“Isn’t Jin and the others more knowledgeable about Mikishima?”
“No, TV was banned in the village. And even after leaving the village, due to that incident, we became averse to the media and hardly watched TV. Whenever Mikishima’s name came up, we would immediately change the channel.”
I only skimmed through the early morning news when I had precognitive dreams, but I ignored any topics that were covered in tabloid news shows.
“I see. Well then, Diya…she wouldn’t know, so I’ll give a brief explanation.”
“Wait a minute, uncle. Don’t assume that I’m ignorant of politics, okay?”
Diya pouted and crossed her arms, offering a rebuttal.
“So, do you know more about it?”
“As if that’s possible!”
“Then be quiet.”
It seemed like he just wanted to provoke her for no reason.
“Mikishima Heito. He was a former member of a famous male idol group. It seems he was even the most popular member. He had outstanding looks, style, and was talented in both singing and speaking. His fans evaluated him as having too much talent to list. It’s annoying, you know…”
Although it was pure jealousy, I could understand it as a man.
“He also started acting in addition to being an idol, and he had talent in that field as well. He swept awards in the film industry, and the movies and dramas he appeared in were all hits. He is often listed as the most active entertainer in recent decades.”
“Even I, who have no interest in idols, knew about him. My classmates were screaming and shouting about him.”
Hinoyama looks to be in her mid-twenties, so she would have been directly impacted by the idol’s activities during her heyday.
“At the height of his popularity, he suddenly retired from the entertainment industry and entered the political world. The media went crazy, covering it every day.”
“I think he got an incredible number of votes, didn’t he?”
It seems that this was one of the few topics that Diya knew about, as she interrupted the conversation.
“Well, he ran for office under the ruling party, and thanks to his high profile and notoriety, he won by a landslide. He had a lot of support from the nonpartisan demographic, but what really helped him were the votes from people who hadn’t gone to the polls before. The voter turnout increased by over 15% compared to the previous election.”
“It’s true that being handsome is a strong factor”
“But another reason for his success is that Mikishima had a lot of popularity among male fans too. He was good at marketing and promoting himself. He openly declared himself as an otaku, and in reality, he was quite knowledgeable about anime and manga. He was so engrossed in anime characters that he never had a girlfriend, or so he claimed… although that might just be a lie.”
The last part is just speculation by Jinguichi, but I wonder if he really appealed to the otaku demographic.
“While his political skills were a cause for concern, he tackled taboo political issues riddled with irregularities while promoting Japanese subculture to the world, becoming a prominent political figure. It’s like a too-perfect success story, it’s kind of creepy.”
“He’s like the protagonist of a drama or something. He’s so perfect that he seems like a different species from his seniors.”
He looked at Hinoyama who makes an artificially big sigh comparing the two.
“But.. but, why would someone like Mikishima, who’s had such a smooth-sailing life, would want zombie… What does he want to achieve? He’s the one causing chaos on April 1st, right?” asked Diya with genuine curiosity.
It was a question that puzzled me as well. If he had a noble goal of wanting to change the country, there were other ways he could have continued his political activities.
“Cr-Creating soldiers who won’t die in games or something, for military purposes…”
My sister joined the conversation for the first time.
That’s the setting where you shoot zombies with guns, right? I’ve played it together with everyone too.
“Ah, yeah. I remember that. Like, while they were creating them for military purposes, they messed up and they got out, like oops, my bad,” she said.
“Well, it’s not that simple,” Diya interjected with a puzzled expression.
Even if Mikishima was the root of all evil, his purpose was unclear. We won’t know unless we ask him directly.
“Besides, I read on the internet that zombies are some kind of witchcraft from another country,” said Hinoyama, explaining as he looked at the screen of her smartphone.
“The origin is said to be rooted in Voodooism. It’s like a setting where they manipulate dead bodies and use them as substitutes for slaves.”
“Don’t call it a setting or anything, it ruins the mood. You actually saw it with your own eyes, didn’t you?”
As I was reading the instructions on the smartphone handed to me from Hinoyama, my eyes caught on a certain word in the middle of the text.
“It says ‘Zombie Powder’.”
I know that word.
I heard it from an elderly couple who used to live in the village.
Ever since hearing about the village in the mountains, I’ve been searching my memory.
Days spent in that village with no good memories.
Memories I deliberately avoided and sealed deep within my heart – including the ones about the zombie powder.
I was not allowed to leave the mansion except for going to school.
As I wasn’t particularly sociable and spent my days in training, I didn’t really mind about it.
However, from time to time, I would sneak out of the mansion and wander around the village alone.
There were several places in the village that I was not supposed to go to, and I suspected that something was going on there.
In particular, the fields on the outskirts of the village and the shrine halfway up the mountain were taboo.
I remember getting scolded fiercely when I was caught getting close to the fields once, after getting lost.
The elderly couple claimed they hadn’t seen anything, but I witnessed something. The entire field was planted with strangely shaped leaves and sweet-smelling plants.
If you were to investigate the village, those two places would be the most likely candidates, but both were destroyed by fire.
If there was no physical evidence, I had no choice but to rely on my memory, so I desperately tried to remember.
Twisting my head and diving deep into my memories, I finally managed to recall one memory… only one.
In the village, there was an elderly couple who had been brought from a foreign country to live there.
Their dark skin made it clear at a glance that they were not Japanese, and my honest impression was that they were strange people who would dry leaves under the eaves on sunny days.
Unlike other villagers, they did not look down on me and always showed their white teeth with a smile, so I had no bad impression of them.
One day, I gathered up the courage to speak to them, even though I couldn’t speak English, so I used gestures and pointed to the leaves they were drying under the eaves and asked what they were.
They spoke in English, but I couldn’t understand them at that time.
The old couple looked puzzled when they saw my reaction, so the old man said, “Zombie powder.”
At that time, I didn’t understand the meaning of the word “zombie powder” because I didn’t know about zombies. Could it be the cause of everything?
The old couple who lived near the forbidden field, where I was warned not to approach, had a house close to the place. It’s just a guess, but it fits together. It would be unreasonable to conclude that it is not related to the current situation.
“Hey, Jin, what’s up?”
As I turned my gaze forward, I saw Diya’s flushed face.
His breath reeked of alcohol.
“It’s nothing. Anyway, what’s up?”
As I was speaking, my phone rang, interrupting me with its ringtone.
“Probably a phone call. It’s rare for me,” I thought.
My sister and Diya were the only ones who usually called me, but they were both here. I didn’t have any other late-night phone calls from anyone else.
I looked at the screen of my phone and saw that the phone number was displayed. It made me wonder who could be calling me.
“Jin-chan, who’s calling?”
“I don’t know.”
Normally, I would brush it off as a wrong number, but given the current situation, it was natural to be suspicious.
“Hello?” I answered.
“Is this Jin Sakurazaka?” a voice on the other end asked.
The voice on the other end belonged to a middle-aged man with a low tone. Just to be sure, I turned on the speaker function so that everyone could hear.
“Hello, this is Jin Sakurazaka. May I know who’s calling, please?” I asked.
“I apologize for not introducing myself earlier. My name is Mikishima Heito ,” the man replied.
Everyone who was listening closely stood up, their eyes widening as they stared at the phone. I must have had the same expression on my face.
“Oh, I seem to have surprised you. Do you have something you want to ask me?” said the low voice on the other end of the line, belonging to a middle-aged man.
Everyone was silent, unsure of how to respond. After a few moments, I spoke up.
“Yes, we do have some questions for you. How did you get my number?”
“It’s a long story, but let’s just say that I have some information that may be of interest to you,” the man replied.
The man’s statement was as if he had overheard their previous conversation.
Jinguichi gave a nod, and Hinoyama quietly went upstairs.
Feeling confused about how to respond, Jinguichi quickly moved closer to the phone.
“Let me get straight to the point, are you the mastermind behind the zombie outbreak?”
“That voice must be from Mr. Jingūichi,” the deep voice replied. “Is that the only question you have? There must be more you want to know, like what happened to your junior.”
A loud thud echoed as Jinguji punched the table with his fist.
With clenched teeth and a gaze that could kill, he glared at his phone.
“What did you do to Iwaro?” he demanded.
“He’s here with me,” the man on the other end of the line replied calmly.
“There’s a lot to discuss, and it’s better to talk about such complicated matters face to face rather than over the phone. How about I come visit you tomorrow?”