NG Prologue Story: Killer Peach [Episode 4]
Author: Ayumu Hosaka
It looks like the fugashi or karinto that she often used to eat as a child.
It takes a very long time until she can finally comprehend that they are the reduced figures of her husband and her son burnt, who had been crisp in their clothes. She doesn’t dare to check the faces currently obscured by the white sheets. Her husband’s face probably no longer bears any resemblance to the one she loved, and her son probably no longer has features that look like either of them.
Her husband and son, who had already been burned once, undergo cremation without ever reuniting with Tomoko.
The cause of death listed on the autopsy was severe trauma from being burned to death.
They had been caught in a fire that broke out at the Shinza Momoi Department Store. Her husband and son were unable to escape the fire for whatever reason and died while suffering immensely.
At the time the fire started, there was a sale in the toys section, which meant that many families with children were shopping there. Her family was among the many families that died there.
The funeral is a quiet affair.
Every eye is on Tomoko, the chief mourner, who has her head bowed in gratitude for those who paid their respects. Even the male political critics that had sparred with her in the media have their heads bowed deeply, and their hands put together in silent prayer.
Tomoko realizes that death affects males and females the same; those left behind all feel the same feelings.
After things calm down, the news and other media outlets reach out to get a comment from her, but Tomoko simply sends a message by fax and ignores all other attempts to contact her. When she looks down from her second-floor window at the reporters who are gathered at her door like insects, it reminds her of the times she had entered a crowd around the house of a politician who had committed a scandal. At the time, she was proud of her job as a journalist, but now she only felt disgusted.
She turns on the television in an attempt to distract herself, but all the channels are focused on the department store fire. The only channel that is not running fire coverage is airing an animated show for children, but as soon as she realizes it’s the cartoon that her son loved, it left her feeling hollow, so she immediately turns off the TV.
——Her happy life had been destroyed, and now only exists in dreams.
She can no longer find the foundation in her life.
Tomoko is losing sight of her direction as a politician.
All that is keeping her anchored are the police investigations on the cause of the fire.
There were suspicions early on that the fire was caused by arson, leading the police to thoroughly investigate the scene of the fire and gather eye-witness information from the customers that survived the fire. The officers on the case were making declarations that they would not rest until they have gotten to the bottom of this incident, and Tomoko believed their words. However, her trust is utterly misplaced.
The investigation is abruptly closed.
When Tomoko presses them for a reason, they only give her vague answers and without any sort of detail. The investigation team is immediately disassembled, at which point, she is no longer able to contact any of them. This behavior is so unusual. It could mean that this decision had been made by someone on the outside, ignoring input from those in the field.
Someone, no, likely a group of someones did not want anyone finding out what really happened inside the store that day.
I have to investigate this.
Believing this would be the only way justice will ever be served, Tomoko makes her move.
If someone had committed this act with evil intent, then she would settle things with her own hands.
Fortunately for Tomoko, she has some confidantes that she gained from her days as a reporter and her life as a politician. Additionally, her husband’s friends are willing to help, too. Using their network of information, she finds that it’s possible to conduct an investigation that resembles the same scale as the police investigation.
In her now-empty life, her biggest supporter is now her secretary. She provides Tomoko with a new apartment for Tomoko, so she doesn’t have to spend any more of her nights in a hotel. She visits every day, to come over and cook a well-balanced meal for Tomoko because she currently lacks the spirit even to eat.
The loss of Tomoko’s husband and child also seems to affect her secretary significantly. She appears to be harboring deep emotional wounds as well. Her expression when she looks at the picture of Tomoko’s husband and son is just as pained and tortured as if the deceased were her own family members. She weeps alongside Tomoko every day.
Just having one friend that can share her emotions helps her keep moving ahead without being consumed by madness.
From that point forward, all that follows is an obsession.
Tomoko rarely sleeps, preferring to follow every clue she can find and investigating every person who had a grudge against her, who had even approached her. Some grow to resent this new version of Tomoko and try to cut ties with her, but that doesn’t bother her in the slightest.
What society must protect.
If she could just bring the heavy hand of justice down upon this person who had squandered society’s most precious resource, its children, she wouldn’t regret anything she lost in the process.
Tomoko goes as far as to switch her political party to the opposition political party so she can dig into the suspicious purchases of the land surrounding the Momoi Department Store.
She had learned that prior to the conflagration at the store, there were sightings of suspicious men in the area. Tomoko had also learned that these men were employees of a certain construction company, and the owner of the said company was none other than, Noboru Ishimaru, her political nemesis.
It had taken a few years for her to unearth this small fact.
Once her happy life had been completely ripped from her grasp, she had dedicated her life to revenge. Now, for the first time, she felt that everything was finally coming together.
She reignites her efforts to conclusively pin these dirty dealings on Ishimaru. The rumors surrounding Ishimaru were something both Tomoko and her husband had pursued during their careers as journalists. Their interviews unjustly interfered with more than once or twice. There was no doubt that Ishimaru had the most to gain from Tomoko’s husband’s death.
But Ishimaru didn’t react to any attacks. A cautious man in that position was unlikely to fall for any traps, and Tomoko could no longer wait.
——I’ll confront him directly.
This is not going to end otherwise.
Tomoko decides to head to the building where Ishimaru’s office was located. Said building was built by Ishimaru’s construction company on the land where the Momoi Department Store once stood.
She feels the karma gathered in that place.
She had her secretary wait at the apartment and gave her instructions on how to handle everything, just in case something happened. The idea of dragging her into everything and making her shoulder burdens that were caused by Tomoko’s actions made her feel bad. She’s going into Ishimaru’s office to talk about justice, not politics. No matter how close the two of them were, her secretary was just that—a political secretary. She couldn’t get her mixed up in Tomoko’s own personal family grudge.
Today’s meeting is to settle a private matter, but it is still a day of battle. She’s girded herself for battle in her typical business attire.
It’s dusk, and the business district near the Shinza Station is teeming with employees rushing home after a long day of commerce. Most were men. There were some female office workers, but they number far fewer. The hub for business in Tokyo is dominated by men, and society is governed by the principles of men. The majority of them probably presume that most of their methods are just, but they seem blissfully unaware of how aggressive, self-serving, and violent their methods are. Tomoko’s thin body pushes forward but is in danger of being swallowed by the throng or pushed back.
Even with this many people on the street, no one notices Tomoko. It could be because nobody recognizes her without make-up, but in Tomoko’s mind, it’s more like that they just didn’t want to turn around. They were breaking free from a hard day of work, and they were just over it.
A disease has infected the country, and it has become deeply rooted. Treatment requires emergency surgery, and yet everyone averted their eyes from it.
——Because if they fight, they’ll end up like me.
As far as Tomoko can see, only she continues to fight, even knowing that her own child’s life is something that can be claimed in this struggle. She marches straight to Ishimaru’s office and arrives in front of his symbol of power——Moon Tower.
A tower of vanity built upon the remains of the Momoi Department Store, where her husband and son were burned to death. Tomoko takes out the voice recorder she had tucked away in her inner chest pocket and turns on the device. After checking that there wasn’t anyone around, she begins speaking.
“This is Okayama. I’m leaving behind this recording, just in case. Today I’ve come to directly question President Ishimaru of the Sumii Group. I am a congresswoman, but this is Ishimaru, so anything could happen. If I happen to suddenly go missing, the culprit is Noboru Ishimaru. I’ll reveal the truth of the fire at Momoi Department Store and the sale of that property.
For that child’s sake… No, for the sake of all those lost that day, I won’t let this die.
If the police and judiciary refuse to act, then I’ll take matters into my own hands——”
——She couldn’t finish her sentence.
Despite every fiber of her burning white-hot with hatred, Tomoko still wants to believe in the good of people. Perhaps, she is hoping against hope that there was an unavoidable circumstance that day.
Surprisingly, the front desk let Tomoko in without a fuss. Naturally, she hasn’t made an appointment, but Ishimaru instructs them to let her through. It’s unclear why he knows Tomoko is coming today, but this is a better outcome than being turned away at the door.
She gets on the elevator alone, and after reaching the highest floor, she knocks on the door to Ishimaru’s private office.
It was the same smug voice she had gotten used to hearing at the assembly meetings. She places her hand on the doorknob of the thick doors and opens it with determination. As her eyes gaze upon the interior of the room, Tomoko momentarily forgets what she’s doing here.
A 360-degree panoramic view of the sun setting on all of Shinza through the glass windows.
So this is the view that you get as the upper-crust of Japanese society.
This——This is the world you inhabit when you stop at nothing trying to sate a never-ending lust for power and cast aside all pretenses of right and wrong.
In front of this view sits a man in his prime, relaxing deeply in a luxurious chair—Noboru Ishimaru. Tomoko’s political nemesis and the head of the political world, a pronounced enemy of women.
On the wall, a Japanese sword is resting in an ornate sheath. It’s likely an art piece owned by Ishimaru, but once her eyes happen upon the sword, Tomoko felt the karma groaning within once more.
There are no secretaries or other members of parliament present.
Tomoko and Ishimaru are facing off against one another, all by themselves.
“Welcome, Representative Okayama. Feel free to relax.”
“Give me back my family…”
Tomoko gets straight to the point.
Ishimaru, on the other hand, didn’t bother to look at her and simply continues looking through his documents. This is classic Ishimaru. Purposefully pushing buttons and pulling levers to provoke his opponents into losing their cool until even the most sound logical arguments are being delivered by someone who looks like a lunatic.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“You’re the only one that makes sense. You had far more to gain from my husband’s murder than anyone else.”
“For better or for worse, you stand out. It seems like you had many enemies. It’s not surprising at all that you would have amassed grudges, especially as someone continuously pretending to be suppressed while you simultaneously flaunted your happy family.”
“People with ties to you were sighted before and after the department store fire.”
Ishimaru’s eyebrows twitch.
“If you will release the truth, then I will fight you fair and square as a fellow human. But if you choose to hide the truth…”
“——What are you going to do?”
“Then, I will get my revenge.”
Using everything I have.
Tomoko’s voice is so cold and rings so profoundly, that it sends chills down her own spine.
A selfish word that resides in a world far from politics and her reality.
But Tomoko meant it.
Depending on Ishimaru’s answer, Tomoko sits ready to decide the course, the rest of her life will follow. If he refused to admit the truth, she is prepared to dedicate the rest of her life to sinking her teeth into Ishimaru’s neck and draining the life from all he had created, using any means necessary.
“Your resolve is worth of praise. I would applaud you and call you the last great female warrior of the Showa era, but you cannot bring society to heel that easily.”
His reply tells Tomoko all she needs to hear.
——It was him.
Ishimaru ordered the murder of her husband and son.
He would also never admit his involvement.
Tomoko’s resolve was just as firm.
“I will not forgive you. Ever.”
There would be no more strategies and tactics from here on. She would not allow this man who made her have to experience the smell of her charred husband and son to live in this country.
“Your forgiveness matters not. My only regret is that you weren’t burnt along with them.”
Those words were a conclusion and a signal.
Tomoko throws away her life as a politician and casts aside her humanity. She dashes to the shelf where Ishimaru’s sword is displayed.
She grips it in her hands, and despite it being the first time she held it in her hands, she feels a wave of nostalgia.
“You, what are you…”
Ishimaru’s voice that was so cocksure and confident seconds ago now wavers ever so slightly. Something from her dreams had seized control of Tomoko’s body and directs her to move, fueled by her anger.
She unsheathes the sword. The bewitching shine like water’s surface reflects Tomoko’s face. Her expression no longer looks human, but that doesn’t matter.
She doesn’t need to be human anymore.
——If there are demons that eat away at justice rooted in this country.
“Then, I will exterminate them.”
The sword feels much lighter than she expects as she raises it high above her head. It feels like an extension of her body.
Allowing the hatred and loathing to course through her body, she glowers at Ishimaru.
Like a glimmer in a kaleidoscope, a symbol of her happiness would momentarily flicker on the sword and disappear.
The title of the historical drama her husband loved disappears.
The cover of the story that her son loved disappears.
All the oppressed women disappear.
With nothing left to keep her happy, Tomoko is an undefeatable force. She brings down the blade.
Ishimaru’s eyes fill with fear and look up at her, terrified.
The look on his face is so pathetic. She couldn’t help but laugh.
——It was all so much easier than in her dreams.
I should have done this earlier, Tomoko thought.
In the end, Tomoko’s hatred wasn’t eliminated.
She remembered gripping the sword and moving to cut him down. She saw a spray of blood, but she couldn’t remember whose it was. She didn’t slay the demon as she’d hoped.
Momotarou had risen but was defeated by the selfish red demon, and now the people were left to suffer the demon’s tyranny. The sharp pain in the back of her head and the lapse in her consciousness laid out Tomoko’s defeat.
“——Ishimaru’s orders. Dispose of this woman immediately.”
She hears someone’s voice.
She opens her eyes while her head throbbed in pain and finds herself in a dimly lit room that looks like some kind of warehouse. Several rugged-looking men in work clothes were arrayed in a circle around Tomoko. They were the men from the construction company that had been sighted at Momoi Department Store.
When Tomoko tries to yell, a handkerchief soaked in something vile-smelling is crammed in her mouth. Her first thought is that its chloroform or some other anesthetic, but her consciousness is still crystal clear. Rather than dulling her senses, it seems like its purpose is simply to be unpleasant for her. When she inhales, she nearly swallows it, which causes her to cough, but even her choking cough is stifled and suppressed by the men.
“——General Manager, are you sure? She’s…”
“No worries, this is also a warning.”
The men’s whispers are colored with excitement over the power they wield.
These filthy voices that Tomoko loathes and worked so hard to keep away from virtuous women.
The sound of a thunderous collision the like she’d only heard when inspecting construction sites resounds in her head. This sound didn’t come from outside, but rather inside Tomoko’s head.
The sound was her own skull resonating after an impact to the forehead.
A roaring pain, unlike anything she’d ever experienced tears through her body, but she couldn’t blackout. The fury and rage that still runs raging through her veins won’t let her go quietly into the night.
She found it odd that her sense of smell and sound were so sharp in her dreams, but now felt so dull. However, when the human brain experiences extreme fear or pain, it shuts off or dulls individual senses to prevent overloading the body.
The blood that poured into her eyes obscures her vision, but she sees something that looks like a wrench.
An intense pain from her temple.
Again and again, a heavy iron tool is brought down on her head. As she endures the pain, Tomoko notices she sees two images. She saw both the ceiling and the ground without moving her head.
She thinks about it for a bit and concludes that her skull has gotten so deformed that her eyes are now pointing in separate directions.
In normal circumstances, Tomoko would have been knocked unconscious long ago, but since she isn’t, they’re now sending the brain completely different views, and her brain is not accustomed to dealing with such vastly disparate inputs.
One more strike.
The impact on her cheekbone also connects with one of her eyes. Her eye warps, and her view widens.
Now she’s able to see the interior of the building and the men’s uniforms.
——She no longer has any depth perception.
Tomoko can’t bear to take in this new visual all at once. Her muffled yells leak out from between the small gaps between the cloth and her mouth.
Her attackers are perplexed by the fact that their brutal, ruthless assault has not yet rendered Tomoko unconscious.
However, this fact only seems to excite them.
——They’re used to behaving like this.
Tomoko’s mind fills with rage rather than despair.
This unnatural rage will not allow Tomoko to slip free of her mortal coil.
——Death would not come easily for her.
The men are seemingly in the conversation for a while before bringing even more blunt objects and a giant sack. Her mind hazy, Tomoko’s body is pushed into the sack head-first, and the opening is tightly tied shut.
Whack. Bam. Idiotically simple sounds reverberate through the room. Her entire body is being mercilessly beaten from all over.
Occasionally, a proud laugh would get mingled into the times. As far as she could tell, if they hit a joint that made a nice sound, that person was awarded a good score. Every time a complex sound rang out, someone let out a satisfied noise.
Tomoko’s body is being used as a toy for their grotesque, warped entertainment.
——She felt bitter disappointment and frustration.
The strength of these emotions extends Tomoko’s consciousness and suffering.
Soon, the men grow tired of their game and drag Tomoko out of the sack. They’re astonished by the fact that she’s still alive and coherent. One of the men hands the giant blade, Ishimaru’s beloved katana, to another man.
“Cut her head off. That’s her punishment for running wild with the president’s beloved katana…”
“B-But…she’s still alive.”
“She’ll be dead soon. We have orders to behead her. Once you’re done, stuff her in the trunk and take her to a treatment plant tomorrow.”
She wants to protest, but her voice fails her.
“Pity… What a waste of a good woman…”
She sees the man unsteadily swing the katana down.
Her body makes the signature sound of something sturdy being cut.
Ishimaru’s gaudy katana that Tomoko was unable to successfully wield wasn’t just for show. Her neck was separated from her body in one fell swoop. Even so, the curtain refused to fall for Tomoko’s consciousness.
Tomoko personally validates the urban legend that criminals who were beheaded by the guillotine retained their consciousness for a few moments.
Her three fields of vision gaze at her lifeless body still dressed in her business suit before slowly sinking deep into a nightmare full of intense pain and resentment.
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