Volume 9 Chapter 2
VOLUME 9 – THE SPIRIT OF SALVATION
file 02: frenzy (TRANSLATION NOTES)
Haruka was shocked as she looked at Gotou .
In the corner of the Movie Research Circle room which Yakumo made his secret hideaway, Gotou was sitting in a wheelchair .
His hands and arms were bound with rope . It looked like he wasn’t conscious – he sat limp like a puppet which had had its strings cut . There was no trace of the usual Gotou there . Haruka had never even dreamt of seeing Gotou again like this .
‘Please tell me in detail what happened,’ Yakumo said in a harsh tone, standing directly in front of Gotou .
'Sorry . It was my fault . ’
The weak response came from Eishin .
Eishin had both a large body and a large personality, but even he was listless in this situation .
'It doesn’t matter right now whose fault it was . ’
With a sigh, Yakumo sat in his usual seat .
'Right…’ Eishin said to himself, and then he started explaining what had happened up until now .
In Aokigahara’s Sea of Trees, a woman had found a corpse while exploring . Then, there had been a phone call from a ghost –
And then Gotou had answered the ghost’s call, and no other than Eishin had been the one to goad him into doing it .
That was probably why he was saying it was his fault .
'Honestly . I have to say it was careless . ’
Yakumo put his chin in his hand, exasperated .
Haruka felt the same way . If they had been a bit more careful, this wouldn’t have happened .
'Painfully so . ’
Eishin smiled bitterly .
'So what are you going to do?’ asked Haruka, leaning forward .
There was no point blaming what had happened . The problem was what to do next .
'In all probability, the spirit possessing Gotou-san is probably the ghost of the corpse that was found . ’
'The problem is the corpse’s identity then . ’
'Yeah . But there’s something that concerns me . ’
'The man with two red eyes?’ asked Eishin .
Haruka was concerned about that too . The man with two red eyes whom Rina had seen in the Sea of Trees – it couldn’t be just a coincidence .
'If he’s involved in this, there’s a chance that there’s some involvement with the case . ’
'I see,’ replied Eishin, scratching his chin .
'Well, there’s no point thinking about it now . First, we have to gather information . ’
Yakumo put his index finger on his brow .
His almond eyes seemed to let off a cold light .
'Then what should I do?’ asked Eishin .
'That’s right . First of all, Eishin-san, could you talk to the man who went exploring with Rina-san?’
'There might be new developments… right?’
'Yes . ’
'Got it . I’ll give it a try . ’
Eishin briskly got up and left the room .
'This is really troublesome…’ grumbled Yakumo . Then, he looked at Gotou again .
Haruka felt the same way as Yakumo . She had never thought that Gotou would be possessed by a ghost .
'Hey, why was it Gotou-san?’
Haruka asked the question that suddenly came to her head .
There were people who were possessed by ghosts, and people who weren’t . This time, Gotou wasn’t the only person who answered the phone . The woman named Rina had also answered .
But Gotou was the one who was possessed – why was that?
'I talked about this before, but I think it’s something similar to wavelengths . ’
Yakumo’s eyes narrowed .
'The wavelength of a soul differs with each one . When they match up, possession can occur . ’
Yakumo had compared possession to an organ transplant before . For the transplant to be successful, various conditions such as blood type had to match up .
'So Gotou-san’s wavelength just happened to match . ’
'That’s it,’ said Yakumo .
Then, Gotou slowly lifted his drooping head .
Perhaps he had woken up .
'G-Gotou-san . ’
Haruka tried to rush over to him, but Yakumo stopped her .
'Give it up . ’
'Ur… gh… Ya… Yakumo… Why are you here?’
Gotou spoke in a pained voice .
Yakumo got up from his seat and crossed his arms in front of Gotou .
'How do you feel?’
'The worst… My head hurts…’
'I don’t know… I… answered the phone… and then…’
As Gotou spoke, it seemed like it hurt him to breathe . His body wrested about violently . However, because he was bound with rope to the wheelchair, he couldn’t move as he wanted .
Gotou’s body rattled loudly .
'Gotou-san! Please get a hold of yourself!’ Haruka yelled frantically .
Gotou let out a beastly howl, throwing his head back . Then, he stopped moving .
'Yakumo-kun . ’
'It’s fine . He’s still alive . ’
Yakumo ran a hand through his hair .
– Things have become really serious .
All Haruka could do was look in shock .
Ishii visited Meisei University with Makoto .
After Ishii called Yakumo to tell him there was something he wanted his advice on, Yakumo had told him to come to the Movie Research Circle room .
'It feels a bit strange,’ said Makoto, looking around the campus like it was something mysterious . They had passed the school gates and were walking along the brick road .
'What do you mean?’
'Doesn’t being at school remind you of your school days?’
'Ah, now that you mention it, it does,’ agreed Ishii .
Ishii felt that way sometimes too . However, Ishii didn’t have many enjoyable memories of his youth to remember .
I wonder what sort of university life Makoto had – Ishii suddenly wanted to know .
'And it’s even stranger to be walking with you, Ishii-san . ’
'I-is that so?’
'Yes . It feels a bit strange . But it’s fun . ’
Makoto stuck out her tongue playfully .
Why was Ishii’s heart beating so loudly? He thought about it, but he couldn’t find the reason .
While this was happening, they reached the prefabricated building in the back of Building B . After taking a deep breath, Ishii knocked on the door that had a plate that read <Movie Research Circle> .
'It’s open . ’
Yakumo’s voice came from within .
'E-excuse us . ’
Ishii hesitantly opened the door .
'Ishii-san . ’
Ishii saw Haruka there . Next to her was Yakumo .
'It’s been a long time,’ greeted Ishii, putting a hand on his head .
Ishii was surprised at how strangely calm he was now, when his heart would soar just from seeing Haruka’s face in the past .
'Makoto-san’s with you too, I see,’ said Yakumo, noticing Makoto .
'Yes . It’s been a while . I apologise for coming uninvited . ’
'No, I actually had a number of things I wanted to ask you too . Please come in . ’
At Yakumo’s invitation, Ishii and Makoto entered the room .
Then, Ishii’s eyes spotted somebody unexpected .
Ishii had called Gotou after he quit, but it had been about a month since they had last met in person .
Ishii was so happy that he was about to embrace Gotou, but Yakumo grabbed Ishii’s arm, making it impossible for Ishii to approach Gotou any further .
'Please don’t carelessly approach him,’ Yakumo said sharply .
'Eh? Why not?’
'Gotou-san has been possessed by a ghost,’ Yakumo said with a sigh .
'By ghost, do you mean that ghost?’
'Yes, that ghost . ’
Ishii leapt away without thinking when he heard those words, which he was so sensitive to .
When Ishii took a good look from a distance, he saw that Gotou was bound to a wheelchair and that his head was hanging limply .
It looked like he was unconscious .
'It’s because he runs ahead and does unnecessary things that this happens . ’
Yakumo kicked the wheelchair casually .
’T-that’s awful . ’
'It’s fine, since the one thing that’s sturdy about Gotou-san is his body . ’
'No, that’s not the…’
'It seems like things are quite troublesome . ’
Even Makoto sounded surprised by the situation .
'Yes, it’s an unwelcome nuisance . More importantly, please sit down first . ’
Yakumo urged them to sit in the opposite chairs .
After Ishii shared a look with Makoto, he sat down, though he was still confused . Yakumo waited until they were seated to sit down himself .
'Excuse me… Will Detective Gotou be all right?’ Ishii asked .
'To be honest, I don’t know . ’
Yakumo ran a hand through his messy hair .
His words sounded incredibly irresponsible .
'I don’t know who the ghost possessing Gotou-san is or what the ghost is trying to do . There’s nothing that can be done . ’
Yakumo had a point, but still –
'I need to help Detective Gotou right now!’
'Ishii-san, you’re following a different case right now, right?’
'That’s true, but…’
'This is just a suspicion I have, but I think that the ghost possessing Gotou-san and the case you are following are connected in some way . ’
'I-is that so?’
'It’s only a suspicion, but she mentioned a deep forest and told me to save someone…’
'What are you talking about?’
'Just talking to myself . Please don’t concern yourself over it . ’
Ishii didn’t understand, but he didn’t press any further .
It was Yakumo . He had to be thinking of something .
'Anyway, first we have to clean up the various problems in front of us . I think that will be a shortcut to solving the case . ’
It sounded like Yakumo was trying to convince himself with his words .
Eishin sat at a table in a family restaurant in front of the station .
Since it was dinnertime, the shop was rather crowded . Perhaps it was unusual for a robed monk to be sitting by himself – a lot of people were staring . He was used to it though .
'Are you the monk named Eishin?’
After a while, a young man came in front of Eishin .
He had a long, thin body and a wide grin .
Eishin had asked Rina to call out the young man who had gone with her into the Sea of Trees so that Eishin could talk to him . The truth was, it would be faster to have her here too, but she refused .
It seemed like she had been disillusioned by the incident with him in the Sea of Trees .
'Are you Hiroki-kun?’
'Yeah,’ Hiroki replied with a shrug .
– Deplorable .
Young people these days didn’t know how to speak to their elders . Maybe they were trying to act like people in Europe or America, but Japan had Japanese culture .
'Well, sit down,’ Eishin urged, repressing his irritation .
'Hey, you an exorcist?’ asked Hiroki once he sat down .
– An incredibly rude guy .
'Decide for yourself . ’
'Eh!? Seriously?! Try showing me!’
Hiroki’s eyes sparkled like a child, like he was happy about something .
– He’s really annoying .
'If you tell me what happened in the Sea of Trees, I’ll put a curse on you . ’
After giving that carefree reply, Hiroki started talking about the events that occurred in the Sea of Trees .
However, since there was an incredible amount of bragging and sound effects in his story, it took him a long time to get anywhere . It took a full forty minutes for Hiroki to finish, but in contrast to that length, there was no substance . If you talked normally, it would only take five minutes .
'So you didn’t see a ghost?’ asked Eishin .
Hiroki nodded .
'I see . So then you contacted the police . ’
'Yeah . Rina-chan had fainted so I was seriously panicked,’ said Hiroki, shuddering dramatically . Though his gestures were exaggerated, there was no anxiety in his words .
It looked like he couldn’t even understand the gravity of finding a corpse .
'Were you questioned by the police?’
'Yeah, but they just acted where I was and stuff like that and took the video camera I was using to film . ’
'Actually, I’d like you to get that back . ’
Eishin couldn’t believe his ears .
'I’m begging you, man . It’d be a pain to go all the way to Yamanashi . ’
Hiroki leant back and forth, like a kid begging for a toy .
– Why do I have to do your errands?
Eishin swallowed his anger right before it erupted and stood up from his seat .
'That was helpful . ’
'If that’s all you need, call me any time . ’
Hiroki stood up and patted Eishin’s shoulder .
That moment, the anger within Eishin erupted . Yelling at a brat like this wouldn’t have any effect though .
'Yeah . ’
'I’m just going to give you a warning . ’
'The spirits in the Sea of Trees are incredibly ill-willed . You’ll be the next to be cursed . ’
Hiroki laughed .
However, Eishin’s expression didn’t change . He looked straight at Hiroki .
Led by the force in Eishin’s eyes, Hiroki’s smile turned into a frown . Then, sweat started pouring down his forehead .
'You’re kidding, right…?’
Hiroki’s voice was shaking .
'Unfortunately, you’ll die in the near future .
'W-wai… Stop that . ’
Eishin ignored Hiroki’s frantic pleas . He went to the counter to pay and then left the family restaurant .
– It’ll be good medicine for him .
Eishin let out a satisfied sigh before walking away .
Haruka headed for the temple where Gotou lived .
She was going to tell Atsuko, Gotou’s wife, what had happened . She passed through the gate and went to the priests’ quarters . Her legs felt weak .
She really didn’t want to go tell such heavy news .
However, there was no point standing here and worrying about it . Haruka gathered her determination and pressed the intercom button at the entrance .
Haruka heard a voice . Then, the entrance’s sling door opened to show Atsuko .
'Oh, hello, Haruka-chan,’ said Atsuko, sounding surprised .
It was the first time Haruka had come here alone since Isshin had died .
'Good evening . Actually, there is something I need to tell you…’ said Haruka, still feeling troubled .
Atsuko seemed to sense something as her expression hardened . 'Come in,’ she said, inviting Haruka inside .
Haruka went to the living room and crouched on the tatami . Nao, drawing in a sketchbook, looked up .
'Nao-chan, it’s been a while . ’
After Haruka said that, Nao’s face lit up . Nao leapt towards her .
'You doing well?’ said Haruka, patting Nao’s head .
Haruka heard that voice in her head . Nao couldn’t hear, but in exchange, she talked directly to people’s hearts like this .
'Well, sit down,’ urged Atsuko .
Haruka sat on a cushion . Nao sat next to her with a smile .
'Would you rather have tea or coffee?’
'Please don’t mind me . ’
'You don’t have to restrain yourself . We’re going to be relatives in the future anyway . ’
'Eh?’ said Haruka, confused .
'Well, when you and Yakumo-kun get married, won’t we be relatives?’
Though Haruka understood what Atsuko meant, unfortunately there were no plans of that .
Haruka didn’t want to take it seriously and deny it either, so she decided to let it pass with a wry smile .
'Then I’ll have tea . ’
After a while, Atsuko returned with tea from the kitchen .
'So what did you have to tell me?’ said Atsuko, sitting across from Haruka .
With Atsuko in front of her like this, Haruka didn’t know what she should say .
However, thinking about it wouldn’t start anything . Haruka took in a deep breath and started to speak .
'Actually, this is about Gotou-san…’
'Did something happen?’
Atsuko’s expression became grim immediately .
With a deep breath to calm herself down, Haruka told Atsuko what had happened to Gotou .
Atsuko listened to Haruka in silence . Since Atsuko’s expression didn’t change much, Haruka didn’t know what she was feeling .
After a silence, Atsuko put a hand over her mouth and started giggling .
'He really is an idiot . ’
Atsuko laughed aloud like she couldn’t keep it in any longer .
Nao started laughing too .
'Excuse me… I don’t think it’s a laughing matter…’
Haruka wasn’t sure what to do with the unexpected response .
'It is . It’s like that saying – going for wool and coming home shorn . ’
'Aren’t you worried?’
'I am . ’
For just a moment, Atsuko’s expression clouded over .
Those were probably her true feelings – Haruka understood that .
'I’m worried, but all I can do at a time like this is believe, right?’
Atsuko showed Haruka a smile .
– She’s strong .
Haruka felt that anew .
When Gotou had gone missing before, and when Isshin had been stabbed, Atsuko had stood firmly on her own .
No matter what happened, she waited and believed . Perhaps she had the resolve to do that .
'I thought it’d be tough when I married him,’ Atsuko said suddenly .
'I mean, he never thinks before acting, right? He always sticks his neck into danger . ’
Haruka felt like she understood .
Even though Gotou treated others’ lives with care, for some reason, he didn’t have that same care for his own . Yakumo was the same way .
That was why it frightened Haruka to watch . It was hard to be the one waiting .
'At first there were many sleepless nights for me, but I realised something . ’
'What did you realise?’
'No matter how reckless he is, he always comes back . That’s why I wait and believe in him . ’
'I see . Definitely…’
'And it’s fine with Yakumo-kun there . He’ll do something about it . ’
Atsuko patted Haruka’s shoulder .
'Yes . ’
Haruka nodded .
'Ah, that’s right . I’ll show you something good . ’
It looked like Atsuko had remembered something as she clapped her hands together and stood up .
'Old pictures . ’
After saying that, Atsuko left the living room .
Nao took Haruka’s hand and smiled . She definitely believed in Gotou too . That was why she could smile like this .
– I need to believe to .
In her heart, Haruka thought that with conviction .
After Ishii returned to the precinct, he contacted Shimamura Eriko of the Criminal Affairs division immediately .
She was one of the detectives in charge of Hideaki’s case . Ishii chose her because she had been Gotou’s past partner .
Ishii thought that she would give him a bit more information than another detective .
'I would like some information regarding Hideaki-shi’s case, but…’
After saying that, Ishii was told to wait at the conference room .
Ishii went into the conference room, as he was instructed . It looked like Shimamura wasn’t here yet . Ishii sat on a chair and leant back .
He had never thought that Gotou would be possessed by a ghost .
Yakumo had said that Gotou’s incident and Imoto’s suicide in his flat were connected, but Ishii didn’t understand why Yakumo thought that .
However, all Ishii could do was believe and act .
'Sorry I’m late . ’
About ten minutes later, the conference door opened, and a woman in a dark blue suit came in .
She had wide shoulders for a woman and a heavy frame . It felt like she could be in a gang .
'No, I’m sorry for calling you out . ’
'It’s fine . ’
Shimamura waved away Ishii’s concern and sat across from him .
'Ah, I’m sorry, I haven’t introduced myself yet . My name is…’
'Ishii, right? I’ve heard about you from Gotou and Atsuko . ’
Ishii cocked his head unconsciously .
It made sense for Shimamura to know Gotou, but Ishii hadn’t thought that she also knew his wife, Atsuko .
'You didn’t know?’
'Didn’t know what?’
'I’m the one who introduced Atsuko to Gotou . ’
Ishii was so shocked that he almost fell from his chair .
'Unexpectedly, you don’t know much about Gotou, even though you were his partner . ’
It was true .
Though Ishii and Gotou had always been together as partners, they virtually never talked about their private lives .
They unexpectedly knew very little about each other .
'I-I’m sorry . ’
'It’d be better for you to stop apologising so quickly like that . ’
'Ah, no, but…’
'I’m just saying this here, but Gotou’s got high hopes for you . ’
Ishii was shocked once more .
'He’s a clumsy guy so he can be cold, but he’s different on the inside . ’
'I-is that so?’
Ishii couldn’t believe it .
Ishii had never seen even a tiny amount of that from Gotou . Ishii felt like he had always just been tripping over himself and causing trouble .
'You didn’t even realise that?’
'I-I’m sorry . ’
'You’re apologising again . ’
Ishii hurriedly swallowed the words he was about to say .
'Ishii’ll become a good detective, he said…’
'When he quit being a detective, he went out of his way to find me and bowed his head to me . Telling me to help you if you were in trouble . ’
'Detective Gotou did that…’
Ishii felt something warm welling up within him .
Will I be able to live up to those expectations – Ishii had lamented the lack of Gotou’ presence and had given up, thinking he could do nothing, and shut himself inside a shell . His own biased view .
– I’ll live up to Detective Gotou’s expectations .
Ishii was filled with strong determination .
'Let’s leave the soppy stories now . Here’re the case files . ’
Shimamura placed a bundle of documents on the desk .
<Thank you very much . Also, how did Aoi Hideaki’s questioning go?’ asked Ishii, looking at the files .
'He kept saying he could see ghosts, but there’s no way that police can believe that . ’
Shimamura smiled wryly .
As members of the police, they really had no way to accept the existence of ghosts .
'So he’s still in detention?’
'We didn’t keep him . ’
'It wasn’t an arrest . It was just a questioning . ’
That was true . At this stage, he was just suspicious – there was no proof .
'Do you think he’s the culprit?’ asked Ishii .
'It seems like Chief Honda thinks that . He’s going to have him questioned again . ’
'What do you think personally, Shimamura-san?’
'Innocent, obviously,’ said Shimamura, seeming exasperated .
'Why do you think that?’
'I don’t know how to answer, but if I had to say, it’s my gut feeling from many years on the force . ’
'Yeah . It’s been a while since I’ve seen eyes as straight as his . He’s the not the type of man who could kill someone . ’
'Then he really can see…’
'I don’t know about that, but that flat was a completely locked room . ’
Ishii knew best, as the first eyewitness, that the flat where the corpse was found was a locked room .
'Yes, it was . ’
'And Imoto had posted on an internet forum in a way that suggested he would commit suicide . ’
'An… internet forum?’
'Yes . There’s a site where people who want to commit suicide gather, right?’
'You’re talking about that?’
Ishii hadn’t accessed the site himself, but he had heard rumours .
People who wanted to kill themselves gathered on that forum and revealed the emotions they felt . In the past, people who met on that forum had committed a group suicide, making it a societal problem .
'Honestly . Even though everything’s a mess already with the corpse from Aokigahara . What a mess…’ said Shimamura with a click of her tongue .
'The Yamanashi precinct requested help regarding the Aokigahara corpse case . ’
If Ishii remembered correctly, Gotou had been investing a spiritual phenomenon in Aokigahara’s Sea of Trees when he became possessed by a ghost .
– So they really are related somehow?
'Excuse me… Why was help requested for the Aokigahara case?’ asked Ishii .
'Seems the victim was from here . One of the leaders of Jikoukoushinkai . ’
'Imoto, the guy who died in the flat, was part of the same religious group . ’
Yakumo’s theory might really have been right . The Aokigahara case and Hideaki’s case were related .
'Honestly… This is awful,’ grumbled Yakumo, standing in front of Gotou, who was in a wheelchair .
If this was going to happen, I should have seriously stopped him when he told me he was going to become a spiritual detective – the wave of regret within Yakumo kept pushing forward .
Gotou let out a groan . His body writhed . Then, he slowly lifted his head .
Yakumo put strength into his left eye’s gaze .
'Who are you?’ Yakumo asked towards Gotou .
However, there was no response . It looked like he was in pain .
'You… gil… ed…’ said Gotou .
To be accurate, they were the words of the spirit of whoever was possessing Gotou .
'Were you killed?’
There were no words after that . Gotou’s head dropped down and he stopped moving, as if he had been unplugged .
'No luck, eh…’
Yakumo looked up at the ceiling, pressing a hand against his left eye .
The fluorescent light seemed bright .
After doing that for a while, Yakumo looked at Gotou again .
He couldn’t feel the usual energy from Gotou . Yakumo was surprised that it made him feel lonely .
He had met Gotou more than fifteen years ago . Gotou had been a novice officer, and Yakumo had just been a boy .
At that time, Gotou had saved Yakumo’s life .
Because fate was a mysterious thing, a few years after that, Yakumo ended up meeting Gotou again because of a certain case .
At first, Yakumo had just thought of Gotou as a greedy detective who wanted to use his ability .
It was only recently that Yakumo realised that Gotou’s true intentions were not as he thought . Gotou was clumsy, but he supported Yakumo in his own way .
At some point, Yakumo himself had started to trust Gotou .
He had felt that painfully when his uncle Isshin died . At that time, Gotou had said that he would take in Nao .
Though Yakumo hadn’t said it aloud, he had thought that with Gotou, he could entrust Nao to him with no concern .
During an incident a month ago, Yakumo had been pursued as a suspect . Gotou had come to save him without any hesitation .
Gotou had known that doing so would force him to leave the police, but he hadn’t paused anyway .
The man was so straightforward that it was stupid . That was why –
'It would trouble me if even somebody like you disappeared,’ murmured Yakumo, closing his eyes .
Then, he suddenly felt somebody’s gaze .
– Who’s there?
When Yakumo opened his eyes, there was a woman standing there .
Yuuka’s mouth moved, as if she was trying to urge Yakumo to do something .
However, it was too faint . Finally, Yuuka’s spirit disappeared, as if it had melted into the air .
'So the two cases really are related?’ said Yakumo to himself .
The next morning, Haruka went to the Movie Research Circle room .
To be honest, she hadn’t been able to sleep well the day before . It had been a great shock .
'Yakumo-kun, you here?’
When Haruka opened the door, Yakumo greeted her with a yawn .
Though he always looked sleepy, it felt like he had gone a step above that today .
'You…?’ said Yakumo, rubbing his eyes and stretching .
Haruka looked at the corner of the room and saw Gotou in a wheelchair, in the same spot he had been in yesterday .
'Honestly . Because of this bear, I wasn’t able to sleep properly,’ said Yakumo, stifling a yawn .
'Was he violent?’
'No, his snoring is loud . Seems like you snore even if you’re possessed . ’
Haruka ended up laughing without thinking .
It was irresponsible of her, but she thought that things would be fine if Yakumo could still speak lightly like this .
'So how are Atsuko-san and Nao?’ asked Yakumo after Haruka sat down .
'They accepted it more calmly than expected . ’
Atsuko had been unexpectedly unruffled . She had even shown Haruka pictures of Gotou’s younger days .
However, even if Atsuko acted like that, she was actually concerned .
'So what are you going to do next?’
'First, I’m moving this bear elsewhere . ’
He couldn’t be put back in his home .
The ghost might leave Gotou’s body and possess Atsuko or Nao .
'I was thinking of leaving him to Hata-san . ’
Yakumo glanced at Gotou .
Now Haruka understood . If Gotou was left here, Yakumo wouldn’t be able to move freely . Hata worked at a hospital . If anything happened, he would be able to respond to it . But –
'Is that OK?’
'I mean, Hata-san is…’
Hata wasn’t a bad person, but there was a problem with his interests .
He called his work as a coroner his hobby, and every time he saw Yakumo, he would cheerfully say something awful like 'Let me autopsy you’ .
If he saw Gotou like this, he might cut him up with glee .
'Even Hata-san wouldn’t do that . ’
Though Yakumo was calm, Haruka was concerned .
Just as Haruka said that, the door opened .
'Good morning . ’
It was Makoto .
'Ah, Makoto-san . ’
Haruka immediately gave her seat to Makoto and moved to the seat beside Yakumo .
'I’m sorry for coming early in the morning,’ said Makoto, sitting down .
It seemed like she hadn’t had enough sleep either, as she looked a bit tired .
'How was it?’ said Yakumo, getting to the topic at hand .
Yesterday, he had asked Makoto to investigate the corpse Rina found in Aokigahara’s Sea of Trees .
'There’s still a lot I don’t understand, but…’
Makoto took newspaper clippings out of her bag and lined them up on the table .
Yakumo started reading immediately .
'Maehara Rina was the one who found the corpse . That’s what was reported, but there was a man named Urakawa Hiroki with her . ’
Makoto took out her memo pad and started explaining as she looked at it .
'The police think it’s a murder . ’
'Yes . The corpse was burnt black . At first, they thought it was self-immolation, but they found a stab wound in the chest . ’
'Do they have the identity?’
Yakumo’s eyes narrowed .
'Yes . Hiyama Kenichirou, fifty-two years old . ’
Makoto placed a photo on the table .
Yakumo took the photo and gazed at it . Haruka took a peek at the photo too .
The man was slender with chiselled features . He seemed composed .
'This is definitely the person possessing Gotou-san,’ said Yakumo after a silence .
Though Haruka couldn’t be optimistic yet, but knowing who was possessing Gotou was a big step forward .
'What sort of person is he?’ asked Haruka .
Makoto took more files out from her bag .
'Hiyama Kenichirou-san was one of the leaders of Jikoukoushinkai, a rising religious group . ’
Haruka cocked her head . She had never heard the name before .
'I will look into the details after, but it seems like they worship mountains as sacred and suddenly grew in power in these past two years . ’
'How are the police viewing this case?’ asked Yakumo .
'A murder case related to the religious group’s internal interests… is what they’re thinking . ’
'What is their reason for thinking so?’
Even the police wouldn’t just suspect that it was an inside job because the victim was a leader of a rising religious group .
'A khakkhara had been dropped at the place where the corpse was found . ’
'What’s a khakkhara?’ asked Haruka .
'To put it simply, it’s a staff with a number of metal rings on top . It’s used in religions like Shugendo so that when walking in the mountains, the noise makes beasts and snakes scatter . ’
Yakumo’s explanation helped Haruka see an image in her mind . She had seen something on television before where a mountain priest walked with something that kept ringing in his hand .
'So that religious group used a khakkhara,’ said Haruka .
Makoto nodded .
However, it looked like Yakumo still hadn’t accepted it .
'That isn’t the only reason, right?’
'It isn’t . There was a rumour of a split in the inner group before . Currently, the Yamanashi precinct and the Setamachi precinct, where the main base for the religious group is, are investigating together . ’
'The religious group’s base is here?’ said Yakumo, sounding surprised .
It was a surprise for Haruka as well . She had been sure it was in Yamanashi prefecture .
'It seems like that . ’
'That’s strange . ’
With a wrinkle in his brow, Yakumo rubbed his chin .
'What is?’ asked Haruka .
Yakumo looked at her sharply .
'Earlier, Makoto-san said that the religious group worshiped mountains as sacred . ’
'Yup . ’
'Worshiping mountains as sacred means that they believe that mountains have supernatural powers, which is the reason they worship them . ’
With that explanation, Haruka could also understand why Yakumo was suspicious .
'So it’d be normal for them to have their base somewhere near mountains . ’
'Right . ’
'That’s not the only thing that’s strange,’ said Makoto, after Yakumo nodded .
'What else is there?’
'It seems like the founder, a woman named Minegishi Kyouka, says that she can see the spirits of the dead – that is, ghosts . ’
'Is it true?’ said Haruka in surprise .
However, Yakumo remained expressionless .
'Don’t take everything at face value . ’
'In either case, we’ll need to pay a visit,’ Yakumo said quietly .
His narrowed red left eye seemed to be filled with curiosity .
Ishii woke up to the sound of his mobile phone ringing .
Since his glasses weren’t on, he couldn’t see properly . He fumbled around his desk and picked up his mobile .
Since he had just woken up, his voice was hoarse .
He had looked at documents until late last night . Then, he had just fallen asleep at his seat without returning home .
<Good morning . >
The voice he heard from the opposite end of the phone was Yakumo’s .
'Ah, hello . ’
Ishii fumbled around the desk again and then put on his glasses . Then, he slapped his cheeks . That woke him up a bit .
<How was it?>
Ishii explained the information he had received from the documents and Shimamura to Yakumo .
<In short, the possibility of suicide is high at this stage . >
'Yes, that’s the case, but…’
<Ishii-san, you can’t accept that explanation . >
'I can’t . ’
There were just too many things that didn’t seem to fit together . He didn’t know where to start .
<Ishii-san, did you see the scene of the crime?>
'Not too clearly…’
Ishii had been the first eyewitness, but he had had his hands full with reporting the crime and at the time, he hadn’t been able to observe the scene carefully .
After that, Honda had taken them off the case, so he couldn’t enter the scene .
<If possible, I would appreciate it if you could go see it with your own eyes and report what you see to me, Ishii-san . >
Ishii agreed with Yakumo’s opinion . Looking at it with his own eyes might bring about new information .
'Understood . I’ll give it a try . ’
Ishii had just hung up the phone when Miyagawa came into the room .
'Ah, Miyagawa-san . ’
'Don’t just say “ah”,’ said Miyagawa, sounding like he was in a bad mood . He sat at the opposite desk .
'So what did you do?’
'Ah, no… er…’
For a moment, Ishii wasn’t sure if he should tell the truth .
However, hiding it wouldn’t start anything . Miyagawa would definitely understand .
Ishii told Miyagawa everything that had happened yesterday after they split up, including how Gotou had been possessed by a ghost .
That was the first thing Miyagawa said after he had finished hearing Ishii’s story .
Even as Ishii apologised, he looked at Miyagawa with disappointment . He had been sure that Miyagawa would understand –
'If that happened, why didn’t you contact me earlier!?’
Miyagawa’s fist slammed down onto the desk .
In contrast to Miyagawa’s anger, Ishii welled up with happiness . Miyagawa really was whom Ishii believed him to be . No matter what Miyagawa said, he wasn’t the type of person who could leave something alone .
'What are you grinning for?’
Ishii quickly corrected his expression .
'I’m sorry . ’
'So what did you find out?’
'Ah, yes . There are a number of parts . ’
Ishii handed the documents he had borrowed from Shimamura yesterday to Miyagawa . After Miyagawa accepted them, he started reading them with a stern face .
– He might give me a new opinion .
Ishii looked at Miyagawa with hope .
'If I had to make a decision from this situation, it has to be a suicide . ’
Miyagawa threw the files onto the desk .
'Looking at it from the situation, that is the case . However…’
Ishii had thought frantically last night as he stared at the files .
The flat had been locked . It didn’t look like anybody had fiddled with it . That room had been completely shut off .
However, Ishii still couldn’t shake away his suspicions .
'The reason for suicide isn’t that strong,’ said Miyagawa .
It was just as he said . That was the biggest reason for Ishii’s doubt .
'Yes . ’
Imoto had attempted a robbery and ended up in a confrontation . He had punched Aoi Yuuka . That had caused her serious injury, and Imoto had committed suicide in his guilt –
At first glance, it lined up, but he must have known in the first place that it was likely that somebody would be harmed in a robbery .
Furthermore, Ishii would have understood Imoto’s guilt if Yuuka had died, but she was still alive . Also, the police’s investigation hadn’t reached Imoto . In short, he hadn’t been pursued .
– Would he have thought as far as suicide in that situation?
The investigation team had had doubts about that too . That was why they had questioned Aoi Hideaki, thinking he had killed Imoto for revenge .
'But there’s no evidence anywhere that it was a murder . ’
'There isn’t . ’
Ishii had doubts, but he had returned to the same place .
'In any case, Aoi Hideaki has the key to this,’ muttered Miyagawa .
'Yes . ’
Was Hideaki’s ability real or fake – the answer to that question would change the direction of the case .
'So what do you plan to do?’
'I was thinking of looking at the scene once more . ’
He had no proof that he would find something, but perhaps he would see something by going there once more . However –
'Got it . Then the guards there will be in the way . ’
Miyagawa smirked, like he had read Ishii’s mind .
Eishin stood in front of Yakumo’s secret hideaway, the Movie Research Circle room .
He was here to report on what happened yesterday and to move Gotou .
When he opened the door, he saw Yakumo, Haruka, and one other woman there .
'Oh?’ said Eishin .
'Come to think of it, it’s the first time you’ve met . This woman is Hijikata Makoto-san . She’s a newspaper reporter . She’s helping out with a variety of things,’ explained Yakumo, sensing Eishin’s question .
'My name is Hijikata Makoto . ’
Makoto stood up and made a polite bow .
She had a refined air to her and was a woman with polite manners . Haruka, and then Makoto – why did beautiful women gather around Yakumo?
'My name is Eishin . I am pleased to make your acquaintance . ’
Eishin returned the bow .
'Please sit down,’ Yakumo urged . Eishin took the seat next to Makoto .
After a pause, he spotted Gotou in the corner of the room . He was in a wheelchair, completely still .
'Is he alive?’
'So far as it goes,’ replied Yakumo, giving Gotou a glance .
When Eishin looked more carefully, he could see Gotou’s shoulders moving up and down slightly . It was strange for a man who was like walking noise to be quiet like this .
'So how was it?’
Yakumo turned his gaze towards Eishin .
That was right . Eishin almost forgot . Eishin told them what he had heard from Hiroki yesterday .
He kept the little threat he made a secret .
'A video camera…’
As expected, Yakumo showed interest in that .
Eishin didn’t know if it’d be useful, but he wanted to see himself .
'Excuse me… Perhaps I would be able to acquire it . ’
Makoto was the one who spoke, raising a hand .
'Is that so?’ asked Yakumo .
Makoto nodded .
'Yes . I can’t guarantee it, but…’
'Could I request that of you?’
'Yes, I’ll try . ’
A refreshing smile appeared on Makoto’s face .
'Hey, what are you going to do next?’
After the conversation came to a lull, Haruka looked at Yakumo .
'We’re moving Kumakichi, right?’
Eishin responded for Yakumo .
'Ah, right . You’re taking him to Hata-san, right?’ said Haruka, who had heard about it before .
However, Yakumo contradicted that .
'Let’s change the plan a bit . ’
'What are you talking about?’ said Eishin in dissatisfaction .
He had gone out of his way to borrow a HiAce with a lift from somebody with a job related to social welfare .
If the plan was changed, all his hard work would be for nothing .
'We’ll just be making a number of stopovers . ’
Yakumo slowly stood up .
There was a daring smile on his face . It felt like he was planning something dastardly .
However, Eishin didn’t dislike that sort of thing .
'Where’re we headed?’
'A number of places,’ Yakumo replied vaguely .
– I don’t get it, but it feels like it’ll get interesting .
Eishin felt unbecoming expectation well up within him .
Ishii went with Miyagawa to the apartment where the incident had occurred .
Ishii could see that there was a rope in front of the room barring access and one uniformed guard on watch .
'There is a guard, as expected,’ said Ishii, feeling disappointed .
It was possible to go through the front and show their police IDs to gain access, but Ishii and Miyagawa had been taken off the investigation .
If the guard checked with the investigation team, that would make things troublesome afterwards .
'Leave it to me . ’
Miyagawa hit his chest and then walked straight for the door .
'Wait, Miyagawa-san!’ said Ishii, running after Miyagawa .
'I’m Miyagawa from Criminal Affairs,’ said Miyagawa with a hard expression on his face . He placed a hand on the guard’s shoulder .
'Actually, I want to go inside to check it out . ’
'I wouldn’t mind, but…’
'I know . Honda told you not to let people in without his permission, right?’
'That’s why I’m asking you in private . ’
Miyagawa suddenly brought his face closer to the guard’s .
'Did you become an officer to be Honda’s dog? Or to protect the safety of the citizens?’
'Of course it was for the safety of the citizens,’ responded the guard clearly, eyes shining .
'Then go along with that conviction . ’
The guard, completely pulled in by Miyagawa’s cajolery, handed over the key to Miyagawa .
That was definitely consent to let them in .
Ishii and Miyagawa nodded at each other . Then, they opened the door and went inside .
There was a sink and a washroom in the narrow corridor . It looked like there was a bathtub too . That was unusual, these days .
In the back, there was a room as living space, but it was a small space, only four and a half tatami in size .
Though it wasn’t unbearable, there was a strange smell . Perhaps because of the food waste around the room or because of the corpse – Ishii couldn’t tell .
He held his breath as he looked around the room carefully . There was a gap in the wood above the door that would allow a rope through, and there was a mark there from friction . Imoto had probably put the rope here and hanged himself . There was a stain on the tatami below .
The image of Imoto hanging in the room came up in Ishii’s mind . Ishii shut his eyes and shook his head to get rid of the image .
The glass door to the veranda was broken from the outside .
Ishii and Miyagawa had done that . At the time, they had stuck a hand through to unlock the door .
The glass door had been shut, if he remembered correctly .
Ishii looked towards the entrance . That had been locked too, and there had been a chain lock too .
This room really was a locked room –
The only place to get out would be the hole for the vent in the room’s wall . Ishii had seen a movie where a liquid-metal robot had slipped in through a gap like that, but that was unrealistic .
– So there’s really nothing?
Ishii was about to give up when his eyes fell on a photo in the corner of the room .
He crouched and picked it up .
It was a photo of a family . On the left of the photo, there was Imoto Yasuo . In the centre, there was a child of about two years old . On the right, there was a woman with a gentle smile .
– Why is there a photo here?
Ishii tried standing underneath the wood when Imoto had hanged himself .
He thought about Imoto’s state of mind . Then, Ishii realised it .
Imoto had probably been looking at this photo when he hanged himself .
Then, he ran out of breath, so the photo slipped from his hand, falling into the corner of the room . He might have really been prepared to kill himself .
That thought grew stronger within Ishii .
'Where are we?’ asked Haruka, looking up at the ten-storey apartment building . It seemed to be built for families, and was rather large from the outward appearance .
– Make a number of stopovers .
Yakumo had said that . Then, he had had Eishin and Gotou wait in the car and come to this apartment .
'This is where the Aoi siblings live . ’
Yakumo slowly walked towards the apartment .
'So for your stopover, you were going to meet Hideaki-san?’
'Yes . ’
'But that person…’
Yesterday, the police had come and taken him away . Would he have been let out so easily?
'He wasn’t arrested . He had agreed to questioning . Since it hadn’t been forced, he was probably let out a while ago . ’
Yakumo ran a hand through his messy hair and pressed the intercom button .
<Yes . >
Hideaki’s voice came back immediately .
'It’s Saitou Yakumo . I was thinking about talking with you for a bit . ’
<I’ll open the door now . >
The automatic doors opened .
With an anxious expression, Haruka followed Yakumo through the automatic doors .
They went through the entrance and into the elevator, where Yakumo pressed the button for the third floor .
'What are you going to talk to Hideaki-san about?’ asked Haruka .
'I didn’t think about it…’ Yakumo replied briefly . Then, he fell silent .
His expression was unusually stiff .
Finally, the elevator reached the third floor . They went down the corridor to the door to the room at the very end . With good timing, Hideaki opened the door and looked out .
'It’s the first time you’ve come, Saitou,’ said Hideaki with a smile, inviting Yakumo and Haruka into the room .
They went past the entrance to the room at the end of the corridor . It was a living-cum-dining room ten tatami in size, with a kitchen counter . It had a relaxing atmosphere to it .
'Please sit . ’
Hideaki urged them to sit at the dining table .
Haruka and Yakumo sat down together . Hideaki sat opposite them .
'It’s a large room,’ said Yakumo while looking around .
'Mum and Dad left this to us . Thanks to that, I didn’t have any trouble looking for a place to live with my sister . ’
Hideaki was smiling as he glanced at the sideboard .
There were photos there . In the photos, Hideaki and Yuuka, and people who were probably their parents, were smiling .
They were peaceful and happy family photos .
'Where are your mother and father?’ Haruka said without thinking, and that moment, Hideaki’s expression clouded over .
In that instant, Haruka thought – Shoot . Earlier, Hideaki had said, 'Mum and Dad left this to us . ’ She should have been able to realise from those words .
Haruka bowed her head, but Hideaki shook his head with a smile .
'It’s fine . My mum and dad passed away four and a half years ago . It was a traffic accident…’
'Is that so…’
Haruka dropped her gaze to the table .
Hideaki and Yuuka had lived alone after losing their parents . On top of that, Yuuka had been wrapped up in this case .
When she thought about that, it was intolerable .
'So what did you come here for today all of a sudden?’
After a pause, Hideaki turned his eyes to Yakumo .
'It seems like it’s been tough…’ said Yakumo, sitting in front of Hideaki .
'That’s not true . ’
It wasn’t just the matter with his sister, Yuuka . He had been questioned by the police too . It must have been tough, but Hideaki was showing them a smile .
Haruka couldn’t tell whether he was putting up a strong front or if he was just a strong person .
'What were you asked by the police?’
'He asked why I knew the person who assaulted Yuuka . ’
'How did you respond?’
'I said I could see ghosts . ’
Hideaki didn’t falter when he said that .
'The police didn’t believe you, right?’
'They didn’t . They kept asking the same question, but since it was the truth, I couldn’t say anything else . ’
Hideaki smiled wryly .
'A stubborn guy,’ said Yakumo, more to himself, and then he got up from his seat .
He looked around the room and stopped by the sofa .
'Your sister collapsed in this room, right?’
'Yeah . ’
Hideaki nodded and stood up . Then, he stood by Yakumo and looked at the floor .
He was probably remembering the incident . Hideaki’s brown eyes looked like they were wet with tears .
'The culprit wasn’t caught on the security cameras?’
'According to the police, the data was wiped . ’
Yakumo’s brow furrowed just slightly .
'Hey, do you remember?’ Hideaki said suddenly .
Yakumo looked at Hideaki with a bewildered expression .
'You saved Yuuka in high school, right, Saitou?’
'I don’t remember . ’
Yakumo looked away .
Perhaps it was a topic he didn’t want others to touch .
'Don’t try to hide it . Yuuka was caught up in a case . Because of that case, I realised that you could see ghosts . ’
Hideaki walked to where Yakumo was now looking . Yakumo’s expression was blank, like he couldn’t hear him at all .
What could the case be – Haruka was curious, but she felt like she definitely couldn’t ask .
'It’s not like I was trying to save her . That just happened as a result . ’
After a long silence, those words came out of Yakumo’s mouth, like that had been strangled out .
'That’s what I thought at first too . At school, Saitou, you never showed any interest in anyone else, and I thought you were really cold guy . ’
'Just as you say, I’m a cold person . ’
'That’s not true . ’
When Hideaki denied Yakumo’s words, his tone changed – it was firm .
'It is . ’
'It’s not . Do you remember our conversation in the graveyard?’
'Did that happen…’
'At the time, Saitou, you said that even if you could see ghosts, you couldn’t save anyone . But that’s not true . Saitou, you’re kinder than anyone else . That’s why you suffer . Because you don’t want to lose your friends, you didn’t make them in the first place . I realised that . That’s why…’
'That’s enough about me,’ said Yakumo in a voice that wouldn’t allow any discussion, interrupting Hideaki .
Their gazes met . It felt like sparks would fly .
Haruka didn’t know Yakumo in high school, but she thought that Hideaki’s opinion was correct .
The reason for that was that Haruka had also thought the same way when she first met Yakumo . Yakumo wasn’t a cold person . He was kinder and more sensitive than anyone .
Haruka’s opinion of Hideaki had changed greatly .
The two of them might not have been friends in high school . They might not have talked . But still, Hideaki tried to understand Yakumo . He was one of very few .
Rather than being interested in Yakumo because they shared the ability to see ghosts, it was more like Hideaki had looked at Yakumo as a person .
'A stubborn guy . ’
After looking at Yakumo for a while, Hideaki’s expression suddenly softened .
'Yeah . That hasn’t changed . ’
'We weren’t that close . ’
'I could tell just from looking . ’
Hideaki smiled .
'Sorry for coming over suddenly today . I’ll come again . ’
Saying just that, Yakumo suddenly left the room .
– Eh, no way!
'E-excuse me . ’
Haruka didn’t want to be left here alone . She bowed towards Hideaki and hurriedly ran after Yakumo .
She finally caught up to him in front of the elevator .
– What’s the hurry?
Haruka was about to ask when Yakumo turned around .
'I feel like I saw the truth, just slightly . ’
'Yeah . What his sister wanted to save…’
Yakumo’s narrowed red left eye probably saw something that Haruka didn’t understand .
– I got wrapped up in a case unexpectedly .
After Makoto returned to the newspaper company and sat at her own seat, that thought came to her .
She was the most concerned about Gotou . Makoto had been possessed by a spirit before .
She felt a chill when she recalled that time, even now .
Feelings of somebody who wasn’t her had flown through her, seeping into her heart . It was more terrifying than could be imagined .
– I want to save him, no matter what .
With strong determination, Makoto took her mobile and called the number of her old co-worker, Takizawa .
He was currently at a newspaper that dealt with Yamanashi, but he had been at the same company as Makoto before .
He had given her a variety of information during a certain case . Fortunately for her, he was at a Yamanashi newspaper company now .
<What, it’s you?>
When Makoto said her name, she heard a sigh from the other end .
It wasn’t unreasonable for him to have that reaction . She had called him last night too to get information .
The information she had given Yakumo this morning had all been from Takizawa .
'I’m sorry for calling again . ’
<What do you want this time?>
'I heard that the young man who found the corpse had been filming the scene with a video camera . ’
Takizawa sounded exhausted .
'Do you know of it?’
<Yeah . There was a local detective there . He showed me it in private, but it had been pretty creepy . >
<Yeah . You’re pretty knowledgeable about spiritual stuff, right?>
To be accurate, Yakumo was the one who was knowledgeable .
However, because Makoto had been involved in many incidents of that kind, she was now known within the company as a reporter who was knowledgeable about spiritual phenomena .
'Though I’m not that knowledgeable… Was something filmed there?’
<Filmed there, eh… . Anyway, that detective had been pretty afraid . Since it was from a rising religious group, the detective thought there might be a curse . >
<Anyway, I’ll send the data, so once you’ve checked it out, I want your opinion . >
'Understood,’ responded Makoto . Then, she hung up .
She had thought it’d be difficult to get the video, so this was a bit underwhelming .
After she took a break, she suddenly thought about Ishii .
He had seemed rather depressed about the incident with Gotou yesterday . Makoto picked up her phone and called Ishii’s number .
<Hello, Ishii Yuutarou speaking . >
She heard a more cheerful voice than she had expected from the phone .
'It’s Hijikata . ’
<Ah, Makoto-san . >
'You seemed down yesterday, so I was wondering… if you were OK…’
<I’m fine . I’ll do anything to save Detective Gotou . I don’t have the time to be depressed . >
Makoto felt happy for some reason when she heard Ishii’s energetic voice .
When they first met, she had thought that he was an unreliable person, but after getting to know him, she came to understand that he was a kind person .
She felt like he seemed more confident lately .
'That’s great . Please continue to work hard . I’ll help as much as I can . ’
<Thank you very much . >
As Makoto was about to hang up, Ishii called out to stop her .
'I didn’t do…’
<No, it was thanks to you, Makoto-san . >
'Then maybe I’ll have you thank me somehow next time . ’
<Please ask anything of me . >
'Then a date . ’
When Makoto said that as a joke, Ishii became speechless on the other side of the phone .
The image of an red-faced Ishii, stock still, appeared in Makoto’s mind . She thought that side of him was cute .
– Maybe that’s tasteless of me .
As she thought that, Makoto said, 'I’m looking forward to it . ’ She hung up .
When did she start thinking of Ishii as somebody of the opposite gender – she wasn’t sure . At some point, she had become attracted to him .
To be honest, Makoto liked men who pulled her in . Ishii was the complete opposite .
– So why?
Makoto asked herself that in her heart . She couldn’t come up with an answer .
Mysteriously, she enjoyed not understanding .
'Let’s visit Imoto’s ex-wife,’ Ishii suggested to Miyagawa .
At first, Miyagawa didn’t look that pleased . It was because he had already gone to question her .
As a result, it was proven that she had an alibi for the date of the incident and that they hadn’t kept in contact after the divorce . Miyagawa probably didn’t think that going to talk to her again would get them any new information .
Ishii couldn’t deny that, but he still wanted to meet her .
Putting what the wife thought aside, Imoto had thought about the family he had lost in his last moments .
He must have felt something special then .
Because of Ishii’s needling, Miyagawa folded in the end .
Imoto’s wife lived in a residential area two stations away .
Ishii stood in front of the door and pressed the intercom button . Then, a girl of about seven – probably Imoto’s daughter – showed up .
'Excuse me, is your mother here?’ asked Ishii, but she had already gone inside .
After a while, a woman in her late thirties opened the door . She was probably Manami, Imoto’s ex-wife .
'Who might you be?’
She was clearly on guard .
'Excuse me, my name is Ishii . I’m from the Setamachi precinct . ’
'It’s Miyagawa . ’
'You came yesterday as well, didn’t you? I’ve already told you about him…’
I’m sick of this already – it was evident she felt that way . However, Ishii couldn’t back down here .
'I’m sorry, but we would like to hear you once more . ’
Ishii bowed from his waist .
There was no response .
'Please . When Imoto-san died, he had been looking at a photo . It was a photo with you,’ Ishii said quickly, head still bowed .
'That doesn’t matter . ’
Manami tried to close the door, but Miyagawa held it open with his hand .
'Even if it doesn’t matter to you, it mattered to Imoto, who’s dead now . ’
'Even a little is fine . Talk to us . ’
For a while, the two of them looked at each other, but finally Manami said, 'Please come in,’ her voice as quiet as a mosquito . Perhaps she had lost to Miyagawa’s stare .
Ishii looked at Miyagawa and then entered the room .
it was a 2DK . They went to a six-tatami room in the back . Ishii and Miyagawa sat opposite Manami at a table .
She didn’t put out cushions or tea . She probably wanted them to leave quickly .
'What do you want to know?’ Manami said quietly, looking at her lap .
'What was the reason for your divorce?’
That was what Ishii asked first .
Since Imoto had taken great care of his family photo, Ishii knew that he hadn’t wanted the divorce .
'His mother got cancer . ’
'Yes . She suffered quite a bit . Then, somehow he got solicited into a strange religious group . ’
'They said that his mother’s sickness would be cured if he gave them offerings . Things like that…’
'I see . ’
Ishii heard about things of the like often .
'He even took out loans to give money to that group . Meanwhile, loan sharks started coming to our home…’
'I see… And how about his mother?’
'She died . ’
For a moment, Manami’s eyes seemed blurry with anger .
She must have known that her mother-in-law wasn’t at fault, but she had to point her anger there .
'I see . ’
'I thought that would wake him up, but… the group told him they needed money because his mother would suffer even after death… If that continued, my daughter might… That’s what I thought, so I divorced him . ’
Manami sniffled .
Ishii understood painfully how she felt . He decided to change the question .
'Excuse me, but did you really not have any contact from him before he died?’
Imoto had had a photo of his family at the time of his death . If he thought of them so dearly, he must have wanted to talk to them before he died .
'I didn’t . ’
Manami looked away .
– She’s lying .
Ishii felt that instantly .
Miyagawa seemed to have sensed the same thing as he pressed Manami for an answer .
Ishii thought about pressing forward too, but before he could, he saw a letter case on the wall .
Though it was in the middle of the conversation, Ishii stood up, as if drawn towards it .
'A letter came, didn’t it,’ said Ishii . Manami’s shoulders shuddered .
Ishii could see a man’s handwriting on a letter in the letter case . Though he didn’t know who the man was, it was obvious from the reaction .
'He’s such an idiot…’
Manami looked down, biting her lower lip .
'What are you talking about?’ asked Miyagawa .
When Manami looked up again, her eyes were red .
'There was a letter . ’
'What did he write?’
Though Ishii could have found out by reaching out and looking inside the envelope, he felt like he shouldn’t touch it .
'I couldn’t do anything up until now . Take this in exchange for child support… His life insurance certificate was inside . ’
'He didn’t pay consolation money or child support after the divorce . He couldn’t have . He was troubled by his own loans…’
'Is that so…’
'But you won’t get any money from killing yourself right after signing up for life insurance… He really is an idiot…’
Manami shook her head .
Tears fell from her eyes –
Ishii couldn’t look at her face, so he averted his eyes .
Just as Manami said, even if he did have insurance, if he killed himself within the exemption term, he wouldn’t receive the money .
And yet he had gone out of his way to send his life insurance certificate to his ex-wife .
A new question came up in Ishii’s mind .
'Are you really going?’ asked Haruka, standing next to Yakumo .
After leaving Hideaki, Yakumo had said that they were going to go to Jikoukoushinkai’s main base . Then, they had gone up a small hill that was about fifteen minutes from the station by car .
'Of course . ’
Yakumo was expressionless as he looked up at the temple in front of him .
This temple was Jikoukoushinkai’s headquarters . It seemed they had purchased a temple that had once belonged to another religion .
Perhaps it was prejudice, but since it was the headquarters of a new religious group, it felt creepy .
'Am I going too?’ said Eishin, taking Gotou’s wheelchair out of the car .
'That’s the plan,’ Yakumo said nonchalantly, but Eishin looked troubled .
'In these clothes?’
Eishin spread his arms and looked at his own monk’s robes .
Haruka did feel like that would be a problem . They were going to meet a rising religious group . It was like going to a church in monk’s robes .
However, Yakumo’s expression still didn’t change .
'Won’t it be interesting to see their reactions when you go there in those clothes?’
It was like Yakumo was enjoying this . Haruka thought that Eishin would object, but then he agreed with a smile .
– I have a bad feeling about this .
Ignoring Haruka’s concern, Yakumo pressed the intercom button by the door .
<Yes . >
A woman’s voice responded immediately from the intercom .
'Actually, I came because I want to consult your founder . ’
<What is your business?>
'One of my friends has been possessed by a ghost . Just as I was bewildered about what to do, I heard a rumour about your founder . I thought that the founder might save my friend . ’
Yakumo’s explanation made it sound like he was at his wits’ end .
This always happened, but Haruka admired Yakumo for being able to lie so easily about something like this . Yakumo was probably the type that would never be found out even if he cheated on his partner .
<That must be of great concern to you . Please enter . >
When the intercom cut off, the door opened automatically .
'That was a pretty good response . ’
Eishin seemed like he was enjoying himself a lot .
First, Eishin pushed Gotou’s wheelchair through the door, and then Yakumo and Haruka went in after them .
'Please follow me . ’
A woman called out to them . She wore white hakama and a black sash that had a red Brahma on it . Her clothes were reminiscent of a mountain priest’s . Her fringe rested on her forehead and she wore glasses . She was so expressionless that it was creepy – she seemed rather shady .
She led them down a promenade .
'Nothing ventured…’ said Eishin to himself as he followed .
'We’re going . ’
'Ah, right . ’
At Yakumo’s urging, Haruka hurriedly followed .
After reaching the building’s entrance, she took a quick look around . Just as the door closed .
– Will we be able to go back?
That question flashed through Haruka’s mind .
They were led into the building into a large room with wooden flooring . A unique smell like that of incense filled the room .
The ceiling was about five metres tall . There was an altar at the back of the room with a statue of Acala, sitting .
In the centre of the room, there was a large metal object that seemed like a box, surrounded by four pillars which were bound with a shimenawa .
'Hey, what’s that?’ Haruka asked Yakumo, pointing at the box in the centre of the room .
'That’s a homa-mandala . ’
Eishin was the one who responded .
Even after hearing the name, Haruka didn’t understand what it was .
'It’s used during Shugendo cedar-burning exorcisms . The shimenawa is the boundary . ’
'You know about it in detail . ’
'It’s my job . ’
Eishin smiled proudly and then continued .
'Also, during the Meiji period, Shugendo was forbidden . Then, the people who practised Shugen had to either join a Buddhist sect which shared their world view or abandon their teachers to become Shinto priests . ’
After Haruka expressed how impressed she was by Eishin’s explanation, a woman in white hakama and a sash with a red Brahma came into the room .
She was probably in her forties . She was as beautiful as a Japanese doll .
– Shiiing .
The khakkhara in the woman’s hand rang .
'Though Shugendo was abandoned once, I now carry the teachings that had travelled down by mouth . ’
The woman’s voice was cool, not sharpened by the sound of the khakkhara .
'Who are you?’ asked Yakumo .
'I apologise for the late introduction . My name is Minegishi Kyouka . ’
Kyouka gave her name and slowly bowed .
Each of her actions was graceful and beautiful . It was like watching a dance .
'My name is Saitou Yakumo . This is Master Eishin . And she’s an assistant . ’
Yakumo introduced all of them .
'Why is a Buddhist master in a place like this?’
Kyouka looked at Eishin .
Her response made sense . Eishin had thought that from the beginning .
'I only came to be sure . Please don’t let it concern you,’ replied Eishin, puffing out his chest .
'To be sure of what?’
'To be sure that this wasn’t a cult or something . ’
Eishin was clearly provoking her .
However, Kyouka’s expression did not change at all .
'Why would you say this is a cult?’
'I don’t have to say it . I hear this group asks for a lot of money for fake exorcisms . ’
'You are saying that we do…?’
'Yes . ’
When Eishin nodded, Kyouka covered her mouth and laughed .
'What’s so funny?’ asked Eishin, astonished .
'We have never forced anyone to make offerings . Everyone gives offerings because they want to . ’
'It’s the same thing . ’
'If what we do is a crime, what you do is the same, Master Eishin,’ said Kyouka, still smiling .
'What are you talking about?’
'Don’t Buddhist temples also accept offerings from families? We are no different from you, Master Eishin . ’
'Wha – ’
Eishin bit his lip .
Kyouka had easily deceived Eishin into believing her . She had quite a way with words .
– What are you going to do?
When Haruka looked at Yakumo, for just a moment, he was smiling .
'I apologise . Please forgive our rudeness . ’
Yakumo slowly bowed his head .
'I am accustomed to it . Please do not concern yourself . ’
Kyouka smiled at him .
'Though this is sudden, I have a request . I would like you to exorcise the spirit from the pitiful man who has been possessed by a ghost,’ Yakumo said fluently, pointing at Gotou, who was in a wheelchair .
The khakkhara rang .
'You are trying to test me, are you not?’
Kyouka slowly walked towards Gotou and murmured that .
'What do you mean?’ asked Yakumo .
Kyouka turned towards Yakumo and looked at his face .
'That eye . You can see as well, can’t you,’ Kyouka said quietly .
Ishii stopped at the station gates .
It was because he had spotted a sign for a life insurance company . The sign had a pure and innocent actress smiling on it . Ishii often saw her on television .
Though he normally didn’t notice it, because of what happened earlier, his eyes were drawn there .
'Is this your type?’
Miyagawa stopped as well and looked at the sign .
Though the actress was beautiful, that wasn’t what caught Ishii’s eye .
'Ah, no, that isn’t it… I was just wondering… why Imoto got insurance…’
'Didn’t he just want to leave his money to his wife and kid since he caused them trouble?’
'But he committed suicide…’
'He probably didn’t know that he wouldn’t get money if he committed suicide . ’
Manami had seemed to think the same way, but Ishii couldn’t accept that simple answer .
'They’re supposed to explain that money isn’t given out for suicides when you get insurance . ’
'The insurance company probably forgot . ’
That was possible, but –
'If he wanted to leave his insurance money to his wife and daughter, he should have checked that . ’
'Well, that’s true…’
Miyagawa cocked his head, scratching his chin .
'But he still killed himself…’
It just seemed off to Ishii .
Something was wrong . But he didn’t know what that something was . Not knowing irritated him .
'Maybe the insurance and suicide were separate?’ said Miyagawa, frowning as he stuck his hands in his pockets .
'Like… he just happened to be solicited and signed up for insurance . After that, he committed a robbery and decided to kill himself . ’
It sounded plausible, but there was a hole in that line of thinking .
'He had borrowed a lot of money . Would he pay for expensive insurance just because he was asked to?’
Miyagawa was lost for words .
Imoto didn’t have the money to join insurance, but he still did . Then, he sent that certificate to his wife, Manami .
There must have been a reason here .
Manami’s crying face, the last expression she showed Ishii, flashed through his mind . She hadn’t wanted money . She hadn’t wanted Imoto to die – that was what Ishii thought .
'I wonder why Imoto gave so much money to a religion – to the point that it destroyed his family . ’
Ishii said the question exactly as it came to his mind .
If he hadn’t joined the religious group, he might have had a different life .
'When people are faced with a reality that they just can’t change with their own power, they want to cling to gods,’ said Miyagawa with a bitter expression .
'Is that so?’
Perhaps it was because Ishii was an atheist, but he just couldn’t understand that feeling .
'I’ve seen a lot of people go that way . ’
'I think they’d realise it was strange when they were tricked into giving away all their money though…’
'They don’t think that they’re being tricked . That’s the magic of religion . ’
'There was a religious group that committed a terrorist act on the subway before, right?’
'Yes . ’
There had been an unprecedented terrorist attack before where poison nerve gas was let out on the subway . It had been planned by a cult .
'Even after that tragedy, the believers still believed in their founder . ’
'I do remember that . ’
The aforementioned religious group changed their name after the incident and still existed .
It was terrifying .
'It’s not just that group . Look at history . How many people do you think have died in the name of a god?’
Miyagawa looked straight at Ishii . His eyes were terribly dark .
Ishii felt himself shudder .
It was just as Miyagawa said . People calmly killed others for the teachings they believed in . Giving away their money to them could even be considered a better method .
'But no matter how much money he paid, the gods didn’t save him,’ said Miyagawa in a caustic tone .
Putting aside saving altogether, the religion had caused his downfall –
'So what are you going to do?’
Miyagawa’s brow furrowed .
At times when they were stuck, they needed to go to the beginning . It would be necessary to confirm whether there was a possibility of murder .
'Let’s try asking Hata-san for his opinion . ’
'Yes . ’
'Can’t say I want to…’
Miyagawa’s brow furrowed even deeper .
'You can see as well, can’t you . ’
The moment Kyouka said that, even Yakumo couldn’t hide his surprise .
As if scorning Yakumo’s reaction, a light smile appeared on Kyouka’s face . It was an incredibly coquettish smile .
'What are you talking about?’ Eishin asked in Yakumo’s stead .
'I mean exactly what I said,’ Kyouka said calmly . It made it impossible to answer .
'Just as you say, I can see as well . ’
After a silence, Yakumo spoke . The surprise had already disappeared from his face .
It looked like he had managed to get a hold of himself .
'Then you should be able to save this person as well . ’
Kyouka gestured at Gotou .
'Unfortunately, all I can do is see spirits . I cannot exorcise them . ’
Yakumo looked directly at Kyouka .
After they stared at each other for a while, Kyouka’s expression softened .
'Is that so?’
'I heard that you could exorcise spirits, Kyouka-sama . Can I ask that of you?’
Yakumo bowed his head, looking like he had nowhere else to go .
– What a frightening man .
Eishin thought that to himself . Yakumo was good at getting people to go along with him .
When Eishin tried to provoke Kyouka earlier, that was because Yakumo had instructed him to do so in advance . By doing so, she had no place to run, and they were in this situation now .
'I understand . I shall exorcise the spirit possessing this man,’ declared Kyouka .
– This’ll be worth seeing .
Eishin crossed his arms and looked at Kyouka .
'Thank you very much . ’
Yakumo bowed at his waist .
'Preparations for exorcism!’ Kyouka said, raising her voice .
'Understood . ’
There was a voice from outside the room –
Then, four men who were wearing the clothes of Shugendo, just as Kyouka was, rushed in through the door .
After they moved Gotou in his wheelchair to the centre of the shimenawa barrier, they stepped outside the edges of the barrier .
As Kyouka watched, she made her khakkhara ring .
'Today, in this hall, we come to the mountain for its teachings . ’
Kyouka stood in the front, raising her voice .
'Today, in this hall, we come uninvited to perform an exorcism,’ the four men chorused .
This unique exchange was that of Shugendo . Kyouka wasn’t a complete amateur – it looked like she had some knowledge of the religion .
'Our guides for the exorcism will perform . ’
'We receive the command . ’
The four men responded to Kyouka’s words as well .
– Shiiing .
After Kyouka made the khakkhara ring, she entered the barrier .
Then, fire sprang up from the homa-mandala .
There was no smoke . The homa-mandala probably had a gas burner .
Actually burning wood inside would be bad .
Kyouka, who stood in front of Gotou, closed her eyes and took deep breaths, her shoulders moving as she did so .
She appeared to be gathering her concentration .
After a while, Kyouka suddenly opened her eyes .
– Shiiing . Shiiing .
She made the khakkhara ring .
'Purity of Heaven, purity of Earth, purity of within, purity of the six without…’
Kyouka started to chant .
'The ceremony has been abridged a fair bit,’ murmured Yakumo while covering his mouth .
Eishin had noticed that as well .
Though Kyouka had imitated the Shugendou ritual, the contents of it had been rather condensed . However, that wasn’t rare .
Rituals became condensed naturally . Even the Buddhist prayers chanted in temples were different than they had been originally – they had been shortened .
'That’s how it is,’ said Eishin .
'That’s true,’ replied Yakumo quietly .
Kyouka still continued to chant .
'Purify the Heaven and Earth and within and the six roots of perception that are without – the eyes, the ears, the nose, the tongue, the body, the mind…’
Shiiing, shiiing –
The khakkhara rang .
As if in response, Gotou’s body started to shake .
Haruka looked surprised as she tugged on Yakumo’s sleeve .
However, this was probably no surprise to Yakumo . He watched silently .
The khakkhara rang louder and the chanting stopped .
The room fell silent .
'I ask the spirit possessing the man . Who are you?’
With narrowed eyes, Kyouka looked directly at Gotou .
As if to respond, Gotou slowly lifted his head .
Even Eishin was surprised .
However, Yakumo was as expressionless as always .
'This is not your place . Leave at once . ’
Kyouka made the khakkhara ring .
Gotou let out a groan . Then, he glared at Kyouka with a sharp gaze .
His eyes were frightening, filled with hatred .
'Guides, perform the kuji . ’
'We receive the command . ’
The four men responded to Kyouka’s words .
'Rin Pyou Tou Sha Kai Chin Retsu Zai Zen . ’
In front of Gotou, Kyouka joined the kuji reading and put her hands together in a mudra .
Next, she held up her right hand’s index finger and middle finger to form a dagger and cut sideways .
– Shiiing .
The four men rang their khakkharas together .
As if that had been a sign, Gotou slowly stood up, groaning as he did so .
It felt like he might attack Kyouka at any moment .
'Oi, Yakumo . ’
Eishin looked at Yakumo .
However, Yakumo did not move .
Haruka sounded anxious too, but Yakumo was still like a rock .
Could he not move, or did he not dare to? Eishin didn’t know .
With saliva dripping out of his mouth, Gotou held his hands out towards Kyouka .
– Just like before .
That was what Eishin felt . When Gotou was possessed by a spirit in Rina’s house, he had assaulted Eishin in the same way .
However, Yakumo didn’t move . That wasn’t all – Kyouka just stood with a blank expression .
Gotou put his hands on Kyouka’s neck .
'Eishin-san! Please stop Gotou-san,’ Yakumo yelled .
Eishin ran at full speed .
He reached out and performed a lariat on Gotou’s throat .
Normally, Gotou would probably have fallen on his behind, but as he was possessed by a ghost and couldn’t brace himself, he fell, rolling along the floor and smashing into the wall . He stopped moving .
'I might’ve done a bit too much . ’
'In any case, he’s alive,’ said Yakumo after walking up to Gotou and checking his breathing .
Haruka seemed confused about what had happened – she was just standing there with her mouth wide open .
Even in this situation, Kyouka’s expression didn’t change at all as she looked at Yakumo .
'That was rather violent . ’
'I apologise . I thought that it was a dangerous situation…’
Yakumo returned Kyouka’s gaze .
His eyes seemed to let off a sharp light .
'It’s been a while . ’
Ishii and Miyagawa went to Hata’s room, in the basement of the hospital .
There were no windows . Cabinets lined the walls . The room felt oppressive and suffocating .
However, Hata didn’t seem to care at all as he sipped his tea lazily .
'Ishii-kun? And… who was this again?’
Hata cocked his head and looked at Miyagawa .
'Miyagawa . ’
'Ah, that’s right . Boiled Octopus-kun, right . ’
'Old man, you’re saying that on purpose, aren’t you!’
Miyagawa was angry, but Hata just let out a creepy giggle .
A strange person, as usual –
'So what do the both of you want?’ asked Hata, the creepy smile still on his face .
'Actually, we’re here about the corpse of the person who committed suicide that was found the other day…’
When Ishii said that, Hata replied, 'Ah, that?’
'I’ll ask directly . Is it possible that the corpse was murdered?’ asked Ishii .
Hata crossed his arms . 'Hm . ’
'So, was it?’ Miyagawa urged .
Perhaps Hata didn’t like that, as his eyes flashed open to glare at Miyagawa .
'It must be tough for you, Ishii-kun . ’
'What must be tough for me?’
'A boiled octopus after a bear . You must be unable to bear being paired up with idiots one after another . ’
The question was difficult to answer .
'Stop fooling around already, you demonic old man,’ threatened Miyagawa . However, Hata ignored that and handed Ishii the documents .
Ishii took the documents and flipped through the pages .
Suddenly, a photo of the dead Imoto appeared in front of him . He looked away unconsciously .
'The cause of death was most definitely suffocation . There are no external wounds . No signs of drugs . There were no points of pressure besides the rope wrapped around his neck,’ Hata explained disinterestedly .
'So… it really was a suicide . ’
'I’m just saying the facts . ’
Ishii cocked his head . He didn’t understand Hata’s point .
At this stage, it’s clear from the situation that it was a suicide – it would be simpler to understand if Hata would just say that .
'You still don’t get it?’
'I don’t . ’
'My job is to determine the job of death . Saying whether it’s suicide or murder – that’s your job, right?’
That was exactly it, thought Ishii .
Hata just found the facts from the corpse . To look at it a different way, if it was possible to kill Imoto with a rope without using drugs or causing external injuries, it would be a murder .
Perhaps Ishii had just been naive, wanting somebody to decide for him where he should go next .
'Thank you very much . ’
Just as Ishii bowed towards Hata, the business phone on top of the desk rang .
Hata answered the phone . After talking for a while, he stood up quickly .
'Did something happen?’
'Wait for a bit . ’
After saying that, Hata hurried out of the room .
'The old man just does whatever he wants,’ grumbled Miyagawa . Then, he sat down in the seat where Hata had been .
Ishii leant against the wall .
'Hey, is Gotou-san OK?’
Haruka looked at Gotou again .
They had taken Gotou, who had collapsed at Jikoukoushinkai base, straight to the hospital where Hata was at .
Gotou lay on a hospital bed . His forehead was wrapped in gauze . Now, they were waiting for the results of the examination .
'He’s probably fine,’ said Yakumo, sounding disinterested as he leant against the hospital wall .
He didn’t seem anxious at all even though it was such a critical situation .
'Probably, you say…’
'Now, don’t be in such a rush,’ reprimanded Eishin, sitting on the stool by the bed .
Eishin had been the one who hit Gotou . If Haruka acted worried here, it would make Eishin feel guilty .
Haruka let out a deep breath to calm herself down .
'You’re all together . ’
Hata came into the hospital room .
He was grinning, like he thought something was funny .
'How is he?’ asked Yakumo .
Hata pursed his lips like he had eating something sour and looked up at the ceiling .
Haruka couldn’t believe it .
Yakumo and Eishin were quiet . The atmosphere in the hospital room was instantly heavier .
'There seems to be nothing wrong with his body . I thought that I’d be able to autopsy him, but I can’t . It’s unfortunate . ’
After saying that, Hata started giggling .
Haruka couldn’t laugh at all . The strength left her body all at once, to the point she wanted to collapse to the floor .
'Don’t say something so inauspicious,’ said Eishin, looking astonished .
'Oh? There’s a sea bonze here . ’
Hata goggled at Eishin .
'An old man who looks like a dried plum has no right to call someone a sea bonze . ’
'You’re an old man too, aren’t you?’
Hata casually brushed away Eishin’s retort and started cackling, which made his throat shake .
It was a strange exchange .
'Thank you very much . ’
Interrupting the two of them, Yakumo spoke .
'Don’t worry about it . Anyway, Ishii-kun came to visit me . I’ll tell him to come here . ’
After saying that, Hata left the hospital room .
Haruka was finally able to relax, but she still had questions .
'Hey, what happened to the spirit possessing Gotou?’
'Right now, Gotou-san isn’t being possessed by a ghost . ’
Yakumo raised his left eyebrow .
Haruka couldn’t say anything from shock .
'So that exorcist was the real thing?’
'I can’t say anything at this stage . ’
'But the ghost isn’t possessing Gotou . Doesn’t that mean the exorcism succeeded?’
'Are you an idiot?’
That was an awful way to put it . Haruka didn’t think that she had been so off the mark .
'Explain what you’re talking about,’ said Eishin .
Yakumo ran a hand through his hair, seeming annoyed . Then, he began .
'It’s true that once the exorcist started the exorcism, there was an unusual change to the spirit possessing Gotou . ’
Haruka had felt that too .
Gotou’s body had started to shake and he had lifted his head, as if to go with the chants .
'Though it looked like the ghost was reacting to her chants, there is another way to look at it . ’
'Got this? The spirit possessing Gotou is a person named Hiyama Kenichirou, who was found in Aokigahara’s Sea of Trees . He had been a part of Jikoukoushinkai . ’
'I see . ’
Eishin showed a nod of understanding, but Haruka didn’t understand .
'What are you talking about?’
'To Hiyama-san – the spirit possessing Gotou-san – that place must have had a lot of memories for him . In short, it is possible that he was responding to that . ’
'So that’s what you meant?’
Yakumo’s explanations were always meandering and difficult to understand .
For Hiyama, who was part of the religious group’s leadership, that was where he had lived . It could be called his home .
He must have felt a lot there . But –
'Right now, Gotou-san isn’t being possessed . ’
'That’s right . ’
'Where did he go?’ asked Haruka .
Yakumo’s mouth opened .
Haruka swallowed and waited for the answer .
However, the door burst open, thrusting the anxious atmosphere out . Ishii and Miyagawa ran into the room .
Ishii ran straight for Gotou’s bed, like he didn’t see anyone else at all .
'What a busy man,’ said Eishin, sounding exasperated as he stood up .
'Ishii-san, please calm down a bit,’ Yakumo admonished, patting Ishii on the shoulder .
Thanks to that, Ishii came back to his senses .
'I-I’m sorry . Hata-san told me that Detective Gotou was brought here injured, so I…’
Ishii scratched his head, looking incredibly apologetic .
Since it was Hata, he had probably exaggerated the story for his own amusement .
'Please don’t worry . I think Gotou-san will wake up soon,’ said Yakumo as he picked up a vase on the sideboard casually and took out the flower inside .
'I-is that true?’
'Yes . If you just pour this holy water on him, he’ll wake up . ’
'Yes . Please pour it on his face all at once . ’
Yakumo smiled .
– What a poor joke .
Even as Haruka thought that, she silently watched Ishii .
Ishii nodded . He brought the vase close to Gotou’s face and emptied it all at once .
Water splashed down onto Gotou’s face .
'Damn, that’s cold!’ yelled Gotou, flying right up .
Then, his eyes met Ishii’s .
'Ishii, you bastard – did you do this?’
'Ah, no, this…’
Ishii didn’t even have time to explain . Gotou’s fist came down on his head .
Even though Haruka had spent the whole day in constant worry, if Gotou was this full of energy, he would be fine .
For some reason, even Ishii, who had been hit, seemed happy as he pressed a hand against his head .
'Is that true?’
Makoto was incredibly relieved after hearing Ishii’s news over the phone .
<Yes . According to Yakumo-shi, the spirit that had been possessing him has also gone . >
Ishii’s voice was a bright as a young boy’s .
Sometimes, Ishii showed a childish side like this . To Makoto, this was so cute it was unbearable .
'That solves it then . ’
Ishii stopped speaking .
'Is there still something else?’
<Yes . According to Yakumo-shi, the incident isn’t over…>
<Yes . In the first place, Detective Gotou’s possession was just an accident . My original goal was the matter of Imoto-shi’s corpse, which was found in his flat . >
'Ah, that’s right . ’
<I’m ashamed to say it, but I was so happy that I completely forgot about that until Yakumo-shi pointed it out . >
'I’d forgotten as well,’ said Makoto while laughing .
Makoto had been the one who said 'That solves it then’ earlier . She had been so concerned about Gotou that she had almost forgotten the main problem .
<I have a message from Yakumo-shi requesting that you continue the investigation . >
'I understand . ’
usef<Thank you . >
'Ishii-san, please don’t forget that you promised me a date . ’
Makoto hung up before Ishii responded .
She felt that it was a bit mean of her, but if she didn’t do this, she didn’t think Ishii would invite her, since he was so shy .
She looked at the computer again, and with good timing, she saw an email from Takizawa .
<I’ve attached the video . Please take a look at it . >
It was a short email . The attached video was a WMP file . It was probably the video taken in the Sea of Trees .
Makoto used the mouse to play the video .
The video was the Sea of Trees one, as Makoto thought . For a while, the video continued silently through the forest .
Makoto had gone to Aokigahara’s Sea of Trees before, just once . At the time, she had just been going on a determined hiking route, so she hadn’t run into anything inexplicable .
However, the further the video went in, the dimmer and eerier it became .
Though it was famous for suicides, why would somebody want to die here – Makoto didn’t understand .
With the mouse, Makoto fast-forwarded the video and started playing just as the video changed .
<I don’t care any more . Let’s go back . >
The woman with the man taking the video was complaining .
The video zoomed in on her . She looked irritated by that, since she ran off .
Makoto heard the voice of the man holding the camera .
The camera stayed there for a while as the man grumbled, but finally, the camera followed the woman who had left .
Then, a shriek rang through the forest .
<What was that?>
After murmuring that, the man holding the camera ran towards the direction where the shriek came from .
He seemed in a hurry, as the camera was shaking violently and was pointing straight up .
Finally, the camera landed on the woman, who had fainted, and a burnt corpse .
As the man said that, he threw the camera aside .
The camera felt to the ground and continued to film at an angle .
For a moment, something passed by –
Makoto rewound a bit to check again .
– Here .
Makoto stopped the video at the moment that something passed by .
A chill ran down her spine . The video was showing somebody Makoto knew .
'So I was possessed by a ghost…’
Gotou hung his head on top of the bed .
After Yakumo, Haruka and Eishin explained, Gotou understood what had happened to him .
He could remember clearly up until he answered the phone, but his memories after that were vague and patchy .
He had never thought that he would be possessed .
'In any case, I’m glad . ’
'I’m not glad . Because of Gotou-san’s disdainful actions, we were pulled around in a dozen different directions . ’
In contrast to Haruka’s smile, Yakumo appeared displeased .
'My bad . ’
Gotou bowed his head honestly, which made Yakumo look away awkwardly .
'So, Gotou-san, could you tell us what you remember?’ said Yakumo after clearing his throat .
'What I remember?’
'Yes . Just as it was with Makoto-san, people are filled with an image of the person possessing them while they’re being possessed . ’
Come to think of it, that was right .
When Makoto was being possessed by a ghost, the ghost’s attachment to life had flowed through her .
Gotou looked up at the ceiling and thought about it . Then, images buried away in his memory started to come back to him slowly .
'A dark forest… A man in a mountain priest’s clothes…’
Gotou said exactly what came to his mind .
'A… mountain priest?’
Yakumo’s brow furrowed .
'Yeah . I couldn’t see the face, but that guy lit a fire in the forest…’
'Wouldn’t that be that religious group?’ Haruka said excitedly .
Gotou didn’t understand what 'that religious group’ was supposed to be .
'It’ll take too long to talk about it,’ Yakumo said, cutting the conversation short, but there was no way Gotou would accept that .
'Just explain,’ Gotou said .
Yakumo shook his head, looking fed up, and said to Haruka, 'I’ll leave it to you . ’
'Honestly,’ said Haruka, pouting, but she still explained in detail about the religious group called Jikoukoushinkai .
'In short, Minegishi or whatever founder person exorcised the spirit for me…’
'Why would you think that?’
Yakumo looked at Gotou with scorn .
'You’re wrong,’ Yakumo said firmly .
'That’s the end of the conversation . More importantly, do you remember anything else?’
Ignoring Gotou’s dissatisfaction, Yakumo urged him to continue .
Gotou clicked his tongue, but he looked through his memories again . Then, he recalled one word .
'What do you mean?’
Yakumo cocked his head .
However, Gotou had no way to answer, since those weren’t words that he said .
'I heard that in my head . Sorry . ’
'Sorry . ’
Yakumo put a finger to his brow as he repeated the word .
– Can you think of anything?
Just as Gotou wanted to ask that, the hospital room door opened . Nao and Atsuko had arrived .
The moment Nao saw Gotou, she jumped on top of the bed and hugged him .
'Sorry for worrying you . ’
Gotou patted Nao on her head .
'Honestly . You get into scrapes like this because you don’t think before acting,’ said Atsuko by the bed .
Though her tone was angry, her expression was gentle .
– I got back safely .
Gotou finally felt that .
'Please take your time to rest,’ said Yakumo . Then, he and Haruka left the room .
To be honest, Gotou felt completely fine . He could get to work right away, but he decided to do as Yakumo said .
Gotou spoke in his own words to Atsuko and Nao .
When Eishin saw that, he smiled approvingly .
After the call with Makoto, Ishii called Shimamura to get information about the case for Hiyama Kenichirou, the corpse found in Aokigahara’s Sea of Trees .
Since Jikoukoushinkai’s main base was under the Setamachi precinct’s jurisdiction, they were currently cooperating with the Yamanashi precinct . Come to think of it, Shimamura had been grumbling yesterday .
After telling Shimamura what he needed in brief, they decided to meet at a cafe near the hospital, since Shimamura was out .
'Why do you need to investigate the Aokigahara case?’ said Miyagawa unpleasantly as he sat next to Ishii in the cafe .
'It’s connected to the current case,’ Ishii said firmly, but that wasn’t his own opinion . Yakumo had said it – their cases are connected .
Yakumo had instructed him to gather information about the investigation .
Without any clues, all Ishii could do right now was believe in Yakumo and follow his instructions .
'No helping it . I’ll come with you,’ grumbled Miyagawa, lighting his cigarette .
No matter what Miyagawa said, he accompanied Ishii . Ishii was grateful for that .
After a while, Shimamura came into the shop .
'Miyagawa-san too…’ said Shimamura in surprise .
'Hey . You look well . ’
'That’s not true at all . It’s tough being told what to do by a rich kid who doesn’t know what to do . ’
'Don’t whine to me . ’
'Miyagawa-san, won’t you come back?’
'Don’t get it wrong . I didn’t leave – I was left out,’ said Miyagawa with a snort .
Shimamura’s shoulders fell down in disappointment . She sat down opposite them .
After the coffee they ordered came, Shimamura looked at Ishii and said, 'Hiyama’s case, right?’
'Yes . ’
'I was investigating Imoto until yesterday . You done with that already?’
It looked like Hiyama also thought something was off about that .
'Imoto’s and Hiyama’s cases may be related . ’
'I don’t think so, but…’
'Don’t say that and just tell us,’ Miyagawa said admonishingly .
Shimamura looked like she would say something again, but then she shook her head and took out some documents .
'You know the outline of the case, right?’
'Yes . ’
Yakumo had explained before Ishii came here .
'Right now, we’re gathering suspects with the idea that it was an internal incident . The information from questioning’s in these documents . ’
'Thank you very much . ’
'To be honest, there hasn’t been much of a development, but at the conference earlier, the detective that staked out the group had strange news . ’
'What was it?’
Ishii leant forward .
Shimamura dropped sugar and milk into her coffee and slowly stirred it, almost teasingly .
'An old man wearing monk’s robes, a young man and woman, and a man in a wheelchair visited the group . ’
Ishii spoke up without thinking .
They were probably – no, they were definitely –
'Ah, that was definitely Detective Gotou and the others,’ Ishii said reluctantly .
'How much are you all going to tamper with the case?’ said Shimamura in exasperation . Then, she drank her coffee all at once .
– There are a number of things to investigate .
After leaving the hospital, Yakumo had said that . Now, he and Haruka were walking silently .
– I wonder where we’re going .
Haruka had that question, but she didn’t say it aloud .
'Here . ’
After about twenty minutes of walking, Yakumo suddenly stopped .
Haruka saw a building that looked like a storehouse with a number of trucks parked outside . Haruka could read the words 'Red Horse Transportation – Setamachi Branch’ on the sign .
'A transport company?’
'Yes . Where Hideaki works . ’
After saying that, Yakumo started walking towards the prefabricated building by the storehouse . Haruka jogged after him .
'Hello . ’
Yakumo opened the sliding door to the prefabricated building without any hesitation .
A man in his sixties looked up suspiciously as he drank tea at his desk .
'I apologise for coming so suddenly . My name is Saitou . I’m a reporter from Hokutou Newspaper,’ Yakumo lied casually .
Haruka felt like it’d be easier for to get information if he said he was Hideaki’s friend, since Hideaki worked here, but Yakumo had to have a reason for lying the way he did .
'What is your business here today?’
The man stood up and walked to the sliding door .
Haruka felt her throat grow tight . The man was clearly suspicious .
'I wanted to listen to what the employees here have to say . ’
'Have to say?’
'Yes . About Aoi Hideaki’s case . ’
When Yakumo said that, the man’s expression changed at once .
'What do you want to know about Hide?’
'The police are treating him as a suspect in an incident, because his sister was injured in a robbery . I would like to write an article criticising the police for that . ’
The man’s expression relaxed, like he had accepted Yakumo’s explanation .
'If that’s it, I’ll talk about anything . Come in . ’
The man led them to a corner of the room separated by a partition . It looked like a break room .
Yakumo and Haruka sat on folding chairs . Then, the man gave Yakumo a business card .
The name 'Maeda Hirohisa’ was written on it .
'Honestly . I don’t know what the police are doing . A detective came here too and treated Hide like the culprit right from the start . It drives me crazy . ’
'They really are awful,’ said Yakumo, nodding .
Maeda continued talking, seeming pleased .
'He’s like his father . Stubborn, but serious . He works his hardest for his sister . A man like that could never kill someone . ’
'Did you also know Hideaki-san’s father?’ Yakumo asked briskly .
'We were in the same grade in high school . When he died, I thought about whether there was anything I could do, and then I hired Hide . ’
'I see… Has Hideaki-san seemed strange recently?’
When Yakumo asked that, Maeda looked testy .
He knows something . Haruka could feel that too . However, from that expression, it didn’t seem like he planned on talking .
'I don’t know . ’
As expected, Maeda frowned .
'It’s important . ’
'I don’t know . ’
'There is the possibility that somebody used Hideaki-san . ’
Haruka could tell that Yakumo’s push had shaken Maeda .
'Please tell me,’ Yakumo pleaded .
Perhaps that convinced Maeda, as he cleared his throat and began to talk .
'I don’t think it’s got anything to do with the incident, but a man came looking for Hide . At the time, Hide had been out . After I said that, he gave me his contact information and left . ’
'Who was it?’
'He didn’t give his name . ’
'Did you give Hideaki-san the contact information?’
'Yes . ’
'What did he say?’
'That it was some invitation to a religion…’
– Invitation to a religion?
It looked like Yakumo was bothered by that too, as his eyes grew just slightly narrower .
'Honestly, it was awful,’ grumbled Gotou on the bed .
Though he didn’t have any heavy injuries – just a small cut on his forehead – he was in the hospital, just in case .
'That’s what happens if you act without thinking,’ said Eishin, laughing as he sat on the chair by the bed .
'You’re the one who told me to answer the phone, old man . ’
Eishin was playing dumb, even though he knew it himself .
'Don’t blame other people . How worried do you think we were?’ interrupted Atsuko . She looked exasperated as she sat with Nao .
’S-sorry . ’
Gotou bowed his head honestly .
It was a strange feeling . In the past, Gotou wouldn’t have been able to apologise to Atsuko like this .
'Honestly . You should learn to be a bit more patient . ’
'What are you talking about patience for? I’ve lived like this my whole life . ’
'You have to change . It’s for their sakes too . ’
Eishin looked at Atsuko and Nao with a smirk .
As usual, Eishin was unscrupulous in his methods . This was like making the two of them hostage .
'You’ll need to be patient to be a monk . ’
'You’re saying that again!?’ objected Gotou forcefully .
He understood why Yakumo avoided Eishin . Eishin was unimaginably persistent . He would probably keep saying that same thing until Gotou said yes .
'Come on, you’re getting worked up over a small thing again . ’
'What do you mean by “be a monk”?’ asked Atsuko, raising her eyebrows .
'Actually, I was thinking of having this man take over for Isshin and become a monk at that temple . ’
The moment Eishin finished his explanation, Atsuko started laughing aloud . Nao started laughing happily too, following Atsuko .
It kind of irritated Gotou that they were laughing so much .
'What’s so funny?’
'I mean, you becoming a monk – that’s like trying to stop the tide . ’
'You wouldn’t even be able to remember the sutras, right?’
That was an awful way to put it . It made Gotou want to object .
'Don’t make fun of me . I could be a monk . ’
'Oh, so you want to now?’
Eishin crossed his arms and nodded approvingly .
'I was just saying that . Don’t take it seriously . ’
Though Gotou denied it hurriedly, Eishin didn’t listen .
'Now I can relax a bit . I’m counting on you . Now what to do for your monk name…’
'Stop fooling around already!’ yelled Gotou, forgetting that he was in a hospital room .
'What sort of person was Hideaki-san during high school?’ Haruka asked Yakumo as they left the transport company, knowing that she would be ignored .
There was a long silence .
The sound of the passing cars sounded louder because of it .
'To be honest, I hated him then…’
There must have been a reason if Yakumo was expressing his emotions so directly .
'He could see ghosts – that’s what he’d say . ’
'OK . ’
Haruka had heard that too .
'He didn’t try to hide it . He talked about it freely . At the time, I couldn’t stand it – couldn’t forgive it . ’
'Yeah . Even I think I’m a shallow man . Even though I was suffering, he was fine . I thought it was unfair . ’
Haruka realised that Yakumo looked incredibly sad .
It wasn’t as if she didn’t understand Yakumo’s feelings . Because Yakumo could see ghosts, he had undergone a lot of trauma and suffered .
And yet Hideaki didn’t act that way – he even declared that he could see ghosts to other people .
'Now that I think about it, I think I looked up to him . ’
'Looked up to him?’
'Yeah . I should have been able to behave the way he did, but I didn’t . ’
'Probably because I was twisted, hiding myself in my own shell . ’
Yakumo laughed self-derisively .
'I might have just wanted somebody to acknowledge my existence . But because I’m a coward, I was afraid of being rejected . ’
– Not something to be ashamed of .
Haruka tried to say that, but for some reason, her voice wouldn’t come out of her mouth . Instead, she softly gripped Yakumo’s shirt .
Even though that wouldn’t express her words –
'One day, I realised . ’
Yakumo stopped walking .
'The reason he declared he could see ghosts . ’
'What was it?’
'Love . A deep, deep love…’
Haruka didn’t understand why love would make Hideaki declare he could see ghosts .
'His deep love for his sister made him do that . ’
'Perhaps the two of them would have been happier had they not been siblings…’
After saying that, Yakumo looked up at the sky . The clear sky spread above him .
– I wonder what Yakumo’s thinking as he looks up at this sky now .
After that, they didn’t talk . It looked like Yakumo was thinking so there was no chance to .
'I’ll see you tomorrow . ’
They parted in front of the station .
As Yakumo walked away into the darkness, he looked incredibly lonely .
For some reason, Haruka felt like she would never see that back again .
After Ishii returned to the precinct, he spent the day reading the documents from corner to corner .
Hiyama Kenichirou, found in Aokigahara’s Sea of Trees, had been an optometrist originally . Then twenty years ago, he met the exorcist Minegishi Kyouka and started his religious activities .
'Why would a doctor become completely absorbed in a religion?’ said Miyagawa to himself with a cigarette in his mouth .
He probably didn’t think that a doctor would be tricked by something like that, but reality wasn’t like that .
'It was the same when the cult spread poison nerve gas in the subway, but many of the people who immerse themselves in these religious groups are highly educated . ’
'Ah, now that you mention it…’
Miyagawa looked up at the ceiling and blew out smoke .
'Though I don’t know why…’
'Maybe the wealthy have unexpectedly unsatisfied hearts,’ said Miyagawa, deep with feeling .
That made sense . Though they were satisfied with money and status, that was just conceit and a sense of superiority . They didn’t give relief or repose .
Ishii looked at the documents again .
Minegishi Kyouka and Hiyama Kenichirou didn’t start something as large as a religious group right away .
They moved to Yamanashi prefecture and did something like consultations about spiritual phenomena .
For a while after that, they didn’t do anything that stood out . However, about two years ago, they moved to Tokyo, changed their name to Jikoukoushinkai and started to gather a large number of followers .
'Two years ago… I wonder what happened?’ said Ishii, putting the question that came to his mind in his mouth .
Miyagawa looked sour .
'Dazzled by money?’
Ishii just couldn’t accept that .
'People can do anything for money . ’
'However… If that was the case, couldn’t they have begun their activities earlier?’
'Maybe… they didn’t think about it . ’
'I don’t think so . ’
Miyagawa didn’t object . He seemed to find something odd about his own opinion himself, frowning .
The two of them, who had been working quietly, wouldn’t suddenly be dazzled by money . Even if that were the case, there must have been a trigger .
That’s the key that will solve the mystery of this case – Ishii felt that .
'Well, in any case, Minegishi Kyouka’s got to be the murderer . ’
Miyagawa tapped the photo of Kyouka in the documents . Murder caused by internal strife – it would certainly be normal to think that way . However, the police couldn’t arrest Kyouka . The reason being –
'She has an alibi . ’
From the estimated time of death to the time when the corpse was found, Kyouka hadn’t left Tokyo .
'Maybe Minegishi Kyouka killed him and got one of the followers to toss the body? A khakkhara used by the group was found at the scene, right?’
'That is possible . However…’
That was exactly what was troubling the investigation team .
If a believer had disposed of the body, they couldn’t determine who that believer was . They had gone around questioning them, but as believers, their mouths were sealed tightly .
Because they wouldn’t easily talk, the investigation had run aground .
'So what are you going to do?’ Miyagawa said carelessly, throwing the documents aside .
Ishii understand how Miyagawa felt . Though they had tried gathering information, with a case like this, infiltration would be most useful .
Ishii didn’t think that their actions would make things any clearer .
Just as Ishii sighed, his mobile rang . Makoto’s number was displayed on the screen .
'Hello, Ishii Yuutarou speaking .
<It’s Makoto . >
'Ah, er, hello…’
– Please don’t forget you promised me a date .
The words Makoto said came back to Ishii’s head, which made Ishii heat up for some reason .
<I called Yakumo-kun, but I couldn’t get him, so I called you instead, Ishii-san . >
Her voice sounded cornered .
'Did something happen?’
<Actually, there’s something I want you to see . >
'W-what is it?’
Ishii had a terribly bad feeling .
After finishing a tasteless dinner at the hospital, Gotou lay down on the bed .
Atsuko, Nao and Eishin had all gone home .
He looked at the clock . It had just turned seven . Though he was tired, he just couldn’t sleep .
He sat up, thinking that he could watch television, when he heard a knock on the door .
'It’s open,’ said Gotou .
The door opened quietly . When Gotou saw who was there, he was surprised . It was Yakumo .
'What is it?’
Yakumo should have left the hospital already .
He didn’t look very good .
'This is just while I’m at it,’ said Yakumo, sitting on the chair by the bed .
'While you’re at it?’
'Yes . An acquaintance of mine is hospitalised here . ’
'The woman who came to ask you for help?’
'Well, yes . ’
'Did you find something out?’ asked Gotou .
Yakumo pressed the corner of his eyes and covered his face .
It was unlike him .
'I know… whom she wants me to save . ’
'I can’t say that now . ’
'I don’t know how to save them . ’
Yakumo shook his head listlessly .
– He’s lost .
Gotou felt that . Yakumo could probably see the outline of the case in his head .
However, he wasn’t sure whether he should say it aloud .
Something similar had happened before . If the person in question was bad, then he could just be angry, but sometimes that wasn’t the case .
Yakumo often supported the weak . Even though he could just let them slip away, that would conflict with his upright self . He suffered more than necessary .
But Gotou didn’t hate Yakumo when he was like that . And it made him happy that Yakumo had come to him when he was unsure .
'Hey, want to take a walk?’
Gotou got out of bed and put on slippers .
'If you overwork yourself, your body will let you hear it later . ’
'This is just a scrape . Hospitalisation is an overreaction . ’
Gotou put a hand on the gauze on his forehead .
He wasn’t lying . The cut was already healed . It virtually didn’t hurt at all now .
'Why do you plan to go?’
'When you’re troubled, you should walk around without thinking . ’
'You’ve never been troubled by anything, right, Gotou-san?’
'I’ll punch you,’ said Gotou with a click of his tongue . He left the room .
Even though Yakumo had said all that, he followed Gotou silently . They went through the corridor and down the stairs to the waiting room .
Reception time was already over – the lights were off, so it was dim .
Gotou bought two cans of hot coffee from the vending machine by the wall . He threw one at Yakumo .
'This is rare for you, Gotou-san, being so stingy,’ said Yakumo, looking at the can of coffee like it was something mysterious .
As usual, he wasn’t honest with his feelings .
'Shut up and drink it . ’
Gotou pulled the tab of the coffee can open and drank a sip . Then, he walked to the hospital’s courtyard .
The air was colder than he’d expected . He shivered .
'What are you worried about?’ Gotou asked .
Yakumo held the can of coffee in his two hands and looked up at the sky .
Autumn’s harvest moon . The round moon shone brightly . Even in the city where stars never showed, it made Gotou feel calm .
'I don’t know… how to save them…’
'Trying to save someone is just ego . ’
'Those words are unlike you . ’
'Maybe . But nobody knows how things’ll end up . Wriggling around for somebody else’s sake’ll just make you regret it . ’
'But you acted for my sake, Gotou-san . ’
Yakumo was probably talking about the previous incident when Gotou had had to quit being a police officer . He seemed to feel a debt for that, but that chastened attitude wasn’t like Yakumo .
'I was just going with my beliefs . ’
'That’s like you, Gotou-san . ’
Yakumo smiled, just a little .
His eyes, which had been so gloomy just earlier, seemed to have a bit more strength in them .
Just as Gotou spoke up, he was startled .
Yakumo’s eyes flashed open and he slowly fell forward . The can of coffee that slipped from his hand fell onto the courtyard’s lawn .
– What happened?
Gotou was bewildered . He tried to run up to Yakumo, but somebody got in his way .
He couldn’t see clearly in the dark . The person wore hakama with a belled sash . In their hands was a hexagonal bar .
As Gotou started to say that, he was hit forcefully on the head .
The ground shook . He fell forward . Then, he lost consciousness –
'What am I supposed to look at?’ Ishii asked hesitantly .
Makoto had come to the Unsolved Cases Special Investigation Room because she had something she wanted Ishii to see .
His heart had been pounding unpleasantly since earlier .
'It’s a video from when the corpse was found in Aokigahara’s Sea of Trees,’ explained Makoto, taking the laptop she was holding and setting it up quickly .
From her expression, the video must have had something of great impact in it .
– I don’t want to see it, if possible .
That was how Ishii really felt, but he couldn’t say it aloud .
'A video, eh?’
Miyagawa didn’t seem interested as he blew out cigarette smoke .
'I’ll play the video,’ said Makoto after she finished .
Ishii bit his lip and gripped his fists as he looked at the monitor .
The monitor showed Aokigahara’s deep forest . Cypress trees grew thick, making it seem like everywhere was blanketed in fog .
This place was famous as a suicide spot . Ishii didn’t know how people could go there for fun .
'I’ll skip this part . ’
Makoto used the mouse .
The setting changed . A shriek, probably a woman’s, echoed through the forest .
It looked like the person filming was running, as the screen was shaking wildly . It made Ishii feel sick just to watch .
For a moment, Ishii looked away .
'Here,’ said Makoto .
Ishii had completely missed it . He brought his face close to the monitor . Miyagawa peered in too, his brow furrowed .
Makoto used the mouse to rewind a little .
On the screen, there was a woman collapsed on the ground and a blackened corpse .
Ishii hurriedly swallowed the shriek that had almost escaped his mouth .
'Here . ’
Makoto stopped the video . Ishii saw somebody’s feet approach the woman on the ground .
'What about it?’
Ishii cocked his head .
It didn’t seem like an image special enough for Makoto to go out of her way to show them .
'Please look here carefully . ’
Makoto used the mouse to zoom in on the centre of the image .
When Ishii saw the image, he leapt back without thinking .
Ishii and Miyagawa looked at each other . Then, they looked at Makoto .
'Yes . The man with two red eyes . ’
Makoto’s words echoed in Ishii’s head like a death sentence .
For a while after that, nobody could speak .
– That man has something to do with the case?
As if to interrupt the tense air, a mobile started to ring .
Ishii’s shoulders shuddered . He put his hand on his mobile . The display showed Gotou’s name . Ishii had a terrible feeling about this .
Haruka was in her bed in her room, before she’d noticed .
After parting with Yakumo, she had returned to her room in the apartment and collapsed on her bed . She remembered up to that .
She seemed to have fallen asleep .
She slowly sat up . Her head felt heavy .
These two days had just been hectic . So many things had happened that, to be honest, her head was still confused .
She looked at the clock . It had just turned ten at night .
She stretched and stood up . She was thinking about taking a shower to refresh herself when she saw her mobile vibrating on the table .
Yakumo’s number was displayed –
'Hey . ’
Haruka picked up the phone .
There was no response . Haruka could hear the sound of rustling branches – perhaps Yakumo was outside .
Still, there was no response .
– Something’s definitely strange .
In Haruka’s head, the image of Yakumo walking away came up again .
Once she imagined something dreadful, her thoughts just started getting worse, like they were rolling down a slope .
'Yakumo-kun, what’s wrong? Hey, talk back to me!’
Haruka continued to talk frantically, but no response came back to her .
If she strained her ears, she could faintly hear someone breathing . However, she could tell immediately that that someone wasn’t Yakumo .
'Who are you?’ Haruka timidly .
There was a silence . Haruka gripped the mobile tightly .
<Saitou Yakumo is in the forest . >
It seemed like the person was using a voice changer, as their voice sounded mechanical . Haruka couldn’t tell if they were a man or a woman .
'Forest? What are you talking about?’
<Where the corpse was found . >
'Who are you? What do you mean, where the corpse was found? Yakumo-kun…’
Haruka was going to continue, but she stopped .
The call had already ended .
– What happened?
Haruka took deep breaths and managed barely to stop herself from panicking .
Though she didn’t know the details, she knew that something terrible had happened to Yakumo . Determined, Haruka called Yakumo’s mobile again .
However, no matter how long she waited, all she heard was the phone ringing . Nobody answered .
– What should I do?
While Haruka was thinking about this, her mobile rang .
She thought that it might be from Yakumo, but Gotou’s number was the one that was displayed . However, that would be helpful .
'Hello, Gotou-san, actually, earlier…’
<Yakumo’s been abducted . >
Gotou’s bitter voice interrupted Haruka .
That moment, it felt like she had fallen into a dark hole .
<Sorry . If I had just…>
The words sounded like they had been strangled out of Gotou’s throat .
Though Haruka felt like she was in despair, she said, to cheer up both their spirits, 'That’s not true . ’
– Where am I?
Yakumo slowly opened his eyes .
He could feel that his hands and feet were numb . He had been talking with Gotou in the hospital courtyard just earlier .
He forced his creaking body up and looked around .
He was in a deep forest .
A forest that had no boundaries to its darkness, because only faint moonlight shone down –
Yakumo tried to think about what had happened, but the numbing pain stopped him .
Yakumo used a nearby large rock to support himself . It was slippery and dark – there was no way for him to move .
He searched his pockets to see if there was anything there, but his mobile and wallet were gone .
– So I’ll have to spend the night here?
Yakumo’s body shivered . He was quite cold .
'It’s been a while . ’
He heard a voice from behind him .
Yakumo’s body froze at that familiar voice .
– This is the worst .
As he whispered that in his heart, he slowly turned around .
Just as he imagined, there was a man standing there . The man with two red eyes . Yakumo’s father, Unkai .
In this dark forest, his eyes alone let out an unnatural light .
'I didn’t want to see you,’ said Yakumo, glaring .
– I can’t let myself be drawn in .
He told himself that . If Yakumo showed any sign of wavering in front of this man, he’d grab a hold of it . Yakumo had to calmly observe the situation .
'That’s a cold attitude you have towards your parent . ’
The man shook his head slightly .
'I don’t think of you as my parent . ’
'It’s not a problem of whether you think so or not . Isn’t that red left eye of yours proof? We are father and son…’
'Even if we have the same blood, I’m different from you,’ said Yakumo .
No matter what happened, Yakumo had to continue to refuse this man . If he accepted any of his words, that would be when Yakumo stopped being human .
'We’re the same . You just don’t know it . ’
'Don’t know it?’
'That’s right . You don’t know true despair… Once you understand that, you should understand . The true nature of the human soul is darkness . ’
'Stop spewing drivel!’ yelled Yakumo, gripping his fists together .
Yakumo knew despair from the terrible childhood he had suffered, but he still believed there was a light ahead of the darkness .
'Then let’s try it out . ’
The man with two red eyes smirked .
'Do you know where you are?’
'Some forest, right?’
'It isn’t just any forest . This is Aokigahara’s Sea of Trees . Do you understand what I’m saying . ’
Yakumo gritted his teeth . At the same time, terror welled up within him .
Aokigahara’s Sea of Trees was famous for being a suicide spot where a hundred or so unidentified corpses were found every year . In short, that number of spirits wandered here .
Furthermore, most of them were spirits who had ended their lives and were not at piece .
Before Yakumo noticed, the man with two red eyes had disappeared .
– Where is he?
Yakumo looked around, and then his eyes went wide open .
A terribly thin old man was right next to Yakumo . He had probably hanged himself . His neck was unusually long .
– Give her back! Give my daughter back!
The old man clung to Yakumo .
’T-that wasn’t me . ’
Yakumo tried to shake him off, but it was no use .
– It’s your fault!
He heard a voice at his feet . He looked down and saw a middle-aged woman with a pale face grovelling there, looking up at Yakumo .
– Why did you betray me?
He heard a voice behind him .
When he turned around, he saw a young person with blood gushing out his head . He reached out towards Yakumo .
'Stay away . ’
Yakumo started to run in an attempt to escape .
However, his footing was unsteady in the forest, and he fell before he got anywhere .
– Wahhh, wahhh .
He heard a baby crying somewhere .
When he looked up, he saw a woman holding a newborn baby looking down at him .
– I died because of you .
'N-no . I…’
In this chaos, more spirits of the dead appeared from the forest . The number kept increasing .
Yakumo was surrounded by countless spirits before he’d noticed .
Their hatred, sadness and anger flowed into Yakumo’s heart mercilessly .
– No . No . No .
Yakumo held his head in his hands .
No matter how he tried to shake them away, he couldn’t shut off his heart . As he took in the spirits’ negative emotions, Yakumo’s heart – crumbled .
Yakumo’s scream echoed through the forest, as if he was in the throes of death –
 Shugendo is a Buddhist religion from pre-feudal Japan that combines a number of religious influences, including Shinto . HERE is an example of the traditional outfit for a person who practises Shugen .
 The Toyota HiAce is a van that comes in many forms and is tall enough to accommodate a wheelchair . The WIKIPEDIA ARTICLE has a photo .
 Miyagawa and Ishii are referring to the Subway Sarin Incident that occurred on the Tokyo subway and was organised by Aum Shinrikyo (オウム真理教 or Supreme Truth), which is considered a terrorist organisation . The group is currently known as Aleph, and there is also a breakaway group named Hikari no Wa (ひかりの輪), which means Circle of Light .
 This is taken from the Tenchi Issai Shoujou Harai (天地一切清浄祓 or The Purification of Heaven and Earth) . You can see the full Japanese HERE .
 Kuji means nine syllables (九字) and refers to mantras with nine syllables used for purification . It is common in Shugendo .
 This is the Ryobu kuji in its original Taoist syllables translated into Japanese . The translation given by Wikipedia is ’[Celestial] soldiers descend and arrange yourselves in front of me’ .
 The sea bonze, or Umibouzu (海坊主), is a spirit that capsizes boats . It has a round head like a monk . HERE is an illustration of it .