Volume 7 Chapter 3
VOLUME 7 – THE LOCATION OF THE SPIRIT
file 03: release (TRANSLATION NOTES)
‘Masato-kun, don’t be selfish . ’
Haruka pulled at Masato’s arm as she pleaded .
However, he didn’t reply . He just looked at his feet without moving .
After leaving Yumiko’s house, Haruka was going to take Masato home, but once they reached the convenience store, he started being stubborn, saying, 'I won’t go back . ’
It wasn’t like Haruka didn’t understand how Masato felt . He wanted to find Yumiko no matter what . But the sun had already set and the surroundings were becoming dark . Since they had been late the day before as well, Haruka couldn’t bring him around any longer .
Yumiko, a child the same age as him, had gone missing . His uncle and aunt must have been worried .
'I won’t go back . ’
Masato’s tone was forceful .
He wouldn’t budge an inch until he found Yumiko . That strong will came through clearly .
'Your uncle will worry, right?’
'I don’t want to go back . ’
'Masato-kun . ’
'I’m going to look for Yumiko-chan until I find her . ’
It looked like Masato felt that was his duty .
Haruka looked at Masato’s face and placed a hand on his shoulder .
'I can’t do anything, in the end . ’
Masato bit his lip .
'That’s not true . ’
'It is . I still haven’t found Yumiko-chan . ’
He really did believe everything was his fault . It hurt to watch him .
'Please believe in us . ’
'I don’t want to!’
Haruka had said that to console him, but Masato interrupted her with a shout .
'Masato-kun . ’
'Sensei, you always save me – I can’t do anything . Even though I should be the one to search, this is just the same as last time . ’
Masato’s face was red as his eyes welled up with tears .
Haruka was trying to determine what to do when Yakumo called .
'Hello . ’
<Did something happen?>
Yakumo said that as if he had seen right through Haruka’s troubles .
Even though he acted like he didn’t have any interest in others, the truth was that he paid more attention than anybody else .
'Masato-kun doesn’t want to go home . ’
<Doesn’t want to go home?>
'He says he’s going to search for Yumiko-chan . ’
<So you don’t know what to do . >
'Yeah . ’
Haruka felt like Yakumo was smiling on the other side of the phone .
<Hand the phone to Masato . I’ve got a request . >
<Just hand it over . >
Haruka did as Yakumo told her to, giving the mobile to Masato and telling him that 'Yakumo-kun has a request’ .
Masato answered the phone, sounding confused .
Haruka didn’t know what they were saying, but she could see Masato’s dispirited expression becoming energised before her eyes .
'Got it . I’ll go back and look into it . ’
After saying that, Masato returned the phone to Haruka .
Yakumo had changed Masato’s mind in such a short time – it was just like magic .
'Hey, what did you say to Masato-kun?’ asked Haruka quietly, turning her back to Masato and stepping a little ways away .
<I asked him to look into something for me . >
'Look into something?’
<Yeah . I asked him to talk to family and firefighters to find out where they’ve searched for Yumiko-chan . >
Could it be –
'An excuse to make Masato-kun go home?’
<I’m not you – I wouldn’t lie like that . >
'But . ’
<I have an idea, though vague, about where she is . >
Her voice jumped an octave in her surprise .
<At this stage it is just a theory, but if that location has already been searched, that would mean my theory is wrong . >
'I see . ’
<Well, I can’t deny that it was also an excuse to make him go home . >
If it was just asking about the search, it didn’t have to be Masato . That was probably the main intention .
<You’d be wrong if you think Masato’s just a kid . He has his own firm will . >
The way Yakumo said it was like he was talking to himself .
Yakumo could be right . Masato had his own firm will . He would hate being treated as a child most .
'Then what are you going to do?’
<Gotou-san is taking me back . >
'Then I’ll drop Masato-kun off and come back too . ’
After saying that, Haruka hung up .
Yakumo said that he had an idea about where Yumiko was . Perhaps they would find her soon .
Haruka’s chest was filled with that hope .
After exiting the clinic, Gotou drove Yakumo to Haruka’s home and then drove to the town area where the Nagano precinct was .
He was going to get information from Wakabayashi .
Yakumo had given him the request easily, but it would be rather difficult getting information from a precinct in a different jurisdiction .
Gotou parked in the Nagano precinct parking lot with heavy feelings .
The three-storey building with a flat roof seemed incredibly large . Gotou hit his cheeks to clear his mind and went through the front entrance .
He passed through the waiting area lined with sofas, put his elbows on the reception counter and called out to a uniformed officer nearby .
'Sorry, but could you call the officer named Wakabayashi-san for me?’
'What is your business with him?’
The officer looked incredibly annoyed .
'Gotou from the Metropolitan Police came – he’ll understand if you tell him that . ’
When Gotou said that with a hand wave, the officer cocked his head but still picked up the internal phone . After a short exchange, he said, 'Please wait there . ’
Gotou sat on the bench by the wall and absentmindedly watched the traffic safety video playing in the lobby .
'You really came?’
After about five minutes, Wakabayashi showed up with an exasperated smile .
When Gotou nodded back, Wakabayashi gestured with his chin to suggest they go out .
Little gestures like this reminded Gotou somewhat of Miyagawa . He was probably angry since he’d been gone for two days without leave – Gotou started worrying about that a little bit too late .
'Do you have a car?’ asked Wakabayashi after they exited the front entrance .
'Yes, I do . ’
'Then shall we go around the block?’ said Wakabayashi .
Gotou was grateful for the suggestion . Inside the car, he wouldn’t have to worry about anybody listening in and they would be able to talk in depth .
'It’s this one . ’
Gotou walked with Wakabayashi towards the parking space where he’d parked his car .
'I’m sorry about how Kurita acted earlier . ’
Wakabayashi bowed his head as he walked .
This man was a much greater man than he’d imagined if he could offer an honest apology like this to a detective outside his jurisdiction .
'Ah, that? I did something unnecessary too . ’
'That’s true . ’
Wakabayashi laughed heartily with shaking shoulders .
He didn’t seem like a bad guy .
Gotou sat in the driver’s seat and Wakabayashi sat in the passenger’s .
'Do you mind if I smoke?’
Wakabayashi took a case of Short Hope cigarettes from his pocket .
That was some refined taste .
'Go ahead . ’
'How about you?’
With a cigarette in his mouth, Wakabayashi held the case out towards Gotou .
Gotou wanted to smoke, but he had promised Yakumo that he would stop smoking when he took in Nao .
'I stopped . ’
'Worried about your health?’
'No, it’s for my daughter . ’
Even though he was the one who said it, he couldn’t help but feel embarrassed .
'You have a daughter?’
'You don’t look married . ’
Gotou didn’t ask why .
People often thought Gotou was still a bachelor . He didn’t understand the reason well himself, but it seemed like he didn’t smell like family .
'I’m often told that,’ replied Gotou .
Wakabayashi smiled as he lit his cigarette .
The nostalgic smell of tobacco made him feel itchy, but Gotou started the car .
'Do you know who the body is?’
After driving for a while, Gotou spoke to Wakabayashi again .
'I can’t tell you… is what I want to say, but it’s going to be in the newspapers tomorrow anyway . We don’t know who it is right now . Waiting on blood type too . All we know is it’s a woman . ’
'Is that all…’
Gotou felt disappointed about the lack of information, but it had just been a short time . The corpse was a skeleton – it wouldn’t be easy to discern anything .
'And we don’t have certain investigation results yet, but that corpse is at least thirty years old . ’
'It must have been buried for a while . ’
'Not definitely . ’
'It could have been buried there recently . ’
'AH . ’
Gotou certainly couldn’t deny that possibility .
'Are you really a detective?’
'Thinking isn’t my strong point . ’
'Seems like it . ’
Wakabayashi snorted .
Thinking about it, it was an awful thing for Wakabayashi to say, but mysteriously, Gotou didn’t get angry . Perhaps because of Wakabayashi’s atmosphere .
He turned left at the intersection and left the town area . ’
'Do you know how she died?’
'There was a sign of a depression of the skull . Probably hit with something blunt in the head . ’
'Rather awful . ’
'Really . Ganging up to beat a frail woman to death isn’t something a person should do . ’
Wakabayashi said that with anger .
It really wasn’t something a person should do – Gotou looked out the window grimly . Though it wasn’t as if there were no lights, there weren’t many .
'So how’s the case with the missing girl going?’
Gotou asked another question after a pause .
'That’s tough too… No leads at all . ’
Wakabayashi blew out smoke and scratched the back of his neck .
Gotou could feel his irritation at the investigation that wasn’t going the way he thought it would .
'Has it been two days since she’s gone missing?’
'We’ve focussed on searching around her house, but we can’t even find any evidence . ’
'Do you not know the reason either?’
'We don’t . She’s too young for a disappearance . It would be easy to think somebody kidnapped her, but there was no ransom…’
So we have no place to start searching – was probably how Wakabayashi felt .
'Do you think she was spirited away?’ said Wakabayashi while pressing the cigarette into the ashtray .
'Like when tengu or demons take children away . ’
Come to think of it, Yakumo had said that .
'Putting aside whether she was spirited away or not, we think that she disappeared because of a ghost . ’
That wasn’t what Gotou thought . It was a second-hand opinion from Yakumo . Normally, Gotou would think he would be laughed at, but for some reason he felt like Wakabayashi might believe him .
'Yes . That girl is possessed by a ghost . That ghost is leading her to wander while ignoring what she wants to do . ’
Wakabayashi didn’t agree or deny what Gotou said . He just looked out the window silently .
The silence continued .
Finally, Wakabayashi spoke, like he was holding something back .
'Actually, the girl that disappeared is my relative’s kid . ’
Everything added up with that one sentence .
Wakabayashi was listening to crazy stories about ghosts seriously and cooperating with Gotou from outside his jurisdiction because he was in a situation where he had to take any port in a storm .
Wakabayashi suddenly seemed much older .
'Is that so…’
'You two think that the kid’s disappearance and the discovery of the corpse are related somehow, right?’
'Though it’s just our instinct . ’
'Tell me what you’re thinking . ’
Wakabayashi crossed his arms .
It made Gotou feel somewhat nervous .
'The ghost that’s possessing the girl is probably the corpse found under the tree . ’
'I see . ’
'Who is that? Why is she possessing the girl? If we understand the reason, we can find the girl . That’s what we think . ’
Though Gotou declared these things, this was all knowledge from Yakumo .
Wakabayashi’s eyes looked distant .
'Why did this happen?’
The flickering streetlights illuminated Wakabayashi’s face .
His eyes looked like they could be smiling or laughing .
For a while, neither of them spoke . The sound of the engine sounded excessively loud .
'This is the curse of the witch,’ said Wakabayashi quietly with his eyes closed .
Gotou didn’t understand what his words meant –
– I wonder what sort of woman Rin was .
On the bus ride back, Haruka thought about the woman whom she knew only the name of .
Curse? That was ridiculous . She was suspected and oppressed . She lost the person who supported her . How did she feel?
Was she angry at the people who cornered her? Or –
Haruka’s chest prickled with pain as she imagined it .
When she returned home, she headed for the room Yakumo and Gotou were staying in .
'Yakumo-kun . ’
When she opened the sliding door, Yakumo had his chin in his hand as he read something that looked difficult .
He didn’t lift his head .
'What are you reading?’
She peered in from beside Yakumo .
It was a notebook covered in dust and brown from age . There was a pile of similar notebooks on the table .
Words were written closely together on it, but at points, some of them were blurred .
'I found this at the Kinasa Clinic . ’
Yakumo finally lifted his head .
He had an unusually grim expression .
'The clinic – as in the place where the mess with the witch began?’
'Yeah . I found something interesting . ’
Yakumo fished through the box on the table and pulled out a photo .
It looked like it was taken at a high elevation, with the Togakushi mountain ridge in the background . In the foreground stood a middle-aged man in a doctor’s gown and a long-haired woman who was looking slightly downwards .
It was black-and-white with the colours warped at places, so it was hard to determine anything clearly . But –
'Could this woman be…’
'Correct . She’s Rin-san,’ said Yakumo .
Haruka took the photo in her hand and looked at it again .
She really couldn’t see the face clearly, but from her appearance, she didn’t look like a witch at all . She looked as dignified as her name would suggest .
'The person beside her is the clinic doctor . His name is Kawakami Harunobu…’
Kawakami was smiling in the photo .
'Were they married?’
'I don’t know . But…’
'No, never mind . ’
Yakumo smiled self-derisively and took back the words he had started to say .
When he responded like that, Haruka became even more interested . She thought about asking again, but Yakumo spoke up before then .
'How did your side of things go?’
Yakumo ran a hand through his hair .
'Ah, well . A lot of things are still vague, but…’
She’d only given a summary on the phone . Haruka started from the beginning and reported the details of the information she had gathered to Yakumo .
Yakumo looked disinterested with his chin in his hand, but when she mentioned that Rin’s son had red eyes and a horn on his head, his expression changed completely .
'Is that true?’
'I don’t know . There was a rumour like that…’
'I see . ’
Yakumo said that quietly and crossed his arms .
'Oh, also . ’
Haruka gave the file she had received from Yoshii to Yakumo . It was a file of copies of articles about the murder case that had occurred at the cottage more than twenty years ago .
Yakumo looked through it with a difficult expression .
Finally, he murmured, 'I see,’ and shut the file loudly .
'Did you figure something out?’
'I have no positive proof, but I see the outline of the case . ’
'Hey, what do you mean?’
'There’s something I need to confirm,’ Yakumo said, evading Haruka’s question and taking out his mobile .
Ishii received a call from Yakumo in the evening .
– There’s something I want you to look into .
After receiving Yakumo’s instructions, Ishii went to the hospital immediately .
He was there to meet the coroner, Hata .
He went through the entrance, took the stairs to the basement by the elevator and advanced through the dim and damp corridor to push open the door to the autopsy room .
'Who is it?’
A creepy grin appeared on Hata’s wrinkled face .
Because they were in the autopsy room, it doubled how terrifying his face usually looked .
'E-excuse me… It’s Ishii Yuutarou . ’
'Oh, it’s you, Ishii-kun? Haven’t found Gotou yet?’
'No, I know where he is, but… More importantly, there is something I would like you to confirm…’
Ishii wiped the sweat from his forehead .
'Confirm? Keep it short . I’ve got to play with that soon . ’
Hata pointed at the stainless steel bed in the middle of the room .
The head was on top of it .
Its skin was swollen so Ishii couldn’t tell how old it was or what its face used to look like . Only those open eyes kept looking at Ishii blankly .
And those eyes were dyed deep red –
'Actually, that is what I would like you to confirm . ’
Even while Ishii prepared to run away, he looked at the head .
'Oh? What do you want to know about this guy?’
Hata stooped over and looked at the head, smiling happily .
He really was appropriate for his job as a coroner . Ishii felt like he would faint at any moment .
'Ah, er . Actually, Yakumo-shi had a request…’
Ishii cleared his head and continued speaking .
'Yes . ’
'What is it?’
'Ah, yes . About that… He wanted to confirm whether there were any injuries on that head . ’
'Injuries… That man died from a head injury… Is that what Yakumo-kun thinks?’
'I don’t know…’
Ishii wasn’t certain .
That was all he had heard from Yakumo on the phone . Ishii didn’t have any idea why he wanted to confirm that .
'Well, fine . I planned on looking into that even without being told . ’
'Is that so? Then please contact me once you have the results . ’
Ishii wanted to leave this place as soon as he could .
'Ishii-kun . ’
'Could you help me a bit?’ said Hata, rubbing his hands together .
'It won’t take any time at all . ’
Even though Ishii didn’t recall agreeing, Hata took latex gloves out of his doctor’s gown and threw them at Ishii .
'Er, I have an urgent…’
'Could you hold this for a second?’ said Hata, ignoring Ishii .
– Hold this?
'Hurry it up!’
'Ah, yes, er…’
'You just have to hold it . ’
Hata’s eyes goggled at him like a fish’s . A shiver ran down Ishii’s spine .
It was the first time Ishii had seen Hata look like that . If Ishii refused, he might be eaten from the head down . Ishii reluctantly put on the latex gloves he was given .
'J-just for a bit . ’
'You just have to press down the head . ’
When Ishii approached, the smell of formalin prickled at his nose .
Ishii held down the head with shaking hands .
The skin was swollen so it was squishier than he imagined .
– I really can’t do this .
Ishii jumped back, pushing forward with both hands .
Then, the head fell of the stainless steel bed and rolled to Ishii’s feet .
The deep red eyes stared at Ishii .
He was already at his limit . As Ishii shrieked, he fainted .
'I’m back . ’
When Gotou opened the sliding door, Yakumo and Haruka were sitting opposite each other . The atmosphere was so suffocating they could have been talking about a breakup .
'What’s with this awful mood?’
When Gotou spoke up, Yakumo lifted his head, looking extremely annoyed .
'You’re much more awful, Gotou-san . ’
'What’s that supposed to mean?’
'Obviously, I mean exactly what I said . ’
Yakumo shook his head like he was fed up .
This guy really gets on my nerves – Gotou swallowed his irritation and sat cross-legged on the tatami .
'So did you get any information?’
Though Yakumo asked the question himself, he let out a disinterested yawn .
– What kind of attitude is that?
Though Gotou was angry, he explained in as much detail as he could the information he’d got out of Wakabayashi . He wanted to keep it short, but he didn’t know what Yakumo would pick up on .
When Gotou finished explaining, Yakumo crossed his arms and let out a sigh .
'How about you?’
Gotou wanted to know the information Yakumo and Haruka had gathered . The story was so scattered that parts of it were confusing .
Like he thought explaining would be a pain, Yakumo threw the responsibility of explaining to Haruka: 'I’ll leave it to you . ’
Though Haruka complained, she explained in detail about what she’d heard from the journalist named Yoshii, Ookura at the Kinasa Museum and also Yumiko’s grandmother .
She spoke particularly emotionally about the woman named Rin who was persecuted as a witch forty-five years ago . It seemed that she empathised with her situation .
'So what do you know?’
When Haruka finished explaining, Gotou asked Yakumo that question .
'Before I explain, I want you to confirm what Masato has found out about the search for Yumiko-chan,’ Yakumo instructed Haruka .
'OK,’ replied Haruka, taking out her mobile phone to contact Masato . She spread out a map and took notes for about ten minutes before hanging up .
'How was it?’ asked Yakumo .
'The search is from the town to the mountain forest by the Togakushi plateau . It seems like they’re focussing on the reservoir and river . ’
'I see . ’
Gotou nodded at Haruka’s explanation .
It appeared they had expanded the search area from where she disappeared . Probably to determine if she had become lost or if there was an accident .
'Hey, do you know where Yumiko-chan is?’ asked Haruka, hurrying Yakumo on .
For a while, Yakumo put his index finger to his brow and sat there, but he finally lifted his head like he had thought of something .
There was a sharp glint in his red left eye .
Yakumo said just that one word .
Gotou and Haruka gulped as they waited for Yakumo to continue .
'She’s probably around here . ’
After a lengthy pause for effect, Yakumo traced an area on the map .
It included the clinic he’d gone to with Yakumo today and the cedar tree in Arakurayama .
'Why do you think she’s here?’ asked Gotou .
There was a twenty-kilometre distance between Asakawa, where Yumiko lived, and Arakurayama . And it was a steep mountain road . Gotou didn’t understand why she would go there .
'Gotou-san, from what you said earlier, the corpse found at the cedar tree is from more than thirty years ago – correct?’
'Yeah . ’
'That corpse is probably Rin-san, persecuted as a witch forty-five years ago . ’
'That’s… Then, Rin-san…’
Haruka’s voice was filled with sorrow .
'She’s already dead . She was killed,’ Yakumo said indifferently .
After her surprise, Haruka lowered her eyelashes sadly .
However, Gotou wasn’t surprised . After hearing what Haruka said, it linked up .
Haruka must have felt the same way . She probably just didn’t want to believe it .
'Rin-san’s ghost possessed Yumiko-chan and is searching . ’
'I have Ishii looking into that for me now . ’
Why was Ishii coming up in the conversation now? Gotou didn’t understand .
'That doesn’t have anything to do with it, right?’
'It does . ’
'How’s it related?’
'You’ll find out soon enough,’ said Yakumo meaningfully . Then, he shut his mouth .
– Putting on airs .
Gotou clicked his tongue .
After discussing with Yakumo and Gotou, Haruka went to the shop parking lot alone .
The jet black mountains had a strange atmosphere to them .
When she looked up, the dark night sky was filled with stars . There were many more stars than she could see in tTokyo .
The air also felt tense .
'We’ll be up early tomorrow . You should sleep . ’
She heard a voice from behind her .
She could tell without turning around . It was Yakumo .
'I wonder if Yumiko-chan’s OK,’ Haruka said, still looking up at the sky .
'If you doubt that, you won’t be able to do anything any more . ’
Yakumo stood next to her .
Though he always acted collected, he was just pressing down his feelings – he was anxious himself . Haruka knew that .
'That’s right . ’
Haruka looked at Yakumo’s profile .
With the moonlight, his red left eye seemed to glitter .
'Do you think Rin-san is resentful?’
As Yakumo said that, he looked up at the sky .
She was persecuted as a witch . She lost the person who supported her . In the end, she died herself too . It was such a sad life . It would be natural for her to hate the world .
'I feel like Rin-san doesn’t hate anyone . ’
It was just a wish, but Haruka felt like in the ghost photo, Rin didn’t have any resentment but rather some other emotion .
Normally Yakumo would get angry – 'Don’t make a decision with speculation’ – but he nodded, like he was agreeing .
'In my theory, Rin-san isn’t resentful – that is the premise . ’
'Then if she is resentful?’
'We won’t find Yumiko-chan . ’
Yakumo’s voice reverberated deep into Haruka’s ears .
Though Yakumo always revealed his theory after obtaining clear evidence, this time, it was different .
He might not have been able to do anything else .
Normally, he would meet the ghost that was possessing the person, listen to them and solve the case, but this time, Yumiko, who had been possessed, had disappeared . They hadn’t met her even once .
Furthermore, the search area was wide, included dark forests, and they couldn’t guarantee the time .
Even if it was just a wish, all they could do now was believe in it and act .
'This is why you grew up . ’
Yakumo suddenly spoke up .
'Yup . I was born here and grew up here . This is my hometown . ’
'When I came last time, I didn’t know that,’ Yakumo said awkwardly, smiling while showing his white teeth .
He was probably talking about the time he was abducted and confined . Yakumo had come here then too, but there hadn’t been the time to look up at the starry sky like this .
'It’s a nice place, right?’
Haruka knew he would complain, saying something like 'It isn’t or 'It’s the countryside’ . But what Yakumo replied was completely different from what she expected .
'This is my hometown too . ’
Yakumo-kun shouldn’t have been born here . Then why?
'Hey, Yakumo-kun . What do you…’
'You’ll understand tomorrow . ’
After saying that, Yakumo narrowed his eyes .
His red left eye looked a little bit wet –
Gotou rubbed his sleepy eyes as he drove on the winding mountain road .
Yakumo in the passenger seat had even messier bedhead as usual as he vacantly looked out the window . In the back seat, Haruka and Masato sat next to each other, looking anxious .
'Hey, Yakumo . Who killed that Rin woman?’
From what he’d heard yesterday, Rin was killed by somebody . Gotou thought that finding that out would lead them to solving the case .
'You don’t know?’ said Yakumo, still looking out the window .
The way he said that made Gotou think Yakumo already knew the answer .
'I don’t know . ’
'Please think about it calmly,’ Yakumo said quietly, turning his gaze to Gotou .
'I’m asking because I can’t figure it out even after thinking about it!’
'Please don’t speak so loudly . ’
Yakumo stuck his fingers in his ears .
'Just tell me already . ’
'Though this is just a theory, there were people who were prejudiced against Rin-san, yes?’
'The landowner’s son and the local officer?’
'Yes . ’
Yakumo nodded .
The first person who made a fuss about Rin being a demon were Takafumi, the second son of the landowner family Kitaoka, and the man who was the local village officer .
'So they didn’t just chase her out – they killed her?’
'That is very likely . ’
'They can’t have really thought she was a witch, right?’
'They really thought she was a demon . ’
Gotou’s eyes went wide at Yakumo’s unexpected answer .
'You’re kidding, right?’
'No . As is clear from the information gathered yesterday, Rin-san wasn’t treated as a witch just by those two but by the whole village, and she was persecuted for it . ’
'Why would that happen?’ Haruka interrupted, like she couldn’t hold herself back .
'That’s the sort of place this is . ’
Yakumo ran a hand through his hair, seeming annoyed .
'What do you mean?’ asked Gotou .
'I mentioned the Momijigari story in Kinasa earlier, correct?’
'Yeah, but that’s just…’
'It’s not just anything . This area has been considered as a sacred mountain where spirits gather for a very long time, and women were prohibited from entering . ’
Yakumo spoke quickly .
'Oi, oi . You’re kidding right?’
Gotou couldn’t believe what Yakumo was saying .
'I’m not lying . There was a building called the nyonindou, which was as far as women could go . ’
'I can’t believe it . ’
'In Togakushi, there is something called the nun’s rock . ’
'The nun’s rock?’
'Yes . In the past, a nun stepped beyond the border . That moment, she incurred the wrath of the gods and was turned into a rock . ’
'So that rock is the nun’s rock . ’
Yakumo nodded .
'Why’d they do that?’
'Because women were thought of as impure . ’
Impure . To put it simply, that would be dirty .
Saying something like that in current society would make people doubt your humanity, but at the time, it had been correct .
From Yakumo’s explanation just now, Gotou felt like he sort of understood .
A place with a sacred mountain where spirits gathered and the legend of Momijigari where women were prohibited –
The existence of witches was much closer here than in other places . People’s hearts had probably been filled with awe and fright .
A question came to Gotou after hearing this much .
'But the two guys who said Rin was a witch were found as corpses twenty years ago, right?’
There was an article about the case in the documents Haruka received from the newspaper reporter named Yoshii yesterday .
'That is the case . ’
Yakumo yawned, seeming bored .
'Who killed those two?’
'Who knows? I haven’t reached that conclusion yet . ’
Though Yakumo shrugged, Gotou knew immediately that it was an act . He had an idea, but he didn’t want to say it at this stage .
That meant Yakumo wouldn’t reply no matter what Gotou asked . Well, the truth would be revealed soon enough .
Gotou gave up and drove the car .
Ishii opened his eyes on a seat in the precinct .
He had planned on helping Hata last night, but he had fainted for the second time and returned branded as useless .
It seemed like he’d put his head down on the desk and fallen asleep just like that .
Just as he had stretched and put on his glasses, his mobile phone rang .
'Hello, Ishii Yuutarou speaking . ’
He answered immediately and heard a creepy giggle .
He felt wide awake immediately .
<I’ve found out a number of things . >
<There would be no point lying about it . >
<Anyway, if you want to know the results, come yourself . >
After saying just that, he hung up .
You could have told me over the phone – is what Ishii thought, but he didn’t say it aloud, as was his personality . When he thought about seeing that head once more, he couldn’t do anything but be depressed .
Ishii picked up his jacket and left the room .
After leaving the precinct through the front entrance, he headed towards the parking lot where he had parked the car .
He had just put his hand on the door when he suddenly felt somebody’s gaze on him . He looked around, but nobody was there .
– It appears to have been my imagination .
Since Nanase Miyuki had escaped, he might have been a bit on edge .
Ishii sat in the driver’s seat and started the engine .
The moment he was about to step on the pedal, the door to the backseat opened .
He saw somebody get into the backseat through the rear-view mirror .
A woman . The left half of her face was burnt and her unusually red lips were twisted into a smile . She was –
– Nanase Miyuki .
It was already too late when Ishii realised .
She held a cold and glittering knife at his neck .
The blood left his face all at once in his terror .
'Ishii-san, we meet again . ’
Nanase Miyuki’s breath brushed his ear .
Ishii’s terror doubled . He couldn’t move even an eyebrow, let alone resist .
'Where is he?’ murmured Nanase Miyuki .
'W-what are you talking about?’ replied Ishii in a shaking voice .
Then, the knife at his neck drew closer . A jolt of pain ran through him . Ishii held his breath .
'You know, right? I don’t mind if you don’t want to say . I’ll kill you and ask somebody else . ’
Nanase Miyuki’s sadistic smile was reflected in the rear-view mirror .
She wasn’t lying . If Ishii resisted, she would thrust that knife into his neck without any hesitation .
Ishii could feel it in his skin .
'So, where is he?’ said Nanase Miyuki calmly .
The 'he’ she was talking about was probably the head of the man with two red eyes .
'To be autopsied…’
Nanase Miyuki let out a beastly scream before Ishii could be finished speaking .
'Don’t joke with me! I won’t allow low-class humans like you to touch that man!’
– She didn’t want to let other people touch him .
Makoto had given that reason to explain why Nanase Miyuki was walking around with the head of the man with two red eyes .
She might have been right . Nanase Miyuki wanted, loved and revered the man with two red eyes so much she was mad .
'Start the car,’ said Miyuki with ragged breathing .
'You know, right? I’m going to take him back . I’m going to take that man back . ’
Ishii couldn’t resist .
He swallowed his fear and started the car .
Haruka held Masato’s hand as they walked down the narrow road, which was like an animal trail .
Yakumo and Gotou were walking right in front of them, leading the way .
It was a rather steep slope, so she spoke to Masato . Though his head was covered in sweat, Masato nodded .
He was propelled by his wholehearted wish to save Yumiko .
Finally, she saw an old wooden building in the middle of the thick forest . That was probably Kinasa Clinic .
'Nobody’s here,’ said Gotou in a disgruntled tone as he stood in front of the clinic with his hands in his pockets
'I just said that it was likely she would be around here,’ said Yakumo in exasperation as he shook his head .
'Hey, why do you think she’ll be around here?’ asked Haruka .
Though she had come here because she believed in Yakumo, she didn’t know what proof he had .
'This is a place close to Rin-san and her son . In other words, their home . ’
'I see . ’
If Rin’s spirit was possessing Yumiko, it made sense to think she would visit her home .
'Let’s split up . ’
'That would be more effective . ’
Gotou agreed with Yakumo’s suggestion .
'Gotou-san and I will search over here . You and Masato wait here . ’
'OK . ’
Haruka nodded .
Masato looked rather tired and it would be dangerous to walk around the mountain . It would probably be better to wait and leave this to Yakumo and Gotou . The moment she thought that, Masato spoke up .
'I don’t want to . ’
'Masato-kun . ’
Haruka wanted to comfort him, but Masato didn’t respond .
'I’ll look too . Yumiko-chan disappeared because of me, so…’
As Masato said that, his eyes were filled with a strong will .
He wanted to find Yumiko himself no matter what . If they crushed that will, Masato might hole up within himself again .
'Hey, I’ll go search with Masato-kun,’ suggested Haruka .
Yakumo ran a hand through his hair, as if to say, 'Guess I can’t do anything about it . ’
'Let them search . He’s not a kid either – he wants to take responsibility for himself . ’
Unexpectedly, Gotou agreed .
'Got it . You and Masato search near the clinic . I’ll go to the east, and Gotou-san, I’ll leave the west to you . ’
Beaten by their persistence, Yakumo gave out instructions .
Masato’s face became brighter at once .
'Promise me one thing . Even if you find Yumiko-chan, don’t chase after her or approach her . Contact me . OK?’ Yakumo said to Masato .
'OK, I got it . ’
Masato nodded with a hard look on his face .
'Let’s meet up again here in thirty minutes . ’
Everyone nodded at Yakumo’s words .
'I’m going then . ’
Gotou briskly started walking towards the west .
'I’ll leave Masato to you,’ Yakumo said to Haruka quietly . Then, he started walking towards the east .
'Let’s go too . ’
'OK . ’
Haruka and Masato started walking together .
They went along a trackless path . It was humid here and there was leaf mould, so their feet sunk into the ground . It was terribly difficult to walk . It was easy to slip on slopes too .
Furthermore, there were points which were like steep cliffs, so they had to be very careful not to lose their footing .
'Watch your step,’ she said to Masato .
'OK . ’
Masato nodded with a stiff expression .
He was probably worried about Yumiko .
'IT’s fine . She’s OK . ’
Yakumo might have said it was irresponsible of her if he heard, but they couldn’t search without hope .
'Hey . ’
Masato suddenly stopped .
Masato’s forehead was covered in sweat . He might have walked too quickly .
'Shall we take a break?’
When Haruka spoke to him, Masato shook his head and took a deep breath .
'Why was it Yumiko-chan?’
'Tomoya-kun and I were there then . But…’
That was true . Why did Rin possess Yumiko instead of Masato or Tomoya?
Yakumo had said something before .
The wavelengths might match – a body easy to attract, or in short, somebody with a body easy to possess .
However, Haruka felt like that wasn’t what Masato was trying to say .
'Masato-kun, don’t blame yourself . ’
'I should’ve been possessed instead . ’
Masato’s eyes welled up with tears .
He was angry at the unreasonable world . He resented himself for being powerless .
Would Masato’s heart be able to take it if the worst-case scenario occurred? The upright and clean-handed Masato would blame himself .
Because he was an awkward but straightforward kid, like Yakumo –
'Let’s go . Yumiko-chan’s waiting . ’
Haruka put both of her hands on Masato’s shoulders .
'Is Yumiko-chan OK?’
'I believe so . Do you think differently, Masato-kun?’
Masato sniffled and shook his head .
His eyes were lit up again . He started walking with a strong gait, yelling, 'Yumiko-chan! Where are you?’
– I have to do my best too .
When Haruka started walking again, her heart started beating loudly .
– Rustle .
The verdant trees were shaking loudly .
She felt her breath caught, like she was in a damp cave .
– Somebody’s watching us .
Ishii passed through the hospital entrance .
Nanase Miyuki was right behind him . Ishii wanted to run away, but he couldn’t do anything about the knife at his side .
If only somebody would notice – is what he was hoping, but it appeared to be no use .
He went down the stairs to the basement by the elevator . He walked along the dim, cavernous corridor with heavy feet .
'Please knock on the door . ’
After coming to the autopsy room, Nanase Miyuki whispered that in his ear .
A jolt went down his spine .
In his terror, Ishii knocked on the door just as he was told .
'Who is it?’
He heard Hata from Inside .
At Miyuki’s urging, Ishii spoke, conscious of the tremor in his throat .
'I-it’s Ishii . ’
'It’s open,’ said Hata .
At Nanase Miyuki’s insistence, Ishii opened the door with trembling hands .
'What? You got caught so easily? How pathetic . ’
When Hata turned around, he didn’t speak like he was surprised at the situation .
'Sorry, but could you return him to me?’ said Miyuki, looking at the head on the stainless steel bed .
Miyuki had been calling the head 'him’ . Just as Makoto had said, she didn’t want to give it to anybody . It was probably special to her .
'This is a rare research opportunity . I won’t give it back so easily . ’
After Hata said that, he let out a laugh inappropriate for the situation .
'Would it be acceptable if I added one more head for your autopsies?’
Nanase Miyuki put the tip of the knife at Ishii’s neck and pressed down so hard it hurt .
If she put in just a bit more force, it would definitely break through the skin and make him bleed .
Ishii’s forehead started spewing sweat .
'There’s no point in researching Ishii-kun’s head . Even if you added a head like that – ’
Hata was mumbling, sounding dissatisfied .
'Now, what will you do?’ said Miyuki with a pointed tone .
It was a worst-case scenario . Even if Hata returned the head of the man with red eyes, Ishii didn’t think Nanase Miyuki would just head home .
She would slice both Ishii and Hata up in a bloodbath .
'Got it . Do what you want . ’
After saying that, Hata looked at Ishii .
Ishii was confused, but then he noticed Hata was holding a bottle of fluid that had been on the wagon . Ishii could read the word formalin from that bottle .
It was dangerous, but it seemed like all Ishii could do now was bet on Hata .
'My, my . You’re unexpectedly honest . ’
Miyuki smiled .
'Take this too . ’
Hata threw the bottle in his hand .
It arced over, shattering at Ishii’s feet .
Ishii shut his eyes tightly and stopped breathing .
Formalin splashed everywhere . Ishii felt an electrifying pain when doused with the strong formalin, but Nanase Miyuki appeared to feel the same way .
Miyuki’s shriek cut through the room . At the same time, the knife left Ishii’s neck .
Ishii used that opportunity to run .
'Old man! You did it now!’
He heard Miyuki’s furious voice .
However, the alarm bell started ringing, blocking it out . Hata had probably sat it off .
He heard somebody running off .
'She got away . ’
While saying that, Hata went over to Ishii, who was on all fours, and wiped Ishii’s face with a wet towel .
'It’s OK now . ’
When Hata said that, Ishii timidly opened his eyes .
Though there was still a stinging pain, it wasn’t unbearable .
’T-thank you very much . ’
While hating himself for being useless, Ishii thanked Hata .
'It’d be better to get out of the room for now . ’
'Y-yes . ’
Ishii stood up while answering . Then, he noticed that the head had disappeared from the stainless steel bed .
'Hata-san, the head…’
'Ah, looks like she took it away – ’
Hata murmured that in a truly disappointed voice .
– Who is it?
Haruka felt somebody watching her, so she looked around frantically in the dark forest .
Her heart was beating like a hammer .
Maybe I imagined it – is what she thought when a woman appeared in the corner of her vision .
About five metres in front of her . By a craggy rock, a woman with long hair in a white blouse and navy skirt .
– Is that…?
The moment Haruka tried to approach her, she disappeared, like she had melted into the forest .
'What was it?’
Haruka walked over to the rock where the woman had been standing . Then, she spotted a white running shoe on the floor .
– Could it be?
'Masato-kun, over here . ’
Haruka called out to Masato who was a little away from her as she walked towards the rock .
There was a hole between the work and the ground about forty centimetres tawl and one metre wide .
She saw a girl lying there .
– We’ve found her!
She had to be Yumiko .
'Hang in there!’
Haruka crouched on the ground and shook Yumiko’s body as she called out to her .
It was faint, but her chest was moving up and down .
– Thank goodness . She’s alive .
Though Masato kept stumbling, he ran towards her with a pale expression .
Haruka took her mobile phone out of her pocket immediately and called Yakumo . However, she couldn’t contact him since she was out of range .
Haruka heard a voice in her ear .
Her body froze like she was paralysed . She slowly looked up and saw the woman from earlier standing there .
Her long hair hung around her face . Her deep red lips moved like worms .
Haruka couldn’t speak in her fear .
– I need to run .
Though Haruka thought that, her body wouldn’t move the way she wanted it to .
The woman’s hand reached out .
Haruka’s forehead was sweating furiously . Her throat was dry . She couldn’t even breathe .
– It hurts .
Masato shouted out and ran in front of Haruka to protect her from the woman .
With his small body, he spread his arms as wide as he could .
– If you do that, you’ll –
Haruka shouted, but it was too late .
A spasm ran through Masato’s body, like he had been hit by lightning . Then, he fell to the ground, unmoving .
'Masato-kun . Are you OK?’
Haruka went to him immediately and called out .
– Oh no . What should I do?
Haruka was panicked when suddenly Masato grabbed her wrist .
'Masato-kun . ’
Just as Haruka spoke, Masato opened his eyes .
Those eyes – weren’t Masato’s .
Somebody else was inside him . It wasn’t her reasoning – Haruka could feel it .
Haruka’s whole body started to sweat .
She heard somebody whisper .
It seemed to go straight to her brain .
’…Whe… re… am… I…’
Haruka was so frightened that she shook off Masato’s hand and covered her eyes .
However, she could still hear the voice .
She screamed as loudly as she could to try to erase the voice following her ears .
Her body wouldn’t stop shaking .
How long have I been doing this – she suddenly came to her senses .
The voice had stopped .
She noticed that she was cowering on the floor .
She timidly lifted her gaze . Yumiko was collapsed in front of her . However, Masato was nowhere to be seen .
Haruka looked around frantically, but she couldn’t spot him .
She heard the footsteps of somebody running towards her .
Haruka turned around . Yakumo was there .
'What was that scream just now?’ said Yakumo, still panting for breath .
'Was I too late?’ muttered Yakumo, his eyes narrowed .
– I did something unthinkable .
'What happened?’ Gotou asked Yakumo, who had his arms crossed as he leant against the hospital wall .
They had heard a scream from the forest and ran over to find Yumiko collapsed there . They quickly brought her to a nearby hospital . The doctor said she would be fine if she got some rest – so they had the doctor’s word . However, Masato had disappeared instead .
Gotou felt like the situation had become more serious .
'It’s simple . ’
Yakumo lifted his head slowly .
However, he was sure tense for something that was supposed to be simple .
'The ghost that was possessing Yumiko-chan possessed Masato . ’
He said it matter-of-factly, but –
'Because Yumiko-chan was weakened and her body couldn’t move any more . ’
– I see .
If they had done as Yakumo ordered and didn’t add Haruka and Masato to the search, leaving them in the clinic, this might not have happened .
Gotou was partly responsible . But he didn’t have the time to regret it now .
'We need to find Masato right away . ’
'Yes . ’
Yakumo ran ah and through his hair as he looked out the window .
'So what are we going to do?’
Gotou leant against the wall and looked out the window like Yakumo as he said that .
The grey clouds blocked out the sun . It made Gotou feel uncomfortable, like it was a sign of what was to come .
'We still have a trick up our sleeve . ’
Gotou felt like Yakumo’s red left eye was filled with force .
Just as Gotou asked that, his mobile rang . It was from Ishii .
Gotou wanted to ignore it, but he decided that would be bad and answered .
<D-Detective Gotou . You finally answered . >
Ishii spoke like he was talking to his only surviving parent .
'Forget about that . What is it?’
<Ah, yes sir . A-actually, it is quite the situation here…>
His voice was so faint it sounded like he would cry at any moment .
'It’s even worse here . ’
<No, I believe it’s worse here . >
'Shut up! We’ve got a real situation here!’
<It is quite the situation here as well!>
'How long are you going to have this fruitless exchange for? It doesn’t matter, right?’
Yakumo looked at Gotou coldly .
'What’s the problem?’
Gotou urged Ishii to continue with a click of his tongue .
<Ah, yes sir . A-actually, Nanase Miyuki showed up again . >
'W-what did you say?’
Gotou’s body stiffened instinctively . That really was a problem –
<She came to take the head . >
Gotou had heard from Yakumo . The head of the man with red eyes that Ishii and Miyagawa had found .
Why was she so focussed on something when she should be escaping – Gotou had no way to understand .
<We let her get away…>
It felt like Ishii’s voice would disappear at any moment .
'You let her get away again!? You idiot!’ yelled Gotou, kicking the corridor wall in his anger .
Once was already bad enough, but to let her get away twice – he really was useless .
'Gotou-san, please lend that to me . ’
Right after saying that, Yakumo took Gotou’s mobile from the side . Gotou was about to complain, but Yakumo walked away down the corridor while talking on the phone with Ishii .
– Whose mobile does he think that is?
'It’s my fault…’
Haruka held her head as she sat on the sofa in the hospital waiting room .
It was about four tatami in size with only a sofa for four and a magazine rack – a dreary room .
– Why couldn’t I move then?
That thought kept circling her head .
Masato tried to save Haruka . A boy in elementary school had tried to save her, but Haruka had shut her eyes and ears in her fear .
She hated herself so much for her uselessness .
If anything happened to Masato – when Haruka thought that, her body heated up and her chest felt like it would collapse .
Masato must have felt this way ever since Yumiko disappeared .
'Want a coffee?’
Haruka looked up at the voice and saw Gotou standing there with two cans of coffee .
– How can he be so calm?
His relaxed attitude irritated Haruka for some reason .
'Anyway, drink and calm down a bit . ’
Gotou held the can of coffee out towards Haruka, sat down next to her and suddenly spoke .
'The girl called Yumiko’s weak, but it’s not serious . ’
'Her parents will be here soon too…’
Most of Gotou’s words didn’t enter Haruka’s ears .
Even if Yumiko was saved, Masato had disappeared . Nothing had changed .
'It seems like she doesn’t remember anything from when she was possessed . ’
Gotou finished talking .
He probably didn’t mean it that way, but the way he said it made it sound like the case had ended completely .
Haruka gripped the can of coffee in her hand tightly .
'It isn’t over yet…’
It slipped out of her mouth .
Gotou’s brows furrowed and he looked at Haruka doubtfully . She didn’t understand why he looked like that .
'I know how you feel, but regretting what’s happened won’t start anything . ’
Gotou pulled open the tab on the can and poured the coffee down his throat .
'It’s my fault . Of course I regret it . ’
'There’s nothing you could’ve done . ’
She spoke more loudly than she thought she would .
However, Gotou didn’t look disturbed . He looked straight at Haruka .
It was a sharp and forceful gaze .
'There’s nothing you could’ve down . ’
'How can you say that so lightly? If I had done what Yakumo-kun said, this wouldn’t have…’
Even as Haruka spoke, she could feel her throat tremble .
'You can’t be sure . ’
'It’s a fact . ’
'Got nothing to do with it . ’
'That’s right . This case doesn’t have anything to do with you, Gotou-san . ’
– What on earth am I saying?
Throwing a tantrum wouldn’t change anything . Haruka knew that . But she couldn’t put a stopper on her emotions .
The corners of her eyes felt warm .
'That’s right . This case doesn’t matter to me at all . ’
While being surprised by the unexpected words that had come out of Gotou’s mouth, a ripple of disappointment spread through her chest .
Gotou really had just been wrapped up in this case against his will this time, but Haruka had thought he had wanted to help . But –
'To say it outright, I don’t care about the truth of the case at all . It’ll be enough for me if Masato comes back safely . ’
Even though Gotou looked like he felt awkward, he said it clearly .
'Am I wrong?’
Haruka shook her head at the question .
Then, the tears that had welled up in her eyes came spilling down her cheeks .
'Then lift your head . We don’t have the time to regret what’s happened . ’
Haruka nodded at Gotou’s words, sniffled and lifted her head .
'So you say some good things sometimes . ’
Yakumo had come up to them unnoticed .
Though he was running a hand through his hair and seemed annoyed, his red left eye was unusually sharp .
'Yakumo-kun, I – ’
Yakumo looked straight at Haruka and snorted .
'If you want to blame anyone, blame me . ’
'No matter what you said, I shouldn’t have added Masato to the search . ’
'There’ll be no end to it if we talk about things we should have done then . The past is past . ’
– That’s right .
'Then we’ll work for the best outcome now . That’s the best and only method for us now,’ declared Yakumo . Then, he handed a mobile phone to Gotou .
Both Yakumo and Gotou were already thinking about what to do next, but Haruka had been stuck there, looking behind her .
When she thought about that, she felt so embarrassed she thought her face would light on fire .
– We have to go forward .
'Well, we’re all on the same page now . Time to go search . ’
Gotou stood up after finishing his can of coffee .
'Do you have any idea as to where he went?’ asked Haruka, wiping away her tears .
'Of course not,’ replied Gotou in a proud town, hand at his waist .
Going without a plan was reckless . If they searched the wide mountain blindly, it would be hard to find Masato .
'Yakumo-kun . ’
Haruka looked at Yakumo with an expectant gaze .
After thinking for a while, the corners of Yakumo’s lips turned up in a smile .
It was the expression he always had when he had thought of something .
'First, we need to make the truth clear . ’
As Yakumo said that, his red left eye seemed somewhat sad .
After explaining to Yakumo, Ishii sat on the bench in the hospital waiting room .
Since the fugitive Nanase Miyuki had appeared, the hospital was bustling with officers .
– I’m alive .
Ishii let out a sigh .
'That was a disaster . ’
Miyagawa was the one who spoke .
'I-I sincerely apologise . I let her escape not once but twice…’
Ishii reflexively stood up and bowed .
That might have been their once-in-a-million chance to arrest Nanase Miyuki, but Ishii hadn’t been able to do anything .
He was furious with how useless he was .
'There’d be no point if you died . ’
Miyagawa sat on the bench with a gentle smile .
Since Ishii had thought Miyagawa would get angry at him, it was anticlimactic .
'B-but Detective Gotou would have…’
If Gotou had been in the same situation, he would have definitely rushed straight forward and caught her .
'Don’t act like that idiot . ’
Miyagawa snorted in exasperation .
'He’s him, and you’re you . ’
What Miyagawa said was obvious, but Ishii felt like his true meaning was somewhere deeper .
Ishii couldn’t find that meaning, so he gave a vague response .
'Hey, Ishii . ’
After a pause, Miyagawa spoke, his eyes distant .
'What is it?’
'I don’t understand the woman named Nanase Miyuki . ’
'Yeah . She should be running away . ’
'Yes . ’
'But why would she come to take back the head, putting herself at risk of being caught? I don’t understand at all . ’
Miyagawa slapped his forehead with his palm .
Ishii didn’t understand Nanase Miyuki’s psychology either, but if he borrowed Makoto’s words, it would be –
Miyagawa’s face twisted like he was looking at something unpleasant . Perhaps he had misunderstood terribly .
'Ah, this isn’t from me . It’s something the newspaper reporter Hijikata Makoto-san said . ’
Ishii hurriedly added to his explanation .
'The ex-chief’s daughter, eh…’
Miyagawa looked up, as if he were searching his memories .
'Ah, yes . In her opinion, Nanase Miyuki might be committing crimes for love…’
Miyagawa’s brows furrowed .
'That also might be the reason she came to get the head even though it would put her in danger…’
'Love? That’s idiotic . ’
Miyagawa snorted and stood up .
Ishii understood how he felt . Thinking about it rationally, Nanase Miyuki’s actions were completely unreasonable .
However, there were people in this world who had completely different worldviews than they did .
To Ishii and Miyagawa, it was just a head, but to Nanase Miyuki, it was probably something so important she would do anything to keep it with her, no matter how dangerous .
Maybe we won’t ever be able to catch her unless we understand her – Ishii felt that way .
'Just right up a report after . ’
Ishii watched Miyagawa walk away after saying that .
Gotou was in the parking lot of the hospital Yumiko was in .
Yakumo was next to him . He looked discouraged .
'What are you thinking about?’
Yakumo gave a short reply – 'Nothing much’ – to Gotou’s question . But that wasn’t the case . When Yakumo looked like this, he was looking at a truth that Gotou couldn’t see .
After a while, a black family car stopped and a man came out from inside . It was Wakabayashi from the Nagano precinct .
Gotou had called him out at Yakumo’s instruction .
'What are you going to do now that I’ve called him out?’ Gotou asked Yakumo .
'You’ll understand soon enough . ’
'Sorry, I was a bit late . ’
Wakabayashi walked towards them with a smile .
It was a good mood that didn’t fit the location .
'I apologise as well for calling you out to a play like this . ’
Gotou bowed his head formally towards Wakabayashi .
'Don’t worry about it . You found Yumiko for me . I wanted to thank you . ’
'I’m just glad she’s safe . ’
'I’m glad . Really glad . ’
Wakabayashi looked like he would cry at any moment .
Yakumo had said that Wakabayashi was related to the case .
He was an old detective who had given information to Gotou even though he was out of his jurisdiction, because he was worried about his relative’s kid Yumiko’s safety . Was he really related –
'Wakabayashi-san, if it’s all right with you, I have something to ask . ’
Yakumo took a step towards Wakabayashi .
'You’re here too? I’ll tell you anything I know,’ responded Wakabayashi with a smile . He was the complete opposite of Yakumo with his intimidating air .
'There’s no time, so I’ll be direct . What we found under the cedar tree was the woman named Rin who was killed forty-five years ago . ’
'Wha… Why do you know…’
Wakabayashi’s face went pale .
After a moment of silence, Wakabayashi cringed, like he was saying 'Shoot’, but it was too late .
'The police haven’t been able to confirm her identity yet, correct? But the response just now makes it seem like you knew who was buried there from the beginning, doesn’t it?’
Yakumo looked at Wakabayashi with a sharp gaze .
'How would I know about something so long ago?’
Wakabayashi’s cunning eyes were darting back and forth, unable to calm down .
'Do you really not know?’
Yakumo took another step forward, cutting down the distance between them . Wakabayashi looked down . His gesture just now admitted that it was a lie .
'I don’t know . ’
Wakabayashi’s voice as he denied it was terribly weak .
'Then I’ll ask this . You said this to Gotou-san, correct? “Ganging up to beat a frail woman to death”… ’
Wakabayashi had said that to Gotou .
He hadn’t thought it was strange at the time, but now he understood what was unnatural .
Wakabayashi’s forehead was damp with sweat .
Yakumo took another step towards Wakabayashi to shorten the distance between them .
'It sounds like you were saying there were multiple culprits . ’
'You’re just jumping to conclusions . ’
Wakabayashi’s breathing was ragged . Gotou could easily tell that he was troubled .
It can’t be –
'Were you the one who…’
Gotou said that without thinking .
Wakabayashi’s eyes were bulging as he shook his head back and forth and stepped back .
'Please tell me the truth . ’
'I don’t know anything!’
He wouldn’t speak no matter what . Gotou felt that stubborn will .
'Wakabayashi-san, my red left eye can see the spirits of the dead . ’
As Yakumo said that, he suddenly brought his face close to Wakabayashi’s .
Wakabayashi looked away to avoid that gaze . Yakumo continued regardless .
'I can hear her voice . You can hear it too, can’t you…’
Yakumo whispered in Wakabayashi’s ear .
Gotou heard a woman’s voice from somewhere .
It didn’t seem like it was his ears playing tricks on him . Wakabayashi looked around too, his eyes still round .
– Again .
A woman appeared from the thicket at the end of the parking lot .
The woman wore a white blouse and a navy skirt . Since she was far away, was looking down and had her long hair hanging around her face, Gotou couldn’t see her face .
'I don’t know . I really don’t know . ’
Wakabayashi’s eyes went rounder the moment he saw the woman and stepped back while speaking in a voice close to a scream .
The woman let out a shrill shriek and slowly approached them .
'I’m sorry! I’m at fault! Forgive me!’
Wakabayashi prostrated himself, forehead rubbing against the ground, and yelled in a voice an octave higher than before . His body was shaking violently .
'So you really do know . ’
Wakabayashi’s shoulders fell at Yakumo’s voice .
'You can stop now . ’
When Yakumo spoke, the woman lifted her head and took off her wig . It was Haruka . That was quite the performance - Gotou had felt afraid, even though he knew .
Wakabayashi looked blank .
'W-what are you planning?’
Wakabayashi had finally understood the situation . He spoke frantically .
'You will tell us the truth . ’
Yakumo knelt down on one knee to look at Wakabayashi, still on the ground .
'I…’ said Wakabayashi with a gasp .
His eyes were bloodshot and his voice was trembling terribly too .
'Let’s put an end to this, for your sake . ’
Yakumo looked at Wakabayashi with his red left eye .
For a while, Wakabayashi accepted the gaze straight on, but he finally shook his head, giving up .
'I didn’t want anyone to find her…’
Wakabayashi’s voice was faint and weak .
'The person who killed her was the local officer at the time – your father, correct?’
Wakabayashi bit his dry lips and gave a small nod .
'You’ll talk, yes?’
Urged on by Yakumo, Wakabayashi started speaking one sentence at a time .
'Forty-five years ago – a man died at that clinic . Kitaoka Hidetaka, the eldest son of the landowner . My father and the second son, Takafumi, said it was the curse of Rin, who lived at the clinic . ’
'Why did they say that?’
Gotou’s voice was ragged . He didn’t understand at all .
Even if it was a place with a legend about a witch, it was ridiculous for both Takafumi and Wakabayashi’s father to believe in this .
'I’ll explain later . Let’s listen to Wakabayashi-san now . ’
Yakumo shut down Gotou’s question .
Gotou didn’t understand, but he decided to listen to Wakabayashi for now, just as Yakumo told him to .
Wakabayashi’s legs collapsed underneath him as he continued speaking .
'The villagers believed it too and started harassing the clinic . Nobody would talk to them any more or sell them anything . I was told not to go near them too . ’
'That wasn’t all, right?’
Yakumo urged Wakabayashi for more .
Wakabayashi’s face twisted, like he was in pain . Then, he continued .
'They threw rocks at the clinic and left dead things at the door, and some people even set it on fire…’
'Why would they do that? Rin-san wasn’t a demon!’ shouted Haruka, leaning forward with a hand on her chest .
'I-I’m sorry . ’
Wakabayashi lowered his head again .
'Apologising won’t make up for it!’
Haruka yelled more in her anger .
It really was a horrid story . What they were doing was just bullying .
'Stop . ’
Yakumo placed a hand on Haruka’s shoulder .
'But . ’
'Wakabayashi wasn’t the one who did it,’ admonished Yakumo, since Haruka still wouldn’t back down .
Haruka finally became calm again . She ground her back teeth and looked away from Wakabayashi .
'It was really awful…’
Wakabayashi’s eyes were distant .
'So that persecution kept escalating,’ said Yakumo after taking a deep breath .
'After a while of this, Doctor Kawakami from the clinic fell into the valley and died . The rumours about it being witchcraft became even louder . ’
'And then the incident happened . ’
'That day, I went to the mountain to gather mushrooms . Then, I saw her running away with her son . It looked like somebody was chasing her…’
Gotou swallowed .
'Yes . My father, the local officer, and Takafumi, the landowner’s second son . ’
'Finally, they caught her and killed her then,’ said Yakumo .
Wakabayashi nodded . 'That – wasn’t something a person should do,’ he said with tears in his eyes .
'That was a demon . ’
Wakabayashi’s words filled the silence .
When Gotou repeated it, Wakabayashi nodded again and continued .
'The two of them suddenly hit her . She collapsed to the ground . She was in pain, but they kicked her . Again, and again, and again…’
Tears rolled down Wakabayashi’s face, like he was letting out sediment that had gathered for a very long time .
– Disgusting .
'Her screams echoed through the mountains . I covered my ears and shut my eyes . All I could do was cower behind the trees . ’
Wakabayashi shut his eyes and covered his ears, perhaps recalling what had happened .
Haruka’s face was completely pale . She was sitting down while hugging her own shoulders .
The trees moved in the wind .
After a silence, Wakabayashi suddenly opened his eyes and planted the hands that had been on his ears on the ground .
'How do you think my father looked as her tormented her?’
'He was smiling . ’
That one word slashed at his chest like a sharp Japanese sword .
– Smiling .
Why? How could somebody laugh while tormenting someone weaker than them? Why would you smile when killing somebody?
'Please let me confirm something . Where was Rin-san killed?’ said Yakumo, index finger on his brow .
'By the cedar tree… After she was killed there, she was buried…’
'So that really was the location . ’
Yakumo nodded in understanding . But Gotou couldn’t understand . 'Why’d you keep silent about it all this time!?’
Gotou grabbed Wakabayashi by the collar in his anger .
Wakabayashi lost his balance and fell backwards . Gotou climbed on top of him .
Gotou brought his nose close to Wakabayashi’s, closing the distance further .
'He couldn’t speak even if he wanted to,’ interrupted Yakumo .
'Why? Somebody died!’
'Could you say it, Gotou-san? At the time, Wakabayashi-san was only ten years old, and he was his son . Would you be able to say that your own father had tormented a woman to death?’
Gotou was lost for words .
I could say it – he wanted to declare that, but he wasn’t honestly confident that he would really be able to say it if he were in that situation .
Now he didn’t know who the demon was . She had just been a victim . The real demons were the two who killed her .
Yakumo had said that Rin’s spirit was searching for something .
She had to be searching with violent hatred for the two people who killed her .
– Could you say it?
Yakumo’s words reverberated heavily in Haruka’s chest .
Whether she wanted to or not, it made her think of the case with Masato .
He was put in a similar situation . He wanted to speak, but he couldn’t . He was burdened with that darkness .
At times like this, children were powerless .
'Gotou-san, please get off of him already . ’
Gotou did as Yakumo said . He got off of Wakabayashi and stood up .
Wakabayashi sat up but didn’t try to stand up .
'Wakabayashi-san, please let me confirm a few things . ’
Wakabayashi looked frightened at Yakumo’s words .
I’ve already told you so much . It was like he was saying that .
'What happened to her son?’
'I don’t know . ’
Wakabayashi shook his head .
'It isn’t certain whether he lived or died, yes?’
'She made her son alone run away before she was caught… After that, I…’
Yakumo smirked, looking satisfied by Wakabayashi’s answer .
'One more thing . Did your father have money troubles?’
'He had a bad alcohol problem, so he regularly borrowed money . ’
'Did that suddenly fix itself after the incident?’
Wakabayashi didn’t answer, but that was answer enough .
'So that really was the case,’ murmured Yakumo . Then, he put his index finger to his brow .
Give me a break already – was how Wakabayashi looked when he lifted his head .
'Her son had a horn on his forehead, yes?’
'A horn? Don’t be ridiculous!’
Gotou stomped on the ground as he yelled .
Wakabayashi nodded silently –
'Hey, Yakumo-kun . What does this mean?’ Haruka interrupted without thinking .
'Recall what Ookura-san from Kinasa Museum said . ’
Haruka let out an 'ah’ .
Haruka had heard that Rin’s son had a horn on his head and told Yakumo that . But –
'Is that possible?’
'Though it’s called a horn, to be more correct, it’s the keratin in skin . ’
Yakumo ran a hand through his messy hair .
'Do you mean the layer of skin that gets all dry in the winter?’
'That’s right . ’
Haruka had been prepared for Yakumo to get angry at her, but his unexpected answer made her even more confused .
Keratin made up part of the skin . It was completely unrelated to horns .
'How would keratin become a horn?’ Haruka asked, grabbing Yakumo’s arm .
'I’m not an expert, so I can’t explain in detail, but keratin preserves moisture and protects against bacteria . That’s why the keratin in areas that are often impacted like the heel and the palm naturally become thinker . ’
'Now that you say that . ’
The skin on the heel clearly felt different from other areas .
'Keratin can become hard in areas too . ’
'An easy-to-understand case where keratin becomes thick is the corns . ’
Haruka understood the word . The speck-sized wart-like things that would show up on the bottom of feet .
However, Haruka didn’t really understand .
'Corns occur when skin is impacted in a local area and the keratin becomes thicker to protect itself, going under the outer layer of skin . ’
'I see . ’
So they occurred when people wore shoes that weren’t the right size .
'Other ways that the keratin would become thicker are genetic or viral – there are a number of causes . In Rin-san’s son’s case, since it was on his forehead, it is likely that it was a virus . ’
'But corns are only a centimetre or two, right? They don’t look like horns . ’
'Occasionally, the keratin becomes thicker beyond its physical boundaries . Though this differs between people, in some cases, it can exceed ten centimetres . ’
'Yes . Like a large corn from the thickening of keratin . ’
'Does that really happen?’
Gotou spoke before Haruka could .
'It is extremely rare, but there have been cases reported where things like horns have grown from foreheads . ’
Haruka had heard something like that before .
She felt like she’d seen a photo of an old person with a horn in the back of the head like a water buffalo’s .
Gotou suddenly yelled .
Yakumo put his fingers in his ears, but Gotou continued speaking regardless .
'Her son had a horn in his head . That’s why the villagers accepted the ridiculous story about the mother and son being demons . ’
Just like Yakumo had been persecuted because of his red left eye, Rin and her son had been thought of as strange and persecuted because her son had a horn on his head .
People could be terribly cruel to those who were different from them .
'In the first place, she wasn’t a local . She came from somewhere else and was found collapsed with her son . The doctor at the clinic saved them…’
Yakumo slowly began to speak .
Why did they collapse in a place like this? Though it was just a theory, Haruka could guess .
They had probably been persecuted in the same fashion in other places . She had run all the way here with her child .
'A parent and child with red eyes . Furthermore, her son had a horn in his head . That would be more than enough to make up a demon . ’
When Yakumo finished speaking, he closed his eyes .
Did Yakumo mean that the mother and child who were chased out of the village were demons? Or did he mean the villagers who called them that?
Haruka didn’t have the courage to ask .
'Rin-san lived together with Doctor Kawakami at the clinic, right?’ said Haruka .
'Yes . ’
Gotou agreed .
'Then he should have been able to cut off the horn . ’
Haruka asked the question that had come to her head .
Yakumo took the notebook from his back pocket and handed it to her . It was the dusty notebook he had been reading yesterday .
Haruka took it into her hand and flipped through the pages .
The words written inside were blurry so she couldn’t read them clearly, but she understood some of the words .
Demon… the keratin in the skin… in the cornea…
'What is this?’
'Research notes,’ said Yakumo, covering his face with both hands .
'Of course, they’re about her son . ’
Then, everything connected .
Haruka felt discomfort circling her stomach .
The doctor at the clinic had looked at the child with a horn as his own research material .
'You’re mistaken . ’
Yakumo’s eyes were distant .
'Doctor Kawakami loved that mother and son . He had been trying to treat him . That’s what the research was for . ’
A blank expression and sleepy eyes . Yakumo looked the same as always . However, his left red eye alone looked shadowed .
After taking a deep breath, Yakumo continued to speak .
'Even after he died, he was always at the clinic, watching over Rin-san and her son . ’
Yakumo’s words echoed hollowly in her heart .
She recalled how Doctor Kawakami and Rin had looked in the photo .
The two of them had been nestled together . They might have just wanted to live a peaceful life, like everyone else .
However, that little dream was trampled underfoot .
'Let’s go . ’
After a silence, Yakumo spoke .
Yakumo slowly turned around at Haruka’s question .
'To search for Masato, of course…’
While driving, Wakabayashi’s sad face came up in Gotou’s head .
Come to think of it, Wakabayashi had just happened to head out to the mountain and ended up burdened with a secret that he shouldn’t have had to shoulder for forty five years .
It was like the situation Masato had been in before . Children were powerless in such unreasonable circumstances .
He had probably also been a victim .
'It’s rare for you to be thinking,’ said Yakumo from the passenger seat, like he had seen through Gotou .
'I just think it’s awful . ’
'It is . To treat them as demons just because they look different…’
Haruka agreed from the backseat .
'That’s a bit different . ’
Yakumo was the one who spoke .
'What do you mean, different?’
'Gotou-san, do you think they were really killed just because of red eyes and a horn?’
Yakumo replied to Gotou’s question with a question .
'They weren’t,’ Yakumo said firmly .
'Wait a second . What do you mean?’
That was different from what Yakumo had been saying earlier . Though Gotou was confused, Yakumo was as nonchalant as ever .
'According to the notes Doctor Kawakami left, aconitine was found from the body of Kitaoka Hidetaka, the land owner’s eldest son . ’
'Aconite… Would that be easier to understand?’
Gotou swallowed .
Monkshood was a wild grass with beautiful purple flowers . Its roots were incredibly poisonous .
It caused breathing difficulties, arrhythmia and drop in blood pressure . On top of its prompt efficiency, there was no antidote . It was said that three milligrams was enough to kill somebody .
Despite how poisonous it was, it grew throughout the mountain forests and was incredibly easy to obtain – a rather troublesome find .
If aconitine was found, that meant –
'Could it be – ’
'It could be . The first person to make a fuss about Rin being a witch was Takafumi, the younger brother of the dead Hidetaka . ’
A chill went down Gotou’s spine .
'So his brother Takafumi poisoned him . ’
'It would be appropriate to think that way . ’
'What the hell…’
That was enough for Gotou to imagine what had happened .
The second son, Takafumi, had probably poisoned the eldest son, Hidetaka, because of some inheritance issues .
After Hidetaka was carried to the Kinasa Clinic, he died, just as Takafumi wanted .
It was a village clinic without medical equipment . The incident should have been written off as a death from illness .
However, Kawakami, the doctor at the clinic, realised .
If Kawakami made a fuss, Takafumi would be in danger . Then, Takafumi joined up with Wakabayashi’s father, the local officer at the time, and raised a rumour about it being a witch’s curse .
– What a disgusting guy .
In his anger, a question came to Gotou .
'Wait a second . The doctor called Kawakami…’
Died after falling into a ravine . That might not have been an accident .
'The two of them probably pushed him in to kill him . ’
Yakumo ground his back teeth together loudly .
Haruka raised a voice full of sadness .
If that were true, it was just as horrible as Haruka said . But –
'Do you have proof?’
'Yes . ’
Yakumo flipped open to the last page of the notebook that he had shown Haruka earlier .
There was just one short sentence: I’m going to meet with him in the presence of the local officer, Wakabayashi-san .
'So he thought it’d be safe if he went with the local officer present . ’
'Yes . However, he must have thought he was in danger, since he hid this notebook under the clinic floorboards just in case . ’
'So the landowner was always in on it?’
'I confirmed that with Wakabayashi-san earlier . The relationship between him and the landowner’s second son, Takafumi…’
Gotou had heard too .
They had been friends since they were students, and he’d also borrowed money .
'Money, eh…’ said Gotou, swallowing his anger .
He probably contrived to get his cut after Takafumi got his inheritance .
At first, Takafumi had only poisoned the eldest son, Hidetaka . However, since he was found out, the situation changed .
In the end, he decided to kill Kawakami and Rin –
'That isn’t something a person should do,’ said Gotou with a click of his tongue .
However, Yakumo denied his anger-filled words .
'That isn’t true . ’
'Killing people for their own selfish desires – only people do that . ’
Yakumo’s quiet words pierced deep into Gotou’s heart .
Unable to agree or disagree, Gotou just bit his lip .
After a while, they reached their destination . Gotou parked the car in front of the cottage . When he looked at the cedar tree with his knowledge, it felt a bit sad .
'We going then?’
Gotou was about to get off the car, but Yakumo stopped him .
'Gotou-san, I have a request . ’
As he said that, a fearless smile appeared on Yakumo’s lips .
Haruka stood in front of the cottage with Yakumo .
The solemn columns and white walled building matched its forested surroundings .
On top of the log table on the terrace, there were two old coffee cops which had been left behind .
What did the people who lived her before think as they looked at the cedar tree?
That thought suddenly came to Haruka’s mind .
'Is Masato-kun really here?’ asked Haruka, gripping onto Yakumo’s arm .
'He is,’ declared Yakumo .
'Why do you think that?’
Haruka didn’t know why Masato – no, why Rin, who was possessing him, would come here .
Without responding, Yakumo put a hand on the front door . However, it wouldn’t open – it appeared to be locked .
'You must not step away from me . ’
As Yakumo murmured that, he went around to the back of the building .
After walking through the weeds for the while, Yakumo suddenly stopped like he had found something .
Yakumo was looking at a small window at his waist .
The glass was broken .
'Let’s go . ’
After saying that, Yakumo went inside through the window frame .
Haruka took Yakumo’s hand, which he stuck out form inside, and stepped into the house as well .
Because the curtains were closed, the room was dark .
The room had a red carpet . Perhaps it was used as a bedroom, as there was a large double bed .
On top of the sideboard, there was a vase .
Though it was empty now, flowers might have kept in it before .
Yakumo turned on the torch he had borrowed from Gotou and slowly headed deeper into the building .
They went straight through the room and opened the door to see a living room with a fireplace . Chic rocking chairs were lined up next to each other .
In the back of the room, there was a large wall clock with a moving pendulum .
Something moved .
Yakumo slowly pointed the light of the torch at it .
Haruka saw a black shadow in the corner of the room .
Haruka cried out without thinking .
Masato had his back to the wall and was sitting there hugging his knees .
Haruka tried to run towards him, but Yakumo grabbed her arm .
'Don’t just run over there!’
'That isn’t Masato . It’s the spirit of Rin-san, who was called a witch . ’
Haruka finally came to her senses when she heard Yakumo’s words .
Even if he looked like Masato from the outside, a different person was inside him – Rin .
In the dark, Masato’s bloodshot eyes stood out .
Was there a violent hatred because of being persecuted and killed in those eyes?
'What should we do?’ Haruka asked Yakumo .
She knew Masato was possessed by Rin’s spirit, but she couldn’t leave it like this .
'She isn’t resentful,’ said Yakumo with pity .
'Then why is she wandering?’
'She isn’t wandering . She’s searching . ’
Yakumo lowered his sad gaze .
'Searching? What for?’
'Obviously, the son that separated from her when she was killed . ’
– Her son .
That was right . Rin had a child . Ookura and Wakabayashi had said that . That child was missing .
Yakumo had said that if Rin were filled with hatred, they wouldn’t have been able to find Yumiko . Haruka felt like this was what he meant .
'But why here?’
'Yesterday, we found Yumiko-chan near the clinic where Rin was . This is where she sent her son off before she was killed . ’
That was why Rin had chosen this place . Even after her death, she was looking for her son . This was an emotion much stronger than hatred – love .
'Rin-san . ’
Yakumo slowly approached Masato as he said that .
Masato – no, Rin – let out a howl like a wolf trying to intimidate its enemies as she glared at Yakumo . It felt like she would bite his neck if he let his guard done even slightly .
However, Haruka strangely felt no fear .
'Please . Return Masato-kun . I will search for your son, so…’
Haruka looked straight at Rin’s eyes as she pleaded .
She had been in a terrible situation . She was persecuted as a witch and even lost her life in the end . Still, what she wanted in the end was for her beloved son to be safe .
'Please . Don’t suffer any more . ’
Haruka reached out to hug Rin .
'Back off . ’
Yakumo stepped between them and forced her away .
'Rin-san just wants to meet her own child . So…’
Haruka’s body was shaking . She started crying naturally .
Why did this happen? Rin had just wanted something that was natural, so why did somebody trample on that wish?
Haruka didn’t understand .
'Even though his eyes were red and he had a horn, he was still human . But…’
With anger and sadness mixed together, Haruka didn’t know what she wanted to say .
'That’s enough . Thank you,’ murmured Yakumo, laying a hand on Haruka’s head .
Why did Yakumo say 'Thank you’ – before Haruka could ask, Yakumo stood in front of Rin again .
'It’s nice to meet you, Rin-san . ’
Yakumo had a gentle smile that didn’t fit the atmosphere as he continued .
'I’m your grandchild . ’
Even Haruka thought her voice sounded strange .
That was how unexpected Yakumo’s words were .
While Haruka was still confused, there was the sound of metal on metal as the door opened .
Haruka glanced over, but the person standing there was completely different .
– Nanase Miyuki .
Her long hair hung around her face, covering the left half of it .
With a twisted smile on her lips, she walked straight for them with a cold gaze filled with ill intent .
She was holding a square wooden box on her left side and a knife with a wide blade that could cut firewood in her right hand .
'Look what the cat’s dragged in! if it isn’t Yakumo-kun,’ Miyuki said in a low voice .
Haruka was shaking in fear, but Yakumo didn’t look disturbed at all .
'So you really came,’ he said quietly .
'Really? It’s like you knew I was going to come . ’
'It’s not like I knew – I did know . ’
'Acting so smart . ’
'I’m not acting . This is an important place to you, so…’
Miyuki let out a shrill shriek, interrupting Yakumo .
Perhaps because of her anger, her right hand holding the blade was shaking . Though she acted calm when things went her way, when something unexpected happen, she suddenly became angry, losing her senses .
'You become emotionally so quickly . ’
Yakumo looked at Miyuki scornfully .
'You always get in my way . Stealing the things that are important to me . ’
Miyuki glared at Yakumo as she took ragged breaths .
'Steal? That isn’t correct . You lost it yourself . No, that isn’t correct either . What you wanted never existed in the first place . ’
'Shut your mouth! What do you know? I won’t give it over to you!’
Miyuki bared her teeth as her cheek twitched .
It was like something had snapped within her .
Miyuki raised the blade .
Right after the glinting tip came down – a huge bearlike figure rushed in .
'Gotou-san!’ exclaimed Haruka in her surprise .
Miyuki was blown away by the surprise attack like she had been in a traffic accident and fell down face-up .
The wooden box fell and something like a ball rolled out, hitting the wall .
It wasn’t a ball . It was a human head . And its eyes were deep red .
'Aaahh!’ screamed Haruka, jumping up .
'Just as you expected,’ said Gotou as he pulled up the sleeves of his shirt with ragged breathing .
'I would have preferred it outside . ’
Yakumo ran a hand through his hair in irritation .
Before coming here Yakumo had told Gotou to hide himself . Now Haruka understood the reason .
But – d
'How did you know Nanase Miyuki would come?’
'I want to know too,’ agreed Gotou as he took out handcuffs and cuffed Miyuki’s left hand to the window frame .
'I’ll explain later . First…’
Yakumo picked up the head that had rolled to the wall in both hands and turned towards Masato again .
'That was quite an interruption . ’
Masato didn’t respond . He just looked out .
Yakumo continued speaking regardless .
'This is what you’re looking for . ’
Yakumo held the head out to Masato –
'Oi! What are you talking about?’ yelled Gotou .
Why would Rin, who was killed forty-five years ago, be searching for the head of the man with two red eyes?
Gotou walked over to Yakumo with a wide stride .
'Please be quiet,’ said Yakumo, turning around .
'How could I be quiet? Explain properly . ’
'Rin-san isn’t looking for the people who killed her . ’
'Then what is she looking for?’
'Her son . ’
Yakumo spoke in pieces, as if he were confirming his words .
Gotou understood now . Rin had taken her son with her when she ran from the village . Then, the son disappeared after the incident .
'Could it be…’
The answer that inevitable came to Gotou made him speak aloud in his surprise .
'Correct . The man with two red eyes is Rin-san’s son . ’
Gotou couldn’t believe it .
'He doesn’t have a horn, right?’
Yakumo had said earlier that Rin’s son had a horn .
However, the man with two red eyes didn’t have a horn .
'He did . ’
As Yakumo said that, he brushed aside the hair on the head’s forehead and showed the skin underneath it .
'Ah!’ said Haruka, though she was still frightened .
Gotou could see as well .
'It’s the scar from removing the “horn”,’ said Yakumo .
'How’d you know that man and Rin’s son were the same person?’
'There aren’t many men with two red eyes . ’
That was true –
But wasn’t jumping to a conclusion from just that dangerous? Perhaps Yakumo sensed Gotou’s question, because he continued his explanation .
'Furthermore, I was held captive before in a log house in the Togakushi mountain area . Kamiyama-san also met with this man in Togakushi . ’
That was –
'Not a coincidence . ’
As Gotou said that, he recalled what he’d heard at the real estate office .
This cottage had a parent and child living here – that was probably the man with two red eyes and Nanase Miyuki .
'Twenty years ago, the local officer and the land owner’s second son, Takafumi-san, were killed here by that man . ’
The story made sense . The man with two red eyes probably killed Wakabayashi’s father and Takafumi in revenge for his mother .
'Afterwards, he made this his secret hiding place,’ said Yakumo, looking down at Nanase Miyuki, who had fainted .
Gotou understood . That was why this woman, after having her hiding place in Tokyo by Ishii, returned here . But –
'Why’d he make this his hiding place?’
'Please remember . Fifteen years ago, this man ended up moving together with Miyuki, who had killed her own family . She had been just ten then . He needed a place to settle down . ’
That was why he ended up renting this cottage to live in . There wouldn’t be many people around here – they might have been able to live secretly . But was that all?
'There were other places to hide, right?’
'It was his hometown . ’
'Furthermore, he could see the cedar tree where his mother was buried here . ’
Yakumo pointed out the window .
When Gotou looked out the window, he could see that cedar tree through the gap in the curtains . It was just like a grave marker .
'Would that man care ab out that?’
Even while Gotou asked that, he came to the answer .
The man with two red eyes killed the local officer, Wakabayashi’s father, and the landowner’s second son, Takafumi, in revenge for his mother .
That was evidence of how he thought of his mother and his connection to his hometown .
'Though I don’t know whether he himself was conscious of it…’
As Yakumo said that, he smiled bitterly .
That means –
'Nanase Miyuki didn’t think you’d be here then . ’
'That is a little bit wrong . ’
Yakumo shook his head .
'It’s because I was here that she was anxious . ’
'What do you mean?’
'This is where that man and Nanase Miyuki lived together . There are probably traces of the various incidents they have been involved in up until now . ’
Yakumo’s father, the man with two red eyes, and Miyuki had pulled the strings of a number of cases in the past, but that wasn’t all . There had to be cases they didn’t know about yet .
There was information here that she didn’t want them to know, which was why –
'She didn’t want us to find it…’
'Furthermore, to her, this place has her memories with that man . She wouldn’t want me to see it . ’
On top of loving the man with red eyes, Nanase Miyuki was jealous of Yakumo, who was connected to that man with blood and also had a red left eye .
Because that was who she was, when she found out Yakumo was in Nagano, she wanted to clear things up before he found anything unnecessary .
'She was also going to kill me this time since I am an eyesore to her . ’
Even though his life had been in danger, Yakumo spoke coolly . Gotou understood the situation . But what were they going to do next?
While Gotou was thinking, Yakumo turned towards Masato and took a step forward .
'Rin-san . You died . Forty-five years ago…’
Masato’s body shook . Resisting the truth . That was how it looked .
Masato’s breathing was ragged .
It was too late when Gotou noticed .
Masato had lowered his body . He kicked the floor with incredible force and charged forward .
'Gotou-san, please stop him!’
Responding immediately to Yakumo’s yell, Gotou spread his arms to block Masato’s path, but it was too late .
Masato ducked under Gotou’s arms and ran out .
Yakumo placed the head he was holding on the floor chased after Masato with the nimbleness of a cat .
As Haruka yelled, she ran out .
Gotou ran after the two of them a step later .
Haruka yelled as she ran after Masato .
Yakumo was right outside the cottage . He was looking at Masato .
Masato stood between the cottage and the cedar tree and stared at Yakumo .
Standing in the middle of the skunk cabbage, the cedar tree shook in the wind .
Haruka was about to run towards Masato, but Yakumo stopped her immediately .
'Why? Masato-kun is – ’
'It’s still Rin-san . ’
Masato or Rin – Haruka didn’t care . If she watched silently like this, they would disappear . That was how Haruka felt .
Haruka turned away from Yakumo and started to approach Masato when she saw a man standing by the cedar tree .
His long hair flowed down his back and he wore a black suit . His eyes were dyed deep red like a blazing flame .
The man whose head had been cut off .
Even after he had died and become a spirit, he misled people’s hearts and instigated a number of crimes .
'Oi! Yakumo! That guy!’
Gotou had just come out of the cottage when he yelled in surprise .
'Gotou-san, please watch her,’ instructed Yakumo .
'She can’t run away though . ’
'Just do it!’ said Yakumo in his irritation as he turned towards the man with two red eyes again .
When Haruka called out to him, Yakumo slowly started walking .
– Yakumo’s going to disappear . With that worry, Haruka swallowed her fear and followed Yakumo, hiding behind his back .
In response, the man with two red eyes started walking slowly as well . They both narrowed the distance between them, stopping right as they had Masato between them .
Haruka’s hands were in tight fists as she looked at Yakumo’s back .
'Rin-san . ’
After a silence, Yakumo opened his mouth .
Masato slowly lifted his head .
'No, I should say Grandmother . He is your son . ’
As Yakumo said that, he pointed at the man with two red eyes .
Yakumo had said that earlier . Rin’s son was the man with two red eyes . That he was her grandson .
– This is my hometown too .
What Yakumo said yesterday flashed through her mind . She felt like this was what he meant .
Masato slowly turned to look at the man with two red eyes .
Then, the atmosphere completely changed .
As Masato spoke, he lifted his arms and pointed out shaking fingers as he walked towards the man with two red eyes .
It would be dangerous to let him go to that man . Haruka grabbed Yakumo’s arm tightly in her worry .
Masato stood in front of the man with two red eyes .
'Don’t move from here . ’
After saying that, Yakumo grabbed Masato’s arms .
'Grandmother . You don’t have to search for anyone any more . ’
Yakumo looked at her with pitying eyes .
It was the first time Haruka had seen his eyes look like that .
Tears started falling out of Masato’s – no, Rin’s eyes .
She had been looking for her son this whole time .
It didn’t matter that her son had a horn in his head or red eyes . To her, he was her beloved son –
But that was all .
She wasn’t a demon . She was a mother who thought of her child .
'Grandmother, it’s over now . You protected your son . That blood has continued and is still living now . ’
When Yakumo said that, he embraced Masato from behind, enveloping his body .
The muscles in Masato’s body relaxed as he slowly collapsed into Yakumo’s arms .
For a moment – just a moment – Haruka felt like she saw the figure of a faintly smiling woman .
Haruka rushed towards Yakumo and Masato .
'I’ll leave Masato to you . ’
After Yakumo said that, Haruka took Masato into her arms .
He was breathing .
– Thank goodness . Really, thank goodness .
Haruka lost her strength in her relief and started crying . She wiped those tears and looked up to see Yakumo facing the man with two red eyes .
'Your hatred is directed at the wrong place . ’
Yakumo’s voice reverberated, pregnant with hostility .
'On that day, I saw the true nature of humanity…’
The man with two red eyes smiled dauntingly .
When he was young, he probably saw his mother killed with unreasonable violence . What did he think as he heard his mother scream in the agony of her death? What was born in his heart?
Haruka couldn’t even imagine it . No, she was afraid of imagining it .
'You didn’t see everything . ’
'People are arrogant, selfish and avaricious . They are different from others . That reason is enough for them to scorn, hate and fear . People are terrible beyond reason . ’
'Your mother is also human . She gave up her life to protect you . That isn’t some awful emotion . It is pure love . ’
'You talk like you know everything . You don’t know the darkness of humanity . ’
'Aren’t you human as well?’
'I’m a demon . At that time, I threw away all my emotions and became a demon . ’
'Then why did you avenge your mother? Why did you make the place where your mother slept your hiding place?’
'There isn’t a reason . ’
'Then why did you carry on your family line?’
To Haruka, it looked like Yakumo’s shoulders were shaking slightly .
'A whim . ’
'That’s a lie . My existence is a contradiction to your thoughts . Even a person like you has emotions . ’
'I don’t have emotions . I am a demon made by the actions of humanity . ’
'Are you asking for sympathy? You weren’t made by anyone . You are you . No matter what the circumstances, the person who chooses your path is you yourself . ’
Yakumo’s voice seemed to echo off of the trees .
Yakumo was absolutely right . Haruka did sympathise .
The man with two red eyes was born into this world as an anomaly, was persecuted and wandered as he searched for a place he belonged to .
When he finally arrived here, he was given the dirty title of murderer, chased out as a demon, and had to watch his mother beaten to death before his eyes .
'Your reasoning is no reason to kill somebody!’
At the end, Yakumo declared that .
'It seems we really can’t understand each other…’
With that weak ending, the man with two red eyes disappeared as if he had melted into the scenery .
Haruka felt like she had caught a glimpse of his heart .
Because he was different from others, he was scorned, persecuted and feared . The people important to him were taken away – he might have walked in despair all this time .
Like that, hatred started to well up in the bottom of his heart and he took a step onto the path of madness .
'Yakumo-kun, what you said wasn’t wrong . No matter what the reason, it isn’t a reason to kill somebody,’ Haruka said towards Yakumo’s back .
'I know . ’
When Yakumo turned around, his expression was his usual, which was anticlimactic . He ran a hand through his messy hair and yawned with sleepy eyes .
That was right . Yakumo knew that best .
'Is it over?’
Gotou called from the entrance .
'Yes . Rin-san has gone . ’
Yakumo’s eyes narrowed as he looked up at the sky .
– This is the end .
Just as Haruka had relaxed, there was a sudden beastly howl .
It was probably a human scream .
She looked at Yakumo . They looked at the cottage, where the voice had come from .
Miyuki had been in there –
Gotou heard a beastly howl as he stood in the entrance .
He turned around and saw Miyuki standing there .
Wasn’t she handcuffed? He found the answer to that question once he looked at her .
Miyuki had the head of the man with two red eyes under her left arm and a knife with a wide blade in her right . The handcuffs hung from her left wrist .
She had broken the window frame with the knife .
She had probably hurt herself when breaking it . Blood dripped from her left wrist .
Her dry lips were twisted into a frown . The eyes that peered through her fringe were filled with madness .
Just like a witch .
– That was my mistake .
Even though Yakumo had told him to watch her, he had looked away, sure she wouldn’t be able to escape .
– But I won’t let you get away again .
With ragged breaths, Miyuki glared at Gotou .
'I won’t let you get away . ’
Gotou glared back at Miyuki .
Bend over, rush at her, grab the knife – while Gotou was thinking about his plan, Miyuki laughed aloud .
– How can she laugh in this situation?
As if responding to Gotou’s question, just as he thought he smelt something burning, black smoke started enveloping the area .
Seemed like she had set the cottage on fire .
The flames danced, crackling as they did so .
Nanase Miyuki’s laughter grew louder .
At the same time as Gotou’s yell, Miyuki ran at Gotou, pushing him aside as she fled out of the cottage .
'As if I’d let you get away!’
Gotou kicked the ground and ran after Miyuki .
– I’ll get you this time .
Miyuki ran into the forest in front of his eyes .
On top of the ground being hard to walk on, he had to zigzag through the scattered cedar trees . The distance, rather than being shortened, was growing larger .
Miyuki’s laughter echoed through the forest .
As she reached a mossy rock about as high as a person, she stopped and turned to face Gotou .
– Did she give up?
Just as Gotou thought that, Miyuki kicked the rock and jumped .
'Damn it! Wait!’
Then, she disappeared .
Gotou didn’t realise at first what had happened .
Gotou dragged his feet onto the rock where Miyuki had been and then he understood .
When he looked down, he saw that he was on a cliff with a river flowing below .
He couldn’t see Miyuki any more –
 Short Hope (ショートホープ) or Shoppo (ショッポ) are nicknames for the ten-cigarette pack named Hope . There used to be . It is called Short Hope because there used to be a pack of twenty for long-size cigarettes called Long Hope . Now, all Hope cigarettes are called Short Hope even if they are regular size because of the old twenty-pack of Hope . Hope cigarettes are seen as a counterpart to Peace cigarettes . Hope and Peace cigarettes are short and strong – the most typical Japanese cigarettes, which is why Gotou calls Wakabayashi’s taste refined .
 Rin’s name is written with the kanji 凛, which is used in the expression 凛とした (rin to shita) meaning dignified, commanding .
The nyonindou is written as 女人堂 so it is a hall for women . The nun’s rock is the bikuni ishi (比丘尼石), wherein bikuni refers to a bhikkuni, a fully ordained female Buddhist monastic . Like everything else mentioned in Yakumo, this actually exists .