When confronted with the unbelievable, people have a tendency to avoid thinking about it. If they do think about it, they will attempt to rationalize what they saw in an attempt to relieve their anxiety.
Yumiko did the same thing to her experience in the CAI room.
Nakajima had said he summoned a demon using the computer. But when she really thought about it, there was no real hard evidence that what she saw really was a demon. With enough skill manipulating computer graphics, such a scene could be staged easily. As for that demonic beast, Yumiko only saw it for an instant. It would probably be more natural to assume that it just been a large dog that Nakajima had used as a guard, and Yumiko's fear and surprise deluded her into seeing it as some sort of horrific monster. Nakajima might be a genius-level computer nut, but the whole ceremony could have been nothing more than something him and his followers cooked up together. Nakajima had probably just started some sort of occult or magic club.
As the days passed by uneventfully, that was how Yumiko treated the whole experience. Jusho High's gifted class still wasn’t a place where she felt entirely comfortable, but she was still able to make a few friends that she could banter with like a normal girl her age.
Still, Nakajima definitely seemed to hold some sort of special authority in the school. Lately, he had been spending all of his time holed up in the CAI room, and rarely (if ever) showed his face in class. The only time he would show up was when other classes were using the CAI room, and even then he would ignore class and program on his handheld computer instead.
No matter how you looked at it, something was not right about the situation. But whenever Yumiko tried talking to her friends about Nakajima, they would just clam up and try to change the subject. It wasn't that they disliked him; their silence radiated a sense of fear and awe, as if they couldn't find the right words to use when talking about such a powerful persona.
Well, no big deal. Besides, it doesn't really affect me anyway...
Even though Yumiko could explain the situation away like that, she couldn't keep her heart from racing whenever she pictured his profile in her head.
It was a morning in July, close to the start of summer vacation.
Yumiko walked to school along the highway between Kuniritsu Station and Hitobashi University every morning. The branches of the trees stretched out to their limits so that their leaves would absorb the blinding sunlight, and as Yumiko walked beneath the lines of gingko trees and their outstretched pale green leaves, she rubbed her sleepy eyes and thought of the phone call she had received last night.
The call had come while she was cleaning up after dinner. Her mother casually picked up the receiver, then called to her.
"Yumiko, it's from someone called Yamanaka. Have you got a boyfriend already?"
Yumiko cocked her head, wondering if she had a classmate with that name before she had a flash of insight.
"I'm sure he's just passing on a message from school," Yumiko lied at once. Thinking of who it might be, she waited a little bit before gently picking up the receiver.
"Hello, this is Yumiko..."
The sound of faint breathing was all that could be heard from the other side.
A hushed voice suddenly murmured in Yumiko's ear. For an instant, Yumiko thought the voice sounded like Nakajima's, but she couldn't be sure.
"Stay home from school tomorrow."
"Hello, who is this?"
"He's after you. You should stay away for a while."
The tone of voice became urgent, but that only made it seem more suspicious. As Yumiko tried to decide how to respond, she noticed her mother had stopped cleaning the dishes and was watching her suspiciously.
"We can talk about this at school tomorrow," Yumiko said calmly.
There was the sound of a clicking tongue as the phone hung up on the other end.
"What was that about?" Yumiko's mother asked worriedly.
"It was nothing. Being really popular is really a pain sometimes."
She distracted her mother with an unintelligible response as Yumiko tried to recall what Nakajima's normal speaking voice sounded like.
College students in blue jeans and T-shirts passed by her, discussing their plans for summer vacation. One of them, carrying a guitar case in his left hand, bumped into her.
Yumiko looked up suspiciously. The college student shyly smiled at her, but she simply ignored him and looked away.
That really might have been Nakajima...
Yumiko wasn't sure at the time, but thinking about it afterwards, she had the sense that her mysterious caller talked a lot like Nakajima.
But if that was the case, what was he trying to tell her? The voice on the phone had been very serious, full of desperation, almost like someone trying to escape from a pursuer.
What could have happened to him?
After the call, Yumiko had tried to prepare for class the next day, but when she tried to focus on her textbooks, she kept picturing Nakajima's eyes when she looked at the page. None of the information stuck. Not only could she not study, but she kept wondering about the phone call. She was dizzy with insomnia; Yumiko had barely slept a wink. The baseball club members had finished their morning practice, and chatted amongst themselves as they walked by.
Yumiko turned left, off of University Avenue, and passed through the gates of her school. A harsh shiver ran up her spine and her arms broke out in goose bumps. Wondering what had happened, she looked around. She noticed that Ohara-sensei was staring at her through the window in the faculty lounge. Her pitch-black eyes wore an almost supernaturally sinister look as they watched Yumiko's every move. Absorbed in the stare, Yumiko started uneasily, and a male student on a bicycle grazed her.
"Hey, careful! Watch where you're going!"
The bicycle sped up and the student pedaled away.
Returning to her senses, Yumiko looked back at the window in the faculty lounge, but Ohara-sensei was no longer there. As waves of students proceeded into the school to avoid being late, they turned around and gave her quizzical looks as she stood as still as a post.
What are you doing? This isn't like you!
Admonishing herself, Yumiko ran into the school.