Part 75: Equal Yet OppositePart 75 - Equal Yet Opposite
Upon my opening the door, Nanami shivered minutely and fell silent.
Although she'd wailed at me so much before, she abruptly switched to a meek attitude.
I was puzzled. I'd rarely seen Nanami act like this before.
So I ended up thinking. About whether or not this Nanami was the real thing.
"If you're here, come out faster...."
"....Can I come in?"
I couldn't say anything in answer.
I gave the Seira-tan figure another tight squeeze. I clenched her so hard, it made my hand hurt a little. But even that pain was delusionary, anyway.
Nanami followed me, voicelessly entering the room.
She didn't say anything. Even though she always started giving me some spiel at me right off the bat.
She hugged her knees and watched a single point on the floor with a lifeless face. From beneath her right sleeve peeped out a tiny bit of a bandage.
I was about to tell her I could see her panties if she sat like that, but I stopped myself.
Everything in this world was made of delusions. Delusions that unfolded solely within my brain.
Both me and the delusions I viewed like this, everything was false.
Which was why I didn't give a damn if I could see her panties, or if she strolled around town stark naked.
I didn't want to let Nanami into my sight. Because she'd only make me grow hollower.
Silence flowed between us. Only the sound of my computer's fan resonated through this cramped room.
Even though my base always turned obnoxiously boisterous when Nanami came over. Maybe those memories, too, were delusions.
A listless voice. This wasn't the usual Nanami, after all. So it meant she was a delusion.
"Why wouldn't you say anything to me....?"
"My bandage and stuff.... doesn't it bother you?"
I concentrated on the business of tallying up the flecks of rust on the ceiling.
Because I'd turned out to be a delusion, she and I didn't have any blood ties.
"Say something.... please...."
Abruptly, the sound of cloth rubbing against itself echoed through the quiet room.
My ears rang. My head ached. Even those things were delusions. So I didn't concern myself with them.
Whether Nanami started stripping on the spot, or taking off that bandage, or leaping into any other kind of random action, it wouldn't surprise me. It wouldn't interest me.
This was a delusion. I too was a delusion. It was natural for there to be no segue. That was the conclusion to everything
I didn't look. I was scared of looking.
"The bruising is mostly gone now.... It got really swollen up at first."
"I was playing basketball, and I tripped and hit myself...."
"....You won't even look at it?"
"You've never worried about me, not once, have you...."
"Though I'm always fretting about you...."
I didn't want to see anything anymore. I didn't want to think about anything.
I spoke to my sister--to the female who may or may not have been her--without turning my gaze on her.
"I don't care if you're the real thing or a stand-in...."
Now I sought only one thing--
She'd had no choice but head outside when Detective Ban told her "Go home right this instant," but she was so concerned about him, she couldn't move from the spot.
Pursuing an unidentified figure, Ban had vanished into the hospital's upper floors. Though less than three minutes had passed since then, Yua studied the lobby, wondering if he would return.
After Ban went off to the hospital alone. Shaking off Momose's attempts to stop her, Yua had chased after him.
In order to come closer to the real criminal and the truth about her sister's death, if only by a step.
The person who had sent Ban threatening phone calls saying, "Back out," and who had abducted his junior--apparently someone called Suwa-san. That person was in all likelihood the one who had killed her sister Mia.
Yua had a hunch that such was the case. So she hadn't been able to fully hold back the impulse driving her forward.
Regardless of how thoroughly Ban had warned her, "It'll be dangerous to get involved with this case," she'd come all the way here.
Yua anticipated that maybe Ban would return in high style, having collared the culprit. When he did, she'd have her chance to question the criminal in person.
"Why did you have to kill my sister?"
It was the question Yua wanted to ask, no matter what.
Two hours had yet to pass since sundown, but the hospital's front entrance was uncannily quiet.
Near the side of the hospital, a train decelerated as it ran along. But few cars drove down the wide road in front of the hospital, and there were zero pedestrians.
Sandwiched between Shibuya, the city that doesn't sleep, and Shinjuku, this place was akin to the darkness born from two brilliant lights.
A lone girl stood there.
The lights around the hospital entrance had already gone out, leaving it dim. Despite that, the girl's form floated out up out of the darkness with a terrible clarity.
Yua murmured unthinkingly. She knew it was impossible, but she couldn't keep her voice from coming out.
Moreover, the girl was wearing familiar-looking clothing. They were, without a doubt, her little sister's clothes.
When she thought that perhaps she was seeing a ghost, she experienced a terror great enough to make all the downy hair on her body stand on end.
--She wasn't a ghost.
Yua was dumbfounded. She instantly broke into a run and went toward the hospital entrance, chasing after the girl.
Each time Yua took a step, the sound of her shoes echoed far down the hallway. It had been the same in the outpatient building, but the excessive silence made it seem even eerier.
The girl's presence had disappeared in the direction of the upper floors. She heard something resembling faint laughter as well.
Like a scene right out of a ghost story....
When she became dubious, suspecting it of having been a hallucination,
She heard female laughter from the floor above. That voice, that manner of laughing; Yua had heard them countless times in the past.
One of the five to die in the first New-Gen case, the "group dive." Her sister, who was supposed to have died two months ago.
Kusunoki Mia stood there, and there was no denying the tangibility of her existence.
Yua took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes. But Mia remained there even after she put them back on.
"Mia-chan.... is it you?"
A voice so clear, she couldn't think of it as an auditory hallucination.
That expression of hers, with an invincible smile.
She was the very same Mia from Yua's memories.
Mia had always been like that. She'd often sneered that way to make herself out to be the bad guy.
"....What do you mean?"
"What if it were the reverse?"
"You're Mia. The one who died was Yua. You were the one who killed her."
"Wh, what are you saying....?"
"Unable to stand your older sister, beloved by her parents, you put in a request online for someone to kill her."
"Plus, in order for it to look like suicide, you forced four people you'd never met to jump off with her."
"You became your own older sister, and while pretending to grieve and shed tears over your little sister's death, you obtained the parental love your big sister had previously monopolized, and in your heart, you continue gloating--"
"N, no, you're wrong...."
"I.... must be Yua."
"But you aren't certain."
"What proves me to be who I am?"
"Your face? Your name? Your memories?"
"Even though this is about me...."
"Is it also possible that I'm Mia....?"
"Didn't you research all sorts of things?"
"Multiple personalities.... somnambulism...."
"Fabricated memories, and.... delusions."
The matters she herself had researched up until now were what thrust at her the reality of how "memories," or else "recollections," were such ambiguous things.
She ceased to understand herself-- What was she?
Yua held her head and shook it like a child throwing a tantrum.
But compared to the Shinjuku skyscrapers that towered nearby, they were just like children gazing up at adults.
The roof of the hospital building. Yua had arrived there, lured on by Mia.
Who knew whose work it might have been, but one corner of the fence soaring around it contained a broken area large enough for a single person to pass through.
Yua and Mia, having ventured through that broken spot to the other side of the fence, stood at the edge of the roof.
Directly in front of them was the outpatient building. Since it was shorter than the hospital wing, they could take its rooftop garden in at a glance.
That said, it wasn't illuminated, so Yua wouldn't be able to tell even if someone were there.
The wind was strong up on the roof. That strong wind made Yua and Mia's long, soft hair and the sleeves of their clothing flutter fiercely.
Spreading out her arms as though to keep her balance, she held her ground against the vigor of the wind blowing up at her.
Close by her, spreading her arms out in the same way as Yua, Mia looked in her direction and smiled.
"You must gain knowledge of my pain."
"Once you do, you and I will share the same pain."
"Which am I? Me? You?"
"There's no meaning in asking that."
All vestiges of hesitation vanished from Yua, and as she began to take a single step forward--
A gunshot tore through the moonless night.
Yua came back to herself with a gasp. And, looking down at her feet, she let out a cry.
She went dizzy, faced with the height of the place where she had come to stand of her own accord.
She lost her balance and seemed about to fall off. She desperately reached for the fence at her back, and avoided plummeting down by clinging to it.
She could just barely make out human shapes in the circular clearing at the center of the rooftop garden.
There were two of them. One lay collapsed, and the other stood beside him.
Had that detective shot somebody to death? Or had somebody shot him to death?
"Why aren't you willing to taste the same pain as me?"
"That's so cowardly. So unfair...."
"You're wrong. I'm Yua."
"Yua is me...."
"Mia is you."
"What on earth are you....?"
"I am what you wished for."
"You are what I wished for."
OST: Gradually panic
A powerful pressure on her throat. She was losing the ability to breathe.
Mia wasn't a ghost. She definitely had a physical body. She was strangling Yua by the neck.
"At least today, listen to my request for once."
"Because I always forced myself to go without."
She was going to be killed--
Faced by the extremity of that terror, Yua threw her whole body into the struggle to shake Mia off her, using a strength she hadn't known she possessed.
But Mia was strong as well, and Yua simply couldn't compete.
As she shook her head violently, her glasses fell off. A bystander would no longer have been able to tell Yua and Mia apart.
The results could freely determine who had killed who. If Yua died, all Mia would have to do was become her.
If Mia died, all Yua would have to do was become her.
Resignation gradually spread through Yua's heart. The hatred-filled face of Mia--or else Yua--before her. Not wanting to see it, she turned her face away.
She had the sense that a dissimilar shadow was mixed in with those flowers. It may have been a hallucination, one she was seeing because she'd lost her glasses.
She could no longer breathe. In the midst of her suffering rose up a faint serenity.
While she thought to herself that maybe it would be all right to let everything go like this, the demands of her bodily instincts, insisting she didn't want to die, rejected that serenity.
The same instinct made her stretch a hand toward that out-of-place shadow.
The distance between her and the planting was roughly two meters. Under these circumstances, it would be impossible for her to touch it when she reached for it.
Her fingertips brushed something hard and cold.
She grasped it. All but unconsciously.
A red light resembling flower petals danced there, sending the twins, one of whom had almost been lying atop the other, flying apart.
Coughing, Yua swayed to her feet, looked at what she was gripping, and widened her eyes.
That which lay in her hand.
What it reminded Yua of were Ayase's sword, which she had previously seen in the subway, and the sword belonging to the girl of whom Ban had spoken, Sena.
Blown away by the mysterious shock wave from before, almost buried in one of the plantings, Mia came crawling out, pressing down on her head.
"What did you do....?"
"Did you try to kill me? Was I about to be killed again? Again?"
"In the end, I was scared of you.... I thought you died as a way to get to me. I didn't understand you."
"I wanted to reassure myself by proving it wasn't my fault that you died."
"I'm the worst sister--"
"Why won't you die for me!?"
Mia stopped moving. Wearing an expression of astonishment,
She groped at the wound carved from her lower left abdomen to her right shoulder.
No blood emerged.
"Mia-chan.... died two months ago...."
"Th, then, who are you....?"
Enveloped in foam, her flesh gradually crumbled, and its outlines faded.
And metamorphosed into something separate.
Yua looked at it with disbelieving eyes.
A man Yua had never seen before.
"Who....? Who are you....?"
"Why were you in Mia-chan's form....? How...."
Bewildered, Yua retreated with this sword still in hand. The man, too, appeared flustered, since he probably hadn't imagined being exposed as himself.
Porter: "You, too, why...."
Porter: "Don't tell me this kid's a Gigalomaniac...!? I didn't hear a thing about that....!"
Porter: "Shit, what should...."
SFX: Someone swings a Di-sword in the distance
Correction: They threw it
By the time the man turned to look behind him, "it" had already pierced the rucksack he was wearing,
And from within that rucksack gushed a pale flash of light.
The man went taut, as though he'd received an electric shock, and toppled over on his face with the whites of his eyes showing.
Bubbles frothed from his mouth, and he convulsed.
Yua remembered seeing that sword somewhere. She had spotted it once before.
She who emerged out of the dimness.
Expressionless, Ayase glanced at the sword Yua held.
"I sense the Great Will at work. Here is the reason why I had to remain in this hospital."
"So you, too, were one of the black knights of Gladioul."