Part 46: NoahPart 46 - Noah
But that certainly couldn't be said of today, when he left the other detectives and went up to the windowsill to irritatedly place a call to his junior.
SFX: Ban's phone beeps as he dials Suwa's phone.
At first glance, Suwa seemed like a frivolous sort of man, but in reality, he was a serious detective with some real backbone to him. Considering how Ban valued him, his ditching the meeting today came unexpectedly.
Ban had tried to contact him countless times, but he always ended up getting his voicemail.
What with having heard something rather disturbing from Momose two days ago, Ban was having a hard time settling down.
Today was full of annoyance after annoyance.
Aside from the thing about Suwa, there was also the fact that when he reported about the GE rate in the meeting earlier, Matsunaga shot him down with, "We don't have the time to deal with idle gossip."
--Please, don't let things get any more aggravating than this.
Which was when his call went through, and he heard his junior's voice.
SFX: The connection is very low quality. There is lots of static and only a few of Suwa's words can be made out
"You danged fool! Where the hell had you loafed at!?"
"So.... y, I'm busy questi.... pects. ....own ideas.... y'know."
"Huh!? What're you saying!? Where are you!?"
When Ban yelled, Suwa's voice grew inaudible, and for some time, rustling noises continued in exchange.
"....How is it? Can you hear me now?"
"So, where in the bloody name of--"
"Oh, well, I had a few ideas of my own, see.... I was doing all kinds of asking around."
"Look here, you."
Since Ban himself was constantly taking unauthorized independent action, however, he couldn't help smiling dryly at the thought that maybe all their time together had led to him having a bad influence on Suwa, his junior.
"I think I'm pretty close to hitting on some clues."
"The real criminal?"
The color in Ban's eyes shifted.
"I'm keeping it secret for now. Since I might be thinking along the wrong lines."
"In any case, head on back. You got it?"
"Nah, I'm gonna investigate a little bit longer!"
"Haa!? H, hey, wait a sec!"
"Don't worry! Leave it to me."
The shaking gradually grew fiercer and fiercer. To the point that he couldn't stand up straight.
Ban crouched in place without a moment's hesitation.
"This is a big one!"
The other detectives, who had at first been unfazed, finally picked up on the gravity of the situation and ducked down or wormed their way under tables.
SFX: At this point, all the loose objects have started to come crashing down.
The clock hanging on the wall, the pens and paper cups set on the table, the projection equipment. They dropped to the floor one after the other, sending up violent crashing noises.
The two whiteboards lined up at the head of the conference room also collapsed.
SFX: The sounds of smashing and crashing stop. It seems everything that can fall has fallen.
--It was almost like being in a plane that had just entered turbulence.
So it seemed to Ban. It felt as if his feet weren't meeting the ground.
His entire body rocked, sending him swinging around from side to side.
This could conceivably be a 5 or 6 magnitude earthquake.
It wasn't that someone had physically struck him. It was an intense headache.
A Detective: "Gyaaaaaahh!"
Suddenly, screams resounded through the conference room.
Most of the other detectives' faces were contorted with pain, and they were pressing down on their temples or cradling their heads.
What was this headache that matched nothing he had ever experienced before?
Ban had no way of knowing whether or not it was connected to the earthquake.
The brilliance of it prevented him from keeping his eyes open.
I realized I lay collapsed face-down in the middle of my room.
I tried to get up, but as I did, pain raced through me as if my headache had infected the rest of my body, and I immediately moaned and borderline fainted in agony.
The room was in a disastrous state, as if a storm had passed through it.
All of my brides who had been lined up on their shelf were now toppled over or had fallen to the floor.
The bed was tilted, and the manga volumes and eroge packages piled up on it had come tumbling down, scattering across the floor.
What the hell had happened....
Right, I'd heard the ground roar at the same time that the buzzer sounded, and immediately afterward, I'd been consumed by the sensation that my entire body was boiling and melting....
I had absolutely no memory of whatever came next. My mind went blank.
It couldn't be....
Maybe "Shogun" was capable of carrying out the same sorts of things as the system described in the patent I'd found earlier....
Such thoughts made me shudder.
Enduring my headache, I looked up at the ceiling. I didn't see anything there, of course.
If he were recording my thoughts.... it'd be from a satellite's distant, upper-atmosphere orbit....
"Whatever the case, that can't be it...."
But judging by Sena's tone when she told me all those things, it almost sounded like the system in that patent had already been put into actual use and was being abused by certain people.
No, that's impossible....!
Whatever the case, it was way too much of a logical leap.
An old man who looked like he might keel over any minute now couldn't have private acess to an orbital satellite. Or did it mean he had to be one of the key people in some kind of governmental project?
It was a fact that something had occurred, so I figured I would look it up online.
I crawled up to my PC, my head throbbing.
I hadn't set it to automatically enter standby on its own, so it shouldn't have ended up like this, but....
My consciousness was clouded. My body remained limp. It was a struggle just to stand.
Clenching my teeth to put up with it, I moved the mouse.
Next, I tried pressing the power button.
I plopped myself deep into my chair. As I waited for the PC to start up, I reached urgently for my cell phone, which still sat where I'd left it on the table.
I checked the time.
Before I'd received that phone call--while I was browsing through info about Ayase on @chan, what time had it been again....?
When I put my head to work, the stabbing pain grew harsher.
What time had it been? Think. Remember.
It had definitely.... yeah, it shouldn't have been noon yet.
Or else.... like a sleepwalker, I'd been drifting around somewhere for an hour....?
"I, I'm.... not a sleepwalker...."
I shook my head to keep my thoughts from sinking in a negative direction again.
The resulting pang made my field of sight waver dizzily. It was as if a lump of lead had been stuffed into the center of my head.
When I took a glance at the monitor....
Could this possibly be.... a hard disk error?
"It, it can't be.... that's impossible.... it mustn't be, if that happened, ev, everything will be over....!"
My gigs of 18+ moe artwork....
My eroge save data....
My bookmarks to the sites I made the rounds of on a daily basis....
My minimum attendance shift chart....
And more than anything.... that which was more important to me than anything,
Did this mean that anything and everything had vanished....?
I wanted to scream and cry in frustration. I wanted to bang at the keyboard.
I wanted to kick the wall. And even now, I wanted to make sure of whether or not a restoration was possible.
But my body felt as heavy as always, and my headache wouldn't recede, and it was all I could do simply to sit limply in my chair and bite my lip.
It was over.... My life was over....
Everything stopped mattering to me. It had all burned away....
Just kill me.
Seira-tan, lying fallen over on my desk, smiled like an angel and spoke to me gently.
"Calm down. In an online game like ESO, won't all your save data be backed up on their servers?"
By servers, you mean the company's administrative servers....
"So even if your PC breaks, Neidhardt-chi's data shouldn't disappear."
Thanks to my misty consciousness, I'd forgotten something that basic.
I felt like I'd discovered a single ray of hope in the midst of despair.
Just what I'd expect from my wife.
I regretted the loss of my precious moe illustration collection and MP3s, which I hadn't backed up, but I had no choice except to give them up.
Even so, I wanted to commence the work of reinstalling my OS as soon as I could.
I also wanted to confirm the safety of my ESO save data with my own eyes, as soon as possible.
Although before anything else happened, I needed the headache currently torturing me to subside....
Currently projected on it, however, was the solemn face of a female newscaster.
It was a special TV broadcast, and on the upper left-hand side were displayed sensational words.
"Earthquake in Shibuya, Over 200 Casualties?"
Earthquakes were an everyday occurrence in Japan. Even in the capital metropolitan area, magnitude 5 earthquakes were known to have taken place myriad times.
Its strangeness was especially apparent when one compared it to the magnitude 5 earthquake in 2005, which had resulted in zero casualties.
An earthquake had also happened in Shibuya about three months ago. Eight deaths had emerged at the time, despite the fact that it was only a magnitude 3 earthquake.
In any case, all the individual stations began broadcasting special programming almost as soon as the earthquake started.
Information was currently complicated, and though the full count remained unclear, the female newscaster read off her notes, stating:
"According to an announcement by the Fire and Disaster Management Agency, thirty-one fatalities have been confirmed at present and it is believed that the number will continue to rise. Furthermore, the cause of death is currently unknown...."
The cameras affixed at regular points throughout Shibuya's pedestrian scramble had caught that light on tape, and the jumbotron kept playing a film where the screen went completely white as the earthquake ended.
The discoloration that had begun together with the earthquake had at first been more of a searing light than simply white.
Shibuya had momentarily been enveloped in a flash whose brightness stopped everyone from opening their eyes.
If this were an earlier and more warlike era, people would doubtless have imagined it to be a nuclear weapon.
There were some who actually spotted a white mushroom cloud floating several hundred meters above Shibuya, though it soon disappeared.
Yet no one had any idea about what the source of the light might have been or how it could be related to the earthquake.
Moreover, mixed-use buildings and other structures in the shopping center had also grown diminuitive crevices on the surfaces of their walls.
Midway through, the pain had made me lose consciousness a number of times. I'd dozed off at the computer before, but this was the first time I'd actually passed out.
Even so, the pain had mostly retreated compared to two hours earlier. I wet my throat by drinking some Coke and mustered my energy.
I returned my toppled bed to its original position and cleared some space on the floor to walk around in.
Doing these things took considerable effort, due to how my body refused to work up any strength, but I wouldn't be able to leave the room if I didn't clean up.
It'd be the worst if, during Shogun's next attack--although I didn't know if it were really him or not--I found myself trapped in here and couldn't run away.
I needed to guarantee myself an escape route....
My excess of emotion almost drove me to leap from my chair and pump a fist into the air, but even that was exhausting, and I stopped myself halfway.
Even so, I was overjoyed to be able to meet my alter ego again, after thinking he had disappeared forever.
Now that I was relieved, I started wanting to find out what on earth had happened in the first place. It was enough to give me the urge to sue someone for damages.
It had seemed like an earthquake, but that alone left too many things unexplained.
I checked to see if Grim were in Baselard, but I couldn't find him.
I tried going to our usual chatroom--my bookmark for it had disappeared, so it took a while to find--but Grim wasn't there, either. What was with him, vanishing on me at such a crucial time?
I had no recourse but to open the Taboo! home page.
Apparently an earthquake had occurred, after all. Magnitude 5. The number of casualties was awfully high. They said chances were strong that it would continue to mount, even beyond 200.
There were also reports that the sky over Shibuya had temporarily turned white, and that a vast mushroom cloud had risen, but no one seemed to be aware of how these were connected to the earthquake.
They had pounced on it over at @channel as well, with a lot of people posting threads like, "Shibuya again" and "Shibuya is over, isn't it."
Videos had been uploaded, ones that showed film from the traffic cameras at the pedestrian scramble.
At the time, I had been attacked by a horrific headache. It wasn't even at the level where you could call it a headache. It had felt as though the inside of my skull were boiling.
And even now, two hours later, it had left a pulsing pain and a limp heaviness behind in my body.
"Maybe you'd end up like that if you got stuck in a microwave...."
SFX: A blip noise comes from Takumi's PC.
Maybe Grim had entered. Reckoning I would ask him for the details, I flicked my eyes toward the chat window.
Shogun has entered the room
Current members: 2
An unthinking shriek spilled from my throat when I saw that name.
Such impeccable timing....
Could it be that.... he really was peeping in on my thoughts!?
The hand gripping my mouse quivered.
I was so terrified that I went rigid, and even the pain in my head flew straight away.
Even though I hated merely looking at the word "Shogun," I couldn't rip my eyes away from the monitor.
I wanted to leave the chatroom, but I'd received such a shock that it was as though my body had been cut away from my consciousness, and I couldn't control the mouse.
A prickling sensation at the back of my neck. Someone was watching me again. "God's gaze"....
Or rather than anything resembling God, might it in fact be "the gaze 'Shogun' sent down from a satellite's orbit"....?
Urgh.... I wanna run away....
But where to? He'd catch me no matter where I fled in Japan....
Shogun: Long time no see
That was the first thing he said.
With the lightness of someone greeting a friend he hadn't come across for a while.
But I had absolutely zero recollection of being friendly with him.
I was left to chew at my lip and watch the words displayed on the monitor.
But the post by "Shogun" galvanized me, letting my petrified body move freely again, and I soon groped for my cell phone.
It was a little past three. Classes might still be going on. Even so, Rimi, surely Rimi would do something about it for me.... I had to believe this.
I picked Rimi's cell phone number out of the short list of items recorded in my address book.
Shogun: Do you hate me?
"Ri, Rimi.... Hurry.... kahaah, haaah, pick up...."
It hurt to breathe. I couldn't think about anything calmly.
Rimi wouldn't pick up. Beyond the phone, the monotonous sound of my call to her went on ringing.
Why now, didn't you always come materialize in front of me whenever I found myself in trouble.... Why now, of all times....
Shogun: I'll send you a present
And this time, he'd set me up as the real New-Gen perp for sure!
No, I don't want that.... I'm not the criminal!
"Haa, kuhaah, haa...."
It felt like I'd become a fish stranded on land. I wasn't getting enough oxygen. My head went fuzzy.
Rimi was my last hope.
Gripping the phone harder and harder, I concentrated all my attention on the other end of the line, as though praying.
It went through!
"H, he, help me....."
Shogun: I'll be delighted if it pleases you
Her.... voicemail....? No....
At some point, my body had started trembling.
I dreaded "Shogun" even more than I'd thought....
Of course I did!
He was a serial killer who'd caused five incredibly cruel incidents, all while pretending to be disabled!
And I was his next mark....!
Positive, Negative or Neutral?