As one would expect, being poisoned and buried alive is no biggie for Ushiyama, tank-made-flesh that he is. Fortune smiles upon our young ice skater Chiyotarou, who is tied to a felled tree by his tormentors, when Ushiyama frees him (by the most extra method) in exchange for peaches. That said, Ushiyama is still drugged and can only manage brief utterances, leading Chiyotarou to think the hulk’s name is “Pussy.”
When Detective Kadokura receives a ransom letter from Sekiya, he and Kirawus head to the frozen lake for a parlay. At that same lake, Chiyotarou introduces “Pussy” to ice skating (using gerori, or geta skates), but the bullies return and toss a moss ball at Ushiyama. In his drugged state he lashes out violently, sending the three bad lads packing, but Chiyotarou is mortified: he only wanted Pussy to be a visual and psychological threat. The kid has a gentle heart, and doesn’t want anyone actually hurt.
Taking responsibility for unleashing this Frankenstein’s monster on the world by feeding him peaches, Chiyotarou arranges for Pussy to leap right into one of the holes in the lake formed by hot springs. Around the same time, Kadokura meets with the ever-cautious and well-prepared Sekiya, who makes him strip, and soon deduces that the detective is hiding an Ainu blade between his clinched ass cheeks.
Sekiya flees, but it was always Kadokura’s plan to make the deal go bad so he would, enabling a well-hidden Kirawus to then tail Kadokura back to where Hijikata is buried. And he would have, too, were it not for Ushiyama suddenly coming to his senses and emerging from the ice.
Kadokura discovers Sekiya’s hideout anyway (a silkworm factory) thanks to the cocoon that falls from Ushiyama’s jacket. There, Sekiya presents the former warden with yet another one of his trials designed to reveal whether someone is on the right path. He has Kadokura pick among a circle of cocoons and take whatever is inside, and he promises to do the same to the cocoon opposite that one.
This gives them a 50-50 chance of taking the deadly poison, but Kadokura knows that with his ruinous bad luck he’s sure to pick the poison. Indeed he does, but before it kicks in, Sekiya tells him the story of how his young daughter was suddenly struck by lightning and killed, leading him on a lifelong exploration of fate and faith. Kadokura starts to show signs he took the poison, so Sekiya holds up his end of the bargain and digs up Hijikata.
Only to his surprise, Hijikata is fully conscious once he digs him up. Using his own pharmaceutical knowledge, he made sure to take enough of one poison to counteract the effects of the other. This, incidentally, is what Kadokura does, trying to take more poison to speed his death but ending up taking the precise dose needed to neutralize both poisons in his system.
Even with Sekiya’s life in his hands, Hijitaka has no time to talk about God or faith, as he’s singularly focused on the world of men and what men can do. He considers fate not to be something endowed from a higher power, but something to be taken with one’s own hand, through experience and guts. You can’t exactly argue with his results so far, as he’s had more lives than a cat and is now in possession of more map tattoos.
As for young Chiyotarou, he flashes a dirty look at his bullies who then cower, but he’s unaware that “Pussy” is alive and well, lucis, and walking right behind him. Hopefully he’ll notice him so he won’t have to bear the burden of thinking he took a life in order to prevent a monster from taking far more of them. While I missed Asirpa and Sugimoto this week, this was still a meaty, fun, and at times quite hilarious Edo-period hard-boiled detective case.