Now I only need to find the literature club, it shouldn't be too far, but I didn't consider the possibility that there might be no sign that could tell me which is the right room. In that case I will just need to find a student and ask, hopefully I will find someone who isn't completely clueless. And if I cannot find any student to question, then I will just need to enter every room until I either find the right one, or one where I can find someone who can direct me to the right place.
When I am just about to open a door, I hear the sound of people leaving another room not far from where I am. They are mainly girls and just a few boys, they must be from a club that just ended. I check my watch, it says it is 5:02 PM.
I decide to ask them for directions, that is probably the easiest and fastest way to find the place I am looking for. One of them will certainly know the information I need. A group of three girls is leading the rest, they are mindlessly chatting among themselves, but they suddenly turn silent when they notice me, they are probably suspicious of an outsider like me being inside the school.
I walk toward them with the intention to question them, but before I can get close enough to question them, I realize that it will not be necessary. Like I said earlier, this must be my lucky day. It turns out that these students are all from the literature club. How do I know that? It is pretty simple: Sumomo Takamiya just left the same room. I know it must be her, I have seen a lot of her pictures from Gotsuji's photo albums. Even if her name was not written anywhere, a great detective like me can easily reach this sort of conclusions simply by looking at the particulars and by reading the atmosphere. This was Gotsuji's best friend, this is Sumomo Takamiya.
I ignore the other students and I approach the one I am looking for. Luckily the three girls and the other unnecessary individuals just pass by and quickly move away from me. That's what I want, to be alone with that girl, just she and I... Oh, and Dlanor, but she doesn't really count.
Erika: "Good evening, Sumomo Takamiya."
She stops and looks at me with a confused look in her face. She doesn't answer right away, instead she tries to figure out who I am first.
Sumomo: "Hmmm... Furudo-san?"
Erika: "That's correct, I'm the great detective Erika Furudo, pleased to meet you."
Sumomo: "Glad to make your acquaintance, Furudo-san. I am Sumomo Takamiya, 17 years old, but apparently you already knew that..."
Erika: "And apparently you had already understood who I was. I imagine it was Meito Oda who told you about me."
Sumomo: "Yes, you guessed correctly. This very morning Meito-kun told me that yesterday he was interrogated by... you."
Erika: "Is that guy so good with physical descriptions that you could be so certain that it was me?"
Sumomo: "Oh, hmmm... actually..."
She points her finger to Dlanor.
Erika: "Ha ha! I see, I should have guessed that! You don't really see a strange pair like us every day, right?"
Sumomo: "She's really cute, can I take her home with me?"
Erika: "No way! Dlanor is mine!"
Sumomo: "Ha ha ha! I was just kidding!"
Dlanor: "I am flattered by your compliments, Miss Takamiya, but as Miss Erika said: I belong to her. I will never leave her side."
Sumomo: "Hmmm, you're a strange girl..."
Erika: "That's right! Dlanor is only cute in appearance, but as for her personality she's absolutely cold and emotionless."
Sumomo: "Hmmm... I see..."
Erika: "At any rate, you probably already know what I want from you. So let's not waste our time."
Sumomo: "Okay... where should we go?"
Erika: "Let's see, a place where we can talk without anyone interrupting us... hmmm..."
Sumomo: "Uh... Furudo-san, I think something strange is happening down there..."
I follow her eyes and I notice that a few of the students from the literature club that just passed by are now gathered in front of the storage room where I trapped Satsukawa. That idiot... he couldn't simply stay quiet.
Erika: "Oh, that's nothing you should worry about, Takamiya."
Sumomo: "Are you sure? I hear strange noises coming from there... Uh... wait!"
I grab the girl's arm and I quickly drag her away from the commotion.
Sumomo: "Hmmm... Furudo-san? Where are you taking me?"
Erika: "I just thought about a perfect place where we can talk undisturbed. What about the roof? There must be a roof in this school, right?"
Sumomo: "This isn't some kind of manga, you can't go to the roof!"
Erika: "I bet I can."
Sumomo: "If you say so..."
We climb the stairs up and up until we reach a set that abruptly ends with a closed door.
Sumomo: "See, I told you... it's closed. Students aren't allowed there, it's dangerous."
Erika: "Then I guess it's a good thing that I'm not a student."
I take the bundle of keys that I just acquired earlier. One of these should open this door.
Sumomo: "Uh? Where did you get that?"
Erika: "Never underestimate a great detective!"
After a few unsuccessful tries, the door finally opens.
Erika: "There you go! Now we can go to the roof!"
Sumomo: "Hmmm, this is... really a strange situation..."
Erika: "Aren't you curious to see the roof? You've never been there, right?"
Sumomo: "I can't deny I'm a bit excited about it..."
Erika: "Then let's go!"
We take the few last steps up and a clear spring sky opens above us.
The roof is... well, it's not pretty. This isn't a place meant for people to hang around, that is clear enough. The floor here is rough, damaged by the weathers in several points, and unclean.
I wonder if this is the reality of the 'school's roof' so poetically represented in works of fictions, but maybe it is just because this school is particularly bad.
Takamiya goes ahead and takes a look around. In the end she was really curious in spite of her apparent reluctance.
I close the door behind me and I lock it.
Sumomo: "Uh! Did you just lock the door?"
Erika: "We don't want some stray student to come up here, right? This place is forbidden to them. That door was locked for a reason, it's better to keep it that way."
I doubt she actually accepted the messed up logic of my excuse, but it was enough to silence her. Now it's about time we get down to business. Even if Satsukawa is freed, it will take a while before he will even think that I might be here, and even in that case the closed door will probably convince him that I am not in this place. I have all the time I need and I am free to say whatever I want without having to worry about that bothersome cop.
Certainly I have been lucky today, but in any case I would have found a way to talk to this girl alone sooner or later. The sooner is certainly better though.
Erika: "If it's all right with you, I'd like to start right away with my questions."
Sumomo: "That's the reason we're here, right? I'm ready."
Erika: "That's the spirit! I'm glad to see that you're more than willing to cooperate!"
Sumomo: "You're working to find the person that killed Hitomi, I'll tell you everything I know."
Erika: "Then let's begin with something simple. When did you and Gotsuji meet?"
Sumomo: "It was two years ago, we've always been classmates since we started high school."
Erika: "Tell me the particulars. I'm curious to know why you among all of the victim's friends are considered to be the one who was closer to her."
Sumomo: "That's an interesting question... why did we become best friends, I wonder? It's not something that we decided, it just happened. Before we knew it, we were hanging together all the time."
Erika: "But that only happened during school hours, right? It doesn't seem that you met frequently on your free time."
Sumomo: "That's true... Again, I can't tell you a specific reason for that, but we did hang around outside from time to time. Maybe the truth is that Hitomi had too many friends. We already met everyday at school, so she probably wanted to spend the remaining time with the others. This is especially true for those periods when she had a boyfriend."
Erika: "She used to talk about her boyfriends with you?"
Sumomo: "Oh yes, that certainly happened a lot."
Erika: "Do you know if she had a boyfriend during the last few months?"
Sumomo: "As far as I know she didn't have any. The last time we talked about her boyfriends, she told me that she broke up with a certain university guy. I think it was... hmmm... it must have been October of the past year."
Erika: "I'm just trying to be absolutely sure about this point, we already think it's extremely unlikely that she had a boyfriend recently, but do you think she could have had one and she didn't tell you?"
Sumomo: "Hmmm... I can hardly imagine that she'd be able to keep silent about that. No, I don't think she had a boyfriend either, not even a secret one."
Erika: "What about you, Takamiya?"
Sumomo: "Uh, me? I... hmmm... I'm just not interested in a relationship at this time."
Erika: "I see, you're the kind of levelheaded girl that would only worry about her studies until the end of high school."
Sumomo: "He he... I guess you can say that..."
Erika: "Such a shame, a good looking girl like you."
Sumomo: "Hmmm... thank you... but I don't think I'm that beautiful."
Erika: "Is that modesty? You're not just good looking, you're well mannered, and you're good with your studies."
Sumomo: "That's not true... I'm really bad with math... and physics..."
Erika: "So are you telling me that you aren't popular?"
Sumomo: "Hmmm... well, if you ask me if I'm popular I guess I can say that I am, a bit... but Hitomi always had a lot more friends than me."
Erika: "On the other hand Gotsuji has never been particularly brilliant with her studies, right?"
Sumomo: "She was simply too active to spend her time in front of books. I think it's already a miracle that she could keep quiet during lessons."
Erika: "Considering all that, it's easy to imagine that she used to ask for your help."
Sumomo: "Oh, well... yes, it happened frequently. I often let her copy my homework, sometimes she asked me to lend her my notes, and whenever there was something she couldn't understand, she would ask to me."
Erika: "Unless it was about math."
Sumomo: "Hmmm, yes... he he..."
Erika: "I see, I begin to understand why two completely different persons like you would end up becoming friends."
Sumomo: "Hmmm... if you say that we were completely different, I guess I cannot deny that from a certain perspective. But there are other points in which we were pretty similar, and I like to think that it was because of those that we became so close."
Erika: "Well, this is pretty interesting. Do you mind to elaborate it further?"
Sumomo: "I think that what we mostly had in common was a strong will. Hitomi was the kind of person that would always obtain what she wanted."
Erika: "Are you a strong willed person, Takamiya?"
Sumomo: "Some people think that I'm very smart, but to be honest, I'm not. I'm not smarter than the average student here, at least. But I work hard, I study a lot every day to get good grades, and yet I'm still far from the top. Hitomi could do that too, if she wanted. Maybe she could even surpass me, but she had no real interest in studying. She was content just to pass, and she only worked enough for that."
Erika: "Is it correct to say that you were the most popular girls in your classroom, albeit for different reasons?"
Sumomo: "Hmmm, I wonder, he he. I guess you can probably say that."
Erika: "But the most famous person in the whole school is someone else entirely, right?"
Sumomo: "The most famous person in the whole school..? Oh, are you talking about Teramoto-san, perhaps?"
Erika: "See? She really is."
Sumomo: "Well, there's hardly anyone that doesn't know her..."
Erika: "Were you also approached by her? Did she try to convert you to her beliefs?"
Sumomo: "Ha ha! Yes, I couldn't escape that..."
Erika: "Have you ever been inside that shed before?"
She hangs her head and gives me a mysterious smile. It seems like she doesn't want to answer this question.
Erika: "What's wrong, Takamiya? I thought you said you would tell me everything that you know."
Sumomo: "It's true... I did say that... but this is... a delicate matter..."
Erika: "How come everyone becomes suddenly silent when I touch this argument?"
Sumomo: "Hmmm, maybe I can say this much..."
Erika: "Yes? I'm listening."
Sumomo: "I think that everyone really wants to talk. I think that everyone really wants the truth of what happened in this school to be brought to light. However, they're also very afraid. A person died, and some... many... believe there is a connection between the murder and the people involved with that shed. After all... her corpse was found inside that very place... They fear they'll be the next, they fear they'll die too, if they talk first..."
Erika: "What are they afraid about? A human? A demon?"
Sumomo: "Hmmm, you seem to know something about the rumors that circulate around this school, but I'm not sure about how much you know. Anyway, to answer your question, I think there are some that fear a human, and I think there are some that fear a demon. Finally, probably the majority, do not know what to believe anymore. Either way they're scared, it doesn't really matter who's behind what, a murder is still a murder."
Erika: "That's very true, but let's get a bit more specific then. What scares you, personally? Why don't you want to talk?"
Sumomo: "I don't believe in demons, so if there's anything that scares me, it's definitely a human, but that doesn't mean a human is any less scary than a demon."
Erika: "Are you really that scared, Takamiya?"
Sumomo: "I don't think it's really a matter of being scared or not. Am I a scaredy-cat for not wanting to jump from a tall building? Am I a coward for not wanting to stand in the middle of a trafficked street? I think I'm just a person that avoids unnecessary dangers."
Erika: "But this is not unnecessary, Takamiya, I need this information in order to find the culprit."
Sumomo: "If that was true, I'd probably muster the resolution to talk while exposing myself to that danger, but I... everyone knows that it's just a matter of time."
Erika: "Uh? Explain, Takamiya, what do you mean?"
Sumomo: "The day after the crime, everyone went to school as usual. The police kept the news of what happened under wraps. We were informed that Hitomi was murdered... on that very morning..."
Erika: "It must've been a real shock for you."
Sumomo: "It really was... but I understand why they needed to do that..."
Erika: "I see... they wanted to gather all the students in one place."
Sumomo: "That's correct. They needed to take everyone's fingerprints, and not only that, they took DNA samples too. It's not hard to imagine why."
Erika: "Aaah, of course! I should have thought about that! I begin to understand what did you mean when you said it's just a matter of time!"
Sumomo: "Someone must have left some traces of their passage inside that place, there's no point in stepping forward spontaneously. Pretty soon you'll know with certainty who was there, then they'll have no choice but to talk. Nobody wants to be in those people's place, but it's bound to happen to someone, and when that happens, it happens. It's like when you randomly need to select someone to do a bothersome job. Nobody wants to do that, if they aren't forced to, but once the fate makes its decision, they'll have no other choice."
Erika: "Yes, I see your point."
Sumomo: "There's also to consider that in that case they'd probably be excused from talking, since they'll have no choice. So everyone thinks that it'd be fine to speak by then. But if one were to speak already... that would be the same as to willingly disobey them."
Erika: "Disobey them? Did someone actually tell everyone to keep silent?"
Sumomo: "Well... everyone that has been there has been told to never speak of that place."
Erika: "Doesn't that mean that you've been there, if you know that?"
Sumomo: "Hmmm, I've said too much! I won't say anything more than that..."
Erika: "Why not? Nobody is listening, why are you still afraid?"
Sumomo: "But you are listening."
Erika: "Me? I won't tell about this conversation to anyone! This will be our little secret! *giggle* *giggle*"
Sumomo: "Please, don't take it in a bad way, Furudo-san, but I don't know you enough to trust you with that."
Erika: "Well... even if you say that you aren't, it looks like you're smart after all..."
Sumomo: "It's just common sense."
Erika: "But what if I tell that you talked anyway?"
Sumomo: "Eh?! You'd actually do that?!"
Erika: "Ha ha ha! Well it would be fun, I'm almost tempted to do it, but you're right; it's just a matter of time before we get the names of the students that have been there for sure. I don't think I'll have to resort to something that drastic."
Sumomo: "Please... don't scare me like that..."
Erika: "Ha ha ha! Anyway, I just find it hard to believe that Oda didn't tell you anything. He's your friend, right? He knew that Gotsuji died."
Sumomo: "Meito-kun was instructed to not talk about the crime. He didn't do anything wrong, he just did what they told him. Even so, he apologized to me later that day..."
Erika: "Really touching. Let's talk about Oda then, since we're already on the subject."