Durarara!!SH×2: Chapter 5B (+Interlude)

T/N: The omission of the first name ‘Haruya’ is glaring…


Durarara!!SH×2

CHAPTER 5B
The Genius

Along Kawagoe Highway. Shinra’s apartment. Underground carpark.

Rewind a few days back.

“You’ve gotten a grip on the situation?”
‘…yes.’
In a corner of the deserted carpark, a man spoke to a woman in a rider suit who stood in front of him.
“And do you have any comment?”
‘Please believe me, I didn’t do it!’
“I know. That’s what I’d like to believe, too.”
A sharp-eyed man in a suit.
His name was Shiki. His official occupation was selling paintings.
But that occupation was no more than a front, and this man was better known in the city for his work in the underworld.
It was not that his face was particularly surly, but if one could catch glimpses of his tattoos under his suit, and if they observed the air around him, by gut they would be able to tell he was not a lawful citizen.
Officer of the Awakusu-kai under Medei group: Shiki.
That was his true occupation, and the woman in front of him was a longstanding colleague in his underworld career.
“You understand the situation? If we are to continue to work together, you have to prove your innocence to the public in some way.”
‘I know.’
“It’s not ideal for the public to be suspicious of you. Considering we do business with you, it’s inconvenient for us, you understand. If this persists, even if we are absolutely certain of your innocence, we will, nonetheless, have to cut ties.”
In the first place, he was clearly from an organisation one would be better off cutting ties with.
But the woman in the rider suit was unable to do so for her own reasons.
“In other words, we cannot provide you information or clean up after you until this is resolved. Of course, it is physically impossible to make you disappear… so in the worst case we will have to inform the police of your address and have them eliminate you for us. We hope that you will cooperate in finding the truth so it does not come to that.”
His wording bordered on unreasonable, but the woman in the rider suit did not reply.
Even so, Shiki sighed deeply, and continued less sternly,
“This is not work-related, but I have a personal request.”
‘What is it?’
“One of Miss Akane’s friends has been abducted.”
‘!’
“Naturally, as you are her benefactor, Miss Akane is upset that you are under suspicion… I realise you’ve only just returned, but could you try to prioritise this case over your job?”
The woman in the rider suit bowed her helmet forward in a wordless reply.
The man from the underworld organisation, acknowledging her answer, smiled self-deprecatingly as he turned his back on her.
“Thank you. I will email what information I have to Doctor Kishitani. I hope we can continue our smooth relations with you.”
He was not a lawful member of society.
With violence and other kinds of ‘power’, bending the ethics of society to its will.
That was the kind of world Shiki was steeped in, and his source of income.
But even from the perspective of a man like this, the woman was an otherworldly being.

For the one who stood before Shiki was the ‘urban legend’, who even while violating the truths of humanity struggled to live in human society—the Headless Rider herself.

♂♀

Celty Sturluson was no human.
Known as a dullahan, she was a type of fae that originated from Scotland and Ireland – a being that called on the homes of those soon to breathe their last to inform them of their imminent deaths.
With her own severed head under her arm, riding a two-wheeled carriage drawn by a headless horse – known as the cóiste bodhar – she would visit the homes of those nearing death. If one were to carelessly open their door, they would be drenched with a full basin of blood – similar to the banshee, as a harbinger of misfortune, the dullahan was a subject of European folklore passed down the generations

But to the Celty of right now, her history and identity were unimportant.
For—she was now labelled a ‘Grim Reaper abducting people’ by the masses, for a crime she had no memory of committing.

♂♀

Along Kawagoe Highway. Shinra’s apartment.

30 minutes after the meeting with Shiki.
The Headless Rider Celty Sturluson, who was not only suspected of kidnapping but victim to that information being broadcast on the internet as though it was confirmed fact, was now curled up miserably.
Her roommate, the underground doctor Kishitani Shinra, sat on the sofa with his arms around his knees watching her, and sighed, saying,
“I told you, Celty, you can’t let this affect you.”
‘I can’t not be affected. My honour’s been tarnished.’
There were all sorts of misinformation spreading on the web, and on top of that there were even posts in bad taste saying things like, ‘Maybe the helmet’s actually stuffed with pickled seaweed,’ which was actually degrading to both Celty and the seaweed, but in any case it was chaos.
‘Why pickled seaweed…’
“It’s all right, I’ll get a super hacker I know to chop all of your slanderers in two like seaweed.”
‘What super hacker…’
We met on the internet recently, he’s an amazing person, very skilled. He’s called Tsukumoya. Anyway I’ll ask him to go after all the people badmouthing you, and he can hack into their computers and expose their porn stashes to wherever they work or study.”
Ignoring Shinra’s proposal for a revenge which would cause excessive trouble to schools and workplaces, Celty clenched her fists and stood up.
‘Anyway, I don’t care about revenge right now. First we have to clear the misunderstanding… And I’m worried about the missing people, too.’
“You’re more worried about others than your own revenge, Celty, your kindness knows no bounds, no wonder you’re so popular!”
‘That’s enough, do you have any ideas?’
“Mm~, Shiki-san sent me the information earlier… It seems the Awakusu-kai have been looking into it on their own, too.”
Shinra skimmed the information on the screen of the laptop on the table.
“Out of the recent cases, the most eye-catching is that two sisters vanished together. And the older sister was a magazine reporter who was researching you.”
‘Me?’
“Yeah, um… Ah, out of three sisters the oldest and youngest disappeared, it seems.”
‘What about the last one?’
It was an obvious question. Shinra replied, lightly,
“It doesn’t say here, so she’s probably safe. But if we find out why she wasn’t touched it could be a major hint. I’m sure the police have already looked into it, but…”
‘Yeah… But we don’t know anyone who can ask the police for us… Ah, right, you can ask that super hacker of yours to take a peek at the police’s data…’
Celty trailed up, before she slapped the back of her neck and scolded herself.
‘Ahh, no no no! What am I thinking, I can’t ask someone to commit a crime when I’m trying to solve a crime myself, that’s backwards!’
“You’re not in a position to say that as a courier without a driving license or headlights, but the fact that you say it anyway is wonderful, too. …Well, there’s no problem there, Celty. Even if you want to see their data, normally files on investigations aren’t entered into computers with internet access to prevent leakage.”
‘Right… Then what should I do?’
“According to Shiki-san’s information the second daughter’s attending Raira Academy.”
Raira Academy.
Celty paused at the name.
Including its past as Raijin High before the merger, it was a school Celty had much history with.
Of course she had not worn the uniform and attended the school, but many of the people significant to her were graduates. She was also acquainted with a number of current students. It could be said that out of the educational institutes in Japan, it was this high school that she had most affinity with.
“Isn’t that just nice? Ryugamine-kun’s still a third-year there, since his injury held him back.”
Ryugamine.
That name was of an equal weight to Celty as Raira Academy.
Raira Academy third-year student, Ryugamine Mikado. His age was such that he should have graduated by now, but he had suffered numerous stab wounds in an incident, delaying his schooling.*
“We should get in touch with him somehow.”
‘Wait. Shinra.’
Celty grabbed Shinra’s hand as it reached for his phone, and typed,
‘Let’s not get Mikado-kun involved again.’
“Celty.”
‘He’s finally been able to go back to a peaceful life. I still think of him as a friend, but precisely because he’s my friend I don’t want to drag him back to the underworld.’
“You really are kind, Celty. I’m a little jealous of Mikado-kun.”
Shinra said. Celty answered, gently,
‘Yeah, the only one I’ll willingly drag into the underworld is you, Shinra.’
She said this half in jest—
But Shinra’s eyes sparkled like a child given a new toy, and he hugged Celty.
“Celty! Ahh, in other words, the two of us are one, and one of us is two. Our bond has become melody and harmony, cat and dogbubububu”
‘There’s no time for that now!’
She pinched his cheek and pulled, but Shinra said, happily,
“Thank goodness, you’re yourself again.”
‘Anyway, there’s already a suitable person who’s not Mikado! Someone who caused us lots of suffering!’
“Who? Isn’t Izaya missing?”
Shinra asked. Celty answered,
‘Aoba, Aoba! Kuronuma Aoba!’
“Ahhh~…”
Shinra’s face fell a little.
Evidently he did not think favourably of the boy; he sighed deeply as he took out his phone.
“Honestly, a kid like that who only sees you as a tool to be used should quickly get what he deserves and borrow a giant amount from loan sharks and get overly harassed for repayment and then disappear.”
‘Don’t say something so scary so enthusiastically.’
In the mean time of their banter the call connected, and Shinra spoke, grudgingly,
“Ah… Hello? Is this Kuronuma-kun? Actually, I hate to say this, but I need your help. Can you find a Raira Academy student and pass us her information?”

“Er… All I know is she’s called Tatsugami Himeka.”

♂♀

Present time. Somewhere in Ikebukuro.

With that they had received the photograph of ‘Tatsugami Himeka’ from Aoba, and thus Celty Sturluson was able to stand before Tatsugami Himeka presently.
With the information that the girl was accompanied by a green-haired boy, Celty was able to track her down in just a few days.
But the conversation was not one to be had too publicly, and so she had followed them until they entered a deserted alley before approaching them.
—It would be best to get her alone.
—But she might get scared and run away.
It seemed that Celty’s judgement had not failed her; thanks to the boy beside Himeka calming her down, she had managed to converse with Celty somehow.
—First I have to clear up the misunderstanding…
Celty was about to show her the videos from her vacation as alibis to prove she was 100% innocent—
But just then, the Dragon Zombie members came charging in on their motorcycles.

“Let’s get along.”
Looking at the pretty man with the kind smile, Celty realised instantly.
She had never spoken to him directly, but she had seen him a number of years back.
—Li-pei.
—So he’s back.
Ei Li-pei.
A Taiwanese-born, he was the leader of the bosozoku group Dragon Zombie, which had once split the territory of Ikebukuro with Jyan Jyaka Jyan.
She had heard that he had returned to Taiwan to undergo medical treatment from a specialist, but it seemed he had come back to Ikebukuro.
—Izaya said he’s descended from the same line as the Ei Family in the Chinese triads, right?
—Well, I don’t know if he’s still in touch with those distant relatives in China…
Just why was he here now?
If he was here to pick a fight surely he would have brought some of his gang members with him, instead of two women.
—No, I can’t rule out that each of them is as strong as Mikage-chan from Rakuei Gym…
Celty wavered, unable to gauge the situation, and meanwhile Li-pei turned his back on her and started talking to the boy standing beside Tatsugami Himeka.
“So. I heard you’re strong…”
“Eh?”
“Strong enough to take on even Heiwajima Shizuo?
—…
—Hm?
—What did he just say?
She had the feeling she had just heard something odd.
It was a name familiar to her being used in an impossible context.
‘The sun’s pretty cold.’ With the sense that she had just heard something to this effect, Celty supposed she might have misheard, and quietly continued to tune into the conversation

Oblivious to the Headless Rider’s thoughts, Li-pei proceeded to introduce himself to the boy.
“My name is Li-pei. Ei Li-pei, let’s get along.”
Li-pei smiled carefreely as he put out his right hand, which the boy took, head tilting curiously.
“Ah, same… I’m Mizuchi Yahiro.”
“I’ll apologise in advance: I’m sorry, okay?”
“Huh?”
“I’m going to test you a little right now.”
And in the following moment, the world of Mizuchi Yahiro spun.

“?!”
Yahiro instantly realised what had been done to him.
His centre of gravity from his position shaking hands with Li-pei had been unbalanced, lurching him towards the ground.
But before he reached that understanding, Yahiro’s body had already acted on instinct.

—I was attacked.   —By who?       —Why?
—Out of nowhere.      —I didn’t do anything.
—I’m scared.  —Scared scared scared.   —Quickly.
—I have to crush them. —Before I get killed. —Before I get killed.
—Before I get killed, before I get killed before I get killed before I get killed—!
In the space of a few seconds countless thoughts rushed through his mind—and Yahiro’s body, with no time lag, moved to counter his ‘enemy’.
Before his falling body could hit the ground, Yahiro’s hand shot out to press against the floor.
And bracing his entire weight on that one hand in a position like a handstand, he twisted his body.
In one liquid motion he spread his legs, and his body turned, legs aiming to snare Li-pei’s neck.
“Oh?”
For Li-pei, who had assumed he would deliver a sweeping kick from that handstand as in the footwork-based martial art capoeira, it was unexpected.
He clamped Li-pei’s head with his legs almost as if to twist it off, and toppled him sideways.
But Li-pei broke free at the last moment, and stepped back hastily to regain his balance.
On the other hand, Yahiro had taken advantage of his escape to right himself.
Without any pause he ran forward; he eyed Li-pei with a predatory glare, and his body was low to the ground as he travelled across the asphalt.
He was dashing with a crouch start; Li-pei sought to knee him in the face.
But Yahiro had foreseen this, or seen him move and reacted with superhuman reflexes; right before he was hit he straightened and leapt.
His right foot landed on Li-pei’s knee, and using it as a lever Yahiro launched himself up.
He was going for the face.
His knee swooped towards the bridge of Li-pei’s face—
But Li-pei twisted his body at the last moment, dodging it.
“…!”
Yahiro altered his position midair, and his hand went for Li-pei’s neck.
If he was able to get Li-pei into a chokehold he would be able to pin him to the ground.
But depending on how much force he used it was possible that Li-pei’s neck would break.
“Whoa!”
Li-pei rolled to the side, evading Yahiro’s hand.
He got to his feet quickly, but by that time Yahiro was already incoming.
“…!”
A palm was heading diagonally up towards his chin.
He dodged narrowly, but in that same instant the bottom of a fist swung down diagonally for his brow like a hammer.
“Wait…”
Li-pei dodged by a narrow margin.
Because he could hold off each assault, perhaps to an onlooker Li-pei would seem strong, but—
Li-pei was at the end of his own tether.
Since he had countered the very first surprise attack, he had been forced to remain on the defence.
Even when he had an idea of how to attack, there was no leeway to do so.
—Th, this guy…
Furthermore, Yahiro was not simply relying on physical power to beat him up.
It was clear the moment he differentiated his palm and fist strikes that his strength was no mere boast.
Even when Li-pei attempted to put space between them Yahiro closed the distance.
At this distance so tight neither could even swing their fists for a good punch, where one might predict he might perform a boxing-style clinch, Yahiro twisted his body.
And next Yahiro’s neatly folded elbow thrusted straight for Li-pei’s chin.
Li-pei, sensing that that elbow was as dangerous as any blade, swayed to the side to avoid it—
As if he had been waiting for that, Yahiro’s other arm went for Li-pei’s throat.
Despite that he was able to parry with his right hand, Li-pei was in fear for his life.
Since the start most of Yahiro’s attacks had been at full strength.
Without hesitation or mercy, he had aimed purposefully at vital spots.
Even so, despite his continuous offensive, he showrd no sign of tiring.
—There’s no mistake!
—He’s strong!
—Strong in a different way from Heiwajima Shizuo!
Just how much stamina did he have?
—There was no leeway to even examine the secret to his opponent’s strength.
—I thought nearly defeating Shizuo was an exaggeration…
—But if he’s this strong, I can accept it…!
—But what an odd kid.
Li-pei was looking at Yahiro’s eyes.
The emotion he saw swimming in those narrowed eyes confused him.
—Why… are your eyes so scared, when I’m the one being pushed back?
Despite that he was in the middle of defending himself, a smile rose to his lips.
His complacence was fatal.
He saw Yahiro’s leg come up between his open legs, aiming for his crotch.
—Shit.
He narrowly blocked the kick with both hands.
But that was only a feint from Yahiro.
Just as he had yet to recover from his crouched-over position, Yahiro gripped the back of his head with one hand and his chin in the other.
From there he twisted Li-pei’s neck, and pushed him to the ground.
If he had been unlucky, it could well have snapped his neck.
Ignoring his instincts, he did not resist as Yahiro pushed him down, so as to prevent his neck from breaking.
Immediately the hands released him, and he saw Yahiro lift his foot up.
—Oh no, this is bad.
Every hair on his body stood on end as he realised the bottom of Yahiro’s foot was going to stamp down on his face.
—I’m going to di…
Just as Li-pei began to see his life flashing before his eyes, the scene was interrupted by a swathe of black shadows.
“?!”
“!”
Not only Li-pei and Yahiro but everyone present widened their eyes in surprise.
The Headless Rider’s shadow had sprouted dark tendrils that shot between Yahiro and Li-pei’s prone form, attempting to catch Yahiro’s leg before it came down.
“…!”
Instantly he reversed directions, and not only escaped the shadow about to snare his leg, but propelled himself backwards.As if one, two steps would not be enough, Yahiro continued to bound back in the manner of a shrimp in water.
Eventually he came to a stop at the end of the alley, and eyed Celty, the wielder of the shadow, warily.

—Amazing.
Celty, for one, was honestly impressed by Yahiro’s physical ability.
—I didn’t think he could evade that.
In order to stop the fight that had suddenly broken out, Celty had decided it would be best to immobilise Yahiro, who had been carrying out a one-sided assault.
But to think that faced with this trick she had used on delinquents countless times before, Yahiro had, with the bearing of a wild animal, dodged successfully…
—Could it be…
—Can he really take on Shizuo?
—Did something happen between he and Shizuo?
—Just what has been happening the past half year…
Unaware that things had only started a few days ago, Celty grew despondent at how much the fabric of society had evolved in their absence.
Even so, she was not necessarily wrong.
As she watched Li-pei get up from the ground, Celty thought further.
—Isn’t he someone both Kadota and Izaya had half an eye on previously?
—Bringing him down so easily…
—What on earth?
—Just who… is this boy?
From appearances, Yahiro was no more than the average young man.
Certainly he did not project the kind of frailness Mikado did, but neither did he give the impression of a muscled hulk.
His musculature was hard to tell because of his uniform, but she were to pick a martial art, rather than that of a judoka or wrestler, perhaps he would look more like a boxer or fencer.
She had endless questions, but most important right now was to quell the fight.
—What to do.
—Just try and wrap him up by force?
—That might escalate things…
—He might actually be the first person to escape my shadow so well since the White Bike.
At the thought of her nemesis in the traffic police, a shiver ran down her spine.
Just as she was thinking what to do, the green-haired boy called out to Yahiro.
“Oi! Yahiro! Yahiro! Calm down! Yeah?!”
At the voice, Yahiro’s eyes changed imperceptibly.
“Ah…”
In the next moment he swung his head to take a good look around himself, and looking at his own limbs, sorrow took over the wariness in his expression.
Seeing this, the green-haired boy ran up to Yahiro.
“Get a grip, you’ve won already, right? You won! You did it! Hyu~! Yeah~!”
“…”
The green-haired boy was half-joking, but Yahiro was half in his own world as well.
On the other hand, the young man, having stood up, was being fussed over by the two girls he had brought along.
“I told you, right? You can’t do it unarmed.”
“This happened all because you got too carried away, okay?”
The girls chided Li-pei blandly, to which he shrugged, answering,
“I’m sorry, it’s just as you said, Nee-san-tachi.”
(*Tachi: plural.)
Celty took a double take at that.
—…’Nee-san-tachi’?
—Huh? Wait… Huh?!
The two standing on either side of him were young; they looked like they couldn’t be more than girls.
“Did you just say ‘Nee-san’?”
Apparently Celty was not the only one thinking this, for the green-haired boy asked Li-pei directly.
“Yeah, that’s how it is. It’s hard to believe, but I’m younger. I’m 21,”
“22.”
“23, actually.”

p089

The women waved, hands fluttering, as they stated their ages.
“Huh? Oh, right, I’m Kotonami Kuon.”
Kuon bowed his head and introduced himself automatically.
To the side, Yahiro was still watching Li-pei, faltering.
“Uh, erm… I…”
Yahiro stuttered. Li-pei said to him,
“My bad, sorry for earlier. I admit it’s my loss, so maybe can we stop fighting and get along?”
Li-pei smiled carefreely, as if Yahiro had not tried to crush his face underfoot minutes ago.
“Ah, yeah… I went too far. I’m sorry.”
Yahiro bowed his head sadly, and seeing this, Celty heaved a sigh of relief.
—Is it… over?
—Thank goodness.
Relieved that she could continue her conversation, she turned back to Himeka, who had been watching on with a surprised face, and started typing into her smartphone once more.
‘Things got a little messy, but it’s good that your friend isn’t hurt.’
Perhaps tired out by the commotion, Celty was back to her usual informal tone.

‘Could you let me help find your family members?’

♂♀

Meanwhile. At the junction.

“Oi… What’s going on now?”
It was a junction some way from the Headless Rider.
There was a group of people peeking at the situation around the corner.
“It’s bad, Horada-san! Even the Headless Rider’s here!”
“S, shut up! Who’s scared of a fake like that! It’s Dragon Zombie that’s the problem!”
“Is the guy who just fought with Ei Li-pei the one who fought Shizuo?”
“Probably. Did you see how he moved? Ei Li-pei’s without his swords today, for sure, but he was like a little kid.”
Gulping, Horada and his gang watched Yahiro’s group.
Half an hour ago they had spotted the green-haired boy from the video by coincidence and started tailing the trio from a distance.
They could have approached and asked for directions from the start, but after all, the person they were after was strong enough to spar with even Shizuo.
If the boy next to him was who they were looking for, a wrong word could send fists flying their way.
While they were mulling over this, the trio had encountered an increasingly strange situation.
Horada’s nemesis, the Headless Rider, had just approached them all of a sudden, when of all things the leader of Dragon Zombie had turned up with the girls that were usually with him.
Just as they thought a fight had broken out a victor had emerged, and then both sides had cooled down thanks to the Headless Rider’s intervention.
From here there was no way to tell what they had been discussing since then.
“This is bad, Horada-san. At this rate the boy’s going to be recruited into Dragon Zombie.”
“Wait, they were just fighting!”
“But it looks like they’re getting along now.”
“Whaoohh?!”
He stuck his face out from behind the corner for a peek; indeed there was no longer any ruckus, and the whole group had gathered by the roadside.
“Shit… We have to do something.”
After some thought, a despicable smile spread across his face, and he said,
“All right, we’re changing targets. Why don’t we get his friend first.”
“That green guy?”
“Exactly, you’ve got to kill the merchant to get the horse.”
“Does that proverb exist… You seem to be getting some things wrong?”
Ignoring the uneasy mumbling of his underlings, Horada set his eyes on one of the students.”Anyway, I can’t see very well from here, but…”
As he watched the girl with the long black hair, Horada slowly licked his lips.

“That girl looks completely like my cup of tea… No harm getting a little friendly, right?”

♂♀

The alley.

“I… cannot believe anything you’re saying.”
This was what Himeka told Celty expressionlessly, after she had heard all of the explanation and gone quiet for a while.
‘That is understandable. But other than alibis I have no other way to prove my innocence.’
“But… I will cooperate. For my sisters’ sakes.”
‘I see! Thank you so much!’
“No, I should thank you. I hope we can work together.”
Himeka bowed her head slowly.
Yahiro did not know what she was feeling.
Himeka was not the kind to express her emotions on the surface, so most likely not just Yahiro, who was bad at socialising, but anyone would have difficulty reading her.
“That’s an interesting conversation.”
Li-pei, who had been watching them from the side, shrugged as he said this.
“If I find out anything I’ll pass it on. Could I have your number, maybe?”
Li-pei asked Yahiro and Celty casually. Celty, puzzled, returned with her own question,
‘Why? This has nothing to do with Dragon Zombie, right?’
“Nah, I’d be lucky to have you owe me a favour, that’s all. I get that you don’t want to get involved with bosozoku, but you’re shorthanded right now, aren’t you?’
“But I…”
“You’re still angry I attacked you?”
Yahiro shook his head and apologised.
“No, I went overboard, too… I’m sorry .”
“It’s fine, I said! More importantly—do you like bikes? Don’t you think this rider suit is cool?”
“Um, uh, sure…”
Seeing that Yahiro was stumped at what he was trying to say, Li-pei chuckled, and said more frankly,
“Do you wanna join my gang? It’s called Dragon Zombie.”
“Gang?”
Yahiro tilted his head curiously, and Kuon quickly stepped between them.
“Uh-uh-uh! Sorry, this guy just came down from Akita, so he really doesn’t know anything about Ikebukuro… Plus he might be strong but he’s a good kid, so I think whole gang gig’s a bit much, you know?”
“I didn’t ask you…?”
Li-pei looked increduously at Kuon, and after some thought, he continued to Yahiro,
“I see, so it’s like that. I won’t force you, okay? I owe you one for today, so call on me whenever if you need something. For now let’s just have a fifty-fifty relationship.”
“Fifty-fifty?”
“Yeah, if you do me a favour I’ll help you once, too , and vice versa… something like that. I won’t say anything ridiculously like ‘go die’ or ‘give me your girl’ or anything.”
With that, Li-pei turned back to Celty.
“I want to have that kind of relation with you, too, what do you think?”
‘I don’t really mind, but all I can tell you is my email.’
Celty found his level-headedness in front of a being like herself curious, but did not hesitate in agreeing to exchange contacts.
“That’s enough for me. You get along with Heiwajima Shizuo and Orihara Izaya, right? I was envious that they could make friends with an urban legend.”
‘No, I wasn’t friends with Izaya…’
Just as Celty was typing this denial, Kuon approached her from the side.
“Um… Headless Rider-san… Ah, your name is Celty?”
‘Yeah, why?’
“I’d be grateful to have your contacts, too, so would you mind taking a picture together?”
‘I don’t really mind, but…’
The moment she agreed Kuon was instantly by her side, such that boh of them could fit in the picture together.
After taking a fair number, he rejoiced oddly and said to Celty,
“Hyu~! Thanks~! It’s okay if I post this on my blog, right?”
‘It’s one thing after another, huh. …I guess I’m okay, but the police or other weird people might go after you.’
Celty was used to being photographed so it was no big deal to her, and she was more concerned about hin.
“It’s all right, I thought of that too. If anything happens I have friends who can help, too.”
“Ah, Kuronuma-sempai?’
‘What? Who did you just say?
“Oh! More importantly, we’re starting to attract attention!”
Yahiro mentioned a familiar name, but Kuon quickly changed the subject.
Indeed, looking around, they were beginning to attract onlookers watching from a distance.
The Headless Rider was not very unusual for the residents of Ikebukuro, but tourists and the like were taking pictures.
‘Yeah, sorry. Contact me later so we can hash out the details.
Deciding that remaining would only cause trouble for the students, Celty quickly exchanged contacts, and got onto her motorcycle.
‘Thank you so much. If I find out anything, I’ll tell you too.’

♂♀

Ikebukuro. Commercial district.

The group had dispersed from there, and Kuon had gone home first claiming he remembered he had an errand.
Yahiro and Himeka were heading in the direction of the train station for now.
For a while both were silent, but seeing that Yahiro did not know how to start, Himeka spoke first.
“I was surprised. So you’re strong.”
“T, that was, um…”
“It’s all right if you don’t want to talk about it. It’s not something that bothers me.”
Himeka’s voice was casual, but Yahiro’s spirits fell at the thought that she might be intimidated by him.
He decided to divert the conversation to change the mood.
“The Headless Rider was a good person, huh?”
“…Yeah, it was.”
Himeka replied expressionlessly,
“It’s all right, if we have the real thing helping us, surely we can find your sisters.”
Yahiro said this to encourage her, but Himeka, still expressionless—
Gazing into the distance, she murmured, under her breath,
“But… I still think the Headless Rider’s a demon.”
“Eh? Why?”
Yahiro asked, surprised. But without turning around, she continued:
“It won’t even allow anyone to hate it over a misunderstanding…”
As if she was not answering the question, but speaking for herself to hear.

♂♀

3 in the morning. Along Kawagoe Highway. Shinra’s apartment.

“Welcome back, Celty?!”
‘I’m home. Sorry I’m so late. I was going round looking for information, but I lost track of time.’
Not a moment after she had shown him her smartphone, Shinra hugged her out of nowhere.
“Thank goodness you’re safe, Celty!”
‘Oi let go. What do you mean, safe?’
Normally at this point she would be wresting him off her, but the fact that he had said ‘you’re safe’ felt odd to her, and so she queried,
‘Did something happen?’
“That’s right, Celty. It looks like this case might be more dangerous than we thought.”
‘What do you mean?’
Celty asked seriously. Shinra separated them, and unusually serious himself, he answered.
For Celty, it was an answer nigh on impossible to believe immediately.
“I just got a call from Akabayashi-san…”

“He said they’ve just lost contact with Shiki-san, too…”

****CHAPTER END****


Interlude: Rumours on the Internet ④

Ikebukuro Information Site, IkeNEW! Version I・KEBU・KUR・O

Popular article, ‘End of the Urban Legend’—The Headless Rider is Ridiculously Friendly—’But in a Different Way’

‘I became friends with the Headless Rider —(from a personal blog)

“I met the Headless Rider in Ikebukuro coincidentally!
They were really nice!
They’re like your super average citizen, and we even took a photo together!
Apparently their favourite food is suzu castella* and they’re a fan of Hanejima Yuhei!
(*Small sugary cake snack.)
We talked a lot about recent dramas and even went to karaoke, I learned a lot about them~.
It’s kinda amazing.
I feel humbled.
Even though when I tried talking to them they were completely normal person.
They even read comics like normal people, apparently.
And they said in the past half year they won a lucky draw and went to Hawaii!
That mean there’s an alibi, right?
They couldn’t have kidnapped anyone when they were in Hawaii.
They said they’re having a really hard time because of all these weird rumours, too!
But seriously, I can show off to all my friends now.
Maybe I can even introduce them.
Wouldn’t it be cool to form a Headless Rider club or something?”

—(Original blog deleted)

IkeNEW! Administrator’s Comment

“They’re super friendly now they’re back, huh-nari?

The latest development in the serial kidnapping scandal…

This boy so boldly asked for all this personal information and even took a picture, but he wasn’t kidnapped-nari.
If the boy doesn’t go missing after this, that would mean the rumour about the Headless Rider being a kidnapper is fake after all-nari.
So, how do all of you who were cheated by the rumours feel-nari? How does it feel-nari?
So it turns out the Headless Rider’s ridiculously normal-nari.
It makes us wonder if there really is nothing under that helmet-nari.
If they’re in the registry like a normal person, they could sue people calling them the kidnapper for defamation-nari. Well, I think before that they would get arrested for traffic violations-nari.
By the way, I’ve covered the boy’s eyes to protect his privacy-nari.
But well, there can’t be that many green-haired high schoolers in Japan though-nari!
No matter how much you flame I won’t stop with the ‘nari’-nari.
Fighting the slanderers flaming people’s sentence-endings again today.”

Administrator Lila Tailtooth Zaiya

♂♀

Excerpts of typical tweets from microblogging site Twittia.

  • Turns out they’re ridiculously nice.
    • Haven’t they always been pretty friendly? There were always people riding behind them.
      • But what is the IkeNEW admin saying now after spreading rumours so furiously earlier…
        • Not apologising for their own gossip is this site’s trademark.
  • Call the police.
    • It’s not confirmed the Headless Rider’s the kidnapper yet.
      • No, I mean for driving without headlights.
        • Ah, yeah, that’s wrong.
  • By the way, what if the Headless Rider really is innocent?
    • If so, then the question will be who the actual kidnapper is.
      • If the people who disappeared were really looking for the Headless Rider, the culprit could be someone with a grudge against the Headless Rider.
        • Why would you kidnap people then?
          • To frame the Headless Rider, right?
            It would have to be a huge grudge if someone went that far.

            • If so, that means the missing people won’t be coming back, will they?
              • Yeah, I guess. Since if they came back the Headless Rider’s innocence would be proven.
                • Rest in peace.
                  • You’re being insensitive.
                    • Sorry.
    • This Headless Rider is fake. Please stop spreading the picture.
      • I think it’s the real thing? The rider suit doesn’t reflect any light, too.
        • It could be an edited photo. It’s fake.
          • Would it trouble you if it’s real?
            • I’ve blocked you.
              • Huh? Just like that?
                • That’s extreme…
                  • Looks like this person’s really disturbed by the idea it could be real.
                    • Maybe he’s the actual kidnapper.

※The account of the original poster was deleted afterwards.

  • Where’s the original blog in this article? I couldn’t find it.
    • You’re right, I can’t either. I wonder where it is.
      • He was right to delete. It would be bad if his school found out or something.
    • Actually, I’ve seen him around Ikebukuro a lot recently.
      • Yeah, there’s been that boy with the gaudy hair walking around.
        • By the way, I’ve seen him with Blue Square.
          • Wait, they’re still around?
            • The Dollars are completely gone, right?
              • Dollars? There was a gang like that?
                • Seriously? It hasn’t even been two years.
                  • Normal people don’t remember the names of bosozoku.
                    • No! They’re colour gangs, not bosozoku!
  • I hope it isn’t really the Headless Rider
    • Why?
      • It’d be kind of disappointing if the Headless Rider was just an average person, right?
        It’s scientifically impossible for the Headless Rider to be actually headless, you realise.

        • But still, it’s nice to have that possibility.
          • What about thinking of it as a supernatural creature that understands language?
            • That’s like finding out your idol wears lame clothes when they’re off work…
              • What’s wrong with that.
  • I saw that green-haired boy who took pictures with the Headless Rider at the convenience store just now.
    • Which store?
      • I’m not sure if I should say here. If you follow me I can send a PM.
        • I’ve followed you.

(There were no public updates afterwards.)

****CHAPTER END****


*This sentence of Mikado appears to be cut off halfway in the book.


⇒CHAPTER 6A


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