Part 61: ScholarPart 61 - Scholar
There were other customers nearby, to boot. We'd be in a real mess if someone got hurt.
Every one of Kozu-pii's movements put me on pins and needles.
"This is Kozu-pii's sword."
"It does away with bad guys."
Does away with.... bad guys?
I recalled the spectacle of those fallen, blood-drenched thugs....
Ha, had they really died....?
"Not that there's aaaany reason for them to live. They're so roachy-roachy."
"Haaaah, I wanted to kill them."
I distinctly picked up on what lay in her heart as she said this.
There was not a single scrap of malice within her. She simply wanted to retaliate against bad people, and she didn't see anything wrong with it.
"Shibuya has gotten more and moooore dangerous lately."
"Yesterday I almost got kidnapped by some scary roachy-roachy guys, but I ba-bang-boom-bashed them up."
She, too, might be twisted. In a different way from me.
Still carrying her colossal Di-Sword, Kozu-pii started walking off.
She was short and slender-armed and didn't look strong at all, but she proceeded with light footsteps, showing no particular signs of feeling the sword's weight.
She frequently seemed about to bump into passing customers or displayed goods with the tip of her sword, and I covered my eyes each time. Miraculously, however, she got by without hitting anyone.
It was dim, and unlike the rest of the floor, empty of a human presence. No one had come here.
How unexpected, for such a desolate space to exist in the famous Roft store, hardly a five minute-walk away from Shibuya Station.
"People are never, neeever in department store stairwells."
How could she know something like this that I didn't, when she'd moved here only a few weeks ago, and I'd been living in Shibuya for almost two years....
"Every since I got to Tokyo, I've walked around Shibuya every single day."
"And so I foooound it. A place of rest."
Since I'd also lost the ability to put up with the ache in my sides, I decided to take a short breather as well.
"And so, and sooo, when you look at the scenery or patterns or such, doesn't it seem like something different to you?"
"Like elephants, or bunnies, or lions."
"The moooost common one is when it looks like a giant salamandarrr."
....What're you talking about?
"About Di-Swords, upuu--"
"When I see a pattern, or the view outside, it looks like all kinds of shapes to me, like animals and stuff."
Ahh, so that's what you mean. Yeah, I've experienced the same thing.
And on the O-Front roof as well, when I tried viewing things from that perspective, it was there.
A Di-Sword blending into the scenery.
"The first time Kozu-pii saw it was when Ham-Pon-Pon died."
"The hamster I had in elementary school."
"Anyhoo, I went to the riverbank to dig a grave for Ham-Pon-Pon."
"But I forgot a shovel, and I couldn't make his grave, and I cried all fumyuuuu-like."
"Then I saw the shape of this sword in the sky."
"After that I started to see it in all different places."
I'd found my Di-Sword, but in the end I hadn't been able to get a hold of it. No matter how much I stretched my hand out, I didn't feel anything, and I couldn't grasp it....
"All I did was wish."
You wished? To obtain it? But then, even I--
Kozu-pii peeked up at me and shook her head slightly.
"To kill." She'd spoken bashfully.
The stairs between Roft's fifth and sixth floors were very quiet, with only a little bit of background music leaking in from the store interior.
Neither of us said a thing. Somebody's breathing resounded loudly in my ears.
Was it hers?
No, it was mine.
The stairs where no one came.
A blind spot in the center of the town called Shibuya. A kind of air pocket.
I swallowed to moisten my parched throat.
"As I wished, I looked myuuuu up at the sky, and I saw the sword again."
"But, buuut, I still didn't think it was a sword then. I figured it was some kinda biiiig clashy-crashy thing."
"When I thought I could use it to kill, boooom! I stretched out my hand without knowing it...."
"And I really grasped it."
And then.... what happened? What did you do with it?
This girl was.... broken....
"I'm noooot broken, pun-pun. I have my sword riiiight here."
I could see from the way she gazed lovingly at the Di-Sword by her side that she placed absolute faith in it. Her heart, too, conveyed the same thing to me.
Would I be incapable of attaining a Di-Sword unless I became as broken as her?
So Orihara Kozue had thought, at least until she came to Tokyo.
But now things were different. Now it was very dear to her; it was something priceless.
As long as she had this sword, she had nothing to fear. This sword would protect her. This sword was her heart. Her other self.
It had already been three weeks since she'd come to think that way--
She no longer remembered when she had first become aware of it.
She'd gone crazy, she'd gotten sick-- Even at her young age, Kozue thought she mustn't let anyone find out about her ability.
And so she concealed it from her parents as well.
Because of her power, she was incapable of making friends, and she became distant from her family, and those around her were creeped out by how she was "a child with astoundingly good intuition."
Even after coming to Shibuya, she feared going to school. She didn't want to meet anyone. Whatever the case, she reckoned they would find her repellent.
On the day when she was originally supposed to transfer in, and the day after it, and even the day after that, she wandered around Shibuya instead of going to school.
The school must have contacted her parents. Surely they'd realized she was skipping without permission. But neither of them said anything about it to her.
Unlike in the boondocks where she'd lived before, no one found fault with her even if she walked around the city all morning on a weekday, with her appearance that would make it easy for people to mistake her for a middle school student.
She found a resting place on the stairs inside Roft, and sitting there while zoning out became part of her daily routine.
On that day, too, she left Roft to go home around dusk, after spending close to four hours there.
Kozue didn't have an umbrella with her, but she listlessly walked into the rain without either looking up at the sky or minding the wetness.
At this point, something flew into her field of sight.
A signboard, with a single phrase on the top of it. Damp with rain, the handwritten letters were blurring.
The person holding the board was a lone homeless man, sitting inconspicuously at the side of the road in the midst of the rain.
He hung his head, and she couldn't see his expression. Maybe he was dead.
That form of his--
Seeing it as a mirror image of how she herself had appeared on the stairs of Roft, Kozue stopped her feet.
She'd never seen a homeless person before coming to Tokyo, and here was one she had no familiarity with. She even felt disgust when she looked at him. She worried.... what if she spoke to him, and he got her involved in something dreadful.
Which was why, after some wavering, she sent the man "the voice of her heart."
The man's shoulders trembled. So he wasn't dead. He slowly lifted his head.
"Yes. It's ending."
SFX: The Homeless Man is using the 'voice of his heart' like Kozue, as evidenced by an echo effect in his speech and a complete lack of mouth movement.
Kozue widened her eyes a little, startled.
Not by how he'd confirmed the end of the world. She was surprised by the fact that he'd answered her.
She hadn't expected an answer.
The people she mentally spoke to either became confused and made themselves think she was a hallucination, or trembled in fear and swiftly fled.
Even if she succeeded in communicating with them, it was difficult for them to respond so calmly.
Human thoughts were all too illogical and chaotic.
Yet this man had answered Kozue's question with a simple sentence, without any change in his expression.
The spirit she sensed through his voice was brimming with a deep sorrow. His heart was crying, Kozue thought.
"You have a sword, do you not?"
"How do you know?"
"Because I know another child like you."
"I can't see it."
"Then how do you know it's there?"
"Because I'm a bad person."
"Why are you apologizing?"
"Because it's my fault."
"Why is it your fault?"
"Because I could only give warnings."
"Once things were set into motion"
"I no longer had any method by which to stop them."
"That sword can become something to either destroy or protect you."
"Why don't you try remembering?"
"If you look up in the sky, the clouds"
"If you look at a river, its flow"
"Those things must be there."
"It's the same."
"That sword is always by your side."
"Look into your own heart."
"The sword is there."
"But when I wanted to kill, it appeared in my hands."
"Negative emotions won't be denied."
"Everyone possesses them."
"You aren't unique."
"It's a question of how you face them."
"You mustn't avert your eyes."
"You mustn't deny yourself."
"The world is a mirror image."
"The righteousness in your heart"
"Can simultaneously become something negative."
"The reverse is possible as well."
"Whether the world ends or goes on living...."
"You are the ones who can choose."
She didn't quite understand what he was saying. Even so, after thinking about it furiously, she reached a single conclusion.
This sword was herself. If she looked at it without rejecting it, it would save her.
That was why Kozue pure-heartedly came to depend on this sword of hers.
Who on earth was that man? A homeless person with a poster.
Come to think of it, I felt as if I'd seen people like that several times before.... Had they all been the same person?
What I didn't understand was how the homeless man knew about Di-Swords.
Maybe, unbeknownst to me, Di-Swords were in truth renowned throughout Japan?
....Nah, of course not.
I scrutinized Kozu-pii.
Her expression was so serene that I had a hard time reconciling it with the disturbing things she'd told me earlier about killing.
She softly glided her fingers over the surface of her Di-Sword.
"Now that you mention it, he said something as we parted."
"You and those like you are special existences."
"Or something like that--"
I was speechless.
What the hell....
"Mm? Do you knoooow what he meant, Nishijou-kun?"
"Eh? Not, not really...."
"Liaaaar. Your heart tells the truth. Just now, you thought that it reeeeally had someting to do with you."
Dammit, it was hard to deal with how she picked up on everything....
"You're making a scaaary kinda face."
"Were you the fiiirst to think of 'Whose eyes, are those eyes?'"
I bit my lip and stood up.
I yanked out the tissue stuffed up my nose. My nosebleed had stopped.
Kozu-pii cocked her head to one side and looked up at me.
"Where are you...."
I'm going home....
Kozu-pii trailed diffidently after me, teary-eyed.
"Did Kozu-pii say sooomething to make you angry?"
Ignoring her question, I frantically made the wheels in my head turn.
The homeless man Kozu-pii had met. A friend of "Shogun"? Why had he brought up "Whose eyes are those eyes?"
Who was "the boy who gave birth to 'Whose eyes are those eyes?'"
No, wrong. I wasn't a "special boy" or whatever. I wasn't a hero.
After all, I hadn't been able to attain a Di-Sword.
Then who was that "boy"?
The only person who came to mind was the true New-Gen criminal.... "Shogun."
"Shogun" was an old man no matter how I looked at him, but his voice and stature were contrarily close to those of a boy, and he obviously wasn't ordinary. He was "special."
The message of "Whose eyes are those eyes?" which had appeared in two out of the six New-Gen cases.
Words I had often used in my own head.
What significance could there be to these thoughtless words....
Did the reason why "Shogun" targeted me with such persistence lie hidden in them?
Maybe I ought to search for that homeless guy. He should be somewhere in this city even now. Carrying as usual a poster with an incomprehensible message.
Look for him and what next?
I stopped. And I shook my head as though to deny my own thoughts.
What would become of searching for him? On the contrary, it might result in me plunging into danger of my own accord.
Maybe he was working for "Shogun," and this was a trap to lure me in.
What did I plan on doing if I strolled over to meet him, and another quest began from it?
I was sick of the kind of terror and anguish I'd been through last time.
The same thing went for Kozu-pii.
Perhaps she, like Yua, had been directed by "Shogun" to approach me.
Going by all the dangerous things she'd said about killing and half-killing, it was also conceivable that she might be an accomplice in the New-Gen murders.
After the disturbance at O-Front, Rimi had unexpectedly disappeared. Without contacting me once.
Ayase was in the hospital after her failed suicide attempt, and Nanami was safe, but my two allies had vanished.
Was there any guarantee that Rimi would come back for me?
Was it really true that Rimi had simply been taking time off from school lately?
I'd only heard it from Kozu-pii.
I couldn't determine whether or not she was lying.
I had the ice-cold sensation that every hair on my body stood on end.
There was no foundation for me to believe in. Everything seemed like a lie.
Kozu-pii stood close behind me.
Her mental voice was as carefree as always.
She bore her brutal-looking Di-Sword with both hands. She cast an upward glance at me.
Are you.... my ally? Or my enemy? Which one?
Have you come to kill me?
Three seconds of silence
Without warning, Kozu-pii let out a strange cry.
When I raised my head, startled, she was waving her hand in some other direction instead of looking at me.
"Found ya, Sena-shan--"
Sena.... shan? Surely not....
I followed Kozu-pii's line of sight, and there, as expected, was--
Aoi Sena was walking toward us, her Di-Sword on her shoulder and an expression that spoke of an endlessly bad mood on her face.
I couldn't help assuming a defensive position.
Why had Sena appeared here? Another coincidence? Or.... a planned-out trap?
Did these two know each other? Then had Kozu-pii called her here? For them to kill me together?
But what should I believe in....
Though I'd encountered Sena many times before now, she'd never tried to attack me.
That didn't necessarily mean she was my ally. Besides.... she scared me.
"Sena-shan isn't scaaary."
Kozu-pii, please don't speak out of turn like that!
Unsurprisingly, Sena also seemed to be able to hear Kozue's "inner voice."
"N, n, no, nothing...."
Taking nary a glance at my state of panic, Kozu-pii seemed awfully delighted.
They made such an amusing pair that I started to feel like an idiot for being so anxiety-ridden.
In concrete terms, that meant putting my weight on the balls of my feet. By doing this, you could slip into motion with a cat's swiftness.... allegedly. I'd read about it in a manga a long time ago.
It made me think she'd slash out at me with her sword, but she didn't do anything. She didn't seem particularly angry at my calling her scary.
"Kozue, why are you with him?"
"Takumi-shan is my classmate."
"And Takumi-shan can see Kozu-pii's sword."
"People who can see Di-Swords."
"You're one, too, Takumi-shan."
Who had decided on that name?
If there were a name for it, did it mean this ability wasn't all that rare?
"Ah, Sena-shan, were you about to go buuuy a 'Crunchy-kun'?"
Apparently Kozu-pii had read Sena's mind.
Speaking of which, I'd seen Sena eating a Crunchy-kun before.
It was almost winter time. It was kind of impressive that she could eat popsicles outdoors despite the increasing cold. Guess she must really love them.
"Okey-dokey, then let's all go together."
Kozue declared in her internal voice, then tugged playfully at Sena's hand and began walking off with her.
"Huuurry up, Takumi-shan."
"Ah, eh, no, I...."
I'd been intending to decline her offer and go straight home, but
Just then, Kozu-pii went all teary-eyed. Her damp gaze pleaded with me silently.
"I'll treat you."
It would seem, that Sena too, was weak against Kozu-pii's weeping attacks. At her urging, I reluctantly went toward a convenience store located close by a police box.
Kozu-pii really did seem overjoyed. Sena, on the other hand, wore an indifferent look.
I was going out of my mind. The police officer on duty was right in front of our eyes.
He was a policeman, for pete's sake. He could obviously see us, yet he didn't pay them any heed, much less arrest them.
"Not gonna eat?"
When Kozu-pii pointed it out, I helplessly bit into my Crunchy-kun.
The gazes of those around us bothered me.
Sena and Kozu-pii were cute. The spectacle of two cute "flat-chested sisters" together with a creepy otaku--and on top of that, with all of us eating Crunchy-kuns under the cold open sky--was so surreal, we couldn't avoid standing out.
Was I being overly self-conscious?
I constantly heard taunting snickers. A hallucination? Was it just Kozu-pii laughing?
I didn't want to be conspicuous. I didn't want anyone to look at me.
My fear of others' gazes. I should've put on a hat or something....
In any case, I wanted to get out of here ASAP.
As I desperately kept on eating my Crunchy-kun with that goal in mind, my body went chilly. This was totally gonna give me diarrhea.... I wondered if the two of them weren't cold.
"He's Takumi-shan, nooot 'him.'"
"Some bad people were bullying Takumi-shan, and he fell down. So Kozu-pii helped tend to him."
She'd.... tended to me?
"Did you use your Di-Sword?"
"I wanted to kill them. Ba-bang-slash!"
Kozu-pii appeared to be gesturing to illustrate what she was saying.
But because her enormous Di-Sword occupied her left hand, she had to wave her spare hand around.
But that one was, of course, holding her Crunchy-kun.
Kozu-pii's Crunchy-kun, from which she'd only taken a single bite, flew away in a perfect arc. It hit the middle of the road and splattered.
Kozue stared at its remnants, looking as if she were about to burst out crying.
"....I told you not to do anything foolish."
"Uuh, I'm sooorry.... The leftover-leftover-boogeyman is gonna get me...."
"I'm talking about your Di-Sword, not the popsicle."
To think that Sena could be so kind. How unexpected.
"But, but, bad people have goootta play a punishment game."
Who was it.... who had enveloped those pricks in a bloodbath? Kozu-pii, perhaps. Or.... me?
"Sena-shan knows eeeeverything."
"Sena-shan told me it was called a Di-Sword."
"And what else, real boota? Huh? Buta? Buddha?"
"Ah, yesy yes."
What was it? I'd never heard those words before.... The same was true of that Gigalo-whatever from before.
"No one should be able to see a sword if it hasn't been real-booted, but Sena-shan saw mine!"
"Sena-shan was the first person I ever met who could see Di-Swords."
"Back then I thought whoooaaa, and I asked her why she could see it."
"And she said it was cause she's a Gigalomaniac."
"I told you before."
"People who can see the swords."
No, in greater detail, um, like the principle of how it works....
"Those who possess the ability to interfere with the Dirac sea."
"That's what Gigalomaniacs are."
Sena answered instead.
Sena cast a scornful glance at me as I tilted my head.
Wh, why are you looking at me like that.... Contrary to appearances, I'm pretty damn smart.
I sort of remembered something about the "Dirac sea" being a concept in quantum mechanics.
"A, an, unobservable interface.... filled with negative energy.... or something, was it?"
"To put it broadly, yes."
"And Di-Swords are the terminals that permit interference in it. Think of them as the tip of a pipe stuck in the Dirac sea."
"Since they're connected to the Dirac sea, Di-Swords, too, are composed of negative matter. They're an existence that infinitely collapses in on itself."
"Which is why ordinary people can neither touch nor see them, and they're something like a delusion."
"These Di-Swords serve the function of a shortcut to every possible form of real-booting."
"When you enlarge the channel between your Di-Sword and the Dirac sea--"
"According to the Dirac equation's hole theory, pair production occurs,leading to the formation of particles and antiparticles."
"These particles are the delusions given rise to by Gigalomaniacs, and to the rest of the world, they are errors."
"To make those errors part of reality, all you need to do is to send the created particles into somebody's dead spots."
"The particles are instantly converted to electrical signals, and through the shared recognition of nearby humans--they becoming reality."
"When you want to erase them, on the other hand, you need to send antiparticles into the dead spots where you sent the original particles, thereby leading to mutual annihilation."
"Di-Swords are a shortcut for producing that -1."
"What do you mean by how.... People's shared recognition makes delusions real?"
"Take the Crunchy-kun you're currently holding, for example. How does it appear to you?"
"Eh, how.... It's a blue popsicle...."
"Can you prove that this blue popsicle is truly part of 'reality'?"
A Crunchy-kun was a Crunchy-kun, wasn't it? You could tell with a glance, and it'd be cold if you ate it. I thought that sort of thing was obvious, but....
"When people's brains recognize what they see with their eyes, that's when they are first able to comprehend it as a 'blue popsicle.'"
"But it's also possible for your brain to 'tell lies' without you being conscious of it."
"Maybe it's 'a delusion produced by your brain, which you alone have made yourself think is really there.'"
"Then, then, how can you pr, prove reality is real?"
"If other people observe that what you are holding is a blue popsicle, it attains the shared recognition of two or more human beings."
"It ceases to be your solitary delusion."
"When you're making delusions real, perceive that in paradoxical terms."
And.... did I have that ability as well?
"Fumyuu. Way over Kozu-pii's head~"
"Anyway, normal people can't see my sword."
She stood in front of the people walking along the street and, all of a sudden--who knows what she was thinking--started taking huge swings with her Di-Sword.
I covered my eyes.
She'd finally shown her true colors--! In truth, she'd been a heinous murderer all along!
The road would now be a sea of blood.
If someone were cut down by that colossal sword, their torso would be divided straight in two.
Kozu-pii was going to get caught red-handed. After all, the police box was right beside us. The police officer would clearly witness it.
"Takumi-shan, it's nooot ending up that way, you know?"
....I wondered why it was so quiet. Even though people were getting slashed up by a sword in the middle of Shibuya, in broad daylight.
No one was screaming. I didn't hear the policeman yelling, either.
I gradually opened my eyes.
Kozu-pii continued swinging her gigantic sword around, although she seemed a bit embarrassed.
It was clearly hitting passers-by, the roadside fence, the ground, and so forth, yet nothing happened. She didn't cut anything.
For that matter, her sword was-- Passing clean through things. Almost as if they were illusions.
No, wrong. It's the reverse. The sword itself had no substance.
The people walking in the area didn't stir whatsoever. They couldn't see her sword.
"Di-Swords are delusionary swords."
Beside me, Sena let out a weary sigh and bit her Crunchy-kun.
"Right now, that Di-Sword is no more than an error Kozue created."
"It hasn't achieved the shared recognition of those in the area."
"If I real-booted it, everyone would be able to see it."
Was that the act of "sending particles into nearby people's dead spots"? Which wasn't to say I understood what a dead spot was.
"It lets you slish-slash and boom-crash, too."
Please explain it with something easier to understand than sound effects....
But I grasped the basic nuances of what she meant. Slish-slash.... probably signified cutting with her sword. Then would boom-crash be hitting?
What exactly.... was she cutting and hitting? Did Kozu-pii do such frightening things?
Me, too.... Did I, too, possess a power like that....
No.... I'm not unique. I'm not a Gigalomaniac.
Because, after all, I'd failed to acquire a Di-Sword.
"That means you'll get it sooner or later, Takumi-shan."
It's impossible.... It had been impossible even up on O-Front. I'd seen the sword, but I hadn't understood how to take hold of it....
"Ummm, if you ask about how to get your hands on it--"
"When your biorhythms rise, leading to the excessive secretion of dopamine in the neurons of your midbrain limbic system, your Di-Sword will appear."
"Depending on the person, it could be when they're in a hazardous situation, or when they're agitated, or sad, or filled with hate, or laughing."
"The higher the amount of dopamine produced, the easier it becomes to observe."
"There you have it, Takumi-shan."
More than that, she knew so much about it that she practically came across as a "Gigalomaniac scholar" or something.
First of all, even if you searched all through Japan, you'd have a hard time finding a high school girl capable of discussing such complex theories and technical terminology off the top of her head.
Where on earth had she studied this?
Why were such mysterious personages gathering around me?
Somebody, show me the answer.
I'm too tired of pondering it.
It revolted me to remain in this state of half-understanding.
But I didn't feel like researching the rest myself. Because, come on, everyone.... none of them are normal.
Embracing my bitter thoughts, I took one last mouthful of my melting Crunchy-kun.
The popsicle stick was carved with the word "Winner!" Kozu-pii came back and took a look at my hand.
"Takumi-shan, you're amaaaaaazing."
"You have impressive luck."
"Sena-shan wanted to be a winner too, so she's jealous~"
"....I thought no such thing."
I don't think you can fool Kozu-pii that easily. After all, she'll just read everything you're thinking.
"When Sena-shan eats Crunchy-kuns, she's always soooo excited, wondering if she's gonna be a winner."
"Hooow many times have you gotten one?"
"......13.7 percent of the time."
Sh, she really had it down.... Did she recalculate it every time she ate one....
I tentatively held the winning stick toward her.
"I have no intention of accepting charity."
"I'm only testing my own possibilities."
"But your heart is saying you waaaant it."
"I, I'll give it to you...."
Positive, Negative or Neutral?