Chaos reigned. The electric and phone lines had been severed, so there was no TV to watch, and the land lines were useless. But our cell phones were still working. Probably not for much longer, though. Morioh was heading out onto The Ocean, heading south from Japan at the insane speed of 100 knots (180kph) – much faster than most ships could manage.
We’d be out of our provider’s coverage area in no time. I first used mine to check the news. The anchor said the SDF had scrambled planes to follow Morioh. I looked up just in time to see six of them rocketing towards us. Two were larger transport planes, but four of them were clearly fighters – guarding the transport planes? I supposed they’d scramble fighter planes either way, I thought. Then the lead F-22 exploded.
“Aaah!” we cried, and watched as the fire spread out flat. Like it was exploding against an invisible dome ceiling…which I guess it was. There was a dome up there. The burning plane slid up along the dome moving southwest, then slowed. For a second it stopped right above us, then began sliding down to the southeast, bits of it spiraling off to either side. The trail of it made the shape of the dome clear. The other five planes managed to pull up in time, and avoided crashing into the dome. The burning plane hit the water with a splash, but that was soon swallowed in the wake left by the great ship Morioh as it sailed across the water. The wake churned outside the walls of the dome – did it wrap all the way around underneath? 211 “Is this a Stand?” I asked Rohan.
“I don’t know. I’ve never seen or heard of a Stand this large. The whole town’s an island! Stands, you see, belong to a person. They’re a person’s individual power. There’s a limit to what even the best of us can accomplish.
We all have our limits. Right? Or is my faith in limits betraying my own mediocrity? Damn it! I’ve never been this shocked in all my life! Is this really what mankind is
capable of?” Rohan’s answer had drifted into a thought, which had turned into a sort of speech directed at himself, which was alarming. As an artist, I could see why mediocrity would be Rohan’s greatest fear, and why he’d want to deny that humans have limits. But this didn’t seem to be an idea worth this level of conniptions.
We still didn’t know what was actually happening. Perhaps Stand Masters knew less about their own powers than they believed, or perhaps they were too ready to assume anything unusual was the result of a Stand.
“Perhaps this is more than a Stand,” Rohan said.
“If so, let us call it Beyond.”
“Uh, sorry,” I said.
“That name’s already taken.”
“? Hunh? What? It is?” Authors were frightening. Such synchronicity. Then I had an idea, and asked Rohan about Tsukumojuku. If he found someone dead in his house he must have read them with Heaven’s Door.
“Tsukumojuku? Of course I took a look, but there was nothing to learn. Once someone dies, their book becomes the kanji for ‘death’ repeated to infinity.” Behind him, Nijimura Muryotaisu started shouting.
“Ah! What the hell are they doing? Jesus!” 212 I followed his gaze, looking up, and saw one of the fighter planes coming back…and firing a missile parallel to the earth’s surface.
“Augh!” But the missile exploded in mid-air, the fire and shrapnel spreading out, flat on one side. Like the plane before it, the missile had hit the side of the invisible dome. They’d simply been verifying the existence of it. If the dome had not been there, the missile would have passed harmlessly through the air over Morioh. The plane that had fired the missile pulled up sharply, avoiding the dome, and flew away.
“Are we protected, then?” Muyrotaisuu asked.
“Who knows,” Rohan said.
“But I don’t think this dome is entirely beneficial to us. Look over there.” He pointed down the hill, to Morioh Harbor. A chunk of the bay was being moved with the town itself, as part of the ‘ship’. A great number of boats had set off from the harbor, headed for the edge of the ‘ship.’ “They’re about to find that out,” Rohan added. Rohan was right.
We all were. Not one of the boats was able to pierce the dome. They’d all had the sense to slow down as they approached the edge, and avoided significant damage to their vessels, but we could see the fisherman clustered at the prow, poking the dome with harpoons. It made the line of the dome very clear. The wakes of the ships crashed against the curve of the dome, a gentle circle encircling the bay. A circle, hmm? “Rohan, do you have a map of Morioh?”
“? A map? Of course not! But I can draw you one.”
“Eh!” Rohan pulled a notepad and pen out of his pocket, and I watched as he went shaa shaa shaa shaaaa, drawing a very accurate looking map. I suppose I had no reason to object. 213 “You still don’t trust my power, do you?” Rohan said.
“I only need to see a thing one time to produce a detailed sketch from memory. I promise, this is accurate.” I took the map, had Hirose fly up and verify the line of the dome in the bay from above, did a little calculating, and soon knew the shape of the ship. The edge was a perfect circle in the water, but followed the winding boundary lines of the town on land.
It struck me that I’d seen that shape before. It wasn’t quite right, but…I recognized it. From where, I couldn’t remember. I racked my brain, but nothing came out, so I went back to my original reasons for making the map. I had a theory. Since the dome formed a circle in the harbor, the circle was centered on something. If this ship was really the work of an individual…
“We have to go here,” Rohan said, pointing at the circle.
“If this power is centered here, then whoever is moving Morioh will be there as well.”
“What’s located there?”
“That’s our school. Budogaoka Academy,” said Nijimura… Fukashigi.
What!? He wasn’t underground any more!? “Oh! You’re okay!” Muryotaisu cried. Behind Fukashigi I saw Sugimoto Reimi, and a disgruntled looking Kishibe Rohan.
Wait. There were two Rohans? I turned, but the one next to me had vanished. The ghost was flesh again.
“Kira Yoshikage has canceled Killer Queen’s Bites the Dust effect,” Sugimoto Reimi explained.
We could finally say the name aloud.
“He must have realized that the trap he’d sprung on Rohan wouldn’t be enough to eliminate his enemies.
Which means he’s preparing to fight us head on.”
“Why this timing? Unless…is Kira Yoshikage the one moving Morioh?” Rohan asked.
“Hmm…hard to see it any other way. Rohan, all these detectives have been calling you today, right?” 215 “Yes. I got fed up and stopped answering the phone.”
“Look what’s on TV.” Reimi held out a cell phone, where a group of detectives were holding an emergency press conference. She had found a live stream of it. A row of detectives stood behind a long table with a
white cloth and a number of microphones. The blonde man in the center was holding a mic, and speaking rapidly.
“We have little time, so let’s get right down to it. First, some introductions. Including myself, the thirteen individuals gathered here at all known detectives; each has investigated and solved a number of cases, whether police or civil. Some of them I’m sure you know, but I will take the liberty of giving their names anyway. My name is Bariya Choumaru. From the right we have Dezuumi Style, Yuagari Bobohiko, Choukuuji Kenraku, Choukuuji Kiyuu, Judy Dollhouse, Mame Gen, Mikami Nils, Buramai 0, Tsukishimoni Nao, Hidzuki, Kakiuchi Mama Jump, and Fuyuname Sayatarou. For the moment, that is all of us. I say for the moment, because it seems likely that more detectives will join the effort to solve the case in Morioh. The case I’m referring to concerns the murders of thee detectives: Hakkyoku Sachiari, Nekoneko Nyan Nyan Nyan, and Kato Tsukumojuku. Hakkyoku and Nekoneko were known to be detectives, and it seems likely Kato was as well. If three detectives have been murdered in a single day it seems clear this is an act that flies in the face of justice, of our efforts to unearth the truth and force criminals into the open. I would even go so far as to call it an act of terrorism against the detective profession.
We are here to announce that no true detective would ever be swayed by such cowardly violence. This case will be solved. But Morioh has broken off from Japan, and is speeding out into The Ocean, propelled by some mysterious power, and even the SDF are unable to approach it. Morioh has become an island, and the killer is trapped on it.
We believe this broadcast will reach Morioh, and we offer first our prayers for the safety of its citizens.
We are sure the mayor of Morioh, Shishimaru Denta, is acting swiftly in the interests of public safety and civil order. And there is one other individual I would like to carefully address…” 216 Bariya Choumaru paused dramatically. I’d seen him on TV a
number of times; he was a detective and an Italian chef. I gulped.
“Kira Yoshikage. The detectives here know you were not the one who killed Hakkyoku, Nekoneko, or Kato.
We know those three were killed specifically to draw the attention of other detectives; their deaths were bait. The real killer deliberately killed them to put you in a corner, and to make you suffer. So please calm yourself, Kira Yoshikage. At this time we are not looking for you, but for the one who killed these detectives. If you can provide any assistance, our investigation will be over faster, and you will be able to demonstrate that you can be cooperative.
We promise no ill will befall you.
We promise we will not attempt to find you as long as the detective killer is at large. So please. Calm down.”
“Wow,” I said, before I could stop myself. How did these other detectives know that name? If they had been drawn to this case by the murders of the detectives, they shouldn’t have heard anything about Kira Yoshikage. I knew they hadn’t been involved in the fifteen locked room mysteries, but had they all come across his name while investigating unrelated cases of their own? Received a challenge the same way I had, telling them he’d kill them if they came near Morioh? I was pretty impressed they’d managed to work out he was probably moving Morioh without even coming here. They must already know that Stands existed, and know what they were capable of. If they didn’t, they would have assumed someone had made a giant engine and fuel tank underneath the town, turning it into a giant ship…whether that was possible was highly unlikely, but they would have started with physical theories, ignoring the possibility of superpowers entirely. But without coming here, Bariya Choumaru had known the truth. I wondered if he had friends who had come here? 217 I was here. Moving alone or in small groups it was very likely that other detectives had reached Morioh before the dome cut it off from the outside world.
Bariya Choumaru had been able to put together a press conference with thirteen detectives on such short notice because those detectives had all been in contact with each other. I’d always operated independently, and never had any contact with other detectives, but there were, of course, people who had no problem working in groups like that. So if they had friends in town, where were they? Not that I wanted to join up with them immediately, but it seemed sensible to be aware of their location. I remembered what Tsukumojuku had said. If several detectives are on the case, and one solves the case before the other does, is the slower one still a detective? Having that irritating question nagging at my backside the whole time would be a real pain. I would have to find the other detectives, and keep my distance from them so we could avoid bumping into each other. So, I wondered. The person who’d been bringing all these detectives here and threatening Kira Yoshikage…what did that person make of this place abruptly fleeing Japan? Could this have been the expected reaction? The more I thought about it the more that seemed possible. 218 If the procession of detectives tormented the explosion killer, if their arrival wounded him… I remembered what Tsukumojuku had said. I’ve begun to believe that continual, repetitive suffering can lead to the development of unusual powers that help the sufferer escape. Apparently everyone had only one Stand, but that didn’t prevent someone from developing a new power. This thought led me to finally understand why Bariya Choumaru had addressed Kira directly. He knew that if he could ease that pain even a little, if he could make the presence of these detectives no longer hurt him,
then the power driving Morioh might disappear. He must have detectives posted here, working on the case.
“Can you believe this?” Fukashigi said. I followed the Nijimura brothers’ gaze again, and looked up. An SDF helicopter had flown up the invisible dome, and soldiers were rappelling down to the surface of it. It was terrifying to watch.
“I dunno, should I go help?” Hirose said, putting Blue Thunder on his head again.
“Nah,” the Nijimuras said.
“If some kid comes flying up to them they’ll just lose their shit. Let ’em be. They’re grown men, they know what they’re doing.”
“We oughta head to school. If the dude moving the town is there, and it’s Kira, we can finally catch him.”
“But it’s a week day. Summer vacation starts tomorrow. I mean…there’ll be students everywhere. None of the students or teachers are named Kira Yoshikage.” 219 “Kira’s scared shitless with all these detectives here.
We just find the guy who looks scared.”
“But he’s been murdering people here for ages without getting caught. I don’t think it’ll be that easy…” Hirose definitely had a point, I thought. And it reminded me of a question I’d been meaning to ask.
“Um, it might be a little late, but how do you all know Kira’s name without ever catching him? I just got here, and couldn’t actually say his name aloud, so I never got a chance…but how do you know his name? Or that he even exists?” Hirose answered.
“Kira Yoshikage…well, it seems like he had a thing for women’s beautiful hands.
We had a friend named Yangu Shigetaka – Shigechi, for short – his stand, Stray Dog, could control all the stray dogs in town. One day one of his dogs came back carrying a hand in his mouth – one of the hands Kira Yoshikage had been toying with. The nail polish on the woman’s
hand was unusual enough that we were able to figure out where it was sold, and that it had been purchased by a man – which was unusual enough that we learned his name.
We almost caught him once. But the first of us to reach him was me, and he was sure he could kill me and escape, so he took the time to explain his Stand name and power. I nearly did die, but the Nijimuras caught up just in time, and turned the tables on him. Just as we almost had him, he slipped away. He forced another friend of ours, Tsuji Aya, to use her power. Her stand, Face/Off, could switch the faces and fingerprints of any two people, so Kira grabbed a random passerby with a similar build, and had her switch their appearances. He stole everything that could identify him.
We got there just in time to see the other man and Tsuji Aya explode. He killed Shigechi too, as a warning. So as much as we want to make our town safe again, we also want revenge.” 220
“Yeah! We’re doing this for Shigechi and Tsuji Aya! If we stop shootin’ our mouths off and DO something he’ll have to take action! Time to shut up and put up! We gotta go if we wanna get anywhere!” Fukashigi roared, and then was suddenly flung five meters away. Surprised, I looked around. It wasn’t an enemy that had hit him, but the corner of the Arrow Cross House. It had spun to the left. If this giant compass had turned, then the ship/island must have changed direction. I looked up. The soldier hanging from the helicopter had lost his balance, or the island’s change in direction had changed the winds over the dome and forced the helicopter off course; either way, the line had been cut, and the soldier was sliding along the dome. Muryotaisu was focused on his brother, but Hirose had looked up too, and saw what was happening.
“Crap!” he said, revved Blue Thunder, and shot into the air.
I grabbed Muryotaisu and pointed.
“I’ll help your brother, you help him up there!”
“Jesus!” he said, looking up finally.
“Cool.” He hopped aboard one of his flying dolphins and flew away, and I ran down the slope.
“You okay?” Rohan called, coming after me. Fukashigi sat up, pushing the bushes out of his way, and muttered, “This house has it in for me…” He was unharmed, but not cause he was tough; he’d used his stand to protect himself. It was sitting underneath him. NYPD Blue was an odd looking Stand; a chubby bald middleaged man in a suit. 221 “Getcher big fat ass offa me! God damn it!” he snarled. I jumped, taken aback, but Fukashigi was used to it.
“Yeah, yeah,” he said, getting to his feet.
“You’re useless otherwise; least you can do is protect me.”
“Shut your corn hole, cocksucker. You watch your fucking mouth or I’ll rip you god damn head off.” Wow, this thing had a foul mouth. But Fukashigi just laughed him off. I guess it was none of my business. But then he turned and glared at me.
“Who d’ya think you’re staring at?”
“Eek!” I quickly looked away.
“Heh heh. Sorry, man. He’s pretty much always in a bad mood. He thinks he’s a New York cop. He’s convinced I brought him back from America with me.”
“That’s funny to you, is it, scumbag?” NYPD Blue yelled. I jumped again, the smile wiped off my face. Then Hirose and Muryotaisu came back.
“This is bad! Listen up!” Hirose said, flustered.
“We couldn’t break the barrier or help at all, but he gave us a message for the
town’s leader. Top secret! He said to tell nobody else! Apparently there’s some bad people here…”
“So? What was the message?” Fukashigi asked.
“He said if nothing changes, the American army will flip the island!”
“What? I though they were our allies!” Not every day a long coat wearing delinquent discusses international diplomacy, but he had a point. 222 “Back up a minute – why should we believe that?” I said, almost to myself. But Hirose heard me.
“Because of who gave me that message! Look at this!” he said, holding out his cell phone. He’d taken a picture of a soldier holding up a note with “If nothing changes, the American army will flip this island!” written in Japanese by a hand clearly not used to the characters. But the soldier in question was much older than I’d expected, and I’d recognized those blonde curls.
“Exactly! The former president of the United States! Funny Valentine!”
It was certainly him. Five people had been president since Valentine, and he had to be more than 80 years old…I was surprise to see him alive at all, much less clearly in good health. He looked much, much younger.
“His hair is still perfect…”
“I was surprised too, but it’s a wig! He’s kept the wrinkles at bay with Botox and plastic surgery, apparently. But that doesn’t matter! A former president is telling us this will happen! We have to believe him, right?” Right, he’d taken the picture as proof.
“But why is Valentine here in person? On an SDF helicopter? Putting himself in danger…you’d think he could just talk to the The Funniest directly.”
The Funniest Valentine was the first person in history to be named The, and was the current president of the United States. He was Funny’s grandson. Funny’s son had been named Funnier Valentine, and he’d named his son The Funniest Valentine. Funnier was an astronaut, still in active service at the age of fifty. He’d been on the news a lot recently, since he was the pilot for the first ever manned flight to Mars. I wasn’t sure what was going on with the Valentines, but if The Funniest planned to attack Morioh, wasn’t Funny’s action a betrayal? 223 I looked up.
“Woah,” I said.
“Funny’s still up there.” Funny Valentine was having trouble getting back on the helicopter. I could still see him standing up there.
“Pfft, he’ll be fine,” Rohan said, pointing at the corner of the picture on Hirose’s phone. I looked closer, and could just make out what looked like a frogman – small, transparent, standing on two legs.
“He’s got a Stand,” Rohan said. Okay, sure, if he’s got a Stand, he’ll be fine, we all nodded…then shuddered as the implications of that dawned on us. The former President of the United States was a Stand Master…and Stands were genetic, so the current president probably was, too.
“Ah!” Fukashigi said, so I looked up again. Funny Valentine had just been knocked off the dome ceiling, and was rocketing away when he suddenly stopped in mid-air, no rope or anything; then he began zigzagging through the air up to the helicopter and vanished inside.
“…man, I hope the SDF people are okay,” Hirose said.
“Hopefully seeing a Stand in action won’t lead to them being silenced.”
“I doubt the risk would be worth it,” Rohan said.
“The helicopter pilot is a soldier. Anything happens to him, it’ll make waves. I’m sure Valentine’s got an excuse in mind. It was over pretty quick, and the soldiers have no way of understanding what
happened.” 224 The helicopter flew away. In the distance, we heard a loudspeaker.
“This is a message from the Morioh council. In two hours, at 6PM, there will be an emergency meeting. All citizens should gather at the Budogaoka gymnasium. This is a message from the Morioh council…” A council van with a loudspeaker attached was slowly winding its way towards the harbor. If they were gathering citizens for an emergency meeting, then Mayor Shishimaru Denta would be there too. At Budogaoka High School. That’s where we thought the man moving Morioh was.
Where Kira Yoshikage was.
“Everything’s pointing to the same place,” Rohan said.
“We should go. There’s nothing we can do here but watch my house beat up Fukashigi.”
“Will you be okay alone, Sugimoto?” Reimi smiled.
“Thank you, but I’ll be fine. Sorry…being a Stand, I can’t leave this place.”
“We’ll go find Kira, take him down, and be back before you know it!” I didn’t think it would be that easy, and Sugimoto looked like she agreed, but all she said was, “I’ll be waiting. Try not to do anything dangerous. I’ll expect you back in one piece.” She was a beautiful girl, and I was suddenly rather jealous.
“You’re a lucky man, Rohan.” Not just the Nijimura brothers – Hirose was making fun of Rohan too. Rohan turned bright red.
“Shut up! I was only being polite to my housemate! Come on!” But something about the warm, fuzzy mood disturbed me. It didn’t feel right, somehow. For no reason at all. But I felt like Rohan looked ready to cry.
“Um, I’m not actually a Stand Master or
anything, so maybe I should stay here?” I suggested. Rohan looked surprised. 225 “What are you talking about? You’re the Detective, you have to sole the case. You have to go after the killer. There’s already been a murder here, the police have come and gone, you’ve arrived, Kira’s Bites the Dust was lifted…what else is there to do? It’s time for a change of locale, surely.” Things were pointing that way, but…I couldn’t explain why I found myself wanting to stay here.
“I’ve got a hunch,” I said, grimly.
“Sure it’s not just nerves? Stand battles do get rather physical. They are dangerous. But we’ll do the fighting; you just work your mind. It seems like you’re a real detective. I’m sure you can find Kira for us. I mean…he turned me into a bomb and I still have no idea who he is. Egg on my face, as the saying goes. I’m not proud of that, but I won’t let it get me down. I’m fighting back, Joestar.” When he put it like that, I had to go.
“You’re a man, ain’t ya?” Muryotaisu chimed in.
“I don’t care if you’re English or Japanese, you need to grow some balls! Kira Yoshikage’s a scumbag who goes around murdering women! We can’t let him live another second! Stop mewling and let’s get!” Fukashigi and Hirose were both staring at me, and even NYPD Blue was grinning and sticking his middle finger up.
“Damn it! Okay. Then…Sugimoto, call me if…oh, you can’t. Um. Is there any way you can signal us?”
“Yes. I can’t stop the Arrow Cross House when it’s pointing any way but North, but I can make it spin.”
“Then spin it if anything happens!”
“Good, let’s go!” Muryotaisu shouted, and summoned the Grand Blue trio.
We followed his lead and jumped on their backs. 226 “Right, don’t let go! Jacques! Enzo! Johana! Sky Diving! Go Go Go!”
Those must be the dolphins’ names. At Muryotaisu’s cry, the three dolphins chirped and shot away like rockets. To my surprise, it was much gentler than physics would ordinarily allow; G and centrifugal forces were entirely ignorable. Despite our speed, I could barely even feel the wind on my face.
Where I would normally have been unable to open my eyes and have felt the flesh of my face bending out of shape I felt nothing. The dolphins swept down the hill and across the fields, just off the surface of the ground. I wasn’t sure if this was just a trait of the species, but the dolphins bounded across the farmland, leaping and diving, laughing all the way.
“Settle down, Jacques! Don’t let him wind you up Enzo, Johana! This isn’t a game!” Muryotaisu yelled.
What had taken twenty minutes by cab took two by dolphin – we were already passing Morioh Station. I though someone was bound to see us, but Muryotaisu led us down deserted alleys, past shuttered storefronts, and through tunnels without any traffic to speak of. This was his territory. Of course, with that van going around, it was likely a good portion of the population was heading for the school, I though. But Hirose – who was riding the same dolphin as me, his arms around my waist – said, “Something’s wrong…when we crossed the tracks I caught a glimpse of the main road, but there was nobody crossing. There was nobody in the roundabout by the station, either. Are the roads so deserted we don’t need to hide?” Rohan and the Nijimuras were also looking around, suspicious and worried.
“I guess they’re all just super responsive and organized!” Fukashigi said, brightly.
“Reality check, shit for brains,” NYPD Blue said.
“Look.” He pointed at the temple. It was on fire.
227 By the time we reached Jozenji, the temple had burned to
the ground, and the fire was dying down. The main temple hall, the structure housing the bell, and the living quarters had all burned.
We got off the dolphins and moved closer; without even looking inside we were already struck dumb. It was clear the fire had started inside. The walls and pillars that survived were burned on the inside only. But what really got us was the pile of gas tanks outside the closed doors. The air smelled of oil and gasoline.
“But why…?” It seemed they had set themselves on fire.
What little the fire had left of the walls and floor were covered in drawings of…moths? Or butterflies? The drawings were done with charcoal.
Wait…looking closer, I could see blood, and bits of flesh. Behind me, Hirose and the Nijimuras turned and ran, retching. Outside, I heard the splatter of their vomit on the ground.
“They drew these pictures while they were on fire?” Rohan asked.
“But…what were they drawing?” It wasn’t an ordinary moth or butterfly. It had two burly legs, and a large head, with eyes staring out at us. It was hideous, and yet…
“Beautiful,” Rohan said. I turned to look at him.
“What? That’s what I thought,” he protested, but that’s not what my look meant. I’d felt the same thing.
“This beauty…” Rohan said.
“Do you feel it? They all drew so many mothmen…these drawings appear to be some sort of chimera of humans and moths, so mothmen seems apt. But why did they draw so many of them? There are more drawings of the mothman than there are people dead.
Why?” 228 The word ‘mothman’ was oddly terrifying, and I was having trouble getting past it. Rohan kept talking.
“They were trying to get it right. But none of the drawings did him justice, so they had to try again. Using ash and charred flesh from their own burning bodies.” I stared at him in horror.
“I’m an artist, I can tell. I know what it feels like to fill every available
white space, desperately trying to capture the image in your head. It was beauty they were after, beauty they sought. You remember what I told you earlier?” Symmetry is the basis of man-made beauty. Oh. Certainly, the mothman was…
“Symmetrical?” My voice was hoarse. The stench of burned flesh was making me light-headed.
“Indeed!” Rohan said, cheerily.
“With their muscles burning, they couldn’t stop their hands shaking, but each of them sought the same beauty! In a sense, this is a miracle! A terrifying one, but no less impressive!” In spirit or in flesh Rohan was clearly a little mad…but I had to admit I understood how he felt. But I was less concerned with how incredible these events were than how they had come to pass at all.
“Who knows? When Morioh suddenly started moving perhaps they all assumed Buddha was punishing us and gathered here in a panic? Perhaps there’s some strange Buddhist sect I’m completely unaware of?”
“No, no kind of Buddhism teaches group suicide or selfimmolation,” I said, struggling to stay on my feet. If I let my guard down for a second I’d fall on one of the charred corpses.
“What happened here must have been some sort of mass hysteria. Anxious people, gathered in a room, the door locked…” Rohan and I looked at each other, the same idea in both our minds. There was another locked room nearby, with even more anxious people gathered in it. 229 We turned as one, and ran out of the temple.
“I don’t how you could stand it in there,” Muryotaisu said, wiping vomit off his chin.
“Summon Grand Blue! We have to get to the gym!” Rohan
The urgency in his tone was such that Muryotaisu didn’t question it; in a flash, the three dolphins hovered in front of us, and we spend off so fast we nearly left Hirose and Fukashigi behind.
“If you want anyone in town to survive, hurry! Don’t worry about being seen! Get us to the gym as fast as possible!”
“Rraaaaaaahh!” Muryotaisu roared, and the dolphins sped up, no longer bounding across the ground, rocketing towards the school.
We reached the school grounds in a few dozen seconds, crossed the sea of cars parked outside, and reached the gym to find a few thousand people pouring gasoline on each other. They were all muttering under their breath. No one was giving directions. They glanced in our direction, but saw nothing – even though we must have appeared to be hovering in mid-air. Listening closer, I could make out what they were saying.
“Scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared scared….”
I shivered – instinctively, I knew I could not afford to listen to them for long.
We began shouting, trying to drown out the muttering.
“What the fuck!?”
“Please, stop that!”
“Don’t kill yourself!” Nobody heard. It was as if they were possessed; nothing we did stopped them from preparing for suicide. 230 Rohan was yelling, “Heaven’s Door!” over and over, turning
them into books, but getting nowhere.
“Damn it! All of their books are filled with the word ‘scared’! There’s no white space left for me to write any orders! What now, detective!?” What could I do? Alter the conditions. Scared people gathered in a locked room, preparing to set themselves on fire. It was hard to make them stop being scared. But we could break the locked room.
“Can we destroy the gym?”
“The dolphins and I can break windows,” Muryotaisu said, as if it was a bad idea. He went ahead and started doing just that. The sound of shattering glass filled the air, but broken windows wasn’t enough, and the townspeople kept pouring gasoline on each other. Fukashigi and NYPD Blue were helping break windows, but it was taking too much time. They were about to start the fire.
“Leave it to me,” Hirose said. I turned to find him on the ground, with Blue Thunder spinning up. A moment later he was at the ceiling.
“Watch out for falling rubble! It’s better than burning to death, right?” he yelled, and the size of his Stand’s propellers abruptly increased until they filled the entire gym. They they started spinning faster. Vrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrooom! 231 His Stand was no longer helicopter blades; it had become a giant shredder. It tore apart the walls, and the ceiling fell, but as it passed through the blades it was torn to tiny pieces. Hirose had both hands held out, with more propellers on them, blowing the fragments to each side of him, sending them hurtling out the windows the Nijimuras had broken. It was over in no time. I looked around, and some of the people were looking at us. Not all of them yet, though – with the walls this high, it was still almost a locked room.
“Hirose!” I called.
“Get the walls! As low as you can!”
“OK!” Hirose said, and shot me a thumbs up, then tilted his
giant propeller slowly forward, quickly demolishing the front wall of the gym. The evening light streamed in, picking out the heavy dust in the air. Almost everyone turned to look. The locked room was gone.
“Ugh, it stinks!”
“This is bad!” People had come to their senses as last. Everyone but Hirose wound their way through the crowds, calling out.
“For your own safety, please step outside, and wash off the gasoline.” Their heads clear, people nodded, and began heading for the drink fountains, or the pool, or the shower rooms. Nobody panicked; there was no struggling or running. They weren’t scared any more. Just as I was about to relax, Rohan asked, “Did you see anyone who might be Kira Yoshikage?” I had completely forgotten about that. Unfortunately. 232 “Come on, detective! That’s our main reason for being here! Stop gawking and think!” Man, he could be kind of a dick sometimes, I thought. He kept talking.
“Not just think, look! Take a good look at everything. Almost everyone in town is here. Think while you look. The question is…what are you looking for? What do you need to see? You know nothing about what he might look like. If you ask me, changing your face and fingerprints to become someone else isn’t as easy as it sounds. Kira Yoshikage is thirty eight! You can’t just pick someone the same height; they’d have to be the same age, and the same skin tone and build. Kira looked after himself, kept in shape, worked out a fair amount to keep thin. Could he easily take another’s place without anyone noticing? A wife or a lover would notice almost at once. And then there’s the matter of his occupation. Kira worked quietly in the administrative department of an appliance company, an unobtrusive salaryman job, but he’d been there long enough to get promoted to chief
clerk, so if his new identity was the same age, he would have a similar level of responsibility. Could you do a different job with different coworkers in a totally different position without anyone noticing? I imagine it would be quite a challenge. And then there’s your home. If he had a wife and kids, he’d never be able to risk going home the evening he changed identities. His face may look right, but his voice is different, and he’d have no idea what his wife and kids’ names were. And even more practically, he wouldn’t remember what they’d talked about that morning. That would certainly arouse suspicion. But these problems are all ones a delicate, careful type of psychopath like Kira would have been well aware of, and taken care to avoid. Yet he used Tsuji Aya’s Face/Off to replace someone else.
Which means he must have believed this was someone he could easily replace.” Mm, this logic seemed sound.
“If you look at the whole thing backwards, you’ll see how Kira got past all the problems I just mentioned. He had to have known his victim’s body, work, and family wouldn’t pose a threat. Those are the three things that would be hardest to deal with. To get past the problem of family, you would need someone single, unmarried or at least separated or working far from home. For work, you’d need someone in the same line of work, or unemployed, or you’d have to change jobs immediately after taking over. That leaves the physical end…and if he has no family or job to worry about, that hardly matters any more. You see what I’m driving at?” 233 “Probably. You mean…you can’t tell what someone’s job is, or what their social life is like just by looking at them.”
“The man Kira replaced was someone he knew. Someone he had studied as a candidate to replace. But then…how could he know he’d be able to find this person in time to avoid capture? It
was pure coincidence he wound up fighting Hirose and the others at the tailor’s, right? Of course it was. He headed for Tsuji Aya’s place…what line of work was she in?”
“She could exchange people’s body parts, remember? Her line of work was hardly legal. She wasn’t a bad girl, but she walked a very thin line. But officially she ran a beauty parlor. It was called Cinderella.”
“So he would have had to grab someone he could replace on the way to the beauty parlor from the tailor’s, right? But Kira was a very careful man.”
“He was. That lay at the root of his cursed luck. His intense focus forced fortune and coincidence onto his side.”
“Hmm. That’s one way of looking at it, but if Kira knew what Tsuji Aya’s power was, then he would definitely have laid plans in case he needed to make use of it.”
“Yet, he could never know when he might be in that sort of trouble. Hmm. There’s only one way I can see to eliminate coincidence as a factor.” 234 “Eh? What would that be?”
“Simple. Make sure this candidate was always at Tsuji Aya’s side.”
“……! I see!”
“Beauty parlors rarely have male employees, though; what with all the changing of clothes.”
“But she did! He only helped with her secret business, though; more of a gigolo, really. I have no taste for such gossip, so I never met the man, but Yamagishi said he was middle-aged, but not bad looking. Yamagishi is Hirose’s girlfriend.”
“What happened to him?”
“No idea! But he would have worked perfectly for Kira’s needs. Gigolos have no real family, and no real job. Stealing his
body would have been no problem at all! We’d better start by investigating that man. Standing here watching people won’t get us anywhere – I have no idea what that man looked like. Kouji!” he yelled shrilly, stalking away. A tall man in a suit despite the heat came over to me.
“Thank you, thank you. I’m Shishimaru Denta, the mayor of Morioh! That was a very close call, and you have my gratitude!” he intoned hoarsely. His suit reeked of gasoline.
“Oh, it was nothing. I’m glad everyone’s safe.”
“I really have no idea what we were thinking! I didn’t dump this on myself, you know! My own secretary poured it on me! Terrifying! My right hand tried to burn me to death!” 235 “You poured gasoline on me, sir. I could say the same,” said a thin man standing behind Shishimaru. He was soaked through, as well.
“Either way, it’s dangerous, so wash that off,” I said.
“No telling what might set this place off.”
“Of course! We’ve called the fire department. By the way, how is it you can fly?”
“Eh? I can’t fly!” I said. Then again, I supposed I would have looked as if I was. Either way, I was better off not admitting it.
“You were hardly yourself. You must have imagined it.”
“No, no, I’m sure of it! You came flying in and saved us all!” Talking to this man was like having hot air blown in your face, and I’d nearly forgotten I had a message for him from Funny Valentine. But I wasn’t the one who’d been given the message…no, this was no time for quibbles! And there was one more thing I was forgetting.
“Mayor, on our way here we found a lot of people dead in Jozenji. I believe what almost happened here happened there.”
“…….! Good lord…Is that…?” Shishimaru stammered. His secretary tapped him on the shoulder.
“Kumoi’s here.” Shishimaru followed his secretary’s gaze, and scowled. I turned to look, and saw another tall man in a soaking wet suit – this one with very thin arms and legs. He was surrounded by other men in suits, and they were hurriedly leaving.
“Eh? What, was he listening?”
“The chief of staff’s boy was.”
“Really!?” Kumoi…oh, his opponent in the election. The election car had been blaring the name. Kumotaku. Now that they’d returned to their senses, the lot of them were immediately turning their attention back to the election. I had no idea how effective rushing to the place where people had died and making a scene would be…no, I suppose I did. In a town this small, the leader would be blamed for any tragedy at all. Those that had survived here were hardly out of danger yet, and there could well be others in danger somewhere else. At this point, a thought struck me. 236 The others.
When we left Arrow Cross, the van telling people to gather at the Budogaoka gym was heading slowly towards the harbor. People from the harbor would not have been able to reach the gym faster than us. Possessed by that unnatural fear, the gym was hardly the only place they could be affected. Like the people in the temple, it would take hold anywhere a large number of people could gather.
Was there something like that in the harbor? From what I’d seen, it was all little shops and inns. But on the hill, right next to us, was the ideal building. Arrow Cross House. I ran out of the shattered gym, and look towards Arrow Cross. But there were houses in the way, and it was too far to see.
“Hirose! Nijimura!” I called. Fukashigi showed first.
“What?” he said, running over. But he couldn’t help me.
“What the hell?” Fukashigi said. Muryotaisu came running
up behind him.
“Check on Arrow Cross!”
“!? Sure!” He bounded aboard a dolphin, and shot up into the air. Shishimaru came running after us.
“Ah! I knew it! You kids can fly!” I ignored him. Muryotaisu glanced down at us, then fly off towards Arrow Cross without another word. The other two dolphins came down to us.
“Fukashigi, come on!”
“Right!” He must have seen something wrong. Fukashigi agreed, and the two of us jumped onto the dolphins. The dolphins fly away.
“Heeeey! What’s going on!?” Shishimaru yelled. 237 I could see it now; the Arrow Cross house was rocking from side to side. The signal we’d agreed on.
We’d noticed too late! The dolphins were traveling even faster than before. There was no air pressure or vibrations, just the overwhelming sense of speed, the scenery blurring past so fast I imagined I could feel the inertia and the wind on my face, and nearly fell off. I grit my teeth and tried to keep my fingers from slipping off the dolphin’s fin, and at last we reached the Arrow Cross house. I could smell gasoline, and see the empty tanks everywhere. I didn’t see fire.
“Sugimoto!” I called out. Fugishigi and I jumped down, and burst into the house to find it empty. I went through the West sunroom into the study, but found now burned bodies, no signs that anyone had been here; it was the same as we’d left it.
“Hunh?” We looked at each other, confused.
“Over here!” a voice called. Muryotaisu had Sugimoto cradled in his arms.
“What happened!?” We called, running over.
“She’s unharmed,” Muryotaisu said.
“Just in shock. People from the harbor came up, hell bent on burning the house down.” As a Stand capable of moving this house – or it’s predecessor, the Cube House – that must have felt like they were trying to kill her.
“But what happened to them?”
“They’re all under the house. Reimi stuck them all down
there.” 238 Oh…so Arrow Cross moving wasn’t an SOS, but a result of the battle! Relieved, I flopped down on the floor.
“I thought my hunch had come true,” I said, still unsure why I’d had the hunch to begin with.
Was it detective sense speaking? But it really did seem to be just some vague, baseless anxiety. If only had I some context to tie it to…anything like that. Context? The order of events.
“I’m gonna put Reimi in her bed. Can you stand?” She couldn’t even answer, so he shifted her weight till he could carry her in his arms, and headed out the West door of the study.
“Even so…what’s happening to my Morioh?” Fukashigi said, and stomped out the East door. Suddenly exhausted, I laid back on the rug the desk rested on, and felt a strange lump under my back.
What could it be? A small depression, but it felt hard… I peeled the rug back, and found a door. A door in the floor.
I moved Rohan’s desk aside, rolled up the rest of the rug, and exposed the entire door. It was a rectangular door, hidden in the middle of the interior hall. How would anyone know it was here? The front of the door was covered in the same carpet as the rest of the room, and the doorknob was recessed; to turn it you had to hook a finger in and pull it out. The thing under my back had been the small groove your finger went in. It was sheer chance I’d found it at all. 239 If I opened this, would I see beneath the Arrow Cross, where all the people Sugimoto had hidden there lay piled on top of each other? It didn’t seem likely.
For one thing, this door opened outwards. There was no gap between the bottom of Arrow Cross and the ground; the whole point was to keep air from getting to Rohan and Fukashigi. There should be no way a door could ever open downwards…and yet, here was a door that did.
Where could it lead? I made up my mind, turned the knob, and let the door fall inside. It opened. The door fell into an empty space that should not exist. Inside was a space exactly the same as the study. Rohan’s desk and the carpet were nowhere to be found, but it was otherwise an exact copy of the room I was in. I was looking down on it from the middle of the ceiling. On the floor below me I saw another door. Did that open to another room below? I stuck my head through the door, and looked around the room below. There were doors on all four sides, the same as the ones in this room that led to the sunrooms. But there was no way this room could exist in the Arrow Cross. So this wasn’t the Arrow Cross House, but a room in the Cube House. Only the surface layer had changed into the Arrow Cross House; the Cube House still remained within. The laws of physics did not apply to Stands.
So of course I wanted to climb down into that room, which meant I had to think. I didn’t have a rope. I wondered if I could weigh the rug down with the desk, lower myself a meter or two with that, and then jump the rest of the way…but it looked a bit too far, and I didn’t think the desk was heavy enough. Then I had an idea.
“Jacques, Enzo, Johana!” I called. 240 I waited a moment, and sure enough, one of the dolphins came swimming through the air towards me, clucking. The one I’d ridden both times before.
“Kikii!” Bounce, bounce. She did a circle around me, and then a flip.
“Johana, can you give me a ride down there?”
“Kikii!” She slid through my legs, and immediately plunged through the door. I quickly jumped on. I let her carry me around the room below for a few minutes. Up and down, around and around like a Merry Go Round. Then I tapped her side, and said, “Okay, put me down.
“Kiiigo!” she squeaked, and landed as lightly and quietly as a paper air plane. She began circling the room again, which was adorable. I wanted to keep her, but she wasn’t my Stand, and asking Muryotaisu for her would just make him mad. The carpet on the floor was the same as the one upstairs. I bent down, pulled on the knob on the new door, and opened it. There was another room below. It, too, was identical to the study. There was yet another door in the floor.
“Johana!” I called, and had her take me down again. I opened this door too, and found another copy of the study. I had Johana take me down again, into the third room down from the original study, and opened the door in that floor, and found another room below that. But this wasn’t a new room. I’d seen it before. It was the same room as all of them, but this one had Rohan’s desk. It had the rolled up rug, and the door in the floor was open. I was looking down from the ceiling, but I could see another door through the door in the floor, and that door was open too, and beyond that I saw a dolphin fly past, and in the room with a dolphin I saw someone. 241 Me. I was crouched over an open door, looking down. Through three doors like the one I was looking through I could see the back of my own head four rooms below. I looked up. Beyond the door in the ceiling I’d just come through, and beyond the one beyond that, I could see someone in a door I’d never noticed before, a door in the ceiling to Rohan’s study. Still looking up, I waved, and so did
the person four floors above me. It was me again. I was above me and below me. It was like standing between two mirrors. Leaving the door open, I stood up, moved over to the door to the east, and opened it. I’d assumed it would lead to a sunroom or the hall leading to the sunrooms, but to my surprise, it was neither; just another study. Ah ha. I went to the middle of that room and of course there was another door in the floor. I bent down and opened it. It led to Rohan’s study, but to my surprise, did not open a door in the wall, but a door in the ceiling. This was a habitable tesseract.
The house that stood here before this one was a simple square building. But this was also bizarre, in that it had no windows or doors, Rohan had said, but of course it didn’t have any doors on the outside.
What they’d been able to see wasn’t the outside of the building so much as the boundary between it and the world. The study was a cube, and on each of its six sides – in other words, the four walls to the north south east and west as well as the floor and ceiling – there was another, identical cube. Each of those cubes were linked to each other, for a total of eight cubes leading into one another. The furthest cube out turned in on itself and was surrounded by the other seven. This was a tesseract, but the way the space twisted and turned was a logical abstraction, only possible in three dimensions with the power of a Stand. And because this was also a house, even though it was a tesseract it followed a bizarre set of rules that defied logic and physics. Namely:
1. Parallel movements remain on the floor. 2. Doors on the floor always connect to the ceiling. 3. The side doors to Rohan’s study do not connect to the next rooms of the Cube House, but to the halls of the Arrow House.
I had climbed three down from Rohan’s study, and moved one sideways, and opened a door. This floor door should have led to the side walls of Rohan’s study, but it seemed the study had turned to meet me, and I’d opened the door in the ceiling instead. This was inconsistent with physics and unnerving, so I decided to return to the study the way I’d come, shutting the doors as I went.
I closed the door beneath me, and went back through the side door. I’d lost track of if this was the north, south, east or west door, but I shut the door behind me, closed the door in the floor, rode Johana up to the room above, shut that door, rode Johana up again, and closed the door in the floor of that room. One more room above and I’d be in the study again. I was about to call Johana again when a door I had never opened slammed shut. !? “Who’s there?” I called out. No answer. But someone was there. Someone hiding in the next room over from the room below Rohan’s study, in the room to the South, a room you couldn’t get to directly from the study. Creepy! “Johana!” I called the dolphin, and went back up to the study. I hopped off and quickly closed the door. There was no lock. Oh well. I put the rug back, and moved the desk a little from its original position, resting it on top of the door. So that if someone opened the door from the inside the legs of the desk would hit them. If that didn’t hurt them, there was a lot of stuff on the desk that would fall off and make a noise, and even if we didn’t notice they’d never be able to put it all back in the right place so at least I’d know the door had been opened. The Cube House didn’t share any links to the Arrow House other than the study, so the only thing left was the door in the ceiling. I looked up, thinking, but then…
“Hey, Joestar!” Fukashigi yelled, bursting in. I jumped a foot in the air.
“Ah! What? What!?”
“Come on, you gotta see this!” Wasn’t enough happening already? I thought, annoyed, but since I was scared of whoever was hiding in the Cube House I followed Fukashigi outside. 245 “Look at that!”
In the distance, I could see another island, thundering – I couldn’t actually hear it, but it was clearly moving very quickly – across The Ocean towards Morioh. Morioh was not the only island ‘ship.’
Nero Nero Island was covered in rocks and was about a tenth the size of Morioh. It had come from just South of Sardinia, the second largest island in Italy. It was the headquarters of a mafia group called the Passione Family.