Saturday, August 4, 2012

Chapter 2 (k)

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."

Sumomo: "Hmmm..."

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?"

Sumomo: "Hmmm..."

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."

Sumomo: "Meito-kun?"

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Chapter 2 (j)

Satsukawa: "This is all sort of interesting, and I guess there's quite a few things that Kubota isn't telling us right, but... does this bear any relevance to the case we're supposed to solve?"

Erika: "Observe, Satsukawa-san! Look at your surroundings! You'll never know where a hint might be hidden!"

Satsukawa: "Sigh... just like I thought..."

Erika: "Remember what I told you this morning: if someone is hiding something, then there might be someone else who knows the truth and who's blackmailing him."

Satsukawa: "About that theory of yours, there's an important particular that I think should be considered."

Erika: "Oh, you made your own thinking, not bad. Let's hear what you reasoned about."

Satsukawa: "According to you there's a possibility that Gotsuji was blackmailing someone, and that's how she got all that money."

Erika: "Correct."

Satsukawa: "But let's even say that she was blackmailing a certain student, then we'd need to explain how that certain student could afford to pay that much for her silence."

Erika: "Well, that certain student is probably acquiring money through illegal means."

Satsukawa: "But then isn't it easier to think that Gotsuji herself was doing that in the first place? It seems to me that your theory is unnecessarily complicated."

Erika: "Perhaps, but we should consider whether the victim was more likely to do something criminal or to simply blackmail a criminal."

Satsukawa: "Okay, let's even accept that as a valid hypothesis. But then what we're looking for is a secret concerning some kind of shady activity. It must be something that can allow someone to earn a lot of money."

Erika: "Well... yeah. Your reasoning follows..."

Satsukawa: "Then how exactly does that apply to Kubota?"

Erika: "Tch... How should I know? Maybe he was hiding illegal drugs in that bag."

Satsukawa: "Are you seriously thinking that?"

Erika: "Well... no..."

Satsukawa: "Right, then let's forget about that bag for now. We have a job to do, and my boss is expecting results. I'd like to write something sensible in my report tonight."

Erika: "Aaah, fine! Fine! It's not like I was really that interested in that bag anyway!"

Satsukawa: "Then what's the next step? If we wait a little longer there won't be any student left to interrogate."

Erika: "I was planning to pay a visit to the literature club."

Satsukawa: "Oh, I see. Excluding Teramoto she's the only relevant witness you still haven't talked to."

Erika: "That's right, and I expect to learn a lot from her."

Satsukawa: "You still think she's a probable culprit?"

Erika: "She was the victim's best friend, just for that reason alone, she's quite high in my list."

Satsukawa: "Then why not Meito Oda? He was a lot closer to the victim and he's been her friend since childhood, unlike Takamiya."

Erika: "And who said that I don't suspect him?"

Satsukawa: "Really? It seems evident to me that someone tried to frame him. You said it yourself: that message wasn't meant for him."

Erika: "Since someone quite evidently tried to frame him, then he can't be the culprit. That's what you're thinking, right?"

Satsukawa: "Yeah... Hmmm?"

Erika: "Let's get going, as you said earlier, we don't have much time."

Satsukawa: "All right."

We walk back to the main building, cutting through the empty athletic track and passing by the gym. The girls from the basket club must be there, I suppose they recovered from their psychological block at this point.
The literature club is on the second floor, this is something I learned by browsing the various files on the case that Satsukawa gave me yesterday. I am not sure about its actual position, but this isn't a big school, we should manage it somehow.

Erika: "By the way, Satsukawa-san, regarding my blackmail theory..."

Satsukawa: "Aaah, you still haven't given up..."

Erika: "I just realized you're taking for granted that the blackmailed one must be a student."

Satsukawa: "Well, I can hardly see how an adult could be intimidated by a minor..."

Erika: "Don't underestimate the new generations, they're getting bolder and bolder every passing year."

Satsukawa: "So, what if it isn't a student?"

Erika: "I think that anyone with a steady income could've managed to gather the amount of money that Gotsuji spent. It isn't that much when you consider that her costly purchases were probably made in a time span of several months."

Satsukawa: "I can't deny that, but is there an adult that the victim knew enough to learn his dirty secrets?"

Erika: "What about a teacher?"

Satsukawa: "A teacher?!"

Erika: "According to your files, Gotsuji's homeroom teacher was Nagaoka, and he was her homeroom teacher even the past year and the year before that."

Satsukawa: "Are we talking about the same inflexible Nagaoka? He doesn't really look like the kind of person that would stray from a honest path. And it's even more unlikely that he'd bow to a student's blackmail."

Erika: "Do you really think that people are exactly how they look? What you've seen is just Nagaoka's mask, and behind that there's still a human with human flaws."

Satsukawa: "No matter what, that man wouldn't bend to a young girl's whim."

Erika: "You seem so certain of that! I bet he could even get down on all four and beg her to never tell his secret!"

Satsukawa: "Ha ha ha... no way!"

Erika: "Why? You can't picture that? I think..."

What did I just saw now? There is a small storage room in this corridor, a storage for cleaning tools. The interesting part is that it is open, or rather the fact that the keys are still inserted in the keyhole. And it is not just some keys, it is a whole bundle; I imagine that these are the groundskeeper's keys.
And where is the groundskeeper now, or whoever is the owner of that bundle? There is absolutely no one around here, what an absurd display of irresponsibility! It is true that currently there are not many students around, but this is still way too careless.

Erika: "Well, well... if it isn't my lucky day..."

Satsukawa: "Huh?"

Erika: "Satsukawa-san, I think I can finally show you how come I knew from the beginning that originally there wasn't any latch attached to the P.E. shed's door."

Satsukawa: "What? Really? How?"

Erika: "We're very lucky. There's a small storage room just in front of us, and we can use this for my explanation."

Satsukawa: "I see... but... does any storage room work?"

Erika: "Of course, Satsukawa-san, in a few minutes you'll understand everything."

Satsukawa: "Really? Then... go on, I'm listening..."

Erika: "I prefer to make you realize my reasoning with a practical example. The fastest way is to try and close that storage door from inside."

Satsukawa: "I see... then I'll try it."

Erika: "There, take care, it's pretty dark inside."

Satsukawa: "Just like the P.E. shed."

Erika: "Right, my point here is that all storage rooms are more or less the same when it comes to certain particulars. For example, there are no windows. Keep that in mind."

Satsukawa: "Yeah, okay I'm inside now."

Erika: "Do you still hear me, Satsukawa-san? I hope this door isn't too thick."

Satsukawa: "I hear you loud and clear."

Erika: "Well then, close the door."

Satsukawa: "Sure, okay... give me a sec..."

I hear Satsukawa's fingers moving along the surface of the door.

Satsukawa: "Hmmm... wait, I can't find the locking mechanism."

Erika: "Really, Satsukawa-san? How come you can't find it? Isn't there a latch or something? *giggle* *giggle*"

Satsukawa: "No, there isn't anything here. There isn't even a handle."

Erika: "But why, Satsukawa-san? Why?!"

Satsukawa: "Well, this is a storage room... why would someone need to lock himself insaaaAAAAH!"

Erika: "And finallyyy! Finally you realize the absolutely... obvious!!!"

Satsukawa: "Aaaaaaaah!!! A ha haaaaaa!!!"

Erika: "Do you understand now? Do you finally understand what kind of idiot you've been?"

Satsukawa: "Damn! Damn! Damn! How couldn't I... aaargh! This is so stupid! So stupid!"

Erika: "Yes, you've no idea how many times I've been wondering why you didn't think that a latch in a storage room made absolutely no sense! No one in its right mind would build something like that. Of course, if the storage room was later converted into something else, then it can be explained, but that still means the latch was added later!"

Satsukawa: "Yes! Yes! I see it now! It's all so obvious!"

Erika: "Aaah, isn't this extremely pleasant to my ears? What do you think, Dlanor? What's the best adjective to describe Satsukawa-san in this situation?"

Dlanor: "He is an idiot."

Erika: "Indeed! An an incredible idiot!"

Satsukawa: "Okay, okay, I got it! But... uh... what the?"

Erika: "Is there a problem, Satsukawa-san?"

Satsukawa: "I think this door must have jammed or something..."

Erika: "Boo-boo! Try again!"

Satsukawa: "Try again what? Uh... huh! Erika..."

Erika: "Yes, Satsukawa-san?"

Sutsukawa: "Did you... did you just lock the door from your side?!"

Erika: "Incredible! My cure is already taking effect! You're getting smarter by the second!"

Satsukawa: "Erika... this is not funny! Open the door, now!"

Erika: "No way! You haven't learned your lesson yet. Stay there for a while and reflect on your own stupidity!"

Satsukawa: "Erika! I'll get seriously mad at you, if you don't open this door, now! Erika! Erikaaa!"


Satsukawa: "Erikaaa! Damn it!"

Erika: "A strong man like you, surely you can knock this door down. Oh, wait! Maybe that place is too cramped, you can barely move!"

Satsukawa: "Damn it, Erika! You can't do this to me! Open this damn door!"

Erika: "Well Dlanor, it's just you and I, now."

Dlanor: "It appears so, Miss Erika."

Erika: "It's a pretty neat feeling, being free to go where I please without that bothersome cop."


Dlanor: "It is been a while since the last time you enjoyed such freedom."

Erika: "Indeed! Being a wealthy girl can really be a nuisance. I can't get anywhere without someone escorting me."

Satsukawa: "Damn it, Erika, open this door!"

Erika: "Satsukawa-san, if you keep making that much noise, someone might hear you. Do you really want to be found in such a shameful situation? Just stay there for a little while, I'll be back and free you and no one will ever know."

Satsukawa: "Wait, where are you going? Erika! Don't go anywhere! You heard me? Erika?!"

Erika: "Let's go, Dlanor."

Dlanor: "As you wish, Miss Erika."

Satsukawa: "Erikaaa! Damn it!"


Erika: "Don't I love to trap guys inside closed rooms? *giggle* *giggle* *giggle*"

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Chapter 2 (i)

Kuon: "It's quite possible since I'm a very busy man! The whole school's fate lies on my shoulders, just like the planet weights upon Atlas."

Dlanor: "This is a common misconception. In the original myth Atlas was never said to carry the earth on his shoulders."

Baba: "Uhe! The English doll can speak Japanese!"

Erika: "Kubota, according to Satsukawa you've already admitted that you just just left Oda to do the chore alone and that you ditched your duties with an excuse."

Kuon: "Alas! Even heroes can make mistakes, nobody's perfect!"

Erika: "So, do you really have an important duty to attend to or are you just using the same excuse again?"

Kuon: "My dear lady! Just because I've lost to the dark side once, it doesn't mean that that's what I usually do! You shouldn't judge a book by its cover!"

Erika: "No, I think in this case I'm judging the book by its contents."

Kuon: "But what a few misinterpreted lines can tell you about the true value of a book? You should read it from start to end to really reach a judgment! That's what I think! Oh, if I just had the time to make you know me better! But alas I'm a very busy man and I must depart!"

Erika: "I'm sure your duties are used to wait, they can wait a little more. There's one thing I don't quite understand, Kubota. You don't need to explain why you didn't want to do a boring job, I think that's pretty understandable, albeit not commendable."

Kuon: "I rejoice in learning that you can understand my plight! Being so overburdened by duties, it's only natural that I'd want to escape from them once in a while, it's a matter of survival! I must preserve my sanity!"

Satsukawa: "You're losing that battle."

Erika: "But, like I said, there's one thing that I don't understand."

Kuon: "Ask and you shall receive, my dear lady!"

Erika: "When you left Oda by himself, you told him that you were busy elsewhere, right?"

Kuon: "Indeed, that's a pretty credible story, I'm always busy elsewhere!"

Erika: "But in spite of what you said, you really just planned to leave the school, right? I want to make sure this point is correct."

Kuon: "It pains me to admit it, but that's what happened! I'm not proud of that!"

Erika: "Sooo... why did Baba come with you?"

Baba: "..."

Kuon: "Ahahahahaha! But of course, of course! My dear lady! Of course! You see... Baba also didn't want to work, in his case that's to be expected! In the end you just need to look at the cover to judge a book!"

Erika: "I'm quite sure that Baba didn't want to stay there any more than you wanted, but that goes for Oda as well. The question here is why when you left with an excuse you decided to bring Baba along."

Kuon: "Who said that I did that? Baba just came up with his own excuse!"

Erika: "Funny, because that's not what Oda told me."

Kuon: "Ha ha ha ha! The poor Oda! He certainly received a big shock that day, it's no wonder that his memories are all jumbled up!"

Erika: "Oda told me that you specifically requested Baba to go with you so that he could help you with your... duties..."

Kuon: "Sigh... it's such a tragedy, to think that Oda's mind would be that affected by the loss of his childhood friend!"

Erika: "Then what kind of excuse did you come up with, Baba?"

Baba: "Who knows... I don't remember..."

Kuon: "Every excuse is fine for Baba!"

Erika: "Let's backtrack a little, Kubota. I've been told that both Baba and Oda got themselves in trouble with Nagaoka-san, and I've been told that it was you that saved them from a more severe disciplinary action."

Kuon: "My! That's absolutely correct! But my modesty prevents me from bragging about my heroic deeds! Ah, such an awesome and perfect savior I am!"

Satsukawa: "He's bragging..."

Baba: "Yeah, he's bragging..."

Erika: "Why exactly you'd expose yourself that much, Kubota?"

Kuon: "But why! That's what a true hero would do. That's what I do! It's part of my nature and my destiny!"

Erika: "You didn't really do that for Oda's sake didn't you?"

Kuon: "Of course not! I mean... it doesn't matter who it was, I'd always rescue a fellow companion who found himself in trouble!"

Erika: "And yet you're here now and you're disciplining Baba, or so you say. Rules are rules, so you said. What about the rules that Baba and Oda broke that day? What are the reasons behind your apparent inconsistent behavior. Please explain, Kubota."

Kuon: "My dear lady! There are reasons that reason itself cannot comprehend! It's all a matter of faith and of what you feel deep inside your heart! It makes sense, it doesn't make sense... that doesn't mean anything at all! Foolish is the man who wish to comprehend the youth spirit with reason alone! It's not about understanding, it's about feeling! Embrace the mystery!"

Erika: "I see... so this is you answer, Kubota. It's all a mystery, is it?"

Kuon: "Precisely! I'm glad you understand!"

Erika: "That's perfect. Indeed, I couldn't ask for anything better. Because I happen to love mysteries, and my favorite pastime... is to break them apart, until nothing of them remains..."

Kuon: "Ugh... noooo! The beauty of a mystery lies in its mysteriousness! If you reveal the truth behind a mystery..."

Erika: "I don't care! A beautiful mask cannot hide its rotten core! It doesn't matter if it looks good, a fake is a fake and must be destroyed. Lies are lies, there are no good or bad ones, they must be erased. If you think I can be distracted by anything that isn't the truth, you're sorely mistaken, Kubota!"

Kuon: "Ahahahaha! My dear lady... you're... aha... ahahahaha!"

Erika: "Aaaah, it's fine! Let's leave it at that, for now. It was really entertaining, Kubota, let's have another discussion some other time. What do you say?"

Suddenly this loud boy is lost for words and that is really a pleasant change.
It takes a few seconds before he finally manages to put his acts together.

Kuon: "Of course! Of course! I'll surely manage to find a bit of free time so that you may indulge yourself in my company again, but I warn you that you're not the only woman that craves my attention! Such is the fate of a handsome man!"

Erika: "I'll be delighted."

Kuon: "Ha ha ha ha! Well then, if you'll excuse me..."

Erika: "Sure, you can go."

Baba: "Uh... you're letting him go?"

Erika: "Yes, is there a problem, Baba?"

Baba: "Uh... no... then I'll go too..."

Kuon: "Au revoir, madame! Until we meet again!"

Kubota bows. He is trying hard to show his usual flamboyant behavior, but I can tell he is not as secure as he was before. I know he really wants to get away as fast as he can from me.
I let him take a few steps and then I stop him.

Erika: "Aaah! Forgive me, Kubota, just another little question."

Kuon: "Ha... ha ha ha! I know it's difficult to part with me, my dear lady, but..."

Erika: "What can you tell me about Maaya Teramoto?"

Kuon: "Maaya Teramoto! What couldn't I tell about her glorious deeds indeed? It'll probably take hours to say everything I know about her!"

Erika: "She really is a famous person in this school."

Kuon: "Of course, she's not as famous as me, but yes you can say that!"

Erika: "But apart from her fame, do you know something about her from first hand experience?"

Kuon: "First hand experience! What exactly are you implying, my dear lady?!"

Baba: "She's asking if you know her personally, dumbass."

It seems that this Baba is a lot less stupid than he looks. He is still a disgusting pig, but there is some brain inside that thick skull. I feel pity for those many little grey cells being all used for his dirty thoughts.

Kuon: "Oooh! As the president of this fine institution it is my duty to personally talk to every single student at least once!"

Erika: "What a wonderful dedication. So I take it you know everyone in this school."

Kuon: "Naturally, my dear lady!"

Erika: "Then you know Junko Andou."

Kuon: "Junko Andou, of course, I know her!"

Erika: "If you know her, what can you tell me about her?"

Kuon: "Ooh, she's quite a nice girl! But I can't tell her secrets, that's confidential!"

Erika: "A nice girl... do you really know her?"

Kuon: "Every girl is nice and beautiful to my eyes!"

Erika: "Even Satoko Houjou?"

Kuon: "Aaah, the sweet Satoko!"

Erika: "You know Satoko Houjou?"

Kuon: "Like I said, my dear lady, there isn't a single student in this school that I don't remember! That includes Satoko Houjou of course!"

Erika: "Please, describe me this Satoko Houjou, *giggle* *giggle*"

Kuon: "She's a wonderful girl, that's all that I'll say, for a gentleman should not speak too much!"

Baba: "Then you ain't a gentleman."

Erika: "This is truly amazing!"

Kuon: "I know, you don't need to flatter me!"

Erika: "Amazing indeed... To think that I just came up with a random name, and it appears that a Satoko Houjou actually exists in this school! What would be the chances of that? *giggle* *giggle* *giggle*"

I see Kubota freezing on the spot. Does he even understand who is he dealing with? I hope this will serve as a little lesson. I have not met such a shameless liar in ages. He really has guts acting so carelessly in front of me.

Baba: "Pfft... muhehehehe!"

Kuon: "Ha! Ahahahaha! What an incredible coincidence!"

Erika: "Amazing, isn't it? *giggle* *giggle* *giggle*"

Kuon: "Ha ha ha ha!"

Erika: "*giggle* *giggle* *giggle*"

Kuon: "Aaaaaah! How late it is! I must really go now!"

Erika: "Yes... I believe you do..."

Kuon: "Ha ha ha... see you again!"

He hurriedly runs away. What a fraud.
The fatass grunts something and leaves as well.
Once we are alone again, Satsukawa, who has been silent for almost the whole conversation, finally speaks his mind.

Satsukawa: "In the end he didn't tell us a single thing. What was inside that bag, what was he doing here, why did he left with Baba on that day, why did he went the trouble to protect him and Oda, what does he know about Teramoto. He always finds a way to weasel his way out of troublesome questions, and he always manages to distract you by changing subject all the time. He's really an irritating guy"

Erika: "He's certainly an interesting person, but he's little more than an amateur. I give him a bonus point for being particularly creative and one for being so histrionic, that's all."

Satsukawa: "You don't really seem to be frustrated about his lack of answers at all..."

Erika: "Why should I? He may be a pathological liar and a very uncooperative guy, but his lies aren't well conceived, and once you'll show him the proof that you know he isn't telling the truth, he'll break apart and confess. Didn't you manage to make him admit that he lied about his inexistent duties on the day of the crime?"

Satsukawa: "Well, he couldn't really deny the undeniable..."

Erika: "Interesting, according to your definition of a 'true criminal', he should have."

Satsukawa: "He wasn't exactly accused of murder, he probably thought that there wasn't much harm in admitting his lies."

Erika: "True enough. At any rate, for what concerns the mysterious contents of that bag, maybe the hint they so graciously left for us will clarify our doubts."

Satsukawa: "Uh... a hint?"

Erika: "Learn from a true detective, Satsukawa-san: observe! Observe every small detail!"

I move to the same place where Kubota stood when he wast talking with me.

Erika: "Do you see anything? Nothing at all? Look! Observe! Check your surroundings!"

Satsukawa: "Uh..."

Erika: "Ha ha ha! Oh, don't take it that bad, Satsukawa-san, not everyone can be a great detective like me. That's fine, that's fine, you're just a regular investigator from the MPD. *giggle* *giggle*"

Satsukawa: "... What am I supposed to notice now..."

Erika: "Is it frustrating, Satsukawa-san? Do you want some more time?"

Satsukawa: "Aaah! Damn you, Erika! Sometimes you really are... you really are..."

Erika: "Yes? I really am... what? *giggle* *giggle*"

Satsukawa: "Sigh... nevermind... you've had your fun, just tell me what you noticed."

Erika: "Sure, I'll do that."

I kneel down and I pick a colored piece of paper that was half hidden in the grass.
Satsukawa squints his eyes, he probably didn't think this was anything more than garbage. He silently moves to my side and we both examine the hint that I just retrieved.

Satsukawa: "It's a..."

Erika: "It's a bookmark. It's not unusual to get this kind of things as bonuses when you purchase something from a bookstore."

Satsukawa: "You mean... Baba had just bought those doujinshi recently?"

Erika: "Oh, I'm quite sure of that."

Satsukawa: "And this fell off the bag... when?"

Erika: "Since before we interrupted them, or maybe right on that time."

Satsukawa: "If you didn't see it falling, how did you know this came from that bag?"

Erika: "I'm quite sure you can tell just by looking that this bookmark is definitely related to what was inside the bag. I think that Kubota was browsing the doujinshi in front of Baba and that's when it fell."

Satsukawa: "Okay, there's no question about that, now that we can both inspect this bookmark closely, but how did you see it so clearly while it was in the middle of the grass?"

Erika: "Oh, that's partly because of my superior eyesight and partly because of my deductive skills. These colors are way too bright, it was unlikely that this was just old garbage."

Satsukawa: "I... see..."

Satsukawa stares intently at the character depicted on the bookmark with a very perplexed expression.

Satsukawa: "So... is this... guro? Futanari?"

Erika: "Ha ha ha ha! No, Satsukawa-san, I think that Kubota made that up to discourage us from looking inside the bag."

Satsukawa: "Why would he want to hide it from us, if it was something that he confiscated from Baba?"

Erika: "That's a very good question."

Satsukawa: "Hmmm... who's this little girl anyway? Fuwa-fuwa... purin... nyan?"

Dlanor: "It's a very popular show with a cast of several magical girls called fuwa-fuwa that fight against the evil empire of the kira-kira and the insidious hira-hira. Fuwa-fuwa purin nyan is the main character, but that's actually her name as a fuwa-fuwa princess, in her everyday life she is just an ordinary middle school student called..."

Erika: "That's enough info, Dlanor."

Satsukawa: "Hmmm... isn't this... the kind of show that little girls watch?"

Erika: "You'd be surprised..."