Volume 7 Epilogue
VOLUME 7 – THE LOCATION OF THE SPIRIT epilogue
‘Hey! Doing well?’
Haruka went with Yakumo to Masato’s hospital room.
At the reception, they ran into Masato’s aunt and heard in brief about his condition.
He didn’t have any major injuries and didn’t seem to remember the time when he was possessed by a ghost, but he was very healthy besides that. He was only in hospital for a check-up and would be able to be discharged tomorrow.
Masato’s aunt apologised again and again, saying, 'I apologise for the trouble we’ve caused.’
On the bed, Masato looked incredibly healthy. His expression brightened at once.
The inside of Haruka’s chest felt warm when she thought about how this child could smile like this now.
'We’re going back today so we thought we’d visit before then.’
'You’re already leaving?’
Masato’s voice went down.
With the fuss with the incident, Haruka hadn’t been able to talk with Masato at length. She felt a bit guilty.
'We’ll come another time, when there’s no case,’ said Yakumo, running a hand through his hair.
'You say that, but you didn’t come, right?’
'We’ll come next time. Promise.’
'Yeah. I have to visit my grandmother’s grave too, so I’ll visit you along the way.’ said Yakumo.
That was right. Rin was Yakumo’s grandmother. Yakumo’s background had been a mystery until now, but a lot of that had been revealed with this case.
'Along the way?’ said Masato, sounding dissatisfied, though he didn’t look like he really cared that much.
'Not happy with that?’
'Well, it’s fine.’
'Let’s eat soba at my house then,’ added Haruka.
'Your house gives out rocks as food,’ said Yakumo with a discouraged expression.
Haruka’s father, Kazuhiro, had given Yakumo an actual rock while calling it sobagaki.
'What’s up with your dad anyway? Yesterday, he suddenly forced himself into the room with some rice rine.’
Haruka hadn’t heard about that at all.
'He stayed until morning. Even though I was tired – it wasn’t welcome.’
What on earth had they talked about? Haruka was curious, but on the other hand, she was too frightened to ask.
'Hey. Are you two dating?’ asked Masato with a wide grin.
Haruka hadn’t thought that Masato would ask that question.
Her body heated up all at once.
Haruka was fumbling for words to reply when another boy Masato’s age ran in.
She’d seen him in a photo before. It was probably Tomoya.
'Masato! I’m so glad you’re OK!’
Tomoya leapt onto the bed and hugged Masato.
'Tomoya-kun, that hurts.’
'Shut up! You went off and searched on your own. This is punishment.’
Tomoya jostled Masato.
Haruka had heard that he blamed Masato when Yumiko disappeared, but it seemed like that hadn’t been how he really felt – it had probably come from mortification at himself for not being able to do anything.
'Wait, Tomoya. Masato-kun doesn’t like that.’
Yumiko interrupted them.
When Haruka saw the bright smile on Masato’s face, she felt how much he had changed.
Turning away from the cheerful children, Yakumo said that to Haruka quietly.
'Masato-kun, see you again.’
'See you again!’
With Masato’s smile behind her, Haruka followed Yakumo out.
* * *
Gotou sat on the sofa in the hospital waiting room with Wakabayashi.
Wakabayashi’s eyes were distant – he looked much older than yesterday, to the point that he looked like a different person.
'Are you all right?’
Gotou spoke up without thinking when he saw how small Wakabayashi looked.
'Yeah. I haven’t fallen so much that I need you to worry about me.’
Wakabayashi smiled wryly.
'So? What did you want to talk about?’ said Gotou, feeling uncomfortable.
I have something I want to talk to you about – Wakabayashi had said that.
'There’s something I want to give you.’
Wakabayashi took an old photo from his jacket pocket and gave it to Gotou.
'What is it?’
Gotou accepted it.
There was a middle-aged man with black-rimmed glasses. It was probably the doctor named Kawakami. Next to him stood a beautiful woman with almond eyes. She was Rin.
Between them was a boy who had his head turned down.
Gotou realised immediately who it was.
He could see a lump on his forehead.
This is the horn Yakumo talked about –
When Gotou saw it like this, it really didn’t look like a horn. It was just a bulge.
There was something wrong with the people who would treat him like a demon for something like this.
'I only talked to that boy once.’
Wakabayashi hadn’t mentioned that even in front of the cedar tree.
'When I went to the clinic about my father, I played cards with him in the garden.’
Just from knowing the several awful things that the man with two red eyes had down, that felt incredibly unnatural.
'At the time, he smiled. He smiled just like any other kid. I thought, so even demons laugh.’
'What are you trying to say?’
Wakabayashi breathed loudly before continuing.
'Was he always a demon? Or did the children around him turn him into one?’
Was the madness within somebody always there? Or was it brought out of them because of their circumstances?
Gotou had been on many cases.
He sometimes thought that circumstances definitely changed people. But on the other hand, he also felt there was madness from birth that normal people couldn’t understand.
Which is correct – Gotou thought about it, but he gave up right away.
'I don’t understand things as difficult as that,’ he replied curtly.
The man with two red eyes had said that the true nature of humanity was darkness. Yakumo had said that he could see a small light when he faced that darkness.
Rather than which was correct or incorrect, Gotou wanted to believe there was a light.
When he looked up, he saw Yakumo and Haruka walking towards him.
Wakabayashi stood up and bowed at both of them.
Yakumo received him with a nod.
Yakumo was the one who said that.
Right. Gotou really had to get back soon or it would be bad.
'Bye,’ said Gotou as he stood up.
* * *
As usual, Ishii was dying from boredom because of paperwork.
When Gotou reported that Nanase Miyuki was spotted in Nagano prefecture, the search here had been stopped.
Why did she go to Nagano? And how did Gotou encounter her?
There was a mountain of things Ishii wanted to ask once Gotou returned.
Interrupting Ishii’s thoughts, the door opened and Makoto appeared.
'Detective Gotou hasn’t returned yet then,’ said Makoto, sounding a bit disappointed as she looked around the room.
'He hasn’t. Earlier, he contacted me to say he was returning, but…’
'I see. I have a number of things I want to ask him.’
'Is it about Nanase Miyuki?’
Makoto looked somewhat sorrowful.
'Though only slightly, I feel like I understand what you were saying, Makoto-san,’ said Ishii, though he was a bit divided on whether to say it.
'About the reason for Nanase Miyuki’s actions. She stole back the head of the man with two red eyes even though it pu her in danger.’
'She will definitely show up again,’ said Makoto with confidence.
'Why do you think that?’
'Because of Yakumo-kun.’
Makoto said that matter-of-factly, but Ishii didn’t understand.
'To Nanase Miyuki, Yakumo-kun is…’
Interrupting Makoto’s words, the door opened with a bang.
Miyagawa flew into the room.
'Er, um, I think he’s heading her…’
'I’m going to fire that guy!’
Miyagawa’s face was red with anger. His menacing look made Ishii anxious.
'No, please, anything but that…’
Ishii wiped the sweat off his forehead as he tried to smooth things over.
For some reason, Makoto laughed as she saw that.
'Well, whatever. Ishii, come with me.’
Miyagawa signalled for him to come with his chin.
'You don’t want to?’
Miyagawa glared at him fiercely.
Ishii stood up reflexively and ran out after Miyagawa.
He fell –
* * *
Haruka closed her eyes in front of the cedar tree, a dwelling for spirits, and put her hands together.
Surrounded by white skunk cabbage, it felt sacred here.
This was where Rin had slept for a long forty-five years.
Her son had looked different from others. Even though that was all, people didn’t accept him. They persecuted her, making her lose her life.
However, she tried to protect her son until the end.
Even after death, she searched for him frantically, worried about his safety –
Though she had been in awful circumstances, it felt like her hope had been carried through.
How could Yakumo’s father be in such darkness even after death when he was so loved?
He had said this.
– I am a demon made by the actions of humanity.
Haruka couldn’t deny it. People were terrifyingly cruel to those who were different from them.
When those negative emotions connected, incidents like the one forty-five years ago occurred.
In that meaning, that person might also have been a victim.
Yakumo said this.
The only person who chooses your path is you yourself –
Haruka wanted to believe in Yakumo’s words. No matter how dark the circumstances, there was a small light ahead. When people couldn’t believe in that any more, they would step off the path.
'Let’s go already.’
Yakumo, who stood behind her, ran his hand through his messy hair in irritation.
'We’re going to your sister’s grave too. If we don’t hurry, we’ll have to stay another night.’
– That’s right. I have to visit my sister too.
Haruka stood up and looked at the sky.
The sun had set. The dusk sky was dyed red.
The mountain was also tinged with red, like the red leaves of autumn –