Chapter 16 - Fates CollideMature

It was a lonely ride to the outskirts of Osaka. With nothing but the radio to keep him company, Kenta thought about the task ahead. Finding 'Pulp Fiction' was a stroke of luck he knew was a one-off. The universe would never be this kind again.

The lanes were surprisingly empty at this time. Kenta supposed it was due to being mid-afternoon but even so, he was on the busiest motorways in the city. He had only seen three cars since merging and they had all gone in the same direction. As the rain settled to a light drizzle, he assumed it was due to the bad weather.

As the concrete grey gave way to pastoral green, Kenta felt a lurch in his stomach. Detective's intuition (as he called it) was a big part of his job; he'd learned to trust it ever since he narrowly escaped a beat-down from the Hayashi-Kai. He knew the 'Pulp Fiction's' home was only a few minutes away. He'd dreamed of this case ever since the late nineties and now that he was close to a major breakthrough, he wondered what he was getting himself into. It's out of our hands now, kid his old captain had said. Some cases just refuse to be solved.

Kenta had disliked that attitude but, as those words lingered in mind, he understood them.

It wasn't long until Kenta found what he was looking for. Among the graveyard of shacks and squat homes, lay one single English-esque cottage. The roof was twined with clotted straw whilst the windows were older then the buildings around it. It was a relic from another age; it did not fit in with the Japanese pastoral image.

Drawing near, Kenta pulled the handbrake and left his car to the mercy of the countryside. The wooden door looked as though it would grant any curious knocker a thousand splinters. Luckily, Kenta did not have to consider this. The door opened slowly.

Raising his badge, Kenta spoke with the crisp professionalism of twenty plus years on the force.

"I'm Detective Kenta Orikasa. Can I have a word?"

What greeted him was two sunken eyes that wore a body with begrudging acceptance. A mess of tangled hair and frayed clothes revealed this was not a well man. If malnourishment had a human form, it would be the man stood before him. It was Michi Sugai.

"Are you The Raining Room user known as 'Pulp Fiction'?" he asked. He decided it was best to be blunt. Seeing this frail waif of a man concerned him.

Michi nodded once and disappeared into the catacombs of his cottage. Kenta apprehensively followed. He'd seen enough terrible US horrors to know what happens when you enter a strange person's abode.

Inside however, was a clean yet rustic home. The walls were faded but clear of any dirt, the floor was swept and tidy and there was the faint smell of country air. Kenta guiltily lifted his hand from his concealed pistol and slipped it into his pocket. The man had slipped into what was the lounge; he guessed it so as it contained nothing but a moth-eaten sofa and a chair.

Michi had taken his place on the single chair as Kenta carefully sat adjacent on the sofa. Kenta's eye drifted towards a lone video tape upon the fire place. The label had been long torn away.

"So, he came back? Michi asked. His voice was a weary croak as though he hadn't spoken for years. He looked like a man born haunted.

"I guess you mean PMR." replied Kenta. "What can you tell me about him?"

"What do you wanna know?" Michi spoke with no tact.

"Sugai-san, this is an investigation. A student died recently and I believe this Raining Room site has a connection. Are you going to explain what you know or do I have to bring you in?"

Still silence. Kenta decided to twist the knife.

"Sugai-san, were you ever bullied at school?"

Michi said nothing but stood. He paced slowly as though he were working himself up.

"Back in the 90's, we got dial-up internet and suddenly, we were the cool kids. Or so we thought. I was bullied, yeah. Same five kids used to kick the shit out of me. Or steal anything new I had. Thank God I was never stupid enough to take my Virtual Boy into school." Michi said. A surge awoke his dormant voice. "Then, yeah. The urban legend began."

"They were killed?" asked Kenta. He already knew the answer.

Michi nodded. He collapsed into his seat and sighed. Somehow, he looked younger and older all at once.

"Aneurysm. Killer migraines or something. So yeah, the guy kinda scares me and..."

He broke off. Kenta's old trick. He's not falling for it though.

"You met this 'PMR'?" Kenta pressed. His eyes burned into Michi.

"Yeah. We were bullied by the same assholes."

A silence. Michi's eyes were as empty as the air. Kenta felt a strange dirtiness emanate from him. But there it was; his lead. He was closer.

Michi did not play along with the suspense. "PMR.. huh? I never really got why he called himself that. He made 'The Raining Room' with some technological bullshit. So much, this company.. Shione something.. they came calling and offered to buy him out. All because of a chat room that couldn't be tracked. His technology was better than the military's database. So yeah, they powered their entire database with it until it went haywire."

Michi laughed dryly as Kenta observed, deep in thought. He thought of the Shione Corporation who had declared insolvency years ago. Like any other company that failed, he thought nothing of it. Initially anyway.

"Their HQ still stands. Whether it was bought out or whatever, I don't know." shrugged Michi.

"How come you're telling me all of this? Why didn't you come forward when all of this happened?" Kenta inquired. When Michi looked away with obvious guilt, he pressed on. "Tell me where PMR is so I can end this."

As Kenta's temper threatened, Michi lost his composure. A thin line of concern cut into his forehead as he looked like a reprimanded child. It had been a few years since his canvas of emotions had been exercised and it showed. Maybe it was because he hadn't spoken to anyone in months or maybe it was the guilt, but Michi spoke with more clarity than he ever had since that fateful afternoon years ago.

The End

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