Part 56: RegretsPart 56 - Regrets
Eyes wide, Hazuki-san studied my face intently.
"I'd never dreamed you would be awake, Nishijou-san."
Her way of putting it made it sound like it was strange for me to have woken up....
Was she being sarcastic?
Did she want to say that someone as shameful as me would cause less trouble for everyone around me if I stayed asleep for the rest of my life?
Having even a nurse imply such things to me made me seriously want to die.
Yet the facts of which Hazuki-san spoke were unexpected and utterly different from what I was imagining.
"You kept sleeping, and we never found out why."
What.... had she just said?
How long was a month ago....?
"Wh, what day is it....?"
"Please listen calmly."
It matched the date in my memory.
I went speechless.
"Ah, yes, I must be sure to let the doctor know. This isn't the time to be dawdling around and taking your temperature...."
"Please wait here, I'll call the doctor over soon!"
"I was.... comatose for a month...."
I muttered dazedly, looking down at the palm of my hand.
In other words, everything from the past month had been.... a dream....
I couldn't possibly have anticipated the it-was-all-a-dream twist.
But mysteriously, there was nothing unpleasant about it. I had a surprisingly easy time accepting it when I heard it had been a dream.
And when I thought about it harder, things like Di-Swords and making delusions real were simply impossible.
Everything had been an illusion. Purely delusions of my own creation.
It was too bad that meeting Rimi had been a dream.
My field of sight blurred, and when I looked up to keep from crying,
"You're awake, Nishijou-san."
She soon gave me a gentle smile. Puzzled, I found myself unable to move.
"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?"
I gulped as I accepted the thermometer.
We were repeating the same thing as before.
Hazuki-san acted like she'd entered the room for the first time.
I tentatively felt at my armpit.
I'd stuck a thermometer in there just a second ago. Despite that....
The thermometer had disappeared.
My being targeted by Shogun and becoming the laughingstock of all Japan, were those parts real?
My mood dropped toward depression in the blink of an eye.
"But since your consciousness wasn't returning, they went home around midnight."
"Today your mother plans on coming at opening hours."
Lacking the energy to answer, I nodded at her.
Mom.... I must be the most disgraceful son in Japan, no, in the whole world....
I'd been broadcast on live TV, of all things. My moment of shame had aired throughout the nation of Japan.
It had definitely been uploaded to MewTube, too.
I had no clue why I'd been set up as a "miracle ESPer boy."
On top of that, it was abnormal for them to do a live broadcast of my every little move on the day of such an enormous earthquake.
I could only assume that everyone really did have their minds controlled by "Shogun."
Would I be able to live uneventfully from now on....?
Even so, if I had been able to help Nanami--none of it would've been a problem.
I wouldn't have minded even if everyone in the world laughed mockingly at me, saying "What a pathetic guy," for the rest of my life.
Great big tears poured out of me.
I went on weeping as I shook my head over and over.
It was my fault. My fault. My fault. My fault.
Because I was useless. Nanami had died.
Coaxed by Seira-tan's--rather, my weak heart's--words, I'd been in a rush to give up on obtaining my Di-Sword.
I'd viewed myself as a poor little victim. I'd chosen to stay alive, even at the cost of sacrificing Nanami.
I loathed my no-good self from the bottom of my heart.
If, back then-- If I had tried only a little harder.
Even though it had been my own decision to give up, I looked back when everything was already done with and regretted my actions.
That was the absolute worst thing about me. Thoughts wouldn't save anyone. Even so, I couldn't help thinking along these lines.
I'm always like that.
I truly was beyond helping....
"Nanami, I'm sorry...."
"Nanami..... uu, uuuh.... sniffle...."
Hazuki-san rubbed my back as though to soothe me.
I was a hopeless guy, through and through. I was even giving an unrelated nurse a hard time....
But my tears wouldn't do me the favor of stopping.
"You seem to regret something."
"But I'm sure your little sister will forgive you."
Besides, I didn't need such time-worn words of comfort. Sorry, Hazuki-san, but it's not like another person is gonna understand what I feel like.
I truly detested and felt ashamed of myself, always being spoiled by others, only thinking of myself.
A person like me ought to die.... Maybe I should seriously give death a try....
"She seems like a very sweet little sister."
"What're you saying....?"
"Nanami.... my little sister.... she died...."
Abducted by "Shogun." With her arm cut off. Confined somewhere.
In the end, she had probably died alone....
My heart seemed about to tear asunder when I imagined it.
"I'm sorry, I've made some kind of mistake...."
Until now, I'd always thought Nanami was obnoxious. But when you got down to it, we were siblings who'd been raised together for sixteen years.
She always fretted over me even while calling me an idiot and a stupidhead.
She'd been loud and persistent because she was constantly attempting to bring me out of my life of dissipation.
When she brought provisions from home, instead of just chucking them at me, she invariably tried to eat together with me.
Usually, a girl of her age would totally ignore a creepy otaku brother like me.
Nanami spoke ill of me, but she spoke to me all the same. She'd listened to what I had to say as well.
Even at school, far from avoiding me, she'd come up to me of her own accord.
Even with an otaku freak and a virgin like me, Nanami always saw me as her only big brother and an individual human being.
Her existence had been a huge source of support for me. Though it was too late to realize it now....
Not quite comprehending what she'd said, I raised my head. The blurriness of tears made it hard to see Hazuki-san's expression.
What had she said just now?
A person who calls me that....
There's only one....!
"I, is, is, is, is that really true!?"
I unthinkingly sprang out of bed and pressed in on Hazuki-san.
"Ye, yes? What is?"
"Um, well.... I didn't specifically hear her name...."
"Sh, sh, she called me Bro, di, didn't she!?"
"Wh, wh, where is Nanami now!?"
"Together with your mother...."
"Wounded! Wa, was she wounded or anything!?"
"She was fine, wa, wasn't she!? Nanami wa, was fine, wasn't she!?"
"Ye, yes.... Ah, no, I don't know whether or not she was Nanami-san, but the girl who came here yesterday seemed fine."
As far as I could tell from Hazuki-san's words, there was no mistaking it. Stupefied, I sat back down on the bed.
How on earth?
Even though "Shogun" said, he won't give Nanami back unless I cleared the quest. Surely he hadn't sympathized with us and released her?
Or had Nanami escaped under her own power?
But then how was I supposed to explain the hand that had gotten sent to me?
According to Hazuki-san, Nanami hadn't been injured at all.
He'd only been deceiving me.... No, at this point I didn't care a bit about getting deceived.
"I, I see...."
I see, that's how it was.... That's how it was.
While I desperately tried to grasp onto my Di-Sword at O-Front, Nanami must've been lazing around at home reading manga, or going to karaoke with her friends and showcasing her shitty singing voice.
"Ha, hahaha.... sob, haha...."
Despite the fact that I was crying, laughter bubbled up inside me.
"Haha, Sho, "Shogun".... to, totally tricked me.... sniffle, hahaha...."
"Wh, what a magnificent hoax...."
I could see that goddamn impudent face of hers again.
I could hear her yappy, annoying voice.
The thought of it filled my whole heart with relief, and joy surged through me.
My tears wouldn't stop. But these weren't the tears of frustration I'd wept previously.
"Thank god.... uuu...."
I was a useless guy, beyond all salvation. Yesterday, too, I'd given up on trying to do something about it with my own strength.
But even so, as long as Nanami were alive, I wouldn't seek anything else. Like I cared if the rest of the world mocked me with its laughter.
All of the detectives were exhausted and looked exasperated at the thought of how many hours this fruitless meeting might continue.
Around when Matsunaga began listening to the individual investigators' reports, Ban unexpectedly raised his hand and gingerly stood up.
Matsunaga: "What is it?"
Not only Matsunaga, but the other detectives and also Suwa, who had been sitting beside Ban, listened to him with dubious expressions.
Wearing his usual frivolous and friendly smile, Ban gave them a quick bow with his head, than looked around.
"Actually, I've discovered a little something about the about the video that was uploaded to the Internet the other day, the so-called 'group diving.'"
Suwa wore a face of blatant surprise.
It was expected, because Ban had investigated the film without saying a single word about it to Suwa, who he was supposed to have paired up with.
Then again, the reason for it wasn't that he'd wanted to keep it secret from Suwa, but rather,
Matsunaga: "Assistant Inspector Ban, I seem to recall you being in charge of the 'staking' investigation."
Matsunaga: "Why have you been looking into the 'group diving'?"
Well, that was pretty much what it came down to.
Ban had taken independent action, ignoring instructions from headquarters, and if he got Suwa involved in it, a young detective with a bright future ahead of him would get tied down by his superiors. He'd avoided that.
"No, well. For the moment, please take a look at this."
Laughing foolishly, Ban took two elongated photos from a file close at hand. He stuck them to the blackboard with magnets.
"I extracted the right photograph from the aforementioned MewTube video."
"Last night, I went up to Tower's roof and took the left-hand photo myself."
His demeanor full of insinuations, Ban slowly surveyed the large conference room before finally looking straight at Matsunaga.
Matsunaga: "Do you think you've turned into a lawyer or something?"
Matsunaga: "Explain the key points in a way that makes them easy to understand."
Next to Ban, Suwa kept craning his neck. Nor did the other detectives make any effort to hide their confusion.
"In the uploaded video, the camera is pointing northeast. We know for sure that the five of them fell from the northeast side."
"And starting at 3:29, the camera pans her way across from side to side for about fifteen seconds."
"The picture from when it was pointing east is the photo on the right side over here."
"Tokyo Tower shows up distinctly in the night scenery. It's red, so it stands out."
"But, you know.... something else that stands out quite nicely isn't reflected there."
"Something, that stands out nicely?"
Eyes narrowed, stroking the scraps of beard on his jaw with his hand, Ban put on a self-deprecating smile.
OST: Truth and false
The conference room burst into a commotion.
Indeed, one couldn't see the light of the Roppongi Bills building in the photo taken from the uploaded video.
The photo Ban had snapped yesterday, on the other hand, had clearly captured both Tokyo Tower and the lighted windows of Roppongi Bills.
"This is one of those panels."
Ban took a new photo out of a file and stuck the two photos next to each other.
It too was a picture of the Roppongi view from the roof of the Tower, but it was a daytime photograph, not a night one.
"Roppongi Bills shows up there."
"But it's in the middle of being constructed."
The rumble in the conference room swelled. Matsunaga fell silent and regarded the photos sternly.
"Cornelius Tower was completed in 2001. Roppongi Bills was completed in 2003."
"According to the photo from when the Tower was completed, Roppongi Bills was still being constructed and therefore wasn't very high yet."
"However, the 'group dive' took place this year.... in 2009."
"By the way, there aren't any indicators that the uploader tweaked the video."
Matsunaga: "So what is it you want to suggest?"
As though losing his patience, Matsunaga urged him on in a grumpy-sounding voice.
"Nn~, it's incredibly hard to say, but...."
Ban's shoulders dropped, crestfallen.
Suwa had said exactly what he'd meant to imply, and he admired this young detective's mental sharpness and discernment, but when you stated it straight up like that, it couldn't help but seem much more sketchy.
Ban's prudence about whether or not to say it had returned to the earth, ashes to ashes and dust to dust.
Matsunaga: "How foolish. You sure you haven't been reading too many novels?"
Matsunaga: "The faces of the victims captured on film all match up. It can't be who they were five years ago."
Matsunaga: "If you've got the free time to research something that futile, how about questioning a person or two instead, Assistant Inspector?"
Matsunaga: "I'll pretend I didn't hear anything. Additionally, I have something to discuss with you, so stay back after the meeting."
--Well, it wasn't like he'd thought anyone would believe him.
Lethargically waving his fan at himself, he inwardly muttered sour grapes.