While feeling a somewhat cold gaze from Osanai-san, I looked at the note again. I received a phone call from someone, but I ignored it since I was busy.
“Was that from Doujima-kun…”
I could hear Osanai-san mutter something.
“The first thing we should consider is whether there is anything I can associate from the character for ‘half’ at a glance. Kengo should know about it, and since the note is meant for me, he must have presumed that I also know about it. I’d like to believe that even Doujima Kengo wouldn’t do something as foolish as leaving a message that only he knows how to decode.”
“Kobato-kun, you’re usually really mean towards Doujima-kun.”
I’d prefer if you didn’t butt in. I’m doing this as a response to the honor he’s shown, after all.
I could just be having a lapse of memory. Kengo thought that I would definitely understand as soon as I saw the character, and it is something that I should know, but it is possible that it has slipped my mind for the moment. Half, half-holiday, Chō-Han Bakuchi1, half-mast.
But… it’s really not coming to me. If it’s something so difficult to get to, he should have just told me directly.
I was thinking, when it hit me.
“…Why did Kengo not tell me directly?”
With a light sigh that seemed to signify that seemed to say, “I give up,” Osanai-san laid out her theory.
“The thing that was noted down is something that can be easily forgotten even if he told you directly. For example, when you’re unable to memorize a phone number the first time you hear it, you write a note for it, right?”
“You’re right. I also make a memo for the date and time of appointments. I can memorize those details on the spot, but there is the possibility that I forget them in the future.”
“What did Doujima-kun say when he left this?”
Umm, what did he say again?
Traversing my memory, I realized that I couldn’t actually recall it clearly. Kengo looked outside, said, “They’ve moved,” requested me to continue the stakeout, then…
“He said something like, ‘Please contact them.’”
“So, is that ‘half’ character pointing to some contact address, as we thought?”
I folded my arms.
“…No, I don’t know. I was looking outside, so I didn’t really hear what he was saying. If he said, ‘Please contact me at half’, then…”
Osanai-san looked at her wristwatch. It was a recherche affair, with a black leather belt, which suited the leather vest she was wearing.
“It’s three o’clock now. He could have said, ‘Please contact me at half past three.’”
“Do you really think so?”
She shook her head.
“If so, he could have just said that without needing to leave a note.”
Exactly. Basically, the essence of “half” is…
“In this one character, there must be information that is impossible to describe via verbal means, or cannot be memorized… I think that will be the key to decoding this message.”
Half is half. It’s just one word. A double-byte character. If I, the receiver of the message, didn’t have any idea what it could be about, it would be difficult to imagine the character holding information “that is impossible to describe”.
“This is not ‘half’. It’s just something that takes the shape of ‘half’.”
Osanai-san was making a pained face again. She was still sipping on her shake. Unable to watch her any longer, I spoke up.
“How about leaving that behind if it tastes so bad?”
“…What an outstanding idea, Kobato-kun.”
Pushing the paper cup containing the shake as far as her arm could reach, she looked down at the memo.
“If not ‘half’, then ‘sheep’2.”
“Don’t they just look similar?”
“Now that’s quite a stretch.”
All in all, kanji just do not possess information “that is impossible to describe”. They say that there’s a character in the Chinese language for “look around restlessly”4, but I can’t imagine the character for “half” holding that much meaning.
“Besides that, it also looks like the letter V standing on the katakana キ.”
“Well… that’s all it is…”
Osanai-san looked off into the distance, as if to say, “Do whatever you like.”
She didn’t understand. This being a memo that Kengo left behind, it couldn’t possibly have such a complicated solution. It should be read as if it were only natural.
I looked at the note again.
“…? This is…”
Up till now, I’d thought that it was just due to excessive force on the pen.
“This is a little strange.”
Not caring that Osanai-san was no longer looking in my direction, I pointed at the weird part of the “half” character that I could see. To be precise, the top portion of it.
“The first and second strokes are a little off.”
For the “half” character, the first and second strokes, or in other words, the ten and the hidari-harai5, have to be either touching the horizontal stroke, or be on the left and right side of the horizontal stroke respectively. However, in the note that Kengo had written, the hidari-harai had penetrated the horizontal stroke, and was touching the end of the ten.
Consequently, it looked bad as a character. Of course, it isn’t impossible that it was simply caused by overly forceful writing, but…
Come to think of it, the two horizontal strokes were also quite strange. Usually, the lower horizontal stroke has to be longer than the one on top, but in Kengo’s note, they were almost equal in terms of length… no, the one below looked shorter.
“The hidari-harai is penetrating the horizontal stroke, and the lower stroke is shorter…”
With a finger, I tried tracing out the character that Kengo had written that looked like “half”. But I couldn’t get it to work. I could make the lower horizontal stroke shorter, but I couldn’t trace the first two strokes as Kengo had written. Are these really supposed to be ten and hidari-harai?
No, they’re not.
It finally hit me. Why did Kengo take so much time to write this note? Of course, that was because what he wrote was not the “half” character.
“I got it.”
Focus returned to Osanai-san’s eyes, which had been staring off into the distance.
I drew a キcharacter on the counter, then added a checkmark in the shape of a V.
“It is impossible to exceed the information that can be transmitted orally with just one word. However, it’s a different story if it’s a map.
“This is a map. There are two intersections, and a check is added to the second intersection. Kengo said to contact them with this, right? He was probably telling me to contact the person at the intersection.”
It was really quite foolish of me. At first, I was convinced that it was the character for “half”, but even when I considered the possibility that it might not be the case, I couldn’t quite shake off the fixed idea of it being a word.
But Osanai-san did not brighten up.
“…A map. That might be it, but… Where of?”
There were two intersections, and the person that Kengo is keeping in contact with was probably waiting at the second intersection. That person could be Kawamata Kasumi, or someone from the Newspaper Club, which is working with Kengo.
Incidentally, the city center of Kira Town has roads laid on in a grid like a Go board. In other words, there are intersections all over the place.
Also, we could rule out the possibility of the intersection being straight down the path in front of us. Right in front was the rotary at the train station, or basically, a dead end.
“Ah. Am I wrong?”
Osanai-san took Kengo’s note from my hand.
“…No, I also think it’s a map. When you said it was the character for ‘half’, I thought it was written weirdly, but now you say that it’s a map with a checkmark, I can see that the pen did indeed move that way.”
Kengo used quite a lot of pressure on the pen, and on top of that, his lines stopped perfectly, so I couldn’t imagine how he moved the pen. However, if Osanai-san says that was how the pen moved, then it was probably correct.
“There should be a reference point for the map.”
“In the ‘half’?”
“Somewhere on the map.”
However, according to my initial scrutinization of the memo, there was nothing written on the paper besides the ‘half’ character, and the back of the note was completely white. Besides that feature, it also had some traces of being torn off at the top, and the ‘half’ was written flush to the right side of the note.
Thanks to the traces at the top, I could tell the orientation of the ‘half’. Obviously, the part with the checkmark was the top. Even if we turned the note upside-down, the checkmark would become a へ, and no one would make that sort of mark.
Osanai-san started in a didactic tone.
“I thought of something.”
“What is it?”
She tried looking into my eyes. That was rare for Osanai-san, who usually looks away whenever someone else makes eye contact with her.
“It shouldn’t be difficult to see that the ‘half’ character is actually a map. One would notice sooner or later that if it isn’t a character, it has to be a map. Kobato-kun, you were probably thinking that you would immediately understand something drawn by Doujima-kun, so you were slow to change your idea of the note.”
That hit a sore spot. It was more or less the truth.
“That’s why I think the key to reading this map is Doujima-kun’s way of thinking…”
Well… that is certainly true.
I was also disappointed that I couldn’t read the map that Kengo left behind. But as Osanai-san said, I was having difficulties because I had underestimated Kengo’s drawing.
“I know. Please be quiet for a bit.”
To figure out something that I don’t know, I must not concentrate. That is my rule of thumb. Of course, concentration is necessary when trying to grasp the problem itself. That helps to narrow down the thought process and tighten its scope. However, when getting to the end game, that is when I should dispel my concentration. Naturally, I don’t mean that I cut away all the strings of tension. I maintain that sense of tension, but I expand my thinking, to the point where it is as if I can see things even in the dark. The central part of the human eye is weak to darkness, so to see something in the dark, humans utilize the technique of peripheral vision. Similarly, to grasp the truth, one should spread their thoughts. The thing that should be seen is the full picture that encases the core of the issue.
With a deep breath, I caused my thinking to expand. The view that had become entrenched in my head due to all that concentration dispersed. I felt a nostalgic sense of comfort. It has been a long time since I used this way of thinking…
It is necessary for a map to have a reference point. And Kengo wrote on this note during that situation and handed it to me like it was something I would immediately understand.
No, he didn’t hand it to me.
In the scene of my memory, Kengo did not hand me the note.
I’d picked it up on my own.
That’s right. The memo had just been placed there.
“…I see. No wonder I can’t read it…”
I unconsciously muttered.
I moved my hands.
Having lost focus, I could sense Osanai-san laughing from the corner of my eye.
Editors (Tier 2) : Joshua Fisher, _Maki
Assistants (Tier 1) : Definitelynotme, Rolando Sanchez, empra
Thank you very much for all your support!
- A traditional Japanese gambling game using two dice, which are shaken in a bamboo cup or bowl by a dealer. The cup is then overturned onto the floor. Players then place their wagers on whether the sum total of numbers showing on the two dice will be “Chō” (even) or “Han” (odd). Here “Han” is also the character for “half”.
- The kanji for “sheep” is 羊, while the kanji for “half” is 半.
- The kanji for “sit” is 坐.
- I would like to think I know Chinese fairly well, but I can’t think of such a character. I suppose 巡 can mean look around, but it doesn’t contain the nuance of restlessness. I can think of an idiom to describe that, though. (It’s 东张西望, if you’re interested.)
- The ten is the diagonal stroke on the left of 半, while the hidari-harai is the diagonal stroke on the right.