Volume 7 Chapter 2
VOLUME 7 – THE LOCATION OF THE SPIRIT
file 02: witch (TRANSLATION NOTES)
After parking the car, Ishii took deep breaths .
He was near the Tamo River at one corner of the residential street, in front of the <Kinoshita Surgery: Maternity and Gynaecology Department > .
A flat-roofed three-storey building with white walls – it stood uncannily in the darkness .
The first time Ishii came here was about half a year ago, during his first case with Gotou . During that case, the owner of this hospital was arrested, so it was now empty .
All the windows were covered by curtains, and weeds grew at the entrance . The sign with the name of the hospital was written in dirty undistinguishable letters .
It was completely abandoned .
Ishii thought Nanase Miyuki was hiding in this building .
‘Why do you think she’s here?’ asked Miyagawa .
'There are materials she could use here to treat herself without being spotted . Those are the requirements . ’
'But there are other abandoned hospitals . ’
Just as Miyagawa said, there were other abandoned hospitals too, if those were the only requirements . However, if they became too old, the materials couldn’t be used for treatment . Furthermore –
'The man with two red eyes was involved in the case with Doctor Kinoshita . Though she didn’t appear in the foreground, Nanase Miyuki was probably involved as well… so she must know about this place . ’
That was why Ishii thought that Nanase Miyuki would use <Kinoshita Surgery: Maternity and Gynaecology Department> as her hideout .
'Why do you think she’d choose a place she knows?’
'I used geographic profiling . ’
'Profiling, eh? How complicated . ’
Miyagawa smiled wryly .
'That isn’t the case . Profiling is just thinking from the standpoint of the criminal . ’
'Though people look as if they are behaving erratically, they unconsciously limit their actions . ’
Miyagawa cocked his head .
'Yes . Concealment means hiding yourself . People unconsciously choose some place they think is safer . ’
'So places you don’t know are unsafe . ’
'There are exceptions, but this is not an escape but concealment . Furthermore, she is injured . There is a high risk to hiding in a place you don’t know . ’
'Well, instead of thinking about it, we’ll find out if we go in . ’
As Miyagawa said that, he got off the car .
Ishii took the torch and got off the car .
– Nanase Miyuki might be here .
Now, fear welled within him and his feet froze . However, he had suggested this himself . He couldn’t run now .
'Let’s go . ’
Unlike Ishii, Miyagawa spoke as lightly as if they were heading out for a stroll and walked briskly . Ishii gulped and started walking as well .
They stood in front of the glass entrance .
'All right . ’
Then, Miyagawa smashed the glass, put his hand in and unlocked the door .
That was the person who taught Gotou for you . His methods were forceful .
'Don’t dawdle . ’
'Y-yes sir . ’
Ishii went into the building, hiding behind Miyagawa’s back .
Ishii lit the torch . Though they were small, there was a reception and waiting room and a cavernous corridor beyond them .
– I’m really frightened .
Ishii wanted to cling to something, so he stuck to Miyagawa’s back .
'That’s creepy . Back off . ’
Miyagawa pushed Ishii away .
'I-I apologise . ’
'I’ll look at the examination room . You check the delivery room,’ said Miyagawa, sounding exasperated . Then he opened the door and went into the examination room .
– I’m going alone?
Ishii wiped his sweaty palms on his trousers and gripped the torch tightly . He felt like his heart would leap out of his throat .
The delivery room was at the end of the corridor .
Ishii walked a step at a time .
'It’s OK . It’s OK . ’
Ishii said that to himself as he pushed open the door to the delivery room .
Then, the smell of disinfectant assaulted his nose . Without thinking, he covered his nose and mouth with his hand .
On the dusty metal cart, there were medicine and medical tools, and there was a bed in the middle of the room .
Ishii immediately noticed something was strange .
There were bandages at his feet . He turned the torch towards them and realised they were bloody .
'It’s still fresh…’
When Ishii spoke up, he saw something move in the corner of his eye .
It was too late when he noticed .
Something leapt out of the darkness and attacked Ishii .
Ishii couldn’t even scream .
'Hello!’ said Haruka, opening the door to the soba restaurant .
They dropped by after seeing Masato off .
It was thirty minutes by car from Nagano city . It was a soba restaurant for tourists, the middle of five at the bottom of Togakushi mountain .
It had a long history – a wooden shop with a thatch roof . White walls that stood out even from the road . It had a wide parking lot . Besides the table for eight inside the shop, there were two tatami rooms . There was also an inn, though it was simple and at a bit of a distance .
To be frank, it was Haruka’s home .
'Sorry, we’re already closed…’
Haruka’s mother, Keiko, came out of the kitchen in an apron .
'I’m back . ’
'Oh, it’s you, Haruka,’ replied Keiko, sounding a bit disappointed .
'Couldn’t you be a bit more surprised?’
Haruka pouted, but Keiko didn’t care . She didn’t respond to anything . That was her personality .
'My body wouldn’t be able to bear it if I was surprised by everything you did . ’
'It’s not like I do anything that surprising . ’
'Really now . Didn’t you come home crying about how “Yakumo-kun disappeared” the other time?’
– She couldn’t say anything to that .
'I wasn’t crying . ’
'Oh really,’ said Keiko mischievously .
Haruka wanted to retort, but she couldn’t just keep talking like this .
'Hey, friends came with me, but could I ask them in?’
Haruka didn’t wait for Keiko’s answer . She opened the sliding door and showed Yakumo and Gotou in .
'Sorry to bother . ’
Gotou passed through the curtain first .
'Oh my, you’re Nao-chan’s…’
Keiko clapped her hands together before Haruka could introduce him .
Haruka had thought they hadn’t met before, but now that she thought about it, they’d met at Isshin’s funeral .
'Oh, is this your home, Haruka-chan?’ said Gotou, looking at Keiko .
'I didn’t say?’
'Didn’t hear anything about it . ’
'If you’re going in, please hurry up . You’re in the way,’ interrupted Yakumo, sounding displeased .
'You’re so fussy,’ complained Gotou, but he stepped inside the shop to let Yakumo in .
'Oh, Yakumo-kun too!’
Though Keiko didn’t have much of a response to her daughter’s return home, when she saw Yakumo, she was so pleased it looked like she’d leap up .
'Hello . ’
Yakumo greeted her with his usual expression .
'What is it? Why are you all here?’
Keiko was as excited as if she had met old friends ago .
'A lot happened . ’
'Oh, did you decide when to have your marriage?’
'What? Don’t play dumb . ’
Haruka refused to be dragged along by Keiko’s excitement .
'Anyway, I’m starved . ’
Gotou interrupted the parent-child banter .
'We came all this way because you said you’d let us eat something . ’
Yakumo made a follow-up comment .
It seemed like neither of them knew the word restraint .
'Sorry . This was so sudden . The part-time worker’s already gone home, so it’ll just be whatever we have on hand . ’
'I don’t mind . ’
'No problem here . ’
After Yakumo and Gotou replied, Keiko urged them to sit – 'Would the tatami room be all right?’ – and they went to the tatami room .
The three of them sat at a long table .
Haruka hadn’t thought she’d be here at home with Yakumo and Gotou . It was strange .
'Anyway, I’ll get a beer,’ said Gotou the moment he sat down, without looking at the menu .
'You can’t drive if you drink, right?’ interrupted Yakumo .
'We can just sleep in the car . ’
'I refuse . ’
'A sleeping bag and a car seat aren’t that different, right?’
'How about this?’ interrupted Keiko . She had a hand at her waist with a triumphant expression . Haruka had a somewhat bad feelings .
'You can just stay here,’ said Keiko, eyes sparkling .
Ignoring Haruka’s surprise, Gotou slapped his knee . 'That’d be great . ’
'We don’t have many hands since it’s the off season, so we won’t be able to do much for you . ’
'Anywhere’s fine as long as I can sleep . Yakumo, let’s stay here tonight . ’
Gotou hit Yakumo’s shoulder to ask for his agreement .
For just a moment, Haruka’s eyes met Yakumo’s . Even though it wasn’t like they would be sleeping together, Haruka’s face suddenly grew hot and she looked down at the tatami without thinking .
'If it isn’t any trouble,’ said Yakumo, running a hand through his hair .
'OK! It’s decided then . ’
After saying that, Keiko took a bottle of beer out of the fridge and placed it on the table along with glasses for all of them .
Gotou opened the bottle immediately and started pouring beer into each glass .
For some reason, Yakumo was looking at the amber-coloured liquid filling his glass unpleasantly .
'Yakumo-kun, you can’t drink?’
He glared at her .
With Keiko, Gotou called out and they clinked their glasses for form’s sake .
Yakumo stuck took one sip, like he was lapping it out of the glass, and then he stuck out his tongue again, scowling . It looked like he really couldn’t drink .
– That’s a bit cute .
When Keiko asked for their orders, Gotou just said, 'We’ll leave it to you . ’
'Leave it to me then,’ said Keiko . She finished drinking her glass of beer and then went into the kitchen .
Haruka couldn’t hear clearly, but there was talking in the kitchen . Keiko was probably talking with Haruka’s father, Kazuhiro .
'This your parents’ shop, Haruka-chan?’ asked Gotou, pouring himself a second glass of beer .
'Yes . Though there are also a number of part-time workers . ’
'Is your dad the cook?’
'My father’s fairly famous . He’s even been in some gourmet magazines . ’
'Oh? We should greet him . Since we’ll be staying for a night . ’
'I’ll introduce you afterwards . ’
When Haruka finished speaking, there was a loud cracking sound of something breaking in the kitchen .
Haruka turned around to see Kazuhiro fly out of the kitchen with a red face .
He had a small frame with his hair trimmed short, but his eyebrows and the corners of his eyes were low on his face, so he looked a bit unreliable . He was normally gentle – Haruka couldn’t remember him ever being angry .
Now, Kazuhiro’s cheeks were twitching and he was gritting his teeth as he glared .
’D-Dad, I’m home . ’
Haruka called out to him, but Kazuhiro didn’t appear to hear . He alternated his glare between Yakumo and Gotou .
'Which one’s Yakumo?’ asked Kazuhiro in a low voice .
Haruka looked at the kitchen and saw Keiko peering out from inside as she stifled her laughter .
'He’s Yakumo . ’
Ignoring Haruka, who was troubled for a response, Yakumo pointed at Gotou with a disinterested expression .
Kazuhiro approached Gotou .
Gotou cocked his head in confusion .
'Somebody like you . ’
'What’s good about this unattractive middle-aged man?’
Kazuhiro looked at Haruka .
There appeared to be a crazy misunderstanding .
'That’s not it . Yakumo’s that one . ’
Gotou seemed to realise what had happened and pointed at Yakumo .
With the speed of a beast hunting prey, Kazuhiro looked to Yakumo, but Yakumo just looked with disinterest at the soba refining process written on the back of the menu .
'He treats Haruka-chan like a slave . If you don’t do something soon, it’ll be a problem,’ Gotou continued with a large grin as he fanned the fire .
Kazuhiro’s eyes went so wide they looked like they would fall out .
Kazuhiro was serious, but because of that, he didn’t understand jokes . He believed everything he was told .
'All right, all right . Calm down a bit, dear . ’
Keiko, perhaps satisfied by the teasing she’d done, took Kazuhiro’s arm and pulled him back into the kitchen .
– This is the worst .
Haruka lay on the table, exhausted .
'Why is your father picking a fight with me?’ complained Yakumo, his chin in his hands .
'Because you’re toying with his unmarried daughter . ’
Gotou’s shoulders were shaking in laughter .
'What are you talking about?’
'Don’t act like you don’t understand . ’
'I don’t . ’
Even Yakumo was angry now .
There was no point continuing this conversation .
'Hey . What are we going to do next?’
Haruka sat up straight and changed the topic .
'Ah, that’s right . Let’s clean this up fast,’ agreed Gotou, placing his glass on the table .
'I’m also curious about where that girl has disappeared to . ’
Yakumo had looked tired, but his gaze suddenly became serious .
'Is that girl OK?’
'Yes, probably . ’
Yakumo replied to Gotou’s question .
'How do you know?’
'Earlier, we discussed being spirited away . ’
'Yeah . ’
'This is my theory, but I think that such incidents are caused by ghosts . ’
'What do you mean?’
Gotou’s face twisted in confusion .
'Tengu and demons only exist in humans’ imaginations . Things that do not exist cannot make somebody disappear . ’
'Right,’ replied Gotou with a belch .
'However, people really do disappear without any notice – in that sense, people are spirited away . Then why do they disappear?’
'They were in some sort of accident . ’
Haruka said the first thing that came to mind . Then, Yakumo glared at her .
'I’m not talking about accidents right now . ’
’S-sorry . ’
You don’t have to say it that way – Yakumo was unusually displeased, perhaps because of what just happened earlier .
'So why do they disappear?’
Gotou went back on topic .
As Yakumo said that, Kazuhiro brought bowls for the three of them on a wooden tray .
Kazuhiro wasn’t good with words so he rarely left the kitchen, leaving the customers to Keiko . So what was happening now –
Kazuhiro placed the bowls in front of them silently .
He didn’t forget to glare at Yakumo when he left .
Gotou stuck his chopsticks into the bowl .
'You don’t know? It’s sobagaki . ’
Gotou cocked his head .
Though it was famous in Nagano as local cuisine, it wasn’t common in Tokyo restaurants – perhaps there were many people he didn’t know about it .
'Buckwheat flour is kneaded into a mochi-like state . It’s delicious . ’
Its appearance and colour was similar to a rock, but its fluffy texture and the way the aroma of buckwheat spread through your mouth was amazing .
'Oh! This goes well with the beer . ’
As Gotou ate, he expressed his pleasure .
It made Haruka happy to hear her home cooking praised .
Come to think of it, Haruka hadn’t eaten sobagaki at home much recently either . After murmuring 'Let’s eat’ in her heart, she picked up her chopsticks . Kazuhiro’s sobagaki was softer than the other stores’ . That feeling filled her mouth .
– This taste . It’s Dad’s .
'Is this really sobagaki? It just looks like a rock to me,’ said Yakumo, ruining the atmosphere .
– Honestly . This contrary guy .
'If you’re going to say that, you don’t have to eat . ’
'Look . ’
Yakumo showed the inside of his bowl .
There was a plop as a rock rolled in his bowl .
Haruka couldn’t believe it . Yakumo’s bowl had a real rock in it .
Haruka let out an angry yell .
'Ack . ’
Ishii fell backwards .
The black shadow that came flying at him was human . The person sat on top of Ishii and swung something .
A sharp pain ran through his left shoulder .
It appeared he had been stabbed by something .
He looked to see a surgical scalpel . It had stabbed the top of his shoulder . Blood was coming out, dyeing his shirt .
'Ishii-san, it’s been a while . ’
He heard a voice in his ear .
Though it had a bewitching echo to it, there was something incredibly dark eddying in it . It was a voice he could never forget .
– Nanase Miyuki .
'You can scream if it hurts . ’
Nanase Miyuki brought herself close to Ishii’s face .
The left half of her was covered in burns . There was no trace of her graceful self .
Miyuki twisted the scalpel in Ishii’s shoulder, gouging the wound . A pain incomparable to the one earlier ran through his shoulder .
Ishii bore with the pain .
If I scream now, it’ll be her win – that was how he felt .
'Why not call for help? Chief Miyagawa might come . ’
She knew that Miyagawa was here .
For her to be so composed – a bad feeling spread within Ishii .
'From that world . ’
Miyuki’s eyes had a cold light .
Miyagawa was killed – Ishii couldn’t accept what Miyuki said .
'Even though I thought you were just useless, you sniffed this place out . You’re unexpectedly troublesome . ’
'Would you die already?’
Miyuki smirked .
The terror in Ishii suddenly grew . She wasn’t joking . If she said she would kill him, she really would .
Miyuki pulled the scalpel out of Ishii’s shoulder .
Then, an electrifying pain ran through it, and he twisted his face without thinking .
'Farewell,’ said Miyuki, raising the bloody scalpel .
– No . No . No . I don’t want to die yet!
Within Ishii, stronger than fear, a tenacity for life took root . Compelled by that feeling, Ishii suddenly grabbed Miyuki’s left arm .
Then, Miyuki screamed and let go of Ishii .
Ishii stood up reflexively .
Miyuki held her left arm as she knelt on the floor and glared at Ishii . Then, Ishii remembered what Higashino had said .
She broke her arm in the accident –
Ishii’s action of the moment had luckily hit her weak point . However, though he had saved his life, that was only temporary . He would be killed unless he got out of this situation .
While pressing the injury in his left shoulder, he confronted Miyuki .
– What do I do?
He tried to work his brain, but his fear was getting in the way . A cold sweat ran down his back and his knees were shaking .
While he couldn’t think of anything, Miyuki slowly got up . Her right hand held the scalpel . He would be killedl ike this .
He tried to run, but his legs wouldn’t move .
– Move, move, move .
He hit his knees, but it was no good . Miyuki slowly walked towards him and raised the scalpel .
– It’s too late .
The moment he thought that, the door opened and Miyagawa ran in .
Miyagawa was bleeding from his forehead . Miyuki had probably hit him .
There was the sound of something cracking .
Ishii looked to see that Miyuki had broken the glass in the window and was about to climb out .
– I have to follow her .
Ishii thought that for a moment before his knees buckled underneath him . His nervousness had fled him .
'You kept your life then . ’
Ishii looked over to see Miyagawa had sat down as well .
It was just as Miyagawa said . It was a good thing she fled –
Ishii heaved a sigh of relief .
After eating, Gotou went to the separate two-storey building .
He went in through the entrance to see a counter . He got a key there and was taken to the room at the very back of the first floor .
It was a Japanese room of ten tatami in size with a table, fridge and television .
Haruka’s family mainly worked at the soba shop but it had a Japanese inn as well . It seemed that there were quite a number of soba shops with inns for tourists in the Togakushi area .
That was why Keiko could easily tell two men who suddenly came by to stay .
A yukata was prepared for him . Though there was no hot spring, there was a cypress bath, so Gotou submerged himself in it . When he came back, two futon had been laid out .
– Good preparation .
When Gotou opened the fridge, there was a row of beer cans . This was good preparation too .
With no reservation, Gotou opened a can of bear and took a gulp .
It really was different drinking right out of the bath . The cold beer flowed through his warmed body, spreading to every part of him .
After taking a breath, he took out his mobile phone . Ishii had called an incredible number of times, but it was probably nothing, so he ignored Ishii and called home .
<Hello . >
Atsuko picked up at the first ring .
'IT’s me . ’
<Will you be late tonight?>
Atsuko, who didn’t know the situation, sounded relaxed through the phone .
'I don’t think I’ll be back . ’
'I’m in Nagano now . ’
Even Atsuko sounded surprised .
Gotou quickly explained what had happened up until now . When Atsuko said <I see>, it sounded disappointed to Gotou, but it was probably just his imagination .
'So how’s Nao?’ said Gotou, changing the subject . Atsuko’s mood changed in an instant .
<She’s already asleep . She loves the teddy bear she got for her birthday present . She even brought it to the bath . It was quite the problem . ’
Yakumo and Haruka had bought it for Nao’s birthday .
'She likes it that much?’
<She says it looks like you . >
Gotou snorted without thinking .
Come to think of it, when Nao drew a picture of Gotou bear, it looked just like a bear .
He’d asked, 'Am I a bear?’ Then they laughed together .
<Will you be back by tomorrow?>
'I don’t know . It might be a bit tough . ’
They didn’t know anything about this case yet . It didn’t seem like there would be a sudden breakthrough . After coming this far, Gotou planned on sticking with them the whole way .
<Be careful . >
Gotou felt hot at Atsuko’s words .
Am I blushing – no . Just the alcohol .
'Good evening . ’
Just as Gotou hung up, the door to the room opened, and Haruka showed up in room wear .
She had probably just got out of the bath . Her hair was a bit damp .
'Hey . ’
'Oh? Where’s Yakumo-kun?’ asked Haruka, looking around the room .
'Still in the bath . ’
'It’s been a while, hasn’t it?’
'He’s always used the school showers . He’s probably relaxing in the tub . ’
'He’ll probably be back soon though?’
'Then I’ll wait . ’
Haruka sat on the tatami .
'Your dad was pretty angry,’ said Gotou, handing Haruka a can of beer .
'Honestly . That was just too much . ’
Haruka pouted, seeming displeased .
It seemed like she was rather unhappy about her father’s trying to make Yakumo eat a rock . It wasn’t like Gotou didn’t understand how Haruka felt . But –
'I understand how your dad feels . ’
No matter the situation, his daughter, who lived far away, had suddenly brought back a man . There was no way he wouldn’t be angry .
'I didn’t think I’d hear that from you, Gotou-san . ’
'I wouldn’t have understood before . But…’
'Is it Nao-chan?’
'Even I’ve started to feel like a parent . ’
Though it had only been a short time, Nao’s presence had brought a drastic change to the Gotou couple . He felt like this was what it meant to become a parent .
'Would you be angry if Nao-chan brought back a boyfriend?’
'I’d smack him down!’ yelled Gotou, becoming serious without intending to .
'You wouldn’t accept him?’
'Impossible . ’
'How intolerant . ’
'I don’t care . I feel bad for your dad too, Haruka-chan . Since it’s Yakumo of all people . ’
'What dissatisfies you about me?’
With bad timing, Yakumo opened the door and came in .
Since Yakumo had pale skin, his cheeks were flushed more than usual after coming out of the bath . His hair was also straight, unlike its usual bedhead .
'Nothing . ’
'Please think about me, since I have to use the same bath and sleep in the same room as you of all people, Gotou-san . ’
In his yukata, Yakumo casually dried off his hair with a towel and sat cross-legged on the futon .
'If you don’t want to be with me, why not sleep with Haruka-chan?’ said Gotou, knowing Yakumo would be angry .
Just as expected, Yakumo sent Gotou an incredible glare .
Meanwhile, Haruka went red to her eyes and dropped her gaze to the tatami .
'We aren’t in a situation where you can tell jokes that aren’t funny,’ said Yakumo, looking annoyed as he put the towel he used to dry his hair around his neck .
'All right, all right . So what are we going to do?’
Gotou finished drinking his beer, crushed the empty can and left it on the table .
'Continuing where I left off earlier, but I think that the spiriting away incident is related to the ghost Masato saw . ’
When Yakumo said that, Haruka recalled the spirit photo Masato had shown them .
The black shadow by the rock that was a shrine –
'So a ghost made the person disappear?’
'Gotou-san, you’re an idiot,’ said Yakumo, exasperated .
'That’s what you said, right?’
'I didn’t say anything like that . I just said that a ghost was involved . ’
'How is it involved?’ interrupted Haruka .
'Possession . ’
Yakumo’s eyes narrowed .
'Possession – so a ghost took over her body?’ asked Gotou to check .
'Correct . It is likely that a ghost possessed that girl and led her to leave home with her own feet and disappear . ’
'Similar . I think that most cases of spiriting away happen like this . ’
Gotou felt like he understood .
He’d seen people possessed by ghosts before . They did things they wouldn’t normally do and even lost consciousness temporarily .
Looking at it like this, it was just like being spirited away .
If the girl called Yumiko was currently in this situation, her illogical actions made sense .
But then Haruka had a question .
'Hey . Is Yumiko-chan all right?’
'I can’t say anything at this stage . Furthermore, I am also concerned about her weakening body . ’
Yakumo’s shoulders fell, as if he was exhausted, and he looked up at the ceiling .
'What do you mean?’
'Exactly what I said . She’s been possessed by a ghost and walking around without drinking or eating . ’
'Three or four days,’ Gotou continued .
Since she disappeared yesterday, today would be the second . They couldn’t relax .
'Hey . Let’s go look for her . ’
Haruka leant forward unconsciously .
'The local police and firefighters will search . Furthermore, if we move around in the forest at night, we’ll be the ones who disappear . ’
Even though Yakumo said that disinterestedly, his expression was hard .
It was just as Yakumo said .
Even if they did the same thing as the police and firefighters were doing, they wouldn’t be much help . They would just have to find Yumiko using the methods only they could use . But –
'What should we do?’
'First, we find out what the ghost Masato saw was – we need to make that clear,’ said Yakumo quietly .
Ishii cried out without thinking .
Though the emergency officers treated his wound, the disinfectant stung more than he thought it would .
But feeling pain was a part of living .
The moment Nanase Miyuki attacked him, the reason Ishii could move his body, frozen from fear, was because of his tenacity for life .
Ishii looked up in pain at the <Kinoshita Surgery: Maternity and Gynaecology Department> building .
It was surrounded by police cars and lit up by outdoor lights . Detectives and forensic officers were running amok .
The quietness from earlier had disappeared .
'You all right?’
Miyagawa walked towards him with a gauze bandage wrapped around his head .
'Yes, somehow… Thank you very much . It would have become a situation if you had not been there, Chief Miyagawa . ’
Ishii bowed his head .
Even though Miyagawa had been injured then, he ran into the room to save Ishii . Otherwise, Ishii might have died .
'That doesn’t warrant thanks . ’
'If only Detective Gotou were here now…’
Ishii hadn’t meant to say it, but it slipped out of his mouth .
For Ishii, Gotou was a pillar . Having him there made it possible for Ishii to advance .
'Still can’t contact him?’
Miyagawa sent him a sharp glaze .
'I can’t . I’ve called him a number of times, but…’
Ishii had just called him earlier, but the phone just kept ringing and Gotou didn’t answer . He was worried that something had happened to him .
However, it looked like Miyagawa had a different impression .
'Just forget about that idiot . ’
'Ishii . You rely too much on Gotou . ’
It was absolutely right . I have to act on my own – is what he thought, but when it came to the crunch, he froze .
'You’re doing great even without Gotou . ’
'I have no confidence…’
Ishii had just dropped his gaze to his feet when a forensics officer ran over with a dreadful expression .
'Chief Miyagawa . ’
'There’s something I would like you to look at…’
'Got it . Ishii, let’s go . ’
'Ah, yes sir . ’
Called by Miyagawa, Ishii followed the forensics officer through the <Kinoshita Surgery: Maternity and Gynaecology Department> entrance .
For a moment, Ishii prepared himself, but he didn’t feel frightened because the lights were on and it was full of detectives .
They went down the corridor to the delivery room where Miyuki had attacked him .
Unlike earlier, the whole room was lit up .
Medicine and medical tools were scattered across the floor which was splattered with blood . It was probably from the mess earlier .
'Please look at this . ’
The forensics officer stood in front of the cold storage in the corner of the room . It was probably for medicine that needed to be refrigerated .
'May I open it?’
The officer looked at Miyagawa and Ishii .
Ishii felt strangely nervous because of the way the officer was acting . Ishii took a deep breath to calm himself down .
Miyagawa sent the officer a signal with his eyes and the officer opened the cold storage door .
Ishii jumped back with a scream without thinking .
He couldn’t believe what he’d seen . It wasn’t possible –
'The hell is that?’
Even Miyagawa was surprised, looking inside the cold storage with a bitter expression .
Ishii wiped the sweat off his forehead and looked inside the cold storage again .
He groaned quietly . There was no mistaking what he was looking at .
In the cold storage, there was a glass cylinder . Inside it was a human head –
The next morning, Haruka waited for Yakumo and Gotou in front of the car in the parking lot .
They had decided to change their investigation direction after eating breakfast .
However, even though their appointment time was past, neither Gotou nor Yakumo had showed up . Haruka was just thinking about going to their room to pick them up when Yakumo walked towards her with an incredibly sleepy expression .
His hair was such a mess that she wanted to ask how he had slept .
'You’re late,’ complained Haruka as she waited for Yakumo to arrive .
However, Yakumo didn’t look like he felt guilty .
'It isn’t my fault . Gotou-san’s snoring was so loud I couldn’t sleep . ’
'That’s quite a mouth you’ve got . The way you sleep is even worse,’ interrupted Gotou, coming after Yakumo .
'It makes sense for me to turn about in my sleep when your snoring is so loud . ’
'You just keep going on, brat . ’
'Anyway, what are we going to do?’ interrupted Haruka .
It would have been fine to let them continue if they were on holiday, but they had to search for Yumiko, who had gone missing .
'We talked last night about how a ghost might be possessing the girl who’s gone missing,’ said Yakumo, running a hand through his hair .
'Yeah . ’
'First, we need to determine what that ghost is and why its goal in wandering . ’
'What do you mean by goal?’
When Haruka asked that, Yakumo let out an exasperated sigh .
'I’ve said this before, haven’t I? Ghosts were originally human . ’
'Right . ’
That was Yakumo’s theory .
Ghosts weren’t some new form of creature or demon . They were like a cluster of the emotions of people who died – that was why there was feeling there .
'It shouldn’t be wandering recklessly – there should be a goal in its actions . If we make that clear, we should be able to find it . ’
'I see . ’ agreed Gotou .
Haruka understood that much, but the problem was –
'How do we make that clear?’
'I’m going to explain that now . ’
Yakumo glared at him .
Haruka felt like he was displeased with her for getting ahead of him, so she said, 'Sorry,’ looking at the floor .
'We will split up from here on . First, you and Masato will look into whether any murders and disappearances have occurred in the Togakushi and Kinasa region . ’
Then they could probably determine who the ghost possession Yumiko was .
'OK . But…’
She didn’t mind investigating, but she didn’t know how .
'Just get Makoto-san to introduce you to some local newspaper reporter . ’
'Ah, right,’ said Haruka .
A newspaper reporter probably knew that sort of information . Makoto, a newspaper reporter in Tokyo, could introduce them to a local one . But –
'Wouldn’t it be quicker for Gotou-san to go to the local police?’
'Don’t be stupid,’ Gotou replied immediately .
'I’m in the Metropolitan Police Department . IF I sniff around in the Nagano jurisdiction, there’ll be a lot of fuss . ’
'Police are serious about their own turf . ’
Gotou shook his head, like he thought it annoying .
'It sounds rather troublesome . ’
“Well, that’s how it is . So what are we going to do?’ Gotou asked Yakumo disgruntledly .
'Gotou-san and I will go there once more . ’
As Yakumo said that, his eyes looked somewhat sad .
'Hey, tell me if you understand something . ’
As Gotou drove, he looked at Yakumo in the passenger seat .
Though he looked like he was just gazing out the window, Yakumo’s heads must have been filled with circling thoughts .
'What are you talking about?’ replied Yakumo was a yawn .
No matter how he tried to look expressionless, Gotou could tell, since he’d known him for so long . Yakumo was hiding something .
'Don’t play the fool . We’re going there again 'cause you have some hunch, right?’
When Gotou said that, Yakumo laughed self-derisively .
'That’s rather sharp for you, Gotou-san . ’
'You said one thing too much . ’
'That’s Kinasa . ’
'I know the name of the place,’ replied Gotou peevishly .
A number of years ago, it had combined with three other villages to join Nagano city, but before that, it had been called Kinasa . It was a small village in the north of Nagano prefecture by the source of the Susobana River .
'That isn’t it . There’s a special place here . ’
'Momijigari . ’
'Momijigari? Sounds like a school trip . ’
'As usual, you have a pathetic imagination . ’
'Shut up . Don’t circle the subject and just get to the point . ’
Gotou’s irritation was obvious .
Yakumo glanced at Gotou and then started explaining with incredible reluctance .
'There once was a couple who couldn’t have children, so they made an offering to the demon king and received a baby girl . Her name was Kureha . It is said that she had unusual spiritual power ever since she was born . ’
Though the conversation had taken an unexpected turn, it was perfect for killing some time before they got there, so Gotou urged Yakumo to continue .
'After time passed, Kureha grew to be a beautiful woman, so her name was changed to Momiji and she went to Kyoto . There, she caught the eye of an influential person at the time named Minamoto no Tsunemoto and she gained his favour . ’
'Sounds like smooth sailing . ’
'It wasn’t . After a while, an unknown sickness spread through the imperial court . ’
'Yes . A priest was called from Mount Hiei to determine the cause of the sickness . He said that the cause of the sickness was Momiji’s curse, so she was chased out of Kyoto . ’
'Was it really Momiji’s curse?’
When Gotou asked that, Yakumo sent him a hateful glance .
'I don’t know . Anyway, after being chased out of Kyoto, she reached a settlement called Minase and she lived quietly there for a while . ’
For a while – which meant there was more to this story .
'Then what happened?’
'One day, she suddenly changed and led a group to attack villages .
'Like mountain bandits?’
'Well, something like that . People started to call her a witch, or a demon woman . ’
'Yes . This story travelled to Kyoto, and Minamoto no Tsukemoto despatched Taira no Koremichi to subdue the witch . However, he couldn’t do anything against her witchcraft . One day, an old priest appeared in Koremichi’s dream and gave him a demon-killing sword . He sliced off Momiji’s head with that sword and killed her . ’
'Sliced off her head, eh…’
'Ever since then, the area was called the place the demon left – Kinasa . ’
Gotou understood Yakumo’s summary . But –
'You saying that witch was the ghost Masato saw?’
'Of course not . ’
Yakumo looked at Gotou coldly .
'Hah? That’s what you were talking about, right?’
'What was I talking about?’
'The story about the witch . ’
'Who said that it was related? In the first place, this Momiji legend is over a thousand years old . ’
It was true that Yakumo hadn’t said it was related . He had just suddenly talked about it .
'Then why did you talk about it?’
'To kill time . ’
– This brat!
Gotou thought about yelling, but he decided against it . Even that would just be killing time for Yakumo .
Gotou didn’t know what Yakumo was hiding, but there was no point talking now .
He’d understand soon enough –
Ishii entered the <Unsolved Cases Special Investigation Room> .
He had undergone treatment at the hospital, so he arrived a bit late, but Gotou still wasn’t there .
As he sighed and sat down, a jolt of pain ran through his left shoulder .
It was where he had been stabbed the night before . Though the injury hadn’t been that deep, it had required four stitches .
He didn’t like the situation with Nanase Miyuki, but he was more concerned about Gotou . Ishii decided to try calling him once more . Just as he took out his mobile phone, the door opened .
Makoto came into the room .
Makoto rushed towards him .
'Eh, ah, Makoto-san…’
'Are you all right?’
'Yes, my shoulder is just slightly injured . ’
'I’m so glad . ’
Ishii smiled wryly while pressing a hand against his wound . Makoto sighed in relief .
It seemed she had been worried for him .
'I was surprised . When I heard that you were injured, Ishii-san…’
'Is that so?’
'She escaped then . ’
Makoto’s expression suddenly turned serious .
Even she, a newspaper reporter, had heard about Nanase Miyuki’s escape .
'She did . ’
There was no point hiding it now . Ishii nodded .
'Is that why Detective Gotou is in Nagano?’ Makoto said quietly, bringing her face close to Ishii’s .
– Gotou? Nagano?
Though Makoto was calm, Ishii didn’t understand what she was talking about .
'What did you say just now?’
'I asked whether Detective Gotou is in Nagano for the Nanase Miyuki case . ’
'W-w-what are you talking about now? Detective Gotou in Nagano…’
Ishii was so agitated he stood up, knocking his forehead into Makoto’s .
Makoto cowered, holding her forehead .
Ishii hurriedly apologised . Makoto smiled back as she rubbed her forehead .
'I’m fine . More importantly, you didn’t know?’
'I didn’t . Actually, I’ve been troubled since I haven’t been able to contact Detective Gotou since yesterday . ’
'Really? Actually, Haruka-chan called me this morning . ’
Ishii was even more confused .
'Yes . She wanted me to introduce her to a reporter in Nagano prefecture for a case no matter what . I don’t know the details, but it seems Detective Gotou and Yakumo-kun are there with her too…’
'I see . ’
Ishii finally understood .
Yakumo and Haruka had probably brought some trouble to Gotou, so he’d gone to Nagano .
As long as he was fine, it was OK .
'Anyway, about the Nanase Miyuki matter…’
Interrupting Makoto as she tried to get back on topic, the door opened forcefully and Miyagawa ran in with a red face .
He still had a bandage around his head .
'Gotou’s still out?’ said Miyagawa, looking around the room .
Though Ishii stood up, he didn’t know what to say next .
He knew where Gotou was from what Makoto said just now, but it was an absence from work without permission . He wouldn’t be let off the hook easily if he told Miyagawa that .
Miyagawa seemed to sense the situation even without Ishii saying anything, as he said that while clicking his tongue .
Ishii just stood there in fear .
'Ishii, we’re going, even if it’s just you . ’
'Ah, yes sir . ’
'Goodbye then,’ Ishii said to Makoto with a bow . Then, he left the room with Miyagawa .
'What happened?’ he asked as they walked .
'There’s something I want you to see . ’
'W-what is it?’
'You’ll know when you see it . ’
Miyagawa’s careless words felt unlucky to Ishii .
'Couldn’t sleep?’ said Haruka to Masato, sitting beside her .
Just like yesterday, they were sitting at a table in the coffee shop inside Nagano Station .
'I’m fine . ’
Though he said that, Masato’s eyes were puffy and his face was pale too .
– This child is still blaming himself .
It was obvious to Haruka . IT was the same with the last case . He blamed himself more than necessary and shut up inside himself .
'It’s not your fault, Masato-kun . ’
Masato shook his head .
'It is my fault . Because I ran away . Tomoya-kun said that too…’
Masato’s neck stiffened along with his body .
The boy called Tomoya had been with Masato when Yumiko disappeared .
Though Haruka hadn’t met him to talk, she felt like Tomoya’s words had a different meaning .
The boy called Tomoya was probably blaming himself too, but he couldn’t accept that so he turned his anger towards Masato .
'It’s fine,’ said Haruka, hugging Masato’s shoulders .
'Er… Ozawa-san, correct?’
A tall man greeted her . He looked to be in his thirties . He wore a casual outfit of red-framed glasses and a jacket with jeans . Though he had a beard around his mouth, it was trimmed neatly .
When Haruka said the name she’d heard from Haruka, he replied with an incredibly happy expression, 'Yes . ’
'I’m sorry to have you come all this way . ’
Haruka stood up and bowed her head . Masato did the same .
'It’s a request from Hijikata . I don’t mind at all . ’
Yoshii waved his hand, sat down opposite them and ordered a coffee .
'Did you know Makoto-san from before?’ asked Haruka .
'Actually, she was a year under me in university . ’
'Since she was pretty quiet, I didn’t know if she’d do OK in a newspaper agency, but it seems like she’s just fine . ’
After saying that, Yoshii laughed aloud .
It appeared he was somebody who said things straight out . Though Haruka had been a bit on guard, she felt more at ease now .
'Well, to get to the point, you want to hear about incidents around Kinasa and Togakushi, right?’
After a pause, Yoshii brought up the topic at hand as he sipped his coffee .
'Yes . ’
'Ignoring crimes like theft, there was just one incident…’
Yoshii took a folder out of his bag and spread it open on the table . It was a copy of a newspaper article .
The title on the front was <Brutally murdered corpses found at Sunahachiyama!> .
Sunahachiyama was the mountain separating Kinasa and Togakushi, and it was where the witch that came up in the Momijigari legend was said to be . It was known for having a cavern of demons .
The date on the newspaper was more than twenty years ago –
The words brutally murdered stood out, piercing Haruka’s heart .
After taking a deep breath, Haruka continued to read past the title .
<Brutally murdered corpses of two men were found at a cottage . The two had gone missing two days ago . The local firefighters had been searching for them –>
Perhaps the brutally murdered corpses were the ghosts possessing Yumiko . That was what Haruka thought, but two men had been killed .
It seemed like it wasn’t that simple .
Yoshii started explaining as he flipped through a notebook .
'It happened around Togakushi and Kinasa . It was a pretty big incident . ’
'Are there no other cases?’
'There aren’t . They’re small villages,’ said Yoshii, lighting a cigarette .
'What happened with this case?’ asked Haruka, curious .
'The article after that is in the file too . ’
'Thank you very much . ’
'The culprit for the incident wasn’t actually caught,’ said Yoshii, blowing out cigarette smoke towards the ceiling .
'Yeah . The statute of limitations is already up . And…’
Here, Yoshii paused and leaned forward before speaking in a lower tone .
'It’s clear that this wasn’t some casual crime like robbery . ’
'Why is that?’
'The corpses were stabbed all over with a knife . ’
'Stabbed all over…’
Haruka gulped unconsciously .
'Plus, there were scrapes and bruises too . The police said there might have been torture . ’
– Torture .
Haruka murmured that in her heart .
She felt her shoulders grow heavy .
'Why would they do that?’
'Who knows? The culprit wasn’t caught . ’
Haruka looked to her side and saw that Masato was very pale .
It had been more awful than she had imagined it would be . She shouldn’t keep Masato here .
'Masato-kun, want to wait outside?’
'I’m fine . ’
Masato shook his head .
Though he was afraid, he probably wanted to find Yumiko more . Haruka decided to continue talking . ’
'What sort of people were the victims?’
'A local officer of the village and the landowner’s son . Both of them were men . ’
'Why would that happen?’
'Though I investigated around…’
Yoshii smiled, like he’d been waiting, and put his cigarette out in the ashtray .
'What is it?’
'This is just a rumour, but at the time, people wondered if it was a curse . ’
'There’s no such thing as a curse . ’
Masato was the one who said that . He leant forward, looking at Yoshii challengingly .
The word <curse> has a special meaning to Masato . In an incident he was involved in before, the word <curse> had thrown Masato about, making him suffer .
'That’s right . There’s no such thing as a curse,’ said Haruka, agreeing with Masato .
For a moment, Yoshii leant back, seeming surprised, but then he fixed the collar of his jacket and continued .
'Well, putting aside whether there are curses or not – there’s a reason why there was a fuss about that . ’
'Do you know about Momijigari?’
'The legend of the witch?’
'Right . ’
Yoshii nodded, seeming satisfied .
Anybody from the region would know the Momijigari legend . It was known even in Noh theatre and performed every year .
'My dad used to be a reporter too and I heard from him, but forty-five years ago, there was some turmoil with the witch in Kinasa . ’
'Eh, but wasn’t that more than a thousand years ago…’
'Well, it’d be more correct to say it was similar . ’
'One day, a young man was brought into the clinic in Kinasa . He’d been healthy the day before, but after he died right after he was brought in .
Haruka nodded .
At this point, nothing connected the story to Momijigari .
'That clinic had been reputable before, but after that, it was said that this was the curse of the lady there . She was called a witch and people wanted to chase her out of the village . ’
'Then what happened?’
'I don’t know . ’
Haruka had thought Yoshii knew the circumstances from the way he was talking about it, so she felt let down .
'That clinic isn’t around anymore . ’
'Is that so?’
'The person who egged the villagers on to chase the witch out was the victim of this case . ’
Yoshii tapped the file on the table .
A jolt went through Haruka’s spine . The same thing seemed to happen to Masato . His eyes were wide open .
– That’s why it was called a curse .
If what Yoshii said was true, it wouldn’t be strange for there to be a rumour like that .
'If you want to find out about the case in more detail, I’ll introduce you to somebody who knows about it . ’
'I would appreciate it,’ said Haruka, leaning forward .
'Ahh . ’
After getting off the car, Gotou put his hands at his waist, looked up at the sky and stretched .
Normally, he just drove through shopping and residential districts . He wasn’t used to driving winding mountain roads . It was more exhausting than he’d thought it would be .
'It’s unbecoming, so please don’t make strange noises . ’
Yakumo got off the car with a yawn .
– This brat .
'You drive back then . You have a licence, right?’
'I refuse . ’
'I’ve decided not to drive ever since the incident with the tunnel . ’
– Ah, that .
Strangely, Gotou understood .
Ignoring Gotou, Yakumo headed towards the lone cedar tree, walking through the white skunk cabbage .
'Honestly . ’
Even as Gotou grumbled, he followed Yakumo’s back .
'Why’s such a huge cedar tree here anyway?’ asked Gotou, looking up at the cedar tree once more .
In a marshy area of white skunk cabbage, there was just one cedar tree and the rock at its roots . It was elegant but also unnatural .
'I talked about the story of Momijigari earlier,’ said Yakumo .
'Yeah . ’
'I said this was a shrine last night too . ’
'Right . ’
A shrine was like an altar . Where something was enshrined .
'This is probably where the head of the witch in the story about Momijigari was buried . ’
Though Gotou was surprised, at the same time, he understood . So that was why this was a shrine .
Gotou didn’t know whether the legend of Momijigari was true or not, but the people at the time might’ve put a large stone here and grew a cedar tree to keep her here .
There was no way for Gotou to know the truth now though .
'Gotou-san, if you have the time to space out, please help . ’
Yakumo had his hand at his waist and looked incredibly resentful .
'Help with what?’
'To move this . ’
Yakumo pointed at the statue by the rock .
Moving his body was Gotou’s strength . After taking off his jacket and placing it on the rock, he rolled up his sleeves and moved the stone statue as Yakumo directed .
It took some effort since it was heavier than expected, but Gotou managed somehow .
'Next, please dig here . ’
Yakumo pointed at the place where the statue had been .
'You’ll find out if you dig . ’
'You the Hanasaka Jiisan?’
'If you have the time to tell boring jokes, please just do it already . ’
'Right, right . ’
– As usual, the guy never stops talking .
While expressing his dissatisfaction in his heart, Gotou took a nearby tree branch and started digging .
Since the ground was wet, the earth was soft and easy to dig . Gotou wiped his sweat with his shirt and silently continued his work .
Suddenly, he noticed that he couldn’t see Yakumo anymore .
When Gotou stood up and looked around, he spotted Yakumo talking on his phone a little ways away .
Gotou thought about complaining, but he decided against it . It was probably news from Haruka .
After breathing out, Gotou started digging the earth again .
'Are you done?’
After a while, Yakumo came back .
'You help too . ’
'I don’t want to . My hands will get dirty . ’
– This brat!
Gotou swallowed his rising anger .
'How’s the situation with Haruka?’
'It seems there was a murder case twenty years ago . ’
'Then the person in that photo…’
'The truth isn’t as simple as you are, Gotou-san . ’
– This guy just keeps on going .
'What do you mean?’
'The people killed were a local officer and the landowner’s son . Both were men . ’
The person in the photo was a woman . It didn’t match up . Even though Gotou knew the situation now, Yakumo could have put it more nicely .
Gotou let out a breath and returned to digging the earth .
After digging about eighty centimetres, he hit something hard .
He put down the branch and brushed away the dirt to find something round and pale . Gotou realised what it was immediately .
There was no doubt about it . It was a skull .
'I dug up something unbelievable . ’
Gotou stood up and wiped the sweat off his forehead .
'Gotou-san, please hurry up and call the police . ’
A police officer too, Gotou was about to say, but he stopped .
This was Nagano prefecture . This wasn’t Gotou’s jurisdiction . He’d need to contact the local police .
– Honestly . What a pain .
Miyagawa led Ishii to the general hospital where Hata was .
After entering the room in the basement, Hata welcomed them with a creepy demonic giggle .
The room was desolate, with just a desk and cabinets lining the room .
Hata, the coroner, was a strange man whose interests lined up with his work .
Ishii even thought that Hata himself would be arrested if he took just one step out of line .
'So, Hata-san . Is what you said true?’
Miyagawa brought up the topic at hand .
'It’d be better to see for yourself . ’
Hata got up and left the room .
Miyagawa went right after him . Since Ishii didn’t understand the situation, he didn’t have any idea about what these two were doing .
Though he was confused, Ishii followed the two of them out of the room .
He thought that they would be going far, but it seemed he was wrong . Hata opened the door to the room beside his and went inside with Miyagawa .
Ishii entered the room as well . It was an autopsy room –
Ishii scrunched up his nose at the strange medical smell .
There was a stainless steel bed in the middle of the room with carts covered with various tools scattered around it .
The wall at the very back had doors that probably led to cold storage, and Hata opened one of them .
After putting on latex gloves, Hata took something out of the cold storage and casually placed it on top of the stainless steel bed .
Ishii leapt up with a scream .
Hata had placed a human head in a cylindrical container on top of the stainless steel bed –
'Don’t make a fuss . You’ve seen it before, right?’ rebuked Miyagawa . Hata was smiling like he thought the scene incredibly amusing .
This head was probably the one that was found last night at Kinoshita Surgery . Ishii had seen it before, but that didn’t mean he could be calm .
The head was suspended in liquid in the container . It was probably formalin .
Ishii swallowed his scream and looked away from the head .
If he looked at it any longer, it would appear in his dreams .
'Ishii-kun . Get the mask and goggles from that shelf for me,’ instructed Hata .
'Ah, yes . ’
Ishii did as he was told and took the mask and goggles from the shelf, handing them to Hata .
'There’s formalin in the container . You should wear these too,’ said Hata as he put his mask on .
Formalin was antiseptic . It was popular, used in school science classrooms to preserve frogs .
However, it was on the other hand highly toxic . It would burn the mucous membrane of the eyes and mouth .
Ishii and Miyagawa put on goggles and masks as told .
'Ishii-kun, press this a bit for me . ’
Hata waited for them to finish before tapping the container .
– I have to touch this container?
Ishii shivered just thinking about it .
'Hurry up and do it!’
'Ah, yes, er…’
'Just hold it for a bit . ’
'Just a bit . ’
Ishii was forced into pressing the container with both hands .
Hata used something like pliers to take out the metal stopper and remove the container’s lid .
That moment, an indescribably strong smell came through Ishii’s mask .
He coughed a number of times .
Hata coolly took the head out of the container .
He was already at his limit . Ishii leapt away from the bed .
'This head is a man’s . ’
Hata ignored Ishii and started speaking .
'I can tell from looking,’ Miyagawa replied disgruntledly .
'It’s been kept in formalin . The flesh is pretty swollen . It’ll take quite some time to determine the time of death . ’
'And?’ urged Miyagawa .
'And the problem is just as I said on the phone . The eyes of this head . ’
'Ishii, look . ’
It seemed like Miyagawa knew Ishii hadn’t been looking, because he grabbed Ishii’s neck .
'To hell with your buts!’
'Y-yes sir . ’
Ishii couldn’t do anything when faced with Miyagawa’s yell, so he looked at the head .
The colour of the skin looked strangely pale . The long black hair seemed alive . It looked like the head could start talking at any moment, which gave Ishii a shiver .
– It looks like somebody .
Ishii felt so uncomfortable he might throw up as he had that impression .
As Hata said that, he pointed at the head’s eyes and wrenched them open .
There was a splintering sound .
Ishii was already at his limit –
Under the slowly opened eyelids were two eyes that glowed red like a blazing flame .
Haruka and Masato rode the bumpy municipal bus .
Besides Haruka and Masato, the only rider was a middle-aged woman napping in the seat in the very front .
Yoshii introduced them to somebody named Ookura who worked at the Kinasa Museum near Arakurayama Shrine and was supposed to know details about the event .
Haruka was able to contact Ookura immediately by phone .
She thought that Ookura might keep a distance if she mentioned the murder case right away, so she asked to talk as somebody researching the history of Masato’s school .
If that’s the case – was the answer she received immediately . Haruka felt bad about tricking Ookura, but there was nothing she could have done .
'Hey, Masato-kun . ’
Haruka called out to Masato, who was looking down silently .
Instead of speaking, he lifted his head slightly .
His expression was as blank as if he were wearing a Noh mask . He had been like this the first time Haruka met him too .
– He’s holding everything in again .
'You can’t take on everything by yourself . We’ll definitely find her . ’
'I ran away…’
Masato bit his lower lip and sniffled .
'There was no helping it . I would’ve run away too . ’
'But I promised big brother Yakumo that I wouldn’t run away any more . But I still…’
– I see .
So Masato had made a promise to Yakumo during the last case, saying he wouldn’t run away any more . He was blaming himself for breaking that promise .
Masato might have run away when he met Yumiko on that night right, but he had done that to protect himself – he wasn’t running away from the problems in front of him .
'Aren’t you facing the problem properly now?’
'Yumiko-chan and Tomoya-kun were nice to me . ’
Masato began to speak in a hollow voice .
'Mmhm . ’
'When I transferred schools, Tomoya-kun was the first to talk to me . ’
'And he even suddenly asked whether I watched the anime that was on the night before . ’
When Haruka listened to Masato’s story, she found herself growing to like the boy called Tomoya even though she hadn’t met him yet .
He didn’t interrogate Masato when he transferred schools – instead, he connected to him like they had always been together .
'What did you reply?’
'I told him I watched it . Then Yumiko-chan started talking to me too, asking what character I liked…’
After saying that much, Masato’s voice caught .
Haruka felt like Masato was correct in moving after that incident .
He had made good friends . Without caring about why Masato had transferred there, his friends had connected to him innocently, just happy that their number of friends had increased .
They had probably healed his heart, which had been hurt by the incident, and found him a place here .
That was why he felt so much pain at not having been able to save that friend .
'If something happened to Yumiko-chan, I…’
Masato shut his eyes tightly, like he was trying to hold something in .
He would become like how he was before . Masato might have been thinking that .
In the past, Masato put a wall up around his heart and was unconcerned about others – a bit cold . He had his hands full with his own problems .
Now, he hurt himself when trying frantically to save his friends .
It was an incredible change that would have been unthinkable for the old Masato .
'You must like Yumiko-chan . ’
'That isn’t it . I like Tomoya-kun and Yumiko-chan . ’
Masato’s face went bright red .
He had a disadvantageous personality . He shut away his feelings like this . This part of him was like Yakumo .
'If Yumiko-chan is gone, Tomoya-kun will be sad too…’
Masato’s shoulders shook .
'It’s OK . We’ll definitely find her . ’
Haruka didn’t want to let such a good kid feel sad . No matter what happened, she would find Yumiko .
Haruka vowed that again in her heart .
She hugged Masato’s shoulders gently and felt Masato’s pulse come gently through her arms .
Gotou sat on the car’s bonnet as he looked up at the cedar tree .
Though the place had felt lonely earlier, it had completely changed .
There were two men that looked like detectives and about ten uniformed officers . There were four people from investigations too . There were even some onlookers peering in .
Since it turned out there was a whole torso buried there rather than just a skull, with the help of local construction workers, they had started to dig it up .
'It’s unlike you to think . ’
Yakumo walked towards him with a slightly scornful smile .
'Shut up . Anyway, you knew there was a body buried here, didn’t you?’
Gotou brought his face close to Yakumo’s .
Now that he thought about it, the meaningful words Yakumo had said yesterday were probably about the corpse . That was also he didn’t let Haruka and Masato come with them .
'It’s not like I had evidence . ’
'It’s the same thing, right?’
'It isn’t . More importantly, Gotou-san, I have something I would like to talk to you about…’
Yakumo lowered his voice .
He was probably going to say something no good . While suspicious, Gotou brought his ear closer .
'I want to know the situation about the investigation into the girl’s whereabouts . ’
'Couldn’t you sniff around somehow?’
Yakumo glanced at the officers by the cedar tree .
'Don’t ask the impossible . It’s out of my jurisdiction . ’
'Please work it out somehow . ’
Gotou saw two men who looked like detectives walking towards them .
One was wearing a tight suit that wasn’t the right size, a chubby man in his late twenties . The type who’d investigate with energy only .
He had his nose up and was snorting like a wild bull .
The other was a bald detective past his fifties . The corners of his eyes were lowered and he seemed gentle at first glance, but he had a sly air to him .
'Why were you digging there?’
The younger detective raised hell the moment he stopped in front of them, without checking their names or giving his own .
Crew cut, thick eyebrows . With dark skin, he looked like a member of a judo club .
He was obviously stubborn .
'Watch your tone . ’
Even though Gotou knew that rebutting would just be his loss, he had a tendency to become serious when interacting with this type of person .
'Aren’t you high and mighty!’
The agitated young detective grabbed Gotou by the collar . Gotou hadn’t thought he’d be so violent .
– What a star .
Gotou grabbed the young detective by the wrist and flung him away .
The young detective rolled to the side, falling face-up onto the ground .
Gotou wasn’t so old that he could be caught by some greenhorn .
The young detective stood up, bearing with the pain, and tried to approach Gotou again .
– Seems like the only thing good about him is his fighting spirit .
'Give it up already . ’
The one who spoke was the bald detective .
Even though he didn’t grab the young detective’s arm or yell, that one sentence was enough to make the young detective stop immediately .
'I’m sorry . The blood goes to his head quickly, you see . Please forgive him . ’
The bald detective bowed his head deeply, showing them his bare head .
'It’s fine . ’
'Our introductions are late . I’m Wakabayashi of the Nagano precinct, and this is Kurita . ’
The young detective named Kurita wiped off the dirty portions of his jacket and just bowed for form’s sake .
'I’m Gotou of the Setamachi precinct, from the Metropolitan Police . ’
When he showed his ID, Wakabayashi’s eyes narrowed and his expression suddenly hardened .
'So what’s a detective from the Metropolitan Police doing here?’
– Like I said .
His calm tone hit exactly where it hurt – that was a veteran for you . Gotou wanted to reply honestly, but he couldn’t say that they were searching for a ghost .
'I took some days of for a short vacation . ’
'A detective from the Metropolitan Police just happened to take a break, just happened to come to Kinasa, just happened to dig under a cedar tree and just happened to dig up a skeleton – that’s it, right?’
Wakabayashi smirked .
Gotou was even worse with this type .
'Everything just happened . ’
'Does this happen a lot in Tokyo?’
'Just happening to find corpses . ’
– I’m really no good with guys like this .
'Oi! What about it?’
Kurita lost his temper, breaking the silence .
It felt like no matter how neat the lie, Wakabayashi would see through it . Gotou looked to Yakumo for help .
'Do you believe in ghosts?’ said Yakumo, looking up at the sky .
Even Wakabayashi had to look blank at that .
Gotou was grateful for Yakumo’s help, but it felt like this would make things unnecessarily complicated .
'This brat! You making fun of us!?’
As expected, Kurita approached Yakumo, but Wakabayashi stopped him immediately .
'I do . There are ghosts . ’
The corners of Wakabayashi’s eyes were wrinkled as he looked at Yakumo with a friendly smile .
It felt like he was going along with the conversation for now because he didn’t understand his opponent’s move .
'I think that too . Ghosts exist . ’
After declaring that, Yakumo put a photo on the car’s bonnet .
It was the ghost photo Masato had brought them . Though it was an incredibly straight explanation of the situation, this might have been the best move .
'Yes . We were asked by the boy in this photo to see if the ghost photo was real . ’
'And then you found a corpse…’
Wakabayashi rubbed his chin as he spoke .
'That’s right . ’
Yakumo put the photo in his pocket .
'Is that boy somebody you know?’
'He’s a friend . ’
'I see . I understand the situation . But would a detective from Tokyo go all this way to investigate a ghost photo?’
Wakabayashi’s grizzled brows furrowed . It looked like he was still suspicious .
'This person is something like my manservant,’ said Yakumo nonchalantly .
– This guy . There’s something missing from what he says .
'When’d I become your manservant?’
'The day we met . ’
'What’d you say? I’ll kill you!’
'Wakabayashi-san, please arrest this man . He is about to commit a murder . ’
'Wakabayashi started laughing so loudly Gotou thought his jaw would come off .
'I see . It must be tough, being dragged around like this even on your days off . ’
After laughing, Wakabayashi said that an unguarded expression, completely different from before .
No matter how it happened, it looked like he wasn’t suspicious anymore .
However, Kurita didn’t look like he’d accepted them yet and was still looking at Gotou like an enemy .
That was probably because Gotou flung him to the ground .
'Could I ask one thing?’
Perhaps thinking of something, Yakumo called out to Wakabayashi who was about to walk away .
'What is that cottage?’
Yakumo pointed at the cottage right by them .
Gotou was curious too .
'Nobody’s there now,’ said Wakabayashi, his eyes distant .
'Why is that?’
When Yakumo asked that, his thin lips turned up in a smile .
The guy knew the answer already .
'It’s the secondary residence of the landowner here, but his successor died . That’s why it’s ended up like this . ’
'Could that have something to do with the murder case that happened here twenty years ago?’ asked Yakumo, playing dumb .
Wakabayashi looked at Yakumo, holding his tone .
– There’s something there .
'Also, one more thing . ’
Yakumo called out to Wakabayashi, who had tried to walk away again .
Wakabayashi turned around, sounding annoyed .
'I heard that the girl in the photo earlier has gone missing . ’
When Wakabayashi heard Yakumo’s sentence, his expression immediately stiffened .
There was a heavy, malicious air .
'What about it?’
'I was wondering if you would tell us a little about the case . ’
Wakabayashi closed his eyes and looked up at the sky for a while, acting like he was thinking . Then he turned towards Yakumo again .
'Is that related to the ghost?’
'I think so, yes . ’
'I’ll have some time at night . ’
After thinking for a while, Wakabayashi turned his back and said that .
'So it seems . ’
Yakumo looked at Gotou like what Wakabayashi said had nothing to do with him .
'What? I’m going?’
'I don’t know how to handle police . ”
'I’m a policeman too . ’
'Like I said, I dislike police . ’
– What a mouth . He just thinks it’d be a pain .
'Ah, also, I’d like information about the murder case that occurred twenty years ago too . ’
He’d like information too? Saying it was easy enough .
Gotou wanted to complain, but Yakumo wasn’t listening . He stretched his neck and peered into the cottage .
'What are you doing?’
Yakumo ignored Gotou and got into the car’s passenger seat .
Gotou let out a long sigh .
Ishii held his head while sitting on the bench in the hospital waiting room .
'Come on . ’
He looked up at the voice . Miyagawa came towards him and gave him coffee in a paper cup .
'Ah, I apologise for the trouble . ’
Ishii accepted the coffee and took a sip .
The hot coffee slowly went down his throat, going to his stomach . He felt a little bit better .
In the autopsy room earlier, Ishii had fainted from fear .
He would have been able to bear with it if it were just a head, but Hata had wrenched those closed eyes open . The ears peering out had been dyed a deep red .
When Ishii saw them, he lost consciousness from terror .
'Do you think it’s that man?’
Miyagawa sat next to Ishii .
Ishii had thought it . It was hard to tell from the face, but those red eyes were better proof than anything .
'I think so . ’
'I think so too, but I don’t understand . ’
'What don’t you understand?’
When Ishii asked that, Miyagawa finished drinking his coffee at once and crushed the paper cut in his hand as he opened his mouth .
'If that head’s the head of the man we know, who brought it to Kinoshita Surgery?’
Ishii’s head was full of what he’d seen so he hadn’t thought that far .
However, that was a problem now that Miyagawa mentioned it .
'Did it just happen to be kept there? Or did Nanase Miyuki bring it there?’
'Wouldn’t Nanase Miyuki have brought it there?’
Ishii didn’t have proof, but it was too much to be a coincidence .
'Where from? What for?’
Miyagawa’s eyes had a glint in them .
'I don’t know . ’
Ishii shook his head .
Nanase Miyuki was a fugitive . She should have wanted to make her load as light as possible . Carrying a human head would limit her movement .
'It’s just like the Abe Sada case…’
One side of Miyagawa’s lips turned up into a smirk .
The Abe Sada case – come to think of it Makoto and Miyagawa had both used Abe Sada as an example to describe Nanase Miyuki’s actions .
'Well, no point thinking about that now . ’
Miyagawa stretched and stood up . Ishii followed him in standing .
'I’ll . . ’
Go too – is what Ishii was about to say when Miyagawa interrupted .
'You get some rest . ’
'No, I’m fine . ’
'It’s only been a day . You’re more tired than you think you are . ’
Miyagawa seemed to think that Ishii had fainted from exhaustion earlier, but that wasn’t actually the case . He had just been frightened .
That said, Ishii couldn’t explain .
'Stop whinging and go rest . ’
Miyagawa hit Ishii’s left shoulder .
When Miyagawa touched his injury, Ishii let out an 'Ow’ and fell to his knees right there .
Miyagawa walked away while laughing . It looked like he’d hit his injury on purpose . He had probably meant it as encouragement, but Ishii wished he had been a bit gentler .
'Also, call me if you get a hold of Gotou . ’
Miyagawa said that as he left .
Haruka got off the bus together with Masato .
There was a large parking lot in front of the bus stop with a souvenir shop and a food court for tourists . Across the road was the Kinasa Museum they were looking for .
The Kinasa Museum had historical and cultural exhibits about Kinasa . That sad, it wasn’t that large, just a two-storey multipurpose hall .
They quickly crossed the road and went inside through the glass sliding doors .
They took their shoes off at the entrance and switched into slippers .
When Haruka went to the reception, an old person with dark hair streaked with grey in a red cardigan peered through a small window in an irritated manner .
'Hello . ’
The old man spoke in a casual tone .
Haruka remembered the voice . She had heard it when making an appointment over the phone earlier . This person was probably Ookura .
'Hello, my name is Ozawa . I called earlier . ’
'Ah, the call from earlier . Come in from there . ’
Haruka and Masato opened the door Ookura pointed at and went inside .
The room was six tatami in size with a desk and locker . There was a white table with four folding chairs . It felt like a reception area .
'Well, sit down . ’
Ookura gestured at the folding chairs .
'Thank you very much . ’
Haruka and Masato sat on the folding chairs .
'So you’re looking into Momijigari . ’
Ookura sat on the opposite chair and lined the table with long and thin pamphlets . All of them were pamphlets in colour for tourists .
It looked like Ookura had prepared for them after accepting their call .
'Actually, what we’re looking into is the incident with the witch which occurred forty-five years ago,’ said Haruka, interrupting Ookura .
That moment, a tremor went through Ookura’s body and his eyes went wide .
'Why do you want to know about that?’
Ookura’s words sounded accusatory .
Yakumo might have been able to get the information skilfully, but Haruka wasn’t as good with her words . She didn’t know if Ookura would believe her, but she explained everything that had happened so far – the spiritual phenomenon Masato had experienced, Yumiko’s disappearance afterwards .
Ookura had his eyes closed and arms crossed as Haruka explained .
Did he fall asleep – it made Haruka wonder .
'I heard about the girl who’s gone missing too . It’s terrible . But is that really related to what happened forty-five years ago?’ said Ookura, slowly scratching his chin .
Haruka couldn’t reply clearly to that question, but –
'I think it does . ’
'Please tell us,’ added Masato, bowing his head deeply .
'Can’t do anything then . ’ Ookura rubbed his head . 'I was born in Togakushi – the village over – so I can’t remember it clearly . ’ He started with that .
'It was about fifty years ago . A mother and child were found collapsed in the mountains in Kinasa . ’
Haruka repeated it unconsciously . That would be unthinkable now .
'That mother and child were brought to the Kinasa clinic . Luckily, they survived, but since they didn’t have anywhere to go, they started living at the clinic . ’
'Where were they from originally?’
If she knew the woman’s origins, it might become a clue, but Ookura just said with a wandering gaze, 'Hm, where was it?’
'What were their names?’
Masato was the one who asked .
'The doctor was, if I remember correctly… Doctor Kawakami . The woman was named Rin . ’
'Rin-san . ’
Haruka repeated the name after Ookura .
Ookura cleared his throat and started again .
'There were some people who harassed them for being outsiders, but after a while that stopped . Doctor KAwakami and Rin actually married . ’
A peaceful life in the place she ended up in –
Ookura’s eyes were distant . He looked out the window for a while before continuing .
'But there was an incident forty-five years ago – the year I graduated from middle school . ’
Haruka swallowed as she looked at Ookura .
'There was a landowner called Kitaoka who had that piece of land . His oldest son Hidetaka suddenly had a fit . He was brought to Doctor Kawakami’s, but he died within the day . ’
'Was he sick?’
'Who can say? I don’t know, but…’
Ookura stopped talking .
'There were a lot of rumours . That the doctor made a mistake, that he was poisoned – things like that . ’
Though Haruka was just imagining this herself, she felt like they sounded malicious .
'Why would people make rumours like that?’
'I wonder . I didn’t go myself, but while Kawakami had always been a good doctor, people stopped going there after that . ’
'Then, Hidetaka’s younger brother Takafumi and the local officer made a fuss, saying Rin’s curse was why Hidetaka died . ’
'That’s awful . ’
Even though he had died at the clinic, saying it was a curse was jumping to conclusions .
'Then the people of the village started agreeing and even wanted to chase Rin out . ’
That was strange, no matter how Haruka thought about it .
She didn’t know how the man died, but there was no way it was a curse .
'That’s bullying!’ shouted Haruka, unable to keep her anger in .
Ookura dropped his gaze to his feet and sighed .
'You might be right . Ever since there, the clinic had a bad name . People broke the windows, threw rocks – it was rather awful . ’
Why would adults do something so terrible?
How much was the woman named Rin hurt by that –
Thinking about it was enough to make it hard for Haruka to breathe . Her chest hurt .
'What happened afterwards?’
'Doctor Kawakami fell into the Susobana ravine and died .
What an unlucky woman .
She lost the person she was relying on in when she was suffering so much –
How would she feel if she lost the people important to her who supported her when she was suffering?
That thought suddenly passed Haruka’s mind .
She probably wouldn’t be able to bear it .
'After that day, Rin and her son suddenly disappeared from the clinic . ’
'They went missing?’
'They did . There was a rumour that on top of killing Hidetaka, Rin had even laid a hand on Doctor Kawakami and run away . ’
'There’s no way!’ Haruka objected, leaning forward .
She couldn’t forgive such an unjust accusation .
'I didn’t that myself . ’
Ookura looked taken aback .
'Sensei . ’
When Masato spoke to her, Haruka came to her senses .
Just as Ookura said, he wasn’t the one who had said those words . He was just saying that there was a rumour like that .
'I’m sorry . ’
Haruka bowed her head .
'Ah, no, it’s fine . ’
Ookura awkwardly scratched his head .
Haruka understood the gist of the story .
However, there was one point she just didn’t understand .
That was –
'Why did the villagers believe in something like a witch?’
'I didn’t see them myself so I can’t say, but…’
Haruka’s heart was beating loudly .
Masato swallowed as well with a hard expression .
After a pause, Ookura finally opened his mouth slowly .
'I heard that the mother’s and kid’s eyes were both deep red . ’
'Mm . And the kid’s forehead had a horn growing out of it,’ said Ookura, pointing at his own forehead as he did so .
Red eyes and a horn .
Wouldn’t that make the child a real demon –
'So where are you going?’
Once Gotou got into the driver’s seat, he asked Yakumo in the passenger seat that question .
Yakumo hadn’t explained anything, but if he’d stepped into the car, it probably meant he wanted to go somewhere .
'To the local real estate office for now . ’
Yakumo stretched .
He always did this, but his movements were incredibly catlike .
'Why the real estate office?’
'Aren’t you curious about that?’
Yakumo pointed at the cottage right in front of them .
With a characteristic sloped triangular roof, there was a wide terrace at the entrance with a log table and bench . There were thick cypress pillars and white walls – a building with a calm appearance .
Gotou had thought it was somebody’s vacation cottage, but he’d heard Wakabayashi’s explanation earlier .
'It’s the landowner’s, right?’
'In the past, it was . ’
'Nobody’s living there now . ’
'Is that really true?’
The corners of Yakumo’s lips turned up into a meaningful smile .
Gotou felt a chill down his spine .
'What do you mean?’
'If what Wakabayashi-san said earlier were true, that would mean it’s been abandoned for over twenty years . ’
'Right . ’
'Then it’s unnatural . ’
Yakumo put his left index finger to his brow .
'The entrance door is locked . ’
'You’d lock the door, wouldn’t you?’
It’s be more unnatural not to .
Yakumo’s triumphant smile didn’t waver even after Gotou replied .
'The shape of the lock is the problem . ’
'That lock is a dimple lock . ’
Dimple locks were used to prevent theft through picking locks and spread after being introduced in 2000 . If the building had been abandoned for more than twenty years, the years didn’t match . That was probably what Yakumo was trying to say .
'There’s a chance that somebody switched it recently . ’
'That would be possible if it were just the lock . ’
'Is there anything else?’
'The wall clock . ’
Gotou was even more confused by the sudden change in topic .
'There is a wall clock in that cottage . ’
– When did he check?
Gotou thought about asking, but he decided not to .
Yakumo had peered into the cottage through the window earlier . He’d probably checked then .
'So what’s the problem with the wall clock?’
'It’s working . ’
Yakumo moved his hand back and forth like a wall clock’s pendulum .
That would be unnatural . A wall clock couldn’t work for twenty years without winding the key or changing the battery . But –
'But even if that were the case, how is it related?’
'The scene of the crime twenty years ago that was discussed earlier was probably that cottage . ’
Gotou was so surprised he got up from his seat .
This was where the landowner’s son and the local officer were killed – and a skeleton had been found at the cedar tree right by it .
A village that had nothing to do with crime . It didn’t seem like just a coincidence . That was why they were going to sniff around at the real estate office .
– This is becoming even more of a pain .
Gotou mumbled in his heart as he started the car .
When Ishii entered the coffee shop, Makoto was already at a table .
'I apologise for the wait . ’
Ishii hurried over and bowed his head, but Makoto replied with a smile . 'I just got here as well . ’
Ishii sat down, still feeling guilty .
Then, a jolt of pain ran through his shoulder .
'Is your injury all right?’
Makoto seemed to have noticed Ishii’s expression because she spoke up immediately .
'Ah, yes, I’m fine . ’
'It really was quite an incident . ’
'It was . ’
Ishii smiled faintly .
'But it’s rare for you to invite me, Ishii-san,’ said Makoto happily after ordering drinks from the waiter .
It was true that it was rare for Ishii to invite somebody out, but Ishii really was troubled .
'Actually, there was something I wanted to ask your opinion on, Makoto-san . ’
'If I can be of help . ’
'It’s about Nanase Miyuki . ’
When Ishii said that name, Makoto’s expression stiffened immediately and the mood turned heavy .
Meanwhile, the waiter put coffee for two on the table and left .
Ishii put sugar and milk into his coffee, slowly took a sip and started talking .
'You know that I encountered Nanase Miyuki at Kinoshita Surgery yesterday, yes?’
'Yes . ’
'Something was found there . ’
'Yes . Er…’
Ishii hesitated to say it was a head .
'What was it?’
'A human head . ’
'A head that was cut off then?’
A wrinkle appeared between Makoto’s well-shaped eyebrows .
'Yes, furthermore, it might be the head of the man with two red eyes . ’
'It’s just like Abe Sada, isn’t it?’ said Makoto .
That was exactly the reason why Ishii had invited Makoto . She had said she was writing a report on Nanase Miyuki . Also, she had compared Nanase Miyuki’s actions to Abe Sada .
Ishii thought that Makoto might be able to draw close to Nanase Miyuki’s psychological state .
If he knew that, it would be helpful to finding out her location . That was what Ishii thought .
Makoto also seemed to understand Ishii’s goal, as she said, 'So that’s what it was . ’
'To get to the point, I want to know why Nanase Miyuki had the man with red eyes’…’
'Why she had his head?’
Makoto clearly spoke the words Ishii had hesitated to speak .
'Yes, that’s it . ’
'I still don’t completely understand Nanase Miyuki’s psychological state, but Abe Sada herself had explained the reason she walked around with the genitals of the lover she killed . ’
'What was it?’
Ishii gulped and leant forward .
'She didn’t want to let other people touch him… so she said . ’
'Didn’t want to let other people touch him…’
Ishii didn’t understand the line of thinking .
'I understand somewhat . ’
Makoto’s eyes narrowed as she propped up her chin with her hand and looked out the window .
Ishii was startled . It was partly because of the words, but it was more that he was fascinated by her profile, which looked entranced .
'W-what do you mean?’
'To put it simply, it’s the desire to monopolise . Women want to make the person they love their own . ’
'Make them their own…’
'Yes . Of course, walking with a part of the body like Abe Sada did is a bit much . But… I don’t know how to say it, but…’
Makoto looked straight at Ishii .
Ishii looked down at his coffee to avoid that pure gaze .
– I really don’t understand .
'Ishii-san,’ said Makoto after a silence .
'Yes . ’
'Ishii-san, are you chasing Nanase Miyuki?’
'I want to, but… to be honest, all I can do by myself is gather information like this . If Detective Gotou were here…’
He hadn’t planned on it, but he ended up saying something weak .
However, it was how he truly felt .
'Have you still not been able to contact Detective Gotou?’
'I haven’t . I keep calling him, but…’
Whether or not he knew the situation Ishii was in, Gotou wasn’t answering the phone .
'Then why not try calling Yakumo-kun?’
Ishii stood up without thinking at Makoto’s words .
Makoto had told him that Gotou was with Yakumo and Haruka in Nagano .
If they were together, he could just call Yakumo .
Ishii called Yakumo immediately . Yakumo answered at the first ring .
'H-hello . Er, this is Ishii Yuutarou speaking . ’
<What is it? It’s rare for you to call me, Ishii-san . >
Yakumo casually answered the phone .
'Actually, I wanted to contact Detective Gotou . I’ve been calling him since yesterday, but he wouldn’t answer…’
<He’s out right now . If you have a message, I’ll give it to him . >
'Actually, it’s a rather serious matter…’
ishii started with the patrol wagon accident and explained everything that happened in detail to Yakumo .
Yakumo spoke in a quiet tone after Ishii finished explaining .
It was a weak response, to the point that it was disappointing . He didn’t seem to care at all .
'I want to ask Detective Gotou to help with the search for Nanase Miyuki as quickly as possible… is what I was thinking . ’
<Gotou-san won’t be any help at all . >
Yakumo said that in a light tone .
<Also, even if you leave her alone, Nanase Miyuki will show herself . >
'Is that so?’
<I believe so . >
<I also have something I would like to ask of you, so I will call you later . >
Ishii called out to stop Yakumo, but he had already hung up .
'How was it?’
Makoto lifted her head, looking concerned .
'He said Nanase Miyuki would appear even if I didn’t look for her…’
'I think that too . ’
Unexpectedly Makoto agreed .
'Sorry to bother!’
Gotou went through the real estate office’s automatic doors .
There was a counter for clients which would be cramped for two and two desks behind it – a small office .
'What is it’
A man who looked about fifty spoke from the desk in the back .
He sounded rather annoyed even though he was talking to a customer, which made Gotou annoyed, but he sat down without saying that .
'There was a property I was interested in . ’
When Gotou said that, the man finally stood up and sat opposite the counter .
'Which property is it?’
The man took reading glasses out of his jacket pocket and put them on .
It was difficult to explain even if he asked which property . Gotou spotted a map by the counter, took it and spread it out .
After looking around the map for a while, he finally found the spot he wanted .
'Here . There’s something like a cottage here, right?’
The man put his face so close Gotou thought he would hit the map .
'Right . I heard nobody was living at this property now . I was looking for a vacation home around here and thought it’d be perfect . ’
Gotou couldn’t say he was a detective from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police in Nagano prefecture so he gave the lie he had prepared .
'Actually, this property’s being rented out . ’
'Yes . This property has a bit of history…’
'There was a murder there, right?’
When Gotou said that, the man lifted his head with his eyes wide behind his thick glasses .
'You knew about it?’
'It’s famous,’ Gotou replied matter-of-factly .
'I see… Actually, our owner bought the property at a low price from a distant relative of Kitaoka-san, the owner who was killed, who had been troubled over how to manage the property . ’
'Well, because of that, it’s always been empty, but about ten years ago, I think… we found a renter . ’
'Somebody rented it knowing the history?’
'I didn’t recommend it, but well…’
'Are they living there now?’
'About half a year ago, we stopped receiving rent and we lost contact as well . We were thinking of ending the contract soon . ’
As the man said that, he smiled .
Gotou understood now why the man had talked so freely about the situation . If the contract was going to be ended, he wanted to have Gotou as a customer .
'What sort of guy lived there?’
'I didn’t seem him myself, but according to the owner, it was a rather dashing man and his daughter…’
There was no way to find out the identities from that .
Gotou thought about asking to see the contract, but that would be too much . Since he’d come as a customer, he wouldn’t be able to see the contract, which was confidential .
'Got it . I’ll come again . ’
Gotou flatly refused the man who asked for his contact information and left the real estate office .
When he returned to the car parked outside, Yakumo was talking to somebody on his mobile .
'Is it Haruka-chan?’ asked Gotou after Yakumo finished .
He hadn’t heard the speaker’s voice, but he could tell it was serious news .
'It was Ishii-san,’ replied Yakumo with a yawn .
Ishii wasn’t good with dealing with Yakumo . For Ishii to call Yakumo went past rare to extraordinary .
'What’d he want?’
'The patrol wagon Nanase Miyuki was on was in an accident . ’
Gotou had a bad feeling .
'The police are under a gag rule, but Nanase Miyuki appears to have escaped . ’
'Please don’t speak so loudly by my ear . ’
Yakumo’s face scrunched up as he stuck his fingers into his ears .
This was no time to be calm . Nanase Miyuki had escaped – it was terrible .
'Why didn’t Ishii contact me about something so important?’
'Isn’t it because you didn’t answer your phone, Gotou-san?’
That was right . Ishii had called over and over again . But Gotou hadn’t answered since he figured it wasn’t important .
However, now that he knew, he couldn’t stay silent .
'Oi . Yakumo . We’re going back . ’
'Why?’ Yakumo responded nonchalantly .
'What do you mean why? Obviously we’re going to go back to catch Nanase Miyuki . ’
'What do you plan on doing about Yumiko-chan?’
'That’s – ’
'Will you abandon her?’ Yakumo said sharply .
'Of course I can’t . ’
It hurt, but it was just as Yakumo said . Gotou wasn’t so coldblooded that he could leave now . Yumiko had gone missing, but more importantly, Masato was looking for her so desperately .
'Ishii-san will continue the search . Let’s believe in him . ’
– Believe in Ishii?
Gotou had always thought it curious . Yakumo had an incredibly high opinion of Ishii . Miyagawa did too . Gotou just thought of him as useless .
Gotou wanted to ask why, but Yakumo would just say something like 'He’s better than you, Gotou-san’ .
'So what are we going to do next?’
'It seems there is a place with an old clinic in Kinasa . Let’s go there . ’
Yakumo spoke disinterestedly, but Gotou didn’t understand .
'Why a clinic?’
'According to her information, there was some fuss with a witch forty-five years ago that started at that clinic . ’
It appeared that Haruka had also contacted Yakumo while he was waiting in the care .
'So what’s this fuss about a witch about?’
'I’ll tell you when you’re older . ’
Yakumo smirked .
'You making fun of me?’
'No I’m not . I’m mocking you . ’
'Honestly . ’
– What a hateful brat .
It was irritating, but in a situation like this, all Gotou could do was obey Yakumo . Gotou started the car .
After leaving the Kinasa Museum, Haruka visited Yumiko’s house with Masato as her guide .
Her goal was to investigate how Yumiko had been before going missing .
They got off at the Asakawa bus stop, went straight and turned into the street by the convenience store . It became a footpath surrounded by rice paddies . Haruka saw a splendid house with a tiled roof ahead .
'This is where I met Yumiko-chan . ’
Masato stopped about halfway down the footpath .
His back looked incredibly fragile . He probably wanted to turn time back, but that was impossible, no matter how hard he tried .
Nothing would start if they just regretted things that were past, so for now –
'Let’s go . ’
Haruka pushed Masato’s back forward .
Masato nodded and slowly but steadily started walking .
Yumiko’s house had a large, well-kept garden with big pine trees .
When Haruka pressed the intercom at the entrance, she heard a hoarse voice: 'Who is it?’
'It’s Oomori Masato . ’
Masato answered while Haruka was thinking up a reply .
'Oomori-san’s… Please come in . ’
A response came back immediately .
Haruka opened the sliding door and went inside with Masato .
An old woman about seventy years old welcomed them . It looked like she had bad legs as she was dragging her right foot slightly . She was probably Yumiko’s grandmother .
'Hello . ’
'Hello . Who is your acquaintance?’
'This is my teacher . ’
Masato bowed politely .
'Nobody is here because they are looking for my grandchild, but please . ’
Haruka did as Yumiko’s grandmother insisted .
Perhaps they had just switched them, because the tatami were green in the six-tatami parlour they were led to .
'Please don’t fuss over us . ’
Though Haruka said that, Yumiko’s grandmother diligently brought out tea and sweets regardless .
'I sincerely apologise for visiting at such a busy time . ’
Haruka apologised while waiting for Yumiko’s grandmother to sit .
'To be honest, I want to search with everyone as well, but my legs are bad . ’
As she said that, she looked out at the veranda with slightly tearful eyes .
'Actually, I wanted to ask something about Yumiko-chan…’
'About my granddaughter?’
'We are also searching for Yumiko-chan . ’
'Really? Thank you . ’
'We heard a rumour that Yumiko-chan was spirited away . ’
Even though Haruka’s question was so sudden, Yumiko’s grandmother did not like suspicious . She just nodded and started speaking .
'She had a fever right after returning from her field trip . ’
'Did she go to the doctor?’
'Said it was a cold, but she had terrible nightmares . I knew immediately that there was someone inside Yumiko…’
'Someone inside her?’
'A demon . ’
Yumiko’s grandmother’s gaze was like a glare .
Haruka had no way of knowing what emotions were in that gaze .
'A demon came for her . ’
Yumiko’s grandmother rubbed her wrinkled hands together as if praying while saying that .
'Have you told anybody?’
'I have . To my son and his wife, but they probably just thought it was an old woman’s joke…’
Her fingers were restless on top of her knees .
'They didn’t believe you?’
'Everyone was so frantic right after Yumiko disappeared . I should have said it more clearly . ’
When she said that, Yumiko’s grandmother suddenly looked a size smaller .
'I didn’t say it clearly then either . ’
Masato looked right at Yumiko’s grandmother’s face .
'Did you see a demon?’
Yumiko’s grandmother peered at Masato .
'I don’t know if it was a demon, but during the field trip, I saw somebody standing nearby . But… If I had said it properly then…’
'No, no, I’m the one at fault . ’
Yumiko’s grandmother shook her head with slumped shoulders . Masato dropped his head as well like he had lost his will .
Haruka understood how they felt, but nothing would be solved if they just sat here depressed like this .
'Excuse me, but you mentioned that Yumiko-chan had nightmares . What were they?’
Haruka asked a question to clear the heavy atmosphere .
'Where? Where? That was what she said . ’
Yumiko’s grandmother put both her hands in front of her and moved them about .
'Was she looking for something?’
'It felt like she was searching for an enemy to clear away a grudge of many years . ’
To clear away a grudge –
Did that mean the spirit had a strong and violent hatred that didn’t disappear even after death?
Masato suddenly lifted his head .
'What is it?’
'I heard that too . She said something like “Whaaar”… I didn’t understand then, but it must have been “Where” . ’
Masato leant forward as he said that .
'A demon . It’s the work of a demon – ’
As Yumiko’s grandmother murmured that, her eyes looked distant .
'Is this really the right road?’
Gotou asked Yakumo in the passenger that question as he drove .
'It should be,’ replied Yakumo while looking at the map .
A clinic that stopped business forty-five years ago . It wasn’t on the map, so they headed for Kinasa with no directions and walked around, asking the people they met about the clinic .
However, since it was so long ago, virtually none of the people remembered it . After wandering for about thirty minutes, they finally found somebody who knew it . An old farmer with bad ears . They asked the same question multiple times before the farmer finally marked the location for them on the map .
That made Yakumo’s map incredibly suspicious .
'We should arrive if we head along this road,’ replied Yakumo with a yawn .
– Along the road, eh?
Gotou headed along the road for a while, but finally the road was so narrow a car couldn’t pass .
Gotou stopped the car .
'Let’s walk the rest of the way . ’
Yakumo folded the map and put it in his pocket . Then, he got off the car and briskly started walking .
– Honestly . He just does whatever he wants .
Even though Gotou grumbled within his heart, he got off the car and followed Yakumo .
For a while, the road was flat, but it suddenly became a sharp slope . It wasn’t even paved . The ground was wet so it was easy to slip in leather shoes .
Grass and tree branches filled the road . Gotou didn’t really think a clinic would be up ahead .
'Is this really the right place?’ Gotou asked Yakumo as he wiped the sweat from his head .
'Probably . ’
'What an unreliable guy . ’
'I don’t want to hear that from you, Gotou-san . ’
'Quit whining . ’
On such a steep slope, even talking was difficult .
'Gotou-san, it seems like your friend is here . ’
Yakumo suddenly stopped .
– A friend?
'What are you talking about . ’
'That . ’
Yakumo was pointing at a sign .
<Beware of Bears!>
Even though Gotou yelled, Yakumo continued walking without a care .
– How does he have the energy to make fun of people?
Gotou sighed and started walking again .
After about five minutes, Yakumo stopped again .
'It’s here . ’
Gotou didn’t believe it, but there really was an old building a little ahead on the road .
He walked forward together with Yakumo .
The branches and leaves of the many trees covered the sky, making the area dim . There was also a mist as thick as smoke .
df – It’s creepy .
'It seems we’ve arrived . ’
Yakumo breathed out in front of the building .
Since it was a clinic, Gotou had imagined something made of concrete, but in front of him there was a wooden house with a flat roof that was slightly tilted .
It felt more like house from the Edo period than a clinic .
'Is this really the place?’
When Gotou spoke his suspicions, Yakumo wiped the wooden sign by the entrance . Though it was covered with dirt and dust, Gotou could read the words Kinasa Clinic off of it .
Yakumo stood in front of the entrance and slid open the doors with the frosted glass –
Even though there was no wind, Gotou felt like something passed by him .
Though he thought it creepy, he peered in from behind Yakumo .
In the small entrance area, there was a tall shoe shelf with a waiting area about eight tatami in size .
'Gotou-san, please be careful . ’
Yakumo turned around to say that and then slowly stepped in .
The floor was covered in dirt and dead leaves .
There was a half open wooden door ahead which was creaking as it shook .
Past that door –
Gotou felt a chill run done his spine .
– I can’t go past that door .
It wasn’t like there was anything . His instincts told him that .
'Someone is here . ’
Yakumo’s red left eye was forceful .
Gotou couldn’t see anything, but Yakumo’s red left eye could see something in the back of the clinic .
Yakumo didn’t answer Gotou’s question . He opened the half-open door and stepped inside .
Gotou peered into the back of the room from behind Yakumo’s back .
There was just a bedframe with a desk and bookshelf covered in dust and cobwebs .
This was probably the examination room .
Gotou could tell Yakumo was uneasy from his tense back .
'Who are you?’
From the centre of the room, Yakumo asked that question towards the empty room .
Gotou felt all the hair on his body stand on end . Though he couldn’t see anything, Gotou could feel it as well .
– Somebody’s here .
'I see… You’re looking as well…’ murmured Yakumo .
He wasn’t speaking to Gotou . He was probably speaking to the other person in the room .
Yakumo murmured again .
He appeared to be conversing with whoever was here .
'Is somebody here?’
'It’s the person who used to be the doctor at this clinic,’ said Yakumo . Then, he walked further into the room and stopped in front of the shelf .
'Gotou-san, it’s your turn . ’
Yakumo stuck out his chin, signalling for Gotou to come over .
Though the world was wide, Yakumo was probably the only university student who would use his chin to signal for a police officer .
'We are going to move this bookshelf . ’
'Guess I have to . ’
Gotou rolled up his sleeves and dragged the dusty bookshelf aside with Yakumo’s help .
He thought that something might come out, but he was wrong . There was just the mouldy floor .
Yakumo went onto his knees and wiped away the dirt on the floor as he started to search for something .
'Oi . What are you doing?’
Though Gotou spoke up, Yakumo ignored him, as was his speciality .
Finally, Yakumo found a gap between the boards, stuck his fingers in and pulled the board out .
He continued to take off three of them and stuck his hands into the hole in the floor .
After groping about for a while, he finally pulled out an old box .
He placed it on the floor . He blew on it, making the dust fly off .
The dust danced in the air like smoke .
It was a square metal box with sides about thirty centimetres in length . It looked fairly old and was completely rusted over .
'I will investigate that now,’ Yakumo said in a voice full of irritation . Then, he took the lid off the box . Inside there were many dusty notebooks and documents with an old photo on top .
'Found it . ’
Yakumo murmured that as he took the photo into his hand –
 For the curious, HERE is an English recipe with pictures to make sobagaki .
 The yukata that would have been laid out wouldn’t be a fancy summer one but just something that Japanese inns and hotels often have for their guests . It would just have a plain pattern like THIS ONE .
 Momiji (紅葉) is both the name of of Japanese maple and for autumn colours . Momijigari hunting or momijigari (紅葉狩り), besides being the name of the legend, also means viewing autumn colours, which explains Gotou’s confusion .
 Mount Hiei is a mountain northeast of Kyoto famous for the temple of Enryakuji . Incidentally the legend Yakumo telling is a real folktale from Nagano . I couldn’t find anything about it in English but if you’re curious you can look up 紅葉伝説 and Google translate it .
 A fairy tale about a couple who had a dog they really loved . When the husband sprinkled the dog’s ashes on cherry trees, they bloomed . Please read in more detail onWIKIPEDIA .