Osanai-san was standing and waiting by the shoe lockers. She’d been there for more than thirty minutes.
“Sorry to make you wait. I had a weird errand to run.”
Osanai-san slowly shook her head.
“It’s fine. I like waiting around.”
I’d also recently come to like waiting, because it is an action that leaves almost everything to the other party. However, I don’t like making someone else wait. Osanai-san asked in a small voice.
“Are you still going there?”
“To the crepe store, right? Let’s go. But before that, can we talk? There’s something I want to ask.”
I was met with a blank look.
“What is it?”
“Well, I’ll explain it in order.”
I explained what had happened in the last thirty minutes in chronological order.
After I had finished talking, Osanai-san groaned, as if she was in agony.
“What’s the matter?”
“Doujima-kun is, er…”
“The type of person you’re bad at dealing with?”
“Not exactly. He seems troubling when he’s close by, but I wouldn’t mind seeing him if he’s far away.”
I smiled wryly.
“That might be the best way to interact with Kengo. By the way…”
I looked around me to confirm that Kengo, Takada and Yoshiguchi were not in our vicinity, then I spoke.
“I would like to do something about this case before Kengo delivers it to the police. I don’t like the idea of it blowing up.”
“I understand, but… Kobato-kun, you’re going to do it?”
Osanai-san’s eyes widened.
“You’ll become a detective?”
No, of course not. I firmly shook my head.
“No, I’ll just look for the pochette, then quietly return it to Yoshiguchi-san’s classroom. This way, it won’t be out in the open, the police need not be involved, and there should be no problems, I think.”
Osanai-san seemed unsatisfied.
“Kobato-kun, do you really think that’s good? Anyway, wasn’t it still not found even with 5 people searching for it for thirty minutes? Perhaps it’s not in the school anymore?”
Well, that’s the question. I vocalized the thoughts I had from the time I left Kengo and company to the time I reached this area.
“About that, I think that this case can be settled with testimony from the witnesses.”
“Before that, listen to this. Takada-kun intentionally gave Kengo the runaround.”
Osanai-san nodded, not looking surprised at all.
She was asking, “So what?”
Kengo and Takada missing each other so much that they would put a comedy skit to shame was unnatural enough, but the fact that it happened in the school grounds that was not wide at all made it seem even more unnatural. In any case, hanging up before listening to the meeting area and repeating that a few times would shock even the little scatterbrain1. Kengo might have been too excited to notice it, but Takada obviously had no intention of meeting with him.
“There are two strange things about this.”
“Two? Isn’t there only one, which is why he made Doujima-kun run around the school?”
Of course, that’s one of them. I grinned and nodded.
“The other one is why Takada-kun purposely went outside and waved at us. Waving your hands wildly in the middle of a crowd of students going home strikes me as a little abnormal.”
If I find that unusual, it should also sound unusual to Osanai-san. However, she gave a retort.
“But there are people like that, people who are flashy with their body language.”
“I suppose… but there was no need to go outside. If Kengo and Takada were keeping in contact via mobile phone, what was the point of showing himself?”
Osanai-san fell deep into thought. Many students who were in the midst of leaving the school were looking at us curiously, since we were conversing so amicably. It might be too self-conscious of me to say this, but declaring that the two of us to be a set might prove to be useful in the future. That said, I’m a little embarrassed by this. I pulled Osanai-san to the area outside the infirmary.
Finally, Osanai-san muttered in a fragmented manner.
“…Maybe he wanted to wave his hand? Or perhaps he wanted to put on his outdoor shoes? Or if you flip it around, he wanted to take off his indoor shoes…?”
“I don’t think so.”
Osanai-san looked up at me.
“You have an idea about it, Kobato-kun?”
I scratched my cheek.
“I see… So you did make a deduction.”
I was lost for words as I heard Osanai-san’s cold voice. I hurriedly replied.
“No, that’s not it.”
With a humph, Osanai-san looked away. While I felt a little guilty, I pressed on to suppress that feeling.
“Erm, anyway, by waving his hand outside, Takada-kun could hide the location he was at.”
“In other words… Hey, Osanai-san, did I mention that Takada-kun and Kengo were in tracksuits?”
“Yes, you did.”
“So, it was really wet outside up till just now because of the rain. What if Takada-kun didn’t go to the fourth floor as he was told, and instead went outside from the shoe locker area, unseen by Kengo? What if he ran off somewhere to quickly do something?”
Osanai-san slowly nodded.
“I see, the hem of the tracksuit got wet.”
“It would have been disastrous if we had noticed that Takada-kun’s tracksuit was wet when we met with him later. However, something wet does not dry easily. That was why Takada waited for the right timing to go outside where we could see him, and show that his tracksuit got wet from that instance. Besides that, there doesn’t seem to be a reason for him to step outside at that time.”
After a brief pause, I continued.
“Taking into account that fact that Takada-kun was not on the fourth floor when Kengo called him, it is almost undeniable that he was outside for a long time, but it would be good to have some evidence. To judge the right timing to show himself outside and wave his hands, he must have waited near the shoe lockers. My witness is the person who saw him in the act.”
Osanai-san nodded in agreement, then pointed to herself in surprise.
“Yes. Thus, I would like to ask a question to the eyewitness.
“While waiting for me in front of the shoe lockers, was there a boy in a tracksuit who kept using his phone?”
Osanai-san carelessly answered.
“There was. He was wearing a tracksuit and had a tough-looking body.”
“It’s definitely him, then. Yoshiguchi-san’s pochette should be hidden somewhere in the vicinity of the school building, probably somewhere with a roof.”
“Kengo said that the pochette was stolen or hidden. If it was stolen, it would be for personal gain. If it was hidden, it would be in bad faith.”
I spoke as I walked on the asphalt that was still wet with patches of rainwater.
“…So Takada-kun hid Yoshiguchi-san’s pochette in bad faith?”
“That doesn’t feel quite right. If he had a malicious intent, hiding the pochette would be meaningless. Simply dropping it in a trash can would have been much more effective.”
“He also couldn’t have stolen it, right? If that was the case, he wouldn’t have participated in the search and would have just left the school.”
It was the corners of the passageway and the water cooler earlier, but now I checked every nook and cranny at the planters under the eaves, as well as the shrubbery. While searching alone seems frivolous, searching in a group of two makes it look somewhat meaningful. That was one of the main reasons why I was doing this with Osanai-san.
“What do you think, Kobato-kun?”
“I think there should be an addition to the choices of stealing and hiding. Another possible motive could be rigging the pochette.”
“Something could be placed inside the pochette, or something could be taken out. Since it takes some time and effort and the pochette can’t be put back while the job is incomplete, it was temporarily hidden from Yoshiguchi-san. That’s what I mean by rigging.”
In other words, they intended to return the pochette eventually. Hence, it wouldn’t be left out in the rain, and should be in somewhere with a roof. It might not seem necessary for us to secretly search for the pochette if it would be returned eventually, but if the rigging takes a long time, or if it goes on until evening, then a police report would be filed. It would be best for us to find it.
I didn’t specifically know what kind of rigging they were planning to do with the pochette, although I did have an idea. Osanai-san replied, “Perhaps,” then wordlessly devoted herself to searching for the pochette.
We went around to the back of the school building.
At first glance, this place had something suspicious in it – a shed. A sign in front said, “No open fires in the gas cylinder storage”. The metal door at the entrance to the shed was locked, but there was enough space between the door and the concrete floor. Exchanging glances with Osanai-san, I approached the door. Paying heed to the wet ground, I crouched down and hit the jackpot. A white strap could be seen peeking out from behind a gas cylinder. I stretched my hand out to pull on it, and out came a small, red pochette. I pulled it out and showed it to Osanai-san.
She clapped her hands a few times with a face that, while a far cry from one that displayed happiness from the bottom of the heart, had a bright expression.
“As expected of Kobato-kun.”
I could feel my face becoming hot, but not because I was happy.
As I held up the pochette in my crouching position, the small Osanai-san bent her knees a little, then scrutinized the pochette.
“Will you be checking its contents?”
“Yes, although I don’t want to. But we don’t have a choice since that will determine what we’ll do.”
Sorry, Yoshiguchi-san! I apologized in my heart, then peeped into the pochette.
Yoshiguchi-san had said that there weren’t many items inside, but it looked to be filled with all sorts of things. There was a collection of multicolored ballpoint pens, and even a few fluorescent pens. There were also two notebooks that seemed to have been used occasionally. Of course, I didn’t look inside them. There was supposed to be a pair of scissors inside, so I cautiously felt around with my hand to find a pair with rounded edges, as if it were a toy. Perhaps it’s used to cut photo stickers. I also found some lip cream and a mirror in the pochette.
I removed everything from the pochette in a scramble, and noticed something at the very bottom.
“…Is this it?”
It was an envelope that was light blue, no, it was probably closer to pale blue-green in color. It was addressed to Yoshiguchi-san, and written on the back were the name “Takada Youichi”.
“What is this?”
I never expected something like this to show up. In fact, I’d actually expected a listening device or something like that to have been placed in the pochette. In my imagination, the lining of the pochette would have to be cut out so that the listening device could be sewn in. But no matter how you look at it, it’s just a simple envelope. I tried to see through it to view its contents, but there wasn’t enough light coming from the cloudy sky.
Indifferent to my bewilderment, Osanai-san went, “Huh…”, seemingly having grasped the situation. I was about to ask about what she thought of, when…
A sharp voice rang out, causing me to whirl around in surprise.
“Ah, what luck.”
I murmured without thinking. Takada was standing right before us, his face bright red with rage. He looked as though he might throw a punch if I agitated him unnecessarily. I could tell that Osanai-san had slipped behind me to hide. Takada looked at the pochette in my hand, then the envelope in the other, and bellowed hatefully.
“You! Kobato, was it? What are you thinking, looking through someone’s bag!”
This is bad. If I handle this poorly, the situation could turn violent. I hate it when the police is involved, but I also hate it when violence is involved. Especially when it happens to me.
However, the troubling thing here is that I couldn’t escape. If I ran away, it would only set into place a hostile relationship between the two of us. I certainly don’t want to make an enemy with three years left in my high school life. Takada moved closer without hesitation. Looking at his feet, I thought, The hem of his tracksuit sure is wet.
And then the pochette and envelope were taken from my hands… from behind me. Osanai-san had extended her hands from behind and suddenly stole those items away.
Takada’s eyes widened in surprise, as if he had just noticed Osanai-san, however implausible that might sound.
“Who are you?”
“…I’m Osanai. I’m a friend of Kobato-kun.”
Osanai-san gave her name in a feeble voice, causing Takada to snort. He probably saw her as someone easy to deal with. He was about to step forward again, but was sharply stopped by Osanai-san.
“Please don’t move!”
That was probably the same expression as an intimidated squirrel. Having lost momentum, a blank expression appeared on Takada’s face. Osanai-san hugged the pochette and envelope close to her chest and spoke.
“If you come any closer…”
If he comes any closer?
“I’ll run away to a place with lots of people around, and hand this over to Yoshiguchi-san. Are you sure you want that to happen?”
Takada fell silent. He would probably be faster than Osanai-san, but he probably didn’t want to forcibly take the pochette away from her, either. Anyway, if Osanai-san did run away, it would be my job to distract Takada. I have no choice, since that’s the promise I made with Osanai-san, so I really hope she doesn’t run.
The standoff lasted for a while.
Takada looked to be searching for the best move, but he eventually capitulated and sighed.
“Alright, I was wrong.”
Noticing Osanai-san relax, I was relieved. But as I was wondering what she would do next, she approached Takada and presented the two items in her hands, all on her own accord.
Takada exclaimed in surprise. Unable to believe it, he looked at us and the items in turn. After handing the envelope and the pochette to Takada, she hid half of her body behind me. With me as a shield, she spoke to Takada with a small voice that barely reached him.
“That’s a love letter, isn’t it? You didn’t have the courage to directly give it to Yoshiguchi-san, so you decided to put it in her pochette. But you regretted your decision and wanted to retrieve the letter, but someone walked in on you, so you hid the pochette. Is that correct?”
With a start, Takada stiffened. Even I could tell that Osanai-san had hit the mark.
Takada had placed the love letter in the pochette while Yoshiguchi-san wasn’t looking. He’d planned to pass it to her, but regretted his decision, probably thinking that it wasn’t gentlemanly of him to do that. A person who has something snuck into their bag would usually get angry, after all. That doesn’t count as a confession. Realizing that, he tried to retrieve the letter, but with how much clutter there was in the pochette, it would take quite a lot of time. In a fit of panic, he temporarily hid the pochette. So, to deceive Kengo’s search team, he participated in the search and moved the pochette to another hiding spot outside the school building. That was probably what happened.
Another possibility that can be considered is that the letter in the envelope was something other than a love letter, since that would also bring about the same phenomena. However, the attitude of the culprit made the truth clear as day.
Osanai-san strained her voice to chide Takada.
“Since you’ve done it yourself, I don’t think you have the right to criticize Kobato-kun for looking through the contents of someone else’s bag.”
I thought he might fly into a rage again, but the strength drained from Takada’s body. In response, I also relaxed. Takada laughed in a self-deprecating manner.
“You’re right. I did a stupid thing. I don’t know what came over me…”
“It’s good that you understand. We’ll be going off, then.”
Osanai-san pulled the hem of my uniform and retreated. Takada seemed to be letting us go off peaceably, which brought me no end of relief. As we were about to turn back, Takada’s doleful voice sounded.
“You two understand, right? If you like each other, you know the feelings I had when I did this, right?”
The two of us looked at each other.
Well, that’s how it looks on the surface. We nodded at the same time in affirmation, then turned around and quickly left the area.
The crepe at the newly opened store was too sweet for my taste. With more than half of my chocolate banana crepe remaining, Osanai-san spoke.
“Kobato-kun, that’s something I don’t get. While you all were searching for the pochette, Takada-kun could have announced that he found it. Why was he so fixated on secretly returning it later on?”
I looked up to see that Osanai-san had already polished off her apple jam crepe. I licked a bit of fresh cream of my crepe and replied.
“If you were Takada, would you have done that?”
For a moment, Osanai-san tilted her gaze upward in doubt, then looked down bashfully.
“I don’t think I could. It’s too shameless… or rather, too audacious for something in the wrong.”
“…When Takada was moving the pochette out of the school building, he could have retrieved the envelope then. While there was no rush for him to do that, he forgot about it, meaning that he was completely focused on not being found out as the culprit.”
Especially since Kengo was so enthusiastic about it. I chuckled as I imagined what Kengo would be like when filled with rage.
Yoshiguchi-san wouldn’t need to file a police report the next day, since Takada would probably return the pochette to her locker today. It didn’t concern us anymore, but I would at least like to pray for his success. There’s still a long time left in our high school life. Perhaps he’ll find another chance during that time.
I heard an electronic sound. An email had arrived in my mobile phone. It was from Kengo.
“We found the pochette. We don’t know the culprit.”
That was good. It was a really good thing that the problem was settled as if it were just a minor issue. I turned my mobile phone off.
Since Osanai-san had finished eating already, she was probably bored. She gazed out the window and muttered.
“Hey, Kobato-kun… Do you understand the feeling of wanting to give a love letter, then stealing a personal belonging of that person because that’s a chance to pass her the letter?”
While I listened to Osanai-san’s words, all I could think of was the crepe being too sweet.
“He did say that we should know…”
I gave up. I felt a little guilty towards Osanai-san, but it was impossible for me. Placing my chocolate banana crepe on the tray, I sighed.
“I don’t know. That’s a situation that I can’t relate to.”
Well, if we ever feel like understanding that feeling, the day we understand will probably come. But for now, I don’t care, either way. If Osanai-san had eaten her crepe at a normal pace, this conversation wouldn’t have happened.
Dusk was falling outside on the streets.
“Yeah… That goes for me as well.”
The dying red rays of the evening sun shone on Osanai-san’s face as she continued staring out of the window.
Captains (Tier 3) : SuperKatsu, Marieta Tan
Editors (Tier 2) : Joshua Fisher, Yazmin Arostegui, Slush56, Ashley Soffietti, Jen Murph
Assistants (Tier 1) : Karen Kronenberg, Anna, Definitelynotme, Rolando Sanchez, Kevin Kohn, _Maki, Jaime Cuellar
Thank you very much for all your support!
- A reference to a Japanese children’s song, Awatenbou no uta (Song of the Little Scatterbrain), which was originally a German folk song, Schwefelhölzle. The gist of the song is that a scatter-brained boy keeps rushing out to do an errand, but doesn’t hear what the errand is about, forgets his wallet, and even forgets the vegetables he buys. If you’re interested, you can listen to it here. I believe the cute illustrations in the video are good enough, but if you require an English translation, you can get it here.