Volume 6 Chapter 2
VOLUME 6 – TO THE LIMITS OF DESPAIR (1)
file 02: fluctuation (yin) (TRANSLATION NOTES)
– I can’t believe it .
Haruka dressed herself hurriedly, left the flat and rushed into a cab .
Even after she told the driver the address, it felt unreal, like she was watching a television drama .
The city scenery passing her by in the window that should have been familiar also looked like something from a different world .
Her fingers were trembling slightly .
– Why did this happen?
<Isshin-san was stabbed and taken to the hospital . >
When Ishii told her that, all she could say was ‘Is that so?’ because she hadn’t known what to reply since it was so unexpected .
How was his condition? Why did something like this happen? And who did it?
She had many questions, but at that moment, all of them flew out of her head .
– This is a dream .
She thought that many times . Even now, as she rode in the cab, she still wondered if she would wake up .
There was no reason for Isshin to be stabbed .
He was the sort of person who others would be grateful for rather than begrudge .
– Then why?
Haruka clasped her hands together and just prayed that Isshin would be all right .
When she got to the bed, Isshin would be lying on the bed and smile, saying, 'I’m fine . It’s just a graze . ’ Then, Yakumo would complain, saying, 'Uncle, you shouldn’t scare people like that . ’
– Right . That’s how it’ll go . Please let it go that way .
The more Haruka wished, the more the uneasiness in her heart grew .
Finally, the cab arrived at the hospital entrance .
It was the hospital she had visited with Yakumo and Isshin today . She hadn’t thought she would return like this .
Haruka paid the driver the fare and got off the cab to go into the hospital’s night entrance .
She went through the passage and stepped into the dim and quiet lobby .
She saw people sitting next to each other on the bench in the corridor .
It was Gotou and Nao .
Gotou had his head hung low, and his shirt was dyed deep red .
Nao was hugging her knees as she sat .
– This really isn’t a dream .
'Detective Gotou . ’
Haruka put strength into her body and called out to Gotou .
Gotou slowly looked up .
His usual hearty demeanour was gone – he looked like he could die at any moment .
'Oh, it’s you, Haruka-chan?’ replied Gotou, raising his right hand .
Nao looked up as well .
Her eyes were filled with tears, but she was biting her lip to keep them from falling .
It hurt to look at her trying to act strong .
'Nao-chan, you OK?’ said Haruka, sitting down next to her .
Nao’s face was red from holding in her emotions .
'You can cry,’ said Gotou, patting Nao on the head .
With that, Nao flew towards Haruka .
Haruka accepted Nao and hugged her tightly .
Nao sobbed, shoulders shaking . Haruka’s shirt was wet with Nao’s tears .
Haruka gently rubbed Nao’s back .
'It’s fine . It’ll be fine,’ murmured Haruka, hugging Nao more tightly .
Since Haruka hadn’t heard the situation, there was no evidence behind those words, but all they could do now was believe in them .
After crying for a while, Nao calmed down .
Finally, she wiped her tears and sat back down on the bench, hugging her knees .
'Damn, what a strong girl,’ said Gotou was a wry smile .
'It’s true . Nao-chan is a strong girl,’ agreed Haruka .
'This girl was there too . She was crying because of what happened, and I told her not to . Then, she completely stopped and had held it in until now . ’
Gotou appeared to be regretting what he said .
'Nao-chan, you did well . ’
Haruka patted Nao’s hair and gripped her hand .
Nao gripped Haruka’s hand too .
It was a small but very strong hand .
'How is Isshin-san’s condition?’
Haruka said the thing highest up on her mind .
'Still in surgery . I don’t know anything either . ’
Gotou gave a vague response .
However, from looking at the blood on his shirt, Haruka could easily imagine that the situation wasn’t good .
– But it’ll be fine . Isshin-san won’t die so easily . ’
She’d thought he’d be here first, but she didn’t see him .
'Ishii went to pick him up . ’
'I see…’ murmured Haruka, looking at her feet .
After that, nobody spoke .
The silence made it feel like even time was in a stupor .
I wonder how much time has passed –
The sound of footsteps echoed through the lobby .
Haruka looked up .
Yakumo was there, like he had come out of the darkness .
He didn’t appear rushed . He walked slowly, like he was checking every step .
Haruka stood up and called out to him .
However, she didn’t know what to say next, so she shut her mouth .
Yakumo walked up to them with a blank expression and patted Nao lightly on the head .
Though his mouth didn’t open, it looked like the two of them, who were facing each other, were saying something to each other .
'How’s Uncle?’ said Yakumo to nobody in particular .
'In surgery . He lost consciousness, but he was breathing,’ explained Gotou in a plain tone .
'Is that so?’
Yakumo said just that and then fell silent .
'I’m sorry that happened while I was there . ’
Gotou stood up and bowed deeply towards Yakumo .
However, Yakumo made no response, as if he hadn’t heard anything . It was like his spirit had left him .
Ishii returned, a little late .
'How is the situation?’
Ishii ran in and spoke in an inappropriately loud voice .
'Quiet!’ said Gotou . He put a cigarette in his mouth and sat on the bench .
Haruka wanted to say something to Ishii, who looked confused, but she couldn’t bring herself up to it .
Haruka silently looked down again .
'Are you relatives?’
After a while, a man in a green operating gown spoke to them .
His oval face looked exhausted . He was so pale somebody might suspect he was a patient .
'I am the doctor on duty, Sakakibara . ’
The man in the operating gown gave his name .
A nurse was behind him . It was Furukawa, the nurse who had shown the around the hospital for the ghost sighting .
'Oi! How’s his condition?’
Gotou was the first to speak .
Yakumo was standing and looking forward, like he had been before .
'He escaped death, but he hasn’t woken up yet . We cannot say anything for certain until we observe his condition for longer . ’
'Is he OK?’
Gotou stood up forcefully .
'We don’t know . At this stage, he cannot breathe automatically,’ said Sakakibara quickly, perhaps disturbed by Gotou’s fierceness .
'What do you mean, you don’t know!? Aren’t you supposed to be a doctor?’
Gotou gripped Sakakibara by the collar and shook him threateningly .
'Please calm down . ’
Furukawa stepped between them to try to stop him, but she was thrust away .
'Shut up! If anything happens to him, I’ll kill you instead!’ threatened Gotou further .
Things couldn’t keep going like this . Haruka stood up to stop Gotou, but Yakumo spoke up before she could .
'Gotou-san, please stop . ’
Though he didn’t speak loudly, that one sentence made everyone stop moving .
Gotou lost his force, like a balloon leaking air, and he let go of Sakakibara’s collar .
Yakumo bowed towards Sakakibara, saying, 'I apologise . ’
'Anyway, the patient will be moved to the ICU . At this stage, we cannot allow visits, but you can look from outisde .
'I will show you the way,’ said Furukawa .
Gotou kicked the bench, letting his anger out at something since it had nowhere to go . The loud noise reverberated through the loudly .
Yakumo’s murmur blended into the sound .
– I couldn’t save anyone this time either .
– I couldn’t save him, even though I was right there .
Gotou’s anger was directed towards his own weak-mindedness .
The anger couldn’t have been settled by kicking a bench . He knew that, but if he hadn’t done it, he might have collapsed .
Gotou’s life operated like this .
– I won’t let anyone be killed . I won’t let anyone die .
He had come so far believing that, but those thoughts never reached the whole way .
He saw Yakumo and the others walking down the corridor, led by the nurse .
However, Gotou didn’t feel like following them .
He was frozen in the corridor like he had become a rock .
– Even though I vowed to protect him no matter what, I couldn’t do anything .
He felt close to despair as the strength left his body .
He looked at his palms – they were dyed dark red with Isshin’s blood .
'Damn it . ’
Regretting wouldn’t turn back the clock, but he still couldn’t help but think about it .
– Why did I leave Isshin by himself?
'It isn’t your fault, Detective Gotou,’ said Ishii, looking like he might start crying at any moment .
The trite consolation made Gotou even angrier .
'Then whose fault is it?’
Ishii stepped back when Gotou glared at him .
'If it’s not my fault, whose is it?’
Ishii looked frightened, but Gotou approached him more .
'Is it your fault?’
'Who? Whose fault is it?’
'Tell me!’ yelled Gotou, lifting Ishii by his shirt .
Normally, Ishii would have shrieked, but his mouth turned into a hard line and he took Gotou’s anger head-on .
'That’s right . It’s my fault . ’
Ishii’s shoulders shook . There were tears in his eyes .
– Don’t make that face .
Though Gotou said that, he felt his anger rapidly dissipating .
Ishii was suffering himself because he felt responsible, but he had still spoken to Gotou in his consideration .
Gotou hadn’t thought he’d need a weak man like Ishii to be considerate of him .
– What am I doing?
He felt very small for blaming himself and stopping .
He could regret as much as he wanted later, but there were other things he had to do now .
'If I had noticed something in the temple, Isshin-san wouldn’t have been stabbed . It was my fault . Everything was my fault . ’
Ishii’s face was wet with tears as he spoke pleadingly .
Gotou hit Ishii’s head .
It felt like something had been woken from its sleep .
– There are things I still have to do .
He remembered .
He needed to reveal the truth of the case and make Miyuki pay for it . That wasn’t all .
– I’ll leave Yakumo and Nao in your care then .
Isshin’s words came up in Gotou’s head .
– He left Yakumo and Nao to me .
When Gotou thought that, he was stirred up by a strong force .
'It wouldn’t have mattered if somebody like you were there or not . ’
Gotou let go of Ishii and clicked his tongue .
Ishii staggered backwards .
'What are you spacing out for?’
Gotou hit Ishii’s head again .
At first, Ishii shrugged in pain, but when he looked at Gotou, his expression became brighter immediately .
'I-I apologise . ’
'There are things we’ve still got to do . We’ll regret later . ’
Gotou said that to Ishii, but the words were actually also directed to himself .
It wasn’t like him to regret the past and think about questions with no answers . He’d move, move and move .
– That’s the sort of guy I am .
'Yes sir . ’
Ishii stood up straight .
He’d never live down letting Ishii notice the important things before him .
Gotou hit Ishii once more .
'We’re going . ’
Gotou spoke up loudly and then he started walking after Yakumo .
Haruka walked down the corridor, holding Nao’s hand .
More than being considerate of Nao, it felt like Haruka would lose herself if she didn’t hold onto somebody .
She looked at Yakumo, walking ahead of them .
His back wasn’t crying or angry .
– Yakumo’s empty shell .
It wasn’t an exaggeration – Haruka really felt that way .
Finally, they reached the ICU with Furukawa’s guidance .
Through a thick glass, Haruka could see Isshin lying on a bed .
Machines such as an ECG and EEG surrounded him, their many cords and tubes stretching over Isshin’s body .
A respirator covered his mouth and nose, so Haruka couldn’t see his face clearly .
Sakakibara and a number of nurses kept going in and out . It appeared that they were working hard to treat him .
Nao’s eyes were completely red as she pressed herself against the glass to look through it .
The difficult reality that was happening in front of her eyes –
Haruka’s chest hurt when she saw Nao accepting that and bearing it .
– Does Nao have any relatives besides Isshin?
That question suddenly came up in Haruka’s head .
Nao wasn’t old enough to live on her own . On top of that, she was deaf .
'How’s his condition?’
A voice interrupted Haruka’s thoughts .
She turned around to see Gotou standing there . Ishii was behind him .
'We cannot make any predictions yet . ’
Furukawa spoke instead of Haruka .
'You better not die . ’
Gotou said that threateningly to Isshin through the glass .
'Isshin-san won’t die and leave Nao-chan behind,’ said Haruka, clutching Nao’s hand .
Nao nodded in response .
When Gotou saw that, he seemed to become determined and he patted Nao’s head with a nod .
'Hey, Yakumo . ’
Gotou looked at Yakumo .
Yakumo slowly raised his pale face . Though he didn’t respond, Gotou continued .
'I’ll take care of Nao . ’
Haruka’s eyes went wide at those unexpected words as she looked at Gotou .
Even Yakumo appeared surprised . He gaped at Gotou .
'I’ll leave Nao in your care – that’s what Isshin said to me . ’
Gotou scratched his head awkwardly and sat in front of Nao .
'Hey . That’s OK, right?’
Gotou turned a gentle smile that Haruka had never seen before towards Nao as he asked for her agreement .
Nao nodded, though Haruka didn’t know if she heard the words .
Gotou patted Nao’s head and then stood up .
He had to stay firm . Though Gotou didn’t say that aloud, Haruka felt that from Gotou .
'Yakumo . You don’t have any complaints either, right?’
Yakumo nodded silently at Gotou’s question .
Yakumo was always calmer than anybody and distant no matter where or when, but right now, he was like a piece of glass that would break if you touched it .
– Can I do anything at a time like this?
Haruka thought about it, but she couldn’t find an answer .
'I would like to discuss the patient with a relative…’
Sakakibara came out of the ICU and called out to them .
Yakumo silently nodded .
'Would you come to the first-floor examination room? Let’s talk there . ’
After Sakakibara said that, he looked at all of them, bowed and then stuck his hands in the pocket of his white coat before walking down the corridor .
Even after Sakakibara left, Yakumo just looked down the corridor .
As if something was there –
Haruka looked down the corridor as well .
– What’s that?
She was so surprised she couldn’t speak .
A girl stood there .
Only her face was enveloped in a black shadow, as if it were dyed with ink .
– She isn’t from this world .
Haruka felt that immediately . She could see through the girl .
Perhaps that’s the ghost in the rumour that’s spreading through the hospital –
That girl opened her mouth .
’… die… soon… too…’
With the noise, Haruka couldn’t clearly hear what she said .
Finally, the girl disappeared, as if she had been swallowed by the darkness .
Nao looked at Yakumo questioningly .
She might have heard something .
'Yakumo-kun . That…’
Though Haruka spoke to him, there was no response from Yakumo .
Yakumo took out the black contact lens in his left eye .
Yakumo’s vivid red left eye was exposed .
After murmuring that, Yakumo dropped his contact lens to the floor and stepped on it .
The sound of the lens breaking sounded incredibly loud to Haruka .
Yakumo was clearly acting strange .
– Yakumo’s going to disappear .
Haruka spoke up in her uneasiness .
'Take care of Nao for me,’ muttered Yakumo . Then, he walked towards the darkness down the corridor .
– You’re OK, right, Yakumo?
Haruka murmured that in her heart .
Gotou was driving the car .
He looked at the rear-view mirror and saw Haruka and Nao sitting in the backseat .
They seemed afraid of something .
'OK?’ said Gotou, turning around after stopping the car at the red light .
– Is what OK?
He had just been trying to put them at ease, but even he thought it was a stupid question .
However, Haruka seemed to understand Gotou’s feelings and showed him a smile .
'Yes . ’
Though she had a stiff smile instead of her usual bright one, it made him feel a bit better .
Gotou said just that and started the car .
'Er… is it all right not to say anything to your wife?’ asked Haruka, sounding concerned .
'It’s not a big deal . ’
Gotou shrugged with a smile .
However, the truth was that Gotou had no idea how his wife Atsuko would react .
There was no time to make a fuss about it – would be his excuse .
It wouldn’t be the first time he used it .
– When did that start?
He found the answer to that immediately .
It was when Atsuko had had a miscarriage . Because of that, she could no longer bear children .
– Sorry .
Atsuko had said that to Gotou as an apology .
– Why are you apologising? Having no children isn’t a big deal . I’m fine as long as I have you .
That was what Gotou had really felt .
However, for some reason, he hadn’t said it aloud .
At the time, all Gotou had done was nod silently .
Gotou had yelled that at himself, but he just couldn’t honestly express his feelings .
After that, the number of conversations he had with his wife rapidly lessened .
'What a stupid man…’
He unconsciously spoke aloud .
'Eh?’ said Haruka .
'Nothing,’ responded Gotou with a wry smile . Then, he parked his car in the parking lot for the police residence, where he lived .
'We’re here . ’
Gotou turned off the engine and got off the car . Then, he looked up at the fourth-floor window for his flat .
The light was on .
It was always like this . No matter how late Gotou returned, the light would still be on .
When his relationship with Atsuko began, he had once mentioned that lonely it was living alone and returning to a dark room .
Now that he thought about it, it had implicitly suggested that he wanted to marry her .
Atsuko still hadn’t forgotten that conversation – she always kept the light on .
'OK, let’s go,’ said Gotou, waiting for Haruka and Nao to get off the car .
He didn’t know how Atsuko would react, but there was no point grumbling now .
Determined, Gotou went through the entrance, took the elevator up to the fourth floor and stood in front of the door to his flat .
He never pressed the intercom button .
Whether Atsuko was asleep or awake, he’d unlock the door with his own key and go inside . However, today, the situation was different .
Gotou took a deep breath and pressed the intercom button .
Soon there was a sound and the door opened .
Atsuko didn’t look surprised even after seeing Haruka and Nao at Gotou’s side .
'Oh, what is it?’ said Atsuko without any delay .
'We’re taking care of this girl for the next little while,’ said Gotou quickly, pulling Nao towards him .
For some reason, his hand was shaking .
'OK,’ said Atsuko, crouching to greet Nao with a smile .
Nao smiled back .
Even though it was an unreasonable request, Atsuko just accepted it, without asking anything . Though Gotou felt grateful to her, he didn’t know how to express it .
This wasn’t the first time for that either .
He was always grateful to Atsuko, but he never said anything . That had become natural for him .
Despite that, Atsuko never asked for a divorce .
– Why does she stay with me?
Sometimes Gotou wondered about that .
What was fun about being with somebody like him who never considered the home like him? Wouldn’t Atsuko have preferred a different life?
Gotou didn’t have the courage to ask .
'I’m going back to the precinct now . Ask Haruka-chan for the details . ’
Haruka sounded confused, but Gotou pretended not to hear and left to escape .
– Why am I running?
He didn’t know .
After he reached the elevator, his feet suddenly stopped and turned around .
It looked like Atsuko and the others had already gone inside – he couldn’t see them .
– What am I doing?
Gotou clicked his tongue and went into the elevator .
After Ishii returned to the precinct, he sank into his chair .
– I couldn’t do anything .
That sense of helplessness made him feel even more exhausted .
The image of Isshin bleeding on the floor kept flashing in front of his eyes .
I should have been able to save him . But –
Interrupting Ishii’s thoughts, which were becoming increasingly negative, his mobile phone rang . The number on the display was Hijikata Makoto’s .
'Hello, Ishii speaking . ’
Ishii answered the phone with a heavy heart .
<The situation has become serious . >
That was the first thing Makoto said .
Makoto, who was a newspaper reporter, had probably heard that Isshin had been stabbed .
Ishii gave a flat reply .
<Are you all right?>
Makoto’s worried voice reverberated in Ishii’s weakened heart .
'It’s my fault…’
He hadn’t planned on saying it, but he’d let it out of his mouth before he noticed .
The first impression Ishii had of Makoto was fear .
However, after a number of cases, he had come to know her and that impression had changed greatly .
Makoto was somebody who could be attentive of others . During the last case, Makoto had been the one who held out her hand towards Ishii, who had lost his way .
Makoto spoke in a gentle voice .
'I was at the scene . I was guarding Isshin-san, but…’
'That’s why everything’s my fault . ’
<That’s not true!>
Makoto let out a loud voice on the other side of the phone .
<If anybody is responsible, it’s the culprit . Don’t you think so?>
'Yes,’ replied Ishii, pressured by Makoto’s forceful tone .
<Let’s work our hardest to arrest the culprit . I’ll help as well . >
'I understand . Thank you very much . ’
After saying his thanks, Ishii hung up .
He felt like his spirits were just a bit refreshed .
Just as Makoto said, I have to work my hardest to arrest the culprit now – Ishii felt like he had cleared his mind .
Just as Ishii turned back to the desk with a fresh mind, the door opened .
'You were back?’
Miyagawa came into the room .
Though he didn’t say anything, there was regret on his face .
– If I’d put out more guards .
His thoughts were clear on his face .
'Yes sir . ’
'Then where’s Gotou?’ asked Miyagawa, looking at the chair across from Ishii .
'He returned to the official residence . ’
Miyagawa frowned . He looked dubious .
'E-er, um… He took in the victim’s daughter, so…’
Ishii quickly gave an explanation . Miyagawa’s frown deepened .
When Gotou said he would take Nao in, Ishii had been surprised too . He hadn’t thought Gotou would say that .
However, now that he thought about it, it was like Gotou .
Gotou was more soft-hearted than anyone . He wasn’t somebody who could refuse when asked to do something .
'Gotou took in the victim’s doctor?’
'Yes . The victim, Saitou Isshin-san, said he would leave the rest to Detective Gotou…’
Miyagawa looked up at the ceiling with great feeling and lit a cigarette .
The smoke slowly rose .
'Right . I almost forgot something important . ’
After a silence, Miyagawa threw a file onto the desk .
'What is this?’
'The background of the guard on duty during the interview . ’
'Ah,’ said Ishii in understanding .
The guard had been silently when Miyuki announced that she was going to kill somebody . Gotou had said it was suspicious and asked Miyagawa to look into his background .
Ishii flipped through the pages and looked at the documents .
Yamamura Mikio . Twenty-six years old . After graduating high school, he passed the examination to become a guard and took that on as his job .
Ishii had been disappointed, but he unconsciously spoke up when he saw the address .
Miyagawa probably felt something . His eyes were sharp .
'It’s Yamamura’s address . ’
'Yes . It’s 〇〇 . On the map…’
Ishii searched through his drawer, took out an atlas and spread it out on the desk .
He flipped through the pages to find〇〇 .
'Here,’ said Ishii, pointing at a spot on the map .
Right then, Miyagawa’s expression completely changed .
'That’s where Nanase Miyuki’s case occurred fifteen years ago…’
Tension ran across Miyagawa’s face .
The place Yamamura lived and the place Miyuki lived were only a hundred metres apart, though the town names were different .
Though Ishii had no idea what that meant, he couldn’t write it off as just a coincidence .
'Perhaps Nanase Miyuki and Yamamura might have interacted when they were younger . ’
By saying that aloud, Ishii became agitated .
He adjusted the position of his glasses with his finger and looked at the map again .
Their ages were close, so it was very possible .
If he imagined a bit further, he couldn’t deny the possibility that they had kept in contact even after the incident fifteen years ago .
'We can’t say anything with just this . It might just be a coincidence,’ growled Miyagawa, scratching his chin .
Ishii had no reply to that .
When he thought about it more, it was too hasty to think that Yamamura might be a conspirator just because he lived close by .
'But it’s too good to ignore . ’
Miyagawa smirked at Ishii .
Ishii had been withering, but that was enough to make him swell up .
'Yes sir . ’
'All right . I’ll look into Yamamura some more in the detective department . You and Gotou can look into other lines for me . ’
'Any trivial thing is fine . Look into what happened at the scene again . ’
'Yes sir . ’
They had been at the scene .
Did we miss something – by looking into their memories again, they might be able to make new discoveries .
'I’m counting on you . ’
Miyagawa picked up the documents and left the room .
– I’m counting on you .
The last thing Miyagawa said circled in Ishii’s mind .
Ishii had virtually never been counted on to do something in his life before . The exhilaration he had never felt before naturally brought a smile to his face .
Yakumo left the hospital through the night exit .
His body was heavy .
It felt like he would sink into the floor if he stopped even shortly .
Where should I head – without the answer to that question, Yakumo started walking .
He treaded along the asphalt road .
The sound of the passing cars was discomfiting .
He wanted to stifle his five stimulating senses and go to a world with nobody in it .
However, no such place existed .
No matter how much he ran, he would not be able to escape .
When Sakakibara informed him of Isshin’s condition, he could not possibly accept it . He wanted to believe it wasn’t the case .
– Why did this happen?
In Yakumo’s heart, rather than pondering over that question, he thought about how it was his fault that Isshin was in this situation .
Before he noticed, he had reached an empty lot .
It had originally been a building – but now it had been demolished, its rubble left behind .
– I should have died here .
Fifteen years ago, Yakumo’s own mother strangled him here and brought him near death .
However, he did not die .
To put it correctly, he was saved by one man .
– If I had died then .
That thought had passed Yakumo’s head countless times .
It is not as if I resent anybody . But perhaps I would have been happier if I had not existed – he would think that way .
He had seen the lives and deaths of many people up until now .
He had thought that he would become accustomed to it, but the wounds they carved into him grew deeper each day .
If he had died then, he would not have lost the people important to him .
He might not have suffered this way .
Naturally, he had experienced happiness in his life, but he felt that it had come together with the unhappiness of others .
My own cursed existence continues to make those around me unhappy –
Yakumo looked up at the sky .
The moon was out .
Its pale light was dazzling .
'What should I do?’
Nobody answered his question .
Yakumo started walking again in pursue of that answer .
He passed the shopping street in front of the train station and silently climbed the slope up to the university .
He finally reached the university .
In the moonlight, the lone school building stood like a gravestone .
Yakumo went around the back to the prefabricated building in Building B .
He opened the door to the <Movie Research Circle> and the very end of the first floor and stepped inside .
It was a dreary room, furnished with only a table, a refrigerator and a sleeping bag, but he had many memories here .
He had not had any memories until a year and a half ago .
However, her existence had made memories in this inhuman place .
Like being submerged in lukewarm water, he had even felt like his own existence had been recognised .
– That is a delusion .
He heard a voice .
Yakumo was uncertain as to whether it was his own inner voice or somebody else’s .
– Your red left eye is cursed . It makes everyone around you unhappy .
'Then what should I do?’
Yakumo looked up at the sky and asked that question to nobody in particular .
– The fleeting illusion of being loved will make you suffer .
Yakumo realised the voice was not his inner one but that of a third party .
This voice’s owner was outside the room .
Yakumo immediately flew out of the room to look around .
However, all that was there was a pitch-black darkness .
Haruka woke up with a gasp .
Her hands were clammy with sweat .
She must have had an incredible nightmare, but she couldn’t remember what happened in it .
Nothing was clear . It was like her brain was refusing to accept what was happening .
Haruka was lying on top of a beige sofa .
Wind blew in from the window, moving the white lace curtain .
She didn’t recognise the room .
– Where am I?
Haruka slowly sat up .
'Are you all right? It seems like you’ve had quite the nightmare . ’
She heard someone’s voice .
Haruka looked up to see a woman come into the room .
She looked to be in her late thirties . Her almond eyes seemed a bit strict, but she was a beautiful woman with a tidy air .
Haruka finally realised where she was when she saw this woman’s face .
She was Gotou’s wife, Atsuko .
When Haruka remembered that, the memories of last night came afresh to her mind .
Haruka couldn’t leave Nao alone when she looked so anxious, so she had come with her .
Gotou told Atsuko that they would be taking care of Nao for a while and left without explaining the details .
However, Atsuko hadn’t thought anything of it despite that .
– Welcome .
She had taken Haruka and Nao into her home with a smile, prepared a futon and kept busy until Nao fell asleep .
Once things calmed down, Haruka explained what had happened up until now .
It had taken longer than she thought it would . Gotou didn’t seem to have explained anything about the case yet, so Haruka had had to start from everyone’s relationships .
It seemed like Haruka had fallen asleep in her exhaustion .
To be honest, she wasn’t even sure how much she had explained .
'I’m sorry . It looks like I fell asleep . ’
'Oh, don’t worry about it . ’
'How much did I explain?’
'You were kind enough to explain to the end,’ said Atsuko, sticking up her thumb .
'I see… I’m sorry . ’
'Ah, that’s right . You’ll eat breakfast, won’t you?’
Atsuko wiped her hands on her blue apron and tied up her hair as she said that .
From just their faces, it felt like Beauty and the Beast, but her brisk way of talking was very similar to Gotou’s .
They really are married – Haruka felt strangely touched by that .
'No, I’m sorry for staying so long . I should go soon…’ said Haruka quickly, getting up .
'That’s no good . ’
'I’ve already made it, so you have to take responsibility . ’
If Atsuko said that much, Haruka couldn’t refuse .
'I really am sorry . ’
Haruka bowed her head .
Atsuko put a hand on her waist and looked at Haruka like she thought her mysterious .
'What a strange girl . Why are you apologising?’
'Even if you ask me… why…’
She didn’t have a reason .
Apologising had always been her habit .
'Taking things on yourself, blaming yourself and apologising . ’
– That’s tedious .
Atsuko’s words had that echo to them .
Haruka couldn’t deny it . She knew she took things on herself .
'That might be the case…’
'If you blame yourself for everything, you’ll end up like my husband,’ said Atsuko, sticking out her tongue .
When Haruka saw that, she couldn’t help but laugh .
'Is Gotou-san also like that?’
'He is . Even though I’m not concerned about it myself, he’ll say “Sorry” with a grumpy face . ’
'Like an idiot, isn’t he?’
'If he’s worried, he can just say it aloud . Little things like this don’t surprise me anymore,’ said Atsuko .
It was true that Gotou did tend to take things on by himself . Now that Haruka thought about it, Isshin was the same too . The worst of them was Yakumo .
Without saying anything to anyone, he took everything on . Even if he suffered, he wouldn’t talk to anybody .
They might have all gathered because of their similarities .
'Honestly . What’s so fun about taking everything on yourself?’
Haruka felt like there was a bit of a shadow on Atsuko’s face as she said that .
– She wants them to understand each other .
Haruka felt that when she looked at Atsuko’s profile .
Happy things, sad things and painful things – she wanted to share them with the person she loved, but he wouldn’t say anything, taking everything on by himself .
He might not have wanted to trouble her, but that wasn’t what she wanted .
'I’m sorry . ’
'See, you’re apologising again . ’
Atsuko made an angry face .
'I am . ’
Haruka smiled wryly .
'Women have to be reliable, especially during troubling times . Men just complain and don’t do anything at all . ’
Atsuko snorted .
Even though so many things were happening, Atsuko wasn’t bothered at all .
Perhaps she had always been a strong woman, or maybe she had become stronger from living with Gotou, but it appeared that she wasn’t too concerned about the matter this time either .
'That’s right . ’
Haruka nodded .
'Anyway, at times like this, let’s work together and do our best,’ said Atsuko, gripping Haruka’s hand . Atsuko’s hand was a bit cold .
'Yes . ’
Haruka felt a bit better after talking to Atsuko .
’T-that’s ridiculous!’ yelled Gotou, unable to understand the reality in front of him .
Ishii leapt up in surprise from his seat across from Gotou .
Miyagawa, who had spoken up first, just glared at Gotou with his arms crossed .
Gotou could tell Miyagawa wasn’t joking from seeing his eyes, but he just couldn’t accept what Miyagawa said .
In the report that Miyagawa brought in this morning, there was something Gotou had to be surprised by .
– The fingerprints on the knife Isshin was stabbed with were a perfect match with Nanase Miyuki’s .
'Are they really Miyuki’s fingerprints? There must have been a mistake,’ said Gotou again, unable to accept it .
'They’re the fingerprints we got when she was arrested . No doubt about it,’ said Miyagawa flatly .
– What the hell is going on?
Though he was surprised, if the fingerprints matched, there was no doubt about it .
'Let’s arrest Nanase Miyuki right now . ’
Gotou stood up forcefully .
'Can’t do that,’ said Miyagawa, shaking his eye .
'Why not? It’s simple!’
Gotou slammed his fist into the desk as he said that .
He didn’t understand why they were hesitating .
'Did you forget? Miyuki has a cast-iron alibi . ’
'A crime from within the detention centre is impossible… is what you mean then,’ added Ishii .
– I forgot the most crucial point .
Miyuki was being held in the detention house . It’d be understandable if Miyuki had escaped the detention house and gone to stab Isshin .
However, that wasn’t the case . Miyuki was still in the detention house now .
'Er… Would it be possible for her to have left once and returned?’
'By walking through walls, she…’
Before Ishii could finish speaking, Gotou dropped his fist on Ishii’s head .
'It’s not as simple as heading home . ’
By saying it aloud, Gotou accepted the fact and felt horror .
How the hell did Miyuki stab Isshin from the detention house – as long as that puzzle remained unsolved, they couldn’t arrest her .
– Damn it .
Gotou clicked his tongue .
'Haven’t we got anything?’
Gotou gritted his teeth .
'If Yakumo-shi were here…’ said Ishii while scratching his head .
– That’s right . Yakumo might be able to solve this puzzle .
Gotou recalled how Yakumo had looked last night .
Yakumo had been like an empty shell then . There was no life in his face, and his eyes had been hollow – it was like he hadn’t been there .
Gotou had found some time to call him, but Yakumo hadn’t answered .
'He’d be no help right now,’ said Gotou, disappointed .
'I don’t know if this’ll help, but…’
Miyagawa spoke up, brushing away the stagnant mood .
'What is it?’
'Looks like there was a bit of a fuss at the detention house yesterday . ’
'Yeah . Nanase Miyuki was coughing up blood in her room and then told a guard that she’d just killed somebody . ’
Gotou had thought it might be a breakthrough, but he felt even more confused .
What Miyuki said to the guard last night had to be affirming that she’d killed Isshin at a distance .
'Ah! I see! So that’s how it is! Detective Gotou!’ yelled Ishii, suddenly standing up .
'What? You’re so noisy . ’
Gotou was immediately suspicious, what with Ishii’s wrong guess earlier .
Ishii’s reasoning was always off . Gotou would regret it if he took Ishii too seriously – he always talked about things that made no sense like magic .
'Chief Miyagawa . How was Miyuki after she coughed up blood?’ asked Ishii agitatedly, fixing the position of his glasses even though they weren’t off .
'She was taken to the infirmary . ’
'I see . I see . So that really is the case . Do you know when she was taken to the infirmary?’
Ishii wriggled as he continued asking questions .
'Past six in the evening . She rested in the infirmary for a night and was brought back to her room in the morning . ’
'Just as I thought!’
Ishii clapped his hands together and smiled triumphantly .
'What’s just as you thought?’ asked Gotou while glaring at Ishii .
Having only one person understand made Gotou strangely irritated .
'At the time of the crime, Nanase Miyuki was not in her room . ’
'What about it?’
Gotou was becoming even more confused about why Ishii was so agitated .
'Nanase Miyuki was taken to the infirmary past six in the evening . Saitou Isshin-san was stabbed at nine in at night . That’s a three-hour delay . ’
'I see . That’s a good point . ’
It seemed like Miyagawa also understood what Ishii was trying to say – he was smirking .
However, Gotou still didn’t understand .
'What are you talking about?’
'After she was taken to the infirmary, she escaped the detention room, stabbed Saitou Isshin-san and returned . ’
Ishii was shaking in excitement .
'She couldn’t get out so easily . ’
'It would be possible if she had an accomplice . ’
'Yes . The man named Yamamura we discussed last night . ’
Gotou finally understood when he heard the name .
Yamamura was the guard who had been silently watching as Miyuki gave her advance notice of murder .
'I see . ’
Gotou clapped his hands together in understanding .
It’d be difficult to escape from her room, but it might have been possible from the infirmary .
That was well done for Ishii . This was possible .
'Miyagawa-san, I have a request . ’
'I get it . Questioning at the detention house, right? I’ll get permission,’ responded Miyagawa, clapping Gotou on the shoulder .
– He’s reliable as usual .
'Ishii! We’re going!’
Gotou grabbed his jacket while he said that and ran out the room .
– I can’t breathe .
Ishii sat in the chair in the visiting room of the detention house as he wiped the sweat on his forehead with his sleeve .
He’d corner Miyuki and reveal her trick when he got out of the precinct – that was what he had thought, but now that the meeting with Miyuki was actually looming, that thought left his head, and he just had the impulse to run .
He had planned on cornering her, but he felt like they were the ones who had actually been cornered .
'How long do we have to wait?’
Sitting next to Ishii, Gotou was unable to hide his irritation – he had been bouncing his knee for a while now .
Ishii had never seen Gotou with a stiffer expression than the one he had now .
– Can we really win against her?
That question came up in Ishii’s head .
Finally, the door on the opposite side of the glass opened and Miyuki came in .
The man who brought her in was the same as last time – Yamamura .
Ishii and Gotou thought that he was an accomplice .
Miyuki sat down gracefully with the tips of her lips turned up into a smile .
When Ishii saw that, a jolt went down his spine .
Normally, a smile would comfort a person, but Miyuki’s didn’t .
It was cold, insidious and full of malice . It agitated the anxiety at the bottom of a person’s heart .
'What’s so funny?’ said Gotou, glaring at Miyuki .
Though Gotou didn’t yell, his voice shook the bottom of Ishii’s stomach . It oozed with irrepressible anger .
'You don’t know?’
Miyuki licked her lips .
'Isn’t it obvious that I’m happy?’
'What did you say?’
'My plan succeeded . ’
Miyuki crossed her legs and looked at them scornfully .
– She’s challenging us .
That was how Ishii felt .
'Too bad for you . Isshin’s still alive . ’
Gotou leant forward, bringing his face close to the glass .
Gotou’s and Miyuki’s gazes met .
Ishii gulped as he watched them .
'Oh, is that so? I should’ve stabbed him deeper,’ said Miyuki with a dissatisfied pout .
'What did you say!?’
Gotou stood up, unable to control himself .
However, if he got riled up here, they would just be going along with Miyuki’s plan .
'Excuse me . ’
Ishii repressed his fear and interrupted the conversation .
'From what you just said, we can determine that you admit your crime against Isshin-san . ’
'Yup,’ agreed Miyuki readily .
'You admit it then . ’
'Of course . I’m the one who stabbed Saitou Isshin . There were fingerprints, right?’
'Why do you know that?’ interrupted Gotou harshly .
Gotou’s question made sense . Information was limited in the detention house . There was no way for Miyuki to know that fingerprints were analysed from the weapon .
Furthermore, because of its importance, the information about the analysed fingerprints wasn’t even released to the press .
Miyuki’s gaze was close to a glare .
She was probably trying to provoke them .
'Perhaps you had an accomplice in the police?’
Ishii said the first thing that came to mind .
'Ishii-san, you really are interesting . ’
Miyuki laughed with shaking shoulders .
'Of course not!’ said Gotou with a red face, before dropping his fist on Ishii’s head .
'Ack . ’
Ishii bit down the urge to yell from the pain .
'Gotou-san, you’re not imaginative enough . ’
Gotou’s eyes went wide at Miyuki’s words .
'Just as Ishii-san said, I might have an accomplice in the police . ’
'Don’t be ridiculous!’ yelled Gotou, slamming his hand against the protective glass .
Ishii half-stood up from surprise, but Miyuki just kept sitting with the same smile on her face .
'Why not check for yourself?’
Miyuki crossed her stretched out legs again as she said that .
'What the hell did you say!?’
Gotou yelled even louder as he hit the glass again and again .
– Oh no . We’re completely at her pace .
’D-Detective Gotou, please calm down . ’
Ishii grabbed Gotou’s arm .
'Calm down? It’s your fault for saying something unnecessary!“
Gotou hit Ishii’s head .
'But I just…’
'Don’t talk back . ’
Gotou hit Ishii once more .
'You really are an interesting combo . ’
Miyuki covered her mouth with a hand and started laughing .
'What’s so funny?’ said Gotou threateningly, but Miyuki still didn’t stop laughing .
'Isn’t it funny? It’s like watching a comedy show . ’
'Who’s a comedy show? I’ve always been a detective . ’
Miyuki snorted at Gotou’s claim .
'If you’re a detective, you should understand why I know about the prints on the knife . ’
Ishii finally solved the puzzle when he heard Miyuki’s words .
'You left the fingerprints on the knife on purpose,’ said Ishii, looking straight at Miyuki’s eyes .
It seemed that Ishii had lost his reasoning ability after being played with by Miyuki .
'That’s right . I gripped the knife with my bare hand . ’
Miyuki licked her full lips .
She had gripped the knife with her bare hand . It was natural that her fingerprints had been lifted .
But the question was –
'Why? Why did you leave your fingerprints on purpose?’
'Because you wouldn’t have acknowledged that I did it otherwise, right?’ said Miyuki jokingly .
'That’s true, but…’
'When magicians teleport coins, they sign it with the magic, yes? It’s the same thing . ’
Miyuki said that with no hesitation .
'Fingerprints were found on the knife . You’ve confessed . You better be prepared, 'cause I’m getting an arrest warrant now,’ threated Gotou .
However, it appeared to have no effect on Miyuki . She had the same smile on her face as she had had before .
'I wonder if you’ll be able to do that?’
Miyuki narrowed her eyes and stuck out her chin .
'What do you mean?’
Gotou raised an eyebrow .
'Exactly what I said . There certainly were fingerprints on the weapon . I also confessed . But at the time of the crime, I was inside the detention house . I wonder what decision the police will come to then?’
Miyuki’s words were heavy on Ishii’s heart .
Miyuki had confessed that she stabbed Isshin, and her fingerprints had been found on the weapon .
However, she had an iron-clad alibi – she had been held in the detention house .
If they didn’t have decisive evidence that she had left the detention house at that time, she couldn’t be arrested for assault against Saitou Isshin .
At first glance, it seemed like a game they couldn’t win, but their chances of success weren’t zero .
– There’s an unaccounted time .
She had had a spasm and been taken to the infirmary at the time of the crime .
– What happened then?
If they could find out, they could break Miyuki’s iron-clad alibi .
'It’s time . ’
The guard, Yamamura, suddenly announced the end of their interview .
Unfortunately, she was the accused, currently in detention . They could only meet her under the rules of the detention house .
'Please bring Yakumo-kun the next time you come,’ said Miyuki as she stood up .
'What did you say?’
'I want to see Yakumo-kun suffering . ’
'Don’t tell me you stabbed Isshin to make Yakumo suffer?’ said Gotou, sounding almost hesitant .
'That’s right . ’
As Miyuki replied, she spread her two hands why .
'Then why didn’t you attack Yakumo directly?’
'There’s no point to that, right? It’s not like I want to kill Yakumo-kun . ’
'You don’t want to kill him?’
Gotou’s brow furrowed . He didn’t understand . That was how he looked .
However, Ishii understood what Miyuki was thinking .
Her goal wasn’t to take Yakumo’s life . She wanted to smile scornfully as she made him suffer – to watch as he submitted to her .
Miyuki had said this when she announced that she would kill Saitou Isshin .
– I can’t kill Yakumo-kun .
I hadn’t understood then, but is this what she meant –
– What an unbelievable sadist .
Ishii felt afraid of Miyuki all over again .
'That’s why you should bring Yakumo-kun next time . ’
'What’s your purpose in making Yakumo suffer?’ asked Gotou, stuck to the glass .
'I just want that person to understand that I’m better than he is . ’
When Miyuki said 'that person’, she probably meant Yakumo’s father, the man with two red eyes .
Fifteen years ago – Miyuki, who had brutally murdered her own family, went to live with the man with two eyes .
She had come to love and respect him as a father, or perhaps as a man . However, no matter how Miyuki tried, she just couldn’t win against Yakumo .
The emotion eddying within Miyuki was probably a dark flame of jealousy .
'Just for that…’ said Gotou, almost in a gasp .
Miyuki had been about to leave the room, but when she heard those words, her complexion completely changed and she whirled around .
'Just for that, you say? That’s everything to me!’
'No matter how much I love him, whenever that person opens his mouth, it’s Yakumo, Yakumo, Yakumo! I’m sick of it! Is being related by blood so great? Is having a red eye that important?’
Miyuki stuck to the glass like a spider as she screamed .
Even Yamamura the guard must have been panicked as he pinned Miyuki’s arms behind her back and pulled her away from the glass .
While Yamamura pulled her away, Miyuki started laughing aloud, as if she found something funny .
Her laughs were maniacal .
Even after Miyuki disappeared through the door, her laughter wouldn’t leave Ishii’s ears .
To show off her existence .
She had stabbed Isshin for that sole reason .
– Terrifying . Truly, she’s terrifying .
Haruka sat next to Nao on the bench in the hospital waiting room .
Nao’s legs were shaking as she stared at the floor .
It was the first time Haruka had seen Nao so dispirited .
– I can’t do anything for her .
All Haruka could do was hold Nao’s hand silently .
'Sorry for the wait . ’
Atsuko ran back to them .
She had gone to check at the reception whether Isshin was allowed visitors .
'How was it?’ asked Haruka as she stood up .
'They said that he’s still unconscious, but we can go into meet him . ’
Nao looked up at Atsuko’s words .
Nao couldn’t hear . Instead, she excelled at reading the atmosphere .
Nao raised her voice .
– I want to see him anyway .
To Haruka, that was what it sounded like Nao was saying .
'Then shall we go?’
Atsuko crouched in front of Nao with a wide smile on her face .
Nao was led into smiling back .
It was mysterious how they looked like a real mother and child this way .
Atsuko took Nao’s hand and started walking . Haruka followed after them .
'I’m really glad that you’re here, Atsuko-san,’ said Haruka honestly .
She had been saved by Atsuko’s brightness and energy since last night . If Haruka had been by herself, she probably would only have been able to hang her head next to Nao .
'Oh, you flatter me . ’
'It isn’t flattery . ’
'I’m glad that the two of you are here too . ’
Haruka was confused by the unexpected answer .
'Don’t worry about it,’ said Atsuko with a shrug .
Meanwhile, they arrived at the ICU .
Haruka recalled the scene from last night and was hesitant to step inside .
'Let’s go then . ’
Atsuko led the way . After disinfecting her hands and putting on a mask, she stepped into the ICU .
– She really is strong .
Haruka followed after Atsuko .
Isshin was lying on the bed, like he had been yesterday .
There was an intravenous tube in his arm and an artificial respirator attached to him . Cords stretched over his body for various machines, such as the ECG and the EEG .
Though visits were allowed now, that didn’t mean Isshin was better . Haruka was forced to feel that anew .
Perhaps they shouldn’t have brought Nao .
Right as Haruka thought that, Nao let go of Atsuko’s hand and walked up to Isshin .
Then, she took Isshin’s hand .
As Nao held onto Isshin’s hand, she was – smiling .
'Ah, ah . ’
Nao spoke in excited tones, as if urging Isshin to do something .
Haruka and Atsuko looked at each other . Then, they walked up to Isshin, brought in by the voice .
Nao gripped Haruka’s wrist and brought it to Isshin’s hand .
Haruka’s fingers brushed Isshin’s hand .
– He’s warm .
Haruka felt the words Nao was trying to say with her body .
He’s still warm . That meant Isshin was still alive . Nao must have been trying to say that .
'Isn’t that great?’
Atsuko hugged Nao’s shoulders from behind her . Nao nodded in response .
– That’s right . Isshin is still alive .
Since it was him, he would definitely wake up randomly and say 'I’m sorry for worrying you’ with a smile .
Having a hopeful perspective made her heart brighter .
Just as Haruka let out a sigh of relief, she was assaulted by the feeling of something sinking in her stomach .
She looked about and spotted a girl standing in the corridor through the window .
The girl wore a red dress and had long hair . Her face was dark, as if smeared in ink .
The same girl I saw in the corridor last night –
She was probably the ghost that was said to appear around the hospital .
– When… are you going to die…
Rather than in her eardrum, the voice went straight to her head .
It was probably the girl’s voice .
Haruka recalled the rumour that the hospital was in a fuss over . The people whom the girl asked this question all died .
Haruka looked at Isshin .
– I can’t accept that .
Suddenly, Nao yelled loudly .
Her two hands were in fists . It looked like she was shaking in anger . Her eyes were on the ghost of the girl in the corridor .
– Can Nao see her?
As if answering Haruka’s question, Nao ran out into the corridor .
'What’s wrong?’ called out Atsuko in concern .
Unable to explain well, Haruka also ran out into the corridor to follow Nao .
The ghost of the girl from earlier had already disappeared .
Nao was looking around frantically in the place where the girl had been standing .
Though I can’t explain it, something incredibly awful is going to happen – that premonition alone whirled about in Haruka’s head .
After Gotou left the visiting room, Ishii stood up as well and they walked to the infirmary .
A guard led them down the dreary corridor .
Every ten metres, there was a steel door . The guard unlocked each with a key and fingerprint, and they continued onwards .
They turned into many similar corridors, so Gotou had no idea of where he even was .
Under such strict defence, it wouldn’t be easy to escape . Gotou felt that anew .
After about ten minutes, they finally arrived at the infirmary .
Though it was a rather complicated process in getting here, the inside of the infirmary was made unexpectedly like a regular hospital examination room .
'Please sit . ’
Urged by the white-haired doctor who was waiting, Gotou and Ishii sat on round chairs .
'I’m from the precinct . My name’s Gotou . ’
Gotou showed his police IC to the white-haired man .
'My name is Komatsu . I’m the medical officer . ’
Komatsu fished through the desk drawer and took out a dirty business card .
While accepting it, Gotou looked once more at Komatsu’s face . He was probably about fifty years old . He had a long thin face and looked like he had a nervous personality .
'I’d like to get straight to the point and ask you about last night . ’
'If it’s something I know,’ said Komatsu . He spoke in a very prudent manner, appropriate for a doctor .
'Tell me in detail about when Nanase Miyuki was brought in . ’
'Even if you ask me to tell you in detail…’
Komatsu’s attitude seemed like a refusal towards Gotou’s question .
Gotou kept his irritation in check .
Normally, police wouldn’t be able to ask around the detention house like this .
When Gotou thought about Miyagawa, who’d gone through so much to make the necessary arrangements, he decided it would be a bad idea to make a fuss .
'What were her symptoms?’ asked Gotou after clearing his throat .
'She was convulsing and vomiting blood . She underwent much examination, but there weren’t any abnormalities, besides the increase in white blood cells . It probably came from stress . ’
Miyuki hadn’t looked stressed to Gotou .
'It wasn’t an act . ’
Gotou didn’t accept what the medical officer said, but he didn’t dare to say that aloud . Instead, he asked another question .
'Wasn’t there anything else that caught your attention?’
'Hm, even if you ask that…’
Komatsu looked sullen as he ran a hand through his white hair .
It didn’t seem like he wanted to cooperate with the investigation at all . It felt like every time Gotou’s bones would slowly break every time he asked a question .
While Gotou was pondering, Ishii interrupted: 'Excuse me . ’
'When Nanase Miyuki was brought here, what time was it exactly?’
Behind Ishii’s glasses, his eyes were glittering more brightly than usual .
– I’ll try letting Ishii talk for a bit .
Gotou crossed his arms and focussed on watching Komatsu’s movements .
'It was probably past six,’ replied Komatsu, looking up at the ceiling as he searched his memories .
'Then when did she return to her room?’
'I think it was around seven this morning . ’
'I see . ’
Ishii fixed the position of his glasses with his finger .
There was almost a thirteen-hour gap . With that, it would be possible for Miyuki to stab Isshin and return, as Ishii had said before .
'What treatment did she undergo?’
'We took a blood sample, put her on a drip and let her sleep there . ’
Komatsu pointed at the beds in the back of the room .
There were four beds in total . Each was divided from the room with a curtain .
'Were you the only person who administered treatment?’
'I was the only one here, so yes . ’
Perhaps Komatsu felt like he was under suspicion, because his expression became stiff in a twinkle . ’
'Was there a guard in the infirmary?’
Ishii continued his questions in a disinterested manner .
'Nobody was in the infirmary . Guards circle the corridors . ’
'Then the only person here was you . ’
'Yes, but… what’re you trying to say?’
Komatsu’s tone changed .
'There are partition curtains around the beds . ’
'Yeah . ’
'How frequently did you look inside?’
'How would I remember that… What are you really saying? If you’ve got something you want to say, just say it clearly . ’
Komatsu’s voice was ragged; perhaps he couldn’t restrain it any longer .
– Well done, Ishii .
They might be able to get something unexpectedly good .
Gotou turned an expectant gaze towards Ishii . When Ishii noticed, he nodded .
'In short, it was possible for Nanase Miyuki to have escaped your gaze, left the room, stabbed Saitou Isshin and returned – that is what I want to say . ’
'Are you serious?’
Komatsu snorted scornfully .
'Of course . ’
'That’s idiotic . ’
Komatsu shook his head in astonishment .
'However, it would have been possible for her,’ said Ishii in a triumphant manner .
'What do you mean?’
'She used supernatural powers to walk through the walls of the detention house . ’
The moment Ishii said that, Gotou dropped his fist on Ishii’s head .
– He’s deluding himself again .
'Don’t talk anymore,’ snapped Gotou .
Ishii pouted in dissatisfaction .
Even if he made that face, it was no use . If he talked any more about supernatural powers, people would think he was nuts .
They wouldn’t be able to hear the things they needed to .
'Sorry . Let’s get back on topic . ’
Gotou spoke up again .
'Ah, yes . ’
'In short, we think that Nanase Miyuki got out of the detention house somehow . Otherwise, we can’t explain this case . ’
Gotou stopped the roundabout explanation and pinpointed the crucial point .
There were a number of cases in the past when somebody held in a detention house had escaped .
Even a few years ago, there was a fuss with an incident when a group of foreigners escaped .
'Detective, what you are talking about refers to old detention houses, correct?’
Komatsu plainly sighed .
It was true that the escape incidents might have been in the era of old detention houses .
'Can you say that it’s definitely impossible?’
'It’s definitely impossible,’ declared Komatsu .
It looked like there was absolute confidence there .
'How can you be sure?’
'You saw it for yourself, did you not, Detective? You passed through a number of doors, yes? You can’t even run ten metres . ’
Gotou remembered the path he took to get here .
Just as Komatsu said, there hadn’t just been one or two doors . He hadn’t even been able to walk forward properly .
'Furthermore, those doors are all locked with a key and fingerprint recognition . It is a double-layer lock . Furthermore, there are security cameras everywhere . ’
To pass through the door, a key wouldn’t be all you need – your fingerprints would have to be registered too .
Even if you got past both of those with somebody’s guidance, there was no way to escape the security cameras .
Though Gotou knew that, he still couldn’t throw away the escape theory .
'She could’ve escaped from a window . ’
'Perhaps in the era of metal grids on windows . Now they have protective glass on them . It wouldn’t crack even if it were punched with a fist . ’
A metal grid could have been sawed away to escape . However, with protective glass, escaping from the window wasn’t a chase .
– Is it really no good?
Even Gotou looked up at the ceiling in resignation .
'The only ones who can come and go are the guards, and there is still a limit to that,’ finished Komatsu in a triumphant tone .
So it was a situation where it was completely impossible to escape . It wouldn’t go as simply as in a television drama .
Just as the conversation had come to a half, Ishii raised his hand as he asked for permission to speak in an apologetic manner .
'What?’ asked Gotou . When he did so, Ishii’s face brightened immediately, like a child’s .
'There is one thing I would like to ask, but didn’t any workers come to check on Nanase Miyuki’s condition?’
Gotou understood immediately what Ishii was aiming for .
They had come to this theory for Miyuki’s escape because they had thought about this possibility in the beginning .
'Did somebody come by…’
Komatsu looked about for a while before yelping, as if he had suddenly remembered something .
'So somebody came . ’
Gotou stood up in his agitation .
'Yes . ’
Gotou approached Komatsu suddenly .
Perhaps Komatsu had been surprised, because he backed away and gave one man’s name .
It was the person they had predicted it would be, Yamamura Mikio –
Just as Haruka was leaving the hospital, somebody called out to her .
Standing there was Mao, the doctor .
'Yes . ’
'Things have become rather serious…’ said Mao, looking troubled .
She probably didn’t think that things would become like this yesterday either .
'Do you have some time? There’s something I’d like to talk to you about . ’
Haruka cocked her head in confusion .
She couldn’t imagine what Mao would have to say to her . She only knew Mao as Isshin’s friend .
'It’s about Yakumo-kun,’ said Mao, perhaps sensing how Haruka felt .
'Yes . ’
After saying that, Mao turned her gaze to her feet .
It appeared to be something she didn’t want other people to hear .
'We’ll head back first . ’
Atsuko tactfully took Nao’s hand and walked away .
'Ah, yes . ’
Haruka watched Atsuko and Nao leave .
'Let’s go to my examination room . ’
After waiting for the two of them to disappear, Mao slowly started walking .
– What does she have to say about Yakumo?
Haruka pondered that while walking after Mao .
At Mao’s guidance, Haruka passed by the reception and went to the examination room at the end of the corridor .
'Sit there,’ said Mao, sitting at her desk while pointing at the round chair facing it .
'Er… what do you want to talk about?’ said Haruka as she sat down .
A strange anxiety gripped her heart and she couldn’t calm down for some reason .
'Actually, I want to contact Yakumo-kun immediately regarding Isshin-kun . ’
'Yes . ’
'I haven’t seen him since yesterday . ’
Haruka bit her lip .
With the commotion, she hadn’t contacted Yakumo since yesterday .
She recalled how Yakumo had walked straight down the pitch-black corridor . Though it was only a corridor, it had seemed as dangerous as tightrope walking .
– I wonder what Yakumo is doing now?
'I see… You haven’t seen him either . ’
Mao let out a sigh in her disappointment .
'I’m sorry . ’
'No, it’s fine . I’ll try elsewhere . ’
'Er, why are you looking for Yakumo-kun?’ asked Haruka, curious .
'Yesterday, Doctor Sakakibara explained Isshin-kun’s condition, but that changed greatly upon the results of the examination . ’
'Yes . That’s why I said I wanted him to come to the hospital today, but…’
'Yakumo-kun didn’t come?’
'He didn’t . ’
– Yakumo had to be concerned about Isshin’s condition too . He should have come right away .
Did something happen?
'I’ll think about where he might be . ’
'Thank you . That would be a great help . ’
Mao’s expression softened just a bit .
'Then how is Isshin-san’s condition?’ asked Haruka, leaning forward .
Mao’s expression went stiff again and she looked away .
Haruka could easily imagine that his condition wasn’t very good from Mao’s response . She felt dizzy from her dark thoughts .
After thinking for some time, Mao said, 'I shouldn’t actually talk to anybody but relatives, but… you’re Yakumo-kun’s fiancée, right?’
– I’m his fiancée?
'Isshin-san told you that?’
'Yes . ’
Haruka frowned with complicated feelings .
She was surprised that Isshin saw it that way .
If it had been another situation, she would have denied it – 'Yakumo-kun and I aren’t like that’ – but she didn’t have the energy for it .
Haruka looked down, neither agreeing nor denying .
'We suspect that Isshin-kun may be brain-dead . ’
After a silence, Mao said that in a quiet voice .
– Brain-dead .
Haruka pressed her hand against her chest . She felt like a sharp blade had gouged it out .
Her heart was pounding . Her whole body was numb .
'Brain-dead… is it?’
– I don’t want to believe it .
With that feeling filling her heart, she asked that question .
'It’s still just a possibility…’
'When Isshin-kun was carried in, he had stopped breathing for a while . There’s the possibility that his brain underwent a great deal of damage when he wasn’t taking in oxygen .
– It’s a lie . It’s a lie . That has to be a lie .
This had to be a dream . It was obviously a lie . Haruka wanted to convince herself of that, but Mao’s words mercilessly flew into her ears .
If this were true, Isshin wouldn’t be able to breathe on his own, let alone walk and talk .
Not just that – the thoughts and memories that he was made up of would already be gone .
– I couldn’t possibly believe that .
Haruka put her head on the table .
'Are you all right?’
Mao placed a hand on Haruka’s shoulder .
'Is Isshin-san not going to get better…?’
Tears fell from Haruka’s eyes naturally .
Once they started, she couldn’t stop them . Haruka started to sob .
'Steady . ’
'Please tell me he’ll get better . If Isshin-san is gone, we’ll…’ pleaded Haruka, raising her head .
Then, her eyes met Mao’s . Her eyes were also wet with tears .
'I was in the same seminar as Isshin-kun in university,’ said Mao with a sniffle .
'Is that so…’
Haruka looked down in shame with closed eyes .
She had just been thinking of herself . She’d forgotten that Mao was Isshin’s friend too .
'I always liked Isshin-kun, but because of who he is, we never became anything more than friends . ’
Mao laughed as she shrugged .
Even though it must have been tough for her, she was stifling that feeling and doing her very best . When Haruka realised that, she wiped away her tears and took in a deep breath .
'I’m sorry . ’
'It’s fine . I don’t want to believe this is happening either . ’
Haruka silently bit her lip .
'I wonder why things turned out like this…’
Mao closed her eyes, looking like she was reminiscing .
Why did things turn out like this – Haruka had no way of knowing either .
– I’m worn out .
After returning to the precinct, Ishii collapsed into his chair at his desk .
His shoulders were heavy and his back felt sluggish . Furthermore, his consciousness was blurry . It was like that time he caught a cold .
He’d exhausted himself a fair amount in just a day and a half .
Gotou came in afterwards, a lit cigarette in his mouth . He sat down on the chair and crossed his arms .
Though he looked the same as always, his eyes were hollow .
'How was it?’
Miyagawa came in while calling out in a loud voice . His timing was so good it was like he’d been waiting for them to come back .
Ishii looked up at the voice, but he didn’t know what to say .
It appeared that Gotou felt the same way . He just looked up without saying anything .
'This isn’t a funeral – what happened?’
Miyagawa spread his two hands exaggeratedly .
Gotou looked at Miyagawa like he was something dirty and then said, 'Ishii,’ looking at him .
Gotou was probably telling him to explain .
Ishii was at a loss for words .
'Hurry up and speak,’ said Miyagawa, lighting a cigarette .
'Yes sir . ’
Ishii dragged his heavy body up and started reporting the information they had gathered at the detention house in order .
He started with how Miyuki had confessed to stabbing Saitou Isshin and then discussed the situation at the infirmary on the day of the incident, which they had heard from the medical officer Komatsu . Then, he explained the particulars, including how Yamamura Mikio had visited the infirmary .
Ishii just tried his best to not to include any personal theories .
He wanted to know what Miyagawa thought .
After Ishii finished, Miyagawa nodded and said, 'I see . ’
'From the situation, it’s highly likely that the guard Yamamura is related somehow, like we thought . ’
'You think that as well?’ said Ishii happily .
So it wasn’t just his own impression . Yamamura was suspicious .
'But we can’t do anything at this stage . ’
Miyagawa scratched his chin .
'Yes . ’
Unfortunately, it was just as Miyagawa said .
Though Yamamura was certainly suspicious, that was all . If asked, Ishii wouldn’t be able to say specifically how he was suspicious .
They had no evidence that Yamamura had tried to do something . He had just been near Miyuki .
In this situation, searching recklessly might just destroy the evidence .
It was unfortunate, but they would need to focus on gathering information and find out how Yamamura was related to the case .
'If we drag him in and wallop him, he’d cough the truth up, wouldn’t he?’ said Gotou curtly as he lit a cigarette .
It really wasn’t something Ishii thought a detective would say .
'If we did that, the police and prosecutors would have a full-out war,’ retorted Miyagawa coldly .
'A war in space or a war between monsters – neither have anything to do with me . ’
Gotou put his feet on top of the desk loudly .
He was acting like a rebellious high-school student .
'Leave this idiot alone, Ishii . What do you think?’
Miyagawa glared at Ishii .
'I believe that Nanase Miyuki used a certain method to escape the detention house . However, unfortunately, the method…’
Though Ishii had been the one giving his own opinion, he hesitated without continuing .
'It’s impossible to escape the detention house . ’
Miyagawa readily rejected Ishii’s opinion .
'I think that Yamamura guided her somehow…’
Though Ishii said that, he didn’t know the method . In the end, he had just returned to the beginning .
'That’s not what I’m saying . ’
'Let’s say that guy called Yamamura did guide her somehow . Though he doesn’t have the key to the room, he has the key to the passage, so it’d be possible for him to take her out of the infirmary . ’
'Yes . ’
Though Miyagawa had denied Ishii’s theory earlier, now he was agreeing with it .
Ishii felt that there was a contradiction, but he replied anyway .
'But if Yamamura took her out like that, there must’ve been an eyewitness . ’
'That’s right . ’
Ishii had been stuck there too .
If Yamamura took a prisoner out without permission and loitered about, somebody would probably call out to stop him immediately . Even if he didn’t meet anybody, there were security cameras .
– It really doesn’t seem like it would work .
Ishii had started to give up when he suddenly got an idea .
'If transporting packages was used as a diversion or Miyuki put on a guard uniform as a deception – wouldn’t a method like that be possible?’
Then it would have been possible for them to leave without standing out .
Ishii had said that with confidence, but Miyagawa’s reaction was lacking .
'Let’s say they did use that method to let her escape . There’s one more problem here . How’d she get back?’
Ishii couldn’t think of an answer right away .
'And why did she have to return?’
Ishii’s answer trailed off .
That was a blind spot . If she had escaped the detention house, there was no need for her to risk returning .
She could have just escaped, but she didn’t .
'Chief Miyagawa, how do you think she tried to kill him?’
Ishii tried asking a question back .
After Miyagawa hmm-ed and rubbed his bald head, he suddenly looked up, as if he had thought of something .
'This is just something that came to me, but maybe she didn’t need to escape?’
'What do you mean?’
Gotou had been looking down since earlier, but the conversation suddenly caught his attention .
'That is, Miyuki set something up before coming into the detention house and used that to commit the crime – wouldn’t that work?’
'Set something up… you say?’
'Right . Like using something similar to a bow and arrow to throw the knife…’
Miyagawa’s voice grew quieter . Perhaps he had lost his confidence .
However, Ishii thought Miyagawa’s theory was possible .
'That is possible . With a specific action, she could set off a mechanism to throw the knife . ’
Ishii had read something like this in a mystery novel before . A knife was put into a bow gun, a booby trap was set up to activate once the door opened and the crime was committed that way .
Then, the criminal could create an alibi to prove they weren’t related to the case and move the mechanism elsewhere .
If that method were used, Miyuki wouldn’t need to escape the detention house .
'Then what sort of gadget did she use to do that?’ said Gotou while stifling a yawn .
'If we knew that, the case would be solved already . ’
Miyagawa pressed his cigarette into the ashtray .
This idea felt like it would be tossed out, but it wasn’t that way for Ishii .
Breaking through a situation where they were stuck wasn’t half bad .
'Chief Miyagawa, let’s investigate the scene once more . ’
'Yeah . ’
Miyagawa agreed with Ishii’s suggestion .
'It was the first time somebody had honestly accepted Ishii’s opinion . He felt a bit moved .
'No way about it . We’ve got nothing to lose, right?”
Gotou threw his cigarette into the ashtray and stood up slowly .
'Gotou, you can forget about it . ’
Miyagawa shook his head .
'I’m telling you to go home for today,’ said Miyagawa, poking his finger into Gotou’s chest .
'W-w-what are you saying?’
Unable to accept it, Gotou flared up at Miyagawa’s comment .
'I heard about what was going on from Ishii . You took in the victim’s daughter, right?’
Miyagawa’s gaze was serious, which was unusual for him .
'What about it? It’s got nothing to do with the case, right?’
'It’s got everything to do with it!’
Miyagawa’s words were close to a threat .
Ishii felt surprised just from standing next to him .
'Please don’t speak so loudly . ’
'Listen up – you don’t have enough self-awareness . Taking in a kid is a big responsibility . You think just feeding her dinner’s gonna be enough? She’s not a dog . At least head home early today . ’
Miyagawa pushed Gotou in the chest .
Gotou staggered backwards .
'Even if I went back, I wouldn’t be able to do anything . Instead I should hurry and catch the…’
'Shut up! Stop complaining! This is an order!’
Miyagawa’s yell drowned out Gotou’s words .
The difference in response might have been the difference between those who had children and those who didn’t . That was what Ishii thought .
Even Gotou couldn’t respond .
'Don’t worry about the investigation . I’m more than enough to fill in for you,’ said Miyagawa, turning his back to Gotou .
– So cool .
Ishii unconsciously found himself enraptured by that back .
'Right! Ishii! We’re going!’
As Miyagawa said that, he left the room .
Ishii finally realised .
If Miyagawa was filling in for Gotou, that meant that Ishii would pair up with Miyagawa .
This happened last time too . Whenever he paired up with Miyagawa, something terrible always happened to Ishii .
Tormented by melancholy, Ishii ran after Miyagawa regardless .
His feet tangled .
He fell –
– I feel down .
Haruka stopped in front of the prefabricated building in the back of Building B .
It was completely dark around her .
However, there was no light on in the <Movie Research Circle> room .
After leaving the hospital, Haruka had called Yakumo’s mobile countless times, but the call tone had just gone on and Yakumo hadn’t answered .
She had left a voicemail, but there hadn’t even been a return call .
Haruka opened the door, went inside and turned on the light .
Yakumo really wasn’t here .
She had come here to search for Yakumo, but if he wasn’t here, she unfortunately had no more ideas .
'Where are you?’ she asked, but there was no response .
It was a small, dreary room with only a table, sleeping bag and refrigerator, but she had many memories here .
Really, a great number of things had happened . Normally, she could relax here, but sitting by herself like this just made her anxious .
She recalled what had happened during the last case .
That time as well, Haruka had chased after Yakumo, who had suddenly disappeared, and came to this room and sat down on this chair .
Yakumo often took on things by himself .
Even if he was troubled, he didn’t show it on his face, and he wouldn’t respond if Haruka asked .
He especially had a tendency to run amok when his relatives were involved .
– It’s my fault…
The words Yakumo said in the hospital ran through Haruka’s head .
The words might not have been in regards to this case but rather everything that had happened up until now .
Yakumo had fought fiercely up until now .
Against the people who despised his red left eye which could see the spirits of the dead . The spirits he saw against his will with no reward .
And then the man with two red eyes –
He had undergone much more than most and experienced many hardships and sorrows .
Yakumo had said this before .
– No matter how obscure the darkness, a small light can always be seen ahead of it .
By believing in that, Yakumo retained his psychological balance and walked forward .
However, no matter how much he advanced, the same things happened . One person couldn’t change the world, so he continued to fight people’s resentment and hatred .
Not just that – he couldn’t save the people close to him .
It was the same this time .
Yakumo hadn’t been able to save Isshin . The cause of the incident was probably the woman called Nanase Miyuki’s grudge .
Even though they were just walking the paths they believed in, because everyone thinks differently, that changed into resentment and hatred .
Yakumo, who could see the spirits of the dead, might have felt that more strongly than anyone .
Was he tired of the unending and recurring chain of negative emotions?
– That isn’t it, right?
Haruka prayed silently in her heart as she tightly gripped the necklace hanging from her neck .
The main reason Yakumo had so far never stepped off the path a human should take no matter what he suffered was probably Isshin’s influence .
Because Yakumo had had Isshin’s support, Yakumo had been able to walk forward up until now .
If Yakumo lost Isshin, what would he become?
Haruka felt incredibly afraid when she imagined it .
Haruka held the red stone on her necklace with both hands and closed her eyes, as if praying .
In the silence, a thought came to Haruka .
It was about Yakumo’s father, the man with red eyes .
He had always been a puzzle .
Why did he play with people’s emotions and induce them into committing crimes?
He could see the spirits of the dead, like Yakumo .
Did that make him act the way he did?
Since Haruka didn’t know much about psychology, it was just a theory, but she couldn’t help but feel that way .
Because of those red eyes, he lost many important things, took in those feelings with no reward all by himself . Then, bearing those feelings, he fell into an absolute darkness –
Though those were just her thoughts, maybe he had been in a similar situation to Yakumo? If that were the case –
Would Yakumo fall into the pitch-black darkness again?
Haruka shook her head to clear away her negative thoughts .
– There’s no way .
She continued to pray in her heart, but her anxiety just wouldn’t go away .
– Yakumo, where are you trying to go?
Haruka murmured that in her heart .
Of course, there was no answer .
Haruka took her mobile phone out of her bag and typed out a text .
Though it was only one-way communication, she still wanted to convey something to Yakumo .
She typed in a sentence, deleted it, typed in a sentence, deleted it –
That was the cycle .
After thinking over it, she finally only typed in one sentence .
<I want to see you . >
She didn’t need any other words . She just wanted to see Yakumo .
After typing her text, Haruka took her necklace off and held it in front of her eyes .
The swaying red stone glinted with a sharp light .
Gotou stood in front of the door to his home .
He had lived in this flat from his work for five years already .
However, it was the first time in his memory that he had returned home so early .
Miyagawa had practically chased him out, but Gotou himself was concerned about Atsuko and Nao too .
That said, if Miyagawa hadn’t said all that, Gotou probably wouldn’t have left the investigation and gone home .
Gotou was about to open the door when he noticed that his hand was shaking slightly .
It was like he had returned home with a guilty conscience after an affair .
– Idiotic . What am I getting worked up for when I’m just returning to my own home?
Gotou encouraged himself and forcefully opened the door .
'I’m back . ’
High-pitched laughter from the living room drowned out Gotou’s voice .
He knew immediately that it was Atsuko’s laughter . She really sounded like she was enjoying herself –
Atsuko often laughed like this in a high-pitched voice before they married .
Gotou liked the way Atsuko laughed . He would fool around just to make her laugh .
However, after they started living together, that laughter grew quiet and they soon didn’t even talk any more .
A cold relationship where they only lived together –
Gotou thought that the start of that was when Atsuko had a miscarriage . If he had faced her properly after that, they might have had a different future .
However, Gotou hadn’t been able to do that . He stuck himself to his work and ran away .
Still feeling guilty, Gotou took off his shoes at the entrance and headed for the living room .
The laughter still continued .
As he stood in front of the door to the living room, he hesitated to open it .
If I open the door now, that laughter might stop – that was what he thought .
– Why am I hesitating?
Gotou told himself that as he opened the door .
A different scene from the usual flew into Gotou’s eyes .
Atsuko was sitting on the sofa and Nao was on her lap . They were using drawing paper to talk .
Both of them were smiling innocently .
The air felt warm .
Nao pointed at the drawing paper and spoke falteringly: 'Ah, ah . ’
Since Nao couldn’t hear, she couldn’t speak clearly, but Atsuko seemed to understand everything she said as she nodded a number of times .
Gotou felt like he had wandered into somebody else’s home .
However, he didn’t feel uncomfortable . He wanted to look at Atsuko’s and Nao’s smiling faces forever . He even felt that way .
'Oh my, you’re back?’
Atsuko noticed Gotou was there and looked up .
The smile on her face didn’t waver .
'Y-yeah . ’
How many years had it been since Atsuko had welcomed him home with a smile?
Gotou felt awkward as he walked to the sofa where Atsuko and Nao were .
'What’s so funny?’
Gotou sat down cross-legged in front of the sofa .
Nao and Atsuko looked at each other and laughed .
'There’s no helping it, so shall we show him?’
Atsuko spoke with Nao and then held out the drawing paper .
A man was drawn on it in crayon .
He wore something like a suit, but his whole body was fuzzy and he had his mouth wide open, baring his teeth .
'What is this?’
Gotou said the first thing that came to mind .
'It’s you . ’
Atsuko’s shoulders shook as she laughed .
– This is me?
'This is practically a bear . ’
When Gotou said that, even he started becoming amused .
A smile naturally appeared on his face .
'Oi, Nao . Am I a bear?’
Gotou pretended to roar – 'Gaooo!’ – and then pinched Nao’s nose .
Nao shrieked with laughter and swung her legs .
When Gotou looked at that smiling face, he felt all his exhaustion fly away .
– Do I want to be a dad?
Gotou was surprised to find that wish at the bottom of his heart .
Gotou’s eyes were half-closed as he looked at Nao as if in a trance, but then he noticed Atsuko looking at him curiously and covered up by clearing his throat .
'So how was it?’
It was the first time in a while that Gotou had spoken to Atsuko like this .
Gotou thought that Atsuko might be a bit confused, but she just started talking about what had happened today with Nao still on her map .
It was a regular conversation – she just told him that they went to visit Isshin and that Nao had helped prepare dinner . However, Atsuko’s eyes sparkled like those of a child talking about an adventure .
When Atsuko’s words reached Gotou’s ears, he realised . Atsuko had been lonely all this time –
She sent off her husband who selfishly ran off however he wanted and had lived with her loneliness alone in this home .
It was imprudent, but Gotou wouldn’t have realised such a simple thing if this hadn’t happened .
He was a useless man who only knew how to thump his chest .
Perhaps Nao had grown tired of laughing, because she let out a yawn on top of the sofa .
'She must be tired . ’
'Well, that happened…’
'Now, let’s go to the futon . ’
Atsuko picked Nao up and headed for the bedroom .
Gotou lit his cigarette as she watched them .
He felt like the smoke didn’t just go to his lungs but to the deep parts of his heart .
After a while, Atsuko returned to the living room .
'Sorry,’ said Gotou as he looked at Atsuko’s face .
'It’s fine . Something like this is nothing to worry about . Nao-chan’s a strong girl too,’ replied Atsuko lightly .
The 'Sorry’ Gotou wanted to say hadn’t just been for today but everything up until now .
'That’s right . She’s a strong girl,’ said Gotou without explaining his intention .
– This part of myself is irritating .
Gotou laughed self-deprecatingly and slowly blew out smoke .
’ …Do you think the culprit will be caught?’
After Atsuko said that, she looked like she wanted to say, 'Oh no . ’
It was the first time she’d asked about a case . He’d thought that she wasn’t interested, but that probably wasn’t it .
She wanted to know, but she hadn’t asked because she thought that she would be disliked if she asked .
'We don’t know anything yet . This case has very deep roots,’ said Gotou as if it were natural .
He had no proof . He wanted somebody to listen to him now – that was how he felt .
Perhaps Atsuko was happy about getting a response, because her eyes were as bright as a girl’s .
'What do you mean when you say the roots are deep?’
'It’ll take a while to explain . ’
Gotou felt somewhat embarrassed when Atsuko looked at him like that .
To escape Atsuko’s gaze, he played with the carpet .
'I don’t mind if it takes a while,’ said Atsuko .
Because Gotou was looking down, he didn’t know what sort of expression she was making .
Talking to Atsuko wouldn’t find them the culprit .
There was the last case too . If he talked to Atsuko, he’d probably make her worry . However, his desire to let her know was still stronger .
'Could you get a beer?’ said Gotou, pressing his cigarette into the ashtray .
'Mind if I have one too?’
After Atsuko said that, she headed for the kitchen without waiting for Gotou’s reply and brought back two cans of beer from the refrigerator .
Gotou lit a new cigarette and took a sip of beer . Then, he started explaining the connections regarding the case .
It started fifteen years ago, when Gotou saved a boy .
He had always been bad at explaining to people, so he took a while, unable to summarise the story concisely .
However, Atsuko still listened to his story silently .
How many years has it been since I talked for so long to Atsuko –
It was a mysterious feeling, like telling an old tale to a child .
Ishii took a can of beer in both hands and passed through the gate to the temple .
The wind that blew through was cold .
Even though it would soon be spring, the night really was cold .
The temple stood out in the darkness, as if it were itself emitting light .
The outdoor lamps lit up the temple as the investigation was underway .
Though Ishii understood, it still looked creepy to him .
– What method did Nanase Miyuki use to stab Isshin?
That puzzle was still unsolved .
Ishii sighed . Then, somebody passed by him .
He’d seen the face before – it was Saitou Yakumo .
'Er, Yakumo-shi . ’
Yakumo might have an ingenious plan .
Ishii called out to him, but Yakumo silently walked towards the cemetery as if he hadn’t heard anything .
His profile was paler than usual – he looked like a living corpse .
– I wonder what happened .
In Ishii’s confusion, Yakumo disappeared, as if swallowed by the darkness .
– Was that an illusion just now?
It was to the point that Ishii thought his eyes might have been playing tricks on him .
'Oi, Ishii . What’re you standing there for!?’
Miyagawa shouted from the front of the temple .
Ishii hurriedly ran towards Miyagawa .
'E-e-excuse me . ’
Ishii held out two cans of coffee for Miyagawa .
'You an idiot? One of them’s yours . ’
’T-thank you very much . ’
Miyagawa took just one can from Ishii and pulled open the tab .
'Well, sit down . ’
'Ah, yes . ’
Urged by Miyagawa, Ishii sat on the steps, holding the can of coffee in his hands without opening it .
'Don’t be so stiff . You underestimate yourself . ’
'Underestimate… is it?’
It was the first time in his life that he had ever been told that .
He’d been called idiot and blockhead countless times .
He didn’t feel frustrated or angry about it . That was because he thought it was true .
That was why he didn’t understand when Miyagawa said he was underestimating himself .
'You should be more confident . ’
Miyagawa said it so simply, but it was difficult .
He wasn’t hesitant because he wanted to be . He just couldn’t believe in his own thoughts .
When he heard other people’s opinions, he always ended up thinking that they were correct . He couldn’t be decisive .
That was all .
'Want a smoke?’
Miyagawa took out a cigarette case .
'I don’t smoke,’ said Ishii, waving a hand .
He had tried smoking before, but it made him cough terribly . It didn’t agree with him .
'I see,’ murmured Miyagawa . Meanwhile, he put a cigarette in his mouth and lit it .
'Has there been any new information?’ asked Ishii as he watched the investigation team move about .
'The window in the back of the temple was broken . Nanase Miyuki’s fingerprints were found there,’ said Miyagawa with a depressed expression .
'Was that the route she used to break in?’
'They were relatively new fingerprints so that’s probably right . ’
'I see . ’
'But that means…’
Miyagawa trailed off .
'Ah, that’s right…’
Ishii nodded, sensing how Miyagawa felt .
If they specified the back window as the break-in route, the crime using a trap that Miyagawa suggested would naturally be eliminated .
Miyagawa seemed to think it unfortunate from the expression on his profile . When Ishii looked at it, a question came up in his head .
– Is the back really the break-in route?
Ishii thought carefully about the day of the crime .
Isshin went to the temple to meditate, and Gotou told Ishii to guard the entrance .
'I didn’t hear anything . ’
When Ishii declared that, Miyagawa’s eyebrow twitched .
'What do you mean?’
'I was standing here the whole time,’ explained Ishii as he climbed the stairs to stand at the temple’s sliding door .
'OK . ’
'I was listening so that I would be able to move immediately if there were anything out of the ordinary . However…’
'You didn’t hear the window break . ’
Ishii responded with a nod .
It had been a quiet, windless night . If there had been the sound of a window breaking, he would have definitely noticed .
'At least the window was not broken at the time of the crime,’ finished Ishii .
'Then when was the window broken?’
Ishii didn’t know at this stage .
'Since Miyuki’s fingerprints were on it, she has to be the one who broke it . ’
'Please wait a moment . ’
Ishii took out a memo pad and started writing a time schedule to organise his thoughts .
Miyuki was carried to the infirmary past six PM –
Then, Isshin was stabbed at nine PM –
Ishii predicted that Miyuki escaped the detention house and committed the crime in those three hours . He put that with the information he had gathered until now .
Yamamura showed up at the infirmary at about seven PM –
Furthermore, Isshin went into the temple at eight thirty PM –
The time frame was fairly narrow .
'From seven PM to eight thirty PM, Miyuki left the detention house, broke the temple window and went in…’ said Miyagawa as he peeked at Ishii’s mirror .
If the investigated within this hour and a half, it would be much more effective .
'Miyagawa-san, do you have a moment?’
As the conversation came to a lull, a man in a blue uniform from investigations came towards them and spoke up .
Miyagawa pressed his cigarette into a portable ashtray and followed the man from investigations into the temple .
Ishii’s interest was piqued, so he followed after Miyagawa too .
The inside of the temple was also lit up to the point it was glaring .
'Please look at this . ’
The man from investigations held up the plastic bag in his hand to show them .
In the bag there was something like a thin wire .
'What’s that?’ said Miyagawa, picking the bag up .
'It was caught on that statue of the Buddha . ’
The man from investigations pointed at the statute of the Buddha at the front .
It was a wooden statue of Gautama Buddha . It frightened Ishii – the half –open eyes seemed to see through to the bottom of his heart .
'Though it is faint, there are also traces of blood . ’
The man from investigations pointed at part of the wire in the plastic bag .
It certainly was dyed dark red .
– Wait a second .
When Ishii saw that, another thought came to mind .
Earlier, he had thought that the fingerprints on the window disproved the theory of crime by some sort of device .
However, if he thought about it differently, Miyuki might have purposefully left the fingerprints on the back window to hide the trap she used to commit the crime .
She had done the same sort of thing during a past incident . Miyuki often used this trick .
But what device could stab Isshin with a knife – Ishii didn’t know .
Yakumo stood in front of a gravestone .
The engraved name stood out in the moonlight .
– Takagishi Family Grave .
The person sleeping under here was Yakumo’s middle-school teacher and Nao’s mother . She was also the person who might have become his mother –
He couldn’t save her either .
– But why can my eye see?
Yakumo touched the gravestone with his fingertips .
It was hard and cold to the touch . It was just a stone; there was no way it would answer .
His body trembled .
'Is it really my fault…’ said Yakumo in a voice that trailed off .
The words were not directed to anybody in particular . He had not said them expecting an answer .
However, a response came back from the darkness .
– Yes . Everything is your fault .
Yakumo shut his eyes and sighed .
He realised immediately whose voice it was .
In the past, he had desperately prayed that he would never meet him, and now he was frantically searching for him .
'Come out . ’
Yakumo’s eyes snapped open as he said that in a hard tone .
'If you wish . ’
At the same time as that voice, a man walked out of the darkness .
He wore a black suit and his long hair flowed down his back . Even though it was night, he wore dark sunglasses, and his pale skin stood out .
It was the first time Yakumo had confronted this man like this .
However, he knew who it was immediately .
He didn’t determine it from seeing him . The blood flowing through Yakumo’s veins told him so .
'So it really was you?’
'That tone of voice isn’t very appropriate when talking to your father . ’
'I’ve never thought of you as my father . ’
'It’s not a problem of whether you think so or not . Doesn’t that red eye of yours prove it? The bond between you and me . ’
The man slowly took off his sunglasses .
The moonlight illuminated his deep red eyes, making it look as if they were glittering .
'Uncle is my father,’ Yakumo said shortly .
He didn’t want to acknowledge it . That the same blood that flowed through this man flowed through himself –
'But you couldn’t save him . ’
'You’re wrong . ’
'Not just him . Your mother and that woman – you couldn’t save them either . ’
'Because of you, everyone died . ’
The man’s sentence seemed to pierce through to Yakumo’s core .
– Everyone died .
Everyone important to me dies – that reality crushed Yakumo’s heart .
'Your blood is cursed . You can’t escape it . ’
The man walked towards Yakumo like he was floating across the ground .
I want to run – that impulse made Yakumo turn away .
'Hiding won’t change reality . ’
A cool smile graced the man’s lips .
'I have had a number of children up until now, but the only one who has inherited my genetics – my red eye – and remains living… is you . ’
’… I don’t want to understand,’ said Yakumo, as if the words were strangled out of him .
However, that voice did not echo . The darkness swallowed it .
'No, you should already understand . ’
'I can’t understand,’ said Yakumo with a furious expression .
However, that serious thought was also swallowed up by that man’s red eyes .
'Seeing the spirits of the dead makes you suffer, doesn’t it? It hurts, doesn’t it? You end up seeing things you don’t have to see . You know things you don’t have to know . ’
'Even if you can escape for a moment, it happens again . ’
Yakumo gritted his teeth .
– I can’t listen to what this man says .
With strong conviction, Yakumo opposed him . After all, it was just ego to justify himself .
The other person hidden in the depths of his heart understood what this man said . And he agreed .
Nothing would change from trying by himself .
People were powerless .
The same thing would happen .
Then, people would die –
The resentment and hatred of the dead wandered the world .
He saw it .
Even though he didn’t want to – he saw it .
Yakumo bit the inside of his lip .
Pain and the taste of blood filled his mouth .
With that he was finally able to come to his senses .
'That’s why you kill people?’
The man smiled at Yakumo’s words .
'Kill? Me? I haven’t killed anyone . All I have done is fulfil desires . I just lend a hand . Isn’t that right?’
– It’s just as he says .
This man had had a hand in a number of cases .
However, he had never directly done anything . He had just given a few backs a push .
With his guidance, people were shaken by their desires; as a result, people died .
Yakumo didn’t know what was right any more .
'I don’t want to see my son suffer any more . ’
'That’s right . Isshin doesn’t know your true feelings – he just says platitudes and misleads you . What Isshin says is only an illusion . You know that too, right?’
– So that really was it?
Isshin really was stabbed because of him .
When Yakumo realised that, he felt himself falling into a deep darkness .
– If I weren’t here, this wouldn’t have happened .
That thought ran about his head .
When his own existence was denied, Yakumo’s heart lost even its usual composure and transfigured into something terribly fragile .
'What are you telling me to do…’ Yakumo asked the man .
Yakumo had lost his way – he appeared to be pleading .
When the man saw Yakumo like that, he smiled broadly, as if he could not have expected anything better .
'Come with me . I’ll teach you…’
The man slowly walked into the darkness .
– What is in that darkness?
Yakumo didn’t know, but he felt like he would be released from his suffering if he followed the man .
In his doubt, he took the first step forward .
That moment, the mobile phone in his pocket rang to tell him he had a text .
Yakumo took out his mobile .
'Throw that away,’ said the man, turning around .
'Throw it away?’
'Yes . It causes troublesome involvements which change into doubts . ’
– It really was true .
Yakumo was about to throw his mobile phone when the wind blew .
– Don’t throw it away .
It felt like it was saying that .
Yakumo opened the text that had arrived .
It was a text from Haruka .
Just one sentence .
– I want to see you .
That short sentence shook Yakumo’s heart .
'What’s wrong?’ asked the man .
The wind blew again .
A cloud of dust danced by and went into Yakumo’s left eye .
He pressed his hand against the left eye from the pain .
'What are you hesitating for? We’re going . ’
The man pressed forward .
Yakumo lifted his face, still pressing a hand against his left eye .
He heard something beating in his chest .
Yakumo took the hand off his eye and looked at the man again .
– I see . So that’s how it is .
At this moment, Yakumo understood everything that had been a puzzle to him up until now .
Before Haruka knew it, she was at the temple .
She was standing on the wooden floor with bare feet . She looked up and saw a statue of Gautama Buddha enshrined in front of her .
She stepped towards the solemn figure, as if drawn in .
With every step, the floorboards creaked underneath her .
After walking so close she could touch the Buddha statue, she noticed somebody’s presence behind her .
Haruka turned around, startled .
She saw somebody standing in the temple entrance .
He had terrible bedhead and wore a white shirt and jeans .
'Yakumo-kun,’ said Haruka in her delight .
She had looked for him since yesterday . She was finally able to meet him .
With no response, Yakumo stood there like a statue .
'Hey, Yakumo-kun, where were you?’
Haruka walked towards Yakumo as she called out to him, but Yakumo didn’t respond .
Something slipped out of Yakumo’s hand .
Haruka looked at his feet and exclaimed in surprise .
Fallen there was a knife covered in blood .
'The true nature of humanity… is darkness . ’
Yakumo’s eyes were narrowed as he smiled, like he was in a trance .
Yakumo didn’t reply to Haruka’s question .
He just smiled uncannily, turned around on his heels and walked towards the exit .
Haruka hurriedly chased after Yakumo .
It was strange – even though Haruka was running after him, she couldn’t catch up to Yakumo, who was walking .
Yakumo’s back kept moving farther away –
Even though she was running and running, the distance between them kept growing .
'Don’t go!’ yelled Haruka from the bottom of her stomach, and then she sat straight up .
'You’re so noisy . ’
Haruka was quickly brought back to reality by that voice .
She couldn’t see clearly since it was so bright . After blinking a number of times, she finally saw who was standing in the white light .
'Could it be you, Yakumo-kun?’ asked Haruka, confused .
'There’s no “could” about it . ’
That blunt way of speaking – it had to be Yakumo .
'Why are you here, Yakumo-kun?’
'This is my room . It’s natural for me to be here . ’
'Don’t “eh” me . On top of worming your way into my room, you’re making false accusations in your sleep . How can you be such a dunce?’
Yakumo ran a hand through his messy hair and yawned .
His left eye was a vivid red .
Now, Haruka finally realised that what she had seen earlier was a dream .
Yesterday, she had been waiting for Yakumo in this room and had fallen asleep at some point with her head on the table .
'Where did you go!? I was worried!’ protested Haruka, her emotions tipping over as she pointed a finger at Yakumo .
Even though she had been so worried, Yakumo was acting so nonchalant . It irritated her .
'Don’t shout,’ said Yakumo fingers in his ears .
'I want to shout . When you suddenly disappear at a serious time . I…’
Haruka furiously held back the tears that were threatening to spill out .
Happiness and frustration stirred up her gloomy heart .
'My bad . In a number of ways . I had some things I had to think about,’ said Yakumo as he turned his back to Haruka .
Haruka hit his back .
'Don’t think by yourself, idiot . ’
'That’s quite the tone when you’re an idiot yourself . I apologised properly, didn’t I?’
Yakumo turned back to her and ran a hand through his hair in exasperation .
'Shut up . Idiot . I definitely won’t forgive you . ’
Even though she was so happy that Yakumo had returned that she didn’t know what to do, in her stubbornness, she couldn’t act honestly happy .
– I’m the idiot .
I might be the reason the distance between Yakumo and me doesn’t shorten – so Haruka ended up thinking .
'How can I cheer you up? Should I buy you some chocolate?’ said Yakumo lightly .
– He’s making fun of me .
'I don’t want chocolate!’
'Then what do you want?’
'I don’t want anything . Just don’t go off somewhere without my permission again!’
'I’m not your possession . ’
'I know that! But I don’t like it!’
Before she knew it, she was crying .
Showing her tears made it feel like she had lost . She bit her lip in mortification .
However, the more she tried to hold the tears in, the more came out .
Finally, Haruka covered her face with both hands and started sobbing .
'I get it . I’ll tell you next time . ’
Yakumo stood up and lightly touched Haruka’s shoulder .
His white fingers seemed to trace Haruka’s contours as they went from her shoulder to her neck .
Haruka’s body trembled – it felt strange, like the strength was leaving her body . At the same time, she felt her heart melt, though it had been hard up until earlier .
Haruka looked at Yakumo’s red eye .
– It really is beautiful .
As she thought that, she naturally closed her eyes .
It was a pleasant silence . If only time would stop now – so she thought .
Yakumo’s breath brushed Haruka’s earlobe .
'You saved me again,’ said Yakumo, faintly – very faintly .
Yakumo’s presence suddenly disappeared into the dark .
– Is this a dream too?
Haruka hurriedly opened her eyes .
Yakumo was right in front of her eyes, but he was putting something on .
'What are you doing?’
Haruka stood up as she wiped her tears .
'Where? Obviously to solve the mystery behind the case . ’
Yakumo said that in a matter-of-fact manner, but there was no way for Haruka to understand without an explanation .
'I’m going to leave you behind if you don’t hurry,’ said Yakumo as he ran a hand through his hair . Then, he left the room briskly .
Though Yakumo was the same as always, Haruka felt like something was wrong .
– He’s too normal .
Yakumo should know Isshin’s condition too, so how could he be so calm?
'Aren’t you coming?’
Haruka’s thoughts were interrupted when she heard Yakumo urging her .
– There’s no point thinking about these things now .
Haruka followed Yakumo out of the room .
The first thing Gotou saw at work was Ishii, sleeping with his head on the desk .
Tools like scissors and screwdrivers were scattered about .
– What the hell is he using these for?
'You can’t… Please stop it already…’
Ishii shook his head back and forth as he mumbled incoherently in his sleep .
– He’s probably having some stupid dream .
Gotou had gone home early at Miyagawa’s behest yesterday . It appeared that Ishii had stayed up all night working after that .
When Gotou thought about that, though he didn’t feel guilty, he still didn’t like listening to the strange sleeptalk .
Gotou hit Ishii’s head .
'Ack!’ yelled Ishii as he jumped up like a frog .
'You’re so noisy,’ complained Gotou . He put a cigarette in his mouth and sat in his own seat .
Ishii rubbed his bloodshot eyes, put on the glasses that had been on the table . After confirming it was Gotou in front of him, he said awkwardly, ’D-Detective Gotou… I apologise; it seems I fell asleep . ’
Even though it had only been one day, Ishii’s face looked a bit hollow .
It looked like he’d made Ishii bear the burden by himself at a difficult time .
'My bad about yesterday . ’
Gotou apologised honestly .
However, Ishii didn’t seem to understand . He just stared blankly for a while .
'Er, I mean, because I went home early…’ said Gotou, lighting his cigarette .
Ishii looked like he finally understood . He clapped his hands together .
'Oh, I’m fine . More importantly, how is Nao-chan?’
'She’s calmed down . ’
Gotou would be embarrassed explaining everything that happened yesterday, so he left it at that .
'So how’s the investigation?’ asked Gotou . Ishii’s expression clouded over instantly .
– This guy’s really easy to understand .
'That is… rather difficult… regarding the method the crime was committed… er… well . ’
Ishii’s replies never gave him the important points .
Gotou felt, a bit late, that this characteristic of his irritated people .
'It’s not like I thought the case would suddenly be solved . Tell me what you know now . ’
'Ah, y-yes sir . ’
Ishii took a memo pad from his jacket and started explaining the situation with the investigation .
'A broken window was found in the back of the temple, and Nanase Miyuki’s fingerprints were found there as well . ’
'I see . ’
That made it very likely that Miyuki had gotten in from the back of the temple .
– But is that really how it happened?
'However, since I did not hear the sound of breaking glass on the night of the crime, I feel like it happened earlier,’ added Ishii, as if he had expected Gotou’s question .
'That’d be possible,’ agreed Gotou . He was about to tap the ashes off his cigarette but he couldn’t find an ashtray .
– Where is it?
Gotou looked about the room as he listened to Ishii .
'Something like a wire was also found at the temple . ’
'A wire, eh…’
Gotou found the ashtray in a cabinet with glass doors .
– Why’s it here?
With that question in his mind, Gotou put his hand on the cabinet to take the ashtray out .
'Ah! Detective Gotou! You can’t!’ shouted Ishii, standing up .
But he was too late –
When Gotou opened the door, there was a popping sound .
At the same time, something flew out .
Gotou was so surprised he couldn’t avoid it .
It was a direct hit on his forehead .
'Ow . ’
He put his hand to his forehead . Something was stuck there .
It didn’t hurt as much as he thought it did .
– The hell is this?
Gotou pulled it off his head with another pop .
Its tip was a suction cup – a toy arrow for children .
'That’s why I said that you can’t open the cabinet . ’
Half in tears, Ishii approached Gotou .
'Ishii, were you playing around while I was gone?’
The part of Gotou that had felt sorry earlier now felt angry . He grabbed Ishii by the lapels and shook him .
'That isn’t it,’ objected Ishii, shaking his head .
'What isn’t it!? Eh?’
'It was an experiment . ’
'Experimenting to see how I’d respond to a prank!?’
'It was an experiment since we think Nanase Miyuki’s crime might not have been committed by her escaping the detention house but by using a trap like this . ’
– I see .
Gotou finally understood what Ishii was trying to say .
When the door opened, an arrow flew out . If Miyuki made a trap like this, she could make a knife fly out and stab Isshin instead .
If she used this method, she wouldn’t have to go out of her way to escape the detention house .
Gotou understood that . But –
'Then why didn’t you say that first!?’
'Because you opened the door before I could say it, Detective Gotou . ’
'You’re a hundred times noisier . ’
Along with the voice, something hit the back of Gotou’s head .
– Who the hell would suddenly hit somebody’s head like this?
Gotou let go of Ishii and turned around with a furious expression .
Standing there was Miyagawa .
'Honestly . I can’t tell if you guys are serious or playing around,’ complained Miyagawa . He crossed his arms and sat on a nearby chair .
'What are you saying? We are always serious . ’
'You don’t say,’ said Miyagawa with suspicious eyes .
'What are you here for, Miyagawa-san?’
'I finished preparing what Ishii asked for so I came all the way here for that . ’
– Ishii asked for something?
Gotou felt something was off .
He couldn’t imagine Ishii asking Miyagawa for anything .
'Is that so? Thank you very much . ’
Ishii’s eyes were sparkling .
'What did you ask for?’
'I requested for the footage from the security cameras at the detention house,’ said Ishii energetically .
'I’ve got it set up in the conference room . ’
After declaring just that, Miyagawa stood up and left the room briskly .
'Why do you need the security camera footage?’
'If she escaped the detention house, she might be in that footage . ’
As usual, Ishii was excited .
However, Gotou felt there was a contradiction in that answer .
'Didn’t Miyuki use a trap to stab Isshin?’
'There is that possibility . ’
'Then she didn’t need to leave the detention house, right?’
'That’s right . ’
'Then why are we looking at the security camera footage?’
Ishii’s brows furrowed at Gotou’s question .
'Well, that is… I feel like the trap theory is plausible, but the escape theory is also difficult to abandon… so…’
Though Ishii didn’t say it clearly, in short he couldn’t decide which one it was .
Normally, Gotou would hit Ishii’s head and say, 'Make up your mind!’ However, Gotou couldn’t come to a decision either .
Right now, thinking about it wouldn’t bring about an answer .
If he looked at it a different way, checking the security camera footage would make it clear whether Miyuki escaped or not .
– We can think about what comes next after .
'Got it . Let’s go . ’
Gotou came to a decision and stood up .
– Solve the mystery .
Led by Yakumo, who had said those words, Haruka went to the hospital where Isshin was hospitalised .
Haruka was a bit confused by this unexpected development .
In order to solve the mystery, they’d need to meet up with Gotou and Ishii first to gather information – is what she thought .
'Is this really the right place?’ asked Haruka, though she knew it was unnecessary concern .
'Does it look like I’m lost? I’m not you,’ replied Yakumo with a yawn .
'Don’t make it sound like I have no sense of direction . ’
'Was I wrong?’
'That’s not the point…’
While Haruka was talking, Yakumo briskly went into the hospital .
– He’s always like this .
Haruka pinned down her irritation and followed Yakumo into the hospital .
Once inside the hospital, Yakumo went straight to the reception, declared, 'I have an appointment with Doctor Arai Mao,’ and was instructed to wait on the bench in the waiting room .
When Haruka heard Mao’s name, she remembered something important .
'I met Mao-sensei yesterday . ’
'That so,’ said Yakumo disinterestedly . He sat on the bench .
Haruka sat next to him .
'She asked me to search for Yakumo-kun so she could talk to you about Isshin-san . ’
'I’m going to see her now . ’
That was true, but there was something Haruka didn’t understand .
'Before you solve the mystery, you’re going to see Mao-sensei about Isshin-san,’ said Haruka to confirm .
'Both . ’
Yakumo ran a hand through his hair .
'What do you mean by both?’
'You have so many questions . More importantly, how’s Nao?’
Yakumo’s expression clouded over .
Though Yakumo was unsociable, Nao alone was special . Yakumo always had a gentle smile in front of her .
That was how deep his affection for her was .
'Though it seemed like she was shocked, she’s calmed down a bit now . ’
'Gotou-san’s wife is reliable – Nao-chan likes her too…’
'That’s great . ’
Yakumo half-closed his eyes and looked up at the ceiling .
'Go visit them,’ said Haruka while looking at her right hand .
It made her remember grasping Nao’s small hand .
Though Nao didn’t show it, it must have actually been tough on her . She must have been sad and in pain .
Yakumo was the only one who could heal her heart .
'Right…’ murmured Yakumo .
Then, there was an announcement: 'Saitou Yakumo-san, please head to examination room number three . ’
'OK, shall we go?’
Yakumo rubbed his hands together as he said that and briskly walked towards the corridor .
Haruka still had questions as she followed after Yakumo .
They went down the corridor by the reception desk and stopped in front of a room with a plate that read 'Examination Room #3’ .
It was the same place Haruka had come to yesterday .
'It’s Saitou Yakumo,’ said Yakumo towards the door as he knocked .
'Please come in . ’
Mao’s voice came from inside .
Yakumo opened the door and went inside . Haruka followed him .
'You finally came . ’
Mao was sitting at her desk . Once she saw Yakumo’s face, her expression softened in relief .
'Did you bring him here?’
Mao looked at Haruka .
Unfortunately, Haruka had forgotten about Mao’s request until she came to the hospital .
'No, I didn’t,’ replied Haruka, which made Mao look confused .
'Yakumo-kun came on his own . I didn’t…’
'That doesn’t matter,’ interrupted Yakumo, seeming displeased .
'Anyway, sit down . ’
Mao tried to change the mood and urged them to sit on the round chairs .
Haruka and Yakumo sat down .
'Now, where should I start…’
Mao spread out the doctor’s chart on her desk and spun a pen in her fingers as she mumbled .
The heavy atmosphere filled the examination room . Though she was a doctor, it probably was difficult to tell relatives things they did not want to hear .
'Is my uncle’s condition the same?’ said Yakumo expressionlessly .
'It is . I think that Doctor Sakakibara explained this as well, but we suspect that Isshin-kun may be brain-dead . ’
Hearing that once more hurt Haruka, like she had been stabbed in the chest with a needle .
'Is that so,’ Yakumo replied curtly .
Haruka looked at his profile . His expression hadn’t changed .
However, that didn’t mean he didn’t feel anything . Yakumo was holding back his feelings .
'We cannot say anything for certain until we examine him more closely, but his condition is serious . ’
Haruka wanted to cover her ears when she heard this continuation of things she couldn’t believe, but she knew that doing so wouldn’t change the situation .
Isshin had been fine until the day before yesterday .
Now, he could only live with the aid of a respirator –
'Then what are you telling me to do?’ asked Yakumo with narrowed eyes .
It was like he suspected something .
Perhaps Yakumo doubted the fact that Isshin was brain-dead . It seemed that way to Haruka .
'It isn’t a question of what to do . I just wanted to tell you the situation . ’
'You didn’t look for me just to tell me the situation, right?’ said Yakumo disinterestedly as he yawned .
With that one sentence, the atmosphere suddenly became heavier .
For a while, Mao just sat there, but then she opened her desk drawer and took a card out .
The card had a cute picture of an angel on it .
Haruka recalled seeing that card somewhere .
– An organ donor card .
Also called a donor card . If you died or were in a brain-dead state, it showed whether you agreed to donate your organs or not .
'Isshin-kun is registered as a donor . ’
Mao’s voice was so faint it felt like it would disappear at any moment .
Haruka thought it was like Isshin to make that choice . He was incredibly self-sacrificing .
'So you want my consent – that’s it, isn’t it?’
Yakumo’s expression didn’t change .
Even if Isshin was registered as a donor, his organs couldn’t be donated without his family’s consent .
It appeared that the reason Mao was searching for Yakumo was to receive his consent .
Now that Haruka knew that, she had complicated feelings .
Choosing to follow up with the organ donation meant that Mao had already given up on Isshin’s recovery .
'With your consent, Yakumo-kun, we will contact the donor coordinator and formally determine his brain death,’ said Mao in a business-like manner, her fingernails clawing into the desk .
It was obvious she was angry .
– What are you going to do?
Haruka looked at Yakumo .
just for a moment, Yakumo’s cheek twitched, but that was all .
'I will think about it,’ said Yakumo shortly . He gave the card back to Mao .
Mao silently looked at the card .
– It hurts me too .
It felt like she was saying that .
Finally, Yakumo ran a hand through his hair and said, 'You still have something to say to me, right?’
When Mao heard that, she opened her mouth for a moment, but she finally shook her head .
'That’s all I have to say,’ she said quietly .
What was that? Haruka didn’t understand what they were talking about .
– Finding out each other’s intentions .
That was what it felt like to Haruka .
'I understand . I’ll excuse myself for today . ’
Perhaps Yakumo had given up, because he stood up and headed for the door in an extremely slow manner .
Haruka stood up too, bowed towards Mao and then followed Yakumo .
'Yakumo-kun . ’
Just as Yakumo opened the door, Mao called out to him .
Haruka turned around at the voice, but Yakumo didn’t .
'A tumour was found in Isshin-kun’s brain . ’
'A tumour in his brain?’
Haruka’s voice jumped an octave .
At the same time, she recalled how Mao and Isshin had been talking about an exam the day before yesterday .
'Though it wasn’t malignant, there was a problem with where it was, which made it difficult to remove in surgery . ’
Mao lowered her eyelashes .
Yakumo turned around .
'Uncle would have died in any case . Is that what you want to say?’ whispered Yakumo .
However, his red left eye was filled with anger .
'That isn’t it . ’
'Then what is it?’
'I just wanted you to know . That’s all . ’
When Mao said that while looking down, it just sounded like an excuse .
Yakumo left the room with a bitter smile .
– Even if the doctor has given up, we believe in miracles . Right, Yakumo?
Haruka called out to Yakumo’s back as he walked down the corridor .
'Do you really plan on checking all of this?’ interrupted Gotou, who was at the limit of his concentration .
There was a much greater amount of security camera footage than Gotou had expected . And it was incredibly booring footage .
Rooms with nobody in them . Corridors with nobody in them . He kept watching footage of nothing happening .
Looking at abstract paintings would be more enjoyable .
'Of course . If she escaped, it should have left a trace somewhere . ’
Ishii’s eyes were sparkling, like he thought this was fun .
This sort of simple work might have been his specialty .
'How much left?’ said Gotou, looking up at the ceiling in his exhaustion .
'Let’s see… In total, there are five hundred cameras in the detention house . We have limited it to the hour and a half when the incident took place, and one person looks at four at a time, so with two people… We will be done in ninety-three hours . ’
Ishii smiled, showing his white teeth .
– You kidding me?
'That’s a full four days! I give up . ’
If Gotou watched this for four days, he’d go nuts . This wasn’t investigation – this was torture .
Sulking, Gotou lined up three chairs and used them as a bed .
'Detective Gotou, I can’t do this by myself . Please help . ’
Gotou rejected Ishii, who was half in tears .
– The investigation won’t get anywhere no matter how long we take if we go on like this .
As Gotou grumbled in his head, he clicked his tongue . Then, the mobile phone in his jacket pocket rang .
'Who is it?’
Still lying down, Gotou answered the phone .
<I will say this again, but please fix your phone manner . >
Gotou leapt up when he heard that voice .
'Yakumo! You bastard! Where the hell were you!?’ yelled Gotou into the receiver .
<Please don’t speak so loudly . >
Yakumo gave his usual complaint in his usual tone of voice .
– This idiot .
Gotou had been worried about him, thinking that he might have been psychologically cornered because Isshin had been stabbed, but he was just as impertinent as usual .
Gotou felt stupid for worrying .
'What are you doing now and where?’
<I’m at the hospital . More importantly, how far has the investigation advanced?>
Gotou wanted to yell at Yakumo for being such a pain, but he decided not to .
Since Yakumo had gone out of his way to stick his nose into the investigation, it’d be troublesome if Yakumo became angry .
Yakumo was the only one who could break through any investigation, no matter how stuck it was .
'To be honest, it hasn’t advanced much . ’
<Is that so?>
Yakumo’s response was weaker than Gotou had thought it would be .
It was like Yakumo was saying it was just as he had expected .
'Miyuki’s fingerprints were found on the knife and on the window in the back of the temple . ’
'Yeah . It’s very likely that Miyuki’s the culprit . ’
<What are you doing now, Gotou-san?>
'We’ve got a theory that Nanase Miyuki escaped the detention house so we’re in the middle of checking the detention house security camera footage . ’
<Gotou-san . >
Yakumo sounded gentle .
Gotou had never heard this tone of voice from him before .
'What?’ Gotou asked .
<You really have a lot of free time . >
Gotou was surprised by the unexpected reply .
<And you are also a blockhead . >
'You bastard! Who’d you say was a blockhead!?’
Gotou’s anger went to the max in an instant, and he yelled with his face bright red .
<I called you a blockhead because you’re a blockhead . >
'I’ll kill you if you don’t stop that . ’
<But aren’t I right? How many days do you think it’ll take to check the security camera footage from the detention house?>
Hearing that from Yakumo hurt .
Gotou himself had thrown in the towel just earlier .
'Just shut your mouth already!’
<You anger quickly when the situation turns for the worse . You really are animalistic . >
Yakumo snorted .
Gotou wanted to retort back, but all he could think of was insults like 'idiot’ and 'fool’ .
<Anyway, if you have enough time to watch boring videos, please come here immediately . >
'Don’t use the police as your personal cab . ’
<Am I wrong?>
– This brat!
Though Gotou’s chest was filled with anger, the words that came out of him weren’t .
'Where should I go?’
– I hate to admit it, but I want Yakumo’s brain right now .
It was impossible for Gotou’s and Ishii’s heads to solve the case . Yakumo was absolutely necessary to beat Miyuki .
Plus, since it was Yakumo, he probably hadn’t been playing around while he was out of contact .
What is Yakumo thinking and where is he heading for – Gotou wanted to know .
<I’m waiting at the hospital . >
Yakumo said that and hung up .
It pisses me off, but there’s nothing I can do now . I’ll go with you to the end – Gotou was determined .
'Oi! Ishii! We’re going!’
Gotou said that quickly and headed for the exit .
'Er, how about checking the security cameras!’
'Just leave that!’ yelled Gotou .
However, it seemed like Ishii still didn’t understand the situation . His face was blank .
– Honestly . All the guy’s got is weird knowledge . He’s got no sense at all .
'Hurry up, you fool! I’ll smack your head off!’
When Gotou raised his fist, Ishii instinctively stood up and ran .
– He fell .
Haruka sat on the bench in the hospital courtyard and waited for Yakumo to finish talking on the phone .
She realised quickly that he was talking to Gotou .
Though she couldn’t hear the conversation in detail, Yakumo spoke like he had already solved the mystery behind the case .
– Does it have something to do with what he talked about with Mao earlier?
At first, there had been talking about Isshin’s condition, but then the atmosphere changed before she knew it .
To Haruka, it looked like Yakumo suspected that Mao was related to the case somehow .
'Did you find anything out?’ asked Haruka when Yakumo hung up .
Yakumo raised his left eyebrow and frowned, like he was a Kabuki actor .
'You really are carefree . I’m envious . ’
– He’s always like that .
'Yes, yes, I’m carefree . ’
'What, so you do understand that?’
Yakumo started walking briskly .
– Because you just do whatever you want .
While she thought that, always chasing after his back was a depressing way to live –
Yakumo returned to the hospital again and took the elevator .
He didn’t explain where he was going, but Haruka had an idea about where he was going after coming this far .
Yakumo silently got off the elevator and went straight down the corridor .
At the end of the corridor was the ICU where Isshin was accommodated .
Just as Haruka thought, Yakumo stopped in front of the ICU and looked at Isshin through the glass .
There was a doctor inside checking the machines .
Haruka remembered seeing him before . His name was Sakakibara, the doctor who first did treatment . The nurse named Furukawa was with him .
Isshin was still sleeping . He looked a size smaller .
'Yakumo-kun, is Isshin-san really brain-dead?’
She wanted him to deny it .
'I can’t say, since I’m not a doctor,’ replied Yakumo expressionlessly .
'Right . ’
Disappointed, Haruka looked at her feet .
Haruka couldn’t accept the fact . Even if it was just a silly wish, she couldn’t help but want the judgement to be incorrect .
'Do you think that people who are brain-dead are dead?’ Yakumo suddenly asked .
Haruka furrowed her brows as she thought .
To be honest, she had never thought about it before, so –
'I don’t know… What do you think, Yakumo-kun?’
Haruka’s eyes flickered to Yakumo .
His slightly downcast profile was lifeless, as if he were a statue .
'To be honest, I don’t know either . ’
'Oh . ’
'When somebody becomes brain-dead, they cannot even breathe on their own, think or feel . The brain forms the self, so when that is stopped, it could be said that they become only a lump of meat…’
Yakumo spoke like he were reading out of a textbook .
It sounded extremely cold . Rather than Yakumo’s own opinion, he was probably just listening facts .
– The body is the container of the soul .
Haruka recalled something Yakumo had said before .
That would mean –
'If somebody becomes brain-dead, what happens to their soul?’
Haruka said the question as it came to her head .
'Since this is a first for me too, I don’t know . However, Uncle’s soul is still in there . That’s what I think . ’
Yakumo sent a piercing gaze towards Isshin .
From that one sentence, Haruka felt like she could see a small light of hope .
– Yakumo hasn’t given up yet .
He had probably had that exchange with Mao earlier because he still believed Isshin would get better .
– Please, Isshin-san . Open your eyes .
Haruka gripped the red stone on her necklace tightly .
'There is something called the Act on Organ Transplantation . ’
This time, Yakumo brought up another topic .
'I’ve heard of it . ’
Though she didn’t know the details, she had heard the name before .
'Though there are plans to revise it, under the current law, brain-death is not recognised as death of the person . ’
Haruka’s voice showed her surprise .
She sometimes heard about organs being donated from people who were brain-dead . From that she had thought that brain death meant death of the person .
'Even if somebody is brain-dead, they are alive in the eyes of the law . ’
'Then wouldn’t organ donation be a problem?’
If brain-death was considered alive by the law, that would mean they were taking organs from people who were alive .
Since that would make them die, it would become murder .
'That’s why there’s the Act on Organ Transplantation . People who are brain-dead are only considered dead if they are registered as organ donors . ’
– I’m confused .
That would mean registering or not registering to be a donor would determine whether you were alive or dead .
'That’s a bit unnatural . ’
Haruka said the first thing that came to mind .
'It is . It’s unnatural for one card to determine whether somebody is dead . ’
'Right . ’
'What determines whether Uncle is dead or alive isn’t science or law . It’s the soul . ’
Every word Yakumo spoke echoed heavily in Haruka’s chest .
She felt like she understood why Yakumo had spoken coldly to Mao earlier .
The moment Yakumo agreed to the organ donation, Isshin would be determined as brain-dead . Even if his body moved, he would be considered as dead .
However, Yakumo hadn’t come to a decision yet .
Where does the soul go when somebody is brain-dead – to Yakumo, the criterion for death was probably not something under the law or science but the continuation or loss of the soul .
More than anything, Yakumo believed that Isshin would recover .
'Soon…’ murmured Yakumo, looking at Haruka .
'I have a request to make of you . ’
He looked unusually serious .
'OK . I’ll do anything I can,’ said Haruka firmly .
'I want you to look into Mao-sensei . ’
'Eh?’ said Haruka in her surprise . Both the instructions and who they referred to were unexpected .
– So Yakumo does doubt Mao .
'When you say look into, what should I do?’
'It’s simple . Just listen to what people at the hospital have to say about Mao-sensei . ’
It wasn’t as simple as Yakumo made it sound .
'I wonder if I’ll be able to . ’
'Pretend you’re asking about Uncle’s condition and talk to them that way . ’
'But to whom? I don’t know anybody…’
'Aren’t there two people there?’
Yakumo pointed at Sakakibara and Furukawa inside the ICU .
She had seen them before, but –
'But what should I ask about?’
'You don’t have to try to force anything out of them . Just go with the flow of the conversation and ask what sort of person Mao-sensei is . ’
'I’m not confident I can do it . ’
'You’ll be fine . ’
Yakumo patted Haruka’s shoulder, turned around and started walking .
'Hey . Where are you going, Yakumo-kun?’
Haruka called out to Yakumo’s back .
'Another investigation with Gotou-san . There isn’t much time . ’
When Yakumo turned around, his eyes looked a bit more reliable than usual .
'You’ll come back, right?’ asked Haruka, unable to hold back her quickly growing anxiety .
'I will . ’
Yakumo gave that short reply and started walking again .
Right now, all Haruka could do was believe in Yakumo’s words and see him off .
– Be sure to come back .
(Continued in the next volume)
 Different prefectures have different cards with different pictures on them, but in Nagano .
VOLUME 6 – TO THE LIMITS OF DESPAIR (2)file 02: fluctuation (yang)
Ishii parked the car in the parking lot behind the hospital .
Just as he put the car into park, he let out a sigh .
– Yakumo would return soon .
When he thought about that, he felt like they had taken a big step towards the solution, even though nothing had started yet .
Gotou, in the passenger seat, probably felt the same way .
Though he was blowing out cigarette smoke in a displeased manner, he might have been the most relieved, since he had been so personally worried .
Just as Ishii was about to get off the car to look around, Gotou’s mobile rang .
Gotou answered the phone in his usual manner .
'Eh? What? I can’t hear you… Where are you?’ said Gotou, sticking his neck out the window to look around .
He was probably talking to Yakumo . Ishii also looked for Yakumo, as Gotou was doing .
'I’m over here . ’
Ishii heard that directly . Then, the backseat door opened and Yakumo came in .
Ishii leapt up in surprise .
Gotou dropped his cigarette onto his lap in surprise and started flailing about the small car, yelling, 'Hot, hot!’
When Yakumo saw that, he laughed aloud .
To be honest, Ishii had thought Yakumo would be more depressed . To perform a prank link this – Ishii felt a bit let down .
On top of that, the red left eye he always hid with a black contact lens was out in the open . Since even Ishii was used to it now, he wouldn’t shriek, but it felt like it had more pressure than usual .
'You bastard! Did you call on purpose to do that!?’
'That doesn’t matter, does it?’
Yakumo ignored Gotou’s shout and ran a hand through his messy hair .
'It does! You just do whatever you want without consulting anybody!’ snapped Gotou, even though it would have been better for him to step down .
'Please don’t be so noisy . I hope you don’t behave so disgracefully in front of Nao . ’
'What the hell do you mean by disgraceful?’
'I’m talking about your awful attitude . Don’t you understand?’
Gotou bit his lip painfully .
There was no way for him to challenge Yakumo in an argument . Even Ishii understood that .
'Ishii-san, leaving aside this hibernating bear, let’s go . ’
Yakumo didn’t seem to pay Gotou’s anger any attention as he said that with a yawn .
'Er, even if you tell me to go, where are we heading?’ asked Ishii as he turned around .
'First, please go to the detention house where that woman is being held . ’
For a moment, Ishii felt like Yakumo’s expression was wiped from his face .
'Oi, Yakumo . You can’t really be planning on meeting that woman, right?’ said Gotou, surprised . He turned towards the backseat .
Ishii had the same opinion . He felt like it would be extremely dangerous for Yakumo to meet Miyuki at this stage .
'Of course . ’
Yakumo was nonchalant in the face of their anxiety .
'Look who’s talking now!’
'There isn’t anything strange about it . If I don’t meet with her, nothing will start, correct?’
'She wants to meet as well, doesn’t she?’
It was almost like Yakumo was talking about meeting up with an old friend .
Gotou seemed to have nothing to retort after hearing that much, so he gave an order to Ishii: 'Step on it . ’
'Is it really OK?’
Ishii checked once more with Yakumo before starting the car .
'Gotou-san, could you tell me all the information you know regarding the case?’ said Yakumo after the car went onto the main thoroughfare .
'How much do you know?’ said Gotou, returning the question .
Ishii wanted to know as well . They hadn’t been in contact with Yakumo since Isshin was stabbed .
Since it was Yakumo, he wouldn’t have been doing nothing during that time .
Perhaps he had much more information than they did .
'Nothing,’ said Yakumo with a yawn .
– There’s no way .
Ishii unconsciously returned that question .
'Yes . All I know is that Nanase Miyuki declared she would kill Uncle from the detention house and that Uncle was stabbed . ’
'Doesn’t that mean you don’t know anything?’
Gotou’s voice was ragged .
'Didn’t I just say that?’
Yakumo didn’t sound guilty at all .
'You should’ve prepared a bit . ’
'Was it written in a textbook somewhere?’ replied Yakumo, exasperated .
It was their usual exchange .
'Honestly… Ishii, explain . ’
With a sour look on his face, Gotou said that in a sulk . He crossed his arms and closed his eyes .
It appeared that he really had no intention of explaining .
'I’m sorry, Ishii-san, but could you explain instead of the bear?’ asked Yakumo seriously .
'Ah, yes . ’
Though Ishii replied, so much had happened that he wasn’t sure where to start the explanation .
'Ishii-san, there’s no need to dramatise the story like a certain bear would . Just explain in chronological order . ’
Gotou twitched at Yakumo’s words, but since he was pretending to be asleep, he stayed silent, unable to wake up .
Just as Yakumo said, there was no point thinking so much about it .
Ishii decided to explain it in order .
'The day after the incident, we received a report that the fingerprints on the knife were found to be a match with Miyuki’s . ’
'I see . ’
Though that should have been a forceful fact, Yakumo’s reaction was unexpectedly weak .
It made Ishii think that he might have already predicted that .
'There was another thing that caught our interest…’
'Something that caught your interest?’
'Yes . Actually, when we first went to talk with Nanase Miyuki, there was a guard there . ’
'That guard stayed silent even when Nanase Miyuki was talking about murder . ’
'That is strange . ’
Yakumo’s eyes suddenly became energetic .
As expected, as a university student who had been involved in so many cases, he was sensitive to such oddities .
'Then we looked into that guard’s background . ’
'Did something come of it?’
Yakumo crossed his arms and looked straight forward .
'Yes . His name is Yamamura Mikio . He lived right by Nanase Miyuki’s home . ’
'That man named Yamamura might be related to the case somehow – you think that then, Ishii-san . ’
While nodding, Ishii looked at Gotou in the passenger seat .
At some point, he had really fallen asleep .
'Yes . There is another thing . On the night of the incident, Nanase Miyuki was carried to the infirmary . ’
'Your theory is that she had Yamamura’s help and escaped the detention house that way…’ continued Yakumo .
Having Yakumo read so far ahead made explaining considerably easier .
'Yes . Then, Detective Gotou and I went to talk to Nanase Miyuki and the medical officer at the infirmary to gather evidence, but we were unable to attain our goal . ’
'I see,’ said Yakumo with a nod .
Perhaps because Ishii had said too much at once, but his throat felt dry, so he took a gulp from his bottle of mineral water before continuing .
'At first, we were investigating how she escaped from the detention house, but a different possibility came into our perspective . ’
'A different possibility . ’
Yakumo’s brows were slightly furrowed .
'Yes . She may have committed the crime by using some sort of trap that she set ahead of time – that possibility . ’
At this stage, Yakumo’s response was rather disappointing .
'Actually, a wire with blood on it was found at the temple . ’
After Yakumo heard Ishii’s explanation, he sighed and pinched his brow .
He appeared to be thinking .
– What on earth is he thinking about?
'Er… Yakumo-shi, which method do you think she used?’
Ishii knew that the answer wouldn’t come so easily, but he still tried asking .
He thought that Yakumo might ignore him, but unexpectedly, Yakumo looked up and hmm-ed before starting to speak .
'If she escaped the detention house, I don’t know what method she used . ’
'That’s right . ’
'Furthermore, it is strange that no blood was found on her clothes, and why didn’t she land the finishing blow – those questions remain . ’
– I see .
Ishii was filled with admiration . Yakumo’s logical words were persuasive . The important questions of lack of blood and not landing the finishing blow remained .
Which meant –
'So she really did use a trap?’
'If she used a trap, the questions I mentioned earlier would be solved, but another important one is left instead . ’
'What trap did she use – is that what you mean?’
'Yes . If she made the knife fly like an arrow, it would require much calculation to ensure it hit the person accurately . ’
'Yes . ’
Ishii had used the cabinet’s glass door as a simulation multiple times, so he felt that difficulty dearly .
'As she was trying to hit a moving person, she would need to predict those movements to prepare the trap . ’
That was another problem .
Even if there was a trap in the door, some people might open the door from the front, while some people might open it from the side .
If she couldn’t control the target’s actions to a certain extent, it would be impossible .
'Though it is difficult, I don’t think it’s impossible,’ said Ishii, giving his own opinion .
Right now, he was leaning slightly towards the trap theory in his head .
'That isn’t the only problem . ’
'If she set the trap before the event, that would mean it was before she was arrested . Don’t you think it’s unnatural that the trap didn’t set off by accident in that time?’
All Ishii could do when he heard Yakumo’s words was nod .
It wasn’t as if the day before yesterday was the first time Isshin had entered the temple .
Since he meditated every day, he went in and out every day . It would be difficult to think that the trap had coincidentally set off the day Miyuki announced her plans for murder .
Ishii felt a bit like his flame of hope had been cut off .
It felt like both methods had been deemed impossible in the end .
Though he had been leaning towards one method earlier, now they were balanced again .
– What on earth is correct?
'Ishii-san . Forward – ’
Ack! Ishii hurriedly stepped on the brakes .
If Yakumo hadn’t spoken up, they would have plunged into the traffic jam .
Haruka sat on the bench in front of the ICU as she mulled over her thoughts .
It was a question she had not thought about seriously before .
– What happens when you die?
In her daily life, living like this seemed natural, so she didn’t think about it .
However, death came to everyone .
– The spirits of the dead are clusters of people’s emotions .
Yakumo had said that before . However, those emotions wouldn’t last forever either . They would come to an end somewhere .
She had seen many wandering spirits up until now with Yakumo .
Those emotions were regrets left behind in this world –
But if those regrets were severed, that spirit would disappear . It had been that way for Haruka’s older sister .
Where did those spirits go after they disappeared?
Probably the world after death – but was there such a thing in the first place?
She suddenly felt a chill down her spine .
It felt like a warning against thinking in a domain she shouldn’t, but also an absolute fear brought about by uneasiness towards the unknown .
The only thing she knew was that thinking about it wouldn’t bring about an answer .
Perhaps Yakumo, who could see the spirits of the dead, knew the answer .
– Ah, this is no good .
Haruka stood up to try to clear her mind . Then, the ICU door opened . The doctor Sakakibara came out from inside .
When Sakakibara saw Haruka, he just nodded and tried to leave .
Haruka recalled her original goal and hurriedly called out to stop Sakakibara .
'What is it?’
Though Sakakibara stopped, it was obvious that he thought it a bother .
Faltering at this wouldn’t get Haruka the information she needed though, so she decided to continue talking regardless .
'How is Isshin-san’s condition?’
'Didn’t you hear from Doctor Mao?’ said Sakakibara, narrowing his eyes .
He was busy, so he didn’t want to waste time talking . It was like he was saying that .
'I heard that there was a problem with his brain, but not in detail…’ said Haruka vaguely, looking for Sakakibara’s reaction .
'What a nuisance . ’
Sakakibara took off his mask and put it in his pocket .
'What do you mean?’
'To put it nicely, Doctor Mao has a kind heart, so she ends up choosing the things she should say . ’
Haruka felt like she understood what Sakakibara was saying .
'Er, I heard that Isshin-san and Doctor Mao were friends, but…’
'Seems that way . ’
'What sort of relationship did they have?’
'I don’t… I’m not the sort of person who talks about the past, so…’ said Sakakibara with a shrug .
Haruka couldn’t decide whether he really didn’t know or just didn’t want to say .
'Well, I’ll take my leave then . ’
Sakakibara tried to walk away .
'Will Isshin-san’s organs been transplanted?’ said Haruka, trying to continue the conversation .
'If his relatives consent to it . ’
Hearing it again from the doctor really was a shock .
No matter how desperate the situation, she still wanted Isshin to live .
'Are you against organ transplants?’ asked Sakakibara, perhaps sensing Haruka’s inner turmoil .
She couldn’t answer immediately . If she was asked whether they were necessary, she would probably say they were .
But if they had to be taken out of Isshin’s body, she couldn’t help but object .
Families probably had that dilemma .
'Without organ transplants, there are children who will die,’ said Sakakibara while raising an eyebrow, as if reprimanding her .
Haruka didn’t deny it, but –
'Isshin-san is still breathing . ’
'He isn’t . We are making him breathe using a machine . If we cut the switch, he would die immediately . ’
'How can you say that so calmly?’
Even though Haruka thought she shouldn’t, she ended up angry .
It wasn’t like Sakakibara was at fault . He was just saying something natural as a doctor . However, even if her head understood it, her heart wouldn’t accept it .
'Do you think we’re calm?’
Sakakibara looked depressed .
Haruka couldn’t say anything more under that gaze .
As a doctor, Sakakibara had probably seen many people live and die . He had to know all too well how valuable life was .
Accordingly, he knew how important transplants were .
Haruka felt very small in her shame .
'I understand how you feel, but please face reality . ’
Sakakibara said just that and walked away .
– Face reality .
Would they be able to do that?
There was no way for Haruka to know then .
– Now, what’s going to happen next?
Gotou sat next to Yakumo on the chairs in the detention house’s visiting room .
He didn’t bring Ishii, since he was investigating something else . Gotou had decided that since Ishii would probably be too scared to be useful .
Gotou crossed his arms and looked sideways at Yakumo .
Yakumo’s face was stiff and blank, like a Noh mask .
– Is he nervous? That’s unusual . Or is he angry that Isshin was stabbed?
Gotou couldn’t read Yakumo’s true feelings .
Finally, the door on the opposite side of the glass opened and Miyuki came in, led by Yamamura .
With a straight back, she slowly walked towards them . She glanced at them to confirm that Yakumo was there and then smiled .
It was an uncanny smile – like that of a vampire sucking out blood .
The moment Gotou saw it, a chill ran down his spine .
When he looked at that triumphant face, he doubted – have we fallen into a trap?
– No, there’s no way .
Gotou rejected the thoughts in his head .
Yakumo wouldn’t be played around with so easily . Even if this was a trap, he’d flip it around and aim for a chance to strike back .
– Right, Yakumo?
Gotou looked at Yakumo again, but his face was still blank .
'Oh my, it’s been a while, Yakumo-kun,’ said Miyuki, sitting down on the chair for interviews .
Even though she had checked when the door opened, she was talking like she had just realised now .
Yakumo said nothing, just looking – not even glaring – at Miyuki’s face .
– Just like an empty shall .
'What’s wrong? Is it OK not to hide your left eye?’ said Miyuki provocatively as she looked at Yakumo’s red eye .
However, Yakumo didn’t respond .
'That isn’t it . He broke it earlier and doesn’t have a spare . ’
– Why do I have to listen to her talk?
In his irritation, Gotou responded for Yakumo .
'Oh, is that so? Well, I don’t care about that . What is it you’re here for today?’
Miyuki slowly crossed her legs .
The action of a prideful woman evaluating men .
– Now, Yakumo . What are you planning on getting out of this woman?
Gotou waited for Yakumo to speak .
However, nothing came out of Yakumo’s mouth no matter how long he waited .
– Oi, oi . What’s wrong?
Yakumo was the one who said he’d meet with Nanase Miyuki . Gotou had thought Yakumo had some sort of plan, but what was he doing?
Gotou elbowed Yakumo .
However, Yakumo’s body just shook a bit . He said nothing .
'Was the thing with Isshin such a shock?’ said Miyuki, like she was asking a child . She stifled her giggles .
Yakumo still didn’t say anything .
He just looked at Miyuki dumbly .
– Damn it! What are you doing?
'Shut up, you vixen! Your ulterior motive is obvious!’
Gotou stood up, unable to stop himself .
'Oh my, you’re so excited . What’s wrong?’
Miyuki was unruffled .
'Don’t think you can get away! Did you escape the detention house? Or did you use a trap? Eh? How the hell did you stab Isshin? Tell us!’
Gotou said that all at once .
However, he didn’t think doing that would get anything out of Miyuki .
As expected, Miyuki smiled, like she enjoyed this .
'Who knows? I wonder what method I used . Will you be able to solve the mystery?’
Miyuki licked her full lips provocatively .
'We will . Right, Yakumo?’
Gotou asked for Yakumo’s agreement, but Yakumo remained silent .
Miyuki laughed aloud when she saw that .
Her voice kept growing louder, shaking Gotou’s earlobes .
'Oh my, I can’t do this . It seems like Yakumo-kun’s been broken . It must have been a shock that Isshin-san was stabbed . It was sad, right? It was painful, right?’
Miyuki raised her eyebrows and put her nose to the glass .
'But that was all your fault too . You know that, right?’
When Yakumo heard Miyuki’s last words, he slumped, like the energy had left him .
– What the hell?
Gotou had thought Yakumo was doing OK until earlier, but it was like his soul had left him completely .
'Shut up! This guy isn’t broken! He wouldn’t lose to the likes of you!’
Gotou knew he was just putting up a strong front as he hit the protective glass .
'You’re bluffing . ’
'Truth is, Yakumo-kun is already no good . ’
Miyuki laughed scornfully .
Gotou looked over to see Yakumo covering his face with both hands and bent over at the waist .
'What a pitiful man . ’
Miyuki’s scornful gaze pierced Gotou .
'Seems like he’s got nothing to say, so I’ll excuse myself then,’ said Miyuki happily . She stood up and turned her back to them .
'It’s a bit unfortunate – I thought I’d be able to have some more fun . ’
Miyuki left those words and then exited the room, waving at them as she did so .
When the door closed, Gotou’s anger filled his right fist and he punched the protective glass .
A sharp pain ran through his bone, making Gotou cower while holding his right hand .
There wasn’t even a crack in the protective glass .
'It’s obvious that hitting something like that would hurt . What a blockhead, as usual . ’
Yakumo, who had been silent since earlier, sat up to make fun of Gotou .
'W-w-w-what did you say?’
Gotou was so surprised by Yakumo’s about face in behaviour that he shouted .
'I called you a blockhead because you’re a blockhead . ’
Yakumo stood up and stretched .
– What the hell is this bastard thinking?
'Oi, Yakumo! What are you doing? I brought you here 'cause you said you had something you wanted to ask that woman!’
Gotou spoke up since he didn’t understand, but Yakumo just rubbed his eyes sleepily .
'Who said that?’
'I just said I wanted to meet her . ’
'Well… that’s true, but…’
'I have no questions to ask her . If you ask that woman anything, she would just lead you somewhere unexpected . You’ve experienced that yourself, haven’t you?’
It was certainly as Yakumo said, but Gotou was still unsatisfied .
'Then what’d you come here for?’
'You’ll understand soon enough . That woman’s confidence will be the death of her . ’
As Yakumo said that, a fearless smile graced his lips .
Ishii curled up in his seat in one of the conference rooms at the detention house .
– Is there any evidence that Miyuki had contact with the outside?
In order to pursue that evidence, Ishii was going to meet with the guard in charge of general affairs .
The guard who had responded was called Kobayashi . He was thin and had kept his gaze on his feet the whole time – a shady man .
'Did she ever have contact with the outside in some form?’
In answer to Ishii’s question, Kobayashi had said faintly, 'Please wait here . ’ Then, he had left the room .
It had been more than thirty minutes since .
Ishii had thought about going to search for Kobayashi, but this was a detention house .
If he moved unwisely, it would gather unnecessary suspicion, and since he didn’t have a key, he couldn’t even go into the other ways .
'Haah . ’
Just as Ishii sighed, the door opened and Kobayashi came in with an envelope under his arm .
Even though he had been gone for over thirty minutes, he didn’t even say 'Sorry for the wait’ – he just sat on the opposite sofa .
This lack of etiquette would garner animosity for the citizens . Ishii thought that, but he didn’t say it aloud .
He was more interested in the envelope Kobayashi had brought .
'Did you find something?’ asked Ishii .
Kobayashi silently took a sheet of paper from the envelope and placed it on the table .
The sheet of A4 paper had various information listed on it for visits, such as dates, names, occupations and addresses .
It was probably a list of the people who had visited her .
On the dates for yesterday and the day before, Gotou’s and Ishii’s names were both listed . Most of the others were from a man named Shimazu, with lawyer written in the occupation column .
For a vicious criminal like MIyuki, nobody would take up her case .
Since it was in the news, it would probably help sell their name, but the risk was higher because of it . A double-edged sword .
Shimazu was probably a court-appointed attorney .
– Other people who came to visit…
Ishii checked the names, following the list with his finger .
He gasped when he spotted a name he knew .
– I can’t believe it!
He checked it once more, but he hadn’t been wrong .
Name: Saitou Isshin . Occupation; Priest . Relationship: Acquaintance .
The address was his as well . The date was right after Miyuki had been sent here .
– What was Isshin’s goal in meeting with Miyuki?
Ishii didn’t know Isshin’s intentions . If it were him, he wouldn’t have wanted to meet Miyuki ever again .
'Could I take this?’
'Please go ahead,’ Kobayashi replied bluntly .
'Er, is there any evidence that she contacted anybody else from the outside?’ asked Ishii as he folded the list and put it in his pocket .
Still silent, Kobayashi took another sheet of paper out of the envelope and placed it on the table .
It appeared to be a copy rather than an original . There were handwritten words on the letter .
They were delicate and beautiful words .
The sender was Nanase Miyuki .
Did Miyuki really write this – it was so unlike the image Ishii had of her .
There was just one line on the document .
<The goal of all life is death . >
Ishii recalled seeing that phrase before .
They were the words of the famous Freud, who founded psychoanalysis .
– Why this document?
Though sending letters from the detention house was allowed, the guards went over the contents .
It was because there were cases of prisoners using letters to contact people on the outside to request the destruction of evidence .
If the case was not settled yet and the evidence was destroyed, it would become a grave problem .
Miyuki probably only wrote the one line because she knew it was going to be inspected .
Even if it was inspected, others wouldn’t understand its meaning .
However, there was no doubt that the document had some sort of meaning .
Perhaps it was something like an anagram, where switching the order of the letters would bring about another meaning .
'Death is life all of goal the . ’
Ishii tried reading it backwards, but it became even more cryptic .
Feeling a cold gaze, Ishii came to his senses and looked up .
Kobayashi was looking at Ishii strangely .
'Do you know who the recipient of this letter was?’ said Ishii, after clearing his throat to cover up his weird action earlier .
In response to that, Kobayashi just said, 'Back . ’
Ishii didn’t understand, but he turned around . However, there was nothing there . What was going on?
He looked towards Kobayashi again .
'Back of the paper,’ said Kobayashi, sounding irritated .
– Ah, I see . The back of the paper .
Ishii turned the paper around .
Written on it was the name of a woman .
Haruka was still sitting on the bench in front of the ICU .
The conversation she had had with Sakakibara earlier was whirling around her head .
– Please face reality .
Sakakibara had said that, but Haruka just couldn’t do it easily .
After a while, Furukawa came out of the ICU .
Haruka shook off her mood and spoke up .
Furukawa seemed to recognise Haruka right away and stopped in her tracks .
'How is Isshin-san’s condition?’
'I can’t say…’ said Furukawa vaguely, looking away .
From that, Haruka imagined that his condition wasn’t very good .
Yakumo had asked her to get information, but she couldn’t do that when all she was doing was getting depressed .
All that came out of her mouth was a sigh .
'So that rumour really was true…’ said Furukawa with a shiver as she hugged her shoulders .
'You know, the one about the ghost in the hospital . ’
'Ah,’ said Haruka, though it had no meaning .
So many things had happened that she’d forgotten, but the reason for her first visit to this hospital was an investigation of spiritual phenomena .
A girl’s ghost was walking around the hospital, asking, 'When are you going to die?’ The people who heard it would die soon after .
Haruka had seen a ghost of a girl like that, but the truth wasn’t clear .
At the same time she remembered that, a question came to her .
'Isshin-san saw that ghost too – is that what you’re saying?’
'I don’t know, but he must have . ’
Furukawa probably liked this kind of story .
She appeared to be excited in a way that was inappropriate for the situation .
She had decided on something that wasn’t certain and was talking about it . Haruka realised that this was how rumours spread .
'I’m sorry . Even though you were asked to investigate…’
'It’s fine . A lot of things happened . ’
Furukawa nodded with a strange expression on her face .
'Er, Furukawa-san, you’re in charge of emergency, right?’
'Yes . ’
'Why did you consult Doctor Mao about a ghost sighting?’
That suddenly seemed odd to Haruka .
The first time they met, she hadn’t been concerned since she hadn’t known her position, but now that she thought about it, it was unnatural .
'I consulted Doctor Sakakibara about it first, but… He seems to be in great difficulties with his daughter . ’
'Did something happen?’
'He had a divorce three years ago, and a number of things have happened since…’
Furukawa trailed off that .
It felt like she didn’t want to talk any more .
Though Haruka was curious, she gave a vague reply since it felt like she couldn’t poke her nose in too deeply .
'I was under Doctor Mao for a while, so I consulted her . ’
'I see . ’
'Though Doctor Mao nags, she’s considerate . ’
'Is that so?’
They were words from the heart .
Though Haruka had only met Mao a number of times, she felt like she understood too .
'Well, it seems like it’s tough for her since she has bad luck with men . ’
'Bad luck with men?’
– What could she mean?
Saying bad luck with men could have a number of meanings .
'Yup . She’s too nice so she gets tricked . ’
'With money, for example?’
'Right, right . A few years ago, she got involved with an unusual man . ’
Though Haruka felt like she couldn’t ask questions recklessly about a topic like this, she urged Furukawa to continue to get information .
'Her lover back then said he wanted to do something so she kept lending him money . Then he ran away with it . ’
Haruka felt depressed just from listening to it, but Furukawa was talking like she enjoyed it .
It appeared she was the type who took pleasure in other people’s misfortune .
'Furukawa-san . ’
Somebody interrupted the conversation .
Haruka looked to see another nurse calling Furukawa from the other side of the corridor .
'Sorry, I have to go,’ said Furukawa quickly . Then, she ran off .
With depressed feelings, Haruka watched her go .
Gotou sat on the car hood and looked up at the sky as he blew out a puff of smoke .
The sun was low in the sky, dyeing the sky a reddish purple . Together with the lines of clouds, it was a gradation of colour .
He had tried to smoke inside the car, but he was forced out: 'This car is non-smoking . ’
Now that he thought about it, that was strange .
A university student had no right to tell a policeman what to do in a police car .
Gotou looked inside with the intent of complaining .
Yakumo was sitting in the backseat .
He lay across the seat, exhausted . At first glance, he looked out of it, but his eyes were the picture of seriousness .
Gotou was irritated, but he’d hold out until the end of the case .
It pained him to acknowledge it, but without Yakumo, they couldn’t reveal Miyuki’s crime .
Gotou looked up at the detention house building again .
It had an oppressive presence, towering over its surroundings . Like a fort from a sci-fi movie .
If Miyuki had escaped the detention house, there would probably be a huge fuss .
– Even if the case is solved, it probably won’t be swept aside just like that .
While Gotou was thinking, he saw somebody come out of the detention house .
With that narrow frame, it was probably Ishii .
He was walking so casually even though he’d made them wait – the guy had no sense of urgency, as usual .
'Ishii, run!’ shouted Gotou .
Ishii started running reflexively .
– He fell .
'Don’t know how you’re a detective with that sluggishness of yours,’ grumbled Gotou as he put his cigarette out in his portable ashtray .
'I-I-I apologise for that . ’
Ishii reached the car, gasping for breath .
'Ishii-san, how was it?’
Yakumo had gotten off the car at some point and called out to Ishii with a yawn .
'Ah, yes . There are two important points . ’
Ishii took two sheets of paper from the envelope he was holding and gave them to Yakumo .
When Yakumo took it, his brows furrowed as he looked at the papers with a serious gaze .
'The first is the name of Nanase Miyuki’s visitors,’ said Ishii, continuing his explanation .
Gotou looked at the papers Yakumo was holding too .
Most of the visits were from one person, probably a lawyer, but he found just one name he recognised .
'Please don’t speak loudly into my ear . I don’t need you to tell me . ’
Yakumo stuck his fingers into his ears as he complained .
However, that didn’t restrain Gotou’s agitation .
'Why did Isshin meet Miyuki?’
'It’s simple, isn’t it?’
'Uncle is that sort of person,’ said Yakumo carelessly .
Isshin’s face came up in Gotou’s head, and he strangely felt like he understood .
Isshin had probably met with Miyuki to preach about the importance of life or something like that .
However, Miyuki wasn’t the sort of person who’d listen to that honestly .
'What is this other sheet?’ pressed Yakumo while brushing aside his fringe .
'That’s a letter Nanase Miyuki wrote, but…’
Ishii trailed off, like he was some kid who’d been scolded .
'The goal of all life is death – a quotation from Freud . ’
Yakumo raised his gaze .
'Freud? Who’s that?’
'An Austrian neurologist who studied psychoanalysis . He is the founder of current psychiatry . ’
Yakumo was the one who answered .
'So what do the words of that esteemed doctor mean?’
Gotou lit a new cigarette .
Since Miyuki had gone out of her way to write it, it had to have some sort of special meaning .
'Just as it says . People live heading towards death . No living creature can escape it . ’
'Isn’t that exactly what it says?’
'Didn’t I say that?’ said Yakumo, sounding annoyed .
Ishii raised his hand to ask for permission to speak .
'I was wondering if this was some sort of code…’
Though Ishii said that without confidence, Gotou understood .
That was very possible .
'Yakumo, what do you think?’
'I can’t deny the possibility that it is a code, but at the current stage, I cannot say anything . ’
Yakumo shook his head with a brooding expression .
'Do you know who this letter was sent to?’ Gotou asked Ishii .
This was a letter . Even without deciphering the contents, they could just capture the recipient and make them cough it up .
'It’s written on the back,’ replied Ishii, pointing at the piece of paper .
Yakumo flipped the paper around . An address and name were written there .
'OK, let’s go catch this guy . ’
'Please wait a moment,’ Yakumo said, interrupting Gotou’s high spirits .
He looked like he was looking at some difficult algebra .
'Don’t you think it’s strange?’
'Nanase Miyuki must have known that we would find out about this letter, right?’
'That’s true,’ agreed Ishii as he adjusted the position of his glasses .
Gotou understood too after Yakumo said that .
Miyuki was a very calculating woman . She could probably guess the police’s movements . But –
'That’s why she used a code, right?’
Gotou was confident, but Yakumo’s doubtful attitude did not change .
'I think she would have seen past that . ’
'Our solving the code . ’
Yakumo handed the letter back to Ishii .
It wouldn’t be strange for Miyuki to read that far ahead, but –
'Then what are you planning to do?’
Gotou approached Yakumo .
'It would be better to watch silently until we clearly understand the goal . ’
Yakumo ran a hand through his messy hair .
It made sense . If they didn’t know how she committed the crime, they might destroy evidence by moving already badly and end the thing there .
'Ah, also, the recipient may be somebody I know,’ added Yakumo, as if he had just remembered .
'W-w-what!? Who? Who the hell is it?’
'Please don’t make a fuss over every little thing . It’s just that the family name is the same . I don’t know the given name . . Anyway, Gotou-san, please look into that . ’
Gotou replied, 'Got it,’ but then he stopped .
'You’re not coming with me?’
'I have other things to investigate . ’
'What other things?’
'Anyway, please don’t slack off because I’m not there,’ said Yakumo disagreeably .
Gotou buried the anger boiling up within him in the bottom of his stomach .
'Ah, also, please drop me off at the hospital I was at earlier,’ said Yakumo with a yawn .
– What the hell does this guy think the police are?
Ignoring Gotou’s anger, Yakumo briskly got into the car .
'What are you waiting for? Please start the car already . ’
Yakumo stuck his head out the window .
– I can’t hold back any longer .
After the case was over, this time he’d really give Yakumo a good punch .
With that determination, Gotou got into the car .
– It’s a bit cold .
Haruka sat on a bench in the hospital courtyard .
The sun was low in the sky; dark had started to swallow up the surroundings . The air was much cooler too .
Haruka looked up to see a lamppost beaming down on her . Bugs flew about the streetlights, as if drawn in by the brightness .
When she looked up, she could see the window of the fourth floor where Isshin was hospitalised .
Within that light, Isshin was in the narrow area between life and death .
Haruka didn’t want to believe that Isshin was brain-dead . She felt like he might wake up even now .
Even if it was just a fleeting hope, all Haruka could do now was believe in it .
'You were here?’
Yakumo appeared out of the darkness .
He had returned as promised . It wasn’t that Haruka had doubted him . There were things that made you anxious even if you believed in them . Humans were weak creatures .
'You’re slow,’ she said, testing out a slightly angry tone .
It wasn’t like they’d set a time, so she had nothing to complain about, but every time she met Yakumo, she just wanted to say something .
'The only thing you could call slow is a turtle,’ said Yakumo, exasperated, as he sat next to Haruka .
He was really good at coming up with things to put her down . In a way, it was amazing .
'Who’s a turtle? You’re the fickle cat,’ said Haruka with a pout .
It looked like Yakumo really did not like being retorted to, because he raised his left eyebrow and glared intimidatingly .
'Who’s a cat?’
'You are . You’re moody and do whatever you want . The picture of a cat . ’
'Better than being a turtle . ’
Yakumo snorted .
'Yeah, yeah, I’m a turtle,’ said Haruka, gritting her teeth .
However, Yakumo just yawned, seeming bored .
'So how was your investigation?’
Yakumo brought up the topic at hand .
'I tried asking, just like you said, but…’
Her words trailed off since there hadn’t been much of a result .
'There’s no need to think about it too much . Just tell me what you heard . I’ll decide whether anything’s important . ’
Yakumo rubbed his eyes sleepily .
'OK . ’
After replying, Haruka started to talk .
She explained what she’d heard from Sakakibara and Furukawa with her own thoughts .
Since she gave her own opinions and thoughts on things like organ transplants, it took much longer than she thought it would .
Yakumo didn’t interrupt regardless, just sitting there and listening carefully .
'I see . It seems you’ve got a considerable amount of information,’ said Yakumo .
Haruka cocked her head, unconfident .
She didn’t think anything she said was connected to the case .
'What information?’ she asked, though she knew there wouldn’t be a response .
Yakumo’s eyes were narrowed as he looked into the darkness .
– What is he looking at?
Haruka was always just looking from the side . Even if she tried to see the same things Yakumo did, it was impossible .
Though she was close to him, she felt like there was a wall she couldn’t pass between them .
'You’ll find out soon enough,’ Yakumo finally murmured .
'You never tell me anything…’
She hadn’t planned no saying anything, but it slipped off her tongue .
She felt a bit gloomy .
'I don’t know everything clearly yet, so I can’t say . ’
Yakumo looked down with a wry smile .
To Haruka, it just sounded like an excuse .
She wanted to ask him more, but she knew from experience that he wouldn’t say any more even if she did .
– I’m always left behind .
Haruka looked up to clear away her feelings of depression .
At the same time, the lamppost that had been lighting up the bench went out –
Everything was blanketed in darkness .
She had been able to see Yakumo earlier, but he was swallowed by the darkness .
– Yakumo, where are you?
Haruka was looking around frantically when something touched her hand, which was on the bench .
'It’s OK . ’
She heard Yakumo’s voice .
Yakumo’s fingers were touching Haruka’s hand .
Even though only a bit of their skin was touching, warmth slowly came through .
Her eyes grew accustomed to the darkness, so she could see Yakumo’s profile .
'It was time for the lights to turn off . It’s about time . ’
Yakumo slowly stood up .
Haruka stood up too, as if pulled by a magnet .
'What do you mean?’ she asked Yakumo, who was looking up at the hospital building .
'There’s one more thing I want to check . ’
Without explaining further, Yakumo walked deliberately, one step at a time, towards the hospital .
Haruka hurriedly followed him so that his back wouldn’t disappear into the darkness .
Ishii looked up at the apartment building from the driver’s seat of the car .
His gaze was on the corner room on the fourth floor .
However, the lights in the room were off .
He had pressed the intercom button about an hour before, but there was no response . It seemed like nobody was home .
After dropping Yakumo off at the hospital, Ishii had gone to the apartment where the recipient of Miyuki’s letter lived and begun his stakeout .
Right now, that person was the key .
– The goal of all life is death .
That sentence circled his head .
What code is in that sentence – no matter how much Ishii thought about it, he couldn’t find the answer .
'She’s not coming back . ’
Ishii rested against the wheel and looked at Gotou in the passenger seat .
'She’ll probably be back soon . ’
Gotou blew out smoke, looking displeased .
There were shadows under his eyes, and the wrinkles at the corners of his eyes looked deeper than usual . It was like he had suddenly aged in these two days .
– He’s probably tired .
After the incident, Gotou had ended up taking Nao in .
Even though following such a complex case was arduous already, his exhaustion was naturally doubled since he was taking care of a girl who couldn’t hear .
'Please rest a bit,’ said Ishii .
One person was enough for a stakeout . Ishii simply wanted Gotou to rest, even if it was just for a short time .
However, Gotou didn’t accept it .
'Stop nagging! Do you think I’d be worn out from something like this?’
'No, that isn’t what I…’
'The incident was my fault . ’
Gotou irritably pressed his cigarette into the ashtray .
'I couldn’t protect Isshin . The least I could do to make up for it is catch the culprit . ’
'If you put it that way, I am also at fault . ’
Ishii took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes .
Gotou was not the only one responsible . Ishii had been at the scene too . He had even been the one closest to Isshin . Despite that, Ishii hadn’t been able to protect Isshin –
'Don’t be impertinent . ’
Gotou hit Ishii’s head .
'Nothing would’ve changed if somebody like you were there or not… It was my fault . ’
Gotou put a new cigarette in his mouth, biting the filter tightly .
– Why are you taking everything on yourself?
Ishii asked that in his heart .
He wanted to be like Gotou . He wanted to become a proper man as Gotou’s partner . Ishii did his best for that goal .
However, no matter how hard he tried, Gotou took everything on by himself .
– Does he hate me?
Ishii even thought that way sometimes .
Ishii had just put his glasses back on when light flooded in from behind them . The headlights of a car .
He turned around and saw a car coming up towards them .
A navy blue SUV .
It passed Ishii’s car and stopped in front of the apartment .
A woman got out of the passenger’s seat . She looked like she was in her late twenties . She wore a denim skirt and was on the chubby side .
The moment Gotou saw her, he hurriedly got off the car .
'Quiet . ’
Ishii had hurriedly followed Gotou off, but Gotou cut him off .
Gotou hid behind a telephone pole and watched the woman . Ishii did the same, standing behind Gotou and looking at the road .
The woman waved goodbye to the man in the driver’s seat and went towards the apartment entrance .
'That woman…’ growled Gotou .
– Do you know her?
Ishii had that question in his head when he recalled something Yakumo said .
– She may be someone I know .
From this response, it appeared that the recipient of the letter really was someone Gotou and Yakumo knew .
The car turned off its hazards and left .
'Number . ’
As instructed by Gotou, Ishii hurriedly wrote the licence plate number in his notebook .
The woman went through the apartment’s glass entrance, took something from the post box and got into the elevator .
'That was some unexpected information . ’
Gotou let out his breath as he left the shadow of the telephone pole .
Ishii followed him .
'What do you mean?’
'I’ve met that woman before . ’
– So it really was like that .
Ishii’s eyes went bright . If it was somebody they knew, the investigation would advance more quickly .
'Where did you meet her?’
'The hospital . ’
Gotou lit his cigarette .
– Hospital .
After hearing that word, Ishii also remembered who the woman was .
Haruka followed Yakumo down the dim hospital corridor .
Even though there should have been many people inside the hospital, it was surprisingly quiet . It felt like they were going through an underground tunnel .
However, Haruka knew where Yakumo was headed .
If they continued forward, they would reach the ICU where Isshin was .
– There’s one more thing I want to check .
Yakumo had said that earlier . What was he planning on checking when he went to Isshin?
'Hey, Yakumo-kun, what are you going to check?’ asked Haruka towards Yakumo’s back .
'You’ll find out soon enough . ’
Yakumo stopped firmly in front of the ICU .
His back looked somewhat nervous .
Haruka could see Isshin through the glass . Life support was keeping him alive .
Every time she saw Isshin like this, her chest felt tight and the hope that had welled up within her was cut .
'So you’re checking how Isshin-san is?’
'That’s right,’ replied Yakumo, looking straight down the dark of the corridor .
Haruka took a step forward to stand next to Yakumo .
I might be able to see something else if I stand in the same place – is what she thought, but nothing came back to her eyes . Just the cellar-like corridor .
'Hey, Yakumo-kun . ’
Haruka looked at Yakumo’s profile .
He looked like something that was created – there was no life there .
'Don’t move from here,’ Yakumo said briefly . Then, he slowly stepped forward .
Haruka thought about following him, but she was frozen there by the unusual air emitting from Yakumo .
– Yakumo’s red left eye can see something .
Haruka was almost certain of it .
With his chest out and back straight, he took careful steps forward, as if he were walking on a tightrope .
After walking about five metres, Yakumo suddenly stopped .
'You’re there, right?’ said Yakumo, as if beginning a speech .
– Is somebody there?
Haruka focussed her gaze .
After a while, though it was faint, something appeared in the darkness .
It was the girl with the dark face .
This was the third time Haruka had seen her . She was probably the female ghost said to appear in the hospital –
'What are you looking for?’
Yakumo knelt in the corridor as he started to speak quietly .
The ghost of the girl just stood in front of Yakumo –
'I see… That’s why you’re wandering…’
Only Yakumo’s voice echoed through the corridor .
Haruka couldn’t tell what the girl was saying .
She felt the impulse to move closer to her to listen, but she couldn’t – she felt like the ghost of the girl would disappear if she did .
'I understand your feelings, but I want you to wait a bit longer . ’
Yakumo reached out, like he was asking for help .
The ghost of the girl just stood there without moving .
The tense atmosphere continued –
'Please . ’
Yakumo lowered his head, pleading .
Then, the girl nodded slightly and finally disappeared into the darkness .
Haruka released the breath she had been holding, as if she had just raised her head out of water . She had been so focussed that she had forgotten to breathe .
Yakumo slowly stood up and turned around .
His eyes were narrowed and his brows were lowered – Yakumo’s expression was sadder than she had ever seen it .
– What happened?
Haruka wanted to ask out, but she just couldn’t in this situation .
Yakumo didn’t do anything . He just stood there .
It felt like Yakumo was going farther and farther away . I don’t like it . Don’t go –
'Yakumo-kun . ’
Haruka called out to hold on to him .
In response, Yakumo’s expression softened .
'It’s just as I thought,’ whispered Yakumo as he came back .
'What do you mean?’
'I’ve solved it…’
Yakumo put his left index finger to his brow .
His eyes looked different now – they were triumphant .
'I’ve solved the mystery of the case . ’
As Yakumo said that, his red left eye trembled slightly .