My head was being stormed by thoughts and theories. We had just reached back to school and most of the students were heading home after that weird experience. But I had to check up somewhere as soon as possible. If I was right about Yua, then there was only one possible place to check up on to confirm my theory.
I stopped in front of the city hospital. The same place I had been admitted to two months ago. But there was also someone else still admitted here.
“(What are we doing here?)” Dee inquired.
“(If we want to check if someone is a wisher or not, we check their pasts and this is the only place, I think, where we can find something about her past.)”
I entered the building and headed inside.
“How may I help you,” the lady at the reception asked before I even got there.
“Ah yes, I am here to visit Mia Chieki. I believe she is on the third floor.”
“Are you a relative of her?”
“Something like that. I am an acquaintance of her mother, Yua Chieki,” as soon as she heard that name, her face lit up.
“Is that so? So you are an acquaintance of Ms.Yua. She would be glad to know that you came to visit Mia. She has had no visitors other than Ms.Yua for the whole year she has been admitted here. She is on the third floor. Room 642. Go up the stairs and right. You can’t miss it.”
I already knew where her room was, but I didn’t want to act suspicious. And wisher or not, instead of acting secretly behind Yua’s back, I thought it would be better if she knew.
I headed to the third floor, turned right and the very first room on my right, 642, had the name ‘Mia Chieki’ labelled on it.
I knocked first, just in case, and then slowly entered. The room was dark, as the curtains blocked the windows. There was complete silence, except for the *beep beep* of the heart monitor.
On the bed laid a little girl, hardly five or six years of age, with all kinds of wires attached to her body. Her face was covered by an oxygen mask as well.
“(This is her daughter, right?)” Dee asked.
“Yeah.” There were obvious signs of weakness in her body, but her visible features, like her dark hair, made it clear that she was Yua’s daughter. “I think she is in a coma. There is no response from her.”
“(If there is no response, then how are we supposed to tell whether Yua is a wisher or not?)”
“No, I think this will tell a lot. Her child is in such a state, there has to be a reason for that. And she can also be her reason for entering the wish game.”
“(But that is still an assumption. We still have no real proof that she is the wisher.)” Dee was right. There was no proof, yet. I had a habit of leaving things up to intuition because I believe there is a reason why I had that intuition in the first place. But just after that camping event, I wasn’t so sure. I needed physical proof. But was it really here? Was there anything I could learn from this poor little girl? If I had her story, then sure. But in her current state, she was not even aware of herself, much less her surroundings.
“(This is pointless,)” Dee gave his verdict. And I, too, was about to agree with him, when I noticed something strange.
“Say, Dee. Do you feel like something is off?”
“(No,)” he sounded confused. But I was just about to break through. The heart monitor showed the pulse and pressure. And although it was working fine, the readings on the monitor did not change at all. No matter how precise a machine could be, there was no way it would not show fluctuations in the heart rate.
I stepped closer to the bed. The oxygen mask fogged up and then cleared, indicating that she was breathing. But there was something about her breathing that struck me as almost too perfect. Something that wasn’t changing at all. I slowly removed the oxygen mask, but the girl showed no difference in her breathing. It was the same, unchanging rhythm. Almost frustrated by it, I placed my palm against her neck and slowly started to grip it. I was choking her throat to the point where there could be very little space inside her trachea. And yet, she breathed in the same rhythm as before. No difficulty in breathing at all. Satisfied that there was something going on here, I released her neck and put back the oxygen mask.
“What is this? It is almost as if she is stuck inside some kind of void.”
“(Or it could be a time loop. Instead of moving in a straight line, a few seconds of her life keep looping,)” Dee answered with a strange confidence.
“You sound like you know what this is?”
“(I think I know what this is. And exactly what kind of Jinn can make this possible.)”
“So, Yua is a wisher after all.”
“(And there is only one Jinn who has this kind of power to control time. He has to be her partner.)”
“I think it is about time you briefed me about him.”
“(His name is Auz. He is the fourth Jinn, the Shinigami.)”
“You mean like the grim reaper.”
“(Not quite what you humans believe a shinigami is. He does not take the soul of living things or anything. He can just touch their times. The times they have in this world. But like all of us, he can’t interfere with your human world even with his powers. In the end, it could only have been a wish that could’ve caused this time loop.)”
“So, is that like his secondary wish?”
“(I am afraid not. That is just due to his ability, he can fulfill a wider variety of bound wishes.)”
“Ok, this is too slow. Listen to me, Dee. I don’t care if you think it is interesting or not, you will answer the questions that I will ask right now.”
He thought for a moment before giving his reply, “Fine. I think I can answer anything related to Auz.”
“Trust me, everything I want to ask is to defeat him.”
“Fine then. Ask away.”
“Tell me about the Queen.”
“What does she have to do with all this?” he instantly became defiant.
“Just tell me.”
He did not look satisfied, but still continued, “The twelfth Jinn, the Holy Queen, is just like her title, proud. She took this title because she likes to stand above all others. And that is why when choosing her host, she would not choose someone smart like you but someone emotional. Who feels more than he thinks.”
“And she is still the strongest participant in this game.”
“Besides us, she is. She is arrogant, but what makes her really annoying is that she is strong.”
“Why,” I kept thinking to myself. What could make this absolute formula for a disaster into the strongest contenders. And then I realized it was obvious. The only thing it could be was something that I had not been considering till now. “Dee, I think it’s about damn time you told me about the Shinigami and the Queen’s boundless wishes.”
“They are called ‘time in’ and ‘prayer’.”
“Here it is.” I had returned home from the hospital. Yua’s daughter, Mia, was put into an infinite coma. I didn’t understand what kind of disease did that to her in the first place. Or was it even a disease to begin with. So I decided to do some research on her and Yua. Detectives could be low profile, but there is always something about them or their cases in the media. And what I found about the detective Chieki, surprised me and filled a lot of gaps while creating many more at the same time.
It was a news article from one year ago:
“It was found this evening that the renowned detective Dakio Chieki was found dead in his house in Kanjou. It was clear murder, as he had been shot multiple times in the chest. The one who found this and called the police was his wife, Yua Chieki, who was out of the house when the crime took place. Police investigation has begun but there is little hope as there are no eye witnesses of the crime and no visual description of the suspect. Some even fear that there might be a serial killer on the loose.”
It was a very niche article that was posted on some private news blog. No major media channel had even bothered to cover this crime that took place in the unnewsworthy town of Kanjou.
Also, the article mentioned Yua and her husband, but there was no information about their daughter. It could’ve been that her condition was due to something entirely different. But the timing matched up too well. The lady at the hospital said that Mia had been admitted there for about a year. And the news article was also about a year old. This was too much of a coincidence. It could’ve been that Yua concealed it on purpose.
Still, there was a lot of new information gained from this article. The most prominent of which was, “She is not a private detective.” The article called her husband a detective, but not her.
“(But then, why does she pose as one?)” There was only one answer to Dee’s question that came to mind.
“She wants to catch the culprit. If I am right, not only did he kill her husband, but also put her daughter in a coma. I say revenge is a pretty solid motive to take her husband's ID. Being a private detective gains you access to a lot more resources than a normal person would ever have.”
“(So, she is basically impersonating as her husband to look for the killer.)”
“Yeah, but the one thing that I don’t understand is why is she using such a roundabout method. It has been about 4 months since the wish game started and she hasn’t caught him. If she is a wisher, can’t she just use a wish?”
“(She must’ve had a reason I am sure. After all, no one would give up a chance for easy revenge.)”
“Especially when her motive is so strong as well. There must be a very good reason to prevent her from doing that.” The only reason that came to mind was the boundless wish. So I tried to link her bizarre actions to the name of the boundless wish I had just learned at the hospital. I wanted to explore every possibility.
“Hey, so I was thinking. Stopping a person’s time. Isn’t that something that any wisher can wish for. I mean, it’s not like it affects any other wisher.”
“(Yes that is correct.)”
“Then why did you say that Mia’s condition was definitely the work of the Shinigami.”
“(That’s simple. Because that girl has no life.)”
“(She has a soul, but no life force. She is as good as dead. The only thing keeping her soul from departing is that time loop. Now the term "wish" is a characteristic of the living. Once you stop living, the laws of a wish don’t apply to you. That is why there is no wish that can bring the dead back or anything related to them. Same is the case for her. She has no life force, so she is as good as dead. No wish is able to make her recover. But Auz is the only one who can manipulate the time of a soul’s life. So, there couldn’t have been anyone other than him to loop her soul’s time like that.)”
“You can sense stuff like that?” Maybe I had found Dee’s first useful feature.
“(Of course. We cannot physically interact with this world, but we are well connected on a spiritual level. How else do you think we heard the wishes of so many people when we came here?)”
So, there was no other possibility than the shinigami to be with her. But I still couldn't see why she would not make any wishes to complete her cause. The time loop, the roundabout method, the shinigami’s secondary wish. There was a link in between them but I could connect the dots at all.
“She is dangerous,” was the only conclusion I came to.
Dee was surprised at my sudden remark that came out of nowhere, “(What makes you say that?)”
“She is dangerous because she isn’t taking part in the game. She basically became a wisher because of her personal reasons and now she is only pursuing her cause.”
“I don’t see how that makes her dangerous.”
“Don’t you get it. Both of the wishers that we met before were playing the game just like us. That put us in the same playground. But she has a different cause altogether and I don’t think she will care about the rules or even her life to get it. A dangerous balance between thinking and unpredictable actions based on emotion.”
“It’s not like you to talk like that,” Dee sounded concerned, “Aren’t you supposed to look down on every other opponent that we might face?”
“I would, if they were a normal wisher. But with someone like Yua, frankly I can’t see myself winning here.”
The whole reveal of her past had thrown me off. Yua, to me, was that person that always wanted to keep things fun and simple. Who didn’t think negatively and only tried to look at the positive stuff. She was almost like Asada. But now, I knew that there was another side to her. A side I hadn’t seen before. And if I tried to cross her, it would bite.
“Unless,” I hit upon an idea, “I don’t fight her.”
“(How are we going to do that? She isn’t just gonna give up you know.)”
“No. But if we can manipulate her, we can.”
“It’s obvious. By manipulating the one manipulating her.”
“(Ok, I lost you.)”
“Her purpose: The killer. If we get to the killer before her, we can have an advantage over her.”
“(I still don’t understand why. But if you are thinking of something, then go for it. But the thing is, she has been looking for that killer for at least four months to a year. And she still hasn’t found him. What makes you think you can.)”
“I could give it a try.” I took my phone and searched the internet for articles about Detective Daiko Chieki’s murder. If he was a serial killer, then even if major news networks may not have covered the story, but niche blogs would have. Turns out I was right. He was a serial killer with a past history of taking out law enforcers. Anyone in law enforcement from policemen to judges, he had taken them all down.
But unlike other serial killers, the time between each kill was vast. Spanning from months to years. Also, his hunting ground was wide too. He had struck in different cities and towns. So, the question, where was he now?
“It’s simple. Why do you think Yua is in Tokyo all the time, despite being a resident of Kanjou,” I presented the answer I reached.
“(To see her daughter,)” Dee gave the obvious answer.
“She can do that in like a few hours. Why spend the whole day here?”
“(Because the killer’s here,)” and he finally reached the real answer.
“And if a serial killer is in Tokyo, I don’t think the news would’ve just ignored it like Kanjou,” saying that I started looking at all the news related to a serial killer in Tokyo. The one we were looking for had to be the one with the most mysterious murders. Because, clearly, he was addicted to murders, but still had some amount of control over him. And the most relevant one that I found was the news article published about four months ago. Right about the time when the wish game started.
There was a rumor that a serial killer might be in Tokyo, but it died down pretty soon. What made me link it to the previous one was that he had targeted a police officer this time, on his day off no less. At his home when the other residents were out. Once again, there were multiple gunshot wounds on the victim’s chest.
That would confirm that he was the same killer and he was in Tokyo.
“Now I just need to find him.”
“(Tokyo is big. How do you plan to cover the area.)”
That may have been an issue but I had a few ideas.
“Dee come out,” and Dee came out instantly. “To be honest I could just use you for once. You can sense life force and mystical stuff like that. Finding a person shouldn’t be hard for you at all.”
“True, but… " he looked troubled and I knew why.
“We don’t know who the killer is or what he looks like at all.”
“Yup, and I can’t do anything without it,” and he smiled shamelessly.
“(So you are basically useless as always,)” I wanted to say that but kept that thought in my mind instead of voicing it because I thought of something else, “What about that thing you did last time?”
“You know, after we took down Raj Gupta, you enlarged yourself.”
“Like this,” all of a sudden his flames roared and his body grew in size. But seeing it again and in such an environment, I didn’t feel any fear at all.
“Does that make you stronger or anything? Like being able to delve deeper into people’s hearts or anything convenient like that,” I asked. I had been curious about it for some time now. And being the idiot that he is, he just told me.
“Nah. I just changed the appearance of my mantle. I can do a lot of other things with this too.”
“So they are party tricks. Basically useless.” I said it anyway. “I shouldn’t have expected anything. Get back in.”
He made an annoyed face and got back. “Guess I am on my own,” I pulled out a site on the internet.
“(What are you doing?)”
“If there is one difference between me and Yua, that is I have been coming to Tokyo since I was six. I know this city like the back of my hand.”
“(So, you know someplace where we might find him?)”
“Better. I know a way to call him out. This is a site created by a resident of junkyard. As the name suggests, it is a place where all of the city’s trash lives. From homeless to addicts. And from time to time, criminals lay low there as well. The person who developed this site uses it to circle information among them and even sells it.”
“(I don’t want to know how you got access to this site. But good job as always.)”
“I just need to post something that might get his attention.”
After thinking for some time, I started typing: ‘You think you are smart. But you made one mistake when you killed Daiko Chieki. I know who you are and I have proof in my apartment.’
And I posted it. The site showed my address in the junkyard building. In reality, no such address existed and it was just an empty corner of the building.
“(Do you think that he would come on such lame provocation?)”
“The thing about mysterious people like him is that they are extremely cautious. He may have ignored us if we published it in the newspaper or something. But this is one of the most underground networks in the city. He will come. And most probably with the intent to kill.”
I stood inside the convenience store, keeping an eye on a grey building. This was the infamous junkyard. The home to every homeless and junkie in Tokyo . And the place for a psychotic criminal to appear after learning about my post.
I was just waiting for him to show up. The only problem was how I would recognize him. I also wanted to do this before the train arrived at the station so I could go home with Myra. But if push came to shove, I would ditch. As I was planning out my strategy, a car pulled up and parked right outside the store. A car that I had seen before. Belonging to a certain self proclaimed detective.
“(Yua? What is she doing here?)”
“(Apparently, she isn’t as bad of a detective as we thought.)”
She had taken months and still not caught him. I expected her to not catch on to this as well. But somehow, she was already onto the killer.
I should’ve tried to avoid contact with her as it could complicate things, but it was a prime opportunity to identify the killer as well. All I had to do was observe Yua, who clearly knew who the killer was.
She had her head against the steering, as if she was too tired to sit straight. She stayed like that for a good 15 minutes. I was not sure that she would even notice the killer coming, so I tried my best to keep watch as well.
Then all of a sudden, Yua lifted her head. She kept looking in the direction of the building. I tried looking there as well, but there were a lot of people walking there. Though there was this one guy in a suit. Very skinny, disheveled hair and wearing a face mask. Clearly, his appearance didn’t match his outfit.
Yua hastily got out of the car, her expression had become tense. An expression of rage I thought I would never see on her face. She ran straight into the crowd. As soon as the man in the suit got one look at her, he bailed. He ran in the opposite direction and Yua followed him. Despite his scrawny build, he ran quite fast and Yua was not able to catch up instantly.
Soon, they disappeared behind the buildings. I dropped the magazine, got out of the store and ran after them. But just then, “(Negai. It’s Myra.)” Dee stopped me.
“Negai. What a coincidence running into you on the way home,” and just the next moment, I heard Myra’s voice. “So, what are you doing anyway?”
“(Trying to run after Yua and a serial killer.)” I could just say that, but I kept that idea to my head.
“I thought I saw Yua running that way, so I thought I would check,” I came up with a fairly true excuse.
“Yua? Running? I mean, she is quite perky for her age, but even she won’t start running in the middle of the street for no reason,” she laughed off my words. “But if you want to, we can check up.”
“Yeah, sure.” I just wanted an excuse. They could very well be gone by now, but they were still on foot. They couldn’t have left the area.
“OK, lets go,” announced Myra and we started walking into the direction Yua and the killer went. Just as expected, they were nowhere to be seen even after we turned. But still, I went on with the hope that maybe I would find them when we took the next corner. But when we turned, all of a sudden someone came running straight into Myra.
“Myra!” a shout left my mouth reflexively as I pulled Myra back by her arm. And the person crashed straight into me. My whole world shook as my bottom met the ground.
“Negai, are you alright?” Myra instantly squatted down to me. I looked at the person. A skinny man with disheveled hair, wearing a suit and a face mask. He didn’t even bother to look at me as he got up and ran away.
“Hey, at least apologize,” Myra shouted, as the person broke into the gray building from the windows. I, on the other hand, wanted to run after him, but I decided not to act suspicious in front of Myra. At least I knew that he was inside that building now. I just needed to separate myself from Myra by an excuse and then reach him.”Wait a minute,” Myra was almost about to run after him when I stopped her.
“Come on. It’s just a push. It didn’t hurt me or anything.”
“If you say so,” she didn’t look satisfied, but still obeyed me. She gave me a hand and helped me up. Before we gathered any attention from bystanders, I dusted off my back and moved on.
Just the next turn, we saw Yua, looking a bit troubled as she kept looking here and there frantically.
“You were right, she is here,” Myra said and she ran towards her, “Yua!”
Hearing someone call her name, Yua turned to see Myra. The tense expression on her face eased up a bit.
“Myra, what are you doing here?”
“We were just heading home,” Myra said as she pointed towards me.
“Oh I see,” Yua smiled at me. “You see, I am a bit busy at the moment.” She was probably still looking for that guy. But it was good for me that she had lost him. It made it easy for me to confront him without any pressure.
But as always, things didn’t go smoothly.
“Let me help,” went Myra. Her engine suddenly revved up.
“No, I think I need to do this on my own,” Yua tried to refuse her help politely.
“That’s fine. But if there is anything I could help with, no matter how little, please let me,” but of course Myra wasn’t going to back down.
Yua wanted to keep this personal, but of course Myra had no idea and was being insistent. Even more than usual. You could say even pushy. I, on the other hand, was only hoping that they would just go their separate ways.
“There is one thing,” but alas, Myra broke through as Yua started to open up to her, “can you tell me if you had seen a guy in a suit. He is also wearing a mask.” Hearing Yua’s description, Myra’s face instantly lit up.
“We just bumped into him around the next corner.”
“Really?” Yua became impatient as well. “Where? Take me.”
“Sure. He went into the gray building.” Myra smiled with the joy of helping others. And they both walked off towards the gray building.
“(Negai this is bad. Our plan is done for if Yua reaches him first,)” Dee was just as worried as I was.
“That’s not gonna happen,” I proclaimed as I took out the box cutter I kept on me and cut my finger as fast as I could. I may have overdone it a bit as blood spurted out and fell to the ground. I waited for both of them to turn the corner. I did not want Yua to see this especially.
“I wish the gray building and the building in front of it would swap appearances for 10 minutes.”
As soon as I said that, Dee came out, “Wish accepted. Bound.” They had just turned the corner. The buildings were still around the next corner, so they should not be able to see them. As soon as I was done, I ran after them, while placing a handkerchief against my bleeding finger.
Just as I turned the second corner, I saw that the buildings had swapped. Myra looked a bit confused, but ultimately went into the gray building that, actually, was the opposite building. Just as they walked in there, I took the chance and ran into the opposite building. I had about nine minutes to find and confront that killer. He was the only factor that could allow me to beat Yua.
I went to the location I mentioned in the post. It was a dark corner with no one around. Just the sounds of someone messing around with something.
“Hello there,” I said and he almost jumped out. He looked at me.
“Who are you?”
“The one who called you here. I posted that.”
“Is that so,” he took out a knife, “that’s perfect. Now I could get you to tell me where that proof is?” I was glad he just didn’t bring a gun.
“There is nothing.”
“I said there is nothing. I just wanted to lure you out.”
“Is that so. That is very fortunate. Because I can now kill you purely for fun,” he said as he ripped his mask off, revealing a twisted, scarred smile.
“We will see that,” he pulled away the handkerchief and let my finger bleed, “Dee.” The Jinn came out. At that moment, I made a gamble that would either let me beat Yua or get me killed. I made a wish.