Part 31: Re-evaluationsPart 31 - Re-evaluations
Somehow, I had a bad feeling about this. It wasn't normal at all.
Beyond the automatic glass doors lay the road upon which not a single person was walking. I saw a human form in the shadows of the apartment complexes sandwiching the street.
The form soon hid away. Even so, I had seen it distinctly.
The figure's hand had been holding up something like a long, black pipe. It resembled....
This meant they were the riot police.... Or, alternatively, a SAT team.
I hadn't seen any shoppers or cashiers because the police had sealed off the area....! But for what purpose....?
Having thought that far, I gave myself a start. I swiftly looked around the inside of the store, then concealed myself in the shadow of a shelf.
There was currently a stand-off taking place right now, in this very store....
The criminal, having taken the cashier hostage, could have holed up in the back room.
And that criminal might be.... the true New Gen perpetrator....!
More importantly, the police were the police. If you've shut down the area, you should've stopped me before I went in this store!
Was there no way for me to go outside? If I stayed here, I'd end up as a hostage, too.
Luckily, I hadn't bumped into the criminal yet. If he was holing up in the back room, it would be best to flee now.
I was so frightened, my knees quaked. It took a tremendous effort merely to stand up. Even so, I hovered low and stealthily made for the automatic door--
It began with the kind of cliched declaration that you wouldn't even hear on TV detective shows anymore. From outside the store, a policeman began roaring through an amplifier. Startled, I hid deeper in the shadows of the shelving.
Police Officer: "You are completely surrounded."
Police Officer: "Release your hostages and come out quietly."
What an endlessly stereotypical way to call him out. Don't you have a negotiator or something?
Police Negotiator: "We'll give you thirty seconds to make your decision."
So short! Thirty seconds, he said!
Police 'Negotiator': "You are to surrender by then."
Police 'Negotiator': "If not, we'll be forced to take action."
Wai....! Leaping into action; do you mean to expose the hostages to danger!?
Do that in contemporary Japan, and the public and the media will bash you like there's no tomorrow!
What the hell were the police thinking!?
I stifled my breathing and curled up into a ball. My heart hammered away incredibly fast. It felt like it would tear itself to pieces.
If the police broke their way in by force--this convenience store would surely become a battlefield. I'd get caught up in it, without having any say in the matter. I might die from being hit by a stray bullet. Anything but that....
I couldn't see the criminal's movements. The store was silent.
I became irritated.
What I saw shocked me. Several SAT sharpshooters, their sniper rifles at the ready, were camped out in an area easily visible from here.
The police meant to shoot the criminal to death. Would they be able to get away with that kind of thing in Japan? I couldn't believe this....
Police Firing Squad Leader: "Ten more seconds!"
Th, this has to be a lie.... Give me a fucking break....
I grew bewildered. Since when had I had a knife? No, rather, where had I gotten this knife from?
Someone nearby: *scared whimpering*
From close by came the sound of someone groaning. A clerk was lying there.
A bleary-looking man, probably a college student. His hands were bound behind him, and his mouth was sealed with packing tape.
The clerk stared at me. His eyes were dyed the color of terror.
--Why are you looking at me?
Was I the criminal? No, it wasn't me. I haven't done anything....!
Police Firing Squad Leader: "It's time!"
Police Firing Squad Leader: "We will now proceed to open fire on you!"
It's a lie....
Police Firing Squad Leader: "Snipers, ready!"
It's a lie....!
Police Firing Squad Leader: "FIRE!"
SFX: Sustained gunfire ensues as the police use their fully automatic sniper rifles to blast the criminal to bits.
....There's no such thing as policemen like that. Anyway, what was up with the whole yelling "FIRE!" bit? It's not as if this were a Sengoku-era battle.
Several minutes passed while I fantasized. There was no indication that a cashier would appear.
I very much wanted to believe that the clerk had dozed off. So I tried waiting another five minutes.
But in that time, neither a cashier nor any other customers appeared. I didn't even hear any sounds.
I'd presumed that here, if nowhere else, couldn't possibly be devoid of people, but....
I waited for the train to come in. Once it came, there would have to be passengers getting off.
I waited for ten minutes, and still no train came.
Having come to this point, I finally realized the gravity of the situation.
Strange. This was bizarre.
Oh yeah, I should try going to Shibuya Station. People would definitely be there. No doubt about it. Twenty-four hours a day, it didn't matter when, people were always, without fail, in the Shibuya Station plaza.
I ran as if my life depended on it. I didn't want to stop, even when my breath came up short.
It might have been the first time I'd run with all my might since I was born.
As I ran, I prayed for this to be some kind of tasteless nightmare. But it wasn't a dream.
My heart and lungs hurt so badly, it felt like they were shredding. It was a pain that transcended the dimension of dreams.
I was surprised at the extreme fervor of my own breathing.
It hurt no matter how much air I sucked in.
By now, my legs had gone unsteady. My body felt astoundingly heavy.
Even so, I forced my feet to keep moving forward. I could no longer afford to keep an eye on my surroundings.
On the contrary, the entirety of my consciousness was focused on the pedestrian scramble that symbolized Shibuya.
A little longer. Just a little longer. Once I passed 107, it'd be right there....
The largest in Japan.... It was the place in Japan where the largest number of people came swarming together all at once, moving simultaneously with changing of the traffic signals, which.... which was why I had to get to the scramble, the scramble....
The Shibuya Station plaza, which you could survey from the Y-shaped road in front of 107.
A soundless world. A dead-seeming world.
This space that was supposed to be flooded with sound was now governed by silence.
All I could hear was my own ragged breathing.
In the middle of the wide street, I fell heavily to my knees. I couldn't walk any further than this. Shock had drained all the strength from my body.
"This is Shibuya, isn't it....?"
Wh, what was happening....? It was a lie. This had to be a lie!
Yes, I had thought I wanted to live a quiet and peaceful life by myself. I didn't want anyone to meddle with me, and I didn't want to get involved in anything.
But I hadn't wished for a world without anyone else in it!
If no one was there, who would pay for my living expenses!?
If no one was there, who would make convenience store boxed lunches for me to eat!?
If no one was there, who would play ESO with me!?
If no one was there--
SFX: A rusty squeaking noise is heard.
I heard a sound. It wasn't me. Someone else had made it.
Someone was here! Someone other than me was close by here!
I felt like I'd reached salvation.
As I'd thought, it had coincidentally happened to appear like no one was here. In truth, not one person had disappeared. I hadn't been left behind in the world, all alone.
I was so relieved, I almost cried. I sent my gaze in the direction the sound had come from.
The one there was.... a boy in a wheelchair.
A short distance away from me--though still in the middle of the crossing--he sat quietly in place.
At the moment, I couldn't tell quite how old he was. Going by the size of his body, he could only have been an elementary school student.
Because his hat was pulled down low over his eyes, I couldn't see much of his expression.
The boy's voice sounded particularly clear to me. Feeling as though he'd whispered right into my ear, I unintentionally whirled around. But of course there was no one behind me.
"U, um.... W, what might be happening here....?"
Though he was younger than me, I found myself speaking formally.
"Why isn't a, anyone.... here....?"
"Do.... do you know.... th, the reason....?"
Despite the fact that his voice sounded young, there was nothing childish about its ambience.
Message? I didn't know what he was talking about.
"Wh, who are you....?"
The boy moved his wheelchair a tiny bit forward. Perhaps because it was old, simply going forward made it let out rusty noises.
I was confused.
Why had this boy murmured "Whose eyes are those eyes?" here and now? What in the world was he?
"Wh, what are you...."
I rubbed my eyes, wiping away my tears. Thanks to that, I was finally able to take a clear look at the boy's face--
This boy wasn't even a boy. His skin was wrinkled as an old man's.
His cheeks were gaunt, his eye sockets were sunken to a sickly extent, his eyes were clouded, he had no eyebrows, and his body was as small as a child's....
For a second, I forgot to breathe. My head rocked with an impact akin to that of being struck by a hammer. The ground shook.
No, my body was tilting. I splayed a hand on the asphalt, holding myself up.
"You mustn't run away."
SFX: "Shogun"'s wheelchair begins squeaking, and softly fades into the distance.
SFX: All manner of noise can be heard in the background, from various crowd noises, the school bell and, above all else, a loud tinnitus-like hum.
But I didn't think of telling him, how dare you get me involved, and hitting him. That sort of thing didn't agree with me....
My head had started aching. The area around my temples throbbed sharply. I curled into the fetal position and endured the pain.
A single noise began to spread throughout the soundless world.
Whose voice was this?
SFX: The noises (apart from the hum) are replaced by a dozen voices, male and female, adult and child, all repeating one sentence: "Whose eyes are those eyes?"
SFX: All the voices and sounds gradually fade away.
The thing that had been a noise gradually transmuted into a real voice. Someone had placed a gentle hand on my shoulder.
Passerby A: "Che, you're in the way."
Passerby B: "What's he doing?"
Passerby C: "Kids these days...."
Passerby D: "You sure it's not some kind of performance?"
Clear eyes filled with life. Eyes that looked wholeheartedly at me, only at me.
Again. Again, this girl had appeared so suddenly--
"Can you walk? Try to walk...."
She slipped her hand around my side and tried to make me stand up. I shrieked and shook her off.
Coming back to myself, I looked around.
As before, I was in the middle of the road. But it wasn't empty anymore.
Looking as if she were about to cry, Rimi extended a hand toward me.
"Listen to what I'm about to say."
"St, st, stay away!"
When I yelled, the throbbing in my head changed to the direct pain. Even so, intent and uncaring, I crawled to open more distance between me and Rimi.
"It, it, it, it's you, isn't it....! You showed it to me! It's your d, delusion....!"
"Co, controlling my h, heart, attacking my.... psyche....!"
"You, y, you devil....!"
"I'll k, kill the likes of you with my s, sword....!"
She was gonna kill me for sure now....!
On all fours, I scrambled this way and that across the ground.
Her soft form enveloped me tenderly.
She was very warm. She smelled ever so faintly of sweat. Her smooth, shining hair tickled the end of my nose.
"Pull yourself together."
With the wind out of my sails, my whole body threatened to go limp.
"It's dangerous to stay here...."
There was a slight catch to her voice. I didn't know whether or not she was crying.
"Cause the light's turning red...."
She didn't intend to kill me?
Why was she helping me? That hallucination from earlier, where all the people in Shibuya vanished--it wasn't something she'd made me see?
When I sensed such kind-hearted warmth, When she hugged me without the least bit of malice,
It had the effect of shaking everything I'd believed up until now.
Was I foolish? Was she pulling the wool over my eyes?
Except, one thing alone had become certain. With Rimi holding me, I felt incredibly relieved. I didn't know what to call this peculiar sensation.
Upon letting go of me, Rimi clasped my face in her hands and looked at me steadily again. Her eyes were a little reddish.
"Come with me now."
Somehow, I ended up nodding.
Right now, we were standing all alone in the middle of the crossing that everyone had vacated.
The vast numbers of people waiting on the sidewalk for the light to change were paying close attention to us. I heard laughing voices come from here and there.
Myriad cars pointed their headlights at us and began blaring their horns.
She was still holding my hand.
That by itself made my heart grow calmer and calmer. I wanted to give myself over to this serenity. I wanted to stay like this forever.
Rimi turned back in my direction.
She smiled as though she were tremendously happy. I didn't think that expression of hers was a lie or an act.
"L, let me.... go...."
Because up until now, I had been utterly hostile toward her-- Because I had thought she was a demon--
"Ah, sorry, sorry. Tahaha."
She quickly dropped my hand.
"Anyhow, you really surprised me. Curling up in the middle of the street like that."
"I had no idea what would happen when the light turned red--"
"I'm.... going home...."
"Ah, then I'll take you back. You're not feeling well, are you?"
Her voice followed me from behind, but I shook my head to refuse her.
"Th, tha, thank you...."
The following section will include pictures from all New Gen Incidents, including never-before-seen images from the 'Pregnant Man' and 'Staking' incidents. These images are hidden behind links, owing to their graphic and NSFW nature. It is highly recommended that you view them when you are able to.
Ban Yasuji ruminated bitterly over this as he gazed out upon the detectives gathered in the Shibuya Police Department's large conference room.
The "Inokashira Line Shibuya station public bathroom homicide"--or, as the media called it with amusement, the "Vampire House" case--had led to a truly grave personnel shortage.
With three brutal murder cases having occurred in the same jurisdiction, and in close succession, the chances of them all being the work of the same criminal were at last growing higher.
Some argued that the "Cornelius Tower group suicide case" should be left to the juvenile division, but due to how the media treated it as part of "New Gen," there was the possibility that the police would become the targets of criticism if they made it an exception.
At the moment, as part of the integration process, the sequential "New Gen" cases were being reexamined one by one.
Yesterday, the two of them had stayed up all night putting their heads together over documents related to the four cases. Good work, Ban muttered internally, chin propped up on his hands.
OST: I'm rounder
"The 'Cornelius Tower group suicide case' occurred on September 7."
"Out of the four incidents that the media has nicknamed 'New Gen,' it was the first to take place."
"At half-past 11 in the afternoon, a mixed-sex group of five fell from the heliport on the roof of Shibuya's Cornelius Tower, and all of them died."
"They were all high school students, still minors. There were three males and two females. Out of the five, however, one boy and one girl went to the same school, while the remaining three each went to different schools."
"Small traces of flesh were found under their respective fingernails, and the autopsy also revealed scratches on their palms."
"From there, we deduced that they had fallen while holding hands."
"There was nothing resembling a will on the roof."
"The five victims met up on their way back from school and headed toward Cornelius Tower together."
"As further proof that this was more than a group suicide, one can point to the fact that non-staff members are forbidden entrance to the roof of Cornelius Tower."
"At the time of the incident, the door to the roof was locked, and none of the victims' fingerprints had been left behind on the doorknob."
"Also, the door's key was not discovered among any of their personal possessions."
"This raises the possibility that a third party, someone other than the victims, was on the scene before and after the incident."
"The investigation is proceeding under the assumption that this third party had the key to the door, and that either prior to or after the incident, they locked the door and left."
"We've finished questioning all of the employees who work in the Cornelius Tower hotel. Virtually all of them have alibis. Currently, we're questioning the employees of companies who have offices located in the Tower."
"We have yet to discover a reason explaining why the five victims would commit suicide."
"Four out of five of those related to them in some way--family, friends, schoolteachers, and so forth--state definitively that they had no motive for killing themselves."
The slide changed, switching to the second case--the "Shibuya Station college student fetus homicide."
"Next, I'll talk about the so-called 'pregnant man' case."
"It occurred on September 19. Twelve days after the case nicknamed the 'group diving.'"
"The first person to come across the crime scene was an employee at a nearby karaoke place. The body was discovered at around 5 in the morning."
"The victim was Konoe Chizuo, 21 years old, a third-year college student in the Shibuya region."
"He was already dead at the time of discovery."
"The estimated time of death is approximately four hours before the body was found, at around 1 AM on the morning of the 19th."
"The body's abdomen was unnaturally swollen, and we discovered a fetus inside it."
"According to the results of the autopsy, someone cut the victim's abdomen open while he was still alive, and then inserted the fetus into his stomach."
"It's believed that at the time, the fetus was already dead."
"The victim died after his abdomen was sewn back together. He had scratched at the stitched parts, and there were traces of a portion of the thread having been torn out."
"The fetus was about 8 months old, which suggests that it was removed from the mother's body via a Caesarean section."
"We have yet to find out anything about the mother. It's unclear whether she is dead or alive."
"A DNA analysis showed there to be no blood relation between the fetus and the victim."
"On a side note, the fetus had Type B blood, while the victim had Type A."
Suwa took a breath. He appeared to have grown weary from talking continuously. Not to mention the fact that he must have been nervous at speaking in front of so many of his seniors.
"Next is the third incident.... 'Maruyamachou staking homicide.'"
After a second, the displayed slide changed to a photo of the "staking" crime scene.
"This is a photograph of the crime scene."
"The incident occurred on September 29. The victim was Outa Hisashi, 56 years old. A professor at Totou University."
"The first to find him was a man living in a nearby apartment."
"The cause of death was strangulation. After being murdered, the victim was pinned up with about ten small metal spikes."
"As you can see, the body had almost no external wounds."
"The spikes, too, were mainly affixed through his clothes, although some of them did pierce his flesh."
"The mass media has proclaimed it to be 'a staking, a bloody tragedy,' but there was practically no blood loss involved."
"The spikes are sold by a German company called Kreuznagel. They are stakes with a distinctive long, cross-like shape."
"Because the criminal ultimately chose to use something cross-shaped, the investigation is also proceeding from a religious angle."
"We have received multiple statements that between 2100 hours and 2130, when the incident took place, the continuous sound of stakes being hammered into a wall could be heard in the area near the crime scene."
"As the victim's estimated time of death overlaps almost perfectly with that time period, we believe that the victim was either killed on the spot or somewhere close by."
"The reliability of this statement is somewhat doubtful, but we have also received testimony that a female student from Suimei Private Academy was seen at the scene of the crime."
"Last is the 'Inokashira Line Shibuya station public bathroom homicide'.... commonly called the 'Vampire House' case."
"The case occurred on October 10. The body was discovered at 5:30 AM by a station worker."
"The victim's identity remains uncertain. He possessed not a single article that hinted at his background."
"The estimated time of death is between 10 AM and 6 PM of the previous day."
"All of the victim's blood had been withdrawn, and he was abandoned in a mummy-like state."
"As you're well aware, this photograph was taken by some unknown person and posted as a sample picture on an Internet auction roughly fifteen minutes before the body's discovery."
As he listened to Suwa's explanation, Ban clicked his tongue.
--This suggested that death was becoming something of a fashion....