Alternate Dimension (Part 66)

I was given a case to solve via a schoolmate that claimed to be Takagi's cousin that has several unknowns and I don't have personal experience with the things involved made it more challenging to solve. I had my doubts if this Yui Ito (伊藤湯井) is a cousin of Kamisugi High's computing club senior, who is now working for me at Powell Institute. I never knew what Takagi's given name was, but I wondered if the name Yui gave me (Megumi) is even the Takagi I had in mind. I had to ask her personally. It's pointless asking "the other me" as they don't know who she is other than as someone only I had met. I was caught off-guard by her to call me by my actual name instead of Kanade Haneda, something that only people who had met me before April this year or knew through someone before that time and indicated my current identity. I can't think of anyone outside the Hatsuya research institute who knows this, and Takagi certainly doesn't fall in that group. Until that earlier encounter, Yui called me as Kanade.

Within the Powell Institute, any announcement by anyone other than the announcer or a supervisor is quite rare, let alone one with background noise of a train station. Due to my position as the most important person to the company to overwrite any order by anyone below me (which is practically everyone), but being very rarely seen, I could see that I'm somewhat of a legend since I had helped the employees with rogue supervisors under them. Of course, I had to disguise as a regular employee so that they don't know it's me. Currently, I've temporarily stopped doing that since I couldn't remove the Mizuho student uniform so long as I'm a "student" there under Hatsuya's orders. If an outsider would find out about this, they would think that the founder of the Powell Institute is under the control of their own arc rival, Hatsuya Institute, and things could get ugly from there.

During my undercover inspection, I noticed that employees who don't have much work to do have actually gotten used to the regular voice played over the public announcement system and what those announcements are usually made up of. Any new voices or announcements about something out of the ordinary had, as I observed, grabbed their attention more than what they are used to. Any announcement from it that involves an employee being called to an office of a supervisor or higher usually means that they are in serious trouble, or will be receiving a promotion/pay-rise. Other types are usually through the inter-company messaging system or mouth to mouth. I have pre-recorded an announcement while on my way here from school, and will see how they would react to it. I'm also the only person who can make announcements remotely, and I was at the staff cafeteria when I did this. Because it's pre-recorded, I can actually eat and drink coffee while the announcement in my voice is played in the air, along with the sound of trains.

"This is a random Powell staff you have probably have never heard before calling for Takagi-san of the computer engineering department. Could you please meet me at my office desk immediately? There's something I wanted to talk about. Oh, and surely you can use your voice analyzing skills to tell who I am. Also, to the student from Mizuho Academy with a strangely designed visitor's pass, could you come to my office too? I know you are drinking cola and eating fries at the staff cafeteria as I'm saying this, practically ignoring this announcement until I mentioned you."

The staff seemed to noticed that something's different about this announcement from all the other announcements that are usually played. There are quite a number of staff with the surnames Hisakawa and Takagi, but the one I met in Kamisugi High is the only one in the said department. Most of them commented about how unusual it is to have the background noise of a train station when there aren't train stations or tracks nearby. Almost immediately, everyone had their eyes on me: some of them had seen me as I am now for long enough to recognize me. The small number of staff who know that the Mizuho girl in question is also the founder of the company they are working for wondered to themselves on what I'm up to and describing myself from a third-person's point of view as they know that I'm the one making the announcement and the mentioned Mizuho student being me too, but they seem cooperative enough to not reveal this to others.

What I really wanted is her to come to my office alone without anyone else to eavesdrop on the discussion or even just standing outside. The only exception is that other guy I employed myself, but I didn't mention him at all in the announcement. I don't want them to see me since I don't age, or have my staff to see me long enough to remember my face, which is important to spy on my staff. I never cared about myself, but being forced into something that forever changes my life is.

I didn't need to wait long after entering my office before Takagi reached my office. When she entered my office, she looked as though something about me that's not related to what I wanted to talk about has been confirmed. I wonder what was on her mind?

Me: "Just to clarify, the girl mentioned in the announcement refers to me as a Mizuho student with a separate set of identity. You're going to see me appearing like this everyday for about 5 years for as long as I'm a "student" there and can't remove this outfit. Also, you don't need to be so formal with me just because I employed you and having the highest position in the company. In fact, I still see you as my senior who helped me."

Takagi seem confused on whether she should treat me as her superior or inferior.

Me: "Well, I just want to know if you know of a girl named Yui Itou (伊藤湯井) that looks like this...  who gave me a task of finding someone you met during a cultural exchange program. She claims that the task came from you."

I showed her a photo of Yui as I said that. I never took a picture of her, but that image is generated from what I saw with my own eyes. However, I can't prevent other people from seeing what I'm looking at without blinding myself. The same goes for my hearing.

Takagi: "Ah, that cousin of mine. I knew she was the right person to ask since I see the two of you wearing the same thing these days. I only showed her a recent photo of you and she immediately recognizes it. I didn't know that it was the new Mizuho uniform until you mentioned it. One of the nicest female school uniform design I've ever seen. Almost futuristic looking, and a huge makeover from the previous design. As for my cousin when talking to others about me, she would always call me by my rarely heard given name. So rare that even you, who has known me for quite a while, never heard me being called by that name. Society is structured in such a way that the name is never heard."

I'm not sure about her appearance, but she seems to be hinting that having her own given name (Megumi) seen or heard would make her shiver in fear. She didn't tell me what it was, but did confirm the girl in the photo I showed her as her cousin Yui, who did mentioned her given name, but not by her more known family name. Why would she be scared of her own name? Takagi doesn't seem to be the person to know anything inside Mizuho, so who did Yui hear from that she calls me Hisakawa-san instead of Haneda-san? She always call me by the latter prior to that encounter.

Takagi: "I hoped my cousin had already told you everything I've asked her to tell you about my friend's disappearance. What I've discovered since then was that he has already disappeared for two years, based on the latest expiry date printed on the wrapper of foods that lasts only a week you could get from the convenience store near his rented apartment. Sadly, that convenience store does not store security footage for longer than two weeks, let alone two years, to confirm if it was him that bought it. I don't have any evidence if there's a group of people behind it, but that does seem likely. I wouldn't be surprised if he has already died by now, but we wouldn't know until we see him."

Something's just not right: How could nobody not notice his disappearance until two years later?

Me: "So where do I even start looking?"

Takagi: "Well, he was working in an area (points to the location on a map) where there are a mix of business, engineering, and animation companies. He wasn't specific about it."

That wasn't really helpful.


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