Case of the Autumn-Exclusive Kuri Kinton Chapter 3: A Wavering Spring (Part 1)

C

Chapter 2 Part 4 | Contents | Chapter 3 Part 2

(1 February – Funado Monthly, Page 8 Column)

Since autumn last year, there has been a spate of suspected arson attacks in Kira City. Flames broke out at Hamae in October, Nishimori in November, and Koyubi in December. In a more recent case to the writing of this article, the morning paper recorded another suspected arson attack in Akanebe on 12 January. They were all incipient fires, but with the nature of this season, it is not impossible for the flames to go out of control. It is no laughing matter for Funa High to go up in flames, so all students should practice fire prevention and take care to not throw out combustibles carelessly. However, considering the characteristics of the arson attacks so far, I believe that Funa High and its surroundings area will not be targeted. In my opinion, the next location that meets the conditions would be Kobiki, if not Ritsuno, but I sincerely hope that the culprit is caught before they can set their next fire.

(Urino Takahiko)


(9 February – Yomiuri Newspaper, Regional Section)

Suspected Arson at Ritsuno, Kira City – Vehicle Set on Fire

At approximately 12am on 9 February, a burning vehicle by the river embankment in Kira City, Ritsuno Town, 3rd District was spotted by nearby residents, who promptly called 119. Firefighters rushed to the scene, but the vehicle was already completely destroyed by the fire. No casualties were reported. According to eyewitnesses, the burnt vehicle had been abandoned in that area a few months ago. The Kira Police Department are investigating it as a case of suspected arson.


My article had become a prophecy, exactly as I’d hoped.

Thus, I was able to put on a brusque face in front of Osanai, as I’d desired. I then threw down the two articles, laying them side by side.

However, her reaction was incomprehensible.

In the first place, Osanai was not one to have big emotional displays. No, they might be big, but they hardly ever showed on her face. When she was happy she would only grin, and when she was angry she would only fall silent. I had never seen her display any sort of intense emotion.

But she had a strong reaction upon seeing the articles. Her body stiffened as if she’d been just stabbed by a blade, and she stared at the two articles.

Almost half a year had passed since that traffic accident of a confession after school . Even so, I couldn’t be sure of how her head worked. She was usually absent-minded and seemed like she was interested in nothing but cakes. However, what attracted me to her was that mysterious sideways glance she had given to President Doujima. I’d almost forgotten about that, but now I remembered it, probably because I was startled by the sharpness of her gaze while she was looking at the articles.

Of course, I was extremely proud of my article.

It managed to correctly predict the location of the next arson attack in such a large city. And it wasn’t written by a police officer or journalist, but Urino Takahiko, a mere member of Funado High School’s Newspaper Club! Just how difficult was this to achieve? How much satisfaction would it bring? Even imagining how Osanai would praise me for writing such a brilliant article was a pleasant experience in itself.

However, Osanai took her eyes away from the articles after just a few seconds. Having calmed her nerves, she murmured.

“They match.”

…That Osanai had managed to understand in such a short time that the article in Funado Monthly had anticipated reality was a little surprising, but even more unexpected was the miniscule smile on her face as well as the words that followed.

“But you only got it right once, so we can’t be sure yet.”

The biggest reason for me being so desperate for Funado Monthly was to carve the name of Urino Takahiko into the history of Funa High. But since I’d started going out with Osanai, I started having a second motive, which was to impress her. The third would be to repay my debt to Hiya.

With Osanai not recognizing my efforts, the article that I’d worked so hard to write just lost half its value. The amount of disappointment I felt was not insignificant at all.



One month passed.

If getting it right just once wasn’t enough, then I would just have to get it right two or three times. It was a Sunday in March, and I’d managed to secure an appointment with Osanai.

We’d been going out for half a year already, but I hardly ever met with Osanai on rest days. Since she wasn’t in any club, I just had to send her an email if I wanted to meet with her, and she would immediately reply with “OK”. However, I somehow felt bad imposing on her private time during rest days. This sentiment was like a shell so thin that you could see through, yet couldn’t be broken, and it was hindering my relationship with her. It seemed like it would crack into pieces and break Osanai as well if I tried to forcefully push it away, so I hadn’t even held Osanai’s hand yet.

Even this email had been sent after plucking my courage, but the coldness of the reply got me down a little. I’d written, “Shall we meet in the afternoon? There’s something I want to show you,” and she replied with “Fine.” Osanai didn’t seem like a dexterous person, so perhaps typing out emails was a weak point for her.

At the appointed junction, Osanai was standing in front of the shutters of a shop, almost camouflaged, and reading a pocketbook.

“Were you waiting long?”

I called out, causing her to look up from under her fringe and place a bookmark in her book.

“Just a bit.”

I checked my wristwatch to find that I was actually ten minutes late. That was because I had to talk with Hiya about something, but I should have sent her an message to tell her.

On another note, I wonder how many cafés I’ve been to with Osanai ever since I started going out with her half a year ago?

“Hey, I know a good shop here.”

With that phrase, I was once again brought to another shop I didn’t know of. It was in the semi-basement of an old building, and was called “Tario”.

After a lengthy consideration, Osanai ordered a crème brûlée1. As usual, all I got was a coffee. I placed the March issue of Funado Monthly and the regional section of the Saturday newspaper side by side in front of Osanai, although she seemed more interested in the kitchen of the shop.


(3 March – Funado Monthly, Page 8 Column)

Last month, this column introduced a series of arson attacks, and another attack has unfortunately occured. On 9 February, an abandoned vehicle at Ritsuno’s river embankment was set on fire and completely burned up. The fire intensity was much stronger compared to the previous cases, but since it was on the open-air embankment, the damage done was thankfully minimized. This case was reported in the regional section of the morning newspaper, so I believe that many people are aware of it. In order to prevent the damage from increasing any further, this small column has spared no effort to narrow down the culprit’s next target. I have reason to believe that the next target will be Touma Town, Kajiya Town, or Hinode Town. Students living in these areas, as well as those living in other areas should take care to not throw out combustibles
outside their homes.

(Urino Takahiko)


(15 March – Mainichi Newspaper, Regional Section)

Suspected Arson at Kira City

At approximately 12;15am on 15 March, a burning bus stop bench was spotted by passers-by in Kira City, Hinode Town. Nearby residents extinguished the fire, but the bench was quickly consumed by the flames and completely disappeared. The Kira Police Department are investigating it as a case of suspected arson.


Some magazines had been thrown under the bench, and they were set on fire. The plastic bench was burnt out of shape, but it hadn’t actually caught on fire. That was what I heard from witnesses of the fire when I went to the crime scene.

“What do you think?”

I asked, but it was poor timing on my part, for the waitress arrived with the cakes at that exact time. Some moderately burnt cream was stretched on the surface of the small round white cup. Osanai leaned forward to sniff it, then put on an endearing smile.

“Smells good…”

Her eyes were fixated on the crème brûlée. She probably hadn’t even noticed the newspapers laid out in front of her. Of course, I wanted her to read the articles, but she seemed to be in such a state of pleasure that it was difficult to tell her to do it.

“But I always associate breaking up the caramelized layer with a forbidden pleasure.”

Osanai picked up her spoon and started poking at the surface of the crème brûlée. After some time, it finally broke apart with a small crackle. What was that forbidden pleasure she was talking about, anyway? Did she eat without paying before?

After Osanai moved the first spoonful into her mouth, she spaced out, and didn’t say a word.

“What do you think?”

Once again, I asked, causing her to snap back to her senses, and reply triumphantly.

“The custard puffs back then were so lovely, but there is nothing lacking with the crème brûlée here at all. That’s a victory for eggs.”

Good for her. Now it was my turn.

“What do you think?”

I asked for a third time. As expected, Osanai’s face turned serious. She stopped moving her spoon, picked up the articles and stared fixedly at them. Since it was the second time, she didn’t have such a big reaction. Or perhaps last month’s intense expression was simply an exception.

After looking over the articles and putting them back down, she let out a sigh which I could not identify. It was not one of exasperation, nor one of dislike. Eventually, she grinned and picked up her spoon again.

“That’s amazing.”

She rotated the spoon in the air.

“…Sorry, I should apologize. I didn’t think you would put in so much effort into this. What a hard worker you are. I don’t dislike that at all.”

Under the table, I clenched a fist in celebration.

She stuck the spoon into the crème brûlée and took another scoop. She licked the spoon and smiled broadly.

“You did a really great job!”

In response to that mature-sounding praise, all I could do was laugh.


There was a clearer reaction in Funado High School.

I’d just arrived at school on Monday, when Satomura from the Gardening Club charged straight at me.

“Urino! Was it really you who wrote that?”

I was reminded that Satomura was a conspicuous presence in class due to her liveliness. Some people she was friendly with were also with her, and they surrounded me, while I hadn’t even put my bag down yet.

In Satomura’s hand was the March issue of Funado Monthly. It was turned to the back, and of course, she was pointing to my column. I was a little surprised, but immediately threw out my chest.

“Yes, that was me. That talk we had came in useful to me. Come to think of it, I haven’t thanked you yet.”

“That’s fine, but do you know?”

She lowered her voice somewhat.

“There was an arson near my house, at Hinode Town. It was last Saturday. Hm? Or was it Friday?”

“It was late at night on Friday, so going by the date, it was Saturday. I know about it.”

“So you knew, then. And that means your article hit the mark again!”

I grinned and nodded.

Some other students who weren’t aware of the situation asked, “Eh? What do you mean?”, requesting an explanation from Satomura. Taking that opportunity, I finally placed my bag down onto my table and retrieved that file.

“You said ‘again’. Does that mean you know about last month’s prediction as well?”

“Yeah. One of the seniors at the Gardening Club brought attention to the article, saying that it might be troublesome if the incident at the vinyl house was written, and that was how I found out about the accurate prediction. At that time, I thought it was just a coincidence…”

Even considering the success in February, Funado Monthly was still not being widely read. Yet Satomura alone knew that the Newspaper Club was covering the arson cases. Perhaps it was because her own club was a victim that she properly read the articles. And just like Osanai, just one correct prediction was not enough to impress her.

Without saying a word, Satomura picked up my file and found a copy of last month’s Funado Monthly.

“Here it is.”

Using that copy, she started explaining away to her followers.

At first, it was just Satomura’s friends, but her explanation caught the attention of other classmates, who shuffled forward to join the gathering. In their midst, some people spoke up.

“Ah, I know that fire in Ritsuno. A car was set on fire, right? I saw that.”

“Koyubi is close, isn’t it? Come to think of it, I heard someone mention a fire that happened there.”

There was now quite a hubbub in the 1C classroom. In the center of that was Satomura, but in her hand was my file.

There had been no visible reaction to last month’s article, so I didn’t expect such a shift in attitudes today. It was September last year when I first decided to write an article about off-campus events, though there had been some twists and turns along the way.

Eventually, Satomura turned to look at me.

“Hey, how did you do it? Do you all know something about the culprit?”

Led by her voice, my classmates’ eyes shifted to look at me. With literally all eyes on me, I only now noticed that Hiya had arrived. He lightly placed a hand on my shoulder and spoke in a theatrical voice.

“Well, we’ll just have to look forward to the next issue. Isn’t that right, Newspaper Club?”

He was right. The readers could look forward to the next issue, and the one after that. For the time being, they would be able to enjoy such articles. With a big nod, I replied.

“Of course!”

At that moment, I felt from the bottom of my heart that it was indeed a good thing for me to write those articles.

I’d suffered through the cold, and I’d had my doubts.

But I still managed to pull through.


It was like a chain reaction.

Immediately after the sixth period, which was math, an announcement was broadcast throughout the entire school.

Urino from Class 1C, please report to the Student Counseling Room immediately. I repeat. Urino from Class 1C, please report to the Student Counseling Room immediately.”

I was about to head to the Newspaper Club room, but stopped to tilt my head, bag in hand, when I heard the announcement. I had never been summoned by a teacher in middle school before. As I was wondering what exactly it could be for, Hiya, who was nearby, made a suggestion.

“It’s probably about that article.”

President Doujima hadn’t given me a warning, but he had been quite concerned about my information gathering methods. During that one month when I went on outings with Hiya, as well as a few data collection sessions after that, I talked with all sorts of people, but never did anything that the club president would be worried about.

That was why I thought that this had nothing to do with Funado Monthly. What could it be about, then? While I was still struggling to figure it out, I headed for the Student Counseling Room. Since it was a location I usually had nothing to do with, I didn’t know where exactly it was, so I spent some time wandering about, and thus it took me about ten minutes to arrive.

When I finally found the Student Counseling Room, I stood in front of the door, caught my breath for a second and knocked.

“Come in.”

I could hear a voice coming from inside the room.

I’d been to the staff room a few times, but this was my first time going into the Student Counseling Room. The first impression I got as I walked in was that it was quite a messy room. It was fitted with a hot water dispenser and a sink, and in the sink were four or five teacups, still with some tea in them. There were six tables for the teachers’ use, but they were covered in documents or waste paper, and couldn’t be said to be tidy. Two people were in the room. One of them was a teacher in the Student Counseling Department who had probably called me over. The other person was President Doujima.

The teacher had a punch perm and a mustache. If I met him on the streets, I would think that he was a member of the yakuza. I didn’t know his name. A pair of light-colored sunglasses was resting snugly on the bridge of his nose, and behind them his eyes stared at me sternly.

“So you’re Urino. You’re late, aren’t you?”

It was an awfully low voice. Would this be considered a deep, menacing voice?

“Come.”

As told, I stood next to President Doujima, noticing that there was a copy of Funado Monthly on the teacher’s table. I knew it when I saw the club president in the room, but this was definitely related to the Newspaper Club. Hiya’s deduction was right on the money.

The teacher held that copy of Funado Monthly in his hand.

“So y’all think you can do whatever you like? Huh? What is this? Come on, spit it out.”

He was putting on a frightful amount of pressure from the beginning. To be honest, I felt weak at the knees, but President Doujima answered clearly.

“This is Funado Monthly, which the Newspaper Club produces.”

In response, the teacher suddenly raised his voice.

“That’s not what I’m asking about! You taking me for a fool? I’m obviously asking about the article!”

He slammed the palm of his hand on the steel table, producing a loud sound that reverberated in the room. However, if that was meant to threaten us, it backfired spectacularly. As soon as he hit the table, the mountain of documents piled up collapsed in an avalanche and rustled to the floor. Instead of being afraid, I had to try my best to hold in a chuckle.

But the club president did not smile.

“It’s a column about the series of arson cases that occurred in Kira City in the last few months.”

“I can tell just by looking at it, idiot!”

The teacher yelled, spittle flying out of his mouth. It seemed that the collapse of the document piles had caused him to lose his cool.

“What relation do y’all have to it? Y’all just did it for fun?”

“It was written to warn the entire student body to be careful with fire, especially when there is a serial arsonist at large.”

“As I said, that’s not what I’m asking about!”

I was quite confused at his outburst. The president was answering those questions honestly. Sure, he might be too calm and composed, possibly causing him to come off as being brazen, but he gave proper answers to all questions. If the teacher was asking about something else, he hadn’t made it clear at all.

Perhaps judging it to be endless, President Doujima preempted the teacher.

“Sir, is it that you basically don’t like us putting out predictions of the targeted areas?”

The teacher struck the table again, but this time with a fist instead of a palm. The few remaining sheets of paper fell to the ground.

“Shut up, I was talking. It ain’t about whether I like it or not, but y’all are high school students, can’t you tell between right and wrong?”

He clutched the now crumpled copy of Funado Monthly and thrust it at us.

“Y’all wrote whatever you liked even when you had no proper evidence. If something happens, can y’all take responsibility? And y’all better not have started the fires by yourselves!”

The club president fell silent for a moment.

I assumed that he’d been cowed after having fiery words continuously hurled at him, but I was wrong. Instead, he replied, even more calm than before.

“Do you think that the Newspaper Club is the culprit of the arson cases, sir?”

“Hah?”

The teacher still had a threatening tone in his voice, but it was evident that President Doujima’s retort had had an effect on him. His eyes clearly showed that he was thinking something along the lines of “Dammit”.

In contrast, President Doujima seemed to be filled with a quiet rage.

“If you want to accuse the Newspaper Club of being the culprit, I believe that you should talk to us with our club advisor, Miyoshi-sensei.”

I knew that Miyoshi-sensei was our club advisor, but I had never seen them before. They must be really busy with their duties, or perhaps they simply didn’t like to interact with others. The student counselor clicked his tongue distinctly.

“Kids these days are so good at quibbling. Brats like you will eventually become trash that can only move their mouths. So shut up and listen when you’re being spoken to!”

His words had become completely unreasonable. I was unable to keep silent, but the president slightly moved his hand, blocking me from taking action. He then spoke from his diaphragm.

“From now on, we will be careful not to write any articles that we have no evidence for. We are sorry for causing you to worry.”

He sharply lowered his head.

The teacher probably hadn’t spoken enough. In fact, he hadn’t said anything yet, but when he met President Doujima’s eyes, all he could do was spit out a couple of sentences.

“You should have done that from the beginning, idiot. Now get out.”

The president bowed once again. I followed suit, and the two of us left the Student Counseling Room together.


While walking down the corridor, I was hit in the gut by a wave of indignation. One reason for that was the unfairness we’d faced earlier. That teacher had also probably been the one to find fault with the Gardening Club for the fire at Tanaka-san’s vacant lot. And there was another reason for me being pissed off. President Doujima had covered for me from start to finish. I had been unable to say anything.

Rage, resentment and disappointment caused my fists to quiver. Unconsciously, I let out a word.

“Dammit.”

How would the president interpret that? In an unexpectedly solemn tone, he spoke.

“I understand your frustration. He was just finding fault with us… Nitta-sensei wasn’t so bad last year, though.”

So that teacher was called Nitta-sensei, huh.

Without slowing his brisk walking speed, President Doujima continued.

“He’s a strict teacher, but he was just going through hysteria. Various circumstances formed a perfect storm that caused him to become emotionally unstable.”

“By various circumstances, do you mean us?”

He glanced at me and replied.

“No, it’s Nitta-sensei’s personal life. He was recently divorced, I heard.”

I’d been in school for ten years already, but I’d never once cared about a teacher’s marital life. I’d always treated any teachers’ words as the voice of the heavens, and never ever considered that they might have their own personal problems.

The president still had a frown on his face.

Once again, I muttered “Dammit”, but only in my heart.

We reached the staircase. I would be going up, while the president would be going down. At the end, he stopped to talk to me.

“Urino, reveal your sources in the next issue.”

“Eh?”

“Write a detailed account of how you were able to correctly predict the locations of the arson attacks. If the column isn’t enough, we’ll make space for it.”

I couldn’t instantly give a proper response, though it wasn’t because I didn’t understand what he was saying.

“But…”

I started.

“Well, everyone will decide on the space during the next editorial meeting.”

“No, not that.”

The words were almost out of my throat, but I swallowed them back down. Now was probably not the right time to tell him.

Instead, I searched for something else to say.

“But didn’t you tell Nitta-sensei that we would stop writing about that?”

An earnest expression still on his face, President Doujima retorted.

“No I didn’t.”

“But!”

“All I said was, ‘We won’t write any articles that we have no evidence for.’ It’s a different story if your article is grounded with evidence. Don’t you think this is the only way to shut Nitta up and bring an end to this?”

Unable to say anything, all I could do was open my mouth like a fool. What he was saying certainly made sense, but I never saw him as the type of person to use such sophistry. He definitely didn’t give off that kind of vibe at all.

His objective complete, President Doujima turned to head down the stairs, but I was somehow able to blurt out a sentence to him.

“Is it really okay to write it?”

It was a meaningless question, even for me. The president had already told me to write it, after all. He turned around to look at me, the frown on his face loosening.

“I don’t mind… He might be going through a divorce, but I was also quite pissed off back there.”

I clenched my jaw as I watched his retreating figure.

Again, all that welled up within me was a sense of chagrin.



It was obvious why I faltered when I was told to “reveal my sources”.

I had a discussion with Hiya a few days later, during which he immediately read my feelings.

“What a waste. That topic could have been milked some more.”

It was lunchtime, and the two of us were eating together. I was having a convenience store bento, while Hiya was gobbling down a butter roll. My mouth was full of salmon, so I nodded twice in place of a reply.

“Can’t be helped if the Student Counseling Department interferes, I suppose. Though I think you could have dragged it on for another three or four months.”

That was also true. This time, I gave a big nod.

Just yesterday, everyone in the Newspaper Club was gathered for an emergency meeting. President Doujima’s idea was passed, and I was allotted a much bigger space than before, a quarter of a page. I felt bad taking up the space of the honored “Freshman Welcome Issue”, but this was to close the curtains on the tracking of the arson cases.

I finally swallowed the salmon.

“I’m not sure if Satomura helped propagate it, but that article produced a response from the student body. Can you believe it? After school, some people came over to the Printing Preparation Room and asked, ‘I lost my copy of the newspaper, can I have another if you have any spare?’ Three of them, too!”

“The Printing Preparation Room?”

“There you go. Up until now, no one knew that the Newspaper Club uses the Printing Preparation Room. And it became like this after just two articles. I was definitely thinking of stretching the story out as much as possible.”

As I poked at a piece of taro, I let out a sigh.

Hiya seemed to be thinking of something. But no matter how shrewd he was, we were up against the Student Counseling Department here. We were at a heavy disadvantage.

“I wonder if you could just ignore the Student Counseling Club’s order? Perhaps if the Newspaper Club president shows off a little more courage?”

I hesitated, but no matter how badly I thought of him, I couldn’t label President Doujima’s actions that day as cowardly. Though it did vex me to have to defend him…

“No, the president already resisted as much as he could. No matter how you consider it, Nitta was being unreasonable. It takes a lot of guts to pull out a last chance from a guy like that. Anything more was impossible.”

“So you’re just going to reveal your sources, as you were told to? It’s just such a waste, man. If you left it alone, no one would have noticed that pattern, even in a full year. When I first heard of it, I also thought, ‘What stupid idea is this?’”

Indeed, on that day I went gathering information with Hiya, I’d told him my idea while watching the firetrucks rush past the train station, and he’d laughed. However, in the later cases, and more importantly, in the act of passing me copies of the supporting data, he’d shown that he truly believed in the validity of my idea.

“You do understand that once you write that, you’ll have to give up on any more articles on the arson cases, right?”

“No choice, is there?”

I drank some tea and took a deep breath.

If it was revealed why the Newspaper Club, or rather Urino Takahiko was able to predict the arson locations, Funado Monthly would lose its advantage. No one would want to read about the next arson attack.

“I can’t agree with that at all.”

Hiya lamented, then unexpectedly looked into my eyes.

“Urino, you’re not satisfied with this, right? You wanted to leave your name in the history of Funa High, but I’m sorry to say that this won’t cut it. Well, I’m not satisfied. Especially when there was still so much to go.”

“Well, yeah, I suppose.”

“As we thought, the arson attacks became more and more vicious, right?”

This time, I was able to nod honestly.

Without even needing to retrieve the file, the circumstances of each arson attack appeared in my head.


October – Hamae – Dried grass in a vacant lot

November – Nishimori – Trashcan in a Children’s Park

December – Koyubi – Waste material at a storage area

January – Akanebe – Abandoned bicycle

February – Ritsuno – Abandoned vehicle

March – Hinode Town – Bus stop bench


Up until now, the things set on fire were trash, or a trashcan. But this month’s item was a bench, which was actually being used.

As expected, the culprit was intentionally escalating the degree of their crimes. In other words…

But I wasn’t able to say the rest from my mouth. Instead, Hiya verbalized it on my behalf without even a hint of cowardice.

“This case will get even bigger. Your presence could have grown along with it, too…”

I was certainly thinking that there was the potential for our insignificant high school newspaper club to be thrust into the spotlight, going up against a heinous criminal. Of course, I never openly said that I wished for such a thing to happen, but it was definitely an attractive situation to be in.

However, I didn’t have a choice. Next month’s Funado Monthly would be the “Freshmen Welcome Issue’. Writing a column revealing my sources might rub Nitta the wrong way, but I didn’t know what would happen if I continued openly defying him. Sure, I wanted to leave my name in the history of Funado High, but not if I had to get expelled for that.

I said something to help me relax.

“Perhaps we’ll find something better. Then we’ll look back at this arson case and laugh it off as a small story.”

Hiya shrugged.

“You’re not saying that seriously, right?”

Well, I did understand that the chances of that happening was extraordinarily slim.

After polishing off the last butter roll, Hiya did a small stretch.

“Fu… well, there is definitely the possibility of a major reversal. But Urino, I have a piece of advice for you. Listen carefully.”

For words like that, he didn’t look very serious. Still, I urged him to go on by giving him a brief nod.

Hiya’s advice strangely sounded like a prophecy.

“You should prepare two different articles. The first is as your club president said, an article to reveal your sources. And the other summarizes all past cases thus far, then predicts the next arson attack location. For that, you should understand the freshmen’s sensitivities, and use that to write in a style that gives that immense enjoyment. Prepare those two articles such that you can exchange them in time, if the situation calls for it.”

Basically, Hiya was telling me to write something akin to a recap episode, as well as think about what comes next, although there should be no point in doing so.

“…Why should I do that? I mean, I would be happy if they could use an article like that, but that isn’t possible, is it?”

“As I said, there could be a major reversal. You’ve got to stop taking it all at face value, and start thinking speculatively.”

I racked my brains to figure out his true intentions, but as much as it pained me to admit it, I was sometimes unable to understand Hiya’s way of thinking.

Should I ask him to explain himself? As I was considering that option, a bright voice called out to us.

“Ah, is the great detective holding a strategy meeting?”

It was Satomura.

“I’m not a great detective, I’m a journalist.”

“It’s still cool either way.”

In what little time there was left in this lunch break, I focused on devouring the contents of the bento, not caring that it had already gone cold.



Soon afterward, spring break arrived.

I was out in town with Osanai on such a rest day.

I still didn’t know about her family. We hadn’t talked about that yet. All I knew was that she was probably quite well off. While we hardly ever met on rest days, her private clothes were always different. Today, she had on a pretty stylish outfit, with a refreshing white shirt and a black tie. With those clothes, she would look masculine if she were twenty centimeters taller.

It wasn’t just because I hadn’t experienced it enough, but I was still unclear of Osanai’s preferences. No matter where I brought her, no matter where we went, she would always look like she was having a good time, but on the other hand, it didn’t seem like she was always happy from the bottom of her heart. How could I get to see her true, unexaggerated smile again, like when she was eating tiramisu at Earl Gray 2, or when she was enjoying crème brûlée at Tario? Having no idea how to do that, I chose to meet at a cinema again.

The movie we were watching was announced as a love story, but that turned out to be just a marketing ploy. Sure, it was a sweet story in the first act, with a young man unfamiliar with love and a pretty girl mired in unfortunate circumstances. How would their turbulent love story turn out? However, the situation started changing from the second act. Lots of incidents kept happening around the female lead, and at first, it looked like the handiwork of a stalker like that in The Phantom of the Opera.

In the dimly lit theater, I peeked at Osanai’s face from the side. The pitiful female lead turned out to be a habitual insurance fraudster, while the pure young man was being gradually ensnared. First a crime that he didn’t remember, then suicide tools that had been gathered without his knowledge. He tried to believe in her, but eventually, a phone call from her caused him to freeze in disbelief.

I could remember hearing of such a folktale when I was just a kid. I’d intended to watch a romantic film, but accidentally ended up with Bluebeard2. I’d been tricked by the poster. The conclusion left a particularly bad aftertaste, too…

When the movie ended and the lights in the theater came back on, I could sense the awkward atmosphere in the room. We were not the only ones who’d made the mistake of coming to this movie as a couple. Jeers and minor arguments could be heard here and there throughout the theater.

I immediately apologized, saying that I didn’t know it would be a suspense movie with such a bad aftertaste. However, Osanai shook her head.

“It’s fine, I enjoyed it.”

…Lately, I’d begun having this line of thought. Was I being too reserved towards this upperclassman who looked like nothing but an underclassman? I did want her to smile, but wasn’t I trying too hard to please her at this point? I was also considering that being occasionally pushy was necessary, especially since I was frustrated at not being able to hold her hand.

While pondering about these issues, I was led into the café. There, I was asked a question.

“What’s the matter? Is there cream on my face?”

With a start, I realized that I’d been staring at Osanai’s face.

We were on the first floor of a multipurpose building in a secluded part of Kira City’s main street, in a shop called “Ouan”3. The building exterior looked antiquated, matching the old-fashioned Japanese style of the shop interior. The menu also had items like matcha and sakuramochi. Apparently a repeat customer, Osanai didn’t even bother looking at the menu to make her order. “I’ll have the ice cream combination of black sesame and soymilk, and a coffee for my drink.” After thinking for a short while, she added, “And please add some kinako4.”

As usual, I went with just one coffee, since the ticket fare for the movie had caused my allowance to be used up. I really have to start seriously thinking of taking up a part-time job. As I was having that thought, Osanai muttered.

“Part-time…”

That gave me a shock, causing me to wonder if my thoughts were leaking from my head. My agitation must have been apparent on my face, for Osanai shot me a question quizzically.

“What’s wrong?”

“No, you were just saying something about a part-time job…”

“Yup, could you not hear?”

She briefly looked elsewhere.

“That waitress over there is from our school. She’s secretly working part-time.”

The waitress in question was a few seats away from us, and was currently taking an order. I could hear her cheerfully saying, “I’ll repeat your order.” She looked mature, so I wouldn’t have thought of her as a high school student if I hadn’t been told.

“It’s the spring break, so perhaps she got permission to do it?”

“She would never get permission for a café downtown. If it was possible, I would have wanted to do it too.”

If Osanai started working as a waitress, wouldn’t it look like she was just taking part in work place experience for her school curriculum?

Anyway…

“Doesn’t everyone do part-time jobs without getting permission for them?”

“Probably, but I definitely can’t do that. I do have a friend who is working part-time at a bookstore, though.”

“So why are you caring so much about her, then?”

Osanai took another sideward glance at the waitress, then tightened her lips.

“…I was just thinking of how you can change with makeup and a uniform…”

My coffee arrived first, but I waited for Osanai’s order to arrive as well.

Eventually, the black and white ice cream arrived, arranged on a vermillion-lacquered, rectangular dish with a lacquered, black wooden spoon. The first thing Osanai did was to stick the spoon into the black ice cream and take a lick. As she held the spoon in her mouth, she grinned.

“Black sesame ice cream isn’t rare.”

While expertly controlling the spoon, she continued.

“However, if you let the sesame flavor get too strong, it becomes too distasteful for human consumption. I also don’t like the feeling when the sesame skin touches my tongue. If you don’t make it with a texture easy on the tongue, if you don’t blend the sesame flavor well with the milk, you end up with an appalling taste. In those respects, this shop is perfect. Out of all the black sesame ice cream I’ve had since I was born, this is the most exquisite.”

Come to think of it, I was usually the speaker whenever Osanai and I conversed. But this time, all I did was give short responses like, “Is that so?” and “Really?”, even as she continuously consumed the contents of her spoon. Did she only talk proactively when it came to sweets?

I had no interest in desserts, but wanting to liven up the conversation, I desperately searched for a topic.

“You really like desserts, don’t you?”

“Eh?”

With equal portions of white and black ice cream in her spoon, Osanai looked up.

“I was just thinking that you really like desserts such as ice cream and cake.”

“…Yup.”

Osanai looked bewildered, as if I’d just said, “You’re a human, aren’t you?” But that only lasted for a while, and her eyes soon returned to her plate.

“I like them.”

“Not that you don’t hate them?”

“Yup, I like them.”

“Why is that?”

“Why, you ask?”

She stopped moving her spoon. Was the conversation too boring, and she was sick of it? But unexpectedly, she clearly answered the question.

“Because I can eat without killing anything. Even if you don’t kill the cow, you can squeeze its milk out. Even if you don’t kill a chicken, you can collect its eggs.”

Her gaze was unexpectedly cold.

Osanai moved her spoon again to lick the last bit of black ice cream from it.

“Just kidding.”

She said.

“I like desserts because they’re sweet. That’s all.”

“…Oh, so that’s it.”

Unconsciously, I sighed. I didn’t really understand Osanai’s jokes. Also, I was thinking that I should stop being led around like this.

“Urino-kun, do you hate sweet things?”

“I don’t know…”

Not ordering anything when entering the café with Osanai was simply due to me not having enough money. But if I had to say if I liked or hated them…

“It’s neither, I think.”

“Do you not eat them?”

“Rarely. Well, not exactly.”

I just remembered something. Feeling relieved that I could continue conversing with Osanai, I moistened my mouth with some coffee.

“…The other day, my father brought back some sweets, saying he got them as a gift. What do you call them again? They’re made of chestnuts and look like candy.”

“Marron glacé5?”

“Ah yes, that’s it.”

Now done with the white ice cream, Osanai took a deep breath, then took small sips of her coffee. Perhaps she had a cat’s tongue.

The coffee was apparently too hot. Giving up, she put down the cup and started talking with a dreamlike expression.

“Marron glacé, huh? If it was autumn, this shop would be selling kuri kinton, which is lovely as well. It would be great if we could come here again during the chestnut season.”

“Yeah, I would like to.”

“Do you know how a marron glacé is made, Urino-kun?”

“No…”

It didn’t seem like Osanai expected me to know the answer.

“For marron glacé, you boil the chestnut, peel it, then soak it in syrup. Like this, you get a sugary membrane surrounding the chestnut.”

“Ah, so that’s how it’s made?”

However, Osanai shook her head.

“No, that’s just for the surface.”

“Isn’t that good enough?”

“No, it isn’t. Next, you need to soak it in a slightly thicker syrup. With this, you get another sugary membrane on top of the first sugary membrane. Then you soak it again in another slightly thicker syrup, forming another membrane… You repeat this again and again.”

Osanai was holding her coffee cup with both hands, as if she were protecting some important treasure. Her eyes were directed at a point above the table, but she probably wasn’t looking at anything in particular.

“You continuously surround the sweet coating with more sweet coating to form several layers, and in the process, the chestnut itself becomes sweet like a candy. Even though it wasn’t that sweet in the first place, and that only the coating should be sweet. So the surface gets switched with the core, and at some point the means become the goal… I love marron glacés. I mean, don’t you think they’re cute?”

The right words wouldn’t come out. Osanai pointed the lacquered spoon at me.

“And you’re my syrup.”

Was that another roundabout joke by Osanai, or was it something else?

Osanai was carefully studying my face. However, she briefly averted her eyes to look at the time on her mobile phone. She never wore a wristwatch. Next, she took one piece of paper out from her bag.

“You’ll immediately understand, so I’ll give this to you.”

It was a newspaper cutting, from today’s morning paper. I should have read it already.

But the piece that Osanai placed on the table was a section from the middle of the paper, a page listing teacher transferals. It suddenly hit me. It was the end of the school year. That would be the time for transfers.

After I picked up that piece of paper, Osanai picked up the receipt.

“Sorry, Urino-kun. I have an errand to run, so I’ll be going home. It’s my treat for today. I enjoyed the movie, so let’s watch another one some time… And one more thing.”

Even while she stood up and I stayed seated, the difference in our eye levels hardly changed.

“Childish pranks are no good. I think not doing anything is the best.”

“Eh…”

Before I managed to fully digest what she said to me, Osanai turned around, settled the bill and left the shop. I didn’t even have time to chase after her.

Once again, I was unable to hold her hand. I’d been hoping to see how far we could go today, too. Yet I was politely treated to coffee and escaped from.

While having those thoughts, I held up the newspaper that Osanai had left behind. Some highlighter marking immediately caught my eye.

I wasn’t aimlessly reading through the page, but when I saw that line, my heart skipped a beat.


Minakami High School – Nitta Takayoshi (Funado High School)


So that teacher from the Student Counseling Department was to be transferred.

That was exactly the kind of “major reversal” that Hiya was talking about, and now it had become reality. What an unexpected turn of events.


Chapter 2 Part 4 | Contents | Chapter 3 Part 2


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Editors (Tier 2) : Joshua Fisher

Assistants (Tier 1) : Definitelynotme, Rolando Sanchez

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  1. A dessert consisting of a rich custard base topped with a layer of hardened caramelized sugar.
  2. A French folktale written by Charles Perrault about a wealthy man in the habit of murdering his wives and the attempts of one wife to avoid the fate of her predecessors.
  3. Number 4 of the Osanai Summer Sweets Selection Best 10 (Refer to Volume 2: Case of the Summer-Exclusive Tropical Parfait).
  4. Roasted soybean flour, usually used as a coating for dango and other Japanese confections.
  5. A confection consisting of a chestnut candied in sugar syrup and glazed.

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Pigcowhybrid

1 comment

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  • oh man thanks for the translation, I wonder how the club will handle future high profile cases as Urino seems to go detective mode on the story and write about it as well as the student counselling teacher being transfered over. Perhaps the new one will be even harsher on the club and enact a policy to write school related articles.

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