Part 70: Nowhere To Go HomePart 70 - Nowhere To Go Home
SFX: The baby is crying. The baby will continue crying until otherwise noted.
No, perhaps she wasn't utterly ordinary.
If nothing else, her eldest daughter was about to enter high school, and so there was a fifteen-year gap between her and the second child.
"She" had been slightly worried that her eldest daughter would feel some resistance to this, as she was going through puberty, but on the contrary, the daughter rejoiced at her mother's pregnancy.
Her husband, a scientist, rarely came home, as he immersed himself in his religion and his research, but he was a wonderful husband and father when at home.
That was why, though "she" had some dissatisfactions, her love for her husband remained unshakable.
Their second child was born safely. An energetic little girl, 2579grams.
Unfortunately, her husband had received a job assignment away from home immediately afterward.
Her husband had absolutely nothing in the way of general homemaking skills, so they had to ask their reliable eldest daughter to go with him and help take care of him.
"She," who would now live out her days with the newborn Mana, just the two of them, moved into cheap corporate housing at her husband's suggestion.
Originally, "she" had lived in a suburban condo, but it was located inconveniently with respect to transportation.
But the company housing, her new residence, was in the best district in Shibuya, and many of her husband's coworkers' families lived nearby.
Childcare was provided as well. Her husband had taken this into consideration so she wouldn't experience any trouble, just in case.
All the rooms in the company housing were spacious, and "she" took a particular liking to her bedroom.
She soon befriended the lady living next door, and due to the exceptionally special treatment she received from the company, a housekeeper was assigned to her as well.
"She" was satisfied with this lifestyle, in which she wanted for nothing, and she took pride in how it indicated the importance of her husband's position in the company.
She was very spoiled.
If "she" did not hold her up against her breast, Mana would start crying piercingly.
Even then, she wouldn't let the housekeeper or her lady neighbor take care of Mana.
In any case, "she" and Mana were attached at the hip, and they never parted.
Neither when they went to the toilet or took a bath.
If "she" thought about perhaps having the housekeeper hold Mana for a bit, Mana would sense this with extreme sensitivity and burst out crying.
On the contrary, Mana's reliance on her made Mana even more precious to her, but as a result, "she" continued a lifestyle in which she couldn't take so much as a step out of the house.
The housekeeper and her neighbor helped support this lifestyle of hers. "She" was truly fortunate to have met them.
SFX: The baby is finally quiet.
About a week ago, when they were chatting in the living room, her neighbor vomited without any warning. Disregarding "her" startle, the lady went flying outside.
Because they hadn't encountered each other since then, "she" worried that maybe her friend had fallen ill.
Thus, "she" requested that the housekeeper go check on the lady's condition.
When she conveyed this to the housekeeper, who had finished working and was about to leave, said, 'See you tomorrow,' the housekeeper abruptly burst into tears, and nodded countless times as she went home.
SFX: The baby is crying and now there's tinnitus. Wearing headphones was a mistake.
She tried to call an ambulance, but the phone wouldn't connect.
She went outside to seek the help of the lady next door, but even that caused her great difficulty.
Her daughter wept violently, and her voice further stimulated "her" pain.
Never mind, I want the crying back.
Though she had been crying so loudly only a moment ago, at some point, her body had decayed, dried up and began to give off a hideous smell.
"He" offered up his wife, then on the verge of childbirth, as an experimental subject. At the same time that this was an order from the revered founding father of his sect, it was also something he himself had suggested, in order to make the experiment a success.
It was called the Mana Experiment, based on the codename given to the second daughter his wife had delivered.
Entrusting his elder daughter, fifteen years old at the time, to a Church facility, "he" spent twenty-four hours a day observing his confined wife and Mana.
Taking snapshots of people's thoughts, projecting images into their vision, controlling their five senses. The effects of all of these were being tested out on his wife and Mana, the human subjects confined to the experimental grounds.
The many ways in which electromagnetic energy affects the human body remain unnumbered, and naturally, "he" had planned to halt the experiment if his wife or Mana experienced any physical abnormalities.
The experiment met with an accident soon after its commencement.
An accident no one could have prevented.
Overwhelmed with grief, "he" sought to stop the experiment. But he wasn't permitted to.
"Do you not find it fascinating?"
So said "his" employer.
His employer had been speaking of the grotesque spectacle inside the test site.
That was due to the influence of the Noah II prototype, and in a certain sense, it was the ideal situation under which to test its performance.
They turned a deaf ear to "his" will.
At last "he" began to think that perhaps continuing the experiment like this would be to his wife's benefit.
The wife he saw through a one-way mirror lived out every day in bliss, embracing her child's corpse.
She talked gently to the child while gazing at the greenery of Yoyogi Park, which was a fake projected into her sight from the "wallpaper made to resemble a window" that was pasted to the wall.
The "lady next door" as well as the "housewife" were research team staff members, who took care of his wife under cover.
As long as the experiment continued, his wife's heart would never be broken. He told himself it was for his wife's sake.
Perhaps "his" heart had broken before hers did.
At some point, "his" goal became not to complete Noah II, but rather to "allow his wife to go on dreaming."
"We've collected enough data. The full-scale activation of Noah II is close at hand. There's no longer any meaning in prolonging this experiment."
"He" desperately resisted. But it got him branded a traitor, and he was taken off the project.
The day of the test site's closure, as their one kindness to him, they permitted him to be present--albeit tied down--in the laboratory.
And his elder daughter, whom he had not seen in person for two years, was also compelled to attend.
His daughter looked confused when she saw him.
"He" couldn't answer.
Guilt over what he had done made him incapable of looking his daughter in the face.
Meanwhile, the beginning of a ghastly ceremony approached.
The "neighbor" had already become unable to endure Mana's putrid stench, and the "housekeeper" wept at his wife's words as she left the experimental site.
OST: Gradually panic
SFX: Skull slamming against a wall.
SFX: Stabbing. Blood sprays out.
His daughter screamed and cried, viewing the atrocity of her mother's last moments through a one-way mirror.
SFX: Sena vomits.
"Uu, uu, haa, haa, aaaa, aaaaahhh, Mom, Mommy..."
Researchers held his daughter up on both sides and hauled her away somewhere. "He" was not allowed to chase after his one remaining family member.
"He" blamed himself, believing he had brought all of it upon himself.
Since the time two years ago when he made up his mind to continue the experiment, it should have been obvious to him, whatever his reasons may have been, that one day things would end up like this.
Kozu-pii went chasing after her, but I remained unaware of why Sena had suddenly started acting like a woman possessed.
And now I was plodding through the neighborhood of Shimokitazawa.
If I walked a little further, I'd reach my parents' house. It was less than a thirty-minute walk from my base. I wondered if Nanami would be home....
Though less so than in Shibuya, there were many people walking along the streets of Shimokitazawa.
Devoured by humiliation and shame, I hurried along the road home.
Rimi murmured, eyes still lowered, as she walked a little behind me. In the time it had taken us to reach to this point, she had repeated the same thing over ten times.
"I'm sorry I didn't say anything."
Even if she apologized to me, there was nothing I could say in response.
I didn't know Rimi.
It had been that way since the first time we met.
Rimi had supported me. Rimi had been there for me.
But in the end, I still didn't understand a thing about her.
The whole time, I'd let things stay that way, ambiguous, unresolved.
Maybe because I'd had an inkling that once everything became clear, I wouldn't be able to stay with Rimi any longer.
I feared that.
"Wh, why.... do you stay there for me....?"
Once I mustered my courage, it was all I could ask her.
The reason why Rimi spent her time together with the likes of me.
Was it because, after all, she was attempting to entrap me, the same as Yua?
But the answer she gave back to me wasn't anything of the sort.
"I wanted you to live a regular life."
She didn't want me to awaken.... as a Gigalomaniac?
Rimi knew more about me than I did.
"Wh, who on earth.... are you?"
After some hesitation, Rimi said,
"I think I'm your friend, Taku."
"I want to stay as your friend."
In other words, she was telling me not to ask anything more....
But I couldn't stop myself from asking.
"Am I a Gigalomaniac?"
".........You could say that."
"You could also say differently."
Which one is it.... was she trying to dodge the subject?
"D, did you kn, know about Ir2?"
".........I've only heard about it."
She didn't say who she'd heard it from.
"Was Sena te, telling the truth....?"
".........It's a lie."
I was about to demand even more answers of her, but I held my tongue.
Was Rimi my enemy or my ally?
If I asked, her response would determine whether or not I could be with her. So I couldn't ask her.
If I pretended nothing had happened, I could go on being deceived, and we could go on acting the same way as we always had until now. Maybe things would be easier and happier that way.
Yes, that's what I'd do. I'd feign being an idiot, and let Rimi keep on fooling me.
If nothing else, Rimi had helped me countless times, so she wouldn't seek to harm me from here on out, either.
I'd be fine with it if I did as she said and lived an ordinary life.
"Th, thank you...."
Averting my eyes from her, I gave voice to those words rather than to my questions.
"F, for protecting me...."
Unable to think of anything else to say, I silently continued down the road to my parents' house.
Scenery I'd known since my childhood. The place where I was born and raised. I'd traveled this road to go to both elementary school and middle school.
If I entered the narrow road before me, my house would be nearby.
I was scared of coming face-to-face with Nanami. But I couldn't bear not making sure of whether or not Nanami's hand was where it belonged.
Calming myself by pausing to take some deep breaths, I started to step forward.
"Must you go? No matter what?"
"Please don't go."
"You won't be able to stay normal any longer, you know?"
"I don't want that."
What was that supposed to....
"Shall we go back?"
"Back to the container house?"
"I'll stay with you forever, as long as you want me to."
"And we'll go to school together, and we'll talk to Daichin about all kinds of silly things and on the way back, we'll stop at a soba stall or a CD shop."
"Let's keep going like that from now on, too."
"I, I have to.... see Nanami...."
How did she know? Was she lying again? Would it be bad for her if I visited home?
"I don't want to see you grieving...."
That's how you....
"Stop.... stop talking in riddles...."
I'd had enough.
Was she telling me to stay unaware of the truth forever?
I couldn't feign idiocy, after all.
Everyone, everyone, kept thrusting mysteries at me.
Even though I'd wanted to remain ignorant.
"If there's a reason I can't go home, then te, tell me....!"
"I'm sick of everything being s, so up in the air ....!"
Up until now, hadn't I myself been the one who chose to leave everything half-finished?
Hadn't I run away from it all by my own will?
Yes. Which was why I ought to keep doing the same thing henceforth.
Go back to my base. Listen to Rimi. There was no need for me to see Nanami.
What did I plan on doing if I went to check if her right hand were there, and it wasn't?
Wouldn't that mean it was my fault?
Nanami would hate me. She would resent me.
I was a pathetic guy who hadn't been able to rescue my little sister. Said fact would become written in stone.
I wouldn't become a prisoner to guilt if I left things ambiguous, the way they were now.
I should do that. It was the best possible choice.
Don't look at anything.
No matter how many mysteries are thrust at you, ignore them.
My mind recalled Nanami's bright voice.
"It's no good...."
If I fled here.
I would never be able to face Nanami again for the rest of my life. I would never be able to return to my childhood home again for the rest of my life.
At first I walked on swift feet. Midway through, I started running. Aiming for the house where I'd been born and raised.
Another thirty meters....
There was a different name on the nameplate. It wasn't "Nishijou."
For starters, the house wasn't shaped the same. The house I'd lived in was far newer and cleaner-looking.
I looked around. I thought I'd been one off, that I'd gotten the neighbors.
But I hadn't.
In the first place--
The surrounding scenery didn't match up with my memories.
I thought maybe I'd gotten lost on the way, or I'd entered the road a block too early, but it couldn't be.
I'd recognized the route up till here. I'd remembered the streets alone.
But the house wasn't there.
When I walked along the road from my memory, the same landscape from my memory failed to emerge, and an unfamiliar scene spread out before me.
--I'd never seen it before.
It was a place I'd become deeply familiar with, yet I had the sensation that I was coming here for the first time.
SFX: Squeak, Squeak, Squeak. Shogun is here.
The dinnertime bustle had quieted a short while ago, and an almost eerie silence came floating down.
"Shogun" progressed slowly down the hallway in his wheelchair. The sound of its creaking wheels echoed through the corridor.
Not one of the nurses he passed tried to say something to him or meet his eyes.
And "Shogun," too, acting as if this were only to be expected, continued turning the wheels of his wheelchair with his emaciated, skin-and-bone hands.
As he passed in front of a certain hospital room, a male patient named Yamai raised his voice. He pointed at "Shogun" and shouted frenetically.
Yamai: "It's Ami-chan!"
As for the nurse who happened to be with Yamai at the moment, she wore a face of absolute perplexity.
Yamai: "Look, Ami-chan came back. He went outside again. He's so bad!"
Young Nurse: "But no one's there."
Upon surveying the area, the nurse smiled wryly.
She had said "No one's there," despite the fact that "Shogun" was going down the corridor right in front of her, in his wheelchair.
Young Nurse: "Are you making fun of me again, Yamai-san? But I won't let you fool me today, okay?"
Yamai went on shouting, as though he'd gotten angry.
Even with that wall before him, "Shogun" didn't stop his wheelchair.
It literally vanished--into thin air. The wall disappeared, and the hallway beyond it came into view.
"Shogun" continued straight forward. About twenty meters down the corridor, he reached a dead end, this time for real.
There was a single door. "Shogun" opened the door and went inside.
It was an illusionary hospital room. A room no one knew, which had been whispered of in ghost stories for several years now.