Part 55: PsychopathPart 55 - Psychopath
The typical noises of a crowded subway station are present: The voices of dozens of commuters, trains preparing to leave, announcements over the speakers etc.
The earthquake had led to enormous disruptions in the schedules of all forms of public transportation, and everyone passing through the turnstiles wore looks of unconcealed irritation.
There had been a report from an attendant yesterday morning.
When they first heard word that a high school girl was menacing someone with a colossal bladed object, the jurisdictional officers came running.
By the time they arrived, however, neither the high school girl nor the man she had allegedly assaulted were anywhere to be seen.
Upon hearing of the case by happenstance today, Ban got himself interested in the male victim's description.
It nagged at him that several similar incidents had also occurred. Which was why he had come here of his own accord at a time like this.
For the time being, he made the tape play back on the monitor.
OST: Truth and false
The picture was full of noise.
Determining who had been caught on tape would be a trial, given that it was barely at the level where he could see what was going on.
A lone man appeared in the center of the picture. He stood still in the background, near the wall along the right edge of the screen.
Located a short ways away from the turnstiles, it was a place one wouldn't set foot in on the way to board or change trains.
And in fact, the other passengers only cut across the very front of the screen.
The awful noise made it difficult to discern the man's appearance, but he was rather skinny and short. He wore a large rucksack on his back.
Ban couldn't figure out what he was doing there.
After he fast-forwarded through about an hour of tape, a small change abruptly took place.
The mysterious part was how they showed no particular sign of starting a conversation with him. They stood in place and zoned out.
Nor did the several people who had halted appear to be acquainted with each other. They were different genders and ages, with no common ground between them.
What in the world was going on--?
When Ban gazed at the monitor, cocking his head....
A single girl entered the screen.
Her movements were clearly different from those of the people who had stopped earlier.
As a matter of fact, she pushed aside the loiterers and suddenly hauled the man up by his collar.
For some time, the two of them quarreled. Or rather, it appeared more as if.... the girl was one-sidedly threatening him.
Acting as though this had recalled them to themselves, the people who had stopped there set off on their respective ways.
At last the girl flung the man aside.
She appeared to be carrying something, but her hands were empty.
The report had stated that she was swinging around a large bladed weapon, but where could she possibly be hiding such a thing....
--The answer soon became evident.
Ban's eyes ate into the screen.
Before he knew it, the girl had come to be holding a gigantic sword, one longer than she was tall, though who knew where she had drawn it from.
He rewound the tape and confirmed it one more time.
No matter how he looked at it, it seemed that the sword had come floating up out of empty space.
At least, the girl had kept her center of gravity low and stayed in place without budging an inch.
"What kinda party trick is this...."
The people captured in the monitor saw the sword the girl had materialized and burst into a commotion. But she took no heed of others' eyes.
The rucksack-bearing man, on the other hand, was blatantly terrified. He desperately scrambled up and tried to run away.
Chasing the man with finely honed movements, she swung that enormous sword with ease.
The force of the impact made him topple over.
However, it didn't look like he'd been hurt.
And in reality, the officer who came running to examine the scene after receiving a report about it had found not a single remnant of blood.
"What the heck.... is this girl...."
The girl's form disappeared instantaneously.
Almost as if she had never been there from the start.
But the man's slashed rucksack remained behind as an undeniable mark of her presence.
Ban rewound the film again. There was nothing unnatural-looking about the timestamp displayed at the lower right-hand side of the screen.
In other words, this tape-- It hadn't been edited--
If so, how was one supposed to explain away that girl and her sword?
I lay down.
I felt soft, fluffy sensation of floating. But I didn't know whether or not I was levitating. I didn't have any sense of up or down, right or left.
The silence was noisy in my ears.
It was like hundreds of crickets were crying out in my head all at once.
I wouldn't have experienced any doubts if someone told me this was the world that came after death.
For it was so
I wanted to stay here forever.
The aggravation, bitterness, and hollowness of reality. I didn't want to taste such things--
Just as I thought this to myself, noise started flying into the white and previously soundless world.
It was the sound of a door opening. And someone's footsteps. They were drawing closer--
"Bro, I'm here--"
"Here you go. A present!"
"It's a hand-knitted cap. Isn't it wonderful? Isn't it wonderful?"
"It's already winter, and I like hats, so I knitted it!"
"Bro! Don't ignore me!"
"Ahh! You haven't finished your dinner! Even though it's curry."
"You've got to eat properly--"
"Hey, hey, is it true that hospital food isn't very yummy?"
"But you still have to eat it--"
"Wait up, Bro! If you sleep without eating, your tummy's going to get hungry at night!"
Someone's hand slid around behind my back. And they forced my body up.
She was Nanami.
My little sister.
But she seemed awfully small.
How long ago was this?
At least, it must have been around when we were in elementary school.
"Ok, go Ahhh."
The young Nanami dipped a plastic spoon into the curry and held it out toward me.
"Bro, that's so rude. I'm gonna tell Mommy."
Nanami crouched to pick the hurled tray off the floor, then brought a dishrag from the sink in the corner of the room and began cleaning.
"You really have to be coddled, huh."
"Cause you couldn't do a thing if Nana weren't here."
I covered my face with both my hands and slowly closed my eyes.
"I'm sorry I can't protect you."
I blinked my eyelids multiple times.
I tried moving my fingers. I tried raising my hand over my head.
My palm created a shadow. It was what finally released me from the brightness.
I'd seen a dream. Dream about Nanami. Nanami had been the reliable sort even back then.
When I stopped speaking to anyone after the bus accident during my elementary school years, that tendency of Nanami's grew more pronounced.
Unlike my parents, who simply became overprotective, she took care of all kinds of things for me even while being verbally hard on me.
But that dream--
Had I ever been hospitalized? I'd commuted there for check-ups, but.... Well, it was a dream, so there wasn't much meaning in seriously pondering minor discrepancies.
It was a white pipe-frame bed. White sheets. White pillow. A white linoleum floor. White walls. White fluorescent lights in the ceiling. White curtains covering the window. Small white shelves beside the bed. A white pitcher set atop them. White paper cups.
I steadily grew sick of it. I raised my torso with all my might.
For a second, a numb pain shot through my waist. But it soon diminished.
The room was fairly spacious. At least two times bigger, than my base. But that didn't change the fact that it was so Spartan. Perhaps it was a hospital room.
A pair of green slippers had been lined up close by the bed. It relieved me to find a color other than white.
My throat was dry. I wanted to drink Coke. Cold Coke with lots of carbonation.
But there was nothing of the sort in this pure white room, and I had no choice except to pour water from the pitcher directly into my mouth.
It was a little lukewarm, but still more than sufficient to wet my throat.
"You're awake, Nishijou-san."
She soon gave me a gentle smile. She was a model nurse.
Speaking of which, I had a hunch that I'd seen her somewhere before....
Ah, right. She was the lady who'd been in the hospital when Dr. Takashina examined me.
What had been her name again....
I couldn't remember, so I took a furtive look at the nametag on her chest. It said "Hazuki."
Yeah, yeah, Hazuki-san.
"How are you feeling?"
Hazuki-san held a thermometer out to me; the gesture came naturally to her. I just sort of ended up taking it.
"Please measure your temperature, okay?"
If you speak to me that kindly, I'm not gonna be able to do anything but meekly obey.... My head was full of question marks, but for the time being, I stuck the thermometer in my armpit.
I'd given up on saving Nanami. And I'd seized at the wheelchair-riding "Shogun."
But I didn't feel anything there, and what I found myself holding when I toppled over was a Darth Spider helmet.
But I had such a hard time thinking of "Shogun" as being a Darth Spider cosplayer that it sent my wrath flying away, leaving me totally at sea.
A black hood was draped across the backrest.
It, too, was part of the Darth Spider costume.
SFX: Every single one of the mob of reporters is talking at once, making an incomprehensible wall of noise
They packed in around me without leaving a single gap, pointing microphones and spotlights at me. Well over ten lights and microphones.
Their excessive vigor almost terrified me. I wanted to flee, but I couldn't budge an inch. They mobbed me.
Male Reporter A: "Nishijou-kun! Nishijou-kun! What happened to your clairvoyance?"
Female Reporter: "Does this mean we still don't know who the New-Gen criminal is?"
Male Reporter B: "Does that Darth Spider helmet have something to do with one of your supernatural talents?"
Male Reporter A: "Nishijou-kun! Won't you answer? You'll have been stealing the airwaves if you let things end like this, you know!?"
Female Reporter: "Ultimately, what was it that you wanted to accomplish? To gain notoriety, by riding the New-Gen wave? Don't you think that's inappropriate!?"
Male Reporter B: "Have you spoken with Yuri Brightman lately? What did you talk about?"
Male Reporter A: "Do you think the earthquake and New-Gen are somehow related?"
Female Reporter: "Would it be safe to think of that bishoujo figure you're holding as being some kind of ceremonial item?"
Male Reporter B: "Did you act like this because you've been influenced by anime and games?"
Male Reporter A: "Nishijou-san!"
Female Reporter: "Nishijou-san!"
Male Reporter B: "Nishijou-san!"
It felt much like getting my skin burnt by the midsummer sun. The media people flooding in made it stuffy and my head went blank.
My field of sight swirled around and around.
Being driven into a corner. Panicking. It hurt to breathe.
I cradled my head.
I couldn't see anything. I didn't want to see anything.
I couldn't hear anything. I didn't want to hear anything.
I didn't feel anything. I didn't want to feel anything.
"Please stop it!!"
SFX: The reporters fall silent as the sound of a body falling to the floor is heard. An ambulance blares its sirens and fades into the distance....
And then.... Afterward, how did I end up in this hospital?
I couldn't remember.
At least, I didn't think I'd come here on my own two feet. Maybe I'd been carried over by an ambulance.
Hazuki-san was writing something down on the clipboard she carried. It must have been holding paper or something. Was she writing about my condition....?
I confirmed the time by peering at the plain-looking watch on her wrist.
Hazuki-san being here meant this was the hospital I usually went to.
There certainly wasn't anything strange about them bearing me to a general hospital.
But something about it didn't quite fit together.
The question of "Why has Hazuki-san come to check on me?" nagged at me.
After all, Hazuki-san was a psychiatric nurse....
Positive, Negative or Neutral?