The trepidation of a speeding train coming through with no destination in sight. Anyone riding the abandoned line between reality and fantasy could feel the pervasive foreboding: something awaited at the end of the track, wherever and whenever the train would eventually stop. The eerie violet glow seeping through the windows, obscured by thick, embroidered curtains of velvety touch. Creak after creak of uncertainty. Flickering neon lights, a small rocking, the interior going dark for a fraction of a moment, alone with the things outside. Shadows flashed over the rusting handlebars and adverts for discontinued products. Old scratches and damp spots and shrivelled filling littered out of seats unkempt for decades. And the drone and hiccup of the wagons’ wheels rolling on unending rails, the smell of the incense which Yukari Yakumo had lit to get rid of the stench of mold.
The youkai of boundaries had always had a soft spot for what could only be conceivably called a rust bucket on rails. As long as it suited its purpose, there was no need to spend effort in restoring the train to its former glory, and she had other more convenient methods to travel to the Outside. The velvet curtains were the only concession Yukari had made to making the interior more hospitable, and it was only because, for the first time in years, the Purple Express was carrying a passenger other than her.
The clack of her heels echoed through the train as the youkai slowly made her way across the endless cars. In normal circumstances, there would have been no-one riding this train at all. After all, it had been out of commission for years when she took possession of it, left to rust at an abandoned station. The way Yukari saw it, nobody would miss it, and she was doing everyone a favour by giving the old machine a second life—and for years it had run without stops, across the endless expanse of the boundaries between worlds, until she commanded otherwise. But these were not normal circumstances, and even the Yakumo Express had to reach a station some time.
Eventually, Yukari reached the car where the first passenger of the Express sat by their lonesome:
A stout, aloof woman, exiled in expiation for a crime with no absolution. A gaunt, sharp-eyed man, looking for the answers of questions he didn’t know.
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/02(Fri)18:00
Still very rusty after years of not picking up my notepad. I'll try to stick to short, daily updates over longer posts, but I make no promises about the quality or consistency of my writing and/or plot. Apologies in advance.
[x]A gaunt, sharp-eyed man, looking for the answers of questions he didn’t know.
The lanky man slumped in his seat in a way that suggested he was accustomed to sleeping in his commutes to work, along with the shadow of an unshaven beard framing his angular chin and the creases of his well-worn suit. His slender, calloused hands were clutching an inconspicuous leather suitcase tightly, the buckle side smartly pressed against his chest to dissuade any pickpocket. His long, slender legs folded neatly in a right angle—a posture trained over many naps to not trip other passengers by accident—yet Yukari noticed how they tensed under the fabric of his silken trousers, ready to stand upright at the first sound or touch out of the ordinary. It made her wonder how such a light dreamer ended up in her Express, when she had taken extensive precautions to avoid unwanted stowaways. Unless…
“How can someone like you stumble like this into the Boundary of Dream and Reality?” The youkai pondered aloud. “Most interesting...”
The man did not wake up, or visibly react in any manner. That all but confirmed Yukari’s suspicions: the man was not entirely there, his physical self likely snoring at one of the many trains running in the Outside, while his subconsciousness drifted aimlessly in the Dream World until it somehow entered the Yakumo Express. No, not aimlessly, Yukari corrected herself, I made sure noone could get here uninvited. This person, perhaps unwittingly, had made his way to her personal gap between worlds with a clear, singular motive. What motive exactly, Yukari intended to find out.
To pull one’s entire consciousness into the Dream World was an arduous task for even the most experienced sleepwalkers and the most powerful youkai, but for the Master of Boundaries, it was as simple as reaching her hand inside the man’s head and pull——
He couldn’t remember when was the last time he had had one of these dreams, the ones where he was vaguely aware he was dreaming, and everything teetering uncomfortably between reality and fabrications of his tired mind. This one, though, this one felt too real. And the splitting headache that made his head throb, that was also new. He felt as if someone had taken his brain, strung it up around his skull and dragged him for miles and miles to this…
He slowly became aware of his surroundings, ignoring the pain pulsing between his temples to force his sharp grey eyes open. As decrepit and neglected the old train he was in looked, it was surprisingly ordinary and definite compared to the usual dreams of old he recalled. The man stretched his body, dispelling the drowsiness and numbness that seized his limbs.
“Are you finally awake?” A smoky, severe female voice addressed him.
Startled by the severe, smoky female voice that addressed him from the opposite seat, the man straightened himself and blinked once, twice, the haziness away. He fixed his stare on the crawling, amorphous black expanse filled with palpitating red eyes the mature, voluptuous woman dressed in purple, looking back at him with her inscrutable eyes of unnatural violet. Her soft legs were crossed indolently, and she rested her gloved hands on her thigh, brushing aside a glossy lock of blond hair.
“It’s not often I get visitors in this place,” the woman said, tilting her head. “I understand you must be feeling unwell from the ride. Please take your time.”
The man suddenly became aware that he was gaping at her, and ran his fingers over his face to wipe the stupid expression he was surely making. Shaking his head—and earning a sharp throb of pain in the process—he stared at the abominable abyss blinked again and studied the blonde woman with as clear his head could be under the circumstances. Every alluring posture, every languid gesture of the gorgeous lady seemed calculated to give off the impression of an amicable, inoffensive friend you could confide everything. But he knew that kind of woman, had dealt with her ilk plenty of times in his line of work and in the back of his mind he screamed danger. He would not be so easily fooled.
“I’m sorry,” he managed to blurt out of his dry throat, “my head is hurting something fierce. Where…?”
“I am Yukari Yakumo, owner of the Yakumo Express,” the woman waved her hand, encompassing the entire interior, “my personal subway of sorts.”
It was definitely a strange weird, he thought. He didn’t remember being able to hold a normal conversation in any of his previous dreams. And the headache, the bloody headache, he could not think clearly.
“Right, uh, I’m—“
“Inspector Shin Moto, of the First Investigation Division in Tokyo, Criminal Investigation Section. Currently travelling to Chino, Nagano Prefecture, to investigate a recent murder.”
Shin recoiled, astounded at how the woman had recited his identity and mission like she had just read his mind. Yukari chuckled, finding the bewilderment plastered in his face amusing.
“Please, it should not be so surprising. What kind of railway tycoon would I be if I didn’t know about my passengers?” The violet lady’s smile retracted, barely touching the corners of her smooth face. “And yet you were not invited, or else you would not be here as you are right now.”
Yukari stood up, the clack of her high heels echoing ominously in the empty car. The headache intensified as she slowly approached Shin, and he averted his eyes—he could not bear to look at the endless chasm her glowing eyes, searching through Shin’s whole being and stripping him of answers. Too real. He had misjudged her completely. This was too real.
“I will get my answers one way or another, Mister Moto,” Yukari’s voice took on a glacial edge, one that conceded no defiance, “but I’d rather have you cooperate with me, of your own will.” She grabbed his chin, forcing him to look at her in the crimson violet eyes. “Answer me, how did you manage to find this place?”
”I don’t really know myself.” ”This doesn’t make any sense. What’s happening?” ”This is a dream, right? This is just a dream!” ”That is none of your business, miss.” ”I have no answers to give you. I am also looking for them.” Write-in.
Apologies for the erased post and the ping, I spotted two big mistakes and could not stand leaving them there. This one *should* be corrected.
Changing to: [X] There's no such thing as a private subway in Tokyo. Don' get all uppity just because you happen to be a wealthy contributor or something. -[X] You'd also do well to keep your hands to yourself.
[X] There's no such thing as a private subway in Tokyo. Don't get all uppity just because you happen to be a wealthy contributor or something. -[X] You'd also do well to keep your hands to yourself.
The inspector forced himself to glare back at Yukari, ignoring the hazy visions of nothingness the ache in the back of head. He was a proud member of the First Investigation Division, dammit—he would not be so easily browbeaten by this monster woman.
“I don’t know who the hell you are or what is this place, miss,” he told her, growling between his teeth. He reached for her wrist and grasped it with a firm hand, crushing it, “but nobody lays a hand on an officer of the law and gets away scot-free, `tycoon` or not, so I suggest you keep yours to yourself before it gets ugly.”
Yukari didn’t bat an eye at the pressure Shin was putting on her joint—and he was sure stronger and bulkier men than her would have been grimacing at the pain at least, he noted with increasing concern. Contrary to his expectations, the woman let a half-smile creep up her face, as if she had just found an amusing little toy to play with. The detective did not let that deter him, however, and he redoubled his efforts.
”Besides, you have the gall to demand answers of me, when you’re not being truthful yourself?” Shin slowly stood up, removing the woman’s gloved hand from his face in his strong grip. His intentions to tower up before her were flattened when it became obvious she actually stood an inch taller than him, but he went on regardless. “If you really were a railway owner you’d know there’s no such thing as a private subway in Tokyo. Don't get all uppity just because you happen to be a wealthy contributor or something.”
To which Yukari responded with a husky chuckle. “Do you really believe this is Tokyo, Detective?”
Shin opened his mouth to respond, but his retort died in his throat. For a moment, he had forgotten he was in a dream. But it all seemed too real. Yukari, seeing him in his confusion, swatted his hand away, freeing herself of his weakened grasp.
“You really don’t know anything, do you?” She stepped away from Shin and gingerly sat down the same seat she was before. “And yet here you are, against all expectations. Sit. We must talk.”
The detective warily observed the fiend that was and was not the elegant lady, still on guard. Slowly, he let himself slump down the uncomfortably old bench, never taking his eyes of her while she produced a fan out of the abyss nowhere and covered her mouth with it.
“You must have come here for a reason, even if you don’t understand it yourself,” Yukari continued, “And I happen to be in need of a... very particular type of person, let’s say. I suppose your kind doesn’t believe in `destiny` or `fate` or what have you, but what else could explain this otherwise impossible meeting?”
The clack of her fan shutting punctuated her rethorical question. As Shin tilted his head in perplexity, Yukari introduced her fan into her sleeve, and pulled an impossibly large stack of papers in return—no, not just any stack. It was the very same documents Shin had inside his suitcase, the very confidential file of the murder case he was investigating. How in the hell did she…?
Checked his suitcase to see if it really was his file. Remained in shocked silence. Reached out towards Yukari before she could read the papers. Demanded she gave back his documents. Write-in.
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/04(Sun)10:00
>>67067 This isn't America my dude. You can't just pull a gun on civilians for no reason.
Ok so, she can't actually have the papers if this is indeed a dream. Add on the fact that a thick stack of papers is a bit much for a light read on the subway. I'm guessing her angle here is a bit different. She is probably attempting to get Shin to think about the contents of the papers, and then pull the mind reading trick she did earlier.
I propose this plan of attack:
[X] Perform a simple, repetitive motion to occupy the subconscious thought and attempt polite but unrelated conversation.
[X] Perform a simple, repetitive motion to occupy the subconscious thought and attempt polite but unrelated conversation.
Shin stopped himself before he did anything rash, and thought critically, just as he was taught. He was fairly sure all of this was a dream—But everything seems so real—which meant everything he was seeing was a product of his mind. Which, by the way, still hurt like a bitch. That included the woman as well, and the papers that suspiciously looked like the case files. It followed that everything Yukari claimed to know, and the contents of those papers, also came from his own mind. So if he could deny her access to his own thoughts, then maybe he could stop her from prying into his confidential info. Probably.
The detective was not too well versed in telepathy blocking techniques—I don’t remember having that course in my criminology career, he snidely thought to himself—, but if all the admittedly-not-that-extensive fiction he had read in his life was of any indication, psychics couldn’t read minds of those minds were filled with simple, repetitive thoughts, as if they were TV-static. Shin was not too sure how that was supposed to stop a product of his mind from reading his mind—just trying to make sense of that was already confusing for him—, but it was worth a shot.
Chapter 26, Article 199: A person who kills another shall be punished by the death penalty or imprisonment with work for life or for a definite term of not less than 5 years. Article 201: A person who prepares for the commission of a crime proscribed under Article 199 shall be punished by imprisonment with work for not more than 2 years; provided, however, that the person may be exculpated in light of circumstances. Article 202: A person who induces or aids another to commit suicide, or kills another at the other's request or with other's consent, shall be punished—
The detective surreptitiously looked at Yukari, trying to discern if his mental recitation of the Penal Code was having any effect. Much to his disappointment, the woman continued skimming through his papers, completely ignoring him. He started to wonder if he was wasting his time, but the almost unnoticeable cheeky smile in her lips, barely curving upwards, showed him that she was aware of his efforts, and in fact she was mocking him for thinking it’d work on her. Or maybe she had read something amusing in those papers, who knew. He had the impression that derisive smugness was the natural state of being of this snooping lady.
The matter was that if Shin wanted to pry Yukari’s attention away from the papers, he needed to do something more than filling his mind with inane thoughts—Article 204: A person who causes another to suffer injury shall be punished by imprisonment with work for not more than 15 years or a fine of... If he could strike up a conversation with her, make her focus on him instead… Shin cleared his throat and straightened himself up.
”If you wanted to know about my case, you could have just watched the news.” ”Do you know what’s the legal punishment for obstructing a criminal investigation?” ”Where is this train going? What line is this?” ”For such an esteemed railway tycoon, your cars are not in great shape.” ”What did you want to talk with me about, anyway?” Write-in.
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/05(Mon)08:00
Sorry for the short update, got work to do this evening too. Tomorrow's should be significantly longer, I hope.
[X] Check the messages/contacts on you phone. That should give you a good indication of if the documents are real as well. -[X] You got a family Miss Yukari? I couldn't help but notice the lack of a ring.
[X]”If you wanted to know about my case, you could have just watched the news.”
“I understand a murder of mysterious circumstances at a small town arouses the, uh, desire to satisfy your morbid curiosity,” the detective said, “but civilians should wait until we give an official statement on the news.”
“And miss the juicier details?” Answered Yukari with a hint of sarcasm, not taking her eyes off the papers for a second. She then recited a too familiar passage from the file: “Let’s see here… ’Preliminary cause of death: Traumatic shock due to massive injury in collarbone area, followed by blood loss. Possibly bitten by a large animal or human, pending exhaustive autopsy,’” her eyebrows arched in pretend shock. “My, you don’t usually see this kind of stuff on the TV!”
“Hey, stop it!” There was no doubt, the papers were the real deal, much to Shin’s alarm. “That’s confidential information!”
“Why, are you worried about me releasing it to the public and causing mass panic? Or that it’d put the culprit on guard?” Yukari raised her eyes from the paper and flashed him a mischievous smile. “Fret not, I can keep a secret.”
“That’s not what I—”
“Still, you have quite a messy incident in your hands, Mister Moto,” she said over his protest. “And I imagine your superiors want it to be solved as soon as possible, am I wrong?”
The detective glared back at the monster woman as she somehow fit the papers back in her sleeve like they vanished inside. In fact, he could not figure her at all.
“Get to the point already, Miss Yakumo,” Shin said curtly. “You said we must talk.”
“I was getting to the point,” the smallest of frowns blemished her forehead for a second, then it was gone. “I’d like to extend my courtesy to the first passenger of my Yakumo Express by assisting you in solving your case, if you allow me.”
The detective blinked in surprise. “… Excuse me?” Of all the things he was expecting her to say, that was among the lowest in his list. Myriad of questions raced in his mind, trying to make sense of the tycoon’s intentions. “Why? How?”
“Let’s just say that if my suspicions are correct, my interests are quite aligned with yours about the resolution of this particular case. As for the how...” The woman let out a weary sigh. “Unfortunately it is impossible for me to directly intervene. I can, however, lend you the aid of… an acquaintance of mine.”
“An… acquaintance,” The detective repeated slowly, the word leaving a slight distaste in his mouth. It carried many troublesome connotations. “Yeah, sure. Do you really expect me to let one of your spies be part of our investigation like that?”
“One of my spies? Ahahahahahah!” Yukari laughed, elegantly covering her guffaw with her fan. “If she heard you calling her that, you’d be already knocked flat on the ground!”
Shin tilted his head, unable to find what was so funny about all of it. He waited until her shrieking giggling subsided, and let her continue.
“In all seriousness, this person doesn’t work for me or any of my affiliates. In fact, I imagine she’d want absolutely nothing to do with me if she had any say in the matter,” Yukari waved her hand dismissively, downplaying the issue. “Regardless, she is an expert at solving incidents like the one that concerns us at the moment. I’m sure her assistance will prove invaluable towards your efforts at uncovering the truth behind this murder.”
Shin crossed his arms, deep in thought. He was not entirely sure about Yukari’s proposition—underneath her reassurances and honeyed words, she had barely given him any information to work with, and he could not bring himself to trust in her altruism. But above all, something about what she had said kept irking him.
“I appreciate your concern,” he said slowly, choosing his words carefully, “but I—no, the First Investigation Division is capable enough to bring the culprit to justice without the need of any external help from private investigators.”
“Oh, don’t get me wrong, I am sure you will definitely solve the case, of that I have no doubt,” Yukari answered. “But you will never learn the whole truth behind the incident, as you are right now.”
“… What is that supposed to mean?”
“I’m sorry, I cannot tell you more,” the woman shook her head, “not until I’m sure you’re fully onboard. So, will you take my associate with you in your investigation?”
”Fine, I accept.” ”Sorry, no deal.” ”What’s the catch?” ”What do you stand to gain in this?” ”You clearly know more than you’re letting on about this case. Mind enlightening me?” ”I’d need to learn more about your ‘acquaintance’ before I decide to accept your help.” Write-in.
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/06(Tue)15:00
[x]”I’d need to learn more about your ‘acquaintance’ before I decide to accept your help.” There's obviously a caveat, but there's no chance in hell that she's going to tell him. So we might as well give Shin some relevant info.
Also >no space after [x] >Quotation mark facing the wrong way DROPPED
[x]”I’d need to learn more about your ‘acquaintance’ before I decide to accept your help.”
“Sorry,” Shin answered, arms crossed, “but I’m going to need a more extensive résumé before you saddle me with a sidekick, Miss Yakumo.”
“Aww, and ruin the surprise?” She jested, with that half-smile Shin was starting to despise.
“Do you think this is a game, lady? Mine is a dangerous line of work. I won’t trust someone I don’t know to watch my back, even if they weren’t half as shady as you.”
The woman’s dark slits violet eyes squinted, barely concealing the contempt for the detective’s insolence. Shin held her gaze undaunted. He had let Yukari had her way until then, but there were some limits to his patience. After a few tense seconds that seemed to stretch for hours, Yukari let out a long sigh.
“I suppose it’s fair,” she said. “It is your job and your neck on the line, after all.”
Yukari produced a photo from her sleeve—Where the hell is she keeping all that stuff?, Shin thought for a second before he remembered he was in a dream—, and tossed it to the detective, who deftly caught it on the fly. A young girl of moderate height, dressed in a traditional red-and-white shrine maiden outfit, sat in what appeared to be stone stairs to a shrine out of focus in the picture. Her purple hair was adorned with a large red ribbon at the back of her head, and white tubes on her sidelocks. The candid nature of the photo was apparent by how it had captured the split second before the girl noticed the flash of the camera.
“A shrine maiden. Right...” Shin muttered incredulously. “Is this some kind of joke!? She looks young enough to be my daughter!”
“My apologies, this was the most recent picture I have. She’s very averse to having her picture taken, you know,” Yukari explained. “Now she must be… Eighteen? Nineteen? Ah, how time flies...”
“That’s still too young! Besides, what use would I have of a priestess? I’m trying to catch a murderer, not—” he waved his hand as he struggled to find the words in his outrage, “not exorcise a spirit or something!”
“The duties of a shrine maiden go beyond simple exorcisms, Mister Moto, and I assure you, she’s among the most skilled,” there was no longer any hint of mockery in the woman’s statement. “Bring her along, show her the ropes of the life in the big city, and she’ll help you out in turn.”
“I am not taking a girl to a murder scene, Yuka—”
“Ah, I’m afraid our time is running short,” she cut him off. “Your train is about to arrive, detective.”
The self-proclaimed walking horror railway tycoon moved up towards Shin. He tried to move away, but his headache intensified, making him clutch his head in pain. He was feeling something pulling his consciousness away, and his surroundings became blurry. The only thing he could make out with any clarity was Yukari’s gloved hand, laying on his forehead. Her voice came muffled, as if she were miles away.
Apologies for not having any choices. College exams called and I couldn't find time to complete the update entirely, so I had to cut it in half, but you can consider the prologue finally done and gone. Tomorrow will kickstart the actual investigation.
“The next station is: Chino. The doors on the left side will open. Please mind the gap.”
Shin woke up with a start at the drone of the automated announcement. He let his trained legs walk him out of the train while he struggled to drive away the post-sleep fog in his head. How long had it been since he had had such a vivid dream? Maybe I do need more sleep after all, the detective reprimanded himself. The weird dreams would not go away no matter how hard he tried to avoid them. Shin had found that as long as he slept lightly, the visions were hazier and less memorable, and so he always tried to sleep as little as humanly possible by working through the long hours of the night, with the help of copious amounts of coffee and power-napping in his commute to work. He knew that kind of lifestyle was harmful for his physical health—as his colleagues never stopped reminding him—, but he would rather deal with constant fatigue over experiencing disturbing, confusing dreams any day.
“But this one… This one’s different,” he muttered to himself, as he climbed the stairs up to the station’s street level.
Shin could barely remember any specific details—there was an inhumanly beautiful monster woman in an old train and something about an old tunnel?—but he did recall it felt awfully real at the time. He hadn’t had one of those ever since he left his hometown to escape the nightmares pursue his career in criminology. And now that work-related circumstances forced him back here, in Chino, the lucid dreams came back? He could have blamed it on the fatigue of the 3-hours-ride on top of the lack of sleep, but Shin didn’t believe in coincidences like that one. However, it was no time to ponder about his sleep disorders. There was work to do.
Being able to find a free cab ready and waiting at the station entrance was a nice change of pace from the hectic hubbub of the metropolitan capital Tokyo. The small city of Chino, with its fifty thousand habitants, had stood as a bastion of the traditional Japanese lifestyle since the Edo period. Yet one look at the car’s window showed the first signs of gentrification: shops with huge storefronts adorned with hip, modern clothing and accessories peppered the streets among old sake dens and ramen carts. High-school and college students dressed in flashy colours and revealing cuts sharing the sidewalks with the elderly. Electronic outlets and big-chain convenience stores with their shining neon signs sharply contrasted against the small, humble shrines. Shin even saw a branch of that fast food chain from America dwarfing the two run-down grocery stores at its sides, closed down for business—a stark reminder that even a once backwater town lost in the mountains of Nagano could not escape the inexorable march of progress.
The high-pitched ring of his cellphone took the detective out of his reverie. He took it out of his jacket without bothering to look at the number, already imagining who was ringing him.
“Shin Moto speaking.”
“Ah, you finally pick up!” The familiar voice of his boss grated through the receiver, confirming his suspicions, “I’ve been trying to reach you for half an hour!”
Shit, has my phone been ringing while I was asleep? “Uh, my apologies, sir, the train was going through a long tunnel and there was no reception,” the detective lied, “I just got down a few minutes ago.”
“So you’re already there, good. I just received a call; the local police has finished transferred the victim’s body to a provisional morgue, at Suwa Central Hospital.”
“’Suwa Central Hospital’, got it,” Shin wrote down on his notebook. If memory served well, it was near that old shrine with the inari statue, “I’ll check it out when I can.”
“Good. The local agents are waiting for you at the police station to take you to the crime scene. They’re already been informed that you’re taking over the investigation, and they have instructions to cooperate with you should you need it.”
“We realize that we have deployed you in very short notice, but the higher-ups want this case closed tidily as soon as possible,” the chief said. “The media is already circling around like vultures, trying to snoop around for any kind of rumour. I don’t need to remind you how problematic it’d be if they learned there’s a dangerous killer on the loose, right?”
“We can’t afford any mistakes, Detective Moto. Be sure to read up on the file you were given, ask the local cops for any details, and get that sick bastard in jail, understood?”
“Leave it to me, boss.”
“Good. I’ll be expecting results. Call me when you get a lead.”
Shin couldn’t even say his goodbyes before the tone of the ended call beeped. He let out a long, weary sigh. It was going to be a long, long night, he thought bitterly. But at least it was a good excuse to not suffer another dream for a long while. He wondered if he could have the hotel’s stuff to bring him a double espresso to his room at those hours. But first, he had to think of his first move. For starters, he went to...
The police station to meet the local officers and get more details from them. The crime scene first, in search of any evidence they might have missed. The Suwa Central Hospital to take a look at the victim’s corpse personally. Go over the case file once more at his room, to put everything in order. Meet her at the old tunnel.
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/08(Thu)15:00
[x]Go over the case file once more at his room, to put everything in order.
I feel like the corpse will last for another night if it's already in the morgue, the crime scene has been gone over by the local police already and they will appreciate it if we don't have to ask them about the obvious details. So our course of action is obvious: Going to the old tunnel our room and re-reading the case file.
[x] Go over the case file once more at his room, to put everything in order.
After checking in at the hotel’s reception, Shin took the elevator to the third floor and fumbled with the keys to his room, while trying to maintain the balancing act with his suitcase, his baggage and the steaming cup of coffee he had gotten from the diner. Only after he pushed with his entire body did the creaking door finally gave in. His lodging looked in accordance to the meagre expenses allowance the government lent him—a small, humble room with just the bare necessities: a rudimentary table occupied the center along with two old cushions to sit on; on the corner lied a simple nightstand drawer, keeping a futon and a couple of grayed towels. Shin could barely fit inside the tiny, cramped bathroom, its limited space already taken up by the shower, the sink and the urinal. The only concession to commodities was a diminutive CRT television on top of the drawer. But despite all that, it suited him fine. He wasn’t planning on staying there for too long.
Shin didn’t bother to undo his luggage before sitting on the uncomfortable cushion, taking the case files out of his suitcase and skim through them once more while taking a sip of the still scorching coffee. He had already studied the papers more times than he cared to count while in the train, all in a (vain) effort to stay awake, but he figured one more time before heading to the crime scene wouldn’t hurt.
No matter how many times Shin read that line, his heart throbbed with a pang of guilt homesickness. The Lotus Orphanage. The place he had been raised in his infancy and adolescence, where he had made plenty of memories. Shin briefly wondered how Grandma was doing, but it had been too long since he had last contacted them, for one reason or another, and now the awkwardness was too big to overcome. Besides, had he any right when he had left them all behind to escape the dreams follow his own path in life? Shin shook his head, swatting those thoughts away. There was work to be done.
“Description of Crime Scene: Crime Scene Adress: Alleyway at 5-13 Honmachinishi, Chino, Nagano Prefecture. Position of victim: Slumped against wall hidden behind trash bins, in a pool of blood, with obvious neck/shoulder wound. Possible Murder Weapon(s): Butterfly knife in victim’s right hand. Unlikely given the size and nature of the injury and the fact the knife was not bloodied.”
Shin’s educated guess was that it had been a robbery gone wrong. In his youth he was well acquainted with the delinquent gangs that roamed the streets at night, vandalizing shops and mugging lone people at night, and apparently the police didn’t bother to do more than the token effort to deal with them in all those years. This time, the victim had had the bad luck to mug the wrong person. Still, there was something bugging the detective: usually, these delinquents worked in pairs or trios to corner and gang up on their defenceless prey. He made a mental note to ask the local police if there were other people who had witnessed the crime. A more cursory look on the crime scene could also turn up some evidence of it.
“Initial Coroner’s Findings:: Time of Death: Estimated from liver temperature measurement to be between 10:00 and 12:00 pm on 11/09/97 Preliminary cause of death: Traumatic shock due to massive injury in collarbone area, followed by blood loss. Possibly bitten by a large animal or human, pending exhaustive autopsy."
Attached to the file was a photo made by the first officers that arrived to the crime scene, showcasing the brutality of the fatal wound in all of its gory details. Although he was no doctor, Shin had seen enough injuries to surmise that a butterfly knife could not maul a person’s shoulder to the bone in such a way, especially not without the victim struggling. No, if anything, he agreed with the files—it did look like the shoulder was gnawed off in one bite. But before he jumped to any conclusions, Shin decided he had to pay a visit to the coroner to get a more detailed autopsy.
As he turned the page, something fell from between the papers. Shin reached under the table to pick it up. It was a photo of a young girl of moderate height, dressed in a traditional red-and-white shrine maiden outfit, sat in what appeared to be stone stairs to a shrine out of focus in the picture. Her purple hair was adorned with a large red ribbon at the back of her head, and white tubes on her sidelocks. The candid nature of the photo was apparent by how it had captured the split second before the girl noticed the flash of the camera.
“Huh? Where did this come from…?”
Looking at the picture was starting to give Shin a migraine. He had the feeling he was forgetting something very important, but the headache clouded his memories. Didn’t he have to meet this girl at a tunnel or something? Most likely it belonged to his chief, and it had accidentally slipped inside the folder while he was organizing his papers, before he passed it to Shin. Yes, that must be it. He put it in his pocket, with the intention of giving it back to his boss once the case was over.
The detective rapidly skimmed through the remaining papers filled with legalese, and finished his coffee. He had been so focused reviewing the files he had not noticed the dusty, grainy taste of the drink, and how little it did for his fatigue. But work waited for no one. There was a murder to solve and a killer to catch. The question was, where to first?
The police station to meet the local officers and get more details from them. The crime scene first, in search of any evidence they might have missed. The Suwa Central Hospital to take a look at the victim’s corpse personally. Meet the girl from the photo at the old tunnel.
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/09(Fri)15:00
[x] The police station to meet the local officers and get more details from them.
As the building came into the bus window’s view, Shin was hit with a wave of nostalgia. He was somewhat glad to see that the sturdy three-floor police station was still the same as when he had worked there as a lowly officer—which was ironic, considering he had worked his butt off back then to get that promotion to the First Investigation Division. The parking was unusually devoid of any vehicles; they were all on patrol after the murderer, as standard procedure dictated. Shin walked to the door after showing his badge to the officer on guard—who did not recognize him at all; probably a new guy—and made his way directly towards the office of his old boss in the second floor.
Much to his consternation, the detective didn’t cross paths with any other person in the hallways. Either all officers had been dispatched, or they were severely understaffed, and neither reason reassured him. When he eventually reached the door, he overheard the familiar gruff voice of Superintendent Murai Egawa speaking at the phone. “—care if we he’s NHK, nobody is allowed near the crime scene! Drag him away if you have to, I don’t want any cameras pointing at that alley, you hear!?” Then the police chief noticed Shin standing at the door, and went on in a less harsher tone. “Listen, I need to hang up. Call me if something else comes up.”
The years had not treated Murai kindly—when before he had been a pillar of strength and leadership, the stressful work at the superintendent’s desk had eaten his once sturdy body until his arms turned into twigs, his cheeks hollowed and his black irises lost their determined shine. The bags under his eyes hinted at a long, difficult night with no rest or sleep. In honest, plain terms, he looked like shit, but Shin didn’t have much room to talk in that regard, he noted bitterly to himself.
“You must be the inspector they sent from Tokyo. I’m Superintendent Murai Egawa, in charge of this station,” the man bowed politely, “I apologize for my rudeness at the cellphone, sir, but my officers are not used to—” He stopped to scrutinize Shin up and down, and recognition flared up in his dull eyes. “Wait, Shin Moto? Is that really you?”
“It’s good to see you again, Chief Egawa.”
“I can’t believe it! Hah! Our young shooting star’s back!” He slapped Shin’s shoulder amicably, but the detective still felt the sting of the force he put into his friendly pat. Murai had still retained his strong arm despite how thin they looked. “And here I was fearing I’d have to defer to one of those stuck-up guys from the capital. Come, take a seat, boy!”
Shin opted to not remind his former boss that legally he was the one in charge of the investigation, and as such, Murai really should have minded his tongue in front of his superior, especially since he could report his slight to HQ and have his pay cut, or even him demoted. But the detective imagined this was the first piece of good news the chief had received for days, and he had to admit the familiarity which Murai treated him with was a refreshing change of pace. After all, he was right about his workmates at Tokyo being absolute sticks in the mud. Still, there was much work to be done before he could afford to spend time fraternizing with old colleagues.
“I’d love to catch up with you, sir,” Shin said, “but I’m afraid we’re short on time. Central wants this case solved fast before it blows into a mediatic disaster.”
“Yes, yes, of course. I also want to get this over with ASAP. But when it’s over we have to get ourselves a cold one, you and I,” Murai cleared his thought. “Well, on to business. I assume you’ve read the file already?”
“Good. Anything you want to clear up before we move on to the evidence?”
”Nothing at the moment.” ”Who reported the crime?” ”Are there any witnesses?” ”Was this a robbery gone wrong? If so, how come there aren’t any signs of a second or third robber? Wasn’t that how the gangs operated?” ”Do you think the victim’s injury was caused by a large animal, or a human?” ”Do you know about the girl in this photo?” Write-in.
Quit livin\' in the past
Apologies for the late update. Turns out I also have to work this weekend, so next update will be shorter and arrive sooner. Sorry for the inconvenience.
[x]”Are there any witnesses?” [x]”Was this a robbery gone wrong? If so, how come there aren’t any signs of a second or third robber? Wasn’t that how the gangs operated?” [x]”Do you think the victim’s injury was caused by a large animal, or a human?”
Are we allowed to ask multiple questions here? If not, then I'll go with the first and second or just the first.
Since I need to head off to work in an hour, and I can't work with only two different votes, I decided to extend this vote's deadline to tomorrow and make up for not writing today by doing a double update this next Monday.
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/11(Sun)09:00
[x]”Who reported the crime?” [x]”Are there any witnesses?" [X]”Do you think the victim’s injury was caused by a large animal, or a human?”
“Well, I’ve read the file, sir,” Shin began, “and I noticed there’s no mention of the person who reported the crime.”
“Really?” The detective took the documents from his suitcase and handed them to Murai. His dimmed eyes quickly moved side to side as he skimmed through the pages. “Hm, that’s weird. I distinctly remember telling Maeko to not forget putting her name in her report,” the superintendent let out a vexed sigh, “I’ll have to give her another tongue-lashing when she comes back.”
“Officer Maeko Fujino. She’s the one that found the body in her morning patrol,” explained Egawa, giving the file back. “You do remember her, right? You two were in the same promotion, I think.”
“I... believe I do, sir.”
The name brought the detective memories of a short, bubbly woman, as peppy eager as a pupper, but also as air-headed. He also recalled the huge, round glasses she always wore, that did little to fix her near-sightedness. That she of all people was the first to discover the murder came as a bit of a shock to Shin. Then again, it’s been almost ten years since I saw her, the detective thought. However, there was something else nagging him.
“Wait, morning patrols start at 5 in the morning, don’t they?” He asked Murai. The chief nodded. “But the preliminary autopsy report says the time of death at 10 pm at the earliest. Did the body really remain there for the entire night without anybody noticing it?”
“We’re as stumped as you are, boy,” the chief ran his hand over his balding head. Shin took a bit of offence at being called that, but he swallowed his temper and let his former boss continue. “We haven’t received any report of any disturbance yet, and we have been questioning the neighbours if they had seen or heard anything out of the ordinary last night, but nothing.”
“No witnesses? I find that hard to believe,” the detective frowned. “From the way the victim was attacked, he must have had to cry for help while he was bleeding out. Or at least scream loud enough to wake the residents up.” Something fishy was going on, he was sure.
“It’s some messed up stuff, I tell you what.” Colour drained from the chief’s bony face. He was most likely recalling the image of the gored body in the photo. Shin could hardly blame him; Chino had always been a small idyllic town, certainly not used to having such a gruesome murder happen there.
“We still have to wait for the complete autopsy,” the detective said, “but I want to hear your opinion, sir. Do you think a human could have done this?”
Murai didn’t respond immediately, instead staring blankly at the wall, or something far beyond. After a moment he took a sharp breath through his nostrils and spoke in a hushed voice.
“If it really was a person who did this, he’s must be a mad bastard. Almost as if...” The chief shook his head, regaining his earlier poise, “Ah, nevermind.”
“Sorry, you were saying?”
“Don’t mind me,” he waved his hand dismissively, “just the blabbering of an old superstitious coot.”
“I insist, sir,” Shin pressed him, “anything you can tell me might be of help.”
“No, it’s, it’s a stupid thought, really,” Murai chuckled bitterly, but when he saw the detective wouldn’t relent, he sighed again. “Alright, fine! Just don’t laugh, okay?”
“I would never, sir.”
The superintendent rubbed his hands anxiously for a couple of seconds, before finally answering.
“...I was just thinking it was the work of a hungry youkai, or monster, or whatever.”
Silence hung in the air like the suspended moment before a falling glass shatters on the ground. It lingered in the room, thick and heavy, eerily underscoring how right he was concerning that assumption was, were it true. But this was no fantasy tale; there was plenty of no place for youkai in the real world.
“Monsters don’t exist, Superintendent,” Shin lied said, “only people pretending they are one. And it is our duty to stop them from hurting the citizens we swore to protect. We will catch them, boss.”
“Yeah… Yeah, you’re right,” Egawa rubbed his eyes against his sweaty palms. “I told you I was just talking foolishness.”
“Anyway, I’ll have to ask Maeko some questions about the crime scene. Where is she?”
“Oh, uh, she was instructed to stand watch at the crime scene, last I heard. I imagine she’s still there,” Murai answered. “I’ll have some officers ask more questions around. Someone must have heard—”
At that moment, the phone at the chief’s desk began ringing. With a quick apology, Murai picked it up.
“Egawa speaking. Yes—Uh-huh—Yes...” The chief’s brows suddenly furrowed. “You’re serious?—What was she doing there?—Yes—”
Unable to contain his curiosity, Shin asked him. “What’s going on, sir?”
“Well, uh, I don’t really get it myself,” Murai put a hand over the receiver, “but apparently some crazy woman just barged into the crime scene and snooped around for a while before our guys managed to detain her. She resisted the arrest violently, had to be cuffed up at gunpoint,” he spoke again to the phone, with a hint of incredulity in his voice, “and she was dressed as a shrine maiden, you say?”
A woman dressed as a shrine maiden. It couldn’t be...
”Have your officers bring her here. I’ll interrogate her.” ”I’ll go check up on her and ask her some questions while I inspect the crime scene.” ”Put her in jail and question her while I pay a visit to the coroner.”
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/12(Mon)08:00
[x]”Have your officers bring her here. I’ll interrogate her.”
Shin brought his hand on his chin, pensively. Regardless of who that woman was, there had to be a strong reason for her to intrude into the alleyway despite the heavy police presence on high alert. Whether she knew the victim, witnessed the crime or really was the proverbial culprit returning to the crime scene, he could not figure at the moment. But the shrine maiden was the most promising lead he had at the moment, and he intended to get something out of her. Noticing Murai’s stare, Shin nodded his go-ahead.
“Take her in. The detective from Tokyo wants to interrogate her,” the superintendent spoke to the receiver, “yes—Good. Call me if something else comes up.” And with a brief farewell, he hung up. “Well then, there’s about ten minutes before they arrive so…” A long yawn escaped his mouth. “Sorry, didn’t get any rest today. I’m going to pour me some coffee, you want some?”
“Gladly, sir,” it had been too long since Shin last tasted that nasty, unpalatable broth they called ‘coffee’ at the Chino police station, but there was nothing more effective to stay awake. And the detective had a feeling he’d need all the caffeine he could get.
The clock had struck six in the evening. Down in the station’s basement, where the cells were located, it was the only way to tell the time. Back in his first years as a recruit, Shin had spent many long, tedious shifts guarding the cages, with only the snores and cusses of the occasional drunkard that had disturbed the peace that night to entertain him through the stretching hours. It was an experience he didn’t wish for his worst enemy. Only this time, the person behind the bars couldn’t be any more different.
The woman had grown up quite a bit compared to the girl pictured in that photo Shin found in his files. Where her face and arms used to have the tenderness and elasticity of a pubescent teenager, the shrine maiden’s features had grown sharper and tougher. Not only she towered imposingly even while sitting on the cold floor of her cell, her slightly tanned skin hid strong, powerful muscles acquired over a lifetime of training. Instead of the traditional miko garments, her uniform appeared to be custom made with matching red leotards and hakama, and detached white sleeves showing pale scars across her shoulders.
“A real demon, that one,” the officer standing guard (Konosuke? Shinosuke? Something ended in -suke. Shin hadn’t met him before; he probably was new meat) commented when he saw the detective staring at the prisoner, “I hear she punched Matsuda so hard she broke his nose. Took him, Teruo and Hiroshi practically throwing themselves on top of her to stop her! And even then she kept struggling until Maeko pulled up her gun and pressed it against her head,” he mimicked the motion with a finger-gun.
“Huh, she did? Really?” The Maeko Shin knew would have fumbled around with her pistol while trembling uncontrollably, maybe even fired it accidentally.
“That she did, sir. And just in time, too. I think that madwoman could’ve broken free if she hadn’t done that,” the guard glanced sidelong to the miko and shuddered, “never seen someone so strong and furious in my whole life, and I’ve been in my fair share of brawls. She’s been real meek after we cuffed her, though. Hasn’t spoken a word or moved a muscle since. It’s actually kind of unnerving.”
The woman had been sitting quietly on her knees, eyes shut and completely still, as tough and immovable as a statue. Meditating, Shin adventured a thought. Even from behind the bars, he could almost feel an aura of strength emanating from her. If what X-suke was telling was the truth, then she could have feasibly been able of ripping the victim’s shoulder off by strength alone… But that was a heavy assumption with zero evidence behind it. No, he’d have to get her to spill the beans before he could start forming an hypothesis. Shin exhaled a breath out of his nose—he had a feeling the woman would be a tough nut to crack.
“I’ll be taking her to the interrogation room,” he told the guard.
“Good luck, sir,” the guard reached for the cell keys, but before he walked to the door, he spun around and whispered low enough to not be heard by the miko, “I’d be careful if I was you. I don’t think those cuffs would stop her from bashing your head in.”
The detective nodded grimly. He really hoped it didn’t come to violence, and not only because he feared for his health. Yukari had told him His intuition told him this woman could very well be the key behind the incident. But first, he had to think about how to approach her interrogation.
It would be better if he went straight to the point and asked her directly about her involvement in the murder. He’d attempt to strike a friendly, casual conversation, and earn her trust before throwing questions. He’d pressure her to spill the beans. He’d not be intimidated by the likes of her. He revealed the he knew she was associated with Yukari Yakumo Write-in.
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/13(Tue)08:00
Sorry, couldn't manage to find the time to do a double update as promised. Tomorrow I should have more free time.
[x]It would be better if he went straight to the point and asked her directly about her involvement in the murder.
The interrogation room was a tiny, barebones cubicle barely three meters wide, with only a simple table and a pair of stools made of aluminium. The undecorated concrete walls and the lack of any lighting besides the desklamp helped make the chamber even more claustrophobic than it already was. Supposedly it was a way to crack the suspect’s reticence to collaborate while maintaining plausible deniability that it just was the way Japanese buildings were made; after all, the police had to have a room to interrogate people and all other rooms simply were being used already for other purposes. In Shin’s experience, most of the times this helped rattle them enough to make them want to get it over as quickly as possible, which lead to them revealing more than they first intended.
Not with this shrine maiden, however. She had been sitting by her lonesome in that room for almost five minutes, and the detective hadn’t seen her move or say anything at all during that time. Whereas most people would already be feeling somewhat anxious or impatient, it all washed over the woman, who stood as a pillar of serenity and stoicism despite being doubly cuffed to the chair and table by the hand and an ankle (“a necessary precaution”, Whateversuke had said). It would not be easy to make her crack, Shin thought, if possible at all. But it was fine by him. Noone had ever matched the detective’s determination to uncover the truth. And he liked a challenge.
The detective took a deep breath, mentally preparing himself for the ordeal. He needed to look professional, organized, confident in front of her—make her see he was the one calling the shots. And do not let her notice his distress over the photo of her he still had on his pocket. Calm. Collected. Professional. There was work to do.
With as much confidence he could manage in his stride, Shin opened the door and took a seat in front of the shrine maiden. Her hazel eyes followed him across the room with only the barest hint of interest.
“Good evening. I am Detective Shin Moto from the First Investigation Division,” he introduced himself. He then pulled the case files from his suitcase and placed it on the table, still closed, “I need to ask you some questions regarding an incident that occurred last night.”
Shin thought he had seen her perk up a little when she heard the word ‘incident’, but it was so slight it might had been her trying to stretch after being still for so long. The detective took out his notebook and pen, ready to write.
“First of all, since you had no identification on your person,” or nothing else for that matter, “the moment of your detainment, we need your name, ID number, date of birth and address before we proceed.”
The shrine maiden stared at Shin for a long moment, in complete silence. Whether she was thinking what to tell him, or whether to answer him in the first place, the detective couldn’t tell. Her stony face was like a closed book under key to him. But eventually, her thin, dry lips slowly parted as she spoke for the first time with a flat, yet assertive tone.
“Chiyo,” she finally responded. Then, after a few seconds, she added: “...Chiyo Hisamura. That’s my name.”
The detective eyed the woman suspiciously. The way she had pronounced it, as if she was not used to say it aloud, and how she said that last sentence like she was reassuring herself, made him almost sure that it was not her real name—likely one she had come up with on the spot, or given by someone else very recently. But it was too soon to contest her lie yet.
“Alright, Miss Hisamura,” he slowly muttered, penning the name down, “your date of birth, please?”
“… Is it absolutely necessary?”
Shin blinked, taken aback for an instant. Who the hell asks that kind of question?
“Er, yes, it is. I must take all your information for the report.”
“I don’t see how my age is relevant to the incident.”
Had she not been cuffed, Shin was sure she would have crossed her arms defiantly. Instead, she opted to glare at him through squinted eyes, daring him to ask her again at his own risk. The detective suppressed the urge to rub his eyes in frustration—Calm. Collected. Professional.—and wrote down his estimation: ”Eighteen? Nineteen? Ah, how time flies...” ‘Somewhere around early twenties.’ If her exact date of birth did become an important clue for the case, he could always ask her later.
“… No address.”
“So you’re homeless?” Shin asked, arching an eyebrow. “You don’t live at a shrine, or a temple, or—“
“No!” Chiyo cut him off, raising her voice. There was a small, sad scowl plastered in her lips for a small moment, before she caught herself and returned to her previous expressionlessness. “No, not anymore.”
As he wrote, thoughts rushed around in Shin’s head. The uniform miss Hisamura sported was too elaborate and worn-off to simply be a disguise, meaning she at least used to work as a priestess at a shrine in the past. If she was unwilling to give her personal data, perhaps he could ask around to find which one she was previously living in. The problem was that Chino, as a town with a centuries-long religious tradition, had more than fifty temples and shrines in the area. With the entirety of the police force occupied with the case, there was no manpower to spare for going to each and every one of them. The detective needed some evidence linking the miko to the murder before they’d acquiesce such a request.
“Hey. Shin, was it?” Chiyo called him.
“Yes?” The detective blinked, suddenly taken out of his contemplation.
“You’re trying to solve the incident too, right?” Shin opened his mouth, but Chiyo didn’t let him respond. “We’re both on the same side. Take these things off me,” she shook her arm, making the cuffs rattle, “and let me do my job, and you won’t have to worry about it anymore.”
Shin could do nothing but stare back at the shrine maiden in consternation. Perhaps more shocking than her outrageous proposition was the fact that there was absolutely no hint of jest or sarcasm in her voice when she said it. The nerve of this woman...
“Sorry, miss, I’m afraid I can’t allow that,” the detective told her, shaking his head, “you haven’t answered my questions yet, and you’re not being exactly cooperative as of now.”
Chiyo let out a long, exasperated sigh—the first openly obvious sign of emotion she had shown yet—and muttered something between her teeth, too low for Shin to hear. Nothing very nice about him, if he had to take a wild guess. The not-so-imperturbable maiden was finally starting to lose her patience.
“Alright, fine!” she grumbled. “So if I answer all your stupid questions, will you let me out?”
”That depends on your answers you give me.” ”Not until I can confirm you had nothing to do with the murder.” ”Need I remind you you barged into the crime scene without authorization and assaulted several officers of the law not a half an hour ago?” ”First tell me: Do you know one Yukari Yakumo person?” Write-in.
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/13(Tue)20:00
I originally planned to have this part split into two, shorter updates, but it didn't flow right so they ended up merged. Next update will be much shorter, to keep with the original plan to do two updates today. Also, don't worry about the very short timer, this choice isn't really that important in the bigger scheme of things.
I feel like we shouldn't bring up her resisting arrest. She's actually started talking to us and turning the conversation more "hostile" may make her defensive and clam up again. But she has an implied connection to the murder ("her job" being something that would make it so we "don't have to worry about it"). We just have to find out how and why.
[x]”Not until I can confirm you had nothing to do with the murder.”
“It’s not that simple, I’m afraid,” the detective said. “I must make sure you weren’t involved in the murder before I can let you go.” Not to mention the charges of trespassing, assault and battery she’ll get after this is over, he added mentally, but decided, perhaps wisely, not to tell her.
“That’s ridiculous!” Chiyo snapped. “Why would I be involved in a murder?”
“You tell me. What was an undocumented, homeless woman doing at a crime scene, punching police officers’ noses left and right?”
“… Investigating the rumours?” The miko answered, head tilted to the side, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
“You don’t know? What kind of incident solver are you?” Chiyo shook her head in surprise and disappointment in equal measures. “There’s rumours going around of a youkai on the loose, that attacks any foolish person who dares venture into a dark, solitary alley at night, and eats them alive, leaving nothing but bones.”
Youkai. Just thinking about that word was enough to give Shin a small migraine. Folklore creatures of many different types, responsible for endless mischief ranging from lost objects to disappearances and even killings; running all the gamut of strange, unexplained phenomena. But it was just that, reality folklore. There was no way they...
“Who… who’s spreading those rumours?”
“I heard from a nice old man at one of the ramen carts, but you could ask anyone and they’d tell you the same,” explained the miko. “It’s the talk of this town, from what I gather.”
Just as Shin figured—it was only a reasonable assumption misinformed gossip the elderly had come up with after they saw the news of the murder on TV, exaggerated for drama. Those old coots always loved a good horror story.
“And you believed it was true?” He asked.
“No.” The shrine maiden’s eyes glinted with grim determination. “I know it is true.”
No. No. There was no way. This madwoman was talking nonsense. Shin’s head began to hurt more and more. It’s just a stupid, baseless rumour. Only a human or an animal could have killed that poor sod. There was no place for youkai in the modern, logical world.
Ridiculous. Youkai don’t exist. … … But what if...
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/14(Wed)15:00
It was ridiculous. The fact that he even considered the possibility of monsters existing was laughable. Why was he letting himself be swayed by this crazy woman? There was only one thing a detective should believe in, and that was cold, hard evidence.
“Youkai don’t exist, Miss Hisamura,” Shin stated coldly. “I don’t know what kind of stories you heard, but they’re just that, stories. They have no basis on reality.”
“That’s exactly the problem!” Exclaimed the shrine maiden. “The more those rumours spread, the truer they become! That’s why I have to find that youkai and exterminate it before it grows more powerful.”
“That logic is completely backwards.” There was no more doubt to the detective’s mind; the woman was delusional. “You’ll have to come up with a better excuse for your transgressions.”
To which the shrine maiden scoffed. “You really don’t get it, do you? And here I thought you were different...”
“I can see it in you, you know?” Chiyo glared deep into his eyes. “You try to deny it, but a part of you knows. You know there’s a monster hidden in this city. I know it, and so do you.”
“… Nonsense,” Shin averted his eyes, unable to stand the truth her piercing stare.
“You can see, but you close your eyes in fear of what you might find. But the monsters won’t go away just because you’re too stubborn to admit they exist,” Chiyo leaned in closer. “Personally, I don’t really care if you believe or not. But as long as that youkai’s loose, people’s lives will be in danger. If you’re too scared to do your own damn job properly, then let. Me. Go.”
She can’t be right, Shin kept telling himself. She was just saying that to rile him up, to convince him to free her so that she could do… whatever the hell she was trying to do back at the murder scene. But he was a professional. He would not let himself be swayed so easily. If only he had some evidence to disprove the miko…
“You ask the impossible, miss,” the detective said, picking up the file from the table. Then he stood up and walked to the door. “We will speak again later, after you sober up in your cell for a while,” and after I get some incriminating evidence on you, he added mentally. “Oh, and next time, I suggest you leave the sleuthing to the professionals.”
Chiyo stared daggers at him, clearly not too pleased with his refusal. But instead of lashing out at him, like Shin expected, she calmly leaned back against her chair and closed her eyes, returning to her previous calmness and impassibility.
“Fine, then. I’ll play by your rules if that’s what you want. I’m sure you’ll come back in no time.”
Not wanting to hear any more of the miko’s spiel, Shin closed the door with a bit more force than it was necessary. He berated himself for letting her get into his skin so easily. Some interrogator I am. He couldn’t get her words out of his head. He could see? See what? What was so scary that it made him close his eyes? The detective shook his head. There was no time to wrack his brain about useless cryptic warnings. There was work to do—pieces of evidence to collect before he could start forming his hypothesis.
He visited the morgue to inspect the victim’s body and get a more extensive autopsy. He went to the crime scene to look for any hint the local police might have missed.
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/15(Thu)17:00
>>67184 B-but the NORAD sets up a hotline and tracks his path every Christmas night! It's true!
[x] He went to the crime scene to look for any hint the local police might have missed.
If he wanted to make any leeway in the investigation, the detective thought, his best option at the moment was to go over the crime scene and inspect it carefully, in case there was some piece of evidence hidden away. In truth, he had been putting it off for too long—hard evidence were the pillars upon which hypothesis were made upon.
“So, uh, how did to go, sir?”
The jailer’s voice surprised Shin, who in his internal monologue had ignored him completely. It looked like the man whose name ended in ‘-suke’—it’d be too awkward to ask what his name is at this point, rued the detective—had been standing guard besides the door all that time, with his hand on his holster, ready to step in if anything went awry.
“Not too good, I’m afraid,” Shin answered, “I have a feeling she knows more than she’s letting on, but she keeps playing dumb. Maybe a day in jail will loosen her tongue.”
“I’ll go put her back in the cell, then.”
“Please do. Oh, by the way,” the detective stopped the guard as he was about to open the door to the interrogation room, “I’m about to go to the crime scene. Is there any car available to borrow for a while?”
“A car? Uh, don’t think so. They’re all on patrol, last I heard. We have a few bikes on the garage, though. …Or you could take the bus, I suppose,” he added when he saw Shin’s grimace. “The line to Honmachinishi passes every half an hour.”
“… I’ll take the bike, then,” Shin sighed in resignation.
It was apparent that not even being promoted to the First Division was enough to spare him a long ride on the notoriously uncomfortable bicycles he remembered dreading back in his days as a lowly officer. With grim resolution and lament for his soon-to-be sore legs and buttocks, Shin made his way to the station’s garage, grabbed the less shabby-looking bike, and pedalled off.
About fifteen minutes later, the wheezing detective dragged his body and his bike along West Honmachi until he spotted the bright yellow cordon barring entrance to a dark, narrow alleyway. Two guards—a tall, slender man holding a bag of ice against his swollen nose, and a short, bespectacled female that looked familiar to Shin—stood guard at each side of the entrance, eyeing the crowd of reporters and cameramen that had gathered near the crime scene.
The news of Chiyo’s earlier rampage had spread like wildfire, and now it seemed like every single news channel in the country was there, prowling for the next scrap of scoop. The bright yellow tape was doing its job to prevent the journalists from getting too close, but Shin knew from experience that those cameras were rolling all the time, waiting to televise even the tiniest development for their next breaking news segment. His boss wasn’t kidding when he told him the case was a mediatic disaster waiting to blow.
But much to the detective chagrin, the moment he approached the crowd, one of the reporters at the back spotted him, and trotted towards him, microphone in hand and questions in her lips. The rest of the journalists soon followed suit when they saw the rest turning around. It took Shin most of his self-control to stop his displeasure from showing in his face. He had had to speak in front of the cameras multiple times in his career, yet for him it had never become any more bearable. He’d have to tiptoe around them with care.
He ignored all of them and pushed his way through the swarm to the cordon. He gave them the usual, non-committal response he had fed the news every other time. He answered some of the questions carefully, in hope they’d be satisfied.
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/16(Fri)17:00
[x]He ignored all of them and pushed his way through the swarm to the cordon.
When dealing with gossip-hungry journalists, the moment the detective gave them even the tiniest morsel of information, they’d all pounce on him like hyenas, ready to tear and misconstrue whatever carefully prepared reply he gave them. That had been how it usually went in Shin’s experience, and he didn’t want another repeat.
The tide of microphones and cameras quickly surrounded him, all vying to get a good shot of his face and voice. The shouted questions piled up on top of each other into a deafening cacophony.
“Are you in charge of the investigation, mister?” “Have you found any leads yet?” “Is the murderer still at large?” “Can you confirm the victim was part of the delinquent gang?” “Was the woman that intruded in the scene incarcerated?
“NPA, clear the way!” Shin shouted, raising his badge above for all to see, while pushing people away with the other.
It took him the good part of a minute to squeeze his way through—bicycle in tow—and reach the cordoned alley, all the while trying his hardest to not make eye contact with any camera. The crowd stopped harassing him once he stepped past the yellow tape, but they did not stop throwing questions his way. Fed up with them, the detective stepped away, into the alleyway, until the voices became a bearable drone in the distance.
The crime scene proper lied just at the end of the alley; a narrow passage connecting the running between the shoulders of two apartment buildings. At some point during the city’s renovation of its infrastructure, it ceased to be used as a secondary street, and only a few dumpsters and electrical boxes filled the space between the edifices. The apartment buildings crowding it on either side kept sunlight out year-round. Shadowy and oppressive, it was the perfect—and clichéd, Shin judged—scenery for a murder.
“Sir, you okay?”
The detective turned around at the brittle female voice, surprised anyone actually showed concern for him. He instantly recognized the short, spirited woman with pep in her step, and those huge round glasses she had always worn ever since he first met her at the academy.
“Uh!?” She jolted in her feet, clearly not expecting to be called by her first name. Her jet black hair, rolled up in a tight bun on top of her round head, bounced as if reflecting its owner’s shock. “Y-yes, that’s me, officer Maeko Michizoe, at your serv—wait, Shin-chan!? Is that really you?”
“It’s good to see you again, Mae,” the detective could not stop himself from smiling warmly—I almost forgot how it felt—at his old colleague.
“Ha! I can’t believe it! Where have you been all this time!?”
Maeko lunged towards him, intent on wrapping her short arms around him and bear crush him with her surprising strength, just like she used to do, but Shin stopped her with a palm in front of her face. The woman titled her head in confusion, until she noticed the detective eyeing at the crowd of journalists behind them. Shamefaced, she stepped back meekly, the faint blush in her puffy cheeks barely noticeable in the dark.
“Right, uh… So!” But soon she regained her usual liveliness, and went on like nothing happened. “You finally became a full fledged detective, just like you always wanted, eh?”
“You’re not doing too badly yourself from what I see,” he retorted, “I’ve heard you’ve been busy lately, dealing with dead bodies and rampant shrine maidens.”
“Har har. Well, someone had to pick up the slack and deal with all the weird stuff after you left, yeah?”
“Yeah yeah, truly sorry about that,” the two shared a knowing chuckle, remembering how they used to trade barbs all those years ago. “Listen, Maeko, I’d love to catch up with you, but duty calls, so...”
“Oh. Yeah. Of course,” a pained grimace graced the woman’s lips. “It’s some nasty business, alright. I guess you’ll want to take a look at the scene. Just holler at me if you need my help, okay?”
Shin glanced at the alleyway. The local police had already scoured through the scene and took the evidence to the morgue, but there was the possibility that they might have missed something. On the other hand, the detective recalled superintendent Murai saying that Maeko was the one who first found the body. Perhaps asking her if she remembered something unusual could point him in the right direction.
He decided to examine the crime scene by himself, looking for hidden evidence. He enlisted Maeko’s help to recreate how the murder happened. He questioned Maeko about certain details about the case.
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/17(Sat)10:00
Sorry for the short timer again. Turns out I have weekend shift again. Next update will also be shorter because of it, so apologies in advance.
[X]He questioned Maeko about certain details about the case.
“Actually, I want to ask you some questions about the case.”
Maeko, who had already started to walk back to the cordon, stopped right in her tracks with her foot already raised, and spun around on her other leg.
“Wha, already? Okay, fire away, then!”
“According to Chief Egawa, you were the first person who found the body, correct?”
“Yup, that was me. I even did a report on it and everything,” Maeko puffed her modest chest proudly. “I even took extra care to make it ‘clear and concise’ for the big shots at the capital! You must’ve read it too, right?”
“Yeah, except you didn’t put your name on it.”
“… I didn’t? Aw shucks, I forgot again, didn’t I?” And she deflated just as quickly. “Normally it’s fine because everyone at the station knows my handwriting, although I always get chewed out for—“
“It’s fine, it’s fine,” Shin cut her off, “rather, I want to get your opinion on this, if you’ve seen anything out of the ordinary, that kind of thing.”
“Out of the ordinary? I dunno, a dead body in an alleyway’s already pretty unordinary in this town, if you ask me,” Maeko scratched her temple, “and this is the first time I’ve seen a murder in real life. I have no idea what counts as ‘out of the ordinary’.”
The detective had figured as much. Such a gruesome murder in a small, idyllic town like Chino must have had shocked everyone, accustomed to a quiet life as they had been. If he wanted to get some details out of the officer, he’d have to be more specific.
”You found the body in your morning patrol, but the murder happened at 10 last night. Is it really possible that noone heard or saw anything before you?” ”The victim appeared to be a mugger. Are there any gangs active in this area? And if he belonged to any of them, how come there there were no other members around?” ”Do you think it could have been a monster, like the rumours say?” Write-in.
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/18(Sun)09:00
[x] ”The victim appeared to be a mugger. Are there any gangs active in this area? And if he belonged to any of them, how come there there were no other members around?” in b4 the whole thing becomes a closed-room puzzle
[x]”The victim appeared to be a mugger. Are there any gangs active in this area? And if he belonged to any of them, how come there there were no other members around?”
It was something that had been bugging Shin since he read the file. He hadn’t taken a good look at the crime scene yet—only from the photos in the file—, but he would hazard a guess that it was a robbery gone wrong for the muggers themselves. Given the fact that the victim was young and unemployed, he probably was a delinquent who had just finished highschool, or dropped out of college, and joined one of the gangs that prowled the streets at night… Or so he’d imagine if it had been ten years ago. Things could be different in the present. Luckily for him, he had someone who was very familiar with the state of public order in Chino to ask her about it.
“Say, are there still delinquent gangs around here?” He questioned Maeko.
“Gangs?” The policewoman tilted her head, deep in thought. “Well, there is one, but...”
“They’re a bunch of masked weirdos. Mostly inoffensive. I don’t really believe they’d actually mug someone like our guy tried to do.”
“And how’s that?”
“We get some reports of harassing from elderly people from time to time. Kids covering their faces with monster masks so that they wouldn’t be recognized, giving the old coots a good weebie-jeebie, you know what I’m saying? Like, ‘oooooh’ and ‘waaaaaaargh’ and...“ Maeko was waving her hands in a mocking mimicry of someone pretending to be a ghost, but stopped when he noticed Shin’s flat stare, abashed. “Ahem! In any case, other than risking some heart attack, those troublemakers have never done nothing worse than that. They never threatened someone at knifepoint, that’s for sure,” She was referring to the weapon that was found in the victim’s belongings, and the first suspect murder weapon.
“Right,” Shin nodded pensively, “so you think it could have been another gang, then?”
“That’s the thing, actually,” Maeko said, “ever since these weirdos showed up, the other bands haven’t been as active as they used to. I think the last report we had of any gang-related crimes was… two, three months ago? I can’t say if those masked gangbangers had something to do with it, but they certainly made our job a lot easier.
It wasn’t unheard of for fledging bands to contest territory from older gangs, but usually those came with violent mob wars and an increase of general thuggery. That this one managed to supersede the rest of the clans without any disturbance meant that either they somehow merged all of them together into one big crew, or there was some shady deal going on in the shadows.
“And have you managed to catch any of the members?”
The woman grimaced and looked down, uncomfortable. “Uh… No. Not yet,” her eyes looked up to Shin, meekly, but quickly retreated back to her feet under his steely gaze. “They always manage to give us the slip when we chase after them. They always lose us in the alleys and the rooftops. I’ve ran after a couple of them, and I swear they move more like monkeys than like normal people!”
“Sounds more like you people didn’t really put a lot of effort into catching them.”
“They don’t pay us enough to risk our necks to get some harmless pranksters, y’know?” The policewoman pouted, in an outburst of defiance. “Maybe you would have, Shin, but I like to keep my legs and spine healthy!”
Shin sighed. Where was the woman who fearlessly stopped that crazy shrine maiden after she rampaged through the crime scene? Was she the kind of policewoman who only worked diligently when her comrades were in danger?
“Ah, well, it’s not my job to criticize your methods,” the detective shrugged, “but I expect you to take this investigation more seriously. We’re dealing with a dangerous killer here.”
“Don’t need to tell me twice, sir,” she straightened herself up, and made a point to keep her face blank, but her eyes belied a certain sullenness. “Anything else?”
”Nothing for now. I’ll go examine the crime scene.” ”You said these guys escaped through the rooftops? Maybe we should go check them out.” ”Actually, there was something else I wanted to ask.” (Write-in)
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/19(Mon)15:00
[X] "Do you think they started all these rumours about youkai?"
Anyone can scare people with scary masks but you don't need a gang for that. They could be behind the crime under the guise of "youkai attack" and the locals would believe it. Or maybe they are youkai.
[x] ”Nothing for now. I’ll go examine the crime scene.” Questioning her about it probably won't offer much more than a "gee, I don't know" and a shrug. Plus, as the first anon said, the crime scene is on a timer. We want to be sure to actually get a look while it's still (relatively) fresh.
Definitely ought to go check those rooftops at some point, though.
Sorry, I won't be able to put an update today. Work and college teamed up to kick me in the nuts, and after I was done with them it was too late and I'm too tired to focus on writing. Plus the next update is not something I can gurgle out in just one hour. I'll try to catch up this week with a double update, but I don't know when. Sorry for the inconvenience.
[x] "Do you think they started all these rumours about youkai?" [x] ”Nothing for now. I’ll go examine the crime scene.”
In fact, there was something else worrying Shin. The gang members, scaring people at random. The masks. The rumours of youkai attacks at dark alleyways—just like the one where the murder took place. It was a far-fetched theory, but he had a feeling—“detective’s intuition”, he preferred to call it—all of those were connected in some way.
“I was just thinking...” Shin pondered aloud, as much to himself as for Maeko, “those rumours about monsters assaulting people. Did you hear about them?” The policewoman nodded. “Do you think that gang could have spread those?”
“Huh?” The woman looked unsurprisingly confused. “Uhhhh, maybe? But why would they do that?”
It was a good question. If they really did it, was it just to get a laugh off it, or did they stand to gain something? Shin recalled what that miko Chiyo said: “the more those rumours spread, the truer they become.” If by some chance she happened to be right about—no, no, no. Why did he let her get into his head so? She was just a madwoman; he didn’t have to heed what she said.
“Nevermind, I’m just talking foolishness.” Yes. It was foolishness. The only thing that mattered were facts and evidence. “I’ll go examine the scene now.”
“Alright, call me if you need me,” with a nod and a salute, Maeko parted with the detective and hurried back to assist the other policeman at the cordon.
Shin spared her a last look before turning around. A pang of guilt seized his chest for a short moment—he had been unfairly cold and hard on his former colleague, especially when she greeted him warmly as if they hadn’t seen each other for years. Maeko was one of the very few reasons that weighted against his decisions to leave his hometown to run away from the truths pursue his career. Then again, he hadn’t put much effort into keeping in touch with her after he moved to the capital, because it was the only way to stop the dreams work always kept piling up. So all things considered, he didn’t really care much for Maeko, Shin thought dispassionately. She deserves better. But he didn’t come to reminisce about the past, he told himself. There was work to do.
There was the familiar feeling of keen excitement as Shin approached the scene of the crime. Witnesses could lie, facts could be misconstrued, but evidence always told the truth, if one knew how to derive the truth from it. The scene was his personal puzzle box, waiting for him to find the pieces and form the complete picture. The detective took his gloves from his coat and slipped them on his hands, the familiar sound of latex slapping against his flesh focusing his mind and emptying it of superfluous thoughts. Finally, it was time to work.
He started by examining the exact place where the body was found. He got his hands dirty by looking inside the nearby dumpsters for evidence. He inspected further down the alley, where the killer likely made his escape.
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/21(Wed)17:00
Reminder (mostly to myself) that I still need to do a double update this week to catch up to the schedule.
[x]He started by examining the exact place where the body was found.
First things first, the body. According to the report, it was found partially hidden behind the dumpsters. From where Shin was standing, at the alley’s entrance, the legs’ chalk outline was barely distinguishable in the dark, and he was focusing entirely on finding it. He had to wonder how Maeko managed to find it hidden in the dark, before the sun had risen. Knowing her, it was probably sheer dumb luck, he bet.
The detective crouched in front of the contour drawn on the floor and the wall. Slumped against the wall, just as the files described, head inclined to the right, arms limp to the sides, knees slightly bent. On the right shoulder, a smudge of dark, dried blood trickled down to the floor, staining the corner where the victim had leaned down in his final moments.
“Huh, that’s odd,” Shin muttered, “there’s too little...”
He had been at plenty of crime scenes to know that even a relatively small cut or bullet hole could spill out surprising amounts of fluid even with the victim surviving the attack. An adult human body has an average of five litres of blood, and normally it required losing about half of it to enter hemorrhagic shock and eventually die. The bloodstains Shin was looking at seemed very insignificant, far from the “pool of blood” described in the case files. His eyes quickly studied the body’s surroundings, but there were no other stains—or other signs of struggle, for that matter—that he could see.
“Yes, definitely too little for someone who supposedly bled to death.”
Shin fell deep in thought. It was a glaring incongruence, one that he intuited was critical to solving the case. And the reason for that was…
The killer tried to clean up the crime scene, but he only had time to wipe most of the bloodstains before he had to leave. The victim’s clothes soaked up most of the blood. The report was exaggerated. The victim’s injury was probably not too deep, and he died of shock rather than blood loss. The murderer drank most of the blood when it bit the victim. Without more evidence, forming a theory that early in the investigation was too rash. Write-in.
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/22(Thu)08:00
Very short update this time (perhaps the shortest yet). The next two will also be of similar length, as I'll attempt to do a double update and catch up with the schedule. Hence, the relatively short timer for this option. Apologies.
[x] Without more evidence, forming a theory that early in the investigation was too rash.
A couple of ideas floated around the detective’s head, but he decided to not settle for any in particular. Penning oneself by focusing on only one theory before collecting all the evidence ran the risk of missing crucial information, or worse, falsely accuse the wrong person. It was better to keep an open mind to new possibilities before making a grave mistake.
Shin’s attention was brought to the dumpsters besides the corpse’s outline. The local police didn’t find anything in their initial examination, but it didn’t hurt to look more closely. Or at least, it’d hurt nothing except his personal hygiene, he thought poignantly. Looking through other people’s trash was perhaps the least glamorous part of the job, but sometimes it was necessary to get one’s hands dirty, in the most literal sense. He just hoped it hadn’t been garbage day that morning, or else all his effort would be in vain.
The next minutes were spent taking out one stinky trashbag after another, opening them up to reveal their contents—and it had to be organic, of course—and rifling through the scraps of foods and empty bricks and bowls inside. It was all Shin could do to not gag at the putrid smell. He felt the concerned glance of Maeko when she surreptitiously turned her head around, trying to not be noticed by him. The reporters behind the cordon must had been having a field day, recording him thrashing about the refuse like a pig. But he paid them no mind. There was no reason to be ashamed; it was all part of his job. He could stand a little embarrassment if it meant he could find a piece of evidence.
But as he finished with the last bag, Shin had to admit it had all been in vain that time. To be fair, he did not expect to find anything that the local cops hadn’t already—it had been almost twelve hours already since the body was found, after all. And if the culprit had enough sense, he would not have left any incriminating evidence nearby in the first place. Still, it had been worth a shot. Shin picked up the bags to put them back in the dumpster. Just as he was about to throw them back inside, he saw it:
“… Wait, what’s this?”
At the bottom of the container there lied a small scrap of paper, light-bluish and violet at the edges—or at least half of it, judging by the way it was ripped in half. The detective leaned to pick it up. A ticket of sorts, he judged by the shape and texture. A cutesy picture of a train in purple ran along the top, and under it, the word “YAK--”, in romaji, was cut by the tear. The bottom text read “Akiba Hi-” in mechanized font, and underneath the current date.
“So our victim was planning to catch a train today, huh...” Shin pondered aloud.
He had a good feeling it was a promising lead, but three letters were too little to go on. He searched for the other half of the ticket inside the dumpsters, to no avail. Three letters were too little to go on, if one considered all the different lines in Japan alone. But the ticket itself had a very distinctive design. Perhaps if he showed it to someone, they could point him in the right direction?
Carefully, the detective placed the ticket inside a sealed plastic bag, used to keep pieces of evidence. The search of the dumpsters had been fruitful after all, but perhaps there was more evidence lying around somewhere.
Further down the alleyway seemed like the next best place to look. He had a feeling he’d find something interesting up in the rooftops. Maybe Maeko knew something about the ticket? Most likely there was nothing else to find here. Time take a look at the body in the morgue. Something about this ticket seemed… familiar, somehow...
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/23(Fri)09:00
Something came up and I couldn't do the double update today. Tomorrow I'll definitely get around to it, I promise!
[X]Further down the alleyway seemed like the next best place to look.
Knowing that there were no indications that the killer had changed their probably bloodied clothes in the crime scene, that left the back alleys as the other likely escape route.
Shin ducked below the yellow tape walked along the rough concrete streets that caused his footsteps to echo. The buildings were tight together and loomed over him, like a forest of stone. When he looked up the roofs were so close together that he could only make out a sliver of the darkening sky that was mirrored by the tiny stream of light that trickled along the cold stone ground.
Soon the detective reached an intersection as the alley he came from crossed with other three, identical roads in completely different directions. In the half light of the alley the man appeared small and insignificant. It was the underworld of any town: gloomy and unpleasant. The cables and ventilation ducts that crawled up window sills and the crumbling plaster that enveloped the walls became daunting as the sun set behind the skyline of buildings and chimneys. Darkness lurked at every end of the crossroads of narrow passages, obscuring whether they led to a dead end or an entrance to a hidden world. Litter was dumped on the streets and a scraggly brown dog rested at a nondescript door. The animal eyed Shin lazily for a moment, then stood up slowly on its slim legs and slithered away to the alley at his right, dragging its paws along the concrete, until the boundary shades swallowed it.
Ignoring the uneasiness that tightened his chest, Shin spun around, looking at his surroundings. The killer had to have left some trace of their escape after making such a bloody mess of the victim, but to his consternation, he found nothing. No footprints, no blood trails, not even a trashcan or lamppost displaced. It was as if they had suddenly vanished.
“Was I wrong after all?” The detective wondered aloud. “Did the killer escape from another way?”
One thing he was sure of: he wouldn’t find anything standing like a fool in the middle of that crossroad. There were still other things to investigate.
The rooftops were the only other place to inspect near the crime scene. It was about time he went to the morgue and took a good look at the victim’s bod. He followed the dog down the dark alley and crossed the boundary.
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/23(Fri)19:00
[x]The rooftops were the only other place to inspect near the crime scene.
With no leads to follow at the crime scene and nothing of interest to be found at the back alley, only the rooftops were left. It was a long shot, Shin admitted, based only on a flimsy assumption over another unproven assumption, but it was better than nothing. He took one last look at the alley and ignored the feeling of being watched and headed up the apartment building.
The dwelling was in the middle of a transitional neighbourhood where the old single-story houses from the forties and fifties were slowly being torn down replaced with multi-storied towers, like the one he was climbing. Municipal sidewalks left and right, mossy concrete, decorated here and there with trees, studded less often by city fire hydrants. Shin entered the establishment at the ground level—a sweets shop—and after showing his police badge to the nice lady in charge, he made his way up the stairs.
The first thing he felt when he reached the top was the chilly breeze, seeping under his clothes. He had forgotten how cold the nights were in the mountain regions of Chino, with the alleyways having provided cover from the gusts of wind while he was at the scene. Shin wrapped himself up in his clothes and looked at the small clearing, delimited with tall metal fences and a railing facing the streets. Reclining on it, there was a young woman with bright blue hair, dressed in a modern three-coloured, plaid skirt and a black t-shirt with a weird inscription, reading “Welcome ❤ Hell”, that revealed her pale shoulders to the chill wind. She was staring at the crowd below in the streets with bemused indolence, her bare feet crossed over in a relaxed posture. It looked like a nice, secluded place to waste hours staring at the town below, losing oneself in their own thoughts for a while. The girl turned her head and fixed her icy stare at him when she noticed his presence. But Shin was not there to procrastinate. There was work to do.
“Oh, you saw me, didn’t you?” The girl spoke up, standing upright. Her innocent, amicable tone belied a godly presence that her whole being exuded.
Ignoring the small headache that flared up again, the detective set off to look for clues. If Maeko’s supposition was correct, and the victim belonged to that band of masked delinquents, there was a good chance he had left some trace of his presence there, or at any of the other rooftops nearby.
“Oi, it’s rude to ignore a pretty goddess when she’s talking to you, y’know?” The woman crossed her arms in annoyance. She strolled towards him and drove a manicured finger in his shoulder. “Don’t pretend you didn’t see me!”
Shin brushed his shoulder in slight discomfort, swatting aside what he thought was a fly, probably. His migraine was growing worse by the moment. The stress and fatigue were getting to him. Perhaps it was a good idea to take a short nap after finishing up there, the detective thought. But work came first. A quick cursory glance didn’t reveal anything out of the ordinary at first, but something caught his eyes when he scanned his surroundings more thoroughly. A crack in the wall, almost hidden behind a huge air extractor. It might had been just the wall’s paint flaking from exposure, but…
“Hmm… Perhaps you’re only partially attuned? Or does your mind refuse to heed your instincts?” The self-proclaimed goddess pondered aloud. “Maybe you’ll definitely notice me if I send you a divine sign?”
That crack was definitely worth inspecting, if only to justify climbing all the way up there. Going there had been a waste of time. The morgue and the victim’s corpse awaited him. … Wait, there really was someone else in there. Was she speaking to him?
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/24(Sat)08:30
Aaaaaaand we're back on schedule, again.
>>67266 Except that in AA you can't progress in the story until you examine every place and collect all the possible pieces of evidence. Here, not so much.
[x]… Wait, there really was someone else in there. Was she speaking to him?
“Is… is someone there?”
He could have sworn it was his imagination, but the detective kept seeing blurred, confusing visions of a woman standing in front of him, talking to him. But he had not been alone when he came up there, he was sure of it. What was he doing, addressing people that weren’t there? Perhaps fatigue was catching up to him. Yes, that was it, he just imagined it because he was too tired. And all the other times? Was that just fatigue too? The headache grew stronger still, and dizziness assaulted him. Shin lost his balance for a moment and crashed against the wall, supporting his back against it while clutching his head in pain. His sight was hazy, and he could no longer tell what he thought was seeing and what he was really seeing.
“Ah, poor man! I understand your struggle!” The woman brought a hand to her face in a pensive, dramatic pose. Shin couldn’t discern if she was mocking him or not. “Torn between the safety of your closed mind, and the truth behind the illogical reality. Yet one cannot remain in the boundary for long without going mad,” she cupped his head between her soft hands, and ran her thumbs across his eyes, obscuring his vision. “Don’t worry. I’ll ease the torment you inflict upon yourself.”
Shin felt the cold, uncomfortable touch of someone’s fingers on his eyelids, keeping him still. Part of him wanted nothing more than to swat that feeling away and run. [s]The other welcomed the small comfort of her frigid caress, soothing his splitting ache. His legs didn’t obey him, instead wobbling in indecision vulnerability.
A sharp pain stabbed his eyes, worming its way through his brain. A wordless, soundless howl stuck in his throat.
His body thrashed and shivered. The cold from the deepest pits of Hell seeped through his body, freezing his bones.
Light swallowed his sight. Something, deep inside his consciousness, clicked. And for the first time in years, he saw clarity.
Shin exhaled a breath he didn’t realize was holding, and slowly opened his eyes. His migraine had mostly subsided, and the haziness was finally gone. The goddess woman with red blue hair stood right in front of him—too close for his comfort—, beaming a proud smile of satisfaction for a work well done.
“Who—wh—what did you just do to me?” Shin managed to stutter out of his clattering teeth—Why does it feel so cold all of a sudden?—and blurted the first complete question that formed in his scrambled mind.
“I gave your stubborn head a kick in its butt to get it going,” she answered. Her jovial voice sounded much clearer now to his ears. “It was the best I could do under the circumstances.”
That did not really answer his question. The detective pushed the girl away gently and struggled to take a couple of steps towards the railing. With his legs wobbling like pudding, it was all he could do to not topple over. He felt the woman’s hand on his back, supporting him in case he really did fall—almost expecting him to do so.
“Not even a ‘thanks’, mister?” She chided him, as her rosy cheeks pouted slightly. “It’s not everyday you can get a blessing from a goddess as a freebie, y’know?”
A ‘goddess’, she says. Some mighty weirdo he had stumbled upon, Shin uttered in his head. But it was obvious she had done something to his eyes and his head. How much of her claim held truth? The detective reached the railing’s handle and grasped it tightly in his grip, leaning all his weight into it.
“I didn’t quite catch your name, miss…?”
“Hecatia Lapislazuli, at your service!” With a wink and a twirl, she raised her plaided skirt in a curtsy befitting of a king’s court. “But if you find it as unpronounceable as my friends do, you may call me just Heca.”
‘Lapislazuli’. A name even weirder than her attire, and more than capable of twisting Shin’s tongue. Now that he could stare at her without having a headache, he took better notice of her exotic features. Her rounded, pale face, framed eyes as big and shiny as sapphires, staring back at him with bemusement. Taller than the average Japanese woman, and yet despite only reaching to his own eye level, the way she carried herself made her look like she stood higher than anyone in her surroundings. A slender figure, filled in all the right places, accentuated her otherworldly beauty.
Shin hawked when he noticed Hecatia grinning back at him. He had let himself get caught ogling, and she knew it. Damn it, I’m better than this. Focus!
“So what exactly did you do to my head right now?” “You’re not from this country, are you? What are you doing here?” “Do you know anything about this… incident? Anything could help.” “Are you really a… ‘goddess’?” Write-in.
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/25(Sun)08:30
[x] "Are you really a... 'goddess'? Because that sure is a weird goddamn t-shirt, and none of my mythology classes mentioned such a thing." Just gonna note that we shouldn't do a leap off into crazy town right away, but we can always banter.
[x] That sure is a weird goddamn t-shirt. [x] "Are you really a... 'goddess'?
“So, miss Lapirusa… Lapisa… Hecatia,” Shin said, fumbling over her foreign surname. He figured it was better to deal with the proverbial elephant in the room as soon as possible, but that didn’t even make it any less strange to think about, “you said you were a goddess? Did I hear that right?”
“You heard me right,” she nodded, beaming an audacious smirk, “but I understand your confusion. I am not one of the myriad deities you Japanese denizens are familiar with,” the woman floated stepped away from the detective and stretched out her arms. “I hail from the far West, the cradle of civilization and philosophy. I rule over earth, sea and sky, and bestow my blessing and my protection to all who worship me, whether on the household or on the road. I am Hekate Chthonia, Holder of Keys, Nurse of Children, Bearer of Light!” For a single moment, Hell and Moon shone brightly over her hands, and her whole being radiated a divine aura that almost brought Shin to his knees in prostration. Then the goddess shrugged, and gave him a light-hearted wink. “But like I said, you can just call me Heca, if that’s too grandiose for you.”
The investigator blinked once, twice, processing her whole spiel. He didn’t really understand much of what she said, especially towards the end, but apparently she was a big shot at the place she came from—Rome? Greece? Mesopotamia? He was not too familiar with foreign mythology—and she had had a straight, serious face when she made her outrageous claim, which meant she truly believed herself to be a goddess. A classic sign of megalomania, or perhaps that new thing people called… “chuumi” syndrome, or something? Still, though part of him believed her it was hard for Shin to take Heca’s self-proclaimed divinity seriously when she looked like she had come out from a reject designer’s warehouse.
“I’ll be honest with you, ‘Heca’,” the detective said slowly, “I find that hard to believe when you barely look the part.”
“E-excuse me?” The young woman’s brow twitched, and her smile curdled in her face.
“I imagined gods wore classier attire like togas and mantles and the full regalia, not… that.”
Under his pointed stare, Hecatia crossed her arms over her chest, defensively covering her t-shirt almost in reflex. She had had her “peculiar” choice of clothing criticized before, Shin realized, and it was still a sore point for her.
“W-w-what’s wrong with my shirt!?” Hecatia stuttered, flushing. “Can’t a goddess dress fashionably in the modern times?”
“It’s goddamn weird, that’s what’s wrong.”
“L-like you’re one to talk!” The girl was pouting now, on the verge of tears. It was kind of adorable, in a mean, twisted way, Shin thought. “I mean, look at that lame suit! I’ve seen funeral tuxedos more colourful than yours! Do you expect to bore the culprit to death when you find him or what?”
“Whether I look boring or not doesn’t have anything to do with—hold on,” Shin stopped, “how did you know I’m investigating a crime?”
“Because I saw you working down there, dummy,” she answered, waving a hand at the alley below them. “After all, I’ve been standing here all this time.”
“And what reason would you have to stay here all by your yourself?”
The goddess tried to maintain a facade of serenity, but Shin could spot a pitiful grimace cracking through her stiffened lips. She slowly leaned into the alleyway, and stared melancholically at the crime scene below—no, specifically at the chalk outline.
“I heard Hiroji calling for me,” she sighed, “but… I was too late. Some protection I grant, huh?”
Hiroji. The victim’s name. Did this weird goddess know him? And if she said she had been there all the time, could she have seen what had happened? A mighty peculiar witness I’ve stumbled upon, the detective thought.
“What was your relation to the victim?” “How did he contact you?” “You were supposed to... protect him?” “Did you manage to see his assailant?” Write-in
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/26(Mon)19:00
Remind myself to always preview the posts before I screw up the formatting like I did yesterday.
[x] “What was your relation to the victim?” [x] “Did you manage to see his assailant?” [x] “Why do you think he was killed?”
“Then you knew the victim?”
“Oh yes, I knew him well, mister,” Hecatia nodded wistfully, “he was my most devout worshipper, after all.”
“Your… worshipper,” Shin chewed on that word. For some reason, it left a bad taste in his mouth. “What, you got a cult of yourself or something?”
“Of sorts. Nothing compared to what I had in Lagina back in my heyday, but in these hard times I take what I can get,” she shrugged. “It makes losing a follower even more painful. He was a good kid, you know? Headstrong, iron-willed, with firm convictions. Always ready to fight for what he believed.”
“Hah! I wish,” the goddess snorted. “No, he had a goal of his own; a dream he would’ve gladly sold his soul to fulfill.” Hecatia looked aside and mouthed a few silent words, clearly not meant for Shin. <<He did.>> “He merely asked me for a small blessing to help him see it through.”
“And you granted it?”
“Well, I always had a soft spot for the offscourings of society,” she chuckled to herself, “and it was a beneficial deal for both parties. Gods need belief as much as humans want gods, and he was willing to become my staunch believer if it meant he could reach...”
Hecatia’s words trailed off, and her somber eyes darted back to the chalk outline as she shook her head mournfully. The detective was skeptical. The whole goddess-and-worshipper business sounded too outlandish for Shin, who only believed in rational, grounded reality. What he could understand Hecatia and Hiroji had had history together. But as curious as he was about the details of their “deal”, there were more pressing questions to ask.
“Did you manage to see the person who assailed him?”
“Like I said, it was already too late by the time I got here,” she said, “but it was no person, that’s for sure.”
Hecatia turned around to face Shin, frowning. “Can’t you feel it? The impurity seeping from the back alley? The spiritual dregs? It’s obvious this was the work of a youkai.”
Not this shit again. Shin let out an exasperated groan. First that shrine maiden, and now this t-shirt weirdo with delusions of godhood? Why did he get all the oddballs? It was starting to get irritating.
“Alright, look, ‘Heca’,” he said, “youkai do not exist. I’ve been putting up with your charade, but I need you to take this seriously, understood?”
To which the woman responded with a flat look: “No, it’s you who doesn’t understand! I can only help you open your eyes, but it’s no use if you refuse to look. Open your mind and take it all in before you cast your aspersions.”
“Tch, fine,” Shin threw up his arms, “I’ll humor you for a while longer. If it really was a youkai—which I still don’t believe, by the way—why would it want to kill Hiroji?”
“Why wouldn’t it? Youkai feed on people’s fears, and this one took its sweet time stalking its prey,” Hecatia explained. “I felt his despair all the while, you know? How uneasy he first was when it found him. How he feared for his life as he was being chased down those alleys, until it finally cornered him, down there. How the slow realization that he was going to die right there and then filled him with dread. How desperately he cried for me when it sunk its fangs and sucked the life out of him.” The woman let out another forlorn sigh, but in her azure eyes burned a slow, simmering fury that sent a shiver down the detective’s spine. “And now he’ll never reach the promised land. I can only hope I don’t meet him back in Hell after letting him down so.”
Shin stood there in silence, taking in her disturbing narration. Hecatia seemed to be telling the truth, but her recounting was based on outlandish assumptions that would not hold in a testimony at any court. There was no way the detective could put “a youkai did it” in the case report as a legitimate reason. On the other hand, even if her story was unbelievable when taking it as a whole, she could have made a few good points. Disregarding whether it was a youkai or not, it was not unusual for murderers to kill people just to spread fear among the population. Chiyo said something very similar back in the police station, too. Whoever did this was trying to spread rumours about a youkai on the loose, she had told him. But what could the murderer gain with that? Would he continue killing people to feed them? Or was Shin still missing some piece of the puzzle?
The detective looked back at the oddly dressed woman. The progress of his investigation would steer drastically depending on how far he was willing to believe the self-proclaimed goddess’ claims.
 “I’m sorry, but I don’t—I cannot believe a word of what you say.”  “I’m not entirely sure about all this, but I know I have to stop the culprit fast.”  “If there really is a youkai on the loose, then I’ll need all the help I can get.”  “What if the culprit isn’t attacking people indiscriminately? What if the victim was targeted singularly?”
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/27(Tue)21:00
I'm very sorry for the lateness of this update, but I had a really busy day yesterday and was too tired to complete this part in time. I'll make up for it with another, shorter update later today.
[x] “What if the culprit isn’t attacking people indiscriminately? What if the victim was targeted singularly?”
He can't humor the idea of it being a youkai attack but there are still clues that suggest the attack wasn't indiscriminate. From Hecatia's testimony, we know he wasn't a gang member or a mugger. So the reason he had a knife could be because he knew he was being targeted. Probably something to do with Yukari's train.
[x]“What if the culprit isn’t attacking people indiscriminately? What if the victim was targeted singularly?”
Something didn’t sit right. Hecatia believed the victim was killed at random to spread rumours of a rampaging monsters and feed on fear—however the hell that worked. But the evidence he had collected so far seemed to hint at another reason altogether.
First, the knife the victim had in his right hand when he was first found. Although it was very common for gang members to carry weapons, Maeko testified that all the violent bands in town had been either driven out or absorbed by the masked delinquent crew, which so far hadn’t been involved in any violent altercation and favored running away from trouble. Even if the police hadn’t caught any of its members yet, it was a safe assumption that they wouldn’t wield weapons. And supposing the victim was part of the masked gang, it could mean one thing:
“Hiroji… I think he was expecting to be assaulted,” he pondered aloud.
Hecatia looked at him in surprise, brows furrowed. The detective ignored her inquiring gaze and paced around the rooftop, deep in thought. It all came down to the “why” of it. If only he could figure out why the victim felt the need to arm himself, he’d find the thread that would eventually lead him to the culprit. What did the young man do to put himself on a killer’s sights? Spook the wrong person? Threats? Blackmail? Stealing something too important? Trying to get someplace he shouldn’t be?
Abruptly Shin realized he was fumbling with the small plastic bag he had inside his coat’s inner pocket. Right, the torn ticket he found inside the dumpster beside the body, with the victim’s name on it. That it belonged to the victim was a pretty safe bet, but what really bothered the detective was the state it was in. Who tore it in half, the culprit or the killer? Why was only one half of it inside the dumpster? Where was the other half? Could it be the reason why the victim was killed? Just what is this ticket?
“Wait a second, you can’t just say something like that and walk off like I’m not even here!” Hecatia suddenly appeared from thin air stepped in front of him, stopping Shin in his tracks and pulling him out of his introspection. She looked irritated enough to give him an angry rant for ignoring her, but then she noticed his hand surreptitiously reaching inside his coat. “Hm? What’s that you got in there?”
Show it. Hide it.
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/28(Wed)20:30
If nothing goes wrong today like it did yesterday, I should have the next update up in about nine hours. Whether it'll have a vote or not, I can't say until I start writing it.
The detective was reticent to show important evidence to someone not affiliated with the police. He was still not sure Hecatia was innocent—not until he found proof of it, or she provided a convincing alibi—but so far she had been fairly cooperative, even if her allegations were frankly ridiculous. Still, she was his only witness at the moment, and he suspected she knew more than she was letting on. As clueless as he was at the moment, perhaps the best course of action was to take a risk with her.
“This,” Shin explained as he took the bag with the ticket from his coat and showed it to Hecatia, “was found near the body at the crime scene. Does it ring any bells?”
The goddess grabbed the plastic with dainty fingers and leaned closer to see what was inside. Her eyelids opened wide in shock for the shortest of moments before she squinted, so quickly that Shin could have sworn he imagined it.
“Well I’ll be damned,” she murmured after a while, “he actually did it, the absolute...”
“You know what this is?”
Hecatia kept ogling at the ticket, as if she could bore a hole in it with her stare. Her face ran all the gamut of expressions from awe to concern to contemplation, and Shin could practically see the gears in her head turning. Eventually she opened her mouth to speak, but her words took a moment longer to come out.
“So, uh, remember when I told you that Hiroji asked me to grant him a small blessing? Well, this is it,” the goddess said, giving the piece of evidence back. “Apparently this is where he poured my divine power into.”
The goddess pinched her nasal bridge and groaned in frustration. For her, it was the most obvious thing in the world, and she didn’t appreciate having to explain it to the detective like he were an infant.
“Look, he wanted to leave this place behind, yes? So he decided to traverse to an Otherworld, and he asked me for help, so I gave him a small part of my power so that he could use it for his own ends. And this,” she pointed at the ticket, “this is what he used my power for. He somehow managed to make a key to enter the Eastern Wonderland! Quite an unorthodox key, I must say, but it should work if he found the proper entrance... At least before it got torn off like this,” she added with a grimace. “Until it’s put back together, it’s as good as the scrap of paper it looks like.”
“Alright, hold up a minute there!” Shin said, gesturing with his hands to slow down. “You lost me at ‘Otherworld’. You’re saying this train ticket is a key to another world? An… ‘Eastern Wonderland’?”
“Ohh, right, I forgot. You’re absolutely clueless, ain’t cha?” the woman chuckled, eyeing him with an amused smirk. “The short answer is yes, there exist other worlds besides this one. But I suppose you want the long answer, am I wrong?”
Shin could only shake his head in disbelief. Just when he thought she couldn’t say anything less bizarre, she kept on talking. And now she casually dropped him the mother of all bombs by revealing the existence of other worlds. The mere thought was enough to make his headache return.
“To be completely honest with you, Hecatia,” he sighed, “I’m not even sure I want to hear it.”
“Aw, don’t be such a sourpuss!” She punched his shoulder with enough force to make the detective reel back a pace. “Tell you what, I’ll explain it to you over dinner with all the details you’ll ever want, nice and easy. As long as you invite me, of course.”
“You… want me to invite you for dinner?” Shin repeated back, incredulously.
“Yup! I haven’t eaten anything since last night and I’m starving! Just think of it as an offering for my invaluable teachings,” Hecatia said, giving him a playful wink. “I know a good quiet spot, with decent meals for a decent price, if you’re worried about footing the bill. Trust me, you’ll love it.”
“Alright, fine, but your info better be good.” “Sorry, but I’m still on the job. I have much left to do.”
Time remaining: :: Timer ended at: 2018/11/29(Thu)17:00
And we're back on schedule. For the third time. I sure hope I don't fall behind in these last two days.
>[x]“Alright, fine, but your info better be good.”
Don't be disraught just yet detective, it's pretty clear the Chuunibyou has the biggest leads in whatever fucked up criminal underworld did Hiroji in. It's pretty clear Otherworld and Eastern Wonderland are simply codes here.
The detective looked up to the darkening sky. There he was, about to accept an invitation to a casual dinner date with a total stranger he had just met, when he was still on the job, with a killer on the loose and much work to do to catch him. It didn’t sit right by him, no matter how easy on the eyes the blue-haired girl was (if he ignored for a second her peculiar choice of garments). But the matter of fact was, he reminded himself again, that she was her only promising lead. As long as she talked, he could consider it part of the job.
“What the hell, fine! I’ll take you out if that’s what you want. I was also getting somewhat hungry, anyway.”
“That’s the spirit, mister!”
The goddess giggled like a highschool student, and she boldly looped her arm around the detective’s, clinging to him. Shin felt his cheeks starting to heat up, and he looked away in embarrasment. Were all (self-proclaimed!) deities like that, or was it a case of foreign culture clash? Either way, it was getting rather uncomfortable, but he hadn’t the heart to push her away.
“Oh, right,” Hecatia said, “I think I didn’t catch your name, mister…?”
“Shin, you there?”
The door to the building’s stairs swung open, and a familiar petite police officer with her distinctive round glasses stepped out. Maeko froze when she spotted Shin—or was it Hecatia?—, but if she had been surprised by it, she managed to smoothly hide it as she saluted him.
“I’ve been looking for you, sir,” the officer explained, pointedly not looking at him, “I thought I heard you talking to someone, but I guess I was wrong…?”
Shin scrambled to detach himself from Hecatia’s grip, who let him go with a wry half-smile while she eyed the new arrival. The detective could not tell at first whether Maeko didn’t see her, or she was making a considerate effort to ignore her completely, but knowing his former colleague, he leaned towards the former.
“No, uh, I was… I was talking to the phone,” he lied. “Do you need something, Maeko?”
“Oh, n-no, I just wanted to… Nevermind,” she shook her head energetically, as if masking her unusual skittishness. She stretched her arms behind her back and stifled a yawn, “I was about to go back to the station, so I came to check up on you, see if you wanted me to deliver something… Like that bag, for example?” She pointed at the evidence bag with the ticket that Shin still held in his hand.
“Ah, no, that won’t be necessary,” Shin hurried to put the bag back in his pocket. Wait, why am I being so secretive? “I’ll take it from here, thank you. You go home and get some well deserved rest.”
“Huh? I-i’m fine, really!” Contrary to Shin’s expectations, Maeko was not only not glad for being relieved from her post, but she looked disappointed—or sad, even. “I can still keep going, sir! I won’t rest until we put that bastard in jail!”
“It’s precisely because of that that you should,” the detective shook his head, “the investigation still has ways to go before getting a lead on the culprit, and I’ll need you in top shape for when we finally find him.”
“I’ll give you a call when I need you,” the detective cut her off. “Now if you excuse me, I have work to do.”
Leaving the dumbfounded Maeko behind, he made his way down the buildings stairs. Hecatia followed close behind, taking the chance to turn around and mockingly stick out her tongue to Maeko, who was none the wiser. As he climbed down the stairs, the guilt of what he had done began weighting on Shin. Why was he being so cold to the poor girl? She was working her ass off and tried her best to keep her usual peppiness, and he kept mistreating her. She really doesn’t deserve this, he berated himself. He wondered if the fifteen years since he left her and his hometown behind had created an irreparable rift between them. Or was he trying to avoid her instinctively?
“Hoo boy, you really shut her down hard,” Hecatia whistled behind him, as if reading his thoughts. “Did she do something to piss you off, or are you just that eager to go out with me?”
“What? I meant what I said to her,” Shin retorted defensively, “she’s been standing guard at the scene all day long. You saw how bad of a shape she was in, right? She really does need to catch a rest.”
Hecatia only gave a quiet chortle at that, and Shin could hear her mutter something about <<blind fools>> just loud enough for him to overhear. The detective grumbled; sure he might be a bit of a fool at socializing, but at least he wasn’t the one wearing a stupid t-shirt and proclaiming to be a god! Shin exhaled and bit his tongue; he wasn’t about to lose a lead over a childish taunt.
“Anyway, where’s the place you wanted to go?”
“It’s an izakaya at the outskirts of town,” said Hecatia, “not very frequented, but they serve good food. And I happen to know the cook too, so he’ll give us the best stuff. Come on!”
The goddess took Shin by the hand and started to lead him across the streets, with a spry pace on her bare feet and a grin that made the detective skip a heartbeat. And yet, he could not help but wonder with apprehension just what the hell was this weird woman dragging him into...
It just is like me to fall sick on the very last day of Nanowrimo.
Expect another short-ish update in two or three hours. Hopefully before the deadline hits. Writing while sick sucks big time.
In a cell at the basement of the police station, Chino meditated the hours away. She had grown weary of the dull gray walls of her prison by the first couple of hours, and the jailer, napping as he was, had proven to be a terrible conversational partner. Although it was not like she had much to talk about to their ilk. Half a day in the Outside had been enough to prove it was inhabited by ignorant, near-sighted fools. Just having that stray thought was enough for the miko to feel anger and impatience seeping at the fringes of her void. Concentrate.
She forgot about the cell and the lawmen, about the youkai and that gap hag, about her mission and her troubles. She left all behind in pursuit of her inner tranquillity. Instead she focused on the delicate interrelation between her breath, the impulse to control it and the impulse to release it. Breathing, which seemed so mundane and uninteresting at first glance, was actually an enormously complex and fascinating procedure. It was full of small but different variations, if one knew where to look—inhalation and exhalation, long breath and short breath, deep breath, shallow breath, smooth breath and ragged breath. Every breath has a beginning, middle and end. Every inhalation goes through a process of birth, growth and death and every exhalation does the same. The depth and speed of her breathing changed according to her emotional state, the thought that flowed through her mind and the sounds she heard. If one wanted to reach the void, all of those things had to be left behind, until her breathing went along naturally, instinctively. And with the void, the impulse to manipulate it also went away.
The sound of something rattling against the cell put Chino off her centre, and the void flickered again. But she would not let distractions break her focus. She returned her attention to her breath again, to the simple physical sensation of air filling her chest, again, and again, and again, for as long as it took until it the racket sounded worlds away.
Somewhere in this process, she came face-to-face with the sudden and shocking realization that she was completely crazy. Her mind was a shrieking, gibbering madhouse on wheels barrelling down the stairs, utterly out of control and hopeless. No problem. She was not crazier than she was yesterday. She had always been this way. She was no crazier than everybody else in this weird, mad world. The only real difference is that she had confronted the situation and they had not, so they still felt relatively comfortable. That did not mean that they were better off—ignorance may be bliss, but it does not lead to liberation. Chino didn’t let this realization unsettle her. Coming to terms with it was a milestone, a sign of real progress. The very fact that she had looked at the problem straight in the eye meant that she was on her way up and out of it. One step closer to the void.
The minutes ticked by as the miko continued her meditation—breathe in and breathe out. Her breathing slowed down, and the screech of her cell opening was far detached from her to not distract her at all. She experienced a state of great calm in which she enjoyed complete freedom from her senses and thoughts. No greed, lust, envy, rage or hatred. Agitation went away. Fear fleed. Such a beautiful, clear, blissful states of mind. It was not liberation, but these were stepping stones on the path that lead in that direction. But she knew all too well that it was all temporary. Duty waited for nobody.
Letting out the air in her lungs, Chino stood up and walked out of the cell. Somewhere down the rows of cells, at the end of the hallway, a small, blonde silhouette disappeared through the slim cracks of the wall. The shrine maiden smiled wryly. Not even here she was free of that hag’s meddling. She’d just have to accept it and deal with it, but it didn’t mean she liked it.
Behind her, the jailer was starting to shrug off his post-sleep drowsiness. With a single leap, Chino dashed towards him, grabbed him by the back of his head and slammed it against the table he had been napping on. The ‘thud’ echoed through the empty basement, and Chino held her breath, expecting someone else to inspect the loud sound. Fortunately, noone else had heard it. Chino sighed in relief, and carefully put the limp body of the police officer resting on the table, making it look like he was still sleeping.
They had delayed her for too long. The Shrine Maiden of Paradise cracked her knuckles. There was an incident to solve.
And with the 30th and final update of Nanowrimo, here ends Part 1 of this story.
I'll keep writing for it, but I'll definitely be slowing down the frequency of the updates to one every 2-3 days. This update a day has been hellish to keep—and I did fall off the schedule three or four times—, to the point it has had an effect on my health and probably my academic results. By slowing down I think I can keep a healthier pace while improving on the overall quality and lenght of each update. That said, if I end up relapsing in my laziness and not write anything in a week, please kick me in the butt either here or in THP's Discord, where I'll very likely be shitposting instead of writing.
I've seen some criticism about the pacing of the story, and they're absolutely right. Nanowrimo's format doesn't lend itself well to proper pacing for a murder mystery, especially for someone as rusty as me, and I admit at first I had very little idea of where my story was going. Suffice to say, the current choice of sidekick is far from what I initially had planned. That we ended with Hecatia instead of "Chino" was something that only came about as I adapted to your votes. But that's the magic of CYOAs, isn't it?
I hope you're liking my humble story so far. Expect Part 2 to begin next Thursday or Wednesday. The train has quite a few stops left in the line...