Nakamaru Tokiko-san had the appearance of someone who played around a lot, but was actually good-natured beyond my imagination. Since that day when I was called out to the classroom via a letter, a blessed high school life started for me. I couldn’t even count how many times I had the thought, “I sure am living the life.”
We explored the school cultural festival, spent a chilly Christmas and went to our first shrine visit on New Year’s Day together. As a petit bourgeois in high school, it was an exquisite daily life. I never once thought that there would be a day in which we would have a quarrel out of jealousy or borne from a misunderstanding.
It was the day right before the end of winter, and I was heading out for an appointment. Nakamaru-san and I were to go to a New Year sale in Panorama Island, a shopping mall in Masame City. Everything there was apparently on sale at a heavily reduced price.
When I arrived at the meeting place, Nakamaru-san was already waiting there wearing a black long coat. She also had a white muffler on her head and boots on her feet. It was a mature outfit that went well with her slender body. I approached her in a slight trot.
“Sorry for making you wait on a cold day.”
“No, I just got here.”
We exchanged cliched phrases. Ah, what a pleasant feeling it was.
Together, we walked the streets of January. The weather was clear, but the cold was so intense that it seemed to seep into my body, causing me to make white exhalations that disappeared into the sky.
I even felt like holding her hand.
We headed towards our destination, Panorama Island, by bus.
It was in a neighboring city, but it wasn’t that far. I could have gone there by bicycle if I was alone, although the chilly weather might have given me some problems. However, Nakamaru-san said to go there by bus, probably because she possessed a citywide student commuter pass which she usually used to get to school.
Up until now, I had hardly taken any form of public transport.
Kira City had train tracks running through it in the east-west direction. There were elevated tracks in the surrounding area of the station, as well as a magnificent bus terminal in front. However, with only this one station, the train could not be used to get around the city. Quite a few bus routes were available, but it was possible to go anywhere by bicycle.
But I had now become dependent on the public transportation network, and that was mainly due to Nakamaru-san’s influence. There was this one time when we went to see a romance movie at a cinema complex quite a distance away. It was in the afternoon when we entered the theater, but it was already dark when we exited, so I took the bus with Nakamaru-san, who had been moved to tears by the movie.
The buses in Kira City had a uniform fare. It was the same price no matter how far you traveled, which was a much appreciated system for a non-affluent high school student like myself. However, I couldn’t remember exactly how much it cost. My ability to remember wasn’t that bad, but my memory about that particular value was somehow hazy, and I couldn’t quite remember it was 210 or 260 yen. All I could remember was that it was a little troublesome since it required a 10-yen coin. It would be embarrassing to ask Nakamaru-san, “How much is the bus fare again?” so I stuffed a few coins into my pocket.
The two of us waited together at the bus stop. The schedule stated that the bus was supposed to arrive at 10:42, but it was still nowhere to be seen, although it was already past 10:50. There were only benches at the bus stop, and nothing to block the wind. Worrying that Nakamaru-san might be feeling cold, I looked to the side, only to see that she was also looking at me. It was funny that the timing was so perfect, so we giggled.
“Nakamaru-san, it’s cold, so how about you go some place where there’s no wind? I’ll tell you when the bus arrives.”
But she replied with her hands in her pockets.
“I’m fine, it’s not that cold. What about you, Kobato-chan? Are you fine without your muffler?”
On the first day, I’d refused Nakamaru-san’s suggestion of calling me “Joe”, so she called me “Kobato-kun” for a short while. However, she apparently found “kun” to be weird, so she continuously asked if she could call me “Joe”, and I always said no. At the end of that, we settled with “Kobato-chan”. As a result of some phonic changes, it now sounded like “Koba-cchan” to me. Sometimes it even sounded like “Koma-cchan”. Who the heck is Komatsu?
A siren sounded in the distance. Of course, I could differentiate between the sirens of firetrucks, ambulances and police vehicles. This one was clearly from a firetruck.
I initially thought it came from really far away, but the siren started growing louder in volume, and some firetrucks appeared at the end of the road which we had been looking at and wondering if the bus would show up. Two pump firetrucks with the name “Hinoki Town 2” written on their sides rushed by at an unimaginably breakneck speed, cutting through the traffic junction a stone’s throw away from where we were, and leaving behind a Doppler shift1 in our ears.
I could hear Nakamaru-san mutter. That made me happy, for I also had the exact same thought.
Fires happened often during this period, probably caused by the dryness. That was why there were more firetrucks than usual. My house was quite far from the highway, but I could still hear those sirens fairly frequently. So Nakamaru-san was also concerned about the fires. Perhaps I should ask her about it.
However, that never came to pass.
“Ah, its here.”
As if chasing after the firetrucks, the long awaited bus finally appeared. Kira Bus South Line – Via Panorama Island.
I’d been wondering about the fare, but it was written on the side of the bus. “Citywide Uniform Fare – 210 yen”.
This time I should commit that number to memory, lest I forget.
We got on the bus from the middle. As soon we went up the steps, a coin change machine caught my eye. Nakamaru-san turned towards me and asked.
“You have change?”
No slip-ups there. I’d considered the possibility of the bus fare being 260 yen, and filled my pocket with enough change. I felt a little insecure after being asked that question, so I subtly felt the pocket full of coins. On the other hand, Nakamaru-san retrieved a 500-yen coin from her wallet and exchanged it for smaller denominations.
We would only need to pay before alighting. Actually, along with the privately-owned “Kira Bus”, there was also the municipally-owned “Kira City Bus”, and passengers were supposed to pay upon getting onto buses owned by the latter company. It was quite easy to mix them up. Since it was clearly inconvenient, there were plans to fix the problem in the near future, but right now these two different modes of payment were still mixed together. The bus we were getting on was one from the privately-owned company, so we definitely had to pay at the end of our ride.
The bus was a lot more congested than we’d expected. We weren’t packed like sardines, but all the seats were filled. As someone who hardly took the bus, I sought for knowledge.
“Is it always this packed?”
Nakamaru-san replied in an exasperated manner.
“What are you talking about? It’s only just beginning.”
I had no idea what was beginning, but I would find out sooner or later anyway. I asked another question.
“How long will this take?”
“Hmm, twenty minutes if the roads aren’t jammed. Or perhaps even faster.”
As she was saying that, the next bus stop quickly came into sight. I never knew the stops were placed at such small intervals.
It was at the moment when I found out what Nakamaru-san’s words meant.
There had been only two of us at the previous bus stop. However, by some witchcraft, there was a queue at this bus stop. It was a really long queue that coiled around like a snake. Some of them had fortified themselves with mufflers, and others with woolen hats, but they were unmistakably all waiting for the bus.
Exposed to the north wind under the cold sky, all of them looked pale, and were staring resentfully at me, no, at the bus. It was a tableau that gave off a miserable impression.
The bus stopped, and the doors in the middle opened, allowing the snake-like queue to start being swallowed up. Frankly, I thought that half of the people waiting there would not be able to get onto the bus, but I was wrong. Rather than the queue at the bus stop, the snake description should have been given to the bus itself. The Kira bus fit passengers in with unbelievable pliability, as if it were a snake swallowing bird eggs. Thanks to all the new passengers pushing forward onto the bus, the population density swelled up in an instant, causing me to get shoved, dragged, jostled around, although I eventually managed to lean neatly against Nakamaru-san, with both my hands raised. The fragrance of cologne wafted over.
So Nakamaru-san was referring to the congestion inside the bus when she said, “It’s only just beginning.” I was impressed. By Nakamaru-san’s wisdom to meet at the bus stop before the one which was hellishly packed with people, as well as her bravery for choosing the bus even with knowledge of this congestion. I deeply regretted underestimating this normal high school girl.
However, she quickly betrayed my admiration.
“Why is it so crowded today…?”
It seemed that the level of crowdedness today was unexpected, even for Nakamaru-san. While it was a weekday, it was in the first month, so there would be a slight difference from the normal level.
Thus, I was transported towards Panorama Island with both my arms raised, like a bank employee facing the barrel of a gun. If a pickpocket were to slip their hand into one of my pockets, I probably would not be able to stop them. Thankfully, in this crowded bus, even the most skilled pickpocket would have their hands full protecting their own body. It would be tough being in this posture for more than twenty minutes.
The air conditioning on the bus didn’t seem to be working. I didn’t think “Ah, the heating here is warm” when I got onto the bus from the windswept bus stop. However, playing Oshikura Manju2 instantly made my body nice and warm. Sweat was even forming on my forehead. On top of that, the person next to me was Nakamaru-san, so I couldn’t brazenly press my body against hers. In fact, I ended up desperately exerting my strength in an attempt to protect her from the pressure of the other passengers.
Nakamaru-san, who may or may not have noticed my suffering, spoke.
“It’ll probably ease up three stops from now.”
If that’s so, I should endure it. Let me tighten the muscles on my neck that I usually don’t use, and protect Nakamaru-san from the rabble. As I mustered a tragic but brave resolution, an announcement reached my ears in a bright tone that somehow sounded disparaging.
“This is a notice from the Kira Municipal Office. If you are an elderly person above the age of sixty, please use the elderly discount pass. With this pass, taking any bus will be free during daytime on weekdays, and half price during other times. To use it, please present it to the bus attendant before alighting. Taking the bus contributes to measures against global warming. Ride the bus and let the bus routes live on! That was a notice from the Kira Municipal Office.”
So the bus company was being subsidized by the Municipal Office even though it was privately owned, huh. Then again, if this thriving bus route couldn’t be maintained, then nothing would be able to help it.
There were also multiple people waiting at the next bus stop, but the bus did not stop. Instead, someone, probably the driver, spoke in a voice that was very difficult to hear.
“We’re full. Please wait for the next bus.”
In front of me was the stop button. Wanting to press a button if there is one is just like a petit bourgeois. As I had the thought of pushing the button right before we reached Panorama Island, I noticed the dirt on the button. At the corner of the button which was supposed to be pure white, there was a reddish brown stain. Could it be blood?
Well, it was probably chocolate. On closer inspection, it was simply brown, and not red at all.
“Koba-cchan, what are you looking at?”
Looking at you! That would be a lie, of course. For some reason or other, the pressure on my back increased, so I looked down and clenched my teeth.
Then, an announcement carefreely circulated around the interior of the bus.
“The next stop is Hinoki Town, 2nd District. Hinoki Town, 2nd District. This is a convenient to spot to alight if you want to get to Spring Scenery, a restaurant with an abundant menu of traditional Japanese cuisine. If you wish to alight, please let us know by sounding the buzzer.”
At that point, the buzzer sounded, and the announcement continued.
“The bus will be stopping.”
I looked up and noticed something.
The dirt on the button in front of me had been wiped in the few seconds I wasn’t looking. It hadn’t been completely wiped off, but seemed to be spread out on the button.
The reason was obvious. Someone close to me had pressed the button and sounded the buzzer. For a standing passenger to do that, they would have to extend their arm over me and Nakamaru-san’s shoulders. They could also crouch and hit the button from the bottom.
But none of that had happened, so the person who had pressed the button was someone sitting in the midst of this nightmarish chaos, as carefree as a dweller of the heavens. I had no idea how many people would alight, but I would be grateful for any reduction in human density.
However, the only things waiting for us at the next stop was a miraculous situation and a painfully awkward period of time.
The bus stopped. There were people waiting at the bus stop, but the driver did not open the middle door, because the bus was full. Naturally, the front door was open for passengers to alight.
But no one moved. No one got off, and I could not see even a single person trying to get off the bus. The driver made an announcement with the microphone.
“We have arrived at Hinoki Town, 2nd District.”
Still no movement. The passengers, which had morphed into a nameless mass, seemed to have dropped the virtue of indifference, for they were now staring at each other. Who hit the buzzer? It’s that person’s fault that the bus is stopped. We’ll forgive you, so hurry up and get off. This wordless atmosphere expanded, causing the already cramped bus interior to be filled with a bizarre sense of tension.
Someone tried to get onto the bus from the front, which was supposed to be only for alighting passengers. I only knew that from the driver’s words, spoken in a bitter voice.
“You cannot board the bus from there. Please wait for a short while, we’re currently full.”
And thus that passenger was halted from entering.
I knew who did it.
The person who pressed the button was one of the two people at the seats next to me. They were single seats, with their backs to each other.
Sitting in front was a girl wearing a blazer uniform and headphones, her eyes fixated on a paperback book. In the back seat was an old woman who was clutching a stick even as she was sitting down, her back hunched, as if she was unable to bear the unpleasant bus interior. None of them seemed to be making a move.
This meant that one of them had probably mistaken the bus stop they wanted to alight at, and inadvertently pressed the button. It seemed that the bus driver had also come to that conclusion.
“No one? Alright, the door will be closing.”
The bus started traveling again. What a shame for those poor fellows waiting at the bus stop of Hinoki Town, 2nd District.
There were another two more traffic junctions before the promised “third stop”.
Vibrations that were not insignificant constantly traveled through the interior of the bus. I tried my best to absorb the frequent shocks with the spring force in my knees. I really wanted to lower my hands.
On the seemingly never-ending road, we eventually reached the destination. The announcement was bright and cool, as usual.
“The next stop is Before East Office. Before East Office. If you wish to alight, please let us know by sounding the buzzer.”
But the buzzer had already been pressed by someone.
“The bus will be stopping.”
East Office was apparently an unexpectedly popular spot that I didn’t know of. As Nakamaru-san had said, quite a few passengers were trying to alight here. However, the exit was at the front of the vehicle. In the tightly packed bus, even more friction occurred between the passengers trying to alight and the passengers trying to hold the bridgehead.
That, however, gave us some leeway. The bus was still full, but I was able to put my hands down, release my back from Nakamaru-san and heave a sigh of relief. I somehow felt that I’d been on the bus for an hour already.
Even Nakamaru-san, who was supposed to be used to the crowded conditions in the bus, sighed.
“Ahh, that was rough.”
“I’m sweating all over.”
We looked at each other and laughed wryly.
By maintaining a good posture, my brain, which had been absorbed in more pressing matters, momentarily cleared up. That was when I noticed a chance right before my eyes.
Without thinking, I let out a sound.
“What is it, Kobato-chan?”
Nakamaru-san asked in puzzlement, but I neglected to respond to her.
I was looking at the two seats with their backs to one another. In the front seat was a female student, and in the back seat was an old lady.
One of them had accidentally pressed the buzzer earlier… Basically, one of them could possibly be alighting nearby. Right now, I could move to either the front seat or the back seat.
By being next to the one alighting, I could secure a seat when they stand up!
However, I had no intention of sitting down. Instead, I was thinking of providing a seat to my cute wavy-haired date, Nakamaru Tokiko-san.
In this hellish bus, indecision was unacceptable.
If I failed to guide Nakamaru-san to the correct passenger between the student and the old lady, there would be no hope in the game of securing a seat. There wasn’t much time left. Even with an overestimate, this would only last until the next bus stop. I would have to make a clear judgment by then. Which of the female student and the old lady would be getting of the bus?
“Hold on for a bit.”
“Hold on? What for?”
I’ll be sending you a gift, so just hold on. The gift of a seat, that is.
In my view, the problem could be solved with some swift yet detailed observation.
Thankfully, there was a route map posted in my immediate vicinity. Taking a look at it, I understood that the bus was on an unexpectedly long journey. However, the important part was the set of following stops.
Hinoki Town, 2nd District
Before East Office
Hinoki Elementary School
Hinoki Town, 4th District
Hinoki Town Library
Hinoki Town, 6th District
Before Seiheki Girls College
Hinoki Town South, 2nd District
Taiga Bridge North
Taiga Bridge South
Panorama Island South
Masame City Hall
(End of Route)
Looking at the map, it was obvious why someone mistakenly pressed the button. There were too many stops that start with “Hinoki Town”. They could have been distracted by something else, or perhaps they had poor hearing, causing them to press the button at the wrong time. In other words, one of the two people would probably alight at Hinoki Town, 4th District. If not, they would alight at Hinoki Town South, 2nd District.
So, who would alight first? Who pressed the button? I studied the two suspects.
The female student’s pair of headphones was small, with its cord disappearing into a tote bag at her feet. Perhaps it was mixed up with the noise from the bus engines, or perhaps it had been turned down, but I couldn’t make out the type of music she was listening to.
A point to note was the “bookmark” sticking out from the top of the girl’s book. If my eyes were not mistaken, it looked like a citywide student commuter pass that Nakamaru-san also possessed. It was the same color, and I could read the words “Kira bus” and “citywide commuter” on it.
She was wearing a navy-blue blazer, with a school badge at her chest. That was not the same uniform as that of Funado High School, which I was attending. The uniform for girls in Funado High School was a sailor uniform, after all. However, I didn’t know which school’s uniform that was, since I wasn’t exactly well versed with them. Anyway, the female student was also wearing a muffler to protect her from the cold. It was gray and plain-looking.
The stop button in question was diagonally above the girl’s backrest. To press it, she would have to reach behind with her arm. Then again, the button was everywhere in the bus. There was also a button in front of the girl. To press that, she could lean forward and extend her arm.
Generally speaking, if there is a button in front and behind, one would normally press the button in front, right? This view slightly worked against the theory that the female student pressed the button.
As for the elderly lady, she was clinging onto her walking stick even though she was already sitting on the bus. It didn’t seem like her body was aching so badly that she wouldn’t be able to sit down without her stick. It was still before noon, but the old lady’s eyelids seemed heavy. If left alone, she would probably doze off within a short period of time. She could have had a momentarily lapse of consciousness, heard the name “Hinoki Town” and pressed the button in a panic.
The old lady was wearing a dark brown vest on top of her knitted sweater, which was blue and black in color, and looked warm. She also had a handbag. It had a leather surface, but I couldn’t tell if it was real leather. Strangely enough, her left hand, which was already holding onto the walking stick, was also clasping the handbag, while her right hand was simply resting on top.
I suddenly noticed that something was hanging from her neck. It was the size of a cash card, and was placed in a transparent cardholder. I quickly read the text written on the front of the card. It was an elderly discount pass. I could remember that there was an announcement earlier about that. Basically, the old lady was above the age of sixty-five. Or was it sixty?
The stop button was in a location which she could reach by extending her right hand. However, there were still doubts with that possibility. Only about ten seconds had passed from the time that the buzzer sounded to the time when I noticed that the dirt on the button had disappeared. Could that old lady have extended her arm, pressed the button and returned it to rest on the stick within that short amount of time?
Nakamaru-san called out to me, in a low voice, wary of her surroundings. The bus was still crowded, but it was more or less better than before.
Not moving my eyes away from the observation targets, I replied.
“Hm? What is it?”
“Did something good happen?”
Well, can’t say I have an idea about anything good happening.
“Not really, why?”
“You seem happy.”
Happy? I couldn’t tell, but perhaps that was so. My face must have looked too relaxed. I didn’t want to look stern, but made it a point to at least control my lips.
Even though I called it observation, I would just be staring if I didn’t recognize exactly what I was observing for. People’s appearances don’t change after merely pressing a plastic button, after all. Although if I could see the pulp of their index fingers, I might be able to find dirt from the button stuck onto it.
But thinking more rigorously, the following situation was also possible. Assuming that a passenger was eating pistachio nuts or something similar on the bus, the shells accumulated in their lap would fall below if they leaned forward to press the button. As for whether this theory could be used for this case…
No, it was impossible. In any case, neither of the two passengers had dropped shells into their lap, and no one was kneeling or anything of the sort. I also couldn’t go up to the suspects and suddenly ask, “Can I see your index finger?”
Therefore, I wouldn’t be able to get the answer by only considering the question “Which one of the two pressed the button?” while observing them.
I wanted to know whether the old lady or the female student would alight from the bus first. Are there any characteristics of people who are just about to alight from a bus?
I spoke to Nakamaru-san.
“Shall I hold your muffler?”
Since the bus interior had everyone packed like sardines, it was really hot. It even seemed like sweat would form due to the difference in the temperature of my body and the surrounding temperature. Nakamaru-san was loosening her muffler to cool her neck.
Nakamaru-san replied with a smile.
Incidentally, the student who was seated had her muffler tied firmly around her neck. Could that be considered as her preparing to leave the bus?
We were feeling hot due to the hustle and bustle of the heavy congestion in the bus. It was not strange for a seated female student to be wrapped in a muffler.
What about the elderly lady, then? Could her holding of the handbag in only one hand be also considered as preparation for getting off the bus?
If I had to think about how that would fit, it would be like this. The old lady had taken both her hands off her handbag. When she thought it would soon be her stop, she gripped onto the handbag with her left hand, then pressed the button. After that, she realized that she made a mistake, so she did not hold the handbag with her right hand.
That situation was not impossible. However, I also didn’t think that it was probable. Besides, why did her right hand go white? Was she angry about something and clenched her fist that tightly?
What about the student’s book, then? If she closed the book, dropped it into her tote bag and sat up straight, there would be no room for any other deduction but “Ah, seems like she’ll be alighting soon.” But it was the reverse in reality. The girl was still engrossed in her book, so could that mean she didn’t intend to get off for the time being?
Not really, either. It is impossible to draw a conclusion of whether someone is alighting soon or isn’t alighting yet, only based off the fact that they are still reading a book.
Nakamaru-san piped up.
“Hey, can we hit the shoe shop when we reach Panorama Island? I want a pair of boots, but we can’t wear them to school, so what should I get, I wonder?”
What would a person about to alight do? Keep their personal effects, wear their hat, then push their way through the crowd, alight from the bus and stand on the road. Is that all? If I were to alight at the next stop, what would I do?
There was no time left. Now that it’s come to this, I should be swift and decisive.
I thought, pondered and considered. What would someone alighting do?
Someone alighting would…
As I pondered, I subconsciously stuck my hand into my pocket.
…Ah, I see.
I had a sudden impulse to jump into the air, shout and swear at the same time. Why didn’t I notice this earlier? I was astounded by my foolishness. I could only conclude that the normal signs of embarrassment I displayed during normal conversations as well as the smiles I put on during movies and shopping trips had rusted my brain. Of course, it was the small change. That was the solution to the entire problem.
It was none other than my pockets that gave me the hint. You had to pay before boarding municipally-owned buses. But that was not the case for Kira buses.
For these buses, one would have to pay the fare before alighting. In other words, someone alighting from a Kira bus would be holding onto small change!
I clearly knew the contents of the old lady’s right hand, as if I could see through it. There was no doubt that the tightly clenched fist was holding onto some coins. Besides that, there was nothing else on the bus that she would have to hold onto, to the extent that she would take one hand off her handbag.
Basically, this was what happened. The old lady initially had both hands on her handbag. She then brought out her wallet. Since she couldn’t take coins out while holding onto the handbag, she removed her right hand from the handbag and used it to grab some change. The old lady knew that she would have to insert the coins into the payment register in the near future, so she continued on like this, without gripping the handbag with her right hand again!
Although I was able to derive the answer, I was not satisfied. As Kobato Jougorou, I had taken far too long to reach such a simple line of reasoning. It should have been obvious at a glance.
Even so, I wasn’t too slow. Umm, what was the purpose of guessing who would alight first again?
Ah, right, it was to secure a seat, I believe.
My powers of observation, which had already been warmed up, saved me from certain defeat at the last moment.
I couldn’t explain the hesitance I had in that instance. For some reason, I felt that my reasoning wasn’t enough, that I’d missed something out. What was it?
I looked at the elderly lady, her stick, her left hand which was holding onto her handbag, her right hand which was not holding onto anything. What was that hanging from her neck?
It was the elderly discount pass that promised free travel on buses during the daytime on weekdays.
That was it. What my observation had captured was undoubtedly this pass.
What a close shave it was. The old lady had an elderly discount pass, so she wouldn’t need to pay the fare before alighting.
“Ah, did you say something?”
Nakamaru-san asked, prompting me to respond with a smile, and only a smile. I didn’t say anything.
So, was my observation all for naught?
When alighting from the bus, I would have have to pay 210 yen from the coins in my pocket as the bus fare. However, all the old lady would need to do was show her elderly discount pass. Thus, there was now no method to tell if she intended to alight at the next stop, or at the end of the bus route. It was the same for the female student. If a student commuter pass was indeed stuck between the pages of that pesky book, she could also alight from the bus by simply showing that, too…
Was there anything strange about that?
Someone with a student commuter pass could show it to alight from the bus. Someone with an elderly discount pass could likewise show it to alight from the bus. Nothing strange there. The effects of the elderly discount pass had been announced in the bus earlier, and I’d seen Nakamaru-san use the student commuter pass before. So there was nothing strange about that at all.
If there were no abnormalities there, something was strange somewhere else.
Since entering high school, I’d experienced something like this multiple times. When a slovenly friend of mine made cocoa, the problem was with neither the cocoa nor the cup, but was in the vicinity. It was the same when that slovenly friend left a coded message. The conclusion was outside that message. In that case, I shouldn’t focus my thoughts. After all, it is the outer edge of the pupil that can see through darkness.
“…I finally got it.”
By remembering this ironclad rule, it was not difficult to pinpoint the part that seemed out of joint.
I moved my body, pulling on Nakamaru-san’s sleeve.
“Come over here.”
She slightly raised her voice in protest, but moving a few centimeters in a crowded bus was not a particularly questionable thing to do. Nakamaru-san moved next to the female student, as if she’d planned to stand there from the very beginning.
Would Nakamaru-san understand the train of thought I had from the last bus stop to the next?
As I thought, the answer was borne from observation. This intuition that I get never goes off the mark. However, nothing could be read from simply observing the old lady and the female student. I had to widen the span of my observation.
I should have thought Nakamaru-san’s behavior to be strange from the start.
Nakamaru-san possessed a citywide student commuter pass. With that, the Kira buses would take her anywhere.
That was what I thought, but I was wrong… If that was the case, she wouldn’t have needed to do something like that.
She wouldn’t have needed to break her 500 yen coin into smaller denominations as soon as she got on the bus.
Nakamaru-san needed to pay the bus fare in small change. That was why she exchanged coins. Did the citywide student commuter pass lose its effect?
No, it was clearly in effect, with regards to “citywide”.
It was even stipulated on the side of the bus that there was a uniform fare of 210 yen. To be precise, it said, “Citywide Uniform Fare – 210 yen”.
However, I should have known this from the beginning, but Panorama Island was not within the city. It was a shopping center on the other side of the river, in a neighboring city.
Nakamaru-san knew that since we would be crossing the city border, her commuter pass wouldn’t cut it, so she exchanged her coin. It was the same for the elderly lady. The elderly discount pass was only effective within Kira City. That had also been announced in the bus earlier.
Basically, holding some coins in her hand meant that she was staying on the bus until it left Kira City, at the very least.
In that case, I could use the method of elimination. The one who accidentally pressed the stop button and was about to alight somewhere in Hinoki Town would be none other than the female student.
I wonder if Nakamaru-san would understand this thought process?
Without making a sound, I muttered under my breath.
That was because to Nakamaru-san, needing small change to get to Panorama Island was self-explanatory. As always, it was tough to fill a gap in knowledge with wisdom.
The bus stopped, and the driver spoke.
“We have arrived at Hinoki Town Library.”
Someone sounded the buzzer. The female student reluctantly closed her book, squeezed through the crowd and headed towards the front of the bus. She then showed her commuter pass to the driver and alighted. The seat in front of Nakamaru-san was now empty.
Having an empty seat appear in front of her as if it was a gift from the heavens, Nakamaru-san’s smile was like a blooming flower.
“Oh, lucky me!”
Editors (Tier 2) : Joshua Fisher
Assistants (Tier 1) : Definitelynotme, Rolando Sanchez
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- The change in frequency of a wave in relation to an observer who is moving relative to the wave source. Basically, this means that a car engine or siren will sound higher in pitch when it is approaching than when it is receding.
- A simple Japanese singing game that is played on cold days in order to get warm, in which the players gather around in a circle, as close to each other as possible, stand back to back facing the outside, then powerfully shove backwards, pressing their backs towards other players’ backs as they chant “Oshikura Manju osarete nakuna”, meaning “Oshikura Manju don’t cry when shoved”.
- Literally meaning “snow sandals”, setta are zori (see following footnote) that have a leather sole and metal rivets added to the sole.
- Thonged Japanese sandals, usually worn with a kimono.