9S - Chapter 0 prologue
The room was her prison. There were no windows. The floor and walls were made of thick iron, and the only door to the room looked as if it were made to resist being opened. In a corner of the cold-permeating room, she sat hugging her knees.
For some reason, she did not appear to be affected by her surroundings. Even though the cold of the floor had transfused into her body, her eyes were unwavering, focused intently upon the floor.
With a composed expression, she looked as though in reality, she were a pretty, innocent Japanese-made doll, in a pitiable state, with no one to comfort her. She was the only one in the room.
How long had time passed by idly? The sound of a machine broke through the stillness surrounding the girl who was sitting as though made of ice. A part of the ceiling high above opened, letting light stream down into the room.
If she had looked above her head, she might have made out five or six silhouettes against the background of light. But she did not move even a muscle. She was still submerged in the depths of tranquility.
Within the light was a man of roughly middle-age, wearing a business suit. His face showed no concern for the situation of the girl, instead he looked down at her unsympathetically.
“One can’t help but wonder whether she’s even alive.”
With a pounding noise one of the men struck the glass forcefully, anticipating the girl to respond. Yet contrary to his expectations, her gaze remained fixed upon the floor. He tried striking the glass more forcefully, just to get the same result as before.
“She’s like this today as well? Will she even be usable?”
Shrugging his shoulders, another man spoke.
“Shouldn’t we just dispose of her? If she won’t be of any use, all the more so.”
“No, we can’t just throw away all that information she has in her head.”
At that moment another man spoke up.
“She can be used when such a situation necessary of her comes.”
“Still, it’s worrisome. What if she were to escape from this prison 1200 meters below ground?”
“But you really think ‘that’ will be useful? Isn’t ‘it’ the same as a cripple?”
“That’s not all that could become a problem. What happens if another country finds out the Japanese Government is holding her?”
“In that case we just change her location. If it comes down to it, we can abandon this base.”
“Are you saying you can dodge the American and European intelligence agencies?”
“Isn’t that your job? How much do you think I’ve struggled to come up with estimates on…”
“Wait a minute!”
Through the glass, one of the men was indicating the girl hunched in a corner of the room.
Upon looking, the girl who was supposed to be squatting showed a change. Her blank gaze had gone from the floor to the men standing beyond the glass window.
“It seems she’s alive after all.”
The man who had first tapped on the glass let out a pained sigh, fingering his lapel.
“Could she hear what we were just talking about?”
“Unthinkable. The room is completely soundproof. Isn’t that right, Kishida?”
A well-built man in a white lab coat, who gave off the sense of a researcher, responded with a weak “That’s right.” Dabbing the sweat from his brow with a handkerchief only strengthened the image of timidity.
“Uhm, everyone please be more gentle. You’re dealing with a seven year old child.”
“What in the world are you saying?”
“Being a child or whatever doesn’t matter, she’s the daughter of ‘that man’, you know!”
“Is it really all right? For this guy to be the one responsible for this facility?”
Being showered with such outspoken accusations, the man called Kishida bit his lip.
“Hey, it looks like it’s saying something.”
The girl’s lips were moving listlessly. It seemed she really was saying something, but the near to perfectly soundproofed room prevented the men from hearing what it was. Though even if the room were not sound proof, it seemed as though her voice would be swallowed up before it even reached their ears.
“It really seems as if she’s saying something. Is there any possibility of using a mic?”
Shortly thereafter, the girl’s words were picked up by a microphone within her prison. However it was still hard to make out her words.
“Isn’t she merely delirious?”
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“Can we amplify her voice somehow?”
After raising the volume of the speaker, the girl’s voice finally reached them.
“Can we…amplify…her voice…somehow?”
Her words were monotonous. At first, the men had no idea what they meant. Yet after they realized that her words were the same as the man’s who had spoken previously, their expressions froze.
“Wait, wasn’t the room supposed to be completely soundproof?”
“Ye, yes…it should…”
Professor Kishida’s face showed he also had no idea how this could be happening. There should have been no way for their voices to be heard in the soundproofed room. Even the man who had tapped on the glass in the beginning was supposed to have acted in vain.
“Wait…wasn’t the room…supposed to be…completely soundproof?”
The microphone again picked up the girl’s voice, proving that she was somehow able to understand what they were saying.
“That settles it for me, she’s another one of Mineshima Yujiro’s ‘legacy.’”
The moment Mineshima Yujiro’s name was mentioned, fear joined to the unsettled feelings the men held.
“Just what happened? There was no report of any kind of ability like this!”
“It’s the legacy of Mineshima Yujiro, so it’s not unexpected. It really should be destroyed.”
“Yes, it’s not too late yet. Let’s just kill it.”
The fear grew, spreading among the men as though it were a wildfire. To them, Mineshima Yujiro’s legacy was nothing other than the unknown, something they instinctively feared.
The girl looked at them in an absent-minded manner, before moving her lips, indicating she was speaking.
“In what way would the disposal be performed?”
Hearing her words that the microphone picked up, the voice of the man who spoke grew tenser. For the moment, he had no idea what was going on. The other men, in their confusion, had not realized what was actually happening either.
“Hey, what I just said…”
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The next words added even more pressure. It seemed the men present had finally realized.
“Just now, your words and those words…”
Another man had spoken out, but cut off his sentence mid-way. Because as he was speaking, the girl’s words heard from the speaker were the same as his, spoken in unison. There wasn’t even the slightest delay when she and the man both stopped speaking.
There was no one else who would speak. Swallowed up in a fear they could not understand, they looked down at the girl. They were met with an empty expression, gazing back up at them.
“We were careless. To have that conversation here in front of her, that is.”
As the fear of the men reached a critical point, a relaxed voice came from behind them. When they turned around, they faced a man in his mid-thirties, with a very calm expression on his face.
“Date, I presume? What do you mean by careless?”
One of the men spoke out to Date, but quickly stifled his words. However, the girl’s voice couldn’t be heard from the speaker, causing the man to feel greatly relieved. Date drew close to the men with a rythmatic step.
“Date, that is indeed Mineshima’s legacy. We’re not sure how, but she knows what we are saying.”
“A reading technique?”
“No, there was no report of that from the research.”
“That Mad Scientist’s Research can’t all have been discovered, right?”
The men once again fell into disorder.
“Still, it’s not like ‘that’ can actually read peoples’ minds. It just reads your lip movements.”
Date’s two statements finally calmed the men down.
“Exactly. Among my subordinates, there are quite a number with such a skill. Of course they can also perform similar behavior to what we have seen just now.”
One man spoke up to Date, who had his chin out indicating the girl.
“Yeah but she was speaking at the same time I was. How do you explain that?”
“Experience with lip reading. If you listen closely, there is a slight difference in timing, right? At least that is what I heard. What do you think?”
“Yeah, now that you mention it…”
“That’s how it must have been.”
“Once you’ve understood it, it really is not such a big deal.”
The common sense presented by Date was something all the men could agree with.
“As long as we proceed with extreme caution, this kind of situation can be predicted. The thing in that cell is only a young girl, who is just playing around, making fun of us.”
With that, Date switched off the microphone in the room. With eyes devoid of light, the girl continued to stare up at him.
“By the way, how is your unit doing? It’s about time they get out into some real action, don’t you think?”
“From here on out, the amount of criminals and organizations after Mineshima Yujiro’s over-technology will only continue to increase. I think it’s been half a year too long for the legacy-crime prevention unit, Legacy Counter, to start operations.”
In the midst of the men who were calming down, only Professor Kishida maintained his wary expression. He was the only one who noticed the falsehood in Date’s speech.
Only Date and Professor Kishida had been able to quickly recognize the girl’s actions. However, the skill she had just displayed wasn’t some ability she had as one of Mineshima’s personal creations, or a mind-reading technique. It wasn’t an ability that other humans couldn’t possess. Yet upon contemplation, it really was quite a troublesome skill.
–These guys actually don’t understand a thing.
Date laughed at the men silently, letting none of it show on the surface, though. But turning his gaze to the girl on the other side of the glass, he felt his muscles tightening.
– What is to be feared among her abilities isn’t the enormous amount of information her mind contains. It’s her intelligence, and keen sense of observation which can utilize that information.
One skill derived that way had just been shown. She had observed their conversation, analyzed their personalities and thought patterns, and created the perfect strategy for dealing with them under the given circumstances. Those men came to this place often. It was undoubtedly through those times, those interactions that she had analyzed them.
If that was a basic pattern for specific circumstances, it was easy to conjecture what had happened. First she had read their lips, created confusion among the men in doing so, and limited their conversation. After the conversation had been limited, reading the next words became easier for her.
– Mind reading? Impossible. If there was an ability like that, we would be in serious shit. You were all deceived by that thing.
Date and the other men turned their backs on the girl, leaving the room. Only Professor Kishida gave a final, troubled look at the girl before leaving the room after Date.
A thick, metal door closed shut behind him. The girl was of course left alone in the ensuing silence.
But before our story truly takes place, still another ten years have to pass.