Part 36: On The RunPart 36 - On The Run
I got up and reassessed my surroundings.
The old fogey who had been sitting on a bench, tweaking his cellphone, kept casting little glances my way--or so I thought.
The craggy-faced man who had just entered the park leaned back against the plain, pipe-esque fence, slowly unfolded a newspaper, and began reading.
This was a dark place with few street lamps.
One of the salaryman-type men who had been hastening through the park now stood atop the overhead bridge, gazing at the avenue below him.
While looking in my direction, the police officer who had been talking to one of the homeless began to contact someone on his walkie-talkie.
Cold sweat ran down my back.
Don't tell me--
These guys were detectives? Maybe they'd been tailing me....
Yua had decided I was the murderer. With that delusion of hers, she may have ratted me out to the police.
"D, don't mess with me...."
Unable to bear it, I muttered in a voice too small for anyone to hear.
Was this, too, part of the "Shogun" conspiracy!?
I didn't do it! I didn't kill anyone! I'm not the criminal!
Why did someone as meek and bad at talking to people as me have to get treated like a murderer and chased by the police....!
Why did I have to get caught up in Yua's megalomania....!
In any case, I'd be in deep crud if I stayed here.
My pulse hadn't slowed down, and it was hard to breathe, but I had to move.
I'd go down them and follow Meiji Avenue as I made my escape.
When I reached the middle of the bridge, a new figure appeared from those stairs.
She was a woman wearing an office lady-style suit.
Holding a cell phone to her ear, she spoke into it expressionlessly as she climbed the stairs.
Surely this woman wasn't a detective, too....? Heart pounding, I passed her.
Office Lady?: "The T-shirts saying that are all the rage now."
Office Lady?: "I'm going to go buy one this Sunday. Since they're being sold on Takeshita Street in Harajuku."
Something felt off. There was an awkwardness in how she spoke. There was a strange theatricality to it.
Who on earth was she talking to? Did the person at the other end of the line really exist?
But when all was said and done, the woman didn't take any action against me.
I safely reached the stairs. Once there, I looked over my shoulder at the park.
Standing in the same place as before, he was still saying something into his walkie-talkie.
One of the homeless people who were sitting in a circle had just begun to stand up. None of the other homeless moved.
The geezer on the bench and the older guy reading the newspaper had risen at some point, and both were walking in my direction.
The two of them gave each other a short glance. They exchanged winks.... or so it appeared to me.
I went on to toss one more look at the office lady.
The office lady who'd passed me was in the midst of turning her head to look back at me.
The instant our eyes met, she averted her face, as though she'd gotten a shock.
Her phone remained pressed to her ear, but she wasn't chatting anymore.
Assaulted by a formless fear, I ran down the stairs.
As I sprinted along Meiji Avenue, going toward the station, I turned to look back up at the overhead bridge.
I saw the two geezers run across the bridge.
Shit! Shit! Shit!
It was Yua's fault! She'd laid another trap for me!
But the fact of the matter was that I was fleeing the police right now.
Besides, the police would probably come up with some random reasons to attach a crime to my name, anyway.
They wouldn't believe a creepy otaku like me....!
I didn't have the room to think about what would become of me from here on out.
I've gotta escape from Yua and the police--for now, that feeling alone seized control of my spirit.
OST: Gradually panic
There were a lot of people everywhere I went, blocking my path.
It nearly made me think they were hostile toward me, that they were getting in my way on purpose.
Everyone started to look like a detective. I was on the brink of panicking.
When I turned around, I spotted someone running after me.
I caught glimpses of a figure cutting its way through the crowd in the same way as I had.
It was one of the guys from the park. I didn't know which.
Anyhow, they were chasing me. The thought of it made me go cold. My life would be all but over if they caught me....!
Anything but that. I wouldn't be able to take it. I didn't want a life like that!
Even if I managed to prove my innocence at the very end, the invisible brand of criminality wouldn't vanish from me. Everyone around me would be suspicious of me.
Anything but that. I haven't done a thing!
But because I'd been running almost the whole time since leaving @Cafe, I couldn't keep breathing.
My lungs sought oxygen. My legs were shaky with exhaustion.
Now that things had come to this, it was too late for me to regret not having exercised more.
At last losing the ability to run, I halted in place and fell to my hands and knees.
"Kahaa, haa, kahaa, fuhaa"
Outer walls made of a distinctive red brick. A giant illuminated sign that said "GIGANTES."
I had been here once before, together with Misumi-kun. At the time, I'd come to hear Phantasm perform live--or, more accurately, to see their vocalist, FES.
Now it was utterly quiet and empty of a human presence, and only the light of the vending machine in front of the building feebly illuminated the area.
Irritated at how my breathing refused to go back to normal, I looked over my shoulder at the street I'd run down.
A dim, narrow road.
A train on the Tokyo-Yokohama line decelerated as it passed close overhead, and the light spilling out from its windows was particularly eye-catching. But even that illumination failed to reach the road directly below it.
I squinted at the end of the street. Had I managed to shake off the police and Yua? It was too dark for me to tell.
The female voice that brushed my ear without warning made me scream pathetically and whirl around.
As she stood quietly in the darkness, looking down at me, her form lacked the erupting power it held onstage and instead appeared ephemeral.
Since it was dim, I couldn't scope out her expression.
Her tone was disinterested.
But she gave off the sense that she wouldn't let me say no.
Still holding out her hand, FES slowly turned her head and narrowed her eyes, as if to see through the darkness.
"You must run."
Did she know I was fleeing Yua and the police....
I was wary of her for a second, but right now, she was literally offering me a helping hand.
It was cool to the touch.
In my state of irrevocable exhaustion, nothing could have seemed more hateful, but if FES hadn't been there, I might have failed to stand up again and stayed there until the police caught up with me.
FES continued steadily, pulling at my hand.
We entered narrow alleys and turned at countless intersections.
I had absolutely no clue where I was running.
Even under normal circumstances, I had little knowledge of the lay of the land in Shibuya. At this point, I had no choice but to go wherever FES took me.
What if this, too, were a trap laid by "Shogun"--I started to think, but I shook my head to rid myself of such thoughts.
Even if FES were working under "Shogun," there was nothing I could do about it anymore....
Lactic acid had built up in my feet, making them heavier, and my consciousness was wavering, as if running too much were keeping enough oxygen from reaching my brain.
Maybe I had unconsciously blurted it out countless times already.
Even so, FES devoted herself to continuing forward, without looking back at me once.
Though Shibuya Station was right in front of our eyes, there weren't many people around here.
Without a moment's hesitation, FES began descending the stairs that led to a yawning underground opening.
Wheezing, I let go of FES's hand and sank into a crouch on the stairs.
I wondered exactly how much I had run today.
It might be the first time in my whole life that I'd performed so much physical activity....
For some time, all that could be heard in the dim subway, with its melancholy ambience, was the sound of FES and I breathing.
I looked up in the direction of the entrance we'd come down from, but I couldn't detect any pursuers.
Did that mean.... we'd somehow managed to escape them....
Plus, it should've been pretty close to the train station, but there wasn't a single person passing through.
One of the fluorescent lights illuminating the tunnel was on the verge of dying out, and it busily blinked on and off.
A smell like raw garbage rotting floated faintly in the air.
It was the sort of place that symbolized Shibuya's underside.
If someone attacked me here, my voice might not reach outside no matter how much I shouted. It wasn't a place I'd want to visit alone.
The charismatic diva of the indie music scene, who even now was making the young people of Shibuya go crazy about her. A person they called a prophetess....
That FES was together with a gross otaku bastard like me. It felt kind of strange, somehow.
Sweat seeped out of her forehead and ran in droplets down her cheeks. She wiped it with the flat of her hand.
Each time she breathed, her chest rose and fell, peeking out of her camisole.
A healthy sexiness lay hidden behind her atmosphere of ennui.
Positive, Negative or Neutral?