When the girl from the hotel front and I went to Shuri's room, she was on the bed, trying to get up.
"What happened?" I asked.
"Kyosuke-kun, stay here...please stay with me," she said.
"Hey, careful what you're saying," I said.
I was, surprisingly, a guy who went for pretty girls. This applied to the girl from the hotel front as well.
As soon as she had realized I wasn't understanding her fast English back in the restaurant, she spoke to me as slowly as possible until we got to Shuri-san's room.
According to the girl, Shuri-san had returned from her room and had been passing by the front, on her way back to the plaza, when she suddenly started sobbing and collapsed. She had seemed quite upset, and two people from the front had helped her to her room.
"Gracias," I said, and the girl laughed.
"If you need anything else, just call me," she said, and left.
Being careful not to sound like I was accusing her of anything, I turned and said as slowly as I could to Shuri-san:
"What happened? Can you tell me? Who...who did you talk to on the phone."
"I can't tell you!" she said.
She couldn't look at me. She just shook her head. Her voice trembling, she repeated, "I can't tell you, I can't!"
"Stay here...stay here, please, Kyosuke-kun."
"I'm here. It'll be okay."
But in the next instant, I was pulled into the bed with more strength than I had thought possible for a girl. I tried to get my balance, but she held my head firmly.
"Shuri-san!" I said in surprise, but then her mouth was pressed against mine. It was like her mouth was in and of itself a tiny, fast-moving animal. The sweet smell of tequila and her own rapid breath made me unable to move.
This is dangerous!
Kyosuke, this is really dangerous!
I am Kyosuke Kasuga, twenty-two years old. This is the first time I've ever been in a situation like this. As could be expected, Madoka's face kept appearing and disappearing in my mind.
But, I was quite unable to think so logically...my "son (29)," or rather, the part of my body which had become straight, was functioning normally. The bottom line is, I started answering Shuri-san's motions.
I'm sorry, Madoka. I know I've committed sins against you in the past.
In the next instant, though, a shock of realization went through me.
Shuri-san had at some point opened the top button of her one-piece dress, and the breasts which had been shining vermilion at me were now in front of me. Then, like a child being held down by his mother, I was pushed in between those breasts, my freedom taken away.
"Please...stay with me. Make love to me. It's okay."
I am a genuine sex pervert. I sometimes fantasize about sex so much that I disgust even myself.
But , what she had just said to me made me think.
She wasn't interested in me at all.
I mean me, the individual.
If it had been anyone else, she might have been doing the same thing with them.
She seemed scared of being alone, and wanted to escape it somehow.
"Kyosuke-kun?" Realizing that I had both stopped struggling to get away and searching for her, she had spoken in surprise. "What's wrong?"
I didn't answer her. I just stared at a point on the wall in the darkness.
Shuri-san slowly released her hold on me, moving far enough away from me that only our shoulders touched.
Just then, happy voices sounded from the plaza below. The sound of a guitar. The sound of a man singing amid the applause of onlookers.
Continuing to look at the wall, I turned my head to listen. Shuri-san said into my ear:
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry."
I didn't look at her. It wasn't because I was still angry at her. It was because I thought she would want me to not look at her. (30)
Shuri-san and I were pulled into sleep then, as if by the mariachi below.
"Hey, Madoka!" Chiru Chiru Michiru yelled, running out of Cafe Spoofing. But she was already astride his Harly Davidson
"I'm sorry. I'll return it to you, I promise." She had spoken Japanese without thinking, but said it again in English.
You've got to calm down, Madoka!
Vroom! The Harley's engine caused Madoka's body to vibrate. She flashed a confident smile at Chiru Chiru Michiru , who was still trying to stop her, and dashed off into traffic.
Her destination was West Side, 14th Street, not too far from Greenwich Village.
She knew she had been right. Hikaru was still right here in Manhattan.
She had been able to estimate Hikaru's location judging from various information gathered from the Cafe Net. She was able to estimate that the signal had not originated all that far from the area.
Meanwhile, Madoka was able to get information on street gangs in a chat room.
One conversation them went like this:
_<There's a warehouse near my house which has served as a base for some young punks, for three or four days, more like a week. Could it have anything to do with the 'Bye Bye Star' incident?>_
In response to this:
_<Is that warehouse the one on West Side 14th Street? It faces the Hudson River. It's a warehouse for a company called Albertson, which closes around Christmas.>_
_<Now that you mention it, there's a group of guys who come to buy burgers a lot near there. I hadn't seen them before. Me? I'm the manager of a burger shop near the warehouse. This group is really odd. They don't seem to be friends. One of them, a girl, comes every day, three times a day for take out, and always buys food for two people. I mean, every day! It seems like she likes our food quite a bit.>_
Madoka sent a private chat message to the manager of the burger shop asking about the girl who came to buy food three times a day.
_<Ah, are you a friend of hers, Teddy Bear-chan? I don't mind telling you more about her. I think she's Spanish. Her age is about twenty. Or a little more? She's quite pretty. She looks like the girl from Flash Dance. What was her name? Oh yes, Jennifer Beals. She speaks like a New Yorker. You know that Spanish-Americans usually have accents.>_
Madoka first thought that, because her age was close to Hikaru's, the woman might be a friend of hers.
In this way, information arrived through the BBSs in increasing amounts, as the users helped search for the culprits (31) like some sort of board game.
And, whenever new and useful information came in, Anita Brussel would up the ante by increasing the reward money. Like game-loving "computer otakus" exchanging information into the night, and, like basketball players stealing the ball from each other, the movement had energy of its own.
Eventually, the policeman who was a regular of the Cafe Net, noticed that the clothing of this group of men matched a group he was after for suspicion of robbery. He immediately proceeded to West 14th Street and captured one of the men. This led to the Cafe Net group getting some very gratifying information.
The pocket of the captured man contained a clue: a bandana, one that you could buy anywhere. But this bandana was signed with the Star* name.
Madoka turned left off of Christopher Street, said to be the "Mecca (32) of gays," and onto Bank Street. She smelled the water.
She could see the Hudson River. The surface of the water was dyed with vermilion. Usually it was dangerous to walk around this area when it started to get dark, or even to drive here in a nice car.
When Madoka turned onto West Street, which runs along the river, she had to reduce the Harley's speed. Many people from the Cafe Net were gathered there.
With them were several police patrol cars, arriving with their sirens on.
Madoka clicked her tongue absentmindedly.
With the clutch half in and the throttle opened all the way, Madoka darted in between the cars.
But just then, she heard several gunshots in front of her.
Hikaru had heard the gunshots and the sound of the keys opening the locked door almost at the same time.
There was no knock.
Without thinking, Hikaru stiffened her body and readied her nerves. Her legs and back, once so limber from daily dance training, were almost paralyzed.
But the only thing to do now was protect herself. Hikaru started going over various methods of self-defense in her mind.
The door opened, and in came the white man and the black man, faces looking tense. Hikaru felt she would never forget the white man as long as she lived. He had been the one who held a knife to her, intent on raping her.
She had never seen the black man before. This meant that the group was larger than she had thought. How large? How organized? Hikaru couldn't imagine.
Beyond the open door, Hikaru could hear gunshots.
Before she could do anything to resist them, the two men came to Hikaru and put their hands on her, lifting her up.
But just then, Monica rushed into the room.
"Monica!" Hikaru called out without thinking, but Monica didn't have time to answer her.
The white man yelled something at Monica in southern-accented English. Hikaru couldn't make out what he was saying. But she understood the stern "No!" that Monica said next.
It seemed as if the men were preparing to run away, using Hikaru as a shield.
Monica's conversation with the men reverted to Spanish, now. This seemed to be the language they all used with each other. It wasn't rare to find someone who could speak many languages in Manhattan.
The three continued their argument, until Monica, angry, aimed the gun at the men's feet and fired, to threaten them.
The white man's milk-colored forehead suddenly turned red with anger; he dove onto the floor in Hikaru's direction, then shot at Monica.
The bullet entered Monica's abdomen, and fresh blood spilled onto the lamp beside her.
Hikaru tried to roll over to Monica. But the rope that tied her kept her from moving in the direction she wanted, binding her to the UNIX workstation.
Just then, from the opposite side of the door came a voice, shouting at the two men.
It was in Spanish also. Perhaps the police had entered the building. There were more gunshots, which sounded like the building itself was coming apart.
The white man was acting as if he was sorry he had shot Monica. He was crying openly, looking down at her on the floor below him.
But the black man pulled him up, and he nodded. Both ran back to where their friends were, out of the room.
Gritting her teeth with pain, Hikaru managed to remove the rope from the UNIX workstation and roll towards Monica.
"Hikaru!" Monica said. She was on her back, apparently unable to move her body at all. The floor was stained red with her blood.
"Monica, you'll be okay!"
"Hikaru...in my right pocket..." Monica was saying.
Hikaru searched Monica's pocket, nearly slipping in Monica's blood. The pocket contained a knife.
Smiling slightly through her agony, Monica said, "With that...you can escape."
"But it's not because of me that you're able to escape."
Hikaru didn't understand.
"It's because you won, Hikaru. You did it yourself."
Hikaru cut her own ropes, and immediately picked Monica up. She wrapped her in the sleeping bag.
"Monica, be strong! You've got to be strong!"
Monica seemed about to fall into a deep sleep; Hikaru knew that it was a sleep she would never return from. Hikaru slapped her cheek, hard.
"The police have come, right? How about your friends? How many of them are there?"
Monica was smiling again. She gathered her strength and said:
"Hikaru...we were hired to kidnap you..."
"We were...were told to take you to Mexico."
"Mexico? Why take me to Mexico?"
"Do you know the Pyramid of the Sun?"
Of course Hikaru had heard the name. It was the third largest pyramid in the world, found in the ruins of Teotihuacan. Hikaru had wanted to go to Mexico to climb to the top.
"I know it. But why...?"
"'The legend of Atlantis.'"
Hikaru didn't understand.
"...It's crazy, totally stupid..."
"Monica, what are you talking about?"
"Hikaru, you're supposed to be sacrificed..."
Hikaru felt her body go stiff. "Sacrificed?"
"Yes...we were told to bring you to Mexico...and on the night of the full moon...you were to be sacrificed, like they used to do it a long time ago...to be killed."
"That's crazy," Hikaru exclaimed. "But why?"
"To get revenge for...the production that was closed down to make room for 'The Legend of Atlantis.'"
Hikaru was confused. "That would mean..."
"Yes, your enemy is Anita Brussel."
"It can't be!"
Hikaru felt the blood leave her face.
The bankruptcy of the musical "Alice on Fifth Street" which was to star Anita Brussel was a big shock to anyone who, like Hikaru, aimed to be a musical star.
Even a huge star like Anita was susceptible to an audience's negative reaction. This was the bitter reality.
There had been rumors that the ones who forced the closing of her musical had been an alliance of businesses working as a group.
There was even gossip that the Japanese companies that had put up capital for "Alice on Fifth Street" had been disappointed by the poor attendance, and had switched their financial support to "The Legend of Atlantis." Anita nearly went mad when she heard the news.
"I couldn't believe it either...I mean, when I heard that the person who had hired us was Anita Brussel...we changed the game plan."
"What do you mean?"
"We told her, if you want the Japanese girl, it'll cost you. I had planned to sell you to her. I wanted to get back at her, and then see that crazy woman parade down Broadway naked!"
The color had already drained from Monica's face. But now, with an anger that seemed to be recalled now, it returned.
"Anita! Crazy bitch. I laugh when I hear about how she's known for protecting minorities. She's done a lot of damage to me over the years.
"Hikaru...back when I was like you, with a dream of making it on Broadway...the one who crushed all my dreams was Anita Brussel."
Hikaru was shocked.
"'Should I let you live, or kill you? It's all up to me. You...die.' She said this to me. She looked me in the face and...it was Anita Brussel. It was her!"
Monica was looking straight at Hikaru. Her face was beautiful, but it held a lot of pain.
"Hikaru. Tomorrow night, please go to the Pyramid of the Sun."
"Anita Brussel has really gone insane. She's waiting for one person to be a sacrifice."
"What do you mean?"
"Hikaru, another girl is going to be killed in your place."
"We hid you here, so Anita ordered us to prepare another girl to be sacrificed."
"What! But the person who's to be sacrificed, it has to be someone who has something to do with The Legend of Atlantis, doesn't it?" Hikaru said this, then her breath stopped. "It's Shuri, isn't it? You kidnapped her, and took her to Mexico in my place."
"You're wrong..." Monica was saying. "She wasn't taken there. You have to go of your own free will."
Hikaru understood everything. But she didn't want to believe it.
As if she had seen into Hikaru's's heart, Monica said, "The girl, who hired us, who tried to sell you to Anita. Her name was Shuri...Anzai."
Hikaru felt her body falling into the whiteness.
I found out all of this just about the same time.
The person known as H. Hikaru returned to the hotel that evening. It was a totally different person entirely. It was a Japanese man named Hikaru Hida. The reason why people had mistaken him for a female was, well, he was very effeminate, and was one of those men who insist they're women.
Well, all of this didn't matter right now, but what did matter what Shuri-san. She had run immediately to her room, and, acting like a mad woman, started packing her suitcase.
By the time I had explained the situation to Hida-san and returned to the room, she had finished packing and was ready to leave.
"Shuri-san, what's going on?" I asked her.
I'm Kyosuke Kasuga, age twenty-two. If you say I'm immature, I'd have to agree with you. I finally began to wonder what was going on with this girl.
Shuri-san had a large shoulder bag that surfers sometimes use, slung over her shoulder.
"Hikaru must be in New York after all," she said.
We had been checking the Cafe Net since that morning.
Various information about Hikaru-chan had shown up on the screen of the notebook-type Mac that Mr. Chiru Chiru Michiru had lent us. We knew that some of the people posting information were in contact with Madoka. The information seemed to be true.
But we had gone on hoping that the person named H. Hikaru would turn out to be Hikaru Hiyama.
"Kyosuke-kun, you should run away from here. You should get as far away from me as you can."
"If I don't bring Hikaru to the Pyramid of the Sun tomorrow night, I'm going to be killed."
"What?" I said.
"I'm sorry. I tried to sacrifice Hikaru."
After she finished speaking, she tried to run out of the room.
"Wait a minute, Shuri-san!" I said, holding onto her arm physically. I didn't hold her all that strongly, but at that moment, her upper body flopped forward, and she seemed like she was dead, lying there on the floor.
Shuri had been unable to go on with the charade any longer. As if was releasing something she'd carried inside her for a long time, she began to cry.
Just as the sun started to fill the plaza with purple colors, Shuri-san finally began to tell me the truth.
Shuri-san had not enjoyed finding out that Hikaru had gotten a very good position at the audition for the play. Secret;y embittered by this, she had been considering returning to Japan for good. But her parents would force her to get married, and she couldn't endure that...
She told me these things one after another, seeming to be asking me, an outsider, to judge her.
"That's when Anita approached me."
"She approached you?"
"Yes. By the time...her eyes had changed. She made me sign a contact with her. If I wanted to make it in New York, I had to do what she said."
"But why would Anita do something like that?"
"She wanted to get back at the Japanese companies who had slung mud on her face. By dooming The Legend of Atlantis this way, she could maintain her own pride."
"Jesus!" I said.
"Yes, she had gone crazy...and so had I."
"But the people who I hired were good what they do."
"In Manhattan, there are people who will kill a couple of people for you and think nothing of it, if you just give them some money. I met a girl with Indio blood in her named Monica, and asked her to kidnap Hikaru. Taking Hikaru out of her apartment went without a hitch."
I was getting angrier and angrier. As she told me the details of what happened, her tone changed, and it was as if she was a different person entirely. I remembered something she had said to me earlier:
"I'd fall in love with someone...without thinking about what kind of person he was, or what situation he might be in himself...So my relationships just go cold. Usually I'm the one who starts the chill. That's why I don't stay with one person for very long."
Shuri-san went on.
"But when Monica found out that the person who put me up to it was Anita Brussel, her whole attitude changed. She has had a bad time because of her. With Hikaru kidnapped and hidden somewhere, I was unable to contact Monica myself.
I could guess the rest. The group headed by this Monica person had held Hikaru-chan out of reach of Anita and Shuri.
Anita had blamed Shuri for the mess. Shuri had been assaulted at that point, and had been told that, if Hikaru-chan weren't found, Shuri would have to die in her place.
"So you understand it all now. That's why you have to get as far away from me as possible. As soon as Anita learns that I didn't come to the Pyramid of the Sun, she'll be after me. She's a terrifying person. Even if I go to the police, she can get me."
She said this, and replaced the shoulder bag on her shoulder.
I think I'm a fairly calm person. For example, if you tell me something bad about someone, I'm the kind of person who will give them the benefit of the doubt. Of course, this means that I come across as being indecisive (33).
But I was only thinking of one thing now:
_Poor Hikaru-chan...poor Hikaru-chan!_
In Bosnia, I saw many children die. Even though those children never did anything to anyone, they were suddenly killed one day. The responsibility for starting the war lay with some adults who the children had never even met. These adults had started the war, and each now pretended it was the fault of the other side.
Is that right, for the nation? For the people?
Looking at the corpses of children littering the ground...is that something you can say 'it couldn't be helped' about, and forget?
I threw up many times in Bosnia. Even when I didn't actually throw up, my chest hurt, and felt like I was about to. This was probably not because of the smell of their dead bodies...but their faces, which hadn't done anything to anyone...and that made me feel horrible, unable to breathe.
Like the dead children in Bosnia, this was a thing that could not be forgiven.
"Shuri-san, you changed everything inside your mind, didn't you," I said.
I felt just as I did on the battlefield in Bosnia. I felt like throwing up again, looking at Shuri-san.
"You switched everything around, inside yourself. The you who betrayed Hikaru-chan, and the you who thinks of herself as a victim. You switched these two persons, didn't you?"
Slap! I slapped Shuri-san's face.
"Are you listening to me?" I said. "Nothing you can do can make this okay. You're a criminal! You're not going to pretend you haven't done these things. Because of you, Hikaru-chan has had terrible things happen to her."
"I know...I'm sorry..."
"You can't just say you're sorry! Don't run away! Don't run away from me! I won't let you get away from me!"
I held onto her arm again. She returned my angry gaze. I sent my consciousness out into her, eyes fixed on her, and she immediately stopped, collapsing into my arms as if asleep.
I'm Kyosuke Kasuga. This was the first time I'd ever used the powers that were handed down through the Kasuga Clan for purposes such as this.
But it wouldn't do for me to let her get away.
But after that, just as Shuri-san had said, a strange group began following us around.
Foom! At the sound of the wall of the warehouse being destroyed, Hikaru withdrew into herself. Bullets were striking the walls around her.
Now was not the time to be shocked over the news of Shuri-san. Just outside the hold she had crawled into, the sounds of gunshots were growing louder.
Monica was barely alive. But still, she managed:
With the last of her strength, she handed her bloody Beretta pistol to Hikaru.
"Do you understand? Your enemy is Anita. The police won't believe you if you tell them. We could have been good friends."
"Monica! Why? Why did you join a group like this?"
"The one who almost raped you."
Hikaru recalled the face of the man who had held a knife to her. The face was different from the one he wore when she shot Monica.
Monica was smiling, as if embarrassed.
"He's a real jerk. A terrible person."
The end was near. The last agony was here, causing her to convulse. Then:
"Hikaru... Do you have good luck meeting men?"
She said this, and suddenly her trembling stopped. She looked into Hikaru's face for a moment, then like the receding tide, closed her eyes slowly.
Just then, the wall broke open. A giant machine entered the room.
Reflectively, Hikaru took Monica's pistol into her hand. Just then, her eyes opened wide.
The machine made a low, moaning noise that Hikaru felt in her stomach. Hikaru saw that it was a "chopper-style" Harley Davidson with modified handlebars. When Hikaru saw who was riding it, she couldn't believe her eyes.
When Madoka Ayukawa saw that Hikaru was unhurt, she smiled.
"Hikaru, you look as if you've just seen a ghost!"
"How did you know I was here?"
"I'll tell you later," Madoka said. "Who is this person?" Then Madoka noticed that the woman Hikaru was holding in her arms was dead. Hikaru shook her head, holding back the sobs.
It was the first time they'd seen each other in four years (34). But this fact didn't matter to the two women at all.
"Hikaru, can you stand?"
"Get on. I don't like this place. There are others besides the police hanging around."
"What? They must be friends of Anita."
"Yes, Anita Brussel."
Madoka couldn't believe it. "What did you say?"
Hikaru didn't answer. She lay Monica on the floor, and, unzipping the sleeping bag, covered the woman's face with it.
Monica. The turkey sandwich was delicious.
I mean it.
Then Hikaru wiped the bloody pistol on her sweater sleeve and put it in the pocket of her jeans. Then she got on the motorcycle behind Madoka.
"Hang on Hikaru!"
Madoka opened the throttle all the way.
Outside, they saw that the gun battle between the police and the crime group was continuing. The third group that Madoka had seen earlier was shooting at both of the others without discrimination.
Madoka hid the motorcycle among the other cars, then turned the bike south on 12th Avenue.
"What was that about Anita Brussel?"
"Madoka-san, she's the one behind all of this."
"What? You're kidding!"
"I'm still shocked by it all, too. But Monica...Monica told me everything."
"The person you were holding back there?"
"Yes. So I know I'm right about Anita."
Madoka couldn't say anything.
"Madoka-san, could you just keep going to Mexico from here?"
"Yes. We have to go to the Pyramid of the Sun."
Without waiting for Madoka's answer, Hikaru put her cheek against Madoka's back.
There was a mountain of things each wanted to ask the other, but nothing mattered anymore. They had found each other again. Now all that was imporant to each of them was the dear touch of the other.
A cold, cold wind from the Hudson was stinging their cheeks.
But Madoka and Hikaru only felt it as heat, and it felt good.
They turned onto Christopher Street, where "restaurant bars" stood one after another. Gay couples walked hand in hand here, almost as if the gun battle going on just a few blocks away was some kind of lie.
Madoka realized then that she had to go by the Cafe Spooning and return Chiru Chiru Michiru's motorcycle.