Although tragic, it was one accident of many. A bike being ridden by a female university student collided head-on with a truck that was driving down a mountain pass. The cause was apparently drunk driving by the truck driver. I feel bad for the university girl who died, but it's pathetic.
One yawn-filled day, I happened to hear a story being read out on the news on TV: "One person has died in today's traffic accident."
Hmm, so what? But wait, what was this jumbled feeling? I felt like I could smell something ominous in the air, just like the air that faintly covers this whole town.
Hinashiro is your average town.
But there's something strange about it. Something like its past history is covered up beneath the concrete and plastic. You can really feel it when you come from the outside. This sleek, glittering townscape will startle you, but only at first. Only for that one moment, and then the instant you, for example, buy a can of coffee from a vending machine or plunk a 100 yen coin into a machine at the arcade, it vanishes. Nothing feels strange anymore.
In this town you can smoke, walk along the road, sit on a bench, play pachinko and date girls, all of those normal things.
We're all tamed by this town before long. It captures us. Not that strange of a thought, is it?
Crack! Something shot away in Hinashiro. Specifically, it was an 18-year-old woman who went flying.
I wandered around Hinashiro. Ever since getting caught up in that incident at the club, I've had this feeling like I've forgotten something around here. Did it fall into a hole somewhere in town I don't know? Am I losing my mind?
I didn't know much about the accident at Reigetsu Pass. In any case, it wasn't as if there was much investigating a lowly writer such as myself - a mere vagabond, not even a newspaper reporter - could do. To be honest, this isn't much different from a hobby to pass the time. Am I really gonna get paid for this, Chief? So instead, I made calls to a bunch of friends of friends, trying to see if I could find one who knew about the dead student girl, or at least one who'd be willing to tell me something about the accident.
"You know 〇〇〇〇, the dead girl? She was with ✕✕✕✕, the guy who died at the club."
Ugh, really? All of a sudden, they were linked. Unfortunately, I can't reveal the name of the person who provided this information. That's because I got it from a high school girl at the telephone club.
"They're saying that most of the body was blown to pieces so recovery's impossible, and the policemen have split up to gather up the bits of flesh," she said. This is just idle gossip, merely in the domain of rumour. But was I going to get any more tangible information than what I'd heard from the high school girl at the telephone club? It seemed more to go on than what was on TV, at least.
After leaving the telephone club, I sat at a Chinese restaurant drinking a beer and reflecting on things, when a scary thought came to mind. That thought was, in short: what if this is an omen? Rather than me feeling it, it's like the younger generation living in the town of Hinashiro can sense it.
Death is just death, but it isn't something to be treated so carelessly. The naive generation know this. They know it, and they trade all sorts of information, trying to dismantle the weight of it. They feel it themselves, they accept it, and they digest it.
For the time being, my goal is to connect myself to their network. On the surface, the town's atmosphere is irritating, and underneath it's warped. And I ended up being consoled by a high school girl at a telephone club... [sob].
Have you seen the news?
The one about the bike that collided with a truck at the pass. Somebody died.
Ohh, that. That story's done already.
"It sounds terrible. I hear they crashed right into each other." And that's it. No one's saying any more about it than that.
Oh, so it's done.
Why d'you care?
To be honest, it's for work.
You with the media, mister?
Not the big time. I am sort of a writer, though.
Something to do with subculture? You don't really seem like the upstanding type.
Ouch. Something's weird about this, but I don't really know what.
Don't have any confidence, do you?
You don't sugarcoat it, do you? Yeah, that's right.
Because you're thinking about it. You've gotta feel it.
Yeah, you're right. Got it.
She was in the third year when I was in first.
The dead student girl?
There was a suicide at the club after the accident, wasn't there? There was a guy who got caught up in it.
That ✕✕ guy, right?
〇〇〇〇, the girl who got killed on her bike, was the girlfriend of ✕✕✕✕, the guy who died at the club.
Maybe only a few people know, but ✕✕ was a dangerous guy. Well, I can't say much. His little sister's in the same year as me. You won't write about this, will you?
How about if I just leave your name out?
Hmm... I guess.
Want to earn yourself some pocket money?
This is my part-time job. You just have to keep talking. It'll be our secret.
You have a cute voice [laughs].
I get that a lot [laughs].
What was dangerous about ✕✕?
He had a bunch of different girls. He called them experiments and stuff, apparently.
Was he crazy?
The woman who burned herself to death must've been, too.
That was messed up, huh.
Did everyone know about the relationship between the guy who died at the club and the female student who died in the accident?
I guess, since they were kinda dating and all... That accident was weird, too, huh?
She was turned into mincemeat, right? They're saying that most of the body was blown to pieces so recovery's impossible, and the policemen have split up to gather up the bits of flesh.
She was really hit that hard?
What's weird about it?
I feel some sort of evil intent about it.
How should I know?
But you sense something, right?
Yeah. I've noticed it too, lately. The world looks normal-ish, and they talk about stuff like accidents on the news, but it's like the most important thing is missing. People say that you can't tell if you live here. You don't notice. That it's a protective instinct. Your brain comes to conclusions on its own so that you don't think that anything's wrong, to protect yourself, but in reality something isn't right.
Wow. Did you see that in a magazine or something?
Some old guy like you who came to Hinashiro said it or something.
Some suspicious guy, apparently. He says he's recording the things that happen here.
Tch, we're not the same at all. Everyone's situation is different.
Oh yeah? Sorry. But it's always been this way. It's different this time, though. Scary, huh? Everyone except the real dumbasses is freaking out. It doesn't do any good, though, so we all do things like go to school and try to act normal.
A protective instinct.
Might be. Might be totally different, too. It's all just overthinking, really. Nothing rational about it.
Maybe. I dunno.
Whether or not it's overthinking.
Still don't get it, do you?
You're taking this seriously?
Hold on a minute.
Good luck with work. Make sure to treat me when the money rolls in, okay?
Information from the authorities has reached me. I'll leave it to the discretion of the editor. I can't write much about my source, though. That's the rule, apparently. Oh, is that so.
According to this "related person", it seems as though quite severe injuries had been inflicted upon the body. Calling her mincemeat wouldn't necessarily be an exaggeration. I actually have troubling unverified information that her head hasn't been found. It seems as though they did find her helmet, though. That's strange.
The female student who died (not sure why we're still treating her as anonymous at this point) had excellent grades. She was a beauty, too. She had a younger brother. I managed to hear about what she was like in life from an 18-year-old girl.
"She was the type who seemed like she carried some sort of heavy burden. The accident must've been a suicide, right? Everyone's saying so."
The suicide theory is actually becoming the commonly accepted one amongst people involved with the case. They wonder if the fact that her helmet was found means that she removed it intentionally.
None of this is confirmed, however.
(Supplementary Rumour Magazine)
Kyoko Kazan and Sumio Tohba were dating. Kyoko Kazan has a younger brother. His name is Ryo Kazan. Sumio Tohba has a younger sister, Rumi Tohba. Ryo Kazan and Rumi Tohba were in a sexual relationship for a time, too. This seems certain.
The four's relationship is incredibly twisted. I can't explain how, but it seems like some sort of warped quadrangle. If only I could speak to Ryo Kazan or Rumi Tohba.
If Kyoko Kazan committed suicide, what was her motive? Sumio Tohba's death seemed somewhat like a suicide, too. Was he following after Kyoko? Or was this some sort of lovers' suicide with a time difference? Maybe they were both under some sort of intense pressure that drove them to their deaths? Is there some sort of meaning behind it all?
There's a rumour saying that just like Sumio Tohba, Kyoko Kazan had sexual relations with many men. Unverified.
Got some new info, totally inconsistent. People are saying that you can see a man resembling Sumio Tohba at the scene of the Reigetsu Pass accident in some unaired footage of a TV station's news programme. Even though it supposedly didn't air, people say they saw him on the broadcast. Was he at the scene? Aside from Tohba, there was apparently a boy shown as well.
What's the key here? Even if Sumio Tohba and Kyoko Kazan were crazy about each other and their brother and sister were involved, wouldn't that just be a bunch of people in a messy relationship? What if their relationship was a twisted, incestuous one? Even still, that would be their problem and theirs alone. Why is it so disturbing? Because I can feel some sort of evil intent? Whose? What kind?
Is this an accident I should be reporting on, anyway, or is it a criminal case? The more I dig, all I manage to confirm are nonsensical personal relationships. None of it is worth writing about. It looks like the weekly magazines and variety shows are having a field day with it. I guess me thinking about it won't get me anywhere. Gotta feel it, huh? It's this town that I can't stand.
Got my hands on an image of the news show. There's a boy in it. If I look carefully, I can make out a man who looks like Sumio Tohba, too. What the hell's going on?