Part 49: Hand Wrapped GiftPart 49 - Hand Wrapped Gift
SFX: A Strange Noise
With things having come to this, I should try calling home. Yeah, that'd be the fastest way.
Ignoring the mystery ringtone I'd been hearing all this time, I put first things first and ended my call to Nanami.
SFX End: The noise is immediately silenced
My room suddenly went quiet. There had been a slight timelag, but I was positive I'd stopped hearing that melody
When I ended the phone call.
At almost exactly the same time.
I grew increasingly perturbed.
Unsure of how to act, all I could do was look around and around my room. Even if I called it looking around, nothing of what I saw entered my consciousness.
I was just making my field of sight run in circles. My mind had gone pure white.
Maybe this time, that ringtone wouldn't start playing, and maybe Nanami would answer the phone; I embraced such thin expectations in my fuzzy head.
SFX: A Strange Noise
My expectations were betrayed at once.
There was no.... mistaking it.... I could no longer continue averting my eyes from reality.
Nanami's cell phone was in this room.
Why? Had Nanami forgotten it here? Or--
It was a lie.... It was a categorical lie.... No matter what, it was simply.... too ridiculous....
I lowered the hand holding my phone at a snail's pace.
I couldn't do as much as blink. My throat was achingly dry. Even so, I sought out the sound's origin.
This time, I slowly, slowly moved my eyes across each of the items strewn around in this room.
I savagely detested myself for having never attempted to tidy up my room.
If I kept it organized, I'd soon have known where I was hearing it from....
Where the hell was the sound coming from--
I heard the melody from inside it....
It was about the size of two eroge boxes lined up next to one another.
I'd thought it was a box from an online purchase, but there was no flyer or anything to go with it. Nor was there an invoice mentioning the sender.
But it was firmly sealed with packing tape.
Had there always been a box this large sitting over here? Had it fallen off my bed in the earthquake?
If it were something I'd ordered, I'd have opened it as soon as it arrived.
If it were an auction item, I'd have sent it off as soon as I taped it closed.
It occurred to me that perhaps Nanami had brought something for me in it, but I had no recollection of her carrying a present over in a cardboard box like this.
During the span of the hour when I'd gone to school....
Someone had come here--
"Shogun: I'll be delighted if it pleases you"
A chill ran down my back.
Which was natural enough. Because at the time, I'd been tormented by a stabbing migraine, and my consciousness was hazy....
When I returned from school an hour later, the door had been unlocked. Anyone would've been free to enter.
I gingerly picked up that cardboard box.
Going by what it felt like, it was about the same as a 500-ml juice container.
I hesitated to open it. I had.... an incredibly bad feeling....
"Don't want to open something like this...."
But I couldn't come up with any way to deal with it other than opening it.
Nanami's cell phone was inside here.
Or, to put it differently-- Someone had taken Nanami's cell phone away from her.
So "Shogun" had written in his email....
I looked at the clock. It was half-past seven. Another hour and a half left until the designated time.
Nanami..... might be.... in danger....
I had no choice.... but to open it.
My pulse wouldn't slow. Sweat poured heavily from my forehead.
I wiped that sweat with the back of my hand and, groaning, began peeling off the packing tape stuck to the box.
Muttering to myself as though praying, I opened the top flaps.
I peeked in timidly, but I couldn't spot a phone.
Sweat entered my eyes, making them sting. My whole body had gotten soaked in sweat without my knowing it.
Urgh, I'd had enough.... Why was I the only one who had to end up like this....
I was on the verge of voicing my gripes.
I sought words of deliverance from Seira-tan, but she wouldn't say anything to me.
A whole range of delusions were swirling around in my head, on the brink of exploding, to the point that I couldn't have imaginary conversations with Seira-tan.
The heightening of my emotions made my nerve endings seem about to burn apart.... But the cell phone's carefree melody mercilessly urged me on.
Bracing myself, I pinched the edges of the aluminum foil in my fingers,
And ripped all the aluminum foil off at once--
SFX: Nanami's Ringtone (Clear Sound)
I heard the melody more clearly now.
I was afraid to open my eyes....
"Uuuhh.... haa haa..... haa haa..... uuuuh.... kuhaah haa.... haa...."
I strove to collect my breathing, but it didn't go well at all....
It would be okay, it was fine, there wasn't anything bad there.
It was probably a prank by Nanami, anyway.
Yeah, that had to be it. I couldn't consider anything else.
If so, I'd scold her with all my might. And I'd never listen to a thing she said again.
Right, tell me that's how it is, Nanami--
I couldn't stand to close my eyes and keep on gazing at darkness any longer. Being unable to see it had the opposite effect of making me envision only awful delusions.
I saw it--
A slender, cleanly severed hand.
It held the same cell phone model as mine.
SFX: Nanami's Ringtone (Clear Sound)
OST: In the ward
"You're a former doctor. I'd be grateful if you would explain it in a simple and easy-to-understand manner, as if you were speaking with a patient."
"I'll do my best."
"Now, then. There are hundreds of millions of cells in the human brain. They send out the delicate threads of nerve endings, which makes it look as if they are clasping each other's hands."
"In actuality, however, there is a very minute space between the hands of the individual nerves."
"When information in the form of an electrical signal is transmitted through a neuron, microscopic particles of dopamine come flying out of the palm of the neuron's hand."
"The palm of the neuron on the other side catches these particles, which again stimulate the conversion of information to electrical signals, which in turn continues passing through neighboring brain cells...."
"By intervening in it, the second-generation 'Noah II' developed by our company--"
"Makes it possible to show people artificial images."
"Hm, something like a hologram?"
"Or else a hallucination."
"It's closer to a hallucination. But the clear difference between them is that our artificial images have a definite weight to them, a sense of presence."
"Human eyes--that which we call the sense of sight is truly most fascinating."
"With a single eye, the field of sight extends from about 60 degrees, by one's nose, to about 100 degrees, by one's ear. With both eyes, the overlapping field of sight reaches 120 degrees, spreading to 180 to 200 if we include peripheral vision."
"On the other hand, as I explained previously, 'dead spots' also exist there."
"The Committee of 300 is also paying close attention to these facts."
"Much is still unknown about the human sense of sight."
"Even if you counted only those treating it as the main theme of their research, the full number around the world would reach 1000."
"Was it the result of pressure from the Committee?"
"Not pressure. It's a form of selection."
"The Committee of 300 doesn't welcome the prospect of some researcher they don't know hide or hair of setting foot in this field of study."
"Naturally, other nations throughout the world, like America, have handed down similar orders."
"Our country is quite free in comparison. As it doesn't impede people like me."
"Don't get the wrong idea. Why do you think we're here?"
"You have already 'been selected.'"
"That's precisely why, more than anything, we expect successful results from you."
"I'm telling you not to say anything rash."
"As of yet, we must not allow anyone to awaken to the nature of our true aims."
"Not even the Committee."
"I beg your pardon."
"Continue your explanation."
"They pass through the exposed subject's skin and cranium and are caught directly by dopamine receptors, the 'palms of the hand' I mentioned earlier."
"And as the final part of the process, the images are pushed into the subject's 'dead spots'...."
"This is the mechanism by which we create 'something' out of the 'nothingness' in human vision."
"It means that if you have Noah II, it would be easy to pull off a feat such as making it so that people saw your campaign posters wherever in the city they looked."
"Guiding the will via hallucinations.... it's the same as the 'silent weapon' system."
"As long as we meet that condition, we can redraw the subject's perceived world at will...."
"Does its power rival that of the Gigalomaniacs?"
"If it begins to operate at the values our theories suggest, it will manifest a power equivalent to a Gigalomaniac's--no, in the near future, it will be even greater."
"But what are you doing about its range of effect? Do you send out electromagnetic waves?"
"Then it's going to be lacking in the general-use department."
"We don't wish to perform indiscriminate brainwashing. It's meaningless if we can't select the target."
"Please take a look at the monitor."
"Who are these ruffians?"
"Our company calls them 'porters.'"
"To put it another way, one could perhaps describe them as a mind control corps."
"Inside the rucksacks they wear are ports designed to act as a transceivers for the pulses from 'Noah II.'"
"By receiving signals, these ports allow us to broadcast them remotely."
"Hm, a portable terminal. That all but eliminates the effective range restriction."
"It also removes the problems involved in attempting to use it in a limited fashion."
"I comprehend the present situation. Continue to proceed as planned."
"But I request that you also go on acting in such a way as to avoid discovery by the Committee of 300."
"I care not how many victims emerge."
"Thank you for your understanding."
"Well, then, I'd like to request that you help provide me with suitable people to use as porters."
"We'll make the necessary arrangements."
"Also, I would be grateful if you gentlemen continued maintaining your control over the media."
"Everything is for the sake of our long-sought ideals."