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Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Books


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Author: Natsuhiko Kyogoku
Publisher: Haikasoru, 2010
Original Japanese publication, 2001

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Book Type: Novel
Genre: Science-Fiction / Horror
Sub-Genre Tags: Virtual Reality
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Virtual reality. Murder. Werewolves. And teen girls! In a future where nothing is as it seems, can old legends come true? In the near future, humans will communicate almost exclusively through monitors, making real interaction a rarified and weak occurance for those living in a near totalitarian society. In this new world of communication, children are only allowed to interact personally on school grounds. So when a serial killer starts slaughtering junior high children the communication routes go under futher surveillance. And despite all the safeguards put in place to avoid physical interaction, the killer's latest victim turns out to have been in contact with three young girls: Mio Tsuzki, a certified prodigy; Hatsuki Matsuno, a quiet but opinionated classmate; and Ayumi Kono, her best friend. And as the girls get caught up in trying to quell curiosity under such terrorist scrutiny, Hatsuki learns that there is much more than meets the eye of their monitored communications.


"That's... the elevated freight road. What they used to call the highway."

"It's the North-South Line," Ayumi said nonchalantly. "It's bright," Mio said, and she lowered her binoculars.

"It's the lamps on the side of the road. This makes everything look a lot brighter."

"You can't see without that thing?"

"Human eyes aren't that good. If you can see it, that means you're the unusual one, Kono."

Mio shrugged, bored, and approached Ayumi, holding the piercing between her fingertips and bringing it up near Ayumi's cheek.

She wasn't sure what it was reflecting--Hazuki thought maybe the moonlight--but for a moment, the pink stone glittered.


Ayumi moved only the pupils of her large eyes over to where the object reflected light.

"What about this?" she said.

"This was left at my house."


"Isn't it yours?"

Mio leaned in toward Ayumi.

"It isn't?"

Ayumi suddenly dropped her shoulders as if they lost all strength, and crossed her arms. She compared facial expressions on Hazuki and Mio.

"You came all the way here... for that?"

"Was that wrong?"

"It's weird."

"It's fun," Mio said as she walked around Ayumi.


"Yeah. Isn't it, Makino?"


What does fun feel like? Hazuki wondered.

But before she could answer her question, Ayumi plucked the piercing from Mio.

"This thing." Ayumi stared into it.

"I wouldn't be caught dead wearing that," Mio said.

"Then we'll just have to put it on you after you've died," Ayumi said.

Mio narrowed her eyes.

"I'll let you because you're special. But if it's not yours or Makino's, whose is it?"

"This is Yabe's."


Yuko Yabe... soaked by the rain, pale skin. Pink pupils.

It matches her pink contacts, Hazuki thought.

"You mean that Yabe?"

"You know any other Yuko Yabes?"

"No... but why would Yabe's piercing be in my house? I don't even know what she looks like. I've never connected with her online and her house is nowhere near mine."

Her house was far from hers?

Nowhere near?

If Mio said so...

But that day... Yuko Yabe was in Section C, where Mio lived. Moreover, that girl with the drenched pink hair was the one who told Ayumi and Hazuki exactly which building Mio lived in. What was that all about? Was that some kind of mistake?

Could have been a mistake, Hazuki thought.

Just because they'd seen and heard her didn't make it a reality.

"It's my fault." Ayumi said unexpectedly.

"Your fault?"

"I had a physical exchange with Yuko Yabe a couple nights ago."

"Real contact? You met?"

"Liar," Hazuki blurted out.

"Liar?" Ayumi made a puzzled look.

Ayumi didn't meet with people.

Ayumi hated being looked at directly.

Ayumi would never exchange words directly with someone.

Ayumi had never even made eye contact with Hazuki.



Yuko Yabe and Ayumi...

They did something together. Some kind of shared information Hazuki wasn't in on. That's what this was.

If that were the case.


Hazuki looked back and Ayumi, still facing the other direction, said,

"We had an encounter."

"An encounter."

"Yeah. I'm sure her piercing must have fallen in my bag or something. And I took that bag to our communication session, then on the way home I found myself breaking into your house. It must have fallen then. That's the most logical explanation. I was bumping into a lot of that crazy wiring in your room."

Ayumi adjusted her seat away--a wooden chair--and sat back down on the edge of it.

Mio rounded in front of her again and leaned in.

"When you say you met, you mean you deliberately interacted with her?"


"Why would her piercing get stuck on your bag from merely meeting? You saying her ear brushed against your bag when you met? Is she like some kind of pet?"

"Yes, already. God you're annoying." Ayumi moved away again. "Yabe was clinging to me."


"Yeah, she clung onto me, and like you said, she rubbed her head against my bag. That's probably when the piercing fell off."

Ayumi looked up slightly.

"Actually, her piercing might have been taken off by then already."


Ayumi looked down at herself and turned her face to the right.

"Either way, it's because she'd used my body as her medium that it got to your room."


"Where did you two meet?" Mio asked. Ayumi simply pointed forward. She was pointing at nothing in the dark.

It was the direction Mio had been staring in from before.

"Huh? At night? What was going on?"

"None of your business. Just walked."

"I don't mean you. I don't care what weird shit you were up to. I mean Yabe."

"I don't know," Ayumi said indifferently.

"She was being chased by someone. She was running away."

"She was being chased?"

Mio's eyes widened. She looked over to Hazuki.

"This isn't some kind of movie. People don't get chased," Mio said.

Hazuki couldn't answer.

She didn't understand what was going on.

"Yabe was attacked?" Mio asked. "By whom?"

"How the hell should I know?"

"And... you tried to save her?"

"No, I didn't. I just ran into her. The girl in the Chinese clothes saved her."

"The girl in the Chinese clothes... you don't mean the girl with the cats!"

Mio stood up.

Ayumi didn't.

Hazuki... looked up at the heavenly orb above her.

Copyright © 2001 by Natsuhiko Kyogoku


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