Ten days had passed since Osanai-san obtained the photographic evidence. I, and probably Osanai-san as well, was already starting to forget this case. However, on that day, I froze while reading the morning paper. It was treated as a small matter, but there was an article in the local news section.
Kiyoshi Police Department – Five High School Students Arrested for Attempted License Fraud
Reading on, I found out that a seventeen-year-old third-year student was arrested as the leader for the operation. Arrested, huh. That means that it’ll go on his record. Driving licenses are the jurisdiction of the Public Safety Commission. So the reward for making an enemy of public safety is an arrest, rather than an official reprimand. Well, it’s fine as long as it doesn’t get covered up. That’s a joke, but that thought kept crossing my mind, and I couldn’t do anything about it.
It was a Saturday, so there was no school. I decided to contact Osanai-san with my phone and arrange to meet up with her at some café. I was the first one to reach the shop, and Osanai-san appeared less than five minutes later. She was in a cool sky-blue dress, and a white jacket which had laces on its sleeves. It was an outfit that was neither flashy nor plain. In a corner of the store, we found a table in front of another that was taken by a couple, so we took a seat there. From the morning selection, I chose toast, while Osanai-san ordered hot cakes.
I laid the article in question out on the table. Sensibly, Osanai-san had brought along other newspapers as well. Asahi, Yomiuri, Mainichi. While the level of importance was varied, it was reported in all of those newspapers.
I wonder what the waitress who brought us our breakfast thinks about us. Besides the fact that the two of us were both looking down at the newspapers and reading the articles, the silence between us was like what you would expect at a vigil, bringing about an awkward atmosphere, as if we were a couple whose cheating affairs were just brought to light.
When the hotcakes with maple syrup arrived, Osanai-san didn’t even reach for them, and instead muttered.
“…I can’t believe this happened…”
“I can’t believe it either…”
Naturally, the article did not include the real names of the students involved, only mentioning that they tried to impersonate a twenty-year-old student currently living in this town. That said, there was no way that the same incident happened twice. Also, if this incident was so widely reported, it would certainly reach Kengo’s ears. Even he wouldn’t believe that the girl at the driving school at that time was Osanai-san’s twin sister, so this would cause a complete change in his recognition for her.
I found out a few things from the articles.
Why did the group aim to get a fake motorcycle license, which requires being taught at the driving school rather than a scooter license, which is cheaper? I thought that it was because the motorcycle license is more useful for actual transport, and more trusted by society, but I was only half-correct. Apparently, Sakagami had originally planned to get a motorcycle license upon entering high school. When he told that to the group, it was decided that he would be used for their fraud scheme. Basically, Sakagami paid for the lessons out of his own pocket, was made to take on someone else’s name, and desperately pedalled on a bicycle to get to his lesson on time, but didn’t get his license and got a mark on his record for his trouble. Underlings sure have it hard.
Another thing. How was the group able to find out that Io Kibe-san didn’t own a driving license? It was actually the reverse. They didn’t find out about Io Kibe-san’s license status, but the basis behind the entire scheme was someone in the group knowing that Io Kibe-san didn’t have a license. The articles didn’t mention them by name, so I don’t know how Io Kibe-san and the group are linked. Well, that’s a different matter. Something must have happened between them in the past.
To tell the truth, we didn’t directly indict Sakagami and his gang. Osanai-san wanted vengeance, but also wasn’t keen on dealing with the police. Thus, we made anonymous phone calls from a public payphone to consumer credit companies to warn them of someone with the name “Io Kibe” looking to borrow money. They would also receive a photograph as evidence the following day.
The people at those consumer credit companies are pros at lending money. They would have probably seen through the crafty plot of Sakagami and co even without our warning. Thinking about it like this would be good for conscience’s sake, but we thought about it a different way: that Osanai Yuki did a great job in making them pay for ruining the Spring-Exclusive Strawberry Tarts.
But it seemed that the vengeance seeker was unable to be in good spirits.
“Even when I decided to stop that habit…”
Osanai-san spoke in a voice that made it seem like she was about to burst into tears, while picking up the maple syrup and spreading it over her hotcakes. She waited for the last drop of syrup to fall, then continued.
“Even when I decided to become a petit bourgeois.”
Setting the butter aside, she used a knife to split a hotcake into four pieces, but it seemed that her appetite failed to rise to the surface. Osanai-san looked up at me from under her amasogi haircut.
“Sorry, Kobato-kun. You even tried to stop me, as promised.”
I slowly shook my head.
“I also broke the promise. I decided to stop playing the detective, but thinking back…”
One, two, three, I counted with my fingers. The case of the pochette, the case of the two paintings, the case of the delicious cocoa. Even if the case of the broken drink bottle can’t be counted, adding Sakagami’s case…
“I’ve done it four times already.”
“That goes for the two of us.”
Almost in sync, we let out a deep sigh. Looking at the newspapers spread before us only made me want to sigh even more, so I folded all the newspapers up and stood up to return them. After returning to my seat and calming down, I took a sip of the coffee that I didn’t even feel like drinking.
“Shall we stop this?”
With the coffee cup in my hand, I looked at Osanai-san.
“Being vindictive is part of my personality, and always wanting to poke your nose into other’s affairs is part of yours, Kobato-kun. We can’t do anything about that, so shall we give up? No matter how much we try to deceive ourselves, our faults still come to light in the end. If we try so hard to resist those urges but act on them anyway, then in the first place…”
I put down my cup, causing the saucer to clink.
“I can understand your wanting to give up, Osanai-san. But we weren’t exactly deceiving ourselves. We were trying to improve on our shortcomings; of course it would seem impossible. Weren’t you the one who told me some time ago that being wildly impudent while knowing that it is wrong shows too little self-control? We’re still in the middle of correction, I say.”
I looked at her with unyielding spirit in my eyes.
“We can’t achieve that overnight. We’re a little too impatient to immediately become perfect petit bourgeois. Let’s not give up. Let’s do our best, and get there, slowly but surely.”
We should develop the understanding, acceptance and civil indifference within us, and reach for the stars, the stars of the petit bourgeois.
Osanai-san looked back at me. I could sense her determination from her eyes.
She gave a powerful nod.
At that moment, a spurt of water hit the back of her head with a splash. Unaware of what had happened, Osanai-san fluttered her eyes and whirled around.
Since I was sitting opposite her, I knew what exactly had happened. There was a couple sitting behind us, and the woman had thrown some water at the man. Well, to be precise, she tried to throw water at him, but with brilliant movements, he twisted his body and managed to dodge almost all of the water.
Aghast, Osanai-san didn’t let out a sound, and I was exactly the same. Slamming the now empty cup on the table, the woman spoke.
“It’s over between us.”
Leaving behind just those words, she stood up and left the shop. After coming to his senses, the man stood up, placed a few thousand yen at the counter and immediately began chasing after her. And right behind him… was Osanai-san, who was silently tailing him while wiping her head with a handkerchief.
I could imagine her yelling something like, “Just when I’m trying to become more unaffected, you get water splashed on a maiden’s easily-damaged hair and just strut off without so much as an apology you cretin?” I definitely shouldn’t stop her, then. With that thought, I looked down at the hotcakes and my toast on the table. Then, I took a look at the table that had just been vacated by the couple moments ago. A half-drunk coffee, a black tea, a morning set, cigarettes, a ball-point pen. There were also a few slightly interesting things there.
I whipped out my mobile phone, and started composing a new email. It was addressed to Osanai-san, and it read:
“You don’t need to be in a hurry to chase him. Based on what I can see, those two are not just a normal couple, and there are some shady details beneath their relationship.
“I think we can settle this by analyzing the things they left behind.”
Well, it’s as I said. We can’t achieve it overnight.
…But starting from tomorrow, we’ll be one step closer to becoming proper, petit bourgeois.
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!