The situation was complex.
I’ve read countless stories of people with superhuman powers of observation and deduction, who can reach a conclusion in a single leap of logic, but because of that struggle to explain it to normal people. Thankfully for me, I don’t possess superhuman powers of observation or deduction. Since I can’t do leaps of logic, the path that my logic takes can be easily explained. By following such a chain of logic, I can sometimes find myself stuck exploring dead ends, but all I can do is believe in my intelligence. It is always a comfort to me if it goes well.
“Let me think about how to start,” I pleaded for more time. I placed a fist on my head and thought about it as Kengo waited.
One or two minutes passed. I put down my fist and spoke in a leisurely manner.
“…Alright, I’ll start by going through the information we already have, just to be sure. Three days ago, we found Osanai-san’s bicycle by the road, but there were no locations that looked like it could be a destination nearby. Even so, Sakagami needed to get to that spot before a pre-decided time. Thus, we can only think that there is something that passes that road on a schedule, and that has to be a bus.
“What do you think about it so far?”
I summarized the contents of the discussion with Osanai-san three days ago. Kengo looked taken aback for a while, then thought for a while, seemingly digesting what I’d just said.
“Did you confirm that a bus goes down that road?”
“Yes, we did.”
“Sounds good, then.”
“That bus is a free shuttle bus to a driving school. Sakagami was trying to get on that bus. What do you think of this?”
A slight frown appeared on Kengo’s face.
“Hold up. Is that the only bus that passes by during that time?”
“We were in the area for about thirty minutes. You could also say that we were there in a fifteen minute window of seeing Sakagami. The bus that he planned to take was definitely that shuttle bus.”
“In other words, Sakagami wanted to go to that driving school.”
“Next…” I started, but Kengo immediately cut me off with a wave.
“Hang on again. Just because he got on the shuttle bus does not necessarily mean that his destination was the driving school. It could be that the shuttle bus was the most convenient vehicle to get to his destination, and that he didn’t have anything to do at the driving school.”
He sure is meticulous. Indeed, I can’t exactly rule out that possibility… No, I can do that.
“…Kira North Driving School doesn’t run a shuttle bus service as a voluntary service. They probably wouldn’t let in people who aren’t enrolled.”
“Is that so? Even assuming that is the case, how would they differentiate between people who are enrolled and people who aren’t enrolled?”
To differentiate these two groups of people, those who are enrolled need to produce some sort of identification, and that has to be something that the bus driver is able to recognize even while driving.
I thought back to Sakagami’s appearance four days ago, and there was only one thing I could think of, which was also the only thing that he was carrying. I slowly replied.
“It’s a bag. Or rather, it’s a document holder, and it’s white in color. That’s the only thing that would be easy to spot.”
“I see… Come to think of it, I’ve seen people holding white document holders getting on that bus.”
Well, both Kengo and I have lived in this town for fifteen years, after all, though we don’t have any memory of the first few years, naturally. It was only after he mentioned it, but I also have a memory of that scene. That memory endorses the validity of my thinking.
“So, it would be like this. To get on the shuttle bus to Kira North Driving School, you need to have be at a certain selected location, holding the document folder given by the school as a means of identification. I don’t know if this is an original rule by Kira North Driving School, or if they practise this everywhere across the country.
“Anyway, if you agree that Sakagami took the shuttle bus, you are also basically agreeing that he is enrolled in Kira North Driving School. It would be too strange for him to fill in the forms for enrolment, pay the fees and only use the school as a midpoint.”
“…Yes, I understand. It’s probably as you say. I shouldn’t have interrupted your chain of logic.”
“No, it’s a lot easier with checks like this. We’re talking about Osanai-san’s safety here. It would help me if you’re rigorous about this, so that we don’t make any mistakes.”
Kengo, who had his arms still folded, didn’t say anything.
Now for the conclusion we can make from all this. I took a deep breath.
“Basically, Sakagami was trying to get a driving license.”
Kengo frowned slightly.
“Yes, that would be a logical conclusion. But what of it? Whether or not he wants to get a license is his choice.”
That is certainly true.
However, my conclusion that Sakagami wanted to get a driving license only served to deepen my misgivings. We’d reached that conclusion with detailed reasoning, but it is a conclusion that can be automatically drawn as soon as we confirmed the premise that Sakagami had boarded the shuttle bus belonging to the driving school. As Kengo asked, “What of it?”
What exactly does that mean?
“…What do you think Sakagami is trying to get a driving license for?”
Kengo answered quickly and shortly, as if to stamp out the ridiculousness of that question.
“To drive, or course.”
“Well, you can still drive even without a license. It’s just a machine, after all.”
“…Just say it straight, Jougorou.”
You don’t have to get so sore. My head will go dull if we get too serious, anyway.
I cleared my throat.
“Well, if that is the case, or if Sakagami wants to obtain a driving license for the sake of being able to officially drive a vehicle, then there’s no problem. In fact, I would wish him good luck on his studies.”
“So your conclusion in the end is that you don’t have a problem? I’ll be off if you don’t need me for anything else.”
Ignoring his words, I continued speaking to further my train of thought.
“But is that all? Why is he getting a license? Or you could ask, what is he going to use a driving license for? The use of objects may not always be straightforward. A glass bottle could be used in a ploy for cheating, for example. A driving license could probably be thrown to perform the trick of cutting up a banana.”
“You’re saying that he’s getting a license for that parlor trick?”
“…Indeed, as a physical entity, the plastic card that serves as a driving license can only be used to do something as insignificant as cutting a banana. I would like to turn my eyes to another efficacy of a driving license.”
The efficacy, or authority of a driving license. If you have one, what can you do? As someone who doesn’t own a license, I don’t understand that very well. No, that’s not true. A person actually receiving their license for the first time will not think that there will be some important secret behind it.
A driving license. I’ve seen one a few times. It contains a portrait, date of birth and address, I believe.
…I see. So that’s what I should focus on.
I took a breath, and paused.
“Basically, I’m talking about the side of the driving license that can act as personal identification.”
Probably having sensed that I’d made a leap in my reasoning, a cautious glint formed in Kengo’s eyes. However, no rebuttal came, so I continued, paying him no heed.
“Here we come to a fork in the road. What was Sakagami trying to get a driving license for?
“The first option: to obtain permission to drive a vehicle.
“The second option: to obtain a form of personal identification.
“Do you have a third or fourth option to add?”
Kengo slowly shook his head.
“Nope, but out of those two options, it’s obviously the former.”
“When one says, ‘it should be obvious’, it generally isn’t.”
After randomly spouting a line that sounded like an aphorism, I continued.
“I think it’s suspicious. For the first option, Kengo would just need to go through the normal procedures, which he would have no qualms doing. However…”
But I was interrupted in the middle of my sentence.
“He might have some qualms about getting a license. It could be against the school rules.”
I immediately responded.
“In Funa High, everyone is free to get a license. What about for Minakami High? I’ve seen some of their students leaving school on scooters.”
I didn’t say that the sighting was in front of a cake shop. That was a little embarrassing for me.
“Eight or nine times out of ten, it wouldn’t be in the school rules. Also, I know that I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but I don’t think Sakagami would be the type to back down even if it were written in the students’ handbook that getting a driving license is not allowed.”
Kengo nodded. I suppose we’ll save this discussion for later, and return to the topic at hand.
“So, as I was trying to say just now, I have some doubts about Sakagami trying to get a license for normal purposes… could you give me some time?”
Those doubts were probably borne from the psychological reaction of not wanting to believe Sakagami to be the type of person to seriously get a license. However, I should try to exclude such biased judgments, as much as possible. If I start saying things like “Since it’s probably not like this anyway” or “Since it’s probably like that anyway”, I wouldn’t make a good detective. In other words, by kicking against the pricks1, being a true detective is completely different from being a petit bourgeois.
Two to three minutes passed. Kengo must have been bored, but he stayed anyway. I sure am glad to have him around.
The bits and pieces of information whirled around in my head as I organized them and gave them meaning. Osanai-san often commented that I look like I’m enjoying myself like this.
I finally wrapped up my thoughts. There were three questions in my mind. How should I explain them? I planned my strategy out for another one or two minutes.
I deliberately raised a finger.
“The first question is one of distance. Why did Sakagami choose Kira North Driving School?
“That driving school is out of town. On the day that Osanai-san’s bicycle was stolen, I remember Sakagami saying something about going back home to get his bicycle. That means that he usually walks to school, and it follows that his house is close to Minakami High. Also, Minakami High is roughly in the southwest part of town, so even with a bus, it takes quite a lot of effort for Sakagami to get to Kira North Driving School.
“You should also know, Kengo, that there is another driving school in this town, Kira West Driving School. Do you know where it is?”
“It’s a little north of Minakami High.”
“Exactly. Basically, it can’t be far from Sakagami’s house. In the first place, Kira North Driving School is meant for residents of the neighboring towns, rather than the residents of this town. Considering convenience of travel, Sakagami should have obviously chosen Kira West Driving School.”
“When one says, ‘it should be obvious’, it generally isn’t.”
“Whose words are those? They sound so cliched and common. That’s such a dull warning. Anyway, if you think it’s weak, could you grade it for me? Give me a ratio of how much you think it’s suspicious, and how much you think it’s not suspicious at all.”
Kengo spent some time thinking.
“I would say it’s 65 to 35 that it’s not suspicious.”
“That’s a fair value. Now for the second question: age.”
I raised two fingers this time.
“On the day Osanai-san’s bicycle was stolen, Sakagami was talking to the members of a group, and he called one of them senpai. This is also important, but I remember that person calling someone else senpai. Incidentally, all of them were wearing Minakami High uniforms.”
“You say this is important?”
“I don’t get it.”
“Let’s phrase it differently, then. Since there is a senpai of a senpai, Sakagami is a kouhai of a kouhai. In other words, he is a first-year student, assuming that there are no considerably strange circumstances at play.”
“I understand that much. What I don’t get is why you think it’s important.”
I let out a small chuckle.
“That’s not like you. This kind of official procedure should be within your field of expertise.”
Kengo parroted my words, then raised his head as the penny dropped.
“I see. A first-year student in high school, and we’re…”
I nodded excitedly.
“Fifteen or sixteen. However, the type of license that you can get at the youngest age, which is the motorcycle license, can only be gotten starting from the age of sixteen.
“It is June now. About five out of six first-year students are still fifteen, and cannot apply for a license. Basically, there’s a one to five chance for us to be suspicious.”
Kengo stared on vacantly for a moment. Not giving him any time, I raised three fingers and pointed them at him.
“Now for the third question, about his attitude.
“Let’s assume that he’s sixteen, and that he’s trying to get a motorcycle license at Kira North Driving School. If I’m not wrong, you don’t need to have taken lessons to apply for a motorcycle license. Now, Sakagami-kun, who has the nerves to steal someone else’s bicycle without batting an eyelid, was running late in getting to the driving school. The shuttle bus had already left, and to catch up with it, he could only rush from the southern part of town straight to the northern outskirts of town on his bicycle at full speed.
“The question is, would he rush to that extent?”
An answer came my way without a moment’s pause.
“If it were me, I would probably do it.”
I also immediately replied.
“You would do it, Kengo, but I wouldn’t. The question is whether Sakagami would do that, all for the sake of getting a motorcycle license. It might be an exam or a lesson, and while you can’t say that he could have it any day, taking that exam or lesson is not limited to that one day. Why didn’t he skip out on that day?”
“Anyone can be temporarily serious about getting their license. Also, he could have some circumstances that were compelling him to do it as fast as possible.”
“I do think there were some circumstances behind it. The way I see it, it would be unnatural if Sakagami were not in some kind of situation. So what is that situation?
“It would be smooth to think of it this way. Sakagami was told to get his license by someone of higher standing.”
Kengo’s gaze sharpened as he tucked his folded arms deeper in.
“Someone, you say? What would they do that for?”
I had a start. I’d never even considered that person of higher standing to be strange. Why did I say that? Was it just my intuition that someone of higher social standing was involved? As soon as I had that thought, a face appeared in my mind, of the only genteel-looking person in Sakagami’s group… No, I don’t have any evidence or rationale to support this, so I shouldn’t be considering his involvement now. I spoke vaguely.
“Well, I mean, we can answer that when we come to it.
“Anyway, I’d like you to make a judgment. How suspicious is this earnest behavior of the bicycle thief?”
Kengo made a short sigh.
“Alright. Seven to three that it’s not suspicious.”
“These are my three doubts. Right, now let’s calculate your suspicion for Sakagami.”
From my pocket, I retrieved my mobile phone and brought up the calculator program that was listed in the menu.
“For the first issue, you trusted Sakagami for 65 percent. For the second, you said it was one to five, which is roughly 17 percent. The third is 70 percent.
“Kengo, how much do you think you believe that Sakagami is trying to get a driving license for a perfectly natural reason?”
The square face crumpled and distorted. He must have realized that he’d walked into a trap. Laying such impromptu traps is my forte. I showed him the monitor of my phone.
“It’s 0.077, or about 8 percent.
“I can get you to agree that even by your thinking, you find Sakagami to be 92 percent suspicious, right, Kengo?”
Kengo unfolded his arms and tightly curled his hands into fists. He then groaned bitterly.
“Damn… This is exactly what you were like back then. You’re not down and out yet, you can do it if you want to. You sure are an unpleasant fellow.”
“For now, I’ll think of that as a compliment.”
I retorted, while sticking my tongue out in my heart.
Actually, the second of my three doubts was a little strange, although I’d managed to cover it up with my skill at conversation. For the other two points, you could say ‘that might be true, but there is nothing unusual about it’, but the same cannot be said for the question of age. You cannot say, ‘He is fifteen years old, but there is nothing unusual.’ Grouping the three ratios and multiplying them is not a correct calculation. Additionally, even if fifteen year olds cannot get a license, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they cannot enrol in a driving school. They just have to be sixteen at the time when they apply for a license. However, I did not touch on that point.
Anyway, even if we let the age question go, with 65 percent and 70 percent, the total suspiciousness would still be slightly under 50 percent. If there’s a fifty-fifty chance that Osanai-san is in danger, I would definitely move to help, and Kengo would lend me his strength. Even so, I did lay a trap, so there is no helping getting called an unpleasant person. What a troubling personality I have, adding to the difficulty of becoming a petit bourgeois.
“It seems that there is some kind of questionable aspect about Sakagami trying to obtain a license.”
I continued the discussion. Thirty minutes had already passed, but I didn’t panic, instead thinking that I should steadily build the chain of logic.
“Now, we get to the question of what kind of ways there are to use a driving license for questionable activities.
“…We’re talking about an official identification document, after all. You can do as many bad deeds as you want with it.”
“This may have nothing to do with this case in particular, but…”
Kengo cut in.
“…When you talk about bad deeds using official identification, criminal organizations come to mind, domestic or international.”
Well, that is true. I can’t say that the image of some kind of organized criminal groups like the mafia, gangs or the yakuza didn’t come to mind. However, just as Kengo had suggested, I didn’t think that they were relevant to the case at hand.
“If you go down that line of thought, it is certainly possible, but I’m not sure that it’s probable. I can’t imagine that Sakagami is such a bigshot of an underling. He’s just a high school student, after all.”
“’Bigshot of an underling’ has such a weird ring to it.”
Kengo quipped as a light smirk appeared on his face.
“So, what is it that the simple high school student Sakagami, who is neither a bigshot of an underling nor a virtuous student, can do after obtaining official personal identification?”
I muttered and fell into thought. But only one idea rose from the waves of thought in my head. To be precise, it was more like a rough direction rather than an idea.
“…Unless he’s secretly hiding some grand ambitions, I think he most likely wants to get a license for the sake of earning some petty pocket change.”
“Putting aside the question of whether it’s petty…”
Kengo stated his preamble, then nodded.
“That sounds right.”
“…You’re satisfied with that?”
I would have been stuck if he’d asked me to prove it, so I was quite surprised by his agreement. Following my unrestrained cry, Kengo remarked.
“On the contrary, I would be surprised if the motive of that kind of guy isn’t money.”
Since he’d already obediently accepted my conclusion, I would sound like a contrarian for saying this, but I felt like it would be good to solidify my foothold. It might be hasty, but I had no choice.
“If he wants to misuse his personal identification, it would certainly be to earn some pocket money. However, he might not necessarily intend to misuse it.”
But Kengo made a counter-argument, as if our positions had been swapped.
“That’s not right. If he doesn’t intend to misuse it, he would be using it normally, to show his identity. In that case, he can obviously use other things, like his student ID, Certificate of Residence or Certificate of the Family Register.”
“…I see. That is true.”
Kengo switched the positions of his folded arms.
“But Jougorou, I’m starting to see some infeasibility about misusing the license. That’s a license for a sixteen-year-old. What could it possibly do?”
He thought for a while, then continued.
“Couldn’t he at least show his license when trying to sell off a CD that he shoplifted?”
I shook my head slightly.
“If that’s the case, he wouldn’t need to obtain the license. His student ID would be enough. Furthermore, if Sakagami got a license just to sell stolen goods, his main motive becomes unclear. The profit margin is too small, with so much effort being put in, but so little reward.”
“…I don’t get what you’re trying to say here.”
I started, then took a breath. The infeasibility that Kengo mentioned was that even if Sakagami abused his personal identification document as a sixteen-year-old, he couldn’t earn a lot from it. So, basically…
“…All we need is a method to increase the profit margin.”
Feeling my mouth go dry, I gently licked my lips. We would soon be getting to the climax of this discussion. I could feel chills in my head, a sensation that I don’t usually experience. I could still express myself fluently, but I was starting to feel annoyed by the clumsy movement of my tongue.
“The amount of money that can be earned with the license of a sixteen-year-old is certainly of little significance. Even if Sakagami does intend to make that small amount of money, it would be ridiculous to use his own personal identification.
“What I’m trying to say is this. If you clearly want to make some pocket money, all you have to do is make a license using the name of someone else over the age of twenty. It would all be possible if you have that.”
I recited multiple lines that sounded like catchphrases of consumer credit personnel.
“Hey, Jougorou, do you know what you’re saying?”
Kengo chimed in with a somewhat perturbed slur.
“That’s forgery of an official printed document.”
Is that so? I hadn’t considered criminal charges. In any case, that’s only preparation for the next step, which is, essentially…
For now, I ignored Kengo’s objection.
“What do you need to enrol in a driving school? We have to do a little investigation into that.”
“…Shall we make a call?”
“That’s also fine, but…”
I suddenly remembered. In the last two days, I’d gathered some materials, which included the pamphlet for Kira North Driving School. I opened up my bag to search for my favorite white loose-leaf notebook, which had all the materials wedged in it. There it is. Kira North Driving School Enrolment Guide. Something that you can find anywhere in town.
I placed the pamphlet in the space between Kengo and I. The two of us looked down at it, and found the correct heading. Using his finger as a guide, Kengo read it aloud.
“Items to prepare for enrolment.”
“The applicant’s Certificate of Residence and inkan.”
…Is that it?
That means we have a bit of a problem. I began thinking about it in my head, then remembered that Kengo was still there, so I vocalized my thoughts. I started out slow, but gradually sped up as my thoughts solidified.
“Certificate of Residence and inkan, huh… To get the Certificate of Residence, you don’t actually need proof of identity; all you need is the inkan. This means that to make a license in the name of someone over the age of twenty, all you need is one inkan. After that, you can choose a victim. A resident of this town who is over the age of twenty, and does not possess a driving license.”
Hold on. I pulled the brakes on my words. Don’t I know someone who is related to Sakagami and meets all those conditions? When he stole Osanai-san’s bicycle, he hadn’t bothered to peel off the bicycle license seal. Thanks to that, Osanai-san was called to the Student Guidance Office twice. The second time was three days ago, about the broken bicycle being found. What about the first time?
I continued thinking.
“…Furthermore, the inkan can be just a ready-made seal. I’m not sure about ‘Kobato’, but I’m pretty sure you can buy one that says ‘Satou’ at any stationery shop in town.
“But Sakagami… or to be precise, the group that uses Sakagami targeted someone with quite a rare surname.”
Kengo frowned. It was only natural since I was furthering the discussion based on information that he didn’t know. I quickly followed up.
“There’s a student called Io Kibe in this town. When he went out to vote, his empty apartment was burgled. Since he has the right to vote, he’s a resident who is at least twenty years old. His bankbook was not touched, but his inkan was stolen. And Sakagami’s bicycle… or rather, the bicycle that Sakagami stole from Osanai-san was spotted nearby.
“I don’t think you can dismiss that as a coincidence.”
Kengo, who had a grimace on his face, abruptly faced downwards. Just when I thought he would stay still in the position, he spoke up in a subdued voice.
“In that case, he doesn’t need a motorcycle license. A scooter license would be cheaper, and easier to obtain.”
I considered that for a bit.
“The motorcycle license is more convenient because you can use it for actual driving on roads. Moreover, using a scooter license for social credit is simply suspicious, don’t you think? You don’t hear about that.”
“I see, but…”
Kengo replied solemnly.
“You have no proof.”
I slapped the table. The sound caused Kengo to look up.
“I’ve finally read what Osanai-san is trying to do. Why did I think that she was in danger?”
I took a deep breath, then looked at Kengo square in the face.
“I’ll summarize it in one sentence.
“Osanai-san is confronting a group with a scheme for fraud.”
Feeling that the chain of logic was secure with those words, I continued.
“Osanai-san will never forgive Sakagami, who stole her bicycle, broke it, and caused her spring-exclusive strawberry tarts to go to waste. She is sensitive to his movements, and will probably go for the jugular if he shows any gaps. Three days ago, when we found out that Sakagami was going to that driving school, she said, ‘We’ve got a lead.’
“Come to think of it, I wonder if Osanai-san intends to secure proof with the digital camera she’s so proud of. The evidence she should secure is clear. She needs is a photograph showing that Sakagami’s name is indeed Sakagami, as well as a photograph showing that Sakagami is registered to the driving school under a different name. All that’s left…”
“All that’s left?”
I mumbled the last part of my sentence, but under Kengo’s hawkish gaze, I had no choice but to continue properly.
“…All that’s left is to see how far Osanai-san goes. I don’t think she’ll resort to blackmail or extortion, but…”
“Wait a minute.”
Kengo tilted his head, unable to comprehend what I just said.
“The Osanai-san you’re talking about is that Osanai-san, right? I can’t remember her given name, but that girl came to my house the other day, and, um… she seemed to be the very personification of shyness.”
Reluctantly, I nodded.
“Yeah, that’s Osanai Yuki.”
“But you said she would go for the jugular or even resort to blackmail or extortion…”
My voice grew softer.
“Well, Kengo, I used to be a smart aleck, but I didn’t like that, so I started aiming to be a petit bourgeois.”
“She wants her past self to be kept a secret, but she’s similar to me. Both of us swore to master the path of the petit bourgeois. However, what Osanai-san wants to discard is not craftiness.”
I peeked at my surroundings, expecting to see Osanai-san standing behind me without my knowing, but thankfully, she wasn’t there. Even so, I stifled my voice even more.
“If I can be compared to a fox, she was like a wolf in the past.”
Kengo’s mouth opened wide, painting a simple picture of his mental state.
“Now, Osanai-san makes a happy face only when there is something sweet in front of her. But it wasn’t like that in the past. She used to enjoy herself the most when she thoroughly crushed opponents that posed a threat to her.”
I probably don’t need to explain to Kengo what kind of counterpunches the people that tried to lay a hand on Osanai-san took, or how well she outmaneuvred them to get that result. It should be sufficient to say that there were all sorts of situations. In the first place, I don’t even know everything about her.
The matter of her bicycle being stolen probably didn’t really matter to Osanai-san, and perhaps neither did the matter of her strawberry tarts going to waste. The truly important aspect of this case is the part that gave Osanai-san a pretext to seek her revenge. Her heart must be fluttering from being able to take revenge on someone after such a long time. However, the two of us decided to be little citizens. I decided to leave behind my craftiness, while Osanai-san decided to leave behind her vindictiveness. The day after her bicycle was stolen, she said, “I’ll feel much better having something else to think about right now,” then helped me, which was uncharacteristic of her. It wasn’t that she wanted to think about something else to forget the shock of the bicycle theft. She’s not that pure of a person.
I understood that what she was trying to forget about that day was her own propensity for vengeance.
“No, I don’t believe it, at least with what I can see,” Kengo said. That’s fine. Even Osanai-san would no doubt be thankful for that. Anyway, what’s important now is not her past, but her present situation. Without waiting for Kengo to get over his wavering, I continued.
“In any case, Osanai-san is approaching that dangerous bunch. Based on our calculations earlier, there’s a 92 percent chance that they’re doing something shady, right?
“On one hand, I feel that there’s no need to worry about Osanai-san. You probably don’t know, but Osanai-san is amazing. Her body’s so tiny, so she can stealthily approach her target, although I can’t explain how she does it. She’s dextrous, and her body’s in great shape. Sometimes I think that she can even throw shuriken. She should be able to do something simple like gathering photographic evidence without a hitch.
“But if what I’ve surmised is true, that would mean that Sakagami is the weakness in their plan.2 They might actually be putting up a strong guard around him. All of them are men, so even Osanai-san would be in danger in a contest of strength. If she gets captured by a group of men who cannot be described as virtuous…”
“…I don’t want to think about it.”
“Give me a bit of time to digest all this.”
Go ahead, I replied and closed my mouth. Kengo temporarily released the arms that had been folded all this time, swung them two of three times to stimulate blood flow, then folded them again. His eyebrows were knitted, which showed that he was thinking hard about it.
By all rights, Kengo doesn’t need to do any thinking here. Even if he doesn’t verify that my deductions are correct, he could have just perfunctorily accepted my request and only done the thinking when I actually require his help. However, he’s treating this seriously now that he’s accepted the request. That’s what makes him so reliable. I’ve held Kengo in contempt over various aspects, but I recognize his worth in a much greater number of aspects. He probably knows this, too.
Finally, Kengo moved. He thrust his right hand into his pocket and retrieved his mobile phone.
“I can do a simple check right now. Let’s do it.”
He muttered, then pressed a button without waiting for a response from me. I couldn’t tell who he called, but they answered immediately. It seemed that they were someone Kengo was familiar with, for he instantly broached the subject.
“Are you free now? There’s a guy with the family name Sakagami who apparently graduated from Kido Middle School last year. I want to know his date of birthday. Yeah, sure. You can use whatever method you want.”
I see. Kido Middle School is one of the middle schools in this town, but Kengo had put some thought into that selection. If Sakagami’s house is somewhere near Minakami High School, there is no doubt that he studied at Kido Middle School. With that information, we can find out his birthday. I hadn’t considered this, but a person with many connections could get into contact with someone who graduated from Kido Middle School last year. All that’s left is a simple task. There is a very high chance that the graduation album contains the birth dates of each student.
But Kengo started saying weird responses.
“No, that’s not it. Yeah, it’s related to Kobato… What did you say? So, you accepted it? No, it’s not particularly bad. So, you have the results? …I see. Yeah, that’s all. I’ll hang up, then. Sorry to take up your time.”
He put down the phone. Wondering what had happened, I waited for him to say something. Kengo roughly brushed his head.
“We’ve been overtaken.”
“By Sakagami? Who were you talking to, anyway?”
“My sister. She prides herself on having a hundred friends, so we can definitely rely on her connections. Anyway, it wasn’t Sakagami. It was Osanai-san who got ahead of us.”
“She asked the same thing yesterday. My stupid sister thought that Osanai-san had switched from you to Sakagami, and was feeling sorry for you.”
I felt like laughing. Not from Chisato-senpai’s misunderstanding, but Osanai-san’s initiative.
“I didn’t know that Osanai-san was on such good terms with Chisato-senpai.”
“Well, by my sister’s standards, you’re a friend if you exchange a few words with her. You two have come over to our house, so you would be treated as close friends.”
Well, we didn’t just visit. Chisato-senpai, Osanai-san and I are three comrades who have bested “Kengo’s Challenge”.
“…More importantly, the results are out.”
The results. I straightened my posture. Thankfully, Kengo didn’t leave me hanging.
“There is one guy with the family name Sakagami. My sister forgot the date, but said that he was born in December. Now, there is no question that Sakagami is only 15 years old.”
I swallowed my saliva.
With this, the chances of Sakagami getting a driving license in an honest manner is reduced by a considerable amount. It isn’t zero because it is worth considering the possibility that Sakagami failed his high school entrance examinations, then eventually went to MInakami High… no, not really.
As if to psyche himself up, Kengo exhaled sharply.
“I understand the situation now. Call me if you need my help. I’ll drop everything and run over as fast as I can. But if you know that much, you should spend some effort to make her stop.”
“I tried, but it didn’t work.”
I replied as the two of us stood up at about the same time. Kengo looked at his watch. Come to think of it, he’d mentioned that he had an errand to run, but this ended up becoming a long conversation. I feel bad for him.
We were at the point where we would say nothing but our goodbyes and split up.
That was when my phone rang. I don’t use music for my ringtone, but I’ve become able to tell from the sound if it is a call or an email. This one was telling me that I’d just received an email, so I unconcernedly took out my phone.
“…It’s from Osanai-san.”
“What is it about?”
Kengo stopped moving as he was about to leave the classroom. I felt my body temperature plummet while I was opening the message. Probably sensing my abnormal state, Kengo approached.
“What’s the matter?”
“No… I don’t know. What is this?”
On my mobile phone screen was the email from Osanai-san, but nothing was written in it. There was no subject, and only a URL was affixed to the body of the email. Upon clicking the URL, all I got was a blank, white page.
It would be fine if it were just a blank email. But what is this for?
I didn’t want to think that way, but my thoughts kept drifting in a bad direction. Unconsciously, I murmured.
“What if she’s in a situation where she can’t type out the message…”
Hearing that, Kengo swiftly came to a decision.
“Jougorou, do you walk to school?”
“I see. We can take my bicycle, then. Kira North Driving School, is it? Let’s go.”
With just those words, Kengo dashed out of the classroom.
To be precise, I didn’t actually witness Kengo doing that. That’s because I was one step earlier, and had already sprinted out at full speed.
Editors (Tier 2) : Joshua Fisher, Slush56, _Maki
Assistants (Tier 1) : Karen Kronenberg, Definitelynotme, Rolando Sanchez, Yazmin Arostegui
Thank you very much for all your support!
- This means to argue against authority.
- Actually, before this sentence, there is another sentence in the original text that goes, “ただ、ぼくの読み通りなら、相手には今回の絵を描いたやつがいる”, which means “But if my read on the situation is correct, that group of people she’s dealing with includes the guy who drew the picture the other time.” I believe this is referring to Ōhama-senpai in chapter 2, but that doesn’t really make sense, because there was no mention of Ōhama-senpai or pictures before and after that line, so I removed it.