Volume 8 Chapter 3
VOLUME 8 – THE VANISHED SPIRIT
file 03: ensou (TRANSLATION NOTES)
Gotou and Yakumo went to something like a hut connected to the main temple by a corridor .
It was fairly dark; only two bare light bulbs hung from the ceiling .
It was a Japanese room of about ten tatami in size . Right past the entrance, there was a short Japanese-style writing desk . The rest was buried in books .
‘Amazing,’ said Gotou in admiration, but Yakumo started searching without any care for that .
'What are you looking for?’
Gotou didn’t understand the situation, so he didn’t know why Yakumo had come to this archive .
Yakumo’s hands suddenly stopped . He ran a hand through his hair, looking annoyed .
'Seidou-san was a meticulous person . I think he may have kept something like a diary . ’
'A diary, eh…’
Gotou muttered that as he started looking for a diary in the piled-up books and accounts .
Though it was just picking up books and checking the contents, all of the words were difficult to read .
Gotou had never been good at simple work like this .
He lost his concentration in no time .
'Hey, Yakumo,’ said Gotou, his hands stopping .
'What is it?’
'You said that the girl wasn’t reincarnated, right?’
Yakumo appeared to have understood the answer already, but there were too many things Gotou didn’t understand .
'Yes,’ Yakumo replied curtly .
'Then what is she?’
'She is who she is . ’
Yakumo sent a glare Gotou’s way .
Even if he looked at him with such scary eyes, Gotou couldn’t understand the meaning of Yakumo’s words .
'She is who she is… It’s like some Zen question . ’
'It isn’t a Zen question . I’m saying she is nothing but herself . Even if she did have memories of the past, she would still be who she is . ’
Yakumo’s words were like some mathematics problem, inviting sleep .
Gotou yawned .
'How complicated . ’
'No . It’s simple . ’
'Sounds complicated to me . ’
'Should I explain it with a picture book?’ Yakumo’s expression softened as he said that .
'You making fun of me?’
'Good job; you understood . ’
Yakumo applauded .
It seemed like he was seriously making fun of him . Gotou clicked his tongue .
'This isn’t the time to be making stupid jokes, right?’
'What a coincidence . I was just thinking that I didn’t have the time to waste it talking with you, Gotou-san . ’
– This brat never shuts up .
Though Gotou was irritated, he was happy to be able to talk with Yakumo like this again .
'Gotou-san, if you don’t feel like helping, could you check the situation with Ishii-san?’
Gotou looked up at the ceiling .
Come to think of it, he hadn’t been able to talk properly with Ishii this time .
Before coming to the temple, Yakumo appeared to have made a request of Ishii . Gotou wanted to know what happened after that too .
That said, since it was Ishii, he had probably just wandered around without doing anything useful .
'I’ll go call then . ’
Gotou stood up, but then he noticed a great problem .
'Oi . Yakumo . ’
'What is it?’
'I don’t have a phone . ’
Yakumo had thrown Gotou’s mobile phone on to some guy’s truck .
'Can’t you just borrow one from Eishin-san?’ said Yakumo, flipping through the accounts .
That was right . He’d borrowed Eishin’s mobile while they were waiting outside the temple too . He could just do the same thing . But –
'Probably the temple . ’
Gotou left the archive, but then he noticed another problem .
'I don’t know his number . ’
Since the mobile phone had become explosively popular, people would just rely on the contacts list – nobody remembered other people’s numbers any more .
Gotou didn’t remember other people’s numbers either .
'Here . ’
As Yakumo said that, he threw something at Gotou .
Though he was surprised, Gotou caught it in front of his chest . It was an SD card for a mobile phone .
'The number is on there . ’
Now, Gotou recalled what Yakumo had said about moving the data and put the SD card in his pocket .
'I’m going out for a bit . ’
'Ah, that’s right . ’
Yakumo called out to Gotou as he was about to leave .
'If the autopsy results for the corpse are out, please tell him to ask Hata-san for information .
'Yeah, yeah . ’
After replying, Gotou left Yakumo in the archive and went to the temple through the corridor .
Ishii was irritated as he sat in the passenger seat
Rain hit the window .
'It’s really pouring,’ said Youko as she drove .
'It seems like a typhoon,’ replied Ishii, staring out the window with bitterness .
It was because the typhoon was coming .
The rain was melancholy, fanning Ishii’s anxiety .
– Somebody’s dead .
The call Ishii received in the family restaurant was from Makoto .
Though her voice was shaking, she managed to keep her calm as she explained the events in order .
After receiving the information, Ishii immediately left the shop and was going to the scene in Youko’s car .
Though it was only forty minutes, it felt incredibly long to Ishii .
'It’s just ahead . ’
Youko turned the wheel left .
Ishii could tell where the scene was right away . There was yellow tape around the area to stop people from trespassing and around it, there were curious onlookers and people from the press .
There were lights for the investigation and for cameras . Though it was night, it was as bright as noon .
'This is serious,’ murmured Youko as she drove .
So many things had happened .
Starting with the discovery of Seidou’s corpse, Yakumo’s name came up as a suspect, the second corpse was found, Gotou became a fugitive while aiding Yakumo’s escape, and then Haruka and Makoto found the third victim – d
To be honest, Ishii was so frightened and confused he didn’t know what to do .
However, he managed to keep himself together because Haruka and Makoto had been the ones who first discovered the corpse .
– I have to keep it together .
Led on by that impulse, Ishii opened the door and ran out the moment the car stopped .
The cold rain wet his cheek .
'Sorry, excuse me . ’
As Ishii shouted that, he pushed through the crowd .
He showed his police ID to the uniformed officers there and tried to pass through the yellow tape, but somebody grabbed his arm .
'Excuse me, but this is out of your jurisdiction, isn’t it?’
The young uniformed officer looked at Ishii with suspicious eyes .
'Ah, yes, but…’
Ishii couldn’t think of an excuse to enter right away .
He thought it was annoying himself . At times like this, Gotou would have just said something like 'Shut up’ and forced himself in, but Ishii couldn’t do that .
He had just run forward with the want to go in, which made things even more unnatural .
'Natsume, from Criminal Affairs . I’m bringing him along . He can come in with me, right?’
Youko had come up behind him and said that as she showed her police ID . It was a firm attitude that didn’t allow anyone to doubt it .
'Ah, yes . Please go ahead . ’
The uniformed officer looked divided but he let Ishii and Youko pass .
'Thank you . ’
After thanking Youko, Ishii went past the yellow tape .
He spotted Haruka and Makoto sitting by the flower garden in front of the apartment .
The two of them looked exhausted, but it didn’t seem like they were injured . Ishii sighed in relief and went up to them .
'Ishii-san . ’
Makoto noticed Ishii immediately and stood up .
'Are you all right?’
'Yes . ’
Makoto’s voice was clear .
Ishii looked towards Haruka .
Though she stood up, she stayed silent . It was clear she wasn’t feeling well .
She had found a corpse that was stabbed all over . There was no helping it .
'I can’t believe things turned out like this…’ said Makoto, putting her hands together in front of her chest .
'It really is a serious matter . ’
Ishii agreed with Makoto .
This case had gone beyond their expectations .
'Are they the ones?’ said Youko, sounding curious .
'Ah, yes, that’s right . ’
For a moment, Ishii was confused as to why Youko knew Haruka and Makoto, but then he remembered that he’d talked to her about the investigation .
'This is Ozawa Haruka-chan and Hijikata Makoto-san . ’
Ishii introduced each of them to Natsume . He was going to introduce Youko, but she showed her police ID before he could .
'I’m Natsume of the Nishitama precinct,’ said Youko promptly .
Haruka opened her mouth like she wanted to talk about it .
'I’ve heard most of the situation from Ishii-san . To be honest, I think Saitou Yakumo isn’t the culprit of this case either . ’
Youko said that in a quiet voice after looking around .
'Is that so?’
Though Ishii said that in his surprise, he understood soon after .
Come to think of it, if Youko still doubted Yakumo, she wouldn’t have cooperated so much .
It could be said that he had gained a powerful ally .
'Detective Ishii, I’m going to go look at the scene, but…’
Youko looked up at the door to the room where the corpse was found .
– I don’t want to see it .
The corpse had been stabbed all over . If possible, he didn’t want to step into such a grisly place .
He had just one reason . He was afraid .
However, he was in front of Haruka and Makoto, and he felt like he wouldn’t be able to see the truth of the case if he didn’t look at it himself .
'I’ll go too,’ said Ishii in a trembling voice . Then, he started following Youko up the stairs to the second storey .
His legs were shaking .
He really was frightened . But he couldn’t go back now .
At the door, Ishii’s mobile phone rang with good timing .
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 . >
After ending the call, Gotou returned to the archive where Yakumo was .
It looked like he had finished searching already, as he was sitting cross-legged at the Japanese-style desk while reading an account book written by hand .
The way he looked – wearing a monk’s working clothes while reading accounts – was incredibly fitting .
'Is it interesting?’
When Gotou spoke, Yakumo turned around with an incredibly displeased look .
'It’s a matter of subjectivity . ’
'Are you saying I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it?’
'You can’t read, right?’
Gotou said that with a click of his tongue as he sat down on the tatami .
'So how was it?’ said Yakumo, turning his eyes to the account book again .
'Things turned serious . ’
Gotou told Yakumo what Ishii had just told him .
At points, Yakumo interrupted, saying things like 'In more concrete terms…’, but he seriously listened to Gotou .
'I see . ’
After Gotou finished speaking, Yakumo shut the account book and lifted his head .
His eyes looked unusually sharp .
'Did you figure something out?’
'There are still a number of things I need to confirm, but I can see the outline of the case . ’
Yakumo ran a hand through his hair .
'So Ishii was of some use then . ’
'Yes . Actually, this time, I have done practically nothing . Ishii-san, Makoto-san and her – the things they’ve investigated are very close to the truth . ’
'That’s right . ’
Gotou agreed with Yakumo’s opinion .
When he was talking with Ishii earlier, he’d underrated him, thinking Ishii probably wouldn’t be able to get any useful information .
Gotou had thought of Ishii as the type who didn’t move unless told to .
However, this time was different . They’d decided their own direction from the situation and investigated . Ishii had grown at a much quicker speed than he had imagined .
Of course, it was the same for Haruka and Makoto .
'To be honest, I’m surprised . I would have probably searched in the same manner if I had been there . ’
Yakumo scratched his cheek awkwardly .
'Do you think you’ll get to the truth?’
'I wonder,’ Yakumo said evasively as he yawned .
Gotou stared at Yakumo’s face, but he couldn’t see his true feelings . All he could do now was believe in Yakumo .
'I’m counting on you . I can’t go home if you don’t solve the mystery . ’
'Atsuko-san and Nao might be happier if you don’t . ’
Yakumo smirked .
'Say what you want . ’
Gotou crossed his arms, looked away and walked to the wall .
– I wonder how Atsuko and Nao are doing?
Gotou had been troubled about whether or not to call home after calling Ishii . However, he decided not to in the end .
The police would probably think Gotou would call home and well probably waiting there . It was the house of a suspect, after all .
– I’ve caused trouble for them .
Gotou realised once more the weight of what he had done, but strangely, he didn’t regret it at all .
It was probably because he believed Yakumo would bring the case to an end .
'Gotou-san . ’
Yakumo was running a hand through his hair with his head facing down as he said that .
'Could I borrow the phone?’
'Sure . ’
Gotou took the mobile out of his pocket and gave it to Yakumo .
'Thank you . ’
'Who are you calling?’
'There’s something I want to check… with her . ’
Yakumo’s words were stiff, which was unlike him .
– I see .
Gotou understood everything and stood up .
'Where are you going?’
Yakumo looked puzzled .
– There’s probably some things that’d be hard to talk about with me here .
Yakumo would probably get angry if Gotou said that, so he muttered it in his heart .
'It’s stuffy in this room . I’m going to take a nap in the temple . ’
'It’s easier to sleep on tatami . ’
'I’m fine . The wood’s cooler . ’
Gotou ended the conversation and left the archive .
When he went out into the corridor, the rain became stronger . It felt like it might cause a flood .
'Man . ’
Gotou went into the temple, used a cushion in the corner as a pillow and lay down .
Come to think of it, he’d gone without sleep or rest for these two days . His body was much more tired than he’d thought .
Gotou fell asleep –
Haruka went into her room with a heavy heart .
After that, the Nishitama precinct detectives questioned her about the situation . Since she was Yakumo’s friends, they had clearly suspected her at first, but with the words of Youko, the Nishitama precinct detective who had been there with Ishii, she was able to be let out quickly .
Still, the things that had happened these two days had had such an impact that she was psychologically and physically exhausted .
She went into the room and lay down on the bed .
The blanket felt nice, but she didn’t feel sleepy .
– I wonder what Yakumo is doing now?
Even when she closed her eyes, questions kept coming up in her head .
'Yakumo-kun . ’
Haruka opened her eyes and called out towards the white ceiling .
As if to respond to that, her mobile phone rang .
'Hello . ’
<You’re rather carefree in such a state of emergency . >
Haruka leapt up like a spring .
<Your voice is loud . >
Yakumo sounded nonchalant .
Though that tone irritated Haruka, she noticed that she was also relieved .
'What do you mean, carefree? You don’t know anything about how I’m feeling . ’
<My bad . >
Yakumo said that quietly .
So many things had happened since she heard about the case . She had been very surprised and worn away at her nerves as she worried about his safety – terrible things had happened .
However, it was mysterious how that one sentence made her feel like she could forgive everything .
– The weakness of somebody in love .
'I’ll forgive you this time . ’
Haruka lay down on her bed again . Though it was the same bed, it felt more comfortable than before .
Anyway, she could hear his voice . That was enough .
'Hey, where are you now?’ asked Haruka, curling up like a cat .
<A room with many books . >
'What is that? A library?’
<Your imagination is poor . >
Yakumo laughed .
Haruka felt like it had been a while since she’d heard that voice . When she talked with him like this, the situation she was in this time felt like a dream .
'Really, where are you?’
<It’d cause you trouble if you knew . >
<If you knew where I was and kept quiet, you would be aiding a fugitive . Since I’m a suspect . >
She was brought back to reality in an instant .
<I received a lot of information from Ishii-san . >
'Yeah . ’
Ishii had said he’d received a phone call from Gotou when in front of the apartment .
<It was a great help . >
Haruka didn’t think that Yakumo would say something like that .
'We’ve been doing our best too . ’
<You have . But…>
<Don’t over do it . >
'But at a time like this…’
<I’m saying it because it’s a time like this . >
Yakumo interrupted Haruka .
<Because it’s a time like this, even if something happens, I can’t save you . >
Haruka’s heart ached at Yakumo’s words .
He’s worried about me . Yakumo is –
It was natural for a friend to be worried, but Haruka was still happy .
'I won’t overdo it . Ishii-san said that too . I’ll be acting alongside Ishii-san tomorrow too, so it’ll be fine . ’
<I see . That’s good . Then…>
'Hey . ’
Haruka sat up and called out to Yakumo, who had been about to hang up .
'You’ll come back… right?>
She wanted to confirm just that .
She knew he wouldn’t be able to reply at this stage, but she wanted an answer, even if it was a lie .
<Yeah . I’ll definitely come back . >
Yakumo replied .
Even though there was no proof, if Yakumo said that, Haruka felt like she could believe it .
'I’m waiting . ’
Yakumo just laughed instead of responding .
Even after hanging up, Haruka gripped her mobile tightly in that lingering memory .
– Yakumo will definitely come back .
That thought gave her peace of mind, and Haruka fell asleep .
'Don’t sleep here . You’re in the way . ’
Gotou woke up to that voice .
Eishin had his arms crossed in a displeased manner as he looked down on Gotou .
When Gotou looked up at him like this, there was considerable pressure . Gotou’s sleepiness flew away at once .
Gotou had planned on leave just while Yakumo was calling Haruka last night, but it looked like he’d fallen right asleep .
'It’s my choice where I sleep . ’
Gotou sat up while rubbing his eyes .
He really shouldn’t have slept on the wooden floor . His body ached all over .
'That’s why I told you . ’
Eishin laughed when he saw Gotou’s expression twist in pain .
– He’s so noisy .
Gotou looked at his wristwatch in an unpleasant mood . It was only six in the morning .
'It’s a pain being woken up so early in the morning . ’
'Early in the morning? My day starts at four . This is actually late . ’
Eishin’s nostrils flared as he said that and opened the window to look out .
The large raindrops continued to hit the ground .
The wind was strong too – there was the sound of howling .
'It’s really pouring . ’
Gotou got up and stretched .
Something in his arm and foot made a loud crack . It was hard to move as if he was wearing a suit of armour .
'Seems like a typhoon’s coming . ’
'Typhoon? That’ll be another issue…’
They were frantically running around – they didn’t have the time to care about the weather .
'It’ll land soon . ’
'What a pain . ’
Gotou frowned .
If it were just rain, it’d be fine, but a typhoon was different . They wouldn’t be able to move freely .
'So what are you planning to do today?’ said Eishin, as if he’d seen Gotou’s anxiety .
Wait in the temple for the typhoon to pass, or forcefully go out – both were risky .
It was hard to come to a decision .
'I’ll ask Yakumo . ’
'You don’t try to think on your own, do you?’
Eishin snorted .
'What did you say?’
'It’s the truth, right? That’s why your brain is deteriorating . ’
– This monk really is annoying .
Somehow, Gotou swallowed his anger .
There was something else of more concern . What was Eishin going to do?
He had gone with them so far . Gotou had brought Eishin along because he was partially responsible for Yakumo’s becoming a suspect .
However, they had found Yakumo . It could be said that Eishin’s role ended here, but Eishin had clout . Though he was hateful, Gotou would rather have him here .
'What are you going to do now…’
The sliding door to the temple opened, interrupting Gotou’s question .
At the door was the trainee monk named Shuuei . There was sweat on his forehead and his shoulders were heaving as he panted .
His working clothes were drenched from the rain .
'What is it?’ said Eishin .
'Police have come . ’
Gotou stood up instinctively at those words .
'Just chase them out,’ replied Eishin .
However, Shuuei’s eyebrows lowered as he looked troubled .
'That is… It seems that somebody reported that there is an escaped suspect here…’
Shuuei’s shoulders slumped as he hung his head like a child being scolded .
It was hard to even look at him, but there was no time to sympathise . This was really problematic .
'Run right now,’ Eishin said sharply while pointing to the well .
Gotou was about to respond from that force, but then he recalled something .
'How about Yakumo?’
'Shuuei . Call him right now . ’
'Yes . ’
Shuuei turned around briskly and ran off .
'Don’t dawdle . Hurry and go . ’
Urged on by Eishin, Gotou flew out of the temple .
The pouring rain continued .
He stooped over to hide in the thicket as he advanced . In front of the well, he stood up again and looked at the main temple gate .
He saw Shuuei talking to the police there .
'That bastard . He should’ve been going to call Yakumo…’
It seemed like Shuuei had been the one who gave the secret report to the police . Gotou gritted his teeth .
– What to do?
'Hurry up and go! Idiot!’
Eishin yelled from the corridor .
There was no point in both of them getting caught .
'Damn it! What a pain!’
Gotou used the rope to go into the well .
The rain was heavy –
Haruka watched the rain pouring down from the apartment entrance .
The news said that a typhoon was coming .
If the typhoon hit, they wouldn’t be able to move freely . Haruka couldn’t relax .
She saw a car parked in front of the apartment .
It was probably Ishii’s car .
Haruka left the entrance and went up to the car, holding an umbrella .
'Good morning . ’
Ishii nodded from the driver’s seat .
His hair was as messy as Yakumo’s and hair was growing in on his chin . He was also wearing the same thing as he had been yesterday .
He had probably worked without sleep or rest . Haruka felt a bit apologetic .
'I’m sorry for asking something so selfish . ’
Haruka apologised formally as she got into the passenger seat .
Last night, Ishii had said, 'Please leave the rest of the investigation to me . ’
Haruka didn’t think that anything would change if she continued . Rather, she’d get in the way . Though she knew that, she had still said, 'Please let me do something . ’
Their arguments ran parallel, but in the end Ishii folded .
'No, to be honest, I didn’t want to investigate by myself either . ’
Ishii smiled as he said that, starting the car .
Haruka knew he was just being polite, but it still made her feel better .
'How are things with the police?’ asked Haruka, curious .
Now that Gotou had run as a fugitive, there must have been a big fuss at the police .
'Actually, I haven’t returned to the precinct . ’
'I’ve been contacting Chief Miyagawa by phone, but if I return, they probably won’t let me out again . ’
Ishii let out a dry laugh .
'Why would that be the case?’
'Since I’m Detective Gotou’s partner…’
Ishii’s eyes narrowed .
'Are you being suspected as well, Ishii-san?’
'Though that isn’t the case, they think I might give Detective Gotou information . ’
For Ishii to be suspected as well – Haruka had a heavy heart just imagining it .
'Please don’t be so down . It’s the truth,’ said Ishii with a shrug .
'Ah, well, I talked with Detective Gotou on the phone yesterday . I told him everything I know, so the police’s opinion is correct . ’
To Haruka, Ishii seemed nonchalant . It might have been resignation .
– He’d do anything for Gotou .
That will was probably pushing him forward .
'We’ll need to clear their names then . ’
Haruka smiled at Ishii .
'Of course,’ Ishii replied immediately .
If they didn’t find out the truth behind the case, everyone would be in trouble .
It wasn’t just Yakumo’s problem .
Haruka’s determination became firmer .
Gotou went down the narrow tunnel at the bottom of the well, feeling like he was being pulled back by the hair .
After getting out the tunnel, Gotou hid behind the rock and watched the second hand on his wristwatch as he waited .
'Hurry up and come . ’
Gotou just prayed for that as he gripped his hands into fists .
The rain hit his body .
Even his underwear was soaked in no time .
Water dripped from his chin .
Ten minutes passed –
But Yakumo still didn’t come .
If he hadn’t come after Gotou had waited so long, was he hiding in the temple or caught by the police –
'What to do?’ Gotou asked himself .
Only the sound of the rain replied .
Gotou stood up, left the thicket and stood on the asphalt road .
The raindrops bounced off the ground, creating a faint mist .
At the temple, Gotou could see red flashing lights . Yakumo was still on the premises .
The open ground on the opposite side of the road had a BMW there – the one they’d taken here .
Gotou put his hands in his pockets and found the key .
– If you’re caught by the police, somebody important to you will die .
The words on the note that was probably from Nanase Miyuki came up in Gotou’s head . If Yakumo was caught by the police, Haruka would be in danger .
In that situation, Yakumo would be stuck in the detention house . He’d probably be stricken with helplessness and an unspeakable pain .
Like with Isshin –
'I see . ’
Gotou understood everything now .
That might have been Miyuki’s goal . That woman had been stuck in the detention house before because of Yakumo .
Though she had escaped in the end, this was revenge for that . She probably planned on meeting Yakumo after she had placed her hands on Haruka .
When Gotou imagined that, a shiver ran down his spine .
He was looking up at the sky blanketed in thick clouds when Atsuko’s and Nao’s faces appeared in his head .
Even if he got away now, he couldn’t get to the truth without Yakumo . He would have to continue running for the rest of his life .
He wouldn’t be able to meet Atsuko and Nao .
Then it’d actually be better to be caught by the police .
Come to think of it, Gotou had decided what he should do from the moment he’d gone to save Yakumo and acted violent against the officers .
No, that was wrong –
His fate might have already been decided from the moment he’d saved Yakumo from that abandoned building fifteen years ago . It had been raining like this on that day too .
He and Yakumo were one in body and soul .
'I’ll go with you to the ends of hell . ’
Gotou said just that and started walking to the BMW .
To be honest, Ishii had thought Haruka would be a bit more depressed .
However, this morning, Haruka had an energetic expression this morning – it looked like she had returned to her usual self .
Though Ishii wanted to know what had changed in her psychological state, Ishii couldn’t ask aloud .
Ishii drove through the parking lot, trying to get as close to the entrance as he could .
He was at the entrance when Haruka ran out with an umbrella .
Though they only shared the umbrella for twenty minutes, it was a time of pure bliss for Ishii . They went through the entrance and took the stairs by the elevator .
They were headed for the room at the end of the basement corridor .
The dim corridor which smelled of disinfectant was always creepy to Ishii, but he felt less frightened than usual .
It might have been because Haruka was there with him .
'Hata-san, it’s Ishii . ’
Ishii called out as he knocked .
'It’s open . ’
A hoarse voice called out from the room .
'Are you all right?’
Haruka nodded in response to Ishii’s words .
'Excuse us . ’
Ishii opened the door to the room .
A small space of about six tatami in size . Cabinets surrounded it . Partly because there were no windows, it had a suffocating pressure to it .
There was just one desk by the wall . Hata sat there .
'You’ve brought an unexpected person with you . ’
Hata looked at Haruka with fish eyes .
Ishii had been troubled about whether to meet Hata with Haruka, but then he remembered that they had met a number of times before .
'Do you remember me?’
Haruka bowed her head with a smile .
'My mind’s still active . ’
After tapping his forehead with his finger, Hata let out a creepy giggle .
When Ishii heard Hata’s laugh, a chill ran down his spine . It made him afraid that Hata might one day bare his fangs and gobble someone up .
'So I see . ’
Haruka smiled, though she seemed troubled .
'Excuse me… About the matter I discussed yesterday…’
Ishii brought up the topic at hand .
'I’ve got it for you . ’
Hata patted his grizzled hair and then took two A4-size envelopes out of the drawer .
The names Seidou and Matsumoto Hiroshi were written on them .
'Thank you very much . ’
Ishii picked them up immediately and took the insides out, but then his eyes saw a frightful picture that he instinctively looked away from .
Normally, he would have shrieked, but he probably couldn’t do that because Haruka was next to him .
Haruka’s brows grew close together as she covered her mouth with both hands .
The events of last night had probably doubled Haruka’s terror .
'Are you all right?’
'Yes, I’m fine . ’
Haruka acted strong at Ishii’s words, but her face was completely white .
'Anyway, please sit . ’
Ishii encouraged Haruka to sit in the nearby round chair .
'I’m sorry,’ said Haruka, sitting on the chair and hugging her shoulders .
Hata was light-heartedly poking at youkan with a toothpick .
Only Hata would be able to look at this photo and continue eating calmly .
'What do you think, Hata-san?’
Ishii put the photo back in the envelope and turned to Hata .
This was the most important . To be honest, when Ishii looked at the photo, he just felt frightened .
He wanted to hear Hata’s opinion as an expert .
'Well, there were a number of things that were off . ’
Hata sipped his tea .
'Things that were off?’
'Yes . First, it was a haemorrhagic death . ’
That meant that there had been no fatal injury – death had been caused by blood lass .
'Is that so?’
'Though there are many injuries, each was shallow in contrast to that . ’
Ishii repeated what Hata said, but he didn’t know what it meant .
'It was probably done to hurt the victim . ’
Hata’s shoulders shook as he giggled .
Stabbing over and over while keeping the victim from dying . That was a terribly awful way of murder . The murderer might have been an unbelievable sadist . Or –
'Then there must have been quite a grudge against the victim . ’
'The suspect in this case is Yakumo-kun, right?’ said Hata, rubbing the white stubble growing out of his chin .
'That’s wrong!’ Haruka said, leaning forward .
'Missy, listen to the end of what I have to say . ’
Hata’s rebuke made Haruka immediately say 'I’m sorry’ and look at her feet .
'What I want to say is that if Yakumo-kun committed the crime, he was ill-prepared . ’
Ishii repeated it without thinking .
'Think about it . How many cases do you think Yakumo has been involved in up until now?’
Yakumo hadn’t been involved in just one or two cases . Ishii understood what Hata was trying to say .
'Yakumo-kun must know very well how the police work . Would he grip the knife and take the time to stab somebody multiple times despite that?’
'If Yakumo-shi were the murderer, he would probably pick a more effective method, wouldn’t he?’
Hata nodded .
Ishii understood . If Yakumo were the culprit, he would have killed the victims differently .
At least, he wouldn’t have gripped the knife with his bare hand . However –
'Wouldn’t it be possible to think that he might have become emotion after some sort of trouble?’
'That’s impossible,’ said Hata with a snort .
'Then the injuries would be deeper . ’
'Is that so?’
'I said this earlier, didn’t I? The culprit probably used enough force not to kill the victim in order to hurt them . ’
'Ah, I see . ’
Ishii understood now .
If the culprit had become emotional and lost control, they wouldn’t be able to stab somebody without killing them .
'The culprit must have coldly watched the victim suffering . That might have been the goal . ’
Ishii shivered at Hata’s words .
'How frightening,’ said Ishii in a trembling voice .
– I can’t go back now .
Sitting in the driver seat of the BMW, Gotou gripped the wheel with sweaty hands as he steeled himself .
At the temple gate in front of him, he could see two police cars . The uniformed officers ahead of them were looking around frantically in their raincoats .
He looked towards the archive where Yakumo had been .
The door was open . However, he couldn’t see inside . If he didn’t know the situation, he had no way of moving .
As if to respond to Gotou’s irritation, there was a knock on the car’s side window .
Eishin peered in, completely drenched .
'You look awful,’ said Gotou as he looked at Eishin, who was drenched from head to toe .
'You look worse . ’
'Can’t say you’re wrong . ’
Gotou laughed together with Eishin .
'So how’s it look inside?’
After laughing for a moment, Gotou asked that, and Eishin’s expression became serious .
'Sorry . Yakumo was caught . ’
'As I thought… Did that trainee monk called Shuuei report him?’
Gotou glared at Eishin .
For once, Eishin looked as his feet awkwardly .
'Don’t blame Shuuei . He just did what he thought was right after thinking about it . ’
'I know . ’
Gotou wasn’t lying .
From Shuuei’s perspective, on top of his master being murdered, the suspect in that had suddenly appeared at the temple .
He hadn’t reported it immediately because Eishin, the temple’s advisor had been there .
Gotou would think gratefully of him for keeping quiet until this morning .
'What do you plan to do?’ said Eishin, wiping the water from his face .
Gotou was determined without a doubt .
'I can’t go back . ’
'Right . Then I’ll go with you . ’
Eishin smirked .
Gotou had thought of him just as a hateful monk, but in this situation, he was a strong ally . But –
'You OK with that?’
'I’m partially responsible, right?’ said Eishin with a snort . That was the end of it then .
'Then shall we go?’
Gotou started the engine .
'Do you have a plan?’
'As if . ’
He’d imagined things from this situation, but he couldn’t see the result .
Tricks would be no use . He’d go with a straight-on surprise attack .
'It’s troublesome accompanying an idiot . ’
Though Eishin said that, he looked happy .
Gotou calculated the timing while waiting for the engine .
A uniformed officer came out of the archive .
Yakumo was behind the officer . Though his hands were shackled, he was looking forward with a firm gaze .
Behind Yakumo, there was another uniformed officer . He was led to the police car, surrounded .
– Not yet . A little longer .
Gotou swallowed the urge to rush .
He only had one chance . If he failed, it’d be game over .
The officers and Yakumo walked up to the police car at the temple gates . The officer in front opened the backseat door .
As Gotou yelled, he slammed down the pedal and drove forward .
He put his lights on high beam and kept honking the horn .
When the officers saw the BMW rushing towards them, they jumped away in different directions .
Yakumo was left in the middle .
Without slowing down, Gotou rammed into the police car with the open door .
There was a grating crash – the impact ran through Gotou .
The police car’s side was dented in and the door impossibly bent, but the BMW didn’t have that much damage .
Foreign cars really were different in sturdiness .
'Hurry up and get on!’
Even Yakumo looked astonished by the unexpected event, though he immediately came over, sensing the situation .
However, one of the uniformed officers came to stop that .
It’d be a problem if they were caught . Gotou was about to get off the car when Eishin kicked the officer’s leg .
The officer lost his balance and fell forward .
'Well done,’ said Gotou without thinking .
Eishin really wasn’t just a monk . Though he was hateful, he was reliable .
Yakumo took that chance to get into the backseat .
Gotou waited for Eishin to get back in and made a U-turn in the BMW .
Because of the high speed, Yakumo and Eishin were flung to the side of the car from the centrifugal force, but Gotou didn’t have the time to worry about that .
Gotou slammed down the pedal .
'That was rather reckless,’ said Yakumo in the back seat .
'That a problem for you?’
Gotou turned around with a smile .
'No, it was a great help . ’
Unusual for Yakumo, he thanked Gotou honestly .
Gotou ended up laughing at how ridiculous that attitude was .
'Is something funny?’
Yakumo said that, seeming displeased . He tried to run a hand through his hair, but the handcuffs got in his way .
His actions were like a playful cat’s, making Gotou laugh aloud again .
'You’re rather carefree in this emergency . ’
My bad . ’
If Gotou laughed any more, it felt like Yakumo would really be angry . Gotou swallowed his laughter .
'So where are you going now?’ asked Eishin from the passenger seat .
He’d mentioned the part that hurt most . Gotou couldn’t respond immediately . He wasn’t driving with a destination in mind .
He’d gone along with vigour – he didn’t know what to do next .
'As usual, you have no plans . ’
Yakumo shook his head, as if disappointed by Gotou’s thoughts .
'Tell me if you have any ideas then . ’
Nothing would start if they argued now . Gotou asked that question to Yakumo while looking through the rear-view mirror .
Yakumo probably had some sort of plan .
'Please head to the lake,’ said Yakumo with a hard expression .
'By lake, do you mean the one where you got bitten by a pit viper?’
'You don’t have to say unnecessary information,’ said Yakumo with a scowl .
It looked like it really bothered him . Yakumo might grow to hate snakes .
'Something that will bring us to the truth of this case . ’
That was a pretty vague way of putting it .
In his heart, Gotou complained – 'Explain more clearly’ – but if Yakumo said that, Gotou was sure there was something there .
He might have found something important in the account books he was looking at in the archive last night .
'Oi, you damn monk . Tell me how to get there,’ Gotou said to Eishin in the passenger seat .
However, Eishin just looked at Gotou like he was a cockroach or something .
'Don’t make me say this again . There’s a proper attitude you should take when you’re asking people to do things,’ said Eishin with a sigh .
'I don’t know the way . Would you be so kind as to tell me how to get there?’
– Man, what annoying car passengers .
Gotou pitied his unluckiness but he bowed his head to Eishin . He’d return this humiliation when the case was over .
'Say that from the beginning . ’
'Yeah, yeah . ’
'Turn right at the next road . ’
Eishin said that right before the intersection .
– He couldn’t stop the car that quickly .
'Idiot . It was that road,’ said Eishin with irritation .
'I know . Tell me sooner . ’
Gotou slammed on the brakes .
The tires slipped in the rain – it took longer to stop than he’d expected .
Gotou made a U-turn and went onto the road as directed .
The road was one long, curving slope . Gotou recalled that he’d gone on this road when he had gone to search for Yakumo yesterday .
He would get to the lake if he just went straight here .
'Hey, Yakumo . You figured something out?’ asked Gotou after things had calmed down a bit .
'Though it isn’t everything yet, what Ishii-san investigated was of quite some use . ’
'Yes . From what I know, Hatsune-chan is not her mother’s reincarnation . ’
Gotou had heard that yesterday .
'Then who is she?’
'Like I said yesterday, Gotou-san, your question is strange . ’
Gotou didn’t know what was strange about it at all .
He looked at Eishin in the passenger seat . He had his arms crossed and was going 'hm, hm’ like he understood, lying back on the seat .
Looked like Gotou was the only one who didn’t understand . It was really irritating .
'Just explain already . ’
'First, if you think about it calmly, it would be impossible to think of a child being their mother’s reincarnation, as the mother is the one who gave birth to them,’ said Yakumo, putting his hands together as he did so .
Gotou understood that too .
'Next, Hatsune-chan still called herself by the name of her mother, Minami, despite that . ’
'yeah . ’
'Hatsune-chan’s mother, Minami, is probably the person who became missing ten years ago that Ishii-san is investigating . ’
'I see,’ replied Gotou in understanding .
'After putting these two truths together, there is only one possibility . ’
Yakumo was looking straight forward .
That hard expression was sometimes frightening to the point that it gave Gotou a chill .
'Do you really not understand?’
It was Eishin who responded .
If he was going to interrupt with boring comments, Gotou would prefer that Eishin slept .
'I’m asking because I don’t understand . ’
Gotou hit the wheel .
'It’s simple . Somebody told Hatsune-chan this . That she was Minami’s reincarnation . ’
Gotou was so surprised that he couldn’t say anything else .
'Somebody said that over and over again to Hatsune-chan . You are your mother’s reincarnation – Over many months and years, Hatsune-chan was brainwashed and grew to believe she really was her mother’s reincarnation…’
Yakumo’s words were as flat as if he were reading a sutra .
However, the weight of each word thrust painfully into Gotou’s chest .
If what Yakumo said was true, Gotou couldn’t forgive it . It was the same as robbing Hatsune of her identity .
'I see… That’s why you said she was herself . ’
Gotou finally understood what Yakumo had been saying .
Yakumo nodded with a grim expression on his face .
No matter what happened, you couldn’t be anything but yourself . No matter what you were told otherwise, that fact didn’t change .
However, there was still something that Gotou didn’t understand .
'What did somebody do that for…’
'That answer will come soon . ’
Yakumo gave a vague reply and then leant back on the seat, looking up at the ceiling .
It looked like his battery had run out .
Though Gotou hadn’t been able to get a response out of Yakumo, Gotou had a vague idea about the answer to who it was .
– Over many months and years .
Yakumo had said that .
Only somebody who was always close to Hatsune would be able to do that –
After leaving Hata’s hospital, Ishii went with Haruka to a family restaurant .
When they went inside Youko was already waiting there at a window seat .
'I’m sorry for the wait . ’
Ishii and Haruka sat opposite Youko .
'You’re the one from last night…’
Youko looked at Haruka with suspicious eyes . It was an expected response . There was no point making excuses now .
Ishii explained how things were to Youko .
'I understand how you feel, but what I’m going to say now is confidential information regarding the invitation . ’
That was what Youko said immediately after Ishii finished his explanation .
He’d thought that she’d understand, but he had been naive . Come to think of it, it was natural . It had become natural for Yakumo and Haruka to be a part of investigations, but they were civilians . Furthermore, Haruka was in a strange position, as a friend of the suspect .
It would be more of a problem for her to be a part of the investigation .
'I’m sorry for asking something unreasonable . I’ll wait outside . ’
Haruka seemed to accept the situation before Ishii did and she got up from her seat .
'I’m sorry . There are circumstances . To be honest, it’s enough of a problem talking with Ishii-san . ’
It sounded like Youko was being considerate of Haruka .
To Ishii, Youko’s attitude was unexpected .
– It is unnecessary for you to help with the investigation .
Ishii recalled what Youko had said when they first met .
It was like she was a different person . However, Ishii thought that gap in character was pleasant .
'Please wait in the car . ’
Ishii handed the car key to Haruka .
'Yes . ’
Haruka didn’t look depressed . She responded with her usual smile and left the family restaurant .
Ishii confirmed that Haruka had got into the car through the window and then turned his eyes to Youko .
Youko was looking out the window as well .
She looked entranced, like a girl in love .
When Ishii spoke, Youko looked surprised .
'Ah, sorry . She looks like…’
'Looks like whom?’
'A friend . ’
Ishii gave a vague response .
He couldn’t say anything since he had never seen that friend .
'Let’s talk,’ said Youko after letting out a short breath .
'Ah, yes . ’
'First, I want you to look at this . I looked into the case from ten years ago when Minami-san went missing . ’
Youko took files out of her bag .
It was a rather impressive amount . It was as thick as a dictionary . Had she investigated that much in half a day – while Ishii took the files in his hand, he was astonished by Youko’s work .
'This is amazing . ’
'I’ve put labels on the important points . ’
Just as Youko said, there were coloured labels sticking out all over the files .
'First, there are a few testimonies from the investigation of the disappearance that caught my interest . ’
Youko started explaining in a flat tone .
'The last to see her was Seidou-san, but the timing of that testimony is a bit strange . ’
'Yes . The investigation into the disappearance had started already . After a week, he went himself to the police to give testimony . ’
'That is strange . ’
Ishii agreed with Youko’s opinion .
It would make sense if he’d recalled after being asked by the police, but this was different .
He had suddenly said that he’d seen a person somewhere a week after .
'There is another strange testimony,’ continued Youko .
'What is it?’
'The classmate that testified that Minami-san had been depressed was Matsumoto Hiroshi . ’
'As I thought,’ murmured Ishii .
He hadn’t had proof, but he had thought that was the case .
'There are other odd points . ’
After saying that ,Youko turned the files towards herself and started searching for something .
Finally, she took a copy of a class attendance sheet .
'How did you get…’
'Look here . ’
Youko ignored Ishii’s surprise and pointed at a specific place on the sheet .
It was Matsumoto Hiroshi’s column .
From mid-February, there were many incidents where he was absent, late, or left early .
However, it wasn’t that unnatural .
When students got to February of their third year at high school, most of them had obtained their placements . It wasn’t strange for them to want to spend the rest of their high school lives in leisure .
'Look here . ’
It seemed Youko had sensed Ishii’s thoughts, as she pointed at a different column . The name of Seidou’s son, Todayama Takahiro, was listed there .
There were also many absences in his column starting from mid-February .
Furthermore, they were always on the same day as Matsumoto Hiroshi . However, that wasn’t too odd either .
'Might they not have been hanging out together?’
'They might have been, but I think there was something else . ’
'What do you mean by something?’
'What I think is…’
Interrupting the conversation, Ishii’s mobile rang .
'You can answer . ’
'Ah, OK . ’
With Youko’s permission, Ishii answered the phone .
Gotou got off the BMW ahead of the path to the lake .
He was about to head to the destination, but there was something he had to do before then . While being hit by the rain, Gotou opened the trunk .
Fortunately, there was a toolbox there .
'What do you plan on doing?’ said Yakumo, sounding displeased as he stood in the rain .
'I’m going to take off the handcuffs . ’
Gotou took pliers out of the toolbox .
Though it wasn’t well known, the role of handcuffs wasn’t just to keep the hands in check . By connecting the hands together closely, people couldn’t keep their balance and wouldn’t be able to run .
It was fine while moving in the car, but when thinking about what they’d had to do next – it’d be a problem if he left the handcuffs on Yakumo .
'Are you an idiot, Gotou-san? You can’t take these off . ’
Yakumo looked obviously disgruntled .
'It’s just as Yakumo said . If you have the time for that, just head to the lake already,’ said Eishin after getting off the BMW .
– Amateurs .
Gotou called them names in his heart .
'You guys didn’t study at police school, did you?’
'Of course not . We aren’t police officers,’ said Yakumo with a shrug .
'The handcuffs police officers use aren’t all the same type . ’
'What differs?’ interrupted Eishin .
'Strength and weight . ’
As Gotou said that, he walked up to Yakumo, pulled him by the handcuffs and placed them on the car’s bonnet .
'What do you mean?’
'In the past, police officers only used steel handcuffs, but then the handcuffs are heavy . ’
'And?’ urged Eishin, sounding interested .
'In particular, police officers have their police baton and wireless – it’s pretty heavy . ’
On top of that, with winter coats and raincoats, it was like wearing armour . Then they wouldn’t be able to move quickly when they needed to .
Gotou put the pliers on the chains linking Yakumo’s cuffs together and pressed down hard .
Yakumo seemed to have understood the situation, as he kept quiet .
'Recently, the police have been focussing on mobility, so handcuffs aren’t strong – they’re made of a light aluminium alloy . ’
If it was for a heinous crime or arrest, police officers would carry steel cuffs, but normally, they just carried the aluminium alloy ones .
'And police officers don’t usually use handcuffs except in emergency arrests . ’
'I see . ’
Eishin clapped his hands together in understanding .
'In short, we’ll be able to do something with these tools . ’
'If you’re taking them off, please hurry up and take them off,’ said Yakumo with a yawn .
– He really is a hateful brat .
Gotou used his body weight to press down .
However, he slipped in the rain – it wasn’t going well .
'Help out some . ’
'All right . ’
Unusual for Eishin, he responded honestly .
Gotou had Eishin hold the chains . Gotou used both hands with force the pliers together .
After quite some effort, they managed to snap the chains .
'Though the cuffs are still on,’ said Yakumo, sounding dissatisfied as he raised both hands .
The chains were cut and his hands were free, but the cuffs were still around his wrists .
'You can move – stop complaining,’ said Gotou as he started walking the path towards the lake .
'Gotou-san . ’
Yakumo called out to him .
'Please bring the toolbox too . ’
'It’s obviously because it’s necessary,’ said Yakumo, running his hand through his hair .
– Damn, using me like a gopher .
Haruka leant back in the passenger seat and watched the endless rain .
Inside the car, it was warm and humid – she was sweaty even though she wasn’t going anything .
The events so far spun through her head like a revolving lantern .
Though she felt like they were closer to the truth, she couldn’t picture it, like it was an illusion .
'I wonder how Yakumo-kun is…’ murmured Haruka . Then, her mobile rang .
It was a call from Makoto .
'Hello . ’
<Ah, Haruka-chan . Where are you right now?’
Makoto’s voice sounded a bit agitated .
'I’m waiting in Ishii-san’s car . ’
<I see . I called Ishii-san’s phone earlier but he was in the middle of a call…>
Haruka looked at the window seat of the family restaurant where Ishii was .
Past the curtain of rain, she could see Ishii on the phone . He looked dumbfounded, like he had been surprised by something .
'He is on the phone . ’
<Right . Actually, I wanted to ask something… is it OK?>
'Would I be helpful?’ said Haruka, anxious .
<Of course . >
Makoto responded in a bright voice .
'What is it?’
<We might have made an unbelievable misassumption . >
Makoto’s tone was hinting at something .
It sounded to Haruka like Makoto had solved the whole mystery . She naturally gripped the phone more tightly .
<Yes . We were looking for Minami-san’s lover and arrived at Naitou Yousuke . >
'Yes,’ replied Haruka, recalling yesterday night’s events .
He might know something as her lover . That was their thought when they acted . However, the worst result came about –
<I thought it was strange . >
<That Naitou Yousuke was Minami-san’s lover . I thought that he didn’t match…>
Haruka agreed with Makoto’s opinion .
She wouldn’t know how to explain it exactly, but the impression she had of him hadn’t matched somehow . But –
'There are couples that work unexpectedly well even if they don’t seem to suit each other though . ’
<Right . At first, I thought it was just my mistake, but when I looked through Minami-san’s things again – the ones we got from Tamae-san – that changed . >
'Did you find something?’
<Yes . There was a photo with Minami-san and Naitou Yousuke . >
'Is that so?’
Haruka couldn’t remember seeing it .
<In the photo, Naitou Yousuke tried to put an arm around Minami-san, but she looked really unhappy about it . Like a physical rejection . ’
Haruka hadn’t seen the photo, so she couldn’t say anything .
'Maybe it was from before they started dating . ’
<I thought that at first too . Then I found something when I investigated once more . >
Haruka could tell Makoto was agitated on the other side of the phone .
’…What did you find?’
<I know who Minami-san’s lover is . Y . N . -san . >
<Yes . My thoughts changed . A lot of things suddenly connected . >
– I want to know right now .
That feeling grew rapidly within Haruka .
'Please tell me . ’
Haruka couldn’t hear what Makoto said last .
It was because somebody suddenly opened the door on the driver’s side came in .
It was somebody Haruka knew .
Haruka started to speak, but then a stun gun was held to her neck .
'It’s been a while . ’
With a smile that showed her white teeth – it was Nanase Miyuki .
The left half of her face was covered in a keloid, and from her left wrist onward, there was a stump . When Haruka saw Miyuki’s glinting eyes, she went pale at once .
Sixteen years ago, this woman brutally killed her own family and had then manipulated many cases up until now with Yakumo’s father, the man with two red eyes .
She was also the ringleader of the case that took Isshin’s life .
Haruka could hear Makoto saying <Hello…> from the phone .
'Let’s talk slowly later . Please sleep until then . ’
Without waiting for Haruka’s answer, Miyuki turned on the stun gun .
Haruka felt pain – like a needle had stabbed her – and fell unconscious .
The falling rain created countless ripples on the lake’s surface .
'It’s cold,’ Gotou said without thinking .
Though it was quite warm, being hit by so much rain made his body colder .
'Please complain afterwards . ’
Yakumo, who was walking behind Gotou, pushed Gotou’s back .
Gotou lost his balance and was about to fall forward, but he managed to avoid it .
'What are you doing?’
'It’s because you were dawdling,’ said Yakumo, brushing aside the hair that stuck to his forehead after being drenched by the rain .
Eishin was laughing with shaking shoulders .
– I shouldn’t have taken off those handcuffs .
With regret, Gotou walked along the lake towards the crape myrtle tree ahead .
It was where Yakumo had been bitten by a pit viper .
Perhaps because he was concerned about that, Yakumo was stepping carefully as he walked .
'This place OK?’
'Yes . ’
After Yakumo answered Gotou’s question, he started looking around .
At the roots of the crape myrtle tree, there was a rectangular rock – like a gravestone . It was the rock Yakumo had been resting against after being bitten by the pit viper .
'This, eh…’ said Yakumo, looking at the rock .
'What’s this rock?’
'Gotou-san . Please move this rock . ’
That was Yakumo’s response to Gotou’s question .
Using a person like a slave . Yakumo had been a hundred times cuter when he was on the verge of death .
Though Gotou felt dissatisfied, he put his hands on the rock . It was quite heavy . He decided it would be impossible to lift it up and put his body weight against it to push it over, but it wouldn’t move .
Eishin brought over a wooden stick and put it underneath the rock as a lever, lifting it up slightly . Gotou took that chance to push the rock with all his might .
There was a thump as the rock fell .
'Next, please dig here . ’
Yakumo pointed at the revealed ground .
'Am I the Hanasaka Jiisan?’ complained Gotou, but Yakumo acted like he didn’t hear .
'Come on . ’
Eishin gave the toolbox he had brought to Gotou .
– Looks like Eishin doesn’t plan on helping any more .
Though Gotou wasn’t happy about it, he took a hammer out of the toolbox and started using the side for pulling nails out to dig a hole in the ground .
– At some point, I became Yakumo’s manservant .
Though he thought it, he didn’t say it aloud . Since he couldn’t use his head, he had to do physical work like this or he’d just be in the way .
Gotou focussed all his energy on digging, but when he had dug about fifty centimetres, he hit something .
He didn’t know what was buried, but it looked like they’d reached their goal .
Gotou put the hammer aside and started scooping the dirt out with his hands .
Finally, he found something like a board .
He brushed away more dirt .
Something like a metal box appeared .
'Is this it?’
Yakumo gave a short reply .
Gotou took the box out of the dirt .
When he brushed the dirt off of it, he could see it was a small portable safe . It was the type that had a password with a dial .
'Do you know the password?’ asked Gotou .
'I don’t . That’s why I brought tools . ’
Yakumo’s response was as expected .
'Yeah, yeah . ’
As Gotou replied, he took a flathead screwdriver out of the toolbox .
If it were a large heat-resistant safe, it’d be impossible for an amateur to open it with tools . However, they’d manage somehow for a portable one .
'Hold it down . ’
'Got it . ’
Eishin responded to Gotou’s instructions and held the safe down .
– Things like this keep happening today .
Gotou put the screwdriver in the gap underneath the cover and hit the back of the screwdriver with the hammer as hard as he could .
There was a crack as the cover warped .
Gotou put the screwdriver deeper into the wider gap and hit the screwdriver with the hammer .
He repeated his .
After about ten minutes, the cover of the safe finally opened .
What came out was a wallet, necklace and mobile – a collection of small items .
Yakumo didn’t answer Gotou’s question .
He just looked at the lake .
It was like somebody was at the end of his gaze .
Yakumo’s red eye could probably see something . A spirit of the dead – ?
'Yes . ’
Yakumo responded immediately .
His eyes seemed sad .
A drop of water fell from Yakumo’s chin .
'They want something?’
'She is full of hatred . She couldn’t throw that hatred away even after her death . ’
'Why does she hate so much?’
'She isn’t at fault . It is natural for her to be full of hatred . ’
'Can’t it work out somehow?’
'I don’t know how to heal that amount of hatred . ’
As Yakumo said that, his profile looked both angry and sad .
Through the phone, Ishii heard Miyagawa’s agitated voice .
Things had been terrible throughout this case . It made Ishii think that nothing worse could happen .
'What happened?’ asked Ishii, confused .
<This morning, there was a report from the Nishitama precinct . That Saitou Yakumo was hiding in Seidou’s temple . >
Ishii was surprised in more than one meaning of the word .
Hiding in the temple of the victim, Seidou –
There was that saying – can’t see the forest for the trees . The Nishitama precinct had focussed on the rails and had searched on the mountains as well .
However, Yakumo had hid right in the middle of the wide search net .
Youko looked at Ishii with a dubious expression .
Ishii hunched over, hiding from Youko’s gaze as he spoke .
<An officer chased him and performed an emergency arrest . >
Yakumo had been caught .
Though Ishii was shocked, he had another question .
'Excuse me… What happened to Detective Gotou?’
Gotou should have been with Yakumo . If Yakumo was arrested, then Gotou –
<There’s the problem . When the officer caught up to Yakumo, Gotou hadn’t been at the scene . >
'That’s great . ’
<No it isn’t!>
Miyagawa let out a yell that sounded like it had erupted from the bottom of his stomach .
'Eek . ’
Ishii let out a voice close to a shriek .
<That idiot ran his car into the police car and escaped with Saitou Yakumo!>
It looked like Gotou and Yakumo had both been able to escape .
– Thank goodness .
Though Ishii thought it, he didn’t say it aloud . That would incur Miyagawa’s wrath .
<I can’t cover for him any longer . >
It sounded like Miyagawa might cry at any moment .
'Could it be that Detective Gotou…’
<Reinstatement is hopeless . He’s getting a disciplinary dismissal . And you and me are both getting some sort of punishment . >
For a moment, Ishii’s vision went dark .
He didn’t care about himself, but he couldn’t accept the fact that Gotou would receive a disciplinary dismissal .
<Got this? Whether Yakumo is the culprit or not isn’t the problem any more . If anything else happens, we won’t be able to fix this . >
<Forget about me . Even if I continued to work, it’d just be two or three years . But it’s different for you . >
Miyagawa’s voice was shaking slightly .
Even at a time like this, this person was worried about Ishii . When Ishii thought about that, his heart wavered .
<Come back right now . >
'I can’t do that!’
Ishii gave a firm refusal .
He understood Miyagawa’s feelings so much that it hurt, but the case wasn’t over yet .
Like Ishii could go back in this situation . Though he was shaken, his determination hadn’t changed .
He couldn’t do anything about Gotou’s not being allowed to return to the police, but he had to at least make a place that Gotou could safely return to .
<Do you understand what you’re saying?>
'I do . I won’t return until I reveal the truth of the case!’
Ishii interrupted Miyagawa and hung up without waiting for an answer .
Youko looked troubled as she spoke .
It would probably be better to tell her the situation . Ishii opened his mouth, but then his mobile rang again .
He thought that maybe it was Miyagawa calling again, but he was wrong . The number on the display was Makoto’s .
'Hello, Ishii speaking . ’
<Ishii-san, where’s Haruka-chan?>
Makoto was clearly upset .
'What happened to Haruka-chan?’
<Is she there?>
'Er… She should be waiting outside…’
Ishii looked out the window .
The car that should have been there wasn’t there . Even though it had just been there earlier –
Ishii’s heart beat furiously .
His hands were shaking . A cold sweat burst out on his forehead .
<Just earlier, I was talking with Haruka-chan on the phone . Then the call suddenly wouldn’t connect…>
While listening to Makoto, Ishii walked unsteadily towards the exit .
His vision was unstable .
He opened the door and went outside . No matter how he looked, he couldn’t find the car .
The rain continued hitting the ground loudly .
– If you’re caught by the police, somebody important to you will die .
The phrase Ishii had heard from Yakumo came up in his head .
– I want you to protect her .
Ishii had made a promise with Yakumo .
– But then why did I leave Haruka alone?
Hit by a wave of regret, Ishii fell to the ground on his knees .
When Gotou returned to the car, he turned on the engine and air conditioning .
His body was soaked . If he didn’t dry off at least a bit, he would catch a cold .
In the passenger seat, Eishin was drying himself off with a towel that had been in the glove box .
In the back seat, Yakumo was focussed on checking the contents of the portable safe they had dug up, like he had completely forgotten that he was drenched .
'Did you find something?’ asked Gotou as he turned around .
'Yes . It is just as I expected . ’
Yakumo continued searching .
'Explain properly . ’
'These items belong to Minami-san, who disappeared ten years ago . ’
Yakumo held out a student ID in a leather case .
Gotou took it and looked at the photo of a girl who was looking straight forward .
It looked rather old and the colour was faded, but he could still tell that Minami was quite a beauty .
'After Minami-san was killed, her body was sunk into the lake . Her belongings were put in this safe and buried there . ’
'Yakumo . The ghost you saw earlier…’
'It was Minami-san,’ said Yakumo, looking up suddenly .
– I see .
The events that had been blurry in Gotou’s head came together . However, a new question came up .
'How’d you know the belongings were buried under that tree?’
'It was written in Seidou’s diary… right?’
Eishin spoke before Yakumo did .
'So you did know . ’
Yakumo looked at Eishin coldly .
Eishin leant back on his seat, as if to run away from that gaze, and sighed .
'I didn’t know for certain, but I had felt it faintly . ’
Eishin’s prise was surprisingly quiet .
Yakumo and Eishin knew everything, but Gotou really didn’t understand .
'Don’t just continue talking . Explain it so I can understand . ’
'What did you start not understanding?’
Yakumo sounded disappointed .
– Where? That’s obvious .
'From the beginning . ’
'You really are an idiot . ’
Yakumo looked blatantly displeased by Gotou’s reply as he ran a hand through his hair . It made water fly everywhere .
Like a dog coming out of a bath .
'Stop talking so much…’
Interrupting Gotou’s words, Eishin’s mobile rang .
'It’s a number I don’t know,’ muttered Eishin, but he answered the phone .
After a simple conversation with the person on the other side of the phone, he handed the mobile to Gotou .
'It’s probably for you . ’
'What do you mean, probably?’
'He’s frantic – I can’t understand what he’s saying . ’
Eishin was frowning .
– That idiot .
Gotou was angry as he took the phone from Eishin .
'Hello . ’
Ishii’s panicked voice came through .
Ishii was always cowering, but this level of panic wasn’t natural .
<I sincerely apologise . Because of my mistake, something awful happened…>
It sounded like Ishii was already crying .
Even if he suddenly apologised, Gotou didn’t know what it was for .
'What happened? Calm down and talk . ’
Ishii started sobbing .
A chill ran down Gotou’s spine . The message left by Nanase Miyuki ran through his mind . Could it be –
Yakumo seemed to have sensed something, as he was biting his lip as he held his breath .
No, it wasn’t certain that something had happened to Haruka yet . Gotou calmed his nerves .
'What happened to her?’
<She disappeared . I took my eyes off of her for a moment…>
Ishii spoke in tears .
Ishii wanted somebody to destroy him .
Yell at him, beat him, tear him apart . He couldn’t exist here right now .
The person important to him had been taken away because of his own carelessness .
If something happened to Haruka, he would be crushed by his regret .
<I’m handing the phone over to Yakumo . >
Gotou spoke on the other side of the phone .
Ishii’s mind went blank . He didn’t know what to say to explain things to Yakumo .
– I want you to protect her .
Yakumo had made that request, and Ishii had accepted it . But he hadn’t been able to protect her .
<Ishii-san, it’s Yakumo . >
'I… I’m sorry . Because of me… Even though I promised… I…’
Tears fell from Ishii’s eyes .
He couldn’t breathe properly .
– It hurts .
<Ishii-san, could you cry afterwards?>
That one sentence from Yakumo left a strong impact on Ishii’s heart .
<I do not plan on blaming you, Ishii-san . There’s no time for that . Something must be done for her . >
Yakumo spoke curtly, but his words were filled with a strong will that encouraged Ishii, who had been about to break .
'Y-yes . ’
– That’s right . This isn’t the time to cry .
He could blame himself for his error later . The most important thing right now was to get Haruka back safely . But –
'How can we find Haruka-chan?’
<It would probably be difficult to find her even if you start searching now . If Nanase Miyuki is the one who abducted her, murder is her goal . >
Yakumo said that quietly .
However, the meaning of those words were too heavy for one person to carry .
It was like he was saying it was hopeless .
Ishii had just regained his spirit, but his feelings couldn’t bear the weight and started to sink again .
<Please don’t be so pessimistic . >
<Ishii-san . You know her mobile phone address, yes?>
He had it recorded in his contacts list .
However, Ishii didn’t understand why Yakumo had suddenly brought that up .
'Er… Do you mean Haruka-chan’s?’
<You know it, correct?>
Yakumo asked him that again .
'Yes . ’
<Then please send what I am about to say in a message . >
'What are you trying to do?’ asked Ishii, unable to hold back .
He didn’t think sending a message would tell them where Haruka was .
<If it is impossible to search for her, I can just call her out . >
Yakumo spoke in a clear tone .
'Do you mean, to send a message and call out Nanase Miyuki?>
<Correct . >
Ishii felt like he had been hit by lightning .
Ishii hadn’t thought of that . It might really be possible to save Haruka . It made him feel that way .
<Could you note this down?>
'Yes . ’
Ishii took out his memo pad immediately and wrote down what Yakumo said .
<Ishii-san . >
After conveying his message, Yakumo spoke formally .
'Yes . ’
<Please don’t blame yourself no matter what happens . >
No matter what Yakumo said, Ishii couldn’t stop blaming himself .
If he had watched Haruka properly, this wouldn’t have happened . That was an unchangeable truth .
<I have regrets myself . >
<If she hadn’t met me, this wouldn’t have happened to her…>
Yakumo’s words carved deep into Ishii’s chest .
He hadn’t thought that Yakumo would think that way . But if regret piled up, that was probably where it would end .
<But I don’t want to think that . That’s why…>
'Yes . ’
'Excuse me . ’
Ishii called out to Yakumo as he was about to hang up .
<What is it?>
'I will go too . ’
<You’ll come even if I tell you not to, won’t you . >
'Yes . ’
<I understand . Then I will see you later . >
The call ended .
Ishii gripped the mobile tightly .
He didn’t know how things would end . All he could do now was believe and act . That was the only and best method they had .
– I really can’t win against Yakumo .
That feeling suddenly came to Ishii . There was a strong bond between Yakumo and Haruka that nobody could contend with .
'Ishii-san . ’
Ishii lifted his head in surprise when somebody called out to him .
It was Youko .
'You’re going somewhere, right? Shall I drive you?’ said Youko, spinning her car keys .
To Ishii, she looked like a goddess come to his rescue .
'Do you think Nanase Miyuki would really come just like that!?’ said Gotou, his anger erupting out of him .
Miyuki’s goal was to kill Haruka . Yakumo had said that himself . Then there was no way she’d just come at his invitation .
She’d kill Haruka and end things quickly .
No, she might already have killed her –
'She’ll come,’ said Yakumo with a blank expression .
His eyes even looked full of confidence .
'How can you be sure?’
'You know this as well, don’t you, Gotou-san? She is an unbelievable sadist . ’
Yakumo’s gaze was forceful .
When those eyes looked at Gotou, it made him remember the incidents she had caused in the past .
All of them were appropriately sadistic . With Isshin, she had purposely called out Gotou and Ishii to tell them she was going to kill him .
Rather than the act of murder, she took pleasure in seeing how people suffered from it .
'But you’re being chased . You can’t just run around town . ’
'That’s why I called her out to the place where the case started – the limestone cavern . ’
– I see .
At the limestone cavern, if they just got past the two uniformed guards at the entrance, it could be called a safe place where people wouldn’t see them .
If they were lucky, the officers might have left because of the typhoon .
In that meaning, it was likely that she might agree to the invitation .
She’d take Haruka’s life in front of Yakumo .
For a sadist like Miyuki, nothing could be a better show . But –
'She wouldn’t have already killed her, right?’
After saying that, Gotou immediately regretted it, but it was too late .
Yakumo gave Gotou an amazing glare .
Under that pressure, Gotou couldn’t breathe .
Gotou knew this . Even though Yakumo was acting calm, he was the one who was the most distressed .
While feeling like his chest was being wrenched apart, he was wagering on the few methods to save Haruka . By believing in them, he was managing to keep his calm .
Though it was a dangerous tightrope, it was his only path .
If Yakumo lost Haruka after Isshin, he would probably fall backwards into a deep darkness, like the man with two red eyes .
– I won’t let that happen .
Isshin had entrusted them to Gotou . Nao and Yakumo both – that was why he had thrown away the bothersome ties of obligation that were the identity of a police officer and was here now .
'My bad . ’
Gotou gave an honest apology .
'It’s fine,’ said Yakumo .
Gotou didn’t understand what was 'fine’ about it .
'What do you mean?’
'Nanase Miyuki wouldn’t have killed her yet . She would only do it after she has made her suffer sufficiently . ’
Yakumo bit down on his lip .
His veins stuck out from his tight fists .
– Don’t burden yourself with all the pain .
Gotou murmured that in his heart .
As if he’d heard Gotou’s voice, Yakumo looked up with a bitter smile .
'We’ll get Haruka-chan back no matter what . ’
'Of course . That was always my plan . ’
Yakumo’s expression relaxed just slightly . That was the end of the conversation . But the problem was still ahead .
'Even if Nanase Miyuki agrees to the invitation, do you think she’ll just show up?’
'She’ll probably set some sort of trap,’ Yakumo said, as if it were a matter of fact .
'What do you plan to do?’
'Trying to imagine what sort of trap she’ll set is a waste of time . ’
That was true . Trying to think something up in this short time would just give them a plan full of holes .
This time, there were too many unknown variables . But –
'Is that really fine?’
'What a stupid question,’ replied Yakumo, looking straight forward .
Haruka woke up in the car’s backseat .
Her hands were bound behind her with packing tape . They seemed to be wrapped quite tightly – she couldn’t move even when she tried with all her strength .
'You’ve woken up then . ’
She heard a voice .
Haruka lifted her head and saw Nanase Miyuki’s face through the rear-view mirror as she drove .
She had a smile on her face that was so cold that it made Haruka shiver .
'You want to ask me why I’m doing this, right?’ interrupted Miyuki .
Her eyes were a very deep dark .
'You should know the answer yourself . ’
Miyuki’s words doubled Haruka’s terror .
Haruka understood somewhere in her heart as well . Nanase Miyuki wasn’t the sort of person who would abduct somebody else for a ransom . Her goal was to murder –
No, that wasn’t it – Miyuki was trying to hurt Yakumo by killing Haruka .
'Yakumo lost the game . ’
Miyuki’s shoulders shook as she giggled .
'Yes . I warned him . I told him that if he was caught by the police, somebody important to him would die…’
When Haruka heard Miyuki’s words, everything came together .
Though she hadn’t heard anything about it, it was because of that situation that Yakumo ran off and told Haruka to move with Ishii and Makoto .
– Sorry .
Haruka looked down .
In the end, she had ended up being in the way, like always .
Then, Haruka realised something .
'Was caught by the police . Somebody spotted him hiding at the temple . ’
Miyuki smirked triumphantly .
'Though Gotou got in the way and they escaped again . ’
Haruka sighed in relief .
Yakumo wasn’t alone right now . He had Gotou, a strong ally . Anyway, she was just happy that he was safe .
'But he did get caught, so the game’s over . You’re going to die . ’
Miyuki’s eyes narrowed .
She looked like she was in a trance, as if she were imagining in her head how she would kill Haruka .
– I’m going to be killed .
It didn’t seem real . Her heart couldn’t accept it .
A mobile rang to signal a message . Haruka noticed that it was her own .
Miyuki looked at the mobile phone in the passenger seat .
'It’s a last message to you . ’
Miyuki smiled like she was enjoying this . While waiting at the traffic light, she picked up the mobile and read the text .
After reading it, Miyuki laughed aloud with shaking shoulders .
– What’s written there? I want to know .
As if to respond to Haruka’s wish, Miyuki started reading the message aloud .
'I will be waiting in two hours at the limestone cavern . Let us bring this to a conclusion at the place everything started . From Yakumo… That’s what it says . ’
That word circled Haruka’s head .
Since it was a message, it was difficult to see the true meaning there, but to Haruka, it sounded like Yakumo was prepared for his own death .
'Isn’t he an idiot? Does he think I’d agree to an invitation like this? What a guy . ’
Miyuki smiled .
It was a twisted smile that made Haruka’s core shake in fear –
The rain was growing stronger –
Gotou huffed as he took the path to the limestone cavern .
After getting out into the open, he spotted the entrance to the limestone cave .
He hid behind the trees and looked around .
Fortunately, his guess had been right . There were no officers at the cavern’s entrance – just a yellow tape that forbid trespassing .
There could be a landslide or flood . He wanted to finish this quickly .
Gotou turned around and said that to Yakumo, who was hiding in the thicket .
There was rustling as Yakumo and Eishin showed up .
– Putting Yakumo aside, does Eishin really need to hide too?
Though Gotou was dissatisfied, he walked along the wet ground to the limestone cavern .
The yellow tape made a diagonal cross across the entrance .
It looked like nobody had come yet .
It’d have been troublesome if Miyuki got here first . Gotou couldn’t go inside in his relief .
He ripped the tape off of the entrance .
'Shall we go then?’
Yakumo stepped into the dim limestone cave .
'You’re unexpectedly hasty . ’
While complaining, Eishin followed Yakumo with a torch . Gotou ended up being at the rear .
Just when he’d heard something clattering, a rock the size of a fist fell on Gotou’s feet .
Water dripped from the ceiling .
'Oi – isn’t this bad?’
Gotou spoke without thinking .
'A limestone cavern is a space where limestone has been corroded by rain and underground water . They become more fragile as they grow in size and in the end, they collapse . It grows with time and dies . In the same way that people do . ’
Eishin stopped and pointed his torch at the ceiling as he said that .
Points on the ceiling were wet with water .
'Let’s pray that it doesn’t collapse now . ’
Gotou started walking again .
'Yakumo . Why did you call Nanase Miyuki here?’
Gotou thought that Yakumo had called Miyuki to this limestone cavern for a reason besides the lack of prying eyes .
'To speed things up,’ Yakumo replied curtly .
'Unfortunately, I am still a fugitive . Even if I get her back, that fact won’t change . ’
'Well, that’s true . ’
'In order to solve the mystery, it is necessary to check the scene of the crime once more . I called her out here so I could do that at the same time . ’
'So to speed things up . ’
Gotou understood now .
Yakumo’s words meant that no matter what result was waiting for them, the end of the case was near . After coming this far, Gotou’d see it to the end .
Gotou walked forward with refreshed determination .
Passing through the curving path, they went to the back of the limestone cavern and finally reached the doors to the cavern which was the scene of the crime .
There was yellow tape here as well, as if to seal the doors shut .
Yakumo took the tape off, opened the door and stepped inside .
The light of the torch wasn’t enough .
'I can’t see anything . ’
As if to interrupt Gotou’s words, the sound of an engine echoed through the limestone cavern .
– What’s that?
Gotou hurriedly looked around .
Suddenly, the room became bright .
Because his eyes weren’t accustomed to the light, his vision went white and he had to look away .
'It’s a generator,’ said Yakumo .
After blinking a number of times, Gotou was able to see Yakumo standing by the doors .
At his feet, there was a small generator . The black cord that came from it went to the lights in the four corners of the room .
Then they wouldn’t need the torch .
'So what are you going to investigate?’
Without replying to Gotou’s question, Yakumo knelt at the location Seidou had collapsed and stared at the white outline in the shape of a human being .
The fresh bloodstains were a dark red .
Then, Yakumo went to the back of the room .
There were rusted chains there .
'So that really was the case…’ said Yakumo as he ran a finger along the floorboards .
Gotou didn’t know what was the case .
'Hey, Yakumo . ’
As usual, Yakumo didn’t answer Gotou . He just stared at the back wall of the room .
That was the only place where the rock showed through .
As if to check to the temperature, Yakumo placed his palm on the limestone and closed his eyes .
It was like he was praying –
Yakumo said just that .
'Eishin-san, there is something I would like to ask . ’
Yakumo ignored Gotou’s question and turned towards Eishin .
It looked like Eishin already knew what he was going to ask, as he looked back at Yakumo with a stiff expression .
'How long as this room been here?’
'It’s probably already been sixty years…’ said Eishin while touching the pillar in the middle of the room .
'Uncle wasn’t the only one who trained at that temple, correct?’ said Yakumo .
– Why is he asking something so obvious?
Gotou didn’t understand the point of Yakumo’s question . That temple had a long history . It must have had countless monks training there .
However, it looked like Eishin did understand, as he nodded silently .
'My grandfather is included in that number, yes?’
'W-what did you say?’
Gotou spoke automatically, but then he realised it wasn’t something to make a fuss about .
Though he hadn’t met him, it was natural for Yakumo to have a grandfather . And temples often accepted people through a hereditary system . It wouldn’t be strange for his grandfather to be a monk .
'I understand a number of things now . ’
Yakumo’s narrowed eyes looked side .
'What do you understand?’ asked Gotou .
Yakumo ignored him again and walked towards Eishin .
'Why didn’t you tell me from the beginning?’
Though Yakumo spoke quietly, his tone was full of force .
'It’s not something to let other people here . Your own fate is something you should confirm with your own eyes and ears,’ replied Eishin with a blank expression .
Their gazes met, and a suffocating silence continued –
Interrupting that silence, the doors to the room opened .
With the light of the torch, Ishii advanced alone into the limestone cavern .
Youko was waiting at the cavern entrance .
Nanase Miyuki was coming . If anything happened, Ishii would call Youko for assistance immediately .
– But this place really is creepy .
Ishii’s fear increased as he advanced, and he found it hard to breathe .
The echo from the rocks made his footsteps sound doubled .
Just as he had started to regret coming alone, he reached the room which was probably the scene of the crime .
With the rock face at the back and wooden walls on the other three sides, there were a set of double doors leading in .
A faint light came out of the gap between the doors .
– Gotou and Yakumo should be on the other side .
Ishii wiped the sweat on his palms on his pants and opened the door .
He spotted three people – Yakumo, Gotou, and a large-framed monk in robes .
Ishii rushed over to Gotou .
'Don’t cling to me!’
Gotou pushed Ishii aside .
Ishii lost his balance and almost fell, but he managed to hold on .
'Everyone, I am glad you’re safe . Now, who might this be…’
Ishii looked at the monk he didn’t recognise .
'The damn monk who was the start of this case . ’
Ishii remembered after hearing Gotou’s explanation .
If he recalled correctly, this was Eishin, the monk who was Isshin’s teacher –
'Ah, it’s nice to meet you . My name is Ishii Yuutarou . ’
Ishii bowed his head .
'So who’s that behind you?’
Gotou looked sharply behind Ishii’s back .
Ishii frantically turned around .
Youko was standing there . He sighed in relief .
'Please relax . She is a detective from the Nishitama precinct…’
Ishii was about to continue when Youko suddenly stepped forward .
'Natsume Youko of the Nishitama precinct . ’
Youko showed her police ID .
Her voice had the air of one intimidating a culprit .
'You’re Saitou Yakumo, aren’t you?’
Youko interrupted Ishii again .
Yakumo looked dubious, but he finally breathed out, as if accepting it .
'Yes . So it really was you?’ said Yakumo, as if he had known Youko from before .
When Youko heard those words, she didn’t look particularly surprised .
'Ishii-san, I’m sorry . ’
Ishii didn’t know why Youko was apologising .
Youko quickly turned aside and kneed Ishii in the crotch while he was still confused .
'Urgh . ’
The fierce pain coming up from Ishii’s lower half made him curl up and fall to the floor .
Then, Youko took a pistol from her bosom and pointed it at Yakumo .
'Saitou Yakumo . I am arresting you under suspicion of murder . ’
Ishii couldn’t understand what Youko was doing .
She had investigated with him . She had believed that Yakumo wasn’t the murderer . Yet –
Ishii looked up at Youko’s face while withstanding the pain .
Her wet hair hid her face so he couldn’t see her expression clearly .
'What the hell did you do that to Ishii for!’
Gotou stooped over and tried to rush at Youko .
However, Youko pointed the pistol right at Gotou and held him in check . If it were a knife, Gotou would probably have rushed on anyway, but he couldn’t move in the face of a pistol .
'You don’t plan on arresting me, right?’
Yakumo ran a hand through his hair .
If she doesn’t plan on arresting him, then what is she going to do –
A cold sweat ran down Ishii’s back as he thought frantically, but he couldn’t come up with the answer .
'What do you mean?’
Gotou asked Ishii’s question .
Yakumo put an index finger to his brow .
'The culprit to the series of cases this time, Natsume Youko-san, is you, isn’t it . ’
Yakumo’s sentence pierced through Ishii’s chest .
– That’s impossible .
He couldn’t believe it . They had worked together up until now . She had led Ishii here . For her to be the culprit –
Though Ishii tried frantically to deny it, a theory came to his head . What if Youko got close to Ishii to find out Yakumo’s movements?
– No, that can’t be it .
Ishii sat up while bearing with the pain .
'That isn’t true . Natsume-san isn’t the culprit… You have no reason, right? Natsume-san, please stop it with the pistol . Yakumo isn’t the culprit . ’
Even as he pleaded, Ishii noticed that his heart was trembling .
Yakumo’s reasoning had never been wrong before . Then that meant Youko really was –
'The reason why Natsume-san killed three people, starting with Seidou-san, is this . ’
Yakumo took a photo out of his chest pocket .
It was completely drenched, and the distance made it impossible to see clearly . Perhaps sensing Ishii’s thoughts, Yakumo pinched the photo in his fingers and flung it .
It spun in the air and fell at Ishii’s feet .
In the photo Ishii picked up, there were two girls wearing blazer uniforms .
One was Minami, the girl who had disappeared ten years ago . And the other was –
Ishii looked up at Youko’s face again .
'That’s right . The girl in that photo is me . ’
Youko said that coldly –
'What did you say?’
Gotou spoke up without thinking .
The detective named Natsume was the friend of Minami, the girl who disappeared ten years ago –
Just as Gotou realised that, new questions kept coming to his head .
'In order to solve the mystery of the case, it is necessary to go back ten years in time . ’
Yakumo turned his back to Youko .
It was composure that suggested he knew that Youko wouldn’t pull the trigger .
'Ten years ago, Minami-san was kidnapped by the dead Matsumoto Hiroshi, Naitou Yosuke and Todayama Takahiro with the intent of assault . ’
'As expected…’ murmured Ishii .
Gotou had figured that much out too .
'Then… she was imprisoned here . ’
Yakumo slowly walked up to the chains and ran his finger along them, as if in sympathy .
Gotou understood without him saying anything .
Minami had probably been held by those chains .
'Minami-san was a strong woman . Even while she was kept captive and bearing with the humiliation, she continued to call out: "I won’t forgive you . ” However, that backfired on her…’
Yakumo turned towards Youko again .
Youko wasn’t moving, still holding the pistol . Gotou would have flown at her if she gave him a chance, but she seemed to know that .
'Minami-san was killed by the classmates who kidnapped her…’ Ishii said in a murmur .
However, Yakumo shook his head to deny it .
'No, they were not the ones who killed her . They were frightened by her words and lost the chance to let her escape . ’
'So they kept her here?’ said Gotou, as if the words were strangled out of him .
'Correct . ’
'That’s… So they were going to let her starve to death…’
Yakumo shook his head again .
'That isn’t correct either . The person who killed Minami-san was Seidou-san . ’
Gotou shouted in his surprise .
Ishii’s eyes were as round as plates and his mouth was wide open . However, Youko and Eishin were expressionless .
'Why would the monk kill her?’ asked Gotou in his agitation .
Yakumo slowly walked up to Eishin .
'I said this earlier as well, but Seidou-san’s son, Takahiro-san, was also a part of the members who kidnapped Minami-san . ’
– So that’s why .
Gotou realised what Yakumo was getting at, but that selfishness disgusted him .
'So he knew and kept quiet to hide his son’s crime…’
He wanted Yakumo to deny it, but Gotou’s hope was dashed .
'Though Seidou-san felt compassion for Minami-san, he couldn’t indict his son . So, every night, he came to this limestone cavern and gave Minami-san food . ’
Gotou wanted to cover his ears .
That wasn’t compassion . It was just self-satisfaction –
It would’ve been different if he’d let her go, but he’d just let her live longer in captivity – who’d be satisfied with that? For her, it was probably nothing but suffering .
'Finally, Seidou-san noticed something . ’
'Something?’ asked Ishii .
Eishin bit down hard on his lower lip and looked down .
'Minami-san was pregnant . ’
'Pregnant?’ said Youko in shock .
Her eyes had been cold earlier, but now they trembled faintly .
'So you really didn’t know . You were just manipulated by Nanase Miyuki . She twists the truth as she likes…’
'You’re the one who’s twisting the truth! Minami was tormented by them, killed by Seidou and sunk into the lake!’
Youko’s voice was hysterical and tears welled up in her eyes .
– I’ll be able to stop her now .
Gotou lowered his centre of gravity and tried to rush at Youko .
'Gotou-san, you can’t!’
Yakumo was the one who yelled –
Youko seemed to come to her senses at that voice . She wiped her eyes and turned the pistol towards Gotou .
'Why’d you stop me?’
That could have been their last chance . Gotou glared at Yakumo, but Yakumo didn’t seem to care .
'If you move now, you’ll be playing into her hands,’ said Yakumo with a sigh .
He probably meant Miyuki . Miyuki still hadn’t come with Haruka –
'Minami… had a child…’
Youko mumbled that deliriously .
'Yes . After Minami-san gave birth, Seidou-san killed her and sank her into the lake . ’
'Why did he kill her…’
Gotou looked at Yakumo again .
He had fed her to keep her alive and killed her in the end . His actions seemed inconsistent .
'He couldn’t bear it any more,’ replied Yakumo with sad eyes .
'It’s a little different . Do you recall what happened to Seidou-san’s son?’
'Yeah . ’
Gotou nodded .
Eishin had told him . Seidou’s son, Takahiro, had killed himself in the temple –
'To his son Takahiro, Seidou-san’s act of keeping Minami-san alive was nothing short of psychological torture . When he found out that she had given birth to a daughter, he couldn’t bear it…’
Yakumo’s voice weighed heavily on Gotou .
Seidou had kept quiet about Minami in order to protect his son . That was also why he hadn’t released Minami from her captivity .
At the same time, Seidou felt pity for Minami and kept her alive by continuing to give her food .
However, that had cornered Takahiro psychologically .
'After Takahiro-san’s death, Seidou-san realised that if he had no intention of releasing Minami-san, his actions were only for self-satisfaction . ’
'What the hell…’ said Gotou in a shaking voice .
Seidou’s first choice had been wrong . If he had notified the police after noticing his son’s crime, this wouldn’t have happened .
'The pregnant Minami-san gave birth to a child . It was a girl . That girl is still alive . ’
Yakumo raised his voice one level higher .
Youko’s brow furrowed in her astonishment .
From that reaction, it looked like she really hadn’t known .
However, after coming this far, Gotou knew who that child was .
– Hatsune .
The girl who claimed to be her mother’s reincarnation .
After thinking that much, Gotou came to a theory .
Yakumo had said that Hatsune was told by somebody that she was her mother’s reincarnation and came to claim that herself .
'Could it be that… the one who told Hatsune she was a reincarnation was…’
'Correct . The spirit of the dead Minami-san . ’
So that really was it .
When Yakumo met Hatsune, he had said, 'You can hear her . ’ The true meaning of that was probably that she coudl hear the voices of the spirits of the dead .
'Why… did she…’
'To try to make her child take revenge . ’
Yakumo looked down sadly .
To make her own child take revenge – Gotou couldn’t understand it .
Even if parents would sacrifice themselves for children, they couldn’t use children for their own selfish reasons .
Gotou looked at Yakumo unconsciously .
Come to think of it, Yakumo had been born under similar circumstances to Hatsune .
'Let’s get back to the topic at hand . ’
Yakumo ran a hand through his hair and suddenly walked up to Youko .
'Don’t come any closer . ’
Youko pointed the pistol at Yakumo .
However, Yakumo continued talking without even a slight change in expression .
'Minami-san’s child was taken home by Seidou-san and treated as an abandoned child . He raised her as his own . ’
'Don’t say such irresponsible things . Where’s the proof of that?’ Youko said shrilly .
'What I’ve just said was all in Seidou-san’s diary,’ said Yakumo .
Gotou understood now . Yakumo had been looking for that in the archive last night . And he found it .
'So that’s how you got to the truth?’ asked Gotou .
'I actually realised the truth upon coming to Seidou-san’s, and then Seidou-san and I had a dispute . However, the back of my head was hit and I fainted, and I had forgotten the crucial part…’
Yakumo frowned as he ran a hand through his hair .
That had been the most troublesome . If Yakumo hadn’t lost his memory, they would have solved the case sooner .
'Natsume-san . You were the one who hit me that day, yes?’ said Yakumo, looking at Youko’s eyes .
Youko didn’t respond .
However, that itself proved that what Yakumo said was true .
'After you made me faint, you killed Seidou-san and stabbed him with a knife, over and over again…’
'But the fingerprints…’ said Ishii, standing up waveringly .
He probably still couldn’t believe that Youko was the culprit .
'Do you know about fake fingerprints?’
'So that was it?’
Gotou understood immediately .
They were a problem recently . They were frequently used by illegal immigrants – silicone fingerprints about one millimetre in thickness that had other people’s fingerprints on them . If you wore them on your fingers, you could pass customs .
Overseas, they could be obtained for less than seventy yen for one .
Wearing fake fingerprints, she gripped the knife and stabbed Seidou . She probably used the same method for the other victims .
'If investigated properly, it should become clear that even if the fingerprints match, the hand size is wrong,’ Yakumo explained further .
However, there was still something Gotou didn’t get .
'Why would she do so much? Would you do that much for a friend?’
'They weren’t friends . Minami-san and Youko-san were lovers . ’
Yakumo’s voice echoed through the room –
– They were lovers .
Even after hearing those words, Ishii wasn’t that surprised .
He had reasoned to a point that this series of murders was revenge for Minami . He had felt like it was by a lover .
Searching for a man had been a blind spot .
However, after hearing Yakumo’s words, a number of thinks connected .
– Furthermore, investigating with a man…
– The ghost of my dead lover .
The things Youko had said circled Ishii’s head .
He should have noticed sooner .
Ishii had denied that Youko was the culprit earlier, but there were other things that pointed to her being the culprit .
Youko had agreed with Ishii that Yakumo wasn’t the culprit at a fairly early stage . That had also just been an excuse to determine Yakumo and Gotou’s movements .
Now that he thought about it, the documents she’d shown him at the family restaurant had been too great in number to gather in just half a day .
However, Ishii still couldn’t see Youko as a cold-blooded killer .
'Lover… So Natsume wanted to be a man…’
Gotou’s mouth was trembling .
– That’s not it .
Ishii cried out in his heart . Romance wasn’t only between men and woman .
'Gotou-san, that’s prejudiced,’ said Yakumo, as if representing Ishii’s heart .
'Natsume-san, as a woman, loved Minami-san, who was a woman . ’
'Don’t sum up what I had with Minami with that word!’ Youko said shrilly .
'I feel the same way . ’
Yakumo was the one who agreed .
Youko’s eyes went wide as she looked at Yakumo .
She had lived up until now under the eyes of prejudice . She probably hadn’t thought Yakumo, as a man, would agree with her .
'Regardless of the partner’s gender, the feeling of caring about something does not change . Just because a relationship is between two women does not make those feelings weaker than the relationship between a man and a woman . Natsume-san just happened to love a woman; that’s all . ’
Yakumo’s voice echoed against the walls .
Youko’s expression softened just slightly and her mouth moved .
Though Ishii couldn’t hear her, he felt like she had said 'Thank you’ .
Gotou didn’t try to say anything else . It felt like he didn’t agree, but he understood .
It seemed like all the mysteries had become clear, but for Ishii, there was still something odd .
'Why did you try to make Yakumo-shi the suspect?’
If Youko had been trying to take revenge, there was no reason to place the responsibility on somebody else .
If you were planning on running away, you shouldn’t try for revenge .
Ishii looked at Youko .
'To buy time . ’
The one who replied was not Youko but Yakumo .
'To buy… time…’
'Correct . In order to take revenge, I needed to kill three people . It took time to do that . There would be no meaning to it if I were arrested before then . ’
'So you focussed the police’s attention on a suspect and used that chance to kill he others?’
Gotou clapped his hands together in understanding .
'That’s correct . ’
Yakumo nodded .
The reason Youko had created a suspect was clear, but there was still something Ishii didn’t understand .
'Why did it have to be Yakumo-shi?’
Ishii leant forward .
Then, Youko turned the pistol towards Ishii’s forehead .
'Isn’t that enough of the truth…’
Youko’s eyes were wet with tears .
She was suffering . Ishii could feel it .
Did Youko really take revenge because she wanted to – wasn’t there another goal?
'You were told by Nanase Miyuki, correct? To make me the suspect…’ said Yakumo .
– I see . So it was her . ’
Just from hearing that name, Ishii felt like he understood everything . Youko had been manipulated by Miyuki .
'I… wanted to save her…’
Youko turned the pistol to Yakumo .
Her voice was weak and wavering .
'Minami-san’s spirit wants revenge and is still suffering, unable to rest in peace . In order to save her, you would need to take revenge . Miyuki told you that, right?’
Youko didn’t respond to Yakumo’s words .
She took deep breaths with her shoulders, as if to calm her surging emotions .
'To me, Minami was everything . I thought that we’d always be able to be together . But then she suddenly went missing…’
'Detective Natsume . ’
Ishii looked at Youko’s profile sadly .
Ishii could slightly understand how Youko felt . He was in that exact same position right now .
The woman he loved, Haruka, was missing .
That emotion wrenched his body apart . A pain that made him feel like even dying would be better –
'Ten years ago, I searched for Minami frantically… But I couldn’t find her… Minami wouldn’t disappear and leave me behind . I said that again and again, but nobody believed me…’
As she spoke, tears kept spilling out of her eyes .
– It hurts . Save me .
To Ishii, it sounded like she was saying that .
'You didn’t give up . You continued looking for Minami-san . ’
'That’s right . After graduating from high school, I became a police officer . Whenever I had time, I investigated . It took ten years for me to arrive at Matsumoto and Naitou, but I had no proof . ’
'And then Nanase Miyuki appeared . ’
Instead of replying to Yakumo’s words, Youko started to sniffle .
Ishii could tell what was next even without her saying it .
Miyuki told her the circumstances surrounding Minami’s death, twisting the truth when it was convenient to her, and made her believe that Minami’s spirit was in pain and continuing to wander .
She had probably hidden the fact that she had a daughter because Youko might have chosen to live with her .
– Youko didn’t want revenge . She wanted to save Minami’s spirit .
Ishii felt like he had understood everything .
'Natsume-san, Minami-san’s spirit is still wandering now . That is true . ’
Yakumo slowly walked forward and stood at a distance close enough to touch Youko .
The hand Youko was holding the pistol with was shaking .
'But doing something like this cannot save Minami-san’s spirit . ’
Youko bit her lip .
'The only person who can save Minami-san’s spirit is you . ’
'To save her… I… What should I…’
'I’ll help . ’
Ishii suddenly walked up to Youko .
In surprise, Youko looked at Ishii with tearful eyes .
Ishii finally realised when he looked at those eyes .
'Detective Natsume, at the bottom of your heart, you must have known that doing something like this couldn’t save Minami-san,’ said Ishii, leaning forward .
Youko’s heart had always been wavering .
– Can this really save Minami?
She must have asked herself that countless times . While worrying and suffering, without coming to a decision, she had come here .
She wanted to end it already . That was why she gave Ishii the necessary information and even cooperated with the investigation .
Even though she had been calling out for him to notice so many times, Ishii hadn’t seen it .
Youko looked down .
Her sadness came through to Ishii so much that it hurt .
The person she loved had disappeared, leaving a hole in her heart for ten years . How painful must it have bee?
But that was still –
'Let’s end this . ’
Ishii gripped Youko’s shoulders .
In response, Youko looked up .
Her tearful expression was as artless as a young girl’s .
Youko couldn’t continue .
Then, there was a bang – it sounded like the door had opened – and somebody came flying into the cavern .
It was too late when he’d realised . Youko let out a moan as her body collapsed to the floor .
There was a knife in her back .
'Please hang in there!’
Ishii tried to shake Youko awake, but she didn’t move at all .
'What a stupid woman . Even though I told her to exterminate the people in the way, she let herself be instigated . ’
Ishii looked up at the voice and saw Nanase Miyuki standing there .
In order to hide the burnt left half of her face, she let her fringe hang down . She was smiling, showing her white teeth .
Blood rushed to Ishii’s head .
It was from anger .
'Why did you…’
Ishii tried to rush at Miyuki, but she picked up the pistol Youko had dropped before he could .
With the pistol facing him, Ishii froze, like his stop button had been pushed .
'If it isn’t Ishii-san? It’s been a while . ’
Miyuki looked at Ishii with condescending eyes .
When she looked at him, it made him feel terribly uneasy .
'So you showed up?’
Yakumo’s eyes narrowed .
'What are you looking at me like that for?’
'I’m pitying you . ’
Though Miyuki threatened him, Yakumo didn’t seem to care .
'Aren’t you composed? Can you still be composed after seeing this?’
Miyuki left the room with a leisurely gait .
– What on earth is she going to show him?
While Ishii was thinking, the door opened again and something fell to the floor .
It was Haruka .
Her wrists were bound with packing tape, and her nose and mouth were covered with packing tape too .
Perhaps because she couldn’t breathe properly, she was limp .
Miyuki stepped on Haruka’s back with her right foot and smiled triumphantly .
If they moved unwisely, Haruka’s life would be in danger .
'What are you…’
Ishii glared at Miyuki .
He was the one closest to Miyuki right now . If he found the right opportunity to rush in, it might be possible to save Haruka .
'Sorry, Ishii-san, could you step away a bit?’ said Miyuki .
It looked like she’d anticipated his thoughts . Ishii slowly stood up and staggered backwards, just as Miyuki instructed him .
– This is the worst-case scenario .
Haruka managed to lift her head, though her consciousness was blurry .
She could see Yakumo in her cloudy vision .
Gotou and Ishii were there too . And another person . A large-framed person in robes – probably Eishin .
– It’s hard to breathe .
Packing tape covered her nose and mouth . She could only breathe through a small gap .
She didn’t even have the strength to fight back .
It took all her energy to keep her consciousness from falling into the darkness .
Miyuki had probably planned that and gave her a small gap to breathe through .
A cold and calculating woman .
It might have been the end of everything when she got caught by Miyuki .
– Sorry, Yakumo .
Haruka looked at Yakumo .
She couldn’t see him clearly with her hazy vision .
– Even though we finally met again .
She had really wanted to meet him with a smile, but – in her pain, tears came to her eyes .
She always held him back .
If something happened to Yakumo because of her, she wouldn’t be able to stand it . She would rather –
'Now, the start of an entertaining show,’ murmured Miyuki .
That voice echoed unpleasantly in Haruka’s ears .
A chill ran down her spine .
'Relax . ’
She heard Yakumo’s voice .
She couldn’t see his expression, but it seemed full of confidence .
'Well, aren’t you composed? Your lover might die,’ said Miyuki as she laughed .
It pleased her to see other people suffer . An unbelievable sadist .
'She won’t die . I’ll save her . ’
Yakumo’s voice was firm .
Even if it was just a front, it eased Haruka’s wavering heart and made her less frightened .
'I wonder about that?’
Miyuki put more strength in the foot on Haruka’s back .
Her heel dug in .
With the pressure on Haruka’s waist, it made it even harder to breathe .
Oh no . I’m losing consciousness –
'Yakumo, what do you plan to do?’
Gotou spoke quietly, his eyes still on Miyuki .
To put it bluntly, this was the worst-case scenario .
Miyuki wasn’t just some woman . If they moved, she would probably kill Haruka without any hesitation . That wasn’t all . She would definitely fire at anybody who went at her .
Gotou didn’t want to think about how many people would become sacrifices if he ran at her . If he did anything careless, all of them would be headed for the other world .
Yakumo silently looked up at the ceiling .
Water dripped down from limestone . It looked like it was growing more fragile from the typhoon .
The pillar creaked loudly .
'Gotou-san, I’ll buy some time,’ said Yakumo in a voice that was barely audible .
– I see .
Gotou could tell what Yakumo was trying to do .
Though it was a considerably dangerous method, they had no other choice . Gotou nodded at Yakumo and then looked to Eishin and Ishii .
'Do you know what sort of place this is?’ said Yakumo, slowly shortening the distance between him and Miyuki .
'I’m just going to say this, but if you get any closer, this girl will die . And trying to buy time is useless, so just stop,’ Miyuki said coldly .
Yakumo’s feet froze .
– She realised everything .
Gotou glared at Miyuki .
She really didn’t let anything pass her . She had seen right through their ulterior motive .
– What are you going to do, Yakumo?
'This is where that man was born . Did you know that?’
Yakumo smiled .
For just a moment, Miyuki’s expression clouded over .
'What are you saying?’
'I’m saying that this is where that man – my father – was born . Do you know his real name?’
'His name is Unkai – ’
'You’re making this up!’ spat out Miyuki .
However, there was doubt in her eyes .
Miyuki probably didn’t know the real name of the man with two red eyes .
'I don’t mind if you think that, but it is the truth . Isn’t that right, Eishin-san?’
Yakumo turned towards Eishin .
In response, Eishin nodded .
'It’s just as Yakumo says . In the past, a woman lived in this village . Her name was Rin…’
Gotou remembered the name Eishin said .
Three months ago, he had heard that name in Togakushi, Nagano . The woman who was the mother of the man with two red eyes, and Yakumo’s grandmother –
Because of an appearance that differed from those around them, she was treated as a witch and lost her life .
Rin had taken her child with red eyes to Togakushi in Nagano . So this was where she came from –
'She fell in love with a monk . That monk was a senior apprentice to me . He was also Yakumo’s grandfather,’ Eishin said quietly .
'Wait a second . Then that man with red eyes…’
Gotou interrupted Eishin, unable to restrain himself .
'That’s correct . The man with two red eyes was the child of my grandfather and Rin-san,’ Yakumo said with a blank expression .
'Though the two of them had a child, they were not married . In the end, Rin was chased out by the people of the temple and left the village with the child,’ continued Eishin .
'Why did the people of the temple force Rin out?’
Gotou voiced the question that came to his head .
'Because she could see ghosts . ’
Yakumo was the one who answered .
Gotou didn’t understand what he meant .
'Why would they force her out for being able to see ghosts?’
'In Buddhism, especially the temples that sympathise with Zen Buddhism, they do not acknowledge the existence of the spirits of the dead,’ said Eishin with a sigh .
'W-what did you say?’
Gotou couldn’t understand at all . In his everyday knowledge, temples were the ones who did funerals, and they would chant sutras to mourn the dead .
That was why he’d thought that temples believed that the spirits of the dead existed .
'It’s true . In Buddhist teaching, it is believed that the body and mind are one . That’s why the spirit, which is the mind, cannot remain behind without the body…’
After Eishin said that, he looked at Yakumo .
If what Eishin said was really true, then people who could see the spirits of the dead disproved Buddhism itself .
So they forced her out –
'After Rin-san disappeared, my grandfather made a family with another woman and gave birth to my mother and my uncle,’ Yakumo said, continuing Eishin’s story .
– Which meant .
'So the man with two red eyes and your mother were half-siblings?’
'Yes . ’
Yakumo nodded quietly .
Gotou was shocked into silence, but at the same time, he understood .
It meant Yakumo and the man with two red eyes were connected by blood stronger than that of a parent and child . That was why he was so fixated on Yakumo .
'Don’t be ridiculous! Did you think that would surprise me? You’re wasting your time!’ screamed Miyuki .
However, in contrast to her words, it felt like her heart was shaking violently . She probably hadn’t heard that fact from the man with two red eyes .
'Do you still not understand?’
Yakumo gazed sharply at Miyuki .
'I don’t . ’
Miyuki glared back .
'That man didn’t just want to make me the suspect in this case – he wanted to reveal the truth of his birth . ’
Yakumo’s voice grew stronger .
'No matter how you wish for it, that man will not open his heart to you . He is only using you for his own goal . ’
Yakumo’s voice echoed, so Gotou heard it layered .
The goal of the man with two red eyes . It was to take Yakumo’s body, which had taken the most of his own blood .
Even after his death, that man was fixated on life .
'You’re so noisy… I don’t care about that . Even if I’m being used, I want to be with him…’
Miyuki’s voice wavered terribly .
The trust she had inside of her for the man with two red eyes was shaking . That was how it felt to Gotou .
'Is that fine with you?’ asked Yakumo .
There was a silence –
Miyuki’s mouth was trembling, but then the expression suddenly left her face .
There was a cold glint in her eyes .
'You can just die . All of you can just die . ’
That was Miyuki’s answer .
'Take a good look as the person important to you dies in front of your eyes!’
Miyuki put the end of the pistol at the back of Haruka’s head .
Yakumo’s yell reverberated .
Gotou tried to charge as well, but he wouldn’t make it in time –
Just as she had cocked the pistol and was about to pull the trigger, Miyuki stopped .
Youko, who had collapsed, had grabbed Miyuki’s right leg with both hands .
'Give Minami… back to me…’
Youko spoke in a hoarse voice .
On the verge of death, she had probably overlapped Haruka with Minami, her lover who had gone missing .
Miyuki kicked Youko’s face .
But Youko still didn’t let go . She wanted to save her . Her lover –
While yelling, Ishii ran out to try to stop Miyuki, just as Yakumo rushed at Miyuki .
– This is my chance .
Gotou kicked the pillar in the middle of the room with as much force as he could .
The pillar bent with a loud crack .
Miyuki noticed Yakumo and Ishii and turned the pistol towards them .
'Like I’d let you do that!’
Gotou kicked the pillar again .
The pillar snapped .
At the same time, the portion of the limestone ceiling that the pillar had barely been managing to hold up collapsed with a thunderous noise .
Gotou ducked instinctively and avoided the falling rocks .
Water poured in through the hole in the ceiling .
Yakumo thrust Miyuki away in her astonishment and picked up Haruka .
However, Haruka lay limp without moving .
'How could you do that!?’
Miyuki was furious as she turned the pistol towards Yakumo and Haruka with the face of a demon .
– This is bad!
Gotou ran towards them right away, but he knew he wouldn’t make it in time .
Time seemed to flow slowly, as if this was stop-motion .
The moment Miyuki’s finger pulled the trigger, Ishii’s body smashed into hers, knocking her to the floor .
There was a gunshot .
Miyuki was lying face-up on the floor . The bullet she shot hit the ceiling .
More water came out from there .
'It’ll collapse! We have to run!’
Eishin was the one who yelled .
As if that had been a sign, rocks started crumbling down around them loudly . More water poured out, covering his feet .
Gotou was delirious .
He just carried Haruka together with Yakumo and ran towards the exit –
 Youkan is a Japanese dessert that has the consistency of a firm jelly . It’s usually sold in a big block which is then cut into slices; Hata would be poking these slices with his toothpick . HERE is an example .
 Unkai (雲海) is written with the kanji for cloud and sea (and is usually translated as sea of clouds); incidentally, Yakumo (八雲) is written with the kanji for eight clouds (and means thick clouds) .