It happens after he returns to Inaba. Namatame’s on his eighth beer when his arm goes into the TV as smoothly as a knife cutting through butter.
It’s all a dream, he tells himself. On the next day, Mayumi is found dead, and he can’t tell himself that anymore.
Then he sees another person on the Midnight Channel. She’s a high schooler, and his attempts to warn her don’t get through. It’s after her death that Namatame solidifies his resolution.
I’ll save them… I’ll be the one to protect them from the murderer!
Yukiko Amagi is light when Namatame pushes her into the TV. A second’s struggle, and then she disappears, and it’s easy, too easy. When it’s over, and the TV’s stopped rippling, he breathes with relief knowing she’ll be safe.
Walking home is always difficult. Namatame must be the closest thing Inaba has had to a scandal in years, and the eyes that follow his back are judging, the hushed whispers behind covered mouths piercing. This time though, buoyed by the success of his self-appointed mission, he doesn’t mind as much. A policeman even stops to wish him a safe way back.
Soon after, Namatame dreams of Mayumi for the first time since her death. Surrounded by fog, he runs through an endless path, sword in hand. Her voice calls to him, but it’s faint, so faint that he can’t make out the words. He needs to know what she’s telling him, so he runs harder, feet slipping on the red tiles, sweat and fog obscuring his vision. No matter how hard he runs, how desperately he tries, he can’t find her, and the fog eventually spills over to obscure everything.
No one appears in the Midnight Channel that night, and in the days that follow, he keeps watching.
The day after Tatsumi was saved, Namatame is questioned by the police. The detective, a young and messy looking man named Tohru Adachi, assures him it is merely a formality.
“We’re questioning anyone who might’ve seen Tatsumi before he disappeared,” Adachi says. “Although the kid probably just ran away from home, heh. I hear he’s always causing trouble.”
Namatame nods, unsure of what to say.
“Everyone’s jumpy ever since Amagi went missing. They’re really working our asses off over this… as if the serial murders could be related to some missing kids,” Adachi sighs. “Well, where were you yesterday?”
Without thinking, Namatame answers, “I went to the textile shop to make a delivery…”
“The one owned by the Tatsumis?”
Before Namatame can respond, Adachi ends the questioning and thanks him for his time. The back of his raincoat flutters as he walks away.
That night, Namatame gets a call from an unknown number.
“Be more careful next time.”
Again, they meet in the fog. Even though he can't see her, Namatame knows she’s there; Mayumi’s presence pervades the fog. This time, there is no sword, but he runs forwards regardless. With every step he takes, the fog covered scenery shifts. Red stone tiles gradually become a road littered with signposts and warnings, and when Namatame lifts his head, there is a row of telephone poles above him.
The sky is blood red and dazzles him from seeing clearly.
Lately, he’s been making small talk with the detective.
Adachi seems to have a habit of loitering in Junes, where Namatame makes most of his deliveries. It started with silent nods of acknowledgement, and it grows into quick greetings; short and hurried exchanges of one or two words. Gradually, Namatame finds himself saying more and more; Adachi’s surprisingly easy to talk to.
There’s a lot he learns about Adachi; he’s new to Inaba, his favourite food is sushi, and most importantly, he seems to genuinely like him.
It’s nice, really nice to be liked.
In the rare moments that the fog thins, Namatame can see the faint outline of bodies hanging on the telephone poles. The first time he saw, he vomited almost immediately, his regurgitated dinner splattering on the road, the sound far too much like how bodies hit the ground.
As he continues onwards, Namatame sees shadows on the ground. They are indistinct and strange, and there are never any bodies to go with them. He chases the shadows, or perhaps the shadows chase him.
Her shadow had yellow eyes. He was wearing a yellow raincoat.
Namatame wakes up in terror, the sound of static ringing in his ear.
Rise Kujikawa is found mere days after Namatame saves her. She’s surrounded by her friends, and they’re a funny group, a clashing combination of colours: green, orange, yellow, red, and grey.
As he passes them, Namatame breathes a sigh of relief. This time too, he was a savior.
He finds himself in the Shiroku Pub with Adachi. Adachi’s ordered drinks for both of them, muttering something about having a terrible day with all the paperwork from Kujikawa’s unexpected return. Namatame can only nod sympathetically as Adachi downs his drink in one gulp. When Adachi looks up, his face is flushed the barest hint of red.
“Your number,” Adachi says. “What is it.”
Adachi’s arms are around him as Namatame enters his number into Adachi’s phone. The taste of alcohol lingers in his mouth.
Autumn arrives bringing cloudy skies and chill air. The rain falls, but Namatame is dry in his home. With the TV in front of him, he waits for the static to fade and be replaced by the outline of a person. As the clock strikes 12, the screen crackles, lighting up yellow to show a teenager, short with a slight build.
The image fades, and the phone begins to ring.
He dreams of Mayumi again. The fog is finally clear, and he sees an endless path of blue and red. Alive and well, she stands before him. Her eyes are bright and piercing, and when he reaches for her, she steps away teasingly, her footsteps silent on the polished floor.
She opens her mouth to speak, and that voice is not hers, but -
Namatame wakes up in a cold sweat and heaves once, twice, three times before the remnants of his dinner make an appearance on the sheets.
The phone continues to ring. He picks up.
Adachi’s voice is kind like Mayumi's.
Try as he might, Namatame cannot find the figure on the Midnight Channel. There is no one in Inaba who matches that slender and boyish frame. The figure is clearly a high schooler, but Namatame has never seen any Yasogami student with passing resemblance. He must find him soon, before his corpse appears on the telephone poles just as Mayumi’s had.
It isn’t until sharp limbs dig into his side that Namatame realizes he’s walked into someone.
“Sorry, guess I wasn’t looking where I was - oh, it’s you,” Adachi says.
“Adachi-san… it’s good to see you,” Namatame says.
“Yeah, likewise.” Adachi rubs the back of his neck. “Hey, you wanna go drinking tonight? It’s been hell at work, haha…”
Adachi complains on and on about his job, but only one thing catches Namatame’s attention.
“Some high school prodigy,” Adachi scoffs. “Apparently we’re so incompetent, we need help from some kid. Brat hasn’t even done anything yet.”
Namatame keeps this in the back of his mind, and later, Naoto Shirogane goes missing.
Shirogane’s too calm when he opens the door. When Namatame moves to knock him out, Shirogane doesn’t flinch. Once he’s safely inside the TV, Namatame leaves unnerved. It’s almost as if he had expected to be saved.
When he dreams, Namatame is back before the path of blue light and red stone. Mayumi stands beside him, and she takes his hand in hers. She smiles, but it doesn’t reach her eyes, and they walk ahead in silence. Blue is gradually replaced by red, and the crumbling road and bent signposts are familiar. The hand he’s holding tightens its grip, and when Namatame turns his head, it’s Adachi that meets his eyes.
He smiles, eyes crinkling, and snakes his arm around Namatame’s shoulders. The grip on his hand becomes painful, and suddenly Namatame is falling.
He’s back in the place of his first dream. The path is once again foggy, and there’s a familiar sword in his hand. A voice calls to him.
“Will you seek the truth…?”
Namatame runs forwards.
“If that is your desire, come to me…”
At the end of the path is a figure shrouded in fog. Namatame swings, and although his sword does not connect, the figure chuckles, delighted.
“It seems she may have been wrong about you…”
He tries again, and the attack connects.
“Excellent… you have not entirely lost your will to seek the truth…”
Before Namatame stands a TV. He sees himself in the screen, and his other self has yellow eyes. He’s seen those yellow eyes before.
Yukiko Amagi. Kanji Tatsumi. Rise Kujikawa. Naoto Shirogane.
The sound of static rings in his ear. Between crackles, it’s faint but…
“You could shelter her somewhere. Some place where no one could find her.”
The room spins. His head is splitting.
“Save her yourself… you can do it.”
His legs give way.
He blacks out.
Adachi’s mouth is hot on his neck. Adachi’s words ring in his ear. Adachi’s hand grips his. Adachi’s words ring in his ear. Adachi bites down. There’s blood.
Adachi’s words ring in his ear.
He stays silent. He is no longer a savior.
Four times he has nearly become a killer. A young girl appears on the Midnight Channel, and he won’t let this be the fifth.
“So, what did you call me here for?” Adachi says in the interrogation room. His arms are crossed, and he regards Namatame with interest.
“Did you kill them?” Namatame asks. His entire body is shaking, and he clutches the table to steady himself.
Adachi’s face is blank. “I don’t know what you mean,” he says blandly.
“Mayumi and Konishi… did you throw them into the TV?” Namatame grabs him by the collar and shakes once, hard. Adachi goes limp like a ragdoll, submitting with no resistance.
Namatame continues, hands trembling as Adachi gives way beneath him. “You told me to put the others into the TV… I thought I saved them!”
“Namatame.” His eyes are sharp. “What are you talking about.”
“You were… you seemed so friendly… I trusted you…” Namatame says. His fingers loosen, and his shoulders slump.
Adachi gently disentangles himself from Namatame’s grip.
“Man,” he sighs. “You’re just like your girlfriend.” The smile Adachi gives him is patronizing. “She was a real pain to deal with too.”
He pushes Adachi, then pushes harder. Adachi is flailing beneath him, and the TV is rippling.
A sudden kick to Namatame’s stomach releases his grip. Adachi struggles for a second, until he grasps the edge of the screen and pulls himself out.
“You fucking bastard,” Adachi spits.
He grabs Namatame’s wrist, pulls him to his feet, and trips him before Namatame even has the chance to react.
“This is how you do it,” Adachi snarls, holding Namatame’s head down and into the TV.
Adachi’s perspiring as he tries to overpower him. Namatame’s legs grip around his middle and don’t let go.
Adachi's kicking and screaming as he enters the TV, and Namatame has never loved anyone more.