Chapter 4 | Contents | Afterword
Table of Contents
The Summer-Exclusive Tropical Parfait of Cecilia, the first place shop in the Osanai Summer Sweets Selection.
Two days had passed since the kidnapping.
Cecilia was located on the second floor of a building that definitely could not be described as new, and to get to it one had to ascend a cramped staircase from the small entrance. I was worried that such a place could not possibly contain a good shop, but since it was one that Osanai-san had picked out, there was no mistake. Upon opening the glass door, I was greeted with the refreshing sound of a cowbell, as well as a truly refreshing atmosphere. No matter how many times I experience it, I am always pleased by these moments of surprise.
The shop largely made use of curvature as a theme in its design, with gourd-shaped tables. Their menu listed many different kinds of parfait. I was first dumbfounded by the naming of the “Cecilia Special Yggdrasil Parfait”, then got stunned by the price of the Summer-Exclusive Tropical Parfait. It was more expensive than any food that I’d paid for out of my own pocket.
Regrettably, I’d mentioned that I would be paying here as a celebration for the incident being resolved. Damn, so they have prices like that, huh. I wonder if we could just order one and share it. No, I’m definitely not skilled enough to attempt the dangerous, or rather, romantic task of sharing a parfait with Osanai-san. That said, just getting a coffee would paint a vivid picture about the state of my pockets, which would just be sad. What should I do…
A troubled look must have appeared on my face, for Osanai-san piped up.
“I’ll treat you, Kobato-kun. As thanks for saving me.”
That’s really nice of her. Thanks for that.
Before the parfaits arrived, Osanai-san was messing with her phone, while I was looking at the scenery outside the window. Cecilia was close to the station, and was also not that far from the South Municipal Gymnasium. The Sanya-dori Festival that extended from the station had already been cleanly cleared up.
“Thank you for waiting, here is your Summer-Exclusive Tropical Parfait.”
I was astounded by the parfait that arrived on our table with a cheerful voice. It was about thirty centimeters in height. The parfait glass in the shape of an inverse cone was filled with colorful fruits, and the spaces in between were taken up by fresh cream, yogurt, jelly and corn flakes. The white of the fresh cream and yogurt, the red of the jelly, and the myriad colors of the fruits made up five layers, with glimpses of corn flakes in between, producing a brilliant striped pattern. Above the edge of the parfait glass were slices of mango, pineapple, melon, peach, banana and watermelon, with a conical mountain of cream on top, as well as one cranberry and one blueberry at the peak. There was also supposed to be a ball of ice cream hidden in the mountain of cream. However, Osanai-san did not flinch at the sight of that, and instead picked up a long spoon in a joyous manner, using it immediately to taste the cream at the very top.
“Amazing, isn’t it? You need to prepare before ordering this parfait. You need to empty your stomach, raise the voltage of your appetite and order it with a yell. If not, you’ll end up leaving some of it… I’ve had such a horrible day the other time, so this is a perfect time to reward myself.”
I’d already had lunch, and my desire for sweet things cannot even be compared to Osanai-san’s. There is no way I can finish it… Feeling the despair of a soldier facing a war with only defeat in sight, I also picked up a spoon. Ah, this spoon is really long. It could probably reach to the bottom of the deep glass.
“The watermelon doesn’t go well with the fresh cream, so the trick is to eat it first.”
Osanai-san said as she pinched the watermelon and swallowed it, seeds and all.
Without missing a beat, Osanai-san’s spoon started moving fluently again, while mine dragged on sluggishly, as if saying, “I can’t possibly start with a steep mountain path!”
Naturally, the Summer-Exclusive Tropical Parfait that took up the honored top spot of the Osanai Summer Sweets Selection was delicious, but also had an inexplicable quality to it. Wouldn’t the tastiness of the parfait be equivalent to the tastiness of the fruits? The fresh cream and ice cream were delectable, but they were not remarkable. Wouldn’t it then be possible to make one at home with delicious fruit?
However, when I put some of it in my mouth, I felt as if I’d just entered an hour-long seminar on sweets, so I kept quiet and immersed myself in the task of breaking apart the mountain.
Osanai-san had already levelled everything above the edge of the parfait glass. After taking a glance up at me while I was digging out some ice cream, she spoke to me in a coaxing manner.
“Hey, Kobato-kun, it’s boring if we keep quiet like this. Can you tell me a story?”
A story, huh.
Alright, I’ll tell her a story. I swallowed the ice cream piled up on my spoon in one go. Ignoring the pain in my throat caused by chilling it so suddenly, I started the story.
“Right, I’ll talk a little about how significant this summer vacation in the second year of high school has been.
“My acquaintance, Doujima Kengo, was meddling in someone else’s affairs. A second-year high school student, Kawamata Sanae, had been dragged into a group of bad people. Kengo was cajoled by Sanae-san’s younger sister, Kasumi-san, to help her break off from that group, and he worked hard towards that end.
“However, that group’s leader was a violent person, so Sanae-san was not bound to them by a sense of solidarity borne from the belief that while they might be asocial, friends are true, a ray of light in this society where individuals are plagued with hopeless loneliness. No, Sanae-san was bound to them by fear, and Kengo was powerless in the face of that. He really does take things too seriously. If he turns taking care of others into a job in the future, he would probably ruin it by trying to help too much. Then again, he has helped me out multiple times thanks to that personality, so I shouldn’t be describing it so negatively.
“By the way, that leader’s name is Isawa Hasemi.
“And the leader of the group which kidnapped Osanai-san is also Isawa Hasemi. That’s quite a surprise. It’s a shocking coincidence that someone involved in Kengo’s troubles is the same person who kidnapped you.”
“You’re right, it is surprising that you can eat melons of such high quality at this price.”
Putting aside her spoon, Osanai-san eagerly bit into a slice of melon that still had skin attached to it, to the point that it seemed like she would even consume the skin. Since the parfait would become even more difficult to eat and set me further back from completion if the ice cream melted, I picked up my spoon again and started scooping out the ice cream.
“The ice cream here is normal vanilla ice cream. Just by itself, the ice cream at Ouan is better.
“Even though it is a coincidence, I can think about why this coincidence occurred. Needless for me to say, there are no perfect coincidences, just like there are no complete inevitabilities. The problem is one of probability. Are there any possible common points between Kengo, Kawamata Sanae, Isawa Hasemi and Osanai-san?
“Firstly, Kengo and Osanai-san. Both are my friends.
“Kawamata Sanae and Isawa Hasemi. They were companions in middle school and did bad things together.
“Kawamata Sanae and Kengo are related through Kawamata Kasumi.
“The last connection is Isawa Hasemi and Osanai-san. This also includes Kawamata Sanae, but all of you were from Takaba Middle School. Well, so was I.
“However, there isn’t an infinite number of middle schools in this city. That three people involved in the incident were from the same middle school is nothing particularly surprising.
“But if one more coincidence is added in, it becomes something that I can’t describe as merely ‘surprising’. Not with my nature, anyway.”
“As a petit bourgeois?”
I smiled wryly and shook my head.
“No. Anyway, with the kidnapping and the scuffle, it was quite impossible for me to deal with this case as a petit bourgeois.”
“Couldn’t you have just turned your back on me?”
“That’s because of the promise we have. I will not use my craft and wit to read the secrets others are trying to hide. You will stop planning your revenge and drawing pleasure from that.
“Ah, sorry, I’m in the middle of my story. Let me say it to the end. Also, you’ve got some cream stuck on your chin.
“There’s something I have a few questions about. It’s the day we went for the frozen watermelon yogurt at Berry Berry. You treated me during that time. On that day, I also had a bit of fun trying to decipher the memo that Kengo left behind.
“Why was Kengo in that hamburger shop on that day?
“Kengo clearly revealed his purpose. He was keeping watch on a drug abusing group. Needless to say, that was Isawa Hasemi’s gang.
“Now, why was I there? You told me to come to Berry Berry, so I was near the station. I was a little peckish, so entered the hamburger shop. It was at an awkward time, so I couldn’t find any other shops. Since we would soon be eating the frozen watermelon yogurt, I also couldn’t eat something too filling.
“As it turned out, you were also in that shop. You were wearing that rocker outfit as well as a hat, so no one could tell that you were Osanai-san. Why were you there?
“I remember what happened on that day. As you know, I’m confident in my memory.
“I was enthusiastic about Kengo’s memo, and I was always looking down. Next to me, you always seemed to be looking far off in the distance. I thought that you were disappointed that I was so excited in solving a code, but thinking about it again, by looking far off into the distance from the counter of that hamburger shop, you can see the rotary in front of the station. The same rotary that Kengo was keeping a watchful eye on, the rotary where Isawa Hasemi’s group was standing.
“Osanai-san, why were you in the hamburger shop on that day?”
Why does Osanai-san eat cornflakes one at a time?
She picked up a notably large piece and moved it to her mouth while carefully maintaining its balance… Ah, it dropped. After picking it up with her hand and throwing it into her mouth, she looked straight at me.
“Isawa-san and I are acquaintances. As you said, we were from Takaba Middle School. She’s a bad girl. I knew as much.”
Taking the spoon again, she inserted it deep into the parfait glass.
“Finish your story.”
“You haven’t answered the question, Osanai-san.”
“It’s fine, you don’t have to worry about it.”
It was me who asked the question, but… Well, whatever. I finally scooped up the rest of the ice cream with my spoon. It would become difficult to continue eating the parfait without finishing all the fruits stuffed at the tip of the glass. I started by reaching out for a slice of watermelon and removing the seeds.
“Right, that brings us to the incident two years ago.
“Osanai-san, you’re wearing clothes in a tropical country style today. Is that to match the tropical parfait?”
She was wearing a shirt with the image of butterflies frolicking around vivid flowers, as well as a medium skirt with a grain pattern. That outfit also included a tuque, although she had taken it off. A tuque, in summer.
Osanai-san smiled joyfully.
“Do I look good in it?”
“I’m glad to hear that.”
Anything to make you happy.
“But I think you looked better the other day.
“Rather, I’m more used to it. Your outfit that day was really similar to Funado High’s summer uniform.”
The sweet taste in my mouth was becoming a little overbearing. I sipped some water to wash it away.
“When you walk on the streets on a rest day, you generally wear an outfit that does not look like you. Hmm, perhaps that’s quite a weird way to put it. It would be more accurate to say that you tend to wear clothes such that people who only see you at school would not be able to immediately recognize you. The unique part about the outfit is the hat. You usually push your hat deep down.
“But on that day, you didn’t wear a hat. Your clothes also looked like the school uniform. Basically, you were similar to how you usually look like in school.
“If someone who only knows how you look like in school were to search for you, they might miss you if you were wearing that rocker outfit from the other day. They might not be able to recognize you in today’s tropical outfit, either. But they would certainly be able to recognize Osanai-san wearing a white shirt, navy skirt and no hat.”
Osanai-san lifted her spoon.
“It was really unlucky that I got abducted that day. I sometimes wear a hat, but there are times when I decide not to as well. These things happen, so disguising myself is important.”
Should I also learn to put on disguises starting from tomorrow to prepare against kidnappings?
I gnawed at a pineapple slice, but didn’t really like the tingling sensation on my tongue. The sweet taste made it delicious, but I wasn’t a fan of the texture.
“So, while you were kidnapped, you sent me an email. I’m touched that you sent the distress email not to anyone else, but to me. The email was not understandable in a single glance, because you had to craft it such that even if it were seen by the criminal group, they would not be able to tell that it was an SOS. You would have gotten into serious danger if they found out that you had asked for help, and even the dumbest criminals would move to another location.
“That was what I thought, but…”
I stared fixedly at Osanai-san… but she seemed to be absorbed in savoring the mango at the middle layer of the parfait glass. That made me want to say, “Hey, are you listening?”
“…Umm, yes, that was what I thought.
“I had a few questions when I saw the car at the South Municipal Gymnasium. You were apparently taken there by car, and since the front passenger seat had rubbish scattered around, that meant you were sitting at the back. Also, it would be weird to leave the kidnapped victim sitting at the back alone. The kidnappers wouldn’t be able to rest easy unless you’re tied up, and if you’re tied up, you wouldn’t be able to send an email at all. On the other hand, if you were not alone, or in other words, there was someone next to you, you wouldn’t be able to send an email either. Furthermore, you were really tied up upon reaching the gymnasium.
“You might have been able to press a few buttons on your phone without them noticing. However, the email you sent was this.”
I operated my mobile phone.
“Sorry, please buy me four candied apples and one Canelé. Sorry.”
I showed the monitor with that message to Osanai-san. She looked at it for a moment, but her gaze immediately returned to her hands.
“What you should have sent me is ‘Four candied apples, one Canelé.’ However, there are six unnecessary words in front and behind the main message. There is not a single typo error, and even punctuation is included. That doesn’t seem to me like a message typed behind the backs of the kidnappers.”
“I type really fast. Isawa-san and her friends were also very stupid. How about that?”
I shook my head.
“That does sound slightly plausible.”
Osanai-san tiled her head. She’d probably realized how much I’d caught on, and was getting me to reveal it, though I had no idea why she would want to do that.
Anyway, I continued.
“In the first place…
“Why did you go out, Osanai-san? You knew I would be coming; we’d decided to go eat candied apples together. I heard that you went out just before noon. The ransom call came at a little after half past one. There’s a one and a half hour window between those times. Where were you, and what were you doing?
“Taking it on its own, one would think that your urgent errand had been merely delayed. However, considering that you were kidnapped at that time period, it becomes a little more meaningful. And while we’re on the topic, why was I invited to your house? If our destination was Sanya-dori, couldn’t we have just met there? Why was I invited to your house, made to spend that awkward period of time with your mother, and of top of that… made to listen to the ransom call, if only indirectly?
“Osanai-san… on that day, from twelve to one thirty, where were you, and what were you doing?”
In her parfait glass, only the slightest bit of cream and fruits remained at the bottom. She spoke as she controlled her spoon to scrape it out.
“And I’m trying to reveal those secrets. Not a very pleasant topic, I know.”
I only noticed it after my response, but Osanai-san had already completely devoured her Summer-Exclusive Tropical Parfait. While I’d done most of the talking, I’d hadn’t even finished a third of it. That can’t be… My specialty is in seeing through lies, so what trick could she be hiding to be able to have that kind of speed and appetite?
With her parfait glass empty, Osanai-san stared at the spoon in her hand. She then looked at my glass, which still had more than half of the tropical parfait, with a wistful sidelong glance.
“…You want some?”
Was she full, or was she showing constraint? After inserting her spoon into the parfait glass in a slightly sad manner, she rested her chin on her hands and smiled.
“Hey, are you still going to continue with the story?”
“Whatever you want.”
“That’s a lie. You’ve no intention of stopping.”
Calling a waitress by raising a hand, Osanai-san ordered some black tea. Trying to make up for my slow speed, I ate the kiwi and papaya in succession, then pushed my spoon into the sea of cream. Based on the reaction, there was a corn flake right in the way.
Eventually, the black tea arrived. Osanai-san blew on it a few times, then drank only a small amount. Grimacing, she put down the cup. She had a cat’s tongue, after all.
But my story was not over.
“As I’ve stated, I cannot understand some of your actions. I also cannot honestly digest the connections you have to the people involved in this. There are just small inconsistencies here and there.
“…But more importantly, there is something I’ve always thought to be incomprehensible. This summer… I’ve thought of it to be incomprehensible since the very first day.”
“Incomprehensible? Don’t you mean you were dissatisfied?”
“Which one it is, I wonder. Osanai-san… I think you should be able to understand. What do I find incomprehensible?”
With her eyes looking down at her cup, she replied in a small voice.
“Kobato-kun, you don’t trust me… or do you?”
“I trust you, mostly.”
“Why did I bring you for the sweets pilgrimage? That’s what you can’t understand, right?”
I slowly nodded.
There was no need for Osanai-san and I to communicate at all during the summer vacation. We might have a reciprocal relationship, but we were not co-dependent. We didn’t have to meet even if we wanted to. If Osanai-san wanted to go on a sweets pilgrimage, she could do that on her own, and she didn’t have to invite me. That was what I trusted of her.
“You wouldn’t invite me along just for the sake of it being fun.”
While slowly stirring her black tea with a teaspoon, Osanai-san looked slightly down. It seemed that my parfait would still take more time to fully consume.
“I still have the map in the front basket of my bicycle, that of the Osanai Summer Sweets Selection. The way I see it, you shouldn’t have worded it that way. Do you remember what you said when you passed the map to me? ‘This is the thing that will influence the fate of my summer,’ you said.
“And that turned out to be true. Based on the map, I was able to decipher your email and rescue you.
“Was that just a coincidence? No, that can’t be. At the start of summer, you already knew that the Osanai Summer Sweets Selection would influence your fate.”
Osanai-san was connected to Isawa Hasemi. On top of that, she went out after calling me over two days ago, wearing clothes that made her easy to identify, which was unique to that day only. As a result, she was kidnapped by Isawa Hasemi, and managed to send me an SOS email that she shouldn’t have been able to type. That email could only be deciphered with the map passed to me at the beginning of summer.
By putting those facts together, a faint possibility arose.
But I’d refused to believe that. All I’d wanted to believe was that poor Osanai-san had been kidnapped by the violent Isawa Hasemi.
Osanai-san stared fixedly at her tea. Perhaps she was waiting for it to cool, or perhaps she couldn’t move her hands. Eventually, she spoke in a dry voice.
“The map is completely burned in my head. That’s why it was the first thing to come to my mind when I was disguising the email asking for help. That’s all there is to it.”
She gave that evasive answer even when she knew I wouldn’t let her escape with just those words.
Even so, I also wanted to think that was the truth. It was all a bunch of coincidences, and Osanai-san just happened to be unlucky. Actually, I’d often listened to the stories of people who got caught in unfortunate situations. I’d been directly involved in some of those cases, and they mostly involved some unbelievably bad luck.
That was why I asked that question.
“If that were to be true… on that day, I bought something different.”
“I asked you, didn’t I? I was about to buy you the next target in the Osanai Summer Sweets Selection. I asked you what it was, and you answered with Tinker Linker’s peach pie, so that was what I bought. Bu that was the wrong answer, Osanai-san. Needless to say, the next in the list was the candied apples of Muramatsu House, valuable items that can only be eaten on the day of the Sanya-dori Festival.
“It was three thirty in the afternoon when you were released. There was still time, and I could have tried ordering it anyway.
“Yet you answered with peach pie without batting an eye. Why was that?”
Osanai-san must have noticed that she’d misspoken there and then. She’d noticed that by failing to answer with “candied apples”, she wouldn’t be able to maintain her camouflage, and that was why her smile froze up in that instance.
The thing that she was trying to hide was, naturally…
“Osanai-san, you ate the candied apples when you went out in the morning of two days ago. That’s why the next dessert for you was the peach pie. We’d already arranged to go eat candied apples on that day, so why did you eat them already?
“You knew beforehand that your movements would be restricted, and that there was a high chance that you wouldn’t be able to eat candied apples with me. You thought that you wouldn’t be released before Muramatsu House stopped selling those special candied apples, so you went and ate them first, while waiting for Isawa Hasemi.
“From the time you called me three days ago to arrange for a meeting at one, from the time you were looking watching the train station near Berry Berry in that rocker outfit.
“…From the first day of the summer holidays, when you handed me the Osanai Summer Sweets Selection.
“You already knew that you were going to be kidnapped.”
“Thinking about it that way, I now understand why you had me accompany you in your sweets pilgrimage.”
The Summer-Exclusive Tropical Parfait, which was probably the final step of the pilgrimage, was hardly decreasing in volume. The sweet, rich taste of the ripe mangoes lingered in my mouth, to the point that it was getting slightly cloying. I took a sip of water.
“Since you knew that you were about to be kidnapped, you resorted to drastic measures. You made preparations such that even if you were to be abducted, you could be instantly rescued. That was the Osanai Summer Sweets Selection.
“Based on the map, I was dragged by you to various locations across Kira City. The frozen yogurt was delicious, and so was the ujikintoki. Above all, while it may not be a summer-exclusive product, the Charlotte was simply exquisite.
“However, the true motive was not as sweet.
“By continually basing our movements on the map, you kept making me aware of the existence of the Osanai Summer Sweets Selection, such that I would be able to immediately think of it when the time came. Also, you made me hold onto the map and treat it with care. Even if you sent me the SOS email, your plans would have gone to waste if I was unable to think of the Osanai Summer Sweets Selection, or if I’d lost it. That was why you called me over on that day.
“As it turns out, I was trained amazingly well. While I always doubted your true intentions, I agreed to your calls to go out for desserts, and thanks to that, the Osanai Summer Sweets Selection was drilled into my head.”
On the day I went to Osanai-san’s house to eat the Charlottes, she, after having seen through my little prank, spoke in an extraordinarily happy manner, “We’ll be visiting every shop in yesterday’s ranking, all the way to first place!” She was probably even smiling then. Since my prank had blown up in my face, it became easier for Osanai-san to drag me into her plans. If I hadn’t stolen the Charlotte, she would have had to work hard to come up with a reason to invite me along.
Speaking of being extraordinarily happy, on the day when we ate the frozen watermelon yogurt, we passed by Muramatsu House on Sanya-dori, and when I asked if the candied apples were in the rankings, a broad smile appeared on her face. That was because it showed that I was becoming well acquainted with the Osanai Summer Sweets Selection, so her plan was going swimmingly.
While I was trying to decode the memo that Kengo had left behind in the hamburger shop, Osanai-san was focusing on the rotary outside, but was at the same time stirring me up. When it became clear that the way of reading the message was related to the map, she was in extremely high spirits. That was only natural, for Kengo’s memo, by chance, had also brought along a rehearsal for deciphering her SOS email. That day, Osanai-san had also sent me an email which read, “Today, we’ll be going to a shop between La Roche and Ginsendo,” which served as another dry run. Her sense of security must have gone up a level when she witnessed me solving another coded message in the same vein.
I’d been taken in, hook, line and sinker. I could not claim to feel no chagrin for that.
However, more importantly, I was still filled with thoughts that did not quite add up.
“But Osanai-san, I still have some doubts. I just can’t seem to figure it out.”
Osanai-san continuously stirred her tea, although she hadn’t put in any sugar or milk. I was also looking down, so it was difficult for me to look at her face.
“Why didn’t you say anything? Why did you go with this method? You could have said something, like, ‘Due to some past dispute, I might be kidnapped, so please help me then.’ While I may tend to be unable to inhibit my impulses, my head isn’t made of stone1. If you had just said something, I would have helped you however much you wanted me to. Actually, there was a time lag when I saved you two days ago. If I’d been just a little later, Isawa Hasemi might have really pushed down the cigarette, and if I’d incorrectly deciphered your message, there is the possibility that she wouldn’t have stopped there. Did you think what would happen to you in that case? Did you think how I would feel?
“Why did you keep quiet, to the point that it put you in so much danger?”
The hand stirring the black tea did not stop, but its owner let out a murmur.
And that was all she said.
I waited for her to say more, but her mouth remained firmly closed. She said nothing as she stared at the amber-colored surface of the tea.
The silence was long and deafening.
…Eventually, she started talking, bit by bit.
“Sorry. It’s almost as you said. I did eat the candied apples already.
“Before the summer holidays started, I knew that I would be abducted by Isawa-san. Since she’s a violent person, I knew that it would be a painful experience. That was why I thought of asking for Kobato-kun’s help.
“But I didn’t want to drag you into this mess. If I told you, you would probably investigate Isawa-san and her gang. And if you got noticed, you would get into a sticky situation before I do. That was what I thought… And if you were hurt by that… I’m sorry…”
…I wouldn’t do something like that, though. In situations in which there is more than meets the eye, I would want to read into the situation and delve into its secrets, but I wouldn’t bother myself with running around and investigating someone else. Osanai-san would be more suited to that. Perhaps she thought that I was capable of doing that because she would do it herself.
“I thought that Doujima-kun would come as well. Kobato-kun wouldn’t come to save me alone. Not because you’re timid, but because you would judge that you cannot achieve your objective alone, and ask someone else for help. That person would be Doujima-kun, the only person you can rely on. During last year’s “Tart Incident”, Doujima-kun came over as well, right? So…
“That was exactly what happened, but I never expected a fight to break out. I put you and Doujima-kun in danger. Doujima-kun was injured, and you also had a painful experience. I want to properly apologize for that as well…”
Kengo’s injury was just a cut on his skin, and I couldn’t even remember which side of my face was hit. Nothing to be worried about. While Isawa Hasemi and her friends had schemed to kidnap Osana-san, they’d also wanted to avoid physical trouble as much as possible.
“…Will you tell me what went on between you and Isawa Hasemi?”
Thinking that Osanai-san would be fine with that, I asked that question, but she shook her head.
“Sorry, I don’t really want to talk about it. It involves my past, so…”
Of course, the underlying cause stemmed from her time in middle school. I couldn’t imagine the Osanai-san who had declared herself to be a petit bourgeois to have started trouble with a drug abuse group. Also, we hardly talked about our pasts, probably because we knew full well that there were no decent memories to speak of. Now that she’d refused, I couldn’t force her to talk about it.
I could understand what Osanai-san was saying.
It wasn’t like there were no feelings of discontent between us. However, I found myself in an unexpectedly calm mood after having been used for Osanai-san’s purposes. Heck, there were feelings of happiness thrown in as well.
During the summer, I’d felt that something was off on countless occasions. I’d been overcome with worry that after seeing Osanai-san do things that I couldn’t imagine her doing, I was mistaken about my understanding of her. After sorting out those feelings, deducing the existence of defensive measures against a kidnapping, and Osanai-san herself confirming the deduction to be true, I felt that I truly understood her.
Of course, I didn’t think that I completely understood all parts about this small, eccentric girl, but as I thought, she was a wolf. I broke out into a smile.
It’s fine. It’s a good thing that you’re safe. That’s more important than anything else.
…That was what I tried to say.
But those words would not come out of my mouth.
My ability to identify a problem is not very high. If I’m told that there is a lie and asked what the lie is, that would be well within my area of expertise, but I tend to be unexpectedly weak at deducing the existence of a lie if it is hidden.
Even so, a strange feeling remained. The feeling that something was not right, that everything didn’t add up accumulated in my chest. This was almost entirely due to intuition, but it was nothing to be sneezed at. It was this intuition, as well as the trick question I’d asked about the Osanai Summer Sweets Selection based on that intuition, that made up the starting point for me detecting that Osanai-san had already known about her imminent kidnapping.
And now this same intuition was telling me once again that something was strange. I was about to say some words of reconciliation, but I closed my half-open mouth. Osanai-san, who was a little teary-eyed, looked at me quizzically.
“You can’t forgive me, right? As you said, it might have been better if I’d just told you everything from the start.”
Osanai-san’s voice sounded distant. It seemed that my concentration was starting to slip.
…The clearly strange thing about the facts of the case was this: Why did Osanai-san know that she would be kidnapped?
No… It’s how she knew.
Osanai-san goes out to town, of course in a disguise. She suddenly spots some faces she knows, so she sneaks around them. She pricks her ears, and overhears a kidnapping plan meant for herself. Troubled, she formulates a scheme of her own and writes up the Osanai Summer Sweets Selection to educate me.
That was a theory that explained everything too conveniently, but it was certainly not impossible. However, there was more. Osanai-san was not only aware of the existence of Isawa Hasemi’s kidnapping plot, but even had knowledge of the date and time at which it would be carried out, at least three days prior to the kidnapping. If not, she wouldn’t have been able to call me out. It would have been such a bad joke if the savior she’d spent so much effort educating happened to be soaking in a hot spring or something on the day of the crime.
I couldn’t imagine that she’d prepared a substitute savior. Three days ago, she’d called me, and kept emphasizing the appointed time of one in the afternoon, to the point that she was being really long-winded. From that, I could tell that she had a precise grasp of the group’s movements.
If she’d overheard their plan while walking in town, she couldn’t have known that much.
But was that such a substantial problem? In any case, Osanai-san had to foresee the existence of the kidnapping plan through whatever means. No matter her source of information, was it really such a significant discovery that would shake up the complete picture of her taking defensive measures against the kidnapping plot?
It certainly didn’t seem so, at first glance, anyway. But the feelings of doubt I had wouldn’t disappear.
There were no contradictions with the composition of that theory, so why was I thinking that something was strange?
I lifted my head. As I remained speechless, Osanai-san was staring at me with a somewhat cold gaze.
There lay the path to solving this mystery.
As I thought, this could be settled by believing in Osanai-san.
Now that I’d reconfirmed Osanai-san to be a wolf as I knew her to be, I could believe that she was indeed the person I knew her to be. I asked myself some questions.
Q: Is Osanai-san the type of person to incur the enmity of a drug abuse group?
A: Yes. Putting aside the question of whether she would do it now, she probably did so in the past.
Q: Could Osanai-san have made a system to continuously feed her information about that group?
A: Yes. Her ability to take action is certifiably good. I can guarantee that. It was probably a simple matter for her, too.
Q: Would Osanai-san, after knowing of Isawa Hasemi’s intent to harm her, build a plan to defend herself from that?
That’s not it.
What Osanai-san likes is vengeance. If she gets done in, the Osanai-san I know can’t help but get back at her enemy with a more intense strike. She wouldn’t stop at securing a method to call for help after knowing about their plans. If I’m to believe in her all the way, I would know that to be impossible.
Q: So, would Osanai-san be looking to take revenge on Isawa Hasemi from now on? Or has she already taken revenge?
I see. So that’s it… As I thought, there was something else hidden beneath.
As expected, Osanai-san could not be dealt with by ordinary means. I was even about to believe her apology. No, I couldn’t imagine that she wasn’t feeling guilty about it. Then again, she did use some particular words to stop my train of thought at “Osanai-san knew about the kidnapping beforehand, and set up a plan to get herself rescued.”
With a sense of satisfaction in my chest, I called out.
Clank! A hard sound rang out. Osanai-san had placed her cup of black tea on the saucer. The expression on her face had disappeared. She’d been acting as if she couldn’t look at me after reluctantly using me, but that atmosphere had been wiped clean off and she was now staring straight at me with an unfathomable, cold gaze. Affected by that gaze, I shivered. No, that is inaccurate. It was more like a warrior’s tremble of excitement. The real battle would be starting soon.
But Osanai-san replied with a calm voice.
“What is it?”
“I was just thinking for a bit, about you knowing of Isawa Hasemi’s kidnapping plan. I was thinking it over again.
“Osanai-san, your ability to take action amazes me beyond words. If I had to say, my personality is more suited to sitting and thinking, so that ability always makes me think that I’m no match for you.”
Still emotionless, Osanai-san cradled her head in her hands and shook left and right. What is she doing, I thought, but instantly realized that it was body language showing her embarrassment, which I promptly ignored.
“However, even you wouldn’t be able to get a complete grasp of the group’s information, down to each minute detail. That’s because you were constantly out on the sweets pilgrimage with me during the afternoons of this summer holiday. Yet you still had information about the kidnapping plan. Perfect information, down to the date and time. What does that signify?
“…It signifies the existence of an insider. You had someone inside Isawa’s group who was feeding you information.
“I considered eavesdropping as a method for you obtaining that information. But it wouldn’t work if you weren’t able to gather information in the afternoons, and I never heard anything about you walking out at night tapping into electronic signals. What I did hear when I went to your house was that during this summer, the number of phone calls you had at night increased.”
I could see Osanai-san’s lips subtly taking the shape of a smile. Was it one of mockery, or one of encouragement, signifying that I was on the right track? In any case, I licked my lips.
“I said it earlier, and although I don’t say it often, I believe Osanai-san. I believe that I understand you, your thoughts and your behavior. What does this mean?
“It means I know that after you gained an insider and the information that Isawa Hasemi was plotting to harm you, it is impossible that you would only seek to educate me as a way to defend yourself. You must have thought of throwing a counter punch. Am I wrong?
“Now, as a result of you getting kidnapped and being saved my me and Kengo, what happened to Isawa Hasemi? …She was taken away by the police. Not for an official reprimand, but for an arrest. She was witnessed by officers wielding a bladed object, and even injured a high school boy with it. It was a light injury not really worth talking about, but that fact still stands. Furthermore, she as probably further investigated for drug abuse, as a previous offender.
“And of course, the biggest charge would be abduction. Not to say that causing bodily harm is a light crime, but abduction is on another level. She wouldn’t get away with just moderate punishment. I don’t think the case would be referred to a public prosecutor, but I also don’t think would be released under probation, meaning that she would probably be sent to a juvenile home.
“Wouldn’t that satisfy you, Osanai-san?
“More than anything, you were so cheerful after you were released, as if your job was complete. You probably didn’t notice, but you weren’t like how you usually are when you’re about to have fun taking revenge on someone else. In that state, you seem to be immersed in a dark sense of pleasure.
“It can be concluded that your main objective was to get Isawa Hasemi arrested and punished as the primary conspirator of a kidnapping, so…”
I could feel that I was slightly grinning as well.
“…That means the kidnapping plot itself was induced by you.”
I peered at Osanai-san’s facial expression.
“Using that insider, you planted within the group a plan to kidnap Osanai Yuki. You even controlled the date and time when it would happen, and prepared an escape plan. Afterwards, Isawa Hasemi and her group were captured, giving you a great deal of satisfaction. And so we came to Cecilia for the tropical parfait so that you can celebrate and congratulate yourself. That about sums it up, doesn’t it?”
Now, how will you respond?
I’d been through this multiple times, but whenever it gets to the point where I ask the culprit about the validity of my deduction, I always hold my breath. Sometimes they get deeply agitated, sometimes they get angry, and some even burst into tears when confronted with the truth. There were also a handful of occasions when the person in front of me sincerely asked, “What are you talking about?” But what about Osanai-san?
…The person in question let out a short sigh. With slow movements, she drank just a bit of the black tea. After studying my face for a while, she finally broke into a smile.
“As expected of Kobato-kun. You sure don’t carry such a presumptuous slogan as ‘petit bourgeois’ just for show.”
“I thought you would be satisfied by successfully dealing with the kidnapping incident. That if I sent a strange email saying, ‘Come here, I’ll give you some candies’, you would instantly be interested. That you would decode the email, go to the scene of the crime, and come out of it with a full stomach.
“But that was a huge misunderstanding. Perhaps I don’t believe in you as much as you believe in me?”
Osanai-san spoke in a mutter, then pulled out her mobile phone.
“I wouldn’t want someone else to figure out so much of this situation. I’ve always thought that you’re amazing, Kobato-kun. I’m definitely no match for you in this ability to thoroughly investigate someone else’s thought process.”
“So you’re admitting it, right? That you were the one who caused Isawa Hasemi to kidnap you?”
Of course, I thought that she would nod.
But with a mysterious smile on her face, she shook her head to the side, by just a subtle amount.
“But Kobato-kun, you’re not a god. You were on the right track, and you got close. Really close… but I’ll introduce a guest. Wait for a while.”
Osanai-san said while maintaining her calmness and made a phone call. All I could do was watch the development unfold. She said only one phrase to the phone.
“Alright, you can come in.”
The glass door of Cecilia opened almost instantly. The waitress’ bright voice reverberated in the store, which only contained the two of us as customers.
The person standing in front of the door was a girl. She was wearing a black pair of jeans and a shirt with the words “NO RIGHTS” written on it. Her hair was bleached flamboyantly, and she had gentle facial features. She was probably around the same age as I was… but I didn’t remember seeing her before.
The girl walked straight to our table, took a glance at me, looked at the parfait glass in front of me, then haughtily looked down at Osanai-san.
“Is this the dangerous person?”
She pointed at me while asking that question. What a rude girl, to point at someone she’s just met. Strangely, Osanai-san’s tone became business-like, or rather, brusque.
“Yes, but we’ve already come to an understanding.”
“I see. That’s good, then.”
Moving her finger a little, Osanai-san pointed at me.
“I’ll introduce you. This is my acquaintance, Kobato-kun. I caused him some trouble with our recent plan.”
She then looked at me and continued.
“Kobato-kun, this is Kawamata-san.”
…Kawamata Sanae! That’s the girl Kengo had been trying to drag away from Isawa Hasemi. So the girl who had curtly dismissed Kengo’s persuasive efforts had joined forces with Osanai-san! I knew that there were connections between Kengo and Kawamata, Kawamata and Isawa, Isawa and Osanai, Osanai and Kengo. I see, so there was also one between Kawamata Sanae and Osanai-san…
There was definitely no coincidence that the two of them were acquainted with each other. I see, I understand the relationship structure now. This incident was borne out of the relationship among Osanai-san, Kawamata Sanae and Isawa Hasemi. The irregularity in all of this was Doujima Kengo.
“Hey, Yuki! Don’t tell him my name like that!”
Kawamata yelped in a shrill voice, then thrust her hand into one of the pockets of her jeans. What she pulled out was a tape recorder.
“Anyway, you take care of this, okay? From now on, the two of us are strangers!”
“I know. Goodbye, Sanae. I hope you stay safe.”
Kawamata snorted upon hearing Osanai-san’s words, then slipped past a waitress carrying two glasses of water and exited Cecilia with loud footsteps.
All that was left was the tape recorder, as well as Osanai-san, who was wearing a strange smile. She looked at the tape recorder and me in turn, then gave an uncharacteristic shrug.
“That’s how it is.”
“I’ll explain it to you, Kobato-kun. So…”
I unconsciously raised my voice.
Some new material was just presented, so it was worth reconsidering. It was a tape recorder, probably with some tape in it. Tape, which is usually used for voice. A recorded voice. In this case, what was the scene which was related to voice? Something related to voice… I see now, that’s it! How did I ever miss it? It was clear as day, wasn’t it? With that, the earlier theory that Osanai-san used her insider to influence Isawa Hasemi to carry out the kidnapping plot… was obviously false!
I desperately tried to collect my thoughts, but I struggled to put the truth I’d vaguely grasped into words. Seeing me in that state, Osanai-san laughed.
“Halt, you say… This isn’t Shogi, Kobato-kun.”
“This isn’t Chess, Go, Backgammon, Canaan2, or Scotland Yard. Even so, you want to explain it on your own?”
“It’s over. No one needs to resolve anything at this point.
“…But I was the one who asked you to talk to me, so I listened. And now, for your sake, I’ll summarize it so it’s easy to understand.
“Yes, I had an insider. As you said, without one I wouldn’t have been able to know about the abduction to such precise detail. Kawamata Sanae-san was my insider. She was a really useful one, at that.”
Kawamata had flatly refused when Kengo recommended that she cut all ties with Isawa’s group. I’d felt that something was off when Kengo told me about it. It was only second-hand information from Kengo, but Kawamata had said this of him: “You’re a hindrance.”
At that time, I asked if he’d been called an annoyance, but Kengo affirmed that he’d been called a nuisance. How was he a hindrance?
The topic of that conversation was about cutting ties with Isawa and her gang… Kengo was only trying to get Kawamata to leave the group, but that was apparently a hindrance to her. Immediately after Kengo talked to Kawamata Sanae, Isawa Hasemi was arrested and the group was destroyed.
“Osanai-san, you were helping Kawamata Sanae, right?”
“Helping? No. I was merely using her. Sanae-san threatened me. She told me that Isawa-san hated me, and planned to capture me during the summer holidays and put me through a horrible situation.
“During middle school, I helped Sanae-san. Just like Doujima-kun, I helped pull her away from the group when they were abusing drugs. As a result of that, Isawa-san and her group were officially reprimanded, but Sanae-san managed to escape.
“However, after the probation period of a little more than a year ended, Isawa-san started looking for the informant, and Sanae-san immediately went to her to curry favor and say that she wasn’t the one who betrayed the group. Even so, she was suspected, so she threatened me to help her escape again, or she would hand me over to Isawa-san.
“Sooner or later, they found out that I was related to that incident, I think. There was no thorough concealment of the information, after all. At that time, I was quite foolish. When it became known that I was involved, I imagined Isawa-san doing violent things to me.
“That’s why I decided to use Sanae-san.”
Pulling her hand away from the teacup, she pointed at the tape recorder.
“Kobato-kun. Do you now know what’s in there?”
It was a question that could be answered with a short phrase. However, I couldn’t help but tack on a superfluous explanation. It may have been exceptionally atrocious of me, but now that it had come to this, I just had to explain how I got to the answer.
“…I saw a car at the South Municipal Gymnasium. It was a light van, probably used to abduct you. A lollipop wrapper had fallen in the back passenger seat. Also, there was some device that looked like a voice changer in the front passenger seat. At that point, I could only think that it was obvious you were trapped here.
“But thinking about it now, that was strange. Your mother, having taken the ransom call, described the voice as ‘a weird voice, as if they were using a voice changer’. But if so, the voice changer should not be in a place like that. It has to be on hand, in case they are given a phone call. I can’t imagine that there would be multiple voice changers, either. I should have realized that leaving the voice changer there showed that it wasn’t needed while Isawa-san and her group were holding you at the gymnasium.
“The voice changer was not necessary for them. That means the person who made the ransom call at the beginning was not Isawa-san and her gang. In other words, Isawa-san’s group did not want to ask for money in exchange for your safety.
“So, who made the phone call? It was neither Isawa-san, nor anyone in her group. You were being abducted… It was Kawamata Sanae, right?”
With a nod, Osanai-san clicked on the replay button of the voice recorder, causing a low, electronically altered voice to flow out.
“This is Osanai Yuki’s house, right? Now, just keep quiet and listen. It’ll be problematic if you don’t, and I’ll only say this once… Your daughter caused us quite a lot of trouble, so we’ve abducted her. We can let her go, but we need some compensation for the trouble she caused. We’re only asking for five million. With that, we can let her go. You got that, right? We’ll be calling you again.”
Osanai-san pushed the stop button, making a snap sound, then pulled the tape recorder towards her with a hand.
“We decided on the script and recorded it beforehand.”
“Why did you do something like that?”
“It would be troubling if Sanae-san got nervous and ran her mouth during the actual call… with that reason, I had her talk into this. Poor Sanae-san. She recorded her voice based on my recommendation, then handed it to me. She should have considered it a bit more.”
She said it with a tone of pity, rather than one of sympathy. Hearing the coldness in her voice, I was made to experience an emotion I couldn’t remember experiencing before. My words came out in a trickle.
“Basically, it went like this. Isawa Hasemi was trying to kidnap you, and you came up with a countermeasure for that, which involved using the Osanai Summer Sweets Selection as a pretext to get me to play the role of the savior. But you were not content with that. You were not satisfied with Isawa Hasemi’s charge being merely abduction and confinement.
“That was why you made the tape asking for a ransom. You made me witness the moment the phone call came in. Also, you added a premium to the abduction and confinement… which upgraded the charge to abduction with intent to extort!”
I’d had the wool pulled over my eyes. Because I’d witnessed the ransom call, I never suspected if the case was something other than a kidnapping. While I’d glanced at the origin and progress of the kidnapping, as well as questioned Osanai-san’s actions, my understanding of Isawa Hasemi’s group as having undertaken a kidnapping was never shaken.
But Isawa’s group did not kidnap Osanai-san. They might have abducted, confined and even assaulted, but they did not kidnap3. To be precise, they did not ask for a ransom. Just like how adding one card turns a three of a kind to a four of a kind, the girls would now be questioned for a crime one rank higher, and the person who added the critical element was none other than Osanai-san.
…Meaning that the person who kidnapped Osanai-san was Osanai-san herself.
But the perpetrator was unapologetic. She neither tried to play it off, nor tried to feign ignorance. Instead, she smiled, with dimples on her face.
“Exactly. You’ve finally got it, Kobato-kun.”
I bit on my lip and looked down. The chagrin was dizzying. That was part of it, anyway. However… Osanai-san’s tone of voice changed to one that was bright and resplendent, probably having wrongly interpreted the silence.
“Don’t worry, it won’t be exposed. Isawa-san’s group is made up of people she forcefully dragged in, so there is hardly any trust between its members. Even when I was being abducted, they couldn’t agree on what to do with me. It would be a little troubling if everyone who was arrested declares the same thing, that ‘none of them made the ransom phone call’, but that won’t happen. Even right now, they must have an idea of someone other than themselves who would try to extort a ransom on their own. For that purpose, I had Sanae-san spread the idea that some money could be gained by abducting me.
“Next, if the police investigate, they will find a voice changer in Houjou-san’s light van. Of course, I had Sanae-san bring that in. Seeing a new toy that had appeared without them knowing, Isawa-san and her friends were champing at the bit to try it out. They played with it for a while, then grew bored of it and left it in the light van. In other words, it has the fingerprints of everyone in Isawa-san’s group.
“Individually, they don’t know who brought it in. That’s why they will be suspicious of each other and think that one of them must have brought it.
“Even if all that is found out, it should still be fine. I’ve managed to lead Sanae-san to think that she was the one who came up with this plan. Above all, I have…”
She stroked the tape recorder.
“This… The tape recording of Sanae-san asking for the ransom. She just had to threaten me. What a poor little lamb.”
She spoke triumphantly, as if she was boasting about a dessert she’d found. I instinctively replied.
“A crime is no dessert, Osanai-san.”
“Especially for a false charge.”
If Osanai-san’s plan works perfectly, Isawa Hasemi and her gang would be judged to have committed a crime they have nothing to do with. Those girls were not innocent. They’d chosen to abduct Osanai-san based on their own free will, so they had undeniably committed a crime.
However, it is another story to be charged with the crime of kidnapping which they did not commit… in other words, a false charge.
“You’ve broken the promise a few times now. We both took the oath to become little citizens, but I sometimes catch sight of you with a vindictive face filled a lust for vengeance, a face you were supposed to have left behind. But I don’t intend to condemn you for that. I’m just like that, after all.
“But Osanai-san, I think you’ve crossed the line here. If you only incited your own kidnapping, one could say that Isawa Hasemi and her gang were at fault for still carrying it out. But this is… people are getting charged for a crime they did not commit. That’s wrong. It’s a lie. I’ve always acknowledged you to be one or two levels above me, but I never thought you would use the powers of observation, ability to act and judiciousness that you hardly see in others to frame others.”
My voice became a little choked up with emotion.
“On top that, for this plan, you used Kawamata Sanae, you used Doujima Kengo, you used me. We became accomplices to your lie.
“That’s just cruel, Osanai-san. I don’t know how much you hate Isawa Hasemi and her gang, but no matter how conservatively you describe it, this is an atrocious lie… and you’re a liar.”
Osanai-san’s eyes fluttered. For an instant, she restlessly looked around like a rabbit, then turned to look straight at me, her face tilted slightly downward.
“Me, a liar?”
Osanai-san looked up and looked straight into my eyes. Before me was a hatless girl with a bob cut. That was the Osanai-san I’d always been with since the summer of our third year of middle school. Since then, I’d seen various emotions from her. Joy, anger, and even the expression she displays when she’s plotting something.
But this time, the expression on her face was one I’d never seen before. She seemed to be smiling, but her gaze was slowly moving away. Rather than cold, that smile seemed to be desolate and weary.
“Yes, I’m a liar. I’ve lied to you, and I’ve lied to Doujima-kun. I’ve also completely broken the promise to become a petit bourgeois.
“But you’re also a liar, Kobato-kun. Have you noticed? While you were indicting me, you seemed to be enjoying yourself the entire time. While you were delving through your thoughts, not letting any small detail escape, you were so energetic and lively. It’s a lie to say that you don’t want to make deductions. Your idea of a petit bourgeois is a lie.”
I’d noticed, but didn’t we promise to not talk about it? Those are personality traits that are difficult to overcome, but that is why we need to seriously attempt to change…
No, I’d never really tried to amend my ways. I was indeed enjoying myself, during that time with the Charlotte, during the case involving Kengo’s note, even when Osanai-san was kidnapped. And needless to say, I was also enjoying myself during that exchange.
There was nothing I could say about being called a liar.
Osanai-san continued, as if spitting out the words.
“Everything’s a lie. Everyone says that I’m dating Kobato-kun, but that’s also a lie. I’m said to be a gentle girl in school, while you’re an innocuous companion with a brilliant smile. Those are also lies. I even lie at home, and you probably do that, too.
“It’s all been lies… even the thing about us being a fox and wolf, that’s probably a lie as well. After all, you were fooled like this, and you’re still wrong.
“If Isawa-san and her gang were merely eyesores, I could have just incited the kidnapping, as you said, and that would be the end of it. But why did I choose such a method? You don’t understand, and you didn’t even try to. I really didn’t want to do it like this. It would be fine if Isawa-san didn’t abduct me, I thought. That’s why I initially abandoned the plan to incite an abduction. There’s no need for me to intentionally put myself in danger. When I chose the plan to increase Isawa-san’s criminal charges, a plan that would only come into play if she really dragged me away, do you think that revenge was all I was thinking of?”
Bathed in the sunlight filtering through the glass, Osanai-san hugged herself.
“I was afraid. No matter how much I act tough, it hurts to be hit. If I get a deep wound, it’ll stay on me. If Isawa-san would really lay a hand on me, I would want her to be far away from me, as long as possible. I’d want her to stay away from me, for a year, or even half a year. That’s why I had her become a kidnapper. I exposed myself from danger. I lost a battle to win the war. If not, I would always be afraid for my safety. If what I did was a lie, it was a lie to escape from a scary person.
“Kobato-kun, you said that you believed in me. But I also believe in you now. I know that you definitely won’t do things that I’m afraid of. That’s because all you can do is think. You’re a person with no capacity for empathy… just like me.
“Also, you know how I am, and you saw through my plan just like that. If we’re not an exceptionally witty fox and wolf, if us trying to become petit bourgeois is just a lie, what is left? Do you know?”
If I’m not really a wolf, yet believe myself to be one, and declare myself to be turning into a petit bourgeois, which is also a lie.
That’s just like cotton candy. The thing that caused it to be swell into a sweet lie is just a pinch of sugar.
Of course I know what’s left, Osanai-san, I thought as her lips slowly moved.
“All that’s left is two arrogant high school students…”
“Hey, Kobato-kun, I don’t think there’s any point in us being together any more.”
If it wasn’t just my imagination, Osanai-san’s voice sounded somewhat sorrowful, but it was still calm, and far from emotional.
Osanai-san’s hands were wrapped around the tape recorder, as if it were precious to her. She continued talking while giving off the impression that she was talking to it.
“I’ve always thought of this. In the first place, our promise was to lend each other a hand so that we can become petit bourgeois. To prevent us from getting caught up in trouble, to allow us to live peacefully everyday, you’ve used me as your shield, and I’ve used you as mine. So that nobody can point at our backs and say, ‘That’s the kind of person he is,’… we thought the pact to be a definite necessity while we were in middle school. And I do think that was indeed the case.
“But now, I think it’s been enough. In Funado High School, no one thinks of us as anything other than a plain couple. Those who knew us in Takaba Middle School also won’t say anything now that two years have passed.
“On top of that, us aiming to be petit bourgeois is just a lie. We claim to have that goal, but we know it to be untrue. We lament how bad it is not being little citizens, yet we never considered truely following the path. .. Don’t you think this will never go away as long as the two of us are together?”
I quietly nodded.
“Exactly. I’ve also noticed it long ago. I tend to gravitate to the detective role the most when I’m with you. Even to the point that I would create materials when there weren’t any… All I can say is that I was being spoiled by you.”
“I was also too dependent on the sense of security I had with you being around. But if so, that’s fine. If we’ve become unable to find meaning in becoming genuine petit bourgeois, we could hold onto this arrogance, like it’s a secret just between the two of us.”
That was quite the sickening proposal. Under this, Osanai-san and I would become conceited and only think of ourselves as special, but live out our high school lives normally, without breathing a word about it… although I cannot declare with confidence that our current state was not entirely like this. Then again, if we could derive pleasure from that, closed happiness is still happiness. However…
“But Osanai-san, that isn’t why we’re together.”
“Yes, we’re together for the sole purpose of using each other at our own convenience. It’s because of this promise that you accompanied me for my sweets pilgrimage throughout the summer even though you had your doubts. You came along because you thought I had some plan, even though you don’t really like sweet things.”
That was exactly how our symbiotic relationship worked… it was not a one in which we were dependent on each other.
“Indeed, when I was with you, I constantly wondered what you were thinking. There was too little material for me to base my thoughts on, so at some point I started wondering if you simply wanted to do a sweets pilgrimage. It was a little distressing.”
“I was also happy that you came along without a word of complaint, but I was always thinking of ways to effectively imprint the map onto your memory… It was a hard time for me too.”
We fell silent.
In my head, I evaluated Osanai-san’s proposal. Had our petit bourgeois slogan outlived its usefulness?
I can’t agree with that. If we lose just a little self-control, Osanai-san and I would immediately be talked about behind our backs again. It’s miserable even thinking about it now. Contrary to what Osanai-san said, it’s not the case that I’m unable to find meaning in becoming a genuine petit bourgeois.
So, what about the method to bolster my self-control by being with Osanai-san to avoid situations that would test my self-control? Had it reached its limits?
That might be true. It’s because of Osanai-san that I solve mysteries. Since I have this side to me, it wouldn’t be strange for Osanai-san to consider revenge schemes only because I ‘m with her. If that is the case, then there are already cracks in the our relationship.
…I’d already noticed this, though.
Osanai-san and I had quite some difference in opinion, but we apparently often came to relatively similar conclusions.
“I don’t think there’s no meaning in us being together.”
Osanai-san gasped in surprise, but I continued.
“I do think it’s lost its effectiveness, though. You do have a point.”
With a sigh, Osanai-san shook her head.
“…As I thought, you responded this way.”
“I had no choice.”
“No, I wasn’t talking about the contents of your reply, but of the method.
“Kobato-kun, I’m bringing up the subject of breaking up here. If that sounds too much like a thing for lovers, then let’s call it a dissolution of our relationship. You should understand, right? If I’d always thought this way, why did I not bring it up until today?”
I didn’t even need to think to answer that question.
“You couldn’t afford to break relations with me before dealing with Isawa Hasemi, right?”
“Exactly. Don’t you think that was selfish of me? Especially when you were angry at me for lying and entrapping Isawa-san.”
“For Isawa-san, you were going against the rules, so it was natural for me to be angry. But I don’t have the right to be mad at you for using me.”
I became increasingly calm as I answered her question.
Although that was no place for either of us to be calm, Osanai-san was also totally composed. A cold smile appeared on her childlike face.
“There you go. Even when I selfishly bring up the topic of bidding each other farewell, we can’t even bicker. We try to judge if it’s the appropriate thing to do. All we can do is think. We don’t get angry, and we don’t even feel the slightest hint of sadness. It might be good to stay like this with you around…
“But we can’t stay together forever.
“Today, I completed a bit of homework from middle school. I think this is a good opportunity.”
She was right.
In the first place, Osanai-san and I being together was only a transient measure.
Time to make a decision.
“I understand what you were trying to say… Let’s go our separate ways.”
However, Osanai-san’s response to my statement was difficult to understand.
She closed her eyes for an instant, and when they reopened, a teardrop leaked out from the corner of an eye. She’d laid out a logical proposal, and I agreed to it after some consideration, so there should be no cause for sadness. For some reason, Osanai-san whispered.
“…I’m sorry, Kobato-kun…”
In the end, only I remained in Cecilia.
Osanai-san had left. I probably wouldn’t see her again, at least during this summer. When the second trimester begins, we would return to being just fellow students in the same grade.
I could become a petit bourgeois on my own. Osanai-san was not an essential, indispensable existence for that end. On that topic, I wonder it’s even possible for anyone to be irreplaceable or indispensable.
However, I felt that she was being a little unfair. Osanai-san, the sixteen year old high school student who was as tall as an elementary school student, had a childlike face to match it and could get into the cinema at half-price, had said this while her back was turned towards me.
“But this sweets pilgrimage with Kobato-kun… was not unenjoyable.”
It was a phrase that didn’t need to be said. Those are unnecessary words, Osanai-san. If you were going to lie, you might as well have become a con artist and hid any inconvenient truths all the way to the end.
I made no mistakes on that front. I did not say the words, “I had quite some fun too.”
Thus the case ended, the curtains lowered, and with that the actors left the stage. All that remained was Kobato Jougorou, the summer sun that was starting to set, and the half-eaten Summer-Exclusive Tropical Parfait. I inserted the long spoon, scooped up some of parfait that had melted and mixed into a faint pink fluid, and put it into my mouth.
It was saccharine-sweet. Way too sweet. It was not something that I could tolerate at all. My stomach tightened, my chest constricted. Wiping my mouth with a paper napkin, I endured the horrible taste at the back of my throat.
It was revolting. An absolutely nauseating taste.
…From that day onward, I became unable to eat parfaits.
As we’d expected, Isawa Hasemi was sent to a juvenile home. Her exact crime was not reported, and the case of Osanai Yuki’s kidnapping was only published as a minor story in the local-news section of the newspapers. It mentioned that Isawa and her gang had kidnapped a fellow girl who had caused them trouble, but I had no idea how Osanai-san reacted to being treated as an associate of Isawa. In other news, Doujima Kengo stopped hiding the fact that he was dating Kawamata Kasumi.
As for me, even seeing the picture of a parfait in a restaurant menu would cause those memories to return. The sweet, sweet memory would unceasingly well up in me, causing my heart to burn, and that is why I became unable to eat a single parfait.
Chapter 4 | Contents | Afterword
Editors (Tier 2) : Joshua Fisher
Assistants (Tier 1) : Definitelynotme, Rolando Sanchez
Thank you very much for all your support!
- Meaning an inflexible person.
- Refers to Settlers of Canaan, a licensed adaptation of Settlers of Catan that incorporates Hebrew Bible themes into its multiplayer board game play.
- Throughout the story, the characters use the terms “kidnap” and “abduct” interchangeably as most people do, but legally there is a difference. According to some sites, kidnapping is done with intent to cause the victim to be detained against their will, and is usually accompanied with an intent to extort, assault, etc. Basically, all kidnappings are abductions but not all abductions are kidnappings.
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