Chapter 36:

Perished Are Those Without Self

X = Y

A scent of familiarity wafted through the air redolently. Machira town, an evocative home to Kei, who returned from Toshi City, remained still in time, yet it was sprawling with life, elegant and lustrous.

Parking his car in front of the Machira Town Police Department, Kei made a phone call to the Superintendent, speculating on what happened to his dearest friend. Anxiety folded his heart, creasing it, eventually bounded to leave a scar, leaving minute room for any other feelings.

"Hello? Kei?" the Superintendent asked.

"Yes. Where's Kanda's body?" Kei responded.

"Where are you now?" Superintendent Masazaki inquired.

"I'm in front of the Machira Town Police Department. Is his body not there?" Kei replied.

"No. It's near the river. There are officers that I sent who are waiting for you." the Superintendent answered back.

"Superintendent. If you find Yasaburo Toyoda, then arrest him. I have enough conclusive evidence to confirm he was the killer." Kei added, his rage enlarging.

"Ah, right. Yes, I will. I'll tell the other police officers and put a search warrant for him. Take care, detective. If you need anything, then call. Goodbye." the Superintendent ended with a kind closing remark.

Tenaciously driven to find the culprit who murdered his friend, feeling the anguish, Kei drove to the river, stopping when he saw the barricades erected by the police. Taking out his duffle bag and briefcase, he sprinted towards the officer, showing his identification card. Whilst walking along the river bed, Kei slowly realised that a black body bag lay there waiting, ready to be examined, uncovered and shown to the world.

Progressively, Kei began to feel sick with each step, eventually unwilling to find out. His thoughts, of the time Kanda helped him when he collapsed, of the last time he saw him, were racing faster than light. The neurons in his brain were firing quickly, that they would incinerate themselves from the speed they were pulsing.

The crease in his heart grew longer, and eventually, tumultuous thoughts harrowed his mind. Feeling sick, he approached the bag, opening the zipper slowly, regretting the oncoming moment of ascertaining Kanda's body in that black bag. Upon seeing Kanda's face, his chest felt vacuous, his heart ripped across the crease, and he turned his head away in terror. Leaning over into the river, he saw his reflection, prompting his mind to reminisce on his life with Kanda and the person he was.

Kei's entire psyche was dissonant with the world, harbouring dreadful emotions that would tear deeper scars, permeating through his body. Breaking under the tension of his predicament, he threw up into the river, unable to tolerate the void prevalent within his body — he had to let something out or else the demons would thrive, to one day return.

He wiped his mouth using his sleeve, turning around to look at the body once more.

"I couldn't do anything about it...He's dead...Kanda's actually dead..." Kei thought pensively.

Taking the gloves out of his duffle bag and wearing them, expressing sorrow, he opened the entire body bag, witnessing Kanda in a vegetated state, destitute of life. In fear, slowly creeping his hands up to Kanda's shoulder, Kei eyes began shaking in place, the horror of the situation still reaching him. Placing both hands on his shoulder, he began to shake Kanda's body hysterically, smiling like a psychopath.

"Hey...Kanda...wake up...this is just a joke, right? But you wouldn't joke like's not your style..." Kei mumbled, losing his sanity. "When was the last time you spoke to Rei? He's back...And he wants to see you again. Meya and Abe already saw him..." Kei added, smiling hysterically.

"What am I doing? Kanda's dead. There's no evidence here...nothing left. All of it washed away..." Kei contemplated, kneeling on the ground beside Kanda's body. "How long has it been since you died...friend. How long has it been since I was useful to you could rely on me?" Kei asked, holding his face in shame, crying copiously.

A female and male police officer came walking towards him, distressed by his emotional breakdown.

"Detective? Are you okay?" The female officer asked.

Startled, Kei turned his head to them, looking up at their faces, and ceased crying. Their words, bringing him back to reality, brought clarity to his mind and heart. Attaining ephemeral tranquillity within, he regained composure, rubbing his elbow against his eyes, soaking the tears away.

"Yeah...I'm fine. Thank you for slapping me across the face." Kei responded awkwardly.

"A slap? We understand your situation. We wanted to make sure that the detective of our precinct was doing well!" The female officer responded sympathetically but expressing sadness acquired from Kei's state.

"We can leave the investigation for another detective." The male police officer added.

"No...I'm nearly done here. I want to do this...for a friend. It's the only time I'd be useful to him." Kei added despondently.

"Okay...We'll leave you to it, detective Hirojima." The female officer responded.

The officers glanced at each other before looking at Kei empathetically. They walked away, keeping an eye on him and his condition.

"I have to get to work..." Kei thought before working.

With his camera, Kei took pictures of the surrounding area and the body. He checked every intricate part of Kanda's body that murderers target to kill their victims, checking if he was injured and estimating the time of death. After checking muscle stiffness, the temperature of his body, and any invertebrates laying eggs, he deduced when Kanda died.

After going through a lengthy procedure, speculating his death, also assuming many factors about Kanda's death, Kei gathered the evidence and concluded.

"He died yesterday after he disappeared. At the hands of Yasaburo Toyoda. Kanda...we know who we're looking for thanks to you...and we'll get him." Kei's mind started spiralling into negativity, but a glimpse of hope is what he clasped to rigorously.

Taking out his phone, he called the Superintendent again, waiting unabatingly. The receiver picked up the call, and Kei spoke forlornly.

"Superintendent. Put an arrest warrant out for three people. Eien Shihaisha, Osugitachi Ehamame and Yasaburo Toyoda. Get it prepared, then when I tell you, activate it. Please." said Kei, stolidly.

"Who was the killer then, Kei?" the Superintendent inquired.

"Yasaburo Toyoda. The other two are accomplices. Osugitachi Ehamame and Yasaburo Toyoda work for Eien Shihaisha. All the evidence I found in Toshi City points to them. I have someone else I need to call." Kei replied.

"Okay. Yasaburo Toyoda. I'll do that. If you find the Private Investigator Takuyame Kyomifu , tell me where he is." the Superintendent asked.

"What's happening with him?" Kei asked, now alert.

"There's something suspicious about him. A couple of days ago, I went through your files on the arson attack and your brothers, but someone replaced them with fakes. He was the one on your parent's case that went cold all those years ago. Maybe he was slowly destorying the evidence, because Detective Nabeshima was on it, and gathered part of the evidence himself. I spoke with him, and he realised the evidence left was fabricated."

"What...He's a part of this all..." Kei questioned, now distraught, in disbelief.

"I don't know, because the case has been cold for so long. The evidence was scarce because it was destroyed physically, but any evidence we had disappeared in the precinct. I'm sorry I never gave you the chance to take on the case, but there were so many murders around the area, and I had faith in you. Forgive me, Kei." the Superintendent spoke cordially.

"No, it's fine with me...Superintendent. I already know who killed my parents. The Eternal Ruler, Eien Shihaisha. That's who it was. I'm going back to Toshi City. Give Detective Ryotaro Nabeshima my regards. Goodbye." Kei returned to speaking stolidly.

"Yeah. Good luck, Kei." the Superintendent responded empathetically, hanging up the phone.

Kei called another person immediately on his phone, zipping up Kanda's body bag, packing his equipment away, carrying his duffle bag over his shoulder and briefcase in his left hand. Walking on the grass and dirt path, up the stairs and on top of a hill with pavement, Kei exited the crime scene, remaining depressed but finding new motivation that overpowered his sorrow. He signalled his leave to the officers who stood watch, walking towards his car. The person on the phone finally picked up.

"Hey, Kei! What's up?" Detective Yasuhide Ogi exclaimed.

"Kanda's dead. Are you on duty?" Kei asked, sulking.

"He's dead! Then it is Yasaburo Toyoda! How long ago did he die? Do you know? Oh, I'm in the precinct now. My shift started half an hour ago." Yasuhide inquired, now anxious.

"Where was Kanda's phone found?" Kei asked.

"His phone? If I remember correctly, they told me that Hibika Oroji found it on the same street as the Tatashi Industrial building." Yasuhide stated, connecting the dots, expressing surprise on his face. "I'll go to Tatashi Industrial now!"

"Kanda knew he would die. He threw his phone out so I could have it. In the notepad, Yasaburo sent a message to Eien saying he could kill Kanda at any time. I have his laptop, and I'm bringing it back to look at all the other messages exchanged. Maybe we can find a clue to where this Ruler is. I don't trust the network we're using anymore." Kei explained, becoming sceptical.

"Yeah! I forgot to mention something, but I'll tell you later. Focus on this now." Yasuhide exclaimed.

"Yeah, thanks. Go to Tatashi Industrial with as many officers as you can, and take him in if he's there. Good luck, Yasuhide." Kei responded, still emotionless.

"Yeah. Do your best, Kei." Yasuhide said positively, hanging up.

The street was empty as far as the eye could see. It was early morning, and people had work, but they were already off. Baren and desolate, Kei's car was parked by itself, with no others ahead or behind. Upon opening his boot, whilst placing the duffle bag and briefcase inside, someone hidden around the corner of a building appeared, brandishing a blade.

Slowly walking up to him, unbeknownst to Kei, the knife penetrated his back, tearing his brown trench coat and shirt, and the assailant vigorously pushed the weapon deeper into his back. His clothing, however, was not bloodstained, and Kei turned around immediately, expressing grimace and shock, whilst the assailant took the blade out of his back.

The tip of the blade, drenched in a minute volume of blood, began dripping onto the floor, flowing down the weapon but stopping halfway. The assailant, wearing plastic gloves, a regular blue buttoned shirt, a black blazer, black trousers and brown shoes without a tie, started directly into Kei's eyes. Not knowing who he was, Kei witnessed the man trying to thrust the knife into his stomach, and the assailant was expressing anxiety and fear.

"Who is this guy?! He's here to kill me!" Kei mused, expressing desperation and fright.

With Kei's back against the boot and the knife, with the intent of slashing his abdomen open, flying towards him, inside of Kei, the feeling of survival enkindled as adrenaline pulsated through his body into his system. Kei grabbed the assailant's arm by the wrist, holding the blade, edging closer towards him, but he managed to push it back.

"Die already! Die!" the assailant exclaimed.

The man tried pulling the blade back, but Kei stepped forward, stepping into his space. Performing a Palm Heel Strike with his right hand, he knocked the assailant's hand away. Then, Kei grabbed the assailant's arm he pushed with his left hand by his wrist, wrapping his right arm under the armpit and shoulder of the assailant. Immediately performing a Morote Seoi Nage (Two-Handed Shoulder Throw), flipping the assailant on his back, Kei sat on top of him, restraining his arms behind his back. The knife flew out of his hands and onto the floor when Kei flipped him upside down.

"Who are you! Tell me now!" Kei exclaimed, vexed, expressing hatred.

"No! How did you survive that knife attack! You should have died!" the man exclaimed.

"Do you think I'm that stupid that I would not protect myself?! Think of something that doesn't allow bullets or knives to penetrate it, then talk!" Kei exclaimed, shouting, pulling his phone out using his left hand, and dialling a number.

"Hello? Kei! Is it time for the arrest warrant?" Superintendent Masazaki asked.

"No. Someone tried killing me. Come near the river, down the road that goes to it. I'm holding him down. Quick, before something else happens!" Kei exclaimed.

"Yeah, got it! I'm dispatching a unit now." the Superintendent said.

"Okay. Goodbye, Superintendent." Kei said, hanging up the phone, putting it in his pocket.

"You can't! My wife and kids! They're going to die! Please!" he began screaming hysterically, expressing apprehension and terror.

"What do you mean? Who put you up to this?! Who are you? Why are you wearing plastic gloves? You look like a regular person going to work! What's in your pockets?" Kei questioned.

"Why! It would have gone so well...If only I could have killed you...Kei Hirojima!" the man thought to himself, tears flowing from his eyes.

He began screaming wildly in desperation, his mind entering salvation mode.

"Let go of me! My wife and kids! My family! Someone is watching, and they're going to tell him! There's nothing I can do...I can't do anything! AAH!" he yelled more, each sentence becoming more unintelligible.

"Stop! What do you mean by that! First, tell me who you are!" Kei exclaimed.

Sirens beyond Kei's seeing distance grew brasher, interrupting their conversation. He looked up, deducing that the police he spoke to were the unit sent to his aid. A single police car stopped and parked near Kei's car, as a male and female police officer exited the police car. Kei had spoken to them previously near the river bed, and they ran up to him, looking at the restrained man on the floor.

"We got the dispatch call! Are you okay, detective? Was anyone else around?" the male officer questioned, surprised, prudent and insightful.

"No. Thankfully, it was just me. He tried killing me, and I don't know who it is." Kei replied.

"Is that...Private Investigator Takuyame Kyomifu." the female exclaimed in horror, her face expressing that exact emotion. "What are you doing here?"

Kei and the other male police officer looked astonished.

"You're the Private Investigator that was on my parent's case..." Kei said, his anger erupting. "What did you do with the evidence! Who hired you! Tell me now! You're the reason why we haven't found the person who killed them!" Rei exclaimed, his eyes set aflame.

"Detective!" the officer exclaimed, catching Kei's attention. "Let me cuff him."

"Oh, yeah...Go ahead. I'm sorry for that..." Kei admitted, keeping Takuyame's hand behind him.

The officer put the cuffs on his hands, picking him up, holding him by his hands.

"Please! Officer! I don't care what happens to me! Kill me! I've seen so much blood and murder that I don't care, but protect my wife and kids!" Takuyame yelled impetuously.

Exhibiting dolour, Kei and the officer could only comply, sympathising with him through the kindness in their hearts.

"Where is your home. You should know better than to team up with whoever it is. First, tell me who it is, or I'm not going to go myself. I'll let someone else go, and they'll have no idea what's going on. They definitely will not be lenient with you." Kei asked, becoming aggressive and cynical.

"Detective! You can't bribe him like that!" the female officer exclaimed, reprimanding him.

"I'll tell you! Five years ago, they approached me after they found out I was on the case. They were four men, and they were the ones who caused that fire. The other three left, and the person in charge of me was Yasaburo Toyoda. They knew where I lived, and they showed me photos of my wife and kids. They could kill them instantly! Please, save them!" Takuyame exclaimed in distress.

"I'm sorry for the bribery, officer. They blackmailed him, trying to destroy any evidence leading to them. I understand that now." Kei explained, looking at the officers in regret.

Another police car parked in front of Kei's car, and two people exited. One of them was Superintendent Masazaki Hamabe, who began rushing towards them, stunned after witnessing the face of the Private Investigator, with the other members of his precinct staring at him.

"Takuyame Kyomifu? Is this what you were doing?" the Superintendent said, deducing what happened.

"Superintendent. He was bribed into doing this for five years. He destroyed all the evidence because of Yasaburo Toyoda. The other officers can explain, but his family were held as hostages. I'm going to his house to see if they're okay. Also, put the arrest warrants up for those three I mentioned." Kei confidently spoke, walking up to the Superintendent.

"I'm going with you." the Superintendent responded to Kei. "Take him to the police department and put him in a cell. Clean up the crime scene near the river. I'll send two more units to his house." the Superintendent directed his voice to the other officers behind Kei.

"Are you sure? If you're okay with it, then can I have his address." Kei asked.

"Yeah, follow me in your car." the Superintendent responded.

All the officers entered their cars, and they drove off towards their destination.