“It sure is crowded…”
“It’s the last day of Golden Week, after all.”
Kirishima Chizuru’s hesitant mutter was casually answered by Tsukioka Yuzuki.
The location was the largest theme park in Yumoto, Yumoto Adventure Land.
Under good weather, they operated a Ferris wheel, roller coaster, merry-go-round, countless fixtures of the customary attractions. Within all that, just as fish swim through water, the kids led by their parents, and the students, the couples marched around in groups.
The moment he got through the entrance, Chizuru gave an uneasy groan.
Why did I come to such a place…
“I’m sorry for dragging you along with me, Chizuru-senpai.”
“No, it’s fine. Not like I had anything to do.”
He instinctively answered. A year younger, with lovable facial features, Yusuki was apologetically looking at him with upturned eyes, and there was no way he could offer a cold response… even if he was a boy.
“So Yuzuki, do you like going to these sorts of places?”
“Let’s see, I don’t hate them, but I can’t say I’m particularly fond. The one all for it was my brother. The one who wrote and submitted my name in the drawing to test the ‘House of Darkness’ in question was my brother.”
The reason Chizuru and Yuzuki had dropped by Yumoto Adventure Land that day was to test and provide feedback on a newly constructed attraction, the ‘House of Darkness’.
The ‘House of Darkness’ was a site designed by a producer who had continued catering to the youth demographic, and had come out with numerous successes. With its simple name, its concept was supposed to be an evolution on Haunted Houses, and that producer’s fans had sent in applications to test the attraction from all over the nation. The fact they were chosen took considerable luck.
“What was he called again? That producer?”
Following the notice boards as they walked, Chizuru asked Yuzuki.
“Akabane Kousuke-san. He’s quite famous in his line of work. He doesn’t only plan attractions, he also does collaborations with movies, and it seems he’s won a number of big awards. Well, if he’s famous, then I guess it can’t be helped to an extent, but it seems has an increasing number of dangerous fans. At one of Akabane-san’s previously planned events, there was an incident that resulted in death.”
“Hmm, how scary.”
To Chizuru, who had been involved in the resolution of a murder incident just two days before, it was something that gave him much to think about.
“Well, it’s a spot of luck we were chosen as testers for the man’s newest attraction, but…”
Yuzuki ducked his head and gave a bitter smile.
“My brother who submitted the application in the first place just had to be bedridden today, so it’s hard to say whether his luck was good or not. I’m glad you were able to come with me. It’s no fun to go to an amusement park alone, and it felt wrong to waste a ticket for such a big event.”
Chizuru’s stingy nature had the word, ‘resale,’ come to mind, but he decided not to say it. Seeing Yuzuki so delighted, he started to think going out wasn’t so bad. Whatever the case, appart from the incident he was wrapped up in two days before, he hadn’t gone outside a single time over the course of the break.
“I just thought you might like this kind of thing, Chizuru-senpai. I did try inviting Ageha-senpai, but it seems she was busy. With printing an extra for the newspaper club or something.”
“Hmm, an extra…”
The word didn’t bring back a very good memory. He remembered how his childhood friend Ateha had arbitrarily exposed him in the school papers just the other day. ‘The School’s Great Detective’, it was captioned, and while it didn’t contain his real name, it would be a pain if people identified and started bringing incidents to him.
Not doing a job without any returns was Chizuru’s stance.
Having multiple small jobs brought to him, where he’d have to undertake them almost as a charitable enterprise would be most troublesome.
“I wonder what they’re going to feature this time, Ageha and the club.”
“It’s about the student council president, it seems. See, he was studying abroad in England until recently, and he’ll make his return at the end of the holiday.”
“So we had someone like that? I don’t really remember our president’s face.”
“Eh~, he’s real famous in Yumoto Academy. Chizuru-senpai, you’re quite distant when it comes to these things.”
“… I’m aware.”
“Well, with this and that, it seems they have to gather data, so the newspaper club is real busy. When I said I might invite you instead, ‘go right ahead,’ she cheerfully gave me her blessings. Ageha-sanpai’s a good person.”
Chizuru hesitated to agree. Of a race you could call the standard of fujoshi, Ageha’s head was definitely spinning with the key terms, ‘pitch black attraction,’ ‘Male high schoolers,’ ‘just the two of them,’ and he had a general idea of what was going on. If she sounded lively over something, it was surely because of that.
“Ah, here we are. It seems we line up here.”
Looking at the signboard Yuzuki pointed out, sure enough, ‘House of Darkness, Tester Exclusive Line’ was written. From there, at the depths of the route cut out by ropes, the compact House of Darkness was built.
Its unrefined concrete make was coated in pitch black, making for quite an unromantic architecture. Without any windows, its shape was close to a cube with nothing notable besides the words ‘House of Darkness’ written in old-fashioned lettering on its sign.
As expected, they were to test it before the place opened, so there didn’t seem to be too many people there. Along the path, there only were three people lined in front of Chizuru and Yuzuki. Apart from them, there were two uniformed women around the entrance working as cast.
Perhaps out of boredom, or his innate nature to act as a detective, Chizuru’s tried analyzing the other customers.
The man one spot ahead of them had a slight stoop with glasses and a backpack over his back. Unhealthily thin with a bad look in his eyes, it didn’t seem he had any companions.
The man and woman in front of him looked to be a couple. Both of them wore white shirts with a heart mark at the chest. Meaning they were so clearly a couple it was embarrassing to look at.
The man’s hair was dyed brown, and he seemed around college age. The woman was several times flashier, her hair dyed blond. Her age wasn’t apparent, but she was probably around the same age as the man.
Staring at them any longer would feel awkward, so Chizuru returned his eyes to Yuzuki at his side.
When Chizuru looked at him, Yuzuki tilted his head and smiled. Dimples formed on his white skin.
While Chizuru had gotten used to it now, that was definitely a face it wouldn’t be strange to mistake as a girl’s at first glance. He was wearing a unisex hoodie and jeans… and oddly enough, that was a match with Chizuru’s own clothing.
If looked at from the side would they look like a couple as well… or so he thought over such a trifling thing, when “Oh, oh, oh,” came the noisy ramblings of a new customer in line.
“Did I make it in time? It’s from ten thirty, right?”
As the end of the line extended one past Yuzuki, that customer sought confirmation with him. Seeing Yuzuki nod, somewhat surprised, that man pat his chest in relief.
“That’s good, I made it in time. Oh, there are quite a few young people here.”
That man also looked thirty at most, but he was comparing himself to the other five… perhaps. With narrow thread-like eyes, it seems the good-natured-looking man had hurriedly raced over, and he flapped the bottom of his brown jacket to send air to his body.
And seeing the arrival of the brown-jacket man, one of the female staff at the build’s entrance walked over to the line of testers.
“Good morning everyone!”
Braided black hair, and almond-shaped eyes, she had a voice that carried well. Her uniform that consisted of a black vest and skirt seemed to have been drafted with the House of Darkness’ base concept in mind.
“Thank you for applying to be testers for Akabane Kousuke’s House of Darkness. I’m Fukaya of the staff.”
She made eye contact with each of the six guests.
“Today is the first day we’re inviting testers into the yet-to-be-opened House of Darkness. What’s more, as you’re all taking part in the morning division, you truly shall be the first to experience the experience. Congratulations.”
The guests gave an applause they didn’t quite know where to direct. Chizuru was also led along by the mood, mustering up a feeble clapping.
“… Thank you. Now then let’s get right to it and explain the rules of the House of Darkness. From here on, you will enter the mansion and try to escape. You will be given a single flashlight. The inside is pitch black. By the way, the light of cellphones and tablets will ruin the effect, so please turn them off.
There are various contraptions built in on the way, and escape won’t be too easy, so please keep that in mind as you undertake the challenge. She will be waiting for you at the goal to hand you a present to commemorate the event.”
Fukaya indicated the other female staff member. Showered in everyone’s attention, the woman with fluffy chestnut hair waved both her hands.
“Well then, it’s finally time for you to experience the House of Darkness! We’ll start with the front of the line… this lady and gentleman.”
The couple showed her their ticket. While that was going off, the other chestnut hairwed woman ran off to the back of the building. She was likely circling around form outside.
“… Yes, you’re all clear. Please take one flashlight per person. Good luck.”
From the basket she carried on her arm, Fukaya handed each a flashlight lacking any notable features. Taking them, the couple were absorbed into the darkness beyond the black-smeared double door.
Seeing that, the man lined up in front of Chizuru clicked his tongue. He complained to himself.
“Goddammit, for those realers to be first, there’s something wrong with the world. I’m the real Akabane Kousuke fan here, you accursed posers.”
It was such an intense monologue Chizuru wondered if the man was actually trying to start up a conversation with him. I don’t really want to get close to him, Chizuru averted his eyes.
The maniac man continued his incessant muttering, making it difficult for Chizuru and Yuzuki to talk. And once three minutes had passed, Fukaya who’d been having some sort of conversation on the intercom refreshingly declared, “Thank you for waiting,” to the maniac man.
“… Yes, I’ve confirmed your ticket. Please have a flashlight. Good luck.”
She interacted with him by the book with lively movements. The Maniac man raise a warcry of, “FIIIINAAALLLYY!” to himself as he trotted into the building.
Seeing him, Chizuru and Yuzuki were taken aback.
“The guy’s called Oku Tamotsu.”
The young man in the brown jacket informed Chizuru and Yuzuki.
“Do you know him?”
Yuzuki tilted his head. The jacketed man shook his head in denial.
“Oku, you see, he’s a zealous fan when it comes to worked from Producer Akabane. He uses his real name on the message boards, and he’s quite a famous one among the fans. I’m quite an Akabane fan myself, and that’s why I signed up as a tester, but… yeah, that’s guy’s quite notorious.”
The young man furrowed his brow.
“As you’ve seen, he flaunts that bad attitude of his. Pushing people in front of him out of the way, and cutting in line, his manners are absurdly terrible. The staff also know of his existence, but buying from resale, he somehow manages to infiltrate these events every time.”
It seems that man called Oku was first on the list of ‘dangerous fans’ Yuzuki was talking about before. While Chizuru wanted to think of the man before his eyes as a good person, he also seemed to be one of the fans, so he refrained from the word.
“So you see,” the man was still talking, “last time, when there was a death at one of Akabane’s events, at the time he was at the scene…”
But his words were interrupted.
Suddenly from the House of Darkness came the loud scream of a man.
That scream caught the attention of everyone around, but the voice died out in no time. All that remained was an eerie stillness.
“I-I wonder what that was. You think it was Oku?”
The young man seemed flustered. Yuzuki pulled at the sleeve of Chizuru’s hoodie.
“Chizuru-senpai! Let’s go look.”
“It’s probably an incident! Didn’t it sound bad, that voice just now?”
“… You’re right.”
As the House of Darkness wasn’t open yet, it seemed to be short on hands. As Fukaya spoke nervously into the intercom, it didn’t seem she knew how to deal with it, and she was most likely a daily parttimer. It wouldn’t make any difference whether they or one of the staff went to the scene.
Chizuru made the decision and walked over to Fukaya.
“It looks like there’s been an incident, so I’ll go check it out.”
Chizuru took one flashlight from the basket and opened the entranceway to the House of Darkness.
“Eh? Ah…!? Please wait, dear guest…”
Not listening to her words, Chizuru went inside. Yuzuki followed behind.
The passageway was pitch black. By the glow of the flashlight, they dashed down a straight line. There, the passage suddenly became a dead end.
“Huh, this is…?”
A back glance at Yuzuki’s confusion, Chizuru tapped a few times against the wall. His hand stopped on one point, and he gave it a strong push. The wall opened up as if collapsing back.
“Hmm, that’s an interesting construction. So it’s not just a simple trick door.”
As Chizuru muttered, he leapt over the collapsed wall. Yuzuki also crossed over, and perhaps some sensor was at work as the wall rose again.
Having surpassed the contraption, they found instructions hung up on the wall ahead.
A pitch-black board and white text.
‘Please continue down the left path. The right is still in a terribly dangerous state.’
The path certainly split into left and right.
“… We’re going right.”
Chizuru said without hesitation. Yuzuki looked blankly.
“Eh? Why is that?”
“An incident probably happened. Then wouldn’t it be in the terribly dangerous place?”
The right path was also pitch black. And after walking a while, it seemed to run into a separate room.
“Yuzuki, stand back. It’s dangerous.”
Chizuru carefully walked further and further ahead.
Illuminating the hole in that seemed to lead to a room, it looked like the floor had given way before it. It was empty space.
“A hole…? Uwah, There’s nowhere to stand. That sure is dangerous.”
Peering in from behind Chizuru, Yuzuki gave a sound comment.
“… Looks like it isn’t just dangerous.”
Chizuru lit up the bottom of the hole.
At the end of what seemed a five-meter drop, Oku Tamotsu was collapsed. There was blood flowing from his head.
Yuzuki crouched down.
“Is this an accident? He fell down into that gap…?”
“That’s not possible.”
Chizuru took out his smart phone as he spoke.
“There was a warning not to come this way, so why did he decide to go right? And no matter how you look at it, isn’t this gap simply too dangerous? Perhaps the railing or something was taken out… I don’t know how it happened, but this was definitely arranged by someone. It’s murder.”