By the next day, rumors about Mr.Taninaka and Saeko had spread all over Kuromiyama Elementary. During each recess not only the kids in the next classroom, but even the upper and lower graders no one knew came to peek into their classroom. From the morning on, Saeko cried straight through. While kids in the class were united in trying to protect Saeko, only Mochizuki was in a rambunctious mood, standing by the door and showing each visitor where Saeko was sitting. Mochizuki also chased Tomoko Kamei. He had already heard the rumors about the Kamesei Sushi shop. Mochizuki was very busy. In between running here and there, he elbowed Kat-chan and pushed away those classmates who protested, shouting; "The fifth grade second section is the worst class in Kuromiyama Elementary." "The virus was collected here in the second section." Mochizuki's voice had become completely hoarse by the time the fourth class period began. His excitement, however, didn't last very long, because the attention of the entire school switched to another class after the noon recess. There, a "D-type AIDS girl patient" in the first section of the fifth grade surfaced. The arrival of the girl was so shocking that even Mochizuki went over to see her--though he had nothing to do with this incident. "She had a strange mark under her eye. They say she won't survive more than a month." Mochizuki's hoarse voice no longer had much power in it. Most of the children in the second section had already seen her. Although they were all making a commotion about the girl, inside their thoughts turned to themselves. They never knew when they themselves might be on display. Makoto tried not to be isolated in the class, but he could not go out to the schoolyard to play. He picked as large group as possible to join, talking with them. All the kids in the second section seemed to have the same idea, and they all talked loud and were all full of tension. Even Saeko and Tomoko Kamei were walking around in the classroom. But it was Mochizuki who was the most scared by the atomosphere in the second section. He well anticipated that the day would come soon when he could no longer hide his sense of isolation behind violence. Leaving Cafe Shamburi and going toward the station, Makoto kept thinking about Mizuta. If the situation at the school continued like this, it was quite dangerous for Mizuta to write about it in some magazine or in his book. Being conspicuous meant being a target. Makoto felt very heavy around his chest, as if it were filled with something like lead. On entering the Asunaro Juku classroom, however, this lead-like feeling abated. Asunaro Juku was bustling like a marketplace full of small rumors but had a secure feeling, like being in a safety zone. "Professor Hayashi killed his wife and used her as a specimen." "A take-out-deli shop put human flesh in its meatballs." "Fumio Ohno, an emissary of the god of death, has been absent from school for more than a week." "A senior student was descovered to be a vampire when he was changing into his gym suit." It was a real rumor market, where they could talk freely without becoming the target of each other's bad rumors. The children sold their small rumors and bought a lot in return. They all looked like well-known merchants. The noisy merchants kept on with their dealings until Pentagon came into the room. Pentagon, a thin tie neatly around his neck, looked like a stiff tax man. The merchants gathered from exotic countries hurried off, leaving the classroom in a hushed silence. By the time the first lesson began, Makoto had already worked on his message to Yohta. Pentagon said "Review" and Yohta appeared on the screen much sooner than usual. "THERE ARE CURSES EVERYWHERE." Reading his message, Makoto tapped forcefully on the keys. "CAKE SHOP WITH DEAD, ROTTEN BODY. ONE OF OUR SENIORS HAS AIDS." Yohta should know. He should know how many dreadful incidents occured one after another and how excellent a merchant Makoto was. Makoto kept watching the screen exultantly. Yohta, however, did not try to send a message in the remaining time at all. Five seconds. Ten seconds. Fifteen seconds. Makoto held his breath as he waited for Yohta's response. The sound of the steam heater letting out hot air gradually became louder. Twenty seconds. Thirty seconds. What's wrong? thought Makoto. Finally, some characters appeared. "NO..." Makoto's eyes stopped blinking. "LIFE KING..." Makoto kept his gaze on the screen. "LIVES." Goose pimples sprung from his back to the top of his head. "NO LIFE KING LIVES." Makoto began to feel high.
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