Episode 3 Under the Cherry Blossom Tree…
The contact from Genjirou, who had been investigating the database of the police, came several days after that meeting.
The maiden names of the mothers of the four people who were murdered were found immediately.
The maiden name of Aki Shimizu, the mother of Arieru Shimizu, was Aki Komiyama; the maiden name of Kotomi Aoki, the mother of Jedi Aoki, was Kotomi Morisaki. And the maiden name of Erika Yamaguchi was Erika Shinozuka. Including Maya Urakawa, the four people were all forty-three years old.
And as Kujou had speculated, a case happened before connected the four people.
Twenty-five years ago, a suicide due to bullying occurred in a public high school in Atsugi, Kanagawa Prefecture.
Yukiko Nagase, the victim, was discovered dead from hanging herself on a branch of a cherry blossom tree located in Mount Kuro to the north of Kawaguchi Lake in Yamanashi Prefecture with a rope at the age of eighteen.
The four people who bullied Yukiko were Aki Komiyama, Kotomi Morisaki, Maya Urakawa, and Erika Shinozuka.
Aki Komiyama and Maya Urakawa, who were the major culprits, received prison sentences for five years at a women’s prison. Kotomi Morisaki and Erika Shinozuka were sent to a women’s reformatory for two years.
After reading the documents handed to him by Kujou, Akira knew that this case had a background of a suicide due to gruesome bullying and bit down his back teeth.
“Hey, Kujou. If this is the beginning of this case regarding the corpses under cherry blossom trees, then the offender… is someone who is related to Miss Yukiko… Right?”
Kujou, who was walking in front of Akira, replied quietly without turning back.
“Oh. Mrs, Tomoko, the mother of Miss Yukiko, has already passed away. That means…”
Hearing that, the facial expression of Yui, who was walking by Kujou, slightly darkened.
There was a decrepit Japanese house which seemed to be built a long time ago in front of the three, who were speechless.
A corner of a quiet residential area.
The sunlight of the tilted setting sun gave the gigantic sky and Tama River a rosy hue.
Right beside the levee, a house with a nameplate of “Nagase” was built.
“This is… The house of Miss Yukiko Nagase.”
Akira’s stiffened murmur could be heard.
“Actually, this is the house of Mr. Takeshi Nagase.”
Kujou’s voice was way too calm.
“Hey, Kujou. Are we okay without the help of Mr. Gen? Umm, because… If everything is like what you’ve said, then the offender is in here, isn’t he?”
“Mr. Gen will come here immediately after he finishes dealing with a sudden case. Don’t worry… Plus.”
Saying that, Kujou placed his finger onto the bell.
“This offender… does not have any intentions of escaping.”
The button which was rarely pressed caused the sound of the bell to echo in the old house.
Whether he was determined or not, Akira swallowed his saliva.
Silence dominated the place.
The entrance, which was not lit up, of the Nagase house, became a shade darker due to the shadow of the levee.
It was when Kujou pressed down the bell for the second time in order to inform the offender of their presence.
The frosted glass of the entrance reflected the shadow of a person. Then that shadow opened the door.
The person who appeared in front of the dark entrance was an aged, tall man with black and white hair mixed together.
The man, whose mustache was taken cared of perfectly was in a white shirt and a pair of jeans, asked in a slow tone gently.
“Who are you?”
Hearing that, Kujou bowed down.
“I apologize for coming in a busy day. I am Kujou, an investigator. You are Takeshi Nagase, right?”
The man who looked slightly surprised smiled and welcomed the three into his house.
The man led them passed through a dark hallway and went into the Buddhist family chapel on the left.
The fluorescent lights were turned on at the same time with the sound of the switch.
After letting them sit on the opposite side of a big table, the man faced them backwards, putting his hands together and rang the rin1 in front of the Buddhist altar.
“My wife passed away twenty-three years ago. I’m the only one who lives here, so please feel free.”
Saying that, the man sat down in front of them.
“You are Mr.Kujou, right? I am Takeshi Nagase. Thank you for coming here.”
“No, I should apologize for coming here so suddenly.”
Yui and Akira watched the quiet confrontation of the two silently.
“So the reason for you to came here is about… my only daughter, Yukiko?”
Takeshi was the one who started the conversation first.
Yui and Akira were surprised that he went straight to the point.
However, Kujou was extremely calm.
“Right. The serial corpse abandonment case. The so-called the case regarding the corpses under the cherry blossom trees. I think the offender is… Mr. Takeshi. I think it’s you.”
“Hmm… Why do you think that?”
“Miss Yukiko committed suicide because of the bullying from Aki Komiyama, Kotomi Morisaki, Maya Urakawa, and Erika Shinozuka. You experienced extreme sorrow. You preached about the inhuman actions of the four perpetrators during the interviews for TV shows, magazines,and newspaper articles. This was very effective and people were standing by your side. Everyone thought the result of the trial would be a heavy sentence.”
At that time, Kujou crossed his arms in front of his face and pulled his chin in.
“However, the justice was different. Since the perpetrators were still minors, they demanded penalties that were much lighter than that of adults. When you knew that they could not be sanctioned by the law because they were protected by the Juvenile Act, your desire of vengeance continued to grow.”
Takeshi listened to Kujou silently while facing downwards.
“Mrs. Tomoko, your wife, probably became ill because Miss Yukiko passed away. And unfortunately, she passed away as well. There was that kind of record in the documents of the police.”
Kujou’s facial expression became slightly depressed when he mentioned Tomoko.
“After that, you continued your everyday life normally. As the time passed, the case of Miss Yukiko gradually faded out from people’s memory. Therefore, the purpose of this case is to inform the world of that case again and to take revenge.”
Takeshi could not take his eyes off of Kujou, who stated everything clearly.
“You… talked about twenty-five of my years… that easily.”
Both arms of Takushi, who murmured as if he was pondering the meaning of the words, trembled slightly.
“Yukiko was… such an adorable daughter. She was a lively, sociable, and intelligent daughter who made me feel proud of… Even she became a high schooler, she frequently called me ‘Dad, Dad.’”
Saying that, Takeshi turned back to the Buddhist altar and looked at the photo of females who were probably Tomoko and Yukiko placed on the altar.
“We enjoyed being together since Yukiko was a kid… Oh, Yukiko loved mountain-climbing. She had climbed various mountains in the past. Especially during the season of cherry blossoms, she had to climb mountains… Plus, she said she wanted to become a doctor in the future. She said if she could become a doctor, she would make us live long…”
Large drops of tears fell down from Takeshi’s eyes, which were looking at the three straightforwardly.
“And those sluts… appeared in front of my daughter… It was when Yukiko became a sophomore in high school. One day, she came home with cuts on her cheeks. She said that she fell down in a club activity… However, eventually, the times that she came home with cuts on her legs and bruises on her arms increased. I thought that was way too strange, so I asked my wife to talk to her… But… She said nothing…”
Wet by his tears, Takeshi bit down onto his back teeth and slightly started trembling.
“A few days after that, I noticed that… Money disappeared from my wallet little by little. I thought it might be Yukiko, so I talked to her with my wife. And then she apologized with tears, ‘I am sorry. I just need a little more pocket money. I am really sorry.’”
The two hands, which were held so strongly together that they were bleeding, Takeshi put on the table trembled little by little.
“Those perpetrators asked Yukiko for money, and she could only obey them with tears.”
“However, I… I wanted to trust my daughter. So I increased the amount of her pocket money… But.. That was… a fault… The amount of money that they were asking for… increased to what Yukiko could not afford by herself.”
“Yukiko gave the amount of money they demanded, but the amount that they demanded increased every day. When the time for Yukiko to be unable to afford it came, she decided to commit suicide before making problems for parents because she had no other choice….”
Staring at Takeshi, who was dominated by anger that transformed from sorrow, Kujou listened to him calmly.
“Yukiko wrote everything about the bullying from the four people on her farewell note.”
Takeshi hit the table strongly with his fist.
“The sluts who were in the same class as Yukiko! They asked my daughter to run errands for them since they were in tenth grade2! They also drew on her table and stole her belongings. Eventually, their bullying escalated into violence!! ”
“Eh!? But you can tell that from the scratches and bruises very quick.”
Akira, who had been listening without talking until now, spoke without thinking.
“Those sluts!! In order for their violent actions not to expose, they first used violence on the chest, stomach, and parts that can be covered by clothing continuously!!”
“That’s… so mean…”
Akira lost his tongue because of the inhumane, violent actions.
“They punched her based on whether or not she paid the money! And they raised the amount of money they demanded!! Yukiko… had no other way to go.”
Anger and sorrow mixed together on Takeshi’s face and smudged it with tears and snot.
“I feel sorry for you. They should be sanctioned by the law because of their exposed violent actions and blackmail.”
Trying to feel the heart of Takeshi, Yui urged him to speak gently.
“Of course… The four were arrested by police immediately after that. The case was reported sensationally to society. A lot of interviews from TV and magazines came to me. At that time, I wanted to dispel my daughter’s resentment, so I even took out her farewell note and spoke passionately about how inhumane the actions they had done to my daughter were! I talked!! I preached!! After hearing that, the public opinion stood by my side!! I was so sure that I could clear my daughter’s resentment!! ”
Takeshi opened his hands widely and raise them towards the ceiling in a facial expression charged with emotions.
However, in the next moment, his eyes became so void that nothing could be reflected from his eyes.
“… However, the result of the trial was nothing but a trash.”
And Takeshi’s heart was engulfed by hatred furiously at once.
“An outdated relic called the Juvenile Act killed my daughter again! They were minors, so what!! They killed a person but they could be put in jail for five years at most!? Don’t talk nonsense, that execrable judge!! He protected the human rights of the people who had deprived others of human rights!!”
He tapped the table fiercely and yelled at the top of his voice. His gentleness, which was seen at the entrance earlier, could not be seen from him now.
“How could murderers be released from the jail that quickly just because they were minors!? How could they return to their comfortable normal life after they were released!? That’s why I was thinking about killing all of the four sluts after they were released!!… I was thinking about it… But I gave up.”
Takeshi could not control his feelings anymore. A trace of a smile of ecstasy appeared on his face, which was filled with anger until now.
“My wife, Tomoko, passed away two years before the first slut was released… She died because of her extreme sorrow from Yukiko’s death… This is how bad it is for a mother to lose her child… So I thought… It meant nothing to them if I just kill them right after they were released. A person will not suffer after he passes away… Just like what we had suffered, I wanted them to experience the same suffering until the sufferings were imprinted on their hearts!! I was thinking about how to reach that goal!! ”
“That’s why you have been waiting for twenty-five years.”
On the face of the man, who was satisfied by Kujou’s answer, was filled with insanity, smiling.
The murderous intent that was almost madness.
The desire of vengeance of a man whose daughter was deprived was beyond Yui and Akira’s thoughts. They could feel the shiver that almost made their hands sweat.
“Then Mr. Takeshi Nagase, can I take the conversation until now as your confession of this series of cases?”
Kujou was very calm.
However, there was no reply.
In front of the eyes of the three, Takeshi, who seemed to have aged for another twelve years, sat with a face looking like evil spirits had just been exorcised from him.
Then the man slowly opened his mouth.
“Today is the tenth of May… Mr. Kujou, what time is it?”
“A little over twenty o’clock.”
Kujou checked his watch and answered.
Whether Takeshi was listening or not, he started another conversation.
“Speaking of the desire of vengeance, using Twitter was so difficult to use for an old man. Mr. Kujou, are you the one who noticed the usernames?”
“Right. Taking out the letters and arranged them into the order of which the victims were murdered, they will become the message, ‘This will be the last one.’”
“Taking out the… letters.”
Although Kujou thought that response was suspicious, Takeshi took an action first.
“Then Mr. Kujou, good bye.”
Immediately after Takeshi had said that, white smoke came out from the bottom of the table suddenly.
“Ah!? Wh, What is this!?”
Becoming flustered at this sudden incident, Akira inhaled a large amount of smoke and coughed.
Kujou covered Yui’s mouth with a sleeve of his clothes right away and dragged her to his side. He used the other hand to cover his own mouth and looked around in the house, which became misty due to this white smoke.
However, in the Buddhist family chapel, which was enveloped by the smoke, Kujou was unable to find the man.
“Ehh… Miss Yui, let’s leave this house for now. Akira, you are here, right!? Follow me tightly!”
Thus, the three successfully escaped through the entrance while breathing feebly.
“Who said it… That this offender does not have the intention to escape!!”
Akira complained while coughing.
“No way… It was beyond my expectations. I thought that Takeshi had finished everything, so he wanted someone to arrest him.”
“Well, I think it’s fine, since we are all safe.”
Yui did not think this was anyone’s fault. She patted the white powder on her clothing.
“Seriously… In order to escape, he even prepared the smoke, he has absolutely no determination to be arrested.”
What caused Akira to complain was now Takeshi instead of Kujou.
Kujou’s thought was triggered by Akira’s word.
“This is the last sentence… that man left off.”
“What? Kujou, what are you murmuring about?”
It was the moment when Akira, who slightly calmed down,looked into the face of Kujou, who was facing downwards.
“Oh!! I know what’s going on!!”
Suddenly, Kujou raised his head, and cause Akira to take a pratfall.
However, Kujou did not even glance at Akira, but took his phone out and began a call.
After three calling sounds, an optimistic voice leaked out from the speaker.
“Hey, Kyuu3!! How is it going? Have you caught him?”
“Mr. Gen! Where are you now?”
“Oh, oh, sorry. I happened to be late when I went out. I’ll probably be there after about twenty minutes.”
“I failed to catch the offender.”
Since Genjirou knew that it was extremely rare for Kujou to use the phrase ‘failed to catch,’ Genjirou was very surprised.
“So, so, so!? Where is his destination!?”
“It’s okay. I have an idea. Mr. Gen, please come to pick us up as soon as possible. We don’t have time. I will explain to you in your car.”
Saying that, Kujou ended the call. The emotion of impatience appeared on Kujou’s face, which was unusual.
Thirty minutes later, they met Genjirou. Their car moved towards Yamanashi on the Chuuou Expressway4.
“Oh, I see. Fortunately, the moon is full today, so I think it will be okay if we are careful. Thank you for agreeing my unreasonable request this suddenly… Right. I will tell Mr. Genjirou as well… Bye.”
Sitting on the assistant driver’s seat, Kujou had just finished a call with an investigator from the investigation headquarter.
“So, what did he say?”
“The place where Miss Yukiko passed away was actually a place off the side of a teahouse at the trailhead of Misaka Mountain”
“Hey, hey. Is it okay to go into the mountains at midnight?”
“Since I asked him to send the GPS data just in case, I think we will be fine”
Genjirou slightly sneered at Kujou’s perfect answer.
“By the way, Kujou, why do you know Mr. Takeshi is heading to the cherry blossom tree where Miss Yukiko passed away?”
“Since the correct meaning of that message is ‘On May eleventh, this will be the last one.’ And May eleventh is also the day Miss Yukiko passed away.”
“Death anniversary… What did he want to do on her death anniversary?”
Probably Genjirou and Yui had already slightly noticed it. They stared at the street lights outside the car windows silently.
“Akira, have you said anything about Mr. Takeshi’s determination when you escaped from the Nagase house?”
“Yeah, I’ve said that.”
“He was determined from the beginning.”
Kujou organized his words with a little bit of loneliness.
“Mr. Takeshi Nagase… decided to die under the same tree… on Miss Yukiko’s death anniversary.”
After understanding everything, Akira lost his tongue and sunk into the back of a passenger seat deeply.
After that, no one had spoken until the car arrived at the teahouse at a mountain pass on Misaka Mountain.
In the deep mountains, nothing besides the cries of birds and bugs could be heard. The four climbed along the dark mountain road while sweating.
The light of the full moon upon their heads lighted lit up the dark mountain road from the top.
Although the four were walking according to the GPS information, it took them an extremely long period of time since they were not used to walking along the mountain road at night.
“Hey, Kujou… Is this actually the right way?”
Akira, whose breathing became rough, started complaining to Kujou because they were still on their way.
“If you have the strength to talk, then walk forward. Otherwise, you are welcome to return right now by yourself.”
Akira probably understood that as long as the flashlights were holding by Genjirou and Kujou, he would not have the right to reject. He seemed to move forward silently.
Immediately after that.
The dense and thick trees, which had seemed like they were blocking the way of the four, disappeared and the view of the four suddenly became broad.
When they realized, they were already at the top of the slightly elevated mountain.
There the trees were sparse. The gigantic cherry blossom tree standing in the middle was in the spotlight.
Suddenly arriving at the destination, Akira was fascinated by that sacred cherry blossom tree. In the next moment, he pointed to that tree with his voice raised slightly.
Kujou, Yui, and Genjirou followed the direction of Akira’s finger.
Takeshi Nagase was hung with a rope from a thick branch of the cherry blossom tree. He was blown by the wind coming up the mountain and slowly swayed with the petals that were blown up from the ground.
No one was able to move while looking at that captivating, suspicious, but glamorous scene, which could even cause them to forget to breathe.
No, it was a scene which gave them the illusion that if they moved, they would destroy this artwork.
“‘On May eleventh, this will be the last one…’”
The watch of Kujou, who murmured with a voice that was too low for anyone to hear, pointed at five past twelve.
1. Rin – a small bell used in a Japanese Buddhist ceremony.↩
2. Tenth grade – the first year of high school in Japan.↩
3. Kyuu – Kujou’s nickname. In Japanese, the Kanji of ku also has the pronunciation of kyuu.↩
4. Chuuou Expressway – a national expressway owned and operated by Central Nippon Expressway Company in Japan.↩
5. Hazakura – a stage of a cherry blossom tree when its leaves start to appear. “Ha” means “leaf” or “leaves” and “zakura,” or “sakura,” means cherry blossom trees. The leaves of cherry blossom trees grow out after the petals fall off.↩
6. Prunus × yedoensis – a hybrid cherry of between Prunus speciosa as father plant and Prunus pendula f. ascendens as mother.↩