Episode 2 Purification during Teatime
The unbroken silence that felt like thirty minutes or an hour was broken by Akira’s bubbly voice.
Hearing that voice, Yumiko took in a deep breath.
Perhaps the pressure from Kujou made her forget to breathe.
The pleasant voice of Yui, who had enjoyed having desserts freely for a whole day, and the disappointed voice from Akira, who hadn’t had a single bite of the desserts even at the end, were approaching the reception office.
With the pleasant sound of the door knob being turned, they two entered the room.
“Welcome back, Miss Yui.”
Kujou stood up and made a deep bow, receiving the duffle coat and the casquette from Yui and hung them onto the nordic-style wooden hanger stand.
“Kujou~ Please take mine~ Too.”
Akira showed Kujou his tired face from walking around all day investigating by himself, and gave out his blouson.
“The trash bin is over in that corner.”
“This is not a trash–!!”
He seemed to have the energy to tsukkomu1.
After introducing the client to them, they drank the newly brewed darjeeling tea by Kujou in order to warm their bodies while listening to the details of the case.
“I see. The kamikakushi of your mother and the mischief of youkai.”
Contrary to her appearance of a girl, Yui spoke like she had understood life. She reached for the special strawberry roll cake.
Although she was eating desserts twenty-four seven, it seemed like they all went into another stomach of her. Only she knew which would be considered the main course and which would be considered as desserts.
Glancing at her sideways, Akira talked to himself while reaching his hand to the Darjeeling tea.
Because, of course, nothing was placed in front of him except for the black tea.
“I’m sorry, Yumiko. We were interrupted in the middle of our conversation, right? Let’s return to our topic immediately.”
She felt the gentle care from Kujou, and nodded with slight hesitation.
“So we had talked about that in order for the phenomena to be called youkai, one must share the same experience with another. However, it seemed like only you had experienced the phenomena that occurred around your side. And there is no information about any suspicious people who followed you.”
Kujou took up the secret box, which had an irregular shape because almost all the locks had been opened, and continued talking.
“The first youkai you saw was betobeto-san, correct?”
“The youkai betobeto-san is a phenomenon of having the feeling of being followed by someone when walking at night. Long story short, it refers to hearing footsteps… You had probably heard the footsteps approaching your room at night. And it continued for days. However, knowing the truth, you just didn’t want to reply.”
Hearing that, Yumiko opened her eyes wide.
“Then day after day, it turned out to be your stress, and it became hard for you to fall asleep. Of course, your sleeping became more shallow. You wanted to sleep so desperately, but you couldn’t. When you slept, you would worry about something unnecessary. That was the second youkai that appeared, makurakaeshi.”
Yumiko’s breath started to be a little rough while Kujou stared at her.
“The third youkai that appeared was hidarugami2. Even though this youkai was named a god, it does mischief, such as the phenomenon of people gaining weight suddenly and unable to move in the mountains… Day after day, your stress and lack of sleep caused the significant consumption of your energy, and you became unable to move anymore. ”
Kujou was turning around with the irregular box in his hands.
“However… You said that no one gave you a hand, right?”
… There was no response.
Although Yumiko’s eyes were looking at Kujou, they were vacant as if they were looking at somewhere far away.
Kujou murmured in loneliness and continued the conversation.
“… After a while… You did not have any energy after the repeated stress and realized something when you were in your bed. ”
“I see. That’s why I could not perceive the existence of kamikakushi and youkai.”
“Exactly right. Miss Yui ”
“Eh!? What’s going on?”
Kujou took a deep breath and spoke out with exceptionally serious eyes.
“Yumiko, you wanted to escape. To escape from the reality that no one would help you or care about you. So then you made up that everything was done by youkai. You said that everything was youkai’s faults. And at last, you made up the chain of uproar, pretending your mother had experienced kamikakushi.”
Trembling while breathing, she chose the path of escaping from Kujou’s words unconsciously.
“… Please listen to me… Please listen to me… Kamikakushi… Actually happened… Youkai… Actually existed… Please listen to me.”
She murmured with her vacant eyes, and she was heard by the three silently.
A lively and clear voice came from the entrance.
The color of consciousness returned to the eyes of Yumiko, who repeated the process of self-justification vacantly.
“Oh! She was here.”
While speaking, Akira walked to the entrance hall and came to the reception office with a middle-aged woman after a while.
Her age was around forty. Her semi-long, well-trimmed hair was glossy, and the cleanliness of her makeup and jacket left people with the impression of a woman who can work at their first glance.
“… Wh, why are you… Here.”
Seeing the woman coming into the room, Yumiko stood up and a voice mixing of astonishment and wrath leaked out.
Contrary to Yumiko’s voice, the woman who had a box in her hands that read “Sucre Ciel in Hatsudai, the Cookie Sandwich Specialty Shop” spoke with a happy voice.
“I apologize for not introducing myself at first. I work at Hakoniwa Detective Agency and my name is Koushirou Kujou. Are you Mrs. Harue Kinoshita, the mother of Yumiko Kinoshita?”
“Y… Yes. Correct.”
Unable to understand the circumstance, Harue replied with confusion. In order to hear about the case, she was prompted by Kujou to sit by Yumiko.
Kujou slowly sat onto the sofa.
Four people, including Yui and Akira, were looking at Kujou.
A piece of firewood crackled in the fireplace, which warmed up the atmosphere of winter.
After a moment of silence, Kujou spoke to Yumiko.
“I brought your mother, who had experienced kamikakushi, here.”
“Eh…” Harue reacted with a faint voice that was so quiet that you might miss it without paying close attention.
“When Kujou sent me the message, I was really surprised. ‘Find a missing person instead of the witnesses regarding youkai! And keep it secret.’”
“However, it was unexpectedly easy to find her, right?”
“Yeah. I investigated detailedly as the second email instructed, and I found her immediately. But I’ve never thought about the person lining up in front of us at the cookie sandwich store was actually her.”
This armchair detective3 was looking at Yumiko, who did not speak one word, as if he had already known everything from the very beginning.
“You said that you love cookie sandwiches to the extent that you wanted to eat it every day. When I hear that I realized that your mother must visit the store very frequently, especially within this month.”
Akira did not understand Kujou’s way of speaking. Although he acted like there was a question mark above his head, Kujou ignored him and faced Yumiko with a smile.
“Mrs. Harue hadn’t experienced kamikakushi. I think she goes to work every day as usual. From her outfit, she seemed to come here from the middle of her work. Probably she came here during her lunch break in order to meet with Akira and Yui.”
“Eh? Wait a second. Then the missing person the police talked about wasn’t Mrs. Harue!? ”
“Yeah. That’s right.”
Staring at her, who remained silent and hadn’t spoken a word for a while, Kujou said.
“Yumiko, you were the missing person.”
1. Tsukkomu – making an immediate response to ridicule or question another person.↩
2. Hidarugami – the “gami” part has the same meaning of kami, which is god.↩
3. Armchair detective – a detective who does not personally visit a crime scene but is able to solve the case.↩