Part 24: ShogunPart 24 - Shogun
In their place were numerous parked taxis, standing by for a chance to carry away the drunks unwilling to wait for the first train of the day.
Most of the taxi drivers had reclined their seats and were napping.
Yet there were also more hardworking drivers among them, who rested against their steering wheels and gazed blearily in the direction of the 107 building and the shopping district.
But they weren't trying to ascertain whether any potential customers were walking about.
At least, those five to six men were presumably street cleaners because of their yellow arm badges, with "Sanitary Worker." characters inscribed on them.
For some reason, they all wore black suits. Furthermore, ever since arriving, they had blatantly evinced no signs of starting to clean.
Moreover, this did not happen in merely one place. Everywhere from the center to the edges of the scramble crossing, they took measurements and wrote things down on pieces of paper.
Now, too, they gathered directly below the traffic lights and silently paid close heed to the movements of the pendulum device. At last the instrument let out a small noise.
Sanitation Worker B: "38 points higher than last month.... Just as we thought."
But no one in early-morning Shibuya was there to take heed of their curious actions and murmuring.
As soon as customers climbed into their cars, the taxi drivers took off and quickly forgot about the mysterious street cleaners.
The drunks were less than fully conscious and could hardly see their surroundings in the first place.
Female entertainers and nightlife workers, released from the stress of having to keep smiling at repulsive drunkards, got into taxis to return home as fast as possible.
The corpse of a man whose blood been withdrawn in its entirety, and whose body surface had transformed in color to an inhuman green.
It was discovered in a bathroom in the Shibuya station of the Inokashira Line.
And it was inevitable that the mass media and @channel would seize on it, given the abnormality and brutality of the murder, as well as the fact that a photograph of the body had been put on display in an online auction before the body itself was actually discovered.
Several days prior to the incident, tissue packs advertising blood donation drives, with the exact same sentence written on them, had been passed out in large quantities in the plaza in front of Shibuya Station.
I had one of those tissue packs close at hand. Now, reading back over it, its incongruity-filled text could be interpreted as an advance warning of the murder, rather than a recruitment notice for blood donations.
Apparently the police were searching for the part-time workers who had distributed the tissues, but for some reason, they hadn't managed to find many leads.
While signs of it had already been present in the "staking" case, the tendency toward theatricality had manifested far more strongly this time around.
However, the number of youth visiting the area showed no indication of dropping. As usual, the pedestrian scramble and the shopping district were packed with people.
--Whose eyes are those eyes?
Plus, it wasn't only online; these words had also infiltrated the ranks of delinquents who walked around Shibuya.
On @channel, it was fashionable to tack the phrase onto the end of your sentences even if it had nothing to do with what you were talking about.
"So whose eyes are those eyes?"
And so on.
To young people, perhaps "New Gen" was simply a cause for excitement and epic threads. Though to me, it was the most aggravating thing imaginable.
There remained something like a lump in a corner of my heart, of course, but by immersing myself in ESO over the weekend, I was able to temporarily forget all that hateful and incomprehensible stuff.
Even today, when I had to attend school, I succeeded in getting through classes by sleeping or wracking my head over information about rare items in ESO.
I've grown up a little, hehehe.
The last time I had come was two weeks ago, and it was the first time I'd ever left such a large gap between visits.
I found the atmosphere of the store and everything it comprised to be amazingly nostalgic:
The rank smell of the breeze released by the air conditioning, the manga volumes that had come to be infused by the scent of nicotine, how comfortable it felt to sit in a reclining chair, the snores of old men in the midst of dead silence.
"What I learned from doing so was that...."
"You were putting on a one-man play...."
"'Shogun' is none other than--"
Recalling what Yua had said, I fearfully scoped out the neighboring Room 36.
I had confirmed that no one was nearby me when I first entered the store, and it must have been empty, since I couldn't hear any noise, but I still twitched at the thought that someone might be there nevertheless.
Getting up, I surreptitiously peeked over the divider, but as expected, there was no one using Room 36.
Relieved, I sank my body back into the reclining seat.
"Yua's got some amazing delusions...."
I couldn't help pitying Yua. She was clearly sick in the head.
The best way to deal with someone like her was to let her be. She was an accident waiting to happen.
These past two weeks, I'd risked getting dragged into all kinds of hassles.
Until then, I'd had a remarkably uneventful daily life, and Misumi-kun was just about the only person who started up conversations with me.
Why had only bizarre and unreasonable things happened lately?
Pictured: The 'Vampire House' Incident
Even that dying message must surely have been a coincidence.
Regardless of whatever anyone said about it, weren't they commonly used words? The likes of me had come up with them, so there'd be nothing strange about it if someone else thought of them as well.
SFX: Three Loud Beeps
Something nearby started ringing out of the blue. Startled, I jerked in my reclining chair.
It was the sound of a phone. But whose?
Because it was quiet inside, the electronic sound echoed particularly emphatically throughout the area. I looked around. But I couldn't spot a phone anywhere.
A thought suddenly occurred to me, and I fished around inside my bag.
Sure enough, what had been ringing was the cell phone I'd bought just a few days ago.
I looked gingerly at the LCD display. Normally, the caller's number would be displayed here.
For starters, who on earth was calling me?
I hadn't given this cell phone's number out to anyone yet.
The only people aware of it were my family, and Nanami, busybody that she was, had put them in my address book.
Then who.... was it....?
The phone went on ringing stubbornly.
Would someone calling a cell phone usually make it ring on and on with such persistence?
I'd never used one before, so I had no idea, but it was an unbelievable nuisance.
To suddenly encroach on your personal space and have it ring until you picked up.
It was just the right way to invade someone's privacy. This was why I hadn't wanted a cell phone.
Relieved, I checked the LCD screen again.
"1 missed call," it said.
I had no desire to call back, given that I didn't know who would pick up. Thus, I decided to let sleeping dogs lie.
It'd be bad if this kept happening in the future, so I'd better learn how to put it on silent.
Haa, cell phones are such a bother.
I didn't like phones to begin with.
With phishing and identity theft, wouldn't it make more sense if people at least made some attempt at confirmation?
I was completely mystified by how they could stay unfazed while having conversations with a potential impersonator.
Even if I knew the principles behind how it worked, it was hard to believe that one's voice could pass through phone lines to reach faraway places.
When you talk on the phone, your voice gets converted to electrical signals. They pass through the phone lines until they reach the person you're conversing with, and your voice gets turned back to normal, becoming hearable for the first time.
To put it a different way, for you to talk on the phone, the process needs to include a minimum of two such conversions.
In the case of a cell phone, it involves a complicated system wherein your voice starts off by getting turned to electrical signals, which travel to a nearby station via radio waves, then run through normal phone lines to another telephone exchange, from which it heads to the station closest the person you're calling, and finally reaches their cell phone in the form of radio waves.
For that matter, was it possible to deny the prospect that, in the process of conversion to electrical signals, my voice and words might change to something totally unrelated?
For instance, what if I called Nanami, and instead of reaching her, my call got sent to some sketchy facility, and a person I'd never seen before in my life pretended to be Nanami and answered the phone.
Maybe they'd even be a computer, instead of a human being.
It had been two weeks since I'd used Liselotte, but I was pretty satisfied by how well she cheered up everyone around her.
I left @cafe in a good mood and headed home.
The shopping district was as boisterous and full of people as ever. I had always found it annoying. And the illumination of the various stores lined up along the street made it so bright that I had a hard time believing it was night.
At the end of that bright road--
I jerked to a stop when I saw "it," for it stood out still more in the middle of the crowd.
That girl was--
In the shopping district, where people came and went without ceasing, where it was difficult to so much as walk in a straight line, she stood still, smack in the middle of the road, resting the colossal sword she held in her hand on her shoulder.
It was a blatantly bizarre spectacle--
She was the girl I'd seen at 107--
She'd been there when Nanami and I went to get a cell phone.
I recalled the sharpness of her glare.
I had met her once before, at school.
Almond-shaped eyes; a face attractive enough to make her a model, although it conversely made her seem unapproachable; sleek, dark, waist-length hair.
But why was she staring at me?
Thinking I was being overly self-conscious, I turned around. At times like this, it might turn out that she was actually looking at an acquaintance of hers over my shoulder or something, but that didn't seem to be the case.
I shrank. I understood what it felt like to be the proverbial frog getting glared at by a snake.
Staring back was out of the question. Locking eyes with people was my biggest weakness. So I had no choice but to look down.
Time to run....
There were a lot of people there, but I'd take a pass on letting some scary 3-D girl pick a quarrel with me. She might try to shake me down for money.
Girl B looked like she was alone, but in truth, maybe her juvie friends were lying in wait nearby, plotting to beat me senseless once she lured me in.
I wasn't about to take the bait....
I looked to the front again. As before, the sword-bearing Girl B went on glaring at me.
When, how the hell had she circled around me....!?
How had she known I was going to turn around, anyway?
Her voice reached my ears with an awful clarity.
I frantically surveyed my surroundings. I wanted to think she'd been calling to someone else. Though suspicious, I searched for someone who seemed like a suitable target for her "Hey."
But of course they weren't there.
A couple of salary men passing nearby gave Girl B dubious looks, but they soon realized she wasn't referring to them and walked away.
Girl B, who had until then been standing dauntingly in place, took a sudden step in my direction.
That was sufficient to make me certain of it. Girl B was targeting me, after all....
As discourteous as ever.... In my seventeen-year life, I could probably count the number of times a girl had spoken to me this curtly.
There were times when Kirimiya Tsubaki (nickname: Tsunko) had talked to me like that, in a tsundere sort of way. Then again, Tsunko was a 2-D character from an eroge called "Tell Me Doll."
She had this overwhelming feeling to her, though she was only a girl. I wondered at it a little, but the reasons were simple.
The sharp look in her eyes. And.... her oversized sword.
For a sword, it had a fairly singular design.
It was definitely a weapon from a mecha anime or something. Had any mecha anime started airing recently....?
It was a mysterious sword--
Girl B had already cut the distance between us down to two meters. Close enough so that if she swung her sword, it would reach me.
Crouching down on the spot, I covered my head.
If I didn't dodge it, it would hit me right in the head. It wouldn't cut me or anything, but with her swinging that hard, I'd get a cerebral concussion and a dented skull for sure!
I hate pain!
"Wh, wh, what're you done--...."
You know how this goes. Positive, Negative or Neutral?