Reads: 331

Akira's renovated house had remained unlocked, which Reina found to be a bit odd, but perhaps nothing valuable was in there. That or, like many other places in Japan, robbery was uncommon enough to not be a concern. Daichi asked Reina once they entered the house, “Is this even appropriate?”

“Do we desire answers?” Reina countered. The two didn't have to go far into the house when they caught sight of someone bound to a chair with duct tape. Daichi, who had turned his phone on flashlight mode to see better, shined the bright white light onto the form. It was Akira, but from this distance it was hard to ascertain if he was alive or dead. His head was lowered into his chest, and he was as still as a statue. Reina started towards him when Daichi grabbed her by the shoulder and pulled her back. He went to investigate Akira, contorting himself to where he would get a better look at Akira's face, without touching the boy himself. He backed up, visibly disturbed. “Is he dead?” Reina inquired.

Daichi gave a little shake of his head and said, “No, it's worse.”

Reina moved closer to the boy and took her own phone to use as a flashlight. She checked the boy's face and noticed that while his pupils dilated, he did not react to the light. He didn't even blink or close his eyes in response. Reina took a pair of gloves out of her pocket, which got Daichi's attention, and she put her phone in her pocket to put the gloves on. “Lend me some light.” She told Daichi, who obliged.

Reina grabbed Akira by the hair of the head and pulled his head up and pushed it back. This resulted in him staring up at the ceiling, finally blinking. Still using his hair as a handle, Reina then positioned his head to where she could get a good look at his face. Daichi shined light upon it, and she saw that Akira had amassed some cuts, bruises, and burns to the face. He looked almost like a zombie from the way he was battered. Reina asked, hoping to get a response, “Shinoda Akira?”

Something seemed to click in his head, as the boy blinked a couple of times before saying, “Reina...?”

Reina let him go and backed up, and Daichi asked, “Who did this to you?”

First, an eye twitch, then, a head twitch. His head kept twitching for a bit before his expression contorted to one of rage. “You bitch!” He tried to kick at Reina, but the duct tape prevented movement. Daichi backed up, yet Reina did not react much to this conduct.

“Ah yes, I am quite the bitch, aren't I? But that is beside the point. Does the name Kurosawa Kosuke sound familiar?” Her tone was flat, per the usual.

Akira started thrashing about in his restraints, and Reina noticed some of the duct tape become loose. Daichi said, backing toward the door, “Reina! We need to leave!” Reina hurried out of the building with Daichi, and the two closed the door and moved a broken refrigerator over it, as well as a stove and a washer for good measure. Akira had apparently become loose, as he started hitting the door and screaming like a deranged maniac, which he now was. Then, his rage shifted to laughter then distorted into sadness, and something heavy fell on the floor on the other side. He was sobbing on the other side of the door. “Where are his parents?” Daichi asked, clearly frightened by this whole ordeal.

Reina remembered that Akira had a brother. She said, “More importantly, where is his brother?” Reina may have been an only child, but she noticed a few sibling relationships in her lifetime.

Reina headed for the door to the bigger house, a two-story white house with a flat black roof. Daichi caught up with her, and the two discovered that the door was also unlocked. As they entered the room, they saw a girl with her back to them standing before a hanged corpse of a man. Daichi screamed on impulse, which caused the girl to jump and look over her shoulder at them. It was Yume, and a second person came into view. This other person was a young man who looked as if he was college-aged, and looked a lot like Yume. He must have been her older brother. The man asked, “What?! What is it?!” He was also startled by the scream.

“Yume? What are you doing here?” Reina asked.

“Investigating.” Yume replied, before turning to fully face Daichi and Reina. “I could ask you the same.”

“We found Akira! He was being held captive in the house he was renovating!” Daichi blurted out.

This caught both Yoshida siblings' attentions. The young man stood beside his sister, and Yume raised her brows at the information. “How do you know this?”

“We were there.” Reina admitted.

“Trespassing. Interesting...” Yume wrote something down in her notepad.

“We aren't doing much differently, sis.” The young man pointed out.

“Yeah, but our dad knows where we are. The benefits of having a police officer as a father...” Yume said, finishing out her notes.

“He's in bad shape. The guy didn't even acknowledge us when we entered the building.” Daichi said, a remorseful look on his face.

“Catatonic, or near-catatonic. We aren't sure.” Reina added.

“Torture? Imprisonment? Odd.” Yume said, before adding more notes to her notepad. She tossed her head a little towards her brother, saying, “Hayato, go with them and get evidence. Dad will be quite interested in this...”

“I already have it.” Daichi said, before presenting his phone to Hayato. The young man took the phone and looked over the image. He then went out of the photos application, and did something on Daichi's phone. Daichi seemed to become tense, and he reached to snatch his phone back, only for Hayato to turn and walk deeper onto the house with it.

“He is only sending the image to our dad. We will explain the rest when we get home.” Yume assured Daichi.

“What fate became of his parents and brother?” Reina asked.

“Right now, Hayato and I have deduced that marriage and financial problems resulted in both parents committing suicide, whereas Akira's brother became so aggrieved by their parents' death that he left Mikaki quietly.” Yume answered.

“We are sorry to hear that, but what are we going to do about Akira? He's still alive in there, and really messed up.” Daichi said, clearly having other things on his mind.

“Call the police. I'm surprised that you didn't do so when you left the building.” Yume remarked.

“Ah, Yume... there is no good way to say this, but is it not cruel to allow Akira to live? After all, he had been through enough abuse to cause him to lose his mind.” Daichi seemed uneasy saying those words.

“Sounds like something a murderer would suggest...” She scribbled down more notes, her eyes narrowed.

“Ah, please don't misunderstand! Under normal circumstances, I would never suggest murder! It's just that... if I ever got that way, I would rather someone killed me as opposed to allowing me to linger...” He had grown at first nervous, then sorrowful.

Yume seemed to dismiss his earlier suggestion of a mercy kill, as she put the notepad back in her black hoodie pocket and stated matter-of-factly, “Akira possesses crucial evidence for this case. Once we get what we can out of him, what happens to him afterwards is not of our concern.”

“With all due respect, Yume, I feel as if valuing evidence over a human life is rather... stone-hearted, shall we say?” Yume scowled at him once more, and he was quick to change his tone. “I-I mean, whatever works for you! Just as long as we get to the bottom of this!” Daichi fidgeted on his feet a bit, before casting his gaze aside.

Hayato returned and said, “Alright Yume, the evidence that Daichi procured has been sent. Now what do you suppose we do?”

“Check out Akira's renovation project.” Yume answered, and the group headed over to the building in question. It was deathly silent when they got to the door, and Yume looked up and down at the appliances Reina and Daichi had used earlier. Hayato seemed to get the message, and got to removing the appliances.

Daichi said, “W-wait! Is it really such a good idea to uncover the door? Shouldn't we at least call the police over first? What if he attacks?”

“Already done. We just need to scope this place out.” Hayato said, as Yume came over to help him remove the appliances.

Daichi looked over at Reina and asked, “Shall we return home?”

“It is recommended that you stay here with us.” Yume interjected.

“How can we help?” Daichi asked.

“By removing the appliances.” Yume deadpanned. So, the group got to uncovering the door. Once that was done, the group entered to find Akira crumpled on the ground away from the door.

As they drew nearer, Hayato said, “Hey kid, we're here to help you out.” No answer. Once they were upon the boy, Yume immediately whipped her phone out and started taking pictures. Hayato stared bugged-eyed at the miserable mound that was once Akira.

Daichi asked, “Did he die so quickly?” He seemed astonished.

Reina looked around and noticed a shattered window. She went over to observe it, while Yume said, “He looked to have either been murdered, or he committed suicide.” Reina looked along the window pane, noticing how it was clear of glass shards. In fact, the only shards that remained were in a glittering pile on the floor.

Reina said, “Someone broke in, and it wasn't us.”

The others joined Reina, and Yume got to taking pictures of the damage as well. She said, “Interesting. It could have been either or.”

Daichi turned to Reina and said, “Reina, I don't want to be here any longer. I want to go home now.” He was paler than normal, which would concern any sane person.

Keeping up with the somewhat-sane act, Reina asked Yume, “May we leave now?”

Yume said, “Very well. Hayato should've put our contact information into your phone, Daichi. Call us if something comes up.”

Submitted: March 18, 2021

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