Capricious Orange Road II
                        The Pyramid Murder Mystery

                A novel by Matsumoto Izumi and Terada Kenji

                     (C) 1995 I.MATSUMOTO K.TERADA
                         ISBN 4-08-703035-3 C0093
                             Printed in Japan

                   Published by Kabushiki Gaisha Shueisha
                            Tokyo-to Chiyoda-ku
                     Hitotsu-bashi 2-5-10 JAPAN 101-50

                          Translation by Peter Payne
                       c/o Yanai Shoten 4235 Hashie-cho
                           Isesaki-shi JAPAN 372

Translator's notes

Many factors conspired to keep this translation from getting completed,
not the least of which included the school I taught ESL at was sinking into
financial troubles, leaving me with no paycheck for up to a month, me
running a full-time business in my spare time, and planning two more. But I
kept plugging away at it, one page at a time, and though it took nearly a
year, SHIN KIMAGURE ORANGE ROAD II: The Pyramid Murder
Mystery is finally done.

As with the last translation, this is completely unofficial and done without
the prior knowledge or consent of the authors or publishers of the original
Japanese work. It was not done for the purpose of profit or intention of
denying it to the authors or publishers. Rather, it was made for the purpose
of enlightening fans of Orange Road who aren't lucky enough to read
Japanese. I make no profit from this.

I strongly encourage all fans of Orange Road to find a copy of the
Japanese version of this novel. One of Jump's new "Jump Books" line of
manga-like novels, it has many nice illustrations that enhance appreciation
of the story in the way it was intended by the author. To encourage you to
buy the novel and support Mr. Matsumoto and Mr. Terada, I will not
make scans of the images available on any ftp site (although others may).

Distribution: This document may be freely transmitted in its full form but
not sold for profit. It may be included on any ftp site, CD ROM collection,
and so on. It may be edited for the purpose of turning it into, say, an
HTML document, but other editing or changing of this text itself is not
allowed. If you find too many errors in the text (they are there, trust me),
please mark them with [square] brackets and email the file to me; I will
make changes and announce a new version on rec.arts.anime.*. I was less
than pleased to find several "improved" versions of the last novel running
around the Internet (including one that consited of a guy from the
Netherlands "correcting" my American expressions by changing them into
British English). If there are things you think should be changed, run them
by me and I'll probably agree.

The last translation was a "postcard" translation, and I recieved many
(something like 40) nice postcards from people all over the world. Thanks
to you all. In the tradition of Dragthing, a cool Macintosh utility by James
Thomson, this translation is "something coolware": If you read it and enjoy
it, please send me something cool. Cool things are anything from some nice
snack food that I can't eat in the U.S. (living, as I do, in a small town in
central Japan) to a videotape of some neato American TV shows to an
autographed photo of David Duchovny or Gillian Anderson to a Power
Macintosh 8500. I don't care if the item you send me is of any monetary
value--anything cool would be, well, cool.

In the past year I have set up an Internet business selling Japanese pop
items over the Internet. I sell anime and manga items, Japanese CDs and
idol-related stuff, as well as a few items for people over the age of 18. I
have rather a lot of stuff, so take a few minutes and check the pages out,
and see if there isn't something of interest to you. The URL is I will be officially re-open for business October 1st with
many new features.

I am also involved with a company called Sakura Soft
( that is bringing interactive RPG-style adult anime
games to America. If you are interestd in these products, please stop by
that web site or email me for more information.If you are over eighteen, of

As you read the translation, I would like you to keep in mind a few things
about this novel. First of all, although Internet features heavily in this
work, I am not certain that the author knew was he was talking about all the
time. For example, homepages are often refered to as BBSs, UNIX is referred
to as a brand of computer "alongside IBM-PC and Mac" etc. I have made
this translation reflect what was written in the original text as closely as
possible, so no flames on tech issues, please.

Finally, for all those who wondered why tense agreement was virtually
nonexistant in the translation fo the first KOR novel, again "I'm just the
translator droid": it is an element of the writing style of Mr. Matsumoto,
and to a degree Japanese sentence structure in general, to _not_ have verb
tense agreement in the sense that we have it in English. Thus you have the
Kyosuke-centered narrator in a Kyosuke "scene" telling his story in the
first person, past tense, with sudden first-person present-tense
commentary, all mixed neatly together. Okay? Are we clear on this? There
is NO WAY to make the KOR novels have tense agreement without
throwing out te original intentions of the author.

I would like to thank the one beta reader who didn't just disappear when I
sent the rough draft of the novel for them to read and comment on, Robert
Kwong. He gave the manuscript a good reading and made many good
recommendations to me, saving the text from some stupid errors. He has
some fine homepages at and, and his email
address is rk@CSUA.Berkeley.EDU. Also, thanks to Edwin Koshimoto
for scanning some images for me when I was busy with other projects.

Thank you. Please enjoy the novel.

Peter R. Payne
October 1995 ~ September, 1996


Scene: Hikaru-chan walking through New York City.

Next scene: Madoka is logging into Internet using a Macintosh 500-series
Powerbook. She is using a generic modem program. The text of her
screen is, in English:

Welcome to the Inter Network. Yokohama JAPAN. (8:27 am on Thu, 22
Dec 1994)

Login: madoka
Last login: Wed Dec 21 14:18:19 on ttyy05


Welcome to Internet provider WIN


(World-wide Information Network)

Next scene: She is typing: TAP! TAP! TAP! Suddenly her modem
program inexplicably changes to Netscape.

Back to Hikaru: She is running up the stairs to her apartment in New
York. Her feet make the same TAP! TAP! TAP! noise as Madoka's
typing. For some reason, she is going up the fire escape. She opens the
door to her apartment and says, "I'm home." She calls out "JG" which is
the name of her cat, and says, "Are you hungry?" (in English, written in
katakana). Her cat meows. She says, "Yes, yes. You like beef bowl,
right?" We see a poster of a woman in a sexy bikini-like outfit with shear
cloth over it, with the text ATLANTIS AUDITION.

Outside the apartment: Three sinister-looking people are outside. One's
foot makes the TAP! sound. "That's the apartment," says one, a bearded
hispanic-looking man. A dark-skinned woman says, "Yes, her name is
Hikaru Hiyama. She's the Japanese rich bitch we're looking for."

I was sure...I had gotten a hold of you already, you, my Venus (1).
But you, Madoka Ayukawa...whimsical as always, just smile
And your eyes, which seem to gaze off at something distant,

Once, I can't remember when, I thought of how you change all the time,
And said, "You're just like the hydrangea flower."
When I said that, you suddenly cocked your head slightly, and, smiling,
"You're making me sound like I'm just a spoiled brat."

The sweet-sour smell of your hair. The milky whiteness of your skin.
You seem to be so close, I could reach out and touch you,
But at the same time, it seems like you'd disappear if I tried.


I was sure I had gotten a hold of you already--you, my Venus.
But you always just watch me from the other side of the train crossing.
I feel like I'm in an aquarium, waiting for you to wave to me
through the glass.
I am a tropical fish that is just waiting.
Kyosuke Kasuga, age 22.
My fifth Christmas Eve spent with you.
I'm planning to write on the card I've gotten for you


I'm so glad you were born.


On that day, I'm sorry to tell you, I woke up in bed with Madoka
Ayukawa--well, I wouldn't exactly say 'I'm sorry to tell you.'

Still half-dozing, I reached out my hand to touch her. But Madoka had
already gotten out of bed.

I held her pillow close to me, her sweet smell still on it, and tried to get
back to sleep. But I suddenly heard the startup sound of the computer in
the living room downstairs. The door to our room was open, and the
sounds came in through the crack.

Madoka was about to begin work.

Recently, she had been doing her songwriting on the Mac. She was a fan
of Macintosh notebook computers. Macs were also popular among
people in the entertainment industry, apparently (3).

In the past, she had liked jazz, and hadn't cared much for writing modern


"Well, I'm working as a professional now, so I have to make some

And that was that; she started composing directly on the Mac. She could
take her work with her anywhere, and was completely hooked on her new

I had barely learned how to use a stand-alone word processor. So when I
heard that you could draw pictures or compose music and play it just like
that on personal computers these days, I was surprised and let out a
high-pitched noise: "Pee!"

I must have sounded like my sisters, Kurumi and Manami, making a silly
sound like that.

I sat up in bed, and pulled the cord to open the curtains.

December was two-thirds over, but the morning sun was strong and bright
in my eyes. It filled the room with light.

A well-organized desk.

On the desk was a picture of her parents, who were in Seattle, in America.
(This picture always caught my eye.) (4)

I looked at the alarm clock, which set so that you could tell the time
anywhere in the world. It was 8 o'clock am.

Beside the desk was a basket full of knitting needles and yarn. Madoka
also loved knitting.

Let's see, what else?

Oh yes. A light blue half-coat which she had just bought. "I won't wear this
until Christmas," she had said then.

It hung on the wall, just as it had in the boutique, pressed and new.

What else? Oh, next to the half-coat stood a miniature Christmas tree.

Heh. There's a bigger one downstairs.

I think that Madoka Ayukawa, secretly a little girl at heart, wanted to have
a Christmas tree next to her while she slept.

It was nice, learning something new about her, however childish or
immature. I laughed to myself.

"Kyosuke, you've got such a dirty mind!"

I looked up. Madoka was standing in the doorway.

Her hair up, Madoka was wearing her bathrobe and nothing underneath.
The smell of coffee wafted across the room from a cup she held in her

"Huh? What are you talking about?" I asked.

"You were making funny noises to yourself. What were you thinking?"


"You were laughing to yourself. Were you looking at my underwear on the
floor or something?"

Madoka entered the room and looked around.

"No, I wasn't," I protested. "I was just thinking what a good morning it
was today."

"You're really good..." she said devilishly.

I didn't know what she meant. "Good at what?"

She put the coffee cup on the side table and climbed on top of me,
mounting me as if I were a horse.

"Kyosuke!" she said playfully. "You haven't been coming to classes at the
university recently. You're not doing something you shouldn't be doing, are

"What do you mean?"

Then Madoka smothered me with her body, and we kissed.

It was a strong, forceful kind of kiss. There was a faint taste of coffee.
Madoka's nose was slightly cold as it brushed against my cheek.

I kissed her back, making a sucking noise with my mouth on purpose. She
started to laugh at that, and said, "Good morning" as she rolled off of me.

"Good morning, Madoka. You're up early."

"Thanks to you, I slept well." She smiled, looking a little embarrassed, and
looked away. "You're good," she said.

"You just said that."

"It's true! You've gotten much better!"

"Better at what?"

"_Baka!_ You're an esper, right? So why don't you try reading my mind,
instead of going to the past and the future all the time."

"Hmmm. Okay, I'll try," I said. I made a serious face, and looked straight
at her.

Now, I'm sorry to tell you this, but I don't have the ability of reading
people's minds. But if that's what Madoka wants, then I don't mind giving
it a try.

"Wait a minute," Madoka said now. "I was kidding, Kyosuke. Don't look
at me like that."

"I'm getting something," I said. "I can see it."


"Um... cookie."


"Um..." I continued, "I see something else. Size 'C' cup....35 inches...."

The next thing I knew, Madoka hit me with a pillow.

"Baka!" she said. "That's x-ray vision, not mind-reading!"

"I'm just kidding! I guess I just can't read people's minds after all. But
what did you mean just then when you said I was 'good...'?"

"I can't believe you're that dense," Madoka said, teasing me. "Are you
going to make me come out and say it?"

That was when I realized what she meant by 'good' and 'gotten better.'
She was talking about last night.

"Ah, you mean sex," I said.

Bash! Bash! Madoka assaulted me with the pillow again, then buried my
head in it.

"Hey, cut it out!"

I finally succeeded in getting the pillow away from her, but then she ran out
of the room, laughing.

I took the cup she had left behind and drank down the still-steaming
coffee. I had a feeling of of happiness I can't describe.

Six months had passed since I returned from war-torn Bosnia.

I had finally gotten used to being back in Japan, but it had been hard at
first, with the news media after me all the time.

But that was to be expected.

The first headlines read, "_Student photographer Kyosuke Kasuga returns
safely_," then, "_A Story of courage for Japanese young people, dulled by
years of peace_." It was all so silly.

I was surprised by all the daily coverage, though, even after all this time.

I didn't have any particular reason for going there, aside from an odd
desire to visit a country torn apart by civil war.

But what I saw there was...I mean, the pictures I took...they weren't
something you could talk about with someone casually.

That's why I haven't been able to bring myself to develop the pictures I
brought back with me yet.

I sighed and got out of bed. I opened the window, and cold air came into
the room.

It was always the same.

No matter how happy I was with Madoka... The images of what I saw in
Bosnia come back to me, and I feel that I am responsible somehow, as if I
had somehow caused the war. It was a feeling I couldn't get rid of.

Although recently I have been able to get to sleep sometimes.

But to tell the truth...

I've been awakened in the middle of the night by the sound of my own
voice, sobbing, again and again.

Of course, I've told all this to Madoka. But she doesn't ask me what's
behind it all.

Once, she said to me, "I've decided not to ask you about the details of
what happened there unless you really want me to. Unless you specifically
want to tell me about it, I won't ask." She flashed a quick smile at me as
she said this.

After this conversation, she seemed to be more at ease.

Another time, when I couldn't get into my own house because of all the
news reporters waiting for me at my door, she said, "Why don't you stay
here with me tonight?"

That was when I started spending the night in Madoka's room.

We had had sex before in this room. But that had been the first time she
had said had asked me to spend the night.

This had been because Madoka had been unwilling to betray the trust of
her parents, who live overseas. I had understood this, and had been going
home every day up to that time.

Holding the coffee cup in one hand, I went downstairs and saw Madoka
lying on the couch, using the Mac once again.

"Are you getting some good ideas for your songs?" I asked.

But Madoka sat up suddenly, her body rigid.

"It's a joke, right?" she let out, her voice a half-shriek.

"What happened?"

She hadn't been working on her song lyrics, but instead had been logging
into another computer using the telephone line.

She had been doing "pasocon networking" or networking with a personal
computer a lot these days, as part of her work. Using an computer
network that links the whole world together called the Internet, she was
able to communicate freely with anyone not just inside Japan, but overseas
as well.

"This can't be happening," she said. "Hikaru..."

"Huh? Hikaru-chan?" I said.

Hikaru-chan was in New York. She was attending a school in Greenwich
Village called "Actor's Studio College," taking classes on music and dance.

Six months ago, she returned to Japan briefly, but had returned to America
right after that.

"Madoka, what happened to Hikaru-chan?"

Madoka finally turned to look at me, then, as if she had witnessed a great
tragedy, and pointed to the computer's screen.

There, written in English, were the words

Bye Bye, <STAR*>



"Something has happened to Hikaru in New York."

"What?!" My body, which had been warmed up by the coffee, suddenly
grew cold inside.


Hikaru Hiyama heard the far-off police siren, and glanced over at the
alarm clock on the bedside table.

Ten o'clock pm. In New York at this time, police sirens are nothing

But no matter how often you hear them, they always make you feel
uneasy. Hikaru picked herself up off of her creaking sofa and turned the
volume up on her CD player (5).

The sound of Kenny G's soprano sax filled every corner of the room.

The three-colored cat that had been relaxing beside the radiator uttered a
voice of protest and jumped up on the bed.

"Oh, I'm sorry, JG," Hikaru said. "The music startled you, didn't it?"

Hikaru reached out her hand for her cat, whom she called JG, and stroked
its stomach. JG yawned and closed its eyes sleepily.

The cat had found its way into Hikaru's apartment building some months

She had thought it belonged to the old couple who lived in the apartment
across from her, and had immediately gone to return it. She had seen them
walking or feeding cats often.

But the happy couple just handed the cat back to her, shaking their heads.
They wanted her to keep it herself.

Hikaru, who lived alone, didn't mind. This gave her an excuse to talk with
the old couple more, too.

The name JG came from a cat that Hikaru had known in the past named
Jingoro (6). He had been a similarly-colored cat, kept by Kyosuke
Kasuga's family.

In order to keep herself from thinking of him too much, Hikaru had left all
her pictures of Kyosuke in Japan. She had tried to name her cat something
that had nothing to do whatsoever with Kyosuke, but after much
soul-searching, the only thing she came up with was Jingoro.

So, JG it was.

Not calling the cat by the actual name of Jingoro was her own way of
denying her feelings.

In this way, Hikaru was trying to put distance between herself and
Kyosuke, but at the same time, she was keeping in close contact with

Scattered around the room were things that Madoka had sent her as gifts
over the years.

For example, a hat that Madoka had knitted, and a doll-like thing that
Madoka had made.

Hikaru had moved to Otaru, in Hokkaido, when she was in the 10th
grade. After some time had passed, she started exchanging postcards with
Madoka. Madoka often sent small presents as a reply.

Out of all the presents Hikaru has recieved from Madoka, the alarm clock
was most special.

It was a teddy bear inside a tea cup, and had been something that Madoka
had treasured when she had entered high school.

There was something strange about such a cute alarm clock in such an old

But while Hikaru was in Japan, and even when she crossed the Pacific to
come to America, she always kept the alarm clock beside her bed.

And whenever she looked at this alarm clock, she said to herself:

Keep in touch! (7)

These words represented Hikaru's true feelings for her friend, as well as
acting as a magic spell which provided emotional support when life in
America got her down.

"Shuri's late. I wonder where she is."

Hikaru glanced at the clock once more, and sighed.

She was waiting for Shuri Anzai. Shuri had called her that night, saying that
she had gotten the airplane ticket to Mexico that Hikaru had wanted, and
that she would bring them over.

She said she had to work, but should be there a little after nine o'clock.

She had met Shuri here in New York. Shuri was two years younger than
Hikaru, but they felt no strangeness at calling each other by their first
names. Shuri was a Japanese living in the U.S., like Hikaru, who had a big
build and beautiful, slender Asian eyes.

Hikaru and Shuri got along well, perhaps because they both shared the
dream of being in a Broadway musical.

Shuri had returned to Japan temporarily when her one-year visa ended.
While in Japan, she had let Hikaru know about an audition for a musical in
Tokyo. Hikaru had gone to Japan to be in the audition with her friend.

They both failed, however.

Hikaru had gone back to New York immediately, and Shuri had followed
a month later.

Shuri's father owned a medium-sized company, and Shuri was his only
child. According to Shuri, her parents were eager for her to get married
and take over the family business.

Shuri had told Hikaru, "The real reason I came back to America was to
avoid an aunt of mine who kept trying to set me up with _omiai_ (8)."

Shuri attended dance school with Hikaru, but in reality she seemed to like
going to parties more.

To Hikaru, Shuri's outgoing personality was a big help.

When Hikaru was down in the dumps over the audition for an upcoming
musical, it was Shuri who advised her to go to Mexico for a change of

The reason for the additional stress was that Hikaru and Shuri were in the
last round of selection for a big musical which was to open next summer.

The play was to open in the famous Shubert Theater, and the title was
"The Legend of Atlantis."

The story went like this. In the distant past, there existed a legendary
continent known as Atlantis, either in the Pacific or the Atlantic oceans. It
was a story about love and hate between the humans and the gods of that era.

Both Hikaru and Shuri were trying for the role of Dancer, the Asian
island-daughter, and had been recommended by their dance studio.

The role had just one line, but also called for a dream-like solo dance
number. If the musical became a hit, it would be a role that would get a lot
of attention.

Besides the two girls, there were several Chinese and Korean candidates.
But Hikaru, with her small body, was in a favorable position; Shuri, whose
build wasn't that different from the American dancers, had decided she had
no chance of getting the role.

Hikaru had finally begun to feel the pressure of being so close to her goal,
but Shuri had told her, "Don't give up, Hikaru. You're practicing your
autograph every day, right? Pretty soon, you'll be known as Star Hiyama."

'Star Hiyama' was what Hikaru had thought of for her autograph, writing
'Hikaru' which means 'star,' followed by a star symbol, and finally, her last
name, Hiyama (9).

America was nothing if not the land of autographs and signatures.

A few months ago, Hikaru had realized that her name meant 'star' in
English, and had started going out of her way to write a star symbol when
signing credit card slips and checks.

Then she started copying Americans, who are so good at creating
appealing images of themselves in the eyes of others, and started writing
"STAR*" on the T-shirt she wore over her leotard and even on her jeans.

If it had been in Japan, it would have stood out too much for her, but this
was New York. Hikaru had learned that doing original things like this
allowed her to better fit in with American society.

More and more people at the dance school started calling her "Star-chan."

She had used her new autograph on a postcard she had sent to Madoka.
Madoka had embroidered Hikaru's new mark into the hand-knitted gloves
she had sent.

In this way, Hikaru and Madoka had managed to put the problems of the
past behind them, as if the two of them were bound by a thread.

"Jeez! I'll bet Shuri didn't really get the ticket, even after she told me
she had."

One might say that Shuri was good at dealing with people, which sounded
good, but in another light you could say that she was prone to getting
carried away with words. She might have said that she had gotten the
tickets even though she didn't actually have them yet, making Hikaru get
her hopes up for no reason.

Hikaru was already packed and ready to go off to Mexico.

She had to be back in New York before the next audition, so she couldn't
stay away too long. A largish shoulder bag was all she would need to take
with her. All she had to do was leave JG with the elderly couple across the
hall, and that was it. If she was able to get the ticket, that was.

Hikaru pulled a notebook computer which was kept permanently on the
bed, to her.

As she had done so many times before, she logged in to Fame.

Fame, named after the American movie by the same name, was a
computer BBS for the exchange of information between Broadway performers.

The movie was about a group of young dancers who, like Hikaru now,
endured grueling dance lessons in order to realize their dreams of one day
dancing on stage. The young people who had access to the computer
network were like the dancers in the movie in many ways.

People on the network exchange various information about upcoming
dance and theatrical openings, even people posting things like "please sell
me your old dancing shoes cheap" and "looking for a sex friend."

And because this small network was connected to the largest information
system in the world, the Internet, it was possible to get the newest
information on acting roles in Europe, Japan and so on.

A few days ago, Hikaru had posted a message on the Fame BBS that she
was looking for a cheap ticket to Mexico. "Anyone with information,
please contact me. My handle name is HIKARU," she added.

A 'handle name' was an alias used by people posting messages.

Users gained access to the network by giving their credit card numbers
before logging on. The fee would be charged to the credit card later, but
because the network was cheaper even than using the telephone, it was the
most economical source of information available.

But the network wasn't only for exchanging information on upcoming roles,
but also for having "electronic meetings" and exchanging opinions about
various plays. Because people who didn't know each other were engaging
in the discussions, there were often some very exciting ideas put out.

On the other hand, if people could easily find out who you were through
the network, it was possible there would be some trouble or danger.

That was why Hikaru used "HIKARU" as her handle. Of course, people
who knew her knew her real identity.

Now Hikaru was checking out the Fame BBS, like she always did.

Mixed in with the serious discussions about dance and acting roles, were
the usual advertisements for sex. "Looking for someone to be my big
brother. My handle is 'Tom Sawyer.'" That kind of thing. These always
made Hikaru laugh out loud.

Anyone was able to read the messages on the BBS, just as anyone was
allowed to post them. Moreover, because you could hide your true
identity, you could post anything you liked. Anyone interested in your post
could send you private e-mail.

There was no response to Hikaru's query about the airline ticket.

But there was a question for her: "HIKARU, are you a girl or a boy?"

Hikaru chuckled, and typed, "In Japanese, HIKARU means 'queen' (10).'"

At that moment, there was a knock on the door.

Still reading the computer screen, Hikaru said, "You're really late, Shuri!"
The door was ajar. Hikaru was still in the middle of doing her laundry, and
would have to go down to the laundry room in the basement in a few

Planning to tell Shuri a thing or two about being on time, Hikaru turned
around towards the door. Then she froze. JG let out a horrendous meowl.

Three men wearing ski masks were standing in the doorway. There were
holes in the mask for their eyes, noses and mouths, but Hikaru was unable
to see their faces. They wore matching "bomber" style jackets and black
sheepskin pants. But what made her unable to move more than anything
else was the Beretta pistol one of the men was pointing at her.

One of them said something to her in fast accented, tongue-trilling English.
Hikaru didn't understand what he said.

The smallest of the three men approached her. He pulled a scarf out his
pocket and, getting a grip on Hikaru, shoved it under her nose.

That was when Hikaru felt the softness in the person's chest. She smelled
the same aud d'cologne that she used.

This person was a woman?

Then Hikaru was pulled into a great blackness.

The woman passed the girl to her companions. Hikaru was out cold.

Then, looking around the room as if she were familiar with it, she picked
up the shoulder bag that was sitting on the floor. Then she switched off the
Kenny G CD. The computer, still on, sat on the bed.

There was a postcard that Hikaru had just finished writing. It was probably
written to someone in Japan. The kanji, organized in neat little rows,
seemed almost like some kind of code.

At the bottom of the postcard was the signature, "Star*."

She looked at the signature smiled to herself. She looked around the room
again, finding a just-discarded T-shirt with the same signature on it.

The woman decided to have a little fun.

She saw right away that the Japanese girl had been accessing the Fame
BBS. She had used it herself in the past.

The two men behind her tried to hurry her, but she gestured for them to
leave. She sat down and typed: "Bye bye, Star*"

This message appeared right next to Hikaru's explanation of the meaning of
the word "HIKARU."

A smile appeared on the face of the woman, as she shut off the computer.
Then, picking up a bunch of keys that were on a shelf, she turned off the
lights and left the room.

Outside the darkened apartment was the sound of the door being locked.
Then, after the men had left and silence returned, JG, who had been
crouching in a corner, meowed once.

Piano and clarinet, along with wood base instruments and electric guitar: all
of these instruments are part of a standard jazz ensemble. The bar
"ABCB" was full of happy people, as always.

Master, his eyes seeming to be remembering some far-off memory, was
standing behind the counter, listening to the performance.

But that was to be expected.

All the performers were friends of his from college days, and all had
normal jobs in companies during the day.

One was an insurance salesman. Another the president of a taxi company.

All, Master was fond of saying, had wanted to be jazz musicians when
they were younger, and now they were as good as any pro you could find.

Master had quit the coffee shop "ABCB" that all of us had spent so much
of our time back in high school and had opened this place in front of the
station one town over. That was a year and a half ago.

He had apparently always wanted to open a place like this, where you
could hear live music.

"Well, I'll put some money into a venture like that," said some of Master's
old friends, getting caught up in the idea. They had all participated in
building the bar.

Well, a little past eight p.m. or so, everyone would gather here, and then
one would start playing around up on the stage, and others would join in. I
couldn't play any instruments at all, and it made me quite envious.

"Oh, really? Really?"

After the performance ended, I heard the high-pitched voices of Kurumi
and Manami, intermixed with the applause of the people in the bar.

My twin sisters were sitting with my evil friends, Komatsu and Hatta, along
with a man I had never seen before. They had been sitting in the back of
the room for some time.

Right after I walked into the bar, Komatsu and Hatta had come up to me,
acting excited. "Come on, Kasuga. Over here. I'm going to treat you
tonight." Komatsu pulled my arm as he spoke.

But I wasn't in the mood for them, so I sat by the counter and talked to

"I apologize for my loudmouth sisters," I told him.

I looked over at the musicians, who had started playing again, and nodded
a greeting to them.

The drummer, the taxi company president whose nickname was "Pack,"
winked back at me.

"No, really, I'm okay. It's just a _toshiro_ performance after all. Just to
be able to hear the applause is enough for me."

"'Toshiro'?" I asked.

"Ah, I guess people in Kasuga-kun's generation don't use that word
anymore," Master said to Pack, filling his glass.

"Musicians a long time ago," Pack explained, "used to mix their words
around when they spoke. Made them sound cool."

"Huh?" I didn't understand.

"Even though we could use the word 'shiroto (11),' we would say 'toshiro.'
You know?"

I didn't, but nodded anyway.

"Makes people sound cool. Old guys like us want to talk cool, too."

Pack laughed, and his protruding stomach shook when he did so. He took
a rolled-up hot towel and wiped his face with it.

Master, smirking, said, "The man who once asked which was better, to
marry the daughter of a taxi company owner, or to go to New York and
chase your dream of someday being part of the 'Village Vanguard' is here
before us, wiping his face with a hand-towel."

Everyone at the counter laughed at this.

Sitting there, I was filled with a warm, happy feeling.
I was thinking about Madoka again. And Hikaru-chan, in New York.

Since this morning, Madoka had been unable to calm down. She insisted
that something had happened to Hikaru-chan.

After their conversation that morning, she had called her parents in Seattle.

Her father was the musical director of the Seattle Philharmonic Orchestra,
and her mother was a first violinist. They were quite famous.

She asked her parents to try to find out whatever they could about

But America, which is nothing if not huge, there was a three-hour time
difference between Seattle on the west coast and New York in the east.

On top of that, Japan's night was America's day. Madoka couldn't find out
what she wanted to know until the people in New York got out of bed.

Right after Madoka had gotten off the phone with her parents, she took
the coffee I had poured for her, and told me what had happened.

"I'm sure that 'bye bye Star*' has some meaning... But that doesn't mean
that anything has really happened to her, does it?" I said to Madoka then.

Madoka took the coffee I had poured for her in both hands, and shrunk
down into the couch, as if cold.

She took a drink of the coffee, and looked at me.

"It's not just a feeling I have."


"Kyosuke, will bring the postcards hanging on the tree here for me?" Her
voice trembled as she spoke.

The big Christmas tree was standing next to the piano. Hanging on the
tree, alongside the lights and decorations, were several postcards.

They had all been sent from Hikaru-chan in New York.

I had heard that Hikaru sent postcards to Madoka occasionally. It started
three years ago, I believe, a few months after Hikaru had moved to

But she had never shown any of them to me. She had talked about the
content, but she had never actually let me see any of them.

I knew the reason why.

The postcards were a sign of Madoka's friendship with Hikaru-chan.

They had almost lost their friendship because of me.

That was the reason why Madoka hadn't shown the postcards to me.
They represented Hikaru-chan's private feelings. Showing them to me
would be the same as betraying those feelings, or at least treading on them.

So Madoka had kept the postcards something that was just between her
and Hikaru-chan.

I took the postcards off the tree one by one. Madoka came up from
behind me, and said, "Oh, that's the one I wanted. The one with the picture
of the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center."

"This one, with the picture of the skating rink?"

It was a picture of a skating rink in front of an incredibly tall building.
The rink was filled with skaters.

Next the rink was a giant Christmas tree that probably reached the third or
fourth floor of the skyscraper.

"Every year at this time, they make the skating rink," Madoka said.

Now that you mention it, I had seen it in magazines before.

It was New York, a city known for its crime.

But somehow, I thought it would be great to spend Christmas in a
peaceful, happy place like this.

I sunk into the couch next to Madoka and read the postcard.

The contents were silly, but it was alive with Hikaru-chan's happy

She had gotten into a new computer network called "Fame." She had
bought a used CD Walkman from another person on Fame.

She had finally decided on a name for her cat: JG. Can we guess where
she got the inspiration for the name?

Finally, 'Happy Christmas.' At the bottom was the signature, "Star*"

"Star?" I asked.

"Yeah. You know, that's what 'Hikaru' means in English. (12)."

"Ah, I see. 'Star.'"

"Hikaru has decided she likes the word."

"That's just like her. It has a nice ring to it, though."

"Kyosuke, that's the problem."


I took the coffee cup from her and drank some.

Madoka took the pack of Salems that had been discarded on the table,
taking notice of me out of the corner of her eyes. Her expression seemed
to say, Why should I care what others think of me? as she took a cigarette
out and lit it.

I don't smoke. So Madoka usually refrains from smoking in front of me.

Madoka blew out some smoke, then brushed her hair back, as if to avoid
getting smoke in her hair. The smell of the cigarette mixed with Madoka's
scent. It was kind of sexy.

Madoka started to talk about the postcards she had gotten recently.

About the "Star*" signature.

About Hikaru-chan being happy that everyone at the school had started
using her new nickname.

About how important the Fame network was for people trying to get
acting roles in New York.

But because America is the country where dreams and danger go hand in
hand, Hikaru wouldn't use "Star*" as her handle name...

"I see," I said. "And now, on that Inter-, er, what was that again?"


"Yeah, she used 'Star*' on the Internet. So you were communicating with
various people on the Internet, too, and in English."

A smile appeared on Madoka's face. "You're really amazing, Kyosuke."


"You don't know anything about computers, do you?"

"Well," I said, embarrassed.

"I wasn't talking to different people on the Internet. But I did check the
Fame BBS quite often."

"I see."

"You know, just to see what Hikaru was doing."

I laughed, but it was a worried kind of laugh.

Madoka tapped the end of her cigarette against the edge of the ash tray,
dropping the burning ash into it.

Her long, slender fingers; her fingernails, grown just short enough so that
they wouldn't get in her way when she played the piano: from time to time,
I would become aware of Madoka like this. I felt as if I were just noticing
how beautiful she was now that she'd become a woman.

At the same time, I felt like a child. A silly little boy.

"You said Hikaru was getting ready to go to Mexico," I said.

"Yes. She was asking around for a cheap ticket there."

"Oh, you mean things like that are posted on a computer bulletin board," I

"That's right. She used her handle name of 'Hikaru,' though. Someone who
checked that asked if 'Hikaru' was a man or a woman's name. She posted
that in Japanese it meant 'queen.' And she signed that message with the
handle 'Hikaru,' too."

"Go on," I said.

"But the next message..."

I finished her sentence for her. "...was signed 'Bye bye, Star*.'"

Madoka fell silent. I felt I understood a little bit why she was so worried
about Hikaru-chan.

"So basically, you're saying that she had used the name 'Hikaru' in all of
her messages in the past, but in the last message, she signed the name of
'Star*.' Is that right?"

Madoka nodded and put out her Salem.

I put a hand on her shoulder, and pulled her towards me on the couch. We
were silent for a while.

We were both probably thinking along the same lines.

It was possible that Hikaru had gone to Mexico, and typed 'bye bye' on
the Fame BBS. She might have been so excited about going, that she
accidentally signed the message 'Star*' by mistake.

But on the other hand, any number of bad things might have happened to
her if you started thinking about it.

"She was in New York," Madoka said. "She knew the good points of
American life as well as the bad. She wouldn't have used her real name,
I'm sure of it (12). Unless there was some reason."

I nodded but was silent.



"Are you tired or anything?" She looked at me, smiling. This was one of
those smiles she had been showing me so much recently.

To be honest, thinking about Hikaru-chan had been making me feel rather
tired. I was worried about her.

After returning from Bosnia, I'd been getting this way, suddenly tired, with
no energy whatsoever.

It was possible that this was a result of the shock I received from seeing
the horrors of the battlefield there.

I don't want to be a wimp, but I can't be full of energy all the time. I want
you to understand, Madoka Ayukawa.

I smiled wryly at Madoka, and, as if to escape her kind eyes, drank the
coffee at the bottom of the cup.

But the dark brown liquid had been sitting too long.

"Wow, this is cold!" I said, but I drained the cup anyway.

"Hey, Kasuga! Hello, Kasuga?"

At Komatsu's voice, I returned to the present, back in ABCB.

Komatsu, obviously having a lot of fun, laughed and call me over.

"Don't make so much noise!" I said to him.

I didn't want him to bother Master or Pack any more with his yelling, so I
went over to sit with them.

"Oh, you've finally come to sit with us," Komatsu said. "Sit down. Today is
a special day."

"Every day is a special day with you," I said.

"What's wrong, oniichan?" Manami said. "You're always looking down in
the dumps."

"That's right," added Kurumi. "Did you hear about Hatta-kun? He's a
world traveller!"

"Yeah, he's an international man now."

"What happened to Hatta?" I asked.

"You remember," Hatta said. "My manga is going to be run in 'Weekly
Shonen Jumbo.'"

That was the #1 weekly comic in Japan. Hatta had managed to make use
of his interest in sex by drawing an adult manga which had become quite

"Ah, you mean that ero-manga you draw, right?" I said.

Komatsu laughed out loud at this, blowing the bourbon and water out of
his mouth.

"Oniichan, you shouldn't say 'ero-manga' like that. It's rude."

"Yeah, it's more like a 'love comedy.' The title is '_I'll let you do
anything you want_.'" Kurumi placed special emphasis on the word 'anything.'
"It's really funny," she added.

"Okay, okay. So what's the big deal?"

"Well," Hatta said, "in America, there's something called the 'Comic
Market,' sort of a manga festival, but I've been invited to attend! And what
with me, so new to the publishing world and all!"

"Wow," I said.

Then: "Irasshai." It was Master, greeting a customer who had just walked
into the bar.

The man had a good build, and seemed somewhat intelligent. He looked
like a gentleman. He greeted Master and sat down next to me.

"Sorry I'm late," he said.

"It's the editor of Shonen Jumbo!" Komatsu said frantically. Both he and
Hatta leaped up instantly. "We...we didn't know you'd be here tonight!"

They spoke as politely as they could to him. The artist of a sex manga has
to take a back seat to his editor.

Then Kurumi spoke up. "Huh? But a moment ago you complained that
Hatta's editor wasn't going to show up because Hatta was a newcomer to
the company."

"That's right," Manami said.

"Now listen up, you two," Komatsu said, hushing the girls. "You're getting
to eat all this for free tonight, so don't give us any lip."

Just then, Master called my name. He was behind the counter, holding a
cordless telephone in his hand.

It was the phone called I had been waiting for.

"Moshi moshi?"

On the other end of the connection, Madoka's voice was full of stress, as it
had been that afternoon.

"We managed to contact Hikaru's friend, a girl named Shuri Anzai."


"Yes. She goes to the same dance school as Hikaru. My father asked
someone he knew in New York to help him."

"I see. And he found this Shuri girl?"

"Yes. According to this girl, Hikaru must have gone to Mexico."

I started to say, "I knew it," then stopped myself.

"She said she went to Hikaru's apartment last night, which would have
been this morning, Japan time. About 11:00 pm. But Hikaru was gone.
Shuri had a spare key and let herself into the apartment."

"A spare key?"

"Yes. She and Hikaru had copies of each other's house keys. If one of
them went to the other's house when they weren't there, it would be too
dangerous to wait outside alone, right?"

"Ah. So what happened after Shuri went inside?"

"Everything was in order. And the big shoulder bag that Shuri had lent to
Hikaru wasn't there."

"Hmm," I said. "So I guess Hikaru-chan went to Mexico after all."

"I'm not so sure..."


On stage, Pack was beginning another number. It was hard to hear.
"What? I couldn't make out what you were saying," I said.

"Nevermind," she said. "Kyosuke, I'm going to Seattle."

"Huh? Seattle?"

"Do you want to come along?"

I was really having trouble hearing Madoka's words now.

Shouting, I asked her if she didn't want to come to ABCB, but she said
something like, she had to pack her things for Seattle.

I asked her if I should go to her house, but she had given up on the
conversation, unable to hear, and hung up.

Just then, something occurred to me...

She couldn't have meant that she was actually going to Seattle the
following day, could she?

She did.

Even though she knew that I had to work my part-time job that day, she
left for Narita airport, leaving this message on my answering machine:

"I'm sorry, leaving without seeing you like this. I'll be okay by myself, and
I'll call you from Seattle. It looks like we'll have to spend Christmas apart
this year. I'm sorry."

She had said 'I'll be okay,' but her voice didn't give that impression at

Madoka must have gotten hold of some information about Hikaru-chan.

And, not wanting to make me worry, she had gone off alone. I was sure of

Hikaru opened her eyes to the sound of a steam whistle.

But she didn't see anything. She was in total darkness.

Somewhere out beyond the darkness, the steam whistle sounded again.

The Hudson River...? Hikaru thought to herself, but shook her head right
away. The Hudson River wasn't ten minutes away from her house. To
think that she would be kidnapped and taken to someplace so close to her
home was being overly optimistic.

Have I really been kidnapped?

But why me?

Hikaru vividly remembered the strangers forcing their way into her room.
But judging from what they said, which she couldn't understand entirely,
they were not anyone she knew.

She had no idea why such a thing would happen to her.

Her hands were tied with some kind of rope. The lower half of her body
was in a sleeping bag. At the very least, it seemed that the culprits did not
want her to freeze to death in the cold New York winter.

Just then, a horn sounded loudly.

Then the sound stopped, only to be followed by the sound of a car's tires,
screeching away. Then, headlights, turned towards the dark space where
she was, showing the outline of a window pane.

A loft?

Hikaru realized that she was being held inside some kind of warehouse.
And near a river large enough for ships to use.

But a moment later she darkness returned. Along with it, the heavy silence.

With the smell of the anesthesia still in her nose, Hikaru was pulled once
again into the world of sleep.

Far away, the sound of John Lennon's "Happy Christmas."

It was probably coming from the shopping center that lay on the other side
of the nearby hill. The town was completely wrapped up in its Christmas

It was near the top of the long, long stairs, where I had met Madoka
Ayukawa for the first time. I was at the playground, sitting on the swing.

Madoka left for Seattle yesterday. Today was Christmas Eve.

Let's go to church together, she had said to me earlier. She had been
looking forward to it for so long. But now...she had left Tokyo, almost as
if she was running away from me.

I knew the reason.

Kasuga Kyosuke. You were never able to get over the shock of Bosnia.
You eventually got so absorbed with it that you could think of nothing else.

And so... Madoka Ayukawa is...

The Christmas Eve you were both looking forward to is here, but she had
to go away.

There was still no word from Madoka.

I called the Ayukawa house in Seattle, but Madoka was out with her
parents at the time.

Morning in Japan is evening over there. According to the maid who
answered the phone, Madoka had been invited to a party given by friends
of her parents.

Then I called Madoka's older sister.

I had met her sister, who is eight years older than Madoka, several times
while in high school. She was quite a different person from Madoka,
somehow more like the daughter of a wealthy family than Madoka.

Madoka, more individual, got along well with her sister. So I was sure that
Madoka would have passed on any important information to her.

"Ah, Kasuga-kun, yes," Madoka's sister said in her usual friendly voice.

Yes, she knew that Madoka had come to Seattle. Her husband had
picked Madoka up from the airport.

A little too excitedly, I asked if Madoka had not been acting strangely at
this time.

But Madoka's sister just laughed, and said, "Come on, do you think that
something has happened to Hikaru-chan, too?"

I got embarrassed. "Huh? No, I, well...Madoka just thought, that...I mean,
Madoka-san thought...well, she was rather worried."

"Yes, she was. But I told her she was worrying too much."


"Seriously. I don't know anything about the Internet, but how on Earth
could any of us be expected to know what happened on the other side of
the ocean, in one tiny apartment in New York?"

She went on, saying that Hikaru-chan would be okay, I've known her
since she was a little girl, that sort of thing.

I thought to myself that I could see that Madoka's older sister had been
raised quite differently from Madoka, basking in the love of her parents,
and marrying an elite salary-man.

Thinking this way, I almost failed to hear what Madoka's sister was saying.

"Am I right? I told her that even if there was some special alarm clock that
Hikaru-chan loved left in her apartment, it didn't mean anything."

"Huh? An alarm clock?" I said.

"Yes. It was something Hikaru-chan's friend had said. Now what was her
name again?"

"Shuri? Was it Shuri Anzai?"

"Yes, that's right. When Madoka talked to this Shuri person, the matter of
the alarm clock came up. That night, the night that Madoka thinks that
something happened to Hikaru-chan, Shuri-san went to her room at about
11 pm."

I had heard this from Madoka.

"Then Madoka asked what time she went to the apartment one more time,
just to be sure. Shuri-san said, 'I'm sure of the time. I looked at my watch,
and also at the alarm clock in the room, and both said 11:00 pm.'"

"I see."

"Madoka apparently started worrying when she heard about the alarm

"Why would that be?" I asked.

"The alarm clock had been something that Madoka had given


"It was really old. A tea cup with a teddy bear inside it. When Hikaru
passed her high school entrance exams, Madoka asked her what she
wanted as an entering-school present, and Hikaru-chan said Madoka's
alarm clock. That's so like her, don't you think?"

"Ah, yes."

"According to Madoka, this alarm clock was really important to
Hikaru-chan, and she took it everywhere she went, even when staying with
the girls from her club in high school. I remember she even brought it over
to our house when sleeping over, keeping it right in her bag."

Just then , I felt as if I were looking at the sea, out at the distant
horizon, and a wave suddenly appeared and started moving towards me. I felt
oddly cold.

Out of the receiver, the bouncy, bright voice of Madoka's sister continued:

"But the clock is so old now. It's not the type of design a twenty-year-old
girl would carry around with her. Hello? Kasuga-kun?"

"Ah, yes, I'm here."

"Madoka said that if Hikaru-chan had gone to Mexico, she would have
taken the alarm clock with her." Madoka's sister laughed. "Oh, she's such
a silly girl. I think she might be working too hard at that songwriting of
hers. Well, it'll be okay. She'll get a chance to see Papa and Mama and
say whatever she wants to say to them for a while."

"Yeah, I guess."

"Not to change the subject," she said, "but what will you be doing tonight,
with Madoka gone? It is Christmas Eve. Why don't you come over here to
our house?"

I lied that I had to work tonight, and put down the phone.

I knew I had seen the alarm clock of a teddy bear sitting in a tea cup
somewhere before.

Remember...try to remember, Kyosuke!

I felt disgusted with myself for holding onto the memories of the shock of
Bosnia. I had been stupid in the first place, deciding to travel to a
battlefield like that, without considering my actions.

I had been selfish and conceited.

I had been bored at the University. So one day I had said to myself,
"You've got to do something, Kyosuke!" and I took up photography.

This was, of course, all because my father was a photographer himself.

I just followed his example; I already knew how to handle a camera, of

And then, by chance, I managed to win the university photography contest,
and suddenly I was in heaven. Next, it was time for me to pretend to be a
journalist, so it was off to Bosnia.

There I saw...more misery than you could ever comprehend. Human
beings, turned to "bloody _daruma_ (13)." I was unable to do anything for
them, except cling to my camera and work the shutter.

Then, before I knew what had happened, the film I had brought with me
ran out; I found myself under the protection of the UN peacekeeping

I had gone to Bosnia to see the reality, but since returning to Japan, I had
felt that I had been unable to face that reality.

That's right, Kyosuke Kasuga.

You haven't even found the courage to develop the film you brought back
from Bosnia, have you?

And now the person you love is shaking with fear, and you can't even be
next to her to comfort her, can you?


Kyosuke Kasuga...remember when you saw that alarm clock!

Try to see the reality right in front of your eyes.

See it!

As if I had been pushed by some unseen power behind me, I jumped up
from the swing. I ran back to my house, and into the bathroom which
served as our darkroom.

It was time to stop screwing around.

Thinking won't do anything. What can I do for Madoka, now?

There is just one thing.

And that not run away anymore.

I took several rolls of film that had been left under the sink, and prepared
to develop them.

And that was when I remembered about the teddy bear alarm clock.

I had seen it in Hikaru-chan's hotel room when she returned to Japan, six
months ago.

Well, strictly speaking, the person who saw the alarm clock was the "me"
who came from three years in the past. At the time, I had spent a
dangerous night with Hikaru-chan.

Nothing really happened between us, but... we came very close.

The next morning, I left the hotel room while Hikaru-chan was taking a
shower, and that was when I saw the teddy bear alarm clock.

To see that alarm clock in a hotel room of a nice "city hotel" like that
somehow stuck out in my memory.

I said to myself, what is an old thing like this doing here?

But it never occurred to me that she had brought it with her all the way
from New York.

One by one, the pictures appeared in the developing fluid.

In one picture, a person staring right into my camera... I couldn't bear the
gaze, but I forced myself to look. And at that time, I knew that Madoka
had been right, that something had happened to Hikaru-chan.

Basically, that if Hikaru-chan really had gone to Mexico of her own free
will, she would have been sure to take Madoka's teddy bear alarm clock
with her.

Developing the film took all night.

When it was finished, I called Seattle.

My capricious, whimsical angel's voice, on the other end of the connection,
full of pain: "Kyosuke..."

I told her I would borrow money from Hatta and go there as soon as I

Madoka Ayukawa's voice returned to normal. "Catch a plane today, even
if you have to use your ESP powers. I haven't tried on the light blue
half-coat yet."

If I took a flight tonight, I would still be in time for Christmas in


It was unbelievably beautiful.

That a sight like this, or like Tokyo at night, or what I saw in Bosnia,
could actually exist, was almost impossible to imagine.

The sight that greeted me as I got out of Madoka's father's car made my
eyes turn to little dots.

This was the Woodmark Hotel, on the other side of Lake Washington,
across the Floating Bridge opposite Seattle.

The hotel, which was still new, sat on the lake, colored auburn by the
setting sun. There was an elegant terrace-style Italian restaurant on the
first floor, and nearby, a small harbor, owned by the hotel.

"How do you like it? It's beautiful, isn't it?" Madoka's father said from
inside the car. His white-streaked hair moved slightly in the wind; he was

I had seen this man once, as he conducted an orchestra.

When I saw him up there at the podium, he seemed somehow
unapproachable, at least for someone like me.

And after the concert, when Madoka introduced him to me, he seemed
not to look directly at me.

"Yes, it's 'unbelievable,'" I replied, using the English word.


"Er, it's really beautiful. Ha ha..."

Don't be such a fool!

"I thought you'd like it. This is your first trip to Seattle, isn't it?"


"It's rare to see such a beautiful sunset in the winter."


"If you asked me to describe winter in Seattle, I would say it was usually
drizzling and cloudy."

"The weather is bad?"

Madoka's father laughed and shook his head. "If you think of the weather
here as 'bad' then you won't be able to make it through one winter. Rain is
a good thing -- quiet and romantic."

My breath caught for a moment when he said 'romantic.' How many
middle-aged men of my own father's generation can use a word like
'romantic' so freely?

"Seattle is the safest city in all of America. But it also has the most


"For people who have peace in their lives, or who have loved ones near
them, there is no better environment than this place. But depressed people
or those who seek artificial stimulation in their lives can't handle living

"Ah, I see."

"This is America. You have to make your own world around you, or you'll
get weary of life."

I thought of Hikaru-chan, in New York.

It occurred to me now that, like Hikaru-chan, Madoka's father must have
had an incredibly active youth (14).

"I'll park the car in the underground lot. Why don't you take a walk or
something?" he said, and handed over my beloved Canon that I had left on
the seat of the car.

He winked at me.

It seemed like such a casual thing to do, but he did it with so much

It was natural, of course, that a man who had stood, holding his
conductor's baton on the greatest cities of the world would be like this.

It seemed like he had everything he wanted in life.

This style permeated the air around him.

I knew then that he had seen through our charade, Madoka and mine, and
knew everything about us.

I felt my body getting tense, nervous.

As his Mercedes Benz SL6000 disappeared into the underground garage,
I was finally able to let the air out of my lungs. Then, still looking at the
customers eating dinner at the restaurant, I went down to the yacht harbor.

I arrived at Seattle's SEA-TAC airport that morning.

Madoka was waiting for me at the airport. We immediately headed for a
hotel near the airport, and had made love ravenously to each other.

It was...a desperate thing.

Even though we had only been separated a few days, we couldn't help

It was as if a chasm had opened between us, and we were working as
hard as we could to close it.


Fiercely, we searched for each other.

As I melted into her flesh, so deeply that I couldn't go any further, I
focused my mind on one point and entrusted myself to that warm, good
feeling, and then it was over.

Below the level of my face, Madoka's ample breast moved up and down
with her breath. It was like a great and raging wave.

But it filled me with a mysterious sense of calm. Like children exhausted
from play, we slept.

The sun set quickly on Lake Washington.

The harbor was speckled with many small lights belonging to luxurious

But far more beautiful than this sight was downtown Seattle, sparkling on
the far shore of the lake.

I had left Japan on the 25th, so tonight was still Christmas, here in

Many people were at restaurants or on harbor cruise ships to have dinner
parties. I had been invited to come here and have dinner with Madoka and
her parents.

Otosan said that Madoka and Okasan would take a long time to get
ready, and suggested that he and I come early, so that he could give me a
tour of the city.

Speaking as a person who did what I did with Madoka this afternoon...the
more Otosan is nice to me...I feel like...well, like a criminal.

"Kasuga-kun, I'm up here."

Over by the water, Madoka's father was waving to me. He was on the
deck of a fabulous, luxurious cruiser. I could see people who looked like
serving boys boarding the ship.

The boat was covered with tiny lights, like a Christmas tree.

It looked like a picture on a postcard.

Madoka had said to me, "Papa and Mama suggested we eat on board the
ship," but I didn't think that this is what she had meant--it was

Forgetting to use my favorite camera, which I had gone to all the trouble of
bringing, I walked towards the ship like a little boy.

"I have to admit, I'm quite proud of this ship," Madoka's father said,
escorting me to his cabin.

The room looked like the super high-class restaurant that appeared in the
movie _The Godfather_, and was decorated like a VIP room.

The servants, dressed in black, were busy preparing the meal.

I thought, wow, there are really people who live like this.

I was Kyosuke Kasuga, twenty-two years old.

Was it okay for me to be dating the daughter of a family like this?

I mean, the differences between us were overwhelming.

"Well, let's start with some champagne."

"Ah, okay," I said.

After seeing such wonders as this, it was natural that my throat would be

I took the glass that Madoka's father offered me, and drank it dry in one

"It would be almost impossible to keep a boat like this in Japan. When we
said we were all going to live in Seattle, we thought Madoka wouldn't talk
to us ever again," he said to me, and winked.

Now that he mentioned it, Madoka had lived alone a long time back in
Tokyo. Her older sister had been living with Madoka until she got married,
when Madoka was in the tenth grade (14). After that, Madoka had been

Of course, her parents had worried about her, and had asked her to come
live with them in America many times.

But in the end, Madoka stayed in Tokyo.

She never attempted to tell me the reason for this. When she was in
elementary school, she had lived in America for about three years, and
could speak English without any problems, so I knew that language was
not the reason.

But I don't like to pester my kimagure angel about things she doesn't like
to talk about.


I had decided to not stick my neck into matters regarding Madoka and her

"Ah, she's here, she's here. The princess has arrived."

"What?" I said.

Madoka's father pointed towards the underground parking lot. A valet
parking attendant was signaling with his penlight.

Valet parking is a parking system in which the attendant parks your car for
you, for a tip, and is always found at large theatres, hotels and

Madoka's father must have handed the parking attendant a tip ahead of
time with instructions to signal when Madoka and her mother arrived.

"Go meet the ladies, Kasuga-kun," he said to me.

"Um, sure."

Feeling more than a little out of my element, I went off to meet Madoka
and her mother.

Madoka was wearing the light blue half-coat she had gotten for Christmas.
It caught the light reflecting off the harbor, and shined like the wings
enfolding an angel.

"I didn't know you brought it with you," I said to her.

"I did," Madoka said.

"Brought what?" Madoka's mother asked as she tipped the parking
attendant. She looked at me, and I could see that Madoka had inherited
her mother's eyes, slightly sexy.

"Nevermind, it's a secret," Madoka said.

The realization that Madoka and I shared a secret welled up inside me.

After I escorted them onto the boat, I played the role of gentleman and
took their coats.

Under her coat, Madoka was wearing a bold cocktail dress.

I had not seen it before. It had either been hurriedly prepared by her
mother after hearing that Madoka was coming to Seattle for Christmas, or
else had been a present for her from their last trip to Europe.

The neck made a sharp V, and below it was Madoka's...her full breasts...

I'm sorry, but I started thinking about them.

"Hey, watch where you're looking!" Madoka said to me in a low voice as I
took her coat. "We're with my parents, and your eyes are having sex with

"_Baka_!" I said to her.

Madoka just laughed.

"What's wrong?" her father asked.

"Nothing, nothing. Oh, will you give some champagne to mother and me?"

"Ah, dinner's here."

The dinner that night was the best I had ever eaten.

I could see that Madoka was trying her best to forget about Hikaru-chan
while in front of her parents, who were so happy at having her back with

She drank champagne and teased her father, laughed and talked about the
fashions in Tokyo.

This was the first time I had seen this side of her.

The Madoka whose coat I had just taken seemed incredibly grown up to
me a moment ago, but now, in front of her parents, she had the face of a
young child.

Just then, the cruiser returned from the harbor to the dock. A wave came,
rocking us slightly.

"Woah," I said.

I grabbed onto the edge of the table to get my balance.

Just then, Madoka put her hand over mine. I quickly turned to look at
Madoka's father's face.

He was talking with Madoka's mother. As if she saw through my anxiety,
Madoka looked at me and whispered, "Don't look so shocked, Kyosuke."

I interlocked my fingers with Madoka's, keeping our hands so that her
father coundn't see.

Madoka laughed. I loved her. The slow rocking of the boat, aided by my
jet-lag, gave me a comfortable, almost drunken, feeling.

But the next morning, some information regarding the real reason we had
come to America--to find out whether Hikaru-chan was safe or not--came
to us.

Hikaru-chan's beloved pet cat had been found electrocuted in her
apartment in New York.

Hikaru awoke to a light so bright the only word to describe it was 'violent.'

It was so bright that she couldn't tell what was on the other side of it at
first. She did, however, understand that she had gotten into quite a
dangerous situation.

With all her might, she tried to focus her eyes ahead of her.

The light she had thought was so bright turned out to be normal. A door
was opened noisily, and the lights to the warehouse were switched on.
This had pulled Hikaru from her sleep.

Three men were standing in the doorway. They were wearing black
sheepskin pants. Hikaru couldn't have forgotten this fact if she had wanted

Now, the ski masks that had been covering their faces were gone.

The men seemed to be slightly older than Hikaru, but their races were each
different. One was South American, another was white, and the third was
black. All three were wearing smiles that were somehow evil.

The white man was holding a bag from a hamburger shop. That was
probably to fill Hikaru's empty stomach. But Hikaru knew that the men
were not here to bring her food.

Hikaru lived in New York, but had never been in a situation like this
before. For a place with many rapes and robberies like New York, she
was fortunate.

Hikaru had decided long ago she would do if faced with a situation like

If her "self" was going to be stolen away from her, she would choose to
die, instead.

Suddenly she called to herself.

Wake up!

It's time to fight, Hikaru!

Feeling the anger boil up inside her body, she said in fast English, "Don't
come near me! Who the hell are you? Why did you kidnap me? Untie
these ropes! Let go of me! Or you'll be sorry."

But the man of South American descent just yelled at her in a language she
didn't know. He took the hamburger bag away from the white man and
threw it at Hikaru.

The bag stuck to Hikaru's cheek for a moment, then fell onto the floor. The
bag tore open, and Hikaru could see that a hamburger, french fries and
Coke had been inside.

As if the bag falling to the floor had been a signal, the two men suddenly
threw themselves at Hikaru.

Hikaru kicked out at the South American with her bound legs.

At that same instant, however, she received a shock on the back of her
head. The black man was behind her, holding her arms.

Once again there was a glistening knife held inches from her nose.

The white man flashed a cruel smile, sitting on Hikaru's bound legs.

Hikaru had been filled with wild rage, but now she was robbed of the
means to do anything about it.

"Go ahead and kill me! Kill me!" Hikaru said right in the white man's face.

But he just laughed, and wiped away some hamburger sauce that had
stuck to her forehead with his finger. He licked his finger slowly. Then he
said, in Southern-accented that Hikaru had trouble understanding, "No
one's going to hear you from in here, no matter how loudly you yell. Go
ahead and indulge yourself."


With an experienced hand, the man cut the sweater that Hikaru was
wearing from the throat region down.

Hikaru's abundant cleavage, covered by her bra, suddenly lay open.

Like hungry Dobermans watching their prey, the men gazed at Hikaru's
milk-white skin. The white man slid the knife under the bra's front fastener.

Hikaru prepared herself. If her "self" was going to be stolen from her, she
would end her own life herself. She prepared to bite her tongue off.

But at that moment, several shots from a pistol sounded.

Hikaru and the men went instantly stiff, and the men looked at the holes in
the floor.

"Monica!" The white man let out, looking behind him at the doorway.

A young woman with a "bobcut" hairstyle was standing there, holding a
gun. Almond skin. Her eyes were shining green. She left a fiery impression
typical of Latinos.

"I thought you guys would be up to something like this. What a bunch of

The woman who had been called Monica spoke English that was easy for
Hikaru to understand. Either she had spent a long time in New York, or,
like Hikaru, had worked desperately to learn to speak the language of the

"Shall I dump the three of you in the Hudson River?"

Monica's tone had an overwhelming effect on the three men.

One said, "Hey, Monica, it was just a joke."

"Look at her, she's shivering with cold. Sex when the body is cold is the
best," another said, but he moved away from Hikaru. Pointing the gun at
him, Monica motioned for him to hurry.

During this exchange, Hikaru kept her eyes on Monica.

With the men gone, Monica looked down at Hikaru. She said, "The stuff
we gave you to make you sleep worked a little too well, I guess. If you
had slept all the way to Christmas Eve I was going to slap you awake."

"What day is it?"

"The twenty-third," Monica answered.

"I won't say thank you."

"I don't mind. This is all business to me."



Hikaru felt her body stiffen with fear once again.

They found out about the death of Hikaru's cat the day after the boat

Five days had passed since Madoka saw the mysterious message "Bye
Bye, <STAR*>."

This information was discovered when Madoka accessed the Fame BBS
from her Mac, which she had brought with her.

Mixed in with useless information of all kinds was the following message:

"An electrocuted cat was found in the room of a Japanese girl living in the
Village. Japanese, you're going to be targeted by animal protection groups
if you don't start being fair to animals. Signed 'Whale.'"

Madoka immediately sent email to that user.

The person was one of those nerd-types who use their computers all day
long, and the reply came back with surprising speed.

Madoka's face turned pale when she read the English message:

"Across from this girl's apartment lived an old couple. They were
supposed to keep the cat while the girl was away, but she just left
suddenly. They heard the cat meowing every day, but the door was
locked, so there was no way to save the cat. Then one day they heard the
cat's meow cut off suddenly. So they called an animal protection group,
and got the police involved. But by then they were too late."

Madoka asked if the person had the address to the apartment. He sent it
to us through email.

As we had feared, the address was the same one that Madoka had for

We asked Madoka's father to get us tickets to New York right away.
Madoka and I took the suitcases which we had just unpacked back into
the car's trunk.

We arrived at New York's La Guardia airport that evening. The line of
skyscrapers on Manhattan Island was still buried under the illumination of

John Lennon's "Happy Christmas" was playing at the old radio again.

How many times was that today? Hikaru muttered to herself. It had been
one of her favorite songs. She had even heard Madoka play it once on the
piano. Ever since that time, whenever Christmas drew near, she had
listened to the song on CD.

For a moment, Hikaru recalled this song playing in her room back in
Japan, so very long ago. But she shook her head, unwilling to remember.
Try not to brode over old memories, that was the first thing she had
promised herself before coming to live in New York.

"I don't really care if you thank me or not." Monica had said this earlier,
when she brought the lamp and radio for Hikaru.

Inside the large warehouse, where one didn't know night from day, they
were a nice Christmas present for Hikaru.

Hikaru had tried her best to smile when Monica gave her the present, but
the more she tried to move her face into that position, the more it refused
to move.

Baka, Hikaru!

Don't act friendly towards Monica, not even a little! What will being nice
to her get you?

After the near-rape at the hands of the three men, Monica had started
bringing Hikaru three meals a day.

At first she just left the food and left, but more and more she was affected
by Hikaru's dauntless attitude, and began to talk to the girl.

But whenever Hikaru asked questions like, why was I kidnapped, or what
do you hope to gain, Monica would always say, "I told you, just put up
with it, and everything will be okay."

Then Hikaru would be left alone once again.

With the radio and the light from the lamp, Hikaru's mood improved, but
her heart was still heavy. Since beginning her little talks with Monica,
Hikaru had for the most part stopped fearing that she would be killed.

But there was one line that she could not get out of her head, no matter
how hard she tried.

It was a line spoken by the Island Daughter in the musical "Legend of
Atlantis." It had been because of stress over her inability to read the line
correctly that Hikaru had decided to go to Mexico in the first place.

In the musical, she plays a goddess who rules an island. She falls in love,
and says the following line to goddess Era, the fiancee of the man she

"Blessed Era, please forgive me. I have committed a sin so great that, even
if I were to bury myself for all eternity in the soil of this beautiful
country, it would not be erased...And yet I continue to commit this sin every
day. Even if it meant I would turn into the seaweed that washes onto the
shore, I could not stop loving Atlas."

To Hikaru, the goddess Era was Madoka Ayukawa, and Atlas, the man
she was doomed to love forever, was Kyosuke Kasuga.

The legendary continent of Atlantis...

The Greek philosopher Plato wrote about it.

According to him, the sea-god Posseidon created a continent either in the
center of the Atlantic, or the Pacific, nine thousand years ago.

Posseidon married the island daughter, and she bore him five sets of twin
boys. He then divided his continent into ten sections, and made each of his
sons king of each.

He gave the largest section to his oldest son, born before all the others,
and made him king of the whole mass.

This child's name was Atlas.

From his name, the continent came to be called Atlantis.

It was a land overflowing with abundance. But gods and men are corrupt
in their hearts.

One day, the all-powerful god Zeus grew angry, and sunk the continent
beneath the sea over the course of one day and one night.

The musical "The Legend of Atlantis" was making use of motifs from this
famous myth.

The role Hikaru was aiming for was the role of the beautiful island
daughter, who meets Atlas suddenly in a mysterious forest. The two fall in
love and receive the blessing of the fairies in the forest.

The girl's name was Sofina. It was the name of the most vividly beautiful
flower on the island.

But the love of the two people was doomed to fail. In order to calm a sea
monster that hid on the bottom of the sea, a girl was offered up as a
sacrifice each year. Sofina is chosen for this sacrifice.

Being sacrificed so that everyone in Atlantis could maintain their happy
lives was important.

The sea-god Posseidon himself went along with the practice, and the gods
as well as humans had come to take it for granted.

But Atlas and Sofina fell in love.

They spent every moment submerged in a sweet world where only the
other existed, as if it were a waste to spend any time apart.

Atlas had a fiancee that had been chosen for him by his father.

She was the daughter of his uncle's, the goddess of beauty, Era.

When Era smiled, the waves would suddenly become calm. When she
gazed at the sea, the fiercest gale would become a gentle breeze.

Era was the treasure of the gods, and strove to be better than humans at
everything--especially in beauty. Her ideal was to be the object of
admiration by all.

For that reason, Era was understanding at first while dealing with Atlas.

Her smile never changed; everyone around her loved and respected her all
the more for her tolerance.

But Atlas didn't come back to her.

So the goddess of beauty Era plotted her revenge (17).

This was not something directed at Sofina herself. She first caused a
plague to spread among the girls of the island. Soon the skin of all young
girls on the island swelled up, and they became ugly.

The people on the island turned against the one person they could blame.
That was Sofina, and no other.

There was no sin in the fact that she had fallen in love with Atlas. Nor was
it a sin that Atlas felt the same about her.

But when people are faced with a disaster, they change. Whereas they had
been rejoicing for her up until that point, now they prepared to forsake her.

One day while Atlas was sleeping, the people came and took Sofina away,
and dropped her at the beginning of the sea where the sun rises from.

But just then, Era appeared. With tears in her beautiful eyes she said, "If
only I could have been you. If only I could have loved Atlas dearly, as you
did. I'm sorry, Sofina."

Sofina suddenly realized that the Goddess had known real love just as she
did. She decided to sacrafice herself by throwing herself into the sea.

Up to this point, the role of Sofina had not said a single line to Atlas,
who was a god himself, but had expressed her love through dance. Now, it was
time for her to speak:

"Blessed Era, please forgive me. I have committed a sin so great that, even
if I were to bury myself for all eternity in the soil of this beautiful
country, it would not be erased...And yet I continue to commit this sin every
day. Even if it meant I would turn into the seaweed that washes onto the
shore, I could not stop loving Atlas."

Then Era says, "I have lost."

As Era said this, the island-daughter threw herself into the sea and

Hikaru was envious of Madoka Ayukawa in the same was that Sofina was
envious of the goddess. Even though she knew it would be wrong to
betray Madoka, she was still unable to let go of Kyosuke Kasuga.

These feelings had gotten stronger and stronger ever since her reunion with
Kyosuke in Tokyo, in the summer, six months ago.

That time, Kyosuke and Hikaru had spent the night together.

Nothing had happened between them, but it wouldn't have been strange if
it had. Perhaps for the very reason that nothing had happened that night,
Hikaru's feelings for Kyosuke had built up more and more.

After the incident, Hikaru had returned to New York and submerged
herself in her dance lessons, trying to forget about Kyosuke once again.

Thanks to that extra effort, she had been able to get an audition for "The
Legend of Atlantis."

It seemed kind of cynical that the very first speaking role she might get
would be as a result of a situation she didn't want to remember.

In the middle of practice, when it was time to speak her lines, she felt
herself to be speaking a lie, and this has gotten in the way of her delivery.
The tension had gotten worse and worse.

That was why Shuri had recommended that she go to Mexico.

The continent of Atlantis was sent to the bottom of the sea by the Great
God Zeus. But its culture supposedly passed itself on to the continents of
South America and Europe.

There were three pyramids found at the Teotihuacan ruins in Mexico, the
most famous of which was known of as the "Pyramid of the Sun. The
remains of the ancient Teotihuacans were said to be sleeping inside it.
These three pyramids were something that also appeared in the Atlantis

There were many interesting similarities between the Teotihuacan pyramids
and the legend of Atlantis.

Trying to cheer Hikaru up, Shuri Anzai had said, "Why don't you try
standing on the top of that pyramid and confess your love for the god
Atlas. I think you'll be the old Hikaru-chan again."

"Confess my love for the god..." Hikaru repeated now.

John Lennon's song had stopped some time earlier. Because of the silence,
Hikaru's words, which had been intended as a joke to cheer herself up,
echoed mysteriously inside the empty warehouse.

Hikaru felt the cold wind again, and pulled the sleeping bag over her head.

Just then, there was the sound of knocking at the door to the entrance.
Three knocks: Monica's signal. The sound of a several locks being turned.

"I'll just be happy if those men aren't with her," she muttered to hersef.
Ever since Monica had said she would knock as a signal before entering,
this had been Hikaru's excuse for being happy to see her.

Hikaru noticed now that Monica was almost the same age as her.

"It's a turkey sandwich," Monica said in fast English as she entered the
room. "And clam chowder. I'm sorry it's not much. At the very least, I
wanted to feed you turkey on Christmas."

Hikaru shrugged.

She had no intention of saying thank you for the Christmas dinner, but at
the same time she didn't want to return kindness with sarcasm. She also
didn't want Monica to leave right away.

" were born here, were you?"

Hikaru had picked an unimportant topic on purpose.

"Why do you ask?"

"Your accent is New York, but its feels...different."

If she had been a pure New Yorker, her speech would have been more
"dry" somehow. Hikaru started to say this, but stopped herself.

"I sound like an a country girl?" Monica asked. "Is that what you're

Still with a blank expression on her face, Monica put the clam chowder
down in front of Hikaru. She must have just bought it: when Monica took
off the plastic lid, steam poured out of the container.

"No, that's not it. It just seems like you must have worked hard to learn to
pronounce English like a local."

"Well, that's true."


"I studied English."


Regardless of the fact that America was a country built by immigrants, and
that English was the language that everyone used, there were some people
from other countries that formed mini-societies in which they could use
their native languages, without learning English or inter-mingling with
American culture.

But for people who wanted to live at the center of American society,
English was an indispensable asset. To speak not only English, but the
cosmopolitan dialect of New Yorkers was, for Hikaru, not something she
could do without a lot of work.

"What do you mean, 'why'?" Monica repeated Hikaru's question back to
her, with a slightly confused smile on her face. "Well, I think my reason
was pretty much the same as yours."

Hikaru was surprised at this.

"In your room, I looked at the Fame BBS. It reminded me of myself when
I was young."

"You mean you wanted to be in a musical before?"

"Something like that." She added bitterly, "But that was a long time ago.
With skin the color of mine, there were a limited number of roles I could

"But that's the same with me," Hikaru said. "It's probably even harder for
me to get roles. It's only been recently that roles for Asians have appeared
at all."

Monica had never considered this before. She stood, silent.

Being of South American-descent, Monica had no doubt run into various
forms of discrimination in her life. But Hikaru, as a Japanese, had endured
the same, no, even more of a feeling of being excluded from American life.

Monica felt closer than ever to Hikaru. She allowed the following words to
slip from her mouth:

"I'm sorry, Hikaru. After you worked so hard to get that audition and

"What?" Hikaru was shocked, as if something had hit her hard in the chest.
"You know about my audition?"

Monica's face looked confused for a moment, but her eyes immediately
recovered their hardness. She stood up and said, "Merry Christmas,
Hikaru. At least taste the turkey. It's all I can do for you now."

She turned and walked towards the door.

"Wait, Monica! Tell me! Why do you know about my audition? Is that
why you've kidnapped me? It has something to do with the musical,
doesn't it? Monica!"

But Monica closed the door with a loud noise, as if it had been pulled
closed by Hikaru's words. Then the sound of several locks being turned,
echoing throughout the empty warehouse.

Hikaru felt her body assaulted by cold once more, and with it, a new sense
of unrest.

If the reason they kidnapped me had something to do with my upcoming

Then maybe Shuri is also in danger!

Hikaru was still bound by the rope, but Monica had re-tied it so that it was
a little looser. This enabled her to bring the soup to her mouth and drink
even while both hands remained tied.

Hikaru put the container of clam chowder to her mouth, but steam was no
longer rising from the top.


From the radio, a Fred Astair Christmas tune started playing. But to
Hikaru, that voice seemed to be coming from very far away.

"Here we are. This is the place."

Shuri Anzai opened the door to Hikaru-chan's apartment in a casual
manner, almost as if going into her own room.

I was following behind Madoka and Shuri, feeling as if I were intruding in a
place I had no right to enter.

Well, that wasn't quite right...

I was thing thinking about Hikaru-chan...or rather, the night the "me" that
came from three years in the past spent with her, six months ago.

For some reason, I couldn't stop thinking about that night.

Her room.

It was filled with the smell of Hikaru-chan.

I didn't want to just barge into that room. It would have been rude,

"Kyosuke?" It was Madoka.


"What's wrong? Why are you standing there with a flustered expression on
your face?"

"Huh? What are you talking about? I'm not flustered!"

"Then stop acting like it. Or are you thinking of Hikaru's underwear?"

"Cut it out," I said.

Madoka looked at Shuri and chuckled.

"Kyosuke can't stand up to Madoka," Shuri said.

Shuri sat down on the old windowseat and crossed her legs. She extended
her finger and switched on the CD/radio unit.

Christmas music flowed out of the radio. It filled me with memories of
Christmases gone past.

"Hey, it's Fred Astair!" Shuri said, and started singing.

Madoka and I had gone to see Shuri right after landing at La Guardia, and
had her bring us to Hikaru's apartment.

Madoka had said, "We're really sorry to be disturbing you on Christmas

Shuri had answered, "It's okay. I went all around with my boyfriend
yesterday. I was just planning on listening to some music tonight."

Shuri-san and Madoka were the same age. But Shuri-san was almost as
tall as me.

She has a sort of 'rough' feeling to her that could only have come from
being in America a long time.

So that she seems to be much more mature than me.

But Shuri had apparently been heard a lot about Madoka from
Hikaru-chan, and when she met her for the first time, she said, "Oh,
Madoka-chan, you look just like I pictured."

That sort of thing.

The two of them became instant friends.

But both had a completely different idea of what had happened to
Hikaru-chan. When Madoka first told Shuri about her theory that
Hikaru-chan had gotten caught up in some kind of trouble, Shuri had
looked surprised at first, but then she laughed, her mouth wide open, like
Julia Roberts.

"You're a musician, right?" she had said. "You sound like a person who
can't stop reading mystery novels in your spare time."

It appeared she was convinced that Hikaru-chan had gone to Mexico after

"Take a look at this room," Shuri said now, removing the CD from the CD
player to check its title. "I mean, it's just Hikaru's room. There's no way
anything happened here."

Madoka made no reply. She looked around the room.

"I mean, it's really sad, what happened to JG (18) and all, but... Oh, JG
was the name of the cat Hikaru was keeping."

"Ah, yes. We know," I said for Madoka.

"Where did the cat die?" Madoka asked.

"Over there. It's a really old toaster oven. You usually can't even make a
pizza in it. Hikaru had asked the owner of the building to come and repair
the broken cord many times, but..."

Shuri said how happy she was that Hikaru hadn't seen the body of the
dead cat. It had apparently been wrapped up in the cord almost as if it had
been strangled. Members of an animal protection group had taken the cat
away to be buried.

There did seem to be nothing out of order in Hikaru-chan's room.

The bed and sofa seemed quite old. She must have bought them used at a
flea market or something.

But Hikaru-chan always liked things to be clean.

The bed had freshly washed sheets on it, and there was a blanket with an
ethnic touch to it on the bed.

It was so like Hikaru-chan to decorate her personal space in her own way.

I found myself respecting her again.

Alone, all alone in this exciting city of New York.

I, who went off to Bosnia without so much as a second thought, then
returned, stupidly allowing myself to get depressed about what I saw there.

I thought...I thought that I was nothing compared to Hikaru-chan.

_Kacha kacha_

Madoka had sat herself on the bed and started typing on the computer that
had been left there.

I was sure she was calling the Fame BBS again.

It suddenly occurred to me that Madoka can I say it? Upset
because she hadn't been able to be at Hikaru-chan's side while she was
doing her best to make it in America.

This must have been very hard for her.


Madoka had become silent as she looked at the computer's monitor. I put
my hand on her shoulder.

She was trembling.



"Hikaru...I wonder what she thought about in here?"

"I wonder."

Madoka let out a little squeal. Then she returned to the computer screen.

"Okay, I'll leave my key here," Shuri said, as if she didn't want to
interrupt us. "If you find out anything, please let me know." She stood up.
We looked at each other, and she smiled, but she seemed upset.

"Hikaru has quite a lot of sense," she said. "I'm sure she's okay."

She put the CD back into the CD player, switched the unit from radio to
CD, then left the room.

The Christmas music that had been playing from the speakers was now
replaced by a soprano fusion jazz sax number.

I walked over to Madoka's side and held her, putting her face against my
body. I could feel her tears.

There was nothing I could say to Madoka. There was nothing I could do
but stare dumbly at 'it.'

Ever since coming into the room, Madoka had been quite careful to avoid
looking at it.

"It" was the teddy bear alarm clock.

As we had expected, it had been left in her room. I once again sensed that
Madoka might have been right in thinking that something had happened to

Madoka sat quietly for a moment, then started tapping the keys once
again, as if she had had a new idea.

The following appeared on the Fame BBS:

"Does anyone know where H. Hikaru is? By Teddy Bear."

That was when I learned that Madoka had been using "Teddy Bear" as her
own handle name. I discovered that Madoka and Hikaru-chan had been
connected by this tight bond all this time.

Outside, through the window, snow began to fall.

It wouldn't do for Madoka and I to spend the night in this room. We
turned the CD player and the computer off and left.

It was bitter cold outside.

Just then, I remembered something Madoka's father had said to me:

"This is America. You have to make your own world around you, or you'll
get weary of life."

Why I chose that time to recall his words just then, I can't say.

Perhaps it was because I was thinking of Hikaru-chan, working hard to
make her dreams come true, all alone.

America is the place where, anything can happen, if you work hard; but at
the same time, a terrible life awaits weak-minded people... I was sure I
had figured out what was so special about New York.

A yellow cab that had come from Greenwich Village stopped in front of
us, and we got in.

We told the driver the name of our hotel, but the driver, who had brownish
red skin, rattled on to us in a language with trilled R's that couldn't
possibly have been English.

When Madoka gave him the address of the hotel, he finally stopped talking
and got the car underway.

It appeared that, in this giant city, numbers and addresses were the only
things that were universally understood.

The next morning, I was awoken by a phone call from a Japanese girl who
said she was a friend of Shuri's. This girl was on the verge of tears as she

"Shuri was attacked last night!"

I jumped up and looked out the window. Everything was white from the
snow that fell the night before.


The hotel Madoka and I were staying at was one block north of the
intersection of Sixth Avenue and 34th Street.

In general, what we Japanese think of when someone mentions New York
is the long, narrow island of Manhattan.

The rows and rows of theatres known as Broadway run vertically along
the center of the island.

Near this area is Times Square. This is pretty much the exact center of the

If you go north from there, you come to the large area called Central Park.
This place appears in movies quite a lot.

Further north is Harlem, said to be quite dangerous. But to people who
like jazz, it's home. According to the guide book, the Apollo Theatre is
home to many talented black artists even now.

If you walk east of Times Square, you come to the U.N. Building. South
of Broadway is the Empire State Building, made famous when King Kong
climbed it.

Washington Square is where New York University is located, and
Greenwich Village is home to many artists and students. Soho is home to
so many expensive boutiques and galleries. In this area, Little Italy brushes
up against Chinatown.

South of this area is the World Trade Center, Wall Street, and Battery
Park, where you can view the Statue of Liberty.

The hotel Madoka and I were staying in was roughly in the center of all of
this. When we said the name of the hotel to the girl who told us about was
happened to Shuri, she knew immediately where it was, and came to pick
us up.

Without even taking a shower, Madoka and I went with this girl to the
Lower East Side, where Shuri's apartment was.

"I'm sorry for worrying you," Shuri said when she saw us. Her voice
seemed surprisingly bright, and she smiled.

But her smile made her look weary somehow. I was sure she had cried all
night long, without sleeping. She was sitting in a rocking chair that looked
like it might tip over at any moment, holding her legs against her body.

She said that she had been attacked suddenly by two men as they passed
by in the street. One of them hit her repeatedly, as if trying to knock her
out; but a car had passed by, and she had screamed out for help,
managing to get away then.

"Are you okay? I'll bet you haven't eaten a thing. Shall I make something?"

"Thanks, Madoka-chan," Shuri said. "But the real reason I called you out
here was to tell you two to be careful, and not concern yourselves with

"What?" Madoka said.

"What do you mean?" I added.

Madoka and I looked at each other in surprise.

"The men who attacked me didn't seem to be members of the street gang
that hang out in this neighborhood."

Madoka: "What? Then you mean..."

"Well, it was dark, so I couldn't see their faces very clearly. But one of
the men said something strange to me. He said, 'We'll get you, too.'"

"'You, too'? Hmmm." Madoka said.

I butt in. "Does that mean, 'the same as Hikaru-chan'?"

"I'm not sure. But I can't think of any other explanation, Madoka-chan. It
must be like you said, something has happened to Hikaru. And now, to

As if the fear from last night's attack had suddenly returned, she began to
shake, and a low sob came from inside her.

Madoka gripped the girl's hand.

"But what possible connection could Hikaru and Shuri have?" I started to

Madoka looked at me. "Kyosuke."


"The audition for the musical. That must be it. That's the only thing that
Hikaru and Shuri had in common."

This had occurred to me as well.

Shuri, still crying, nodded several times.

"Have you gone to the police?" Madoka asked, and Shuri-san's friend
answered for her:

"She reported the attack to the police last night."

"And there's been no word yet?" Madoka inquired.

"That's right."

"Madoka-chan, be careful. Don't get too involved with this." Shuri-san's
voice was fading in and out. Compared with the girl who showed us
Hikaru-chan's apartment the day before, she seemed to be a different
person altogether.

But Madoka answered, with a firm voice, "If anything has happened to
Hikaru, I'm already involved."

Several hours later, the following message appeared on Madoka's Mac:

"I am an employee of an airline company, and I have some information for
you. On the 22nd, there was a passenger going to Mexico City named H.

"Cafe Net?"

As I spoke, the subway was sliding into the subway station.

"That's right. I had read in a magazine that there was one in San Francisco,
but I didn't know there was a similar thing here in New York. Oh,
Kyosuke, this is where we get off."


The door opened, and two young black men entered the train, just as we
got off. A sign with "Washington Square" written on it was hung on the
wall above us.

This was the beginning of Grenwich Village, home to many college
students, and on the edge of the train platform were many street musicians,
playing the saxophone and clarinet.

According to a book I read a while ago, among their ranks were musicians
who play regularly at jazz clubs, and professional studio musicians as well.
Unable to forget their beginnings as street musicians, they would gather
again from time to time.

Well, they were just like Pak-san and the others who came to play at
ABCB. People who play music love the feeling that it gives more than
anything else.

The city of Manhattan was filled with this kind of atmosphere, and I found
myself liking it.

"So Madoka, what is this 'Cafe Net' thing, anyway?"

Madoka didn't have time to be watching street musicians right now. She
exited the turnstile and dashed up the dim staircase.

"It's basically a gathering place for computer _otaku_," she said.

"Computer _otaku_?" I asked.

"Yeah, you know. People who do nothing but exchange data and
information all day through their computers (19). Cafe Net is a coffee shop
where these people gather in large numbers."

"That sounds depressing!" I said.

She chuckled and gave me her hand. I took it, and we climbed the stairs
together. The area of Grenwich Village was completely covered with white

That someone named H. Hikaru went to Mexico was fact. We called a
travel agent to verify this, and also found out that this person was female.

Madoka had immediately sent a thank-you email message to the person
who had first provided this information.

When she did this, he (or maybe it was 'she') had sent a reply asking if we
would meet in a cafe. Madoka and I made an appointment to meet the
person, using the handle name "Chiru Chiru Michiru."

"Here it is," Madoka said. "'Cafe Spoofing.'"

Right past the Figaro Cafe, which is listed in all the guidebooks as the most
famous coffee shop in the entire Village, was another small coffee shop.
Madoka stopped without going in.

"What's wrong?"

"I just thought of something. The name of the shop is odd, isn't it?"


"'Spoofing' is something that is currently popular among hackers. It means
to create a completely different character on the Net, apart from yourself.
For example, a person might clandestinely make his way onto an important
government network and offering his opinion as if he were a professor at a

"Well, that would be dangerous, wouldn't it?" I said.

"Sure, sometimes. But it's an unwritten law among hackers to stop before
they cause a big problem. Hackers in Japan have the image of not being so
rude as to invade another person's computer. In America, people who
hack into other computers and steal information are called 'crackers.'"


"The term 'hacker' refers to programmers or engineers who love working
on computers or networks more than anything else. They supposedly take
pride in being able to say, 'I am different from those crackers.'"

Now that she mentioned it, I had heard of a case involving a serious
computer crime, in which a cracker had been caught.

I followed Madoka into the small shop.

Madoka had described the Cafe Spoofing as "a gathering place for
computer otaku," so I had a negative image about the place before seeing
it. But I was surprised to find a nice establishment with a friendly
atmosphere to it.

Just inside the shop was a round table with five computers on it, and
several people who looked to be students were drinking coffee and
pecking away at the keyboards.

On the counter at the back of the room were several more computers. A
smart-looking woman who styled her golden hair like Sharon Stone was
typing on one of them.

"Kyosuke, it's pretty nice, isn't it?" Madoka said.

"Yes, this is a nice place," I said, laughing as Madoka guided me to a table
in the corner.

"I heard there are about twenty Internet cafes in the village," Madoka said.


"Yes. Each cafe spreads local information to the other cafes in the area. So
it's kind of..."

"A 'cafe network.' I see."

"Yes. Someone could theoretically use the Internet and spread their
message all over the world."

"So what you're saying is, it's sort of like the 'message notebook' that used
to be in ABCB a long time ago. Customers can write messages to each
other freely and read what other people have written. I've heard you can
find them in love hotels, recently, too (20)."

"What? In love hotels?"

I hadn't intended to be funny or anything, but now the sound of her
laughter echoed through the cafe.

Embarrassed now, I ordered two espressos from the black girl at the

When I did so, a man who had been sitting at a round table behind me
suddenly stood up smoothly.


Smoothly, that's the way he stood up. He was a head taller than me, and
was thin...but at the same time, he had a well-toned body.

Basically, he seemed like a man, but also unlike a man. He approached
me, and with a shy girl-like smile, said in easy-to-understand English:

"Hi! You must be Teddy Bear. You said you'd be with another Japanese
person, so I knew it was you right away. I'm Chiru Chiru Michiru. Nice to
meet you."

It was obvious that this person was apparently one of "those" kinds of
men. His hair was cut short, and raised up. Three earrings glistened in each
of his ear lobes.

It was all very clear. He was a man, but seemed like a woman. That
explained the name "chiru chiru" and "michiru (21)."

"Kyosuke, where are your manners?" Madoka said.


Hurriedly, I shook hands with the man. "Nice to meet you."

Mr. Chiru Chiru Michiru winked at me slightly, and (it might have been my
imagination, but) his palm was sweaty. His grip was firm.


Even though Mr. Chiru Chiru Michiru had "those" kinds of interests, he
was very helpful to us.
First of all, he listened quietly about Madoka's theory regarding
Hikaru-chan's disappearance.

About Hikaru-chan having talked about going to Mexico to her friends.

About Hikaru-chan's friend bringing the airline ticket to her. And about
Hikaru-chan's mysterious disappearance, without the tickets.

And also about her pet cat, JG, being left behind in her apartment, and
being electrocuted.

Then Madoka told Mr. Chiru Chiru Michiru about the Teddy Bear alarm
clock which Madoka had given to Hikaru-chan, being left behind in the

"Okay, Teddy, Madoka. I'll do anything I can for you." Mr.
Chiru Chiru Michiru took Madoka's hand and shook it. Madoka asked
him to search every network he knew of for information about

The computer made it possible to get information in real time. In other
words, in the same way as a telephone worked, he would post a request
for information about Hikaru-chan on a BBS and wait for someone to
send it to him.

Many of the people were using the "cafe network," said to be totaling
twenty Internet Cafes even just in the Village, which allowed for detailed
electronic information to reach us.

A man studying at the same dancing college as Hikaru-chan: "This Hikaru
girl might have been the Japanese girl studying at Actors' Studio..." An
employee of a coffee shop Hikaru-chan had frequented: "I forgot when it
was, but I saw a message from her on the Fame BBS that said 'Bye Bye,
<STAR>.' I haven't seen her since then."

Also: "I'm the person who wrote STAR on the back of her leather jacket."
It was a budding young designer at a used clothing store.

We even got a message from a police man: "If you think the Japanese girl
has really disappeared, you should file a missing person's report with the

"A missing persons report, huh?" I had said.

To tell the truth, both Madoka and I were wondering if it weren't time to
do just that.

Even Madoka, who was sure that something had happened to
Hikaru-chan, was worried about the trouble that would be caused if
everything turned out to be nothing.

But in the end, we took the police man's advice, and filed a descreet
report through a friend of Madoka's father (Madoka's father is famous in
America, so he knows a lot of people).

Meanwhile, we were preparing to go to Mexico.

If the H. Hikaru who went to Mexico on the 22nd was really Hikaru-chan,
then we would have wasted a lot of time and effort. In that case, after
verifying that Hikaru-chan was really okay, it wouldn't be a bad idea to do
some sight-seeing.

We got two cheap tickets to Mexico at a small travel agency in the Village.
Afterwards, we returned to Cafe Spoofing, where we had a surprise.

We had already become regular customers.

The moment Madoka and I entered the shop, Mr. Chiru Chiru Michiru (he
worked for an airline, but did his work on the computers here) and the girl
behind the counter were engaged in a heated discussion.

"It's incredible," she was saying. "A filming crew from the TV news might
even show up to film this."

"What's going on?"

I didn't understand the counter girl's fast English. But, I was chagrined to
see, Madoka had no trouble picking it up (which is not something to be
chagrined about).

Mr. Chiru Chiru Michiru said, "Take a look at this, Madoka!" He sat us
down in front of a computer. The BBS that I had come to know very well
was showing on the monitor. The following email message was displayed

To Chiruchirumichiru
I am a big fan of the up and coming musical star HIKARU (STAR) as
well! If anything happened to her in NY, I would be really torn up! There's
$1000 in it for anybody with information as to her whereabouts.
Anita Brussel (23)

"Anita Brussel?" I said too loudly, as Chiru Chiru Michiru and Madoka
looked at each other.

Anita Brussel was a super-famous musical actress. Even I, who didn't
know the names of movie stars that much, knew her name. There was
even something about her being an honored citizen of New York in the

"That's amazing!"

Madoka was absolutely shocked, far more than me. She was looking at
Chiru Chiru Michiru with a face that said, I can't believe it.

Mr. Chiru Chiru Michiru's brow wrinkled. "I know a lot of people use the
names of famous people for their handle names...but I think this is the real
Anita Brussel.

His English pronunciation was slow and clear enough for me to catch most
of what he said. I asked him, "Why?"

"To Americans, the sum of $1000 is a lot of money. Someone who can
pay $1000 for useful information is not just an average person." A proud
smile was on his face. "There are good people in America still, aren't

If you think about it From the point of view of Mr. Chiru Chiru Michiru, or
from Anita Brussel, who don't know Hikaru-chan...

It was really nice of them to help us. Such a thing would never happen in

Americans are said to be "individualist," but I think Japanese would be less
likely to help us.

Even though I could only understand about half of the English I was
hearing, I felt I had really discovered something important about
Americans: their kindness.

Just then, the door opened, and Shuri-san entered.

Her face was still slightly pale, but her eyes showed energy. We had told
her about how we had started frequenting this cafe.

"So you got the tickets to Mexico?" She said.

"Ah, yes," I said. We had gotten the extremely cheap tickets through a
friend of hers.



"I see. I'm going to go with you."

"Huh? But Shuri-san, are you sure you're all right to travel?" Madoka put
in, referring to her color.

Shuri said, "Thank you for worrying about me, Madoka-chan. I'm fine.
Did you find anything out about Hikaru-chan?"

Beside them, Mr. Chiru Chiru Michiru, who had been listening intently to
the Japanese conversation, caught the name and said, "If you're asking
about Hikaru, we were just having a big discussion about her."

"What did you find out?" she asked.

With more than a little pride in his voice, Mr. Chiru Chiru Michiru showed
Shuri the email from Anita Brussel.

"Anita did that?"

Shuri seemed surprised. Her face color got a little worse.

"Shuri-san!" Madoka said, taking the girl's hand.

"I'm okay...Madoka-chan."

She tried hard to show us a smile, but her face wouldn't respond. She had
finally been convinced that something had indeed happened to

Afterwards, Madoka and I left to take Shuri back to her apartment. When
we did so, Madoka said:

"If Shuri-san did come along, you wouldn't have any trouble with the
language down there."

"What are you talking about?" I said.



"Kyosuke, I'm thinking of staying here a while longer."

Shuri looked at Madoka with surprise on her face. "Madoka-chan?"

Madoka smiled. I could tell she had made her mind up.

"I can't explain it but...I think Hikaru's somewhere nearby. So I'm going to
stay here and search for information through the Cafe Net."

"Madoka?" I said.

"Go to Mexico with Shuri."

At that time, we didn't understand the true nature of the problem. The next
day, when Shuri and I departed for Mexico, the following email message
was posted on the Cafe Net:

_"Help! I'm STAR."_

Hikaru thought, it's all over.

Her body was wrapped in fear, and she was racked by small but painful
convulsions. The smoke from the gun was still dancing past her nose; if she
breathed it in deeply, she thought she would black out.

In front of her lay the remnants of a computer. The bullet hadn't left much
of it. She was staring dazedly at it, waiting for the person who she thought
had been aiming the gun at her, to speak.

"I told you to be patient, but you didn't listen to me."

The voice had was surprisingly warm and friendly. But that didn't mean
that Hikaru's position was any better. No matter what you said about her,
Monica was a member of a group of thieves. In the business she was in,
there way no way she would become true friends with Hikaru.

"Hikaru, I had no idea you knew how to use UNIX."

Hikaru looked at Monica with a hateful expression.

I'm scared! she said. But I won't beg for my life. That's one thing I won't

How could I do that and look at my face in the mirror afterwards?

UNIX is a computer system along side IBM-PC and Mac (24), but one
that was generally useless to the average computer user. It was a
"work-oriented" system whose commands were difficult to learn.

The girl who appeared in the Spielberg movie _Jurassic Park_ said, "I can
use UNIX," surprising all the adults around her. It was that difficult to

Hikaru had noticed it sitting in the corner of the warehouse she was in.

In the warehouse, there were many crates stuffed with clothing, and the
UNIX computer had apparently been used for keeping track of the stock.

Monica had loosened Hikaru's ropes a little, but it still didn't allow her to
walk freely around the interior of the warehouse. In addition to a rope that
restricted her movements, there was another rope around her waist that
was attached securely to a pipe.

Monica had loosened the ropes slightly to allow Hikaru to eat, and had
also left the tray behind.

Hikaru had managed to notice that the pipe to which she was tied was
rusted. She attempted, over the course of several hours, to rub through the
rope and free her hands.

She was worried about Shuri Anzai more than anyone else. If her being
kidnapped did have something to do with the upcoming musical audition, it
was not impossible that Shuri was also in danger.

Hikaru was finally able to cut through the ropes, right before it was time
for Monica to bring the next meal.

It was Hikaru's first time using UNIX.

But she had known someone who knew it. It was the man she had met
shortly after coming to New York, Sugisawa.

He had been working part-time at a small travel agency in the Village. He
could speak English fluently, and Hikaru, who had just started her life in
America, sought advice from him.

Soon after, the two had become close, and had been first joined (25) on
Halloween night. She was the first man for Hikaru.

But he had returned to Japan. Six months ago, when she had temporarily
gone home, she had considered meeting him, but had been unable to in the

The computer he had always been using had been UNIX.

Monica looked surprised, now, brushing her hair back with one hand,
staring hard at Hikaru.

Evewn though she was pointing a gun at Hikaru, she wasn't sure what to

She had brought Hikaru something to eat now, as always. She had
knocked three times at the door. But then she had heard electronic noises,
and the tap tap of keys. She had realized what Hikaru had been trying to

After undoing the multiple locks on the door, Monica had rushed into the
room, gun in hand.

Hikaru froze in fear. Monica couldn't see her face clearly because she was
not near the light. Monica hurried into the room, going immediately for the
light of the UNIX monitor.

She shot through the monitor like a vicious hunter shooting an animal. As
she did so, she thought to herself for some reason: it was good that Hikaru
has chosen to try this while the others were away.

"Hikaru, what did you send?"

"I was just practicing..." Hikaru tried to say.

"Don't lie to me! Did you access Fame? What network did you use? You
know I can check. Tell me!"

"Then check!" Hikaru said.


"If you can check for yourself, go ahead and do it. No matter what
happens, Monica, you hold my life in your hands, one hundred percent. I
cut the ropes...was finally able to contact the outside world... If you check
with your own computer, you can easily find out who I contacted, so go

"Hikaru..." Monica said, trying to calm the girl.

"Check for yourself! I won't tell you what I did! I won't! You can find out
for yourself! Whether I live or die, it's all up to you!"

Hikaru spat this out, and the rest ceased to become words. She told
herself Don't cry! Don't cry! but she couldn't stop the tears which had
begun to overflow.

Monica had no words to throw back at Hikaru. She put the gun in the
back pocket of her jeans and left the room.

She felt annoyed. As she turned the many keys to the door hurriedly, she
finally realized why that was.

She herself had gone up against a stronger opponent in the same way
once, saying the same words: "Whether I live or die, it's all up to you!"

That event had been the beginning for her, the birth of the Monica she had
become today.

At the time, I had no idea this was happening to Hikaru-chan. Without
even knowing that she had posted email on the cafe network, Shuri and I
departed for Mexico City together.

With me, I carried several days' worth of clothes and a Mac
notebook-type computer that Mr. Chiru Chiru Michiru had lent me.

These past few days at Cafe Spoofing, I had managed to get adept at
using a computer. I thought I would need it to contact Madoka.

"Kyosuke-kun, I think that's the way we go," Shuri said.


In front of me, Shuri Anzai was showing her passport to the official.

"Look it's the information counter for the travel agency that Chiru Chiru
Michiru-san works for."

"Ah, yes," I said.

The large older lady at the immigration counter was laughing warmly. She
winked warmly at me, then gestured me over.

It was my turn. I walked up to her and said, "Hi, how are you?"

She smiled at me again, and said something at me in fast, heavily-accented

I couldn't catch a word. Shuri Anzai just laughed and said to the woman,
"Thank you so much. I hope so, too."

"What did that lady say?" I asked Shuri when we left.

"When I asked her where the domestic counter was, I think she got the
wrong idea."

"In what way?"

"Well...Mexico City is a place for newlyweds."

"Huh? Wait a minute!"

Shuri-san just laughed.

I hadn't seen her smile in a long time. It was nice of that woman to cheer
her up like that.

Neither Madoka nor I had seen her really smile since the incident. On the
plane, she had seemed kind of anxious, nervous.

I had joked with her several times, but she hadn't brightened like that
before now.

"Excuse me?"

Shuri-san went up to the travel counter, and asked in English about anyone
named H. Hikaru.

It was mysterious, but I was managing to understand what she was saying
in English. But when the person she was talking to responded in fast
English, I had to throw up my hands in defeat.

The reason must have been that Shuri-san's English had a Japanese accent,
and it was easy for me to understand it. The other person's mother
language was not even English, and it was hard to understand it without
getting used to it first.

Anyway, according to Shuri-san's explanation, a person named H. Hikaru
entered Mexico on the twenty-second. We didn't know if she was with
anyone at that time. But she asked for a ticket for a rental car that the
airline company was providing at a special rate.

"Rental car?"

"Yes. It was a discounted fare through Budget Rentacar. Kyosuke-kun,
let's check it out."


We walked to the Budget Rentacar counter. After asking about anyone
named H. Hikaru, and asked to see a copy of her drivers' license.

It's customary for rental car agencies to photocopy your drivers' license
when you rent a car.

But the "Mister Budget" who was so friendly with us smiled and said,
"Sorry, privacy."

We couldn't give up that easily.

Shuri-san had an idea. "H. Hikaru is the daughter of a wealthy Japanese
businessman, and is being targeted by the Yakuza. We're friends of hers. If
we don't get word to her quickly something terrible might happen. If
anything does happen to her, it will be known that the Budget Rentacar
Agency, which is an international corporation, aided the Yakuza."

Perhaps moved by Shuri-san's acting, the employee of the rental car
agency eventually showed us the copy of H. Hikaru's drivers license.

But the copy we were shown was totally black.

We could see the faint words H. Hikaru and the outline of a New York
drivers' license (in America, the state issues drivers' licenses, not a
national agency), but nothing else.

First of all, Japanese companies tend to take things like this overly
seriously, so such a mistake would never happen in Japan, but here at the
"gateway of South America" I guess the copy machines act up sometimes.

"This doesn't help us at all," I said.

Shuri-san and I looked at each other without thinking. But then, "Mister
Budget," still not noticing that there was anything wrong with the copy he
had shown us, gave us a bit of good information.

"I think the Japanese girl you're looking for said she was going to Taxco."

"Taxco?" Shuri-san asked, and the man told us that H. Hikaru had asked
him where the town of Taxco was, and how to get there. She even took a
pamphlet from a hotel in Taxco with her.

Taxco is a small sight-seeing town a few hours away from Mexico City,
known for its hand-made silver goods. There were apparently many shops
selling rings and necklaces made of silver.

"Silver goods, huh? It sounds like the kind of place that Hikaru-chan
would like to see," I said, but Shuri-san's face had grown dark again.

When Shuri-san asked if H. Hikaru had been traveling alone, "Mister
Budget" just shrugged.

"Anyway, we should go to Taxco, too, Kyosuke-kun."

Just then...Shuri-san's expression got very intense.

I was sure she was remember the words of the men who attacked her.
"'We'll get you, too.'"

Cafe Spoofing currently had twice as many customers as usual.

They were grouped around the twenty-odd computers, accessing various
networks, trying to find some information that would put money in their

"Take a look at this, Madoka. There's another message from Anita
Brussel," the man with the handle name of Chiru Chiru Michiru said from
the next computer over.

The email message from Anita was displayed on his computer monitor.

"I received some information concerning STAR from someone with the
handle name of 'Lion King' which was useful. I'll raise the reward to
$2000. From Anita."

Several customers said, "Wow!" when they saw the amount of money.

Ever since the "Help me! I'm Star" message had been posted on the Cafe
Net BBS, information had been pouring in. A lot was obviously of no use,
but a scientific breakdown of the area that Star had been accessing from
was among the information sent in.

Also, because of the name-recognition of Anita Brussel, who offered to
put up the reward money, even more messages were posted.

"Madoka, I heard that in Japanese society, a person doing something that
made her stand out like Anita is doing, would be shunned by everyone
else," Chiru Chiru Michiru said, feeling the excitement of the other
customers. Madoka answered him with a small smile.

"That's true. But some people try to stand out on purpose, especially

Chiru Chiru Michiru laughed embarrassedly.

"Anita Brussel is more or less a politician. You could say that she's the
face of New York."

"Because she's such an honored citizen?"

"Not really. The reason she is such a famous dancer now is that she was
well-connected with various groups in the city before she started dancing."

Madoka made a puzzled face. "I'm not sure what you mean."

For some reason, there were many intelligent people in New York's gay
community. Madoka had read about this once in a magazine. Chiru Chiru
Michiru seemed more and more a member of that group.

With his wrinkled shirt and his solemn face, she could feel a boyish youth
in him. He did, however, have a deep and interesting insight into American

"Anita Brussel's new musical didn't do so well," Chiru Chiru Michiru said.
"It was canceled a little while ago."

"Really?" Madoka said. "I didn't know that."

"The title was _Alice on 5th Avenue_. It was an grown-up fairy tale, using
5th Avenue as a background, based on _Alice in Wonderland_."

"It sounds interesting."

"Yes. The scenario and music were interesting. But Anita, who played the
lead, was really miscast. Anita is the type of singer who sings with a lot of
energy. She's a person who, all by herself, can hold the attention of an
entire sell-out audience in Carnagie Hall. This was when she was in her
prime, of course."

As he said this, he winked at Madoka, who smiled.

"But this was a group musical. The more she is forced to act in conjunction
with other performers, the more the others seemed better than her."

"Is it bad to have a musical cancelled?" Madoka asked.

"It happens all the time on Broadway. Even though she is an important
citizen of the city, she's no exception. Even major productions get closed
down. That's why sophisticated producers are always producing plays that
can start right away, while checking to see which plays will be cancelled
next week."

"Wow, survival of the fittest!" Madoka said, then was surprised by her
own words.

Maybe Hikaru had become a victim of this world where only the strong

"Wait, I forgot something," Chiru Chiru Michiru said cheerfully, seeing how
quiet Madoka had become. "A famous Japanese trading company had put
up all the money for the production of that play."

He had said this, intending to carry the positive meaning that Japan's
companies were not only selling cars and electronics into America, but
were also supporting American's culture.

But Madoka couldn't see it that way.

"Japanese companies shouldn't have anything to do with Americans
outside of business."

Those had been the words of her father once, when he had been drinking
too much. Madoka had learned then about her father's mistrust towards
Japanese corporations, which place profits before anything else, and how
he had fought a one-man war to attain the position he was in now, without
any help from anyone.

On the computer monitor, a new email message had appeared. Madoka
took a drink of coffee that had gone stone-cold and began to read the

The town of Taxco was located at the top of a gentle mountain, and the
many buildings left over from when the country was a colony ruled by
Spain gave the place an exotic air.

There were houses made of stones piled on top of each other, standing
along the cobblestone street, and in the windows there were flowers of
simple colors. Along the steep sloped road to the plaza in the center of the
city were many shops selling silver goods.

In each store, one or two employees were helping sightseers, restoring
silver or making original items for sale.

Shuri-san and I had left Mexico City in the rental car and came here.

On the way here, we saw an Indian riding a burrow, and landscape with
cactus poking up here and there. Because of this, actually getting to this
town itself made the town seem like an oasis to me.

Children helped their parents sell the silver goods to sightseers.

"It's terrible the way they don't give up, even though we're not here to buy
trinkets," Shuri-san said, buying a small silver ring from some children who
had been following us.

We had just gotten to the hotel and started to relax. I smiled to Shuri-san
widely and said, "It'll be all right. It's not like we can do anything about
it. Let's just soak up the tourist atmosphere while we're here."

We picked up the trail of the mysterious H. Hikaru rather easily.

In a small town like this, there weren't all that many hotels. We found the
hotel in which she had checked into right away. But she had left her
suitcase at the hotel and gone on a short one-night tour further to the
south. We found out that she had been with several friends.

Getting adjacent rooms in the same hotel, we decided to wait for her to

"Kyosuke-kun, don't forget to buy something for Madoka-chan."


"Shall I choose something for you?"

"Ah, maybe that's a good idea. If I pick some jewelry or something for
her, I'm sure I'll use all my money."

"What?" Shuri-san said.

"There are a lot of different designs. Happy ones...and strange, mysterious
ones. I wouldn't know which one to buy."

Shuri-san just laughed.

After that we decided to separate, take showers in our rooms, and meet
again in the second floor of a restaurant facing the plaza.

While we had been looking for the hotel, we had thought it would be a
nice restaurant with a good atmosphere.

After my shower, I went out into the plaza and saw children, tired now of
peddling silver trinkets to tourists, playing games on the cobblestones. The
girl who was so persistent at selling Shuri-san a silver ring was also there.
She looked like a normal child now, with a young child's smile.


I climbed up the stairs to the second floor of the restaurant, and heard
Shuri-san's voice. She was at a table on the veranda overlooking the plaza,
already looking at a menu.

Her hair was still half-wet from her shower, and she had it done up on top
of her head like a turbin, wrapped up in a colorful piece of cloth. Matching
the cloth in her hair was a flowing one-piece dress. The setting sun lit her
upper bosom, making it shine with vermilion (26) brilliance.

I have to admit it, I saw Shuri-san as a woman for the first time just then.
It just hit me.

Not that this meant anything, mind you.

Shuri-san looked really good with jeans and not too much make up, sort
of a 'boyish' look...

But even if I saw Shuri-san as a woman now, I didn't really see her as a

(Hey, what am I saying?)

Anyway, Shuri-san looked very relaxed, her face appearing somehow
deep-set, almost enough to make one think she was half-European...all of
this was very sexy, er, brilliant.

"What are you going to order?" she asked me, looking at the menu which
was written in English.

"Mm? Um, I'll just leave it up to you. It's too much trouble to read the
English on the menu."

"I wasn't talking about the food. What wine do you want?"

"Ah, yes. Um, I'll leave that up to you too."

She laughed. "Kyosuke-kun, are you always this way? Leaving things up
to other people?"

"Um, well, ever since I was a child, I've been indecisive (27) like this...
I've got these two really pushy twin sisters, you see, and...and, well,

She laughed again. "Pushy sisters? Is that fair to say that about them?"

"Yes, it's no problem. Especially in the Kasuga household."

She laughed again, and put the menu down on the table. This was the
signal that we were ready to order, I remember reading in a magazine once.

"Madoka-chan must be really happy."

"Huh? I wonder..."

"You're a nice guy."

"Me? No, that's not true."

"Yes, it is. But she must be worried, too."

"What? Why?"

"With that indecisiveness of might drift to another woman."

"Hey!" I said.

Shuri laughed, rocking her body back and forth.

Just then, a wind blew through the plaza. It blew through her one-piece
dress, and carried the smell of her too my nose.

It was the smell of shampoo and cream rinse, mixed together.

Hurriedly, I said, "So what do _you_ want to drink?"

"You know, we are here in Mexico. We have to try you-know-what."



"Are you crazy?"

Tequila was the famous Mexican drink with a violently high alcohol
content. When you said the word Mexico, you thought of tequila.

I'm Kyosuke Kasuga, age twenty-two. I've drunk all kinds of alcohol, but
I can also say that I've done some stupid things as a result of drinking too

Six months ago, I drank too much with Hikaru-chan, who had returned to
Japan, and as a result had spent a dangerous night with her (well, keep it a
secret, but it wasn't twenty-two year old me, but nineteen year old me that
did this).

"Okay, let's drink some tequila!"

In this way, I completely forgot about the stupid things I've done in the
past as a result of drinking too much, and accepted Shuri-san's suggestion.

Perhaps because I was sure that we would find out whoever H. Hikaru
really was tomorrow, or perhaps because we were in Mexico, which was
very pleasant compared to New York. The tequila was quite warm in our
mouths. Soon we were both quite tipsy.

The plaza below us had grown dark. This didn't stop the children from
playing, however. Their parents were also gathered into groups, talking. I
was sure that they passed the evening every day like this, letting the kids
play while the adults talked, unlike people in Japan, who watch television.

I knew they all earned a lot less per year than the average Japanese, but it
seemed that they also had a very rich and good life here.

In my tipsy state, I stared blankly at the people, and suddenly remembered
Bosnia, which I had almost forgotten.

When will times like this, when you can pass the hours in a relaxed way,
come to those people?

"Kyosuke-kun...?" Shuri-san said.


"What's wrong? Are you tired?"

"No, not really."

"Oh, I know. You were thinking about Madoka-chan."

"Bzzz! Wrong."

I was lying. I did want to see Madoka badly. As if she had seen through
my lie, Shuri-san brought her face close to mine and said:

"So, have you known Madoka-chan for a long time?"

"Pretty long, I guess. Since we were in the third year of junior high school

"Oh, you're a very dedicated man. And during that time, you didn't think
about anyone else?"

"What do you mean?"

"Did you date anyone else?"

I couldn't tell her about Hikaru-chan.

"Nobody else."

"Wow, that's great."

"Great? No, it's really nothing."

"But you hear a lot that men just can't do that. Even though you have a
wonderful girl like Madoka-chan, you're tempted to go out with other girls
secretly, aren't you?"


I tried to change the direction of the conversion by asking Shuri-san a
question. But by that time her eyes were sad. She seemed to have gotten
drunk. Then she said.

"I never stay with anyone for very long."

"Ah...I see," I stammered.

"It's not that I change my mind easily, you know."

"I know."

"It's just that, I suddenly realize that I love a particular person I'm


"But I don't stay with them. Why do you think that is?"

"Um, I really have no idea."

"Something inside me is...empty."


Shuri-san made an attempt at laughing, drunken eyes and all. She was so
sexy. I had to turn my eyes away hurriedly.

"I'd be going with a different know, a new person...and bam!
I'd fall in love with him. You know, without thinking about what kind of
person he was, or what situation he might be in himself."

"Just like that?" I asked.

"Yes. I think to myself, I want to be with this person, I want him to say
certain things to me...but the person I fall in love with, he's human, too.
It can't always work out the way I want it to."

"I see," I said.

"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. I can't continue with
anyone for a long time."


The wind from the plaza below was causing the candle on the table to
dance. Shuri-san looked embarrassed suddenly, as if she had said too
much, and smiled.

"I guess I'm just selfish," she said, and was silent.

Just then, a group of men wearing sombreros and playing guitar came to
our floor. It was a mariachi.

A mariachi is a group of musicians that gathers in restaurants or places
where tourists are, and play guitar and sing with many voices for their
listeners. According to the guide book, there were also mariachi groups
that had many permanent fans.

"Kyosuke-kun, will you order me some coffee? I have to go back to the
hotel and call New York," Shuri-san said, trying to re-open the

"Okay. Are you all right?"

"I'm all right, I'm all right. If you live in America, you just naturally
learn to hold your liquor. You can't fall asleep on the train like you can in Japan,
and if you drive, you have to be as alert as possible."

I smiled back at her.

Shuri-san got to her feet shakily. She made a gesture meaning _I'm okay_
with her hands and walked towards the stairs.

The mariachi, having found an audience to perform for, was playing the
guitar and singing their wonderful baritone songs. One large-bellied singer
in particularly seemed to have fallen in love with a kind-looking old
woman, and was singing loudly for her group.

I ordered two coffees and decided to listen to the pleasant music for a

It was a good feeling.

When I get back to the hotel, I realized I'd better call Madoka...

But by the time I'd drank my coffee down, and Shuri-san's had grown
cold, she still hadn't returned from the hotel.

The mariachi band that had been playing for the customers near the stairs
were slowly making their way towards where our table was, out on the

"How about a song?" one of the men asked. I was thinking of how to
respond, while I waited for Shuri-san to return and rescue me.

Just then, the girl from the front of our hotel ran up the stairs that
Shuri-san had gone down, right towards me. She talked to me, out of breath
and in heavily-accented English.

I wasn't sure of what she was saying to me. But I knew right away from
her excited state that something had happened.

Shuri-san had collapsed.



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

"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

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 "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

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.

Calm down!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!"

" 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 can


"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.

"Monica! Monica!"


"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 were to be sacrificed, like they used to do it a long time 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 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

"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

"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

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

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

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 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

"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

"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?"

"...a man..."

"A man?"

"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


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


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

"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.


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

Quickly, she reached for the Mac's trackpad, and started to send a

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

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

"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

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

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."

"Ah, yes."

"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

"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



"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."

"I wonder."

"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

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

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

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

At that moment, I, Kyosuke Kasuga, age 22, was at the end of my

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

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

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

"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.


Madoka and Hikaru got out of the car as soon as they arrived at the
Teotihuacan ruins.

The rays of the full moon were beaming everywhere. Using this light, the
two women found their way into the pyramid area.

Built in the second century B.C. by a race of people called Teotihuacans,
this was the largest religious city in Latin America. The priests had ruled
the city then, creating a society in which all events centered around their
religious leaders, with warrior and merchant classes under their complete

In order for the religious leaders to carry out the necessary religious
rituals with accuracy, they had created these three pyramids using a great
deal of mathematical and astronomical knowledge, so that there was not the
slightest bit of error in their construction.

But this civilization met with destruction in the seventh century, very much
like the legend of Atlantis, and disappeared. The Aztecs, who came to this
region later, protected the city.

In the middle of the ruins was a main street which was four kilometers in
length, which the Aztecs called the Road of the Dead.

The pyramids were placed at precise locations with the Road of the Dead
in between them. The pyramid on the south edge was called the Pyramid
of Quetzalcoatl; north from there you get to the Pyramid of the Sun; and at
the end of the road, the Pyramid of the Moon. Quetzalcoatl means
"winged snake."

"So that's the Pyramid of the Sun."

Hikaru stepped onto the Road of the Dead and walked to the museum in
front of the Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl. She looked at the Pyramid of the
Sun, which appeared to be several kilometers tall, and gasped.

There were still many enigmas surrounding the lost civilization of Atlantis,
and many theories among scholars. Some postulated that the Teotihuacans
had been influenced by the culture of Atlantis.

To Hikaru, here at last, it truly seemed to be the land in which the god
Atlas, who fell in love with a maiden, dwelt.


Madoka touched the sleeve of her friend, who had wandered down the
Road of the Dead, and pulled her back near the museum.

If Anita Brussel was looking down from the pyramid above, nothing, not
even a small animal like a cat could escape being seen.

There was no sign of anyone near the museum.

But on the receptionist desk in the front of the museum, a computer had
been left on. This was probably so that the research information can be
sent through the Internet, even at night.

On the screen, Donald Duck was painting the background. It was an
anime (38) screen saver.

When a monitor displays the same image for a long time, that image can
burn itself into the monitor itself. For this reason, various screen savers
had become popular in recent years.

"I guess the ghosts of people from a long time ago would be surprised to
see Donald Duck," Madoka said playfully.

"Oh, come on, Madoka-san."

The two women laughed as quietly as they could, followed the museum
towards the Pyramid of the Sun.

According to Monica, Anita had completely lost her sanity, and would be
waiting here alone. But it was also possible that she had henchmen ready in
case Shuri and Kyosuke tried to run away.

For this reason, Hikaru and Madoka had considered going to the police
before coming here. But on the other hand, the Mexican police might be in
her employ, too.

So there had been nothing for them to do but just come to the Pyramid of
the Sun themselves.

Past the museum, there was only a small wall, and nothing else. Nothing to
hide behind.

Hikaru took the Baretta out of her hip pocket.

"...Hikaru..." Madoka started.

"Madoka-san, there's one thing I've learned from living in New York."


"Get them before they get you...and if they get you, get them back," Hikaru
said, then laughed self-consciously. "You said that to me once,

"I don't remember that..."

"No, you said it, I'm sure of it. What's wrong with me, remembering
something like that at a time like this?"

Hikaru checked her hold on the gun.



"I don't want to use this, but...but I might have to."


"But I'm so clumsy. Madoka-san, will you carry it instead?"

"Okay. I'll take care of it, Hikaru."

But just then, the voice of the ancient ghosts who slept in the old city

_"Oh blessed Era!"_


Hikaru was about to shriek with fright.

Madoka's eyes moved to where the voice came from. On the steps of the
Pyramid was what looked like a tiny doll.

"What's that?" Madoka questioned.

"Madoka-san, it's...its Shuri."


The pyramid was 65 meters tall. There are 248 stone steps to the peak.
Shuri Anzai was standing about half way up them.

She had just uttered the one line from the musical, the words that she, like
Hikaru, had practiced again and again.

_"Blessed Era, please forgive me. I have committed a sin so great that,
even if I were to bury myself for all eternity in the soil of this beautiful
country, it would not be erased. And yet I continue to commit this sin
every day. Even if it meant I would turn into the seaweed that washes onto
the shore..."_

As if to herself, Hikaru spoke the rest of the line with Shuri: "_...I could
not stop loving Atlas._"

"Hikaru?" Madoka eyes were wide with puzzlement.

Hikaru shot a half-worried, half-embarrassed smile at Madoka. "It's a line
from the musical."

But just then, Madoka, who had been looking towards the pyramid,
opened her eyes in shock. A figure had appeared at the top of the
pyramid, looking down at Shuri.

It was a woman, wearing a stage costume like that of a goddess. Her
shape caught the moonbeams, and it seemed as if she had just descended
from heaven.

Anita Brussel!

The two women uttered the name to themselves.

"Anita! I'm here!" Shuri called, looking up the pyramid. "I won't run
anymore. If you want to make a sacrifice out of me, go ahead and do it. I
wrote down everything about you and sent copies to the American
President and the Japanese Embassy. They'll catch you."

From where Shuri stood, she couldn't see Anita's facial expression
because of the reflection.

But she could see that Anita held some kind of black, metal object in her
hand. She climbed a few more steps. She then saw that the weapon Anita
was holding was a scythe for reaping grain. So it was true, Anita had lost
her mind.

Being careful not to let Anita notice, Shuri put her hand in her jacket
pocket. She took out a derringer small enough to hide in your hand, and
held it.

A derringer holds just two bullets. She had bought it at a small antique
shop on the way to the pyramid ruins. She had wanted a larger pistol, but
on the other hand, this small weapon made it easier to approach Anita.

In any event, this was the first time she'd tried to use a gun. There was no
alternative for Shuri than to try to take out her opponent first, if she
hoped to survive.

Anita stared at Shuri come up to her, like a wild animal watching its prey.

To her, it didn't matter what this girl said.

Inside Anita's mind, scenes from hundreds of musical were playing. These
were all scenes in which she had acted gloriously.

Suddenly an image caused the wonderful feelings of ecstasy in which she
was floating to come to an end. And for some time after that event, she
was assaulted by pain and irritation.

She didn't know what the pain had come to her. But she knew that the
agony would be washed away forever with the blood of a living human

With her beautiful voice, Anita Brussel said the line she had practiced again
and again in the mirror over the past few days:

"Maiden! Bring your purified head to me."

Anita raised the scythe she had been holding. At the same time, Shuri
brought her derringer up and aimed it at Anita.

Just then, Shuri sensed something ferocious in Anita. This caused her to
pause for a second.


The bullet from the derringer missed Anita's face by just a few inches.
Anita's scythe came down and cut into Shuri's neck.


Shuri was aware of someone calling her name somewhere behind her, but
she didn't think it was real. She wasn't even aware that the geyser of blood
that rose from her neck was her own.


The owner of the voice that was calling hers now held her body in its arms.
Shuri wondered who it was.

"Shuri, hang on!"

Shuri labored to recall the name.


But just then, she fell into the white void.


Madoka and Hikaru had run up the stone steps and were trying to help
Shuri, all while enduring the cold gaze of Anita Brussel.

But just then, something even more shocking happened.

Anita stood up, her eyes looking like those of a dead person's. Then, from
behind her, three ferocious tigers appeared!


Hikaru gently lay Shuri's body down on the stone steps, and took the
Baretta into her shaking hands.

As if to stop Hikaru's own shaking, Madoka held Hikaru's hands with her
own. Then, she said in a desperate voice, "Hikaru, how many bullets are

Just at that moment, I was in the middle of teleporting (that is to say, I
was flying into another dimension just then).

I had begun to feel fear.

It had to be the special powers of the Kasuga Clan, warning me that
Madoka and Hikaru were in danger someplace.

Do something! my flesh shouted.

But in reality, I didn't know what I could possibly do.

I had the nice Mexican family take me to the village, and that's when I
noticed that they had taken me farther away from the ruins of Teotihuacan.

I panicked, and tried to use my teleportation to take me to the ruins again.

But I knew I would use my power up before reaching the pyramids.

There was nothing left to do but go to someone's house and steal a car.

That's it!

That's the only way!

I gave up trying to teleport, and returned to the road.

Up the road a ways there was a house with lights on. I decided to borrow
or steal a car.

I had nothing with me but the notebook Mac I had borrowed from Mr.
Chiru Chiru Michiru. I had dropped my bag containing clean clothes a long
time ago, but had kept the computer with me, unwilling to throw away
something that didn't belong to me.

I know, I'll offer to trade a car for the computer!

Just then, something occurred to me.

I looked at the Mac again, suddenly getting an idea that might have come
from a science fiction movie.

The report of the Beretta echoed again and again around the three


But the three tigers didn't falter at the sound a bit. Almost as if they knew
the shot Madoka had fired into the air was just a threat, they climbed up
onto a nearby stone wall and waited for a chance to attack Madoka and

Anita Brussel was once again looking at the two women with an
expression of ecstasy on her face.

"Ah, hello?" she said. "Are you Star-chan? How nice. I'll cut your head off,

Hikaru pointed the pistol at Anita with her still-shaking hands.

"Anita! I know all about you. You like hold people's destinies in your

"What?" Anita said.

"You like interfering with people's lives.That's why the same thing
happened to you!"


"Your musical was Japanese!"

"Why, you..." Anita held the scythe high and descended one step towards

"Hikaru!" Madoka warned, moving behind her friend.



"I'm going to...shoot her."


"This kind of person...she can't be forgiven for what she's done. So, I'm
going to kill her."

Hikaru started to pull the trigger. But Madoka suddenly moved forward,
as if to embrace Hikaru, and put her hand in Hikaru's so that both
women's fingers now held the trigger.


"Hikaru...Kyosuke went to Bosnia, and saw many people killed. Kyosuke
told me once, you can only kill someone when you're insane. Otherwise,
you'll be tormented by the emotions you felt the moment you pulled that
trigger...all your life."

"That's just like...Kasuga-senpai."

"Hikaru. If you're going to do this, then I'll do it with you."


But just then one of the tigers got ready to pounce. The third report from
the gun sounded.


The two women tried to dodge the tiger's attack. But Hikaru's foot
slipped, and she fell down the stone steps. Madoka followed Hikaru and
grabbed her hand, stopping her friend's fall down the pyramid.

But Monica's gun came free of the two girls' hands, and was gone,
clattering down to the bottom.


Anita looked down at the two women. She prepared to bring judgement
on them.


It was a first experience for me.

Kyosuke Kasuga, age twenty-two. I have been to the past, I have been to
the future, I have been to many places.

But this was the first time I had been to the World of Electrons.

Yes, I was trapped inside the Mac itself.

I thought of it just as I was about to go to the house and ask to borrow a
car. I went to the house, asked to borrow the telephone instead, and
hooked up the Mac. Then I teleported into the computer.


I screamed. There was really nothing else for me to do.

People who have never been inside a computer won't know (of course!),
but the World of Electrons is an amazing other world of pure imagination.

One moment, I was seeing bright, many-colored fireworks, then I was
hearing the music of the electrons themselves.
I then realized I was traveling at an unbelievable speed.

I knew I had no way to check where I was. So I decided to close my eyes
and think of Madoka.

I want to see Madoka!

I want to see her!

It's usually very effective if I think of various faces she makes...and of
various aspects of her body.

As those faces cycled through my mind, changing like the ajisai (39)
flower, I suddenly saw something very strange in front of my face.

It was a...a high school girl? Wearing something like a sailor suit. No, not
a high school girl.

It was wearing a sailor suit, but it wasn't human. It was a duck! And he
was painting back and forth.

It was Donald Duck!

Then, in the next instant, I left the world of electrons.


With an incredible noise, I was thrown back into the real world. I smashed
right into a thick wall.


The place I was in seemed to be the entrance to a museum of some kind.
The picture of Donald Duck I had seen was displayed on a computer that
was on the front desk.

"Where the hell is this?" I said aloud. As I spoke, I noticed saw three
miniature models.

It looked to be a representation of three pyramids. I had seen them before.
It had been in a guidebook of Mexico. They seemed to be the same as the
pyramids in the Teotihuacan ruins.

"So, this is where the Pyramid of the Sun is...?"

That was when I saw it. On one of the pyramid models--could it be
real?--the image of Madoka and Hikaru-chan, and also Anita Brussel,
controlling three giant tigers against them.

Just then, with more power than I could ever imagine started to course
through my body.

_Whack!_ Madoka kicked out at the front leg of one of the tigers.

But the wild animals just growled back angrily, and didn't retreat any.
Instead, they continued to surround Madoka and Hikaru, coming in from
three directions.

Anita continued to command her three obedient underlings:

"Remember, you have to eat them slowly. Here, I'll cut their heads off to
make it easier for you."

She brought the scythe around again, and it glinted with the light of the

But just then, a great blast of energy knocked her down, as if the light of
the moon had turned into a huge whirlpool instead.


At the same moment Hikaru and Madoka heard Anita scream, they lost

Anita Brussel...!

I reappeared about halfway down the stairs on the Pyramid of the Sun.
After checking that Madoka and Hikaru-chan were safe, I turned back to
Anita and her three tigers.

Having taken the full force of my energy, Anita was sitting on the stone
stairs, looking at me as if in shock. Those eyes were very different from a
normal person's.

Even if she not been insane, I had had no intention of hiding from her the
secret of my powers.

I don't care what she finds out!

The person who could do these kinds of things to
Madoka...can never be forgiven!

Just then, there was a deep sound, like the sound a snake would make in
its throat if it could.

It was a strange sound. The sound of an animal about to pounce. I looked
at the three tigers, trying to guess which would attack first.

But this sound wasn't coming from them.

It was Anita, the queen of Broadway, now a wild animal herself. She was
making the sound in her throat as she readied her scythe once again.

Trained dancer that she was, she had assumed a ready stance. She had
become the fourth wild creature around me.

She said something to me, then suddenly attacked me.

I was one or two seconds in understanding what she had said to me.

You should......! (40)

That is to say, she commanded me to: "Die!" But just as I heard her
words, the energy inside me exploded.
It became a soul of pure light, and shot out at her. Anita Brussel's body
fell back from the shock. It was sort of beautiful, as if she had been acting

I caught her, but she had passed out, unconscious.

Now it was time to deal with the three tigers. I looked at the main street
known as the Road of the Dead.

These dangerous animals needed a cage of some sort. Now where should
I teleport them to...?




Madoka heard the voice again and again, and slowly regained
consciousness. Her eyes were still closed. However, even with her eyes
closed, she knew what was happening around her. She was being held by
the person calling her name.


The voice called her name again. It seemed worried. Madoka suddenly felt
the urge to snort at that, but held back. Then, with her eyes still closed,
she said:

"_Baka!_ What kind of esper are you? You sure took your time

Then she opened her eyes.

"Madoka!" Kyosuke held her close to him. "Madoka! Madoka!"

Just then, beside Madoka, Hikaru regained consciousness.


"_Uh-oh!_ Hikaru-chan!"

Kyosuke and Madoka hurriedly separated from each other.

"Oh, no!"

Wasting no time, Kyosuke sent his consciousness out into Hikaru. She
blinked for a moment, then went to sleep again.

"Forgive me, Hikaru-chan."

"Hold on a moment, Kyosuke. You haven't been using those super powers
of yours on other girls, have you?"

"Don't be silly, Madoka," Kyosuke said.

Anita and Shuri still lay sprawling on the steps where they had fallen. But
the three tigers were gone.

As if he had read her thoughts, Kyosuke said, "I convinced them to give
up pursuit of your oh-so-delicious flesh."

"Where did you put them?"

"They didn't seem to want to behave, so I put them in the museum."

"In the museum?" Madoka looked at the museum in front of Quetzalcoatl's

"That's right. We'd better make a sign saying, 'check for wild animals
before you open the doors.'"

Madoka ran down the stone steps to where Shuri was. Someone had
bandaged her neck where the blood had spat out from. It must have been

"The wound wasn't as deep as we had thought," he said. "She'll be okay as
soon as the blood stops."

"I wonder."


"I hope she'll be able to really recover from all of this."

"She will," Kyosuke said knowingly.

Madoka was instantly suspicious of his tone. "What do you mean?"

"She's learned a lot about herself. What's good about herself...and what's
bad. That's why she was able to come here tonight. She'll be okay."

After he finished speaking, Kyosuke groaned with pain. "She'll recover
faster than me."

"I see," Madoka said.

"What? What are you talking about?"

"You two must have gotten along really well together. I understand
everything now."

"It's not like that!"

Madoka just laughed loudly.

"Well," Kyosuke said, "what do we do with Anita Brussel?"

"Oh, leave that to me."


"I asked Papa to come to New York earlier. I'm going to make sure he
clears everything up with the police."

"Ah, I see. Your scary father was backing you up all this time."

Madoka grabbed Kyosuke by his jacket and pulled him to her. "That's
right, Kyosuke Kasuga-kun. And if you don't watch out..."

"I get it, I get it."

Madoka suddenly smiled widely, and pressed her lips to Kyosuke's.
Kyosuke pulled Madoka to him roughly.

Above them, the full moon was shining, almost as if nothing had happened
there tonight. The great moon was just looking down on the comings and
goings of the humans below, just as it had for thousands of years, even
before the time that humans knew how to make legends.


(End notes)

(1) The kanji for "goddess" (megami) has the a katakana "reading" of
(2) Written in English.
(3) Although I, the translator, am also a Macintosh enthusiast, I would like
to assure you that this is bit is translated accurately. I'd like to point
out, though, that as Orange Road fans you are all obligated to support
Macintosh computers, since Matsumoto-sensei and Madoka are both
Mac users.
(4) Parentheses are always the author's. I wouldn't put my own comments
into the text that way. I prefer to make use of footnotes. ^_^
(5) Memories of Hikaru-chan in the Orange Road movie, pining for
Kyosuke's CD player. The circle is now complete -- she said she wanted
a CD player like Kyosuke had, and now she has one.
(6) J.G., i.e. Jin Goro, as if it were two words.
(7) In English in the original text.
(8) "Omiai" is often misunderstood by Americans to be a wedding
arranged by a person's parents in which the person in question has no say
in the matter. It is actually an arranged meeting, kind of like a job
(9) Actually Hikaru means "to shine" as in the sun. It does not mean 'star.'
A famous Japanese novel "The tale of Hikaru" tells the story of Hikaru
Genji "The Shining Genji," a fictitious emperor of Heian-era Japan.
(10) Oh, now it means Queen. Sigh. I hope you can see some of the
challenges I face when translating this novel. It is, in many ways, all over
the road. I am constantly faced with the question of what the author
wrote/intended vs. what will be comprehensible to readers. Hikaru does
NOT mean Queen.
(11) Shirouto means 'amateur.' The opposite is 'kurouto.'
(12) No one is going to believe me over Matsumoto, but Hikaru does not
mean Star.
(13) Of course, her real name is Hikaru and her nickname is Star*. Why
does using the latter count as using her real name? Incidentally the *
character was a regular star in the original. Doesn't work very well in
(14) Daruma are round, red-colored head-like objects that are displayed
in Japanese homes and businesses. Customarily, you make your wish for
the new year, and paint one of the daruma's eyes black. If your wish
comes true that year, you paint the other eye.
(15) The Japanese word here is 'seishun jidai,' in kanji, "blue/spring era."
Think back to the first 15 episodes of the series. "Kasuga
Kyosuke...seishun shitemasu" -- "I am Kyosuke Kasuga, living the
springtime of my youth." The name for the Jedi from Star Wars comes
from the word 'jidai geki' (Samurai drama) since Lucas was such a fan of
Japanese film, by the way. Just through I'd throw that in.
(16) Um, sorry guys, but what timeline are we talking about here? All of
the Orange Road series takes place when Madoka and Kyosuke are in
the third year of junior high school, and Madoka's sister (whose name we
never know) got married in episode 11.
(17) Yes, this is gyakushu, as in "Gyakushu no Char" (Char's
Counterattack) and "Teikoku no Gyakushu" (the Japanese title for The
Empire Strikes Back)..
(18) In a bizarre but unrelated incident, the day before I translated this
passage, a young 'mi-ke neko' (three-colored cat, just like JG) managed to
climb into the engine compartment of my Nissan March from underneath. I
unsuspectingly started by car, and heard a dull thump as the cat was
caught in the fan belt and killed. Later that day, my car lost electrical
power; we took it to the repair man here in Isesaki and he found the
remains of the cat. Crazy, eh?
(19) Everyone listening? :^D
(20) These are fun things. There's a message notebook at the classical toy
museum in Otaru, Hokkaido (where Hikaru moved to, incidentally). Look
for my message if you ever get out there.
(21) According to Kaori, a (cute) girl I work with, and several very helpful
people on Usenet, "Tiltil" and "Mitil" (i.e., Chiru Chiru Michiru in
Japanese) are the names of two characters in a Belgian fairy tale by Maurice
Maeterlinck called "L'Oiseau Bleu" ("Blue Bird"). This fairy tale is very
popular in Japan. Why a homosexual in New York would know this is an
enigma to me.
(22) The following message appears in English.
(23) This text is in English in the novel. A slightly more accurate
translation of what appears in Japanese: "To Mr. Chiru Chiru Michiru. Like
you, I am rooting for the girl HIKARU, also known as STAR, who came from
Japan aiming to make it on Broadway. If she has become involved in some kind
of problem in the city of New York that I love so much, I would be very
saddened. If anyone provides you with any information about her, please
let me know immediately. I will pay a reward of $1000 for any such
information. -- Anita Brussel"
(24) That UNIX is not a computer but an OS may not be understood by
the author. I am not responsible for any misunderstanding of computers on
Matsumoto's part. I'm just the translating droid.
(25) I'm always annoyed when I don't know the exact Japanese when
reading something translated. Since this is a juicy one, I'll give it to you.
The line in Japanese is, "Sono ato, futari ha kyuusoku nisekkin shi,
Harouiin no ban ni musubareta. Hikaru ni totte, hajimete no otoko datta."
(26) Interesting play on kanji here. The kanji for 'vermilion' is the shu
from Shuri's name.
(27) Useful term. Yuujuu-fudan is a person who can't make up their mind,
who is timid and passive. You can go up to Japanese people and say this
and watch their reactions.
(28) Ninth grade. The phrase "known" could also be taken to mean "going
out with," but since Kyosuke and Madoka didn't start dating Madoka until
12th grade, I have left it as the former.
(29) You all remember musoko (son) is a euphemism for a man's member.
Musume (daughter) is the female version.
(30) All together now: TSUMARANAI!
(31) Interesting to note that at no point does anyone remember the last
time Hikaru and everyone game to America, also to get abducted in
Hawaii. I wonder if Japanese readers are forming their opinions of
America from books like this.
(32) This is a phrase that comes up a lot in Japanese. Detroit is the
"Mecca of cars"; Hollywood is the "Mecca of movies."
(33) Yuujuu-fudan strikes again. Up there with akai mugiwara-boshi
and chonouryoku-sha as the first words you learn when you study
Japanese using Orange Road mangas (as I did).
(34) Wow, since the "Hikaru...watashitachi, mo...sannin de irarenain
da ne" scene at ABCB...
(35) That is to say, sort of like a "U" character, three sides of a square,
with the left edge open.
(36) 'Thank you so much!' is written in English.
(37) The word for people who have been friends since childhood is
osana-najimi, pronounced without stressing any particular syllible. It
comes up quite a bit in anime. There, now you know another Japanese
(38) To spare rec.arts.anime.* the needless thread on the subject, yes,
Matsumoto uses the word "anime" even though Disney is not anime in the
sense that we American fans use the word.
(39) From the first KOR novel, the lovely hydrangea.
(40) Written in English in the text. Don't know what is up with this.