Part 32: Di-SwordPart 32 - Di-Sword
There was a small plaza at the EAST tower's first-floor entrance, which neighbored the station, and while it may not have been as popular as the area by the statue of Hachiko, people often used it as a meeting spot.
Even now, ten or so people were glaring at their cell phones while waiting for some appointed time.
From the descending escalator that came down from the Inokashira Line station, which was found on the second floor of Sign City.
She leaned against a white column nearby it and scrupulously scanned the area.
Yet for some reason, and never mind the season, she was nibbling on a popsicle, which completely contrasted with the sharpness of her gaze, making her appear intensely amusing.
In fact, she was not waiting for anyone, but instead she was quietly observing the people going to and fro.
From right where she stood, one could see all the way to the jumbotron located by the scramble crossing.
A famous singer's PV video was slowly drifting there. On the lower portion of the screen, information about the so-called "New Gen" cases ran in a continuous ribbon.
There wasn't a day without New Gen-related news. TV, newspapers, the Internet, weekly publications, even the jumbotrons along the street and electric sports scoreboards.
Sena had absolutely no interest in those sources of information, but walk around Shibuya, and one would often pass people talking about such topics.
Over the past few days, she had begun to spot people with those words printed on the front of their T-shirts.
In Shibuya, the phrase had become wildly popular as an underground meme and was beginning to develop legs of its own.
People on the streets spoke, smiling, of how related goods were selling pretty well at Harajuku's souvenir shops, providing proof positive that human beings have zero interest in anyone besides themselves.
The rumble of trains reaching the platform, taxis honking, people chatting as they walked, BGM leaking from the jumbotron and from inside shops, the announcement from the escalator explaining how to ride it safely....
The sounds never died out; Before one ended, the next would manifest and they went on to play a multilayered and discordant noise.
In the midst of that noise, Sena only paid attention to people's voices.
Her brain blocked out all other sounds, and she came to hear their words clearly.
In this section, a number of random passersby give their opinions on recent events, with their interjections showing up on screen at unpredictable times and arrangements. Given that these conversations also overlap each other, it can be difficult to keep track of who's talking about what, especially without the benefit of sound. In lieu of making a dozen screenshots, here's the transcript of what they say:
The Shibuya Scuttlebutt posted:
"I wonder, did the same criminal do it?"
"That's not what the news said. The M.O. for each of them is too different."
"But ya know, wouldn't it be scary if murder is becoming a trend?"
"Seems like it matches up with some band's lyrics. Well, they must've just jammed it into their lyrics after the fact, though."
"Stupid, don't look down on Phantasm. They're prophets."
"Geh, you like that band? Really creeps me out."
"They aren't creepy. I can totally relate to that song of theirs."
"Eh, why, you're one of their fans, too?"
"Nowadays, you've gotta be pretty behind the times to not have heard about Phantasm."
"Sheesh, lend me their CD, then."
"Hey, take a look at this for me."
"Geh, what's this, it's totally my kind of thing."
"I got it a little while ago. One of those 'Whose Eyes Are Those Eyes' T-shirts."
"I knew they were selling them normally. But it's the first time I've actually seen someone wearing one. Gyahaha."
"Pretty damn cool, wouldn't you say?"
"Crazy cool. Gimme it."
"Screw you. Go buy one yourself."
"But isn't it kind of, you know? Like begging the New Gen perp, come kill me, please."
"That might get my face on the national news. I'd finally make my nationwide debut. Gyahaha."
"Hasn't Shibuya been scary lately?"
"Scary, scary~ can't even walk alone at night."
"New Gen is such a pain in the ass."
"I want them to hurry up and get the criminal--"
"But they say it's a woman."
"Eh, for real? Wow, that's amazing. Wait, Mako, have you seen the criminal!?"
"Course I haven't. I'd have been murdered ages ago if I did. Gyahaha."
"I just heard about those kinds of rumors, that's all."
"Then doesn't that mean we probably won't get killed? We're women, too, and all."
"If she's gonna do it anyway, I hope she sticks to killing stinky old guys and creeps."
"If that's how it's gonna be, I'd totally cheer her on~"
Sena gave a small click of her tongue.
She soon ceased listening.
She hadn't found anything worthwhile in any of the noise. Ultimately, noise was no more than noise.
She looked around one more time.
Since some time before, she had felt a horror akin to having cold fingers caress her back.
A "gaze" thrown at her by someone unknown.
But she couldn't seek out its true form.
Sena pushed herself away from the pillar against which she was leaning.
"A miss, huh."
"Why is it so blue that it makes me want to cry?"
"Where is this sky?"
"Is it okay, to wish....?"
Seira-tan was calling me....
Burachu was great yesterday.
Seira-tan played a huge role, and there'd been a sexy kissing scene. The sakuga quality was way up there, too....
"If you wake up, I'll give you a good-morning kiss, so.... What am I saying, stupid, stupid, just forget it!"
Seira-tan was calling me....!
Plus, with her saying such moe things to me, I couldn't avoid getting up....
"Hey! How long are you gonna keep sleeping, you dum-dum!"
When I switched off the alarm clock, Seira-tan's voice got cut off in the middle of resounding through my room.
My Seira voice clock came in quite handy.
If I didn't turn it off, her voice would get louder and louder before finally turning into a meaningless buzzer.
Because I wanted to greet the morning after having been woken up by Seira-tan, I had trained myself to hit the switch before the buzzer started ringing.
Up until now, I'd only failed at it twice.
It was so easier to wake up with Seira-tan's help.
No, in actuality, I usually felt pretty awful from playing games till dawn or from how uncomfortable the sofa was, but being woken up by Seira-tan made it much less painful.
It would've been okay for me to go only twice this week, but now I was compelled to be at school three days in order to make up for the gap.
I didn't want to go, but it'd be bad if I didn't. If I stayed home any more than this, I wouldn't be able to graduate.
Not that failing to graduate would change anything about me.
It seemed terribly nostalgic.
It seemed terribly lonely.
It seemed terribly sad.
And it seemed terribly distant.
Would Rimi.... come to school today....?
I had constantly kept thinking about what happened the day before yesterday. I thought about it on and on, to the point of neglecting ESO.
Those must have been my delusions.
I certainly couldn't believe "Shogun" was an old man like that, and thinking back over it, there were simply too many impossibilities involved in people vanishing from Shibuya.
It had been a delusion that particularly felt real, but I was ashamed of myself for being so quick to believe in a situation so far removed from reality.
If she hadn't done that for me, I might have become deranged and lost sight of myself.
Why had Rimi saved me?
I wondered if it was because, as she'd said.... we were friends.
I had not a single memory of things like her being in my class since freshman year, or of us going to a movie with Misumi-kun.
But the attitude with which she made contact with me was clearly one of "a close friend."
Rimi had been a little close to crying when she held me.
At the very least, I didn't think it was an act.
She was the first girl to ever worry about and cry over a gross otaku like me....
When she acted like that toward me, it instantly blew away all my previous dread and suspicion.
How should I act around Rimi from now on?
Is Rimi my ally or my enemy?
Is Rimi the "New Gen" criminal?
After what had happened with Yua, I'd given up on my custom of eating breakfast here before heading to school.
It didn't feel so pleasant when I thought that Yua might be "watching" me from somewhere.
And if she came over to talk to me, she'd regurgitate her annoying, crazy conspiracy theories at me again.
I couldn't afford to spend any time around her.
"Yua is Rimi's subordinate."
Maybe I had been wrong in believing that deduction of mine for so long.
In any case, it would be better to stay away from her.
Except today, I had somehow ended up coming here.
I carefully studied my surroundings to verify that Yua wasn't there, then slowly lowered myself onto my usual bench.
I cast my eyes toward the pond while stuffing my cheeks with the chocolate pastry I'd bought at a convenience store earlier.
There was little wind, and the surface of the water remained idyllic. Once in a while, I saw koi-like fish slide through the cloudy water.
Today, rarely enough, there were no other people in the park. It was a very quiet space.
As my gaze swam about the park, what I thought of was, predictably enough, Rimi.
To be honest, going to school was a bother, knowing I would have no choice but to see her. For that, I went here, just to buy myself some time.
I felt like I'd said all kinds of harsh things to her.
Yet, Rimi had kept smiling and continued treating me kindly.
If I went to school now, she would surely start talking to me again, the same as before.
Smiling, acting as though what had happened in front of the 107 building didn't bother her in the slightest, calling out to me as my friend.
With what kind of expression should I go meet her....?
I definitely didn't think of Rimi as a demon anymore.
Misumi-kun had said that Rimi and I had got along well as classmates for the past year and a half, but.... I had no memory of anything of the sort.
Perhaps something was going wrong with the person behind me, after all.
My class was on the third floor.
It was quite a pain in the neck to climb up there. If only there were an escalator, I thought.
She dragged her right foot a little as she walked.
Maybe she'd twisted it. Her small body wavered from side to side. She seemed awfully precarious.
As the other students steadily caught up with her and passed her on both sides, she climbed up slowly, literally one step at a time.
Looking at her from below, it seemed like her panties would start showing any moment now.
C, crap. At this rate, I'd end up as a Peeping Tom. I didn't want people to call me Mirrorman.
The girl caught her toes on the edge of the stairs and suddenly wobbled.
Luckily, she stopped on a landing so she hadn't fallen all the way down the stairs, but she remained on her knees as though she was in pain, and she didn't move for some time.
Was this a flag-emergence event?
No, of course it wasn't. Even if it was, I wouldn't be able to bring myself to speak to her.
Sorry, but get help from a third-dimension-loving womanizer like Misumi-kun, okay?
Please don't seek anything from me.
But she stayed curled up so motionlessly, I started to get tad concerned. After getting halfway up the stairs, I turned around quietly to see how she was doing.
Her knees were knocking. Like those of a newborn deer.
Blood oozed from her knee. I wondered if she had scraped it.
That face.... I'd seen it before.... Wasn't she the girl who'd transferred to my class last week?
Her name was.... What was it again? I couldn't remember....
On top of that, she was crying....
Did it hurt that badly? She'd fallen pretty flashily, but it hadn't looked like a big enough impact to merit crying....
Nobody attempted to offer her a hand.
What could she be searching for.... I thought to myself.
Her fingers were clutching..... a Band-Aid.
Our eyes met.
W, well, for the time being.... she seemed to be all right. And even if I didn't stay and watch her, she'd be okay....
I silently took to my seat.
Come to think of it, I seemed to remember that transfer student saying something to me on the day she transferred in.
Something about being glad we were in the same class.
Rimi had soon made me forget all about it, but I wondered what those words had meant....
As always, Misumi-kun was calling me. Maybe the truth was that he didn't have any friends besides me.
At least, the way he always started talking to me and only me was sufficient to give me such doubts.
"Listen up. Yesterday, I saw two sketchy old guys go into the principal's office."
"So, Rimi and I secretly eavesdropped, and we were totally floored."
"They were looking real serious-like at a list of all the students in the school."
"Maybe it had some kind of connection to New Gen."
Perhaps it meant the real New Gen criminal was a student at this school....
No matter what, all I kept thinking of was.... Rimi's face.
I jumped. Speak of the devil, or whatever they say at times like this; when I heard Rimi's voice burst in on us, I felt my heart rate leap.
I couldn't look up. I was tense. It was an utterly different kind of tension from what I had felt up until last week.
"It was your fault for going off and opening the door. You know that, right?"
"I couldn't help it. It was my first time seeing a real detective, and I got a little over excited and I just...."
"Thanks to you, even I had to get questioned by them."
"Hm~mm, Daichin, have you done something that makes it bad for you to talk to the police?"
"Well what about you?"
"I wonder, ahaha."
They disregarded my existence.
But to be honest, I liked it better that way. I wasn't confident that I would be able to say anything back if Rimi did talk to me.
I'd anticipated the chime ringing without either of them saying anything to me, but when I flicked a look at the clock, there were still five minutes till the warning bell.
"Ahh, I see. It's you, so I figured you probably wouldn't remember her, but it really is just like I thought."
"She's the girl who transferred in last week. Orihara Kozue-chan."
Oh, so that transfer student was called Orihara Kozue.
"A, at the stairs...."
"Oh, gotcha. Then she oughta be here soon."
Misumi-kun's voice was brimming with enthusiasm.
I hadn't seen him act this lively since a few days ago, when he found out that FES was a girl from the class next door.
Now that he mentioned it, I'd also seen him hitting on her last week, pretty much as soon as she arrived.
He really was indomitable. Way to go, never mind the fact that you have a girlfriend.
"Hey, don't you think Kozue-chan is way cute?"
You sure ask me things I find hard to answer.
I nodded ambiguously. Apparently he took it as a sign of agreement.
"Right~? I took a liking to her the moment I saw her. Somehow, she makes you wanna take care of her--"
"All the guys feel the same way too, they're all calling her cute. But the girls don't seem to think too highly of her."
"Besides, the one calling her 'a pain' is probably your girlfriend, isn't it?"
"Mm? Yeah, and what about it?"
"She even picks fights with me a lot. 'Don't get any closer to Daisuke-kun,' she says. Plus, it's not just her, a whole bunch of them tell me the same thing."
"Haa, so you're oblivious. How about you do a little soul-searching?"
"Oh no, but it's so hard to be popular. Pff--"
"Ah, here's Orihara-san."
"Doesn't it kinda look like she's hurt?"
"You're right, I wonder what happened...."
That was what she'd gotten when she tripped on the stairs earlier.
"I'm gonna go over for a bit."
Ahh, please don't leave me, Misumi-kun....
Rimi didn't say anything. Despite that, she didn't move away from my seat either.
Because I was hunched over, practically deep enough to sink my teeth into my desk, I didn't know what kind of face she was making.
Positive, Negative or Neutral?