Case of the Autumn-Exclusive Kuri Kinton Chapter 4: A Suspicious Summer (Part 4)

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Chapter 4 Part 3 | Contents | Chapter 5 Part 1

Until Kengo’s email arrived, I hadn’t noticed that today was the day.

As if pre-empting the height of summer, the day was extremely hot, with not a single cloud in the sky since morning. The sweltering heat reminded me of something. There was a cake shop called “Jeff Beck” on this street. It was a small shop and the clerk didn’t seem very friendly, but it sold its specially-made Charlottes in summer. Charlotte is the name of a type of cake, and it apparently originated from a hat1.

Last year, on a dreadfully scorching day like this one, I ate some of that Charlotte, and it was excellent. I never had a particular liking for sweet things, but that was something I would like to eat again. Perhaps I should buy some on my way back. Just as I was looking forward to that while preparing to go home after school, my mobile phone vibrated. It was an email from Kengo.

It read, “The preparations are set. Do come over to receive a report.”

For a moment, I had no idea what he was going on about. I pulled up the calendar on my phone, and it was only then that I realized it was already the second Friday of July. The day for the serial arson attack. If the articles in Funado Monthly were accurate, this was the day on which the ninth crime would occur.

This was an important day to smolder out the arsonist who had just been subjected to some terrible naming sense. I’d been the one to come up with the plan, so I could not refuse if asked to meet. Thus I set off for Kengo’s classroom, and it couldn’t be helped that I became a little grouchy in the process.

There were many students remaining in Kengo’s classroom, although there had only been the three of us when we were meeting with Itsukaichi-kun in May. The students staying behind had notebooks, reference books or problem sets open in front of them, and were all hard at work. I was finally made to realize that the carnage of university admission examinations was fast approaching, as we were in the summer of our third year in high school.

Kengo was not at his own seat, but had taken hold of a corner of the classroom away from the other students, his mobile phone on the table in front of him.

“The Newspaper Club’s in the middle of a strategy meeting. Itsukaichi will contact us when it’s over. I told him that sending an email was fine, but he said that he would come over if he can.”

Kengo said that with a solemn countenance. He had a sheet of paper on his table. It was a copy of the original manuscript for the eighth page of Funado Monthly’s July issue.

Taking a glance at it, I muttered.

“That’s long. The column’s gradually gotten longer, hasn’t it?”


Kengo nodded bitterly.

“It certainly has. The column was originally using the space left over after editing, but now they’ve shaved off some articles to let it expand.”

“That happens quite often, right?”

“As a matter of principle, no. The layout of the newspaper could collapse as a result.”

Even though I knew him to be the former president of the Newspaper Club, it still felt weird to hear him use a term like “layout”2.

“If they’re going against the principle, can’t you could remonstrate them about it as the former president of the club?”

I cracked a joke, but a disgruntled look appeared on Kengo’s face.

“I’m just the former president. No way I can interfere with anything the current members have decided.”

He was a praiseworthy senior, but the column’s expansion was probably not “something decided by the current members”. In all likelihood, it was caused by Urino-kun’s tyranny. Then again, that wasn’t something I should be concerned about. I lowered my eyes to read the article.

(1 July – Funado Monthly, Page 8 Column)

Did you students notice? An anomaly just manifested in the case of serial arson, which we at the Newspaper Club have been tirelessly covering since October last year.
The culprit, who we call Fireman, did not set any fires last month.

Of course, if you look at Kira City as a whole, multiple fires have occurred here. There was even a suspicious fire (Referring the one that occurred on 19 June at Akanebe, 1st District). However, according to the Newspaper Club’s examination of the crime scene, it was clearly not the Fireman’s handiwork. The series of arson attacks was interrupted.

Did Fireman stop for good?

No. Here we shall make it public. Fireman always lights a fire from the late night of the second Friday to Saturday morning. But on that day last month, or the period between June 13 and 14, there was a typhoon. Since the rain was too heavy, he gave up on his crime.

With this month’s intermission, could he have been guided towards penitence? That is our hope, but we at this humble column believe that to be a shaky conclusion. He will probably do it again this month, as long as it doesn’t rain heavily again on the second Friday of this month.

We predict that Fireman will still target Kitaura Town this month, as he is likely still bound to his rule.

(Urino Takahiko)

“His rule, huh?”

I muttered after letting out a sigh.

“What, you’re saying that it could be her rule?”

Kengo must have been bored waiting to hear from Itsukaichi to say something as trivial as that. Well, Urino-kun probably did think that the culprit was male.

But more importantly…

“I don’t understand his reason for thinking that they’ll continue targeting Kitaura.”

“…I see.”

Kengo’s eyes moved to the article as well.

“If the precincts to be targeted for each month have been decided, we should prioritize them. What’s after Kitaura Precinct?”

“Harimi Precinct. You’ve also thought quite a bit about this, huh.”

Kengo put on a pointedly disgruntled expression.

“You don’t even need to think about something like that.”

He meant that he wasn’t thinking of anything particularly significant, though that didn’t need to be said, in my opinion.

“Don’t laugh.”

“I’m not laughing. But you’re right. The theory that their schedule was decided beforehand is certainly possible. That’s what I’d argue, and there is a reason for it.”

But confusion seeped into Kengo’s face.

“A reason?”


I sank further into my chair.

“The first arson case happened in October at Hamae. After that, they’ve continued setting fires at the rate of one location per month, at the areas of jurisdiction of Kira City’s Fire Department precincts.”

Kengo’s face and attitude said, “What are you going on about now?” more eloquently than words could ever convey. That sure was an intense look. Perhaps high school seniors do have a different bearing compared to freshmen. Paying him no heed, I continued.

“By the way, Kengo, have you counted the number of Fire Department precincts in Kira City?”

Once again, his answer could be understood from his face and attitude. He hadn’t counted. What an easy person to read. Even if he strayed off the path in the future, he could never become a con artist.

“There are twelve precincts.”

“Twelve? That means…”


With a grin, I nodded.

In precisely one year, they can set fire to the areas of jurisdictions of each precinct. It wouldn’t be strange to think that the culprit would prioritize this over the rule and order of the dates.”

Kengo leaned towards me a little.

“So you think he’s really going for Harimi?”

I frowned.

“No, not really. The arson target is still Kitaura. Don’t worry, I’m certain about that.”

I glanced at the clock on top of the blackboard. As might be expected of the season with the longest days, it was still too early to say that it was evening. The athletics clubs were bathed in ultraviolet rays on the sports grounds. How long would the Newspaper Club’s strategy meeting go on for? Thinking about it, they wouldn’t be talking about a confirmed fact, so I hoped they would finish up with it already. I didn’t know about Jeff Beck’s operating hours, but those Charlottes would be sold out if I didn’t get there quickly.

This time, Kengo saw through me as I had those things on my mind.

“You seem to be in a bad mood.”

Was it that the observational powers of a former Newspaper Club president were not to be underestimated, or was I just the type to easily show my feelings? That can’t be it.

“…Quite right.”

“When a topic like this is involved, it’s rare to somehow end up in high spirits. Did something make you unhappy?”

Even as he said that, Kengo was grimacing as if he were surrounded by unpleasant things. To be honest, I was in a bad mood because it was hot and I wanted to go home, but that would make me seem uncool, so I tried coming up with other reasons.

“Yeah, I’m unhappy. There are three things I’m unhappy with.”

Could I even think of three?

“Firstly, this could be settled by email, so why do we have to wait in school?”

“Well, that’s because you hardly keep in touch! And if you’re asking to do this by email, I’ve already said as much to Itsukaichi.”

Well, it was certainly my bad on that point.

“Now for the second point. I’m annoyed that it was raining in June.”

We’d formulated a plan with Itsukaichi-kun’s assistance.

If the culprit had committed arson in June, their profile would automatically rise to the surface, at least to a certain extent. Based on that information, we would be able to narrow down their target in July, and catch them in the act. After that, I would do my best to overcome the formal English required for entrance examinations in August. That was the plan.

But it just had to rain.

“I think today’s plan will work out well, but having to wait for a month takes time, and that’s a hassle.”

Kengo had apparently put a considerable amount of thought into this already. With a light groan, he spoke in slurred words.

“It’s a natural disaster. There’s nothing we can do about it.”

And that was all he said. Well, my English scores had stabilized recently, so while it was a hassle, there was no need for me to fret.

By raising those two points, most of my resentment had been released. However, I’d regretfully mentioned there were three things I was unhappy about. I only said that because having three reasons seemed more convincing than two, but what should I do now?

“So, what’s the third?”

Urged on, I thought for a while. Something about this case I was unhappy about…

“I don’t like how we’re just waiting for something to happen.”

Unexpectedly, Kengo put on a serious face.

“Waiting, huh.”

“Exactly. I’m trying to put an end to this case. We still don’t know how or whether Osanai-san is involved, but I want this to end. Yet we’re going to overlook the damage once. That’s a bad plan, and it makes us no different from the Newspaper Club which doesn’t do anything to stop the arson attacks for the sake of their articles. Was it really impossible to come up with a method to end this case without waiting for a fire to happen?”

I shrugged.

“That’s what I’m not happy about.”

I thought Kengo would say something in response, but he kept silent. Since I had nothing more to say, and more significantly because of my bad mood, I maintained the silence as well. The original manuscript on the desk was an eyesore.

If we weren’t conversing, there was something I could do. Retrieving some flashcards from my pocket, I started memorizing and testing myself on English idioms. On the other hand, Kengo had his arms folded, and his eyes shut.

Does he not find it hot?”, I thought.

We stayed like this for a few minutes, until Kengo spoke in a leisurely manner without stirring.

“On second thoughts, perhaps I should tell this to you, and only you.”

I hadn’t expected Kengo to make a confession at this point in time. I kept my flashcards.

“What is it?”

Was it perhaps some top secret information from the inner circle of the Newspaper Club? I thought it would be something like that, so I did not expect the words that followed.

“I was questioned by the police about this situation.”


“I became acquainted with a detective after that case with Isawa last year. He gave me a phone call and asked to meet. He then asked if it was true that predictions of the arson locations were going around Funa High.”

By “that case with Isawa”, he meant the Case of the Summer-Exclusive Tropical Parfait. I never became acquainted with any policemen after that, so I had no idea it was the opposite for Kengo.

Then again, while Kengo was only lightly wounded in that case, he was still a victim of assault, so perhaps it wasn’t that strange for him to be more connected to the police than me.

“So, how did you answer?”

Was that the first time I was surprised by Kengo? At the very least, it must have been quite a long time since the last instance of that. As a result, my voice was shamefully shrill.

Kengo seemed to be in a bad mood as well. After glancing at the other people who had remained in the classroom and confirming that none of them were paying us any attention, he replied in a subdued voice.

“How could I hide it? Of course, I told him everything. I even told him about the order of precincts.”

Not everything had been proven to be true yet, though.

“How much did you say? Did you tell him about this plan?”

“No, I didn’t say that much. There’s still a lot we don’t know, anyway.”

That made me feel a little relieved.

“And that’s why Urino’s name was not mentioned.”

“You kept it under wraps, huh.”

“I wasn’t asked about him, so I ended it off by saying, ‘That’s the rumor that’s spreading.’”

Basically, he also kept silent about the fact that the rumor came from the Newspaper Club, and that was in a face-to-face interview with a police officer.

As expected, Kengo’s fortitude was quite a lot higher compared to the average person. I would have probably told them all about it if I had been in his position.

“Was the policeman satisfied with that? And more importantly, I wonder if they noticed the reverse order of the Disaster Prevention Plan…”

“Who knows…”

He muttered, shaking his head.

“Well, I don’t think he was surprised by it. Also, if he isn’t satisfied with what I told him, he could just ask someone else. Though he did say that the police refrain from questioning active high school students, because rumors about the student could easily start when they are seen with the police.”

That was a little strange. The police should have some divisions that deal solely with active high school students. But perhaps those divisions were not in charge of investigating the arson attacks.

“Anyway, with this serial arson case going on for so long, the police must have lost quite a lot of face, right?”

“The officer complained to me about it. Since the culprit can just set the fire and let it do the work while he escapes, it’s difficult to investigate. For cases like this where the fires are small, there usually isn’t much evidence remaining at the crime scene, so there’s no choice but to catch the culprit in the act. On top of that, each fire only caused minimal damage, so not a lot of manpower was allocated towards solving this case.

“I had no idea, but there was another case of serial arson in this city ten years ago. Do you know about it?”

Unfortunately, I wasn’t familiar with the history of crimes in Kira City. Hang on, did the police officer reveal his gripes to Kengo? That’s Kengo for you… I wanted to say, but perhaps he actually used a technique where he displayed some vulnerability to draw that information out of the officer. It would have been interesting to witness that conversation.

“At that time, the damage was concentrated around the culprit’s home, but it took almost two years to arrest him. Also, they didn’t catch him due to any investigation, just that they happened to see him while on patrol.”

“Wow, that’s lucky. Or perhaps they’re unlucky since they didn’t manage to catch the culprit for two years.”

“And this time, the scope of this case is the entire city. Well, the officer did say that it has a saving grace, which is the characteristic of the crime dates.”

Then again, while the attacks always happened late at night on Fridays, they couldn’t possibly leave everything unguarded for the other days.

Kengo fell silent for a while after saying all that. Seeing the brooding look on his face, I assumed that he was for some reason feeling embarrassed after making contact with the police… No, that wasn’t it. Since he’d steeled his resolve and initiated the topic himself, his feelings of embarrassment were probably directed at the Newspaper Club.

Finally, he asked a question with a somber tone.

“So, Jougorou, do you think the police will concentrate all their forces in Kitaura Town after hearing the Funa High rumor that I told them?”

“No way they would do that.”

“You think so too, huh?”

Kira City contained other historical buildings and densely populated areas. No matter how much credibility the police placed on this “Funa High rumor”, the day that they send all their forces to Kitaura would be the day their reputation becomes completely unsalvageable.

Now I understood why Kengo was in a bad mood.

“Either way, it’ll go on like this. The police have no choice but to step up their patrols on late Friday nights.”


“Whether or not you spoke to the police officer.”

“Makes sense.”

“That’s why even if some Newspaper Club members get officially reprimanded tonight, you didn’t sell your juniors out.”

Kengo’s face contorted for a moment. I thought he was about to say something, but in the end all he said was, “Yeah.” It must be tough being a good senpai.

Seeing that face caused me to hesitate a little.

…Actually, there was one more thing that Kengo should have said. Based on his testimony, the police had a suspect in mind.

Back then, the teacher who used to be in the Student Counseling Department suspected the Newspaper Club of being the arsonists since they’d managed to predict the next crime locations. To be precise, they suspected Urino-kun, the one who had written the articles.

The exchange they had was apparently rather hysterical, but suspecting Urino-kun was certainly understandable. When viewing the facts of the case along with the articles in Funado Monthly, anyone unfamiliar with the details would naturally assume that it was a put-up job by whoever wrote the articles. By getting a grasp on the Funa High rumor, the police probably wanted to get a grasp on Funado Monthly as well. With that, there would be no reason not to suspect Urino-kun. The column did properly spell out the name of its author, after all.

At this point, Itsukaichi-kun had not given us any information that Urino-kun had been questioned by the police. I wasn’t directly acquainted with him, but based on what was said about him, he would probably jump for joy and tell everyone if he were to be taken in for questioning. But if that wasn’t that case, it meant that while the police had contacted Kengo, they had not contacted Urino-kun. What was the reason for not directly getting to the source of the rumor?

Perhaps they were looking down on it as just a rumor from a high school, so they didn’t want to deal with it? That could certainly be the case.

But if not… they could be leaving their suspect at large.

The fires were small, hardly left any evidence, and it would be difficult to arrest the culprit without catching them in the act. If that was what the police thought about it, they would want to keep an eye on their leading suspect, Urino-kun. In their mind, if they came into contact with him awkwardly, it could cause him to control himself, which would put an end to the crimes, but wouldn’t allow them to catch the culprit.

Thus, they would intricately mark possible locations on Friday nights and try to catch the criminal red-handed, right?

That was what I thought, but I did not communicate that to Kengo.

After all, what use was there in telling him about it? They were nothing but deductions, and even if they turned out to be correct, nothing more could be done.

I flipped through the flashcards again. Kengo had closed his eyes and stopped moving.

A few minutes passed before the phone on Kengo’s table vibrated. Ponderously extending an arm, Kengo opened up the phone and put it to his ear.


It wasn’t an email, but a call. The other party was seemingly doing all the talking, for Kengo said nothing for a while.

Finally, he replied, “I see. Be careful.”

With just that, he ended the call.

I didn’t even need to ask about who it was from. It was obviously Itsukaichi-kun, reporting that the strategy meeting had ended. Before I could say anything, Kengo spoke up.

“He says there are no problems.”

That was good to hear. We’d stayed so long after school just to hear that line.

“Do you think they’ll fall for the trap? If they notice…”

“Then we’ll just have to devise another plan. I have three others in mind.”

I grabbed my bag and stood up.

“I’ll be heading home now. There’s nothing more we can do. Hopefully the Newspaper Club is blessed with divine providence and catch the culprit red-handed.”

If that were to happen, the case would be complete, and wouldn’t drag on to August. Now it was time to buy the Charlotte. Just when I turned my back on Kengo, my mobile phone vibrated.


“Anything wrong?”

“No, just an email. Who could it be…”

I checked the sender. It was “Nakamaru-san Mobile”. The message was short.

If you’re in school, come to the classroom.”

For an email sent by Nakamaru-san, it had a unique quality.

There were no emojis in the message.

Quite a few people were diligently studying in Kengo’s classroom, so I assumed that there would be some in my classroom as well.

I slid open the door.

Nakamaru-san, whose wavy hair drooped down to her shoulders, was standing with her back to a window. Since the window was slightly open, it let in some gusts of wind which caused the scarf in her summer attire to sway. Her forced smile felt a little stiff. Also, there was no one else in the room.

I had seen something like this before. Somewhere, some time ago.

…Ah, I see. It wasn’t such a long time ago, which was why I could easily recall it.

It was after school on a hot day in September last year. I was in a similar situation, having been summoned to the same empty classroom by a piece of paper found in my desk. The summer uniform and windy conditions were exactly the same as well. However, if my memory was correct, the sky was a different color back then. Was the sunset not a discomforting shade of red on that day? On the other hand, it was perfectly clear today. Not a single cloud was seen since morning, and the sky was still in a brilliant cerulean.

“So you came.”

Nakamaru-san said, then closed the window. I also shut the door behind me as I entered the classroom.

“No one’s here, huh. There were a lot of people staying back in class E.”

“There were some people here.”

She then continued in an indifferent tone.

“I asked them to leave.”

I was quite delighted to be able to recreate that scene from the past. Since Nakamaru-san was unreserved in her social interactions, I could imagine her saying, “Come on, get out, get out. I’ll be using this room.” She had no such right to monopolize the entire room, but the people who had stayed back must have obediently left with bitter smiles. Well, she had a lovable personality. Such a thing was out of the question for me.

“Sorry for calling you here so suddenly.”

Her voice seemed to be lacking in energy.

“It’s fine. If you call me, I can find you at the drop of a hat.”

I cracked a smile, but Nakamaru-san cast her eyes downwards.

“You never change, Kobato-chan.”

What was she saying all of a sudden… well, it was true that I was taking care not to show my displeasure, having been seen through by Kengo earlier.

She must have had some purpose in calling me over, but Nakamaru-san fell silent after saying that line. It would be the weekend starting from tomorrow, so perhaps it was a talk about going somewhere. Or perhaps she wanted to discuss what to do during the summer holidays? But would the talkative Nakamaru-san hesitate in broaching this topic? If not this, what other topics would she want to talk about?

With those thoughts, I looked at Nakamaru-san, who was still saying nothing. Eventually, she asked a question without meeting my eyes.

“…Kobato-chan, do you have anything to ask or say to me?”

“Nothing in particular.”

I instantly answered. Nakamaru-san sharply exhaled, as if having made up her mind.

“You really haven’t changed. It’s almost been a year, but you haven’t changed at all. You don’t show your excitement and nervousness, nor do you show boredom. You’re just always smiling like this.”

I couldn’t tell if I was smiling or not, but I must have been if she put it like that.

Nakamaru-san quietly raised the subject.

“I heard from Yoshiguchi. You know all about me, don’t you?”

Who was Yoshiguchi again? That was probably one of Nakamaru-san’s friends…

I thought back to our conversations to find a mention of her name. The one always doing stupid things was Miura, the “crazy smart” one aiming to become a doctor would be Taki. Besides them… I couldn’t quite recall. The name of Yoshiguchi didn’t ring any bells. I decided to ask her honestly, without putting on a front.

“Who’s Yoshiguchi again?”

Nakamaru-san glared at me sternly, as if thinking that I was trying to play innocent.

“I’ve asked you about her before, remember? She’s from class 3E.”


That didn’t help at all! Still, nothing came to mind. I would have understood if that name came out from Kengo’s mouth, but I couldn’t smoothly connect Nakamaru-san with the information broker whose bag had been stolen before.

“I suppose there was something like that. There were some compelling reasons for it.”

But Nakamaru-san probably wouldn’t listen to those reasons. What a hassle this has become.

That was what I thought, but what she took issue with was something else entirely.

“It’s fine, you don’t need to give excuses. I’m talking about the fact that you know all about me.”

The information I’d gained at that time was the existence of a connection between Osanai-san and Urino-kun. I’d had a faint inkling of that being the case, but once it was confirmed, setting a direction for our plan became quite a lot easier. Besides that…

Right, I did hear about Nakamaru-san as well.

She was apparently two-timing me, and had a main boyfriend.

“I was told that you know about it, so I was always concerned about it. What would Kobato-chan do? But you never showed any reaction.”

“Is that so?”

“Yes, it is. Do you remember what happened the last time? I was really frightened, but all you were interested in were the tomatoes, right?”

Since Nakamaru-san mentioned tomatoes, she was probably referring to the day when I used watertight logic to deduce that she hated tomatoes. However, much to my chagrin and mental anguish, my deduction failed to hit the mark. But after that, I had no recollection of her being frightened or nervous. Was that how she was feeling?

Nakamaru-san’s voice, which was usually springy, was low today. But she didn’t sound mechanical. Instead, she sounded like she was suppressing her intense emotions.

“At first, I wondered if you believed in me and ignored Yoshiguchi’s rumor. That’s why it was so painful. If you truly believed in me, I would be despicable.”

That would mean Yoshiguchi-san’s information was correct. As expected of someone Kengo gave his stamp of approval to.

“But that wasn’t it.”

Well, I suppose it wasn’t.

“You didn’t care at all, did you, Kobato-chan? Even if I was two-timing you, even if I had a main boyfriend. You were fine with it either way, so you always looked calm.”

It was hot in the room. Why did Nakamaru-san close the window?

I was thinking of opening the window myself, but Nakamaru-san was staring at me directly without averting her gaze. This was the most difficult situation to make a move in.

“…Before this, even before this, I’ve gone out with boys like you. Boys who act indifferent and pompous. I liked those types of boys.”

Nakamaru-san raised the corners of the lips slightly.

“Even those boys would be shaken after hearing rumors about me. They would get angry, become more considerate of me, cry. They didn’t last long, about half a year each.”

Did she enjoy seeing them like this? By force of habit, I had such a thought.

“But you didn’t change, Kobato-chan. Not at all… so I almost misunderstood you to be an extremely kind and tolerant person.”

“Calling that a misunderstanding is cruel.”

But my words didn’t reach her. She was talking by herself.

“It’s wrong, right?”

“Who knows?”

“Yes, it is. You didn’t change, but not because you believed in me and not because you’re really tolerant or kind. I’ve noticed.

“You haven’t changed at all from the very beginning, from that day last year when I said, ‘Let’s go out.’ Even when we’ve gone on so many dates and been to so many places. From that first day, that smiling face hasn’t changed! Look, even now!”

She pointed straight at me.

…Nakamaru-san, it’s not good to thoughtlessly point your finger at others. Some people might not be able to forgive you for that.

I would, though.

For some reason, Nakamaru-san started to smile.

“Y’know, Kobato-chan, even if it only started as a joke or penalty game, even if it exists in shape only, love is still love. It warms you up, doesn’t it? I like that. But you’re different, Kobato-chan.”

It wasn’t her usual light smile.

“What are you? Seriously, how do your expressions not change after a year? I don’t understand you at all, Kobato-chan. A cold person? Or do you fundamentally make light of people in general?

“I don’t think you’ll be able to understand me. Whenever I break up with a guy I was going out with, I’ll always feel a little vexed, because I imagine that he’ll make a different face when he goes out with someone else. But I don’t think that way now, since you definitely won’t change no matter who you’re dating. I’m sure it was the same feeling with your previous girlfriend, right?”

That was both irrelevant and wrong.

But Nakamaru-san would probably never be able to understand that in her entire life.

I could hear shouts from outside the window as the athletic clubs did their running exercises. It was soon to be the cooling down time for clubs.

“Kobato-chan, I think you should know this by now, but it’s over for us.”

“Yeah, even I can tell.”

“So there’s one last thing I want to try.”

Nakamaru-san’s eyes twinkled mischievously.

“Can I call you Joe? That sounds cool, doesn’t it?”

I grinned and immediately made a declaration.


“Bye bye, Kobato-chan. I may be despicable, but so are you.”

She might be right about that.

An email came in at night, a short while after the date changed. It was from Kengo.

The plan was a success. The Newspaper Club failed. A gatepost of an abandoned house was targeted, and the fire was immediately extinguished.”

I didn’t reply. Instead, I slipped into my bed, took a long, deep breath and drifted off to dreamland.

It was a dream in which I was stacking piles of stones on the banks of the Sanzu River3.

I would stack the stones, and topple them over myself. Stack the stones again, and topple them over again. It was doubtful if I truly wanted to stack the stones up.

Was it just a dream, or something that I hazily imagined while half-asleep at dawn?

Either way, the first thing I did when I woke up the next morning was to clear my memory… of “Nakamaru-san Mobile”.

Chapter 4 Part 3 | Contents | Chapter 5 Part 1

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  1. A lot of sites say that the name came from Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III, and the Wikipedia article doesn’t mention anything about a hat, so I’m not sure about this one.
  2. This is a borrowed word, so it’s exactly how it sounds in English.
  3. A futile task, because the piles of stones are repeatedly toppled. This is a limbo or hell for children in Japanese Buddhism.

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