with his fingers . It was no good –

For the past while, Gotou hadn’t been moving from his collapsed position .

Ishii could tell he was barely alive, since his arm would move up and down faintly .

The blood loss was awful . If he was left like this, he probably wouldn’t hang on much longer .

Ishii crouched on the carpet and dug his fingernails into it, feeling helpless .

His body shook and tears spilled from his eyes .

– How can I be so powerless?

In front of Ishii’s eyes was the knife, sticking up from the table .

His hand could probably reach that knife .

Now that he thought about it, all he had done was cause Gotou trouble .

He’d tried his best to be even the slightest bit useful, but every time, he’d just spun his wheels around fruitlessly and tripped . Then, Gotou saved him again .

It was just an endless cycle of that .

Even though Gotou complained, he didn’t abandon Ishii – he kept with him .

Ishii couldn’t let somebody who’d saved him die .

Compared to Gotou’s life, a left hand or two of his is nothing .

With strong determination, Ishii used his feet to get close to the table . All right . It went well .

He took the knife out of the table with his right hand and put it to his left wrist .

His hand was shaking . It would probably hurt . A lot of blood would come out too . But this was the only way to get out of this situation .

Ishii gripped the knife tightly .

A cold feeling ran through his skin . He was scared – but he had to do it .

The moment Ishii was about to draw the knife, a dull shock came down on the crown of his head . When he looked up, he saw Gotou standing there .

'Do . . n’t… do some…thing…stu…pid . ’

Gotou said that in feeble breaths . Then, he took the gag off of Ishii .

’D-Detective Gotou!’

Gotou didn’t respond to Ishii’s shout . He just staggered over to the desk, picked up the phone and threw it at Ishii .

Clunk . The phone fell within Ishii’s reach .

Gotou smiled in satisfaction and then collapsed backwards .

’D-Detective Gotou!’




The man dragged Haruka by the hair past the locker room to the first lane of the pool .

The round moon was reflected on the dirty water surface and rippled .

The man let go of Haruka . Her strength left her and she fell right to the ground . There was a large puddle there .

It appeared that Yakumo and Masato weren’t here yet . She couldn’t see them .

To tell the truth, Haruka didn’t want to die either, but she also wished that Yakumo and Masato wouldn’t come .

The man had stood still for a moment, but then he grabbed Haruka’s hair and pulled her along again .

It appeared that he didn’t like the location . This was the only entrance to the pool . If Yakumo and Masato came, they’d definitely run into them . That was probably why .

The man went to the sixth lane, pushed Haruka down there and skilfully bound Haruka’s feet with packing tape using only his right hand .

When he was doing that, he took out a cloth cord and tied it to Haruka’s left foot .

'It appears that I have made you wait . ’

It was Yakumo’s voice .

Yakumo appeared at the entrance like he had risen to the surface .

Masato was next to him . His hands were behind his back . Did Yakumo tie his hands so he wouldn’t run –

The man stared at Yakumo, who stood in front of the first lane .

It looked like he was smiling slightly .

– Please! Don’t come here!

Haruka tried to scream, but the packing tape got in the way and her words were unclear .

'Tobe Kengo-san . Ah, that’s incorrect . Ushijima Atsushi-san, correct? No, that’s wrong too…’

It was like Yakumo was speaking to himself .

'Shut up…’ said the man in a low voice .

'You aren’t anybody . ’

Yakumo pointed straight at the man .

Like the man was sensitive to the meaning of those words, his shoulders were heaving in agitation . However, Yakumo paid that no attention and continued talking .

'Well, it doesn’t matter who you are . In any case, let us deal with business . How about we both leave our prisoners where they are and switch places?’

After thinking, the man nodded silently .

Yakumo took the SD card that Masato had had out of his pocket, showed it to the man, and the put it in Masato’s trouser pocket .

'I will say this again, but let’s both not play any tricks . ’

Yakumo stepped forward .

The man took one step forward in response .

The two of them slowly closed the distance between then .

The two passed each other at the third lane . That moment, the man turned around with a victorious smile .

Haruka thought back on what had happened and looked at her own feet . There was a cloth cord tied there .

The man was holding onto the end of the cord . Her body was drenched in gasoline . This was a fuse –

Yakumo continued walking towards her with no expression on his face .

– Yakumo-kun, don’t!

Haruka’s shout didn’t become words .

'Honestly . You’re such a pain . ’

Yakumo had his finger in his ear and the usual sleepy expression on his face .

– That’s not it, Yakumo-kun .

Yakumo helped Haruka up from where she had collapsed on the floor .

The man had reached Masato . Then, he turned around and, though he didn’t laugh aloud, he was definitely smiling .

The man took out a lighter . It’s dangerous –

Haruka squirmed frantically .

'Like I said, you’re such a pain . ’

Yakumo took the packing tape off Haruka’s mouth all at once . It hurt, but it wasn’t the time for that .

'My body’s doused in gasoline! A fuse is attached to my foot! Run! Get away from me!’

In response to Haruka’s frantic scream, Yakumo smirked and said one thing –

'I know . ’


The man lit the cord .

The fire ran towards them .

Yakumo picked Haruka up and then threw her .

She felt like her body was floating when she landed in the water .

Water rushed in through her nose . Her hands and legs were bound . She was going to drown like this .

She was struggling when her feet reached the pool’s bottom . When she stood up, her chest and up was out of the water .

This was an elementary school pool . An adult could stand normally, so she wouldn’t drown .

Yakumo reached out from the side of the pool and pulled Haruka out .

Yakumo laughed as he saw Haruka, completely drenched and having a coughing fit .

What a person . Wasn’t there a better way to save her? He must have done it on purpose .

'It’s unfortunate . Your plot was transparent . ’

Yakumo turned towards the man and looked at him with contempt . She could tell the man was tightly gripping his right fist .

Yakumo, you can’t provoke him . Masato is still there .

'Masato-kun! Run!’

Masato just looked down when Haruka yelled . He didn’t make any response . Why wouldn’t he run –

'You’ve misunderstood something . ’


'Did you think that I would really exchange hostages?’


'Don’t misjudge me . ’

Yakumo said just that and then turned to Masato again .

'Masato! Do it now!’ Yakumo yelled .

Masato looked up at the voice . He had the face of a determined and tense man .

Masato raised the two hands that had been behind his back .

Now Haruka understood . Yakumo hadn’t tied Masato’s hands . He had them behind his back so it would look like that .

In Masato’s hands was something that looked like a black cord . Masato threw the end of that cord to the man’s feet .

There was a snapping sound .

After the man’s body shook, he fell down face-up –

There was a puddle there . Masato had been holding an electric cord . So that was what they were doing . Haruka finally understood .

'I wanted to make it seem as if we came late, but I actually arranged this before the announcement,’ said Yakumo as he undid the packing tape around Haruka’s hands and feet .

I see –

Haruka had had nothing to worry about . Everything had been part of Yakumo’s plan .

Now that her hands and feet were free, Haruka looked up to see Masato slowly approaching her .

Masato walked up to Haruka and stopped there, looking down . His shoulders were shaking slightly .

'You did really well . You lifted your curse yourself . You can cry now . ’

Yakumo smiled gently as he patted Masato’s head .

At that, Masato burst into tears and flew into Haruka’s arms .

Haruka hugged him tightly and stroked Masato’s back .

It’s all right now . You don’t have to hold back any more .

Haruka looked up and saw that man’s face in front of her .

At some point, he had regained consciousness . His bloodshot eyes were wide open and he was shaking with anger as he raised his right hand .

He was gripping a knife .

That’s –

'Let’s end this already . ’

Yakumo stood between Haruka and the man as a wall .

'Yakumo-kun, run . ’

Yakumo turned his head at Haruka’s shout and then grabbed the man’s wrist . Then –

'You wanted love, right?’

He said that in a sorrowful voice .

That moment, the man’s eyes, which had been glaring up until now, seemed to lose all their strength .

'You weren’t loved by your mother . She abused you terribly . Though he had the same father, he lived in a completely different family environment . That’s why you wanted to become Tobe Kengo . ’

Haruka didn’t know what was going on with this case .

However, Yakumo probably understood everything . This man might have also been carrying a terrible darkness, even if he hadn’t intended on doing so .

'What do you know…’

The man said that to Yakumo’s question .

Unexpectedly, his voice was hoarse and weak .

'I hate your face . I hate your voice . She said that and then hit me, kicked me, pulled my hair, burnt me with cigarettes . If I cried, she hit me again, but if I kept quiet, she kicked me . Every day, every day, every day that continued . What do you know?’

'I wasn’t loved by my parents either . My mother tried to kill me . ’


The man looked surprised .

Yakumo was also somebody who had a dark past even though he hadn’t wanted it .

'However, I can’t understand your feelings at all . ’

Yakumo had overcome that suffering, so the excuse 'I wasn’t loved’ wouldn’t work .

Haruka looked up past Yakumo’s back at the man’s face .

His burnt cheek was twitching .

'I just wanted to live normally . Normally, without being hit or kicked . I’m just a person like everyone else, so what’s wrong with that!?’

Anybody chased into painful circumstances would think the same as this man . Why is it only me –

'Is that why you killed them? You must have noticed yourself . Even if you impersonate other people, you wouldn’t gain love . It’s impossible to change somebody just by changing their name . You aren’t Oomori Hironori or Tobe Kengo . ’

'You’re wrong! You’re wrong!’

The man shook free of Yakumo’s arms and raised the knife again while yelling .

'Then who are you?’ said Yakumo sharply .

The man stopped moving . He just stared at Yakumo’s eyes .

'No matter how undesirable the circumstances, people just have to live with it . ’

After Yakumo said that, he took Masato’s hand and made him stand up opposite the man .

'Please take a good look at this kid . ’

The man looked dubious .

It was like he didn’t understand what Yakumo was saying . Haruka herself wasn’t sure what Yakumo was trying to do .

'This kid’s mother left home with the lover she had an affair with . His father took out his anger on this kid by hitting him . Even so, this kid didn’t run away – he continued living his own life . ’

Masato had his hands in tight fists . That was right . This child had been burdened with terrible hardships and kept it inside himself as he fervently fought back .

'This kid suffered the same as you did, but you burdened him with more suffering . Do you understand what you’ve done?’

'I won’t run . It’s hard and it’s painful, but… I won’t run!’ yelled Masato, squaring his shoulders .


The man howled, like he was trying to erase those words .

However, Yakumo and Masato were unfazed as they stood there .

'I will ask once more . Who are you?’

At Yakumo’s last words, the hand that the man had been holding up – dropped the knife .

'I’m… Atsushi . Ushijima Atsushi…’

After the man muttered that, he crouched there and started sobbing . He looked as frail as a child being scolded by his mother .

'Everything’s OK now . ’

Yakumo turned back towards Haruka and held out his hand .

'Thank you . ’

Haruka took Yakumo’s hand and stood up .

'Masato . You did well . The curse had been lifted . ’

Masato shook his head at Yakumo’s words . His eyes were brimming with tears .

'I tried to kill Dad . Even if I didn’t actually kill him, I wanted him to die . So, so…’

Haruka didn’t know the details of the case .

Nevertheless, she understood how Masato felt .

He probably participated some way in his father’s death . That childish hate had sprouted from the pain of not being loved .

Haruka hugged Masato as tightly as she could .

'I said this before, OK? I… also killed somebody . ’

Masato’s body jolted at Haruka’s words .

Haruka had thought that she was comparing Masato to Yakumo, but she had been wrong . The darkness Masato held was the same as her own .

'I killed my sister . I was jealous of my older twin sister and threw the ball a bit far away to trouble her . My sister went to get it and was hit by a car…’

She said all that at once and then looked at Masato’s face .

He was biting his lower lip and looking straight at Haruka’s eyes . She was able to face Masato for the first time . That was how she felt .

However, she didn’t know what to say next .

'Masato . No matter who it is, everyone has some degree of hate . However, there’s a big difference between people who act on it and people who don’t . Do you understand?’

Yakumo expressed Haruka’s feelings for her . Masato nodded .

'Masato, you might have thought it’d be OK if your dad disappeared, but you didn’t want him to die . Right?’

Masato nodded .

Suddenly, Haruka saw a boy standing by the pool entrance .

It was the child who led Haruka to the classroom .

'Hey, Yakumo-kun . That child…’

For a moment, Yakumo was surprised by what Haruka said, but then he had his usual sleepy expression on his face .

'You can see him too?’

Yakumo took a pause before continuing .

'That’s the kid who died in the fire twenty-eight years ago . The real Tobe Kengo . He finally got back the name that was stolen for him . Though it’s a bit late…’

That boy smiled from cheek to cheek and then disappeared .

Then, a burnt Ultraman doll fell where the boy had been standing .

Haruka didn’t understand what Yakumo said .

That kid had probably been released from what had been binding him . That was how she felt –



[1] In the novel, they use the kanji for shirou (屍蝋) here wherein shi means corpse and rou means wax .