As promised, Mizuta was waiting at the cafe on the first floor. Coming down by the elevator, Makoto peeked through the automatic doors at the end of the short corridor. Mizuta, waiting for Makoto there, was very conspicuous -- even in a cafe crowded with lots of different people. Let's run away, thought Makoto, but Mizuta was smiling, his right arm raised. Makoto touched the sensor-plate of the door. The door opened and the humid hot air attacked him. "Sorry about last night," Mizuta addressed him with too much familiarity, straightening up the papers over the table. "Good evening," said Makoto bowing his head but not looking up. "Have a seat, please," Mizuta said, happily sipping water from the glass. "You guys have made it again!" Makoto kept his eyes down. He had his doubts about Mizuta in the elevator. The fax from Morii was much too much of a coincidence. Wasn't Mizuta trying to test my reaction, then? thought Makoto. The content of the fax was too difficult for Makoto but he felt it might have contained a trap hidden by Mizuta there. Mizuta was in too good a mood for that. "The fish shop over there went bankrupt." Makoto kept cautious. A waitress stood behind Makoto, unnoticed. "What would you like to have?" "Coffee." Makoto answered reflexively. The young waitress, whose hair was done up simply, left them in a robot-like manner, without any words. "An election candidate got such a blow during his campaign. A department store is cancelling their construction plans. A butcher closed his shop immediately after he opened it. And so forth....and so forth.... A lot of damage everywhere. And all the false rumors were started by children, I think." Why does he think so? I didn't say anything last night. Makoto held the strap of his shoulder bag tightly, straightening himself. Mizuta continued. "It's not only me. Anyone intelligent would think so. And all these damn people will cause a commotion soon." Then, they'ill all notice that No Life King is alive, thought Makoto. "If I take some action soon, I'll be able to sell my name." Mizuta leaned forward. "The mass media has finally noticed Disu-kon. They intend to attack all at once, so that they can destroy the huge network it has created. Of course, this means your game, too, which causes confusion in the world. The essential part of your network is Disu-kon, which, to me, is not a new idea at all." Mizuta, bending backward, took a deep breath in, and added emphatically, "A Ban-the-Disu-kon-campaign will take place soon." There was a crashing sound at the door. Turning back, Makoto saw the waitress woodenly picking up the broken pieces of the glass. Mizuta gazed at Makoto again. "There will be a lot of interruptions, but once started, there will be an upsurge. As for the adults, they can't really be safe unless they cut off the kids' network." Mizuta mimicked a crab, holding up his arms, but his face wasn't joking at all. It was just a gesture to try to get Makoto to look at him. "Sorry, but I saw you communicating via computer." "What?" "In the computer room at the end of the hallway." Makoto could not look away anymore. Mizuta gazed at Makoto from behind his greasy bangs with an extremely serious look. "No Life King is alive, isn't he?" Makoto's thin lips quivered a little. "I've picked up some precious information at an unexpected place. Makoto, I promise, I'll never tell anybody that you kids are exchanging information over the computers in addition to your lessons. I'll give you some good information. Like, next Wednesday, Asunaro Juku will conduct a simultaneous check of their entire computer network. You'd better be careful." "A check?" Makoto finally opened his mouth. "Yeah. They saved only Monday's data. You know about this, shouldn't you? But this time, it'll be a surprise inspection." "Well then, Makoto. I don't mean this be a quid pro quo...but I need some information from you. No Life King is, frankly speaking, the king's code name, isn't it?" said Mizuta. He was so excited that his body began to shake. Makoto did not answer Mizuta's question. His throat was as dry as the desert. "Please? Whose name is it?" Makoto shut his mouth more firmly. He was afraid that a word might slip out, lured by Mizuta's magic. I have to stay still, thought Makoto, warning all his nerves. "See," nodded Mizuta, looking down. He became silent. The spell of his eyes was broken. The first thing Makoto knew was that he had been holding the buckle of the bag strap so tightly that his fingertips had turned pale and become hollow. Mizuta cleared his throat and raised his head, grinning. "Makoto, I won't interview you today. The situation is such that I'm confused, too. Even if you won't talk to me..." Mizuta grasped the cup with his knotty fingers, and drained it to the last drop. "Even if you won't talk to me, I can find everything out from Yohta Koyama." "What!?" Makoto burst into a fit of coughing. "Don't worry. I will never sell the important first candidate of the King of Kids to stupid people. I don't want to be a barrier to the first computer game in history in which children confront society." Mizuta stood up, scratching his head. Not only was Makoto having coffee with his bag strapped to his shoulder, but Mizuta, too, sipped his coffee with his scarf wrapped around his neck. Mizuta waited for Makoto to stand up, and said, "Please watch Channel 5 at 9 o'clock tomorrow. I'll be on TV. The uproar you guys caused even made the TV station produce a special feature program. You see?" Prompted by Mizuta, Makoto left the cafe before him. The colorful neon of the amusement quarters outside poured coldly over Makoto. Mizuta, holding Makoto's shoulder from behind, said in a low shaking voice, "Good luck. There's not so much time left before the game is up." The title of the special feature program the next day on Channel 5 was very direct: "Just In! The Kids' False Rumors!!" Mamiko had turned to Channel 5 thirty minutes before. Mizuta had probably called her. Makoto watched the damage reports covered by the news anchormen, successively in each area. They all looked hysterical. In a VTR of the National Diet session, a famous member of the ruling party was speaking out against the Minister of Education in a triumphant, theatrical manner. "The children's false rumors have confused our society. The rumors came from a Disu-kon game with a bizarre storyline. Actually, a very popular game, called "Life King" is a game where they kill their teachers and parents, and the rumors started through this game have spread incredibly quickly through the very closed network of Disu-kon fanatic, so there is no chance for real education under the influence of such chaos." Of course, the Education Minister's answer was "We will study this immediately." As was the usual scenario in the Diet in such a case, a question passed by the dietman was also a conclusion. By passing on this issue to the media, the government expected that it would spread to the general public, who would urge the issue to be resolved quickly. In a 30-minute discussion following the session, they simply repeated the conclusion that had been made already. "Children play Disu-kon far too much." "When we were children, all we had were bamboo horses!!" "This interest of theirs in rumor-mongering is unhealthy." "The cause of the increase in suicides among children is related to the Disu-kon game. Children take death too lightly." "We must stop Disu-kon in order to foster friendship and the love of learning." On the TV panel, Mizuta interrupted the speakers a couple of times from the end of the large table saying, "This is criticism against the media" or "It's a huge game children made by themselves." But the other panelists handled him cleverly, calling his argument science fiction made by a swell-headed intellectual. Mamiko's applause for him did not reach the studio. His only rebuttal was to shout "All I've done is to go after the facts." TV celebrities, who were neither educaters nor sociologists, looked like they understood the core of the issue. A middle-aged celebrity spoke loudly to attract the attention of the camera crew, shouting "Don't let the children do as they please! Take Life King away from them!" His repetitious statements, without any specific grounds, monopolized the panel. The only relief for Makoto was that Mamiko said "he's scary," and that Mizuta did not say a word about No Life King until the end. The program ended with a close-up of the shouting TV celebrity. Makoto turned off theTV absentmindedly. As feared, the forceful yet simple-minded argument of the TV star accelerated a ban on the game. The media gave him full support and developed a "Ban-the-Disu-kon-game-campaign" that same night. The newspapers ran lead articles on the city news page reporting that the celebrity had cancelled his regular drama show in order to participate in the campaign. TV news reported as the leading story that the celebrity's eldest son, a first grader in junior high school, was spearheading the collection of Disu-kon games in his class. The book, which the celebrity had written in a week, was called "Live real" and was an incredible advance best-seller . "Children do not know the pain of beating others. They do not know the joy of being alive. They just avoid reality. All these things resulted from Disu-kon." His message was everywhere. He also said, " Take Life King away from the children first," in order to bring them back to reality. So "Magic Black" has finally appeared, thought the children. They couldn't help but think so. As soon as the campaign started, kids started to commit suicide in Fukushima, Nara and Matsuyama. None of them would give their parents their copy of Life King. A kid in Nara wrote this in his suicide note: "If I don't kill myself, Mom and Dad will die, too. Because I can't solve Vision V." When he learned of this incident, the TV celebrity's spirits rose very high. "We have to take the Life King game software away from children immediately to bring them back to reality," he appealed to people daily with tears in his eyes. Of course lamenting over kids' lives had a greater impact than lamenting their avoiding reality. Seeing that Mamiko was nodding in agreement to the words of the celebrity as she watched the TV, Makoto felt he was losing all of his energy. The Ban-the-Disu-kon-campaign suddenly spread to Makoto and the other kids. None of the adults noticed they were driving the children into more of a corner by participating in it. No Life King entered Vision V.
Copyright (C) SEIKO ITO , EMPIRE SNAKE BLD,INC. All rights reserved.