Volume 8 Chapter 2
VOLUME 8 – THE VANISHED SPIRIT
file 02: escape (TRANSLATION NOTES)
– Where is this?
Haruka stood up on the wooden floor in her bare feet .
There were candleholders in the four corners of the room . The small flames of the candles flickered .
It appeared to be a temple .
– Why am I here?
As if to answer Haruka’s question, a dark shadow walked in front of Haruka . It was somebody Haruka knew well .
‘Yakumo-kun, where did you go? I was worried . ’
Yakumo didn’t reply .
The muscles in his face were flaccid and his eyes weren’t focussed . His fingers occasionally twitched .
He looked a bit strange .
'Hey . Yakumo-kun . ’
Haruka called out once more . Then, Yakumo suddenly started laughing aloud .
He clutched his stomach as he convulsed with laughter .
'What’s so funny?’ Haruka said at last, though she was confused .
Yakumo suddenly stopped .
'What’s so funny, you say?’
Still smiling, Yakumo held up a knife in front of Haruka’s eyes .
The knife, coldly glinting, was dyed red . Blood dripped from its tip .
'That’s right . I’ve finally realised my true nature . ’
Haruka stepped back .
Yakumo took a step closer as if to chase her .
'That’s right . Killing people… is fun . ’
'You’re lying . ’
'Want to test me?’
Yakumo licked his lips .
Before Haruka noticed, his two eyes were dyed a deep red .
Haruka sat straight up .
She opened her eyes not in a temple but her own room . It looked like she’d fallen asleep on the table .
– That was a dream .
'Thank goodness . ’
Haruka heaved a sigh of relief and looked at the clock .
It was just past four in the morning . This wasn’t the time to sleep . She rubbed her eyes and looked back at her computer monitor when she felt somebody’s presence .
– Somebody’s here .
When Haruka turned around, she saw somebody sitting against the wall .
Haruka leapt up .
The person sitting there with his head hung slowly lifted his head .
'Yakumo-kun!’ exclaimed Haruka, her eyes wide .
There was no doubt about it . It was Yakumo .
His skin was so pale and his lips so dry and purple that it made her doubt he was alive .
His white shirt was covered in dirt and the left leg of his jeans was stained with blood .
'Why are you here…’ said Yakumo in a hoarse voice .
That was what Haruka wanted to ask .
But this wasn’t the time for that . Anyway, she had to bring Yakumo to a hospital to fix his horrible condiition .
'I ran here from the limestone cavern…’
'Tell me later . Anyway, I’ll call an ambulance . ’
Haruka took the mobile on the table in her hand .
'Then I went to the lake… Red flowers bloomed…’
Yakumo was talking deliriously .
'I see… I’m… already dead…’
'Don’t say something so stupid!’
'It’s fine… I got to see you… in the end…’
As he spoke, Yakumo’s shadow became gradually fainter and finally disappeared, as if he had melted into the room .
'Yakumo-kun? Hey, where are you?’
Haruka called out frantically, but Yakumo made no reply –
– So noisy .
Gotou woke up to the ringing of his mobile phone .
He’d gone round looking for Yakumo, but he couldn’t find him . He hadn’t thought it’d be so easy, but he still felt tired and disappointed .
He had planned on taking a break by sitting in the car’s driver seat, but then he had fallen asleep .
In the passenger’s seat, Eishin was sleeping while snoring loudly .
Unlike Gotou, who had searched for Yakumo frantically, Eishin had returned to the car soon after and fallen asleep after saying, 'There’s no way we’ll find him when it’s this dark . ’
Gotou looked at his wristwatch . It was just past four in the morning .
– Who’s calling at this time?
'Gotou speaking . ’
Gotou answered the phone while rubbing his eyes .
He heard Haruka’s hysterical voice on the other end of the phone .
The way she was so agitated wasn’t normal .
'What about Yakumo?’
<I said he came! Just earlier! In an awful condition!>
'Calm down a bit . Explain what you’re talking about . ’
Gotou sat up and tried to calm Haruka down by speaking slowly .
Finally, it seemed like Haruka had regained her calm . He heard her take deep breaths .
<Earlier, Yakumo-kun came to my room…>
Haruka spoke in a hoarse voice .
– He went back to Haruka?
It was possible . It irritated Gotou that Yakumo did that without contacting anyone, but he didn’t care as long as he was fine .
'So Yakumo’s there now?’
If possible, Gotou wanted to talk to him . There was a mountain of things he wanted to ask .
<Yes . Just like… smoke…>
'Weren’t your eyes just playing tricks on you?’
Haruka yelled loudly .
It was true that Haruka for one wouldn’t mistake somebody for Yakumo, but –
'He vanished, right?’
<That might have been Yakumo-kun’s spirit… Yakumo-kun might already…>
Gotou could hear Haruka start to sob .
A heat close to anger started boiling up within Gotou’s stomach .
'Yakumo-kun won’t die!’ he yelled, overcome by his emotion .
– Don’t screw with me . Yakumo died and went to see Haruka?
It wasn’t that Gotou was angry at Haruka, but he didn’t want to believe it . That guy wouldn’t die so easily .
'I’m saying he won’t die! So he won’t die!’
<That’s right . >
Though it was in a tear-filled voice, Haruka’s reply was firm .
She had become panicked by the sudden event, but it looked like she’d come back to her senses .
She had really become stronger . That was the woman in Yakumo’s heart for you .
'If you did see Yakumo’s spirit, Haruka-chan, did he say anything that could be a lead?’ Gotou said quickly .
<He said, 'Why are you here?’>
'Anything else . ’
<He said he got to a lake…>
<And that red flowers bloomed…>
'Red flowers . ’
'There’s a lake nearby . ’
Eishin had woken up at some point and he spoke from the passenger seat .
He had probably heard their conversation .
'Yeah . The red flowers are probably crape myrtle . ’
Eishin let out a big yawn as he leant back . It seemed like he didn’t realise the importance of his words .
'I said it at the beginning, right? There’s a lake near the temple where a woman’s screams…’
He had said that .
That was when Gotou had heard about the reincarnation of the girl called Hatsune . He’d completely forgotten because of everything that had happened .
But that was a place with spiritual connections .
'Can you go to that lake from the limestone cavern?’
'There’s a path through the cavern . If you go along the river from there, you’ll get to the lake . ’
A path through the cavern – that was the first Gotou had heard of it .
Maybe . Just maybe . But this old man was too laidback .
'You should say that from the beginning!’
'You didn’t ask,’ said Eishin without any shame .
– Are you Yakumo!?
Gotou bit back the urge to retort and sighed .
<… Gotou-san, did you realise something?>
Haruka’s anxious voice came from the phone .
'I’ll go to the lake near the temple . ’
'No . There’s no time to go pick you up . ’
<I understand . >
Haruka accepted it straightforwardly without fighting back .
'I’ll call you later . ’
<Gotou-san . >
Just as Gotou was about to turn on the car engine, Haruka spoke .
<Please absolutely bring Yakumo-kun back . >
Though Haruka spoke firmly, Gotou felt like there was a tremor there .
To be honest, he couldn’t make that irresponsible promise . But –
'I promise . ’
<Thank you . >
Gotou hung up and started the car .
Ishii turned around at the sound of the door opening .
Youko came into the room . She had a number of files in her arms .
'That was quick .
Youko didn’t reply to Ishii’s words .
She mechanically placed the files on Ishii’s desk and then sighed, covering her face with her hands .
'If the higher-ups knew I was helping out with things like this, it’d be quite a problem . ’ Youko glared at Ishii while propping her chin up in her hand .
Last night, Ishii had told Youko about the cases Yakumo had been involved in in the past .
It had been a long conversation .
At first, Youko had laughed scornfully, thinking it was ridiculous, but as Ishii continued to talk with fervour, her expression changed .
Then, with this case as the background, Ishii talked about how Yakumo had received a request to investigate a spiritual phenomenon related to reincarnation .
Youko had said she didn’t need Ishii’s cooperation, but that thinking had turned one hundred and eighty degrees .
She probably thought that solving the mystery behind the reincarnation story would be necessary to solve the case .
However, Ishii felt divided .
It was because he wasn’t confident that the method they had chosen was correct . And his suspicion about Yakumo was still smoking inside of him .
– Perhaps Yakumo really did kill him .
'I’m sorry . ’
Ishii bowed his head, feeling apologetic in a number of meanings .
It looked like Youko didn’t like his attitude, because she waved her hand like she was swatting a fly and looked away .
'Then what are we doing next?’ said Youko, tapping the files on top of the desk with her finger .
Ishii had asked Youko to take the files about murders, accidents, suicides and disappearances that had the name Minami in them from the Nishitama precinct .
Minami was the name that Hatsune, who said she was a reincarnation, claimed she had in her previous life .
'We’re going to look for something like it in these files . ’
'Something like it?’
'Yes, something like it . ’
'Can’t you explain more properly?’
It looked like his explanation had been too vague . Youko tapped the desk loudly in her irritation .
When she acted like this, she was somewhat like Gotou .
'That’s right… Let’s say people who might be Hatsune’s mother…’
'Well, all right . We just have to look for something like it, right?’ said Youko, sounding exasperated, but she took the files in hand and started flipping through them . Ishii started the same work, but his hands suddenly stopped .
Youko’s brows furrowed in irritation .
'Why do you feel like helping now?’
'You said this, right? Though Saitou Yakumo is being chased by the police, he should be chasing the reincarnation mystery . If I chase that mystery as well, I’ll reach him . ’
Just as Youko said, Ishii had said that last night . But –
'Is that all?’
Ishii leant forward .
Though Youko usually had good enunciation, she looked troubled .
’… I have a personal interest . ’
'He can see them, right… Er, ghosts…’
It looked like it was difficult for Youko to say .
'Ah, yes . ’
'I’ve seen them once too,’ said Youko in a low tone as she narrowed her eyes .
Ishii understood now .
Normally, even if he said that Yakumo could see ghosts, people wouldn’t believe it, but Youko had seen ghosts herself, so she believed what Ishiis aid .
'What sort of ghost was it?’
'What a strange question . ’
Youko smiled, seeming exasperated .
So she can make this sort of expression too – it made Ishii a bit happy .
'It is . You’re strange . ’
Ishii didn’t think he was different from other people . He was just a regular old useless guy .
'Yes . How should I put it…’
Though Youko started to speak, she looked down awkwardly and shook her head .
'What is it?’
'It’s nothing . ’
'Why not tell me? Please do . ’
He couldn’t help but be curious now that she had said that much . Ishii pressed further .
'I don’t know how to say it, but I think you’re unsuited for detective work . ’
'Yes . You’re too pure . ’
Ishii made a vague reply .
– Too pure .
He had been told the same thing countless times before, but Ishii didn’t know what part of him was supposed to be pure .
'Anyway, the ghost story,’ said Youko, changing the subject .
'Ah, that’s right . What sort of ghost did you see?’
'The ghost of my dead lover . ’
Ishii swallowed .
The regret he felt about asking spread through his chest .
Though it was just his own imaginings, he had thought that the ghost Youko had seen would have been something like a scary story .
'Though it seemed like that person was appealing to me for something, I couldn’t hear that voice…’
'Is that so…’
Ishii almost asked why that person had died, but he didn’t have the courage .
Youko probably wanted to meet that lover of hers again and hear those words .
That was why she was helping to look for Yakumo .
Just as the atmosphere had gotten a bit solemn, Youko’s mobile rang .
'Yes, Natsume speaking . ’
When Youko answered, she stood up and moved to the corner of the room .
Though Ishii couldn’t hear the conversation, he saw her expression stiffen in a flash and knew how serious it was .
'I’ll do the rest myself . ’
Youko said that quickly and hung up . Then, she tried to leave the room .
'Did something happen?’
Ishii stood up immediately and followed Youko .
Youko put a hand on her chin and looked up at the ceiling . It looked like she wasn’t sure whether she should talk about it .
'The information will come in soon enough,’ Ishii said, giving it a try .
'Another corpse was found . ’
'It’s unknown yet whether it’s related to this case . ’
'Do you know the identity?’
'I can’t say anything else . ’
Youko said just that and then briskly left the room .
– What on earth is happening?
Ishii wouldn’t stand for being left behind in this situation .
He hurriedly ran after Youko .
– He fell .
Gotou stepped down hard on the pedal as he drove .
Haruka said she saw Yakumo . Normally, he’d have put it aside, thinking it was foolish, but he didn’t feel like that right now .
He didn’t have any other leads anyway, so all he could do was charge there now .
There was a sharp curve, but Gotou just turned the wheel at the same speed .
He went right out into the other lane and the tires let out white smoke .
'You’re going too quickly . ’
Eishin sounded displeased about being thrown around by centrifugal force, but Gotou didn’t have the time for him right now .
'Hold on tight . ’
Gotou pressed down further on the accelerator .
Eishin grabbed the door handle so that he wouldn’t be thrown about .
'You’re being rash . ’
'I have to be rash, or I wouldn’t be able to keep up with Yakumo . ’
Eishin snorted at Gotou’s reply .
Though Eishin kept complaining, he looked like he was having fun .
'Here!’ yelled Eishin, like he’d suddenly remembered something .
Gotou slammed on the brakes in response . His body slammed into the seatbelt from the impact .
'Can’t you stop more quietly?’
'Then tell me earlier . ’
'You were driving too quickly . ’
– This old man never shuts up .
'So where is it?’
'Just up this slope . ’
Eishin pointed at the weedy path that stretched along the side of the asphalt .
With a click of his tongue, Gotou opened the door and got off .
The sky was starting to grow light .
He passed through the grass and practically had to crawl as he went up the slope .
After about ten minutes, he saw a lake .
Since it was called a lake, he’d thought it would be bigger, but it was only a hundred metres at most to the opposite shore – more of a pond .
He yelled from the bottom of his belly .
The voice just echoed back into his ears with no reply .
'Where are you!? Yakumo! It’s me! Gotou!’
Gotou kept yelling as he slowly walked around the lake .
Though he kept yelling, no reply came back to him .
– Damn it! Where is he?
Gotou looked around frantically .
Red flowers came into his vision . That was probably the crape myrtle they’d talked about .
'Over there then?’
Gotou rushed there on an impulse .
He stopped in front of the crape myrtle tree, out of breath, when he saw something moving in the grass .
– A pit viper .
Gotou kicked a rock by his feet .
The viper slide away .
'Don’t scare me . ’
He had just wiped the sweat off his neck when he saw somebody’s foot sticking out from behind a rock .
– Could it be?
Gotou ran over .
There was no doubt about it . It was Yakumo .
He had his back against the rock and was sitting with both legs out . His arms hung at his side and his head hung limply as well .
'Oi! Yakumo! Hang in there!’
Gotou took Yakumo’s face in his hands and pulled him up .
His skin was deathly pale . His body was considerably cold too .
– Don’t screw with me . Did he really die?
'Yakumo, wake up!’
Gotou slapped Yakumo with an open hand .
However, he was as unresponsive as a doll .
'It looked like he was bitten by a pit viper . ’
Eishin came over and said that as he pointed at Yakumo’s left leg .
His jeans were rolled up to his thigh . The leg that stuck out was very swollen and there were two small injuries, asi f pricked by a needle, in his shin .
He should’ve bit off that pit viper earlier .
'He tightened his belt above the injury . As you can see, it looks like the bite isn’t that deep . ’
'Can he be saved?’
'I don’t know . I can’t tell how long it’s been since he was bit . Anyway, we need to get him to a hospital right away . ’
Gotou was about to reply when he remembered something .
'Yakumo’s a fugitive . ’
Eishin stood up with eyes wide open . He looked just like a demon .
'Well, the police…’
'Right now, Yakumo’s life is the most important,’ said Eishin, interrupting Gotou .
That was right . Gotou had been so upset he’d almost forgotten what was most crucial .
'Right . My bad . ’
'I know a doctor near here . If I ask, the doctor probably won’t report him to the police . ’
Eishin’s eyes narrowed back to his usual expression .
Despite what he said, Eishin seemed to be worried about Yakumo from the bottom of his heart . Gotou might have misjudged him .
'Right . Anyway, let’s carry Yakumo . ’
– She left .
Ishii returned to his desk alone .
He had run out after Youko, but he fell partway and was left behind . He felt like things like this just kept on happening this time .
'No, this isn’t the time to feel depressed . ’
Ishii hit both of his cheeks and took the files that Youko had brought into his hands for a change of pace .
– I’ll look for something like it from these documents .
Now that he thought about it, it was vague . Though that hadn’t been the words Youko used, he didn’t know where to start .
'Oh, you’re here?’
The door opened and in came Miyagawa .
He walked over with a bowlegged gait and sat down on the desk, but he didn’t seem to have his usual pressure – or rather, ambition .
Like an old soldier tired of war .
'Were you still here?’
'It’s been busy on my end of things too,’ replied Miyagawa with no energy in his neck . It looked like his exhaustion had really piled up .
'Is that so…’
'Anyway, there’s something I want to talk to you about . ’
'Ah, yes . ’
'Where’s Gotou?’ said Miyagawa, looking around the room .
'Ah, er, he hasn’t yet…’
Ishii thought that he would be yelled at and pulled up his shoulders, but all that came back was a resigned 'That so’ .
'Did something happen?’
'Got a report from forensics earlier . ’
Miyagawa took a cigarette out of his pocket and lit up .
Ishii took an ashtray from the desk drawer and placed it in front of Miyagawa .
Miyagawa took in a deep breath of smoke and waited a long while before beginning to speak .
'The fingerprints in the university clubroom that Yakumo lives in match the fingerprints on the knife left at the scene . ’
'Seems to be ninety-nine per cent accurate . ’
Ishii felt like somebody had hit him in the head with a blunt object .
Even though he had suspected that Yakumo might have killed him in his heart, the shock was stronger than he had expected .
Ishii realised that he, like Gotou, had been certain that Yakumo would not kill somebody .
He might have just thought Yakumo could have been the culprit because of his feelings towards Haruka . That would have been better for him –
Ishii also knew what sort of person Yakumo really was .
Ishii didn’t know how many times Yakumo had saved him . But he had forgotten his debt of gratitude and couldn’t throw away the doubt that Yakumo had committed a murder from the corners of his heart because of his own terrible jealousy .
– I’m such a lowly person .
Ishii gripped his fists tightly and bit down the urge to scream .
'Jurisdiction will change Saitou Yakumo from a person of interest to a suspect . ’
– Saitou Yakumo, suspect .
Ishii had never thought that Yakumo would be described that way .
'But at this stage, it’s just that the fingerprints match, yes? Isn’t it too early to make him a suspect?’ said Ishii with a hopeful perspective .
Miyagawa shook his head forcefully .
'Besides the physical evidence, there’s also eyewitness testimony . Plus, he ran away from the police himself . There’s nothing that can be done now . ’
'That’s all . I came to tell you guys to back off . ’
Miyagawa looked at Ishii seriously .
It was a somewhat sad gaze .
'Yeah . What happened so far is fine, but if you involve yourself with Yakumo any more, you’ll be suspected without cause . I won’t be able to stick up for you . ’
What Miyagawa said made sense .
Now that Yakumo was a suspect, they would be suspected to be involved in the crime if they went in too deep . If they found out where Yakumo was and kept quiet, that would be aiding a fugitive .
Ishii knew that . But still, he couldn’t reply with a 'Yes sir’ .
'With all due deference to you, Chief Miyagawa, the possibility that Yakumo-shi has been falsely accused…’
'Don’t say any more! I know that myself!’
Miyagawa’s angry yell from the bottom of his stomach shook the room .
Though they had been brief, various emotions had been condensed in those words .
It wasn’t only Gotou and Ishii who had worked with Yakumo . Miyagawa had gotten to know Yakumo as well through various cases .
Miyagawa himself thought that Yakumo wouldn’t kill anybody .
However, he couldn’t protect Gotou and Ishii any further .
He had forced everything he wanted to say to the bottom of his stomach and made himself to be the bad guy so as to push Gotou and Ishii away from the case .
'You guys don’t want to handcuff Yakumo either, right?’
Miyagawa said just that and pressed his cigarette into the ashtray . Then, he left the room with slumped shoulders .
Ishii couldn’t think of anything to say to that back .
– What should I do?
Haruka held on to her mobile tightly as she paced around the room .
She was irritated with herself for being unable to do anything at a time like this .
Just thinking about Yakumo’s state made her chest hurt like it was being ripped apart .
– Please . Be safe .
All she could do was wish for that .
She felt that she was terribly small and unreliable .
Just by saying that name aloud, a number of emotions welled up within her, bringing her close to panic .
She placed the mobile on the table . By gripping the red stone on her necklace, she was somehow able to calm her emotions, which had been threatening to explode .
The intercom rang .
– Could it be?
With that thought, Haruka rushed to the monitor .
On the display was Gotou’s wife, Atsuko, and her adopted daughter, Nao .
'I’ll open up now . ’
Haruka quickly unlocked the auto-lock at the entrance . After a while, the doorbell rang .
She opened the door immediately and welcomed Atsuko and Nao inside .
'Sorry for coming at this time, but I just couldn’t sit still…’ Atsuko said quietly .
'No . I don’t want to be alone now either…’
'That’s right . It’s really quite the matter,’ said Atsuko quietly .
'Yes . ’
'My head’s a mess . Even though this is such a serious affair, that person won’t tell me anything . When he called home yesterday to say he wouldn’t be coming back, finally… And he didn’t explain the situation in detail either . He just told me to ask you, Haruka-chan… There’s a limit to being irresponsible . ’
Atsuko said that all at once in her agitation .
Though Haruka understood how she felt, Gotou must have been frantic as well . Currently, Haruka was also doing her best to search for Yakumo – she hadn’t thought to contact Atsuko and Nao .
'Haruka-chan, are you all right?’
Atsuko put her hand on Haruka’s shoulder .
Haruka felt like everything that she had been holding in came loose .
She wanted to just cling to Atsuko and cry, but then Nao jumped in front of Haruka .
She buried her face in Haruka’s chest and started to sob .
Haruka hugged Nao tightly .
'It’s all right,’ Haruka said, rubbing Nao’s back gently .
It was mysterious . Though Haruka had been the one about to collapse just earlier, when she took in Nao’s sobs like this, she felt her heart naturally calm down .
– I need to be more reliable .
It made her feel that way .
'Yakumo-kun hasn’t…?’ said Atsuko after things had calmed down .
'Gotou-san is going to search for him now . ’
'I see . If he doesn’t find him, feel free to hit him . I give my permission,’ said Atsuko jokingly .
'It’s fine . Gotou-san will definitely find him . Right, Nao-chan?’
Haruka pat Nao’s glossy hair .
Nao, who couldn’t hear, had no way to understand Haruka’s words . But it seemed like Haruka’s meaning had come across, as Nao nodded with her head still buried in Haruka’s chest .
– Yakumo . Come back soon .
The hospital was about fifteen minutes from the lake .
It was a small one-storey town clinic .
Gotou parked at the front entrance . Gotou took Yakumo’s head and Eishin his feet . They went into the clinic and placed Yakumo on the bench in the waiting room .
Since Eishin had contacted ahead of time, the examination room was open, but it was still early, so there were no other patients .
After Eishin set Yakumo down, he went right into the examination room .
'Yakumo . Hang in there . ’
Gotou called out to him frantically .
But Yakumo didn’t wake up .
– I’m begging you . Don’t die .
Gotou prayed as he gripped Yakumo’s hand tightly .
Doing that wouldn’t make Yakumo get better sooner . He knew that .
There are things people realise for the first time when they lose something .
Gotou had thought of him as a damn impudent brat who always said hateful things, but at some point, Yakumo had become like family to him .
It became natural for him to be there – if he disappeared, Gotou would be troubled .
Like his wife Atsuko and his daughter Nao, Gotou would protect Yakumo even if he lost his own life in the process .
'The doctor will see him now . We have to carry him to the examination room . ’
When Eishin hit Gotou’s shoulder, he came back to reality .
'Right,’ responded Gotou immediately . Then, they carried Yakumo to the examination room .
After they placed Yakumo on the bed in the examination room, an old man with a hunched back and white hair hobbled over .
He was somewhat like the coroner, Hata .
'This is Nakamoto-san . My old friend . ’
Eishin gave a simple introduction .
Gotou was about to introduce himself, but Nakamoto started to examine Yakumo, saying 'Let’s see’ like he wasn’t interested in pleasantries .
'It looked like he was bit by a pit viper,’ said Eishin, crossing his arms .
'A pit viper… when?’
Nakamoto’s eyes went wide .
'We don’t know exactly, but we think it was a while back . ’
'Bring me the serum immediately . ’
Nakamoto instructed the nearby middle-aged nurse .
She looked a bit surprised and stood there with a blank expression for a while, but when Nakamoto urged her – 'Hurry’ – she rushed out of the examination room .
Nakamoto looked at the injury with a penlight and checked Yakumo’s pupils, but then he sighed deeply .
'Can you save Yakumo?’ Gotou pressed .
'I don’t know yet . ’
'What do you mean, you don’t know! You’re going to save him!’
Gotou’s emotions boiled over and he grabbed the collar of Nakamoto’s gown .
However, Nakamoto just looked up at Gotou like he had seen something unpleasant .
'Eishin . Take this idiot outside . ’
'W-what!?’ yelled Gotou .
Eishin held Gotou from behind .
Gotou tried to fight, but Eishin was stronger than he had been expected and so Gotou was dragged out of the examination room .
'Calm down, idiot,’ said Eishin, like he was rebuking a child .
'How could I calm down?’
'Will your yelling make Yakumo get better?’
Gotou gritted his back teeth .
He knew that even without hearing a lecture from a monk .
'Anyway, you wait there . ’
Eishin pushed Gotou to sit down on the bench in the waiting room and returned to the examination room .
All Gotou could do was glare at the door, which slammed shut .
Gotou’s yell echoed through the waiting room .
He was so angry he wanted to punch somebody with all his might . Just as he put his fists down on his lap, his mobile phone rang .
When he checked the display, he saw that it was from Ishii .
'What do you want?’
Gotou answered the phone with evident irritation .
<D-Detective Gotou, it’s t-terrible . >
Ishii’s faltering voice made Gotou even angrier . If Ishii had been in front of him, he would have smacked his fist into his head .
'Talk already . ’
<Ah, yes sir . Actually, Chief Miyagawa told me this information earlier…>
'Like I said, what?’
<Yakumo-shi’s fingerprints match the ones on the knife . >
Gotou stood up without thinking .
Matching fingerprints was positive evidence . It looked like Yakumo had definitely held the knife .
<The Nishitama precinct is going to change Yakumo-shi from a person of interest to a suspect . >
'Don’t joke with me . ’
As Gotou muttered that, his eyes landed on the news on the television in the waiting room .
A horse-faced male reporter stood in front of the Nishitama precinct’s entrance and spoke in a rushed manner towards the cameras .
<Just now, according to the information we received, the Nishitama precinct has concluded that city university student, Saitou Yakumo, is the suspect…>
As if to interrupt the reporter’s words, a picture of Yakumo appeared on the screen .
It was probably the photo from his student ID or something like it . He had a white shirt on and a composed expression on his face .
It was probably from when he still wore his black contact lens . Gotou couldn’t see Yakumo’s red left eye .
Gotou heard Ishii call out to him from the other end of the phone .
'I can hear you . I’m looking at the news right now . ’
<And there was one more piece of news . >
<Another corpse was found in the Nishitama jurisdiction . >
<I don’t know . But with this timing…>
So it could be serial .
Not just one person but two had been killed – a big case . The Nishitama precinct would probably chase Yakumo with all their strength .
Not all . Detectives from central government would be out soon .
If that happened, all of the police force would be chasing Yakumo .
<What should we do?>
Ishii’s off-the-point question stopped Gotou’s thoughts .
<I said, what should we do now?>
'How would I know?’
'Think about what you should do on your own!’
After yelling that, Gotou hung up .
When he sat down on the bench, Gotou realised that he’d forgotten to tell Ishii that he’d found Yakumo . He thought about calling again, but decided against it . It would be better not to tell Ishii .
If he found out, he would have to report to the higher-ups . It’d bring about problems if he knew and kept quiet about it .
– I can’t get Ishii any more involved in this .
After smiling derisively, Gotou called Haruka’s number from his mobile phone’s contact list .
He’d call just to say they found him .
She had probably been waiting for a call . Gotou heard Haruka’s cornered voice right away .
She had probably been in more pain than anyone . It felt like she might start crying at any moment .
'It’s Gotou . ’
<Did you find Yakumo-kun?> Haruka said immediately .
So many things had happened up until now . To Haruka, Yakumo was irreplaceable, just like how he was to Gotou .
If Haruka lost Yakumo, she would probably carry that with her for her whole life .
When Gotou thought that, he couldn’t speak .
<So you didn’t find him…>
Haruka’s voice sounded like it would fade off at any moment .
'Like I promised, I found him,’ said Gotou, before his heart was determined .
Haruka’s voice was so bright it sounded like a different person’s .
Now, Gotou couldn’t say the truth .
– It’s fine . Yakumo will be saved .
Gotou said that to himself and made his decision .
'Yeah, really . ’
<Is Yakumo-kun all right?>
'Of course . ’
<I want to talk to him . >
'Ah, no, right now’s no good . He’s got a bit of an injury . A doctor’s looking at him . ’
'He’s fine . Nothing big . He’s getting it looked at just in case . ’
Gotou was hit by a wave of regret after saying that .
– What am I saying?
However, it was too late now that he’d said it . If anything happened, he’d make the same thing happen to that quack doctor .
<Thank goodness… Really, thank goodness…>
Gotou could tell that Haruka was crying on the other side of the phone .
– I’m really counting on you .
Gotou glared at the door of the examination room .
<Where are you now, dear?>
Suddenly, Gotou heard Atsuko’s voice from the other side of the phone .
'W-why are you there?’
Gotou became flustered in his confusion .
<What do you mean, why? Nao and I are also worried about Yakumo-kun . Don’t just run off like that . >
'I’m sorry . ’
Gotou’s voice toned down under Atsuko’s pressure .
He’d know this, but she really had some guts .
<So how is the case?>
'Don’t want to think about it . It’s the worst-case scenario . ’
'The fingerprints on the murder weapon match Yakumo’s . ’
<Yakumo-kun could never kill someone…>
'I know that . ’
Eishin’s words came up in Gotou’s head .
– People’s hearts change moment by moment .
That might be true . There was probably a side of Yakumo that Gotou and the others didn’t know . But still, he wanted to believe in Yakumo .
There was a line that people couldn’t cross . No matter what, Yakumo wasn’t the sort of person who would cross that line .
'Hey, Atsuko . ’
Gotou called his wife by his name .
He felt like it’d been a while since he’d done that . He didn’t know why, but since they married, it’d become natural for her to be by his side and he’d just gotten by with things like 'Oi’ .
But he felt like calling her by her name right now .
There was something he had to say properly while facing her .
'The police are chasing Yakumo as a suspect rather than a person of interest . But I can’t believe it . ’
<Right . >
'Could I ask you one thing?’
<Yes . >
'If I end up quitting the police, what will you do?’
The moment Gotou said that, he heard laughter from the other side of the phone .
Perhaps Atsuko wasn’t taking what Gotou said seriously . Or she didn’t understand the meaning of the question –
But Gotou’s answer cleared away those feelings of Gotou’s .
<If I had to say what I like about you, there’s one thing . You rush forward with your stupidly honest belief in others . >
'And if you had to say what you hated?’
<Your job . >
– She hates me being a police officer?
It was the first time he’d heard of it . It seemed like Atsuko had seen through all of Gotou’s worries .
He’d thought he’d been flying around freely up until now, but it looked like he’d actually just been dancing around in Atsuko’s palm .
He’d made an unbelievable woman into his wife .
'Got it . I’ll try not to be hated . ’
Gotou hung up and stood .
There was no reason to hesitate any more . Gotou was determined .
Yakumo might not like it, but he’d go with him to the ends of hell .
– I’m so glad .
Haruka gripped the red stone on her necklace tightly .
After seeing Yakumo in her room this morning, she recalled the time when her friend Shiori died and it had felt like her heart was in her mouth .
Nao was hopping around the room in happiness .
'That’s great . ’
Atsuko held Haruka’s shoulders tightly .
'Yes . ’
'My husband’s quite the guy, isn’t he?’
Atsuko really looked proud .
Haruka had to thank Gotou . Not just this time – he had stood on the front lines time and time again and protected thim with his body .
'Thank you very much . ’
Haruka knew her voice was trembling .
– No good . I’m going to cry again .
'Now, let’s stop with the sentimentality . There’s something we have to do too, right?’ said Atsuko .
'Yes,’ replied Haruka, wiping away her tears with her finger .
Just as Atsuko said, they had something they had to do .
Yakumo had become a suspect . If they didn’t prove his innocence, he couldn’t return even if he was safe .
As if to reply to Haruka’s feelings, the mobile phone on the table rang .
The number on the display was Makoto’s .
'Hello . ’
<Sorry for calling early in the morning . >
Makoto’s clear voice came through the phone .
'It’s fine . ’
<I found a number of interesting things while investigating . >
<A mysterious story about that limestone cave . >
Makoto lowered her tone .
'A mysterious story… is it?’
Haruka lowered her tone as well .
<Yes . Old newspapers were no good, but about ten years ago, the publication department of my newspaper agency put out a book about spiritual phenomena and there was a story about that limestone cave in it . >
Though her voice was quiet, Makoto spoke quickly . It was evident that she was agitated .
'What sort of story was it?’
Expectation welled up within Haruka too .
<Fanatics about that sort of thing said that a woman’s screams could be heard from that limestone cave . >
At this stage, Haruka didn’t know what that really meant, but she couldn’t ignore it .
<And there’s a rumour that you can also hear a woman’s screams at the lake near the limestone cavern . >
'At the lake…’
Haruka recalled what Eishin had said .
Hatsune, who said she was her mother’s reincarnation, shad said she was killed and sunk into the lake .
Hatsune was a girl of about ten years old . The time matched up . It could have something to do with it .
<That caught my interest, so I acted like I was going to gather material for this case and called people in the area . And then…>
Makoto spoke, interrupting Haruka’s thoughts .
'Did you find something out?’
<I got different testimony . >
<Yes . Though he was an old man already past sixty, that person said he heard a crying baby in that limestone cave when he was a kid . >
Though Haruka didn’t know the precise age of the person who had given the interview, she imagined that this was about fifty years ago .
The time was completely different, and a woman’s screams and a baby’s cries were completely different .
She had thought things might have been related, but she felt now that everything was falling apart .
'Isn’t that a different story?’
<Probably . >
Makoto said that as if it were a matter of fact .
When Makoto said that so firmly, it made Haruka more confused . Why had Makoto talked about a different spiritual phenomenon?
Makoto continued to speak, sensing Haruka’s question .
<That old man went into the limestone cavern to find out where the baby’s cries were coming from . >
Makoto’s voice changed . Haruka’s heart beat loudly .
Haruka held the mobile tightly and waited for Makoto to continue .
<He saw a woman there holding a child . >
<Yes . That isn’t all . He said that both of the woman’s eyes were dyed a deep red…>
– A woman with two red eyes .
Haruka couldn’t speak in her surprise .
<I don’t know for certain, but don’t you think one of these might be related to the case?>
Haruka agreed with Makoto’s opinion .
Two spiritual phenomena that had occurred in the same place . Hatsune, who claimed to be her mother’s reincarnation . If they found the thread that tied these three things together, they would solve the mystery of the case .
– Think about what you should do on your own!
Gotou’s words kept circling his head like a round .
For a while, he had thought that Gotou had abandoned him and had been dazed in his shock .
But after some time, he had understood the true meaning behind those words, as if they had slowly spread within his heart .
Gotou hadn’t abandoned him . He’d entrusted the matter to him .
When Ishii realised that, he had trembled from head to toe, like electricity was running through him .
No matter how much Miyagawa was against it, there was something he had to do .
Ishii was determined .
First, he needed to gather information . Youko had said that another corpse was found in the Nishitama jurisdiction . He would find out its identity .
The direction of his investigation would change depending on whether that corpse was related to Yakumo’s case .
Ishii took the phone from the desk but was troubled about his decision .
If he contacted Miyagawa through the internal line, the chief would probably be furious . That said, calling the Nishitama precinct without an official request would cause discord .
– What should I do?
Just as he held his head in disappointment, somebody’s face flashed through Ishii’s mind .
'That’s right . Makoto-san might know . ’
Ishii quickly called Makoto’s number from his mobile phone contacts list .
<Hello, Hijikata speaking . >
After a number of rings, Makoto picked up .
Ishii felt like it had been a while since he’d heard her voice . Since he had felt like he’d been left behind on his own, this relaxed him a bit .
'It’s Ishii . It’s been a while . ’
<Actually, I was just about to contact you too, Ishii-san . >
'Eh? Is that so?’
– What could it be?
'I was investigating Yakumo-kun’s case with Haruka-chan . >
Makoto answered Ishii’s question .
<How about you, Ishii-san?>
'Of course, I’m calling about Yakumo-shi’s case . There’s something I want to know, but…’
<If it’s a question I can reply to, of course . >
'It seems like a corpse was found in the Nishitama jurisdiction this morning . ’
Makoto seemed to sense the general situation just from Ishii’s explanation and put the phone on hold after saying 'Please wait’ .
A melancholic melody started to play .
While listening to it, Ishii realised that his impression of Makoto had changed .
In the past, he would become nervous in front of Makoto, but now that wasn’t the case .
– I wonder why .
<I’m sorry for the wait . >
Makoto spoke breathlessly, interrupting Ishii’s thoughts .
'What is it?’
<Though I don’t know too much…>
'That’s fine . ’
<His name is Matsumoto Hiroshi . Twenty-seven years old . He’s a high school teacher . He had taken an unauthorised leave from work since two days ago, and when a colleague from school went to check out on him, it looked like he had been stabbed multiple times with a knife . >
Ishii felt his feet shake when he heard what Makoto said .
Stabbed multiple times with a knife – that was the exact same method that Seidou had been killed with . Though it was too early to say it was the same perpetrator just from that, it was worth looking into .
<And the location of the crime was about five kilometres from that temple . >
Makoto added to her explanation .
It wasn’t that far . Ishii’s suspicions grew stronger .
<Does it seem related?>
Makoto said that as if she had read Ishii’s thoughts .
'I can’t say anything at this stage…’
Ishii was about to hang up, but then Makoto stopped him, saying <Ishii-san> .
'What is it?’
<I also have information that I’ve gathered . Shall we meet up later?>
That was a welcome suggestion .
He had to explain the situation to Haruka as well, and it would be better to have more heads to think about it .
'That sounds good . ’
<Then I’ll pick up Haruka-chan and meet you . >
'Thank you . ’
Ishii hung up and looked at the mountain of files that Youko had left behind . It was possible that something that connected Seidou and Matsumoto Hiroshi was in there .
Ishii rolled up his shirt sleeves and picked up a file .
– Still not done?
Gotou glared at the examination room door with his two hands in fists .
It had been more than two hours since .
He was irritated at himself for only being able to wait . At times like this, he longed for the cigarettes that he had stopped smoking .
Just as Gotou spat that out, the door opened .
Eishin came out . His forehead was drenched with sweat . He looked like he had lost weight .
'How is he?’
Gotou stood up immediately and approached Eishin .
Eishin let out a long breath and then his expression relaxed .
'Seems he’ll be fine if he gets some rest . ’
All the force in Gotou’s body left him – it felt like he’d fall right to the floor .
Gotou was surprised himself that Yakumo’s existence had had such an impact on him .
'So what do you plan to do now?’
Eishin looked at the glass door at the entrance, like he had sensed something .
Gotou looked as well .
He saw two uniformed officers approaching the examination room .
The nurse had probably informed the police after seeing the news . This was bad .
'Take Yakumo out of here,’ Gotou said forcefully .
'Are you serious?’
Eishin’s brow was furrowed .
Like Gotou had the time to tell jokes now .
'I’ll stop the officers . You take Yakumo then,’ said Gotou, glaring at Eishin .
For a while, Eishin just looked back at Gotou silently, but he finally shook his head in resignation .
'My, my . To think that I would become a partner in crime…’
'You were the start of this . You should be prepared . ’
'Got it . ’
Eishin smiled wryly and headed to the examination room .
'Now, time to go . ’
Gotou walked over with wide strides to the officers that had come in and showed them his police ID .
'I’m Gotou of the Setamachi precinct . ’
'Thank you for your hard work . ’
The uniformed officer immediately replied with a salute .
'Did something happen?’
'Yes . There was a report that the escaped suspect Saitou Yakumo was here…’
– So that really was it .
Gotou clicked his tongue looked at the examination room .
With bad timing, Eishin came out, carrying Yakumo .
One of the uniformed officers noticed and tried to approach Eishin, but Gotou grabbed the officer’s arm to stop him .
'It was decided that Saitou Yakumo will be turned over to the Setamachi precinct . ’
– Please . Believe me .
Gotou looked at the officer whose arm he was holding with that thought in his head .
'I will confirm that . ’
After the other officer said that, he took his wireless in his hand .
– No good, eh?
Gotou turned around and kneed the officer with the wireless between the legs .
The officer put his two hands to his crotch and screeched .
'Don’t think badly of me . ’
Gotou kicked the man’s defenceless chin .
The officer fell down backwards and stopped moving, loving consciousness .
'W-what are you doing?’
The other officer seemed in shock as he put his hand to the gun holster at his waist .
– As if I’d let you do that!
Gotou grabbed the officer’s arm as he tried to take out his gun and then rammed his head into his nose .
The officer staggered backwards while gripping his nose .
Gotou took a big step forward to approach the officer and performed a lariat with his outstretched right arm .
The officer fell backwards and stopped moving .
– I’ve done it now .
Though it was to save Yakumo, he was interfering with a public servant in the execution of his duties by aiding a fugitive . And he’d been violent on top of that . It wasn’t something a police officer should do .
He wouldn’t be able to be a police officer again with this .
Gotou had thought he would be disappointed, but strangely, his chest felt light . He had been bound by the organisation called the police up until now and had undergone many hardships, but now he was free .
'Shouldn’t have done that,’ Eishin said, poking fun .
As usual, this guy had no sense of nervousness .
'Anyway, let’s hurry . ’
Right after saying that, Gotou ran .
There was no time to be sentimental . Once the officers regained consciousness, help would probably come right away .
They had to get as far away as they could before that happened .
Gotou got in the car’s driver seat and turned on the engine .
He waited until Eishin put Yakumo in the back and sat himself in the passenger seat before starting the car .
'There was a movie like this before . The one with a pair escaping after committing a train robbery,’ said Eishin, smiling like he was enjoying this .
Gotou knew that movie too, but he didn’t want to compare themselves to it if he could .
'Do you know how that movie ended?’
'No, how did it?’
Eishin cocked his head .
– Really, what a laidback old man .
'In the end, they were surrounded by the army and shot full of holes . ’
– What’s this?
Ishii was looking through the files when he spotted the circumstances of a certain case and his hands stopped without thinking .
It was about a girl’s disappearance ten years ago .
Masuoka Minami, who lived in Nishitama City, was seventeen years old at the time . She went missing on the way home from school . Minami had still not been found .
From her friends’ testimony, Minami had seemed very depressed two or three days prior to the incident .
As well, on the day of her disappearance, she was spotted talking the train at the station in the direction of Shinjuku .
Her father had failed at work and lost his job and her mother was working part-time to support their family . Though she had wanted to go to university, but she was forced to give up .
It appeared that Minami had expressed her dissatisfaction with her family to her friends . The police had conjectured that she ran away from home because she hated her family .
After just looking at this much, it was a case that could happen often .
However, there was a reason Ishii had focussed on this case .
First was the name .
Furthermore, the person who had last seen Minami . That person was the victim of the case this time, Seidou .
There were other things that caught his interest . Matsumoto Hiroshi, the corpse that was found this morning, was the same age as Minami .
Was this just a coincidence – no, it was too much for that .
Ishii felt agitated .
Calling Minami’s family for information would be one method .
The door slammed open . Miyagawa ran in with a terribly angry expression .
His face was completely red – it looked like he could explode at any moment .
Ishii stood up reflexively, back pencil-straight .
Miyagawa brought his face so close to Ishii’s that their noses were almost touching .
His eyes were bloodshot . Ishii felt like Miyagawa might bite into his neck at any moment .
'I told you to back off already . What idiotic…’
Miyagawa covered his face with both hands and sat down right there .
Ishii had no idea what had happened, but when he saw Miyagawa’s unusual reaction, the feeling that something unbelievable was happening grew stronger .
'What on earth…’
When Ishii asked that, Miyagawa stood up there with a reproachful expression and clicked his tongue .
'There’s nothing else to say . This is the end…’
As if to interrupt Miyagawa’s explanation, the door opened .
Youko came in . Her expression was as wild as Miyagawa’s .
'You’ve done it now!’
'Did you know?’
Youko said that hysterically as she approached Ishii .
– What on earth is it?
Ishii’s head felt like it would split in his confusion .
'Your partner acted violently against two uniformed officers and escaped with Saitou Yakumo . ’
It was so unexpected that for a while, Ishii couldn’t understand the meaning of the words .
– It can’t be .
'Do you understand what this means? Aiding a fugitive and interfering with a public servant in the execution of his duties . And violence, on top of that . ’
'You’re lying . Detective Gotou wouldn’t do that . ’
Ishii looked at Miyagawa for help .
'It’s true . He really did something stupid…’
Miyagawa spat that out .
Ishii stood there, unable to believe it .
– I see .
Now, Ishii finally understood . Gotou had already found Yakumo when they talked on the phone . He had been planning on escaping with Yakumo from the very beginning .
That was why he didn’t tell Ishii about finding Yakumo – so as to not cause trouble for Ishii .
– Think about what you should do on your own!
Ishii understood the true meaning of Gotou’s words .
A bitter taste spread through his mouth .
'Even though… I wanted to go with Detective Gotou…’ murmured Ishii .
'What did you say?’
Miyagawa pressed him for an answer, but Ishii didn’t feel like replying .
– He left me behind .
That feeling quickly spread through Ishii’s chest, becoming so heavy it was hard to bear .
Ishii respected Gotou from the bottom of his heart .
Gotou had everything that Ishii didn’t . Ishii wanted to become like him . He wished for that . That was why he had recklessly chased after that back .
And yet –
'I need to go . ’
Ishii’s mouth moved naturally .
'I have to go too . ’
Ishii took the file he had started reading and started running before he’d noticed himself .
He didn’t stop at Miyagawa’s yell .
He just ran down the corridor frantically, as if he was possessed by something .
Though his feet tangled, he somehow managed to fix his posture .
He didn’t have the time to fall .
If he didn’t continue running, Gotou would leave him behind . That was –
'Not acceptable . ’
Ishii continued to run, as if he was being chased by something .
'Is this really OK?’ Eishin said to Gotou, who was driving .
'Is what OK?’ asked Gotou, confused by the question .
'You can’t return to the police any more . ’
Eishin’s narrow eyes narrowed even further .
It seemed like even this laidback old man was unusually worried .
'You should ask things like that before I actually do the act . ’
Gotou snorted as he turned the wheel .
Even if Eishin said that now, Gotou couldn’t take it back . And he had already known that he couldn’t be a police officer any more .
It’d be much more frightening to be abandoned by Atsuko .
’… Gotou-san . ’
Gotou heard a faint voice that could disappear at any moment .
He turned around frantically .
It was Yakumo –
It looked like he’d finally regained consciousness .
Gotou pulled the car over to the cur b right away and leant over to check on Yakumo .
Yakumo’s shoulders heaved as he took painful breaths, but he slowly got up from the backseat . It looked like his swollen left leg was in pain, as his expression twisted like he was in agony .
'So you’re alive?’
Though Gotou said that with a cluck of his tongue, he naturally smiled broadly .
– I’m glad . Really glad .
It was worth running against the police . Now Haruka wouldn’t have to call him a liar .
'Gotou-san, you’re more of an idiot than I imagined…’ said Yakumo, his expression twisting in pain .
'That’s the first thing you say? Can’t you honestly say “Thanks for saving me”?’
Though Gotou was grumbling, Gotou could see tears on Yakumo’s face through the rear-view mirror .
– Well, I’d probably hit him if he honestly thanked me because it would be so unpleasant .
Gotou murmured that in his heart .
’… I don’t remember asking you to save me . ’
After saying that, Yakumo started to cough .
Gotou had to take off his hat to Yakumo, who would go to those lengths to say such hateful things .
'It’s fine – just go sleep for a bit . ’
'I can’t… do that…’
Though Yakumo looked pained as he breathed, he looked at Gotou with a sharp glance .
Even if his body was in shambles, his mind seemed clear .
'There’s something I want to ask you first . ’
Eishin was the one who interrupted .
'Yes, I understand . ’
Yakumo gave a small nod . It felt like he knew what Eishin was going to ask .
'Did you kill Seidou?’
There was no waver in Eishin’s voice . He was just looking for the truth . That was how it seemed .
Eishin really was somewhat like Yakumo . No, would it be the other way around?
'I’ll be honest…’
After saying that, Yakumo licked his dry lips .
His expression was stiff . It was the first time Gotou had seen Yakumo look this way .
– It can’t be .
An uneasy feeling spread through Gotou’s chest . The longer the silence, the more that thought spread . An unpleasant sweat drenched his forehead .
'I don’t know . ’
Yakumo looked down .
'What do you mean, you don’t know?’ interrupted Gotou .
For a while, Yakumo stayed silent, head looking down, but then he suddenly lifted his head .
'I was in that limestone cavern before I noticed . I remember up until I went to that limestone cavern with Seidou-san, but everything after that…’
'You don’t remember?’
'I don’t . ’
Though Yakumo was good at speaking, he couldn’t lie skilfully .
He probably really didn’t remember . But if that was the case –
'Why did you run?’
Eishin spoke before Gotou could .
Yakumo stuck his hand into his jeans pocket and took out a crumpled piece of paper .
Eishin looked at it first . Then, it came around to Gotou .
There was a short message on the piece of paper .
<You’re the one who killed him . If you’re caught by the police, somebody important to you will die . >
Gotou’s brows furrowed .
– What the hell is this?
'It was on the door to the cave,’ Yakumo said, as if to answer Gotou’s question .
– Who’d do this?
Gotou was about to ask, but then he suddenly realised . Gotou only knew one person who would do something as roundabout as this .
'Could it be Nanase Miyuki?’
'Probably…’ said Yakumo with a sigh, running a hand through his hair .
It was that women . Just as the note said, if the police caught Yakumo, she probably really would kill somebody close to Yakumo .
In the past, Isshin had lost his life like that to her scheme .
Is her next target Nao or Haruka – a chill ran down Gotou’s spine just from thinking about it .
He was really glad he’d taken Yakumo out of there .
'Who’s that?’ Eishin asked, sounding interested .
'Ah . There’s a reason there . She’s the bitch who took Isshin’s life . ’
As Gotou said that, he leant back on his seat .
If Nanase Miyuki was involved, the situation was more annoying than he’d thought . And the situation was awful .
While running from the police, they had to find out the truth of the case .
There was too much to think about – it felt like his head would explode .
'What are you going to do?’ asked Gotou, though he knew .
'I will solve the mystery of the case . ’
Yakumo’s eyes narrowed . His red left eye seemed to be filled with force .
Just the answer Gotou had expected . No matter how battered he was, Yakumo probably planned on not giving up until the end . But –
'How are you going to solve the mystery?’
'First, I will meet once more with the girl called Hatsune who claims to be her mother’s reincarnation . ’
'What are you going to do after meeting her?’
'I want to fill the missing parts of my memory . ’
– I see .
'Got it . I’ll take you there . ’
Yakumo’s eyes went wide in surprise at Gotou’s words .
– What’s so surprising?
'I’ll do it myself . I can’t cause you any more trouble . ’
After Yakumo said that, his mouth went into a thin line . He was trying to shoulder everything himself again .
When Gotou saw that, he felt anger start bubbling up in his chest .
'Trouble!? What are you saying now!? If we don’t clear your name, I won’t be able to return home, let alone to the police!’
When Eishin heard Gotou’s yell, for some reason, he started to laugh .
'It’s because you act without thinking ahead that this sort of thing happens,’ said Yakumo with a bitter expression while running a hand through his messy hair .
That caused Gotou’s anger to explode .
'You bastard! That’s enough! I’ll kill you right here!’
'Would you lay off?’
Eishin grabbed Gotou’s hair and pulled him back .
In the backseat, Yakumo laughed .
Haruka was driven by Makoto to the police precinct so that they could meet with Ishii .
'I’m really sorry about inconveniencing you again . ’
In the passenger seat, Haruka bowed her head towards Makoto .
Makoto hadn’t just arranged the meeting with Ishii . She had also gone to Haruka’s flat to pick her up .
Haruka had an image of Makoto as a quiet person, but through these cases, that image grew much more active .
'Don’t worry about it . ’
Makoto smiled .
'It’s fine . I don’t believe Yakumo-kun would kill somebody either . And if this turns into a false accusation, this’ll be a scoop for me . You don’t have to feel sorry . ’
When Makoto said that, it made Haruka feel slightly better .
Haruka put a smile on her face and replied, 'All right . ’
'Ah, he’s here . ’
Makoto pointed at the front entrance of the police precinct .
Haruka saw Ishii running with limbs flailing .
'He looks a bit odd . ’
'He does . ’
Makoto agreed with Haruka’s opinion .
When Haruka looked more carefully, she saw a man with an incredibly angry expression chasing Ishii .
– I’ve seen him somewhere before .
'It’s Miyagawa-san, the chief of the police,’ Makoto said, as if to reply to Haruka’s question .
It looked somewhat like a detective chasing a criminal .
'Ah, please open the door!’
Ishii hit the window right as the car arrived and said that in a voice near a scream .
He was like a zombie from a horror movie .
'Please sit in the back . ’
Makoto quickly gave the instructions .
Ishii was looking around in panic, but he opened the door, got in and immediately locked the door .
'Please drive right away!’
There was a bead of sweat on Ishii’s forehead and his glasses were askew as he yelled frantically .
He looked so strange that Haruka and Makoto exchanged blank looks .
'Aah! He’s here! Hurry!’
Ishii looked out the window .
Miyagawa had got to the car . His expression wouldn’t lose to Ishii’s – he looked like a demon .
'Ah, yes . ’
Though Makoto looked confused, she started the car .
'Stop! I said stop!’ howled Miyagawa .
'Is this OK?’ said Makoto, looking at Miyagawa’s figure growing smaller in the rear-view mirror .
'It’s fine . There was a slight problem…’
Ishii heaved a sigh and wiped the sweat on his forehead with his shirt sleeve .
'Did something happen?’ asked Haruka, turning around .
Ishii had been odd, but Miyagawa’s appearance hadn’t been normal either . She felt like something unbelievable was happening .
'Ah… It’s difficult for me to say, but actually, Detective Gotou… er…’
Ishii started to speak after adjusting the position of his glasses with his finger, but then his voice trailed off and was drowned out by the car engine .
'Ah, sorry . Er, Detective Gotou is now also being chased by the police…’
– Why Gotou too?
Haruka didn’t understand at all .
'To put it simply, Detective Gotou acted violent against the uniformed officers who tried to arrest Yakumo-shi and then he fled . ’
Haruka felt like she’d been stabbed in the chest .
She had been the one who told Gotou where Yakumo was . She wanted Yakumo to be safe . But that had been all . That had brought about results that she hadn’t even thought about .
'That’s just like Gotou-san . ’
Makoto was smiling, the complete opposite of Haruka, whose heart was in pain .
'It is . ’
Ishii agreed .
It was true that it was like Gotou to strike the people who got in his way, but that wasn’t the problem .
'It’s my fault…’
Just as Haruka said that, her mobile phone rang .
The number on the display was Gotou’s but the voice she heard from the phone wasn’t .
<It’s been a while . >
'Yakumo-kun!’ exclaimed Haruka .
What does he mean, it’s been a while? Don’t act so carefree when you don’t even know how I feel . The anger flamed up in Haruka’s heart .
<Don’t speak so loudly . >
Yakumo said that in his usual voice .
That attitude just added oil to Haruka’s anger .
'What? You don’t even know how I feel . You can’t imagine what I thought…’
She didn’t have the words to continue .
Haruka’s eyes welled with tears .
Though she had been anger, in the bottom of her heart, she was relieved by hearing Yakumo’s voice .
Yakumo was important to her . That feeling was stronger than any other in her chest .
Yakumo said that awkwardly .
If he did feel bad, at least a little, that was fine .
Haruka sniffled and rubbed at her eyes to clear her head .
'Where are you now?
– I want to see him as soon as I can .
<I can’t say . >
Yakumo replied immediately .
<I’m the suspect in a murder case and am currently a fugitive . >
The words Yakumo said so smoothly were a heavy weight on Haruka’s heart .
'Hey . How can I clear your name, Yakumo-kun?’
Yakumo laughed aloud at Haruka’s question .
Haruka didn’t know why he was laughing . That was a serious question –
'What’s so funny?’
<You’re the same as always . >
Yakumo said that in a voice that made it sound like he was smiling .
'What do you mean?’
<Aren’t you going to ask?>
<Whether I committed the murder…>
Haruka hadn’t even thought about asking that question . The reason being –
'You didn’t kill him, right, Yakumo-kun?’
<How can you be sure?>
Yakumo said that after a pause .
Why – Haruka was troubled when asked that .
However, no matter what happened, Yakumo wasn’t the sort of person who would kill somebody . She knew that best .
'I don’t have a reason . ’
<That’s why I said you were the same as always . >
'Are you praising me?’
<Why would that be the case?>
Yakumo stifled his laughter .
Haruka felt like the conversation wasn’t meshing at all .
'So isn’t there anything I can do?’
Haruka returned to the heart of the matter .
<Where are you now?>
'I’m investigating the case with Ishii-san and Makoto-san . ’
<I see… Stay with those two until the case is over . >
<Because that would be safer . >
'What do you mean?’
<Anyway, make sure you’re never alone . >
Yakumo was speaking in an unusually grave tone . It made Haruka felt like she was being cross-examined .
She didn’t know what had happened, but when he talked like that, it made her anxious . She had the feeling that something incredibly awful would happen –
<Sorry, but could you hand the phone over to Ishii-san?>
<Please . There isn’t much time . >
'All right… Ishii-san . ’
Haruka handed the mobile to Ishii in the backseat .
'Yes . ’
Ishii looked confused, but he took the mobile phone .
Ishii was confused as he took the phone from Haruka .
When he thought about how the person on the other end was a suspect in a murder case being chased by the police, it made him even more nervous than usual .
<It’s Yakumo . >
'Ah, yes, it’s Ishii . ’
<I apologise for involving you in something so troubling . >
Yakumo said that in a formal tone .
It appeared that he hadn’t lost himself even at a time like this .
'No… I haven’t… Er, how is Detective Gotou?’
<Very lively . To the point that it’s annoying . >
Yakumo let out a dry laugh .
'I see… I’m glad . ’
Gotou had done something that he couldn’t return from, but it was fine as long as he was well .
<Actually, there’s something I want to ask of you, Ishii-san . >
Ishii’s voice cracked .
His heart was beating loudly . He had a bad feeling .
And – he had no confidence . Gotou had tried to save Yakumo even though it meant abandoning his own life . Would Ishii be able to do that when it was necessary?
<Yes . It’s something I can only ask of you, Ishii-san . >
'Only of me…’
Yakumo’s words lifted Ishii’s sunken heart .
There was something only he could do even in this situation .
<I want you to protect her . >
<Yes . I want you to protect her for me . >
Yakumo’s words shook Ishii’s core .
He probably meant Haruka .
Ishii looked at Haruka sitting in the passenger seat . Though she always smiled brightly, that expression was clouded right now .
'Is she in danger?’
Ishii lowered his voice .
<There was a message left at the scene of the crime . If I’m caught by the police, somebody important to me will die…>
An uneasy feeling came to Ishii .
– Somebody important .
So Yakumo also thought of Haruka that way?
Ishii had thought so, but hearing it from the person himself made him feel like something had pierced his chest .
<Please . I don’t want the same thing that happened with my uncle to happen again . >
Yakumo said that in a trembling voice, which helped jog Ishii’s memories .
– Could it be?
'Is she… Is Nanase Miyuki involved in this case?’
<It is likely . >
That’s why Yakumo ran away from the scene – it made sense to Ishii now .
Yakumo ran away from the police, knowing that he would be suspected as the culprit, so that he could protect Haruka .
Ishii couldn’t do nothing while Yakumo had done so much .
'Please leave it to me!’
In response to Ishii’s loud voice, Haruka turned around from the passenger seat .
'What is it?’
'Ah, no, it’s nothing . ’
Ishii forced himself to laugh and turned away .
'I will definitely protect her,’ he said in a quiet voice so that Haruka wouldn’t hear .
<Thank you very much . >
Yakumo breathed out like he was relieved on the other side of the phone .
Protecting the person you yearned for . Though it made him feel proud – like he had become a night – the person who had asked him to do so was his rival in love .
Though Ishii felt conflicted, this wasn’t the time to think about that .
Protecting Haruka was his highest priority . And if Nanase Miyuki were involved, the problem was even larger .
'As long as the case isn’t solved, Haruka-chan will be in danger . ’
Ishii hunched over in the seat so that Haruka wouldn’t hear him speak .
Yakumo couldn’t keep running forever, and it would be realistically impossible for Ishii to spend his whole life watching Haruka too .
<She will . >
'Something must be done…’
<Which is why I have another request to make of you, Ishii-san . >
'What is it?’
<Could you tell me the information you know at the current stage to solve the mystery?>
'Yes . ’
Ishii took out his notebook immediately .
'What did you talk about?’ Gotou asked after Yakumo finished his call .
At first, it had seemed like he was talking to Haruka, but then it turned to Haruka and the call had gone on for a while .
It felt like Yakumo had been listening to something in detail .
'I asked Ishii-san to do something,’ replied Yakumo, fiddling with the mobile phone .
'Asked him to do what?’
'I asked him to guard her . ’
Gotou understood now .
There was that message . Yakumo had asked Ishii to guard against any attack . But –
'Is Ishii going to be enough?’
'Is there anybody else who would believe the words of a suspect?’
Yakumo responded with a question .
Gotou couldn’t argue with that .
Yakumo was a fugitive – he had enemies on all says . Though Ishii was a bit unreliable, he was the only one Yakumo could rely on .
'So Nanase Miyuki had planned even this situation…’
'Seems so . ’
Yakumo ran a hand through his hair in his irritation .
Gotou was astonished by Nanase Miyuki’s meticulousness .
She had stolen Yakumo’s freedom with just one slip of paper . But Gotou didn’t understand .
'What does she want to do by doing this?’
'I wonder… She probably wanted to look into something regarding the girl who claims to have been reincarnated on top of making me alone,’ said Yakumo .
GOtou had no way of knowing what truth waited for them if they chased that mystery .
'Gotou-san, shouldn’t we get off of this car soon?’ said Yakumo .
'Isn’t it obvious? Because of the number . Moving in this car is the same as running around with a sticker that says “Culprit on board” . You should know that much as an ex-police officer,’ Yakumo said mockingly .
It was just as Yakumo said, but Gotou didn’t like his tone .
Even though he’d been practically dead earlier, he was like this now . And he’d said ex-police officer .
'That’s your fault!’
'If you are going to blame anything, please make it your own rashness . ’
'I shouldn’t have saved you!’
Gotou hit the wheel in his anger .
'You’re so noisy . I can’t sleep,’ said Eishin as he rubbed his eyes in the passenger seat .
– Was this old man sleeping in this awful mess?
'Ah, that’s right . Everything was my fault . ’
'As long as you understand that . ’
Yakumo’s words made Gotou so angry he could have died, but if he responded, Yakumo would fight back exponentially . Gotou let out a long sigh .
'We can get off the car, but do you plan to go on foot?’
'Please stop with the jokes,’ said Yakumo with a laugh .
'Then what are we going to do?’
'Please buy a new one . ’
'Are you an idiot? Cars aren’t toys . ’
'You must be poor . ’
'Can’t you keep quiet?’ interrupted Eishin .
'Do you have any ideas?’
Though Eishin hit his head like he was exasperated, he opened his mouth to speak .
'There’s a temple I’m familiar with nearby . Let’s borrow one there .
'I see . So where’s that temple?’
'Near the station . ’
'I’m asking where that station is . ’
'What should you say when asking people for something?’
Eishin smirked .
He was just like Yakumo at times like this – he was a malicious person deep down .
'Please be so kind as to tell me how to get there . ’
Gotou bowed his head, bearing with the mortification .
'As long as you understand . Turn right at the next light,’ said Eishin triumphantly .
He had to deal with these two malicious people . Gotou cursed his unluckiness as he turned on the right turn signal and stopped at the light .
Yakumo opened the car window completely and stuck his head out like he’d thought of something .
'What are you doing?’
Ignoring Gotou’s question, Yakumo threw Gotou’s mobile phone onto the back of the mini truck beside them .
'You bastard! What the hell are you doing!?’
In the corner of Gotou’s eye, the light changed and the mini truck drove on .
'It’s fine . I transferred your data to the SD card . ’
Yakumo seemed proud as he held up the memory card in his fingers .
– What’s fine about that?
'That isn’t the problem!’
'Are you really an ex-police officer?’
'What did you say?’
'Mobile phones send out radio raves . The position can be located from that . ’
Yakumo smirked .
'That’s no reason to throw it away . ’
'I’m not throwing it away . It’s a trap . The police should follow that mini truck for a while . ’
Though Gotou understood Yakumo’s explanation, he was still irritated . Yakumo had consigned countless of Gotou’s mobile phones into oblivion .
He was just about to complain when people started honking .
– I’m going, I’m going .
Gotou stepped on the accelerator and started the car .
'So the girl’s disappearance might be related somehow?’ said Haruka after listening to Ishii’s explanation .
The girl who disappeared ten years ago, Minami – the last who saw her was Seidou, and the name Hatsune claimed to have had before her reincarnation was Minami .
There were many points that matched up, but it still hadn’t come together for Haruka .
'Though this is only my theory…’
Ishii’s eyes narrowed behind his glasses .
Though Ishii said that, Haruka felt like he sounded confident .
'But how about the story that Makoto heard of the baby and the woman with red eyes that occurred fifty years ago? And reincarnation is…’
Haruka realised why she had thought the case was off .
The keywords of this case were all over the place – she didn’t know where to start .
'That’s right . I’m curious about that too . ’
Ishii’s brows lowered as he scratched his cheek, looking troubled .
'Why not stop thinking about that for now?’ said Makoto as she drove .
'What do you mean?’
Ishii stuck out his neck like a chicken .
'We don’t have any other leads, so let’s just go with it . If we’re wrong, we’ll go with the next one . ’
'Ah . ’
'That might have come off a bit forceful . ’
Makoto stuck out her tongue and smiled, seeming embarrassed .
'Right . The best plan might be to go through all of them one by one . Detective Gotou and Yakumo-shi are looking into the girl who reincarnated, so let’s put that aside for now . ’
Ishii clapped his hands in agreement .
'How about it?’ said Makoto with a smile .
'That sounds good,’ agreed Haruka .
It was impossible to get to the conclusion right away . It might be fastest to clear the possibilities one by one . Haruka had so wanted to clear Yakumo’s name that she hadn’t been thinking clearly .
Haruka also knew that worrying without acting was one of her bad habits . Because of that, she had her current relationship with Yakumo .
I haven’t said anything or approached him actively . But I wonder how he thinks of me – she just worried about that .
If she had acted, there would have probably been a different result waiting for her .
Anyway, all she could do now was act .
'You were thinking about Yakumo-kun right now, weren’t you?’
Makoto smiled .
’T-that isn’t true . ’
Haruka hurriedly denied it, but that just made her more embarrassed . She went red to her ears .
'It’s written on your face . Right, Ishii-san?’
'Eh, ah, yes . ’
Ishii was flustered when Makoto suddenly turned the conversation to him .
'So where should we go first?’ asked Haruka, changing the subject .
'I was thinking that we could meet up with Minami-san’s mother first,’ suggested Ishii .
To be honest, Haruka felt a bit anxious about investigating without Gotou, but that had been needless worrying .
She’d thought that Ishii was always following Gotou, but he looked livelier without him here .
'Do you know the address?’ said Makoto, looking towards the backseat .
'Yes . It’s near here… Er… in Setagaya ward…’ replied Ishii, flipping through his notebook .
'Not in Nishitama?’ said Makoto, surprised .
'No . It appears that she moved a number of years ago when her father died . ’
'Was it illness?’
Ishii awkwardly looked down at Makoto’s question .
'No . It appears to have been suicide . ’
That one word from Ishii made the mood in the car much darker .
Though making everything related would be a problem, Haruka couldn’t help but think this way .
– Does the father’s suicide have to do with his daughter’s disappearance?
Haruka couldn’t give the answer to that question right now .
Gotou went to the temple gates and waited for Eishin to return .
In his boredom, it made him long for the cigarettes he’d stopped smoking .
Smoking a cigarette wouldn’t change anything, but he would be able to take his mind off things .
'Your irritation won’t change anything,’ said Yakumo from beside him, as if he’d sensed Gotou’s feelings .
'Don’t want to hear that from you . ’
'Right . ’
Yakumo looked down with a bitter smile .
He was being unusually honest . Though he spoke hatefully, his heart probably hurt quite a lot .
'Hey, Yakumo . ’
'What is it?’
'You accepted that damn monk’s request because of Isshin, right?’ said Gotou, recalling what Eishin had said yesterday .
'Well, something like it . ’
Yakumo ran a hand through his hair .
His narrowed eyes looked incredibly sad .
'What did you want to know about Isshin?’
There was a silence –
Rather than not wanting to talk about it, it felt like he was troubled about how to talk about it .
'Uncle decided to take me in at that temple,’ Yakumo said in a disinterested tone .
It wasn’t that he wasn’t interested, but more like he was consciously leaving out the emotion .
'At the time, Uncle took my hand and said something . ’
'Something incredibly… important . ’
Yakumo lifted his head .
His gaze was on the brilliant summer sun . Gotou had no way of knowing what was reflected in his eyes, narrowed in that brightness .
'What was it?’
'I don’t remember . ’
Gotou understood everything from that sentence .
Yakumo wanted to know what Isshin said at that temple – if he went there, he would remember . That was probably what he’d thought .
'Can I ask one think as well?’
Yakumo dragged his feet a few steps forward and said that, his back to Gotou .
Yakumo’s usual aloof tone was slightly perplexed .
'Why did you save me?’
Without thinking, Gotou burst into laughter at Yakumo’s question .
He didn’t think that Yakumo would ask 'Why?’ now .
'What’s so funny?’
Yakumo turned around and glared at Gotou .
'Do I need a reason?’
Gotou replied with a question after he’d stopped laughing .
For a while, Yakumo’s eyes were wide in surprise, but then he finally looked down with an embarrassed smile .
'I guess not,’ he said .
– That’s how it is, you contrary guy .
Gotou murmured that in his heart .
Yakumo thought that he was an unnecessary person because of the environment he’d grown up in .
That was why, when people did something for him, he would become unnecessarily perplexed and try to determine the reason behind it . But that was in the past .
'Since bears move on instinct,’ said Yakumo with a smirk .
'What’d you say!?’
– Ruining everything with just one sentence!
Gotou grabbed Yakumo’s collar in his anger .
However, Yakumo remained nonchalant, like he didn’t care at all . Really, what a hateful brat .
'There’s no time to quarrel . ’
Gotou turned around at the voice and saw Eishin standing there with two large paper bags .
Eishin had gone to borrow a car .
'What are those?’
'Change of clothes for you and Yakumo . I thought it’d be better to change your appearance,’ said Eishin, sounding proud .
'Why do we have to change?’
'Isn’t it obviously because we’re fugitives? You really are an idiot,’ said Yakumo, looking exasperated . He always said too much .
'So where’s the car?’
'We can use the one in the garage . You can also change there and have something to eat . ’
When Eishin stuck out his chin, as if to tell them to come with him, he started walking briskly .
'Yeah, yeah,’ grumbled Gotou, though he admired how well Eishin had thought things out .
Gotou’s head had been filled with the car – he hadn’t thought about clothes or food at all . Come to think of it, he hadn’t eaten anything since last night what with all that had happened .
When they got to the temple’s garage, the car that was there was actually a black BMW .
'Is the wheel on the left?’
Though Gotou wasn’t proud of it, he’d only ever driven cars manufactured in Japan .
'If you’ve got complaints, I’ll get us a bicycle instead,’ Eishin said without a moment’s delay .
'I’ll just drive then . ’
'As long as you understand . And for the clothes, these are Yakumo’s and these are yours . ’
Eishin put the paper bags down in front of them .
Yakumo fished through his .
Inside were a monk’s working clothes in navy and a towel .
'Sorry . This is a temple, so this is all they have . ’
'It’s fine . ’
Yakumo started changing immediately . It suited him quite well . Unexpected, it might fit Yakumo well if he became a monk .
Gotou looked inside his own paper bag .
Inside was a brilliant purple shirt and skinny enamel pants .
'Sorry . This is a temple, so this is all they have . ’
Eishin’s shoulders shook with laughter as he said the same thing to Gotou that he’d said to Yakumo .
These were clearly clothes for some hooligan . There were even sunglasses .
'You making fun of me?’
'If you don’t like it, go naked . ’
The old man really never shut his mouth .
'I’ll just change then . ’
Gotou said that brusquely and put on the shirt and pants .
'Doesn’t it suit you well?’ said Yakumo, cackling after Gotou put on the sunglasses .
Gotou didn’t even feel like retorting any more . He just snorted and looked away .
'Where’s the food?’ Gotou asked Eishin .
'This is Yakumo’s and this is yours . ’
Eishin gave a sweet roll to Yakumo and a can to Gotou .
When Gotou saw that can, he couldn’t put up with it any more .
'This is cat food!’ he yelled, throwing the can of cat food with all his strength .
The can of cat food hit the BMW’s bonnet, leaving a huge dent before rolling to the floor .
'You’re paying for repairs,’ Eishin said nonchalantly .
Ishii stood in front of the door to the apartment and cleared his throat .
Though this was for the investigation of the case, he felt uncomfortable .
It would have been different if they had found the missing daughter, but they had no new information and were just trying to dig up the past .
He couldn’t imagine what awful things would be said to him .
'Are you all right?’
From beside him, Makoto peered at his face in concern .
'Ah, yes . I’m fine . ’
If they came in a large group, it would put the other party on guard, so Ishii had left Haruka in the care and come with only Makoto .
Haruka had said, 'I’ll go too . ’ I want to do something for Yakumo – that feeling ran ahead of her .
Ishii understood, but Haruka looked like a student . If the other party became suspicious, they would need to make up an explanation . The other party might also keep their mouth shut . Somehow, he managed to make Haruka understand and had her stay behind .
Ishii pressed the intercom button .
After a while, a woman with hair streaked with white opened the door .
'Excuse me… Are you Masuoka-san?’
'Yes,’ the woman replied in a hoarse voice .
It appeared that she was Minami’s mother, Masuoka Tamae .
From the documents, Minami’s mother should have been in her early fifties, but she looked ten years older .
'My name is Ishii . I was the one who called . This is Hijikata,’ said Ishii while showing his police ID .
They’d be out if she asked who Makoto was, but Tamae just replied 'Ah, yes’ in a faint voice and opened the door to let them in .
'Excuse me . ’
Ishii went inside after exchanging glances with Makoto .
It was an old one-room flat with a kitchen, probably near thirty years old .
Ishii and Makoto sat next to each other, while Tamae sat opposite them .
Tamae’s wrinkled face looked at Ishii .
Her eyes were so lifeless it made Ishii suspect she might actually be dead .
Her daughter had disappeared and her husband had committed suicide . Tamae had lost far too much .
That feeling of loss had stolen all her strength .
Swallowed up by that air, the excuse Ishii had come up with got caught in his throat .
'Actually, through the investigation of another case, it seems that we may be able to attain information related to your daughter’s location . Accordingly…’
Makoto responded for Ishii, who had been at a loss for words .
Ishii felt like she was more accustomed to the situation than himself, though he was a detective .
Tamae looked down .
'A-anything is fine . Would you please tell us what you remember?’
Ishii finally said just that .
'I know . ’
'She isn’t alive any more,’ said Tamae in a voice that sounded like it would fade away at any moment .
'She was killed . ’
Ishii was shocked .
Partially it was because of the weight of those words, but it was also because he’d felt like there had been a black flame smouldering in Tamae’s lifeless eyes for a moment .
'What is your evidence for thinking that?’ said Ishii while wiping his forehead .
'I know . I’m a parent…’
Tamae looked to the corner of the room .
There was a small altar there with the images of a smiling girl and a middle-aged man . The girl was probably Minami .
She had black eyes and seemed like a refreshing girl, somewhat like Haruka .
'I understand how you feel, but…’
Makoto stopped in the middle of her sentence .
Tamae wasn’t listening .
She slowly stood up and opened the sliding door to the closet, taking a cardboard box out of it and placing it on the table .
'All of her things are in here . ’
Tamae’s shoulders drooped like all the air had come out of her .
'Would you allow us to borrow this?’
Tamae just gave a small nod to Ishii’s question .
– Tamae wants to die .
That was what Ishii thought .
Rather than living with their memories, she wanted to go to where her daughter and husband were .
The sun set between the mountains, dyeing the mountain range red .
Gotou hid in the thicket behind Seidou’s temple and looked at the empty sky .
It had been over two hours . Mosquitoes had bitten him all over – it itched like hell .
And he could never be sure if he might get bitten by a pit viper like Yakumo in a place like this .
'But it’s late,’ said Gotou, hitting the mosquito on his arm .
– Did he run off?
At Eishin’s instructions, Gotou had parked the car near the temple and walked through the thicket .
There were probably still police at the temple . Since they knew what Gotou and Yakumo looked like, they couldn’t just walk up .
That was why Eishin had gone himself .
He’d given his mobile to Gotou and said something unreliable – 'I’ll call you if it goes well’ – before leaving .
'You can go back if you don’t like it,’ said Yakumo from beside him, yawning as he did so .
Easy for him to say . Unfortunately, Gotou didn’t have anywhere to return to, so he was waiting for Eishin here . That came to his head, but he was too tired to even retort .
When he turned his eyes, he saw another mosquito on his arm .
Gotou brought his palm down, but the mosquito got away .
'Are you having fun?’ said Yakumo, looking at Gotou like he was something dirty .
'Of course I’m not . There’s a hell of a lot of mosquitoes here . ’
'It’s because you’re wearing a tasteless shirt . ’
Yakumo pointed at Gotou’s purple shirt .
– This guy never shuts up .
'This isn’t my shirt!’
'Please don’t speak so loudly . They’ll find us . ’
Yakumo stuck his fingers in his ears to complain .
Gotou restrained his anger by balling his hands into fists . This guy could just get bitten by a pit viper again .
Just as Gotou had spit out, the mobile phone rang .
'You’re late!’ said Gotou with all his pent-up dissatisfaction .
<Don’t say that . It was tough on me too . They suspected that I was the monk who ran away together with the detective at the clinic . >
EIshin said that with a sigh .
'Of course you were suspected . It was you . ’
<Then should I give myself up to the police? I was forced by the violent detective – I had no choice…>
'Yeah, my bad . ’
Gotou quickly apologised . Since it was Eishin, he might really do it .
<You should just be honest from the start . >
Gotou bit back the urge to scream .
'So how’s the situation?’
<The police are standing guard outside the doors . Come around the back to the main temple . >
Because the temple itself wasn’t the scene of the murder, the police had two guards just in case, but they hadn’t gone inside . However –
'How do we get in?’
Even if the police weren’t on the premises, they would notice if there were noises from the thicket .
<You can see a large rock a bit deeper in, right?>
After Eishin said that, Gotou looked to the back of the thicket .
– There it is .
A large rock covered in green moss . It was the height of a person’s waist .
'I see it . ’
<There’s a narrow secret path by that rock . It goes to the main temple . >
'Why’s there a secret path?’
Gotou cocked his head .
This wasn’t some ninja house . He didn’t understand why on earth somebody had made that .
<Monks in training are forced to live their lives in abstinence . Though that isn’t the case now, that policy was thoroughly enforced in the past . >
'So monks in training that couldn’t do it any longer dug a secret path?’
<Well, something like it . It used to be a well, but since it was no longer in use, there was a tunnel there . >
Eishin said that proudly .
From that tone, Eishin had probably played a part in the creation of that secret path . So he was a depraved monk, just like he looked .
Though Gotou felt half-astonished, he said 'Got it’ and hung up .
When he looked up, the sun had set and night had fallen .
– This is a good chance .
'Yakumo . Let’s go . ’
Gotou went ahead and started to walk towards the rock .
'Please go ahead . ’
At Makoto’s urging, Haruka went through the entrance .
After leaving Tamae’s house, they went talk in Makoto’s flat to organise their thoughts .
Makoto led her through the corridor to a room of ten tatami in size .
'What a lovely room,’ said Haruka, looking around .
The furniture and curtains were chic and calming .
'It makes me happy to hear that . Please sit down . ’
'Ah, yes . ’
Haruka sat on the dining room chair near the kitchen counter .
Makoto went into the kitchen and started preparations, boiling water and taking out cups .
'I’ll help . ’
'Don’t worry about it,’ replied Makoto with a smile .
Just as Haruka was feeling like she had nothing to do, Ishii came into the room with a cardboard box . It contained Minami’s belongings, which they had received from Tamae .
It looked like Ishii didn’t have a good grip and might trip and drop it at any moment .
'I’ll hold this . ’
'Ah, sorry about that . ’
Haruka helped Ishii place the cardboard box on the dining room table .
'Thank you for the help . ’
'No, it’s nothing . ’
Haruka sat across from Ishii at the table .
With perfect timing, Makoto took a tray out with a number of coffee cups . After placing a cup in front of each of them, she sat next to Ishii .
'You look a bit like a newly married couple,’ said Haruka as she looked at Ishii and Makoto sitting next to each other .
Both Ishii’s and Makoto’s eyes went wide in surprise . Then, they both went red up to their ears .
'More importantly, let’s investigate . ’
Makoto quickly opened the cardboard box and started laying its contents out on the table .
There were things like notebooks, textbooks, albums and essays .
'Where should we start…’
Haruka looked at Ishii .
'Ah, that’s right… Something… that looks like it might be useful?’
Ishii cocked his head .
'Let’s just look at all of it first . ’
Makoto took a notebook near her and started flipping through it .
Just as she said, rather than thinking so much, just looking at it might be quicker . Haruka took an essay near her and started flipping the pages .
After that, they continued looking through the contents of the cardboard box without talking .
When Haruka looked at the papers and photos that came out of the cardboard box, the blurry image she had had of Minami became clearer .
Minami had pale skin and well-defined features – she was quite a beauty . She was in the drama club and seemed o have wanted to become an actress in the future .
Her grades weren’t bad either . Though she wasn’t good at maths, she was strong with the classics and world history .
Doing this made Haruka feel like Minami had been one of her own classmates .
However, Minami’s life, which should have been smooth sailing, had broken off right before her graduation . Like everything before it had been an illusion –
Haruka suddenly stopped and looked up at the ceiling .
– Will doing this really clear Yakumo’s name?
That question came to her head .
In the first place, they had no clear proof that Minami was related to the case . They just had the theory that she might be related to a spiritual phenomenon that occurred at the scene of the crime .
After drinking some cold coffee, Haruka spotted a white envelope .
<To Minamie> was written on it in strong, angular letters .
There was a letter inside .
<And as my love is sized, my fear is so:
Where love is great, the littlest doubts are fear .
Where little fears grow great, great love grows there . >
It looked like a quotation from a poem .
Though it was roundabout, it was easy to tell it was a love letter . At the end, there were initials .
<Y . N . >
It looked like Minami had had a lover .
Haruka was going to mention the love letter, but Ishii stood up before then with a loud noise .
Ishii’s mouth was so wide that it felt like his chin might come off .
'What is it?’
Makoto grabbed Ishii’s arm .
'Ah, no, I mean…’
Ishii pointed at the graduation album he had been looking at .
It was from a high school graduation . Ishii had it open to a page with the names and faces of the students in each class .
'Minami-san’s photo is in here,’ said Haruka as she looked at the page .
'Since she disappeared right around graduation, maybe she was put in the album anyway?’
’T-that isn’t it . ’
Ishii shook his head at Makoto’s explanation .
'Is there another reason?’
'No, that isn’t it . This person . ’
Ishii pointed at a man on the page .
– Matsumoto Hiroshi .
He was thin and had angled eyes . Though he looked like a sensitive person, that was all .
'What about this person?’ asked Haruka .
'No, I mean, it’s this person . ’
'The person who was found dead in Nishitama this morning . ’
Ishii was agitated, continually pointing at the photo as he said that .
Haruka was shocked by that fact and looked towards the album again .
'Hey, wait a second…’
Makoto put her chin in her hand as she murmured .
'What is it?’ asked Ishii .
'The family name of the dead Seidou-san was, if I remember correctly…’
'Er… It was Todayama,’ replied Ishii after looking at his notebook .
'I wonder if this could be…’
Makoto pointed at a young man in the middle of the page .
The young man was short and stout and had eyes as narrow as string, fat eyebrows that didn’t match and fleshy lips .
– Todayama Takahiro .
Todayama was a rare family name . It would be difficult to think of it as a coincidence .
'This is troubling . I’ll go back to the precinct to confirm . ’
In a hurry, Ishii attempted to leave the room .
'Please wait . ’
Haruka called out to stop Ishii .
There had been such an amount of information that Haruka had almost forgotten .
'What is it?’
'I also found something interesting . ’
Haruka held out the letter . Ishii and Makoto took turns reading it .
'So she had a lover,’ said Ishii .
'And as my love is sized… This is Shakespeare . A line from Hamlet,’ said Makoto .
At that, Haruka had an idea .
'Minami-san was in the drama club, right? Somebody who’d send a love letter like this might have been in the drama club…’
'That’s possible . Somebody in the drama club with the initials Y . N,’ agreed Makoto .
'Yes . ’
'I see . ’
Ishii nodded with his arms crossed, seeming impressed .
'Let’s split up the work . Ishii-san, please head back to confirm . Haruka-chan and I will look for the person with these initials . ’
Makoto briskly split up the roles .
'Right . That would be more effective . Please do so . ’
After Ishii replied, he quickly ran off .
'Now, let’s start too . ’
Makoto clapped her hands together .
'Yes,’ replied Haruka .
Though they had been jumping at shadows, Haruka felt like they were now much closer to the truth .
Gotou was stooped over as he proceeded down the dark tunnel .
It was so narrow they had to go one at a time, and if he lifted his head even slightly, he would hit the ceiling .
The uncomfortable moistness made it hard to breathe . His back was drenched with sweat, making his shirt stick to him .
– Can we really get to the temple through here?
His anxiety grew the further he advanced .
'Gotou-san . ’
Yakumo spoke up from right behind him .
'Please illuminate this . ’
In this situation, Gotou had no idea where Yakumo was talking about .
Gotou painfully turned himself around .
'Here . ’
Yakumo said that again and pointed at his feet .
Gotou did as he was told and pointed the light of his torch towards his feet .
Though it was faint, there was a footprint there .
The toes were pointing in the opposite direction from them . It was clear that it wasn’t their footprint .
'A footprint,’ Yakumo replied immediately .
'I know that . What I was asking is…’
'Please hurry up and turn towards the front again,’ said Yakumo, interrupting Gotou .
'It is difficult to look at our face at such a close distance, Gotou-san . ’
'That’s unnecessary . ’
Gotou clicked his tongue and then turned around again in the narrow tunnel before starting to walk once more .
Sweat was rolling down his forehead . After advancing about fifty metres, the path ended and he exited into a round space .
It looked like they’d reached the old well . Finally he could stretch out his waist .
Gotou stretched and looked up . It was about five metres tall . There was a wooden cover on the well .
'There’s no staircase . How are we supposed to get up?’
'You can just climb, right?’ said Yakumo with a yawn .
It looked like Yakumo had no intention of climbing himself . Though it irritated Gotou, for Yakumo, whose left leg was still swollen, it was true that he wouldn’t be able to climb .
Gotou rolled up his sleeves, put his fingers in the cracks between the rocks in the well’s walls, and dragged himself up, placing his feet in another crack . It was like rock climbing .
– Looks like it’ll be all right .
Gotou gritted his teeth and climbed up the well’s walls .
Though the first metre went well, it suddenly became more difficult after that .
His fingers were numb and his arms were shaking .
His legs were strained, making it difficult for him to plant his feet .
'Are you already tired?’
Yakumo was looking up in a carefree manner from the bottom of the well .
'Shut up! I’m completely fine!’
Gotou was acting strong as he reached for the next stone, but perhaps because of the loss in concentration, he couldn’t grab on properly and slipped .
– Crap .
It was too late when he thought that .
Pulled down by gravity, Gotou fell to the bottom of the well .
There was a dull thump as he hit the floor .
For a moment, he stopped breathing and coughed a number of times .
'You fell because of your excess flesh,’ said Yakumo, running his fingers through his hair .
– This guy is really annoying .
Gotou wanted to hit Yakumo’s head, but the pain from his back made him unable to even stand up .
'You go next,’ said Gotou .
'I will . ’
Just as Yakumo said that, the lid to the well opened and Eishin peered in from the round hole .
'I’ll lower a rope now . ’
Eishin swiftly let the rope down .
– Why didn’t you come earlier?
Gotou finally got up while bearing with his pain .
'Well, I’ll go on ahead then,’ said Yakumo triumphantly, grabbing the rope .
After leaving Makoto’s room, Ishii went to the road and waved over a taxi .
'To the Setamachi precinct . ’
He told the driver his destination and called Youko’s mobile phone immediately .
To be honest, he felt awkward calling her when Gotou was running away .
However, it would be worse to call Miyagawa . He felt like Youko might cooperate .
'It’s Ishii . ’
<Where are you now?>
Youko spoke with a pointed tone .
'Even if you ask me where…’
<Answer my question . >
'I’m in a taxi, heading to the precinct .
<Detective Gotou isn’t with you?>
'He isn’t . ’
I’m not lying, Ishii told himself . He’d talked with Yakumo on the phone, but he didn’t dare to say that aloud .
<What were you doing?>
'Actually, I was investigating a number of things…’
Ishii explained everything he’d found out so far to Youko .
Starting with the spiritual phenomenon near the limestone cavern, he investigated the missing woman named Minami and met her mother, Tamae .
Then, he spotted the name Matsumoto Hiroshi, the person who was found dead this morning, in Minami’s classmates . And a name with the same family name as Seidou –
Ishii held his breath as he waited for Youko to speak .
<In short, you want to check if the Matsumoto Hiroshi in that album is the same Matsumoto Hiroshi who was killed . >
Youko said that with a sigh .
'Yes . And…’
<And you want to know whether the boy called Todayama in the same class was Seidou’s son . >
Youko interrupted Ishii’s agitated words .
<Did you think I’d believe that?>
Contrary to Ishii’s agitation, Youko’s tone was cold .
If Youko didn’t believe him, he wouldn’t be able to get any information . Gotou wouldn’t have a place to return to – he would remain a fugitive .
Ishii was determined to absolutely not back down .
'You may believe it is unrelated, but don’t you think it’s too much to be a coincidence?’
Though Youko was always firm, she was lost for words .
– She’s undecided .
That was how Ishii felt .
'This isn’t a coincidence . ’
<If the police could solve cases by chasing spiritual phenomena, we wouldn’t have any problems . >
'However, that is how we have done things before . From seemingly unrelated spiritual phenomena, we investigate a number of things and reach the truth . ’
Ishii’s speaking was unusually erratic from his agitation . He knew that .
<You can’t say it’ll be the same this time, right?>
'In order to confirm that, we need to investigate . ’
<There’s no time to do that . We need to search for Detective Gotou first . >
Ishii had yelled before he’d noticed it .
Youko said that after a pause .
Ishii didn’t know either . What was he saying was wrong –
However, there was one thing Ishii did know .
'I want to save Detective Gotou . ’
By saying it aloud, the anxiety in Ishii’s heart grew larger and he was moved to tears .
Gotou had always walked together with Ishii without abandoning him .
'If Detective Gotou is gone, I’ll just be an empty shell . I want to make a place for Detective Gotou, no matter what I have to do . ’
Even though he hadn’t meant to say it, those words naturally fell out from his mouth .
He knew it was inappropriate for him to say that as a detective, but those were his true feelings .
<You really like Detective Gotou . >
Youko laughed, sounding exasperated .
'I look up to him .
<I had somebody like that before too . >
Ishii recalled the story of Youko’s dead lover’s ghost .
That was probably the person Youko looked up to .
<I’ll look into it . >
She hung up after saying that .
The strength left Ishii’s body and he sank into the backseat .
'Did you make up?’
The taxi driver smirked while looking at the rear-view mirror .
It seemed like he had misunderstood something, but Ishii didn’t have the energy to correct him .
'Yes, somehow,’ replied Ishii with a smile .
Haruka was looking at the list of drama club members for somebody with the initials Y . N .
There weren’t many male members . Even if she switched the family name and given name, the only boy that fit was Naitou Yousuke .
'Let’s try calling him . ’
Right after saying that, Makoto called the number in the register .
Haruka was astonished by Makoto’s quick decision-making .
While Makoto was calling, Haruka sipped her lukewarm coffee and looked at the love letter from earlier .
In Haruka’s head, Yakumo’s face came to mind .
When Minami became missing, the person who sent the love letter must have been like her – worried about the safety of the person he thought so dearly of, believing she would return .
When Haruka thought about that, her chest hurt .
'Thinking about Yakumo-kun again?’ said Makoto mischievously . She had finished her call .
'No, that isn’t it . Just…’
'It must have been tough . For his lover to have been missing for over ten years – I can’t think about it…’
Haruka said exactly what she had been thinking .
'So you really were thinking about Yakumo-kun . ’
Makoto laughed with shaking shoulders .
'More importantly, how was it?’ asked Haruka to change the subject .
'Ah, right, right . After calling the number, I was told he was living by himself in an apartment now, so I lied and said I was a classmate from high school and got his address and mobile phone number . ’
Makoto flipped open her memo pad while sticking out her tongue like a child who had played a prank .
'I’ll call him now . ’
'I’ll do it . ’
Haruka felt awkward leaving everything to Makoto .
Haruka leant forward and took the memo Makoto was holding .
'Will you be all right?’
'Yes . ’
'All right . Thank you . ’
Makoto seemed to have sensed how Haruka felt, as she smiled and slowly drank her coffee .
Haruka took her mobile from her bag and input the number on the memo right away . The call connected and rang .
– One, two, three .
She counted in her heart .
However, no matter how she waited, nobody picked up .
Thinking that she might have mistaken the number, she checked the memo, but she hadn’t been wrong .
'Won’t answer?’ said Makoto .
'Yes . Perhaps it’s because it’s a number he doesn’t recognise?’
Haruka placed her mobile on the table and lay her head on it .
She had worked herself up and was disappointed for it . It might be better to leave some time before calling again .
'Right . ’
Makoto seemed to have thought of something and snapped her fingers .
'What is it?’
'Anyway, shall we go take a look?’
'At this time, I think it won’t even take an hour if we drive quickly . ’
Makoto stood up while looking at the clock .
That’s right . ’
Haruka stood up as well .
Gotou stood in the temple with Yakumo .
The wide wooden space had a statue of Buddha in the front .
The air was tense .
There was a heavy atmosphere – it felt like it was a different world .
Yakumo, standing next to Gotou, was looking down while facing the Buddha statue . It was like they were talking .
'Anyway, let’s sit . ’
Gotou sat down cross-legged on the wooden floor, but Yakumo didn’t even budge .
Perhaps because he was wearing monk’s working robes, he looked like a real monk .
'Sorry for the wait . ’
Eishin walked in through the corridor .
Behind him, there was the trainee monk named Shuuei that Gotou had met yesterday along with a girl about ten years old .
She was Hatsune, the girl who claimed to have been reincarnated –
With pale, almost translucent skin, her lips alone were a vivid red, which seemed ridiculously coquettish .
Perhaps Eishin had changed along with the temple’s atmosphere, because his joking attitude from before had completely disappeared . He walked into the temple, pulling Hatsune along until they stood in front of Yakumo .
'I brought her, like you wanted,’ said Eishin monotonously .
Yakumo nodded silently .
Gotou cleared his throat loudly and swallowed .
AFter Yakumo took a deep breath, he walked up to Hatsune and knelt, as if he were about to pray .
Hatsune just stood there without even a tremor .
'We’ve met before . Do you remember?’ said Yakumo in a murmur .
Hatsune nodded .
'I have something I want to ask you today, Hatsune-chan . ’
'I’m not Hatsune . I’m called Minami . ’
Hatsune spoke in a pleasant, ringing voice, like the bells that monks used .
– What are you going to do, Yakumo?
Gotou watched carefully to see what would happen .
'Then, Minami-san . Could I ask you one thing?’
Yakumo ran a hand through his messy hair .
'Have you met Minami-san – that is, your mother before?’
Gotou cocked his head . He didn’t understand the point of Yakumo’s question .
If Hatsune was Minami’s reincarnation, there would be no way for her to meet Minami . Since she was Minami herself .
However, unlike what Gotou thought, Minami nodded with a smile .
'Yup . Mother’s always with me . ’
'She talks to you . ’
'Yes, she does . ’
'I see . So you really can hear her . ’
– What does he mean?
Without saying anything, Eishin held his elbows horizontally and placed his hands together in front of his chest, standing still .
Just like Buddha .
From behind him, Shuuei was looking down, seeming troubled .
'Oi, Yakumo . ’
Gotou spoke up, unable to keep quiet .
'Please be quiet . ’
When Yakumo turned around, his eyes were menacing .
Gotou shut up under that pressure .
Yakumo ran his hands through his hair in his exasperation and turned towards Hatsune again .
'Your mother said it, right? That you were her reincarnation…’
'She did . Mother told me,’ Hatsune replied cheerfully .
'So that really is how it is…’
After Yakumo murmured that, he narrowed his eyes and put the index finger of his left hand to his brow .
'Did you find something out?’ Gotou asked, but Yakumo glared at him right away .
When Yakumo said that, he looked incredibly sad .
'Is this kid really a reincarnation?’ asked Eishin .
'You should know that she isn’t, Eishin-san,’ replied Yakumo with a frown .
Eishin laughed pleasantly when he heard that .
Though the two of them were on the same page, Gotou didn’t understand .
'What are you talking about?’
'The one thing that is clear is that she isn’t a reincarnation,’ said Yakumo .
– She isn’t a reincarnation .
Then what was she? She had taken Minami’s name from nowhere . And why did she know the location of the limestone cavern and the lake? Where’d she hear about being murdered and sunken into the lake?
Questions kept coming up in Gotou’s head, burying him as he couldn’t solve them .
'Where are Seidou-san’s things?’
'The police took them . ’
Eishin responded to Yakumo’s question .
That was natural . The police must have been frantically searching for a link to Yakumo in Seidou’s things .
'I see… Does this temple have another place like an archive?’
Eishin turned his head and looked at Shuuei .
'At a little distance, yes…’
Shuuei seemed to have sensed their intentions, as he responded while looking down .
'Would you show me the way?’ Yakumo said quietly .
His expression was filled with confidence – as if he had solved all the mysteries .
Ishii waited for Youko in a family restaurant by the highway .
To be honest, he hand wanted to return to the precinct .
Since he’d run out of there, he had just left documents on his desk . However, he had changed his mind after going close to the precinct .
The police precinct had been surrounded by an amazing number of people from the press . It was natural, now that he thought about it . A current police officer had escapes with the suspect in a murder . This was a huge incident that was yet unheard of .
Ishii didn’t want to think about what the other members – not just Miyagawa – would say if he returned there so carelessly .
He wouldn’t even be able to investigation .
He contacted Youko immediately and they decided to meet up at this family restaurant . Ishii used his free time to try to call Gotou’s mobile, but there was no response .
He had spent nearly an hour drinking coffee while whiling away the time .
If he had known this was going to happen, he would have helped Haruka and Makoto more with the investigation, but it was too late now .
'It seems like I’ve made you wait . ’
Youko hurried over and sat across from Ishii .
Ishii’s spine went as straight as a rod as he greeted Youko .
Her face seemed a bit flushed .
Did she rush here, or –
Youko called a server over with deliberately slow actions . After ordering a drink, she took a file from her bag .
'How was it?’ asked Ishii, like a dog badgering for treats .
'Amazing . ’
Youko breathed out and brushed back her hair . She looked satisfied .
'Calm down . ’
After Youko reprimanded him, Ishii’s shoulders slumped .
'First, Matsumoto Hiroshi, the corpse found this morning, is the same Matsumoto Hiroshi in the album . ’
'A-as I thought!’
Ishii was so excited that he shouted . He hurriedly covered his mouth with both hands .
Youko looked exasperated as she put her chin in her hand .
'I don’t know if you’re really tired or just a scatterbrain . ’
'I-I’m sorry . ’
Ishii’s shoulders slumped again as he lost his energy .
He knew he was clumsy . He always did something wrong . That was why he tried not to mess up, but that just made things worse .
'You feel like the type people can’t leave alone . ’
'It’s true . I’m unreliable . ’
'That isn’t it – more like… Well, it’s fine . Let’s return to the topic at hand,’ said Youko with a sigh .
'So… How about Todayama-san?’ asked Ishii, regaining his spirits .
'It was as you thought on this point too . The person in the album is Seidou’s dead son . ’
'So it was just as I thought . ’
Ishii gripped his hands into fists .
Now, it couldn’t be a coincidence . Minami, who disappeared ten years ago . The murdered Matsumoto Hiroshi . And Seidou’s son, Takahiro . They were in the same grade at the same school .
'Come to think of it, Seidou-san’s son, Todayama Takahiro-san…’
'Committed suicide,’ finished Youko .
'Do you know the reason?’
'I was curious as well and caught the person in charge before coming here to ask…’
Youko had a complicated expression on her face .
'How was it?’
Ishii brought his face closer to Youko’s and held his breath .
'It seems like there was no note . It seems like there’s no doubt it was a suicide from the situation . From the testimony of people around him, he had been rather depressed before the suicide . ’
'What is it?’
'It seems like the first to find him was his father, Seidou . ’
Youko’s words echoed in Ishii’s chest .
The father found his child’s corpse . Just thinking about it hurt . How must he have felt then?
Ishii had no way of imagining it .
Suddenly, the mobile phone on the table rang .
Ishii’s shoulders jolted . He just watched the mobile phone vibrate .
He had a very bad feeling .
If he answered the phone, it would become a big problem . That vague anxiety went through Ishii’s whole body .
'Aren’t you going to answer?’
Urged on by Youko, Ishii picked up the mobile .
Haruka was in front of an apartment outside of Nishitama Station’s shopping street .
She was looking around from the passenger seat of the car parked at the side of the road .
It was dark . On the street devoid of people, there was a three-storey building .
Naitou Yousuke’s room was Room 203 . In the middle of the second storey .
'The lights are on,’ said Makoto from the driver’s seat .
Just as she said, there was light coming from what was probably the frosted glass window of the kitchen .
'We’re lucky . ’
Haruka’s expression softened .
Though the owner might have just forgotten to turn the lights off, it was likely that he was in his room . It would be a waste if they came without meeting him .
'Shall we go then?’
Makoto got off the car . Haruka followed her .
They went up to the second storey using the metal stairs outside and stood in front of the door .
When Haruka put her ear near the door, she could faintly hear people talking . Haruka nodded . Makoto pressed the intercom button .
There was a noise outside the room – ding dong .
However, the door didn’t open .
Makoto pressed the button a number of times, but still nobody came out .
'Good evening . ’
Haruka spoke as she knocked on the door .
However, the result was the same .
Something was strange . Haruka had a bad feeling .
'Is he out…’
Makoto tried the doorknob . There was a click – the door opened slightly .
Haruka’s heart started beating more quickly .
– You can’t go inside .
She felt like somebody had whispered that in her ear . Haruka knew immediately who it was . It was the cry of her own heart .
While Haruka was troubled, Makoto opened the door more widely .
There was a corridor with a kitchen in front of the entrance, and on the right, there was a washroom . Ahead of the corridor was a room with a wooden floor .
The television was on .
A talk show with a comedian was playing .
The voices Haruka had heard earlier must have been from the television .
'Excuse me, Naitou-san . ’
Makoto called out from the entrance .
However, there was no reply .
'Please excuse me . ’
Makoto took off her pumps at the entrance and went inside .
Haruka followed her .
'It seems like he really isn’t here,’ said Makoto with slumped shoulders as she peered around the room .
Leaving the television and lights on when going out – it was a bit hard to believe .
Though Haruka said that, the anxiety in her heart didn’t clear .
– What is this feeling?
'Shall we go?’
Makoto went back to the entrance to leave .
Haruka was about to follow her when her eyes fell on the frosted glass of the bathroom .
Her forehead was covered with a cold sweat .
Without replying to Makoto’s question, Haruka stood in front of the door to the bathroom .
– Here .
She had no evidence . She just felt it instinctively .
Haruka opened the bathroom door with a sweaty hand .
When she saw the scene in front of her, she couldn’t even make a sound . The strength in her body left her and she collapsed right there .
Inside the bathtub, a man, covered in blood, lay with his limbs dangling out .
Gotou opened the sliding door to the temple .
It was quiet –
All he could hear was the sound of the pouring rain .
Eishin was sitting in the middle of the temple with his hand in some sort of religious gesture .
He had his spine straight and was looking straight forward – he was as still as if he had become Buddha .
Though his half-open eyes seemed hollow, there was a strong light in them .
Gotou didn’t understand the heart of Zen, but as Eishin sat there, it looked like he was emitting some mysterious aura .
'Oi . ’
Though Gotou called out, Eishin didn’t move .
– Did he not hear me?
'Oi, you damn monk . ’
Gotou called out again while walking up to Eishin .
'I know you’re there even without all that noise,’ said Eishin .
When he spoke, only his lips moved – it was creepy, like he was a talking mechanical doll .
'f you know, then reply . ’
Gotou sat cross-legged in front of Eishin .
'What do you want?’
'That’s quite a tone . I can’t think of you as Isshin’s teacher,’ said Gotou, expressing his dissatisfaction .
Suddenly, the days Gotou had spent with Isshin came to mind .
Isshin was a broadminded man . He was always gentle and kind to everyone . Just seeing that smile would make Gotou feel better for some reason .
– Why did Isshin have to die?
Gotou still thought that sometimes now .
'You say that because you don’t know what Isshin was like before . ’
Eishin breathed out, relaxing his body . His face became more human, like he had taken off a mask .
'What do you mean?’
'Isshin is very similar to Yakumo . ’
Gotou didn’t understand what Eishin said .
'What part of him?’
'Before Isshin took Yakumo in, he had been terribly troubled . At one point, he denied his own existence . ’
'He was filled with anger that had no outlet – he always had a grim expression on his face . ’
'That guy did?’
Gotou really didn’t understand .
No matter how Gotou searched his memories, Isshin was always smiling in them .
'Because he found out the truth . ’
Gotou didn’t understand .
He felt like they were talking about somebody else entirely .
'It’s not like Isshin was at fault, but because of his personality, he tried to shoulder all the blame . ’
'What are you talking about?’
'You could call it fate…’
Eishin stared into nothingness .
'You talking about Yakumo?’
'Yakumo is only one part of a larger flow . I’m talking about a fate that continued from much before then . Everything started in this temple, when a man and woman met . ’
'Explain in a way I’ll understand . ’
Gotou pressed Eishin for an answer in his irritation .
However, Eishin continued, still staring into nothingness .
'Isshin compared that fate with his own existence . At that time, he had forgotten heart of ensou, which is the basis of Zen .
'That’s right . If the heart is not in order, one cannot see clearly . Isshin’s fate had shaken his heart . ’
Gotou really didn’t understand what Eishin was talking about .
He didn’t understand, but for some reason, he was curious .
'So then what happened?’
'The one who changed Isshin’s heart was Yakumo . ’
Eishin’s lips relaxed into a small smile .
He alone held all the cards . That was how it looked like to Gotou .
'What part of Yakumo changed Isshin?’
'His existence . By walking with Yakumo, Isshin was able to face his fate . He became his original self . ’
'What’s that fate you’re talking about?’
'You know as well . It’s that man . ’
Eishin’s mouth shut tightly .
Gotou knew who that man was .
'The man with two red eyes?’
'That’s right . Isshin has a connection with that man that cannot be cut . ’
'Isshin was just wrapped up in the incident, right?’ said Gotou offhandedly .
'Wrong . ’
Eishin shook his head .
'What do you mean?’
Without responding to Gotou’s question, Eishin stood up .
'Answer me . ’
Gotou continued to hound Eishin .
'You’ll understand soon enough . More importantly, what did you come here for?’
Eishin sudden changed the subject .
Stopping the conversation right before the crucial point – he really was just like Yakumo . Eishin probably wouldn’t say anything no matter what Gotou asked . Gotou gave in and stood up .
'I want to ask a favour . ’
'Do you want me to introduce you to a woman?’
There was a lascivious smirk on Eishin’s face .
Even though he was so solemn when meditating, there was not even a fragment of that now .
'I’ve got a wife . ’
'So you’re more proper than you look . ’
– It really didn’t sound like something a monk should say .
'That isn’t the problem . Anyway, I came to borrow your mobile . ’
'What do you say when asking for a favour?’ said Eishin with a laugh .
He really was like Yakumo .
'Please lend me your mobile . I would greatly appreciate it . ’
Gotou buried his anger in the pit of his stomach as he lowered his head .
'You should have been honest like that from the start,’ said Eishin while taking his mobile out for Gotou .
– Meditating with his mobile there – what an awful monk .
Gotou said abusive words in his heart while taking the mobile .
'Excuse me . ’
After saying that to Youko, Ishii stepped away from the door .
The number on his mobile was unfamiliar to him . Who could it be –
Though confused, Ishii answered the phone .
'Hello . ’
<It’s me . >
– Detective Gotou!
Ishii was about to yell that, but he hurriedly stopped himself .
'P-please wait . ’
There were police officers everywhere . If they found out he was talking with Gotou, it would be a seroius problem .
Ishii looked around for a place he could talk without being watched .
The first and second floors were filled with people, but there were practically none on the third .
'I apologise for the wait,’ said Ishii after walking to the outside corridor of the third floor .
<It’s really noisy . >
Gotou sounded displeased .
Ishii explained in detail everything they had investigated up until now, including how Haruka and Makoto had found a corpse .
Though it was quite the complicated story, Ishii focussed on explaining chronologically, as Yakumo always tolod him to .
Gotou didn’t interrupt, which was unusual .
<Seems like things are a mess over there too . >
Gotou said just that after Ishii finished his explanation .
'It is a bit confusing . ’
Ishii had run about frantically up until now, but once he heard Gotou’s voice, he relaxed a bit and became weak .
His eyes were becoming wet with tears .
<It’s my fault . Sorry . >
Gotou said that .
– Why is he apologising?
Ishii was confused . Though Gotou always got angry at him, he never apologised . Rather, Ishii was the one who wanted to apologise .
He had planned on investigating frantically to make a place for Gotou to return to, but there had been no developments at all .
He was completely useless like this .
'I’m the one who must apologise . If I had been more reliable…’
<Are you an idiot?>
<This case is outside of your jurisdiction . That’s not all . What I’ve done will make people give you a lot of flak . >
Gotou’s voice was quiet and weak .
– Don’t talk like that .
Ishii murmured that in his heart .
'Please don’t worry about someone like me . Detective Gotou, I believe in you and Yakumo-shi . That’s why I’m working . That’s all . ’
Ishii wasn’t lying .
It was true that he had been a bit troubled earlier, but that had gone away completely .
<Well don’t you sound competent . >
Gotou snorted .
Was that praise? Or was it a reprimand? Ishii didn’t know .
He just felt that Gotou’s voice sounded a bit stronger .
'Detective Gotou . ’
'If there’s anything I can do, please tell me . If you want to flee overseas, I will help prepare . ’
<Don’t be ridiculous . I’m not the sort of guy who likes running . >
'That’s right . ’
<There’s a request from Yakumo - will you hear it?>
'Of course,’ Ishii replied immediately .
He would do anything if it would allow Gotou to come back, no matter what sacrifices he had to make .
<I want you to contact old man Hata and get the autopsy results for the victim . >
'Please consider it done!’ declared Ishii .
<I’m counting on you, Assistant Inspector Ishii . >
 In Japan, people drive on the left side of the road and the steering wheel is on the right side of the car .