Part 105: Coco's Route - True End - Part 10
(Pull yourself together, man!)
I shook my head and gathered my wits.
Wow, big load today, tons of salmon!"
"Let's see, open em up...Cut...cut..."
"Whoah, what's this!? Dolphins are pouring out of the salmon! Hundreds of them! Oh no! Oh no! Mom! Mommy!! Emergency!"
"Bwahaa haa ha haa! Hee hee hee hee."
The reason I had blacked out must have been Coco's microwaves. They got me. I still hadn't built up immunity to them.... It was pretty rough. Why didn't I ever learn? Why was it that every time I wandered around, my feet kept taking me to her? It was strange. I wondered if she was drawing me to her with some mysterious frequency.
Anyway...Having finished breakfast, I wandered around LeMU and got sucked in - into the souvenir shops.
"Coco's jokes - If a dolphin...was a corpse!"
"Oh, thank you for coming such a long way...My sincere condolences...Would you like to see my husband's face? Oh, well, certainly...Click. Click."
"Whoah! An eternally sleeping dolphin! And it's belly-up, too! 'He looks so peaceful...as if he'd jump up any second...' except you couldn't say that, because you wouldn't be able to see his face!!!!"
"Bwaaa bwaa haaaaa! Nee hee hee heee!"
Coco pattered along, shaking a huge dolphin stuffed animal. Several smaller stuffed animals were strewn around the carpet. From the looks of the empty cabinet nearby, it appeared that she had pulled them all down from their places on the shelf. It was such a childish thing to do. A child...But Coco was 14.
A 14-year-old who still played with stuffed animals...I wondered if it was really alright to let her just grow up like that? But when I saw her innocent, laughing face, I didn't have the heart to scold her. I supposed she would probably be happiest just being the way she was. Coco continued to crack herself up...and I...continued to watch...
When her amusement died down a little, I called to her.
"Hey, Coco? Where's Pipi?"
"Pipi? I think he's right over there somewhere..."
I looked around the kiosk.
Pipi was gripping a stuffed animal's tail in his teeth, shaking it back and forth crazily. It was a stuffed lemur doll. He seemed completely engrossed in it.
"Hey Takepyon, what'cha doin' over there?"
"Hm? What am I doing, huh? You look so happy, that just watching you is making me happy...So I guess you could say that by watching you, I've slipped into a happy, stupid state..."
"Really? Takepyon, you're falling in love with me, aren't you?"
"You like me, you like me, don't you! Wow...I can't believe it...he's finally told me how he feels...How embarrassing! I'm blushing! Oh my gosh, oh my gosh! A crush!! What'll I do?"
Coco balled up her fists and started popping the dolphin's belly with brutal right hooks. Punch after punch. Again and again. Until the cotton batting started to come out...
"Well, to thank you...Shall I tell you a new joke?"
"Aw, no, that's okay..."
"Why not!? You don't have to be polite!"
"Oh believe me, I'm not being..."
"Coco's joke about the doctor and the nurse."
Ignoring my pleas, Coco launched into her joke.
It was very long. It was not funny. It was so bad, in fact, that I couldn't even muster a polite chuckle.
Now I'm going to inflict it on you! It went like this...
Coco's laugh was loud enough to hear across the Pacific Ocean. If there were any nuclear submarines nearby, their sonar guy was probably laughing too. Even I felt the corners of my mouth twitching. Obviously, the joke wasn't funny. But Coco, was so amused at the 'unamusing' joke, it was hilarious. I thought to myself...
(All is well...)
According to what we heard from Sora on the second day, LeMU's partitions would reach their structural limit tomorrow. So how was it that I felt so calm? Maybe Coco's innocence was contagious...I wasn't even tense. I was lounging around. If I stayed like this it could be dangerous. It was fine for Coco to be innocent, but if I got swept away in it, it could be fatal.
The thought ran through my head, but as I looked at her smiling face, I couldn't hold on to caution. It was too peaceful...It was like being in a dream.
After Coco disappeared, I blacked out. Maybe I was still stuck in that state. In the dream, I had felt choked and oppressed. It was like being plastered up inside thick walls...Unable to move, only my eyes could follow the images before me...I earnestly followed after the fragments of scenes that unfolded before me.
"Hokutan, that dream, it wasn't a dream. It actually happened, okay?"
I thought about it. That dream? The dream I had on the third day right before I woke up?
"You know about the world I live in. Mayo's not there, and Tsugumi got hurt, and there's another you with a different face."
Tsugumi...injured...Meaning, it had actually happened? But no, it couldn't be...The warehouse was still fine...And Tsugumi was as perky as ever...What could it mean?
"You absolutely can't lie to yourself, okay?"
Coco's words ran together. The scattered fragments of images began to come together a little, until I could make out a vague outline. But I still couldn't see the whole picture at once. It was like a freakishly large mural. Since I was imprisoned in these walls, there was no way to see the whole thing. What to do...?
Escape from these walls...Escape from these walls......
When I pushed my face out through the wall
I was in the infirmary. I looked around. I was alone.
In any case, I would find Tsugumi and discover the truth for myself. But I didn't know where Tsugumi was.
Sora was sure to be there...And Sora would know where Tsugumi was. I opened the door.
I ran into the room and yelled in a loud voice.
"What? Tsugumi is right here..."
Sure enough, there she was. Tsugumi, on a chair, looked around at me.
"What happened? Why are you in such a hurry?"
TrackTraum In Der Dunkelheit
"I...uh...well...Tsugumi, look, sorry, but -"
On the spur of the moment, I lifted up Tsugumi's skirt.
"Hey! What the?"
A resounding slap...But it didn't hurt. As a matter of fact, I seemed to have lost all feeling in my entire body. Because I had seen...On Tsugumi's right thigh...a faint scar...
"Wha, wha, what is that scar...!?"
"The scar on your thigh!"
"This is just an old scar..."
"Old scar!? From when!?"
"Oh, a long time ago...A really, really long time ago."
"Where? Where did you get hurt?"
I couldn't even shift my eyes. Past the skirt I was holding, I could see the white of her panties. The smooth curve of her thigh. Her smooth, silky skin.
The scar. I had definitely seen a scar there. But...It looked like something that had healed years ago, leaving only the faintest trace on the skin.
"Because of that virus...the virus...It rewrote my genetic code. Cells are reborn every day. They are reborn, and then die. Normally, a person's body completely remakes all of its cells every five years. But after I caught the virus when I was twelve, its cells slowly kept dividing...So that five years later, I had all new cells. In five years, every cell that made up my body had been genetically altered. When the last original cell died? The self that I had been at 12 disappeared without a trace. In that moment the old me died. The old me died, and the new me had a body that would never die. My immune system and my metabolic rate were improved...My telomeres began to regenerate themselves...That's right...I will never grow old, and never die. My physical growth stopped in that moment in time. I'll never grow older than 17."
Having finished her long talk on the Cure virus, Tsugumi brought this up.
"Without touching something, I can 'see' its temperature. Infrared vision...is also called infravision..."
"So, on the second day , when you stood in front of the power generation room and knew that it was too hot, that was because of your infrared vision?"
"You don't doubt me?"
She tilted her head like she was surprised.
"You believe all this nonsense I've been telling you?"
"Well, it's an unbelievable story. Viruses, DNA, bodies that won't die...it's crazy. I can't believe it...but I don't doubt it. If you say so, it must be true. So, I guess I have to believe it."
The instant I said that...
It wasn't a brutally strong force, but I couldn't resist. It was a natural, flowing movement. On the white gondola. Tsugumi's body was covering mine. I could feel her breath. I could feel her pulse. I could feel her heat.
A fragrant smell wafted from her neck. The smell of musk. A sweet smell...
"You're kidding, right?"
She smiled coldly and gazed at me.
"Don't just say 'I believe' so easily."
"You think it's irresponsible?"
"It's very irresponsible. How can you believe me? On what basis?"
"None. I have absolutely no basis."
Raising an eyebrow, she put her hand on my neck.
"Will you cut it out already?"
She gave me a look that turned my spine to ice. But her hands were trembling. Her coldness was contrived...
"Calm down, Tsugumi."
I spoke slowly, breathing deliberately.
"First of all, do you really need a reason to trust people?"
"If so, then you don't have to trust me. Doubt me all you want. But I believe you. Even if no one else does, I do. I accept the truth."
"But...There's no reason you should be able to do that..."
"But I can. I want to understand you. Even if it's hard for me to believe, if it's the truth?"
"The scar on your right leg, it's almost healed, right?"
"I can't believe it, but that wound is almost healed. That's the reality, right?"
"Show it to me again. I'll accept things as they are."
She removed her hand.
"You really want to see?"
Her voice trembled faintly. She was speaking slowly, in control.
"If you look, you might regret it. If you knew everything...You might think, that there's no way I could be human..."
"You don't want me to look? If you show me, maybe you'll regret it?"
"The fact that you're not answering...was that a stupid question?"
"If you don't answer, I'm going to look whether you want me to or not."
"Don't. Don't decide for me."
"I didn't say...I didn't say that I didn't want to show you..."
"Don't flinch. Look...At everything...I'll show you...only you."
I heard the sound...Of unfastening. In the darkness of the gondola. In the faint moonlight the deep see shined blue. Floating up into the darkness...It was...A wound. Once etched deeply, but now healed to almost nothing. I had to squint to see. I might not have known, if I hadn't gently run my fingers over them.
All over her body, minutely etched, countless scars. Tsugumi's shoulders shook with her weeping. She cried silently. I grasped her shoulders. I pulled her to me, fiercely. Tears wet the floor. Tsugumi cried in my arms, on my breast, like a child. I wanted Tsugumi, and she wanted me. She accepted all of me, and I accepted all of her. We overlapped until we became one.
I felt the lovely softness of her flesh on the back of my head. The gondola had circled the floor many times and was now moving again through the darkness.
I looked above to see Tsugumi holding something in her hand. She was clicking what looked like a pen.
"I think I heard that same sound in front of the Generator Room..."
"It's an infrared laser."
She smiled quietly and muttered.
"It's convenient to have this. If you have a special ability like mine..."
"Mm-hmm. You're basically doing with your body the same thing an infrared night scope camera does, right? If you flash an infrared ray, it makes it easier to see in the dark. And since normal people can't see the infrared rays, it just looks dark...But if you have infrared vision, you can see as clearly as you can at high noon..."
"That's right...I'm fine no matter how dark it is. Tee hee..."
Tsugumi giggled as she covered up her bared chest. When she laughed, it jiggled me too...Right about the time that it stopped...
"Hey, Takeshi? Can you get up?"
I sat up as ordered.
"I'm going to count down from three...Don't close your eyes the whole time, okay?"
"Three, two, one..."
There was a sound.
"Hm? What'd you just do?"
"I burned an image. I burned an image of you."
"Yup. And burned a pretty good one too."
She pointed at her chest.
I couldn't see because of the shadow of her hand. She was holding something. Something besides the laser...In the darkness I heard the sound of a thin chain.
I didn't know what it was.
"What do you mean by 'here'? Tell me!"
"It's a secret. Hmm-hmmm....."
All she would give me was a mischievous smile.
TrackTraum In Der Dunkelheit
I thought back to the image in Sara's hologram pendant.
(That means...the image in the pendant...was of a DIFFERENT Takeshi Kuranari....And Tsugumi...has infrared vision, like Sara and me. Which means....which means...Both Sara and my parents were....)
"Are you all right, Kid? You don't look so good...."
I shook my head and shivered as I stepped slowly backwards. My back bumped against the wall.
"It can't be...."
"No! No! No!"
Swinging around, I opened the door, and ran out of the Control Room. I wanted get as far away as I could. I wanted to find a place where no one could find me. I pounded up the emergency stairs. I ran forward in a dark haze. I ran as if I could escape the fear that threatened to overwhelm me....Further and further away....But in this confined space, there was nowhere I could run away to.
Eventually I reached the end of the corridor.
There was no way past the closed flood doors. I stood in front of a decorated arch. The gondola had to be somewhere beyond the gates, which were veiled in darkness.
In the gondola, Tsugumi and the real Takeshi....
I tried to purge the thought from my mind. But the suspicion mercilessly attacked my brain until I could no longer think straight. The battle between denial and acceptance...I writhed in pain, sinking further into a trench of despair. In my mind, there was only one possibility. I was almost convinced of the certainty of it. On the other hand, I hated the possibility so much that I wanted with all of my heart to reject it.
I put my hand on my chest, breathing in deeply, and I tried to calm my thoughts. If it was true that Tsugumi had infrared vision....And if the incident I witnessed in the Jellyfish Gondola really did happen....The Takeshi and Tsugumi who had existed in the other world....
Sara's and my parents.
(No! It can't be!)
I was once again overwhelmed by feelings of denial. Sara and I were 16. If Tsugumi had given birth to us, then it would have been 16 years ago....
I suddenly felt as if I had been hit by lightning. My head was filled with a blinding light. Suddenly kicking off the floor, I broke into a run.
The world I had seen was 2000....
Wait a minute....What if....If this year wasn't 2017....
As I suspected, I found You there.
Breathing heavily, I approached You.
"Wh-what is it? All of a sudden!? What is it? ...What's wrong?"
"This year....What...year is it?"
"Just answer me!"
You blinked slowly, her mouth half-open.
I glared at You, and pressed her for an answer. A little overwhelmed by my enthusiasm, You seemed a bit disconcerted.
"On the standard calendar....20....34. Why?"