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In the near future, humans will communicate almost exclusively through online networks— face-to-face meetings are rare and the surveillance state nearly all-powerful. So when a serial killer starts slaughtering junior high students, the crackdown is harsh. The killer's latest victim turns out to have been in contact with three young girls: Mio Tsuzuki, a certified prodigy; Hazuki Makino, a quiet but opinionated classmate; and Ayumi Kono, her best friend. And as the girls get caught up in trying to find the killer—who might just be a werewolf—Hazuki learns that there is much more [to their monitored communications] than meets the eye.
Born in Otaru, Hokkaido. Studied at Kuwasawa Design School. After working at advertising agencies, he established his own design studio. He still works as art director, designer, and bookbinder for various projects. He is also an expert in yokai (Japanese folklore of monsters and ghosts).
“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.
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 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?
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.
“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…