Part 48: Nanami-chanPart 48 - Nanami-chan
With such rage that it appeared like she would bite me any moment.
Why was this girl.... so violent.... and so scary....
Save me.... somebody save me....
"Are you connected to the Cosmic Church of The Divine Light?"
"Who taught you about that power!?"
Unusually, her voice had grown strained.
But I had no idea what was going on, and all I could do for the time being was keep shaking my head over and over.
"Something like that.... it's impossible."
"Who was the one to teach you about that power?"
"Who was it! Answer me!"
No one.... told me a single thing about this power....! But if I had to put it one way or the other....
"Uguh.... guh.... A, Ayase.... guh...."
"Uugh.... cough, cough, cough....!"
As I hacked away, I desperately sucked in air.
What the hell....
Was Sena my enemy, as I'd thought originally? Did she, too, work for "Shogun"?
If so, I had to escape....
What was the Cosmic Church of The Divine Light.... I'd never heard of anything like it....
"Sorry. If you don't have any relationship with them, that's fine."
It would seem she didn't intend to hurt me. Then--
"Uh, uh, um...."
I screwed up my courage and called to her.
Her expression was still severe, but apparently she meant to listen to me.
"Wh, wh, when.... you say power.... what do you mean?"
Sena knew something.
She'd referred to the flowerbed, saying "You created it, didn't you."
"The flo, flowerbed from before.... how...."
"You imagined it, didn't you?"
Imagined it.... I had, but....
"It's possible to turn delusions into reality."
"Things that aren't real blend into the scenery around us."
"B, bu, but...."
"If it only a, appears in your sight.... then it's.... only..... an illusion...."
Illusions were no more than illusions, and they were false.
Ayase had been saved because the flowerbed there wasn't an illusion, but rather the real thing....
"Di-Swords are a shortcut for producing that -1."
"But you did it without a Di-Sword...."
Sh, she'd started saying things that went straight over my head again.
No, but-- What Sena told me wasn't merely a flight of fancy.
At least, the patent for VR technology had turned out to be fact.... Sena really did know something....
"For your own sake."
"And tell me if you see other errors."
"How wonderful it would be if you could believe only that which you see...."
Sena spat out that parting mutter, and this time she left for good.
It was said that the surgical department and the emergency room had been in quite a state since the earthquake, as injured people who had lost consciousness due to seemingly baseless symptoms were carried in one after the other.
But the psychiatric ward had nothing to do with that, and if anything, the patients visiting for diagnoses finished earlier than usual.
In a few days, perhaps potential PTSD patients would come pouring in, but for today, at least, the psychiatric department had run out of scheduled appointments.
The psychiatric ward had lost one of its doctors the other day--he had been ruthlessly killed in a New-Gen incident--and no substitute had arrived yet, so they were constantly understaffed.
But all that remained for today's work were minor miscellaneous tasks, and if she passed them on to the nurse responsible for the next night shift, she could finally take some time off.
Patting her cheeks with both hands, as though telling herself to keep it up for just a little longer, she was about to swiftly cut through the empty lobby.
She automatically turned around. But all that continued beyond there was the silent corridor. No one was there.
One man stood alone in the lobby she'd convinced herself was empty, and he'd called out to Hazuki when he spotted her.
"Could I have a bit of your time?"
Upon seeing Hazuki's confusion, the man, Suwa Mamoru, pulled a black ID book out of his breast pocket and held it up a little demurely. It was a police badge.
"And so, um, what you wanted to discuss...."
Hazuki, who still had work left to do, looked a bit restless.
Appearing to understand this, Suwa took a single photograph from his pocket without any preamble.
Pictured there was Nishijou Takumi's listless-looking face. Hazuki, who had confidence in her ability to remember faces as part of her work, had already nodded unthinkingly.
"Nishijou Takumi.... it's definitely him?"
"Ye, yes.... but...."
Hazuki's hesitation was only natural.
Even if the person asking were a police officer, there couldn't be anything good about leaking a patient's information.
But Suwa had been well aware of this when he began speaking to Hazuki. He put on an earnest gaze as he revised his previously light attitude. And, lowering his voice, he plunged on ahead.
"I have a favor to ask you...."
"Eh, that's.... impossible.... I can't let you...."
"It's crucially connected to a certain case!"
At her wit's end, Hazuki tried to leave the spot immediately, but Suwa circled around and blocked her path.
"Th, this is a real problem for me...."
"I won't cause you any trouble! Please!"
Suwa fell to his knees then and there and began prostrating himself.
"P, please stop. It truly.... can't be done...."
"For the sake of keeping there from being future victims...!"
What on earth could she do to make him give up--
Happily, I didn't encounter either "Shogun" or Yua.
In the end, I'd gone home without meeting Rimi.
Because of the commotion over Ayase and the midday earthquake, school must have canceled classes early and sent the other students home.
If I waited a little longer, maybe Rimi would come visit me. Until then.... I probably had no choice but to endure the fear on my own.
To continue averting my eyes from my anxiety, I decided to use my recovered PC to gather information.
When I opened it, I had a new email. I'd thought maybe Rimi had contacted me, but....
So she'd kind of enjoyed being part of the peanut gallery. Congrats to her. I didn't send a reply, of course.
No online newspapers had reported on her.
Well, they must have their hands full with the earthquake that had rocked Shibuya, and they probably couldn't be bothered with the failed suicide attempt of some indie band's vocalist.
At the moment, I didn't have any way to find out whether or not Ayase was all right.
Much more information had been determined with respect to the earthquake since the last time I'd checked.
The number of deaths had risen to 118, and there were currently over 300 injured. To think that the fatalities would exceed three digits....
There were also articles stating that most of the magnetic devices throughout Shibuya had been damaged. When I considered the fact that there were many other people out there who had suffered through tragedies like mine, frustration surged up in me yet again.
It was a tragedy indeed.
My precious moe art collection and my eroge save data would never come back to me for all eternity.... Haa.
In any case, I couldn't think of it as having been an ordinary earthquake.
It was utterly abnormal for there to be 118 deaths.
That abnormality, of course, had become a hot topic on the Net.
I thought back over the moment of the earthquake.
At the time, an astounding impact had struck me.
A sensation I'd never tasted before in my life, as though my head were boiling, as though it were exploding.
Having to take something like that.... it wouldn't be odd if you died from shock.
I watched the news on TV as well as looking online.
News-24 Presenter: "Now, it seems that we've managed to connect to our crew at the Shibuya station plaza."
News-24 Presenter: "Shimatani-san, what's the situation over there?"
Male News Presenter: "In respect to all magnetic devices, broken at the heart of Shibuya, we'd like to refer to the experts."
Male News Presenter: "Hayashibara-san, what could be the reason behind the severe damage to magnetic devices that took place during this earthquake?"
Hayashibara Taizou: "Before that, what I'd first like you to know is that there is magnetite located about 200 meters below the Shibuya region.... Eh~, that is, a geological strata with large deposits of naturally occurring magnets."
Hayashibara Taizou: "A valley of magnets within the earth. As the name implies, it's a considerably large-scale vein of ore, or, as we call it, a dike."
Hayashibara Taizou: "And here, you see, when you add in a tremendous stimulus like the earthquake that just took place, there's nothing strange about the idea of its influence, eh~, dealing out fatal damage to magnetic media located on the surface, especially the parts of them devoted to recording data."
Ozawa Mikihito: "It is utterly ridiculous."
Female Interviewer: "You have a different opinion, Mr. Ozawa?"
Ozawa Mikihito: "Yes, it's a fact that a vast dike of magnetite is located under Shibuya."
Ozawa Mikihito: "But the prevailing view is that this collection of magnetite--which is so weak, you can hardly call them magnets--doesn't possess sufficient power to disrupt magnetic media on the surface."
Ozawa Mikihito: "Therefore, I believe it's only proper to think that the cause must lie elsewhere."
Hayashibara Taizou: "You say that, but, eh~, it's also a fact that the abnormal number of victims this time can't be accounted for by a mere earthquake."
Hayashibara Taizou: "Since most people in Shibuya claim to have had headaches, the possibility of it being connected to magnetite is undoubtedly--"
Ozawa Mikihito: "Do you mean to assert that the likes of a magnetic field could kill a hundred people!?"
Male News Presenter: "And now, to our commercial break."
They'd completely disregarded how, right after the earthquake, a vast white cloud had risen over Shibuya, as well as the fact that the sky had turned white.
Though at first, everyone had made sure to report about it.
Now, too, two ambulances were parked there, and the ambulance crew members attempted to carry people who had been wounded in the earthquake into the hospital.
A doctor in pale-green surgery scrubs and the middle-aged head nurse yelled while instructing them on how to come in.
A number of patients awaiting treatment had already sat down in the area around the off-hours entrance, demonstrating that the doctors were having trouble getting to everyone.
The patients being borne in could be divided into roughly two groups.
Those with external wounds had blood flowing from their arms or foreheads, and their faces were screwed up in agony. It was painful to look at them, but their examinations had been postponed.
This baffling symptom was awfully common among the emergency patients who had been brought here as a result of the earthquake.
It was a phenomenon that hadn't been witnessed in previous large earthquakes.
And the doctors had yet to determine the reason for their unconsciousness.
When the doctor asked about the patient's symptoms, the worker who had descended from the ambulance yelled:
Paramedic: "Top priority!"
He gave no other explanation.
Normally, this would have driven the doctor to complain.
Kishimoto Ayase lay on the stretcher as though sleeping. Unconscious, she groaned faintly.
SFX: Squeak, squeak
Unconcerned by the hateful stares of the externally wounded patients seated all around, the doctor and the ambulance crew hastened to carry the stretcher inside the hospital.
A girl watched this unfold from a short distance away. She stood at the hospital's main entrance.
Sakihata Rimi bit her lip and furrowed her eyebrows, a strained expression on her face.
Though my migraine had mostly gone away, anxiety continued to dominate my head, and being alone made me grow more and more depressed.
I had yet to receive any form of contact from Rimi.
I'd tried calling her, but I got her voicemail again.
Even so, up until now, Rimi had invariably came sailing to wherever I was and reassured me, saying "It'll be okay."
I ground my teeth and immersed myself in redoing my PC settings to elude my insecurity.
I'd start by fixing my email configuration from the ground up.
Since I hadn't touched it since I first tweaked the settings, I didn't remember how I liked to have everything arranged.
I had to begin by finding the instructions for my email software and ISP.
Before I knew it, I was damp with sweat, though it didn't involve a huge amount of labor. Many times, midway through, I wanted to throw it all away in irritation.
Even so, an hour later (thirty minutes of which was spent searching for the manual), I'd finally restored email service to myself.
I immediately checked my mail.
Ahh.... I'd finally become able to hear her voice.... It was a real relief to listen to her. I felt like it'd all been worthwhile....
Mixed in with the spam,
There was a mail
With a subject line and a sender
That caught my attention.
I groaned without thinking.
What was this.... Was Nanami pulling my leg?
If so, that'd make her lowest of the low. I'm gonna beat her to death.
Nanami couldn't have emailed me here.
She'd never sent me mail to my PC address in the past.
A little earlier, even, she'd mailed my cell phone.
The convergence of multiple coincidences? Had it just sort of happened?
"Nanami" was quite a common name.
Even the phrase "Whose eyes are those eyes?" was incredibly popular now. You'd see it getting used all over the place.
There was nothing weird about it getting used as the title of a spam email....
For the time being, I decided to read the contents.
"Err--, it's pretty big...."
"Shogun," you mean....
"Sho, Sho, 'Shogun' couldn't possibly know my...."
But.... What if "Shogun" were "recording my thoughts"....?
Extracting my email address.... might be easy as pie for him....
"It, it's.... a lie...."
He.... he's.... crazy.... Oh.... Oh god....
"I, I, I'm, I'm not.... a hero.... I'm not.... Neidhardt...."
I'd get murdered right off the bat....
I wanna run away..... I wanna run away....
Rimi.... I had to get Rimi to protect me....
Why wouldn't she contact me?
Had she gotten injured in the earthquake?
But Misumi-kun hadn't said a thing about it when I saw him.
I took my phone in hand and looked to see if any calls or messages had arrived from Rimi.
Where the heck was she....
My phone email inbox. At the very top was displayed the mail from Nanami that had reached me shortly before....
Th, this.... What did this mean....!?
F, for now.... better try calling Nanami....
I opened my phone's address book. There were only three recorded numbers.
Home, Rimi's cell, and Nanami's cell.
Every single time we came across each other, Nanami nagged at me to call her.
So, so be good about it and pick up.... If you don't, I'll never call you again, okay....
I won't let you make excuses, like something about you getting hurt and trapped in place during the earthquake.
I pulled up Nanami's number and pressed the Send button. I put the phone to my ear.
I knew it tended to take a little time like this when you make calls with a cell phone. But right now that soundless time seemed to last forever, making me horribly irritated.
"H, hurry up."
Listen to this:A Strange Noise
This sound.... what was it....?
I experimented with taking my cell phone away from my ear.
This, could it be.... a phone's ringtone?
In terms of the timing.... no matter how I thought about it....
I shook my head.
I'd never heard Nanami's ringtone. So there was no evidence that this melody belonged to Nanami's phone!
Positive, Negative or Neutral?