Volume 5 Chapter 2
VOLUME 5 – CONNECTED FEELINGS
file 02: touching (TRANSLATION NOTES)
Haruka opened her eyes . Her chest felt like it was being crushed .
In the dim light, she saw the ceiling .
Dawn didn’t appear to have come yet –
Even though there was no wind, the pink curtain was waving .
The suffocating feeling didn’t leave her even after she opened her eyes . She pressed her hands to her chest and turned over .
The moment she turned, she noticed that her mobile’s green light was blinking on the table . It seemed she had a message .
She checked the alarm clock on the table . Four in the morning –
When she woke up at dawn, something bad always happened . Haruka shut her eyes to cut off the bad memories .
– Can you hear my voice?
A voice whispered in her ear .
Haruka sat up, startled .
She saw a black shadow .
Somebody was standing in front of door that went out to the hallway . Probably a man .
Who are you? Where’d you come in from? What are you doing there?
She had so many questions, but she couldn’t speak . Her eyes were ringing –
The man slowly approached .
She could vaguely see the man’s face . As pale as porcelain and as expressionless as a mannequin .
’S-stay away . ’
Haruka wrung those words out of her throat .
But the man kept coming closer . Haruka gripped the blanket tightly and put her back to the wall .
The man stopped in front of the table .
– Can you hear my voice?
The man’s mouth moved slowly . He spoke calmly, as if he was giving a speech .
A cold sweat ran down Haruka’s forehead . Her chest hurt – it felt like she had been stabbed by needles . Her body was shaking from fear .
‘Calm down,’ Haruka said to herself .
She had to get out of this room . Haruka looked around for a way to escape .
She spotted scissors on top of the table .
She didn’t actually have to hurt him . If she could just make him flinch for a moment, she could get out of the room .
Things would work out somehow if she got out . She just needed to find good timing .
Haruka put the scissors in the corner of her vision and watched the man’s movements .
– I’ll ask once more . Can you hear my voice?
The man spoke .
He covered his face, as if he were tired of Haruka’s refusal to respond .
Haruka leapt from the bed and quickly grabbed the scissors on top of the table . She thrust them at the man .
The man tried to approach Haruka .
'Please . Stay away . ’
Her voice was cracking .
The hand she was holding the scissors with was shaking . Her heart felt like it would burst out of her chest .
– Please . Just go away .
Perhaps Haruka’s frantic plea had reached him, because the man shook his head, like he had given up, and turned around .
– You’re looking for Saitou Yakumo-kun, aren’t you?
’… Yakumo-kun . ’
Haruka spoke without thinking .
Why does this man know Yakumo’s name? And looking for him, he says –
– I can’t save him .
The man’s words reverberated in Haruka’s ears .
'Save him, you say… Did something happen to Yakumo-kun?’
Haruka let go of the scissors and spoke in a voice near a cry .
I have a lot of questions . Who is this person? Why does he know about Yakumo? How did he get here? But I don’t care about that right now .
The way the man said that makes it sound like something happened to Yakumo .
I want to know . What happened to Yakumo? And where is he now –
– He is probably in Nagano .
'Nagano? Why is he there?’
– Because that is the place where it began .
What did he mean?
– If you don’t hurry, he…
The man walked away silently before Haruka could voice her question .
'Wait . ’
I don’t know anything . Tell me . What happened to Yakumo?
Haruka hurriedly chased after the man into the corridor .
However, the man had disappeared .
Just as Makoto was leaving work, the internal line rang .
The timing was so good – as if she was being watched .
Makoto picked up the telephone with her coat still on .
<Hey, it’s been a while . I heard you got dropped to planning?>
She heard Takizawa’s voice from the receiver . The way he spoke without holding back wasn’t disagreeable – rather, it was pleasant .
Takizawa helped her with the case half of a year ago .
It was an unforgettable case for Makoto . Takizawa had given all the material he had gathered himself to Makoto then .
He put revealing the truth ahead of getting an exclusive scoop . That was the type of person he was .
'It’s been a while . “Dropped” is the wrong word though . I’m satisfied with the situation,’ said Makoto with a laugh . It wasn’t just a front – that was actually how she felt .
<You’re fine if you can say that much . But it really sucks . Somebody with guts like you should be in journalism . And the new guys here…>
Takizawa started grumbling .
Newspaper agencies tended to have longwinded people . Gathering material started from dragging out stories . That habit didn’t leave them . It was an occupational disease .
'What are you calling for today?’ asked Makoto, interrupting Takizawa .
He began by chatting, but they weren’t close enough for him to just call using the internal line for no reason . It was clear that he had some intention .
<Ah, that’s right . >
Takizawa seemed to have just recalled what he’d wanted to say . He cleared his throat and then brought up the topic at hand in a low voice .
<You know the detective called Gotou, right?>
'Yes . ’
She didn’t only know him – they’d just met last night .
<The police’ve put out a gag order so this is off-record . >
'That’s all right . Did something happen to Detective Gotou?’
Her heart was beating uncomfortably .
<Seems he’s disappeared . >
'Disappeared,’ repeated Makoto . She didn’t understand what he’d meant .
It didn’t sound like something a reporter used to cases would say .
<Right . Seems he disappeared during an investigation . Don’t know why . Apparently there’s the possibility that somebody abducted him . >
'What did you say?’
Makoto’s voice went one octave higher in surprise .
Gotou had probably made many enemies in his line of work – he lived side by side with danger .
But she just couldn’t understand why a detective would be abducted . Why would anybody need to do something with such a high risk, and for what reason? There wasn’t anybody more troublesome for a hostage than a detective .
And abducting Gotou wouldn’t have been an easy task .
Especially if he had been in the middle of an investigation . Detectives didn’t work alone . Ishii should have been there too .
– Not him too?
Takizawa sighed .
He probably sensed how deep their relationship was from Makoto’s response .
'Er, when was that?’
This was no good . She had to stay calm . Right now, she wanted more information, even if it was just a little . Makoto restrained her agitation and focussed on her trembling throat as she asked the question .
<Yesterday . >
'Was it only Detective Gotou who was abducted?’
<Nobody’s sure he was abducted yet . Don’t know what happened to his partner either . >
'How is the scene? The investigation?’
Ishii might be together with Gotou . When Makoto thought about that, she couldn’t stop herself from throwing out questions .
<Oi, oi . Calm down . We don’t know the details yet . >
Makoto came to her senses after Takizawa tried to pacify her . She was gripping the phone so tightly that her fingers were white .
'Sorry, I just…’
Makoto consciously relaxed her shoulders .
<Anyway, that’s how it is . Do what you like with that . >
After Takizawa said that, he hung up without waiting for Makoto’s answer .
Makoto put the phone down and thought over Takizawa’s words . He probably meant that she should try looking into the matter herself, now that he’d given her the info .
First, she would confirm that Ishii was safe . If Ishii was safe, she might be able to get some information from him .
Makoto took out her bag and called a number from her contacts .
Please be safe . She wished for that in her heart .
Ishii lay on his desk in a stupor .
He remembered up until his face was showered in blood .
He couldn’t remember anything after that .
When he came to, he had been collapsed in the garden . He had probably run out of the room in his fear .
He’d hurriedly wiped at his face, but there was no blood .
Was that a delusion –
Ishii had been bewildered, but he remembered about Gotou immediately and called for help from the precinct .
He met up with the police officers who came afterwards and searched the site, but they couldn’t find Gotou in the end .
Investigators searched the site through the night, but nothing came up . No, that was wrong . They couldn’t actually find anything specific .
That site was famous on the net for being haunted, and it appeared that a number of fanatics of the kind had stepped in and out .
There had been fingerprints and footprints, but it would take a huge amount of time to examine them .
Just earlier, the investigators had placed Gotou’s mobile phone and torch, still in a plastic bag, on Ishii’s desk .
There was no way Gotou would go missing .
Not just Gotou . It was extremely strange for a detective on an investigation to go missing, leaving just a mobile phone behind . It would probably be appropriate to think that somebody had abducted him .
But why was he abducted? And how?
Nobody was foolish enough to abduct a detective for no reason . There must have been a goal .
And it wouldn’t have been easy to abduct Gotou . It would probably require at least three people .
There were other things Ishii didn’t understand . He’d been standing at the front door then . How did the group of culprits get in and how did they get out –
Ishii raised his face in his confusion . He was so irritated he could scream .
– Things wouldn’t have ended up like this if I’d gone with him then .
A wave of regret tore at Ishii’s heart .
Suddenly, the door opened . Miyagawa came in and approached Ishii with an incredibly angry face .
Ishii stood up reflexively, led by that pressure .
Miyagawa’s thick voice shook the bottom of Ishii’s stomach .
'I-I don’t u-understand either . ’
’“I don’t understand” isn’t gonna cut it! Tell me! What happened!’
Miyagawa gripped Ishii by the collar .
Veins popped out on his forehead . It felt like Miyagawa might strangle Ishii depending on his reply .
'Detective Gotou and I heard about the spiritual phenomenon that occurred at that house… Er, we thought that it might be a lead, so yesterday, we went to the site…’
Ishii’s throat was dry from nerves as he explained .
It felt like all the blood in his body had been drawn to his neck .
'Ah, yes . Detective Gotou went inside the house . As he took a while to return, I went inside, and… er, he had disappeared . ’
'Why didn’t you go in with Gotou?’
Miyagawa’s fierce look shot through Ishii .
'Stop squirming! Say it clearly!’
Miyagawa’s yell made Ishii shrink . Sweat ran down his forehead .
'I stayed outside because I was scared!’
'Scared? You seriously telling me that?’
'Y-yes sir . ’
'Scared isn’t gonna cut it either! You fool!’
Miyagawa thrust Ishii away with both hands .
Ishii couldn’t brace himself, so he tumbled to the desk . The office supplies clattered against the floor .
Ishii couldn’t retort – all he could do was bite his lip and stare at the floor .
'So what’ve you been doing since yesterday?’
Miyagawa made Ishii stand up again and brought his face so close that their noses were almost touching .
His eyes were blazing with rage . Ishii felt anew the affection Miyagawa had for Gotou deep in his heart, no matter how Miyagawa acted towards him .
On the other hand, I –
Ishii cursed his own weakness .
'I was here . ’
'Hah? What’d you say?’
Miyagawa glared at Ishii in disbelief .
'I was here this whole time . ’
'You were spaced out at your desk since yesterday?’
Ishii bit his lip, his hands in tight fists .
After determining that Gotou wasn’t at home, he returned to the precinct and had, as Miyagawa said, been at his desk in a stupor .
I didn’t know what to do – no, that’s wrong .
I couldn’t do anything alone .
Miyagawa’s yell rang deep in Ishii’s ears . Ishii acted like he yearned to be like Gotou, but the truth was that he just clung to him and let Gotou spoil and protect him .
'I-I apologise . ’
The moment he said that, Miyagawa rammed his head into Ishii’s nose .
Ishii fell to the ground in a rush of pain and pressed a hand against his head .
The lenses of his glasses had broken and were scattered on the floor .
Blood dripped onto the floor . It was mixed with tears .
Ishii dug his fingernails into the floor .
It wasn’t from the pain . It wasn’t from mortification . It was from anger . Anger towards himself . He couldn’t forgive himself . He was so angry he wished he himself would disappear .
'There’s a message from Gotou’s wife . ’
Ishii looked up at the unexpected words .
Miyagawa looked down at Ishii, as if Ishii were a maggot .
’“I leave my husband to you . ” That’s what she said . ’
'What do you mean, eh!? Listen up! That’s not a message to me or to the investigation department! That message was entrusted to you personally!’
'To me personally…’
'Do you know what these words mean!?’
The various emotions that had welled up within him erupted all at once .
Tears kept falling from his eyes .
Ishii lay on the floor, sobbing .
'If you’ve got the time to wail, go find Gotou, no matter what you have to do . I’ll never forgive you if anything happens to him . ’
Miyagawa said those words calmly, one by one .
They echoed much more heavily in Ishii’s heart than his yells .
What on earth should I do –
I’ve always only been a burden . It’s impossible for me to find Gotou on my own .
All Ishii could do was cower in his shell like a turtle .
Haruka climbed the steep slope up to the temple .
The events of this morning had replayed over and over again in her head .
Who was that man? What did he mean by save Yakumo? And he had said that Yakumo was in Nagano .
Questions were whirling about in her head .
She waited for morning and then went to Yakumo’s secret hiding place, the clubroom for the <Movie Research Circle> .
However, Yakumo hadn’t been there . The ticket Haruka had given him was still on the table .
That’s proof that he hasn’t returned yet –
She called Gotou’s mobile to see if he knew anything, but it didn’t connect . She didn’t know Ishii’s contact information .
She had only one clue left .
– That person must know something .
Haruka couldn’t restrain her impatience, so she ran up the slope and went through the gate of the temple at the top .
She passed the gravel garden and stopped at the priests’ quarters at the back of the premises .
She took deep breaths to regulate her breathing .
Yakumo normally lived in the school clubroom, but this temple was his home .
She was just jumping to conclusions . Something had happened and Yakumo had returned to his home . If she opened the door, Yakumo would be there, and he’d say something like 'The scatterbrain is here’ .
With that hope, Haruka rang the door chime by the sliding door .
After a moment, Isshin, the uncle who had raised Yakumo, showed up .
'Hey, Haruka-chan . Thanks for coming . ’
In his working clothes, Isshin had a gentle smile reminiscent of Maitreya .
When she saw that gentle smile, Haruka felt all her worries fly away .
'I apologise for coming by so suddenly . Actually, er…’
Haruka apologised for her rudeness and tried to explain the whole story, but she couldn’t find the words .
'You’re looking for Yakumo then,’ said Isshin, as if he had seen to the bottom of Haruka’s heart .
– The way he says that, it sounds like he knows something .
'Where is Yakumo-kun now?’
Haruka, feeling suddenly emotional, gripped Isshin’s arm .
'Calm down . ’
Isshin touched Haruka’s shoulders and spoke in a pacifying tone .
'E-excuse me . ’
Haruka came to her senses and let go of Isshin’s arm .
So many things happened that I lost my cool . This is really embarrassing –
'It’s cold out . Let’s talk inside . ’
Haruka accepted Isshin’s invitation honestly .
She was led to the living room, and then she sat across from Isshin, with a kotatsu between them .
'Where’s Yakumo-kun?’ said Haruka, stopping Isshin before he could prepare tea .
She appreciated the gesture, but she wanted to find out about Yakumo as quickly as she could .
'Unfortunately, I don’t know . ’
'Truth is, I’m searching for Yakumo too . ’
Haruka had hoped he would be in this house, but that wish easily collapsed .
'Isshin-san, why are you looking for…’
'The day before yesterday, Yakumo popped by . He was really odd then . ’
'What do you mean?’
'He asked about his mother . About what sort of person she was . ’
If Yakumo had really asked about that, it certainly would have been unnatural .
Yakumo detested his mother .
His mother had tried to kill him when he was small . After she had failed, his mother went missing and was still missing now .
Why did his own mother try to kill him – Yakumo lived with that question . His mind wouldn’t hold up if he took that squarely and thought about it .
Yakumo’s logic was that he could balance his heart by hating his mother .
Perhaps because of that, Yakumo didn’t bring up his mother himself, and when he talked about his mother, he always spoke recklessly and on edge .
'It appears that Yakumo is interested in the period when she tried to kill him . ’
As Isshin said that, his eyes seemed to be looking far away .
'Why did his mother try to kill him… Is he looking for that reason?’
Haruka put the theory she’d come up with into words .
'Actually, I was thinking the same thing,’ said Isshin with a nod .
Yakumo was chasing after his own mother . That was why he went off by himself without saying anything .
She could accept that reasoning, but then more questions came up .
'Why so suddenly?’
'I thought that you might know, Haruka-chan…’ said Isshin with a bitter smile, scratching at his cheek .
She didn’t have any clear proof, but she did have an idea as to where they could find out .
'Detective Gotou might know . ’
Isshin’s brow furrowed into a difficult expression .
'I don’t know the details, but the day before yesterday, Gotou-san came to visit Yakumo-kun . ’
'Is Gotou-kun still dragging Yakumo into cases…’
Isshin’s shoulders slumped in disappointment .
When she’d called Gotou earlier, the call hadn’t connected, but it might connect if she tried now .
'I’m going to try to contact him once more . ’
Haruka inputted Gotou’s number on her phone .
Contrary to her hopes, the phone didn’t ring – it went straight to voicemail .
'There’s no need to be anxious . ’
'Let’s think about it from the beginning again . There might be a hint . ’
'Yes . ’
Haruka gripped the red stone on her necklace tightly .
The necklace I got from Yakumo . And the necklace Yakumo’s mother wore –
'Haruka-chan, why are you looking for Yakumo?’ Isshin said, as if beginning a speech .
For a moment, Haruka wasn’t sure whether she should mention what happened this morning . She didn’t even completely believe it herself, but Isshin would believe her . That was how she felt .
'This morning, a man suddenly came into my room…’
'Somebody you know?’
'No . ’
Haruka shook her head .
'Did he come to visit?’
'No . The window was unlocked, so he probably came in from there . ’
Isshin’s expression hardened .
He didn’t say anything outright, but a man had broken into the room of a woman living by herself . She knew what he meant even if he didn’t say it aloud .
'I’m all right,’ Haruka said firmly, sweeping away Isshin’s worries . Isshin’s expression relaxed once he saw how she responded .
Just when Haruka was about to continue her explanation, her mobile phone rang .
Ishii stared at the glasses on his desk .
The right lens was cracked like a spider web . The left only had shards of the lens remaining in the frame .
– Just like my heart .
Ishii bit his lip in shame .
He couldn’t do anything . He had been able to move forward even though he was a burden because Gotou had been there for him up until now .
Without Gotou, he was just a dead weight . An existence that just sank to the bottom of the deep sea .
He really should have quit the force after the last case .
He had been so happy when Gotou stopped him that he’d stayed on the force, but because of that, this was how things had ended up .
A sudden knock on the door interrupted Ishii’s thoughts .
He turned around and stared at the door . He didn’t respond . He didn’t want to see anybody right now . He wanted them to leave .
But the door opened, contrary to Ishii’s desire .
'Hello . ’
A woman’s voice . Since he didn’t have his glasses on, his vision was fuzzy and he couldn’t discern who it was .
'I heard about Detective Gotou . ’
It was Makoto’s voice .
Why does she know about Gotou – for a moment, Ishii was confused, but he soon understood .
She was a newspaper reporter . Although reporting it was restricted, she could probably still get the information .
She was the sort of person who could be considerate of others . She had probably come all the way here because she was worried, but to Ishii right now, that was just a bother .
He didn’t want to talk to anybody now . Ishii said nothing and turned his back to Makoto .
'Ishii-san, are you not going to search for Detective Gotou?’
Makoto probably didn’t intend it to sound this way, but Ishii felt like those words were pointed .
'I already searched for him . ’
Ishii lay on his desk and covered his ears .
He wanted to cut off all his senses . He wanted to feel nothing, like a rock on the side of the road . He wanted to be something that nobody would notice .
'Ishii-san . ’
Makoto touched Ishii’s shoulder .
'Please leave me alone!’
Ishii stood up and brushed away Makoto’s hand .
He thought that she would leave, but Makoto just stood there . Without his glasses, Ishii couldn’t tell what expression she had on her face .
Just from facing her, he felt how wretched his own existence was .
– Please just leave a useless person like me alone .
Ishii sat back down in his chair, covering his face with his hands .
'Ishii-san, let’s look for Detective Gotou,’ said Makoto .
'It’s impossible . I can’t do it . ’
Makoto’s words sounded cruel to Ishii .
There was only one reason he couldn’t look for Gotou . Because he was a coward .
'It’s impossible, so I said it’s impossible . ’
Ishii could tell his voice was shaking .
'You can do it . ’
– Don’t say that so easily .
'Even though you’re telling me to look for him, where and how should I search? I have absolutely no idea where Detective Gotou might have disappeared to . ’
Ishii raised his head to look at Makoto .
He really couldn’t see her expression . But he felt her gaze acutely .
'There must be a connection between Detective Gotou’s disappearance and the case, so if you follow the case, you should reach Detective Gotou . ’
Makoto spoke calmly and gently .
I know what she’s trying to say . I also know that that is the only lead I have to look for Gotou . But –
'I can’t do anything alone . ’
'You aren’t alone . ’
'I will look for Detective Gotou with you . ’
After Makoto said that, she took Ishii’s hand . Ishii, who had no immunity towards women, moved away from Makoto in order to escape .
'Ishii-san, it’s all right . You can do it . ’
Makoto took Ishii’s hand again, this time in both of her hands . It felt like she was showing her determination .
However, Ishii didn’t understand . Why was Makoto doing so much –
No, not just Makoto . Gotou and Yakumo too hadn’t abandoned somebody as useless as him – they had worked with him . Why –
Ishii’s heart faltered .
'I don’t know what to do…’
'First, let’s solve the puzzle of that video . There’s no guarantee that we will find Detective Gotou, but there is nothing else we can do . ’
Makoto gripped Ishii’s hands even more tightly .
It was like she was holding on frantically to Ishii who was about to fall off a cliff .
’… But I probably can’t solve it . ’
'I probably can’t either . We might not be able to do anything in the end . But this is better than doing nothing and regretting it afterwards . ’
Makoto’s words weighed heavily on Ishii’s chest .
What she said made sense . But as long as they had no way to look for him, it was certain they would regret it .
'It really is impossible . ’
He felt more and more what a useless man he was . But there was no helping it . This was who he was . Please disdain him .
Ishii turned his gaze to the floor .
However, what Makoto said next was not what Ishii had expected .
'Ishii-san, please have more confidence . You are not as helpless as you think you are . ’
He didn’t want to hear that consolation .
'We can’t do anything alone . ’
'It might be impossible with us alone, but if we ask Yakumo-san to help, the possibility goes much higher . ’
It was true that his unique ability to see ghosts and his keen mind might be able to spot a clue .
That was how they had solved a number of cases in the past . But –
'I haven’t been able to contact Yakumo-shi . ’
That was why Gotou and Ishii had gone to the site of the mansion alone yesterday .
'Is that so?’
'I have no idea where he is now . ’
Though Ishii was disappointed, Makoto was indifferent .
'That’s fine . Isn’t there somebody who might know where Yakumo-san is?’
After Makoto said that, Ishii gasped . That was right –
'If we ask Haruka-chan…’
'That’s right . ’
Makoto nodded .
Right . He had been so upset he hadn’t thought that far .
'Do you know her contact information?’ asked Makoto .
'Yes . I think that the number is in Detective Gotou’s mobile . ’
Ishii took Gotou’s mobile out of the plastic bag . He turned it on and searched through the address book .
– There it is .
He found the name Ozawa Haruka in the address book . He noted down the number and picked up the phone .
What a strange line-up –
Haruka felt that way when she looked at the faces that had gathered at Isshin’s house . It was like a drama that was missing its main character . The ratings would be awful .
Haruka sat next to Isshin . Ishii and Makoto were opposite them .
All the people here were related somehow to Yakumo and Gotou, but it was the first time they’d met up without them .
While Haruka was talking with Isshin, her phone had rung .
Ishii had been the one who called her . She had hoped that he might have some sort of clue, but instead she heard that Gotou had also gone missing .
While Haruka had just been bewildered, Isshin arranged for the four of them to meet .
'Now, let’s begin . ’
Isshin broke the silence .
He was appropriate for the role . Unfortunately, the rest of them weren’t leader types .
'Gotou-kun went missing yesterday then . ’
Isshin looked towards Ishii . Ishii hung his head, as if to deny those words . His glasses were cracked for some reason .
'Is anything the matter?’
'No, er, um…’
Ishii wiped the sweat off his forehead and hunched his back as he pressed his hands against his stomach .
'Er, I’ll explain . Much of what happened resulted from my actions . ’
Makoto spoke up for Ishii .
'Please do . ’
Urged on by Isshin, Makoto began her explanation .
'We were looking into the puzzle of a spiritual phenomenon in a video . It was put out by a video company and there had been the ghost of a woman in it . At the location, four people had been brutally murdered fifteen years ago, and one had gone missing – it was a repulsive case . ’
'I know about that case as well . Wasn’t the suspect who escaped spotted the other day?’
Isshin hit his knee .
'That’s right . Gotou-san and Ishii-san were the one who spotted the escaped suspect . ’
'I see . So that was why Yakumo was dragged into the case,’ said Isshin grimly .
It felt like Isshin’s tone was pointed, which was rare for him . It didn’t show in his expression, but it felt like Isshin didn’t think well of Gotou, who involved Yakumo in his cases .
Rather than disliking his personality, it felt like he was anxious for Yakumo .
'Yes . Yakumo-san saw the video once . But right after he finished watching, he left without saying anything . ’
Yakumo sometimes acted that way .
At times like that, he had grasped almost all the threads of the case . However, Yakumo, who hated making his final judgements based on his reasoning, would leave to act on his own without saying anything .
'After that, Ishii-san and Gotou-san went to the house to try to solve the case alone . Then…’
'Gotou-kun went missing…’
'Yes . ’
Makoto nodded .
There was something Haruka didn’t understand from the explanation .
'Ishii-san was with Gotou-san, yes?’
When Ishii heard Haruka’s question, a jolt ran through his body and he looked up . He looked frightened, like an abandoned puppy .
'N-no . Er, I was…’
Ishii’s forehead was covered in sweat . He seemed flustered .
'Ishii-san, nobody blames you . Please calm down and speak . ’
Isshin turned his usual gentle smile towards Ishii .
'Ishii-san, it’s all right . ’
Makoto placed her hand on Ishii’s tightly gripped fist . She acted just like a mother . Ishii appeared to calm down slightly, and he nodded before starting to speak .
'It shames me to say that I was outside the house because I was frightened . Detective Gotou took a long time inside the house, so I was anxious and went inside, but then, it was already…’
When he finished speaking, Ishii hung his head, as if there was a weight on it .
'I see . ’
Isshin crossed his arms and nodded .
'If I had gone with Detective Gotou then, this wouldn’t have…’
Ishii’s hands were in tight fists, and the words sounded like they had been strangled out of him .
Haruka did not blame Ishii, just as Isshin had said .
There was no helping it . If he knew this was going to happen, Ishii would have gone with Gotou no matter how afraid he was .
That was the way of regret –
If Haruka had known that Yakumo was going to go missing, she would have done something when he called .
'Yakumo and Gotou-kun both went missing . It may be dangerous to speculate, but I still think that the two events are related,’ said Isshin quietly . Though his tone was different, what he said was exactly like how Yakumo would have said it .
Even though their outward personalities were different, the roots of his ideas, or rather, the way they thought was very similar . Haruka realised that anew .
'I think that too,’ said Makoto .
Haruka nodded as well . Ishii only kept his head down in silence .
'And even though Gotou-kun looks like that, he isn’t a reckless man . If he went to the scene of the crime, it probably means he had thought of something, even though he didn’t say it aloud . ’
Isshin’s words made Ishii look up in surprise .
'What is it?’
'No, it’s nothing . ’
Ishii shook his head and looked down again .
Isshin seemed to sense something from that response, as his eyes narrowed, but in the end, he said nothing .
'Would you allow me to see that video?’ said Haruka, leaning forward .
'I would appreciate it if you did . May I borrow the TV?’
'Please go ahead . ’
After receiving Isshin’s permission, Makoto took a video camera and cable out of her bag and quickly started connecting them .
Ishii couldn’t calm down – he was looking around like a chicken . It was probably a terrifying video .
The truth was, Haruka didn’t want to see something frightening either, but if she looked away, she wouldn’t be able to find out if Yakumo was safe .
'May I start?’
After Makoto finished setting up, she slowly looked at each of their faces as she asked that question .
Everyone nodded silently .
Makoto pressed the play button and a video showed up on the television .
The building looked like a church . Somebody who looked like a reporter and somebody who looked like an exorcist in worship clothes were talking outside . Then, they entered the house .
The reporter seemed to feel something strange, because she looked around, frightened .
Suddenly, the lights went out and the screen went black .
It sounded like there were footsteps .
There were yells and screams .
The tense atmosphere came right through .
A moment of silence –
Then, the bloody face of a woman filled the screen .
It felt like the anguished face was going to come out of the television and chase her .
Though she didn’t scream, Haruka covered her mouth and leant away from the screen .
Finally, the woman’s face disappeared into the dark and the video stopped .
Nobody said anything .
It was certain that Yakumo had felt something from this video .
It was possible that Yakumo, who could see the spirits of the dead, might have felt something in this video that others couldn’t see .
Haruka recalled the face of the woman .
The face that suddenly appeared on screen . It wasn’t anything tangible, but the moment the face appeared, the atmosphere had changed . What was it? This strange feeling .
'I see . ’
Isshin was the one who broke the silence .
'If Yakumo saw this video, I can understand his inexplicable actions . ’
With his arms crossed, Isshin spoke, looking at the television with a sharp glance he didn’t usually show .
'What do you mean?’ said Haruka quickly, unable to restrain her agitation .
'The ghost in this video is my older sister . ’
The words Isshin said quietly shook Haruka’s heart .
The words were a shock . If she was Isshin’s older sister, that would mean she was Yakumo’s mother .
Then, just as Isshin said, Haruka could understand Yakumo’s inexplicable actions .
When Yakumo saw this video, it piqued his interest in his mother . Then, he went to investigate alone .
Because he thought it was something personal, he didn’t tell anybody .
'If she was captured on a video as a ghost, it means that my sister is already…’
Isshin’s expression twisted as he spoke in a feeble voice like the dying flame of a candle .
Haruka knew what he was going to say even if he didn’t finish his sentence . If she had been a ghost, it meant she was already dead .
Isshin had probably believed somewhere in his heart that his older sister was still alive . Then, he found out about her death in such an unbelievable manner .
It was so sad –
'If she is Yakumo-san’s mother, why would she be in the video of this house?’
Makoto leant forward slightly as she proposed her question .
It certainly might be the gap they needed to solve the puzzle of the case .
Haruka was interested in how Isshin felt, so she took a glance at him .
Isshin was pinching his brow and appeared to be thinking about something . Yakumo had the same habit when he ran across a difficult problem . The two really were alike .
Finally, Isshin raised his head .
There seemed to be resignation in the back of his narrow eyes .
'Would you mind if I talk a bit about my sister?’
Nobody objected to Isshin’s suggestion .
'My sister was abducted by a man twenty-two years ago and kept captive . Since my sister never said anything, I don’t know what happened to her there . After two weeks of confinement, she barely escaped with her life and was taken in for protection . ’
Makoto looked like she would cry at any moment .
'Yes . She became pregnant with Yakumo then . ’
Haruka found it hard to breathe .
She’d got the general idea about Yakumo’s birth through occasional conversations she’d heard before, but it was the first time she had heard it clearly like this .
That reality always tormented Yakumo .
He had been born unwanted . Then, his mother had tried to kill him . He was an unnecessary human being .
The darkness that spread within Yakumo’s heart –
What had Yakumo been feeling as he chased after his mother?
'I have averted my eyes from what happened to my sister until now . I shouldn’t touch the matter . That was what I thought . It wasn’t something I could ask about . ’
Nobody interrupted Isshin . They simply listened .
Now that Haruka thought about it, tragedy had befallen Yakumo’s mother as well . Sudden misfortune had changed her fate .
'However, that might have just been running away . I didn’t touch the matter because she seemed pitiful . With that excuse, I might have been avoiding facing her directly . If I had faced her directly then, she might not have tried to kill Yakumo . She might not have gone missing, and she might still be walking her own path . ’
Isshin’s mouth was in a thin line as he slowly closed his eyes .
Haruka understood his feelings of regret, but this was different . When Haruka thought that, she opened her mouth to speak .
'Isshin-san, you weren’t incorrect . As a woman, she wouldn’t have wanted to be asked about that – she would have wanted to forget it, so…’
After saying that much, Haruka noticed that everyone’s gazes were focussed on her, and she stiffened .
Isshin started chuckling .
'Did I say something funny?’ said Haruka, looking at Isshin anxiously .
'No, that’s not it . I just thought that was to be expected . ’
'Yes . Yakumo’s completely under your thumb . ’
She was even more confused now . Haruka didn’t remember ever having Yakumo under her thumb . It appeared that Isshin had a strange misunderstanding, but Haruka couldn’t think of how to deny his words .
'Anyway, it’s just as Haruka-chan says . There’s no point regretting the past now . We need to think of what to do now . ’
Isshin’s expression stiffened .
'Yes . ’
'I’m going to share my reasoning, but I think that the cases are connected . The murders fifteen years ago . The suspect from that case showed up again, my sister showed up in the video, Yakumo went missing, and Gotou-kun disappeared . ’
That was right . These cases were connected .
'What we can do is find the thread that connects these cases . ’
The thread that connects them –
'That’s right . It seems that’s all we can do now . ’
Makoto gave her agreement .
'In short, we gather information again and see if any data seems to correspond?’
Ishii looked up at Isshin . He seemed extremely unconfident .
'Ishii-san, Hijikata-san, I apologise for the trouble, but would you look through the data again?’
'I understand,’ replied Makoto .
'I have a few ideas myself, so I will go look into them . ’
As Isshin brought the conversation to a close, Makoto stood up .
'Ishii-san, let’s go . ’
Despite Makoto’s call, Ishii did not stand up .
Ishii had always been timid, but Haruka still felt this was unlike him . Perhaps it was from the shock of Gotou going missing –
'Ishii-san . ’
When Makoto hurried him, Ishii shook his head .
'Will we really find Detective Gotou by doing something like this?’ said Ishii quietly . They were apathetic words .
– Why are you saying that?
The discomfort in Haruka’s heart spread .
'I think it would be better if we left everything to the police instead of going ourselves . If we report Yakumo-shi’s disappearance as well…’
'How many missing persons does the police look for every year and how many do they find? To say more, how many cases do investigators actually look into?’
Isshin cast out harsh questions to drown out Ishii’s negativity .
Haruka didn’t know the actual numbers either, but she understood what Isshin was trying to say .
For missing persons without clear cases, there were no searches . There weren’t enough police to search for missing persons .
Setting Gotou aside, if they reported Yakumo as missing, it would probably be filed away with the police saying that Yakumo had disappeared of his will .
’… But with Detective Gotou and Yakumo-shi, it wasn’t an abduction – there was no ransom . Which means they might already…’ mumbled Ishii, looking down .
Emotions boiled up in Haruka’s chest .
From the way Ishii was speaking, it was like he was telling them to give up because Gotou and Yakumo were already dead .
Haruka glared at Ishii . She knew herself that her voice was angry .
’… It is probably… already too late for the two of them . ’
'What do you mean by too late?’
'I’m saying that they’re probably already dead…’
'How can you say that so easily? Don’t just kill them off!’ yelled Haruka, drowning out Ishii’s words . At the same time, whatever had frozen over inside her broke and tears came falling out .
Ishii seemed uneasy as he looked around frantically .
Haruka took that chance to land the final blow . Her emotions had reached tipping point and she couldn’t control herself .
'Ishii-san, are you saying that we should give up because they’re already dead?’
'That isn’t what I…’
'Then what do you mean?’
Haruka’s anger only grew as she saw Ishii squirming .
'Yakumo-kun saved me – he didn’t give up until the end! That’s why I won’t give up either! Hasn’t Gotou-san risked his life countless times to protect you, Ishii-san!? Then why are you giving up? Hey! Why!?’
Haruka’s throat was trembling .
It hurt . She had thought Ishii was her ally, but she felt like he’d betrayed her .
They might be dead . She knew that it was a possibility . But if she accepted that, then Yakumo and Gotou really wouldn’t come back .
I won’t stand for that! As long as there’s even the slightest possibility, I definitely won’t give up!
'Haruka-chan, it’s all right already . Ishii-san doesn’t really think that way either . He’s just saying that we need to be prepared . ’
Isshin touched Haruka’s shoulder .
That moment, Haruka lost her footing and collapsed into Isshin, clinging to him as she sobbed .
I don’t want Yakumo to disappear – I don’t want him to .
Why did he disappear without saying anything?
I hate him!
Once more . I want to see you once more –
Having lost herself to the feelings that had welled up, Haruka continued to cry into Isshin’s chest .
Led out by Makoto, Ishii escaped to the car .
Even after sitting in the driver’s seat, he felt weightless, as if he were in a dream . It didn’t feel real .
The words that the woman he loved had levelled at him had pierced more deeply in his heart than anything else . His chest stung, as if somebody had poured salt on his wound .
– What on earth am I doing? How could I say that?
Self-hatred boiled up within Ishii and went straight to his core .
It was just as Haruka said . Gotou had saved him so many times before, but now that Gotou was in a pinch, he didn’t try to do anything and gave up by saying it was impossible for him .
– It’s unforgiveable! I can’t forgive myself!
Ishii wanted to destroy everything and kept on hitting his head against the steering wheel .
His shriek felt like it would tear through his throat .
His breathing was ragged .
His tears and snot dripped onto the steering wheel .
– What a useless man I am .
Even though Haruka, a university student, was trying so hard, he had shut himself out because he was a coward .
He had been waiting for somebody to save him .
Doing nothing was the same as making the possibility drop to zero himself .
If there was still one per cent chance, he couldn’t give up .
'Ishii-san, are you all right?’
Makoto handed Ishii a handkerchief from the passenger seat .
Normally, she didn’t show her emotions on her face . However, Ishii realised once more that she was considerate and caring at the bottom of her heart .
He had thought her bothersome up until earlier, but now he appreciated her kindness .
Ishii didn’t take the proffered handkerchief . Instead, he wiped his tears on the sleeve of his suit .
Especially because he appreciated her kindness, he couldn’t allow her to spoil him . He had to walk forward on his own now .
'I’m fine . ’
Ishii snivelled and looked straight at Makoto .
No matter how wretched his circumstances, he couldn’t look away . Ishii felt that strongly .
'You might be angry if I put it this way, but Ishii-san, you just don’t have any self-confidence,’ said Makoto, as if to herself .
Those words woke up a sleeping memory in Ishii’s mind .
I had been in middle school . At the time, I’d dreamt of being a manga artist .
When my father found out, he came into my room with the face of a demon and threw all of the manga pages that I had worked so hard on into the bin .
I couldn’t stop him – I just watched him silently .
– Don’t have such a stupid dream . Know your own abilities .
My father kept saying that .
My strict father was a policeman, so he might not have been able to understand my dream .
No, he might have said that because he didn’t want to see me every day after I failed in my dream and fell down .
My father scorned my dream and crushed it .
That hadn’t been the first time my father had done something like that . He had done that ever since my childhood .
At some point, I became somebody who doubted himself, feared being yelled at and didn’t put his own thoughts into words .
This wasn’t just at home – it was the same at school too . Other kids bullied me and called me 'glasses monkey’ .
Just as my father said, I’m an ordinary person – I can’t do anything special . So I don’t say anything . I don’t do anything .
In the end, I decided to become a detective because of something that happened in high school .
It felt like my father was satisfied with that . But –
'My father was… No, I was wrong . ’
However, Ishii had just shifted the responsibility to his father without his knowing .
How could he know it was impossible without doing anything? He had to believe in his own ability now and do something .
'This isn’t the time to stop!’ yelled Ishii, looking up .
In the back of his mind, an electric switch he hadn’t used before switched on .
– I can do it . No, I have to do it .
It was like his blood was flowing in the other direction . He felt exhilarated . He had never felt this way before .
'I will definitely find the two of them,’ declared Ishii to Makoto .
'That’s the spirit . ’
Makoto smiled .
'Please wait, Detective Gotou . I will definitely find you . ’
The newly budded determination in Ishii firmly rooted his shaking heart .
How much did I cry –
Haruka had kept on crying heedless of her surroundings, like a child .
Yakumo was going to disappear . Just from thinking that, she was hit with an indescribable wave of sadness . She had felt the same sadness when she lost her twin sister .
Yakumo wasn’t just a friend .
Yakumo was the one who had filled in the hole left in Haruka’s heart when her sister died .
– Yakumo is my better half . If I lose him, I’ll break .
'Have you calmed down?’
She looked up at the voice and saw Isshin’s gentle face .
'Sorry . ’
Haruka quickly wiped her tears and lowered her head . She sat up properly .
'Don’t worry about it . But you should apologise to Ishii-san afterwards . He didn’t mean any harm,’ Isshin said gently, placing a hand on Haruka’s shoulder .
Just as Isshin said, she had said something awful to Ishii, thought that had been because of her pent-up emotions .
Ishii had to be suffering too from Gotou’s disappearance, but she had only been thinking of herself .
'Yes, I will . ’
Isshin nodded in satisfaction at Haruka’s response .
It was mysterious how Haruka felt like all was forgiven once Isshin looked at her .
It was said that Maitreya was the Buddha of salvation . Haruka felt like it wasn’t just Isshin’s appearance that was similar .
'Still, Yakumo has to start thinking differently,’ said Isshin seriously as he scratched his chin .
'What do you mean?’
Haruka didn’t understand the meaning behind Isshin’s words .
'Because that happened to Yakumo, he thinks that nobody will love him . He’s lost his meaning for living and sometimes acts in a way that treats his life lightly . ’
Isshin’s opinion struck Haruka too .
Sometimes, Yakumo really was reckless . He put himself in danger – it even felt like he sometimes wanted to do so when he leapt in .
Because he could see the spirits of the dead, he was more sensitive to the lives of others, but he didn’t treat his own life the same way .
He wants to die – it made her feel that way .
'I’ve thought that too . ’
Haruka put her thoughts into words . Isshin nodded a number of times .
'But there are two people here who are worried about Yakumo and feel like their hearts have been wrenched open . I wish Yakumo would realise that . ’
Isshin smiled in a truly happy manner .
Haruka felt the same way as Isshin . No matter what anyone said, to Isshin and Haruka, Yakumo was an important and irreplaceable existence in their hearts .
'Do you think Yakumo-kun is all right?’
The moment Haruka relaxed, the anxiety that had been in her chest came out .
By not saying it aloud, she had been keeping the anxiety inside .
'I don’t know . Yakumo might have just gone off to chase his mother himself, so we can’t contact him, or he might have been caught up in some incident . ’
'Yes . ’
'Whichever it is, all we can do now is believe in him . ’
Isshin laughed like a child .
It was true that all they could do now was believe in him . But –
'Isn’t there anything I can do?’
Haruka couldn’t just wait quietly .
'Of course there is . ’
Isshin nodded, as if he had been waiting for those words .
'Please tell me . What should I do?’
'Well, don’t be in such a rush . Before that, I want you to know a bit more about my sister, Haruka-chan . ’
– Yakumo’s mother .
Haruka barely knew anything about what sort of person that woman was . The only thing she knew was that she had tried to kill Yakumo .
However, that was only one action of hers . She couldn’t pinpoint everything about her just from that .
And why did Yakumo’s mother want to kill Yakumo as a child anyway?
She wanted to know the reason too .
'Yes . ’
Perhaps Isshin sensed how Haruka was feeling, because he started his story .
'This might sound like the partiality of a relative, but my sister was a very kind person . Though part of it was because we were far apart in age, she always took care of me . ’
The bloody and anguished face came up in Haruka’s head when she heard Isshin’s words .
– I can’t do that . I can’t have any preconceptions .
Haruka shook the image out of her head and focussed on listening to Isshin .
'Though my sister was kind, it is also true that she wasn’t very strong psychologically . When anything tough happens, she ended up worrying about it herself . ’
Isshin crossed his arms and seemed to be looking far away . He appeared to be gathering his memories .
Haruka also tried to imagine Isshin’s sister, rather than the woman who had tried to kill Yakumo .
'When I was in high school, that incident occurred . I returned home from to school to find my parents extremely worried since they couldn’t contact my sister . ’
'Did you contact the police?’
'We contacted them immediately and filed a report for missing persons, but they just asked about the situation and it ended there . ’
Isshin paused . It looked like he was forcibly restraining his emotions .
It made Haruka remember what Isshin had said to Ishii-san earlier .
If there wasn’t a clear case for the missing person, the police wouldn’t move . Isshin had probably experienced that himself then .
'In the end, all we could do was ask around town . I still wonder now if there was anything else we could have done . ’
Isshin sighed . It sounded like it was filled with regret .
But it would probably be difficult to say if there was anything else Isshin could have done then .
'My sister was found two weeks after . Somebody found her wandering on a mountain road in Nagano prefecture . ’
Haruka reacted sensitively to the location Isshin mentioned .
'Do you know it?’
– More than just knowing .
'That’s where I’m from!’
'I see, so Haruka-chan is from Nagano…’
Isshin’s eyes narrowed, like he was thinking deeply about something .
'Yes . And the man who came this morning said that Yakumo-kun was in Nagano . Perhaps…’
There might be some relation .
'I see . Something might be there . ’
Isshin appeared to have the same opinion .
'Er, do you know exactly where in Nagano prefecture it was?’
'It was Togakushi . ’
'Togakushi – is that true!?’ exclaimed Haruka in her agitation .
'That should be right,’ said Isshin clearly .
– This is an amazing coincidence .
'My family is from Togakushi in Nagano prefecture . ’
'What did you say!?’
Even Isshin was surprised as his eyes went as wide as saucers .
That said, Haruka’s heart was beating quickly too in her excitement . She was being called . That was how she felt .
For a while, Isshin looked up at the ceiling as if thinking, but then he narrowed his eyes like he had thought of something .
'This is an abrupt question, but your family name is Ozawa, right, Haruka-chan?’
'Yes . ’
'I see… Could your mother’s name be Keiko-san?’
– Why does Isshin know my mother’s name?
She had never said her mother’s name to Isshin or Yakumo before . Haruka almost fainted in her confusion .
'So it is Keiko-san,’ repeated Isshin .
Haruka’s throat was dry – she couldn’t speak . She just nodded silently .
– What does this mean?
'So that really is the case? What a coincidence . No, perhaps it’s fate . In any case, I have to feel that this is some sort of destiny,’ said Isshin to himself as he stood up .
Haruka felt like she had been left behind and looked up at Isshin’s face to ask for an answer .
'Wait here . ’
Without responding to Haruka’s question, Isshin left the room .
After being left behind, all Haruka could do was wait with her overwhelming questions .
After Ishii returned to the precinct, he headed for the police quarters’ common room .
When he went inside, the investigation members all glared at him .
– What did you come here for?
The gazes of the veterans seemed like jeers .
However, it wasn’t the time or place to falter from something like that . No matter how he was ridiculed or reprimanded, he had to move forward to find Gotou .
Ishii prepared himself and walked straight to the desk in the very back of the room that belonged to Chief Miyagawa .
'Did you find Gotou?’
Once Ishii reached the front of the desk, Miyagawa said that, full of hostility .
Ishii felt like he had a sword to his neck . Normally, Ishii would have run away in fear, but today was different .
'I haven’t yet . ’
'Then why are you here?’
Miyagawa’s thick voice was lower than usual, and it fanned up Ishii’s fear .
A cold sweat ran down his back, but Ishii still faced Miyagawa directly .
'I came here today because I have a request!’ said Ishii loudly, his voice coming from the bottom of his stomach so that he wouldn’t be defeated by emotion .
'I would appreciate it if you would allow me to see the dossier and related documents for the Takeda Shunsuke case . ’
'Can’t do it . What do you want something like that for?’
Miyagawa turned his chair around and looked to the side . It was a strong display of refusal .
'In order to find Detective Gotou, they are absolutely necessary . Please . ’
Ishii bent his waist and bowed so that his head almost reached the desk .
'The whole mess is because you stuck your noses into other people’s business!’
Though he wasn’t sure where it came from, somebody jeered at Ishii, and sniggers echoed through the room in agreement .
Still, Ishii kept his head down in a bow .
He didn’t care what anybody said . Something like this wouldn’t make him give in . He wasn’t the Ishii Yuutarou he’d always been . If it was to save Gotou, he’d do anything . He didn’t care what anybody thought .
Ishii spoke up once again .
'Not a chance! I told you to look for Gotou, but I don’t remember telling you to stick your neck where it doesn’t belong!’
Miyagawa turned to face him again and hit his desk as he yelled .
Ishii didn’t falter – he looked up and stared straight at Miyagawa’s face . It was so tense it felt like sparks were flying .
'My goal is to find Detective Gotou . I do not plan on obstructing the investigation . ’
'However, in order to search for Detective Gotou’s location, it is absolutely necessary to investigate that case once more . ’
'You’ll get in the way if you’re loitering about! No matter how many times you lower your head, things that are no good are no good!’
Miyagawa slammed his fist into his desk again .
So it really was no good? It really wouldn’t be easy to convince this person . Disappointment spread throughout Ishii .
But he couldn’t give up . If he couldn’t get permission through official means, he would have to steal it . He would definitely be dismissed if it were found out, but that meant nothing when compared to Gotou’s life .
'I understand . Please excuse me . ’
Ishii bowed once more to Miyagawa and turned on his heels .
The investigation members’ pitying looks washed over him . Mysteriously though, he didn’t care . Ishii felt anew that this was what following a path he believed in felt .
Just as Ishii was about to start walking, Miyagawa called out to him .
'What is it?’
Ishii turned around . Miyagawa had his arms crossed and seemed to be thinking as he stared at Ishii .
'If you’ve got enough free time to stick your neck into an unrelated case, I’ll give you some work to do . ’
'Work… is it?’
Right now, he had to search for Gotou – he didn’t have the time to do any other work . Miyagawa should have understood that .
Ishii didn’t understand Miyagawa’s true intention .
'The fourth floor toilet is dirty . Go clean it!’
Miyagawa’s words made the room erupt in laughter .
This made even Ishii angry .
Wasn’t Miyagawa worried about Gotou –
Miyagawa had the one who reprimanded Ishii for holing up in his room, so Ishii found Miyagawa’s words hard to understand .
Ishii gripped his hands into such tight fists it felt like his fingernails would tear through his skin in his vexation .
'Especially the stall in the very back . The back of the tank is dirty . I’ll go check it in an hour, so you better do it properly . ’
After Miyagawa added that, he raised his left eyebrow and there was a faint smile on his lips .
When Ishii saw that expression, he understood everything .
– I see . So that’s how it is .
He felt ashamed for doubting Miyagawa for even a moment .
'Understood . I will clean the toilets thoroughly . ’
Ishii made a polite bow to Miyagawa and walked out of the room with long strides .
Why does Isshin know the name of my mother –
That question was circling Haruka’s head .
Isshin had said it was fate . What had he meant by that?
'Sorry for the wait . ’
When Isshin returned to the living room, he was holding a long white envelope .
It looked fairly old – the colour was dull .
Is the answer to my question in that envelope – Haruka was on the balls of her feet, but Isshin was calm . He sat cross-legged on the floor .
Haruka leant forward, unable to contain herself .
'Don’t be in such a hurry . Let’s talk in the proper order . ’
Just as Isshin said, there was no point hurrying .
Even though she understood that, her body still reacted the way it did . Haruka put a hand to her chest and sighed .
Isshin slid the envelope across the table . <Saitou Azusa-sama> was written on it .
Azusa . That’s Yakumo’s mother’s name –
'Just as I said earlier, my sister was kept in a mountain cottage in Togakushi, Nagano when she went missing . ’
In Haruka’s hometown, Togakushi, on the mountain used for skiing and mountain climbing, there were various mountain cottages .
Virtually all of them were only used during the appropriate seasons, so it was a lonely place that nobody approached during the off-seasons . It could be called the ideal location for keeping somebody captive without being found .
'My sister used a ski that the man had overlooked to thrust her way out of the cottage . She went through the forest, down the mountain and out onto the road to look for help .
Unconsciously, the image of a woman trying to escape came up in Haruka’s mind .
Without knowing where she was, she was afraid of the man coming after her – her psychological state had probably been at its limit .
Just imagining it made it hard to breath .
'At the time, one of the people who lived there happened to pass by and saved my sister . ’
'Could you mean…’
Could it be – that thought spread in Haruka’s head .
'That person had been very concerned about my sister, perhaps because they were close in age . Even after the incident, she regularly sent letters to contact her . ’
Haruka’s eyes went wide and she stared at Isshin’s face .
'When my sister went missing, all of her belongings were disposed of, but this was in the mailbox . It had probably arrived after she disappeared . The person who wrote the letter was the one who had saved my sister after that incident . ’
This letter . Isshin flipped over the envelope . The sender’s name was written there .
– Ozawa Keiko .
Haruka spoke up unconsciously .
The letters in the top left corner were unmistakeably her mother’s .
She’d thought it was the case partway through the story, but seeing it with her eyes like this made her shiver .
Haruka didn’t know what emotion that came from .
'This is really a mysterious connection . I just feel like Yakumo and you were meant to meet, Haruka-chan . ’
That might have been the case . A number of feelings were welling up within Haruka, and the corners of her eyes felt warm .
Yakumo and Haruka’s meeting hadn’t been anything dramatic .
Because of a spiritual phenomenon, Haruka had gone to Yakumo’s clubroom for the first time .
But now that she thought about it, it felt like that had had to happen .
Without their knowing, their two lives had been connected . Then, they had been drawn to their meeting .
'I was going to ask you to look for the person who wrote this letter, Haruka-chan, but it seems that isn’t necessary . ’
Isshin scratched his head awkwardly .
'It seems so . ’
Haruka stared at the letter .
If Haruka could talk to Keiko, she might be able to find out what sort of person Azusa was and why she tried to kill Yakumo .
That wasn’t all . The reason for Azusa’s disappearance and her location . Then she’d be able to grasp where Yakumo might have gone .
Here, Haruka realised something .
'Has the envelope not been opened?’
The envelope was firmly shut, and it had no signs of ever having been open .
'I couldn’t open it… That might be a more correct way of putting it . ’
Isshin looked away, seeming uncomfortable .
'You couldn’t open it?’
'If I felt like it, I could have opened that letter, looked for that woman and talked to her, but I didn’t . ’
'Why is that?’
If he looked at what was written in the letter, it could have been a clue towards looking for where Azusa had gone . Then why? Haruka stated her question as it came up in her head .
'Because my sister tried to kill Yakumo . ’
The words Isshin said quietly left a strong impact and shook Haruka’s heart .
If she had just gone missing regularly, Isshin probably would have opened the letter and searched for Azusa .
However, Azusa had tried to kill Yakumo, her own child, and she had disappeared after she failed in doing that .
'If Azusa had been found, she would have been taken in for attempted murder . And when I thought about how Yakumo would respond if my sister returned…’
– He was afraid .
Isshin sniffed and wiped at his eye with his finger .
Yakumo hated Azusa . If the object of his hate came back – it was certainly scary to think about what might happen next .
Isshin didn’t say it aloud, but Haruka could imagine that there had been painful discord within Isshin . After thinking about it, he had decided to wait .
'There might have been a special reason behind why she tried to kill Yakumo . ’
'What if that reason was because of his red eye?’
The blood left Haruka’s face once she heard what Isshin said .
It was just as he said . If that fact thrust itself in front of Yakumo’s eyes again, Haruka couldn’t imagine what would happen .
Yakumo probably wouldn’t react that way now, but he had been an elementary school student at the time .
If a young boy was rejected by his parent like that – Haruka grew quiet just from thinking about it .
'I decided to take Yakumo in and love him instead of searching for my sister or finding out why she tried to kill Yakumo . ’
That was a very Isshin way of thinking .
In his dilemma, Isshin had chosen the young Yakumo .
'That’s why I didn’t open the letter . I didn’t want to know anything . Well, even if I put it so nicely, I might’ve just been afraid of knowing the truth . Knowing the truth is filled with danger . ’
Haruka thought that Isshin’s decision wasn’t wrong .
In the world, just knowing the truth wasn’t everything . Because Yakumo had had Isshin’s love, even though he held a darkness within him, he had a kind and strong heart . That was how Haruka wanted to think .
'Haruka-chan, I’ll leave it to you to decide what to do with that letter . Now is different from then . ’
Haruka put the letter to her chest and closed her eyes .
She felt like a flame of hope had been lit .
– Yakumo . Wait . I’ll definitely find you .
After Makoto returned to the newspaper agency, she went straight to the storeroom in the basement .
The whole basement was a storeroom, lined with ceiling-high cabinets .
The cabinet shelves were lined with cardboard boxes labelled with the date which had past articles stuffed in them in a disorderly fashion .
However, Makoto’s goal wasn’t the cabinet . If she opened all the boxes to search through them, she wouldn’t find what she wanted even if she spent years looking .
There was a booth right by the entrance . There were two tables, each with a computer terminal .
Makoto stuck her staff card into the terminal, input her ID and password and accessed the server . With this terminal, she would be able to look at the past articles saved in PDF form .
Input boxes for search terms showed up on the monitor . First, the date . She put the beginning as the date the incident occurred fifteen years ago and put no time limit . It had been such a big incident . There had been follow-up articles every time anything occurred .
She didn’t choose morning or evening edition either . For the search terms, she typed in 'murder case’ and 'Nanase’, the family name of the victims, and then she started the search .
There would probably be a great number of articles . It would take a lot of time to check all of them, and even if she did, there was no guarantee that she would find any new information .
But she had to do it . Makoto had made up her mind .
– I won’t give up .
What Haruka had said had repeated in Makoto’s head again and again . That one sentence had brought Ishii back to his senses . It had been the same for Makoto .
She had planned on encouraging Yakumo, but unconsciously, in the bottom of her heart, Makoto had also given up on Gotou .
Taking the situation into account, the possibility that he was alive was extremely low . But if she went with that as a premise, it would be impossible to find Gotou .
No matter what the situation, she had to act while believing he was alive .
Makoto didn’t know much about Haruka .
She had just thought of her as a slightly cute and pampered female university student who could be found anywhere .
Makoto hadn’t been able to understand why Ishii was so infatuated with her .
Because of that shallow jealousy, Makoto had found Haruka hard to deal with and had had the preconceived notion that she was a weak woman who couldn’t do anything on her own .
However, Makoto realised that she had been wrong from what happened this time .
Haruka hadn’t been the superficial woman who tried to please everyone that Makoto had thought she was .
Makoto didn’t know what sort of life Haruka had had up until now, but she was pure and honest in a way that didn’t seem appropriate for her age . On top of that, she had a strong heart .
The search results displayed on the monitor, interrupting Makoto’s thoughts .
'What an amazing number…’
Makoto inadvertently spoke aloud .
There were more than three hundred results . She encouraged her withering spirit and followed the displayed titles with her eyes as she scrolled down .
– Brutal murder on the hill!
– Grave police error!
– Culprit still at large!
Impactful titles leapt out of the screen .
Makoto stopped scrolling halfway down .
She’d thought she’d misread and checked again, but she hadn’t .
There was a title there that was clearly different from the others .
– Apology for Nanase family murder case article misprint .
When she opened the article, it took a rather large frame . If it had just been a one-word misprint, it wouldn’t have needed to be so large . They’d written so many articles on just one night . One or two misprints were inevitable .
If this much had been written, it felt like something might be there .
Makoto felt that way, so she immediately printed the article .
Exactly one hour after, Ishii went to the fourth-floor toilet that Miyagawa had mentioned .
After confirming that no one was there, he went to the cubicle in the back and shut the door .
When he reached behind the tank, he found something stuck there with packing tape .
He looked from above, but he couldn’t see well, so in the end, he put his face to the tile floor and peered up from below .
'There it is . ’
After a hard struggle, Ishii succeeded in taking the A4 size thick envelope that had been stuck there .
He sat on the toilet and checked what was inside .
It wasn’t just a dossier .
There was even a handwritten copy – probably by Miyagawa – of the investigation materials .
– He did so much .
Something came up in Ishii’s chest .
Somebody knocked on the cubicle door .
Ishii leapt up . Careful not to make any noise, he peered through the gap between the door .
He saw a bald man taking care of his business at the urinal .
'Don’t be so nervous . It’s me . ’
That thick voice filled with pressure . It was Miyagawa .
'Chief Miyagawa! Thank you very much!’
'Don’t be so loud . ’
After Miyagawa said that, Ishii hurriedly covered his mouth with both hands and then dropped the envelope with the documents in it into the toilet .
Ishii hurriedly stuck his hand in to pick it up . Though there wasn’t much damage to the documents, his suit was soaked .
'You’re so noisy . I’m going to say something now, so shut up and listen . ’
Miyagawa said that first before starting to speak .
'It’ll be a problem if you sniff around and talk to the investigation members that were on the case fifteen years ago, so you’d better not do it . ’
Even Ishii knew that without being told . With the response of the common room earlier, Ishii knew it would be a most reckless course of action .
'But I don’t care if you talk to people outside of the police . ’
'What do you mean?’
'I told you not to talk . ’
Miyagawa rejected Ishii’s question .
'I-I apologise . ’
'The coroner who was in charge of the autopsies for that case was that perverted old man . ’
If Hata had been in charge of the autopsies, Ishii might be able to hear about the case from him .
'And I’ve written down Gotou’s wife’s contact info too . ’
Ishii had spotted a mobile phone number on the back of the envelope .
'Just whenever you have time . Call her yourself . ’
Miyagawa’s words put a new weight on Ishii’s shoulders .
Will I really be able to do that –
Ishii didn’t know what he should say to Gotou’s wife .
– No, that’s wrong . There’s no need to make excuses . I will definitely find Gotou . So please don’t worry . I can just say that .
'Ishii . You have to find Gotou . ’
Miyagawa’s last words felt laboured, unlike his earlier enraged ones .
After the sound of flowing water, his footsteps grew quieter and quieter .
– Thank you very much .
Ishii repeated those words again and again in his heart .
After Haruka returned to her own room, she looked once more at the envelope .
The postmark is from fifteen years ago –
She had been six then, so her twin sister had still been alive .
She was curious about what was written in the letter, but the letter had been written for a specific person and was probably confidential .
When she thought about that, she hesitated about opening the seal .
After contemplating, Haruka decided to call her mother, Keiko, first .
In order to explain the situation, Haruka would have to talk about the letter . She could check with her mother then .
She picked up her mobile and called home .
After a number of rings, Keiko answered brightly: <Ozawa residence . >
'Mum, it’s me . ’
<Oh, it’s rare for you to call . >
'Do you have time to talk now?’
<Something happened, didn’t it . >
The tone of Keiko’s voice changed .
It seemed that she’d noticed something from just one sentence . That was a mother for you . Haruka marvelled over that and began her story .
'There was something I wanted to ask . ’
<What is it?>
'It’s a bit difficult to say…’
<You don’t know how the boy feels?>
Keiko said that, sounding amused . She appeared to have mistaken Haruka’s call as a request for romantic advice .
'Mum, do you know someone called Saitou Azusa-san?’
Haruka went straight to the point .
She heard Keiko gulp on the other end of the phone .
Haruka could tell her mother was confused . She probably hadn’t thought that she would hear that name from her daughter’s mouth .
<Yes, I do, though I don’t know if she’s the same person you’re talking about . >
Saitou Azusa . It certainly wasn’t a particularly uncommon name .
'Azusa, written with the radical for wood and the word for bitter . ’
'The person who you wrote letters to about fifteen years ago . ’
<Why do you know that, Haruka?>
Keiko’s voice was hard .
'One of my friends from university is that person’s son . ’
<You’re kidding! You go to the same university as Yakumo-kun?>
'Yes . ’
<I see, so he’s the same age as Haruka . >
Keiko’s tone made it sound like what Haruka had said had hit home .
– My mother knew about Yakumo before I did .
Haruka realised that with complicated feelings .
<That’s amazing . What a coincidence . Is Yakumo-kun doing well? How about Azusa-san? This is so nostalgic . >
Keiko sounded excited .
For her to respond in such a way even after fifteen years, it showed how deep their relationship was .
Haruka felt that her words were off .
– Is Yakumo really fine?
Unconsciously, she had gripped the red stone on the necklace she was wearing .
<Yakumo is, you say… Did something happen to Azusa-san?>
Haruka hadn’t said it that way on purpose, but Keiko had heard the difference in nuance .
Haruka wanted to hide it if she could, but it would be difficult with her personality . And if she hid that, she wouldn’t be able to continue with the conversation .
'Azusa-san is missing . ’
Keiko’s voice went up an octave .
'I don’t know… After she tried to kill Yakumo-kun, she disappeared . ’
When Haruka said that again, she felt the cruelty of that act on her skin .
A parent killing their child –
The past few years, she often heard about such cases on the news, but she felt like it was an area that people couldn’t step into .
Haruka felt a chill down her spine .
<Haruka, there are things you can say and things you can’t . >
Keiko spoke slowly . She was probably doing it on purpose . Her words sounded pointed .
Azusa had been Keiko’s friend . It wouldn’t be easy for her to accept the reality that her friend had tried to kill her child .
Haruka understood that . But –
'It’s true . I heard it from Yakumo-kun and his uncle, Isshin-san . I don’t know why things ended up like that, but she’s been missing ever since…’
<Haruka . >
'That’s why I want to know why things ended up the way they did . ’
<So it’s true . >
'This isn’t something I could lie or joke about . ’
Haruka heard Keiko sigh on the other end .
For a while after that, a silence continued .
No matter how Keiko and Azusa met, they had been friends .
Keiko was probably in a dilemma, because as a mother, she couldn’t forgive the act of laying a hand on a child .
<I was so sure that Azusa-san was living happily…>
That word didn’t match with the image Haruka had of Azusa .
<Azusa-san had plans to get married . >
Haruka raised her eyebrows .
It was the first time she’d heard that . Yakumo and Isshin hadn’t said anything about that . Did they not know about it –
<That’s right . Azusa-san sent me a photo of Yakumo-kun, herself and her fiancé . >
Haruka was too confused to arrange her thoughts .
If what Keiko said was true, then the image Haruka had had up until now would lose its foundation .
She’d thought that Azusa had been worrying and suffering by herself . From what she’d heard today, Isshin appeared to think the same way .
However, if somebody had been there to support Azusa, the story would be different .
That would mean that Azusa had stood up again after the incident and that she had been walking towards a new life . Then why did she try to kill Yakumo –
'Mum, do you still have that photo?’
<Yes . I think I’d be able to find it if I look . >
– I want to see it .
Young Yakumo . And his mother, Azusa . Then, the man that would have become Yakumo’s father .
It would definitely be a thread towards grasping Yakumo’s location . When Haruka thought that, she couldn’t contain herself .
'Mum, I’ll go look at the photo . ’
'Tomorrow . ’
Keiko’s voice was hysterical .
Even after Miyagawa left, Ishii stayed in the toilet stall .
He gripped his mobile and stared at the name Gotou Atsuko and the phone number written on the envelope .
Even though he had vowed that he would definitely save Gotou earlier, his fingers wouldn’t move for some reason .
It was easy to keep it in his heart, but the moment he said it aloud, he would be responsible for it and wouldn’t be able to take it back . He might have been afraid of that .
– What are you doing, Ishii Yuutarou? You already vowed to do it!
Ishii reprimanded himself and pushed in the number written on the back of the envelope .
He put the phone to his ear with a rising heartbeat .
<Hello, Gotou speaking . >
After one ring, somebody picked up . It was a woman who spoke with a calm tone .
During the last case, he had met her just once in front of the hospital . She was definitely Gotou Atsuko .
'E-er . I am Ishii Yuutarou from the detective department . ’
Ishii wiped his suddenly sweaty forehead with his wet suit sleeve and spoke firmly .
<My husband is always in your care . >
Ishii could tell that Atsuko had bowed her head on the other side of the phone .
Even though her husband was missing, she didn’t seem distracted .
'No, not at all . I’m the one in his care . ’
No . He didn’t have the time to exchange polite greetings .
Ishii swallowed, his throat as parched as a desert, and brought up the topic at hand .
'I am truly sorry for what has happened this time . ’
<It isn’t your fault, Ishii-san . >
'No, it is my fault . If I had been more responsible, this wouldn’t have happened . ’
The shame that had sunken welled up again .
<No, my useless husband just did something reckless again . There is no need for you to feel responsible, Ishii-san . >
Atsuko spoke firmly .
As a detective’s wife, she might have been prepared for something like this to happen .
That was somebody strong enough to have Gotou under her thumb .
Ishii started speaking, but his voice wouldn’t come out afterwards .
Even though he’d decided on what he was going to say already, he was silent, as if his mouth was covered .
<Ishii-san, I know it is wrong of me to ask you to do this . >
'If it’s something I can do, anything…’
<Please don’t forsake my useless husband . >
Ishii could feel on his skin that a great anxiety was hiding in the shadows of that dignified voice .
His body was shaking . He felt uplifted . Ishii was prepared .
'I will definitely save Detective Gotou!’
He was no longer afraid . Ishii made his declaration in a ringing voice .
After Makoto returned to her seat, she immediately picked up the telephone for the internal line .
She had looked through all the articles, but she hadn’t found anything special .
The thing that felt the most off was that article about the misprint . She didn’t know what it showed, but she wanted as much information as she could get . That was how she felt .
<'Lo . >
As if he had just woken up, Takizawa’s faint voice came through the receiver . He might have actually been asleep .
'I apologise for calling when you’re busy . It’s Hijikata . ’
<Oh, it’s you? Did you find what you were looking for?>
There was the sound of documents being ruffled through on the other side of phone .
'No, not yet . Actually, there was something I wanted to ask you about . ’
<I’ll answer if I can . >
'Takizawa-san, you wrote a follow-up article for the brutal murder of a family fifteen years ago, right?’
Takizawa was the one who had written the article about the misprint .
Makoto didn’t mean to attack him for it . The contents of the article just bothered her, like a small bone stuck in her throat .
In the article, there had been the testimony of A-ko-san, the person who had notified the police, as it was originally .
<I did . >
'I wanted to ask you in detail about the time period when A-ko-san reported the incident . ’
When Takizawa heard Makoto’s words, he clicked his tongue .
<That was… After that article came out, everything got tangled up . There was a complaint from the police too . In the end, I had to apologise for it as a misprint . >
From Takizawa’s tone, it didn’t sound like just a misprint .
'Was it really a misprint?’ asked Makoto daringly .
<Don’t be stupid . I’m not defending myself, but all I did was accurately reproduce the contents of the interview . That was definitely not a misprint . I’m not such an irresponsible guy . You can tell from looking at the content, right? It can’t just be shelved away as a misprint . >
Takizawa said that all at once .
He had probably remembered afresh the anger he had felt at that time .
Makoto also thought that it was as Takizawa said . It wasn’t a problem that could be shelved away as a misprint . That was why it had felt off .
In Takizawa’s article, it said that A-ko-san reported the incident to the police at about nine PM .
However, at the police presentation, they had said it was 12:07 AM . The difference between these times was the problem .
If only the time had been written in the article, it could have been just a misprint, but the story changed when looking at what was written before and after that .
A-ko-san finished dinner and heard a scream while watching a TV drama at about nine PM .
At first, she had thought it was the television, but then there was the sound of a struggle and she kept hearing screams, so she thought it was strange and went out .
A-ko-san confirmed that the noise was coming from the house next door and reported it to the police immediately . That was what was in the article .
On the same day as the incident, the TV drama A-ko-san mentioned was broadcast at nine PM, just as her testimony said .
She had been watching the drama from nine PM and heard the scream, so she reported it immediately to the police . They said that was at twelve AM .
There was a huge difference in time –
'Is there the possibility that A-ko-san gave false testimony…’
<For what purpose?>
Takizawa spoke over Makoto’s words .
It was just as he said . There was no reason for A-ko-san to give false testimony .
Perhaps if she had been a suspect, but A-ko-san had never been treated that way . There was no point in her changing the time on purpose .
Perhaps she was covering for someone –
But if that were the case, she could have just testified that she heard the scream at twelve AM .
<If you’re that curious, ask yourself . >
'Do you know her contact information?’
Makoto couldn’t hide her surprise at Takizawa’s words .
There was the sound of a drawer being opened and something falling from the other side of the phone .
<Yeah . Damn . Can’t find it right now, so I’ll message you it later . >
'That’ll be a great help . ’
<But be careful how you handle her . It’s an annoying time we’re in . >
Takizawa said that in an unpleasant tone .
'I’ll be very careful . Thank you very much . ’
Makoto bowed her head, the phone still in her hand .
Ishii went to the hospital early in the morning .
He passed through the entrance, opened the door to the stairwell by the elevator hall, and took the stairs down to the basement .
The dim corridor stretched out in front of him .
The door he was headed for was at the very end . Every footstep he made echoed, making it sound like somebody was following him .
I’m scared – but I’ll bear it .
Ishii told himself that as he walked to the door at the very end .
When he knocked on the door, a hoarse voice called out: 'It’s open . ’
'Please excuse me . ’
'Oh, Ishii-kun . I was wondering who you were because of your glasses . ’
When Ishii opened the door, an old man in white waved from where he was seated at the desk right by the entrance .
It was Hata, the coroner . Though he was skilful, there was a bit of a problem with his taste .
Perhaps he had stayed up all night, because his eyes were red . They made Hata’s demonic appearance stand out more .
'It’s been a while . ’
Ishii bowed towards Hata .
'Sit somewhere over there . ’
Ishii looked around the room, as Hata told him to, but there were cabinets and cardboard boxes everywhere – he couldn’t spot a place to sit other than Hata’s desk .
In the end, he decided to stand with his back against the wall .
'So did you find it?’ asked Hata as he sipped his tea .
'What do you mean by it?’
'Gotou’s corpse . ’
With shaking shoulders, Hata giggled, sounding amused .
Ishii didn’t understand what was so amusing .
'Detective Gotou isn’t dead yet!’ exclaimed Ishii, in a voice so loud it even surprised himself .
However, Hata wasn’t surprised – his expression didn’t even change . Maybe it had been just the right volume for speaking to a senior .
'On what basis are you saying that?’
Hata’s sunken eyes seemed to glitter .
Ishii wanted to deny it, but he didn’t have any basis for it, so his voice ended up fading off .
'If you find Gotou’s corpse, bring it to me . I’ll check how degenerated his brain is . ’
Hata giggled .
Ishii had thought that Hata and Gotou had had a relationship of trust, but it appeared that he had been wrong .
It appeared that Hata had only helped them with investigations outside of work to satisfy his own curiosity .
'But if you didn’t bring Gotou’s corpse, then what did you come here for, Ishii-kun?’
It felt reluctant, but Hata had brought up the matter at hand .
'Actually, I wanted to ask you about the results of the autopsy for the brutal murder case fifteen years ago . ’
When Ishii mentioned the topic, Hata looked up to the ceiling as he brushed his hair back .
That response . There was something there .
'That case, eh?’ said Hata, his voice so faint it sounded like he could die at any moment .
'Do you remember it?’
'That was the first corpse I took care of as a coroner . Normally, my boss would’ve taken charge, but there’d been four corpses, so I was asked to lend a hand . ’
Ishii was inwardly surprised .
Ishii had suspected that Hata might not have been able to remember the incident fifteen years ago accurately since he autopsied corpses every day .
However, from what Hata said now, it appeared that it was clearly engraved in his memory .
'Did that case have, er… anything questionable or strange?’
Even as he said it himself, he felt disappointed in what a vague question it was .
Ishii wanted to hear a more specific recollection . That was why he had stayed up all night to read the documents from Miyagawa .
However, nothing resulted from it .
'There was… something strange,’ said Hata, spinning once in his chair like he had thought of something .
'Is that true?’
Hata looked at Ishii, who had edged in towards him .
Hata’s eyes were like that of a demon watching his prey for a chance to attack .
Perhaps Hata was irritated, because he didn’t say anything . He gulped down his tea .
'Please tell me!’
Ishii moved towards Hata in his agitation .
'There was a disagreement about the time of death . ’
'What do you mean?’
Ishii didn’t understand what Hata meant .
'Exactly what I said . According to the file, the corpses were carried in around one in the morning . Which means that they’d been killed within two hours of that . ’
'Yes . ’
Ishii nodded .
Since the time of the crime had been reported in the documents as about twelve AM, that would be right .
'But livor mortis was spotted on the corpses and they were stiff from rigor mortis . The body temperature was also very low . ’
'Really?’ said Ishii in his surprise .
Livor mortis was when blood settled in the body because of its weight . It appeared two hours after death .
If livor mortis had already been there when the corpses were brought in, that would mean that two hours had already passed by then .
It was the same for rigor mortis . Of course it depended on the person, but rigor mortis started after two hours and took about twelve hours to appear in the whole body .
'Really . From my diagnosis, I’d say they’d been dead four to six hours . ’
'But in the file…’
In the file, the time of death had been said to be about twelve AM, but according to Hata’s analysis, it was from seven to nine PM .
'That’s why I said there was a disagreement . The police checked a lot of things, like whether that was really the time of death .
– I see .
At the time of the crime, A-ko-san, the person living next door, had heard a scream and contacted the police at twelve AM, according to the police report . After that, Miyagawa went to the scene and met the culprit . That was definitely fact .
When the autopsy results were compared with the facts, there was a definite difference in time .
'Since it didn’t match the scene, were there instructions to alter it?’
Ishii knew that that couldn’t have happened, but he couldn’t think of anything else .
'Even they wouldn’t tell me to do that . ’
'Livor mortis and rigor mortis aren’t definite . There’re differences with different people, and if there’d been some special circumstances for the temperature, sometimes the temperature dissipates more quickly . It could happen if we look at it that way . ’
When Hata finished talking, he snorted .
So they made it coherent by using a broad interpretation –
However, that could be called a black hole . It felt like there had been a large distortion of time .
– This might be a breakthrough .
Nothing concrete had come out, but Ishii definitely felt a response .
'Hey, Ishii-kun . Do you really think you can find Gotou by doing this?’ said Hata, wrinkling his face like he’d eaten something sour .
'I don’t know . However, I will not give up as long as there is a chance!’ declared Ishii loudly .
'Here’s some friendly advice: give it up . ’
Hata sounded like an old man who had gone through many phases of life .
'What do you mean by give it up?’
'I’m saying that with you in mind . Think about it . ’
'With me… in mind?’
'Do you really think Gotou is alive?’
'Of course I do!’ replied Ishii with vigour .
When Hata saw that, he shook his head sadly .
'You must know if you’re not an idiot . Gotou isn’t some young woman . If this isn’t a kidnapping for ransom, what would be the point in abducting him?’
Hata’s fish-like eyes stared at Ishii’s face .
'Give up your foolish hope . If you don’t, when the time comes, your heart will break . ’
It might be just as Hata says . Gotou could already –
Tears welled up in Ishii’s eyes just from thinking about it .
But it didn’t mean that there was no chance . Ishii shook away his negative thoughts .
'No . Detective Gotou is still alive!’
After Ishii said that clearly, Hata let out an uncanny demonic giggle .
'Honestly, you’ve become a bull-headed detective like Gotou . ’
'That is because I respect him . ’
'Do as you like . ’
Hata waved his hand, like he was chasing away some fly .
Haruka stood at the station for the Shinkansen bound for Nagano .
Even though it was a weekday morning, there weren’t many people .
Before she left her home, she called Isshin to tell him the general situation . While Haruka’s emotions had welled up, Isshin seemed to accept the facts reluctantly .
That person was probably prepared . That was how it seemed to Haruka .
Prepared to meet whatever ending was coming and receive it face-on . However, Haruka didn’t have that readiness .
Yakumo would be safe and she would meet him again . Haruka couldn’t accept any other ending .
Perhaps the inspection of the train had been completed, because the entrance to the stopped Shinkansen opened .
Haruka picked up her bag and boarded the Shinkansen .
She went through the narrow aisle and took a window seat in the middle of the carriage . She put her luggage on the baggage rack, took off her coat and sat down .
– Will I really be able to get closer to Yakumo by going to Nagano?
She was doubtful, but all she could do was believe that now .
The matter with Yakumo’s mother, Azusa . And Haruka’s mother, Keiko .
Furthermore, the man who had appeared yesterday morning . Everything led to the same place . Yakumo had to be there .
Haruka took the envelope out of her coat pocket .
In the end, she opened the envelope last night without her mother’s permission . There was a letter inside and a photo .
To Azusa-san –
Congratulations on your marriage .
I am really as happy as if I were the one who was getting married . I saw the photo too . I was truly relieved to see you looking so happy, Azusa-san .
Many good things must be awaiting you .
I’m glad . I’m really glad…
She wasn’t talented at composition, but Keiko’s honest feelings for Azusa came through . Haruka could tell that Keiko wasn’t just writing letters to Azusa out of sympathy .
The photo had been taken at the New Year’s shrine visit, and Haruka and her dead twin sister, Ayaka, were in it .
Ayaka was smiling at the camera, but Haruka had fallen and gotten her kimono dirty, so she was unhappy about it and had her head hung low .
A short paragraph was written on the back of the photo .
<My twins have grown up so much . It’d be nice if they could meet Yakumo-kun one day . >
After this, events had befallen each family and they’d taken a detour, but at an unexpected place, Yakumo and Haruka had met .
Haruka suddenly recalled the first meeting between Yakumo and her .
His hair had been a mess and his eyes had been sleepy . A contrary person who mocked people with his words and actions . What an unpleasant guy! That had been her first impression .
She hadn’t believed that he had the unique ability to see the spirits of the dead, and she’d even suspected that he didn’t have a heart .
However, after a number of experiences, Haruka realised –
Yakumo’s attitude was a front to make people keep away from him, and he was actually completely different .
After she realised that, Yakumo’s sarcasm seemed cute .
And she enjoyed how his expression would soften into a troubled one when she was nice to him . He wasn’t used to people treating him that way . He wasn’t honest at all .
Yakumo had also been the one who saved Haruka when she was about to die at the river .
At the time, Yakumo had jumped into the river with no hesitation at all . He had been really cool .
I’d thought I was going to die during the last case too –
But in the end, Yakumo came to save her . Though there’d been a bit of a problem in the way he saved her .
– Hey, Yakumo . Will I never meet you again?
The Shinkansen started with a groan .
Haruka felt disheartened when a red light flashed in her eyes .
The necklace with the red stone was shining red because of the light from the window .
It was Azusa’s necklace, which Haruka had received from Yakumo .
That’s right . I can’t be disheartened now . I’ll find Yakumo no matter what I have to do . I decided that .
Haruka tightly gripped the red stone .
 A kotatsu (炬燵) is a low table with a blanket on top of it and a heater underneath, used in the winter to keep warm . HERE are some very lovely ones .
 Haruka describes the kanji used to write Azusa by breaking it up into parts, which is very common for names . Azusa is written like 梓, and on the left there is the tree radical (木) and on the right there is the character 辛, which means many things including spicy, hot and bitter .