Chapter 5:

Tale Two: Coward Crocodile (4)


“Huh? He… He’s okay. Thanks for asking. What does my older brother have to do with anything, though…?”Bookmark here

I see. She was-Bookmark here

“Nothing at all. So, if Philip is not here, then who is causing the incidents? What’s the true reason behind all the devices breaking?”Bookmark here

“It’s…. Philip, of course. Philip’s ghost from eight years ago. I’m sure you have to have met him, though? He’s always going around the house breaking stuff when you least expect it.”Bookmark here

For her, two Philips existed. Her real brother, who was probably attending some university and not living at the family residence – and this ghost of Emma’s mind, who had caused all the mischief that had led to this incident.Bookmark here

“Not at all. Ever since I first came to this house, I have only interacted with two other people. Nick… and you. I haven’t met Philip, not once.”Bookmark here

“Huh?! How’s that even possible?! Nick, tell him! He can’t have just missed him!”Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

Nick stayed silent, his expression rapidly clouding. Emma obviously picked up on this.Bookmark here

“Nick?! Not you too! You… You said you believed me! That you saw him too!”Bookmark here

“Emma, please calm down. I do believe you, but… but don’t lie to yourself. You know I can’t see him. He’s just inside your mind, nowhere else.”Bookmark here

“What…? But… but…”Bookmark here

I silently watched over this pitiful spectacle. I see, this girl really needed help, and as urgently as possible.Bookmark here

“Please, Emma, calm down! I-it’s okay, everything is okay, I promise- Agh!”Bookmark here

He had suddenly gotten punched in the face. This… This was…Bookmark here

“How can you even say that?! You… you don’t know anything! You don’t know what I’m going through…!”Bookmark here

She knelt down and broke into tears. Of course, she was right. There was no way we could have known – there was no way anyone else could see what she saw, hear what she heard, feel what she felt.Bookmark here

After all, that in itself was the nature of her affliction-Bookmark here

“I… I have to apologize to you, Emma.”Bookmark here

My somber tone must’ve shocked her, since she stopped sobbing and directed her gaze towards me from the floor where she was.Bookmark here

“Huh? What… what do you want now? What do you mean?”Bookmark here

“I… When I saw the computer conveniently break just as you were opening that app, and when you claimed that all electronic devices had broken at the exact same time… I didn’t believe you. I honestly believed it was all a farce, and that for some reason you’d decided it would be fun to pull a bad prank on me… But now I understand.”Bookmark here

Yes.Bookmark here

Even though I couldn’t see it, nor hear it, nor feel it – I understood. Bookmark here

“The supernatural being that haunts you, who has caused all of this pain to you… the Coward Crocodile. Philip’s ghost from eight years ago is one of its manifestations. Whatever caused you to suddenly cut power to the computer forcing it to restart is another one. Do you… know where its name comes from?”Bookmark here

“…No.”Bookmark here

By this point, Emma had long stopped crying, and her face was much calmer and more composed than it had been mere seconds before.Bookmark here

“The crocodile is closely related to primal instincts. Like survival, like reproduction, like… fear. Your fear of your brother’s ghost, who kept pursuing you and didn’t let you live in peace or quite a while. And the coward part… uhhh, it has a variety of interpretations. For this particular tale though, I believe the only coward is me, the detective. I refused to see the truth until I had no choice but to do it, and made this more complicated and long than it needed to be. And that’s why I apologize, from the bottom of my heart.”Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

It was awkward.Bookmark here

Nobody spoke.Bookmark here

Clouded expressions, faces looking down, tense atmosphere.Bookmark here

I broke the silence once more.Bookmark here

I wanted this pitiful tale to come to a close, and if possible, with the happiest ending I could achieve.Bookmark here

“… Nick, please tell me. Why has Emma been left like this? Why aren’t her parents or her brother here with her?”Bookmark here

“They are on a business trip right now. They went away a few days before Emma started to… You know…”Bookmark here

“Lose sight of reality?”Bookmark here

“I guess that’s a way to put it. But yeah. Her parents can’t come back until three days from now, even though they’ve tried all they can think of. And she refuses to let her brother know. And well, I didn’t want to make her feel worse, so I didn’t call Philip… I just had her stay here at home without going to school, and came to spend the afternoon with her every day I could.”Bookmark here

“I see… Yeah, I think I understand. But if Emma’s parents are coming in just three days, why would you call me now of all times?”Bookmark here

“… Because that’s what I thought would benefit both of you the most.”Bookmark here

“Huh. Yeah, you’ve got a point. Anyway, I believe all my questions have been answered, and that I’ve explained all I meant to explain. So with that, I think my job is-”Bookmark here

“Wait.”Bookmark here

It was Emma who intervened this time. She had remained silent with her gaze fixed on the floor for quite some time now.Bookmark here

“What is it, Emma?”Bookmark here

“Those pieces of paper sticking out from your pocket. Can you please give them back?”Bookmark here

Ah. I had forgotten I was still carrying those letters of Emma’s. Guess those remained unexplained.Bookmark here

“… ‘Please, brother, please. I beg that you forgive me. I thought that version of you had disappeared forever. But now... why, why are you doing this to me?! What can I do to obtain your forgiveness?!’ That’s what this one says. Should I read any more?”Bookmark here

“… No, it’s… It’s okay. I don’t want to see them again.”Bookmark here

I grabbed them all with both hands and, just as I had done with many more of these up in Emma’s room, I tore them apart until they were completely unreadable, and threw the remains in the nearest trash can.Bookmark here

“Anything else I should address? Emma? Nick?”Bookmark here

They both seemed to think about all that had been explained so far, and shook their heads in unison.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

As both Nick and I left Emma’s home, we once more engaged in our usual talks. Though this time, the topic was much less trivial and changing than normal.Bookmark here

“Are you sure it’s okay to leave Emma alone right now? She could still have another outburst, right?”Bookmark here

I said, worry showing in my expression. However, Nick ddin't seem concerned in the slightest.Bookmark here

“Nah, that won’t happen. And if it does, I think she’ll be able to keep herself in check.”Bookmark here

“I sure hope as much. This case was really tiring all things considered, wouldn’t want it to be for nothing.”Bookmark here

“Sheesh, dude, have some trust in her! And I guess in your own work too, since you’re the one who saved her today, haha!”Bookmark here

“You know that’s a lie. You’re the only one we should both be thanking.”Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

“Still, okay, okay. I’ll stop worrying too much. I leave it all in your capable hands, oh Mister Boyfriend.”Bookmark here

“W-what?! We’re not going out, you know?”Bookmark here

“… That’s unironically the most surprised I’ve been today. Oh, wait, never mind. I got your trick, you dirty asshole. You thought you could lie to me like that, huh? Fuck off.”Bookmark here

“Huh? What’s that trick you’re talking about? I didn’t lie, you know.”Bookmark here

“Shut up. I said shut up. I don’t wanna hear you speak, lucky asshole. Twisted devil of a human being.”Bookmark here

“The hell, man? Why are you so mean to meeeeee!!!”Bookmark here

We both laughed together in that way only people who know and understand each other fully can manage.Bookmark here

Before I knew it, we were already in front of my house again. Seems we had both put the autopilot on and forgotten about everything else.Bookmark here

Nick was about to return to his own home a bit down the street, but I stopped him before he could go.Bookmark here

“Hey, wait a second. Gotta give you something.”Bookmark here

“Hm? Sure. Hurry up though!”Bookmark here

Less than two minutes later, I came down with two small items, and gave them to Nick. He seemed surprised when he saw what they were.Bookmark here

“Oh, it’s that movie I asked you for, and… pills?”Bookmark here

“Give ‘em to Emma. Should somewhat help her keep her outbursts under control.”Bookmark here

“…Oh. Thank you. Will do.”Bookmark here

“Thanks.”Bookmark here

“Anyway, friend. Been a fun one, but I gotta do my homework now, and you’ve got an exam tomorrow. So we should probably go do our parts now.”Bookmark here

“Hahaha! What are you talking about? Like hell I’m gonna go study after this, mate! It’s gamer time now!”Bookmark here

“So you say. Can’t wait for you to come crying with a 6 on your test.”Bookmark here

“Fuck off, Nicholas.”Bookmark here

“Same for you. See you tomorrow!”Bookmark here

“Bye! And thanks for everything!”Bookmark here


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