The Newspaper Club’s editorial meetings were usually held on the first week of each month.
However, with the spring break eating into the first week of April, as well as there being some bustle right after the entrance and advancement ceremonies, among other circumstances, it was impossible to hold the meeting at its usual timing. That said, there was another reason that the first editorial meeting in the school year was being held as an emergency assembly, and I knew that reason more clearly than anyone else.
There was no article revealing my sources for the serial arson attacks in the copies of Funado Monthly distributed on the day of the entrance ceremony. I’d switched in another article at the last minute.
|(7 April – Funado Monthly, Page 8 Column)|
Congratulations on your enrollment, freshmen! The student body of Funado High School extends a very warm welcome to all of you.
The Newspaper Club has been following a certain case from autumn last year. To explain the circumstances thus far to all you freshmen, I would like to provide a summary of the case.
On 13 October, a fire was deliberately started at a vacant lot in Hamae, on a pile of grass clippings. Thankfully, the air was still humid, so the fire did not grow out of control. Firefighters were not dispatched to the scene.
On 10 November, there was an arson attack at a children’s park in Nishimori. A trashcan was set on fire, and while there a trace amount of soot was left in the soil, the fire did not spread far. This incident was also covered in the general paper.
On 8 December, an arson attack occurred at a storage area in Koyubi, where one column of waste material was burnt. The fire was extinguished by residents and firemen.
On 12 January, the saddles of some abandoned bicycles at Akanebe were deliberately set on fire.
On 9 February, an arson attack occurred at the river embankment in Ritsuno. Firefighters were deployed, but a vehicle was completely charred. That vehicle had been left there for quite some time already.
On 15 March, an arson attack happened at a bus stop in Hinode Town. Some magazines were thrown under a bench and set on fire, causing that bench to become unusable.
We have taken notice of this spate of incidents, and have used this modest column to caution everyone to be diligent with fire safety. At the same time, we have meticulously analyzed these incidents, and have tried to formulate a pattern for this series (It should be quite obvious that it is a series!) of arson attacks.
In that regard, we have succeeded to a certain degree. In this column, we have successfully predicted that such an incident would happen near Ritsuno for February, and near Hinode Town for March. This is the result of the Newspaper Clubs tireless efforts, deductions made from nothing but pure insight.
However, we will not let the success go to our head, and we have given some serious consideration this time as well. Thus, we hereby deduce that this cowardly arsonist will probably choose Ueno Town, 3rd District or Mount Kazan as their next target.
This year, we will also closely monitor this case. For one, we do not tolerate such a detestable crime. Another reason for this is to show off the strength of the Newspaper Club.
If you are an aspiring freshman, please visit the Newspaper Club. We will be waiting for new members at the Printing Preparation Room.
The distribution was done by the Newspaper Club members. While I was a little apologetic, I also got a kick when I thought about how Itsukaichi, President Doujima and even Monchi must have felt while they were distributing those newspapers.
Now that we’d advanced to the second year, I was no longer in the same class as Satomura-san, so I didn’t know if she’d had a lively conversation with her followers after seeing the article. On another note, while my class was still in the state of feeling each other out, I’d already spotted five people reading Funado Monthly.
I’d predicted that I would have to pick up the pieces afterwards.
When I got word of the emergency meeting, I immediately thought, “Yep, saw that coming.”
While I’d almost completely predicted this turn of events, there was just one unexpected element, the fact that Kishi was not present. He’d apparently quit the Newspaper Club right as the new school year started. I’d heard of something like that. Leaving a club within a year would be disadvantageous for one’s resume if they were to apply for higher education…
That was a myth widely believed in middle school, anyway. While it was quite unheard of, Kishi might have taken that at face value and waited for the next school year before leaving the club. If that were indeed the case, it would be a shallow decision, as expected of him.
Even the opening of the meeting went exactly according to my expectations. Monchi, now a third-year student, started by chiding me.
“Urino, you went totally overboard. You remember what was decided in the March editorial meeting, don’t you? If you’re not going to fulfill what was decided, just quit the club. You’re just making a nuisance of yourself.”
In the March editorial meeting, it was decided that I would be allocated a quarter of a page, as per President Doujima’s suggestion. The purpose was to reveal my sources for being able to predict the arsonist’s targets, and stop that series of articles. In that sense, it was true that I’d gone against the decision.
But of course, I’d prepared my piece before attending the meeting.
“The decision to end the series of articles in April was made by Nitta of the Student Counseling Department, but he has been transferred to another school. There should be no complaints about its continuation.”
“Nitta doesn’t matter. What I’m talking about is you going against the decision made in our editorial meeting. It was a clear decision, and you agreed to it.”
“I’m not so sure about that. It was only decided that I would be allotted a quarter of a page.”
Lifting his eyebrows, Monchi glared at me.
“Are you taking me for a fool?”
Last month in the Student Counseling Room, I was overwhelmed by Nitta’s intense obstinacy and was unable to say anything. I could do nothing as President Doujima defended me, causing frustration that I still could not forget. As if I would get intimidated by Monchi now. In response to his outburst, I replied solemnly.
“I’m doing no such thing. I prepared two different articles. The first is, as per Nitta’s wishes, to end the series of articles. The second is a spare article to be switched in if the situation changes. And the situation did change.”
I recalled the time when I watched a movie with Osanai. On that day, she showed me the article about the teacher transferals.
I’d given some thought to why Osanai was carrying that around. She wouldn’t have wanted to show me something like that if she didn’t know that Nitta was hindering my activities. In that case, her information source was none other than President Doujima.
As usual, the president was leaning back with his arms folded, as if flaunting his wide frame. The image of Osanai whispering into his ear momentarily crossed my mind… those two must have a connection deeper than I’d thought.
But right now, I had to refute Monchi’s argument.
“It is easy to tell me to just stop it, but have you ever thought about how desperate I got for this article? Whenever I heard of an arson attack, I would ride my bicycle all the way to the edges of the city, even during the coldest part of winter. Unlike you, senpai, I have not been writing my articles by saying ‘Mr Principal, please.’”
“Urino, you asshole!”
I was now sure that I’d hit him where it hurt.
That was just how Monchi was. I had no choice but to recognize that President Doujima played his role relatively well, but Monchi did not do any proper work. I had never seen him make a constructive suggestion, and on top of that, he was nothing but the president’s yes man. In the sense that he just vaguely, spiritlessly put in words to meet the word count, he was actually quite like Kishi. Even so, he was always putting on a display of maintaining order within the Newspaper Club, and was thus a hindrance to me. Even Kishi, who always clearly showed his lack of motivation, was a better individual.
Monchi’s face turned red, but I had no intention of backing down. On the sidelines, Itsukaichi timidly looked back and forth between the two of us.
“Who do you think you are, someone important? Whether you go to the edges of town or not, that’s up to you. Who told you to do that? The article you’re so proud of is just a copy of the local paper, anyway. Why’re you acting so big when you’ve achieved so little, huh?”
“Perhaps you’re right, but only if a mere copy can normally predict the location of future crimes. Do you not understand? It was me who found the pattern behind the series of arson attacks. Only I wrote about it. It was impossible for even the newspaper, and more so for you, senpai!”
The words wouldn’t stop, even as the atmosphere in the room worsened. Under the table, I tightened my fists.
At that tense moment, President Doujima uncrossed his arms.
“Calm down, Monchi… I understand what Urino is saying.”
“He has no reason to belittle your articles, but it is true that he worked hard. He did proper investigation, and thought about it well. His articles were in a different direction from what I thought they would be, but he did a good job. It’s certainly difficult to agree with suddenly being asked to stop like that, right? I get his sentiment of wanting to switch the articles after finding out that Nitta got transferred.”
Monchi’s face contorted into a grimace. He must have assumed that the president would have his back. Then again, I was also holding the faint hope that he would understand.
But President Doujima was not so simple.
“…So, just let me do the talking, Monchi.”
With a hand on the table, he stared at me. He wasn’t putting on a surly face like Monchi, but I couldn’t help but straighten my posture with a start.
“Urino, I’ll be asking you a few questions.”
The opening act had concluded, and the real show was about to begin.
“The person who summoned you and told you to stop writing about the serial arson attacks was certainly Nitta… but have you considered that the entire Student Counseling Department could be behind that decision?”
“Nitta was transferred, but that doesn’t mean that the Student Counseling Department disappeared. Even now, we might be called out by them and asked about why we never followed his guidance.
“If you’d put in that article revealing your sources, we could have thought of an excuse. But you didn’t do that, so there’s nothing we can say. If there’s some punishment, we’ll have no choice but to take it. I’m asking if you’ve thought about what happens afterwards.”
Come to think of it…
The president was saying that even if Nitta was gone, the Student Counseling Department had not disappeared.
And he was right about that.
I had a reason for that, too.
“A-At that time, Nitta was the only one in the room. Also, he was making unfair accusations, so I thought that he was alone in saying those things.”
“I also thought so, but we can’t be sure.”
I couldn’t immediately answer. Nitta’s words were unreasonable, but it was possible that the Student Counseling Department’s decision itself was unreasonable…
“Well, we’re still waiting for their move. It’s also possible that nothing will happen. We just don’t know yet… Next.”
President Doujima placed a copy of Funado Monthly on the table.
“You added a call for new members at the end of your article.”
“Since it is the April issue, I thought it was an obvious thing to do.”
The president’s eyes raced across the article.
“But this isn’t a normal situation. Here you wrote that those interested in this case should come to the Newspaper Club, implying that the series of arson attacks will continue. A section of the page was allotted to you in the editorial meeting last year, but I don’t remember letting you decide the direction of this year’s activities. I won’t say something like, ‘Who do you think you are,’ but I will say that you went overboard.”
Indeed, I also felt that my writing was going too far there. Perhaps it was just a slip of the pen. However, I had an excuse for that.
“I was just soliciting for new members as a columnist. There should be a page with the official recruitment advertisement by the Newspaper Club, right? That was why I thought it would be fine.”
“Your reasoning doesn’t make sense.”
My excuse was immediately dismissed.
“There is certainly an article for recruiting new members, but that doesn’t mean you can write the column in any way you want. It’s the opposite, in fact. Since there is already one page with a proper recruitment advertisement, it only makes sense for the other columns to be consistent. You’re not recruiting your subordinates, but recruiting for the Newspaper Club, after all. Also, in this new school year, the Newspaper Club has not decided to pursue this case yet.”
Monchi triumphantly cut in.
“You went ahead of yourself, writing so selfishly like that.”
President Doujima merely gave him a glance in response. Similarly, I didn’t have the time to contend with him.
The president snorted.
“Then again, we’re just a small club of four now. Even if we go into the details of forming a consensus, it’ll be a waste of time. It won’t be too late to think of that after new members come, anyway. If you can become aware of the meaning of what you wrote, I’ll be happy to leave it at that for now.”
Was that self-derision? However, his grave face didn’t seem to waver in the slightest, making me doubt that possibility.
Perhaps it was just my imagination, but President Doujima’s gaze seemed to grow sharper. No, he definitely saw this third point as the most important. After a brief pause enough for me to understand that fact, he spoke again.
“If you say that you thought so highly of your article that you went out of control, I understand the sentiment. But Urino, sorry to say this, but I don’t believe you.”
A tense silence fell over the room.
“I told you to write an article revealing your sources. However, you were delighted when Nitta’s transfer was announced, and claimed that you submitted an article you had in reserve. That’s it. There’s something I want you to show me… If that article revealing your sources does exist, show it to me.”
A groan almost escaped my mouth.
If the article didn’t exist, that would mean I always had the intention to go against the editorial meeting’s decision. If it did exist, it would act as an endorsement for my words.
The president wasn’t questioning if my actions were right or wrong, but if they were forgivable or not. That important point was fully dependent on the existence of the article. I certainly never thought that he would focus on that.
My impression of President Doujima as a rough conservative was steadily changing. The contradictory feelings I’d had outside the Student Counseling Room in March welled up once again… The feelings of admiration and chagrin. That was the reason for my silence, but Monchi probably misunderstood, and triumphantly exclaimed.
“Of course not! This selfish guy just wanted to do it!”
He even added another line.
“Come on, say something!”
I had no intention of saying anything. There was no need to. Instead, I took a black file out of my bag. All the research and investigation I’d done regarding the serial arson attacks was wedged inside it. The once flimsy file was now thick and bloated. From it I retrieved a single-page printout. Since it was not supposed to be used, I hadn’t cut down on the word count, so it was a little long.
As I was about to present it, I wavered for an instance. It was supposed to be my story, mine alone, and thus I hesitated to show others the pattern behind the serial arson attacks.
The president seemed to read my thoughts.
“Funado Monthly is not just for you.”
He was right. If not for this fussy dispute, the information should have been already been shared with the Newspaper Club members. It was probably too late to only present it now.
I understood that, but on second thoughts, I really didn’t like the idea of losing my exclusive possession… Well, I didn’t exactly have the obligation to reveal my trump card.
Well aware that I was making a wry face, I placed the printout on the table.
|(7 April – Funado Monthly, Page 8 Column)|
Congratulations on your enrollment, freshmen! The student body of Funado High School extends a very warm welcome to all of you.
Funado Monthly mainly introduces events happening within the school, but also includes other articles. For example, since February this year, we have been running opinion pieces regarding the series of arson attacks that has been happening throughout Kira City. I would like to provide a brief introduction of those opinion pieces as an activity done by the Newspaper Club in the previous school year.
On 13 October, there was an arson attack at a vacant lot in Hamae. On 10 November, there was another arson attack at a children’s park in Nishimori. On 8 December, at a storage area in Koyubi. On 12 January, on a road in Akanebe. On 9 February, at the river embankment in Ritsuno. On 15 March, at a bus stop in Hinode Town.
We were certain that there was some link between those cases, because they always occurred between the late night of the second Friday of the month and dawn of the second Saturday. Also, the arson targets gradually escalated in scale. Those two facts strongly suggest that those arson attacks were committed by the same culprit.
After some detailed investigation, we managed to ascertain this link. As a result of that, we became able to precisely predict the location of the culprit’s next targets, and we hit the mark with those predictions.
To understand this link, it would be helpful to have a complete map of Kira City. If not, please imagine a map of Kira City while reading this.
We know that the locations for the six incidents are quite far apart from each other. The arsonist selects locations that are a distance away from the locations they have already targeted. However, all we can tell from this is that the target is a different location from the previous one.
What does it mean for the locations to be far apart? It means that the attacks have an effect that cannot be fit in one warning zone. If the fires only happen in the same area, fire prevention patrols made up of residents can be used, and that could prevent the fires. Anything else?
The aspect we focused on was what would happen if a fire appears. If there is a fire, even if it can be dealt with by residents using buckets or boxes, a call to the fire department is usually made. In actuality, firefighters were deployed for these arson attacks, excluding the one at Hamae in October and the one at Hinode Town in March.
Thus, we investigated the fire department, deployments and firetrucks.
As a result, we found that for these arson attacks, the firefighters were deployed from a different precinct each time, in the order of Nishimori Precinct, Koyubi Precinct, Akanebe Precinct. Taking notice of this, we steadily continued our investigation, on the telephone directory, book of postal codes and the Kira City hazard map.
Eventually, we found a list that matched the order. Shockingly, it is the reverse order of the precinct list in Kira City’s Disaster Prevention Plan!
Was it just a coincidence? No, we were certain that it was a hint. Based on that, we wrote in February that the next arson attack location would be at Ritsuno or Kobiki, and that turned out to be correct. Before Ritsuno Precinct on the list is Touma Precinct, which has jurisdiction over Touma Town, Kajiya Town and Hinode Town. That was what we wrote in March, and the fire ended up hitting Hinode Town.
The accuracy of our investigation was proven by induction. (Freshmen should have learnt about inductive reasoning in middle school!) Now we have a deduction to make: The culprit is likely a person related to the fire department, or a staff member of the municipal office. Only someone with a deep relation to disaster prevention would be aware of the existence of the Disaster Prevention Plan.
With this introduction out of the way, we are putting a stop to the investigation of this series of arson attacks. You freshmen should be able to understand what we have done. The activities in the Newspaper Club are tenacious and worthwhile. If you approve of these activities and would like to participate in them yourselves, please visit the Newspaper Club’s room (which is the Printing Preparation Room), as we are recruiting new members.
“Seems like incitement to me.”
That was President Doujima’s first impression of the article. His lips were a little loose when he said that, so that was probably his version of a wry smile.
He then continued.
“Do you have this precinct list?”
Of course, it was tucked inside the file as well.
|(Kira City Disaster Prevention Plan, Page 11)|
Overview of Kira City Fire Department Headquarters
Kira Fire Department HQ
Kira South Fire Department HQ
Kira West Fire Department HQ
Overview of Kira City Fire Department Precincts, with Approximate Areas of Jurisdiction
Kanou Precinct – Kanou Town, Asaka Town, Sanguuji Town
Hinoki Town Precinct – Hinoki Town, South Hinoki Town
Harimi Precinct – Harimi Town
Kitaura Precinct – Kitaura Town
Ueno Town Precinct – Ueno Town 1st District, 2nd District
Mount Kazan Precinct – Ueno Town 3rd District, Mount Kazan
Touma Precinct – Touma Town, Kajiya Town, Hinode Town
Ritsuno Precinct – Ritsuno Town, Kobiki Town
Akanebe Precinct – Akanebe Town, Akanebe East New Town
Koyubi Precinct – Koyubi Town
Nishimori Precinct – Nishimori Town, Kyuudougari
Hamae Precinct – Hamae Town (Includes forested area)
“It certainly fits.”
But Monchi raised his voice after taking only one glance at it.
“It’s just a coincidence. This is just… just a disaster plan!”
Half-seated, he leant forward, spittle flying out of his mouth.
“That’s too much of a stretch. There’s no way something like this would come up. What’s the point of setting fires to the order of something like this? A list that no one knows!”
“You can’t say that.”
As usual, President Doujima had not lost his cool. Carefully studying the list, he replied.
“It’s impossible for this list to be unknown. There’s the person who made this list, their subordinates or superiors. There are also the organizations that this list was distributed to. As Urino wrote in the article, it’s not unreasonable to think that the culprit is someone related to the fire department or a municipal office staff.”
“The affected areas are spread throughout the city. Similarly, the fire department precincts are placed a set distance from each other so that they can cover the entire city. Additionally, I believe that the culprit is an adult. I don’t know where they live, but with places like Nishimori in the west and Akanebe in the east, it’s quite hard to get around without a car.”
But the president tilted his head in response.
“Really? A bicycle should be enough. Though I understand that an adult would have more opportunities to come into contact with this list.”
Indeed, I’d gone to check out the crimes scenes by bicycle. But to be honest, it was quite tough to do so. Since I felt that way even when I was traveling in the afternoon, I naturally thought that the culprit who traveled at night would have used a car.
President Doujima would be fine with traveling at night since he seemed to have almost unlimited stamina, but I couldn’t, and there was no reason to believe that the culprit was particularly fit. There was my counterargument, but I kept silent.
“Monchi also mentioned this, but I don’t understand how following that order benefits the culprit… I can only imagine that since the culprit is so concerned about which fire department is deployed, it must be some sort of challenge or test. But I suppose there’s no point asking anyone about their motive. What I want to ask you is this.”
He placed the list back down on the table.
“How did you notice this?”
I started thinking that the areas of jurisdiction might have something to do with the case on the day I went to gather information with Hiya, at the moment when I saw a firetruck in front of the train station. The words “Ueno Town 2” were painted in white on the red vehicle. At that time, I wondered what it was, then realized that it was to indicate which precinct it belonged to. I also recalled that the precinct in Koyubi was really close to the location of the arson attack there.
Right after I came up with that theory, I laughed it off. However, it did not leave my head. When I reached home, I did some research.
Then again, I didn’t need to go into that much detail. To sum it up in one sentence:
“My brother is a firefighter, so information like this is in my house.”
The president slowly folded his arms.
Perhaps it was so simple a reason that he had nothing more to say.
The president had his eyes closed, as a strange silence filled the clubroom. Monchi was gritting his teeth, unable to get a word in, while Itsukaichi was keeping his head down and staying silent, as if he was trying to survive a storm. Now that I’d proven the existence of the other article, all I could do was wait for the president’s decision.
A few minutes passed. Or at least that was what it felt like, and perhaps not even a minute passed. Finally, President Doujima opened his eyes and spoke.
“This is my mistake.”
With his arms folded, he spoke in a tone more solemn that before.
“My thinking was too shallow. This is only in hindsight, but it’s a good thing that you submitted that article, Urino. It was a close shave for us.”
Before I could respond, Monchi sputtered.
“What do you mean? You’re saying it’s good that Urino selfishly did all that?”
“…Well, I suppose that’s it.”
“But what about the meeting we had?”
“The conclusion we drew then was a huge mistake.”
The president pointed at the copy on the table, at the article that never got published.
“That article was written by and large according to my instructions. We decided for the article to be written that way in the editorial meeting. But Monchi, what do you think would happen it were to be published?”
“What would happen?”
Being suddenly asked to think, Monchi was at a loss for a while.
“Well, we would fulfill our duty to the Student Counseling Department and end that outrageous series of articles. Isn’t that all good?”
President Doujima cut him off.
“That doesn’t make the serial arson attacks disappear. In fact, if more arson attacks occur in the future, the Newspaper Club would have been in an extremely horrible position. It was really a close shave.”
Monchi still hadn’t realized it.
“Why do you say that?”
“You don’t understand?”
The president slowly replied.
“The days on which the fires were started, the escalation of its contents and the Disaster Prevention Plan. Urino, that’s all the common points you found, right?”
I stammered a little, and the president did not miss that opening.
“If there’s anything else, just say so. I’m not telling you to reveal any trump card you’re hiding so late in the game. All I’m asking is for you to say if it exists.”
He didn’t know anything, yet he seemed to have seen through the fact that I did have a trump card left, simply based off my attitude. Since I didn’t have to go into the specifics, I nodded with great reluctance.
“…Actually, yes, there is a common point that only I know.”
“I see, so there is another.”
President Doujima let out a deep sigh.
“That’s some prudence that I didn’t have… Alright, Monchi. Let’s say that this article that reveals everything was published. If a copycat criminal completely follows the pattern here, they would be indistinguishable from the real culprit. We won’t be able to defend ourselves against the accusation that Funado Monthly created a copycat criminal, and that would be a death blow. Disbandment of the club might not even be the end of it.”
Monchi was lost for words.
“But if that isn’t written, we still have room to play because one wouldn’t be able to perform an exact copy of the crime. The Newspaper Club can differentiate between the true culprit and the copycat, then appeal that we would immediately know if anyone tries anything stupid, and that would prevent idiots from trying. Even if a copycat shows up after we’ve made clear that the crime cannot be pinned on the true culprit, that would be just one arsonist. We can also deny any relation to them, since the normal newspapers report on such fires as well.”
The president seemed to be going on a monologue now.
“We were saved thanks to Urino’s arbitrary decision. As I thought, I’m not good with things like this. Perhaps I should have had a consultation.”
That was a strange monologue. He mentioned that he should have had a consultation. But with whom? Did he say that name of the person good with something like this?
The image of one person rose in the back of my mind for some reason. The girl who was whispering into the ear of a seated President Doujima. I had no idea why Osanai’s face came to mind. I was sorely disappointed at myself.
Not sharing my concerns, the president spoke in a voice one magnitude louder than before.
“I’m a third-year. I have exams to take.”
Staying silent, I listened.
“It’s the norm for third-years to pull out by May, but this is a good opportunity. I’ll retire from my position as club president.”
The one to raise their voice was not me, but Monchi, as well as Itsukaichi, who hadn’t spoke a word until now. President Doujima continued with his announcement.
“I’ll also retire from the club. Choose a new president between you and Itsukaichi, and do a good job of running the club.”
I knew that this would come soon, but I thought that it would only happen in May.
The retirement of third-year students, and the selection of the new club president.
Even though I knew it was coming, I never expected it to come today.
Instinctively, I looked at Itsukaichi. He was also looking at me… but when our eyes met, he immediately averted his gaze.
And thus, I was convinced of what would happen, though it was obvious. Funado High School’s Newspaper Club president would be, from today onwards, Urino Takahiko.
Starting from today, I would be leading Funado Monthly.
Instead of basking in ecstasy or reveling in pride, my first reaction was, for some reason, to lower my head to the senpai who was still folding his arms.
“Thank you so much for the hard work.”
Doujima-senpai did not say anything unnecessary. All he did was give his usual grave nod.
I didn’t think of Doujima-senpai as a bad club president. He had a bunch of good points. I had no choice but to recognize his ability to deal with trouble, and more importantly, he certainly had the leadership required to steer a club.
However, I wouldn’t call him the most beneficial for the club. In the end, he was unable to change Funado Monthly. For a newspaper that received funding from the school and could be distributed to the entire student body, it should be more appealing.
I was completely devoted to the case of the serial arson attacks, so I was unable to start anything else. Monchi hadn’t mentioned if he would retire or continue, but I couldn’t rely on him for firepower. Or to be precise, I couldn’t get him to do anything. Itsukaichi was also unreliable, but if I could leave him with the conventional articles, that would fill up the newspaper. Beyond that, I would have to rely on new members. If someone useful joined, I would get him to search for some other story that could serve as the centerpiece of the newspaper. When the arson story reaches its expiration date, it would be perfect to replace it with the next exciting scoop.
I needed to achieve better results compared to what we had already done. The eighth-page column wasn’t exactly too small for updates on the serial arson case, but it would be great to hold it in one full page. I couldn’t possibly display it on the top page, but I could certainly create a section on a page and name it something like “City News Corner”. If so, I would have to strengthen the content. In fact, I was starting to get a little dissatisfied with simply correctly predicting the next affected area. To garner the interest of the readers, I would need some other development.
Our ratings within the school was probably gradually increasing, too. If I get the readers’ expectations up, then proceed to fulfill them, the value of Funado Monthly would increase. And that was something I could do.
I’d already read the arsonist’s movement patterns. If so, the articles I should write, the research I should do are…
It would be a busy period from here on out, but it had also become more interesting.
I looked up to notice that the sun was already setting.
I’d remained in the clubroom alone to sort out what I had to do, but it seemed that I’d been too engrossed in it. In any case, it was a must for me to proceed with the recruitment of new members. Deciding that I should also get Itsukaichi to think of an idea, I left the Printing Preparation Room.
Walking out to the corridor, I was greeted by sunlight coming in through the west windows. The sunset was awfully red today.
There was still quite some time before the end of school hours, but there was almost no sign of people in the corridor. At first, I thought that it was completely empty, but my eyes were mistaken. Hidden in the red light, a silhouette was leaning on the wall, holding a paperback book in her hand. She looked like a freshman, but that wasn’t the case. As small as she was, she was a third-year student, Osanai Yuki.
“You’re finally out. And here I thought you’d shut yourself in there.”
“You waited for me?”
That had never happened before, but rather than being surprised, I was a little suspicious. However, Osanai broke into a genuine grin.
“Yup,” she said with a nod.
“I see. I was just about to head home. Shall we go together?”
“Yep, sure we could, but before that…”
Osanai took one step away from the wall.
“You became the club president, right? Congratulations.”
How did she know, I wondered.
I pondered as I spoke. How did she know? There was only one answer. Because Doujima-senpai had told her.
And why did he do that? Why did he tell her something that should only concern the members of the Newspaper Club?
Once again, the image of Osanai whispering to Doujima-senpai floated in the back of my mind, her elegant body in a crouch, a coquettish look on her profile.
Osanai took one more step closer.
“I waited because I was worried.”
“Um, I was wondering if you would investigate that case even further now that you’re the president… that’s what I was worried about.”
But that was my plan, to investigate it further.
And that wasn’t all.
“It’s not just the case. I’m planning to chase the culprit as well.”
“I’ve got a grasp on the arsonist’s movement patterns. I’ll take a photo of the crime scene, hand it to the police and get them arrested. In fact, I find it weird that I haven’t tried it yet. If possible, I could even catch them myself.”
Imagine the president of the Funado High School Newspaper Club catching the serial arsonist.
What an appealing idea, isn’t it? With this, the name of the Newspaper Club would rise by leaps and bounds, and my name would be carved in Funado High School history. That was exactly what I desired.
Catching them directly wouldn’t be simple, though. I didn’t have any information about the culprit’s physique, but since I didn’t know any form of martial arts, it was doubtful if someone like me would be able to hold a person down.
That said, what if I could take a photo of them committing the act…
“Funado Monthly will have some radical changes.”
Osanai’s countenance clouded over slightly.
“Even though it couldn’t be done when Doujima-kun was there?”
That line caused some dark feelings to violently surge forth.
It was exactly as I thought. Osanai still had some connection to Doujima-senpai.
In what way? How much did she rely on Doujima-senpai?
“He didn’t do anything. It would have been the same with or without him.”
Even when I was investigating the serial arson attacks, Doujima-senpai did not help me out a single time.
That’s it. Now I remember. It was the day when we were supposed to watch a romance movie, but it turned out to be a suspense movie. Osanai, who had introduced me to a shop with delicious ice cream, turned to me and said this – “Childish pranks are no good. I think not doing anything is the best.”
“You’re against me investigating the case, aren’t you?”
“Urino-kun, you look scary…”
“Why is that? Am I too irresponsible? Is Doujima more reliable to you? The one holding the trump card is me. There’s still something that I know, while Doujima doesn’t know anything.”
Osanai held her paperback in front of her chest and hugged it, as if that small book would protect her.
“Yes, Doujima-kun is reliable. He’s convenient. But that’s not what I was saying.”
“You know what?”
Osanai closed her eyes as she spoke.
“You know what? Just listen without getting mad… I don’t dislike hard workers, but…”
Her voice became even softer.
“I like people who don’t do anything.”
“Don’t do anything…?”
“Yes. I’m a little citizen, and I like other little citizens.”
She spoke in a faint voice that almost could not be heard. If the corridor hadn’t been so quiet at this time after school, it would have been easily drowned out.
…Oh, how bad you are at lying! You said all those unnatural lines just to stop me, but did you really think that I would be persuaded?
“I’m not like that.”
I made a clear assertion. Osanai looked up with a start.
“I’m not a little citizen who doesn’t do anything. It’s fine, you can leave it to me. Just wait. In three months, I’ll show you something absolutely amazing.”
With Doujima-senpai no longer in the Newspaper Club, I would be the one to do it.
I had no intention to stop no matter what Osanai said. If she was having doubts about my strength, I would just have to prove it to her.
I extended my arms and grabbed her shoulders. They were small and frail, like they would break if I squeezed too hard. I pulled her close and bent my knees.
Next, I did something I always wanted to do, but could never do before.
I leaned in for the kiss.
However, I didn’t actually come into contact with her lips. I was expecting some softness and warmth, but all I got was a bland taste, as if I was biting into sand.
I never intended to close my eyes, but that was exactly what I did. Feeling that something was off, I slowly opened my eyes.
Only to see one sheet of paper.
Osanai was holding a small, thin piece of paper on my lips to stop me. It was a receipt. She had a paperback in her left hand and the receipt in her right hand. In a corner of my seething head, I thought, “Ah, she must have used a receipt in place of a bookmark.”
Just ten centimeters in front of me, Osanai’s eyes narrowed.
“That’s no good!”
She seemed to be having fun. The receipt was still in front of my lips.
“Fine, if you’re telling me to listen, I’ll listen.”
I distanced myself from her. My hands, which were supposed to be holding her shoulders, were somehow already empty.
With what looked like a skip, Osanai retreated. Twirling both hands behind her, she looked up at me.
“Urino-kun, you said to leave it to you, right? And that you’ll show me something amazing, right?”
I nodded repeatedly.
Osanai smiled. Osanai, who could always only produce a light grin no matter how hard I tried.
And now her smile was what could almost be called the definition of radiance itself.
“…Fine. I’m looking forward to it.”
After saying those words, she adjusted her skirt and turned around.
From over her shoulders, something white fluttered down. It was the receipt, or Osanai’s thin shield.
“It’s yours. It’ll make for a good memory, don’t you think?”
I bent down to retrieve it, then looked up.
But Osanai was already gone, and the red sunset had turned into a gloomy dusk.
Editors (Tier 2) : Joshua Fisher
Assistants (Tier 1) : Rolando Sanchez
Thank you very much for all your support!