Part 28: Design By CommitteePart 28 - Design By Committee
I hadn't been able to confirm it the last time I came here, but today, I would definitely get them to tell me I was normal.
Dr. Takashina would remember me. I'd reveal that I was "Nishijou, your patient up until four years ago." And I'd get to hear all kinds of things from him.
This hospital opened at eight in the morning, somewhat earlier than regular hospitals. Which was why I had come exactly in time for opening hours, but....
The sofas in the lobby were already filled with seated old people.
Even though the hospital had barely opened for the day, why were there so many people here!? It's unfair to get a head start! Come on time, like you're supposed to!
Inwardly insulting them, I had no option left but to wait.
But immediately afterward, they called my name, and I was relieved at the fact that I hadn't been forced to wait as long as last week.
"Um.... Ta, Ta.... Where's Dr. Takashina....?"
Upon my growing perplexed, the nurse standing in attendance behind him--what was her name again.... Hazuki-san--answered with an apologetic expression.
Not here anymore....?
Unfamiliar Doctor: "Or rather, last weekend, he collapsed from fatigue. As a result, he's taking this week off."
What a nightmare.... My one and only ally....
....Wait, had Dr. Takashina really collapsed from fatigue?
I had no intention of letting anyone besides Dr. Takashina examine me. So instead of undergoing a check-up, I left the hospital as though I were fleeing it.
Leaning against the fence surrounding the roof, I stared vaguely up at the sky.
The skies of Shibuya were drab, and it would be hard to call them clear.
"It'd be better not to go to the hospital anymore...."
The demon girl's dragnet was tightening. Maybe I had nowhere left to run.
Maybe even the detectives I'd met yesterday had in truth been fakes, the demon girl's cronies. And they'd been testing me.
Because the timing had been way too good. Come on, the demon girl had pushed her way into my room right after I'd met with the detectives.
She was a demon, after all. She wasn't human. It'd hardly take any effort for her to manipulate human hearts.
In that case, the only way to survive was by presupposing the worst.
Was there no one who would be my ally....?
All of them seemed like my enemies. Everyone looked like one of the demon girl's underlings.
"Save me.... Somebody, save me...."
Why don't I have even a single ally?
Why wouldn't anyone come save me?
Why did I have to end up like this?
I felt terribly forlorn, and I wanted some source of support. Someone who would protect me. Something that would protect me.
And the words she had given voice to when we met at school.
I'd been lost in my delusions and hadn't heard them, but Misumi-kun had said the following.
If this were a game, I'd be a hero, and we'd reach the usual cliche development about my having to get my hands on a legendary sword to defeat the demon.
Without my seeking it out, I'd recently heard the keyword "sword" from two different 3-D girls.
And there remained a chance that FES was my ally. Although, going by her attitude, Girl B--had she been called Sena?--was most likely affiliated with the demon girl.
A sword, huh....
I muttered to myself as though I'd gone off my rocker.
For me, it was the equivalent of clutching at straws.
If I got a sword, I might be released from this nightmare.... I couldn't help having such expectations.
SFX: Computer Noises
For the moment, I started off by checking to see whether a sword similar to the ones carried by FES and Sena had appeared in any anime, but I couldn't spot anything like that in this season's crop of anime, at least.
I'd expected as much.
I normally check out all the recent new anime.
Of course, since there was Mew Tube, I didn't have any problems completing my line-up with anime from the BS and CS satellite subscription channels.
Which was why there was no way I'd overlooked any anime.
And no such sword had appeared in any of the shows I'd checked.
It was that distinctive-looking. If it showed up, it ought to have caught my eye, but I had no memory of seeing one.
Terms I was closely familiar with, such as ESO's Shangri-La Edge, kept popping up. At this rate, I wouldn't make any progress.
Even though I had to hurry up and find it!
I had the sense that Sena had used a more concrete name when speaking of it, but what could it have been....
Right, Di-Sword! I quickly stuck it in the input field and ran a search.
Only two of them, though. Even so, I was gradually starting to think of these two links as my road to salvation.
Holding down my excitement, I investigated them in order from the top down.
No, calm down.... Go back one more time and take a look at the cache.
"It's from folklore....?"
In the first place, why was it such a minor sword? Why not go with Excalibur or Kusanagi, something in the Major League?
No, this wasn't the time to complain.
The words, "I bought a Di-Sword," particularly concerned me. Was a Di-Sword something you could purchase?
Was he a completely unrelated third party, or had "the person behind" the blog deliberately changed the particulars of how he wrote....
I understood that no answer would come no matter how much I thought about it, so I stopped looking at the blog.
I had a feeling that it was too good to be true, but I also had a feeling that it was destiny.
If they didn't have an official site, that meant they didn't take orders online.
I searched Taboo! Auctions but didn't come across anything likely-looking.
Which meant that my only option was to go to the store in person.
I didn't want to go outside very much. But--
Now, I had come to think of it as my sole, absolute means of fighting back against the demon girl.
I didn't know what I would do, in concrete terms, after obtaining the sword. I wasn't brave enough to use it to kill her, or anything of the sort.
Even so, I harbored the hope that if I got a sword, I would be somewhat freed from the terror that tortured me.
Yeah, a Di-Sword was like a protective charm. It would surely strengthen my heart.
Cat Street is a twisty, winding road from Shibuya to Harajuku that runs about a block off Meiji Avenue. Apparently it had been built by filling in an area that was originally a stream.
There were various explanations behind why it had originally come to be called Cat Street, such as there being many feral cats, or because it was the sort of narrow path that only cats would use. Well, not that it made much of a difference to me.
Cat Street was fairly far away from me.
By foot, it could easily take fifteen or twenty minutes to get there. It'd be a quick trip by bike, but unfortunately, I didn't have one.
I decided to go by a route that took me past the plaza in front of the station, then past Shoutou by way of cutting through Miyashita Park.
Cat Street had been quiet, compared to the big shopping district, and its image was far closer to that of Harajuku than Shibuya. The stores lined up there were all chic shops that of course had nothing to do with me. Go off and die.
Knowing that I was practically acting delirious as I walked along, I became even more annoyed. For me, being here was like playing in an away game.
All those bastards around me thought they were so damn cool. And there were more couples than in the shopping district. Whatever, they probably wanted to act like they had money, even though they didn't, so chances were that most of them were window shopping.
What a waste of time.
I felt some regret, thinking to myself that I shouldn't have come after all, but I reminded myself that it was all for the sake of obtaining a sword, and determinedly put up with it.
"Is this it....?"
Though I'd only ventured one side street away from the main road, the ambience underwent a dramatic change.
It was a thin, narrow, dirty alley, one impossible for cars to pass through. On either side were wood-built residences and out-of-business stores with closed shutters, which invariably came equipped with spray-painted graffiti on them.
Cat Street, which seemed so clean from the front, with all its high-class brand name stores, was in the end no more than a flimsy, papier-mache facade.
Behind that facade lay any number of mercilessly discarded wrecks.
Although I personally disliked both the front and the back. Both were unfamiliar territory for me. The only place I ever wanted to go was ESO.
Even so, Town Vanguard had a far smaller, darker air to it than I'd imagined.
I started to understand why the blogger who had mentioned it had described it as an underground store.
How was I supposed to go in such a sketchy-seeming store, when it was asking too much of me just to have me go alone to a gyuudon shop....
I wanna go home....
No one passed through this narrow alley. I'd whiled away thirty minutes with my waffling, but not a single person had gone by me.
But I couldn't go home empty-handed. This was the only place I could obtain a Di-Sword....
Even though I understood that with my head, my instincts made me reluctant to enter the shop.
I imagined that maybe a clerk would come out for me.
She'd have a perfect grasp of exactly what I wanted, and she'd hold a Di-Sword out to me in a wonderfully friendly manner....
"Here you are, please take this sword, Master...."
Unlike in my fantasy, though her clothes were rather gaudy, the kind of thing that made you wonder what kind of nomad camp she'd snagged them from, and her face, on the other hand, was amazingly glum.
Her hair was cut in the bomb-a-head style, with thin, frizzy ends, and creepy patterns were drawn on the bandanna twisted around it above.
She said she was a store worker and had come out after seeing me wishy-washily going around outside. My fantasy hadn't exactly become reality. Well, but that was to be expected.
OST: Town Vanguard
If this store were under the demon girl's control, and everything about the Di-Sword had been a trap to lure me in, I'd have no right to complain about getting slaughtered on the spot....
I swiftly surveyed the store's dim interior.
There wasn't a single customer.
Though I spotted items that might have been products, it was difficult to judge whether or not they were really for sale.
All of them had been left about haphazardly, and there was no way to distinguish them from plain garbage.
And for beginning, not one of them had a price tag.
I didn't realize it until I came in, but there was a lot of porno merch. Among them were the sorts of devices you often see in rape/humiliation eroge, and I was at a loss for a safe place to look.
Apparently this store was similar to a variety shop aimed at adults.
After bringing me into the store, the clerk sat down on a stool beside the counter, zoning out as she smoked and showing no indication of continuing to meddle with me.
She must have been one of the sources of the mist in here....
Regardless of the fact that it had been less than a minute since I'd first come in, nervousness, embarrassment, a weird sense of pressure, and my feeling physically sick made nasty sweat seep out of my forehead.
I wanted to leave this otherworldly place as fast as possible. I had to be quick about finding a Di-Sword....
I walked toward the back as I browsed my way through the store.
That one corner stood apart from the rest, being the only area with conspicuous colors.
Numerous pole-shaped toys had been neatly put up on display.
I was skeptical of whether they would really glow.
It would seem that the light shuriken mentioned in the blog had sold out, which was also surprising.
I tried picking it up. It was unexpectedly light. I wondered what it was made of, though it seemed like soft vinyl....
There was no blade. The edge was slippery, and of course it didn't hurt me in the slightest even when I stroked it with my fingers.
I wondered if perhaps it was a fake....
I was worried about it, but there wasn't anything else in this store you could have called a Di-Sword.
Would this even shine in the first place?
But there was no glass to be seen anywhere on the sword I had in hand.
Maybe I ought to give up on buying it....
Right, if I didn't buy it right here and now, I'd lose my only chance of obtaining a Di-Sword.
It looked cheap at the moment, but maybe, once it recognized me as its rightful master, it would manifest a mysterious power.
Or maybe I'd seen too many anime and manga....
But I had sensed just that sort of unknown power in FES and Sena's swords. So even this sword must....
Smirking darkly, she pointed at the Di-Sword and muttered, "10000 yen, and I'll throw in a free bonus."
At first, its absurd cheapness made me doubt my ears. I certainly hadn't thought it would be less expensive than a figure.
I had build up a fair amount of savings from RMT, and if it only cost 10000 yen, I could get away with buying it simply by giving up on purchasing one figure.
Town Vanguard didn't do deliveries, and so my only option was to carry it home myself.
But I'd already paid, and the clerk fiercely refused to let me perform a return.
Having to haul a huge toy like this down a fashionable street....
Partway through, I'd broken into a run and had kept at it ever since, so I was breathing hard by the time I reached my base. The cold looks from the other pedestrians had really stung....
I was impressed with Sena for being able to endure this embarrassment. In a certain sense, it made me respect her. I stood no chance of following in her footsteps.
SFX: A footstep noise
Was someone there....?
Petrified in place, I gulped down my breath.
The ever-so-innocent smile of the demon girl who'd called herself Rimi popped into my head.
W, what should I do? Should I run?
I sensed a presence. The sunset cast someone's shadow across the ground. No matter how I looked at it, that silhouette was female.
When I actually held it up like this, it felt even less dependable than I'd thought.
Sena's sword had possessed a mysterious formidability and an overwhelming kind of pressure that refused to let anyone near it.
But the Di-Sword in my hands didn't have anything of the sort. Maybe it really was a fake....
Could I fight with something like this?
O, of course I couldn't.... I couldn't do it even if I had the real thing....
Plus, I hadn't understood until I tried holding it the way I was now, but it was pretty heavy. Maybe I was gripping it wrong.
In any case, it would prove impossible to swing it around properly.
Despite that, I harbored the faint hope that as long as I had this sword, I'd be okay, that it'd somehow do something for me.
But I didn't hit anything. My enemy didn't say anything.
Could it be that a single strike from my Di-Sword had utterly destroyed the demon girl? If so, it'd be beyond amazing--
She was looking at me a tad derisively.
"Wh, wha, wha...."
All the strength went out of me at once. I flopped right down where I'd been standing.
"Y, you.... Don't scare me.... like that...."
Who the hell did she think she was? This was why the third dimension would never hold a candle to the second.
"Why do I have to wait for half an hour, worrying about you the whole time? You've made my precious time go poof, stupid."
Worrying....? She'd been worrying about me? Like I'd be fooled by such an obvious lie.
"So, where'd ya go? You almost never head out, right? You didn't pick up when I called your cell, either."
"For starters, what's that sword?"
"Did you just get back from buying it?"
Nanami gazed curiously at the sword.
"Ah, I get it. It's an anime toy or something, isn't it? Since you're an otaku and all."
"But this toy doesn't suit you at all, you know."
Ignoring Nanami, I undid the lock on the container house's door and began to go in.
"W, wait! Don't ignore me--!"
"G, go home...."
If she'd come to check on my survival, she didn't have anything left to do here.
"Um, hey, since I came all the way out here to see how you were, try to be a little more grateful."
"I even brought you a present and everything...."
Nanami spoke sulkily, pouting.
"Yeah! Mom told me to bring it. Here."
I had mixed feelings about this.... I'd eat clementines if they were there in front of me, but they weren't my favorite food or whatever.
"On that note, I wanna take a quick break, too, so I'll eat 'em with you."
"Sheesh! Your sister's brought you a present, and she's saying she'll help you eat it, you know!? Be a little happier!"
What, precisely, about eating clementines with Nanami was supposed make me rejoice?
As if I would.... Basically, I don't drink anything besides Coke.
"Huh? What's that?"
Quickly spotting the bangle I'd tossed away at the floor, Nanami picked it up.
"Did you come from buying this, too? It's in pretty good taste, at least for you."
Cute, she says? What about it? No matter how I looked at it, it was a piece of kitsch one could buy for the likes of 500 yen. Nanami was the one with bad taste.
Disregarding her, I took one of the clementines and went to sit in front of my PC.
"Hey, hey. Why're you throwing this away?"
"Be, because, I don't need it...."
"It's fine. You were gonna get rid of it anyway."
"One in a while, act more brotherly and give your little sister a present."
You call it a present, but it's an unneeded item that you started coveting all on your own....
"T, then go ahead and take it...."
"Heheh~ Bro, whaddaya think? Does it look good on me?"
"N, not at all...."
What kind of education have you been receiving, huh!? Go play a hundred eroge!
She was grinning perkily. I was getting really pissed off here....
"I like this, so I'm not gonna return it anymore, okay?"
"Well, that can't be helped, so I'll take real good care of it for you."
Like I care. No one asked you to treasure it. I hadn't gotten it for Nanami's sake, to begin with.
"If, if you're done here, go home...."
The moment I said it, Nanami pursed her lips.
"You don't have to say it like that."
"And we haven't eaten the clementines yet, and you haven't poured me any tea yet."
"I, I don't have any tea for you to drink."
Nanami glared at me fixedly, her shoulders tense with anger. At last her eyes started to well up--
"I got it! If I'm that much of a bother, I'll leave!"
"Yeah, make it fast...."
Yelling in a voice that resounded piercingly through the room, Nanami grabbed her bag and bolted out with tremendous energy.
Haa, that storm-like time had finally come to an end....
"The First Melt has ended with results that surpass our expectations."
"There are only slight discrepancies between the GE rate's rise and our initial calculations."
"Are our attempts at biorhythm control also proceeding smoothly?"
"Shibuya's GE rate, while simultaneously much higher than those found in other areas, is also particularly stable."
"As a result, deliberately manipulating it is a simple matter. Similarly, forcing a marked heightening in the biorhythms of Shibuya's inhabitants would also be...."
"Please refer to the report on our experimental results. I believe you will find the fruit of our efforts to be more than acceptable."
"Hmph, it's only natural that you produce the desired results. That's why we're spending a great deal of money and human resources to accomodate you."
"I understand how effective it is. These past few months, the ranks of our church's followers have multiplied several times over."
"What of the CODE samples? Though you've secured three people's worth of samples, you have yet to reach our target numbers."
"Indeed. It will be difficult to achieve those numerical values without samples from at least five subjects."
"We are currently in the process of gathering sample carriers. All that remains is extraction."
"Then I leave it in your hands."
"May the divine light save you. Henceforth, carry on with precaution."
"Yes, very well, sir...."