Part 35: Shangri-La, Part 6Music: Main Theme 3
Both female, and both much younger than I. I approached them without making a noise or saying a single word to announce myself.
Wh-What is it this time?!
One was clearly much more fear-prone than the other, as she'd wrapped herself around her companion's arm and was actively trying to hide behind her. She was looking in my general direction, but with the lighting as dim as it was, I had no idea whether or not she could see me. And while finding survivors in this land of the dead was a rare occurrence indeed, my focus was squarely on the man sprawled out farther down the hall. He was unconscious -- possibly worse -- and an uncrossable gap separated us...but I definitely recognized him. It was Taguchi.
... Is Mr. Taguchi...dead?
Was I concerned about him? Did I feel for him? Honestly, no. I felt nothing whatsoever at that moment. I was simply asking because I was curious. I'm normally calm and stoic, sure, but this seemed cold even by my standards. Did I really not care one way or another if he were dead?
But you just said a name, didn't you? Here. I think this belongs to him. Give it a look.
The girl handed me a beat-up DV camera. No doubt about it, this was the same one Taguchi had been looking into when I met him earlier. I took it without a word and immediately tried to turn it on, but to no avail. It had no power.
Battery's dead. Doesn't seem like it'll be of much use anymore.
I think we found its battery pack on the ground too. Here, try it out.
Don't worry. He's not even listening.
Note that the last three lines of dialog were whispered. There's no visual indication of this, you just have to listen to the voice over, which I have so helpfully neglected to provide for this scene.
Still fully functional, by all appearances.
(Now I can...check over...the footage he's collected.)
Huh? Umm, well...
We're looking for our friends Nana Ogasawara and Hikari Kirigami. Fellow students from Musashigawa Junior High. And some others from the senior high. My name's Nari Amatoya, and this is Chihaya Yamase.
I see. Middle-schoolers, then? Haha. The littler of you two reminds me of Mochida's sister.
I have no idea what you're talking about. You're... a senior high student, right?
You know, it's proper manners to introduce yourself before you start asking questions.
Oh, I'm terribly sorry. I'm Sakutaro Morishige, an 11th-grader at Kisaragi Academy High School. Back to my question, then, have either of you seen Mayu? I have a picture of her here.
I flipped open Mayu's student ID to its photo page, almost as if I were a sheriff flashing my badge. But the responses from these two were not encouraging. They exchanged a quick glance with one another, then shook their heads.
I don't think either of us have seen her, no.
I see. That's all right. There may be some clue as to her whereabouts in this camera.
I rewound the tape a bit and put the camera in playback mode. Immediately, horrifying imagery began displaying on the device's tiny LCD screen. Audio was irrelevant. It seemed like the only sounds on the tape were those of Taguchi's ragged breathing and footsteps, and his occasional self-mutterings. 90% of the video footage, then, consisted of dead bodies, while the remaining 10% was mostly just the camera auto-focusing in the dim light. Each body was shot from a variety of angles so their causes of death could be easily determined. Guess he really was planning on showing this to the police!
Get it away! I don't want to see that!
The two nosy girls were peeking in on the video's contents over my shoulder, and neither seemed certain quite how to react.
Mmm... Amazing. He really did a nice job with these.
(So many bodies I haven't seen yet. So many... They're like Schiele paintings. They're so beautiful... Still, his technique could be better. He does little to catch the viewer's eye. There's too much restraint; too much distance. IF IT WERE ME...)
Hmm? What's the matter?
Why, exactly...are you laughing?
Heh. Laughing? Am I laughing?
Music: Main Theme 3
Well, that's...hahahaha...rather odd, isn't it?
Okay. ...I'm sorry, but...we have to be going now.
Going? Where, exactly?
Well, we were in the middle of searching for our friends.
What's your rush? Maybe there's something I can do to help.
That's quite all right. We'll handle it on our own. Goodbye, now!
Nari and Chihaya quickly leave Morishige's side.
Well, that's fine by me. It would be a pain in the ass to change their minds anyway. Besides...that was a rather fascinating reaction!
(I want to keep taking in these surroundings with my own eyes. To keep feeling what this school has to offer, in my own personal way... I...want my own collection. Or I suppose...I just want to possess the dead. I want to make them mine!)
Wait. What am I thinking? I should be searching for Mayu right now! These photos are just for stress relief. If I lost myself to despair before finding Mayu, she could be gone forever! And I mustn't let that happen... Yes, this is all just one step in the long process of finding her. And I certainly can't be mixing up a single step with my end goal!
We're put back into control, and take another look at Taguchi.
Taguchi is completely motionless. It's impossible to tell from here if he's dead, though, or simply unconscious.
The building shakes for a bit, and then comes to a stop.
After investigating Taguchi, the screen slowly fades to black...
"Whatever you do, don't look behind you."
(What happens if I do?)
Don't look back
EEK! St-Stay back!
...? What's wrong? Where's Fukuroi?
Shut the hell up! I told you to stay back! Y-You... You're in league with him, aren't you?!
You seem confused. What happened, Yamamoto?
Sound Effect: Slap
Don't touch me! Th-There's... There's blood on your hands! You... You really are... You really are!
You're mistaken. This is from examining a dead body earlier.
(Hmph. There's no getting through to her in this state, it seems.)
I won't be fooled! I won't be taken in by your lies anymore!
Mitsuki takes off.
*sigh* She's certainly in a mood.
(Living humans are so irredeemably noisy. People need to understand the value of silence.)
Yamamoto? Hmph. Gone already, is she?
We fade to black once again...
(I almost forgot about taping that production of The Barber of Seville. I have to make sure I get home in time...)
This video covers the remainder of the update
Music: Morishige's Theme of Love
Sound Effect: Alarm
I pressed the button on my phone to shut off the second alarm I'd set. If this time display were accurate, then there was no chance of making it home in time to record the show for Mayu.
(I'll have to apologize to her later.)
I slid my finger naturally, almost automatically, from shutting off the alarm to opening my folder of saved photos. There was no sound in the room other than the tone of my button presses. And virtually no light other than that which shone from the LCD screen -- or so it seemed, anyway.
Yet this was my rock. In this place, I could truly relax. Here, and here alone, I felt at peace. The air was filled with the overpowering aroma of blood and entrails. It would be enough to make most people vomit, but for me, it was a smell to savor. I'd even describe it as comforting. Perhaps it's because it reminded me that I was in 'her' presence. She, who decorated the wall like a flower in full bloom... When I sat across from her, I felt more at ease than I can possibly convey in words.
It was as if she'd always be here for me. As if she were waiting for me. And sure enough, whenever I felt weary or needed respite, the door to this infirmary would always open for me, despite its tendency to the contrary. Each time it did, too, I would always be drawn in as if the room were swallowing me up...and my eyes would always happen upon this offering first. This girl upon the wall, slowly drying and slowly rotting, would always be there to greet me. And never once did I tire of the sight.
I'd begun talking to myself. Or maybe I was talking to her. Within my phone's memory were stored some of man's most sensual, most voluptuous objects d'art. And she was the tip of the brush; the grand prelude. I'd amassed a whole other building's worth of beautiful sculptures to admire now, too. I was thrilled to bursting.
This is the one. Hahahahaha...
Those spirited eyes, now dulled and clammy...those lips that spoke such harsh words, now stained with blood...her abdomen shredded, her innards exposed... So alluring... So captivating was she now... Sometimes, destroying that which is beautiful only serves to make it more beautiful. And truly, this was the proof.
Still...it is a shame.
It was a shame that I could only gaze upon these gorgeous works of art within these school grounds. Before returning home with Mayu, I'd need to erase every one of these photographs from my phone. It seemed like such a waste... The world in which I once dwelled was far too narrow-minded to accept these masterpieces. It was often a hard place to call home.
And to that end, this folder was an obstacle. A detriment. A hurdle to be overcome before I could rejoin the world of the living. I needed to delete it. To put it all behind me.
Well...I'm sure it'll be fine...hahahaha...
Sound Effect: Shangri-La