The armed attack on my car came right after we left Taxco.
After I heard the whole story from Shuri-san, I checked out of the hotel and left with her still unconscious. It would be best for us if we could somehow get back to Mexico City that night.
By the time we were leaving the city, the sun had already gone down.
I didn't notice it on the way up, but there were no lights on the partially paved road. There was nothing but darkness in the rear mirror.
Then suddenly, a light so bright that I wanted to cover my head and hide appeared in the rear view mirror.
Just as I was thinking that, something flashed, like small fireworks. This small light triggered a bad memory.
It was in Bosnia, during a sudden night attack, in the already war-torn night... It was the same light as that.
It was probably a good thing that Shuri-san was unconscious. It seemed that there was only one car behind us.
I slammed down the accelerator, waiting for a chance to make my counter attack. Just then, at the edge of my vision, I saw a cactus standing there.
Surprised, I ran over the cactus, moving past it quickly
I wasn't sure if the car behind me hit the cactus, but they put their brakes on suddenly, causing the car to start to spin. I heard the sound of their tires screeching as they spun around and around.
I kept the accelerator down all the way, and got the hell out of there.
Soon the lights of small motels started appearing along the road.
I thought it was dangerous to try to make it all the way to Mexico City tonight. I waited until I saw a sign for a motel that was away from the road a ways, and turned in.
It was your average cheap motel.
It was a two-story building, constructed in the shape of katakana ko (35), with all the hotel room doors in a line. In front of each room was a parking space. In the center of the plot of land, there was a small pool.
There were lights around the pool, and you could see the bottom, but it looked old and uninviting.
The motel office was right across from the pool.
I drove the car up to the office, and an extremely fat Mexican woman came out and indicated a place for me to park.
"Where are we?"
In the back seat, Shuri-san had regained consciousness.
"I don't mean to scare you, but I'm not sure where we are," I said.
"I was planning on going back to Mexico City, but..." I trailed off.
She must have understood what I was trying to say, because she sat forward, immediately alert.
"We were attacked, weren't we, Kyosuke-kun!"
I tried to smile. We were in this together. I could never forgive her for what she did to Hikaru-chan. But as long as we were together, I couldn't stay mad forever.
"Yes, that's right."
"How many were there?" she asked.
"One car. I'm not sure how many were inside. Anyway, let's stay here tonight. We haven't contacted Madoka yet, either."
I went into the hotel room, and called Madoka. But she wasn't at the hotel. A little discouraged, I plugged in the Mac and dialed into the Cafe Net.
This was when I found out that Hikaru-chan had been rescued.
"Hikaru is on 14th Street?"
Shuri-san was taking a shower then. When I read the email to her, she ran out of the bathroom with her hair wet. Then:
"Oh, thank God!"
She squat down on the edge of the bed and began to cry. While she was crying, she kept repeating, "I'm so glad...Hikaru!"
That must have been the only thing that kept her going right now, and it was like a magic spell for her.
She cried so much...repeated "I'm so glad" so often...that it seemed as if she had freed herself of the sin she had committed, even if only a little bit.
It looked to me as if Shuri-san, who was so tall, had become very small, like a child.
I could still never forgive what she did.
But there were other factors, such as the huge pressure that Anita placed on her. I thought about these things.
Just then, a new piece of email appeared on the network. I read it, and said, with terror in my voice:
"No, you can't be serious!"
This email had been posted with one person in mind.
_"Okay. We'll see you at the Pyramid of the Sun tomorrow. From <Star> plus <Teddy Bear>"_
"No way! They can't be coming here!"
"What?" Shuri-san said, her voice still full of tears. She looked at the Mac's screen.
She immediately exclaimed, "No! No, Hikaru, don't do it! Don't come here!"
Quickly, she reached for the Mac's trackpad, and started to send a message.
The half-mad Anita Brussel would be waiting at the Pyramid tomorrow. For Hikaru-chan to go there was like throwing herself into a trap!
Just then, something incredible happened.
The computer's monitor went blank before our eyes.
"What's happening?" Shuri-san said.
It was a pretty stupid thing to have happen. We were having a power outage.
It's possible to charge the Mac's battery, but unfortunately, I didn't know this at the time.
"Kyosuke-kun! Let's go to the hotel's office!"
We left the completely darkened room and went outside.
The lights around the pool were dark, as were the lights in all the other rooms. Several of the other guests had their doors open and were peering outside to see what had happened, but they didn't seem too surprised. It was probably something they were used to.
The misty sky above us shed some light. We used this light to make our way to the office.
There we found the rotund woman who had been there earlier. She was lighting a candle.
The woman smiled kindly at us, and in English with many trilled R's said, "Good evening."
Her English was extremely difficult for me to catch. I found myself breaking out in a cold sweat, just as before when I checked into the hotel.
But Shuri-san seemed used to this kind of English. I watched the two of them and waited for their conversation to end.
"What did she say?" I asked, butting in.
The woman laughed and handed us two candles. "Wait a while," she said.
"She says they have power outages quite often," Shuri-san told me. I had caught that much of the woman's speech.
"And? Will the lights come back on?"
"Tomorrow, maybe the day after."
"What!?" I said.
"I asked what caused it, and she said she didn't know. Also..."
"Even if we go to the next town, the lights are probably out there as well. She said, 'It happens a lot, but isn't it romantic?'"
"We're in a jam. There's no way to contact Madoka and warn her not to come."
"Hang on a minute, Kyosuke-kun," Shuri-san said.
"It's all be all right if we head for Teotihuacan tomorrow morning. We might be able to find Hikaru and Madoka before they get there."
I nodded my head silently to Shuri-san. She was right. But even so, I felt there was something Shuri-san was hiding from me.
This was because Shuri-san had talked in fast English and a little Spanish with the woman, apparently to keep me from finding something out.
That night, by the light of the two candles, we bought bread and cheese and wine which would take the place of water for us, for when we were to leave Taxco the next morning.
Then we got in our beds, but we didn't talk in any way that could be called conversation. I turned with my back to Shuri-san and stared at the light of the candle on the bedside.
I wanted to see Madoka. I also wanted to see Hikaru-chan, happy and safe.
And I began to think over and over again to myself that the reason these two desires couldn't be met were all because of the woman I had turned my back on.
But it was no good.
If a girl who had gone alone to a foreign country to live...was threatened by a powerful woman like Anita...
How long cold she be expected to resist?
Just then, Shuri-san seemed to remember something, and spoke to me.
I didn't answer.
"Don't you want to tie me up?"
She didn't mean it as a joke. For that reason, I just lie there, unable to answer.
I pushed my head deep into the and pretended to be asleep.
But Shuri-san grew silent, as if her words had been nothing but talking in her sleep.
The truth was, she had decided something in her heart.
The next morning, I awoke to the sound of a noisy car engine. It seemed to be an old car, and the sound was mixed with that of metal grinding on metal. It must have been the car we had seen last night, the one belonging to the people next door to us. It wasn't the car we had rented.
What are you saying, Kyosuke!
I sat up and looked at Shuri-san's bed.
I must have sensed, somehow, that Shuri would not be in her bed.
There was a scribbled note with this message:
_I'm sorry. I'm going to use the car. I'm going to the Pyramid of the Sun alone. I'm sorry, Kyosuke-kun. I can't let Hikaru die. It's always the same...I regret my actions after the fact. Oh, I just realized something--there's no such thing as regret before the fact, is there?
Kyosuke, I feel that if I stay with you any longer, I'm going to become a terrible, ugly person, and that makes me very sad. I'm sorry. And, thank you so much! (36) I finally realized the reason I can never continue for very long with one man. Please take good care of Madoka-chan!_
She seemed to have written the note in a hurry.
And yet, as if she wanted to be sure to say the things to me that she said. I knew that this was what she had wanted to say to me the night before.
Last night, when she was talking with the woman in the office, she was probably asking for directions to the Pyramid of the Sun, how long the trip took, et cetera.
I felt somehow childish, helpless. Like a clumsy idiot.
I slid out of bed, and threw open the curtains. The bright, harsh light of Mexico's sun stung my eyes.
I suddenly remembered there would be a full moon tonight.
The engine in the Chevrolet convertible that Madoka was driving made a pleasant sound as they headed north. If they continued on like this, they would reach Teotihuacan right as the sun was setting.
"So it was the alarm clock?"
In the passenger seat, Hikaru was looking over at Madoka.
"Yes. You remember, the one I gave you. The Teddy Bear alarm clock."
"I heard that it had been left in your room, from Shuri-san. So I knew that something was wrong. I mean, you carried that alarm clock everywhere you went."
"That's right!" Hikaru said. "It's terrible if I have to use any other alarm clock! I can't ever seem to wake up." She laughed.
Madoka and Hikaru had stayed up all night talking, as if the time would be wasted by sleeping. The events surrounding Hikaru's kidnapping occupied their conversation at first, but had eventually moved on to various topics they hadn't been able to discuss until now.
Four years apart from each other seemed like a very long time indeed, such that they couldn't say everything that had happened, but they were able to catch up with surprising ease. That was a good thing.
But when the subject of their conversation turned to Kyosuke Kasuga, both women were happy to avoid the subject.
For Madoka, it was because she could sense that Hikaru was still unable to forget Kyosuke completely; Hikaru, meanwhile, was hiding something from Madoka, the dangerous night she had spent with Kyosuke six months ago in Japan.
And so both women were unwilling to discuss the subject of Kyosuke.
When they left New York, Madoka called the hotel in Taxco Kyosuke had told her about. But Kyosuke and Shuri had already checked out.
According to the girl at the front who answered the phone, they had left together. So the probability that they were together still was high. If what Monica had told Hikaru was true, then Shuri would have Anita's minions after her, or worse, Shuri and Kyosuke were already Anita's prisoners.
Hikaru, looking tired, stared out the open window. Then, with the wind blowing her hair back:
"Mm? What's wrong, Hikaru? Tired?"
"No. I'm okay. I just feel...strange."
"Yes. When I was being held by Monica and her gang...I felt the same way, like I were really strong. Like my body's doing to explode with anger. I actually said, 'If you're going to kill me, then do it now!' to Monica."
"I see." Madoka kept her eyes ahead of the car, and smiled.
"But I don't feel full of anger now."
"What do you mean?"
"I'm talking about Shuri. I'm just can't get angry with her, no matter what I do. It's different with Anita. I can never forgive her. That's why I'm having you come with me all the way to Mexico. But when it comes to Shuri...I just don't feel that kind of anger I should."
Madoka didn't answer. It wasn't because she couldn't find any words to say. It was because Hikaru wasn't particularly looking to Madoka for an answer this time.
"I don't know... If I meet Shuri at the Pyramid of the Sun, I don't know how I'll react. I mean, because of her, many terrible things have happened. You and...Kasuga-senpai...have really gone out of your way because of all this."
"You've grown up."
"No, I haven't..." Hikaru shook her head and stuck her tongue out. "Look. _Nya nya!_"
"You have. You've become a woman."
"Uh-uh. No way. I mean, if I had really grown up like you said, I would have...contacted you. Called you. Gone to see you."
"It's true! I mean it. I'm...totally childish. I don't have a grown-up bone in my body. That's why I'm always..."
Hikaru stopped herself. She couldn't possibly tell Madoka that the reason she was going to Mexico was that she was still unable to get over Kyosuke.
Madoka noticed that Hikaru had started to say something then cut herself off, but she didn't ask further.
Actually, she was wondering what it was to be "grown up" in the first place.
Madoka had grown up alongside Hikaru ever since they were young (37). Because of this, Madoka had always seen herself as the grown-up big sister. On the other hand, Hikaru now seemed to have many times more experience than she.
In the summer of four years ago, Hikaru went very far away from Madoka, because of the problems with Kyosuke.
Since that time, Hikaru had had many problems and challenges to overcome.
But for Madoka, during that time, there was always Kyosuke Kasuga.
In this the two women's lives had differed greatly.
Because Madoka's parents lived overseas most of her life, Madoka was always thought to be strong and independent by the people around her. She thought this about herself.
But in reality, Madoka had slowly realized that, the more intimate she got with Kyosuke, the part of her that he occupied increased day by day. In the past, where she would have decided something alone, she was suddenly now consulting Kyosuke.
This was a big problem for Madoka. And, even as she was happy to be with Kyosuke, she was also thinking, is this really okay?
Hikaru's going off to New York to experience the world was something Madoka felt she could never have done.
"Hikaru," she said suddenly. She looked over at Hikaru. Then, in the same tone she used to use when they were in high school together, she said:
"Fasten your seat belt. I'm going to go fast. If you're not careful, you might fall out."
"_Hai_, Madoka-san," Hikaru replied, herself feeling like she had when she, Madoka and Kyosuke were three inseperable friends. She fastened her seat belt.
Brown-colored wilderness continued on forever on all sides of them. Madoka pressed the accelerator of the Cheverolet convertible all the way down.
At that moment, I, Kyosuke Kasuga, age 22, was at the end of my strength.
Well, what I mean is, Mexico is an incredibly vast country.
I was teleporting again and again, trying desperately to head towards the Teotihuacan ruins.
Using teleportation, that is to say, to move your body using only your mind, takes a lot of physical and mental strength. You have to move your body into the "crack" between dimensions, and this is really a lot of work.
The "bend" or "crack" in space is really hard to find because it moves around all the time in space.
You think, here it is! But then you find you've only moved ahead a few meters (I'm sure those of you who aren't espers won't understand what I mean).
Even if I am able to successfully insert myself into another dimension. From that point on it's a great dual of powers.
In other-dimensional space, something similar to magnetic energy runs back and forth. In teleportation, you find this energy and use it to turn in the direction you want to go. We Kasugas use our "consciousness" to catch this energy, then move our flesh in that direction.
This is not something one can continue for a long time. And when you're having difficulty concentrating, it's easy to end up in a totally different location altogether.
When I first started using my teleportation today, I had no problem going ten kilometers or so.
But when I used the power again and again, that distance got shorter and shorter.
On the way here, when I still had strength, I even stopped off at a town with a rental car agency.
But I was still feeling good at the time, and thought, "If I use the full powers of the Kasuga clan, it will be no problem to go to the Pyramid of the Sun."
But by the time the bright-red sun started to set in the wilderness around me, there wasn't so much as a pharmacy around me, and my breath was coming in wheezes.
But, like a God come to save me, out on the horizon, a truck was moving towards me.
In the truck was a nice Mexican couple. When I ran out in the middle of the street with both hands raised, smiles rose on their tanned cheeks, and they stopped for me.
In the bed of the truck were three children, along with various farming tools. These children wore the same shy smiles as the couple in the truck as they looked as me, an Asian, as if they were seeing something they didn't see every day.
"Will you take me to the nearest town?" I asked in English. They just replied in fast Spanish. The only Spanish I knew was "thank you" which is "gracias" and "good-bye" which is "adios."
But when I gestured that they should let me into the truck, the couple seemed to understand, and motioned for me to get into the back of the truck.
"Gracias!" I said, and got into the truck bed. When I sat next to the children, who seemed to have been talking about me, laughed and nudged each other in fun. I shook each of their hands and became a member of their group.
The truck took off again, in a cloud of dust. I was in the middle of a beautiful painting, looking at the scenery around me.
But I was a fool.
I failed to notice that the truck was moving in the opposite direction from the Pyramid of the Sun.
In the orange-painted sky, a full moon was floating.