Part 21: The Prophet They Call FESPart 21 - The Prophet They Call FES
SFX: Computer noises
It was hard to breathe. Though all I'd been doing was looking things up on my PC. I felt my heart pulsing more violently than usual.
As before, the presence of "something" watching me refused to disappear. I was still just barely holding out, keeping myself from turning around, but my limits were approaching.
I howled at that "something." Its true identity wasn't that demon girl, was it?
Maybe she was using X-ray vision or clairvoyance, or some similar demonic power, to keep me under surveillance....
"Kahaah.... Haa.... Haa...."
The prickling at the back of my neck grew steadily stronger and stronger, transforming into a pain like an electric shock.
I had been sweating copiously for a while now. The collar of my T-shirt had gotten completely drenched.
"Why aren't you there!? Who are you!?"
As a result, I had the instinctive notion that the image the demon girl and "Shogun" had send me was one that foretold the future, And I'd been left with no choice but to look deeper into the matter.
Perhaps, without my knowing it, The world was already full of prophets.
But no matter how much I researched it, everything I came up was related to the occult or magic, all kinds of sketchy-looking stuff.
There was nothing purporting to scientifically prove that such powers existed, or, on the flip side, that they didn't.
"All I want is one, haa, haa...."
At this rate, was I supposed to keep waiting for demons that might or might not come for me? My nerves wouldn't be able to stand it.
Of course, it'd be best to have evidence that they weren't coming, but for the time being, I just wanted things to become black and white. Clear and understandable.
Now I didn't have much of a choice left except to take a look at @channel's occult board. It was mostly made up of white noise, lies and absurdity, but there were also times when it had shockingly impressive news leads and information.
I jumped to the occult board and ran a search for "telling the future."
I got an awfully large number of hits. About 30. Was precognition the new in thing on @channel?
Gulping, I checked the thread titles one by one.
Most of the threads I'd come up with contained the words "Phantasm" and "FES."
They were such a popular group that they monopolized people's conversations about the indie music scene, and their vocalist was a girl by the name of "FES".
For the moment, wanting to find out how they were connected to precognition, I picked the very top thread, " [Predictions, Prophecies] All About Phantasm [New Gen] 43" and started skimming it.
No matter what, I couldn't believe they signified anything other than the "staking" I'd seen with my own eyes.
"Is this a prophecy....?"
Was it a mere culmination of coincidences? Or was Phantasm, too, among the demon girl's underlings?
Except the lyrics of the songs predicting the "group dive" and the "pregnant man" hadn't been posted on @channel.
Whatever the case might have been, people seemed to think you shouldn't upload them. If you wanna know that bad, go to one of their shows and buy their album, they were saying.
In any event, those online were going wild trying to figure out what kind of killing method would be used in the next "New Gen" case, based on the lyrics for all the songs Phantasm had released up until the present.
Ever since the "New Gen" cases had started, their independently released album had been selling like hotcakes and parts of the media increasingly began to adopt them as "The Goth punk band currently experiencing a cult-like popularity among Shibuya's young people."
Maybe she was that demon girl.
Then there wouldn't be anything odd about her ability to predict the incidents several months in advance. After all, she herself was the perpetrator.
"Haa haa.... Dammit...."
I wiped the sweat seeping out of my forehead with the hem of my T-shirt.
Irritation and terror, the feeling that everything around me was a lie, the feeling that I didn't want to see anything. A whole range of emotions mixed together inside me, making my breath grow tight. I'd been breathing harshly this whole time.
In any case, I wanted to see FES's face for myself. With trembling fingers, I typed at my keyboard, heading for Phantasm's official site.
The site contained almost no news and not a single photograph. All that was written there was information about their shows and their discography. There wasn't a single bit about band members' profiles or the lyrics to their songs.
"Haa.... haa, I guess a criminal wouldn't want pictures of her face going around the Net...."
She sure knew what she was doing....
When I looked at their itinerary of shows, it appeared that they performed about once every two weeks. Their next live performance was....
"The day after tomorrow...."
If I went to see it, I'd be able to confirm whether or not FES was the demon girl. But once I confirmed it, where would that get me?
Would I give FES over to the police?
Would I weep and plead with her not to get me involved?
Would I go bearing a cross and pretend to perform an exorcism?
All those options were asking the impossible....
She was a demon. A nasty otaku like me stood no chance of surpassing her.
And if I lost to the demon girl, I'd die. My body would metamorphose into a ruthless work of art, and I'd get put up on some Wiki site as one of the "New Gen" cases.
I didn't, but if things continued this way, I'd never understand how I had ended up as part of the image data "Shogun" had sent me.
But if FES had nothing to do with the demon girl, maybe I could ask her for help, and find some way to fight back....
"But I can't.... I could never go to a concert...."
At a loss for what to do, I held my head.
As the tingling sensation on the back of my neck went on and on, it changed from a numb pain to a scorching pain, as if my skin were burning. And even if I turned around, no one was there.
"Uuh.... Just stop it...."
I wouldn't stand for having to fret about this sensation for the rest of my life. Someday the gaze alone might be enough to kill me.
"Haa, haa.... Th, think, Takumi...."
"Think of something you can do about this...."
After worrying about it all day yesterday, I finally made up my mind to come here, where the concert was being held.
GIGANTES was a striking-looking red brick building located at the entrance to a narrow road that went along Shibuya's overhead railway.
Its outer walls were illuminated, giving off an atmosphere so old and sober that I almost thought I'd slipped back through time to the Showa period.
Before now, I had no idea. A place with an atmosphere like this existed in Shibuya....
Until just a little earlier, there had been a lot of people in front of GIGANTES, most likely Phantasm fans. They wore such remarkable outfits that it would've been easy to mistake them for cosplayers.
What surprised me was the fact that the overall headcount seemed fairly small. For all that Phantasm was the topic of the moment on the Net, only about a hundred people had come.
All of them had since entered the club. The show must have already started. The sound didn't leak all the way outside, though, so none of it seemed quite real to me.
Though I had succeeded in keeping my pulse under control yesterday and most of today, it had started raging again the moment I arrived at the club.
It was so hard to breathe, I began wondering if I had some kind of heart disease.
No, I understood why this was happening to me.
That was why I had been frenetically looking around, watching out in case someone tried to attack me.
If I were to compare this sense of tension to something in ESO, it was about at the level of the Wanz volcano labyrinth.
The game balance in the Wanz volcano labyrinth was completely ridiculous. Its enemies were particularly strong, and it was surrounded by lava, which would kill you instantly if you so much as brushed up against it.
I'd died there countless times....
Swallowing, I scrubbed the sweat off my forehead with a hand towel.
I was the one who had invited Misumi-kun to this show. Because I hadn't known his cell phone number, I'd been forced to come to school today in order to talk to him about it.
If I were alone, I probably wouldn't even have made as far as the front of GIGANTES.
Besides, even supposing I managed to enter on my own, it'd be Game Over for me if the demon girl were there.
He and Nanami were the only ones of whom I could have asked this favor. I picked Misumi-kun because he was less obnoxious.
I'd paid for both our tickets. In other words, I'd hired him to the tune of 1000 yen.
"Here's your CD. I got one for myself, too."
What Misumi handed me was the Phantasm album.
They'd been selling for shockingly high prices in online actions, but because I'd read on @channel that they sold them during their performances, I'd asked Misumi-kun to go buy one for me.
With this, I'd achieved half my goal. As for the other half....
"I gotta say, Phantasm's better than I expected."
Having only just come out of the club, Misumi-kun was a little worked up.
"I'd avoided listening to them before, cause I don't like following the crowd, but I became an instant fan today just from hearing them play live for a little bit."
The band would go up on stage once the show started, so he could've just taken a quick look at them and hurried back out to tell me about them.
But it had taken over five minutes from the start of the show before he came back. Apparently it was because he'd listened to the whole first song.
"Especially the vocalist. She's hot stuff."
"You sure got good taste in girls. Heheheh."
"Wh, what was she like....?"
"Ahh, right. The report. This is fun, just like being a detective. Don't you think?"
I urged the grinning Misumi-kun to tell me about what FES looked like.
All of a sudden her traits had stopped overlapping with those of the demon girl. Did that mean FES wasn't the demon girl? No, wait. Don't run ahead of yourself.
She could alter her hairstyle by cutting it or adding extensions. It wasn't strange to think that she might have been wearing a disguise when I ran into her at the scene of the murder.
About the same as Misumi-kun.... Misumi-kun and I had similar statures, so in other words, FES was about 170 cm. Pretty tall for a female.
But the demon girl hadn't given off that sort of image during my chance encounter with her. My memory was fuzzy, but I had the feeling that she'd been shorter than me. Another unmatching trait....
"A, anything.... else....?"
"I'd describe her voice as 'cool.' She's the type who talks in a murmur."
"Her bust was so-so."
"But those Goth-punk clothes were weirdly sexy. I could go for that sort of thing. Totally."
It was no good. I couldn't figure anything out based on hearsay.
I had only caught a brief glimpse of the demon girl in the first place. If you asked me to list her salient characteristics, I wouldn't be able to come up with much. This strategy might have been unreasonable after all....
"Don't you wanna see her face? Admit it."
"Cheating on your girl, why, that's a man's saga. You've grown up, Taku."
"Just for tonight, don't worry about the four-eyed girl you went home with before. I'll forget about Tanaka, too."
I, I don't get what you're saying....!
We were only two stories up, But if I lashed out here and slipped and fell.... It'd hurt a lot.... I thought, and my resistance weakened.
SFX: Loud, excited cheers and yells
With the depths of my stomach shaking against my will, it all but gave me the illusion that my body would vibrate itself into pieces.
There wasn't a single seat for the audience to use. Everyone was standing.
All of them swayed to the beat, shaking their upraised fists and shouting, "FES!" "Fehsu!" with perfect timing. It didn't quite measure up to the level of audience participation you'd find at an otaku concert, though.
It was incredibly overheated. The stuffiness made me feel like throwing up.
I'm an otaku, but I'm not a fan of idols or seiyuu. So, if I had to put it plainly, I hated this kind of audience enthusiasm.
My one salvation was the fact that no one looked over at me, though I couldn't deny that I appeared really out of place here.
As the atmosphere overwhelmed me, Misumi-kun handed me a plastic cup with juice in it. It seemed that he'd covered the entrance fee. I'd have to make sure to pay him back later.
SFX: Cheering swells, and eventually dies down
As though it had placated them, everyone lowered their raised fists. Thanks to that, my field of view cleared up, As if a path had opened from me to the stage.
"I can hear the voices clearly."
"The world is extremely transparent."
The voice I heard through her mic was both similar and dissimilar to that of the demon girl who had thrown incomprehensible words at me.
Just as Misumi-kun had said, FES had a world-weary atmosphere to her. She didn't feel boyish. At once cute and seductive, she bore about her a mysterious aura of distant solitude.
The numerous silver accessories she wore about her body sparkled brilliantly in the light. They too seemed fantastical.
I was starting to understand why people made threads about FES on @chan.
But the fans learned from her example, going silent and listening intently to FES's words as she emceed.
"Perhaps it's because the gates to Cocytus are closed."
Wh, what'd she say....? Cocytus? What language was that?
"After the birth of the 'Great Will,' the world maintained its equilibrium for several thousand years."
"But now that balance is in the midst of collapsing. It's highly unstable...."
"And so I sing...."
"I'll take in all of your chaos...."
Ordinary people would certainly have trouble understanding it, But by speaking so insinuatingly, She created the sense of something mystical, making her fans' hearts easier to take hold of.
Its form was so lovely as to seem sinister, and so sharp that it looked like it would slice off your fingers in an instant if you merely brushed it. It was tremendously large, almost as long as FES was tall.
In addition, the portions of it with glass embedded in the shape of lines radiated an alluring blue light.
I wasn't sure whether or not it was really a mic stand, but as a prop for contributing to her stage persona, it was sublime.
My eyes became weirdly fastened to it.
That's so dangerous....! What would she have done if she'd hit a spectator?
What if it weren't a mic stand, but instead a sword....
And in order to offer fresh blood up to the demon girl, she used that sword to cut the throat of a single audience member each night.... Or something....
If so, it would indeed make this live show a Black Mass hosted by devils....
A chill shot through me, and goosebumps rose all over my body. It might be best to get out of here as fast as possible.... As I began to think that, FES murmured softly,
Even vaster cheers of delight rose from the audience.
Listen to this
OST: The Blood of the Contract for Our Sins
The roar seemed like it would rupture my eardrums....! Won't everyone's ears go all funny from being in a place like this?
When I looked over, Misumi-kun was totally into it, pumping his fists to the rhythm in the same manner as the other spectators.
When the intro ended and FES began to sing, The lyrics made me go tense.
A dark song that didn't let you sense the slightest hope of salvation. Partly because of the lyrics, but also because of the melody, it felt like something religious.
On the contrary, however, it was because they were so captivated, and among them were people who gazed fixedly at FES with the faces of those drowning in ecstasy.
True enough, FES's voice possessed some quality that attracted people to her. Even as I battled the fear and nausea induced in me by the crowd around me, I was listening carefully to keep from missing part of her song.
As I listened to that phrase.
I recalled how the demon girl had slowly turned around to face me, splashed in blood, as she stood before the nailed-up corpse.
My skin prickled with gooseflesh. I had the sense that the air around me had instantly dropped several degrees in temperature.
FES soaked in the reverberation of her performance, gazing down and softly swaying her body from side to side.
It wasn't merely a matter of her looking in my general direction or of our eyes meeting for a single second.
FES was clearly looking at me.
Steadily. Staring fixedly. As though she were confirming my existence. As though she were searching for something inside me.
Time to make a choice. Positive, Negative or Neutral?