Humpty Dumpty was located a short distance to the northeast of Funa High School, although Funa High was already at the north side of town. I could get there within five minutes if I were on a bicycle.
With the midterm examinations ended, club activities had resumed. The baseball team and track team were back to training on the sports grounds, and the shoe locker area was still open.
Anyway, I headed for the fourth floor to search for my mobile phone in my classroom. It was there, in the location I’d suspected. I replaced the battery, and checked my email.
“Let’s eat cake.”
“Where are you?”
“Is your phone out of battery?”
…I’ve done a horrible thing.
After placing my phone in a pocket, I got started on my other reason for coming here. Osanai-san was in class 1-C. Feeling the awkwardness of being in school wearing plain clothes, I prayed that I wouldn’t run into anyone as I walked down the corridor.
Perhaps the prayer worked, for the corridor was completely devoid of people, as was the classroom. “Sorrrry for intruding,” I jokingly called out while entering.
Naturally, the classroom had the exact same layout as mine. It had a blackboard, teacher’s lectern, teacher’s table, a collection of desks and chairs, as well as a locker for cleaning equipment. That, however, didn’t stop me from feeling a weird sensation.
Entering another classroom without an invitation seemed somewhat shady, and because of that, I felt like I was doing something wrong. I wondered if I felt that way because I was a petit bourgeois, but that didn’t seem to be right. I could remember feeling awkward when entering a classroom I didn’t belong to, even before I became a petit bourgeois. It must be some psychological reaction, then.
I quickly scanned my surroundings. I did not want anyone to see me like this, and especially not Kengo. He would probably laugh and say, “That’s the old Kobato I know.” I spoke to myself for assurance.
“…It’s fine, I’m not causing trouble to anyone here.”
As proven by my thoughts when my actions were not being witnessed by others, I really did not have enough devotion to the petit bourgeois lifestyle.
There might be some evidence left over that could shed some light on the breaking of the bottle during the exam. If my hypothesis was correct, there had been enough time to clean up the evidence, but that didn’t mean that it had been properly dealt with. If the culprit was conceited or negligent, some evidence may have been left behind.
Yes, there was a culprit.
Osanai-san had also noticed that fact.
The classrooms in Funa High were floored with linoleum. The lockers were also not that high up. Even if a drink bottle fell from the highest point of the locker, I can’t imagine that it would break. A bottle that would break after falling for only about one meter onto linoleum flooring would probably be considered too dangerous and wouldn’t be allowed to circulate. It would be a different story if the bottle had been struck, or if the floor were made out of concrete.
So why did it break… it is a fact that the bottle broke, after all.
Firstly, the cap must be off. Based on the experience I’d gained from pranks I played when I was young, there is a clear difference in intensity when the bottle has a cap and when it doesn’t. Also, it is necessary for the bottle to be damaged. Having some cracks would be good, but it’s quite difficult to get cracks at the exact required spots. It would probably be a lot easier to glue together a bottle that has been broken.
In other words, the bottle did not fall naturally, and also did not break naturally. If the broken state of the bottle was artificial, so must be the falling of the bottle.
Someone had set it up so that the bottle would fall and break during the exam. Osanai-san realized that was the case, and was pissed off that someone had caused a hindrance during her exam, which was why she broke her restriction on Humpty Dumpty.
“So that she can go on a binge.”
I whispered to myself, and laughed at my own statement.
However, Osanai-san didn’t know who would do such a thing. That was why she invited me to Humpty Dumpty as well. But no matter how annoyed she was, she couldn’t call me over and tell me about it due to the promise we made as little citizens. Even so, she wanted to call me, bring up the topic, and find the right time to explain the situation… what would we do about it afterwards?
Well, I’m here in class C investigating, so I’m certainly getting on Osanai-san’s plans to some extent.
I walked one round in the classroom, but couldn’t find anything. The classroom, which had the doors and windows closed, was getting a little warm. Spring was ending soon.
I wouldn’t be particularly troubled even if I didn’t find any evidence, but I walked another round in the classroom anyway.
I looked around, giving special attention to the desks. The desks of Funa High were perfectly normal desks built for school use. They were made of a thin metal board on top of an assembly of pipes, forming a container, with another board fixed on top.
I found what I was looking for on my second round. It seemed that the culprit had indeed been conceited or negligent.
It was at the front part of a desk, hidden by the top board1. A few pieces of cellophane tape had been stuck where it couldn’t be seen by a person standing up. Some words had been written on the tape with an oil-based pen.
Amylase – Starch à Maltose
Maltase – Maltose à Glucose
Sucrase – Sucrose à Glucose and fructose
And so on. It even included “Trypsin – Peptone and proteins à Polypeptides”, that Osanai-san couldn’t remember.
Satisfied, I tore off the cellophane tape, rolled it into a ball and stored it in my pocket. I’ll dispose of it at a random spot later.
With light pedalling, I headed for Humpty Dumpty again.
Basically, it went like this. It is a fact that an easy-to-break bottle was set up to fall during the exam. What did the person who did the setup, or the culprit, have to gain from this?
During the exam, the bottle fell and broke. What would happen afterwards?
If the bottle had been filled with gasoline or some kind of acid, it would be treated as an act of terror, but the bottle was empty. Thus, there is only one thing that would happen: a loud noise.
What would happen if a loud noise sounded during an exam?
It would surprise Osanai-san, causing her to momentarily forget the name of the enzyme that decomposes proteins, which she has almost recalled. That causes the average score of science 1 for freshmen to fall, in turn raising the adjusted standard deviation score of the culprit… but if they were aiming for that, the culprit is prescient. If so, they would have predicted the exam questions, rather than sabotage Osanai-san.
Osanai-san would not be the only one to be surprised by the loud noise. If a noise suddenly breaks out in a classroom where silenced has been maintained, lots of students would be surprised as well. What would happen if they’re surprised by a loud noise? They would forget the name of the enzyme that decomposes proteins… no, enough with that line of thought. I think they would subconsciously turn to look at the source of the noise, or in other words, the back of the classroom. And that would be allowed. To put it more formally, the invigilator would allow students to openly look around during the exam.
And if they can look around?
If students can openly look around, they can’t be faulted even if they look at the beauties of nature. And there is nothing a student would want to look at other than a cheat sheet.
After being surprised by the sound, or pretending to be surprised by the sound, the culprit could turn to look towards the back of the classroom for at least two or three seconds. They wouldn’t be able to look for more than five seconds. However, for the sciences, and for our level of biological studies in particular, memorization is key, so five seconds of looking at a cheat sheet is more than satisfactory. By the way, I’d considered the possibility of the culprit getting the answer through gestures by someone else instead of from a cheat sheet, but it is too difficult to signal an answer in five minutes, and it would attract too much attention, so it is impossible.
Using a cheat sheet would be the safest method. The culprit would not be blamed for looking behind, and the cheat sheet had been set in a position on someone else’s table that is also a blind spot for everyone else, so it would not be noticed. It isn’t difficult to understand the culprit’s feelings. Not wanting to get a bad score in the first exam after entering the school is a natural sentiment, even for someone who may not necessarily be a petit bourgeois. It is a cheap trick, though.
All that is left is to figure out the trick behind making the bottle fall at the right time. Well, that’s not difficult, either. All of us have phones. The culprit could have hidden a phone in his pocket and secretly pushed a button to send an email at the right time, with the receiving phone in the locker. The vibrations caused by receiving the email caused the bottle to lose balance and fall. Of course, that is only a possibility. Ice or dry ice would have worked as well.
The light at the pedestrian crossing in front of me turned red. I looked at my watch. A lot more time had passed than I’d expected. Even Osanai-san could have left the shop already. I sent her an email.
“Are you still at the cake shop?”
The reply came before the light turned green.
“I’m having pumpkin pudding.”
That means that she was still unsatisfied after polishing off the chiffon and shortcake. Perfect.
Editors (Tier 2) : Joshua Fisher, Slush56, _Maki
Assistants (Tier 1) : Karen Kronenberg, Definitelynotme, Rolando Sanchez, Kevin Kohn, Jaime Cuellar, Yazmin Arostegui
Thank you very much for all your support!